Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Christmas Box!

Last year I saw this idea on Pinterest just before December and thought I would start our own family tradition.  If you do an internet search you will find that this idea has become a tradition for many families but most of them do it on Christmas Eve...I guess I'm a bit of a rebel but I thought that waiting until Christmas Eve was silly!  I decided that we would open our "Family Christmas Box" on December 1st so we could enjoy the goodies inside all month long!  Here is what I usually include:

-Christmas movie(s)
-Christmas book(s)
-Hot chocolate (we love Stephen's)

I must say that I am in love with this tradition.  It's a great way to spread some cheer and excitement throughout the entire month and my kiddos love it.  We thoroughly enjoy spending the month reading about Christmas, watching the movies and wearing our Christmas pajamas.  I will suggest that you buy some of these items each year just after Christmas, it will save you $ and the hassle of trying to find certain items when everyone else is also searching for them!  I hope you love this idea also and perhaps incorporate it into your own family traditions, happy holidays!!!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Bingo!

Recently I have discovered how wonderful a game of bingo can be!  It's simple enough that my almost-4 years old can play a full round without getting board and it can be a great way to teach children about holidays.  I found a wonderful, free printable after doing some online searching so I thought I'd share.  Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Friday, November 22, 2013

7 Day Sexy Burn Challenge

(click underlined titles for videos)
10 reps each, 3-5 rounds
Push Back Push-Ups
180 Touch Downs
Power Up, Knee Tuck
Long Leap, 4x Jump Lunges
Core Crushers

10 reps, 3-5 rounds
Dragon Walks
Rocket Launchers
Superman Power-Ups
1 Leg Burpee Combo
Leg Drop, Crunch

Day 3: Burn Those Calories Away All Day
10 reps, 3-5 rounds
Elevated Push-Ups
10 High Knees + Drop + Power-Up + Tuck
Over Unders
Ninja Jump Tuck Burpees
"Hold Legs Off Ground, Crunch"

Day 4: Increase Your Intensity Workout
10 reps, 3-5 rounds
Low Reverse Lunges
Front Raise Squat
Knee Lifts

Day 5: Fun And Hardcore Workout
10 reps, 3-5 rounds
3 Push-Ups + Inchworm
Burpee Rollbacks + Tuck
Squat Pulse
Ashley's Nightmare
Ball Toss Sit-Ups

Day 6: Feel Good In Your Clothes Workout
10 reps, 3-5 rounds
2 Rows + 2 Push-Ups
Parajumper Burpees
Crunch and Reach

Day 7: Workout And Don't Stop Trying
10 reps, 3-5 rounds
2 Walking Push-Ups
Rocket Launchers + 2 Lunges
Plank Row
2 Leg Bridge
Crunch + V-Up

YOU DID IT!!! :)

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Classic Pecan Pie

I LOVE pecan pie!  Some of you may not know but the state tree of Texas is the pecan tree, so needless to say, I have eaten plenty of pecans in my lifetime.  I absolutely love them and I especially love this pie!

Classic Pecan Pie
1 pie crust - I use Pillsbury
3 eggs
*1 C. sugar
1/2 C. light Karo syrup
1/2 C. dark Karo syrup
*2 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 C. pecans - halves or chopped

-Preheat oven to 350 F.
1. Lightly flour both sides of the pie crust and press into a deep dish pan.
2. In medium mixing bowl whisk together eggs, sugar and syrups until smooth.  Whisk in butter.
3. Add vanilla and pecans and whisk until well combined.  Pour into pie pan.
4. Bake 50-55 minutes (cover crust with foil after about 20 minutes) until a sharp knife inserted into the middle of the pie comes out clean.  Let cool on wire rack completely before serving.

*High altitude changes*
-Reduce sugar to 2/3 C.
-Increase to 3 Tbsp. butter
-Bake at 325 F for 55-60 minutes

Check out my other Thanksgiving recipes!

Mashed Potatoes with Turkey Gravy

Mashed Potatoes with Turkey Gravy
6 large potatoes, peeled & cubed
4 Tbsp. butter
1/4-1/3 C. milk
Salt & Pepper

1. Boil potatoes in slightly salted water until tender.  Drain and combine with butter in large bowl.  Mash until few clumps remain. 
2. Season with salt and pepper.  Slowly add milk while mixing with a hand mixer until desired consistency is achieved.  Serve with gravy.

