Life in General, St. Louis Small Businesses

Gift Giving Anytime of the Year

During the Christmas holiday season, we hear a ton about gift giving, gift ideas, and nice gestures.  It’s very rare that we talk about it in March.  I know we are gearing up for Spring season, warmer weather, and baseball, but did you know the best time to give a gift is when it is least expected?  That surprise present or gesture goes such a long way.  I love to surprise my corporate clients with a surprise thank you gift. I’m not a big fan of gift cards except for the convenience of them, so I would like to share my top 2 favorite gifting options that I use both personally and professionally.

1)    Harry & David is the king of the gift basket.  You will find anything and everything for that special someone.  Corporate giving with Harry & David is also ideal especially when keeping in mind your budget. There are gifts under $30, $50, and $75. Want to send a healthy gift to a friend or client, Harry & David’s fruit baskets are perfect especially their Classic Comice Pear basket which is what got their early start back in the early 1900’s.  Wine and cheese baskets, chocolate and wine baskets, gift towers, bakery items, special occasion baskets, and even plants are just a few of the options available at Harry & DavidIt’s my go to company for my work clientele.  I can easily stay within my budget based on the sales of my accounts.  Harry & David’s options are endless and I love it when I can get in on a special sale or offer like this one:

Enjoy 20% Off, No Minimum Purchase with code: SAVINGS (2/17-5/31/16)
Pick Your Occasion Truffle Gift Box
2)   I’m a HUGE fan of personalized gifts.  Anything and everything personalized is very special and usually gives that WOW factor. Monogram Online is your one stop shopping for everything personalized. I’ve used them several times, mostly for friends and family gifts. Their personalized necklaces are beautiful.  I always get compliments when I wear my silver name necklace.  You can find a variety of different jewelry items. Most recently, I purchased a silver name necklace for my daughter…shh….it’s a surprise.  However I must admit my all time favorite product at Monogram Online is their personalized cutting boards.  Considering we are the St. Louis cooks, cutting boards are a favorite item in our kitchen.  Not to mention, they are a very unique gift for that special someone who enjoys to cook!
Personalized Cutting Board

Next time you are pondering what gift to give your colleague, client, friend or family member, look no further then Harry & David and Monogram Online!

Food, Garden

Italian Garden Breakfast Casserole

Italian Garden Casserole (1)

It was a cold Sunday morning in January.  We didn’t have any games. We went to mass the night before, and we were in the mood for a big breakfast, a big Italian Garden Breakfast Casserole. I checked the refrigerator.  I had a ton of eggs and some bulk Italian sausage. Next I found some green and red peppers. I always have cheese in the house…always!  A bag of hash browns were in the freezer so it was then, the making of the Italian Garden Breakfast Casserole came to fruition.

Growing up, I never cared much for breakfast unless it was pancakes, french toast, or cereal.  Of course, I loved the sweeter side of breakfast as a kid.  I didn’t eat eggs…any kind of eggs. My Dad loved eggs…any kind.  He liked them prepared any way.  In fact, everyone in my house liked eggs, but me. Finally in my twenties, I slowly started to try some egg casseroles and omelets. I figured the cheese, veges, and meat must help with the taste. Well, I was right. I liked it. I married my husband, who, by the way, loves eggs…any kind, so I started to cook them.  I still do not eat eggs over easy, scrambled, or poached.  But, I have definitely grown quite fond of omelets and casseroles. On this particular weekend, I decided to make a casserole without the bread and use the hash browns as a base.  It really worked out well.  The Italian Garden Breakfast Casserole was a huge hit.  Plus it can be a Make Ahead Italian Garden Breakfast Casserole. Check it out!

Italian Garden Breakfast Casserole

  • Servings: 10-12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 1 pound of bulk Italian Sausage
  • 1 1/2 cups of chopped Onion
  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic
  • 3-4 cups of Frozen Shredded Hash Browns (country style)
  • 3 cups of Shredded Cheese (I use the Kirkland Costco Mexican blend)
  • 1 cup of diced Green Pepper
  • 1 cup of diced Red Pepper
  • 1/2 cup of diced Green Onions (from about 6-8)
  • 12 Eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup of Nonfat Milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of Dried Parsley
  • 1 teaspoon of Salt
  • Add Pepper and Crushed Red Pepper
  • Bacon Bits (Kirkland Costco brand – best bacon bits around)


  1. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook the sausage, onion, and garlic.  Stir the mixture to break up the sausage into smaller pieces.  Cook until sausage is no longer pink about 10-12 minutes. Drain any liquid.
  2. Coat a 9×13 glass pan with cooking spray. Layer potatoes (unthawed), sausage mixture, 1 1/2 cups of cheese, green/red peppers, and green onions.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, parsley, salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture evenly over casserole.  Season with pepper and crushed red pepper if you like. Sprinkle the top with some of Costco’s bacon bits. If you are planning to make this in the morning, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.
  4. Ready to bake casserole immediately or in the morning, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Bake casserole for 70-80 minutes or until egg mixture is set in the middle and the edges are lightly golden brown.
  6. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before cutting.


Family, Food

Roasted Red Potatoes

Roasted Red Potatoes I never met a potato I didn’t like really it’s true.  I love potatoes! Did you know there are over 100 different varieties of potatoes sold in the US?  I had no idea.  Potatoes fall into the usual categories of russet, red, white, yellow, purple/blue, fingerling, and petite.  We cook a lot with russet and white/yellow potatoes.  Tonight it was time to bring back the cute little red potatoes.  I went for something basic – roasted red potatoes.  I’m really into roasting all my vegetables right now so why not try some roasted red potatoes!

