Kid-Friendly Pasta Salad

My kids are usually not picky eaters, but they certainly have their favorites.  And one thing we can all agree on is Pasta Salad.  Not the mayonnaise picnic kind, but literally pasta and salad.  Seriously.  They request this meal at least three times a week!Kid-Friendly Pasta Salad from the garden And with our garden flourishing now, especially in the greens department, it would be easy to have pasta salad three times a week!Kid- Friendly Pasta Salad straight from the garden, with a secret ingredient!!I start off with a little minced garlic, and some chopped onion {I like red the best}.  Then mix in halved cherry tomatoes, avocados, a lettuce mix, and your choice of pasta {the girls love rotini or bow tie}.  Top it all off with freshly grated parmesan romano cheese.Kid- Friendly Pasta Salad straight from the garden, with a secret ingredient!!But the secret ingredient is the dressing.  And there is no secret at all, really.  It’s just a mix of 1/3 Vegetable Oil to 2/3 Pomegranate infused Red Wine Vinegar {you can also just use regular red wine vinegar}.Kid- Friendly Pasta Salad straight from the garden, with a secret ingredient!!I keep my dressing in a mason jar, with a spout lid that I got from Davy Crocket’s Distillery {now Ole Smokey Distillery} in Gaitlinburg, Tennessee.  Keep it in the pantry and just give it a good shake each time you pour it on your salad.Kid- Friendly Pasta Salad straight from the garden, with a secret ingredient!!And you’ve got a quick, healthy meal fit for even the most picky eaters!

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Homemade Irish Cream Recipe

The weekend after Thanksgiving is reserved exclusively for turkey sandwiches, fat pants, and decorating for Christmas.  But this year, I’m adding one more must-have to my list.  My friend Nikki posted this recipe on Facebook the other day and I just had to try it!  I tweaked it just a bit, but it’s super easy to make, and I had most of the ingredients already on hand.

I’m thinking in a smaller batch, this would be a terrific gift as well…I would have LOVED to get this as a teacher gift!  Haha!

Homemade Irish Cream Recipe from Palmettos and Pigtails

Homemade Irish Cream Recipe:

1 can sweet condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp chocolate syrup
1 tsp brewed coffee 
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract {or coconut extract}
1 1/3 cup Irish whiskey
Homemade Irish Cream Recipe from Palmettos and Pigtails

Using a whisk, mix it all together until smooth and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.  I made a double batch {not shown} to last me through the winter!

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Thanksgiving Green Bean Casserole with Bacon

Happy Thanksgiving!  I’m taking the week off to celebrate Lincoln’s Baptism and spend time with our family in town!

My Thanksgiving menu doesn’t change much from year to year.  I grew up with baked turkey, moved South and got introduced to fried turkey, and for the first time last year, tried smoked turkey.  By far my favorite!  As for side dishes and dessert…I usually make sweet potato casserole, biscuits, salad, pecan pie and green bean casserole.  You know, the Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom version.  But this year, I’m trying something a little different.  I found this recipe on the eMeals site, and thought it might be fun to try this year.

Green Bean Casserole with Bacon - Palmettos and Pigtails

Green Bean Casserole with Bacon

  • 2 (12-oz) packages steam-in-bag green beans
  • 1 (8-oz) package sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (15-oz) jar Alfredo sauce
  • 1 cup shredded white Cheddar cheese
  • 1 (2.8-oz) container French fried onions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook beans in microwave as directed. Transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Sauté mushrooms in butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat 10 to 12 minutes, stirring once after 8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add to beans in bowl.
  3. Cook bacon in skillet until crisp. Crumble bacon, and add to beans. Reserve 1 Tbsp drippings in skillet. Cook onion and garlic in drippings until tender. Add to beans. Stir in Alfredo sauce and cheese.
  4. Spoon into a greased baking dish. Sprinkle with French fried onions. Bake 20 minutes or until bubbly.

What side dishes do you make at Thanksgiving?
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Charleston Style Shrimp & Grits

One of my favorite things about the South is its food.  There is nothing like some good Southern grub.  And Charleston is the hub for fantastic restaurants with world renowned chefs.  One of my very favorite Southern dishes is Shrimp and Grits.  There are many different takes on this dish, but I think I’ve found {and tweaked} the best one!  Here’s my version of the attempt.Ingredients:

  • 2c of grits
  • 4c of water
  • 2c of half and half
  • salt to taste
  • 2 c shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 2 lbs of uncooked shrimp, peeled/deveined and tails off
  • 1 pinch of Cayenne pepper
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 package of cooked turkey breakfast sausage (sliced or crumbled)
  • 5 slices of raw bacon
  • 1 green, red, and yellow pepper, each chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 c butter
  • 1/4c all purpose flour
  • 1c chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce


