Delicious Slow-Cooker Oatmeal (And I don’t even like oatmeal)

It’s true, oatmeal is typically not my breakfast food of choice. But, when I was getting ready for the Christmas Eve Brunch that Sam and I hosted for our families at our house, I stumbled across this delicious recipe on Pinterest.

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Many of you also know that I am obsessed with My CROCK-POT. Well, I should probably say my CROCK-POT collection of all shapes, sizes, and patterns. And I have my eye on another new one as well! The one you see in the picture is my very first CROCK-POT, bought for my by my favorite Auntie Kathy when I moved into my first apartment.

Follow this link to find the original recipe for this Apple Cinnamon, Steel-Cut Oatmeal. The original recipe is delicious, but we made the following tweeks to it, the second time.

  1. I did not include the optional butter. It just felt like wasted calories.
  2. I used 3 apples instead of 2. Who doesn’t like more apples?
  3. I added 2 more teaspoons of brown sugar.
  4. I added 1/4 cup of craisins.

 

Finally, we topped this oatmeal off with heavy cream and candied walnuts. It went over really well, and it tasted like dessert!

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Not Your Typical Reuben Sandwich

This week has been busy, and we’ve had a lot of things going on. But, whenever life is busy or stressful I find comfort knowing that at the end of the day I can whip up something delicious. Then Sam and I can have a great dinner at the end of a long day.

I love love love Reuben Sandwiches. When we’re out to lunch, and there’s a Reuben on the menu, I usually end up ordering it. In our neck of the woods, it has been rainy and cold and I’ve felt like comfort food. While a sandwich is usually not my comfort food, this oven baked Reuben Sandwich alternative is  a warm, cheesy, comforting option.

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This recipe, Reuben Crescent Bake, comes from Taste of Home. You can find it by clicking the link here.  I just leave off the caraway seeds, because I’m not the biggest fan of them. Enjoy!

Perfectly Poached Eggs

 

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For most of my life I was NOT a fan of eggs…in any form! I thought they were slimy, greasy, and unfit for human consumption. I slowly began to embrace them as I got older…the occasional deviled egg, eggs in my mom’s potato salad, and MAYBE a fried egg when we had breakfast out.

As an adult I discovered my love for POACHED EGGS. I adore poached eggs, they are soft, creamy, and sophisticated. Above is a picture of a beautiful take on Eggs Benedict that I had on our honeymoon. Sitting on top of this masterpiece are two beautifully poached eggs.

Recently, Sam and I were making breakfast on a weekend morning thinking about having eggs. At home, our go to is scrambled eggs since neither of us is very good at frying eggs, and poaching seems like to much work….until now! I’m happy to share with you our recipe for Perfectly Poached Eggs.

PERFECTLY POACHED EGGS

1 fresh egg (to poach well, eggs must be fresh, just ask Julia Child)j

1/2 cup Water

Salt & Pepper as desired

Directions:

  1. Pour 1/2 cup cold water into microwave-safe mug. (You can use any mug you like. We found that smaller 8oz mugs work best.
  2. Crack 1 egg into mug with water.
  3. Microwave on HIGH POWER SETTING for 1 minute.
  4. Remove egg from mug with fork and add to your favorite breakfast combination. (For a runny yolk, remove from mug right away. For a firm yolk, leave egg in mug for an addition 30 seconds.

Our Thanksgiving Honeymoon

Well here we are. The Christmas season (the most wonderful time of the year) is officially upon us. I simply cannot believe that 2017 is nearly gone. The year Sam and I got engaged, planned a wedding, got married, and made countless memories with family and friends. I’m sad to see 2017 go, but so excited for what 2018 has in store for us.

It’s time for me to tell you all about our fabulous trip to Bend, Oregon for our honeymoon/Thanksgiving getaway. Here we go!

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In anticipation of any weather as we crossed the Santiam Pass, we borrowed Sam’s parent’s Subaru Forester. All I can say is we were thankful to have it. No, not because there was snow….we had hopes for snow…but it was balmy in the low 60s pretty much the whole time we were there. What was so wonderful about the Subaru is the size. Both of us are good at packing (Sam is a pro at making everything fit in our gorgeous London Fog luggage (currently on sale at Macy’s), and I am a pro at making sure we forget NOTHING), but we always overestimate the amount of clothes, food, shoes, and toiletries we might need. I mean who knows…what if all your socks get eaten by bears. Or, what if you’re stranded for a month and need enough food to carry you through. Or, what if the Queen decides to come for a visit and you need something formal to wear. YOU JUST NEVER KNOW. So when Her Majesty does pop in for an unexpected spot of tea, we’ll be ready 🙂

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We found an amazing condo for the week at Mt. Batchelor village on VRBO. This amazing vacation rental sight has been one of our top favorites for years. This was the stunning view from one of our two balconies. It was great to be able to sit in the hot tub and night and have beautiful views of downtown Bend in the distance.

