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Food

  • A Fall Hot Dish Recipe

    minnesota phrasesAs you all know, I live in Minnesota. And, as most regions of our country do, we Minnesotans have certain ways of saying and doing things that are unique. When I first moved here 11 years ago, I heard some of these for the first time, and let me tell you, they ARE definitely unique.

    Phrases like "up north", a place that everyone headed to come the weekend. So many people that I met were going there, and I honestly thought it must've been a phenomenal town!

    Another oddity is how natives drag their o's out....as in Minnesooooohta. It doesn't take long to pick up this midwestern accent and not even realize it.

    meatball hotdish

    Then there's the hot dish, otherwise known as a casserole, popular at not just church potlucks, but come fall, in homes across the state. Hot dish recipes come out of the woodwork this time of year, and I've got one of those today that'll warm you right up, Gnocchi and Meatball Bake. You're going to just love it.

    Italian spices are a big favorite in our house, and this recipe is a solid staple on our fall menu. When you combine homemade meatballs, potato gnocchi, tomato sauce and cheese, well, what's not to like about that? It is a real winner.

    You can find the full recipe and instructions here.

     

    Photo credit:  Minnesota phrases

     

     

  • Creative Use of a Button

    rustic buttonOne of the things my creative mind loves doing the most is finding multiple uses for simple, ordinary things. It is my industrious character trait coupled with creativity and, of course, frugality at work! And, what could be more basic than a button?

    I dare say few things are more rudimentary than a button. :) Think about it, we've been making buttons to clasp things closed for a very long time, way before we learned to make them in a factory. Wood sticks and loops of twine is just one example!

    I think we can take this inexpensive little thing called a button and make some really charming Christmas items. Here are just a few examples:

     

    button card

    Now isn't that just about the cutest card you've ever seen? It has that minimalist look too that is so popular, and what you see ends up being way more than the sum of its parts.

     

    button cookies

    How about button cookies? These are simple sugar or butter cookies, too! After you roll out your dough and cut your circle, take a cookie cutter just a little smaller and press lightly for the groove. Then poke 2 holes in the center with a skewer. I think these would be adorable as a table favor at a ladies Christmas party, or a very creative way to bundle up plain sugar cookies for a cookie exchange.

     

    button ornament

    I LOVE this idea. It involves a package of colored buttons in various shades, some thin wire and ribbon. These can be ornaments for the tree or even gift tags! This is a tag that your sewing friend will definitely not throw away, and will forever think of you as their most creative friend.

    While going to the spendy department store for their annual Christmas ornament is a tradition for many, I simply love the idea of crafting one of our own annual ornaments from the staples of life.

     

    Photo credit:  Wooden stick, card, cookies, ornament/gift tag

     

     

  • Are You Ready for Some Fall?

    pumpkinsI saw this picture this morning on one of my friends Facebook wall, and I have to admit that my heart sank just a little. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the fall season and everything about it, but I'm just not quiiiiite ready to let go of summer. Nonetheless, the calendar will turn over to the 'ber months in just a few short days, ready or not.

    So, let's start getting ready. Last time we explored this fabulous holiday aroma that will have everyone either salivating or plopping down on your couch for a visit. The scents of cinnamon lend a very homey, comfy feeling, don't they? Even tho the spice combo that I shared with you is definitely a Christmas thing, it is also very fall-ish. Those warm spices ~ cinnamon and cloves ~ have a way of changing just about anyone's mood for the better, and especially so in the fall months. Somehow a cup of spice fits perfectly with the changing of the colors!

    Starbucks, for many years has hopped on board with these very popular palette pleasers when they created their pumpkin spice latte and Chai. There is nothing like running through the drive thru lane and treating yourself to one of these, yes? :) I'm right behind you, friends! Do you ever wonder how they make it taste so good?

    pumpkinspiceI do, so I decided to find out exactly what they put in that addictive drink, and imagine my surprise to learn that there is actually NO real pumpkin in it! I will reserve comment on the other ingredients, because we aren't here to bash the coffee giant, just to learn to make a worthy rival of one of their most popular drinks. And one that is, shall I dare say, healthy? Okay, I'll say it. It IS healthy, and especially if you sub out the 2 tablespoons of sugar in the recipe I'll be sharing and, in it's place, use honey or monk fruit or even chicory!

    Dying to know how to make your own Pumpkin Spice Lattee? Here ya go, you can find the full on recipe right here, complete with instructions!

  • Christmas in July Tradition

    Melted SnowmenAfter all the hoopla yesterday involved with celebrating the 4th of July, riding home in the car with the windows down was the perfect way to end it all. It was a perfect 75 degrees and breezy, traffic was practically non-existent, and I thought about how much I'm going to miss all this warmness when winter comes again lol!

