Wednesday, November 26, 2014

So Thankful….

This is the time of year that everyone talks about how thankful they are.  I am no exception.  I have a wonderful husband who cherishes me (minus the occasional smart ass comment).  My children are healthy and happy (most of the time).  I have an amazing group of friends who I can talk to about ANYTHING.  And I have my family who despite all of the fights, tears and drama I love more than life itself.  I am so very lucky.  Although I wish my mom was still here, I know she is smiling down as we are about to all come together for Thanksgiving.  She smiled while dad and I headed to Total Wine earlier in the week for the wine to serve with the turkey & stuffing.  She is super excited and proud that my baby sister, Madeline, is hosting in her gorgeously renovated kitchen (I am not at all jealous:-)).  She is glad that my Aunt Virginia, Uncle Virgil and cousin Susannah still come up from Georgetown, South Carolina every Thanksgiving.  I know she will be will be watching Thanksgiving morning as Jackson, Nat and Hollins watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade in their pjs.  I think Mom is most excited that my cousin Jennie is getting home tonight from her year-long mission trip around the world with the World Race. I am so excited that she returns today that I couldn't sleep at all last night! I feel like a child on Christmas morning!
Even though Jennie and I are six years apart in age we have always been super close.  As a child, I adored her.  As we grew up, our similarities made us great friends.  We both adore children, love to cook and bake and can't get enough Lifetime/ Hallmark channel Christmas movies.  When Jennie graduated from college she moved to Charlotte to work and she has lived ever since.  She has lived with me, Allen and the kids periodically over the past few years.  Her messiness drives me crazy but I still always adore having her here!  Not only do Jennie and I have a special bond, she, also, has a special bond with each of my children.  Jennie is Jackson's godmother.  As an infant she would come stay with me and hold him while she stayed up watching TV so that I could get some much-needed sleep.  She was living with us when I had Nat.  She got home just in time for me go to the hospital while I was in labor.  Then she kept Jackson while Allen and I bonded with Nat the next 2 days in the hospital.  She lived with us for a little bit a couple of months after Hollins was born also.   She is their "Aunt Nennie" and I know that their unique relationships will fall right back into place as soon as she returns.  The boys have asked about her multiple times each week since she hugged us goodbye on January 1st.  We have all been looking forward to this day ALL YEAR!
Jackson & Jennie
Jennie & Jackson
Jennie & Nat
Jennie & Hollins

Welcome Home Jennie!!!  Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Weekend Recap: Family Pics & Bee Mighty

On Friday nights I don't usually cook.  Generally Allen picks up take-out or we go out to dinner with the kids.  I had planned on making Italian Wedding Soup on Thursday but homework and errands took up most of the day, so I didn't get around to it.  So Friday I cooked- I told Allen not to get used to it though :-).  This is a family favorite in our house.  All of the children like it which means I only have to cook one time! Yes!  I got the recipe from Giada's Family Dinner cookbook but made a few adjustments.
I usually double the meatball recipe and freeze half of them for the next time I want to make this soup. 
8 oz lean ground beef
8 ozs ground pork
1 egg, beaten
1 small onion, grated
3 cloves minced garlic
1/4 cup dried breadcumbs
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/4 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
Salt & pepper, to taste
Mix all ingredients with your hands until combined thoroughly.  Roll into small meatballs with your hands and place on wax paper covered baking sheet(s).  If I have doubled the recipe, I put one baking sheet in to freezer to flash freeze the meatballs.  The other sheet I set next to the stove to add to the soup when ready.
14 cups of good {low sodium} chicken broth (my fav is Pacific)
1/2 cup acini di pepe pasta
2 heads of escarole, chopped
2 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup cup parmesan, grated

Bring chicken broth to a slow boil over medium heat.  Add meatballs slowly to the broth.  Simmer meatballs for about ten minutes stirring very carefully so as not to break up the meatballs.  Add the pasta.  Cook, stirring occasionally for 10 more minutes.  Add escarole.  Once escarole has wilted add the egg-parmesan mixture in small strands with a fork.  Cook 10 more minutes.  Serve in bowls with extra fresh parm on top!

This past weekend we had our family pictures taken.   Usually this a fairly stressful endeavor with 3 kids, but this year it actually wasn't!  Lucy and Steven of Smitten & Hooked made it such a fun event for me, Allen and the kids.  The pictures were shot on a farm just north of Charlotte.  It was freezing Saturday morning so they had a bonfire going for us to stay warm by.  Lucy had built the cutest teepee for us to have some pictures taken in.  Check out her blog…. she has posted a teepee DIY!  They also had an enormous treat table for the kids after the pictures were finished.  Let's just say we were all super impressed!  Nat asked if we could do that again next year and Jackson didn't want to leave!  If you need pictures taken in the Charlotte area, I highly recommend them.  

