Happy National Southern Food Heritage Day!

October 11th is known as National Southern Food Heritage Day, and as many people know, southerners have quite a unique palate. Grits, Cheerwine, sweet tea, and hushpuppies are some of the more well-known southern foods and drinks. Yet, on National Southern Food Heritage Day, people throughout the South celebrate the dishes and treats that originated in our area, including the ones below.

  • King Cake: This special cake is a Mardi Gras tradition and not just in New Orleans. First appearing in 1870 and arriving in New Orleans from France, the king cake is a ring-shaped dessert topped with sugar and icing, in the colors of green, purple, and yellow. It is usually eaten on Fat Tuesday. Hidden inside the cake is a plastic baby doll. The person who finds it is “King for the Day” and is supposed to purchase next year’s cake or host a Fat Tuesday party. In addition, the baby doll symbolizes Jesus being visited by the three wise men on January 6th, which is also known as Holy Day, Epiphany, and the Twelfth Night.
  • Fried Foods(which can include any type of food): The South is known for fried green tomatoes, fried okra, fried fish, and just about fried anything. These battered delicacies come in a variety of different ways and can be made spicy. Other foods I have seen fried are butter, Oreos, and doughnuts. I would recommend trying these at your own discretion.
  • Pimento Cheese: According to Serious Eats website, pimento cheese originated in the 1870s with New York farmers. These New Yorkers started creating cream cheese, and Spain began sending canned red peppers or pimentos to the United States. In 1908, the two items appeared together in a Good Housekeeping recipe. Afterwards, the mixture became a hit, especially in the South. As a matter of fact, farmers in Georgia grew red peppers and sent them throughout the United States, adding to the craze. Over time, pimento cheese, which is also known as the “caviar of the South,” became a staple for many people below the Mason Dixon line. It is a mixture of pimentos, cream cheese, grated cheese, mayonnaise, peppers, and more. Pimento cheese is eaten on sandwiches, crackers, chips, or even on cheeseburgers.
  • Hummingbird Cake: This is another cake that is a tradition for many events. Ingredients include pineapple, banana, spices, pecans, and a cream cheese frosting. As for the hummingbird cake name, its history actually comes from Jamaica. Also known as the Doctor Bird Cake, this dessert is named after Jamaica’s national bird. It came to the United States in 1978 when it was printed in Southern Living with the recipe being written by L.H. Wiggins. Later that year, the cake won the Favorite Cake Award at the Kentucky State Fair. In 1990, Southern Living named the hummingbird cake its favorite recipe and the most requested recipe in the magazine’s history.
  • Boiled Peanuts: Remember the buckets of peanuts at Sagebrush Steakhouse or Texas Roadhouse? One can guess that these peanuts were boiled. Mainly popular in Georgia, boiled peanuts are a classic snack at baseball games, roadside stands, and restaurants. Historians believe this treat started in the Civil War after Union General William T. Sherman’s troops marched through Georgia. After the march, the South was depleted of resources and supplies for their troops. Peanuts became a main source of food, and when boiled over a fire with salt, soldiers discovered that the boiled peanuts would last up to seven days in their packs. Once the war ended, the love for boiled peanuts remained and continues to grow to this day.
  • Cheese Straws: Similar to breadsticks, cheese straws are the perfect southern appetizer and snack. Mainly consisting of flour, cheese, butter, and cayenne pepper, no one quite knows how cheese straws came to be, but some say it was created by a cook who mixed leftover biscuit dough and cheese together. Let’s just say no matter how this snack was invented, southerners are glad it was.
  • Charm Cakes: A Victorian-era tradition quickly grabbed the hearts of southerners and found its way into Southern weddings. Within charm cakes, little charms with significant meanings are attached to ribbon and hidden inside the cake. During a bridal shower, rehearsal dinner, or the actual wedding, each bridesmaid pulls out a charm. For example, the ring means you are the next to marry, seashell stands for eternal beauty, and a moon stands for opportunity.

Food is part of the South’s history and every family’s heritage. These timeless dishes are ones that most people in the South truly love and will continue to share with future generations.

