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Gift Ideas for the Home Chef

I’m back with more gift giving ideas. This time, I’ve compiled a gift list for the home chef in your life.

To suit every budget, I have listed different price levels: budget, gourmet, and luxury for each of the items. Also, in (parenthesis) is the retailer who carries the item. Everything is available online, too!

Pro-quality Chef’s Knives (Sur La Table)

Every home chef needs at least one professional quality all-purpose knife in their arsenal!

  • Budget: Zwilling Pro 7” $50
  • Gourmet: Wusthof Classic Ikon 8” $120
  • Luxury:  Bob Kramer by Zwilling 8” Damascus $400

 

Home ChefCast Iron Dutch Oven/Coquette

I use my Staub cast iron cookware at least weekly. It’s ideal for making spaghetti sauce, soup, or roasting chicken and beef. The 4-5 qt is best for all-purpose use. If your home chef already has this size, the brasier in 3 qt is my second most used size.

  • Budget: Lodge Cast Iron, 5 qt. $30 (Target)
  • Moderate: Staub, 4 qt. $100 (Sur La Table)

 

Stainless Steel Saucier (Sur La Table)

Having a saucier pan really makes a difference when making sauces. The flared sides help the sauce to thicken better.

  • Budget: Sur La Table Saucier, 2 qt. $80
  • Gourmet: Demeyer Saucier, 2qt, $200
  • Luxury: Jacques Pépin Limited Edition 1.9-qt. Sauteuse with Chef’s Lid by Mauviel, $450

 

InstaPot and cookbook

This is great kitchen appliances to have, especially those pressed for space or time in the kitchen. It works as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, and rice cooker all-in-one!

  • Duo $120 (Williams-Sonoma)
  • Ultra $150 (Sur La Table)
  • Cookbook $23 (Amazon)

 

Pro-quality blender

I have yet to spring for a gourmet or pro blender, I’m still using a Ninja. But, I think I will have to step up  my game with a Vitamix soon!

  • Budget: Ninja Pro System BL 770, $150 (Amazon)
  • Gourmet: Vitamix E310 Explorian, $300 (Sur La Table)
  • Luxury: Kitchen Aid Pro Line Copper Blender, $1000 (Sur La Table)

 

Copper Cookware

Having copper cookware is my dream! I have a budget-friendly set listed, but have you seen the Mauviel (shown above)? They are works of art!

  • Budget Gourmet: Cuisinart Copper Tri-Ply 8 pc. Set, $300 (Sur La Table)
  • Luxury/Heriloom: Mauviel 12 pc Cookware Set, $1900 (Williams-Sonoma)
Home ChefInduction burner

This is that appliance that you never really think about owning, but it is so useful! We bought it to use during out kitchen reno and it has come in handy on so many occasions. Who can’t use an extra, portable burner for parties, holidays, or when it’s too hot indoors to cook?

Budget: Nuwave2 Portable Induction Cooktop Countertop Burner, $70 (Amazon)

Happy gift giving!
If you need gift ideas for the ladies, see my post HERE. Also, I’ll soon be posting additional gift giving idea guides for the gents and wine lovers, so check back soon! 

Top Holiday Gift Ideas for Women

Hi friends! So many people struggle with gift giving at this time of year. So, I combed the internet and catalogs to create a list of top gift ideas to help you out!

I believe you’ll find the perfect gift on my list for that special someone. You can buy them directly online because I’ve included the links for each item. How much easier can gift giving be?

The Feathered Nester’s Gift Giving List

1. Personalized Wine Crate Comfort Mat by Ballard Design, $49-$89.

Gifts

I love this personalized mat! In fact, that’s my mat above from our coffee bar/beverage fridge area. Not only is it gorgeous and comfortable, but is machine washable! Ballard Design offers it in three different sizes for the perfect fit.

https://www.ballarddesigns.com/personalized-wine-crate-comfort-mat/224892

2. Felina Lounge Set, Costco, $19.99

Ideas

This is the most comfortable lounger set I’ve ever worn. And, its such a bargain! My daughter and I both love it. It’s soft, non-piling, and looks flattering on. I may or may not be buying this for other family members, lol. It’s available at Costco, both in stores and online.

https://www.costco.com/Felina-Ladies’-2-piece-Lounge-Set.product.100286108.html

3. Ugg slippers, Nordstrom, $99.95

I’ve had these Ugg slippers for several years now and I love them! They’re comfortable and supportive, and I confess to occasionally wearing them around the house all day. With a water-resistant suede exterior and rubber sole, they’re ideal for indoor and outdoor wear. The soft inner lining is made from genuine shearling. I’ve included an highly rated, alternative selection through LL Bean for $59, since the Uggs are a little pricey.

