Putting the Giving Back into Thanksgiving: Food Donations

In the last couple of days I have shared some of my favorite Thanksgiving flavors with you and a fun Thanksgiving craft. Now I want to turn your attention to another part of Thanksgiving, actual giving. Now I know that funds tend to be tight this time of year, so cash donations are not always in the budget. But local shelters and food banks collect food, toys and blankets for those less fortunate this time of year, as well. 

Finding a donation event is easier than you may think. I typed Food Donations into the event search bar on my Facebook. In my area alone, there was a food drive at SkyZone, a taxi company asking people to fill a cab with food donations, and a Harley Dealership filling the back of a side by side. 

We went to Town and Country Powersports in Cement City to help fill the back of the side by side for the Jackson Food Pantry. We went because it was the closet location to us, but if you need more incentive, the donation of 3 non-perishable goods allows you to enter into a drawing for a $50 gift card. 

Since we were there, we decided to check out the merchandise. This dealership carries motorcycles, 4-wheelers, side by side ATVs along with clothing and other merchandise. There is even a back showroom with vintage bikes set up like a museum. 

We didn’t buy anything today, but we may be back after the new year. Until then, I got some pictures of my girls playing and reinforced that the holidays are about more than just food and gifts. 

So today I challenge you to find a way to give back to your community and put the give back into Thanksgiving. It doesn’t have to be a lot. It doesn’t have to be fancy or take a ton of time. But if everyone gives a little, we might be able to make the world a better place, even if just for one day. 

Think about it. 


Cone Turkey Centerpiece

I think my meds are actually starting to work. I say this because in the last couple days I have actually been motivated to do things. I’ve cooked meals. I’ve watched football with the family. I even did a Thanksgiving craft with the Baby Bear. 

Isn’t that cute? I mean he is a little derpy and the Bear made his eyes off center, looking into the distance, but definitely something I will set in the center of our table until after the holiday. And of course, one of the best things is that with only minimal prep, it is easy enough for a three year old to put together. 

What You Need:

  • brown construction paper of card stock, cut into a 1/2 circle
  • white construction paper, cut into two bulging eyes ( I left mine connected)
  • 2 small black construction paper circles and 6 small black triangles for nails
  • a red construction paper waddle
  • orange construction paper to make a beak (2 small triangles) and feet 
  • feathers
  • scissors
  • stapler with staples
  • glue stick
  • masking tape
  1. Roll your half circle into a cone and then use the stapler to secure it. 
  2. Let your preschooler glue on the eyes, beak and waddle. 
  3. The feet get glued under the cone so that they stick out. Attach nails to the toes, and draw lines for realism if you like. 

4. The feathers are a little tricky to make stick, so we made a feather fan and wrapped it in masking tape. Then I let the Bear tape it to thee back. 

Voila! Super cute. Super simple and 20 minutes of fun for your bored toddler. If your child is older, they can design the face and you will have even left prep. 

I hope you love the idea of a child-made centerpiece for your holiday table as much as I do. I can’t wait to see the pictures of your crafts. 

Gobble ’til you wobble, 


Thanksgiving Turkey Burgers

With any luck, I will be back to work by this time next week. If that happens, I am scheduled to work on Thanksgiving and the day after. The holiday pay is well worth it, but I still miss Thanksgiving dinner. 

That’s why I am incorporating as many of those flavors into my meals before hand as possible. Last night, we made Thanksgiving Dinner Burgers. A seasoned turkey burger on a brioche bun with whole cranberry sauce, stuffing and gravy; it was like eating Thanksgiving dinner as a sandwich. 

We had sweet potato fries and a Caesar salad for sides. Of course there was also leftover stuffing and gravy if we really wanted to splurge. 

Thanksgiving Turkey Burgers


  • 2 c stuffing
  • 3 lbs ground turkey
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 TBSP chicken seasoning
  • 2 TBSP canola oil
  • 8 brioche buns
  • 1 c cranberry sauce
  • 1 c gravy


  1. Form 8 turkey patties from the ground turkey. Season with salt, pepper and chicken seasoning. 
  2. Heat 1 TBSP oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 4 patties to the pan. Cook for 5 minutes on each side. Repeat with remaining oil and patties. 
  3. Toast the buns in a toaster oven. 
  4. Assemble the burgers: Put cranberry sauce on the bottom of each bun. Place a turkey patty on top. Spoon stuffing and gravy on top of the patties. Cover the burger with the top of the bun. 
  5. Serve with sweet potato fries and a salad. 
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving 
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 30.5g39%
Saturated Fat 7.6g38%
Cholesterol 189mg63%
Sodium 1078mg47%
Total Carbohydrate 42.9g16%
Dietary Fiber 0.8g3%
Total Sugars 6.9g 
Protein 52.5g 
Vitamin D 0mcg0%
Calcium 91mg7%
Iron 5mg30%
Potassium 494mg11%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Recipe analyzed by 

Here in Michigan, opening day for firearm deer season was yesterday. Maybe I should have made venison chili or stew instead, but these burgers are what I wanted. You should have seen the look of shock on my husband’s face when I said “Turkey Burgers” while he was hanging his deer in the garage. He enjoyed dinner quite a it, and was just harassing me. 

