The Butcher Shop in Cordova, TN: A Cut Above the Rest

My husband and I recently celebrated our wedding anniversary. The kids got shipped off to their grandmother’s house for the weekend so we could enjoy some time to ourselves. We wanted to make our dinner out special so we chose to go to The Butcher Shop in Cordova, TN.

The Butcher Shop specializes in steaks. However they have lots of options on the menu if steak is not your thing. The evening that my husband and I ate there, we both chose steak to eat. However, we also enjoyed an appetizer,some wine, and a fabulous dessert. We chose the Crab Cake Remoulade for our appetizer. They cost $9, for 2 crab cakes. They were absolutely delicious! One for each of us to eat, and the flavors were so intense yet not overpowering. We each also had a salad that came with our meal. My husband went with the Ceasar salad, and I chose the house salad. They both were very well put together and fresh. For our entrees my husband chose the 14 oz fillet mignon for $29.00, and I chose the Stuffed Fillet for $26. My husband said his fillet was cooked to perfection and was one of the best he had ever eaten. My stuffed fillet, was heavenly! It was stuffed with sauteed portabello mushrooms, Gorgonzola cheese and fresh rosemary sprigs and served with Au Jus on the side. We both chose to have a baked potato for our side item. We were able to choose whatever items we wanted to go into our baked potato. My husband had his loaded, and I chose a few of my favorite fillings cheese, sour cream, butter, and bacon. The presentation of our meals was gorgeous, and most importantly they were so flavorful that we really enjoyed them. The Waiter was so helpful. My husband knew exactly what wine he wanted, however, I was unsure. The Waiter brought me one to try and when I didn’t think it was the one for me, he brought me another which I loved and chose as my wine for dinner.

Even though we were almost stuffed, we couldn’t resist asking what was on the dessert menu. The Waiter described each of the dessert items to us. They all sounded divine, however, there was one that stood out. They were offering a special dessert at that time, it was Banana’s Foster. I had never had this before, but heard it was amazing, so we ordered it and enjoyed the atmosphere of the restaurant while we waited. The Banana’s Foster arrived and it looked exquisite. The Butcher Shop does not light it’s Banana’s Foster, so that was one aspect of eating Banana’s Foster we did not experience. I took a bite and looked over to my husband and asked him “Where is yours?” This dessert was so amazing, I couldn’t believe it! We ate the entire dessert and then enjoyed the atmosphere a little longer while finishing up our wine.

Since it was our anniversary, we asked the Waiter to take our picture so we could remember the night forever. However, even without the picture, I don’t think we will ever forget that night. The food was amazing, the atmosphere romantic, and the service impeccable. The prices are much too high for us to eat at The Butcher Shop on a regular basis, however, I will definitely want to go back there on our next special occasion!

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Restaurant Review: Macaroni Grill, Memphis, TN

Just last week I celebrated my birthday. Instead of purchasing me a gift that I may or may not like, my sister decided to take me out to lunch. We hardly ever get time together anymore since both of us have children and stay so busy, so we figured this would be a good opportunity to enjoy some good food and some time together. We chose Macaroni Grill for our lunch destination. It was close to her work and we both like Italian food.

This was not my first time at Macaroni Grill. I have eaten there on several occasions, however I had not been there in several years. When I walked in I was not sure I was in the right place! The restaurant had been completely renovated on the inside. It really looks amazing! I love the way it changed the atmosphere of the restaurant. It makes each table seem more private and cozy instead of being in a wide open dining room. The waitress came by with fresh bread with Italian Butter (olive oil and freshly cracked pepper) and wrote her name on the table so we can ask for her by name if we needed her. She took our drink order and came back with the drinks to see if we were ready to order. We were not quite ready yet, so she gave us a few more minutes. I took my time gazing through the new menu. Lots of delicious dishes to choose from. When we finally made our decisions we could not find our waitress. We saw another Waiter walking by so I stopped him and asked for him to get our waitress. He got her and she quickly came over to take our orders. My sister chose the Chicken Florentine salad for $8.99 and also a bowl of Chicken Toscana soup for $3.99. The soup was good, however she said that the salad was not as good as she thought it was going to be. I chose the Chicken Cannelloni for $7.99. According to the menu description this is a hand-rolled pasta stuffed with oven-roasted chicken, melted cheese and spinach, then baked in an Asiago cream sauce, then it is topped with tomato sauce. It was absolutely delicious! I had my youngest child with me. She is 3 and a half and ordered the children’s spaghetti and meatballs for $4.79. It was a huge portion. It had a ton of pasta and one huge meatball for her. I really think my sister, myself, and my daughter could have split this one dish and had plenty of food for the three of us. My three year old daughter certainly was not able to finish it all, so we took the majority of it home with us.

