lemonade with blueberries and star shaped watermelon american flag and paper straw with stars on it
Star Spangled Lemonade with Blueberries and Watermelon Stars
lemonade with blueberries and star shaped watermelon american flag and paper straw with stars on it

Lemonade with blueberries and watermelon makes this iconic summer drink even more fun and refreshing! The good news is that this lemonade is easy to make and packs a big festive punch with friends and family!

I like to kick off summer by serving it on Memorial Day and then bring it out again on Independence Day. You can always turn it into a cocktail if you like- but it is really good as it is! My kids would drink it by the gallon if I would let them!

This star-spangled lemonade is easy to make- or you can always substitute your favorite store-bought lemonade! Here is the recipe…

lemonade with blueberries and star shaped watermelon american flag and paper straw with stars on it

Star Spangled Lemonade

Lydia Menzies

Ingredients
  

  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups lemon choice
  • 8 cups water
  • 2 oz. vodka for cocktail version
  • watermelon for stars
  • blueberries for stars

Instructions
 

Star Spangled Lemonade

  • Combine the sugar and water over heat to dissolve the sugar.
  • Add lemon juice.
  • Chill and enjoy!

Star Spangled Cocktail

  • Add 2 oz. of vodka to an 6-8 oz. serving of lemonade.

Watermelon Stars

  • To make watermelon stars, slice a piece of watermelon into a triangle slice. Use a mini cookie cutter in the shape of a star and cut out star shapes from watermelon slice.
  • Add fresh, washed blueberries.
  • Top with a miniature flag and a festive straw!
  • Serve on a tray with cocktail napkins and enjoy!

Cheers,

Lydia xo

orange soda cocktail with stir stick on top of glass
Mother’s Day Cocktail ~ Clementine Ginny

A Mother’s Day cocktail that is quick and easy- and perfect for any occasion or celebration, actually! Enjoy this refreshing drink anytime and often! The idea for this cocktail started with the gift of acrylic stir sticks from Giddy Paperie and a quarantine limitation on available mixers. Making the best of the shelter-in-place means being creative with what we had! I liked it so much, I wanted to share…

silver tray with flowers acrylic stir sticks shot glass and pink square napkin

The acrylic stir sticks are a party all on their own, aren’t they? They are so cute and pretty. What a great way to mix your drink and to be able to tell whose drink is whose! I love the useful ways and the beautiful details they provide.

silver tray with gin orange soda lime slices and flowers

I loaded my silver serving tray with all of the ingredients and supplies and headed to my front porch to create this simple and tasty treat. All you need are a few ingredients…this recipe yields one drink made in an 8 oz. glass.

orange soda cocktail with stir stick on top of glass

Clementine Ginny Cocktail

Lydia Menzies

Ingredients
  

  • 2 oz Gin
  • 5-6 oz Izze Clementine Soda
  • Lime slices

Instructions
 

  • Fill 8 oz. glass with ice.
  • Measure 2 oz. of gin and pour over ice.
  • Top with chilled Izze Clementine Soda.
  • Add limes and stir.
  • Enjoy!
clementine ginny cocktail with orange soda and gin topped with limes and a stir stick

The stir sticks dress up an otherwise really simple drink. I love the orange color of the cocktail combined with the blue and white chinoiserie designs on the stir sticks. Giddy Paperie hand painted each design and then the designs were made into acrylic stir sticks. It is such a brilliant little party detail- I would love to have them in so many designs! From coffee to cocktails, a stir stick comes in handy!

orange ranunculus blooms and snapdragons in white vase with floral design

My favorite way to serve cocktails to a small group is on a decorative tray. With a few simple touches, you can have a beautiful display in no time. Start with a small vase of flowers- I used this small vintage Herend vase and loaded it with ranunculus and snapdragons. Remember to add limes, napkins, glasses, stir sticks, Izze, and gin. I used a shot glass to measure the alcohol.

tray with gin orange soda limes flowers and pink napkins

If you have festive glasses, those are always fun to use. If you don’t, your drink will still be pretty and festive with the orange color and the stir sticks and limes. I added several lime slices to mine because I like the flavor. You can decide what you think, but I love the slight tang that it adds.

tray of mother's day cocktail ingredients and cocktail with lime slices in it

Sweet and simple and easy to enjoy! I hope you love this cocktail- and I think every perfect drink deserves to have a fun name, don’t you?? 🙂 Here’s to you and the friends and moms that you celebrate!

orange soda cocktail with stir stick on top of glass

Cheers xo,

Lydia

chocolate butterscotch candy on red and white striped paper with red and white striped ribbon
Chocolate Peanut Butter Butterscotch Candy

Hello Friends,

I have been playing around with a few simple ingredients to make a butterscotch candy. This recipe uses simple ingredients that I hope you are able to find easily.

corn flakes sugar butterscotch chips chocolate chips peanut butter light corn syrup on counter
chocolate butterscotch candy on red and white striped paper with red and white striped ribbon

Chocolate Peanut Butter Butterscotch Candy

Lydia Menzies

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup Karo light corn syrup
  • 5 cups Corn Flakes cereal
  • 12 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 12 oz. butterscotch chips

