Tuesday, December 30

My Life Lessons on Cowboy Etiquette

In the past, I've blogged about my southern etiquette upbringing. I know it's a cliché, but "Mama tried". She did an excellent job teaching me all the things I needed to become a proper Southern Belle.

But the other half of me is Colorado cowboy charm (which is eerily similar to southern gentile...only with way more dirt). My sweet Father, who can wear a cowboy hat better than any other man I know (Super Hunk is a close second), made sure I had a good balance of fine china and hard work ethic.

In fact, one summer I was County Pageant Queen and the girl with the 4-H Grand Champion Show Steer.  Pretty much sums up my life perfectly.

So, for those of you not well-versed on the subject of moving a herd...here are a few of my life lessons on cowboy etiquette, taught to me by my Pops and every other cowboy that crossed my path.

1. If you're in the passenger seat, you get the gate. No exceptions. And don't forget to close it, an unintentional open gate is a recipe for disaster. Unless instructed otherwise, gates are left the way they were found.

2. After a long day's work, your horse comes first. He eats before you do.

3. Always leave the land a little better than you found it. Good cowboys take care of their livestock, great cowboys know they don't have to sacrifice one for the other. And never forget to pause, taking a moment to appreciate wide open spaces.

4. Never touch another person's hat! Historic wars were started over less. If, by some miracle, you're given the opportunity...handle it with care and never EVER lay it brim down.

5. Don't ask for an opinion unless you really want it. Cowboys (with manners) are traditionally strong, silent types...not offering their input voluntarily. So if you ask "What do you think of this 26-year-old gelding I snagged at Tuesday's sale"...you better be ready for an honest response.

6. Give your cattle a little extra feed on Thanksgiving and Christmas, they deserve to be stuffed too!

7. No animal left behind. You always leave the 99 to find the one.

8. "Yep" and "Nope" were the equivalent of cuss words in our house. There was always a long pause in anticipation of the "I mean, yes sir" or "No ma'am" that was expected to follow.

9. Always do what's asked, no matter the task and 15 minutes early is considered on time.

10. This is my own personal contribution...Your hat should never match your horse unless you want to be the person labeled as "matchy matchy" or mistaken for Zorro.

Happy New Year, friends. I hope your 2015 is full of new bits of wisdom and oodles of good manners!

Wednesday, December 24

Peppermint Goodies

Merry Christmas, from my gang to yours!

I'm sending my sincere greetings in the form of peppermint...sugar...and butter. Yes, I truly love you!

I do a lot of baking over the holidays. Gifts are nice but treats are better...at least that's my mantra. I usually do pans and pans (and pans) of cinnamon rolls but this year I wanted to add something a little more merry.

These little gems were inspired by my dear friend (and S&S Guest Contributor), Lana. She is crazy about all things peppermint this time of year. She's also a cookie fanatic (one of the many reasons I love her). Thus, Peppermint Goodies were born.

They were so delicious, she fully endorsed them as "blog-worthy". I hope you enjoy them as well.

12 candy canes
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 eggs
1 cup white chocolate morsels
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 container vanilla icing (or you can make your own)
3 tablespoons water

Preheat oven at 375 degrees.

In ziploc bag, crush candy canes until small pieces appear. Take a deep breathe and enjoy the free pass to take out your aggressions.

Sift to separate powder from larger pieces. Set both aside.

In medium mixing bowl, add flour and baking soda and stir until blended. Pour in candy cane powder, about 1/2 cup, (the larger pieces will be used to sprinkle on top) and mix.

In separate large bowl, beat together butter, sugar, and vanilla extract. Blend in eggs. Gradually add flour mixture, beating well. Slowly, stir in morsels.

Drop tablespoons of dough onto baking sheet.

Bake for 8 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire rack.

While cookies are cooling, heat icing in microwave for a few seconds until it's able to drizzle over cookies.

Generously drizzle, making a huge mess!

Top with peppermint pieces, the perfect accessory.

Tada, a festive treat for peppermint lovers everywhere!

Merry Christmas, friends!

Tuesday, December 23

Beautifully wrapped presents, have no fear!

I'm left speechless...and that RARELY happens.

My toddler could care less about the beautifully wrapped packages under the tree.

I know, it seems like a silly conundrum. You're thinking "hush, whiner"! But I'm serious...what is wrong with this picture?

Last year, he was oblivious but I assumed it was because he was too busy crawling and his concentration skills are stellar.

However, this year I spent DAYS fretting..."Do I wrap them now? Do I risk putting them under the tree and my lovely paper being prematurely torn to shreds? I think I'll risk it. No, I'll refrain. Oh good grief, just go for it and commit to the constant stream of reprimand that will follow." (I know, it's a scary glimpse inside my head.)

