Champagne Jello Shots

Happy (almost) New Year!

As mentioned a million times, I love cute, fun food (and let’s be honest, adult beverages).  I’ve seen these Champagne Jello Shots floating around online and decided to give them a go for New Years Eve!

They were super easy to make and based on the ingredients have a little kick to them.  Hopefully we make it until midnight after trying these suckers!

I chose this recipe from

Champagne Jello Shots



– 1 1/2 C. champagne (divided)
– 1 Tbl lemon juice
– 1 Tbl sugar
– 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin (I used Knox, note 4 envelopes come in one box)
– 1/4 C vodka
– sprinkles of choice

Combine 1 1/4 cups of the champagne, lemon juice, and sugar in a saucepan.  Sprinkle gelatin on top.  Let the gelatin soften / sit for two minutes then heat mixture over low heat.  Stir until gelatin has completely dissolved and remove from heat.  Stir in remaining champagne and vodka

Grease a loaf pan (I doubled the recipe so used an 8×8 pan) and pour mixture into mold.  Chill for 2 hours, or until firm.

Top with sprinkles and enjoy!

A complete and somewhat unrelated sidebar – I love puzzles.  So when I took these out of their pan to take the photo, naturally I had to put them back exactly how they were in the pan.  There is something so satisfying about placing that last piece in a puzzle am I right?  Anyone?  (OK I need a life…but that may have been my favorite part of the process).

Happy New Year!!



7 Make-Ahead Holiday Appetizers

This is how it started.  I had a whole weekend where I had nothing to do – A WHOLE WEEKEND.  Bored and “needing a project” I decided that my festively decorated home was a waste since only my husband and I would see it.  So I (after consulting with my husband) decided we should have a party!

Well then when I had a second WHOLE WEEKEND with no specific activities, I decided we should paint all of the trim in our home in preparation for said party….super aggressive and unnecessary move.

Three days before our party we were doorless, knee deep in white paint (even Stella got paint on her), and had a growing guest list of 25+ people.

It was at this moment that I was SUPER pumped I had pre-made over half of my planned menu.  As mentioned, I hate having to rush the week of a party.  You already have to worry about cleaning, decorating, buying ice, (and in this case finishing your home project).  Being able to pull appetizers out of the freezer is a huge time win!

So if you are looking to get ahead of the holidays, here are some great make-in-advance appetizers (in order of fan favorites)

1.) Buffalo Chicken Bites: I used mini muffin tins to make them more cute (aka bited-sized 😉 and to maximize the recipe).TIP: Spray your pan REALLY well!

2.) Spinach Dip & Fillo Cups: I love that this was the second favorite because it is all store bought. While you have to prep this the day-of (max 10 min.), you can buy the ingredients in advance and its super quick.  You literally buy your favorite spinach dip from the store (for me it’s the stuff from Costco) and put it into the Athens Mini Fillo Cups and pop in the oven on about 300 degrees for 10 minutes or so.  You can find the Fillo Cups in the frozen food section by pie crusts and desserts at most grocery stores.

3/4.) Southwest Turkey Meatballs with Creamy Cilantro Dipping Sauce and Asian Turkey Meatballs With Lime Sesame Dipping Sauce: Someone had made these for a bridal shower I attended and I liked that they were a somewhat healthy and hearty option! (they also worked slick in the new triple crockpot my HUSBAND bought on BLACK FRIDAY all on his own.  He knows the way to my heart…)

5/6.) Sweet & Salty Family Chex Recipes: I’m not sure where the salty chex recipe came from, but it is a staple in my family.  My dad has been making it for years, in the same giant yellow plastic bowl.  It is the right blend of spice and salt and I love that the recipe is written on a crusty, over-used post-it.  Luke’s mom, Roxie, also makes the most amazing sweet Chex at all holidays and it is a HUGE hit as well! I guess we have Chex connoisseurs in our families?! (recipes below)

7.) Sausage Stuffing Balls with Cranberry Dipping Sauce: I liked this appetizer because it seemed festive and was a bit heartier.  It was also still cute (again I like my food bite-sized) and a great use of leftover Thanksgiving stuffing!

