Archive for the ‘Celebrations’ Category

Easy Christmas Tree Cinnamon Rolls

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Easy Christmas Tree Cinnamon Rolls from MomAdvice.com.

Ever since my children were small we have had a tradition of making a Cinnamon Roll Christmas Tree. The best part about this tradition is that it is fast to create, can be decorated by your kids, and it is something they will look forward to every year.

Easy Christmas Tree Cinnamon Rolls from MomAdvice.com. Easy Christmas Tree Cinnamon Rolls from MomAdvice.com.

There is no recipe to this one unless you are feeling ambitious and want to create some easy bread machine cinnamon rolls to make this with, which is something I love to do on Christmas morning!

Shape these into a Christmas tree shape on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake as directed on the packaging. Tint the icing green with a few drops of food coloring and let them decorate the rolls themselves.

I slide the rolls off of the hot cookie sheet and let them decorate while they are still hot, reducing the risk of burn elbows and arms by removing that hot sheet.

Easy Christmas Tree Cinnamon Rolls from MomAdvice.com. Easy Christmas Tree Cinnamon Rolls from MomAdvice.com. Easy Christmas Tree Cinnamon Rolls from MomAdvice.com.

This recipe is practically fool-proof, unless you were up with a screaming baby one night and on Christmas morning grabbed blue instead of green.

And maybe you declared it the year of the retro Christmas tree.

Maybe.

I hope you can embrace this as part of your annual holiday traditions. Be sure to check out my other ideas for Great Family Traditions to Celebrate the Holidays in a MEANINGFUL way. If you didn’t get around to creating an advent calendar yet, don’t worry! Check out my Use What You Have Advent Calendar!

 

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Christmas Gift Ideas Under $25

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Christmas Gift Ideas Under $25 from MomAdvice.com.

As is tradition for the holiday season, today I wanted to share great gift ideas for under $25 to add to your Christmas wish list or to share with someone you love in your life. These are a few of the items that are on my own personal wish list this year!

Mischief Maker Scarf in Navy (Modcloth)

Mischief Maker Scarf in Navy

If you thought I was obsessed with owls this last year, I have found a new obsession with another woodland creature. I am in love with this novelty-printed fox scarf for adding a whimsical layer to my wardrobe. I hope Santa will wrap one of these up for me for under my Christmas tree! ($22.99)

Jane Austen: Seven Novels in One

Jane Austen: Seven Novels (Barnes & Noble Collectible Edition)

I have never tackled a Jane Austen book although I love every movie adaptation I have ever seen of her books. Each Christmas I ask for one of these beautiful reissued classics from Barnes & Noble and try to read it for the year. Why just buy one book though when you can get seven in one? I am adding this affordable 7-in-1 books to my Christmas list this year. ($18)

Work Hard Stay Humble Print

Work Hard Stay Humble Print

I am always looking for prints to add to my office and I absolutely love this reminder for my home office. The Motivated Type offers loads of motivational prints for living in beautiful typography. I would love to fill every room of my home with pretty font-filled motivation, but this print in particular speaks to my heart.  For your $25 budget, you can get a size 11×14 print! ($25)

Celebrate Banner Cake Topper from Lisa Leonard Designs

Celebrate Banner Cake Topper

We are all about celebrating the big and little occasions around here and I would love to get this beautiful, “Celebrate,” banner in silver to top our baked doughnuts, cakes, and pancakes in the morning for those moments. I am a big fan of Lisa Leonard and her amazing company Lisa Leonard Designs. Although this one is priced at $28, she offers a 15% discount if you sign up for her newsletter (see along the left-hand side of her page). What a beautiful detail to add to our family celebrations! ($28)

Oh Kale Yeah Market Tote (West Elm)

Oh Kale Yeah Tote

Man, my farmer’s market visits just got a lot more fun with this hilarious tote from West Elm. In all seriousness, I love a good tote bag and I think this one really delivers on the fun and functional factors. ($18)

Color-Blocked Cake Stands (Anthropologie)

Color-Blocked Cake Stand

Oh, the housewares at Anthropologie just make me swoon. This color-blocked stand would be a perfect addition to my cake stand collection and I love the antique details on this one. Although the $25 budget only affords me the small one, it would be just perfect for my food photography (Small- $16)

