Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My 100(th post) Things I'm Thankful for:

Today is a very significant day in our lives, November 26th, not only was the last day in my 12 year career outside of the home, but more significantly, the day that Jerry and the boys lost their mom and wife to heaven.

As we smile through the tears, I thought it was only appropriate that my 100th post, the day before Thanksgiving, focuses on all of the wonderful things we have to be thankful for.

The kids even stood by my side while writing this morning, laughing and being thankful together!

So, without further ado and in no particular order...

My 100(th post) Things I'm Thankful for:
  1. My amazing husband
  2. My mini-me daughter
  3. My oldest bonus son
  4. My youngest bonus son
  5. My parents
  6. My siblings
  7. My nieces and nephews
  8. My in-laws, 2 brothers and one sister
  9. Aunts, Uncles & Cousins
  10. Challenges
  11. Successes
  12. Failures
  13. Opportunities
  14. All of you who read my blog
  15. Support
  16. My 5:30 am workout gals
  17. College friends
  18. Our kids' friends
  19. Our kids' friends' parents - who I also consider friends!
  20. Our neighbors
  21. A year at home with my family
  22. Coffee
  23. Seat warmers
  24. Campfire
  25. Snowflakes
  26. Warm showers
  27. Family bike rides
  28. Hiking
  29. Fishing
  30. Skiing
  31. Photography
  32. Wine
  33. Down comforters
  34. Snowflakes
  35. Sledding
  36. Family vacations
  37. Traditions
  38. Beaches
  39. Childhood memories
  40. Health
  41. Generosity
  42. Being genuine
  43. Creativity
  44. Loyalty
  45. Kindness - random acts or otherwise, it is all good! 
  46. Adventure
  47. Second chances
  48. Snow days
  49. Pinterest
  50. Camping
  51. Piano
  52. Cheese
  53. Loving homes
  54. Girlfriends
  55. Girls' nights
  56. Fresh flowers
  57. Fresh produce
  58. Fresh herbs
  59. Farmers Markets
  60. Pretty plates and dishes
  61. Love
  62. Honesty
  63. All 4 seasons
  64. Discipline
  65. Determination
  66. Optimism
  67. Safe, reliable vehicles
  68. Coziness
  69. Life
  70. Liberty
  71. Forgiveness
  72. Fireplaces
  73. Smiles
  74. Joy
  75. Dancing
  76. Singing
  77. Music
  78. Happiness
  79. Learning
  80. Personal Growth
  81. Character
  82. Individuality
  83. Snuggles
  84. Thoughtfulness
  85. Gratitude
  86. Youth Sports
  87. Youth Sport coaches
  88. A good sweaty workout
  89. Fitness instructors
  90. Warmth
  91. Boots
  92. Flip flops
  93. Books
  94. Independence
  95. Pedicures
  96. Massages
  97. Simplicity
  98. Traveling
  99. Holiday spirit
  100. Providential events

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Caramel Drizzle

I know that the winter weather has gotten a jump-start on us this year, 
but I'm still hanging on to my fall harvest and Thanksgiving spirit for another week.

My snow covered pumpkins are still gracing my front step and 
the wreath on the door is still made up of orange and yellow leaves. 

So, in that spirit, I am sharing with you this decadent
pumpkin-shaped pumpkin cake with caramel drizzle.  

Start with 1-15 oz can of pumpkin puree, 
add to that 3 eggs, 2 cups of sugar, 3/4 cup canola oil and 1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all of the 'wet' ingredients together well. 

While the mixing is getting started, the oven should be set to 350 F to preheat. 

Then add 3 cup of flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 
1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, 1 tsp ground nutmeg and 1/2 tsp ground ginger. 

All of that was mixed up by my fabulous little helper. 

After the pan was sprayed well, the cake batter was poured into the pan. 

Pop the cake into the 350 F oven for about 1 hour.  

Allow to cool in the pan before inverting to remove from pan. 

Now, if you want to bake a 2nd cake and make a pumpkin shape, 
the cake needs to be trimmed flat so that the two cakes align to form a pumpkin shape. 

The final step was melting the caramel along with a tablespoon or two of milk. 
And then slowly drizzling it over the cake. 

Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Caramel Drizzle

Prep Time : 30 minutes
Bake Time : 2 hours

Ingredients: (per cake)
1 15 oz can of Pumpkin Purée
3 eggs
2 cups of sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
Cooking spray

Caramel Bits
2 tbsp whole milk

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Add pumpkin, eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla to mixing bowl and blend well.  
Then add the rest of the dry ingredients, flour, baking soda and powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and mix well.  
Spray bundt pan very well to ensure that the cake will release from the pan.  
Baking at 350F for 1 hour.  
Allow to cool.

Bake a 2nd cake.

After both have cooled, trim off the extra height that interferes with the pumpkin shape when stacked on top of each other.

Then, melt the caramel bits in a pan over medium heat with 2 tbsp of whole milk.
Drizzle over the top of the cake so that the caramel runs down the sides.

Apple Cider Sangria

This fall Sangria is a delightful blend of some of the best flavors of fall.

Apples, cinnamon and cider.

Pears, Triple Sec and white wine.

Mix them all together and serve them over ice for fabulous blend of the seasons favorites.

Apple Cider Sangria

Prep Time : 10 minutes

Serves - 12 - 1/2 cup servings

1 Apple - thinly sliced
1 Pear - thinly sliced
2 Cinnamon Sticks
1/2 cup Triple Sec Liquor
2 cups of white wine, Sauvignon Blanc or similar
3 cups of Apple Cider

Add the fruit to the pitcher
Then add the liquids, finishing with ice.

Butternut Squash Risotto

Risotto is such a perfect side dish. 
Part comfort food, part sophisticated,
All delicious!  

Also, risotto is so versatile!  
It can be made with so many different veggies or cheeses...

But this time, it is coupled with a sweet and creamy vegetable,
Which makes it healthy
And, tastes so rich and decadent!  

For starters, the butternut squash is halved and the seeded.  
Top it with a bit of cooking spray
Before popping into a 400 F oven for nearly an hour.  

I found that this was much easier than trying to peel the squash before cooking.
The cooked flesh still needs to be scooped out, but not nearly as much is wasted.  

Next, about 2 cups of squash are added to a pan along with
One chopped onion, butter and 1/2 tsp salt

While the squash and onion were sautéing,
Nearly 7 cups of chicken broth were heating to a boil over a separate burner.  

Once the broth was just about boiling,
1 1/2 cups of Arborio rice were added to the onion and squash.  

Then, one cup at a time, the boiling broth was added to the rice
And stirred until it was mostly absorbed.

Here is my risotto-making, 2 burner set-up.

When it was thickened, 
Another cup of broth was added until all of the broth was gone
And the rice had softened into the 
Risotto that we know and love.  

Butternut Squash Risotto

Prep Time : 30 minutes
Bake Time : 60 minutes for squash
Cook Time : 30 minutes for Risotto

Serves : 8

Whole Butternut Squash
Cooking spray
1 medium onion
1/2 stick butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups Arborio Rice
7 cups Chicken Broth

Preheat oven to 400F. 
Cut squash in half the long way and remove the seeds. 
Place in a baking dish and spray generously with a cooking spray. 
Bake at 400 F for 1 hour until flesh is tender. 
Upon cooking, score and scoop out the squash. 

In a large sauce pan, bring the chicken broth to a boil. 
In a large sautee pan, melt butter and add onion for initial softening. 
Add the squash and rice. 
After a few minutes of browning the Arborio rice, add the first cup of hot broth. 
While stirring constantly, add the broth about 1 cup at a time when the previous liquids have been absorbed. 
Continue this until the broth is gone and the rice is tender. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Black Bean and Ham Soup

This hearty and flavorful Black Bean and Ham soup really hits the spot on nights like this!  

I just can't get enough of all of my favorites in one pot…
black bean, corn and ham amongst other veggies.  

This soup is so good, that even when I make my largest pot for dinner with dear friends, 
there is nothing left but smiling faces and full tummies.  

I'm thrilled that soup season is here and we will just keep putting down, 
whatever it is that I whip up.  

Although, this is not a fly-by-night soup recipe.  
Sometimes, many times, actually, I just throw stuff together and hope it turns out.  

