Happy Thanksgiving 2017!

I am not quite sure how it became Thanksgiving week, 2017. It feels as though I just planted all of my spring flowers. But now they are gone and I have pumpkins on my front porch.

By now I am usually swimming in Thanksgiving meal preparations and ideas, but my son and his family bought their first house and they want to have the dinner.

But part of me is still thinking of everything that I usually do this time of the year. I guess old habits do really die hard!  I will miss getting up early on Thanksgiving morning to get my turkey in the oven, going back to bed and then waking up to the house smelling amazing!

I always had the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on while I cook.  And the kids in me still enjoys Santa at the end!

I am a little late in sharing this but if you are looking for a meal planner, I have a link to my blog post that will definitely help, the link is here Holiday Meal Planner

There are also links to some of my recipes for the holidays in that blog.

If you need a little encouragement on how to survive all the expectations of the upcoming holidays, I have a link to my blog post here Less Stress for the Holiday Season

Hopefully some of my suggestions are helpful.

I have to admit, Thanksgiving is my most favorite holiday.  The only expectation is the fellowship and meal with family and friends.  But for me it is also the kick off to the Christmas holiday.

Remember to enjoy the holidays and your family and friends.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Less Stress for the Holiday Season

I love the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Thanksgiving might be my favorite but only because we gather to share our love, our memories, and eat a delicious meal together. So for me, there is definitely less stress, and less to prepare for. The only expectation is the meal which I love cooking!

It is also the beginning of the Christmas season. The weeks leading up to the Christmas holiday, for me, are so very beautiful with all the decorations and lights. I love listening to the Christmas music; many songs awaken lovely memories from my childhood. I also love giving gifts, whether they are made by my own hands with love, or a carefully chosen store bought gift.

But then there are all those folks that I hear complaining about how commercialized Christmas has become. Or they are complaining about all the parties to go to and the food they must prepare to take to these parties. There are also complaints about buying gifts for people that they probably don’t want and they can’t afford to buy. And it breaks my heart to hear them say they can’t wait for Christmas to be over.

Christmas is no different than any other situation in life, YOU GET OUT OF IT EXACTLY WHAT YOU PUT IN IT! So if you go into it with disgust, dislike, and grumpiness…. That is exactly what you are going to get out of it!!

I totally understand how the holidays can also be difficult to get through because we may have lost a loved one, or we might be alone and have no one to celebrate with. Been in both of those situations, I know it is not pleasant and can be heartbreaking and depressing.

So hopefully I have come up with some ideas that might be able to help you get through the upcoming holidays with a little less stress. Maybe this will help you have a little more love in your heart. And maybe you will actually learn to at least like the holidays.