Owl Stitch Markers

 Owl Stitch Markers

I may be moving on to the foxes this year, but I still love my owls. For my mother-in-law last year, I got her a cute set of sock monkey stitch markers. She says it is her favorite thing and such a fun addition to her knitting supplies. For knitters, it can be hard to come up with fun new gifts to add to their arsenal of tools, but a cute set of personalized stitch markers are a one-of-a-kind gift that any knitter would love. If these sell out, check winemakerssister for lots of other fun knitting notions and gifts ($11.95)

Headed to Starbucks Hat (Flourish Boutique)

Headed to Starbucks Hat

It’s no secret that I am a big fan of our site sponsor Flourish Boutique! There is rarely a day you will catch me not wearing something from their beautiful shop. This wool hat  is a perfect example of beauty and functionality. I am crazy about anything with rosettes and these neutral colors mean it would match with anything in my wardrobe. Although this is priced a little out of my $25 and under budget, our readers get a 25% off discount code using WEB25, putting me right under budget! ($29.50)

Q&A a Day Journal (Amazon)

Q & A a Day

I am always looking for new ways to journal, but I have a hard time coming up with things to write about, especially on a daily basis. I love this idea for a journal because it offers 365 questions that you can answer over the course of five years. I think this might help me with my writer’s block that I have when trying to find the words to describe our daily life (affilate link to Amazon for purchasing- $14.16)

Forest Saunter Mug (Anthropologie)

Forest Saunter Mug

Well, if you aren’t into woodland creatures, I’m afraid that half of my list just isn’t for you this year! Sorry about that! Every year I try to get one cute new mug and this year Anthropologie captured my heart with this woodland creature mug  with, “these wood are lovely,” nestled inside. I can picture enjoying my morning coffee in this one and the price tag on that fits just right too! ($10)

Love these ideas and looking for more? Be sure to check last year’s list of Christmas Gifts Under $25 for the Ladies in your life! What is on your Christmas list this year?

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2 Ingredient Cranberry Pancake Syrup

Monday, November 25th, 2013

2 Ingredient Cranberry Pancake Syrup

Continuing with our Thanksgiving theme this week, today I wanted to share an easy recipe for Cranberry Pancake Syrup made from your leftover cranberry sauce. This cranberry pancake syrup recipe is made from two simple ingredients; your leftover cranberry sauce and maple syrup.

Walmart challenged me to create a recipe using some of our Thanksgiving leftovers and I immediately thought of this idea that I had for our leftover cranberry sauce.

Brandied Orange & Cranberry Sauce

This was the first year that I made my own cranberry syrup for Thanksgiving and I loved it so much that I wanted to use it as an ingredient in another dish that we could share after the holidays were over. This Brandied Orange & Cranberry Sauce was so heavenly that I knew it would be the perfect accompaniment with a big stack of pancakes.

2 Ingredient Cranberry Pancake Syrup

I couldn’t put this sauce on just any pancakes though, it had to be our family favorite- the Fluffy & Light Pumpkin Pancakes that we share (almost) weekly on Sundays in the autumn months.

When the pumpkin and cranberry are combined together, it is like experiencing Thanksgiving Day all over again! I hope you can give these a try with your own leftover cranberry sauce. I promise, it is a recipe that will not disappoint!

2 Ingredient Cranberry Pancake Syrup

Cranberry Pancake Syrup
Author: 
Recipe type: Condiment
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
An easy two ingredient pancake syrup that can be created from leftover cranberry sauce. Add this delicious syrup on top of a stack of Pumpkin Pancakes for a festive spin!
Ingredients
  • ⅔ cup cranberry sauce
  • 1 cup maple syrup
Instructions
  1. In a saucepan mix together cranberry sauce and maple syrup and heat until warm.
  2. Serve on top of your favorite pancakes.

What is your favorite dish to create with Thanksgiving leftovers?

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Make-Ahead Apple, Sausage, And Sage Sourdough Stuffing

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Make-Ahead  Apple, Sausage, And Sage Sourdough Stuffing from MomAdvice.com.

