cheesy nacho nests (or, your family’s new favorite side dish).


this post is sponsored by Crystal Farms®, but all the #cheeselove is straight from my own heart. make sure to read to the end for how to enter the giveaway!

i’ve finally found the perfect side dish for chili.

not that chili needs a side dish (because it doesn’t, it’s the perfect meal in a bowl), but there are days when you just need a little something…extra to go with that piping hot bowl of deliciousness. look no further, because i’ve figured out what we were all missing.

nacho nests. aka personal mini nachos. they are the perfect size for accompanying a hot bowl of chili (or soup), and also they satisfy your nacho cravings in an acceptably cheesy way. it can’t be just me that has nacho cravings, right? of course not.

i made these nacho nests to go with the chili we planned for dinner, but these would be perfect as an appetizer for a game day party too. you can make as many as you need, they are insanely quick to throw together, and you can customize your toppings or even let everyone top their own nacho nest once they’ve been baked.

being a good minnesota girl, i used wisconsin cheese for this recipe. Crystal Farms® shredded cheese to be exact. crystal farms is one of the largest cheese brands in the country, and is made in lake mills, wi (which is only like four hours from where i live). i sincerely doubt you need more of a reason to want to eat cheese, but just in case you do, you should know that crystal farms products are natural, with very few preservatives, are high in calcium, and are gluten-free.

i used a mexican 4 cheese blend for this recipe, but you can look in the refrigerated dairy section of your local grocery store to find any crystal farms cheese that speaks to you. pepper jack would be amazing on these!

as always, let me know if you make these, and any awesome ideas you have to make them even better!

nacho nests (makes 4 but is easily multiplied)

  • 24-32 tortilla chips
  • 1 C. Crystal Farms® Mexican 4 Cheese Blend shredded cheese (any flavor will work), divided into 4
  • toppings of choice: black beans, jalapeño slices, chopped tomatoes, black olives, etc.

preheat your oven to 400 F. on a rimmed baking sheet, make four piles of 6-8 tortilla chips. sprinkle each pile (or nest) with half of 1/4 C. crystal farms shredded cheese, then top with whatever toppings you’ve chosen. i used black beans, black olives, chopped tomatoes, and jalapeño slices, but you can use whatever you want or have on hand (or let the family choose their own toppings in a nacho nest bar situation). sprinkle the nests with the remaining cheese, then put into the oven and bake for 6-8 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the toppings are heated through. serve as a side dish for chili or another hearty soup, or as a game day dish to share.


i know there are a lot of cheese lovers who read this blog, so i hope you’re all excited about this. crystal farms is letting me pick one winner to receive THREE coupons for free crystal farms products. all you have to do to enter is visit the crystal farms website to learn more about the crystal farms cheese products there, then come back here to leave a comment telling me what cheese you would choose and what recipe you would use it in. i’ll pick a winner at random on november 26th. i can’t wait to see all your ideas, because who doesn’t want some free cheese??

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things we never thought we’d say.

when you become a parent for the first time, you know things are going to change. you know there are sleepless nights ahead, and that your main focus is no longer on yourself. you even expect to become somewhat of a hermit as opposed to your normal, social self.

what you don’t expect is for the topics of all your conversations to revolve SO MUCH around your baby. and because all your baby does is eat, sleep and poop, you start talking about things that generally aren’t considered to be part of polite conversation. so that naturally leads to certain things being said between mom and dad that we never thought we would say. just for fun, here are a few things Mister Man and i have said to each other in the three weeks(!) that Amelia has been with us:

“i just got pooped on and i didn’t even yell. be proud of me!”

“did you hear how loud that fart was?? that was amazing!”

“those four hours of sleep felt SO GOOD. i can really tell the difference between three and four.”

“she’s so advanced, i can’t believe her umbilical cord fell off after just 7 days!”

“do you realize that our pillow talk now revolves around our daughter’s bowel movements?”

“should we use the natural gas drops or the regular ones?”

“it was so nice to go outside today…i haven’t been out of the house in three days.”

MM: (said in pinky’s voice from ‘pinky and the brain’) what should we do tonight erin? me: (said in brain’s voice from ‘pinky and the brain’) same thing we do every night pinky…bathe the child, try to get the child to sleep, watch an episode of ‘sleepy hollow’ and go to bed.”

so yea. that’s our life now. i’m sure it’ll get a little less ridiculous eventually, but for now we are the lamest. and we kind of love it if we’re being honest.


and now, i’d like to introduce you to one of my newest sponsors. meet martha kate, of leaving perfection, learning grace. i just started to read martha’s blog, and my goodness, if you want some thoughtful reading in your blogroll, hers is one you need to check out. i wanted martha kate to introduce herself to all of you in her own words, so here she is!

