Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Little Break.

     Can it really be that I haven't posted in two whole weeks? Umm....yes. Do I have an excuse for my laziness? Umm...no. Well, other than the fact that I thoroughly enjoyed my Thanksgiving hiatus with family and friends. I also shopped till I dropped. I also ate like there was no tomorrow. Now that I'm done destroying my financial future and adding about ten points to my total cholesterol, I believe it's time to get back to business. Okay, I'm just kidding. I do have most of my shopping done and I am sticking to my budget as planned. As far as overeating goes, there wasn't too much of that either. My family had a really strange stomach bug hit us last week. It wasn't severe and lasted only a few hours, but it left most of us with hardly any appetite for the rest of the week. Let's face it, sometimes blessings come in disguise.
      I am excited as I can be about this next month. There will be many special things to see and do. I am most grateful for the ultimate Christmas gift that was given to us in the form a sweet baby boy so many years ago. He was and is and will always be the most perfect gift from above. Last Sunday, my pastor brought up the idea of how ridiculous it would be to show up to someone else's birthday party and expect all the presents to be given to you. He pointed out that we so often do that to Jesus on His birthday. One of our precious children replied, "Well Brother Alex, that's just how Christmas works.".  Out of the mouths of babes.... I, too, like the special traditions of Christmas such as gift giving, family gatherings, and beautiful decorations. I just want to be sure that all the glory goes to the One who truly deserves it. I want to be sure that I am living out the directions that He gave me in His Word. I want to give up the selfish desires that I have and look for ways to give to others, especially those in need. I want my children to get to experience that for themselves as well. We are currently thinking about a family project that we can do to raise money for a mission program. How about you? We've all been given talents and abilities, let's use what God gave us to glorify Him.
     I am so looking forward to sharing some fun and interesting things that I have found to help make this season a little merrier and bright. I hope that you won't do like me and just kind of take a break from life over the next few weeks. Yes, I hope your holiday is relaxing and rejuvenating for you. I hope you get to enjoy the blessings that will be sure to abound. I just want us all to remember the true reason for the season and pray about what God would have us to do to minister to others and spread His love around.  Merry CHRISTmas!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Slow Cooker Cheesy Chicken and Rice Dish.

It's the most wonderful time of the year. I mean it too. I adore the time immediately before Thanksgiving. Just knowing that I'm going to spend time with my family and that my kitchen is going to be full of wonderful scents makes me happy. This year I'm getting my kids involved in the process. I want each of them to have a contribution to the Thanksgiving meal. I've also decided that I don't want to spend ALL my time in the kitchen. So, I've got a plan to help myself enjoy the festivities. I've bought up hot chocolate and apple cider mixes that can prepared in a jiffy. I'm keeping bars of cream cheese and boxes of Wheat Thins on hand. I like to throw pepper jelly on top of the cream cheese and serve it with the Wheat crackers. Really good.....really, really easy. I've also got myself stocked up on brownie mixes. And finally, I'm utilizing my slow cooker as much as I ever have. It's so nice to get things going early in the day, be able to clean up the mess, leave, and walk back in to delicious smells and a ready to serve meal. I always have a lettuce mix in the fridge with an assortment of dressings and some kind of bread that can be served alongside this sort of meal. It's a no brainer (for those of us who really need to not to have to think). Cheesy chicken and rice is a family favorite. It really couldn't be simpler either. Let me give you the recipe for this Comfort 101 dish: 4 boneless skinless chicken breast, 1 large onion (chopped), 1 (8 oz) box Zatarain's Yellow Rice mix (cooked according to the directions), 1 cup cheddar cheese, 1 (10.5 oz) can cream of chicken soup, and 1 (15 oz) can whole kernal corn (drained). Begin by placing chicken in the bottom of the slow cooker. Scatter chopped onions on top. Spread cream soup over that.  Cover and cook on low 7-8 hours or on high 3-4 hours. A few minutes before serving, add in cooked rice, corn, and cheese. Stir to combine and serve hot. Now just for something a little different, I use a can of Mexicorn because I like the bright red and green colors that it adds to the dish. I got this recipe & photo from Christy at southernplate.com. Christy was recently feature in Southern Living magazine. She's got many, many, many wonderful southern style recipes on her site. There is a printable version of the above recipe on there too. I hope you will let your slow cooker do some of your cooking for you over the next few weeks. I like to think of it as my own personal chef.....as in the kind I can actually afford. Enjoy!

