Mocha Oreo Cupcake Brownies

Luke sends me text or emails anytime there is an event at work in which I have the opportunity to provide some wonderful baked goodies. It is a great chance for me to try a new recipe but get rid of more than half of it before we are tempted to eat them all. A few weeks ago Luke’s department was having a retirement party. So I made up these delicious mocha Oreo cupcake brownies.

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Based on the very popular pintrest pin, where some ingenious person placed two double stuffed Oreos, stuck together with peanut butter in a cupcake tin, covered it in brownie batter, then baked it. But as you know, I like to put my own twist on things: and a healthier one at that if I have the chance. Using greek yogurt and only one Oreo (no peanut butter) one of these handheld chocolaty treats is only 160 calories.

Here’s what you need:

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Ingredients

-one box of dark chocolate brownie mix

-one package of oreos (your favorite kind)

– ¾ C-nonfat plain greek yogurt

-1 to 2 tsp vanilla extract

-2 tsp instant coffee

-¼ C water

Instructions

-Preheat oven to 325 F.

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-Pour brownie mix, yogurt, instant coffee, water and vanilla into large bowl and mix together.

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-Spray muffin tins with cooking spray.

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-Place small amount of brownie mix on bottom of tin about one spoonful; just enough to cover it.

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-Place whole oreo in bottom of each tin pressing it into the center of the cup. You can always do double stuffed oreos or more than one oreo for more crunch but it does add calories.

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– Fill each muffin tin the rest of the way (about 3/4 ths full); which should be another 2 spoonfuls each cup

-Bake for 15-20 minutes.

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Note: They will be very moist so if the tops are not shiny/liquidy they are probably done. You can always check with a toothpick and as long as it does not come back with runny batter. Remember no eggs means no problem with under cooking 🙂

One cake mix makes a batch of about 30 (not all pictured below).

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They are gooey chocolaty delicious with a hint of coffee and a great cookie crunch. The best thing is you can change it up.  There are so many different flavors of Oreos these days peanut butter, strawberry smoothie, mint, to birthday cake. Take out the coffee or change up the brownie mix flavor. The options are endless.

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Pre-wedding Jitters

I’ve got pre-wedding jitters, only it’s not my wedding and they are jitters of excitement and anticipation. Today I am flying out to Washington. I’m coming into town a week before my little brother’s wedding so I can help with the last minute planning and participate in pre-wedding events. My pre-wedding itinerary includes: a bridal shower, moms and daughter(s) manicure date, pottery decorating class, bachlorette party, and of course the rehearsal/rehearsal dinner and the big wedding day: August 3rd.

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In the midst of all of this, I plan on making up for my lack of involvement as the future sister-in-law and as a bridesmaid. I expect to be running back and forth to the craft store, helping the moms with last minute details and most importantly helping in anyway possible to keep the bride-to-be Stina calm.

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Such a beautiful state 🙂

I would love to make this into a vacation and re-aquaint myself with the state of my college years and potentially visit with some friends, but I doubt I will get out of town that much considering I am not renting a car.  Although Luke and I have grown accustomed to sharing one car, I am still used to having a much more significant amount of time to myself: my schedule, my space, my quiet introverted world.

say goodbye to the car for a week

say goodbye to the car for a week

But this trip, from tomorrow until next Thursday, I will be staying with my parents and sharing a car with them. This is the first time since I moved out and got married that we will get this much quality time and in each other’s space time (aka sharing the same room/bathroom). It will require us all to have a little patience and show each other grace.

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In a few days we’ll take the same picture but this time I won’t be the one in white

Also this is the first time Luke and I will be away from each other since we got married. There were a few nights the first two weeks of marriage Luke worked nightshift but since last October we have seen each other everyday.  So we will be making quite a jump from never being apart to being apart for a whole week. It will be challenging probably in ways I don’t understand yet. But I’m interested to discover how often we will want to text or call each other while we are apart. Let’s just say I am glad I will be busy and distracted. By the time Luke comes into town and checks us into our own room at the hotel the wedding events will be in full swing: family and wedding party arriving from out of town for the rehearsal the next day.

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I’m looking forward to spending time with my family and friends and to sharing these moments will all of you. But you will have to be patient since I expect to be away from computer a lot in the next week. Until then I’d appreciate any prayers or good wishing vibes you want to send for safe travels and a successful and calm (as can be possible) pre-wedding week for everyone involved.

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What are you looking forward to this weekend/next week?

To the Brides to be . . .

