How to Smoke a Turkey: Tutorial, Tips, and a Sauce Recipe

Disclosure: Today’s post is sponsored by We Love Fire. The opinions are my own.

With Halloween coming up this week, Thanksgiving is just around the corner!  Today I’m getting ahead of the game and sharing a tutorial on how to smoke a turkey.  At our house, we cook a lot of meats.  We only do turkey 2 or 3 times a year, and at this point we have cooked it by smoking/grilling, baking, and frying.  Today we are going to specifically talk about smoking a turkey.  I’ve got tips to help you get a moist and flavorful turkey, and I’ve also got a recipe for Southern White Sauce, which is MUST have item in our house when we are having smoked turkey or chicken.

If you are looking for a new grill or smoker this holiday season I Love Fire has a fantastic guide for you.

[Read more…]

Banana Oatmeal Applesauce Muffins


When you have a one year old, mealtime is an adventure, and it definitely takes a little planning, if you want to give your toddler the most nutritious meals as possible. Breakfast has become fairly easy for me. I generally make everything ahead of time.  In the morning  I just have to throw things on a plate and heat as needed. Thaxton really likes muffins, so we have those quite often. I’ve been making them from scratch in order to pack them full of nutritious ingredients. After baking a batch I then put what we will need for the week in a container in the fridge and I freeze the rest for later. (Currently I have 4 types of muffins in the freezer.)

My favorite muffin is banana, so I just had to make it the first muffin Thaxton would try.  As I searched for a healthy recipe, I wanted something with oatmeal and applesauce. Oatmeal has so many great health benefits, and applesauce definitely helps make a moist muffin; plus you have health benefits there too!  I also added spinach to the recipe; this is an ingredient you can leave out if it is a turn-off for you, but I assure you that it doesn’t take away from the taste, and it definitely adds more nutrients to your muffins!  Hope you’ll try and enjoy these Banana Oatmeal Applesauce Muffins! [Read more…]

Apple Carrot Spinach Muffins

Thaxton is now 14 months old! How time flies!  He eats a variety of food, including a lot of vegetables!  Our biggest eating challenge has been getting him to eat chunky foods and different textures.  As a result, he still eats a lot of purees. For his non-pureed foods, I try to give him things that are as healthy as possible.  One thing that he is very good at eating is breads and anything else from the grain group, so I started looking for healthy muffin recipes.

Today I’m sharing a recipe for Apple Carrot Spinach Muffins. Don’t let the spinach throw you!  If you didn’t see the specks of green in the muffin, you’d never know they had spinach in them!  I put spinach in Thaxton’s scrambled eggs, all of our muffins, and smoothies!  It’s a great way to get some extra greens, which is something I struggle with myself!

I did take one shortcut with these muffins.  I used applesauce instead of chopping up fresh apples.  Thaxton enjoys applesauce, so we keep that in the fridge, and I like the idea of using what I have, rather than going out and buying more ingredients.

Apart from being very wholesome, these muffins are delicious and very moist!  Hope you enjoy! [Read more…]

Instant Pot Crack Chicken Pasta – Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. The opinions are my own.

About a year ago I discovered the Instant Pot, and I was intrigued by all the recipes and blog posts I found online.  After a couple of months of browsing I decided I would buy an Instant Pot when they went on sale for Black Friday.  And I got one!  My husband was a little skeptical at first.  He wondered why we needed an Instant Pot. (After all, we already have a Crock Pot!)  But I promised him, it would be worth it!

Thanksgiving night I was looking online at the Instant Pot and getting ready to place some Christmas orders, when my husband walked in the door with an Instant Pot in hand! (While running out the store, he decided this would be a nice surprise for my upcoming birthday.)  Now I have to admit, at first I got a little intimidated by this contraption, but luckily my husband loves to cook too, and he was happy to help me with the first recipe I decided to cook.  (Since then, he’s been more than happy to experiment with his own Instant Pot recipes!)  And like a lot of things, once I got to working with the Instant Pot, I found it very easy to use!

Today I am sharing the very first Instant Pot recipe I decided to make.  It is Crack Chicken Pasta, or if you prefer Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta.

