Saturday, December 31, 2011

So Long, 2011

Happy New Years Eve, everyone! 

I must say, 2011 has been a wild ride for me.  A lot of firsts, learning, adjustments, and challenges went into this year.  BUT, I also must say that it has been a great year, because it's been my first year married to Jordan.  : )

I'm sure many of you have resolutions that you're making for 2012, and that's great.  It's good to have ambitions, because it means you care to learn something new or change something to better yourself. 

One 'resolution' I have for 2012 is to kick this blog into high gear!  Meaning, I want to blog more often, challenge myself, and try more new things.  I'm so thankful to all of you who have read my posts since I started this year and who have been so sweet and supportive while I'm just learning the ropes of this thing. 

Have a fun and safe New Years Eve!  I thank God for allowing me to live this year and experience so many blessings.  Here's to 2012 being even BETTER!   : )

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

The merriest day of the year has finally arrived!  We wait all year for it, and then it seems it's gone in a flash.  While we still have the Christmas night ahead of us, I hope we'll all remember what Christmas is really celebrating.  Christmas has always been my favorite holiday; I adore all the twinkly lights, Christmas trees, carols, food and baking galore, time with family, gift giving & receiving, and anything else you can think of that has to do with Christmas.  But why do we even celebrate in the first place?  There would not even be this awesome holiday that we eagerly wait for each year were it not for the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ!  Praise God for the wonderful blessing He sent to save all of us who are not worthy!

Love this song that says it all...

I sincerely hope that each and every one of you have had a Merry Christmas, filled with joy, family, friends, and lots of sweets.  : )  Jordan and I are having a wonderful Christmas together!  We had friends over for dinner last night and had a nice time, and today we have been hanging out and I must say I got a very exciting present...a NEW CAMERA!   Yes, that's right folks.  I'm on my way to being able to take better pictures with this baby!  I'm so excited to use it to shoot my next blog! 

Well, I better get off of this computer and get back to my 2 loves.  One of them is hungry....again.  And the other one is destroying a pile of brand new squeaky toys she got this morning, one by one.  I love my life.  <3

Merry Christmas to everyone!  Make sure and thank God today for all of the blessings He's given you, especially the blessing we are celebrating today - Jesus!! 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Our 1st Anniversary

Today marks a very special celebration - my and Jordan's 1st anniversary!  I've decided that I'm still going to consider myself a newlywed, because it seems like there's no way a whole year could have already passed since our wedding day.  I must say, us being married was quite an adjustment.  We hardly got any time together before we got married, because I was living in NC and Jordan was already living here in MO by the time he took his precious time to contact me again after initially meeting me in 2007!!!  lol.  But anyways, there were only a few trips made between us before our big day (only 2 trips before he proposed to me on the 3rd trip!!).  Right after getting married, he (insert country accent) "up and moved me" to Missouri.  ; )  Basically, I was living a complete different life.  Having a husband, getting to see Jordan every day, having no family or friends around, no job, no church, new house, etc.  Parts of that were not easy, especially at first...but I always had him.  We have been each other's best friend, family, and support system.  There was a time when I was younger that I could've sworn to you that I would never move out of NC.  Well, look at me now.  Now, if someone asks me, "How do you like it here?", my usual response includes "Well, I miss NC (the actual area, plus my family and friends) so bad!  But I love my husband and I love being married!  I have a great job and friends, a home and a church that we love.  So I guess overall, it's not so bad."  : )

I know we've only been married a year, and I'm probably not qualified to give too much advice in this area as compared to those who have been married a long time, but there is one piece of advice that I truly believe.  The advice that I will give our daughter if God blesses us with one in the future. 

WAIT for the man who pursues you.  The man who's words and actions show you that you are the most important person in the world to him and who wants to spend the rest of his life with you.  The man who is willing to put his time and effort into showing you he cares for you every day.  The man who is so crazy about you that (in my case) asks you on your first date "So seriously, how long do I have to wait before I can propose to you?".  The man who, even after receiving a look of "you're crazy" after that question, will shrug his shoulders, smile, and try again the next day.  A man of GOD who will treat you as God commanded a husband to treat a wife.  A man who will be patient with you and love you despite that fact that you may be going through a hard time.  A man who makes life a greater journey to take with him by your side.  Ladies, you do not need to go out searching for all of this.  Stay strong in your faith and praise God even through your trials, and in His perfect timing, He will bless you with a man like this. 

Thank you Jordan, for being the amazing man that you are.  Thank you for all of your love, patience, and compassion.  Thank you for always making me laugh.  Thank you for wanting me to be your wife and loving me the way my heart desired.  We have a long road still ahead of us, and I can't wait to see what our future holds!  I LOVE YOU!!!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Potato Casserole

Over Thanksgiving break, Jordan and I went to Kansas to stay with his cousin and her family for a few days.  This was really nice, because not only were we able to be around some family for Thanksgiving, but I had never even met these family members since we got married last year.  It was about time, don't ya think?  They have 3 awesome boys, who were VERY excited to see Cousin Jordan again, and even more excited to meet Katie!  : )  I don't think poor Katie got a break from doing her tricks (sit, shake, high five) the entire time we were there, lol.  It's okay though, she loved those boys and soaked up every bit of attention she got!  Katie even got to have her first experience meeting another animal...pigs!  My 2 favorite animals, dogs and pigs, united at last!  lol   : D

We ate a lot of good food while we were there, too.  One night at dinner, his cousin made this potato casserole, and we loved it!  Bonus - it's super easy to put together!  It's like hashbrowns wrapped in a creamy, cheesy sauce - YUM!  The recipe below is for a full 9x13 pan, but, as usual, I halved the recipe to make an 8x8 pan for us.  Try it out as a simple, delicious side at dinner! 

