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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Almond,Shrimp and Feta Pasta Salad #Pastapalooza

This Post is Sponsored by Dreamfields Pasta.

This Almond,Shrimp and Feta Pasta Salad is a light but filling pasta salad that's perfect for a main dish or side dish!

My husband has never been a big lover of Pasta Salad but he's actually a huge fan of this one! I think it's because this one is a fantastic olive oil and balsamic vinegar based dish!

And the shrimp? Well I would have never thought to put that into pasta salad but when I was down in Wilmington the other weekend, a friend of Toni's dropped off some pasta salad with baby shrimp in it and I thought that was the best idea ever! I gave it a try and added tiny shrimp to this pasta salad and fell in love!

I love pasta salads in the summer because it's normally so hot that I'm always craving cold food! 

Speaking of summer and food.....

I saw a billboard sign when we were driving back from Williamsburg on Sunday that said "Hunger doesn't take a summer vacation". It immediately made me think of how lucky my niece and god-daughters are that they don't have to feel that pain this summer or worry about where their next meal is coming from.

This year I read somewhere that the schools in our area were going to make all school lunches FREE for every child! That is amazing news and I was so excited to hear it!

However, that doesn't help children once the school year is over. I imagine that there are quite a few children in our very own city that don't know where their next meal will be coming from this summer. It breaks my heart! 

That's one of the reasons that I decided to participate in the "Pastapalooza V Market Basket Challenge to Help Fight Hunger" that Dreamfields is hosting! 

So How does the "Pastapalooza V Market Basket Challenge to Help Fight Hunger"  work?

Here is how this Challange Works:

Dreamfields is going to be hosting "basket cooking challanges" throughout the summer!

We were given a list of ingredients in a "Market Basket" (plus up to 2 of our choice) to create an outstanding pasta dish!

Then, our fans must vote! Vote for the recipe that you like the best (psst vote for this one!! haha)!

You can cast one vote per day for the recipe of your choice.

While there are many of these challenges going on this summer, the Gourmet Basket Challenge is the one I'm participating in and the voting will last one week!

So here's the BEST PART!

The winning recipe/blogger will receive a $1,000 donation made in their name to their local food bank! 

So if I win, that means that God's Storehouse in Danville, VA will receive a $1,000 donation!

A $200 donation will also be made to the local food bank of each runner-up.

PLUS – one voter from each Market Basket Challenge will be chosen at random to win a family pack of Dreamfields pasta and a $1,000 donation to the food bank of their choice.

So the more you vote, the more chances you have to win.

I am so excited for this and I WOULD LOVE to see that donation go to God's Storehouse in Danville, VA.

The voting page will be live from 12:01 a.m. EDT Thursday, July 2 through 11:59 p.m. EDT Wednesday, July 8.

Almond,Shrimp and Feta Pasta Salad
By: Angie Barrett -
7/02/15                                                                     (Click to Print)
Makes 6 servings
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 17 minutes

1 box Dreamfields Penne Rigate
1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup slivered almonds
1 tablespoon fennel seed
12 ounces extra small shrimp, cooked and peeled (defrost if frozen)
1/2 cup finely shredded carrots (or rainbow carrots)
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese


1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Place pasta in large bowl; set aside.

2. In small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the oil and the balsamic vinegar. Add to pasta; toss to coat well.

3. Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add almonds; cook and stir 3 minutes. Add fennel seed; cook and stir 2 minutes. Transfer to medium bowl; set aside.

4. Add shrimp and carrots to skillet. Cook and stir 1 to 2 minutes, or until shrimp are cooked.

5. Add shrimp and reserved almond mixture to pasta; toss to coat well. Add apricots and feta; toss gently to combine. Serve immediately or chilled.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutrition information (1/6 of recipe): 630 calories; 25 g protein; 63 g carbohydrates; 34 g total fat; 6 g saturated fat; 110 mg cholesterol; 620 mg sodium; 9 g total dietary fiber.

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

4th of July Fireworks Cake Roll

4th of July Fireworks Cake Roll

What's your favorite part of 4th of July?

