Monday, November 12, 2018

How to Have an EASY Thanksgiving With 7 Easy-to-Make Side Dishes





Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday (political things put aside) to celebrate each year with your family and friends. When I was younger, we would all go over to my Grandma's and we'd eat until we were too stuffed to move.

Now, as an adult with my own home and dining room, I like to host my own Thanksgiving dinner. The very first year we were in our home, we invited my husband's and my side of the family to come celebrate with us. I don't remember the number for sure, but I think we had 18 people to feed. We had our long dining room table and added a long folding table at the end and we fit snuggly, but we still fit!

We haven't had as many people come since that first one, but we still have a pretty big turn out and with that comes a lot of food and each person has that one special thing that they like to eat for Thanksgiving.

As a parent with young kids, hosting Thanksgiving can be a bit chaotic, but bringing your kids to another person's house can give you more anxiety than hosting Thanksgiving dinner, so I just choose to host it.

So how do you make it work for you? If you are hosting a multi-family Thanksgiving, cooking can be expensive and overwhelming. This is what we do in our family.

POTLUCK Style!!!

Usually, my mother-in-law will make the turkey, and I will make a ham. From there, we make a list of the dishes that we would like to have and we divide the list in half- or if there are more people joining us, we ask them the chip in by bringing a dish or two to pass.

If this appeals to you or if you are just looking for dishes to make even though you are cooking for your family by yourself, here's a list of our easy-to-make dishes that never seem to fail us.

You're going to notice a trend and that trend is, if it isn't easy to make, it's not making this list. 

Breakfast Pizza- What some people forget when it comes to big holidays is that we still need to eat earlier on in the day unless you're going to eat everything around noon, but we usually do our Thanksgiving dinner around 4 or 5 in the afternoon because some of our loved ones still work that day. An easy way to feed everyone is to make this Breakfast Pizza. It's super delicious and very easy to make. 
Click Breakfast Pizza for recipe. 

Green Stuff- Ok, the name sounds really weird and it's not very descriptive, but growing up, my grandma made this Jello salad (made with cottage cheese and Jello) that was absolutely delicious. It's not quite a dessert so we sometimes ate it with the food or we sometimes saved it for dessert time. This is a dish that you can and SHOULD make the night before so it has time to set. 

Click Green Stuff for recipe. 

It's super easy to make and you can make it several ways. For instance, in the pictures, I made it with strawberry jello instead of lime. 


Strawberry Jello Graham Cracker Surprise-  Since we just introduced a dish that should be made the night before, here is another one. 

This dish was a complete accident when I came up with it, but the accident turned into a marvelous creation. If you like Jello Pretzel dessert, you'll probably like this too. With everything blended together, it gives a rich, smooth taste with your favorite jello taste and the fruits added make it somewhat healthyish, right?

It's not a pie or a sea foam salad, but it's still absolutely delicious and easy to pass around your table.

Click Strawberry Jello Graham Cracker Surprise for the recipe

Corn Bread Casserole- With very few ingredients and even fewer instructions, this is the perfect side dish to add to your Thanksgiving meal. Cornbread is such a great comfort food and having it mixed with these other ingredients, your taste buds will be sure to love you. 


Click Cornbread Casserole for recipe. 

Green Bean Casserole-  This dish is probably my favorite in the side dish category. The dessert category is a whole 'nother thing. Before I moved on my own, my mom always made this casserole and I always thought that it must have been really difficult to make since it tasted so good. I was completely wrong. I kind of feel like maybe my mom had this smart idea to make cooking seem hard so that we felt thankful for her and to show our gratitude, we did the dishes. Who am I kidding, the dish washer did that for us. 
Click Green Bean Casserole for recipe

Candied Sweet Potatoes-  As long as I can remember, I have always loved sweet potatoes. My mom, who didn't cook often, would make this dish every Thanksgiving meal and if it didn't get made, I protested. 

Sweet potatoes, which are already sweet, hence the name, become even sweeter with this recipe. The ooey, gooey marshmallows add a great flavor and texture and the pecans can be optional- When I make it, I add them to one side so those who don't like the nutty flavor and texture can enjoy the potatoes without them. 

Click Candied Sweet Potatoes for the recipe.
Garlic Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes-  When I asked my brothers-in-law what side dish they wanted and had to have for Thanksgiving, mashed potatoes was the number one answer. Although I leave my mother-in-law in charge of potatoes and she makes hers a little differently, you still can't go wrong with this recipe. 
Click Garlic Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes for recipe. 
Conclusion

There are SOOOO many more dishes that you can make for Thanksgiving, but this is the easy list. Everything else that gets made for our family goes up in difficulty and I leave those dishes to my mother-in-law because she has the recipe and if it isn't easy, I don't want to make it. 

