Simple Pickle Side Dishes

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

From appetizers to side dishes to condiments, there are so many ways to take a boring, plain menu and make it flavorful and memorable. With only a few ingredients and simple steps,  you can serve up an appetizer that will awaken the taste buds, a side dish that perfectly complements the main dish, and a main dish that is full of flavor thanks to homemade condiments.

When you're at the store perusing the aisles trying to find the perfect ingredients for your next menu, you most likely stop by the produce, bakery, meat, and dairy sections. It looks like we're forgetting a section ... that's right, the pickle section. Did you ever think to open up a jar of pickles and get creative with your dishes?

The next time you're at the store and you're shopping for side dish ingredients, be sure to pick up a jar of the Vlasic Farmer's Garden products. The products are made with only fresh, locally grown cucumbers and authentic ingredients ... all of which emphasize that the simple things in life bring us the greatest pleasure.

Celebrating the authentic taste of #FarmToJar, Farmer's Garden by Vlasic wants everyone to experience the delicious fresh taste of honest ingredients, as well as hand-picked herbs and spices that make up the perfect premium pickle. I couldn't agree more. With only a few simple ingredients and steps, you'll have a flavorful side dish recipe that will please all of your guests ... especially the guests who love pickles.

Here are simple pickle side dishes:
What's your favorite pickle dish?

*Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Vlasic Farmer's Garden. However, all thoughts and opinions were my own.

A New Adventure in Photography

Sunday, August 10, 2014

My mind has been racing lately. I have spent a lot of time researching, self-analyzing, brainstorming, planning, and contemplating. I've put plans onto paper, threw away those plans, revisited the plans, deleted the plans, and returned to the plans again. I've hemmed. I've hawed. I've swayed. I've rocked. And, after a lot of questions and answers, I'm beyond thrilled to announce the big news. As you can tell by the new tagline, this blog will now be all about "simplifying life in the kitchen and behind the camera."

That's right. I love to cook. I love to photograph food. I love to share recipes with you. However, I have always felt like this blog was missing a huge piece of my true passion: photography. Yes, the food photographs shared my love of photography ... to a certain extent. But, I have really been wanting to share more.

Sharing in the love of photography with others, learning more about photography every time I pick up my camera, and teaching others about photography is an incredibly strong passion of mine. When people ask me for photography advice or tips, my eyes light up with excitement. When I discover a new perspective in photography, my mind starts racing. When I encourage others to pick up the camera with confidence, my passion explodes.

Growing up, I always loved to look at photographs. I would pick up a camera here and there to snap a few photographs. I couldn't wait to develop the photographs and place them in my scrapbooks. When I was in college studying journalism, I decided to sign up for a photojournalism course on a whim. I figured I loved photography and writing so writing through photographs would be something of interest to me. That was one of the best decisions of my life. That class not only taught me the ins and outs of photograph during the non-digital age (yes, I was often found in the dark room developing film at all hours of the day and night), but it also led me to study photojournalism for a summer in the United Kingdom and the Czech Republic. It's true ... I traveled around Europe for months telling stories through photographs. My life was made ...

... and then I returned home and tried to embrace photography while working a full-time job and finding my way through life. Fast forward a few years and you come to the start of this blog. Because I love food, writing, and photography, as well as connecting with family and friends, this blog was the perfect way to accomplish all of those hobbies in one spot.

Since I started this blog in 2009, I have enjoyed sharing tips, tricks, and recipes to simplify life in the kitchen. This blog has opened my eyes to the world of food photography and has opened photography doors for me that have been such a blessing. I have studied photography, practiced photography, taught photography at workshops and conferences, launched a photography website, and provided my photographs to clients. Now, I can't wait to share photography tips and tricks via my little corner of the Internet. Don't worry, I'll still be sharing recipes ... but just know that I'll also be sharing photography tips as well. I hope that you'll continue to follow me in this journey and enjoy "simplifying life in the kitchen and behind the camera."

Tons of hugs for all of your support. You rock.

5 Simple Nutella Recipes

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Raise your hand if you love Nutella. I mean, who doesn't love the most delicious chocolate hazelnut spread. Ever. Spread it on toast or drizzle it across baked goods, add it to your muffin batter or use it as a dip ... there are countless ways to enjoy this chocolate treat. Here are five simple recipes that use Nutella as an ingredient.

Have you ever had a cupcake flavored with Nutella? If not, here's your chance. From the cake to the frosting to the crumble topping, this cupcake recipe has it all ... and it's ready in a matter of minutes.

I always love pairing chocolate with fruit. This chocolate layered cake not only has that combination, but it also has homemade whipped cream added to the mix. This cake is easy to prepare and it's quite a showstopper.

The name of the recipe says it all ... in other words, it doesn't get much easier than that when it comes to cookies. These cookies are super soft and loaded with the flavor of Nutella. All that you need is a glass of milk and you'll be all set.