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Midweek Motivation

Happy Wednesday! If you are like me, you can sometimes fall into a midweek slump. This slump is composed of tiredness and stress. To overcome it, I recite inspirational quotes throughout the rest of the week. These affirmations give me the strength to press forward and stay strong. So, I thought I would share some of my favorites with you.

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xoxo,

Megan

Failing is Okay; Just Be Sure to Learn From It

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We all have those moments where we fail, make mistakes, or things don’t go the way originally planned. Those moments can hurt. Those moments can make us mad. Those moments can also be learning experiences.

Learning from failure can be one of the toughest, yet most rewarding things a person can do. No one likes to admit they did something wrong. When you accept the fact that you made a mistake, you earn trust, respect, and learn humility.

Life is just a big growing experience. You learn, you fail, but in the end, every single experience you overcome makes you better and stronger.

As I searched for a quote about failure (thank you Pinterest) to tie up the post, I found hundreds; however, all basically stated that without failure, there can be no growth.

It’s okay to make mistakes and fail. Just don’t let them hold you down. When you fail, take a moment to stop, breathe, and then move on.

xoxo,

Megan

Yummy Hot Fudge Sauce

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While the weather may be cooling down, I’m still thinking about cold foods, like ice cream! This past weekend, I made this delicious hot fudge sauce for my friends and family. Everyone loved it, so I thought I would share the recipe with you! The yummy hot fudge sauce makes a great topping that’s not just for ice cream and is a great present (hint, hint)!

Ingredients:

  • 1 pinch Salt
  • 1 (6 oz.) bag Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Tbsp. Butter
  • 1/2 cup Half & Half

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat until ingredients are melted and hot.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

An Insider’s Party Checklist

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Planning parties and making checklists—two of my favorite things! No matter how many times I plan an event, there are things I forget. Did the invitations get out at the appropriate time? Did I order the cake and other refreshments ahead of time? To make sure a party can go as smoothly as possible, it is helpful to use a party checklist. Below is a handy list for all types of festivities, which can be personalized to meet your needs.

SIX WEEKS BEFORE

  • Create your budget.
  • Choose a theme.
  • Determine the guest list.
  • Reserve your party venue, caterer, and entertainer, if needed.
  • Write down all the necessary equipment, including chairs and tables, and contact rentals.
  • Finalize the details, such as date, time, location, RSVP date, and menu.

FOUR WEEKS BEFORE 

  • Prepare your invitations and envelopes.
  • For a children’s party, ask for an updated class list from their teacher, if you are inviting their classmates.
  • Decide on games, activities, and menu to match your theme.
  • Think about items for party favors.
  • Make a shopping list of food, paper goods, and decorations.
  • If ordering food or cake, place order.

THREE WEEKS BEFORE

  • Mail invitations.
  • Purchase party supplies, at the store or online.
  • Arrange for extra help for a children’s party.

ONE TO TWO WEEKS BEFORE

  • Create a party schedule.
  • Confirm times for when extra help is arriving.
  • Purchase last-minute party supplies.
  • Design a music playlist.
  • Call those invited who haven’t responded to the invitations.

THREE DAYS BEFORE 

  • Buy food and drinks.
  • Charge necessary cameras and electronic devices.
  • Call party venue, caterer, and entertainer to confirm details.
  • Assemble activities and party favors.
  • Clean inside and outside of your home.
  • Designate areas for food, beverages, and gifts/

ONE TO TWO DAYS BEFORE 

  • Bake cake, prepare make-ahead food or pick up ordered items.
  • Decorate party venue.

PARTY DAY 

  • Finalize last-minute details.
  • Turn on the music, lighting, etc.
  • Inflate the balloons.
  • Chill beverages.
  • Assemble remaining food and set out.
  • Double-check that bathrooms are stocked with extra toilet paper and there are enough silverware, napkins, plates, and cups on the tables.

ONE WEEK AFTER

  • Send thank-you notes.
  • Post pictures to social media and send to attendees.

