These Hands

These hands are the heart and soul of the family. Cracked, swollen and bleeding they show visible signs of the love and hard work that’s put in on a daily basis to make the household run smoothly.

The scrubber of toilets and floors. The cleaner of messes and spilled milk. The washer of dishes and clothes. The wiper of tears and the comforter of sorrows. The creator of crafts and doer of experiments. The washer of hands over and over and over again. These hands go through it all!

The responsibilities are endless but these hands never quit. Nor does the woman behind these hands.

I wear an abundance of hats and hold many different titles. My hands help me juggle it all. My hands are the heart and soul of our family. Cracked, swollen and bleeding they show visible signs of how much I love my family and how hard I work on a daily basis to make our household run smoothly.

Recipe Time – Sweet and Savory Pot Roast

This recipe came about by complete chance and turned out to be an absolute hit! It was getting late on a Friday and I hadn’t been to the grocery store that week. But I desperately wanted something homemade as opposed to ordering take out.

Enter this delicious savory but slightly sweet concoction…Sweet and Savory Pot Roast. Thanks to some staple pantry items and always having carrots on hand for Hunter to snack on I was able to make a hearty homemade meal that would carry us thru the weekend with the leftovers. As a side note I would like to mention that I do not have a “Instant Pot”. I have the 8 Quart Nuwave Digital Pressure Cooker. So some of the terminology, buttons and settings mentioned below may be different depending on your device.

INGREDIENTS:

x3lb Chuck Roast

x2 tsp Lawrey’s Seasoned Salt

x1 tsp Garlic Powder

x1 tsp Onion Powder

1/2 tsp Black Pepper

x2 TBS Dried Parsley

x1 TBS Canola Oil

x1 tsp Better Than Bouillon Beef

x1 tsp Better Than Bouillon Roasted Garlic

x2 TBS Worcestershire Sauce

x2 TBS Balsamic Vinegar

x2 TBS Ketchup

3/4 cup Water

1/2 Red Onion –

x1 Jalapeño – Diced

x1lb Red Potatoes – Chopped

x4 Large Carrots – Peeled and Chopped

x1 TBS Cornstarch

x1 TBS Water

In a small bowl mix together the Seasoned Salt, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Black Pepper and Dried Parsley. Rub mixture evenly over the entire roast. Add the Canola Oil to your pot and turn on the “Sear” setting. Sear all sides of the roast for a minimum of three minutes each side or until browned. While browning the roast, in a measuring cup mix together the Beef and Roast Garlic Bouillon along with the Worcestershire, Balsamic, Ketchup and Water.

As soon as the roast is browned on all sides slowly pour the sauce into the pan being sure to scrap any brown bits from the bottom. Add the diced onion and jalapeño. Close and seal the pot. Cook on manual for 1 hour and 15 minutes. As soon as the time is up allow the pot to naturally release pressure for 10 minutes before switching the pressure valve to “Open”.

Once the pressure pin drops open the pot and add your chopped Potatoes and Carrots. Close pot and pressure valve and cook on manual for 3 minutes. Again, allow a natural release for 10 minutes before opening the pressure valve and the pot. Thoroughly mix the Cornstarch and Water. Once the pot is open slowly stir in the slurry until the sauce thickens. Serve along side some crusty bread and enjoy!!!

What are some of your favorite pressure cooker/Instant Pot roast recipes? Share them in the comments below.

Sweet and Savory Pot Roast

Happy 4th Birthday Hunter!!!

I’m in tears as I write this one folks I’m not gonna lie. I’ve had to walk away to compose myself multiple times as I am completely overrun with love and emotion. MY LITTLE MAN IS FOUR YEARS OLD!!! How did this happen? I just can’t believe my baby boy isn’t a little baby anymore!!! It seems like yesterday he was just a bitty little thing completely dependent on myself and his Daddy for every single thing imaginable. Now here we are four years later and not a day goes by that he doesn’t put an instant smile on our faces. If you ask him “what” he is he will proudly reply with, “smart, talented, loving, polite and handsome like my Daddy!”

