February 27, 2013

Fried Fish, Cheesy Corn, & Green Beans

Last night I was planning a simple, low maintenance meal.  I was making the kids and I something unhealthy, so I was going to bake some tilapia for Justin, as I often do because of his paleo diet.  When I mentioned my supper plans to him, he asked if I would fry the fish.  So that sent my plan into a whole new direction.  I'm not a big fish fan, but I will eat it fried.  :)  I decided that we'd all eat fried fish, and I'd throw together a couple of veggies to go with it.  (Ideally, I'd whip up some jalapeno hushpuppies or something, but it was getting very close to supper time at this point, so I had to go with quick and easy.)  Justin mentioned that corn with some kind of cheesiness sounded good, so I went with it.  And here's what we ended up with:

Fried tilapia: I keep those individually frozen pieces of tilapia in my freezer most of the time, so I pulled a few of those out and thawed them.  I breaded them with this yummy goodness:
 
I didn't add any additional seasoning because I hadn't used this kind before.  It was good, but we like things spicy, so I think next time, I'll put a little hot sauce on the fish before breading them.  Here's the finished product:
 
 
Cheesy Corn: I also keep a lot of frozen veggies on hand to make it easy to go for in a moment's notice.  I combined some frozen corn with a few chunks of Velveeta, some butter, a splash of heavy cream, and some salt and pepper and heated it, covered, in the microwave for 1-2 minutes at a time until done, stirring in between.  Here's that yummy goodness:

Green Beans: I usually have frozen green beans on hand as well, so I dumped some of those in a pot on the stove with a tiny bit of water, quite a bit of butter, a beef bouillon cube, and some seasonings: pepper, garlic salt, all purpose Greek seasoning (if you don't have this in your kitchen, get some - it's awesome!), and Creole seasoning.  You really can't go wrong here, this is just what my husband prefers.  (I'm too picky to eat green beans.)  And I forgot to take a picture of the very exciting green beans, so you'll just have to imagine.  :)

This is the kind of thing that happens in my kitchen on a night when I don't plan very well, when one of us changes our mind about what sounds good, or when I just don't feel like doing up a whole big recipe.  Hope you enjoyed this anyway!



February 23, 2013

Pioneer Woman Cornbread

Today at the Hightower Homestead, Justin and a couple of his buddies have been working hard outside putting up a new fence.  So I decided they needed a good, hearty lunch: chili and cornbread.  My favorite recipe for cornbread is from the fabulous Pioneer Woman. I may be a little bit obsessed with her.  I love reading her blog, I've read her wonderful book, own her cookbook, and watch her show on the Food Network every Saturday.  I've made several of her recipes and they're all delicious!

Her cornbread recipe is no exception, and she does such a good job of explaining each step with wonderful pictures (which I forgot to take of my own cornbread) that I'm not even going to post the recipe on here, I'll just link you up to her version.  I do mine exactly the same, except I don't use a cast iron skillet like she does.  I pour my batter into a greased pie plate and bake just like in her recipe.

Hope you enjoy Pioneer Woman's cornbread!

February 22, 2013

Sweet Potato Meringue Pie


My husband is always asking me to make new recipes, which is fine by me, since I really love to cook.  He'll see an item on a menu, a dish on TV, or anywhere else, and ask me if I can come up with a recipe for it.  That's how sweet potato meringue pie came about.  One day, Justin just said "Hmm, I think that would be good.  Will you make one?".  So I set out on a recipe hunt.  The problem with some of these recipes is that I don't have the same taste in sweets that he does, so I rely heavily on his feedback and tastebuds, since I don't prefer desserts like this.  With all that said, this recipe got great reviews from Justin and his coworkers when he took the leftovers to work the next day.  Hope you enjoy too!