I’m back again with another fun Thanksgiving make-ahead recipe. Today’s recipe is an apple, sausage, and sage sourdough stuffing that tastes just as good as it sounds. This recipe is easy to prepare and can be made-ahead and placed in your freezer for the big day, which means one less thing for you to worry about on the day of your big feast!

Make-Ahead  Apple, Sausage, And Sage Sourdough Stuffing from MomAdvice.com.Have you ever made your own stuffing? It is one of the easiest and most rewarding dishes to create for the holiday season. My grandma made a mean dressing when I was growing up, but stuffing was definitely something that came out of a box.  I remember in sixth grade when we had to do a Thanksgiving play and I was supposed to pretend to make stuffing and had no idea what the teacher was talking about when he handed me a loaf of bread and celery.

What the heck was that for?

Being the true foodie I am,  I still don’t think the boxed stuff is that bad, and you can’t beat the ease of preparation. It doesn’t hurt to gourmet things up a bit once in awhile though, especially when you can put this in your freezer and save it for the big day!

Make-Ahead  Apple, Sausage, And Sage Sourdough Stuffing from MomAdvice.com.

The biggest challenge with stuffing is all of the dicing and chopping to get the ingredients prepared. A handy food chopper can be your best friend when chopping up ingredients like onions or herbs. Once the ingredients are chopped though, it is just a simple matter of mixing them up and then placing the stuffing in the pan for baking.

Make-Ahead  Apple, Sausage, And Sage Sourdough Stuffing from MomAdvice.com.

I really love the ingredients in this recipe because they are the perfect balance of sweet and savory. I used turkey sausage in this recipe, but you could certainly substitute with chicken sausage instead. I love Granny Smith apples for baking because they maintain their texture and firmness in this dish. Leave the skins on for a little added color to your stuffing (not to mention, a little fiber too!)

Make-Ahead  Apple, Sausage, And Sage Sourdough Stuffing from MomAdvice.com.

I baked up a little dish for you to show you what this looks like when it is all done. The top is crunchy and the inside is delicious and fluffy. The apples add tartness while the onions, celery, and turkey sausage add a little savoriness to the stuffing. When these ingredients are all baked together, it is like a little symphony in your mouth! Reserve a few sprigs of sage to garnish the top of your dish!

Make-Ahead: Apple, Sausage, And Sage Sourdough Stuffing
Author: 
Recipe type: Side
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12-14
 
A little bit sweet, a little bit savory. This sourdough stuffing filled with apples, sausage, and onions is a a delicious crowd-pleaser that can be made ahead for the holiday season.
Ingredients
  • 1 loaf sourdough bread, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 11 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¾ pound fresh mild turkey or chicken sausage
  • 4 Granny Smith Apples
  • 3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2½ cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • ⅓ cup chopped fresh sage leaves
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Reserved sage leaves (for garnish)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Spread bread cubes out on two large rimmed baking sheets and bake until dried but not browned, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Remove the sausage from the casings, and add it to the skillet to cook, breaking up chunks with a spoon, until browned, about 6 minutes.
  3. Add apples, celery, onion and butter and cook, stirring occasionally, until apple and vegetables are softened, 8 to 10 minutes more. Add to toasted bread. Stir in broth, poultry seasoning, sage, salt and pepper.
  4. Add stuffing to a freezer-safe greased 9x13 foil pan. Place in the freezer (for up to four weeks). 1-3 days before, remove the stuffing from the freezer. Drizzle a ½ cup additional chicken stock over the top to moisten the stuffing. Heat oven to 350°F and bake until lightly browned and crisp on top, 50 to 60 minutes. This stuffing can also be stuffed in your turkey, just be sure that the stuffing has cooled before proceeding.
  5. Garnish with fresh sage leaves.

 

Are you following along in our make-ahead Thanksgiving series? Be sure to check out our Brandied & Orange Cranberry SauceMashed PotatoesGreen Bean Casserole, Make-Ahead Gravy, and Fancied-Up Store-Bought Pies. Tomorrow our series will end with an easy bread machine roll recipe that you just won’t want to miss!

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Make-Ahead Gravy

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Make-Ahead Gravy Recipe from MomAdvice.com.