Hunter at 4 years old.

Hunter is just as stubborn and independent as the both of us combined. He is extremely inquisitive and asks questions constantly. His love of learning grows each and every day. He is one smart little boy and has taken his problem solving skills to a whole other level. If he can’t figure something out himself he will look it up on YouTube first before even asking us for help. He loves to dance putting Mommy’s moves to shame. His current song obsession is “Old Town Road”. We listen to it all day every day and have been for weeks on end. No joke! ALL DAY, EVERY DAY FOR WEEKS!!! But hey, it could be worse…it could be “Baby Shark” or something along those lines. Am I right?!?

Hunter at 4 years old.

As his vocabulary and communication skills continue to grow he is not just learning English, but we’re working on Spanish and Sign Language as well! He works on his school lessons daily via www.abcmouse.com and is almost done with Pre-K! He is quite the little foodie and we couldn’t be happier about that. The singular food item he sometimes turns his nose up at is Tomatoes. He loves trying out new foods including all things spicy like his Mommy. He is extremely caring and kind and always willing to help others out. He is constantly helping Mommy out around the house especially in the kitchen! He also loves streaming video games with Daddy. Ever the dare devil, Mommy and Daddy have had no choice but to opt for “feet first”, “hands out”, “tuck and roll” methods over “Hunter proofing”. He definitely keeps us on our toes that’s for sure!

Hunter at 4 years old.

Hunter George Stommel – Nothing could’ve prepared me for how tough it would be as a parent to watch you grow. I constantly struggle with wanting you to be my baby forever and being over the moon excited at all you have and will accomplish. Mommy and Daddy love you to pieces and are so proud of the little man you are growing up to be. We can’t wait to see what the future has in store for you. Happy 4th Birthday Bug! Here’s to many many more!!!

So I thought it would be fun to do add one of those fill in the blank/Q&A dealios here not just to share with ya’ll where Hunter’s head is currently at but to also be able to look back upon this year after year and compare his answers. The following questions were asked of Hunter. His responses were given on his own without coaxing, persuasion or coaching.

  1. What is your name? Hunter
  2. How old are you? 4
  3. What are you? Strong, talented, loving, polite and handsome like my Dad.
  4. When is your birthday? The month of January.
  5. How old is Mommy? Old
  6. How old is Daddy? 4
  7. What is your favorite color? Red
  8. What is Mommy’s favorite color? Purple and Pink
  9. What is Daddy’s favorite color? Green
  10. Whats your favorite food? Broccoli and Pizza
  11. What is your favorite drink? “Mommy’s Water” (Flavored Water)
  12. What is your favorite fruit? Apples, Bananas and Lemons
  13. What is your favorite vegetable? Asparagus
  14. Who is your best friend? Mateo
  15. What’s your favorite animal? Athena and Taz
  16. What is your favorite game? Minecraft
  17. What is your favorite sport? Baseball and Soccer
  18. What is your favorite candy? Gummy Bears, M&Ms and Lollipops
  19. What are you scared of? Monsters
  20. What is your favorite television show? Blippi
  21. What makes you sad? When you’re angry at me.
  22. What makes you happy? When you’re happy at me.
  23. Where is your favorite place to go? Zoo
  24. What do you want to be when you grow up? Doctor and Firefighter
  25. What does love really mean? You
Be sure to check out the video dedication to Hunter’s 4th Birthday on Facebook and Instagram. Or simply click on the photo above.

Recipe Time – Chicken Noodle-less Soup

Why soup? Because I am OBSESSED with soup!!! I can eat soup any time anywhere, even when it’s 120 degrees out! I love all soups…Chicken Noodle, Loaded Baked Potato, Tomato Basil, Lobster Bisque, Italian Wedding…you name it, I’ll eat it! I seriously LOVE soup!

Why noodle-less? Because I like to cook up a big pot to have over a couple of days but I do not like it when the noodles and/or rice in a soup because mush. So I created this recipe in order to avoid said mush. You can always cook up some rice or noodles at serving time and add it to each individual bowl if you wish and simply spoon the soup over the top.

