Monday, December 31, 2012

Party Planning: Part Three

Happy New Year's Eve!

Who's excited? I'll tell you what I'm excited about...


Who doesn't love them? I'm gonna get straight to the point here and present you with some eye candy....

Note: These are not my pictures; they were just too pretty not to post!

Ooh la la...
Beautiful, beautiful desserts! These are just a few ideas for your next party -- great for tonight if you're searching for a last-minute recipe for that party we've been talking about!

  • Cake pops. They've been all the rage this year. While they do take time and planning, they're totally worth it. Usually they have to freeze overnight, but boy do they deliver. You can choose basically any flavor you want, with any icing you want, and boom, you have cake pops. Recipes are everywhere, but I found this one on Pinterest. It's a delicious little detail that you can mix with your color scheme! :)

  • Cupcake Martinis. It's all about presentation here. Also doubles as pretty table decor! I don't drink, but I love the fun glasses.

  • S'mores. YUM. If you're bonfiring tonight like us, s'mores are a must.

    No bonfire? No problem! Serve them as an inside treat like in the picture: Tip Junkie {source of picture} suggests to add some metallic sanding sugar on top for a nice sparkle.

    Another idea for inside s'mores is to put them in the oven just before serving. Turn your oven on broil to really get a nice "goo" factor going on. Then a touch a brown sugar, if you're a fan :) Loooooove!


All pictures from Pinterest :)

Is your mouth watering yet? I need cake. Stat.

  • Clock cakes. Aren't these cute? I believe the picture is showing cheesecakes with an oreo crust, but get creative and bake your favorite cake in a round pan, then decorate away. If you're a fan a mini-cakes, it would be oh-so-adorable to give each guest their own clock at midnight!

  • Giant oreo cake. Why have I never seen one of these until now? If you need a recipe for tonight...this is it! Go out and buy four, five, {however many!} etc. NOW!

  • Cupcakes. Nuff said. Don't you just love the cute little signs?

  • My favorite! Add a sparkler at midnight for a nice firecracker-y effect!

Okay. It's New Year's Eve and this post is late! So go out there and enjoy yourself -- everyone be safe! Happy New Year!

Don't forget your Midnight Kissses! ;)

Party Planning 101: Part Deux

I am officially hungry. WHY I choose to search the Internets for pictures of delicious party food in the weeee hours of the morning, I'll never understand.

But I did have coffee a little earlier, so maybe I do understand.


For me, the most exciting part about throwing a party (regardless of occasion) is choosing the menu. I mean, apart from all the partying-with-loved-ones thing. That's pretty exciting too actually.

I love parties, I love to cook, and I love to eat. Therefore, I must make myself love to exercise. But that's beside the point.

Food tends to be a large focus of any party. But don't let its importance intimidate you. While catering is great and saves you lots of time, it can be expensive and hard to come by during the holidays. It takes work, but if you strategize, then catering your own party can actually be fun.

Your menu depends on your atmostphere. If you're planning a nice sit-down dinner for a smaller crowd, you might go the traditional route and opt for something like spaghetti and meatballs with a nice salad and warm, crusty french bread. Let's face it, spaghetti is one of those rare things that, the more you make, the better it tastes.

What I've found, though, is that finger foods go a long way. In the past, my parties have included a lot of games and mingling. Finger foods are great for this type of atmosphere; that way, your guests can keep nibbling throughout the night and you don't have to clear the table until much, much later!

Let's get started on your party menu, shall we? Note the inspiration board. Fancy.

Note: None of these pictures are mine. Check my Pinterest page and Google images ;)

  • Kelly from Just a Taste has a fantastic recipe for this Guacamole Bruschetta. I love guacamole and I love bruschetta. Genius.

  • You can't go wrong with Piggies in Blankets -- it's a staple at any party that I throw. If you're like me, and a little grossed out by pork dogs, try the turkey ones. I actually prefer the taste of the turkey ones, and I'm convinced that they're at least a wee bit better for you!

