Valentine Cupcake Ideas

 By:  Vickie W

Valentine Cupcake Display

Looking for some Valentine cupcake ideas? Make Valentine’s Day extra special with this great cupcake display! Cupcakes and a cupcake display are easy ways to treat your friends and family for Valentine’s Day.  My friend, Oma, made this cupcake display for her grand kids.  The cupcakes were made with a mix and  then she embellished the cupcakes with pink icing and heart shaped sprinkles.  Valentine cupcake picks were used as the topper.  You could use a strawberry cake mix for pink cupcakes or swirl some vanilla cake mix and strawberry cake mix together for a marbled effect.  

Cupcake stands are inexpensive and really add pizzazz to your table.  If you can’t find them locally, you can order cupcake stands online. You can also buy really cute toppers and cupcake liners with many different designs and colors.    This would turn and simple gathering into a party! Cupcakes are really trendy now.  Cupcake displays are often included on dessert buffet tables.  I have even seen them served at wedding receptions.  Kids ( and adults) of all ages love cupcakes.  If you are serving adults, you may want to make two cupcakes per person, especially if you are serving men.  You can bake a batch in no time and with just a little creativity, the cupcakes become fun for everyone.

If you have kids or grand kids, you could get them involved in making and decorating the cupcakes.  Cupcakes are very easy to mix up and even small children can get involved.  Have a variety of sprinkles and toppers available so everyone can choose their favorite!   When you share this activity with your kids, cupcakes become more than just a dessert….They become a memory your kids will long remember.        

A cupcake display would be great for an office party,  school party or a dessert buffet.  

What a great way to “Make Life Special” for Valentines Day!  

 

 

 

What Are You Doing for Lunch?

What Are You Doing for Lunch?

Not Just a Cookbook

A Friendly Guide to Brown Bagging as a Better Way to Lunch

By: Mona Meighan, Ed.D.

What Are You Doing fo Lunch 

Gift Guide Age Recommendation:­  18+

 

Review

I wish I had this cookbook a few years ago when I was working an 8-4 at a large insurance agency.  I cannot tell you how many salads I ate during my tenure there.  Or, how many times my lunch plans (salad) did not sound appealing and I went out for lunch.

 

What Are You Doing for Lunch? addresses many aspects of brown bagging it:  Cost, Health, and Convenience.  Meighan gives you 8 steps to planning a week of lunches.  If you aren’t quite ready to dive into planning your menu yet, this book also gives you 20 days of Lunches for you to try.

 

The best part is that no recipe in What Are You Doing for Lunch? takes longer than 20 minutes to prepare.  And, for the budget conscious, no recipe costs more than $5 per serving – many cost a dollar per serving!

 

I chose to try out What Are You Doing for Lunch? by cooking the Homemade Meatballs.  I was skeptical.  The prep was easy.  The ingredients simple.  And, my husband is picky.  I decided to kick it up a notch and toss the meatballs in a homemade marinara.

Lunch Meatballs Cooking

Then, I decided to recreate one of my favorite dining out lunches.  I turned them into a meatball sandwich with provolone cheese and a side of potato chips.

Lunch Meatball Sandwich

It was delicious.  We had enough meatballs for 2 adults and 1 child.  My son decided to eat his without the bun.

Lunch Meatballs for Kids

And, there were enough leftovers to feed 2 more adults and 1 child.  Basically, it was two lunches for a family of 3.  This mama was very happy.

 

Who would like this gift?

 

I think this cookbook would be great for the new college graduate, the cubicle worker, office temp, budget conscious executive, or homemakers who need some new ideas for ways to jazz up their lunches.

 

Where to Buy

For $13.46  you can purchase this cookbook at Amazon.

 

For More Information

You can visit Cherie Kimmons’ Website .

 

Reviewed by: Nicole

 Note:  News & Experts graciously supplied me with a copy of What Are You Doing for Lunch?  for review.  No other compensation was received.  The review in this post is honest and my own.

CONTEST CLOSED Lets Get Together Cookbook Giveaway

Cookbook Giveaway

Lets Get Together Cookbook Giveaway

Giveaways are Great!!!!

I love to offer giveaways here at Make Life Special and this cookbook giveaway is a gift from me to my readers!  

Learn the secrets for keeping the fun in cooking for friends.  You can spend more time enjoying your company when you follow these easy and delicious recipes.   

This cookbook features recipes for breakfasts and brunches, appetizers, salads, soups, sandwiches, entrees, side dishes, desserts and drinks.  There is also a chapter on gifts of food.  The cookbook offers suggestions for easy menus for entertaining too.  This book makes it easy to put together a single memorable meal or an entire weekend of good food.  

