Well our new blog launch of At The Picket Fence
has been a success and so much fun!
We've had a week of giveaways and there's still time to enter!
You can enter for one, two...or all five of the prizes!
and today's giveaway
We've also featured some great recipes, guest posters and Valentine crafts!
Today you can also link up to
I want to say a big thanks to any of my Gourmet Meals for Less followers that have friended us At The Picket Fence and for supporting us over there. We are very excited to see what this new venture together has in store for us.
Hope to see you often...at the fence!
I am so excited to announce the birth of a new blog!
My sister Vanessa, at Southern In My Heart, and I are starting out on a brand new blogging adventure. We want to invite you to meet up with us
You will still find great recipes, but so much more as well!
We want to go "beyond the blog" and create a community for women to connect with one another. A virtual picket fence!
I invite you to take a sneak peek tonight before our big launch tomorrow!
and place it on your blog!
We will be celebrating all week with great content, guest posts and a week of giveaways!
You can also find At the Picket Fence on
Facebook: At The Picket Fence
Our New Blog Frog Community (see community page)
I will be taking a hiatus from Gourmet Meals for Less as I focus on the launch of At The Picket Fence, but don't worry you'll still find the type of recipes you've come to love at my new location!
See you...At The Picket Fence!
Today is my girls 11th birthday. Time has moved her so quickly from this little peanut
to a lovely pre-teen. Shhh...don't tell her she's not actually a teenager yet. She really wants to be. :)
It's hard to believe a whole year has passed since we celebrated her 10th birthday with a Monkey Party. I had just started this blog and to this day this is still one of my most viewed posts. I think it is because of this:
The Monkey Cake I made. This is a popular search apparently. It is Martha Stewart's famous monkey cake, and is one of my favorite cakes I've made. I'm all about a themed party. I'm so glad the girl still lets me have them for her. For instance we had so much fun making these party favors to match.
That was a fun birthday.
And you can read more about it here, including directions on how to make the monkey cake and the monkey favor cups: Martha Stewart and Monkey Cakes
This year will be no exception. We have another themed birthday party in the works. Of course this one was a little more difficult to pull off and stretched my creativity. It's always a hard thing when you are challenged to combine aliens, monsters and robots. For a girls birthday party. And are told they must be cute aliens, monsters and robots. I will be sharing our party plans in an upcoming post. It will be an "out of this world" post! grin!
Speaking of birthdays. We have another birthday of sorts coming up. It's the birth of an exciting new venture between my sister, Vanessa at Southern In My Heart, and myself.
We decided to take the saying "two heads are better than one" seriously around here! There has been a lot of behind the scenes activity as we work to launch our new project. We hope you'll agree with us when we unveil our latest blogging endeavour. I'll give you a sneak peek...
We desire to move "beyond the blogging" to formulate lasting relationships between woman in the blogging community. We want to provide a place where women can share, care and inspire one another. So stay tuned for more updates and watch for our launch information! I hope you will join my sister and me in this new adventure. There will still be great recipes available...but also so much more!
Can't wait to....meet you there!
"So who would write her favorite blog?" you ask. Well my sister of course! I wrote a post about a special little bean plant a few months back, and even though it had nothing to do with recipes or cooking it has turned into one of my most viewed posts. My sweet sister (say that three times fast) asked if she could share it with her readers over at
of course I said yes! So if you need a little inspiration this morning and a special reminder of how you can be fruitful wherever you are in your life regardless of the circumstances head on over to Southern In My Heart and read about a little bean plant who bloomed right where it was planted!
While you're there take a peek at the other wonderful ideas and inspirations you can find at Southern In My Heart. Do you like what you see?? I hope so because the two of us have some exciting things in store! We have always believed in the saying "two heads are better than one" and we are cooking up some ideas to put that into practice. Stay tuned!
Living in a rural community has it's advantages...but it also has it's disadvantages. One of them is the lack of grocery stores. Up until two years ago all we had a Wally-World ten miles from us. Then we had a Kroger Marketplace come onto the scene 10 minutes away. There was much rejoicing in our small county when they held their grand opening. Starbucks. Sushi. Does it get much better?
But still, it doesn't have quite...everything. You know those items that foodies like to have access to. Weird things. Unusual things. So I was so excited when I discovered that one of the largest international grocery stores in the world existed less than an hour away.
