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Warm up with a holiday beverage station

Holiday entertaining means longer evenings. Friends and family gather and linger over conversation and dessert, and early sunsets make it seem cozier inside than out. A holiday beverage station is a decorative way to keep your guests — or your own family — comfortable and warm this season. Whether you’re focusing your energy on a cocoa bar or a beverage station with a variety of warm options — plus dessert — a few simple additions can take your beverage and dessert station from practical to perfect.

holiday beverage station

A hot cocoa bar can become part of your holiday decorating tradition

The Christmas Home Tour at Unexpected Elegance shows how a hot cocoa bar can be incorporated into your holiday decorating. With all of the fixings for hot cocoa — and enough mugs for friends — the dining room is a welcoming, cozy place during the holiday season. The framed chalkboard art makes the beverage station a focal point of the room. Download chalkboard art prints for the holidays to keep your Christmas decor consistent through your home.

holiday beverages

Mighty Leaf Tea is a fantastic addition to your beverage menu

Hot cocoa and steaming coffee are always represented on holiday beverage menus, but Mighty Leaf Tea is a welcome addition to a hot beverage bar. Their whole tea leaves are delicately sewed into compostable pouches large enough for the leaves, herbs, and spices to unfurl in the hot water. The tags note the caffeine level and brew time for each type of tea, guaranteeing you won’t inadvertently over-caffeinate before bedtime. Try the Holiday Collection Tea Chest to sample some of their seasonally-appropriate teas.

 

holiday beverage station
Add to the festive spirit with a hot beverage station

Hot apple cider turns a hot chocolate station to a holiday beverage table at Cre8tive Designs. The details on this festive holiday drink station are exquisite, and all of the tasty toppings can turn your hot cocoa into dessert. In addition to hot cider, chai tea is another way to infuse your warm drink with the seasonal flavors and spices that feel festive during the holidays. Mighty Leaf Tea offers two delicious tea recipes to impress your guests.

Hot Apple Chai from Mighty Leaf Tea
  • 1 Mighty Leaf Tea Bombay Chai tea pouch
  • 2 cups apple cider, not from concentrate
  • ½ tsp whole cloves
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg, freshly ground
  • 1 ½ broken cinnamon sticks
  • 1 small orange
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Steep tea pouch in 12 oz hot water for 4 minutes. Pour tea into medium sized pot. Add the apple juice, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cinnamon sticks. Muddle the orange into the pot then drop in the orange peels too. Simmer on stovetop for 15 minutes for richer flavor. Serve.

Vanilla Bean Tea Latte from Mighty Leaf Tea
  • 6 oz Mighty Leaf Tea Vanilla Bean
  • 6 oz milk or soy
  • ½ agave nectar/sugar (optional)

Steep one Vanilla Bean Tea Pouch in 6 oz. of boiling water for 5-6 minutes. While tea steeps, froth 6 oz heated milk or soy. Add agave nectar/sugar to taste. Stir and enjoy! Substitute Mighty Leaf Tea Organic African Nectar or Bombay Chai for a twist on this recipe.

What is your favorite part of holiday entertaining?

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Satisfy your sweet tooth with barkTHINS

Rich, decadent chocolate makes the best kind of snack, and barkTHINS are going to find a home in your cabinet as soon as you try them. Made with fair trade chocolate and natural ingredients, barkTHINS are a treat you can welcome into your house while feeling confident you’re supporting a company dedicated to fair labor practices. The Dark Chocolate flavors are even verified by the Non-GMO project.

Bark Thins

barkTHINS caters to any flavor craving

Holiday “bark” candy is one of my favorite seasonal treats, but barkTHINS improved on even your favorite recipe — not to mention it’s so much easier to pick up a bag at the store than to make your own. The snacking candy is thinner than traditional bark recipes, and each of the varieties are crammed full of delicious ingredients — from coconut to almonds, with fruit, pumpkin seeds, and pretzels in between. No matter how you like your chocolate — from traditional nuts to a fruit flavor explosion — there’s a scrumptious barkTHINS flavor you’ll immediately love.

