Everyday Mom's Meals: 2013

Monday, December 30, 2013

Bitter Cold

Has the deep freeze of winter found it's way to your neck of the woods yet? I can honestly say, it found us in Indiana, and much sooner than what we are normally used to. Sure, we live in the Midwest, and during winter we know it's going to get cold...very cold, but when the wind chill factors are in the negative digits 2 weeks before Christmas, before the first official day of winter, they seem even more harsh to our bodies that are trying to adapt.

We're talking the kind of cold that takes your breath away the second you step out into it. The kind of cold that you feel like you have to squint when you're outside. Not because the sun is too bright...there is no sun...but you're afraid your eyes are going to freeze open! That kind of bone chilling cold is exactly what we were dealing with the day I made this soup.

We love soup, anytime, but no other time more than when we are freezing. When the thermometer can't get above zero, it just makes the soup taste better. It fills you up, thaws you out, and helps your body to feel more human-like again.

Now, if you're like my husband and after reading the recipe ask "Um, where is the protein?", don't worry. You won't miss it! Yep, it's all veggies, of every color you can think of, hanging out to make something so delicious I guarantee you will be making it again and again during these cold winter months. Plus, you can add other veggies, substitute others out, the possibilities are endless!

If you feel like you will never be warm again, think about hot sunny days spend on the warms sands of a beach somewhere. Go to that happy place in your head; and then make this soup!

Slow Cooker Veggie Soup Adapted from Hometown Christmas
3 (14 oz.) cans chicken or vegetable broth
3/4 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, with juice
2 medium zucchini, diced
2 medium yellow squash, diced
8 small red potatoes, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
1/2 TBS dill weed
1 TBS dried oregano
1 TBS dried parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste
Green Onions, for garnish

Place all ingredients, except green onions in Crock Pot. Stir to combine. Cook on HIGH for 1 hour. Reduce heat and cook on LOW for 6 more hours. Garnish with green onions before serving.

Soup at Very Good Recipes

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas Eve!!

Today, since it's Tuesday, normally I would not have a new recipe for you. However, being a special day, I wanted to have something yummy to share. So, I asked my dear sweet friend Bekki (whom you usually see on Saturday with Soul Food Saturday) to come into the EMM kitchen and whip something up. But, what she has to share is actually something I made years ago that I shared with her and she decided to try too.

About 7 years ago I hosted Adam's family for the first time on Christmas Eve. It was actually a last minute type of thing due to illness, and while I wasn't responsible for all the food, I wanted to make dessert something truly yummy and festive for my first holiday party in our home! This recipe was so incredibly easy and was a huge hit with everyone. Bekki took the original and has made it her own. If you're looking for something for tonight or tomorrow, there is still time to make this!

Happy Christmas Eve to all of you, thank you for sharing some of your day with me.
Today I am sharing a recipe that is now part of our family table, and has graced the Everyday family table as well. During my childhood every Christmas Eve was spent at my Mama Lupe’s house. Her home was always warm, and smelled of spices, and delicious food. It always started with dinner and continued through the night. There was always a big pot of home made hot chocolate on the stove, and big pots waiting for the mountain of tamales being made by all aunts, uncles, and cousins. The younger of us were shuffled out of the small kitchen with mugs full of chocolate that warmed our hands and our bellies. But no matter the amount of times we were asked to please step out we were back nosing in discussion or stealing “tastes” of the delectable meat fillings lining the counter top. The house was filled with music and Christmas movies always had a place in part of our evening. The fireplace reminded us children that Santa would be coming, but it never seemed soon enough. We often thought if we laid close enough to it that maybe, just maybe we’d catch a glimpse of that snow white beard and hear the reindeer bells. Now that we have all grown up, many of us with families of our own are making new memories. 2 of my husband’s absolute favorite treats are ice cream and cookies. I haven’t found any that didn’t make him happy. So this recipe had to be tested in our house, and shared with ones we love. Peppermint ice cream with an Oreo crust, how could that be bad? With whipped topping and white chocolate peppermint bark pieces on top. Yes it really is that good! Grab a spoon and a friend this one is best shared!

Peppermint Oreo Pie Adapted from Taste of Home
2 Oreo cookie crusts
1 half gallon peppermint Ice Cream, softened
2-8oz Cool Whip, thawed
1 package White chocolate peppermint bark pieces
1 jar hot fudge sauce for drizzle on top
Plastic wrap for wrapping before freezing
Thaw cool whip in the fridge completely before using. Place ice cream on a plate on your counter to soften, enough to scoop easily with a large spoon. Remove wrapping from pre-made Oreo pie shells and set aside. Take cool whip out and mix containers to ensure they are completely thawed and free of lumps, then set aside. When ice cream has softened just enough, scoop half of container into first pie shell. And repeat with the second half into the second shell. Top each with cool whip and sprinkle peppermint bark pieces to finish. Wrap in each in plastic wrap and place in the freezer.
Remove just before serving and allow at least 10 minutes before slicing.
 *Being frozen it could be difficult to slice through, so care and patience is necessary here* 
Drizzle hot fudge over each slice as desired. Enjoy! Merry Christmas, and let them eat Peppermint Oreo Pie!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Old Fashion Holiday Baking

Today is one of those recipes that when you are making it, it instantly feels like Christmas. Even if you aren't quite in the holiday spirit, it forces you to be!

