Monday, December 15, 2014

Our Christmas Card + An Announcement

We are so excited to announce that we have a baby on the way! Our friends and extended families heard the announcement by way of our Christmas card this year :) We are so incredibly thankful for this answer to prayer, and we could not be more excited! I have been pretty sick these first few months, which is another reason why I've been so quiet around here. In the last couple of days I've started to feel a little better, so I'm hoping I'm turning the corner and will be somewhat back to normal soon. In the mean time I'm snacking all day long and trying to get everything done in time for Christmas (how did Christmas get here so fast this year?!). Hope you are enjoying this Christmas season! xx

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Mexican Hot Chocolate Chex Mix

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! We were so thankful to have a few days off of work to be able to travel to see both of our families. It was a really relaxing holiday, just spending time together and of course eating way too much. On Thanksgiving day, my niece and nephew helped me make this party Chex mix, and everyone was munching on it before Thanksgiving dinner. It takes only 15 minutes to throw together, and you can tell it's going to be delicious just by looking at the ingredients! This would be the perfect treat to make for a holiday party or to package up and give to friends or neighbors. The recipe we made is below, and you can find other recipes for party mixes here!

Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by General Mills through Platefull Co-op. All opinions are 100% my own.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

White Chocolate Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

Please excuse my absence in this little space! For the past two months I have been studying for a licensing test for work, and it completely consumed my time and brain. I am very thankful to announce I passed (!!!) on Saturday, so my brain space is now my own again. I wanted to share one last pumpkin recipe before we move to all things Christmas. These pumpkin snickerdoodles are SO delicious, they have definitely found a home in my short list of "fall recipes to make every year". They would be a fun treat to make and take as a hostess gift this week, or to serve if you're hosting Thanksgiving yourself. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends!

White Chocolate Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 Tbsp pumpkin puree
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Melt the butter in the microwave. In a medium bowl, whisk the melted butter, brown sugar, and 1/2 cup sugar together until no brown sugar lumps remain. Whisk in the vanilla and pumpkin until smooth. Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together with a large spoon or rubber spatula. The dough will be very soft. Fold in white chocolate chips. They may not stick to the dough because of the melted butter, but do your best to have them evenly dispersed among the dough. Cover the dough and chill for 30 minutes. Don't skip this step!

Take the dough out of the refrigerator. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.

Roll the dough into balls, about 1 1/2 Tbsp of dough each. Mix together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp of cinnamon. Roll each of the dough balls generously in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and arrange on 2 baking sheets. Slightly flatten the dough balls because the cookies will only slightly spread in the oven.

Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes. The cookies will look very soft and under-baked. Keeping them in the oven longer may dry them out. Remove from the oven and press a few more white chocolate chips onto the top, if desired. If you find that your cookies didn't spread much at all, flatten them out when you take them out of the oven.

Allow the cookies to cool for at least 10 minutes on the cookie sheets before transferring to a wire rack. The longer the cookies cool, the chewier they will be. The chewiness and pumpkin flavor are more prominent on day 2. Cookies will last covered well at room temperature for up to one week.

source: recipe from sally's baking addiction

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Pumpkin Cornbread

After posting my newest favorite soup recipe last week, I promised to share the pumpkin cornbread recipe. This cornbread was super moist, which makes or breaks a cornbread recipe, in my opinion. You could taste the pumpkin, but not overly so, which I also liked. This recipes comes together in no time, and stayed tasty for three days, well covered (might have stayed fresh longer, but that's how long it took us to finish it all). This is the perfect cornbread to pair with your soups, chilis, and stews this fall!

Pumpkin Cornbread
1 cup flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup cornmeal
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp honey

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 8x8" baking dish and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, brown sugar, and cornmeal.

In a small bowl, lightly beat the eggs, then stir in the pumpkin, oil, and honey.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until combined, and then pour the batter into the pan, smoothing out the top as much as possible.

