Tuesday

Sea Salted Carmel Chews


My friends and I recently took a dessert class and I have to say it was informative and fun!

Ingredients
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 5 tablespoons of unsalted butter cubed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt, additional used for topping
  • 1 and half cups of sugar
  • 1/4 cup of light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
Directions
  • Line an 8x8  baking pan with parchment paper and brush or spray lightly with oil and set aside
  • in a small saucepan, bring heavy cream, butter and salt to a boil. Then remove from heat and set aside
  • In a large saucepan on high heat, stir together sugar, corn syrup and water until sugar is dissolved. Boil without stirring until the mixture turns to a light golden caramel color. (you can gently swirl the entire saucepan occasionally to ensure even heating)
  • Lower heat to a simmer and very carefully pour cream mixture into the saucepan. 
  • Stirring occasionally, bring mixture to 250 F or for candy making aficionados the firm ball stage
  • pour mixture into baking pan and allow to cool completely, about two hours. 
  • 1/2 hours after pouring, sprinkle caramel with more sea salt as desired
  • Remove caramel from baking pan and using a sharp, warm knife, cut the caramel into 2 inch squares
This makes 16-24 chews

Monday

Helium Hand- How to balance work/life/volunteering

My husband often says I have a Helium Hand. For the first year of our marriage I would disagree with him on this. But as they said hind sight is 20/20, and when looking back, I must admit I kinda do.

Q: So what is a helium hand?
A: Someone asks for a volunteer, and your hand just goes up, as if it has a balloon attached.

The Mister has joked that I don't know how to say no. He has even proceeded to ask me a round of questions that he knows I will say no to, to illustrate that I do know how to say no. and then ask why I didn't say no when asked. After a bit of reflection the answer is simple. I call in half Catholic Guilt (yes this is real) - when called upon, I don't want to let people down. and half me believing that I was called upon for a reason (though I am still wondering what the reason is for some of my past commitments)

Entering 2014, I worked to be purposeful in additional commitments I took on, while working to edit those things on my plate. As a result, I enter 2015 refreshed, and rededicated to my commitments. 

Simply put sometimes in doing less, you will do more!

Life
Do What You Love- these simple words are a guiding principal in my life. Thru work, and volunteering I strive to Do What I love. And I do so with the support of friends, family and co-workers. I am the person I am today in part due to these people. Many of these same people have handed me said balloon, while others have talked me into popping it.... 

Work
I am blessed to have an amazing job I LOVE, work for an AMAZING company, and work with/for some truly INSPIRING people. Let me tell you a little bit about my work life. I have been with the same company for the last 15 years (it will be 16 years in just 10 days) I work for a company that values work/life balance and understands that it is important to work to live, not live to work.

One may ask if I am still challenged, and  driven after 16 years, and that answer is a undeniable YES! Leadership continues to push my team and I to be the best version of us, and the best store we can be. And inturn I continue to grow with my team, peers, and company.

It is often said that a team is only as strong as its weakest link- this may hold true, but I prefer to focus on members strengths. I like to think of team more of a twisted rope. A rope that is woven/twisted together- complete with various members strengths and weaknesses, and together we form a tight knit rope- one that can hold together and accomplish anything. I am blessed to be part of a team that capitalizes on each others strands of strengths- one that is comfortable reaching out to ask for assistance.

So yes- in reflecting I do often have a helium hand at work. I raise my hand to take on a project that may help me grow as a leader, I stay late to develop a team member, or have a coaching conversation. I take on an additional project/position to grow the team, or align with a company initiative.I have a hellium hand to strengthen my individual and team rope

As I work on my performance review for last year, I am thankful for the time to reflect, the time to analyze and the time to strategize. But one things holds true- and that is you will continue to see my hand held high in the new year

Volunteering
It is not what we have in our life, but who we have in our life that matters most. This statement is one I could not agree with more, and is one of the many reasons I have stayed involved with Alpha Chi Omega Women's Fraternity over the past fifteen years. Giving back to an organization who has given so much to so many is a no brainier for me. I am passionate about the organization. An organization that recognizes the importance of developing tomorrows female leaders, an organization that fights to bring awareness to Domestic Violence prevention, and advocates for victims, An organization that is striving to change the conversation on so many levels, and an organization that remains relevant to over 200,000+ initaited members across the coutnry.

