Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Warm Taco Dip

My daughter's Girl Scout troop had their Christmas party a couple of weeks ago and I found myself racking my brain for a suitable dish to bring that would be economical too.
Last time I had to bring something to a Girl Scouts function I tried out Apple Slab Pie, which is awesome, but I've been making sooooo many desserts lately I wanted to make something else.
Do you know what I love?  Tacos.  lol Big shocker there, right?  I can't imagine NOT liking tacos...
Anyway, I know the idea of a taco dip isn't exactly groundbreaking, but I really liked how this one turned out and thought I'd share the recipe with you!
I started with a layer of beans mixed with green chiles, added taco meat, cheese, toppings...yum!  Then I popped it in the oven and got it all gooey and warm right before I headed out the door.  I think next time I might add some Mexican rice to the bean mixture to make it even more tasty and scoopable!  The whole tray was polished off within an hour- a success in my book.  This is one that I'll definitely be making again- perfect Winter game-day food!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Roadtrip Sandwiches

Every year my family goes on a  super-long (16 hours!) road trip to see family. We split the trip into two days and have a blast.  No really!  Our family of 4, a minivan, and the open road- it's a recipe for good memories.  It's amazing that there hasn't been a bad experience yet- but I think that has to do with our outlook on things.  Looking at everything we come across as a memory-making experience makes everything more fun.  Even getting stuck in Memphis an extra day because of snow and ice in Arkansas last year didn't ruin our fun!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Molasses Crinkletops

Remember when I said that I was done with holiday baking for the year?

Yep, the call of the oven caught my ear again :-)

This time it was Molasses Crinkletops, a super yummy cookie that my mom makes every year.  I loved them as a kid, but I can see where the spicy flavors would turn off children- including my own.
Click to see the recipe at Allrecipes.com!
More for me, right?

Anyway, these deep brown cookies are sweet and spiced with cloves, cinnamon, and molasses.  The cocoa really rounds out their flavor.  I've always loved the way they crack on top when they cook (hence the name...).

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Grandma Simpson's Spritz Cookies

I grew up halfway across the country from my Grandma Simpson, but that didn't mean we were left out when it came to her Christmas baking.  Every year we would get a box in the mail with lots of little treats- often individually wrapped to ensure that we didn't overindulge in one sitting.  My Grandma was a tiny little woman who didn't stand a chance against a strong wind :-)

Anyway, she made lots of delicious treats, but my favorite were always her Spritz cookies.  My mom and I made them together too- light, buttery dough pressed into delicate shapes through an ancient cookie press then decorated liberally with colored sugar.  Good memories with delicious results!

She passed the recipe on to me when I moved out, but it wasn't until a few years ago that I attempted them myself.  I am soooo glad I did, because they're not hard at all.  The inexpensive cookie press I bought at Michael's for around $10 has worked just fine the past three Christmases with no sign of giving out on me yet.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Citrus BBQ Chops

A couple of months ago I won a giveaway from Hudson Valley Handymom's blog- free stuff is always nice, right?

I was lucky enough to win some amazing BBQ sauces as well as two delicious rubs from Feiny's Rubs.   It's always fun to try out new flavors and products, so I definitely enjoyed playing with these.

They have a large variety of "Fein tasting foods," and I received the Citrus BBQ and Original BBQ varieties of their rubs.  

I chose to try out the Citrus BBQ rub on thick cut pork chops and wasn't disappointed- full of flavor!  I think next time I'll try it out on chicken (or even salmon!), the pairing would be great!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Eggnog Quick Bread

I'm not going to lie, I'm not a big lover of eggnog.  It's not a flavor thing, it's the consistency.  I just don't like thick, creamy drinks- ugh.  No eggnog or piña coladas for this girl!

Now, take the flavors of those drinks and put them into a baked good, and I'm a happy girl!  My father-in-law's wife makes one of the most amazing piña colada cakes I've ever had in my life *drool*- think I can get the recipe from her for a future post?

Anyway, I love the FLAVOR of eggnog too, and this eggnog quick bread really captures it perfectly.  I found the original recipe at Allrecipes.com, but- like I pretty much always do- I had to change it a little.  I've made it a more moist loaf, added a little flavor, and made it more manageable for making in large batches for gift-giving.  The original recipe makes one 9x5 loaf, but I've found that- in my mind at least- an 8x4 loaf is the perfect gift giving size.  If you divide this recipe in half you'll bake one 9x5 loaf, if you prefer...

This recipe also freezes very well if you want to make gifts ahead of time or just save some for yourself to enjoy later!