If you are in the mood for the flavors of Thanksgiving, but don’t want the hassle of making a turkey and all the sides, I would recommend this recipe to you. 
Let me know how it goes.


Easy Sweet Potato Casserole Using Canned Yams

Thanksgiving falls late in the month this year. That means less time for Christmas set up after the holiday. It also means waiting until November 27th to watch Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving special. I know it’s probably not politically correct, since they refer to Native Americans as Indians, but I love the message of friendship in love in their holiday celebration. 

To bide my time and get into the Thanksgiving spirit, I started watching Food Network’s Ultimate Thanksgiving Challenge. I like seeing different spins on holiday food. I also like to challenge myself to see what I would make in their shoes. 

The first episode is all about budget foods. The contestants were given a budget ingredient, like instant potatoes or canned yams, and then they had to make it into a holiday worthy dish. My daughter is completely against instant potatoes. She thinks they taste like eating glue. She was certain canned yams would be the same. I decided to show her how wrong she is and turned a can of yams into Sweet Potato Casserole.

Sweet Potato Casserole was not a staple of holiday dinners in my house. My mom is not a fan of sweet potatoes so she never made it. She would just bake a yam in the oven for my dad and call it a day. It’s only been in the last 5 years that I have branched out and tried them for myself. Guess what? I don’t think they taste like baby food. 

To make my casserole, I started with a 29 oz can of yams. I drained all the liquid and then dumped them into a saucepan. 

Over medium heat, I added 1 cup of mini marshmallows, brown sugar, salt, pepper, vanilla and almond extracts. Than I used my potato masher and mixed it all together. Once the marshmallows had melted and thickened my potato mixture, I moved it all to a baking dish. 

I top my casserole with sliced pecans and more mini marshmallows. My husband loved the casserole, but thought it needed more pecans and marshmallows. In the future, I think I will stir some pecans into the sweet potatoes before adding it to the baking dish, instead of just putting them on top. 

The casserole baked in a 375-degree oven for 20 minutes. When it was done, I had an flavorful casserole topped with beautifully golden brown marshmallows. 

I served my casserole with corn and Roasted Apple-Maple Chicken Breasts. Mmmmm! It was so good. For once, I had no leftovers to put in the fridge. My daughter practically licked the bowl, and agreed that canned yams do not taste like paste. I call that a mom win. 

Easy Sweet Potato Casserole Using Canned Yams


  • 29 oz canned yams
  • 1/2 c packed light brown sugar
  • 4 TBSP unsalted butter
  • 2 c mini marshmallows, divided
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 TBSP maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 c sliced pecans


  1. Preheat the oven to 375-degrees. 
  2. Drain the canned yams. Dump them into a medium saucepan, and turn the heat up to medium. 
  3. Add all the ingredients, except for the pecans and 1 cup of the mini marshmallows. Using a potato masher, mash the yams and mix the ingredients together. Once the butter and marshmallows have melted, give the mixture a final stir and remove it from the heat. 
  4. Transfer the sweet potato mixture to a 3-quart baking dish. Top with pecans and remaining marshmallows. 
  5. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Your mixture should be slightly bubbly and topped with golden marshmallows when it is done. 
  6. Serve hot. 
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving 
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 13.3g17%
Saturated Fat 7.5g38%
Cholesterol 31mg10%
Sodium 436mg19%
Total Carbohydrate 108.6g39%
Dietary Fiber 8.4g30%
Total Sugars 33.8g 
Protein 3.9g 
Vitamin D 8mcg40%
Calcium 43mg3%
Iron 1mg8%
Potassium 1417mg30%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Recipe analyzed by 

It’s no wonder the average Thanksgiving meal consists of 4500 calories, when a single side dish comes in at over 500. Thankfully I paired it with a lean protein and some corn to keep the calories in a manageable range for the day. 
Even though it is a decadent splurge, I recommend that you try it. It went great with the chicken, but you could pair it with turkey or even pork. 
Let me know some of your favorite holiday recipes in the comments. 

