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Show Them Some Love: Wedding Welcome Bags

17 Sep

If you are planning to tie the knot in a tropical destination or just have a lot of out-of-town guests traveling to attend your wedding, providing a welcome bag is a thoughtful gesture to make your guests feel appreciated.

The perfect gift bag doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate, by providing a few key essentials like water, snacks,  aspirin and area maps, you’ll not only make your guests feel comfortable but also let them know your thankful they made the trip.  And who doesn’t like a bag of treats!

To create a bag you’ll guests will remember here are a few tips and websites to get you started.

In the Bag: From reusable tote bags to collapsible boxes, you can house your goodies in whatever you please and with so many options to choose from you can find the perfect bag to fit your budget.  Try the Oriental Trading Company,Paper MartThe Knot and Nashville Wraps.


Welcome Bag
Welcome Bag


The Goods: Select a few of your favorite  things and add in a few essentials to create the perfect swag bag.  If you are planning a local wedding, try a few Florida favorites like fresh oranges, key lime candies, and sun screen! Looking for something a little more gourmet? Try Truffle Truffle, an artisan chocolates & confections company or Garrett Popcorn, a Chicago based Popcorn Company.  You can score some free maps from your local chamber of commerce or you can create your own map  An itinerary of wedding events and a list area hot spots and attractions is also a great idea.

A Note to Say Thanks! No matter what you choose to put inside your welcome bags the most important thing is a thank you note. By adding a simple note of gratitude, you’ll not only make your guests feel welcome but you’ll also have the opportunity to thank them one more time for sharing in your special day.

Not sure if welcome bags are within your budget? No problem, try this DIY hanging welcome packet idea from Martha Stewart Weddings. You can follow the template or get creative and create your own work of art.

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Chocolate Chip Applesauce Cookies

28 Apr

At around 10:30pm I had the sudden urge to bake chocolate chip cookies.  As someone who doesn’t eat sweets that much this venture was out of the ordinary but well received. I searched for a recipe online and came across a recipe that included applesauce. Thank heavens for food blogs!

Not being a baker at all, I of course messed up a few steps, but still managed to create something edible.

{adapted from a recipe found on Tastes Better With Friends}


  • 1/2 cup of butter
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 cup of applesauce
  • 1 tsp. of baking soda
  • 2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. of salt
  • 1/2 cup of mini chocolate chips
  • a splash of vanilla
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon


  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. Cream butter and sugar and vanilla. Add applesauce.
  3. Sift flour with baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
  4. Add sifted ingredients to applesauce mixture and stir until smooth.
  5. Add mini chocolate chips  and stir until combined.
  6. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheet, spacing the cookies 2 to 3 inches apart.
  7. Bake about 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes 4 dozen cookies.


…And Many More

9 Mar

Happy Birthday Starbucks!

Starbucks is celebrating four decades in business by rolling out a new look, artfully crafted beverages, and the latest dessert trend, cake pops. If you have been living under a rock, cake pops are tiny balls of cake dipped in frosting and covered in sprinkles. The amazing little creations have become an instant sensation and can be seen artfully displayed on blogs like Bakerella.  To celebrate their milestone, Starbucks will be offering a complimentary samples of the miniature dessert Thursday, March 10th to Saturday, March 12th from 2-5pm with the purchase of a beverage.

Starbucks will also introduce Red Velvet Whoopie Pies, Mini Cupcakes, and Sweet Squares.

I cannot wait to try the cake pops out tomorrow. Check back soon for my review.

In the meantime, here is a recipe from the great Bakerella. You can also check out this clip from her appearance on the Martha Stewart show.

Cake Pops
{recipe from Bakerella}
Makes about 50

• 9-by-13-inch Chocolate Cake for Cupcake Pops
2 cups Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting
1 package chocolate coating bark
1 package white coating bark or pink candy melts
Sprinkles, for garnish
Candy-coated chocolates, such as M&M’s, for garnish

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Trim about 1/2 inch from the perimeter of the cake. Working in batches, crumble cake into the bowl of a food processor; process until fine crumbs form. Transfer to a large bowl and add frosting; blend together using the back of a spoon, until well combined, 5 to 10 minutes.
2. Roll mixture into 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-inch balls; transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cover with parchment-paper-lined aluminum foil. Transfer to refrigerator until chilled, about 2 hours or to a freezer for about 10 minutes.
3. Begin to shape balls into cupcakes by rolling balls first into logs. Fit logs into a 1 1/4-by-3/4-inch flower-shaped cookie cutter. Push cake mixture into the cutter halfway so that some of the cake mixture extends beyond the top of the cutter. Shape extended cake mixture into a cupcake-shaped top. Push cake from cutter to remove. Transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Transfer to freezer until chilled, 5 to 10 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, melt chocolate in heatproof bowl set over (but not touching) simmering water. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Remove cupcakes from freezer and dip the bottom of each cupcake into the chocolate; transfer, bottom-side up, to prepared baking sheet. To make lollipops, insert a lollipop stick into the bottom of each cupcake. Let chocolate set, 15 to 20 minutes.
5. Melt white chocolate or pink candy melts in heatproof bowl set over (but not touching) simmering water. Dip the tops of the cupcakes into the chocolate and place right-side up on prepared baking sheet or stick lollipop sticks into a Styrofoam square. Place a candy-coated chocolate in the center of each and top with sprinkles. Let dry completely.