I love this recipe because it’s so versatile! Simply add x12 oz of Velveeta cheese and make it a creamy/cheesy version (definitely a family favorite). Or swap the chicken thighs out for ground turkey and also include a bunch of spinach and you have a mock Italian Wedding type creation. The sky is the limit with this one making it my go-to soup recipe. I like to pair this soup with a slice of crusty bread. But a good old fashioned grilled cheese always goes well with a bowl of soup.

How about you? What are some different variations of this recipe you would try? I’m always looking for some new flavor combination inspiration. Let me know in the comments below!

INGREDIENTS :

x2 TBS Ghee

x1 Large Onion Chopped

x1 Cup Carrots Chopped

Half Bunch Celery Chopped

x4 Cloves Garlic Minced

x1 lb Chicken Thighs

x1 TBS Penzeys Spices – French Thyme

x32 oz Chicken Broth

x16 oz Water

x2 TBS Better Than Bouillon Roasted Chicken Base

S&P

Sauté the above ingredients with a sprinkle of S&P for approximately ten minutes or until the onions become translucent. Add x1 lb of lightly S&P’d chicken thighs skin side down to the pot and brown on each side. Then add x1 TBS Penzeys Spices – French Thyme and give everything a good stir. Sauté for another ten minutes or so.

Add one x32 oz box of Chicken Broth being sure to scrap the yummy brown bits from the bottom of the pan as you do so. Also add x2 additional cups of water and x2 TBS of Better Than Bouillon Roasted Chicken Base. Bring to a hard boil for ten minutes then reduce heat to a simmer.

Remove chicken thighs and set aside to cool slightly. Once the chicken has cooled enough to handle shred it into bite sized pieces and return to pot. Let the soup simmer for a minimum of an hour before serving.

Chicken Noodle-less Soup served over Jasmine Rice alongside Jalapeño Artisan Bread

10 Year Challenge – Bring on the New Year!!!

As the end of a decade comes to a close I thought I would take a look back at the past ten years. A lot has changed for me that’s for sure!

Ten years ago I was unsettled, insecure, out of control and completely lost in my drinking. I had so many plans for the future that never seemed to come to fruition. I was spinning my wheels and going nowhere fast. I was a mess to say the very least. But the minute I gave up, and hit rock bottom I found new friends, true friends! And had my family by my side every single step of the way. I am forever grateful to my friend Alicia, and especially my sister Christina and Brother-in-Law Evan for taking the absolute brunt of my downward spiral. They picked me right back up and stood by my side through it all. The road was dark and scary.

But slowly I learned to stand on my own two feet. I learned that drinking away my sorrows only worsened my problems. I gained more confidence and strength. I learned that I was stronger than I ever thought before. I was capable of anything. I was no longer dependent on a man or any other person to fulfill me. I learned exactly what I needed and wanted in life, in a relationship and for my future to be truly happy. I found myself!!!

The very minute I stopped looking for a man to complete me was the minute I found my now husband, Justin. Now here we are present day, married and with a son living across the country and we couldn’t be happier! Motherhood has changed me immensely and it is hands down the most favorite part of my identity. This last decade has brought many ups and also downs and there have been far too many “greatest of all time” moments for me to select just one.

The past ten years have been tough guys I’m not going to lie or sugar coat it. But I have come so far from where I’ve been there is no looking back! I respect the past and all its lessons but I am ready to run forward and conquer! I wouldn’t change a single thing because I firmly believe I needed to walk the hard road to get to where I am at. I was meant to experience all I went through. Without it I wouldn’t be able to truly appreciate all that I have today.

If I could go back ten years and speak to my past self I would hug her tight, let her know how strong of a women she is and will continue to be. I would tell her she is loved and appreciated and even if she can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel don’t ever ever give up because all her dreams will in fact come true.

Trust the process. The path might not be what we hope for or expect but the end result is always worth it.

