Chicken and Parsnip Soup

Chicken and Parsnip Soup with Mushrooms and Chickpeas. Healthy, light and super simple to prepare.

Is anyone thinking of anything other than Thanksgiving this week? I always find this week to be a tough one because no one is really working, but you still have to go to work. You still have to eat dinner, but you just piece random ingredients together because most of the fridge is full of Thanksgiving fixin’s. It’s like a waiting game until Thursday rolls around, and then it’s full speed ahead into Christmas.

This parsnip and chicken soup is a great pre-Thanksgiving choice for several reasons. First of all, it’s cold outside in most areas, so soup is a comforting choice. Secondly, if you make this with a pre-cooked, shredded, rotisserie chicken from the grocery store, it requires zero fridge space. All you need is a package of mushrooms, a can of chickpeas and a couple of parsnips.

The Hubs and I have never been huge mushroom lovers, but we were both crazy about this soup. It was super earthy and satisfying, yet light enough that you won’t ruin your pre-Thanksgiving warm-up fast. Doesn’t everyone fast before Thanksgiving? No? Just us? Never mind then.

I’m looking forward to starting a holiday baking bonanza on the blog next week, so save some room for dessert and tune in for some great sweet treats.

 

Chicken and Parsnip Soup with Mushrooms and Chickpeas. Healthy, light and super simple to prepare.

Chicken and Parsnip Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup thinly diagonally sliced parsnip (2 parsnips)
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced shallots (2 shallots)
  • 1 (4-ounce) package gourmet mushroom blend
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 1/2 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 thyme sprig
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add parsnip, shallots, mushrooms, and garlic; sauté 3 minutes. Add broth and next 7 ingredients (through thyme); bring to a simmer, and cook 10 minutes or until parsnips are tender. Remove from heat; stir in parsley.
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**Recipe from Cooking Light

The Great List 11.21.2014

San Diego Bay. Coronado Bridge

So much has happened this week I don’t even know where to begin. I’m thrilled to have the “day off” today (I never actually have a day off) to spend in the kitchen for the first time in weeks. Working for yourself often means having to do all the boring busywork, and sometimes that prevents you from doing what you actually want to do. It all evens out in the end, but I sure have been missing my creative days lately! Let’s start off with some gratitude and move on to a day of fun!

1. The photo above was taken while running last weekend’s Fit Foodie 5k course. I had such a wonderful time at the weekend’s events, and the view from that course could not be beat. I’m so grateful not only to live in this beautiful city that is not covered by snow right now, but to be a part of such a wonderful community both online and offline that puts on awesome events like this one.

2. Speaking of awesome events. Creative Connection was this week, and it was beyond epic! We put together a panel of women entrepreneurs to share their personal stories with our group, and the dynamic of the 3 turned out to be so magical. Last night I was beaming with pride for being a part of such a special event. It was our largest turn out to date, and let me tell you how great it feels to be connecting so many creative women.

3. I took a quilting class this week that got me so excited and inspired for some new projects. Art lives within me, and I love finding new ways to express my creativity. For anyone who is feeling stuck in a rut, go out and take a random class and learn something new. There is no better way to spice up life than to try something you’ve never done before. Even if you wind up hating it, at least you will have learned something about yourself.

Ok, I am feeing so uplifted right now I just need to wrap this up and get a jump on my cooking. I hope you all will take a few moments for gratitude today. Have a wonderful weekend!

Thanksgiving Leftovers Stuffed Sandwich Rolls

Crispy, gooey, cheesy. These Thanksgiving Leftovers Stuffed Sandwich Rolls are the ultimate way to enjoy your leftovers. | Betsylife.com

T minus one week till turkey day and I’m already dreaming about the day after when I eat leftovers until I pop and put up the Christmas tree. My first stop on the leftover train are these Thanksgiving leftovers stuffed sandwich rolls. It’s like Quiznos on crack.

The key for me is hollowing out the sandwich roll to allow more room for leftovers, and increasing the crispiness factor after baking. Yes, I do like to plan strategically when it comes to upping the deliciousness factor of my Thanksgiving leftovers.

