Meatless Monday: Roasted Tomato Soup

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Today was menu planning day. I’ve been trying to get organized and excited about trying all the new recipes I’ve pinned on Pinterest. But, fall was in the air this morning, and nothing tastes more like fall than tomato soup and grilled cheese!

So, back to the old standby. I’ve actually been making this recipe since college. It was one of the first recipes I memorized and improvised upon.

Cream of Roasted Tomato Soup
Adapted from

Preheat oven to 450. Slice about 1 1/2 lbs of plum tomatoes, and place cut sides down in baking dish. (You can also substitute with other tomatoes on hand, but the plum tend to be a little sweeter.) Drizzle with EVOO, and sprinkle with minced garlic, freshly ground pepper, and Italian herbs. (You can use any combination of oregano, basil, and parsley. I generally use an Italian herb mix from the farmer’s market.) Roast the tomatoes until they start bubbling.

Meanwhile, chop an onion and sauté in a medium soup pot with a tablespoon or two of EVOO. Pour in about a cup of chicken broth and 1/4 cup of red wine (just use whatever you’re drinking; I always drink a glass of wine while I cook 🙂 ) Next, spoon in the tomatoes, making sure to include the cooking juices. I then use my immersion blender to chop up the tomatoes. Add a can of tomato paste and blend again. Let the soup simmer, and add in about 1/4 cup cream or half and half just before serving. Grate some Parmesan cheese on top. Serve with grilled cheese and a small salad. Delicious!


Bon appétit!

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Simplified Menu Planning with Pepperplate

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I’ll be the first to admit that I have been terrible at menu planning lately.  (What time period is the definition of “lately?”)  I actually haven’t been really good at it since I was pregnant.  I went through phases of not wanting to eat and then not wanting to cook while pregnant.  And, then after Munchkin was born, the whole process of sifting through recipes, planning a menu, actually making it to the store AND then cooking just got so cumbersome!  With my busy little bee, tasks just take so much more time to complete.  Don’t get me wrong, he is a great helper!  But, after 10 people stop in the store to wave or smile or coo at him, a 10-minute trip turns into a 30-minute trip.  Gone are the days of my notorious 3-stores-or-more shopping trips!  At any rate, I’m ready to get back in the swing of things.

I stumbled across the Pepperplate app one day when I was searching for recipe/menu/grocery list apps.  Has anyone used this one?  This will be first time using it.  It seems so great in theory!  Import your recipes, plan a menu, and get your grocery list in one spot!  I’ll let you know how it goes!

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A Hole-in-One Menu

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As I mentioned before, I chose a Southern/Masters theme for Colton’s first birthday party menu.  Here are the recipes I used:

The Southern Spread

The Southern Spread

BBQ Chicken Sandwiches

This has become a favorite meal of ours.  It’s super easy, thanks to the crock pot.  Basically, all you do is combine chicken breasts and barbeque sauce in the crockpot and set on low for 8 hours.  We have several store BBQ sauces that we like – The Fresh Market has a couple and Trader Joe’s does, too.  However, it’s hard to beat homemade sauce.  My favorite recipe is the Neely’s BBQ Sauce! (Make sure to buy a natural ketchup free of HFCS and other additives!) It smells amazing simmering on the stove.  I did try once to put the ingredients in the crock pot to avoid an extra pot and stove time, but it didn’t simmer down to the right consistency.

My favorite chicken is the all natural chicken breast from the Fresh Market. I really love their meat department, and they actually have great sales!  While I am a Costco shopper and do like their meat selection and prices as well, I am often limited on freezer space (oh, how I need an extra freezer!) and don’t always plan ahead.  Our local Fresh Market runs a $2.99 Tuesday sale that usually includes their chicken breasts.  They are always fresh-tasting and moist after cooking.

The BBQ sauce makes about 3 1/2 cups.  I cooked 6 lbs of chicken breast with probably 3 cups of BBQ sauce.  I reserved about a 1/2 cup for serving.  I should have reserved a little more!  We served the chicken with small dinner rolls from the Kroger bakery.  I actually prefer the Publix bakery, but I couldn’t fit in one more stop!  The size of the rolls were perfect for party food, but I did think they were a little dry.

Pimento Cheese Sandwiches

Pimento cheese is a new favorite of mine.  I always thought I didn’t like it, but I’ve tried a few ways recently and every time I’m surprised by how good it is!  (My favorite is the pimento cheese and corn fritters at Ormsby’s.  If you’re in Atlanta, you HAVE to check them out.  And, order the Reuben, too 🙂 ) This was my first attempt at making it myself.  My sister actually shared the recipe with me, and I should have known that it would be perfect coming from Paula Deen!  The recipe makes 3 cups.  We tripled the recipe.  I bought a package of 24 mini croissants (at Costco!), and we also had enough to serve as a dip with crackers.  (Side note:  Duke’s mayo is THE. BEST.) I’ve also gotten away from buying pre-shredded cheese.  Look at the ingredients on any packaged cheese, and you’ll find “cellulose” in the list.  It grosses me out.  I much prefer to buy a block of cheese, preferably made with milk from cows not treated with RBST, and shred it myself.  It’s amazing how much you get out of a block AND how much fresher it tastes!