My word for the upcoming year is COMMITTED. I am committed to taking care of myself both mentally and physically. Committed to taking care of my family. Committed to being the best spouse and mother I can be. Committed to making our house a home and safe place from the stressors of the world. Committed to God. Committed to giving back to others. Committed to learning and growth. Committed to doing all that I can to prepare for homeschooling Hunter. Committed to strengthening friendships. Committed to adventure and new experiences. Committed to growing my blog. IN 2020 I WILL BE COMMITTED!

How about you? Can you pick a favorite moment, memory or trend from the past decade? What is your word for the upcoming year? Share in the comments below.

2009

2019

Road Tripping Cross Country with a Toddler, a Dog and a Stubborn Husband

I absolutely love road trips! Always have. My very first experience with a cross country road trip was with my Dad. We drove to Florida for my high school graduation gift/trip. It was one of my favorite trips of all time! We drove from Wisconsin to Bonita Springs, Florida only stopping for gas and bathroom breaks and a very brief nap stop at a Rest Stop along the way. We packed loads of snacks and beverages and activities to keep us occupied.

Now here we are present day and my love for road trips remains the same. Unfortunately Justin does not share that same love and excitement and tends to be a bit grouchy and stubborn. But we still go on small road trips here and there to satisfy my enjoyment of them. Usually they’re just day trips to explore various parts of the state. We call them “adventure days” to add some extra excitement for Hunter and try to take them at least a couple times per month. But cross country trips are a whole different animal.

We’ve been on on multiple cross country trips to and from Wisconsin with Hunter. The first one being our move to Arizona. But this holiday season will be our first cross country trip that he will remember. Not even two hours in and we’ve been asked countless times “are we there yet?” and “why can’t we just fly to Wisconsin and get there faster?” We’ve also had to make our first emergency roadside potty stop because the first Rest Stop we came to was closed.

Emergency Potty Stop.

I should also mention that I’m an over-packer. To think that I thought that we could fit two weeks worth of stuff for all three of us into one suitcase is laughable. Between our stuff, the dogs stuff and all the Christmas gifts we are packed to the gills! But because this isn’t my first rodeo we are packed strategically and are well prepared for the unforeseen and unexpected. We’ve got loads of snacks, beverages and activities to keep us occupied.

Experience and overpacking will all come in handy as Justin is insisting that we drive straight through yet again this trip. It’s important to point out that any time we’ve tried to do this in the past has resulted in everyone being cranky and over tired. Not to mention resulting in the most grouchy form of a husband to ever have existed. But I being happily optimistic and extremely excited for the adventure am just going to go with the flow and enjoy the experience.

Arizona – Depending on the route you take there is so much to see. The varying landscape as you cross the state is just beautiful. But man does that temperature drop as you near the state line! Definitely need to be sure to have the winter jackets handy before entering New Mexico. We made the mistake of having our coats in the bed of the truck and only having light sweatshirts in the truck. Our first pit stop in New Mexico was so so so cold without jackets! Our bodies are not used to 32 degree weather any longer that’s for sure!

New Mexico – Not much to see until about Albuquerque. The city lights break up the monotonousness of night time driving. Unfortunately most rest stops are closed this time of year so truck stops are your best bet for a bathroom break and opportunity to stretch your legs.

Texas – Our time in Texas was brief. At this point we had been on the road for 12 hours. Hunter was hitting his limit and starting to spiral. It didn’t help that for some reason he and I got hit with random allergies out of nowhere so we were stuffy and sneezing something fierce throughout our time in the state. Thank goodness for my overpacking skills…saline Boogie Wipes to the rescue! Apparently according to Justin the towns we drove through smelled like pigs and piss but I was too stuffed up to smell a thing! Thank goodness!!! Shortly after Hunter’s meltdown he fell asleep. Coolest thing we saw was a Toot n’ Totum. Thought it was a unique name for a gas station. Never seen one before. Oh I should also mention that at this point of the trip Justin’s stubbornness really started to shine. He was still insistent that we drive straight though. Jesus take the wheel! We didn’t make it much further before Hunter started having night terrors.

