Mardi Gras Recipe Round Up!

  Our office tries to do fun potluck meals on occasion. One idea that we came up with last year was to try a combined Fat Tuesday/Valentine potluck. We originally called it Beads and Beaux but decided to change it to Beads and Bows after a couple confused looks. We’d been collecting recipes on Pinterest for a year so we were definitely prepared. I’ve decided to do a round up of the recipe links rather than a recipe post. For one thing, I want to be able to capture several of the recipes at one time, and second, my dish (Cajun Shrimp Dip) wasn’t very photogenic.

In choosing recipes, we joked that to make something Cajun just add Cajun seasoning and to make something Valentine themed, add red food color or cut it in a heart shape.

Here’s what we came up with:

I made Cajun Shrimp Dip. To me, it was just ok. The recipe calls for a pound of salad shrimp and the biggest bag I could find was 11 ounces. And honestly, I felt that was too much shrimp. If I were to make this again, I’d probably use an even smaller bag and cut the shrimp flavor down a bit. Or maybe use shredded or canned chicken.

Candace made Red Beans and Rice Salad. She would be the first to tell you that she overcooked her rice. Slow cookers can be fickle. Nonetheless, I thought this was a really tasty dish. I had an extra container on hand so I boxed up a portion for the next day’s lunch and I think it was even better because everything a chance to blend together.

Shelia brought in Valentine Blondies. She cut hers in a heart shape. They were very yummy and my 2 year old very much enjoyed the one I brought home to him. He loves chocolate chip cookies and these were like a thick cookie. Yum!

Rita made Maque Choux which was a new experience for all of us.  She made two versions: one with sausage and one without for the vegetarians. I liked it a lot and I think it would be really good in summer when there’s fresh corn available.

And last but not least, Sherry provided Southern Pecan Praline Cake. As one taster said, “Lord have mercy!”. I think that sums it up pretty well.

It was a good meal and gave us a chance to step out of our culinary comfort zones and try some new recipes.

 

Wrapping Up Christmas

See what I did there?

This is the final installment of my posts about using FlyLady’s Christmas Control Journal to take charge of the holidays. Previous installments can be found here, here and here

 Christmas 2015 is over. Kaput. And even though I still don’t have all of my decorations put away, I’m sad to see it go. No wonder some people start decorating right after Halloween; the season just isn’t long enough.

Our Christmas was wonderful. Lots of food, lots of laughs and especially lots of love. My son just turned 2 in October so he really didn’t get a lot of what was going on. We did what we could: watched a lot of Christmas Mickey, ate a lot of cookies, and tried to get him interested in opening gifts.  He particularly enjoyed the cookie part but I’m not sure he really cared about the rest of it.

How did I hold up? Pretty well actually. My stress level stayed low and I think being organized with the help of my journal can take the credit for that. We hosted a very nice meal for my family on Saturday and I was even organized enough to take ingredients with me to make a dip for the family gathering at my in-laws later that week. We didn’t have any last minute gift grabs. I did drop the ball in two areas though: pets and dressing for travel.

I completely blanked on making sure our cats had enough kibble for while we were out of town. This resulted in my husband having to make a mad Christmas Eve dash to Kroger before we left town. Not a disaster by any means but it could have been avoided with better planning. Better make a pet column in my journal for next year!

The second misstep was not packing enough clothes for travel. I way overpacked for my son and under packed for myself somehow. The fact that it was unseasonably warm this Christmas didn’t help; the stuff I did pack for me was way too warm. My husband wore shorts for Christmas dinner, for crying out loud! Thankfully, my sister in law had an extra short sleeve Christmas shirt which saved the day. The Journal had a page for travel planning but I just didn’t put the thought into what I packed for me. Next year, I’ll do better.

Basically, I feel like keeping a journal was a tremendous help to me and it’s something I plan to continue. If you feel overwhelmed by the holidays, I’d highly recommend giving it a try for yourself.

 

 

 

 

Weekly Check In: Heading Into the Ho Ho Homestretch

This is the latest in a series of posts about my efforts in using FlyLady’s Holiday Control Journal. You can read previous posts here and here.

