recipes

Formula for Planning 6 Meals in 30 Minutes or Less (plus 1 week of recipes)

Ok I need to be honest here...for the first few years of marriage meal planning was a weekly task that really stressed me out. Anybody else out there felt this way? Well I did. I could not decide on what I wanted to cook, or I would plan for 5 or 6 elaborate meals with insanely long ingredient lists...I hardly ever landed at a balance. And talk about busting the budget, yikes, but that is another post for another day. 

Awhile back I worked at a bakery as a head kitchen assistant and during my time there I began to notice something about my boss...she NEVER used recipes. Like ever, and she never had to plan meals. I was so amazed by her ability to throw ingredients together to make something delicious with minimal effort (all while running a successful business and being a mom to 9 year old triplets and a 7 year old, hello super woman), and the longer I worked closely with her the more I learned to be this way in the kitchen. 

Now, I am quite the type A personality, so not meal planning would not work for me like it did for my boss. However, I have taken the principles I learned from working at the bakery and created my own simple meal planning formula that I try to stick to every week. It is broad and really just a road map for me to keep planning simple and stress free. 

Simple Meal Planning Formula! Super handy for making meal planning stress free and QUICK! YES!

MEAL PLANNING RULES OF THUMB 

  • MAKE IT YOUR TIME - Set aside your own uninterrupted time to get this done. I usually make out my weekly meal plan on Sunday afternoons. I will sit at the dining room table with my laptop, meal planning journal, recipe book, and a cup of coffee and go to town.
  • BROWSE RECIPES BEFORE YOU START- I take about 5-10 minutes to look through Pinterest, recipe books, and my own printed recipes before starting to meal plan. I make notes of recipes that interest me as I go. 
  • TAKE INVENTORY - Before I start planning out my meals I do a quick pantry, freezer, and fridge scan to make sure I know what I have to work with. Saves money every time. Check out my previous post on Meal Planning 101 for more tips to make the before, during, and after process less stressful also. 

Now for my super simple formula, I have five categories I try to stick to loosely. These categories help me fly through my planning, and rarely do I spend longer than 30 minutes beginning to end scratching out a meal plan for the whole week. 

Oh Simple Joys - Meal Planning Formula   Makes Meal Planning a breeze. Easy and Fast!! YES!

2 QUICK MEALS

I say that a meal is quick if it takes less than 30 minutes from the time you cut your oven on to the time you are at the table serving your family. OR it is a meal that is frozen ahead of time, or a crock pot meal. So I try to get creative but always plan for two simple, no fuss meals. 

1 NEW OR ETHNIC MEAL

As a self proclaimed foodie I really enjoy trying new dishes. So I limit myself, for my husband's sake (he is not a huge ethnic food fan) and for the sake of our budget to one meal a week. I may try a new ingredient I have never worked with or a new technique with something as basic as chicken. This meal keeps me excited to be in the kitchen every week. 

1 MEAL IN A BOWL

Oh the endless possibilities in this category. Rice bowls are my favorite. I will use barley, quinoa or rice, add in some protein and sauteed veggies and call it a day. Salads are a great option, as is any pasta dish. HELLO CARBS IN A CREAM SAUCE!!! Also during the winter months we have some type of soup almost weekly. 

1 MEAL ON THE GRILL

As Mississippi residents it is never too cold for us to grill outside, but for those of you that may actually have a winter you can grill inside with those nifty little grill pans that can be found anywhere these days. We usually grill out once during the weekend. It feels different than our normal meals during the week so it is an exciting way for us to usher in a relaxing time off from work. 

1 REPURPOSED MEAL

Repurposed meals are my favorite because they push me to get creative. Basically I take any leftovers from the week and make a dish out of it. Sometimes it may be a soup, other times it may be a frittata or quiche, and other it is simply breakfast for dinner night. Creativity is key in this category.

1 DATE NIGHT

Last but not least, my husband and I have an out to eat date night once a week. Because who doesn't love a night off?! 

Oh Simple Joys - Meal Planning Formula   Makes Meal Planning a breeze. Easy and Fast!! YES!

Meal planning can be simple when you follow this easy formula. Think of it as a simple road map to help you detour stress and to save time!! Below I have listed our meal plan for this week (by category) for you all to use as an example. 

Quick Meals -

New / Ethnic Meal - 

Meal in a Bowl - 

  • Chicken Noodle Soup (also a repurposed meal made with broth from bones of the flat roasted chicken, leftover chicken meat, leftover veggies - BIG MONEY SAVER right here!!)

Meal on the Grill - 

Repurposed Meal -

  • Mixed veggie, sweet potato, and kale frittata (not really a recipe on this one, I just follow my gut)

How do you make meal planning less stressful? I would love to hear your tips and tricks! Have questions? Drop me a line!

Meal Planning 101 - How to Plan and Budget (even when that is not your thing)

For the greater part of my life my approach to managing money has been to follow my impulses. Yes I have always been "that girl". I was not raised in a family that used a written budget so I grew up clueless as to how to go about using or creating a budget. I did not write things down, did not plan, and I did not check myself other than looking at my online bank statement from time to time. Then I met my husband...when it comes to managing money Ben and I could not have been more opposite. I was the impulsive free spender, never looking ahead, and he was/is the calculated budgeter that puts thought into every purchase. Opposites attract right?! 

Once we got married and were living on a newlywed income I was in for a rude awakening. I had no clue how to use a budget, and even less of an idea of how to meal plan (or even cook really). But I began researching, trying things I had never tried before, and honestly, between you and I, I FAILED/busted the budget/went over/whatever you want to call it A LOT. So today I am sharing some tips that I have learned from my mistakes and how you can become a planner (even if you are like me and tend to spend impulsively!)


CREATE A BUDGET (and stick with it)


Our family spends about $75-85 a week, and we try to stay within the budget of $300 a month. Some weeks may be $85, while others may be $65. I am sure some of you are thinking this is crazy, we have to be starving ourselves or eating ramen noodles all the time right? Well we aren't, in fact as crazy as it sounds I have never had ramen noodles, though my husband claims they are actually quite tasty. We eat 3 meals a day, and I plan out 5-6 meals a week that I cook at home. We plan for one night out to eat as a date night, and one meal a week with our church family (this is potluck style so what I bring varies from salads to main dishes and desserts). 

How do we do this? Well here are a few things to keep in mind when making your budget...

  • Leftovers are your friend! Save money by eating leftovers for lunch the next day, freeze leftover soups, stews, or chili to have as a quick meal later on. 
  • Don't be brand specific! We shop sales, and are not ashamed of buying the grocery store brand. I have learned that most everything tastes just as good as that "name brand" food item I love. So save a few bucks by being brand neutral. 
  • Do it yourself. Rather than buying spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, stocks, pizza dough...and the list goes on. Try making more pantry staples yourself! 

EVALUATE YOUR STOCK


Before you even sit down to start planning out your meals take 5-10 minutes to browse through your pantry and fridge. Check to see what you have and take note of those things. I almost always have a variety of grains, beans, frozen veggies, and sauces. I write these things down and try to incorporate them in my planning. Also I look to see what items may be expiring soon. If I have milk about to go bad I make up a batch of homemade pudding or yogurt. Eggs? I will usually plan for a breakfast for dinner night or make a veggie frittata. The key to keeping a lower budget is to use what you have and avoid wasting anything! 