Texas Toot n’ Totum

Oklahoma – I slept through the Oklahoma panhandle but before I dozed off I did catch a glimpse of the moon. It was HUGE and shown brightly resembling the giant grin of the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. After a couple of night terror episodes with Hunter we did end up parking at a truck stop at the Oklahoma/Kansas state line so we could all get some rest. Thankfully I packed plenty of blankets and some neck pillows so we could all snuggle up in the front seats of the truck for a few hours before hitting the road again.

Kansas – I was on point as driver and got to enjoy the beauty and peacefulness of the sunrise all to myself while Justin and Hunter slept. Hunter woke up in such a great mood! He didn’t remember a thing from his terrible night prior and that made me happy. Justin and I were pretty grouchy at this point. The snacking and fast food stops were starting to hit me and made me feel like garbage. I don’t remember much of Kansas other than the sound of the radio playing softly in the background while we zoned out.

Missouri – By the time we hit Missouri I was starting to go coo coo for Cocoa Puffs. I was dancing and singing along with the radio and desperate to find a comfortable position. It didn’t work but I am certain that I gave the other cars we passed a good laugh at my crazy antics. Justin even cracked a smile here and there though he won’t admit it. Any and every stop we made was filled with a good old fashioned snowball fight and the occasional snow angel with what of any remnants were left behind from the previous snowfall all led by Hunter.

Iowa – We’re almost there! Nothing noteworthy to mention really. We were all kinda hitting our limit. Dubuque however was super cute and industrial. I wish we had driven through during the day so I could’ve seen more. The second our wheels hit the Dubuque/Wisconsin Bridge to cross the Mississippi River Hunter was cheering with excitement.

Welcome to Iowa!

Wisconsin – We have arrived!!! We are exhausted and hangry and so beyond ready to get out of this truck but we are on the home stretch. Only about two more hours to go! Hunter kept Justin and I positive with his excitement that we were actually in Wisconsin! The lack of snow is a little bit of a bummer for little man. Thank goodness all our Missouri stops included snowball fights. Annnddd…we FINALLY made it!!! Oh my gosh I almost forgot…Athena!!! I haven’t mentioned her at all this entire trip because she did the BEST out of all of us! She slept the entire way. But we did have the BringFido app downloaded and ready to go in the event we did need to stop at a hotel during our trip. It’s the fastest and easiest way to find a place to stay that accepts pets of any kind. I highly recommend. Now to unload our stuff, get some much needed rest and enjoy the holiday festivities!!!

If you live in or have visited any of the states we drove through let me know in the comments below what things there are to do and see! We make this trip every other year for the holidays and would really like to include more stops along the way that involve some sort of activity to break the trip up a bit more.

Happy Holidays from the Stommel Family

This time of year is difficult for me. I tend to get a little homesick. I miss my family and friends back in Wisconsin terribly. I miss the family traditions that have been celebrated since I was very young.

Coming from such a large and close-knit family I miss a lot. It was important to me that when we moved to Arizona we took those old family traditions and added some new ones of our own to make the holiday season extra magical for Hunter; while selfishly making them therapeutic for myself.

I’d like to say that first Christmas was easy but that couldn’t be further from the truth. We decided to drive back to Wisconsin to celebrate with our family. Sounds great right? Not so much. Justin being the stubborn man he is decided to drive straight through, both there and back! You want to test your marriage folks? Simply take a road trip with a pickup loaded to the max (inside and out) across the country in the middle of winter with the dog and Hunter who was not quite two years old. To add more fuel to the fire, Justin was getting calls from work the ENTIRE time. We were also extremely limited on our time once we actually arrived in Wisconsin due to the continued demand at Justin’s work. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoyed every minute we had with our family and friends but that first Christmas was HELL! So much so Justin swore off ever going back to Wisconsin for the holidays ever again! We compromised and made the decision that going forward we would travel back to Wisconsin every other year for the holidays.