Potato Casserole

1 bag Ore-Ida frozen hash browns
2 cups grated cheese (any shredded kind that you like; we used mild cheddar)
1/2 cup chopped onion (I've tried this with & without onions, and we prefer it without!)
1 can cream of chicken
1 pt. sour cream
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 cups crushed cornflakes
1/2 stick margarine, melted (of course I prefer butter, heehee)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all ingredients together except cornflakes and butter/margarine.  Place in a 9x13 dish.  Top with crumbled cornflakes and melted butter/margarine.  Bake for 1 hour.  (If you use butter, watch to make sure the cornflakes don't get too dark toward the end of cooking time; if they begin to, cover loosely with aluminum foil and continue baking till done.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cool Mt. Crumpit Peppermint Patty Brownies

I love holiday traditions.  : )  One in particular that my mom and I have always had is our "decorating night".  It's usually the day after Thanksgiving, and we spend all night getting the dozens of boxes of Christmas decorations out of the attic, drag them into the house, and begin spreading Christmas joy over the house.  During the decorating time, we either have Christmas music playing or old Christmas movies (like Rudolph or Frosty) on in the background. 

After we've done all the decorating we can manage for one night, THEN comes my favorite part...watching How The Grinch Stole Christmas!!  Not the old one...the one with Jim Carrey!!  It's my favorite Christmas movie and it never fails that I put it in the DVD player at least once a Christmas season.

Welll, with a Mama who's 18 hours away, guess who had to participate in my Christmas tradition this year with me?  That's right- my better half!  He was such a trooper though!  He has now officially heard me recite the Grinch's lines as he shouts hate messages off his mountaintop to the Who's down below, or deal with a bunch of rotten kids in school as he's harboring a love for Martha May Whovier (pronounced Who-vee-ay).

Anywho ; ), after the movie was over and we'd danced around our tiny living room to "Where Are You Christmas", Jordan decided to flip through the bonus material.  Low and behold, there was a section for 'Recipes'!  I was stunned - why hadn't I seen this before??!  These Cool Mt. Crumpit Peppermint Patty brownies were the recipe that shouted "MAKE ME HOLLY!".  We won't even discuss what Martha May Whovier's recipe on there was....shudder.

Upon further Internet investigation, I discovered that this is actually a Hershey's recipe.  These brownies are minty, fudgy, and very satisfying!  If you love York peppermint patties, you'll love these.  Chocolate and peppermint tastes just like Christmas.  : )

Cool Mt. Crumpit Peppermint Patty Brownies
Recipe from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" DVD; originally from Hershey's

*Due to the alarming amounts of butter & sugar in this recipe, I opted to half this recipe and (making only 1/2 a pan) and share most of the brownies with others.  If you make a whole pan, don't fret!  Share them with friends and family - they'll love it, and you won't be eating all the calories by yourself! 

24 small York peppermint patties, unwrapped
3 sticks melted butter (1 1/2 cup)  (I used half salted and half unsalted because it's what I had on hand.)
3 cups sugar
1 TB vanilla
5 eggs
2 cups AP flour
1 cup cocoa
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (325 for a glass dish).  Grease 13 x 9 dish.  Unwrap peppermint patties.
In large bowl, stir butter, sugar, and vanilla together.  Add eggs and beat until well blended.  Add in the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt and blend well. 
Reserve 2 cups of batter.  Spread remaining batter in the bottom of the baking dish.  Arrange peppermint patties on top evenly.  Pour reserved batter on top and spread over the patties evenly. 
Bake 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  (My half-pan only baked 40 minutes!!)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Random Things

1.  After my last blog about the Caramel Apple Cake, my laptop died.  Again.  It miraculously turned on again this morning, so I'm taking advantage!  Maybe it will even last long enough for me to post another recipe later.  Who knows?...

2.  I'm pretty sure I got food poisoning from a "certain" restaurant in a neighboring town.  Or I got a virus from someone.  Pretty sure it was food poisoning though.  Either way, it completely ruined my weekend and I won't be eating salad again for a while.

3.  Last week, I got dressed for work in a yellow sweater with green pants.  My husband told me my outfit looked like throw up.  I changed into a purple sweater and he told me I looked beautiful.  What would I do without him sometimes?

4.  My Christmas tree is beautiful and I never want to take it down!!  It's amazing how those twinkly lights make me feel each morning when I turn them on.  : )

5.  My mom surprised me by mailing me a homemade wreath!!  I was sooooo happy!  My mom makes awesome wreaths, so I am a very lucky daughter to have this beauty hanging on my front door!

6.  Jordan and I have our 1st year anniversary in 7 days.  7 DAYS!!  I cannot believe it.  Time flies so quickly.

7.  I hope I can get some real food down today.  I miss it.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Caramel Apple Cake

Nom nom nom!!  This cake is sooo good.  And it is ....*a cheater cake*!!!  Normally I bake my cakes from scratch, but this recipe uses a box mix and let me tell ya, it was so nice how quickly I had this ready to go into the oven!  I don't think there's anything wrong with "cheating" sometimes, especially because I added other yummy ingredients to it.

This cake is great for any occasion, because seriously, who doesn't like apples and caramel together?!  It's one of my personal favorite combinations, along with chocolate & peanut butter, chocolate & mint, chocolate & cherry, wavy lays & french onion dip...

Sorry about that.  Excuse my rambling.  : )  Anyway, my hubby LOOOVED this cake.  He was actually surprised at how much he loved it.   It's moist & delicious, PRETTY, and has great flavors perfect for fall or even your Thanksgiving dessert table!  

Hello delicious cake!  Do you see all that gooey caramel on the outside??  Heaven.  Someone couldn't control themselves from eating a bunch of the melted caramel before it even made it on the cake, but I won't mention my any names.  ; )  I don't know if you can tell from this picture, but there are nice chunks of tender apple throughout the cake.  This really is an awesome treat! 