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One day, we enjoyed an amazing breakfast at McKay’s Cottage near Bend’s Old Mill District. Sam had this beautiful omelette.

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I enjoyed this beautiful Tex-Mex take on Eggs Benedict their “Baja Chicken Hash Stack.” Topped with one of my favorite things, poached eggs.

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One of the highlights on our trip was snowshoeing on Mt. Bachelor. This we did through Wanderlust Tours.  It was a first for both of us and it turned out to be so much fun. It almost didn’t happen though. it had rained the day before and they called to let us know we probably wouldn’t have good enough snow. Lucky for us, it snowed enough overnight to go ahead with our excursion.

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We had our ups and our downs along the trip 🙂 But Sam always manages to land in style…good thing I was the one holding the camera or you would have seen me face-planted in the snow!

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Here we are at the end of our trip with our awesome guide, Jared. He is a adventuresome New England transplant who fell in love with the beautiful Pacific North West. Can you blame him?

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The next day was Thanksgiving. We wanted to spend the day celebrating, not cooking. Especially since it was just the two of us. So we enjoyed a beautiful Thanksgiving buffet at McMenamins Old St. Francis School in Downtown Bend. I was skeptical at first. I love holiday food, done right! But we were both pleasantly surprised. The place was packed, but we had made a reservation months in advance, so no problem there. And the food was delicious; traditional stuffing (just like the one we made together), moist turkey, creamy mashed potatoes, and fresh rolls. Just like a home-cooked meal. The only disappointment was the sub-par pumpkin pie, but we made up for that with other deserts we had brought with us.

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We realized how hungry we were once we got there!

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A festive, yet simple table setting that was easy to switch out between guests.

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Always on the hunt for delicious eateries to make our regular stops on adventures, we began our Black Friday festivities at The Sparrow Bakery.  Here is the delicious breakfast sandwich I enjoyed; complete with arugula, avocado, Gruyere cheese, and a beautiful poached egg, on a freshly baked croissant.

After breakfast we did a little shopping, I sneakily bought Sam a few presents while I sent him off to look for other things…hehe.

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Our fun Black Friday ended in perfection. A side-by-side massage at Sage Springs Spa at the Sunriver Resort.  This was Sam’s first massage which was a fun bonus! Followed by 30 minutes in their beautiful Oasis Room. A perfect end to a perfect day! Followed by Hallmark Channel Christmas movies, of course!

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Our wonderful time in Bend flew by much to quickly. Before we left, we made pilgrimage to The Sparrow Bakery’s second location. Here is a beautiful latte and some very festive sugar cookies we enjoyed.

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I braved my first Monte Cristo Sandwich at Sparrow as well. I wanted a bagel, but they were out. So I knew it was a sign for me to venture into the great unknown. If you are unfamilar with the amalgamation of things that is a Monte Cristo it contains: turkey, grilled onions, Gruyere cheese, raspberry preserves, egg battered bread (think french bread), and a topping of confectioner’s sugar. It was weird, but not bad. I might even order it again when we return.

So there it is, a brief photo recap of where were were hiding out this Thanksgiving. I hope you all had a wonderful holiday filled with good food and the people you love.

Soon, I’ll share our Christmas decorations with you!

 

Hopefully Helpful Thanksgiving Advice

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Well here we are…Thanksgiving day is nearly upon us. If you are hosting a holiday meal you should have been planning before now, BUT if you have procrastinated….do not despair my friendly advice will see you through to a perfect holiday meal.

ALL ABOUT THE BIRD:

1. Choosing a bird(s): people have lots of opinions about the perfect turkey. Fresh, frozen, free range, heritage? Blah Blah Blah… I think that if cooked well, fresh or frozen turkeys will taste equally delicious. My advice is this, if you have 5-6 days to defrost your turkey just buy it frozen. It will save you a few dollars at the grocery store and it will taste wonderful. Norbest is my favorite turkey brand. If you go this route allow 1 day per 4 pounds for your happy little bird to defrost. Place it on a towel at the bottom of your refrigerator so it doesn’t leak everywhere.

2. Have enough turkey: Let’s face it…most people want white meat. I’m sorry to all you dark meat lovers, but it’s true. So make sure there is enough. Once you start carving a turkey it can be sad just how little breast meat there is. If you need to do more than one turkey, just do it! If you don’t have time, oven space, or the desire to make an entire 2nd turkey, just make an extra turkey breast in your CrockPot. Click Here to find a delicious recipe for a slow-cooker turkey breast from Taste of Home. 

