Bourbon Pecans

December 11th, 2015

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It’s important to me that others feel warm and welcomed upon entering my home & leave feeling better about themselves than when they arrived.

Practice Hospitality.

It can be as simple as a little handmade parting gift or a snail Mail notes to thank someone for helping to bring joy to your holiday season. This Christmas, it will be slow roasted candied Bourbon Pecans that will be sent home with my guests.

Bourbon Pecans

16 oz. pecan halves

4 egg whites

3 tbs. bourbon

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. course salt

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Combine sugars, cinnamon and salt. Whisk together egg whites, bourbon and vanilla extract. The vanilla gives these pecans a perfectly rich, gourmet touch.

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Toss the dry pecans into the egg white mixture. Once all nuts are evenly coated, allow the pecans to soak for 5-10 minutes. Next, toss in the sweet sugar mixture.

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Evenly spread the pecan mixture onto a parchment lined sheet pan. Here, I used a spilpat. Drizzle any excess egg mixture over the pecans.

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Roast the pecans at 250 degrees for 1 hour, tossing every 15 minutes. Mixture should look dry and slightly crumbly when finished.

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Allow these hot, sticky pecans to cool before tasting!

Sweet, salty and crunchy with a nice kick of bourbon these candied pecans will make a lovely gift during the holiday season.(These purple Ball mason jars had me at hello!)

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It is my prayer that with each bite, my friends will know that they are so very loved.

Hazelnut Hot Chocolate

December 9th, 2015

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My little kindergartner rushes home each day with an empty belly. After he kisses momma and baby brother, he runs straight into the kitchen for his afternoon snack. Typically, a healthy snack fills his empty stomach best but sometimes… an afternoon sweet treat is in order!

Today I prepared Jude a piping cup of hazelnut hot chocolate paired with pie crust cookies. I had them ready when he walked in the door. We sat talked about his day and giggled over our treats. I love having a little boy who enjoys the simply things in life like CHOCOLATE.

Hazelnut Hot Chocolate

(2 servings)

2 cups milk

1/4 cup hazelnut chocolate spread (Nutella)

2 tbs. cocoa powder

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Marshmallows or homemade whipped cream (optional)

In a sauce pan add milk, hazelnut chocolate spread, cocoa and vanilla. Heat the mixture on medium, stirring continuously until all chocolate is melted and beverage is thick. Do not allow the mixture to boil. When you see small bubbles form around the edge of the pan it is time to pour and drink up. Top with marshmallow or fluffy whipped cream.

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I prepared quick and easy pie crust cookies, filling each with a teaspoon of hazelnut chocolate spread. Finished with an egg wash an sprinkling of course sugar on top these crunchy cookies really were fantastic. Jude dipped and dipped is cookies in warm hot chocolate.

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Enjoy!

Bacon, Jalapeno and Gorgonzola Scones

December 4th, 2015

imageI love brunch.

Waffles.

Pancakes.

Muffins.

Scones… sweet, sweet, sweet!

Sometimes its nice to have something different, something savory. These bacon, jalapeño and gorgonzola scones were perfect for my husband, who isn’t to big on sweets. Paired with two eggs (sunny side up) and a cup of hot coffee, we made the best of a lazy Saturday morning.

Bacon, Jalapeno and Gorgonzola Scones

2 cups flour

1 tbs. baking powder

4 tbs. cold butter

1 cup cold heavy cream

1 egg, slightly beaten

4 oz. gorgonzola

2 fresh jalapeños, diced

1 tsp chili powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour, baking and chili powders. Blend in cold butter until mixture resembles course meal. This can be done by pulsating ingredients in a food processor, simply using a pastry blender or even worked together with your fingers.

Next, gently stir in the cream and eggs until a soft dough forms.

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Using your hands or a rubber spatula fold in the bacon, cheese and jalapeños. (Note: if you are sensitive to the heat, wear rubber gloves when handling jalapeños)

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Sprinkle a bit of flour onto your counter or cutting board. Form dough into a round, flat disc and slice into 8 “pizza slices.”

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Bake for 15 minutes, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (I used a silpat), until slightly golden brown.

These scones are best when served warm out of the oven.

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Two eggs over easy and I am one happy girl!

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Enjoy!

