How to Make a Homemade Mocha with Brewed Coffee {Cross Country Cafe Review}

how to make a homemade mocha

I mentioned in my How to Make Marshmallow Fluff post that since I’ve learned how to make a homemade mocha I’ve had one almost every morning.

I love that I learned how to make a homemade mocha that doesn’t require espresso. It actually starts with a cup of brewed coffee. Since I connected with Cross Country Cafe for my K-cups, I’ve been stocked up with plenty of coffee available for my homemade mochas!

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How to Make Marshmallow Fluff

how to make marshmallow fluff

Figuring out how to make marshmallow fluff has been on my mind for a while.

One of my friends makes lovely homemade marshmallows, and she claims that they’re easy and fun to make. Because of that, I figured that learning how to make marshmallow fluff at home had to be at least a little easier than actual marshmallows!

Why marshmallow fluff? I’ve only recently become accustomed to having a homemade mocha in the morning. It may be unhealthy, but it’s the perfect blend of sugar and caffeine that gets my day off to the right start. One of the ingredients that makes my particular mocha recipe so delicious is the addition of marshmallow fluff.

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One morning I was craving a hot, sweet coffee drink and I was all out of my store-bought fluff. I tried to skip it, tried adding a little extra milk, and I even tried adding actual marshmallows, but it wasn’t the same. Then I searched for how to make marshmallow fluff and found several articles that helped me come up with my own special marshmallow fluff recipe!

The thing I like most is that I came up with a marshmallow fluff recipe without raw egg whites. Using Just Egg Whites powdered egg whites is far safer than using egg whites straight from the fridge. I like that these are actually pasteurized and “salmonella negative.”

Note: since powdered egg whites are useful for far more than learning how to make marshmallow fluff, you might want to consider buying a larger volume. It’s cheaper to buy an 8-ounce bag of powdered egg whites than the 3 ounce can. Just remember to store the extra in the freezer to prolong the freshness.
how to make marshmallow fluff

How to Make Marshmallow Fluff



  • 2 teaspoons Just Egg Whites powder
  • 2 tablespoons warm water
  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions for how to make marshmallow fluff

  1. In a large bowl, gently stir the egg white powder into the warm water with a fork for a minute or two until smooth and fully combined.
  2. Add corn syrup and salt to egg white mixture. Beat on high speed for 10 minutes. This is when it starts to get really fluffy and white!
  3. Add the confectioner’s sugar and mix in on low speed for two minutes or until blended.
  4. Stir in the vanilla.

This makes just under three cups of marshmallow fluff. Store the extra in a covered bowl in the refrigerator for a week, or in a sealed container in the freezer for up to two months.

If you do choose to freeze your homemade marshmallow fluff, it doesn’t freeze solid so you don’t need to worry about a long thawing time. Just stir it well before using it.

 Finally, you’ll see that you’ll need to beat the egg white powder, water, corn syrup and salt for 10 minutes straight on high speed. It’s recipes like these that really make me appreciate my KitchenAid mixer! Being able to walk away while it does the work is a huge advantage.

Cake Batter Dip Recipe: A Fast, 5-Ingredient Treat!

Cake Batter Dip
It’s my birthday today! I’m not usually one to pay much attention to the day, but I couldn’t think of better time to share this super-festive Cake Batter Dip recipe!

Note: If you want to give me a birthday present, just take my quick reader survey. Not only are you doing me a huge favor, you’re helping to improve this site AND you’ll be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift card!

Really, I don’t have too much to say about it. It’s delicious (hello-there’s cake mix in it!), it’s easy and it’s a fun treat to serve at a party.

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While Funfetti cake mix will add extra color to your cake batter dip, you really can use any kind of cake mix you want while keeping the rest of the ingredients the same. [Read more…]

LEGO Cake Ideas: Over 15 Seriously Easy LEGO Birthday Cakes!

LEGO Cake Ideas

You know how sometimes you’re searching online for craft or baking ideas, like LEGO cake ideas, and you come across such a  perfect specimen of what you’re searching for that immediately get discouraged?

Lego cake ideas…like this professional LEGO cake idea that I could never, ever pull off?!? (Credit: Cake It via CakesDecor)

Out of all the LEGO cake ideas I’ve seen online, that cake amazes me the most. But there’s no possible way I could pull that off, and I only know one or two people who could even come close to making a LEGO cake like that. But I’m not going to feel bad about it, and neither should you. You don’t need to be a professional cake decorator to make an amazing LEGO birthday cake! The key idea to remember is that kids want CAKE first; they want a cake with a fun design second.

To me, this means: do your best to make the cake your child wants, but don’t sweat it. If the cake and frosting taste good, that’s really all that matters to everyone attending the birthday party!

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I’m all about saving time, and these easy LEGO cake ideas are definitely a big step in that direction. Depending on the complexity of the design, some will obviously take longer than others. But I’m positive that all of these LEGO birthday cakes are easier to do than that crazy creation from Cake It!

LEGO Cake Ideas

1.  These LEGO cupcakes look positively lovely when frosted with pale yellow frosting and topped with strategically arranged LEGO candy blocks.

