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SUMMER, SUMMER, SUMMERTIME BACKYARD BASH

Throw a relaxed backyard barbecue party with this delicious grilled peach and prosciutto salad recipe! via Lauren Kelp

Well, howdy friends! Have you been enjoying your summertime? I know we have! Maybe it’s because the summers are so short here in Chicago, or maybe it’s because there is something so quintessentially summertime about eating outdoors, whatever the reason – I have been itching to throw a fun backyard supper club style barbecue!Throw a relaxed backyard barbecue party with this delicious grilled peach and prosciutto salad recipe! via Lauren Kelp

Last week, we rounded up some friends and threw a casual family-style backyard bash and it was exactly what dreams are made of. Great food (I mean, just check out that insane grilled peach and prosciutto salad!), wonderful friends, and a breezy summer evening to sip wine, catch up, and laugh all night.

Throw a relaxed backyard barbecue party with this delicious grilled peach and prosciutto salad recipe! via Lauren Kelp

With the warm weather creeping in, the only way to cool down is to stock up on some wine, invite some friends over, and relax over a barbecue. Ask your guests to bring their own goodies for the grill and provide some sides, or play chef and try out some of those recipes you’ve pinned! There is nothing like trying out new recipes on guests. I do it all the time & weirdly, it always works out!

Throw a relaxed backyard barbecue party with this delicious grilled peach and prosciutto salad recipe! via Lauren Kelp

One recipe that you absolutely (I mean, absolutely) need to pin, bookmark, print out, memorize, or tattoo on your body is this Grilled Peach & Prosciutto salad we are sharing with our pals over on KJ.com. Pop a bottle of Kendall-Jackson’s Vintner’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, or two (no judgment, it’s hot outside), fire up the grill, and get to prepping – because this salad is off the freaking chain!

Throw a relaxed backyard barbecue party with this delicious grilled peach and prosciutto salad recipe! via Lauren Kelp

I think my favorite thing about summer entertaining is how relaxed it can be. Firing up the grill, playing with fun flavors (peaches & prosciutto, yes please!), and just being the excuse to get the gang together.

Summer seems to be such a busy time for everyone, so getting the gang together and spending an evening catching up, relaxing, and making memories is what it’s all about in my book.

Throw a relaxed backyard barbecue party with this delicious grilled peach and prosciutto salad recipe! via Lauren Kelp

So, what do you say? Ready to throw a casual backyard bash? Whether you are in your apartment downtown or firing up the grill poolside, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be thoughtful! Tag us in your next backyard bash – we can’t wait to see!
Throw a relaxed backyard barbecue party with this delicious grilled peach and prosciutto salad recipe! via Lauren Kelp


lauren buttonconstance buttonThis post is sponsored by Kendall-Jackson but all thoughts, opinions, and food obsessions are our own.

SUMMER IN THE CITY

IMG_7397This is our second summer as Chicago residents and I feel like I have barely scratched the surface on fun places to eat, drink, and explore. So, last winter the hubs and I decided that this summer was going to be all about trying new spots, exploring neighborhoods, and making our way around the town!

IMG_7292A few weekends ago, we grabbed a few bags of Soy Vay® Popped Rice Clusters (the perfect on-the-go snack) & hit the streets. The husband is a big fan of their Spicy ‘n Sweet flavor, but I think Ginger ‘n Sesame and Thai Style Peanut are the way to go. If you like their Soy Vay® sauces, then you’ve got to try these new Popped Rice Clusters!

Throw them in your purse or backpack, and you’ve got a yummy little snack (not to mention light & perfect for summer) to help keep the adventure going.
IMG_7377So, what are your summer adventure plans? Are you going to explore your city like us? Take a bike trip along the coast? Maybe go camping with some friends? I want to hear! Summer is all about getting out there, shaking the dust off our regular routines and having a little fun – I can’t wait to get inspired by your fun summer plans!
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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Soy Vay. The opinions and text are all mine.

THE IMPORTANCE OF MORNING ROUTINE make today awesome

IMG_4440Does your morning routine look like this: wake up, reach for your phone, check your email & texts, and maybe look at Instagram if you’ve got the extra minute? There is nothing wrong with picking up your phone first thing (hey, we are guilty of it), but sometimes a pesky email from a boss or a rude text can dictate the tone of your day & no one wants to wake up stressed out.

This month we’ve been challenging ourselves to spend ten minutes, first thing in the morning, to wake up with an easy, phone-free morning routine. Taking just ten minutes to breathe, stretch, set intention, and have a little alone time before the rush of the day kicks in is an amazing way to take back your morning & set yourself up for a healthy day.

