Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Girl Friends "Spicy" Valentine Luncheon ~ 2012

I love to spoil my girlfriends.

They mean the world to me and every year around Valentine's Day I honor them with a party.

desserts & fruit

The last couple of years I have thrown a brunch.  If you want a peek at them you can find them here:

this year's invitation

I try to incorporate something that is a favorite of mine and build around it.  

This year it was Mexican food and Conversation(hearts)

a little look-see at the table

I typically do linen napkins when I have a meal like this, but my inner 13 year old got the best of me when I saw the conversation heart napkins and little treat cups!!

The treat boxes were filled with chocolates, and of course, candy hearts!!

My Mom always got my brother and I a box of conversation hearts for Valentine's Day.  

They have always been a favorite of mine.

I made this centerpiece for the table:

If you click HERE you can see how I did it!!

When I planned the menu I forgot that it was the first Friday of Lent.

So I mixed it up a little.

It worked out well.  

The Menu::

 Chips and Salsa, Guacamole and lots of toppings!

Jarritos and Iced Tea with Lemon

Fun was had by all....

But you will have to take my word for it, because I totally forgot to take pictures!!


I was too busy eating!! ;)

Monday, February 27, 2012

White Chicken Enchiladas

These enchiladas are all over Pinterest.  

At this point it's hard to tell who actually "made them first!"

white chicken enchiladas

I made them for the first time about a month ago, to "try them out" on my family before I made them for the luncheon with my friends.

My family LOVED them.

I did make a couple of changes to the recipe I found, but when don't I?

Here's what you do:

White Chicken Enchiladas
recipe adapted from Joyful Momma's Kitchen

8 burrito sized flour tortillas
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
2 cups chicken broth
3 T. butter
3 T flour
1 - 4oz can diced green chilies
8 ounces of sour cream
8 oz pkg Monterrey Jack cheese shredded
1 - 4oz can sliced black olives, drained

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray a 9x13 pan with non-stick cooking spray.
Evenly divide chicken and half of cheese to fill tortillas.  Roll enchilada style, place in prepared pan.

In a small saucepan melt butter, add flour to make a rue.
Add chicken stock and whisk until combined.  Cook until thick and bubbly.
Add green chilies and sour cream, remove from heat.

Pour over enchiladas.  Cover and bake for 20 minutes.
Uncover add remaining cheese and bake another 8-10 minutes until cheese is melted.

Top with olives, and serve.

Strawberry Daiquiri Cupcakes

strawberry daiquiri cupcakes

When I had my "Spicy Mexican Valentine Luncheon" I knew that
 I needed to come up with desserts (yes..there is an S on desserts!! ;)
that went with the theme.

who doesn't LOVE a cupcake?

Last year I made this decadent Chocolate Bliss Cake that had raspberry sauce, devonshire cream and I even made these homemade chocolate discs and chocolate dipped strawberries.

I went ALL OUT.

Not that I love my friends any less this year, but I needed to figure out something a little less labor intensive!!

one for me and one for you

So I made two different kinds of cupcakes, and Mexican brownies.

Gotta have CHOCOLATE!!

The two cupcakes that I made were pina colada cupcakes and strawberry daiquiri cupcakes.

I packaged up 6 of each and took them to my husband's office, called them
"Thirsty Thursday Cupcakes" 

Here is the quick and easy recipe for the strawberry daiquiri ones!!

Strawberry Daiquiri Cupcakes

1 Strawberry Cake Mix
1 pouch of Parrot Bay pre-mixed Strawberry Daiquiri Drink

Make your cake mix as directed on the box, only substitute the drink mix for the water.

Bake as directed.

For the frosting I used my buttercream recipe and changed the milk to daiquiri mix:


4 cups powdered sugar
1 stick of butter
1/4 strawberry daiquiri mix

Beat until fluffy!!

Rim the frosted cupcakes in sugar and top with half of a strawberry!!


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Fun and Easy Conversation Heart Centerpiece

Conversation Heart Centerpiece

When I found the napkins and treat containers with conversation hearts on them, 
I knew that was the ticket for my party this year.

It's no secret how much I <3 Conversation Hearts!!

I decided to run with the idea for my table and centerpiece.

Years ago I made a centerpiece for Halloween the same way using candy corn,
 it was super cute so I ran with it!!

Here is what it took:

Two vases, one that fits inside the other with some wiggle room
2 packages of conversation hearts or other candy

Color coordinated flowers

I love to buy flowers at Costco. They always have really unique bunches 
that you can have so much fun arranging.

I bought a bunch of flowers from Costco and in addition to that I purchased a 
dozen roses and eucalyptus to mix in!! 

