Yummy (And Cute) Home Made Gifts

We are getting close to Christmas! Are y’all ready?? Do you have all your shopping done?? Need a gift they will love?? Try you hand at baking or candy making and I promise it will be a treat!! (ha! – see what I did there? :))

I shared on Instagram how this tradition started when hubby and I were young and didn’t have much money, but it has continued over the years and I would like to think it’s one of the favorites. 🙂

When the kids were younger we would make sugar cookies and they would decorate them. The grandparents and aunts and uncles loved them!! As the kids got older I started adding in some of our family favorites. And it just progressed from there. 

Each year I change it up. A few things are a must. And each year I try one or two new things. But, every year each household gets a package of home made yummy morsels!

It all starts with a list. I go through my cookbooks and pick what’s going in the packages, and then there is the grocery shopping.

Next is the day of making. It’s messy, it’s long, but it is so much fun! I play Christmas music all day and the house smells divine. Sometimes I have help and other times I don’t. But, the memories are always there. Cooking and baking was my favorite thing to do with my grandma when I was a little girl and some of the things that go in are things she taught me to do. 🙂
This year the packages are these I found after Christmas last year at Hobby Lobby. 

Simple pre-made boxes with plenty of room. I have used tins in the past, and I have even just used a gift bag. I like to get a little creative with the packaging and make it look cute! These year each treat was placed in a cello bag and tied up with twine.

Then the boxes were filled stuffed.  

And I made these tags with a list of the contents using PicMonkey (a free online photo editing site that you can do so much with). 

And ta-da! All ready to be delivered and enjoyed! 

The contents this year – (links to some of the recipes included)

*Chocolate Fudge With Sprinkles (I use sprinkles so people will know these have no nuts)
*Chocolate Fudge With Nuts
*Butterscotch Fudge
*Oreo Bon Bons (I use white chocolate or chocolate almond bark instead of baker’s chocolate)

This is how they were packaged two years ago. (And wow, that yellow kitchen…)

For more details on that check out this post!

Merry Christmas friends!!

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Summer Crock Pot Recipes {Family Friday}

Hello friends and welcome to another Family Friday!!  I use my crock pot a lot during the winter because I love all kinds of soups.  Soup is my form of comfort food in the winter.  But then, spring rolls around and my family I no longer want soup.  However, our schedule is such that using the crock pot here and there would be VERY beneficial – keep us from eating out.  So, as I was meal-planning today I pulled some of my crock pot meals out that aren’t soupy and added them to the menu.  

Then…I thought of you guys!!  Do you have a crock pot?  Do you use your crock pot?  Do you use it for things other than soup?  I have a whole board on Pinterest dedicated to crock pot recipes, and when I am in a rut, I check there and add a few new ones to the mix.  I very rarely share recipes with you but today, I am going to share with you a few recipes that I have found, that are tested and approved by my own family.

Hope you enjoy!!

This first one from Picky Palate was is a huge hit at our house.  I very rarely make the potatoes (although they are very yummy), but you can pair the pork chops with just about any side you would like.

Ranch House Crock Pot Pork Chops with Parmesan Mashed Potatoes
6 pork chops, 1/2 inch thick
1 packet dry Ranch Dressing Seasoning
10 oz can Cream of Chicken Soup
4 lbs peeled, cubed potatoes
5 Tablespoons real butter
1 Cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
6 cloves roasted garlic (click for directions how to roast garlic)
1- 1 1/2 Cups warm skim milk (any milk will do, I just happened to use skim)
1 Tablespoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper, or to taste
1. Place pork chops, Ranch seasoning and soup into a medium sized crock pot over high heat for 4 hours or low heat for 6 hours.
2. Place potatoes into a large pot of cold water. Place onto stove top over high heat and bring to a boil. Once water is boiling, cook for 10-12 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Drain and transfer to the work bowl of a stand or electric mixer. Mix on low until potatoes are mashed then add butter, Parmesan, garlic, milk, salt and pepper. Season to taste if needed. For thinner mashed potatoes add more milk, slowly until your desired consistency.
3. Scoop mashed potatoes onto serving plates and top with pork chops and soup gravy from crock pot. Enjoy!
This next one is yummy too!!  The recipe below is from Makin’ it Mo’ Betta which she adapted from Six Sister’s Stuff.  I usually serve this one with rice and broccoli, but would be good with just about anything.