IMG_4365SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS:

If your phone is normally plugged in to your nightstand or right next to your bed, try moving it across the room. This forces you to get up & out of bed when your alarm goes off. Normally, we would all run back to our warm, cozy bed, but this week you are going to move to the living room and spend the next 10 minutes in your new daily routine.

To help get things going, I drink a small glass of water & turn on the coffee pot. By the time the coffee is brewed and cooled down a bit, my morning routine is wrapping up and the coffee is already made. This is a great start to a morning already.

pure delight 1MEDITATE FOR 2 MINUTES

Despite what you might think about meditating, there are lots of different ways & a mass of health reasons why meditating, even a few times a week, is incredibly beneficial. I’ve been starting off my mornings by setting a timer for 2 minutes and sitting in a quiet place, with our eyes closed, focusing on our breath.

I increased those two minutes to four the next week & then again in two-minute increments as the weeks roll on. So far I am up to eight minutes & it’s the best part of my morning. Sitting in my office with a candle lit, the smell of coffee coming in through the kitchen, and eight glorious minutes to just wake up, check in with how I am feeling, and set personal intentions for my day. It’s insane how much better I feel & how my reactions have changed when met with stressful situations.

IMG_4432CELEBRATE YOUR MORNING

You did it! You woke up a few minutes early & chose to spend a little time on yourself this morning instead of jumping right into the work day grind. How do you feel? Sure, a little sleepy maybe, but hopefully you feel more grounded and prepared to take on the day.

Our days are filled with people needing things from us –  that email,  your attention, your input – and while that might just be part of the daily grind, taking a few minutes out of the morning to give yourself a little love, a good pep talk, and a great cup of coffee will help make the grind a little better.

If you are looking for a little extra love, try some Simply Pure clean coffee creamer. Only five simple ingredients & your morning cup of coffee just got seriously upgraded. I am partial to the French Vanilla, but I hear the Hazelnut is pretty divine as well.

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lauren and sylvia

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of International Delight. The opinions and text are all mine.

HIS & HERS VALENTINE’S COCKTAILS

IMG_1932There are always a lot of His & Her’s round ups, gift guides, and the like around Valentine’s Day, and while those never really grab my attention, this pairing is something I can absolutely get behind – His & Her’s Valentine’s Day cocktails!

Something sweet and romantic for the lady & something a bit more bold for the mister. It’s a match made in heaven! So before your VDay plans are complete, make sure you add these lovely libations to the list. Can’t wait to see what you think. xoxo, LK

IMG_1979HER COCKTAIL – THE BLUSH

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup fresh squeeze grapefruit juice (trust me, it’s better fresh!)

1 cup sparkling water

4 tablespoons vodka

3 tablespoons St. Germain

Honey or a natural sweetener

Ice

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Add a handful of ice to your cocktail shaker & add in ingredients (wait until you’ve tried your cocktail until adding in the honey or sweetener).

2. Shake until shaker is cold & pour into a fabulous glass!

3. Garnish with a thin slice of grapefruit or another citrus (we used a blood orange from the recipe below!)

4. Serve, sip, repeat!

IMG_1966 HIS COCKTAIL – THE MISTER

INGREDIENTS:

1 ½ ounces dry gin (we love Farmer’s!)
3 ounces blood orange juice (save the peel)
1 tablespoon thyme simple syrup
4 ounces tonic water
Thyme (for garnish)

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. For simple syrup, bring sugar and water to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and add thyme sprigs, stir in gently. Allow to cool for 20-25 minutes and remove sprigs before serving.

2. In a low glass, fill it with a few cubes of ice, gin, blood orange juice, and thyme syrup. Top off with tonic & stir gingerly.

2. Cut off a peel from one of your used blood oranges, twist, and add in for garnish. Top cocktail off with a sprig of thyme & serve, sip, repeat!

IMG_1930So what do you say, lovebirds? Are these going to make it on your Valentine’s Day menu?! Since whipping these puppies up, I have to admit, they have been on repeat in our house. The are just so delicious! Anything with blood oranges has me weak at the knees already, but the two as a pair are out of this world.

Can’t wait to hear about your weekend & if you mix these up, let me know! 
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HOST A GALENTINE’S DAY HAPPY HOUR

GALS0013Let’s be real, Valentine’s Day kind of gets a bad wrap. Between the overpriced flowers and prix fixe dinners, it can get a little out of control. Not to mention, there is all this hype, so the pressure is on to do something amazing & spectacular (cause you have to post about it, duh).

