Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Slim Down Countdown: Lose weight for New Year's Eve!

Now that everyone is probably over stuffed and regretting their decisions from Thanksgiving, I wanted to post about something that I love for that little extra motivation to drop those unwanted pounds – Dietbet!  I have spoken about it on previous blog posts but I haven’t gone into detail on what it is, how it works, and why you should try it, so that’s what I’m going to do for you now!
First, let me tell you the general set up of a game.  You bet a set amount to join the game, this amount is set by the organizer and can vary from $5-$100 but typically is set for $30-$35. Once you have joined a bet, paid the buy in, had your photos verified, and have your goal weight set by Dietbet (based on the photos/weight you sent in – I’ll explain all this), you will have 7 days to cancel your bet and receive a full refund.  Assuming you don’t back out and continue your Dietbet game (don’t back out, you CAN DO THIS!!), the goal is to lose 4% of your body weight but no more than 12% in a 4-week timespan.  For example, an individual weighs in at 200.0 lbs, they will need to weigh out at 192.0 (or less).  As long as you meet your 4% goal, you WIN!  This means that for our example of a 200.00 weigh in, 192.2 is not going to count as a winning weight! 
The money that you, and all other “betters”, bet goes into a virtual pot.  This pot is then split (minus the fee taken by Dietbet) between all winners of the game, those that met their 4% goal.  Dietbet takes a small portion of the pot as their “fee” for hosting the game but forfeit that fee if every person wins so that you never lose money when you win.  This means that you are guaranteed to receive your bet money back even if every single person meets their goal.  The average that I have won from my dietbet games is about $20.  So for a $30 buy in, I would win $50 back.  Make sense? 
Let’s move on to some specifics of the game!  You are required to weigh in twice for the game, once when you submit your bet and again in the 48 hour window upon completion of the dietbet.  I recommend weighing in once a week, just to keep you on track either in the game or just on your own, but those two times are the only required weigh-ins.  For both official (required) weigh ins, you will take a picture showing your feet standing on the scale with your specific keyword.  The keyword is a specific word sent to you from Dietbet that is only good for a certain time frame.  Your word will be different for your weigh in and weigh out.  The second picture will be a smiling full body picture of you standing on the scale.  Don’t worry your photos are private unless choose to share them publicly!  I always weigh in first thing in the morning so of course I look rough i.e. hair crazy, no makeup, shorts, & a t-shirt, and don’t want a soul to see them!  Those pictures are checked by the Dietbet “referees” to ensure that no one is cheating and to confirm your weights.
Like a true dieter, Gidget was coaxed into posing for her full body weigh in photo using food! Haha
Why should you do this?  Well, are you looking to lose weight?  Do you want a great support system?  Do you want a little extra cash and maybe some prizes as well?  If you answered yes to those, then that’s why you should give it a try!  I have “competed” in several Dietbet games and I have both won and lost games, but I still feel that it works as a great incentive for me.  For me, knowing that I have a set goal and timeframe as well as some money (money that could be buying me some cute jewelry or new shoes) on the line pushes me to win just a little harder, but I do know that may not be a motivator to others!  The support system and friends that I have made by joining the Dietbet groups online, via the website, Facebook, or Instagram, is like no other.  Groups will share recipes, workouts, NSVs (non-scale victory), and just good motivation to keep you accountable.  Even dietbets that I didn’t “win”, I still felt like I won because I gained friends and was able to gain more knowledge on lifestyles – diet or fitness  that I may not have had an insight on before!
With all that being said, I will be joining several Dietbets and would love for you to join me!  One is starting January 9th & is hosted by Brandi Laughlin with great motivation via her Facebook group and tons of prizes to be won in addition to the bet money!  Join HERE! I will probably host another Dietbet in the spring months so stay tuned!

**I have no affiliation/sponsorship with Dietbet, I just like them!  If you have more questions, please contact me and I will help the best I can!!**

Monday, November 21, 2016

Sea Salt Caramel Coconut Macaroons: A Baker's Easy Fall Treat

Happy Monday of Thanksgiving week!!  

