We have come to the age of slumber parties and epic sleepovers in our home. If you were anything like me when I was a child, you just couldn’t wait to wake up and find out what would be for breakfast. Making a breakfast bar can be a fun way to serve a large group whether it is your child’s birthday or simply an easy way to entertain guests for the morning. I am partnering with Walmart today to show off a cute display for creating a breakfast bar in your home.
My favorite sleepover when I was a kid involved a huge display of toppings for our waffles and pancakes. I remember as a child delighting in all of the options and I still have that delight even as an adult. Now as mom, I love creating a self-service bar of choices for our meals where everyone can customize their own meals to their own tastes.
Breakfast, in particular, as a buffet is a great idea so that guests can sleep in and then come and create their breakfast whenever they are ready, eliminating the need for you to all be around the table at the same exact time.
Even on busy school mornings, I find that this option would work beautifully since we all arrive at the table at different times. By prepping the toppings ahead, you can save time in the morning and really enjoy that cup of coffee.
Here are some of my suggestions for creating a beautiful and easy breakfast bar spread!
Make Serving Easy With Scoops & Trifle Bowls
Ditch the cereal boxes for an elegant display utilizing clear glass trifle bowls and an inexpensive all-purpose scoop. Give your guests choices by providing more than one selection of cereal.
Create a Simple Toppings Bar
I love to provide a variety of toppings so everyone can make their bowl their own. Fresh strawberries, blackberries, or blueberries can be a wonderful fresh topper. Dried fruits, slivered almonds, or crunchy walnuts can also add variety to your toppings bar. Make an easy batch of granola (I love this vanilla-scented granola or this easy honey nut granola) and add this to the mix for another crunchy layer. Remember to take advantage of what fruits are in-season to make sure you get the most bang for your buck.
Add a Gluten-Free Option
As someone who is gluten-free, I love when there are options for me. Yogurt can be a delicious option and give your guests a chance to also create their own bowl utilizing the delicious toppings you have provided for your breakfast buffet. I like to keep small bowls handy to pour the yogurt out into and giving me room to really layer on the fruit, nut, and granola toppings, just as I would do with cereal. Make sure that you are using gluten-free oats if making your own granola or purchase gluten-free prepared granola if purchasing them.
Make a Pretty Display
If there is one investment that I am glad I have made over the years, it has been in classic white dishes. Display your toppings in pretty bowls and add an inexpensive bouquet of flowers to the center of your breakfast bar. Even if the ingredients are not all homemade, you can still make things feel pretty and upscale with a few inexpensive additions and beautiful plating.
I hope these ideas inspired you for your breakfast. Whether it is a weekday rush or a leisurely morning with out-of-town guests, the breakfast bar can be an easy way to serve a meal!
A recipe for gluten-free breakfast rolls with cranberries and an orange-infused sugar swirl and icing that drips between the cracks and glazes deep into the seams.
Last winter my mother-in-law was diagnosed with celiac disease. As she faced uncertainty in feeding herself after a lifetime of from-scratch baking with wheat flour, I wanted to show her how this wheat-free life could taste delicious, too. My very first step was to hand off a bucket and dough whisk and a collection of gluten-free recipes. I talked to my friend, Zoe, who was up to her eyeballs in recipe testing for her new gluten-free cookbook, and I tried as much as I could to encourage my mother-in-law, Kathleen, to get back into the habit of baking with new flours and textures.
When visiting for the holidays, Kathleen always had breakfast breads waiting for us as we tumbled out of bed to the table. These rolls, filled with a citrus-filled sugar and a bit of spice, are for her this holiday season. A gluten-free breakfast bread that will warm the house and make your tongue sing.
The recipe uses the brioche dough from the recently released Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, the book Zoe was working on so many months ago. I purchased a copy for my mother-in-law and went about sampling everything I could before gifting it to her. Our family is especially fond of the brioche doughnuts. You can check out an apple cider version of the recipe on their website. The book makes a wonderful gift this season for any gluten-free family member or friend looking to reclaim a comforting breakfast bread or just to have a baguette to dip into their soup.
For the sugar swirl and glaze (triple to use all the dough at once):
½ cup granulated sugar
1 orange, juiced and zested
½ teaspoon cardamom
⅓ cup dried cranberries
⅓ cup confectioners' sugar
In a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, cornstach, xantham gum, yeast, and salt. Add in the milk, eggs, honey, melted butter, and the vanilla with the paddle attachment. Allow the dough to rise, lightly covered, for two hours.