Why I Love This Recipe

This pasta turned out so great!  Personally I love anything that has Chicken Bacon Ranch in the name, so I was very excited to make this!

And I was impressed with just how easy it is to make this one-pot meal (pictures of the process are below).

I was also happy to serve this to our baby.  He’s eating more table foods now, and he loved it.  I just chopped up some of the chicken and noodles for his portion and then served him some veggies on the side.

Tips and Recommendations

If you wanted to make the whole dish healthier, you could add any vegetables you like; I’d recommend broccoli or perhaps a medley of broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower.

I should also mention that Instant Pot Recipes like this one make a LOT of food, and they are very easy to freeze for later.  (I have a a goal for 2019 to do a lot more freezer cooking!)

Instant Pot Crack Chicken Pasta – Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

Instant Pot Crack Chicken Pasta – Chicken Bacon Ranch Pasta

Ingredients:

1-lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 (1-oz) package Original Ranch dressing mix

3 cups dry penne pasta

3 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

1/2 cup to 3/4 cup real bacon bits.

3/4 of an 8oz package cream cheese

2 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

Preheat Instant Pot on Sauté setting; add oil, chicken, and ranch packet, stirring to coat. Cook chicken 2–3 minutes.

Add pasta, broth, and water to pot.

Close lid, lock pot. Make sure the pot is set to seal. Then choose Pressure Cook setting; then set it to 4 minutes. Cook pasta until time is up, then do a quick release and open Pot.

Stir in cream cheese, cheddar cheese and cooked bacon until combined; let pasta set

5 minutes to thicken. Serve immediately.

https://www.simplysweethome.com/2019/01/instant-pot-crack-chicken-pasta/

 

If you’ve been thinking about buying an Instant Pot and just haven’t gotten around to it, I completely recommend it.  I have the Instant Pot 7-in-1 DUO60. I have the 6 quart, but this same model comes in 3 and 8 quart.  The 6 quart is a good size for our family, and it allows me to make enough food for freezing or to giveaway, and it has all the functions and features we need.

And if you already have an Instant Pot, then I’d love to have your recipe recommendations! Leave a comment here or share with me on social media.  (You can also link up your recipes at our latest Friday Favorites linky party!)

12 Favorite Posts from 2018

It’s that time of year! Time to look back on our year and see how things went as we prepare for the next year. I always like to look back and then share some of my favorite posts for the year. This year has been very busy for me at home, and I haven’t done nearly as much writing as I normally have in past years, but I still managed to find 12 posts that I thought were worth sharing again for this year end post!  We have a few recipes, cleaning posts, health, fashion, and even a pet post.  I hope you enjoy!

(Please find the link for each post underneath the featured photo.)

Grilled Hot Wings + 6 Tips to Make Your Summer Cookout a Success

College Football Spirit with Dr Pepper® + DIY Photo Booth Tutorial

12 Tips and Must-Haves for Postpartum Care

5 Tips to Keeping Your Home in Tip-Top Shape for Your Family (and Your Cat)

Chicken Florentine Pasta

Panasonic HomeHawk Front Door Home Monitoring Camera Review and Giveaway

6 Baby Must-Haves for Cold and Flu Season

Fashion Reivew from prAna

Mama’s New Helper: DEEBOT OZMO 610 – Robot Vacuum Review

Homemade Dill Pickles

Cleaning Up with Rejuvenate® Click n Clean™ Multi-Surface Spray Mop System

Christmas Pajamas for the Family Review

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on my 12 picks!  And if have a similar post, I’d love for you to share it with me!

Homemade Dill Pickles

Disclosure: I received products for review to facilitate this post. Affiliate links are contained herein. The opinions are my own.

Homemade Pickles

With summer harvests comes the opportunity to can.  I love pickles, and my husband loves pickles, pickled okra, pickled peppers, pickled sausages…you get the idea!  So after I received some Ball Jars to review, it seemed like the perfect time to do some pickling!  If you have the right recipe, homemade pickles are hard to beat!  And they also make great gifts for holidays, housewarmings, hostess gifts, or just a simple gesture of kindness to a friend or neighbor.

Today I’m going to share a few jar options available from Ball, and I’ve got a great pickle recipe for you!  In the recipe instructions, you’ll also find tips for sterilizing your jars before use, tips about product shelf life, and more!

