December 28, 2016

The Secret to New Year's Resolutions

The new year is coming upon us. This is a time of year where we all make resolutions. Or don't. I made six resolutions for 2016 and completed two of them. I also read that only around 8% of people actually achieve their new year's resolutions each year. As someone who has not been successful in resolutions, I re-evaluated mid year and was able to make new resolutions and succeed in those.

I attribute my success in achieving my latest resolutions to a quote I saw last year on Dave Ramsey's (if you don't know who he is, you should!) instagram page. It read:



He also wrote: "Best intentions and positive thinking are not enough for real change. You have to set specific and realistic goals."

I wrote them generally on the blog, but behind the scenes I had a plan for every goal and how it would be obtained. I outlined what I was going to do, my time frame, etc...and it worked. I made sure all the goals were relevant to me. These are things that carried more risk if I failed. It was motivating.

Only you can hold you accountable this year. It took me a while to figure that out. I spent too much time reading articles about resolutions to make and how to keep them that were so general. You can't keep those. Also I realized (especially in eating) that making the same mistake over and over again isn't a mistake, it is a habit.

Check back and see my Ten New Year's Resolutions and participate yourself during Tuesday Topics. We start with resolutions on Tuesday.

December 21, 2016

Bacon Green Beans

I cannot believe that Christmas is in 5 days. Where did this year go?

If you are a little last minute and need an easy side dish, this should be your go to. Paula Dean may have coined the term "butter ya'll" but it is really just a good old fashioned southern cooking state of mind. I see that cooking side in my dad who puts butter on just about everything. Oh and then there is bacon. If I am unsure ever of what to do, I just add bacon. It works!

Ingredients:

1/2 package of bacon
1 bag/bunch of fresh or frozen green beans
2 ounces of butter, softened

Directions:

In a large saucepan, cook bacon according to package instructions. Once cooked, set bacon aside on a paper towel lined plate.

If you are using a bag of frozen green beans, steam in the microwave to package instructions. Once steamed, toss lightly in some of the reserve bacon grease from your saucepan. If you are using fresh cut green beans, you can cook them in that same sauce pan.

Chop bacon and combine in serving dish with green beans. Top with a dollup of butter.


Is everyone ready for the holidays?
What is one of your favorite side dishes?

December 19, 2016

How I Stay Sane and Cooking During The Holiday Season

Picture this: I am done with a 12.5 hour shift at the hospital and have driven home (45 minute commute). I am now standing over a hot stove making some dinner. The kitchen is sweltering, I just want to serve toast for dinner at this point, but my husband has been travelling lately and just wants a home cooked meal.

Oh and it is the holiday season. Being someone who uses food as a love language, holiday season means making more food in less time. This meals are often more elaborate too. I have to stay sane so I streamline my weeknight meals during the holiday season.

Planning is key and here are some of my favorite ways to streamline my kitchen during the holidays.

For The Events:

Simple Breakfasts:
If I have overnight guests needing breakfast, I often serve overnight casseroles, make ahead muffins, or just plain make eggs and bacon.

My Favorite Make Ahead Breakfasts:
I Love Salads:
Salads are an easy way to make a big impact. It is light but filling.

My Favorite Easy Salads:

Follow Five Simple Big Event/Meal Commandments
You can find them here.



For The Weeknight Meals:

Use Soup and Leftovers:
My husband and I always make Turkey Soup after our Friendsgiving Event which kicks off the holiday season. Having so much soup helps us around the holidays when we don't have time to make a meal. We also use leftovers after that meal to our advantage.

My Favorite Turkey Leftover Recipes and Soups:
I Use My Husband:
He has learned is way around the kitchen and has some recipes he does well on when I am working. I leave him to the cooking sometimes.

Recipes Easy Enough For a Husband to Make:

Use Recipes Big Enough For Leftovers:
When all else fails, just make something that will give you more than one meal!

Recipes Easy Enough For a Husband to Make:


What are your best weeknight strategies for everyday meals during the hectic holiday season?
What are your best meal strategies for having guests over?

December 16, 2016

Christmas Photos

I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite parts about the holiday season is receiving Christmas cards from friends and family. I plaster them all over my pantry door with scotch tape. It is tacky but I don’t care. I love seeing the joyful faces!
I think somehow I would love to figure out something with clothespins on an evergreen garland, but this year won't be the year I figure it out...#toobusytravelling

Last year I wanted to try a cutesy way of displaying my years Christmas cards so that I could enjoy seeing the past and how we have grown. I thought I had this great idea of getting a big ribbon and hot gluing the pictures to the ribbon.

So I did that. While it was on the door. As you can guess...which I didn't...that yep, I took off the paint on the door where I glued.

It is painted over and now taped up.
All better right?

Ugh. Here is praying for a smarter holiday season.
How do you display your holiday cards?

