Currently {december 2016}

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

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{image via How Sweet It Is}

Eating / popcorn.  Trader Joe’s pickle popcorn is addicting.

Drinking / hot tea.  ‘Tis the season for ALL the hot drinks.

Practicing /  thankfulness.  It’s easy to get caught up in the worldly ways this time of year, “I want this. I want that.”  And I already have so much.  More than I’ll ever need.

Mastering / online shopping.  My Christmas list has been checked and double checked.

Trying / a new recipe on Saturday.  We’re making porchetta and I promise to report back next week on the results!

Playing / Christmas music.  I usually listen to Christmas music for a few days after Thanksgiving and then I’m over it.  But not this year.  I can’t get enough!

Finishing / mailing our Christmas cards.  And warning:  ours are huge this year.  Apparently 6×8 is the default size for Tiny Prints this year.  Insert my eye roll here.

Reading / John.  Yes, the book in the Bible.  I honestly haven’t read anything in a few weeks and this is what we’re reading in bible study right now.

Remembering / the reason for the season.

Wearing / leggings.  Don’t even try to tell me they aren’t clothes.

Cooking / for 8 on Saturday.  On the menu:  herbed baked brie, porchetta, roasted carrots and lemon brussels.

Working / on photo books.  I put together a photo book each year from my Instagram pics. And I want to put together another book dedicated to our trip to Greece.

Traveling / to see family for the holidays.  The next several weeks are absolutely cray.  But they’ll also be full of laughs and love and that’s what is important.

Wanting / one more weekend before Christmas.  I feel like the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas was super short this year.  I think it’s because Christmas falls on a weekend this year.

 

Butternut-Cauliflower-Coconut Curry

I’m back from a nonstop weekend in Charlotte!  I still can’t believe how much I crammed into three days.  A holiday home tour in the Fourth Ward District of Charlotte…two workouts…trip to Columbia, SC to a reveal party for my brother and sister-in-law (it’s a BOY!)…visiting baby boy Braxton (twice)…Christmas shopping at South Park….And three nights of the best sleep in months.

I arrived back home yesterday afternoon and spent the afternoon playing catch up with Big Guy.  In between making lists and shopping on the internet, we enjoyed a big warm bowl of butternut-cauliflower-coconut curry.  

I used a little help from Trader Joes by using pre-cut butternut squash and bagged cauliflower (life savers – and honestly, it’s budget-friends to purchase pre-cut butternut squash).  The curry is full of onion and garlic and lots of curry powder.  Coconut milk is added at the end to add creaminess and richness.  I absolutely adored the crunchy chickpeas on top.  I think I could eat an entire sheet pan of those little nuggets.

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The next several weeks are going to be super busy but I’m urging you (and myself) to enjoy it all – even the stressful moments.

And if you aren’t aware…19 days until Christmas!

Friday Favorites

Happy Friday!  And welcome to December.  It’s officially the most wonderful time of the year.  As soon as I’m done teaching and making myself look presentable this morning I’m heading to Charlotte to see the newest love of my life, Braxton.  Not only that, but the timing of my visit is perfect in that I’ll be able to go to my sister-in-law’s gender reveal.  Basically it’s a weekend full of baby stuff.  I’m flying solo this weekend and while I’m not wishing the weekend away, I can’t wait to see Big Guy on Monday -he’s been in Texas all week.  I hope your December kick-off is full of laugher and all things merry.

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Favorite Bundt:  Eggnog Buttered Rum Cake.  Y’all know I love making bundt cakes.  The combination of buttered rum plus eggnog sounds magical.

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Favorite “Appy” Hour:  Polenta Bites with Crispy Brussels Sprouts, Ricotta and Chutney.  Instead of the go-to crostini, why not amp up your appetizer with polenta?  I’m excited to give this a try.

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Favorite Reason for the Season:  The White Envelope.  I might have shed a tear while reading this story.

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Favorite Meatless Monday:  Sweet Potato Tacos with Apple Radish Slaw.  In between all the sweets and treats and cheesy appetizers, I need to squeeze in some healthy meals.  Plus, I have lots and lots of sweet potatoes from the garden.

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Favorite From Scratch:  Sourdough Bagels.  This past weekend I had a cinnamon crunch bagel and remembered how much I love bagels.  So let’s make some at home!

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Favorite Fashion:  Holiday Travel Outfit.  I’m really into capes and ponchos this year.  And this outfit looks incredibly comfy yet stylish.

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Favorite Drool:  Cranberry Brie Pull Apart Bread.  I can’t even handle this concept.  In a good way, obviously.

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Favorite Slow Cooker:  Crock Pot Chicken Enchilada Soup.  All the goodness of an enchilada in a belly warming soup.  And I already know when I’m making this.

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Favorite Cocktail:  Honey Vanilla Pear Margaritas.  This + the Christmas tree + a Hallmark movie + guacamole would rock my world.

Cheers!

French Onion Tartlets + Caramelized Leek and Spinach Dip

Not one but TWO recipes coming your way today.  December is busy.  There are holiday parties to attend, gifts to be purchased, and preparations to be made for family gatherings.  These two appetizers are the perfect bites for any cocktail party or holiday get together.  I made both for Thanksgiving and they were a hit.  The best part – I prepped both recipes the night before and simply assembled and baked (one of them) the day of.