Green Bean and Grilled Corn Salad

This is the perfect summer salad!  Not only does it have all the great summer vegetables, but the dressing is to die for!  I am a sucker for a Dijon vinaigrette.  (You’ll never find a bottle of salad dressing in our fridge because dressings are SO easy to make.  You really only need a little EVOO and vinegar of choice.  But, if I feel like taking the extra step of whisking together a dressing, it almost always contains Dijon mustard.) You can make the recipe exactly or just throw in whatever summer vegetables you have plus whatever cheese you have on hand.  I didn’t happen to find ricotta salata this time, and, as was the case with the rolls, could not fit in another stop, so we improvised with parmesan cheese.  WE’ve also made it with blue cheese, goat cheese, and feta before, and each time it was just as delicious!  Just make sure to use the mustard in the dressing!

Potato Chips

I love a good potato chip.  There is something so satisfying about the crunch and the salt that is left behind on your fingers!  I love that I can find kettle chips at Costco seasoned only with a little sea salt.  Only 3 ingredients: potatoes, oil and salt.  Plus, no GMOs and crinkle cut! Can’t ask for anything more in a chip 🙂

Fruit Salad

Colton LOVES his fruit!  We served green grapes, kiwi, and blueberries to coordinate with the green/blue color scheme.  Blueberries are seriously his favorite!  I served them in individual plastic cups.  I think it made a cute display.  Too bad I didn’t get any close ups of the food!

Cream Cheese with Roasted Pineapple & Habanero Sauce

We had a little cream cheese leftover from the Pimento cheese sandwiches, so decided to set out another appetizer.  This is such an easy go-to for parties!  Just set out a block of cream cheese and cover with your favorite jam, jelly, or sauce!  This salsa from Robert Rothschild is a family favorite.  You can find an industrial size jar at Costco that will last forever.  I love having something on hand that I can pull out at a moment’s notice.  Sometimes even us list-makers can forget an important detail like an appetizer! 😀

Last, but not least:  Cupcakes for dessert!

My sister made vanilla and chocolate. From. Scratch.  She’s seriously amazing!  I know she used Ina Garten recipes, although I don’t know which ones to be exact.  I’m so thankful she got the baking gene in our family!

You may have noticed my notes about no GMOs and no RBST.  Yet, I bought rolls and croissants.  My food motto is moderation.  I am very mindful of what I purchase at the store and what comes into my pantry.  I don’t have a habit of keeping packaged processed food on hand (although we have been very lax about sweets, thanks to pregnancy hormones.  Somehow my sweet tooth didn’t go away when Munchkin was born!)  I buy organic when I can find it AND when the cost is reasonable.  Produce is better than no produce, organic or not. I tend to stick to the outer aisles in the grocery store and away from the boxed and frozen meals.  We do eat out, and no, I do not look at ingredients and nutrition information at restaurants.  Sometimes, you just need to have a french fry, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about it!


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Colton’s Hole in ONE Birthday!

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I. cannot. believe. it!  Our sweet baby boy just turned one.  Where has the year gone?  While it seems impossible that the time has passed so quickly, it is easy to see how much he has grown and changed.  He really is turning into a little boy!  And, a mighty cute one at that, although I’ll admit to some mommy bias.  Newborns are precious with all of their newness, but they don’t DO much – except eat, sleep and poop.  It is so fun to watch a little personality emerge in a little human.  It’s also incredible to think that I (with the help of his Daddy 😉 ) created this life.  Babies really are miracles in their own right.  So, while I continue to reminisce about the day (after the LONG night) that he came into our lives, let me share some pictures from his 1st Birthday; It sure was a Hole in ONE!

We live in Georgia (Home of the Masters), and Hubby loves to golf.  I came across the golf theme (on Pinterest, of course!), loved the play on words, and thought it was very appropriate for our little man.  Hope Munchkin ends up liking to play because his daddy will be dragging him along to the course under the guise of father/son time whether he likes it or not!

Birdies and Eagles are fun, but Colton's 1st Birthday is sure to be a Hole in ONE!

Birdies and Eagles are fun, but Colton’s 1st Birthday is sure to be a Hole in ONE!


