Friday, June 25, 2010

Homemade Southern Sign

My latest artistic obsessions are painted signs. I've been perusing etsy and other creative decor sights for ideas and doing some of my own.

This one, I spotted in my friend Lindsay's apartment and LOVED right away. I flipped it over to view the maker's name on the back and found Magnolia Lane Collection. I loved their website and found lots of ideas for painted or decoupaged picture frames, wall decor, and paintings. But this sign remained my favorite. We had a bunch of leftover wood from our scoreboard project so I got Sean to cut several pieces of wood in different shapes. Here's the first of many I have in the works...

I sanded the edges smooth and gave the surface a light sanding as well, but wanted to leave the rustic wood grain. After I painted a coat of creamy off-white, I used a calligraphy marker to write the text then gave a rub over the whole thing again with some sandpaper to distress a bit. It's imperfect and I love it! I can't wait to show what else I'm working on!

Moving on UP!

Today is moving day! I have finished school and clinicals and am just preparing for the board exam and waiting for graduation. Sean has 3 days left of Non-Traditional Teaching classes and now we're headed back home after 6 years away.

~Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave, and grow old wanting to get back to.~ -John Ed Pearce

Dad is coming down to load up our loot and he and Sean are taking it all home while I stay in Conway for my board exam prep course for the next 2 days (who do you feel more sorry for?) The disorganization of all of our stuff shoved in boxes and bins for an indefinite amount of time (we don't have a house to move to yet!) gives me a wee bit of anxiety!

We're disbursing junk between my Dad's house, Sean's parents' house, our barn and Nonnie's rental so it's one big ole cluster.

I can't wait to be settled and grounded in my cozy home...My house will be like the biggest blank canvas I've ever gotten my creative hands on and that makes me more excited than a June bride in a feather bed!!

~"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is apart of ourselves. We must die to one life before we can enter another."~
-Anatole France

As all changes are, the move is bittersweet. We're leaving a town we love...and all our favorite places.

Pinnacle Mountain

The view is breathtaking!

We love to spend a day climbing up and enjoying some lunch at the top.

Oliver loves Pinnacle too!

Toad Suck Park

We love our little sandy hideaway on the river!

Our favorite restaurant for supper...The Pasta House!

It's pretty much the definition of "hole-in-the-wall". It's a tiny trailer in a big parking lot...but that trailer produces the BEST pasta dishes. They've given me so many ideas for recipes that I now make on a regular basis. There's nothing better than finding your "regular" place; where you have the same waiter every time who already knows your order. I'm a little heartbroken just thinking about missing this place:(

Our favorite lunch place: Holly's Country Cookin'

It's so popular, there's always a line out the door. The no-fuss southern comfort food brings college kids, old couples, and professionals in for some countrified goodness of chicken-n-dressing, chicken fried steak, and mexican beef casserole. It was our place to "celebrate" any small victory or just meet up with friends, so I'll be taking alot of memories from Holly's.

We'll miss being right up the road from Beaverfork lake and spending days at the dog park. I'll definitely miss having Hobby Lobby and TJ Maxx just on the other side of town! But family and friends make up a "home" so we couldn't be more ready to start our lives back there. We're moving from our college town to our hometown...from a temporary home to a permanent home...from student career to professional career. It's a big change, but a welcome one.

"If nothing ever changed, there'd be no butterflies."


Thursday, June 24, 2010

~Peanut Butter Banana Crunch~

Here comes another homemade re-make of a restaurant favorite. Tropical Smoothie Cafe is the perfect light and healthy summer lunch place so Sean and I both had the "Peanut Butter Banana Crunch" last week on a quick lunch date.

I've been making my own version at home as a quick (and healthy) sweet lunch or supper.

wheat tortilla or pita pocket
crunchy peanut butter
1 banana, sliced
Honey Bunches of Oats w/ Almonds cereal (or plain granola)

Spread peanut butter on tortilla and cover with sliced banana.

Drizzle with honey then sprinkle with a handful of cereal or granola.

Roll tortilla or fold in half. I don't have a fancy panini maker, but this works just the same! Put a little dot of butter in a skillet or spray with non-stick spray. Cover tortilla with a pot and press down. Toast up in the skillet for about 5 minutes or until golden.

MMmmm...Can you taste it? It's delicious!


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Banana Split Pie!

Running errands in the scorching heat yesterday gave me the biggest craving for a cool, summertime pie. Making a pie in the summertime when the sun is shining, the dogs are playing outside, and I have a little extra time on my hands puts me in the best mood! And no southern supper is complete without dessert...


  • 1 ready made graham cracker crust
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese,softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 small can crushed pineapple, drained
  • 1 pound bananas, sliced (I used 3 large)
  • 1 container Cool Whip, thawed
  • 1 small jar maraschino cherries
  • 1 tablespoon nuts, chopped (I used peanuts, but pecans or walnuts would be great.)


Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, egg and vanilla.

Beat until smooth.

Spoon into pie crust.

Next, layer each remaining ingredient in order:


Sliced bananas...(I added some frozen strawberries too.)