Ball has a great variety of products available for your canning needs. I received the following: Ball Sharing Jars, Smooth Sided Jars, 32 oz Amber Jars, 16 oz Amber Jars.

The smooth sided jars look very cute and perfect for jellies and jams, and yes, even pickles!

The amber jars are great because they block out 99% of light, to ensure optimum quality of product.

The Sharing Jars have a unique shape and look great for gift giving or for your crafting needs.

Today’s recipe is one that my husband and I just sort of threw together.  I wrote down the ingredients as we made the pickles, crossing my fingers that the pickles would turn out good, and they did!

This brine also works well for making pickled okra.  My hubs like his pickled okra hot and spicy, so for those jars, we added the jalapeno slices and peppercorn flakes before adding our vegetables.

Homemade Dill Pickles

Homemade Dill Pickles

Ingredients:

5 cups water

2 1/2 cups vinegar

5 tbsp pickling salt

2 1/2 tbsp garlic pepper

1 tbsp dill weed

cucumbers (I can't remember how many we used, but the brine was enough to make 6 pints of pickles, so I'd advise chopping up enough veggies to fill 6 pints, leaving enough room to pour in the brine, of course.)

Directions:

Sterilize jars. Place a pot of water on the stove with a towel in the bottom. (This is to keep the jars from busting.) Once the water is boiling place the jars inside and then use tongs to remove them. Then dry out jars.

Chop up cucumbers, as desired. (We like to make some jars with chips and some with spears.)

Place cucumbers in jars. (For a spicier pickle, you can also add a couple of fresh jalapeno slices and/or peppercorn flakes to the jars.)

In a large pot, add your water and vinegar. Bring to a boil and add your spices. Mix well and remove from heat. Use a ladle to spoon brine in to the jars.

Once jars are filled with veggies and brine, place the tops on them. The tops of the jars should pop, sealing them. If they do not seal, try placing the jars in a pot of hot water.

These can be eaten within hours of making, but if you have the will power, I'd say let these sit for a week or two before eating. If you like crispy pickles, you should also plan to eat these within a few months. We found the pickles to be tasty but a little soft after a year. Store these in a warm, dry place. Refrigerate product after opening.

https://www.simplysweethome.com/2018/09/homemade-dill-pickles/

 

Do you can?  I’d love to hear what you can, and if you have a recipe please share it with me in the comments or tag me on social media!

Chicken Florentine Pasta

This post is sponsored by Stella® but the content and opinions expressed here are my own.

With a new baby in the house, it has become even more challenging to get dinner on the table, so I find myself looking for more and more quick meals and time saving solutions.  At the same time, I don’t want to sacrifice taste and quantity.  Today I’m sharing a recipe for Chicken Florentine Pasta.  It is the perfect example of a quick and easy meal that tastes like it came from a gourmet restaurant, and it shows must how much you can do with a few good ingredients and a little creativity.

[Read more…]

Grilled Hot Wings + 6 Tips to Make Your Summer Cookout a Success

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MakeYourSummer #MADEFORDOERS #CollectiveBias

Summer time is party time!  My husband and I love to have cookouts during the summer, and we are sort of famous for our last minute impromptu get-togethers, featuring my husband’s grilled masterpieces, and my amazing sides and desserts.  Today I’m excited to offer you an easy but unique recipe for your next cookout, plus tips to make your summer cookout a success from prep to clean up.

 

Party Time Clean Up Essentials

When it comes to parties, most people focus on the food first and then the decorations, but you must not forget other essentials like plates, cups, eating utensils, and of course, something to help guests to clean their hands.  VIVA® Vantage® Big Roll Paper Towels come in a convenient 6 pack that is perfect for your party.  I love putting out a roll of paper towels, because it is easy, convenient, and cost effective.  Also, in the event of a spill, you just grab a roll and get to cleaning!

Paper towels can also be a big help for cleaning as you go before your party begins.  Just wipe down tables and counter tops as you work, so the messes don’t add up!  Then after the party is over, I like to grab my favorite spray cleaner and a roll of paper towels for quick clean up!

New Kleenex® Wet Wipes Gentle Clean are also a convenient product to have on hand.  These are safe to use on hands and your face.

