Blogger Secret Santa

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This year I had the chance to participate in a really awesome blogger Secret Santa exchange, hosted by the women behind Classy Cathleen and Living the Gray Life. I couldn’t wait for my Secret Santa gift to arrive, and when it did, I was so happy with what I received from Kristine, a college student who posts great advice and tidbits about her life at My Little Box of Tricks. Thank you, Kristine!!

I opened the box to see this really pretty and sweet card (the tissue paper was much neater; this was after I tried to re-create it, following my tearing open the box and rummaging through it):

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She got me sour candy! Yum! So excited I had to take a picture with it even though it was morning and I looked like a sleepy mess 🙂

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Along with the candy, I received some cookie cutters (perfect!) and a really gorgeous journal with pages that shine on the sides:

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I even used the cookie cutters today when baking my grandma’s Hungarian honey cookies!

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I definitely want to do the blogger Secret Santa again next year, and maybe some of you can join, too. And now…onto Christmas gifts!

Recipe: Applesauce Chicken Casserole

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On weeks that Todd and I are both super busy with work, it helps to cook a few simple-to-make dishes on a Sunday, especially ones that can last for a few days. But if we’re going to eat the same food several nights in a row, it needs to be tasty. With that in mind, I created this applesauce chicken casserole; it’s based on an apple-cider chicken recipe, but I added tons of vegetables and used applesauce because I didn’t have any cider. It worked really well, giving the chicken a yummy coating that crisped nicely during roasting without burning. And there was a ton of food, so we definitely had enough for the next couple of evenings! Here’s the recipe…

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The casserole: toasted breadcrumbs, crisp chicken, and a bed of healthy veggies.

Ingredients
~1 tbsp. butter, softened
~1/2 cup apple sauce
~1/4 cup chopped parsley
~1 medium yellow onion
~10 ounces sliced mushroom
~4 ounces baby carrots, cut in half lengthwise
~1/2 small head cauliflower, broken into florets
~1/2 small sweet dumpling squash, cut into chunks and softened in microwave
~1/4 cup cooked peas
~Salt, to taste
~Pepper, to taste
~1/4 cup vegetable oil
~1.5 lbs chicken thighs
~1/4 cup bread crumb tossed with a sprinkle of parmesan

Instructions
~Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
~In a small bowl, mix butter, applesauce, and parsley until well combined.

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~In the bottom of a rectangular baking dish, scatter onion, mushrooms, carrots, cauliflower florets, squash, and peas. Season with salt and pepper, add oil, then toss to coat.

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I used a purple cauliflower I found at the farmer’s market. It looked so pretty!

~Dunk each piece of chicken in applesauce mixture until well coated. Set aside  remaining applesauce, then arrange chicken pieces, skin side up, over vegetables. Pour remaining applesauce mixture over chicken and let soak into veggies below.

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~Roast for 30 minutes, then lower temperature to 375 degrees. Roast until vegetables are tender and chicken reads 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about another 30 minutes. Add bread crumb and parmesan topping and roast until bread crumbs are lightly toasted, about 10 minutes.
~Serve and enjoy 🙂

It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas…

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We’re working hard at work to get the February issue out the door, so I’ll save my lengthier posts for next week. For now, a photo tour of what the start of the holiday season looks like in this little nook of the world!

First, our dining room and our bathroom, which have both gone red and green…

We hung our cute Mickey & Minnie stockings in the living room (can you see we have a Disney theme going on? That’s Dale in our table centerpiece, not to mention the cookie jar and Advent calendars nearby.)

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And, of course, here’s a before and after of our tree!

Last weekend we spent some time in the city taking in the holiday decorations. Here’s a glimpse at the ones we saw at Saks Fifth Avenue:

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And finally, the Rockefeller Center tree…

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Oh, and how could I not include this cute picture of Todd dressed up as an elf during our Black Friday shopping trip?

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Have the holidays come to your neck of the woods? Share some pics; I’d love to see!

A Reminder to Give Thanks

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It’s been just over one week since Thanksgiving, and I’ve spent the week trying to truly hold on to the gratitude I felt on that day. It’s always so easy on a holiday, with no work and the prospect of delicious meals and family time, to feel thankful for the things and people in our lives. It’s a lot harder after the fact, when we’re too full and back to the daily grind. I want to be appreciative more often, if I can. We only get one life in which to show people they matter to us, and I want to use mine. I hope you’ll join me in this quest: to be thankful every day in December leading up to Christmas and the New Year. I’m going to start trying to post to my twitter account each day with the hashtag #ThankfulDecember to remind myself that no matter how cold it is outside or how hectic it is at work, there’s always something to be grateful for. I’d love it if you could post, too, and we can help inspire each other!