  • Finger sandwiches - also a staple and always a hit. So easy to make and much cheaper than ordering out for sandwiches. Just prep these babies about an hour before the party (or more if you have room to store them in your fridge!) and you're good to go. Wham, bam, thank you m'am.

  • Why not mix tradition up a little? I came across this black eyed pea salad on Delish and can't wait to try it out. However, I'm thinking of mixing it up a little, and instead of the yellow peppers, maybe throw in a little mango? Kind of like a twist on mango salsa, yes? Let me know if any of you have other ideas for this dish!

Other ideas:
  • Guacamole and chips (or tiny toasts!)
  • Party BBQ sausages and meatballs - we've ALL seen them in crock pots at every party!
  • Chex Mix - get creative and make your own!
  • Rotel dip -- yummm
  • Veggie tray - guilt-free and healthy! Perfect for nibbling :)
  • Chili, gumbo, chowder, or basically any kind of soup.
  • Red beans & rice - These can be put in the crock pot that morning and be ready by the time your party starts!
  • Twice Baked Potatoes - The Pioneer Woman has a fantastic recipe on her site, an even better one in her cookbook!
  • Taco Bar - I know from experience this is in fact affordable and delicious!

NOTE: This actually IS mine! Thank you dear iPhone!

If you prefer an outdoor party and are up for a bonfire, roasting hot dogs is a great way to get guests mingling and eating. Be sure to have the chips and drinks on hand though!

Pot luck dinners are also fun. Everyone has their own version of "party food," and many people have that "one dish" that they can make like no one else...if you're planning ahead of time, draw names to see who will bring a dessert, who will bring an entree, a drink, etc., then enjoy the delicious results :)

For some of you realllly crazy cats whose parties won't be starting until MUCH later, think about a breakfast party. I'm thinking pancakes, eggs, beignets, whatever you prefer! (I've made beignets from simple $1.00 pancake mix out of the box and they turned out delicious)


Then again, I have some very fond memories of nights where the only menu was pizza. It's all completely up to you.

While food can be an important part of your soiree, it doesn't have to be the star of the show. What matters is that you enjoy your time with your guests and celebrate the occasion.

The main thing to remember in building your menu is that you don't have to make this an "all you can eat" buffet. Don't overwhelm yourself with having to make LOTS of amounts of LOTS of dishes. Choose a few dishes that you enjoy making and that fit your budget, then stick with those to feed your posse'.

Is it okay that I said posse'?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Party Planning 101: Part One

Hello my name is Lisa, and I have a crush on Pinterest.

A little late to the game, yes. But I've been so hooked on it lately for all things party-planning. Technically, I'm not throwing a New Year's Eve bash this year, but as I said in my last post I have such a fun time planning parties and events and such. NYE always seems like the perfect time to throw a fun party with family and friends, or even to schedule a nice reunion with old friends from back home.

As fun as a party sounds, I think the plan for this year is simple: a calm evening at home involving a bonfire and fireworks with family, The Boy, and nice cup of homemade hot chocolate (recipe will come in 2013! YAY!).

However, for those of you spontaneous folks who DO want throw a party this NYE - or any party at any other time in the future - here are a few party-planning tips I've learned through the years.

Once you've made your guest list, pick a fun theme to incorporate throughout the party. You can work this into the decorations, the food, the attire, whatever you choose. If you're a planner and make preperations in advance, invitations are always a great idea to give your guests a heads-up of the theme and dress of the event (formal, casual, etc.). You won't necessarily have to state the theme on your invite, but I've found it fun to apply your theme to the design.

If you're buying rather than designing invites, there are some great designs out there that will likely give you some inspiration. Remember, this is YOUR party, make it personal and put your own spin on it!

Check out these invites I found via Pinterest...classy :)

Pink invite via Zazzle
Formal Invite via Southern Fried Paper
Fun invite via SBVintageAndDesign

If you're spontaneous, though, a simple phone call will work just fine!

