Holiday’n on a Budget: Recipe Edition

The holidays are here! Which means family, friends, presents, food and a lot of memories to be made! We have come up with a few little things to help ease a few hot topics of the season. A few simple recipes, some outfit inspo’s that are very wallet friendly and some ideas for splitting gifts that can not only make the receiver happy but as the giver..let’s just say you’ll go down in history as the best gift giver ever!

For starters, I love how the holidays are so unique and special to each family. For me, I will basically starve myself the day of only to indulge in the biggest plate of food known to man by mid-afternoon. Others, will make an entire day out of every single meal in the kitchen. I think both scenarios are exciting. Regardless of what’s being prepared, it’s what brings us all together in the first place that means the most. My friend Kellye is one that starts the day off by making a breakfast casserole. By lunch, they generally have finger type foods to snack on and then the real business starts at supper time. Her favorites are down below and you can find the recipe by clicking the photo!

 


 

Sheet Pan Pancakes

Who doesn’t love pancakes!?! Pancakes are a staple in my house. My husband is better at whipping up flapjack masterpieces but I’ve got the best recipe for easy sheet-pan pancakes so who’s the real winner here? Grab some mixed fruit, follow this amazing recipe below from dinnerthedessert.com, and have a crowd of happy guest with full bellies!

Click the photo below.

 

Sausage and Gravy Breakfast Casserole

Often times, the easiest recipes are casseroles you can throw together in minutes. My Aunt always has a “breakfast staples” casserole ready when we visit by using whatever she has in the fridge. I love this version below from Scattered Thoughts Of A Crafty Mom Blog. You’ll for sure have a house full of happy guests by using the recipe below.

Click the photo below.

Cheesy Corn Casserole

Corn casserole is a favorite of ours and a definitely a crowd pleaser. I’m sharing my recipe from Kay Robertson’s cookbook which is linked above to purchase from Amazon. The best part is that the “cheesiness” is optional! Sometimes we omit the cheese depending on how well it pairs with the other sides we are serving with the meal. You can find the recipe below the photo or purchase the cookbook for this side dish and more by clicking the photo.

Cheesy Corn Casserole
Makes 8-10 Servings • 9 x 13- inch casserole dish
1 stick ( 1/4 pound) butter, melted
1 can (15.25 ounces) whole kernel corn, drained
1 can (14.75 ounces) cream-style corn
1 carton (8 ounces) sour cream
1 box (8.5 ounces) jiffy corn muffin mix
2 cups grated cheese, divided: 1 1/2 cups in mix and 1/2 cup sprinkled on top.
1. Heat the oven to 375° F. Lightly butter the casserole dish.
2. Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Pour into the casserole dish. Bake for 45 minutes. Let cool a little before serving.

Green Bean Casserole:

Like I said, I starve until we eat our late lunch and then by supper time, I’m mostly still full but I can usually cram something else in. When it comes to my favorites though, I am all about some fried turkey and some macaroni and cheese casserole. We usually indulge on what’s left until everything runs out but then I found myself trying to figure out a different way to enjoy those tasty left overs. Allow me to introduce you to the almighty Thanksgiving Slider recipe. I scored this recipe on Pinterest and I just know it’s a winner. It’s basically taking what is left from the meal and layering it between two sides of a Hawaiian roll, baking it and then enjoying Thanksgiving or Christmas all over again but this time it’s between two buttery, toasted buns. Sign me up!

Turkey-Cranberry-Sliders

Boltfarm Tree House

If you need a place to completely disconnect from everything and re-center yourself, reconnect with your spouse and get some rest..this read will be such a treat for you! My husband and I visited Boltfarm Tree Houses near Charleston, South Carolina. It’s tucked about 30 minutes away from the city in a secluded area just off of the water. There are so many beautiful oak trees towering over the grounds that you lose count. You truly get lost in how serene it is, which is exactly what my husband and I needed.

Nick and I did the math while sitting on the deck at the treehouse..so between my husband being a Lafayette Firefighter and owning and operating his own Dirt Contracting business, he works roughly 102 hours per week. Guys..there’s 168 hours in a full week! That’s insane right? And as for me..well, I’m a full time mama, blogger, influencer and beauty guide. So if there’s only 168 hours in a week, that basically means I work at least 1,714 hours a week. However, I have the ability to juggle all of my responsibilities but I can always count on there being zero breaks when it comes to the girls. Even when they should be sleeping, they don’t. Long story short, my oldest barely believes in naps anymore and my youngest is the most nocturnal little being I’ve ever known. Not the good kind of non-sleeper either. Moms, you know what I’m talking about. It gets rough sometimes but I manage to find the beauty in between. I like to think she’s the one who will teach me patience. I guess we can call this a “blesson.”

The ability to view a lesson as a blessing..

Needless to say, my husband and I desperately needed a break. We didn’t want the kind of vacation where we were on the go constantly with an itinerary. We wanted to be able to sleep in, relax and essentially do nothing since we are always doing something! I don’t know how the treehouse could have been anymore perfect. Tori and Seth Bolt poured their heart and souls into these treehouses. Every detail was so well thought out and didn’t go unnoticed on our part.