Happy cooking,


Seared Salmon on a Bed of Spinach

My focus levels are so off with these migraines. I was certain that this post was already written, and then discovered that I had only done the pictures. I feel like I am either existing in a pain fog, or a medication fog. Hopefully something gives soon. 

So now that I am done rambling, let me tell you what I cooked. I made Seared Salmon on a Bed of Spinach and served it with some Garlic-Parmesan Rice and green beans. Sounds fancy and difficult, right? Well the fancy part is true, but the recipe is oddly easy to make. 

I started with some frozen salmon fillets. I prefer to work with fresh fish, but that’s sometimes hard to come by here, and these were sealed in individual fillet bags for freshness. Buying from the butchers counter would probably get you thicker fillets though, if you prefer.

I ran the bags under cold water to thaw the fish and then transferred them to a plate. I seasoned the salmon with salt and pepper, and then got to work in my skillet. 

Since I am not feeling well, I prefer to make once skillet meals to help with clean up. The spinach and the salmon do not cook in there at the same time, but you can transfer the salmon to a warming oven, or even your microwave while you wilt the spinach. It doesn’t take very long at all. 

Your reward is this lovely piece of salmon that melts in your mouth. The tarragon in the spinach adds an earthy note that compliments it well. I think next time, I will saute some mushrooms in the pan, before adding the spinach round out the flavors. If you try it, let me know. 

Seared Salmon on a Bed of Spinach


  • 3 salmon fillets, about 7oz each
  • 3 TBSP butter
  • 3 shallots, sliced
  • 2 TBSP chopped fresh tarragon
  • 5 oz baby spinach
  • 1/2 c dry white wine
  • 1/3 c whipping cream


  1. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper. 
  2. Melt 2 TBSP butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the salmon. Saute until opaque in the center, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. 
  3. In the same skillet, melt 1/2 TBSP butter over medium-high heat. Add half of the shallots and tarragon. Saute for 30 seconds. Increase the heat to HIGH and add the spinach. Toss until wilted.. Divide the spinach between plates. 
  4. Melt the remaining butter in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining shallots and tarragon, again sauteing for 30 seconds. Whisk in the wine and cream. Bring the sauce to a boil for 3 minutes, or until thick enough to coat a spoon. Season with salt and pepper. 
  5. Return salmon fillets to the skillet. Allow them to simmer in the sauce for 1 minute. 
  6. Arrange fillets over the spinach on the plates. Divide remaining sauce from the skillet over each piece of salmon. 
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 3
Amount per serving 
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 26.9g35%
Saturated Fat 11.5g57%
Cholesterol 124mg41%
Sodium 206mg9%
Total Carbohydrate 5.5g2%
Dietary Fiber 1.1g4%
Total Sugars 0.5g 
Protein 36.8g 
Vitamin D 8mcg40%
Calcium 143mg11%
Iron 3mg17%
Potassium 1072mg23%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Recipe analyzed by 

I see the saturated fat numbers and feel a little guilty, but I have yet to find a margarine I like in sauces. I think if you are mindful about your meals throughout the day, a little splurge like this is perfectly fine. I made garlic-Parmesan rice and sauteed green beans to finish off this meal. I am sure it would go well with other flavors though, if you prefer. 
Let me know what you think, especially if you add the mushrooms to the spinach. Happy cooking!Kristie 

Grande Chicken Quesadilla

Since mother nature decided to throw up all over my yard, we are spending more time indoors. That means more art projects, more baking, and a need to get organized. As I got through the kitchen, I am realizing I have a bunch of gadgets. I have my panini maker, a Ninja Blender set, my mixers, the slow cookers, the deep fryer, the InstaPot and even a quesadilla maker. 

Mmmmmm quesadillas. Most people would think that we don’t use out quesadilla maker very often, but you would be surprised. Quesadillas make great after school snacks. They also provide easy meals while I am at work, or while the family is on the go; heading out hunting or to band practice for example. 

My favorite quesadilla is loaded with Mexican Cheese Dip. grilled chicken, bacon, and jalapenos. I top it with my favorite salsa. My husband adds guacamole and sour cream as well. 