This soup is an old favorite that I have been making for years, 
one that was known to pay off snow-blowing debt to my dear neighbors,
and magically my driveway was always clear…
often times before I even woke up in the morning.

To get this one pot wonder started, 
a tablespoon or two of olive oil was added to the pan
along with one onion, pepper and tomato
all chopped up and
seasoned with 1 tbsp minced garlic, 1 tsp ground oregano and 1 tsp ground cumin
for some initial sautéing. 

Once the veggies were softened, 
two cans of black beans were emptied into the pot
along with one jar of black bean and corn salsa
for some nice flavor and just a little heat

A third can of black beans would work just as well. 

Finally, 4 cups of chicken broth,
16 oz of frozen corn and
2 cups of cubed ham were added
and simmered for about 30 minutes. 

Just doesn't seem right that soup THIS good can be THIS easy!  
Don't think twice, just enjoy!

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Simmer Time: 30 minutes (or less)
Serves: 8

1-2 tbsp olive oil 
1 onion - chopped
1 green pepper - chopped
1 tomato - chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp ground oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
3 cans of black bean *one can could be replaced by black bean and corn salsa*
4 cups of chicken broth
16 oz of frozen corn 
2 cups of cubed ham

Garnish with sour cream, cilantro, tortilla chips. 

Sautee seasoned onion, pepper and tomato in olive oil over medium heat for 5 minutes until softened. 
Add black beans, it is not necessary to drain them. 
Then, finished with broth, corn and ham. 
Simmer for about 30 minutes. 
While the soup simmers, the black beans will open up which will give the soup a thicker texture.  

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Bacon Wrapped Stuffing Balls

Hope you had a great snowy weekend!

I have to admit, that I don't object to the snow this weekend…other than the horrendous drive home last night from basketball.  The kids asked to go outside and play when we got home at 9 pm and they were surprised that I agreed.

Then, today the kids were outside playing for hours with various neighbor kids…which was wonderful in itself and great because it was many more hours than they would have played outside had there not been snow on the ground.

I know it's a bit early, but it feels festive and gives people of all ages a great reason to get outside and enjoy the outdoors.  

At least Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away, so the holidays are nearly upon us and I have a fabulous upgrade to an already delicious holiday staple.

Picture this scenario...

What if you told your family, "Hey, we're not having stuffing at Thanksgiving this year…."

Can you imagine the dissatisfaction?!?!

Until, you announce, "We're having Bacon Wrapped Stuffing Balls instead!"

They might forgive you then!

These are just amazing
but don't take my word for it…
give them a try yourself! 

Just start with softening 1 medium, chopped onion in 1/2 cup of butter

While the onion is getting started, the bacon got pre-fried a bit too. 

I have enough bacon-wrapped experience
 to know that the final dish is just a little better 
if the bacon has been pre-fried a bit first.

Provides some of that fabulous bacon-y texture that we all love while cooking off some of the fat.  

The key in pre-frying is to ensure that it doesn't get too done.  
It still has to be soften enough to be pliable,
not so brittle that it crumbles.  

If that happens, just throw it in with the stuffing as the next best option!

Back to the onions and butter. 

Add 3 cups of chicken broth and bring it to a boil. 

Once boiling, remove from heat and
 add about 7 cups of cubed and seasoned stuffing

If you are all about the home made stuffing, 
I commend you. 

Problem is that we don't generally eat much bread around here, 
so I didn't have anything to stale.  

Stir the stuffing and broth well. 
And just keep stirring because it will take a while for the stuffing to absorb the moisture. 

Feel free to give it a few minutes, 
(check on the bacon)
and come back for more stirring. 

It is OK if the stuffing begins to break up. 
It needs to be rather soft to form into the stuffing balls. 

Scooping out about 1/2 cup of stuffing, 
form into balls. 

These are about a single serving size. 

However, anyone who really loves that Thanksgiving food-coma,
may want more than one of these. 

All 9 stuffing balls, got their own little piece of heaven, uh, I mean bacon. 

Secured in place by a toothpick. 

Baked for 350 F for 30 minutes. 

I can't really say enough good things about these….

If you ever are tempted to jump off the gluten bandwagon, 
these would be the best possible reason!  