Since it was my birthday our waitress brought out a delicious dessert with a candle in it. Usually Macaroni Grill has a singing Waiter, waitress, or hostess come over and sing you happy birthday in Italian. However, today they didn’t have any singers available during that shift. This was perfectly fine with me though! My daughter insisted on singing me happy birthday anyways though. The Smothered Chocolate Cake that was brought out was divine! It is a chocolate cake that is covered in a warm chocolate sauce and then sprinkled with nuts. It also had whipped cream at the four corners of the cake. Absolutely wonderful, especially for a chocolate lover like myself. My daughter’s meal came with her own serving of ice cream.

If you have never been to Macaroni Grill, or even if you haven’t been in a while, definitely choose this for your next evening out. On this occasion my waitress could have done better, however, that is hit and miss at times. The food was good, and the atmosphere was great! My daughter even learned some Italian while we were in the restroom. All around it was a great lunch out! Hope you give it a try and enjoy it even more than I did!

Bear Creek Soup Mix

Soup is such a wonderful meal. It is warm and it always hits the spot! I find that it is the perfect quick meal. Even though there are tons of delicious canned soups on the market these days, lots of times I am not in the mood for a canned soup. I want to feel like I have made something on my own, but who has the time to slave in the kitchen all day long to make a delicious soup?

Recently while perusing the aisles at my local grocery store, I found myself browsing the soup shelves. I scanned each shelf looking for some soup that I had not tried yet. Then something caught my eye, a pouch. What type of soup comes in a pouch? A soup mix comes in a pouch! I picked up the pouch and read the instructions. It seemed simple enough and since it only cost $4.19 I figured it was worth the risk. I only purchased one variety at first, Cheddar Broccoli. A few weeks went by and I never made the soup, then the night came. I was not in the mood to cook, but I didn’t want take out either. I stood in the pantry staring at all of the food wondering what to throw together. Then I saw the pouch again. I knew it was time to try out the soup. I grabbed the pouch and headed back to my kitchen. The directions on the package said to bring 8 cups of water to a boil. That was easy enough! I filled my pot with water and waited for it to boil. Once the water came to a boil, I whisked in the soup mix just as the directions say. I reduced the heat and let the soup simmer for 10 minutes. It says on the package for variety you can add bacon, ham, broccoli or corn. I decided to be adventurous! I added some fresh broccoli that I had in the fridge. I cut it up into bite size pieces and threw it into the pot of simmering soup. Then I decided I wanted to add some meat to my soup. I had some ground chicken waiting to be cooked, so I browned it quickly in a skillet and added it to the soup as well. I let the soup continue to cook on low until we were all ready to eat.

The smell coming from my kitchen was phenomenal. My husband and I couldn’t wait to eat! We each got a bowl and filled it up with 2 big ladles full of soup. This was some of the best soup I have had in a long time. I was amazed! How could this powdered soup mix be so delicious? I still have no clue how it works, but it really is wonderful. I have since bought 2 more varieties of this soup mix. In our pantry right now I have three mixes, Cheddar Broccoli, Creamy Potato, and Minestrone. We have already made the minestrone once and it was also delicious. The only thing I added to it was a few handfuls of frozen mixed vegetables. I can’t wait to try these again and add other things to it, or maybe even not add anything and have it as an appetizer instead of my full meal.

Bear Creek soup has been around for a while, but I am so glad that I finally picked it up off the shelf and gave it a try. It makes a ton of soup for the family or even some for a couple with leftovers for days! Next time you are at the grocery store, you should definitely give Bear Creek Soup Mix a try!

The Best Lemon Cake Recipe

Lemon flavored desserts have been around for centuries. Some of the standards are cakes and pies. My great grandmother has always made the most delicious lemon cake I have ever eaten. Finally, I was able to get this recipe from her. It is not a secret family recipe, just one she has made for as long as any of us can remember. All of my family requests this for every occasion.

