Fabulous Fall Accessories

I absolutely adore the transitional time between seasons. It’s like God knows His kids need a change. As much as I adore summer with its lazy days and slow pace, around this time of year I begin to look forward to the change into autumn. Now in the Deep South our temps will stay in the 80s and 90s for a while, so we can’t put away our summer wardrobe quite yet. However, we can begin to incorporate a few fabulous fall accessories to freshen up our look. I’ve spotted a few things recently that I thought you’d like to see:

The Sari Infinity Scarf from Work of Worth: This new company is hitting it out of the park with their beautiful accessories, as well as their commitment to women oppressed by poverty. Their Sari Infinity scarves come in rich colors, but the scarves are lightweight enough to wear now. They are a gorgeous way to add a little color, pattern, and texture to an otherwise neutral outfit.

Fabulous Fall Accessories

The Moonstone Chandelier earrings by Calypso St. Barth are a beautiful statement earring that are neutral enough to go with most any outfit.

Fabulous Fall Accessories

Tassel necklaces are everywhere this fall, and the Boho one from Blue Door Boutique is lovely.

Fabulous Fall Accessories

The Rustic Tote from Noonday Collection: This bag is perfect in so many ways. The color and texture of the leather is all kinds of rustic goodness. The size and shape of the bag are just what busy moms need.

Fabulous Fall Accessories

The Tribal Meets Regal necklaces from Work of Worth are made in India from hand-carved and dyed beads. They come in black, cobalt blue, and pink salmon (shown below).

Fabulous Fall Accessories

Because I’m in my 40s and these things are important to me, I’m definitely picking up a pair of these Ombre Round Readers from Forever 21. They are totally cute, and only cost $5.80!!

Fabulous Fall Accessories

I know it’s been around a while, but I’m still crushing on the Ancho Belt from Noonday Collection. And the good news is that it’s on sale for 50% off!

Fabulous Fall Accessories

I recently received a bracelet similar to the Sparti Metallic Cuff from Francesca’s in a Stitchfix shipment. I sent it back, and I have regretted it ever since! This is a fabulous bracelet!

Fabulous Fall Accessories

The Gypsy Relic Necklace from Work of Worth would look great layered with other necklaces, but it’s perfect by itself.

Fabulous Fall Accessories

What’s on your must-have list of fabulous fall accessories?

Make Your Own Flavored Cooking Oil

Make Your Own Flavored Cooking Oil

It only takes one trip to the local specialty grocery store to see that flavored cooking oils can be quite expensive. Not long ago, a recipe I was making called for garlic-infused olive oil. It was about $12 at my corner market, which I consider to be highway robbery. I’m a work-at-home mom who has to be careful about where to save and where to splurge, and this was definitely NOT a splurge item for me. So I made my own. It was super easy, and you can make your own flavored cooking oil with any of your favorite herbs and spices. You can even mix flavors and create wonderfully flavored combinations. You can use flavored cooking oil to sauté fish, veggies, or chicken. Substitute it in any recipe that calls for olive oil. You can also use it with your favorite vinegar for salad dressing, and it is to-die-for as a dipping sauce for bread!

Choosing Your Oil

To make your own flavored cooking oil, the first step is to choose your oil. Most any cooking oil will work, so there is no need to purchase the most expensive oil on the shelf. Besides, you are adding flavor to the oil, so it will be delicious. To get a flavor that is closest to the herb or spice you are using, use a more flavorless oil like peanut, corn, vegetable, or canola oil. My personal preference, though, is to use olive oil. While the olive oil has its own distinct flavor which will infuse with the herbs and spices, I actually prefer this blending of flavors because I want the flavor of the olive oil to shine through.

Choosing Your Herbs and Spices

Hands down, my favorite herbs to use to make your own flavored cooking oil are ones that come from my herb garden. Basil and rosemary are my go-to herbs, but I also love to use green onion. Fresh roasted garlic and whole peppercorns are terrific spices to add, and you can adjust the level of punch to your liking. Don’t be afraid to mix herbs and spices together in oils. For an Italian flavored oil, you can combine basil, oregano, and garlic. Another favorite combo is lemon and garlic. When using fresh herbs, I typically add about 15 leaves of basin, about 5 garlic cloves, around 15 peppercorns, a tablespoon of lemon juice, and/or about 5 long sprigs of rosemary.