A theme can be anything from period costumes (Downton Abbey, anyone?), a "Who Dunnit?" mystery theme, or something as simple as "Happy New Year!" and "Silver and White," making your color scheme very easy.

Don't fret if you're lacking in the theme department, though. A few years ago I hosted a NYE/reunion party for my old friends from high school. Basically, the day before, my mom and I raided a party store and found all sorts of tinsel, banners, even a NYE ball to drop on the cheap and just had fun with it! Our Christmas decorations were still up, so it was already a festive atmosphere. Trust me, your theme (or lack thereof) will NOT make or break your party. I'm a party-planning nerd, so I get into these things!

Oh, these are FUN. Decorations can be anything from extravagant to simple and still work with your theme. Bonus: They don't have to empty your wallet to look fun and fancy!

I've found that various party supply stores will have all you need and more, and if you catch them at the right time they can actually be pretty affordable. (HINT: Buy next year's NYE Party decor as soon as 2013 hits the calendar, ha! Clearance sales rock.) However, basic party supplies and DIY projects can go a long way.

Here are more Pinterest finds (NONE of these photos are mine, so check my page for all of the sources!)

  • Check out that first beauty. What is it about an outdoor setting at night with candles? It's just radiant and can really set the mood for a get-together, no matter the size. This setting wouldn't be terribly expensive, depending on how many candles and the types that you want to use. Wal-Mart sells them in packs of 50, and even Sam's sells these in bulk - both at very reasonable prices. If you don't have votives, try out clear jars (like empty baby food jars, without the label), or use candles of different sizes in various-sized jars. Don't be afraid to experiment!
  • The second picture is a great example of the "Silver and White" theme I mentioned earlier. Simple touches like white and silver balloons with curled string can add a fun effect. Bonus points for clear balloons with confetti in them - festive, yes?!
  • Mason jars. Aaaah, the mason jars. If you grew up in the South, you grew up using a mason jar in some fashion. For me, my grandmother met us at the door with one of these guys filled with ice and cold Coca-Cola. If you're weaving gold into your theme/color scheme, this would be fun touch, whether for your drinks or just decoration. You could use them as holders for straws, forks, party horns, etc.

    I'm not a huge fan of the completely painted look in this picture, so for my imaginary party I would most likely leave the jar clear and tie a wide glittery or festive ribbon around the center, or cover the lid in either paint or glitter that matched my color scheme. (I'm a bit of a fan of glitter ;) )
  • Oh, these votives. I heart these little lovelies. There's a short description of how to create these on Pinterest, but I found this tutorial to be really helpful. A seemingly small addition to your decor that will have a great effect. (P.S. I REALLY like glitter! :) )


Ohhhh how I love parties! And glitter! Did I mention that already?

Next post is coming soon, and will involve the best parts!!! Food and desserts! Fun fun fun!

Ciao bellas!


Friday, December 28, 2012

A Time to Celebrate

Hellooooo there!

Hope all of you had the MERRIEST of Christmases! I'm so thankful for this time of year and the time I've been able to spend with my family this past week. Our whole family was able to be together this year for Christmas, and the older I get the more thankful I am when that happens. It's such a special time of year, and as fun and exciting as traveling and parties can be, for me there's no better place to be than at home on Christmas :)

What a year, right? I say this every year, but this year seems to have FLOWN by. Where did 2012 go? It really does feel like it was only a few weeks ago that we were ringing in 2012, wondering what the year would hold. There's been a lot of happy and a lot of sad, but by the grace of God we have made it y'all. What a year!

So since 2013 is all of...72(ish) hours away (!!!!), I believe it's time to CELEBRATE! Who's got some exciting plans in the works?

Every year I'm RIDICULOUSLY  tempted to throw a fancy-schmancy bash at my parents' home. I love the idea of wearing high heels and glitter and sequins as I dance and mingle with my friends from back home, and this year is no different. However, usually something falls into place and we usually find ourselves at my grandparents' house watching the kids light fireworks until the wee hours of the morning. No regrets here. Pure memories :)

Those who know me well know that one of my hobbies is throwing parties and entertaining. Throughout my time living at home, my parents graciously allowed me to throw various parties year after year, usually with the same circle of friends. Even after we all left for college, we continued to gather at my parents' house for quite the reunion.