What I’m loving…

December 2nd, 2015

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Simply Tuesday: 

A book by Emily Freeman

Simply Tuesday Introduction from Emily P Freeman on Vimeo.

The world around us values those who hustle and produce. I am wired this way. Often I feel insignificant, less valuable, when I am not producing BIG things. Striving to be the best mother and wife, running a profitable business, achieving goals, even maintaining a clean, tidy home in the mist of chaos. This are the things that give me a sense of worth.

Can we embrace our smallness? Yes. It is time to embrace our small-living moments. Emily challenges readers to embrace Tuesdays, our most normal day. Tuesdays remind us who we are, that we are human.

“Small is an invitation to participate in something greater than ourselves.” (pg. 29) 

When we are made small, God is made bigger. Simply stopping to sit on a bench for a sweet chat with your neighbor or taking time in those little moments of wonder you see in your child’s eyes… It is in these small moments that we must live.

Grab a copy of Simply Tuesday and take enjoy a few small moments of your own.

Also, subscribe to Emily Freeman’s blog and start creating a space for YOUR soul to breathe.


Belong Magazine

A magazine for bloggers

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“Belong Magazine is designed to celebrate the art and community of blogging. In all that we do, our mission is to inspire women to use their passions for a purpose in crafting and sharing honest words, images and ideas virtually to be life-giving and encourage others. It is our desire for women to know that they are enough, their voice matters, and that they have a place. They belong.”

I received a free copy of Belong Magazine at this year’s Allume conference. First of all, I was excited to dig into the pilot issue because it was beautifully printed. Clean, crisp with vivid green succulents on the cover. Opening any magazine I immediately begin scanning for recipes, though I knew this was a magazine for bloggers, I did just this. Ahhh… Yes! The pilot issue includes a recipe for Caramel Apple French Toast Casserole and a Strawberry Marshmallow Dip! I also enjoyed Styled Sophistication, an article on blog styling as well as What is Blogging, which focuses defining what blogging really is.

I am looking forward to purchasing my copy of  Belong Magazine, Issue #1, which began shipping this week! This magazine is also available for digital download.


Who We Might Become

A worship album by my friend Kirby Kaple

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We moved to Georgia in 2008 and quickly became friends with the lovely, talented Kirby Kaple. She and her husband Rob showed us Southern hospitality at its finest. I had never heard a Southern drawl until I met this sweet girl!

Kirby led worship at our church while I was pregnant with our son Jude. Our life was filled with her beautiful voice as we worshipped. As soon as our son began to talk, I could see his heart for Jesus and his special love for our friend Kirby. Somehow I know that he could hear her voice from inside me singing, “He loves us..”

Our friends have since moved. Kirby is working with House Fires a worship collective out of Atlanta, Georgia AND she has been working passionately to write and produce her very own album, Who We Might Become. Her words are heart felt, as her music so genuinely draws me closer to the King.

Go preorder your copy of Who We Might Become today on iTunes and receive 3 songs upon purchase!

3 Tips for a Perfectly Roasted Turkey

November 26th, 2015

I remember waking up Thanksgiving morning at the crack of dawn to help my grandmother prepare to roast our holiday turkey. It was imperative that the turkey make its way into the oven before the sun came up. Why? I am not quite sure considering it only takes about 4 hours to cook a 20 lb. turkey…

Every year I helped Gram cook our thanksgiving feast and every year I cut my knuckle open on the potato peeler. Here are a few tips learned over the years for making the best ever turkey for your family:

#1. The key to a juicy turkey is a compound butter

Soften a stick of unsalted butter and mix in your favorite herbs. For turkey, I use sage, rosemary, thyme and orange zest. Gently pull back the skin, away from the meat, and spread  1/2 of the butter underneath.  The butter will slowly baste the turkey as it cooks. The flavors of the herbs infuse the meat. Massage the remaining butter onto the outside of the turkey  to get that crispy crunchy skin that family and friends fight over.

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#2. Using a roasting bag = lots of gravy

My grandmother always, always used a roasting bag to prepare our Thanksgiving turkey. Roasting bags trap moisture inside resulting in a super juicy and flavorful bird! Using an oven bag shortens cooking time. No more waking up at 4am to get the turkey started, 3-4 hours for a perfectly cooked turkey and the skin, so crispy and golden brown. When the roasting is complete you will be left with several cups of rich tasty drippings, perfect for gravy. The best part… no scrubbing a roasting pan.

