Heartwarming Soups and Chowders for the Chilly Months

Have you gotten into the swing of things with the new year in place? We are almost to the end of January already and I feel like all I wanted to accomplish has not gotten done yet. Part of my excuse is that we will be welcoming a new addition to our family the beginning of September! That has caused lots of excitement in our house, along with a pretty exhausted mama dealing with morning sickness around the clock. But what a great way to start off my new year. :)

Of course with January in full swing, it brings even colder weather with it if you live in New England like I do! I don’t know about you, but this time of year always makes me crave a hot bowl of soup or chowder. Add some homemade biscuits or bread and butter and you have the fix for that mid-January chill. Most people think of soups when fall time arrives, but now is a good time to revamp your recipe collection and add some new heartwarming meals to your weeknight menu!

Here’s a list of some of my favorites, and some new kinds you can try out:

Cheeseburger Soup.

I have used this exact recipe, and it is fabulous! It is so good, and so filling. I can bet your whole family will love this.

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Cauliflower Chowder.

Though I have never tried this recipe, it looks heavenly! And it is low-carb too, which is even better. I love cauliflower, and look forward to trying this.

Cauliflower Chowder - A creamy, low carb, hearty and wonderfully cozy soup for those chilly nights!

Lasagna Soup.

This soup is also incredible. So filling, and soo good. Who doesn’t love lasagna? Lasagna Soup - afarmgirlsdabbles.com #lasagna #lasagnasoup

Zuppa Toscana.

One of my favorite soups from the Olive Garden! Did you know you can make this at home, and it tastes just as good? This soup is so yummy.

Slow Cooker Chicken Tortilla Soup.

Another recipe to add to my “to make” list! This looks like a very easy soup to put together. I can imagine it has tons of great flavor! Topped with crispy tortilla strips on top… it’s calling my name.

The best slow cooker chicken tortilla soup! Recipe by @bakedbyrachel

Slow Cooker Broccoli Cheese Soup.

I am crazy over broccoli cheese soup. How can you go wrong?! Broccoli… cheese… cream…. ahhhmazing! This is a recipe for your crockpot, which is even better! Slow Cooker Broccoli Cheese Soup | Cooking Classy

Italian Orzo Spinach Soup.

This is a vegetarian soup, with the option to add meat if you like. It’s loaded with veggies, whole wheat orzo, and lots of flavor!

Italian Orzo Spinach Soup | gimmesomeoven.com #recipe

Chipotle Chicken and Corn Chowder.

I don’t know about you, but the picture below makes me so hungry! I have always loved dishes with a bit of a bite, and this twist on the classic corn chowder has me dying to trying it out!

Chipotle Chicken and Corn Chowder

Do these soups and chowders have you drooling yet? I can’t wait to try some of these out, can you? They definitely seem like a good cure for a cold day!

The Happy Homemaker

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New Goals for a New Year

It’s that time of year again… you know, the end of it where we all think of the things we would like to accomplish in the coming year? I know I do! It is always refreshing to start a new year with a clean slate! I am looking forward to this coming year, and am excited to see what it holds. No, our years aren’t always fun, and can be filled with lots of heartache at times. But each and every year is filled with different things, and we don’t have the chance to relive them once they are gone.

I have created a free printable for you to start making a list of goals for this coming year. You don’t have to fill it all in right away, but it can get you thinking about some small things you would like to accomplish in the next twelve months. I used to make a resolution list, but then I never kept to them. They were big dreams and aspirations, and I hardly ever got any crossed off my list. I decided to make small (and sometimes big) goals for each year, so it would be looked at as something I am striving for and am in the process of achieving, rather than something I will never get done. At the end of 2015, I can look at it and know that I did my best in those areas and I didn’t have to feel like a failure.

Click here for the printable: Goals 2015 Goals-2015

 

I have given you just 10 slots to fill. Nothing overwhelming. Just add your most important goals for the new year, and then make out a plan on how to get started on them. A goal will never be reached or even strived for if you don’t have a plan to make it happen! I liked the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, who reminds us that each day we should live like it is the best day of our year. It kind of makes you think differently when you wake up each day!

Clip this to your fridge or tape it onto your bedroom mirror. It will be a good reminder of what you are striving for in the year to come.

Have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve!

The Happy Homemaker

11 Christmas Gift Wrapping Ideas + Free Printable Gift Tags!

With Christmas quickly approaching, there is only a little time left to get our gifts wrapped and under the tree! I have always enjoyed wrapping gifts, though it sure does take some time. I will leave most of my gift wrapping for this weekend if I have the time.

