Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Meet Archer

So we did it. 
We got a new puppy!!

Everyone, I introduce to you Archer. 


He's 9 pounds of pure love and energy. 
If you follow me on Facebook, and as some of you may know, our beloved Oscar P passed away a few weeks ago. He was 11 years old and meant the world to us. It was one of the most difficult times I have ever been through, and I know B can agree. 
We felt a void.. and as if we still had a lot more love to give. 

Last Saturday, B and I (along with my niece) drove to the Dallas Animal Services shelter. We saw Napoleon (which we later renamed to Archer) on their website. He looked like a puppy version of Oscar.
We waited a few days, slept on it a couple of nights, but neither one of us could stop thinking about him. 
So we did it. We committed to a little bundle of puppy joy. 
I was able to capture a few photos of him and I couldn't wait to share. 


After we introduced him to our families and adjusted to having a new puppy in the house, it's officially "official".

The first day we brought Archer home.
So, if you follow along on instagram, or Twitter, get ready for puppy picture (and video) overload. He's just so cute not to share. 

So far, Archer loves to run in his big yard and chase the other 2 little dogs around. He's a great helper with picking up pine cones for me, and he loves to cuddle. I hope that never changes.

He has brought me so much joy in just these short few days. He's simply full of puppy breath kisses, and he has me wrapped around his little bitty paw.

I'll be signing off for the next couple of days to enjoy time with family , loved ones, and of course my pup during the Holidays.
Wishing you all the happiness and joy during the Thanksgiving season.

amanda signature

Friday, November 21, 2014

Check me out over at TXWB

Hey y'all.  
Head on over the Texas Women Bloggers today where I'll be posting a fun new recipe for Foodie Friday -  Texas Southern Sausage Bread. It's a southern twist on a classic tradition. I hope you all enjoy! And, while you're there, be sure to browse around - us Texas women have a lot of (great) things to say :)

sausage bread

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend. 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Five Faves Friday (Vol. 16)

five faves

- ONE - 
Winter Weather - Winter has finally arrived in Texas. And, it's bringing the serious with it. We have temps in 30's and it might even show a little snow this weekend. I know. Say whaaaatt?!

- TWO - 
Farm to Table Blogger's Dinner - I am so excited that this weekend has finally come. I will be joining several other Texas Women Blogger's for a feast this Saturday. We will be attending a special farm-to-table dinner hosted by Urban Acres Farms. I am so excited to check them out as well as meet some fabulous Texas Ladies, who happen to be bloggers too! It's sure to be a fabulous time!

Image// VIA

Now, onto what I am going to wear... 

- THREE - 
New Lip Color - I am loving my new Fall lip color from Mary Kay. It's called Apple Berry and it's all sorts of perfect for Fall and Winter. This picture is particularly creepy, but I had to share. PS - Please do not drive and take selfies. I at least waited until I was stopped at a red light. Safety first, people. 

- FOUR - 
Newest Food Blogger @ TWB - I have been given the honor to help host a "Foodie Friday" edition on Texas Women Blogger's, once a month. I am so excited to expand to other bloggers and readers and can't wait to share some special food creations. Stay tuned, as I will let you know when my first Foodie Friday post is up!

- FIVE - 
#WineWedensday Wine Glass Swap - Yay! The wine glass swap is officially underway. Registration closed on Wednesday and we have some great people signed up! I'm working on getting everyone together with their partners and should have those out no later than tomorrow. This is going to be such a fun swap and I can't wait to see everyone's goodies. Yay! for new wine glasses and new friends. Cheers!! {If you still want to sign up send an email to arhicks0427@gmail.com. I will be taking last minute sign up through today only (Friday, November 14th)}. 

Wishing each of you a Fun & Fabulous Weekend. Stay warm out there.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

10 Tips for Thanksgiving EXCELLENCE

thanksgiving tips

Last November, B and I decided it was time to start doing Thanksgiving at our house. (You can read all about it here) Normally, we would split our time between multiple families and houses... and although it's great to squeeze in seeing your entire family (on both sides), it's also super nice to just be able to enjoy your own home for the Holidays and not mess with travel. Plus, you now have the option to invite said family members to your place for a nice change of pace. Especially if you've recently purchased your own home.

