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Usually these posts are meant for reflecting on the past year, learning from mistakes, remembering precious moments, and planning for an even better new year. My 2017 was a difficult one-the worst really-and one that I hoped to bury and forget. But hindsight is a funny thing, and looking back now I can notice and appreciate that in my darkest moments there were slivers of sunshine. I'm closer to my family than I have been in several years, and have received so much support from them, as well as from my parents-in-law, brother-in-law and many sweet friends. I've read in my finance books that it's ideal to have several sources of income so that you're never dependent on just one. I'm grateful that I have many sources of support and love in my life so that I haven't had to stake my happiness on just one.

This blog has been a great source of happiness for me, and I've met so many awesome people through it. Many thanks to all of you for giving me a platform to share my creations and have an extra source of income <3 I was asked what my New Year's Resolutions were the other day but I hadn't made any yet. It's usually my favorite thing to do, but this year I just have some simple, loose goals and hopes: 1) create some sustainable healthy eating habits, 2) create a business, whatever it is, and 3) be happy. What are your goals, hopes and dreams for the new year?? I would love to hear them.

Below I'm sharing my annual tradition: my most popular recipes of 2017 as well as my personal favorites. I combined Instagram and blog engagement and these are the winners, check them out! You can find the best recipes of past years under my Recipes tab, and PS I don't have a recipe for the bear cookies but they are just a gingerbread cookie recipe I found online, and I linked to my recipe for the lemon royal icing I used on top (decorating tips included). Happy New Year!!


Most Popular Recipes of 2017:
1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5
6 // 7 // 8 // 9 // 10

My Favorite Recipes of 2017:
1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5
6 // 7 // 8 // 9 // 10


This shop/post has been compensated by Collective Bias, INC. and The Coca-Cola Company, all opinions are mine alone. #ServeWithACoke #BowlGames #CollectiveBias

I'm pretty proud of these little guys. They turned out just as delicious as I dreamed them to be, and washed down so nicely with my Coca-Cola™ Zero Sugar. Now that the Christmas frenzy is over, I'm so happy to have a smaller to-do list and more time to kick back with good food and drink and the game on. Football season is upon us, so today I'm sharing my first game day recipe!

My fam bam came into town a few days before Christmas, and to give my mama a break from cooking I volunteered to fill everyone's bellies. While they all had a game playing, I was in the kitchen frying up these crispy chicken sandwiches, and set them out along with bottles of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar. I felt like I had reached umami with this meal. The salty chicken on the sweet rolls, offset by the refreshing apple coleslaw and a Coca-Cola to wash it all down made me quite proud of myself. Today my pops went searching for and finished off the last leftover slider, so I know I did good.

What are your must-haves for game day get-together's? For us it's literally two things: meat and Coca-Cola. Those are the two things my hubby can't live without, and two things that go together quite well, so they are necessities for us. Bit sad that hubs couldn't partake of this meal, but I sent him photos and he made me promise to recreate it all for him when he returns from deployment. He should be home just in time for the big game!

What are your guys' favorite Coke pairings? Do you have your own must-haves for tailgating parties? You can find some pretty mouth-watering inspo HERE, and share your own with #ServeWithACoke.






Crispy Chicken Sliders with Apple Coleslaw
Makes around 24 sliders
  • 3 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut to about 2.5-inch pieces
  • 24 sweet rolls
  • apple coleslaw (recipe below)
Chicken Brine:
  • 4 quarts cold water
  • 1/2 cup kosher salt
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 Tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried parsley
  • finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Chicken Coating:
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1-2 cups buttermilk
  • canola oil, for frying
Directions:

Pour 1/2 quart of the water into a large pot. Add all the other ingredients and bring to a simmer on your stove, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Remove from heat, then add the rest of the cold water and give it another quick stir. Place your chicken into the brine and let sit in the fridge for 2-3 hours. 

Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse off the pieces so that there are no stray peppercorns or large herbs sticking to them, and pat dry. Let them warm to room temperature while you prep the coating and oil.

For the coating, whisk together the flour, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper and kosher salt. Divide into two shallow bowls or containers. Pour your buttermilk into another shallow bowl. Prep a heavy-bottomed pot to fry in by fitting it with a thermometer and filling with about 2 inches of canola oil. Place over medium heat and bring to 320F. Prep a baking sheet with paper towels, then place a cooling rack over the baking sheet. This will keep your chicken crisp, while letting the oil drip off to the paper towels below. 

When your oil is ready, fry the chicken by first dipping it in the coating, then dipping in the buttermilk, then dip in the coating again, and gently lower into the oil. Don't overcrowd the pot, and try to keep the temperature as consistent as possible. Fry for about 8 minutes until the outside is very brown and crispy, using tongs to flip if needed. When done, remove to your cooling rack. Let the oil return to 320F before frying your next batch of chicken. You can check to make sure your chicken is done by testing with a meat thermometer to see that the inside is 165F. Repeat until done.

