Friday, January 22, 2016

Planner/Calendar Holiday Stickers

I've always been a calendar person, I like to be able to look at our schedules at a glance and keep up with birthdays, even though I'm never good at getting cards out on time (sorry family and friends!). 

In college I was a HUGE Franklin Covey person, now I need something with a lot more function. I take a lot of notes and have a running to-do list for my job so I needed something that was dual purpose so I finally broke down and bought an Erin Condren Notebook with the added Calendar to the front. So far I am really liking it and think it will wear well, although regardless if I did like it or not I was going to use it for the money I spent for it! But I wanted to do some more stickers for the calendar pages since I'm a visual person but I didn't want to spend $3.50 on an electronic download from Etsy that I was going to have to print and cut anyway so I just made my own. 

This honestly took me all of 30 minutes to create and the best part is now I have a template that I can make other stickers in the future. These stickers will be just a little smaller than the Notebook Calendar squares because I wanted to be able to write in the spaces as well if there is another activity going on at that time. I then just print them on a Avery Sticker Sheet (mine is #15265) and cut them out with my hand Martha Stewart paper cutter I bought for wedding crafts. (Thanks to Michael's Crafts and their 40% off coupon!) 

You will notice there aren't things on mine like Back to School and Spring Break because well we don't have kids nor are we teachers,but those items could be easily added in place of our Roping stickers. 

Here is a link for a FREE download the PDF file of the stickers, or if you want the Publisher file I set up just leave your email in the comments section below and I will email it to you! 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Savory Onion Soup Pork Chops and Gravy - Sunday Suppers

This is a SUPER simple recipe that would be great for a week night or even a Sunday Supper with family or friends.

The recipe starts with bone-in pork chops, if you have a think about bone-in meet then you can use a boneless but it won't taste as good. I would go with at least an inch up to two inches, mine were 1.5. Smothered on the seasoning, threw in the crock pot with some broth, I used beef broth because I had it open from the chili I made the night before and let them cook. The key is to keep an eye on them and add more liquid as needed and to move the pork chops from standing on end to laying down half way through the cooking process.

To go along with the pork chops and gravy I made simple garlic mashed potatoes and roasted broccoli and mushrooms. You can make mashed potatoes really flavorful by adding tons of fresh garlic (I used three cloves for 3-4 small potatoes) and broth to moisten and you don't have to use as much butter and milk.

Savory Onion Soup Pork Chops and Gravy
4 bone-in pork chops, 1-2 inches thick
1 packet of Onion Soup Mix
1/2-2 cup of broth, divided (chicken or beef work fine)
2 tsp butter
3 tsp flour

Trim any excessive fat off the pork chops. Dry rub the onion soup mix all over the chops, pour any remaining soup mix in the bottom of your crockpot. Place the pork chops upright, like they are standing up on their edges leaning them against the sides or each other then add 1/2 cup of broth. Cook on low for 2-3 hours then place the pork chops in the bottom of the crock pot and stack them on top of each other and add more broth. Remember you will be using this broth to make the gravy so make sure you don't cook all the liquid out so keep adding it to the crockpot. If you feel like it is getting too rich then feel free to add a little water to balance it out. Cook the pork chops for 2-3 more hours, the meat should be falling off the bone and fork tender.

To make the gravy, pour the liquid and all the goodie from the soup mix into a liquid measuring cup. In a shallow skillet, melt the butter on medium-low heat, whisk in the flour until it forms a paste and let it cook for a couple of minutes making sure it doesn't burn. Slowly whisk in the cooking liquid from the crockpot until all lumps are gone. Turn up the heat and whisk occasionally until comes to a simmer and thickens, turn the heat to low and serve over the pork chops and mashed potatoes.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Holiday Leftovers - Ham Salad

So don't cringe when I say Ham Salad...I know a lot of people have a negative connotation when they think of ham salad because their grandma made a soupy mess and slapped it on toast which got soggy instantly or the ham salad you buy at the deli already made is a funny Pepto Bismol color and believe me I don't eat neon colored foods!

But I love Ham Salad, my mom and grandmas made amazing ham salad, lets face it though my mom and grandmas are exceptional cooks, but I make it just a slight bit differently. However Ham Salad is a great option to use some of your left over ham from the holidays or just to give yourself a fast alternative to PB&J's which I purposely don't keep jelly in the house so I don't eat PB&J's ALL THE TIME.

Ham Salad is relatively easy and easily customizable to your tastes. In our home we aren't big sweet relish people so  I like to use dill pickles and keep it salty and tangy vs. sweet. I love my grinder attachment for my Kitchenaid mixer, so easy to screw on and disassemble to clean. I've also learned that my ham grinds a little cleaner when it has been in the freezer for about 30 minutes prior to grinding.

By having the ham slightly frozen it prevents it from getting juicy and you get these awesome pieces of ground ham! 
I split this giant bowl in half, half is going to Ham Salad and half is going to Ham Balls that I'll make tomorrow and freeze for an awesome freezer meal later this winter.