This recipe is simple, but delicious. You will need to purchase a lemon Supreme boxed cake mix. This is where your recipe begins. However, pay no attention to the additional ingredients needed according to the package directions. The only directions you will need from the back of the box are the temperature for the oven, and how long to cook for each type of cake pan. Prepare your desired cake pan, and pre-heat your oven.

Pour the cake mix into a large mixing bowl. Add in 3/4 (three quarters) cup of vegetable oil, 1/2 (one half) cup of sugar, 4 (four) eggs, and 1/2 (one half) cup of apricot nectar. Apricot nectar is found with the canned juices in your local grocery store. Once all ingredients are in the bowl, you will need to mix them all thoroughly. My great grandmother just says to mix, however, I like to make sure my batter is nice and smooth without any lumps. Start mixing on low speed, then gradually move to higher speeds until the batter is smooth. This process will take a few minutes. Once your batter is mixed you will need to pour it into your prepared pan. I make sure to prepare my pan with both shortening and flour. I do not use the spray oil because I find it leaves a residue on my pan that I can not get off no matter how many times I wash it or how hard I scrub. For this cake I like to use a standard sheet cake pan, or a bundt pan. These shapes seem to work best with the type of icing I will tell you how to make later on in this article. After pouring your batter into the cake pan, you need to get as many bubbles out of the batter as possible. This is a trick that my mother taught me while I was growing up and loved helping her in the kitchen. Take your cake pan with the batter inside it and gently drop it onto the counter. Do this several times. you will see several air bubbles come to the surface of the cake batter and beginning to pop. I find it make my cake much better when I use this technique. You do not have to continue doing this until you see no more bubbles. Five or six rounds of the drops will be sufficient.

Now it is time to bake the cake! Put the cake into your pre-heated oven and cook for the shortest amount of time listed on the box for your type of cake pan. This will ensure you do not over bake your cake. Once your timer goes off, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If the toothpick comes out clean, or with just a few dry cake crumbs on it then your cake is done! If it still has wet cake crumbs or any amount of batter left on the toothpick, put it back in the oven and cook for the remainder of the time that it calls for on the box. This is usually another 5 minutes. After you remove the cake again, you will need to do another toothpick test. our cake should be done now. If not cook another 5 minutes and then repeat the toothpick test. Continue this method until the toothpick comes out clean. After it is fully cooked, take the cake out of the oven and allow it to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes.

While your cake is cooling it is time to make the icing. All you need to make the icing is lemon juice and powdered or confectioner’s sugar. Take 1 cup of the powdered or confectioner’s sugar and mix it together with half a cup of lemon juice. I find that using a hand held whisk is the best way to make this icing. However, you use whatever method you find the easiest. You can add more powdered or confectioner’s sugar or more lemon juice until you get your icing your desired consistency. This is a drizzle icing though, not an icing that you will use to frost the entire cake. So it should be somewhat liquid so it can easily be drizzled over the top of the cake.

After letting the cake cool for 10 minutes in the pan it is time to remove it from the pan. If you used a sheet pan, you will skip this step. Removing a cake from the cake pan can be a tricky process. If you do not let it cool prior to attempting to remove it from the pan, it is more likely to not come out of the pan all the way, then you are left with a broken cake. And nobody likes it when the cake gets broken! However, it is still just as yummy! I like to slowly loosen the edge of the cake with a knife. Then I place one hand on the bottom of the cake pan to hold the pan, then I place my other hand over the top of the pan, in order to hold the cake in the pan. Then I slowly turn the cake pan upside down onto a cooling rack. I move my hand which is no under the cake and let the cake pan sit and let gravity do its job. I wait a minute and tap the top of the pan to help to loosen the cake. Then I slowly lift up the pan. Most times the cake comes right out, other times it needs a little more help. I sometimes have to use my knife more on the edges, or wait longer and tap more. It just depends. Be patient with this process so you can have a beautiful finished product!

The cake is now out of the pan, that means it is time for icing! Take your lemon icing and drizzle it evenly over the entire cake. If it is in a bundt shape, then the icing will drip down the sides and into the middle for a beautiful effect. If you made a sheet cake, I like to wait and let people drizzle their own icing onto the cake after the pieces are cut. This way, they can get as much or as little icing as they want.

This cake is so delicious, you will find yourself stocking up on the few ingredients required so that you can make it anytime you start craving it! That craving comes more often than you would think! Enjoy the cake! I know my great grandmother will be glad to know that so many people can enjoy her favorite recipe!

