‘Tis the Season: Five Days of Holiday Treats!


‘Tis the season of crying babies sitting on Santa’s lap, the aroma of Christmas trees, and the month-long sugar high from eating too many sweets.  The holidays always store many family traditions for us and probably many of you as well.  One tradition we had was traveling down to Richmond, VA to see Santa Claus. From the time I was a baby, my mom always took me and eventually my sister to see “The Real Santa Claus” down at Thalimer’s where we would debut our new Christmas outfits that were often made by my mom and stand in line for hours just to tell Jolly Old St. Nick I wanted “Barbies, jewelry, and American Girl Magazine”.    It was a tradition we didn’t necessarily look forward to at first, exhibited by Ryanne screaming her head off in the picture above, but one we can now look back at and enjoy.  To this day my parents have a picture of Ryanne and I with Santa Claus from 1984 (the year I was born) all the way until when I was in high school.  Dorky that I still went to see Santa as a teen?  Yes I was mortified, but as long as I told my parents I still believed Santa delivered!

In the spirit of giving and family traditions, baking and making treats has always been a fun way to spend time together.  Even while we are all apart living in different areas of the East Coast I feel closer to my family making some of our favorite holiday treats.  So, for the first 5 days of December Ryanne and I will be sharing our 5 favorite holiday treats that we made as little girls and continue to make today.  These treats are great for your holiday party or to give to others as gifts!  We hope y’all enjoy!


Cute DIY Letters

My friends Rachel and Pat are having their first baby in a couple of weeks!  Our mutual friends (who we met through a rec soccer team we like to call “Team Amuuurica”) and I threw them a coed baby shower a few weeks ago.  It was a great time had by all with good food, drinking games, smell the diaper games, and even a diaper cake made by one of the guys on the team… impressive!

I like to make special homemade gifts for occasions like these and had seen several ideas on Pinterest about decorating letters that spell out the baby’s name.  Here’s my step-by-step process and at the end I share a few lessons learned.  Enjoy!

Here’s what you’ll need:

– Wooden letters, I got mine at Michael’s

– Paint brush

– Scrapbook paper in various colors and prints of your choosing (I used 1 piece per letter)

– Elmer’s glue + Water (Do 1 part Elmer’s glue to 1 part water to make homemade “Modge Podge”)

– Ribbon for hanging if you chose

– Hot glue gun


For this part I’ll let the pictures do the talking!

In this picture I’m using a knife to cut out the triangle part of the “A”. I then fold it in and glue it with the homemade modge podge.

Then hot glue the ribbon to the back, leaving enough ribbon to be able to tie a bow!

And it’s finished! You can hang them on nails as we did here or a rod of some sort.

The letters fit nicely above the changing table.  I hope Baby Anna enjoys her cute nursery!

And now for the lessons learned:

  • Do not get the curved letters!  Although they look super cute, they are a pain in the butt to get the paper to go around.  Save yourself and get the basic block letters!!!
  • Try to get the thinnest scrapbook paper possible, it makes it easier to manipulate the paper to fold around the letters.
  • Make sure your homemade modge podge has a little more glue than water, you want it to stick better.
  • Make sure you have some good music and a beer/glass of wine to keep you company, it takes longer than it looks!  I spent about 1 hour on each letter, mainly because of the curves of the letters and I’m a slight perfectionist.

Dill Dippin’

Good morning, friends!   I hope each of you had a fun Thanksgiving filled with good food and family!  I spent my first Thanksgiving with my husband’s family.  LJ’s uncle Tim cooked up a turkey on the grill.  Everyone brought sides and desserts to share.  Boy, were we stuffed by the end of the day!  It’s always fun to see what traditions other families do on the holidays.  We had a great time and I look forward to spending many more holiday’s with them.