Monday, December 16, 2013

DIY No-Sew Sleeping Bags for Daughter and Doll

The only materials you need!
Layering the pieces of material, I cut them down to size
after layering and safety pinning together.
This year my daughter begged for an American Girl doll for Christmas. I understand this desire wholeheartedly, as I made the same request of my mom when when I was my daughter's age- back when there were only the three original girls- Samantha, Molly, and Kirsten.
Oh boy, did I want one of them!
However they were over $100 and there was no way I was going to get one.
Well, they're still over $100. And my daughter isn't going to get one either.
It's not necessarily the price...it's that the price is for a DOLL. OMG. lol I'm not judging any of you that have broken down and purchased one, because I've found myself at the website thisclose to ordering one several times.

I just can't make myself do it.

So I recently found myself at Target buying an Our Generation doll. A quarter of the cost, same size, and just as cute. She'll survive- and absolutely adore the doll I'm sure.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


For several years my husband begged me to make ham salad for him.  

For several years, I kept putting it off.  A salad made of...ham?  Really?

I mean...we've discussed my love of chicken salad and my love of egg salad...so it would stand to reason that I'd enjoy one made of ham too, right?  Something about the idea of it just really turned me off, though.  I found a recipe, saved it to my recipe box, and then put off making it for as long as possible.
Click on the picture to find the original recipe on Allrecipes.com!

What a mistake that was!

It turns out that as weird as ham salad sounds (I'm not alone in that, right?) it tastes amazing and it's super easy to make.  

It's nice on a sandwich, bed of lettuce, or as a spread for crackers, but my favorite way to eat it is on celery sticks.  I found the original recipe to be a great base, but slightly bland, so I've included my tried-and-true changes to the recipe below.  Definitely give this one a try, it's so tasty!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Salisbury Steak and Ground Chicken

I recently came across an amazing deal on ground chicken at the grocery store and wound up buying a HUGE amount of it for around $1/lb.  Couldn't pass that up, right?  Well, I have a few recipes with ground chicken that my family really enjoys, but after making all of them (like this one!)- and still having a freezer full of the stuff- I started searching Pinterest for ideas for the rest of it.

Click on the photo to see the recipe from The 99 Cent Chef!
That's when I found it- Salisbury Steak with Mushroom Gravy.

 I obviously had the chicken.  I had some portobellos I needed to use.  I had a salisbury steak loving husband.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Christmas Fun and Kid-Friendly Gingerbread

Personally I love a spicy, molasses-filled gingerbread cookie.  Delicious and perfect for decorating at Christmas-time!
Click to see the recipe at Allrecipes.com!

Unfortunately, my daughter's palate is a little different than mine.  If I were to make up a batch of "real" gingerbread cookies, I'd get a wrinkled nose and they would all go to waste.  Fortunately, I discovered an awesome KID FRIENDLY gingerbread recipe!  They still have ginger and cinnamon, so I'm happy.  This recipe has butterscotch pudding mix fill in for the molasses, though.  The color is there, the touch of spice is there- they're just missing that very distinctive molasses flavor that might turn some kids off.

I made these cookies for my daughter's class to decorate last year and didn't get a single complaint, so this has definitely become my go-to recipe for gingerbread when kids are involved!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Warm Winter Breakfasts

Click to see the recipe on Allrecipes.com and save to your recipe box!
Winter may not officially start for another 19 days, but it sure feels like it's upon us already.  I know I've spent a lot of time talking about Fall over the past couple of months, but Winter's pretty outstanding too.  That's one of the things I absolutely adore about this part of the country- every season is the perfect length.  By the time I'm sick of cold Winter weather the daffodils will be peeking out from under the ground.  For now, though, I'm embracing coats and the occasional snow fall.  :-) I grew up in a part of California that allowed me to wear flip-flops almost year-round, so the changing seasons are still pretty magical for me!

I find myself making cozier breakfasts once the weather gets chilly and my daughter's absolute favorite is homemade waffles.  I usually make up a giant batch of them and just freeze any extras for easy weekday breakfasts.  This morning I found myself staring at a TON of leftover sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving and another idea for those leftovers was born:

Sweet Potato Waffles with Cranberry Maple Syrup

Um, yes.  Just yes. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Egg Salad- My Favorite Weird Sandwich

Egg salad sandwiches are weird.

Squishy, mushy, eggs squashed between two pieces of bread.

But I do love them so :-)

Click to see the recipe on Allrecipes.com
I remember potlucks after church as a kid, I have no idea who it was but some wonderful soul always brought a platter of egg salad sandwiches that had been cut into perfect little triangles- which I proceeded to inhale as if they were the last egg salad sandwiches I would ever see...

Have you ever cringed at a pre-packaged egg salad sandwich in a gas station and wondered what disgusting person would purchase such a thing?  I mean someone has to, or else they wouldn't keep selling them...

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My Thanksgiving Countdown

I won't lie, I tend to have big plans for cooking all kinds of dishes on Thanksgiving and then I lose my cool just a wee bit as dinner time approaches and I'm in the middle of a million dishes and I want to be done so badly I could cry and...yeah.  There's inevitably a last minute freak-out.  