I’m back with another make-ahead recipe for Thanksgiving Day today. This week I am sharing a fantastic Make-Ahead Gravy recipe that you can have waiting in your freezer for the big day. I am excited about this recipe because it provides, yet again, one more dish that you can create to make your day as stress-free as possible.

Make-Ahead Gravy Recipe from MomAdvice.com.Make-Ahead Gravy Recipe from MomAdvice.com.

To begin this recipe and create the base, without the turkey, you can use chicken or turkey wings along with onions that you roast in your oven to make those magical drippings that you need to create the base of this gravy recipe. I was not able to locate turkey wings at our market so I substituted with the always available chicken wings. Don’t be surprised if your kitchen already smells like Thanksgiving with just the base of this recipe!

Make-Ahead Gravy Recipe from MomAdvice.com.

After scraping your roasting pan up and getting all of the stuck on bits that make your dressing so rich and flavorful, add these to your pot along with some other components like carrots, celery, fresh herbs, turkey or chicken stock, and a little poultry seasoning to round out the flavorings. Allow this to simmer for an hour and a half and then, after straining, you can add the flour mixture to the gravy to thicken it.

There you have it, an easy make-ahead gravy that makes eight cups of delicious gravy for the big day!

Make_Ahead_Gravy_Recipe_1

Make-Ahead Gravy
Author: 
Recipe type: Side
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 15-20
 
Don't panic about the gravy this year! Try this easy make-ahead gravy recipe that makes eight cups of gravy for your Thanksgiving feast.
Ingredients
  • 6 turkey or chicken wings
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tablespooons olive oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 quarts chicken broth, divided
  • ¾ cup chopped carrot
  • 1-2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme (leave on the stem and add to the pot)
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Arrange a single layer of turkey or chicken wings in a large roasting pan. Scatter the onions over the top of the wings. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in the preheated oven for 1-1/4 hours or until wings are browned.
  2. Place browned wings and onions in a 5 quart stockpot. Add water to roasting pan and stir, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Pour the the water from the pan into the stockpot. Stir in 6 cups broth, carrot, thyme, poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper (to taste). Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 1-1/2 hours.
  3. Remove wings from the pot and place on a cutting board. When the wings are cool, pull off the skin and meat. Discard the skin and save the meat for another use. Strain contents of stockpot through a large strainer into a 3 quart saucepan. Press on the vegetables to extract any remaining liquid. Discard the vegetables and skim the fat off the liquid. Bring the contents of the pot to a gentle boil.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk flour into the remaining 2 cups chicken broth until smooth. Gradually whisk the flour mixture into the simmering turkey broth; simmer 3-4 minutes or until the gravy has thickened. Stir in the butter and pepper. Serve immediately or pour into containers and refrigerate or freeze.

Are you following along in our make-ahead Thanksgiving series? Be sure to check out our Brandied & Orange Cranberry SauceMashed Potatoes, Green Bean Casserole, and Fancied-Up Store-Bought Pies. Tomorrow we tackle the stuffing with a unique spin using sausage, apples, and sage. You won’t want to miss it!

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Make-Ahead Green Bean Casserole

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

Make-Ahead Green Bean Casserole from MomAdvice.com.

Continuing with my make-ahead Thanksgiving theme this week, I wanted to share with you a make-ahead green bean casserole made only with the freshest ingredients and that can be made ahead and tucked in you freezer for the big day.

Walmart challenged me to share my meal preparation strategies for getting my Thanksgiving dinner on the table and my strategy this year, and all the years in the past, is to get as much done early as possible so that I can truly enjoy the day with my family. I am taking you along on my make-ahead Thanksgiving meal preparation journey by providing some really great dishes that you can make early so you also can enjoy that special day with your family.

Have you been following along in our make-ahead series? If not, here are the recipes I have created so far!

Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Dish Ideas:

Brandied & Orange Cranberry Sauce

Mashed Potatoes

Fancied-Up Store-Bought Pies (make the whipped cream & fun pie additions a couple of days before your feast)

This week I will be sharing my final dishes:  a Make-Ahead Gravy & a Make-Ahead Apple, Sausage, & Sage Sourdough Stuffing, and Make-Ahead Buttery Bread Machine Rolls so please come back so you don’t miss those fun dishes!