Recipes such as Apple Cinnamon Stuffed French Toast or DeeDee’s Best Waffles are tempting breakfast fare.  Grilled Summer Vegetables, Chili Blanco, Classic Macaroni and Cheese, Creamy Crunchy Potato Bake and Mom’s Favorite Gingerbread with Hot Lemon Sauce are just a few of the delicious recipes found throughout this cookbook.  

giveaways

Let’s Get Together

Let’s Get Together Will Make a Great Addition To Your Cookbook Collection!

Giveaways are great and you could be the lucky winner!  

We LOVE Giveaways!

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1.  Tell us about your favorite recipe for entertaining… is it a cheese ball…or maybe chili…or ribs?  We would love to hear about it!   

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Salsa Black Beans Recipe

black beans recipe

Salsa Black Beans

There Is a Lot To Be Said For Easy!  My Salsa Black Beans Recipe is Super Easy!

Everyone is so busy….who has time for long, complicated recipes?  Not me!  That’s why I feature easy and creative recipes for BUSY people on Make Life Special!  I know what it’s like to have a full time job, raise kids, go to softball games, basketball games, scout meetings, committee meetings, juggle the household chores, pay the bills, grocery shop, be the fix it person…and generally try to make everything alright for everyone in your family!  With your time at a premium, you need easy recipes that are great tasting.  

Try my Salsa Black Beans Recipe With Your Next Mexican Dinner!

This black beans recipe uses the convenience of canned black beans and canned salsa for a surprisingly easy and tasty side dish.  No one ever guesses how easy this is!

Salsa Black Beans Recipe
 
Prep time
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Total time
 
You can vary the flavor by using mild, medium or hot salsa. You be the judge!
Author:
Recipe type: Side dish
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 to 1½ cups salsa
Instructions
  1. Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and heat.
  2. Enjoy!

 

black beans recipe

Salsa Black Beans Recipe Ingredients

 You can vary the flavor of this recipe by using either mild, medium or hot salsa.  My family prefers the taste of medium salsa but you be the judge!

Black beans are a great source of protein and fiber.  This means that they will satisfy your hunger and keep you filling full and energized for hours.  Not only that….they taste good!  This Salsa Black Beans recipe is a perfect side dish for your next Mexican meal but it is also good served alongside any meat.  I like to serve this with roasted pork tenderloin, grilled chicken, pork chops or grilled hamburgers.  Once your family tastes this, you will be making it often.  And, this is also a very economical dish to make.  It is easy on your budget and great for you too!  Ole!

 

Onion Roasted Potatoes

Potato Recipes

Onion Roasted Potatoes

Every BUSY cook needs easy potato recipes!  

My recipe for Onion Roasted Potatoes is simple to make!  You just throw together the three ingredients and bake for only 30 minutes!  We are grilling steaks tonight so I’m making Onion Roasted Potatoes as a side dish.  Onion Roasted Potatoes are a snap to make because you don’t even peel the potatoes.  Just diced them up, toss with a little olive oil and a packet of Dried Onion Soup Mix and these are ready for the oven!

Onion Roasted Potatoes
 
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Total time
 
Author:
Recipe type: Side Dish
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 medium potatoes, diced with the skins left on
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 packet dry onion soup mix
Instructions
  1. Combine all of the ingredients and pour into a greased casserole dish.
  2. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes

 

potato recipes

Ingredients

Just dice, combine and bake!  Easy…Easy!!

Here are the Onion Roasted Potatoes hot out of the oven.

Onion Roasted Potatoes Hot Out Of The Oven

Onion Roasted Potatoes Hot Out Of The Oven

And now for a few nutrition facts about potatoes.  Did you know that one medium potato has only 110 calories?  A medium potato is fat free, sodium free and cholesterol free.  A medium potato has 45% of our daily value for Vitamin C.  In addition to all of that, the skin has lots of good for you fiber. Baking and roasting are healthy ways to cook potatoes.  

You might also want to check out my Perfect Baked Potatoes Recipe with Baked Potato Bar.  It’s a great choice for entertaining because your guests just assemble their own loaded baked potatoes!  And don’t forget Potato Smashers!    They are like potato skins…loaded with lots of crisp bacon and sharp cheddar cheese…YUMMY! 

 What are your favorite potato recipes?

 

   

 

One Pot Pasta

Pasta Recipes Add Lots of Flavor To Your Week Night Meals!

One Pot Pasta
One Pot Pasta

 Looking for Easy Pasta Recipes?

Easy pasta recipes are a must for BUSY cooks and this One Pot Pasta is crazy good … it all cooks in one pan in about 10 minutes!  You do not cook the pasta separately!  You literally throw it all in the pot and cook it!  What could be easier?  And best of all…this is delicious!  You can serve it just as it show above, or you can add a simple Marinara Sauce for extra pizzazz.  Try topping this with my Quick Marinara Sauce Recipe.