Caramel Apple Cake
adapted from Kraft Foods

1 yellow cake mix (I use Duncan Hines)
1 package (3.4 oz) JELL-O Vanilla Instant Pudding
1 cup water
4 eggs
1/3 cup oil
Dash of nutmeg
Cinnamon (as much as you want)
3 Gala apples (or 3 of any apple you like) peeled, and coarsely chopped
20 Kraft Caramels, unwrapped
3 TB milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
Beat the first 5 ingredients in a large bowl with mixer until well blended.  I then added 1 dash of nutmeg and many sprinkles of cinnamon (sorry I don't have a exact measurement, I just sprinkled the cinnamon all over the top of the mixed batter, stirred it in, tested it, and loved it!).  Add as much nutmeg/cinnamon as you'd like and stir into the batter.  Stir in chopped apples.  Pour into a well-greased  fluted tube pan (mine was a Wilton silicone fluted tube pan). 
Bake 50 mins. to 1 hour or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.  Cool cake in pan 15 mins.  Loosen cake from side pf pan; invert onto wire rack.  Gently remove pan.  Cool cake completely.  Transfer to plate.
Microwave caramels and milk in microwaveable bowl on HIGH 1-1/2 min., or until caramels are completely melted and sauce is smooth, stirring every 30 seconds.  Cool 10 minutes or until slightly thickened.  Drizzle over cake.  (If you make the cake ahead of time before you want to serve it, I would wait to put the caramel on until the day of, or right before serving it.  It tends to soak in a little bit as it stays on.)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sausage Balls

It's true, I'm still alive.  I didn't cancel my blog.  I didn't fall off the face of the earth.  What did happen?  My laptop died.  : (   It's pretty old, so I was afraid this would happen one day soon, and sure enough, it did.  I had to get a different hard drive put in, cloned with all my info, and I've been instructed to "free" some memory or it will permanently crash.  :'( 

For the meantime, I can blog again!  Oh, how I've missed it!

Mmmmmm, sausage balls.  I'm sure you've had them.  They've long been one of my favorite snacks, and they definitely fall into the "once you pop, you just can't stop" category.  Especially when they first come out of the oven...Lord help me!!  Do you see all that yummy sausage and swirls of cheesy goodness??  Oh yeah, and my other favorite part...the crispy bottoms!

I brought this large container full of sausage balls to work.  This is what I brought back home.  Seems like they were a hit! 

Sausage balls can taste different, depending on who is making them.  Some people like to make them with hot, spicy sausage.  Others like to use sharp cheddar cheese.  Some like them more dry.  Me?  Not so much.  You can see what I do like below.

Sausage Balls

1 lb. regular sausage
3 cups Bisquick
1 lb. shredded mild cheddar cheese
Enough milk to moisten

Combine sausage, Bisquick, and cheese (I use my clean hands to combine all of this).  Adding small amounts of milk will help all the ingredients come together.  You don't want the mixture to be too wet, juuuust enough milk to allow you to combine the ingredients.  This will also prevent the sausage balls from being dry.  Roll mixture loosely into balls and place onto an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until golden. (Mine took 15 minutes to bake).

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mama's Birthday: The Big 5-0!

TODAY is my Mama's birthday!!!  And not just any's her 50th birthday!!  WOO-HOO!  Jordan and I spent this weekend making a surprise visit back to NC for her special birthday weekend.  We walked into the house during her lunch break, and needless to say, she was SHOCKED!  Yesssss, we pulled this thing off for months without letting the cat out of the bag.  : ) 

Saturday was her birthday party, which lots of family attended.  Everyone had a great time, especially when the waiters came to sing "Happy Birthday" to mom and made her sit on a saddle and wave her napkin around...priceless

It's really hard for me to always be away from my mom since I got married and moved out here.  This trip will never be forgotten, and I wouldn't have missed this blessing of a birthday for anything!

I hope I will be as great of a mom to my (future) kids as my mom is to me and my brother.  She has always been there for us (NO. MATTER. WHAT.), been supportive, shown interest in our interests, gave helpful advice, took us to do fun things, and so much more.  She is a PRANKSTER, no doubt.  I could write a whole blog post dedicated to the pranks she's pulled on us.  But that's part of why she's so fun.  : )  Most of all, I don't think you could ever find someone as loving as my mom is.  On top of all that, she is a woman of GOD and she has been such a testimony to others because of her steadfast faith.

I love you mama!  I wish you a Happy Birthday and 50 more to come!  : )

Friday, October 21, 2011

Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole

This casserole is one that has been a favorite of mine for years.  It is creamy and delicious, with a buttery, salty Ritz cracker topping.

Ok, I'll admit it...I'm a topping stealer.  Anytime something is made with a delicious topping (Ritz crackers & butter, melted cheese, brown sugar/cinnamon, etc) I manage to do as many "walk-by's" as possible to sneak pieces of topping.  I just cant help myself.  I only do this if it's a dish in my own home or at a family gathering (SORRY family!!), and I always seem to get caught every time.  Oh well...maybe one day I'll gather some self control, but until that day I will continue to steal toppings and feel sorry for everyone that didn't try its yumminess straight from the oven.  : )

**Whatever you do, don't tell my hubby this casserole has any sour cream in it, let alone a whole container!  He is a "hater" of sour cream, but last night he said this casserole was "even better than the regular chicken casserole"!  He then asked me what the sauce around the chicken was, and I wouldn't tell.  He said "It better not be sour cream!" to which I replied, "Yeah, it better not be!"   ; )

Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole

1 large packet of chicken breasts (cooked and shredded)
16 oz. container of sour cream
1 can cream of mushroom soup (undiluted)
1 stick butter
1 sleeve Ritz crackers (crushed)
1 TB poppy seeds
Salt & Pepper to taste

In a large bowl, mix shredded chicken with sour cream, cream of mushroom, and poppy seeds.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Spread into a 9x13 baking dish.
Crumble Ritz crackers over chicken mixture in dish.  Melt butter and pour over the top as evenly as possible.  (I like to then sprinkle some more poppy seeds over top of the crackers for the appearance.) 
Bake at 325-350 degrees until bubbly and golden brown on top.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Baked Fudge

I'm sorry I've taken such a long hiatus from blogging!  Hopefully this dessert will make up for it!!

Baked fudge is a smooth-in-the-middle, crisp-on-top, decadent dessert that is amazingly easy to make.  Score!  If you ever have a serious chocolate craving, trust me, this will do the trick!  It can be made for a fancy end to a special meal or "just because" on a Wednesday night.  ; )  The taste of the baked fudge reminds me of all the many times I've made brownies and eaten way more raw batter than should be allowed...only this won't potentially give you salmonella!

