Healthier Baking 101

FW88-HealthierBaking

Sweets are in abundance during the holidays. From the cookies, cakes, and more, there always seems to be something tasty in my kitchen. However, too many sweet treats can be a problem. Many baking recipes include sugar, butter, and other fatty ingredients that are unhealthy for a person’s body. The good news, though, is that there are still ways for you to have your favorite confections that include healthier ingredients. Put the tips below to use this holiday season. Trust me, your recipes will taste the same, and your loved ones will never know that you swapped oil for applesauce.

Replacing Oil: 

  • As mentioned above, a great way to replace some of the fat is using unsweetened applesauce instead of oil. A common rule of thumb is for every one cup of oil in a recipe, switch out for ¾ a cup of applesauce. Don’t have any on hand? Combine one mushed apple and a splash of lemon juice.
  • Greek yogurt is another favorite of many and works fantastic in place of oil or fat. It keeps the moisture and flavor of the dish. Plus, the yogurt is full of calcium, protein, and probiotics.

Replacing Sugar: 

  • You can’t have a dessert without sugar! Or so they say. Instead of artificial sugar, mash up a banana into your ingredients. Make sure the banana is ripe. This substitution keeps the sweetness of the dessert but has healthier advantages, such as being rich in glucose, easy to digest, and improves your energy, preventing a sugar crash.
  • Alternatives to white table sugar are honey, maple syrup, or dates. These natural forms reduce the amount of added sugar but still should be consumed in reasonable amounts.
  • Lastly, spices work well in adding flavor and taste to treats with excessive amounts of sugar. Cinnamon and nutmeg are common replacements and boost metabolism, an extra benefit.

Replacing Flour: 

  • Almost all baking recipes include flour. Yet flour can affect your health in many ways, both good and bad. One simple way to add more health benefits is using whole wheat flour in lieu of white flours. The latter is made from heavily refined and processed wheat grain that isn’t good for you. As for whole wheat flour, it is processed differently and has more health advantages.
  • Try making your own flour from oats, flax, and nuts. All you need to do is blend up the items in a food processor or blender, and you are good to go. There is no need to change the needed amount the recipes call for; just blend until you have the same amount of fine dust.

Other Tips and Tricks: 

  • Even though it is a baking recipe, all desserts don’t have to actually be baked. Research and find a no-bake treat for your favorite sweet. No-bake desserts can include healthier ingredients and possibly use less fatty ingredients than are needed for a baked dessert.
  • Dark chocolate is known for its advantages, including aiding in weight loss, reducing stress, and controlling a person’s appetite. Moderation is key, but don’t hesitate to switch any type of chocolate with dark chocolate.
  • Avocados are a healthy fat and a unique way to replace butter. This fruit is packed with protein and nutrients. In addition, it gives a smooth texture to the item.

I love to bake, but sometimes the recipes aren’t the healthiest. The solution to that problem is incorporating these tips. Using substitutions in baking is easy and simple. Plus, you won’t feel guilty eating a few more pieces of a sweet treat, because you know it is healthier.

xoxo,

Megan

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Throwback Thursday, Recipe Style!

Happy throwback Thursday to one of my favorite recipes: Key Lime Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce!

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FW108-Recipes

Talk about a yummy recipe that is perfect for all year long!

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)

Preparation

  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 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)
  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
  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.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

Quick and Simple Fruit Dip

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This evening, I’m going to a summer party with some friends. Being from the south, I have learned the aged-old tradition of never arriving to a party empty-handed. Earlier today, I wiped up this quick and simple fruit dip and cut up some beautiful fruit to take. This recipe is a personal favorite and one I had to share!

Fruit Dip:

Ingredients: 

  • 8 oz. packaged cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 7 oz. jar marshmallow fluff
  • 2 Tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed

Directions: 

  • Scoop the marshmallow fluff into a large bowl and microwave for 15 seconds.
  • Add in the softened cream cheese and orange juice concentrate. Whisk until very smooth.
  • Chill for a few hours or overnight.

The dip works great with strawberries, blueberries, and apples!

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

North Carolina BBQ 101

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Some people like Eastern, while other people prefer Lexington. Wondering what I’m talking about? North Carolina barbecue. This tasty food has had a longstanding history in the Tarheel State that dates back to colonial times.

According to historians, barbecue, in general, was first introduced in the Caribbean. During the 1500s, there would be island barbecues with meat, such as lizard and alligator. Shortly after, the Spanish brought hogs to the Caribbean and southeastern United States. This is when pork became the favorite meat for barbecue. As for North Carolina, influences came from the original settlers and African-Americans on plantations. Today, many people associate barbecue with their favorite style and you can’t have barbecue without a sauce.