I found two recipes on Pinterest and based my pie filling recipe off of this one, and my meringue recipe off of this one

Pie Crust Ingredients:
  • 1 c. graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 c. butter, melted
  • 2 tbsp packed brown sugar
Pie Filling Ingredients:
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 c. whipping cream
  • 1/3 c. packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Meringue Ingredients:
  • 4 large egg whites
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 2/3 c. granulated sugar
Directions:
  • Combine graham cracker crumbs, butter and brown sugar
  • Press onto bottom and up side of 9-inch pie plate.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes, let cool
  • Meanwhile, pierce sweet potatoes with a fork and microwave on high for 5-6 minutes, until tender
  • Let cool slightly and peel
  • Puree sweet potatoes in food processor until smooth
  • Add remaining ingredients to food processor and mix until well combined (you could also just mash the sweet potatoes and wisk them together with the remaining ingredients)
  • Scrape filling into pie crust, spreading evenly
  • Bake in the 350 degree oven for approximately 40 minutes, until the filling is set
  • To make meringue, beat egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar on low until foamy
  • Raise the speed to high and add sugar in a steady stream
  • Beat until stiff, glossy peaks form
  • Spread meringue onto pie
  • Place under broiler for about 30-60 seconds until golden brown
A couple of notes:
*My husband likes very "tall" meringue, so I altered the original recipe to make more meringue.  :)
**My husband also claims that this pie was better leftover the next day, cold, with a cup of coffee. :)

Here are a couple pictures of the actual pie that I made.  I had to get a profile shot of that beautiful, "tall" meringue!

 
 
 
 
*I made this exact recipe into a mini-muffin version, and it made between 2 1/2 and 3 dozen:
 
 
 







February 21, 2013

Homemade Sugar Scrub

There are so many cute, fancy, yummy smelling, and usually expensive scrubs out there.  I like having things like that, but am too cheap to buy them.  So I was excited when we made our own at...you guessed it...MOPS!  It's sooooo easy!  I immediately thought not only is this great for me, but also a great gift idea!

You only need 3 things:
  • sugar (just plain 'ol, cheap sugar)
  • dish soap (you can use whatever you want here, choose your scent and color)
  • container (I used canning jars)
  • optional: cute paper or fabric to decorate the top of your jar
Fill your jar approximately 3/4 full of sugar, to measure it out, and then pour that sugar into a bowl.  squirt some dish soap in and stir until desired consistency.  This is totally up to you, depending on how thick or thin you'd like it.  Once mixed well, spoon back into the jar.  That's it!  I cut a circle out of scrapbook paper to decorate the top of my jar, or you could put a scrap of fabric under the ring, or add a ribbon if you want.  Enjoy! 


February 20, 2013

Bread Machine Bread Sticks

I really like bread, and I love to bake.  So it's no coincidence that I love my bread machine.  I acquired this bread machine from Justin's grandma, who received it one year as a Christmas gift and wasn't too thrilled with it (ha ha!).  She had held onto it for a few years, but had never used it, and gave it to me when Justin and I were dating.  It took me a while to actually use it, but once I did, I was smitten. 

Because I'm not a huge fan of the shape of the bread when it bakes in the machine, I mostly use it on the dough cycle, then shape my bread however I want.  It's so great to be able to just dump in the ingredients and let the machine do all the work of perfectly kneading the dough and letting it rise till it's ready.  It's awesome!

I've tried a lot of bread stick recipes, and this one (which I found on Pinterest, of course) is my absolute favorite.  You can find the original recipe here, or just keep reading:

Ingredients:
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon warm water
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  •  1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  •  ½ stick butter, softened
  •  3 cups bread flour
  •  3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
 Topping:
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
Directions:
  • Place ingredients into bread machine according to manufacturer directions
  • Start dough cycle and run until completed
  • Place dough on lightly floured surface and pinch off small portions
  • Roll the dough portions into sticks, approximately 6 inches long
    • If you're feeling fancy, you can "tie" each one of these sticks into knots to place on baking sheet.  I've done it, and they turned out great!
  • Place on greased baking sheet
  • Bake at 400 degrees for about 12 minutes, until light golden brown
  • Mix melted butter and garlic salt and brush onto bread sticks immediately after they come out of the oven

Photo from Momtastic


 
*Side note: I've started using this recipe for my homemade pizza also.  I make the dough exactly the same and just roll it out onto my baking sheet or pizza stone, and top and bake as normal.  It's yummy!
**Side note #2: These bread sticks go great with spaghetti, like my million dollar spaghetti.  :)

Million Dollar Spaghetti

Once again, Pinterest has provided me with a yummy recipe that has become one of my new favorites.  I LOVE pasta dishes, so I'm always intrigued by new recipes.  So the title "million dollar spaghetti" definitely caught my eye.  I've made it several times now, and I just can't get enough of it.

