Thanksgiving Non-negotiables

 

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Thanksgiving is a time where we give thanks for all of the important things in our life. Family members being able to come together, friendships we’ve made and maintained, new family members, jobs we’ve earned…it’s a time for us to focus on all of the good in our lives. It’s also a time that we look forward to because of all the delicious foods that we get to eat. Food that is literally prepared with love for hours upon hours by our relatives. For many people (me included) there are some Thanksgiving food staples that are simply non-negotiable. Food that seriously needs to be laid out on that table or you might shed a tear or two on the drive home.

Even last year I was missing Thanksgiving with my family because I was in Disney World with Greg’s family. I was over the moon to be in the happiest place on earth…but I would be lying if I weren’t a little sad to be missing out on dressing and macaroni and cheese. Even though I knew there were going to be tons of leftovers at my parents when I got home, it did feel a little weird to not be eating any traditional Thanksgiving food they day of. Well thank goodness for the Magic Kingdom because they actually had a Thanksgiving Dinner feast available on the day of. Even Mickey Mouse needs his turkey, dressing, and green beans at least once a year.

So in preparation of the big turkey day, I’ve rounded up some of my non-negotiable food recipes. Some are treasured family recipes that have been passed down to me and some are some personal recipes that I’ve learned over the years myself and started to add to the table. Enjoy and happy eating!

Grandma’s Cornbread Dressing

Mama’s Macaroni and Cheese

3 Ingredient Green Bean Casserole

Sweet Potato Casserole

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Sweet Potato Casserole

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Sweet potato casserole has always been a staple at our holiday dinners however it wasn’t until a few years ago that I actually started to partake in sweet potatoes. I was at my friend Caitlin’s house for dinner and she ended up making some thick cut sweet potatoes with just some olive oil and sea salt…I tried them and it’s like my world literally spun around. I felt like I’ve been missing out on a whole new delicious food group all these years…and it was definitely time to make up for it.

So naturally, I eat sweet potatoes any chance I can now…including at holiday dinners. This sweet potato casserole recipe is partially from family inspiration partially just what I picked up that I love in a sweet potato casserole.

Ingredients

5-6 sweet potatoes

2 cups granulated sugar

4 beaten eggs

2 sticks melted butter

2 tablespoons self-rising flour

1 tablespoon vanilla

2 cups brown sugar

1 cup chopped pecans

(marshmallows optional…but I love to have them on mine!)

First thing you’ll want to do is peel and boil your sweet potatoes. You want to boil them just like you would if you were making regular mashed potatoes…they need to be soft enough for you to mash together.

Once your potatoes are good and mashed drain them of any access water and return to pot. In the same pot with your potatoes add the sugar, eggs, 1 stick of butter, and flour. Mix well and pour in a casserole dish.  Next, melt your other stick of butter and in a separate mixing bowl mix the butter, brown sugar, and pecans together. Layer this on top of your sweet potato mixture…top with marshmallows if you like.

Bake at 350 for one hour.


3 Ingredient Green Bean Casserole

 

Green beans have always been a staple at any of my family’s gatherings, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I was really introduced to green bean casserole. Green beans…in the delicious form of a casserole, um yes please! Now I realize most people have been eating green bean casserole for a long time and have coveted family recipes, but for me I didn’t so I had to find what I liked! For me I obviously enjoy the green beans, creamy mixture, and the crunch of the fried onions. So here it is…one easy, cheap way to make green bean casserole!

Ingredients

2 cans of cream of mushroom soup

2 cans of classic cut green beans

1 small container of French onions

(Salt and pepper to taste)

In a large baking dish mix your green beans and cream of mushroom soup together. Add salt and pepper to the mixture for taste. Top with fried onions. Bake for 30 minutes at 350.

 

 


Grandma’s Cornbread Dressing

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So basically there’s two types of people in the world; there’s stuffing people and then there’s dressing people. If you’re a stuffing person…ya might wanna go ahead and look up a different recipe because this Thanksgiving dressing is from my southern grandma and is made from real cornbread and love.

Ingredients:

2 cups Cornmeal

1 ¼ cup Buttermilk

¼ Vegetable Oil

3 Eggs

4 stalks Celery

3 Onions

4 tablespoons sage

4 tablespoons celery salt

1 large container of chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

 Bake cornbread using cornmeal, buttermilk, oil, and 1 egg according to cornmeal directions. (Usually mixing everything and baking for 15-18 minutes on 375.)

Finely chop celery onions and mix with sage, celery seasoning, 2 eggs.

Once cornbread is baked, crumble and add to celery/onion mixture.

Let this mixture sit in the fridge over night. The next day, add your chicken stock and mix well.

Spray pan well with PAM and cook until brown (about 45 minutes- 1 hour) on 375.