For me, it brought back memories of the way my grandmas' houses smelled all those Christmases from my childhood spent in Pennsylvania, surrounded by snow covered mountains. The day I made this for my family was bitterly cold, there were snowflakes falling, we had all the Christmas lights lit in the house, and the house filled with all the aromas we love this time of year. I was immediately in a better mood and truly felt "Christmasy" in my heart.

Are you looking for a special dessert for Christmas Eve (that's tomorrow, in case you aren't paying attention) or maybe Christmas Day? Your family will love this, and you will love how easy it is. But honestly, you could also serve this as a breakfast treat early Christmas morning! This, a cup of coffee or cocoa, and your day will start off deliciously.

We are all so busy this time of year. Dashing from here to there, shopping til we drop, attending party after party, trying to fit all the fun of the holiday season into just a few weeks. But I promise if you take about an hour out of the hustle and bustle, to make this, your holiday will instantly be transported back to the days of old. When the holidays were simpler, and families were more interested in spending the day in the kitchen baking and making memories than fighting the crowds at the mall. I think we can all use some old fashion holiday brought into homes this year, and this is the perfect way to start!

And a special note from me to you: This will be the last post of mine before Christmas. Bekki will be here tomorrow with a special recipe for Christmas Eve, so I didn't want to sign off without wishing each and every single one of you a very Merry Christmas from my family to yours~ May it be filled with those whom you love most in the world, and the spirit of the Lord, goodwill and peace to men that the oh so tiny baby brought to the world in a stable all those years ago!

 "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. "

Snowy-Day Gingerbread From Hometown Christmas
2 1/3 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
1 c. molasses
3/4 c. hot water
1/2 c. shortening
1 egg
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
1 TBS ground ginger
1 TBS cinnamon

Preheat oven to 325. Spray a 9" deep dish pie plate with vegetable spray. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Beat with an electric mixer, on LOW, scraping bowl occasionally, for 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed, scraping, for 3 minutes. Pour batter into pie plate. Bake for 50 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Serve with whipped topping if desired.
*NOTE* To easily remove molasses from measuring cup, rinse it out with HOT water first. The molasses will slide right out!


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Soul Food Saturday #36

Welcome to the last weekend before Christmas. I hope you're ready because time is flying! If you're finalizing your menu plan, especially the party foods, Bekki has a great idea for you today!

Bacon Wrapped Asparagus with Chipotle Mayo
2 lb fresh asparagus ends trimmed
12 slices turkey bacon, uncooked
1/2 c. Unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp Granulated garlic
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Divide asparagus spears into 12 bundles (2-3 pieces each). Wrap 1 piece of bacon around each bundle, starting 1/2" from bottom of the tips. Secure the bacon with a toothpick. Arrange bundles in a shallow baking pan.
Combine seasoning in a small bowl. Pour mixture over asparagus bundles.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until spears have begun to wilt and bacon looks fully cooked.
Chipotle Mayo
1 c. real mayo
3 chipotle peppers with 2 tbs. Adobo sauce
In a blender, add chipotles, and Adobo sauce. Blend until peppers are finely chopped and nearly smooth. Add mayo and blend until smooth. This recipe can easily be doubled, and lasts just as long as regular mayo when kept in closed container.

Meal Plan Dec. 22-27

*New Recipe
Links to recipe on blog

Sunday (leftover from previous menu)
Tomato Soup
Grilled Cheese
Sliced Peaches

Chicken, Broccoli & Rice Casserole
Mandarin Oranges

Merry Christmas Eve
I'm taking Pheasant Noodle Soup and Deviled Eggs to my in-laws.

I'm taking Cranberry Sauce and Sauteed Parsnips to my parents.

Beef Roast
Roasted Acorn Squash
Boiled Red Potatoes

Whole Wheat Penne with Eggplant Tomato Sauce*
Garlic Bread

Friday, December 20, 2013

No, Mommy Can't Do That

One week folks! That's right, in case you haven't been paying attention, we only have 7 days until the big day! Have your kids been counting down for days now? Heck, have you? Do you still have a ton of things on your to-do list? Rather you are ready or not, it's coming and fast!

But if one of the things on your list is to find a great idea for Christmas morning breakfast, your favorite everyday mom has you covered! Stay calm and relax because you've come to the right place and I have a great idea for you.