Outside of the treats above, we also had:

  • Caprese Skewers
  • Veggies and Dip (Remember my mom’s dill dip recipe?)
  • Bacon-Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese:  This is my party trick and Luke’s favorite
  • Shrimp Cocktail Dip (also a Tucker family holiday staple)
  • Bruschetta Bar (aka French bread, pesto, olive tapenade, and this bruschetta recipe)
  • Cranberry Pecan Mini Goat Cheese Balls (from this site)
  • Mini Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecakes (from this site – I made these in advance and froze them along with the truffles below!)
  • Peppermint Oreo Truffles (from this site)
  • a Hot Cocoa Bar (using this super unhealthy-but-tasty recipe from Pinterest) with optional Rumchata or Peppermint Schnapps 🙂
  • Christmas Charades that I printed from this site
  • And a lot of beverage options!

Needless to say we all had plenty to eat/drink and were very merry – It was a successful party and 100% worth the chaos leading-up to it!

Happy Holidays!

Here are the rest of the recipes:

Salty Chex

– 1 Cup mixed nuts
– 2 Cups pretzels
– 3 Cups each chex (rice, corn, wheat)
– 2 Cups cheese crackers (cheese-its, etc)

For the Sauce:
– 1 Tbl salt
– 3/4 tsp onion powder
– 8 Tbl butter, melted
– 1 tsp garlic powder
– 1 Tbl lemon pepper
– 4 Tbl worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Combine dry ingredient and set aside.  Melt butter then combine with spices.  Pour over chex mixture and mix to combine.  Bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

Sweet Chex

In a large roaster pan lined with aluminum foil, combine:
– 3/4 box of Crispex cereal
– 2 cups pretzels
– 1 small can mixed nuts
– 3/4 cup M&Ms

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a small sauce pan, bring to a boil:
– 2 sticks butter (not margarine)
– 2 cups brown sugar
– 1/2 cup light karo syrup

Pour sauce over layered mixture but do not stir.  Place in oven for 7 minutes – remove and stir well

Return to oven for another 7 minutes – remove and stir, then spread to cool.

Break it up and store in a tight container or bags – can be frozen for 2-3 weeks

Caprese Skewers

– Cherry Tomatoes
– Basil
– Mozzarella pearls
– Balsamic Glaze
– Toothpicks

Layer tomato, basil, mozzarella ball on a toothpick then drizzle with balsamic glaze!

Bacon Wrapped Dates

– Pitted Dates
– Package of Bacon
– Goat Cheese
– Brown Sugar
– Chili Powder
– toothpicks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil then place a cooling rack on-top, heavily sprayed with cooking oil. (this allows the bacon grease to drip to the aluminum vs. cooking the dates in a pool of grease)

Slice a slit in the dates and stuff with goat cheese.  Wrap in 1/3 slice of bacon and insert a toothpick through the whole date.

Place the dates on the sprayed cooling rack and sprinkle with brown sugar and chili powder.  Bake approximately 20 minutes, flipping once.

Shrimp Cocktail Dip

– 8 oz. cream cheese (I subbed dairy free)
– 1/2 to 3/4 cup chili sauce
– 1/2 green pepper, chopped
– 1/2 to 3/4 cup chopped shrimp (I buy frozen salad shrimp)
– 1/2 to 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
– 1 small can chopped black olives (optional)
– tortilla chips

On a serving tray, spread cream cheese then cover with chili sauce.  Spread green pepper, shrimp, cheese, and olives until evenly covered.

Serve chilled with tortilla chips

Game Day in 20 Minutes

Saturday morning Luke and I left my Grandma’s house with both a food and literal hangover (things got rowdy at the legion the night before with family). Our goal was to get back into town to watch the Gopher vs. Badger football game (a big rivalry for us Midwesterners) and we were tracking to get back with about 30 minutes to spare.

On the way we decided we wanted to have a couple of people over, and much to Luke’s dismay I can’t just order pizzas when I “host,” so I was challenged with finding a few things to whip-up in a short amount of time.