Bark Thins

Seasonal flavors make barkTHINS the perfect party addition

As fall shifts to winter, flavor enthusiasts are volleying back and forth between pumpkin and peppermint — both are flavors in the barkTHINS family of snacks. Holiday party hosts can add barkTHINS to their party plans. Post-dinner coffee will be even better when accompanied by a little barkTHINS buffet. The Dark Chocolate Peppermint Pretzel with Sea Salt is a Limited Edition Flavor for the 2014 holiday season, and I can’t wait to try it. Pick up a few extra bags to savor throughout the year — barkTHINS can be stored, unopened, for up to 12 months.

Bark Thins

 

Take a snack break with barkTHINS

Some afternoons just call for something sweet, and barkTHINS are perfect for a mid-afternoon snack break. The Dark Chocolate Pretzel with Sea Salt is the ultimate combination of sweet and salty — and my favorite barkTHINS variety. The balance of chocolate and other flavors, whether it’s coconut or blueberry, is perfect. barkTHINS have more than enough chocolate to satisfy any chocolate craving, but the thinness of the bark makes sure the treat doesn’t feel too heavy or overwhelming. The only thing to worry about with this treat is making sure I only take a piece or two and then put the bag away for another day!

Which flavor of barkTHINS would you love to try?

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Add apple recipes to your must-try fall menu

Fall trips to the apple orchard mean pounds and pounds of apples. No matter what your favorite variety — we adore snacking on the Honeycrisp — there are apple recipes galore to use before your apples go bad. Try one of these recipes that will have your kitchen smelling like fall, no matter what the temperature may be.

If you can’t get enough apples this fall, consider creating your own apple orchard birthday party.

fall recipes

Savory apple recipes bursting with flavor

Maple glazed acorn squash with sausage, apple, and sage from Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen — With protein sources and vegetables, you can absolutely justify having a glass of white wine to go with the splash needed for this fall beauty.

Stovetop apple bacon mac and cheese from Savory Nothings — One pot, bacon, and your choice of cheese make for the ultimate fall comfort food. If you’re unsure about which cheeses make the best mac and cheese, Nora has a few suggestions!

Turkey cheddar apple butter panini from Running to the Kitchen — Every lunch should be as lovely as this melty, cheesy panini paired with crisp apples. This is the perfect fall sandwich — and it’s simple to make.

Apple, bacon, and leek stuffed sweet potatoes from Shared Appetite — Besides bursting with fall flavors — and everyone’s favorite topping, bacon — these stuffed sweet potatoes are made using a slow cooker. Nothing is better than coming home to food that’s waiting for you.

Beet, butternut squash, and apple soup from Red Nails Green Veggies — Beets aid in digestion, and they provide the beautiful color of this warm, fall soup. Alena suggests topping with cashew sour cream, which sounds divine.

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Maple glazed acorn squash
Apple bacon mac and cheese
Turkey cheddar apple panini
Apple bacon sweet potatoes
Beet soup
Light Waldorf salad
Autumn wellness salad
Autumn harvest salad
Welcome fall harvest salad
Red wine apple bread
Caramel apple cake
Caramel apple pumpkin muffins
Apple streusel oatmeal bars
Caramel and chocolate dipped apples
Caramel apple cinnamon rolls
Crisp apples are perfect in salads

Light and fresh Waldorf salad from Edible Woman — Fall is known for comfort food, but sometimes you need something a little lighter on your menu. This salad is a fresh version of your favorite fall flavors.

Autumn wellness salad from Foolproof Living — Kale, pomegranate, and chia seeds are some of the autumn super foods in this flavorful salad. Adding super foods to your diet can help counter some of the sickness that seems to hit everyone each fall.

Autumn harvest salad from Little Spice Jar — This hearty, fall salad will keep you full for hours with its protein-packed ingredients. With the sweet dijon vinaigrette dressing, it’s a meal bursting with flavor.

Welcome fall harvest salad from Whole Foods Real Families — Butternut squash might be a bit tough to chop, but its fall flavor is worth it in the Welcome fall harvest salad. Add herbed chicken for a filling, complete meal that includes many of fall’s favorite flavors.