Crispy, gooey, cheesy. These Thanksgiving Leftovers Stuffed Sandwich Rolls are the ultimate way to enjoy your leftovers. | Betsylife.com

Ok, so get a mini baguette or other type of sandwich roll and slice it about halfway through, but not all the way. If you cut too far, it’s cool, you’ll just have a messier meal. Scrape out the insides of the bread and eat them as you work, because it’s the day after Thanksgiving and you’re already wearing sweatpants, and your stomach has stretched from yesterdays feast, and it’s a shame to waste bread.

Next, start filling your roll with all your favorite leftovers. I like to stack it by flavor profile, but it’s up to you. I did mashed potatoes and stuffing on the bottom, followed by turkey in the middle, cranberry sauce and gravy on the top.

Crispy, gooey, cheesy. These Thanksgiving Leftovers Stuffed Sandwich Rolls are the ultimate way to enjoy your leftovers. | Betsylife.com

I topped the whole thing with cheese, because cheese makes everything better, and then popped those bad boys in the oven at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melted, the leftovers are heated through and the bread is super crispy. It’s like heaven in hand held form. I think this may be my most favorite way ever to enjoy leftovers, but surely there will still be more leftovers to transform. I’ve got you covered.

Take some leftovers, wrap them in a pizza crust and you have Thanksgiving leftovers stromboli!! (You can thank me for this one later). Why not griddle all your leftovers and then smash them into a Thanksgiving leftovers grilled cheese sandwich? Or my personal favorite, take a slice of leftover pumpkin pie and smash it between two cinnamon graham crackers and make a pumpkin pie s’more. That should help free up some real estate in your fridge.

However you enjoy your leftovers, don’t forget to take a few moments to give thanks and be grateful for all that you have. Thanksgiving is not the only day of the year to be thankful. Gratitude never goes out of style.

Crispy, gooey, cheesy. These Thanksgiving Leftovers Stuffed Sandwich Rolls are the ultimate way to enjoy your leftovers. | Betsylife.com

 

Gingerbread French Toast Casserole

Gingerbread French Toast Casserole. The ultimate holiday brunch food. | Betsylife.com

Gingerbread is one of the few redeeming qualities of the holiday season. If you ask me, that, candy canes, and eggnog are the only tolerable things about this time of the year.

Once Fun Month is over, I’m pretty much ready for the next year to start. Granted I no longer have to deal with terrible winter weather anymore, but I’m still not a huge fan of obligatory parties you don’t really want to go to, excessive junk food temptation, and extreme commercialism. I don’t really like shopping, I detest gift giving for no reason (although I do like wrapping gifts, so there’s another thing to add to the “pro” column), and non-daylight savings time is my mortal enemy. I guess you can say I’m kind of a grinch.

Despite my holiday disdain, I realize that this time of year is inevitable, and I always try to make the best of it.

Gingerbread French Toast Casserole. The ultimate holiday brunch food. | Betsylife.com

I’m going to kick of the season of fat pants with this gingerbread french toast casserole. I like regular french toast although I never eat it other than during the holidays, but when it’s made out of gingerbread, I insanely, lovingly, adore it! I’m not sure where my love of all things ginger came from, but I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that it is my favorite spice.

This delicious overnight casserole begins with a fluffy, buttery loaf of gingerbread brioche. Sure it takes a bit of time to bake your own bread, but that’s just another thing that makes the holidays “special”……extra effort cooking. You just gotta own it.

Gingerbread French Toast Casserole. The ultimate holiday brunch food. | Betsylife.com

I’m seriously considering a campaign to make gingerbread a year-round food. It’s so delicious it deserves its place among summer favorites like popsicles and burgers right? Ok, maybe not. I guess I’ll just enjoy it while I can, and hopefully serving after serving of this gingerbread french toast casserole will keep my mind off all the other things I’m not loving this season.