My favorite part (other than the food haha) is the firework show! I wait every year for July 4th to practice my firework photography skills! Normally manage to get some pretty wonderful shots and I just love them!

Last year I decided to just take my phone with me to the park for the firework show and totally regretted it.

I mean, I liked it because I've been working on not carrying my "big camera" everywhere and just living in the moment but I was totally kicking myself afterwards for not being able to capture some firework photos!

I think this year I'm just going to take my camera and only bring it out once the fireworks start! 

So in the spirit of the 4th of July weekend that's coming up and because of my love of fireworks, I've made you a 4th of July Fireworks Cake Roll!

I've made quite a few of these and they're always a show stopper when they hit the dessert table! 

4th of July Fireworks Cake Roll

I drew/piped the "fireworks" onto a sheet of wax paper with sponge cake batter that I tinted red, white and blue for the design, covered it in chocolate sponge cake batter, baked it until it was light and fluffy, filled it with homemade cream cheese icing and then rolled it up before sticking it into the fridge to chill for a bit! 

4th of July Fireworks Cake Roll

Oh, and don't worry! It's not hard to make at all! I know it looks intimidating but it's really not!

It takes me less than an hour from start to finish to make this cake and you can literally make it with any design or theme that you want!

Not sure that you can "free-hand" firework designs? That's ok! Just print out some firework clip art and place it under the wax paper! You can trace the fireworks and then just remove the paper before you bake the cake! 

4th of July Fireworks Cake Roll

I've partnered with Dixie Crystals to bring you this 4th of July Fireworks Cake Roll!

Please jump on over to their site to grab the recipe for this 4th of July Fireworks Cake Roll and please let me know if you have any questions! I'm always here to help!!

Also if you make this recipe, be sure to rate it over on the Dixie Crystals site and let them know how you liked it!

Happy 4th of July Y'all! Hope you have a fantastic holiday!

Click Here to Keep Reading..... "4th of July Fireworks Cake Roll"

Monday, June 29, 2015

4th of July Party Ideas

This post is sponsored by Hebrew National.
I've always loved to throw parties! It could be a birthday party, a baby shower or a 4th of July cookout, no matter what the occasion is I love the details and planning that goes into throwing the perfect party! 

Since Big Bear was in the military, the 4th of July holds a special place in my heart and we always try to have a party or at least a cookout the weekend of July 4th! 

While we all know what red, white and blue is going to be the main color scheme of any patriotic 4th of July cookout, here are some more ideas for your Independence Day Soirée!

Just remember that there is no need for expensive decorations! You can have a beautiful red, white and blue themed party without breaking the bank! Stick with the basic red, white and blue colors and toss in a few American Flag themed items to round out the decorations! For our 4th of July party, I lined our food/party table with a blue plastic tablecloth but you could of course use red or white as your main color! 

Like I've said before, I love having a party menu available for the food table! Not only does it show off what we'll be having but it also serves as a little checklist for me as I'm bringing the food out! 

For ours, I typed out our menu on the computer, printed it out onto white paper, cut out the menu and then glued it to a sheet of red, white and blue scrapbook paper! After I had the menu ready, I propped it up onto a red, white and blue cake stand and placed it at the end of the food table. 

Also when I start setting up my food table for parties, I always go from right to left. 

I set up the plates and utensils on the right end, I set up the food in the middle and then I set up the end of the party/food table with the drinks!  

So right in front of our 4th of July Menu board, I have these adorable 4th of July themed mason jars that are holding our utensils for the day and a few colorful paper straws! 

These little patriotic mason jars were so easy to create and they added a perfect 4th of July theme to the table! 

I bought wide mouth mason jars at our local craft store and used acrylic paint to paint the red and white stripes as well as the blue area and white stars on the top half of the jars! 

I used these as our utensils holders but they would also be beautiful as flower vases; add a little water and some white flowers for an adorable centerpiece! 

Now moving down the party table, we're at our main attraction! What goes hand in hand with cookouts and the 4th of July?

Hot Dogs!!

We grilled a few packages of Hebrew National ® All-Beef Franks for our traditional cookout hot dog bar and lined the table up with our favorite toppings and hot dog buns! 

