Seeing the Potential in Your Heart & Home with Guest Jessica Zigenis

Welcome to our first swap and share Friday for our hospitality study!

Before we get to the recipe sharing and today’s giveaway, meet our current guest, my new friend Jessica Zigenis.

From her heart:

Hello new friends! I’m Jessica, and you can usually find me over at Monster Cakes where I blog about life with my handsome husband and our giant puppy.

When I first got married at the ripe age of twenty, I constantly compared myself to my amazing mother and other seasoned hostesses, ultimately letting anxiety take over and closing my door to any and all hosting possibilities.

Slowly but surely, God worked on my heart, humbling me and reminding me that opening up my home is about having a heart to serve, to love, and to fellowship with others.

When I stopped focusing on our second-hand furniture, my inexperience in the kitchen, the giant hole in the couch courtesy of our unruly pups, my lack of funds for decorations and food, and our tiny living room with carpet stains throughout, I saw the potential in my heart and home.

I let go of my insecurities and let God take over, ultimately finding my bravery and opening my door.

I threw parties for friends.

I started hosting a book club.

I cooked for friends and family.

Once I became willing, God took my chaotic, little home and blessed me through hostessing beyond what I expected or deserved.

What I’ve learned along the way?

Some simple truths that may help you to open your heart and home to others too:


~ At the end of the night, the fellowship and conversation is what truly matters, not the difficulty level of the meal or the messy guest room.

~ Even if you’re on a tight budget, you can always focus on making one thing really special and memorable: a photo booth wall, fresh flowers, a unique or homemade dessert, etc.

~ Most people are craftier than they know and have the ability to make affordable, easy decorations if they can muster up some confidence and creativity.

~ Once you stop comparing yourself and your home to others, you will find that contentment often leads to a deeper desire to play hostess.

Let God use you. You bring a willing heart, and He’ll do the rest.


Great advice!

Now, for today’s giveaway and recipe swap & share!

The giveaway includes:

~ A collapsible colander–great for rinsing pasta or draining berries for muffins.

~ A reusable drink cup in a fun paisley pattern. You can sip while you cook. :-)

~ Two boxes of instant iced coffee. One hazelnut. One French Vanilla.

~ A handwritten recipe of our family’s favorite company dishes— stuffed crust pizza!

Okay–to be entered in the giveaway, either link up below to a post on your blog with a recipe to share or leave one in the comments section.

Can’t wait to try some new ones out!

And don’t forget, we’ll have guests both days over the weekend so be sure to stop by!

Okay–let’s see those company-pleasing recipe favorites!

{Bloggers, will you kindly grab the code for my hospitality button and place it in your sidebar so other can find us?}

{Non-bloggers, simply leave us your recipe as a comment!}


  1. I love making this pudding dessert especially for guests.

    For the bottom layer crush a small package of oreos. ( I use my food processor) Set 1/2 cup aside.
    Melt one stick of butter or margerine. Mix the remaining oreos and butter and spread it out to form a crust on the bottom of a 9 X 13 pan. Put pan in freezer for 10 minutes.

    The next layer take 1- 8 oz package of cream cheese softened and 1 cup of powdered sugar. Mix them together. Add 1/2 of a 16 oz cool whip. Mix until smooth. Carefully layer on top of the oreos and put pan back in the refrigerator.

    The next layer take two small packages of instant chocolate pudding and 3 cups of milk. Mix together for two minutes. Carefully layer pudding on top of the cream cheese layer. Put into the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

    The last layer spread the rest of the tub of cool whip carefully on top of the pudding layer. Sprinkle the set aside oreo cookie crumbs on top of the cool whip. Refrigerate for an hour before serving.

  2. The best Hershey cake ever! (I am not the originator of this recipe, but a dear friend of mine who also happens to be a fabulous homemaker is.)

    Chocolate Hershey’s Cake by J. C.

    Swiss chocolate cake mix
    ¾ c. oil
    1 ½ c. milk
    1 sm. Vanilla instant pudding
    3 eggs

    Mix cake mix, pudding, milk, eggs and oil. Mix until smooth. Bake at 325 degrees for
    20-25 minutes. Let cool completely before adding frosting.
    Frosting: Mix cream cheese and powered sugar until smooth. Add chopped Hershey’s
    bars (I use Hershey’s with almonds) and spread on the cake layers. Mix makes three
    cake layers.

  3. Almond Flour Pancake

    1 large egg
    2 tablespoons honey
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 tablespoons water
    Lemon zest of 1/4 lemon
    Lemon juiced from 1/4 of lemon
    3/4 cups almond flour
    1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
    1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
    1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
    1 1/2 teaspoon arrowroot powder
    Fresh berries

    In a small bowl, mix almond flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and arrowroot powder.
    In a food processor or bowl, combine egg, honey, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Mix until combined.
    Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.
    Heat up a large skillet to low medium heat. Coat skillet with a non-stick olive oil spray. Drop 2 tablespoons of batter onto skillet. I do 3 pancakes at a time on my large skillet. Drop fresh berries on top of the batter. Be patient and let the pancakes sit in the skillet until the edges start to brown. Almond flour takes a while to cook so be very patient. Flip, then cook a little bit longer on the other side.
    Serve along with maple syrup and top with bananas and almond butter!