Book Review: Rachael Ray’s 365 No Repeats Cookbook

Rachael Ray has become more than a cooking show host. She has become a talk show star. She has a day time talk show, plus several shows on the Food Network. She has never gotten away from what she does best though, 30 minute meals. She has many cook books on the market focusing on meals that can be made in 30 minutes or less. The 365: No Repeats cook book was my most recent addition to my library of cookbooks. I received it as a Christmas gift on Christmas 2005. I was so excited about this book. I spent the evening flipping through the book and trying to decide which recipes I would try first.

The book is laid out in a very different fashion than any of my other cook books. All of my other cookbooks are separated by recipe type. This book only has dinner recipes so it is not separated by type or even by ingredient. The recipes are all numbered one through three hundred sixty-five. The book says “start here or jump around.” This book is an entire year’s worth of brand new recipes for you to try out. There are check boxes on each recipe that say “Try this later” and “It’s a Keeper” this way you will know which ones you and your family love and which ones you want to come back to another day. Many of the recipes in this book have ingredients that you would normally have in your home, others have ingredients that may require a special trip to the store. However, all of the meals can be ready in 30 minutes or less. At least they are when Rachel Ray cooks them!

I personally have made several recipes out of this book. A few of my families favorites are the Honey Nut Chicken Sticks, Cider Vinegar Chicken & smashed Potatoes, BBQ Chicken Sloppy Pan Pizza, and Bacon Wrapped Meatloaf Patties with Pan Gravy. These 4 recipes are the favorites that we have tried so far, however this is only the beginning with this book. The variety of cuisines is so wonderfully refreshing. It is so easy to get bored with the same dinners every week, this book gives you new and different ideas and helps to broaden your mind when it comes to cooking meals for your family.

One of my favorite things about this book is how you can take one master recipe and change a few things to make it a completely different meal. There are several master recipes in this book that are followed by a totally different meal using many of the same ingredients. Here are a few examples. Chicken Francese can easily become Flounder Francese or Chicken Mamacello. A Warm Lemon Chicken Sandwich recipe is quickly transformed into a Grilled Flank Steak Sandwich recipe. Once again, this is only a few examples of the hundreds of recipes available to you in this book.

This book truly has something for everyone! Inside you will find vegetarian meals, seafood, red meat, white meat, salads, sides, and even soups. The cuisines vary from all over the world too. All in one week you can travel to Italy, France, Greece, Spain, Mexico, Thailand, and the good old United States never once leaving your own kitchen. This one cook book has certainly changed the way that my family eats dinner and opened our eyes to a whole new world of food, literally!

I definitely recommend this book to any one who enjoys cooking for their family. Even if you are new to cooking this would be a good book for you since many of the recipes are so easily put together. If you are even remotely thinking of getting a new cook book, race out to the store and pick this one up. You definitely won’t regret it!

How to Throw a Princess Birthday Party

My daughter is one of the biggest princess lovers that I have ever seen. I remember loving lots of things when I was a little girl, but I do not remember being so enthralled by something as she is. We have now had to have two princess themed birthday parties in her life of now 8 years.

The first princess themed party was for her third birthday. The second one was for her eighth birthday. However, she has wanted to have a princess themed party pretty much every year. I have had to coax her into other themes for variety. Each year the ideas have flooded us with how to make the Princess theme more fun, and even better. This year I felt like it would be one of the last few years that she would enjoy having a princess theme so we went for it.

First things first
Invitations are the first thing to do. You need to make a guest list. Start by deciding how many people you want to invite. After you make this decision you can focus on getting the invitations. You can always go buy Disney Princess themed invitations from a party store, that is the easiest solution to the invitation dilemma. However, there are lots of other options that you should explore too.

Making your own invitations is a lot of fun. If your daughter is old enough she could make the invitations herself. Let her be creative and you can assist with the finer details. If your daughter isn’t old enough then you can make the invitations easily too. Microsoft Word is an excellent resource to get creative. You can try out many different versions of the invitation. You can even go to the Microsoft website and download different borders to use. I also like going to a local stationery store and find some cute paper that is already bordered. You can either hand write the invitations or set up a template in Word and print them off.

However you decide to go about getting the invitations, bought or made, you need to get the invitations out at least two weeks in advance of the party. This gives all the guests plenty of time to adjust their schedules accordingly.