CHECK FOR SALES & COUPONS


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Another key part to successfully staying on budget when it comes to meal planning is shopping the sales and buying seasonal ingredients. Grocery stores always have sales, so plan your meals around the sale items rather than creating a menu and making your list fit the menu. Make the sales work for you! 

Also, seasonal ingredients are the fruits and veggies that are growing at any given season. As we go into fall you will begin to notice the prices will drop on things like winter squash, kale, Brussel sprouts, beets, cabbage, and more. Plan meals around these things, you will be saving money and eating what the earth is naturally growing during any time of the year. 


PLAN YOUR MEALS 


Now is the time that I sit down to write out my meals for the week. Like I mentioned earlier I plan to cook 5-6 meals a week. I try to never plan out my meals on the same day I go grocery shopping, it becomes exaughsting and leaves me feeling overwhelmed and frantic. I try to take some time over the weekend to browse for recipes, and get my head together before ever venturing into a store. 

My rule of thumb is that I plan for meals that have leftovers we can eat them the next day for lunches, I try to have one meatless meal, and one "leftovers" dinner per week.

I use a variety of resources for my meal inspiration every week. Below are some of my most used food blogs, and then of course I have an arsenal of recipes that I rotate through regularly. (side note, if you do not have a binder of recipes you LOVE I would highly recommend creating one. Pinterest is great but I love my recipe binder that is full of tested and hubby approved recipes)


NEVER SHOP UNPREPARED


After all the planning you have put into your meals you do not want to get to the grocery store and find yourself unprepared. You will be able to unravel all the planning in just a few minutes (or at least that is how I am).

I always have my list written out (I use my lovely Seasonal Meal Planning Journal from my friend Natasha Red) and I always have a pen and calculator ready to go. 

I make sure that I am not hungry before I walk into the store (this is the meal planner's mortal sin! eat before you go!!) and I plan to go at a time that is not overcrowded with people (usually early in the morning or late at night). 

I only buy the items on my list, and I try very hard to calculate everything I place in my buggy as I go so that I am not shocked by my total at checkout. (which even now still manages to happen to me from time to time). 


REMEMBER THIS IS A GUIDELINE, NOT A LAW


Meal planning and budgeting require lots of time and energy. Some weeks I slip up and am not able to prepare the way I usually do...those weeks are usually the times that I bust the budget. AND THAT IS OKAY! Life is short, and I am all too quick to beat myself up over spending $10 more than I meant to. Budgeting is a guideline to make your life less stressful and more free...but do not let it become something that causes you stress and becomes a shackle rather than a freedom! 

Busting the budget is not worth your tears!! (this is coming from the queen of crying over groceries) 


OUR MEAL PLAN THIS WEEK


I plan my meals around 7 day periods so this week the first of the month happens on a Thursday so this is day one of this 7 day plan. 

Do you meal plan? What tips do you have for making the process easier? 

Meal Inspiration - What We Are Eating

Lately I have been so inspired by seasonal eating. For whatever reason it makes me feel in touch with the Lord's creation, and it is a healthy and cost efficient way to feed my family and friends. I have done some research and made a list of great summer food items that I want to include in my cooking as much as possible and I want to share that with you in hopes of inspiring you to do the same!

I don't know about you, but I love seeing other people's menus, meal plans, and grocery lists! They provide such kitchen inspiration for me, and often help me plan my own weekly menu! So I have decided to share some of our meals from this week with you all in hopes of inspiring you to cook seasonally and with ease. 

We usually plan to cook 5 meals a week, and I make large enough portions that we can eat leftovers for lunch the next day. We always plan for one date night out to eat and each Sunday our church shares a meal together, so 5 seasonal meals is simple, and relatively easy to fit into our little grocery budget! This week I focused on quick and easy recipes that I know well, and that are not loaded in creamy sauces or filled with carbs! So this week we have lots of veggies and lots of protein! 

photo credit // half baked harvest

photo credit // half baked harvest

Basil Chicken Curry with Coconut Ginger-Lime Rice and fresh Naan ( I used fresh peaches instead of the mango this recipe calls for, and added freshly grated garlic to the naan, oh and I used sweet curry powder instead of spicy!) 

Sweet Potato, Bell Pepper, and Sausage Hash

Bacon, Sausage, Spinach, and Veggie Frittata + Fruit (similar to my recipe with some variation here)

Bang Bang Chicken Kabobs with Corn and Zucchini

And for those who may be interested here is my list of seasonal summer foods I will be using all the time in the months ahead...

  • Watermelon
  • Strawberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, Raspberries
  • Cherries
  • Plums
  • Apricots
  • Peaches
  • Figs
  • Mint, Basil, Cilantro, and Parsley (on everything)
  • Corn
  • Tomatoes
  • Spinach
  • Zucchini / Summer Squash
  • Eggplant
  • Green Beans
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Leeks

YAY for seasonal eating! I hope this list inspires you to cook seasonally and enjoy what the earth has to offer this summer! Happy cooking! :)

Healthy (and spicy) Black Bean Burgers

It has been quite some time since I have brought you a recipe, and when I made these yesterday I knew they simply had to be shared! I mean come on, Tex Mex inspired bean burgers that are not only yummy and healthy but easy on the wallet? What more could you ask for from a meal. These are a must make, like this week you must make them! You will love these unique burgers. 

Healthy tex mex inspired black bean burgers! Simple, delicious and HEALTHY! Huge money saver as well! I have to try these!!

Yesterday, I shared a little bit about the new health journey Ben and I are starting (as of yesterday). We really believe it is a command from Scripture to take care of our bodies and to train them with discipline. So we have started a new venture in eating whole foods, fewer carbs, less sugar, and less processed foods. We are starting with baby steps but excited to see how these changes effect our lifestyle long term. (and just being real with you, yesterday was the pits! Hoping day two is better both physically and emotionally)

Ben and I both have a thing for burgers, so I decided to try my hand at a healthier "burger" that would fall within the parameters of our new diet. Bean burgers! Now before you turn up your nose and say ew...just give them a chance! They are actually not that bad, I promise. These spicy black bean burgers are healthy and delicious AND (bonus!) they are also money savers. Just think, no meat, only beans and other fresh produce inside, so they literally cost pennies for each patty. 

HEALTHY BLACK BEAN BURGERS

INGREDIENTS - 

  • 2 cans black beans, chick peas, or white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (I used a red onion)
  • 1 can green chilies
  • a handful of cilantro
  • 1/2 cup oats
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil

DIRECTIONS - 

In a food processor add beans, onion, chilies, cilantro, oats, bread crumbs, and spices, pulse to combine. If the mixture is watery or too sticky add more oats one tablespoon at a time until a moldable consistency. 

Let mixture sit in the fridge for 5 minutes. Then take and mold into 6 large patties or 10-12 smaller patties. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment, and place in freezer for 5-10 minutes. 

