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

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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

A Guide to Summer Travel Safety

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Exploring a new town, city, or country can be an exciting time. It can also be a time of unknown, wondering what could happen and whether your new location will be safe. However, there are several ways to ensure your travels are safe, while still having a memorable time.

Leave an itinerary and emergency contact: Before leaving for your trip, leave your itinerary and contact information with a trusted friend or family member. Your itinerary doesn’t have to be down to every detail, but give them the basics as to where you’ll be and when. Try to check in with them often, so that in case something does happen, they can contact authorities.

Choose your transportation wisely: Research transportation companies and their safety records before starting out, especially if you are traveling abroad. Avoid less-safe vehicles by making sure your mode of transport is in good condition and has working seat belts. According to the World Health Organization, the number one death for U.S. citizens abroad are motor vehicle crashes.

Secure your items and leave valuables at home: It is very important to secure your luggage, money, and other items when traveling. Keep your valuables, such as laptop, jewelry, and other expensive items at home to avoid them being stolen or lost. As for your luggage, always have locks on it. TSA-approved padlocks are great to prevent airport security from taking them off and having your things falling out after inspection. If you need to secure your bags, use a backpack and a bag mesh protector. Your bags will be in a wire mesh, where you can lock them inside. When you are in your room, use a travel door alarm on your luggage to make you aware of any suspicious activity or tampering when you are out sightseeing. Lastly, always remember to secure your money. Travel wallets that strap to parts of your body are dependable. Whenever I travel, I use a cross-body purse to carry my belongings. Other travel wallets can strap to your legs, waist, and shoulders. Also, let your bank and credit card companies know when you are traveling, especially overseas. Remember to not flash your money every time you pay for something. Also, be protective of your cell phones. It is common for thieves to grab cell phones out in public.

Stay alert: When you’re in a new city, stay alert to your surroundings. Your surroundings include the areas you are traveling to, buildings, and people around you. If someone is making you uncomfortable, walk away in either the direction you came from or a quicker way out. Head towards a safer, more touristy/populated area. If they follow, find the authorities. Try to blend in and not take on the typical tourist look. Don’t have a map sticking out of your bag or pocket, or a camera around your neck. These actions are a giveaway that you are unfamiliar with the area and a tourist. Instead, dress like the locals and be alert when using your camera, maps, etc. An important part of staying alert when traveling is always having an escape route. For your room, take note of the map on the back of your door and familiarize yourself with the emergency routes. Also, if you are venturing into unknown areas, be aware of the buildings and landmarks. If you feel unsafe, go into a café, shop, or restaurant, until you are more comfortable.

Be aware of your location’s safety: The State Department is a great resource to check whether or not there are travel alerts and warnings for your destination. In addition, you can find out what possible vaccinations you need and local laws. Be sure to check on the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. Within this program, you can register your travel plans and if an emergency occurs, the State Department will be able to notify you.

Traveling to new places and touring unfamiliar sites is one of the best things a person can do. It’s a time to make new memories, fall in love with new places, and learn about other parts of the world. However, it is important to always be safe and alert when traveling. Using the tips above will help make sure your trip is stress-free and a memorable adventure.

xoxo,

Megan

Budget Bzzz: Sweet Summertime Savings

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As May is about to come to a close, many people start thinking about summertime. However, for some people, summertime is closely associated with the dollar sign and all the expenses the season involves. There are vacations, camps, air conditioning, and more that makes summer one of the more expensive seasons. According to the managing vice president of Capital One, Shane Holdaway, March is the most expensive month of the year. (Yes, I realize it is May and we are talking about March – but stay with me here.) In an article on Oprah.com, Holdaway states this is because March is an in-between month, between seasons, where people are getting cabin fever and thinking about their summer plans. And with the summer plans, people are spending money. So, now back to May, if you were one of these people, how do you recoup some of that money to put more back into your wallet this summer? Continue reading below to find out.