1. Pour turkey drippings (from roasting pan) into a large pan on medium heat, season with salt and pepper and slowly whisk in about 1/4 C. flour until gravy begins to simmer and thicken.  Add more flour if needed.

*If you need to make more gravy that just the drippings will provide simply add chicken broth and use a bit more flour, if needed.*

Check out my other Thanksgiving recipes!

Candied Yams

Some of you may have noticed that these are not yams, I wasn't overly happy with the selection at the grocery store so I went with sweet potatoes instead and I think I actually prefer them.  This is very traditional in the south for Thanksgiving and it is definitely one of my very favorite side dishes this time of year!  I hope you love it too!

Candied Yams
3-4 yams, or sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/4 C. butter
3/4 C. brown sugar
1/4 C. water
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
2 cinnamon sticks
1 bag mini marshmallows

-Preheat oven to 400 F & grease a baking dish.
1. Combine butter, brown sugar, water, salt, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon sticks in a small pot and melt over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often.  Discard cinnamon sticks.
2. Toss yams (sweet potatoes) with sauce and pour into baking dish.  Bake for 40 minutes, stirring after 20, until tender.
3. Top with mini marshmallows and broil until marshmallows are golden.  Remove and let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Check out my other Thanksgiving recipes!

Made-From-Scratch Stuffing

Made-From-Scratch Stuffing
1 loaf of bread - I used English Sandwich Bread
1 onion, finely diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, finely diced
1 stick butter
1/3-1/2 C. chicken or vegetable broth
2 Tbsp. dried parsley
2 tsp. dried sage
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

1. Melt butter in medium pan.  Add onion, celery and garlic and cook until softened.  Toss with bread in large mixing bowl.  
2. Once well mixed pour into large, greased, baking dish or into a crock pot.  Pour broth around edges and a little over the top.
3. Bake at 350 F for 45-50 minutes or in the crock pot for 4 hours on low heat.  Stir occasionally so the stuffing browns evenly.  Add more broth if needed.  Serve!

Check out my other Thanksgiving recipes!

Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey

It's that time of year again!  I love the holiday season, I love the snow, the food and most of all, I love being with my family.  We typically spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with my sweethearts' family since they live close and I have only prepared a Thanksgiving turkey a handful of times.  This is my favorite recipe, the end result is a beautiful, moist, tender and crispy-skinned turkey; I just love it!

Roasted Thanksgiving Turkey
8-10 lb. turkey
1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 garlic bulb, cloves separated (you don't have to peel them)
1 Tbsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried thyme
1-2 tsp. dried rosemary
1 tsp. dried sage
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 stick butter, cut in half & melted (can use olive oil instead)

-Preheat oven to 325 F.
1. Place the turkey in a roasting pan breast-side up.  Combine onion, garlic, herbs, salt & pepper and stuff into the cavity of the turkey.  Drizzle turkey with melted butter (or olive oil) and season with salt and pepper.
2. Tent with foil and bake for 2 - 2 1/2 hours.  Remove foil and baste with remaining melted butter or oil.
3. Adjust heat to 400 F and bake, uncovered, for an additional 60 minutes.  Remove from oven and let sit for at least 15-20 minutes before carving and serving.

*For even more flavor finely dice the onion and mince the garlic, combine with the herbs and rub beneath the skin of the turkey.*

Look at how pretty it turned out!  And please pardon the lack of a roasting pan, I have yet to acquire one.

Enjoy and have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Check out my other Thanksgiving recipes!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Potato Sausage Skillet

This is a simple, "one-pot" dish that my family loves and it makes an appearance on our menu at least once a month, if not a few times!  I hope you enjoy it like we do!

Potato Sausage Skillet
- 2-3 freshly made sausages (bratwurst, kielbasa, Italian, whatever you like)
- half package of bacon, diced into bits
- 4-5 potatoes, peeled & diced
- 1/2 onion, diced
- 6 oz. fresh baby spinach OR 1/3-1/2 C. frozen spinach
- salt & pepper
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil

- 6 heaping spoonfuls brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
- 4 Tbsp. apple juice
- 2 Tbsp. mustard
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 1 tsp. dried thyme

1. Begin by cooking sausages in large pan over medium heat, covered, for 10 minutes on each side until browned.  Remove to cutting board.
2. Add diced bacon bits to pan.  Once bacon is cooked drain fat then add potatoes, onion, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are beginning to brown on the edges.
3. Add spinach, sliced sausage and sauce to pan, stir well, cover and simmer 20-30 minutes until potatoes are tender and sausage is thoroughly cooked.  Serve and enjoy!
-Serves about 4.