Oh, and it goes really good with some yummy homemade garlic bread sticks.  :)

Here's my slightly different version of the recipe:
  • 1 lb. ground beef (or ground turkey, or ground deer, like me, because I have a freezer full of it from hunting season)
  • 1/4-1/2 c. diced onion
  • 1 large can spaghetti sauce (or more if you like a lot of sauce)
    • Just a side note: I buy the cheapest spaghetti sauce at the store, then add a few seasonings to spice it up a bit.
  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 c. sour cream
  • 1/2 lb. cottage cheese
  • 1 stick of butter, cut into slices
  • 8 oz. of Noodles (I've always used thin spaghetti noodles, but I think rotini would be great too)
  • 1-2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
 (You can find the original recipe here at Being Grown Up)
 
Here's whatcha do:
  • Combine onion and meat and brown
  • Add spaghetti sauce to skillet, along with any seasonings you might want to add
    • I add things like garlic powder, Italian seasoning, crushed red pepper,and pepper
  • While all of that is going, cook the noodles and then combine cottage cheese, cream cheese, and sour cream with electric mixer until mixed well
  • Once everything is done, you're ready to layer it all into a 9x13 baking dish:
    • Place 1/2 of the butter slices on the bottom of the dish (yes I realize that's a lot of butter, but who cares?  It's yummy!)
    • Next, in goes half of the cooked noodles
    • Then spread all of that creamy, cheesy mixture on top of the noodles
    • The rest of the noodles go on top of the creamy goodness
    • And then.....the rest of the butter!
    • Last but not least, the meat sauce goes on top
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes until hot and bubbly
  • Top with shredded cheddar cheese, and return to the oven for about 10 minutes until cheese is melted.
  • Now, eat!
Picture from Being Grown Up

February 16, 2013

Picture Tile Craft

In my MOPS group, we do crafts quite often, and I love it!  Several that we've done are things that I have saved on my Pinterest boards, but have never actually done.  And I owe it all to my new MOPS friend Lindsay, who is the creative mind behind all these crafts. 

The project I'm posting about today is a picture tile.  It's simple, easy, and frugal.  It makes a great little decoration, and is also a great homemade gift.  I made one for my brother's girlfriend for Christmas, and I plan to do more next Christmas.

Here's how you do it:
(Sorry I don't have step-by-step photos, but it's so easy, you'll be fine!)

  • A 6x6 inch tile (you can find these at Home Depot, Lowe's, etc.)
  • A piece of scrapbook paper you like - This is where you can really make it personalized with colors, patterns, etc.
    • You can buy 6x6 books of scrapbook paper, or trim your piece to 6x6 inches
  • Choose a picture to put onto the tile, and trim it to 4x4 inches
  • A cute little easel to prop your finished tile onto (I found mine at Hobby Lobby)

Directions:
  • Tear the edges of your paper to make the edges look a little "rustic" and to make the paper slightly smaller than your tile
  • Spread a layer of mod podge onto the tile and stick your paper down in the center.  Then spread a layer of mod podge over the top of the paper
  • Place your 4x4 picture, centered, on top of your paper
  • Spread another layer of mod podge on top of your picture to seal it all in
  • Once it dries, prop it up in the easel and find the perfect place to display it!
Here's my finished product on a bookshelf at my house.  Aren't my kids so cute?!

February 15, 2013

Family Chocolate Chip Cookies

I've been making this recipe for chocolate chip cookies from my family cookbook since I was old enough to bake.  My favorite part is the yummy dough, but the cookies are pretty good too.  :)

Ingredients:
  • 1 c. shortening
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 3/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/4 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • dash of salt
  • 1 c. chocolate chips (I use semi-sweet, and more than 1 cup.  I mean, should there really be a limit to how many chocolate chips you need?  Just dump some in till it looks right to you!)
Directions:
  • Cream shortening, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla
  • Add eggs, beat until mixed well
  • Mix flour, baking soda, and salt
  • Add flour mixture a little at a time until mixed well
  • Stir in chocolate chips
  • Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for approximately 10 minutes
This recipe makes about 2 1/2 - 3 dozen cookies, depending on how much dough you may or may not have eaten.  ;)

February 14, 2013

Love of My Life

Because it's Valentine's Day, and because I have the best Valentine in the world, I thought I would write a post about him and a bit of our story. 

