Holidays and stress go hand in hand. We want to enjoy family and friends but our need to have everything perfect, only leads to a huge build up of stress.

The expectations of social events, gift shopping, and entertaining guests can become too much for even the most festive types. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association 8 out of 10 people expect to experience an increase in stress over the holiday season.

With stress comes a greater risk of anxiety and depression, and reports from the Mayo Clinic show that depression is frequently an unwelcome guest over the holidays.

All is not lost however, there are many ways you can minimize your stress and anxiety to allow you to truly enjoy the season.

Set A Budget

A lot of the stress that we experience during the holidays is due to financial pressure and the Mayo Clinic suggests that setting a budget can be beneficial to your stress levels. Work out how much you can afford to spend on food and gifts, and stick to it, even if you have to leave the mailman off the gift list.

Exercise

The American Heart Association wants you to stay active all the time, and it’s extremely important to keep that up during the holidays. Any activity or exercise you can fit in will help reduce your stress and elevate your mood. It’s going to stimulate endorphin production and trigger a positive feeling in your body.

You might be busy, but if you can find time to exercise for half an hour three times a week, you will feel better. You can go walking or jogging, swimming or biking, play sports with your kids or just plain get off your butt and move!

Take It Easy

There are parties and gatherings and we are constantly surrounded by people. It’s great to be with the ones we love and laugh about the old days.

You shouldn’t miss all those great times, but what you should be careful of, is setting unrealistic expectations. You can’t do everything, and it’s okay to take time out for yourself, even if it’s just 15 minutes.

If you do a whole lot of hosting, make sure you delegate, whether you ask everyone to bring a different dish, or you rope in family to take on certain tasks.

Stay Smart

The holiday season is a time of indulgence, but, it doesn’t mean you should abandon your healthy ways. There’s no need for a free for all that will just add to your stress.

Enjoy yourself, but try having healthy snacks before holiday gatherings so you don’t over snack while you’re out. Make sure that you’re getting plenty of sleep, as you are more likely to overindulge after a poor night’s sleep.

Bottom Line

Self-care is conscious choice and this is even more true during times of more stress, such as the holiday season. Make sure to take the time and create a deliberate plan! Remember, the holidays are supposed to be a time of fun, family and relaxation, don’t let stress interfere with this great time of year.

Pizza anyone?

When kids are at that difficult stage where everything is “mine”, you can make their little hearts go pitter-patter by serving them an individual pizza and letting them choose their own toppings. This thin crust recipe may be the answer to that age old question of , how do I do that?

Everyone's Favorite, Pizza

You will need these ingredients:

1 cup of warm water

½ package of active dry yeast (about 1 & 1/8 teaspoon)

1 and ½ teaspoon of granulated sugar ½ teaspoon of salt

3 Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

3 cups of bread flour

Blended Pizza Cheese (Mozzarella and Provolone)

Instructions:

This dough does not have to rise.  Using a large bowl, combine the warm water with the yeast, sugar, oil and salt. Mix until the yeast dissolves. Use a wooden spoon, to mix in the flour, ½ cup at a time. Once it’s all mixed together, knead it on a floured counter until it feels elastic.  Divide into 4 parts, roll each into a ball and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Assemble your favorite toppings.  You can use a jar of prepared pizza sauce or make a simple sauce yourself by combining a 15 ounce can of tomato sauce with 1 and ½ Tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, 1 Tablespoon of Italian seasoning and a pinch of sugar.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. A pizza stone will deliver a crispy crust, whether thick or thin. Otherwise a baking sheet will do. Shape each individual dough ball into a round crust about 1/8 of an inch thick.  Add the sauce and a few toppings (not too many) and sprinkle on pizza cheese.

Bake at 425 degrees for 11 to 17 minutes turning once or twice after 10 minutes if needed to achieve the crust to your liking.

Yay, pizza for everyone!

Sometimes it’s just hard to come up with a recipe to feed a large group for breakfast.  One of these recipes could be your answer to that problem.

Veggie Cheese Breakfast Casserole

 

You will need:

1 12-16 ounce package of Country Sausage

2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese

9 eggs, beaten

1-2 Cups of fresh veggies, chopped in bite size pieces

[carrots, broccoli, onions, peppers, etc]

If you don’t have fresh, frozen will do but do not use canned. There is too much liquid in canned. Your casserole will not bake good. The bread will become soggy and it will taste terrible.