I have come across lots of neat ways to dress up some gift wrapping, and thought I might share them with you! Below are some cute ideas. Some of them are simple, while others look a little more time consuming. Some of the ideas are just photos for inspiration, and some will lead you directly to a site for instructions. Enjoy!

1. Simple, yet elegant. I love the fresh branch tucked under the ribbon!

Because Nice Matters...

2. I love the clean and simple colors of the gifts below! Check out Miss Mustard Seed for more amazing interior decorating ideas!

3. Chalkboard gift wrap. Create a real chalkboard look with black kraft paper and a chalk marker! Click on the photo for more details on how to create the look.

Post image for How to Gift Wrap with a Chalkboard Look

4. How to tie the perfect bow. We all need this tutorial, right?!

5. Adorable gift wrapping with yarn and stars. I love this idea!

6. Dress up your gift wrapping to look like it is a parcel from the post office! This one would take some time working on, but the result is really cool.

 7. FREE printable gift tags! Tags can be so expensive to buy. Why not print them out? These are absolutely gorgeous. I would want them for all of my gifts!Printable_Chalkboard_Gift_Tags_Labels_Christmas

8. FREE printable gift tags, once again! These are meant to be embellishments for your gifts and have songs, movie quotes, and Bible verses on them. Below are only a couple of them. Check out Lindsey Bee for more beautiful tags!

9. Looking for something a little more glamorous? Try gold and black gift wrapping! A sure way to wow the recipient of the gift.

10. It doesn’t get much more simple than this! You can create this in minutes using yarn and a fresh sprig of rosemary. You could also use a fresh sprig of anything to replace the rosemary.

Simple White Christmas Gift Wrap Idea - Love That Party. www.lovethatparty.com.au

11. Brown paper packages tied up with string! Please check out One Good Thing by Jillee for her whole idea board on brown paper gift wrapping. You will love them all!

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There are just a few ideas to get the wheels turning in your head! I have done different gift wrapping each Christmas, and I have to say that the simpler, the better. I used Trader Joe’s bags one year, and loved the outcome. Bakers twine is easy to find anywhere these days, and really adds to a gift. The fresh branches and sprigs from outdoors are lovely too. It’s hard to choose what to do, so try a different idea each year!

I hope this helps give you some inspiration in the gift wrapping department this Christmas. :) Now I’d better get back to my handmade gift projects. Only 8 days left! Whew!

The Happy Homemaker

DIY Pine Wreath Tutorial

Before I get started, let me just say that I am not a wreath making expert. In fact, I have never made a wreath before in my life! I didn’t read up on any wreath making tutorials. I didn’t get any special wreath making supplies. I just used what I had around my house! That’s what I loved about this project. And that’s what you are going to love about this project!

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I was given some fresh pine branches for decorating my house, and was trying to figure out how to use them. I love anything real and rustic, and these branches were just screaming WREATH to me! I could already picture the whimsical look of the long pine needles in a wreath. But bending the branches into a wreath was not working for me.

I came across some idea on Pinterest to use a wire hanger as a base for a wreath, so I went ahead and dug through my closet for a hanger.

Here is what you will need:
wire Hanger
Pine branches at least 2 feet long
3 evergreen branches from a juniper tree (optional)
string or wire
scissors
wide ribbon

Here is how I did it:

With all your strength and might, bend the hanger into a circle. It’s really not that hard. :) And it doesn’t have to be perfect, so don’t fiddle with it for too long. Just circular works. The wreath will take a more circular shape as you add branches. Begin by weaving your branches around the hanger. Fasten the ends with your string or wire. I didn’t have wire, so I used yarn. But wire would work so much better if you have that!

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Secure the branches in the first round as tightly as possible. This will create a good base and the string will be covered after adding more branches.

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After you have tied the first few branches onto the hanger, begin weaving in more. Some of them will be fine just woven, but others you will need to tame by tying them down. From there on out, it’s just a matter of trial and error. Some branches work in certain places and some don’t. Try to keep the branches going in one direction, like clockwise, or counter clockwise as I did.

Tearing off a few of the “twigs” growing off the branch is a great way to fill in sparse places on your wreath without having to weave in a whole new branch.

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It starts to take shape and look really nice after a while of tucking in branches and twigs here and there. It does take a while to get it all fastened into place and looking up to snuff. I like the look of some of the woody part showing, but you can try to hide that if you wish.

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Here’s a closeup of some of the weaving. Who knew something as simple as pine branches could be so beautiful?!