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The French Onion Tartlets are addictive!  They taste just like french onion soup except they come in a little phyllo shell.  To prep in advance, simply prepare the entire recipe up until you fill the tarts.  Place the french onion and cream cheese mixture into a container and store in the fridge.  Simply fill the shells and top with gruyere before baking the day of the party.  Changes I made to the recipe:  I used red wine to deglaze the pan (it’s what I had opened for my sangria) and I added a little more decadence with the addition of shredded gruyere on top (only because it was in the cheese drawer and I figured WHY NOT!?!).

The best part about the caramelized leek and spinach dip is that it can be prepped in entirety the day before.  I doubled the recipe and simply stored in the fridge until it was time to eat.  I served the dip with crunchy crackers plus carrots and celery.

Do you have any go-to appetizer recipes for the holiday season?

A couple other easy, peasy recipes:  bacon wrapped dates (so good!) and cream cheese topped with pepper jelly (Trader Joes has a great one).

Italian Beef Stew

Oh, hi!  I hope you all had the most wonderful Thanksgiving weekend possible.  Mine was filled with incredible fried turkey, too many laughs to count and spending time with loved ones.  And I can’t forget to mention that I have a new baby nephew.  On Saturday baby boy Braxton came into the world and I cannot wait to meet him this weekend.

After a long weekend of working, Big Guy brought home our tree on Sunday evening.  As you can expect, it’s ginormous and gorgeous.  It’s become our tradition to decorate the house and tree on the Monday after Thanksgiving and that’s just what we did yesterday.

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We always leave decorating the tree for last.  While dinner simmered on the stove, we poured a glass of wine and got to work hanging ornaments.  I absolutely love how every.single.ornament holds a special memory for one or both of us.

I think it’s quite a stunning tree, if you ask me.

Once the tree was trimmed, it was time to fill our bellies.  The smell of the Italian Beef Stew on the stove rivaled the Christmas candles burning – the whole house smelled scrumptious.

The stew comes together quite easily but it does need about two hours of cooking.  Chuck roast becomes insanely tender after simmering for a little while with onions, carrots, red wine and tomatoes plus some herbs.  We each devoured a bowl of stew topped with a sprinkle of fresh basil.

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This stew is a definite crowd pleaser and would be perfect for any upcoming occasions with friends and family.

Have a wonderful week, friends!

 

Creamed Winter Greens

As promised, I bring to you a side dish recipe that would be perfect for any holiday gathering.  You could easily double this recipe if you’re feeding a crowd.

We’ve all had creamed spinach and it remains one of my favorite side dishes (especially with steak).  Last year I tried a delicious spin on creamed spinach with pimiento cheese creamed spinach (which I’ll be making again tomorrow to take for our Thanksgiving feast).  But this past Sunday, I decided to go for a something a little lighter and tried Creamed Winter Greens from the latest Cooking Light magazine.  Not only do these greens include spinach and the super nutritious kale, but their topped with a crunchy mixture of roasted chickpeas and nuts (I used pecans instead of almonds).  The greens have a subtle onion flavor from the addition of leeks (obsessed!).  The creamed portion of the dish comes from using milk, cream cheese and shredded mozzarella.

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You can totally make this dish ahead of time (leaving off the topping) and simple reheat on the stovetop.  If you’re unsure of the chickpeas, don’t just trust my judgement – Big Guy loved the texture and nuttiness they added to the bowl of greens.

Along side our greens, we enjoyed individual cornish hens with cornbread stuffing.  The presentation of a cornish hen is such a treat and we really enjoyed swapping out the turkey for the cornish hen.  If you are ever in the mood to give cornish hens a try, I highly recommend Ina’s recipe which I linked above.

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I am going to take the rest of the week off from the blog so that I can spend time with family that we don’t see often enough.  I wish you and your family the most wonderful Thanksgiving.

Beer-Battered Pumpkin with Dipping Sauce

It’s Thanksgiving week!  Is your menu set and your turkey bought?  I did the big grocery haul today for the ingredients I’ll need for what I’m taking to the Watson Thanksgiving meal.  Let’s just say I wasn’t the only one loading up my cart today.  Though there are still two things I haven’t been able to find:  frozen pearl onions and golden beets.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Big Guy and I had a mini-Thanksgiving yesterday and it was a blast!  We spent the evening laughing, eating amazing food and watching Hallmark Christmas movies (the husband is obsessed).  Before our big meal, we whipped up an fried pumpkin (!!!!) that blew our socks off.  It was so much better than we ever imagined.

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First, carefully peel and cut a sugar or pie pumpkin (small pumpkins used for cooking) into slices.  The pumpkin is then dipped in a beer batter  that includes flour, cornstarch, salt and the beer.  Once battered, it goes straight into the hot oil where it cooks for about 3 minutes.  After frying the pumpkin, a few sage leaves are fried for a little savory punch of herb flavor.  Sprinkle with salt and serve with a buttermilk garlic dip.

You really can fry anything.

See you back here tomorrow with a delicious and healthy side dish that will be perfect for any of you that are still putting together your menu.