Corn Casserole for a Crowd

Corn casserole, corn pudding, whatever you call it, it's a staple in our house for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. Trust me, you'll love this corn casserole recipe because it's so easy to make-- pour, stir, bake. It's all in one pan!

Seasons come and go, but one thing that stays the same in my family is corn casserole. It’s a treat during the holidays, but it’s also a perfect duplicate for a delicious end-of-meal bite served at our favorite Mexican restaurant, Jose Peppers, so we make it year-round. Sometimes called corn pudding, this corn casserole is beyond easy to make– seriously, you dump, stir, and bake… the end. That’s why it’s a staple in our house, because there’s no hassle!

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Bite-Sized Pumpkin Pie Egg Rolls

It's pumpkin season! You're going to love these mini bite-sized pumpkin pie egg rolls. They're easy to make, taste just like pumpkin pie, and make the perfect finger food for Thanksgiving and Christmas parties. You can't eat pumpkin pie with your hands, but you CAN eat these egg rolls, and that makes them the perfect fall party food. #SoFabSeasons

Pumpkin season is in full swing. I know I’m late to the party because Pumpkin Spice Lattes came back forever ago, it seems like, but we just got our pumpkins carved this weekend… so cut me some slack. It took Ketchup and me forever to agree on a good pumpkin design– he wanted me to carve Josh Dun’s face on a pumpkin (for those who don’t know, it’s the drummer from Twenty One Pilots, and Ketchup is obsessed). Finally, I talked him down and we agreed on the Twenty One Pilots logo instead– simple, straight lines, easier to do. You know what’s even easier than carving straight lines on a pumpkin, though? Making these bite-sized pumpkin pie egg rolls. Trust me.

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How a Highway Turkey United My Hometown

Have you ever seen something little bring your whole town together for good? In my hometown, it was a turkey.... a simple turkey that led to a massive change in the way our town cooperated and worked together, and that brought together people from around the country, too.

It all started with a turkey. Just a simple, wild turkey who loved to hang out by the side of the highway just north of my hometown. He was there for about a year before someone made that first post in a community group for ladies in my town… “Hey, has anyone else seen that turkey on the highway?”

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Thanksgiving Gift Mugs with Mexican Hot Chocolate OREO Cookie Balls

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.  #OREOCookieBalls #CollectiveBias

These OREO cookie balls are the perfect gift for Thanksgiving. Whether you're using them as a hostess gift or a placecard at your Thanksgiving dinner, dressing up a mug and filling it with hot cocoa and Mexican Hot Chocolate inspired OREO cookie balls is the perfect way to celebrate! #OREOCookieBalls #ad

Thanksgiving is coming up so quickly… I can’t even believe that it’s already November. With Halloween over and all things fall in the air, it’s time to get ready for the next big holiday! These Mexican Hot Chocolate OREO Cookie Balls are the perfect treat to enjoy at your Thanksgiving celebration, but they also make the perfect hostess gift or even a place card at your holiday dinner… seriously!

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Pumpkin Spice Baby Shower Mints

These pumpkin spice baby shower mints are melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and they're so easy to make! No baby shower coming up? Make them in your favorite sports team colors for an easy tailgating dessert, or serve them at your Halloween and Thanksgiving parties! Plus, hello, if you don't dig pumpkin spice, you can make these in just about any flavor from banana to butter to rum!

I love a good baby shower. I mean, who isn’t a fan of welcoming new life into the world? There’s just so much to celebrate when a new baby is due. So when I found out a blogger I totally love was having a baby, I had to make some special mints to celebrate! These pumpkin spice cream cheese mints are perfect for welcoming autumn babies, but also for any celebration (like a football watch party, a Halloween bash, or Thanksgiving). Plus, they’re so easy to make that you’ll find any excuse to make them. But this time, I’ve made them to celebrate Katie from Clark’s Condensed as she welcomes her new little boy!

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15 Things to do if You’re Skipping Black Friday

Have you decided to skip Black Friday shopping? Here are some other ways to spend that crazy hectic post-Thanksgiving day that won't leave you trampled and frustrated!

It’s here… it’s unavoidable, it seems. Commercials, advertisements, it’s Black Friday madness. And as Black Friday starts earlier and earlier each year…. if you cannot stand to go out in the crowds to shop, you can….

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Best-Ever Road Trip Snacks

It's almost Thanksgiving! If you're traveling by car or plane, check out these great snack ideas to keep your family's energy in check during the trip!