Choosing Your Container

Most discount stores like Walmart and Target carry olive oil dispensers. They are found in the kitchen section, and they are pretty inexpensive, usually around $5. You can order the Tablecraft Olive Oil Dispenser from Amazon, and I believe it is the one I used when I made this basil oil:

Make Your Own Flavored Cooking Oil

A couple of things to note:

  • Flavored cooking oils will last around ten days in the cabinet or around a month in the fridge. If you refrigerate, give the oil about 20 minutes to come to room temperature before using.
  • Using dried herbs can make the oil last longer, but be aware that chopped herbs can clog up the spout.
  • Flavored cooking oils make a fun gift for your friends and family. Who doesn’t love a handmade gift, especially one that is as useful and thoughtful as this!

Sesame Noodles

Sesame Noodles

We are back in the swing of the fall schedule around here, and that means busy days! Being a homeschooling, stay-at-home mom, I usually cook three meals a day, plus at least a couple of snacks for the girls. I do love cooking, but when our schedule is particularly hectic, I need a meal idea that is quick to prepare, and it doesn’t hurt if it’s inexpensive as well. Sesame Noodles have become a go-to for weekday lunches and late-night meals. They have been a life-saver for me on the days when soccer practice runs late or our daytime schedule is full of errands.

Sesame Noodles

Meals don’t have to be complex to be delicious. Sesame Noodles are among the simplest of meals that I fix, yet they are alive with flavor. We love them best as they are, but you can amp them up with chicken, shrimp, or flank steak. They are also delicious with broccoli, red bell pepper, or steamed carrots thrown in.

When I say Sesame Noodles are simple to make, I’m not kidding. They only require that you boil noodles and mix a sauce. Toss them both together, and you have a magical, tasty dish that can be enjoyed as a one-dish meal or as a side dish. They can also be served either hot or cold.

The Short But Sweet List of Ingredients

One pound of noodles, cooked (I prefer thin spaghetti, but you can use your favorite)
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
3-4 stalks green onion, thinly sliced

The How-To

Boil your noodles, drain, and set aside.

Sesame Noodles

In a separate dish, mix the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, garlic powder, and sugar.

Sesame Noodles

Pour sauce over noodles and toss to coat. Sprinkle green onions and toasted sesame seeds over top. Enjoy!

Sesame Noodles
This simple noodle dish can be served hot or cold. It can also be served as-is or with added chicken, shrimp, steak, or veggies.
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Cook Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 1/4 cup soy sauce
  2. 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  3. 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  4. 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  5. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  6. 1 teaspoon sugar
  7. 1 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
  8. 3-4 stalks green onion, thinly sliced
Instructions
  1. Boil your noodles, drain, and set aside.
  2. In a separate dish, mix the soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, ginger, garlic powder, and sugar.
  3. Pour sauce over noodles and toss to coat. Sprinkle green onions and toasted sesame seeds over top. Enjoy!
The Hill Hangout http://www.thehillhangout.com/

Pearson Homeschool Interactive Science: A Review

Disclaimer: Pearson provided me the materials for this review free of charge. They have also compensated me for my time to write this review. They did not require me to write a positive review. As always, opinions about products or services I review are entirely my own.

When my oldest daughter was in first grade, I wasn’t sure how I should go about teaching science. I knew I wanted her to know about a variety of subjects, but I didn’t really know how to attack this animal. I purchased a science workbook at our local teacher supply store, but it was too simple and she was finished with it in a few weeks. We read tons of science books from the library, and this is really where she received much of her true science education that year. As my youngest daughter is just starting first grade science, I was looking for something that would make my life easier. I jumped at the chance to review a copy of Pearson Homechool’s Interactive Science curriculum, as it sounded like it would cover a variety of topics, but in an orderly and systematic way.

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The Pearson Interactive Science curriculum has been exactly what I needed. Patterson uses the student book, which is a consumable workbook with beautiful illustrations, activities, and text. I have access to the online Teachers Edition eText, which provides teaching helps as well as lesson plans.

What Is Being Taught?

The topics covered are perfect for someone studying science for the first time.

  • The Nature of Science
  • The Design Process
  • Living Things and Their Environment
  • Plants and Animals
  • Earth and Sky
  • Weather
  • Matter
  • Energy
  • Movement

Pearson Homeschool

 

How Is It Being Taught?

I review the Teacher’s Edition eText before I start the week to determine which components of the lesson I am going to use. It is also helpful to review the experiments so that I can be sure I have the materials on hand. When I sit down with my student, we read the text and discuss the questions. She writes the answers to the questions, which are short and require minimal writing skills. We complete the activity and review the vocabulary cards. The vocabulary is a little advanced for first graders, in my opinion, but she has done well with it when I provide further explanation. The Teacher’s Edition eText provides differentiated instruction for students who need additional instruction in order to understand the concepts. This has been quite helpful, as science isn’t Patterson’s strong suit. The Lesson Checks provided in the Teacher’s Edition eText are also helpful to ensure the student has really understood the lesson.