When they firm up in the freezer, add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil to a skillet and heat over medium heat. Place patties in the pan, working in batches so you do not overcrowd the pan. Allow to cook on each side for 3-5 minutes until crispy and golden. Carefully flip with a spatula (you may need to help with your hands also as they are not as firm and sturdy as patties made with meat). 

Allow to cool and serve with your favorite condiments and sides! Enjoy! 

Have you ever had a bean burger? What did you think? 

Don't forget to stop by tomorrow for the next post in the Cooking Fundamentals series! Tomorrow is all about building flavor! 

 

My Attempt at French Baking + Cookbook Review

So it is well known around here that kitchen is my spot. I do not even have to tell any of you that. It makes me happy, relieves my stress, and is a way I can create things for others and shower them with love through food. It is my favorite place in the house.

In the past year or so I have really worked hard to become better in the kitchen. I have worked on simple technique. Such as how to hold a knife, cut veggies, roast meats, sear chicken, saute onions, and stir fry noodles. I have learned how to make the perfect cheese grits and a mean pot roast. I have tried, tried, and tried again to learn new things and how to do things the right way! 

I even created a board on Pinterest full of my bucketlist recipes. I filled/am filling it with recipes that kinda intimidate me. Recipes like homemade puff pastry dough, clotted cream, Italian buttercream, real Indian curry...and so on. Well, one of the items on my foodie bucketlist is French Macarons.

Seriously only the hardest recipe in the world. I think if you breathe wrong you may mess them up...not really. BUT these jokers are not easy. You have to be so precise which is not my cup of tea. However, I am determined to make these little cookies just so I can have the satisfaction of success due to perseverance! I don't want to quit! 

You may have picked up on this, but my first attempt at these confections was not a home run. They were edible, but turned brown, cracked, and never developed feet...so yeah, not a success quite yet. 

Here they are. So it could be worse I know...but you guys just wait! I am going to make these guys right...and it literally may only happen once! But I will! I am not a quitter. 

In other news, I have found myself quite in love with French cuisine as of late. The French have such pure food. They use whole and seasonal ingredients to make honest dishes...and I am all about that. So when I happened upon this

A Kitchen in France 

cookbook on

Blogging for Books

I knew I had to get my hands on it. 

To begin with, the cookbook is just beautiful. The pictures are breathtaking and really pay tribute to what I mentioned above. They are honest, raw, and simple. Most of the recipes in the book seem to be ones that would make it to my bucket list. Primarily because they are all scary and use ingredients I do not have easy access to but would DIE to cook with on a regular basis. I am hoping to first try my hand at these fabulous looking chocolate meringues. I have a huge thing for meringue (maybe why I love macarons) and these just look divine. 

I cannot wait to try more of the recipes inside this cookbook and really stretch myself as a home cook. This is one of those cookbooks that everyone wants to have (because it is so darn pretty) and is the perfect cookbook to whip out on a lazy Saturday and make a mess in your kitchen while creating something you have never tried before. I am just so excited to work my way through these recipes! 

What recipes are on your bucket list?

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Fabulous Foodie Swap (For Bloggers & Non Bloggers alike!!)

There are few things in life that get me as excited as a new jar of some kind of exotic spice, a bag of organic coffee, or something as special as black truffle oil...I have a mild obsession with food. But before you judge me and label me as a total weirdo/fatty, hear me out...

My reason for loving food is not because I just have insane cravings to eat ALL THE TIME. No, I love food because of the mystery of it all. Thousands of flavor combinations, textures, colors, and varieties are out there to be tried. These are all things that come from the Earth, which our Heavenly Father created (with his voice). Food fascinates me, and it really brings me to worship. 

Now feel free to judge me and label my as a psycho now, but it is true. The complex flavor of curry married with coconut, lime, cilantro and chicken moves me y'all. I am amazed that the Lord gifted so many wonderful things for us to eat and enjoy. We get to use our own creativity and come up with whatever we can dream in our kitchens with the elements the Lord placed here on earth. 

That. is. amazing. 

So I am not a foodie for the sake of being snobby about food. I am a foodie because food is just plain amazing!

For Christmas my little brother gave me an amazing box of goodies. Inside the box I found, wild berry honey, pink Himalayan salt, cinnamon sticks, rosemary and garlic spice rub, and black truffle oil. I squealed. I was so excited about this simple but thoughtful gift. Later I found myself in TJMaxx with some Christmas money and before I knew it I was checking out with a bag of gourmet organic espresso coffee (whole bean of course), roasted red peppers, whole lavender buds, Vietnamese cinnamon and sweet Spanish paprika...I was like a giddy 5 year old in a candy shop. 

So this got my wheels so turning. I loved that sweet little food box from my brother, and I wanted to create some kind of way for other people to get to enjoy that happy feeling! So thus was born the fabulous foodie swap! 

This is a simple food swap in which you will be paired with another participant, receive info on your partners likes and dislikes, and then send them goodies right to their door. The spending limit is $15, so it is affordable but still enough to really get some great items for your partner! 

Here are all the important dates- 

January 5th-10th

 - Sign Ups are open

January 12th

 - Partners will be emailed out! 

January 19th

 - Deadline for mailing out your goodies! 

January 27th

 - Swap Link Up on Oh Simple Thoughts!

I hope you will join in on this fun little swap and help me spread the word! Feel free to use the graphic below on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and so on! Use #fabulousfoodieswap so we can all follow along! 

SIGN UP HERE!

Cranberry Orange Rosemary Scones

Food is my love language I have officially decided! Over the Holiday season I found myself aimlessly wandering through several stores like Home Goods, TJMaxx, and Target, always to end up in the same place...the food section.

I am absolutely in awe of the endless combinations of flavors and ingredients that are created from things given to us by the Lord here on earth. Spice blends, varieties of honey, oils, and more, I just found myself so captivated. I LOVE cooking, I enjoy so much getting lost in the kitchen and creating something new with unique flavors. 

So of course I had to share this scone recipe with you. I took a basic recipe for scones and adapted it to fit my flavor profile...it is amazing. Full of seasonal ingredients that are plentiful and cheap right now, these scones are sure to bring a smile to your face! 

Cranberry Orange Rosemary Scones. The perfect balance between buttery goodness and citrusy bite. They are flaky and tender, and packed with flavor and texture. And they are just so pretty!!!

INGREDIENTS 

1 cup (two sticks) cold butter, cubed

3 cups all purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

5 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup cold heavy cream

1 egg

1/2 cup chopped, fresh cranberries

1 tablespoon chopped, fresh rosemary

zest of one orange

raw sugar for topping

powder sugar for glaze

orange juice

DIRECTIONS

Combine flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles course meal. Add cranberries. orange zest and rosemary, stir to combine. 

Whisk egg and heavy cream together, slowly add to flour mixture. The mixture will be crumbly. Pour the whole bowl, crumbs and all out onto a well floured surface. Working quickly form into a disk and roll out until it is about 3/4 of an inch. 

Cut an X in the dough. Then make another cut down the middle and to the side to make 8 scones. Place scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silpat mat. Bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. Until slightly golden, do not allow edges to begin to brown. 

