How To Build An Awesome Baked Potato Bar

You all know it is hard for me to resist a do-it-yourself or build-you-own style food bar.  I love them!  I love how they appeal to a variety of tastes and can be customized to each person’s own opinion of greatness.  Maybe it just comes from having (or being) a picky eater, but I love when you can add your favorite toppings to whatever you’re eating.

I created this baked potato bar for my kids’ joint family birthday party.  The weather was perfect so I set up everything outside.  We had tables for 30 people on the driveway (which of course I forgot to take pre-party photos of!).  But here is the buffet, bonus kids’ food station and drink area.

Baking the Potatoes:  After washing about 70 medium sized potatoes, we pricked them with a fork.  Then, my daughter and I rubbed them with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt.  Once wrapped in aluminum foil, we baked them in crock pots (along with one roaster oven from my sister in law).  For the crock pots, we baked the potatoes for about 8 hours on low until tender.  (You can also bake on high for 4.5-5 hours.)

Baked Potato Bar Toppings:

  • Guacamole
  • Butter
  • Sour Cream
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • Green Onions
  • Salsa
  • Black Beans
  • Lightly Crushed Tortilla Chips
  • Pickled Jalapenos and Carrots (most commented on!)
  • Bacon
  • Cubed Ham
  • Broccoli
  • Tomato
  • Ranch
  • Hot Sauce

We rounded out our meal with grilled chicken, bean salad, watermelon and dinner rolls.

I also served hot dogs and baby carrots for the kids.  Just in case . . .

I used our Lemonade Stand for the beverage station, serving blue punch and assorted flavored waters.

 

 

I love outdoor parties!  Don’t miss my Jedi Knight ready to strike in the photo above.

Happy Birthday, kiddos!

Have you tried a baked potato bar before?  What are your favorite toppings?

After-School Kids’ Peanut Butter Trifle

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser.  All opinions are mine alone. #StockUpWithPost #CerealAnytime #CollectiveBias

Can you believe it?  It is that time of year.  Summer has flown by as usual and we are officially back to school.  But even if your kids are not quite thrilled with the prospect, we can still find little things to celebrate . . . like a special after-school treat!  Take a look at this yummy Peanut Butter Trifle.

Trifles are a fun dessert usually served in clear glass to show off their layers.  A good trifle has creamy, fluffy and crunchy or chewy.  When I’m making something for the kids, I always think it is more fun to give them their own dish.  Maybe it comes from my disdain for sharing my own dessert, but I also just like the idea of cute, single servings.

Today, we’re using Post Consumer Brand cereals to help us celebrate the start of school and making some yummy trifles for the kids and their friends.  With all the usual back-to-school expenses, Post cereals are a great way to save money.  Plus, they offer such a variety of different cereals that there is certain to be a cereal for everyone in the family.  (I like to serve them at breakfast or as a snack.)

When I was at Walmart doing my shopping, I picked up the ingredients for the trifle.  I love that this recipe has only six different ingredients!  Here is what you’ll need.

Peanut Butter Trifle Ingredients:

  • Malt-O-Meal Peanut Butter Cups
  • Chocolate Pudding (follow box instructions)
  • Peanut Butter Pie Filling
    • 1/2 Cup Peanut Butter
    • 1/2 Cup Confectioners Sugar
    • 8 oz Cream Cheese (softened)
    • 2 Containers of Frozen Whipped Topping (thawed, divided and also used to top the trifles)

 

Make Ahead:

While the kids are at school or the night before, you will need to do three quick things.

  1. Make the peanut butter pie filling.
  2. Make the chocolate pudding.
  3. Crush a handful of the Malt-O-Meal Peanut Butter Cups cereal.  

For the peanut butter pie filling, mix the peanut butter, confectioners sugar and cream cheese together.  Then, fold in 1/2 of one container of whipped topping.  Refrigerate for at least two hours.

Just Before the Kids Come Home:  

Now, it is time to assemble your ingredients.  Don’t do this too early to keep the cereal from absorbing moisture and losing its crunchiness.