Well, we think that’s all a little exhausting and no one likes an evening full of expectations and over priced food, so instead, we are taking the reigns back and making this holiday fun again! Whether you are single, married, tinder-ing, or just really into cats, you have fabulous girl friends in your life that deserve celebrating, right?!

RIGHT! So, we are brushing past the weirdness that Valentine’s Day can bring, and inviting the ladies over for a little Galentine’s Day celebration! Bust out the Rosé, the cheese boards, and the friendship, because we are showing you how to throw a Galentine’s Day brunch even Leslie Knope would be proud of!
GALS0025TIP ONE: Get All of the Rosé

It wouldn’t be a proper gal party without the appropriate beverages and for this bash, we are all about the Rosé. Allegedly, some people aren’t crazy about Rosé, but I think that’s because they haven’t had the right variety. We recently discovered the Grand Reserve Rosé and cannot get enough of it! It’s perfectly pink, refreshingly crisp, and impresses everyone we serve it to. If that isn’t an impressive calling card, I don’t know what is.

Make sure to go online & order it here. Also, if I were you, I would stock up on a few extra bottles. It tends to go quickly & it’s so good, you’ll want it on hand at all times!

PRO TIP: I love stocking up on raspberries or pears and adding a few to each glass. It’s acts as a classy way to determine whose wine is whose & it’s a delicious treat at the end.

GALS0005TIP TWO: Create a Relaxed Menu

No need to stress when figuring out what to serve the gals, we’ve got just the thing! As you all know, we love a good cheese board, but it’s important to have variety when entertaining. We recommend grabbing a bunch of goodies (think berries, nuts, pretzels, charcuterie, cheese, crackers, you name it!) and putting them all in a central location. Whether it’s on a board (or two) on the coffee table, or in various bowls and dishes around the kitchen island, the food will determine where people hang out so plan accordingly.

The key to a good spread is having lots of fun options but one (fabulous) main event. We are obsessed with this honey baked Camembert because it’s just the right about of sweet (thanks to the honey) but perfectly savory (from the garlic & sea salt). It’s truly what cheese board dreams are made of & couldn’t be easier!

PRO TIP: Bookmark, print, write-down, or screen shot this honey baked Camembert recipe because it is an entertaining gem. Two minutes of prep and a 15 minute bake time and you will look like a regular old Martha Stewart 😉

GALS0028TIP THREE: Ditch the Decorations

Let’s be real, no one needs fancy decorations to have a good time. Plus, we would rather spend that money on an extra bottle of Rosé or fun cards to write silly loves notes in. Give the house a good tidy, fluff the pillows, put on a fun playlist and let your friends do the rest.

The main ingredients to a great party are the right libations, a variety of food, and a good atmosphere. It’s really that simple! If you feel like making the evening slightly more themed, grab some fun cards (or heck, make them yourself!) and write little love notes to your gal pals. Everyone loves getting mail that isn’t a bill, so give your friends a little confidence boost, a reminder why you love them, and something to totally show off on their desk at work. 

GALS0032Three tips to throwing the perfect Galentine’s Day brunch & it couldn’t be easier, right?! Remember, the best part is getting the gals together and having a great time. With great wine & best friends, it’s the perfect pairing!

We would love to see your Galentine’s Day bash! Make sure to tag @laurenkelp & @kjwines on Instagram to show off your mad entertaining skills.

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lauren buttonconstance buttonThis post is sponsored by Kendall-Jackson but all thoughts, opinions, and food obsessions are our own.

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COQ AU VIN Subtitle Text Goes Here to Capture Audience

COQAUVIN0017Oh, hey friends! Today quite possibly marks the day that LaurenKelp.com officially got fancy. We whipped up the most gorgeous twist on a traditional Coq au Vin dish in our new Le Creuset mix & match Dutch Oven (you know, to break it in and stuff) & the results were nothing short of mindblowingly delicious. We’ve always been a big fan of the Dutch Oven, but this little beauty seals the deal. It’s stunning!
COQAUVIN0015Now, I know we talk a lot about simple recipe and quick little cooking hacks, but today is the day we flex our cooking mussels. Our take on Coq au Vin isn’t wildly difficult to make, it just takes a bit more prep work and a little more patience, but the results are nothing short of magnificent. COQAUVIN0012Traditional Coq au Vin calls for chicken thighs & breasts, but we felt a bit daring so we switched it up and used Cornish Game Hen. The best part about the Dutch Oven is that it does a lot of the heavy lifting, flavor-wise, for you. This dish is perfect to make for a special night, a fun dinner-party, or if you just want to elevate your kitchen game. As always, it won’t go perfectly, but that’s the best part! Who knows, you may just add something that makes the dish perfectly your own! COQAUVIN0009