3. If you have ANY turkey questions, there are experts to answer them: The lovely people at Butterball, even if you don’t buy their turkey, are happy to answer all your questions via the Turkey Talk-Line at 1-800-Butterball (1-800-288-8372). They are real live-savers, and they know EVERYTHING about turkey.

4. Choose the right roasting pan: Having the right tools makes cooking easier, but a good cook can make do with even the most primitive tools. Nevertheless a good non-stick roasting pan will make your turkey and your gravy a complete success. Last year my mom bought me an amazing non-stick roasting pan from KitchenAid.  It is a bit of an investment, but it truly changed everything. Instead of trying to scrap up yummy bits for my gravy, I just used a nice silicone spatula to painlessly gather yummy drippings from the pan for my gravy.

5. Don’t stuff the bird: I know many of you are ready to stop reading my blog forever now, and a year ago I would have agreed with you. BUT, last year I tried an “unstuffed bird” and it was so much more moist. And it cooked in much less time.

6. Plan Plan Plan the cooking time: Your bird will need time to roast, so plan oven space accordingly. However, make sure to plan enough time. I roast my turkey at 325° in a conventional oven for about 15 minutes per pound. 

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Side Dishes:

Turkey is great…but there are so many other wonderful things to be eaten as well.

Obviously, the most important side dish is Stuffing or Dressing. This is important, and it is one of my biggest pet peeves. If it is cooked INSIDE THE BIRD it is called stuffing. If you cook it OUTSIDE THE BIRD it is called dressing…capish?

Here is the recipe AND cooking method for my favorite stuffing. Stuffing should be simple and delicious. Many people add weird things like cranberries, chestnuts, or sausage. Please don’t..it’s not good and many of your guests may not eat pork sausage (WE DON”T) so just don’t do it. For goodness sake, one year MARTHA added oysters…and that’s enough to make me leave the table.

If you aren’t stuffing the bird, for heaven’s sake don’t bake the dressing in the oven. It will dry out and be gross. Just cook it in your Crock Pot. This method saves time, space, and requires no thought at all. The first year I made stuffing in my slow cooker it changed my life!

Ian’s Traditional No-Fuss Slow-Cooker Stuffing/Dressing:

1 stalk celery (not rib, the whole stock cut into ribs): washed, dried, chopped

2 medium yellow onions, chopped

4 tablespoons butter or margarine

2 large bags bread crumbs: These are everywhere this time of year I buy Franz. Save the seasoning packet that it comes with. 

5-6 slices stale white bread cubed (just set some out a on the counter a few days before you make your stuffing. Adding this bread will make your stuffing even more moist and delicious.

4-5 cans Swanson’s chicken Broth (don’t buy fat free, it has not flavor)

Sage

Thyme

Salt and Pepper

DIRECTIONS: 

  1. In a large skillet, saute celery and onion in butter/margarine until tender. Set aside.
  2. In very large bowl combine breadcrumbs, stale bread, and sauted veggies.
  3. Add at least 3 tablespoons of sage to mixture, 1-2 teaspoons of Thyme, and seasoning packets from breadcrumbs. Make sure there is enough flavor.
  4. Slowly begin to mix in the chicken broth, one can at a time. Only do this until the mixture is moist. STOP when it is moist.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Put mixture in greased large slow-cooker. Cook on low setting for at least 4 hours.
  7. Or, stuff into your turkey and allow extra cooking time.
  8. Or, (BUT PLEASE DON”T) bake in a greased casserole dish in your oven at 325° for 1.5 hours.

 

Vegetable Sides: 

1. Veggies are always a conundrum to me because no one seems to like the same thing. I usually stick to several standbys. Homeade Creamed Corn…honestly for this search Pinterest for a recipe that sounds appealing to you, I’m still looking for the perfect one. Roasted Acorn Squash. Again find a recipe that you like. And Brussels Sprouts. Sadly in our family I have to eat them alone. I like to steam them and then drizzle a sauce mixture of lemon juice and mayonnaise.

2. Fresh Green Salad: This is always nice to help you feel better after eating so many “cooked” dishes.

3. Mashed Potatoes: Really just an excuse for gravy, but they can be tasty. I do believe that instant mashed potatoes have their time and place, but it is not on Thanksgiving Day. Make your own, mash them with your hand mixer. The best part about these is that they can be made ahead and put in a greased slow-cooker for several hours too. There’s no reason to be slaving over a hot stove for the final hours leading up to your meal. Get some of these things done ahead of time.

 

GRAVY: 

I am always guilty of smothering my Thanksgiving meal in gravy. It’s just so tasty. I love a simply gravy recipe. This recipe from What’s Gaby Cooking is perfect!

 

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We’ll talk about dessert another time. Enjoy! And keep planning!

