Posted by Megan | Misc, Quick, Snack

We like to do an appetizers night, the evening before any major holiday. It should come as no surprise then, that in the evenings leading up to Christmas, my mother planned a bit of an “appetizerpalooza” by serving some old favorites and a new recipe or two (at least new to us). We had a little bit of everything as far as the spread went – classic Southern (sausage balls), typical party food (sticks ‘n stones), Mediterranean fare (baked feta with marinara) and my mothers famous Mexican 7-layer dip. We gorged ourselves on these dishes, not really leaving much room for Christmas dinner on Thursday, but satisfied with the end result. While the ingredients in some of these may not be within our “normal” realm, just live a little – it’s okay to indulge in moderation! Be warned in advance that several (okay, all) of these are very addictive, so pay attention while you’re eating to try and control yourself from overdoing! In particular, the 7-layer dip and the Sticks ‘n Stones go very quickly in a crowd!

Rum Balls

Posted by Megan | Dessert

Well folks, we hope you had a lovely season of holidays and are gearing up for the new year! We have been having a lovely break so far, including spending Christmas in Fairfax, Boxing Day in Blacksburg, and then have now made our way to Arkansas to spend the majority of the rest of our break! We have been enjoying eating lots of different and new recipes, including some fun Southern foods, like this recipe. After spending 12 hours in the car driving from Virginia to Arkansas yesterday, I could’ve stood to have a batch of these rum balls around. But alas, they are still in Fairfax, but available to you here.

I made a thing and the thing was really really good. I love being able to say that on this blog!! Y’all know how rare it is for me to be the head chef, but a few weeks ago Will was really stressed with schoolwork, so I had to take the reins on the cooking train. Each time I share a new recipe that I’ve made with you lovely people, it reminds me why I started this blog AND shows me how far I’ve come, personally, in the last three years. Particularly if that recipe is as wonderfully delightful as this one was. There is a certain satisfaction from making something so tasty that you are happy to eat it for days and days, and to even pull it back out of the freezer to eat a couple weeks later. And who knew that type of recipe would have collard greens hiding in it? Even I cast a light of doubt on the poor greens, hesitating about their contribution to this recipe. However, fear not, for this recipe will complete you, particularly if you are of the vegetarian or vegan variety and cannot partake in its very friendly counterpart, African Beef Stew.

If the Thanksgiving post was tardy, then this post is so beyond belated. I want to wrap up as many 2014 recipes IN 2014 as I can, before the new year full of new recipes arrives. This last week of December will essentially be a race to the finish, to see if I can share what we were up to, in the appropriate year! That being said, we’ll be traveling so much in the next two weeks, that we may not have any recipes to post in the new year, if I meet my goal. HAH who am I kidding? Of course we’ll be cooking along the way, especially considering we’re celebrating two Christmas’ before 2015 arrives.

Since Will and I are traveling extensively for Christmas this year (road trip!!), we decided to do our own mini-Christmas before leaving town, so we weren’t lugging gifts to our respective parents homes, in anticipation of driving halfway across the country and back with them. And after opening all our gifts from each other and finding lots of kitchen gems (including two glorious new cookbooks from our friend Courtney), I remembered that I hadn’t even blogged about Thanksgiving yet! The shame. Between wrapping up my bosses’ last week in the office, doing some major updates on my computer and generally socializing our way through the week of holiday get-togethers (aka: drinking more than we normally do in a month’s time, in a week), I figured I should set aside a few minutes to get this up on the blog before Christmas came and passed.

I can’t believe it’s only a week away from Christmas and I haven’t been baking more! Typically this time of year, I’m up to my ears in baking, but we’ve just been so busy that I haven’t managed to get going yet. So to inspire myself, I’m going to share this new recipe for you that I made at Thanksgiving, but that is the perfect holiday treat! Will’s not a huge person so he typically requests gingerbread-y things around the holiday season. Me? I’m a peppermint myself, though that’s not limited to the holiday season. But Will loves his gingerbread flavored treats, like these ah-maz-ing cookies, so I indulge him, particularly at this time of year. When I last visited Pinterest for a hot sec – which basically never happens anymore – I saw this recipe on my feed and pinned it ASAP because well, I knew we’d love it. It immediately jumped to the top of the “to try” list and off I went.

Baked Ziti

Posted by Megan | Dinner, Pasta, Vegetarian

We don’t often make traditional comfort foods in our family, but when we do, we ensure they are smothered in as much cheese as possible. Nothing says delicious like a simple pasta bake, covered in cheese and spaghetti sauce. We’re just going to pretend like that small amount of Caesar salad on the plate (pictured) made up for the ridiculous amount of calories that were in this ziti dinner. And we’ll also just pretend that bread with a slab of butter isn’t there either. I think the theory behind this recipe was very much “go big or go home” because if you’re going to make a casserole, it might as well be decadent. The crowning achievement of the decision to make this recipe? We made it the night before Thanksgiving. That’s right folks – we didn’t think we would consume enough casseroles and calories the next day, so we made sure to consume a huge cheesy, pasta dinner the night before. It was amazing we weren’t all 10 pounds heavier after Thanksgiving day, between all the cheese those two days.

Oh don’t mind us – we’re just sitting here messing around on Buzzfeed, watching some guy serenade his cows on trombone. Too bad I don’t get this same effect with the cats when I play clarinet…Will has clearly hit that point in the semester where he can almost do no more work, as evidenced by our increase in Buzzfeed sessions. I mean really, at this point, I don’t know what he would do without it. But a week from today, one glorious week from this evening, we will be sitting on ours bums doing NOTHING (that’s right: no-things) because he will be done with class for the semester. Which is a big hoo-ray in my book, because my office is winding down for the year as well. And in two weeks, we will be on our (almost) two-week long vacation to visit family YAY!

What a beautiful winter day it is – the sun is out, the leaves are falling and the temperature is just right! Oscar certainly is enjoying basking in the sunlight this morning, taking in all the beauty of the woods behind us (what a lucky boy!). It’s hard to believe yesterday was so gross and rainy and overall, completely disgusting out. Today’s weather is perfect for going to Grand Illumination with friends, tonight! Crisp days like this make me so happy. I’m looking forward to wrapping some Christmas presents, working some Symphonia concerts, then spending the evening with some warm apple cider in Colonial Williamsburg, watching the fireworks!

It’s hard to believe that we are less than three weeks away from Christmas! While we’re not a huge Christmas people, I am looking forward to going to cut our tree this weekend and getting our decor out and doing a little decor shopping at HomeGoods and World Market. I’m happy to report that a large chunk of my Christmas shopping is done already (yay cyber Monday!) and now I’m just playing the waiting game on package arrivals. The only thing I’ve forgotten to do so far (oops) is order Christmas cards, but it’s on the to-do list for this weekend. It amazes me every year how much there is that we “have” to do at the holiday season and how the money just disappears in doing it! Hah! But I love giving gifts and feel like I’ve got some fun, creative gifts up my sleeve this year. My darling husband has already guessed some of the things he’s getting, per usual, and I’ve finally learned to not be bothered that he knows 90% of what he’s going to open on Christmas day, weeks in advance, despite my best efforts at keeping things secret. Either way, I can’t believe the countdown is here and I’m looking forward to hearing Christmas music in my piano lessons for the next couple weeks- the kiddos always love it!