Into the bottom of each trifle dish, scoop chocolate pudding.

Then, top with the Malt-O-Meal Peanut Butter Cups cereal.  The combination of crunchy corn puffs with cocoa and REAL peanut butter make for an irresistible treat everyone will love!  And moms will be pleased that Malt-O-Meal is made with no high fructose corn syrup and 9 essential vitamins and minerals.

I bought the super-sized bag, but Malt-O-Meal offers a handful of different sizes to best suit your family.  Plus, they offer a taste guarantee.  If you don’t love it, it’s free!  (See details on packaging.)

A Tip When Using A Small Serving Dish:  When I am using a smaller sized dish (like these trifle dishes), I will often use decorating bags to pipe in the ingredients.  It keeps your layers pretty and allows you to swirl your whipped topping.

Next, pipe or scoop the peanut butter pie filling on top of the cereal.

Add your whipped topping.

Last, sprinkle a couple pinches of the crushed cereal on top of your treat.

Now, it is time to enjoy!

Grab your treats and gather around the table or head outside.  Ask for all the details of the kids’ school day and have fun making back to school a celebration.

 

 

 

 

Want to make your own back-to-school recipes? Hover over the photo to shop these versatile cereals!

And here is more about the other two cereals pictured above:

Malt-O-Meal Marshmallow Mateys® – My kids go crazy for a cereal with marshmallows.  This frosted whole grain oat cereal has 12 essential vitamins and minerals and no high fructose corn syrup.  The toasted oat flavor and the hidden marshmallows arrrrrr a delicious treat any time of day.

HONEY MAID® S’mores  Summer is coming to an end, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy the delicious taste of s’mores right in your cereal bowl.  Don’t miss the chocolatey goodness, sweet marshmallows and yummy taste of HONEY MAID® Graham Crackers.  S’more indoors have never been so delicious!

Here is where you can find these Post cereals at Walmart:

Earn $1 or $.25 cashback when you purchase some of Post’s newest additions with these Ibotta offers.

Make sure to check out more exciting offers for other Post cereal varieties like Shredded Wheat!

How do you celebrate back-to-school?  Check out more ideas from Post here or connect with Post’s Pinterest Page.

 

Mini Hot Dog JALAPENO Rolls – A Yummy Appetizer for Your Next Party

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #RediscoverLaMorena #VivaLaMorena #CollectiveBias

The other day I was talking with a friend about menu planning and in our conversation, she shared that when hosting a party, she tends to over-complicate and take on too much.  We’ve all been there; it’s an easy thing to do.

We, as hostesses, so often think we need some complex, crazy menu for a successful dinner and all it does is end up stressing us out.  So let’s rediscover the way we entertain.  After all, entertaining isn’t about impressing.  It’s about hospitality, the warmth with which you welcome guests into your home, and making the whole evening do-able.

Let’s step back and think easy, fun and attainable.  Let’s stop the stressful, cumbersome menus and keep things enjoyable as we prepare for and welcome friends into our home.  And we can do all of this without sacrificing great taste and quality.

Today, I have a simple but yummy appetizer recipe.  We’re taking something pretty traditional and adding a little twist (and kick).  It’s going to be delicious.  Check it out!

But first, don’t miss this sweepstakes where you can win fun prizes to help you discover new places!

#VivaLaMorenaSweepstakes(7/19 to 8/23)

Mini Hot Dog Jalapeño Rolls

Who doesn’t love crescent rolls and the warm, baked goodness of dough?  They are easy and pretty much something you can’t mess up.  But for this recipe, I wanted to try something new.  So I wrapped cocktail hot dogs,  LA MORENA® Sliced Jalapeños (28oz) and cheddar cheese inside crescent roll dough.  The jalapeños added such great flavor as well as a little kick.  These appetizers will delight your guests.  And one thing I love?  They are simple to make for a busy hostess!