Make-Ahead Green Bean Casserole from MomAdvice.com.

Green Bean Casserole is one of those dishes that our family absolutely loves, but this year I wanted to create a dish that didn’t rely on canned food ingredients and instead relied only upon fresh ingredients.

Fresh green beans and mushrooms are tossed in the the world’s most delicious cream sauce and then topped with a crunchy topping of fried onions, that we all know and love, along with a healthy dash of panko (found in the Asian foods section of Walmart) to create the ultimate crunchy topping.

Make-Ahead Green Bean Casserole from MomAdvice.com.

To prep this dish ahead, I purchased some inexpensive foil pans and poured my casserole into it. On the lid, I jotted down the instructions for the big day. The panko & onion topping was poured into a baggie and placed in my pantry so it doesn’t get soggy in the freezer.

Make-Ahead Green Bean Casserole from MomAdvice.com.The difference between the canned casserole versus the fresh casserole is amazingly different. The green beans are crispy, the cream sauce and mushrooms remind me of a rich and creamy mushroom soup, and the panko adds a crispy crunch to the dish that helps to round out the flavors. Although this dish is far more time consuming than a canned casserole, one bite will have you (and your guests) convinced that this is a dish worth repeating every year!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Make-Ahead Green Bean Casserole
Author: 
Recipe type: Casserole
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10-12
 
A completely fresh green bean casserole that can be made-ahead for your Thanksgiving feast. Once you try this fresh take on this casserole, you'll never go back to the canned type again!
Ingredients
  • ½ cup panko
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 cups canned fried onions (about 6 oz.)
  • 2 lbs green beans, ends trimmed and halved
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 lb sliced white button mushrooms
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1½ cups heavy cream
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, mix together panko and fried onions with two tablespoons of olive oil. Set aside.
  2. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. of water to boil. Add two tablespoons of salt and the green beans. Cook beans until bright green and crisp-tender, approximately 6 minutes.
  3. Drain beans in colander and plunge immediately into ice water to stop cooking. Set aside.
  4. Add butter to your now-empty pot and melt over medium-high heat until foaming subsides. Add mushrooms, garlic, ¾ teaspoons salt, and ⅛ teaspoons pepper; cook until mushrooms release moisture and liquid evaporates, about 6 minutes.
  5. Add flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in broth and bring to simmer, stirring constantly. Add cream, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until sauce is thickened and reduced to 3½ cups, about 12 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Add green beans to sauce and stir until evenly coated. Arrange in even layer in 3 quart (or 13 x 9") baking dish.
  7. Store your onion & panko topping in a baggie in your pantry. Freeze in a freezer-safe container or in a foil pan. Allow the casserole to thaw 1-3 days before your event.
  8. Heat the casserole in a 425 degree oven for 10 minutes, then add the topping and bake for 1-20 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the sauce is bubbling on the edges.

Do you have any Thanksgiving meal planning strategies to share? Feel free to leave them in the comments below!

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5 Ways to Decorate Store-Bought Pies

Monday, November 11th, 2013

5 Ways to Decorate Store-Bought Pies from MomAdvice.com.

The holiday preparation continues this week on the blog. Today  I want to showcase 5 easy ways to decorate store-bought pies for the holidays. Supermarket pies can still look beautiful and will taste even better with my ideas for some fun toppings and additions.

Walmart challenged me to share a fun Thanksgiving project with you and I knew that this was a topic that I have been thinking about a lot. Although we have a fantastic pumpkin pie recipe on here and even a step-by-step picture tutorial for making the perfect pie crust, I know that many of us just don’t have the desire to tackle pie baking. This post is especially for you and I hope you can create a swoon-worthy dessert table that will leave people guessing if you made those pies or not.

Spiced Whipped Cream

Add a Delicious Homemade Topping

Although your pie may not be homemade, your toppings can really stand out with just a few simple ingredients that will add a lot of flavor to your pie. One of my favorite toppings is a Spiced Whipped Cream that gets its hint of spices from ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and a little sugar. It is the perfect accompaniment to your store-bought pumpkin or pecan pies for the holidays.
Cranberry Crunch Pie ToppingAnother idea for layering on the flavors is to add texture through a fun crunchy pie topping. One of our favorites that I created for our pies last year was an easy Cranberry Crunch Pie Topping made from amaretto cookies and fresh cranberries.

