Month: February 2016 (page 1 of 2)

In The Kitchen: Frozen Dark Chocolate Covered Banana Bites

frozen banana slices 3

My oldest daughter definitely got her sweet tooth from her mama.  Emma asks for a small treat after most meals and since I’m always craving the same, I am constantly looking for healthy, fun bites we can both enjoy.  These frozen dark chocolate covered banana bites hit the spot and were super easy to make.  We stashed a bunch in the freezer so we will have something sweet to munch on all weekend long.

frozen banana slices 2

frozen banana slices 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 bananas (or however many you want to use/make)
  • 1 bag (12 ounces) Ghirardelli dark chocolate melting wafers
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil

Instructions:

  1. Slice bananas into quarter-sized circles and lay out on a wax-paper-lined baking sheet.
  2. Place in the freezer and leave there until frozen solid.
  3. Mix the dark chocolate melting wafers and 2 tablespoons coconut oil in a double broiler over the stove.  Stir constantly for about 5 minutes, until smooth.
  4. Using a fork, dip each frozen banana slice into the melted chocolate mixture and coat evenly.  Place back onto the wax-paper-lined baking sheet and repeat with the remaining frozen banana slices.
  5. Once complete, place the baking sheet back into the freezer to harden.
  6. Serve and enjoy!

frozen banana slices

Happy, healthy snacking!

xo gina

How to Create a Great Gallery Wall in a Kids’ Room

kids room gallery wall 8

Gallery walls can be intimidating and overwhelming, and that being said, you might leave a good chunk of open wall space blank just because the alternative task of actually buckling down and creating a gallery wall there is too daunting.  But in kids’ rooms, as opposed to a more formal living room, there are no rules, no boundaries.  And that’s why it’s a great place to start.   Chances are you have a ton of photos of your kids that need to find a spot in your home anyway, and plenty of handcrafted artwork from their classrooms or home projects.  And as a mom, priceless fine art simply can’t hold a candle to those smudgy broad strokes, those messy, finger-painted masterpieces.

kids room gallery wall

kids room gallery

kids room gallery wall 6

1.    I like to start with a combination of photos, artwork and other wall decor, so that there is a fun smattering of stuff across the wall, and not the same exact piece seen throughout.  You can start at the wall, but I prefer to start on the floor and lay everything out as I think I would like it to appear.

2.    Then, I take a few photos with my phone, so I can review and get a good look at how I may want to rearrange the layout.  This is where you can get creative:  you can stick to plain, straight lines, play with pattern, or just place them at random.  Keep in mind that balance and symmetry do help to create a more fluid gallery wall and you don’t want the layout to get so crazy that it ends up looking messy, so try to have the overall pattern balanced against a certain piece of furniture, centered in a room or spread from one end of the wall to the other.

3.    Once I have settled on a layout, I put pencil marks on the wall where I want the frame to hang, taking into account that there will be additional space when using wire to hang your frame as it droops.

4.    I like to keep the frames about 3 inches apart from each other no matter how I choose to arrange them.  This gives enough room around each piece to be able to really enjoy it.

kids room gallery wall 5

Tips:

  • You don’t have to run out and buy a ton of new frames to embark on this project.  Take a look at what you already have around the house and possibly in storage that isn’t being used anymore and see how you can use them for your gallery wall.  For example, I had a bunch of cream-colored frames from Emma’s nursery when she was a baby that I had taken down when I transitioned her room and brand-new, bright white frames that we had gotten for Reese when she was born two years later.  I decided to stick with the bright white ones for the majority of the frames, and spray painted the old ones in an antique gold.  This way, I got to recycle old frames that weren’t getting use anyway and I really liked the finished product with a mix of white and gold.
  • Not everything has to match spot-on.  In fact, things tend to look so much better when different shades of the same hue are used, so try to frame photos or artwork that go with the overall theme or color trend of your child’s room.  In our case, Emma’s room, as she has gotten older and gained more of an opinion of her likes and dislikes, has evolved into a really fun and colorful room.  A stark contrast from the white, beige and pale green nursery she started out with.  So, I used a few strands of colorful fabric garland and chose the most vibrant photos and flashiest finger-paints for her gallery wall.

kids room gallery wall 7

Happy decorating!

xo gina

Happy National Margarita Day: The Best Ever Margarita Recipe

Because apparently today is National Margarita Day and all.  And really, do you need an excuse to make the ultimate margarita?  Didn’t think so.  This is my absolute favorite cocktail and brings me immediately to summer, sunny days, warm temps and the beach…in my mind anyway.

