Monday Night Dinner

I recently made this delicious soup from Food Network that I just had to share with you.  It's sure to spice up these cold nights.  And of course it's super easy!  Definitely a new staple around our house.

I call it Chicken Tortilla Soup

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Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 32 ounces low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced Mexican style tomatoes
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 1 (12-ounce) boneless skinless chicken breast, diced
  • 1 cup crushed tortilla chips
  • Sour cream, for topping
  • Monterey Jack, shredded, for topping
  • 2 limes, wedged

Directions

In a large heavy bottomed pot, heat the oil on medium-high heat. Saute the onions. Add bell pepper, jalapenos, salt and pepper. Cook until the onions become translucent. Add the cumin and stir until fragrant. Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, corn, and 1/4 cup of the cilantro. Add the diced chicken and cook through for about 10 minutes. Season with salt, to taste.

Ladle soup into bowls and divide the crushed tortilla chips between the bowls. Top with sour cream, Monterey jack cheese, cilantro, sliced avocado, and lime wedges.
 


Telling Treats

How cute are these felt fortune cookies for Valentine's Day?!  What a unique way to show someone you love them.  Fill them with candies or love messages. 

For a more romantic gift you could use them as you would a love "coupon book".  Have your significant other open a couple after dinner and unlock things like "Good for one kiss" or "Redeem for a romantic dinner", etc.  Sweet!

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Get the how to here


Sweet Arrangement

I just love all of the cute Valentine decor ideas out there.  Especially when they involve candy!  Here is a sweet little bouquet to display this time of year. 

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To make each flower cut 6 hearts out of colored card stock.  Punch a hole near the tip of each heart.  Thread a lollipop through the holes.  Arrange hearts on stick and fan out to make petals.

Use this as a centerpiece or give as a Valentine!


(photo from bhg.com) 


Valentine's Day Dessert

Well believe it or not Valentine's Day is only a month away.  Red velvetcake seems like the perfect dessert to have for the occasion.  Below is a unique red velvet recipe that appears to have more of that yummy cream cheese icing than just a regular slice of cake.  Can't wait to try it!

Red Velvet Trifle

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Yield: Makes 10 servings

  • 1  (18.25-oz.) package DUNCAN HINES Moist Deluxe Red Velvet Cake Mix
  • 2  (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 2  cups  low-fat vanilla yogurt
  • 1  cup  powdered sugar
  • 1  teaspoon  lemon zest
  • 1  pt. fresh raspberries
  • Garnish: fresh mint sprigs

1. Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare cake batter as directed. Pour batter into a greased and floured 13- x 9-inch pan.

2. Bake at 350° for 28 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

3. Meanwhile, beat cream cheese at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer 1 minute or until creamy. Add yogurt, powdered sugar, and lemon zest. Beat 1 to 2 minutes or until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Cover and chill.

4. Remove cake from oven. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan to wire rack, and cool completely (about 1 hour).

5. Invert cake onto a cutting board. Cut rounded top off of cake. Trim and discard edges of cake. Cut cake into 32 pieces.

6. Arrange about one-third of cake pieces in a 3-qt. trifle dish. Carefully spread one-third of chilled cream cheese mixture over cake. Repeat layers 2 times, smoothing top layer of cream cheese mixture over cake pieces. Top with raspberries. Cover and chill 1 hour before serving. Garnish, if desired.


(photo and recipe from myrecipes.com)
 


Snow Day

It is supposed to snow today here in Alabama!  That means the whole state shuts down.  And that means children are out of school.  Before the snow arrives you might be looking for ways to entertain the young ones.  Here are a few to help you out.

Crafts are always a fun way to pass the time.  This snowman craft won't melt away when the other snow does.

Melty the Snowman

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Materials
  • White and colored felt
  • Tacky glue
  • White pom-pom
  • Black puffy paint
  • Craft foam (for nose)
  • Twigs (for arms)
Instructions
  1. Cut a puddle shape from white felt and use tacky glue to attach a white pom-pom to the top.

  2. With black puffy paint, add eyes, a mouth, and buttons. Glue on a craft foam nose and twig arms.

  3. Wrap a felt scarf around Melty's neck and glue it in place.

 

Treats are another way to get creative and entertain the kids.  There are several cute snowman recipes on the web.  Here is one of my faves.

Snowman Cups

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2 pkg. (3.9 oz. each) JELL-O Chocolate Instant Pudding
1 qt.  (4 cups) cold milk
20 OREO Cookies, crushed (about 2 cups), divided
2 cups  thawed COOL WHIP Whipped Topping
Assorted decorating gels

BEAT pudding mixes and milk with whisk 2 min. Let stand 5 min. Stir in 1 cup cookie crumbs.

SPOON remaining cookie crumbs into 10 (6- to 7-oz.) paper or plastic cups; cover with pudding mixture.