Place the risen dough in the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours and up to five days.
When ready to make the rolls, remove the dough from the refrigerator and dust with rice flour. Split into thirds. Take one-third of the dough to make rolls. The remaining dough can be held in the refrigerator or frozen for up to 3 weeks until ready to use (or you could make it all into rolls for a party).
Lightly flour your work surface with rice flour. Press the dough into a ¼" thick rectangle. Mix together the ½ cup granulated sugar, orange zest, and the cardamom. Sprinkle evenly over the dough, sprinkle the cranberries on top of the sugar. Roll the dough into a log, pinching the seam closed.
Cut the log into 2" pieces and arrange in a greased baking dish. (I used a 4-quart baking dish.) Loosely cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until rolls are golden brown.
To glaze, mix together the confectioners' sugar and 1-2 tablespoons of orange juice until a smooth consistency is reached. Drizzle over the warm buns.
Brioche dough and flour from Gluten-Free Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg, M.D., and Zoe Francois.
I have had my calendar booked forever for Peter Pan Live! ever since I heard it was the next live theater production to hit television. Did you hear that it is coming to NBC on Thursday, December 4 at 8/7c? The cast includes several of my favorites like Allison Williams, Christopher Walken, Christian Borle and Minnie Driver. In honor of the film, I have crafted up a watermelon boat that you can share with your kids for your family night together. This fun food craft can be created together, adding your own personal pirate touches, or you can create it to surprise the kids for your family night.
Not many people know this, but I did theatre for many years and my favorite type of shows to do were musicals. My love for this started in high school and I took a year off in between high school and college to do more shows. In fact, I even did a show when I was pregnant with my son. Thankfully, it was of an era with empire waists and flowing Victorian clothing. I miss it a lot and that is, perhaps, why I appreciate the opportunity to catch any production that I can. I also appreciate any opportunity I can get to expose my children to the arts and it is why I put a big significance on this in our home. Not everyone can afford a ticket to see a show and I love that this is an affordable way to enjoy the arts as a family.
Without further adieu, let’s create a fun pirate ship for your family night!
1 pint blueberries
1 pint strawberries
1 pound grapes
1 sharp knife
1 piece of cardstock
5 paper straws (I found these in the party supplies aisle)
1 hole punch
1 pair of scissors
Directions for Watermelon Pirate Ship
1. To help your boat sit upright, slice very thinly the end off of the bottom of the watermelon, making sure not to puncture your watermelon so it can act as a boat for your fruit.
2. Slice the top half of your watermelon off. Set aside.
3. Using a melon baller, remove the meat of your watermelon. If you do not have a melon baller, you can score the watermelon into chunks and glide your knife all around watermelon to help create the shape of your chunks. Use a spoon to then scoop out the squares of melon. Ideally though, a melon baller makes quick work for your fruit salad.
4. Once the melon is completely hollowed out, slice your fruit and place it inside of your bowl, weaving in your watermelon, to create your fruit salad.
5. Now we can make our sails for our ship. Cut out five squares from a single piece of cardstock, any size you wish. I just cut out one square and used it as a template to create the rest of my sails. These do not have to be perfect, in fact, if they are imperfect they look like they are waving a bit in the breeze.
6. Using a hole punch, punch out a punch near the top of the square and then near the bottom to create a place for our straws to slide through. I stacked them all together and then punched them all at once so they would look more uniform.
7. You will then need to cut your straws are varying sizes. I did one long straw, two medium, and then two short. Slide the straw through making sure that the straw is peeking out of the back and not the front of that pretty white sail.
We hope you love this craft we created in honor of Peter Pan Live! and we hope you can catch the show with us! You can learn more about this amazing production here! We can’t wait and hope this idea inspires you for your family night together!
I am very passionate about good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. You may not know that I actually went to school to study to be a dietician so I could help others eat and live better too. Although I never dreamed this would be my job, I am thankful for that background when putting together recipes for our site. I have come a long way over the years toward living a healthier lifestyle. I actually starting eating better because my body was indicating to me that something just wasn’t right after discovering I have a sensitivity to gluten. The other reason is how much better I feel when I eat well and exercise.
Today I am partnering with Celestial Seasoning Tea to share some ways that I try to stay on track for the holidays. You may not have considered tea a delicious (and healthy!) holiday indulgence, but they actually have 8 holiday offerings that include my new favorite Sweet Harvest Pumpkin Black Tea, Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland Herbal Tea, and Caramel Apple Dream that would all be lovely offerings for a post Thanksgiving feast treat.
