Galentine’s Brunch Planning Guide

With Galentine’s falling on a weekend, it is the perfect excuse to host a brunch! And for me, there is nothing more that I love than a good brunch — not to mention, I think it’s one of the easier meals to host, while still being able to make an impressive spread that is tasty for everyone. But don’t worry, I have you covered from the menu, recipes, table setting, Valentine’s and decor, too!
Galentines_beelifeblog(2)When it comes to brunch food, there are a ton of great recipes that are overnight prep so all you have to do the morning of, is stick them in the oven and wait for your guests to arrive! Not to mention both casseroles are easy to prep, don’t require a done of ingredients and cover both bases for those friends who are sticking to a diet or maybe love indulging in a little something sweet! The overnight egg casserole is easy to switch out to be meat free if you’re accounting for any dietary needs. Fresh fruit with brunch is always a must, I like to go with blueberries, strawberries or raspberries – something colorful and health conscious to take away some of the guilt!

Galentine’s Brunch Menu:
– Overnight Casseroles: Breakfast Egg Casserole + French Toast Casserole
– Fresh Fruit
– Donut holes or Cinnamon rolls
Bloody Mary Bar
– Mimosas

Lastly the beverages for your Galentine’s Brunch are just as important as the food! Knowing your gal-pals preferences always helps streamline this, so you can have a mix of Bloody Mary’s and Mimosas or can stick to one. This post on how to create your own Bloody Mary bar can help you make a fun statement and if you’re planning for mimosas, be sure to grab a few extra juices besides the standard, like cranberry or pineapple plus your fresh fruit can garnish these too!
Galentines_beelifeblog(3)Set the Table & Decor. Since it’s your gal pals, keeping the table setting and decor simple, yet fun and festive is key and will also let you enjoy yourself too! Making your own table runner and place settings can help save some money with taking little time and effort on the crafting side, and still resulting in a big impact. This hand painted X’s and O’s table runner, I shared last week is just too stinkin’ cute and is pretty in pink for Galentine’s Day!

Also, don’t let your gals go home empty handed without a little keepsake; these wooden love letter Valentine’s can be customized with everyone’s names or fun little notes like, “U R CUTE” or “BFF4L” or “Ride or Die.” Adding a little note on the back is another way to send a little extra love their way! These will help finish off your table decor and filling these seats, while also bringing a big smile to your pals faces. And snag the colorful cute heart tassel garland from Target for only $6 to add to your table decor or hang in an entry way! Galentines_beelifeblog(1)Finishing Touches. Getting festive red or pink paper straws can be a fun touch for those Bloody Mary’s or the mimosas. Fresh flowers are always a nice touch if you wanted to switch out your table centerpiece.  Don’t forget to set the mood for your brunch with some music, check out my Heart Ache playlist or my emnblovetracks playlist for a mix of all those feelings of love. Heart Ache has a lot of good throw backs, especially some good ones to sing with your gals.

Happy Galentine Brunching!

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Overnight French Toast Casserole – The Recipe

For Easter brunch this year I made a new dish, that I’ve had at my aunts but this was new to my immediate family and for me! So it was a perfect time to make it for them.  Plus, it’s an overnight casserole, so all your prep is the night before and all you have to do morning of is pop it in the oven – SO EASY! Not to mention, this is SOOOO good, especially if you love some breakfast sweets.
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Prep Time: 20-minutes
Cook Time:
45-minutes

What You’ll Need:
– 10-12 slices of white bread (I used 10)
– 5-6 eggs (I used 6)
– 1/2 cup of margarine aka 1-stick
– 1.5 cups of brown sugar
– 1-teaspoon of cinnamon
– 1.5 cups of milk (I used almond milk)
– 9×13 baking pan
– Maple Syrup for serving
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Step-by-Step:
1. Items to prep ahead: (a) Melt your stick butter (b) Beat your 6-eggs into a bowl, add your milk and stir well (c) Mix your brown sugar and cinnamon into a smaller bowl.
2. Now that you have all the main fixings prepped, take your 9×13 baking pan and pour your melted butter across the bottom – from there fill the pan with your first layer of bread.  Only 4-full pieces fit in my pan, so I cut one in half to fill in the little spot left.
3. Sprinkle about half of your cinnamon and brown sugar mix overtop the first layer.
4. Add your second layer of bread, I adjusted where my smaller pieces were from the bottom, just because!
5. Pour your egg and milk mixture over all of the bread.
6. Sprinkle the rest of your cinnamon and brown sugar mixture overtop.
7. Cover and refrigerate over night!
8. Good morning! Pre-heat your oven to 350 and bake covered for 30-minutes.
9. After 30-minutes, uncover and bake for 15-minutes or until set and toppings are browned.
10. Serve with maple syrup & enjoy! French Toast (6) - the bee life
The next time I make this dish, I have a few other ideas on how to step this up to the next level, adding in apples in between the layers for an apple french toast, or even having a strawberry drizzle to put on top before serving and eating. Doesn’t that sound even more delish?!  But seriously, if you love a good sweet in the morning – this is so easy and so delicious!