Sometimes the best recipe for success is plain and simple.  These roasted red potatoes are so good and so easy.  In the past, I’ve used the Lipton onion soup mix recipe for my roasted red potatoes.  It’s a great one too but if you don’t have that soup mix and you just want simple, try these roasted red potatoes. This is a great side dish that will compliment any meat or fish. Check it out!

Roasted Red Potatoes

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 3 pounds of Red Potatoes – cut in half or quartered
  • 1/4 cup of Olive Oil
  • 1 Teaspoon of fresh ground Pepper
  • Sea Salt to your liking
  • 1 Tablespoon of Italian Seasonings (Basil, Oregano, Parsley)


  1. Preheat oven to 430 degrees. Meanwhile, clean and cut all potatoes in half.  Some larger ones might be best quartered.
  2. Put potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Toss the potatoes with the olive oil and all seasonings. Arrange the potatoes, cut side down, on a large lipped baking sheet.
  3. Roast until tender and golden brown approximately 30 minutes.  Stir and flip potatoes halfway through cooking time.


Family, Food

Spaghetti Squash Italiano

Spaghetti Squash ItalianoSpaghetti squash isn’t that common dish made in most households.  In fact, I never had it growing up.  I came from that meat and potatoes kind of family with all the common vegetable sides.

Plus, let’s admit it, big squash is a bit intimidating.  It’s heavy, and hard to cut.  Can I please have a saw to cut this baby? Not to mention, you don’t ever want to drop it on your foot.  But in all honesty, spaghetti squash is really pretty easy to make.

In my late 20’s, my husband came home with a recipe for spaghetti squash from a coworker.  That’s when we first tried spaghetti squash and loved it.  Since then we’ve been making it, but we’ve tweaked it a bit to our liking and we call it Spaghetti Squash Italiano or Dad’s “famous” Spaghetti Squash Italiano…as he likes to call everything!

It’s light so it can be an awesome side dish, or it can be eaten as a meal. For those non carb folks out there, this is a great dish for you.  Vegetarians will love this too.  We added all the awesome Italian spices and cheeses hence the name Spaghetti Squash Italiano. There are so many other awesome recipes out there for spaghetti squash, but Spaghetti Squash Italiano is a must try. Check it out!

Spaghetti Squash Italiano

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 4 Roma Tomatoes chopped in 1/2 inch cubes
  • 4-5 cloves of fresh Garlic; minced
  • 1/4 cup of Parsley
  • 1/4 cup of Basil
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of Rosemary
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup of Fresh Parmesan/Asiago cheese mix


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise.  Scoop out seeds.  Place the cavity side down in baking pan filled with a little water. Bake 20-30 minutes checking that the water hasn’t evaporated.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the tomatoes and gather the other ingredients.  Combine the chopped tomatoes, garlic, and other seasonings.  Let stand at room temperature to marry the flavor.
  3. When squash is done, flip over in pan.  Fill each cavity with tomato mixture.  Top with cheese mix. Place back in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.  Remove and scoop mixture into a large serving dish.  Use a fork to fluff squash into spaghetti strands.  A small amount of olive oil can be added but it is optional.

**Check squash to be sure it is al dente.  Don’t over cook.


St. Louis Small Businesses

Erin King Photography

Erin King PhotographyAs a Mom of three children, I love pictures especially of my kids.  Some of my all time favorites are when they were babies and toddlers.  I will never forget that day at Simon Says (my kids preschool/child care center) when I picked up the kids to be presented with these absolutely darling photos.  All of them taken by the one and only Erin King.

Let me introduce you to Lil’ Angels Photography and Erin King Photography with our second local business feature. Lil’ Angels Photography is a national franchise that works with child care centers and preschools to offer parents a little more than normal “school” photos. Lil’ Angels Photography offers a “fashion” program where the photographers bring in outfits and accessories.  Lil’ Angels Photographers dress the children up so when the parents pick them up, they have beautiful photos of their children in darling outfits, and parents don’t have to lift a finger!

When Erin King graduated from Maryville University in 2004 with a degree in Integrated Marketing Communications, she knew one thing for sure…She wanted to work for herself! A friend that Erin went to high school with had purchased a Lil’ Angels Photography franchise in St. Louis. She built the business for a couple of years, but was moving to Kansas City, so Erin bought it from her. Erin has owned that franchise for 10 years now, and 5 years ago, bought a second St. Louis area franchise with her husband, Rich King. At the child care centers, Erin King had a lot of requests for private sessions for siblings that didn’t attend the preschools or child care centers.  She started using her basement as a makeshift studio and met people in parks for outdoor sessions and family pictures.  These private sessions took place on Saturday and Sunday mornings for almost ten years until she explored other options.

It was then Erin King Photography was born! The studio is located in historic Cottleville, Missouri. It’s conveniently located 5 minutes from Erin King’s home!  The new studio is a historic home that was built in 1910 with the perfect setting to offer old world charm. Located on 3 acres, along with a cabin that was built in the 1800’s, a barn, and unlimited outdoor settings for spectacular photos. “Having a location that is great for a studio and outdoor photos is a photographer’s dream,” said Erin King of Erin King Photography.

Having both Lil’ Angels franchises and the Erin King Photography studio keeps Erin King very busy. Her five-year old son, Cole, loves to work with Erin at the studio and explore on the grounds. Recently, they welcomed a new addition to the family with a baby girl named Charley. Erin King could not be more excited about what the future holds for her family and their two photography businesses – Lil’ Angels Photography and Erin King Photography.  Below is contact information for Erin King at either Lil’ Angels Photography or Erin King Photography.

Check out her amazing work online!

Erin V. Veith-King
Lil’ Angels Photography & Erin King Photography