Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sweet Somethings

Here are a few treats we've been sharing on these cold winter nights.

Hot Mint Chocolates

Its a basic Hot Chocolate recipe with a dash of peppermint extract-and crushed peppermint, chocolate chips and marshmallows on top.
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate (1/2 Baker's chocolate bar)chopped
4 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
Peppermint extract-just two little drops, about 1/4 teaspoon gives you the taste

Place chocolate, 1/3 cup milk and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat stir until sugar and chocolate melt. Add remaining milk and heat through, stirring frequently do not boil. Add mint at the end. Garnish with crushed peppermint, marshmallows and mini chocolate chips.

The perfect warm-up with the tiniest hint of mint.

And if you've never made hot chocolate without using a packet of powder, please try it once this winter. It is delightful and easy.

Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies
This recipe is from a great church cookbook. Andrew Price Memorial UMC in Nashville. It is noted that Wayne Campbell submitted this recipe. Thank you, Mr. Campbell!

From one of my favorite church cookbooks. I make these rather small and they the absolute perfect texture. It really doesn't take much time to make cookies from scratch and these beat the pants off of any mix or refrigerated dough you'll find.

1 cup Crisco
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flor
1 tsp baking soda
1-12 ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cream together Crisco and shortening, sugars  and vanilla beating on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat well after each addition. In a separate bowl combine flour and baking soda. Add dry to creamy mixture. Stir in chocolate chips by hand. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Makes about 6 1/2 dozen.

The first time I made these I only had half a bag of butterscotch and half a bag of mini chocolate chips. They were also yummy. This is a fantastic recipe- and a great one for working with what you have on hand most of the time.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Turkey remix 2013

Turkey is probably the preferred poultry in our house.

And since we're entering the glorious time of holiday feasting we're also looking to make the most of our leftovers.

Here are two new couldn't-be-easier ways to rework your turkey bird.

Balsamic Pasta with Turkey and Roasted Vegetables
1-2 cups leftover cooked turkey
1 pound box of pasta (i had tri-color rotini on hand)
1 bottle of balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes
1-2 cups fresh spinach
1/2 cup crumbled feta, plus more for garnish

Cook up a box of your family's favorite pasta-or whatever you have on hand-penne, rotini, rigatoni, ziti.

While your pasta's boiling chop or dice 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups of turkey and coat with about 1/3 bottle of balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Set aside.

Chop tomatoes in half, if they are really juicy, squeeze some of the juice and seeds out onto a paper towel. Grab two handfuls of fresh spinach and roughly chop.

Once pasta has been cooked and drained combine pasta, turkey, tomatoes, spinach, 1/2 cup feta cheese and another 1/3 bottle of the dressing and toss. Place in a large covered casserole and bake covered at 350 for about 20-25 minutes. You want this to be warm, but not baked and dry.

Serve up and top with a bit more crumbled feta.

You could marinade your turkey overnight for this dish, it certainly couldn't hurt.

Turkey Tacos
A turkey and a taco kit walk into a bar.....have yourself a margarita and guess what happens.

My advice is this--warm your leftover turkey in a skillet with 1/2 cup chicken stock, then add taco seasoning and instead of using the water that the box calls for, replace it with chicken stock. You simply can't go wrong.

If you want more turkey ideas here are some other dishes we've done at our house

BBQ Turkey Stack on Pumpkin Cornbread

Turkey Vegetable Pie

Calzones just sub your turkey for the chicken

Cavatappi with Turkey and Peas

Happy Thanksgiving!
Watch a parade or some football!
Have a laugh and/or an adult beverage!
Enjoy the weekend shopping or hunting or trimming your tree!

Menu Monday-Hashbrown and Nameless Casseroles, Soup and SausageBalls-Oh My!!

Happy Tuesday! Yeah, so this blogging thing is super easy. Its the knowing what day it is that can be the hard part. If you were waiting on my Menu Monday post to tell you what to cook this week I hope you were able to wing it and no one went hungry! Haha!

There's a whole lot of cooking going on at our house this week. So, let's get to it.

I'm taking dressing, gravy and squash casserole to our main Thanksgiving and hosting a little mini-version on Sunday for some Nashvillians coming down on Sunday with Turkey, Dressing, Gravy, Green beans, Salad, Mac N Cheese, Corn, Squash Casserole and whatever else sounds yum.