Summer parties are often outdoors, which means no sink is immediately available, and so it’s great to offer guests some wipes for personal clean up (especially if you are serving a messy food like ribs, wings, or ice cream).

I recommend placing a package of Kleenex® Wet Wipes at the center of each of the tables where people will be eating, as well as an additional package next to your messiest foods, which may require the use of the wipes (ie – right next to your tray of hot wings).

You can find both of these products in the bath tissue, facial tissue and paper towel aisle at your local Kroger.  I used my Kroger Plus card and was able to save $5 on the VIVA® Vantage® Big Roll Paper Towels 6 pack!

The Kleenex® wipes found on the facial tissue aisle.  I actually found them on the same aisle as the paper towels.  I found them at the opposite end of the aisle, in between bath tissue and facial tissue.

Place Non-Food Essentials in One Place

I have been to so many parties and get-togethers where everyone appears lost!  Where are the plates?  I can’t find the cups!  I forgot to get a paper towel. Where are the forks?  The confusion can be solved rather easily, by placing all of these essential items at the end of your buffet, all together in one place.

Fun Theme

Even the smallest party can be made more fun with a few decorations.  My stepson recently graduated high school and will be leaving in August to join the army, so for his upcoming party, I would use some simple red, white, and blue decorations.  I LOVE patriotic decorations to begin with, so this is an especially fun theme for me.  Plus, with Memorial Day and the 4th of July being summer time holidays it is very easy to find paper plates, balloons, tablecloths, and other fun decorations and party favors to go with this theme.

Make Ahead Menu Items

To shorten prep time and make less mess on the day of your party, choose a few make ahead menu items.

  • Casseroles that can be mixed up the night before and simply warmed in the oven the next day are great.
  • You can also make salads the night before. (We always make our potato salad a day ahead!)
  • No bake desserts are also great for this, as well most other desserts from homemade cookies to pies and cupcakes.

Unique Menu

Think outside the box when planning your menu; just a few unique menu items can take your menu from bland and basic to original and full of flavor.

Right now we are brainstorming party ideas for Noah. My husband and I LOVE to do cookouts, and we also love doing appetizer parties, so my idea is to do a combination of the two.  I’d like to serve hamburgers and hot dogs (because it is easy and everyone loves it), but I also want to throw in some of our favorite appetizers like hot wings, sausage balls, and buffalo chicken dip.

You could also add a few appetizers to your menu if your are having a fish fry.  Or offer up veggie kebobs alongside your grilled steaks or barbecue chicken.

Fresh fruits and salads are also great additions to your backyard barbecue, and of course, you never want to forget the dessert!

Fire Up That Grill!

If you’re serving appetizers at your next cookout, I have a simple, yet unique recipe.  Where I live hot wings are not typically served at a barbecue.  They are usually reserved for tailgating parties and holiday parties, so just having them at a summer party is an interesting menu twist for us.  And if that’s not enough, these wings are GRILLED!  Usually when people think of wings, they think of wings fried in a fryer.

Grilling your wings will add extra flavor that frying just won’t do, and because you aren’t using any oil, and the fat from the wings drips down into your grill, your wings will actually be a lot more healthy!

 

Grilled Hot Wings

Grilled Hot Wings

Ingredients:

5lb hotwings (drumettes and/or flats)

OR 5 lb chicken tenderloins (for chicken fingers or cut into boneless wings)

12 oz bottle cayenne pepper hot sauce

1 stick butter

1/4 cup steak seasoning sauce

1 tbsp garlic powder

Directions:

Place wings on grill and cook on 250 degrees of heat for 2 1/2 to 3 hours or until internal temperature is 160 degrees.

Just before wings finish cooking, make sauce: Pour hot sauce, steak seasoning sauce, and garlic powder in to a sauce pan. Add stick of butter. Simmer on low to medium heat until butter is melted, stirring occasionally.

Once wings are off the grill, place wings in a dish and pour sauce over wings. Serve with ranch or bleu cheese dressing.

Notes

To prevent burning and sticking, take a piece of aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray, place marinated wings on foil, and fold/scrunch foil to create a foil pack. Then place foil pack on grill.

https://www.simplysweethome.com/2018/06/grilled-hot-wings-6-tips-summer-cookout-success/

 Sweepstakes!