 


Tom’s BBQ

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Calling all BBQ lovers…I have discovered a hidden gem in Greenville that you absolutely must try. Now, Tom’s BBQ hasn’t always been “Tom’s” but the location has been a BBQ restaurant for over 30 years, 14 of those most recent years it has been known as “Tom’s BBQ.” It wasn’t until about four months ago that Brock and Beth Stevens bought the place from Tom, and since then they have been making some big moves on the BBQ scene. Keeping with the same mouthwatering recipes, Brock and Beth have been shaking things up at Tom’s by adding some new classic BBQ sides to the menu, updating the dinning room, and really becoming a presence on social media. If you’ve been following them on Instagram you can be tempted almost daily but images of some of their classics like pulled pork, mac n’ cheese, apple pie, and even by some of their enormous catering giveaways. (Yup, you heard me- I said they do giveaways.)

Brock and Beth were looking for a business to invest in and along came Tom’s right at the perfect time. Despite the fact that the restaurant has switched owners a few times, the recipes haven’t changed within 30 years. Many of the same classic BBQ dishes, the savory barbeque recipe itself, and the majority of their 8 sauces have been there since the beginning.

So, what makes Tom’s BBQ so standout? Well, for one thing they are open six days a week for lunch. Most BBQ joints are only open 3-4 days a week in order to cook everything properly. Well, Tom’s is still getting all that meat good and tender- they simply choose to smoke all throughout the day and night in order to keep doors open longer. More chances to get my hands on barbeque…um, yes please.

Another huge appeal to Tom’s is the food…duh. I am a huge connoisseur of fried okra and let me just say that I literally could not stop eating it. Some other personal favorite’s of mine include the sweet potato crunch and the banana pudding…. both sinfully delicious and good to the final spoonful. Then there’s the star of the show…the meat. The pulled pork is what they’re known for and it did not disappoint. Super tender and jam-packed full of flavor…. plus their portions are more than generous. Aside from the pulled pork they also offer ribs and brisket…all of which you can top with your choice of any of their 8 signature sauces. (The cheerwine is a local favorite)

Aside from being a booming restaurant front, Tom’s also offers phenomenal catering services. Tailgates, reunions, rehearsal dinners, you name it and they’ve got you’ve covered! They’ve even taken some catering requests that weren’t strictly barbeque… which shows just how dedicated they are to serving up good food to their community. With the holiday season looming in the near future, they’ve even put together a special Thanksgiving feast. This feast includes a fried turkey, 3 of their special sides, and a choice of dessert. Thanksgiving, friendsgiving, whatever the need; they’ve got you covered!

I’m actually a little ashamed that it took me this long to get to Tom’s to find out what I’ve been missing out on. A place where you can get some serious good barbeque, a cozy lunch environment, and owners who truly invest in their business. Couldn’t ask for anything else!


Spinach and Mushroom Quiche

 

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Maybe it’s my southern roots, but there is nothing that a good quiche can’t fix. With sausage, with ham, with roasted vegetables, with cheddar cheese, with goat cheese…literally the possibilities for a quiche are endless. Another thing I love about making a quiche is that they are literally perfect for any meal. You can eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and it tastes amazing with everything. This particular quiche has been one of my favorites lately for meal prepping for breakfast. It’s super easy to make it on Sunday night and then just cut and heat up each morning with fruit or sausage.

Ingredients:

 1 premade crust

1 package of fresh spinach (about 10 ounces)

1 package of mushrooms (I prefer portabella)

1/2 cup of feta cheese

1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese

1 cup of parmesean cheese

1 cup of milk

4 eggs

1 tsp. Salt

1 tsp. pepper,

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. Minced garlic

First you’ll want to go ahead and sit out your crust if you bought the refrigerator kind, which I prefer.

Next, go ahead and thinly slice your mushrooms. Pour your olive oil in a small frying pan and add your mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Sautee your mushrooms to your liking then remove from heat.

In a small mixing bowl mix your eggs, milk, and parmesean cheese.

Time to layer the quiche! Place your crust in your pie dish and add your spinach (I prefer to chop mine roughly so that it spreads more evenly) to the bottom of the crust. Next add your mushrooms and your crumbled feta. On top of that…add your wet egg mixture. Finally, top it all off with your mozzarella.

Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes or until it’s done to your liking!


Sailing Around Savannah

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So I recently had my very first trip to Savannah, GA (shocker, I know) for a friend’s bachelorette party. To celebrate our bride to be, we ended up booking a sailboat for a few hours. Now personally…I was a little skeptical about this little sail boating adventure. I wasn’t sure what to expect that I would have to do, what to wear on a boat in October, and what we could bring. I was pleasantly surprised by how amazing of an experience we actually ended up having, so I decided to share it!