2.  Mom Vs. The Boys has another variation on adorable cupcakes decorated with candy bricks. Tinting the cupcake batter before baking is a nice touch!

3.  These LEGO cookies are super clever!

4.  It looks like this LEGO cake idea used LEGO Duplos or Mega Bloks, but the idea can definitely be applied using traditional LEGOs. Just press the bricks into a sheet cake in the shape of a number for the age of the birthday boy or girl! You can even use a store-bought cake if you’d rather not bake. PS: How cute would this Duplo Number Train be on top of a cake?

5.  Surviving the Stores has a fantastic article on How to Have a LEGO Party for Under $100. Check out how the author made amazing homemade LEGO cupcakes with buttercream frosting, then made her own LEGOs out of fondant!

6.  If you have any experience working with fondant this LEGO Nijago cake is visually impressive but doesn’t look all that complicated to make.

7.  Make or buy any cake you want, then create a LEGO Minifigure cake topper with a handmade banner!

8.  These LEGO cake pops are adorable! I love that they use yellow candy melts to streamline the process. Make them even easier by making LEGO head marshmallow pops instead of cake pops!

9.  These are fantastic step-by-step directions for making your own LEGO brick cake with Oreo cookies.

10.  There’s more LEGO cake pops on Spotgirl’s LEGO Party blog post, but keep scrolling down to see the little LEGO minifigure with a LEGO cup in his hand. A birthday candle is in the little cup, and the end result is insanely cute!

11.  This building blocks cake features different sizes and styles of bricks for a fun twist on the LEGO cake idea. Be sure to use gel paste food coloring to get those vibrant colors.

12.  Don’t miss how this mom wrapped the birthday gifts in an adorable LEGO style while you’re checking out her amazing homemade LEGO cake topper made with a combination of plastic bricks and candy bricks!

13.  So many LEGO cake ideas can come from this basic idea: Use a plain cake from a store then decorate it with fondant in primary colors (or Wilton Sugar Sheets?). Save money on cake decorating tools, too!

14.  Use Reese Peanut Buter Cups to make the dots on the top of cakes in the shape of LEGO bricks!

15.  This chocolate LEGO cake has homemade LEGO brick candies made from this building bricks candy mold. Use different Wilton melts for easy variety!

16.  I kind of love how easy and silly this 2-layer Lego head cake is!

17.  This is an excellent way to decorate and personalize a cake if you don’t have confidence in your own skills with frosting, fondant or other cake decorating materials!

18.  There’s no real tutorial, but this LEGO cake involved a homemade cake and pieces from one or two LEGO Duplo sets placed over the top. It looks like the baker from this photo incorporated pieces from the Duplo Number Train and the Duplo My First Garden.

19.  This is an adorable LEGO cake idea using the famous giant cupcake pan, homemade candy LEGO minifigures and M&Ms.

Lego CakeBe sure to check out my first list of 10 Easy LEGO Birthday Cakes and Ideas! Every one of those LEGO cake ideas is different than those listed above.

Which of these LEGO cake ideas is your favorite?

How to Host a Holiday Party on a Budget

Holiday Party on a BudgetSeveral weeks ago I received an email from ALDI with an exciting message:

Hi Marybeth,

We would love to work with you to sponsor a small gathering with your friends and family. Please let us know your interest as soon as possible!

Happy Holidays!

I have a close family, and I knew it wouldn’t be a challenge to get plenty of us together over the holiday season. Plus, I recently had a front row seat to see and try several items from the ALDI Happier Holidays Recipe Book, and I knew there were some delicious items that I wanted to make and share with others!

Most of my family lives in a city about 150 miles away from me, My sister offered up her house for the holiday party location, and it just made sense since most of our family lives in the her city. I’m obviously comfortable in her kitchen and the rest of her home, so I didn’t have a problem hauling all my groceries in and taking over her kitchen to get all the food ready!

I actually really, really appreciated having my sister as a co-host for the party. While I focused on the food, she coordinated party favors and a fun game:

santa diy party favors
My aunt and my niece made these adorable Santa party favors. They’re made from cream, white and red cardstock cut into shapes. A wrapped peppermint patty is under the big red triangle flap!

My sister enlisted our mom and our aunt to wrap a bunch of prizes so we could do the White Elephant Dice Game. Everyone sat in a circle, and we had three bowls with two dice in each bowl. Everyone got to roll the dice. If he or she got a pair, she could take a wrapped gift from a pile in the middle of the room. Then the bowl was passed along to the next person.

We had over twenty people attend our little party, so three sets of dice moving at the same time really helped speed things along!

white elephant gameThis is my dad and my daughter sorting through their prizes. I think they pooled their presents then divided them up between them. You can see that they had a pair of socks and a few notebooks, among other things!

Then we served the food. I love cooking and sharing good food, so the only rhyme or reason to what I decided to serve was that I liked how the recipe looked! ALDI had given me $100 in gift certificates to buy food and wine for a 10-person party. We had over 20 people at our gathering, but my family generally doesn’t drink alcohol, so reallocating beverage money to more groceries definitely helped my lean budget!

