May 31, 2017

Celebrate National Donut Day with a DIY Donut Station


Alright folks, that day of days is upon us. The first Friday in June. Also known as National Donut Day. This is an occasion to celebrate one of the purest, most simple forms of deliciousness we know. The humble donut.

Donuts have come a long way over the years. Plain cake and glaze has been elevated with toppings galore, flavors and all sorts of frosting options. But the best thing about donuts is that there's a flavor or topping combo for just about everyone.

What's your favorite? Are you a classic donut fan, maybe just a blueberry cake or chocolate frosted? Or perhaps you like to go out on a limb, enjoying concoctions with strange combinations like bacon and maple glaze.

On my recent trip to NYC, I tried donuts at Donut Plant, an awesome little eatery known for its incredible donut flavor offerings. My favorite was the Brooklyn Blackout, described as a chocolate cake doughnut, filled with chocolate pudding, dipped in chocolate glaze and sprinkled with chocolate cake crumbs. Yes, please!


Have you caught donut fever? There's no shortage of great donuts  to be found in Knoxville, from Makers Donuts to Duck Donuts to the most recently opened Status Dough.

Want to enjoy donuts at home? Why not set up a fun DIY donut station at your next party or event. All you need are a bunch of donuts and assorted frostings and toppings. Let your guests go to town creating their own one-of-a-kind donut creations.

Here are a few ideas below to inspire you!

Candied pineapple + Shredded Coconut on cream cheese frosting = Pina Colada Donut

Mini marshmallows + Graham crackers on chocolate frosting = S'Mores Donut

Assorted Breakfast Cereal on vanilla frosting = Eye Opener Donut 

Fresh strawberries + whipped topping = Strawberry shortcake Donut

Apple Pie filling + Caramel sauce on cream cheese frosting = Apple Pie Donut 

Donut disappoint your guests! 




May 26, 2017

Advice for Future Grown-Up Girls


There are no do-overs in life. We can't go back and change the past, as much as we'd like to. Looking back at certain periods of time, particularly my teenage years, there are things I wish I had done differently. Things I wish I would have known.

Would it have mattered? I'm not sure.

I'm currently listening to Drew Barrymore's memoir "Wildflower" in audio book format. I love it when an author reads his or her audio book because it feels like an opportunity to have him or her tell his story directly to me.

In the book, she addresses (albeit briefly) the rise of social media and how crazy it is to be able to share photos with millions of people with a single click. I follow my younger girl cousins on social media and enjoy feeling like I have a bit of inside scoop on their lives, even though I don't get to see them very often. I wonder how hard it is for them to be girls coming of age in our current time. One of my favorite girl cousins to follow is Elliott, a precocious rising sixth grader whose posts never fail to make me smile. From her love of elephants to her victories on the volleyball court, to her adventures with friends doing typical middle school girl things.

This morning, my girl bestie from high school sent me a Facebook message with a clip from the film Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion. She said she missed those simpler times in life when just watching a favorite movie for the umpteenth time was all it took to enjoy yourself. I miss those things too.

Some experts say that kids today don't know how to connect with people in real life because they are digesting each and every experience through screens. Others would argue that social media has made us more connected than ever before. I hope that's true. I hope young girls understand the importance of the friendship connections they are forming at this time of their lives.

The years will come faster and faster, and soon those carefree days will seem like a dream, something you kind of remember and hold dear but also something that feels so distant and removed that it might not have happened at all.

I wish someone had shared this with the young girl version of myself. If you are a fourteen year old girl who happens to be reading this, or fifteen or sixteen or even eighteen, there's still time for you. Take this bit of advice from someone who knows:

Put down your phone and really look at your best friend's face. I mean really look. Memorize the way her eyes crinkle just a tiny bit when she smiles. Hear her laugh, with its ever ebullient cadence and write the sounds of it on your heart. See the way she sits, cross legged in the back of the school auditorium, eating a plain turkey and cheese sandwich from Subway. Never forget how important of a role you have in her life, as her confidante and cheerleader. One day you might be in her wedding. Perhaps you'll be in the room as her first baby is born. These magical moments are amazing and unforgettable, but somehow they aren't quite the same as just being a couple of girls, 15 and 16, driving around your small southern town in an old Chevy Blazer, smoking Marlboro Lights out the window. Do not smoke (Marlboro Lights or otherwise).