For Dinner this week we'll be having--

The Casserole That Needs a Name
Here's what you do-
Brown a pound of ground beef. Throw in some salt, pepper and garlic salt while it does its thing. 

Meanwhile layer a casserole dish like this- thinly sliced onion on the bottom, then a layer of thinly sliced potatoes, then sliced carrots (pause here ans salt and pepper here) then a drained can of peas. When your meat is done top the casserole with the meat then pour on a can of tomato sauce. I migth salt and pepper here as well. Bake at 350 for 45-55 minutes, let stand for about 5 minutes and serve. Then serve seconds. So good and makes the house smell scrumptious. 

This is also a goodie to split and freeze. And you could sub canned sliced potatoes and canned carrots if you want, I've done that before. You can cut your baking time by about 10-15 minutes by doing this. 

Now, we need to name this delicious dinner, I feel a little bad for it.....

We're also having fish this week--Gulf Coast Red Snapper from our freezer-thawed- dredged in beaten egg then Japanese bread crumbs and fried up in no time.

SOUPER Loaded Potato Soup-this weather we're having is begging for potato soup! Here's a recipe from HG, people are always raving about his, so I'm sharing it here. In his words....
Loaded Potato Soup

2  cans low sodium chicken broth
1- 32oz. bag of frozen diced hashbrowns
2 cans cream of celery soup
1  cans cream of  chicken soup
1/8 to 1/2 cup chopped onion depending on personal taste
8 oz. block of sharp cheddar cheese (cubed)
8 oz. block of Monterrey Jack cheese (cubed)
8 0z. block of Pepper Jack cheese (cubed)
1 qt. half and half

To garnish
Bacon, cooked and crumbled
Chives/ Green onions, chopped
Shredded cheddar and Monterrey jack cheese  (for color variation) 

In a large pot, combine and simmer hashbrowns and chicken broth, until potatoes are soft.
Add all other ingredients and continue to cook over medium heat for 30 minutes or until all cheeses are melted.
Garnish with bacon, chopped green onions, and shredded cheese.

And because its a holiday week--we're having Sausage Balls and Hashbrown Casserole you could have this for dinner or for an awesome Holiday week breakfast. Speaking of HG, he helped me perfect my Hashbrown Casserole recipe...and it may or may not have been based upon his YEARS as a Cracker Barrel employee....Here's what you do--

Hashbrown Casserole
Melt one stick of a large mixing bowl combine 1 bag (30 oz) thawed shredded hashbrown potatoes, melted butter, 1 can of cream of chicken soup, salt, pepper and about 1 1/2 to 2 cups freshly grated cheddar. Mix and spread into a greased 9x13. I usually double (and have been known to triple) this recipe and it all works out fine. There really isn't a bad way to do this...some recipes call for cream of mushroom, sour cream, half and half--I'm sure those are all delightful. The cream of chicken soup is what makes this recipe so fantastic. 

Anyhow, bake that baby at 350 for about 40 minutes, watching as the edges become golden brown, then go to town--er, I mean serve. 

And the Sausage balls I made this time were delightful. I love how the combination of Cheddar Cheese Soup and the Bisquick makes for more of a biscuit with sausage than a crunchy sausage ball. 
Sausage Balls
2 cups Bisquick
1 can Cheddar Cheese Soup
1 pound bulk, cooked breakfast sausage (I use Tennessee Pride)

Combine in a bowl, line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, spray some nonstick spray on your hands and form into mounds about the size and shape of a marshmallow.

This will give you more of a ball/biscuit shape when they are done. If you start with a ball with this recipe, it will flatten out or "run" just a little bit and your sausage ball will be more of a sausage round. 


After this we'll be feasting on leftovers all the live-long day. I'm working on a few leftover turkey recipies tonight and I'll be back with those in the morning. 

I hope you have a holy holiday full of love and gratitude for all of our blessing.s And extra helpings of dressing. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013 er, 1994 with Jason Aldean

There is NOTHING I love more than little ones in Indian and Pilgrim costumes!

Singing sweet songs about turkeys, Indians and giving thanks to Jesus.


We went to our little preschool program this morning, then Jay's class feast.

You may have caught Jay saying he's thankful for "Dirt Road"--he really is. (He means "Dirt Road Anthem" by Jason Aldean.) Its also what he told me for 3 days when I tried to help him complete his "homework" by talking about all of the many blessings we have and all we have to be thankful him lots of examples like family, our warm home, even his dog. Every single time he said Dirt Road. So after many failed attempts to get to something deeper I reluctantly filled in the blank on his feather. not knowing he would then be asked to share wheat he was thankful for with a room full of parents and loved ones.

