Posts made in December 13th, 2012
If you haven’t picked up on it by now, our family Christmas celebration is a bit…unorthodox. We’re a blended family. I have three half siblings, all four of us are married and my three older siblings all have kids. To save hassle and struggle, my parents long ago decided that we’d have the celebration for our family the weekend before Christmas—leaving Christmas Eve and Christmas Day free for in-laws, other parents, grandparents, whatever.
The unorthodoxity doesn’t end there. We also nixed the traditional Christmas dinner a while back, too. With each of us going to multiple big, honkin’ turkey dinners during the month of December, we figured we didn’t need one more carbo-load. I love turkey and stuffing as much as the next girl, but it sorta loses its novelty if you have it every week for two months straight.
So instead, we do an appetizer buffet for our Christmas dinner. Every couple/family brings an appetizer or two, plus a dessert. It ends up creating this awesome spread of deliciousness that definitely won’t be repeated the next weekend. Because we’ve been doing this for so long, a few appetizers have become staples. I usually make my Christmas quiche, my sister usually smokes a salmon (she lives in Oregon, so Mr. Salmon flies with her, in her suitcase), we have beer-boiled shrimp, and my Dad always makes stuffed mushrooms.
As you can see, Dad’s stuffed mushroom recipe is incredible simple. Simple enough to take up less than one side of an index card. And it’s amazing, but as one of my favorite ABC Family Christmas movies says, there is more than one flavor to perfection. So I took to Dad’s base recipe with some flavorful aromatics to give it a bit of flair.
I’m only moderately ashamed to admit that this entire batch of stuffed mushrooms was gone within an hour of them coming out of the oven. We had a little help from my parents, but Craig and I did the vast majority of the damage. They are just so dang flavorful, delicious and… pop-able. These guys are the perfect little treat for drive-by eating. Stroll by the buffet table on the way to the way, pop a mushroom. Stroll back, pop another. Before you know it, the whole tray is empty. It’s like magic.
Oh! And my favorite hidden little secret about these mushrooms is that there is almost always leftover filling. Unless you happen to find the world’s largest button mushrooms, you’ll probably have some of the flavorful sausage filling kicking around once all is said and done. And that leftover filling makes for some insanely delicious meatballs. Saute them up, toss them with some tomato sauce and put them on a bed of hot spaghetti. Yum. Dinner is done.
If you’re looking for a crowd-pleaser app, these mushrooms will do the trick. Even mushroom haters can’t hate on mushrooms stuffed with delicious Italian sausage. Yum!
Parmesan and Sausage Stuffed Mushrooms
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Makes: About 3 dozen
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- Cooking spray
- 24 ounces large button mushrooms
- 1 pound mild Italian sausage
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh minced sage
- 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 350°. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and set aside.
- Wash and remove stems from mushrooms. Set mushroom caps aside. Dice mushroom stems finely and then combine with sausage, garlic, sage and parmesan. The best way to mix the combo is using clean hands.
- Overfill each mushroom cap with the sausage mixture—mounding a pile on top. Place in the prepared baking sheet. When all caps are filled, bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes or until sausage is cooked through.
- To make meatballs using remaining filling: form into desired-sized balls and saute in a hot skillet coated with olive oil until the meatballs are browned on all sides. Plop into warming tomato sauce and cook for 10-15 minutes more to finish cooking.
Do you do the traditional holiday celebration thing? Or does your family do something a little off-the-wall?
Time for another round of reader q&a! A while back, I asked on Facebook and Twitter for folks to submit their questions and here’s what you guys are apparently itchin’ to know. Have a question of your own? Shoot me an email, leave a comment or hit me up on social media. I’ll answer it next time ’round. We have lots to cover this time, so, let’s get to gettin’.
You and Craig seem to have such a strong relationship. What do you think is the key to keeping your marriage alive? Alternatively, what do you guys struggle with/disagree on? – Liz M.
We started out kinda rough because of our distance and, as much as it sucked, I think having that physical distance did wonders to make us both really appreciate the gift of being able to be in the same state, let alone the same room. From the moment his plane landed in Indiana, we’ve been pretty much inseparable.
I don’t have any real tips or keys. I think we’re just totally compatible—we share the same values, the same beliefs, we love each other and we really like each other (two different things). On a higher level, I think both of us are just well-suited for marriage individually. Neither of us are particularly combative. We don’t get bored easily. We respect others. We’re considerate. Marriage just works for us both as individuals and a couple. And it has from day one.
I know that’s not the uber-romantic, music-swelling, doves-flying explanation. But everyday life isn’t a romantic comedy. Our marriage is strong because it’s what works for us. Sure, we have our dove-flying moments, but most days, our marriage is a dove-less well-oiled, very comfy and cozy machine.
Oh! And what do we struggle with. Top of the list is finding a compromise between my insane workaholism and his tendency to be a bit flighty. It was a pretty big issue during our first few years of marriage. But we’ve almost been married 6 years now, and it’s pretty much all worked out. He’s picked up the pace when it comes to the annoying adult responsibilities and I’ve chilled the hell out and learned to have fun again. We help balance each other in that aspect. I was, admittedly, wound way too tight and he was, admittedly, shucking some responsibility. But we were so young when we got married (22 and 23) that it’s only expected that we had some stuff to work through.
Is there one thing you just can’t get right when it comes to cooking? It seems like I can get complicated dishes to turn out well, but I can’t make a decent batch of mashed potatoes. Tell me you have a culinary weakness. —Krissie B.
It used to be grilled cheese! But I conquered that one a few years ago. I’m actually pretty bad at baking as a whole. I don’t so so well with measuring, and baking requires precise measuring.