Bacon Wrapped Stuffing Balls

Prep Time : 15 minutes
Bake Time : 30 minutes

Serves: 9

1/2 cup Butter
1 medium onion - chopped
3 cups chicken broth
7 cups of seasoned and cubed Stuffing Mix
1/2 lb bacon

Preheat oven to 350F
Saute onion in butter over medium heat in a stock pan. 
Add 3 cups of chicken broth, bring to a boil. 
Remove from heat and add the stuffing mix.
Allow to sit and soak up the liquids. 

Lightly, pre-fry the bacon. 

Using approximately 1/2 cup of stuffing, form into a ball. 
Wrap with bacon and secure with a toothpick. 

Bake at 350F for 30 minutes. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sweet N Sour Chicken Meatballs

If you'd like a chance to win a batch of these for yourself,
just go to the All Things Libby Facebook page and
SHARE this recipe with your friends!  

A winner will be drawn from all those who share this recipe on Thurs. Nov 13th.
(I'm not afraid to ship it, if necessary!)

Happy Fall Y'all, although it is feeling a bit more like winter around here in southern Wisconsin. 
We will manage, we're tough like that! 

At least this time of year there is no shortage of comfort food and 
today I'm sharing with you a dish which has achieved a rare accomplishment 
in the All Things Libby world. 

I've made it twice.

And, not just twice in my lifetime, or twice in a season…twice in ONE week!  

If that doesn't speak volumes about these Sweet N Sour Chicken Meatballs
I'm not sure what will.  

The first time I made them was for the Packer/Bear game on Sunday night 
when we were celebrating together with friends,
 not only did they FLY out of the slow cooker (perfect for a gathering), 
the guys kept asking for more and comparing how many they each got.  

Since Landon was sick and Jerry stayed home with him, 
neither of those guys got to take part of this awesomeness, 
that is quite possibly meatball perfection.  

Two of the things that I absolutely love about these meatballs is 
that they are made up of lean ground chicken and they are held together by oatmeal
which provides an awesome texture AND that means they are gluten free!  

While making home made meatballs may seem a bit too tedious, 
it really only took me about 15 minutes to mix 'em up and roll 'em out.  

And, if you haven't gathered by now…they are so worth it!  

So, into my trusty mixing bowl, add 2# of lean ground chicken
(Don't even both dealing with any less…even nearly 4 dozen are scarfed down in no time!)
1 cup oatmeal
1 medium onion, chopped
2 eggs
2 tsp salt

I have to recommend that you just dig right in and mix this up with your hands. 
Nothing else does as good of a job and 
you are going to have to get your hands dirty anyway. 

Place the formed meatballs onto a foil lined, sprayed pan. 
Pop them into the oven for 15-20 minutes at 400 F. 

I love the fact that they don't shrink very much 
since they are so lean to begin with and don't have a whole bunch of fat baking out. 

Then, the meatballs were placed in the slow cooker. 

Even when we had them at home, like last night, 
I still prefer the slow cooker so that they sauce can reduce and bake into the meatballs a bit. 

The sauce starts out with about 1/2 cup of French dressing and 
1/2 cup of BBQ Sauce. 

Then 1 can of pineapple and 1 tsp of garlic powder
are added to finish it off. 

How easy is that!?!?!

Pour it over the meatballs, give it a gentle stir and let 'em ride. 

You know the drill…
on high for 4-6 hours
on low for 8-10 hours

Top 'em off with some sesame seeds and green onions for the finishing touch. 

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 20 minutes + slow cooker

2# of lean ground chicken
1 cup oatmeal
1 medium onion, chopped
2 eggs
2 tsp salt
Cooking Spray
1/2 cup of French dressing 
1/2 cup of BBQ Sauce
1 can of pineapple
1 tsp of garlic powder
Sesame Seeds
Green onions - sliced

Preheat oven to 400 F. 
Mix together the chicken, oatmeal, onion, eggs and salt until thoroughly combined. 
Roll out into about 48 meatballs. 
Place onto a foil lined baking pan and top with a thin layer of cooking spray. 
Bake for 15-20 minutes. 
Place into slow cooker. 
Mix up sauce by pouring together dressing, BBQ sauce, pineapple and garlic powder. 
Pour sauce over meatballs and set the slow cooker according to the time until serving. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sun-dried Tomato and Pesto Baked Brie Dip

This is a colorful, flavorful European inspired dip combines the 
French cheese which is creamy and mild with the sweet and aromatic Italian Pesto. 
The sun-dried tomatoes offer the perfect tanginess to round out this crowd-pleasing dip.