Now add your Cool Whip and cherries. Top with nuts.

Let set for 1 hour in refrigerator. Slice and enjoy!

Happy Summer!



Jambalaya Pasta

I love when leftover ingredients from previous meals perfectly form another dish. It saves a trip to the store and makes sure that nothing is wasted. Last week, I made my Cajun Pizza with Shrimp and Andouille. A few days ago I sauteed a squash and zucchini mix from Nonnie's garden and we also had Italian One Pot Pasta.

Together these recipes yielded almost all the ingredients I needed for one of our spicy creole favorites; Jambalaya Pasta. It comes from a favorite cookbook of my Dad and I and can be found at A Taste of Home. It's loaded with vegetables and has a great spicy kick. There's also a ton of ways to change it up so you can make it exactly how you like it! Feel free to omit or add anything you want...I always do!


  • 1/4 pound bulk spicy pork sausage (I used a link instead of bulk but it's really good with bulk too.)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into cubes (I omitted chicken this time.)
  • 1 can (14-1/2 ounces) Cajun stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup salsa
  • 1 medium carrot, julienned (I omitted)
  • 1 small yellow summer squash, sliced and quartered (I used the cooked squash and zucchini I already had)
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced and quartered
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • Red pepper flakes (My optional addition)
  • 1 cup frozen cooked shrimp, thawed, peeled and deveined
  • Hot cooked pasta (I used egg noodles leftover from before but had made with spaghetti too.)
  • 3 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled ( I used crumbled Real Bacon in the package)
  • Parmesan Cheese (My optional addition)


In a large skillet, cook the sausage, onion and garlic over medium heat until sausage is no longer pink; drain.

{I used leftover pre-cooked sausage links so I added a little olive oil and didn't need to drain because it wouldn't yield any fat.}

Add chicken; cook until chicken is no longer pink.

{I didn't use chicken}

Add the tomato sauce...

Canned tomatoes and salsa...

Carrot (didn't use), squash and zucchini...

And now all your seasonings.

*Now you can boil your pasta so it will be ready to toss in when sauce is done.*

Bring to sauce to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are tender. {I only simmered for about 7 minutes since my veggies were already cooked and just needed to be warmed through}

Stir in shrimp; heat until shrimp turn pink.

{2-3 minutes}

Serve over cooked pasta; sprinkle with bacon.

Yield: 4 servings.

I added red pepper flakes to the seasonings and added parmesan cheese to the top.
It's so good! Another delicious pasta dish to add to your repertoire. Enjoy!


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

~Fresh from the Garden~

"Kiss of the sun for pardon. Song of the birds for mirth. You're closer to God's heart in a garden than any place else on earth."
Dorothy Frances Gurney

Summer wouldn't be summer for me without vegetables from Nonnie's garden for supper. I went home over the weekend and she loaded me up with all the fresh picks from the farm...cucumber, tomato, squash, zucchini, okra, eggplant, green beans (not pictured) and bellpepper.

She's as dedicated a gardener as they come...Mrs. President of Marion Garden Club won't even let temperatures in the 100's stop her from taking a ride out to the garden. And she loves sharing the fruits of her labor. (Lucky for me!:)
Last night we had a veggie-full meal to go with our honey barbeque chicken...cucumber and tomato salad, and sauteed squash, eggplant, zucchini, mushroom, and onion with basil and thyme. It was delicious! So farm-fresh and summery.

Sauteed Vegetables:
Baby bella mushrooms
White or yellow onion
White eggplant
1 tsp Minced garlic
Salt & Pepper

Clean and chop all veggies. Heat olive oil and a little butter/spread in skillet and saute garlic until light brown. Add veggies and saute until softened, about 15-20 minutes. Season with desired amount of salt, pepper, basil, and thyme and top with a sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese.

Everything tastes better home-grown, especially knowing how much work someone you love put into it!


Monday, June 21, 2010

Italian One Pot Pasta

This recipe is a family favorite. It's quick and has the best wine and mushroom flavor. It must have been really good because I didn't even wait to take a final product pic before sitting down to eat I'm sorry! You'll have to use your imaginations.

  • 1 pound chicken tenders
  • 1tsp olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • 1 pk or 1 can of mushrooms
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp Italian Seasoning
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 can Italian stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 8 oz egg noodles

Give your onion a rough chop. Heat oil in large deep skillet or pasta pot to medium and saute onion, mushrooms, and garlic for a couple minutes.

Slice up your chicken into chunks and add to skillet with Italian Seasoning.

Raise heat to high and cook until no longer pink, about 3 minutes. It will look like this:

Add cooking wine. I was a little short on my white, so I added a splash of Menage a Trois! Whatever you have or like will work.

Add tomatoes, broth, water, and noodles. Cover and boil for 7-9 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper and you're done!


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Favorite Creative Healthy Snacks

I’ve always eaten like a bird; little snacks here and there, and not enough room in the tummy for a big meal in one sitting, so I eat pretty frequently. Usually breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack. Seriously! But it’s all in small portions and gives me tons of variety. As much as I like to snack, it’s important to have an arsenal of favorite go-to healthy snacks that I love. It’s easy to get in a rut with the same granola bar/veggie/fruit stuff, so here I’ll share the snacks I make all the time for work, home, and pre-workout.

