Picnic Theme Birthday Party

How in the world is my son 1 year old already? My once 34 week preemie, is now so big and beautiful! Everett has been such a joy this past year, crying less than I can count on my hands. He also sleeps 10-12 hours straight since he was just six weeks old. When it came time to celebrate his first birthday, I wanted to do something fun and easy. It was the summertime, unlike my daughter who is born in the snowy month of February. I figured the easiest thing would be a BBQ so I started researching and came across the picnic theme. On etsy I found a red gingham tie with ants crawling on it and that was it for me! I ordered plastic ants to walk along our table settings, plastic ants to walk along the cake we ordered, and red gingham everything! A local baker and artist made the incredible cookies (she always amazes me), and friend Lisa made the most delicious white chocolate mousse cheesecake. Not one piece left!!

Food: BBQ staples - burgers, hot dogs, potato salad, mac and cheese, salad, corn on the cob, corn bread, rice & beans and bagged ridge potato chips. Appetizers included sliced seedless cucumbers topped with goat cheese and raspberry champagne jam, tator tot skewers (kids went CRAZY for these), shrimp cocktail, guacamole, jalapeno dip and chips with salsa. We had about 35 people.

Below are some ideas from the party that I will pin over on pinterest.

yes, these are cookies! Made by Liv Creativity

Absolutely love the way this cake came out. Lisa adding the lights added such a special touch!

Outfit and tie from Etsy shop CuddleSleepDream

I like to display the food options by the plates and utensils so people can prepare themselves!

Custom felt boards are the best way to announce and celebrate occasions!

Big sister Kora's dress was from Etsy as well - shop EllaBellaBoutique49

The skewer holder was from Amazon and I will be using it again and again for appetizers! So easy to grab and go.


Cinco de Mayo

Every year, Cinco de Mayo is a happy celebration for us. We are a taco loving family, as most know, so we try to make a fun meal each year with a Mexican theme. Given my early Mother’s Day gift, it made this years table extra beautiful. My husband found this taco serving platter by MudPie. I’ve always had a slight obsession with all their kitchen brand items.

As for our meal this year, I decided on crispy ground beef tacos, white rice with white beans using homemade fresh sofrito, and tostones on the side (fried plantains). Add a few Coronas with lime and it was the perfect meal. Kora even got to use her new taco plate from her 2nd birthday!
To finish the night, we made warm brownies to munch on during Game of Thrones!

Hope you all had a great Cinco de Mayo as well!


Fried Mac and Cheese balls

There is nothing better than these crispy mac balls, filled with a creamy, cheesy center. I cut my Grandma's Mac Recipe  in half, and instead of baking the mac, there are a few different steps involved. See below and comment if you try them!

Time needed: 5-6 hours

*See note: Follow your favorite mac and cheese recipe or use the one linked above (as mentioned cut recipe in half and **DO NOT bake it).
4-5 eggs, beaten
2 tbs milk
2 1/2 cups seasoned breadcrumbs
Canola oil, for frying
*Optional - you can serve with a cheese sauce or marinara sauce for dipping

1. Once the cheese sauce and boiled noodles are mixed together in a casserole dish, do not bake it. Refrigerate the mac and cheese for 2 hours.

2. Once chilled, use a scooper to make meatball sized balls and place onto a baking sheet. Freeze for 2 hours.

3. Beat together the eggs and milk to create an eggwash and place into a small bowl. Fill a separate bowl with breadcrumbs. Dredge frozen mac balls into egg wash, then breadcrumb. Once all balls are coated, REPEAT. The balls will be double dipped (eggwash, breadcrumb, eggwash, breadcrumb). Freeze until ready to fry, at least 1 hour.

4. Use deep fryer or large sauce pot to heat oil to 300 degrees. Fry for 7 to 8 minutes until golden brown and cooked through. Let them cool for a few minutes before serving.


Sharon's Pistachio Cake

If you are like me, baking is not our strong suit. But this cake... this is the easiest, and most delicious, moist cake you could imagine - even my 2 year old helps me make it! My dear friend Sharon shared the recipe with me and gave permission to share with you all. Also note, this recipe could be used with many different kinds of pudding mix, not just pistachio!

*This is a mini bundt pan from Pampered chef 

1 box yellow cake mix - I prefer Duncan Hines Butter Golden Cake Mix
1 box of Jello pistachio pudding mix (3.4 oz)
4 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup water
Optional: 1/4-1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1. Grease/spray bundt cake pan.