INGREDIENTS:

8 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

2 cups full-bodied red wine (we used a Cabernet Sauvignon)

Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1 Cornish Game hen

Olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

10 white pearl onions, blanched and peeled

1/2 pound small cremini mushrooms

1 tablespoon tomato paste

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons Cognac

5 fresh thyme sprigs

2 bay leaves

Flat-leaf parsley, for garnish

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INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Place Game Hen in a large bowl, and add wine. Cover, and refrigerate overnight.

2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

3. Remove Game Hen from wine, and pat dry; reserve wine. Season Game Hen with salt and pepper.

4. Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat until crisp, about 20 minutes. Transfer bacon to a plate, leaving drippings in pot.

5. Raise heat to medium-high. Working in batches, cook Game Hen, flipping once, until golden, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Add chopped onion to pot, and cook 4 to 5 minutes. Add garlic, and cook 2 minutes. Add pearl onions and mushrooms, and cook until brown, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and flour, and cook 2 minutes. Add Cognac, and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

6. Return bacon and Game Hen to pot. Add thyme and bay leaves. Cover, and place in oven until Game Hen has cooked through and vegetables are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Discard herbs, and skim fat from surface.

7. Serve & enjoy! Pairs wonderfully with mashed potatoes and your favorite bold red!

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Recipe adapted from the queen herself, Martha Stewart

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ITALIAN DINNER FOR TWO WITH BERTOLLI

IMG_5890 As you guys might have guessed by now, we are all about sharing a meal together. Whether it is breakfast or dinner, we want to encourage everyone to sit down, unplug, and share a meal with a loved one or a new friend once a day. While that is an achievable goal, the whole making the meal bit can be tricky.

We get it! Time is so precious and we never seem to have enough of it. Most days it’s dinner-time and I look in the fridge for something to make only to realize we have two tomatoes, some ice cream, and a bunch of half eaten condiments. The struggle is real, y’all. Thankfully, our friends at Bertolli have come to our rescue and have made the most ingenious little dinners for two. IMG_5755One of the things I love about Bertolli is their mission – they want you to have a “mangia moment” every time you eat. Just like us, they want you to turn a boring meal into something delicious and inspiring, like dining like an Italian.

Swap out the frozen pizza for a delicious skillet meal for two and watch what happens. Not only does your body feel better, but you’ve just transformed a typically hurried time into something delicious and enjoyable!
bertolli2So, it’s time to eat like an Italian! Stop by your local grocery story and check out the Bertolli Meals for Two and have at it! We created our #mangiamoment by carving out an extra five minutes to have a date night at home. I threw a tablecloth on our dining room table, set it using our favorite glasses, and withing 10 minutes we had a delicious meal from skillet to plate. We got to catch up, drink wine, unplug, and have a moment with each other – it was fantastic!

To help get your Italian juice flowing, we are doing something really fun and helping giveaway a trip to Napa Valley! Scroll down to see how to enter & start planning more dinners at home!

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Share your mangia moment and how you dine like an Italian!

Contest/Sweepstakes: Enter by sharing how you “Dine like an Italian” by sharing your #MangiaMoment on your social accounts (via photo) on Instagram or Twitter using hashtag #MangiaMoment and #Sweepstakes.

1. Set the table (and the mood, of course!) with your favorite Bertolli meal

2. Snap a photo of your #mangiamoment during dinner

3. Share your photo to Instagram or Twitter for the chance to win A TRIP TO NAPA VALLEY!

4. Side note: You MUST include a photo and the hashtags #mangiamoment and #sweepstakes to win. See all the contest details.

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Photography by This Girl Sylvia

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This post is brought to you by Bertolli, but all thoughts, comments, and food obsessions are our own

THROW A WINE TASTING BIRTHDAY PARTY

KJWineTasting0013Hello, hello, hello! Today we are mixing things up a bit and talking about how to throw a party that is very near and dear to everyone’s hearts – a birthday party! If you are like me, you might not be the biggest fan of your birthday. The older you get, the more pressure there seems to be to do something really fun, or not do anything at all. We say, ditch the pressure and throw a fun event that just so happens to coincide with your birthday.