5 Ways to Decorate Store-Bought Pies from MomAdvice.com.Add Unique Details

One of the greatest tools that I got for my holiday baking this past year was a set of piecrust cutters that I found on Williams Sonoma. Not only are these great tools to keep handy for masking any flaws on your homemade crusts, but they can double as a great detail to adorn store-bought pies.

5 Ways to Decorate Store-Bought Pies from MomAdvice.com.

Purchase pie crust from the refrigerated section of the store and then roll out on a lightly floured surface. Dip your cutters in a little flour and then push down and press these cutters to create your shape. Bake these adorable details in a 400 degree oven for 6-8 minutes on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Allow these to cool and then decorate the tops of your pies with these.

These little details are also so pretty to sprinkle on your dessert table and add that extra festive touch.

5 Ways to Decorate Store-Bought Pies from MomAdvice.com. 5 Ways to Decorate Store-Bought Pies from MomAdvice.com.

Make a Mini Pie Spread

When I spotted these adorable mini pies in the bakery section, I knew this would be another fun spin on pies to try for the holidays. These mini pies are only $.68 each and come in a variety of flavors year-round. For smaller families, these store-bought pies offer the perfect serving size and give everyone exactly what they love the most.

Adorn these with the smaller size pastry cutouts and add a bowl of spiced whipped cream in the center so that everyone can create their own pie experience.

5 Ways to Decorate Store-Bought Pies from MomAdvice.com. 5 Ways to Decorate Store-Bought Pies from MomAdvice.com. 5 Ways to Decorate Store-Bought Pies from MomAdvice.com.

Give the Gift of Pie

One of my favorite things to give as a hostess gift is a sweet treat for their hospitality. Nothing is sweeter than a little individual treat just for me after entertaining, at least that is my opinion, and one of my favorite gifts to give happens to be my little peppermint cheesecakes in a jar.

If you are short on time though, consider purchasing these mini pies as hostess gifts for the holidays. Dress it simply in some festive ribbon and tie a bow around it to create a sweet little gift to give for the holidays.

At just $.68 each, these are a sweet way to say thank you without spending a lot.

5 Ways to Decorate Store-Bought Pies from MomAdvice.com.

Create a Beautiful Display

I love that when I posted a picture of this pie display on Instagram & Facebook that people were asking if this was even real. I think it really goes to show that with a few easy details and staging, you can take store-bought pies to another level.

With this display I used mismatched cake stands in varying heights to create a display. Don’t be afraid to drape a cloth napkin over a stand to make it cohesive or even create a stand out of a teacup and plate and cover it with the cloth napkin, if you are short on serving pieces. If you have multiple dishes out, consider adding these cute chalkboard label frames to help people navigate the dessert table.

Sprinkle pastry cutouts along the tablecloth to decorate the display and pull in leaves, bare branches, or create a unique centerpiece like I did this year to add some color to the table.

I hope these ideas are inspiring and that you will find a new way to love store-bought pies this year with these creative details!  Oh, and enjoy all that free time you have now that you aren’t baking this year.

Winning!

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Make Ahead Holiday Mashed Potatoes for a Crowd

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Make Ahead Holiday Mashed Potatoes for a Crowd from MomAdvice.com.

Today I wanted to continue with our theme of prepping our freezers for Thanksgiving Day. This recipe for Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes has been a huge favorite of mine over the years. These make-ahead mashed potatoes create the creamiest potatoes that freeze beautifully and warm up easily in the slow cooker.

Walmart challenged me to come up with some strategies for party-planning that have helped me. My number one tip for holiday party and dinner preparation is to make as much ahead of time that you possibly can for your holiday feasts.

This mashed potato recipe is the perfect example of something that I used to stress about for the holidays and now I already have this dish sitting in my freezer for the big day. No need to take up space on your stove to reheat these, they heat beautifully in the slow cooker and can even be doubled for a big crowd.

Make-Ahead Holiday Dish Ideas from MomAdvice.com.

Here are my dishes and recipes that I create in my kitchen now for holiday prep later. These are all dishes that you can freeze or create before your big day that will be a huge time-saver for your holiday parties and meals.