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Jewelry Party.

Jewelry. *sigh* I don't know very many women who aren't content to look at and try on jewelry. A good pair of earrings can make your face look thinner. A necklace can totally change the look of an outfit. And a blingy ring hardly ever goes unnoticed. We women love our jewelry. Today I'm giving you the link to one of my faves, tonyabarlow.com. I've been wearing her jewelry for quite sometime now. It's good quality and it gets noticed. She's got silver, wood, acrylic, shell, etc... One of my favorite pairs of earrings (of all time) are her creation. They are large silver hoops that have a round, monogrammed disc that hang from them. People always ask me about them. I also have some of her wood jewelry pieces that people notice too. Ok...I've got pretty much one of everything she sells. Even the personalized picture frame. It's all good. The pieces are unique, affordable, and really pretty. Her Christmas event is going on today and tomorrow and you can save 10% by using the code save10 at the checkout, plus check out other items that have already been marked down. Go on over to her site and start working on that Christmas list of yours. Happy shopping!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Caramel Apple Salad.

I don't often give salad recipes. Why is that? Hmm...don't try to analyze me because I can tell you it won't do you any good. I'm complicated. Aren't we all? I am going to make an honest effort to put healthier fare on this blog, if it kills me....Haha! Today's recipe is kind of a poke at that because it's Caramel Apple Salad and it's got Snickers in it. And it's really good and really easy. Snickers + Good + Easy = Winning Recipe! I got the recipe and photo from Bridget at bakeat350.blogspot.com. This is a darling baking website. Be sure and check it out. So without delay, I will give the short list of ingredients (only 5) that you will need to make this: 12 Fun Size or 6 Large Snicker Bars, 1 (3.4 oz.) Pkg. Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix, 1 Cup Milk, 1 (8 oz) Cool Whip, and 6-8 Granny Smith Apples. Begin by cutting Snickers into bite size pieces. Set aside. Next, in a large bowl, whisk together pudding mix and milk until smooth. Fold in Cool Whip. Cut apples into chunks and stir into the pudding mixture. Fold in the chopped up Snicker Bars. Top the salad with thinly sliced Snicker pieces so everyone knows that it's a dessert salad. Watch everyone's faces light up with delight when they discover the "salad" option. I like this salad because it's both sweet and tart and there is a good balance of both tastes. I hope you can try it soon. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Bisquick Cornbread.

So, wow...I can't believe I'm giving you a recipe for cornbread that involves bisquick. You see, me and cornbread, well we go way back. It was kind of a staple in my house growing up. My Dad liked vegetables and cornbread for supper and so that's what we had. My Grandparents liked to crumble cornbread in a glass and pour buttermilk over it and eat it that way. In fact, that's what they had for supper a lot of nights. Now my Dad likes "milk and bread" too. We all eventually turn into our parents. You know that right?  Another reason this cornbread is not something I would normally like is because it's not cooked in a black, cast iron skillet. Any Southern girl worth her weight owns at least one cast iron skillet. Now, I tell you this cornbread is moist, slightly sweet, and mouth-watering good. It's easy too. I think you will be very happy with the result if you try this. I got the photo and recipe from a really cute blog called thepearsonfamilee.blogspot.com. Lisa is the lady behind the website and she named this Scott's Bisquick Cornbread because her husband, Scott, cooked it for her. Sweet. If Mr. K would cook for me, I would name all my dishes after him too. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure he would not find that an appealing enough offer to actually do it. Anyway, back to the cornbread....make it soon. Serve it alongside a big bowl of piping hot soup. Here's the recipe: 2 Cups Bisquick, 6 T. cornmeal, 1/2 Cup Sugar, 2 Eggs, 1/2 Cup Butter (Melted), and 1 Cup Milk. Preheat oven to 350˚. Mix Bisquick and cornmeal together. Set aside. Add milk and eggs to melted butter (make sure it's slightly cooled) and stir together. Pour milk mixture into Bisquick mixture and stir together. Pour batter into a greased 8x8 baking dish. Bake at 350˚ for 35 minutes or until golden brown. If you want a variation, then you can substitute buttermilk in the place of regular milk. If you want more of a Mexican cornbread, then throw in 1 jalapeno (diced), 1/3 cup cheddar cheese, and 3 green onions (thinly sliced). Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Different Green Bean Casserole