The treat table mesmerized my kids!
Happy kiddos!
Yummy Cake Pops!
Saturday night, Allen and I attended the event Bee Mighty for the second time.  Bee Mighty provides funding for medical therapy and equipment to NICU graduates.  It is a great cause that is close to many people's hearts here.  The event took place at Charlotte Country Club.  We went with a large group of friends and had a blast.
I got this gorgeous Nightcap Clothing dress at doll boutique in Charlotte.  If you are looking for cocktail dress for all of your upcoming holiday parties, check them out.  They have gorgeous ones from Nicole Miller, Sanctuary and Nightcap.  I loved everything I tried on!!
McCay's amazing dress is Mara Hoffman
Jewelry from Poppy Style

Monday, November 17, 2014

Appetizer Round Up: Football Food & Girls' Night In Apps

Football Food
During the fall, there is always football on in my house.  My husband loves it…. and I like it better than any other sport to watch :-).  These recipes are great to enjoy while watching football because they are super easy!
Beef Brisket French Dip Sandwiches
2-3 lbs beef brisket, fat trimmed off
1/2 large onion, sliced
3 cups of low-sodium beef broth
2 cups red wine
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 package Lipton Beefy Onion Soup mix
2 tbsp rosemary, finely minced
2 bay leaves
Salt & pepper, to taste
Swiss Cheese
Soft Slider Rolls
Brown beef brisket on both sides.  Place in a large crockpot that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Add broth, red wine, onion, soup mix, garlic, bay leaves and rosemary.  Cook on high for 4-5 hours then turn down to low and cook for another 2-3 hours.  Shred meat in pot.  Serve on warm rolls with swiss cheese and with a bowl of the broth from the crockpot.
Barbecue Kielbasa
2 lbs Kiebasa, sliced into rounds
1/2 cup bourbon
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tbsp worcestershire
Salt & pepper, to taste
Put bourbon, ketchup, brown sugar, worcestershire, salt and pepper in small crockpot that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Stir well.  Add kielbasa.  Stir again.  Turn crockpot on low and cook for 5 hours, stirring occasionally.
Easy Peasy Cheese Dip
8 oz cream cheese, softened
8 oz Velveeta cheese, cubed
1 1/2 cans of Rotel
A few dashes of hot sauce
Put all ingredients in a pot and heat slowly, stirring constantly.  Serve hot with your chip of choice.
Girls' Night In
I could survive on cheese and crackers if I had to.  When Allen is out of town, that usually ends up being my dinner.  You won't hear me complaining either!  Trader Joe's always has delicious cheeses at a great price.  You won't feel as though you are breaking the bank if you try a new one and you don't like it.  I had some girlfriends over to enjoy time by our fireplace on the porch.  I threw together some yummy appetizers to have while we caught up with each other.
Pumpkin Cranberry Crackers & Cinnamon Dusted Toscana Cheese
Italian Dry Salami (all from Trader Joe's)
Wine is from the Winestore in Charlotte (recommended by Natalie & Madeline)
Palmetto Jalepeno Pimento Cheese topped with Braswell's Red Pepper Jelly served with Pita Chips
Sweet & Spicy Pecans

Sweet & Spicy Pecans
1 cup raw pecans, halved
1 tbsp olive oil
2 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
1 1/2 tsp of Kosher Salt
Toss all ingredients in a bowl until coated.  Pour on a baking sheet lined with foil or parchment paper.  Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.  Watch closely- they can burn easily!  Remove and let cool throughly.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Blood Orange-Habanero Margaritas

My cousin Susannah & her boyfriend Ronnie came to town last week to celebrate her birthday.  Susannah always makes the best cocktails!  She whipped up these AMAZING Margaritas.  They quickly became a favorite in our house!
To make the juice:
1 carton/ container of Blood Orange Juice
1 Habanero Pepper, quartered
Bring these 2 ingredients to a boil over medium-heat, then reduce heat to low-medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool then refrigerate until cold.
4 oz white tequila
Fresh lime juice from 1 lime
4 large squirts of agave nectar
1/2 cup of juice mixture
Put all ingredients with ice in cocktail shaker and shake vigorously.  Pour over a glass of crushed ice. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Chili: Three Ways

Chili is a staple in out house over the fall and winter months because it is so hearty and a great way to get the kids to eat their veggies! I love having a variety to choose from.
White Bean Chicken Chili
I got this recipe from my good friend Peggy and it has been a favorite in my house for many years.  This also the personal favorite of my middle child, Nat.
6-8 cups chicken broth
2 cans of Great Northern Beans
3 cups of chicken, cooked and shredded
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp coriander
1 1/2 tbsp cumin
2 tbsp oregano
2 cans of diced green chilis
2 cups monterey jack cheese, shredded
1 zucchini, sliced
1 1/2 cups raw carrot chips
Salt & pepper, to taste
Combine first 8 ingredients in a large pot and simmer over medium heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add cheese, zucchini, carrots, salt and pepper and simmer for additional 20 minutes or until the veggies have softened to your liking.  Garnish with pepper jack or monterey jack cheese and sour cream.
Traditional Red Chili
This is my oldest (Jackson's) favorite.  He can usually put away two huge bowls in a sitting!
2 lbs lean ground beef, cooked and crumbled
3 cans kidney beans, drained
3 cans of tomato sauce
2 cans of diced tomatoes
1 onion, chopped
2 tbsp chili powder
1 1/2 tbsp cumin
1 tsp garlic powder
Pinch of ground red pepper
Salt & pepper, to taste
Place all ingredients in a crockpot and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Serve with shredded cheddar cheese and sour cream.  We also like ours with tortilla chips!
Turkey & Quinoa Chili
6 cups of chicken broth
1 lb ground turkey breast, cooked and crumbled
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cans of black beans, drained but not rinsed
1 can diced green chilis
2 cans, diced tomatoes
1 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
Salt & pepper, to taste
3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed
Place all ingredients, except for quinoa and lime in a large pot.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Stir occasionally.  Turn down to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes, continue to stir occasionally.  Add quinoa and cook for 20-25 minutes with lid on your pot.  Stir occasionally so that the quinoa doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot.  After you pour chili into individual bowls, squeeze fresh lime juice over the chili for freshness.  Garnish with shredded pepper jack cheese, avocado and sour cream.
Hope you enjoy keeping warm with these chili recipes!