Thanksgiving is a time to feel thankful and I know that for me, it's hard to get into that mindset when I spend the whole day in the kitchen while the rest of the family is somewhere else in the house. 

You can prepare many of these dishes the night before and warm them up in the oven usually about a 30-45 minutes before the meal is to start. 

Just remember, that when making these dishes, make sure that you have time to prepare them and also have fun with your family.

Because these are so easy, don't stress out and enjoy the day.

If you want desserts, order a pie or something else that is already pre-made and only needs to sit on the counter to thaw.

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful and to be with family. If you're too stressed out, you're doing it wrong, so do it right. Enlist some help! Have your kids set the table. Include them so that the feel responsible and like they had a part in making this celebration. 

Most importantly, Have FUN!!!!!

Also, because I'm so grateful for every single one of you, I've made this FREE Thanksgiving checklist just for you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Garlic Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes




Mashed potatoes is definitely one of those dishes that is considered a comfort food. You can't even go to KFC or Popeye's without being asked if you'd like some mashed potatoes with that and that's fine with me.

I love mashed potatoes, but unfortunately for me, my husband and kids don't like them, so Thanksgiving is the only time I get to really have them unless we've gone out to a restaurant and I can get my own single serve side of them. It's really a sad thing, but it makes Thanksgiving that much better.

Related- Things I had to Give Up When I Became a Family

If you really want to go easy, I suggest you find yourself a good, flavorful box of instant mashed potatoes, but if you want the real deal, here's a recipe just for you!

Ingredients

More pictures to come


  • 3 pounds of brown potatoes- peeled
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 2 tbs of garlic salt

Instructions


  • Grab a big large pot of water and boil it.
  • Peel and dice potatoes- it's easier to cook all the way if cut into smaller pieces.
  • Carefully add potatoes to the large pot of water and boil for 15 minutes or until potato is tender. 
  • Once tender, drain potatoes and place back into the pan.
  • Mash potatoes with a masher or a hand mixer. 
  • Melt butter and add to the potatoes with remaining ingredients. 
  • Blend well, transfer to a nicer dish, and serve
If potatoes are clumpy and dry, add a little more milk until smooth and creamy. Not too much or the potatoes will be runny.

What's your favorite side dish?



Candied Sweet Potatoes




I said before that green bean casserole was my favorite Thanksgiving dish, but that has to be a lie because I absolutely love Candied Sweet Potatoes. Perhaps they can tie, although, I really do love me some regular mashed potatoes.

Since sweet potatoes are already sweet, there really isn't a need to doctor them up, but when you make it this way, it just really enhances the flavor. It takes a regular side dish and makes it into a dessert and really, who doesn't love dessert. (Keep your hands down you naysayer!)

My motto for Thanksgiving is "If it isn't easy, I'm not making it" and this is certainly, a very easy dish to make.

Ingredients


  • 4 16oz cans of sweet potatoes (drained)
  • 1 1/2 cups margarine or 2 1/2 sticks butter
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 cups of marshmallow


Better pictures to come
Instructions

  • In microwave safe bowl, melt butter then mix with brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add 2 cups marshmallows, stir. 
  • Pour mixture over the sweet potatoes. If you wish for smaller bites, you can mash them, but I usually don't and bake for 20 minutes. 
  • Carefully pull sweet potatoes out of the oven and sprinkle remaining marshmallows over it and put back in the oven for an additional 5-7 minutes or until marshmallows begin to turn golden. 
Pull out and wait a few minutes before serving. It's super easy and delicious!

Have you tried your sweet potatoes, this way? Did you love it or was it just not for you?

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Breakfast Pizza








I grew up in the Northwest part of Illinois where I was lucky enough to learn of this magnificent thing called a breakfast pizza. Since moving to the Eastern part of Illinois, there aren't really any Casey's (the gas station who introduced me to it) around here, I've missed out on ordering something truly magnificent.

I've had to learn to make some of my favorite dishes since moving here four years ago, and breakfast pizza was one of those things that I had to try for myself.

Since I already make my own homemade pizza (thanks pa-in-law for teaching me!), I started out with making my own dough. Since I've had kids, it isn't always practical doing that, so I've had to improvise from time to time if I want to make something really quick instead of waiting for the pizza crust to rise only to beat it and wait for it to rise again and a great alternative is actually the frozen/refrigerated dough in the biscuit aisle at the nearest store.

Ingredients


  • 1 refrigerated pizza crust
  • Jimmy Dean Sausage
  • Green Pepper
  • Mushrooms
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tsp milk
  • 1-2 cups of shredded mozzarella cheese. 