Apple recipes for sweet lovers

Red wine apple quick bread from Pretty/Hungry — This recipe had us at red wine. This simple bread uses red wine to add a spicy warmth to quick apple bread — and we can’t wait to try it!

Caramel apple cake from Sift & Whisk — Dense, moist, and bursting with flavor, this cake is the perfect dessert for your fall party. If you try it, we wouldn’t mind an invitation — we’re not going to turn down the chance to nosh on caramel swiss meringue buttercream.

Caramel apple pumpkin spice muffins from The Kitchen McCabe — Muffins are an acceptable breakfast food, even with the deliciousness of the salted caramel glaze atop the pumpkin spice muffins. Apples baked in caramel? Yes, please!

Apple streusel oatmeal bars from Whole Pure Recipes — Bursting with fall flavors, these granola bars combine the sweetness of streusel with apples, flax, and oatmeal. As a snack or quick breakfast-to-go, these bars will quickly become a family favorite.

Caramel and white chocolate dipped apples from A Million Moments — The crispness of apples pairs perfectly with caramel, and the addition of white chocolate make these a must-try dessert this fall. We fell in love with Jess’s gorgeous presentation of her dipped apples.

Caramel apple cinnamon rolls from Little Spice Jar — Marzia might keep things healthy with her Autumn harvest salad, but she knows how to find the sweetness of fall, too. Serve these cinnamon rolls warm for a special, fall breakfast treat.

Looking for an easy way to bring fall to your table decor? Try one of these 12 Gold fall decor DIY ideas.

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What’s hot in holiday cards for 2014

Every year, we see some fresh, new trends in holiday cards and, this year, as always, Minted hits them all. If you’re still deciding on your holiday card style, these sassy favorites will get you started. But, don’t wait too long to order them… it won’t be long until holiday cards from your loved ones will start popping up in your own mailbox!

Golden tones that sparkle and shine

 

Minted Holiday Cards

1. Watercolor Bunting Foil-Pressed Holiday Cards
2. Pebble Dot Foil-Pressed Holiday Cards
3. Bright Border Foil-Pressed Holiday Cards
4. Banner Wings Foil-Pressed Holiday Cards
5. Spirited Holiday Foil-Pressed Holiday Cards
6. Modern Dot Foil-Pressed Holiday Cards
7. Shine Like Gold Foil-Pressed Holiday Cards

Gold is in for holiday, in every way you can imagine, including for holiday cards. Minted takes gold and silver — and even rose gold — to the next level, offering pretty foil-pressed cards that truly sparkle and shine. At $198 for 100 cards (most foil-pressed holiday cards, not including extra add-ons), they are an investment, but one that you’ll be very proud to mail to family and friends this holiday season.

Minibook Cards: Not your average holiday card

 

Minted Holiday Cards

Not to be missed in the selection of Minted holiday cards are their Holiday Minibook Cards. We love this option for families who have recently had a baby and want to combine their birth announcement and holiday card into one. Or, if you just have too many fantastic photos of your sweet kiddos for a single holiday card!

Minted Holiday Cards

There is plenty of room in the Minted Holiday Minibook Cards to add the details about your family’s happenings over the past year or to include a little blurb about what each kid is up to. Go ahead and brag… these cards were made for it.

Pictured: 
Herringbone Holiday Minibook Cards

Give your envelopes a holiday makeover

 

Minted Holiday Cards

In true fashion of trying to make our lives as easy as possible during the holidays, Minted has introduced matching envelope designs for their holiday cards. The process is simple, as it always is with Minted — after you choose your Minted holiday cards, you select the “Printed” option for envelopes and pick your favorite design. From there, upload your address list and Minted takes care of the rest. Your cards will arrive on you front door already addressed. Just add a stamp, pop them in the mail and get back to what’s most important about the holiday season… your family!