2. Add all ingredients into a bowl and mix well by hand, or with stand mixer.

3. Fill cake pan and bake in oven for 50-60 minutes. (If using a mini bundt pan like the one Kora is holding, cooking time will be 40-45 minutes)

4. Let the cake cool inside bundt pan for ~60 minutes before removing.

*Sprinkle with confections sugar if you'd like!



Taco Twosday - Themed Birthday Party

This past weekend was an absolute blast hosting my daughter's 2nd birthday party! When I saw the theme "Taco Twosday" on Pinterest, I knew I had to do it. My daughter, Kora, loves tacos (and all food, as most know) so this was right up her alley too. Most of the ideas shown throughout my pictures, are from Pinterest. I created the menu myself using family recipes and my own. The food was easy and cost efficient, which is excellent for serving large crowds! I will explain more below under each photo, and include links to where I bought certain items! Please feel free to reach out with any questions about this party.

We baked crunchy taco shells and soft tortilla boats (if you never saw the boats, check them out). Served with a choice of my favorite taco beef, seasoned grilled chicken, or fried boom boom shrimp. Two kinds of rice and beans, white and yellow. Grandma's mac and cheese for the kids. Buying in bulk from Costco allowed for big savings on meats, cups, plastic ware etc.

These mason jars were such great condiment and topping holders! I used a step stool to display the jars, and make them easy to see and get to. We tried to include every popular taco topping: shredded cheese, shredded lettuce, red onion, tomato, sour cream, jalapenos, black olives, pineapple salsa and a variety of different hot sauces.

Using the pineapple shell as a bowl for pineapple salsa was a really fun presentation! You can find the salsa recipe here: Pineapple Salsa 

Kids drink: Cactus Juice! Green berry Hawaiin punch in a two tier dispenser. Ice is held below the juices to keep them cold. You can switch tiers or even fill them with two different kinds of drink.

Tons of invitation ideas on Etsy! Our specific invite was made by TheOliveCorgi on Etsy and then I used Vistaprint to have them printed and shipped to me with envelops.

Using a chalk board display allows you to get creative. In this case, I used it for our taco bar, letting our guests know to dig in! I used liquid chalk markers, and also use this menu board for our dinner planning each week.

Why didn't anyone ever tell me how easy these balloons were?! Each letter comes with a straw to blow in and fills up within seconds. They also self seal! String was supplied to hang the letters up (each letter had holes cut on the top and bottom for hanging). I will definitely use these types of balloons again for our next event! I purchased these at PartyHaus on Etsy.
If you notice, I used mini sombreros to hold food name tags! That wasn't my intention for the sombreros when I purchased them, but I really loved how it looked!

Another Pinterest find... Using cans for flower vases. I wish I had a big Goya can leftover but these did the trick! These gorgeous roses were so cheap at my local grocery store. Adds some color.

Extra party sombrero laying around? Use it to hold your plastic ware! I purchased "Let's taco bout a party" napkins on Amazon and just rolled the forks and knives in them.

Brown paper bags to hold the chips - Creative and easy cleanup! I cut them down a bit and folded them over. These bags were also used for the kids goodie bags - markers don't run through and fun decoration ideas on Pinterest. The orange guacamole bowl is a garlic grating bowl from IseeSpain - they are absolutely gorgeous, and hand painted!

A local friend made this incredible, most delicious cheesecake on earth. 
She decorated the taco and ribbons around the cake. The hand made cake topper 
with the word "two" is from BellsNBerries on Etsy.

For goodie bag treats, we had a pinata (open by pulling strings, instead of hitting with an object), so kids filled their bags up with the pinata goodies, and I also gave each child a taco plate. They came in 6 different colors and came in sets of 6. I had 12 kids so purchased two sets. They are really awesome and well made! 

It is safe to say that Kora had a blast turning 2 years old! We may even stick with the same type of theme next year... Adios Dos?!