2 cans of refrigerated crescent rolls

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Crumble and brown the entire package of sausage and pour off any fat.

Coat a 9” x 13” baking dish with a non-stick spray and line it with one package of the crescent rolls. Put the cooked sausage on top of the rolls and top with the cheese.

Add in the veggies, then pour in the eggs and top with the second package of crescent rolls. Bake 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown.

Serve warm with a buttery maple syrup on the side.

Breakfast Bacon Egg Cup

breakfast egg cup

You will need:

A muffin pan

Enough sliced bread to fit one in each muffin hole, crust removed [save the crust]

12 ounce Package of Bacon, cut in half

An egg for each muffin hole

1-2 Cups of Shredded Cheese, your choice

Directions:

Coat each hole in the muffin pan with cooking spray.

Criss cross 2 pieces of bacon in each hole

Press a slice of bread into each hole, to form a pocket

Break and drop an egg into each pocket.

Top with the cheese, then pull the bacon up over the top of the pocket.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, until the bacon is

crisp and the egg is done.

Serve with fresh fruit and a warm drink for your complete breakfast.

**Vegetables can also be added to the egg pocket, just remember to keep

them bite size so they will cook in the same temperature.

You can organize one or both of these recipes the night before and be ready to cook breakfast in no time, come morning. 

How do we make it meatless and still enjoy our meal?  The latest food guide at MyPyramid.gov is still based on grain foods, but now it recommends from nine to thirteen servings of fruits and veggies a day along with more servings of legumes, dried beans and peas, lentils and the like. It’s not an impossible task to make it meatless, not if you combine several items in a single dish.

make it meatless

For dinner, it’s easy to make a nutritious meatless casserole with a grain and assorted vegetables. With the exception of soy foods, though, the protein of plant foods is incomplete. So, for good nutritional balance, many casseroles also include an animal protein food, such as eggs. In addition to providing the highest quality protein next to mother’s milk, eggs are nutrient-dense, their nutrient total is high compared to their calorie count.

In Rice, Bean & Veggie Casserole you have one of the best ways to make it meatless, using eggs to bind together a short list of have-on-hand ingredients. You can layer the minimal-prep casserole in almost no time one evening, refrigerate it and pop it into the oven when you arrive home the next day. For the rice base, cook the instant variety or make good use of what’s left over from take-out. With handy bottled salsa, any hotness level your family prefers, a can of beans and corn, all you need to do from scratch is chop some colorful peppers. Simply beat the eggs, then add the shredded cheese before layering it into the casserole. To round out a no-fuss meal, add only a tossed green salad to the flavorful, hearty entree.

Rice, Bean & Veggie Casserole

6 servings

Cooking spray

6 eggs

1 cup (4 oz.) shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese

3 cups cooked rice (1 cup raw)

1 jar (16 oz.) thick and chunky red salsa, divided

1 can (15 oz.) red kidney or black beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup whole kernel corn (about 3 oz.)

1 cup chopped green, yellow and/or sweet red pepper (about 5 oz. or 1 medium)

Evenly coat 11 x 7 x 2-inch baking pan with spray. Set aside. In medium bowl, beat together eggs and cheese. Stir in rice. Pour into prepared pan. Smooth with back of spoon or gently shake pan to spread rice mixture evenly in pan. Gently spread 1 cup of the salsa over rice mixture. In medium bowl, stir together beans, corn and pepper. Evenly spoon bean mixture over salsa. Drizzle remaining 1 cup salsa over bean mixture.  Add a layer of cheese on the top and place into the oven.

Bake in preheated 350 degree F oven until casserole is puffed and begins to pull away from sides of pan and knife inserted near center comes out clean, about 55 to 60 minutes.

Making it meatless from time to time, will not only save you money but improve your health by incorporating more veggies into your diet.

Nutritional information per serving of 1/6 recipe using kidney beans and red pepper: 334 calories, 10 gm total fat, 226 mg cholesterol, 815 mg sodium, 346 mg potassium, 42 gm carbohydrate, 19 gm protein and 10% or more of the RDI for vitamins A, B12 and C, niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, iron, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, dietary fiber.

Ingredients for A Creamy Cheesy Potato Soup

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Potatoes are one of my favorite vegetables. You can do so many things with them, including this wonderful simple soup.