Dish it! Have you ordered your holiday cards yet?
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Book club picks for even the most indecisive book clubs

Spike your apple cider and settle in for a fantastic book club discussion this month. November book club picks get in the autumn spirit with everything from books about the supernatural to stories about dysfunctional families that will leave you feeling a little better about the upcoming holiday stress.

book club picks

Stay awake at night with suspense stories

The Returned by Jason Mott gives a family a second chance at the life they imagined, when an older couple finds their eight-year-old son on their doorstep — a son they’d come to terms with losing many, many years ago (Barnes & Noble, $14). Jacob isn’t the only one who has returned, and families find themselves curious about what seems to be a miracle, even as events bring the world around them into chaos. If it sounds familiar, you may have seen the television series based on the novel, which premiered this fall.

The Hunger Games Trilogy isn’t supernatural, but the landscape of Panem offers a lot to fear in Mockingjay, the third novel in Suzanne Collins’ iconic books (Barnes & Noble, $8). Katniss Everdeen didn’t expect to be alive after she’s thrust into the Hunger Games for the second time. She made it through the worst the games could throw at her, only to find something worse looming outside of the arena.

The action-packed book is rife with political commentary, as Katniss realizes the role she needs to play in District 13’s rebellion against the Capitol. If you’ve already read the trilogy, re-read it before Mockingjay, Part 1 comes to theaters this month. Fans are already trying to guess at which point the movie will end, with the second part slated to come out in 2015.

book club picks
All families have their own brand of dysfunction

Your family’s summer vacations might not have the advantage of a private island, but E. Lockhart shows even the most privileged families have their issues inWe Were Liars (Barnes & Noble, $12). When Cadence returns to her mother’s summer home, after a summer spent with her dad in Europe and with a spotty case of amnesia arising from an accident that happened her last summer on the island, everything is different.

Her beloved cousins — and a close friend of the family who shares a rocky, romantic past with Cadence — won’t even spend time with their grandfather, or “the aunts”, at the family patriarch’s estate. Cadence struggles to reclaim her memory, and the secrets she might have learned about her family prior to her accident. A quick, mesmerizing read, We Were Liars will appeal to readers who love young adult lit — and readers who will love it after reading Lockhart’s novel.

If your book club loved This is Where I Leave Youmine definitely did! — you’ll love Jonathan Tropper’s One Last Thing Before I Go (Barnes & Noble, $11). Silver’s fractured family is about to get even more complicated. His ex-wife is getting re-married, and even Silver can’t quite decide to hate her new man, and his daughter announces her pregnancy on the cusp of her enrollment at an Ivy League school. Tropper does family dysfunction in the best possible way — couching heartbreak and cringe-worthy moments in the humor that makes families bearable.

book club picks for fall

Get empowered with a new memoir

Amy Poehler is the kind of mom you’d love to have in your book club. Funny, intelligent, and not afraid to laugh at herself, she gives off the impression that she’d be a fabulous addition to your wine-drinking, book-reading, belly-laughing, girls’ nights in. Since she’s not exactly easy to contact, you’ll have to make due with Yes Please (Barnes & Noble, $18). Like you might expect, Yes Please isn’t simply your typical memoir: there are lists, haikus, and stories running the gamut from her childhood to frank discussions about when she’s made a mess of things — and I don’t mean her kitchen.

If you don’t have a book club at the moment, consider our five tips for starting a book club

What are you reading this November?
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Gold fall decor you can make yourself

With Halloween nearly behind us and Thanksgiving still weeks away, we have a bit of a lag in our fall decorating schedule, don’t we? Spruce up your home with some of these gold fall decor DIY ideas from our favorite bloggers. They’re the perfect excuse to ditch the Halloween decorations and they will easily transition to your Thanksgiving table in November.

Gold Fall Decor DIY Ideas

12 Gold fall decor DIY ideas to try

Top row, going clockwise:

DIY Painted Acorns from Bliss at Home
If the acorns are falling off of your trees at home, have the kiddos go acorn hunting, then get your craft on! You can scatter these on your Thanksgiving table or fill Mason jars with handfuls of them for around the house. No acorns? Grab some at your local craft store!

