Timeline for Thanksgiving!

I can’t believe this week is here. It’s Thanksgiving week folks, and there is so much to be done. I’m so excited about seeing family and spending time with them for the first time in months!

(Small shout-out to my husband…Happy 6 months of Married-ness!)

Image taken by Amanda Meyer

So, since I’m taking a break from the house cleaning and dusting, here’s what’s going on in the household of the newlyweds!

Today – finishing dusting/cleaning living room and kitchen/dining area

Tuesday

  • bake cornbread for dressing
  • bake cake for cutesy Turkey Cake Pops
  • wash/iron cloth napkins and placemats

Wednesday

  • make cake pops
  • make cornbread dressing so flavors can meld overnight

Thursday (YAY TURKEY DAY!)

  • make sweet potato casserole
  • make roll dough and let proof throughout the morning
  • reheat all sides/smoked turkey/bake rolls/make gravy
  • just enjoy the day with family

Friday

  • chillin’ out maxin’ relaxin’ all cool (name the TV show theme song!)

This week is gonna be fabulous! :)

By the way, if you have a minute, could you vote for me in a foodie related photography contest? It’s just a clicky poll and shouldn’t take more than a few seconds. :) I know my photography skills aren’t amazing, but I’m learning and would appreciate the support! Thanks so much!

Surviving the Holidays: DIY Decor

A lot of stores like to take advantage of the holiday season. Prices for decor can be completely outrageous, but it’s classic, beautiful and you feel like you gotta have it for your home.

Well, if they can make it, there is a good chance you can make something similar or almost identical for a FRACTION of the cost!

For example, I came across this wreath and was seriously smitten.

Source

Really? $79? How about MAKING it for $20? :)

That’s right folks, $20. I bought a fake pine wreath and sparkly foliage at Michaels for $5, as well as a few boxes of ornaments from Wal-Mart for $15!

Supply List:

  • fake pine wreath
  • wire cutters
  • floral wire
  • hot glue gun/glue
  • ornaments in different sizes
  • ribbon
  • fake snowy or sparkly foliage

First, fluff up the wreath. Basically move around the branches to make the wreath look fuller.

Now, hot glue the ornaments to the top part of the ornament. This is to ensure that the ornament ball doesn’t just pop off in the wind or anything like that.

Then, wire the ornaments, 2 or 3 per wire and tie each wire around the back of the wreath and twist until secure.

After you have it situated the way you like it, start hot gluing in foliage randomly on the side of the wreath. Hot glue a bow to the bottom of the wreath and voila! Instant classic ornament wreath. :)

Here’s a close-up of the ornaments with the sparkly winter foliage that I chose.


I can’t wait to put this bad boy on the door! :)

Pumpkin Spice Vanilla Bean Caramels

I’ve never played with caramelized sugar before, but I’ve been curious about it for a while now. I finally just got the guts, and told myself I needed to try. Worst thing that can happen is burnt caramel, but I’m usually careful to avoid burning.

I was actually a little too careful. I took it out a little early and that resulting in a very soft caramel. Nothing jaw breaking about it at all, which is something that can happen if you leave it simmering for too long. So, I learned a little lesson about candy making, and let me tell you, if these were left a little longer, this would be an amazing candy to give as gifts!! Don’t let my mistake deter you away from this buttery goodness…I promise this caramel is just lovely. I plan on using the soft stuff in another recipe that will be pumpkin-licious!

So, you ask why pumpkin spice? Well, I’m a weird Starbucks customer. I get my Pumpkin Spice drinks with caramel drizzle, and believe me when I tell you that the combination is divine! Oh, and vanilla makes everything taste so much better, so do not skip out on the vanilla bean in this recipe!

I received these complimentary vanilla beans from Marx Foods for a vanilla bean photography contest. While my photography isn’t the best out there, I found this to be a fun challenge, and of course, I’m still hopeful for a win!

Pumpkin Spice Vanilla Bean Caramels
Source: adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 tsp. Tahitian vanilla
  • 1 Tahitian vanilla bean pod, split and scraped
  • 1 1/4 tsp. Fleur de sel
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. ginger
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup or corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water

Directions:

  • Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, then lightly butter the pan.
  • Place cream, butter, vanilla, vanilla bean, spices and fleur de sel in a small saucepan, bring to a boil,  then remove from heat and set aside.
  • Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel.

This is just about the color you want to attain.

  • Remove vanilla bean and carefully stir cream mixture into the caramel (The mixture will bubble up here.) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers about 250°F on thermometer.
  • Pour into baking pan and allow to cool for about 30 minutes. Then, sprinkle another pinch or two of fleur de sel over the top of the caramel for a nice salty crunch and let it cool until it’s no longer warm to the touch. Cut into 1-inch pieces (I used a pizza cutter with butter.), and then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.