Bake 30 minutes or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Serve warm.

source: recipe adapted from Tasty Kitchen

P.S. Buttermilk Cornbread with Monterey Jack Cheese.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pasta Fagioli Soup

I posted yesterday about how I plan my meals, and I realized that I had not yet shared this recipe. This soup is really easy to throw together (we're talking 18-20 minutes, tops), and it so, so delicious. After taking a few bites, Caleb declared this was the best meal we had eaten in a while. I'd say that's a win! This has found its place in my fall/winter meal rotation. I served it with pumpkin cornbread, a recipe I'll be sharing soon!

Pasta Fagioli Soup
1/2 pound mild Italian sausage links, casings removed
1 small onion, chopped
1 1/2 tsp olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups water
1 can (15-1/2 ounces) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 cup uncooked elbow macaroni
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup fresh spinach leaves, cut into strips
Parmesan cheese, for topping

In a large saucepan, cook sausage over medium heat until no longer pink; drain and set aside. In the same pan, sauté the onion in the oil until tender. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute longer.

Add the water, beans, tomatoes, broth, macaroni, and pepper; bring to a boil. Cook, uncovered, for 8-10 minutes or until macaroni is tender.

Reduce heat to low; stir in sausage and spinach. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until spinach is wilted. Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serves 5-6.

source: Light & Tasty, August/September 2007

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Do you plan your meals?

My method of planning meals has changed several times over the past few years. When we first got married, I made a new main dish and a couple of sides every night of the week. It took a couple weeks of more leftovers than two people could ever consume (and a ridiculous grocery bill!) for me to realize that cooking for two people is nothing like how I remember my mom cooking for six people growing up.

For the majority of our marriage, I have been cooking a full meal three to four times a week, with the other nights slated as going out to eat, entertaining (and thus requiring a new meal) or getting together with friends, or eating leftovers. The leftovers were definitely more manageable, but I still felt like we were wasting food. Even if it was looking like there were a lot of leftovers for a certain week, when Thursday rolled around I would make Thursday's dinner for fear the ingredients I had purchased would spoil. We were throwing away too many leftovers and too much produce, and I didn't like it.

So! this fall I've tried a more relaxed way of meal planning, with the goal to waste less food. Planning for several weeks in advance, I make a list of all of the meals I could potentially make for dinners for those weeks. I then look at the weekly ad for Publix, noting which meats and produce are on sale that week. Then I go back to my list of meals and pick out which ones might be suitable for this week, depending on the sales and how I can use the same produce for several meals (the goal being not to waste anything). I also compare my list of meals to the rest of the sales, noting which items are BOGO that I might need for any of the meals in the coming weeks (pasta, canned tomatoes, cheeses, etc.).

Once I come home with my groceries, I prep my meat. If I need cooked ground beef or sausage, I go ahead and cook it, divide it into containers, label it for the meals I need it, and throw it in the freezer. For chicken, I either cook it and shred/chop it, or trim any fat and package it by how much I need for a specific recipe, again labeling and putting it in the freezer.

When it comes time to prepare a meal from my rough plan for the week, I thaw my meat (usually putting it in the fridge the night before) and cook dinner. If I'm finding that we have more leftovers than I anticipated, I won't prepare one of the meals that I had planned for the end of the week and will let it roll over to the next week (meat still in the freezer). I move any extra the produce to an additional tossed salad or as snacks with hummus to make sure it doesn't go bad. If I'm making a soup or chili, I usually freeze half to pull out for another week in the future.

Here's some of the main dishes that have been on my list this fall (all recipes linked):
Texas Two Step Chicken
Slow Cooker Sweet & Tangy Meatballs
Chicken Enchilada Soup
Stuffed Peppers
Poppyseed Chicken
Black Bean Taco Soup
Slow Cooker Cream Cheese Chicken Taquitos
Sausage & Tortellini Soup
Chicken Squares
Pasta Fagioli
Chicken Salad
Black Bean Chili
Braised French Onion Chicken with Gruyère

This is what I have found works best for me. It does take a little time on the front end to think a few weeks out and prep the meat, but I've found that it is so worth it. It takes me less time to make dinner after work, we're wasting less food, and our grocery bill has been less since I've started doing this, too! One of the things that makes this work so well is being able to count on good sales at Publix. There are always great BOGOs to take advantage of, and it's easy to plan meals based on what produce and meat is on sale each week. There's even more great sales this month at Publix as part of the October Fresh Savings event. You can find coupons to use here.