For Glaze

Combine orange juice, and powder sugar until a very thick but pourable consistency. Pour over the top of cooled scones. Sprinkle scones with raw sugar. 

ENJOY!

These are simple but unique. Elegant to serve for an afternoon tea party but simple enough to enjoy with a cup of coffee curled up in your pjs in the morning! 

The best part is that this scones recipe can be adapted to so many flavor combinations. I would love to try cherry almond, lavender, chai tea or earl grey, or maybe even something savory like cheddar dill! 

What combinations would you like to try? 

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Homemade Vanilla Extract

As I have posted pictures of my little bottles of vanilla goodness this week I have gotten so many responses of people being simply amazed. I mean it truly is amazing that you can make your own extracts, but...when you all see how easy this is I promise you will be less impressed.

As I have fallen in love with food and spending time in the kitchen there is one thing I have learned time and time again...just try. So much of what we label as impressive is really easy if you just get in the kitchen, roll your sleeves up, and try. Yes you will fail, I have had my flops of recipes, but trying is half the fun. When you finally get a recipe to where you want it, that point where it went from terrible, to eh...okay...to oh my goodness I want to sing and dance this is so good - the trying is worth it! 

So the next time you see a recipe on my instagram and think...geez that looks amazing, I could never make food like that Rachel girl...GO TRY IT! I dare you. Think of it as an adventure and just see where it takes you! Okay, I will stop preaching. 

Vanilla, extract to be specific. It is in everything we bake, and this time of year we can do A LOT of baking. I had a church friend that said she gave bottles of vanilla extract as gifts one year and knew I wanted to try it out. So I did.

This is not a quick recipe, and requires a lot of patience and planning ahead. (6 weeks -2 months ahead). Making the extract is easy but it must have time to sit and become extract so if you want to give this as gifts you need to wait a minimum of 4 weeks before using and really ideally 2 months! 

INGREDIENTS - 

Vanilla Beans (I used Madagascar and bourbon vanilla beans that I purchased

here

on Amazon)

one large bottle of Vodka (any name brand will work, but you dont want to buy the cheapest thing you can find!)

Boston Bottles (I bought a pack of 12 4 oz bottles

here

)

Labels 

DIRECTIONS -

Take vanilla beans and slice in half and down the middle. Place 2 vanilla beans (or 4 halves) in your bottle. Top with vodka. Seal and let sit in a dark and cool place for 6 weeks to 2 months. 

Enjoy while baking. Or squeeze the vanilla bean pods to use seeds in homemade ice cream, sauces, glazes and other things for a distinctly gourmet vanilla flavor (and all those pretty black specks!)

**

Also you can use whiskey or rum if you have that instead of vodka. The flavor profile is different and I really feel a rum pairs great with the bourbon vanilla beans...but to each his own! 

See!!! I told you it was so simple. So please, for my sake, tell me you will go try it! Be impressed with yourself then spread on the news that homemade extract is easy, more flavorful and cost efficient! YAY! 

Also, you can make cute little labels like I did to make your bottles all professional and gift worthy! I just made these in Photoshop really quickly but you could find a printable online or make your own! 

So what do you think? Are you gonna try to make it? :)

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The Bread & Wine Project / Homemade Marshmallows

Yesterday I shared about how ready I am for Christmas...I am super ready! So this month's Bread & Wine Project recipe really reflects that! :) Welcome back to the Bread & Wine Link Up for those of you who have joined us before, and for those of you that are jumping in for the first time...so happy to have you! This link up is all about sharing recipes and a heart for others in the form of hospitality! 

This month's co host is Natasha of Natasha Red blog

Natasha has such a huge heart for Jesus and the Gospel which is made so evident from her blog. She is a fellow foodie, and is gifted in the kitchen for sure. Just follow along with her Instagram for a few days and you will see how talented this lady is! :) Meet Natasha friends!

This month's prompt was short and sweet -

How do you approach hospitality and the holidays? 

For me this really goes back to my post yesterday quite honestly. I love opening up my home and feeding friends and family because this is one way I can tangibly be the Gospel to those around me. I get to play a role in showing those around our table a picture of the Lord's provision and love for us as his children. So the holidays are prime time for doing this! And I LOVE that! 

What about you? How do you view these two things and how to you make them co exist? 

Speaking of holidays...who doesn't love a super yummy mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows to get you in the holiday spirit? There is something so nostalgic about this classic winter drink for me. It takes me instantly back to being a little girl and ripping open those powdery packets of instant hot chocolate with the rock hard (Lucky Charm like) "marshmallows". I loved that stuff when I was younger. 

Now that I am older...and more mature in the ways of good food and drink, I have said good bye to the powdery instant stuff and opened my arms to the world of homemade hot chocolate and marshmallows. Not the rock hard kind, but the pillowy, soft, melt in your mouth goodness kind. 

These mallows are divine. They are literally perfect, and you will not believe how simple they are to make friends! So so simple. Which was a surprise to me, seeing as I thought marshmallows had to require some type of magic to conjure up in the kitchen. 

INGREDIENTS - 

  • 3 (1 oz) packets of unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • vanilla extract (a teaspoon or so)
  • vanilla bean seeds (scrapings of one vanilla bean, optional)
  • powdered sugar
  • corn starch

DIRECTIONS -  

Combine gelatin and 1/2 cup cold water in the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attached. Let sit for 10-15 minutes to soften. 

Add 1/2 cup cold water to a medium saucepan along with sugar, and corn syrup. Heat over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Raise heat to high and cook until you reach 240 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat and slowly pour syrup into the gelatin while the mixer is on low speed. 

Increase speed of mixer to high and allow it to whip for 15 minutes. Meanwhile scrape the beans from the inside of one vanilla bean and add the seeds to the mixture. Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and salt. 

Once thoroughly whipped. Pour into a WELL OILED pan, and smooth top with a wet spatula. Coat top with oil and allow to sit for 6-8 hours at room temperature until firm.

Once set, remove from pan, cut into cubes or use cookies cutters to cut into shapes. Toss in powder sugar and corn starch (1/4 cup each) and store in air tight container for up to 2 weeks. 

ENJOY!

Told you! Easy as pie, and so so worth the time you have to wait for the finished product! I cannot wait to try some awesome flavor combos next time with these little pillowy confections! 

The Kitchn Cookbook - Blogging for Books

Happy Monday friends! I am sitting here all cozy in our home office because it is finally freezing outside. I am all bundled up and writing this while sipping coffee that is topped of with white chocolate peppermint creamer (I am so ready for Christmas!)...the best way to start a day! Anyways, this weekend was a great one, my brother and sister came in town to visit us, and while I ended up getting sick Friday night, it was still so wonderful to spend time with my siblings! I was able to play hostess and loved every minute. We had more visitors over the weekend than just my family due to MSU's homecoming game! We had Ben's dad and brother stop by, two groomsmen, and my family coming in and out.

So naturally I whipped up a few things to make everyone feel at home. I made homemade hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows to sip on, and roasted potatoes and grilled chicken for lunches! I love feeding the ones that I love with food from our kitchen. To me it means so much more than just sharing...it truly is a way I can present the Gospel to those that come in our home. Our Holy Father has provided richly for us as his Children, and when people step into our home and I hope they feel richly provided for in many ways! 