Protect your blog!

Ever since I’ve gotten into blogging, I’ve always wondered about people who would want to take my blog content. I mean, I just have a measly WordPress, but you never know if someone is out there to steal your great ideas and get the credit that is due to you!

Luckily, from what I’ve seen, no one has stolen images and credit has been linked back to my blog when fellow bloggers use my ideas. However, just to prepare myself, I got my two blogs copyrighted.


Image source

MyFreeCopyright is a website that allows you to copyright your blogs or other creations for free. If it did come down to it, this would serve as proof that your entries were originally from your blog. In my opinion, it’s better than nothing, and heck, what does it hurt?

So, what are you waiting for? Copyright your blog!

Less than a week?!?

I can’t believe Thanksgiving is less than a week away! The hubs and I are so very excited to have our families spend their holiday in our little house. We’re having 11 people over! It’s unbelievable.

At first, I was really trying to plan how to make all of the food, but over the past week, our parents have really insisted on bringing more and more food. It’s to the point to where we are only making about 1/2 of the food that we originally planned on making. To me, that’s fabulous, because I have more time to make the house pretty!

This weekend, I plan on putting up our tree. I know it’s early, but really, my family never has seen our house in full-on holiday glory, so I’m giving that to them (and me…I love Christmas!).

I’m excited about all of the little last minute preparations that we’ll be doing, including:

  1. washing/ironing cloth napkins (which we’ve never used before!)
  2. setting table up with the cute decorations I have planned
  3. buying cheap dollar store food containers so we can push tons of food away to family
  4. the grocery shopping
  5. making a plan for how the food will be laid out
  6. decorating the inside of the house for Christmas (don’t judge)

Are you excited about Thanksgiving?

Skinny Holiday Baking: Pumpkin Scones

I do enjoy baking from scratch, but sometimes, I’m up for trying shortcuts. I found this recipe by perusing the Weight Watchers boards, because I wanted to try something a little different than pumpkin bread for breakfast.

This was a pretty good scone, but I think the recipe needs a little work. I think next time, I’m going to try brown sugar, more white sugar and more spices. I also didn’t have Splenda, which was recommended for the recipe, so I subbed sugar.

This was also a fairly wet batter, so I couldn’t really shape these like traditional scones. I ended up using a large cookie scoop to scoop individual scones out, and it worked out fine.

Pumpkin Scones
Source: adapted from a Weight Watchers forum

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups Bisquick Heart smart mix
  • 1/3 cup mini choc chips (omitted to save calories)
  • 6 packets of Splenda (used 4 tbsp. sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp. skim milk

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Mix all dry ingredients in a bowl with a whisk.
  3. Mix pumpkin, egg and milk in a separate bowl and add to dry ingredients. Mix until just combined.
  4. Using a large cookie scoop, place scones about 2″ apart on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until the scones start to brown on top.

The Skinny: per serving, serves 8

Calories: 124.4
Fat: 2.6 g
Fiber: 1.5 g

I Cheat Sometimes!

Everytime I vow to lose this weight, there is a temptation coming. Sometimes, I do it before my birthday, when there are ever-flowing frozen margaritas and delicious cakes to attack. Sometimes, I do it before Mardi Gras (which happens to be around new years)…hello, KING CAKE?

Right now, I’m doing it before the holidays. God forbid I start a diet before the holidays! I mean there’s sweet potato pie, eggnog, potatoes with gravy…ooo, GRAVY!

I feel like I’m a disservice to everyone else around me when I start my diet.

Two things typically happen in social events. I’m sure I’m not alone here!

  1. You go for that one tiny sliver of pizza and your friend sees you. They say, “That’s all you’re having?” You say, “Yes, I just wanted to TRY this…” They say, “Well, you already cheated today, might as well eat some more.” Ugh…
  2. You’re at a nice dinner with family and you fill your plate halfway. Still considered a normal portion by dieticians (and is still cheating because of the 4 sticks of butter they put in the dish). However, this half plate isn’t good enough..you were known to eat two plates FULL of this stuff before.  So, you’re asked if there is something wrong with the dish or if you didn’t like it. GREAT…now the host’s feelings are hurt. Seriously…ugh!

Yes, I cheat. It happens, but don’t force me to blow my day or my week, because your food is some sort of amazing. I can have two bites of the amazingness and it’s still FINE! Erg…portion control all the way!