  Don't get me wrong...everything turns out just fine.  :-) Generally things take a turn for the better when I finally give in and allow my husband to step in as sous chef.

It's all a lack of planning.  I get the recipes, the ingredients...but I sort of wake up Thanksgiving morning and expect to be able to throw everything together quickly and magically.

It just doesn't work like that.  In reality, there's limited time, one oven, and only one of me.

This year, I decided I was going to do things the right way, and I foresee a stress-free day of cooking tomorrow, one with a plan...and maybe a glass of wine at some point?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Meatloaf on a Lazy Sunday

Sunday was chilly and rainy- and I've certainly never been one to complain about weather like that!  I'm a sucker for a gray day.

Click to see recipe on Allrecipes.com
My husband and son both had colds and I was absolutely up for a slow-paced lazy day.  Meatloaf is one of my favorite comfort foods and easy to throw together, so I decided to try out a recipe I've been meaning to make for a while- Classic Spicy Meatloaf.

Oh wow.

Now really...for someone who normally has a "take it or leave it" attitude about all things meat, I have a really odd love of meatloaf.  It's just so good...by itself, with mashed potatoes, on a sandwich the next day...mmmmm...  Personally I like mine with BBQ sauce or a spicy ketchup baked on top.  I've had some successes, some flops, but this...this one is absolutely a keeper.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Beginning of the Baking Season

I'm always looking for fun ways to spend time with my daughter in the kitchen.  She loves the idea of helping, and I love the idea of passing on my love of cooking on to her.

Click to see the recipe on Allrecipes.com
Generally, she gets bored after about 5 minutes (or whenever she's had the opportunity to crack the eggs, whichever comes first!) and I take over.  Thankfully, this recipe is one that kept her interest.  The dough comes together quickly and then chills for a while, giving her the opportunity to go be a crazy kid for a while and come back interested in helping again.

Next comes the fun part- rolling out the dough and cutting the cookies.  I let her pick out the cookie cutters on her own, so we had an interesting assortment of flowers, Christmas trees, hearts, and pumpkins.

I love that kid :-)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Banana Bread and Clean Freezers

I have this really annoying habit.
I got it from my mother, it's stuck with me, and I'll probably pass it on to my daughter.

My husband absolutely can't stand it.  I just can't help myself, though.

What is this horrible offense?
Well...I just can't throw away a banana.

As they reach that brown speckled stage where most people would throw them away, I throw them in the freezer.

Perfect for banana bread later!  Why waste their sweet ripeness?

 But then...well, then the problem escalates...have you ever been attacked by a flying rock-hard frozen banana?  An ugly, brown, tropical, projectile?

Yeah well...neither had my husband before he married me :-)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Apple Pie For a Crowd

A couple of months ago my daughter had her bridging ceremony, moving from Daisies to Brownies in Girl Scouts.  Personally, I was in Camp Fire as a kid and hadn't experienced this ceremony before- very neat!

Click to see the recipe at Allrecipes.com
After the ceremony there was plenty of food for everyone to enjoy.  This was when I was in the middle of trying to get rid of a ton of apples and was baking up a storm, so of course I didn't pass up an opportunity to get rid of a few more of them!

My go-to pie recipe (with a few seasoning changes) is Apple Pie by Grandma Ople from Allrecipes.com- always a winner!  It's absolutely delightful, every time.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

An Exception to the Rule

I mentioned before that, as a general rule, I dislike pre-made sauces.
Often, they are over-priced, over-salted, and lacking genuine flavor.

Is that harsh?  
Yeah, maybe.  But true, nonetheless.  For less money and not much of a time investment, one can generally do much better cooking from scratch.

Herdez cooking sauces are a big exception.  Those I stock up on.
I keep several varieties on hand- and for good reason.  The Allstars program partnered with Herdez earlier this year, and I'm not sure how I forgot to share this with you!

Click to see the recipe on Allrecipes.com
I'd say most of the ladies in the Allstars program are pretty tough critics of products like this, so if they can win us over you know these are products worth buying.  Herdez (Mexico's #1 brand of salsa) makes four varieties of cooking sauce- Roasted Pasilla Chile, Tomatillo Verde, Red Guajillo Chile, and Traditional Chipotle.

They are ALL wonderful.  As in, straight out of the jar, full of flavor, awesomeness.  In a hurry, they're great just heated and tossed with meat and veggies.  If you have a little more time, they make for an excellent ingredient in many types of dishes.  The best part?  Even my small town grocery store carries them!

Monday, November 11, 2013

And I Thought *MY* Sauce Rocked...

Normally I'm not a huge fan of store-bought pre-made sauces.