We ended up getting our charter through Compass Sailing, and we sailed for half a day (4 hours.) Our four hours included the boat, the captain, soft drinks, and water. Booking a charter for half a day ends up being just under $500 not including the tip…now while that sounds like a pretty penny it really was so worth it. You get to bring your own food and drinks…that was especially nice since we were there for a bachelorette party. Now depending on the weather will depend on the path that your captain ends up taking you on during your charter. Luckily, we sailed a good ways into the ocean and got to see several groups of dolphins which was honestly so magical!

I guess when I first thought sail boat I was thinking okay so we need to wear sperries and be prepared to ‘tie the lines’. Not the case at all! We could walk around the boat barefoot and we had access to the cabin where there was a kitchen and restroom, we could lay out on the deck, or we could stay seated by the captain. Our captain had Bluetooth speakers so we could play music the whole time and walk back and forth, dance, and really go wherever! Now there was a point when our boat was on a major tilt…I guess that’s part of the whole sailing thing…but during that time you definitely want to stay seated and brace yourself.

Another great part of our sail boating experience was our captain. Hands down, Captain Steve MADE our afternoon so memorable! He was so accommodating to us, let us take turns steering if we wanted, and kept us laughing the whole afternoon. If you decide to book a charter through Compass, you need to request Zingara with Captain Steve!

Now I’m not saying that you only have to go sailing in Savannah, obviously. But if you’re looking for something new and exciting to try out with a group of friends I highly recommend you try out chartering a boat! The experience we had was so amazing and definitely a memorable event to celebrate our bachelorette.


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

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I’ll admit it, the second the fall décor comes out in stores my immediate thought is, ‘ Okay, where are all the pumpkin flavored things?’ Pumpkin spiced latte, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies…yeah I pretty much love it all. So, I’ve been on the hunt for a pumpkin flavored sweet to add to my meal prep, and I have FINALLY found it! Combining one of my absolute favorite morning treats with my seasonal addiction, I give you…pumpkin chocolate chip muffins.

Ingredients

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

1 can pumpkin puree

1-1/2 cup canola oil

3 cups flour

2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups chocolate chips

 

 Mix eggs, sugar, oil, and pumpkin puree well in a large mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl mix the remaining dry ingredients and slowly add them to the wet mixture.

Line a muffin tin with baking cups or spray well with Pam. Pour mixture evenly in tin, I filled mine about ¾ full and had enough mixture to make 2 dozen. Bake at 400 degrees for 14-16 minutes or until brown on top.

Enjoy!


What I Look For in a Gym

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What does one think about when they hear the word, “gym.” Maybe you think about lifting weights; switching up which day you work on legs and which day you work on arms. Maybe you think about going to run on the treadmill or riding the bike for thirty minutes. Or, maybe your mind even reverts back to elementary school when you would run pacers and practice stretches. Well for me, growing up I kind of thought about all of these ideas. My family has always been a member of a gym, I was on the swim team in middle school, and I took dance classes from the time I was 3 up through my senior year of high school. I felt like I was doing all the right things to be healthy because I was exercising.

It wasn’t until I graduated college that I realized I could no longer eat the way I always had and just walk it off.

Luckily, I didn’t have to search for a solution too long because my school that I work at had recently received a health and wellness grant. With this grant, they had a partnership with a local gym that allowed teachers to workout there at a discounted rate. Through my time being a member of this gym I have found out so many things about my body and quite frankly how to handle growing up…body wise.

Here’s the moral of the story; you won’t always have the metabolism or the body you did when you were sixteen…or when you’re twenty. You change as you get older, and if you don’t take action that change could be for the worse. So I have decided to grab my health by the shirt collar, and show em’ I mean business! It hasn’t been easy, and sometimes I really just wanna stop and take a nap and eat pizza…but I really have found with the right gym you actually want to get up and go.

So what is this magical place that has made me actually excited to get up early on a Friday during my summer break and sweat my butt off? Well, it’s Element Strength and Fitness in Landrum, SC. Element is a boutique gym that opened in 2014 and is co-owned by Sonya Culbreth and Jennifer Willis. Both owners have been in the fitness industry for several years now, and have such lively passion that the majority of their instructors are previous clients that are now turned experts.

Then comes the question, why them? Why don’t I just use the “gym” (I use that term loosely) that is located in my apartment complex? Or why not join one of the many chain gyms that are located within one mile of where I live? Well, one reason is camaraderie. The very definition of the word meaning trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together, is exactly what you feel when you’re at Element. I started off going to group fitness classes there with co-workers, and as people’s schedule’s change I realized I’m one of the last people from my school who still attend classes there. Even though I don’t have the same people I started with there by my side, I’ve found literally two dozen more who I can call by name and shake my booty with any day of the week. Trust me, when you spend time doing enough squats with a person you begin to form a bond with them. I mean we all honestly feel like a small family when we are together. We ask about life events, celebrate birthdays, inspire, and encourage one another on a daily basis. Now, I did love my indoor track at the YMCA back home but I can tell you I never had that kind of relationship with even a fraction of the members, let alone the instructors.