I talk a lot about this in my book, “The Good Life For Less.” In fact, I have an entire chapter devoted towards saving money and making the holidays easier on your family.

Prep These Dishes Ahead

 

Pie Crusts (freeze in disks)

Dinner Rolls & Cinnamon Rolls

Cornbread or Quick Breads

Cranberry Sauce

Soup

Cheese Balls & Dips

Mashed Potatoes (see recipe below)

Snack or Nut Mixes

With all of these dishes prepped in your freezer, party planning,  & meal preparation just got a whole lot easier. It leaves your time free to focus on preparing your home and the main dish for your holiday meals.

Be sure to give these make-ahead mashed potatoes a spin for your holiday feasting. I guarantee that these potatoes will go fast, are stress-free, and a huge crowd-pleaser!

Make Ahead Holiday Mashed Potatoes for a Crowd from MomAdvice.com.

Holiday Mashed Potatoes for a Crowd
Author: 
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: Holiday
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12-15
 
Make these crowd-pleasing mashed potatoes before your holiday meal and freeze them until the big day. Reheat in your slow cooker to save space in your oven.
Ingredients
  • 5 pounds of potatoes
  • 1 block (8 oz) of low-fat cream cheese, softened
  • ¾ cup low fat sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ¾ cup milk (or more if desired)
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • Paprika (optional)
Instructions
  1. Peel potatoes and cut into small cubes. Throw the potatoes in a large pot filled with cold water.
  2. Cook for 25 minutes or until fork-tender.
  3. Drain the potatoes and put them back into the hot pot. Add cream cheese, butter, milk, and salt. Mash with a potato masher or use a hand mixer to whip the potatoes.
  4. Spoon mixture into a freezer-safe container and label.
  5. On Your Holiday Day: Put potatoes in the fridge 1-2 days before to allow them to completely thaw. Spray slow cooker with cooking spray and put potatoes in the slow cooker. Brush the top of the potatoes with a tablespoon of butter and sprinkle with paprika. Cook on low for two to four hours.
  6. Alternate cooking method- Bake the potatoes at 350 degrees for thirty to forty minutes or until completely hot.

What are some of your favorite make-ahead dishes for the holidays? Do you have any strategies for making holiday party planning easier?

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Make-Ahead: Brandied Orange & Cranberry Sauce

Monday, November 4th, 2013

Make-Ahead Brandied Orange & Cranberry Sauce from MomAdvice.com

Certain aspects of Thanksgiving preparation seem intimidating to me. Making a homemade cranberry sauce was one of those things. This recipe for Brandied Orange & Cranberry Sauce though was so easy to create and so delicious that I can’t imagine buying the canned variety again.

For the holidays, Walmart asked me to create a dish you could share around your Thanksgiving table. It seemed like the perfect time to tackle making my own cranberry sauce.

Make-Ahead Brandied Orange & Cranberry Sauce from MomAdvice.comMake-Ahead Brandied Orange & Cranberry Sauce from MomAdvice.com

All of the flavor in this dish comes from, of course, the use of fresh cranberries and the zest and juice from fresh oranges. You need a microplane (can be found at just about any kitchen supplies store) to achieve the finest orange zest to be incorporated throughout the dish. The most time-consuming process about this sauce is the zesting and squeezing of your fresh oranges. I promise that it will be worth it!

The other key component with this sauce is a tablespoon of brandy. I tasted the sauce without the brandy and then I tasted the sauce after the brandy and the difference is substantial and worth the extra splurge. An entire bottle of brandy costs about $6 and I incorporate this in everything from quick pan sauces for meats to my favorite slow cooker lemon chicken recipe to my fresh blueberry sangria lemonade.

Make-Ahead Brandied Orange & Cranberry Sauce from MomAdvice.com

You want to cook this sauce until the berries have popped and the sauce begins to thicken.  After the full cooking time I have listed, you may believe your sauce is still too thin and watery. Do not worry!  

Remove the sauce from the heat and allow it to come down to room temperature.  A beautiful discovery will be found when you check back in your pot and realize that your sauce is thick and rich, just like you had always envisioned. You see, cranberries have their own natural pectin (who knew?) that allows the cranberry sauce to thicken. In fact, cranberries are one of the highest pectin containing fruits.