I've been making my BBQ sauce for quite awhile now, after discovering how much better it is when I make it myself.  I give complete credit to good recipes that are not my own and tomatoes from the garden, so no tooting my own horn here :-)

Well, then I won this little giveaway on a fellow Allrecipes Allstar's page- Hudson Valley Handymom.  She's a pretty awesome gal, and I love her blog.  

Anyway, she partnered with a small company called Uncle Gary's Gourmet Peppers and Pepper Jelly and I won a jar of their Zesty Peach BBQ sauce and a jar of their Candied Jalapeño BBQ sauce.  Candied Jalapeño just sounds divine, doesn't it?  Well, the taste lives up to the expectation, for sure.  Before we even cooked with it my husband took a taste and declared that he could eat it with a spoon.

What to Do With All of That Turkey- Part Two

A couple of days ago I wrote about my recipe for Thanksgiving Leftovers Monkey Bread.
Awesome, right?

Well, the second recipe I came up with was for these Thanksgiving Pockets- equally awesome :-)

These are great fresh, but really...freeze them.  By the time you start looking at things to do with your Thanksgiving leftovers, you're most likely turkey-ed out, right?

You've had all of the turkey, mashed potatoes, and stuffing you can handle and now you just want it gone.

Friday, November 8, 2013

What to Do With All of That Turkey

In a few weeks and change you're most likely going to be faced with a wall of Thanksgiving leftover-filled tupperware containers when you open your fridge.  A blessing and a curse, right?  I mean...how much turkey and stuffing can one person really eat?  We've already addressed one delicious means of getting rid of some of it with Kraft's Thanksgiving Leftovers Casserole that I wrote about.

But what else?  What can we do with the rest of it?

I'm here to save the day with a couple more recipes.  lol if three recipes isn't enough to dispose of your leftovers, you're on your own.

That, and you cooked way too much.

Click on the picture to find the recipe on Allrecipes.com
The first recipe I came up with was a savory monkey bread.  Or bubble loaf.  Or whatever you want to call it.  I'll go with monkey bread because it sounds more fun :-)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Does This Count As Being Famous?

Allrecipes.com has launched a magazine of it's own.  It's still a fledgling publication and only out bi-monthly at this point, but the two issues they've published have been great.

I may be biased, but I think the second issue was even better than the first.  


Well, pick one up on the newsstand November 12th (then like it so much you get your own subscription!) and turn to page 70.

See that wreath?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Never Too Early for Leftovers?

This month as part of the #AllstarsLeftoverChallenge I was asked to try Kraft's recipe for Thanksgiving Leftovers Casserole.  Though I don't technically have any "leftovers" since we're still a few weeks away from Thanksgiving, I was more than happy to have a little pre-Thanksgiving feast (as I was last year, as well!).  

Click to see the recipe on Allrecipes.com!
Besides the taste, I think the best part of this recipe is how versatile it is.  You really could toss in whatever you have left.  No mashed potatoes?  Sub sweet potatoes.  Use carrots.  Use green beans.  Add cranberry sauce.  Whatever.  Literally- whatever is left from your Thanksgiving table can go in this one!
I pretty much followed this to the letter, though, since I was making this before any random leftovers existed!

It starts with a base of stuffing with creamy layers of turkey and veggies.  It's topped off with mashed potatoes and cheddar cheese before being baked.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Tis the Season for Simmering Soups

When I was a kid my mom sometimes made beef barley soup.  It was so warm, so comforting...I have the recipe, but I've never made it myself.  One of these days I might, but I think part of me really doesn't want to screw up that memory and association with my mom.

Click to see the recipe on Allrecipes.com!
I bought a box of barley on clearance at the grocery store a while back without any real purpose for it in mind and it's just been hanging out in my pantry, getting shoved farther and farther to the back behind all of the other random ingredients I haven't found the time to play with yet.  I can't think of any time I've ever actually eaten barley aside from my mom's soup!  No wonder it was on clearance!

With my pantry getting messy and far too full, I decided to find a use for that barley.  I came across a recipe for chicken barley soup and decided to give it a try- definitely a good decision!

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Twist on Your Typical Thanksgiving Dessert

Well, it's official- we're entering the Holiday season and fast-approaching Thanksgiving.  Normally I wind up making a HUGE shopping trip right before T-Day and spending a painful amount of money on that one, big meal.  
Not this year.

Well a new tablecloth and napkins are here and ready to go.  I have craft supplies for my daughter to make placemats.  But most importantly?

I have everything but 5 things from my giant list ready to go- and those are perishables that will have to wait until the last minute.  Rather than another hugely expensive (the kind that makes your heart seize in your chest as they're ringing up item after item...) shopping trip, I spread things out a bit.  I made up my menu well in advance and made a list of every item I will need.  For almost a month now, every time I've made a trip to the store I've picked up an item or two from the list.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pretty Exciting For a SAHM!!