(Needed the roses for the SANGRIA!! )

Place the smaller vase inside the larger vase and begin to fill the space between with your conversation hearts.
Fill to the top of the small vase.  
I was lucky enough to have a cylinder vase that was the same height, it worked perfectly.

You will have to use a funnel to fill the inside vase with water, being super careful not to get the candy wet!!

Arrange flowers inside water....

DONE!! and SO CUTE!!

White Rose infused Sangria

What is a girlfriend's Mexican Valentine luncheon without SANGRIA?!?

The last two years I have done a brunch, and had Mimosas.

This year I opted for Sangria.

I wish I could give you the measurements of the fruit, but I honestly just kind of added it!!

Note to self: Sangria is a summer drink for a reason, more fruit in season.

I did use a couple of frozen fruits, and I am pretty sure nobody else noticed!!

Here is what I did.

White Rose infused Sangria

2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup water
the petals of 1 large rose ( mine was white...so was my wine...that's where it got it's name!)

Over a medium heat, bring to boil the water sugar and petals.
Remove from heat and let petals steep for about 15 minutes.
Remove petals and set aside. You have just made a rose simple syrup.

2 bottles of Sauvignon Blanc Wine
Fruit of choice: I used frozen peaches, frozen pitted red cherries, clementines, red grapes cut in half, halved strawberries, raspberries and pineapple.

 Cut up fruit and place in an airtight container.
Pour  wine and syrup over fruit.
Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Pour into a pitcher or punch bowl, before serving pour a can of ginger ale over the top to add a little bubble effect.

It was YUMMY!!

Bean, Cheese and Onion Enchiladas

While I was planning my Valentine Luncheon this year, I planned to make my cheesy beef enchiladas.


I realized, that it would be on a Friday during Lent.

So, I decided to use my base recipe for them, and turn them into bean, cheese and onion.

They turned out AMAZING!!

pictured here with chili rellenos

Bean, Cheese and Onion Enchiladas

1 can of refried beans mixed with 1/4 cup milk
1 two cup package of Mexican blend shredded cheese
1 small onion diced
1 package (8 qty) large flour tortillas
1 large can (14 ounce size) Old El Paso Enchilada Sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray a 9x13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.
Spread about 2 Tablespoons of enchilada sauce on a tortilla.
Do the same (2 Tablespoons, or a good pinch) of cheese
Evenly divide beans and onions between the 8 tortillas, rolling up enchilada style.
Place in pan.

Pour remaining sauce and cheese over the top. 

Cover with non-stick foil and bake for 30 minutes covered.
Uncover and bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is bubbly.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dry Erase Board made from a Photo and Frame

Happy Valentine's Day to my Hubby!!

For Christmas we gave our kids a trip to see their Grandparents in San Diego.

Our flight left on Valentine's Day.

My husband knows how much I love Valentine's Day, and he always makes it special.  
But we agreed that a plane trip to sunshine was gift enough!

(but I am a little bit of a rule breaker, ya know?)

I saw this idea on Pinterest a while back and figured I would give it a try.

We always leave notes to one another on  the bathroom counter.

I just re-did our room and bath in the last year, in browns and kind of a Caribbean blue.
We love our trips to the beach to escape the winter weather!!

I have so many photos from our trips over the years, and shells an"beachy" trinkets, I decided to decorate with all of them.

When I saw this idea to turn a picture into a dry erase board, I knew I wanted to try it.

I found the photo on Google Images.  I just thought it was so darn cute!!

I printed it in a 12x12 size and found a frame at Hobby Lobby.

Before I framed it, I used some scrapbook stickers and stuck 
"I Love You" in the upper left corner.

When honey woke up on Valentine's Day, it was hanging on the wall right behind him and his mirror.

I wrote "Happy Valentine's Day" on it to greet him.

I even found a brown dry erase marker that was cute enough to leave on top of the frame.

Now when he is getting ready in the morning, those two starfish are in the reflection behind him, and even if there isn't a note on it, it always says

 "I love you."

Doesn't everyone need a reminder every now and then??


Chili Rellenos

When planning my Valentine luncheon this year, I didn't take into consideration that it fell on
 a Friday during Lent.

Out of all of my friends attending, only three weren't Catholic, and out of those three, one was a vegetarian!!

I did make some white chicken enchiladas, but everything else was meatless.

I had wanted to try this Chili Relleno recipe for a long time.

a photo of my plate!!

When I moved out, I had sat and copied many of my Mom's recipes.  
(this was a long time ago...)

I have transferred this recipe from book to book my whole adult life, and I have never made it?

So when I was telling my Mom that I was going to make these, she said,
 "really? I forgot how much I liked those?" 
She hadn't made them in eons either!

Well, they got RAVE reviews at the party!!

And they were so simple!!