Over the years my helium hand has gotten quite a work out when called upon to serve the organization.
VP Fraternity Relations, Homecoming chair,  collegiate chapter officer, chapter advisor, long distance advisory board, alumnae chapter member, virtual alumnae chapter member, alumnae chapter president, alumnae chapter panhellenic delegate,  National Panhellnic Conference Volunteer, REPRESENT faciliator, ASTP facilitator, Recruitment specialist, IMPACT facilitator, AFA member, AFA awards committee member, Panhellenic Recruitment Task force member, Panhellenic Exploratory Expansion Task force Memeber, Convention Minutes Committee, Convention Teller, and the list goes on..

I list the previous only to share that I have learned that Alpha Chi Omega will be omni present for its members and volunteers. The organization will serve and call upon you to serve. There are times that members lives will align with them giving back, and there are times the organization will give back. Thus when asked and when I am able I do give back. Over the years, I have also determined that giving back surrounded by friends is more than just giving back. It is creating life long memories. I could not do half of what I have been able to accomplish with out my mentors, friends and sisters. (To the Aggie, Jenn, Amy, and Joys of the world I am blessed to call you more than just a sister, but also a close friend) The morale of this is that if you surround yourself with those who align with your values and passions you can accomplish more together. You will push each other, and challenge each other. You will pick each other up with you are down, and inspire each other to achieve more.

I have also learned that it is important to at times be selfish with your volunteer endeavors. Meaning it is important to at times stop and evaluate what is important to you, and if the volunteer role is still relevant. Questions to ask yourself?
Am I the right person for this role? Could I tap someone else who is more aligned?
Who is my bench strength? and/or who Could I develop to volunteer in this role in the future?
Does this volunteer role challenge me and engage me as a volunteer?
Does this volunteer role truly capitalize on my strengths? and challenge me in ways that allow me to grow as an individual?

These are questions I use to pulse check myself in the many roles I play. And those that know me know my hand is going up less these days, but not because I am volunteering less becuase I am being more purposeful in volunteering.

And if you are thinking about volunteering. I feel it is important for me to share that you must always keep in mind- that to the world you may just be one person, but to one person you maybe the world.

Future
So what does the future hold?
One can be sure that I will continue to have a hellium hand in work and volunteering.

But I will also remain committed to raising my hand in my personal relationships and endevors.
I will raise my hand to date nights
I will raise my hand to blogging
I will raise my hand to travel
I will raise my hand to remain committed to being the best me I can be.

Tuesday

Cheese Lover's Round Up


Lose yourself in this amazingly cheesy recipe round up.


Guest Post Hun... What's for Dinner?


Hi everyone! I'm Cindy from Hun... What's for Dinner?. I am a stay at home mom, to a 9 yr old boy and a 6 yr old girl; in Ontario Canada. I married a Chef many moons ago, thinking I'd be wined and dined every night; which was totally not the case. So I started cooking, which turned into blogging; as a way to keep track of recipes my husband liked and which he wasn't too fond of. 6 yrs later, I'm still blogging and loving every minute of it. Being in the kitchen centers me and relaxes me, so when I'm stressed or over whelmed, that's where you'll find me.

This month Britain and I are swapping guest posts, on each other's blogs. Today I will be sharing an amazing Cheese Lover's Round Up with you. When the colder weather hits, I just want to sink into a plate of cheesy, hearty delicious food. If you love cheese as much as my family does, this post is perfect for you!





Broccoli Cauliflower Cheese Bake- Noshing with the Nolands




Mexican Chicken Alfredo- In the Kitchen with Jenny








Skillet Cheese- Life Currents




Gooey & Cheesy Warm Bacon Dip- Kitchen meets Girl








Phyllo Dough Cheese Sticks- Sweet as a Cookie








Cheesy Garlic Chicken- Lemons and Laughs




Mozzarella Stuffed Garlic Rolls- Cooking from a Stay at Home Mom




Chile Con Queso- Who Needs a Cape?




Eat Local with Sweet Grass Dairy- Simply Southern Girl




Hatch Chili Grilled Cheese- Feed Your Soul Too








Cabbage and Blue Cheese Soup- An Affair from the Heart




One Skillet Cheeseburger Helper- Serena Bakes Simply From Scratch




Cheesy Potato Pizzas- Fearless Dining 




Scalloped Potatoes with Bacon & Swiss- Hun... What's for Dinner?