Over the years I’ve learned to have a few staples in the house at all times: Chips, Sour Cream, Salsa, Crackers, Cream Cheese, mayo, ranch/Italian dressing mix, and shredded cheese. There is so much room for activities with these!

With these basics (plus a quick stop at the store) I made a beer dip and pickle dip (was craving pickles wrapped in cream cheese/salami – aka MN Sushi – but it would have taken too long):

Beer Dip

– 16 oz. cream cheese (I subbed dairy free)
– 1 Packet ranch dressing Mix
– 2 Cups shredded cheese (I skipped this)
– 1/3 Cup beer

Mix together and serve with pretzels!

Pickle Dip

– 8 oz. cream cheese (I subbed dairy free)
– 8 oz. sour cream (I subbed Greek yogurt to make it a bit healthier)
– 1/4 Cup pickle juice
– garlic powder to taste
– 1/2 to 1 Cup diced pickles
– 1/2 to 1 Cup diced salami

Mix together and serve with crackers!

I also leveraged a few Thanksgiving leftovers – I tend to over-do it, and bought a Costco-sized bag of cherry tomatoes, carrots, and sweet potatoes (which was highly unnecessary). So I also made my mom’s AWESOME veggie dip and loaded sweet potatoes:

Veggie Dip

– 1 Cup mayo
– 1 Cup sour cream (I subbed Greek yogurt to make it a bit healthier)
– “lots” of dill weed (I started with 3 Tbl then added to taste)
– seasoning salt to taste
– onion powder to taste

Mix together and serve with veggies (also really good with potato chips).  It’s best if it can sit for an hour or so.

Loaded Sweet Potato Bites

– 1-2 sweet potatoes – peeled and cut into 1-inch rounds
– seasoning salt
– olive oil
– preferred toppings (bacon bits, cheese, sour cream, green onion, etc.)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Put sweet potato rounds into a large ziplock bag and coat with about 1 Tbl olive oil and seasoning salt.

Place sweet potato rounds on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes until soft in the middle but crisp on the outside

Top with your preferred toppings and bake until melted (another 4-5 minutes)

Serve with sour cream!

Unfortunately, my spread wasn’t enough to help the Gophers win, but it hit the spot in terms of hangover / game-day food!

Maybe next year Gophers….

Gopher Tailgate

I am a proud alumni (alumna?) of the University of Minnesota.  We have the super fierce mascot of Goldy the Gopher (he looks suspiciously like a chipmunk but we don’t talk about it).  Luke and I have had season tickets for the last 4 years with a FABULOUS group of friends, family, family friends, friends-of-friends, and fellow Detroit Lakes folk.  Needless to say it is a welcoming crew that makes the experience for us!

Left: Our tailgate group, Upper right: Luke and I, Lower Right: My cousins joined for this tailgate!

We are lucky enough to tailgate with the tailgate master Dave (and his wife Janine and their son Adam) who get up SUPER early to secure us the best spot in the tailgate lot.  We rotate who provides the food, and this past weekend it was our turn to host!

Picking things that are easy to carry, heat-up, and doesn’t leave a lot of clean-up is key.  MN weather can also be super sketchy in late October so we try to pick things that can be consumed while rocking mittens.

I have been on a slider kick lately so for the main course we opted for two different types of sliders.  I had made these AWESOME cheesy hamburger sliders for a bachelorette party and after a few drinks the ladies thought they were the best thing ever.  I figured the crowd was somewhat similar so I made two pans (40) of those and two pans (40) of ham, bacon, swiss, and spinach sliders.  Both went over well!

I am really big on trying to not be rushed the day-of and prefer to do everything in advance (especially since we try to leave by 8am at the latest to tailgate).  I made the hamburger mixture and bacon in advance but assembled everything the day-of.  Next time I’ll assemble the night before because it took longer than I thought it would.  I made-up the ham/swiss/bacon/spinach sliders and just used the same awesome mustard topping from the cheesy hamburger recipe and it worked great!