Cranberry sauce is a great make-ahead dish that you can start preparing now for your big day. Once your sauce has cooled, you can place it in your freezer to save for the big day! Just place your sauce either double-bagged in freezer bags and label or in a freezer-safe container. I would pull it out a few days before the big day or for a quicker idea for thawing, place the freezer bag of sauce in a bowl of warm water for an hour, or until it has thawed. 

Stay tuned for ideas for how to use up any leftover sauce you might have later this month!

Brandied Orange & Cranberry Sauce
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Holiday
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
Once you make this cranberry sauce, you will never buy the canned variety again. Make this dish ahead & freeze for your Thanksgiving meal.
Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup orange zest (approximately the zest from four oranges)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • ⅔ cup orange juice (I used the juice from four oranges)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 cups cranberries
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon brandy
Instructions
  1. In a small pan over medium heat, combine the orange zest and water. Cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Drain, reserving zest and ⅓ cup liquid.
  2. To the reserved liquid, add the sugar, cinnamon, orange juice and lemon juice. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes uncovered, stirring often.
  3. Add cranberries; increase heat to medium-high and boil for about 30 minutes. The cranberries should pop and the sauce will be slightly thickened. Once cooled, the sauce will be much thicker (don't worry!)
  4. Remove from heat, stir in brandy.
  5. See above for directions on freezing or store in your refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Looking for more great dishes to make ahead? Check out these 7 Easy Make-Ahead Appetizers for the holidays!

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Knitted Leaf Centerpiece

Monday, October 28th, 2013

Knitted Leaf Centerpiece from MomAdvice.com.

I have been thinking about creating a knitted leaf centerpiece for so long and I can’t wait to show off my knitted leaf centerpiece that you can create to adorn your Thanksgiving table or as a fun addition to your holiday decorations. This thrifty knitted leaf centerpiece takes less time than you might think and is so much fun to knit up.

I am teaming up with Walmart for this fun project and being a DIY blogger for them is truly one of my favorite jobs. Over the years I have working with them, their knitting & crochet section of their store has grown significantly and they now offer every color in the rainbow for yarn and fun notions to organize and tackle all of your knitting & crochet projects.

Walmart Yarn Display From the knitting/crochet accessories section, you will need size 5 straight needles. If you want to vary the sizes though of your leaves, you can select anything between 2-5 to play around with different sizes. This might be fun especially if knitting the leaves in just one color.

Knitted Leaf Centerpiece from MomAdvice.com.

For this project, you can select any yarn except the super bulky yarns to work with. After working with several different types of yarn I would highly recommend the Lion Brand Vanna’s Choice in either solid or patterned finishes for this project or the Red Heart Soft Yarn for a soft & smooth finish on your leaves. Of course, this project is also a fantastic little stash buster and a great way to use up those odds & ends from other projects too.

Knitted Leaf Centerpiece from MomAdvice.com.

Knitted_Leaves-4

I gathered some branches from our backyard for the branches of this centerpiece and then would knit and add a leaf to the branches as I went along until I felt the entire piece was full enough. You could make this piece smaller or larger depending on your own centerpiece needs. Each leaf was secured to the branches using a small scrap of yarn and double knotting it to the ends of each of the branches. I then trimmed the edges with a pair of scissors.

No need to knit the leaf stick on these, a huge time-saver when creating this many leaves, just leave them as they are without the leaf stick attachment.

The vase I already owned, but you could certainly buy a new vase for your centerpiece or repurpose a tall glass jar from your cupboard. I found this vase when pulling together my tips and tablescape last year for setting the perfect Thanksgiving table!

Knitted Leaf Centerpiece from MomAdvice.com.

I have fallen so in love with this centerpiece that I doubt I will ever put it away. As we await Thanksgiving, it has been a nice addition to my new-to-me stained & painted thrift store table I worked on last month.

Want to make a Knitted Thanksgiving Centerpiece of your own? Grab this FREE knitted leaf pattern from Natural Suburbia. Oh, and let’s be friends on Ravelry! It’s where I get all my best knitting ideas!

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