Gather ingredients.Cook the bacon until crispy, saving the bacon grease.  Cool the bacon and crumble it.  Put aside. Cook the peppers, onion and garlic in the bacon grease over medium low heat for about 5 minutes.In a separate bowl, mix the raw shrimp with the lemon juice, a bit of salt and a pinch of Cayenne pepper.  Set aside.In a separate small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Stir in the flour and use a whisk to stir almost constantly until mixture is almost a paste.  Keep stirring and cooking for about 8-10 minutes until the mixture is a caramel color. (Darker than the picture below!)Add the turkey and raw shrimp to the vegetable mixture, and cook until the shrimp is pink.  Add the flour/butter mixture to the veggie mix.  Cook everything together for about 6 minutes over medium low.  Turn it to low and keep warm while you cook the grits.To cook the grits, bring the water, salt, and half and half to a boil.  Add the grits  and cook on medium until creamy, stirring often.I also made crescent rolls to have with dinner.  Jayna helped roll them up!This recipe was a big hit at Rachele’s baby shower, and now at our house too!I think I’ll make it again next time we have a houseful… serves about 6 as a main dish!!



Jambalya Recipe

If you’ve been following my progress with the Biggest Loser, you know that we’ve been trying to lose some weight and eat healthier.  We’ve lost about 10 lbs so far!!  So we’ve been experimenting with some recipes {and making up some of our own!}.  We made this one the other night, and it was a huge hit!  Super flavorful and low calories….not to mention filling!Low Calorie Big Flavor JambalyaJambalya….6 servings

223 calories
49 carbs
.6 grams of fat
9 grams of protein


  • 1 cup of onions, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 2 cups of 99% Fat Free Swanson Broth
  • 1 15oz canned of tomatoes, diced, undrained
  • 1 cup of rice, uncooked
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1 15oz can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 tsp dried parsley


  1. Cook the rice according to package directions.  Stop cooking and pull from heat when al dente {almost cooked through}
  2. Saute the onions, red pepper and garlic in a large skillet for about 5 minutes {until fragrant and onions are glossy}.
  3. Add the chicken broth and tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the rice and rice liquid, and all spices {through allspice}.
  5. Bring mixture to a boil and then lower to simmer for about 5 minutes.
  6. Add frozen peas and kideney beans.  Simmer for another 5 minutes. Stir often.
  7. Top with parsley and serve!

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No Bake Chocolate Chip Granola Bar Recipe

Hey y’all!  While on my little quest for some make-ahead lunches, I ran across an intriguing recipe for a no-bake homemade granola bar.  I found it on Lauren’s Latest, but she originally got it from Rachel Ray and adapted it to make it healthier.  That’s right. Healthy.  Granola. Bars. {With chocolate chips, I might add!}

So, Jayna and I gave it a shot yesterday:

The Ingredients:

    • 2 c quick cooking oats (not rolled oats!)
    • 1c Rice Krispies
    • 1/4c butter
    • 1/4c honey
    • 1/3c packed brown sugar
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla
    • 2 Tbsp chocolate chips {or as many as your three-year-old deems fit!}…..or cinnamon chips…..or raisins….or marshmallows….or….


In a large bowl, stir together the Rice Krispies and quick cooking oats. Set aside.

In a separate small sauce pan, melt together the butter, honey and brown sugar. Bring to a slow boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for about 2 minutes.

Pour the vanilla into the saucepan and stir well.

Pour the hot liquids over the Rice Krispies and Oat mixture and stir well immediately, until well coated.

Pour into a lightly greased jelly roll pan (or use parchment paper, like we did) and pack firmly until it’s about 3/4 inch thick.  You will only use about a third of your pan.

Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top and gently push each down into the mixture to set.

Cool on a countertop for an hour…then pack down some more.

Lauren’s instructions said to cool on the countertop for 2 hours and then cut and wrap the bars and store at room temperature.  But we found that by cooling in the fridge for an hour BEFORE cutting, really helped solidify them.  Amelia had a hard time waiting for them to chill.  She was literally drooling on the fridge!

We also decided to keep them in a Tupperware in the fridge.  They are a little hard when you first take them out, but when they thaw, they can get a little crumbly.  So I think it will be perfect for lunch boxes!

Some of them were a little heavy on the chocolate chips…while others were bare!  (But remarkably still delicious!)

This was only about half the batch!

I’m thinking about drizzling caramel or some of that chocolate candy shell on top next time. Yum!