Main Types of Barbecue:

It is said that Eastern-style barbecue (vinegar-based) was the first style in the state. It wasn’t until Heinz created ketchup and introduced it to the public at the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876, that we began seeing a difference in barbecue styles. During World War I, Lexington-style barbecue was created in Lexington, North Carolina.

Eastern-stylebarbecue is a vinegar and pepper based style with no tomato. All parts of the hog are used. There is a common saying associated with this style, which is that “every part of the hog except the squeal is used.” Originally, lemon juice was used in the base. However, since this juice was hard to find in many southern states when barbecue started gaining popularity, vinegar was substituted. Eastern-style barbecue has more of a spicy-tartness and focuses more on the actual meat than the sauce. As for Eastern-style slaw, it matches the tangy taste of the barbecue and includes vinegar. This style is mostly famous along the east coast of North Carolina.

Lexington-style barbecue (my favorite) is all about the tomato. This style is commonly referred to as Piedmont or Western style. It uses a red sauce, made up of ketchup, vinegar, and pepper and has a smokier taste compared to Eastern. The slaw mimics the tomato sauce, as well, and is called “red slaw” or “barbecue slaw.” Lexington-style barbecue is more well-known in the Piedmont and western parts of the state.

Other Styles: 

Most people are only familiar with North Carolina barbecue as being Eastern or Lexington. However, another, lesser known style involves pork ribs. The Baby Back Ribs, also called top loin ribs, are cut from the center section of the loin and are a favorite among many. Another type of pork ribs is spareribs. This style is a larger and longer rib and more flavorful than Baby Back Ribs. This style of barbecue can be found at many festivals and competitions throughout the year, including the Twin City RibFest.

Lastly, throughout North Carolina, pork meat isn’t the only type of barbecue a person can find. Chicken and beef are also favorites to serve up. In addition, there are influences from Texas, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Jamaica.

Cooking Barbecue  

The most traditional way to cook barbecue is pit style. According to historians, this technique has been used for thousands of years. A pit barbecue is an enclosed, above-ground “pit” that cooks the meat slowly over different types of wood. Some popular varieties of wood are hickory, mesquite, and oak. The smells and smoke of the wood drift up into the meat and flavor it. Also, pit style is known for producing very tender meat. An example of pit style cooking is smoking barbecue or using a smoker. There are many various ways on how to use this style, as well as types of equipment needed. The most common types are cold smoking and hot smoking. Cold smoking is used to flavor the meat and hot smoking can be defined as the meat’s cooking time.

Barbecuing versus Grilling 

Yes, there is a different between barbecuing and grilling. Barbecuing can be defined as a slower process that uses lower heat than grilling, and the food is cooked by the heat of the smoke. In grilling, dry heat is used and is applied to the food being cooked.

Barbecue has been a longstanding staple in North Carolina. Most people, from a young age, find their favorite style and it stays with them for the rest of their lives. Summer has just begun and what better time is there to have a barbecue with your family and friends?

xoxo,

Megan

Originally written for Forsyth Woman Magazine, June 2018. 

Simple Southern Hush Puppies

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Hush puppies – one of my favorite Southern foods! Now, you can make them yourself using this simple recipe!

Ingredients: 

3/4 cup self rising flour
1 cup self rising corn meal (not mix)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 small onion, finely minced 
1 pinch garlic powder
1 pinch onion powder
1 pinch old bay seasoning
1 Tbsp sugar
3/4 to 1 cup buttermilk
Canola oil for frying
Directions:
1. In large mixing bowl, mix together flour and cornmeal. Add egg, onion and spices. Add buttermilk and stir with fork just until blended. Mixture should be farily stiff. Add a little bit more buttermilk, if necessary.
2. Heat oil in deep fryer to 375 degrees. Drop dough by teaspoons into hot oil and fry until hush puppies rise to the top and are golden brown. Remove from fryer and drain on paper towels.
Enjoy!
xoxo,
Megan

Key Lime Cheesecake with Strawberry Sauce

FW108-Recipes

Talk about a yummy recipe that is perfect for all year long!