But then his teacher "Had something to ask me about....." uh-oh! then she showed me this.

"What is the significance of 1994? He was serious about it so I went ahead and wrote it down."

Well, Mrs. Phillips here you are-- Jason Aldean's 1994 video.

And Mr. Jason Aldean, if you ever come across this post on the world wide interwebs, just know that my little 3 year old wishes you a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Proud parent moment number 6,439.

Happy Thanksgiving from the cutest little Indian I've ever seen!

Let's just take a moment to appreciate the cascading red locks over his head dress, shall we? 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Just for fun

There are a few little things I don't want to miss out on, so I thought I'd put them all together in one fun, albeit assorted post.

Sweet Lizzy after church on Sunday just hanging out while I cooked lunch. 

I just love her in this dressy-dress, she rarely wears smocked anything!

I put together an easy week of meals so that I could tackle some more holiday prep and enjoy this week before we're fully into winter and the holidays. Somehow I found myself with 70 from-scratch cookies cooling while Jay was at school on Monday. What is wrong with me??

There are yummy. Just ask Lizzy. 

It pays to hang out near mom when we're in the kitchen. (Which we usually are...)

We went to a fun birthday party for Eden at CHOM over the weekend. The kids had a wonderful time--I think we'll be back sooner than later. 

After the party we just kind of hung around in T-town all afternoon and Jay and Dad even explored the Veteran's Memorial Plaza and checked out the armory equipment, even though it was already dark out. 

I put up the 3 upstairs Christmas trees on Friday. Turns out Sweet Lizzy was completely and totally terrified of the trees. 

After about 10 minutes of absolute hysterics she did get a single twinkle light in her hand and sing "Happy Birthday to You" and try to blow out the light over and over. and over. So, we'l say she adjusted. 

She's fine with the trees now, but you can see Jay was happy as can be right away. 

He laid under his tree and stared up through the lights and ornaments forever. Ahhh, youth. 

We've been doing our best to play outside and enjoy the weather. The treehouse and abundance of leaves are making it easy.

Jay was so proud of the stack he made.

I was too until he made another stack and climbed on top and was literally standing 3 1/2 feet in the air on a wobbly-teetering-tower-of-broken-arm-waiting-to-happen. The boxes have been retired from this year's holiday lineup. Maybe next year. Maybe 2023. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Menu Monday #12

After 12 weeks of menu planning and sharing, I'm enjoying the fruits of my labor this week!

It really seems easier to put together our weekly dinner menus now that I've been blogging them, hopefully you aren't bored to tears and have picked up a few new items for your own menu rotation.

Now, this week I'm taking advantage of the many freezer meals I've stocked as a result of splitting recipes and planning new and different menus for our family each week. 5 nights this week will be dinners from the freezer, I'm including them here in case you need ideas for things that are simple to prepare for your family to enjoy now and freeze portions to stock for later.

Beef and Cheddar Casserole from Week 7

Pioneer Woman Cheese and Corn Chowder from Week 7

Turkey Divan from Week 10

Dixie Stampede Creamy Vegetable Soup from Week 8

Lasagna from Week 3

We're also having Taco night this week, since Jay has been asking and asking for tacos. I think with my focus being on so many new recipes, I may have slighted Jay on his all-time favorite meal. Sorry buddy!

I'm loving that I can spend more time this week prepping for the holidays and out of the grocery store. I'm also freeing up some space in my freezer to continue with holiday prep.

I'll be back later this week with another installment of Holiday Hostess, if you missed the first installment find it here.

You can always click the Menu Monday label to the right to view all of the Menu Mondays to inspire your own family meal planning.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Menu Monday-Turkey Two New Ways

It's Monday again! When I put together this week's menu I tried using turkey two new ways and they were both AWESOME. These are yummy anytime of year, but go ahead and try them this week to build up your tryptophan tolerance (i am not a scientist and have no idea if that is even possible) and keep them handy during the holidays when thinking of uses for leftover turkey!

BBQ Turkey Stack on Pumpkin Corncake

oooh yeah!

Here's what I did--I bought a packaged Turkey brease "tenderloin" (mine was Jennie O brand)-these are usually near the pork tenderloin packeaged to look like one piece of meat. When you open them up-there are two huge breasts. Place them both in a pyrex, bake at 350 for about an hour (per directions). Save one in the fridge for the next recipe and go ahead and slice the other fairly thin.

