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My Sweet Life...

Livin, Laughin, Lovin...and Eatin too!

Updated: 2018-03-05T11:12:34.080-05:00


Halfway to Baby Becker


21 weeks tomorrow!  It's crazy how fast time is flying by.  I went for my 20 week appt yesterday and everything seems to be progressing nicely.  They say baby man is around 12 ounces which is right where he needs to be.  I've been feeling him moving around a little bit, but not much.  It's just little flutters in my stomach.  I'm excited to really feel him moving in there! Mike is ready too. :-)  When we go for the ultrasounds (weekly until 24 weeks - due to me having mild lupus, they have to check his heart weekly to make sure it's growing and functioning properly - so far, so good!), they say that he is a wiggle worm.  So, I'm going to bet we'll be feeling him soon.20 weeks - July 13, 2012I actually got Mike out to do some nursery shopping last weekend.  If you know Mike, then you might guess that this would be tough.  Well, he was such a trooper and I'm so thankful for that.  We bought a dresser/changing table from Ikea and we also ordered the crib from Babies R Us.  I also grabbed a few things to try out...a super cute owl crib bumper, a small accent rug and some drapes.  Oh, I also talked him into letting me stop at about 5 different places to accumulate way to many paint sample cards.  Talk about "Fifty Shades of Grey"....well, that's exactly what I came home with.  After taping them all up on the wall and staring at them for about 3 days, I've narrowed it down to about 6.  Whew! I'm getting there.  I asked Mike if we could go this weekend to get 3-4 actual paint samples to try on the walls.  His response: "No, just pick one and that's what we are painting the room."  Haha, typical Mike.We also started the registry process, which is extremely overwhelming.  We went for a few hours one day and I haven't done anything since.  I'm hosting a bridal shower next weekend and once I get through that, I'm going to get focused on rounding out the registry.   Have I mentioned how fast this is flying by?  Oh, and how much stuff I have to do in between?  Oh, and that I'm swamped at work?  Par for the course, I suppose.  Anyways, here is a sweet picture of the daddy-to-be practicing with a stuffed monkey.How Far Along: 20 weeks, 6 daysWeight Gain: +13 lbsSize of baby Noah: a pomegranate, weighing in at about 12 oz.What I miss:  a good night's sleep...but I guess I can kiss that goodbye for quite some time.  I've been getting up at least once (in the very early a.m.) to pee.  And my legs have been cramping up quite bad when sleeping.  They say you should sleep on your left side while prego...well, I'm trying so hard and it's just not comfy.  I gave in yesterday and ordered a pregnancy pillow that will fit under my belly and between my legs.  I'm hoping that brings some relief.Coming up in the next week or so:  choosing and buying a glider for the nursery, ordering the crib bedding, hosting a bridal shower (which consists of quite a bit of shopping and crafting to get ready)For the most part, all is well in the pregnancy department.  No cravings really.  I'm eating exactly how I was pre-pregnancy.  And I've been walking or going to the gym at least 4 days a week.  Little mama is feeling good! (and thankful for it!!!)[...]

Beachin It


This weekend, I headed to Nags Head for a few days of relaxation on the beach with the family.  Mike's brother, Erik, had flown in and they were having some 'guy time'. 

What this really meant was that I would have my picture taken in a bikini for the first time, which could be a little scary.  I have to say I'm feeling pretty good so far with how my weight is progressing.  Although, I do feel that my belly has seriously 'popped' in the last week.  I will weigh myself Thursday for my weekly weigh-in and I'm a little nervous that it will have gone a little overboard this week.  Oh well, back to the gym today.  I need to be consistent with my walking and exercising to make sure both of us stay healthy.

How Far Along: 19 weeks

Weight Gain: +12.5 lbs

Size of Baby Becker: a mango, weighing in at about 8.5 oz (really picking up speed in the growth department)

And the biggest reveal is Baby Becker's gender.......

WE'RE HAVING A BOY!!!!!  So, Noah Justin Becker is on the way....

Settled Down


Well, things have settled down for me. The pregnancy has gotten easier over the last few weeks and I'm feeling pretty good.  I've moved on to the 2nd trimester...16 weeks in...crazy how time flies.  In just a little over 5 months, baby Becker will be here with us.  That is nuts to think about.

The belly is definitely more defined now.  I even went shopping yesterday for lots of stretchy items.  I didn't hit up the maternity stuff yet - just went for the comfy clothes.  Our first stop was TJ Maxx and I found some great maxi skirts, tried them on, was really excited - go to register to pay.......wait for it.....I had handed the fitting room lady the wrong stack of clothes (the ones that actually fit).  So, now I'm at the register with 2 skirts that are too big.  I run back to the fitting room and the lady says the stuff has already been taken back out.  I go to the rack....nothing in my size...I frantically ran around the store looking for someone with a cart full of clothes...nothing.  Seriously??  If it weren't the fact that Mike was there with me, (and I would've been really embarrassed and felt like an idiot), I would have broke down in tears. That's how frustrated I was.  None of my current pants and shorts fit - finally I go shopping and find some nice summer skirts and then this happened. Ugh!  Next stop was Old Navy and I found some skirts so I was able to regain my composure.  Whew - that was close!