Open Book

If you’re looking for a new science curriculum, I highly recommend Pearson’s product. It has worked well for my family and provided the “meat” I was looking for in a science curriculum. You can use code BLG25 to receive 25% off their Interactive Science Bundle for Kindergarten, 1st Grade, 2nd Grade, 3rd Grade, 4th Grade, and 5th Grade.

The coupon code is also good for their other products:

  • MCP Plaid Phonics Bundle Grades K-6
  • myWorld Social Studies Bundle Grades K-6
  • enVision Math Bundle Grades K-6

This code expires September 15, 2014.

Pearson is a great partner in your child’s education. You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

And… We’re Off!

I guess you can tell by my impromptu, albeit unintended, blogging hiatus that school and fall activities are back in full swing around The Hill Hangout. We started our 7th (!!!) year of homeschooling last week, and we have littles in 7th and 1st grades. I never really intended to make a career of homeschooling, but we are so blessed to have been able to enjoy the lives of our children for the last 7 years. It has been a gift to be their teacher for both school subjects and the subjects of life. Because of homeschooling, we have the gift of TIME with them. I thank God for knowing this was the best path for my children before I was convinced. His ways are most definitely higher than our ways.

We have started back to ballet, acro, pointe, and soccer. The girls are fortunate to have classes they enjoy and friends, coaches, and teachers they love. Until you have children, you don’t quite have an appreciation for kind, caring adults who are in places of authority and influence over kids. But when it’s your kid that they’re influencing, you totally love them for leading your kids in the right direction.

Wednesday night church activities started back last night, and we are gearing up for a terrific year of growing in the Lord and in His word. Both of my girls will have the opportunity to be involved in choirs where they will praise and worship Christ. They will both be taught by sweet teachers who want them to know God and His ways. My big girl will have community in a small group, where I know she will thrive in her walk with the Lord. I love the accountability she will have and be able to give in a small group.

While this summer has had its challenges for both Jonathan and me, we are confident that the Lord directs our steps. We are excited about another year of community with our Sunday school class and our soccer families. We still crack up at the sheer goodness of God that He would give us a group of soccer parents who are as much our spiritual community as our church is. He has gifted us with godly families that inspire and encourage us and are the kind of parents we strive to be. I can’t tell you how thankful we are that since we spend four days a week with these families, that they are the kind of people we really want to be around! Iron sharpens iron.

I hope your fall is shaping up to be one of the best ever. No doubt, if you look for the things that are wrong, you will find them. But if you look for the joys, the happiness, and the bright spots, you will find those as well. Happy fall, y’all!

Summer Salad

Summer Salad

One of the best parts of summer, at least from a culinary standpoint, is the abundance of sweet summer fruits. My children and I love to visit our favorite blueberry farm and pick a gallon or two. Our famous Chilton County peaches are at the height of sweetness. Our light and healthy Summer Salad incorporates both of these delicious summer delicacies.

I used my Homemade Ranch Dressing recipe for the dressing, as I believe that freshly made dressing tastes SO much better than bottled. But if you don’t have time, by all means use your favorite bottled dressing.

The first step in making our Summer Salad is to grill the peaches. I cut mine in half from top to bottom and removed the stone. Then I cut them fro top to bottom again so that they are quartered. Then I grilled them for about 10 minutes on each side. They should have a nice caramelized exterior, without getting too mushy. If your peaches are really ripe, you might not have to grill them for the full ten minutes on each side.

The next step in making a Summer Salad is to toast the walnuts. I line a cookie sheet with foil to make clean-up easier. Then I spray the walnuts with cooking spray and salt them. Toast in a 375 degree oven for about 6 minutes. Watch them closely, as nuts burn quickly in the oven.

With the peaches and walnuts done, you are ready to start assembling your Summer Salad. First mix together the greens and dressing, tossing to coat. Place your salad greens onto plates. Top with peaches, blueberries, coconut, and walnuts. Serve and enjoy.

How do you do summer salad in your house? Do you take advantage of in-season, juicy fruits?

