Monday, January 16, 2017

Game Day Mexican Style Loaded Baked Potato Dip

I'm not a football fan (I figured I should just come right out and admit that), but I actually really look forward to the Super Bowl. And while this is partially because the commercials and half time show are usually quite entertaining, the main reason is that I love the food. My regular readers have likely noticed that I'm not big into creating elaborate meals (although I do like to eat them), but I've gotten pretty decent at making simple dishes and snacks. I think is probably why I enjoy cooking so much for Super Bowl Sunday - it's a day full of snacks and party food. For me, it's also a day to experiment with traditional game day foods in an effort to come up with unique recipes. And that's exactly what I did when I combined two of my absolute favorite foods - Mexican food and mashed potatoes. This Mexican style loaded baked potato dip is so good you guys. It's also incredibly easy.

Game Day Mexican Style Loaded Baked Potato Dip

Serves 10

1 package (3.74 oz) Idaho Spuds Country Buttered Mashed Potatoes
2 cups water, boiling
1-1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened
2 cups salsa
2 cups shredded Mexican style or cheddar cheese
1/3 cup black olives, sliced
2-3 scallions, chopped
1 avocado, cubed
chili powder
black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Measure 2 cups boiling water into a large bowl. Stir in entire pouch of Idaho Spuds potatoes and mix well with a fork. Add Greek yogurt, cream cheese, salsa, and a couple of dashes each of chili powder, cumin, and black pepper. Stir until blended. Scoop mixture into a baking dish and top with shredded cheese and sliced black olives. Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is slightly browned. Top with chopped scallions, cubed avocados, and a sprinkle of chili powder. Serve hot with tortilla chips.

If you're having a game day party, you have to try this recipe. You'll be surprised at how simple it is to put together, and your guests will be absolutely wowed. Promise. You'll never want to make regular loaded baked potatoes or Mexican layer dip again. And thanks to the Idaho Spuds, featuring creamy mashed potatoes as the star of recipe is a snap. Speaking of Idaho Spuds, be sure to go big on game day with the Idaho Spuds Game Day sweepstakes! Choose your favorite Game Day recipe right here, and get a chance to choose your own Boise adventure. Woohoo!

Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby & Bean possible. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Emmett's Space Themed First Birthday Party

A Space Themed First Birthday Party (Bubby and Bean)
A Space Themed First Birthday Party (Bubby and Bean)

Some of you may remember the big sparkly gold and pink themed first birthday party I threw for Essley two years ago. It was probably a little over the top, and it involved many late nights of DIY projects and list making, but ultimately it was more than worth the work involved. I did tell myself that I would never do it again, but then on January 9th, 2016, Emmett came along. And after the first year he had (if you're a new reader, you can read all about his story, his epilepsy diagnosis, and his miraculous triumphs here), there was never a doubt that he deserved an equally over the top party to celebrate his awesomeness. So I did it again. It was actually even more work this time, because due to timing (and lots of sick people) I ended up having to do everything myself (aside from some much appreciated help the morning of from my mom, sister, and friends Dee and Jess - thank you!). It was my choice though, and once again, it was worth every 3 AM glittery rocket cupcake topper making session. Emmett was thrilled with all of the shiny decorations (as was his sister) and balloons (his first word, a couple of weeks ago, was "balloon" by the way) and, most of all, all of the friends and family who came to be a part of his big day.

A Space Themed First Birthday Party (Bubby and Bean)
A Space Themed First Birthday Party (Bubby and Bean)
A Space Themed First Birthday Party (Bubby and Bean)
A Space Themed First Birthday Party (Bubby and Bean)