Do you already do this? It's been wonderful for me, but maybe I'm the last to catch on. How do you plan your meals?

(meal planning & grocery notepad from Brim Papery)

Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by General Mills through Platefull Co-Op.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Now that fall has arrived, I am all about baking with pumpkin. I am not a fan of the pumpkin spice latte, but pumpkin muffins and breads are welcome in my kitchen any time. I'm pretty sure I've made these pumpkin cream cheese muffins before, but I couldn't find them on the blog anywhere. While these take a bit of time to assemble, they are well worth it for a perfect fall treat.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins
for the filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar

for the muffins:
3 cups flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil

for the topping:
1/2 cup sugar
5 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

To prepare the filling, combine the cream cheese and confectioners' sugar in a medium bowl and mix well until blended and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1 1/2-inches in diameter. Smooth the plastic wrap tightly around hte log, and reinforce with a piece of foil. Transfer to the freezer and chill until at least slightly firm, at least 2 hours.

To make the muffins, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin pans with paper liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray. In a medium bowl. combine the flour, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer combine the eggs, sugar, pumpkin puree, and oil. Mix on medium-low speed until blended. With the mixer on low speed, add in the dry ingredients, mixing just until incorporated.

To make the topping, combine the sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a small bowl; whisk to blend. Add in the butter pieces and cut into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender or two forks until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.

To assemble the muffins, fill each muffin well with a small amount of batter, just enough to cover the bottom of the pan or liner (1-2 Tbsp). Slice the log of cream cheese filling into 24 equal pieces. Place a slice of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin well. Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, placing on top of the cream cheese to cover completely. Sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each of the muffin wells.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely before serving. (Note: the cream cheese filling gets very hot). Makes 24 muffins

source: slightly adapted from annie's eats, originally from bakespace

Monday, September 29, 2014

Chocolate Orange Coffee Cake

I recently came across a great recipe for coffee cake. It's one of Food Network's mix-and-match recipes, so you can easily customize it according to what you might have on hand. Below is the version I made, mixing in oats and orange zest in the topping and filling the middle with chocolate chips. It reminded me ever so slightly of orange & chocolate buttermilk scones (I'm a sucker for any breakfast treat with citrus zest!). I served this for breakfast the weekend that Caleb's parents came to visit last month, and I found that Caleb and his dad were sneaking pieces all weekend long, breakfast time or not.

Chocolate Orange Coffee Cake
for the topping:
3/4 cup flour
2/3 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup old fashioned oats
1 tsp finely grated orange zest
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces

for the batter:
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup sour cream
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch-square baking dish with foil, leaving an overhang; butter the foil.

Make the topping: Whisk together flour, brown sugar, oats, orange zest, cinnamon, and salt in a small bowl. Cut the butter in with a pastry blender until incorporated. Set aside. (Can store in the fridge, covered, for one day.)

Make the batter: Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate large bowl, beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and at the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. The batter will be thick.

Spread half of the batter in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top in an even layer. Spoon the remaining batter over the chocolate chips and spread evenly. Sprinkle with the prepared topping. Bake until the topping is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 55 minutes to 1 hour 5 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes in the baking dish, then lift out the cake using the foil and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

source: recipe from food network

Monday, September 22, 2014

Pound Cake & Macerated Peaches

We're in a sort of strange weather phase right now. Tomorrow is the first day of autumn, and I'm ready for it. We planted our mums by the mailbox, I'm craving all kinds of soups and pumpkin breads, and I'm definitely ready for some cooler weather. But we live in South Carolina, and it is still pretty hot here. Yesterday I laid out for a while but then it got even too hot for that. Caleb also harvested our first watermelon from our garden yesterday. As much as I'm ready for fall, it's more like a not-so-oppressively-hot summer.

I hosted a ladies' night for our small group the other week, and I made this pound cake and macerated peaches to top it with. Both were a hit, and I'm pleased to have an easy pound cake recipe. We still have peaches on sale here, but if you don't, I'd tuck this recipe away for next year.