Gold Polka Dot Studded Pumpkins from Brit+Co
Such a fun and easy way to re-purpose your un-carved pumpkins from Halloween, we adore that these gold studded pumpkins are completely mess-free gold fall decor.

Gold-Dipped Log Candle Holders from Lifeovereasy via the Etsy UK Blog
A project for the more advanced DIYer, you can also simply be inspired by these gold-dipped log candle holders and create something similar at home… minus the power tools.

Golden Doily Pumpkins from 17 Apart
How pretty are these pumpkins? This gold fall decor DIY project is perfect for all of those little round pumpkins that are now on clearance at your local grocery store. Grab a bunch!

DIY No-Sew Burlap Table Runner from Inspired by Charm
For those of us who might be a little crafty, but who aren’t brave enough to venture into sewing, this DIY no-sew table runner is an ideal project for gold fall decor. Pick up the already-printed fabric, or add the gold polka dots yourself.

Gilded Leaf DIY Place Cards from Polka Dot Made
Coming straight from a wedding blog, you know this DIY for gold fall decor is going to be good! We love her use of a gold leaf pen and can’t wait to send our kids outside to find the perfect leaves.

Gold-Painted Pumpkin with Bling from Lacquer & Linen
So, maybe you like your gold fall decor with a little bling on the side. We can’t hate you for that! Get inspired with this gold-painted pumpkin and other no-carve pumpkin options, all in her post.

Glitter-Dipped Mason Jars from Lilyshop
We all need some of these in our home for fall: glitter-dipped mason jars. These will last you far beyond your fall decor and will also do double-duty for upcoming girl birthday parties!

Do It Yourself Glittered Pumpkins from Yesterday’s Sweetheart
Getting glitter to stick on pumpkins isn’t as easy as you might think, but Yesterday’s Sweetheart walks you through exactly how to do it.

DIY Fall Centerpiece from Place of My Taste
Instead of putting those wine bottles from last weekend’s pumpkin carving party in the recycling bin, give them a good scrubbing and turn them into your gold fall decor!

Studded Chalk Paint Pumpkins from Cuckoo4Design
These could possibly be some of our favorites when it comes to gold fall decor. We love the edgy look and feel of these studded pumpkins… literally. Keep these gorgeous, sharp, pumpkins out of the reach of your toddlers!

DIY Gold Leaf Pine Cone Garland from The Sweetest Occasion
Withsuch a pretty, delicate touch of gold, these pine cones can be turned into a garland, as shown, or used in decor around your home for fall.

Which gold fall decor idea is your favorite?
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Chili makes your fall a little warmer

Chili is the ultimate fall food. Whether you’re simmering it in the crockpot for dinner after a busy day or throwing it together for a football tailgate, finding your signature chili recipe makes meal planning and entertaining easier. We’ve rounded up different versions of the fall favorite and know you will find the best chili recipe for your family. 

chili recipes

Chili recipes bursting with fall flavor

From Calculus to Cupcakes has the perfect equation for a vegetarian chili bursting with flavor. Her Pumpkin chili has an adorable presentation, and the pumpkin provides a rich texture for this meatless chili.

Slow cooker pumpkin, turkey, kale chili from Recipe Runner combines the quintessential fall flavor with the hearty, healthy veggie powerhouse. Turkey adds a boost of protein to the chili, making it a complete meal for even your hungriest eaters.

Add a little sweetness to your chili this fall with Easy sweet potato apple turkey chili. Oh, Sweet Basil used a baked sweet potato as inspiration for this hearty fall soup, and the recipe is sure to please.

Vegan and vegetarian chili recipes

Eggplants take center stage in this Aromatic vegan chili from Sprouting Healthy Habits. The fresh ingredients are hearty, but healthy, so you’ll feel absolutely no guilt about having a second helping of this chili.

This meatless chili takes advantage of a favorite fall vegetable — the sweet potato. With a 7-hour cook time, Lexi’s Clean Kitchen’s Slow cooker sweet potato chili can be prepped at night and ready in the morning or prepped in the morning and ready for dinner.