As we come down to the last few days before my brothers wedding (sorry if you are getting tired of hearing about this-I’ll be done on this topic soon). I think back to my wedding day which was-honestly a blur. There are moments that stand out in my mind good, stressful, and bad but let’s just say I’m grateful we had it all video taped because I could use a reminder of the play by play beyond what I planned for.

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But one thing I do know is that a lot of pressure is put on this one day, that one moment, this one event that when you get finally get there-it’s a little difficult to know how to feel, how to move forward or what to do. Many bridal magazine will try to tell you how “to look and feel your best” the day of your wedding . But this advice is usually superficial at best: detox tea, face masks, deep breathing exercises etc. only work so well. So I thought I would write a little realistic advice to the brides to be out there for their wedding days.

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Pause, breathe, and take it in-no need to rush!!

There will  be a lot of activity the day of your wedding people decorating the space, the caterers delivering food, or the cake people doing the same, florists, set up of tables and decorations. Then there is also all of the family, and wedding party with their different duties and assignments. Not only that, but every one will want to talk, see, or visit with you while you are being pushed and pulled by those doing your makeup and hair

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With everyone so busy around you, it’s easy to get caught up in the anxious rushed high. But you do not have to worry about a detail-that (hopefully) has already been delegated to those who love you and have volunteered to help.You need to pause, breathe, and take it in. The wedding can’t start without you (and everyone expects it to start a little late anyways).

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For example,  I had met with my florist only once and since I have a green thumb, the flowers and table decorations were very important to me. I was couped up in the bridal room for hours so Luke wouldn’t see me. When it was finally time for me to leave the room  I wanted so badly to look at the tables, knowing that by the time I would see them again I would  be busy at the reception and it would be dark. The assistant wedding coordinator told me to take a moment to take it in -it was a necessary  to breath and relax before heading down the aisle.

Recognize significant moments and take them in fully

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We all know those moment you want to remember from your wedding day (maybe it is all of them) but the reality is most of it will be a blur. And yes, all of the moments of this day are significant but which of them will be captured in a picture or on the video that you can look back on -and which ones will not?

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For me : these moments are when my dad first saw me in my dress, or when my grandmothers joined the bridal room. Some of these moments are unplanned, such as getting colored drawings from our younger guests, or a passing piece of advice from a friend or relative, a laugh, a glance at your new husband. Things only you can capture and remember.

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Focus on the positive and the big picture. 

As much as you are the one planning through every detail you cannot control it all. You are yourself and are working with humans– it may not all go exactly as you had planned (sorry to be so honest) but it will all be wonderful and beautiful.

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I am a detail oriented with a type A personality. So to give control of so much of “my day” to those around me in hopes it will all go well is difficult-but I had not choice. Of course there are things you cannot predict. For example, there was a miscommunication about one of the groomsmen suits. So a couple from Luke’s side of the family drove quickly back into town to pick it up and back to the wedding right in time. ( I didn’t hear about any of this until Luke and I were driving away that night). Also I could not predict that my dress’ bustle would keep falling out as people stepped on my dress in the tight reception space.  It may not all happen how you want, but if you focus on the positive and the big picture you’ll realize it is amazing.

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Take a quiet moment to yourself

As I mentioned in my first point, you will be surrounded by many people from the moment you get up until you are alone with your husband in the car leaving for the honeymoon. If you are anything like me and even the slight bit of an introvert, a few seconds of quiet time to yourself to take in the day is important. This may mean taking a few minutes to meditate, journal, pray, listen to some music,or go on a short walk before getting going that morning.

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For me, after everyone was seated for the ceremony, and my bridesmaids sent out for the processional, I was left alone. I got a few precious moments in the bridal room to myself. There I was able to pray, look myself in the mirror and take it all in before greeting everyone else.

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Get a calm or relaxing moment with your bridesmaids and/or female friends before the wedding

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Much like the last point, it may be equally important if you are an extrovert to take a few minute to have a calm moment with you female relatives and friends before the wedding. This may be a toast, and encouragement. It could be a time to pray together or just a moment of silence. Or it could be a chance to exchange gifts.

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My wonderful bridesmaids set up time for an informal toast where grandmothers, mothers, friends, cousins, and bridesmaids all gathered and shared encouragement and congratulations. After most of my family had left the bridal room I gathered with my bridesmaids, mother, our pastor, and soon to be mother-in-law to pray for and over the day. This helped calm all of our nerves and help us focus no longer on getting ready but being ready.