Oh, and for healthier options you can always use turkey bacon and switch out the standard sausage for turkey or chicken sausage. 

Hope you love it!

p.s. I really love serving this dish with an over-easy fried egg on top, it's just so yummy!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Simple Rice Pudding

I was never a fan of rice pudding when I was growing up; my mother would make it every now and then and it just never appealed to me.  Now that I'm all grown up I am in love with this simple dessert!  This is a perfect "comfort food" dessert and it's so easy to put together, it just takes a bit of time.

First you have to cook your white rice and then on medium heat add milk, sugar and a pinch of salt.  It will look a little soupy like this:

Now, for about 15-20 minutes of simmering and stirring your soupy concoction will have become nice and creamy:

Once this happens you add a bit more milk, raisins (if you want them) and 1 egg that has been slightly beaten:

Continue to cook for 2-5 more minutes until your pudding is thick and creamy.  Then, remove the pot from heat and add a bit of butter and vanilla extract and then serve!
I should tell you to wait a few minutes for the pudding to cool a bit but I am not afraid to admit that I've burned my mouth a few times with this dessert :)
Oh, and have I mentioned before how much I love cinnamon? Well, I do and I have to have a bit sprinkled on my rice pudding every time, so yummy!

Simple Rice Pudding
3/4 C. white rice + 1 1/2 C. water (cook as usual)
1/3 C. white sugar
1 1/2 C. milk
1/4 tsp. salt
2/3 - 1 C. raisins (optional)
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 C. milk
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2-1 tsp. vanilla extract

1. Once your rice is cooked turn up the heat to medium and add the sugar, salt and the 1 1/2 C. milk.  Cook 15-20 minutes, stirring often, until creamy.
2. Add raisins, egg and remaining milk and continue to cook 2-5 minutes until thickened and creamy.
3. Remove from heat, add butter and vanilla and mix well.  Let cool and bit then serve with, or without, and sprinkle of cinnamon.  Enjoy!!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Hubby's Favorite Meatloaf

My hubby loves this recipe.  I grew up in a no-red-meat house due to allergies so I had never cooked much beef until I married my sweetheart.  He has always enjoyed meatloaf so I had to experiment a bit before I came up with a recipe that he loves.  Here goes!

What you will need:
1-1 1/2 lbs. ground beef 
(use ground chicken or turkey for a healthier option)
1/3 C. ketchup
1/4-1/3 C. bread crumbs
1 egg
4-6 slices cheese, crumbled - I typically use cheddar
1 tsp. salt
1-1 1/2 tsp. pepper
2 tsp. onion powder OR 1/4-1/2 onion, diced
1 Tbsp. dried parsley

-Preheat oven to 350 F & spray baking dish with non-stick spray.
1. Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl until well combined.
2. Place mixture in baking dish and form into a loaf.
3. Cover with foil and bake for 1 hour.  Remove and drain grease.
4. Pour *sauce all over meatloaf and bake an additional 30 minutes.  Let sit 5-10 minutes before serving.
Serves 8-10.
*see sauce recipe below

Mine was a bit dry when I took this photo, I added a bit more ketchup.

Meatloaf Sauce:
1 C. ketchup
1 tsp. mustard
Dash (or two) of nutmeg
3 heaping spoonfuls brown sugar

 Finished product:


Friday, November 8, 2013

Greek Roasted Potatoes

I absolutely love potatoes, especially homemade crispy fries or wedges.  If you're like me you've tried at least a dozen recipes promising crispy fries and just about all of them have been disappointing, well this one will definitely not disappoint!

Greek Roasted Potatoes
5 potatoes, washed & cut into wedges
1/2 C. olive oil
1-2 tsp. dried oregano
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 C. chicken broth or water

-Preheat oven to 400 F.
1. Toss wedges with remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl, grease a baking sheet and pour potatoes and marinade onto sheet.  Bake 30-40 minutes, turn, bake an additional 20 minutes until wedges are crispy.  Serve!