Focus on the Food
The next thing you need to plan out is the food. The cake is always my first thought when I think of birthday party food. That is because without a birthday cake, it just isn’t much of a birthday party! I have to say my favorite thing to do is to make my kids cakes myself. I love the creativity in it and I love letting my child help with it. However, store bought cakes are always a good choice too. It is all about personal preference. Some people just don’t bake, others love baking. If you are not a baker, take your little princess to the bakery and let her help choose the cake, the colors, and the flavors. If you are a baker, this is the fun part! Have your child decide which flavor cake she wants. Then decide on what style cake you are going to make. When it comes to cakes, the possibilities are endless. For our first princess party we had a sheet cake that we put princess figurines on it and decorated accordingly. The most recent cake was a tiara shape and it had my daughter’s name written across it. However, while we were at the bakers supply store we found a castle cake kit. I am not advances enough to handle that cake yet, but maybe I can be ready for it for my next daughter!

After the cake is decided on you can focus on the other party foods. I like making suckers into magic wands or scepters. The little girls always love running around playing with them for a while before they eat them! You can make all the normal party foods that you like too. But I always like to throw in some fun themed snacks too. You could make cookies or rice crispy treats in heart shapes and write all the guests names on them. For some reason hearts and princesses just go together! You could also do this same thing with star shapes. Just make sure you use sugar sprinkles. They make the cookies or rice crispy treats sparkle, and what princess have you seen that was not sparkling?

Decorated to the Nines
A princess must always have everything done in a fantastic way. Therefore, the decorations are not to be overlooked. Head out to your local party supply store and start your search. Balloons have to be ordered in advance so make sure you do that first thing so you get the time that works best for you for pick-up. When choosing balloons you should look for the ones that are shimmery or sparkly, not just the plain colors. Choose your daughter’s favorite colors and have them scheduled for pick up on party day! You can pick up table cloths, streamers, cups, plates, napkins, and every other decoration you could possibly think of at the party supplies store. You can also look on-line for party supplies. Many on-line party suppliers sell party packs. These party packs include everything you will need. You can also make your own decorations from construction paper and tissue paper.

Party Games
No birthday party is complete without games! Princess parties are lots of fun with games. Games don’t have to have a winner in the end, they can just be an activity that everyone takes part in and enjoys. Here are a few options that we have always had fun with.

1. Pin the Shoe on Cinderella – similar to pin the tail on the donkey
2. Dancing princesses – similar to musical chairs
3. Color princess pictures – you can print these out from many on-line children’s craft sites or you can buy some princess coloring books.
4. Make your own tiaras, scepters, castles, or other princess item crafts
5. Older girls can do nails or put on make-up

Just a Small Favor
I am not really sure where this tradition started, but giving party favors has become a staple at birthday parties. It is a small way to say thank you to your guests for coming to the party. You can buy pre-filled goody bags at the local or on-line party supply store. Or you can come up with your own favor bags. I like coming up with my own. However, when I am pressed for time, picking up the pre-filled bags is super easy! When I make my own bags, I save money and my daughter gets to help pick out the things that she thinks her friends will like. This year we filled the goody bags with plastic rings, hair bows that I made, nail polish, glitter dust, and lip gloss. Any girly items will do great for a princess party. Toy cell phones, pretend make-up, chap stick, and candy jewelry are all great additions as well!

In the end, if you choose a few of these ideas from this article your princess party will be a huge success! People will start coming to you for great party ideas, and hopefully this article will help you think more creatively for your child’s future parties!

Summer Party Recipes

You just received an invitation to another summer pot luck party. Sure the party will be a blast, but what on earth are you going to bring? Do you bring the same old thing that you have brought to every pot luck you have ever gone to? Do you try something new? What if no one likes what you bring? Those are all the thoughts that go through my head each time I am going to go to a pot luck. Even as much as I love to cook and bake, sometimes I consider just going and buying something that way I know people will not be able to criticize my cooking if they don’t like what I brought along.

The key to picking out a good pot luck recipe is bring something that is a twist on something that people have already done before. Everyone coming to a pot luck is going to expect certain foods to be there. It is almost a given. There will be finger foods, casseroles, sides, and all of the classic simple desserts. Take those familiar items, and turn them into something new and exciting and your dish will be the hit of the pot luck, I guarantee it!