  I was catching up on a few of my favorite blogs this morning and came across some good recipes. Today's Green Bean Casserole is one of them. I am already a fan of the traditional one, but was getting a little bored with it after all these years. The Pioneer Woman solved that dilemma. Her updated version is spot on in the flavor department and I love the difference the Panko bread crumb topping makes. Even my local Wal-Mart carries Panko bread crumbs now. Yay! Now if you couldn't possibly imagine the casserole with any other topping than the crispy onion rings, then go for it. No big deal. This recipe and photo is courtesy of thepioneerwomancooks.com. You can go there today and scroll down and see a step by step guide to preparing this and get a printable form of the recipe. *One day I'm going to figure out how to make printable versions myself. * Here's the recipe: 2 lbs. Fresh Green Beans (ends cut off). 4 slices Bacon (cut into 1/4 inch pieces), 3 Garlic Cloves (minced), 1/2 Large Onion (chopped), 4 T. Butter, 4 T. All-Purpose Flour, 2 1/2 Cups Milk, 1/2 Cup Half-and-Half, 1 1/2 t. Salt, Freshly Ground Pepper (to taste), 1/8 t. Cayenne Pepper, 1 Cup Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese, 1 (4 ounce) jar Sliced Pimentoes (drained), Extra Milk for thinning if Necessary, and 1 Cup Panko Bread Crumbs. Begin by cutting green beans in half. Blanch the green beans by dropping them into lightly salted boiling water and allow them to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove them from boiling water with a slotted spoon and immediately plunge them into a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain beans once they're cool and set aside. Next, add bacon pieces to a skillet over medium heat. Cook bacon for two minutes, then add diced onion and garlic and continue cooking for 3 to 5 minutes, or until bacon is done (but not crisp) and onions are golden brown . Remove from heat and set aside. Next, In a separate skillet or saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Sprinkle flour into the pan and whisk immediately to evenly mix it into the butter. Cook for a minute or two, then pour in milk and half-and-half. Continue cooking, whisking constantly while sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne then add the grated cheddar. Stir while cheese melts. Turn off heat. Finally, add pimentos to pan, then add bacon/onion mixture. Stir to combine. Pour over green beans and stir gently to combine. Pour into baking dish and top with panko crumbs. Bake at 350˚ for 30 minutes or until sauce is bubbly and panko crumbs are golden. This should serve approximately 8 people. Enjoy!

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Home Project: Next On My List