You can use store bought dill pickle relish, but I like to put little whole dill pickles through the grinder because it makes the pieces the same size as the ham, plus it helps clean the ham out of the grinder.
Doesn't everyone love a dill pickle grinder action shot? 

Now is the fun part...take mayo or Miracle Whip (whatever you desire), some mustard, garlic powder and sugar if you prefer it a little sweet. Combine these ingredients to your taste, if you like more mustard flavor add more mustard, etc. Mix it together well and gently mix with your ham and pickle mixture. Make sure you don't over mix because over mixing will make the meat tough. Cover and put in the fridge for the flavors to come together.

You will notice I have dill weed in my picture by not
listed above...well I like the dill in mine so I add
it to mine and leave it out of the hubs. 
Lightly mixed and ready to chill.
EGGGGGGGSSSSS, Wait I almost forgot the eggs, well not really they've been coming to a boil next to me. I use the 13 minute egg method. Place your eggs in a pan and cover them with water, uncovered bring to a boil. Once they are rapidly boiling, turn off the burner and place a lid on the pot. Let them sit for 13 minutes, drain the water, fill the pot with ice and cold water and let the eggs cool down for at least 10 minutes. Peel the eggs and slice them and add them to the Ham Salad.

I like to eat my ham salad on saltine crackers and my hubs likes his on toast. Hope you enjoy!

Ham Salad Recipe (if I must put numbers to it)

2 cups of fresh ground ham
6 baby whole dill pickles ground or 2 TBS dill pickle relish
4 eggs, boiled, peeled, cooled and chopped
1/2 cup mayo or Miracle Whip
1 TBS yellow mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp of dill (optional)
Bread, toast, crackers, etc.

If your ham and pickles aren't already ground then grind them and add to a bowl. In a separate bowl combine mayo, mustard, garlic powder and dill, add to the ham and pickle mixture and gently mix. Add chopped egg and cover, chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes prior to serving. Will keep in the fridge for 3-4 days.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Caribbean Travel Tips

I have been fortunate to go to a lot of different places…some for fun and others for work…and I have learned a LOT about great places to go (that people may not think are good places) and tricks and tips to ensure you have a great time. Below are my Top 8 Tips for a great Caribbean Trip.

Tip 1 – Know the weight restrictions the airline you are flying has on your luggage. Nothing will start a trip off on the wrong foot more than you and your travel buddy mad about having to pay extra $$ to check your heavy luggage. Also some airlines charge you for EVERY checked bag regardless of weight so also know that information so you can budget accordingly. And if you purchase any alcohol, even at the airport you will need to pack it in your checked bag because once you clear customs in the US you have to go back through TSA and your booze will be over 3 ounces. I've had very good luck (knocking on wood) wrapping bottles up in clothes and placing them in the middle of my suitcase. 

Tip 2 – Chewable Pepto Bismol…I don’t have a medical reason for this (I’m sure someone with a medical degree could help with that) but I know if one or two tablets chewed every morning or before every meal will help coat your stomach and help prevent illness. Now is it 100%, NO, but it is an international travel agent trick and every time I’ve used it (Mexico, Jamaica) I’ve never had a problem.

Tip 3 – Pack your own sunscreen, SPF lip balm and after sun lotion. You are going to pay MUCH less for it at home, you know it will be FDA approved. The other benefit is that you will use it and leave the containers in your destination country freeing up space for souvenirs to come home. Pack your sunscreen in a zip lock baggie to prevent spillage.

Tip 4 – Pack ALL liquids, creams, gels, etc. in zip lock baggies and bring extras in case you bring something home that is liquid (ie. Vanilla or Tequila from Mexico or Rum from Jamaica). If you know you are going to possibly bring home something like alcohol also throw in some bubble wrap.

Tip 5 – Make sure your passport expires at least 6 months after the date of your return. For example, if you return on March 15, your passport HAS to expire on September 16 or after. Also make a copy of your passport and place in a separate place from your actual passport in the off chance something happens to yours.

Tip 6 – Snacks. I am a wake-up-after-drinking-and-need-food-immediately person. I also sometimes just want something that reminds me of home. I typically pack cheese/peanut butter sandwich crackers for a snack because I can eat them morning, noon or night. One thing you can’t take is fresh fruit or meat so DO NOT try and take those items with you.

Tip 7 – If you are going to an all-inclusive resort take a bunch of $1 bills with you. If you tip your waiter or waitress or whomever is bringing you drinks, you will get drinks much faster than you cheap friends sitting beside you. I’m not saying flip them a $5 every time you get a drink, but if you give them a $1 every time you and your travel buddy/friends get a round they will take care of you. Even if the country you are in doesn’t work in dollars, they will still take them, trust me.

Tip 8 – If you are going to a country that does not use dollars as their currency…exchange ONLY the money you think you will use when you get to the airport currency exchange OR use the ATM and withdraw the money you need. Currency exchange leaving the country is never as good as when you arrived.

Here are some other posts I have that might help as well: 

Airport Etiquette Series – AttireLinesFood and Baggage Claim

And my friend at Crystal Cattle posted a great post on how to get the most from your airline miles...check it out!