Another aspect of Element that has continuously kept me coming back is the accountability. I know the word accountability can either be sour or sweet. Sometimes accountability is just a nice way to say that someone is bugging you until the point of annoyance. That has never been my experience at Element. I typically go to some of the same group classes with the same instructors, so when they ask me if I’m coming to class on Tuesday I view it more as a friend asking me the next time they’re gonna see me. They know when you have things going on and they’re always willing to sign you up for a class or do whatever they need to to help keep you on track with what your goals are.

Now, I’ve mentioned that I attend group fitness classes at Element and you might be over there thinking ‘Uh…what’s that mean.’ Well, Element offers Element Fit (dance/cardio + strength), PiYo (yoga + pilates), Pound, BCX Boot camp Training, Butts and Guts (self explanatory), and XT Blast (circuit training). Such a HUGE variety of classes that could cater to the person who has never worked out a day in their life and the person who works out religiously. The variety of workouts available to me on a weekly basis is such a huge plus for me, because I can get very bored doing the same routine over and over again. But more than that…my body gets bored. I enjoy having a variety so that I can challenge myself and work on different aspects of body. Just as an example, I had never done a burpee a day in my life before some of these group classes…and I still wouldn’t call myself the burpee queen but I can do a round of burpees for two minutes without crying and that’s more than I could probably say a year ago. Cardio is always great and gets all those good endorphins going, but some of the strength and training classes that I’ve tried through Element have made me feel like a stronger and more capable woman than I ever use to feel.

One of my last absolute favorite things about Element is the flexibility they have with their clients. In addition to all of these wonderful classes, there are also several opportunities to book a personal training session with some of the instructors to work on what you need. They always show modifications for all moves you do in a class and they always give you great feedback if they want you to try to go lower in your squats or change your form in something. A lot of the aspect of being in a healthy gym is working on the whole transformation; inside and outside. It’s great if you can do 10 pushups in thirty seconds…but not everyone can. They help you find out what works best for YOU and then meet you exactly where you need to be. There are no judgments passed on anyone because everyone is capable is working on being the best that they can be. That type of adjustment is exactly what everyone needs in a workout because no two people have the exact same body type, so they don’t need the exact same expectations put on them.

Now I know I’ve talked on and on about all the great things I get to experience in my gym…but I’m aware that not everyone lives in Landrum. Good news, you don’t have to! Element is also available to everyone, anywhere online! Online you can find a variety of exercise videos that are exactly what you would see in some of the fitness classes plus two types of nutrition plans; Element 7 and Element Prime. Sonya and Jennifer are always willing to learn and listen to what other nutrition experts are saying so both of these plans are not one exact formula. They have gathered real information that they are truly passionate about sharing. No pills, potions, or strict diet plans-just real food that works for real people. Both of these ladies are always willing to keep it real with you, and they would never tell you “never” about anything. They just want to help you gain knowledge about how to lead a balanced, healthy lifestyle and break the everyday cycle of bad choices.

So if you’ve been on the fence about getting a hold of your own health and where to get started, no need to wait any longer. Get out of your comfort zone, and into your element!

 

Wanna know more? Check out their website and youtube page below!

https://www.elementstrengthandfitness.com

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtJSlCp1y-v0R5UJAZi4y9A


Easy Chicken Pot Pie

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There’s nothing like a good slice of chicken pot pie on a chilly, fall night…or I mean really ever. Growing up chicken pot pie was basically a staple in my house. Whenever I was sick I wouldn’t want chicken noodle soup, I would want chicken pot pie. My mom would make pre-made one that she would pick up at the store and I would lay in bed watching Robin Williams and Julia Roberts battle Dustin Hoffman in Hook. It was my little tradition, and it always made me feel better. Chicken pot pie reminds me of feeling safe, and being home. Now I’ve made elaborate chicken pot pie recipes, but honestly this one is my favorite. It’s super easy and quick, and tastes just like memories.

Ingredients

Pre-made piecrust

4 raw chicken breasts

2 cans of cream of chicken

½ cup of finely chopped celery

½ cup diced/sliced carrots

1 cup of peas, drained

Salt

Pepper

First thing you’ll want to do is cook the chicken. Like many other recipes I do, if I’m cooking chicken twice I like to boil it first so that it stays moist. Boil the chicken in a large salted pot of water until the chicken is entirely white, and you can no longer see any pink.

Take the chicken breasts out of the water and shred thinly. In a large mixing bowl pour in both cans of cream of chicken, chicken, celery, carrots, and peas. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and mix well.

Line a pie pan with the first layer of the crust. Pour the mixture inside the pie crust, and layer with the second crust on top. Fold tightly, and cut 4 slits in the middle so that it can breath.

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.