Summer Salad
This delicious salad uses fresh summer fruits.
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Ingredients
  1. One bag of salad greens (I used romaine)
  2. 2 peaches, quartered and grilled
  3. 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  4. 1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
  5. 1/4 cup coconut
  6. 3 tablespoons Ranch dressing
Instructions
  1. Cut peaches in half and remove the stone. Cut again so that they are quartered. Grill peach quarters for about 10 minutes on each side.
  2. Toast walnuts on a cookie sheet in the oven for about 6 minutes on 375 degrees.
  3. Toss salad greens with dressing to coat. Place greens onto plate. Top with peaches, blueberries, toasted walnuts, and coconut.
The Hill Hangout http://www.thehillhangout.com/

Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes. They were once a little like Rodney Dangerfield. In a world of gourmet burgers fancy-pants grilled cheeses, the blue-collar Sloppy Joe didn’t get any respect. Once hailed as lunchroom fare, the Sloppy Joe has made major strides in the last few years to find its place at the American dinner table. Thanks in large part to some fabulous cooks who took the meat and Manwich combo to a new HOMEMADE level, Sloppy Joes are now a favorite comfort food in many families, including my own.

To make Sloppy Joes, first start with about two pounds of ground beef. Brown it, and then drain it to remove all the fat. In the same pan, sautee a diced onion and a diced bell pepper for about three minutes. Add the beef back to the pan and mix together well with the onions and peppers.

Sloppy Joes

To the meat and veggie mixture you’ll add:

1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar (This adds the traditional sweetness that balances out the tang of the ketchup. However, if you don’t want a sweeter sandwich, leave out the brown sugar. We leave it out.)

Sloppy Joes

Mix it all together rand let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Do yourself a favor and buy a good quality hamburger bun from the bakery at your grocery. They just taste better and make a better sandwich.

Sloppy Joes

Y’all dinner doesn’t have to be fancy. Formal or casual, just get your family around the dinner table so you can connect and share in each others joys and struggles. And invite a friend into the mix. It might mean more to them than you can imagine!

Sloppy Joes
This is NOT your typical lunchroom Sloppy Joe!
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Ingredients
  1. 2 pounds ground beef
  2. 1 onion, diced
  3. 1 green bell pepper, diced
  4. 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  5. 1/4 cup water
  6. 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  7. 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  8. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  9. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  10. 2 tablespoons brown sugar (This adds the traditional sweetness that balances out the tang of the ketchup. However, if you don't want a sweeter sandwich, leave out the brown sugar. We leave it out.)
Instructions
  1. To make Sloppy Joes, first start with about two pounds of ground beef. Brown it, and then drain it to remove all the fat. In the same pan, sautee a diced onion and a diced bell pepper for about three minutes. Add the beef back to the pan and mix together well with the onions and peppers.
  2. To the meat and veggie mixture you'll add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Serve on good quality hamburger buns.
The Hill Hangout http://www.thehillhangout.com/

Breakfast Casserole from My Life Well Loved

My friend Heather Brown from My Life Well Loved is back today with a delicious recipe for Breakfast Casserole. We love breakfast at The Hill Hangout, and I am always on the lookout for new breakfast ideas. This one is full of eggs, cheese, and sausage, so I know my peeps will gobble it down. And don’t be afraid to step out of the box and serve this for dinner!

Breakfast Casserole

This is pretty much the only breakfast casserole I’ve ever made or feel like I need to make. I got this recipe from my mother-in-law and it has served me well over our 5 years of marriage so far. I have made it A LOT over the years for BRINNER (breakfast for dinner), company, and just to last us on a tight budgeted week.

This recipe makes a ton of food, so it’s great for weeks when I don’t want to have to cook a lot during the week and we need plenty of leftovers. This casserole is so good that my husband and I will sometimes fight over who gets to finish it! We take ours smothered in ketchup, please. Yes, that’s another weird habit I’ve picked up from the hubs. I used to think it was so weird to put salsa or ketchup on your eggs and now I’m one of those weirdos too. ;)

The Best Classic Breakfast Casserole
Serves: 8

Ingredients:
8 eggs
2 c milk
7 slices white bread torn into small pieces (take off the crust)
1 t salt
1 t mustard
1 lb crumbled breakfast beef or turkey sausage (cooked)
1 & ½ c shredded cheddar

Beat eggs, add milk, sausage, bread & seasonings.
Bake at 350 for 45 min or until done.