Finger Foods
Finger foods are easy to eat at a party so they are always a popular item at the table. When I have gone to put luck parties the finger foods I usually see are fruit trays, veggie trays, cheese plates, finger sandwiches, and appetizer platters. Sure these are simple things, however they are also easily turned into something different than the same old pot luck plates! Fruit trays can include more exotic fruits such as kiwi, mango, peaches, and pears just to name a few. This turns the same old fruit tray into an exotic fruit platter. Add a fruit dip to this for even more fun! One of the simplest fruit dips is 8 ounces of cream cheese mixed together with one small jar of marshmallow creme. However that fruit dip is seen pretty often, I even found this dip in the produce section of the grocery a few weeks ago! This would be another easy way to make your fruit tray different, switch the same old fruit dip out for a new one! Try mixing together 8 ounces of sour cream, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 1 tablespoon of fresh lime juice and 2 teaspoons of grated lime peel. This makes a delicious difference to your fruit tray!

For a veggie tray you can easily switch up the dip as well, or you could offer a variety of dips instead of just the same old ranch style dip. You could even turn it into a hot and cold veggie tray and offer up some grilled veggies in addition to the standard uncooked veggies. However, my good friend Cat has the amazing idea to change up the fruit and veggie trays are to turn them into a fruit or veggie pizza instead! Cheese plates are usually a big hit as well, however you can easily take a cheese ball instead and it will still make a big splash at the party! Finger sandwiches and appetizer trays are probably the easiest of the finger foods to change around. There are so many choices for sandwiches and appetizers floating around the world. Switching up the sandwiches can be a bit risky though. My advice is to not go too far off the beaten path with the sandwich choices you make, but still make it different. Try a different chicken or tuna salad recipe out, or add a slice of avocado to the sandwich, bring along several different condiments to go with the sandwiches.

One of my favorite ways to spice up the sandwich tray is to turn the sandwiches into wraps. These are all very safe ways to change up your finger sandwiches. However, you can also change the sandwich tray all together and bring a grilled sandwich, or some other gourmet sandwich. Appetizers are the most fun of the finger foods to me. There is no reason to take the same old pigs in a blanket or chips and dip. Change things up and bring loaded potato bites, pita nachos, mini quiches, pull apart breads, stuffed mushrooms, crab dip with crackers, brushetta, or egg rolls. These ideas are only the start of the vast array of appetizer choices out there. Grab your recipe books or go to your favorite on-line recipe site and explore until you find the right recipe for you.

Casseroles and Sides
Green bean casserole, corn souffles, and all of the other casseroles that you often see at pot lucks parties can get boring pretty fast. They are delicious and expected, but easily traded off for something different. Try turning that green bean casserole into a fresh green bean salad instead! Forget the corn souffle and bring grilled corn on the cob. Spice up the baked beans with a different recipe. Switch up the casserole by looking to other cuisines for guidance. Go for something Asian or Italian instead of the same old American casserole traditions.

Desserts
Cookies, brownies, pies and cakes these are what you find at my favorite table at the party. The dessert table is probably the most anticipated table at any party, not just a pot luck. The great thing about a pot luck is the wide variety of desserts available to choose from! it is also the easiest table to go to to find something different. Cookies can easily be something new by changing the shape or by adding a hint of different flavor with some extracts. I love adding a bit of orange extract to sugar cookies! Brownies are a delicious go to recipe for any day. Try making a layered brownie bar instead of the same old brownies, both are delicious of course! Cakes and pies are an excellent way to bring variety to the dessert table. Cakes can be topped with fruit, baked in a different shaped pan, or filled with a fruit filling instead of icing. Pies can easily be the same old fruit filled pastries or you can transform them into delicacies never tried before. My friend Breanne loves to spice up strawberry pie by making strawberry margarita pie! Can you say yummy?

The main thing to remember when preparing that pot luck recipe is to give it some variety. Don’t fall into the trap of taking the same dish every time you go to a party. Take something new and different and watch everyone come to you and beg for the recipe!

4th of July Sweets

The 4th of July is just around the corner! You will surely want to have a patriotic dessert at your table! Here are a few options that are sure to be favorites at any patriotic gathering!

Flag Cake
This is a simple yet beautiful addition to the dessert table! All you have to do is make your favorite cake recipe in a sheet pan. Then use a white icing to frost the cake. After this is done, you are ready to decorate the cake. All you need is strawberries that have been cleaned and sliced in half and blueberries. Take the blueberries and place them in the top left corner of the cake. Put them in the shape of the ‘star’ section of the American Flag. Then use the strawberries to make the red stripes. This is an absolutely spectacular looking cake, plus it is delicious!