You will need:

4 Cups of Chicken Broth

1 ½ Cup of Whole Milk

2 to 2 ½ Cups of Potatoes, cubed

¼ Cup Celery, thinly sliced

¼ Cup Carrots, thinly sliced

½ Cup Sweet White Onions

¾ Teaspoon of Salt

¼ Teaspoon of White Pepper

4 Ounces of Cream Cheese, room temperature, cut into one inch pieces

1 Tablespoon Corn Starch

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

Add the oil to a six quart soup pot, heating it over medium high heat.

When the oil gets hot, add the carrots, onions, and celery. Cook for two – three

minutes while stirring. Turn the heat down to simmer.

Add the chicken broth, potatoes and spices, cooking until the potatoes are

fork tender [about 10 minutes].

Add 1 Cup of the milk, while stirring, to avoid curdling. When the milk has reached the same temperature as the cooking soup, drop in the cream

cheese, allowing it to melt for a couple of minutes before stirring the soup,

once more.

Taste the mixture to be sure you do not need to add more salt or pepper.

If more is needed, do so now.

Add the corn starch and the rest of the milk to a small bowl and mix well.

Slowly pour the mixture into the hot soup, stirring, until the soup thickens. Reduce the heat to warm and allow the soup to cool.

Serve with a good hardy bread or an assortment of crackers.

Options:

[1] Top with your favorite shredded cheese.

[2] Slice a couple green onions and sprinkle on top.

[3] A couple tablespoons of Bacon Bits will add lots of extra flavor.

[4] Add a pinch or two of Red Pepper Flakes to the cooking soup,

to add a little kick to the soup.

[5] Float a pat of butter on top of the hot soup.

hassieskitchentable.com

 

Potatoes are one of my favorite vegetables. You can do so many things with them.  Baked, Fried, or Hashed, they are simply one of the best all around food items.  This wonderful simple soup recipe will delight anyone who eats it, give it a try on a cold Autumn night.

You will need:

4 Cups of Chicken Broth

1 ½ Cup of Whole Milk

2 to 2 ½ Cups of Potatoes, cubed

¼ Cup Celery, thinly sliced

¼ Cup Carrots, thinly sliced

½ Cup Sweet White Onions

¾ Teaspoon of Salt

¼ Teaspoon of White Pepper

4 Ounces of Cream Cheese, room temperature, cut into one inch pieces

1 Tablespoon Corn Starch

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

Add the oil to a six quart soup pot, heating it over medium high heat.

When the oil gets hot, add the carrots, onions, and celery. Cook for two – three minutes while stirring. Turn the heat down to simmer.

Add the chicken broth, potatoes and spices, cooking until the potatoes are fork tender [about 10 minutes].

Add 1 Cup of the milk, while stirring, to avoid curdling. When the milk has reached the same temperature as the cooking soup, drop in the cream cheese, allowing it to melt for a couple of minutes before stirring the soup,once more.

Taste the mixture to be sure you do not need to add more salt or pepper.  If more is needed, do so now.

Add the corn starch and the rest of the milk to a small bowl and mix well.

Slowly pour the mixture into the hot soup, stirring, until the soup thickens. Reduce the heat to warm and allow the soup to cool.

Serve with a good hardy bread or an assortment of crackers.

  • Options:

[1] Top with your favorite shredded cheese.

[2] Slice a couple green onions and sprinkle on top.

[3] A couple tablespoons of Bacon Bits will add lots of extra flavor.

[4] Add a pinch or two of Red Pepper Flakes to the cooking soup, to add a little kick to the soup.

[5] Float a pat of butter on top of the hot soup.

Have you tried the NEW OLD health food? What, haven’t heard of it? It’s called Bone Broth, a rich broth made from any animal bones that have already been roasted in your meal preparation or bought from your butcher and roasted in your oven.

Roasted Chicken Leftovers

Start by removing the cooked meat, then rinse and crack the bones so they will release their goodness,  if they are still intact, place the bones back into a clean pot, add enough water to cover plus 3-4 inches above the bones and simmer over a medium heat source for 3-8 hours.

  • The gelatin found in bone broth is a hydrophobic colloid that attracts and holds liquids, including digestive juices, thereby supporting proper digestion.

