My Favorite Cookbooks

Some of my most popular posts are food related ones, so I thought it’d be fun to share where I get a few of my recipes from.

The great thing about technology today is that if you’re struggling on what to cook, Google is right at your fingertips. While this is usually how I find recipe inspiration, I’ve also been gravitating toward using cookbooks.

Yes, you have less options when using cookbooks, but that actually makes the process of meal planning (I’m working on a post dedicated to this concept.) less daunting. Additionally, I’ve recently discovered some cookbooks full of healthy and easy recipes.

Skinnytaste One and Done

Skinnytaste One and Done is my current favorite cookbook! As a working momma, I need quick and easy recipes when preparing supper, and this book delivers in that area!

Recipes we’ve tried and liked from this cookbook:

• Chicken cordon bleu

• Chicken fajitas

• Spicy fried chicken sandwiches

• Everything (but the) bagel chicken roll-ups

• Creamy cheddar-broccoli soup

• Complete BBQ chicken dinner

Skinnytaste

Skinnytaste is on the list because it has recipes for all courses: breakfast, lunch, appetizers, supper, dessert, etc. As with all Skinnytaste books, the dishes are on the lighter side.

Recipes we’ve tried and liked from this cookbook:

• Dad’s jammin’ crepes

• Slow-cooker Santa Fe chicken

• Grilled steak sandwiches

• Petite baked crab cakes

• Chicken rollatini stuffed with zucchini and mozzarella

• Skinny chicken Parmesan

• Lemon-roasted asparagus

• Warm-apple pear crumble

• Baked bananas floater a la mode

The Defined Dish

Have you ever heard of Whole 30? If so, you know the focus of it is clean, healthy ingredients. The Defined Dish is Whole 30 approved. While we don’t necessarily participate in this meal plan, having a cookbook geared toward it ensures that the dishes will be wholesome.

This is my newest cookbook, so I haven’t had a chance to try too many recipes yet.

Recipes we’ve tried and liked from this cookbook:

• One-pot hamburger helper

• One-pot chicken pot pie pasta

• Meatloaf meatballs with mashed potatoes and green beans

If you ever struggle with knowing what to make for supper, I highly recommend purchasing one of these cookbooks to help with meal planning.

Sarah

5 Days of Workouts

Hey, everyone! I hope you all had a good weekend! I’m officially starting back to school today and am trying to get back into the routine of it.

Many people make resolutions or set goals at the beginning of a new year, and one of the most common ones is to exercise more.

One of my proudest accomplishments of 2020 was getting into a consistent workout routine. I talk more about how that happened in this post, but one of the components that has helped me stick to working out 5 days a week was to change up my routine and find exercises that I enjoyed doing.

Heather Robertson has become my favorite “instructor” because her videos are effective and easy to follow, and she puts out new ones every few days.

I have to say that I’m not a personal trainer, so I can’t say that what I do is “correct” or right for you, but during a typical week, I try to mix up my workouts so I hit all the major muscle groups. Upper body is my favorite, so I usually start the week targeting that area. You’re supposed to give muscle groups at least 48 hours to recover, so I try not to target the same area two days in a row.

The following is an example of a week’s worth of workouts that I typically do.

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

Thursday

Friday

Hopefully, this will give you a starting point if fitness is something you want to work on this year.

Sarah

Seeing 2020 as “Half-Full”

While they say, “Hindsight is 2020,” I’m not sure if that phrase will ever have quite the same meaning after this year. There’s no denying, it’s been rough, but I’ve been doing some reflecting over the last few days and decided that I want to look at the past year as “half-full” rather than “half-empty.”

Social Distancing

Half-Empty: I feel like there have been quite a few new phrases coined in 2020, “social distancing” being one of them. As humans, we gravitate toward each other, so it’s been tough staying six feet apart, wearing masks, and not having as much physical contact.

With that being said, we’ve been “forced” to be around those we live with more, which can sometimes lead to tense moments, and being fed up with the same people. Trust me, the Holts have been in that situation more than once.

Half-Full: During an average week, how much quality time do we spend with our actual family? 2020 has allowed me to be at home more with Daniel and Isaac, something that would’ve not been possible any other time. I know that one day, this will all be over, and I’ll be so thankful for the time I spent with Isaac during such a pivotal stage of development.

Closed Restaurants

Half-Empty: When everything first started closing down in March, I felt overwhelmed about all of the cooking I’d “have” to do. However, until we really couldn’t eat out, I didn’t realize how often we’d been doing it.