Pomegranate Cheese Ball- My Family Mealtime 
















Beer Cheese Fondue- Melanie Makes








Garlic Herb Cream Cheese Dip- Cooking on a Budget








Garlic Cheese Bombs- Spend with Pennies




Crock Pot Ham & Cheese Soup- Recipes that Crock




Thursday

Apple Cider Cupcakes..

I
Ok, if you know me, you know I love cider. My obsession started in college where I met my bestie. She had celiacs, thus could not drink most beers. A problem for most tailgates until our discovery of cider, and problem solved! After 4 years of tailgating and cheering on our 'Noles to Victory it is safe to say I developed a liking for cider. In fact I would consider myself somewhat of a cider connoisseur. Strongbow, Angry Orchard, Woodchuck, Thornbury, Stella Artois, Smith & Forge were my go to's until our most recent find while in Europe where we discovered Luscombe Organic Devon Cider and Kopparbergs- a Swedish producer of various ciders.. I don't discriminate.

So when I came across a sorority sister, Allison posting about Apple Beer Cupcakes she tried on Facebook, I knew I just had to try them! She stumbled across the recipe on Brown Sugar Mama. And shared with me! 

The recipe is 
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 c. sugar
  • 2 1/2 c. flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 c. shredded apples (2 Golden Delicious Apples, preferably)
  • 1 c. Angry Orchard Beer, Apple Crisp
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • maple syrup and pecan pieces for garnish
  • FROSTING
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 4 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp. heavy cream or milk
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 Degrees
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time to make sure that they are well incorporated.
  3. Add the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Now add the vanilla extract milk, and very slowly, pour in the beer while the mixer is still blending.
  4. Once you shred the apples, place the apple shreds inside a clean kitchen towel and ring the juice into a cup for you to drink later (smiles). Fold the shredded apples into the cupcake batter.
  5. Line two cupcake pans with cupcake papers and use an ice cream scoop to scoop some of the batter in each cupcake paper. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes. Allow to cool before icing.
  6. For the icing: Beat together the cream cheese and butter until well mixed. Slowly add the powdered sugar a cup at a time making sure that each cup gets well mixed making a thick and smooth frosting. Add the cinnamon, vanilla, and salt and mix once more and spread or pipe onto your cupcakes. Drizzle with maple syrup and top off with pecan pieces if you would like.
I omitted salt from both the cupcake and the frosting. I also made a second batch with gluten free flour and they turned out great just didn't rise as much 

Wednesday

Wedding Wednesday! - Rehearsal Dinner Ettique


With my Flower Girl, Lottie

A big part of our wedding weekend, was our Wedding Rehearsal followed by our Rehearsal Dinner! Both events went off without a hitch, and provided so many memories. We hosted our wedding party and family at a local Italian Restaurant, Zbardhis. We mailed invitations prior, and included reminders in the hotel guest bags. We rented the entire outside patio, decided upon a menu with 3 options (beef, chicken, and vegetarian) complete with salad, dessert, and drinks (we included beer, wine, and liquor) We started off with a cocktail hour, move into dinner, and then into a toast, and passing out of gifts the Mister and I had for our wedding party and parents.

Now that I dabble in Wedding planning on the side, the Rehearsal and subsequent Dinner always raise a ton of questions. I will do my best to offer some wedding ettique advise to common asked questions below. ..

Who pays for the rehearsal dinner?
Traditionally this is a cost that the grooms family pays for. However, the couple needs to access their wedding budget, and requests of the family when making this decision. It is important that the couple be transparent in their conversations with family in their expectations and dreams for their dinner. Often times family will contribute, but will not cover the "extras" or the bride and grooms family will co-host.

How can the bride and groom help, if parents are hosting?
offer recommendations for places, time, and style. Offer names and addresses for the guest list.
Overall, be open to assisting as needed. 