Instructions
 

  • In a large saucepan, heat sugar, peanut butter, and light corn syrup over medium heat until smooth.
  • Turn off heat and add in butterscotch chips. Stir continuously to melt the butterscotch into the warm mixture.
  • Add Corn Flakes, and mix to coat the cereal evenly.
  • Line cookie sheet with aluminum foil and spread mixture evenly on pan.
  • Heat oven to 400 degrees (F).
  • Sprinkle chocolate chips evenly on top of mixture and bake until chocolate chips begin to melt. This takes 15 minutes in my oven. Stay close and watch carefully so that the chocolate does not scorch.
  • When chocolate chips begin to melt and sides begin to bubble, remove from oven and spread chocolate evenly across candy.
  • Let set (about an hour) and then slice into pieces. Enjoy!
chocolate butterscotch candy on red and white striped paper with red and white striped ribbon

I hope your family enjoys it as much as mine does! This recipe combines the old-fashioned recipe of Corn Flake Candy with butterscotch and chocolate. I literally could make this each week and my kids and husband wouldn’t get tired of it. Lol! I love adapting older recipes and making them a little bit new. If you have a recipe that you would like to share, please do! You can always email it to me. I will also share a video of this recipe on my Instagram.

For other simple candy recipes, you can also try one of these…

My Aunt’s Chocolate Pecan Candy

Quick Cracker Candy

Puppy Chow

If you prefer to pin for future reference…

chocolate butterscotch candy pin

Cheers,

Lydia xo

blueberry cobbler with two red forks beside glass pan on shite napkin with blue stripes
My Mom’s Old-Fashioned Blueberry Cobbler

Blueberry Cobbler is a sweet treat to serve to my family throughout spring and summer. My dad has always grown blueberries (and often gives the entire bush as a gift to friends who ask him about them). We had trays full of berries each summer, and I always loved that abundance of homegrown goodness in our kitchen. 🙂 My mom would make blueberry jam that I could never get enough of- and blueberry muffins, and blueberry cobbler…

blueberry cobbler with two red forks beside glass pan on shite napkin with blue stripes

When we have blueberries that happen to be more tart than sweet, my kids will ignore them pretty harshly. I usually freeze them for smoothies, but this time I decided to bake with them. The kids had no problem with the berries after this cobbler came out of the oven. Haha! Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and this tastes like summer in a bowl. Here is the recipe for this very simple family favorite!

blueberry cobbler with two red forks beside glass pan on shite napkin with blue stripes

My Mom’s Old-Fashioned Blueberry Cobbler

Lydia Menzies

Ingredients
  

  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 to 4 cups blueberries (washed and drained)

Instructions
 

  • Place berries in a bowl and add 3/4 cup of sugar. Gently stir to coat the berries. Set aside.
  • Sift 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup flour together in a large bowl.
  • Add milk and combine.
  • Melt butter and pour into a 9 x 13 glass baking dish.
  • Pour batter mixture evenly over hot butter.
  • Pour blueberries evenly on top.
  • Bake at 350 degrees (F) for 30-40 minutes.
  • Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  • I hope you enjoy this simple treat. It is a great recipe to have on hand for a quick dessert idea when you need it!

Cheers,

Lydia xo

ingredients for brocooli cheese cornbread with jiffy corn muffin mix eggs butter broccoli milk onion and cheese
Broccoli and Cheddar Cheese Cornbread Recipe
ingredients for brocooli cheese cornbread with jiffy corn muffin mix eggs butter broccoli milk onion and cheese

My daughter requests this recipe for each holiday meal. I think it is cute because I felt the same way about this when I was a teenager. This recipe is hard to describe because it is unlike anything I’ve had or seen to which I can compare it. It is a perfect recipe for a brunch- and according to my daughter, every holiday meal that you make! I made it for Easter this year and thought I would share it with you. It is a shortcut recipe because it starts with a cornbread mix- and it doesn’t have many other ingredients to go along with it. I didn’t have a chance to take photos of it- except for when it was just out of the oven, but I thought you wouldn’t mind. Here’s the recipe…

Broccoli and Cheddar Cheese Cornbread Recipe

Lydia Menzies

Ingredients
  

  • 1 box Jiffy Cornbread Mix
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 10 oz. box of frozen broccoli cooked and drained
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
  • salt to taste

Instructions
 

  • Melt the stick of butter and pour into 9×13 casserole dish.
  • Mix all other ingredients together.
  • Pour over melted butter.
  • Bake at 350 degrees (F) for 30-35 minutes (or until golden brown)
  • Cut into squares and serve.
  • Enjoy!

Let me know when you try this recipes and how you like it! And how you would describe it! Lol! It is a crowd pleaser!