This recipe came about because of a request from my son. He decided to ask me if I would make omelets for supper one night. Now, breakfast for supper is a very common occurrence in this house, so that wasn't the issue. The problem was what he asked for. See, I can't make an omelet in the skillet to save my life. If you have ever seen my recipe for Baked Omelet I talked about this at length. How I've tried and tried and they just never come out right, so I admitted defeat and began baking a big omelet in the oven.

So, I explained to my son how this was just one food request I didn't think I could come through on, but I promised to take the baked omelet idea and turn up the factor a little, just for him. And that is when these mini baked omelets were born. I figured take some fresh ingredients, add some eggs, put everything in a muffin tin and bake it. I get the ease of a baked version, and the little guy gets omelets just his size.

These would be perfect for Christmas morning, or a brunch where you have to feed a crowd. You can pump out a whole pan of these in almost no time; and you can even swap out the ingredients in every single cup to fit everyone's favorites. Don't stand over the stove in a make shift omelet bar. Do this instead and feed everyone in almost no time at all!

There aren't many requests I will deny my son, but when it's something I have accepted I can't do, and moved on with my life, I have to find another way to make his wish come true. After all, I'm his Mommy and that's my job!

Egg, Broccoli and Ham Muffins
1 (12 oz.) bag frozen chopped broccoli, thawed
1 (8 oz.) bag diced ham
1 (8 oz.) bag Mexican style cheese
12 eggs, beaten
Salt an Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a muffin tin liberally. Equally divide broccoli, ham and cheese among tin, only filling each vessel about 1/3 of the way. Pour eggs over, evenly, reaching 3/4 way to top. (They will puff when cooked) Bake for 25-30 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Let sit 5 minutes and then carefully run knife along edge to loosen.

Shared on The Country Cook Dec. 20, 2013

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Rice n Simple {A Review}

Our family loves rice. And I love convenience. And I really love when I can feel good about giving my family something that was also convenient for me to prepare. (A busy lady will always take help where she can!) Let me introduce you to Rice n Simple, my favorite new product that falls under all of these categories!

Rice n Simple is a young company that is dedicated to providing its customers with an option for enhanced energy, flexibility and creativity by offering the highest quality rice in addition to the most deliciously flavored sauces for a healthy lifestyle. Rice n Simple was established on the philosophy that being healthy and eating healthy is essential to living a balanced, simple and harmonious life. The company strives to connect with its customers through one of the simplest things life has to offer, quality food; and with the simplest nutrient rich food in the world, rice.

Rice n Simple’s Jasmine Rice is imported from Thailand and selected for its delicious flavor, unique texture and naturally distinctive aroma. Long considered to be the most prestigious rice in the world, it was named after the sweet-smelling jasmine flower and grown in the mountain highlands of Thailand for centuries.

Now, thanks to Rice n Simple, this delicious rice can be enjoyed with just one quick minute of cooking time.  What truly sets Rice n Simple apart is their signature premium sauces that add a burst of flavor to the already flavorful Jasmine Rice. Current signature offerings include:

·         Jasmine Rice with Shoyu (Soy) Sauce
·         Jasmine Rice with Shiitake Mushroom Glaze
·         Jasmine Rice with Teriyaki Glaze
·         Brown Rice with Shoyu (Soy) Sauce
·         Brown Rice with Shiitake Mushroom Glaze
·         Brown Rice with Teriyaki Glaze

Rice n Simple products are also available in brown rice versions for a mild, nutty flavor that is rich in fiber and nutrition. All of the delicious varieties are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates, contain no preservatives and are trans-fat and cholesterol free. They also require no refrigeration so they can be stored in the pantry for easy week meal option, or a great "take with you" lunch idea! 

I will tell you exactly what I did with my samples! I was in a rush, had some egg rolls in the freezer and thought "rice would be perfect." As they cooked in the oven, each one of us got to pick out the flavor of rice we wanted, and within minutes we each had a perfectly cooked side of rice for supper. 

Now, you might be thinking, "How good can rice that is cooked in the microwave be?" Well, let me tell you it was truly some of the best at home rice I've ever had! It was fluffy, tender and above all flavorful! My favorite? The Jasmine Rice with Teriyaki Glaze. Oh my word! It was so delicious! I couldn't get enough! But truthfully, you can't go wrong with any of the flavor options! Each is more tasty than the next. 

Rice n Simple products are available for purchase online at www.Amazon.com and select Kroger locations in Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama and throughout the Mid-Atlantic states for $2.49-2.79. Look for availability in retailers nationwide in the coming months. As a product of Taiwan, Rice n Simple imports its Jasmine rice from Thailand and its brown rice from the USA.