Half-Full: 2020 taught me how to meal plan and cook strategically. I’ve started using cookbooks and have found quite a few recipes that are easy, healthy, and make enough for leftovers. Most of the time, I enjoy cooking now and find pride in feeding my family.

Stay at Home Order

Half-Empty: At first, it was nice to have a reason to stay home, but after a while, it got easy to complain at how boring it was. I feel like adults and kids alike either said or thought, “There’s nothing to do.”

Half-Full: With all that extra time, I chose to focus on my physical and spiritual health. I’ve grown more in my walk with Christ than ever before and have done some impactful studies along the way.

Additionally, I’m more committed to working out than ever before and have consistently been exercising five days a week for over nine months. It’s so empowering as a woman to see muscle tone and build endurance, so I’m thankful that I took the extra time 2020 gave and used it for something productive.

Closed Schools/Distance Learning

Half-Empty: When schools suddenly closed back in the spring, teachers were thrust into an unprecedented situation, and we didn’t know what to expect when the new school year rolled around.

My own district started several weeks later than expected, and when students did come back, it was on a staggered schedule. It’s been difficult balancing teaching students who are attending school in-person and those who chose the distance learning route, and there have been quite a few frustrations along the way.

Half-Full: However, teachers have had more time to work in their classrooms than ever before, even if it was spent preparing digital lessons. For myself, I’ve converted everything that I do to computer-based and can count on one hand how many times I’ve made copies this year.

Cancelled Family Gatherings

Half-Empty: Honestly, this had been one of the tougher parts of 2020. Thanksgiving and Christmas are the only times I see some of my family, and those gatherings either looked different this year or were non-existent.

Half-Full: While I didn’t get to see my extended family as much, my immediate family has spent more time together than ever before. Rather than rush from one event to another, we got to relax more and spend quality time with those we did get to see.

I know that some of you have had a horrible year. You’ve lost loved ones, your job, your house, etc. However, I hope that today’s post has also encouraged you and that 2021 will be a fresh, positive start.

Sarah

DIY Ribbon Bow

Question: Are you a present wrapper or gift bag kind of person? I have to say, I’m definitely in the former group, especially since I’ve learned how to make bows to add to presents. I’ve learned that even if your wrapping looks bad, adding a handmade bow makes people think you’re a professional gift wrapper, ha ha!

flannel / jeans (similar) / loafers (similar)

The great thing about this method is that it works for year-round presents, and I bet you already have all of the material you need.

Supplies

wired ribbon

thin ribbon

scissors

wrapped present

Step-by-Step

1. Cut a strip of wired ribbon the circumference of your gift and tie it in a knot. If you wish, do the same thing and tie another ribbon perpendicular to the previous strand. This creates the appearance that the ribbon/bow has been wrapped around the gift.

2. Take the wired ribbon (still on the spool) and fold it over. The size of the gift will determine how long the fold has to be. For explanation purposes, let’s say you fold it over about 5 inches. Continue to fold the ribbon over and over, maintaing that 5 in. length (or however long yours is). The more folds you have, the more voluminous your bow will be.

3. Cut the ribbon from the spool.

4. Keeping everything together, cut slits in the center on both sides of the folded ribbon. Be careful not to cut all the way through!

5. Take a small piece of thin ribbon, and slide it into the slits, tying a knot on the back side.

6. Using the small ribbon, tie your folded ribbon onto the gift, covering the knots created earlier.

7. Take one fold at a time and twist 360 degrees. Continue to do this until your bow is formed.

There you have it! Your present wrapping will turn heads at your next party.

Sarah

Outfits of the Week + What I Cooked for Supper (11/29 – 12/5)

dress / booties

sweater (Mine’s from Marshall’s, similar, similar) / jeggings / booties

joggers / cardigan (similar) / sneakers

top (similar) / kimono sweater / jeans (similar) / booties

popcorn sweater / jeans / booties

top (This top is old from Downtown Allie, but here are some more leopard options from her store.) / jeans (similar) / booties

Main Dishes + Sides

One pan chicken and veggie bake – We keep frozen diced chicken on hand, so I just mixed it and veggies with olive oil, salt, garlic, pepper, and paprika and baked it in the oven. It was so easy!

Turkey burgers – I didn’t have any buns, but I toasted some loaf bread, and these turned out pretty good! I made enough for two nights, and we had sweet potato fries on the first night and these zucchini fries on night two.

Grilled chicken salad

Garlic honey chicken and fried rice – I just did my own variation of the fried rice, but wanted to include a recipe, in case you’ve never made it before.