Baked Fudge
Source: The Pioneer Woman

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 TB (heaping) cocoa
2 TB flour
1/2 cup melted butter (1 stick)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Beat eggs with a whisk until light in color.  Beat in sugar until just combined.
Add cocoa, flour, melted butter, and vanilla.  Mix gently until well combined.

Pour mixture into 4 ramekins.  Set ramekins into larger baking dish that is half-full of water.
Bake 40-50 minutes or until upper crust is crispy and the rest of batter is firm but not set.  Toothpick should not come out clean, but not overly runny.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

For Newlyweds and Not-So-Newlyweds

Last Wednesday night, our church service was about marriage.  What are the roles of the husband and wife according to the Bible?  What does Ephesians 5 really mean in our daily lives?

First, take a look at this video.   : )

We were all laughing our butts off.  : )

Highlights from the message: (Ephesians 5:22-25)

Husbands are called to love their wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.  Wives are called to submit to their husbands as to the Lord.  The husband is to be the head of the household.

*Verse 22:  When He (the Lord) speaks, I listen.  I'm willing to be subject to His leadership.  I wouldn't be deliberately disobedient to the Lord, so then I should show my husband the same respect according to my role as his wife.  My desire is to please the Lord and fulfill His vision.  We know that if the husband is doing his role by receiving wisdom from God that we can trust and respect his decisions.
*Verse 23:  (see Mark 10:42-45) Don't think of this authority as worldly, but as of the church.  Since the husband is called to be the spiritual head-of house, he should serve the hardest.  Compare the husband and wife to a President & Vice President of a company.  As VP, would we (wives) tell the President (husbands) that he is doing a bad job?
*Verse 25:  The husband should put aside selfish wants to do his best for his wife/family.  Love your wife as you love yourself.  If you come home from a hard day's work and see housework that needs to be done, you may only think "I need a break!!" - but understand that your wife most likely feels the same way.  Christ loved the church so much that he was brutally crucified for all of our sins.  To "lay down His life" is how the husband is called to love the wife.

Questions for wives to consider:
1. Do we negatively confront, defy, or oppose our husbands?  It is sin to try to take his role of head-of-household that God created him for.
2. Does the wife just have a stronger personality?  If so, you must adjust this so you still act respectfully.
3. Do we scorn him?
4. Do we show disappointment toward his decisions?
5. Do our actions condemn?
6. Do we honor him?
7. Do we show partiality towards him?  We should, to show love and respect.

Respect towards our husbands does not need to be earned - it is commanded.
Love towards wives does not need to be earned - it is commanded.
We are each accountable to God for our own actions.
We should each live to be the best wife/husband we can, EVEN IF we do not feel our spouse is being the best he/she can be.  Why?  If we act that way, our spouse is likely to respond the way we desire.  IRON SHARPENS IRON!!!   : )

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cinnamon Baked French Toast

So, do you remember when I made Tortellini Soup the other day?  Do you recall the toasted piece of french bread laying beside my bowl of soup?  Can you see where I'm going with this?  : )

According to the package of french bread I used, once baked, the bread would need to be eaten fairly soon before going bad.  Well, with only Jordan and me eating, there was a lot of bread left over after our meal.  What to dooooo, what to dooo???  Enter baked french toast.

It didn't take me long to decide which recipe I would use. The very first food blog I ever saw - the one that inspired me to write my own - was The Pioneer Woman.  She has so many wonderful recipes, many of which I have tried, loved, and will blog about another day.  Anyway, this is one of her recipes.  Think about making this if you have any leftover bread...or buy some bread just to make it.  : )

Cinnamon Baked French Toast
(This recipe is for a 9 x 13 pan.  I halved the recipe to fit an 8 x 8 pan for us.)

1 loaf Crusty Sourdough Or French Bread
8 whole Eggs
2 cups Whole Milk
1/2 cup Whipping (heavy) Cream
3/4 cups Sugar
2 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract

1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick cold butter, cut into pieces
Fresh fruit and chopped pecans (optional)

Grease 9x13 dish with butter.  Tear bread into chunks and evenly distribute in dish. 
Mix together eggs, milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla.  Pour evenly over bread.  Cover tightly and store in the fridge several hours or overnight.
When you're ready to bake the casserole, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Remove casserole from fridge and sprinkle the crumb mixture all over the top.  (If you're using fruit, sprinkle on before crumb mixture).  Bake for 45 minutes for a softer, more bread pudding texture.  Bake 1 hour or more for a firmer, less liquid texture.  Scoop out individual portions.  Top with butter and drizzle with maple syrup. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Tortellini Soup

Who doesn't love a bowl of hot soup?  It's one of my and Jordan's favorite meals to eat - any time!  Now that it's fall and the weather has cooled off, I will especially be thinking of different soups to make for our dinners. 

This tortellini soup is delicious and healthy!  Funny story - the first time I ever made this, I basically made it as healthy as possible, and it ended up being vegetarian.  I used whole wheat 3-cheese tortellini and organic vegetable broth.  While Jordan liked the soup, he voiced his opinion that he would prefer me to use a meat tortellini and chicken broth instead.  Go figure.  Men and their meat!  lol

So now, to keep my hubby happy, I make this soup with his wishes in mind.  : )  The nice thing about this recipe is that you can customize it to suit your favorite flavors.  And bonus: It comes together very quickly so it is ideal for a weeknight meal when you've had a long day, but still want a good meal!  Happy cooking!

Tortellini Soup
Adapted from Annie's Eats

1 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup chopped onion (sometimes I even shred mine on a grater so the pieces are thinner)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, with juices
4 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken broth
9 oz. fresh tortellini (any variety - I now use Buitoni Chicken & Prosciutto flavor and it's delicious!)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Grated/Shredded/Shaved Parmesan Cheese (I use shaved because I love the way it melts over the tortellini like a blanket!)