We dubbed them "Acorn Coconut Macaroons" for the woodland themed baby shower last weekend.
So Saturday on my Apple Butter Ham & Swiss Sliders recipe post, I mentioned the yummy Sea Salt Caramel Coconut Macaroons that I also made for the shower I hosted last weekend.  This is by far one of my favorite recipes ever!  I’m very excited to share it with you because it is so easy to make!  Traditional macaroon recipes use egg whites and no flour and are a longer process to bake.  For my quick and easy recipe, I use condensed sweetened milk and a small amount of flour.  
These delicious macaroons are now my go to treat whenever I need a sweet for any kind of function – work, family, or friends – or just craving some yummy coconut all for myself!  I first made this recipe when my boyfriend wanted Coconut Cream Pie and I just wasn't up for going through that process!  I already knew I had everything for these – having a love for baking, I keep a lot of ingredients for sweets around.  That first time I made them as just plain ol’ coconut macaroons without using chocolate for dipping or the delicious sea salt caramel chips.  The second time, as I was wandering through the baking isle looking for the perfect chocolate to dip them in (I highly recommend using Ghiradelli – it just puts the chocolate taste over the top!), I spotted the sea salt caramel chips.  Now I am a sucker for anything with sea salt, but salt with the sweetness of chocolate – YUM - Best combo ever invented I tell ya!!

I had a coworker try both my original plain coconut macaroons and she loved them but definitely fell in love when she tasted the chocolatey sea salt caramel coconut goodness that is this recipe! Enough drooling onto my keyboard, let's get down to making these delicious treats so you we can eat them already!

Sea Salt Caramel Coconut Macaroons
Prep Time: 10 mins                    Cook Time: 14 mins              Yields: ~30 macaroons

14 oz (1 can) of condensed sweetened milk - I use Borden.
5 1/2 cups of shredded coconut
2/3 cup flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate melting wafers
1 1/4 cups Sea Salt Caramel Chips - Hershey's Kitchen

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, mix together the coconut and flour until the coconut is evenly coated with flour.  Add the condensed milk and using a spatula fold & blend into coconut flour mixture.  
3. Add the almond and vanilla extract and continue to blend the mixture.  Gradually add and mix the sea salt caramel chips into the coconut mix.  
4. Once everything is mixed and chips appear to be evenly disbursed, using either a tablespoon or small ice cream scoop, place heaping tablespoon size amounts of the mixture onto the parchment paper about 1 inch apart.
5. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until tops of coconut have become golden brown.
6. Take from oven and let cool, set aside to cool.
7. In a small bowl, melt a large amount of the Ghiradelli Dark Chocolate melting wafers.  I usually start with heating for 1 minute, then 30 sec intervals, stirring in between each interval.  Once the chocolate is melted, dip the bottom of the coconut macaroons in the chocolate.  Set aside and let the chocolate harden.
8.  Once the chocolate has hardened, enJOY your delicious treat!

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!  I will be taking these when I travel to my family for Thanksgiving this week.  I have not made these for my family before so I am hoping to wow them!  Also, I am definitely looking forward to gobbling them up myself!  


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Apple Butter Ham & Swiss Sliders: Savory Holiday Recipe

Meaty – Check.  Cheesy – Double Check.  Buttery – CHECK!

This is the first of a few great holiday recipes that I will be posting over the next few days!  I mentioned these delicious, savory sliders on my previous post.  I made these Apple Butter Ham & Swiss Sliders for that baby shower last weekend for the first time and they were a HUGE hit!  I did not get to bring a single one home!   I decided that they will definitely be a staple for holiday/family gatherings from now on!  For this particular recipe, I used ham fresh from the deli but will be using leftover Thanksgiving ham next weekend to make them for my family!  These delicious sliders were so incredibly easy to make and quick too!  From prepping to out of the oven is only about 35 minutes!  I actually saved these for last when cooking for the baby shower so that they would be hot and fresh for all the guests to enjoy!  While they were in the oven, I put the finishing touches on my coconut macaroons! 

As a note, I will always try to include brands/types of foods that I use but don’t feel like you HAVE to use what I did (I also have no affiliation with any brands).  I just find it to be helpful when you’re standing in the isle trying to decide what they meant by the very generic description of “mustard” because let’s face it – there are 5,000 types of mustard!