To assemble the sliders: use a serrated knife to slice your rolls in half, then spoon a generous amount of coleslaw onto the bottom, top with a piece of fried chicken and your roll top, and secure with a pick. Enjoy!

Apple Coleslaw
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 package coleslaw mix
  • 1 Fuji apple, cored and julienned

Directions:

Combine the yogurt, mayonnaise, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl. In a large serving bowl, add the coleslaw mix and mix well with the sauce. Gently add in the apple, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Chicken recipe adapted from my favorite Thomas Keller's recipe. Coleslaw sauce adapted from HERE.




Hey guys, here is the last part in my Shop Small Series. I've been showcasing some of my favorite small businesses, hoping to shed some light on why I love these brands and encourage everyone to focus on shopping small this season. Read my story HERE and catch up on Parts I on my favorite chocolate shop, II on this very unique hot chocolate, and III on these versatile bags.

Today is all about a jewelry brand my SIL recently introduced to me. Hey June is a shop on Etsy that sells the cutest minimalistic pieces. I love dainty jewelry, so that's why I was initially attracted to them. Besides their designs, I also love that their pieces are gold filled, which means that there won't be any rubbing off of the plating to show an unsightly silver under-layer. I ended up ordering these dangly earrings, these cube studs, and this hammered circle necklace. Which is your favorite?

Back in November I mentioned to my SIL that I was attending a Pinner's Conference to play assistant to a big food blogger who was teaching a class there. The conference offers tons of classes you can attend, but also has local vendors set up booths for a market-style setting. My SIL told me to stop by Hey June's booth if I get a chance - and I did - but hot dang I couldn't stay long because it was swamped! I think the reason they were so popular is because they offer a great value on really cute pieces.

Christmas is already upon us, but keep Hey June in mind for when you're spending that Christmas money ;) Check out their Etsy shop HERE and follow along on their Instagram for sales and giveaways HERE.







For part III in my Shop Small Series I'm introducing a brand that I get to work with! Before I get to that, if you haven't been following along with my series, I'm showcasing some of my favorite small businesses in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The goal is to not only share my favorite brands, but also hopefully encourage you to focus on shopping small and local this season! To read about my shop small story click HERE, and check out previous posts on my favorite chocolate shop and this very unique hot chocolate.

Today's awesome small business is a diaper bag company called Ann Medeline. They make quality insulated bags with tons of pockets to stay organized. Among other things, they're water-resistant, come with stroller straps, and they just so happen to be super freaking cute. I'm not a mama, but I know that I can't do large one-strap bags. They put all the pressure on one shoulder and they're so uncomfortable, so my favorite aspect of these is that they're backpacks. On top of their main diaper bags, they also offer insulated lunch bags for pumping mamas (or lunch), as well as car organizers, changing pads, and my favorite: mini bags for your mini me's! Scroll down to see my photos, I sooo want one for my nephew. Are you a mama? What do you think of these? I know their products have also been used as college backpacks and camera bags!

These photos are some that I've taken for Ann Medeline's business over the past year or so. It's such a blast working with beautiful models and the sweetest kids for a little photo shoot. I'd recommend these bags to all my mama friends, I think they're beautifully crafted, and like any great bag, I'd be proud to carry it around all day. Shop their products HERE and read owner Grace's story HERE.












Welcome to Part II of my Shop Small Series! My goal for this series is to introduce you guys to some of my favorite brands, and hopefully encourage you to focus on shopping small this holiday season. To read my personal story on why I love shopping small, click HERE for Part I with my favorite chocolate shop.

Today I'm introducing a new favorite! This is a local brand that I've been excited to test out for a few reasons. Rogue Cocoa makes caffeinated gourmet hot chocolate, created for the purpose of offering energy without coffee, tea, or excessive sugar. Reasons I've been excited to try them: only 20 calories per serving, 1 gram of sugar, and...because chocolate. I whipped some up just today and I loved the taste - it has a deep chocolate flavor without being too sweet, and warmed me right up after a chilly afternoon out.

Besides the typical mug of steaming hot chocolate, though, there's something else I've really been excited to use my Rogue Cocoa for. My hubby has an all-time favorite shake that he makes often before heading to the gym. I can't remember the full recipe, but I know it has bananas, ice, caffeinated pre-workout powder, and a splash of cold brew coffee. I don't drink coffee, so I've been dreaming up my own delicious version using Rogue Cocoa to replace both the coffee and pre-workout powder. Imagine a thick banana shake with chocolate in it...ugh, chocolate and banana are my dream flavor combo. What an exciting way to start a gym sesh. Since Rogue only has 20 cals per serving I feel like I can use it liberally in whatever creations I dream up. What would you use it in?? Would you go the traditional hot chocolate route or add it to a new recipe?

Shop Rogue Cocoa HERE. They've got some holiday specials going on AND free shipping on domestic orders! Big recommend from me.






Thanks to Rogue Cocoa for gifting this deliciousness and being a part of my Shop Small Series. All opinions are my own. 

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