16 weeks - June 15, 2012

How Far Along: 16 weeks, 3 days

Weight Gain: +7.5

Size of Baby Becker: an avocado, weighing in at about 3 oz

Food Cravings: french fries; not all the time but Saturday night after we had eaten dinner and I had a brownie for dessert, we were relaxing and watching a movie...cut to the part where I say "mmm, I want some fries... like waffle fries from Chick Fil A".  Mike: "go eat an apple"  Me: "ha, yea right. Ride with me. I'm going to get fries" to Chick Fil A we went at 9 p.m. so I could get some fries.

Food Aversions: none to report

Signs of Pregnancy:  bigger belly and very sore boobs (ouch!)

Tales from the Prego Crypt


At 12 weeks, we announced to the world (ok, just to the people we know) that Nugget is on the way.  Apparently we aren't celebrities so the world really doesn't care about our lovechild. 

Anyways, I've managed to make it through the first trimester.  Gracefully? NO  With ease? NO  But I made it.  I'm now finishing up week 14 and the last 2 weeks have been really good.  Can't complain.  Well, except for those extra pounds that snuck up super fast.  The problem with these extra pounds is that they don't look like a prego belly - they look more like a muffin top or a one-too-many-burritos belly.  Just some extra fat around the middle.  Pretty, I tell ya.  I'm working on accepting this new fat and not cringing every time I look in the mirror.  Easier said than done.

May 18, 2012 - 12 weeks (+4 lbs)

How Far Along: 14 weeks, 6 days

Weight Gain: +7 (no longer fluctuating, just going up, up up)

Size of Baby Becker: a lemon, weighing in at approx 1.5 oz
Food Cravings:  I've really been wanting grapefruit juice but have yet to get any. Other than that, no real cravings right now.  I did make a chocolate cake over the weekend and I eat a piece (or 2) every single day.  Not really a craving - I just really hate to waste food. :-)

Food Aversions: Doing better with this too; eating more fruits and veggies. They no longer disgust me like they did before.

On another note:  I just finished reading the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy. I hear pregnancy hormones are bad - well, just try reading about Christian Grey.  I'm in love.  And I now need therapy.

Welcome to CrazyTown, USA


I had a particularly rough day at work.  One of those days where everyone is clearly an idiot (except me, of course). I was huffing and puffing and throwing crap around my desk when the phone rang.  It was Kris - she asked how things were going.  I told her EXACTLY how things were going - in not so pleasant terms.  She kept asking questions..."like what?", "who would do that?", "what did you say?". Now that I look back on it, I do believe she was trying to provoke me.  Her quiet giggles when I answered each question with a shout probably should have tipped me off.  Finally, she literally busted out laughing.  My exact words, "Stop laughing or I'll punch you".  I mean, where does this stuff come from?  Nugget probably thinks his mother is a lunatic. Actually, I think I might be.  I blame Nugget.  Wondering what Nugget looks like....

Ha! Let's hope Nugget doesn't look like this or I'll probably try to eat him/her.

Some facts:

How Far Along: 10 weeks on Friday, May 4th

Weight Gain: +2 (still fluctuating)

Size of Baby Becker: a prune, weighing in at about .14 oz (this makes me think of constipation - which is a lovely side dish to being prego)

Food Cravings: carbs is my food group of choice

Food Aversions: still coffee, still not loving my veggies (took the tomato off my turkey sub, forced myself to eat green beans that I cooked with dinner - weird). Oh, and I cannot eat our favorite peanut butter choc chip frozen yogurt. It disgusts me.

Signs of Pregnancy:  as if the food aversions and above-mentioned violence aren't enough proof??

Who Wants to be a Millionaire?


(**this was around week 10, first week of May )

Oh, you want to be a millionaire too? Yes, of course that would be nice.  But this post really is about dinner last night.  I know, I know.... everything is about food.  I'm actually quite sick of food, sick of thinking about food, sick of eating food.  I'm hungry and I like to eat, but then afterwards, I just feel gross.  And then I think about what I'm going to eat next. Disturbing.

Mike worked late last night and said he would stop at Outback on the way home to pick up dinner.  Great! I got grab a bag of chips (hey, if 6:00 hits and dinner isn't in front of me, I panic) and pull up the menu online and here's what went down...(talking to myself, of course)