You may have even heard of it before. The story behind this store personifies the American Dream. An individual starting out with nothing and through hard work and perseverience creating something unique and remarkable.
That individual is Jim Bonaminio and he took a simple road side stand and turned it into a a 300,000-square-foot food emporium. You can read more about Jungle Jim's on their website.
This is the exterior of Jungle Jim's. I bet your local grocery store doesn't have a zoo outside of it, jungle sounds and all. When you enter Jungle Jim's you are greated by objects like this
He's certainly not a happy ear of corn. Maybe it's because he's worried that the person that left these might return soon
Yep not quite sure what the ear of corn and Dorothy's red slippers stuffed with the witch's stockings have to do with each other, but it is Jungle Jim's after all. Oh and in case you come in looking for something as simple as a regular ole' can of Campbell's Soup, you won't have to look too far.
As I'm sure you've realized by now..Jim has quite the sense of humor. For instance this is where you can purchase by the pound any olive imaginable. At the Olive Pit.
Or better yet...how about this block of cheese...
Yes my friends you are looking at a 765 pound block of cheese! Pretty impressive huh?
Now before I explain the next picture, I just want you to get a look at it first.
My dear reader..that is a porta john. But this isn't any ordinary porta john. Because behind this door lies a full restroom. Now I know your disappointed not to get to see the real restroom...but I thought I might creep people out taking pictures in there. There might even be some law against it so I wanted to play it safe. But these "infamous" restrooms were the reason that Jungle Jim's did not allow photography in the store for many years. However, once the store was featured on several television shows, Jim decided that since the world knew about his porta john restrooms it was okay for visitors to photograph in the store now. Luck for me and my blog. smile. It's worth a visit to Jungle Jim's alone to watch people try and figure out how to use these. grin.
One of the first areas you come to when touring Jungle Jim's is the wine. It's really hard to do the wine section justice. There are just so many varieties available. Everything you can imagine from the affordable...
To the private wine lockers...yep. I want one. Okay so not really but it would be fun to say you had one. I mean would they really know I was only locking up a $10 bottle of Barefoot??
But of course if you have a special event planned than Jungle Jim's has the wine for you. Actually several selections are available.
Betcha never thought you'd see a $5000 bottle of wine on Gourmet Meals for Less. grin. Okay so technically it's $4999.99...do you think leaving that extra penny off makes someone feel like their getting a bargain? Of course once you've purchased your $5000 bottle of wine you need something to carry it home in. Jungle Jim's provides the perfect thing.
Yep. That would be a wine diaper. Now I get the concept and all. But diaper and wine are just not two words I think of putting together. A little strange if you ask me.
Now moving on to my husbands favorite part of the store.
I'm not sure if he likes it best because it's full of fancy expensive cigars, or because the kids aren't allowed to go in there thus giving him about 10 minutes alone to contemplate purchasing above mentioned fancy expensive cigars. Of course I've told him if he gets a fancy expensive cigar than I get the $5000 bottle of wine. So far it's a standoff.
As we leave the wine and cigar section of the store we move into the girl's favorite location.
Yes that is a Santa Lion Elvis...and yes it's located in the candy of course.
And if you happened to be looking for organic Amish products than you need not look any further than the horse and buggy located above your head.
Now personally all I could see was the baby peeking out of the buggy, I'm going to assume though since Jim is a most consciences proprieter that he has placed the mother in there as well.
One of the most popular sections in Jungle Jim's is the seafood. Living in the middle of the country, good fresh seafood can be hard to find.
....or dead...if you need it you can find it at Jungle Jim's.
You can tell my kiddos are foodies...because they get so excited when we enter the produce section at Jungle Jim's.
They consider it a special treat to get to pick a few unusual items to bring home and try. Gosh I love them. How many kids get giddy over picking out fruits and veggies...especially weird ones. The girl was so excited to shop with Nonna.
I on the other hand was fascinated with all of the tucked away items. It was like a treasure hunt of food. For example these adorable little quail eggs.
Of course, many of Jungle Jim's regular customers travel here for the International Foods. People from all over the world come here to find familiar items from home. It's so fun to hear all of the different languages being spoken. To see what people are purchasing. I love to try and guess what they are going to be making.