Yes, I went there. Sink your teeth into one of these ice cream sandwiches and your life will change. I'm totally craving one of these right now. Whether it's the summer or winter, this treat is the perfect treat for any occasion.

Pairing Nutella with pumpkin? Why not? Even though it's a pumpkin-flavored recipe doesn't mean that you have to wait until the fall to enjoy this treat. From the muffin bottom to the muffin top, this recipe is packed with flavor that will have you craving seconds.

What's your favorite way to enjoy Nutella?

Disclaimer: This post was not sponsored by Nutella. I just really love the product.Why? Because it's delicious.

5 Simple Doughnut Recipes

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

There's the doughnut shop around the corner, the drive-through doughnut store, and the doughnut section in your local grocery store. What about homemade doughnuts? Have you ever tried to make them at your home? Here are great homemade and easy doughnut recipes to satisfy a doughnut craving.

Pair these doughnuts (pictured above) with your morning coffee and you'll have a match made in heaven. What's not to love about an apple cinnamon combo in doughnut hole form?

There's just something about pumpkin doughnuts that screams delicious. Try your hand at making these doughnut hole (pictured above). I promise you won't be disappointed. Warning: It's hard to eat just one.

Chocolate and toasted coconut on a doughnut? Sign me up. These baked doughnuts (pictured above) are a real treat ... and super easy to prepare.

Here's another baked doughnut recipe (pictured above) that will be friendly to your taste buds and your waistline. The crunchy coating will make your mouth water.

Uh oh ... did something say ice cream sandwich? Think cookie ice cream sandwich but switch out the cookies for doughnuts. Yes, I went there and it's just as good as it sounds. For more ice cream sandwich recipes, be sure to check out Delish's roundup of off-the-wall ice cream sandwich recipes. A huge thanks goes out to for featuring my recipe.

What's your favorite kind of doughnut?

Disclaimer: This post was not sponsored by Delish. I simply wanted to thank them for featuring my recipe because they are awesome (Delish and the ice cream sandwiches, of course).

Chocolate Wafer Mini Icebox Cakes

Monday, August 4, 2014

chocolate wafer mini cakes

As we all know, it's the summertime. From boating to going to the beach, from hosting barbeque parties to roasting marshmallows on the bonfire, from relaxing on a hammock to playing sports with family and friends ... there's nothing quite like the sunny, warm days of summer.

Every day, I see kids playing on the sidewalks, riding bikes, and enjoying their time off from school. I can't help but think how my son will keep busy during the dog days of summer when he gets older. Will he enjoy playing catch, shooting hoops, kicking a ball, swimming? Do you notice what all of these have in common. They are all sports.

I grew up in a family that was into sports. From watching to playing, we did (and still do) just about everything. Baseball, softball, golf, hockey, figure skating, horseback riding, track, dance, basketball ... I felt like my second home (and sometimes even my first home) was at a sports arena/field.

My husband was (and still is) completely into sports as well. I swear, he's like a walking sports almanac. Ask him any question about a game and he's bound to know every stat associated with the game. I always tell him that he should be a sports announcer because he's so full of knowledge and information.

chocolate wafer mini cakes

Why am I so sports focused? During my son's doctor's appointment today, the resident who was seeing him before the doctor came into the room struck up a very interesting conversation that stuck with me throughout the day. She took one look at my son and started talking about sports (did I mention that he's a big kid)? She started naming off all sorts of sports and I said, "I secretly hope that he'll be a hockey player." I'm from Michigan and grew up in an ice rink (thanks to hockey games and figure skating lessons). My Dad and uncles made a homemade ice rink in our side yard when the temps dropped below freezing. Of course, I love hockey. It's only natural, right?

We've taken him to two baseball games already and he'll be going to his third game this week. We took him swimming for the first time ever last week and, after a few moments of feeling uncomfortable, he started to enjoy the experience. He learned how to sit on his own by bowling in his room. We can't wait to take him to his first football game this fall and introduce him to hockey during the winter.

As you can see, sports play a huge part in our lives and we hope that our son will share in the love of the game with us. So, will it be baseball, hockey, soccer, basketball ... or nothing at all? One thing is for certain. My husband and I will cheer him on every step of the way on whatever he decides to do. We are (and forever will be) his biggest fans.

Only time will tell ... in the meantime, we're going to continue to help him learn, grow, and experience life in all shapes, sizes, forms ... and sports.

Speaking of sports ... I'm going to get back to this Detroit Tigers game and sink my teeth into one of these Chocolate Wafer Mini Icebox Cakes.