Me: Definitely cheese fries and a house salad (that's common for me)
Cheesy Game Show host (in my head, obvs): is that your final answer?
Me: No, definitely not.
Me: hmmm, steak with side of cheese fries and house salad.  Yea, that sounds great.
Me: oh wait, that No Rules Pasta looks really good.
Game Show host: is that your final answer?
Me: No, no, no. Hold on a freakin minute.
Me: A burger with side of cheese fries. Yum!
Me: I should just stick to the salad and cheese fries.
Game Show host: is that your final answer?
Me: I need to phone a friend.
Me (calling Lani): hey, this is really important. I don't know what to order.  Here is what sounds good to me (proceed to go over all of the above)....but then it doesn't really sound good either. What do I do?
Lani: (laughing at me and clearly busy enough with her 2 month old child to not have to deal with me) You can't go wrong with the steak and cheese fries. But I prefer the alice springs chicken - maybe you should get chicken.
Me: (after a lot of debating) ok, thanks. I can do this.  I'm getting hungry. I need to order. Bye.
Me (calling Outback): outback special with a side of cheese fries and a house salad.  How big is the side of cheese fries? I mean, is it a good amount?  (yes, she says, it is) Ok, because I'm pregnant and I don't want them skimping on my cheese fries. (she laughs but assures me she will check it herself to make sure they don't skimp).
Me: (wondering if it's too much to ask for them to toast the bread before they pack it up -have you noticed they don't put the bread through the breadwarmer for takeout? - yea, this annoys me. I decide to just leave things how they are).

Whew, finally dinner is ordered.  I mean, seriously, did I mention I've turned into a full blown lunatic?

I ate all of the cheese fries, half of the steak, and about 3 bites of salad.  I usually eat the whole salad before starting on anything else.  Nugget doesn't like veggies.  Have I told you that before?

Weeks 5-8 of alien baby


hello, pregnancy.  Goodbye, Kelly.  Oh, a baby is growing inside of me.  Oh, it's a miracle.  Oh, I must be glowing.  Yea, if by glowing, you mean glowing green.  This little nugget has made its presence known.

Week 5 started with a flight to Spain - super excited about this vaca.  Feeling great, can't wait.  How quickly things change.  Almost immediately upon departure, I start feeling queezy and nauseous.  I never did get sick, thank goodness.  Not one day on our 10 day trip to Spain did I feel great.  I loved Spain, I loved that we were there together and with our friends, John and Leah.  What I didn't love was the exhaustion that had taken over, the nausea that never seemed to leave, and the hatred of all foods presented to me.  I pretty much took a 2-3 hour nap every single evening.  I say evening because those Spanish people do everything late...dinner usually starts after 9:00 p.m.  One day at the train station, I got McDonald's for lunch...oh how delicious it was and it worked for Nugget too. Yay!  Then, on another night, I woke up from a nap at 10:15 p.m. (Mike & John were out drinking while us girls napped).  I called them and requested dinner to be delivered ...McDonald's was the only thing that would do.  So, there Leah and I sat at 11 p.m. eating Mickey D's in Barcelona.  It was divine.

Fast forward to the 2 weeks after we return home.  Pure misery.  Imagine having the flu (minus the vomiting... again, thank goodness!) all day everyday for 2 weeks...or a constant hangover (without alcohol, obvs, since apparently you can't drink while prego).  Just kidding, I know you can't drink while pregnant....not once in these 3 weeks did I even consider wanting to drink...nothing sounded worse actually.  Nugget is in charge of this body, clearly.  Nothing sounds good to eat, everything sounds good to eat, I'm not hungry, I'm starving. This seriously causes concern of being borderline psycho.  If I don't eat, I feel terrible.  When I do eat, I feel terrible. Ugh! The rate at which I can go from not hungry to starving is alarming.  And to make things clear, if this hunger mode hits, you probably want to get out of my way...or get me food asap.

Working became extremely hard.  I felt sick all day everyday.  Everything took me 3 times as long to get done. I found myself staring at the computer screen. Very frustrating - feeling like such a slacker. Anyways, enough of that.

April 20, 2012 - 8 weeks

I thought it would be fun to be up some facts along the way:

How Far Along: 9 weeks on Friday, April 20th

Weight Gain: +1 (it fluctuates so who freakin knows)

Size of Baby Becker: an olive, weighing in at about .07 ounces

Food Cravings: Depends on the moment but french fries typically sound promising. Oh, and bagels.

Food Aversions: Coffee (haven't been able to drink it since week 4), veggies aren't appealing either

Things they are a changin...


It's been 2 years since I've blogged...but now, I have a new reason to blog so I'm back at it.  This reason comes in the form of a little 'nugget' growing in my belly.  We've been trying for over a year and were just patiently waiting for it to happen. On March 26th, I realized that the lovely monthly reminder of my womanhood had passed me by.  So, I broke out the pregnancy test.  Pee, wait 3 minutes... yea right!  The plus sign appeared immediately and I think I almost passed out.  I gathered my thoughts and figured out how to tell Mike.  We were sitting down for dinner and thanking God for our meal.  As soon as he said Amen, I whipped the stick out of my pocket and said "we should be thankful for this too".  His exact words were 'what does that mean'? Typical Mike.  Then we ate in a bit of silenced shock.  Since we have only told family and really close friends so far, I'm stockpiling these posts until 12 weeks.  Then, you will be bombarded. Here's the proof, peeps.

So simple...sooo good!


Last night, Lani & Chad called and invited themselves over after dinner. :-) Since we both had plans of just staying home and relaxing, we decided why not do it all together. So, I said I needed to come up with a quick dessert we could have. Lani found this recipe and emailed it over to me...and surprisingly, I had all of the ingredients on hand. When they got here, she and I made it together and threw it in the oven. It turned out awesome. It was very easy to make and it was delicious. We had it with vanilla lowfat frozen yogurt. I will definitely make this again.

