Christmas, Holiday

Happy New Year!

Holy smokes — it’s been almost a month since I’ve posted on my blog! Every time I went to do a blog post in December, I realized I was blogging about a gift for someone who would probably see it. #itshardtobeablogger

I finished up a leadership program I was doing at work on Dec. 18 and have been off work since the 19th — it has been a whirlwind of holiday activities, but now that 2015 is here and I have a few more days off, I have great plans! First, I need to catch up on the blog. It will take me all of January to show you what I made folks for Christmas gifts! (I’m only half kidding.)

Once I’m all caught up, I am getting started on my next project: a master bedroom refresh!

So before I show you the fun projects I did as gifts, here are some of my favorite family photos from the holidays.

I hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday and that 2015 is a happy and healthy year for you.

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Recipes

Homemade Apple Chips

Apple Chips 6

Two recipes in a row?! You are gonna be so shocked when I’m sharing a third tomorrow 🙂

Today’s recipe is for a super healthy snack: Apple Chips!

I found a recipe on Pinterest from Maggie at Vittles and Bits and just had to try it out. I tweaked mine just a bit and now am a total addict. Just what I need, one more thing to be addicted to!

I grabbed some Golden Delicious apples from the store for my chips (Maggie used Red Delicious) and set them aside to be sliced.

Then, I lined three baking sheets with parchment paper. This probably goes without saying, but since I am not a total foodie I had no idea there was a difference between wax paper and parchment paper. Rookie move. I ended up destroying a baking pan because of that, so make sure you have the right kind of paper.

Spray your parchment paper lightly with cooking spray.

Apple Chips 1

Start to slice your apples. I used three for this batch. Slice them as thinly as you can and lay them on the parchment paper. I cut some of mine in slices, others in circles going straight through the core. Either way works, just make sure there aren’t any seeds.

If you have a dog, make sure no seeds fall onto the floor. They aren’t good for dogs (or anyone, really). Just sayin’.

Once your baking sheets are covered in the thin slices, I sprinkled a mixture of Splenda and cinnamon on them. You can bake them without either, with just cinnamon, with just Splenda, with sugar… blah blah blah, you get the idea. Use your imagination. On one of my baking sheets I lightly drizzled honey on the apples — it added a really nice flavor. Next time I make them, I want to sprinkle nutmeg on top. Yum!

Apple Chips 2

Now, time to bake! I set my oven to 215 F and put those suckers in for 2.5 hours. They take a while to dry out all the way, but they make your house smell amazing the whole time. Totally worth the wait.

Apple Chips 3

When you take them out, your super thin slices will be extra crispy. Some of your thicker slices might not be all of the way dry. I found that if you put them into a container they finish drying out. Or, you can eat them that way, too. Still delicious.

Apple Chips 5

Now your chips are done. Eat to your heart’s content. It is fruit after all 🙂

Apple Chips 7

Thanks for the inspiration, Maggie!

Recipes

Spicy Taco Soup

What I’m about to share with you is possibly one of the yummiest recipes of all time. That’s right, folks… it’s Spicy Taco Soup time.

I discovered this recipe years ago online and have since altered it to perfection. It is a staple in our house during the colder months and a staple at my mom’s house at Christmas time. It’s also way easy to make and not terribly bad for you. #Winning!

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs Ground beef/chicken/turkey: Use whichever meat you’d like and however much meat you like. I usually use 1.5 lbs because I like my soup to have a lot of meat in it.
  • 32 oz. Beef stock/chicken stock: Depending on whether you choose to make your soup with ground beef or ground bird, grab the corresponding broth to go with it. Also, I liked to get low sodium broth. It doesn’t affect the taste and it is way better for you.
  • 2 cans of petite diced tomatoes: Feel free to use petite diced tomatoes with green chillies or onions in it. Tomatoes must be petite!
  • 1 can of pinto/black beans: I use black beans in my soup and only one can. The original recipe I found online called for two cans of pinto and two cans of black beans. That was way too much for us. Grab low sodium beans if you can.
  • 1 can of sweet yellow corn
  • 1 cup chopped onion: Frozen or fresh works. You can add more if you’d like.
  • 1 cup chopped green/red/yellow peppers: Frozen or fresh works, and any color works! You can add more if you’d like.
  • 2 tbsp Red Pepper flakes
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • HOT SAUCE!!!: Add as much as you can handle 🙂

Directions:

In a frying pan, cook up the meat of your choice with the onions. Drain the grease.

In a large soup pot on medium to high heat, combine tomatoes (do not drain), corn (drain & rinse), beans (drain & rinse), peppers, red pepper flakes, and meat. Add in your broth (Note: I add a whole “box” of broth, but you can add however much you’d like. It will change the consistency of the soup. So, if you like chunky soup, don’t add too much. If you like a soupier soup, add all of it.)

Add hot sauce to taste.

Heat until hot! Serve with shredded cheese and sour cream on top — maybe even a few crushed up tortilla chips! Enjoy!

The best part about this soup is it is easily customizable without totally altering the taste. If you want more meat, add more. If you want less broth, add less. If you love green peppers but hate corn, the recipe will still turn out. I made it last night with three cans of petite tomatoes (total rebel, right?) and no green pepper (I forgot to buy them… oops!), and it was still delicious.

What are your favorite soup recipes? I also make a mean rustic tomato soup. Yummo. No soup beats my parents’ homemade chicken noodle, but Spicy Taco Soup is definitely my next favorite.