Throughout the years, there were Luaus...

{picture to come soon; digital cameras were not around then!}
(the guys refused to take a picture that night ;) )



Late-night dance parties...
...and many other parties, whether spur-of-the-moment or planned weeks in advance. I love everything about throwing parties --- the planning, the food, the decorations, the themes, the prep work, the outfits...need I go on? ;)
Last year, I had a grand idea of trying to throw together a party around noon on New Year's Eve. (I'm all for spontaneity ;) HA!) As soon as the idea came to me, I IMMEDIATELY started texting all of my friends that I had hoped were in town: "Party? My parents' place? Tonight? Happy New Year!" Although a few of them actually were in town, later that night I found myself having the best New Year's Eve yet, sitting by a bonfire at my grandparents' house, watching fireworks, texting a certain someone and drinking my grandmother's hot chocolate. Pure magic ;)
So who knows what this year will hold! I'm looking forward to see.
Be sure to check out tomorrow's's going to be a fun one! I'm in full party-planning mode and can't wait to share! :)
What are your plans for New Year's Eve?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Merry Christmas, Darling!

FIVE DAYS and counting!

It's almost Christmas -- can you believe it??? To me, this really is the most magical time of year - and I can't wait to go home for a week of spending time with my family!!!


I'm always glad to see Thanksgiving roll around because that means I no longer have to listen to Christmas music in secret! I can't get enough of the classics and the carols...and call me crazy, but no Christmas seems complete without a little "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays" from *N Sync (YES *N SYNC!)...hahaha.

Confession: I'm still a not-so-closet fan of *N Sync, all these years later :) all of their boy band glory :)

Because I'm feeling holly and jolly, I've put together a little playlist of *some* of my favorites...many of them I'm sure most of us have grown up knowing. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

1) "It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas" - Johnny Mathis
2) "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" - Andy Williams
3) "Christmas Canon"- Trans-Siberian Orchestra
4) "No Place Like Home for the Holidays" - The Carpenters
5) "Merry Christmas Darling" - The Carpenters
6) "Holly Jolly Christmas" - Burl Ives
7) "Papa Noel" - Brenda Lee
8) "The Christmas Song" - Nat King Cole
9) "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" - Brenda Lee
10) "O Holy Night" - *N Sync
11) "When My Heart Finds Christmas" - Harry Connick, Jr.
12) "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" - Josh Groban
13) "Angels We Have Heard On High" - Josh Groban
14) "Thankful" - Josh Groban
15) "O Holy Night" - MercyMe
16) "Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy" - Anthony Rapp and Everett Bradley
17) "What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?" - Zooey Deschanel and Jo-Go Levitt HERE
18) "All I Want for Christmas" - Vince Vance & the Valiants

If you feel like crying, listen to Groban's "I'll Be Home for Christmas," featuring messages from our military soldiers to their families. Cue the waterworks.

If you're looking for background music, allow me to recommend the lovely Beegie Adair, the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, and The Piano Guys. I LOOOOVE piano music year-round...but it's especially beautiful at Christmas time.

And now I shall leave you with a clip from one of the best Christmas movies ever. I love this movie SO MUCH and hope you enjoy it. Hope you all have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

(P.S. Skip ahead to the 2:15 mark for a real treat ;) )

What songs are on your playlist this year?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Lovely Weekend Adventures

Happy Tuesday folks!

Although last night consisted of yet another midnight baking adventure, it's thankfully been a pretty grand day thus far! :) Bosslady's birthday is today and our department wanted to bring a little sweetness into the office. Brownie points? Quite literally :)

Happy Birthday Bosslady!