  4. A delicious Southwestern Salad for the cool summer months.
    Lots of flavor and healthy to boot.

    SW Quinoa Salad
    Salad Ingredients:
    ? 1 cup quinoa (any color), cooked and cooled (see instructions below)
    ? 1 or 2 avocados, peeled, pit removed, diced
    ? 1/2 cup canned black beans, rinsed
    ? kernels from 1 cob corn, or 3/4 cup thawed frozen corn
    ? About 1 1/2 cups diced mildly spicy peppers (a mix of bell peppers, anaheim, etc…)
    ? 1/2 to 1 jalapeno
    ? 1/2 to 1 small habanero, minced (or less to taste)
    ? 2 tomatoes, diced
    ? 1 small red onion, diced
    ? 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
    Chile Lime Vinaigrette:
    ? 1/3 cup grapeseed oil or canola oil
    ? 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    ? 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
    ? 3/4 tsp ground cayenne
    ? 1/4 tsp ground cumin
    ? 1/2 tsp salt
    ? 1/2 tsp vinegar
    For the Quinoa:
    Rinse the quinoa thoroughly in cold water and drain. Place 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until all all of the water has been absorbed. When fully cooked, the germ ring will be visible along the outside edge of each seed (a white circle).
    For the Vinaigrette:
    Place all vinaigrette ingredients in a jar and shake until combined, or whisk in a small bowl.
    For the Salad:
    Put all of the salad ingredients into a large bowl. Drizzle with the vinaigrette, and gently toss to combine.

  5. Lots of great recipes! I hope I’m not repeating… there were so many recipes, I moved through kind of fast…

    Soft Chicken Tacos (can also make these Pulled Pork, using a Boston Butt Roast)

    Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (as many as you’d like, but a little goes a long way.
    Taco seasoning ( or make your own-chili powder + cumin even amts)
    salt & pepper
    sliced onion
    sliced greenpepper
    couple cloves of garlic

    Remove from crockpot, piece by piece and shred with two forks while still hot, it will shred easily. Pour a little of the broth over chicken to keep moist.

    Serve buffet style with any toppings you’d like. Some would be sour cream, guacamole, cheese, pico de gaillo, tomatillo sauce, jalapenos…

    Serve with flour &/or corn tortillas warmed for a few seconds in microwave.

    Put the above in a crockpot on low all day, 6-8 hours

  6. My new favorite company recipe is Overnight Coffee Cake. I love it because I can make it the night before which frees me up to sit and visit with company in the morning. I love it because I usually have all the ingredients in the pantry. I really love it because it’s from scratch and that just makes your guest feel special! I pair it with a cup of coffee and some fruit and call it done!

    2 c. flour, 1 c. sugar, 1/2 c. packed brown sugar, 1 tsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 c. buttermilk, 10 T. melted butter, and 2 lg. eggs
    Crumb Topping:
    1/2 c. brown sugar, 1/2 pecans, and 1 tsp. cinnamon
    Glaze Topping:
    1 c. powdered sugar, 2 T. milk, and 1 tsp. vanilla

    Combine 1st 7 ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add buttermilk, butter, and eggs. Beat at low speed with electic mixer until moistened. Then beat at medium speed for 3 min. Spoon batter into a greased and floured 9 x 13 inch pan. Combine crumb topping ingredients and sprinkle over batter. Cover and refrigerate 8-12 hours. Uncover and bake at 350 for 30-35 min. or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Stir together glaze topping ingredients and glaze while cake is warm
    Note: This may be baked immediately instead of refrigerating overnight.

  7. Ok first how am I ever going to remember all these recipes. UGH! My family developed a tradition to opening our home Christmas Eve to friends who don’t have a church. I cook up soups and chilies. My favorite chili is by Paula Dean and is now request for events other than Christmas Eve.
    Steak Fajita Chili by Paula Dean
    • 1 lb flank steak
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 1 red bell pepper , chopped
    • 1 green bell pepper , chopped
    • 1 yellow bell pepper , chopped
    • 2 onions , chopped
    • 2 cups water
    • 3 (15 ounce) cans tomato sauce
    • 1 (15 ounce) can ranch style beans (these are the name of the brand)
    • 1 (15 ounce) can black beans
    • 1 (14 ½ ounce) can petit diced tomatoes
    • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
    • 3 teaspoons dried ancho chile powder
    • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
    • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
    • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
    Cut steaks across grain into thin 1 inch strips.
    In a large dutch oven heat oil over medium-high heat. Add steak, cook 5 minutes, stirring often.
    Add peppers, onions, cook 5 minutes. Stir in water, tomato sauce, beans, diced tomatoes, cilantro, chili powder, cumin, lime juice, garlic salt, and pepper.
    Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes.
    Garnish with cheese and sour cream if you want. Enjoy!

  8. An amazing, great, easy, HEALTHy dip is as follows:
    Combine together:

    one can black beans, one can unsalted corn, salsa (about 3 tbsp), about a cup of any type of shredded cheese (I like pepper jack), 1 red bell pepper chopped and seeded, and chopped cilantro. Even great to eat alone as a salad!

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