Looking to stay on track for the holidays? Try these ideas!
Get in a Good Walk Before or After Your Feast
As you know I am absolutely obsessed with my Fitbit and we even shared a great way you can glam it up for the holidays. Tracking my steps each day has been a great reminder to keep active and moving throughout the day. Whether you have a Fitbit, a pedometer, or use an app on your cell phone, try making a step goal for the day and get your steps in before or after your holiday feasts.
Many gyms offer a modified schedule for holidays for die-hard exercise enthusiasts (or just those of us who want to indulge in an extra slice or two of pie). Consider tackling a class in the morning, challenging your family to a game of flag football after your feast, or taking a family walk together after your dessert.
Eat Before You Eat
Since I have to be careful about what I eat for dietary reasons, I often eat before I head to a gathering because I know that many of the foods offered will leave me sick and feeling lethargic. Consider indulging in a healthy meal or snack before heading out to your holiday gatherings that will help fill you up on the good stuff and give your stomach less room to indulge.
I like to keep a bag of spinach and roasted chicken or roasted turkey in my fridge for a quick salad with a few vegetable or fruit additions from the crisper drawer. Having a few items like these on hand during the holiday season will help you to eat healthy between the rush of holiday errands and gatherings. I have never regretted the time spent chopping and preparing my DIY salad bar for busy weeks.
Offer To Bring a Dish
I always offer to bring a dish to family gatherings that I know that I can eat and snack on. Opt for healthy options like a vegetable tray for snacking with a low-calorie dip or a fruit salad that can be a dessert replacement. Consider a lightened up holiday recipe as a dish to bring like these delicious Cranberry-Oatmeal Bars that can be enjoyed without the guilt.
Instead of coffee drowning in creamer opt to enjoy this sweet dessert with a tea that compliments it well. For these bars, I recommend the Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland Herbal Tea or, another one of my personal favorites, Gingerbread Spice.
Even I can’t shy away from the dessert table around the holidays, but there are definitely fun, light desserts you can share in lieu of the calorie-laden pie. To inspire you, here is a delicious Cranberry-Oatmeal Bar you can make for a sweet treat to enjoy with your cup of tea. May I recommend the Celestial Seasonings Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland Herbal Tea as an accompaniment? It is a perfect pairing! The best part, each bar is only 133 calories and has just 4.6 grams of fat.
To prepare crust, weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through cinnamon) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Drizzle butter and juice over flour mixture, stirring until moistened (mixture will be crumbly). Reserve ½ cup oat mixture. Press remaining oat mixture into the bottom of an 11 x 7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray using the bottom of a measuring cup to create a cohesive crust.
To prepare filling, combine cranberries, sour cream, granulated sugar, and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well. Spread cranberry mixture over prepared crust; sprinkle reserved oat mixture evenly over filling.
Bake at 325° for 40 minutes or until edges are golden. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.
One of my children’s favorite things to order when we go out for sushi is a plate of potstickers to enjoy while we watch the sushi chef in his tall paper hat roll out or rice and seaweed and tuck pink-fleshed fish inside. They are second only to sushi itself in my children’s eyes.
While your children may not be on the same sushi train as mine, potstickers are rather universally delicious. A two-bite dumpling with a salty pork meatball tucked inside. But why wait until you head out to enjoy them when they can be made at home?
Once you get the hang of getting potstickers unstuck from the pot, there’s little stopping you from making your own all the time. We like to have a potsticker party, filling and crimping as many as possible, and then freezing them for use later as a quick and easy treat, nearly as easy as heading to our favorite restaurant.
Pulled from the freezer and cooked up on the spot, these meatball-filled dumplings make a wonderful lunch option when paired with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the pork, cabbage, carrot, onions, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil, egg, salt and the black pepper.
Place a small bowl of water near your work surface. Cover the potsticker wrappers with a damp cloth to prevent them drying out.
Place a rounded teaspoon of the pork filling into the center of the wrapper. Lightly wet the edge of the wrapper, and then using your thumb and finger, fold pleats into the dumpling, starting at the center and going towards the cents to form a crescent shape.
Set the filled dumplings on a baking sheet or cutting board, covered with a damp cloth. Continue until all the filling has been used.