Disclaimer: I received free samples in exchange for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Twist On a NYE Favorite

If you know me personally, or have been following the blog for a while now, you know we have a very fun tradition in this house for New Year's Eve. It doesn't involve getting all dressed up, or heading out with the masses. What it does involve is plenty of family time and yummy food. Each December 31st we ring in the new year here at home, just the 3 of us, watching movies or holiday specials, or even mixed martial arts on the tv, all while enjoying a buffet of our favorite appetizers. I filled the table with a huge variety of our most enjoyed "nibbly bits" (as Alex calls them) and we eat all night long, warm and safe in our home.

Today's recipe is a new twist on one of my husband's favorite things I put out on this buffet every year. Probably what is the most simple appetizer ever created. Dried Beef Rolls. You've had these, right?? Cream cheese spread on dried beef, rolled and cut into bite sized pieces. I still remember the first year I made them for him. I had all these amazing dishes sitting out, some kind of complicated, and these simple rolls that took me all of 10 minutes to make were the one thing he was most excited about. The thing he went on and on about. The thing he could not get enough of. I was like "All of this food, and that is what you are most excited about?" Hey, he likes the simple things, what can I say? So every year since they are always included in our New Year's Eve feast.

But this year I will be switching it up just a little, with this fantastic dip that is super tasty, and almost just as easy. It really doesn't take much more time and has incredible flavor. It would be perfect for any holiday party, rather it be next week for Christmas, or if like me you're already planning how to welcome in 2014. It will be here before we know it!

Creamy Beef Spread From Hometown Christmas
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 c. sour cream
1/4 c. mayo
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 green onion, finely chopped, plus extra for garnish
1 (2.5 oz.) jar dried beefy, finely chopped and divided

In a bowl beat cream cheese until smooth. Add remaining ingredients, reserving 2 TBS dried beef. Mix well and transfer to a serving bowl. Sprinkle with reserved beef and extra onion. Cover and chill until serving. Serve with crackers.

Shared on The Country Cook Dec. 20, 2013

Monday, December 16, 2013

Don't Party In The Kitchen

Christmas is only a little over 1 week away! And I have one question for you. How many holiday parties have you been to thus far? Is your calendar over flowing? Is your dance card full? Have you been to many already, with many still to come? Have you hosted any yet? Are you trying to plan one for next week, or maybe even New Year's Eve? Tis the season for parties, parties and more parties, and today I've got a great appetizer/party food your guests will love and will keep you in the party, not watching from the kitchen.

I love party foods; but I especially love those that I can either make ahead of time and have waiting on me, or those that can be assembled as needed, as the night goes on, so hungry guest can easily be satisfied, without me missing out on all the fun! 

Bruschetta is one of my favorite appetizers of all time, but this time I wanted to switch it up a little and make one featuring olives instead of tomatoes. And not just every day olives, but kalamata olives! They are a little fancier in my mind, and it is the holiday season after all! 

Your guests will love the crisp bread, briny olives, and the salty nutty flavor of the Parmesan. It's a fantastic twist on a traditional bruschetta everyone will find refreshing and unique. Plus, you can make the olive mixture, keep it chilling in the fridge and then just bake off more bread as you need it, topping tray after tray all night long!

Holiday parties are meant to be enjoyed by all, and that includes the host/hostess! No where is there a rule saying if you are the "hostess with the mostess" you have to be in the kitchen all night, making sure everyone else is fed and having a good time while you miss out. Enjoy all those parties over the next couple weeks, it will be a whole year until they are here again!

Olive Bruschetta
20-24 Slices French bread or baguette about 1/4" thick
1 c. kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
2 tsp. dried basil
2 tsp. dried parsley
1/4 c. olive oil, plus more for bread
1/4 c. shredded Parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Brush both sides of bread with oil and season with salt and pepper. Place on rimmed baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes, flip and bake 8-10 minutes more. (Watch carefully, these are times for my oven, but they can burn easily!)

In a medium bowl combine olive, garlic, green onions, basil, parsley, olive oil and cheese. Mix well. If not serving right away, chill. When bread is done, allow to cool. Top with olive mixture. Garnish with extra cheese.

Shared on The Country Cook Dec. 20, 2013

Appetizers at Very Good Recipes

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Soul Food Saturday #35

Good Morning! I hope this weekend finds you warm and cozy. If you live in a part of the country, like we do, where the deep freeze set in this past week, I hope you are thawing out. Temps below 0 and wind chills around -15 are not what I consider fun! But the snow came with them, and that makes for a happy little boy! Today we've got something the kiddies will love for Christmas...and maybe they will even want to share with Santa!