Yesterday morning, LJ and I packed up our car at 5 am (with Molly, our golden retriever in tow) and headed down to Blacksburg for the annual Commonwealth Cup.  My parents have season tickets to Virginia Tech games and this was the first time we were able to make it down for a game this season (we’ve been a little busy with the wedding).  It was one of the coldest games I’ve been to.  It actually started to flurry while we were tailgating.  I was pretty nervous about the game since we’ve had a pretty disappointing season.  Even with our worst season in over 20 years, we pulled off a win against the Wahoos!  It always feels good to beat UVA 🙂

LJ and I freezing in the stands waiting for the game to start.

Now, for those of you who went to a big football school, you know the best part of the game is the tailgating.  Since it was a 12 o’clock game, we decided to have appetizers before the game and the big meal after the game (we had Smithfield’s BBQ yesterday…..best southern BBQ!!).  Even though it was freezing, my dad and I still had our Bloody Mary (Floyd tradition before Tech games).  For the tailgate I decided to make dill dip with fresh veggies.  As you can see from Megan’s thanksgiving post….dill dip is a common appetizer around the holidays in our family.  It’s one of our maternal grandmother’s (Daga’s) recipe.  It’s perfect to make for tailgating!

Print Dill Dip Recipe

What you’ll need for dill dip:

1 cup mayo

1 cup sour cream (or plain greek yogurt…if you want to cut down the fat)

2 Tablespoons dehydrated parsley

3 Tablespoons dried minced onion

4 Teaspoons dill weed

4 teaspoons Beau Monde

I chose to use the light version of mayo and sour cream.  I am positive that Daga went with the regular versions, but its up to you!  Now I would also like to point out the type of mayo I used:  Duke’s Mayonnaise.

This, my friends, is definitely a family favorite.   If you are looking for a good southern mayo….search no farther.  I can remember Megan and I going to visit our great-grandmother Ginnie in Burkeville, Virginia.  She would always have a jar of Duke’s mayo in her refrigerator.  It was perfect on a tomato sandwich with fresh tomatoes from the garden.

Now back to the dill dip…..First add your mayo and sour cream to a small bowl.  Mix together well.

Next add all of the remaining ingredients (parsley, minced onion, dill weed, and beau monde).  Mix together well.

Chill until ready to serve.   Place dip in a bowl and serve with fresh cut veggies.  Enjoy!

LJ, Molly, and I are off to pick out our Christmas tree.  Happy Sunday!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving has shaped up to be quite a nice day, we have lots to be thankful for!

Starting Thanksgiving off right with the Ridgewood Turkey Trot (so we can eat LOTS later)!

Vegetables and DaGa’s Dill Dip to snack on!

Here’s how I ended up setting the table.  We were able to squeeze everyone in!

Can’t forget a good bottle of 120/80 wine from Ehler’s Estate!

Turned our wine/liquor cabinet into a buffet with green bean casserole, corn pudding, sweet potato casserole, and stuffing.

Can’t forget the homemade apple pie….

and GG’s pecan pie!

And Ryanne’s Pumpkin Cheesecake!

Happy Thanksgiving again!

No longer at the kids’ table…

Thanksgiving is just a few days away and this is my first time hosting Thanksgiving dinner!  I am very excited, yet never imagined my first time hosting would be in my teeny weenie apartment that barely fits me, my dog Airlie, and my husband.  Despite this, I’m super excited to be hosting my parents, my in-laws, and our friends Pat and Rachel!  It will be a tight squeeze, but I’m prepared (and so is Airlie, we need her for her vacuuming skills).

Thinking about Thanksgiving takes me back to the days when I was stuck at the kids table and wasn’t quite old enough to help out my grandmothers, aunts, and mother in the kitchen.  The only job I usually had was to set the table, which I hated doing ANY day of the year.  My grandmothers would pull out their finest china and polish up the silver – Thanksgiving was quite an affair for our family!

So when I started planning how to approach hosting Thanksgiving in our tiny apartment I had to channel my grandmothers’ sense of entertaining on a budget.  I wanted to keep everything simple, yet elegant like my grandmothers did when they hosted during the Holidays.  I also had to keep in mind I didn’t want to buy seasonal decorations that I would have to later find some place to store it.  So here it is:

– I found this simple but pretty table cloth on sale at Target today.  It’s great because it looks sand-colored from far away (which matches the rest of our decor in our apartment), but up close it has a hint of gold.  I can use this not only for Thanksgiving, but through Christmas and maybe beyond as well.  Total cost: $13.99 (without tax).