I LOVE birthdays and birthday surprises...and I love how sprinkles make most any dessert just look "happier." These brownies were not the prettiest in the world, but they are pretty tasty...Good enough for me! :)

What a weekend right? To call it bittersweet is a huge understatement. My heart is still in pieces for what happened on Friday. This world is crazy and I struggle to find the right words to pray for those families. Thankfully, we serve an Awesome God who hears our heart rather than our words, and who I feel cries with us through pain and trials. This world needs some major prayer, people.

On a lighter note, the weekend kicked off with our office Christmas party on Friday night. After a fast-paced day at work, I was one tired chick once I returned home. I pretty much fell into my bed and didn't move until I woke up the next morning, determined to sleep as late as possible.

I don't know about y'all, but around here it's been a little difficult getting in the "Christmas spirit." October through December is without a doubt my favorite time of year -- the changing colors, the cooler weather (NOTE: cool - not cold! :) ), the decorations, the MUSIC...I love it all. But in a workplace where everything has to be very PC, and in a city that's so cramped that it takes an hour to drive 2 miles (no joke), everything seems a little less "spirited."

Because of this, we decided that SATURDAY would be deemed "All Things Christmas" day. Shopping, music, food, etc. And was it ever. I highly recommending doing this at some point before next week!

Saturday started off with a surprise breakfast from a local donut shop I'd never visited. Apple fritters, butter rolls, cinnamon rolls, piggies in blankets, and coffee...pretty much the works. I must say, it was all pretty impressive -- so impressive that you kind of have to ignore the amount of calories you're going to consume just looking at it ...but totally worth it in the end. We stuffed our faces and decided it was best to go for a long run afterward :) Hey, it's all about balance, right? ;)

Part of "the feast"!!!
Later that afternoon, the Christmas shopping ensued. This was the first time I've really seen our area decked out for Christmas, since I rarely make it to that side of town due to traffic and time. Music was playing, stores and windows were decorated -- it really felt like a Christmas village :) There was even a trolley running that night so we could visit all of the stores without losing our parking spot! LOVED IT!

Christmas spirit has officially been FOUND :) Gifts are wrapped, my office and apartment are finally decorated, and I'm blasting Christmas music every chance I get. Sometimes you just need a true day OFF to really enjoy things.

Speaking of enjoying things...I feel like this Blackberry Crisp dessert is something truly worth enjoying. I mentioned it last week when my friend Lauren visited. Although it's a very light dessert, it's sweet enough to feel as though you've had something substantial. It's got oatmeal AND fruit in it, so you can totally eat this for breakfast too if you so desire...this I know from experience ;)

I had all of the ingredients on hand already, hopefully you will too. If not, no worries -- it uses very practical ingredients that you'll likely use again. I even had blackberries in my freezer (rare occasion) leftover from a previous recipe.

Hope you enjoy this - it's great for a cold night, but I've eaten it in the summertime too with other fruits mixed in (See Skinnytaste for the summer recipe!). Hopefully your crisp will be a little thicker...I used half a bag a blackberries because that's what was left in my freezer, but use as many as you want -- 2 bags will give you a SUPER juicy crisp...I encourage it :)

Apologies for the bad lighting...regardless of pictured, it's very, very good!
Check out Gina's site...she has MUCH better pictures! :)

Warm Blackberry Crisp
Inspired by Gina of Skinnytaste 

1 bag of frozen blackberries (or more, if you wish!)
~ 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
~ 1 teaspoon of cornstarch, more if you use more berries
1/4 cup of sugar

1 cup of dry oatmeal
1/2 cup of whole wheat flour (I do not recommend white flour here at all)
3/4 cup brown sugar (if you're a fan like me. If not just use 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon of cinnamon (more if you're a fan, like me ;) )
a little less than half a stick of butter

In a mixing bowl, toss your fruit with the lemon juice, sugar, and cornstarch, in that order. Pour into a pie dish (I rubbed a light layer of butter on this, just in case).