When I was brainstorming party ideas a couple of month ago, I came across an image of a rocket, and suddenly I'd found the ultimate symbol for Emmett - our strong, brave, curious explorer. I decided to go with a rocket/space theme, and over the weeks that followed I collected and created space-themed decor. As with Essley's party, we held the festivities in my mom's and stepdad's finished basement (we have a small place and we had a big guest list), which was perfect for transforming into a planet/star/rocket-filled night sky. I found the ideal sized dark blue table cloth for $11 (that food display "table" you see in these photos is actually a ping pong table I folded in half). I ordered a bunch of balloons (48 total, plus the same gold mylar number one I used for Essley's party) in shades of blue, black, silver, gold, and white to represent the sky. I also purchased spiral hanging planets, planet and rocket ship garland, gold star garlands, a variety of hanging tissue honeycombs/pom poms/balls in gold, silver, blue, and black, and other miscellaneous spacey decor. I picked up some space themed napkins, gold napkins, and gold and silver plates. (See end of post for links to places I got some of the purchased decor.) I made a tassel banner in the theme colors to hang and another for Emmett's high chair with a big gold number 1 in the middle. I also drew several signs in rocketship and planet themes, which was a lot of fun for me - I don't draw much anymore but I really love it. For favors, I bought plain blue paper bags and decorated them with different sized gold and silver star stickers to look like the sky, and filled them with stickers, wooden yo-yos, mini bubbles, crazy straws, and lollipops. Both Emmett's and Essley's eyes lit up when they entered the finished room, and one of the little guests said, "wow, we're in a whole solar system." And that was all I needed. The best.

For food, we ordered pizzas and made big bowls of salad. We also served up chips with salsa and guacamole, goldfish crackers, frosted animal crackers, chocolates, and a fresh fruit bouquet. There was beer and wine and water for the adults, and juice boxes and water for the kids. Robbie and I also made yellow cupcakes with vanilla frosting for the guests, and a vanilla smash cake for Emmett. Despite the fact that they were edible, the cupcakes were one of my favorite parts of the decor. We baked them in gold and silver wrappers and topped them with mini edible gold stars. Some of them also got the cake toppers I made - gold stars, silver stars, and blue rocket ships. We dusted Emmett's cake with gold sprinkles and topped it with another big gold number 1. Unlike his sister, who very delicately approached her smash cake, Emmett went for it. I mean, he dove in face first. It was bad ass.

I wanted Emmett to have a special outfit for the party, and I found this adorable personalized onesie on Etsy. The fact that the color theme matched the party decor actually wasn't intentional (I'm Type A, but not that excessive, I swear), but I certainly wasn't complaining about it. I also had a gold crown for him, with which he wanted absolutely nothing to do after approximately 15 seconds - but hey, it was his party and his rules. He looked adorable and perfect to me, with or without a fancy crown.

Designing and putting together the decor and food and outfits and all the details was a lot of fun (I mean truly, as much of a pain in the ass it can be, I love this stuff), but the best part of the celebration, by far, was all of the people who came out to pay tribute to our boy. Every first birthday is special, but with what Emmett went through this past year and his nearly miraculous recovery, there was an element to this party that was especially emotional. I gave a choked-up impromptu speech before we did the cake about how grateful we are to have had the support system we did during the worst of his diagnosis and in the months that followed, and it really hit me right then how absolutely wonderful it was to have so many people who care about Emmett in this space for this special day. The only bummer was that Robbie's parents, who flew in from Arizona to be there, ended up getting the flu that we all had the week prior and couldn't be there. Since we had to cancel Essley's birthday party a few weeks ago due to her being sick, I'm thinking we'll just have to have a sun-filled belated double celebration when we visit them next.

Thank you, to all of my readers, for following Emmett's story this past year. It was a bittersweet journey, but how lucky we are now to be in a place where we were able to honor Emmett on his first birthday in a way that was optimistic and happy and hopeful. Not a day goes by where I don't look at our brave, curious, joyful little boy with a profound sense of gratitude - for all of it. It's his story and it's a remarkable one. Happy birthday Emmett Hunter, my little warrior! May your second year be magical (and deservedly carefree) in every way.