Ingredients & Instructions:

  • LA MORENA® Sliced Jalapeños (28oz) . . . with plenty left over for a treat later!
  • 2 packages of crescent dough sheets (This will make 16 rolls.)
  • 1 – 12oz. package of mini hot dogs
  • 2-3 cups of shredded cheddar cheese

Roll out the sheet of dough.  Be sure to buy the sheets and not the pre-perforated crescent rolls.  This will allow you to cut whatever shape and size you like.

With a pizza cutter, slice through the dough.  You should expect to get eight rolls out of one sheet, more if you make your rolls smaller.

Add a couple pinches of shredded cheddar cheese to the center of your dough.

Now for the best part . . .

 

Place a sliced jalapeño on top of the cheese.  I was so excited when I opened my can of LA MORENA® because the jalapeños are sliced lengthwise which is perfect for cradling the mini hot dog.

Have you tried LA MORENA® products before?  They are a leader in the chiles and peppers category and for over 35 years, have been providing US consumers with the highest quality products made in the style and with the taste of the authentic Mexican home and traditional recipes.  I am excited to be joining them as their product packaging gets a new look.  (And coming soon . . .  watch my Instagram to see where LA MORENA® is taking me this summer.)  We’ll be rediscovering LA MORENA® all the while enjoying the same delicious flavors their customers have loved and trusted for years.

When I was at Giant Eagle shopping for this recipe, I also picked up a can of LA MORENA® Whole Jalapeños (28oz).  I can’t wait to try something fun with those.  Mmmmm!

Next, add your mini hot dog and top with more shredded cheese. 

 

Wrap the dough around your ingredients and pinch at the top.

 

My daughter thought they looked like little presents and I have to say I like the way she thinks.  🙂

Bake for 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees.  Then, plate the rolls and watch them disappear.

 

 

 

Yum!  These mini hot dog jalapeño rolls are delicious.  Here is where you can find LA MORENA® products at Giant Eagle:

Thanks, LA MORENA®, for helping us rediscover the way we entertain and adding such great flavor to a simple recipe!

Rediscover more flavors and recipes with LA MORENA® by clicking here.  

Connect with LA MORENA® on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and YouTube.

Make Spring Entertaining Easy With This 6-Ingredient Sandwich

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser.  All opinions are mine alone. #SandwichWithTheBest #CollectiveBias

Make Spring Entertaining Easy with This 6-Ingredient Sandwich - RECIPE

When you think of entertaining, do you only think of complex, gourmet meals?  Friends, it does not need to be that way.  Today, I am sharing a 6-ingredient sandwich that will simplify your spring entertaining, allowing you to prep with confidence, add a cute presentation and enjoy your guests.

I love the opportunity to have a friend or two over for a simple lunch.  As a busy mom, I find that time with other women and mothers is invaluable.  It renews, encourages and rejuvenates.  Lunch with friends?  Yes, please.  Now, when it comes to lunch for spring entertaining, I like to look for lighter menus that are simple, yet tasty.  And of course, a pretty presentation.

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The 6 Ingredients Needed For Our Spring Sandwich:

  • Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse™ Oatmeal
  • Hillshire Farm® Thin Sliced Honey Ham
  • Hellmann’s® Real Mayonnaise
  • Thin Sliced Pepperoni
  • Fresh Spinach
  • Tomato

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I love the fact that this sandwich is easy to make.  One quick run to Walmart for my ingredients and I was set.  If you are serving these sandwiches for family or friends, set up a little assembly line.  You’ll be done before you know it!

I made these sandwiches a couple hours in advance, wrapped them in deli paper, added a little plastic wrap to the open side and refrigerated.

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I wanted a hearty and delicious bread for my sandwich.  Farmhouse Oatmeal made by Pepperidge Farm® is perfect.  It has a “fresh from the oven” taste and is really what set this sandwich recipe apart.  Pepperidge Farm breads are slow baked and crafted from a small batch recipe with flavorful ingredients.  Plus, the bread is double-wrapped for freshness.  I loved it!