Hebrew National ® All-Beef Franks are our go-to hot dogs for cookouts and entertaining! We love the taste and we love that they're made with premium cuts of beef! 

Need some hot dog topping ideas? We normally set out the following:
Cooked Onions
Raw Onions
and Hot Sauce

I have to admit that I don't normally go wild and crazy on my hot dogs. haha  Ketchup and maybe a little bit of relish and I'm one happy girl! 

Moving on down the food line you'll find two fantastic side dishes to go along with our Hebrew National ® All-Beef Franks!

For the sides, I kept it simple and served homemade Fried Mac and Cheese bites and a big bowl of ice-cold watermelon cubes!

The mac and cheese bites were super easy to make and I can't wait to have them again! 

We took our favorite mac and cheese, spread it out into a single layer on a baking sheet and stuck it into the freezer. We let it get pretty cold and right before it was frozen solid we removed it from the freezer and cut it into squares.  

Next, you'll want to dip the mac and cheese squares into a bowl of breadcrumbs. Dip them into a bowl of egg wash (one egg and a tablespoon of water whisked together) and then dip them back into the bread crumbs. Set them on a tray while the oil is heating. Heat vegetable oil in a heavy bottom pot until it reaches 350F. Drop the mac and cheese bites into the hot oil and fry until golden brown. Remove and let drain on a paper towel! So easy! 

Next we come to the watermelon! I just cut cup a medium sized watermelon that I had been keeping in the fridge and loaded all of the little watermelon cubes into a pretty clear bowl! I set out some patriotic cupcake picks for guest to use to pick up their watermelon! 

We served two types of beverages at this party! 

I served a simple blueberry sangria filled with ice and fresh blueberries, as well as watermelon spritzers!

I think that the watermelon spritzers were probably my favorite of the two! 

I used a cookie cutter to cut watermelon stars from a few slices of the cold watermelon and then popped those stars into a few mason jars! 

Then I filled mason jars with a blue sports drink and screwed on the lids! You can also add a bit of club soda to them for a bit of a fizz! 

I kept them in the fridge until it was time for the party and then served them in a shallow tray that was packed with ice! 

I just can't get over how pretty they are!! 

Last, but not least, we finished up our evening with homemade red, white and blue ice pops! 

I used our quick pop maker to make these but any popsicle mold will work! Pour in red fruit juice of your choice, a clear soda (or water) and follow that up with a blue sports drink to make the perfect 4th of July Popsicle!  Just remember to let each layer freeze BEFORE adding the next! 

Here's another fantastic tip for your 4th of July Party:

I love listening to music and I literally having music playing at the house all day long! I listen to it in the car and at the office, so it's just natural for me to play music at our parties! 

I create a playlist to match the party's theme a few days in advance and then I normally sit my tablet and Bluetooth speakers outside with us and hit play! I keep it low enough not to disturb conversation but loud enough to be heard throughout the party! 

Here's one of my 4th of July Playlists, it's a mix of patriotic, country and summer themed songs, because that's how we roll. 

Born in the USA - Bruce Springsteen
Party in the USA - Miley Cyrus
R.O.C.K. in the USA- John Mellencamp
American Pie - Don McLean
Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue - Toby Keith
Only in America - Brooks and Dunn
Riding with Private Malone - David Ball
Marine Corps Hymn
Anchors Away
Star Spangled Banner
Beachin' - Jake Owen
Feelin it - Scotty Mccreery
Pirate Flag - Kenny Chesney
Small Town USA - Justin Moore
American Kids - Kenny Chesney
Born Country - Alabama
God Bless America - Martina McBride
Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd
Hero - Mariah Carey
American Soldier - Toby Keith
Who You'd Be Today - Kenny Chesney
8th of November - Big & Rich

That's about an hour and 30 minutes of music for you. What else would you add to the playlist?

What's your favorite part of 4th of July Parties or Cookouts? 