DROP spoonfuls of **COOL WHIP onto desserts to resemble snowmen. Decorate with gels for the eyes, noses and scarves.

**Instead of cool whip, you could also use marshmallows**


You can't have a snow day without everyone's favorite winter beverage: hot chocolate!  Here is a delicious twist on the original.

Hot Caramel Chocolate

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Ingredients

  • 1/3  cup sugar
  • 1/3  cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/3  cup water
  • 6  milk-chocolate-covered round caramels
  • 6  cups milk, half-and-half, or light cream
  •   Whipped cream (optional)
  •   Milk chocolate-covered and/or candy-coated round caramels (optional)

Directions

In a large saucepan combine sugar, cocoa powder, and water. Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add candies; cook and stir until melted. Stir in milk. Heat through. Pour into mugs; top with whipped cream and additional caramel candies. Makes 6 servings.

Hope you are keeping warm wherever you are!

  
 


Shimmering Dessert

There will be a lot of champagne flowing over the next few days!  Whether you are toasting on New Year's Eve or sipping Mimosas at your New Year's Day brunch, it's always fun to serve and drink.  

Here is a tasty twist on the traditional Mimosa. 

Mimosa Granita

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Yield: 8 cups (serving size: 1/2 cup)

Ingredients

  • 1  cup  sugar
  • 1  cup  water
  • 3  cups  fresh orange juice (about 10 oranges)
  • 2  cups  Champagne or sparkling wine
  • 2  tablespoons  fresh lime juice
  • Lime wedges (optional)

Preparation

Combine sugar and water in a large saucepan, and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat, and cool completely. Add orange juice, Champagne, and lime juice; pour into an 11 x 7-inch baking dish. Cover and freeze for 8 hours or until firm. Remove mixture from freezer; let stand 10 minutes. Scrape the entire mixture with a fork until fluffy, and garnish with lime wedges, if desired.

I hope everyone has a fabulous New Year's!  Welcome 2010!  

I am taking a short break for vacation but will be back very soon!  See ya next year!


(photo and recipe from myrecipes.com)
 


Double Duty

I love decorating with items that have other uses than just decoration.  For my friends baby shower we incorporated her gift into part of the decor.  You can do this with glassware, gifts, games, etc.  The possibilities are endless. 

Here is a great example of this for your New Year's celebrations. 

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For a fun and functional centerpiece, gather your noisemakers and display them on a cake plate.  Fill the gaps with shiny tinsel and you have a double duty centerpiece.  Your guests won't have to look far for a noisemaker when the countdown begins!


(photo from marthastewart.com) 


New Year's Table

I love the look of mirrors when it comes to decorating for New Year's.  They add sparkle and shine and are easy to find.  Here is an example of an easy New Year's table scape using mirrors.

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To recreate this look purchase small mirrors or mirrored coasters.  Reuse your cylinder candle vases.  Fill with disco ball ornaments or any other sparkly ornaments you have.   Decorate the outside of the vases with more mirrored ornaments.  Scatter colored ornaments on the table on a pretty colored table cloth.  Voila!

(photo from bhg.com)


Last Minute Gift Idea

Instead of running around buying last minute gifts, here is an easy, homemade gift idea.

Candy Cane Hot Chocolate Mix

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Yield: Makes 16 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2  cup  powdered sugar
  • 1  cup  plus 2 tablespoons baking cocoa
  • 1 1/2  cups  nondairy creamer
  • 20  peppermint candies, broken into pieces
  • mini  marshmallows

Preparation

In a one-quart wide-mouth jar, layer powdered sugar, then cocoa, packing each layer as tightly as possible. Wipe the inside of the jar with a paper towel to remove any excess cocoa before adding the next layer. Add nondairy creamer to jar, packing tightly. Add peppermint pieces. Fill any remaining space in top of jar with a layer of mini marshmallows; secure lid. Give with the following instructions: Empty jar into a large mixing bowl; blend well. Spoon mixture back into jar. To serve, add 3/4 cup boiling water to 1/4 cup cocoa mixture; stir to blend

I wish everyone a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!  Talk to ya soon!

 

(photo from myrecipes.com) 


Christmas Party

This weekend we had our Christmas Potluck Party.  I kept decorations simple and went with a red and aqua snowflake theme and it looked great!  The colors were fun and really popped against each other.  I ended up using one of my manzanita branch centerpieces.  They are just so versatile, I couldn't resist.  Hope you enjoy the pics!

Dining Table/Centerpiece

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Plates from Hostess Jo

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Red and aqua snowflake napkin rings from Print Your Party.  These were a big hit.

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Red glitter snowflake ornaments.

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Peppermints made the perfect filler for the base.

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Drink Station
 

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Pretty AND tasty Champagne Punch-get the recipe here.

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Check out more photos on our Facebook page.  

Hope this inspires you to try different color combos for the holidays!  These colors would also be great for New Year's and winter themed parties.