Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas 2013

What a wonderful Christmas we had this year! It's always such a special thing to celebrate Jesus' birth surrounded by family and good food and gift-giving and carols and all sorts of fun.

We drove to Dallas early on Christmas Eve this year, and we made it in time to have lunch with my grandparents (dad's side). Then we went to Christmas Eve Mass at the church we went to when I was in elementary school, which was pretty special. I hadn't been back there in about ten years!

With my parents and sisters after Mass

We went to see my other grandparents (mom's side) for Christmas Eve dinner (we always do a delicious seafood boil with crab, shrimp, mussels, potatoes, and corn), and we got to see all my aunts/uncles/cousins on that side of the family.

With my mom, sister, and Gran-mom

The big Christmas tradition on that side of the family is a Christmas carol party on Christmas Eve, complete with songbooks and guitar music and lots of loud voices. So fun!



My mom buys our family matching pajamas every year, so we woke up on Christmas morning in our snazzy matching jammies and opened gifts and stockings at my grandparents' house.



My aunt/uncle/cousins on that side of the family came over later in the morning and we opened more gifts and had a lovely lunch.


Our fourth married Christmas!

After lunch, Jeff and I got in the car and drove back to Houston. It's always a bit weird to spend four hours in the car on Christmas Day, but it allows us to be with all the people we love most, so we can't seem to stop doing it! We made it to Houston with time to spare before dinner, and we got to celebrate with Jeff's parents, brothers, and grandparents (who travel to Houston for the holidays).

Dinner, complete with Christmas cracker hats!


We spent the night at Jeff's parents' house and had a nice leisurely morning and lunch yesterday. It's back to work for me today, but Jeff has a few more days off, which he plans to spend installing crown molding in our bedroom (!!!).

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas. Glory to the newborn King!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Our 2013 Christmas Card

I love Christmas cards. I was especially happy with how this year's turned out, which was amazing given that I worked on them start-to-finish for a grand total of about ten minutes (doesn't it seem like the Christmas season is just SUPER hectic for everyone this year?).

Merry Christmas from our little family!



Here's the 2013 spread in our Christmas card book:


Merry Christmas! 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Veggie Lasagna

You must make this recipe - it's so good! Don't let the long list of ingredients scare you off... it's pretty easy and pretty healthy and it's an easy one-dish dinner! It's so full of hearty veggies that you won't even miss the meat!


Recipe adapted from here.

9 lasagna noodles, cooked
2 eggs, beaten
16oz container cottage cheese
15oz container ricotta cheese
2 heaping tsp Italian seasoning
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup chopped white onion
1/2 cup chopped green onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 cups milk
10 oz package chopped frozen spinach, thawed
10 oz package chopped frozen broccoli, thawed
1 cup shredded carrot
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
8 oz shredded mozzarella cheese

1. In a bowl, mix together eggs, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, and Italian seasoning. Set aside.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet. Saute mushrooms, onions, and garlic until tender. Stir in flour and pepper. Add milk. Cook and stir until bubbly and a little bit thickened.
3. Remove from heat. Stir in spinach, broccoli, carrot, and 1/2 cup Parmesan.
4. In a lightly-greased 9x13 pan, assemble lasagna. Start with three noodles, then 1/3 of the ricotta mixture, then 1/3 of the veggie mixture, then 1/3 of the mozzarella. Repeat layers twice. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup Parmesan.
5. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes, or until cheese is melted and lightly browned. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

(ricotta mixture)

(mushrooms, onions, garlic, flour, and pepper!)

(adding in spinach, broccoli, carrot, and parmesan)

(veggie mixture!)

(assembled and going into the oven!)



Monday, December 16, 2013

Sweet Potato & Turkey Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's pie is a perfect dinner for those cold weather days when you just need something warm in your belly! This particular version of shepherd's pie uses sweet potatoes rather than regular, and turkey rather than ground beef - both of which of WONDERFUL changes in my opinion! This is one of my new favorite dinner meals.


Recipe adapted from here.

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
5 cloves garlic, minced (divided)
1/2 cup milk
1 1/4 cup chicken broth (divided)
2 tbsp sour cream
salt and pepper to taste
1 lb lean ground turkey
1 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
2 parsnips, diced
8oz mushrooms, diced
10 oz bag frozen mixed veggies
2 tbsp flour
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

1. Boil sweet potatoes and 3 cloves garlic in a pot of salted water until cooked and soft. Drain sweet potatoes. In a large bowl, put potatoes, 1/4 cup chicken broth, sour cream, and salt and pepper (to taste). Mash until creamy.
2. In a large saucepan, brown turkey. Set turkey aside on a plate. Add olive oil to pan and heat over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and parsnip and saute. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until celery is soft (about 10 minutes).
3. Add remaining garlic and mushrooms to onion-celery-parsnip mixture. Heat and stir for another 4 minutes. Add flour and mix well.
4. Add in frozen mixed veggies, remaining 1 cup chicken broth, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, and cooked turkey. Mix well. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.
5. Spread turkey-veggie mixture evenly into a large baking dish. Top with mashed sweet potatoes. Use a spatula to evenly spread the potatoes, then use a fork to scrape ridges into the potatoes. Sprinkle with paprika.
6. Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes, or until sweet potatoes begin turning golden brown. Let cool for 10 minutes, then serve!