What makes a Hebrew National kosher hot dog premium? It's all about what makes the cut (And what doesn't). We're choosy about what goes into our franks – we use only premium cuts of 100% kosher beef from the front half of the cow and then choose the best from that. No artificial flavors, colors, fillers or by-­‐products. When your hot dog is Kosher, that's a hot dog you can trust! For more

 Summer fun with Hebrew National, visit
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Thursday, June 25, 2015

5 Hot Tips for Your Summer Kick Off Party

This post is promoted by Hebrew National®.
 Summer Kick Off Party Menu

Summer is finally here!

5 Hot Tips for Your Summer Kick Off Party

Now we may have started celebrating summer's arrival back on June 1st but this week is the first "official" week of summer and we're ready to party, cookout and enjoy the patio! Not only is it the first week of summer but it's also my birthday week! Along with summer making its appearance, I turned 30 on Tuesday and I can't think of a better reason to celebrate! How does one celebrate the start of summer (and a huge milestone birthday)?

With a Summer Kick Off Party, of course! 

5 Hot Tips for Your Summer Kick Off Party

Since we've officially entered into the season of cookouts and summer evening parties, I've been working on a few tips and ideas that will make your next summer party a blast! Blame it on my age, but my idea of the perfect summer party is one that is stress free, low maintenance and one that gives me plenty of time to sit down, relax and catch up with family and friends. Although I love simple cookouts, I do love to throw in a few little "fancy details."

Believe me, it's all in the details. It doesn't matter how big or how small your party is, little details like a themed menu or table top decorations will pull the entire party together and make it even more fun!

#1. Keep Lots of Cold Drinks on Hand. 

Drinks with Frozen Fruit Ice

The summer heat can be brutal. While I always try to have our cookouts in the evenings, the temperatures and humidity can still be sky high well into the night. Keep a lot of cold drinks and ice on hand to keep yourself and your guests happy and refreshed. I normally keep an assortment of drinks available to satisfy everyone's taste buds.

Fill a large bucket with ice and nestle mason jars of ice cold drinks into the ice for quick "grab and go" thirst quenchers but also keep pitchers of sweet tea and homemade lemonade on the table for quick refills. 

5 Hot Tips for Your Summer Kick Off Party

One of my favorite ways to add a little something extra to the drinks is to make fruit ice cubes that I can put into the jars of clear soda or ice cold water! 

A few days before the party, fill an ice cube tray with blueberries and sliced strawberries. Cover the berries with water and freeze until solid. 

Drinks with Frozen Fruit Ice

When it's time to party, pop the fruit ice cubes into mason jars, fill jars with water or clear soda, screw on the lids and pop them into the fridge or a bucket of ice! You'll have jars of flavored drinks for the party with minimal work. 

 #2. Keep the decorations simple. 

Watermelon Mason Jars

My main focus at any cookout or party is the food table. Once I've decorated that area of the party, I can sit back and relax. Normally the food area is going to be the main focus of the party and that's where I like to add in my color themes and decoration details. 

Watermelon Mason Jars

Decorations don't have to be elaborate either. Match a few plate and tablecloth colors, use pretty serving dishes and add a bright flower arrangement for a beautiful but easy tablescape. 

5 Hot Tips for Your Summer Kick Off Party
For a simple flower arrangement, sit a smaller glass vase down inside of a larger/taller cylinder vase. Slice fresh lemons and slide the thin lemon slices between the two vases, using a skewer or chopstick to push them all the way to the bottom. Stack the lemon slices in between the two vases, around the entire vase until they reach the top of the vase. Fill the middle vase with water and add your favorite flowers.  

Lemon Slices Flower Vase

You can also add a bit of detail by printing your party menu onto white paper, cutting it out and gluing it onto a sheet of scrapbook paper that matches your theme! I personally love seeing food menus at parties! As a host, I use it as a checklist to make sure I've put everything out and as a guest I use it to make sure I don't miss out on anything. ;)

#3.  Set up a hot dog bar. 

Hebrew National® All-Beef Frank

Hebrew National® All-Beef Franks are easy to grill, they have endless topping options and they're portable (which is great in my opinion!). When I serve Hebrew National® All-Beef Franks at our parties, I sit out the buns, Hebrew National® All-Beef Franks and toppings and let our party guests create their own hot dog masterpieces. 