  • Assess the damage. It can be hard to admit you went on a spending spree and see how much you spent. However, it is necessary. Think about the expenses you have already made or are going to make during the summer and see where you can pare down. Maybe you purchased a suite at the beach and you really don’t need it. See if a friend or family member might be willing to pay you and use the suite for their vacation. Another option is to try to find another family that will go on a beach trip with you and would be willing to split the costs.
  • Get back on track with your budget. Unfortunately, there are just some expenses you won’t be able to recover. Factor them into your budget and rebuild from there. Sometimes it is best to start from scratch with your budgeting. First, write down all of your fixed expenses, such as car payments, utilities, insurance, etc., and then see how much of your income is left over. Stick to your new budget until you have regained what was lost.
  • Create a plan for paying off your debt and big expenses. Let’s face it – a vacation can be expensive. If you under-budgeted and over-spent, create a well-organized repayment plan. Think about the last trip, refigure your budget and see exactly how much money you have to spend. Paying off your debt or big expenses should become a fixed expense. Go on a spending diet and don’t spend money on anything unnecessary until that purchase is paid off.
  • Always, always, always track your spending. Whether you made the purchase months in advance or that day, write it down in whatever method you prefer. This will help prevent a downfall if you accidently forget an expense that was made in March, but the money wasn’t taken out until May.
  • Set a deadline to get back on track. Summer doesn’t have to be a time to lose money. It can be a time to gain it. For example, create a deadline and commit to it for reorganizing your spending and paying off summer expenses. This can be at the beginning, middle, or end of summer. Whatever works for you.
  • See what went wrong. To be honest, something went wrong somewhere in your budgeting method for some expenses to slip through. Determine how that happened. Maybe it was an impulse expense. There is nothing wrong making purchases ahead of time; just make sure you have budgeted them in and keep track of them.

Summertime can be a time to make memories with your loved ones. But, it can also be a time to save money and get back on track after the summer expenses have been made.

xoxo,

Megan

Summer Travel on a Budget

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As of Wednesday, June 21st, it is officially summer! With summer comes no school, longer days, and more traveling. However, taking trips can be expensive. But, never fear, there are still ways to travel and enjoy the summer season without breaking the bank.

Start a Travel Fund: Start collecting your spare change or setting aside money for an upcoming trip. You can also create a savings account just for traveling. Little by little your money will add up, and before you know it, you’ll be in your dream vacation spot.

Go During the Middle of the Week: Did you know hotel rates and other travel expenses are lower during the middle of the week than the weekends? Try going on vacation during the week. You’ll end up saving more money and won’t have to deal with crowds at popular tourist attractions. Another way to save is to travel during the off-season. Research your destination and see when the crowds are the lowest. For some places, winter is the highest tourist time, while summer is the busiest for other destinations.

Visit Nearby Destinations: While staying in one place, explore the surrounding areas. For example, if you are staying in a major city, take the time to venture out to nearby tourist attractions. This will save you time and money without having to plan another trip.

Have a Staycation: There are probably places in your own hometown you have never explored! Take a day or two and get to know your city a little bit more. Visit the little, unknown places, historic sites, and more. You never know what history you’ll learn about your hometown. Also, read your newspaper and look online for free events and festivals to take part in.

Research Your Accommodations: Hotels aren’t the only place to stay while on vacation. Vacation rental websites, such as Airbnb.com and VRBO.com, are great places to search for cheaper accommodations in different cities. Plus, you’ll get to live like a local while exploring a new place. Another benefit is the possibility of having a kitchen, where you can make your meals and save on food. Be sure to read the rentals’ ratings and reviews before booking.

Take Advantage of Free Things: There is no shame in taking advantage of free entertainment, attractions, and transportation while on a trip. Sites like museums and parks can be free to visitors. Also, look into your location’s events, including concerts, art shows, and more to experience. Another way to save money is by using public transportation or, when possible, walking.

Fly Right: Prices for plane tickets vary throughout the time of the year and day of the week. It is recommended you purchase your tickets 50 to 100 days before your trip. Another way to save money is research prices through travel websites, such as Kayak, Expedia, and Airfarewatchdog.com. Try to plan your departures on a Thursday and returns on Monday to save more. When traveling abroad, fly to your destination during the off-season for cheaper airfares.

Use Travel Saving Websites and Apps: When it comes to any trip, the best thing you can do while planning is to research the best deals for accommodations, transportation, and more. An easy way to compare prices is by using travel saving websites and apps. In addition to the websites listed above, the Travel Channel recommends using jetsetter.combudgetplaces.com, and momondo.com.