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#3. Use a meat thermometer to avoid an over-cooked turkey

It cannot be a guessing game, it is so important to ensure your turkey is completely cooked but never dry. The proper temperature for a fully cooked turkey is 165 degrees. Insert an instant read thermometer into the thigh of the turkey until the temperature reaches 165 degrees. Once removed from the oven, tent the turkey in foil and allow it to rest for at least 30 minutes before carving.

So many of my friends are terrified of preparing the star of their family meal. There is nothing to be afraid of… IT IS ONLY A BIRD! You can do it.

Happy Thanksgiving Friends

Tips For Hosting Your Holiday Dinner Party

November 24th, 2015

Make a dinner menu and stick to it!

Write out a grocery list. Yes, with pen and paper. I like to plan my menu several days, even up to 2 weeks, in advance so that I am sure to remember all the little things I may need. When planning your dinner menu, consider any dietary restrictions your guests may have. Read your recipes prior to shopping to ensure you have everything you need to make each dish on your menu. Make a list, check it twice.

Get a head start

Don’t wait until of the day of your gathering to clean the house, prep the dinner and decorate. I always pre-chop all my vegetables, prepare my compound butter and set the dinner table at least a day in advance. I even set out serving platters, ready to be filled with warm comforting Thanksgiving dishes. Some things even taste better when prepared early, like my cranberry-orange relish. Mason jars or ziplock bags are great for storing pre-chopped ingredients. Dinner is so much easier to prepare when all your ingredients are recipe ready. These steps also helps to cut down on dinner day dirty dishes. Start your dinner party with an empty dishwasher.

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Create an inviting atmosphere

Make your guests feel comfortable. Great music and candles are musts! I usually put together a festive playlist using Spotify or Pandora. Keep in mind your guest preferences… It’s ok to ask them beforehand what kind of music they like. When choosing candles, pick a subtle (in season) aroma. I like pumpkin, apple or cinnamon in the fall. Often times I will add a few coffee beans to a 25 cent vanilla votive. It is nice to have a few comfy pillows or throw blankets folded and setup in the living room.

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Choose a theme

Even just a few small decorations can make any meal extra special; a vase of flowers, colorful leaves picked by your little ones or go BIG with a full out theme. Pull out real plates, not the paper throw away kind. What good is owning that fancy China if it lives only to collect dust? I am planning to decorate with gold accents for my Thanksgiving meal.

Seating

Avoid the awkward dance of musical chairs around the dinner table. Prepare a well thought out seating chart, one where everyone can be included in the meal conversations and make place (name) cards for each guest. My dining room table is too small for a large group. Michael and I drag our kitchen table into the dining to create a space where all our friends can sit and eat together. Get creative with your place tags, maybe a little welcome note, funny pictures or a take home favor. I love decorating kids tables! Set a special place for the kiddos and they will be happy and feel oh so grown up.

Simple appetizers

Prepare a light and simple appetizer; an elegant cheese board, fresh vegetable tray or a warm dip. On holidays, so much time is spent preparing the main course and very involved side dishes. Setting out a simple appetizer spread will allow the host to put those finishing touches on the meal while guest nibble and chat. This year, I plan on setting out homemade cheese straws,  slices of prosciutto, pear wedges and a few pieces of really good cheese.

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Make yourself at home
I want my guest to feel right at home. I usually provide guests with a tour of my home; where to put their coats and purses, the location of our guest restroom and where to relax comfortably during pre and post dinner entertainment. If I am busy cooking, I ask a friend who is familiar with my home to greet guests. Providing these details puts a person as ease. I always setup a self serve coffee and tea bar, directing guests to make themselves at home. Ensure each guest is greeted and introduced to one another for a warm start to your gathering.

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Guest Book

Our friend Margaret keeps a guest book for her home. All of her guests sign in and leave a note during their visits… what a great way to record memories, remember dates and special events that have taken place in your lovely home. Simply ask your guests to sign in when they arrive to your home. Our son Jude loves signing Mrs. Margarets book and flip the pages backwards to find his signatures from past visits. Wouldn’t it also be fun to snap a picture of your party guests to tape in your guest book?