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Celebrate

Once the formalness of the wedding ceremony (and pictures) are over remember to switch modes and celebrate. When the reception comes, yes there are still traditional events happening but this is a celebration time. Be yourself, laugh, joke, talk with friends, dance, and enjoy and be in the moment.

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side note: make sure you have talked through the reception pacing with your MC/DJ. It is important that your MC/DJ knows how to space out the events at your reception. You may want to get all the traditional cake cutting, bouquet toss, toasts etc. over with right away so you can enjoy the dancing and food. Or you may want to space things out, get breaks in between so you can greet people, eat, rest, (or go to the bathroom).

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I was under the assumption, since the MC/DJ was hired by the venue, that he would know and keep a moderate pace for all of the reception events. I figured he would take some time for dancing and socializing between the cake cutting and bouquet toss etc. Instead I was asked at the reception what I wanted to do!!  Unprepared to make any type of decision at my wedding I have no idea what to answer. So all reception events happened quickly in a row-so fast few knew they were happening to enjoy them or take pictures. Then a large amount of time was given at the end for dancing. Because it was dark, and getting cold, people began to leave early since all main events were over. This gave me limited time to see everyone as well as it left a very limited grouping to enjoy the dance floor.

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Remember: at the end of the day no matter how all the pieces, details, and events unfold you are leaving your wedding and starting a life with your new husband.

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Yes that big day  is important, but the decision and promises you’ve made on that day will mark the days to come which will be even more significant. If you keep that in mind,  focusing on the purpose of the day and your future spouse, your wedding day will be a positive blur and one you know is only the beginning.  .  .

Home Improvement: The Front Porch Project

One of my favorite features of our little rented home is our front porch. Unfortunately it has been neglected collecting dirt and spider webs. But not anymore!! I decided to use a good portion of my b-day money to make the space enjoyable for the rest of the summer and fall. But before I could fill the space it need a major scrub down.

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The dingy before picture

So this past weekend when it was overcast and less humid I took to the task of cleaning it off.

Step One: The industrial broom.

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Step Two: Scrub the window sills

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Step Three: Mop the base boards and floor

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Step Four: Beat out (or throw out) the rugs

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Then I was ready to fill the place with some new decor.

I bought a new front door mat with an elaborate G for Greene at Bed Bath and Beyond for under 20 dollars.

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Next I purchased some green plastic lawn chairs for 18 each at Home Depot .

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Then I got a small plastic turquoise folding side table from Adam’s Manufacturing on Amazon.com  for 13 (with shipping 15).

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To add some color, I bought a purple flowering hanging bucket also from Home Depot for only 5 bucks. The front porch already has plenty of hooks in the ceiling so all I had to do was choose the best one so the plant could get enough light.

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This past week, I went to Michaels and found all their spring garden supplies were on clearance. So I picked out a metal turquoise bin to hold all our garden supplies and tools that was originally 15 bucks and got it for 5.

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I also stopped by Target and their garden supplies were also on sale. I found a small bright green plastic watering bucket also for 5 bucks.

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For my birthday Luke bought me a beautiful yellow and purple potted orchid. It fits in great on the porch on our small side table.

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A long time ago I bought a green rustic metal star from Joann’s to put up in my bedroom. When we moved out here we noticed that many old homes, garages, and barns have a similar stars. It is traditionally known as an Amish Barn Star although there is some mystery as to it’s purpose, whether  for good luck, or to help in supporting beams in an old barn,  around here it seems to be purely decorative representing Americana and local pride.  For us it is green and so I think of it as a welcome sign for the Greene house :). Because we are renting we cannot add new holes (or paint) to the outside of the house. But there are some already existing holes on the front porch walls. Placing a new nail in one of those whole, and pushing it into place, the green star looked perfect.

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The last touch was a set of string lanterns also from Target for 12 bucks a string (I needed two). As I mentioned before, there were already nails and hooks along the top of the window sills for us to hang them on.

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And there you have it. It took me a few weeks to gather all the porch pieces. But with half a days work, and a for under 100 bucks, I have a beautiful and inviting front porch which we have already had the chance to enjoy and share with some new friends.

What is your favorite place to relax in the summer time?

Cookies n’ Cream Pudding Pops with Blueberries

It’s been almost a month since my birthday and I just realized haven’t shared with you any of my b-day presents. One small gift was to buy popsicle molds they have blue tips (match kitchen) for the popsicles into sail boats (a little something fun for my husband who one day wants to own a sailboat).

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After looking around online, my first experiment with my new summer kitchen toy: cookies n’ cream pudding pops with blueberries! And the great thing about these are: they are each only 90 calories!!