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I bent the top hook of the hanger down to create circle so I could hang the wreath. Then I tied a very simple bow with some very beautiful ribbon I bought at Joann Fabrics. I will be using this ribbon on our tree! You can fasten it onto the hook in the back. Whatever works for you.

As you can see, I was left with a bit of a gap on the right side. I had collected some evergreen branches from some trees in my parent’s yard earlier this week. They made a pretty centerpiece on my dining room table! I looked it up and I believe they are called Spartan Juniper trees. Their leaves are gorgeous.

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So… I decided to use three sprigs for my wreath to fill some of the gaps. I just tucked them in securely.

Here it is on my front porch under our very ugly mailbox. :) The wreath makes it look pretty now!

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Very festive. Ready to greet our mail lady.

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And that was all I did! I love projects like this where I can use stuff I already have on hand. I am not big on buying a bunch of supplies for one project. But if you find a wreath base on sale or have one on hand, go ahead and use that!

I’m so excited to share this with you all. It is satisfying to create something using fresh supplies from nature and know that it hardly cost me anything to make. And it doesn’t have to stop there. You can use anything else you have on hand to make your wreath just what you want. Pinecones would be perfect, as well as other sprigs of evergreens. Mini ornaments will make it colorful, or some artificial embellishments from a craft store.

I’m counting down the days… it is truly “the most wonderful time of the year”, and I am enjoying it!

Enjoy your weekend!

The Happy Homemaker

Mini Crochet Christmas Tree | FREE PATTERN

It’s snowing! It has been so pretty all day, and I am really feeling in the Christmas mood. I’ve been wrapping gifts, listening to Christmas music and crafting up something to share with you all!

If you are into really embellishing your Christmas gifts, and you know how to crochet, then this is the project for you! I promise it will only take you about 5 minutes. Maybe 10 minutes if you are a newbie to crochet. This is the perfect project if you are just getting used to the whole crochet thing.   DSC_1070

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I decided I wanted to dress up my Christmas gifts that I will be giving out, so I created this pine tree and loved the simplicity of it. It is so cute and small, but you could definitely use a larger hook size to create a bigger tree. The great thing about this is you can dress it up however you’d like. Prefer it plain and rustic? Leave it the way it is. Want to add a bit of color? Figure a way to add some ornaments to your tree. This is a great project to use up yarn scraps, as I did. If you don’t have green and brown, you can always make a colored tree, or whatever you’d like!

I love the rustic look of the colors in my tree. Both yarns are from Red Heart Soft. The green is called Leaf Green and the brown is called Toast. I absolutely love the look and feel of the Red Heart soft yarn!

If you just love the look of this little tree for decorating your home, try stringing a bunch on some string/yarn for a garland, or hang them with string in front of your windows! There are so many possibilities for these little guys.

Here is the pattern FREE just for you! And just in time to get going before Christmas.

Mini Crochet Christmas Tree

Supplies:

Hook Size: E/4 – 3.50mm

Red Heart Soft yarn in Green and Brown (or any worsted weight yarn will do)

tapestry needle

The number at the end of each sentence shows how many stitches you should have in each row.

Sc = single crochet | St = stitch | Ch = chain | Sl st = slip stitch

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TREE TOPDSC_1069
– Ch 9
Row 1 – sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc 6 there will be 1 space left, ch 1 and turn (7)
Row 2 – skip 1st st, sc 5, ch 1 and turn (5)
Row 3 – skip 1st st, sc 4, ch 1 and turn (4)
Row 4 – skip 1st st, sc 3, ch 1 and turn (3)
Row 5 – sc in 1st st, sc all across, ch 1 and turn (3)
Row 6 – skip 1st st, sc 2, ch 1 and turn (2)
Row 7 – skip 1st st, sc 1 (1)
– chain 18, then sl st back into the top of the tree to make the loop, and tie off.
TRUNK
Row 1 – With the right side of your tree facing you, insert hook into 3rd st (counting from the right) at the bottom of your tree, Sl st and ch 1, sc into same ch 1 space, sc 2, ch 1 and turn
Row 2 – sc in all 3 st and tie off (3)*

Weave in ends.

*If you are using a larger hook, you can repeat Row 2 until you have the length you want.
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I have never written a pattern and published it before, so I really hope everything is as clear as possible! You may use the finished product however you like. If you will be selling this item, please give me the pattern credit and link back to me. The selling of this pattern is NOT permitted. Thank you!

The best part about this Christmas/Winter decoration? It is reusable! :)

Enjoy, and happy crafting!