Cheers,

Lydia xo

chocolate easter cake with edible green grass and chocolate bird nest on top with easter plates gold forks pink napkins
Triple Chocolate Cake~ Recipe Shortcut

Sometimes we all need a shortcut when we need a dessert for something special. This recipe was one that my sister used to make when I was younger~ and even though I am more of a frosting girl when it comes to cake, this cake recipe won me over. It is really simple because it starts from a boxed cake mix!

triple chocolate cake with powdered sugar from the top

By baking the cake in a bundt pan, it gives the cake some decoration. I love the simplicity of the chocolate cake with the white powdered sugar, but I often dress up this cake a little more. Depending on the occasion, I decorate the cake in different ways. It is perfect for birthdays and holidays- and for when you just have a chocolate craving. It is rich, and the powdered sugar is the perfect complement to all of the chocolate.

For Easter, I had a little fun decorating the cake with a spring theme…

chocolate easter cake with edible green grass and chocolate bird nest on top with easter plates gold forks pink napkins

After the cake had cooled, I added powdered sugar. Next, I added edible green grass (I found it at Target) and a chocolate bird nest with jelly beans in the center opening of the cake.

triple chocolate bundt cake with edible green grass and chocolate bird nest with jelly bean eggs

Here is the quick and easy recipe…

triple chocolate bundt cake with edible green grass and chocolate bird nest with jelly bean eggs

Triple Chocolate Cake ~ Recipe Shortcut

Lydia Menzies

Ingredients
  

  • 1 box Devil's Food Cake Mix
  • 1 small box of Jell-O Instant Chocolate Pudding Mix
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup sherry
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 package of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • Powdered Sugar (Confectioner's Sugar) for sprinkling on top of cake

Instructions
 

  • In a large bowl, combine cake mix and pudding mix.
  • Next, add oil, sherry, sour cream, and eggs.
  • Mix by hand for 5 minutes.
  • After you have mixed the ingredients, add in the chocolate chips. Stir to combine.
  • Grease/Oil a Bundt pan.
  • Pour cake mixture evenly into pan.
  • Bake at 350 degrees (F) for 45-50 minutes.
  • To create the nest on top of the cake, use edible green grass and roll a section of the grass into a circle. Top with a chocolate bird nest (find recipe for chocolate bird nests here).
  • Enjoy!

I hope you love this easy shortcut dessert! It is one of our family favorites. Let me know if you try it and how you like it!

Cheers,

Lydia xo

triple chocolate cake with chocolate bird nest and three easter bunny plates with gold forks and pink napkins
rack of ribs baked in oven
Weekly Meal Planning~ Dinner Recipes for the Week

Mealtime is happening around the clock with all of our families home during quarantine, and I wanted to share a few of our family dinners with you. I usually take photos of the recipes, but I am skipping that step on most and just trying to get the recipes to you with hopes it will help a little. If you would like more dinner recipes click here.

1. Ron’s Ribs

rack of ribs baked in oven

Ron’s Ribs

Lydia Menzies

Ingredients
  

  • Rack of Ribs (or beef Ribs)

Bar-b-que Sauce for Ribs

  • 12 oz. tomato paste
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 cup packed of brown sugar
  • 24 oz. apple cider vinegar

Spice Rub

  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic diced finely
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp pepper

Instructions
 

  • Pull membrane off back sides of ribs. Cover ribs with the rub. Place ribs on baking sheet and place aluminum foil loosely over top of ribs. Cook at 225 degrees (F) for 9 to 10 hours. 
  • Whisk bar-b-que sauce ingredients under low heat.

2. Stuffed Chicken

This recipe is one from my friend Rebecca Lang. Rebecca suggests using ham, but we substitute bacon. Either one is really good!

Stuffed Chicken

Lydia Menzies

Ingredients
  

  • 4 strips of bacon
  • 4 oz. goat cheese, softened
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper
  • 4 chicken breasts (with skin)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees (F)
  • Cook the bacon and crumble.
  • Combine cheese, lemon juice, and sage in small bowl. Add in crumbled bacon.
  • Place chicken breasts in baking dish and stuff an even amount of goat cheese mixture under the skin of each chicken breast.
  • Rub olive oil on top of the skin.
  • Bake at 425 degrees (F) for 25 minutes, or until skin is browned.

3. Veggie Meatloaf

Veggie Meatloaf

Lydia Menzies

Ingredients
  

  • 2-3 carrots
  • 1 small-medium chopped onion
  • 2 ribs of celery
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 cup ketchup

Instructions
 

  • Heat oven to 375 degrees (F).
  • Place first 4 ingredients in a food processor and finely chop.
  • In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Combine but do not over mix.
  • In a 9×13 pan lined with foil, shape mixture into a loaf.
  • Bake 1 hour, 15 mins.
  • Let stand 5 minutes before cutting.

4. Pork Carnitas

This is my husband’s recipe in his own words…cook this in Crock Pot on low setting.

Pork Carnitas

Lydia Menzies

Ingredients
  

  • Pork tenderloin
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 head red cabbage diced finely
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/8 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • crushed red pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Add salt, pepper, clove of garlic diced to tenderloin.
  • Add 1/4 cup white wine to pork in Crock Pot.
  • Cook 6 hours or until meat is done on low setting. Cut into smaller pieces during cooking. Shred the pork with forks or knives near end of cooking process. 
  • Mix the mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper then stir these ingredients into the cabbage.
  • Put cabbage and pork into warmed corn or flour tortillas. (You may want to make a little bit of extra sauce to add to carnitas.)
  • Eat and repeat.