For us, it was a wine tasting party this year! We loved it because it took the pressure off of being the center of attention, gave everyone something to do, and was interactive in the best way. Plus, who doesn’t love an excuse to drink wine and eat yummy bites?

KJWineTasting0017So, today, we are showing you, step by step, how to throw the most fun wine tasting birthday party. Who knows, you might have to keep the theme going annually, it will be such a hit!

STEP ONE:

 It’s all about the wine! As you know, we can’t say ‘no’ to a good bottle of Kendall-Jackson wine, so we decided to stick with our favorites and try a bunch of different varietals in their portfolio. We got a good mix of white, a hearty variety of red (those are my favorite) and some fun dessert wines to spice things up.

It is important to get a variety of wines, even some that are outside your comfort zone. For example, I don’t really drink Chardonnay’s, but after this party, the Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay is my new favorite. The goal is that you find some new pairing, whether it is food or wine, that you like. So have some fun!

wine tasting 2STEP TWO:

Build the perfect spread! What is a wine tasting party without the magnificent cheese board that goes with it? Again, if you’ve been following along, you know that we’ve never met a cheese board we didn’t like. The more sliced fruit, roasted nuts, and varieties of cheese – the better in our book!

So go a little wild and have some fun!

I recommend pulling out a series of boards and placing them around your space. Have a board in reach no matter where your guests is sitting, sipping, or mingling. On the sofa, on the coffee and side tables, and definitely a few on your breakfast or dining room tables. This allows the guests to pair their wines with a new snack wherever they are.

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STEP THREE:

It wouldn’t be a party without the cake! For (seriously) the most delicious birthday cake, hop on over to Kendall-Jackson’s blog and read all about our Dark Chocolate Olive Oil cake. It’s the best thing since sliced bread and, in the spirit of wine pairing, it is made even better with a crisp glass of Kendall-Jackson’s Merlot.

Don’t believe me? Hop on over and see!

wine tasting 1STEP FOUR:

Have fun! Yep, that’s it. Three easy steps and you are well on your way to having the most fun birthday party yet. If you want to make your wine pairing party a bit more difficult, feel free to have your guests sip out of black glasses (so they can’t see what they are sipping) or tie a brown paper bag around the bottle to prevent user bias (me with white wine!).

Or, do what we did and just let your guests guide the experience. No matter how it’s thrown, this bash is always a good time had by all and it is absolutely a party for the books!

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lauren kelp author buttonconstance buttonThis post is sponsored by Kendall-Jackson but all thoughts, opinions, and food obsessions are our own.

LUXE HOLIDAY GIFT BASKET FOR LESS

diybasket0006Okay, okay, I know what you are thinking — “Gift Baskets are super boring and kind of lame,” but that is totally not true! I am here to win you over to the basket side of giving. Trust me, you’ll love it! Reason number one – they are fantastically customizable! So you’ve got an Aunt who is a bit tricky to shop for, or maybe you’ve found all of these cute little gifts for your sister but wrapping them all individually just isn’t going to happen. In walks in the Gift Basket and you’re suddenly a gift giving goddess. Here is how to build the most perfect gift basket ever! diybasket0001 (1)First things first, select 4-6 items that you know your giftee loves. Gift Baskets are for building, so have fun with it! I am building this basket for my foodie friend (who just happens to be our lovely Food Editor) Stancy, so I looked for things she would love — elements for the perfect cheese board! It’s important to add a bit of your personality in to the gift, so for a little extra personal flair, I added a DIY gift element to her basket.diybasket0004Who doesn’t love a fabulous wine stopper? And, if you happen to be fans of good wine (which we are) a wine stopper is a fun and easy element of surprise! Become a DIY wine stopper master in just a few steps here!diybasket0002Now that we’ve got all your elements, let’s begin to build! Firstly, grab a basket that fits your goodies. This is a great way to save a buck, so I always grab mine at the dollar store. Add a little padding to the base of your basket with raffia or another fun padding. I always lay down a linen napkin or piece of fabric before I place items in the basket. This adds an element of luxe and the draping affect it gives is so nice.diybasket0007Place your largest items in first to ground the gift. I placed one of my favorite bottles of wine, Kendall Jackson’s Grand Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, to ground the goodies and made it the focal point of the gift. Once you’ve got your largest item in, begin to place items from largest to smallest. Tuck the smallest goodies in to the spaces and build a layering affect. I placed my DIY wine stopper next to a little note to call it out and give it center stage.

HAPPY GIFTING!diybasket0008


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