Chili and grilled cheese sandwiches

Dessert

Baked bananas – These are quick, easy, delicious and healthy!

I hope today’s post gave you some inspiration both with your wardrobe and your closet.

Sarah

A New Way to Decorate Your Christmas Tree

Happy Monday, everyone!

I know quite a few of you have had your Christmas tree up for a while, but I’m in the camp that waits until after Thanksgiving, and by after, I mean as soon as our families left our house after Thanksgiving lunch, I asked Daniel to get my Christmas decorations down from the attic, ha ha!

Growing up, one of the most “challenging” parts of decorating the Christmas tree was deciding how many ornaments to use. You know what I’m talking about…too few and the tree looks bare…too many and it looks cluttered.

If that’s you, I have a great alternative to tell you about: ribbon.

Last year, I started incorporating ribbon as part of my Christmas tree decor, and it totally changed the look of the tree. I know some people like to do different themes each year, and ribbon is an easy way to change that up.

You really want wired ribbon because it’ll be easier to get it into the shape you want. While some people have one stream of ribbon going all the way down the tree, I’ve discovered it’s easier to cut it into strips that are 7-8 inches long.

Once you get your strips cut, simply twist the ends around the branches. It doesn’t have to look perfect because once you add ornaments, the twisted part will be covered up.

Do this all around the tree. I usually have two different types of ribbon, but this would also work if you wanted to use the same kind.

Once the ribbon is how you want it, start adding ornaments and accessories. I’ve learned that the ribbon is a good “filler,” and you don’t have to use as many ornaments, as a result.

Isaac and I always get a picture in front of the tree. This year it was pretty hard because asking a toddler to stay still and smile for a picture doesn’t exactly work, ha ha!

This is what last year’s tree looked like. I don’t buy new ornaments every year, but by changing the ribbon, the over-all look of the tree is totally different.

Also, I can’t get over how much smaller Isaac was!

Sarah

Thanksgiving Recap

Happy Friday! I don’t know what your work schedule has been like this week, but being off of school and spending time with family has done my heart so much good!

When you have multiple functions to attend during the holidays, sometimes it can be overwhelming. I’m going to break down how we handled Thanksgiving this year.

Saturday, November 21

My mom’s side of the family always does Thanksgiving and Christmas the Saturday before the holiday, and this year was no exception. Even in the midst of COVID, it was decided that we’d still get together.

Isaac had a blast! He basically ran around for the whole time and thoroughly enjoyed playing with his cousins. The only thing he ate were rolls (He kept swiping them from the food table.) and dessert. I know, I know, you’re thinking that is not a suitable meal for a toddler. However, if you’re the parent of a toddler, you know that sometimes you have to pick your battles!

Thursday, November 26

We always host our immediate families on Thanksgiving day. In 2015, a few weeks after we got married, we decided to have our families over and do all the cooking. We stayed up until midnight the night before prepping everything. Let me just say, after that, we developed a greater appreciation for our parents/grandparents for doing all the cooking for so many years, and now we ask our families to bring food, too!

I’ve learned how important it is to involve Isaac in things, including cooking and preparing for company. I had some brown wrapping paper and cut it into a long strip. Then I drew leaves, pumpkins, etc. and let Isaac color it. It was a fun way to get him involved with Thanksgiving prep.

I was just a little proud of how my apple pie turned out. It’s hard to tell, but part of the crust is braided. The recipe is linked in this post.

As usual, Isaac provided quite the entertainment. Dad said it’s like going to a dinner-theater but for free.

Saturday, November 27

Daniel’s mom loves to cook, so we went to her house for lunch. She had a garden over the summer and sometimes still finds veggies in it. She had a green bell pepper for Isaac, which he ate better than the other food. As previously mentioned, we’ve learned when to pick our battles on making him eat.

Unfortunately, my dad’s side of the family decided not to have a big get-together this year because my grandfather just turned 95! We missed them but are thankful do the family we did get to see.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your Thanksgiving, regardless of what it looked like this year!

Sarah

9 Things I’m Thankful For in 2020

Hey, y’all!

This time of year always makes me very grateful. Though I know I should have those feelings all year, and I do, the thankfulness is more pronounced during the holidays.

Here are a few things I’m especially thankful for this year:

Salvation Through Jesus

The older I get, the more astounding it is that anyone thinks they can “make it” through life without Jesus. Life is hard; 2020 has proved that over and over. There have been so many times where, if I didn’t have my faith, I’m not sure how I would’ve made it.