Oh, and for those of you looking to throw space themed parties of your own, here is a list of some of the supplies I purchased: personalized first birthday onesiespace themed napkins, space themed confetti (on gift table), solar system hanging whirls, planet and spaceship garlands, gold star garlandstable cloth, hanging honeycombs, hanging tissue poms, glitter cardstock (for cake toppers), gold number 1 balloon (we got ours at Party City), gold and silver plates.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

You Can Ring My Bell (Sleeves)

Bell Sleeve Trend (via Bubby and Bean)
1. Ecote Cozy Bell-Sleeve Frock Dress, UO (on sale for $39.99!)  //  2. Bell bloom Velvet Shift, Anthropologie  //  3. Farrah Dress, Free People  //  4. Angie Peasant Blouse, Nordstrom  //  5. Birds of Paradise Mini Shift Dress, Kimchi Blue   //  6. She's A Lady Top, Free People  //  7. Bell-Sleeve Shirt in Stripe, Madewell

Have you guys noticed how bell sleeves are everywhere right now? Supposedly they're going to take over the off-the-shoulder trend for tops and dresses in 2017. My all-time favorite dress, a printed mini swing dress from Free People (you can see me sporting it here) has subtle-but-definitely-there bell sleeves, and I always feel all bohemianly (not a word but I'm sticking with it) romantic when I wear it. While they admittedly make things like washing dishes a bit challenging (my friend Adam told me to "watch my Stevie Nicks sleeves" while I was helping clean up at a party, and I thought that was pretty accurate), they're timelessly beautiful. The looks you see above, while all very different from one another style-wise, are some of my current favorites. I think I need to snag #1 for my first clothing purchase of the year - you can't beat that price.

Who else is loving the bell sleeve trend? Which look above do you like best?


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Easy Vegetarian Tortellini and Spinach Soup

As I'm sure is the case for most of you, dinner is a chaotic time around here. In our house, we have two kids three and under, an unpredictable daily itinerary since my husband is often on the road and my work schedule varies because of this, and four very different eaters in the family (a vegetarian, a meat eater who will eat veg but likes hearty foods, a picky preschooler, and a baby/soon-to-be-toddler who is learning about new foods). Dinner prep time is busy and messy and a little erratic. Robbie and I have to work to find meal ideas that suit all of our needs and are quick/easy but also fresh and wholesome. So when we experiment and come up with something that fulfills all of these things and also tastes really delicious, we make it a lot. And when we love something enough to make and eat it a lot, I obviously have to share it with you guys. This super easy, six ingredient tortellini and spinach soup is just that type of recipe. We adapted it from a beloved recipe from Robbie's side of the family by simplifying and making it vegetarian. You're going to love it. Trust me.

Serves 6-8 depending on bowl size

2 boxes (32 oz each) vegetable broth
1 package Buitoni Refrigerated Three Cheese Tortellini
1 container Buitoni Refrigerated Marinara Sauce
3 garlic cloves, minced
4-5 cups organic baby spinach
Buitoni Refrigerated Freshly Shredded Parmesan Cheese (for topping)

Pour vegetable broth into a large pot and heat until boiling. (While broth is heating, mince garlic. Or for an even quicker prep, use jarred minced garlic.) Add tortellini to boiling broth and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to a simmer and stir in marinara sauce and garlic. Cook for five more minutes, then stir in baby spinach and immediately remove from heat. Serve hot in soup bowls topped with shredded parmesan cheese and your favorite fresh Italian bread.

The key ingredient for me in this dish is the Buitoni's pasta and sauce. Buitoni is my absolute favorite authentic Italian brand, for a number of reasons. Their no GMO, freshly made, clean label vegetable-infused pastas and sauces are beyond delicious - they taste fresh because they are fresh, and they serve as the perfect ingredients to help me create unique, truly vibrant meals that everyone in my family loves. As a vegetarian, I am thrilled with all of the veggie options Buitoni offers. Even my husband, who loves his meat, man, is a huge Buitoni fan because their vegetarian products are so hearty and satisfying. My daughter is the pickiest eater in the family, and she asks for dishes that incorporate Buitoni ravioli or tortellini multiple times a weak. Even baby Emmett adores their pastas, especially this particular recipe - it was the first soup he ever ate and he gets so excited when he sees we're having it for dinner! We use Buitoni's products in all sort of different dishes too - from this soup to summer veggie + ravioli dishes to pesto pasta casseroles - and have fun getting creative and coming up with fast, simple-to-make meals that maximize our time. And when these meals allow for a joyful family experience where everyone is happy with the meal, it feels like the ultimate dinnertime success. For real.

Have you ever had tortellini soup? What is your favorite Buitoni product?

Thank you for supporting the brands that help make Bubby & Bean possible. I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.