I've always loved to cook, but I really threw myself into it about four years ago.  I think it started when I was out of work for nine months- it filled the time and made me feel useful.  Boy did I send a lot of baked goods to work with my (now) husband during that stretch!  Since then a lot has changed...I've gone back to work, gotten married, gotten pregnant, had a son, quit my job to be a homemaker, gone from long-time user of Allrecipes.com (I've quite literally used the site since it's first inception as "cookierecipe.com" 16 years ago, though I didn't even register until that stretch of unemployment) to Allrecipes Allstar (a gig that even got me an amazing trip to Seattle last year!)... the past few years have been quite an adventure!

The Allrecipes Allstars program is something I have truly been blessed to get to be a part of.  It's just so much fun!  What a lovely community of (mostly) ladies I am a part of, working with them is a true delight.  Each month we receive "assignments" and goody packages and get to work- sometimes those assignments require that we write up a blog post and share our experiences with you guys.  For many of us this has been a struggle, certainly not something that comes naturally.  Personally, it has become a nice outlet for me.  I've been able to find a balance, I think, between sharing my assignments with you and other goings on in my life.  I get a little giggly when I have a post that really takes off and I can see my page views go nuts for a bit, or when another website with a larger following than my own shares one of my posts.
On it's own, that's been a silly little thrill for a lady whose days often consist of speech therapy appointments, dirty diapers, laundry, and never-ending house cleaning.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Fall Flavor Challenge Take Two

I mentioned before that the Allrecipes Allstars are partnering with SPLENDA® Sweetener this month, something I'm pretty excited about.  We go through a LOT of SPLENDA® Sweetener in this house!

I sub it for sugar very often..in coffee, soups, sauces, salads....but to be honest, I've never- EVER- baked with it.

This was new territory to me.  I already knew that we enjoyed it in the pumpkin cookies and mini apple muffins I made last week, but I had a new apple vs. pumpkin challenge posed to me by SPLENDA® Sweetener and Allrecipes.com.  

Monday, October 21, 2013

Pumpkin, Pumpkin, Everywhere...

It's the time of year when pumpkin-flavored everything is everywhere, and my house is no exception.  It's one of my favorite flavors any time of year, but I really embrace it in the Fall.  I've been cooking with it, baking with it, playing with it :-)  
Lotsa pumpkin.

My daughter has been begging to carve a pumpkin for weeks now...I finally caved a few days ago, knowing full well that even now there's little chance a carved pumpkin will survive until Halloween.  lol sometimes I have to make myself push logic aside for the sake of having a little fun with my daughter, though.  Life will go on if her pumpkin rots before Halloween arrives- or we'll just have to carve another ;-)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Journeys With Johnsonville

Johnsonville is an awesome company.  Period.

I work with a lot of brands through my involvement with Allrecipes, but I try very hard not to sound like an advertisement for them.  I don't recite back to you every detail that is sent to me about their product, and I certainly don't tout them if I don't believe in them.

  I believe in these guys.  For a lot of reasons, only one of which is their quality product.

This is a company that cares about their product AND their customers.  We have partnered with them before...they have been generous with us as brand ambassadors, but that doesn't really matter to you and certainly doesn't have anything to do with how I review their products.

Of course I like their generosity- I'm on the receiving end of it!  Of course I enjoy their products- who doesn't?  They're tasty and don't cost much more than my store brands!  As a brand ambassador they're fun to interact with on social media, because they're excited about our excitement and they interact with their fans.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Game Day Snacks

Until a few years ago I avoided football (most sports, really) like the plague.

    I didn't grow up watching it, so I didn't have much fun sitting there staring at the screen not understanding what was happening.  Three years ago I set out to change that and started watching it pretty much whenever it was on.  Am I the world's biggest fan?  Not by a long shot.  Do I pick my "favorite" teams based on such arbitrary things as which uniforms I think look the nicest?  lol oftentimes yes.  Nevertheless, I'm at the point where I actually enjoy watching now.  I'm not always SUPER into the game, but sometimes I enjoy the tradition it has become more than anything.

Also, it means I get to cook :-)
You have to have snacks while you're watching sports, right?

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Great Debate

This month I was invited to try out two recipes from SPLENDA® Sweetener- one made with apple, the other with pumpkin-  and to weigh in with my thoughts on the subject of which is truly the winner when it comes to my favorite Fall flavor.

Miniature Apple Muffins
Click to see the recipe on Allrecipes.com!
I've talked a lot lately about apples, and my attempts to cook my way through a full bushel of them (which I finally accomplished!!).  From apple cookies to apple pie, apple recipes really do scream "Fall" to me.  I decided to start the Fall flavor challenge with these Miniature Apple Muffins.  Miniature foods hold a special place in my heart, why is that?  They're just so adorable :-)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

In Which I Put My Nerdiness On Full Display

As a kid I think there were two reasons I watched Star Trek: to spend time with my sci-fi loving dad and because I was in love with Wil Wheaton.