(boiling sweet potatoes)

(celery, onion, parsnips)

(ground turkey)

(mashed sweet potatoes)

(onion, celery, parsnips, and mushrooms, and garlic)

(all cooked!)

(adding in frozen veggies, tomato paste, Worcestershire, and rosemary)

(with the turkey added in)

(turkey mixture topped with sweet potatoes + pretty little fork ridges with paprika)

(out of the oven!)



Friday, December 13, 2013

Cheesy Zucchini & Squash Bake

It's finally starting to get a little cooler here in Houston (hello there, fall!), and with the colder weather comes a need for cozy, warm dinners! This recipe is a quick and easy warm side dish that goes well with just about anything! Plus, it's really yummy!


Recipe adapted from here.

2 medium zucchini, cut in half-moon slices
2 medium yellow squash, cut in half-moon slices
3 tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 tbsp chopped green onion
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp garlic powder
1 cup (divided) shredded "pizza cheese" (any white cheese will work, but the "pizza cheese" blend of romano, mozzarella, provolone, and parmesan is really good!)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
salt and pepper to taste

1. In a large bowl, combine zucchini, squash, basil, green onions, thyme, garlic powder, 1/2 cup "pizza cheese," and Parmesan. Stir until veggies are coated with cheese and herbs. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Spoon mixture into a lightly-greased 8x8 baking dish.
3. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. When zucchini is nearly cooked through, sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese over the dish. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until zucchini is fully cooked and the cheese is melted and lightly browned.

(combining in a bowl)

(into the baking dish!)

(topping with cheese after partially-cooked)

All done!



Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas Garland Napkin Rings

Some DIY projects are so simple that they hardly deserve a blog post. This is one of them. In fact, it only has one necessary craft supply. No glue guns, no power tools, no artsy ability required. 

But despite its simplicity, this is one of those ideas that just made me go "Why didn't I think of that sooner?!" I give you - Christmas garland napkin rings!

It all started with a giant Christmas decor sale at Big Lots, where I found a thin wired strand of garland with pinecones. 

When I saw it, the light bulb above my head turned on and it hit me - napkin rings for the dining room! I wanted a set of ten napkin rings, so I made sure I had enough garland for ten pinecone clusters with a few inches of greenery on either side. Then I just grabbed some wire cutters, snipped the garland every few inches, and twisted each piece into a napkin-ring-sized circle (tucking the ends around the circle to make it stay). Needle-nose pliers would probably help with this (for getting the corners twisted and tucked under), but I just took the ruin-your-nails approach instead. 

So simple, but so cute when they're done! 

Here they are added to the dining room Christmas table:


Anyone else doing any super-simple Christmas crafts? I'd love to hear all about them!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Blueberry Walnut Brie Tartlets

These little tartlets are perfect finger-food for the holidays! The berry-brie combo seems fancy, but they're actually quite simple to put together.


Recipe adapted from here.

1 can refrigerated crescent rolls (reduced fat is fine)
1/4 cup blueberry preserves
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
8oz Brie cheese, rind removed, cut into 24 pieces
fresh blueberries
fresh mint leaves (optional)

1. Unroll the crescent roll dough and separate it into 4 rectangles (pinch together the perforations to seal). Cut each rectangle into 6 squares (two rows of three).
2. Lightly grease a mini muffin man. Press the 24 dough squares into the muffin cups (they won't totally cover the whole cup - don't worry!).
3. Spoon preserves into the bottom of each cup (on top of the dough). Top with a sprinkle of walnuts and a piece of Brie.
4. Bake at 350 for 16-19 minutes, or until edges of the dough are starting to brown. Cool in the pan for a few minutes before removing.
5. Garnish with fresh blueberries and mint leaves if desired.

(this was before the mint leaves got added, but you get the idea!)


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Christmas Card Garland

I love Christmas cards. I love opening the mailbox to find Christmas greetings from our friends and family. I love seeing the faces of people that are far away, and I just love how even if we can't actually see them for the holidays, we can still share some holiday spirit through Christmas cards. 

But there's always the question of what to do with the Christmas cards. Sticking them up on the fridge is great until you run out of space, and making a little book for the coffee table is a lovely idea, but we already have our family Christmas card album on the coffee table. 

When we moved into the house two years ago, I came up with a solution that I love for displaying our Christmas cards - hanging them on a garland along the windowsills! 

When the Christmas cards start arriving, I put two Command strip hooks on each windowsill, then attach the garland to the hooks with a little dark green ribbon. 

We punch a hole in the top of each Christmas card and then use wire ornament hooks to hang them on the garland.

I really like this solution for the Christmas cards... we can keep all our favorite people in the living room with us all season long!

What do y'all do with your Christmas cards? I know there are a lot of great ideas out there!