In a large pot, heat 1 TB EVOO over medium-high heat.  Add onions to the pot and cook about 5 minutes or until soft and translucent.  Add the minced garlic and keep stirring for about 1 minute.  Add oregano, diced tomatoes, and broth.  Bring to a boil.  Add tortellini and cook according to package (mine says boil about 8 minutes).  Turn off heat.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Serve warm with shaved Parmesan and crusty bread on the side!

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Tonight, my hubby and I are going to a bonfire at our new church!  We are really looking forward to the fellowship, fun, and food!!

Everyone was asked to bring a side item with them.  To me, apparently "side item" = dessert.  Would you have expected anything else??  But no worries...I know everyone will love these yummy bars.  "Brookies" are basically a chocolate chip cookie shaped and baked like a brownie.  Brownie + cookie = Brookie!  : )

The first time I made these, I put a large Brookie square in my husband's lunchbox the next day.  Apparently, the sight of this treat was too much for his fellow Airmen to take, and when hubby got home from work, he told me that he had to break off pieces to share with his friends!  They all loved it and were constantly asking him "when his wife was gonna make...those...uhh,...I can't remember what you call them! Those brownie cookie things again!" 

I'm also kind of excited that this is my first blog featuring another blogger's recipe!  After all, these ladies (and a few gents) are the reason I even wanted to start a blog.  They are awesome, creative, and so generous to share their recipes with everyone.  So, a big thanks to Bakerella for this yummy recipe!!

(Bakerella gave about 3 or 4 different options of what these bars could be called...I picked "Brookies" because I thought it was the cutest.) 

2 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup butter, softened
1 lb. light brown sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
11.5 ounce package milk chocolate chips  (I used chocolate chunks)
1 cup chopped pecans (optional - To me, nuts are a NO-NO in desserts so I left them out.)

Bakerella has made these 2 ways and recommends to mix this all by hand.  I, for one, will always do what Bakerella says.  : )

Sift flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Set aside.
Stir brown sugar into softened (not melted) butter in another large bowl until butter disappears. You can use the back of your spoon to help incorporate the two together.
Add eggs one at a time to butter mixture and stir well after each egg.
Add vanilla and mix well.
Add dry flour mixture and stir until well combined.
Stir in chocolate chips/chunks and nuts (if you're using them).
Coat a 13 X 9 pan with non-stick spray and spread batter evenly into dish.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until top is golden brown. Make sure you don’t over bake.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cheesy Penne with Mushrooms and Pancetta

I'm going to go ahead and apologize for the stink value of these pictures.  I took them at night, and therefore all the natural light necessary to take a good picture was long gone.  I considered not even putting the pics on the post, but then I remembered how much I love it when recipes come with a picture...and how much I hate it when they don't.

Do you know Claire Robinson?  Of "5 Ingredient Fix"?  Yeahhhh.  She made this recipe for "Cheesy Penne" that looked yummy, so I tried it!  Only it seemed too plain, so I changed her 5 ingredients into 7 ingredients by adding baby portabella mushrooms and pancetta...ohhhhh yeahhhhh

The sharp white cheddar and dijon used in the sauce makes for a somewhat tangy pasta, while the pancetta gives it that nice, salty kick it needed!  The mushrooms are yummy too!!  : ) 

Cheesy Penne with Mushrooms and Pancetta

4 cups penne pasta
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3/4 cup heavy cream
5 oz. sharp white cheddar
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
3 oz. pancetta
1 package baby portabella mushrooms

Cut pancetta into small pieces and sautee in a small pan over medium heat until browned.  Remove pancetta to a small bowl, but leave some of the pancetta grease in the pan.  Wash mushrooms, remove the stems, chop them and then sautee them in the pancetta grease until done.  Turn off heat.

Boil penne till "al dente" according to box directions.  Remember to salt the pasta water!!!  Drain pasta and return to pot. 

Whisk milk with Dijon in small bowl and add to the pot with cooked pasta, along with the cream and grated cheddar.  Stir over medium-low heat until the cheese melts and the mixture is thickened.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Fold in mushrooms and pancetta.  Serve hot!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Stuffed Peppers

Mmmmmm, stuffed peppers!  This is one of my and Jordan's favorite meals everrrrrr.  Kinda funny actually, because the first time I ever told him that's what I was making for dinner, he looked at me like I was crazy.  He acted like he wasn't going to like them.  Then he took one bite, completely changed his mind, ate a ton, begged forgiveness at my feet for doubting me, and said he owed me a back rub.  Well...maybe not all that but you get the point.

These stuffed peppers are delicious and HEALTHY!!!  You can truly eat these without guilt!!!  We love them so much that we can't live without eating them at least once every few weeks. 

Here's the recipe:

Stuffed Peppers

4 large red bell peppers
Olive Oil
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 1/4 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 medium onion, diced (I use Vidalia)
1 lb. lean ground turkey
1 16 oz. jar chunky salsa
1/2 bag baby spinach leaves, chopped
1 cup cooked rice
cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 375.  Cut peppers in half and remove all white and seeds.  Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake 15-20 minutes.
Heat 1 TB olive oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion, garlic, salt, pepper, chili powder, and cumin.  Cook till onions are softened.  Add turkey, breaking up into small pieces, and cook until lightly browned.  Add salsa and spinach and cook about 5 minutes more.  Turn off heat and stir in cooked rice.  Fill pepper halves with mixture, cover with aluminum foil and bake until the filling is hot and peppers are tender, about 20-25 minutes.  Remove foil, sprinkle with cheese and bake uncovered 7-10 minutes for cheese to melt.  

Here is my favorite way to eat them:

Covered in sour cream!!! heehee.  I love sour cream.  Plus, it helps cut some of the spiciness for those of you who are spice wimps like me.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tuesday Top-5

The top-5 random things that have made me happy this past week...and 1 that did not...

1.  Sitting outside in our brand new chairs!!  It is so nice to relax with my hubby in the awesome weather.  Plus, I love these chairs.  I finally found some I liked the look AND the feel of!  Sometimes I don't wanna get out of them!