Justin and I met a LONG time ago at church.  When my family began attending that church in 1997, I was in 7th grade and Justin was in 8th.  That's where we got to know each other over the years.  We didn't really cross paths much at school, until 2001 when we were in show choir together.  We became better friends, and were both active in our church youth group and leading worship some.

In January 2002, he asked me to a movie as "friends", and by the end of the month, we were boyfriend and girlfriend.  A few months later, Justin graduated high school and was off to college in the fall.  Luckily for me, he wasn't far away, and was home every weekend to work.  He then ended up transferring to the college in our hometown after Christmas, which meant he was even closer to me. :)  I completed my senior year and graduated, and headed off a littler farther away in the fall the next year.  I spent my first year of college two hours away, and we didn't see each other as often, but still as much as possible.  After that year, I also transferred to our hometown college, USAO, beginning my sophomore year.  From then on, we were pretty much inseparable.  :)

In December 2006, after almost 5 years together, Justin *finally* asked me to marry him!  We had a 6-month engagement which mostly consisted of me crazily planning our wedding (while student teaching).  In June 2007, we had a wonderful wedding with our family and friends.  It was, without a doubt, the best day of my life, followed very closely by the births of our children.  After our special day, we went on a very short honeymoon, as Justin was starting a new job on the Monday after the wedding.  He planned the surprise honeymoon to Echo Canyon Spa Resort, and it was perfect.  So perfect, in fact, that we have returned every year since then for our anniversary.  (If you're ever looking for a small, low-key, romantic place to go, I highly recommend it!)

In the 5 1/2 years we've been happily married, we have lived in four different homes in three towns.  We've had good times and bad times, but have loved each other through it all.  We have welcomed two children into the world together, which has made me love Justin even more.  He is a wonderful husband and father, an extremely hard working provider for our family; he is hilarious, amazingly talented, sweet, crazy, handsome, fun, loving, and most importantly, he loves the Lord.  I can't imagine my life without him, and thank God every day for him.  I look forward to seeing what God has in store for the rest of our lives as we grow old together!

Below are several pictures from our 11 years together so far.  Happy Valentine's Day!




Our first date
Prom 2002




 
 



 The day he proposed!
 
 Our wedding day
 
 
 
 
 
 Our 2nd wedding anniversary
 

Pregnant with V
 

 
Pregnant with A


Our 5th wedding anniversary

























 

February 13, 2013

Jambalaya

So, my husband is on the Paleo Diet and I've been looking for new recipes that satisfy the diet.  That, combined with the fact that he requested jambalaya at his birthday party in March, and I wanted to practice beforehand since I had never made jambalaya...until last night!  I found it on a site with lots of crockpot paleo meals.  You can find the entire list here, and the original jambalaya recipe here.  The recipe listed below is almost identical to the original.  Here we go:

  • 2 1/2 c. chicken broth
  • 2 peppers – any color you want, chopped (I used 1/2 pepper each of red, yellow, orange, & green)
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  • 1 clove garlic, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 oz. chicken, diced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Cajun Seasoning
  • 1/8 c. Louisiana hot sauce
  • 1/2 lb large shrimp, raw and de-veined
  • 2-3 Polish sausages, cut into slices
  • 1 1/2 c. dry rice, cooked

  • Notes:
    • The original recipe calls for okra, which I'd love to add next time, I just didn't have any on hand.
    • My recipe is half of the original recipe, and it filled my 4-qt crockpot about 3/4 full.
    Directions:
    • Put everything except the shrimp, sausage, and rice in the crockpot.  Set on low for at least 6 hours.
    • About 30 minutes before serving, add cooked rice, sausage, and shrimp to the crockpot.  Let simmer until ready to serve!


     

    Kiddie Valentines

    V is in a the 2-year-old class at a church Mother's Day Out two days a week, and is having a little Valentine party tomorrow at school.  I thought I'd share our valentines for his friends, which happen to be non-candy, non-food, which isn't like me at all, but kind of refreshing.  :)

    I found this idea for heart-shaped crayons on Pinterest and have had it pinned to my Valentine's Day board for a while.  Here's the original link. Here's my instructions:

    Take some old, broken, paper-peeled-off crayons and chop them into small pieces (I used some of every color).  Put pieces into heart-shaped silicon mold.  Mine was an ice cube tray, so the crayons were pretty small, but of course you could use muffin tins or whatever.  I kind of think that you could put them into a shallow pan and then use a cookie cutter, but don't take my word for it!