As soon as we arrived, we drove up on the most beautiful iron gate in the shape of all of the oak trees you see covering the entire treehouse farm. We drove up to The Honeymoon Treehouse and were greeted by Jared who is the General Manager of Boltfarm Treehouses. He gave us a quick tour of the treehouse we were staying in, explained all there was to do and encouraged us to unplug and enjoy each other and our time there. Afterwards, we swung on the hanging chairs on the balcony of our treehouse and just marveled the beautiful grounds and all that the treehouse had to offer.

The Honeymoon Treehouse featured a copper bathtub on a platform in the main room. The back wall in front of the bed was covered top to bottom with charming antique mirrors. The bed was probably one of the most comfortable beds we have ever slept on. When it comes time for us to replace our own mattress, we will probably be ordering the same Sleepy mattress with a pillow top like they used. On the side was the kitchen area. It was finished with an above counter copper sink, a miniature retro style refrigerator hidden behind the stained wood cabinetry and a dining area for two complete with an antique China set. Let’s not forget the old style record player complete with a basket full of old records to play, adult coloring books, pillows to sit for meditation and prayer, a legit picnic basket filled with everything an outside picnic would ever need and a little fireplace. Sounds like a dream right? That’s just inside the treehouse, that’s not counting the amenities outdoors!

Outside there was a gorgeous view of the water with oak trees giving the perfect amount of shade. Double bicycles, outside grill, pizza oven, jacuzzi, fire pit fit for snuggles and s’mores, outdoor shower and screened in room with a swinging bed complete with a screen and projector to play movies. Don’t all of these things just sound like heaven?

Every single thing I named made the Treehouse every bit of the experience we were promised. But every ounce of alone time, relaxation, peace and quiet with my husband was the best part of all. It was exactly what we needed in our 10th season of marriage. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 4:18,

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.

I felt this verse fit perfectly for everything I wanted to end with. Everything was serene and absolutely perfect at the tree house and we are literally chomping at the bit to plan our next stay. But it wasn’t just beautiful scenery that we enjoyed, it wasn’t just the quiet time we needed and it wasn’t just the opportunity to be the big kids we know we are at heart; it was the unseen that sparked magic because of the seen. Does that resonate? I think we can all agree that life happens every single day and we all fall short in allowing it to get in the way of the things that mean the most to us. Making time for your partner and the things that matter most to you will be one of the greatest investments you can make in your relationship. God and each other. I think the best love story is to be able to fall in love with the same person over and over again.

Being able to be with my husband where he was only my husband for a few days was bliss. I’m sure he would agree the opposite for me. We could just be our true selves for a few days with zero responsibilities except pouring ourselves into each other and reconnecting on a level that we haven’t been able to in years. It’s truly amazing how doing nothing is absolutely everything you could possibly need. We swung outside and enjoyed the views, took naps on the swinging bed outside, we showered outside during the daytime and nighttime under the moon and starts, we listened to Calming Guitar Playlist on Pandora; I highly recommend that soothing playlist by the way. I have listened to it every day since we have returned. It almost as if I was able to bring the tree house experience home with me. Not to mention, growing up as a musicians daughter, my father was always playing his acoustic guitar at random times throughout the day. It was an enjoyable part of my childhood. This kind of music is medicine for the soul. We also made our own pizza, we roasted s’mores, rode the double bicycles, drank wine, walked down the lane full of oak trees and got to see lightening bugs for the first time since each of us were children. That may seem like nothing but it was truly a magical moment for me, at least. We took the time to visit Charleston one afternoon and had lunch at a tavern that was downtown. Which was incredible by the way.

Writing all of these things and telling you how insanely mind blowing it all was just brings me back. Even though it was just a few short weeks ago, the thought of being there and what it did for my heart and soul has stuck with me. Like the unseen I mentioned before, it wasn’t just an experience, it was purifying and healing. I will never forget what that trip did for me and I cannot wait till we go back. Matter of fact, if you’d like to mention that I recommended BoltFarm Treehouses to you when you book your stay, you will be upgraded to a complimentary VIP experience..and We will be too upon our next stay!

www.boltfarmtreehouse.com

This content is not sponsored by BoltFarm Treehouse or by Seth & Tori Bolt.

How To Make A Gumbo. South Louisiana Style.

PSA: If you like tomatoes or hot dogs in your gumbo, this post is not for you.

I’d like to start off by telling you that I have lived in south Louisiana for just shy of fifteen years now but I grew up in a small town in North Louisiana. My grandparents lived down here and we visited more times than I can count.  I know good cookin’. Clearly…seen my physic lately? Unfortunately I didn’t know how to cook really well until a few years into being married. North Louisiana cookin’ and South Louisiana cookin’ are both good but the way these Cajun folks down here do things are entirely different and I like it.

Apparently, one of the main ways to make anything delicious around here is to burn it first.