  1. Eat & drink smart and healthy! This is so hard to do with all the baked goodies and homemade candies BUT try to resist making a meal out of unhealthy treats!  Go ahead and have that small slice of pumpkin pie or cake, have one cookie, indulge in that one piece of fudge.  But only allow yourself one treat so choose wisely!  Snack on healthy things like veggies and fruit, nuts, a piece of cheese or some peanut butter for protein.  Drink lots of water, add lemon for a little taste and detox.  Do allow yourself a holiday cocktail, or two, but alternate with water.  Waking up tomorrow with a headache or being hungover will just add to your stress level.
  2. Meal plan! As mentioned above you want to eat healthy but still allow some treats, so plan your day’s menu/diet so that you are continually eating healthy.  Especially before you go to parties!!  Make sure you are planning your family meals according to your schedule, use a crock pot or casserole recipes for busy days and nights.  Make some casseroles, lasagna, anything that you can throw in your freezer.  Later in the week you will be thankful that all you need to do is pull out a casserole to thaw in the fridge while you are at work, and then pop it in the oven when you get home.
  3. Parties! I have heard a lot of people complain and basically whine about all the parties they need to go to!  Really?  Please be thankful that you have friends and family that want to share the holiday with you, no one is promised a tomorrow.  You do not always need to say yes to every party, it is okay to say no so that you can stay home and take care of you and your family or just to rest.  If you really don’t want to go, then don’t.  We all need some alone time, but we also need our friends and families too.  Think of the memories and fun times you might have, think of some friends and families that you can reconnect with.  Visit for as long as you want, eat healthy and drink healthy, be thankful for the friendships and have some fun!!
  4. Can you bring a covered dish? Yes, you can!  You do not need to go overboard and try to be a gourmet chef!  If you like to cook and prepare something fancy, great!  If you don’t, then just take something simple like cheese and crackers, veggies, or check out the appetizers in the frozen section of your grocery store.  There are some pretty good selections to choose from!  I love to cook but there are times when I just do not have the time to prepare something, so this works out well and they are delicious.
  5. Shopping and gift giving. This IS enough to stress everyone out!  You really need to be smart here, don’t just buy a gift for the sake of buying a gift.  If that is your reason for gift giving, just stop!  First, make a list of people that you want to give a gift, then think about them and what they like, jot down some ideas before you shop.  Also, set a dollar amount that you are willing to spend on each gift and stick with your budget.  Keep receipts, jot down names on the receipt/tags just in case you need to return something, and keep them all in an envelope.  I usually suggest not giving clothes but if you are confident in that choice, then go for it!  Also, keep an eye out for sales, use coupons.  If you do not like wrapping your gifts, then bag’em!  That is the easiest and the least stressful way to go.  Keep in mind that a simple gift from the heart is all you really need to give.
  6. Teach your kids about giving and receiving.  This is a challenge for most parents.  We don’t want our kids growing up to be materialistic and greedy; and we want to teach them about giving too.  Set boundaries for what they are asking for, have them organize and clean out what they already have, show them how fortunate they already are for what they have now.  Give your family members limits on what they can spend on your kids. If you have older kids and your budget allows, have your kids donate gifts to the needy, a shelter, or sponsor a family for Christmas. Have them volunteer at a food bank or as a family take a few bags to the food bank. Living in today’s world that is so materialist, I think this is something we all need to do.  Also, teach you kids the value of saying thank you as well as how to gracefully be thankful for a gift that they just unwrapped but don’t like!
  7. Stress-less kids? This is a time that kids are super excited!  Remember when you were a kid at Christmas?  They have a lot of stimuli from all the toy ads on TV, so it might be a good idea to limit their time in front of the TV.  Sit down and chat with them about their wants, desires, expectations and then chat about giving to the less fortunate.  Talk to them about your childhood memories and realize that you are creating and shaping theirs.  Involve them in decisions about new traditions.  Make sure they are eating healthy, drinking plenty of water, limit their treats and make sure they are getting enough rest and sleep.  This can also be a busy time in school with reports and projects needing to be completed before their holiday break so make sure they are getting enough time to complete their school work.  Get them outside for exercise and fresh air!  This is also a time for the little germ carriers to be sick, not fun for the holiday.
  8. Traditions! I love family traditions!  And I love creating new traditions!  Think back to when you were a child and the things that you used to do as a family, create those wonderful warm memories with your kids!! Slow down and enjoy the holiday season, celebrate it lovingly, and involve the kids!  Look online or on Pinterest for some new ideas.  Have fun!
  9. Physical and emotional health.  Make sure you are getting your exercise too!  Get those kids outside and play, walk, hike, whatever you can find to do.  Don’t forget about your gym membership, even if you only have 30 minutes to use the treadmill or lift a few weights, or if you’re lucky enough to have a pool to swim a few laps.  Every little bit helps.  Don’t forget about your mental and emotional health.  For as much enjoyment and beauty as some find in the holiday, there is also disappointment, sadness and loneliness.  Meditate, pray, go to church, talk to friends, talk to a professional if you need to.  There is no shame in that!  Try yoga, sit and read or just sit and look at the tree and drink in the beauty and silence of the room.
  10. Keep your life and the holiday in focus.  Easier said than done, I get it.  But try.  It’s so easy to compare your holiday life to others and be sad that you don’t have what someone else has.  Life isn’t fair, but this is your life and you only have one shot at it so stay focused.  You don’t have to have a lot of friends or a big bank account to enjoy the very beautiful and simple holiday.  Celebrate with the love of the family and friends that you are still blessed to have.  Don’t get caught up in the commercialism, that’s not what the holidays are about.  Remember, what you put into this holiday gig is what you are going to get out of it.

Live and love well my friends!

Cinnamon Christmas Ornaments

Looking for something fun to do with the kids this week?  Make these very aromatic ornaments!!!  You can use them on your tree as decorations or tie them onto gifts.  They are very easy to make and need about 2 to 3 days to completely dry.