Makes 6-8 pops (if recipe yields 6 pops then each are 120)

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Here are the ingredients:

1 pack sugar and fat free white chocolate Jello pudding mix

3/4 C. Plain Greek yogurt

1/2 C. low Fat Milk

3/4- 1 C. fresh blueberries

5-6 Oreos or off brand version

Instructions:

-Mix together the dry pudding mix, greek yogurt, and low fat milk. You can do this by hand or with a mixer.

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-Add in the cookies. You can crush them with a whisk, put this mixture in the blender, or send the mixer on a high setting. Here is where you need to decided if you want large chunks of cookie or a more blended texture (we did the latter).

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-Next fold in blueberries. Do not use the mixer/blender if you want your berries whole.

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– Fill the molds to their full line. Remember to push out any airpockets.

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-Let the pudding pops freeze for at least 5-7 hours. Because they are so thick they will take time to solidify.

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Then enjoy!!!!

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They are rich, creamy, and full of antioxidant blueberries with that hint of chocolate we all love. If you only have a 6 pop set like I do the great thing it saves in the fridge just fine until you have eaten one (or two) and can fill up the mold again .

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What is your favorite frozen summer treat?

Tell them Thank You!

We are now counting down to my little brother’s wedding.  In T minus 16 days, I’ll be the proud big sister standing with the other bridesmaids watching every moment up close.

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my brother’s wedding in only 2 weeks

When I think back to my wedding, one of those last minute details was personal gifts and thanks yous to those who mattered most: bridesmaids, groomsmen, family, and others who significantly helped in the journey to the day at the altar. If you read my Favors from Friends a great way to Save blogpost then this will be an expansion on my last important note: don’t forget to tell them Thank You!!!

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Bridesmaid gifts:

Traditionally brides give their bridesmaids a small gift the day of the wedding usually as everyone is getting ready. It is common for this gift to be  jewelry such as earrings, a pendant necklace, or bracelet that the bridesmaids can wear that day.

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As you may recall, I had a family friend make bracelets with purple glass beads and a golden clasp for my bridesmaids. These bracelets was casual enough my bridesmaids could wear them again buy classy enough for the wedding.

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But you do not have to be traditional and give jewelry.  How about some lip gloss, or small sample-size hand lotion? Maybe you can’t budget-in these gifts. You can alway make a small personal keep sake or of course keep it simple and write a thank you card. The gifts are no where near as important to your female friends and family then a personal thank you note recognizing their help in getting you to this significant day.

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Groomsmen gifts:

Luke chose to give out nice hunting knives to his group of Northwestern groomsmen. Although guys are not as apt to write detailed thank you notes, it is a good idea to have something small to recognize they chose to be there for you and to thank them. How about a beer or coffee mug? Sunglasses if it’s a summer wedding?

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Or maybe you just want to take some time to get coffee, a beer, or a burger with them before the wedding hits. (Some time other than the bachelor party); low key hang-out which you can do with everyone or each individually.

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Ring bearer, Flower Girl gifts

For a kid being in a wedding requires a lot of patience, wearing fancy clothes all day, and a large amount of time spent with grown-ups. So taking the time to thank them for being good is important. I chose to buy my flower girl  jewelry from Claire’s: a little costume pearl bracelet set and a necklace.

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Again, you do not have to give jewelry. What do little girls like?  Bubbles, coloring books, dolls, stuffed animals, get creative!!  I did not have a ring bearer but think about giving him small toys like bouncy balls, hot wheel cars (or a cheap version), coloring books, toy dinosaurs etc. Of course remember to buy age appropriate toy!!

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Volunteer Helpers:

I had good friends volunteer to do my hair and another to do my makeup. I knew neither one of them would accept a check for their services. So instead I bought them both gift cards for facials from our esthetician friend.  You may have all paying services, but if you have asked a friend to MC, be the DJ, wedding coordinate, take photos/video, or professionally do everyone’s hair/ makeup and they are not getting paid for it-consider at least a 5 dollar Starbucks thank you card.

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I gave these thank yous to my helpers the day of the wedding but you can always mail it to them later if you are concerned about them getting lost in the after wedding clean-up.

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Mom: (person that helped you plan/coordinate the most)

For me it was important to recognize my Mom. She was my right hand women during the whole engagement process: dealing with my stressed moments and helping me make decisions, stick to a budget, and a timeline.  So I bought my mom a ring with amber and amethyst colored stones which she could wear at the wedding.