 

Ladle Quick Marinara Sauce Over One Pot Pasta
Ladle Quick Marinara Sauce Over One Pot Pasta

  

One Pot Pasta
 
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 12 ounces linguine pasta
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes, including the juice
  • 1 large onion, cut in julienne strips
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • dash of red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • handful of fresh basil, sliced
  • 4½ cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Grated Parmesan cheese for serving
Instructions
  1. Place dry pasta, canned tomatoes, onion, garlic and basil in a large pot. Pour vegetable broth over everything in the pot. Sprinkle with the red pepper flakes and the oregano. Drizzle the olive oil over the top.
  2. Cover pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes but stir this every 2 minutes. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  3. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Stir the pasta well and serve.
  5. Garnish with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese if desired.
  6. Note: You might want to top this with my Quick Marinara Sauce recipe!

 It’s hard to believe, but you really just dump all of the pasta ingredients into a pot and simmer for 10 minutes!  This is one of the easiest pasta recipes I have ever made!

One Pot Pasta Ingredients
One Pot Pasta Ingredients

As this cooks, the starch cooks out of the pasta and creates a yummy sauce.  You do not drain this after it cooks.  You just let this cook and it makes its own sauce!

Cooking the One Pot Pasta
Cooking the One Pot Pasta

After the 10 minutes of cooking time, uncover and cook a couple of minutes more to reduce the sauce to the consistency you desire.  

Easy Pasta Recipes are Great for Busy Cooks!

You can dish this up and serve it as is, or you can top it with my Quick Marinara Sauce Recipe.  Either way, it’s delicious!

 

 

Vickies Quick Marinara Sauce Recipe

Vickie's Quick Marinara Sauce Recipe

Vickie’s Quick Marinara Sauce Recipe

You won’t ever buy the canned marinara sauce again after you taste my Quick Marinara Sauce recipe!  This recipe is easy to make and only has five ingredients.  Like all of my Make Life Special recipes, this will have you in and out of the kitchen in no time!

Marinara sauce is a traditional Italian tomato sauce recipe that is usually made with olive oil, garlic and of course,  tomatoes.  My recipe uses the convenience of canned crushed tomatoes and it is delicious.  I add a handful of fresh minced basil right before serving to add a wonderful burst of fresh flavor!  

Marinara sauce is great on pasta, pizza, fish or meat.  I served it with my One Pot Pasta shown above.  You could also use this in my Baked Goat Cheese Marinara recipe.  

You could easily turn this into a meat sauce by adding browned ground beef or meatballs.  

Vickies Quick Marinara Sauce Recipe
 
Prep time
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You can whip up this marinara sauce in no time!
Author:
Recipe type: Sauce
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes, including the liquid
  • handful of minced fresh basil
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring for about 1 minute.
  2. Add the tomato paste and cook and stir for one more minute.
  3. Add the canned tomatoes with the liquid and simmer 10 minutes.
  4. Stir in the minced fresh basil right before serving.

Saute Garlic in olive oil Add Tomato Paste 

 Add crushed tomatoes Add Fresh Basil at the end

 This marinara sauce can be stored up to a week in the refrigerator and up to 6 months in the freezer.  

I like this recipe because you can make this sauce while your pasta is boiling and have dinner on the table in no time.

Ready to Serve

 

Vickie's Quick Marinara Sauce Served Over One Pot Pasta

Vickie’s Quick Marinara Sauce Served Over One Pot Pasta

Remember, “Let’s Make Life Special by sharing great food with our family and friends!  Enjoy!”

Crockpot Fiesta Chicken

Fiesta Crockpot Chicken

Fiesta Crockpot Chicken

 Looking for some easy Crockpot Chicken Recipes?

Crockpot Fiesta Chicken is one of the easiest and tastiest crockpot chicken recipes I have ever made!  I love crockpot cooking because I can have delicious meals on the dinner table and my crockpot does all of the work.   This recipe bakes in the crockpot for a total of four hours on high.  The delicious sauce goes on during the last 30 minutes of cooking for a real Mexican taste sensation!

Crockpot Fiesta Chicken
 
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Total time
 
This dish is a Mexican taste sensation!
Author:
Recipe type: Main Dish
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 4 or 5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 16 oz salsa
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 1 can black beans, drained
  • 1 to 1½ cups shredded cheddar cheese or Mexican cheese blend
  • Garnish with slices of green onions, additional salsa and sour cream
Instructions
  1. Spray crockpot with Pam. Place chicken breasts into crockpot, cover and cook on HIGH for 3½ hours. Drain juices off.
  2. Mix together the softened cream cheese, salsa, drained corn and drained black beans. Pour over the chicken breasts and cook an additional 20 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle cheese on top. Cook 10 more minutes to melt the cheese.
  4. Serve over rice. Garnish with green onion slices, salsa and sour cream.