It just peeves me so hard when I do slip that people surrounding me do not support my efforts. It’s impossible to be perfect, and if I try to be perfect, I’m just going to fall off that wagon even harder when I finally do.

This holiday season, I will be the picky one barely eating at my plate until I’m satisfied. No more unbuttoning pants, unable to move after eating. This time, it will be different…and I hope I don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

Here’s some portion control tips I will be keeping in mind for the upcoming holidays…I will not gain this holiday season!

Does anyone else feel this way around the holidays with your diet plan?

Remembering Some Goals

I always tend to forget something in life. Today, fellow blogger, e. louise, blogged about her newly written 101 in 1001 days list. Guess who has a list that’s over a year old? Yep, me.

Have I kept up with it? Not much since the wedding…shameful!

It’s time to revisit my list. Talk about overwhelming!

Bolded tasks are finished, italicized are in progress and normal has not been attempted.

1. send Christmas cards to all family and friends for 2009 and 2010
2. help my sister rearrange her room before I move (won’t ever be done…moved)
3. take my mom to a travelling broadway show

4. have my parents meet my fiance’s parents

5. take sisters out to dinner and a movie

6. buy handmade or make all Christmas gifts for family and friends one year

7. practice clarinet again to get back into the hobby (played for 11 years)
8. write Thank You notes to everyone who sends me a gift this Christmas and next birthday (wedding is a given)
9. donate blood 4 times (0/4)
10. eat RAW sushi
11. live like a college kid and stay up until 4am! (Thank you Men’s Basketball in the Summer Olympics!)
12. take a shower in two minutes (Navy shower) – Thank you Hurricane Gustav..I hate COLD showers!
13. write a whole novel during NaNoWriMo (National November Writing Month)
14. floss everyday for a month
15. take boudoir pictures
16.
try 5 things that I’ve hated since I was a child (2/5)
      
* tried red beans & rice on Saturday, August 23rd. It was OK…
       * tried squash on Saturday October 18th…eww!
17. take the GRE
18. change my last name
19. start an etsy business
20. use nothing but reusable grocery bags for 50 grocery trips (0/50)
21. use a whitening system on my teeth
22. no internet for 5 weekends (0/5)
23. drive the speed limit for 5 days (0/5)

24. play 5 video games with him (3/5)
    * played Buzz with him..fun quiz game!
    * played Jeopardy
    * played Wheel of Fortune

25. beat him in Scrabble (kicked his booty on 9/27/09)
26. do it (duh!)
27. serve him breakfast in bed on his birthday
28. surprise him 10 times (1/10)
29. be adventurous and go brunette (after the wedding)
30. join the YMCA with him
31. start a workout regime together
32. make him his favorite dinner and dessert by request
33. mow the grass for him
34. make scrapbook of senior year at LSU
35. cross stitch baby sampler for pregnant friend
36. knit a pair of socks
37. learn how to use a sewing machine
38. sew a pair of PJ pants
39. make T-Shirt quilt from old college shirts
40. make a necklace and set of earrings
(September 2008)
41. successfully use a GOCCO machine
42. cross stitch the Christmas bear wreath I started last year
43. reach 240s
44. reach 230s
45. reach 220s
46. reach 210s
47. reach 200s
48. reach 190s
49. reach 180s
50. reach 170s
51. be able to lift 50 lb. weights in a shoulder press
52. take vitamins everyday for 20 weeks (0/20)
53.
exercise at least 4 times a week for 20 weeks in a row (0/20)
54. give up caffeine for a full month
55. complete the couch to 5K program
56. do Jillian’s 30 day shred for 30 days STRAIGHT
57. not weigh myself for 30 days (rely on measurements)
58. do a whole spinning class
59. drink nothing but water for a month
60. give up refined sugar for a week
61. start a weight loss blog (newlywed blog w/ weight loss in it – theniftynewlywed.wordpress.com)

62. make a tiered cake
63. cook 4 times/week for 20 weeks (0/20)
64. make a good pot of Gumbo
65. make caramel candies
66. make dog treats for Dixie
67. successfully make my own homemade vanilla extract
68. successfully bake a loaf of crawfish bread
69. learn to make Memaw’s spaghetti and meatballs
70. make a full-on holiday meal for the family
71. not watch Food Network for a whole week!!
72. make fresh pasta
73. make homemade ice cream
74. take a knife skill class (I cut myself too often)
75. update food blog 20 times in one month
76. make fruit roll-ups
77. make beef jerky
78. go to a Pampered Chef party
79. make an original recipe :)
80. make a cookie bouquet
81. smoke and BBQ a piece of meat