Then it happened, he spotted them...and kept walking. So anti-climactic.


My Mom says it's because he's not meddlesome (which he's not) but isn't every child equipped with the "package, kill" feature?

Maybe my concern is not for his flippant response but for the many hours I spent trying to plot a course of action. My carefully thought out plan on how to prevent present disaster was null and void!

The moral of this story...don't sweat the small stuff. Most of the things we overthink usually never happens and we end up feeling like a boob with a master plan to Nowhereland!

Disclaimer: If I had attached a Hotwheels car to every package, this would be a completely different post.

Merry Christmas, friends!

Monday, December 22

The Thirty-Something Brussels Sprout Virgin

Until a few weeks ago, I was the thirty-something brussels sprout virgin. We had never crossed paths, somewhat intentionally. In fact, I knew so little about these little green creatures I called them "brussel" sprouts.

All these years, people have been mocking me for my lack of sprout knowledge. It's giving me flashbacks to Freshman Algebra class (I still maintain, x + y does not = a)!

Well, no more. Today, I can say with pride, I've experienced the delectable world of brussels. I've officially crossed over...joined the club...got the t-shirt!

As a former brussels hater, I know what you're thinking. Slimy! An insult to noses everywhere!

Alas, I've found the golden nugget and I'm sharing it with you. 

Oven-Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Mushrooms

1 1/2 lbs Brussels sprouts
1 1/2 cups white mushrooms, sliced
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic salt
Pepper to taste 

Preheat oven at 400 degrees.

Wash sprouts and trim stem end while removing any brown or yellow leaves. Slice sprouts in half and put in large mixing bowl. Add sliced mushrooms and drizzle with olive oil. Feel free to add more, if needed. 

Sprinkle with garlic salt and pepper, toss to coat. I like them salty, like French fries, so don't be afraid to add a little more salt.

Pour on foil-lined baking sheet. (So pretty!)

Bake in oven for 20 minutes, stirring at 10 minutes. If they're not quite tender enough for you, bake them for another 3-4 minutes. As I stated above, I'm new to the sprout world. Apparently, people prefer them all kinds of ways. In my world, a little bit of crunch is always better!

Pair them with The Perfect Pork Tenderloin and you've got one delicious tummy-pleaser on your hands! 

On another note, Super Hunk would like to say that he prefers his sprouts steamed. I love him anyway! 

Happy roasting, my friends! I'm a brussels sprout virgin no more!

Friday, December 12

Tears For Toys For Tots

"My child will never act that way!"

Yep, that was me. Pre-toddler, so confident, throwing around the word "never" like it was one of the Ten Commandments...chiseled permanently in stone!

I'm such a doorknob!

Every year, my husband's office has a Toys For Tots bin that customers fill to the top. Last year, I couldn't wait until Little Man was old enough to participate. In my rainbows and unicorns world, we'd embark on a special shopping journey while little birds pulled items off the shelf and gently placed them in our glitter-covered shopping cart.

Then a donut hole hit me in the back of the head and I was abruptly brought back to reality.

The day arrived and I had a game plan. We would purchase only fluffy girly items to prevent an "I want that" disaster. The problem with a game plan is there's usually an opposing team with their own strategy!

As we entered the office with our bags in tow, I was feeling proud. My sweet little guy had participated in the "shopping for others" outing like a champ. We had a few potential meltdowns but I diffused them with the "these are for girls" speech (which I'm sure he agreed, just to shut me up).

I began unloading the toys from the bags and as I looked down, I noticed a box of cars in the bottom. If you're a loyal S&S reader you know my son's obsession with cars. With panic on my face, I had two choices. I could frantically throw the toys in the box to cover the glaringly colorful array of automobiles (while making a complete fool of myself) or I could trust that Little Man was still clinging to the charitable meaning of the trip.

I'm an idiot...

I should've gone for it like a bad episode of Supermarket Sweep!

As you can imagine, like in cinematic slow motion, he peered over the side of the giant box and the two-year-old meltdown ensued. It was monumental!

With my kind-hearted, car-loving son under my arm like a sack of feed, I waved goodbye and hollered a sincere "Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night"!

Oh, the joys of parenting!

I guess I'll try again next year, I'm bound and determined to raise a son with a giving heart...if it's the last thing I do!

2014 Toys For Tots has been officially renamed 2014 Tears For Toys For Tots!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 8

Never Put God In A Box

Once again, my life is living proof that God does not belong in a box.

He always gives exceedingly and more abundantly than I could ever imagine.

