Category Archives: Food and Drink

Treat Guests to a self-serve Party Punch Bar

We just threw our first party at the new house! It was a combination Birthday/Housewarming/ Birthday Party! We had about 40 people in attendance, so we spent the weeks leading up to the party frantically trying to wrap up projects around the house. More on that coming soon. I also had to try to come up with a menu that would feed that many people without totally  blowing the budget. I had a really difficult time with the drinks. I needed something that would work for kids and adults, and that would not require me to spend the whole evening making drinks.  I came up with the idea to have a self-serve Party Punch Bar. I actually got the idea from a hot cider bar I saw in a Food Network Magazine (something I think we’ll try out for Christmas).

self serve party punch

All I did was make a non-alcoholic party punch (fruit punch, lemonade, and ginger ale) and put it in a drink dispenser. Next, I picked 3 liquors (Whiskey, Spiced Rum, and Vodka) for guests to mix in with their punch asttheir discretion. This way I didn’t have to have separate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and the guests could choose their own poison and strength. I didn’t like the look of just placing liquor bottles on the counter (a little too college frat party for my taste), so I bought these antiqued glass bottles from Michael’s for only $3.50 to hold the alcohol.

Party punch

I added these gift tags that I also found at Michael’s with strings of burlap to label what was in each jug. I finished the jugs off with wine corks I had laying around to keep the liquor fresh. Finally, I added instructions that I made using PicMonkey (affiliate) and put it in a spare frame, so guests would know what to do.

DIY punch bar The punch bar was set-up on top of our new beverage center in the kitchen, so guests also had the option of beer or wine. The punch was a huge hit! I also put out some cut strawberries and maraschino cherries for guests to add to their punch. The drinks were served in clear plastic punch cups.

I can’t wait to try out more self-serve option for future parties. I feel like it really took the pressure off me for serving drinks. I simply pointed guests in the direction of the bar after welcoming them to the party!

Paleo Sweet Potato Home Fries

paleo home fries

I created this sweet potato home fries recipe when I needed a quick side dish for dinner but was woefully out of vegetables in the fridge. It was instantly a huge hit with everyone, but especially the kids who always ask for seconds. The combination of coconut oil and sweet potatoes with onions and Old Bay give it a satisfying sweet and savory flavor. I usually mix white potatoes and sweet potatoes together,but for those that are strict paleo you can always follow the same recipe with just sweet potatoes. If you choose to use white potatoes make sure to add them after the sweet potatoes as they cook faster.


3 tablespoons of coconut oil*

3 large potatoes  cut into 1 inch chunks(1 sweet and 2 white or all sweet)

1 large onion diced

1 tablespoon of Old Bay*

1 teaspoon of salt

* These are affiliate links. Any purchase helps support Simply Swider.


  1. Melt the coconut oil in a skillet over medium high heat.
  2. Add the sweet potatoes and cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the onions, white potatoes, Old Bay, and salt and cook stirring occasionally until tender but not mushy.

paleo sweet potatoes

It’s that easy to make sweet potato home fries!  I love that this recipe doesn’t take much attention so you can easily work on the rest of dinner while it’s cooking. I also love that cutting sweet potatoes into chunks is so much easier than cutting them into fries (another favorite of my children.) So tell me, does your family prefer home fries of french fries?


Coconut Ginger Broccoli Slaw Recipe (Paleo, Grain Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

broccoli slaw recipe

My coconut ginger broccoli slaw recipe was developed, like most recipes, completely by accident. I had bought a bag of broccoli slaw at the store intrigued in part by how cheap it was; however, nobody in my house will eat coleslaw, so I knew I would have to come up with something else for it.  One night I was making a shrimp stir fry that required coconut milk, ginger, and garlic for the marinade, and I figured what the heck and threw them all into  a wok with the broccoli slaw to see what would happen. We were stunned with the result. The slaw was tender and sweet with a little kick to it. It’s great on its own, but it also makes a terrific replacement for rice as. Now all of our Asian stir-fries find themselves in top of a nice pile of broccoli slaw.