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Week Recap: Halloween Week!

I love Halloween and everything about it!  Haunted Houses and scary movies are my favorite! It drives Allen crazy because he can't stand them.  So this past week consisted of a lot of scary movies, fun fall recipes and cozy outfits.  I'll share a few of my favorites with everyone.
What We Watched:
My friend, Michelle, asked what some of my favorite scary/ horror movies are and this is what I came up with:
Halloween 1 (the first one with Jamie Lee Curtis)
The Ring
The Shining
Amityville Horror (The old one with James Brolin)
The Conjuring
There are so many be this is what I could come up with off the top of my head!
I let the boys watch Ghostbusters for the first time this year and they loved it!  I was definitely one of my favorites growing up.
What we did:
I carved many pumpkins this week.  I don't really enjoy this part but I do it for the kids.  It made me really miss my mom because she LOVED doing that kind of thing!  But I sucked it up and did a few.  
What We Ate:
For breakfast, in celebration of Halloween and Fall I made Pumpkin Pie Smoothies.  The boys loved them and I felt good about getting a vegetable in them before 8 am!
1/2 cup nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (not pie filling!)
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 1/2 tbsp honey
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tbsp chia seeds (optional)
crushed ice
ginger snap cookies, crushed (optional)
Put all ingredients (except cookies) in a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Pour in cups or glasses and garnish with crushed ginger snaps! Yum!
I decided to try and make a new soup- Jalapeño Popper Soup.  I saw a few different recipes online but they weren't exactly what I wanted so I decided to make up my own.  
1 tbsp olive oil
2 lb lean ground beef
1 cup yellow onion, diced
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup red pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 jalapeño, diced & seeds removed
2 cans of navy beans, drained
1 can of diced tomatoes, undrained
4 cups of beef broth
2 cups of chicken broth
1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper to taste
8 oz cream cheese
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Shredded Mexican- blend cheese
Cooked Bacon, crumbled
Cook the ground beef in the olive oil over medium heat, crumbled as it cooks.  When no longer pink,  remove ground beef with slotted spoon and set aside.  Add onion, red pepper, corn and garlic and sauté until soft.  Add jalapeño and sauté 2 more minutes.  Add beans, tomatoes, both broths, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper.  Bring to a slow boil.  Cut the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.   Remove pot from heat and puree half of the soup with an emersion blender.  Return pot to stove on low- medium heat and add cream cheese to soup.  When cream cheese is melted and combine add cheddar cheese and stir until melted into the soup.  Add the ground beef back into the soup.  At this point taste soup to see if it needs more salt and pepper.  If so, add more- small pinches at a time until it is just how you like it!
Pour soup in individual bowls and garnish with cheese of choice and crumbled bacon.
What I wore:
Allen and I celebrated our 13 year anniversary!  We enjoyed a nice quiet dinner at one of our favorite places, Toscana.  We also went to the launch party of my friend and barre instructor's new business.  She is now the owner of Paddle to Paradise.  As soon as the weather warms up again, Allen and I are planning doing a sunset paddle board and picnic with Gina.  If you have been curious about paddle boarding and looking for a fun new date night…. check her out!
I ordered this dress by Karina Grimaldi from Piperlime.  It fits great and the marble pattern is super fun! I am definitely going to try more pieces from her.  I wore it with this amazing chunky gold necklace that I found in New York at Zara.  
 This tie-dyed Show Me Your Mumu dress is a favorite of mine.  I plan on wearing it with tights or leggings now that the weather has cooled off. 

Last weekend we dressed up and went to the annual Children's Halloween Party at Carmel Country Club.  It's a yearly tradition for us and the kids love dressing up more than just on Halloween.  They have face-painting, bouncy houses, pumpkin decorating, endless amounts of candy and a delicious buffet of Halloween-themed food.  
My fav cape from Zara!
I think I love October so much because I feel like we celebrate all month long!  My birthday was a could weeks ago but we just got around to celebrating with my family.  It's a yearly tradition that my dad takes us all to Ruth's Chris steakhouse for our birthdays.  They have amazing dirty martinis with blue cheese stuffed olives.  I crave their chopped salad on a regular basis. Their steaks are delicious and literally melt in your mouth.  It is a family favorite.
Hope everyone had a great Halloween!