    Put the silicon mold onto a cookie sheet and bake at 230 degrees for approximately 15 minutes. Let set and pop them out!  Have fun!

    
    Finished crayons



    
    Card I attached to treat bag
    Treat bag with 2 crayons for each child

     
    If you have some fun valentine ideas for kiddos, I'd love for you to leave them or a link to them in the comments below.  Happy Valentine's Day!

    Church Family Love

    One of the first things on our to-do list when we moved here was to find a new church home.  We had been in the same church since shortly after we got married, almost 5 years.  We had made good friends and were very comfortable there.  It's tough to go into churches where you're the new people.  It's strange to sit in a worship service and feel more like a spectator, as you "check things out", than a participant.  Luckily, we didn't have to look very long before we landed where God wanted us. 

    In the past few months, we've gone from the new people to active members.  We've gotten involved in a Sunday school class that we love, filled with people of all ages and varying opinions.  It never fails that I leave class every week with a new perspective and something to think about in my own life.  And we tend to laugh a lot, and that's always good.
    A enjoys the nursery and is starting to become very interested in the other babies.  V is in the "big boy" class and loves it!
    We've also joined a small group Bible study that meets in our minister's home every week.  The other couples in our group have small kids as well, which makes us feel better about the craziness that comes along with bringing ours.  It's such a nice mid-week refresher of food, fellowship, study, and discussion.
    The last, and probably biggest "sign" that we were where God wanted us, was the opportunity to join in the praise team.  Leading worship is something that Justin has been doing for a long time, and something that we've done together a lot over the years, even before we started dating in high school.  While we loved our previous church home, this was one area we have the chance to serve in, and missed it terribly.  More on praise team in another post.

    Like I said before, it's so tough to be the new people, to not feel at home.  But God had a plan for us when He moved us out here, and I believe he had a plan for us from the first time we visited Harmony Christian Church.  After a few weeks of visitor jitters, we started to settle in, feel accepted, get involved, and begin to love it and the people.  Harmony has become our church family.  I look forward to going to church every week - there have been seasons in my life where that wasn't always the case, where I went because I should, because I needed to.  I look forward to small group halfway through the week - it's a great pick-me-up for the rest of the week.  When we leave church or Bible study, I feel refreshed, renewed, full.  This may not sound very significant to you, but there have been different points in the past several years where this was not the case for me, where I just felt stagnant.  I've never felt like we were in a church where we didn't belong, but right here right now, I feel like we are right where we are meant to be.  I feel like God has put us here for a purpose, and I'm loving discovering that week after week.  God is good!

    February 12, 2013

    Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies

    Red velvet cake is my absolute favorite.  So any time I see a recipe with red velvet in the title, I get very interested!  I've pinned two different red velvet chocolate chip cookie recipes on my Pinterest board, and I've made them both, so I thought I'd post them here!

    Recipe #1 uses a cake mix, making it super simple and quick!

    1 red velvet cake mix
    1/2 cup butter
    1 tsp vanilla
    2 eggs
    1 cup chips or candy pieces (I used semi-sweet chocolate chips in some, and white chocolate chips in some)
    • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
    • Combine cake mix, butter, vanilla and eggs in a mixing bowl. Beat on medium until well blended.
    • Stir in chips or candy.
    • Spoon onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake for approximately 10-11 minutes
    • Transfer to cooling rack
    Picture from original recipe, at Sweet & Simple

     
    Recipe #2 is from scratch and probably the more tasty of the two, although I really like them both.
    
    1/2 cup butter
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/2 cup brown sugar
    1 egg
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 tsp red food coloring
    1 1/2 cups flour
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/4 tsp salt
    1/3 cup cocoa powder
    1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
    • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    • Cream butter and sugars.
    • Add egg and vanilla, mixing well.
    • Beat in food coloring.  Don't worry, if you don't have enough food coloring, they'll taste just as good! :) As you can see from my picture, mine turned out more brown than red.
    • Stir in flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder until just combined.
    • Stir in chocolate chips.
    • Spoon onto ungreased cookie sheet and back for approximately 10-12 mintues.
    • Transfer to cooling rack.