 Overall, a GREAT recipe to make with your kids.  It was really fast (other than the 2 hours of solidifying) and Jayna was able to {carefully} help with ever single step of the process!  I see more of these in the future!

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Spinach, Spinach, Everywhere: A Recipe for Pesto

I  love Costco.  I could just wander around in there for hours, and quite often…I do!!  I always go in with the best of intentions of buying a bunch of healthy stuff in bulk….thereby forcing myself to fix healthy dinners for my family every night.  But usually, I buy all those goodies, and then they go bad before we can eat them.  Case in point: Spinach.  I always look at the spinach from Costco and think it will be just enough for 4 or 5 big salads.  But after 6 meals with spinach…we are spinached out and it doesn’t even look like we made a dent!  And the leaves are already starting to get slimy!

So I turned to my February edition of Southern Living (Oh! How I LOVE that magazine!).  Ans they happened to have a recipe for spinach-based pesto.  Perfect!  And I can freeze it too.  Well, I made a few tweaks, so here is my version of Southern Living’s Spinach Pesto.


2 cups of spinach leaves
1 tsp dried cilantro
1 Tbsp fresh chopped basil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 c to 3/4 c grated Parmesan cheese (to taste)
1 garlic clove
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c olive oil
1. Shred your Parmesan cheese. I actually only used 1/2 c in my recipe, but you could go up to 3/4 c if you like a creamier, cheesier pesto.

2.  Chop the fresh basil…I used the chiffonade method, which involves stacking the basil leaves, rolling them up and then slicing the rolls.

3. Combine all ingredients except for cheese in a food processor (or in a baby food maker, like me!).  Add cheese slowly to mixture, blending until smooth.

4. Store in airtight containers.  Use with pastas, vegetables, bruchettas, or other appetizers.


Pizza FAIL

I was in the mood for pizza, but didn’t feel like shelling out $15 and ride all the way into town to get a “fast food” one.  So I decided to be healthy mama and make our own.  I mean, I have done this before….how hard could it be?

We cut up and separated some onions and green peppers.

We pre-baked the crust for 5 minutes.

I didn’t have any marinara sauce, so we decided to  use up some leftover Vodka Sauce instead (yummy, by the way!).

We sprinkled handfuls of cheese on top.

And in between bites of raw onion (yes, my child is weird), topped it with the veggies.

And we baked it for 15 minutes on 400.

Not done.  Back in for another 5 minutes.  Still not cooked in the middle.  Back in for another 5.  The outer crust is getting too crispy.  It will have to do.

The center was “technically” cooked….but way to soft to hold all of our toppings.  I won’t lie to you….it wasn’t pretty.

But after sliding the slices on the plates….and piling the toppings back on afterward (they slid off in the midst of transfer), it was actually pretty tasty.

So, note for next time….make sure the middle dough is a little crispier during that initial 5 minute cook, before attempting to put loads of veggies and sauce on!

P.S. I’m linking up this week!

Christmas Wrap Up

Merry Christmas!  I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday weekend.  Our celebrations continue this weekend as we ring in the new year at not one, not two, but three New Year’s Eve Parties!

But first, I wanted to check in with you and tell you a little about our Christmas.  The weekend began on Thursday afternoon, when Mom Mom and GP arrived from up north.  After Amelia’s 4 month check-up, we met them in town and had a quick lunch before heading back to the house for naps.  On Friday, Dave and GP did a little fishing on our pond, while us girls started on the baking.  First up, Christmas cookies!

Obviously, Jayna did the majority of spoon licking and decorating.  Eat at your own risk, Santa!!  Next up was a gingerbread house.  But not only do we not like gingerbread, we also shutter at the thought of conformity! =)  We opted to try a rice krispy treat house instead.  Adorned with mint M&M’s, sixlets and Mike & Ike’s stuck on the roof with melted chocolate, we discovered that rice krispies work just as well!  The only disappointment was that our graham cracker roof just wouldn’t stay pitched… we opted for The Flintstone’s model instead!

After the girls went to bed that night, Loo Loo, Mom Mom and I stayed up late tidying up and finishing last-minute Christmas decor.

That’s right…you see more recycled pumpkins, and the two Christmas trees were handmade by yours truly, but I got the ideas here and here.  Like I’ve said before, I’m not a very creative person, but I’m an excellent copycat!!