Jesus gives me hope, strength, and peace, and I pray that if you’ve never asked Him to be your Savior, that you would do so today. We’re not guaranteed tomorrow, so it’s important to have our hearts right now.

Also, if you are a Christian, yet aren’t as close to the Lord as you should be, I encourage you to draw closer to Jesus. I have something in the works that will hopefully help you in that area, so stay tuned!

Opportunities to Serve at Church

You may know this, but Daniel is a full time pastor. For a long time, I felt like I was just a pastor’s wife and didn’t really have an opportunity to serve. A few months ago, I started teaching the women’s Sunday School class and am really enjoying doing that!

As Christians, it’s important to use the spiritual gifts we’ve received to serve Jesus. I feel like I was put on this earth to be a teacher, so it’s exciting to be able to use that gift at church, too.

Moreover, I’m quite a bit younger that my “students” at church, yet these ladies listen to me and encourage me. As a young woman, that is so uplifting to receive that from ladies that are older than me.

Health

COVID-19 has brought a whole new perspective to health. I’m thankful that my family and I aren’t battling sickness! We can get out and do what we want when we want, which I know is not an ability afforded to everyone.

I’m also learning how important it is to take care of my body now, so that it’ll take care of me in the future, and I’ve been working out consistently for quite a while (more about that in this post). I realize that there are so many who can’t do this because they’re bound to a wheelchair, fighting a viscous disease, etc. and I don’t take this for granted.

Daniel

I am so blessed to call Daniel my husband! He is kind, selfless, and hard-working. He is the embodiment of how a Christian should be and constantly makes me laugh. Daniel’s also my biggest cheerleader in this blogging endeavor and constantly encourages me. He’s the best daddy to Isaac, and I’m so thankful to be his wife!

I won’t say that we don’t have rough days, but we’ve learned a lot about marriage over the last five years (check out this post for more about that). We’re committed to each other, and I’m so thankful to have a spouse who will fight for our marriage.

Isaac and His Development

Parenting is one of the hardest yet most rewarding jobs one can ever have! Though Isaac is two, sometimes I still look at him and can’t believe that the Lord chose me to be his mother! He brings so much joy to everyone he meets, and I’m so proud of how much he’s learned.

This is something I’ve never talked about, but Isaac has some delays with his speech and isn’t saying as much as two-year-olds normally do. This is an issue that runs in the family, so it’s not entirely surprising, and his pediatrician is aware of the situation. He understands everything and communicates in his own way, but the language has just been absent.

However, he’s been able to formulate more words lately and is increasing his vocabulary. He’s recently learned how to say his name, and if your child ever struggled with speech, you know how much these accomplishments get celebrated! I’m so proud of him!

Time with Family

It makes me so sad to think about how many people have missed time with their family due to a fear of COVID. While we’re blessed to be healthy, Daniel and I also talked about how much we’d regret getting to the end of our lives and mourning all the time we missed with our family.

During this time, we’ve continued to visit our families, and I’m so thankful that we have! Time is precious, and I never want to take it for granted.

A Creative Outlet Through Blogging

My blog is almost four months old, and I’m so thankful for the community that has arisen through this venture. I hope this comes across in my posts, but I’m having so much fun blogging. This site has become my outlet and de-stresser. I’ve been able to reach more people than I ever thought possible, and I thank each of you for your support.

Graduate School

You may or may not know that I’m working on my Master’s degree in Instructional Leadership through Tennessee State University. While I enjoy being in the classroom now, I also know that’s not where I want to stay for the rest of my career. By having my administrative license (which comes with this degree), I’ll have more opportunities down the road.

I’m in a year-long program and should graduate in May. I’ve said it time and again, but the Lord lead me to start graduate school at exactly the right time, and it’s going really well (though I’m happy to be finished with classes for the semester).

olive cardigan (SARAH15) / tank / leggings

Downtown Allie Collaboration

If you’ve been around for a bit, you know that I collaborate with a local boutique, Downtown Allie, from time to time. Allie, the owner, and I graduated high school together, so we’ve known each other for a long time.

I’ve really enjoyed working with her the last few months and bringing you deals for her store. Not only has it been encouraging to build a friendship with someone who shares in my beliefs, but it’s also been rewarding to support a small business, so if you haven’t checked out her site/store, you definitely should!

The cardigan I’m wearing is from Downtown Allie and is still in stock. You can use SARAH15 to get 15% off of it.

What are you most thankful for today?