Preheat Your Easy Bake Oven

15 Feb

After watching a recent episode of Four Wedding on TLC I had the urge to make “Funfetti” cupcakes.  If you missed the show a Florida bride who preferred fried chicken over Foie Gras served her guest a “Funfetti” wedding cake. Although the cake was not a hit with the three other brides I had to recreate the colorful treat. 

Unfortunately, the boxed mix wasn’t as tasty as I once remember so a homemade recipe was found.  Apparently, the “fun” is just a bunch of sprinkles.  So any white or yellow cake mix will do.  Here’s my favorite recipe from


Out-of-the-box Dining- Food Trucks!

10 Feb

Looking for a dining alternative? Try a food truck. The food truck revolution has hit the streets of South Florida offering gourmet fare at reasonable prices. Whether you’re looking for grilled cheese, hamburgers, cupcakes, or crepes, there is a food truck to satisfy your every craving.

This past Friday I had the opportunity to try Ms. Cheezious, an aqua truck with a mischievous pin-up girl on the side that serves freshly melted grilled cheese sandwiches. Their menu consists of gourmet options as well as familiar favorites and includes The Italian ($7), provolone, red and yellow tomato and cream cheese on country white bread, Grilled Blue & Bacon ($7), crisp bacon with creamy blue cheese and green onion on sourdough bread or you can opt to build your own cheesy creation. I chose to build my own and it was love at first bite! My grilled cheddar with roasted turkey and sweet and savory apples on multi-grain bread was perfectly crafted to create a delicious combination of fresh ingredients.

Ms. Cheezious wasn’t my first food truck find. A few months ago Latin Burger and Taco made it’s way to Ft. Lauderdale and I had the opportunity to try the burger truck co-owned by Food Network’s Ingrid Hoffman. The black and pink truck serves (like the name suggests) hamburgers and tacos with a Latin twist. Menu options include Latin Macho, chorizo, chuck and sirloin burger, Oaxaca cheese, caramelized onions and jalapeno and Chicken Tomatillo, shredded chicken cooked in tomatillo salsa topped with avocado, scallions, and cilantro. The menu is short and sweet and everything is made fresh.

I would suggest the Latin Macho a delicious burger packed with flavor. You can expect to pay less than $15 for a complete meal and you will not be disappointed.

If you are interested in learning more about the food truck craze or just want to avoid the chain restaurants and try something new, check out this website for more details.


Simple Homemade Salsa

4 Jan

My fiance’s mother makes the most amazing salsa. So, when I attempted to make it for a New Year’s Eve party I knew I had stiff competition.  Although she has never revealed her secret recipe, I had an idea of which ingredients she favored and found a simple recipe that incorporated the basics.

I used the recipe below from The Pioneer Women Cooks and crossed my fingers that my first attempt wouldn’t turn into soup instead of salsa.   

I am pleased to report the end result was a huge hit at the party. 

Restaurant Style Salsa

The Ingredients

■1 can (28 Ounce) Whole Tomatoes With Juice
■2 cans (10 Ounce) Rotel -Diced Tomatoes And Green Chiles (I mixed a can of  hot and original)
■¼ cups Chopped Onion
■1 clove Garlic, Minced
■1 whole Jalapeno, Quartered And Sliced Thin
■¼ teaspoons Sugar
■¼ teaspoons Salt
■¼ teaspoons Ground Cumin
■½ cups Cilantro
■½ whole Lime Juice

The process

Preparation Instructions
Combine whole tomatoes, Rotel, onion, jalapeno, garlic, sugar, salt, cumin, lime juice, and cilantro in a blender or food processor. Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you’d like.  Test seasonings with a tortilla chip and adjust as needed.

Refrigerate salsa for at least an hour. 

You can prep and prepare this recipe ahead of time and serve it with your favorite tortilla chips.

The results


What’s For Breakfast

31 Dec

I recently discovered browned butter and have been cooking everything I possibly can with the delicious buttery goodness ever since.  If you are new to the concept, it is a simple cooking technique that can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.  It all started with sautéed  mushrooms but quickly moved to desserts. My next venture is this recipe from  – Browned Butter French Toast.


8 slices bread (day old bread works best)
4-6 large eggs
1/2 cup milk (skim, whole, half and half or whatever else you have)
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
A bit of freshly grated nutmeg
A pinch of kosher (or sea) salt

Beat the eggs in a large bowl and then whisk in the milk. Add in 1 teaspoon of vanilla, nutmeg and a pinch of salt. Add a slice or two of bread to start soaking. Flip after a couple of minutes to soak the other side.

While the bread is soaking, start melting 1-2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Watch it closely and heat it slowly to allow it to brown. It will start smelling slightly sweet and nutty. Using a stainless steel pan allows you to visually see the butter turning a brown color. The key to browned butter is to make sure it doesn’t burn.  Turn down the heat if necessary.

Once the butter is brown, start adding the soaked bread to the pan. Soak additional pieces of bread and add later to the pan. Cook each piece of French toast for a few minutes on each side, until it’s nice and golden brown.  After cooking the first four pieces, brown more butter for the next four pieces of French toast.

Serve with pure maple syrup, a dash of powdered sugar, and top with walnuts, or almonds.