Monday, November 26, 2012

Homemade Advent Calendar

I was flipping through my latest issue of Family Fun magazine, when I spotted THIS idea for a homemade advent calendar using a mini muffin tin. I loved the idea, and couldn't wait to make one myself. Their instructions used magnet sheets, which is a brilliant idea. However, I didn't have any (or cute scrapbook paper), so I altered it to work with what I had on hand. I love how it turned out! Here's how I made mine:

Cut out white squares just large enough to cover the opening of your mini muffin tin (you need 24). Then cut circles out of red and green paper (12 each), just small enough to fit on your white squares (I traced a lid from one of my spices and it worked perfect).

Then number your circles.

To add some flare to the boring circles and squares, plus seal them with contact paper so they are reusable for future years; cut 48 squares out of contact paper, about a quarter of an inch larger on all sides then the white squares. Put the circle number-side down on one square of contact paper, then cut some strips from the other color construction paper and put those on too. The white square goes on another piece of contact paper. Flip over the circle sheet, line it up with the white square, and seal it together. Trim up the edges, and voila! One stripey muffin hole cover.

Repeat with all the numbers.

Fill your muffin tin with small treats (little candies, folded notes, etc.). I used Christmas stickers.

Put a ring of sticky tack (tape or other adhesive would also work) around the hole and seal it up!

My muffin tin conveniently had holes drilled into the top, so I threaded a ribbon through so I could hang it up. If you tin doesn't have holes, you could make your own holes (see the link to the original Family Fun instructions), hang it by the lip, or super glue some ribbon to the back. 

Hang up your completed advent calendar and get ready to count down to Christmas!

Friday, November 23, 2012


 I cannot get enough of this borscht. It is heaven. I chose to eat borscht leftovers over Thanksgiving leftovers for lunch today. It is beyond delicious. Oh, and it's super healthy. I win.

A few weeks ago, my neighbor brought me over some fresh beets from her garden. There were a lot, so I knew I wanted to use some to make borscht. I immediately e-mailed my brother (who lived in Ukraine for two years on his mission) for a recipe. After translating it from Russian to English for me, he sent it my way.

There's nothing better on a cold winter day than soup, especially when it's a divine, healthy soup like this one is! (I think that gorgeous red color would be awesome for a Christmas soup don't you?)


** Note: This recipe makes a TON. I halved it and had enough for dinner, a couple lunches, and still had enough to freeze for a future dinner. Also, this soup, like many soups, is even better the next day after all the flavors have had time to meld together.**

6 liters (just over 6 quarts) of water
1 medium cabbage
3 large beets
3 medium carrots
3 medium onions
1.5 lbs potatoes
1 little bundle of parsley, chopped
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 cans pinto beans or white navy beans (I always drain and rinse canned beans)
2 bullion cubes
3 tbsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp vinegar
Vegetable oil for sautéing
Black Pepper to taste
1 lb meat, cubed (optional, pork is great. I used what I had on hand at the time which was hamburger. I just browned it and threw it in at the end.)

  • Put water on to boil on medium-high heat (if preparing with meat, boil the meat in water until cooked, then remove and set aside).
  • Chop up the cabbage into thin strips and add to the water. Add salt. Boil for 5-10 minutes until cabbage is soft.
  • While cabbage is boiling, cube the potatoes (about 1.5" cubes) and add to the pot. Add the bullion cubes.
  • While the potatoes and cabbage are coming back to a boil, grate carrots and beets into separate bowls and chop the onions into very thin slices.
  • Sauté the carrots in oil until they are soft (about 5 min). Add onions and sauté for about 10 min. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  • Without cleaning the pan, add the beets, sugar, vinegar, and some of the broth from the pot (a few cups maybe, just enough for the beets to simmer and cook). Cover with a lid, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10min or until soft.
  • When the beets are soft, add the carrots and onions back to the pan. Let them sauté for a few minutes, then mix in the tomato paste. While it's sautéing, add the beans to the pot.
  • Add pan contents to the pot (along with the parsley and meat-if used) and simmer for as long as you like. (I let mine simmer for at least an hour).

 Serve with a spoonful of sour cream. 
Recipe source: Someone in the beautiful country of Ukraine, via my brother Reese.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

T-Shirt Dress

It was almost St. Patrick's Day, and I realized my little girl had nothing green to wear. I didn't want to buy something new for just one day, so I got resourceful. I found one of my old t-shirts and googled "little girl t-shirt dress." After weeding out the ones that were really ugly and/or difficult, I found the perfect tutorial HERE. I had to make some adjustments since I had no elastic on hand, so I just used some strips of extra t-shirt fabric and made a drawstring. I also had to change the sleeves because my t-shirt sleeves didn't give me enough fabric. I wish I could have done the sleeves the way they were supposed to be though, because I had issues getting mine to work right. (Measuring/pinning on an 18 month old is very difficult).
Here are the before and after shots:
All in all, I'm pleased with how it turned out. It definitely has flaws, but it's a fun summer dress to run around the house in. The blog also had a tutorial for a t-shirt skirt that I want to try next. It would be easier than the dress (since there are no sleeves involved) and it would work with my drawstring modification. I loved these tutorials becuase both are so easy, yet very cute. They got me excited to clean out my closet and put some good use to all those old t-shirts I never wear!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Chicken Tikka Masala with Naan

When my friend called to ask us over for dinner and wanted to know what our thoughts were on Indian food, I'll be honest, I was a little hesitant. The only time I'd eaten Indian food was at a little restaurant in Logan, UT and I was less than impressed. This was definitely not the case this time though. Chicken Tikka Masala has to be the best meal I've ever had, hands down. I really don't know how I've gone my whole life without it. You have got to try it at least once!