2.  Grilling out!  We just bought a grill 2 weeks ago from our neighbors who are moving to Alaska.  For $15, I might add.  : )  Two nights ago, my hubby grilled steaks and they were sooooo good! 

3.  Visiting a new church!  We really enjoyed the service, as WELL as the people we met there!  Some of them we even knew already, so that was even better!  : )

4.  Using some fondue "pokers" that one of the custodians at work gave me to roast marshmallows over our stove flame to make smores!  One of my favorite desserts EVER!!!  I must say though, I was missing roasting them over a bonfire with my friends!  :'(

5.  Using the new recycling machine outside of the BX!  If you take your empty plastic or glass bottles and scan them, you can make an account and accumulate points based on how much you bring.  You can then redeem these points online for gift cards!  WOO-HOO!  Free gift cards and doing something nice for the environment?!  Yessssss.

Finally, here is the 1 thing I did NOT like... today actually...

Sigh.  This was her special, nice, fluffy pillow!!!  She unzipped the outer covering and tore up all of the inside.  Grrrrr!!!  She is usually a very good girl when we leave her, but this is what I get for being 30 minutes late coming home from work. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Grape Salad

Listen.  And hear me.

If you're the kind of person who will take one look at the following photo and close out the screen, please stop yourself.  Don't be like me, circa 2009.  You see, there was a time when we had many church members and friends in the community blessing us with dinners almost every week because my mom was very sick.  One night, someone brought dinner and I opened the container...and there sat this goopy mess they called "grape salad".  I'm usually one to try pretty much anything before judging it, but for some reason, this was a dish I immediately decided I would not try.  Thennnn, everyone else in the family started eating it and there were rounds of "oooooohs" and "aaaaaaahs" over how yummy it was.  I reluctantly took a bite, and WHOA BABY was it good!  A totally unexpected flavor!  I guess I was expecting a "savory" dish, like a pasta salad, but this was really sweet!  YUM!

Here is the grape salad I made tonight:

Don't close the screen.  Don't run away and hide.  Just try it!  : )

It tastes like grapes covered in cheesecake filling.  uhh-mazing. 

And folks, if you do make it, please, for the love of Pete, try one of the grapes first.  A dish that stars grapes will NOT taste good if your grapes do not taste good.  It's elementary, my dear Watson.

Grape Salad

3 lbs. small red seedless grapes (wash and dry)
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup Splenda
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 cup chopped nuts, roasted  (I use pecans.  And yes, I pronounce it pee-cans.  Don't try to be fancy and pronounce them puh-cahns.)

Cream together the cream cheese, sour cream, vanilla, Splenda, and brown sugar until smooth.  Fold in the grapes and half of the nuts.  Sprinkle the remaining nuts on top.  Keep in the fridge in an airtight container.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tuesday Top-5

Okay, so I know it technically isn't fall yet...but I had to wear a jacket yesterday, so I am hereby declaring it the beginning of fall!!  :)  Therefore, I bring youuuuu...

My Top-5 favorite things about fall!!!

1.  The crisp, cool weather.  I took Katie out yesterday morning and was like...WHOA!  It was actually cold.  I was so excited!  I love summer, but let's face it, who isn't ready for some cooler weather?  I was so happy to spend the rest of the morning in my favorite article of clothing - my husband's hoodie.  =D

2.  The beautiful colors all around.  I've always felt sorry for my mom; she's colorblind, and can't really tell the difference in the colors of trees.  : (  Even on trips through the mountains in autumn, she can't quite see the colors for what they truly are.  I think the changing leaves are absolutely gorgeous and wish they would stay those vibrant red, orange, and yellow shades for much longer!

3.  Fall baking!!!!!!!  I can't put enough exclamation points for that one.  Using the flavors of pumpkin, apples, cinnamon, cranberries, maple, brown sugar, caramel, ginger, etc. in dozens of culinary masterpieces makes fall a time that practically every baker longs for during earlier months!  Plus, I haven't been married during any fall months yet, so I plan to wow my hubby with my "fall" recipes.  : )

4.  Football games!  Although I may not be the biggest sports fan in town, I do love going to sporting events - particularly football games in the fall!!  I spent all my high school years at every football game leading the marching band as drum major at our halftime show.  I also played the flute for concerts, but all this is another story for another time.  I know what you may be thinking, "BAND GEEK"!, but nooooo, I was not!  ; )  It was really a lot of fun.  In college, I enjoyed attending ECU football games just for the fun of it.  No band that time.  heehee. 

5.  Cute fall clothing!  Like my BFF Cat, I love wearing pretty scarves (ok...mayyybe not as much as her, lol).  She wears one almost every day!!  Including non-fall/winter months!!!  But she looks beautiful in them, so I say go for it.  Anywho, jackets, hats and boots are also items I enjoy wearing so bring em on!

Are you all as excited for fall as I am??  : )

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday Top-5

Top-5 foods I would love how to learn to make homemade!...make well, at least...but you got that.  :)

1.  Angel Food Cake.  I have always loved it's lightness and delicate flavor.  Sweet but not overbearing.  Don't misunderstand though...I also like foods that are sweet and overbearing.  :)  I'm sure it's not thaaat difficult, but it's just the idea of separating allllll those eggs to whip the whites...

2.  Doughnuts.  Those of you from my hometown area may have been to Britt's Doughnuts on the Carolina Beach boardwalk...AMAZING!  I wish I could go "shadow" them for a day, hehe!  I just love that crispy, sweet, fried dough!   =P

3.  Chicken & Pastry...or is it just Chicken Pastry?  I think it must be Chicken AND Pastry, but you know how us Southerners are (altering the names of things, or shortening them for our convenience)  =D.  Every time we had a covered dish supper at my church, this (along with Wonton Salad) is what I wanted to fill my plate up with!  It's so warm and soft and soupy and delicious!

4.  Croissants.  No, it's not just so I can feel fancy.  I love croissants with their buttery, flaky ways.  I've seen recipes for them before, and it's no feat I want to tackle, really.  It seems soooo complicated!  But oh how delicious the reward would be!