5. Easy Greek Chicken Thighs

This recipe is quick and tasty! You can use drumsticks and/or thighs. I make it often because of how fast I can make it and how much my kids enjoy it. The recipe is Greek Marinated Chicken from Budget Bytes.

chocolate chip pie slice being lifted out of pie
Easy Chocolate Chip Pie ~ A Family Favorite

Hands down, this recipe is one of the easiest and most-requested desserts I have ever made! My mom made this for us when we were kids, and then it became my signature dessert when I was a teenager. Lol- I would make it all the time! When I went to college, I continued to make it for my college friends- and then on and on. Here I am with teenagers myself, and I am still making it! The good news is that kids can easily learn to make it, too!

chocolate chip pie with a slice cut out of it on a pie server
chocolate chip pie slice being lifted out of pie

Easy Chocolate Chip Pie ~ A Family Favorite

Lydia Menzies

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Deep Dish Pie Shell
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 self-rising flour
  • 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chopped pecans

Instructions
 

  • Melt butter.
  • Add slightly beaten egg.
  • Add flour, sugar, chocolate chips, and pecans.
  • Pour into unbaked deep-dish pie shell.
  • Bake at 325 degrees (F) for 50-60 minutes.
  • Remove from oven and let set.
  • Serve as is or enjoy with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup!
chocolate chip pie slice on white plate with ice cream and chocolate sauce

A few notes…

I put a sheet pan under the pie while it cooks to catch any over spill.

I once tried using 2 regular pie shells instead of one deep-dish pie shell. The pie was thin and not as good as when you use a deep-dish.

I check the pie at 50 mins. and then decide if it needs more minutes added to it. Because our ovens all cook differently, be sure to check it at 50 mins. to decide.

chocolate chip pie slice being lifted out of pie

I hope you love it! Pin it for later to save it…

chocolate chip pie recipe cover

Cheers xo,

Lydia

la crueset mini pot
Weekly Meal Plan ~ Recipes and Ideas

Hello, Friends!

la crueset mini pot

As we are all making the very best of staying home during the Corona Virus Pandemic, some of my mom friends and I shared what we are doing to keep up with the demands of feeding everyone 3 times a day (with snacks in between). I thought you all might be feeling the same and so I wanted to share some of the recipes that my husband and I make that are typically big hits with our kids. They have been helpful to have on hand while we are all gathering around the table several times a day!

One of the most requested by my kids is Baked Cheesy Chicken Burritos. This is a dish that serves several- it works well for serving for dinner and then saving half the dish to serve for lunch the next day. It reheats in the microwave easily- or you can put it in a conventional oven to re-warm.

1. Baked Cheesy Chicken Burritos

la crueset mini pot

Baked Cheesy Chicken Burritos

Lydia Menzies

Ingredients
  

  • 3 1/2 cups chopped cooked chicken
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 oz. cream cheese (softened)
  • 1 pkg. Monterrey Jack shredded cheese (or Mexican cheese mix)
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 8 Flour Tortillas (8 inch)

Instructions
 

  • In a large pan, melt butter and sauté onion.
  • Stir in cream cheese and chicken.
  • Spray 9×11 casserole dish with Pam.
  • Put 3-4 tablespoons of chicken mixture in tortillas and roll up tortillas.
  • Place the rolled tortillas in the casserole dish.
  • Drizzle half-and-half over the rolled tortillas in the casserole dish.
  • Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees (F) for 45 minutes.
  • Uncover burritos and sprinkle cheese over top. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until cheese is melted.
  • To serve, use a knife and go around the outside edges. Cut burritos in half to make 16 servings.
  • Side items that work well with this dish are homemade salsa, black beans, guacamole, and yellow rice.

2. Sheet Pan Fajitas

This recipe is one of my very favorites to make because it is SO easy to prepare and everyone loves it! This recipe is from Balancing Motherhood, and I always receive messages about how much families enjoy it when I suggest it. The recipe can be found here >> Sheet Pan Fajitas

3. Ron’s Marinara Sauce & Meatballs

My husband has a family friend who owned an Italian restaurant, and he would invite Ron to the kitchen to learn the recipes. Between that experience and having a mom who is a great cook, Ron developed his own love of creating in the kitchen. Mostly, he just likes to eat, and so he makes food he loves. If I’m lucky I will catch him in time to get him to write down how he made something. It took me awhile to get this one on paper, but he finally stopped long enough to write it out for me. Our family loves this meal- and I have to admit…I was never a spaghetti and meatball kind of girl before he converted me! The recipes make enough for 6-8 servings. Here are the recipes in his words…

la crueset mini pot

Ron’s Marinara Sauce & Meatballs

Lydia Menzies

Ingredients
  

Marinara Sauce

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small sweet onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup white wine (cheap Chardonnay)
  • 1/2 or more cup fresh chopped basil
  • 2 tsp salt (3 tsp if you love salty stuff)
  • 2 14 oz. cans petite diced tomatoes
  • 26 to 27 oz. finely chopped tomatoes (Pomi brand is my fav)

Meatballs

  • 1 to 1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 10 to 15 larger fresh basil leaves finely chopped
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 small sweet onion diced finely
  • 3 large cloves garlic diced finely

Instructions
 

Marinara Sauce

  • Cook onion for a few minutes in olive oil. Add garlic continue until garlic is barely turning golden. Add wine and cook until reduced about half in volume or near there.  Add all other stuff and cook on low while stirring occasionally until you think it’s right for you. 10 or 15 min should do it. Serve with spaghetti, ravioli, manicotti, etc.