As a grown up?  Well, I've become the sci-fi lover myself...and I'm still a little in love with Wil Wheaton. ;-)

I was a nerd before being a nerd was trendy, and I'm cool with that at this point in my life.

 This Halloween is going to be amazing.  Why?  Because my son is going as Captain Kirk.  Yep.  My 2 year-old is going to dress as a Star Trek character before he's old enough to tell me "no."  My daughter?  Heehee...Superman.  Errr...Supergirl, I suppose that would be.

Ignore the crooked emblem, I was short on time
and lacking safety pins :-)
In the past she's been fairy princesses, Disney princesses...lots of princesses.  This year I wanted to do something different, and I figured out that as long as her costume included a big, fluffy tutu she didn't really care what she went as :-)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Comfort Foods and Loving Letters

I love pretty much everything about Fall...the weather, the decor, being able to wear sweaters, the food
We will be hosting Thanksgiving at our house this year (it makes way more sense than what we normally do, which is prepare EVERYTHING at our house and then haul it over to my MIL's) and I've already planned the entire menu, appetizers to dessert.  I have a new tablecloth and napkins hanging out in my cart on Amazon.  I'm pinning Thanksgiving centerpieces like a madwoman on Pinterest.
Leftover Turkey Soup with Rosemary Parmesan Dumplings
Click on the picture to see the recipe at Allrecipes.com!
I'm going a little crazy, right?

I know.  I'm kind of ok with that, though.  :-)

Since I still have 54 more days until T-Day (but who's counting?), I'm taking full advantage of the Autumn weather until it gets here.  That's why I decided to make turkey soup with dumplings for my family last night.  What's better than warm soup on a Fall night, right?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Guilty Pleasures and Caramel Apples

As with most people, I have a few guilty pleasure TV shows.  For some, it's reality TV.  For me, it's (don't laugh!) the occasional ABC Family show thrown into my usual mix of Doctor Who and Frasier reruns .  For a couple of my friends, it's Grey's Anatomy.  I enjoy it too, but they REALLY love it.  They invited me over to watch the season premier with them the other night and asked me to bring my favorite snack.

lol Like the note?  My husband knows how to put a smile on my face...
Favorite snack?  lol I so rarely cook the same thing twice.  With the billion apples I'm still working through on my counter, I decided to make these caramel apple bites from Christy at "...From Glitter to Gumdrops" I found on Pinterest.  The only thing I did differently was to drop the apple pieces into a bowl of lemon juice and water to prevent browning as I carved them out.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Getting Creative With Bison

Asian Bison Short RibsThis month the Allrecipes Allstars program partnered with The Bison Council and I was lucky enough to receive 10 POUNDS of bison short ribs to play with! I'd never actually tried bison before this, and I was excited to have the opportunity. Half of the ribs I received were to be used in The Bison Council's recipe I signed on to make- Asian Bison Short Ribs. This dish is made in a slow cooker and takes very little effort. I served mine with cilantro basmati rice and tried it out when my in-laws were visiting a couple of weeks ago. We definitely enjoyed them, but the recipe itself wasn't out of this world. I knew I could do better!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Rainy Days Are For Brunch and Baking

A few Sundays ago we were treated to gray skies and rain so loud it drowned out the musicians as it pounded down on the roof of our church during that morning's service.  EEK!  So exciting.  Not to wish away the last of our warm weather but I am sooooo excited!!! 

I know I've mentioned my eager anticipation of Fall already a couple of times, but I'm really just so excited for the coziness of it all.  In fact, I already dyed my hair dark auburn instead of the the light auburn I tend to adopt in warmer months.
Oven Baked OmeletI'm ready.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

So, I Have This Thing For Pineapple...

Really, I love it.  It's not quite the same fixation as I have with chicken salad, but still...oh baby.

I have been known to order a 5 topping pizza and request that 4 of those toppings be pineapple.

No joke.

I love it!
Hawaiian Burgers
Click on the picture for the recipe!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

When Life Gives You Apples

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I recently made my annual trip to our favorite apple farm in the mountains and came home with a whole bushel of apples.  Every year I find myself in the same predicament, trying to figure out what to do with them.  I don't own a pressure canner (though I plan on buying one soon!), so I can't can apple sauce and apple butter.  I make a great deal of applesauce for my son and freeze it in cubes so it's ready to go when I feed him or want to cook with it...but a bushel is a lot of apples :-)

This is the time of year when I start combing through saved recipes looking for anything even remotely apple-related.  Apple muffins, cakes, bars, pies...anything to use up the bounty on my counter.  
Click to see my recipe on Allrecipes.com!