*Originally posted July 8th 2015marg ingredients

This is the best margarita recipe ever!…according to me.  But I am a huge fan of the cocktail after all, and have been trying them out at each new restaurant and bar since as long as I’ve had my i.d., so that counts for something, right?  I always take mine on the rocks and without salt.  I’ve never really liked how the two mixed.  And though a little salt usually pairs well with most other foods and drinks that I like, especially in the case of butter and caramels, here, it seems to interfere with the main event.  The tequila is key in making a great tasting margarita and so is the quality of the limes, since so much of the fresh juice is used to create each glass.

margarita recipe

Ingredients:

  •  1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 cup Olmeca Altos 100% agave tequila (or your preferred brand of white tequila)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons triple sec
  • splash of ice water

You’ll also need:

  • old fashioned glass kept in the freezer for at least 30 minutes to chill
  • lime wedge for garnish

Instructions: 1.     Place all ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously until mixed. 2.     Pour over ice in chilled glass with a lime wedge. *Serves 2*

marg ingredients 2

Cheers! xo gina

Red Velvet Cake Pops

cake pops 3

If you can make a cake straight out of the box, with pre-made mix and a couple of ingredients that probably already exist in your fridge and cabinets, then you can make these pops.  They are that simple.  This semi-homemade recipe was so easy to make and they came out amazing.  And if you skip the sticks, these pops can turn into bite-sized white chocolate-covered red velvet cake truffles.  Adding icing to the cooked cake ensures that these won’t dry out and keeps the cake extra moist.  The white chocolate outer layer kicks up the sweetness factor and the sprinkles make things extra pretty.

cake pops 2

Ingredients:

  • One box Duncan Hines® Signature Red Velvet Cake Mix + the ingredients that the box calls for (3 eggs, ⅓ cup vegetable oil, 1¼ cups water)
  • 1 container Duncan Hines® Classic Vanilla Frosting OR Creamy Home-Style Cream Cheese Frosting (I used Vanilla Frosting this time)
  • Lollipop sticks
  • Ghirardelli white chocolate melting wafers
  • Assorted sprinkles

Instructions:

  1.  Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans.
  2.  Combine cake mix, water, oil and eggs in large bowl.
  3.  Beat with electric mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes. Pour into prepared pans.
  4.  Bake 26 minutes or until toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean of crumbs.
  5.  Cool cakes on wire rack for 25 minutes. Remove cakes from pans and cool completely.
  6.  Use your hands or a fork to crumble the cooked, cooled cakes in a large bowl.
  7.  Add 1 container frosting and stir well.
  8.  Form the mixture into balls and place on wax-paper-lined baking sheet. Place in fridge or freezer for at least 30 minutes.
  9.  Melt the white chocolate wafers over the stove on low heat, stirring constantly.
  10.  Insert the lollipop sticks into the firm balls of cake mixture and roll in the melted chocolate.  Let the excess drip off before placing on the wax-paper-lined baking sheet.  While the chocolate is still wet, toss sprinkles of your choice on top.  Repeat with the rest of the balls/mixture.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

cake pops

Happy Valentine’s Day!

xo gina

In The Kitchen: Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

soup 3

There is nothing quite like a big ole pot of homemade chicken noodle soup.  It soothes the soul, warms a winter chill and apparently helps to fight off the flu.  And this recipe that I found on the blog, Baker by Nature, produced my absolute favorite results so far.  Since these measurements make six heaping bowls of soup, there was plenty leftover for no-fuss lunches during the week and another hearty dinner when I just didn’t feel like cooking. The author of the original recipe swears by roasting the chicken and I can see why.  It was so flavorful and juicy that we plan on making it again by itself to pair with our favorite veggies and using it to fill our go-to fajitas.  I tweaked this slightly to accommodate our family, who can do without garlic and dill.  And I added chunks of avocado, because I typically add avocado to just about anything and everything I eat throughout the day.  Serve immediately and with a generous hunk of pretzel bread and you might end up making this weekly.

soup 2

Ingredients:

For the chicken:

  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast tenders
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

For the soup:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 very large onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Big pinch of salt
  • (1) 32 oz containers chicken stock
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 cups noodles of your choice, I used elbow pasta
  • Juice of 1 lemon, plus more for serving
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • 2 large avocados for serving

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees (F). Place chicken tenders in a large baking dish lined with parchment paper. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil and sprinkle with spices. Place in the oven and bake for 25 minutes, flipping the chicken at the half way point. Once cooked, pull into small chunks using two forks.
  2. While the chicken is roasting, prepare the soup.
  3. Heat olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed soup pan over a medium flame. Add carrots, celery, and onion, and cook – stirring occasionally – for 8-9 minutes. Add garlic and salt and cook for another minute before adding the bay leaf, water and chicken stock. Increase heat to high, bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, stir in noodles, and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft and the pasta al dente. Stir in cooked chicken, parley, and lemon juice. Taste soup to adjust seasonings, top with avocado, and serve at once.

soup

Enjoy!

xo gina

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