Ugg Ansley slipper

https://shop.nordstrom.com/s/ugg-ansley-water-resistant-slipper-women/3164992?contextualcategoryid=2375500&origin=keywordsearch&keyword=ugg+slippers

LL Bean Women’s Slipper

https://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/112648?feat=moccasins-SR0&page=women-s-mountain-slippers-moccasin&csp=a

4. Garnet Hill Organic Cotton Hooded Sweater Tunic, $98

Nothing is more comfortable on those cold winter days than this pullover tunic. It’s super soft and has a nice, relaxed fit. Paired with leggings and boots, it’s ideal for a day of running errands. When it is chilly outside, I’ll pair it with a long-sleeved shirt under so I can skip wearing a jacket.

https://www.garnethill.com/organic-cotton-hooded-sweater-tunic/468805?&defattribvalue=main

5. Volcano Beauty Travel Set, Anthropologie, $48

This is the perfect hostess gift! Have you ever smelled a Volcano candle? If not, let me assure you that it’s Heaven. This set includes a candle, matches, bar of soap, and hand lotion. I have the hand lotion and it is ideal for moisturizing those dry, winter hands. For those who aren’t travelers, this set would look great on a nightstand or bathroom counter.

https://www.anthropologie.com/shop/volcano-beauty-travel-set?category=SEARCHRESULTS&color=040

6. Ancestry DNA kit by Ancestry, Amazon, $69

This is an ideal gift for those interested in family history and ancestry. Since Ancestry reduced the price by $30, it’s a great deal, too! There are several types of DNA tests out there. As a genealogy buff, I recommend this one. Ancestry is constantly improving and expanding on their DNA results. It’s reflected in your personal DNA dashboard, which matches you us anonymously (or through your family tree, if you make one) with genetic matches. One of the latest expansions is the ability to see  your ancestor’s migration to the U.S.

https://www.amazon.com/AncestryDNA-Genetic-Testing-Ancestry-Test/dp/B00TRLVKW0/ref=sr_1_4_s_it?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1512240648&sr=1-4&keywords=ancestry+dna+test+kit

7. Hayden Leather Charging Clutch, Olive & Cocoa, $198

This leather clutch has a hidden battery charger inside! How genius is that? Sized at 6″ x 9″ it will fit right into your purse or tote or use the wrist-strap. The roomy interior holds your essentials with credit card slots and an interior zippered coin pocket. Free shipping.

https://www.oliveandcocoa.com/product/hayden-leather-charging-clutch/s

8. Ocean & Pacific Palette, Beautycounter, $58

Inspired by the sparkling sand and glistening sea of the California coastline, Ocean & Pacific includes nine satin and shimmery hues for eyes and face. The pallet contains six shadow shades, a blush, bronzer, and highlighter. They can be used alone or blended together to achieve endless looks. Each shade gets its luxurious texture from naturally derived cocoa seed butter.

https://www.beautycounter.com/ocean-pacific-palette.html

9. Instant Pot Duo Plus 6 Qt., Williams-Sonoma, $119.95

This will be on my own Christmas list this year. I’m amazed at the variety of stuff that can be made in the Instant Pot. My sister made the best deviled eggs with hers, and she said the eggs peeled absolutely effortlessly. This is available in stores and online. Sign-up with Williams-Sonoma on their website and you can receive 15% off and get free shipping!

https://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/instant-pot-duo-plus-pressure-cooker/?pkey=e%7Cinstant%2Bpot%7C4%7Cbest%7C0%7C1%7C24%7C%7C2&cm_src=PRODUCTSEARCH