Year two was a little easier logistically but much much harder for me emotionally. We stayed in Arizona that year and I was a wreck! I was so incredibly lucky that Justin’s Dad decided to come to us for the holidays. It also didn’t hurt that he happens to resemble the one and only Santa Claus! I am forever grateful that he made that decision. It really helped me focus on the positives and focus on creating some brand new and exciting traditions for our own little family that I always dreamed about being able to create. I’m not sure he knows just how much his visit meant to me that year. But Dad, if you’re reading this, I cannot thank you enough! Your love and support during that difficult time meant so very much to me and I am so very lucky to have you as a Father-in-Law.

So what did those “new” traditions include you ask? Well to put it very simply, we were able to put Hunter to bed that year on Christmas Eve and experience him waking the next morning and finding that Santa had snuck in overnight. Santa ate the cookies, he drank the milk, and he left gifts under the tree! Sounds pretty common to most but to me, but to him, this was a first. You see, I come from a divorced family, as does Justin. so our own parents had to be extra creative in making the holidays special while faced with the common knowledge traditions of most other families. I do not recall a time in my childhood when I went to bed on Christmas Eve and awoke Christmas morning to all of that. I by no means missed out on the “magic” of Christmas. My parents all be it divorced, did an AWESOME job at making the holidays special for my sister(s) and I! I just experienced Christmas in a much different way than my peers. So to be able to not only create this experience for Hunter but to also experience it with him was a moment I will NEVER forget! Christmas magic is silent but boy can you see it when you look through your child’s eye’s!

Now here we are year three. I have never been more excited with the upcoming holidays. And I know most of you are thinking, “well duh, you’re going back to Wisconsin this year.” But this year is exciting for so many more reasons than just that. To say that I am in a much better place mentally and physically than that first year would be putting things lightly. So much has happened. There has been so much! So many experiences, so many struggles, so many mistakes, so many lessons, so much learning, so much love, so much friendship, so much growth. And I am thankful for it all! I wouldn’t be here today without it all. But I digress…

Our current family holiday traditions are a solid blend of old and new. They contain a lot of holiday “magic”. The memories that we create from this moment on are endless and will last a lifetime! I am so excited to celebrate this routine as our own and new family tradition and hope they last throughout Hunter’s lifetime. I cannot wait for him to pass all or some of these traditions down through his own little family some day.

December first marks the start of the holiday season for us. Christmas carols are on full blast, eggnog is on tap, and the decorations get pulled out of storage. The must-have Christmas albums include some favorites from my childhood: “The Gift” by Kenny Rogers, “Once Upon a Christmas” by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, “A Jolly Christmas” by Frank Sinatra (specifically “Jingle Bells”), and something new, “Christmas” by Michael Buble. Blast those tunes and sing along while eating junk food and sweets until the entire house is decorated inside and out. Hunter decorated his own little mini tree and tree display this year. He’s been re-arranging that display since the first and hasn’t slowed down! He likes to mix things up.

Hunter’s Christmas Tree Display 2019

Then we get to the rest of the house which includes lots of cardinals because they remind me of my Grandma Tucholka and of back home in Wisconsin.

Christmas Cardinals 2019

And of course there is the good old Midwestern tradition of St. Nick deeply routed in the German culture and heritage that Justin and I and most of the Midwest grew up on.

St. Nick’s Snowy Boot Prints
St. Nick Stockings Hung and Full

And then we have the traditional “Advent Calendar” that I grew up with. A cute cardboard photo with punch outs for every day of December leading up to Christmas Day and each day is filled with a piece of milk chocolate and a part of the traditional non-biblical westernized story of Christmas.

This year we added reading the Bible to this nightly routine. Specifically the book of Luke. The instructions are to read a chapter per day up to Christmas and that the entire book of Luke gives the account of the life of Jesus. Hunter being a big fan of bedtime stories is really enjoying this year’s addition to family traditions.

Mommy and Hunter Reading the book of Luke form a Bible gifted to me by my maternal Grandma Vera Ostrander back in 1992

Then we wait impatiently each year for the mail to arrive in hopes that our annual WE Energies Christmas Cookie Cookbook has arrived from Grandma Pedersen.

WE Energies Christmas Cookie Cookbook 2019

And last but not least we try to attend as many local holiday events and displays as we can.