Mixed Berry Crisp
Source: Epicurious

2 - 12oz bags of frozen mixed berries, unthawed (I used one 16 oz bag)
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 tbsp lemon juice (omitted because I didn't have)
3/4 cup old fashioned oats
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger (omitted)
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
7 tbsp chilled unsalted butter, diced (I used light)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine berries, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup flour and lemon juice in a large bowl; toss to blend well. Transfer berry mixture to 9" glass pie dish. Combine remaining 3/4 cup flour, oats, brown sugar, spices and salt in a medium bowl. Add butter; rub in with fingertips until topping holds together in small moist clumps. Sprinkle over berry mixture.

Bake until berry mixture bubbles thickly and topping is golden brown, about 1 hour (I baked for 45 minutes). Let stand for 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. **top with vanilla frozen yogurt or ice cream!

Grilling - Steak & Potatoes


In my Taste of Home magazine, I saw a recipe for marinated chuck steak. However, when I went to the grocery store, they had no chuck I bought a london broil hoping it would turn out ok. It actually turned out pretty good but I'd still like to try the recipe with chuck steak like it calls for. Mike grilled it for us along with some asparagus. I baked sweet potato fries too and they turned out awesome.
Marinated Chuck Steak

1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp onion powder
2 lbs boneless chuck steak
In a large ziploc bag, combine the first seven ingredients. Add the beef; seal bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.

Drain and discard marinade. Grill steak, covered, over medium heat for 8-10 minutes on each side or until meat reaches desired doneness (for medium-rare, a meat thermometer should read 145 degrees; medium, 160 degress; well-done, 170 degress). Let stand for 10 minutes before slicing.

Sweet Potato Fries

2 medium sweet potatoes
olive oil Pam
salt & pepper
cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degress. Wash and peel sweet potatoes. Cut into strips. Grease baking sheet with Pam; spread sweet potatoes out and spray with Pam; sprinkle with salt, pepper and a little cayenne pepper. Bake for 25-30 minutes, turning once.

Pulled BBQ Chicken Sandwiches


This week's menu consisted of bbq chicken sandwiches, salad with crispy chicken tenders, and marinated london broil.

My cousin, Amber, suggested I try this recipe out. Although we thought it was good, it was more tomato-based than I had hoped. Next time, I will add more liquid smoke to make the bbq flavor stronger. I used whole wheat potato rolls for the sandwiches.
Pulled BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
Source: Food Network

1 tbsp canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (14oz) low-sodium tomato sauce
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
5 tbsp molasses
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp liquid smoke
1 whole rotisserie chicken or 3 chicken breasts - meat shredded into thin strips
6 whole wheat hamburger rolls

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over a medium heat. Add the onions until they are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, water, vinegar, molasses, pepper, and liquid smoke and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Add shredded chicken, return to a simmer and cook an additional 10 minutes.

Loaded Potatoes!


Last night we headed over to our friends' house for dinner and to meet their new baby, Kaylee. I offered to bring a potato dish and decided on this loaded red potato casserole that I saw in my Taste of Home magazine. I knew there would be no way to go wrong with it. And, I was right! Absolutely delicious and very simple to make. Of course I got it all finished and then rushed out of the house so we would be on time...and I forgot to take a picture. So, this picture is from Taste of Home, but it pretty much looked the same (except their picture is way better than mine would have been).

(image) Loaded Red Potato Casserole
Source: Taste of Home

16 small red potatoes (3lb bag of petite red potatoes)
1/2 cup milk (I used fat free)
1/4 cup butter, cubed (I used light)
1/2 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups (6oz) shredded cheddar, divided (I used 2%)
1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon (I used 4 slices of turkey bacon)
1 cup (8oz) sour cream (I used fat free)
2 tbsp minced chives

Place potatoes in dutch oven (a.k.a. big pot) and cover with water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until tender. Drain.

Mash potatoes with the milk, butter, salt and pepper. Transfer to a greased 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle with 1 cup of cheese and the bacon.

Dollop with sour cream; sprinkle with chives and remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Yields 9 servings.

Sweet Mustard Chicken


I have to admit this wasn't a completely NEW recipe, but I'd only made it once before and that time I made it according to the recipe, using pork. It was absolutely delicious and I decided to give it a try with chicken. The result was great. I do think, however, that the pork hold the marinade flavor better but I would still make it again with both pork and chicken. The marinade mix seemed very odd to me but it really turns out delicious. Mike also grilled zucchini and corn on the cob for a delicious and very healthy meal.

Sweet Mustard Chicken (or Chops)
3 or 4 chicken breasts or pork loin chops
1/2 cup mayo (I used light)
1/4 packed brown sugar
1/4 cup prepared mustard (I used spicy brown)
2 tsp seasoned salt (I just used kosher salt)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
In a small bowl, mix mayo, brown sugar, mustard and salt. Whisk in vinegar. Pour into a large ziploc bag; add chicken or pork. Seal and refrigerate overnight.
Discard marinade. Grill, covered, over medium heat for 20-25 minutes or until a meat thermometer says 160 degree, turning occasionally.
Yields 4 servings.