Here’s the recipe (but DON’T eat them, they are NOT edible!!):

2 cups Cinnamon

1-1/2 Applesauce, NOT chunky

2 tsp ground Nutmeg

2 tsp ground Cloves

4 Tb Elmer’s Glue

Mix all the ingredients well.  When completely mixed, divide the dough in two parts,  roll out one batch between sheets of plastic wrap. Keep the dough around a 1/4″ think, if you make it too thin the ornaments will curl or break.  Using a toothpick or a small straw, put a hole in the top of the ornaments for the ribbon.  Place on cookie racks to dry.  After they are completely dry, you can carefully use a fingernail file to finish off the edges, tie a pretty ribbon in the ornament for hanging.

Scrambled Egg Muffin Cups

Or maybe they’re little mini frittatas!!  Whatever you want to call them, they are a nice little treat!

I eat egg whites every morning. Every. single. morning. Needless to say I sometimes get bored with them. So I decided to do something a little different, even though it includes the yolks, it’s a nice change!

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I bake these on Sunday and it works out that I have 5 single egg muffins, so I’m covered thru the work week for breakfast.

I put 4 whole large eggs in a bowl and whisk them, I added 2T of light cream, you could use half and half or milk. Salt and pepper to taste, add hot sauce if you like!

Next, I tore up spinach and tossed that in, stir to mix in but don’t over mix at this point.

I then ladle the egg mixture into the muffin tin. Top each one with about 1T of your favorite shredded cheese. Don’t forget the bacon!!! I cooked about 3 or 4 strips of bacon, crumble that up and top each cup.

Bake at 325 for about 20 minutes or until the egg is cooked.

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There are so many variations to these little frittata cups!!! Your creative imagination can shine!! Smoked salmon, ham, BLT, but I’m thinking adding breakfast potatoes would be the best!

They are easily reheated in the microwave for a few seconds or eat cold as you dash out the door!! These are also great to serve for a brunch. And I’m sure this would work for your kids to eat on the way to school.

Live well friends!

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Pumpkin Spice French Toast

I love French toast!  And I love Autumn, so why not combine pumpkin & spice to my French toast?  Sounds reasonable to me!

I had a loaf of Italian bread…..yea making “French” toast with “Italian” bread, I’m silly that way!!  I sliced half the loaf about ½” thick. I like to let the bread sit on the counter so it can start to dry out a little while I prepare the batter.

In a bowl place 3 eggs and whip them a little.  Add ½ cup of milk or half and half, 1 teaspoon of vanilla, ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice, a dash of salt, ground cloves and nutmeg.  Mix together well and then add 3 HEAPING tablespoons (or a ¼ cup) of canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie although I’m sure it would work).  Blend well.

Here comes the fun part, soak the bread, bathe it in that wonderful pumpkin batter!  Let the bread absorb but not get mushy, and then toss it in a preheated pan.  I usually do a medium low heat and flip the toast numerous times to make sure if gets heated thru completely and toasted nicely.

With this batter I was able to make about 7 or 8 slices of toast.  Serve with a sprinkle of cinnamon, your favorite syrup and a very tall glass of ice cold milk!

Enjoy and live well my friends!

Mini Taco Pizza

Once upon a time, our local Pizza Hut had a little lounge in the back called the Grog Shop, more of a bar.  And in that bar they served taco pizza.  I would occasionally take my kids there, with much glare from other customers, and we would devour a large taco pizza.  That was a treat to take them BUT it was a better treat that I made them at home too!!

I would buy one of those already prepared pizza crusts *insert a shudder, and build my taco pizza with refried beans, lettuce, tomato, cheese and salsa.  The kids LOVED it!  I often wonder if they remember that??

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Now, I make my taco pizza on a quesadilla shell.  Here’s what I do…

I like to use a Gluten Free corn tortilla, but I have also used flour tortillas/soft taco shells and they work great.  I like to  fry them up a little, just enough to get a little crispy.  I have this weird thing about wraps, quesadillas, etc.  I TOTALLY dislike the uncooked floury taste and texture so I have to crisp them up.  You can omit this step if you’re not crazy weird like me.

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For the flour tortillas I would just use a small amount of olive oil in a fry pan over a medium heat and lightly crisp each side.  With the corn tortillas I prefer using a little more oil, almost enough to simmer the shell, and again lightly crisp each side.  It only takes a few minutes and I flip it around on both sides a few times.