So let’s get right to the good stuff – the recipe!  

 Apple Butter Ham & Swiss Sliders
Prep Time: 15 mins    Cook Time: 20 minutes          Yields 12 Sliders

1 package King’s Hawaiian rolls (yields 12 sliders)
½ lb of ham – I used Boar’s Head Smoked Ham
12 slices Swiss cheese – Boar’s Head
½ cup apple butter – Musselman’s
3 tsp Grey Poupon mustard 
5 T melted unsalted butter
2 tsp Dijon mustard (Great Value)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins)
2 tsp poppy seeds (Kroger)
½ tsp garlic powder (McCormick's)

1.    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2.    Mix together the apple butter and Grey poupon thoroughly.  Cut the sliders into tops/bottoms and spread the mixture on the inside of both the bottom and top.  Use all of this mixture to coat the rolls.
3.    Place 6 slices of Swiss cheese on the rolls then layer the ham on top of the cheese. Use the remaining 6 slices of cheese to make a top kayer over the ham and place the roll tops back in place to make the “slider”. (You can use less or more ham and it may depend on how thick of slices you choose to use.  I got a slightly thicker cut on the ham to make it seem less “deli-like”. Totally up to you!)
4.    Place the sliders onto a shallow rimmed baking pan.  I used my favorite from The Pioneer Woman set!
5.    In a small bowl, mix the remaining ingredients together until mixed evenly.  Lightly pour half of the mixture over the top of the sliders.  Using a pastry brush, or similar, and spread the mixture on the sliders.  Brush on the sides and tops until all of the mixture is gone.
6.    Place the sliders in the oven and cook for 20 minutes or until cheese has melted and tops have become golden. 
7.    Remove, allow to cool for 10 minutes, & enJOY!

I guarantee this will be a huge hit with your family or coworkers this holiday season!  And now that it seems to FINALLY be fall in Texas, I can’t wait to make these again as well as so many other delicious, warm treats!!  Stay tuned for my Sea Salt Caramel Coconut Macaroons recipe soon!


Thursday, November 17, 2016

How to Host a Woodland Fall Baby Boy Shower

As mentioned on my previous post from Sunday, I have been very busy the last couple of weeks getting everything together for Camille’s baby shower.  Well, the baby “sprinkle” actually.  Camille wanted something more intimate and low-key so we did a sprinkle as opposed to a shower!  She discusses more about the baby sprinkle over here on The Cocooners and describes it better than I can! 
I was so honored to plan this event and with the creative help of another lady, accomplished everything for under $100!  That is including the ingredients for the 3 food items I made as well as games, prizes, and favors for the guests.  With that being said, we had a small group of 10 and was able to host the event in home as opposed to renting a venue.  Hopefully, this will still give you some great ideas if you are planning an upcoming shower or other event!  
**Also, if you are new to my page, know that I use my iPhone to take all photos for the time being - hoping to upgrade to a big kid camera real soon!!**
Since I am definitely a people pleaser, Camille was involved in the theme of the general décor that was decided for the shower as well as approving the games!  We went with a warmer, fall woodland theme, which I think turned out very well, if I do say so myself!  We used pine cones, candles, and festive fall décor as a centerpiece for our theme.  Being so close to Thanksgiving, it was easy to have plenty of décor throughout the rooms we used!

As everyone arrived, they were greeted with wine, with exception to Camille of course, and asked to put their guess in for the first game at the entry way table.  The entry way table was decorated with “S’mores” favors and “Guess how many M&M’s in the baby bottle”.  You would definitely be surprised at how many M&Ms fit in a bottle!!  After making their guess, we placed their gifts near the fireplace and sent guests to mingle.
Once everyone had arrived, last being the glowing mother, everyone grabbed some delicious treats and mingled for a short while.  We then moved on to the games!  We chose to do 2 more games: Name the Baby Song & Match the Word with the Language.  The matching language game proved to be a little difficult after some wine though - HA!  It was still fun and definitely entertaining!  We made sure to tie in the layout of the games with our sprinkle decor.  Little birch trees lined the header or footer of the food place cards as well as the game answer sheets. The mother opened gifts and gushed over all the adorable baby boy items she received!  We then mingled some more, had more wine, and ate way too much of the delicious food!
Photo Credit: Camille Cochran