I LOVE green chilies, don't you?

Chili Rellenos

3 - 4ounce cans of WHOLE green chilies
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup flour
8 ounce package of Monterey Jack Cheese, shredded
salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray a 2quart casserole with non-stick cooking spray.

Drain chilies, spread them out flat and remove any seeds.

Whisk the eggs, milk, salt and flour together, set aside.

Line the bottom of the casserole with half of the chilies.

Top with half of the cheese.

Add the other half of the chilies, top with cheese.

Pour egg mixture over the top and bake for 40-45 minutes, until they slightly brown on top and eggs are cooked.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Pina Colada Cupcakes

This was one of my desserts at my girl friend Valentine luncheon this year.

You know, one of those nights when you lay in bed with insomnia
(which I RARELY get)
and the idea just comes to you?

They couldn't be easier!

They smelled SO GOOD.

Try them, you'll like them... or your money back...
this information is free.

(Sorry hubby!!)
He keeps wondering when the blogger paycheck comes...

to which I add and get an eye roll:

but I am one helluva cook... so there! 

Pina Colada Cupcakes

1 classic white cake mix
Parrot Bay Pina Colada Drink Mix (alcohol is already in it!)

4 cups Powdered Sugar
1 stick butter
1/4 cup Coco Real

(you can find it by the mixers in the liquor section)

Limes for garnish
neon green food coloring (optional)

Make the cake per package instructions (egg white method), but replace the water with Pina Colada mix.

Coconut Buttercream:
Beat butter in mixer until smooth. Add powdered sugar a little at a time.  Add Coco Real and mix until fluffy.
I tinted mine with a couple of drops of neon green food coloring.

Pipe on cupcakes and garnish with a lime!!



Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mexican Chocolate Frosted Brownies

Mexican frosted chocolate brownies with cinnamon whipped cream

Every luncheon needs one main ingredient.... CHOCOLATE.

My Valentine luncheon this year was no different.  

I do a bake along challenge with Danielle, from Hugs and Cookies XOXO 
and this month it was for frosted brownies.

Danielle challenged everyone to put their own spin on things, though, with candy toppings, etc.

I decided I would "kill two birds with one stone" and make them Mexican chocolate.

With the reading I did, it seemed that pretty much meant adding cinnamon.
Have you ever had a Mexican hot chocolate??

Some recipes called for cayenne pepper, but I decided to leave that out.

Here is the link to the original recipe on Hugs and Cookies XOXO for frosted brownies.

Mexican Chocolate Frosted Brownies

1 2/3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter
2 T Water
2 eggs
2 t vanilla
1 1/3 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 13x9 pan.

Combine sugar,  butter ad water in a large bowl. Stir in eggs and vanilla. Combine flour, cocoa, cinnamon, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl, stir into sugar mixture.  Spread into prepared pan.

Bake for 18 to 25 minutes or until toothpick in center comes out clean.


Beat with an electric mixer until fluffy:
1 stick butter
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
3 T cocoa powder
2 T milk
1/4 t cinnamon
splash of vanilla

Frost cooled brownies.

Cinnamon Whipped Cream frosting topping

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1 stick butter
2-3 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Whip cream until fluffy, remove from bowl and set aside.
Beat butter for 5 minutes.
Add whipped cream back in, add cinnamon, vanilla and powdered sugar slowly.  More sugar if you prefer it sweeter.
Pipe on and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Beef and Barley Stew

Last weekend we got what a normal Nebraska winter delivers....

LOTS of Snow!!

Mother Nature decided our 69 degree February days needed to stop. 
 She dumped a foot of wet and heavy perfect for making snowmen snow!!

While my kids built a HUGE snowman outside my kitchen window, I sliced and diced and put a big crock pot full of beef and barley stew on for dinner.

frosty was over 7 feet tall!

My kids were excited about snow, but not nearly as excited as they are to be counting down the days until we can go stay with their grandparents on the beach in San Diego!!

My oldest son had an idea to take a picture in the snow with their swimsuits on to 
send to grandpa and grandma.

I told them to pose like they were looking for the beach.

"Which way to the beach??"

Fastest picture I ever snapped!

beef and barley stew

A bowl of this will warm you right up!!

After church, we came home and filled our bowls up with some hot steamy stew.

My niece came down for dinner, and after dinner we played Yahtzee!

Growing up, we used to have major Yahtzee marathons during snowstorms!

Such fun!! 

Beef and Barley Stew

2 pounds beef stew meat
salt and pepper

4 or 5 carrots, sliced
4 or 5 potatoes, diced
4 stalks celery, diced
1 large onion, diced
1/2 cup barley

2 cans tomato soup
4 cans water
1 Tablespoon beef bouillon

Dredge beef in flour, brown in a skillet with hot oil.  Salt and pepper to taste.
Combine beef and vegetables with all other ingredients in the crock pot.