Down these aisles you can find candy and treats from Japan.
Or you could be looking for this
The party size of Red Beans Azuki flavored ice cream. Seriously, isn't that at the top of your grocery list??
Or for all of those international cajuns we get up here in the greater Cincinnati area how about every type of hot sauce ever made.
And lest you think I jest about every type of hot sauce made. I mean every. type. made.
Yep. That's a $5000 bottle of hot sauce to go with your $5000 bottle of wine. Can't make this up folks.
The boy was eyeing that bottle of $5000 hot sauce. I saw him. I said no sir you pick a less expensive bottle of hot sauce. Stick with a cheap one...say under a $100. Yep, gotta stick to that whole gourmet for less thing I got going.
One of the cutest spots in the store has to be the honey section.
Now if you happen to be looking for the English foods and by english I do not mean American. I mean British. You might have a hard time finding it.
Of course you could always just look for Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men. I'm sure he would point you in the right direction.
At Jungle Jim's no country is left out. Big or small they get a place to call their own. This is what I like to call "The Row of Nations" They are all existing in peace and harmony here at Jungle Jim's.
And of course since this is a food blog. I could not leave without giving you a glimpse of the cooking school. They offer culinary courses in everything imaginable.
In all honesty though, my favorite part of the day was getting to spend time with these people.
My dad and mom. Who I hadn't seen for 8 months. My dad is an incredible cook, so it was so much fun to take him up to Jungle Jim's. I think they really enjoyed it. Of course most of that enjoyment was just getting to be together.
No matter where it is. smile. Thanks Jungle Jim's for a fun family adventure!
So this ones for all you Christmas goodie procrastinators out there...you know you who are. yep I'm talking to you. Maybe you've been working all week. Maybe you just don't like to bake but know you have to bring "something" to Mom's house tomorrow. Maybe you just don't have the room in your kitchen to re-create all of those beautiful trays of homemade cookies you've seen everywhere on online.
Well this is the recipe for you. This is the Christmas version of my Halloween Bark. I love this candy because you can adapt it to whichever flavors and goodies you prefer. It doesn't require any special ingredients and it take 10 minutes to put together and an hour or less to set up! It is simple, festive, easy and most importantly addictive! It's Christmas Crack...I tell ya!
1 bag semi sweet chocolate chips
1 bag dark chocolate chips (or two bags semi sweet if that's all you can find)
1 package mint Oreo cookie
1 bag Christmas M&M's
5-6 candy canes
1/2 to whole bag of white chocolate chips (I used 1/2 a bag)
1 large baking sheet
Prepare your toppings. Place about half of the oreo cookies in a large zip-loc bag. Seal shut and break cookies up by hand into large chunks. You want to be able to see that they are still Oreos. Unwrap candy canes and place in a zip-loc bag. Using a cooking mallet, rolling pin or even a hammer if that's all ya got, crush candy canes into small pieces.
Combine both bags of chocolate chips into a medium size pan over low heat. Stir until melted but do not allow to scorch. In the meantime, coat baking sheet with cooking spray. Place a large sheet of parchment paper over cooking spray and press down until parchment paper is stuck to baking sheet. Make sure parchment paper hangs over edge of baking sheet slightly as you will use edges to remove it after bark has cooled.
When chocolate is completely melted and smooth pour over parchment paper and spread evenly on baking sheet with spatula. While chocolate is still warm layer with cookies, crushed candy canes and M&M's and then white chocolate chips. Press toppings down gently with back of fork so all topping have contact with melted chocolate.
Bark can be left at room temperature to set up (about an hour or so depending on temperature and humidity in house) or placed in refrigerator for about 30 mins to an hour. After bark is completely hard, remove from baking sheet using edges of parchment paper. Cut into squares or break into chunks. A few toppings may fall off, this is normal. Place in a pretty tin for gift giving or on a tray.
Be proud of yourself for creating a last minute Christmas treat that looks like you spent hours on it! For step by step pictures head over to my Halloween Bark post.
And this last picture is for my daughter. She wanted to share her beautiful picture of our Christmas Tree that she took.
I want to wish all of you a Very Merry Christmas from Gourmet Meals for Less! Thank you for loyally following my little blog and showing interest in my ramblings and recipes! I hope for all of you a joyous day tomorrow wherever you may be; full of good cheer, family memories, quiet reflection on the reason we celebrate CHRISTmas and of course lots of good yummy food!