Grande Chicken Quesadilla


  • 1 tsp olive oil 
  • 2 10-inch flour tortillas
  • 1 TBSP Mexican cheese dip (found near the deli at your grocery store)
  • 2 slices of crispy bacon
  • 2 TBSP sliced jalapenos
  • 1/2 c shredded Colby Jack cheese
  • 6 oz grilled chicken breasts
  • salsa
  • guacamole
  • sour cream


  1. Use the olive oil to grease your quesadilla maker. Place one flour tortilla on the bottom heating surface. 
  2. Spread the cheese dip over the visible side of the tortilla. Top with 1/2 of the Colby Jack cheese. Now add bacon, jalapenos and grilled chicken. 
  3. Cover your meat and peppers with the remaining Colby Jack Cheese. Place the 2nd flour tortilla on top of the cheese. 
  4. Close the quesadilla maker, and allow it to your meal for about 5 minutes. (Check your owner’s manual to verify cooking times)
  5. Remove your quesadilla to a plate. Cut into wedges with a pizza cutter. Serve with salsa, sour cream and guacamole. 

Do you have any fun and random kitchen gadgets? What are your favorite recipes to make with them? Let me know the answers in the comments. 

Have a delicious day. 


Homemade Dutch Apple Pie

How is it already mid-November? I feel like time is flying by me and I am playing a losing game of catch up. I am trying to stay positive though, so I am going to give myself some slack, and just try to enjoy things. 

I had a bucket list for the month of November. First on it: Make an apple pie. There is something about apple pie that screams fall and welcomes the holiday season. I am not a huge fan of crust, so I prefer the Dutch style crumble. I also cheat and use refrigerated dough. Don’t hate me. Just enjoy this fabulous pie. 

Flaky crust, loaded with seasoned pink lady apples and then topped with a brown sugar crumble. What more could you want in a dessert? 

Dutch Apple Pie


  • 1 refrigerated pie crust
  • 8 cups pink lady apples, peeled cored and sliced
  • 1/2 c + 1 TBSP granulated sugar 
  • 1 1/4 c flour, divided
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1/2 c unsalted butter
  • 2/3 c packed brown sugar


  1. Heat oven to 400-degrees. 
  2. Unfold the refrigerated pie crust into a 9-inch pie plate. Trim any over hanging crust and then flute the edges. 
  3. In a large bowl, combine the apples, 1/2 c granulated sugar, 1/4 c flour, cinnamon and lemon juice. Pour into the pie plate, mounding the fruit towards the center. 
  4. In a medium bowl, use your fingers to mix the butter, 1 cup flour and brown sugar into a crumble. Sprinkle evenly over the top of the apple mixture. Spread the 1 TBSP granulated sugar over the top of the pie. 
  5. Bake for 45 minutes, or until the crumble is a golden brown and the apples are bubbling. Cover the edges of the crust with foil if it begins to brown too quickly. 
  6. Allow to cool on a rack before slicing. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream if desired. 

This pie did not last 3 days in my house. Not only is it a great dessert, but leftovers make a decadent breakfast as well. I am sure I will have to make another round of pie for Thanksgiving, but I am OK with the repetition. 

What is your favorite fall dessert? Are you more of a pie, or a bread pudding type of person? And of course, if you try the pie, I would love to see pictures in the comments. 

Happy November. 


Buzzing about : Blackberry Whiskey Lemonade

This recipe is the reason I made Blackberry Simple Syrup. Between the weather change, and a rough couple of nights with a whiny toddler, I was ready to relax. 

When I was telling a friend about this, I referred to it as my cold medicine. The whiskey helps suppress the cough and let me sleep. The lemon breaks up the mucus. Blackberries are thought to help fight colds and the flu because they are high in polyphenols. Combined, it sounds like medicine to me. 

I mix a batch for two when I make this, but you can round up to make more for a party if you desire. The first time I tried this, I used the blackberry syrup, whiskey, rosemary and lemon juice. I’m not sure if the issue was the bottled juice, as opposed to fresh lemon juice, but there was an after taste I did not enjoy. 

So I went back to the drawing board, and tried some frozen Minute Maid Lemonade Concentrate. I was much happier with this combination. The concentrate provided a real lemonade taste, instead of the artificial lemon juice after taste. 

Blackberry Whiskey Lemonade


  • 6 ice cubes
  • 1/2 c blackberry simple syrup
  • 1/2 c whiskey
  • 1/4 c frozen lemonade concentrate
  • 1/2 c club soda
  • 1 sprig rosemary


  1. Place the ice cubes, blackberry syrup, whiskey, lemonade concentrate and rosemary into a beverage shaker. Shake well. 
  2. Divide the shaker contents into two 6 oz glasses filled with ice. Pour 1/4 c of club soda into each glass and stir. 
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 2
Amount per serving 
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0.6g1%
Saturated Fat 0.1g0%
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 15mg1%
Total Carbohydrate 50.8g18%
Dietary Fiber 4.9g18%
Total Sugars 29.2g 
Protein 1.3g 
Vitamin D 0mcg0%
Calcium 38mg3%
Iron 1mg6%
Potassium 170mg4%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Recipe analyzed by 

This may be my new favorite cocktail. I love the refreshing lemonade flavor, with just the bite of whiskey. The rosemary gives a hint of earthiness to the sweet blackberry flavor. I know there are a lot of similar recipes out there like this, but this is how it tastes best to me. 