 

 

 

Quick Weeknight Casserole (Brown Gravy Casserole)

We had a few days off from school, and our weekend was busy so I took a few days off from the blog. But this week we’re back in action.

I’m all about easy, simple, and delicious meals on weeknights. I get home about an hour before Sam, so I usually have time to throw together a nice meal before he gets home.

This is the meal we had last Friday night. Friday night’s are special to us for many reasons, one being because it is a night that we know we will always have time for dinner together and will be able to sit down and have a real meal. Last Friday we had my mom’s Brown Gravy Casserole. This recipe is easy and delicious. Note that this recipe is best served immediately and takes about 25 minutes to prepare. 

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BROWN GRAVY CASSEROLE

1 lb Ground Beef (or Ground Turkey or Veggie Crumbles)

1 Large Bag Wide Egg Noodles

4 Packets Brown Gravy Mix

1/3 to 1/2 Cup Sour Cream

1 8 oz. Package Cream Cheese (cut into small cubes)

3 Cups Water

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Directions: 

  1. In large skillet (stove top or electric) or dutch oven, brown ground beef (or substitute) on medium/high heat until cooked through and drain. Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions.
  2. In skillet with beef, add 4 packages brown gravy mix and 3 cups water. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly until sauce starts to thicken.
  3. Add sour cream to sauce, and stir until fully incorporated. (The amount of sour cream depends on your taste. Try it with 1/3 cup first).
  4. Add cooked noodles to the sauce in the large skillet. (If you used a skillet that was too small…time to move it all to a bigger one!)
  5. Add cubed cream cheese and stir in gently. You want to mix in the cream cheese, but let it maintain the cubes. Heat for 5-10 more minutes on low to medium heat.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve immediately.

Add a fun side dish!

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It is nice to serve this meal with a hearty vegetable side dish. I usually add steamed carrots, but my mom suggested roasting the carrots instead. We enjoyed these amazingly sweet Rainbow Baby Carrots from Fred Meyer.  For this all I did was toss the baby carrots with 3 tablespoons olive oil, minced garlic, and some of my favorite spices (Thyme, Rosemary, Parsley). I cooked them on a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray in a 425 degree oven for 25 minutes. 

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Finally, we only eat dessert on the weekends. I was having trouble with sweet ideas for dessert, and I didn’t have a lot of time to make something elaborate. So my mom suggested a Jell-o No Bake Cheesecake. These are one of the worlds most simple desserts, and I often forget about them. Literally all you do is add margarine and milk. You can even buy one that comes with a cherry topping. I bought this plain mix and topped ours lemon pie filling. So easy…so good. It’s cheesecake, not much can go wrong!

Chili Tacos on a Week Night

Hello Friends. Even with just Sam and I, the struggle to figure out what to have for dinner on a weeknight is hard. Especially when it gets dark so soon, and it seems that we should all be inside huddled next the heater, avoiding the chilly temperatures outside.

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But, my love for tacos (soft shell for me, crunchy shell for Sam)  knows no bounds. And sometimes I want tacos for dinner, but I don’t want to prep any meat or beans. And that’s okay! One my family’s old tricks is to use chili as a substitute. It takes all the prep work out, and literally all you’ll have to do is open up a few containers, and chop up some veggies! It couldn’t be simpler.

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Like I said yesterday, we are trying to cut out ground beef with turkey. We absolutely love NALLEY TURKEY CHILI. It tastes just like its beef counterpart but has considerably less fat and calories. It can usually be found on sale for just 98¢ at our local Winco Foods. Once again, if you haven’t yet discovered this magical land of affordable groceries or, heaven forbid, you live in an area that has not embraced it yet, please please please find a Winco  and see for your self. It is amazing!

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Sam loves Mexican Rice. Whenever we have tacos or burritos, I always add this delicious Mexican Rice. Once again, it is a Winco find. I buy it for $1 so I usually stock up. All you do is add water and simmer for 25 minutes.

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In our house, no taco is complete with out TACO BELL MILD SAUCE. I love this stuff. I could literally just drink it from the bottle. Also, I don’t know how much you pay at your grocery store, BUT…it I found it for only $1.30 at WINCO. 

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I won’t lie… I love to have freshly shredded cheese, but some nights it is not worth the hassle. Just buy a bag of shredded cheese. It’s almost as good, I just don’t think it melts the same.

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We “taco,” (yes it can be a verb) pretty simply. But I HAVE to have a nice sweet onion.

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Our final toppings always include DARIGOLD SOUR CREAM. It really is the best, and a giant tub of the stuff costs less than $5.00 at Costco. And we love love love Herdez Guacamole Salsa too. It has changed our lives. It’s a bit spicy, so beware. And it can be hard to find, but we always buy it at our beloved Target.