1 bag of broccoli slaw

2 tablespoons of minced garlic

1 tablespoon of minced fresh ginger

1 tablespoon of coconut oil

1 cup of coconut milk

salt and pepper to taste


  1. Melt the coconut oil over medium heat in a wok or large sauce pan then add garlic and ginger. Cook for about 30 secs or until fragrant.
  2. Add the broccoli slaw to the pan and stir until well mixed. Add the coconut milk and cover.
  3. Allow the slaw to simmer for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

Patriotic Summer BBQ on a Budget

Summer BBQ budget

I love throwing a BBQ. It’s one of the reasons we built a huge deck and patio. There is nothing quite like spending an afternoon outside with friends and family eating, drinking, and playing games while watching the kids run by laughing as they chase each other. Unfortunately, the cost of hosting parties has started to become prohibitive. It’s amazing how much I can spend on food for a gathering of just 10 people. Regardless we have started hosting an annual Memorial Day party, and I have started searching for ways to keep the price in check. Below our my tips for hosting a patriotic summer BBQ on a budget (I mentioned this was a memorial day party but obviously all the decor and food can be used for 4th of July or Labor Day as well).

patriotic decorations

I have 2 secrets for showing off the red, white, and blue at your BBQ: The Dollar Store and Target’s Dollar Stop. It’s a little ridiculous to spend a lot of money on decor that might literally be up for a couple of hours. I bought the miniature flags from Target (3 for $1) and I place them in all our pots. They also look great lining paths. The pinwheels also came from Target while the paper lanterns were from the Dollar Store. My other secret is that I save all these decoration from year to year. I have a large plastic bin that I put all our party decorations in and pull them back out for each party.

memorial day children

The Dollar Store and Target are also great spots to pick up patriotic accessories for the kids. Beside headbands I also picked up the kids a bunch of temporary tattoos and glow sticks.


summer bbq food

Food and drink is single handily the largest expense of any party, so this is where you really have to keep your budget in mind. There are 4 things to keep in mind when picking your menu:

  1. Limit the amount of dishes you serve. You are not Golden Carrol.
  2. Choose dishes that make a lot of food for little money (salads).
  3. Choose dishes that can be prepared in advance, so you can actually enjoy your guests.
  4. Ask guests to help out.

The chicken kabobs were a big hit. I bought 4lbs of boneless skinless chicken breast (@1.99/lb) and marinated them for a hour before skewering them with red, green, orange, and yellow peppers as well as onions. It only took 1 of each pepper to do this. We had 12 people at this particular BBQ and we maybe only went through 2/3rds of the kabobs.  We prepped all the kabobs before our guests arrived. This was the only dish that had to be cooked once the party started.

The strawberry spinach salad is my go-to dish for just about every potluck. People always rave about it and it’s super easy to make.  All you have to do it combine spinach, sliced strawberries, feta ( i like the herbed feta), and pecans (look for Pecan Pie flavored pecans for something really special). I usually offer many dressings on the side for guests to choose from but raspberry vinaigrette is definitely the best.

A fruit salad is another dish that everyone with enjoy and that will allow you to stretch a buck. I combined watermelon, pineapple, and blueberries to keep with the patriotic theme. I used metal cookie cutters to cut the watermelon into star shapes for an extra special touch.

The alcohol budget can get out of control quickly. Remember, it’s not your job to provide everyone’s favorite drink. We always have  water, lemonade, and beer on hand then I choose to make one signature drink. This year I choose a Star Spangled Sangria. Click the link to get the recipe. What was great about this drink was that I used the strawberries, pineapple, and blueberries in the other dishes as well, so I didn’t have to buy any extra fruit for it.

summer sangria

Finally, our guests each brought a dish to share. That included potato salad, cucumber salad, salsa and chips, and chocolate eclair. I am always very directive when guests ask what they can bring. The last thing you want it to have 3 potato salads. I’ll often tell people the menu I have already decided on then ask them to specifically bring either a side, appetizer, or dessert. This helps ensure that you have all the bases covered and don’t get too many similar dishes. Also, don’t be afraid to ask guests to BYOB. My brother is a beer drinker and not much of a cook, so I always suggest that he brings beer to the party. He feels like he gets to contribute and I don’t have to buy beer. It’s a win, win!