Gingerbread French Toast Casserole. The ultimate holiday brunch food. | Betsylife.com

Gingerbread French Toast Casserole

Ingredients

  • One loaf gingerbread brioche
  • 8 whole eggs
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 cup Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Tablespoon ground ginger
  • For the topping
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, cut in pieces

Instructions

  1. Grease a 9X13 casserole dish.
  2. Cut brioche into 1 inch cubes and heap into prepared dish.
  3. Whisk together eggs, milk, cream, sugar, vanilla and ground ginger. Pour evenly over bread.
  4. Cover and store in fridge for several hours or overnight.
  5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  6. In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon and salt. Cut butter into flour mixture until crumbly.
  7. Remove casserole from the fridge. Sprinkle brown sugar topping over the casserole.
  8. Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown.
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The Great List 11.14.2014

The Butcher Press Elephant Print

Oh hey, it only took 2 weeks but I’m finally starting to feel like myself again after Fun Month. Granted, the last few weeks have been a bit disruptive, but now life is leveling out a bit and for that I am very grateful. Time to count my weekly blessings!

1. The Hubs was away on an extremely stressful business trip last week, which usually means he comes home in an terrible mood, and Olive and I have to tiptoe around so he doesn’t snap at us. This time, however, he actually left work at work for the most part, and has been Great to be around. I’m pretty understanding when it comes to this stuff, and I’m tough enough to deal with it, but I always worry about him forgetting about the good stuff in his life, and letting the stress take over. (Maybe he should write a Great List. Hint. Hint.) I’m so Grateful that this time he was able to accept the things that he couldn’t control, and instead focus his energies on the things he could, like playing with his sweet dog and loving his wonderful wife. We’ve had a lovely week together as a family.

2. I traded an old espresso machine we never use for some original artwork from my friend Katy at The Butcher Press. I think other artists will agree that after a while it gets kind of old hanging your own artwork in your house. I love bringing in new visuals, and I love the extra cabinet space getting rid of that espresso machine freed up. It’s a double win!

3. I took a 3 hour break from life this week and pieced together a quilt I’ve been working on for a while. I love my job, but sometimes I really need to step away from the computer! It was so wonderful to just spend time listening to music and working with my hands. It’s something I never realize I miss until I do it.

4. Despite a disastrous two weeks of ridiculous car troubles, we’ve now got one car back into operation. I kind of feel like I never want to drive again after all we’ve been through, but I am grateful that I can get back to my regular routine. There’s something comforting about driving your own car after you haven’t had it for a while. My fingers are still crossed for my beloved Senty to pull through her “engine operation” that is still in progress.

Life is swirling around us lately, and I’m doing my best just to put one foot in front of the other and continue to move forward at my own pace. No weeks are ever totally “normal” with our weird jobs, but uneventful weeks like this one are a welcome retreat, and definitely help to keep me feeling grounded. I hope you all had enjoyable weeks as well, and carry that joy throughout your weekend!

Caramel Crunch Cream Pie

Caramel Crunch Cream Pie has a crunchy layer of caramel-y rice krispies. Perfect for the holidays! |Betsylife.com

This caramel crunch cream pie is definitely a special occasion pie. It takes a lot of whisking to make it happen but if you think of it as your pre-Thanksgiving upper body workout then maybe it won’t seem so bad. Some people run a turkey trot to warm up for a day of eating, I make pie. Seems a bit counterproductive, but that’s how I roll.

Caramel Crunch Cream Pie has a crunchy layer of caramel-y rice krispies. Perfect for the holidays! |Betsylife.com

I’ve been working on variations of this pie for years. The flavors are insane, and I’m on a mission to get it just right. This version was really good the day I made it, and the day after, but by the 3rd day it got a bit watery. Be warned.

This year I put the caramel-y, crispy rice layer on the bottom of the pie. After a few days it will absorb moisture from the pudding and won’t be so crispy anymore, but the day of, it gives this smooth pie an awesome, and surprising crunch. I think maybe next year I’ll try to make the entire crust out of rice krispies.  Caramel Crunch Cream Pie has a crunchy layer of caramel-y rice krispies. Perfect for the holidays! |Betsylife.com

I realize this all seems like random chatter, but this is truly a glimpse into my creative process. Ideas are constantly popping into my head. Often when I execute them they’re delicious, but not exactly what I was going for, so I revise and try again. And again. It doesn’t frustrate me if things aren’t perfect, as I said, usually they’re delicious anyway, it just motivates me to continue creating until my vision is realized. For me, this is fun!