ALWAYS REMEMBER

  • Specify an area for boots, umbrellas, and coats.
  • Napkins (2 per person).
  • Don’t forget ice, ice bucket, tongs or scoop.
  • Paper towels.
  • Extra toilet paper.
  • Plates of all sizes (appetizer, salad, dinner, and dessert).
  • Glasses of all sizes (water, wine, mixed drink, beer, soda, and coffee).
  • If grilling, check the tank, charcoal, and lighter fluid.
  • For an outside party, remember bug spray and citronella candles.
  • Extra batteries.
  • Wine and bottle opener.
  • Garbage bags.
  • Dishwashing soap.
  • To have fun! Enjoy the food, games, activities, and mingle with your guests!

xoxo,

Megan

 

A Summer Treat – Frozen Hot Chocolate


I LOVE, LOVE a good cup of hot chocolate any time of the year, but sometimes I don’t want it hot, especially during the summer. I want it….well, cold or more like frozen. Try this recipe the next time you want this chocolatey drink.

Ingredients: 

  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp hot cocoa mix
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 12 ounces evaporated milk
  • 4 1/2 cups ice
  • Whipped cream
  • Chocolate chips
  • Marshmallows

Directions:

  1. Combine sugar, cocoa mix, and butter in the top of a double boiler. Stir until melted.
  2. Stir in semi-sweet chocolate chips. Mix until mixture is smooth.
  3. Slowly add in 1/2 cup of the evaporated milk and stir until smooth. Cool to room temperature.
  4. Combine chocolate mixture with the remaining evaporated milk and ice in a blender. Blend until smooth.
  5. Pour into frosty glasses and top with whipped cream, marshmallows and chocolate chips,  if desired.

Enjoy!

Xoxo,

Megan

DIY Mason Jar Gift Ideas

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It is always nice to give a loved one in your life a meaningful, handmade gift. But, where do you start? First, take a Mason jar (different sizes or types of jars can also work) and think about what kind of present you want to give. Is it a birthday present? Is it an anniversary present? However, the jar doesn’t have to be used as a gift. It can be a jar full of ideas for your family, spouse, or children. Below are a few ways to use a Mason jar as a gift, or in other ways.

Date Night: In need of some date-night ideas? Fill your jar with strips of paper with ideas for you and your loved one to do. Some paper strips can be for game nights, movie nights, or having a meal together. The purpose of a date-night jar is that all of the ideas are inexpensive, yet meaningful. Create enough ideas to last a year. Another take on the date-night jar is to write reasons why you love your special someone. Give it to them on Valentine’s Day, their birthday, or your anniversary.

Boredom Busters: Keep your kids entertained during the summer and school breaks. Take Popsicle sticks or strips of paper and write fun, creative ideas for your children to do. Whenever they are bored, have them pull out an idea and have a ball. Also, include activities for your whole family to do together. Maybe a family game night, places to visit throughout your town or elsewhere.

Mixes: This type of jar is great for Christmas presents, especially if you need to make something in bulk. Prepare the dry ingredients of your favorite recipe for cookies, brownies, hot chocolate, etc. Attach the recipe’s instructions and be sure to mention liquid ingredients that need to be added.

Movie Lovers: We all have someone in our lives that is a die-hard movie lover. They are always the first ones to see the latest blockbuster hit. The next time you are looking to give them a present, think about a movie lover’s jar. This jar can contain popcorn, candy, and gift cards to the movie theater. You can also package it with a few bottles of soda or a DVD.

Spa Night: A spa in a jar is the perfect gift for a friend, mom, sister or aunt. Give it to them for their birthday, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, or “just because.” All you need to do is include a face mask, hand-and-foot scrub, lip scrub, massage oil, bath salts, hand cream, foot lotion, and an eye mask. Also, add in a pair of socks and pieces of candy.

Survival Kit: Jars are quick and convenient ways to hold and carry needed supplies. Survival kits can be used for college, a new parent, the first day on the job, and more. Think about the items a person needs the most when starting a new occasion or life event. They can also be used for the holidays. For example, a bridesmaid survival kit could include a mini-sewing kit, safety pins, breath mints, lip balm, lint roller, polish remover, stain remover, nail polish, pain reliever, tissues, and bobby pins.

Housewarming Gift: When a new family moves into the neighborhood, they will soon be greeted with welcome baskets, pies, cakes, and other gifts. But, do you know what will be a unique gift? Give them a housewarming jar full of items such as mini-champagne bottles, kitchen utensils, soap, colorful napkins, clothespins, Magic Erasers, and other cleaning supplies. You can also include local restaurants or helpful phone numbers on a strip of paper. Another example is creating a sangria jar with the ingredients to make the popular drink.

