Holiday parties are so much fun to attend, and to throw.
This year I decided to get some of my girlfriends together and have a little
Secret Santa party. We usually hang out together at the park while we run
around after our kiddos, so it was nice to have a quiet night together after
all our kids went to sleep.
My favorite part about the party was that everyone gave such
thoughtful gifts to the girl they were assigned to bring a gift for! We all
have various interests, styles, and personalities so it was so fun to see what
each girl was gifted.
I put together a few quick tips on how to throw a successful
Secret Santa party. I kept this one really simple, with a few pretty décor
items from World Market that helped add elegance and style to the décor.
Keep the number intimate and even-
Its fun when you have a change to chat with each person at a
small gathering. I think around 6-8 people makes for a fun intimate party. And
the number needs to be even so that everyone that brings a gift gets a gift.
Set a price point-
Make sure everyone is aware and comfortable with the price
point you set for the Secret Santa gifts. Sending out a group text is helpful
and asking for input just to feel out to make sure everyone is ok with the
amount being spent on a present. Our price point was $25 for each girl. Also
make sure everyone knows whether they are getting a nice gift or a funny gift.
Both make for a great party, but its important to make sure everyone is on the
same page with the kind of gift to bring. Same thing goes for dress. I asked
the girls if they would rather come in festive jammies or nicer holiday
outfits. It’s important to get input from people attending to make sure
everyone will be happy and comfortable.
Ask for help-

Since the party is for close friends, no one will mind if
you ask for help! I asked each girl to bring an appetizer. I know the girls in
our group love a good appetizer, where candy and desserts might not get eaten
as much. So try and tailor the food to what you know your friends will want to
everything is currently 10% off at World Market online till Wednesday!


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in collaboration with World Market

Butterfinger Caramel Apples

you are still thinking of a neighbor gift to make this year, these
butterfinger caramel apples are easy and delicious.  With all the
goodies and sweets going around, its nice to give some fruit.  Dipped in
caramel, dipped in white chocolate, dipped in Butterfinger.  Super healthy.


2 packets of Caramel Apple Wrap
8-10 apples
Almond Bark
2 bags of Butterfingers (fun size), emptied into a gallon bag and finely crushed
Popsicle sticks
Parchment paper
  • Cover the apples with caramel.

These caramel apple wraps are amazingly easy.  Just place it on the apple, and stretch it to cover the whole thing.  I tried melting caramels and dipping them that way and this was way WAY faster, cleaner, and easier.

  • Insert the sticks and dip in the melted chocolate.

I found it easier to coat the apples in the white chocolate if I poured the chocolate into this tall measuring cup rather than trying to do it in the wider pan.

  • Roll or sprinkle with the Butterfinger crumbs and set the apple on some parchment paper to dry.
They look cute all wrapped up and are easily portable.  Super simple!
See if you won the Leanne Barlow Great Lengths Maxi skirt giveaway here!

Sweet Potato Chicken Pot Pie Casserole

In honor of Thanksgiving today, I thought I would share with you a yummy fall recipe. This would be great with your left over sweet potatoes and turkey (substitute in place of the chicken).  It is from my all time favorite recipe magazine, Cuisine at Home.  Happy Turkey Day everyone!  

1 pkg. frozed puff pastry thawed (2 sheets, 17.3 oz)
3 1/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth, divided
2 cups peeled, diced sweet potatoe
1 1/2 cups peeled, diced russet potato
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced celry
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3 cups dived rotisserie chicken
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and diecd
1/2 cup frozen green peas
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
Salt and pepper to taste

For the crust, cut pastry sheets into 1″ wide strips.  On a parchment-lined baking sheet,weave strips into a lattice pattern; freeze while preparing filling.

Preheat oven to 350.  Lightly coat a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.

For the filling, heat 2 1/2 cups broth, sweet and russet potatoes, onion, celery, and garlic in a large skillet over a medium-high; cook until vegetables are xlightly soft, about 8 minutes.

Whisk together remaining 2/4 cup broth, cream, flour, curry powder, and cinnamon.  Pour slurry into vegetable mixture; cook and tir until thick and bubble.  Add chicken, apple, peas, cilantro, and ilme juice; season with sale and pepper.  Pour filling into prepared baking dish.