Goal for the New Year!


One of my goals for the New Year is to update my blog regularly. Going along with that is to plan a weekly menu of meals each week - and 2 meals should be new recipes that I've never tried before...since I have hundreds of recipes that I've pulled from my cooking magazines and printed from online sources. So, I did pretty well the first week of the new year.

My weekly plan was:

Monday - DYOD (do your own dinner) since we were both working later
Tuesday - Nut Crusted Tilapia, brown rice and roasted baby carrots - NEW
Wednesday - Tacos (with ground chicken)
Thursday - Sweet Mustard Chicken, zucchini and corn on the cob (all grilled) - NEW
Friday - out to dinner with friends

So, here are the recipes for the 2 new dishes. First up....

Nut-Crusted Tilapia

1 cup of finely chopped pecans
4 tilapia fillets (about 1 1/2 lbs)
milk (used fat free)
flour (used whole wheat)
salt and pepper
canola oil

Season both sides of fish fillets with salt and pepper. Dredge in flour first, then milk, then coat thoroughly with pecans. Heat a thin layer of canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook fish until just done, turning once (about 5 mins total).

Serves 4

Roasted Carrots

Toss with olive oil until lightly coated. Add salt, pepper, and rosemary (or thyme). Spread out on baking sheet. Bake on 400 for 20-25 minutes or until desired tenderness.

Beef and Broccoli with Fried Rice


Mike sampled this at our grocery store, Publix, and came home with the recipe card for me because he thought it was so good. So, I decided to give it a shot. It turned out really well and I will definitely be making this again soon.

Beef and Broccoli
12 oz fresh broccoli florets, rinsed
1 1/2 lb beef skirt steak
1 tbsp canola oil
3 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp ginger spice blend paste
1/2 cup oyster sauce
1/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 tbsp lite soy sauce
2 tbsp dry sherry (I omitted)
1) Cut broccoli into bite-sized pieces; place in microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave on high for 4-5 minutes or until almost desired tenderness. Meanwhile, slice steak thinly.
2) Preheat large saute pan on medium-high for 2-3 minutes. Place oil in pan; stir to coat. Add steak, garlic and ginger paste; cook 3-4 minutes or until meat is lightly browned, stirring occasionally. While steak cooks, combine remaining ingredients (except broccoli) in a small bowl until well blended.
3) Stir broccoli and sauce mixture into beef. Bring to a boil; cook 2-3 minutes or until sauce thickens and broccoli is desired tenderness.
Fried Rice
1 3/4 cups of reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 tbsp lite soy sauce
1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 green onions, rinsed and sliced thinly
1 medium red bell pepper, rinsed and cut into 1/4" pieces
2 cups instant brown rice
1 cup of frozen green peas and carrots
1) Combine broth, soy sauce, garlic and red pepper flakes in a large saute pan. Bring to a boil.
2) Stir rice into boiling broth mixture and return to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and cook for 5 minutes.
3) Remove from heat; stir in onions, peppers, peas and carrots. Cover and let stand for 5-7 minutes or until water is absorbed. Fluff with fork and serve.

Halloween Treats!


Ok, it's been way too long since my last post but I really do want to get back in the habit of updating so I'll start with my 2 recent Halloween treats that I made to take over to a friend's house for a get together. I saw both of these in my Taste of Home magazine and couldn't resist.

Strawberry Ghosts

30 fresh strawberries, washed and dried
8 oz white baking chocolate, chopped
1 tsp shortening
1/8 tsp almond extract
1/4 cup miniature semi-sweet chocolate chips

1) Melt white chocolate and shortening; stir until smooth; stir in almond extract.
2) Dip strawberries in chocolate mixture; place on waxed paper-lined baking sheet, allowing excess chocolate to form ghosts' tails. Immediately press chocolate chips into coating for eyes. Freeze for 5 minutes.
3) Melt remaining chocolate chips; stir until smooth. Dip a toothpick into melted chocolate and draw a mouth on each face. Refrigerate until needed.

Source: Taste of Home

Next up, a Pumpkin Torte. This got rave reviews and is so easy to make. Delicious! I made it again for Thanksgiving because it is so good. The frosting part is my favorite because it is so light and fluffy.


Pumpkin Torte
1 box yellow cake mix
1 can (15 oz) solid-pack pumpkin, divided
1/2 cup milk
4 eggs
1/3 cup canola oil
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, divided
1 80z package cream cheese, softened
1 cup confectioners sugar
16 oz frozen cool whip/whipped topping, thawed
1/4 cup caramel ice cream topping
1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted (I omitted this time)

1) In a large bowl, combine the cake mix, 1 cup pumpkin, milk, eggs, oil and 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice; beat on low for 30 seconds. Beat on medium for 2 minutes. Pour into 2 greased and floured 9" round baking pans.
2) Bake on 350 for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.
3) In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add confectioners' sugar, remaining pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice; beat until smooth. Fold in whipped topping.
4) Cut each cake horizontally into two layers. Place bottom layer on a serving plate; spread with fourth of the filling. Repeat layers 3 times. Drizzle with caramel topping; sprinkle with pecans. Store in refrigerator.