I had to drop by my husband's office yesterday afternoon and I thought I'd make something sweet for his co-workers.  I remembered this recipe I pinned on Pinterest from Amy at "Oh, Bite It!" quite a while ago and thought I'd give it a try.  I have to give her complete credit for her fantastic idea!

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Two Bread Recipes You Should Never Lose

I'm not sure when my love affair with bread-baking began, exactly, but I think it was around the beginning of middle school.  Weird hobby for a kid, right?  I remember one Summer when I literally baked bread almost every day, just because.  When my grandmother spent a week in the hospital before passing away, for some reason I decided to send loaves of sweet, yeasty bread with my family each day as they sat at her bedside.

Baking bread is cathartic for me, I think.

Click on the picture for this fabulous recipe!

There's something magical about the transformation of it all.  Such plain ingredients turn into carb-laden goodness that makes the house smell amazing and induces happy smiles from those who taste it.  

The yeasty goodness of it all :-)

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Cooler Weather and Turkey for Breakfast

Saturday morning the sky was gray and the air held just the slightest hint of the the crisp Fall weather to come..  :-) I woke up to a smiling husband, still-sleeping children, and awesome in-laws visiting from out of state.

My mission: Smoked Sausage Frittata.

Click on the picture to find the recipe at Allrecipes.com
My in-laws were willing guinea pigs in my Butterball® adventures during their visit, and it seemed like the perfect morning to try out a new recipe on them- so what if it wasn't Tuesday?  ;-)

This is an incredibly easy recipe.  Between the mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, and basil this already had me salivating- I'm a sucker for caprese.  Add in the smoked turkey sausage that I raved about in my last post, and I was in heaven.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Thanksgiving Doesn't Have to Come Only Once a Year

Holiday meals are awesome, right?  In that loosen-your-belt-buckle comforting kind of way.  Why is it that we only think to make these awesome dishes a couple of times a year?  Turkey isn't bad for us and is relatively easy to prepare.  Mashed potatoes are delicious.  And honestly, if you don't like cranberry sauce I'm not sure we can be friends.

Ok, we can...but still...*sigh* boy are you missing out.  Not that jelly stuff, though that will do in a pinch...real, delicious, cranberry sauce.

Can the Allstars program partner with Ocean Spray one of these days?  I could be their poster girl.  Seriously.
Anyway, once again I've gone off topic just a tad :-)

My in-laws flew in from Dallas yesterday, and I thought this family time was the perfect time to try out Butterball®'s Maple Basted Roast Turkey with Cranberry Pan Gravy.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Busy Nights and Sausage Macaroni

Tuesday night was crazy- I take that back, Tuesday itself was crazy.

For a SAHM I stay pretty busy, and Tuesday was busier than usual.  Between Little Man's speech therapy, a promise to walk a few miles with my friend, LM's appointment with the Early Interventionist that visits our home to work with him, getting my daughter's homework done, tons of housework to do, and a Girl Scouts event in the evening, there was pretty much no extra time to do anything during the day- much less prepare dinner for the family.
Click on the picture to find this recipe at Allrecipes.com!

As an Allrecipes Allstar, I committed to "Turkey Tuesdays" during the month of September.  All I have to do is prepare a meal using turkey each Tuesday this month.  Pretty simple, right?  Especially since they provided me with the turkey products to try out.

That being said, this Tuesday I almost threw my hands in the air and told my husband to grab fast food on the way home from work.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

How to Clean Your Home for Next to Nothing

A little over two years ago, I became a stay at home mom.  The name really belies the job requirements, as I am really running all over the place most days, but I digress.

As we transitioned from two incomes to one, I really dove right in to the world of being cheap.

Cheap as in frugal that is :-)

I learned couponing!  Oooh, that's a post for another day, but I love my coupons.
Not in a crazy couponer way...but in a saving-tons-of-money-on-things-I-would-buy-anyway kind of way.

I searched the internet for things to do in our community that were free or low cost as a family.

I planted a garden.

On top of all of that, I started researching ways to clean my home and laundry without spending money on cleaners and detergents.  I haven't looked back!

For over two years now I've made my own laundry detergent, fabric softener, static-reducing dryer balls, glass cleaner, stain remover, shower cleaner, wood polish, carpet steamer solution, and floor cleaner.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

For the Love of Chicken Salad

I have a little bit of an addiction, and it's an odd one.

Chicken salad.

My Favorite Chicken SaladI didn't grow up with chicken salad- the first time I remember even trying it was on an Arby's sandwich when I was in the Air Force stationed in Mississippi in my early 20's.  It really was love at first bite :-)

It was many years before I tried to make chicken salad on my own, but now that I've started I just can't stop.  I crave it!  If there isn't a bowl in the fridge for me to dip into when I get the craving, it's time to make another batch!