– As I perused further in Target, I found some cute mercury glass votives.  Another lady and I commented on how pretty and inexpensive they were!  I wanted something low for a centerpiece on the table so everyone can see who they are talking to.  I ended up buying 3 (like I’ve said before, I always design in odd numbers!) and they are a great compliment to my china.  I will definitely use these throughout the year and they don’t take up much space.  Total cost: $4.47 (plus cost of tea light candles to put in which was $3.19 for 9).

– I already had some small vases I bought at the Crate and Barrel outlet several years ago.  I plan to pick up some fall colored small flowers or pick some marigolds in my container garden to fill these and mix with the votives on the table.

Now, I realize that many people out there don’t really know how to properly set a table.  This was something my parents made sure I knew from an early age.  I’d love to see statistics on Thanksgiving day for google searches on how to set a table… maybe it will lead them to this post! I don’t have crystal but plan on using some of our every day glasses that aren’t in our storage unit.  See below for the basic place setting.

I really do want to showcase my china that I’m in love with, so I might end up setting it like this.


I’ll post more pictures of our dining room table after it’s all complete (and after Matt and I run in the Ridgewood Turkey Trot!). Get ready for Turkey and pecan pie !!!

Pecan Pie… Oh My!

There’s nothing more southern on Thanksgiving than pecan pie in my opinion and let me tell you, my grandmother GG made the BEST EVER!  We were very lucky to have most of our family living in Culpeper so we got to have two Thanksgivings in one day.  I remember waking up to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with Ryanne while my mom started cooking whatever she was bringing for Thanksgiving.  We’d usually start off at one grandparent’s house, eat Thanksgiving lunch, then sit around until we came out of our first food coma and then move on to the next grandparent’s house for Thanksgiving dinner.

No matter how much I had eaten, I always managed to reserve a square inch in my stomach for GG’s pecan pie… yes it was that good.  So when I signed up for my office Thanksgiving potluck I figured why not bring GG’s pecan pie?  It’s quick, easy, delicious, and a definite crowd pleaser.  For those out there that are afraid to cook or bake, this is the recipe for you.  You’ll look like a baking rock star for your friends and family!

GG’s Perfect Pecan Pie:

Print Recipe Here!

3 eggs

3/4 Cup corn syrup

1/8 tsp. salt

2/3 Cups pecans chopped

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup sugar

1 pie crust

First pre-heat the oven to 375 F. Slightly beat the 3 eggs in a bowl.

Add in the cup of sugar and salt.

And the 2/3 cups chopped pecans.

Add the 3/4 cup corn syrup and tsp. of vanilla.

Stir everything together until it looks like so…

Pour  mixture into an UNBAKED pie crust.  If I had more time I would have made my own, but for the sake of time I used a store-bought crust.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes at 375 F. Then reduce heat to 350 F and bake until a knife comes out clean, about 40 more minutes (just keep an eye on it!).

I hope you enjoy this Southern favorite as much as my family does!

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dessert?

Pumpkin Pasta

I hope everyone had a good weekend.  We spent the weekend in Virginia Beach with family celebrating the marriage of Mike and Lauren Davis (Megan’s brother-in-law and new sister-in-law).  What a lovely wedding and gorgeous weekend!

On our drive home Sunday LJ (my husband) and I were discussing meals for the week (yes, I am a dietitian and I like to plan my meals for the week).  LJ suggested one of our favorite fall recipes—Pumpkin Baked Ziti.   Keeping with our pumpkin theme this month I thought this recipe would be perfect to share with you!