Perfect Pound Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
5 eggs, room temperature, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter and flour a 4 1/2-by-8 1/2-inch loaf pain. In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high until very light and fluffy, 7 minutes. Scrape down bowl and beat 1 minute more. Add vanilla, then gradually add eggs, beating well and scraping down bowl as needed. With mixer on low, add salt, then gradually add flour, beating well to combine and scraping down bowl as needed.

Transfer batter to pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 65 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack, 1 hour. Remove cake from pan and let cool completely on rack before slicing.

Macerated Peaches with Cinnamon Sugar
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp honey
pinch of salt
2 tsp lime zest
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 pounds fresh peaches, quartered

Stir together first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. Add peaches; toss gently to coat. Cover and chill 1 hour.

source: pound cake recipe from Everyday Food, May 2011; macerated peaches recipe slightly adapted from Southern Living, June 2014

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Do you cook together?

Do you cook with your significant other? I typically do all of the cooking (Caleb graciously does the dishes), but earlier this week we cooked dinner together. I love the idea of us both relaxing in the kitchen after work, talking and preparing dinner together. But of course it didn't exactly go down like that. We were both starving so the talking was kept to a minimum, and I was a hot mess having just finished working out. Caleb hates reading recipes so every time he needed a new job I had to stop what I was doing to look at where we were in the recipe to give him a new task. I put too much pasta in too small of a pot and the water kept bubbling over and burning on the stove top, so eventually we had to turn on the oven fan because of the smoke. And then you know there was no talking because that thing is so DANG LOUD. 

Anyway, despite all of the above, we had dinner on the table in just 30 minutes, which I absolutely love. We made the below Italian dish, a recipe from Publix's Flavor Excursion sale. Lots of the ingredients are on sale now through September 24 at Publix, if you're interested. You can find more recipes and coupons here.

Disclosure: I received the prize pack and information from General Mills through Platefull Co-Op. All opinions are 100% my own. As you know, I love Publix :)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How to Hang a Gallery Wall

One of my favorite parts of my newly completed craft room is the gallery wall. I had a lot of fun looking through shops on Etsy to find prints of things or words I loved. The part that I was not so looking forward to, though, was the actual hanging of the prints. With different sized prints and different orientations, I really wanted the frames scattered around in a somewhat random clump rather trying to arrange them perfectly (which would totally be my OCD tendency).

I debated several methods of arranging and hanging them, but I ended up using the steps below. I'm sure there are lots of gallery wall hanging tutorials out there, but what I ended up doing was truly foolproof. I made no extra holes in the wall, and I managed to arrange and hang all of the frames all by myself! Having never even used a hammer before hanging this gallery wall, I was pretty proud of myself:) Here's how to hang a gallery wall the easy way:

1. Using kraft or butcher paper, trace and cut out templates for each frame. 

2. Place the template on the backside of the frame and line up the edges.

3. Carefully lift up part of the template to find the hanger or wall mount.

4. Holding the place of the hanger/wall mount with your finger, use a nail to make a hole in the template where it would go as if hanging on the wall. 

5. Place frames on the floor or on a table in the arrangement you would like them on the wall.

6. Using the arrangement of the frames you previously made, tape the templates to the wall using painter's tape. Once you are pleased with the arrangement, hammer nails into the holes made in the templates in step #4.

6. Remove templates and hang the frames.

sources: frames: Michaels & Bed Bath & Beyond | Paris print: Laura Amiss | flamingo print: Wren's Roost | grass is greener print: Brim Papery | work hard print: Maiedae | donut print: Ann Shen | umbrella print & stamps print: Kate Spade

Monday, September 15, 2014

Chili Recipe Roundup

One of my favorite things to cook in the fall is chili. There's something so cozy about having a big pot of chili simmering on the stove for dinner on a cool fall day. The other thing I love is that there are SO many different varieties of chili! These are some of my favorites:

I also have my eye on these chili recipes that I want to try out this fall:

If you're not into cooking or if you want a bowl of chili without taking the time to throw it all together, you can check out the two new varieties of chili from Progresso. They are tasty and just take a few minutes to heat up on the stove.

Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by General Mills through Platefull Co-op. All opinions are 100% my own.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Gulf Coast Vacation

We returned home Saturday from a week at the Gulf Coast with my whole family. We had such a great vacation laying in the sun, playing with the kids, and mostly just being together. All seven of my nieces and nephews love playing in the sand and/or water, so it was really fun to be in the sand or out in the water with them! The three oldest girls are also learning to swim, so it was so cute to watch them get a little braver each day. One night the girls went shopping and another night the guys went fishing, and we also spent a cloudy morning at the Naval Aviation Museum. Other than that and a few donut runs, you could find us playing on the beach or in the pool or hanging out in the condo after the kids went to bed. A real vacation for me is bathing suits all day and no makeup or having to fix my hair! We are so thankful for the time we had together, especially since as the years go by we seem to geographically spread further and further apart! Here's a few pictures of our week, if you'd like to see.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home (and a giveaway!)

Do you read the blog A Beautiful Mess? If not, you should! Elsie + Emma and their team have a great blog that combines so many of my favorite things: food, home decorating, DIY projects, excellent photography, and mostly just a colorful and happy lifestyle. I've been following their blog for years and could not wait for their new book A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home to come out! It just came out the end of August, and I got my copy as part of a late birthday present:) I have loved flipping through the pages, seeing how they decorated their homes and finding inspiration for my own home. If you're looking for some ideas or tips on making your house a home with colorful, fun projects, this is the book for you!

I had the chance to receive an extra copy of the book to review, so I thought I would do a giveaway with this copy since I already have my own! Head over to my instagram (@sherrilynnpuz) to play along!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program. It is a book that I already own and love. All opinions are 100% my own.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Blackberry Pie Bars

Summer is quickly coming to an end. But first! Labor Day weekend! Summer's last hurrah, in my book. If you are having a barbecue or not having a barbecue, I suggest you make one last summer-y treat before September starts. School may have started, but I'm determined to keep living like it's summer, which means more grilling out, one more beach trip, and more summer desserts with fresh berries like these blackberry pie bars.

Blackberry Pie Bars
for the crust & topping:
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
zest of half a lemon
3/4 cup (12 Tbsp) unsalted butter, cold

for the filling:
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
6 Tbsp flour
pinch of salt
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
15-16 oz blackberries, fresh or frozen (thawed and drained of excess juices)

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9x9-inch baking pan with foil and grease lightly. In the bowl of a food processor or electric mixer, combine the flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Pulse briefly to blend. Cut the butter into small cubes, then add to the bowl with the dry ingredients. Process in short pulses to cut the better into the dry ingredients until only small pieces of butter remain and the mixture is crumbly.

Reserve 3/4 cup of the mixture for topping the bars. Add the rest of the mixture to the prepared pan and press to form an even layer of crust on the bottom of the pan. Bake 12-15 minutes, until light golden. Let cool 10-15 minutes before proceeding.

In a medium bowl, make the filling mixture. Combine the eggs, sugar, sour cream, flour, salt, lemon juice and vanilla. Whisk until smooth. Gently stir in the blackberries with a spatula. Spread the filling mixture over the pre-baked crust in the baking pan. Crumble the reserved topping mixture over the filling evenly.

Bake until the top is beginning to brown and the bars are just set, about 45 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Chill to firm up before slicing and serving.

source: recipe from annie's eats, originally from The Pastry Queen via pink parsley

Thursday, August 28, 2014

How to learn any foreign language

How many languages do you speak? I have always loved foreign languages, and I just finished this fascinating new book on how to learn a foreign language and actually remember it. I've studied four foreign languages but would only say I am proficient/can remember anything in one, and I truly believe it's due to how I (tried) to learn them and how often I practiced speaking. For Latin (kindergarten - grade 4), we sang songs and learned conjugations; for French (grades 10-12) we did projects and watched movies; for Arabic (one semester in college), we learned vocab and took so.many.quizzes; for Chinese (grades 6-9, and then in college), I lived in China for three of those years, had a tutor who didn't speak any English, spoke it every single day, and then later spent three months in an intense immersion program with no English allowed. Not surprisingly, I remember a couple of songs in Latin, I know enough French to order food, I can say thank you in Arabic, and I can actually speak Chinese.

