My family and I are wishing you a very Merry Christmas! I hope that you’re spending it with your friends, family and loved ones!
This year has been such an incredible year in our family; we experienced lots of changes, milestones, and transitions, and I am so grateful for these two weeks of Christmas holiday where we can slow down and reflect a little bit on all that we had gone through this year.
Both Mike and I got new jobs (two even for me!) and relocated to a new city. We sold our beloved home in three weeks, looked hard for a new house for about six weeks in the new town before we finally decided to build a house instead (Crazy, right? We pushed back on this idea for a very long time, as you can see). We finally took the plunge and squeezed our two kids and St. Bernard Charlotte into a 3-bedroom, 2 bedroom apartment, with no fenced yard, with a dream of finally getting a home that we actually wanted, and needed, perfect just for our family. We packed away 90% of our belongings into a storage (hello,cooking utensils, where are you?), and jumped into this adventure with a hopeful heart.
We transitioned our kids to new schools. Our oldest started Kindergarten (and shortly after, lost not just one, or two teeth, but FOUR teeth!), and our two-year old started his Montessori pre-school. Time was moving at a pace that I could barely keep up with. In the midst of all of the chaos, we found out that we are expecting our third child, due in the spring (hello, morning sickness?). All of these changes were definitely not for the faint of heart. While we still feel very much blessed, we are excited and ready for 2016, and hope that you are too.
Much blessings to you and your loved ones this Christmas and all throughout next year!
Every Christmas, I try to take a few extra days off work, just to give myself some time to focus on our family, and slow down a little bit. Throughout the year, I hop from one task to another just to get through the day, and having a little extra time to go through those tasks, even if they are chores, is such a luxury. I remember last Christmas, we were still wrapping gifts for the kids at the wee-hours of 2AM on Christmas Eve, while I was also tasked with cooking a Christmas dinner the next day (which we normally do around 1-2PM). This year, I have been trying to go through our to-do for the new house as well this week, and I plan on spending all day making cookies tomorrow.
This year will be a little bit different, with about 90% of our belongings in our storage, including our gift closets and Christmas decorations, we’re doing a smaller Christmas for just us. One thing that I am definitely excited about is our small Christmas dinner, is that we get to make something that everyone enjoys, and then I do a couple of special vegetable that are a little fancier, homemade rolls and a dessert.
For the meal, we normally don’t have appetizers right away – but I normally prepare something anyways for Mike and I to munch on. Sometimes we eat them as we finish cooking our dinner, or late at night, when we’re catching up on reruns on Netflix (like around 11 or midnight, because my little man is a night-owl). We live a pretty exciting life, don’t we? :-) My go to appetizer that I truly love and don’t get to make too often anymore is our Hot Spinach and Artichoke Dips. Normally, I would make one batch, but split them up into two containers, and then bake one for one day, and then save the next batch for the next couple of days.
For the main dish, I am leaning very hard toward either a steak or a roast chicken. We can’t go wrong with either one of these, because both of our kids actually love steak and chicken for dinner. Here are the recipes that we will be using for the main dish.
Roast Chicken with Sage and Garlic – this chicken works best for smaller chicken, so if you can find organic, free range chickens, they tend to be best and have better flavor.
Classic Steak au Poivre – gosh, this steak recipe is so simple, but so good. We love to treat ourselves to steaks once or twice a month on the weekends, since we discovered that our kids actually would eat them!
I am usually pretty boring when it comes to potatoes – we just love mashed potatoes. It also one dish that I can guarantee that my kids will eat. So I always go back to my true and tried Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes. I may do something fancier this year, depending on time, but this dish shows up pretty frequently on our menu.
There are a couple of vegetables that I absolutely adore, and they are usually the simplest.
Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar – while this dish is pretty simple, it packs so much flavors from the balsamic vinegar. I don’t always get them from the store, so when I do – I always make these. Such a treat during dinner.
Next year, we will have a larger oven (1-1/2 ovens that is) in our new kitchen, but until then, I always try to get one of the items in our menu to go into the slow-cooker. Slow-cooker Orange Glazed Carrots has truly been my savior, they are cooked perfectly, with a tad of sweetness from the orange-glazed, and they retain their colors and texture.
For the breads, I am still back and forth between these two gorgeous, breads. Both recipes can be prepared ahead of time. These Soft Garlic Knots are just seriously the best ever homemade breads, and I love the garlic on them. But the Knotted Dinner Rolls also came in pretty close second for me.
For dessert, I plan on making several cookies tomorrow (on Christmas Eve), and one of them is definitely these Holiday Cut-Out Sugar Cookies. I may also do a couple of other very classic cookies that I haven’t baked in a long time, such as these Snickerdoodle (my personal favorite!), and these Shortbread Cookies (I plan on dipping them in chocolate, and then covered with Christmas sprinkles). If you are looking for more inspiration for cookies, I rounded up some of the ones that I have gathered throughout the year last year, here. Whether you are spending your Christmas with a large group of your family and friends, or just a small group, I hope your soul and bellies are warmed with Christmas spirit and blessings!