To cook, heat 2 teaspoons of oil in a 10" non-stick skillet with a lid over medium heat. Add about 6 dumplings to the skillet. Cook for 3 minutes. Pour in ¼ cup of water, cover, and allow the potstickers to steam for 5-6 minutes, until they are cooked through. and golden brown on the bottoms. Remove the lid and allow the steam to cook off, shaking the pan lightly to encourage the potstickers to dislodge themselves from the pan bottom. Serve warm.
In the Midwest, the fall is probably the most stunning time of year. The weather has cooled to a relaxing temperature and the vibrant colors of reds, yellows, and oranges are emerging in the canopy of trees while slowly taking their turn fading to brown and falling, one leaf at a time, to the ground below. It’s brilliant, heartwarming … comforting.
Of course, when the change in creation starts to become evident that yes, fall is here, it also signals to every woman that it’s time to pull out boots, scarves, chunky sweaters, and leggings. Yes, I love the fall. It’s also during this time of year that I’m sure every stew, soup, and treat is filled with pumpkin. Oh yes, I love to incorporate pumpkin into my dishes during this season and with the farmers market still open for another month, I’ll usually buy about 6-8 pumpkins and keep them in the coolest part of my home where they’ll last me into the winter. Pumpkin bars in January, oh yeah, stocking up is worth it!
With everything pumpkin during this time of year, of course one is going to need pumpkin pie spice. Now, one thing, pumpkin pie spice does not have pumpkin in it. Instead, it’s called pumpkin pie spice simply because it’s the blend of spices that is traditionally used in pumpkin pies. The spice blend can vary by brand but it’s usually a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice, and nutmeg. Me, I like to add a bit of cardamom as well.
I’m sure many of you may be thinking, why make your own when you can buy it already blended. Well, you can make a bigger batch for less money and you can grind your own nutmeg and cinnamon for an even brighter flavor profile. One of my favorite things about making my own spice blends is that I can also add or omit spices just like the addition of cardamom in this recipe.
The pumpkin pie spice is very versatile. You can, of course, use it to spicen up your pumpkin pies, to sprinkle onto roasted pumpkin and other squashes, to incorporate into pumpkin custards, or to sprinkle onto coffee.
Really, you can use it in so many ways. So, this year, why don’t you give homemade pumpkin pie spice a try. I’m sure you’ll love to have it on hand during this comforting time of year.
*This post is sponsored by Celestial Seasonings. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
I don’t travel as much as I used to, thanks to two busy kids with two grueling schedules, but when Celestial Seasonings contacted me to see if I would like to learn more about their teas and how they create them, I just could not turn them down. I credit their Sleepytime Extra with breaking my melatonin habit, I got my husband (who drinks neither tea nor coffee) to indulge in a cup of Sugar Cookie Tea with me on cold days, and I consider all of their holiday teas the ultimate stocking stuffer. I could not wait to hear more about how they develop their products and how I could share about that with my readers.
I was expecting the best in tea offerings because that is what I know as a consumer.
As an observer to the inner workings of the company, I was surprised by the passion and enthusiasm from EVERY employee I talked to. These people have a passion for tea and they have a passion for their customers.
We got the chance to hear about where and how they source all of their ingredients and even heard from a farmer who provides the mint for the tea from his family farm. We got to see, smell, and hear the stories of where the ingredients are sourced and how these herbs are processed into the tea bags. Although Americans might not embrace tea the way our European friends do, it is still the world’s second most popular beverage, topped only by water.
Do you know the difference between the different varieties of teas? I did not until this week!
Herbal “tea” actually does not have any tea in it, it is a combination of herbs, which is why it is naturally caffeine free! Whether hot or iced, naturally caffeine free herbal teas can calm, energize, refresh and delight naturally, depending on their ingredients—including herbs, spices, flowers and leaves.
Black tea, or what we commonly think of when someone mentions “tea”, is made from the dried leaves of Camellia sinensis, a white-flowering evergreen bush about 3–5 feet high, native to China and India. Most people don’t think of black tea as an herb, yet it is the most widely used herb in the world. Black tea actually comes from the same plant as green, white and oolong teas—differences in processing determine which kind of tea the leaves become.
Green tea has become increasingly popular in the United States, but it has been enjoyed in Asia for more than a thousand years, especially in Japanese tea ceremonies. The leaves used for green tea are initially the same as those that make black and oolong teas, but they are steamed right after being picked, so they stay green. Brewing green tea is a little different than brewing herbal or black tea – be sure you use water that is very hot but not quite boiling.