Hunter’s first time meeting Santa 2019

“The magic of Christmas never ends and it’s greatest of gifts are family and friends.” Happy Holidays from the Stommel Family!

What are some holiday traditions you celebrate with your family? Let me know in the comments below.

Recipe Time – Leftover Thanksgiving Casserole

The holiday season is a wonderful time of year! But man does the time from Halloween thru year’s end seem to fly by at a rate much faster than the rest of the year! Just me? Perhaps. But one thing I do know for certain is the food is bountiful and amazing and I want to enjoy it all!

However, the food served at our annual Friendsgiving celebration is enjoyed by our guests as it should be while Justin and I as hosts typically only taste as we cook and snack here and there. We never get to really enjoy the meal in the same manner our guests do. Which is the very reason behind this creation. No cooking experience necessary on this one folks! It also does not require a baker’s brain or a rocket science degree. But man does it turn out uniquely fantastic each and every time!

Ya’ll know the drill. There isn’t an exact recipe. Only instructions; suggestions really, to help guide you and inspire you to create your own masterpiece.

  1. Skip the tupperware!!!
  2. Grab the largest casserole dish you have.
  3. Layer each and every bit of your leftovers in said casserole dish. I usually begin with the turkey, then the veggies, a layer of mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, stuffing, applesauce, cranberry sauce, corn bread pudding, etc. You name it, you have it, you add it!
  4. Top off with some extra French’s Fried Onions (optional).
  5. Cover in tinfoil and either freeze or refrigerate depending on when you plan on eating it. If you have decided to freeze your casserole be sure to remove it from the freezer and let it thaw completely in the fridge before proceeding to the next step.
  6. Bake/reheat at 375 degrees covered for an hour or until bubbling.
  7. If/when bubbling remove tinfoil and continue to bake until golden brown on top (could take up to an additional half hour depending on your oven). If you are confident enough to use the broil feature on your oven go for it! I am not, and burn everything when I do, so I do not use broil ever!
  8. Let the casserole cool for 15-20 minutes or so before serving (a burnt tongue will ruin the flavor explosion experience).
  9. Pour yourself a glass of “leftover” wine and enjoy!!!

The flavors come together nicely but in a unique way each and every time depending on both how you layer and what your layers consist of. The final result is a savory but sweet flavor bomb that best captures each and every flavor from the holiday season all rolled into one single bite. It’s an experience for sure! Share your leftover holiday casserole recipes in the comments below and be sure to tag me in your pictures on IG.

“2019 Leftover Thanksgiving Casserole”

Friendsgiving

It never fails that this time of year I start to get a little home sick. I miss my family back in Wisconsin and all the holiday traditions we celebrated this time of year, beginning with Thanksgiving. 

My Mom and I were always in charge of the Thanksgiving menu and meal.  We would spend weeks prior looking up fun and exciting recipes to test out.  Unfortunately a family full of picky eaters always led us back to the family favorites time and again.  We would however, modify the recipes ever so slightly.  We would jazz them up a bit just to satisfy our creative desires.  But of course have to lie through our teeth to rest of the family when we’d do so.  It was our little secret.

The morning of Thanksgiving I would head over to Mom’s, chef cap on with an extra large cup of coffee ready to cook up a feast!  We would start by prepping a spread of appetizers fit to feed an army! Cheese, Sausage and Crackers, Veggies and Dip, Deviled Eggs, Rumaki, Veggie Pizza, Chips and Salsa, a Relish Tray, Taco Salad, you name it we probably had it.  An ample amount of appetizers kept the others satisfied and out of the kitchen while we would dive into making the main course.

Appetizers – Friendsgiving 2019

Green Bean Casserole, Corn Bread Pudding, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Applesauce, Cranberry Sauce, Corn, Dinner Rolls and of course the Turkey. The turkey was our pride and joy.  We expanded on the basic recipe year after year mastering the final creation…Upside Down Butter Rubbed Bacon Wrapped Turkey.  The title alone is a mouthful but it does not do justice to how incredible this turkey tastes.