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)

Preparation

  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 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)
  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

 

  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.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

New Year, New Lunches: Changing Up What’s in Your Lunchbox

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Do you ever feel like you are in a rut? Ever have moments where you can’t think of anything new? Don’t worry—it happens to everyone. One of the most common things people get stuck on is coming up with different meals, especially lunches. Your midday feast might need to be eaten on the go, or you may not be able to refrigerate it. Take a look below for three new lunch ideas for all ages to enjoy and get out of last night’s leftovers routine. Plus, these recipes are great healthy food choices. 

Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta Salad: 

 Ingredients:

  • 12 sun-dried tomatoes, halved
  • 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • 6 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. capers, drained
  • Salt
  • ¾ tsp. black pepper
  • ½ lb. pasta of choice
  • ½ lb. cherry tomatoes, halved
  • ½ lb. fresh mozzarella, cut into small pieces
  • ¾ cup black olives
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan

Directions: 

  1. Mix together half of the sun-dried tomatoes, all of the vinegar, olive oil, garlic, capers, salt, and pepper into a food processor or blender. Process until almost smooth.
  2. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the box. Once drained, set it aside in a large bowl. You can either pour the dressing you just made on top of the pasta or put into a container and pour at lunchtime.
  3. Mince the remaining sun-dried tomatoes. Add the tomatoes (both cherry and sun-dried), mozzarella, olives, and parmesan to the pasta and toss.

 

Sushi Sandwich with Turkey and Cheese: 

This recipe can be done with any type of meat or cheese. You can also get creative with your choices of veggies. 

Ingredients: 

  • 1 spinach or plain tortilla
  • 1 tsp. cream cheese
  • ½ cup shredded mozzarella
  • 4 slices turkey deli meat or meat of your choice
  • ¼ cup shredded carrots
  • ¼ cup Ranch dressing, optional

Directions: 

  1. Cut edges of tortilla to make a square shape and cover with cream cheese.
  2. Sprinkle mozzarella evenly over the tortilla. Place the turkey and carrots on top.
  3. Roll the sandwich tightly, making sure nothing falls out. Finish by pressing down the sandwich, letting the cream cheese “seal it” together.
  4. Cut the roll into ½″ pieces and serve with Ranch dressing, if desired.

 

Flatbread Crisps and Hummus

Flatbread Crisps: 

Ingredients: 

  • 2¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • ¾ cup water
  • 1 Tbs. olive or vegetable oil
  • ½ cup grated cheese of your choice

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper. Add ¾ cup water and stir until dough forms into a ball. Knead dough in bowl until smooth. Divide in half. Cover one half in plastic wrap and set aside.
  2. With a floured rolling pin, roll the other dough-half into a paper-thin rectangle about 20 by 12 inches. Cut the dough lengthwise in half to create two smaller rectangles. Then, divide these rectangles in half, crosswise.
  3. Place strips on ungreased cook sheets and let set for 10 minutes. With a pastry brush or back of a spoon, brush strips lightly with olive oil and sprinkle on half of the grated cheese.
  4. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes until lightly brown, rotating the pan(s) between the racks halfway through baking. Remove from oven and pan and cool. Repeat process with the remaining dough. The flatbread crisps can be stored in an air-tight container for up to 2 weeks.

Hummus: 

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups water
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 large lemon
  • 1 can garbanzo beans
  • 2 Tbs. tahini (sesame seed paste)
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. water
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. red pepper
  • ½ tsp. paprika
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro

 Directions: 

  1. In a saucepan, heat 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Add in garlic and cook 3 minutes to blanch and drain.
  2. Grate 1 teaspoon lemon peel and squeeze 3 tablespoons juice into a bowl. In a food processor or blender, combine garbanzo beans, tahini, garlic, lemon peel and juice, oil, water, salt, and red pepper. Puree until smooth. Pour into a bowl and cover.

An ice pack can be added to your lunchbox to keep the above meals cool, if desired. These recipes will soon become favorites that can be incorporated into your weekly diet.

xoxo,

Megan

Article written for Forsyth Family Magazine. 