Bake filling until bubbly and crust until golden brown, 25-30 minutes.  Place crust on top of pie before serving.
* Note:  I didn’t read the last step carefully enough, and placed my crust frozen on top of the filling to cook.  It browned up and cooked alright, but for a crispier crust, I would suggest cooking the two separately. 


hide this one from the kids…

 This is my favorite salsa.  hands down.  I made if for a Relief Society meeting, and had to keep myself from eating the entire bowl myself.  It has the perfect combination of sweet, with a little kick.  Plus it calls for cilantro and avocado.  Can’t go wrong there.  
I split the leftovers I had with my friend Ashley.  We both sat in our houses that night with firm grips on our tupperware bowls devouring that salsa like ravaging beasts, while we texted each other about how full we were but just couldn’t. stop. eating.
Serve it with some hint of lime chips and it’s pure heaven. 
I doubled the recipe
Avocado Black Bean Salsa

Combine the folllowing ingredients in order:
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 large can diced tomatoes, drained
1 can white shoepeg corn, drained (green giant brand)
1/2 red onion finely chopped
1 bunch fresh cilantro finely chopped
Juice from 2-3 limes
4-5 ripe avocados diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 package Good Seasons Italian Dressing made according to the package directions
1/2 cup sugar
Serves 8-10
Serve with Lime or Jalepeno flavor tortilla chips

neighbor gifts

This year I was running around like a crazy person trying to check things off my to-do list before we headed down to California for the holiday, so I decided to keep my neighbor/friend gifts simple this year.  I made the most delicious fudge I have ever had (no exaggeration).  We got some a few years ago from my good friend Tina, and it is amazing.

drink those calories

This weekend I followed this recipe I had pinned on pinterest for one of the best types of hot chocolate ever.
So what if it includes 5 cups of whole milk and an entire bag of white chocolate chips?  It warmed us all right up and I slept like a baby.  Go make some.

Chicken Cordon Bleu…with a twist

Last week we had a lot of family over, so I decided to make my favorite Chicken Cordon Bleu recipe.  I got this out of one of my Cuisine at Home magazines.  They have the best recipes, and I recommend getting a subscription to them for sure.  I haven’t been disappointed by any recipes I have tried….and I have tried a lot.
So this is your classic Chicken Cordon Bleu, complete with fontina cheese and prosciutto ham.  But, there is a secret ingredient added to them that makes them amazing…
red grapes!
You can see my toothpicks holding the chicken together.  I used colored ones so they would be easier to spot when removing them at the end.
The red grapes add the best flavor!
Here’s the recipe:
(serves 4…I doubled it)
4 boneless chicken breasts (4-6 oz each)
2 thin slices prosciutto, halves crosswise
4 small slices fontina cheese
salt and pepper
1/4 C all purpose flour
2 T unsalted butter

1/4 C shallots, minced

Deglaze with; Add:
3/4 C dry white wine (I used white grape juice)
1.2 C chicken broth
1 T minced fresh thyme
3 T cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 C red grapes


Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Cut a pocket into the wide end of the chicken breast.  Wrap prosciutto around each piece of cheese and insert cheese packet into the pocket.  Secure each pocket with a toothpick.  Season with salt and pepper.  Dredge chicken in flour, then saute in butter in a large oven-proof saute pan over medium-high heat for 4-5 minutes.  Flip the chicken and transfer pan to the oven.  Roast for 8 minutes.  Remove chicken from pan and keep warm.

Add shallots to the same pan and saute for 2 minutes over a medium-high heat.

De-glaze with wine, scraping up brown bits form the pan.  Add broth and thyme, and simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to low, add butter, and swirl until melted.  Return chicken to pan to heat through.  Add grapes and stir to coat with sauce.  Remove toothpicks from chicken and serve with sauce.