Instructions


  • Preheat oven to 425
  • Spray a pizza pan with cooking spray
  • Unroll pizza crust onto pan. Stretch it as much as you can over the pan without ripping it. Fold over edges to create a crust barrier.
  • Place small sausage dobs strategically on pizza. If you're going to use green pepper, cut into small slices and place as much as you want throughout. Do the same for mushrooms. If you wish to add bacon, I cooked mine and then crumbled it over the pizza.
  • Crack the 2 eggs into a small container, add the milk and beat them until they are pretty well mixed. Pour egg concoction over the pizza.
  • Add the amount of cheese that makes you feel happy.
  • Place in oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until cheese begins to brown. It always takes less time in my oven, so you may want to check it around 10 minutes. 
  • Enjoy!

This pizza is really great for those nights when you kind of want pizza, but also kind of want breakfast. It's also great for the holidays when you're looking for something easy to make for breakfast, but don't want to fill up too much before you have your big feast. 

So whether you have left over ingredients from an omelet that you don't want to spend the time carefully making or if you are just looking for something different than cereal or pancakes, try breakfast pizza!

Strawberry Jello Graham Cracker Surprise



This recipe was an accident that turned into something quite amazing. Has that every happened to you? I actually haven't thought of a clever name for it yet, so I'm totally up for suggestions.

Have you ever had that Jello Pretzel dessert that's pretty common at potlucks? The reason why it's so popular is because it's AMAZING and super easy to make.

This is how this Jello surprise came about. I wanted to make the Jello Pretzel dessert as a side dish for Thanksgiving two years ago, but I forgot to buy pretzels and didn't want to go out late at night to buy just one thing. Instead, I decided that I could make a graham cracker crust and it would be just as tasty, right?

Well, it was very tasty, but also very different! When I poured the Jello onto my crust, I forgot to have the jello set a little and the crust and the Jello mixed together. It was different from what I expected and I was upset, but it ended up becoming a great hit.

So they next year, I decided to try it again to see if it was a fluke. I mixed all of the ingredients together and cooled it off and the texture was pretty darn good and it has actually ended up being one of my husband's favorite dishes. If you've ever had a sea foam salad, the texture is a little similar, but the taste is amazing!

Ingredients


  • 2 packages of crushed graham crackers. (I always crush my own from a box with rolling pin)
  • 2 3oz packages strawberry jello.
  • 1 8oz cream cheese
  • 1 8oz tub of cool whip
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups frozen strawberries


Instructions

  • In a mixer, mix together cream cheese, cool whip and sugar. Set aside. 
  • Crush graham crackers. 
  • Boil 2 cups of water and then mix in Jello. Once Jello is mixed, add a cup of cool water and stir. 
  • Carefully mix all ingredients except strawberries together with a mixing spoon until smooth. Fold in strawberries. 
  • Refrigerate until jello has set. Make this the night before in order to ensure this has time to set.
This is a very versatile dish. I've made it with cherry jello and cherries, but my husband's favorite is the strawberry. 

What do you think? Is this something that you think you'd make? Do you have any interesting names to give this?


Saturday, November 3, 2018

Green Bean Casserole


Green Bean Casserole is probably the most known Thanksgiving dish. I remember when I had cable (probably when I still lived with my parents) seeing the Campbell's commercials with the winter scene and this family has made the green bean casserole that is perfectly paired with French's french onion chips. I want to say there is a little snowman outside looking in and when he comes in, he eats a bite and turns into a little boy- ok, I actually think that's for an actual soup commercial.

What I'm trying to say is that green bean casserole is a great comfort food and would be an obvious choice to make along side a turkey or ham for Thanksgiving and Christmas- even Easter!

The best part about it is that it's so easy!

I made some, last night, and paired it with a Tuscan pasta and garlic bread. I made a smaller batch than I do with the holidays and since I was short on time, I put it into the microwave to save time. Surprisingly, it came out alright. I did bake it in the oven for 7 minutes to make the french onion chips crispy, but if you're short on time, you could do the same.

Ingredients


3 14.5 oz cans of cut green beans, drained
1 10.5 can of cream of mushroom condensed soup
3/4 cup milk
1.5 cups of french fried onion chips.

Just double for large groups


Instructions

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Combine all of the ingredients except the french onion chips. Place in a medium casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes. If you have a smaller dish that it fits in the microwave and you're short on time, you can place it in there and sensor reheat.
3. Remove from oven and carefully stir.
4. Sprinkle french onion chips on top of the casserole so it evenly covers the mixture and bake for 5 extra minutes.

Voila! You will have a delicious dish in a short amount of time! The hardest part about this dish is making sure it makes it all around the table. It's great to reheat too, IF you have extra's the next day.