In the mountains of China, white tea is harvested only from springtime’s first tender buds and top leaves that are covered with soft, silvery-white needles. Very simply and naturally dried, white tea retains the unique flavor of a freshly picked tea leaf—mellow, delicate and slightly sweet. This also preserves an even higher level of healthful antioxidants than in green tea. Because it is so delicate, white tea requires less brewing time than green or black tea.
Not only did we get to actually smell, touch, and hear the farming stories behind where the ingredients were sourced, but we also got to do a tasting of teas and experience how these teas are meant to be prepared. What I discovered from this process was that I absolutely leave my tea bags in far too long, especially when it comes to green and chamomile tea, and a shorter duration of steeping really yields a better flavor experience overall. Distilled water was recommended for optimum flavor, but I can’t say that this is an extra step I would take at home. I can, however, be more diligent about removing my tea bag after 1-3 minutes so that I have a better flavor experience overall.
I am a coffee drinker in the afternoons and have always considered tea to be something to relax with only in the evening hours. I asked their team if I was making the afternoon switch from coffee to tea what they would recommend for someone who desires to be highly caffeinated all day long (*ahem*) and they shared that Fast Lane just might be the tea for me. It is a black tea, sold exclusively online and in their gift shop, and this tea has 20 milligrams MORE caffeine per 8 ounce cup than coffee. I snagged a case of it for myself and I am giving a case away below (along with tons more stuff!) for one of you. I believe everyone should be as highly caffeinated as me so I am excited to share this tea with you!
Did you know that you can tour the Celestial Seasonings factory? Check their schedule for factory tour times and consider it a must-see attraction in Boulder. I happened to visit while recovering from a sinus infection and I think there is, perhaps, no greater cure in the world then getting to stand inside the mint room to open up those sinus cavities. Getting to tour the factory gives you a chance to really see how the product is made from start to finish!
One thing I haven’t thought of is using tea more as an ingredient in my cooking. To inspire us, our evening meal was created utilizing the Celestial Seasonings tea in each dish from a delicious tea-infused sorbet to a tea brine on the main dish, a roasted chicken. We also got to have a happy hour where the tea was utilized in simple syrups to create a variety of cocktails. I happily indulged in their Jammin’ Lemon Ginger Drop and came home to make it myself. The combination of the Jammin’ Lemon Ginger Tea brewed into a simple syrup, bourbon, and fresh lemon juice makes an elegant and easy cocktail perfect for entertaining. You can find the recipe below our giveaway today!
Today I am giving away $100 worth of tea and tea accessories from Celestial Seasonings! Not only am I including over a case of Fast Lane tea, but I am also including a few seasonal favorites, a beautiful handmade tea mug, a tea bag holder, and a thermal carafe to take your teas on the go. Follow the instructions below to enter to win!
A fast and delicious cocktail made from Celestial Seasonings Jammin' Lemon Ginger Tea, fresh lemon juice, and a splash of bourbon.
1.5 oz Bourbon
¾ oz fresh lemon juice
¾ oz Jammin’ Lemon Ginger simple syrup (see instructions)
To make the Lemon Ginger Simple Syrup: Combine 4 Jammin' Lemon Ginger Tea bags, 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes. Using two spoons, remove tea bags and squeeze out excess liquid. Allow syrup to cool.
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker as listed above. Add ice and shake. Strain and serve in an old fashioned glass with a sugar rim.
This tomato soup and grilled cheese combo gets an update in the form of golden brown roasted cauliflower florets. It’s just the right combination of classic and new just in time for fall.
I’m giving in, but not without a bit of stomping my feet and audible sighing. Autumn is here, and with it there is a crispness to the air that didn’t accompany my summer evenings. I find myself continually reaching for my sweaters, and although they’re still kicking out a few tomatoes, the production in my garden is slowing mightily.
I even wore boots last week, pulling them from the closet where they sat all summer as I ran around in sandals and low profile tennis shoes, skipping along the pavement in the sunshine. I zipped them up over my jeans and stared in the mirror at my sweatered reflection before heading to the market. There I grabbed as many tomatoes as I could find, hauling them to my car and then home where I rinsed them and diced them and stewed them in a large pot, trying to preserve the flavors of summer for the winter that is just around the corner.