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Weekend Recap – Easter Things

Easter fell super late this year, so it’s crazy that April is nearly over – eeek! But the Easter weekend flew by just like the rest of this month has been. Not to mention the weather was gross and rainy (but those May flowers are coming!!) it made you just want to lay around and not do much besides watch some playoff basketball – which we did!

All of last week, I was prepping to host my first Easter brunch, even though it wasn’t going to be for the masses – I wanted to make sure I had a nice well-rounded meal planned.  I knew I wanted to make this Overnight French Coast Casserole recipe, so that was a definite (recipe coming later this week!), bacon is always a brunch staple in our household, and then I made a batch of scrambled eggs and had blueberries and raspberries too! The guys made up bloodies, while mom and I stuck with coffee. It was so all so delicious and so filling, yum!
Easter Weekend Recap - the bee life
We wrapped up our Easter weekend with B’s family with a tasty ham, mashed potatoes, baked carrots and salad – we definitely ate well this weekend, that is for sure.  We even helped our nieces with an Easter egg hunt! They were so cute and excited to open their plastic eggs filled with coins and candy and find their Easter baskets – it was super fun to see them so excited about the holiday fun!

Beyond all the Easter festivities, we enjoyed some local eats at some of our favorite spots and even a few new ones – we had a lot of good catching up and laughs, not to mention a house full of pups that kept us busy! How was your weekend?

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Easter Brunch – Tablescape & Prep

Easter is less than a week away and I’m excited to be hosting brunch for my immediate family!  So I’ll be taking you along the ride as I first – prep the dining table and plan the menu, and then I’ll share the actual spread and a recap of how everything went (compared to how I thought it would go!) and finally I’ll share a few of the recipes from the brunch! Easter Dining - the bee life (1)
Setting the Table: I always love planning and setting up my dining room table with holiday and seasonal decor and this year was no different – it’s even better when I actually have an excuse and am able to host! I opted to go with more neutral themed colors with pops of color – using my blue and teal paisley table runner and teal-ish placemats that match the table runner perfect!

For the centerpiece, I wanted to keep it simple while still making a statement, I uncovered three large jugs tucked away in the basement I wanted to incorporate these into the focal point.  Paired with Easter basket grass and my bright eggs with pops of gold this added the right amount of color to the simple base of blues and greens. I had fun mixing and matching plates, chargers, silverware and champaign glasses so we can all enjoy some bubbles with our yummy eats!  Easter Dining - the bee life (3)
For the name tags I found these adorable mini 2×3″ frames at Target on the clearance shelf – with blues and a nice pop of pink these were the exact color pallet I was already working with, so I grab a few to use as the place settings with the idea of adding the names in place of a picture!  Since these don’t scream Easter – I’ll be able to re-use for the future.  I wasn’t able to find my exact frames on Target.com but these stone 2×3″ frame and this modern acrylic 2×3″ frame were two other options I also saw on the clearance rack that would be fun for name tags at the table.

Meal Prep: Planning the meal was fairly easy, I knew that I wanted to have a good spread of options, but keep the prep and cook-time to a minimum since it’ll be a shorter morning with Easter church.  So I went to my go-to guide of overnight breakfast casseroles and then cook in the morning, and then filled in the rest of the food groups with other easy yet filling options! Beyond thinking about food it’s important to think through beverage options as well and having coffee, decaf coffee, tea options, juices and then the staples like a bloody mary bar and the fixing and toppings for mimosas! I will be trying a different casserole than ones I’ve shared before and you’re going to die at how easy it is and how delicious it is – stay tuned!
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In addition to hosting brunch, we’ll also be hosting the family at the house – so not only will I’ll be getting all the groceries purchased throughout the week and prepping the house. It’ll be a busy week getting ready but it’ll be so fun having everyone together!

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Travel: Chicago Eats

We squeezed a lot in during our quick trip to Chicago – but there was definitely a lot more on the list of recommendations that we need to get back to try! We pretty much focused on brunch, dinner and dessert of course.