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Star Spangeled Sangria

summer sangria

I love Sangria! It’s my go to drink all year and especially when I am having a party. While I typically prefer a red sangria, I choose a white wine for this one so that I could really let the fruit take center stage. I served this at our annual Memorial Day party and it was a big hit. Obviously, it’s also a great choice for 4th of July and Labor Day too. Just a warning: this is a very strong sangria so you may want to serve it in a small glass. I choose to serve it in a white wine glass vs my typical red wine goblet.





4 oz vodka

2 oz triple sec

1 bottle of white wine

2 oz of simply syrup

6 oz of sparkling wine

Mix the fruit with the vodka and triple sec and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. To get the star-shaped pineapple, trim the skin of the pineapple then slice it into large rounds. Then I simply stick a metal star cookie cutter into the center of each round to cut out the shape.

fruit stars You can put as little or as much fruit in as you want. For this particular recipe I loaded up on the fruit. When you are ready to serve the Sangria, mix the wine and simple syrup together then add in the fruit/liquor combo.

4th of july cocktail memorial day cocktail Top with the sparkling wine. To  serve add ice to the bottom of a glass fill up the rest of the glass with fruit then pour the sangria on top and enjoy!

Make sure to check out all my tips on throwing a Patriotic BBQ on a budget!

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Paleo Berry Tea Shake Recipe

Paleo smoothie with berries, banana, and green tea

I have a shake every morning for breakfast. They’re quick , easy, and can be a full meal replacement when done right; plus I’m always dehydrated in the morning so this helps me kick start the day with some fluids.  To make a shake into a meal replacement you need 3 things: Fat, Protein, and Carbs. Since many traditional shakes are dairy based it can be difficult to try to transition your favorite shake into a Paleo version, but it’s not impossible. The recipe below is my favorite but many of the ingredients can be switched out easily to make for a different taste or texture. You’ll notice that I use coconut milk for my fat, fruit for my carbs, and protein power for my protein. I also like to add what I call nutritional bonuses. These are those things you always read about in studies that are so good for you but you never know where to fit them in your diet. For this recipe I use green tea and goat yogurt (this is optional for those of you who don’t do dairy).


8 oz of green tea

1 scoop of your favorite protein power

1 tablespoon of goat yogurt (optional)

1/2 cup of frozen mixed berries

1/2 cup of frozen strawberries

1/2 banana

1/2 cup of coconut milk

Yields: 2 large glass fulls


  1. Add tea, protein powder, and yogurt to a blender and start blending on high.
  2. While the blender is going add berries, strawberries, and the banana.
  3. Once all the fruit is mixed add in your coconut milk. If your shake is really thick add more coconut milk until you get the consistency you want.
  4. Enjoy!


Paleo Nut and Fruit Cookie Ball Recipe (grain free, sugar free, dairy free)

Paleo fruit and nut cookie balls grain free sugar free

Cody makes the most delicious Paleo chocolate chip cookies, but honestly they’re a little too sweet for me. We’re going on a year now of doing Paleo, and I find that I am becoming very sensitive to sweetness. About one chocolate chip cookie is all I can take (which is probably a good thing anyways). I developed this recipe from Cody’s original chocolate chip recipe one afternoon when Sophie insisted we make cookies but we were out of chocolate chips. I improvised with raisins and the fruit and nut cookie ball recipe was born! I love that they are less sweet than the chocolate chips ones, but still have the grainy taste associated with cookies (and that I sometimes crave).  These cookies are grain free, gluten free, sugar free, and dairy free.


1 cup Almond flour

1/2 cup Coconut flour

1/2 flaxseed meal ( or replace with more almond flour)

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon of salt

2 1/2 tablespoons of melted coconut oil

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 cup of maple syrup

1 egg

1/4 cup of chopped walnuts

1/4 cup of dried fruit (we like golden raisins)


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a baking sheet with coconut oil.

2. Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl.

3. Combine all wet ingredients in a small  bowl, then add to the dry ingredients. Mix well.

4. Add in nuts and dried fruit until evenly mixed.

5. Using your hands roll the dough into small balls and place them unto the greased baking sheet. You should yield around 16 small balls.

6. Bake for about 10 mins, then let cool for 5 mins. Enjoy!

I love this recipe because you can easily substitute the nuts and fruit for different ingredients to get a whole new cookie. I’m thinking coconut, dried apricots, and pecans sound good too!