I then put them on a pizza stone and smother them with refried beans.  I have dressed the beans up, depending on my mood, with different ingredients.  I’ve chopped jalapeno’s, added some taco seasoning (I now use my own concoction), cayenne pepper, whatever spice I feel like at the time.

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Pop the pizza stone with the smothered shells in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes or until the beans are hot to the touch.  The shells will crisp up a little more too.  You could also put them directly on your oven rack, I’ve never done that tho.  I am a creature of habit!!

When they come out of the oven, here is where you can be creative and build your own “personally designed taco pizza“.  You could add cooked and prepared taco meat if you want but I never use the taco meat mixture with the beans.  It’s just how my taco pizza rolls.  No meat.  Just beans.  Top with shredded lettuce, drizzle with your favorite salsa, then comes the cheese and chopped tomatoes.

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Top with sour cream and/or guacamole.  I have already put them back in the oven to melt the cheese a little more, that is quite good as well but I am usually too hungry for these and I just CAN’T wait to devour them!!

These are perfect for the single person.

They are perfect for having your friends over for lunch or a movie.

And perfect for your family too!

Live well my friends!!

 

Frozen Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

I cannot imagine my life without the occasional indulgence of a yummy chocolate chip cookie fresh out of the oven!  However, making sure I eat healthy and even mildly trying to watch my gluten intake, make eating these little babies a special treat!

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Not sure how many of you have tried my recipe that I posted before, BUT I think these are best, in my half baked opinion, if they are ‘under‘ baked.  Nonetheless they should be stored in a container that seals tightly.

But, you can FREEZE this cookie dough, in small amounts for the occasional treat of a few freshly baked cookies!!!  I usually have a few little bundles in my freezer, ready to be thawed in the fridge slowly for about 4 hours.  I wouldn’t suggest thawing on the counter since the dough does contain raw egg.  I have also had the dough in my freezer for 2-3 months and they baked lovely and tasted fabulous!!

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It’s also a nice little treat to share with someone special….like my grandkids!!  It’s fun to have these small batches and let the kids help to bake.

So, go ahead and prepare the recipe as follows:

Place in a large bowl and set aside: 2 cups plus 2T flour, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp baking soda

Meanwhile, melt 1 cup butter (2 sticks).  When cooled add: 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed (( I have been known to throw in an additional 1-2 T)),  and 1/2 cup granulated sugar.

Then mix in 1 large egg and 1 egg yolk along with 1/2 T vanilla extract.

Transfer the butter and sugar mixture to the flour bowl and mix by hand until just combined.  Don’t over mix!

Add 2 cups of chocolate chips, my secret is adding enough chips to TOTALLY fill the batter with chunks of chocolate!

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about an hour.  Check the dough in about 30 minutes, if it’s getting too hard to work with remove from the refrigerator and move on to the next step.  The dough still needs to be “movable” so that you can shape it so you may NOT need to refrigerate.

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Divide the dough into the amount of batches that you want.  Remember that when you bake you will be using balls of dough that are just a little smaller than a golf ball to bake.  I usually do 3-4 little cookie packages!!!

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Spread out the plastic wrap.  After you have the dough divided place them on each piece of plastic wrap and form into a log shape.

Wrap the plastic over the dough and very lightly roll the dough a little to smooth out the shape.  Don’t handle the dough too much, the heat of your hands will start to soften the dough quickly.

Wrap up each package with a second piece of plastic wrap and slip into a ziplock freezer bag.  Date the bag so you can remember when you made the dough.  Pop them in the freezer!  Although you might want to bake a few cookies right away!!

Now, when you are ready to bake the cookies, don’t be fooled by the dough after it has been in the fridge for a few hours; the dough will be hard when you are ready to bake.  Don’t mistake it to be frozen.   I have left  the dough in the fridge for a full 24 hours before baking and that amount of time did NOT make the dough any more pliable.  And it’s still good!

Depending on the size of the cookie dough log, you could just make slices and bake.  I have also not rolled the dough into a log, it was just a mound of luscious dough, I just used a spoon to measure and scoop out.

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When ready to bake, Preheat oven to 325.  Drop the dough balls, a little smaller than a golf ball, onto your cookie sheet.  Bake for about 12-14 minutes but like I said, a little under baking is totally yummy!!!.  Allow to cool on your cookie sheet for a good 5 minutes or so, especially if you want them a little more gooey, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

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Hope you enjoy these as much as I do!!  Live well and eat chocolate chip cookies!!