Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving Sides

It's crunch time, people!  By now, you've probably finished most of your shopping for the big day.  If you haven't, may the odds be ever in your favor.  I was at the store earlier today and it had me like, woah.  It was a mad house but not nearly as crazy as it will be Wednesday afternoon when I will invariably have to run to pick up at least one item that I thought I had but did not.  Happens every year.  And yes, I make a list.  I check it twice.  And then I fail.  No one's perfect, right?

If you're currently checking your list and realize that you may be short on a side or two, here is a list of some of my favorite holiday side dishes.  You're welcome.  They are all pretty simple and quick and parts, if not all can be made in advance and reheated the day of.  

We're less than a week away from the official kickoff of the holiday season and I could not be anymore excited! I love this time of year, and to me, Thanksgiving is a part of one big, long celebration! I know there are some of you out there who want Thanksgiving to have it's own holiday, and that's great, but I've already put my Christmas tree up and I feel like it's justifiable. Don't judge. 

There isn't much I love more than a Pepper family holiday. I come from a family of really good cooks and we are all so grateful for each and everyone one of our blessings, including food. I thought I would give you a little insight as to what a few of our Thanksgiving side dishes are. Feel free to add these to your families table. 

What are a some of your favorite thanksgiving sides? Leave me a comment to let me know! We're always looking for new dishes to try!

I come from a family of green bean lovers.  These are super easy and done on the stove top which means it doesn't use the oven which is already prime real estate on the big day.  Definitely one of my favorites!

As a Kentuckian, I feel that this delicious side should be included in every potluck meal.   The Pepper gang has a big ol' pan of this at every family function, normally made by my mom.  I know corn pudding sounds strange to you northerners.  Just go with it.  

In an attempt to introduce my family to a new vegetable for holiday gatherings, I made these.  In order to get my family to try a new vegetable it is a rule to include bacon and brown sugar.  Seriously, it's written in our family by-laws.  I never claimed we were a family of health nuts.  It's a holiday.  Relax. 

It's mac and cheese.  I don't think I need to explain it.  Crowd pleaser for children and adults alike.  Warning:  There will be no leftovers on this one. 

This is the newest addition to our family Thanksgiving.  It's slightly healthier than last year's dish with brown sugar and bacon.  This one does still include bacon though because to me, they are the new chocolate and peanut butter.  

Whatever you serve on Thanksgiving, remember to take the time to enjoy your family and cherish all the blessings that you have in your life.  I know I will! I wish you all happiness and joy throughout this holiday season.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Slow Cooker Vegetable Barley Stew

Soup season has arrived once again! I feel like we've been pretty lucky this year. It's November and the weather has held out pretty well. Hashtag blessed.  For some reason I'm not fearful of the changing of the seasons this year-- to be clear, I say that most years. By February I will want to rip my hair out and open a new credit card to pay for a tropical vacation. (Don't worry mom. I won't actually do that.)

I've been trying to come up with more meatless options for myself. I find this challenging because, well, bacon. And beef. And fried chicken.  And ribs. Don't get me wrong, I will never become a vegetarian (famous last words) but I'm forced to, and just should, cut back on the meat because America kind of scares me right now and locally sourced meat is expensive! I recently paid $15 for two organic, free range, boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Yowza! I have found that barley is a much more affordable way to get your protein.  I'm still convincing myself that I like quinoa. I want to like it, you guys. I really do.  I recently discovered a way I don't really notice it. Stay tuned for that! 

Growing up, my family would take at least one long weekend trip to Gatlinburg every year. I know what you're thinking--air brushed t-shirts, fringed and beaded, that read Bubba and Susan 4-ever, kitchsy candle shops (no one can have too many cat shaped candles), the greatest miniature golf courses,  and Christmas stores galore. Me though? I went for the food.  We would always stop at The Apple Barn on our way in (or out) of town.  Not only do they have fantastic apple fritters and apple butter, both their vegetable soup is the best I have ever tasted. It's tomato based and has a little kick to it. On top of that, it's pretty loaded with veggies.  This Slow Cooker Vegetable Barley Stew is my ode to the Apple Barn.  I have used as many organic vegetables as possible in the recipe and turns out, it wasn't that difficult to find them.  I had to head to the frozen aisle to find organic corn but it was well worth it.  The only item in this dish that isn't organic?  Green beans.  I'm not a fan of the texture of frozen green beans and my garden didn't produce nearly enough to can.  I did at least, find green beans in a pouch.  I'll call that a win.

This recipe makes a ton of stew.  It freezes beautifully or it will feed every single one of your friends. I love freezing soups and using them for work lunches throughout the next couple of months.  Just freeze them in single serve containers and place in the fridge the night before to thaw.  You're welcome for that little tip.  Now, pull out that crock pot and get to work!

Slow Cooker Vegetable Barley Stew

Serves: 100 (not really, but at least 6)

2 (13 ounce) packets green beans
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with the juice
2 cups cubed white potatoes
8 ounces baby carrots, roughly chopped
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 (12 ounce) bag of corn
2 teaspoons salt
1/2-1 teaspoon white pepper
2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 bay leaf
1 (46 ounce) bottle tomato juice
2 cups water
1/2 cup barley

Place all ingredients, except barley, in crock pot.  Cook on high for 6-8 hours.  Add barley at least one hour before serving.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

How easy