Berry Topped Cupcakes and other Berry Topped Desserts
This recipe works similar to the cake above, however, you can’t really make flags on top of cup cakes. However, you can make a pretty design using the same fruits. It gives a similar effect to the flag cake, and is just as delicious! You can also make a dessert pizza using sugar cookies as the crust, icing for your ‘sauce’ and red and blue berries for your toppings. You could even top a pie in this way. I like to make a blue colored white cake mix and frost it with white icing then top with strawberries. Delish!

All American
This dessert may not look patriotic, but it is the undisputed all American dessert! Apple Pie is not red, white, or blue but it is a perfect choice for any American themed party! There are tons of wonderful apple pie recipes out there. Check your cook books, or your favorite recipe site to find whichever one looks the best to you!

Another all American dessert is the banana split! We have a wonderful recipe in our family called a banana split cake! You simply make a layered sheet cake using a graham cracker crust, a cream filling made from butter, egg, and powdered sugar, sliced bananas, drained crushed pineapple, cool whip for the icing, and top with pecans and cherries. This ends up tasting just like a banana split and is always a big hit!

Stripes
Stripes are a large part of any American decor. Therefore striped desserts make a big impact at your 4th of July party! You can make striped cakes by coloring white cake mix with food coloring and then stacking as normal. You can turn a pie into a striped sensation using jello, pudding, or fruits. You can even buy rocket pops, or if you are even more adventurous you could make your own striped Popsicles!

Stars
Just like stripes make an impact, stars have the same effect! My favorite thing to make that is star shaped are sugar cookies. However, don’t just make plain star shaped cookies, dazzle your guests with sandwich star cookies. I make two different star shaped cookies: one with a star shaped hole in the center of the star, and one without a hole in the center. After I bake the cookies, I stack the cookies and put strawberry jam and blueberry jam in between the layers. This creates red and blue filled stars! They are beautiful and delicious! They do not take that long to make, but it will look like you purchased them at a fancy bakery!

Fireworks
What is a 4th of July party without fireworks? It is just a summer gathering, that’s what! So why not bring fireworks to your dessert table with desserts that resemble the bright and beautiful light show! An easy way to achieve this look is to dye coconut and top your cake or cupcakes with the colored coconut. Dying coconut is a simple procedure. Place the coconut into a zip lock bag with a few drops of food coloring, then shake the coconut around until the desired color is reached. You can add additional drops of food coloring if needed. Then top your frosted cake or cupcakes with the beautiful colors and you have a gorgeous and yummy firework dessert ready for everyone to eat!

No matter which dessert you choose for your patriotic party stick with the American theme and it is sure to be a winner! Enjoy your delicious desserts and have a Happy 4th of July!

Book Review: Frozen Assets

One day a few years ago I was talking with a good friend of mine. I mentioned to her that I was considering trying out freezer cooking. she told me she had the perfect thing for me. She gave me a book called frozen Assets: how to cook for a day and eat for a month, by Deborah Taylor-Hough. I was totally intrigued! I could not wait to start reading the book.

I sat down and started reading through the book as soon as I got home and settled. The first page in the book is tons of praise for this book and the plan that is inside of it. This only excited me more. As I read through the introduction and the first few chapters my mind began to race with all of the possibilities. I have always loved cooking for my family, it was something that my mother always did for us and I wanted to continue this with my family. However, many nights myself and my husband were just too worn out to cook anything, or had forgotten to take something out of the freezer to thaw out. We started getting take out or getting bored with convenience foods from the freezer section of the grocery store.

The first time we tried cooking for the freezer, we were mere novices. We purchased several whole chickens from the store while they were on sale. Came home and processed the meat into our own home made chicken nuggets. Fried them, cooled them and then froze them. it was simple, but it took us forever to just accomplish this one bag of home made frozen chicken nuggets. Now whenever my kids wanted chicken nuggets, I could just pull our home made nuggets from the freezer and heat them up. This was the beginning of our love of freezer cooking, also known as once a month cooking or OAMC.

My husband was sitting next to me in the living room as I read the Frozen Assets book for the first time. As I read I kept speaking out loud saying things like “Wow”, “Oh! that is awesome!”. “how easy!”, and other countless exclamations. He stopped what he was doing and was allowing me to share all of these tips with him as I read them. He was just as excited about this as I was. The idea of saving money on our groceries was thrilling for both of us. Especially with the constantly rising costs that come with raising three children.