Meatballs

  • Mix the above thoroughly then add 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef and mix thoroughly.  Form meatballs and cook in cast iron skillet over medium low heat turning every few minutes until done.

Salmon BLTs

This dinner comes together quickly and can be eaten “deconstructed” to suit the tastes of our sometimes-picky families. Our kids gobble this one up and I am always happy to serve something that cooks quickly and is enjoyed by everyone!

la crueset mini pot

Salmon BLTs

Lydia Menzies

Ingredients
  

  • 3 Salmon Fillets
  • 4-6 pieces of bacon
  • lettuce of your choice
  • 4-6 slices tomato
  • bread such as brioche or white bun (sliced)
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • capers

Instructions
 

  • Place bacon in pan and cook until desired crispness.
  • Remove bacon from pan and set aside on plate with a paper towel to absorb oil.
  • Using same pan, cook salmon fillets in oil left from cooking the bacon. Depending on thickness of salmon fillets, cook about 3 mins. on each side.
  • Remove salmon from pan and set aside.
  • Add white wine to same pan and simmer- let reduce to about half its volume.
  • Remove wine mixture from pan and pour into a shallow bowl.
  • Add mayonnaise and capers to wine mixture and stir. Use as a sauce for the Salmon BLTs.
  • Spread mayonnaise mixture on bread.
  • Assemble salmon with bacon, lettuce, and tomato on bread.

5. “Grammy Soup”

This soup is named after my husband’s step-mom. She made this for us several times when our kids were born, and it was a life-saver for many meals! It is a simple recipe but so filling and satisfying! It has become a go-to for our family. We like to serve it with Pepperidge Farm 3-Cheese Bread (freezer section).

la crueset mini pot

“Grammy Soup”

Lydia Menzies

Ingredients
  

  • 46 oz. tomato juice
  • 32 oz. beef broth (or chicken broth)
  • 1.5-2 lbs. ground beef
  • 4-6 carrots chopped
  • 4-5 stalks celery chopped
  • 1 small sweet onion chopped
  • 1 cup barley (follow directions on box for 1 cup barley)
  • 1 can white shoepeg corn
  • 1 can white beans (or other favorite beans such as kidney or pinto)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Instructions
 

  • In a large dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat and saute’ chopped onion for a few minutes.
  • Add tomato juice and broth to onion. Add in carrots and celery and let simmer. Bring to a boil and let cook for about 10 minutes over medium heat.
  • In a separate medium pot, (while the veggies are cooking) cook barley as directed on box.
  • In a separate pan, brown meat and dispose of grease (remembering not to put grease down the drain).
  • When ground beef and barley are cooked, carefully add to soup mixture.
  • Add corn and beans.
  • Season with salt.
  • Let soup simmer for 5-6 minutes and then serve.

(You can find more of our family-favorite soup recipes here!)

I would LOVE to hear what you guys made and enjoyed! If you have great recipes that you would like to share, send them to me! I will share them here!

Cheers to staying well and well-fed!

Love,

Lydia xo

white bowl of soup with sausage tortellini and spinach
Five of Our Easy Family-Favorite Soups

I love a big bowl of soup and often joke that I could live off of soup and dessert. I am sharing five of my favorites with you today- especially because it has been perfect weather for a big bowl of soup lately.

This first soup is one that my friend Nancy served for lunch one day when our kids were toddlers. The kids loved it and so it became a go-to for me. A funny little side note…my niece always thought my sister was saying “Santa Face Soup” and so now my sister makes this each Christmas Eve. 🙂

1. SANTA FE SOUP

Santa Fe Soup

Lydia Menzies

Ingredients
  

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pkg. Dry ranch style dressing mix (original)
  • 1 pkg. Taco seasoning mix
  • 1 can black beans, undrained
  • 1 cann kidney beans, undrained
  • 1 can pinto beans, undrained
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes with lime juice, undrained
  • 1 can white shoepeg corn
  • 1 cup water

Instructions
 

  • Brown ground beef and onion in large pot; drain, add remaining ingredients and simmer for 2-3 hours.  Better if prepared the day before serving. 
  • Garnish with dollop of sour cream or sprinkle with shredded Mexican blend cheese.  Serve with Mexican corn bread or tortilla chips.
  • Makes about 4-5 quarts.  Freezes very well.