10. Hamilton Beach Set ‘n Forget Programmable Slow Cooker With Temperature Probe, $49

My daughter got this recently and she loves it. She says it’s really versatile for home, work, and social events. During her last work potluck, she used the probe for the ham she was serving and it came out perfectly. It’s available in stores and online. I found it for a low-cost at Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Hamilton-Beach-Programmable-Temperature-33969A/dp/B00EZI26GO/ref=sr_1_6?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1512241757&sr=1-6&keywords=Hamilton+Beach+slow+cooker

11. Favorite MM, Louis Vuitton, $985

Gift

This gift is a splurge for most people, but it’s one of Louis Vuitton’s most popular bags now. With a short chain strap for shoulder use and a longer leather strap to use as a crossbody, this is a versatile smaller bag.

I received this handbag for my birthday and I love it. I use mine with an optional, adjustable monogram strap (purchased separately) instead of the vachetta (tan) strap it came with. This purse is surprisingly roomy and holds my full-sized wallet, 6-ring key holder, cell phone, checkbook, and lip gloss.

http://us.louisvuitton.com/eng-us/products/favorite-mm-monogram-005658

Optional monogram straps: wider width (the one I use)

Gift

http://us.louisvuitton.com/eng-us/products/shoulder-strap-monogram-006834

Narrower strap you can also use: http://us.louisvuitton.com/eng-us/products/adjustable-shoulder-strap-16-mm-monogram-monogram-000664

Stocking Stuffers Ideas

As a Beautycounter consultant, I do receive a commission on Beautycounter purchases. I am not affiliated with any other retailers listed above. Happy Shopping!

Fall Meal Plan (THM friendly, too!)

I realized the other day that I haven’t done a meal plan or recipe for a while. Sorry about that. I spend several hours creating the plans and photographing the meals for those posts. I wasn’t sure if they were helpful for readers, so I kind of lost my motivation for creating new meal plans.

So, I’m going to post them sporadically, ideally to help inspire you to add new meals to your usual rotation. You can always refer to a previous meal plan if you’re in need of ideas.

For Trim Healthy Mama (THM) followers, I have italicized those foods off-plan or not conducive to weight loss (like white potatoes).

Short Ribs with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans

Plan

Short ribs make such a delicious and rich meal. Because they are so good, you might be surprised to know how easy they are to make! I’ve tried a few different recipes, but this one by The Pioneer Woman is terrific. I made this again last night for my sister and brother-in-law, and it was delicious.

For the sides, I either make mashed potatoes from scratch or use the pre-made pouches from Costco. They’re surprisingly good, and highly approved of by my mashed potato lover husband. For the green  beans, I use no-salt canned green beans, drained, with a little butter.

Creamy Mushroom Chicken and Brown Rice

Plan

You can whip this mean up in 35 minutes, so it’s an ideal weeknight dinner.

  • 4 chicken breasts, sliced or pounded into thinner fillets
  • 1 cup of sliced mushrooms
  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup of plain, Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 Tbsp dried oregano
  • pinch of mineral salt
  • pinch of ground pepper
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and spray a shallow 9″x9″ baking pan with cooking spray.

Melt the butter in a large skillet, then add mushrooms. Cook about 5 minutes on low-medium heat, until reduced in size and browning. Add yogurt, mayonnaise, and seasonings/spices. Cook until bubbly and thickened, about 5 minutes or less.

Place the chicken breasts in the prepared baking pan, pour the mushroom mixture over them, and evenly coat it with the parmesan cheese. Bake for 25 minutes, until golden on top.

To round out the meal, use a quick cooking brown rice, like

or the pouch kind:

Homemade Pizza

I will include two recipes here, my favorite pizza dough recipe (not-THM friendly) and one that is THM-friendly. Yeast-based doughs and I didn’t get along before I found my favorite pizza dough recipe. But, this is an almost fool-proof dough and it’s never let me down!

http://thefeatherednester.com/index.php/2017/05/12/best-ever-pizza-dough/

The THM-friendly pizza crust recipe I’m sharing is from Briana Thomas. It is similar to the THM Perfect Pizza crust recipe in the THM cookbooks. Although I have yet to find a pizza crust recipe that tastes “just like” the type of pizza that the recipe above provides, this one is a good replacement.