As a side note – we are back in Provo!  It’s good to be home.  But dang it’s hot here!  We had a fantastic summer, and now it’s back to reality!

cha cha cha chia

Have you guys heard of Chia seeds? My SIL introduced me to them and they are pretty amazing. They are those same seeds that you would smear all over those clay heads that grew leaves to look like hair. Except you eat them, you don’t grow them.
Here are just a few of the health benefits from these little suckers:
– They fill you up. When they come in contact with water, pudding, juice, yogurt etc. they grow to 9x their size and they slow down the absorption of carbs to control the appetite.
– They are great for workouts. Prior to a run or athletic event which you need to hydrate, Chia Seeds in a bottle of water will help you hydrate. They will also help with protein to do the event without cramping up. Chia is good for the digestive system because it is a hydrophillic colloid.
– They are good at lowering your cholesterol. Chia seed supplies fiber in 2 forms: insoluble (won’t dissolve in water) from its outer coat and soluble fiber (will dissolve in water) from its inner shell. Soluble fiber has been found helpful in lowering cholesterol and diabetes. Also the omega 3 and 6 has been shown to help.
So I have just been throwing a handful of some seeds into my green smoothies each morning, since the seeds themselves are easily digested.
Another amazing way to use Chia is to create a gel from them by adding water. 
2 Cups Water
1/3 Cup Chia
-Let stand at least 10 mins.  Stores for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.
This gel can be substituted for the oil in a recipe. My SIL made some brownies the other day and substituted the get for oil and they still tasted amazing. She also adds the gel to soups, pasta sauces, and anything else with that kind of consistency. I’m totally going to start doing this.

These are usually sold at most health food stores, like Good Earth.  My SIL picked hers up from Utah.  A big 5 lb bag cost her about $15


going green

 I have been on the green smoothie band wagon for about 2 months now.  If you haven’t tried one, you need to.  I have one every morning, and I feel like I can eat all the junk I want just because I had such a healthy breakfast.  Probably not the best approach, but whatever.
In my blender I mix:
1 banana
1 apple (peeled and cored)
1/2 C frozen peaches
1 C fresh spinach
1 C kale
1/2 C yogurt
a spoonful of OJ concentrait
 1 C cranberry juice, or water 
Mix it up real good, then add about 5 ice cubes and mix again.
Once you get over the fact that you are drinking something green, they are pretty addicting.  I don’t even notice the taste of the greens.
I tried a sample in Costco where they had added in 1/2 a lime (peeled).  It was amazing.  I tried it at home, and the lime core didn’t blend enough, so it was a little too chunky for me.
The best part is that Bradley loves them too!

 I feel like I’m cheating or something.  I can’t believe I can drink something so good and get so many veggies in my system.


Berry Pancakes with Ricotta and Boysenberry Syrup

I made these for breakfast this past weekend and they are divine.  I found the recipe randomly in one of my Glamour magazines and thought I’d give it a try since I happened to have the ingredients on hand.  That and the fact that I was starving.

I’m not the biggest pancake fanatic (I would much prefer crepes or Kneaders french toast), but these were light and fluffy.  I love raspberries more than anything, so they made them that much better.

 You should try them sometime:

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 pint fresh or thawed frozen raspberries
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 11/4 cup milk
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • Maple syrup, for serving (I used boysenberry)

1. Working over a bowl, use a grater to zest the lemon, being careful not to remove any of the bitter white pith. Cut the zested lemon into wedges, and set them aside.
2. Add the raspberries to the bowl containing the lemon zest. Stir in 1/3 cup sugar, gently crushing the raspberries with a wooden spoon. Set aside while making the pancake batter.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, 1 tbsp. sugar and baking powder. In another bowl, beat the ricotta cheese with milk and egg yolks. Add the flour mixture to the ricotta mixture, and stir until just combined. Let the batter sit for 10 minutes.
4. Beat egg whites with a handheld mixer until they hold soft peaks. Next, gently fold the raspberries with their juices into the batter, and then fold in the egg whites. (You want little clumps of whites in the batter. The important thing is not to overmix it.)
5. Heat a large nonstick skillet over moderately low heat. Melt 1/2 tbsp. butter at the center of the skillet, where you will spoon the batter.
6. Spoon batter into the hot skillet, directly onto the melted butter.
7. Cook each pancake until the bottom is golden brown and the bubbles on the surface begin to break, about 2 minutes. Using a spatula, flip the pancake quickly. Cook until golden brown, about 1 minute longer.
8. Serve finished pancakes with maple syrup and lemon wedges. (or substitute bacon for the lemon wedges.  That’s what I did.)

It makes a ton, so I stored them in a bag in the fridge and then just pop them in the toaster for breakfast throughout the week.

even Bradley loved them