At the end of the session, several pots of tomatoes later, I let the final batch cook down a bit longer, added a sautéed onion and some herbs, and then blended it together as the oven warmed the house right as the sun started to fade. I suppose fall isn’t so bad when it means the return of oven-warmed rooms and the smells that come with baking and roasting.
This soup gets a bit of a twist by placing the roasted cauliflower right on top. Cut your cauliflower into tiny florets so that they can suspend themselves right at the top of the bowl, just getting a bit of a dunk in the thick tomato broth.
In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for5 minutes until translucent. Stir in the garlic.
Add the stewed tomatoes and the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and and simmer for 25 minutes.
While the tomatoes are simmering, preheat oven to 425ºF. In a large bowl, toss together the cauliflower, olive oil, oregano, honey, salt, and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through, stirring once.
When the tomatoes have simmered for 25 minutes, remove from heat and blend in a blender until smooth. Pour back into the pot and heat over medium-low heat, stirring in the milk, basil, and salt. Cook until hot, but do not boil.
Serve with cauliflower sprinkled over the tops of the soup bowls.
Now that school is in full gear, I like to make sure to feed my children nourishing breakfasts to keep them alert and energized throughout the day. Although I educate my children at home, there are still quite a few days during our school week that we need to head out early. Wether it’s for our co-op days, horse riding lessons, exploration days, or other field trips, a quick, on the go healthy breakfast is a must.
For days like these I enjoy baking breakfast muffins that are a cinch to make and travel beautifully.
What I love about breakfast muffins is that you can be pretty flexible with them by adding a variety of nutrient dense ingredients of your liking, making them a great healthy food to serve to your family in the morning. I usually like to add oats, nuts, seeds, and a variety of wet and dried fruits or vegetables to up their nutrient content. In my home, I don’t use very much white sugar; instead, I opt for natural sweeteners like honey, pure maple syrup, coconut palm sugar, and fruit to gently sweeten my breakfast muffins. This, too, adds additional vitamins and minerals.
As I shared with you earlier this year, I’ve grown to really enjoy using einkorn flour in my home. Einkorn flour is more nutritious than modern varieties of wheat. It’s high in thiamin, fiber, and a number of b vitamins. It also contains a significant amount of the the powerful antioxidant, lutein. As compared to modern varieties of wheat, it’s higher in protein and has a lower percentage of nutrient loss during processing. As you can tell, these breakfast muffins are not just tasty but healthy too!
Now that apples are in high season, I decided to make a batch of honey sweetened, applesauce cinnamon muffins. Really, these are so easy to make and they turn out delightfully moist so that they will keep well for a few days on the counter or can be frozen to be eaten throughout the week. In addition to the applesauce I also added pecans and cranberries for good nutritional measure. I think once you bake these, you’ll find that they are perfectly sweet, moist, and just the right size to grab on the go!
Also, these muffins are great to add to your children’s lunches or served as an after school snack!
I am so excited that my book club was chosen to participate in a This Is Where I Leave You book club before the film hits the big screen on September 19th. When I was asked to participate, I had heard of Jonathan Tropper, but had never read one of his books before. I can honestly say that if you are wanting to add a little sparkle and hilarity to your book club discussion, This Is Where I Leave You is the book for you.
I read this book in a record two days and my husband kept finding me with it in some state of crying-laughing almost every moment I read it. Although he isn’t much of a reader, I handed it to him and said, “You must read it.” Each night when I crawl into bed, I hear random laughing and snorting on his side of the bed. It is that kind of book that you finish and hand off to someone else so you can laugh about it together.
When their father passes away, four grown siblings, bruised and banged up by their respective adult lives, are forced to return to their childhood home and live under the same roof together for a week, along with their over-sharing mother and an assortment of spouses, exes and might-have-beens. Confronting their history and the frayed states of their relationships among the people who know and love them best, they ultimately reconnect in hysterical and emotionally affecting ways amid the chaos, humor, heartache and redemption that only families can provide—driving us insane even as they remind us of our truest, and often best, selves.
In this story, each of the siblings are told that it is their father’s dying wish for them to sit shiva together as a family. The irony is that their father is an atheist who made it known he didn’t believe in religion, but with their mother’s persuasion, she manages to get their family together under one roof for one week. With no escaping each other and a lot of time to reflect on life and the choices they have made, it really makes for some hilarious moments of family dysfunction at its best. What I loved about this story more than anything is the message that even when they drive us crazy, we will always love our family.