5.  Biscuits.  Some people have it, some people don't.  I wanna have "it"!!  I want to be able to make the best biscuits my family has ever had!

Hmmm...has anyone noticed a trend here?  All of the above are or include a pastry/bread of some sort.  Sigh.  What can I say?  Carbs and I are BFF's!  But not as BFF's as cookies, cake, brownies, and myself...they aren't on the list...because they're already mastered.  heehee!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Flag Football Game #1

Tonight was the first flag football game of the season on base!  Teams are made up of squadrons throughout the base.  I spent practically every week of winter in the basketball court watching my Airman shoot some hoops (his team was runner-up in the championship!) so of course I knew I'd want to come watch and support him in football, as well.  Not to brag or anything, but he is the quarterback. ;)  Since it wasn't too hot out, I thought it would be fun to bring Katie along.

This is Katie.  Don't let this adorable face fool you.  She definitely won the "Bad Dog" award tonight.  I have never been so embarrassed!  Wait....yes I have....*flashes back to my last dog SweetPea chasing down our elderly neighbor - barking, snarling and being downright scary...even for a weiner dog*.

Aaaaanyway, Katie was a non stop jumping machine the whole game.  You would've thought she'd had an IV of straight caffeine before we went.  "Awwww, so cuuute" only goes so far...she is getting bigger and stronger every day and I was really getting a work out trying to get her to calm down!!  HELP!  We discipline her...and I know she's a puppy.  But why, oh WHY doesn't she listen to us when we're outside???

I unfortunately had to spend the whole game dealing with Katie, so I honestly didn't even get to watch most of it.  I did manage to get these shots though:

Sorry they're both a little blurry!  After all, I was being tugged around by a 30 lb puppy.  : /

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Top Chef: Just Desserts

So, I love the show Top Chef.  Top Chef: Masters, Top Chef: All Stars, and ESPECIALLY Top Chef: Just Desserts!  I mean, come on...a show dedicated to unique dessert challenges completed by a group of talented pastry chefs??  My kind of show!!!  : )  I watched the previous season and was amazed by the chefs' technical expertise and the beauty of (almost) every dessert they plated. 

I have been anxiously counting down the days for this show to air, and it's finally here!!  Unfortunately, the SLP in me is causing me to have some "issues" with a couple of the contestants...

Orlando: Not only is he arrogant, he has a frontal lisp and it drives me crazy.

Craig: Sigh...this dude just needs help all around, lol.  Nobody wants to be his partner.  He doesn't seem to have many skills to bring to the table.  And the worst part?  His voice is extreeeemely hypernasal.
(Did you see the clip of him reading Harry Potter on his bed?  He had big wads of toilet paper stuffed between all his toes...what tha??  Did he paint his toenails???  Sorry, but someone had to bring it up...)

Orlando and Craig - come to my office.  I will be willing to provide you both with therapy in exchange for some yummy desserts.  : )

Is anyone else watching this?  Who's your favorite?  : )

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesday Top-5

Top-5 beauty products I can't live without:

1.  Bare Minerals!  I will never go back to liquid foundation again...ever.  I cannot even begin to describe how much I love this line of products!  It's good for your skin, light, and beautiful!

2.  Lip Gloss!  I usually have at least 3 different lip glosses in my purse at all times.  Then, there's the 3 glosses on standby in every other purse that I own, along with glosses stashed in random drawers around the house!  Gotta love having beautiful, glossy lips!

3. Fudge Head Shine.  I came across this product about a year ago and I am COMPLETELY in love.  A spritz of it all over your 'just-styled' do will leave a gorgeous shine.  The best part?  The smell is out-of-this-world incredible.  I have to control myself from spraying the whole bottle on because it smells so amazing!

4.  Suave Advanced Therapy Body Lotion.  While I have about a million body lotions in various fragrances, this is my go-to lotion for MOISTURE!  Thanks to my bff Cat, I began using this lotion daily and it really does make a difference in my skin.  It has a nice scent that doesn't clash with any perfume you want to wear. 

5.  Victoria's Secret Noir Body Mist.  This is one of my favorite scents EVER, and I love that it's a body mist, which basically means that it isn't as strong.  You can spray a few times and you will just smell awesome!!  : )  (I also have the Noir shower cream, which is also amazing!)

Disclaimer:  This is not an endorsement.  None of the above companies know me from Adam.  Peace out.

Friday, August 19, 2011


It has been a looong time since I've had to think those words...Thank God it's Friday!  I've been a stay at home wife for about 8 months, and every day is pretty much the same.  Get up, do housework, cook meals, wait eagerly for Jordan to get home, and hang out until we fall asleep. 

Well, NO LONGER!  I started my job as a speech-language pathologist at the elementary school on our base Tuesday.  The kids don't come until next week, but I've had to go every day for an endless number of faculty meetings (zzzzzzzzz....) and workshops.  The bright side is that everyone that works at the school is extremely nice and helpful!  What a bonus!  I have experience in what I do, but I have only worked in a private clinic and hospital setting.  Working in a school means different structure, different paperwork, and different protocols.  The downside body is not used to this time schedule.

Yesterday, I was at work from 7:45 AM till 6:45 PM.  Are you kidding me?  Part of the reason for this 11 hour day was because of open house, but still!  I got home at 7 and tried my best to get our puppy to sleep with me in our bed until Jordan got home at 11, haha!  Well, she wasn't having that.  We had to come downstairs to "play" and I was finally able to shut my eyes at 10:30 PM.  Jordan got home from work half an hour later, and I honestly can't remember much.  I know he tried to talk to me...I know he wanted me to go look at something in the garage??...and I KNOW all I did was grunt at him and whine until I made it upstairs to pass out.  (Which I did apologize for this morning!) 

I haven't been this exhausted in a long time.  I am excited for the kids to come next week, so I can meet all their cute little faces and start therapy.  But for now...TGIF!!!