Chicago Style Pizza at Lou Malnati’s – This was B’s pick, since he’d seen the restaurant on Triple D – and it was also conveniently located near our hotel.  The vibe of the restaurant was low-key and because we were seated in the bar area – we had prime seating to watch a few of the March Madness games that were on.  We split a salad and a small classic Chicago deep dish pizza and it was more than enough for the two of us! From Lou’s we ventured over to Sprinkles, a cupcake place each picking out our own treat to enjoy as a night cap – which were absolutely delicious, btw.
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3 Art’s Club Cafe at Restoration Hardware – Through some tricky instagram research I found this spot which ended up also being right near our hotel, this place looked like a dream and with a brand like Restoration Hardware to back it up we knew this would be a top notch spot to enjoy brunch.  Luckily for us, we took advantage of being in town on a week day and beat weekend traffic and waits – and were seated right away next to the focal point fountain and chandelier. The brunch scramble with avocado and texas  toast and side of Canadian bacon did not disappoint, nor did the wedding cake fry cake doughnut or Bellini.  We could’ve stayed here all day… more to come on RH in my next recap!
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The Hampton Social – Another spot found through some tricky instagram research, this place looked trendy and seemed to have a menu to back it up with a decent variety of options to pick from.  Admittedly, B and I were both underwhelmed with not only the restaurant atmosphere/experience but with the food as well.  This would’ve maybe been a better spot for pre-dinner drinks and an appetizer, as everyone pretty much just wanted to get a photo with the ‘Rose all day’ neon sign, including the 12-year olds seated next to us and the food was good enough.
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Brunch, for brunch – This brunch spot had a huge menu to pick from with all your breakfast standards with some fun twists – making it a win-win for everyone.  B had the perfect scramble “Morning Wrecker” that was pretty much made for him, and I went against my better judgement and ordered on the more healthy train with a standard eggs/meat/toast combo instead of the doughnut french toast that I had my eye on.
Brunching Pro-tip: When you’re on vacay, just order the damn french toast – especially if it’s made from doughnuts!
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One reason we love to travel and something we always plan for when we do travel is finding good spots to eat – unfortunately with a short trip there are only so many meals to consume and only so much our stomachs can handle!  So, as I mentioned when we venture back to CHI next time we will definitely be returning to a few of these, while also exploring for some more yummy eats!

What’s your favorite CHI-town eats?
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Create Your Own Bloody Mary Bar

One meal that is just as important and often shared with our loved ones is BRUNCH! We love brunch, and even more than going out to brunch, we love hosting brunch with friends and family.  From easy breakfast casseroles prepped the night before, to french toast and egg skillets – the only other thing you need is a yummy Bloody Mary to go alongside it! I have an easy way to make an awesome statement for your brunch-goer guests with an awesome Build Your Own Bloody Mary Bar.
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What You’ll Need:
– Cube Cheese; Sharp Cheddar, Colby, Swiss – all your faves!
– Beef Sticks
– Celery & Carrot Sticks
– Pickles
– Thick Cut Bacon
– Stuffed Olives; 3x (garlic, blue cheese, feta)
– Horseradish Sauce/Hot Sauce – extra spice
– Bloody Mary Mix: Zing Zang
– Vodka!
– Extras: Sport peppers, whole banana peppers

For Serving:
– A round or square tray to hold all your toppings & keep you bar area contained
– Glass containers; I used 5-square votive holders (washed) and 4-taller sphere candle holders (washed) to hold the various toppings, you can find these at the dollar store!
– Write with a marker on the glassware to help distinguish cheeses, stuffed olives, etc.
– Fun Paper Straws, skewers & cocktail napkins!

Step-by-Step:
– Cook your bacon; this might be the item you’ll want to prep most ahead of time in order to make sure you account for that bake time appropriately in the oven, the goal here is for the bacon to be nice & stiff.
– If you don’t buy your cheese pre-cubed, you’ll want to cut up your various cheeses and separate into glassware and label accordingly – Next prep, wash, and cut your celery and carrots. For your celery it’s OK to keep the leaves on, it’s a fun garnish for your bloody! I also bought pre-cut beef sticks, so it was easier for platting.
– When your ready to create your Bloody masterpiece fill your pilsner glass with ice; add your shot of vodka, or more, fill the rest of your glass with your Bloody Mary mix! This is when you can add any additional hot sauces or horseradish to mix in.
– Garnish your bloody to your liking & last, but not least – cheers with your crew!
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I was inspired by one of our favorite brunch spots who has an impressive Bloody Mary Bar – the options are seriously endless of what you could have for garnishes for your bar, but the most important factor is knowing what your guests like and having enough of a variety!  This is a fun way for guests to create something they love with all their favorite toppings, in addition to a delicious brunch!

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Travel: #EmnBtoSTL

Since we flew in and out of St. Louis, we were able to spend two-days in St. Louis on our way out from the Ozarks, and a quick brunch on our way out to the lake.  Needless to say our 2-days in St. Louis were jam packed with prime tourist spots and a few off the path places.   We wish we would’ve had more time to explore, but definitely got a taste of St. Louis.