Friday, November 2, 2018

The Day My Faith Was Questioned

A few days ago, I felt like my faith in God was being tested, but I realized that it wasn't being tested so much as others were questioning it.

Christianity is a touchy subject. Although there are rights and wrongs regarding it, there are many who believe that the rules all changed when Jesus died for us on the cross, while others still hold firm to the Old Testament.

There are those who believe that once Jesus died on the cross, all of the old rules in the Old Testament got thrown out the window because Jesus said that he was the new Covenant.

   Jeremeiah 31:31-34 "Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the one that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD.  But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity and I will remember their sin no more. 

The Bible goes on and speaks of the new covenant in both the Old and New Testament.

Matthew 26:26-28 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." 

I'm not a theologian and I'm not going to tell you what you should believe.  This all happened after I saw a friend say on Facebook how he was keeping his kids home from school and going to a different place because he didn't want his kids to celebrate in the Halloween festivities.

That's ok, no problem. He's their dad and he has every right to do that. I know of other families who do the same thing. He believes that celebrating Halloween is asking for trouble and acknowledging that it's ok to sin. I understand that and I see why he believes that way.

As you've seen from my post the other day, I think it's fine to go trick-or-treating and many of my other Christian friends do the same. Some of them are even pastors. I won't speak for them, but to me, trick-or-treating is just a fun little thing to do. We don't place any emphasis on it as a holiday to bring back the dead or to worship the devil. In fact, that's the furthest thing in my mind.

My kids aren't allowed to dress demonically and be scary. If we are to be a vampire or a witch, we're just goofy. My kids don't even know that there is negative connotation to those things. Yes, we've watch Hocus Pocus, but they aren't rooting for the witches, they're rooting for the family. To us, it's just innocent play.

My friend didn't stop at saying that he was taking his kids to do something else. He went on to say (and I'm paraphrasing) "I don't know how Christian schools can be ok with celebrating Halloween. By doing anything with Halloween, you are participating and accepting the whole holiday."

My family and I had already went trick-or-treating days before and it felt like this was a personal attack. It felt like he was attacking the church who does trunk-or-treating.

We had some discussion and I thought that we were ok in the end. We agreed to disagree on some matters. Then something happened. Another person joined in on this conversation and shamed me and all of those others who partook in the conversation. That person said that we had little faith and that we needed to pray that it was strong like theirs.

That made my stomach lurch and my heart pound enough to make me sick to my stomach and angry! I wanted to say something right then and there, but decided it wasn't the time to say anything.

For once in my life, I practiced patience and not speaking with a loose tongue.

This is what I have to say about it, today:

John 14:5 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. 
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.  
About a woman caught in adultery, John 8: 6-7 This they said, tempting him that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.
7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him throw the first stone at her."
Luke 18:10-14 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people-- robbers, evildoers, adulterers-- or even this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'"
13. "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'"
14. "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

Jesus was questioned and hated by the Pharisees because he did not look or behave like one. Instead, Jesus hung out with the sinners in order to show God's love and Mercy. We are called to be Christlike and Christ did extraordinary things. He dined with tax collectors and prostitutes.

  Mark 2:17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
Luke 23:34 Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" and they divided up his clothes by casting lots.  

Many of what I written is up for interpretation and some of it can be used as arguments for other things, but this is what I believe: Christ died for my sins and he called me to go out and make disciples in his image. That image was love. He says to love thy neighbor and not hate thy enemy.

Trunk-or-treating is a way for the Church to evangelize to those who wouldn't partake in church otherwise. It's a chance to do what Jesus did and mingle with the sinners so that they may be saved.

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoptions as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!"
Romans 8: 38-39 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

It's not up to someone else to tell me how big my faith is. The only person who will hold me accountable is God. Matthew 7:1 Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

As Christians, perhaps our resources would be better spent going out and making disciples instead of telling each other what we are doing wrong.

I'm not angry anymore about what was said to me and the others. I don't believe it was done with malice and truly, I think their heart was in the right place, but better words could have been used. I forgive them and I hope that they can forgive me as well because I realize that I was still questioning what they believe when really, our end goal is to get into heaven and help save those who don't even know they need saving.

 I can let everything that was said really bum me out and feel bad about myself and my faith. I can hide under a rock and never speak about my faith again or do things because they may not be acceptable, but I realized something; No matter what someone says, my faith in God isn't small. My discipline may need some help, but my faith doesn't and shouldn't be questioned. I know who my Lord and Savior is and when it comes time to be judged, I hope that God will say, "Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful with a few things: I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share in your master's happiness." Then on that day, I will hear, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise."

How to Have an EASY Thanksgiving With 7 Easy-to-Make Side Dishes

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday (political things put aside) to celebrate each year with your family and friends. When I was yo...

Follow