In a separate bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients and pour on top of the fruit layer in the pie dish. Bake at 375 until the crust is a nice golden brown color. Serve warm and top with whipped cream or ice cream and a dash of cinnamon :)

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Friday, December 14, 2012


Whew! Is anybody else running on fumes right now? What a week it has been.

A week ago (last Friday) I was getting ready to visit Natalie for a very girly weekend. I had THE LOVELIEST time with her...lots of girly things like baking, chick movies, brunch shopping :) :) :)

By the way -- why am I just now discovering the WONDERFUL-ness of BRUNCH? It's actually very close to being my favorite meal...Usually early in the mornings before work I don't have the appetite (or time) to eat a big meal, so sleeping late + eating a hearty breakfast-type meal on the weekend is something I'm totally down for.

After a casual Friday night of PJs and girl movies, Natalie and I got up on Saturday morning to head to her church's cookie swap. I left my phone in car but I wish SO BADLY that I would have kept it with me during the party so that I could have taken pictures of all of the deliciousness surrounding us. We kicked everything off with brunch -- monkey bread, breakfast casseroles, muffins, fruit, juice, coffee -- you name, it was there. I could barely contain my excitement. Sitting in a beautiful country home, surrounded by good food and exquisite Christmas did my heart GOOD.

Monkey Bread via
Then the cookie swapping ensued....There were so many women at this party, each carrying a tray of the sweetest of sweets. I'm talking cookies, brownies, cake balls, candy, things-I'm-not-even-sure-what-they-were, fudge, and {of course} Natalie's famous MAGIC BARS...the party was ON. Three tables' worth of goods...there are no words to describe the love I now have for cookie swaps! HA!

Fast forward to last night. My friend Lauren from our grad schools days (she's actually working on her PhD now -- WHAAAT??) was passing through town and needed a couch to sleep on. Lauren is one of my closest friends, so to have her visit was EXACTLY what I needed to lift my spirits after a crazy week!


Let me PAUSE for a moment to say that Lauren seriously knows how to have fun. Without this girl I never would have run two half-marathons (and training for #3!), or really ANY of the crazy races we have done. She's the most adventurous person I've ever known and we always have a blast...I LOVE it when she comes around!

Warrior Dash, 2012
We were the 3 Little Pigs, and the gray shirt in the back is the Big Bad Wolf!
Scariest race EVER -- we were bruised for WEEKS -- but SO. MUCH. FUN.

Last obstacle of the Dash...JUMPING THE FIRE!
I almost chickened out of this one -- Fire is one of my greatest fears. Right before this picture was taken, Lauren grabbed my hand (that's us on the left!) and said something to the effect of...

"If you don't jump, we all DIE."

...Motivating enough for me!

But back to last night!

Lauren showed up last night and we had some MAJOR catch-up time whilst I wrapped Christmas presents and made a nice pot of warm chicken tortilla soup (YESSS). This is by far one of my favorite soups to make!!!!

Later the Boy joined us for dinner and we had BLACKBERRY CRISP for dessert!!! While I've made the soup dozens of times, the crisp was purely an experiment. Thankfully, it was delicious :) If you want a warm comforting dessert that's still on the lighter side and cheap, I have a feeling you'll love it as much as we did** :)

This recipe uses very practical ingredients that I usually have on hand already, but you can add your own spin to it if you so choose. Hope everyone stays warm and safe :)

Cold Weather Blues Chicken Tortilla Soup
(adapted from a random Mexican cookbook I've had for years!)


Chicken (I used 2 cooked chicken breasts), chopped
Chicken Broth (either 1 jar or what is left from cooking your chicken, about 2 cups)
~ 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
garlic, to taste (I used about half a teaspoon of garlic salt)
1 jar salsa
1 can corn, undrained
Juice of 1 lime (optional)
Hot sauce, to taste
Cilantro, to taste
Cheese, for topping
Sour Cream, for topping
Tortilla chips, on the side
Loudly-colored FIESTA! bowl, for serving (optional)

Cook and chop your pollo*. In a separate saucepan or pot, heat your olive oil and add your garlic. Let this saute for 2-3 minutes. Add your chicken broth (I used what was left from cooking my chicken), chicken pieces, salsa and corn, one at a time. Give your soup a good stir and let the flavors get acquainted :) If the soup looks too watery, add a bit of chicken bouillon.

