July 30, 2014

So, I mentioned in my post on Monday how life for me became pretty busy in the past month. Exciting, but busy! When the Food and Wine Conference ended a few weeks ago, the craziness did not stop there. This past weekend I hopped on an airplane to take a trip to Madison to #ChooseDreams with American Family Insurance!

First of all – for those of you who didn’t already know, I lived in Wisconsin two different times in the past. I had not been back to visit since I was a freshman in high school when my family moved down to Florida. If I was going to go back for a visit, I could not have asked for a better time of the year to do so! So, Isabel, Denise, and I took off from Tampa and had a short layover in Detroit, where we met up with Jennifer before heading on to Madison. Oh my goodness…from the moment we stepped off the airplane I knew our trip was going to be glorious. The weather was perfect…the city of Madison was perfect….the company was fabulous….I couldn’t ask for much more!

Cheeseheads

Of course, as soon as we walked into the Madison airport, we were met with cheese hats. Oh, I’d missed seeing those! Posing for a picture seemed like the right thing to do. We checked in to our hotel (HotelRed – pretty cool place, if I say so), then quickly went out to gather supplies for our demo the next day! We knew we had plans of hitting up the farmer’s market on Saturday morning, but there were some essentials we needed beforehand.

#ChooseDreams wine toast

After some prep work, chatting, and dinner, it was time to hit the hay in preparation for the following day’s activities!

#ChooseDreams Madison

Before our demo, we HAD to visit the farmer’s market. Isabel had been telling us over and over how amazing the Dane County Farmer’s Market is, but seeing and experiencing it in person was pretty much epic. I had to resist the urge to cry every ten seconds as we walked through all of the stands. I wanted to take EVERYTHING home with me, and knowing I couldn’t stuff my suitcase full of produce was a very sad realization.

Squash Blossoms

Everything was locally grown/made and FRESH. And AFFORDABLE. What an amazing place. If I lived in Madison, I would absolutely be at the market every single Saturday.

After the market, it was time for our live event! American Family Insurance has a DreamBank right next to the capital, and it is an absolutely awesome space. The building itself used to be a bank, but they converted it into a DREAM bank. People can visit the bank for interactive events, experts, and tools to help them discover their dreams. You guys – every Sunday they host a Pinterest party! They make a craft based on something discovered on Pinterest. I don’t know about you, but I totally want to be a part of one of those parties….

#ChooseDreams avocado caprese

strawberry salad

Anyway, our demo was all about Fit and Healthy Family Living. Our presentation included four different recipes – all of them were fresh, bright, and delicious! We started with a more traditional caprese salad, followed by a panzanella style caprese salad, and I then did a demo on another caprese twist, involving avocado and cilantro. We also announced the winner of our social media contest and did a demo of her fabulous Bacon chopped salad with strawberry poppyseed dressing recipe. In addition, we shared some tips and tricks on how to get involved in the garden, make healthy twists on family favorites, and how to get your family members active! The entire demo is available to view now!

Sometimes taking a trip to a new place, meeting new people, and experiencing things outside of the norm really allows you to get inspired and invigorated. I have to say, looking around the DreamBank, it was amazing to catch glimpses of what others aspire to. The bank has collections of small keys with tags attached to them – you can write your personal goals/dreams down and they hang them. To see the rows of cascading dream keys definitely put a smile on my face. Whether they are large or small, it is so great to be able to #ChooseDreams and empower ourselves to achieve them!

Thanks again to American Family Insurance for such an awesome #ChooseDreams campaign and for inviting us all to be a part of it. Now…when can I come back to Madison????

July 28, 2014

So: 4 years ago…all the way back in 2010, I launched this little piece of the web. Today happens to be Ruffles & Truffles’ 4th birthday, and I’m taking a few moments to reflect on setting goals…and making changes.

silhouette bird

I find it interesting to look back on my old posts, and it is one of the great things about having a blog. Looking back to get perspective on where you came from, as well as looking forward to the direction you are hoping to go. When I started Ruffles & Truffles, it was just a fun little site for me. I was a hobbyist and enjoyed sharing the things that were going on in my life.