82. start saving for a baby fund!
83. reach 5k invested in 401K/Roth
84.
reach 10k invested in 401K/Roth
85. reach 15k invested in 401K/Roth
86. save up an e-fund of AT LEAST $2,000
87. pay off current car
88. own a share in stock
89. make a budget and stick to it for 12 months (4/12)
90. save enough for wedding to where there is no debt after May 23, 2009

91. start an herb garden
92. recycle diligently for 4 weeks (0/4)
93. clean out attic
94. put up curtains throughout the house
95. finish personal craft room
96. make a patio into more than a concrete block
97. make a flower garden in the front

98. attend church every Sunday for 30 weeks consecutively to develop a habit (0/30)
99. receive the sacrament of Holy Matrimony
100. go to reconciliation 5 times (0/5)
101. pray everyday for a month (0/30 or 31)

I still have a long way to go, but I have until 5/6/2011 to finish this list.

Have you revisited your goals lately?

It’s fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A!!

Back in June, after losing 20 lbs. for the wedding, I thought I was in control enough to quit the YMCA and do it on my own at home. Boy, was I wrong. 5 months later, I hate to admit that not only did I stop working out, but I gained all the weight back.

Enough was enough. As you can tell, I’ve been on Weight Watchers for a while, but I still wasn’t working out, so weight loss has been slow. So, my husband and I rejoined the YMCA yesterday.

Back before the wedding, circuits weren’t too bad. It was hard to do the push-ups and weights, but it wasn’t anything unbearable. However, yesterday, I found myself unable to complete half of most of the exercises. It was really saddening to see my fitness go back down to what it originally was back in January, but it was encouraging to get back to the level that I was back in May.

This morning, I felt all of my muscles slowly waking up (i.e. getting sore) to tell me that they still exist. It was the best feeling ever. I’m so happy to be back!

If you are striving for fitness, when did it hit you that you needed to change your life in a more healthy way? What inspires you?

Kung Fu Chicken

Kung Fu Chicken…. sounds like an extreme dish to me. Well, when rapper Coolio writes a cookbook, you should expect it to be extreme. That’s right children of the 90s, Coolio wrote a cookbook. I didn’t see it coming, but apparently he’s been a foodie for quite sometime now.

When I saw that a fellow foodie received an email for food bloggers to review this cookbook, I’ll admit, at first I wasn’t very interested. I’d like to remember Coolio as a “Gangsta’s Paradise” type of guy. However, when I mentioned it to my husband, he seemed anxious to get his hand on this book and try a recipe. So, I emailed the publisher and requested to review the book.

Upon receiving it, my husband and I skimmed through the book, laughing at how he wrote the book. It’s almost like he’s talking to you, without censors, and spices are measured in “dime bags” and “nickel bags” vs. teaspoons and tablespoons. There are recipes like Backyard Grass Salad, Bro-ghetti, Pimp my Shrimp and Jarez Make-It-Rain Peanut Butter Cookies.

So, how did we choose Kung Fu Chicken? Easy…we were looking for a simple, weeknight meal that was healthy and well, this fit the bill.

Upon tasting it, it really wasn’t anything Asian as we expected. This dish, however, had a striking similarity to a Louisiana dish called Sauce Piquant. We had no problem with that though, since this dish was rather tasty!

Kung Fu Chicken
Source: Cookin’ with Coolio

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 medium white onion
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 2-3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 “dime bag” (or tbsp.) salt
  • 1 “dime bag” (or tbsp.) pepper
  • 15 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 14 oz. crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp. asian sweet chili sauce
  • 3-4 tbsp. soy sauce

Directions (straight from the book, to get an idea of how he wrote it):

  1. Take your chicken and chop suey it up into quarter-size pieces.
  2. Kung Fu grip your knife and chop up your half of a white onion.
  3. Get out your garlic. If you already got it minced, you’re ready to go.
  4. Warm up a large skillet over medium heat and toss in your olive oil, onion and garlic. Sneak it into that pan like a ninja with a plan. Saute that up for 4-5 minutes.
  5. Throw in your chopped chicken, along with salt and pepper to taste, and let that cook for 8-10 more minutes.
  6. Crack your cans of tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes and pour them into your large skillet, covering up all that chickeny-garlicky onion-ness.
  7. Add in the red chili sauce and the soy sauce, and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon. Cover the skillet between stirs.
  8. Let all that cook up and coagulate together for 10-15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Take it all out and serve it up with some brown or white rice.

The Skinny – per serving, serves 4 (not including rice)

Calories: 212.5
Fat: 11.0 g
Fiber: 5.0 g