Save Money on Food: You don’t have to eat out every meal while on vacation. When you first arrive, go to the grocery store and stock up on the essentials and items, such as sandwich supplies and easy to-go meals. This way you can pack your lunch, dinner, and snacks to take with you while site-seeing. Plan to splurge and eat out for maybe one or two good meals during your trip, and pack the rest.

Vacation expenses can quickly add up when you aren’t looking. However, there are still ways to save money and have the time of your life exploring a new place and making memories.

xoxo,

Megan

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Megan writes the monthly “Budget Bzzz” column for Forsyth Woman. This article was originally published in the June 2017 edition of the magazine http://www.forsythwoman.com/budget-bzzz-summer-travel/ 

A Memorable Family Reunion

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Every year in June, my family, extended and immediate, gets together for a family reunion. At this reunion, there is a lot of family fellowship, food, and fun. This year (this Saturday!), our reunion is a very special one. It is the 50th-anniversary of our family reunion. Fifty years ago, my family started coming together every summer to reconnect and spend time with one another. Throughout this past year, we have been planning many fun and new ideas to make this reunion very memorable. If your family is having a reunion, take a look at the ideas below for to how to plan a memorable event for all ages.

Start Planning Early: Once you know you’ll be having a reunion and the date, start planning all of the details for the event. Think about whether or not you want a theme, where the reunion will be held, the food, etc. When deciding on the event’s location, think about special places for your family. These places could be a member’s house or even a vacation destination. Try to plan at least a year out and involve other family members to help get things organized. Don’t forget about games, decorations, and favors. Also, if the reunion involves traveling to a destination or another member’s house, think about how you want to handle the travel arrangements and accommodations, as well.

Get the Word Out: You can’t have a family reunion without your family there. Once you know the date of the reunion, go ahead and send out “Save the Dates.” Also, you can include surveys or ideas for members to send back on what they would like in a family reunion. Then, closer to the event, about a month or so in advance, send out official invitations. Be creative and make the invitations special and unique to your family.

Food: There are a few different food options for a family reunion. First, you can have it catered and save some stress for family members. Another option would be to have a potluck, where members make their favorite family recipes. Always include desserts to end the event.

Take-Home Gifts: It is always nice to include a take-home gift for your family members. These gifts don’t have to be big, and could be a bookmark, a T-shirt, or a small favor bag. Want something bigger? Create a family tree or family cookbook. In the cookbook, add favorite family recipes, pictures, and stories. You could also create small scrapbooks for each family member.

Games and Activities: An important part of a family reunion is having games and activities for all ages. Depending on where your event is held, some games could be: relay games and races, scavenger hunts, board games, and family Olympics. Carnival games are also popular. For family Olympics, family members can compete in rounds of corn hole, bocce ball, Jenga, Twister, and more. Award medals to the winners. As for activities, craft projects are favorites among the various generations. Other ideas are: family bingo or trivia or a “Blast from the “Past, in which family members take trips to the old houses where the grandparents grew up, former schools, and other places down memory lane. Let grandparents and/or kids share stories from the past or funny anecdotes about another family member. Lastly, create a family video with pictures and clips from the past years. Collect these items while planning the reunion and show the finished product at the event.

Pictures: How many times are year do you see your extended family members? Use the time together to make memories and take tons of pictures. These photos can be pictures staged in a photo shoot, or candid snapshots. Display with your decorations the family reunion pictures throughout the years to see who has, or hasn’t, changed.

A family reunion is meant to be a memorable time, and planning for the event can be enjoyable. Be sure to get everyone’s input and make it special and unique to your family. However, the most important part of a family reunion is to have a good time with your family members.

xoxo,

Megan

 

Must Try Recipe: S’mores Dip

S’mores Dip is a must try recipe this summer. Bring on the chocolate, marshmallow, and graham crackers!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • 15 jumbo marshmallows, halved
  • Graham cracker squares

Directions:

  1. Adjust rack to center position of oven and place 8-inch cast iron skillet or regular frying pan on rack. Preheat oven to 450°F with skillet inside. Once preheated, use a pot holder to remove the hot skillet from the oven.
  2. Place pat of butter in the skillet and coat the bottom and sides. Pour chocolate chips in an even layer into the bottom.
  3. Arrange marshmallow halves over the chocolate chips, covering the chocolate completely.
  4. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes or until marshmallows are toasted to your liking.
  5. Remove from heat and rest for 5 minutes. Serve immediately with graham cracker squares.