The next time you are hanging out with your best guy friend, take your earbuds out and really listen to him. Watch the outline of his profile as he drives you to Sonic for a Route 44 Cherry Limeade made with Diet Coke instead of Sprite. For the record Diet Coke is terrible for you, but life goes on. Memorize his mannerisms, the way he crosses his arms over his chest, in his Gap sweater, leaning ever so slightly to put more weight on one foot than the other. The next time you are standing with him in front of a vending machine, as he is buying his post-lunch bag of Sour Patch Kids, take in every sight and sound of the moment, because one day you'll want to re-live it. Or all the times you pull your car into his parents' driveway, going to pick him up for some evening of teenage adventures. Take a moment to enjoy the fact that his parents are inside, waiting to greet you warmly, his dad jokingly asking you to "feed his son something and bring him home alive."

These are the moments that you'll miss most when you're stuck watching a corporate webinar or attending a conference with a plated lunch and keynote speaker.

One day you won't live in a house with your parents, where your best friend just naturally comes over and lets herself in the back door. One day you won't get together weekly with your best friend to watch Dawson's Creek and eat cheese fries. One day you will wake up and your to-do list will include things like get a watch battery, call the IRS and straighten out how your quarterly tax payment was applied to the wrong year, buy toilet paper or a broom and take that bag of stuff in the garage to Goodwill.

Maybe you'll move away while your best friend stays in your hometown, married and raising a beautiful family. Maybe your friend will move across the country and you'll mean to visit him but thirteen or fourteen years will go by and you won't be able to believe you haven't made that trip.

Of course you'll form other friendships along the way. Dearly dearly beloved friendships. Friends who become family. Friends who know the grown-up you and are there for you when you need a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. Don't take these for granted either.

But it's those first friendships...the ones that form while you are still forming. They are worth more than all the likes, all the hearts, all the regrams. And I'd hate to think anybody missed out on that because they were too busy looking at a screen.

Oh, and one more thing. Have as many sleepovers as you can. Grown-ups are supposed to be able to do whatever they want but sleepovers never seem to make it on the list.

May 24, 2017

Drink UP! 3 Easy Summer Drink Recipes

Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer and I don't know about you, but I think I'm ready for it. Here in the south, we know hot weather is coming. And there's nothing we can do about it except try to stay as cool as possible with delicious cold drinks.

I've got three good ones you might want to try this Memorial Day, or later this summer. Drink up, y'all!

Sugarlands Shine Coconut Bellini 


I just love the folks at Sugarlands Distilling Company! And they have a brand new flavor of moonshine just in time for summer...Pina Colada! Trust me, it's delicious.

Here's a fabulous drink recipe using the new Sugarlands Pina Colada Shine - the Coconut Bellini. You'll definitely want to be sipping this at some point during the summer.

To make the Sugarlands Coconut Bellini, you'll need the following things:

Champagne glasses
2 oz of Pina Colada Moonshine
Champagne
Fresh berries of your choice

Mash the berries with Coconut Moonshine. Allow to chill if you have time. Top off with sparkling wine.

Sip sup!

Copycat Starbucks Pink Drink 


You may have seen this lovely concoction filling up your social media feed...the Starbucks Pink Drink. Originally a fan creation from the "Secret Menu" this drink is coming to Starbucks near you this summer. 

Try it out and see if you like it, but in the meantime you can make a similar version of your own at home. 

You'll need: 

4 acai berry tea bags
1 cup hot boiling water
1/2 cup white grape juice
1-2 cups unsweetened coconut milk
Fresh sliced strawberries
Agave nectar, optional

Pour boiling water over your tea bags and let them steep. Add white grape juice. 