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Your mother may not be your go-to girl. Maybe it is your maid of honor, a sister, a cousin, a roommate, or best friend. Whether you can afford a gift or not taking the time get to coffee or drinks, or just pulling them aside in the middle of pre-wedding events to share your appreciation is important. You know that without them you would have given up on trying to properly get down the aisle and given into the temptation to elope months ago.

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Grooms/Brides gift

In some circles it is also tradition that the night before the wedding the bride and groom give each other a small gift; something simple to say “thank you for getting through the past few months of craziness with me”.  After the wedding rehearsal, Luke and I sat in the car for a few quiet moments alone.  It is then that I chose to give Luke a card expressing some thoughts I felt more comfortable writing out for him then reading out-loud the next day. With this card came a Princess Bride themed mug that said “mawidge is what bwing us togevver today” and a bag of expresso beans from our favorite coffee shop. He now uses this mug for coffee breaks at work.

I got a canvas tote bag saying the same phrase

I got a canvas tote bag saying the same phrase

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Again, these gifts do not have to cost much or anything at all. Maybe it is important you express how you are feeling about your wedding the next day or want to give each other a card that says so.  Or maybe it’s important to just have a few minutes together:  go on a walk, get coffee or ice cream; something simple, something normal.

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The most important thing for all of these people is to express that you are grateful they were apart of your engagement and are there to support you on your wedding day. It  doesn’t matter how you express your thankfulness or how much you spend on their gifts-you know how best to tell them thank you.

Homemade Pico De Gallo

Last week I gave you the recipe for our some like it hot: kicking mac n’ cheese and awhile back I posted a picture of a new summer time meal: fish tacos (see stars hollow, fireworks, and minions) both use an essential piece: my homemade pico de gallo (which I promised last week I’d share the recipe for).

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I make a big batch at the beginning of a week when I have a few recipes I will use it for. Whether it is to top off some chicken or fish, an add in for pasta, a topping for our burrito bowls (recipe will show up for this meal at some point), or a great healthy veggie snack to go with some crackers, pico de gallo has become a standard around the Greene house.

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Here’s what I do:

-Get out a large cutting board, sharp chopping knife, and mixing/storing bowl.

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Take 1 to 2 green Peppers

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-Chop off about a 1/8 of an inch to a 1/4 from the stem top.

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-Taking the knife circle around the inside edge of the pepper and pull out the center and seeds.

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-Chop the pepper(s) into strips; lay them in rows on their side then dice them into squares.

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-Rock the knife back and forth along the pepper(s) dicing them and add them to the bowl.

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Take 2-4 medium on the vine tomatoes

– Chop off the stem at the top.

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-Slice tomato(s)  into rounds.

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-With you thumb and forefinger push out all the seeds. To elevate mess, do this either over a trash can or the sink.

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-Layer tomato slices on top of each other and cut horizontal and then vertical into squares.

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-Again dice like the pepper(s) then add to the bowl.

Take 1-2 medium white or yellow onions

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Without peeling, cut off both tips.

-Laying the onion(s) on one of the flat ends cut it in half.

-Peel the top layers of skin off the onion(s) halves.

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– Place the onion(s) on their flat end again and slice into thin wedges.

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-Pushing the wedges together turn the onion and slice the other direction.

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-Once again dice then add to the bowl.

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Option: Jalepenos

I did not use jalepenos in this batch. The longer jalepenos (and especially their seeds) sit in a mixture the more kick they give. If using jalepenos follow the directions for cutting the green peppers and be aware of how many seeds you put in to the bowl, for less heat=less seeds and vice versa.

Option: Cilantro

 Cilantro is great fresh and you can get it at most groceries stores. Pick off the healthiest leaves then dice them. I would only add cilantro if you are going to use all your pico de gallo in one sitting. If you are making a large batch for the week the cilantro will wilt at the least and potentially become slimy.

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Once all veggies are diced, sliced, and chopped it’s time to add some flavor:

I add a little olive oil, lime juice, and white vinegar. You can use vegetable oil instead of olive oil or lemon juice instead of lime but I find this to be the best combo.

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Last I add some the spices: salt, pepper, and garlic.

I am not providing measurements for spices and oils; my suggestion is start with minimal, taste check, then add more. With too many spices and or oils (especially vinegar) the veggies are apt to dissolve and be soggy if you keep it in the fridge for a few days

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The best ways to keep it fresh is either a sealable storage lid or foil wrap.

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The pico de gallo takes a little time to make, but it’s great when half the prep. for  veggie sides are done for the week.

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What is your favorite veggie topping or side?