Chicken Katsu

As a younger girl, I would beg my parents to take me to the local sushi restaurant so that I could order their chicken katsu (explained on the menu as a deep fried chicken cutlet with katsu sauce and a dollop of spicy mustard). I was the pickiest eater as a child, but I absolutely loved this dish to no end! While pregnant, I happened to find myself in the same restaurant, and to avoid ordering the sushi, I ordered the Chicken Katsu. It was just as delicious as I remembered!
I did some research online and found a Tonkatsu sauce by Bull-dog that had excellent reviews, and randomly took my chances on a Japanese hot mustard paste. I have to tell you, they were both amazing and tasted just like the restaurants! There are also many easy recipes out there to make your own Katsu sauce, which I will include below in the ingredient list.

2-3 Chicken breasts, sliced in half and pounded thin
1 1/2 cup Japanese panko breadcrumbs
2 eggs, whisked
Salt, pepper to taste
Katsu sauce (store bought is fine or make your own by mixing together 4 tbs worcestershire sauce, 2 tbs ketchup, 1 tsp soy sauce) *amazon link below for brand I used
Hot mustard paste *amazon link below
Olive oil for frying
*Serve over white rice or with vegetables

1. Heat oil in large fry pan on medium-high heat

2. Season egg wash with salt and pepper. Dip one cutlet at a time in egg wash, then panko breadcrumbs, egg wash again, and panko breadcrumb again. This is a double dipping process to allow the chicken to have a crispy breaded crust.

3. Fry the chicken cutlets for 2 to 2/12 minutes on each side, until golden brown and cooked through.

4. You can either drizzle the katsu sauce on the chicken or place in a small bowl for dipping. Add a drop of hot mustard paste to the katsu sauce for a spicy kick!


Simmered Pork Chops

I remember the first time my mom made these pork chops for my husband... he went insane over them! Said they were the best pork chops he's ever had, and from then on it was always his request meal from my mom. I finally.... and I mean FINALLY... asked her for the recipe. Not because I don't love them too, but it is not a meal I can make during the week being it needs to simmer for two hours. So now, that I have the recipe, it's become a common weekend meal for us. My mom jokingly said, "does this mean I'm not going to see you guys as often, now that you know how to make them yourself?"

Serving: 4
*Cook time over 2 hours


1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
4 bone in pork chops
2 tbs olive oil
Onion Mushroom Lipton soup packet
1 cup of water
1 cup of white wine
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 cup of carrots, chopped into thirds
* I serve with roasted potatoes


1. Fill large zip lock bag with breadcrumbs. Wet pork, and place into zip lock bag to cover fully with breadcrumbs. Do for each chop.

2. Heat olive oil on medium-high heat in large pan (you will need a cover for it), and sear pork chops for about 2-3 min each side until browned. Add shallots into pan and cook for another minute.

3. Fill large measuring cup (or bowl) with soup packet, water and wine. Mix together and pour into large pan of chops. Simmer, covered, for 1 hour. Add carrots and simmer for an addition hour.


Mexican Style Zucchini Boats

A new "Taco" Tuesday idea? Low carb, fresh & delicious! When I decided to finally try these, my husband said, "are you sure that is going to be good?" I love zucchini so I had no doubts.. but he definitely was weary about trying them. One bite, and he was hooked.

See below for my spicy taco meat recipe, but the option of a sausage & pepper mixture, ground turkey, or shredded chicken all work in these zucchini boats! If you do make the Mexican style, try adding toppings such as sour cream, jalapeƱos, sliced olives, pico de gallo & more!

*TIP: You want to use LARGE zucchini if possible! They are sort of a pain in the butt to scoop out but it goes quickly. You want the zucc to really cradle the meat (or filling) for maximum flavor.

Servings 4-6


3 large zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise, and scooped out leaving about 1/2" layer (remove stems)
1 lb chop meat
1/2 cup salsa (I use chipotle corn or a medium chunky style)
3 tbs taco seasoning
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup shredded cheese and more to sprinkle on top
1 tbs sriracha
Chopped chives for garnish


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1. Season beef with salt and pepper. In a large pan, brown beef on medium high heat. Once browned, drain fat/grease from meat and pat dry. Place beef back into the pan.

2. Lower heat to low. Add salsa, taco seasoning, water, cheese, & sriracha. Mix well and continue to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Line a baking sheet with foil and place the zucchini on the sheet. Fill each zucchini up with meat mixture and sprinkle with cheese.

4. Bake for 15-20 minutes until tender (depending on size of zucchini - I cook larger ones closer to 20 minutes).

Garnish with freshly chopped chives & enjoy!

 My daughter approved!