MEXICAN CORN BREAD

Mexican Corn Bread

Lydia Menzies

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pkg. corn bread mix (such as Jiffy)
  • 1 8 oz. can cream style corn
  • 1 3 oz. can chopped green chilies Most chopped green chili cans are 4 ounce; so I measure about half way between ¼ cup and ½ cup in a liquid measuring cup. 
  • ½ cup shredded cheese (Monterrey Jack, Cheddar, or Mexican Blend)

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Combine ingredients in medium mixing bowl.  Stir only until ingredients are moist.
  • Pour into greased (use Pam) 8 inch baking pan. (I use mini-muffin pan)  Bake for 25-30 minutes or until top springs back when lightly touched.  (Mini-muffins take about 15 min.) 
  • My husband likes soup, but I can tell that he often wants bread to go with it. I switch it up on which bread I put with it, but this Mexican Corn Bread and the frozen Pepperidge Farm 3-Cheese baguette are our typical choices.

2. SAUSAGE AND SPINACH TORTELLINI SOUP

Another friend, Heather, made this soup for me one day (they know I love trying new soups!). I think I sent this recipe out in my newsletter, but I thought it would be nice to have it all in one place. This is one of those recipes that I would have skipped right over because of the sausage. I’m so glad Heather didn’t! It is really good- and my kids love the sausage and tortellini in it. I am linking you to the recipe here >> SAUSAGE AND SPINACH TORTELLINI SOUP Again, I typically serve Pepperidge Farm’s 3-Cheese Bread (from the freezer section) with this soup.

white bowl of soup with sausage tortellini and spinach

3. THE ULTIMATE CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP

If your family prefers something a little less daring and a lot more familiar, I recommend this Chicken Noodle Soup recipe from Taste of Home. I made it recently and it was a really big hit with my kids. Empty bowls all around the table!

BUTTERY BISQUICK MUFFINS

I used to make these in college for my friends and they were always a hit. Now, I’m not saying these are healthy, but they surely are always gone quickly. They are so simple!

Buttery Bisquick Muffins

Lydia Menzies

Ingredients
  

  • 2 cups Bisquick
  • ½ cup butter (melted)
  • 1 cup sour cream

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).
  • Mix together all ingredients. Pour into un-greased muffin tins.
  • Bake at 350 degrees (F) for 15-20 minutes.

4. WHITE BEAN CHICKEN CHILI

White Bean Chicken Chili

Lydia Menzies

Ingredients
  

  • 2-3 cans Great Northern Beans drained
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic (optional)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 5 cups chopped cooked chicken breast
  • 12 oz. Mexican Blend shredded cheese
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Sauté onion in hot oil in large soup pot over medium-high heat until clear and tender.
  • Add garlic, cumin, and oregano and cook for 2 mins., stirring constantly.
  • Add broth and bring to a boil. Let simmer for about 10 mins.
  • Add in chopped chicken, beans, 1 cup of cheese, salt and pepper.
  • Stir well, bring to a boil, and then reduce heat.
  • Simmer uncovered for about 10 minutes, stirring often.
  • Before serving, stir in cilantro.
  • Ladle into bowls and top each serving with remaining cheese. Garnish with cilantro.

5. FETA SHRIMP SOUP

If you would like to serve something with more of a tomato base, this is one of my very favorite soups. Feta Shrimp Soup from Southern Living

I would love to know what you want to try first- and which ones you like best! I am a crazy for soups and so I like a variety of kinds. If you ever have a favorite you would like to share, please send me an email or leave a comment in the comment section.

Stay warm and well-fed!

Cheers,

Lydia xo

ivy odom in white kitchen laughing and making cookies
Ivy Odom ~ Southern Living’s Host of Hey, Y’all!

Ivy Odom brings an energy and enthusiasm to Southern Living’s YouTube Channel called, “Hey Y’all!” that is undeniably fun and fresh! I had a chance to sit down with Ivy for a chat recently, and I am excited to share more about her with you all!

ivy odom in white kitchen laughing and making cookies

I met up with Ivy in Birmingham, AL where she lives and works. Ivy is originally from a small town in South Georgia (Moultrie) and went to the University of Georgia in Athens. She now works at her dream job as a recipe tester/developer at Southern Living Magazine. I loved finding out more about Ivy’s path to fulfilling that dream…here she is, below, showing me her Southern Living Test Kitchen.

ivy odom in pink tiered shirt and gray pants in her southern living test kitchen

Ivy says, when she was younger, she wanted to be a Home Economics teacher. As a student at UGA, Ivy decided on Consumer Journalism for her major and Spanish for her minor. While in college, Ivy sought out a mentor that could help guide her on her career path. Not only did Ivy find a mentor in Rebecca Lang, but she also found a friend for life. Rebecca’s guidance, coupled with Ivy’s ambition, set Ivy on her way to reaching her goal of working at Southern Living. Below, you can see Ivy as an intern with Rebecca…a sidenote about Ivy’s connection to Rebecca is that Ivy reached out to Rebecca after Googling, and Rebecca loved the drive that Ivy showed in doing so.