    My recipe #2 cookie

    February 11, 2013

    Cesarean Courage

    I recently read an article posted by a friend on Facebook entitled "Cesarean Courage".  I was intrigued, since I had both of my babies via c-section.  You can view that article here.  Here's why it hit home with me:

    When I was around 35 weeks pregnant with V, I was measuring about 4 weeks ahead, and had an ultrasound which revealed that his size was measuring in the 90th percentile.  He was likely going to be a BIG baby.  My OB/GYN thought that it was quite possible that I would have trouble delivering him, and could end up with a c-section.  Our desire to avoid a situation where we could end up in an emergency c-section, or where mine or the baby's health would be compromised in any way - combined with the fact that my sister-in-law had just had a very scary birth experience because of a big baby - prompted Justin and I, along with my wonderful doctor, to schedule a c-section. 

    We were more than comfortable with our decision.  A little part of me felt like I was "cheating" the system, or like labor and delivery was a right of passage that I was never going to experience.  But nevertheless, I was happy and confident with our decision.  And then the comments started coming.  I found out that when you're pregnant, and when you make decisions like this, people not only have opinions, but they feel compelled to tell you about it.  We had full support from our families, but I heard all kinds of negativity and opposition from others.  It baffles me that people would want to criticize and discourage me for choosing to undergo major surgery to ensure that we had a safe birth experience.

    So, a few weeks after our "controversial" decision was made, I safely and happily delivered V via cesarean, and delivered A the same way 21 months later.  Have I ever experienced labor and delivery and all that goes with it?  No.  But I did endure all that goes along with a c-section, and got two of the greatest gifts I've ever been blessed with.  It may not be how I originally thought the births of my babies would go, but that's ok. 

    I promise the writer of the article is much more eloquent than me, so I encourage to read her writing.

    February 8, 2013

    Hubby's Chili

    I LOVE chili any time of the year, but especially in the winter.  And there is none better, in my opinion, than Justin's chili.  In fact, I had never made chili until very recently, and it was his recipe.  I usually try to change a recipe to make it my own, but his is so good, I pretty much stick to it.  So here it is:

    1 1/2-2 lbs ground meat (we use venison, but you could use beef, turkey, etc)
    1-2 cans beans, drained and rinsed (pinto, kidney, black, whatever you have on hand or prefer)
    2 cans of "spicy hot" V8 juice
    1 can Rotel (not drained)
    1 can stewed tomatoes (not drained)
    1 packet of hot chili seasoning mix
    1-2 jalapenos, sliced or diced
    a few dashes of hot sauce

    As you can probably tell, we like things spicy around here, but of course if you don't like it as spicy, you could adjust things to suit you, such as using mild chili seasoning, regular V8 instead of spicy hot, and omitting the jalapenos and hot sauce.

    Directions:
    • Brown meat on stove with seasoning mix and Rotel
    • Put browned meat mixture into crockpot and add remaining ingredients
    • Cook on low in crockpot for at least 3-4 hours, or longer, so you can smell the yumminess all day!
    Here's what my crockpot looks like at this exact moment:

     

    Enjoy!

    February 7, 2013

    Oreo Balls

    If you have never experienced the deliciousness of oreo balls, you are missing out!  I was introduced to them several years ago, and try to make them as often as I can come up with an excuse.  This week was our turn to bring dessert to our small group Bible study, so guess what I decided to make!

    They are super easy...






    Take one package of oreos (or a cheaper off-brand, as I chose to do :)) and one block of cream cheese (room temperature). 














    Get out your handy dandy food processor (one of my favorite kitchen gadgets).  Process all of the oreos into crumbs, and then add the cream cheese until mixed well.  If you don't have a food processor, put the oreos in a ziploc baggy to crush, and then mix with cream cheese with an electric mixer.








    Chill the "dough" until firm enough to roll into balls.  Once rolled into balls, I chill them again to make them easier to dip in chocolate.  Melt your favorite chocolate - this time I used chocolate almond bark for half and white chocolate for the other half.  Dip the balls in chocolate and place on wax paper to set. 

    Next...eat!  Enjoy!

    MOPS

    I am a fairly new stay-at-home-mom.  When we had V, I went back to work.  But while we were pregnant with A, God blessed my husband with a job promotion, which afforded me the opportunity to stay home.  So I've been home with my kiddos since A was born, 10 months ago.