Are you still looking for ideas for all those holiday parties coming your way? Don't you love when you show up with the one thing that everyone loves? Especially when the kids do too/ You know someone is going to ask you for the recipe, and why not share the holiday spirit in one more way. This is an oldie but goodie recipe for me. I have always loved our beloved Rice Krispie treats, who doesn’t? But I have also loved so many other cereals along the way. So just for you and in giving more during this holiday season here is a treat made just like our favorite, but with Pebbles cereal instead. This one uses the fruity variety keeping in tune with our Christmas theme. Grab a few bags of marshmallows you’ll want to make a few batches of these.
Christmas Treats Adapted from Rice Krispies
3 tbs. butter
1 (10 oz.) package regular marshmallows
6 c. Fruity Pebbles cereal

In a large saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.  Add fruity pebbles cereal. Stir until well coated.
Using buttered spatula or wax paper evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Cool. Cut into 2-inch squares. Best if served the same day.

Meal Plan Dec. 15- 20

*New Recipe
Links to Recipes on Blog
^ Recipes being "re-blogged"

Pork Roast
Cabbage and Noodles

Monday (leftover from last week)
Garlic Bread

We have Alex's Christmas program at church
Tomato Soup
Grilled Cheese

Mexican Black Bean Casserole*
Cottage Cheese

Smoked Sausages
Baked Home Fries
Baked Beans

Crock Pot Cheddar Potato Soup^
Bacon and Chive Crescents

Friday, December 13, 2013

Daddy's Request

Reading that title did you think maybe Mr. Everyday was asking for something special and Monkey helped me make it? Well, that does happen in our house, a lot, but in this case, I'm not talking about my baby daddy...but instead my Daddy.

That's right, I'm 32 and I still call him Daddy. Always have, always will! Sure he's a father. And yep, a dad too. But to me, his little girl, he will forever be Daddy.

About a month ago, he was telling me about this dish he had at a buffet while out on the road. (For those of you who don't know, he's an over the road truck driver.) Cris-crossing the country on a weekly basis tends to lead to him trying to find decent food at decent prices that isn't always fast food, and tastes like home cooking when he can.

So anyway, he told me he had this amazingly yummy dish and wanted me to try to recreate it. Now, I was waiting for something I would have to really research and find a recipe for. But instead, he started describing something I think has graced most American's dinner tables at one point. Poor Daddy. Sometimes he lives such a sheltered life. LOL Okay, so that isn't true. What is true is that some of the ingredients in a standard version, and this one too, are things my mom can't eat, hence why he's never had it at home. I told him I would try to come up with my own recipe and see if I could re-create a close match to have.

The week of Thanksgiving I made this for our supper, and actually took him a bowl of leftovers when we celebrated with them. Well, it was kinda late, he had had a big meal, and dessert, but I still wanted him to taste it while I was there. So, my mom heated up a small dish for him to try. Well....let's just say that small dish turned into a bigger bowl, and he finished off the entire thing before we left! Yep, it was a hit! He declared it "delicious" and "absolutely what he was looking for." In fact, he loved it so much he made me promise to make him a couple to freeze and have on hand for simple suppers when my mom isn't home.

Ya'll know how much I love casseroles, and this is definitely going to become a staple in our house. See, what I didn't tell you yet, was Daddy was lucky to get the bowl he did because my "boys" were fighting over the dish as soon as it came out of the oven! They could not get enough and loved every bite.

This is a great simple weeknight supper, or pot-luck dish! It can freeze and travel well, and feed a crowd for pretty cheap! I'm so glad my Daddy enjoyed what I came up with for him; and I'm also grateful he requested it in the first place, because look at the yummy creation it lead to!

Chicken, Broccoli and Rice Casserole
1 package chicken tenders
1 (12 oz.) bag frozen chopped broccoli, thawed and drained
8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 c. cooked rice
1/4 c. butter, diced
1 c. milk
1 (10 3/4 oz.) can cream of mushroom soup
1 (10 3/4 oz.) can cream of chicken soup
1 small onion, chopped
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375. Arrange chicken tenders on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes until done. Remove and set aside to cool enough to handle. When cool, chop or shred.  Reduce oven to 350.

In a large bowl combine cooked chicken, rice, broccoli, cheese, milk, soups, onion, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine. Spray a 9x13 dish with cooking spray. Pour chicken and rice mixture into dish and spread evenly. Top with diced butter. Bake for 30-45 minutes until heated through and cheese is melted. Stir before serving.

Shared on The Country Cook Dec. 13, 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013

LEGO Holidays

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of LEGO for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

Do your kids love LEGOs? They always seem to find their way to my son's wish list during the holiday season, and now LEGO has something fun for the whole family to do online
We all know you can build anything with LEGO, and now you can even build your own family! This holiday season LEGO has created an online experience called "Minifigure Family", which enables you to create a super cute, custom minifigure family holiday card!

Each member of your minifigure family (add up to 13 members) can be customized with different skin tones, facial expressions, outfits and more. There are even different backgrounds available, so you can set the scene! And once you've got your family looking their best, you can share it with family and friends via your social media channels.