The kitchen has become my favorite place to be since becoming a wife. I LOVE it, and I am always looking for ways to learn more about cooking. So when I heard about

blogging for books

and realized I could write reviews on cookbooks I was dying to have, I was in. (Thanks

Martha Kate

for the suggestion!) 

My first cookbook to receive for review was The Kitchn Cookbook. And man oh man, can I just say I am in love! This is so much more than your average recipe book. The kitchen is a huge resource for those new to cooking. It is like google for cooks! The Kitchn covers everything from stocking a pantry and cleaning your kitchen to the basics of cooking and great recipes! It is a gold mine, and a must have for every kitchen! 

My favorite part is the recipe section, because most of the recipes are simple, but elegant and really sophisticated while not being obscure in their ingredient list! I love that! I have already used the recipe for homemade fresh pizza sauce and tweaked it a little more to our liking! I cannot wait to cook more recipes from this book. 

The pictures in the book also appeal to be in a big way! The kitchens pictured inside the pages are beautiful and so full of character. This is one of those cookbooks that could almost double as a coffee table book or the one cookbook you would want to keep out on display in your kitchen all the time. It is just beautiful. The quality of the pages and pictures are wonderful. I could look through this book over and over again! (I kinda have a thing for pretty cookbooks, see picture below)

The Kitchn Cookbook has taken a spot next to my favorites and I plan on using it all the time. I could not recommend this cookbook more highly to every single one of you! New cooks to seasoned pros this is a great cookbook for everyone! 

Kale, Bacon, Caramelized Onion Pizza with Ricotta and Parmesan Chives Sauce

Man, what a long title for a recipe. It is a little bit of a mouthful, so don't try to say it 5 times fast...or maybe try it?! Might be entertaining. HA! Anyways, we are all about homemade pizza around our house. It is comforting, easy, and feels special when every bit of it is scratchmade.

I usually make several pizza doughs and freeze them for convenience sake. Such was the case with this pizza. And this is honestly not really a recipe as it is just topping suggestions. You just need a crust and the long list of ingredients listed in the title and your are in business for one gourmet (but insanely easy) pizza. 

INGREDIENTS:

1 bunch of kale, stems removed and roughly chopped

4 slices of thick cut bacon, cubed

1-2 onions sliced in long strings

2 tablespoons of butter

2 tablespoons of flour

1 cup milk

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons chives, chopped

ricotta

goat cheese, or feta, crumbled

mozzarella cheese

1 pizza dough

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 500 degrees.

For Toppings:

Add onions to a hot pan, with a little oil, and a pinch of salt. Keep over medium heat and stir occasionally for 30-40 minutes until dark brown and caramelized. Remove from skillet. Add bacon into skillet, turning heat up to medium high. 

Fry bacon until crispy. Remove from pan. Add in a little olive oil, and toss kale in the oil. Saute kale until bright green and slightly wilted. Remove from pan. 

For Sauce:

Melt butter in skillet. Add flour and whisk constantly until combined and cooked down (about 1 minute). Add in milk, whisking constantly. Add cheese, and chives, and salt and pepper to taste, Remove from heat.

To Assemble:

Spoon sauce over the pizza dough. Top with caramelized onions, kale, and Mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle bacon and goat cheese over the top. Spoon dollops of ricotta generously over top. Place in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes until cheese is melted and golden! 

What are your favorite pizza combos? I am always looking for new ideas! 

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Foodie Favorites / Pasta, Chocolate, and Soup!

It is time for some foodie favorites! I just LOVE this series, and I have loved getting so much positive feedback from you all about it as well...seems to be a crowd favorite around these parts! Today's foodie that will be joining me is none other than my precious Influence Network Community Group Leader, Leia of Leia Bryn. Leia has a passion for storytelling, and let me tell ya, she is good at it. Her blog is one of my favorites to read daily because of the simple, captivating storytelling. 

Here are Leia's Picks for this week...

I'm Leia, and I write over at Leia Bryn. I'm a storyteller at heart and my blog reflects my passion for documenting our families everyday moments, scattered with my passions for design, fashion, urban living, food, and most predominantly my faith. While I don't always blog about the recipes my family is currently adoring, we are food people through and through. Recently we've been working to eliminate processed ingredients and excess sugars from our cooking. The challenge has been one of my favorite seasons of cooking, especially when I see my husband passionate alongside me. Before I scare you away with recipes that have 2,000 ingredients, we've found some delicious, simple, whole food meals and those are the recipes I'm excited to share with you today!

Rice (or creative Burrito) Bowls - It doesn't get any simpler than rice bowls for dinner. We always have brown rice, vegetables, eggs, meat, and various spices and oils to whip together a delicious meal in no time!

Whole Wheat Noodles with Peanut Sauce and Vegetables - Another fantastic weeknight meal with simple ingredients already in your home. We discovered this recipe this summer and it became a staple in our rotating meal plan.

Dinner: A LoveStory Homemade Pizza (Crust & Sauce) - Friday night pizza has become a sweet ritual to finish our week together. I usually make a double batch of pizza crust (makes 4 rolls of dough) and a double batch of pizza sauce (makes 4 servings) at the beginning of the month and freeze. Every Friday night dinner is as simple as thawing, allowing the dough to rise, and getting creative with the toppings...we LOVE ricotta cheese on our pizza!

French Onion Soup - Hello comfort food perfection. There is simply nothing better than caramlized onions...for real. They are like melt in your mouth goodness, and they take awhile to make so it forces you to slow down and you know how I feel about that...LOVE! 

Homemade Pasta, No Machine apparently - I will admit, I am quite skeptical of not needed a machine to make pasta...but I am willing to try anything and this just looks AMAZING. I am a carb lover to the extreme so pasta and breads are my weakness...oh and chocolate, but you could figure that out from the picture above huh?! 

Spicy Hot Chocolate Mocha - MEXICAN HOT CHOCOLATE. Ask anyone, I have been on a Mexican chocoalte kick lately. From Mexican chcolate creamer, to pies and pots de cream...this flavor combo makes me all weak in the knees. It is so so good. So naturally as the weather is getting cooler and cooler I am dying to test this yummy drink out! 

Don't you just love food? The Lord could have given us one type of food with no taste to sustain us, but instead he gave us so many delicious foods that have endless combinations...that is worth being in awe of. Just stop and think about that. The Lord is good y'all!

Meet my sweet sponsor this month, Meg of Rivers and Roads! I got to meet Meg at the Renew Retreat and she is just as sweet as she seems on her blog! So worth following along with, and reading! 

What is your favorite part of Fall?
I love the cooler temperatures and the leaves changing colors!

What is your favorite cookbook?
I actually don't have a favorite! I just received The Blender Girl from Blogging for Books, and I'm so excited to try out some recipes.

Foodie Favorites // Sugar Pie, HONEY bunch

It is time again for Foodie Favorites! I so look forward to putting this post together every week. It is so much fun finding new recipes and seeing what my friends pick that join me every week! This Sunday Ben took me to the State Fair and we got a big jar of Mississippi made honey (in addition to lots of other yummy food treats!). So all of my recipes are honey inspired! 