There is nothing more satisfying to me than creative problem solving.  Caramel Crunch Cream Pie has a crunchy layer of caramel-y rice krispies. Perfect for the holidays! |Betsylife.com

I realize that not everyone is enthralled by cooking like I am, but I’m willing to bet that there is something in your life that excites you, and brings you a sense of satisfaction like this does for me. The Hubs likes to build furniture. Val loves to run. What is it that brings you joy? The greatest thing you can do for yourself is discover what that is, and then set aside time, even just ten minutes, each day to work on it. You owe it to yourself.

Caramel Crunch Cream Pie

Ingredients

  • 1 baked 9 inch pie crust
  • For the crispy rice layer
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon light corn syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups puffed rice cereal
  • For the caramel pudding
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 large egg yolks (reserve whites for meringue topping)
  • For the meringue
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 4 egg whites

Instructions

    To make the crispy rice layer
  1. In a small, heavy saucepan, bring the sugar, water and corn syrup to a boil over moderately high heat. Lower the heat to moderate and simmer undisturbed until a deep-amber caramel forms, about 5 minutes.
  2. Remove the caramel from the heat and stir in the salt and rice cereal.
  3. Press crispy rice firmly into the bottom of the pre-baked pie crust.
  4. To make the caramel pudding
  5. In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil over moderately high heat, gently swirling the pan until the sugar dissolves. Cook over moderate heat, undisturbed, until a deep-amber caramel forms, about 8 minutes.
  6. Remove from the heat. Carefully add 1 cup of the milk. The caramel will kind up clump up. Cook over low heat, whisking gently, until mixture comes together and becomes smooth, about 5 minutes.
  7. In a small glass bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the milk with the vanilla; sprinkle the gelatin on top and let stand until softened.
  8. In a large glass measuring cup, whisk the remaining 2 3/4 cups milk with the cornstarch and kosher salt. Pour this milk mixture into the caramel and bring to a boil over moderately high heat, whisking constantly until thickened, about 10 minutes.
  9. Remove from the heat and whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time. Return the mixture to a boil and cook until thickened once again. Whisk in the gelatin mixture.
  10. Spread the pudding evenly over the crispy rice layer and press a piece of plastic wrap directly over the surface. Chill until fully set 1-4 hours.
  11. To make the meringue
  12. In a small bowl combine sugar and cornstarch.
  13. In a deep bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar with a mixer on high speed (use whisk attachment if available) until very foamy and no liquid whites remain in bottom of bowl. Continue to beat at high speed and gradually add the sugar-starch mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time. Then beat until whites hold stiff, glossy peaks.
  14. Top chilled pie with meringue and toast with a kitchen torch or place under the broiler until browned, about 5 minutes.
  15. Serve immediately.
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Roasted Kabocha Squash with Balsamic and Feta #12Bloggers

Awesome Thanksgiving Side Dish! Roasted Kabocha Squash with Balsamic and Feta. | Betsylife.com

I’ve been dreaming about Thanksgiving for weeks now. As per usual I have lofty ideas of fancy place cards, gorgeous cornucopia center pieces, and course after course of gourmet food. Every single year I plan to “take it up a notch,” and every single year dinner winds up on paper plates accompanied by red plastic cups full of wine. Fortunately, my friends don’t seem to mind too much. I need to accept that this is just how we roll.

Just because the food is served up on a paper plate, doesn’t mean that it’s anything short of insanely delicious. That’s one thing you can always expect at Betsylife HQ. Good ass food. This year I tapped my 12 blogger homies to get their input on what makes a great Thanksgiving side dish. As you can see, we have a lovely selection of veggies, potatoes and breads. Sounds dreamy to me!

Awesome Thanksgiving Side Dish! Roasted Kabocha Squash with Balsamic and Feta. | Betsylife.com

I made this super simple roasted kabocha squash with balsamic and feta. Don’t have kabocha squash? You can make this with delicata squash, butternut squash or acorn squash. Oh heck, drizzle a good balsamic vinegar on pretty much anything and its going to taste great. Thanksgiving is really about good company and good laughs anyway, so simplify your planning, fill up your red plastic cup, and kick back with those you love.

