Although I believe that every year is special in its own way, this past year was pretty memorable. As usual, some of the memories of 2013 will be beautiful and wonderful just as they are, while others, though sad, will remind me of just how resilient I really am. And, if you know me at all, you’ll know that I will probably cry recounting either the good or not-so-good things of 2013. That’s just what I do. One time, my husband made me watch this YouTube video of military troops members reuniting with their families. If you’ve seen it, you will not be surprised to know I was a blubbering fool. If you haven’t – go watch it, but prepare to be a blubbering fool. The fact that I am a military wife and you may not be will not matter in the slightest. Go on – I dare you.

I wanted to start off the year, not with a list of resolutions, but with a list of my favorite things from 2013. Then, as I thought back, I noticed how prevalent food was, so I went with it. (Side note: Maybe one of my resolutions needs to be to have less things revolve around food.) I hope maybe one of these fits into a resolution you have set, or motivates you to do something different or fun. My resolutions for 2014 include doing more of this stuff, since most of it really did make me smile (even if I was cursing first).

Favorite Tabletop Decor: It’s A Tie

I’m already pretty terrible at this list if my very first category is a tie. But I loved these so much, and for different reasons, so you get them both.

Monster Fruit

One of my favorite little guys, my nephew, turned 3 this fall and he wanted a Monsters Inc themed party. Using watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, limes, grapes, and any other fruit you’d like, I made him his very own fruit monster.

monster

  1. Cut the watermelon in half and scoop out the inside of the half you plan to use for the head. Put the watermelon in a bowl to use later (or to snack on as you work).
  2. On the cut end, use a knife to carefully cut the mouth and teeth.
  3. For the eyes, I used two toothpicks to put two blueberries in the top of the head. Then I sliced a lime and used two slices and two more toothpicks to put behind the eyes.
  4. Use a grape and one more toothpick for the nose.
  5. Fill in the plate the mouth with fruit. Cut up the other half of the watermelon to mix in if you want.

Candy Cane Card Holder

With Christmas at my house this year, I wanted some festive but simple decorations. These card holders were perfect to label the appetizers, food and dessert, and signature drinks (oh yes I did). You need candy canes, pretty ribbon, and twisty ties (if you don’t have twisty ties, any color curling ribbon will work). My tip for this one would be to buy some extra candy canes. You need three per holder, plus the ones you’ll eat while you work, plus the ones you’ll replace when you tie a ribbon too tight and it breaks the cane. (For those of you wondering, I did feel a little bit like He-Man when I broke a place card holder with nothing more than ribbon and sheer finger strength).

photo (11)

  1. Take three candy canes and lay them on your table together, with the top (hook) parts all together.
  2. Put a twisty tie/piece of curling ribbon under the canes, as close to the hooks as you can (in the picture above, the red curling ribbon is a little high, so I eventually pushed it down closer to the hooks). Tie it into a tight knot.
  3. Take a piece of pretty ribbon and put it under the bottom (non-hook) part of the candy canes. Tie this into a bow.
  4. Now move your hooks so that they make a pedestal. Push the back one up a little so that the holder has a nice slant to it.
  5. Practice putting a card in to make sure that it stays.

You may need to mess with these a few times throughout the day. As is true with anything you make in bulk, some of these turned out great, while others were a little more wobbly. I made a few extras so, rather than throwing them through the window, I could simply discard the disagreeable ones and replace them with more cooperative candy canes.

Favorite Easy-Peasy Dinner: Pizza Casserole

Source: adapted from Taste of Home

So, if you take nothing away from today’s post, please take this recipe. I make this at least twice a month at the request of my husband and to the delight of my son and anyone who happens to be joining us for dinner. When my oven was broken, I became sad when I realized I couldn’t make this again until it was fixed. In fact, I feel like I might need to make this over the weekend, now that I think about it.