By the time this posts, it will be one week from Christmas Day. And I feel like I have the heavy lifting of Christmas behind me. Gift buying is basically done. The work week is nearly over. Time to kick back and just ENJOY the holidays.

What a concept, eh?

This past Saturday, I met my two best girl friends for our annual Christmas lunch. We exchanged gifts-and I actually felt good about what I bought them for a change. I also had them purchased and bagged well in advance of our lunch. None of that last minute oh-my-gosh-I’ve-got-to-find-a-gift-by-tomorrow business. We had an amazing meal at a local place then walked around the downtown area and browsed in some boutiques. The weather was unseasonably warm-70s!-and it was just a great day to be out and about.

 On Monday, my husband and I delivered shoes to our local Chevy dealership who organizes a shoe drive each year for local kids. I also made the service department fudge. Both of these things were on my list, and I had marked the due date for shoe delivery on my calendar.  Score!

On Wednesday, it was sushi with another dear friend. I had completely dropped the ball on her Christmas gifts the past two years. One year was possibly excusable since I was home with a newborn but last year I had no excuse. This year she was on my Journal list of gifts to buy and I had a custom made ornament for her to celebrate her engagement. Score!

Thursday was our office cookie exchange. I made a list of possible treats in my Journal, narrowed those down based on time, effort and ingredients, and ended up going with a new cookie recipe that was totally out of the blue. I had considered also making Dreamsicle Fudge but decided two treats on a work night might be pushing it.

This weekend, I will host my side of the family for our Christmas dinner. This is something that we’ve done for several years because we travel to my husband’s family for the actual holiday. So, I guess the last Christmas challenge will be getting my house in order and getting a meal on the table. I’ve had the menu plan made out in my journal for a while now as well as the grocery list and I’ve already bought a few things. I’ll update on that in my next installment.

Hope your holidays are as smooth as fudge!

 

Weekly Check-In: Taking Control of Christmas

  Last week, I shared with y’all that I’m using the FlyLady’s Holiday Control Journal to take charge of Christmas. And I just know that you are all out there wondering, how’s that working for you?

The answer is: pretty good!

First, let’s talk gifts. The journal provides two spreadsheets for tracking gifts that you plan to purchase (there’s additional log sheets for gifts that you make). Each sheet has columns to list the name of the person you are buying for, what to buy them, how much to spend, where to buy it, plus shipping arrangements, wrapping status, and a check off column for when everything is done and the receipt is in your receipt envelope. I set up one sheet for family and one for friends/co-workers.

Now, it’s well known that I’m a lover of lists. When I make a list, I follow through whether it’s a shopping list, to-do list, a playlist…I follow the list. So, having all of my gifts to buy written down has motivated me to get busy with shopping. Right now, I’d say that I’m about 90% finished. Nothing is wrapped but for the most part, the majority of the gifts that I needed to buy are in my home or in route to my home.

Next up, decorating. The FlyLady apparently is a decorating whiz. There’s a sheet of the journal dedicated to decorations. She gives you prompts for each room or area of your house such as the entryway or main bath. Even though I don’t decorate as extensively as her, it was a helpful guide to figuring out what to put where. She provides lots of blank spaces so that you can customize the journal so I pencil in things that I’ve put out as decoration. I think this will be helpful at the end of the season when I have to put everything up because it never fails that as soon as the attic door is shut, I find a stray snowman somewhere. This time I will use my journal list to make sure that I have everything captured.

And finally, food. I haven’t really used this part yet but I will in the upcoming week as I plan for an office cookie exchange and a meal with my family. She provides templates for grocery lists, menu planning and a place to copy your recipes if you wish. I’ll report more on that later.

An added touch for my journal was a coupon envelope. We receive a lot of store coupons in the mail during this time of year so I cut those out and put them in an envelope inside my journal. So far, this has saved me about $30.

Hope your holiday season has started off merry and bright!