Oh, here's an "Air Force Wife" life for ya:  My Airman usually gets off early on Fridays.  I was all excited, due to the fact that we haven't seen each other at all hardly in the last 3 days.  He said he would be able to be home at 7...I said "Great!, I will have dinner ready for us!"  To self, "YAYYY, finally an evening with my hubby!!!!!!"

Well, it is now 8:16.  Dinner is on the stove, cold.  Hubby is not home.  I am on the couch with the puppy, hungry, lonely, and missing my hubby and the evening we were "supposed" to have.  The AF wins every time!!!  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday Top-5

Top 5 Movies Guaranteed to Crack Me Up!!

1.  White Chicks!!  My husband cannot understand why I always want to watch this movie.  "Babe, we just watched this!"  He thinks it's really funny too, but apparantly I can't live without it. 

"I'm going to have a BF!!" 

2.  Diary of a Mad Black Woman!!  Really, any movie with Madea in it is worth a million laughs.  So let's go ahead and make a 2b) Madea Goes to Jail, and 2c) Madea's Big, Happy Family. 

"Well, peace always comes with still, cause I keeps me a piece o' steel."

3. Just Married!  I'm happy to announce that our honeymoon was nothing like this movie, lol.  Ashton Kutcher is HILARIOUS!!  RIP, Brittany Murphy.  : (


4.  Meet the Fockers!  Meet the Parents was also funny, but Meet the Fockers is what really got me rollin'! 

"FOCKER!  He's absorbing you like a sponge!"

5.  Dumb and Dumber!!!  I saved this for last because I honestly can't even begin to count how many times I've seen this movie.  No matter how many times I watch it, though, I ALWAYS laugh at the same parts and it never seems to get old to me.  I also have a tradition of watching this movie after I watch a scary just helps me feel better!  : )

"You traded in our van for a moped? Just when I thought you couldn't possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this...and TOTALLY redeem yourself!" 

If you haven't seen these movies - do yourself a favor.  Watch them.  Immediately.  Laughter is the best medicine.  : )

Fruit Fondue Smoothie

When I created our wedding registries, I didn't even think to add a blender.  It's not something I used prior to marraige, so why would I need one after?  Thank goodness my brother had the smarts to buy us one as a wedding gift anyways!  I have used our blender a countless number of times to make smoothies and milkshakes, and they are always so delicious!  I make them according to what we have in the fridge/freezer, and it's always fun to experiment with new flavors.

Today I bring you my first food blog!  The Fruit Fondue Smoothie, which tastes just like it sounds: fruit dipped in hot fudge!  You know those chocolate fondue machines with the chocolate flowing out like a fountain?!  (I have always wanted to go to the restaurant where you get fondue for all 3 courses - YUM!!)

Embrace the last bit of summer we have and make this smoothie.  :) 

Recipe:  (Yield: 1 LARGE smoothie!)

1 small banana, sliced
1 cup whole frozen strawberries
3/4 cup milk
1 packet hot cocoa mix
3 TB hot fudge topping

Blend all together until desired consistency is reached.  Mine was very smooth. 

See, this is healthy...right?!  :)  Two types of fruit, milk (we need dairy!), and barely even enough fudge to count...  ;) 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tuesday Top-5

Top-5 things that annoy me:

1.  When I can see/hear someone chewing their food.

2.  Someone pulling out in front of me and then taking FOREVERRR to turn off the road.

3.  Talking to someone who continually interrupts me.  Especially when they interrupt me to ask a question that I was in the process of answering if they would've let me finish!

4.  Being forced to walk slow because you're standing behind a group of people that are moving at the pace of molasses.  Especially true in malls and supermarkets.  MOVE OUT THA Wayyy!!!  lol

5.  Being too hot.  Anyone who knows me knows that this is the worst situation for me to be in.  I turn into another person who, I am ashamed to say, I would not want to be friends with.  It puts me into a frenzy!

Have a great day!  : )  (None of the above happened to me today, except for #5, but it was dealt with and there were no casualties - so I had a pretty good day myself!)  

Monday, August 8, 2011

Armed Forces Appreciation

On Saturday, my husband and I went to our second Royals game of the season.  Since we are not native Missourians(??), we aren't that much into the Royals, but we do enjoy going to sporting events.  This particular game was special, however, and we went for another purpose than just for fun. 

It was Armed Forces Appreciation Day in the stadium, and my Airman was a part of the ceremony!  First, we enjoyed a performance by the Army Drill Team (spinning rifles) which was really impressive.  After that, a soldier played our National Anthem on his saxophone, and it was a beautiful performance.  While he was playing, a huge American flag was spread out over the baseball field by about 20 enlisted men and women from all branches of the military (my Airman included!).  


Meanwhile, I was sitting in my seat under the blazing sun in 100 degree weather sweating like a pig.  I know, TMI.  So much for trying to "look cute" for the game!  When Jordan was finished and made his way to his seat beside me, we sat there for the first 2 innings of the game before deciding to leave early.  If I was sweating that much, try to imagine how hot he was in those ABU's!!  It was a nice ceremony and I'm really proud of my Airman for being a part of it! 
Please keep all of our deployed military men and women in your prayers, as well as their families.  God Bless America!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Granny's Birthday

This is my sweet Granny!
Today is her birthday!!  : )
She is my mom's mom, and I love her so much!  We have always been very close.

Fun Facts about Granny:
1. She has taken me on mannnny walks down the beach during my life to look for pretty seashells. 
2. She is and always has been the hardest working woman I know.
3. She lets me lay in her lap (still to this day!) and scratches my back & plays with my hair.  : )
4. No matter how much you try to explain it, she cannot understand how to order ice cream at Cold Stone.
5. She and my Papaw just got a laptop a few months ago, and she has been known to call Yahoo "YooHoo" and Facebook "MyFace"  LOL
6. She loves roses and angels.
7. You will never catch her wearing a turtleneck (usually not even long sleeves, for that matter!).
8. She owns an iron and ironing board, but NEVER irons.
9. She knows how to shop and get a good bargain!!
10. She loves her family so much and will go above and beyond to make sure you have what you need.

I love you Granny, and I wish I could be there to celebrate with you!  Happy Birthday!