Ruffles & Truffles

Then I got a bit more serious. Even though blogging had just been a hobby for me, I thought it was important to set some realistic goals for myself. In the beginning, my first blog related goal was to be a part of an ad network. I thought it would give me a sense of legitimacy in my blogging. I was oh so pleased when I met that first goal, and it spurred me on to dream a little bit bigger. I began doing some sponsored campaigns, and realized that my passion truly was for the blogging world. The next goal: earn enough income from my site to consider it as a “part time job,” if you will. It took a while, but I’ve crossed the finish line in regard to that goal. And I’ve had some awesome opportunities cross my path in the past four years, from working with one of my favorite stores (Marshalls), to meeting celebrity chefs, to participating in a chili cookoff, to hosting a live food demo…just to name a few. The people, brands, and places I’ve come in contact with over the years have been incredible.

But after reaching my “part time job” goal, I had to set a bigger one. The enormous goal that I always thought about, but in the back of my mind I always figured would be impossible. That goal, of course, was to delve into a full time gig with blogging.

Katie

…and I’m doing it. This is where the making changes part really comes into play. I wanted to pinch myself when the opportunity to work with the Sunday Supper Movement presented itself to me a few weeks ago. A chance to work with a group that I truly believe in and support…a chance to be involved with the blogging world full time…a job that will allow me to push myself technically and creatively…I was SO in.

And by SO in, I’m not kidding. Within a week of starting with Sunday Supper, I was plunged into the final planning period of the Food & Wine Conference…and ran all of the A/V for the weekend. Talk about diving right in to the deep end! It was awesome. If you’ve been wondering why it’s been slightly different and a littler quieter around these parts lately, now you know why! I can’t wait to get back into the swing of things as my “new life” settles in.

Katie and Justin

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not give a special shout out to my husband, who always shows me such support and is one of my biggest cheerleaders when it comes to making my dreams come to fruition. I know I don’t tell him enough, but there is no way I would have been able to come as far as I have without him standing by my side. He has truly become a faithful blogger’s husband…

Sherman & Lucia

As Ruffles & Truffles begins it’s journey on to year five, I can’t wait to see where things progress. It is absolutely mind blowing to me to realize I won’t be returning to my old job at the end of the summer…and that I have been able to make what I thought to be somewhat unattainable goals into a reality. Funny enough, Sunday Supper has been partnering with American Family Insurance for the past few months for their #ChooseDreams campaign, and I have to say it truly has hit home for me. I am so thankful for the opportunities that have come my way that allowed me to choose dreams and bring them into existence. Does it get better than that? I don’t know that it does.

So, happy birthday, Ruffles & Truffles! Here’s to another inspiring year….

June 25, 2014
When you think of summer herbs, what comes to mind? For me, fresh basil pesto is right on the top of the list. Basil is probably my all time favorite herb, and after growing my own in our garden, it became clear to me that fresh picked basil is the only way to go. I have had an overabundance of basil in my garden lately; it’s been a pleasant “problem” to have! I try to use as much of it as possible in my daily dishes, but a few leaves here and there just won’t cut it when my plants are producing like they are!

fresh basil pesto

So…the other day I found myself walking in from the garden carrying a large bowl completely filled to the brim with basil leaves. It seemed like the best option would be to make some fresh basil pesto! The process is simple, as well as the components. But I was missing one of the classic pesto ingredients: pine nuts. Crud. That always seems to happen to me – I get the brilliant idea to create something, and I’m missing one crucial ingredient.
Not to be deterred, I turned to the Internet to search out a recipe for pesto without pine nuts. Surely there had to be a recipe idea out there! Sure enough, I found my recipe inspiration from Skinnytaste with her skinny basil pesto. I made a few tweaks as I went through the process of creating my own version, and was extremely pleased with the results!

fresh basil pesto to freeze

What rocked my socks off even more was that I had extra pesto…quite a lot extra…than I needed on that particular day. Ice cube trays to the rescue! I simply spooned the leftover basil pesto into the wells of the tray, covered it, and popped it in the freezer. Now when I need a bit of fresh pesto, I pop out a cube or two to throw into a dish or to simply defrost and add olive oil for some bread dipping goodness!

fresh basil pesto

If there is one thing I absolutely love, it is a hunk of crusty, warm baguette dipped in pesto with olive oil. When we go out to dinner and a warm loaf of bread with olive oil and pesto are placed at the table, I could pretty much satisfy my hunger by noshing on that alone. Normally, I don’t allow bread in my house…because if left to my own devices, I will devour it without hesitation. But for special occasions…or a weekend of relaxation….I can make an exception. Just pour me a glass of wine alongside this platter and I’m a happy camper.