Low Carb Pizza Crust

 

Butternut Squash Manicotti Casserole with Caesar Salad

Photo from Kristi Murphy, https://www.kristimurphy.com

This recipe got awesome reviews recently on the KitchenAid blog. It’s not my own recipe and I confess that I have yet to make it. I have added the KitchenAid vegetable sheet cutter attachment they use to make the butternut squash sheets to my Christmas wish list. If you have this attachment and make it, please comment and let us know how it turned out! Of course, you can do like I’m going to do for now and sub with low-carb or regular pasta. I’ll be using Dreamfields Pasta, a THM-approved substitute. For the Caesar salad, I just use bagged salad from my grocery store. Recipe Link

My friends, I hope you are able to take the time to enjoy this holiday season. This time of year can be   equally joyful and stressful. There are the added social obligations and holiday shopping, our own increased expectations, and family dynamics.

I like to add new routines during the holidays to help me unwind and relax. They include indulging in my favorite calming tea at night, taking a warm bath with essential oils and epsom salt, or cuddling on the sofa to appreciate our glowing Christmas tree. Be good to and gentle with yourself this month. 

meal

Look for my upcoming post on “Top Holiday Gifts for Women.” Until then, seize the day and enjoy!!

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

I want to wish everyone a wonderfully, blessed Thanksgiving. To me, Thanksgiving is an important time to reflect and give thanks for my blessings.

I have so much to be thankful for in my life. A loving family, good health, the ability to pursue my dreams, and a country where we are free to express ourselves and live our version of the American Dream.

Here are some of my thankful moments over the past year:
The opportunity to enjoy moments with these boys (and Makenna)

 

Exploring places like the Caribbean with my husband

 

Our tour of the ship’s bridge on our cruise

 

Watching these boys collect (or not collect) eggs on Easter

 

Family brunch in November

 

Family photos in December

 

These grandkids!

 

Backyard antics

 

Playing at the park

 

Going with the grandkids to the Zoo

 

 

4th of July – 2017, 2016, and 2015

 

Terry and I at the Michigan State game in September. It was SO much fun!

 

Pre-game rally

 

This view from our condo in Maui never got old!

 

Selfie at the pool

 

How did I ever live without this sundae from Lappert’s in Wailea?

 

Pumpkin Patch in October

 

The boys helped me celebrate my birthday

 

This hot air balloon got off course and flew right over our house

 

Canning together was a definite highlight
What are your blessings that you’re thankful for this Thanksgiving? Share them below.
Thank you for visiting my blog and Happy Turkey Day!

What’s Trim Healthy Mama??

**Warning – this post discusses Trim Healthy Mama’s plan and weight-loss. I am not affiliated with Trim Healthy Mama*

Until a few months ago, I’d never head of Trim Healthy Mama. Then, I ordered the Trim Healthy Table cookbook based on its wonderful reviews. I had no idea that the recipes in it were based on the Trim Healthy Mama (THM) plan.

Welcome to Healthy and Satisfying Food Freedom

The Trim Healthy Mama story:

Trim Healthy Mama started with two sisters who wrote a book about food freedom for women and called it Trim Healthy Mama (THM). It was a self-published book with no expectations, no advertising budget, and no celebrity endorsements, and became a movement as word caught on and friends shared their success with others.

Food freedom is an interesting concept but you’ll see it in this plan. Sugar and white flour are out, and if you want to lose weight, so are white potatoes. Those foods cause your blood sugar to spike, which prevents weight-loss.

Trim

Healthy Meals Made Easy

THM meals are either E for energizing, S for satisfying, or FP for Fuel Pull. You separate the food fuels of fat and carbohydrate and don’t consume them within 3 hours of each other.

For the E meal, you pair protein and carbohydrates with low-fat foods. An example is black bean soup garnished with turkey bacon and on-plan cornbread, or a turkey breast sandwich (with a light smear of mayonnaise).

The S meal pairs higher fat proteins with low-carb foods. Like a dinner of steak with green salad and low-starchy vegetables, or an egg, cheese, and vegetable omelet for breakfast.