First things first, meet Jenna of Dearest Love! Jenna loves cooking, baking, and spending time in her kitchen! All of her picks this week are her very own recipes that you can find on her blog! What a rockstar!! 


I'm Jenna, and I write over at Dearest Love. I blog about travel, style, everyday inspiration, and recipes. My interest in cooking and baking started when my uncle gave me an entire grown-up cooking set when I was eleven. I played around with ingredients, and loved creating really good food out of the random items from my family's pantry. Ever since that age, I've loved creating, testing, and changing recipes, but only recently has it become a true passion of mine. It's so rewarding to make a delicious dish and share it with others!  


Croissant French Toast- This french toast is one of my recent favorites! I made this for breakfast, after having a similar dish in France. 

Peach Crisp with Maple Cream Sauce- This peach crisp with maple cream sauce is one of my favorite dessert recipes. The crunch from the topping, and the sweetness of the peaches gets me every time. 

Summer Stir Fry- This summer stir fry is incredibly easy, and the ingredients can be easily substituted for what's in season. It's one of my favorite quick weeknight meals because it's fresh, simple, and healthy. 



Mini Honey Cornbread - Miniature anything gets me. Ask my husband, I just love tiny things so these little baby cornbread loaves look just darling. I know with the sweetness of the honey they would be perfect alongside a fall soup or chili! 

Salty Honey Pie - Salty AND sweet in one pie?! YES sign me up for this. I love the idea of making vanilla sea salt for this pie and loading up a buttery crust with honey custard. YUM!! must try this one. 

Roasted Pumpkin with Feta and Honey - pumpkins and Octobers are made for each other, don't ya know?! Love pumpkin everything right now. I especially love going a savory direction with pumpkin by roasting it with salty feta cheese and yummy honey. Perfect side dish! 

This is day 9 of 31 days of Writing about my kitchen and lessons from the kitchen. Tune in tomorrow for a little coffee date, Saturday for some thoughts on my kitchen and instagram, and Sunday for a caramel sauce recipe! 

Bread & Wine // Vol. 5

It is time again for The Bread & Wine Project! YAY! such a perfect link up for this month of 31 days of writing dedicated to my kitchen! This is a recipe link up that aims at fostering discussion about true hospitality and community around the table! So grab a recipe and link up and meet some new friends! 

This week my co host is one familiar face around here, Madison of  Wetherills Say I Do! Madison if for real such a great friend of mine in blogland (and we get to meet in real life next weekend!!!), and a total foodie like me. We are both contributor food authors over at My Cooking Spot, and love writing recipes and being creative in our kitchens! So meet Madison!

Today's prompt was: How do you balance convenience and trying to slow down in your kitchen?

I am so curious to hear from you all on this question. I struggle so much to strike a happy balance here. I find that I go in swings, one week I am all about slowing down, and using ingredients that force me to slow down (risotto, homemade biscuits, soups) but then the next week I am so burnt out that I am trying to finish cooking before I start (tacos, pizza, quesadillas). HELP! What do you do to slow down consistently? I want to find a happy medium, I think that fast meals are necessary sometimes, but I want to try to go against the grain more times than not! 

One way I have found that helps me slow down is to try recipes that force slowing down...homemade yeast breads, yogurt, risotto...things that take hours to rise, set, or come together. So today I am sharing this delicious Greek yogurt recipe with you all! Get ready to be blown away...one because this is so simple, and two because it tastes divine. You will never go back to store bought yogurt if you try this (you really should just try!).


simple and DELICIOUS homemade Greek Yogurt! Who knew yogurt at home could be so easy!

simple and DELICIOUS homemade Greek Yogurt! Who knew yogurt at home could be so easy!


Ingredients:

1/2 cup regular yogurt (make sure it contains active cultures)
Half gallon PASTEURIZED whole milk (most milk is ultra pasteurized so make sure this is just pasteurized)
Crock-pot

Directions:

Set your crock-pot to high. Pour the half gallon of milk into a large saucepan. Heat over medium heat until milk is bubbly and frothy. Stirring frequently so the milk does not burn. 

While milk is heating, fill your sink with water and ice to create an ice bath. Take milk from heat and set in water bath. Leave for 10 minutes. Once milk has cooled add 1/2 cup of yogurt to crock-pot, and whisk with one cup of cooled milk until smooth. 

Pour in the rest of the milk, and whisk until smooth. Place the lid on the pot. Place the crock-pot bowl in the oven (with light on to create a warm environment). Leave for 10 hours. Place pot in the fridge for 5-6 hours to set. 

To make the yogurt Greek (if you want regular yogurt stop here). 
Line a strainer with a double layer of cheesecloth, papertowels, or coffee filters. Place over a large bowl. Pour yogurt into a strainer and allow to drain off liquid for 7-8 hours or until about 2 cups of liquid have drained.

makes 1 quart of yogurt. Keeps for 1-2 weeks in the fridge! 


simple and DELICIOUS homemade Greek Yogurt! Who knew yogurt at home could be so easy!

simple and DELICIOUS homemade Greek Yogurt! Who knew yogurt at home could be so easy!

This delicious, silky yogurt is wonderful with honey, granola, use it in cooking or to make a yummy herbed yogurt sauce to serve alongside roasted potatoes! YUM!! It also would be great with some vanilla extract stirred in (or even a vanilla bean scrapped in!) I will be sharing how to make your own vanilla extract next week so stay tuned for that!

I cannot wait to see all of your recipes and hear from each of you! Thanks for linking up with us!

LINK UP RULES:
1. Follow your host and co host.
2. Link up your recipe, not your blog.
3. Comment on at least two other posts! 
4. Link back to this page! 

Oh Simple Thoughts

Thank you to each one of you that linked up today! You are all so wonderful and this community means the world to me! Happy hump day friends! 



Why I Bake Bread

It is day 5 of my 31 days of writing challenge and I am loving it! I am excited about today's topic -- BREAD!!

I have shared here several times now that I have started baking bread. It started simply as a task to show myself I could do it, and has blossomed into something some much more. You see, bread is such a comforting food. I think it's comfort comes in so many varieties and shapes. For example, there is nothing more comforting than a thick piece of hot bread that has been slathered with butter, or a slice of pumpkin bread in early fall. Or how about a biscuit made from scratch by your grandmother, or bread speckled with Parmesan cheese and rosemary dipped in rich olive oil...bread is comforting.

So here are several reasons why I bake bread...

One. My grandmother and mother did it.

This is one of the main reasons I began baking bread, I had my grandmother's weathered recipe, and wanted to see if I could do what she and my own mom did weekly for years. I can remember my mom making cinnamon rolls on the weekend with the dough, they were such a special treat. My mom and grandmother were "the bread ladies"...they brought loaves to everything and to everyone. I want to be like this. 

Two. It is a labor of love.

This could not be a more true statement. My bread takes 3 days to complete, so I am pouring a little love in every time I interact with it. From feeding my starters (all three of them) 2-3 times a week, to making 3 batches of dough two times a week, I love pouring myself into these loaves of bread. It brings such joy to my heart to have friends, and strangers try my bread, and come back for more. There is nothing more rewarding I believe. 