Sarah

My Favorite Dessert Recipes

Happy Monday! How was your weekend? We actually relaxed and had a lot of family time, which was so nice!

If I had to choose between salty and sweet, I’d definitely choose the latter! I wish it was acceptable to eat dessert for every meal, but alas, my pants wouldn’t thank me for that if I did it.

Today I’m rounding up some of my favorite dessert recipes that I make for family gatherings (or for Daniel, Isaac, and me if I’m being honest). Hopefully this will give you some inspiration if you have Thanksgiving meals to attend this week.

waffle cardigan (similar) / leopard top / jeans / booties / insulated tote

Caramel Apple Crisp for 2 – While the original recipe makes enough for two people, I’ll at least double the it when I make this dessert for family. You can also swap out the apples for any other fruit, and just leave out the caramel.

Nutella S’mores Bars – This is my all-time favorite dessert! Enough said!

Cupcakes – I wish I could find the site where I originally got this recipe, but I’ve been using it for years, and can’t locate the original creator. The key to long-lasting, moist cupcakes is sour cream. I know that might sound weird, but you can’t taste it once everything is baked, and your cupcakes will stay fresh for days (if they last that long)!

Chocolate Chip Cookies – I get Nestle Toll House chocolate chips, and this recipe is on the back of the package.

Apple Pie – Mine and Daniel’s families are coming to our house for Thanksgiving, and this is what I’m going to make. I did a practice try over the weekend, and though the whole process took a while, it turned out pretty good, I definitely recommend adding ice cream!

Cheesecake – I know not everyone is into cheesecake, but I really enjoy it! Top with fresh fruit for some extra flavor.

Banana Cake for 2 – I’ve shared this recipe a few times, but it’s something different than typical desserts served at functions. Like the caramel apple crisp, I just increase each ingredient if I’m making this for more people.

3 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies – I once took these to a gathering, and there was a guy there who owns, runs, and works at a well-known restaurant. He said these were the best peanut butter cookies he’d ever had. I only bake mine for 6-8 minutes because I like soft cookies versus crispy.

Chess Squares – If you’ve never tried these, you’re missing out! They are mouth-watering good! Beware though, you’ll want to eat the whole batch.

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies – I make these all the time because they’re both easy and delicious!

What’s your favorite dessert?

Sarah

Outfits of the Week + What I Cooked for Supper (11/15 – 11/21)

As always, here’s what I wore this week. I went with more casual looks because my principal allowed us to wear jeans, since it’s the week before Thanksgiving break.

Several pieces are from Downtown Allie, and you can use SARAH15 to get 15% off those items.

I’m also sharing what I cooked this week, including TWO yummy dessert recipes.

poncho sweater / shift dress (SARAH15) / boots

sweater (SARAH15) / jeans (similar) / leopard loafers

long sleeve / vest (SARAH15) / jeans (similar, similar) / booties

trumpet sleeve sweater (SARAH15) / jeans (similar) / leopard loafers

color block cardigan (Here’s the 2020 version.) / peplum top (similar) / leggings / flats (Time and Tru – check local Walmart)

black jacket (this year’s version) / striped tunic (similar) / leggings / sneakers (I linked the exact style, but I got mine from Marshall’s.)

Main Dishes + Sides

Chicken quesadillas and Mexican rice – This is one of our favorite dishes! I just cook diced chicken in a skillet and sprinkle it with taco seasoning, then add peppers and onions and let it all finish cooking together. I add chicken and shredded cheese into tortillas and let them cook on each side.

Chili and grilled cheese sandwiches – Soup and chili are so nice this time of year. Daniel and I tag-teamed supper on this night. He made the chili, and I cooked the grilled cheese sandwiches.

Grilled chicken wraps and sweet potato fries – I love sweet potato fries and actually prefer them to regular ones.

Sausage and peppers – Yes, this was on last week’s menu, but it’s so easy and tasty!

Hamburger steak, roasted veggies, macaroni and cheese – These dishes are pretty straight forward, but my guys really liked this meal. The macaroni noodles I get actually have a recipe on the back of the box, which is what I use.

Dessert

Banana Cake for 2 – I’m all about quick, easy, and delicious desserts, and this banana cake hits all of those points. Rather than split it into two ramekins, I just make it all together in a small dish.

Homemade apple pie – I’ve never made apple pie before and wanted to try the “lattice crust” because the finished product looks so pretty. This is an actual picture of the one I made, and the only thing that would’ve made this better would’ve been some ice cream!

Have a good day!

Sarah