I thought my son would get suck a kick out of seeing our little family brought to life in the LEGO world. It was so easy (3 easy steps) to "build" each minifigure to resemble each one of us. Then choosing the scene was a no brainer...it's Christmas time...we've got to be in the North Pole! It's truly something online the whole family can have fun with, parents can feel safe letting the kids participate and takes almost not time at all.

Be sure to go to www.minifigurefamily.com to create your LEGO Minifigure Family today!

Visit Sponsor's Site

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Carton Smart Christmas

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Carton Smart for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

What do you think would happen if every single person on this Earth made one small, but incredibly smart decision every single day? Sure, something that small might seem insignificant to us as individuals, but let's face it, the small things add up and pretty soon they can make a big impact! Tetra Pak applauds these small, but oh so smart decisions and the big difference they can make. And that's why this holiday season they are encouraging all of us to Become Carton Smart
Tetra Pak wants to inspire each of us to make small, smart decisions when cooking for our families and stocking our pantries throughout this holiday season. And these products from Pacific Foods, a company focusing on doing what is best for their customers, the environment, and their employees, are the perfect place to start! The starter pack is a great beginning to these smaller, smarter decisions. Included are: 
Pacific Foods Chicken Stock
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Pacific Foods Pumpkin Puree
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Pacific Foods Cranberry Sauce
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Tetra Pak® cartons are perfect for those living smartly because they are made of 70% paper, from selectively harvested, re-grown trees  that are Forest Stewardship Council certified. They use 1/3 of the packaging, compared to cans. Cartons are space saving, easy to store and easy to open. (I love that they don't take up a huge amount of space in my pantry, and are easily stackable too!) Plus, the unique packaging process preserves the flavor and nutrients of the food without the use of preservatives! They are recyclable and result in 60% landfill waste than cans. And finally, they are re-closable so you can use what you need and save the rest for later.

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With my starter pack I decided to swap out the Pumpkin Puree in one of my favorite recipes to make this time of the year. From a simple weeknight dessert to a yummy holiday party treat, this is the perfect, quick sweet treat. 

Pumpkin Fluff
1 (8 oz.) carton Pacific Foods Pumpkin Puree
1 small box instant vanilla pudding, dry
1 c. Cool Whip
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice*
In a medium bowl combine pumpkin puree and dry pudding mix. Stir well. Add pumpkin pie spice. Mix. Fold in Cool Whip to combine. Chill at least an hour before serving. Top with whipped cream if desired.
* To make pumpkin pie spice combine:
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
This will give you 1 tsp. of pumpkin pie spice. Use 1/2 for this recipe and store remainder in airtight container. 

For more info on being Carton Smart this holiday season, be sure to Tweet @CartonSmart and Follow #CartonSmart on Pinterest
How can you be #CartonSmart this holiday season? From using small, smart recipes that use ingredients in cartons or share some of your smartest holiday entertaining tips with me!
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Breakfast For A Crowd

Christmas morning breakfast or brunch. Is that something your family wants/needs? I will fully admit I'm relieved to know mine isn't. See, we get up super early, open presents, grab a quick bite and then head to my parents 20 minutes away, where my mom always has snacks for us before our huge meal in the afternoon. And Lord knows we don't want to be too full for it, so a big breakfast is not something I have to worry about!

But for those of you who need to plan on a big spread Christmas morning, or maybe hosting family for brunch, I've got a great recipe for you! One, it couldn't be easier. Two, it can bake in the oven while you enjoy time with the family. And three, it tastes amazing and can feed a crowd!

Plus, if you don't really like the ingredients, you can change them up to include your favorites, or even what you have on hand. But if you're up for it, I encourage you to make it as is. I love the sweet potato and spinach. Such great winter time flavors marrying in a brand new way!

Now, I'm not going to fib to you. When I tested this recipe, as is the case with most breakfast ones I do, this was a simple Sunday supper. So, keep that in mind too. If your family loves breakfast for dinner, it makes a simple weeknight meal too!

There are so many meals to be planned in the upcoming weeks. Wouldn't it be nice to know at least one is already on the menu? And the comfort of knowing you'll be starting your family's day off with something so delicious, filling and beautiful is just an added bonus!

Sweet Potato and Sausage Breakfast Casserole From Multiply Delicious
11 large eggs, beaten
3 c. fresh spinach, chopped
1 lb. breakfast sausage
1 TBS vegetable oil, optional
2 medium sweet potatoes, chopped
2 green onions, chopped, few reserved for garnish
Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375. Grease a 9x13 pan. In a large skillet brown sausage, drain and leave drippings. If not enough, add oil. Saute sweet potatoes until browned and tender, about 10-15 minutes. In a large bowl combine sausage, spinach, sweet potatoes and onions. Mix well. Beat eggs and season with salt and pepper. Pour spinach mixture into pan and spread evenly. Pour eggs over top. Allow to settle a couple minutes. Bake for 25-35 minutes until set. Remove and allow to sit 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with extra green onions.