Do you ever have weeks where you are just so unmotivated to do the prepping and planning that goes into healthy living? If so, how do you deal with this? —Victoria V.
Oh god, yes. Honestly, I chalk it up as part of life. I try not to let myself feel guilty about it. We all need a break every now and again! Eventually my motivation pops back up naturally (sometimes after a longer break than others). I’m a big believer that healthy living is a roller coaster ride. Sometimes you eat nothing but kale sometimes you eat nothing but pizza. Neither of those extremes are healthy. The “healthy living” part is the line between those two.
How did you establish readership and a following? How did you market your blog (if that’s what you do with a blog)? How did you get sponsors? And how much time do you spend on it to make it look so professional? — Corey J.
If I’m being honest, the vast majority of my readership came from food photography sites like Foodgawker and Tastespotting. Posting on those sites got me opportunities with companies and directed readers to me. I still post to those sites a few times a month and I consistently get a bunch of one-time readers and a handful of life-time friends. Raise your hand if you found me through a food photography site! Gaining readers from those sites is what sparred me on to up my photography skills (they have some pretty rigorous photography standards). Which I’m grateful for because I think it makes my blog even better.
I also find that being good community member is a really good way to build a readership. Find your tribe! Find the bloggers that you love and respect and help each other out. Also, don’t underestimate the power of social media. Without a doubt, the top sources of incoming traffic to my site are from Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook (in that order). I think 90% of the fun of this whole blog gig is “meeting” new people and interacting. Use your social media to do that and you’ll gain friends for life.
And the suckiest answer ever for gaining readership—it just takes time. I’ve been blogging, almost every day (sometimes two or three times a day) for over two years now, and I’m just now getting to the point where I feel like I have a consistent and decently-sized daily readership. Some bloggers are overnight successes, but most aren’t. Most people find a blog through word-of-mouth (a reader tells a friend, who Facebooks it, which someone sees and then tells their sister, etc.) and that process just takes some time. But the awesome part about that process? It never ends. And it’s exponential. So at first, it seems like slow growth, but soon enough, you’ll have more and more and more and more! I promise. Just keep up with it, and your readership will grow. Consistency is the #1 most important thing to a successful blog in my book. It can be so hard at first, but eventually it’ll pay off, I promise. Find a schedule that works for you and try to stick to it.
As far as the actual nitty-gritty to getting sponsors, for ads, I use a combo of BlogHer (which anyone can apply to join after 90 days of blogging) and Google Ads. I just recently starting selling my own ads, but the uptake is pretty slow. I also partner with a lot of companies to do giveaways/reviews/etc and paid reviews. At first, I had to contact companies myself—I just contacted the companies that I saw partnering with other bloggers and no one ever turned me down—and after a few months of that, companies started contacting me and I started snagging good opportunities from the BlogHer pool.
If you are really interested in working with companies, I’d recommend pulling together an advertising page and media kit (you can download mine at the end of my advertising page). I think it’s a really great way to not only sell yourself and your services, but also prove that this isn’t just a hobby for you, you are treating it like a business and you will be a professional partner.
As far as design time, I actually didn’t spend all that much time on it because I am just using a modified version of one of the paid themes from Elegant Themes (HIGHLY recommended!). I just picked one I liked and then tweaked the colors and graphics to match my style. If you are just starting out, I think an out-of-the-box theme is perfect. No need to shell out a bunch of money when there are really great options out there for under $50. In fact, I know a lot of “big” bloggers that still use themes from Elegant Themes and love them. And they’re beautiful!
As far as content development and marketing time? That’s a big chunk of my week. I’d say between researching, planning, cooking, photographing, writing, editing, commenting and keeping my social media accounts up, I’m working between 25-30 hours a week between my two blogs and related freelance gigs (almost entirely on the nights and weekends). It’s a definite labor of love—I’m not even close to making minimum wage—but I love doing it, so the money is just icing on a very delicious cake of a hobby. I’d love to be able to allocate 10-15 more hours a week to do more, but I have to, you know, sleep.
Favorite YA lit heroine. — Stina
This is a hard one. I actually think a lot of YA heroines are either too needy (think Bella) or too closed-off (think Katniss). I want a heroine who is simultaneously strong and sensitive (which is what I think most women are). I totally loved Terra. She was kick-ass without being emotionally stunted. But I think my favorite of all the books I’ve read so far is Clary Fray from the Mortal Instruments series. She goes through this crazy transformation and maintains her creative, artistic, feminine ways. I just hope they do her justice in the movie. Worth noting, Clary’s counterpart, Tessa Gray in The Infernal Devices, is equally as awesome. And her awesomeness is done all while wearing a corset.
Top 3 favorite lines from Gilmore Girls. — Michelle H.
OH GOD, THIS IS SO HARD. There are so many. Here we go:
- When Rory is trying to make Logan feel better about his messed up family, “Remind me to tell you about the time when my Mom wore a rhinestone penis on her shirt and my Grandma towed her car.”
- This entire exchange: Rory: “He has much knowledge.” Lorelai: “We shall form a cult around him.” Rory: “Build a statue many stories high.” Lorelai: “We shall grow our hair long and stop bathing.” I say “______ has much knowledge” pretty much daily. I particularly love this quote because Max uses it later in the episode while bonding with Dean. FULL CIRCLE, PEOPLE.
- Can you tell I love Rory and Logan? When he uses the word “girlfriend” for first time after months of a wishy-washy relationship and Rory says “You okay over there? Do you need a glass of water or a time machine?” I love that she’s so..not mushy about it. Love.