adapted from Six Sisters’ Stuff

4-6 chicken breasts *I used 2 lbs boneless/skinless chicken breasts
1 cup packed brown sugar *I used 3/4 cup
2/3 cup vinegar  *I used apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup lemon-lime soda *I used Sprite Zero
2-3 Tablespoons minced garlic *I used about 1 1/2 T. fresh minced garlic
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 Tablespoons corn starch
2 Tablespoons water

Red pepper flakes (optional) 

  • Spray slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. (Crock pot liners are also great!)
  • Place chicken (frozen, thawed or fresh) inside slow cooker. 
  • Mix together the sugar, vinegar, soda, garlic, soy sauce, and pepper, and pour over chicken. 
  • Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4 hours. (Frozen chicken will obviously need a longer cook time.)
  • Remove chicken from slow cooker (it should basically fall apart) and pour remaining sauce into a saucepan over high heat. 
  • Mix together corn starch and water, pour into saucepan, and mix well. Let sauce come to a boil and boil for 2-3 minutes, or until it starts to thicken and turns into a glaze. 
  • Remove from heat and let sit for a minute or two (it will continue to thicken as it cools).
  • Sprinkle red pepper flakes on top if desired.  

I also use my crock pot for easy basic things like BBQ chicken – chicken and BBQ in and forget it, and taco meat – I usually cook my meat first, then toss it in the crock pot with my taco seasoning and forget it!!  I love the leave it and forget it part don’t you?!?  Oh, and speaking of taco seasoning, I now make my own, and I love it.  I love that I can tailor it to my families’ tastes and that I know what is in it!!  The recipe I use is from Smells Like Home and you can view that here.
I hope some of these are helpful and have inspired you to pull-out your crock pot!! 

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Creative Christmas Packaging With Re-purposed Tins

{That’s a tongue-twister title huh?} I spent a couple of days this week making candies and cookies to share with our family at Christmas.  I told my hubby that I have been doing this for so many years, I think if I ever took a year off people might riot.  🙂 When the kiddos were little we would make and decorate sugar cookies, but over the past few years I have branched out and tried some new things.  The contents are never exactly the same, and every year I try at least one new recipe.  It’s fun to keep my grandma’s recipes alive and to mix them with the new ones.  But, really today’s post is more about the packaging then the recipes.  I am a container collector.  When I get containers, I have a hard time getting rid of them – I just know I might use them at some point.  

So, I started out with these from my collection along with some spray paint (also from my collection).  

And ended up with these!!

For packing purposes I started by lining the bottoms of the tins with waxed paper.  It’s fairly easy to manipulate and nothing will stick to it.  

Then, I went searching around my kitchen for something I could use in between the layers of goodies, and to separate goodies.  And I found these.

Coffee filters and paper cupcake liners.  Again, easy to manipulate and perfect for separating and dividing, and the best part is – no cutting.  (I have used tissue paper in the past, but then you have to got through the trouble of cutting it down to size.)

Here is a peak at the variety of goodies going in the tins this year.

And here is what it looks like all packed up.

And yes, you guessed it I painted the lids with chalkboard paint.  This is a great way to easily label the containers!!  I used a chalk marker to write the names on the top.  If you haven’t seen these, they are fabulous. I use them on all my chalkboard labels, because they are a lot harder to wipe off.  

To finish off the packaging, I simply tied a bow around each tin with some red tulle ribbon.  Another favorite of mine – tulle ribbon.  It looks so fluffy and pretty with very little effort, and if you are traveling with presents – these will stay put and will not squish!!

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BBQ Chicken Pizza {The Easy Peasy Way}

Since I have been working from home, I have been trying to spice up our menu a little bit.  Not only does the family get tired of eating the same things, but I get tired of cooking the same things. About a month ago, on a Sunday night after church I decided to try homemade pizzas.  Everyone got their own little blob of dough and were able to create their own with a variety of toppings. Wow, was it a hit!!  The kids LOVED being involved in the process!!  The only complaint was the dough – too bready – well of course because I used Bisquick.  So, I told them we would definitely do it again, but I would find a better dough recipe.

Last night I decided to try a different spin on the pizza by doing BBQ chicken pizza.  We had several bottles of BBQ sauce in the fridge with just a drizzle left in them, so I thought this would be a great opportunity to use that up.

For the dough recipe, I went to one of my first sources for recipes online – The Pioneer Woman – and found this one.  Since it had yeast in it I figured it would definitely be better.  I made three batches ahead of time and stored them in the fridge.  I took them out about an hour or two before dinner.