Three. It is therapeutic.

Call me crazy but there is nothing more relaxing than to dig my hands deep into flour, sugar, and oil and squish and knead to form dough. I love it, and I love the messes. I truly find joy and rest in being able to be wild in the kitchen while I make bread. I can get flour all over me, and the floor, and the stove...it is okay. I can spill something, or get my hands sticky with dough...and it is okay. It just helps me to reset, and is good for my soul. 

Four. It is a lost practice, and requires slowing down.

Slow is not cool these days. We want fast, instant, and on demand. However, you simply cannot have that with this bread. I have to plan ahead, and cannot simply whip it together if I need it for a meal. It takes time, and energy, and more time. It has been a good discipline for me to learn to practice slow. By embedding slow rituals such as bread making, and making other things from scratch I am forcing myself to slow down. And friends, it is beautiful how deeply you can breathe when you have a beautiful golden loaf of bread in front of you that you made over the course of several days. 

I love carbs, but more than that I love all that goes along with making bread. It is a practice that I did not want to see forgotten now that my grandmother is gone to be with the Lord, and society says you should make bread from a box mix. I want to embrace the slow, embrace the monotony, and embrace the simplicity of bread making! 

Be sure to check back in Monday for a tour through what I call "work" and my kitchen! Happy Sunday friends! 

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Homemade Apple Cider with Mulling Spices

October is my favorite month. I have bust out all my cinnamon candles, and am baking weekly with apples and pumpkins! I love this time of year!! As I mentioned earlier this week I was lucky enough to score a whole bunch of free apples from work this week, AWESOME right?! Well they were all about to go bad so I had to find ways to use them all, and fast. I have made apple pie bars, apple biscuits, and then my favorite, apple cider.

There are those recipes that you just want to share with friends, and this is one of them. I instantly was wishing I had invited someone over for the afternoon to curl up on the couch with me and drink a teacup full of this goodness. And it was storming outside, which made the whole process of making the cider that much more cozy. 

This time of year all the grocery stores start marketing large jugs of apple cider. This stuff is yummy, but let me tell you, as is often the case, the homemade version is sooo much more yummy! (and your house will smell like the perfect combo of autumn and an apple orchard while you make this!)

Homemade Apple Cider with mulling spices...hello perfect fall drink!!!
Homemade Apple Cider with mulling spices...hello perfect fall drink!!!

This recipe is simple, and really fool proof. You just throw everything in a pot, and walk away while something magical happens. And you guys, this stuff is seriously amazing. I have had two cups (no lie) while I have been editing pictures and writing this post. It is just sooo good. 

Homemade Apple cider with mulling spices! Hello Fall, welcome back!!!!
Homemade Apple cider with mulling spices! Hello Fall, welcome back!!!!
Homemade Apple cider with mulling spices! Hello Fall, welcome back!!!!
Homemade Apple cider with mulling spices! Hello Fall, welcome back!!!!
Homemade Apple cider with mulling spices! Hello Fall, welcome back!!!!
Homemade Apple cider with mulling spices! Hello Fall, welcome back!!!!
Homemade Apple cider with mulling spices! Hello Fall, welcome back!!!!
Homemade Apple cider with mulling spices! Hello Fall, welcome back!!!!

What you need: 

10-12 apples (I used a combo of granny smith, red delicious, and gala) chopped roughly in quarters

1 large orange, chopped roughly in eighths

4-6 cinnamon sticks

1 tablespoon whole allspice

1 table spoon whole cloves (or about a tablespoon ground)

1 whole nutmeg (or a tsp ground)

1/2 cup brown sugar

large stock pot

Directions:

Place apples, orange, and all spices in the pot. Add sugar. Cover with water. I left about an inch and a half at the top of the pot. 

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, covered, for one hour. Then uncover and allow to simmer and reduce for 2 more hours. 

Using a fine mesh strainer, strain mixture into a large pitcher or container. Serve immediately, or allow to cool to room temp and refrigerate for up to 2-3 weeks. 

Homemade Apple cider with mulling spices! Hello Fall, welcome back!!!!
Homemade Apple cider with mulling spices! Hello Fall, welcome back!!!!
Homemade Apple cider with mulling spices! Hello Fall, welcome back!!!!
Homemade Apple cider with mulling spices! Hello Fall, welcome back!!!!

It is that simple. And so worth the time and effort. This recipe makes about 3 quarts of cider! So you really get a lot of reward for the time invested. And I promise your friends will be so thankful for such a warming and comforting drink when they come into your home! 

Homemade Apple cider with mulling spices! Hello Fall, welcome back!!!!
Homemade Apple cider with mulling spices! Hello Fall, welcome back!!!!

Tune in tomorrow for my story behind why I began baking bread and what it means to me! 

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Foodie Favorites // Sister, Sister Edition

Foodie Favorites is quickly becoming one of my favorite blog series to date here at Oh Simple Thoughts. I just love putting it together every week as it is never a burden...it is just a whole lot of fun. This series has helped me think outside of the box when it comes to meals I prepare every week, as well as allowed me spotlight some of my favorite blogging gals! However, today my little sister is jumping in on the action! YAY!

I do not often share my family members with you all here on this blog. Simply because I feel that they deserve their own privacy, and they have their own stories to be told in their own ways...but I love my fam jam. My little sister Taylor and I have been close since the days we shared a bunk bed in a little room with four different brightly colored walls. We became even closer when we began riding to school together just us two when I turned 16. Our sisterhood became an even deeper friendship when we cheered on the Varsity Cheer Squad together, and as we supported and loved one another after my dad's death in 2007. Taylor Faith is one of my best friends...and one thing we both LOVE is food. 

I think this comes from my other family members. Never, ever, ever will you step a foot into my home in Georgia at a time that my mom doesn't have a quick dip ready for serving alongside crackers or chips. We love to grill out, and we do it big in my family. My sister always loved to be in the kitchen a lot more than me so up until recently she was always the one with more "kitchen experience". Nonetheless she is a fellow foodie, and a college gal trying to make budget friendly meals for herself and all her sorority sisters! So meet my sweet sissy Taylor! 








Hey everyone! My name is Taylor Reynolds, and I am Rachel's little sister. I am so excited that she asked me to share with you today! In the Reynolds household food have always been very important. Rachel and I both grew up being taught that the way to almost everyone's heart is through a good meal! Between our mom and grandmother we both came to love being in the kitchen and preparing food for the people we love! So I hope you love my recipes I picked out as much as I do!!


1. Pull Apart Pizza Bread- I really like this recipe because it is easy and would be something that at all my friends as college students would LOVE! And I am always trying to find fun new recipes like this for game days and movie nights that everyone will love!! 

2. Taco Stuffed Zucchini Boats- I really really like this recipe because I am a huge fan of zucchini and tacos...so why not put them both together?! Right? :) I have had lots of my friends do similar recipes to this one and I have loved them all. I have always wanted to put my own twist on it! 

3. White Chocolate Pumpkin Snickerdoodles-  I want to try these because of course it's fall and I love cookies and baking! This makes me so excited for colder weather and the leaves changing color!!

