As you sit down at the Thanksgiving table this week, look around at your friends, neighbors and loved ones. Thanksgiving is such a great holiday because there’s no pressure (well, other than making the perfect meal). Gifts aren’t expected and it’s all about being together and having fun. What if, this December, instead of giving out physical gifts, you gave the gift of experience instead? Making memories with the people you cherish will last a lifetime – much longer than that new tablet, toy or tie.
The gift of experience can range from a handwritten “ticket” with a promise of snuggle time with your kids, to a tropical vacation for the whole family. Be creative! Here are some ideas if you’re not sure where to start.
- Go to the theater. Houston’s Theater District boasts some of the best venues and performances in the nation. Holiday-themed shows include The Nutcracker, with it’s recently redesigned set and costumes, it’s a spectacular visual experience. A Christmas Carol, the traditional story of Scrooge and redemption, is great for older children, teens and adults. Elf The Musical, with lovable Buddy, the full-sized man raised in Santa’s workshop, is great for the younger set. Give an early gift of tickets to one of these shows and get in the spirit! Or, put tickets under the tree and see Shen Yun at the end of the month – it’s a beautiful display of dance, music and storytelling from ancient China.
- Attend a concert. Cher and Bocelli will both be in town in December. January has more big names like Chance the Rapper, Gladys Knight and Queensryche – how’s that for some diversity?!
- Plan a last-minute vacation. By using discount sites like Groupon, Southwest Airlines Vacations or Travelocity, you can book a great trip for a great deal. Your kids will always remember the Christmas spent on that tropical island or mountain top! If you want to put tickets under the tree, book a ski trip for a long weekend in January or visit Disney in February (traditionally the least-busy time of year).
- Make a coupon book for a hike at George Bush park, a trip to the indoor Schlitterbahn in Galveston, or a family game of football in the backyard.
It’s the little things that mean the most, and in this season of giving, why not give a gift the giver can enjoy, too?
Just in time for Thanksgiving in a few weeks, we want to feature a recipe for one of everyone’s favorite dishes during this time of year, a sweet potato casserole. This is a side dish that is perfect to put out during Thanksgiving dinner or bring to a Friendsgiving get together. Sweet potato Casserole is sweet and filling, and this recipe is easy to whip up in under forty minutes!
- 2 pounds sweet potatoes
- 2 large eggs
- 2 tbsp butter
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ¼ tsp of salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 3 tbsp flour
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp butter (melted & cooled)
- ¼ cup chopped pecans
- Butter a 2-quart size casserole dish and set aside. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Wash, peel and dice the sweet potatoes. Cook in a pot with water until soft.
- Drain and mash the cooked potatoes. Make the casserole by adding the butter, brown sugar, vanilla, ¼ teaspoon salt, and eggs. Mix well with a whisk and spread the mixture evenly in the casserole dish.
- In a separate bowl, prepare the topping by mixing the brown sugar, flour, salt, and chopped pecans. Add the melted butter and stir in with a fork until a crumbly dough begins to form.
- Sprinkle the crumble topping over the potato mixture in the casserole dish.
- Bake the casserole for 25 minutes. If you’d like to add mini marshmallows, add them at the end, then place the dish back in the oven for about 5 minutes, until just toasted.
- Let it cool and serve!
If you need to reheat the casserole before serving, cover the dish with aluminum foil to prevent the topping from burning. Bake at 300 degrees for around 15 minutes.
Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Are you ready? Whether you’re hosting or not, here are some tips to make your holiday run smoothly so you can focus on what really matters – the people and moments you’re thankful for.
You’ve got everything you need from the grocery store, but oops! You forgot the gravy! Gravy is the most often overlooked Thanksgiving dinner item, yet it’s crucial to the meal. Never fear – whip up some gravy with this simple recipe and your guests will never be the wiser.
- Mix one cup turkey broth with the drippings from the bottom of the turkey roasting pan over low heat.
- Add corn starch or flour as you whisk until thickened, one teaspoon at a time.
- Add seasonings to taste.
- The secret ingredient: one tablespoon soy sauce.
Who has time to peel potatoes? Not you! Boil your potatoes whole, then shock them in a bowl of ice water after you’re sure they’re soft. When cool enough, simply use your hands to slide the skin right off. Estimated time savings – 30 to 60 minutes.
Speaking of potatoes, have you ever heard of putting them through the dishwasher? Forget hand scrubbing, just throw those spuds on the racks and run it on “rinse only” cycle (no soap!). If you have temperature control, use cold water. If not, put them in the refrigerator immediately after the cycle finishes to cool and prevent them from becoming soggy. More estimated time savings of another hour or more.
Lots of guests coming? Put your kids to work making place cards. They’re off school for a whole week, why not give them a helpful task? A bit of glue, some construction paper, stickers and crayons will make for some unique and conversation-stimulating seating guides. If you’re really brave, assign them to the centerpieces, too.
What to do with the leftover cranberry sauce? Try this tasty libation courtesy of Oola.com. Mix an ounce of bourbon with an ounce of cranberry and Amaretto in a cocktail glass, then top it off with ice and ginger ale for a seasonal tipsy treat!
Here in Texas, we love Mexican food. Enchiladas are a favorite- a delicious and filling dish beloved by so many. When your next craving hits, try making some of your own at home! Made with minimal ingredients, this recipe makes for a great meal that is sure to be healthier than enchiladas from a restaurant.
– 1 small white onion, peeled and diced
– 1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, diced into small 1/2-inch pieces
– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1 (4-ounce) can diced green chiles
– sea salt and black pepper
– 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
– 8 large flour tortillas
– 3 cups Mexican-blend shredded cheese
– 1 can red enchilada sauce
– Optional toppings: fresh cilantro, chopped red onions, diced avocado, avocado, or sour cream
- Preheat your oven to 350
- Heat up the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and sauté for about three minutes. Next, add in your diced chicken and green chiles, and season with salt and pepper. Stir and cook for about 8 minutes, until the chicken is cooked. Lastly, stir in the drained and rinsed beans, then remove the pan from heat.
- Now it’s time to assemble. First, prepare a baking pan (roughly 9 x 13 inches) with cooking spray. Layout a tortilla, and spread two tablespoons of red enchilada sauce over the surface. Add a little more than a spoonful of the enchilada mixture in the middle, and sprinkle with ⅓ cup of cheese. Roll up the tortilla and place it in the dish. Repeat with all your tortillas.
- Spread any remained enchilada sauce and cheese on top. Bake uncovered for about 20 minutes, are until the tortillas look slightly golden and crispy. Serve enchiladas while directly after taking out of the oven so they’re warm and garnish with any desired toppings!
You can store any leftovers in a sealed container for up to 3 days (but we bet you won’t have any!)