Enter the #MakeYourSummer Sweepstakes for a chance to win a Kroger gift card or a NASCAR experience!

  • No Purchase Necessary. The #MakeYourSummer #Sweepstakes begins on June 11, 2018 at 12:00:00 AM ET and ends on July 23, 2018 at 11:59:59 PM ET.
  • There are multiple Entry Periods during the Sweepstakes. Legal residents of the 50 US/DC only, 18+.
  • Void where prohibited. By participating, you agree to the Official Rules at https://makeyoursummerrules.pgtb.me/MRsDsl.
  • All shared entries should include: #MakeYourSummer #Sweepstakes. Ends 7/23/18. See rules at https://makeyoursummerrules.pgtb.me/MRsDsl.

Do you love cookouts and summer parties? Visit the Make Your Summer Social Hub for more unique grilling inspiration.  And as always, I invite you to join the conversation by commenting on today’s post!

Asian Inspired Steak with Fried Rice

My husband and I grill all year long, but we still look forward to those warm months when we can enjoy the great outdoors while we cook. Like a lot of people, one of our favorite meats to cook is steak.  I personally like a nice New York Strip Steak or a basic sirloin served up with a loaded baked potato and a salad or steamed vegetables..  As far as marinades and seasonings, I’m happy with just a little salt, pepper, or seasoning salts, but my husband, The King of the Grill, loves to experiment, so I’m always getting to try new marinades and seasoning blends.

The other day, we put together an Asian Inspired Steak.  We made these with some delicious Flat Iron Steaks, and they were delicious! To reinforce the Asian flavors of the steak, I served them up with a little Chicken Fried Rice.

I’d love to say, I made the rice from scratch, but in this case I took a short cut.  We used PF Chang’s Chicken Fried Rice.  They have delicious frozen entrees that taste delicious and are quick and easy to make.  For me, these entrees are a meal all by themselves, but they are also a great complement to other homemade items you may be cooking.

 

Here’s the recipe for the marinade we used for our steaks, along with instructions on how to best cook the steak.  Normally I like my steak cooked medium well, but as it’s a Flat Iron steak, my husband said they could only be cooked medium rare or medium. (And since he’s my resident expert on steaks, I agree.)

Asian Inspired Steak

Asian Inspired Steak

Ingredients:

Steaks - 1 1/2 - 2 lbs Flat Iron Steaks

Marinade Ingredients:

2tbs red pepper flakes

1/2 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup red cooking wine

3tbs hoisin sauce

1tbs garlic pepper

3tbs Worchesterchire sauce

Directions:

Place all liquid ingredients in a medium sized bowl or casserole dish, and whisk together. Then add red pepper flakes and garlic pepper. Mix until well blended. (You may also mix ingredients together in a gallon sized zipper bag.)

Place meat in container with marinade and refrigerate for 1 to 6 hours or overnight.

Cook on hot grill (on high, 450 to 550 degrees). For medium rare, cook each side for 4 minutes, and for medium cook each side for 5 minutes.

After cooking steak, let it set for 5 to 10 minutes. Then cut in to strips and serve over a bed of your favorite rice or lo mein.

https://www.simplysweethome.com/2018/05/asian-inspired-steak-fried-rice/

 

These steaks were definitely delicious, and the PF Chang’s Chicken Fried Rice was a great complement to the dish (not to mention a great convenience food to go along with our homecooking).

Do you ever pair frozen entrees or sides with your homecooking?  I’d love to hear about your favorite product recommendations or tips for getting dinner to the table faster!

 

 

Vanilla Cream Cheese Apple Pie Dip

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ServingUpTheSeason #CollectiveBias

The holiday season is here, which means shoppers are flocking to the store to buy gifts for everyone on their list, and a lot of us are also racing to the store to buy grocery items for our holiday menus.  If you’ve been assigned to provide the dessert this year, you can bring something delicious and easy to the table by choosing Marie Callender’s® Pies and Loaf Cakes.  Today I’m going to tell you a little bit about these amazing desserts and show you can use Marie Callender’s Dutch Apple Pie in a recipe. [Read more…]