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Pumpkin Chili
Pumpkin Turkey Kale Chili
apple turkey chili
Vegan Chili
Sweet Potato Chili
BBQ Chicken Chili
Green Chili with Chicken
Creamy White Chicken Chili
Chicken Ratatouille Chili
Chili Con Carne
moms green bean chili
Chicken chili recipes

A sweet twist makes BBQ Chicken chili a slightly new take on a favorite fall recipe. The recipe from Skinny Taste definitely needs to make its way into your chili rotation — and we love that Gina’s recipes include nutritional information!

You only need one pot for this delicious Green chili with chicken from Kim’s Healthy Eats. The green chills add a bit of a kick, and the lime brings a fresh flavor to this chili.

Creamy white chicken chili is filled with favorite foods that even picky eaters will love. The recipe, from Whole and Heavenly Oven, is a creamy, welcoming comfort food for fall — and who doesn’t love a recipe that includes avocado?

Perchance to Cook has a chili recipe for clean eating enthusiasts. Her Shredded chicken ratatouille chili is gluten-free, paleo-friendly and all sorts of flavorful. Squash adds a fall twist to this healthy chili recipe.

Classic chili recipes

The Chili con carne from Kitchen Sanctuary is the perfect chili recipe for Saturday tailgates and football Sundays. It’s the type of recipe that tastes even better the next day, when all the flavors have really fused, which means you can prep it the night before and enjoy every minute of your party. If you’re headed to the game, check out these athletic-inspired fall fashions.

When you’re looking for a comfort food, most of us don’t go much farther than our moms’ kitchens. With this recipe from NeighborFood, you can get a taste of her mom’s kitchen with Mom’s Green Bean Chili.

Now that you have dinner planned, browse our fall fashion favorites.

Keep up with these fabulous food bloggers on social media

1. From Calculus to Cupcakes , 2. Recipe Runner, 3. Oh, Sweet Basil , 4. Sprouting Healthy Habits, 5. Lexi’s Clean Kitchen, 6. Skinny Taste, 7. Kim’s Healthy Eats, 8. Whole and Heavenly Oven, 9. Perchance to Cook, 10. Kitchen Sanctuary, 11. NeighborFood

Do you prefer chili in the slow cooker or on the stove?

 

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Slow cooker recipes for kids make dinner prep simple

Slow cooker recipes don’t have to be bland. As extracurricular activities start and dinner-prep time turns into driving time, these eleven slow cooker recipes for kids will find a place onto your weekly meal plans. With fresh ingredients and a little planning ahead, your slow cooker will help get a kid-friendly meal on the table no matter how busy your evening might seem. While you’re planning meals, check out these five fabulous freezer meals — easy and homemade is every mom’s favorite combination! Slow cooker recipes

Slow cooker comfort food

Macaroni and cheese is a perennial kid favorite, and the version found at Spicy Southern Kitchen adds a punch of flavor adults will love, too. The Slow Cooker Bacon Mac and Cheese is cheesy, delicious and comforting after a long, busy day. Breakfast for dinner is a quick way to put a healthy meal in front of your family, and making it in the slow cooker saves even more time. Your kids will love the Slow Cooker Sausage and Egg Breakfast Casserole from All Day I Dream About Food.

Super slow cooker soup recipes

If your family loves Mexican food, don’t miss the Crock Pot Chicken Enchilada Soup from Your Cup of Cake. You can adjust spices and toppings to personalize this delicious recipe to your family’s tastes. Chili is a slow cooker favorite, but chili powder can often be too spicy for children’s tastes. The Slow Cooker Tex-Mex Soup from This Gal Cooks is a lot like chili, without the heat of chili powder, so it’s full of flavor instead of heat. Blue Crab Martini offers Fresh Tomato Soup in a Crock Pot, and it will make your kitchen smell amazing. Tomatoes are packed with antioxidants, and this soup is healthy as well as delicious. Try one of these ten — yes, ten! — amazing grilled cheese sandwich recipes to pair with the tomato soup.