When should you hose the rehearsal dinner?
Most people opt to have their dinner following the wedding rehearsal the day prior to the wedding. However, you have to choose a time that works for you. Sometimes a rehearsal lunch,   or dinner before you leave down, for detestation wedding, etc work best for a couple

Do I have to mail formal invitations for the Rehearsal Dinner?
This depends on the dinner itself and the feel of your wedding weekend. If it is a casual affair and does not request a headcount prior, then you aren't obligated to send official invitations. You will however, need to determine how you will let those you are inviting know prior. Evites, or emails work if you choose to go this route You will most likely need an RSVP so that you can provide a headcount to the caterer or restaurant.  If your dinner is a more formal affair then invitations are a must. You can include them in wedding invitations, mail them separately or include in hotel bags.

What are the rules for who to invite? Do I just invite relatives? wedding party? or do I need to invite out of town guests as well?
There are no rules. It is your day, invite who you like. I have seen the rull range on this..
  • Just the bride and groom and immediate families- to keep it intimate and keep costs down
  • Immediate families, and wedding party (including spouses) - after all they are an important part of your big day, and likely came into town early for the rehearsal 
  • All out of town guests- this can be a great option if it fits in the budget, as it will give you a chance to chat with guests and catch up before the big day! 
To toast or not to toast? Do the Bride and Groom need to give a toast? Can the MOH and Best Man toast at the Rehearsal dinner inside of the wedding? 
These are both great questions, and as like most questions - this answer will vary based on your dinner, and the feel you are going for. In most cases the parents and/or bride and groom will give a toast.
  • This is a great opportunity for parents to Congratulate the couple, and offer words of wisdom, thanks, etc. If tradition is being followed, and the grooms parents are hosting the dinner. This is the time for the Groom and his family to shine, and give a toast. They should welcome the family, and offer well wishes.
  • This is also a great time for the couple to thank those who have traveled to attend, or are taking part in their big day. 
  • Traditionally MOH and Best man speeches are given at the wedding reception, however there are exceptions to ever rule.
When toasted it is appropriate for the couple to toast back, following tradition the groom takes the lead here. He should tell his fiance that he loves her and is excited for the big day, thank the parents for all they have done, etc... At the wedding reception you are not expected to respond to toasts, but at the rehearsal you are. 

Do we need to have favors/gifts?
Just like the option for wedding favors this is up to the couple.
The rehearsal dinner is the perfect opportunity to distribute thank you gifts to the bridesmaids and groomsmen. (especially something that you may want them to wear/use at the wedding)


Do we need to have a slideshow, or video presentation?
this is a newer phenomenon. Video footage of with images and memories of the bride and grooms past to present can be a fun look back before looking to the future. 


Tuesday

Eat local- sweet grass dairy

 The Mister and I are determined to discover Tallahassee and surrounding areas in 2015! Too often we find ourselves taking the area in which we live for-granted! First on our mission was a visit to Thomasville, GA that culminated in an evening at Sweet Grass Dairy. Sweet Grass is a local dairy located about 45 minutes from Tallahassee. Recently they opened a Cheese Shop/Bar and Chris and I decided to make a stop..
Above is the adorable bar, and a glimpse of a table set up. The walls are covered in Chicken Wire, and local photos, events, etc. The Bartender had a wealth of knowledge and engaged in conversations with Chris about local beers, ciders, and wines. Not only pairings, but places to purchase, etc

We opt'd for the Taste of Thomasville Sampler
The sampler included Green Hill, Lill' Moo, Thomasville Tomme, and Asher Blue.
The cheese was served with bread, nuts and local jams
Chris was a big fan of the Mayhaw jelly, and picked up a jar for us, and for a gift.

Above is the Baked Green Hill. It is the Green Hill Cheese baked with hen of the woods mushrooms, caramelized onions, bacons and thyme. It was served with sliced, toasted bread and was divine.
 
Chris also have the deviled farm eggs a try! He said I needed to figure out the recipe to make them, 
So I think that is a win from the mister.

now if you know the Mister, you know we can't go anywhere without C trying dessert. 
Chris opt'd for teh Greek Yogurt Cheesecake. It was topped with local spied pumpkin syrup. 
C said it was light but sweet dessert, and is something he wants to come back to have again.

With that being said..
We look forward to heading back to Sweetgrass and trying the Jessica's European Favorites, Double Down, or featured Cheese plates. 



Sweet Grass Dairy Cheese Shop on Urbanspoon

Cheddar Chicken Chowder

My bestie, Amy Z servers this each year at the annual cookie party! It is one of my FAVORITE soups! Truly she mentioned changing it up to a new soup, and I protested. The soup is a counterpoint to all the delicious sweetness of the cookies and frosting. Amy denoted that the original recipe is from Cooking Light. Since I love it sooo much. I decided to give it a try, the results = amazing as always..