12 awesome Thanksgiving Side Dishes |Betsylife.com #12bloggers

Roasted Kabocha Squash with Balsamic and Feta

Ingredients

  • 1 large kabocha squash
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 oz feta cheese, crumbled
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Cut squash in half and remove seeds. Cut squash into cubes and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat.
  3. Roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and top with crumbled feta. Serve immediately.
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Goat Cheese Green Bean Casserole {Sponsored}

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Del Monte through their partnership with POPSUGAR Select. While I was compensated to write a post about Del Monte, all opinions are my own.

Goat Cheese Green Bean Casserole |Betsylife.com

Here come the holidays! As someone who loves to cook, the holidays are a time of culinary inspiration. Everything from cookies to casseroles are fair game, and I often find myself torn between spending time with friends and family, and knocking out all those recipes I’m dying to try.

There is a way to have it all.  Through the years I’ve picked up some time saving kitchen tricks that won’t sacrifice holiday decadence.  If you can spend more time with your loved ones, and still serve them an amazing meal then everyone wins.

Goat Cheese Green Bean Casserole |Betsylife.com

Case in point, this green bean casserole. Green bean casserole is a beloved, classic holiday side dish that is a must-have on any holiday table. The secret to my green bean casserole is that I make it with canned Del Monte green beans. Using canned beans is a great way to save time without sacrificing quality or taste. I like to fancy up this simple casserole by adding rich, creamy goat cheese. Your loved ones will think you’ve slaved away in the kitchen, but in reality, Del Monte cut your time in half and you’ll be able to spend more time enjoying your guests.

Goat Cheese Green Bean Casserole |Betsylife.com

To me, a beautiful holiday season begins on a canvas of amazing food and drink. This year, keep in mind what’s most important and prioritize your time with your friends and family while still serving up amazing food for all to enjoy. Del Monte green beans are a great place to start.

Goat Cheese Green Bean Casserole |Betsylife.com  

Goat Cheese Green Bean Casserole

2 Tablespoons olive oil

2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms

1 shallot, thinly sliced

2 28-oz cans Del Monte green beans, drained

4 Tablespoons butter, divided

2 Tablespoons flour

1 cup milk

7 oz goat cheese

salt and pepper

1 cup panko bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms and sliced shallots. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook 6-8 minutes until mushrooms are golden brown and shallots are soft. Combine mushroom mixture with green beans in a large mixing bowl.

Using the same skillet, melt 2 Tablespoons of butter, whisk in flour and milk until smooth. Whisking constantly, add goat cheese until a thick, creamy cheese sauce forms. Fold cheese sauce into vegetable mixture until well combined.

Spray an 8X8 casserole dish with cooking spray. Pour mixture into the prepared dish and bake for 25 minutes until bubbly.

Meanwhile, melt remaining 2 Tablespoons butter in a small skillet. Add panko breadcrumbs and stir constantly until breadcrumbs are golden brown.

Top vegetable mixture with breadcrumbs and bake 5 minutes more.

 

The Great List 11.07.2014

 

San Diego Full Moon This week has been maddening. I’ve had more car trouble in the past 3 weeks than I’ve had in my entire life. I find myself falling farther and farther off my game with each new incident. This is exactly what I try to avoid. My anger/frustration/negativity builds up and eventually overflows into other aspects of my life. I wanted to punch my pie weights in the face the other day when my crust shrank. That is not my normal reaction to a kitchen mishap. My car repair-anger is taking over, and I have got to stop it.

“All that we are is a result of what we have thought”-Buddha 

This is my most favorite quote of all time, and the mantra for my whole life.  I know from many frustrating years of experience that negativity breeds more negativity. The good news is, that the opposite is also true. Hence, my weekly gratitude journal. The more you acknowledge gratitude, the more things you have to be grateful for. On that note, let’s crush these car troubles with gratitude……and if that doesn’t work, there’s always wine.

1. The warm weather is back in San Diego. It didn’t really go anywhere, but we did have a few days in the low 70s which is “cold” for us. I’m glad to be back to flip flops and tanks.

2. I saw Fiona stand all by herself this week! It’s only a matter of time before she takes her first steps. I love watching her grow.