Tomato slices with Parmesan Garlic Seasoning

Fresh, cold tomatoes are the epitome of summertime. For a snack, I like mine sliced and sprinkled with pepper, grated parmesan cheese, and this nifty parmesan-garlic flavored seasoning meant for popcorn. It’s fresh, quick and really good!

Frozen Grapes

It’s amazing how much a freezer can transform a grape! Frozen grapes are ideal for picnics, kids' lunch boxes, laying out by the pool, and an at-work or after-work snack. Just de-stem and pop a bunch in the freezer on a tray or in tupperware for a few hours or overnight. They can actually be stored frozen as long as you need. They come out like little bite-sized sorbets! You could also mix with some white-grape-peach juice for a sweet, slushy, sorbet dessert.

Fuji Apple with Melted Crunchy Peanut Butter

I’ve been unintentionally eating an apple a day since I’ve been in OT school. The long days actually developed my snacking habit…sitting in the same classroom for 7-8 hours can drive you to stuff your face! I brought a sliced apple with me every day and haven’t stopped since. I did step the game up a little, though, and started bringing a couple tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter in a mini container to be nuked in the microwave for 10-15 seconds. It is by far my favorite and most frequent snack. I’ve had every combination under the sun, and trust me…The Fuji apple is the best with peanut butter and the crunchy variety is a must.

Tuna Fish Salad with Cheese on Whole Grain Ritz

This can be a snack or even lunch. I make a typical tuna fish salad; a couple cans of tuna in WATER, fat free miracle whip, white only of boiled eggs, sweet relish, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. I spread it on a whole grain Ritz cracker with a small square of cheddar block cheese. I’ve also tried it with the Cracked Black Pepper Triscuits, which is yummy too, but Ritz are my fave. You can have it cold and crunchy or heat for a few seconds to make it soft and warm.

For me, it’s also vital to have some go-to snacks to get my chocolate fix, without polishing off a twix…both of them. The next snacks are my picks for when the chocolate craving strikes.

Bowl of Chocolate Cheerios with Skim Milk

I’m a cereal girl. A cereal-at-any-time-of-day-girl to be exact. This cereal was the best discovery for me because it’s surprisingly not too chocolaty but is like a yummy sweet dessert to cap off my dinner at night. This is what I turn to when I’m about to compulsively drive to Sonic on autopilot and eat a sundae before I even know what happened. Doesn’t everyone do that? No?

Chocolate Teddy Grahams with Low Fat Frozen Yogurt

To take one more step into the dessert category, you can have a scoop of Low Fat frozen yogurt, whatever flavor you like, with a handful of chocolate teddy grahams, another great chocolate alternative discovery.

I bring these in a ziplock bag for a chocolaty snack at work, but if you must have icecream, this is a good way to go.

Nutella on Whole Grain Toaster Waffle

If you have not yet met Nutella, allow me to introduce you. Nutella is a chocolate-hazelnut spread made with skim milk and it is the most versatile, delicious stuff EVER!

I was first acquainted with my love 5 years ago when I took Italian as my foreign language and my instructor was so enthralled by it, her license plate read “NUTELLA”. She completely turned her nose up at the thought of peanut butter and said this is the Italian equivalent for a kid’s lunch box meal at school in Italy. I tried it, and was hooked. If you google Nutella recipes, you’ll see how much you can do with it. It stays in my pantry as a spread or dip for a number of victims: Nilla wafers, graham crackers, wheat toast, bananas…But this is a great snack for an on-the-go breakfast or sweet and filling dessert. Just spread a little on a toasted whole grain waffle. It’ll melt a little from the warmth and you can top with bananas, strawberries, or blueberries if you want. You’ll love it!

Fat Free Fruit Dip

This is a standard fruit dip combination that can be mixed and matched for any flavor you like. Mix equal parts fat free cool whip with fat free yogurt (strawberry, vanilla, pineapple, etc) and a little bit of corresponding crushed fruit. Everything’s better with something to dip in!

This last idea is not mine, but it's just adorable! It's from Nesting Newbies magazine and I can't wait to use the idea. They called it a "jarfait"; a layered parfait stored in a mason jar with a lid to become portable.

You could make ahead of time, put in the refrigerator, and take to a picnic, breakfast on the go, or work snack. And the combinations you can create are endless. Here's a few I thought of...

Banana Pudding Parfait
Layer fat free vanilla pudding, crushed Reduced Fat Nilla wafers, and fat free cool whip.

Strawberry Shortcake Parfait
Layer angel food cake (fat free!) slices strawberries, and fat free cool whip.

Tropical Parfait
Layer low fat strawberry yogurt, crushed pineapple, and chopped pecans or granola.

Chocolate Parfait
Layer low fat chocolate pudding/mousse, crushed animal/graham crackers, and fat free cool whip.

I hope you like some of these snack ideas and let me know if you try any!