Source: Taste of Home

Awesome pumpkin cookies


So, I've already made these 3 times now. They are awesome and Mike loves them. Most recently, he entered us into his work's Christmas cookie bake-off and he wanted me to make these. I found the recipe on Picky Palate's blog. The first time I made them, I followed her recipe exactly but it made a ton of cookies so this time I basically halved the recipe. Here is what I did.

Pumpkin Cookies
Source: Picky Palate

1 box spice cake mix
1 15oz can pumpkin
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla (I added)

Preheat oven to 350. Place cake mix, pumpkin, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla in a mixer and mix until well combined. With a cookie scoop, scoop onto a parchment or silpat lined cookie sheet. Bake @ 350 degrees F. for 11-13 minutes or until cooked through (9-11 mins works best for me). Let cool completely.

For the frosting, here is what I did:
1 jar of vanilla frosting
4 oz softened cream cheese (light)
1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon

Mix all together and spread on cookies. Yum!

My first pecan pie!


Since we were hosting Thanksgiving, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try my hand at pecan pie. I had thought about using a Cooking Light recipe or some other 'light' recipe, but then I said what the heck and chose to just go all out. Afterall, I didn't want to ruin my first pecan I turned to someone who I knew would be spot on....the Pioneer Woman. Are you wondering how mine turned out? Ridiculously good!!! I got so many compliments on it...Mike's mom and grandma were really wowed that I made it from scratch. Go me! Do yourself a favor...make a real pecan pie one day. So. Worth. It.

Pioneer Woman's Pecan Pie
Source: Pioneer Woman Cooks
1 unbaked pie crust
1 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup melted butter (regular, salted)
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 heaping cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350. Mix sugar, brown sugar, salt, corn syrup, butter, eggs, and vanilla together in a bowl. Pour chopped pecans in the bottom of the pie shell. Pour syrup mixture over the top. Bake pie at 350 degrees for 50 minutes, being careful not to burn pecans and crust.
Allow to cool for several hours or overnight.

My new favorite dip!


This dip is just too easy...and so delicious. Lani made it for a halloween party and made me try it, even though I was hesitant simply because of the word 'artichoke'. Well, silly me, because it was so good. I decided to make it for a Thanksgiving appetizer and I served it with crostini. So, let's just get right to it...shall we?

Lani's Artichoke Dip
1 can of artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
8 oz of cream cheese (light)
1/2 cup of mayo (light)
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese
1 tsp garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350 or 375. Mix all ingredients. Spread into 8x8 dish and bake for 20-25 minutes until heated through and bubbling on top. Serve with crostini or crackers. Enjoy!

Meet our Pumpkin!


We are not cat people...never have been and were sure we would never be. Things change, I guess. Last week, we happened upon a stray little kitty late one night on the road that runs behind our house. We brought her home and kept her through the night (we called her Pumpkin because she was white, orange and black). The next morning we called the local animal services about bringing her there since they have an adoption center on site. We knew that she had a cold (or Upper Respiratory Infection as they told us)... because of that they said she would be euthanized because they can't risk getting the rest of their population sick. Also, she had scratched us when playing and because she was a stray there was the risk of rabies. I was heartbroken and we didn't know what to do. We left her there thinking we were doing what was best for her and for us. By Sunday, 2 days later, we missed her and wished we would have made the decision to at least take her to a vet, get her well, and then give her up. We drove to animal services that night at 9 p.m. and left 2 notes on the various office doors saying that if they still had her, by chance, we would love to have her back and give her a good home. They called me Monday morning and apologized saying it was too late. Again, crushed! We thought long and hard and decided we would look into adopting a kitty.So, here's how Pumpkin (v.2) came along. That same day, Monday, I started looking at adoption website and decided to look at Craigslist. I came across a tiny little orange and white kitten that someone else found as a stray and were giving away for free. I emailed and they wrote me back saying he was still available. So, last night, we went to see him and we left with our little Pumpkin. He's a doll...the sweetest little guy. However, he was infested with fleas...which we noticed when we got home. We had asked the lady and she said she hadn't seen any. Anyways, we spent 2-3 hours cleaning him and picking 80-100 fleas off the poor little guy. I took him to the vet first thing this morning and they said we did a great job as they didn't seen any fleas at all. They gave him a vaccination, a little amount of flea treatment just in case, a checkup, etc....we have a healthy little kitty...weighing in at a whopping 1 lb 4 oz!! We picked his birthday to be September 20th so he's 7 weeks old!We can't wait to get home and play with him since we're pretty sure he thinks we were torturing him last night...he was drenched, freezing, being picked and pulled at... but it was all worth it and he loves us today! **next to my foot (size 7) to show you how small he is![...]