Half & Half Brunch
I had been researching some good food spots, luckily we were able to, at least attend one spot.  It was the perfect pit stop to refuel after an early morning of travel and before the drive to the lake.  The atmosphere was quaint and cozy, the service was friendly and on point, the food was amazing and wish we could’ve gone back for more!

Gateway Arch 
We popped over the the Gateway arch to start one of our days.  The last time I was in St. Louis, I was too young to remember, old photographs are all I have as a memory, so it was great to go back and appreciate the beauty.   Not to mention this was B’s first trip to the city.  We were late to the game booking a tour to go up inside the arch, but we were able to snap enough photos around the manicured greens.  This is definitely a must in STL.

Anheuser Busch Brewery
Of course we made a stop to the iconic “all-American” brewery.  This little village located on the perimeter of downtown, was an impressive site to see with many of the buildings built in the 1800’s, that by the way are in pristine condition.   The complimentary tour was the perfect combination of tradition and taste, while we began and ended our visit in the bier garden! A highlight of our stop here was touring the Clydesdale barn built in 1885, and then snapping a photo with one too!

We had a great trip at the lake, ending it with fun activities in St. Louis.  We definitely want to get back to visit a few new spots and enjoy a few again!

Breakfast Casserole – The Recipe

I’ve got the perfect recipe for an upcoming work week or a weekend brunch.  This breakfast casserole is super easy to make, low prep and super tasty!
breakfast-casserole

What You’ll Need:
– 12 oz. reduced-fat bulk pork sausage
– 1 medium sized onion, chopped
– 2 eggs
– 4 egg whites
– 2 cups fat-free milk (I used almond milk)
– 1.5 teaspoons of ground mustard
– 1 teaspoon salt & pepper
– 8 slices of white bread, cubed
– 2 cups (8oz) of shredded cheddar

Step-by-Step:
1. Cook the sausage and chopped onion in a nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Cook until sausage is no longer pink, drain and cool.
2. In large bowl, beat the eggs, egg whites, milk, mustard, salt and pepper together.  Stir in the cubed bread, cheese, sausage and onion mixture. Pour into 13 x 9-inch baking dish (coated with baking spray).
3. Cool and refrigerator (okay over night).
4. Remove from fridge for 30-minutes before baking.
5. Bake, uncovered at 350-degrees for 35-40 minutes, or until a knife inserted comes clean from the center.  Let stand for 5-minutes before cutting and enjoying.

If you want to make a veggie option; switch out the meat and add in some of your favorite veggies like mushrooms, tomatoes or spinach.  Just be careful to drain appropriately as it will get watered down a bit more so may want to bake a bit longer than the recommended pork version.  Whip up a Bloody Mary or mimosas and enjoy!

Enjoy!

5 Reasons To Host a Fall Party

If you don’t have an upcoming fall party planned, I highly recommend getting something in the books whether it’s later this month or into early November. And if you’re not convinced why you should be hosting a fall party… or that it can be SUPER easy, let me tell you how. reasons-to-host-a-fall-partyBrunch & Football – Throwing together a football brunch can be really easy too, with a magic thing called breakfast casserole (recipe to come)! Most of the prep for a breakfast casserole is the night ahead, so all you have to do the morning of is throw it in the oven.  Have a TV with football? Boom, turn it on and grab some mimosas or bloody mary makings and your set for a day of drinking, friends and football – check out our brunch last fall.

Chili – I’ll be sharing my mom’s delicious chili recipe (that I’ve adopted overtime) on an upcoming post.  But as long as you have a killer recipe, a box or two of cornbread and a crockpot, all you need to do is throw the ingredients together in the morning and by mid-afternoon or by dinner time you’ll have a delicious, easy to serve, low mess and matience dish for your guests!  Have some friends bring some beers and dessert and you’ve got a low key night. Light some candles, start a fire and pull out some games and you’ve got a fun night ahead of you.

Pumpkin Beers – Literally craft a party around pumpkins beers (or harvest blends).  Have your guests bring a six pack or two, and let the tasting begin.  You could even create score cards and a rating system for everyone to weigh in.

Breweries or New Spots –  Don’t want to host something at your house? Plan a gathering at a local pub or a new brewery with your favorites.  Not only will there be no mess to clean up at the end of the night, but you’ll be able to try something new or enjoy a fan favorite.  Then end the night with a bonfire back at your house!

Pie Baking – Have a girls afternoon and bake some pies! Pop open some wine or rose, share some recipes and bake some yummy pies or fall favorites to work out the kinks for upcoming holiday celebrations!

The summer’s are always so busy so try and catch-up with friends now before the holiday craze starts up again! You don’t need to be too elaborate or overthink your upcoming fall party, it can be easy, low key and affordable!

Hosting an upcoming fall party? Share your pictures or hacks with me on twitter or instagram @mmariebee.