Their are so many wonderful things about this book. It is really hard to break it down into one short article. I am going to go over some of the main points that make this book the best resource for freezer cooking.

FAQs
If you have questions about anything to do with once a month cooking, this book will answer them. All of the questions I had were answered withing the first few chapters. I even had questions answered that I didn’t have yet! She goes over each and every thing in detail. the questions range from my freezer is too small, all the way to what tools you will need to cook the meals. Deborah Taylor-Hough has this down to a science and she is sharing all of her knowledge with the readers of this book.

The Plan
The third chapter of this book is probably my favorite part of the book. She describes in detail her monthly cooking session. She begins the chapter with planning out her monthly menu. She goes on to describe how she prepares for her big cooking session right down to how much money she spent at the store for all of her supplies including a list of everything that she purchased! This shows you how much money this can save you. It is truly money saving and that is clearly explained in this book. No more wondering about saving money by freezer cooking! There are also several tips for how to plan out your meals and how to do your shopping as well as many other countless tidbits!

The Recipes
What I find so amazing about this book is the volume of recipes! Deborah lays out the recipes, the grocery list, and how many meals each recipe will make. She tells you how to prepare for each recipe. However, one of the best things is how the recipes are set up in the book. Not only will you find recipes for individual freezer meals, but you will find full thirty day meal plans. It is literally a step by step guide on having your first month of freezer meals done. All you have to do is follow along with the book and you are done in a weekend! She even has holiday meal plans, so you won’t get over extended during the holidays either!

Whether you are a seasoned freezer meal maker, or someone just thinking about getting started with OAMC, this is definitely a book for you! You will be sure to find helpful tips on every page! It has changed how I cook for my family, and I am sure it will change your ways too!

5 Must Do Tips For a Pirate Birthday Party

I have written several articles with tips for children’s birthday parties. With this article instead of doing a step by step guide, I decided to take a different approach. If you are looking for a step by step guide, please see my other birthday party articles.

This article will have several tips for making your pirate birthday party a huge success. My son’s pirate birthday party was a blast for all in attendance, not just the children.

Tip #1 – Give everyone at the party Pirate names! This is just too much fun! You can do a search for Pirate Name Generator and come up with several sites that have this silly feature. All you need to make this work is a list of everyone coming to your party, and a box of name tags. We got our name tags ready the night before the party. As soon as guests arrive give them their new pirate name tag and watch the fun begin! We all were having a blast checking out each other’s pirate names and laughing at how funny they were. If you don’t like the names generated by the first site that you go to, then try another one. They all come up with different ones, so try a few out until you find the one you like the best!

Tip #2 – Get creative with the cake! As popular as Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean movies have become you are sure to find a pirate cake at your local bakery. However, I suggest getting more creative with your cake choice. You can go to a cake decorator store and purchase a pirate shape cake pan. You could make a sheet cake and decorate it like a pirates flag with a skull and cross bones. you could also decorate a sheet cake like a beach with treasure on it, or like a treasure map! You could also use a loaf pan to make a cake and turn it into a treasure chest! Plus one of the coolest cakes I have seen is shaped like a pirate ship. Amazingly, it is very simple to pull off too. Just make 2 standard round cakes, cut them in half to form 4 half circles. Then put the circles on their sides, round side down. You will have to trim the bottom of the curve to keep the cakes from rolling around. Hold the pieces together with icing, then decorate like a pirate ship! What a huge hit that would be!

Tip #3 – Have a treasure hunt! Scavenger hunts are always fun party games. With a Pirate party, the scavenger hunt becomes even more fun! Use the party favor bags as the treasure and have the kids hunt for treasure towards the end of the party!

Tip #4 – Have other fun pirate activities planned. A scavenger hunt at the end of the party will be fun, but other activities need to be planned as well. You could have everyone make their own pirate flags, or some other pirate craft. You could also have them color pirate themed pictures. You can give them a blank canvas and let them use their imagination, or you could print out or purchase pirate coloring pages.

Tip #5 – Watch the movie! If the children at the party are old enough, you could turn the party into a movie viewing pirate party. Everyone can watch the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and pretend to be pirates on Captain Jack Sparrow’s crew! You can purchase pirate hats, and other pirate related costume pieces for everyone at a party supplier.

Follow these fool proof pirate party tips and your pirate party will surely be a treasure in your child’s memory forever!

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