Enjoy!

 

xoxo,

Megan

 

Planning a Summertime Party

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While the kids are out of school, and the days of summer are long, there is no better time to have a summer party with family and friends. Turn your backyard or house into a fun getaway, and party into the wee hours of the morning with these party ideas.

There are several themes for summer parties. Different ideas include beach/under the sea, patriotic, luau, ice cream social, backyard movie night, picnic, camping, fiesta, low country boil and, of course, the classic pool party. When it comes to choosing your theme, think about what type of party you want to have and where your guests will have the most fun. Some questions to consider — would you enjoy a fiesta or a low country boil? If camping isn’t your thing, don’t have a camping themed event. Remember, you are going to be spending time planning and hosting this party, so pick a theme you are excited about and enjoy. Another thing to keep in mind is the type of guests you are inviting. Are they all adults, or are both adults and kids invited?

After choosing the theme of the party, start thinking about the invitation, decorations, food, games/crafts and party favors. A good place to go for ideas is to look online, including your trustworthy friend, Pinterest. Some of my favorite party ideas are listed below and can be used for multiple summer party themes.

Decorations:

Decorations always set the mood of the party. Go all out, and turn your party area into the beach, under the sea, a backyard BBQ, etc. For some general summer ideas, use sand buckets for snacks and toy shovels for scooping. If your event is outside, keep the sun and bugs under control by filling a bucket with sunscreen and bug spray for guests to use. Get creative and decorate the bucket, and add a cute sign. Another party must is a photo booth. Add props related to your theme and a backdrop. Guests will love taking home a memento from the day. For nighttime parties, place glow sticks in a clear bowl, filled with ice and bottled/canned drinks. This decoration makes a festive and colorful addition to your party tables.

Food:

Along with salty, sweet and fruity snacks, be original with your food options. For drinks, serve the traditional summer beverages — lemonade, sweet tea, soft drinks and water, but add in Sunny D. This bright orange thirst quencher will be loved by kids of all ages and bring in a little bit more of the summer oasis. Want something different than the common party drink? Try this Pina Colada Sangria recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups Moscato
  • 20 oz can of pineapple juice (crushed pineapple may be added, as well)
  • 1 ½ cups coconut rum

Directions:

  • Mix all ingredients together in a pitcher. Refrigerate overnight, and serve chilled.

As always, summer parties call for s’mores. Turn this classic backyard treat into a party favorite with a s’mores bar. Set up the table with marshmallows, Hershey’s chocolate bars and graham crackers. Add in more flavors, and include bananas, strawberries, Reese’s peanut butter cups, Ritz crackers, Hershey’s cookies and cream candy bars and York peppermint patties.

Games and Crafts:

One of my favorite ideas for a party activity is creating a movie theater right in your own backyard. This activity works for all different types of parties because you can show a movie that matches your theme. First, you need a screen. Some options include showing the movie on the side of a house, tool shed or other flat surface or hanging a flat bed sheet between two objects. Next, you need a projector, laptop and sound system. Computer speakers, stereo amplifiers and a boom box are great options to get the sound louder.

If you are looking for guests to get in touch with their creative sides, add a craft or DIY project to the party. One option is decorating flip-flops which can be purchased at the Dollar Store. Also, buy different colors of paint, Sharpies, stickers, buttons and more. Your visitors will enjoy getting to put their own spin on something they can take home.

Don’t forget about party favors. Make goodie bags with items related to your theme. Include snack-items, games or something unique and special to remember the event.

xoxo,

Megan

Article first published in Forsyth Woman magazine: http://www.forsythwoman.com/good-times-summertime-parties/ 

Frozen Hot Chocolate

  
I LOVE, LOVE a good cup of hot chocolate, but sometimes I don’t want it hot. I want it….well, cold or more like frozen. Try this recipe the next time you want this chocolatey drink. Works great for summertime, too! 

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