Sometimes, I think, Thanksgiving gets a bad wrap, especially if it's to be held at your house.
I honestly think, Thanksgiving should be embraced, especially if it's to be held at your house.

I mean, is cooking, eating, drinking, and being festive with family and loved ones really all that bad after all?!

No, of course not! So back to last year... Although Thanksgiving "our way" was an exciting gesture, I still had some pretty big shoes to fill. I pondered about what dishes to make. How to prepare them. Who to invite. Would it even be any GOOD???! The list went on and on.

So in my reflection of last year, and my eager anticipation of doing it all over again this year. I decided to come up with a list of 10 tips to help anyone (newbie or novice) during the craziness of the Thanksgiving season. So sit back, relax, and let's have some Thanksgiving FUN.

10 Tips for Thanksgiving Excellence

1. Decide what you're cooking. Then decide what you're not cooking (i.e. picking up and/or having guests bring). Make a list of items to be served throughout the day and delegate items to guests if your "Thanksgiving to-do list(s)" starts to become overwhelming. Also, if you know you're not the best, at let's say: baking an Apple Pie, then don't stress over baking one. Ask a family member or friend to bring one (homemade or store bought).

2. Compile (and file) ALL of your recipes to be used in one folder/ notebook/ file. This is so that all of your Turkey Day recipes are all readily available to flip back in forth when you're cooking "on all four burners".
(here's a hint: buy a notebook from the $ store, pick up some page-protectors, found here, and compile a system full of recipes you'll be using within the binder. Then, put them in order of what's being cooked & served first, if you have time)
Compiling & Filing Your Recipes serves two purposes: First, it helps to "protect" your printed recipes from greasy-fingers or food splatters. Next, it also helps to be able to quickly flip back & forth between recipes. Tip: Start compiling those recipes into one place, NOW!

3. Make a cooking timeline. Anything that you can make ahead of time (Wednesday night) do it. Then work backwards. If you know the Turkey needs to thaw out and then cook for 5 hours, plan your schedule accordingly. This will help you determine when to throw your casseroles in the oven, and when to start boiling those potatoes, without waiting on things to cook or cause any delay. Remember, you'll have to adjust cooking temps too, so try to pair same cooking temp items together, if possible.

4. Chop your vegetables the day before you begin cooking... anything. Literally, the night before you begin cooking chop the veggies you picked-up. Then store them in large freezer bags. Save a few stalks of celery, pieces of onions and/or a carrot or two carrot if you want to make them an addition in cooking your turkey. Now, once you begin cooking you can simply measure out how much 'chopped' celery, onion, peppers, etc you need and then GO! This will shave off SO much prep time, as well as clean-up from your Thanksgiving cooking preparation. Easy storage, easy access, and easy if you need a pinch more here and there.

5. Make arrangements to order AND pick up your turkey - I know this might seem like a no-brainer, but seriously Turkey's sell-out.. & fast. So at least order it (if possible) before they're all gone, like maybe today. Then make sure you have time in your cooking timeline to go get it, or send the hubby and brother to pick it up (like yours truly). AND
Remember, make sure you have space to store (and thaw, if need) the turkey. I thawed ours in large, wrapped, disposable tins in our garage where temps were cool enough to persevere it.

6. Make a grocery list & pick everything up the weekend before Thanksgiving week. If you're anything like me you'll forget something from the store, but won't be rushing out last minute to find that all the cornbread stuffing (that you NEED) is sold out. Use the week to gather any extra items left off the list and do your best to avoid the crowds.

7. Invest in some "inexpensive" food storage - Food Storage Containers, freezer bags - all different sizes. Do this well before Thanksgiving prep to ensure you have enough storage for chopped and sliced veggies (like mentioned in #4) and other items made ahead of time. You can also use these to send home leftovers with guests without worrying about using you're "good" storage containers. This way your guests won't need to return these.

8., Use disposables - Especially, if you're uninterested in lots and lots of clean up. (No judgement here) But let's face it: Thanksgiving clean-up is the pits. It's okay to not use every single casserole dish in your cupboards. Use disposable baking tins, like these and simply toss them out once you're finished cooking in them. You can always plate things on your fancier dishes later.