Sadly, that’s all I’ve got right now. It’s cool. I know there’s way more to be grateful for, but I’m starting small and will continue to add to my mental list as my funk clears throughout the weekend. For those who also had a rough week, today is a new day. For those who are having a great week, do something nice for someone who is struggling. Small acts of kindness can make all the difference in the world.

Thanksgiving Leftovers Stromboli

Thanksgiving Leftovers Stromboli with leftover gravy for dipping! | Betsylife.com I’ll admit I’m generally not much of a leftovers kind of gal, but there is something absolutely irresistible about Thanksgiving stuffing, turkey and mashed potatoes. I could eat Thanksgiving leftovers once a week for the rest of my life, and never get sick of it. Don’t even get me started on leftover pumpkin pie (best. breakfast. ever.)

So as the holiday nears, I find myself dreaming up a menu that will be equally  good the day of, and all the days that follow. It’s one thing to heat up a plate of leftovers 2 or 3 times a day for a week (Don’t judge), but once you get down to the end of everything, even my beloved stuffing becomes a bit unappealing.

Enter this awesome Thanksgiving Leftovers Stromboli. It’s like leftovers wrapped up in a brown, crispy hug.

Step one: Roll out a prepared pizza crust

Genius way to use up those leftovers. Thanksgiving Leftovers Stromboli | Betsylife.com

Step Two: Top with cranberry sauce and leftover turkey

Genius way to use up those leftovers. Thanksgiving Leftovers Stromboli | Betsylife.com

 

Step Three: Pile on leftover stuffing

Genius way to use up those leftovers. Thanksgiving Leftovers Stromboli | Betsylife.com

Step Four: Finish with a pile of leftover mashed potatoes

Genius way to use up those leftovers. Thanksgiving Leftovers Stromboli | Betsylife.com

Step Five: Roll it up and bake! 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Genius way to use up those leftovers. Thanksgiving Leftovers Stromboli | Betsylife.com

Serve with a side of leftover gravy for dipping!!

 

Vegetarian Lentil Soup

Vegetarian Lentil Soup Recipe | Betsylife.com

I’m in a pickle. Fun month totally put me through the wringer.  So much so, that I’m almost feeling like I’m getting sick….AGAIN. I’m in total detox/health mode at this point, but all the awesome recipe ideas running through my brain are super indulgent holiday-type recipes. What’s a girl to do?!? If I deny myself the urge to make all these pies, sweets and cheese filled dream recipes I might go insane.

Therefore, I am now accepting eaters to eat all the food I make so I can stick to my healthy eating plans without guilt.

I’ll be over here eating this super healthy lentil soup while I rehab my liver and immune system from Fun Month, and will be waiting for the applications to roll in.

Lentil Soup

Ingredients

  • 4 cloves Garlic, minced
  • 1 Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 4 Carrots, chopped
  • 4 Celery stalks, chopped
  • 3 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Cups Lentils
  • 1 tbsp Cumin
  • 2 quarts Vegetable Broth
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 2 whole sprigs Thyme
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium high heat. Add garlic, onion, carrots, and celery. Cook 8 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften.
  2. Add lentils, cumin, and broth. Bring to a boil.
  3. Add bay leaf, thyme, and salt & pepper. Reduce heat and simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Discard bay leaf and thyme before serving.
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The Great List 10.31.2014

San Diego winter sunset

I’m reluctantly saying goodbye to yet another delightful Fun Month. Despite being really sick for nearly 2 weeks out of the month, I still made the best of it and had a Great time. As a fond farewell before my life is ruined by daylight savings time (kidding. not really) I’m just going to list all the Great things I got to do this month.

I encourage everyone to take 30 days and focus on doing things that make you happy. Whether it’s your birthday month or not, it’s a Great first step to creating the life you crave. I think you’ll see from my list below that these things don’t have to cost a lot of money.

