December 15, 2014

Cute, Cheap, & Easy Holiday Gift

Last year I had come across this idea for Dip Mix Ornaments on Pinterest and knew that this is what I wanted to do for gifts for my coworkers. It is so cute, cheap, and easy!  You are really going to be blown away when I break down the cost of this whole project.

What I did was buy Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing & Seasoning Mix from Costco. I didn't want to just dump ranch mix into the ornaments so I added a little dried dill weed, chopped dried onions, and dried parsley. All of which I already had in my pantry. How Semi Homemade with Sandra Lee of me?

I'll be honest with you I didn't measure how much of the additional spices I added. I was torn between filling them all the way or not. If I had decided to fill them, I would have had to buy a lot more mix. I ended up only using about 1 1/2 containers of the ranch mix.

I bought these cute gift tags at the craft store and used some washi tape to jazz them up. I wrote the recipe for making both ranch dressing and dip mix on the back. Each ornament has approximately 6 tbsp of mix. To make 16 oz of dip or 16 oz of dressing only 3 tbsp of the mix is needed.

Approximate price breakdown of this project:
13 ornaments $0.44/each (I got these on clearance after Christmas last year at Walmart) = $5.72
2 containers of ranch mix $7.99 (from my local Costco) = $15.98
Additional spices = $0
Craft supplies (white gel marker, gift tags, washi tape, and string all 20% off with coupon at Michaels) = $10

Total $31.70 or $2.44 a person!


December 12, 2014

I Heart Breakfast Casseroles

I really love breakfast casseroles because you can make them ahead of time and just pop it in the oven. They also reheat well and are delicious as leftovers. For the past few years I've made a breakfast casserole for Christmas morning. While the casserole bakes in the oven you are free to open up gifts.

In the past, the Jimmy Dean Breakfast Casserole was my go to recipe. I have been substituting the bread with the low carb bread we like. The best low carb bread I've had is Sammi's Bakery Low Carb 7 Grain Fiber, it doesn't have to be thawed, has the same texture of regular bread, and tastes really good. The worst low carb bread that I've had is Julian Bakery Coconut Paleo Bread, yuck. I digress.

I found a couple of new breakfast casseroles and adapted them a little bit because I can never just follow a recipe which drives my husband crazy. The first recipe below is the one I made over the weekend to test out on my husband and it was a winner (not low carb though). I made the second recipe for a pot luck breakfast at work today. It was good, but not as good as the other.

Cheesy Biscuit Breakfast Casserole (1/2 Recipe)
4 refrigerated buttermilk biscuits, quartered
1/2 roll breakfast sausage

1 small onion, diced
1/2 cup baby spinach, cooked
4 eggs
1/4 cup heavy cream
8 oz (1/2 block) Velveeta cheese, cubed
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp mustard powder

1. Grease an 8in square baking dish.
2. Place the quartered biscuits in the bottom of the dish.
3. Brown the sausage then sprinkle over the biscuits. Using the grease from the sausage, saute the spinach and onions until the onions are slightly caramelized. Once cooked, spoon over the biscuits/sausage.
4. In a bowl, mix together the eggs, cream, garlic powder, and mustard powder then pour into the baking dish.
5. Sprinkle the cubed Velveeta over the top then bake for 40-50 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Zesty Breakfast Casserole
10 eggs
1 pkg shredded cheddar cheese
6 hash brown patties
1 roll breakfast sausage
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup RO-TEL

1. Cook the hash browns as directed then place them in a single layer in the bottom of a 9x11 baking dish.
2. While the hash browns are crisping, brown the sausage then set aside.
3. In a large bowl mix together eggs, sour cream, and RO-TEL. Add in cooked sausage and the cheese.
4. Pour the mixture over the hash browns and bake for 40-50 minutes at 350 degrees F.


November 18, 2014

The Foundry Christmas Store

I try to give back all throughout the year, but I try to give a little extra especially around the holidays. Last year, I blogged about the Helping Up Mission which is something I first became interested in when I was in grad school.

This year, through a coworker of mine I will be helping The Foundry's Christmas Store. My coworker's church will be donating to their Christmas Store event and asked others in the department if we were interested in contributing too. This is the first I've heard of The Foundry, per their website:

"The Foundry is a church in Baltimore City.  We exist to see lives, neighborhoods, and the city transformed by the hope of Jesus and we are committed to making Baltimore an even greater place to live, work, and play. The Foundry is a community of people, coming together to pour ourselves out for our city.