9. Deep clean your Kitchen. Sanitize your sink. Clean your oven. Wash all of your dishes and put them away so they're readily available and your dishwashers is free for dirty dishes, then * load as you go *

10. Lastly, Enjoy yourself!! - Realize that somethings may not turn out as planned. Don't stress! The holidays should be a fun time among those you love. Don't panic if you burned your "biscuits" (or dinner rolls). Understand that glasses get broken, bowls get shattered.. and that's perfectly okay! Also, keep in mind, schedules may get thrown off a little (guests hit traffic, or your wine consumption distracts you - as Juan Pablo would say: iss okayyy). Sit back, relax, and enjoy Thanksgiving.

So how are YOU spending Thanksgiving this year? Are you hosting or going? What tips do you have to offer?

amanda signature

PS - Tomorrow is the LAST day to sign up for our #WineWednesday Wine Glass Swap. All the details and registration can be found here.

Also, a very special THANK YOU to our Veterans. Thank you for your service and scarifies so that we can live in freedom in this beautiful country. I appreciate you today and everyday. Thank you. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Jalapeno Pimento Cheese

jalapeno pimento cheese

Y'all, I have a true affinity for Cheese. White cheese, yellow cheese, Pepper-Jack cheese.... Shredded cheese, Cubed cheese, Nacho cheese... you name it! Anything with the word cheese in it is always at the top of my list!

When we first moved to the GBC I had been told by several women from my women's group to try a local "eatery"/ "tea room"/ "deli", but I had to catch them while they're open. The quaint restaurant/shop is only open a couple of days out of the week AND just for a few hours each day (mostly just open for lunch). The tea room has a strictly limited, but very delicious menu. Fine by me. I  truly think places that have a smaller menu means everything on the menu is their "specialty".

One day I was able to make it into the tea room a couple of hours before they closed for the day. And as I sipped on some fruit infused tea I browsed the menu options. One of the items listed on the menu was their Jalapeno Pimento Cheese and Bacon sandwich. Think of a BLT but without the L or the T and replace those with spicy Pimento Cheese. Say whaaaaaaat?! Where has this been my whole life?! Bacon + Cheese in between some sandwich bread, and I'm all in.

One bite and I was sold. As soon as I took that first bite I knew I would want to come back for more.. and more.. and more, but I was super limited with their hours of operation. Total bummer.

So, being the problem solver I am, into the kitchen I went for a little recipe development...so to say.

I kept telling B about this wondrous Bacon and Jalapeno Pimento Cheese sandwich, and I assured him it was the best thing that has ever happened to me! Well, besides him, of course! And my kittens. And, my puppies. But you get the idea. This sandwich freaking rocked my world, and my mouth off! I kept telling him: "Babe, you HAVE to try this sandwich"... "You don't know true love until you've tried this sandwich"... "Come on Babe! Don't you want this sandwich too!?"

With little response... I took it as a "yes, honey please make me this amazing sandwich you speak of"

So, since I'm SO happy to please, I knew first things first! I had to create the Perfect Jalapeno Pimento Cheese - I had the bacon part down, and after all, it's the Pimento Cheese that makes this sandwich so spectacular.

jalapeno pimento cheese

Once, I made it, I knew I could use it in various areas of my life. 
For example, I took as a dip to a party I recently hosted. (#perfectpartydip)
I also just ate it in spoonfuls (#noshame)
And, then, y'all.. then, I made the sandwich. (see below)

So there are a couple of things that really make this pimento cheese so great. 
First, you must make it with freshly GREATed cheese. (see what I did there?) Takes a couple of minutes to grate your own, but makes all the difference. 
I used a medium block of sharp Cheddar cheese (approx. 2 cups shredded cheese)

grated cheese

Also, be sure to use fresh, seeded jalapenos.
Use 2 small, or 1 large jalapeno(s), finely chopped.

You'll also need some mayonnaise, cream cheese, and, well, Pimentos!

Once you mix all the ingredients together be sure to place in the fridge for half and hour or so to chill.