My New Year’s resolution should really be to get better at taking pictures when I cook. This recipe is so easy, though, you can do it even without pictures. I did, I swear. And you know how I feel about recipes without pictures.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 package (8oz) egg noodles
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion (optional)
  • 1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
  • 1 can (10oz) diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups (one bag) of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups (one bag) of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1-2 cups (1/2-1 bag) of shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Sliced pepperoni (we like to get the long stick and cut our own pieces that are thicker than the bagged)

Instructions

  1. Boil water and cook noodles according to package directions; drain.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook turkey (and onion, if you are using it) over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain.
  3. Stir in the spaghetti sauce and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Stir in noodles.
  4. Transfer to one greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dishes. Sprinkle with cheeses and pepperoni.
  5. Bake, uncovered, at 350° for 30-35 minutes or until heated through and cheeses have melted.
  6. Turn on the broiler for a few minutes to let the cheeses get browned and crispy. Keep a close eye on it to avoid burning! (I usually set a timer for 1 minute and keep checking until I’m happy with how it looks). Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

It will look something like this when you are done, except the pepperonis will be thick and curled up like little upside down umbrellas:

067e6947cda368d644d4045447a42458

Favorite Crockpot Meal: Herbed Turkey Breast with Orange Gravy

2013 was the year of the Myrick Crockpot, so this was a tough one. I made a couple pretty yummy dishes, if I do say so myself, but I think this one wins as my favorite, because it was easy, delicious, and just different enough to be inventive but not weird. I liked this so much that I actually had planned to make it for Christmas dinner. But then, we got the pretty new oven, and my husband and I were wanting to use it. So I went from making an easy turkey breast to 25 lb turkey four days before Christmas. Sounds about right.

Again, with the no pictures. I suck. I know. Thank you, food.com for posting pictures for me to borrow.

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 -3 lbs skinless boneless turkey breasts (mine was broken up in two breasts)
  • 1 1/2 cups orange juice
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch (or 3 tbsp flour)

Instructions

  1. Place onion in crock pot. Combine rosemary, garlic, and black pepper in a small bowl; set aside. In turkey breast(s), cut slices about 3/4 of the way through at 2(ish)-inch intervals.
  2. Rub garlic mixture in the cuts (I used a basting brush which worked well).
  3. Place turkey breasts cut side up on top of the onions in the crock pot. Pour orange juice over the turkey; cover. Cook on low for 7-8 hours. picBgkXHj
  4. When the turkey is done, remove it from the crockpot and let it sit on a cutting board while you make the gravy.
  5. Combine the water and cornstarch. Pour into the crock pot juices and cook on high for about 15 minutes, or until the gravy is thickened. Carve the turkey and serve with gravy and whatever other sides you’d like. We did rice and broccoli, I think.

picFdCBDI

Although we didn’t make this for Christmas dinner, I was determined still to get some of the orange gravy goodness. This was easy using the juices from my big ol’ Christmas dinner turkey: Orange Rosemary Turkey Gravy.

Favorite Kitchen Accessory: Dual Citrus Squeezer

Possibly the best part of getting more involved in the kitchen is the stuff. Holy Moses, there are some cool things for the kitchen! I am fairly certain that my brand new, gorgeous tangerine Kitchen Aid standing mixer will win as favorite kitchen accessory for 2014. However, in 2013, the winner was my Dual Citrus Squeezer from Crate & Barrel. This squeezer actually started out as something my husband (who equally loves C & B) bought for the bar downstairs. However, he soon had to replace it when I stole this one. Literally every time he went to use it, I had it upstairs. This baby makes you want to put lemons and limes in everything. I have made more homemade guacamole (which, I should add, is amazingly simple if you use this gadget that my friend, Barbara, got me for Christmas), more sauces, and more lemon cookies than I ever would have before. And, it makes one mean margarita. We now have two in our house – one for each floor, or as I like to think about it, one for guacamole and one for margaritas. WIN.

In case you run out and buy one of these today, here are a couple recipes that you will love yourself for making:

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

Lemony Potato Salad

Grilled Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Salad with Honey Lime Dressing

Favorite Tip: Green Onions

I love this tip because I hate buying green onions. It’s not that they are expensive, but they are thin and little and I end up forgetting about them a lot of the time as they get shoved further and further down into my refrigerator’s veggie drawer. I tried this tip, and it was awesome. I am never buying these again.

TIP: The next time you have green onions, don’t throw away the white ends. Submerge them in a glass of water and place them in a sunny window. Your onions will begin to grow almost immediately and can be harvested almost indefinitely. Just use kitchen scissors to cut what you need!

Happy Crafting and Cooking to Everyone in 2014 xoxo

Advertisements