No, seriously. It’s what any true Cajun will tell you. Ask and you’ll see. I’ve watched my mama cook my entire life but I don’t think I actually learned how to really cook until I started watching my husbands cousins wife(aka, Karyn, my bff!). She knows how to cook! Little does she know, I have watched and learned more from her over the years and if anyone thinks my food is good, it’s because I learned from her. You can thank her, not me! And if it’s not good, then it’s probably my fault because I hate following directions. I just like to stir stuff.

Gumbo is a classic dish in these parts. Doesn’t matter what time of the year it is. It could be a thousand degrees outside with a humidity level hotter than the inside of satan’s mouth and I guarantee somebody’s eating gumbo somewhere. But you best believe if the temperature drops below 50, every family across the south has pulled out their gumbo pots and the smell of fresh roux fills the crisp, cool air.

I’m going to share my recipe and cooking methods for gumbo. Just know that this is probably different from probably everybody else and their mama. They’d probably tell you there’s more than one way to skin a rabbit…and they’d be right.

Chicken & Sausage Gumbo:

•pack of fresh or smoked sausage. (This particular recipe I used fresh.)

•pack of chicken breasts or bone in chicken thighs/drumsticks. (Bone in is my favorite but I used breasts for this recipe.)

•Three packs of Tasso.

•Three large containers of chicken stock.

•Rice

•Minced Garlic.

•Holy Trinity, I like to use Guidry’s fresh cuts. Fast and easy. ( yellow onion, bell pepper and green onion.)

•Jar of Roux. Powder or Oil Base. (I used Oil based.) Unless you know how to make your own roux, in which case, you might have to come over and school me.

•Seasoning. (Tony’s, Salt, Pepper.)

This recipe can be altered and changed depending how much or how little you’d like to make.

I start off by putting my sausage and minced garlic into the gumbo pot and begin “burning” it. Basically, it means browning it so don’t get your panties in a bunch over this. Burning it means you’re creating a grismies or grah-doo at the bottom of the pot to create a rich gravy base for later. This step takes the longest so don’t rush this, this is probably the most important step! You stir the pot frequently with your heat high enough to burn or brown your meat but not to the point that the grismise starts to turn black or where it smells like there’s obviously something on fire. The longer you do this, the darker and tastier your gravy base will be. This whole process is simply burning, stirring and scraping until your meat is cooked and you have a nice gravy base to work with.I will add small amounts of water off and on during this process to keep the meat from sticking to the bottom of the pot too much. (Side note: my sausage kinda busted open, the goal is for that to not happen.. but ya know, life.)

Then, I remove the sausage and put it in a bowl to cool. I’ll add my diced up Tasso in the pot and repeat that same process. Once my sausage is cool, I will slice it up and add it back to the pot along with the Holy Trinity. The vegetables will have a little bit of water that cook out of them so they help continue the burning down process. Once those vegetables are cooked down, I will start adding all of my chicken stock. After I empty my first carton of stock, I will start scraping all of that grismies off the bottom of the pot and mixing it with the stock. Make sure you remove all of the grismies because you don’t want it to end up burning later! I empty the other two cartons of stock into the pot. This will usually fill up at least half of the pot. I will use water to fill the pot to about 3/4 of the way to the top. You don’t want to over fill because you need room for this puppy to boil!

At this point, I will add in seasoning. There really is no rhyme or reason on how to season. Some like it bland, some like it hot and sometimes your meats contain just enough seasoning that your dish might need a little,a lot or none at all. Now is the time where you can pretty much take your first break with your dish. I wait until the water is boiling to add my roux. Depending how well you did at burning your meat, you might not need very much roux at all or you may need a good bit. It also depends how dark and thick you would like your gumbo to be too. If I remember correctly, I think I only added two VERY full tablespoons of roux to this particular pot. Now you need to stir continuously until all of your roux balls disappear. Speaking of which, have you ever ate a roux ball? I don’t advise it. When in doubt, stir dat pot.

From now until about an hour or an hour and a half until you’re ready to serve, you’ll basically let your gumbo boil and simmer all those savory flavors together. Taste test your gumbo to make sure the flavor you’re wanting is there. Once you know you’re at about that 1-1.5 hour from serving mark, you’ll want to go ahead and add your chicken. For this recipe I used breast and cut them up into bite size pieces. Typically, my go to would be thighs or legs because something about bones really just amp up the flavor. But since this was for my daughters birthday party, I didn’t want any small children choking or having to pick bones out of their food. Side note, please be sure to taste test before you put your raw chicken in there..last thing anyone needs is to catch salmonella and die making gumbo. After you have added your chicken, you can go ahead and fire up that rice pot sha.

My gumbo takes a minimum of about three hours to cook but the longer you can cook, the better. You will never regret letting your gumbo cook longer, promise! Once your rice is done, you are ready to serve. If you’re feeling extra bougie you can serve some potato salad along side of this or even add some okra in the gumbo and your guests will undoubtedly love it. Or if you’re boring like me, you get garlic bread or crackers.

Bon appétit and laissez les bon temps rouler!