December 14, 2016

Weird Things Women Do When We Are Alone

Kevin has been travelling lately leaving me with more alone time. In addition, a lot of this alone time is on top of my normal alone time. I get a lot of alone time with my work schedule and having some weekdays off. I know that there are strange stuff that women do when they are home alone. I am no different.

There is no shame in this game. Here are some things I do:

Blast music and sing. I may even listen to the same song over and over again.

Eat weird snacks. I mean I have eaten peanut butter and jelly together in a bowl. I may follow that up with some cheese. I would never do this in front of someone.
via

I binge watch TV and movies. I never do that otherwise.

I blog.

Use the same dishes. Why wash the plate if you are just going to use it again?


What alone girl behaviors do you have?
Am I alone in these alone behaviors?

December 13, 2016

A Surprise Announcment For The Blogging World!

I know I don't usually put a voice to this site on Tuesdays, but I used to! I used to post with a lot of really great people on Tuesdays for Tuesday Topics!

Well with the help of my friend Jenn, it is coming back!

We start with ten resolutions on Tuesday January 3rd, 2017. We then continue every Tuesday down the list! This gives you 10 ideas for blog posts, is only once a week, and offers the opportunity to get to know and read some new blogger's stuff!

Yay link ups! We hope you join us!

December 12, 2016

Perfect Holiday Date Nights

I love this time of year! There are so many great date nights that I love making time for. I do all of these and I hope you steal some of my ideas! 

Need some ideas? Read on!

Candlelit living rooms with a delicious glass of wine, sweets, and comfy socks. Some soft Christmas music on in the background and some good conversation is perfect.

Watch a holiday movie classic with a big bowl of popcorn for him and a bowl of almonds and chocolate chips for me.

Take a drive to look at holiday lights.

Have just an appetizer or drinks & dessert at a fancy restaurant you know is decorated to the nines for Christmas.

Go for an evening walk together on a path that is lit with Christmas lights.

Fill each other’s stockings with silly surprises from Santa.


What are some of your favorite holiday date night ideas?
Tonight our date night is the evening walk!

December 9, 2016

5 Essential Tips for Travelling During The Holiday Season

Travelling during the holiday season. It is bound to be something we all do. Whether we are going to visit mom and dad or travelling for a winter escape vacation, it can be stressful. I think all stress even at the busiest of times can be alleviated with some simple planning.

Here are five tips that will make this busy travel season an easier one for you.
Start Planning Early
Many people may not think of Halloween as part of the holiday season, but doing some simple planning before you trade carved pumpkins for Thanksgiving gourds will ensure that you do not get stuck overpaying or being underwhelmed with haphazard plans. So if you can, start your travel plans early. If you can't, well then follow the next four tips!


Book the earliest flight in the day and fly direct if you can.
Sorry night owls but the earlier you fly, the less chance of delays. That is just the way it is!


Turn the holidays into a vacation.
Many of us get such a small amount of vacation time that we often have to give up our travel aspirations in order to spend time with our families during the holiday season. But what if you combined the two?

I have always wondered how many people are actually going to the city they fly into. I know that if I fly to see my parents (or husband's parents) they live in a different city from the airport an hour away. 

So my suggestion is if you are flying into a city you haven't explored, spend the first day or two of your trip doing so. Or drive to another close destination.

Around Christmas, destinations like Hawaii often have a bigger price tag on tickets because everyone wants to escape the cold. Embrace it for a good experience and cheaper travel. Canada's Thanksgiving is in October, so the end of November is just a regular weekend for them, making Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, etc... a good option. And flights to international destinations are often a bargain during this time of year, too.


If you're bringing gifts, don't wrap them.
If you are passing through a security checkpoint or a border crossing, don't waste your time or money wrapping presents before you arrive. The TSA has the right to open any package you bring on an airplane. I have had things opened and gosh bless them, they at least try and re-wrap it, but not wrapping the gifts makes it easier on you and them.

Of course you can ship gifts ahead of time to if you don't think you can fit them into your suitcase, but generally I can find enough room to make a carry on suitcase work for me.


Pack snacks.
I think this goes for me anywhere anytime. I love food. But this way you will decrease any added expenses of food while you travel to and from. Airports and Convenience Stores are way pricier than the same thing you can get at the grocery store before hand.


What's your best advice for traveling during the holidays?

December 7, 2016

Tis The Baking Season: 13 Tips and Tricks

Tis the season for an increase in baking! Fa la la la la! Being a self taught Cooking/Baking 101 girl, I thought I would share thirteen (a baker's dozen) tips. These are tips that have helped keep me sane in the kitchen baking. I still have not been able to make my own pie crust. So obviously not a greatly skilled baker, but for simple baking, these are the tips and tricks that work. Oh, and anyone who thinks they have a fool proof crust recipe for me may come forward. 