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Bacon Mac and Cheese
Slow Cooker Breakfast Casserole
Crockpot Chicken Enchilada Soup
Slow Cooker Tex Mex Soup
Crock Pot Tomato Soup
Slow Cooker Pineapple Chicken
French Dip Slow Cooker Recipe
quinoa chicken broccoli and cheese
Crockpot Chicken Tikka Masala
asian chicken crock pot
Crockpot Carnitas

Tried and true slow cooker favorites

Slow Cooker Pineapple Chicken from The Magical Slow Cooker combines the sweetness of pineapple with just a bit of spiciness. You can serve alone or over rice for a complete meal. Using your slow cooker for sandwich fillings is a fantastic way to transition to fall dinners. The Slow Cooker French Dips from Dixie Chik Cooks are a rich, flavorful meal. Quinoa is a wonderful addition to any meal, with the protein-packed grain taking rice’s role in many recipes. The Slow Cooker Chicken, Broccoli, and Quinoa Casserole from A Zesty Bite is packed with nutrition and comfort flavors.

Add ethnic flavors to your slow cooker recipes

Tikka Masala is an Indian dish that tastes a little different depending on the cook. The Wanderlust Kitchen’s version uses fat-free yogurt to lighten up the recipe just a bit for an easy-prep and Healthy Slow Cooked Tikka Masala. Crock Pot Asian Chicken from Fit Foodie Finds is a tangy chicken recipe that provides a bunch of flavor in a simple recipe. The Stir Fried Sesame Pea Pods aren’t cooked in the crock pot, but they only take a few minutes and are the perfect way to add fresh vegetables to your meal. If taco night is a favorite in your home, add the Crock Pot Carnitas from Eat. Drink. Love. to your meal rotation. With minimal prep and maximum flavor, the carnitas can be used for tacos, nachos, or salads.

Kid-friendly slow cooker recipes

For even more ideas, follow these food bloggers on social media 1. Spicy Southern Kitchen 2. All Day I Dream About Food 3. Your Cup of Cake 4. This Gal Cooks 5. Blue Crab Martini 6. The Magical Slow Cooker 7. Dixie Chik Cooks 8. A Zesty Bite 9. The Wanderlust Kitchen 10. Fit Foodie Finds 11. Eat. Drink. Love. slow cooker meals for kids

Bonus tip for quick kids’ meals

One of the toughest parts about crafting a quick kids’ meal is getting it warm enough to eat without making it too hot for sensitive mouths. Slow cooker recipes are definitely warm when they come out of the pot, but even on the “warm” setting, kids might find the food too hot. Try the COOLIT bowl to make sure your pre-planned meal isn’t stalled while you’re waiting for your child’s serving to cool (The COOLIT, $10). Store the COOLIT bowl in the freezer, and the food will be ready to eat in less than a minute. Bonus for savvy moms: the bowl is BPA-free and phthalate-free.

Do you use your slow cooker for quick dinner prep?
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This is Where I Leave You is a book club hit

With an all-star cast, the movie version of This is Where I Leave You is a must-see movie this fall — we’d watch Tina Fey in anything! Before seeing the movie, gather your girls together for a book club discussion about Jonathan Tropper’s novel. Family dysfunction runs through the character relationships in This is Where I Leave You, giving your book club a lot to discuss — one of the five best tips for a book club.

This is Where I Leave You book

Why read This is Where I Leave You?

Relationships are at the heart of This is Where I Leave You, both between parents and their children and between the grown siblings in the story. The intelligent humor in Tropper’s book is a backdrop for important discussions about the lifelong journey of being a parent and the responsibilities parents have to their children — and vice versa. This is Where I Leave You isn’t a women’s fiction novel, which tend to be popular book club picks, but it’s a book that moms will enjoy. The book club kit we received contained notebooks, which I thought was a fabulous idea. It’s a great way to stay organized with thoughts and questions while reading, especially if your book club shares copies of books or uses library books that don’t allow for scribbling notes in the margins!
This is Where I Leave You book

This is Where I Leave You discussion questions

Even though some of the best book club discussions are the ones that arise naturally when you and your friends begin talking about the way the book connected to your real life experiences, it always helps to begin with book club questions. Some months I have the time to write my own questions — it’s the middle school language arts teacher in me! — but other months I use the publishers’ resources. Jonathan Tropper’s author page has fabulous reading guides for each of his books, and we used the This is Where I Leave You reading guide to begin our discussion.