    Granted, there is something fun about having snow at Christmas, and in order for snow to happen it must be cold. But, I'm just not missing it right now. Nonetheless, I'm attempting to get into the spirit of Christmas in July, but it don't come easy for this warm-weather loving girl. If you, on the other hand, are participating, I've got a very fun idea for a picnic treat!

    Aren't they adorable, these melted snowmen? These would be great little buddies to your s'mores around the campfire and will help you use up all the marshmallows that are left. Combine those fluffy spheres with a plain sugar cookie and some icing and you'll definitely put a smile on a bunch of faces. Promise.

    While I am not wishing for cold weather today, this is one snowy treat I can sign on for. How about you?

    Photo credit

  • Happy 4th of July and Peppermint Ice Cream!

    July 4th partyIt's set to be a lovely day here in Minneapolis, a perfect day really for celebrating our nation's independence. The sun'll be out, the temperature will climb to a comfortable 80 degrees, and you can bet there will be no lack of partying going on later tonight. It's always so much fun when July 4th falls on a Friday. It means we won't have to put on an extra pot of coffee for the next morning just to get ourselves to work.

    Peppermint Ice CreamWith the heat increasing in most parts of our country, ice cream is always a favorite treat. One of our absolute favorite flavors around the holidays....okay, let's be real, absolutely any day, week or month of the year....is peppermint ice cream. And, what do ya know, it is both very holiday-ish and July 4th, all wrapped into one.

    Mint Chocolate Ice Cream

    Now, we've never been too successful at finding our brand in the store in the summer, but that hasn't stopped us from enjoying the flavor of candy canes in the off season. I turn to none other than the Pioneer Woman for a homemade peppermint ice cream recipe! And, if you are more of a mint chocolate kind of ice cream eater, she's got you covered there too. You can find both recipes here.

    Here's wishing you all a blessed time with family and friends today, celebrating our freedom!

    Photo Credit:  Picnic, Ice Cream

     

  • Staying Lean at Christmas

    health coachThe plan today was to finish up our series on Christmas Traditions in other parts of the world. However, I had a meeting this morning with Melissa, my health coach, and now my mind and heart are reeling from our talk . . . so much so that I'm having a hard time thinking about anything else! I do love switching things up around here, so here we are, discussing staying lean at Christmas!

    Melissa and I were talking specifically about my journey and what is next on our long list of things to work on, and maybe sometime I'll share some specifics about that. But for today, this whole process I'm in got me thinking too about the holidays and weight gain and the aftermath of all that. For a couple years now I have been a part of a Facebook group whose goal is to maintain our healthy habits throughout the holidays without deprivation. Say what?

    snowmenIt seems almost impossible what with all the extra sugary treats, rich foods, parties to go to, cookie exchanges, etc. to emerge none worse for the wear.  And, even tho some studies show that we, on average, gain only about 1 pound over the Christmas holiday, so often momentum that was hard won prior to the holidays is lost, and that takes much longer to recover.  I'm going to share with you some of the things I have learned, both through that group and from my health coach that can help to avert that crisis.

    We_Can_Do_It!

    Keep that momentum going while still enjoying the most wonderful time of the year! Here's how:

    1. Set your mind. Once we set our minds to accomplish something, to do something, to be something, it is often very difficult to change, good or bad! Decide ahead of time what you want, what you really want. You don't want extra pounds in January, right? You don't want a foggy brain or an energy sap, right? Then, adjust your plans. Decide. Then, when it comes time to make choices at the party or the family dinner or the cookie table at work, you'll intuitively know what will and what won't serve you best.
    2. Maintain your healthy diet and exercise regimen. Many people use the holidays as an excuse to take a holiday from how they know they should eat. The trick is turning that "shoulda" into something that you want to do. Once you find what's right for you and your body and you don't feel deprived, stick with it. You will enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas far more and feel so much better about yourself. And, who knows, your good habits may just rub off.
    3. Go for a walk. After that family dinner, enlist others to go for a walk. I know I know, sometimes all you wanna do is lay on the couch. But, just a short 20  minute walk about 15 minutes after eating a large meal burns more calories, plus aids your digestion. It doesn't even have to be a fast walk. Take a stroll in the snow or at the park or wherever you want.
    4. Choose your indulgences wisely. Some people decide ahead of time they'll enjoy just one very decadent treat, so that means they are constantly on the lookout for what that'll be. Once you find it, have a small piece, or even just a bite. Often that's all our taste buds really need to feel satisfied.

    I am not a health coach or a personal trainer or anything like that. I'm just a person who strives every day for good health. And, I'm wondering why it should be any different at Christmas. :)

    Have a happy, healthy holiday!

    Photo credit:  Tape measure, Snowmen, We Can Do It

  • Cranberry Margaritas, Yes Please!

    margaritaIt's Friday right before a holiday weekend. You might be going out of town, but if you aren't you are a little irritated that I just reminded you, lol. Like me, you are likely trying to stay focused on getting that last little bit of work done so you can truly relax on Monday. I know that's what I'm up to today!