Cook all day long.  Broth will thicken as barely absorbs and stew cooks.

I hope you enjoy!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Salted Nutroll Bars

 a little sweet and salty love from my kitchen

These are hands down my MOST favorite candy bar on earth.

Honestly, they aren't always easy to find.

Maybe some of you who don't live here in the Midwest can tell me, 
"have you ever heard of Salted Nutroll candy bars?"

homemade salted nutrolls

I don't know what's in the middle of a Salted Nutroll, it's like this magical goodness.
It's not marshmallow, like these bars are, but I am here to tell you, they run a VERY close second.

salted nutroll bars

I used to make these every year at Christmas, they were one of the first things missing 
from my cookie platters!  
I haven't made them for the last couple of years, 
trying to mix it up I guess...

This week  I made a couple of kinds of bars to take up to school for Parent Teacher Conferences.

I made some mint chip brownies and then I made these.

peanut love

I made sure I had leftovers, and after school my kids WOOFED them down!!

Salted Nutroll Bars

1 1/2 c flour
2/3 c brown sugar
1/2 t baking powder
1 t vanilla
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
stick of butter
2 egg yolks

Preheat oven to 359 degrees.  Mix the above ingredients together and press into a greased 9x13 pan.
(I line with non-stick foil...that stuff ROCKS)
Bake for 12-15 minutes. 

Top with 3 cups miniature marshmallows and bake for 3 minutes more.

On a low heat until melted:
2/3 c corn syrup
1/4 c butter
2 t vanilla
1 - 10 oz bag of peanut butter chips

To this add: 2 cups of Rice Krispies and 2 cups salted and roasted peanuts.

Pour over the top of the marshmallows.  


Cut into squares.

To make this fun fall version, with candy corn, add 1/2 cup of candy corn to the peanut mixture before  pouring over the top of the marshmallows.


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

This was hands down my most favorite meal as a kid.

homemade chicken noodle soup

Now it's my kids' most requested meal at our house.

Even in the heat of summer, they request it. 

But today with the fresh blanket of snow, it seemed even more fitting.

I remember my Mom making this when I was little and every time I ate it I got the hiccups.
I realize now it was probably because I was eating it WAY too fast!!

When my friend, Lisa and I used to play in my play kitchen we would put warm water in my "soup kettle" and "cook" homemade chicken noodle soup on my stove.
 It was the one meal we always made.

I have known how to make this as long as I can remember. It's really not hard....
But I guess if you didn't grow up eating it, you wouldn't know how?

I have passed this "recipe" on to many friends and family over the years.  
My kids all know how to make it.
I cannot say I really have a "recipe" though. But I am going to do my best to walk you through it.

on a snowy day...or any 'ol day

the audience I get whenever I de-bone a chicken ... mooching!


Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

1 whole chicken
1 onion, chopped
Celery, diced
Carrots, sliced
1- 32 oz chicken broth
2 Tablespoons chicken bouillon
salt and pepper
wide egg noodles, cooked and rinsed

Place chicken, whole, into your soup pot.  Add veggies. I cut my onion up fairly large, and do the same for my celery and carrots. We love our veggies over here!
I put A LOT of celery in my soup, because I love it! If I had to guess, I would say use about 5-6 stalks. When I am in a rush I buy the carrot chips and just give them a quick chop.  I use the whole bag.  We have a big family though, and usually we eat it, I put some in the fridge and then have some for the freezer to pull out in a pinch.
Salt and pepper generously.
Add chicken broth, bouillon, and fill pot to the top with water.  Cover and cook until chicken is done.
Depending on the size of your chicken, I find it's done in about an hour or a little more.
Remove chicken and de-bone, remove skin and dice up meat.
Return to pan.
I bounce back and forth between the dry wide egg noodles and the Reames frozen ones.
My kids are sort of "split" on which they prefer.
Can't make everyone happy at once, all of the time, right?

Cook the egg noodles until they are done, and drain and rinse them.
Add them to the soup and Volia! You are done!

Feel free to add more bouillon if you feel the need.  I swear, the broth is better some times than others.
I always blame the chicken! ;)

The noodles will soak up the broth as it sits.  I always add some more chicken broth to the left overs.
We love the broth.

If you are watching your fat intake, I would recommend making this a day ahead and putting it into the fridge.  The grease from the chicken will go to the top and harden, and  
can be removed.

My kids LOVE this stuff. My oldest daughter will eat it for breakfast when she knows it's here!
I can tell you that "uncool" fact about my teenager, because as she says... "my friends don't read that stuff anyway!" Someday they might...beware, Kenzie!!