The FP meal has protein and is low-carb and low-fat. A green salad with grilled chicken breast and a little low-fat dressing would be an example of a FP meal, or a container of Triple 000 Oikos Greek yogurt as a snack.

 

Trim

 

Between you and I, over the past twenty-years or so I have been on a number of low-carb diets. They work for me. Eventually, though, I start feeling deprived and it’s all downhill from there.

One of the things about THM that’s great is that you can have unrefined carbs. The kind of carbs that won’t spike your blood sugar like sweet potatoes, beans, and even sprouted grain bread!

 

Healthy
Hubby Loving Chicken

 

These are only the highlights of the plan. It’s taken me a while to get the hang of it, but that’s okay. I feel great and have so much more energy, and that’s more important to me than weight-loss.

I’ll be sharing meals that I’ve had in the last two weeks on THM and future meal plans. Here’s my earlier post about the cookbook Trim Healthy Table. 

Got questions? Leave them below and I’ll be happy to reply.

Let’s Get Decorating, Folks! The Decor Before…

I haven’t done a decor post for a while, and for good reason. I’ve been more focused on school and less on home decor. So, it’s been stagnant decor-wise around here.

New Stuff

I bought new Buffalo Check pillows, the chairs are less than a year old,

Decor

and created a wall gallery

Decor

though I didn’t finish this side of the room…

and more recently, I did some fall decorating!

Decor

But, guess what? It’s time to get some REAL stuff done around here.

 

Let’s Get This Started!

I’m talking about retexturing walls, electrical work, painting, new window treatments, and some interior decor and design.

Finally!

So, this is what I have to work with:

The room has high, vaulted, tongue-in-groove ceilings and wooden beams.

The texturing the two main walls is in terrible shape. Many years ago, the wall on the right had a walk-through opening and you can see the difference in texture if you look closely.

The brown “trim” on the hearth is child-proof padding to protect our grandkids against falls. We converted the masonry fireplace to gas-log about a year ago. I love the iron rustic surround we chose.

That is the front door to the far left and a hallway on the other side of the half wall behind the sofa. The sofas are not as dark as they appear. There’s little natural light in this room.

I have two regrets with this room:

One is the rug.

I had a few musts when I bought this rug: at least 12 x 14 to fill the space, wool for durability and stain resistance, and something neutral-colored.

This rug was a great deal. I got it from Wayfair for under $1000. My dislike is the middle of the rug. I thought it was a light tan and it’s a light mocha color. But, it was huge and I felt it was too much work to send it back.

I though the rug would look this golden, but the middle is more mocha colored in my room.
My second regret is the sofa placement in the room.

I saw similar sofas at the home of some friends and I loved how they looked. She has similar decor taste, french country, and they fit in decor-wise.

I made a grid of our room on quadrille paper and carefully measured the walls before going to the furniture store. Once we found these sofas by Bassett, we double-checked the measurements and ordered them.

When delivered, the sofas did not fit together in the space like I wanted them to. Linear-wise they were fine, but their depth did not allow them to meet in the corner of the room (where the side table is in the corner below) the way I’d intended.

So, we had to move the sofa to the opposite wall. The two chairs are where I wanted the other sofa at.

I feel like it’s thrown off the dynamics of the room.

I really like symmetry.

Case in point, it has been driving me crazy that since I moved a photo from this wall gallery, it’s not aligned with the chairs or centered on the wall.

Decor

 

Decor We Got Right

It’s hard to get a good picture of it, but the one thing we love is our fan. Photos don’t do it justice.

 

Decorating

We love the iron and glass fireplace surround we selected. And, I love the chairs, even though they don’t really go with the sofas. Likely, when this is complete one will go in my office and one in our guest room.

Moving Ahead

In the next post, I’ll share some of my plans for this space. Spoiler alert: possible wall sconces on the two main walls, a new mantle over the fireplace, changing out the blinds, and maybe even getting a new rug, lol! In addition to the retexturing and painting.

I hope you’ll share your ideas with me, too.

The TV will stay above the fireplace, and I’m keeping the sofas for a few more years (at least). After that, I plan on getting a roomy L-shaped section that will finally fill the left side of the room.