Back View









I used this invitation as my layout inspiration and then created my own using my (relatively) new silhouette machine.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to get a picture of Colton standing with a golf club since he is barely standing on his own.  Then, I came across this invitation and came up with a great idea for a photo shoot. First, I made him a little John John to coordinate with the invitation.  Then, Colton and I headed to the park loaded with some golf balls.  The golf balls I used for the photo shoot were actually a Sip & See gift (Thanks, Uncle Bob, for Colton’s first golf balls)!

I am very new to the Silhouette machine.  I received it as a Christmas gift from my MIL, but I didn’t get the nerve to sit down to use it until the 4th of July.  (I’ll have to do a separate post on my Independence Day crafts!)  This project required a lot of research on my part.  I was able to download a putting green design and a tee and ball design from the Silhouette Online Store.  I  was researching “print and cut” tutorials when I stumbled upon this video, which featured a double-sided card.  New idea!  I had so many great pictures from our photo shoot that I would have liked to use.  How about putting a few “extras” on the back?  Of course, my brilliant idea also created a lot more work.  The end result wasn’t perfect (Note the white space), and I’d like to experiment with some other techniques on my next project, but I think it came out pretty well for a first-timer.  Since I designed, printed, and cut the invitations myself, I decided to craft coordinating envelopes out of scrapbook paper using this tutorial. I think they look great shown all together.  (I always wish you could see the whole package when sending out coordinating stationery.  I have a couple sets of note cards that are different shapes and colors that look so cute as a package but really aren’t that exciting individually.)

Book and Guest Book Table: I checked out some golf-themed children's books from our local branch of the Atlanta library.  I LOVE the library, especially being able to put books on hold.  I can search the library's catalog online and request the copy to be sent to my local branch.  If the books are not checked out, it usually only takes a day or two.

Book and Guest Book Table

I checked out some golf-themed children’s books from our local branch of the Atlanta library. I LOVE the library, especially being able to put books on hold. I can search the library’s catalog online and request the copy be sent to my local branch. If the books are not currently checked out, it usually only takes a day or two.

Guest Book

Guest Book

I originally had the idea to combine all of Colton’s monthly photos into a book to display at his birthday party and ask guests to sign.  I had grand plans to take his 12-month photos on his actual birthday (more difficult than it seems and didn’t always happen in the early months!), collect his 12-month-pediatrician-visit stats, combine all of my monthly notes to him, and throw all of this together in time to be printed for his birthday party 3 days later. Thursday before his Saturday party, I was trying to figure out the cheapest and fastest option.  However, most of the online photo coupons are not good in stores.  After realizing the time (and money) that this “little” project was going to take, I decided to shelve it for a Christmas present instead.  Plus, I think it will be a better keepsake just coming from Mommy without other notes competing.  Hopefully, I’ll remember to start it up again more than 2 days before Christmas!  😀

I had previously come up with the book idea.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to display them, but I figured I could use them somehow for decor.  I also liked the idea of giving Colton his own party favor – a golf book to add to his library.  I did have the forethought to order one from Amazon.  After I nixed the photo book idea, I was thinking of other ways to incorporate a guest book.  I had seen a time capsule idea but had decided against adding that to his invitation.  Then, I remembered back to my travel-themed baby shower (Oh, I should definitely write a post on that!).  My hostesses had all of my guests sign a copy of Oh, The Places You’ll Go.  It made a wonderful keepsake that Hubby and I still enjoy looking at and reading to Munchkin.  Another Pinterest search came up with this idea and this one.  I combined them, along with some tweaking of my own.  I think it turned out great!

Guest Book Sign

Guest Book Sign

“Wait! Stop here if you please, And write a very special note to me.  Share a birthday wish or sign your name, So I will always remember you came.  Write your note on any page.  This is something I’ll treasure at every age!”

Mommy and Daddy on our 1 year birthdays

Mommy and Daddy on our 1 year birthdays

Who do you think Colton resembles most?!  This was actually a last-minute addition.  I was flipping through iPhoto looking for pictures to print for a closet project and came upon our wedding slideshow section.  I found several birthday photos of Hubby and thought this one might be his 1 year.  I asked my MIL for confirmation, which turned into a back and forth of more Hubby birthday photos 🙂 , and we concluded that this must be his 1st birthday.  I then asked my mom for a 1-year-old picture.  She sent me the picture that must have followed this one in sequence – me with a yogurt-covered hand in my mouth – but the quality wasn’t great, and I already had this one.  I decided to print them both out and display them somehow.  I thought I would put them on the cake table, but after it was set up, I decided it would be too distracting.  I had just thrown away a dead fern on a side table in the dining room and that ended up being the perfect spot – right next to the cake table!


Birthday Banner

Birthday Banner

The banner includes each month from his monthly photo sessions.  I had printed so many pictures from his first year and ran out of time to do something creative with them.  I ended up just spreading them around some empty tables.  We’re in the process of doing some redecorating (otherwise known as childproofing!) and have some end tables that still need some work.  Not to mention that it’s been a year since we rearranged our living room, and we JUST hung photos above the couch this week!







and more photos!

and more photos!