  • Bone broth reduces joint pain and inflammation courtesy of Chondroitin Sulfates, Glucosamine, and other compounds extracted from the boiled down bone cartilage.

  • Bone broth can be made from any type of bones you like – chicken, beef, pork, or even fish – but seek bones from organically raised, pastured, or grass-fed animals.

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To enhance the flavor, I add 1 teaspoon of sea salt, one medium onion cut in half, and  1 large carrot, 2 celery ribs, cut into one inch pieces but the flavorings can be any vegetable of your choice.

I’m guessing, by now, you have noticed the NEW OLD health food is an old favorite that our grandmothers have been making for centuries. Yep, the Bone Broth that is the rage of the culinary world, is an enriched broth or stock that cooks from every generation have been making for centuries.

The grandmother that gave you chicken broth for a cold was doing the right thing for you, without knowing it or having a doctor’s education.

As with a lot of things, the old is new again.  If you think you do not have time to engage in the making of this wonderful healthy broth, use your slow cooker for the simmering stage.  You can even leave it over night and have a cup in the morning to start your day.

Garden Fresh Italian Tomato Sauce

¼ Cup of Olive Oil

2 Medium Sweet Onions, chopped

2 Cloves of Garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon of Fresh Basil Leaves, finely chopped

1 Teaspoon Salt

1 Teaspoon of Fresh Oregano, finely chopped

1 Tablespoon of Sugar

4 Pounds of Fresh Tomatoes, peeled and chopped*

[should measure about 2 ½ quarts]

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Heat oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions, garlic, Basil, Oregano and salt. Saute for about five minutes then stir in the tomatoes. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about two hours. Stir often. Add the sugar and continue to simmer until the sauce come to the thickness you like.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool. You should have about 5 ½ to 6 cups of sauce. When cooled, store in air tight containers until ready to use. Can be frozen if needed.

*Before chopping, squeeze out as many seeds as possible. The seeds can give the sauce a bitter taste. Try keeping as much of the liquid as you can by squeezing over a mesh strainer with a bowl under it. Add the liquid to the cooking sauce. This sauce can be added to any of your favorite pasta recipes.

Fabulous Garlic Sauce

½ Cup of Minced Garlic, about 1 large head

¼ Cup of Olive Oil

¼ Cup of Butter

1 Cup of Fresh Parsley, finely chopped

¼ Cup of Parmesan Cheese, shredded

Heat the oil and butter over medium heat until soft but not browned. If you scorch the sauce, it will become bitter tasting. Stir in the parsley and cook while stirring for about two minutes. You want the parsley soft but still green. Serve while hot over ½ pound of cooked pasta, toss well. Adding ½ cup of small shrimp will only make this meal better.

White Clam Sauce

2 Small cans of Minced Clams [about 14 ounces total]

¼ Cup Olive Oil

¼ Cup Butter

2 Cloves of Garlic, crushed

2 Tablespoons of Fresh Cilantro, finely chopped

½ Teaspoon Salt

Drain the clams, reserving the liquid. In a skillet, slowly heat the oil and butter. Add the garlic and saute until the garlic is golden brown in color. Remove the skillet from the heat and add in ¾ cup of clam liquid*, salt and cilantro. Bring it back up to a slow boil, simmering for about 10 minutes. Add the clams and simmer for another 3 minutes, while stirring. Recipe makes about 1 cup of sauce. Enough for ½ pound of your favorite pasta.

*If there isn’t enough clam liquid, finish it off with water or chicken stock.

 

Smart Cooking Tips For Smart Cooks

Learning small helpful cooking tips can make us all smarter cooks. Cooking is only as hard as we make it. Spending more money to make better recipes is not always the best way. Most often it’s all in our know how of doing things that keeps more money in our budget and better food on our tables. Hopefully these food and cooking tips will lead you to a better way of doing things in the kitchen.

[1]  When storing, make sure fruits and veggies are stored in a refrigerator no warmer than 40-42 F.

cooking tips for smart cooks

[2]  Wash your fruit and veggies before peeling, not after. Too much risk of contaminating the knife, if you wash after. Here’s a thought, why not eat the peeling too? It’s a known fact that most of the vitamins are in the peelings. Take advantage of getting the extra nutrition and fiber.  Don’t forget to wash your knife before moving on to another food item.