    When you get home from work, won't you join me by throwing on some comfy clothes as we sit outside with a glass of this?! Ohh la la!! Technically called a Christmas Cranberry Margarita Cupcaketini, it is refreshing just looking at it, isn't it?! Definitely not just for Christmas! I think it's pretty near perfect for a day like today.

    I like traditional things that have a bit of a twist, and this cupcaketini meets the criteria. Instead of salt on the rim of your glass, this recipe says to use sugar. It's also great if you want to stick to the salt, I think it will be equally good, just different. And you will be defending the honor of margarita tradition and that's a good thing. :) You can find the recipe here.

    If you don't imbibe, there is a great alternative too.  Simply replace the alcohol components with sparkling water and regular orange juice! Just make sure you put it in a glass capable of holding sugar or salt on the rim.

    Happy sipping now and at Christmas dinner!

  • Oh Those Cranberries

    cranberry feta

    After my post yesterday about the tartness of an unsweetened cranberry, I began looking around for some other ideas of what to do with these beautiful little red nutrient bombs. There had to be a way to use them in cooking that didn't involve adding a bunch of sugar, I reasoned. And, I reasoned accurately. :)

    Unbelievable how many ways there are to use unsweetened cranberries. How has this escaped me all these years? They say that need is the mother of invention, and that when the student is ready the teacher appears.....loosely applied, I guess I just wasn't ready to find all these cranberry treasures until now! But, now that I have, I have to share.

    First up are these adorable cranberry pinwheels. Oh la la! What if to our sour, pucker-face cranberries we add a bit of green onion, a bit of cream cheese and some feta, mix it all up together and spread it over a tortilla? Talk about a nutrient bomb, these are also a flavor bomb!

    You can find the recipe and instructions here. No more puckering with cranberries, but prepare yourself for a barrage of inquiries as to how on earth you made such a heavenly treat.

    Bon apetit!

     

    Photo credit

  • In Honor of Chocolate Chip Day

    frangoI may have mentioned a time or two that I am a big fan of chocolate mint meltaways. Marshall Fields used to sell what they called Frango Mints, a much beloved confection in Chicago around the holidays. Also, anyone who filled out a credit card application would receive a free box! Stories were told about people filling out fake applications in order to get more free boxes of Frango Mints! They stopped making them in 1999 and 6 years later Marshall Fields was acquired by Macy's (and some have never gotten over their bitterness!).

    Macy's has tried to mimic the well loved chocolates, but how can you even come close to a candy that is hand made on the 13th floor of its originator? I have had the Macy's version, and it's not half bad, but Frango Mints will always be remembered as the folkloric taste of Chicago.

    magic mint choc barkPerhaps second best to the long lost 13th floor creation is something we can make in our own kitchens. I don't think there are many ingredients that, when combined with chocolate, top mint. Am I right? Caramel comes close. Peanut butter a close third. But, mint remains clearly at the top. We can recover some of the magic of those scrumptious, melt in your mouth, chocolates with today's recipe for Magic Mint Chocolate Bark. Okay, we can at least try. :)

    So, in honor National Chocolate Chip day, you can find the recipe for this tasty treat here. Happy May 15th to you!

    Photo credit:  Frango, Bark

  • An Old Fashioned Christmas | Gingerbread House and Fudge

    gingerbread houseIs there anything more fun for kids of any age than constructing a gingerbread house around the holidays?! I don't know how many people actually eat their creation, but even if you are staying away from the sugar these creative little things are so much fun to make and look adorable. They are really conversation starters, too!

    This particular gingerbread house is one of the easiest for the kids, and if you don't want to buy the gingerbread house kits from the store, graham crackers will even work for this A-frame. Copy the candy used in the photo, or get creative and come up with some of your own ideas. I'm sort of partial to snowcaps for the roof, those round chocolate candies that have the white sprinkles on them.

    While the "kids" are making the gingerbread house, they may need your assistance to get started, but once the decoration is in full swing they may want you to back off, lol. And, the perfect thing to do if you really want to stay nearby is to make some fudge.

    fudgeThere are as many fudge recipes are there are grandmothers I think...everyone seems to have their favorite. I happen to love the peanut butter/chocolate combo (who doesn't?), so this recipe is one of my all-time favorites. Package small pieces of this up as pictured for gifts OR put small pieces in a festive candy dish when guests are coming over.

    Pretty old fashioned, aren't they both? I am always surprised how a childhood gingerbread house has the uncanny ability to light up the eyes of even the aristocrat! It just speaks fun and whimsy. And, fudge? No explanation required there. Both are a labor of love and such a welcome part of the Christmas holiday.

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