I made several different food items and brought zero leftovers home with me so I would say that was a success!  Over the next week or two, I will be posting these delicious recipes so stay tuned!  They are all relatively quick and easy so they would be great for the upcoming holidays.  Until I post the recipes, please feel free to drool over the pictures below!
Sea Salt Caramel Coconut Macaroons - The sea salt seriously MAKES these the best ever!
Apple Butter Ham & Swiss Sliders - as amazing as they sound!
This picture was taken right out of the oven!

Rocky Road Cheeseball - a play on the S'mores Cheeseball I've made previously!
I loved planning Camille’s “Sprinkle” and I know she will gladly return the favor for me in the future… the far, far, very distant future!  Have you planned a baby shower/sprinkle before?  Tell me some of your favorite things from a shower you planned or have been too!!
The beautiful rose gold Kendra Scott necklace that I received as my hostess gift.  Find it here!

**This post contains affiliate links (when you click and/or purchase from an affiliate link, I get a small commission for the sale at no cost to you).  Thanks for supporting the blog!**
#babyshowerideas #falldecor #foodrecipes #partyfavors

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Shopping Splurges & Deals

What a beautiful Sunday morning!!
Adorable mug for $5 at Lush Fashion Lounge - They always have great clearance items!!
I meant to get this post out a little earlier this week, and then yesterday but I had so many things to get done for the baby shower that I hosted for my friend Camille over at The Cocooners yesterday afternoon.  Next week, look forward to recipe overload since I made some very delicious treats for the shower – sweet & savory!  For today, I wanted to share some of the deals that I got last weekend with you!  I am always looking for a good deal, mainly because I’d be broke if I didn’t, with my addiction to shopping!  I love to shop online and in stores, typically more so in stores if I don’t know the fit of the brand.  These are mostly all in store finds.  A good amount was from Old Navy – which I love.  Old Navy just seems to have cheaper items and not necessarily cheaper quality.  I am currently losing weight and spending loads of money on nicer clothes, not knowing if they will fit next month, just isn’t something I’d like to do!  **I apologize in advance for the lower quality/resolution of the pics.  I am using my wonderful iPhone and I do not currently have a great mirror for selfies!!**
Swing dress, animal print wedges, Kendra Scott earrings, Kendra Scott necklace, James Avery ring, & watch.
This dress from Old Navy is insanely comfy, soft, and light!  I actually wore this dress paired with my fav animal print wedges to the shower yesterday!  Animal print is a strong love of mine and I love pairing it with anything I can – currently in the market for a large blanket scarf with this print!  My Kendra Scott Alexandra earrings in Cobalt are one of my favorites that I scored from NM Last Call for under $30 with free shipping!  I always recommend signing up for email lists when you can because stores will send out some crazy good flash sales!  The gorgeous KS Bridgete necklace was my hostess gift from Camille.  She knows I love Kendra Scott!! (Thank you so much lady!!)
Sweater, jeans, & shoes (similar)
I love this comfy outfit from Old Navy and JCP.  I don’t shop much at JCP but my better half loves to get some “working man” jeans there for pretty cheap, which is why I was there.  The JCP sweater is so soft and lightweight which is perfect for fall here in Texas!  These Old Navy jeans are thinner and have some stretch (which makes them last a little longer for me losing weight).  They also tend to fit slightly larger, so I would suggest ordering a size down from your normal! For $15, these jeans really can’t be beat!
BP. Faux Leather Leggings, photo cred Nordstrom
I just ordered these faux leather leggings from Nordstrom that I can’t wait to pair with that sweater!! Get them here for $29!  These are definitely going to be a fall/winter staple for me!