The methods described in Fluent Forever are very detailed and provide all the information and resources you would need to begin tackling the language you'd like to learn. Some of the methods from the book are:

*Never translate. Cutting out English (or whatever your native language is) allows you to actually think in your target language. You can use pictures at first to learn words, slowly graduating to simple definitions and fill-in-the-blank flash cards. This allows you to learn the vocab and grammar of your target language without having to translate back and forth. This will help you attain fluency rather than just the ability to translate.

*Make personal connections. We can remember a concept with a personal connection 50% more easily than a concept without one. For example, if you can connect the word for dog in your target language with an image of a cute little dog, you'll probably be able to remember that word pretty easily. But if you can connect the word for dog in your target language with the dog you had growing up, it will be essentially impossible for you to forget the word.

*Study using spaced repetition. This is a learning technique that incorporates increasing intervals of time between reviews of previously learned material. The intervals are specifically chosen to have you recall material at the optimal time to push them deeper into your long-term memory.

*Choose the right vocabulary. Pick up a frequency dictionary to begin studying your target language by learning the first thousand most frequent words. Beyond that, target the specific type of vocab you need, whether political, academic, financial, etc.

If you're interested in learning a foreign language, or want to delve back into one you studied years ago, I suggest picking up this book. It has motivated me to get back into regular Chinese study, incorporating some of these techniques I've not tried before. If you don't want to read the book, you can also check out the website here for more information on the tips and techniques.

What do you think? Will you try to learn a new language? Would you want your kids to be bilingual?

Disclosure: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for my review. I picked this book to read + review, and I absolutely loved it. All opinions are 100% my own.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mocha Brownie Milkshakes

I confess that I am an ice cream addict. I would have no problem eating a bowl of ice cream every night (and some weeks, I do). I blame it on my parents and the ubiquitous half-gallon of Breyer's we had in the freezer growing up. And while I do love a good milkshake (looking at you, Cook-Out), rarely do I make them at home. So this weekend I threw together this mocha brownie milkshake to switch things up a bit. The brownies that I used were from an Immaculate Baking mix. Have you tried their products? Their new dry baking mixes have no trans fat and do not contain any artificial preservatives or high fructose corn syrup! Two thumbs up. You can find their new baking mixes in the baking aisle at Target.

Mocha Brownie Milkshake
1 pint vanilla ice cream
2 brownies, cut into small pieces (I used Immaculate Baking)
1/4 cup milk
3 Tbsp cold coffee
1-2 Tbsp chocolate syrup

Place all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth with tiny brownie pieces visible. Drizzle chocolate syrup on inside of a glass. Pour in milkshake and serve with whipped cream and crumbled brownie pieces. Makes 2 large or 3 small milkshakes.

source: recipe from bakerella

Disclosure: I received the information and prize pack from General Mills through Platefull Co-Op. All opinions are 100% my own.

Friday, August 22, 2014

REESE'S Dessert Bars

Continuing my recent obsession with all things chocolate + peanut butter, I made these REESE'S bars a couple of weekends ago. We had friends over for dinner at the last minute since bad weather canceled our beach trip plans, and I didn't have time to make a time-consuming dessert. Enter these bars, and a confession: they are from a box . Yes, I prefer to make many things from scratch, but I am not above a Betty Crocker box mix. These bars were so good our friends asked me for the recipe.... and then I had to admit I served them dessert from a box. Thankfully they are good friends and totally didn't care :) These bars are really quite delicious and all it takes is mixing up each of the three layers with butter, egg, and milk (only the bottom layer has to be baked!). Next time I need a quick and easy dessert, I'm going to try the HERSHEY'S S'mores bars. 

Disclosure: I received the information and prize pack from General Mills through Platefull Co-Op. All opinions are 100% my own.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

National Lemonade Day

Apparently today is National Lemonade Day (is it just me or is there a "national day" for everything?), so I thought I would share some of my favorite lemonade recipes today. Or maybe this is just another desperate attempt of mine to hold onto every last second of summer!