We believe that church is not something to go to – it is something we are. We are modeled after the way Jesus lived – we want to serve people without reserve and without judgment, we want to love each other the way Jesus loved his friends and followers, and we want to help people experience God.

There are no secret handshakes, and no perfect people are allowed. If you are interested in God but not so sure about church, we invite you to check out the Foundry. We strive to create a safe environment where we can explore hard questions about God and faith, connect with one another, and act by serving the city together.

We meet on Sundays at 9:30 & 11 am at Tabrizi's"

It doesn't seem like The Foundry is the place to go to if you are seeking the traditional church or service, but the message is still the same- "to serve the people without reserve and without judgement" and I like that.

In the past I've participated in both Adopt-A-Family and Salvation Army Angel Tree. With those, you bought a gift that you thought the family/kids would like and wrapped it. I have no doubt in my mind that those families were grateful for the generosity of others, but I wondered, what if they didn't like what someone had bought them? Do the parents feel as if they couldn't provide for their children?

Much like them, The Foundry's Christmas Store is different than the other programs. The Christmas Store will be open weekends in December for people in particular parents to come to and shop for Christmas gifts for their families at a deep, deep discount. The items in the store are all donated and brand new. The Christmas Store allows them to actually do the shopping, buying, and picking out the gifts. I really think that this is an awesome thing.

I've bought a bunch of toys for the store, but if this seems like something you want to participate in here's how:

  • Donate new toys to The Foundry between now and December 7th. Toys, books, and games should be brand new and can be dropped off at he Foundry’s services on Sunday or at The Foundry office during the week.
  • Volunteer to work in The Christmas Store.
  • Refer Families to The Christmas Store


November 15, 2014

Our Trip to Austin, Texas

My husband and I just returned from our trip to Austin, Texas! Our reason for going to Austin was for the Formula 1 race at the Circuit of the Americas. I got the Mr. tickets to the race last year for Christmas. We stayed at a great place we found on Airbnb for a ridiculously amazing price. All of the area hotels were at least $300/night. If you haven't heard of Airbnb, I definitely suggest checking it out. We had previously used it when we went to Sonoma, California.

Austin in October/November isn't as warm as I had hoped but it sure did beat the weather Baltimore was having :) The race was super fun, watching the race on TV really doesn't do how fast the cars are going justice. Formula 1 is truly an international sport. I was really surprised to see so many people from other countries! I was also surprised at how diverse the fan base is.
Not only did we go for the race, we also went for the food! Oh, the food! Here, there are a lot of food trucks. In Austin, there were a lot of food trailers. The trailers typically are always located in the same spot. It was cool that some of the trailers had joined up with a bar and some were on their own property and then created a cool space for dining adjacent to the trailer.

Some highlights:

Detroit style pizza. I had never heard of Detroit style pizza, but it's a real thing! The husband said it was the best pizza he's ever had. That's saying a lot being that he is a pizza aficionado and grew up on Chicago Deep Dish in Illinois.
Detroit Style Pizza from VIA 313, The Rocket (near) and The Cadillac (far)
Tacos, tacos, tacos! I'm pretty sure we had tacos every day we were in Austin and I honestly don't have a problem with that. Another great taco place was Bomb Tacos located inside Bar 96 which just so happens to be a Ravens bar! They had a good selection of local craft beer that went well with the tacos.
Egg, chorizo, and cactus breakfast tacos from Veracruz All Natural
BBQ, because duh! A must in Texas.
BBQ turkey, brisket, and pulled pork from The Salt Lick
A few minutes from where we were staying was this adorably awesome restaurant called Sawyer & Co. that had a 50's diner style feel to it. It had a diner counter with stools and all! I would describe this as Tex-Mex meets Southern Comfort food which are probably two of my favorites. EVER.
Fried Pickles
Trailer Park Bene
Ham, swiss, and mushroom omelette with cheese grits and biscuit


October 22, 2014

Dachshund Finds: Big Lots Edition

Who knew that Big Lots would be a place that has so many awesome Dachshund Finds? I certainly didn't! I recently went there with my husband and mother in law who was furniture shopping. Every aisle I went down seemed to have another Dachshund Find waiting for me to discover! Let me tell you, it was really hard not to buy every single one of these ;)

Set of 2 Light Up Dachshunds: $40
Inflatable Holiday Dachshund: $40 
Inflatable Halloweenie Dachshund: $40
Set of 2 Dachshund Puppy Gift Bags: $4