As Thanksgiving approaches, it’s clear that most of us are no stranger to the road trip this time of year. And to be honest, road trips can be long, a bit crazy, and a little bit intense. Sometimes the best cure for a sibling fight or the beginnings of a headache is some good, old fashioned, road trip snacks. If you’re looking to beat the cost of gas station fare (or perhaps have better food), here are a few ideas.

Trail Mix
Not only is trail mix an awesome road trip snack because it mixes fruit, proteins from nuts, and other great brain-power type foods, but it’s also fun to eat and easily portable. You can whip up easy bags of trail mix yourself by pouring various foods into single-serve baggies, which you can pass to your kids (or pelt them with it, depending on how they’re behaving, am I right?). Try: cashews, leftover candy corn, craisins, apple cinnamon Cheerios, sunflower seeds, mini Nilla Wafers, M&Ms, Goldfish
Fresh Fruit
Seriously, there’s no reason to overlook fresh fruit. Many fruits pack well without a baggie or any sort of refrigeration (like apples and oranges), and fruit does something that a lot of other road trip foods can’t– it boosts blood sugar when you’re hitting crisis mode. We’ve all been there. Everything is going fine and then suddenly it’s a war zone in the backseat. A lot of times, that’s a result of dips in blood sugar (as well as long periods of close proximity, but still). Give the kiddos something sweet, but not too sweet, and things will mellow out. Fruit is the perfect choice for this because there’s minimal sugar crashing later.
Cold Snacks
There are actually quite a few travel-friendly snacks out there that require just a little chill. If you’re not traveling too far on your excursion, you can get away with a small cooler filled with ice, or even a lunchbox with an ice pack. Items like Go-Gurt, String Cheese, and Ranch Dressing for fresh veggies are low-mess and delicious for kids of all ages. Another great one? Pre-peeled hard boiled eggs– it’s great protein, which will really help!
Cupholder-friendly fare
One of the easiest ways to handle road trip snacks with easy distribution and no “It’s MY turn for the bag! MOMMMMM, he’s not passing it over here!” is to take a large bag and distribute toss-able cups. Popcorn and Goldfish crackers work especially well for this one!
Portable Treats
Did you think those little squeeze pouches were just for babies? Not anymore– applesauce, pudding, and other fruit and veggie blends for all ages are now available in a squeeze pouch, which is perfect for road trip snacking because there’s no spoon required! Looking for another option? Try a snack necklace– have your kids string cereal and dried fruit onto a thread, tie into a necklace shape, and let them wear-and-snack on the way. It’s a great activity for kids before getting into the car.
What is your favorite road trip snack? Let me know in the comments below! Looking for more healthy food for kids? Check out my best lunches for little tummies or find out how to sneak seasonal fall produce into your child’s diet. Want your child to get in on the cooking action (like with the cereal necklaces?) Try these snacks that kids can help make themselves!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Truffles

I know we’re starting to get to the part of the year where everyone is saying “Pumpkin’s out! Bring on the peppermint!” However, I couldn’t resist just one more fall recipe before Thanksgiving. I kind of view Thanksgiving as that time where you transition from fall to winter. It’s like the last Hurrah for pumpkin spice lattes, caramel apple cider, and other truly fall-ish treats before they disappear and it’s all peppermint mochas and salted caramel brownies until spring.

So, think of these truffles as, like, Custer’s Last Stand, but in Pumpkin form. It’s Pumpkin’s Last Stand, and it promises to please and leave you with nothing but good pumpkin memories to get you through the sea of Winter Wonderland.

You’ll need everything pictured above, and water. I didn’t include water because I’m really hoping y’all have some on hand and I don’t have to tell you to buy it.

I’ve shared with you about this Duncan Hines mix before, but I have to share again, because, hello, it’s really awesome. See, when I went to New Jersey this year to the Duncan Hines Test Kitchen, I got the opportunity to reconnect with a lot of really great people, like Chef Joe. And while we were chatting, a lot of us were throwing some ideas out there that we’d love to see. It was dinner, and we were brainstorming. And this was one idea that I shared with Chef Joe. I told him I’d love to see a Pumpkin Spice Decadent mix come from Duncan Hines, similar to their Red Velvet Decadent Mix, the Strawberry Cheesecake mix, and the amazing chocolate Decadent Mix they’ve created. Because, y’know, I’m a huge pumpkin fan.

Chef Joe kind of looked at me like “Yeah, okay. I don’t know. Seasonal products can be hard sometimes because there’s not a ton of time that seasonal products are in stores.” My hopes were a little dashed, I suppose. Then my awesome friend Jeannie suggested that Duncan Hines do seasonal products on a shipper, which is a type of cardboard display, to make sure they have more prominence in stores. It was a great idea, but again, Chef Joe was kind of “Eh, I don’t know.”