For instance, He has turned a fast food taco lover who stored shoe boxes in her oven and only had a kitchen because it came with the house, into a Food Blogger...Food Columnist...and now, Cooking Instructor.


That sound you just heard...that's His box flying wide open.

And now for the BIG NEWS, I am excited to announce that 2015 will be the start of Cooking with Courtney culinary classes. It's been a passion of mine to share the delicious simplicity of cheerful cooking with my fellow busy ladies and now I can do it face to face! A simple seed God placed in my heart and a wonderful partnership with North Texas Farm & Ranch Magazine has led to this day. I couldn't be more excited!

My increasing age has unfortunately not provided increased wisdom on the subject of controlling my own life. This is yet another lesson to not put God in a box. He knows the desires of our hearts, the creativity He placed inside of each one of us, and He delights in our successes!

I pray you'll seek Him, ask Him where to lead you next, and join me in giving up control...in the most delightful and satisfying way! Your future is shiny and bright!

For more information on Cooking with Courtney classes, be sure to follow S&S on Facebook or send me an email.

Thank you for your constant support, I couldn't ask for better readers!

Friday, December 5

Mysterious Wine

No matter what season of life I enter, I always welcome a good excuse for a Girl's Night. 

Super Hunk finds it fascinating. He marvels at how a bunch of women gathering to eat, drink, and be cheery can be food for our souls? I tell him it's primitive, dating back to hens in the hen house. We cluck, we roost, it's what we do...he shrugs and promptly makes himself scarce (just hoping we leave behind a few hors d'oeuvres for him to munch on when the dust settles).

I recently hosted a Wine Mystery Party for a few of my lovely ladies (also referred to as a "Blind Wine Tasting"). Some of the guests were wine connoisseurs and others were new to the wonderful world of wine. This party brought everyone together and we left with a new favorite wine!

If you're looking for a fun party idea, this is always a hit (I've hosted a few and it's been a blast every time)!

You start by asking guests to bring a bottle of wine. It can be a personal favorite, a new variety they've been wanting to try, or a bottle with a pretty label (which in my experience, usually turns out disastrous).

As guests arrive, you place bottles in paper bags and tie with string (you can also request your guests keep the paper sacks from the store when the bottles were purchased). Next, label each bottle with number. Have glasses ready, with place cards indicating guest's name. As pictured above, if you have enough glasses you can label them with coordinating bottles. I didn't so we used the same glass.

Open your first bottle and pour for guests to taste. Provide sheets for them to record their thoughts. Some may go with "yum" and others may express great dislike...that's the fun of it. For the more experienced, challenge them to identify the different flavors and aromas (I tend to roll my eyes...in a loving way...and pour these people another glass)!

At the end, when everyone has tasted each bottle, it's time for the great unveiling. Remove each bottle from their bag and have everyone share their notes. 

Now pour yourself a full glass of your new favorite!

A little food, a few friends, and a lot of wine is a recipe for success! A good time was had by all!

No more standing in front of a hundred wine bottles, wondering which one to buy. Mystery solved!

(For free wine printable a shown above, click here.)

(Photos from Mint Love Social Club.)

Wednesday, December 3

Bread Spoons

Let's talk bread...a subject in which I've conducted hundreds of hours of research.

In my opinion, there is no bad bread. Except rye, my taste buds wince at the mere mention of the word.

However, if there were only worms and rye bread left on the earth...I'd reconsider.

I digress.

I whipped up a big batch of Corn Chowder for a recent Girl's Night. Tired of cornbread and wanting something more festive than a plain ol' slice, I cranked out a pan of bread spoons (no, "cranked out" is not a standard culinary term).

A few of the ladies laughed (which is the point of Girl's Night) but most everyone loved them!

Here's a quick step-by-step. They're so easy, even the kiddos can help!

All you need is:
1 can crescent rolls
Sprinkle of flour

Roll out crescent dough on lightly floured surface.

Place spoon, face down on dough and cut around edges with butter knife. Tip: Cut a little wider along handle. If it's too skinny, it will be brittle and break.

It should look something like this.

Next, gently peel excess dough away from spoons (using knife to cut away stubborn areas). Roll excess dough in ball and set aside. Lift spoons from counter and place on pan lined with parchment paper.

Keep in mind, they won't be perfect but that's the fun of it! It's like art, no two are the same. Roll out remaining dough and repeat steps until dough is gone (I ended with about 24 spoons). Bake according to crescent dough instructions but take off about 3 minutes of cook time. Mine said to cook for 12 minutes and the spoons were golden at 9 minutes.  Let cool on rack

It doesn't matter if you think they're funny...or festive...you have to admit, they're FUN!

Look out soup, I have a bread spoon and I'm not afraid to dunk it!