Add the hot sauce (if you like it) - I used about a tablespoon - the cilantro, and the lime juice. I LOVE cilantro so I usually add a good bit, but you can leave it out altogether if you prefer; I've done that before and the soup still tastes great.

Let the soup simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. You'll know when it's done. Top it with sour cream and a sprinkle of cheese and serve with chips on the side.

Now put on your sombrero, grab your maracas and eat this soup while it's warm!


*See what I did there? Yeah you did! ;)
**Recipe is best friend- and Boy-approved :)
***Please excuse my excessive use of !!!!s and :)s. I love them. :)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Rainy Day Red Beans

Ohhhh the weather outside is frightful....

At least it was this morning. I woke up to lightening and the lady on the radio announcing a tornado watch in my area. I spent the next hour with my head under the covers drifting in and out of sleep hoping that it would just disappear....Bad weather and I don't mix :)

Thankfully the storms have subsided and now it's just cold and rainy. Perfect weather for Christmas music and a nice, hot bowl of red beans and rice.

This is a fantastic recipe; a nice blend of my mom's red beans that I've eaten my entire life with a few additions that might sound weird but add a great flavor. I've lightened it up, adding veggies and using turkey sausage and brown rice to give it a healthier spin. Trust me, you'll feel great eating this.

You can make this either on the stove or in a crock pot, whichever suits your schedule -- either way it's just as delicious!

Speaking of schedule, I was in a mad rush when I made these yesterday morning before church (the longer they sit, the more flavorful they are!), so I am lame and only took two pictures. Forgive me? :)

I had the leftovers for lunch today and they were seriously just as good a day later! Hope you enjoy this dish as much as I always have.

NOTE: I rarely measure anything when I'm cooking (baking is a different story), so this dish is great because you can really add everything "to taste." Enjoy!

Rainy Day Red Beans with Brown Rice

1 package of Camellia Red Kidney Beans (I usually use half and can get about 4 servings out of it)
2 stalks of celery
~1/2 of a green bell pepper
chopped onion, to taste
turkey sausage
Tony's seasoning
hot sauce
any other seasonings you deem appropriate
brown rice

First, bring a pot of water to a boil and empty your beans into it. The amount of water depends on the amount of beans you use...Since I use about half a package, I'll fill the pot just over halfway full.

While your beans are cooking, chop your chop-ables! 

Add in your chopped veggies and your seasonings and give it a nice stir.

{ :) }

Keep your beans cooking on high for about 15-ish minutes. After that, turn it down to medium-low heat for about 20-30 minutes. Keep a close eye on it, as the water can cook out quickly.

As your beans cook down, add more water if needed. Trust me when I say you DO NOT want all of the water to cook out - the smell/taste of what is left is awful! 
You'll want to keep a good amount of water in the pot (definitely enough to keep the beans covered) so it can get all nice and gravy-like.

Turn the heat down to low and keep a lid on it. There's no real time limit here, you'll be able to tell when the beans are completely cooked {aka, there will be no wrinkles or pink color left and they have a nice brown color}.

This is GREAT time to start cooking your rice!

Once the beans are done cooking, if the juice/gravy isn't quite as thick as you'd like, add a bit of cornstarch until it reaches the consistency you want. A bit = about 1/4 teaspoon at a time! Too much cornstarch results in big white clumps in your beans!

At this point, I usually add in a little more pepper, Tony's and hot sauce and give it a good stir before serving. This will taste EXCELLENT served over brown rice and with a side of warm toasted french bread or homemade biscuits.

If you want to REALLY get crazy -- sprinkle in a pinch of sugar right on top once you've served it. It adds just a touch of sweetness that blends so well with everything else.