I love this cowl neck shirt and it is from Frenchrum Emporium - an adorable online boutique!  This great piece is extremely soft and was only $28!!  Once again, being in Texas, lighter long sleeve or sweaters are better because our winters just aren’t prominent for any lengthy amount of time compared to other places. 
Shirt, jeans, & boots.
I had to at least show off my handsome man and a couple of things we got him.  His shirt is Old Navy for $18 but his jeans are definitely a splurge!  They are Buffalo by David Bitton.  The fit and the longevity of these jeans are so worth it!! They typically run around $100 but we found this magical unicorn pair on clearance with a coupon for $25. WINNING!!

Well that is it from our shopping trip last weekend!  Stop by the blog later this week and you will see the design will have a face lift!!  I will also be posting several recipes this week in preparation for Thanksgiving.  Thanks for stopping by the blog and hopefully I put you in the shopping spirit!  Christmas is so close – don’t wait until the last moment!!  Now go out and enjoy this amazing Sunday! 

**This post contains affiliate links (when you click and/or purchase from an affiliate link, I get a small commission for the sale at no cost to you).  Thanks for supporting the blog!**

Monday, November 7, 2016

Birthday Food Frenzy: French Toast, Cake, & BBQ

Happy Monday after time change everyone!  

We celebrated my better half’s dirty 30 this past weekend with some food and relaxing time together!  Since he is not one for parties and it seems every time we’ve gone out for his birthday, something has gone wrong, we decided to just relax at home.  I did end up talking the old man into a brunch out and some shopping after! 

                The birthday tradition in my house growing up was my mom making homemade lasagna with the cake of our choosing for our birthdays (I would endlessly pick her lemonade cake as did my brother).  Lucky for me, that tradition is living on in my home as an adult.  Even though homemade lasagna is time consuming, the outcome is WELL worth it.  Although I did not make everything from scratch this go around, seeing how I worked all day then came home to cook, it was still very delicious.  I bought everything I needed from Walmart (only since it was right up the road and didn't care to drive further to Kroger) for about $15.  

The lasagna turned out great and continued to feed both of us throughout the week.  This would be the perfect dish to make on the weekend normally and eat over the next few days or even freeze to enjoy later!  He loves Nothing Bundt Cakes in Frisco so I picked out two mini bundtlets for him to enjoy – cinnamon roll & lemon.  A few bites were all that we could have that evening since we were so full of lasagna but they were also delicious!  It was a very mellow night at home to mourn his 20s and celebrate his 30s!

               The compromise for us having dinner at home the night of was enjoying some time running around town this weekend (& having all of our favorite foods).  This, my friends, is a big deal!  I usually have to BEG for him to go shopping or run errands so I was ecstatic when he easily agreed to tag along!  Saturday morning we had brunch at one of our newly discovered favorites – Black Walnut Café.  Typically, I am strict dieting and just get a simple plate with eggs and bacon but I went all out this weekend!  Prepare yourself for drooling!

Napoleon French toast with strawberries, spiced walnuts, topped with delicious cannoli creme and a yummy Peppermint Mocha on the side.  This combination was perfect for the chill in the air (it went from 80s to a cool mid-60s over the weekend here in Texas).  I will definitely be attempting this amazing recipe on my own in the future (watch out for that recipe!)

                After brunch, we went gallivanting (haha – I love using that word for some reason) around town and picked up some goodies on sale!  I will be posting later this week on the things we picked up and steals that we found!  I am always looking for a bargain because let’s face it, no matter how much money you have, what is the point of wasting it?!  I also got the chance to pick up everything that I needed for the baby shower I am hosting this weekend for the lovely Camille over at The Cocooners!  All favors, game prizes, and decorations have been purchased!  Planning such an event is much more work than I thought it would be – but absolutely worth it!!  I clearly see why there is a whole career field for party planning now!  

For dinner, we went to – what has quickly become – one of our favorite BBQ places in Texas.  Being from Oklahoma, barbeque is everywhere so I have tried many a brisket and Hard Eight BBQ is AMAZING!  You literally pick your food from the smoker/grill that they have set up as you are walking in.  We always choose brisket but this time also got a slice of ham, turkey, and sausage to venture out and try.  The food is market style so you pick the amount you want.  We usually pick much more than we will eat while we are there because the food makes such great leftover lunches for the work week!  We ate way too much and yet still got some cherry cobbler to enjoy!  Once we made it home, we were ready to pass – helping us enjoy that extra hour of sleep that much more!