This is Where I Leave You book

One of our favorite questions concerned the matriarch of the Altman family, because of our own experiences dealing with the wealth of parenting “advice” available via the Internet, books, and family advice givers.

Discuss Judd’s mother and her relationship with each of her children. Do you think that Hillary Foxman was truly a bad mother? Was there any real irony in her being a child-rearing guru? What was your opinion of her character?

– from the This is Where I Leave You reading guide

A September version of girls’ night in

I’ve been a part of several book clubs, and September is always a tough month for moms to engage in book club discussions. With kids going back to school and trying to figure out this year’s extracurricular schedule, moms are still unsure about availability and whether or not they’ll be able to finish the book in the carpool lane. Back to school month means relating to this promo image for This is Where I Leave You, but it also means knowing my similarly-frazzled friends could use a night out to discuss something other than homework struggles and how to get kids to eat more than a quarter of their lunches.

This is Where I Leave You movie

I kept the menu basic, since we were meeting after our kids’  bedtimes: wine, coffee, tea, chocolate, and cheese. Having friends over is a perfect reminder that our homes don’t have to be perfect to be welcoming. A carafe of decaffeinated coffee — not everyone likes to stay up until all hours of the night like I do — and some kid-crafted mugs can be just as inviting as meticulously planned place settings.

This is Where I Leave You book

Next stop: This is Where I Leave You, the movie

Some readers prefer not to see movies made from their favorite books, but I love seeing someone’s visual representation of what I’ve read. I might not always agree with the way a movie’s adapted, but that can simply lead to another discussion! I believe This is Where I Leave You will live up to the trailers — the casting is fabulous — and I can’t wait to see it when it arrives in theaters September 19th. If your book club enjoys the idea of movie-book combos, check out these other suggestions for taking your book club to the movies.

Do you enjoy book to movie adaptations?
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Greet Guests with Grace

A great guest room is beautiful but also useful. It provides your guests with a private retreat from the hustle and bustle of your home and is a way to communicate to your loved ones how much you care. Before your summer guests arrive, take some time to clear out the clutter (no one loves sleeping in a storage space) and evaluate the state of your bed linens and towels (anything with holes, stains or an old loofah-like texture should be replaced.) Then add some of these elements of an elegant guest room. Your guests will never want to leave. elements-of-elegant-guest-room

1. Something Calming

Give your guests a little bit of luxury and serenity by placing a special candle in the guest quarters, like the Joya Prism Candle $26 anthropologie.

2. Something to Read

A few magazines are always a considerate addition to a guest room, as are beautifully bound books. I am a fan of a stacking a few Penguin Classics $17 Amazon which are too pretty to put down.

3. Hydration Station

A couple bottles of Fiji feels too hotel. Instead, provide your guests with a reusable, convenient and classic Bedside Carafe and Glass Set $17 Amazon.

4. Let There Be Light

Adequate light is essential in a guest room, so do not forget to provide a bedside table reading light. An adjustable arm gives guests lighting options. Renarp Lamp $40 Ikea.

5. Music Maker

A clock radio is so passé, and the clock part is unnecessary in this age of smart phone alarms. A small speaker that allows guests to play their own music in-room from their phone or iPod is ideal, such as the iFrogz BoostPlus Speaker $60 iFrogz.

6. WiFi Access

The most courteous item you can place in your guest room is your WiFi code and password. Instead of a random Post-It, why not print it out in a cute font and place it in an interesting frame, like the Small Green Filigree Adalyn Frame $13 World Market

7. Something Green

The sweetest touch to a guest room is the addition of some simple flowers or greenery. Pick some blooms from your yard or pick up some grocery store flowers and place in a bud vase. Or you can add an interesting plant as a permanent fixture in your guest room. I love this Deluxe Succulent Garden $30 ProFlowers.

What is YOUR must-have item in an elegant guest room?

 

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