Chocolate Wafer Mini Icebox Cakes

  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1 package (9 ounces) chocolate wafers
  • 1/2 cup blueberries, washed and dried
  1. Whip together the whipping cream and sugar until stiff peaks form.
  2. Top five chocolate wafer cookies with homemade whipped cream. Stack the cookies on top of each other to form a stack/mini cake.
  3. Top the top portion of the frosting with a few blueberries.
  4. Refrigerate for at least four hours to make sure that the stacks turn into mini icebox cakes.
What's your favorite sport to play and/or watch?

5 Simple Brunch Recipes

Sunday, August 3, 2014

It's Sunday ... and you know what that means. Brunch. I haven't met a brunch that I didn't like. My husband and I love going to brunch to indulge, enjoy, and chat. What's not to love about good food and good company? From waffles to salad, coffee to cocktails, brunch has it all. Here are a few of my favorite brunch recipes.

Yes, you read that correctly. Cinnamon rolls in the shape of waffles. See the cinnamon drizzle nestled in nooks and crannies of the waffles (pictured above)? This dish is every bit as good as it looks.

You can't have brunch without breakfast sausage. These sliders have all of the making of the perfect breakfast sandwich. From biscuits to sausage, mustard to pickles, the sandwiches (pictured above) are small but they pack a flavor punch.

Pancakes are traditional for any breakfast spread. Instead of serving up plain flapjacks,why not add some berries to the mix? This very berry dish (pictured above) is not only beautiful but it also packs in fruit intake for the day.

Instead of serving heavy dishes, mix it up by preparing a crisp, light salad to cleanse the palate. This dish (pictured above) is very seasonal and will go great with any summer brunch spread.

You didn't think that I was going to forget about the cocktails, did you? From a mimosa to a bloody mary, brunch is known for simple, flavorful cocktails that are always a treat. As for a good bloody mary (pictured above), it's all about the garnish. Don't you agree?

What's your favorite brunch menu item?

Chocolate Peanut Butter Icebox Cake

Friday, August 1, 2014

Life is interesting. And so is fate. And so is the statement "things happen for a reason."

After I kissed my baby goodnight tonight, I looked at my phone and noticed that a good friend of mine from college sent me a picture message of my husband and me that was taken a few months after we met. She titled the picture, "Babies." Why? Because we were babies ... we were so young and had no clue what journey life had in store for us. That picture was taken nine years ago. Yes, count them. Nine years. 

Before meeting each other, my husband and I knew of each other. My circle of friends hung out with his circle of friends in college (and later I found out that my circle of friends hung out with my brother-in-law's circle of friends in college). However, we had never officially met until my final year at school. Before meeting each other, I remember being at a college house party, standing in my husband's room, looking at a picture of him, and saying "Oh, that's who everyone keeps talking about." Yes, our circles ran super close and we had so many opportunities to meet.

Yet, fate knew that we weren't ready ... until that fateful night in the kitchen of my college house during my final year of school when our paths finally crossed, thanks to the friend who sent me the picture message tonight. This friend and I didn't have a huge history together ... we only knew each other a short time before moving in together. 

This friend helped me cross paths with the love of my life. This friend helped make my final year at school truly unforgettable. This friend has become so close to me over the years. This friend and I went through our pregnancies together. This friend and I are now riding the parenthood roller coaster together. This friend and I never would have met had fate not played a part in this interesting thing that we call "life."

The photographer of the picture message photo? This friend. What I love most about the photo is that it involves all three of us. My husband, my friend, and me. We were all "babies" nine years ago. Over the years, we've had our ups and we've had our downs. We've had our struggles and we've had our triumphs. We've had our cries and we've had our smiles. At the end of the day, as they say, "things happen for a reason" ... and I'm sure glad that they did nine years ago, not only because of my marriage but also because of my friendship.

This cake is a celebration of love, life, fate, and friendship as I continue to strongly and thankfully believe that "things happen for a reason."

Chocolate Peanut Butter Icebox Cake


  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/3 cup smooth natural peanut butter (not salted)
  • 1 box (9 ounces) chocolate wafer cookies
  • 1/2 cup of diced peanut butter cups
  1. Whip together 1 1/2 cups heavy cream and the confectioners' sugar until stiff peaks form.
  2. Whisk the peanut butter in a separate bowl until soft. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of heavy cream to the peanut butter and whip together until light and fluffy.
  3. Fold the peanut butter mixture into the whipped cream mixture.
  4. Place a dot of the whipped cream mixture onto the bottom of seven cookies. Arrange the six cookies in a circle on a serving platter and place the seventh cookie in the center.
  5. Top the seven cookies with the whipped cream, spreading outward but not covering the edges of the cookies. Top the whipped cream with cookies and then add the whipped topping. Repeat the layers.
  6. Make sure that the last layer is whipped cream. Top the whipped cream with a small portion of the peanut butter cups. Sprinkle the remaining peanut butter cups around the serving platter.
  7. Place the cake in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. When serving, cut the cake into wedges using a serrated knife.
What's your favorite cake?

*This recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart.
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