So then, the next day, we were all getting pumped up. They were about to do a big reveal of the NEW products coming from Duncan Hines! It is always such an exciting part of our trip, to see the new products that Duncan Hines is releasing. They pulled back the curtain, and… OHMYGOSH! It was a Decadent Mix… but not just any decadent mix. It was THIS decadent mix. Pumpkin! I was dying. Then, they revealed the next seasonal product and, in the words of my dear friend Jeannie, “Dontchaknow, it was on a shipper!”

Chef Joe said it was SO hard not to tell us the night before, but he just had to wait for the big reveal! It’s the key thing that tells me they really did listen to our thoughts and advice from the previous year. I definitely get how Chef Joe said it was hard to keep it a secret, though, because then *I* had to keep it a secret from all of you until it hit stores! Crazy! In fact, I still have a few secrets that my lips are sealed on.

Anyway, just like the other Duncan Hines Decadent Mixes, this cupcake mix comes with your cupcake mix (enough for twelve), frosting mix, and a pastry bag so you can fill and decorate cupcakes easily. You’ll want to set the frosting mix and pastry bag aside for now, and grab your cupcake mix.

Mix it up according to the ingredient instructions on the back of the box, but instead of putting it in a cupcake pan…

…put it in a greased 8″ round cake pan. I used my Wilton Ultragold for this one. Bake at 350 for about 28-30 minutes, then remove it from the oven and let it cool completely.

While that cools, you’ll want to mix the frosting pouch, but you’re going to just totally disregard the package directions for this one. Take 1 block of softened Philadelphia cream cheese (8 oz) and mix it with the frosting pouch using your mixer of choice until it’s well blended and creamy. Don’t add the water or butter listed on the back of the package. It’s totally not necessary, as the cream cheese is enough, and will give it that cheesecake taste.

Once your cake is cooled, shred it to bits. I can honestly tell you, making cake pops is the easiest way to save your sanity when you have a child experiencing the terrible twos. While he is throwing a temper tantrum in the background, you can just tune him out to shredding cake instead of pulling your hair out. It’s a great way to keep that bald spot you’re getting the size it is instead of letting it get bigger. (Zach really isn’t too deep into the terrible twos, luckily, but those teeth are killing us!)

From there, you’ll mix in large spoonfuls of the frosting, stirring and rolling until your shredded cake mixture is more like a thick dough that can be rolled into balls.

Roll them into balls about quarter-sized, and then chill them for at least half an hour.

There are two ways you can finish these, both involving Wilton Candy Melts. The first way to finish them is to grab the Vanilla melts (or white, or whatever your favorite vanilla-ish dipping melt is). The second way, which will really pack in the pumpkin flavor, is to use the Pumpkin Spice Candy Melts, pictured above.

They smell so good! Go ahead and melt those in the microwave or in a double boiler the way you would typically melt chocolates. For microwave, I’ve found that trying 1 minute, stirring, and then doing additional 30 second increments if needed is an easy way to melt without scorching.

It’ll look creamy. If you used vanilla instead, it’ll look just like this, but white instead of orange.

I decided to make some of each! Dip the ball into the melts, then tap off the excess and place them on waxed paper. While they’re wet, you can sprinkle on some cute fall sprinkles!

Or, you can tint leftover vanilla melts green using Wilton gel food coloring, and use the pastry bag that came with your Duncan Hines Decadent Mix to pipe little pumpkin vines and stems onto the orange balls.

So yummy. They’re like, melt-in-your-mouth yummy.


How do you feel about winter flavors starting before Thanksgiving? Would you prefer to wait until after for peppermint, or do you like to bring those flavors on early? Let me know in the comments below!

So much to be thankful for…

I saw a post online the other day, essentially mocking this girl, during that whole 30 days of giving thanks thing that everyone on Facebook is doing, for saying that she was thankful for TV during one of her days.

I think it’s kind of silly to mock her. Sure, TV is kind of a response people don’t expect to hear when they’re talking about the things they’re thankful for, but I’ve seen more people than that say they’re thankful for things like Starbucks, because they can’t get through a day without it, or for their Cell Phone, for keeping them in touch with people. So, why is it so outrageous that she’s thankful for TV?

Because, in my opinion, society seems to have this constructed idea of what we “should” be thankful for, and because of it, we forget that it’s okay to be thankful for other things, too.

It’s a given that all of us are likely to be thankful for our family, our church, our closest friends, the people that we turn to every day, our pets, and maybe even our co-workers. And, outside of people, it seems to be culturally acceptable to say that we’re thankful for a great church service, a favorite charity, or an object that means a lot to you, like an heirloom tablecloth you’re setting out for Thanksgiving, or a mug that was given to you as a gift from your spouse.