1. Chipolte Chicken and Corn Chowder- Hello, perfect fall soup! I love a little spice, and corn chowder is so perfect for a cozy night in. This is a must make on my meal planning schedule! I cannot wait to try it and report back! 

2. Amaretto Cream Cheese Coffee Cake- I love, love, love coffee cake and this one sounds simply divine. It also sounds a little naughty with the amaretto and cream cheese...rich, creamy goodness I say! Must make as soon as possible. 

3. Baked Goat Cheese- Like I said above, I grew up in a chip and dip family. I just thought it was totally normal to expect a homemade dip and chips every time I go over to someone's house. So this dip sounds wonderful and just fancy enough to be served at a nice dinner party. 

Thanks for tuning in for our little sister edition of foodie favorites! Stop in next week and join myself and Jenna of Dearest Love!! What are your favorite recipes? 

My Foodie Pen Pal / #2

I wrote about My Foodie Penpal last month, and shared with you what an awesome experience it was for me. I had so much fun trying new things and fell in love with a new tea! So I decided to participate again this month, and I was not at all disappointed. My penpal this time Brittnye of The Healthy Living Chick sent me so many awesome goodies. 

BUT, before I get to what all was in my box let me share what I sent to Brittnye. I sent her a small bag of chocolate covered espresso beans from a local coffee shop, and a small bag of Blueberry Cobbler coffee from the same place. (It literally tastes like cobbler, and if you want to try it they sell it online in 2 oz sample bags as well as larger bags!) I also sent her some homemade spice citrus tea (I will be sharing the recipe this week), and several packets of Justin's almond butter, and chocolate hazelnut butter (which she also sent to me!!)


Brittney sent me so many awesome goodies. Here is what all she included in my box:

1. Sparkling Ice Lemonade - it was the bomb and I cannot wait to buy more and try other flavors.

2. Bear Naked Granola - I have added this stuff to yogurt for breakfast almost every morning since I got the stuff. It is so yummy!

3. Young Living Essential Oils Samples - I was literally so pumped about this. I have recently ordered my starter kit with Young Living and haven't received it yet. So I loved trying out the oils for the first time!

4. Justin's Hazelnut Chocolate Butter and Nutella Snack Cup - Need I say more? Neither of these lasted very long to say the least.

5. Luna Bars and Bear Naked Granola Bar - I have not eaten these yet, but I was really excited to see them in my box. I have to be at work really early most days so a granola bar is the perfect on the go breakfast for me!

6. Tazo Passion Tea - I love Tazo tea and this is not a flavor I have tried yet. I have loved sipping on it with a little bit of honey and sometimes even a little milk!

THANK YOU so much Brittnye for all the goodies!! You are the best!

Want to know how to sign up? It is so easy...just click hereBe sure and sign up by the 4th though or else you will have to wait a whole long month before you can participate in the fun! 

Foodies Favorites / #3 - sugar, spice, and everything nice.

I feel like Autumn just ushers in the season of comfort foods. Now is the time for stews that simmer all day long, cozy warm ciders, and pumpkin everything! I have loved pouring over some new cookbooks and researching how to cook seasonally for my little family. 

This week Lauren of 34 Magnolia Street is joining me to share her favorites as a fellow foodie! I am so thrilled to have this sweet friend jumping in on the action today. Meet Lauren!!

As a newbie in the food-loving world, I'm so excited to be part of Rachel's Foodie Favorites feature! My name is Lauren and I blog over at 34 Magnolia Street, my place to discover more of who I am, what I love and where I want to go - and part of that is discovering my love for food! I need a good stock of recipes, so I'm trusting y'all to show me what's good! :) Growing up, I learned to bake like nobody's business, but I didn't learn much in the realm of cooking. Lately, though, I've found it to be one of my favorite parts of each day. I'm loving what the Lord is teaching me about hospitality and food, and so much of me wants to be a great cook! In the meantime, I'm learning to love where I'm at now and enjoy the journey on my way to greatness in the kitchen ;)




1. Chicken Taco Chili- This is one of my favorite go-to comfort meals as the weather gets chilly! I love a good soup, and you can't go wrong with this one. It's super easy because the crock pot does all the work for you! I like to cook rice when it's time to serve, then we serve it over the rice with a little cheese and sour cream and scoop it up in chips! Heavenly, I tell you.

2. Cookie Dough Buckeyes - These are my favorite treat! I like to make a bunch and keep them in the freezer, so whenever I get a craving for something sweet, I can pop one and be done. They are super easy and oh, so delicious! 

3. Avocado Mango Corn Salsa- I'm also a sucker for great appetizer food - and this salsa is so delicious. To be honest, I may have had it for dinner a time or two, but it's one of my favorite snacks to bring over to a friend's house for game night!


1. Homemade Yogurt- I love eating yogurt with fruit and honey, add a handful of granola and I am on happy camper. So the idea of making yogurt on my own...glorious! Anyone else made yogurt? Suggestions and tips are so welcome and appreciated! 

2. Butternut Squash Barley Risotto- I am thrilled that butternut squash is in season and on sale in the grocery store right now! It is sooo yummy when it is roasted. Also, barley is super healthy so this spin on a classic risotto sounds divine! Cannot wait to try it out. 

3. Apple Cinnamon Tea Latte- Apples are also in season right now! Yippee, I am not lucky enough to have a orchard to go pick my own around here, but they are on sale at the store which makes apple everything a good choice these days. Cannot wait to try this yummy tea latte out one evening. I may even top it with a little cinnamon spice whipped cream! 

Speaking of food...have you entered the cookbook giveaway going on?! I have teamed up with some awesome ladies to bring you my two latest favorite cookbooks! Tomorrow is the last day to enter so hurry huryy! 


My Foodie Bucket List + Cookbook Giveaway!!

So I have fallen in love with food. If you read this blog you have probably watched as this new passion has been awakened in me. So in order to push myself and create space for learning new techniques and out of the box recipes I have created a "foodie bucket list" on Pinterest. This bucket list is just for recipes that challenge me in some way. For example it is not made up of chocolate chip cookies that I could make in my sleep. Rather it is full of recipes like brioche breads, pretzels, roasted chicken, and macaroons, things that require technique and learning...and y'all I am so excited!

In addition to this bucketlist I have gained two new cookbooks for my collection. Bountiful and The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. I have been swooning over these beauties and all the recipes inside since they arrive at my doorstep this weekend. Like...for real y'all these cookbooks are PACKED with rockstar recipes. Here are the recipes I am trying first from the Smitten Kitchen...


Apple Cider Caramels, Fig, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah, and Pancetta, White Bean, and Swiss Chard Pot Pies! These all look divine, scream fall...they just make me want to cry, and write, and sing for joy with hoe perfectly beautiful they are. I am dying to get in the kitchen and make each one! Be sure to follow along on pinterest with my bucketlist!

So in the spirit of loving food and pretty cookbooks I am teaming up with some lovely ladies and giving away these gorgeous cookbooks I have been oh so in love with AND a copy of a recent favorite book, Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenrieder. Meet your pretty hosts!!


The winner will be announced this Friday so stay tuned and play fair! All entries will be verified. Have fun!!