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Party favor or gift

We want others to leave our homes feeling better about themselves, not better about US! I love preparing a small gift for my guest, a token of appreciation for being such wonderful guests; a thank you note, a small bag of good chocolates, or a jar of homemade jam. Let’s face it we are not the only ones who like to entertain but our friends choose our home to gather… Let them know how much you love them. This Thanksgiving each of my guest will be taking home a jar of homemade Bourbon Pecans.

Take help

I am often torn as to whether it is acceptable to take help from dinner guests. When a host stops entertaining to tend to dishes and/or cleaning, this signals guests that the party is over. However, during holiday gatherings I feel that it is perfectly acceptable to take help from close friend or family. Make it fun! Turn the music up, dance in the kitchen while you scrub those dishes and clear the dinner table. But ALWAYS REMEMBER… quality time with guests comes before the mess.

What are some of your best dinner party tips?

Practice Hospitality

Romans Twelve Thirteen

At Home with My Boys

November 1st, 2015

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Twenty little finger and twenty little toes.

2015 has proven to be a beautiful one for my family. Jude started kindergarten and we were blessed with a new baby Bear. This adventure of ours just gets better and better. Yes, our newborn baby’s legal name is Bear Westerburg. So many of you have asked all about it, so here’s the story…

After reading through tons of Berenstain Bears books, my oldest son protested against mom and dad because we could never be the family we were supposed to be without a baby bear. All good families are composed of a Papa Bear, Mama Bear, a Brother Bear and a Baby Bear, right? I never planned on having a second child, one sweet baby boy was all I needed to spoil and love. But my friends and family thought differently. This rambunctious group of ladies from church created hashtag #teambabybear… a campaign to convince me of my need for another bundle of joy. So when I got pregnant, it was only natural to begin addressing our baby as Bear.

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When I suggested we actually name our new little guy Bear, my husband called me a silly hippie… haha! But it was the only name that really seemed right.

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Each day I thank God that he saw fit to bless me not with what I wanted, rather what I needed. Our little Bear has enriched our lives and completed our sweet, sweet family.

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Our Jude has stepped into the role of Big Brother brilliantly. The way he looks into his baby brother’s eyes is enough to make my heart explode. He has already begun to plan all the adventures these little bears will have together!

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Photography by Holly Tye.

Roasted Tomato Cream Soup

October 31st, 2015

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This fickle Georgia weather has my heart confused today. The day started off crisp and chilly, only to warm up to a bright, sunny afternoon. High 70s in November? At least the trees are screaming fall; reds, golds and burnt orange. I am reminded of the words of one of my favorite songs by Allison Krauss and Robert Plant, Killing the Blues

Leaves were falling, just like embers,
In colors red and gold, they set us on fire
Burning just like a moonbeam in our eyes.
Somebody said they saw me, swinging the world by the tail
Bouncing over a white cloud, killing the blues.

Early this morning I decided my day was going to end with a piping bowl of roasted tomato cream soup. Spicy garlic, sweet cherry tomatoes and basil, the last of our summer harvest, make this soup irresistible… no matter the temperature.

Roasted Tomato Cream Soup

6-8 large tomatoes or 4 pints cherry tomatoes

2 carrots

1 onion

4 large cloves of garlic

Olive oil

1 cup fresh basil

1 quart chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup heavy cream

1 tbs. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

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On a sheet pan drizzle tomatoes, onions and garlic cloves (in their skin). Roast vegetables at 425 degrees for 25 minutes, until slightly charred and softened.

I typically add white sugar to this soup to cut some of the acidity and highlight the sweetness of the tomatoes. However, I decided to try something new. Roasting carrots! The carrots provided a rich sweetness that rounded out this lovely soup. Roast the carrots alongside your vegetable mix.

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Allow vegetables to cool slightly, add to food processor or blender along with fresh basil. Be sure to pop the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins. Blend until smooth. Add tomato puree, chicken broth, salt and pepper into a soup pan. Bring soup to a slow simmer for about 10 minutes.

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Last, stir in the heavy cream and sprinkle in red pepper flakes for a little spice.

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Serve with bread, grilled cheese or toast up some tortilla chips (made by Jude) to dip into this creamy soup. Creamy and rich, this soup is sure to get you in the fall spirit!

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Soup. Smores. Fall festivals. How are you enjoying your Autumn?

