red, white & baking for the 4th

Bring on the parades, parties and fireworks! Tomorrow is the 4th of July, and I am so excited to spend the day with family and friends, honoring this country, our freedom and those who have fought so hard to protect America and its people.

My family has been hosting a party on the 4th of July for as long as I can remember, and it is definitely one of my favorite family traditions. The celebrations kick off tonight with a sleepover at my parents’ house before walking up the block to my town’s parade the next morning. After the parade, we switch into complete party-mode! From making sure the flag is waving proudly to constructing a menu of foods that everyone can enjoy, it truly takes a village! With a full night and day planned, the easier the menu items are to make, the better!

One of my favorite desserts to make for parties is a trifle dish — and no, I am not talking about Rachel’s English Trifle; I am talking about my Stars, Stripes & Trifles dish! It only requires six ingredients, a trifle dish and a knack for stacking! Read on for how you can make this dish to bring to your own 4th of July BBQ!
Note: I used a small trifle when constructing this dish. 1 cake mix will be good for a large trifle, but you may need to double the rest of the ingredients!


Stars, Stripes & Trifles

Ingredients
• Yellow Cake Mix
• Vanilla Pudding
• Cool Whip
• Fresh Strawberries (large container)
• Fresh Blueberries (large container)
• Jar of Cherries (1 large)

Directions

Bake the yellow cake mix according to package instructions; let it cool completely before assembling dish.

Once cake has cooled, cut into small pieces. Layer the cake, covering the entire bottom of the dish.


Spoon in vanilla pudding on top of the cake, completely covering it.

Cut strawberries into quarter inch pieces and layer to cover the pudding layer. I double-stacked strawberries here!


Add a layer of cool whip to cover the strawberries.

Layer blueberries on top of the cool whip layer.

Repeat the layering process until almost at the top of the trifle dish — cake, vanilla pudding, strawberries, cool whip, blueberries. Keep in mind that the point of the dish is to showcase the red, white and blue stripes layered throughout, so try not to put too much pressure on each layer as you are adding on, otherwise the layers will merge together.

Once the dish is almost filled to the top, cover the final layer with cool whip.
Note: Try to use cake or strawberries as the final layer, as blueberries will be used on the top of the dish.

Use the jar of cherries to decorate the rim of the trifle. Be sure to dry the cherries before placing them on the cool whip layer to avoid the juices dripping down the dish.

Once the cherries cover the entire outer rim, fill in with blueberries.

Keep the dish refrigerated until ready to serve.


God Bless the USA — and trifle dishes! I hope you enjoy this patriotic twist on dessert! Happy 4th of July everyone!

winter slumberland

Connor and I absolutely love the Christmas season, and celebrating with our friends is one of our favorite parts about this time of year. To officially kick off the holiday season and the countdown to Christmas, we hosted our second annual Winter Slumberland event!

Winter Slumberland is a brunch idea that we came up with where everyone invited shows up in their best Christmas jammies and we eat, drink and be merry! From brunch, mimosas and holiday-inspired desserts to Christmas movies and spending quality time with each other, Winter Slumberland is definitely one of our favorite parties we have ever hosted! Read on below to see how we prepared for this fun holiday brunch!

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To get ready for Winter Slumberland and the holiday season, we decked out the apartment with Christmas decorations. This year, we decided on a blue and silver Christmas tree. With some neutral decorations and pops of red, we worked to transform our apartment into a winter wonderland!

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Once the apartment was decorated, it was time to focus on the menu for Winter Slumberland. From French Toast Casserole and bagels, to quiche, monkey bread and Oreo truffles, there were plenty of options and sweet treats! We also made some holiday treats that were almost too cute to eat! Read on below for some of these fun holiday recipes!

Christmas Tree Brownies

This recipe was so much fun and simple to construct. Start by making your favorite type of brownies and let them cool (for approximately 15 people, we made two boxes). Once cooled, cut the brownies into triangle shapes and add in a small piece of candy cane at the bottom for the tree trunk. Then, we used food coloring to dye vanilla frosting green. With a piping bag, we created a zigzag pattern on the brownies, and we topped them with some crystal and pearl sprinkles for ornaments! Last, but not least, star sprinkles for the tops of each tree!