Then, to compile your B+JPC sandwich:
use toasted wheat bread
slather on the Jalapeno Pimento Cheese (JPC)
 then top with cooked (crispy) bacon (B)

pimento cheese and bacon

pimento cheese and bacon

pimento cheese and bacon

Then, eat eat eat! 
 Then tell the world how Jalapeno Pimento Cheese has changed your life for the better. 

And, if you're looking for something a little lighter, you can also stuff this Jalapeno Pimento Cheese in Celery Sticks like I did here.

Jalapeno Pimento Cheese

jalapeno pimento cheese
by: Amanda Hicks (recipe adapted from allrecipes.com)
Makes 3 cups

  • 2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 large jalapeno pepper (or 2 small), seeded and finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 (4 ounce) jar diced pimento, drained
  • garlic salt and black pepper to taste
  • Using a rubber spatula combine all ingredients into a large bowl, until mixed well. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 1/2 hour to chill. Serve cold

amanda signature

Monday, November 3, 2014

I've Been Nominated!

Image// via
If you've been following along, you'll know that I began Fun In The Oven
 (FITO) Blog  almost a year ago (last November). Yay!

I have grown and learned so much as a new blogger. I have met some incredible people, made some amazing connections, and have been afforded some really cool opportunities, all through blogging.

When I started FITO Blog I simply wanted a creative outlet, and a simple way to share easy and delicious recipes with friends and family. Never did I image that my blog would grown into something truly special and that I love doing.

One of the coolest perks about blogging is connecting with other bloggers and like minded people. One of those FUN ways is being nominated for the Liebster Award.

I was nominated as a recipient of the Liebster Award by THREE (yes! 3!) incredible bloggers: Natalie from Polka Dots and Pampers, Shelby from Shelby Clarke Blog, and Neive from The Aussie Osborns.

I am thrilled to be nominated, and love the potential to connect with even more bloggers!!
The award is given for bloggers with less than 200 followers, and nomination are received from other bloggers.
(How Cool! I know!)

I have been provided and challenged to answer the 11 questions below, then I will nominate another 11 bloggers to answer the same questions and post them to their blog.

1. How did you decided on the title of your blog?

I decided on Fun In The Oven Blog as a set of play on words. I knew when I started blogging that I wanted my blog to be centered around fun times and food. So Fun In The Oven Blog was born.

2. What one word sums up the heart of your blog and why?

Well that's easy... FUN. I want the time people spend in their kitchen and around a dinner table to be FUN! I want them to enjoy the food they're making, make it with love, and then enjoy it. I don't think that cooking should be a chore. Why not enjoy it, and enjoy it with the ones you love?! 

3. What's your favorite pastime other than blogging?

What?! There's pastimes other than blogging??
I kid. 

But seriously, between blogging, teaching college courses, and being a graduate student, pastimes are the furthest thing from my mind on a daily basis. I constantly have to be doing something "productive". Not that pastimes can't be productive too.
However, I do enjoy cooking as a pastime, and spending time with my family (but only if we get to eat) :)
I also enjoy gardening, and learning new things (like I just learned calligraphy - newest pastime/ hobby)

4. What is your favorite aspect of blogging?

Oh my goodness, there has been so much joy that blogging has brought me. I really enjoy connecting with readers and other bloggers. I love creative writing so I enjoy the writing part of blogging too. Photography has been a small hobby of mine so editing and taking beautiful photos really gets me going. I also truly enjoy sharing recipes and knowing that the food will be simple to make yet yummy!

5. What recipe, project, or idea on my blog would you most like to try yourself?

I am loving Natalie's Color Combo to Try. I love grey and pink and those two look great together. It's a must-do on my list.
I love the Dog Nutrition and Pet Ownership Tips found on Shelby's blog. I can't wait to try some of those tips and tricks on my fur babies. 
I am totally going to try Neive's recipe for Benn's Vanilla Cookies. Don't those just sound divine? I love me a good cookie recipe! Perfect for my Food Blogger's Cookie Swap coming up. Neive's also got some great creative cooking posts. Right up my alley.