Ingredients:
2 slices bacon
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup diced red bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 1/2 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1 3 /4 cups diced peeled red potato
2 1/4 cups frozen whole-kernel corn
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups 2 percent low-fat milk
3 /4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions:
Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; cool and crumble. Set aside. Add chicken , onion, bell pepper and garlic to drippings in pan; saute 5 minutes. Add broth and potatoes; bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes or until potato is tender. Add corn; stir well. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Place flour in a bowl. Gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended; add to soup. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, simmer 15 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently. Stir in cheddar cheese, salt and black pepper. Top with bacon.

Makes 7 servings, each 306 calories, 7.5 grams fat, 25 grams protein, 33.7 grams carbohydrates, 2.9 grams fiber, 58 milligrams cholesterol, 1.6 milligrams iron, 376 milligrams sodium, 193 milligrams calcium.


Notes from Amy
  • when making this in large volumes, be sure to minimize the amount of liquid you add. For the 2 double batches I made this week I used 7 cups each of chicken broth (rather than the 9 cups the recipe listed) and 3 cups of milk rather than 4.
  • a 3-pound bag of red potatoes yields just over 7 cups of peeled diced potato. And a 2-pound bag of frozen whole kernel corn is just about 7 cups so you'll need 2.

Friday

Simmering Stovetop Potpourri


There are certain smells, that will forever remind me of certain things. For me White Diamonds will forever remind me of my late Grandma, she received a bottle each Christmas. The same thing comes to mind when I think of the Holidays- growing up we always had a real tree, and with an artificial in our home, I was missing that smell. The mission recreate the smell of Christmas. So with a quick trip to the store, and a few fruits from a friends garden I was sprung into action! After all what smells more like Christmas then the scents of cinnamon, orange, nutmeg, cloves, etc..

Ingredients
4 cups water
3 cinnamon sticks (I think if you break them in half, the scent is stronger)
2 sliced tangarines 
2 sliced oranges
1 cup cranberries
dash of vanilla
1-2 Tsp. cloves  (you can use whole, or ground)
stick or two of pine... 

Options
you can also add 1 Tsp. nutmeg (grated or ground)
you can also use apple juice or apple cider in lieu of water for a slightly different smell

How to
Put all ingredients in an medium size saucepan pot and cover with water (.  Place the saucepan on the smallest burner on the stove top, cover, offsetting the lid so the fragrant steam can escape, and simmer on the lowest setting.   

Disclaimer
Stir the mixture around from time to time, so that nothing ends up sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.  Do not allow the water level to drop below the halfway point in the pot. (I make it a point to check the pot throughout the day.  Make sure to turn off the burner under the pot if you’re going to leave your house. (I mean you are going to leave to look at Christmas lights, right?) AND definitely turn off the burner on the stove at night before you go to bed (says the Mister.. as I almost forgot)

Do you have a simmering stove top potpourri recipe? Recently heard of a lemon/rosemary one I must try out? I would love to hear..

Tuesday

Perfect Fudge....

Ingredients
·         3 cups sugar
·         3/4 cup butter
·         1 5oz can evaporated milk
·         1 package 12 oz semi sweet choc morsels
·         1-10oz jar marshmallow cream
·         1 tsp vanilla extract
Directions
·         Combine sugar, butter, milk in buttered microwave safe dish, cover.
·         Microwave on high 10 minutes, stir every 3 minutes. Continue cooking another 5-6 minutes or until mixture forms                 soft ball when dropped in cool water.
·         Stir in chocolate morsels until melted. Fold in marshmallow cream, nuts and vanilla.
·         Pour mixture into buttered 9x13 inch pan.
·         Let cool until set (I usually put in refrigerator to firm up a little, after fudge is cooled).
·         Cut into one inch squares

Sunday

Super Simple Pasta Salad



Cook 1 box of tri colored Rotini
While that is cooking combine

1 cucumber cut into quarters
1 small can of olives
1 box of cherry tomatoes cut into quarters
1 container of feta cheese
and a handful of diced red onions
1 bottle of zesty Italian salad dressing