I couldn’t figure out a good side so went with two types of soup thinking it would be good for a cool fall day.  I’ve made this recipe for Tomato Basil Soup before and really liked it so I made that only skipped the sausage and traded the kale for spinach (a more tailgate friendly leaf?).  I thought beer cheese soup would be fitting for the occasion as well, so a Pinterest search brought me to this recipe.  Both were a hit and the beauty was I could make them in advance, heat them up the day of, then transfer them to disposable pans to heat-up on the grill at the game!


I kind of went all-out in the dessert department.  My grandma has the most amazing sugar cookie recipe that we have been making since I was a kid (note it has some Brandy in it, so if you make them on a Sunday be sure to buy the ingredients in ahead of time).  I made the cookies in advance, froze them, and frosted them the night before.  I added some meringue powder to the frosting per my mom’s recommendation which hardened it and made them easier to transport.  You can use any powdered sugar frosting, this one is similar to the one I used.

Outside of homecoming it is also the closest game to Halloween so I also threw-in some fun white chocolate-covered “mummy” and “pumpkin” pretzels I found online here (got the candy eyes at Michael’s – of course mine didn’t turn out that cute but not quite a Pinterest fail).


Finally what is a tailgate party without jello shots?!  To stick with the Halloween theme I used a layer of orange and lime jello.  I subbed the cold water for vodka (the full 2 cups on the orange layer, and only 1 cup on the lime layer).  It is homecoming after all so why not act like a college student?!


I finished it off with some chips, taco dip, and maroon/gold labels – it was a hit and to top it off the Gophers won.  Ski U Mah!


Minnesota Nice meets Southern Charm Couples Baby Shower

I had the honor of hosting a couples baby shower for my sister and her husband.  Fun fact – my sister grew-up in Minnesota and my brother-in-law grew-up in Virginia (they currently live in Columbia, SC).  They wanted something casual, so in thinking of a menu I didn’t want just typical barbecue food (although it is delicious).  I decided to leverage their respective cultures and honor the sweet mix of Minnesota Nice and Southern Charm their future baby girl will have!

The menu had favorites from both the south and the north, but I had company in town so I wanted to still keep the prep work to a minimum.  Here is the menu (with some help from my Mom & Aunt Jan)!

The South:

The North:


  • Fruit with my go-to (and crack-like) peanut butter yogurt dip (2-parts peanut butter greek yogurt to one part peanut butter)
  • Veggies & my mom’s famous dill-dip


My cousin, Haley and her boyfriend, Tyler ROCKED the activities!  We had a “draw the baby” game and even an obstacle course.  Then for those who didn’t want to actively participate we had a “late night diaper thoughtsstation.  Here is how it worked:

Draw the Baby:

people had to put an index card on their forehead and draw what they thought Baby Lee would look like – the guest of honor (mother-to-be) then judged the drawings and the winner got a prize!

Obstacle Course:

Tyler put together an AMAZING baby obstacle course simulating giving birth and caring for a baby.  Here are the details:

Directions: Split into teams.  Decide who from the team is doing what, then whoever completes the tasks the fastest wins!

Equipment Needed:
– Balloons
– applesauce
– 1 roll of toilet paper for each team
– drink to finish the round

Here were the tasks:
1.) “Conceive the baby” (blow-up a balloon and tie it, put it up your shirt)
2.) “Induce Labor” (run around the tree)
3.) “Give Labor” (hand-off the balloon to a teammate – note balloon is no longer needed after this point)
4.) “Feed the baby” (feed a teammate applesauce)
5.) “Change the Diaper” (create a diaper using a whole role of toilet paper)
6.) “Put the baby to bed” (feed teammate a drink to finish the game)

So silly, clever, and fun!

Late Night Diaper Thoughts:

We purchased some newborn diapers and had guests write fun / funny sayings on them to help make the diaper changing process more fun!  This was a good activity for people who didn’t want to participate in an active game.


It was so fun putting this together with my family, and we can’t wait to officially meet Baby Lee in December!