6. Where does your blog inspiration come from?

My inspiration first comes from my mother, who is hands down one of the best cooks on Earth. Then I love to peruse recipes in cookbooks and from other bloggers. I love watching cooking shows - so I gather inspiration from those. And, eating, lot's of eating. I love to try new places to eat and if I like what I have I try to recreate it in my home.

7. What one country in the world would you like to visit? Why?

Does a region work? I would LOVE to "backpack" through Europe and Spain. I think there is so much to see and do. It would need to be a very extended vacation so I could visit all the coastlines, quaint eateries, and historical landmarks. Sounds fabulous! I also really want to take an Alaskan Cruise. 

8. If you have children, what are their names? If not, what are your favorite boy and girl names?

No children, and none anytime soon. I am very superstitious so I don't know how comfortable I feel sharing THE names, since I think it will jinx something - we are working really hard in the kiddo department, but have not been blessed with one yet. I do have some names picked out, but I don't want to share... I know I am lame. I feel that is something truly special between the parents and family, I don't want to blast it out to the world. However, I have some more pet names picked out... like: Professor, Buttons, Boots, and Rooster. Cute, right?!

9. A long lost relative leaves you a large sum of money. What do you do with it?

First of all, if possible I would THANK them. Then I would pay off all of our debt. Buy my husband a nice shiny new truck, purchase some ranch land, and a house on the California coast. Then I want to open/ establish a non for profit organization that helps feed kids/ families in need. I would also like to open up a no kill animal shelter. I'd use the money to give back. And, maybe open a restaurant. 

10. In your opinion, what is the best blog post you've written so far? (Include the link!)

Oh man, this is a tough one. There's just so many that I've enjoyed writing and making. Recently, I posted a simple recipe for Mini Pumpkin Pie Bites. But a couple more of my favorite recipes are my Sriracha Shrimp Salad &  Herbed Cheese- Stuffed Steaks w/ Shallot and Red Wine Reduction.

11. What is your favorite food?

I have to pick just one?!
Then I'll have to pick Italian food.
That covers most of my favorites. I love pasta and a good pizza.
I love anything stuffed too (ravioli's, shells, etc). oh yea, and WINE! ;)

So there ya have it! I have officially accepted my award.

Next up are my nominations (based on number of Facebook followers for their blog page):

1. Jennifer @ Texas Weekends Count

2. Shayna @ The Fancy Yancey

3. Kara @ I'm Note Snow White

4. Diana @ Diana's Guide to Life

5. Alexandra @ With a heart in danger

6. Barbara @ Nickely Challenged

7. Laura @ The Accidental Mama

8. Breanna @ Faith N Coffee

9. Rich & Celeste @ A Thing Called Love

10. Chelsea + Leah @ Life, Love + Coffee Stains

11. Jessica @ Something Whimsy

Now, How-to Accept your Award:

  • Answer the 11 questions given to you by the person that nominated you (see below)
  • Comment on this post with your link when you're Leibster Award post is up on your blog, so I can see your answers!
  • In your post, be sure to link back to the person and blog that nominated you and give a little thank you shout out
  • After completing the questions, nominate 11 Bloggers of your choice with under 200 followers on the social media platform of your liking, and provide a link to your post so that they know where to go/ what to do.

Here are your 11 questions (I loved the questions I was given, so I'm giving them back to you):

  1. How did you decide on the title of your blog?
  2. What is one word that sums up the heart of your blog and why?
  3. What's your favorite pastime other than blogging?
  4. What is your favorite aspect of blogging?
  5. Which recipe, project, or idea on my blog would you most like to try yourself?
  6. Where does your blog inspiration come from?
  7. What is one country in the world you would like to visit and why?
  8. If you have children, what are their names? If not, what are your favorite boy & girl names?
  9. 9. A long lost relative leaves you a large sum of money. What do you do with it?
  10. In your opinion, what is the best blog post you've written so far? (Include the link)
  11. What is your favorite food?
 Congratulations, Bloggers! I loved finding your blogs and I will continue to read them! :)

Thank you again to Natalie, Shelby, and Neive for the nominations, I had fun sharing a little bit more about myself and reading your blogs!