My blog is all about learning to live a life filled with grace and leaving perfection in the dust. It’s about my journey through eating disorder recovery and everything else in between. 

i  asked her to share her favorite part of my favorite season (fall!) with us to get to know her a little better too: I LOVE comfy sweaters, cozy scarfs, riding boots and mocha drinks, all which signal fall is here!!

isn’t she ADORABLE?? you can find martha kate at her blog, leaving perfection, learning grace, and also on twitterfacebook, pinterest and instagram (personal and blog). head over to get to know her and tell her that erin sent you.

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two too many gin drinks.

i don’t have many life rules, but the ones i do have are very important. here are two of them:

1) if you ever have the opportunity to order a cocktail that you could maybe argue is your namesake drink, always order it. even if it’s your second gin drink at a speakeasy. even if it’s too expensive. always order your namesake cocktail.

mine is the {tenacious “e”}. 

2) if you are ever given the opportunity to spend saturday night with two of your best girls sipping gin in a basement lounge, say yes, no matter how cranky you are earlier that day. it will be worth it. you might even find your namesake cocktail (see above).

these life lessons have been brought to you by two too many gin drinks and erin’s brain.


now i want you all to meet nikki, also known round these parts as the rural rookie. rural meaning she lives smack dab in the middle of nowhere, rookie meaning she used to be a city girl. i have loved getting to know her through her honest blogging and fabulous sense of humor about living life in the boondocks (seriously, it’s so fun to live vicariously through her with that stuff). nikki and i have a similar habit of looking for the silver lining in everything, and she is a joy to know. i highly recommend you get going with that.

“I’m a 20-something almost-married girl, living in rural PA with my country boy, Mr. B. My blog started as a way to document my adventures after moving to the country, but these days I write about a little bit of everything.

I’m thankful for so much in my life, I don’t even know how to sum it up. I truly am lucky to be where I am in life. I’m trying to make the most of each day – appreciating the little things and soaking up everything life has to offer. Planning a destination wedding, figuring out domesticated life, living life with the man I love, learning about life in the country…I’m in the middle of such an exciting time in my life, and I’m so grateful for it!”

find more of nikki here:



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i love this city (and a giveaway!).

last week i had the opportunity to attend an event through work for the united way. the event was put on by a group called “emerging leaders”, essentially a bunch of young people from minneapolis/st. paul who care about philanthropy and doing good things for the community. the theme of the event was “tap’d in”, so there was a bunch of local breweries doing beer tastings (i highly recommend third street brewery’s jack’d up…), and tons of good oktoberfest-style food like brats and pretzels. not a bad way to spend a thursday night.

as i stood there listening to the speakers discuss the importance of giving back and getting involved, it dawned on me that i was in a room full of hundreds of my peers, and that they all liked beer and charity (like me!). these are the people who make up my community.

my goodness did i ever get a feel good rush for my city at that moment. there’s something about realizing that you love the place you live that just puts you in a good mood. and i do. i might live in the tundra, where it’s winter for 7 months out of the year, but you know what? we have culture and philanthropy and wonderful food and even better people. and that makes the cold pretty bearable if you ask me.

i am so lucky to live here.


now i get to introduce you to yet another lovely lady who sponsors this blog. ashten is a girl from southern california who now lives in the south. hotlanta to be exact. and she is a spitfire. i’ll let her tell you that though.

Hey girl heyyyy! I’m Ashten and I HAVE A LOT TO SAY. To spare most people the pain of having to listen to me, I started a blog called alwaysashten. There, I blog about my life: the good, the bad and the sarcastic. I believe “classy, sassy and little bit smart-assy” is not just a phrase, but a way of life and I live it well. Come visit me. I will keep you entertained with my awkwardness and my sass. My dog is also really cute. 

she’s not lying about the sass people. or the cute dog. you have to go see for yourself. warner wears the crap out of a football jersey.

you can find ashten here:


and because she is a classy lady, and knows just how to make me happy, ashten is doing a little giveaway for you all today!! since she’s a newly southern gal learning to love her city, and she also really loves her starbucks (she’s a gold card holder!), she thought she’d share both with you! you guys, she’s giving away a $10 starbucks gift card and an “atlanta” coffee mug (so you can add it to your mug collection or tell people you’ve been there even if you haven’t!). all you have to do is enter below for a chance to win. the giveaway is open to everyone and i will announce the winner on monday, october 14. good luck!

(mustache keurig not included.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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