Party Favors

Party Favors

Party favors are tough, y’all! Obviously, it’s fun for the kiddos to take something home with them, but it is tough to find things that aren’t just junk but that don’t cost a fortune.  We had the potential of 12 kids, so you have to multiply any cute ideas times 12.  It adds up fast!  I think these turned out pretty cute, AND they didn’t break the bank.  Here’s what we ended up giving away:

Green plastic bucket (to hold all the goodies) – Dollar Tree: 2 for $1

Golf ball cups – Oriental Trading: 12 for $12

Bubbles – Dollar Tree: 3 for $1

Slinky – Dollar Tree: 2 for $1

Pinwheel – Dollar Tree: $1

Total for each favor: under $4 after tax

*I would not recommend these bubbles. I grabbed them because they were the right colors, and they were cheap, but the wands are terrible.  Instead of one big circle, the wand has several circles, so the bubbles are really small and really difficult to create.

I bought all the green pinwheels they had.  There were probably close to 20.  We used the others for decoration, including one for the flag on our putting green!

Southern Beverage Station

Southern Beverage Station

To go along with our golf theme, I focused the menu around the Masters.  We made Sweet Tea (I’ll have to share the secret ingredient I stumbled upon) and served Lemonade.  I chose not to make my own lemonade.  The thought of squeezing enough lemons to fill a drink dispenser did not sound like an efficient use of my time.  Hubby bought Simply Lemonade, and he even sliced lemons to add to it. (Yes, he thinks of everything!) We recommended Arnold Palmers ( 1/2 Sweet Tea + 1/2 Lemonade).  And, for the adults, John Dalys (Arnold Palmer + VODKA)!

Golf-themed Beverages

Golf-themed Beverages


The Southern Spread

The Southern Spread

For our Masters-themed food, we served pimento cheese sandwiches, BBQ chicken sandwiches, potato chips, green bean and corn salad, and fruit salad (green grapes, kiwi, and blueberry to go with our blue and green color scheme).

My sister graciously made Colton’s smash cake and the cupcakes (anyone who knows me knows that I DO NOT BAKE!)  She found the ideas for the cake and cupcakes on Pinterest.  We decided not to put the sand traps on the cupcakes.  She used her own recipes, though.  Colton had a chocolate cake, and we had chocolate and vanilla cupcakes.  I made the flags using my Silhouette and cupcake flag design from the online store. The design had special cutouts for inserting toothpicks.  I used a dimension of 1.5″ x 1″.  I also made a larger flag for the smash cake, and then spread out extras on the cake table, along with golf balls and tees (thanks to my sister’s suggestion!).  My sister was worried about the weight of a golf ball on the cake, so I picked up a packet of plastic practice balls at Wal-Mart.  I believe the package of 12 cost $2.



Cake Closeup

Birthday Boy listening to us sing "Happy Birthday!"

Birthday Boy listening to us sing “Happy Birthday!”




Frosting, you say?


This is pretty cool!


One happy (and messy) birthday boy!


We love this little munchkin!


Really digging in!


The aftermath!


Silly cousins with slinkies


Abigail couldn’t wait to have her picture taken with Baby Colton!


Sweet cousins


Family Photo Op


Family Photo Op


Colton on his putting green

This was Hubby’s contribution to the party decor – Home Depot’s finest astroturf!  He even cut out a hole, inserted some PVC pipe, and stuck in a pinwheel flag.  I also found these inflatable golf balls from Oriental Trading.  They came in a pack of 12 for $10.  We are still playing with them!  And, I found the red and green golf clubs at the Dollar Tree.  They were packaged with purple plastic golf balls.  We had 3 sets for the kids to play with, and we had some yellow foam practice balls.  I’m not sure how much the kiddos actually played with them, but I know they did have a blast running around outside.

Colton’s John John

I managed to throw together my second-ever John John.  I made the John John for his invitation picture using my embroidery machine and my mom’s Johnny pattern.  I wanted to make a golf-themed John John for his party.  I found this adorable applique pattern from Applique Ahoy on Etsy.  This was my first applique, and while I did learn some lessons that I’ll have to apply on my next project, it did turn out pretty well.  Thanks to the great instructions included with the design!  I also found a tutorial for the Johnny pattern that really helped simplify the construction.  Much easier than the instructions included with the pattern.  My mom did have to sew on the buttons as soon as she got to the house to help set up for the party, but don’t look too closely because I didn’t have the button holes centered!

Happy 1st Birthday!

Happy 1st Birthday!

I think our birthday boy had a blast at his Hole-in-ONE Party!


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