 

A Coffee Date

October 20th, 2015

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It has been awhile friends…
My past few months have been occupied with growing a little baby bear, well boy, but Bear is his name. I took some time off of blogging to focus on family and keeping healthy during my pregnancy. Also, I’ll be honest, working on new food creations in the kitchen did not seem too fun between vomiting sessions. Oh, what we go through for these precious little babies.

Grab a cup of coffee and let us catch up.

For several years my son has begged, even pleaded for a sibling. In my pregnancy, we would be fulfilling his dream of becoming the perfect Berenstein Bear family; Poppa, Momma, Brother and sweet Baby Bear. Now, with a 5 year old come the questions of why and how on having a baby. I wasn’t quite ready for these conversations. As I hung my head over a toilet my compassionate little boy was always there with a cup of ice water, when my belly swelled he wanted to feel little kicks, but his main concern was how and when his new best friend would make his way into the world. For him 9 months was the length of eternity. Thankfully, I had a scheduled c-section so mommy could be honest when explaining that the doctor would simply cut a little hole in my belly and pull brother out. Simple. So I thought! Jude had an extreme meltdown a few days before his baby brother arrived. Screaming and crying big-fat crocodile tears,

“Momma please don’t let the doctor do that to you, please Mom!!! Can’t you just throw the baby up out of your mouth? You throw up all the time anyway!”

“Honey, a baby cannot fit out of my mouth.”

“Yes they can mom, babies are small!!!”

I never planned to be the mother of two. Wife, mother, business women, ministry, blog… I was fast and furiously running through this life that I loved! I rarely slowed down. We worked hard and played harder but time was not something we ever had enough of. I rarely paused to see the beauty of this growing family around me. My creativity, my ability to dream and to just plain have fun had begun to fade.

God had just the right plan, one I think may have been crafted through the prayers of a little 5 year old boy. We would become a family of 4.

“In order to communicate beauty, you must first see it. Beauty is not about pace, it is about insight. You learn to see when you take a pause.” – Timothy Willard

Meet Bear Westerburg, MY PAUSE.

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In mid October my friend Krissy, Bear & myself drove to Greenville, SC to attend The Allume Conference. Yes, only a true friend would attempt with you a girls weekend toting along a 5 week old (thanks again, Krissy!). I felt that attending this women’s conference would be a great aid in refocusing my dreams and vision. The overwhelming theme I brought home, one that had been long in progress was… I’ll let you guess.

SLOW DOWN.

Each beautifully word spoken reassured inside my soul that I had to make changes. Life is meant to be lived; not managed, controlled, stressed, guilt-ridden or scripted. I am only now realizing that burn out not only affects me but also my people. Rachel Macy (Hands Free Mama) gave these practical habits to get me started in the right direction:

Habit #1. Establish a designated distraction free period each day. Even if just 10 minutes. Your spouse and your cildren cannot kiss a moving target, right?

Habit #2. Give yourself permission to not DO, just BE.

Habit #3. Take the pressure off. Don’t let that internal bully, YOU, pressure you to do too much. Fall in love with today!

I am thankful for maternity leave, 12 weeks off to soak in moments with my boys. Breathing in my new baby’s smell. Tickling Jude. Cuddling. Long lunches with my husband. Nursing my little Bear. Coffee dates with friends. Time in the kitchen… time with YOU. I feel my heart beat growing stronger once again!

As I move forward I am left with these two thoughts:

“Stress plunders the soul.”

&

Be still and know that I am God! -Psalm 46:10

Strawberries & Cream

February 14th, 2015

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This valentines Day, I am reminded of a simply decadent dessert my great grandma Ida would prepare, strawberries & cream.

Have you ever tried Lorna Doone shortbread cookies? Every time I pass them in the supermarket, my mind is brought back to my childhood.

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Grandma would sprinkle sliced strawberries with a bit of sugar, letting them macerate in a cold icebox to develop a sweet sauce.

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Start by with a layer of buttery Lorna Doone shortbread cookies. Any shortbread cookies will work… even those legendary Girl Scout cookies!

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Top with sliced strawberries.

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Pour over a bit of cold half and half.

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An old fashioned treat that is rich and decadent to share with your loved ones this Valentines Day.

Enjoy!

Flying Paper Airplanes