Please take the time to leave me some comments, suggestions, or advice! I would so appreciate it.

See last year’s kitchen/dining room/game room remodel here: BEFORE and AFTER

Trim Healthy Table from Trim Healthy Mama

Several weeks ago, I bought a copy of Trim Healthy Table. I bought it based on the stellar reviews on Amazon. I can’t recall if Amazon recommended the cookbook or how I found out about it. Regardless, the cookbook arrived and after looking at it, I discovered it was part of a plan that separates meals based on the energy “fuels” used. Interesting, huh?

Trim Healthy Mama

Trim Healthy Mama

Have you heard of Trim Healthy Mama? Their plan’s based on healthy foods, especially those on the lower end of the glycemic scale, and eliminating sugar and white flour. Those seeking weight loss also avoid white potatoes.

I am still a newbie at this, but basically, THM meals fall into three categories. Each meals contains protein, but S (satisfying) meals focus on fats for fuels, E (energizing) meals focus on carbs for fuel, and FP (fuel pull) meals have lean protein and are low in carbs and fat.

After reading the condensed version of the plan that’s included in the Trim Healthy Table book and trying out a few recipes (see below), I started on the plan November 1st. It’s a little challenging getting the hang of the plan. But, I’m learning as I go along and I like how you can restart and get back on the plan in 3 hours.

No condemnation or judgment, but plenty of grace is present in this plan. And, there’s plenty of support on Facebook (look for THM groups) and on their website.

So Really, How Is The Food?

I bet you’re wondering how the recipes are? Well, they are really good! So far, I’ve made meatballs and used them in the Meatball Casserole. On Halloween, I made Pumpkin Bam Cake and wasn’t even tempted by all the Halloween candy! I also made Mama Mia Meatloaf and Creamy Verde Chicken Chili. Everything has been really good, and you’d never guess that these meals promote weight-loss.

Healthy
Meatball Casserole

 

Healthy
Mama Mia Meatloaf

 

And, You Can Have Bread!!

Imagine my surprise when I found out that you can have bread, low-carb tortillas, and flatbreads. I just love the La Tortilla low-carb tortillas. I can use low-fat, refried black beans with baby spinach for an E meal. Or, use them with carne asada, bell peppers, and sour cream for a S meal. Using an on plan bread, you can have a turkey breast sandwich with lettuce, tomato, and mustard for an E lunch.

There are “better” on-plan breads than this one, but I found this brand pretty easily.

Healthy

 

I’ll be sharing my progress on THM. After a week, I have more energy and feel very clear-headed. I didn’t have much of a detox because I didn’t; consume much sugar before THM. Oh, and I decided that I am going on how I feel for the first month and avoiding the scale.

In my next post, I’ll share about the THM branded substitutions and some of the supplements they recommend that I’ve been using.

If you want to see what THM is about without getting any of their books, check out their website https://trimhealthymama.com or google it. They have quite a following.

Canning on a Fall Saturday

My daughters and I canned last Saturday. It was our first family canning experience. We’ve been saying for years that we were going to do this, and we finally did!

Initially, we were going to make spaghetti sauce with meat and pressure can it. But, when I got out the pressure canner, it was missing parts. So, we went to plan b and made it without meat.

Let’s Get Canning
Canning
We cored and cut 30 pounds of tomatoes!

 

We started with the Ball’s Home Canning recipe for Spaghetti Sauce with Meat. This called for coring and cutting the tomatoes, then putting them through a food mill. We did our first 15 pounds of tomatoes like that, so when we switched recipes we continued with that process for the next 15 lbs.

Canning
Cooking down the tomatoes

 

 

The sauce needed to simmer for at least 2 hours. Once the sauce was ready, we added it to the jars and put them in the canner to process. Then we celebrated on the back patio while the first batch was processing.

 

 

 

We used pint jars and processed them for 35 minutes.

 

All total, we made 18 pint jars of spaghetti sauce. Since my canner holds 6 jars at a time, we processed three batches.

 

Not bad for a Saturday’s work and we had a lot of fun doing it!