We have these ideas that what we can be Thankful for fits into this little box. So, what I’m really loving is that this girl broke out of that box and gave an honest answer, that TV was something she’s thankful for. And come on, it was day 19 of the project. I’m pretty certain her other 18 responses weren’t TV. The person who shared the image mocking her was likely ignoring the fact that the rest of her responses were probably very normal responses that everyone could identify with.

But I’m going to go out on a limb and say “I kinda see this girl’s point, actually.” Outside of the whole “everyone can be thankful for what they’re thankful for and no one should make them feel bad for their choice there,” I can say that I get why someone could be thankful for TV.

This summer, I was VERY thankful for Big Brother. I’ve always hated the show. Truly, just hated it. But for some reason, this year, I had some favorites (and some that I couldn’t stand). But see, outside of the show, I was thankful for the fact that it meant a few nights a week that were earmarked for nothing other than sitting on the couch and spending some time with my mom. She and I spend a lot of time together, but this was just uninterrupted time where it was she and I, geeking out over a show. And it meant time spent reading articles and talking about and discussing whether or not it was rigged.

Sure, we could have spent that time doing anything else, but the chance we would have had as much time together is slim, and so, for this summer, I was very deeply thankful for Big Brother and the time that we got to spend together because of it.

When I lived alone for awhile, and was working from home, going to school from home, literally home all the time unless I made myself get out, I didn’t have a TV, but I had Hulu and DVDs of TV series checked out from the library. And for those, I was very thankful. It helped my apartment feel a lot less lonely because I filled it with laugh tracks that killed the silence while I worked, and filled it with shows that reminded me of my childhood, like I Love Lucy. At that moment, I was thankful for those, because it made a hard time in my life a lot easier by making me feel a lot less alone.

I think if all of us dug inside a little bit, we’d find that, beneath the surface answers that EVERYONE is Thankful for (not that they shouldn’t be– they are REALLY important things to be thankful for, and to continually give thanks for), I think we’d find some answers that would surprise people. Some of us might be thankful for TV. I know that a lot of my friends would be thankful for a favorite hobby. I’d personally be able to say I’m thankful for soccer. There’s a lot to be thankful for. So many things that 30 days isn’t really enough to give thanks for all of those things we’re thankful for, I’d reckon.

While I haven’t taken the time to share about my things I’m thankful for on Facebook, here’s a list of 21 things I’m Thankful for (since we’re at 21 days so far in the month of November).

1. I’m thankful for puppy, who provides my son so much comfort, that even though he’s a stuffed animal and inanimate object, he plays a role in Zach’s life as a movie buddy, a confidant, and a cuddle partner. It’s a good thing to help Zach feel secure.
2. I’m thankful for a boyfriend who is always so willing to help out, to give his time and his energy on the weekends to help me finish my work. I’m thankful for his willingness to drive all around the area to help me get everything I need for my work for the month.
3. I’m thankful for an extra hour, because, even though I’m still exhausted and Zach woke up the same time as always (despite the fact that time shifted and he didn’t shift his schedule accordingly), it’s nice having that extra cozy time at night now with him getting sleepy earlier.
4. I’m thankful for BlogHer, and how much going last summer has helped me find my place in the blogging world, and for the support of my family, who said “You’re going or else.” when I was too panicked to go. And also for friends like Jen from LifeWithLevi who let me be a +1 to an event she was invited to, and for all of the people willing to smuggle me into other events.
5. I’m thankful for bathtime and the grin my son gets as he exclaims “BATH! BATH! BATH!”
6. I’m thankful for Sporting KC, and the way they’ve helped my entire family rally behind a single passion, a single game, a single love for soccer.
7. I’m thankful for the words my son has learned in the past few months, and the way his vocabulary has changed and grown.
8. I’m thankful for programs that help me be the best educator and mother for my son that I can be.
9. I’m thankful for the United States Marine Corps, not just for their service, but for the friends that were brought into my life because we happened to be connected to Marines at the time; those friendships I made seem to prevail, even if each of us have moved on from our time with the Marines we knew then.
10. I’m thankful for Advil, that helped my son get through the day during his yucky illness, and the fact that being sick happened to make him extra cuddly.
11. I’m thankful for HootSuite, which helps me feel more organized in my every day life, and helps me plan ahead for days that I know will be less productive.
12. I’m thankful for small town life, and the way that everyone knows everything about everybody. It’s humbling, kind of scary, and helps you realize that there’s nothing else like small town life in the world.
13. I’m thankful for a warranty on car batteries, because otherwise, my new battery would be way outside of my price range and emergency funds.
14. I’m thankful for scrapbooking and the way it helps me preserve my memories for the future, and helps me stay grounded in telling my story; I’m also thankful for the people it brought into my life.
15. I’m thankful to have a working car after having it basically be a paperweight since May. Finally having it working again is an awesome feeling. I’m also thankful for tow trucks.
16. I’m thankful for parents who are willing and able to help out with my son on my hardcore work days, who love to spend time with him and play with him, whether I’m working or not, and who are so generous with their time.
17. I’m thankful for my church family and their giving spirit. I love that we were able to exceed our goal for Operation Christmas Child because of the generous nature of our church body.
18. I’m thankful for my son, who I couldn’t live a day without, and who has such a creative, fun, and sweet spirit that makes my days so much brighter as a result.
19. I’m thankful for Duncan Hines and the people and experiences that Duncan Hines have brought into my life. I’m a much more confident baker because of the contest win, and a much happier person with the people I’ve met through my time at Duncan Hines. It’s truly something life changing and I can’t express that enough.
20. I’m thankful for quiet mornings at home with coffee and people I care about, and for the times when a drum set and a toddler make my mornings a lot less quiet through music.
21. I’m thankful for my voice, my writing voice especially, that allows me a chance to be heard through my blog, a chance to share my thoughts, my creativity, and my life with my readers, and I’m thankful for the people I’ve met because of my blog.