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The second ingredient in this sandwich is Hillshire Farm® Thin Sliced Honey Ham.  Hillshire Farm® slow roasts their meat for hours making it taste better than other lunchmeat.  Plus, it contains no artificial flavors or by-products.

Now, I like a meaty sandwich.  Don’t be afraid to layer up the deli meat.  One 9 oz container made four sandwiches for my luncheon.  The meat is double-sealed for freshness so use as much as you need and re-seal . . . And you better believe that crafty-me will be saving those containers for a future use.  😉

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The next three ingredients keep the simplicity going.  Add thin slices of pepperoni, fresh spinach and a juicy slice of tomato.

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Looking delicious!  But we’re not quite done.  One last ingredient.

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Spread Hellmann’s® Real Mayonnaise on the other slice of bread.  I bought the 20oz squeeze bottle.  Seriously, I don’t think my husband or kids could make a mess even if they tried with this “Squeeze with Ease” bottle.  It was wonderful!  I was able to squeeze the mayonnaise precisely where I wanted it with zero mess.  Hellmann’s® Real Mayonnaise is made with real, simple ingredients (cage-free eggs, oil and vinegar).

If you want to crisp your sandwich, you could also use Hellmann’s® on the outside of your bread instead of butter for a perfectly grilled sandwich.  Or switch things up by combining Hellmann’s® Real Mayonnaise with other flavors like sriracha, soy, wasabi or maple.

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Ready to take a bite?  Before you do, let’s give it a pretty presentation for our guests.  You will need deli paper and baker’s twine.  I used standard weight, dry wax deli paper that measured 15in by 10.75in.  It was perfect for the size of the Farmhouse Oatmeal bread.

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Fold a lip of the wax paper inward as shown above and place your sandwich in the corner of the paper.

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Pull the wax paper over the top of the bread, folding another lip underneath so that your paper lines up with your crust.

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Cinch the length of the paper on the side of the sandwich and begin to fold over the sandwich toward the right side.

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As you are folding the paper over, double check that your front edges are lining up.

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Tuck the excess of the paper underneath the sandwich.

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Slide the baker’s twine underneath and tie in a bow.

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Now on to lunch!

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This pretty table made use of soft colors, a variety of textures and fresh flowers to celebrate spring.

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A simple menu is all you need for a fun ladies’ lunch.  Easy sandwiches wrapped up pretty, fresh fruit, cookies and pink lemonade.  Your guests will enjoy the meal and time together.

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Here is where you can find products in Walmart:

where to find

 

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It was a delightful lunch!  How do you keep things simple for spring entertaining?  Click here for more delicious recipes and inspiration.

Pineapple Citrus Cooler for a New Year’s Brunch

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser.  All opinions are mine alone. #EmergenCRecipes #CollectiveBias

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I love any reason to celebrate.  However, there is something uniquely special about throwing a New Year’s party.  Maybe I am just sentimental, but I love the idea of reflecting back over the previous year while at the same time feeling the excitement for new opportunities and adventures.

For this party, I hosted a little New Year’s Brunch.  I chose a color scheme of citrus-orange, white and gold.  I wanted that clean, fresh feeling to meet head on with the glitz and glimmer of a New Year’s celebration.  At many of my parties, I feature a fantastic drink that fits perfectly into my theme.  This year was no different.  I created a delicious and refreshing Pineapple Citrus Cooler that my guests loved.  The bonus?  It’s healthy.  What a great way to start off the new year!

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I served the drinks on a beautiful gold tray (catch the DIY below) as my guests arrived.  I love putting something in my guests’ hands when they walk in the door.  For some people, having something to fidget with can make them feel more comfortable.  Plus, a fun drink at arrival is welcoming and hospitable.

Let me show you the WHOLE party . . . from the menu and how to make the buffet risers to the festive decor and this yummy pineapple citrus cooler recipe.

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Planning a Tablescape

When I plan a tablescape, I purposely want my guests’ eyes to be drawn to different levels on the table top.  I will use cake plates, risers and other props to elevate my platters.  For this brunch, I wanted a clean look which would require simple risers or boxes to lift my food off the surface of the table.  No draping fabric or other flowing materials on this table!