Found on Pinterest: Orange Chicken

I love Chinese food. Unfortunately, my husband does not so ordering Chinese takeout is not really thing at my house. Also, I tend to like the very unhealthy selections which makes it even more of an occasional treat. So, I’m always on the lookout for a fairly easy make-at-home Chinese inspired option.

This recipe for Orange Chicken fit the bill in terms of being easy and also relatively healthy. There is another popular crockpot version of Orange Chicken on the inter webs that uses a sauce made of orange marmalade and barbecue sauce. I chose this one because I actually had some fresh oranges and ginger on hand for a smoothie recipe so I thought I thought it would be a fresher tasting dish.

This dish is supposed to be a copycat of sorts of Panda Express’s Orange Chicken. I’ve only eaten at Panda Express once and honestly don’t remember what I ate but I don’t think it was Orange Chicken so I can’t tell you how well this one stacks up.

If you look at the original recipe and then at my picture, you will see they are not exactly twins. My chicken didn’t get nearly as brown and my sauce also didn’t thicken. Both factors are due to the fact that I kind of rushed the recipe. I sautéed my chicken until it was done but not really that brown. I also only used less than a pound of chicken but kept the other ingredients the same so I’d have lots of sauce. Maybe it was because I had a lot of sauce or maybe it was because I grew impatient but my sauce didn’t thicken.

Regardless, I enjoyed this dish. I served it with PF Chang’s new frozen steamed  brown rice and mini vegetable egg rolls. I boxed up the leftovers for my lunch and I think it was even better the next day since the rice soaked up all of that extra sauce. So, for a quick Chinese night at home, I thought it was pretty awesome!

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Orange Chicken

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup orange juice
zest of 1 orange
3 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons minced ginger
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional

Cube the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Heat the butter in large skillet and cook chicken until brown and cooked through.

While the chicken is cooking, prep the sauce. Mix the orange juice, orange zest, oyster sauce, honey, ginger, and red pepper flakes  (if using, I didn’t) in a small bowl.

Add the sauce to the chicken and cook until the sauce has thickened slightly.

 

 

 

Taking Control of Christmas

 It’s the first day of December and the countdown to Christmas is ON! As much as many of us love the holiday season, it can be a little stressful. Gifts to buy, presents to wrap, decorations to put up, covered dishes to bake…the list goes on and on. Over the years, I’ve seen several cute “how to” guides for putting together Christmas planners or journals. But who has time for that? I still haven’t finished the yarn wreath that I started last year!

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon The FlyLady’s Holiday Control Journal. If you aren’t familiar with Fly Lady, she’s an online helpmate of sorts to assist you with cleaning and maintaining your home. I’ve followed her off and on for years. One of her guiding principles is to do everything in 15 minute increments. Her arguement is that you can do ANYTHING for 15 minutes per day. All of her holiday help can be found here; just click on the Control Journal link for the free PDF of the journal.

I decided to give her Holiday Journal a try. I bought a 49 cent folder to put my journal in along with an envelope for receipts, an envelope of store coupons (excluding grocery), and a photocopy of the month of December from my planner.

Will it help me actually take control of Christmas? Stay tuned gentle readers…I’ll be updating you weekly!

Dreamsicle Fudge

Recipes like this one are part of the reason I started this blog. One day I mentioned in passing that my husband loved Dreamsicle fudge. A beloved co-worker and friend said “Well honey, you should make him some. I’ve got a great recipe!” Now, me and candy making aren’t exactly friends. I find it very intimidating. But this recipe WAS easy. And the best part is that it came handwritten to me on an actual paper recipe card.

I love those handwritten recipes. My mom has a treasure trove of them. And one reason that I started this blog was to try to preserve some of them.

The recipe calls for orange chips. I used orange candy melts that I found at a craft/hobby store.

 

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Dreamsicle Fudge

3 1/2 cup sugar

2/3 cup evaporated milk

1 1/2 sticks butter

12 oz orange candy melts

7 oz marshmallow cream

1 tablespoon orange flavoring

Boil sugar, cream, and butter for 5 minutes. Remove from heat; beat in candy melts, marshmallow cream and flavoring. Pour into a greased 9×13 pan. Cool before cutting.