1 Year of Wedded Bliss


We recently returned from a 1 week roadtrip to celebrate our 1 year anniversary. What a great trip. On Friday, Oct 10th, we drove from Tampa to Atlanta where we would spend our first two nights at the downtown Atlanta Marriot Marquis in a room with a great view.The first night we had an amazing dinner at Chin Chin - a chinese restaurant that I had found online and saw that it had good reviews. Well, it was absolutely delish. The location we went to was deceiving from the outside, but was a charming little modern place on the inside. And the food was to die for. Here's what we had: appetizer - crab angels (rangoon); dinner - Mike had Hunan Chicken - a light dish that was very hot but so good; I had the combo Tangerine shrimp/chicken which was served over roasted peppers and orange peels - unbelievable how good it was.On Saturday, we drove to Stone Mountain Park and did a morning hike to the top. Great workout to start the day then walked around the little village. Cute place!Saturday night was dinner at Legal Sea Foods. Another fabulous meal. Appetizer - Hot Crab Dip; dinner - Mike had the Grilled Swordfish with seaweed salad and broccoli with cheese; I had the Tortilla, Apple & Goat Cheese Salad with orange chipotle dressing (topped with grilled scallops). Dessert - personal pecan pie with vanilla bean ice cream, whipped cream and caramel bourbon sauce. Oh my...what a meal!On Sunday morning, we got up and hit the Georgia Aquarium where we spent about 2 hours. Then, it was back in the car and on the up, Charleston![...]

Anniversary Trip continued...


Enjoying a really cute little Coke Zero bottle on the road... Second stop - Charleston. We arrived on Sunday afternoon and spent 3 nights at the Mills House Hotel - charming, historic hotel that we enjoyed very much. Great location too! We did a little walking around just to loosen up our stiff legs. For dinner, we wanted something simple and easy so we went to Charleston Crab House. Appetizer - she crab soup - thick, creamy and very good. Mike had a crab cake sandwich - the crab cake was dwarfed by the bun so he just ate the crab cake. I had the bbq shrimp & grits because I had to try it. Not my favorite dish - good, but not something I can eat a whole bowl of. The next day, we went on a carriage tour of the city and then had lunch at Sticky Fingers BBQ. Mike had the Ribs & Wings Combo and I had the Smoked Chicken Potato Skins with BBQ. Very good meal! Here's a great action shot of Mike enjoying his. We may have taken a nap after this meal (I'm guessing we did) to get ready for the next meal, which was going to be our biggest anniversary dinner compliments of Mike's company, Deloitte...which was a pleasant surprise. We did our research to come up with the best place to dine at so we were very much looking forward to it. We chose Oak Steakhouse, which is located in an old bank. We were given a very private table and immediately were given 2 glasses of pink champagne. Very nice, unexpected touch. We started out by ordering a bottle of Franciscan Magnificat, one that Mike has had before and said I really needed to try. I'm not a red wine drinker at all, but gave it a shot. Oh boy, now I'm a fan. That is a delicious wine!Here is what we had: appetizer - Beef Tartare served with crunchy shoestring potatoes for Mike and a Roasted Beet & Boston Bibb salad for me. Yum! For dinner - 7 oz filet with gorgonzola cream sauce for me and a 16 oz new york strip for Mike. We ordered the Lobster & Shrimp mac & cheese to share as our side, and it seriously rocked our world! For dessert, Mike ordered 2 dessert wines for us to try and I ordered the Apple Torta with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream (that had been mixed with honey). A meal we will not soon forget! The next day it was off for some more sightseeing...this time, by bike. We rented two bikes and set out for an adventure....first we headed to this beautiful bridge, which kicked my butt and I could barely breathe by the time we got across it. Then on a water taxi back to downtown Charleston so we could explore the historical streets. Gotta love our helmets. After a couple hours, we headed back to the hotel to re-group. I had the idea of grabbing our books/magazines, getting on the bikes and heading down to the Battery to hang in the park for awhile. That was nice, peaceful and relaxing and we're glad we did it.Our last meal was at Jestine's Kitchen. We knew we needed to have some real southern comfort food and Mike had been wanting fried chicken. This place has a great reputation for simple southern food. We started with the cornbread which was served with butter that had been drizzled with honey. Yum! I prefer sweet cornbread and since it wasn't sweet, the butter with honey did the trick. Mike had the fried chicken basket with collard greens and fries. I had the pecan crusted fried chicken breast with mac & cheese. This chicken was awesome. Then for dessert, the coca cola cake with vanilla bean ice cream...very rich but so good! The last morning, we spent a couple hours by the pool before packing up t[...]

Last Stop...Savannah!