 

Crockpot Fiesta Chicken Ingredients

Crockpot Fiesta Chicken Ingredients

Cook the chicken breasts in the crockpot on HIGH for 3 1/2 hours.  Drain the juices off.  Stir together the softened cream cheese, salsa, drained corn and drained black beans and pour over the chicken.

Fiesta Sauce for Chicken

Fiesta Sauce for Chicken

Bake in the crockpot an additional 20 minutes.  Sprinkle cheese on top and bake another 10 minutes to melt the cheese.

Serve over rice.  I like to serve this over brown rice.

Garnish with sliced green onions, additional salsa and dollops of sour cream. Ole!

Remember, “Let’s Make Life Special by sharing great food with our family and friends!  Enjoy!”

 

 

Goulash Baked Pasta Recipe

Baked Pasta Goulash

Baked Pasta Goulash

This Goulash Baked Pasta Recipe is perfect for week night meals!

Are you looking for an easy baked pasta recipe?  Everyone in my family loves this Goulash.  My Mom cooked Goulash a lot when I was growing up but she never baked it.  She always just made it on top of the stove and it was really good.  But I ramped up the recipe and then added the baking time to really take this easy family pasta dish over the top!  The recipe only has 5 ingredients.  I always say that if you can boil water, you can cook this dish!

Watch my cooking tutorial here

Video: Goulash Baked Pasta Recipe

This Goulash Baked Pasta Recipe is home style goodness at its finest! Cheese and pasta and tomato combine to make this favorite week night casserole!

Goulash Baked Pasta Recipe
 
If you can boil water, you can cook this Goulash Baked Pasta Recipe!
Author:
Recipe type: Pasta
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup macaroni
  • 1 can tomato soup
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Instructions
  1. Brown the beef and onion. Drain. Cook the macaroni in lightly salted water until done and drain.
  2. Mix the beef, onions, macaroni, soup and ½ cup of the cheese together.
  3. Pour into a greased casserole dish and top with the remaining cheese.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.

 

This Goulash Baked Pasta Recipe is easy and economical!

Baked Goulash Ingredients

Baked Goulash Ingredients

Brown the ground beef and onions and drain.  Cook the macaroni until done and drain.  Add the cooked macaroni to the beef and onion mixture.

Add Cooked Macaroni to the Beef and Onion Mixture

Add Cooked Macaroni to the Beef and Onion Mixture

Stir in the tomato soup and 1/2 cup of the cheese.

Add Tomato Soup and 1/2 Cup of the Cheese

Add Tomato Soup and 1/2 Cup of the Cheese

Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes.

 

Sprinkle Cheese on Top

Sprinkle Cheese on Top

Remember, “Let’s Make Life Special by sharing great food with our family and friends!  Enjoy!”

Vickie Cooks Baked Goulash

Vickie Cooks Baked Goulash

 

 

Contest Closed Babycakes Cake Pop Maker Giveaway!

Kohl’s supplied us with one Babycakes Cake Pop Maker for this giveaway.  No compensation was received.  The views expressed in the review and giveaway are true and honest and are my own.  Thank you Kohl’s for sponsoring this giveaway!

Babycakes Cake Pop Maker

Babycakes Cake Pop Maker

Would you love to win a Babycakes Cake Pop Maker?

Several months ago we reviewed the Babycakes Cake Pop Maker.  This little appliance is fun for the whole family!  You can make 12 bite size cake pops, brownie pops or donuts in just minutes!  It is compact and easy to store.  It has a non stick surface which is very easy to clean.  There are endless decorating options with icings, glazes, sprinkles etc.  You can use a regular box cake mix to make these.  A single layer size cake mix will make about three dozen cake pops.  

Your family will be eating these as soon as they are decorated so be prepared to make several batches! 

Check out our video review 

Video: Babycakes Cake Pop Maker Review


The Babycakes Cake Pop Maker is fun for the whole family! You can make 12 bite sized delights in just minutes!

This great giveaway is values at $ 30 and there are several ways to win!  You can enter more than once.  Winner will be chosen by Random.org

Contest Ends on Wednesday July 25th, 2013 at 8:00PM CST

Enter to win the Babycakes Cake Pop Maker!

  1. Tell me what you will make in the Babycakes if you win.
  2. Tell us if you will make these with your kids or grand kids.
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  6. Tell us how you would decorate the cake pops if you win!

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