I was first introduced to this recipe from my co-worker Kate.  Although it’s not a family recipe it comes from one of Megan and I’s favorite southern cooks……Paula Deen.  While Paula isn’t the healthiest cook, her recipes are usually pretty easy to slim down into healthier options.  I have transformed Paula’s original recipe into my own making it tastier and healthier!  If you love pumpkin I promise it won’t disappoint.  The savory sausage and onion with the pumpkin and cinnamon is the perfect combination to warm you up on a cold night.

What you’ll need for Pumpkin Baked Ziti:

Print recipe here

1 pound sweet sausage (I use the apple & onion chicken sausage from Wegman’s.  I have also used the tofurky sausage substitute.  Both are good and WAY healthier options than regular sausage.)

1 small sweet yellow onion

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree

1 cup chicken stock

1 1/2 tablespoons dried rosemary

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

1/3 cup skim milk

1 pound whole wheat ziti (or penne, or whichever you prefer! But make it whole grain for the extra fiber!)

1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

First pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Spray your casserole dish with canola cooking spray and set aside.  Mince 1 tablespoon of garlic and dice onion.

Next, cube sausage and place in skillet over medium heat.  While sausage is cooking fill a pot with water and bring to a boil for pasta.  Cook pasta according to directions on box.

Once sausage has finished cooking, remove from skillet and place on plate lined with paper towel.

Add onion, garlic, and oil to skillet, stirring constantly.  Cook until tender.

**I normally do use a sweet yellow onion, however, I sent my lovely new husband to the store and he got confused on which onion to get.  It still tasted great with the red onion.

Stir in pumpkin puree, chicken stock, and dried rosemary.  Add salt to taste and bring mixture to a boil.  Simmer for 5 minutes.

Stir in milk, cinnamon, sugar and sausage.  Simmer and stir continuously until sauce begins to thicken (about another 2-3 minutes).

Add pasta to pumpkin and sausage.  Completely coat the pasta with sauce.

Transfer to greased casserole dish.  Sprinkle mozzarella cheese on top.  Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and serve.   Doesn’t it look tasty?

What’s on your menu for dinner this week?

Pumpkin Bars

I couldn’t believe walking through the grocery store today that the day after Halloween there are already tons of Christmas displays! Whatever happened to Thanksgiving and enjoying the rest of Fall before we jump into Winter?  Well today I wanted to share a favorite Fall recipe that I love to make for tailgating, Fall pot-lucks, and of course Thanksgiving.  I’m actually making it for my friend Rachel‘s baby shower (a special request from her)!  It’s easy and a different take on traditional pumpkin pie.  This is a somewhat skinnier version, but some things like butter you just can’t cut out of this recipe and get the same results!

Here’s what you’ll need…

Print Recipe Here

1 1/4 cup of flour (I used whole wheat)

1 1/4 cups brown sugar

3/4 cup cold butter (1 1/2 sticks)

1/3 cup almonds (you can also use crushed walnuts or chopped pecans)

3/4 cup egg beaters or egg whites

1 15 oz. can of pumpkin

1 8 oz. package of reduced fat cream cheese, softened

1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice

To start, pre-heat the oven to 350 F and grease a 13 x 9″ baking dish.

Measure out the flour.

and 3/4 cups of the brown sugar in a medium bowl… I might have gone a little over!

Cut your stick and a half of butter into chunks like so…

then put them in with the flour mixture.

Cut the butter into the flour mixture using  pastry cutter or two knives until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.

Then add in the 1 cup of oats and 1/3 cup of almonds to the flour mixture

I usually add 1/2 tsp. of pumpkin pie spice to this mixture as well, but that’s up to you.

Pour all of the flour mixture EXCEPT about 3/4 cup into the baking pan and press to cover evenly to make the crust.

Bake the crust for 15 minutes or until golden.

While the crust is baking, beat the cream cheese, remaining sugar, eggs, pumpkin pie spice, and pumpkin with a mixer for about 2 minutes.

Pour over the crust once it has finished baking.

Make sure it’s evenly spread…

Then sprinkle the remaining crust mixture on top and bake for 25 to 27 minutes and cool completely.

Cut into bars and serve!  Store remaining bars in the refrigerator or freezer!

What’s your favorite Fall treat?