ivy odom and rebecca lang cooking in a white kitchen with blue island

After finishing college and then completing culinary school (graduated top of her class!), Ivy began as an intern for the Southern Living test kitchen. At one point, Ivy was given the opportunity to bake anything she wanted. She didn’t go small! Clearly not one to shy away from an excellent chance to let her skills shine, Ivy made an 18-Layer Chocolate Cake! 18 layers is an incredible feat. 🙂 Ivy told me the story of how her Great-Grandmother used to make this cake for Ivy’s mom and uncle- increasing the number of layers with each birthday. It became a family birthday tradition and Ivy shared it with Southern Living. The video of Ivy making the recipe quickly became the most viewed video of that year on the Southern Living YouTube Channel. Way to make a career entrance, Ivy!

eighteen layer cake with chocolate frosting with slice cut out of it

Ivy has such an endearing quality about her- she draws you in with her charm and grace. And, she continues to impress you the more you get to know her. What stands out to me so strongly is Ivy’s love of learning and her intelligence and curiosity. I was surprised to learn that Ivy has also passed the level one course of sommelier training. When I asked more about her training, Ivy told me that she loves wine and being an informed consumer! What I found fascinating was Ivy’s description of how much she learned from wine and its connection to art, science, geography, climate, and history.

ivy odom in southern living test kitchen using kitchen aid mixer

I asked Ivy that if she could prepare a southern meal for someone who had never been to the south, what would she choose to make. Her menu did not disappoint! I love the thought that she put into what she would want to serve as to give the best “first impression” of the south. No wonder she is an excellent representative of the south’s finest! Here is Ivy’s menu…now if we could only have her cook it for us!

Ivy Odom’s Ideal Southern Meal

Ivy said she would take cues from a traditional southern New Year’s Day meal and make a few changes to offer a warm welcome to anyone visiting the south for the first time…

Fried Catfish with Remoulade

Collard Greens

Field Peas mixed with chopped tomatoes and chopped raw Vidalia onion

Lacy Cornbread (fried in a cast iron skillet)

And for dessert~

Ivy Odom’s Favorite Cream Cheese Pound Cake

ivy odom in southern living test kitchen using kitchen aid mixer

Ivy Odom’s Favorite Cream Cheese Pound Cake

Ingredients
  

  • 1 block of cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 cups Swan's Down cake flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • ½ tsp lemon extract

Instructions
 

  • Mix 1 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, 1 stick butter, and 2 eggs in electric mixer until well blended. As batter is mixing, add in another cup of both flour and sugar, 2 eggs, and 1 stick of butter.
  • Add in the last of the flour, sugar, butter, and eggs once the second round is mixed in well.
  • Finally, add in the cream cheese and lemon extract and beat until smooth. Pour batter into a greased bundt pan and place in cool oven. Bake at 300 degrees for 2 hours, or until fork placed in center comes out clean.11
girl in pink shirt and gray pants tan shoes in kitchen surrounded by video equipment

In the photo above, Ivy posed in front of the cameras and equipment they use to film Hey Y’all. I asked Ivy about the production of the episodes and she says she always likes the first take because it feels the most genuine to her. The producers and editors often like the last take because it is more practiced. The final version is usually a mix of them all. I always enjoy watching each episode and seeing the variety of topics that Ivy covers. It is especially fun to see Southern Living embracing YouTube as a source to bring content to its readers. Ivy is the perfect ambassador! In fact, a few days before Ivy and I met, she was on Good Morning America sharing recipe ideas for the Super Bowl and Ivy was outstanding! I was so proud of how well she represented all of us southern ladies (I brought her this champagne bottle as a congratulatory gift)!

veuve champagne bottle painted white with ivy vine and camelias painted on it
Champagne bottle handpainted by Sarah T Moore Designs/ Photographed by Lydia Menzies

Ivy talked about her southern upbringing being such a great springboard for life- from the traditions of her family to her appreciation of her always-encouraging parents. Ivy says she has always been the girl who enjoys setting pretty tables, serving delicious meals, and providing a warm atmosphere for friends and family- all thanks to the examples set before her. One of the sweetest things Ivy told me was that her grandmother gifts her a piece of silver each year at Christmas so that she will eventually have a complete set- what a thoughtful gift and heirloom. I love the strong family ties and values of southern (and all) families.

lady in plaid shirt in kitchen mixing brownie batter

I had fun asking Ivy a few rapid-fire questions about her likes and dislikes.