For the crockpot: Put all of your ingredients (except the rice) in at once and cover with about 6 to 7.5 cups of water, again depending on the amount of beans and the size of your crockpot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4-6 hours. I actually PREFER to cook these in the crockpot - the aroma that fills my apartment by the time I come home from work is WONDERFUL.

Go ahead, try it. I dare ya!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Helloooooo there!

I have cookies coming out of my ears.

Not literally. But cookies are overflowing into three tupperware containers in my fridge.

For now ;)


HELLOOO and welcome to Grits & Griddles - a happy little corner of the world where you'll find recipes, laughter, stories and many other magical things that I hope will enchant you! I'm a Southern girl in Mississippi, working as a communications superhero by day and a runner/chef/writer/five hundred other things by night. Coffee, traveling, writing, and cooking give me great joy :)

In this blog I hope to post things that will bring a little sunshine to your day -- whether it's a story of a spontaneous road trip (not unlikely) or photos of wonderful, delicious Southern comfort food. Let's be friends, okay? :)

But more importantly...


This weekend I'm visiting Natalie and we're going to a cookie swap at her church - fun fun fun! I remembered last night around...11-ish that cookies needed to be made! I was excited (doesn't take much) -- baking meant I could put my new mixer to use...YES!

For this lovely occasion, I decide on Chocolate Chip Butterfinger Cookies - straight from the Tasty Kitchen. Usually I research then put my own spin on a recipe, but last night I followed the recipe exactly to ensure Butterfinger-y goodness. I'm glad I did -- they're delicious, and if I drank milk I would for sure dunk these babies in a nice big glass of it!

Like I said, it was around 11-ish by the time I remembered started baking. I thought, "A small batch of cookies? Easy. I'll be done by midnight, tops."


Turns out, the recipe makes between 20-30 cookies, depending on how large you want them...which is about TRIPLE the amount I intended! Silly me...I didn't cut the recipe into thirds. But who needs math, right? I think I finished everything around 1:30 a.m.

Hi, my name is Lisa, and I like to bake at midnight.

If you're interested, here's the play-by-play with some pretty okay maybe not pictures. No fancy camera here; just ye olde iPhone :) Enjoy friends! And have a happy day!


Chocolate Chip Butterfinger Cookies
{from the Tasty Kitchen blog and Tanya from Lemons for Lulu}

The Leading Ladies:

Brown sugar, flour, quick-cooking oats, sugar, butter, 2 eggs, chocolate chips,
and Butterfingers (unpictured - I used candy bars but you can use chips if you like).
Yes, that's a hammer. You'll see why in a bit :D

In a LARGE mixing bowl, soften your butter, then mix with
the sugars into a creamy buttery-ness:

Let's take a moment and admire the new mixer. Aaaahh the little things :)

Add your flour and your oats {ACTION SHOT YES!}

Mix it up, then add your chocolate chips:

Now the fun part...if you're using candy bars, take out all of the stress of your work day and BEAT THEM with the hammer! (Feel free to use any other heavy-ish object here, just don't hurt yourself or your countertop!) Crumble them up into tiny crumbs to mix into the cookie dough.

Mer her her herrrr.....

Hey look a promo code! I WON I WON! 
Just kidding. I didn't win....yet.


After a nice arm workout from hammering and stirring (at this point I put down the mixer and opted for a spoon since the batter was thick and my bowl was small!), drop the dough
by tablespoonfuls onto a nice baking sheet. Let them bake for about ten minutes.

IT'S ALIVE!!!!! (This was about five minutes in - they grow FAST)

Let the cookies cool for a few minutes before trying to remove them. Unless you're like me
and you're impatient ready for cookies. In that case you'll get THESE results...

...which are equally as delicious but definitely not as pretty! However, they are perfect for
munching co-workers or friends looking for a snack :)


"I figured if I was going to save the world, I might as well do it with cookies."
- Ana Pascal (Maggie Gyllenhaal), "Stranger than Fiction" (2006)