Salisbury Steak

Salisbury Steak

Salisbury Steak is one of those meals I grew up eating. I don’t remember my mom making it, necessarily, but I do remember that it’s what I’d order from a restaurant menu anytime it was available. It might have also been my go-to choice in TV dinners, which were often my after-school snack. Haha! I can still recall those little aluminum trays, each frozen food in its spot. I loved it, but I’m so happy that I’ve learned how to make homemade Salisbury Steak now. It’s a salt-of-the-earth kind of meal, and I believe it’s best served with homemade mashed potatoes and a good country vegetable like creamed corn or field peas. My peeps love hamburger steak, so I tried out this dressed-up version on them recently. They loved it, so I’m going to be sure to add it to the regular rotation around here.

2 lbs ground beef
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/2 small onion, very finely chopped
1 egg
1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

1 package fresh mushrooms, sliced

2 jars beef gravy
1/2 cup port wine
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

In a big bowl, mix together the ground beef, bread crumbs, onion, egg, worcestershire, dry mustard, salt, and pepper. I usually do this by hand (literally, with my hands), but you could use a Kitchenaid stand mixer. When it’s good and blended, divide into patties. I usually make about 6-7 patties from 2 lbs of ground beef. Place them into a skillet heated to medium. I use my Le Creuset braiser because it’s big enough to hold 6 or 7 steaks at one time. Brown on each side for about 5 minutes.

In a separate bowl, mix together the gravy, port wine, garlic powder, and onion powder.

When patties are browned on the outside, I remove them from the pan so I can pour off the extra grease. Return steaks to the pan and cover with mushrooms. Pour gravy mixture over all, being sure all mushrooms are covered in gravy. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Allow to simmer for about 20 minutes or until steaks are cook through and mushrooms are tender.

Salisbury Steak
Comfort food!
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Ingredients
  1. 2 lbs ground beef
  2. 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
  3. 1/2 small onion, very finely chopped
  4. 1 egg
  5. 1/4 cup worcestershire sauce
  6. 1 tablespoon ketchup
  7. 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  8. 1 teaspoon salt
  9. 1 teaspoon black pepper
  10. 1 package fresh mushrooms, sliced
  11. 2 jars beef gravy
  12. 1/2 cup port wine
  13. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  14. 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Instructions
  1. In a big bowl, mix together the ground beef, bread crumbs, onion, egg, worcestershire, dry mustard, salt, and pepper. I usually do this by hand (literally, with my hands), but you could use a Kitchenaid stand mixer. When it's good and blended, divide into patties. I usually make about 6-7 patties from 2 lbs of ground beef. Place them into a skillet heated to medium. Brown on each side for about 5 minutes.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the gravy, port wine, garlic powder, and onion powder.
  3. When patties are browned on the outside, I remove them from the pan so I can pour off the extra grease. Return steaks to the pan and cover with mushrooms. Pour gravy mixture over all, being sure all mushrooms are covered in gravy. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Allow to simmer for about 20 minutes or until steaks are cook through and mushrooms are tender.
The Hill Hangout http://www.thehillhangout.com/

Sunday Dinners: A Cookbook Giveaway

Sunday Dinners

Andrews McMeel Publishing has sent me another terrific cookbook to review and giveaway to you guys. This one is called Sunday Dinners: Food, Family, and Faith from Our Favorite Pastors. Sunday Dinners brings readers into the family and meals of several of America’s most well-known and well-loved pastors. I love a cookbook that tells stories as well as shares recipes, and this one has family stories from T.D. and Serita Jakes, Joel and Victoria Osteen, Ed and JoBeth Young, and many others. Along with their family tales, you’ll read about the recipes that have accompanied their families at meal times for generations.

You’ll fall in love with Serita Jakes’s Homemade Banana Pudding with meringue and scratch-made custard. You’ll be introduced to the Texas Fudge Cake that Victoria Osteen makes EVERY WEEK for her family. Jeannie Glenn, whose husband Mike serves as pastor at Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, TN, shares a crab appetizer that will make your mouth water. She also shares the recipe for Strawberry Cake, made for every Sunday dinner served by her mother and grandmother. Reverand Martin Lam Nguyen, who is a native of Vietnam and serves at Congregation of Holy Cross at the University of Notre Dame, shares an authentic Vitenamese Goi Cuon recipe. That’s Fresh Shrimp and Pork Spring Rolls for those of us who only speak English. ;)

Sunday Dinners shares not only terrific recipes from pastors who are successful serving their churches, but it also gives us a glimpse into what makes their family life successful. Many of them champion the cause of the traditional Sunday dinner as being the meal that glues the family together. I hope you’ll enjoy hearing their stories as much as I have.

To be entered for the giveaway, leave a comment on this post and let us know our favorite Sunday dinner memory!