Let me know what you think. 


Childhood Joys: 52 Lists for Happiness List 11

Today I felt well enough to work on my journal. It’s been a while, so I was excited to do something that felt normal. After reading the heading, I almost shut the book. The anniversary of my brother’s death is four days away, and revisiting my childhood is like an unhealed wound. That combined with the murder of a childhood friend Monday night, made this a bittersweet experience. 

My list is a probably a little odd. I was not an athletic kid. I didn’t do sports or take dance classes. I listened to music, played with the neighborhood kids and read a ton of books. The only organized things I participated in were bowling and scouts. I have always become attached to people. I still have the same best friends. They have become my family. 

I found a bike that I really like on amazon. My husband and I have been talking about buying me one before the spring so that we can do family bike rides together. Unfortunately, finding one I like has been difficult. I guess that’s because I’m short and picky. 

I did not find a magazine workout to try, but I did find a fun workout on self.com that I decided to try. I am not nearly as fit as the people demonstrating the exercises, but it does give me some new goals. Using 5 lb weights,  I was able to do: 

  • 1 set of 8 Renegade Row with a push up: I did modify the push up to my knees though, so I had an extra step going back up into the plank before lifting my weight. 
  • 1 set of 12 Single-Leg Reverse Fly per leg: I have better balance on my right leg than on my left. I almost fell twice while standing on t the left leg. Just something to work on. 
  • 2 sets of 12 Alternating Overhead Press: At this point I am feeling the muscles work in the sides of my core. I also feel like I am working out my shoulders and arms. It’s work but it feels good. 
  • 1 set of 10 Russian Twists: My twists are smaller but were definitely felt across the front of my abdomen. I was able to twist in each direction ten times, before it was too painful and hard to catch my breath. 

That is as far as I was able to get in one day. It’s not where I want to be, but it is a start. 
I also starting walking on my treadmill again this week. While I would love to take the dogs out for a walk, the weather has been cold and rainy. The moisture in the air increases the intensity of my migraines, which makes working out harder as well. My compromise is 30 minutes on the treadmill. I went slow and only walked a little over a mile, but again it is a start. 
My goals are to alternate the core workout and the treadmill each day. I want to add reps and exercises to the core workout each week. I also want to increase my stamina on the treadmill and work up to an easy 20 minute mile. 
As far as this helping my happiness levels goes, I have to admit that just getting out of bed and trying something new made me feel a little better. Finding a way to push through the pain for 30 minutes gives me hope that I am stronger than these migraines. And who knows, maybe some healthy endorphins will help. 
Thank for checking out my list. Have a great week. Kristie

Blackberry Simple Syrup

Last week I stopped at Meijer on my way home from work. They had blackberries on sale for 97 cents per 6 oz container. Naturally I had to buy a couple and take them to home to experiment with in the kitchen. 

I decided to attempt my very first simple syrup for mixing cocktails. It can also be used for pancake syrup. The kids were licking it off the spoon, while it was warm. Trust me when I tell you it is fabulous. 

Simply heat 12 oz of berries with 1/2 c sugar. As the berries soften and break down, mash them with a potato masher. 

Next, place a strainer in a mason jar. Spoon the mashed berry mixture in to the strainer, and push the liquid through with the back of your spoon. Discard the seeds. 

It’s that simple. The entire process takes about 30 minutes. What you are left with is yummy blackberry syrup that you can keep in your fridge for about 2 weeks. You should try it. 

Blackberry Simple Syrup


  • 12 oz fresh blackberries
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar


  1. In a small saucepan, heat the berries and the sugar over medium heat for 25 minutes, alternately stirring and mashing with a potato masher. The syrup should begin to thicken and stick to your spoon. 
  2. Strain the mixture into a mason jar, pushing the liquid through with the back of a spoon. Discard the seeds. 
  3. Chill. The syrup will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. 
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving 
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0.4g1%
Saturated Fat 0g0%
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 1mg0%
Total Carbohydrate 33.2g12%
Dietary Fiber 4.5g16%
Total Sugars 29.2g 
Protein 1.2g 
Vitamin D 0mcg0%
Calcium 25mg2%
Iron 1mg3%
Potassium 138mg3%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calorie a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Recipe analyzed by 

Let me know who the recipe turns how. 

Have a sweet day,