I have mixed feelings about the internet. I think it can be, and often is, used as a tool to do great things. I have been so blessed by so many people that I'm friends with on facebook, for example. I also enjoy learning all manner of recipes and craft ideas through it and find myself inspired in ways that I don't believe I could be without this technology. We can all agree that it can be used in many destructive ways as well. And I don't think I have to spell them out. As a lesser evil,  I have to fight the urge to not let it consume my time and energies as I am checking out many wonderful sites and getting lots of fantastic ideas that can apply to all areas of my life. Don't get me wrong, I believe the internet will spread the Good News of Christ's love for us in an unprecedented way.. That I love. I just felt the need to write that today as I'm getting ready to show you a little project that I found on a website the other day. I have really enjoyed getting decorating tips from Melissa on her site, theinspiredroom.net. She is so talented in this area and I think her house is beautiful. She had a guest post the other day from Holly of hollymathisinteriors.com and it was the numbered stairs pictured above (photo courtesy of Holly Mathis). Now the numbers can be purchased from Melissa at shopopensky.com/theinspiredroom. I believe this idea may have been featured in the Pottery Barn catalog at some point too. I have stairs in my home and I have been thinking that they could really use a little something to give them a pop. I think this idea is adorable and adds just the right amount of interest to the total look. I'm planning on doing this soon. Hopefully, before the end of the month (providing the Hubby won't mind). I would definitely encourage you to check out the above websites mentioned too. They are jam packed with all sorts of great ideas and tips. I thought this was the perfect post to leave you with on this gorgeous Friday. I hope you all have a great weekend. Go out and support your local football team tonight. The end of the regular season is coming to a close and I know the boys would love to have you cheering them on. In the meantime, Happy Fall Y'all!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A Frequent Request: Oven Ham Sammies.

Do you have a recipe that people seem to request a lot? For me, it's usually the simple ones that I get the most requests for. Oh wait, I only make simple recipes...maybe that's why. Anyway, this oven ham sandwich is one that we've been making in our family for a long time. My Mom introduced these to me years ago and I've not looked back since. I take these to all sorts of occasions and I tell you, I could count on one hand the number of times I've had leftovers. They disappear quick. This recipe is slightly different than the one I've been making for so long, but it's got all the same components just assembled differently. I got the recipe and photo from dishanddine.net. You really must make these for the loved ones in your life. It's getting close to Christmas you know. People are soon going to be shopping for gifts for you. Leave a good impression on them. Haha. I'm just joking. I would never use food to persuade people to do me favors. Never. Well...never is a strong word. Here's the recipe for these fabulous sandwiches: 1 (12 count) package Kings Hawaiian Rolls, 1/2 cup Butter (melted), 1/2 t. Ground Mustard, 1 t. Poppy Seeds, 2 t. Onion Flakes, 1 t. Worcheshire Sauce, 1 Package Sliced Swiss Cheese, and 12 -16 ounces Thin Sliced Ham.  Put ham and cheese on sliced rolls. Mix all other ingredients together and spoon over sammies. Bake at 350˚ for 15 minutes. Sooo good. I'm not kidding. The way I have always prepared them is to slather the melted ingredients on the inside of the roll with the ham and cheese and bake them wrapped tightly in tin foil. I really like the looks of these and have decided to make mine like this from now on. The only thing to make sure of, is that you have a good friend close by to tell you if you have poppy seeds stuck in your teeth. You know your husband won't notice. Funny story, we were at a family reunion on my husband's side a few years back. I had been eating some chicken casserole and was just visiting away with his relatives. My husband was sitting right across from me the whole time. My 10 year old nephew (at the time) runs by and then turns back around and says "Aunt Tracie, you got a big piece of chicken stuck in your teeth.". I thanked him and then cut my eyes over at my husband and shot him the "I can't believe you didn't notice that!" look.  He gives me the "Am I supposed to notice EVERY little detail?" look and shrugs his shoulders.* Don't you love it when husbands and wives have conversations with their eyes?*  No, Honey, of course not. A piece of chicken dangling out of my mouth is, however, on the list of must notice details. Haha! Thank goodness I was already established in the family or else they might have thought twice about letting me in. Forgive me for digressing.  This is an excellent recipe and super easy. I hope you enjoy it! 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Side Dish for Thanksgiving.