But you know what I’m really thankful for? That we live in a place where we can be thankful for ANYTHING. That we can be thankful for the amazing gifts God has given us, but also for those awesome comforts in life like TV, and cinnamon rolls, and coffee, and that song that gets stuck in our head all the time.

I’m thankful for the blessings I have in my life, and the fact that I even HAVE a life with which to experience these blessings. And above all, I’m thankful for the relationship with God that allows me to know that, as awesome as this life can be at times, it’s not my ultimate goal, my ultimate home, and that there’s so much more to be thankful for even when this world and these comforts pass.

I’m just really, really thankful for those things. And I’m also thankful for the fact that, while I was writing down what I was thankful for each day, every single day, I had more than just one thing to be thankful for. I had so many things that I am genuinely thankful for, even if they didn’t get written down on this list, and that’s awesome.

What are you thankful for?

Ultimate Showstopper Pudding Pecan Poke Cake

Every year at Thanksgiving, I try really hard to top the dessert I brought in last year. So many readers, and so many family members, raved about the Better Than Pumpkin Pie dessert that I knew it would be hard to beat.

However, I thought about what constitutes the perfect Thanksgiving dessert. Everyone loves a good pumpkin pie. Everyone else loves a good pecan pie. So how do you combine those flavors in a new way? Well, for one, you can’t top those pies with another pie…

So it’s time to go to a CAKE.

Not just any cake. An Ultimate Showstopper of a cake. A cake that is so moist, so decadent, and yet so light and airy, that you could easily eat the whole thing yourself. Easily.

And the best part? This is not hard to make.

Start with Cool Whip, Jello Pumpkin Spice Pudding, and Betty Crocker Butter Pecan Cake Mix, plus the ingredients to make the cake and pudding as listed on the back of the box. You can also add in pecans or cinnamon (or both) as a garnish at the end.

Bake the cake as listed on the back of the box. You’ll want to do the directions for a 9×13 pan. (Of course, this recipe works for round cakes or other things, but I’ve found the 9×13 is easiest to cut and serve at a large family event).

As you allow the cake to cool for about 10 minutes, you can begin making your pudding, again, according to package directions.

Using a wooden spoon handle (or any similarly sized object), poke holes in the cake just about every inch. Make sure you poke the holes as deeply as you can– you’ll want to feel as though you’re hitting the bottom of the pan.

While the pudding is still soft-set, you’ll want to pour the pudding over the warm cake.

Spread it evenly over the entire cake. The pudding will start seeping into the holes of the cake and adding a moist, flavorful infusion.

Finish the cake with a container of Cool Whip, and then sprinkle cinnamon or chopped pecans over the top. Or both. You choose.

I knew this cake was probably the right kind of cake for Thanksgiving when my brother, who doesn’t often indulge in the food I make, ate 3 pieces in one sitting. It’s THAT good.

If you’re planning your Thanksgiving desserts, I’m telling you, don’t leave this one off the list. It’s so easy that you could almost make it blindfolded while cooking your turkey, but it won’t fail to impress your guests. I’m telling you, this is THE dessert to serve at this Thanksgiving if you’re a fan of pumpkins and pecans.


What are your plans for Thanksgiving dinner? Let me know in the comments below!