I split each batch in two and gave the kids a pan.  They went to work spreading out their dough. It’s fun to watch their personalities at work.  One wants it to be a perfect circle, one doesn’t care, one doesn’t want it too big, and one wants it to stretch to fit the whole pan. They chose their sauce from the leftovers, and spread a little on the dough. (please don’t pay any attention to the awful condition of my pan :-/)

I took the even easier route on this one and bought a rotisserie chicken – already cooked, and just shredded the meat by hand.  They scattered the chicken on and then topped with mozzarella cheese.  Bake them in a 500 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, depending on how thick your crust is and how crunchy you want it.  

The kids love cheese so their finished products all looked something like this (can’t even see the chicken).  

My hubby and I like veggies so ours came out looking like this :).  You could add whatever toppings you like to yours, that’s the beauty of everyone making their own pizza.  

It was yummy!!  Next time I will probably put more BBQ on mine.  I didn’t want the sauce to be overwhelming so I took it easy, but I could barely taste it.  It’s so much fun to have everyone in the kitchen that I believe this type of dinner will become a regular thing around here!!

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Meal Planning Basics

Okay, so my biggest reason for eating out has always been – “oh my goodness, it’s almost dinner time and I have no idea what to make”. Sound familiar?  So then I text my hubby and say, ever-so-sweetly, “can you pick up something for dinner on your way home?”  To which he says, ever-so-sweetly, “I’ll take care of it.”  🙂

Well after 19 years of marriage I think I finally figured out that the key to knowing the answer to “what’s for dinner?” is meal planning.  My mom taught me to cook, and I had a variety of meal options under my belt when I got married, however, my mom never really seemed to have a plan.  It was more of opening up the freezer that morning and pulling some meat out and thing figuring out what to do with it later, and she was really good at making something great from nothing.  But, for me not so much.  However, being new to this whole homemaker thing, this is how I attempted to operate for years.  The flaw in this plan is that I barely like to eat breakfast in the morning, let alone think about dinner. So, I would not even get to the pulling the meat out of the freezer part.  A few hours before dinner would arrive, and I would realize, not only did I not have a clue what I wanted for dinner, but all the meat was frozen, so I had nothing to cook for dinner.  For a while my hubby would pull meat out for me, and I would go from there, but then I got bored with what I was cooking.

In comes pinterest (again), and more recipes at my fingertips than I ever knew what to do with, and still don’t by the way.

The Ultimate Menu Board
Source:  The Creative Mama

Also, I noticed all these really cute menu boards (like this one), and printables, for meal-planning and grocery lists.  I even pinned a few several. But, that’s as far as it went.  For the past year, I have slowly found a process that works for me.  This is what it looks like when I start.

Meal planning basics

I pull out a couple of binders that have all of our family’s go-to recipes – family recipes, and some new ones I have tried which we now love.  I also have my grocery list and a piece of paper to make my menu on, and our family calendar.  The calendar allows me to know what nights we might have activities on, what nights we might be having dinner elsewhere or out for a special occasion.  I meal plan for two weeks at a time because my hubby gets paid every two weeks. Maybe you want to tackle one week at a time at first. Some people plan for a month at a time.  It really it whatever works for your family.

I inventory the meat we have in the freezer and I get started. We eat a lot of ground beef and chicken, because it’s cheaper than most meats.  So, I try to spread those meats out over the two weeks, and fill in with some other type of meat variety.

meal planning

Then I start pulling recipes.  Pulling the recipes now, allows me to add the necessary ingredients to my grocery list.  I don’t really enjoy going to the grocery store as it is, so I definitely don’t want to have to go often to fill in ingredients.

meal plan and recipe holder for easy access

I use a simple page protector to slide my menu and all the recipes in.  And, I have a book ring in the top corner that allows me to hang it in my kitchen.  It’s not as pretty as some of the other menu boards I have pinned, but it’s functional for me.  I love having all the recipes right there, and being in plastic is a bonus too, cuz if I make a mess, I’m not ruining the recipe page. (I have no idea what the blue stuff is at the bottom of that recipe???)

recipe holder

Having a plan means I don’t really have to think about what I want for dinner in the morning.  I just look at my menu and pull out the corresponding meat for that day. This also allows me to choose meals that will work depending on the time I have on any particular day.  On the days that I attend Bible Study, or other activities, I might choose a crock-pot meal so I don’t have to worry about it. On those days when we are all eating dinner at different times, I will choose something simple, that can be heated up easily.  

This has almost completely cut out our eating out.  We still do on occasion, but it’s not out of desperation anymore.  

Blessings friends!!
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