I’m a huge “munchies” person, meaning that if I were given a free day to do nothing (read: free roaming without kids, no chores, and some relaxation on the agenda), I would be munching on something. I like snacking all day, and usually I lean toward the savory type. Everyone in my family loves to “munch” on something, but then I realized that I don’t have any “munchies” recipe. I mean, that’s not fun right? It’s probably good that I don’t actually have a lot of free time to munch these days. I barely have time to eat my breakfast or lunch at work without someone coming into my office, asking a question, which usually then ends up being three to four questions, and then a few more follow-ups. And my time at home just feels like it’s full of back-to-back task.
Last year, a co-worker and I were planning on treating our team to a holiday lunch, and I had suggested that he and I just go ahead and cater the lunch, so that nobody has to bring any parts of the main course into work (the meat, veggies, potatoes, and rolls). I didn’t want to have to worry about warming anything up. So that’s done. And then he says: “I like those little snackies and munchies too!” Aaahhh!! Yeah, me too. Totally me too! SO I thought, how fun to do something like this, a bunch of sweet and salty snack food, and then bind together by melted white chocolate, you really can’t go wrong with that. I tried to get both of my kids to make this, since it’s pretty simple. Both were pretty mesmerized by the colorful candies, and were busy popping those into their little mouths. I told my daughter that this was a snack that we wanted to save for Santa’s Reindeer. And her response? “No mommy, you’re so silly. Reindeers eat carrots.” I tried to convince her that the reindeers may want this snack instead, but she insisted that no they prefer the carrots instead. So that’s the end of that debate. But I think you’ll agree that if the reindeers don’t care for this, then there’ll just be more for you and me, right?! :)
Happy Monday everyone! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your friends and family, and ready for the Christmas spirit to surround you all over. We’re now officially 25 days till Christmas, and I think we’re ready for some cookies, aren’t we? Almost every single one of my friends has asked me at some point or another whether I bake or cook with my daughter. Eeek… should I tell them the truth? Or the book-answer good? Because if I tell them the truth, it would only reveal what a control freak I am in the kitchen. So the answer has been: “I try… and depending on what I make, and when I do it, she may or may not be involved.” If it’s a pretty forgiving recipes like quick breads or muffins, then by any means. And as long as I am not doing it at 10 pm on a Sunday night when I am trying to rush through my to-do for the evening. One of the things that I have been trying to do for the past three years (my daughter turned five this past summer), is decorating Christmas cookies. I think she finally got the concept of Santa Claus and the anticipation of Christmas, but last year was the first year that I would say that she was able to really enjoy decorating cookies and she really got into it.
The second part of it was that I really didn’t have a good cut-out sugar cookies recipe handy. I want them to be buttery cookies that has good flavors, a little soft in the inside, but still has a good firm bite with slight vanilla hints. The most important requirement though, for the dough that’s not too challenging and yet still robust enough to handle little hands. After all, it is the experience of baking cookies that I want my kids to grow up remembering. These cookies were such a hit last year that we made them again this year. I love that this recipe is so forgiving that we can make it together as a family. Happy baking!
When we packed our belongings from our old house, we decided to put away our belongings in the storage. We only picked out the bare-minimum things that we needed, such as clothes, beds, bedding, toiletries, a handful of furniture, TVs, computer, and kitchen must-haves. One of the challenges that we faced was that no matter how diligent we were in telling the packers which item(s) go where, we still ended up with a few boxes of things that were mismatched. One of the necessity items that we couldn’t find in our boxes marked for the apartment was our cooking utensils! Yikes, right? We had no spatulas, ladles, etc. Off we went to Target to stock up on new items. This should have been a fun event, I mean, it is shopping for new kitchen stuff, you’d think that I take pleasure in it. Well, when you’re out shopping in a time crunch, it definitely gives it a much different pressure.
For example, I discovered through this moving that I am absolutely attached to my old vegetable peeler, this new one is meh at best. It takes so much longer to peel my vegetables with this gadget, but I feel bad for tossing out a $20 tool. We’ll see how long this will last. One of the things that we did not pack was our cook-books, crazy right? Thankfully I have this blog to refer to, since it compiles all of my favorite recipes. Since we got our first winter snow storm this weekend, and this (and the next six months or so!) will be pretty much how it would be fora while, I thought that I’d do throwback actions on these, to get your bellies ready for the upcoming winter months. Stay warm!
Black Bean Soup
Slow-Roasted Tomato Soup
Easy Roasted Vegetable Soup with Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Farmers Market Minestrone
Loaded Baked Potato Soup (Slow Cooker)
French Onion Soup (use vegetable broth instead of chicken)
BEEF, PORK, AND SAUSAGES
Stuffed Pepper Soup
Beef Barley Soup
Cheddar Corn Chowder (omit bacon for vegetarian option)
Zuppa Toscana Soup
Ham and Potato Soup
Guinness Beef Stew (Slow Cooker)
Beef and Black Bean Chili with Chipotle and Summer Veggies
Weeknight Beef Chili (Slow Cooker)
Spicy and Chunky Chili
Mexican Chicken Soup
Classic Chicken Noodle Soup Recipes
Italian Wedding Soup