I love it in the way that I loved the movie Bridesmaids- so wrong and so right. Raunchy, hilarious, laugh-out-loud funny, heartwarming, and so perfectly pitched. I would highly recommend this one for fans of Arrested Development as it reads just like my favorite episodes of the early seasons of the Bluth family. The crazy family dramas are always my favorites and this family does not disappoint in the craziness department. For better or worse, they are family, with all that history and messiness and love.
Love stories told from male authors sometimes fall short for me, but that was not the case in this one. Tropper does such a fantastic job of sharing what a failing marriage looks like, what it would feel like to lose the love of your life (interweaving old stories of the couple and new), and how one can find love again. Even in the darkest of moments of this marriage, Tropper finds a way to bring the hilarity into even the depressing situations of losing your life partner.
Since the movie will be hitting the big screen on September 19th, I hosted our book club to read the book and then we plan to make an outing to see the book on the big screen. Sometimes it is difficult to find a book that we all like, but this one fit the bill perfectly for our group and we used the time to have a delicious brunch together and celebrate the kids heading back-to-school.
After seeing the trailer, I already know that this is going to be one of my favorite movies this year. I have to say that after reading the book, the film could not have been more perfectly cast and I kept seeing these actors in these roles even as I read the book. Many times the movies just don’t live up to the books, but I can already tell that this one won’t be the case.
TIWILY Boozy Brunch Ideas
Here are some delicious brunch options for a fun morning with your girlfriends that are some of my favorite when I am entertaining. I am selecting these because they can be made before everyone arrives so that you can really enjoy book club with your friends. You will also find a fun drink I have created just for your book club that you can sip while chatting about the book.
In the theme of the book and all the food that is brought to the family as they sit shiva, you could also make your friends bring you brunch dishes potluck style in excessive abundance, taking the pressure off of you as the hostess.
Perhaps you could even pass some of these recipes on to them and ask them to make them for you.
It just seems like something awkward that the Foxman family might try in the book.
What is a book club without a good discussion? LAME. Here are some of my favorite book club questions that I gathered for our discussion together!
TIWILY Book Club Questions
1. What was your first impression of Judd’s wife, Jen? Because you see her almost entirely from Judd’s perspective, was there any chance to see her as a sympathetic character before Judd finds her so? Do you think that Judd and Jen have a chance at salvaging their relationship, with or without a baby girl to raise?
2. Discuss Judd’s mother and her relationship with each of her children. Do you think that Hillary Foxman was truly a bad mother? Was there any real irony in her being a child-rearing guru? What was your opinion of her character?
3. Most of the characters in this novel struggle against living up to an ideal established either by themselves or by a friend, family member, or spouse. Judd fails to be the perfect husband, brother, and son; Jen fails to be the perfect wife; Wendy fails to be the perfect mother and Alice fails to become a mother at all. Mort and Hillary Foxman, it turns out, fail their children spectacularly in some ways while succeeding in others. What do the lives of these characters reveal to us about perfectionism, ideals, and our expectations for ourselves and others?
4. For all of their faults, is the Foxman clan a likeable group of people? What makes them an endearing group of people? Who did you like the most, and who did you find the least appealing, and why? Were there any characters you would have liked to see developed further?
5. Clearly, Judd is an adult, yet this book can also be seen as a delayed coming-of-age story. What does Judd learn in the end about himself and his role in helping to create the world in which he finds himself?
6. Discuss Judd Foxman, the novel’s protagonist, from his very ironic and dry sense of humor (shared also by his brothers and sister), to his anger and vulnerability regarding his wife’s infidelity, to his conflicted emotions regarding his immediate family. What was your first impression of the protagonist/narrator of this novel? What did you find the most engaging aspect of his character? Did you find any aspect of him off-putting?
7. What comment is Tropper making about the role of trauma and tragedy in our lives? Almost every character in this book suffers or has suffered: Phillip from his neglected/overindulged childhood; Judd from his wife’s infidelity; Horry from his brain damage; Paul from the Rottweiler attack; Wendy from her unhappy marriage; and Alice from her infertility. What does their unhappiness, and the way each person copes with that unhappiness, teach us?
Be sure to head to the theaters to see This Is Where I Leave You on September 19th!
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In honor of the movie, I am hosting a giveaway today for one (1) $50 Visa gift card and a copy of the book so you can enjoy reading the book and then catch the film in theaters September 19th! Please follow instructions in the Rafflecopter below to enter to win by September 12th! One winner will be chosen at random! a Rafflecopter giveaway