As it turned out, $100 was almost exactly the right amount to buy food for a party of 23 at ALDI! Here’s what I made:

bacon wrapped datesParty Poppers: Bacon-wrapped dates alone is a stretch for my non-foodie family, so I didn’t want to push it by stuffing the dates with goat cheese and pecans. Instead, I wrapped the dates in bacon and baked them in a balsamic maple glaze. They were fabulous!

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes: I baked really small sweet potatoes, scooped out the centers and mashed them with butter and brown sugar. Then I filled the skins back up with the mashed filling, topped with dried cranberries and a sprinkle of cinnamon and sugar before baking them again. They were fantastic and a fun hybrid of baked and mashed sweet potatoes!

brussel sprouts cornbread stuffing with baconBeyond Compare Brussel Sprouts: I didn’t change a single thing about this recipe–it’s delicious!

Broccoli Salad: This is another recipe I didn’t change. I definitely recommend it!

Holiday Cocktail Sausages: This recipe was incredibly easy (it’s essentially cocktail wieners and barbeque sauce with a few extra items thrown in), but it wasn’t as loved as the rest of the menu items. My husband assured me that they tasted fine, but I guess everyone was more into the other dishes.

mini sweet potato piesFor dessert, I made a ton of Cookie Pies, which are my new favorite treat!

I knew some people attending the party would balk at the idea of mini sweet potato pies, so I made a point to keep the ingredients totally secret until everyone had tried at least one bite (or popped an entire mini cookie pie into his or her mouth!).

Sweet potato pie isn’t a common or popular recipe in the upper midwest where I am, so I definitely surprised and delighted almost everyone at the party when I revealed that the pies were made from sweet potatoes!

All in all, the party was a big hit and it was so much fun to gather family together for  good food and fun times. I also loved being the bearer of good news by sharing a lot of ALDI goodness with my parents, my aunt and uncle, my brother and a few others who have never shopped at an ALDI store before. While there isn’t one in the city where we had the party, I know at least a few of the attendees will go out of their way to check out the stores when traveling in the future.

Finally, I wanted to share that there were several other recipes I really wanted to try but I didn’t make for this particular party. Check out these great recipes straight from the ALDI test kitchen:

Let me know if you end up trying out one or more of those recipes!

Disclosure: ALDI provided me with gift certificates and recipes to facilitate this post. I waas also given  gift certificates to share with guests. I was not paid for this article, and all opinions are my own. 

Mini Sweet Potato Pies: Decadent Cookie Pies Recipe! #InTheALDIKitchen

Mini Sweet Potato Pies

Last month I visited ALDI’s US headquarters on a blogger trip to participate in an ALDI Test Kitchen holiday event. One treat that was introduced during the food styling portion of the day was their take on mini sweet potato pies. They had named them “Cookie Pies” and I was instantly in love with their adorable size, and I definitely adored the name!

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After a delicious dinner from a selection of ALDI’s specially developed recipes, I popped one of those mini sweet potato pies into my mouth. I decided right then and there that I needed to make these cookie pies for my family!

With a buttery sugar cookie crust, and a topping of whipped cream, pecans and caramel, the sweet potato flavor in the fluffy filling is very almost undetectable. In fact, I made everyone in my family try a cookie pie (and confirm that they loved it as much as I did!) before revealing that they weren’t pumpkin, which everyone assumed. When I told them all that they were actually eating mini sweet potato pies, no one could believe it!

Now I want to share this Cookie Pies recipe with you. Since the recipe comes directly from ALDI (and I have permission to share it), you’ll see some store-specific ingredients. If you don’t live near an ALDI store, feel free to substitute a different brand.

Mini Sweet Potato Pies

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • Nonstick Cooking Spray
  • 16 ounces Bake House creations Break ‘N Bake Sugar Cookie Dough
  • ¼ cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Ground Cinnamon
  • 4 ounces Cream Cheese, room temperature
  • 8 ouncesWhipped Topping, thawed, divided
  • 24 Pecan Halves, toasted
  • Caramel Apple Dip

Directions for Mini Sweet Potato Pies

  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Place sweet potatoes in a  saucepan and cover with water. Boil for 30 minutes or until cooked through. Drain and place in a medium bowl. Mash until smooth. (use a hand mixer to speed up the mashing)
  3. Coat a mini muffin pan with cooking spray. Place a sugar cookie square in each muffin tin and bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown.
  4. Remove from oven and press down the center of the cookie to create a cup.
  5. In a medium bowl, combine mashed sweet potatoes, sugar, cinnamon, cream cheese and half of the whipped topping.
  6. Remove sugar cookie cups from muffin tin and place on a platter. Spoon sweet potato mixture into cooled cups and top with a dollop of whipped topping.
  7. Place a toasted pecan half on top of each cup. Drizzle with caramel apple dip.

mini sweet potato piesThese mini sweet potato pies are perfect for the holidays or any sort of gathering! If you make them, please come back and let me know how much you like them :)