1. Spent time with old friends I haven’t seen in TOO long, and got to meet their children

2. Spent time with my Grandpa and extended family

3. Explored a new city. Lexington, KY

4. Saw fall foliage in the Midwest

5. Ate Portillos

6. Spent time with my family in Chicago

7. Took a boat ride with friends

8. Finally got together with friends who visit San Diego often but we always miss each other

9. Hugged my niece on her baptism day and on my birthday

10. Finished my book and started a new one

11. Ate all my indulgent foods: Donuts, In & Out Burger, birthday cake, halloween candy, frozen yogurt

12. Treated myself to some small gifts I normally wouldn’t spend money on

13. Worked on interesting projects with Great people

14. Made it a point to spend an inordinate amount of time outdoors, hiking, biking, going to the beach

15. Carved 3 pumpkins

16. Saw my lifelong bestie and her son

17. Caught up on all the shows on my DVR plus a few documentaries I wanted to see

18. Drank wine during the week (I’m usually only a weekend drinker)

19. Had a fun and adventurous dinner with a friend

20. Taught my nephew to climb trees

21. Watched my favorite movie of all time

22. Learned to drive a stick shift

23. Brainstormed and created some awesome blog content

24. Learned to quilt

I’m sure theres more but I can’t seem to think of much else right now. I’m off to make the most of this final day of Fun Month. Until next year…….

The Greatest Holiday Side Dish Recipes Ever

The Greatest Holiday Side Dish Recipes Ever | Betsylife.com

Tis the season for holiday eating, and I have scoured the internet to find you the best ever holiday side dish recipes. From potatoes, to stuffing to cranberry sauce, I’ve got you covered. These tasty side dishes are a must when serving up the ultimate holiday feast.

Waffle, Maple & Sausage Stuffing and The Greatest Holiday Side Dish Recipes Ever | Betsylife.com

Waffle, Maple & Sausage Stuffing from the Crepes of Wrath

Green Bean Casserole and The Greatest Holiday Side Dish Recipes Ever | Betsylife.com

Green Bean Casserole from Kitchen Konfidence

Roasted Stuffed Acorn Squash and The Greatest Holiday Side Dish Recipes Ever | Betsylife.com

Roasted Acorn Squash Stuffed with Fennel Sausage, Farro, Goat Cheese & Spinach From The Hungry Goddess

Tart Cherry Glazed Brussels Sprouts and The Greatest Holiday Side Dish Recipes Ever | Betsylife.com

Tart Cherry-Glazed Brussels Sprouts  from Love & Olive Oil

Parsnip Gratin and The Greatest Holiday Side Dish Recipes Ever | Betsylife.com

Parsnip Gratin with Gruyere and Thyme from Feasting at Home

Butternut Squash and Smoky Black Bean Salad and The Greatest Holiday Side Dish Recipes Ever | Betsylife.com

Butternut Squash and Smoky Black Bean Salad  from Betsylife

Beer Mac and Cheese and The Greatest Holiday Side Dish Recipes Ever | Betsylife.com

Beer Mac & Cheese from A Spicy Perspective

Creamy Cheesy Corn Casserole and The Greatest Holiday Side Dish Recipes Ever | Betsylife.com

Creamy Cheesy Corn Casserole from Five Heart Home

Roasted Carrots with Honey Mustard Glaze and The Greatest Holiday Side Dish Recipes Ever | Betsylife.com

Roasted Carrots with Honey-Mustard Glaze from Flavour & Savour

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Chipotle Streusel and The Greatest Holiday Side Dish Recipes Ever | Betsylife.com

Twice-Baked Sweet Potato (Yam) Recipe with Chipotle Pecan Streusel from Cookin’ Canuck

Sour Cream & Cheddar Baked Mashed Potatoes and The Greatest Holiday Side Dish Recipes Ever | Betsylife.com

Sour Cream & Cheddar Baked Mashed Potatoes from Cozy Country Living

The Best Homemade Dinner Rolls and The Greatest Holiday Side Dish Recipes Ever | Betsylife.com

The Best Homemade Dinner Rolls from Roxana’s Home Baking

Texas Cranberry Chutney and The Greatest Holiday Side Dish Recipes Ever | Betsylife.com

Texas Cranberry Chutney from Stephie Cooks

Broccoli Bacon Cheddar Potato Bites

Broccoli Bacon Cheddar Potato Bites | Betsylife.com

Potatoes are my favorite food, but when they’re topped with bacon and cheese my love for them reaches new heights. I had intended these broccoli, bacon and cheddar potato bites to be a little snack during Sunday football, but we ended up eating them throughout the afternoon and evening and skipping dinner all together.