[3]  Fill your sink or large bowl and soak veggies like broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower in cold water for at least three minutes to make sure contaminants are released. Cut the stem off the cabbage to allow the water to get between the leaves. If you aren’t using them right away, spread a clean towel and allow them to drain and dry before putting them away.

[4]  To keep your cauliflower white, add a splash of milk to salted water when cooking . Rinse momentarily in cold water before serving.

[5]  To make your mashed potatoes fluffier, dry the cooked potatoes before mashing by returning them to the pan after draining. Add the cover and let them sit on turned-off burner for 5 min. The heat will continue to evaporate the water.

[6]  To keep your fresh herbs fresh, stand the stems in a glass of water and store in your refrigerator door. They shouldn’t go limp and will stay fresher longer. Placing a loose fitting plastic bag over the top will also help.

[7]  Saving leftover sauce in ice cube trays is an easy way to keep food costs down. When frozen, add to zipped bag of same type of sauce cubes. Reheat and use for quick dishes or drop a couple in your next soup mix for added flavor.

Every cook has their own list of cooking tips to share with other smart cooks.  The next time you need an excuse for a get together, have a cooking tips for smart cooks party.  Don’t forget to provide pen and paper for all the guest and yourself.

I’m a believer in cooking more than one meal at a time.  Cooking multi meals at the same time, sets you up for more time in the evening for family activities or just plain sitting and enjoying each other.  If you don’t have time to do, two complete meals, do the prep work for both at one time. Below are three recipes where all the hard stuff can be done at once, setting you up for 20-30 minute meals.
Shopping list for three meals:
2 Pounds of Ground Beef
2 Large Onions
1 Red Sweet Bell Pepper
1 Jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce
Small head of lettuce
1 Package of soft tortilla shells
1 Package of Corn Tortilla Shells
3 Packages of Ramen Noodles [chicken or beef]
1 Can of Diced Tomatoes
Assorted Shredded Cheese
1 Package of Taco Spices
2 Roma Tomatoes
Prep by chopping the onions, tomatoes and pepper.
Shred ½ head of the lettuce
Place the vegetables into separate zip lock bags and refrigerate.
Brown the ground beef and ½ of the chopped onions, just until the meat is pink, then cool and divide into 3 equal parts.
Place the meat into air tight containers and refrigerate until needed.
Beef Tacos
1 part of the browned meat
1 package of taco spices
the chopped onions, tomatoes and lettuce
½ to ¾ cup of shredded cheese
Taco shells [flour and corn]
Finish cooking the ground meat, adding the spice package. Place all the ingredients on your table and allow everyone to make their own taco.
Serve with Corn on the cob and some Fresh fruit to complete your family meal.
Ramen Noodle Beef Casserole
1 part of the browned meat
3 packages of Ramen noodles, broken into pieces
¼ cup of chopped onions
1 can of diced tomatoes
3 cups of water
shredded cheese
Using a medium pot, add the ground meat, onions, diced tomatoes and cook until the onions are soft. Add in the water, noodles and flavor packages. Cook over medium heat until the water has disappeared, pour the mixture into a casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with ¾ cup of shredded cheese*.
Place in a 350 degree preheated oven and bake until the cheese has melted down over the noodles [about 12 minutes].
Serve with a garden salad, using the second half of the lettuce and some of the other chopped veggies.
*Velveeta Cheese can be used here, instead.
Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
Add the browned meat plus ½ cup of onions and ½ of the chopped red pepper, to a medium sauce pan. Cook while stirring, until the vegetables are soft, then add the jar of sauce. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
Using a large pot, heat 4-6 quarts of water. Salt the water until you can lightly taste the salty flavor to enhance the flavor of the pasta. You want it to taste like the ocean not the Dead Sea. When the water reaches its boiling point, place in the pasta of your choice and cook as directed on the package.
When the pasta has cooked, drain well, removing all the water you can, return it to the pot or a serving platter. Some people like to add the pasta into their sauce but I do not. It will soak up the sauce too quickly and in some cases will leave you with a dry pasta dish with no sauce to serve on the side. I prefer to place my pasta on my plate then add the sauce over the top, adding a little sprinkle of cheese.
Serve with warm garlic bread and steamed green beans to complete your meal.  Cooking multi meals at one time will allow you more family time when it comes to putting dinner on the table.