Santa Hat Pancakes

Another easy holiday recipe! Stack several mini pancakes on large toothpicks (we used six to eight pancakes per stack). Cut the tops of strawberries off to remove the stems and create an even base. Slide a strawberry on top of the pancake stack, and top it with a mini marshmallow! Sprinkle some powdered sugar over the pancake stacks before serving!

Snowman Donut Kebabs

These snowman donut kebabs only require 4 ingredients to make! Stack three mini powdered donuts on a kebab stick. Use a piece of fruit rollup to tie a “scarf” on top of the second donut. Then, add an orange gumdrop nose in the first donut and two green gumdrop buttons in the other two. Finally, add in eyes made out of coal by using black food coloring!

With tons of food to eat, mimosas, coffee, and hot chocolate flowing, and a room full of friends, we spent the day lounging, laughing and celebrating the true meaning of holiday spirit: togetherness.

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the one where we plan friendsgiving

One thing I have learned over the years is the importance of celebrating friendships. Your friends are your chosen family, and what better way to express your gratitude for them at this time of year than by hosting friendsgiving?

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The rules of friendsgiving are simple: the hosts cook the turkey, gravy and any other menu items they would like, and the rest is up to the guests! From appetizers to side dishes and desserts, it gives guests the opportunity to choose what they would like to bring.

Connor and I have both hosted and been guests at friendsgiving, and no matter what, it is an enjoyable evening filled with good food, laughter and memory-making. Here are some tips for hosting your own friendsgiving event this November:

  • IMG_0181Plan the menu: There are Thanksgiving staples that everyone loves, but writing up a few suggestions will help your friends think outside of the box for other foods to bring if you have a larger guest list. Surprisingly enough, there is such a thing as too many mashed potatoes! Also remember to include food options that cater to any diet choices your friends may have, including vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian or gluten-free options!
  • Ask your friends to prepare dishes ahead of time: Cooking the turkey is hard enough; having to worry about friends preparing their dishes at the same time that yours is finishing up can definitely get hectic. Instead, have your friends bring their already-cooked meals to the house, and set up sternos for food items to keep everything hot before and throughout dinner!
  • Set up the food buffet style: While setting the table is lovely, with a large group of people and a plethora of food, buffet style just makes everything easier. To make the table setting feel cozier while everyone is dining, light some candles and scatter some small pumpkins and other fall decorations on the table.
  • Processed with VSCO with acg presetMake the event BYOB: Having a few staples on hand is great, but asking friends to bring their favorite types of wine, beer or liquor contributes to the potluck vibe of the evening, and it gives everyone a chance to share their favorite beverages with the group! If you are feeling creative, add a signature drink to the menu, like this apple cider mimosa: apple cider, champagne and a brown sugar rim is the perfect combination for a festive, fall beverage!
  • Go around the table and ask everyone to say one thing they are thankful for: Everyone is going to be so excited to dig into the amazing dinner and desserts that have been prepared for the evening, but it is important to remember why you are all together — to celebrate your friendships and express gratitude for each other. After all, this is what brought you all together for friendsgiving in the first place!

I hope these tips help you host a wonderful friendsgiving event this holiday season! Here is a sample menu to help you get started with the planning! Hope you enjoy gobbling up these tasty dishes!

friendsgiving menu

appetizers
• veggie platter
• meat and cheese platter
• chips and dip / salsa

main course
turkey
gravy
mashed potatoes

• sweet potatoes
• stuffing
• cranberry sauce
• salad
• green bean casserole
• corn and/or other veggies
• mac and cheese
• pasta
• chicken or eggplant parmesan
• dinner rolls

desserts
• apple pie with vanilla ice cream
• pumpkin pie
• pecan pie
• brownies
• cookies
• doughuts

drinks
• red and white wine
• beer
• cider
• sangria
• soda
• hot apple cider
• hot chocolate
• coffee
• water
• signature drink