Color-Coded: Think of a person’s favorite color, then make a jar of items of that color. For example, if your friend loves purple, think of only purple things to include. This idea can be used for any type of present, whether it’s going off to college, a housewarming present, a birthday gift, and more.

With any type of jar you choose, throw in as many items as you would like. Just remember to get creative and have fun!

xoxo,

Megan

A Cheater’s Guide to Saving Money at Various Stores

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I keep a running list of toiletries, groceries, and other items I need to replenish. Then, go through the weekly store flyers and coupons on Sunday to see if anything from my list is on sale. If there is a special, where I will buy it can depend on what it is. Will I buy the item at a drugstore, grocery store or a superstore? It depends on wherever I can get the best buy because there are little-known secrets on ways to save based on the various types of stores.

Grocery Stores:

Grocery stores are logistically laid out in a square. Most of your essentials are located on the outer rim of the store, such as dairy and produce. However, most of the time people will walk through the middle aisles, spending money on unnecessary items. Try to skip the aisles you don’t need and stick to your list. Never buy toiletries here, instead, buy them at a drugstore. Rarely do I buy toiletries with my groceries. Yes, it is more convenient, but it can also be more expensive. When shopping for items, don’t be afraid to buy generic and store brands compared to brand names. Just be sure to check the ingredients to make sure you are getting the right item. Lastly, remember that the most expensive items are located at eye-level on the shelves. Look up top and down below for better buys.

Drugstores:

Drugstores can be a place to easily overspend. One of my favorite tips for saving is to shop when your essential items are on sale, not when you run out of them. I’m guilty of purchasing toothpaste, shampoo, etc. when I desperately need them and don’t have a coupon. If possible, wait until you have a manufacturer’s or store coupon to stock up. Always read the store flyers and cut out coupons before your shopping trip. Speaking of coupons, check to see if the drugstore has a store coupon book. These books include high-value store specials that can be used with manufacturer’s coupons, letting you double up on the savings. Also, use your points or bucks from the rewards program. Some stores have a kiosk when you walk in to scan your rewards card and print more specials. There can be time limits on when to use the points. If you don’t need anything during the time, as money allows, stock up anyway. You can give the items to someone else, donate them to a non-profit for a tax write off, or keep them for yourself. All the points and bucks are extra money, so spend all you have, and you’ll get more in return.

Superstores or Major Retailers: 

Sometimes at superstores or major retailers, we think of buying in bulk. Well, be careful. Compare the prices of a bulk item to the item individually to see which is the better price. Also, pay attention to the quantity of the item you need. At the end of the aisles, there can be a fun display promoting an item with a special. This isn’t always the best deal, but the way the display is advertised serves to trick customers into believing they are getting a great deal. Another way to save is by downloading the store’s app. Sometimes there will be specials only on the app or additional coupons for you to download. Want to know if an item is going to be on clearance? Look at the price tag. For some stores, a price ending in 7 is usually the original, a price ending in 5 is the 1st markdown, and a price ending in 1 is the final markdown. For others, prices ending in $0.06 or $0.08 mean the item will be on markdown again, and prices ending in $0.04 are at their final clearance price. Lastly, research the store’s markdown schedule, because different items are marked down on different days of the week. Speaking with store managers can help you understand the schedule.

The next time you go shopping for essentials, pay attention to where you are going and where you can get the best buy. Shopping for the right items at the right stores will help you put more money in your wallet.

xoxo,

Megan

Life Hacks: Cheaper Ways to Shop Online

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One of my favorite things to do is online shopping. It’s easy and convenient. Is there anything better than having your purchases arrive on your doorstep, without having to deal with traffic and crowds to get them? With all of the advantages of online shopping, there is one disadvantage: saving money. It can be hard to shop without using a discount code or keeping track of how much you are spending. However, never fear, there are ways to add money to your wallet while shopping online.