{Recipe found at}

The original recipe was super heavy on the salt and we didn't use a barbecue, so I've kind of tailored this recipe to what we did:


  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 4 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream


  1. In a large bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger, and 4 teaspoons salt. Stir in chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  2. Heat a large frying pan on medium heat.
  3. Pour the marinated chicken {marinade and all} in the frying pan and cook the chicken until no longer pink inside.
  4. Transfer chicken to a strainer and drain all marinade; set aside.
  5. Melt butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic and jalapeno for 1 minute. Season with 2 teaspoons cumin, paprika, and 3 teaspoons salt.
  6. Stir in tomato sauce and cream. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes.
  7. Add grilled chicken, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Now for the naan. Naan is and Indian flatbread and goes perfectly with Chicken Tikka Masala. The recipe we used is from as well. Again, we didn't use a grill, so I've changed it to what we did:


  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (optional)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted


  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes, until frothy. Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth. Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise. Let it rise 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume.
  2. Punch down dough, and knead in garlic. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
  3. During the second rising, preheat griddle to medium high heat.
  4. Roll one ball of dough out into a thin circle. Lightly grease griddle. Place dough on grill, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Brush uncooked side with butter, and turn over. Brush cooked side with butter, and cook until browned, another 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from grill, and continue the process until all the naan has been prepared.
When all is said and done, we like to dip the naan in the chicken tikka sauce, but you can eat it however you want. Hope you enjoy it!


Friday, March 2, 2012

Pasta Salad

A while ago while trying to figure out how to make a homemade pasta salad, I stumbled upon a really neat article titled "Five Steps to a Perfect Pasta Salad."  I was intrigued, 5 steps and completely adaptable; like a good "choose-your-own-ending" book.  I followed the steps, and my salad turned out awesome! Then I completely forgot about it, until today. I had a huge craving for pasta salad (thank you pregnancy for finally giving me a craving that includes lots of veggies and no chocolate), so I pulled out the article again and for a second time, I was not let down. The results looked and tasted great!
Things I love about this article:
The author, Pam Anderson, teaches cooking classes across the country--sounds like a pretty legit source to me.
The directions are simple, yet very clear.
There are lots of suggestions for things to put in.
And it works!

Here's the salad I made today (with the corresponding steps from the article):
Step 1- Rainbow pasta
Step 2- Broccoli, carrots, and cucumber
Step 3- I didn't have any of the suggestions ready on hand, so I used little cubes of Colby Jack cheese. It worked really well.
Step 4- I left out green onions (my husband is not a fan), and for the herbs I used 1 T. dill, 1 1/2 T. parsley, and the last 1/2 T. rosemary. (The rosemary flavor wasn't very strong, so I think next time I'll do 1 T. of each).
Step 5- I used the link for Creamy Buttermilk Dressing. For the optional rice vinegar or lemon juice, I did half and half. The vinegar taste was a little too strong, so I think next time I'll do all lemon juice or just leave it out. For this salad however, I balanced out the flavors a bit more by adding some extra mayo. Despite some of the negative reviews, my dressing was not overly thick (although with the nature of the salad, that wouldn't have been too bad) or bland (since herbs were already added to the salad).

So next time you need a pasta salad, you can unleash your creativity and easily build one from scratch. Enjoy!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Valentine's Day Dinner

I am so excited for Valentine's Day! I started planning our dinner way to early, just because I couldn't wait :) I am in love with the menu, so I thought I'd share it. (PS-none of the pictures are mine, they are from the awesome folks I got the recipes from!)
Chicken Kiev
Chantilly Potatoes
Roasted Asparagus

And for dessert ...
Baked Doughnuts
Only of course I'm doing heart shaped holes and a raspberry cream cheese glaze (found HERE) instead of cinnamon sugar.

Now it's just the long wait until V-Day so I can actually make all this great stuff! What are your plans for the 14h?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Whole Wheat Bread

I just made the most delicious homemade wheat bread! I had to share the recipe. It is light, fluffy, soft, and so healthy!

Go HERE to find the recipe (it's the one called Darcy's Whole Wheat Bread), and then go HERE for a step-by-step tutorial (very helpful in not over-flouring the dough. Mine looked different while it was mixing since I made mine in a KitchenAid, but the dough still looked the same when you pulled some off).

One last side note, I halved the recipe (to make 2 1/2 loaves) and substituted a scant teaspoon Fruit Fresh for the crushed up vitamin C pill.