How about you – are you also a fan of fresh basil pesto?

Fresh Basil Pesto

Fresh Basil Pesto

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  • 6 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • Pinch of salt and pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Add basil leaves (stems removed), garlic, grated parmesan, salt, and pepper to a food processor. Pulse until finely minced (about 20 pulses).
  2. Slowly drizzle olive oil into the processor as you continue to pulse the mixture until all is incorporated. If the pesto is still a bit dry in texture, continue drizzling olive oil until you reach the desired consistency.
  3. Spoon olive oil into a shallow dish or plate and drizzle with herbed olive oil. Dip slices of crusty baguette into the mixture; enjoy!

Notes

Adapted from Skinnytaste

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June 20, 2014

The season of summer entertaining is officially upon us – are you prepared? There is something about summer that immediately makes me want to sit back, relax, and enjoy the company of others. It just seems like the right season to do so! When it comes to entertaining, I do like to keep things simple. You could drive yourself crazy trying to put together an elaborate table, a plethora of items to eat, and the perfect cocktail or drink to accompany it all. I admit: I’ve done it myself a few times. However, I think keeping it simple is pretty much what summer entertaining should be about. Feel free to be laid back – it’s summer! Kick your feet up and enjoy yourself instead of adding the stress of creating the ultimate in perfection.

summer entertaining with Marshalls

So, for my summer entertaining table, I whip out a few essentials. From….you guessed it…Marshalls. The store is always packed with awesome entertaining goods; they aren’t just awesome for clothing and shoes, y’all!!! I find SO many amazing home items at my local Marshalls, and pictured today are just a few of my new favorites.

summer entertaining with Marshalls

If you’re going to be serving food and drink outdoors, I highly recommend obtaining a set of pretty plastic glasses. These goblets are great for water, tea, juice, etc. I also have a set of wine glasses so I don’t have to stress out about broken glass during my get-togethers! The sealed glass bottle is a fantastic option if you’re worried about bugs or other items making their way into your drinks; just pop the top and pour when a refill is necessary.

summer entertaining with Marshalls

When you’re serving food, it is always nice to have a few large plates or trays to display everything nicely. One of my favorite items to serve during my summer entertaining sessions is a platter of charcuterie, cheese, and bread/spreads. Can you go wrong? I don’t think so. I love this textured white platter I scored, and my new wooden tray is quickly becoming a favorite – the handles on the sides make it a cinch to transport whatever I’m serving to and from the kitchen.

summer entertaining with Marshalls

Other items I love to seek out at Marshalls? Their gourmet food options! From sauces to spreads, to marinades and seasonings, you can find some amazing deals and tasty finds. This olive bruschetta is quickly being devoured in my home. I’ve been spooning it onto crackers and rounds of baguette, but I’ve also found myself adding a spoonful on top of my salads. I bet it would make a KILLER muffuletta sandwich. I think I just had my next idea for lunch….

summer entertaining with Marshalls

As for how to set the table – I keep that simple as well! This tablecloth is actually one from our wedding; I kept a few on hand afterward. It washes easily, so it makes it a cinch to throw on the table, and I don’t get too upset if a little spill happens. As for a simple centerpiece – baby’s breath is where it’s at for me! It is affordable and easy to find at your local grocery store. All you have to do is cut the pouf and add it to a vase with a bit of water on the bottom. This mercury glass vase is also from my wedding…but we found them at Marshalls when we were obtaining all of our centerpieces!

summer entertaining with Marshalls

And on a random side note: how about that nail polish? You better believe I picked up this Essie polish (in Sunday Funday) when I spotted it on the shelf at Marshalls! It’s the perfect summer color, don’t you think?

How do YOU like to entertain during the summer months?

 

 

Disclosure: I have received free products or value from Marshalls or The TJX Companies, Inc. 
in connection with my affiliation with Marshalls Project FAB.