  • As with any type of shopping, always look for coupons first. Websites like couponmom.com and retailmenot.com are places to search for discount and promotional codes to use. Also, see if there is an option for free shipping. Sometimes when you sign up for a free trial membership on a website, there is free shipping for a certain amount of time. Another tactic is googling the online store with the words “coupon code.” Try finding several codes and then decide which one will help you save the most.
  • Speaking of shipping, try to avoid the fees. If you spend a certain amount, the store will offer free shipping in return. Try to think of everything you might need and purchase at one time. If you can’t avoid the extra cost, add the shipping into your budget for the site. That way you won’t overspend.
  • See if a retailer is on social media and give them a “like” or “follow.” Many merchants will post special sales and promotions on the sites.
  • Sign up for a store’s email list for coupons and special offers. Some retailers will give you a discount just for signing up. Also, there are online-only coupons.
  • Some sites will allow you to “subscribe” for items you purchase often. In the future, you’ll save time with reordering and the site will give you a percentage off for being a frequent buyer.
  • Just because you favor one website over another, doesn’t mean that site will always have the best buys. Research the product’s name on the Internet before making your final purchase. This way you’ll know where you are getting the best buy and a possible discount code could pop up. Also, don’t get hung up on one certain brand, especially if it is popular. Similar products can be just as good or better and might be less expensive.
  • Plan out your shopping to where you shop a few days ahead of purchasing your items. For example, add the products to your shopping cart and then leave it alone for a few days. During that time, the retailer could let you know you haven’t completed your purchase. They might also provide you with a discount to persuade you to spend money on their site. Being patient can pay off.
  • If possible, buy used. With items such as toiletries, food, and others, this is not an option. But with books, games, clothing, etc. most of the time, buying used will be a lower price than brand new. One time in college, I bought a used book for two cents, compared to over a hundred dollars brand new.
  • If you do a lot of online shopping, create an alternative email address for that purpose only. Check the email often for deals and coupons. Also, this prevents junk mail from clogging up your main email address. Also, stores can give your address to other businesses to send you promotional material.
  • When it comes to booking trips and cruises, there is a chance for last-minute deals. Last-minute booking sites will offer prices at low rates, due to it being the off-season or based on cancellations received.
  • Lastly, if online shopping is your most common method of shopping, ask for gift cards during the holidays and for your birthday. It is like asking for a gift certificate to your favorite store, just online. Stack up your gift card with discount codes for extra savings on your favorite sites.

Online shopping can be fun, time-saving, and stress-free. Just don’t let your final total get away from you. The tips above will help prevent that and give you more chances to save.

xoxo,

Megan

A Summer Must: Key Lime Strawberry Cheesecake

If you haven’t already noticed, I have a big sweet tooth. The Key Lime Strawberry Cheesecake recipe is perfect for fulfilling my sugar cravings and is a refreshing summer dessert. After all, it is a refreshing dessert for the whole year!

Enjoy!

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 3 – 8oz. packages of cream cheese softened
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 – 8oz. container sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp grated lime rind (lime zest)
  • 1/2 cup Key Lime Juice (recommend Kermit’s Key Lime Shoppe juice; order online only)

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Stir together first three ingredients and firmly press on the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of a greased 9-inch springform pan.
  3. Bake crust at 350 degrees for 8 minutes; cool completely. Reduce oven to 325 degrees.
  4. Beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy; gradually add 1 1/4 cups of sugar, beating till blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in sour cream, rind, and juice. Pour batter into cooled crust.
  5. Place in 325 degrees oven and bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes; turn the oven off. Partially open the oven door; let stand in oven for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately run a knife around the edge of the pan, releasing the sides.
  6. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack; cover and chill 8 hours. Garnish with strawberry slices, blueberries, and lime rind.

 

Strawberry Sauce

Ingredients: 

  • 1 1/4 cups fresh strawberries
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp lime rind
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (or more to taste)

Directions:

  1. Process all ingredients in a food processor until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides.
  2. *Sauce should be a bit tangy, but not overwhelmingly so.
  3. Drizzle over the top slices of the cheesecake when serving.

 

Raspberry Sauce (alternate)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 jar seedless raspberry jam
  • 1/2 cup fresh raspberries, halved
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

Directions: 

  1. Cook all ingredients over medium heat, stirring constantly so the sauce cooks but doesn’t stick. Once the jam turns into a liquid, remove from heat and cool, then refrigerate. Drizzle over slices of cheesecake when served.

xoxo,

Megan