Our third and final vacation spot was Savannah. I was most excited about where we would be staying...I talked Mike into trying a B&B for the first time...I couldn't wait. I did some research and settled on the Green Palm Inn. We arrived in Savannah on Wednesday afternoon, just in time for some snacks and wine that was provided by the inn. Diane is the innkeeper and Tammy is her assistant. They were awesome. The place is absolutely adorable, a touch of modern mixed in with traditional furnishings. There are only 4 guest rooms and ours was the Sago Palm Suite. It was perfect! My favorite part of the house was the front porch. It was so beautiful with so many flowers and tons of greenery. I wish the front of my house looked like that. On our first night, we went for a walk down to check out River St. and then to City Market. We stopped in a pub for dinner, the Moon River Brewing Company. An appetizer caught my eye so we just had to try it....Sweet Potato Crinkles. Let me just tell you....they were so yummy. They are basically crinkle french fries (but made with sweet potatoes, obviously) and they were served with 3 dipping sauces (raspberry vinaigrette, chipotle ranch and a cinnamon sugar glaze). I preferred the ranch but every now and then would dip into the cinnamon sugar was more of a dessert that way. Mike ordered a Grilled Chicken Salad and I had the Chicken, Bacon and Swiss sandwich. Both were great. Oh, we also ordered a sampler of their beers that are brewed in-house...we got 7 of them which was very cool. A couple of them were very good and a couple were not so good. But here is Mike getting excited about trying them. After dinner it was off to City Market where I found Savannah's Candy Kitchen and had some delicious butter pecan ice cream.I was very excited about our first breakfast at the Green Palm Inn. We awakened to an absolutely glorious smell coming from downstairs. When we sat down at the table, Diane served us each a plate filled with blueberry bread pudding, brown sugar baked bacon, and a side of pineapple, strawberries and papaya. Oh my goodness, what a good way to start the day. Then, we decided on a roadtrip out to Tybee Island where we would check out the beach and the lighthouse.The view from the top...It was such a beautiful day but there is not a lot to do on Tybee Island so we headed back in to do some shopping. Then, Diane made reservations for us at the Olde Pink House, where Lani said we must go while we are there. What a beautiful place. Lani had mentioned to me that she remembered the scallops being great so that's what I decided to have. They were served with mashed potatoes and a mix of green peas/beans (sugar snap peas, green beans and edamame). Mike had the special that was offered which was Red Fish over black eyed peas and red cabbage. Mike's dinner was very good but mine was fantastic. I savored every bite of those big, succulent oh my. I did order the chocolate pecan pie with ice cream for dessert. It was good but the texture was almost all nuts. Good but different. From there we headed to Molly MacPherson's pub for some drinks (Mike wanted to try a scotch or two since they supposedly have the largest selection in the east or something like that) and to watch the Rays playoff game. Cute little pub...good atmosphere!On the second morning, we were once again greeted by a phenomenal breakfast. Diane had made scrambled eggs, chicken spinach asiago sausage, biscuits, hash[...]

Creamsicle Cupcakes


Recently my friend, Leah, invited me to share a 'booth' with her at a local arts & crafts fair. She would be making a lot of crafty items, which she is so great at and she asked if I would like to make some baked goods to sell. I was pretty excited about having my first bake sale, but was nervous as well. I decided to do a mix of made from scratch items and some box mixes since I was treading on new ground. One of the first items I made (and then froze) were these cupcakes that were started with a box mix. Well, I don't care at all at they were made from a box because these were the best cupcakes ever...maybe my new favorite...really, I'm not kidding. They are worth go get a box of orange cake mix and a vanilla pudding mix and get to work. Enjoy!Creamsicle CupcakesSource: 52 Cupcakes1 box of Duncan Hines Orange Supreme Cake Mix1 small box of vanilla pudding (not instant)Follow directions on the box, adding in the vanilla pudding mix. Bake as directed on box.I chose to use a pre-made frosting...I believe it was Betty Crocker Whipped Cream which was so perfect on these. When I did my taste-test (yes, of course, I had to), I just put a dollop of cool whip on top....and that was perfect also. I'm not sure you can go wrong. If you check out the blog 52 Cupcakes where I found this recipe, she has a recipe for a frosting using marshmallow fluff...I definitely want to try that out sometime too. **here is my taste-tester cupcake, just in case you couldn't tell.More to come: pumpkin cookies and pumpkin muffins. Also, tales from our 1 year anniversary trip to Atlanta, Charleston and Savannah. Did I mention I'm currently doing these updates from the car as we drive home to Tampa from Savannah? Our vacation is almost over...sad, sad![...]

Long Overdue...


I have been a terrible slacker when it comes to this post...I'm going to try and say that I've been terribly busy but that probably doesn't cut it. Anyways, this was a dish I came across in the Kraft magazine. It was so incredibly easy to throw together and it turned out to be a great comfort food dish. The cheese, strangely, wasn't my favorite part. And I would like to try making it again leaving the cheese out...but instead making it more like chicken pot pie. I really think it would be a great alternative to making chicken pot pie...and very easy! The next post is also long overdue...but after that I'll be caught up. Try not to hold it against me, please.

Chicken & Biscuits
Source: Kraft

1 can (10-3/4 oz.) condensed cream of chicken soup
3/4 cup BREAKSTONE'S or KNUDSEN Sour Cream, divided
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 pkg. (16 oz.) frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
1 cup KRAFT Shredded Mild Cheddar Cheese
3 Tbsp. milk (I used fat free)
1 cup all-purpose baking mix (I used bisquick)

Heat oven to 375ºF. Mix soup and 1/2 cup sour cream in 8-inch square baking dish. Stir in chicken, vegetables and cheese.

Stir milk and remaining sour cream into baking mix. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls into 6 mounds on top of chicken mixture.

Bake 35 min. or until biscuit topping is golden brown and chicken mixture is hot and bubbly.