The rest of our weekend consisted of puppy kisses, laundry, dishes, and cleaning house! Regular old people shenanigans – haha!  I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend and that the extra hour of sleep worked in their favor when waking up this Monday morning!
XOXO Gossip Girl 

……………Just kidding – the identity of Gossip Girl ruined my life almost as bad as Lost ending did – le sigh.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

S’mores Cheeseball - Chocolate, Marshmallows, & Ooey Gooey Goodness!

This year has flown by – 2017 is right around the corner!  We had a Halloween Potluck at work this past week and I wanted to make something unique.  Seeing how we are in Texas and it is still in the 80s on a daily basis, I wanted to make a cold take on a typically delicious hot treat!  So I give you the amazing S’mores Cheeseball!  I found several different cheeseball recipes on good ole Pinterest and tweaked a sweet one that I liked to give me the following treat!
As a typical girl, I LOVE me some chocolate!  I also love a classic work potluck, so I organized one with my coworkers.  (Another one is planned for December!)  I waited until a few days before our potluck to decide what I wanted to make.  If there were too many sweets, I would make a savory item and vice versa.  We ended up having a pretty even split so I went with my gut (as I am more of a baker than a cook) and planned to make a sweet tooth treat.  As always, I scrolled through Pinterest looking for a recipe and kept stumbling upon cheeseballs – savory & sweet recipes.  I pinned several since the holidays are coming up and who doesn’t need 4000 recipes on their Pinterest that they will probably never make!  I went back through and decided to go with a yummy sounding s’mores recipe and changed it up a bit to my liking!

                Very first thing you should know – this needs to chill for 1-2 hours before finishing the last step!!  This takes all of 10-15 minutes to prepare not including that chilling time, so don’t wait until the last minute to try to whip this up!

8 oz Philadelphia cream cheese (cooled to room temperature)
1/3 cup marshmallow crème
1 cup mini marshmallows
½ cup powdered sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 box of graham crackers
(you can use other brands than I used - I just love when recipes tell exactly what brand was used!)

Utensils needed:
Saran wrap
Small bowl
Wax paper

1.       Mix cream cheese (room temperature) and marshmallow crème in the mixer until smooth.
2.       Melt 2 oz of the chocolate chips. Making sure to not burn the chocolate – do short time frames in the microwave – I start with 1 min then stir and do 30 sec intervals as needed, stirring in between intervals.  Blend into cream cheese/marshmallow mixture.
3.       Add the salt, powdered sugar, and vanilla into mixture until blended.
4.       Add ½ cup of mini marshmallows & ½ cup of the chocolate chips, stir until evenly distributed through mixture. 
5.       Line a cereal (or ice cream!) sized bowl with saran wrap, using enough to allow full wrapping of the mixture, and drop the mixture onto the saran wrap in the bowl.  (I then helped the mixture form the ball shape but you could also form other shapes if desired i.e. heart.)
6.       Let this cool for about 2 hours in the fridge.
7.       Prior to getting the mixture from the fridge, lay out a sheet of wax paper.  Mix the remaining chocolate chips & marshmallows with 2 smashed full size graham crackers (the large rectangle – before they are broken apart) & spread out on the wax paper.
8.       Pull the chilled mixture from the fridge and remove the plastic.  Roll the mixture over the wax paper spread, coating the outside of the mixture in graham cracker, chocolate chips, and marshmallows!
9.       Serve with graham crackers for dipping and enJOY!!  Best enjoyed 20 minutes after removal from the fridge!  Be sure to refrigerate any leftovers!
I chose not to do the graham crackers on the outside this particular time and it was still fabulous!
I had 2 mini scoops leftover which were quickly devoured by my other half upon arriving home!  This was such a huge hit that it was requested for the baby shower I am hosting in a couple weeks!  I will be doing a variation on this recipe for the baby shower so stay tuned for that in the coming weeks!!

**If you made this and enjoyed or even if you had trouble with something, please let me know!!  I love baking and definitely want my recipes to be attainable!

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