Complete meals have been the last thing on my mind lately. Making the most of Fun Month has been my number one priority, but I’ve also had my hands in a ton of new projects that have been taking up most of my attention. One of the good things about not having children is that it doesn’t matter one way or another if dinner is available. The Hubs can grab whatever he needs or wants, and I can stay focused on whatever task I’m engrossed in at the moment.

Broccoli Bacon Cheddar Potato Bites | Betsylife.com

Despite being hyper focused on my work, this block of Kerry Gold Skellig cheese was never far from my thoughts. I’m kind of obsessed with all Kerry Gold products. In my opinion, they make the best cheese on earth.  Once hunger finally struck and I decided to make these potato snacks, I knew that the Skellig would finally be consumed.

Broccoli Bacon Cheddar Potato Bites | Betsylife.com

These potato bites might just be the perfect snack food. They’re filling, hearty, relatively easy to make, and taste great fresh from the oven, or reheated several hours later. Don’t have bacon or broccoli? You could make them with pepperonis and pizza sauce, or ham and swiss. I had initially planned to make them with the Kerry Gold cheese only, but when I got to the fridge, the broccoli and bacon called out to me.

The next time you need a mini meal, a meal for one, a football snack, or all of the above, think of me, and think of my undying love for potatoes and Kerry Gold cheese. Then head to your kitchen, make some potato bites, and enjoy!  Broccoli Bacon Cheddar Potato Bites | Betsylife.com

 

Broccoli Bacon Cheddar Potato Bites

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lbs baby potatoes
  • 5 strips bacon cooked and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cups broccoli florets, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 7oz block cheddar cheese. shredded

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Poke holes in the potatoes using a fork. Place potatoes on a baking sheet and roast for 30-35 minutes or until soft.
  3. Allow the potatoes to cool until they are able to be handled. Slice each potato in half and carefully scoop out the insides reserving the skins.
  4. Mix potato with bacon, broccoli, sour cream and half of the shredded cheese.
  5. Pile mixture back into potato skins. Top with remaining shredded cheese and bake 8-10 minutes until cheese melts and becomes bubbly.
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Birthday Wishes

Classic Birthday Cake | Betsylife.com

Each year on my birthday, when I reflect on my greatest lessons learned throughout the past 365 days, I wonder if its the same lessons every year. The beauty of writing a blog is that I have the ability to go back and check.

When I turned 31 I wrote about changing friendships, making a conscious effort to bring more quality time to my life, and following my creative voice.

When I turned 32  I expressed gratitude for the benefits that the lessons of 31 had brought to my life. I wrote about learning to have patience, and putting one foot in front of the other each day no matter how hard the road became.

When I turned 33 There was more gratitude, more confidence, and a reflection on the significance of the small things in life, and the benefits of having a good attitude.

Now here I am, 34 years old, reading these old posts and truly marveling at my life. Not only because I can clearly see my progress, but knowing how quickly things changed, and knowing with certainty that the future holds adventures beyond anything that I can imagine. If I try to remember myself 5 years ago, before my whole life was documented, I know that I was fine, but I was terribly unfulfilled. In retrospect, despite seeming hopeless at times, it wasn’t really all that hard to make the switch. It has actually been pretty fun.

Obviously small goal setting and reflection has worked for me, so for 34 I’ve got a few things I’d like to note.

My main lesson from this year, and goal moving forward, is to always give your very best to those who matter most. When you’re fully connected with those who lift you up and bring joy to your life, problems seem to shrink, and everything in life becomes easier. When you give all of yourself to those things that are dragging you down, your whole life seems like one never-ending struggle. This year will be about recognizing the difference between who matters, and who doesn’t, and making sure that I give the best of myself to those that count.

My other huge, glaring lesson from this year is to always lead by example. Words are worthless, while actions are incredibly powerful. The only way to bring any kind of validity to life is to fully represent what you stand for. I will continue to remind myself of this each and every day.

Thirty four, ready for more! I am ready. Each year is better than the last and I’m absolutely ready for more challenges, more triumphs, more joy and more gratitude. Let’s do this.