Hot Dog Bar

We normally set up the grill close to the food table so that we can just move the Hebrew National® All-Beef Frank straight from the grill to the serving trays. That way everyone has a fresh from the grill hot dog and the smells from the grill fill the party area. 

Hot Dog Bar

I don't know about you, but I love the smell of food cooking on the grill! 

Since everyone likes different condiments on their hot dogs you can be the judge of what items you set out for people to use. For our Summer Kick Off Party we went with the traditional toppings of ketchup, mustard and relish! I'm more of a "just ketchup please" girl when it comes to my hot dogs but my mom on the other hand loves almost everything on hers! 

Hot Dog Bar

Also, I just wanted to put this in here, I used to not be a hot dog fan. I was ridiculously picky and when Big Bear and I got married, I would literally stand in the grocery store and read the labels of each and every hot dog package the store offered. I didn't want a hot dog with "just anything thrown in." That's when I fell in love with the Hebrew National® All-Beef Franks. 

Hebrew National® All-Beef Franks

I want to tell you this because I want you to know why I eat them and why I'm so picky about which hot dogs I'll eat. I just won't eat "any ol' hot dog" at a cook out. Hebrew National® All-Beef Franks have no artificial coloring and no fillers. They use premium cuts of beef and that's what I want in my hot dogs! 

#4. Serve Cold Foods alongside Grilled items

It's going to be hot. You're celebrating summer after all!  Help everyone keep cool by serving cool or cold foods to go along with their grilled meals! Serve cold pasta salad as the perfect cookout side, serve it in a large bowl for guests to portion out while going through the food line! Make sure items like pasta salad (or potato salad) is one of the last items to be set out. Keep it in the fridge for as long as you can. Don't leave anything mayo or yogurt based out in the heat for too long. If you're planning on leaving it out, make sure to sit it down in a bowl of ice and keep it covered to make sure it stays cold! 

Serve cold, diced fruit for a quick and refreshing dessert! Cut up an ice cold watermelon or set out a huge bowl of mixed fruit and let guest help themselves. For our Summer Kick Off Party, I set out a huge bowl of grapes, blueberries and strawberries! I kept it in the fridge until right before the party and set it out with a large serving spoon! Mixed fruit is always one of the first things to be finished off! 

Mixed Fruit for the Summer Kick Off Party

Popsicle are another great "cool down" option! I love making our own popsicles out of flavored drinks! Use different colored drinks and freeze them in layers for perfect, summer colored, icy treats! Make them ahead and pop them into the freezer! I recommend leaving them in the freezer and letting guest know that they're available because sitting them out during a summer afternoon would just lead to a sticky mess! 

Summer Ice Pops for the Summer Kick Off Party

#5. Keep everyone entertained by allowing them to entertain themselves. 

One of the main "stress inducing" activities that used to drive me crazy was making sure that everyone was having a good time. I felt like I couldn't enjoy my parties or cookouts because I was constantly checking on everyone and making sure that everyone was ok and that they were having fun! Now, I'm not saying that you shouldn't check on guest, but don't let it consume your evening. 

If space and time allows, set up a "corn-hole tournament" section of the yard or an area to play horseshoes for the adults. Have ample seating areas for the guest that may just want to sit down and chat and also have an area where kids can be kids! A slip-n-slide or other water activities can keep kids entertained and cool while adults mingle (while keeping an eye on the little ones!)

I normally have music playing in the background which takes up any "dead air space" and normally try to play a mixture of music that everyone will enjoy!

So, are you ready for your Summer Kick Off Party? Have any tips that I've missed? I'd love to hear about them!! Happy summer, y'all!! 

What makes a Hebrew National kosher hot dog premium? It's all about what makes the cut (And what doesn't). We're choosy about what goes into our franks – we use only premium cuts of 100% kosher beef from the front half of the cow and then choose the best from that. No artificial flavors, colors, fillers or by-­products. When your hot dog is Kosher, that's a hot dog you can trust! For more

 Summer fun with Hebrew National, visit

Click Here to Keep Reading..... "5 Hot Tips for Your Summer Kick Off Party"


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