Wow! It's already that time again...time for another Sister Saturday! What is Sister Saturday you ask? Okay so maybe you didn't ask, but I'm going to tell you anyway. It's a virtual party that my sister Vanessa at Southern In My Heart and I host to celebrate our sisterhood! See we live thousands of miles aways so instead of moping over the fact that we don't get to see each other for holidays, special occasions and just to plain get together and hang out we have virtual parties instead...and we invite you to join us!
This year we've hosted a Labor Day Party and a Fall Soup Exchange...and now it's time for Cookies! We are going to be having a virtual cookie exchange on Saturday December 11th and we want you to join us. I'll even give you a sneak peek at one of the many cookies I'll be featuring.
Yep..I kinda really love that picture. Did I share yet that I got my first DSLR Camera? I didn't! Well I am now. grin. I'm still trying to figure it all out. About 10 out of every 100 pictures turns out good...but boy when they turn out good they are GOOD! It is like a whole now photography world. I am in l.o.v.e. with my new camera.
My sister and I will be sharing several more cookies and photos on Saturday and we want you to get ready to share yours too! It can be a new post that you write this week or one from the past, doesn't matter to us as long as it features cookies! We'll send out reminders a few more times this week. So get ready to link up your favorite cookie recipes on both blogs..that's twice the readers for your post! Get those mixers going and those ovens hot and we'll see you then!
If you've been following Gourmet Meals for Less for any amount of time, you'll know that I'm not big on sharing recipes unless they are accompanied with lots of pictures. Unfortunately I was not blogging this time last year and alas have no pictures of the wonderful recipes I am getting ready to share with you. This will be changing.
You can rest assured this Thanksgiving and Christmas every dish that is served at the Patterson table will be well photographed. There may be no pictures of my children at Thanksgiving and Christmas but by golly there will be of the food! I mean really, who's the star here...the reluctant teen who put on a nice shirt but refuses to wear anything but torn skinny jeans...or the meal! I'll give you one guess.
Therefore, I am asking my dear readers to forgive my lack of beautiful photos of golden mashed potatoes, glistening cranberries and crisped to perfection dressing and trust that these recipes are delicious dishes worthy of your Thanksgiving Table.
We have been serving these recipes at our table for years. In fact, I had to promise my better half that I would "not mess with thanksgiving this year just because you are writing a food blog now." sigh. Doesn't he understand the need to indulge my creativity?! A promise is a promise though. So every recipe I share will be one I have made myself and perfected. Many of our recipes that have been passed from generation to generation as well.
Today I will share with your the side dishes...my favorite part of Thanksgiving! Tomorrow the turkey, gravy and my special cranberry sauce. And last, but most certainly not least the desserts!
One other note, before you ask, yes we serve all of these side dishes. We are foodies. We love food. We eat. A lot. Especially at Thanksgiving. And Christmas. We do not apologize for it either. Grin.
You can click on each recipe link to take you to a printable version! Isn't that handy!
Up first. My sister at Southern In My Heart served this to us years ago. We licked the bowl, I swear it is so good. Should probably be in the dessert category, but we have enough of those so this gets a prominent spot with the main meal!
I shared a link to this recipe the other day from Better Homes and Gardens. This is the brussels sprout dish I make EVERY Thanksgiving and Christmas. I will warn you it is rich, but it will make a fan out of any brussels sprout hater. It is that good! If you've always wanted to make brussels sprouts but you weren't sure which recipe to try. This is it. If you want a simpler kid friendly recipe you might want to try my Sprout Skewers from my At the Kid's Table Series instead. We will be making the one below though!
Up next a family classic. I agreed when I accepted my husband's proposal of marriage that I would immediately learn to make this dish. If I ever left this off the Thanksgiving menu, I believe he would boycott dinner in protest. Actually not really....he likes his turkey too much...but he might threaten to. So to avoid any Thanksgiving drama (cause there's usually enough of that around here anyway...have I ever told you about Thankgiving 2008?? Remind me to sometime it's a good one!) I make this dish every year for my sweet man. He asks so little, I can certainly indulge him with this.