It's become a bit of an obsession, really.  It's great on sandwiches, of course, but it's also great on a bed of lettuce, or, ahem...straight out of the bowl.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Best Meal You've (Probably) Never Eaten

The Central Coast of CA- my "real" home- is beautiful. The climate is close to perfect, amazing wines are everywhere, the beach is right at your doorstep, and it's a mere 4-ish hour drive to either LA or San Francisco.
It. Is. Perfect.

I grew up eating something called "Santa Maria Style BBQ." It's a staple, and I had no idea that it really doesn't exist outside of the area around my hometown. Every fundraiser meal, every restaurant, every backyard get together…all feature the same dishes.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Something Out of Nothing: Remodeling My Stairs

Our stairs were ugly.

Well, not just the stairs, pretty much the whole house, to be honest.  My husband purchased this home 2 years before I moved in with him, so I was lucky enough to never have to deal with it's full-blown awfulness, but I still got stuck with the carpet and ugly paint colors.  

The woman who lived here before us really REALLY liked dark blue.
The countertops were dark blue.
The linoleum in the kitchen was a dark blue pattern.
The carpet throughout the entire house was dark blue.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Our Month of Beef :-)

We've all heard the popular tagline, "Beef, it's what's for dinner," right?  Well, it really has been the month of beef in our household, and it was for dinner MANY nights.  This month the Allrecipes Allstars program partnered with the Cattlemen's Beef Board and National Cattlemen's Beef Association.  We were asked to prepare recipes from the Allrecipes recipe collection sponsored by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.  I made a couple from their collection, but I also made a few other beef recipes from the site.

As always, just click on the picture to get to the recipes!

Anyway, I'll be honest- the sponsored recipes weren't favorites in our house (though they were with other Allstars that tried them, so to each his own, I suppose).  I made Beef and Blue Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms first.  The blue cheese was pretty overwhelming.  They were ok, but really nothing special.  In their defense, my husband chopped up the leftovers and put them in an absolutely wonderful omelette the next day :-)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The End of Summer: Soup and Housecleaning

Is August too early to start longing for Fall weather?  One of the things that I have come to love about Tennessee is the {generally} perfect season length- just as you are tiring of one season, the next is starting.  This might seem a little silly, but let's remember people- I spent the first 21(ish) years of my life in California.  6 months of Summer and the rest is mostly mild Fall and Spring with an eetsy beetsy little Winter in there around January.  And even then it rarely got so cold I wasn't comfortable in flip flops.  

Sometimes I long for that perfect weather…but then a rainy, gray day like today comes along for me to enjoy.

I always know when it's raining back home because everyone on Facebook is posting about it as if the sky itself is falling!  lol makes me giggle every time.

My kiddos enjoying last year's fall weather :-)
Anyway, as I sit here in the rocking chair in my son's room, watching the rain pour down, trying to pretend that my husband doesn't have the stereo blaring while on daddy-duty downstairs so I can have a few minutes of mommy-time, I'm grateful for the seasons- and ready for gray, chilly days ahead.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Golden Rule

I did a terrible thing a couple of days ago. As my daughter and I pulled out of the Target parking lot we saw a woman holding a sign. My daughter- whose reading skills continue to amaze me- saw that her sign said she had a newborn baby at home. I took a sip of my diet soda and kept driving, attempting to avoid eye contact as we passed her. I justified this by telling my daughter that I didn't have any cash on me, and that we had no way of knowing what this woman's situation really was. 

 Every word I spoke to her felt wrong to me, sending pangs of guilt to my core.

I want my daughter to know that we should always try to help.

Friday, August 9, 2013

My Biggest Problem

Hi, I'm Nora, and I'm a junkie when it comes to food photography.  I rarely make anything that I don't photograph before serving, or at least save a serving of to take a picture.  Therefore, it can be extremely hard for me to decide what images to share with you!  I've tried really hard to narrow it down to a few of my favorite photos/recipes this time so I don't overwhelm you.  It's been a summer full of fun and millions of doctor's and therapists appointments for little man and I've had zero time to sit down and write anything out- meaning I had a HUGE number of photos and recipes to dig through in order to pick a few favorites.  Enjoy!

As always, all pictures link to the recipes!

Asian Zucchini Chicken Burgers
Click on the picture to see the recipe!
First off, let me just say that my family hates zucchini.  Little man won't eat it, his sister won't eat it, my husband DEFINITELY won't eat it, and to be honest...well, I'm not such a fan myself.  So why did I plant FOUR zucchini plants in the garden this year?  I haven't a clue.  Not a smart move.  Anyway, they've been extremely prolific.  I have 50 cups of frozen/shredded zucchini, 9 pints of zucchini relish, 7 pints of zucchini pickles, I've given some away, I have more on my counter, and I still have more growing!  I had to do something, fast.