Upside Down Butter Rubbed Bacon Wrapped Turkey – Friendsgiving 2019

And to think, it all came about by accident one year when we realized half way through cooking that we had accidentally placed the bird in the roasting pan upside down!  Now there may or may not have been a bottle or two of Moscato involved but I plead the fifth on that one.  I’m sure we’ve all seen the meme of how to cook a Thanksgiving meal when wine is involved.  Well folks, when I say that pure panic ensued I ain’t kidding.  We had the whole family Googling a solution at the same time.  Low and behold it was a “thing” and the turkey wasn’t a total loss.  We wouldn’t be serving the bird a la National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  Cooking the turkey upside down after having rubbed it down with so much butter even Paula Dean would choke led to the most juicy turkey breast of all time.  Then to finish it off, after flipping the bird, we added some woven thick cut bacon.  Oh man! My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

That was the year we officially called it quits on tweaking the turkey recipe.  It was magnificent! It was truly spectacular!  It was an experience! That was also the year that we may or may not have forgotten the turkey carcass on the grill until it was found by Dad in Spring. Again, Moscato might have been just a wee bit involved. In our defense, the refrigerator was at it’s max and we had no where to go with the turkey.  It was cold and snowing so we decided to stick it in the grill on the deck and we could just clean the bones and prep it for making stock after the meal was cleaned up.  But shortly after the meal was cleaned up the turkey comas kicked in and planning for Black Friday shopping began and we completely forgot about that year’s turkey.

But we learned from our mistakes and yet again we prevailed.  The whole incident led to us starting the stock while the turkey baked in the oven so we couldn’t forget another bird even if we tried because the simmering pot on the stove stood as a reminder to go get the turkey from the grill.

After I moved to Arizona it was extremely important to me to keep as many family traditions as possible while also creating some new ones.  Enter Friendsgiving.  That first year I was a mess.  I had all my notes, recipes and checklists ready.  I had all the ingredients organized to the max and everything was laid out ready to go for the big day.  Yet the pit in my stomach that I had from the very second I woke up was enormous! The excitement of the day disappeared as the realization and fear that I had never ever done this alone crept in.  I called my Mom more times than I could count that day.  She never not once got annoyed even when my questions were straight up stupid. And I’m a firm believer that no question is a stupid question. 

My Mom was my savior that day even from across the country she was there for me and helped support me in hosting my first ever Friendsgiving.  That day would not have been successful if it weren’t for her help, her love and her support.  It would not have been successful if it weren’t from the time we spent side by side in her kitchen back in Wisconsin year after year.

Now here we are three years later and I look forward to Friendsgiving more than ever before.  It’s become a new tradition with a nod to the old ones. Including serving the turkey on a platter that has been passed down from my Grandparents. It has grown each year ever so slightly as we befriend more people here in Arizona.  And as each year passes I am more confident in my cooking abilities. 

Friendsgiving doesn’t replace the memories and traditions I had with my Mom each Thanksgiving prior but it definitely helps a little when I get home sick.  It helps make her feel just a little bit closer. And you better believe I keep her on speed dial every single time!  I love you Mom!

Grandpa and Grandma Tucholka’s Serving Platter

What Thanksgiving holiday traditions does your family celebrate?  What’s your favorite Thanksgiving recipe or dish? Let me know in the comments below!

Gobble Til You Wobble

Mother Nature is a Trickster

The magic a random Arizona hail storm can create is truly an incredible thing to witness. Children acting like children. Adults acting like children. Neighbors all gathering together to say hello and discuss the rarity. Strangers becoming acquaintances. Couples having “snowball” fights down the sidewalks. Lots of fun, awe and laughter. Mother Nature is powerful and amazing.

Hunter asked for a white Christmas but got a white Thanksgiving instead! He loved every minute of this crazy weather phenomenon and couldn’t wait to get outside. I made sure he partook in all the midwestern winter classics his Daddy and I grew up with…throwing “snowballs”, making “snow” angels, jumping in muddy puddles and just simply having a good old time. And after he was cold and wet we warmed up with a nice bath and a cup of hot cocoa.