Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Big Ten Celebration {with Free Printables}

Today we're celebrating a fabulous 10 years with this sweet girl...

Our Lily was definitely a very sweet addition to this family.  

Her tender heart and knack for expressing herself in so many artistic forms blesses us every day.

I've taught her to sew and clean and use good manners...

And she's taught me to appreciate sensitivity in others and that words written by a child's own hand are truly priceless...

And since she chose to have cookies as her birthday treat to share at school, I made some special printables for the occasion...

If you're celebrating a Big Ten at your house, feel free to download these here for your special day.  Print the circles on adhesive paper to stick them on a treat, or on card stock for a cute party circle for cupcakes.  Use a 2-inch paper punch from Hobby Lobby or other craft store to get a perfect cut.

And these little strips make great bands to go around a small package, or they'd be cute cut down for banners and glued on a toothpick as well.

Hope you enjoy!  I'm off to celebrate!

Sharing with a few of these parties.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

"Tastes Like Chick-fil-a's" Chicken Tortilla Soup

When Chick-fil-a came out with their Chicken Tortilla Soup last year, it was love at first bite for me.  I have no idea why it took them so long to bring it to us, but, as many of my Facebook friends know, I'm a big fan of it.  And I'm notorious for shamelessly posting pics and status updates to let everyone know about it every time I eat it.  As a result, I've turned several of you into big fans of this soup as well.

And I don't know if it's a marketing ploy or if they have special beans that are only in season in the winter, but they only offer this for a limited time, which really puts soup-lovers like me into a panic.  I'm just dreading that day when I drive up to the drive-thru and they tell me they no longer have it.  

So, I decided to take action.  Somebody had to, so I gave it a try.

As I was eating a bowl of it one day for lunch, I jotted down a few ingredients I tasted (and I took a look at their ingredient list on the Chick-fil-a website), and I came up with a very close version of the original.

So here it is, for those of you who love this soup like I do:

"Tastes Like Chick-Fil-a's" Chicken Tortilla Soup

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4-oz can diced green chilies
1 taco seasoning packet (use hot or mild depending on your preference)
(4) 14 oz cans chicken broth
(1) 15 oz can black beans
(3) 15 oz cans navy beans
(1) 15 oz can corn
3 cups cooked, shredded chicken
1 cup heavy cream

Heat the olive oil in a large pot, add the onions, and cook until translucent.  Next, add the green chilies, the taco seasoning packet, all the canned items, and the chicken.  Bring to a boil, then allow to simmer for several minutes until heated through.  Lastly, add the cream and heat for 5-10 more minutes.  Serve with tortilla chips and top with shredded cheese, if desired.

Here are a few notes:  
I've noticed Chick-fil-a varies a little on the spiciness of this soup.  Sometimes I get it and it's much spicier than others, so use a hot or mild taco seasoning packet, depending on your preference.  My little kids won't eat things that are too spicy, so I made ours with the mild seasoning.  

Also, I noticed my soup was a little thinner than the original, so to thicken it a little, I ladled into a measuring cup about a cup of the broth from the soup pot. (This step is before the final step of adding the cream.)

Then, I just added a few tablespoons of flour and whisked well to thicken.  You can use cornstarch to thicken instead if you prefer.  After it's mixed well, return to the pot and stir.  

This makes a fairly large amount, so if it's too much for your family, you can freeze half of it for a second meal.  

So, for all you fellow Chick-fil-a soup lovers out there (and those of you not fortunate to live near a Chick-fil-a), enjoy!  I hope you love it!

I'm sharing this recipe with a few of these friends.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

Here's to remembering that first meeting with your Valentine...

Or the one that hasn't happened yet.

I love this...

Disney does it best, don't they?

Happy Valentine's Day! 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Best Sugar Cookie Recipe Ever

Just in time for Valentine's Day, I have a special treat for you.  It's the recipe for the best sugar cookies I've ever tasted.  And the good news is, they're easy to make as well.

Here's the story:  my long-time friend, Vickie, is an extremely artistic and creative person with many talents, one of which is making fabulous sugar cookies.

Her recipe was passed down to her from her mom and her grandmother before that.  And for many years now, she has made hundreds of cookies for her family and friends--each one of them a delicious little work of art.

She shared the recipe with me years ago and I've made them dozens of times, but I've not yet perfected decorating them as beautifully as she does.

Here are a few she recently made for Valentine's Day...

And a couple she made at Christmas...

I told you she was good.  

I made a few, too, recently (remember these?), but mine are, well...a little plain compared to hers!

Thankfully, they still taste great.  And yours will, too, if you try this recipe.

Vickie's Sugar Cookies 

1/2 cup margarine, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cup self rising flour

Cream the margarine and gradually add the sugar.  Add egg and vanilla.  Lastly, add the flour and mix well.  The dough should be easy to handle.  If not, chill until ready.  

To cut the cookies, take small portions of the dough and generously flour the surface to start. Roll out the dough to approximately 1/4 inch thickness.  After cutting, return the scraps to the bowl and remix slightly, then repeat the process.  You should be able to use less flour for the surface each time.

Bake the cookies at 375º for 10-12 minutes, or until golden.  Decorate when cooled.

One of these days I hope to have Vickie over to teach us a few decorating tips and tricks, but until then, give them a try!  A big thanks to her for sharing this recipe and for inspiring us to share some cookie love.