  1. Any foods you don’t like? Cantaloupe and Cauliflower
  2. Favorite place to go to relax? The beach
  3. Favorite beach? St. George Island
  4. Favorite chocolate for baking? Ghirardelli
  5. Cocktail parties or cookouts? Cocktail parties
  6. Favorite apron? Hedley & Bennett
  7. Travel essential? Earring organizer from Amazon
  8. Snapchat or TikTok? TikTok
  9. Favorite season? Summer
  10. Favorite holiday? Easter
  11. Red wine or Rose’- Red
  12. Favorite hostess gift to give- Tea towel
  13. Favorite party favor? Flower arrangement in something to keep like a teacup
  14. Favorite party theme? Casual Girls’ Night with Wine and a Movie
lady in kitchen wearing pink tiered shirt and gray pants

As the mom of a teenage girl, I love the example Ivy provides to my daughter and her peers. I feel grateful to Ivy for being the epitome of southern grace combined with determination, eagerness, confidence, wit, and intelligence. I could just hug her for representing all of those values to the teens out there who are searching for young role models. I asked Ivy what message she would give to girls younger than she, and this is what she had to say~

“Girl power is a lot more powerful than you think. Be willing to fight for yourself. Be fearless but with grace. Show kindness and humility. Don’t act better than others.” ~Ivy Odom

vanilla cake with pink frosting partially sliced with cake knife on counter

And, with that, I think you can see why I am so excited to share Ivy on my website. I can’t wait to cheer Ivy on as she continues on her path- she reaches high and I look forward to watching her soar!

You can find more from Ivy on

Southern Living YouTube

Ivy Odom Instagram

Cheers, y’all,

Lydia xo

champagne brunch on bar cart with tea service
Designing a Champagne Brunch Drink Station

A champagne brunch is such a simple and beautiful way to celebrate or entertain. I am going to show you the basics of setting up an area for serving champagne (and a non-alcoholic version, too). I will also share one of my favorite champagne cocktails in case you prefer to take it up a notch.

champagne brunch drink station set with berries and flutes

For starters, use a silver or gold/brass ice bucket as a focal point for the champagne drink station. Here, I used a vintage brass loving cup / trophy cup ice bucket. I think it is always interesting to use a unique serving piece in the center. You can also use a garden planter or cache pot to hold several bottles of champagne at a time. Another striking alternative is to group several (at least 3) coordinating single ice buckets as the focal point and elevate them so that they are different heights.

Champagne brunch drink station

Secondly, use a serving tray that gives the occasion an extra-special feel. Here I used one of my favorite silver trays and loaded it with simple champagne flutes. The metallic and glass complement each other nicely and play off of each other with a little bit of shimmer. To create a fun, celebratory vibe, add in a playful sign or saying such as the “Press for Champagne” button below…

loving cup trophy with tulips and press for champagne button

You could incorporate the playful message through printed napkins, or a garland/banner that fits nicely on the drink area.

champagne brunch large brass trophy cup ice bucket

On the tray, use a loving cup to serve raspberries, blackberries, or blueberries. Remember to add a spoon so that the guests can add the berries to their champagne glasses. Above, I also added simple pink candy melts in a silver loving cup to add an unexpected treat that also was a pretty shade of pink! 🙂

champagne brunch drink station roses and tulips in loving cups

I surrounded the champagne and tray of glasses with flowers. Parker Kennedy Living and I put together several loving cup container ideas, and I used those to dress up the champagne bar. I kept it simple by setting up the champagne on the sideboard in our dining room- it has an easy flow of traffic and is large enough to serve more than one person at a time. The loving cups full of flowers give it a beautiful feel- and is a perfect way to brighten up a winter day.

loving cups used for decorating your home and valentines day

Continuing with the loving cup theme, I set up a hot tea service (see my favorite tea here) on my bar cart beside the champagne bar. It is always a thoughtful gesture to serve non-alcoholic options, even at a champagne brunch! The silver urn serving piece holds the hot water and makes a great centerpiece.

champagne brunch on bar cart with tea service

Around the urn, I added all of the essentials for hot tea- the tea itself, honey sticks, sugar…

champagne brunch with tea also served in loving cup

Remember to offer several teacups and saucers for the guests to serve themselves- along with a spoon for stirring. Colorful macarons add another bright spot to a wintry day and pair nicely with tea.

champagne brunch with loving cups with tea and macarons

As you can see, I also placed a pretty bottle of water on the serving cart and glasses are housed below. Simply add cocktail napkins and flowers, and you are all set!

champagne brunchloving cup silver tea server urn

Setting up a bar cart / drink station for a champagne brunch doesn’t have to be difficult or elaborate. If you elevate the simple necessities and use items from around your home, you can design a beautiful setting for drinks in no time. One last little tip… remember to add a tea towel or bar towel to your drink station. It will help with accidental spills (which always happen) and will make your guests feel more comfortable to have a towel close by if needed when dealing with drinks. That way, no one has to embarrass themselves over a spill that needs a lot of attention. See below for my suggestions for champagne cocktails and favorite teas…

loving cup with orchid on tea service cart

This is a simple way to add a little something special to your already special champagne!

champagne brunch drink station set with berries and flutes

Champagne Brunch Cocktail

Lydia Menzies

Ingredients
  

Instructions
 

  • To make, first soak the sugar cubes in the bitters. I put them on a plate or small dish and let the sugar absorb the juices and flavors.
  • Peel a small strip of lemon. Remove any pulp. Twist the lemon peel and hold for a few seconds until the peel holds the twist shape.
  • Place sugar cube in bottom of champagne flute.
  • Top with chilled champagne.
  • Garnish with lemon twist.
  • Serve immediately.
  • Enjoy!

Cheers xo,

Lydia

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