Quick Bites for New Year’s Eve

As another year comes to a close, there is no better way to celebrate than with family, friends, and delicious food! Sometimes it can be hard to find quick and easy recipes, but never fear, I’ve done the hard work for you. Enjoy these 3 simple appetizers for your New Year’s Eve festivities!
Mini Lasagna Roll-Ups
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Ingredients:
Filling:
  • 2 cups whole milk ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • The zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, minced
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
Lasagna Roll-Ups:
  • 10 cooked lasagna noodles
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Tomato sauce
Directions:
  1. In a large bowl, mix all of the filling ingredients together.
  2. Cut the cooked noodles individually in half widthwise.
  3. Spread the filling on each noodle half, leaving about an inch at one end.
  4. Roll the noodle up, beginning at the end with the filling.
  5. Cut the rolled noodle in half widthwise.
  6. Spread a small amount of sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish and place the noodles on top.
  7. Place a small scoop of sauce on top of each roll and top with mozzarella cheese.
  8. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted.
Cranberry Pinot Noir Meatballs
Cranberry-Pinot-Noir-Meatballs
Ingredients:
  • 1 (1 lb. 10 oz.) bag of Italian Style Meatballs
  • 1 (16 oz.) can whole cranberry sauce
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup Pinot Noir
  • 1 tsp spicy brown mustard
Directions:
  1. Prepare meatballs according to package directions.
  2. In a saucepan, combine cranberry sauce, brown sugar, Pinot Noir, and mustard. Whisk to combine over medium heat. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes or until mixture has thickened.
  3. Remove from heat and pour sauce over meatballs. Serve immediately or place in a crock pot on warm or low setting.
Homemade Soft Pretzel Bites with Cheese Sauce
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Ingredients:
Soft Pretzels:
  • 1 ½ cups warm water
  • 2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast (about 2 ¼ tsps.)
  • 3 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 ½ tsps. kosher salt
  • 4 ½ cups to 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • Vegetable oil
  • 3 quarts water
  • ½ cup baking soda
  • 1 whole egg, beaten with 1 Tbs. cold water
  • Coarse sea salt
Cheese Sauce:
  • ½ Tbs. unsalted butter
  • ½ Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • 8 ounces grated cheddar cheese
Directions:
Pretzels:
  1. Combine 1 ½ cups warm water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl in a mixer with dough hook. Let sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the salt and flour and mix on low speed until combined. Increase speed to medium and continue kneading until dough is smooth and begins to pull from bowl. If dough appears too wet, add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.
  3. Remove dough from bowl and knead into a ball.
  4. Oil a bowl with vegetable oil, add the dough, and coat with oil. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size.
  5. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  6. Bring the 3 quarts water to a boil in a small roasting pan over high heat and carefully add in the baking soda. It will boil over; add slowly and be careful!
  7. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 8 equal pieces, about 4 ¼ to 4 ½ ounces each. Roll each piece into a long rope, about 22 inches. Cut the dough into one inch pieces to make the pretzel bites.
  8. Boil the bites in the water solution about 15 bites at a time for about 30 seconds. Remove with a large slotted spoon and place on a greased baking sheet.
  9. Brush the tops with egg wash and season with salt. Place into the oven and bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown.
  10. Remove from oven and let sit 5 minutes.
Cheese Sauce:
  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the milk and cook until slightly thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the cheddar cheese until smooth and all of the cheese is melted.
  2. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Pour of the pretzel bites or serve as a dip on the side.
Enjoy!
xoxo,
Megan

Nana’s Homemade Mac and Cheese

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The last week before Christmas can be stressful and busy. There is last-minute shopping, baking treats for loved ones, and finalizing Christmas Eve and Day plans. While this time is enjoyable, you might not be thinking about your daily life practices, such as eating regular meals. Never fear, I have the perfect to-go dish for any pre-Christmas dinner – my Nana’s homemade mac and cheese (my favorite meal ever!)

Nana’s Homemade Mac and Cheese: 

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces elbow macaroni
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

  1. Cook macaroni for 9 minutes. Drain, cover, and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In medium saucepan, melt butter. Blend in flour, mustard, salt, and pepper.
  3. Cook until mixture is smooth and bubbly; gradually add in milk.
  4. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils; simmer 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  5. Gradually mix in cheese. Stir over low heat until cheese is melted.
  6. Add pasta; mix together lightly and pour into 2-quart casserole.
  7. Bake 25 minutes.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan

 

Mini Banana Cream Pies

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I’m crazy about bananas! They are one of my favorite fruits, so this easy and quick mini banana cream pies recipe is one of my favorites!

Ingredients:

1  roll Pillsbury refrigerated sugar cookies
1  box banana cream pudding, prepared according to package directions and chilled
1 banana
Whipped cream for topping

Directions:

1: Roll the sugar cookie dough into little balls. Using a mini-cupcake pan, place one ball in each spot (there should be 24 balls total).

2: Bake according to the directions on the dough package.

3: Once cool, fill up each cup with banana cream pudding and top with whipped cream and a slice of banana, if desired.

Enjoy!

xoxo,

Megan