Let me know how yours turn out!


Monday, February 11, 2013

A Good Plan for Valentine's Day: K.I.S.S.

It's actually a good plan for any day of the week, but especially for Valentine's Day.  Husbands love it.  And women everywhere are getting better at it all the time.  It's the fine art of K.I.S.S.-ing.  

I'm talking about "Keeping it Simple, Sweetie," in case you're confused on that. {But the other kind is a pretty good plan as well!}  

Like I'm always saying, it doesn't require tons of talent or a big budget to show your family or your guests that you love them.

There are a lot of simple things you can do for Valentine's Day to really show the love, like setting a special table with your nice dishes and a few added touches.  I dressed up my dining room for Valentine's Day for under $12, including the fresh flowers!  

I started with a plain white tablecloth and added some color with a "runner" which is actually some cute wrapping paper.  This is the second time I've used this idea recently and I'm really starting to like it.

And what is Valentine's Day without roses?  But, as we know, cut flower prices can get expensive in February.  Another option is to buy potted miniature roses and place them in a cute container for a centerpiece.  I bought a couple plants at Dollar General for only $3.95 each and put them in a metal container I already had with a little burlap.

And the great thing is, they'll last longer than cut stems as well!

For a simple, yet pretty place setting, use your nice dishes and just dress them up a little with a nice napkin in a napkin ring.  You don't even have to use cloth ones.  Take two quality paper dinner napkins (like Vanity Fair), open them up, layer them together, then pull through a napkin ring.  That way, they look dressy, but your guests won't have to worry about ruining them with lipstick and you won't have to worry about washing them.

For some easy and inexpensive decor, buy some doily hearts from the Dollar Store and make some 3-D hearts to hang from the chandelier.  Just take 3 doilies, fold them in half, then glue the backs together and add some fishing wire for hanging.

Cut a few X's and O's out of some old book pages or cute paper and string them up for a little more love.

 Just remember, it all starts from the heart.  Keep practicing being a good K.I.S.S.-er and they're sure to feel the love.

Looking for a great meal idea to make for your Valentine?  Try my easy Filet Mignon.  I make it for my husband every Valentine's Day and he thinks I'm a genius.

And if that's not your favorite, you might like one of these:

Happy Valentine's Week!


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake {Love!}

So I go a little overboard on Valentine's Day.  I can't help it.  I'm an incurable romantic married to another incurable romantic and I love chocolate.  It's the perfect day for me.  And since I've always tried to make the most of Valentine's Day, my husband and kids have come to expect the heart-shaped food and special treats.

It's an all-day event, starting with breakfast.  So this year, I came up with a Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake.  I meant it for breakfast, but you could serve it as a dessert, too.  It's a combination cake and cheesecake with just the right amount of raspberry and chocolate.  I think you'll like it.

Here's what you need:

For the cheesecake:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg

For the cake:
1 1/2 c self-rising flour
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sour cream

1 cup raspberries (fresh or thawed from frozen)
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Start by mixing together the cheesecake ingredients in a small bowl until smooth.

In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar for the cake batter.  Then add eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth.  Lastly, add the flour and sour cream and mix well.

I baked mine in a heart-shaped pie dish, but this should work well in a square 8 x 8 or  9 x 9 pan.  Grease or spray the pan and then spread the cake batter into the bottom.

Next, pour over the cheesecake mixture and drag through it slightly with a butter knife to allow it to swirl together.

Lastly, top with the berries and chocolate chips...

Bake at 350º for 30-35 minutes or until center is done.  Serve it warm with coffee or hot chocolate, and your family will love it!

 Most coffee cakes do have a crumble topping, but I left that off to prevent it from being too rich for breakfast.  But if you prefer a topping, I'm sure the recipe will adapt!

For more raspberry cream cheese deliciousness, you might like to try my Cream Cheese-Stuffed Raspberries...

or my Mini Raspberry Cheesecakes ...

Any of these recipes would be great for your Valentines and they're easy to make.  Hope you like them!  I'm sharing with a few of these friends!

Come join #DairyBreakfastClub recipe party at TidyMom along with The California Milk Advisory Board and 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Chocolate-Dipped Oranges

If you love chocolate-covered strawberries for Valentine's Day, you'll probably love this little "twist" on the original using orange sections instead of berries.

We've already had two snow days this year, which means we've been able to stay home, watch movies, cuddle by the fire, and eat and eat and then eat some more.  

It was on one of those days that I heard my 9-year-old, Lily, Face-timing with my mom about ideas on something she could cook.  That's where we  got the idea for these Chocolate-Dipped Oranges.

It was so easy, Lily was able to make it mostly on her own and I was just the assistant/photographer.  

The only two ingredients are chocolate chips and seedless oranges.  We used Clementines because we often have them on hand and they're easy to peel and taste great.  About 1/4 cup of chocolate chips is enough for two medium Clementines.

First, Lily peeled the Clementines, separating them into sections...

Then, we melted the chocolate chips in the microwave at 15-second intervals, stirring in between until it melted.

Then, she just dipped the sections into the chocolate and placed them on wax paper.

A few minutes in the fridge helped the chocolate harden, and they were done!  And even though it only took a few minutes to make these, it took even less time for all of us to eat them up.  

Make some for your Valentine or for a great snack with the kids.  Yum!