    Since we moved a few months after I became a SAHM, I had to adjust to the lack of adult presence in my everyday life, and to a new town where I didn't know anyone.  I wanted to get out and meet new people, so I found a MOPS group.  If you aren't familiar, MOPS stands for Mothers of Preschoolers, and is a place for moms to get together, fellowship, share, craft, support each other, and have fun!  My group meets at a church twice a month. 

    Honestly, I was fairly hesitant at first because I am pretty introverted until I get to know people.  I was not comfortable at the first few meetings, but I am so glad I stuck it out!  I really look forward to meetings, feel refreshed after a meeting, and absolutely love the fellowship I get with the other moms in the group.  It has been a huge blessing to me.  If you are a SAHM and do not belong to a group, I would highly recommend finding one in your area!

    February 6, 2013

    Women of Faith

    I recently ordered tickets for me and my friend Amy to the Women of Faith conference in August.  If you've ever been to it, you'll probably understand why I am ecstatic!  It is amazing!  I attended several years in a row throughout college and the first year or two I was married.  But then we were attending a church that didn't get a group of women together to go, so I just kind of stopped going.  Last year, I decided that I'd like to go again, so I invited Amy to her first ever WOF experience, and we had a great time!



    It's incredible, yet not surprising, that God knows what we need exactly when we need it.  He knew that back in August, I needed a major pick-me-up.  I needed to hear a word and have an experience that would catapult me into a deeper relationship with Him.  I needed to get back to worshipping with reckless abandon.  I needed a fire lit under me.  I needed to acknowledge that I had been stagnant in my walk with Him.  He knew.  He knew, and He provided exactly what I needed in that weekend.  And the perfect friend to share it with.  The minute the conference was over, I couldn't wait to go back.  Ordering tickets just put us one step closer to being there...even though we have to wait another 6 months.  :) 

    If you've never been, you should totally round up some girlfriends, tell your husband he's in charge of the kids, and order some tickets!  You won't regret it!

    February 5, 2013

    Bible Reading Plan

    I've never read the entire Bible.  In fact, there is a LOT of the Bible I have never read, let alone truly dug into.  I've started Bible reading plans many times over the years, but I've always let them fizzle out and never finished.  Recently at a MOPS meeting, a mommy friend of mine inspired me to jump into one of these plans, as many are available to choose from on my Bible reading app.   So I did!  I went home and started looking through them.  The most common seems to be a one-year plan, which seemed too long for me.  My friend had done a 90-day plan, which seemed like something I would easily fall behind on.  So I settled into a 6-month plan, and I am on day 15.  I am really enjoying it so far! 

    If you've never read through the entire Bible, I encourage you to join me on this journey, no matter how long it takes to get it completed!  I'm excited to see what God has for me as I read through His word.

    February 4, 2013

    Welcome to Hightower Homestead

    So, I decided to join the blogging world and start one of these things!  I once had a blog for my family and close friends to follow along during my first pregnancy and early life of my son.  And then I dropped off and stopped updating it.  But my vision for this blog is something broader: to be a place for me to share anything and everything going on at the "homestead", as my hubby and I affectionately call our home.  :)  So here's a little about us:

    My name is Megan, I'm a Jesus-loving, twenty-something-year-old wife and mommy of two.  I married my high school sweetheart, Justin, in 2007, and we welcomed our son (V) into the world in 2010 and our daughter (A) 21 months later in 2012.  I love cooking, baking, eating, Sonic drinks (anybody sensing a pattern here?), DIYing, planning, taking pictures, saving money, making lists, reading, staying involved in our church, etc, etc, etc.

    Back in '07, I received my Early Childhood Education degree from USAO, and spent four years teaching kindergarten and one year teaching 2nd grade.  While I loved teaching, I was itching to be a SAHM.  When I had A, God blessed us with the opportunity for me to realize my biggest dream: staying at home! 

    God had lots in store for us in 2012, and when A was 4 months old, we moved from our suburban home to 5 acres outside of a small town.  And we LOVE it!  It's peaceful, quiet, spacious, and has so many possibilities!  We've spent the past 6 months settling in, and I'm sure I'll have plenty posts in the future about our projects and happenings around our little farm.

    I hope this gives you some idea of who I am and where I'm coming from.  Stayed tuned for more happenings on the Hightower Homestead!
    The view from our front porch in the fall.