Shared on The Country Cook Dec. 13, 2013

Breakfast at Very Good Recipes

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

They're back!!!

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Arby’s for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

Do remember back in May when I introduced you to the KING'S HAWAIIAN sandwiches at Arby's? Well, I did...and many of you were just as excited about them as I was! 

Well, I am so excited to tell you they are now BACK for a limited time at participating locations! That's right, the KING HAWAIIAN Roast Beef and the KING HAWAIIAN Roast Beef and Swiss are both back and better than ever! 

Served hot, and made fresh to order, there are not one, but TWO KING’S HAWAIIAN sandwiches to choose from: 
- The KING’S HAWAIIAN Roast Beef sandwich comes with an extra helping of freshly sliced roast beef, piled high on a soft and slightly sweet KING’S HAWAIIAN bun 
- The KING’S HAWAIIAN Roast Beef and Swiss sandwich has the same extra helping of roast beef and KING’S HAWAIIAN bun, topped with Swiss cheese, crunchy pickles and creamy Dijon spread

I love these sandwiches! The last time they were around I had the KING'S HAWAIIAN Roast Beef and it was oh so delicious! I love Arby's roast beef as is, but with the added flavor of the sweet Hawaiian bread, it was a new flavor combo so easy to fall in love with. But the flavor of the bun was not too much, and didn't over power the succulent roast beef one bit! If anything, it only enhanced the already yummy flavor of the meat itself.

If you didn't have the chance to try these sandwiches back in the Spring, be sure to head to your local Arby's to do so this time around! (Don't know where there is an Arby's close to you? Find an Arby's here!) If you did try them, what did you love? Are you excited to have another?

Be sure to follow Arby's on Twitter to stay up on all their current promotions and deals too!

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Christmas with Zak {A Review and Giveaway}

This Christmas, for any foodies on your list, Zak! Designs is your one stop shopping answer! They have anything and everything any home chef could want! And today I've got a great new set to show you, and the change for one lucky EMM fan to win one...keep it....give it as a gift....either way it's a great deal!

The perfect gift for for any culinary lover on your gift list, who might want to add a splash of color and touch of fun to his/her kitchen, Zak's Kitchen Prep Gift Set includes a large Duo bowl, Happy Spoon, 2-piece Luna Colander set (this allows you to wash and serve fruits and veggies without worrying about dripping water), and one of their famous Garlic Peelers-- the easiest and quickest way to get a clean clove of garlic.

I LOVE this set! The purple is simply gorgeous, and really looks great with all of my other kitchen ware. The bowl and spoon are perfect for stirring and mixing all of my favorite baked holiday treats. Deep enough for a ton of ingredients, it's perfect for big recipes. The colander is simply genius and the perfect small size for easy storage. And the garlic peeler is something every home cook should have. There is no easier way to peel garlic! One of the most tedious tasks in a recipe is now quick and easy.

Any home cook would love to add this set to their kitchen. Or maybe treat yourself to a little "happy" before Christmas! Either way this set is sure to bring functionality and fun into the kitchen.


To Enter to win this same set, simply leave a comment on this post. Tell me hi, wish me a Merry Christmas, anything you want! 

Contest Ends: Friday Dec. 13, 2013

Disclaimer :I was given one free set for myself and the chance to give one away in exchange for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Kids Cooking Made Easy {A Review}

Do your kids love being in the kitchen? Do they always want to help you, or come up with their own creations? Maybe you have a little chef on your holiday gift shopping list? If any of these ring true for you, then I've got the perfect, brand new cookbook for you!

From the creators of the "Made Easy" series of cookbooks (Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek) comes Kids Cooking Made Easy, features 60 easy-to-make kosher recipes! They are fun to make, and the instructions are simple to follow. Every recipe has a photo, and additional step by step photos.  (This is my favorite part! I like to see what the finished product is supposed to look like, and I think it's easier for kids to follow a recipe if it includes a photo!) Plus, they have also included "Cooking School" tips that teach young cooks many new techniques, like how to simmer or saute'. This takes them way beyond the stir and mix they might be used to!

Victoria says "If you are a kid and think you can't cook, you will learn very quickly that you can." For parents of picky eaters, this book could be solution. "IF your kids are too young to help, let them look at the photos and pick their favorites." Leah adds that "Once your kids are old enough, you can also bring them into the kitchen like my mother did with me. Kids feel so confident and so proud when they learn to prepare their first dishes on their own."

I always tell moms who ask me how to curb picky eaters, "Get them into the kitchen." Let them help prepare the food, touch it, smell it, "play" with it. you would be surprised at how many new things they are willing to try if they are involved in the process.