The Happy Homemaker

Simple Sugar Cookie Recipe

How has everyone been doing? I know, you have not heard from me in a while. There are so many good recipes and projects to share, yet I have been busy actually trying a lot of things out! Are you as busy as I am these days? When you make your own Christmas gifts, you are bound to get wrapped up in projects… then there’s the decorating and the parties to attend. And oh, don’t forget about those busy children you have that make a mess seconds after you clean something.

Yes… you totally understand where I am going here.

But in the midst of all this busyness, there has to be some time for cookie making. I recently attended a Ladies’ Christmas Tea at my church, and it was so lovely. We had vintage teacup sets and everyone brought a plate of their favorite Christmas cookies. I don’t really have a favorite, but I do love sugar cookies. There is something about them that makes everything feel like Christmas! Although I have made a batch of them every year since having my own home, I hadn’t quite mastered the awesome sugar cookie that I had been wanting.IMG_7473-2

Who knew it could be so simple? I found a very basic sugar cookie recipe online. No extras to make them more moist or soft. It was just a basic ingredient list. We always are looking for those special ingredient recipes (I know I am!), but sometimes all you need is a traditional recipe and a few tips to get you a wonderful, classic sugar cookie.

Here are some tips:

1. Always, always chill your dough before rolling it out. I have found this step absolutely necessary with not only these cookies, but any other cookie as well. It’s a must!

2. When rolling out your dough, place a piece of parchment paper on your counter and tape down the corners. Or you can use a dough mat if you have that. Place another piece of parchment paper on top of your dough as you roll it out. Or you can use plastic wrap. This was a huge help to me, so the dough did not stick to the rolling pin. And I never used any extra flour for rolling. I feel like extra flour can dry out your dough.

3. Keep your dough thick. You only need to roll it out to about 1/4 inch. I had never made such thick cookies before, but it makes such a big difference with how they bake up.

4. If your dough appears to be too hard after chilling, knead it with your hands for a minute or two. This really helps to slightly warm it up and make it easier to roll out.

5. The biggest tip of all. DO NOT OVERBAKE! If there is one thing that I don’t like, it is over baked cookies. You know your cookies are ready when they are only very slightly golden on the bottom. They will finish browning just a little bit on the pan before you transfer them to a wire rack. The recipe gives you a range of 7-11 minutes, so always go with the shortest time and work your way up according to your oven.

6. Use parchment paper to line your cookie sheet. I do this for all of my baking!

Here is the recipe from Make Bake Celebrate. You can check out her photos for ideas on the right thickness for your dough.

These won’t last long. I made two batches the other night for my family and some friends and they were gone in one evening.

Have fun!

The Happy Homemaker

Below is a picture I took on Instagram of my cookies. You can find the snowflake cookie cutter I used here.

The Pioneer Woman’s Chocolate Pie

Thanksgiving is just three days away. By the time you read this, it may be even less! If you are a last minute planner and shopper for Thanksgiving, then check out this lovely recipe by The Pioneer Woman! It would be a wonderful addition to your Thanksgiving desserts. By now you must get a clue that I like The Pioneer Woman. My very first post was about her Pot Pie, which is to die for, by the way! It is also a great way to use up turkey leftovers! Anyway…

When asking my husband what he wanted me to make this Thanksgiving, he told me chocolate cream pie. I made this pie recipe last year with great success, yet it was way too sweet using milk chocolate. I recently made it again for a church dinner using bittersweet chocolate (as Ree personally likes to use in her pie), and it came out just right. It is all personal preference though, so go ahead and add what you like!

 

Chocolate Pie

There is nothing like the real deal when it comes to pudding. Okay, so boxed pudding is quick and easy, but homemade from scratch is just heavenly. And you know, it really is not that difficult to make. It is a matter of stirring a few ingredients over the stove and watching it carefully.

In this recipe, Ree uses store bought pie crusts to make life a little more simple. I like to make my own, but if you want to cut down on time, definitely grab a crust at the store!

Chocolate Pie

 

If this post has caught you too late and you already have other plans, consider saving this for your holiday baking next month. It goes over well every time I make it, and only uses a few simple ingredients. In fact, you probably have it all right in your pantry and fridge!

Check out her recipe here.

I do hope you all enjoy your day this Thursday, remembering to give thanks for all the blessings in your life. There are so many things we can be thankful for! I’m glad we can have this day to set aside to spend with family and friends, and take time to count our blessings.

From my home to yours,

The Happy Homemaker