Saturday morning, 9am.  Our doorbell rings with our first of many guests for our first annual Christmas Eve Brunch.  Growing up, my family went to a friend’s annual brunch to gather with friends, do crafts, and put in last-minute requests with Santa.  It’s one of my favorite Christmas memories, so we decided to duplicate it and start it as our own tradition this year.  We invited friends and family from our Sunday School class, as well as our neighborhood.  Although we anticipated mixed results being that it was Christmas Eve, we ended up with about 30 people coming for breakfast!  The kids decorated foam gingerbread children and decorated our felt Christmas tree, while the adults mingled around coffee and breakfast casseroles.  Around 10, the doorbell rang yet again, and Santa made a quick appearance for the children.  After he head back to the North Pole, families headed out to spend the days together and participate in their own Christmas traditions.

 Later that night, Sue Sue and Papaw joined us to fry a turkey for dinner and then we went to the early, kid-friendly church service. Our tradition on Christmas Eve is that the girls get to open one gift (from Ralph, our elf), a new pair of pajamas.

This year, Loo Loo must have thought the adults were going to feel left out, because she found us some new pajamas as well!

I won’t mention any names, but some of us were more comfortable in our footie pajamas than others!

Then, we all knocked off early…After all, everyone knows Santa can’t come until everyone is in bed!  The next morning, Jayna was up at the crack of dawn (to be expected), but was more interested in watching Little Einsteins than checking out what Santa had brought.  So we all took our time getting dressed and finally made it downstairs.  Jayna’s first reaction to the bean bag chair she had wanted soooo badly?  “It’s not purple!!”  We’ll be talking about being grateful next week!!  Nevertheless, the unwanted green color didn’t faze her…

And after opening an elephant shaped pillow and blanket (that matched Loo Loo’s), she was all set…no other presents necessary!

Jayna didn’t quite get the “open all of the presents” expectations.  She would open one, take it to her playroom, and we wouldn’t see her for a good ten minutes…..its like she wanted to enjoy just that gift for a little while before opening the next! We had to beg her  to finish opening so we could clean up and get started on fixing supper!

Even the panda slippers she received from Santa got a good ten minutes from Jayna (but she had to take off her footie pajamas in order to fully enjoy the pandas!).

It was a wonderful, laid back day…and the guys made Lowcountry Boil while the ladies drank coffee and nibbled on the ginormous fruit and cheese spread we had put out…not to mention the Overnight Coffee Crumble Cake I made (this recipe is a KEEPER!!!) Yum! Hope you enjoyed my quick synopsis of our weekend festivities….and thank you to our family afar for all of the lovely gifts!  Here’s a little sneak peek of something you will be getting in the next week or so!  Happy New Year!

Halloween at Hundred Oaks

Last night was our Fifth Annual Halloween Party.  Now, if you don’t know much about me and Dave, know this.  We LOVE Halloween.  Well, really all things Fall.  I mean….my birthday, a cool relief from summer in the south, changing leaves, hayrides and bonfires, pumpkin patches, and HALLOWEEN.  What time of year could be better?!?!?

We love Halloween so much, that we have spent a small fortune on our parties….food, costumes and decor.  We’ll start with the costumes.  We spend so much time on decorating and cooking, that we usually kind of forget about our costumes until the last minute, and have to resort to buying your stereotypical couple costume.

This year, we wanted to incorporate  my sister, Loo into our costume….and we couldn’t afford all the face paint again! =)

And every year, we have a costume contest.  All the guests vote for the Funniest, Most Creative and Best Couple Costumes.  Winners get Halloween themed wine courtesy of World Market.  Here are some of our favorites through the years:

And our winners this year…

We always prepare enough food for a small army…and although people seem to eat the entire time, we always have a ton of food left over!  This year I added my zucchini muffins and some mummy and pumpkin cake pops.

Admittedly, we go a little overboard on decorations.  In fact, we get so into them, that we have to specifically put on our invites that children aren’t invited because our house is too scary!  We start on the friendly decor about a week before the party, and then send the kids away to Sue Sue and Papaw’s on the Saturday of our party and spend the entire day outfitting our home with bloody corpses,

Hollywood Horrors,

Ghosts, Gouls and Goblins.

We have a blast rearranging our dining room into a scientist’s lab, and last year, had a haunted maze in our garage that guests were required to walk through to get into the party.

But Hannibal is definately the scariest prop as far as I’m concerned….he is sooooo life-like.

And somehow he manages to pop up in different corners of the house every Halloween and scares the you-know-what out of me!  So Dave decided to capitalize on that this year, and put him in the bathroom!  Guests got a double dose of Hannibal as they saw a glimpse of him in the mirror as they walked into the bathroom, and then were forced to stare at him as they did their business!  What kind of sick-os live here anyway?!?!

But, I am exhausted as we have been planning our shin-dig for the past few weeks and were up late last night and up early this morning attempting to clean up before Buggy arrived home.  So, I’m off to bed for tonight….if I can sleep!  Happy Halloween!

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