Coat your sliced turkey breast with your favorite barbecue sauce (turkey and sauce in a storage container, lid on and shake) then set aside.

Add about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil to a skillet and get it heating. Make a basic cornbread batter with your favorite cornmeal mix, but make it thick--I would suggest cutting the liquid by half. Then add 3/4 cup canned pumpkin and a dash of ground Allspice and stir to combine. Your batter should be to thick to pour.

Once oil is HOT spoon cornbread batter (about 1/3 cup) into skillet for each corncake. Brown 2 minutes (or so) per side, move to towel to drain.

Stack warm bbq turkey slices on each corncake and prepare to be amazed with yourself! So simple and delicious!!

Vegetable Turkey Pie

Using cooked turkey, chop 1-1/2 cups and set aside. In a mixing bowl combine 1 bag of frozen mixed vegetables (I used birdseye "Primavera blend" for this dish-asparagus, peas, red pepper, green beans- but any type you prefer would probably work), 1 can of cream of chicken soup, 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard and chopped turkey. Add mixture to a pie plate (or any small casserole dish), top with prepared pie crust, crimp edges and brush with eggwash, cut three slits in the top and bake at 350 for one hour. Keep an eye on the edge of the crust.

Serve with a Salad. Watch it disappear.

SO that's two days of Turkey, but I would serve something different in between--

Cheesy Gnocchi Casserole with Ham and Peas--this is a great, different but yummy recipe from the food network--I'd never cooked gnocchi before I found this recipe and it was a hit. It's also a great way to use leftover ham after the holidays!

Cheese Burger Casserole
1 pound ground beef, browned with a dash or two of garlic salt
Mixed with 1/2 bag (thawed) frozen shredded hashbrowns, 1 can cream of mushroom, 1+cup shredded cheddar cheese.

Beef Stroganoff there are no less that 6 zillion ways to make beef stroganoff, I think I do something different to mine every time. :) Its always a good go-to to change up the usual menus for us.

That's what's cooking at our house this week! I hope you've found some ways to make the most of turkey time and inspired your own menu this week.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Such a fun party! Leaf Jump and Pumpkin Hunt 2013

We had such a fun day! I've had this party in mind since last fall and it was simple and so very much fun, this may become an annual tradition!

We have lots of leaves and lots of trees and once Jay got his treehouse for his birthday I knew we needed to have this little party with our friends.

I'm so glad we did.

We had a perfect amount of kiddos and they had a blast and parents got to visit and enjoy the day. Did I mention the weather was g-r-e-a-t? When we were first planning, I thought about doing this party about 2 weeks before Halloween, but decided to wait until now to guarantee lots of leaves. It worked out perfectly to have it now--between Halloween and Thanksgiving when its still good weather wise but not quite as busy with parties and events. 

(unless you're an Alabama fan and were cheering on the Tide and didn't get home until 1:30 a.m.....but that's a story for another day.)

I didn't get many detail pictures of the party and the truth is it was very simple.

We served turkey sandwiches, fruit cups, Peanut Butter and Chocolate popcorn, cheese puffs, cupcakes and s'mores cookies. Tea, Water, Capri Sun.

 (Sweet Heather helped out with the food and these cupcakes. Perfecto.)

I printed up some food tags and toppers for the goodie bags and set up everything outside.

(Shoutout to my awesome husband who blew leaves like nobody's business Saturday morning so we had a nice fluffy bank of leaves for jumping the afternoon away.)

We jumped in the leaves, climbed all over the yard, enjoyed the treehouse, slide and swings.

Is that the Cozy Coupe on top of the treehouse?!?

We also had a quick pumpkin hunt with foam cutout pumpkins from Hobby Lobby.

(considering that we found forgotten Easter eggs until after Labor Day, I thought it best to use fake pumpkins, lest we turn our yard into an pumpkin patch by accident.)

We had some school friends. cousins and old friends and new friends from the neighborhood. It was truly a great time for us all.

Jay introduced Sadie to some friends from school and their parents by saying "This is Sadie. She's my best girl." Love them!!

I hope everyone napped well after the party or sleeps well tonight. Every child was trying to negotiate "5 more minutes" so  I think they all had fun.

This party was simple to do (says the one who did not do the leaf blowing....) and was the most fun I've ever had at a party we've had for the kids.