So easy and incredibly yummy!  Enjoy!

Greek Chicken Gyros

I grew up in Houston and had a few chances to have some wonderful Greek food while living there - the greater Houston area, and Houston itself, is quite the melting pot and you can find food from just about every part of the world there.  Among my favorite Greek dishes are chicken gyros, they are so simple and incredibly delicious.  I've played around with a few recipes and have settled on this one, enjoy!

Greek Chicken Gyros
2 lbs. chicken breast tenders
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 C. olive oil
6 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

-Begin by combining all ingredients in a large bag and let the chicken marinate, in the refrigerator, 2-4 hours before grilling or cooking on the stovetop.  Be sure to include the remaining marinade while cooking, it helps keep the chicken juicy.  Also, you can slice your chicken when serving or leave the tenders whole, I use tenders simply because I can leave them whole so it's a slightly faster process to get the yummy goodness in my belly!

Now, to assemble a gyro you will need pita bread or even some good naan bread.  I prefer whole wheat pitas.  Toppings are typically diced tomatoes, onion and tzatziki sauce of course!  Here is my favorite sauce recipe:

Tzatziki Sauce:
8 oz. plain Greek yogurt
1/4 C. finely grated cucumber - peel first & squeeze the liquid out before adding 
2 tsp. garlic powder
Dash of salt
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1-2 tsp. white vinegar

-Simply mix all ingredients together until well blended.  You can keep this in an airtight container in the refrigerator for a few days.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Biscuits & Sausage Gravy

Now, this is not a very healthy meal but sometimes a southern girl just needs some good old fashioned biscuits and gravy!  There are a few ways to make this a bit healthier and I'll share those ideas along with the recipe.  Let me start by saying that my sweet boys have had nasty colds this past week and guess who has it now?! I swear, there really should be a universal law that mothers are immune to illness.  Anyways, I had every intention of spending the days in my pj's, which I did, and then I opened the blinds to see snow falling!  That sealed the deal and gave me a crazy urge to whip up some comfort food. I'm a Texas girl and this was a common weekend breakfast in my house and I always looked forward to it. Here's the recipe I've been using for years now and we love it!  I hope you do too!

My sweet boy loved watching the first snow fall of the season!  Such a sweet moment :)

First, combine the flour, baking powder & salt in a mixing bowl and whisk briefly to combine.  Then cut in the butter using a fork or pastry blender.  Finally, stir in the milk slowly until a dough forms.

Drop by spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet.

Bake until tops are golden.  It even looks yummy!

And now for the gravy:

Break up the sausage into nice pieces in a large pan or skillet.

Once browned, add the flour and stir absorbed by the sausage.

Add the milk, salt & pepper and simmer until thickened.

Break a few biscuits in a bowl and top with gravy!  

p.s. I was a little naughty and didn't wait until the gravy was super thick, I was just too darn excited and hungry!

Easy Drop Biscuits:
3 C. all-purpose flour (I prefer King Arthur brand)
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 stick cold butter, diced
1 1/4 C. milk

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
1. Combine flour, baking powder & salt in mixing bowl.  Stir to combine.
2. Cut in butter with fork or pastry blender until flour is crumbly.  Stir in milk until dough forms.
3. Drop dough by the spoonful onto cookie sheets.
4.  Bake 15-18 minutes until tops are golden.

*Healthier tips:  Use half whole wheat, or spelt, flour.*

Southern Sausage Gravy:
1 lb. breakfast sausage
1/3 C. flour
4 C. milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1-2 tsp. pepper

1. Heat large pan or skillet on medium heat.  Crumble sausage - I prefer to do this by hand as I add the meat to the pan, it takes a bit more time than just tossing it into the pan but it takes much less elbow grease than breaking up the sausage with a cooking utensil.
2. Once sausage is browned add the flour and stir until absorbed by the sausage.
3. Add the milk, salt & pepper and let simmer, stirring occasionally until thickened.  Pour over biscuits and enjoy!

*Healthier ideas: Use turkey sausage, wheat flour and milk that lower in fat.  You can also simply leave out the meat, melt a bit of butter in the pan then add the flour and follow the same process.*