Yay tips!
Use Room Temperature Ingredients
Unless otherwise stated, all ingredients should be room temperature. It will tell you if it wants cold eggs, butter, sour cream, water, etc...


There Are A Lot Of Flours
Seriously. Bread flour and all-purpose flour are sometimes interchangeable on a 1:1 ratio, but sometimes they are not. Bread flour has a higher protein content and has more gluten for more chew. If you are in a crunch and do not have time to experiment interchanging flours, just go with what the recipe calls for. You can make a lot of your own flours, but I usually buy my all purpose, bread flour, and whole wheat flour. Cake flour on the other hand is easy to make! Remove 2 teaspoons of all purpose flour for every cup you need for your recipe and replace it with cornstarch. Sift it together four or five times and BAM, you have cake flour.


Gravity Happens
A lot of people say to give berries or fruit a good toss in flour before adding them to batter. If you really do not want them to sink, add them to the top of whatever you are baking. I have tried  the berries or fruit pieces a good toss in a couple tablespoons of flour before adding them to the batter. I have heard people say this is not necessary, but I find it massively successful. Not 100%, but it doesn't take much more work for me to do them. If you really don't want chocolate chips or fruits sinking in your muffins, but the batter in your cups and add the fruits/chips to the top of it then.


Help your Dough Rise
I can’t promise you this will work every single time, but this method has worked really well for me. When it is a little cooler in your kitchen (below 70 degrees), wrap a heating pad in a thin towel, then turn it on low and place it on a counter top. Place your dough, in its bowl or loaf pan and covered, on top of the heating pad. That little extra bit of heat makes some serious magic happen. If you don't have a heating pad, then you can place it near the oven/stove where it is often warmer. Do not put it on top of the stove or oven while using. That can get too hot for the dough. I have been told that you can also just let it rise in the microwave.


How to Store Breads
If it is a crusty bread, store it in a paper bag and if it is soft or enriched (baked with eggs or milk), store it in an airtight container or plastic. When I make my own breads, and am not going to eat them fast enough, I like to refrigerate my breads to extend their shelf life. I know is sacrilege to some but it is just how I roll (get it, roll, bread?!? haha!). I have never frozen my homemade bread, but I have frozen store bought bread. I wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil before sticking it in the freezer bag.


Frost Your Cake Like A Pro
Most baked goods are domed. Your bread loaf, your cupcakes, but NOT your cake. Everyone wants flat cakes because it makes it easier to frost. Try this, if your cake recipe calls for 350 degrees, try baking it at 325. It will take longer, but it will bake more evenly. Then refrigerate your cakes so that they firm up making them easier to frost. I'll let you decide if a crumb layer is worth it to you.


Butter Me Up
Generally I use unsalted butter for everything. This way I can add salt and better control how much salt is in my recipe. That is nit picky though. You can really generally use whichever butter you have.


Store Your Ingredients Correctly
When in doubt, throw it out. But here is a short little guide on how to store and how long your ingredients keep:

Vanilla: My favorite, because it does not spoil!
Brown Sugar: Store in an airtight container. It has the tendency to become very hard. If it does, follow these instructions to soften it because you never want to use those clumps.
Powdered and Granulated Sugar/Flours: I have never seen those go bad. Most people will say to store in cool, dry, and an airtight space. I follow two of those. I keep my sugars in beautiful glass stores and they have been perfectly perfect!
Honey: They say it expires in 12 months. I would just smell it. Toss it (or anything) really if there is an odor. But if your honey crystallizes, warm it up back into a liquid again and then re-store it!
Baking Powder: Store in a dry, cool place. To test if it is still good, mix 1 teaspoon with 1/3 cup of hot water. If it foams, it is still good.
Baking Soda: Store like baking powder and to test if it is still good, place 1 1/2 teaspoons with 1 tablespoon of vinegar. If it fizzes, then it is good. On the plus side, if it doesn't, you can place the baking soda in the fridge and it becomes an odor catcher!


Follow Instructions
Don't believe anyone that says you can substitute butter with any kind of oil or margarine are fools. Substitute at your own risk. I find often, it does not come out like it should. Oh and let your oven preheat all the way. I know after you have put all the work into brownies, you just want to throw them in, but let the oven preheat completely. Baking is a science and cooking an art. So while you may be able to throw some food into an oven not completely preheated, I would not do it with your baked goods.


Fix Your Frosting
I cannot tell you how many times I have messed up frosting. If it is to thick, stir in 1 spoonful of milk until you reach the right consistency. If it is too thin (my usual problem) add powdered sugar.


Chocolate Rules
Chocolate chips often come in milk chocolate, semi sweet, and bitter sweet. Semi sweet is dark chocolate and bitter sweet is extra dark chocolate. But when melting chocolate, use bars not chips. Chips have additives that help them hold their shape while baking. So obviously you can see how great this is for cookies, and not so great it is for making a ganache.