Ah, now onto my son's favorite. I often double this so he can have several servings all to himself. This is a recipe passed down from my husband's grandmother. I will warn you it has Cheez-It's in it. I know, I know. But when else can you get away with serving Cheez-It's on something if it's not Thanksgiving. So, if you can't bear to put Cheez-It's on your food, than please just don't make this wonderful dish. It won't be the same. Besides, it only takes a cup of Cheez-It's which leaves you the whole rest of the box to stash away for yourself and eat while drinking your "everyone has left, I have piles of dishes I'm ignoring, and I actually survived another Thanksgiving dinner" glass of cheap wine or shot of Bourbon take your pick.
Now this next one may freak some of you out. Especially if you aren't from the south. I personally had never made it let alone eaten it until a few years ago. That was until I learned a little family secret. My father-in-law grew up eating and loves Oyster dressing. His mother (the one up above responsible for Celebrity Broccoli fame) made oyster dressing every year. It had been years since it had been made for him and when I learned this I was bound and determined to recreate this dish. Unfortunately, I did not have access to her recipe but when I opened my November 2008 issue of Southern Living I was so excited to find it featured in there. Made with cornbread of course! It was such a hit, that I made it last year as well. So Bob...if you are reading this get ready for some more oyster dressing!
And last but certainly not least. The tried and true Thanksgiving side dish. The one that is just expected to show up at the table. The dish I make turkey gravy for.
These are my families favorite Thanksgiving side dishes. They have a special place of honor every year at the Patterson table. If you've been looking for some inspiration this Thanksgiving as you prepare your meal plan, or if this is your first time preparing Thanksgiving dinner then give one or more of these a try. I promise you won't be disappointed.
Many can be prepared the day before as noted in the recipe, which can make Thanksgiving day that much less stressful! Let me know if you try any of these Thankgiving side dishes or have any questions about them. I would be happy to answer!
Stay tuned tomorrow for the star of the show! When I will share with you my citrus glazed turkey!
Brussels Sprouts. The other dreaded "BS" word.
The name brings about an instant nose crinkle among most kids, when they hear the mention of this otherwise innocent looking little vegetable. Why is that?
Is it because in the past they have been served boiled to death? Slimy and barely seasoned? Have we been programed to dread eating this little cousin of the cabbage because it has been a victim of bad cooking practices?
At our home brussels sprouts are considered a treat! I know, I know you don't believe it...but it's true! We have mastered the art of cooking these little guys, and they have become a family favorite. During the holidays I make our traditional brussels sprouts recipe: Creamy Brussels Sprouts. This is one of my favorite Better Homes and Gardens Recipes! You can find it here:
Kids though, are often put off by casseroles. I think it's hard for them to look past all of the ingredients mixed together to see the goodness that lies within. In an effort to introduce this great little vegetable to the kid's table I came up with a fun new way to serve brussels sprouts! Sprout Skewers!
Kid's love anything on a skewer! We are going to take advantage of this and skewer those little sprouts with some bacon and roast them until they are flavorful and oh so good! This is such an easy recipe to make. It is worth the extra little effort of adding this to your Thanksgiving or Christmas meal for the kid's table.
makes 8-10 skewers
1 carton fresh brussels sprouts
6-8 slices of bacon of choice
kosher or course salt
skewers (can be metal or bamboo)
If you are using wooden skewers, soak them for 20 minutes in water to prevent them from scorching. Place top rack in top third of oven. Preheat oven to 400°. Wash and trim off ends of brussels sprouts. Remove any outer leaves that are loose.
After you have lined up all of the skewers on cookie sheet. Lightly brush each skewer with olive oil. You will not need to use too much as the bacon will help keep the sprouts from drying out.
Sprinkle skewers with a small amount of salt. The bacon is salty so do not add too much. Place skewers on top rack of oven for approximately 30 minutes, turning once during cooking. You will know skewers are ready when sprouts are soft to the touch but not still a little firm and look roasted. Bacon should also be completely cooked through.
I hope this idea helps you think outside of the box when it comes to your family's favorite holiday recipes. Often it takes just a little creativity to introduce our kids to new foods. I will be featuring many more recipes, decorations and ideas just for the Kid's Table during the holiday season! Let me know if you try this one!
And remember sitting... At the Kid's Table can be as fun as the Big Table!