Like me, for these busy mothers, cooking with their kids is a way to spend quality time together. Sometimes those 30 minutes while supper is being made can be the most time you spend one on one with your child, talking and making memories to last a lifetime.

Recipes are categorized by sections: Dairy; Meat, Chicken, and Fish; On The Side; Snack Time; and Desserts. Just some of the tasty recipes included that your kids will love are:

* Spinach Quesadillas
*Pizza Soup
*Honey BBQ Chicken Nuggets
*Cauliflower Poppers
*Zucchini Spaghetti
*Toasted Bow Tie Chips

If you have a budding foodie on your gift list, Kids Cooking Made Easy would be the perfect gift idea! It will get kids in the kitchen creating yummy meals, snacks and desserts for the whole family to enjoy!
Disclaimer: I was given a free cookbook in exchange for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Sweet Little Bite

Sometimes the most simple conversations, that begin one way, can totally go in another direction, and lead to something wonderful (and in this case, delicious)!

A couple weeks ago I posed a question to all of my Facebook fans asking what one dish they were looking forward to most on Turkey Day. Many wonderful folks shared their family favorites, their tried and trues, their most loved traditions with me. One fan, answered with "cream cheese stuffed dates." That was it. And as I sat there reading the responses, that was one of them that really caught me eye.

I couldn't remember if I had ever had a date--that wasn't chopped up in something. I know my Grammy makes a Christmas cookie with them inside, and I'm sure I've had other sweet confections during the holidays that included them too. But to have a "whole" one so to speak, I didn't think I ever had.

So I asked the fan more about them, and she was so generous to tell me they were something her mom had always made, and were simply cream cheese and dates, and then maybe rolled in a little sugar.

Using that for inspiration, and brainstorming about some other flavors I think go so well together, especially this time of year, I came up with these little gems! They are truly the perfect sweet little bite. Finger friendly, and great for any holiday party! Plus, they can be made ahead of time, and more can be made as the party goes on, without you having to be in the kitchen too long. Simply make the filling mixture, store in the fridge, and fill as needed!

I'm so grateful for all of my fans and readers who not only enjoy making my recipes in their homes, but are so nice to share their family favorites with me! Food truly does bring people together!

Orange and Walnut Stuffed Dates
6 oz. cream cheese
6 TBS orange marmalade
1/2 c. walnuts, finely chopped (I did mine in an electric chopper)
10 oz. container pitted dates  (I found mine in the produce section)
Powdered Sugar

In a medium bowl combine cream cheese, marmalade and walnuts. Beat with an electric mixer until mixed well and somewhat smooth. Transfer to a small plastic bag. Cut tip off bag. Slice each date down center with a very sharp knife, but not the whole way through. Lay open like a book. Squeeze cream cheese mixture into each, and then fold sides back up. Chill until ready to serve. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Shared on The Country Cook Dec. 13, 2013

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Soul Food Saturday #34

Good Morning! Welcome to the first full weekend in December. Are you venturing out to do some Christmas shopping today? Or maybe headed to the local tree lot/farm to pick out the family Christmas tree for the family to decorate? Doing some baking perhaps? I love this time of year; and I'm so happy it's here again. However you are spending the weekend I hope it includes some holiday cheer!

Bekki is sharing one of my favorite restaurant recipes today! I'm so excited to have a make-at-home version that I can enjoy any time I want!

After my first visit to the south I found there were foods I couldn't go without. Because I couldn't buy a Cracker Barrel franchise and bring it to California I had to do the next best thing. Yep, make my own. I looked all over the internet for a recipe and was not particularly happy with the ones I found. But after chatting with a few family members I was given an insider tip and “His” recipe. I’ll tell you what, this was my first EVER attempt at this recipe. It was an amazing hit! My hubby and I couldn't get enough! The serving bowls were too small for the portion our bellies thought we needed. So I was reminded of my trip one more time, and full! Whether you make this for a weeknight meal or add it to your holiday table, I hope your family enjoys it as much as we have. 
Collard Greens with Smoked Ham Hocks
1 large onion, chopped
Salt to taste
2 tsp granulated garlic
2 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 c. water
4 large smoked ham hocks
1 tbs. chicken bouillon
8 c. collard greens, washed, stemmed and sliced
Heaping TBS Bacon fat
½ tsp. baking soda (optional*cuts bitterness* my preference)
In a medium pot add bacon fat and allow it to melt. Add onion, and stir to combine with fat. Cook until onions are clear. Add greens, tossing to allow fat to coat leaves. Add a pinch of salt and pepper flakes. Cook until greens turn bright and then add water with bouillon. Add ham hocks and nestle them in under the greens. Cover and cook until greens are tender, stirring occasionally. Before serving add soda if you’d like and check for seasoning adjustments.
**Note: With smoked meats, bacon fat, and bouillon they have salt on their own. So you may need more or less depending on your personal tastes. Enjoy!