In much of my party planning, spray paint is a frequent friend.  Last summer, I discovered gold spray paint.  It is ah-mazing!  I was so enthralled, I even painted some rocks in my yard and hid them in the woods to surprise my kids.  For this party, I used a combination of gold and orange for the risers on the buffet table.

The boxes came from a craft store (at 50% off which is always good when you know you are immediately going to change and repurpose the original product).

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The boxes took several coats of paint but I was thrilled how they turned out.

HELPFUL TIP:  If you are struggling with coverage over certain colors (like orange spray paint over my chevron patterned box), throw a coat of white paint on the box.  I was having a difficult time getting my orange to hide the contrasting chevron lines, but once I put a coat of white over the entire thing, the orange took much better.

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For a pretty tray to hold my festive drinks, I couldn’t find exactly what I wanted.  So I spray painted this bamboo tray with my gold paint.  Can you see why I love spray paint for party decor?

HELPFUL TIP:  Be sure to add a coat of sealer on items that will hold drinks to avoid water marks.

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Now, let’s take a look at how to make this delicious Pineapple Citrus Cooler:

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I ran to Walmart to pick up the ingredients and I love that this recipe isn’t anything too difficult.  You’ll just need to chop some pineapple and squeeze an orange.  Everything else is super simple.

Pineapple Citrus Cooler Ingredients (1 Serving)

1.    1/2 Cup Pineapple Chunks
2.    1/2 Cup Pineapple Juice
3.    1/2 Cup Crushed Ice
4.    The Juice of 1/2 an Orange
5.    One Packet of Emergen-C “Super Orange”

Fresh fruit garnish optional.

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Put the pineapple chunks in a blender.

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Add pineapple juice …

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… the freshly squeezed orange juice …

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… and ice.

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Blend until smooth.

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Then, add one packet of Emergen-C and stir by hand.  This will make the drink fizzy and add healthy vitamins, nutrients and electrolytes.  For years, I have had Emergen-C on hand in my pantry and love how it makes me feel refreshed and replenished . . . especially during the winter months, when staying healthy is important to me.

Plus, the B Vitamins enhance energy naturally* (and who wouldn’t appreciate that?).  Hooray for an easy and delicious way to take vitamins that are important to a healthy lifestyle.  There are several different flavors you can try.  They are all good, but Super Orange is my favorite!

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I added a glittery gold stirrer and striped straw, along with fresh fruit garnish.  So pretty!

HELPFUL TIP:  When garnishing with orange slices, make sure your slice is not too thin.  If you cut the orange thin, the flesh of the orange will not be strong enough to hold your orange in place.  A little thicker of a garnish will do the trick!

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New Year’s Brunch Menu

This menu was such fun to plan.  Here is what I served:

> Breakfast Casserole

> Fruit Kabobs (served on the same gold stirrers as in the drink)

> Yogurt & Granola Cups

>Tea Sandwiches

> Blueberry Muffins

> Cucumber Canapes

> Assorted Cheesecake

> Chocolate Cake

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Our New Year’s Brunch was such fun.  Everyone stayed much longer than I expected, which only means one thing . . . a good time!

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Here is where I found my items in the store:

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Do you have a healthy drink recipe you like for parties?  Check out more from Emergen-C, including getting your own free sample.  

 

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

 

Mini Pumpkin Pies for an Easy Family Game Night

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser.  All opinions are mine alone. #EffortlessPies #CollectiveBias

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If you’ve been following along in my weekly newsletters, you know that we switched schools this year for my kids.   To say it has been a challenge is an understatement.  With the stress of difficult change and adjusting to the unfamiliar, my husband and I have been making it a point to have more fun as a family. To laugh more. To play more. To be silly with our kids.  All in an effort to remind them that this is their home base and no matter the struggle outside of these walls, we are a family who likes to have fun. That has not changed.