Fill a large glass with ice cubes and add about a cup of the tea/grape mixture. Top it off with a splash of coconut milk. Add sliced strawberries and additional sweetener if you choose. 


Lemon-Limeade with a Kick 


I'm a sucker for anything Trader Joe's has to offer, and most of the time I'm happy with the products I find there. 

The most recent product I tried is their Organic Jalapeno Limeade. It's definitely got a kick to it, but for people who like a spicier option, you're going to love it. 

Mix it with some fizzy water for a more festival drink and add fresh lemons, limes and mint. Easy to make and great for your summer parties. You can also add tequila or vodka for a more spirited option. Enjoy! 

May 17, 2017

Easy Recipes for National Salad Month

Did you know May is National Salad Month? Thank goodness salads have come a long way since the iceberg lettuce and ranch dressing of my childhood. There's no shortage of creative salad ingredients and combinations to try, for every different taste and diet.

I'm sharing three of my favorite salad recipes that are easy to make and oh so delicious.


Turn Your Salad into a Sandwich


Sometimes, a big bowl of greens just doesn't appeal to me. My trick is to turn my salad into a sandwich. It still gives you plenty of healthy ingredients, but gives you the option of bread, which is easier to eat on the run.

There's no reason you can't take your favorite salad ingredients and make a yummy veggie sandwich.

One favorite of mine is green apples (or pears), with cucumbers, sprouts and pumpkin seeds. Add some arugula or kale and you've got a salad-turned-sandwich fit for a king.

Salad on a Stick - Caprese Salad Skewers


Another favorite salad of mine, especially this time of year, is a caprese with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella. There's been an abundance of cherry tomatoes in my local grocery store and I love to create these fun caprese skewers for an easy salad on a stick.

If basil isn't readily available or cost prohibitive, I use baby spinach and it's just as good. I also like to include black or green olives if I have them on hand.

These are the easiest salads to make and always get plenty of oohs and aahs when served at any gathering.


Salad to Eat with Your Hands - Endive Salad Cups


Hosting a baby shower or other fancy-ish party? Serving lots of little finger foods may be what you're going for. Salad isn't so much a finger food, but it can be depending on what you serve. 

Belgian endive (pronounced on-deev) is great for this. I also use hearts of romaine in a pinch when endive isn't available. 

Each little lettuce cup can be filled with whatever you like. Try some tasty in season spring veggies like asparagus, peas and cucumbers. Maybe add a slice of avocado, sprouts, a tomato and half of a boiled egg. 

Drizzle the dressing in the lettuce before filling it so it doesn't spill out. Yum! 

These salad ideas might be a little nontraditional, but they are so delicious! I hope you enjoy. 

May 15, 2017

Drink it up - Sugarlands Pina Colada Moonshine Milkshake


Summer is just around the corner and my friends at Sugarlands Shine have just the drink recipe for your summer parties and barbecues! 

Sugarlands just debuted its new Pina Colada moonshine and you can find the recipe below for a Pina Colada Moonshine Milkshake. Delicious! The new Pina Colada moonshine mixes the refreshing taste of pineapple and coconut milk. This flavor is currently only available at Sugarlands' distillery in downtown Gatlinburg. 

1 cup of coconut sorbet
1 cup vanilla frozen yogurt
¼ cup of pineapple juice
4 oz Pina Colada Moonshine

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

Sugarlands Distilling Company produces award-winning spirits in East Tennessee. The downtown Gatlinburg distillery is a popular attraction where guests are invited to sample award-winning spirits and enjoy behind the-scenes tours.

The distillery offers live music, private tours and tastings, and distilling workshops. It is nestled in the Smoky Mountains, near the Sugarlands, an area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park historically known as “moonshiners’ paradise.”  The distillery opened in March 2014 to perform the age-old craft of distilling fine spirits.  Sugarlands Distilling Co. is a locally owned, community–minded, “give-back” brand.