Here are a few of my recipes that you can use this spaghetti sauce in:

http://thefeatherednester.com/index.php/2017/08/18/italian-meatball-casserole-dinner/

http://thefeatherednester.com/index.php/2017/07/19/lasagne/

 

New Recipes! Perfect for Fall

Although the weather is still really mild here, it’s still fall!! That calls for delicious, fall comfort foods.

The other day, I was watching Cook’s Country and saw the most delicious barbecue beans recipe. They called it backyard barbecue beans. I knew I had to make it. So when my husband asked me what I wanted for my family birthday dinner, I told him smoked pork and ribs so I’d have a reason to make them!

Backyard Baked Beans
Fall
Photo Credit: Cook’s Country

Don’t they look totally delicious? My family loved it, especially my meat-loving husband. There’s bratwurst in there!

The recipe makes a lot of beans, so unless your have a crowd, you’ll probably want to freeze half. Here is a link to the recipe: Backyard Baked Beans. If you are unable to access this recipe from the link (Cooks Country is a subscription website), shoot me an email and I’ll help you out.

 

Wedge Salad

To go along with the smoked pork and ribs and those yummy baked beans, I made wedge salad. I prefer my wedge with blue cheese dressing and chunks of blue cheese, but we have family members who don’t like blue cheese. So, I subbed in ranch dressing.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of iceberg lettuce
  • 1/2 cup of ranch of blue cheese dressing
  • 1/2 cup of blue cheese,, crumbled (optional)
  • 1 cup of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup of crisp bacon bits

Directions:

Cut the head of lettuce in half to rinse it. Then, cut into wedges, taking care to keep the wedges together (I swear there must be an easy way to do this). Then either place wedges on a long serving plate like shown above, or on individual salad plates. Cover with dressing, blue cheese crumbles, bacon bits, and cherry tomatoes.

Cheesy Chili Soup
Photo Credit: A Taste of Home

 

This recipe is one of the ultimate comfort soups. I rarely keep Velveeta on hand, but this recipe looked too delicious not to get some. You will probably feel the same!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 10 oz. can of Rotel diced tomatoes, undrained (I use no-salt added)
  • 15 oz. can of diced tomatoes, undrained (I use no-salt added)
  • 4 oz. can of green chilies, chopped
  • pinch of ground black pepper
  • 1 lb of Velveeta Cheese (I used 2% reduced fat version)
  • Directions
  1. In a medium dutch oven or large saucepan, cook the beef, onions, and garlic; drain once browned. Add tomatoes, chilies, and pepper. Bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Stir in cheese and allow to melt. Garnish with crushed corn chips, cheese, or even bacon bits.
  3. Leftovers can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Recipe adapted from Taste of Home.

Share your favorite fall foods below!

 

 

 

Why I Love October!

In case I’ve never mentioned it, I love October. Maybe it’s because of the beautiful weather here in California during the month. Could it be the way the air smells different? Or how when you go outside at night the air smells of wood burning fireplaces? Oh, and let’s not forget how there are pumpkins everywhere you look!

Honestly, though, the reason I probably love October is that it’s my birth month and I get to celebrate my birthday three weeks into the month. And after that, its Halloween! What a fun month.

It’s a Birthday Celebration!

We celebrated my birthday a day early, on Friday, because one of our daughters would be out-of-town for the weekend. My one year-old granddaughter, Makenna, missed the fun because she was sick. So, she had to stay home with her dad.

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The boys love singing happy birthday

And then it was time to blow out the candles!

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They did a great job at blowing out candles!

The cake was delicious, in fact, the leftovers were gone by Sunday.

I’ve been wanting a smaller purse for evenings out, concerts, and travel. I was so excited to get this for my birthday:

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The Favorite MM

It was a great evening, celebrating with family.

The following night, we went to dinner at Flemings. My favorite meal is a wonderfully cooked steak and that’s what I had.

 

Now that my birthday festivities are over, I am looking forward to Halloween. This weekend we are doing some Halloween decorating outdoors. We just love handing out candy to the trick-or-treaters, and this year I am going to make treat bags for them.

I hope you are having an awesome week! Check back later this week for some new recipes. I will be featuring barbecue baked beans (the best recipe I’ve ever tasted), cheeseburger soup, and wedge salad.