November is in full swing and the time has come to begin thinking about our Thanksgiving menus. As for me, my family does something a little different on the fourth Thursday of every November. We have a family reunion. There's no traditional formal, sit down meal for us that day. It's been this way my whole life. And....I wouldn't have it any other way. I look forward to seeing my big family that day. I enjoy catching up with cousins that live hours away. I love eating the wonderful food that everyone brings. Let me tell you, cooking is one thing my family is known for. The buffet goes on and on and on. I always feel so bad at how full my plate looks when I finally get through the line. It's just that there's so much that I want to taste. Spoonfuls add up quick in that kind of environment. So that brings me back to the recipe for this post. I finished up a Bible study recently and our women's group met yesterday for a potluck lunch. I was browsing through some of my favorite food sites to get an idea of what to take and came across Scalloped Sweet Potatoes from tastykitchen.com. This site is also where the above photo came from.  And I thought that nothing screams Thanksgiving any more than sweet potatoes (well..except turkey). What I liked about this one was that it was more on the savory side. I really "dig" a sweet potato casserole topped with brown sugar, butter, and pecans as well as anybody, but sometimes it's nice to change things up. Here's the recipe: 2 lbs. Sweet Potatoes, 4 Strips Bacon, 1 Whole Onion (chopped), 2 1/2 T. All-Purpose Flour, 1/2 t. Salt, 1/4 t. Black Pepper, 2 Cups Reduced Fat Milk, and 1 1/4 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese ( I used an italian blend). Preheat oven to 325˚ F. Peel potatoes; cut into 1/4 inch slices. Place potatoes in a large pot of salted boiling water. Cook for 5-10 minutes or until just tender. Drain well and set aside. Meanwhile, fry bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Drain on a paper towel, crumble, and set aside. Add chopped onion to bacon drippings and cook until tender. Stir in flour over low heat and cook to a paste. Add salt and pepper. Whisk in milk and cook until mixture thickens slightly. Arrange half of the sweet potatoes in the bottom of a greased 11x7 inch baking dish (I also took the opportunity to throw a dash of salt and pepper over the potatoes at this point too).  Sprinkle on half of the crumbled bacon. Pour on half of the milk mixture. Arrange remaining potatoes, sprinkle with remaining bacon, and pour the rest of the milk mixture on top. Cover with cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. If desired, brown cheese for 1-2 minutes under the broiler. This turned out to be a really delicious side dish. You can get a printable version of this recipe from tastykitchen.com if you'd like. Enjoy!

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Hot Jalapeno Popper Dip.

Last Saturday, one of my sisters hosted a get together for the kids in the family and some close friends as well. She had it set up really cute and there was apple bobbing, a football toss, a pumpkin pinata, etc... We had hotdogs and chips, orange Kool-Aid, and Halloween cupcakes. It was around 4 in the afternoon and the weather was perfect. I tell you this because later that night when the hubs and I made a little trip to Wal-Mart we were both a little hungry (this was like 5 hours later). We thought it was too late to eat anything heavy so we decided to drive thru Sonic and get a little snack. He got a hamburger (I didn't call that a snack) and I got jalapeno poppers. They hit the spot too. Mine were filled with cheddar cheese, but my favorite have cream cheese on the inside. This morning I was searching for an appetizer to take to another tailgate and came across this one for Hot Jalapeno Dip. It was just what I was looking for and now I can't wait to make this Friday night. I got it off of tastykitchen.com as well as the above photo. This is an excellent site to find a variety of recipes and you can join it and submit your own. This recipe was rated 5 oven mitts which is the highest rating a recipe can get on that site. Isn't that cute? Oven mitts....I bought all the ingredients today. Here's the list so you can get yours too. Ingredients: 2 (8 oz.) Pkgs. Cream Cheese softened, 1/2 cups sour cream, 1/2 cups mayo, 1 (4 oz) can chopped green chiles drained, 5 whole jalapenos (seeded and diced), 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese (I bough an italian blend because sometimes parmesan is a little too pungent), and 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs. Begin by heating the oven to 400˚ F. Stir together cream cheese, sour cream, and mayo in a large bowl until smooth. Stir in green chiles and jalapenos. Pour mixture into an oven safe serving dish and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and panko crumbs. Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes, then put under broiler for 1-3 minutes to lightly brown on the top. Serve warm with tortilla chips, crackers, or crusty bread. This should easily serve 8 people. Doesn't it look fabulous? I may have to test it tonight just to make sure it's going to be ok to serve to the general public this weekend. I always want to do my part. Haha! Enjoy!