Start with 8 oz of Brie Cheese carefully cut off the rind and into chunks.

The rind is completely edible, so that is a personal preference to remove it. 
Thankfully, there is nothing to worry about if some is left behind.  

To the chunked Brie, add 1/2 cup of drained Sun-Dried Tomatoes, drained

Sun-dried tomatoes are often packed in oil, 
so it is really important to drain them first to avoid having too much oil in the dip. 

Then, add 2 tablespoons of fresh, home made pesto to the dip. 

Click here for recipe. 

Gently stir up the dip and bake at 350 F for 15 minutes. 


Prep time = 15 minutes
Bake time  = 15 minutes

8 oz of Brie
1/2 cup of Sun-dried Tomatoes - drained
2 tbsp Pesto 

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Trim the Brie of the casing and cube. 
Add to small, shallow baking dish. 
Add tomatoes and pesto. 
Cover and bake for 15 minutes.

Stir gently and serve with Melba toast or veggies.

Slow Cooker Jambalaya

Happy Tuesday to all. 

I'm home again today with our youngest who is still fighting a fever.  
Poor guy!  

While being sick is never fun, at least when it is rainy and 35 F, 
spending the day snuggled in bed isn't such a bad alternative. 

Since I'm home, I can get caught up a bit!
I feel a bit like a slacker since I've noticed that this is only my 3rd post this month, 
but if you have seen the  Facebook feeds or the Janesville Gazette,
 at least I have a good alibi.

Making all of that food in one day (click here for recipes) 
was quite the cooking extravaganza and 
I am so thankful and humbled to have the opportunity to share my recipes with a broader community. 

Besides the upcoming holidays,
 I've been hearing some of you talk about warm, healthy, easy meals that are ready when you are!  

You are in luck….
I made this Jambalaya in the slow cooker a few weeks ago 
during our last soccer weekend.  
Just throw a few simple ingredients together and 
the fabulous aroma welcomed us into the house after the brisk afternoon at the field.  

Without further ado, let's get started!

Add two chicken breasts, whole, and 
one sliced up ring of smoked beef sausage 
 to the slow cooker. 

Just last year, I started adding my chicken to the slow cooker whole, 
as in, un-chopped.   

This is so much better!
Less mess because a raw chicken cutting board and knife are eliminated
shredding cooked chicken after a few hours in the slow cooker is just soooo easy!  

Actually, it practically shreds itself just removing it from the vessel. 

Anyway, back to the dish.  

Top the meat off with a 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes, 
1 cup of water and 1 chicken bouillon cube

As far as seasoning, I used 
2 tsp Cajun Seasoning
1 tsp ground oregano
2 tsp ground garlic
1 tsp ground thyme

And that's it!  

Stir it up and turn on high for 4-6 hours or low for 8-10 hours. 

When we got home, it had cooked down a bit. 

Remove the chicken for shredding.

Add 1 cup of minute rice

which cooks nice and fast in this hot environment. 

While the rice was cooking, the chicken was shredded and added back.  

So flavorful, so warm and hearty, really hit the spot!  

I'd definitely make a bigger batch next time…
maybe even double it, 
as the leftovers, minimal as they may have been, 
were at least as delicious! 

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 4-10 hours in Slow Cooker
Served: 6

2 chicken breasts
1 Ring of smoked beef sausage
28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 cup of water
1 chicken bouillon cube
2 tsp Cajun Seasoning
1 tsp ground oregano
2 tsp ground garlic
1 tsp ground thyme
1 cup of minute rice

Add all of the ingredients, except the rice, to the slow cooker. 
Stir well and set on low for 8-10 hours or high for 4-6 hours. 
Just before serving, remove chicken for shredding. 
Add rice for cooking. 
Add back the chicken. 

Serve it up!