Fake It Till You Make It
I mean, we are all really busy. Sometimes we need to resort to a store bought pie or a store bought brownie mix. There are so many ways to elevate those! Here are three of my favorite ways to elevate them:

Brownie Ice Cream: Because yum.
Fruit Pizza: I mean making your own sugar cookies is easy, but if you don't have time, decorate them with bright fruit!
Brownie Cookies: I love how easy and yummy these are. I may make them for the neighbors again!
Two Ingredient Cookies: Because what says easy and yummy more than canned pumpkin and spice cake mix?!
Updating Pumpkin Pie: Some of these from the Kitchn look really good!
When In Doubt, Have Your Go To Baking Resources
Ingredient Substitutions from Life Love Lauren
Cutting Recipes in Half from The Nest
Baking School from The Kitchn


What are some tips that have served you well in the kitchen?

December 5, 2016

Oreo Balls

I am really enjoying writing blog posts in front of my Christmas tree. There is nothing more magical than the Christmas season! I have had jam packed weekends so I put my decor earlier than normal (read: before Thanksgiving). I did wait till Thanksgiving to have my Christmas lights put up. I worked and my husband was a doll and dressed the house. Thankfully we don't have to worry about snowy weather that will dictate when we put up our lights, but that also means I have never really had a white Christmas...

Anyway, Christmas to me also means some yummy baked goods. Oreo Balls are my husband's favorite and I can thank my mom for this recipe!

I use my food processor to crush the Oreos and then just add the cream cheese to it and it works great! A food processor is definitely something I am happy I registered for and have as a part of my kitchen krew.

Oh and I am not a girl who needs everything brand name, I like to save a few bucks, but Oreo cookies are needed. I would not get the off brand. It just is not as good.


Ingredients:

2/3 of an Oreo Cookie package, finely crushed
1 (8 ounce) package of cream cheese, softened
16 ounces of semi sweet baking chocolate, melted

Directions:

Mix Oreo cookies and cream cheese until well mixed.

Shape into small balls and freeze or refrigerate until cool and formed.

Dip balls into melted chocolate and place on pan lined with wax paper.

Optional: sprinkle with crushed Oreo cookies, crushed candy cane, or leave plain. Either way, these are sure to please! Place in refrigerator until cool. Once cool, store in an airtight container in your fridge and bring them out to any party or for a sweet treat on any night! They are simple and sure to be a hit!


When do you decorate for Christmas?

December 2, 2016

Five on Friday: Birthday Edition

In addition to holiday season, three very important people have near Thanksgiving birthdays. My husband, my sister and best girlfriend have birthdays all around Thanksgiving. Between that and working Thanskgiving, it has been a busy time of year...

One:
Kevin had his golden birthday! I feel bad for him with his birthday so close to Thanksgiving, but I knew I wanted to make this one special for him. I did scare him a little bit by getting into a car accident. I am sore, everyone was fine, but my poor car is totaled. And right before the holidays and right after a full tank of gas, oil change, and brand new dashboard. Great huh? But at least everyone is safe!

But back to men's birthdays, they are so hard! Let's face it, doing something cutesy pertaining to the golden birthday is probably more fun for girls than for guys. Never the less, I think there are some simple efforts that your guys will appreciate for the golden birthday.
One. A Golden Gift: I got him a brand new cell phone! Something special is much deserved!
Two. A Golden Cake: I got golden candles and contrasted it with a beautifully dark cake. Very easy. Sure he had to share with my sister for 21, but he enjoyed it!
Three. A Golden Decor: Simple gold balloons, some gold confetti, and a nice table setting are all that is needed!
Four. Golden Fun: Love this idea from Hostess With The Mostess. Spray paint and fill with his favorite candy. It will bring him back!
DIY Gold Burro Pinata - Before and After
Five. Golden Card: I mean. Happy Golden Birthday!

Two:
My sister turned 21. I put her cake together with Kevin's. I also let her practice put IVs in me. Oh to be in Nursing School again...

Three:
My girlfriend and I only had time to go out for a glass bottle of wine, but I made sure I spoiled her with some good gifts and can't wait to spend some more time over Christmas with her!
Four:
I had to really be careful online because of Gilmore Girls. I am the biggest Gilmore Girls fan, but I was busy working and travelling to get to see my sister for her 21st birthday. Well, I was finally able to watch it! Seriously, what did everyone think of it? Life is not always happy go lucky, but I wasn't expecting Rory to be such a shit show. Being the other woman, being petulant...no wonder she is failing in the real world.

Five:
No worries, I have still made time for me. Charity events, friend time, and football! I love this time of year!


What did you think of Gilmore Girls?

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