One of the ways we do this is by playing games.  It is a fun way to celebrate being together.  We keep things pretty simple:  a couple of games and an EASY treat.  And this fall dessert that I am sharing today is perfect for keeping it simple in that it only takes putting together a few ingredients to make delicious these mini pumpkin pies.

No slaving over the stove.

No baking, creaming or whipping required!

Just grab the ingredients, layer them up and enjoy.  The pies are ready in five minutes and no one will guess it was this easy.

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Here is what you need to know –

Mini Pumpkin Pie Ingredients:

  • Light & Fit® Pumpkin Pie Greek Yogurt®
  • Reddi-wip®
  • Mini graham cracker pie crusts
  • Caramel topping
  • Mini chocolate morsels

I was able to pick up all my ingredients on a quick trip to Walmart.  I love that these pies don’t have a long list of ingredients.  Really, it is only three items with a couple of toppings for added fun.  The no-bake, mini pies make for a quick and easy snack after school, a yummy dessert for fall and holiday entertaining or just a night at home playing games with the kids.  I love this!

Instructions:  

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Fill the mini graham cracker pie crusts with Light & Fit® Pumpkin Pie Greek Yogurt®.  One 5.3 oz container can fill two pies.  And with yogurt as the filling, this pie is a healthier dessert option.  Greek yogurt is so good!

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Then, swirl the Reddi-wip® on top.

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Drizzle on a little caramel sauce.

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And add mini chocolate chips.

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That is it!  It’s so easy that even your kids can help make this dessert.  The pumpkin, caramel and chocolate flavors combine for a delicious fall treat.

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Did I mention how easy clean up is?  This dessert is easy as pie . . . . Yes, I really just said that!

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Here is where I found items in the store:

where-to-find

What easy desserts do you like to serve?  For more inspiration, visit EffortlessPies.com, where you’ll also find these Ibotta offers:

  • Buy 4 Dannon singles of Light & Fit OR Oikos, earn $1.00
  • Buy (2) Reddi-Wip cans, earn $0.75.
  • Bonus: purchase both and earn an additional $0.50

 

Connect with these Brands:

Reddi-wip – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & Pinterest
Dannon – Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & Pinterest

You’ll Love This Easy Patriotic Snack Mix

You'll love this easy patriotic snack mix - perfect for July 4th parties & celebrations!

It is mid-June and I am starting to think of July 4th parties.  For years, I have wanted to throw a July 4th brunch and friends, this may be the year!!

Will you be hosting a party or attending a picnic?  If so, here’s an easy patriotic snack mix that is perfect for your upcoming July 4th celebration!

I choose to fill my galvanized tiered stand with cute paper cones and loose snack mix.  Take a peak!

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I am always very well stocked in an assortment of cardstock so that is what I used in red, white and two shades of blue.  However, because cardstock is thicker, it was a bit difficult to keep the cone secured and closed.  Thinner paper would have been much easier to work with.  Anywho…

Cut your paper into 6″ squares.  I liked this size for my tiered stand and it used a whole piece of 12×12 scrapbook paper.  Win-win!

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I didn’t worry about using my Cameo for cutting the squares, but I did use it to make these cute patriotic doilies into stickers with this paper.

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Now it’s time to move into the kitchen.

What you’ll need to make Patriotic Snack Mix:

  • 1 bag of pretzels
  • white chocolate to drizzle
  • 32 oz cocktail peanuts (salted)
  • Rice Chex (about 1/2 a box)
  • Corn Check (about 1/2 a box)
  • M&M’s (Red, White and Blue bag)

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Melt the white chocolate and drizzle it over the whole bag of pretzels.  I use these bags and just pop the chocolate in the microwave.

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Mix all your ingredients together and either fill cones or put in a festive bowl.  If your cones have a small hole in the bottom like mine, be sure to throw in a couple pieces of Chex in first.  This will keep the smaller items from falling out.

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Don’t you want to grab a handful?

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Do you have an easy snack mix you like to serve?  Share it below in the comments.

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