Sunday, December 1, 2013

Holiday Hassle?-How to make your holiday more enjoyable!

Holiday Hassle ?!??!?!

    It is the final night of a four day "vacation" for a lot of us.  Are you laughing like a movie character in an insane asylum, in the running for an Oscar???  Are you dreading the final dash to New Years Day, thinking "Oh, dear Lord, how will I ever make it???..."How will I ever get it all done???" ..."When am I going to sleep, eat, & heaven forbid; take care of ME???"?  Well let me help you out with that!
   Notice the common pronoun in all of those questions in the paragraph above? Yep, "I"!  Well "I"; I am about to rock your world.  YOU do NOT have to do it all!!!!!!! I am not sure when the "to do" list got put mostly on "I's" plate, but it is time to change.  Holidays are meant to be SHARED! Not just the fun par,t but ALL of it. 
   Make a list of the things that need to be done (tree, cleaning, decorating, presents, cookies, cooking, holiday parties...etc.)  Call the family together and ask what everyone wants to do to help.  No seriously stop laughing.  Oh, they don't want to help.  NO PROBLEM.  Cross it off your list.  If they don't want to help, then it is not that important to them.  Of course this does not apply to very small children, but if they are in grade school they can follow simple directions and they can help!  Oh it won't be "perfect", you pout.  Well you have two choices; you can do it yourself, have it "perfect" and be too tired and stressed to enjoy it, or you can let them do it, which gives them life skills, a sense of accomplishment, and you a few extra minutes to breath, sleep, or do something for "I".
   If you are thinking I am out of my ever loving mind, I am not, but I was at the end of my rope and stressed to the point I was....well let's just say, less than pleasant.  One of my boys said to me, "If it makes you this unhappy and stressed then why do you do it???"  Well out of the mouths of babes!  And I had no answer for my child.  I just kept thinking "Why do "I" do it?"  It was tradition, I needed to be a good mom and provide the "perfect" experiences for my children.  But what I realized was that I was not doing what was right for me or my family.  I was stressed, cranky, unhappy, snapping at everyone, and in a nut shell ruining those "perfect" experiences I was striving so hard to make. It was time for things to change!
   So we sat down with the "to do" list as a family and took a long hard look at it.  Fully decorating the house, I live with all males, not important.  However, the tree was.  Holiday parties, again all guys, they confessed there were some they dreaded attending.  This one was especially hard but a simple "I am so sorry, we love you very much, but will not be able to attend." was given.  Cookies, I used to bake tons of different kinds, starting often in October.  My family only really cared for a few, so now everyone gets to pick 2 varieties and I am done.  Yes, there are lots of people that no longer get cookies from the Withrow's for Christmas, as sad as that is, the reward is more family time and ultimately a happier mom.  The list goes on but you get the idea.  I am not saying it was easy and it was definitely a process.  However, the entire family is so much happier and content during the holiday season and no longer look at it as a list of things we really do not want to do. 
   Please remember just because you have always done it, does not mean you must continue.  If you all/most want to do it and they are willing to pitch in, by all means continue.  You may find that after not doing some things, they may miss them, and then be willing to help out.  My experience was the less we crammed in, the less we felt we needed to do.  This has led to lots of time for pajama days, family movies and games, and putting the focus back where it needs to be on family and most importantly Christ!  Holidays were meant to be shared and enjoyed.  By sharing ALL of the holiday, you give your family the freedom to actually grow together, learn to support each other, and most importantly you will teach your children how to truly have happy holidays when they grown and become the "I".   We now have the time and energy to open our home, hearts, and wallets and really make a difference, not only in our lives but in the lives of others as well.  After all Jesus is the reason for season, and how can you do Him justice if you are miserable and ugly?
   Wishing you a carefree and Merry Christmas!
    Crystal K. Withrow

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Wing Sauces

Updating blog with a picture. 

It is Super Bowl time and at the Withrow house that means wings….at LOTS of them!  Below are two of the best wing sauces I a have found.  My guys like the TGI Friday Sauce and my home brewed Sweet Baby Ray’s Smokey Chipotle BBQ Sauce (yes they have since came out with their own but I have yet to taste it.).  Grab your fire extinguisher and get to cookin’!

By the way I bake my wings instead of deep frying and buy the skinless ones when I can find them.  They still taste great and no one misses the extra grease and calories.  Also I have a really good low-fat blue cheese dip that I will post as well.

TGI Fridays Buffalo Wing Sauce
All around great buffalo wing sauce

·        1   cup ketchup
·        ½  cup + 2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce
·        ¼  cup Worcestershire sauce (I used Lea & Perines which is, to the best of my knowledge gluten-free)
·        2   tablespoons garlic powder
·        1   tablespoon salt (if desired)
·        3  tablespoons canola oil

·         Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.  
·         Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. If you want extra for dipping remove it now.
·         Line a shallow baking pan with heavy duty aluminum foil, add chicken, place in pre-heated oven and bake for 20- 25 minutes or until done.
·         Remove from oven, turn oven to broil, remove wings from pan, remove all liquid from pan and replace wings.
·         Toss wings with 1/3 of sauce broil 2-3 minutes, remove add more sauce, broil another 2-3 minutes, repeat with remainder of sauce.
·         If you reserved some sauce for dipping either microwave it, or place it in a small sauce pan and heat until warm.
Source: I found this recipe years ago in a magazine…the original was used until it was practically no longer readable and I did not copy the source when I copied the recipe.

Sweet Baby Ray’s Smokey Chipotle BBQ Sauce
Sweet, smooth, and smokey….followed by a nice hot kick !

·         2      cups Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ Sauce (or BBQ Sauce of your choice)
·         1 ½  cups dark brown sugar, packed
·         1      tablespoon chipotle chili powder  *** this makes a very spicy sauce so you can use more or less to suit your personal heat needs.

·         Place all ingredients in a medium heavy bottom non-stick sauce pan and heat over medium-low heat until sugar is dissolved stirring frequently.  Remove a little for extra dipping sauce if desired.
·         Line a shallow baking pan with heavy duty aluminum foil, add chicken, place in pre-heated oven and bake for 20- 25 minutes or until done.
·         Remove from oven, turn oven to broil, remove wings from pan, remove all liquid from pan and replace wings.
·         Toss wings with 1/3 of sauce broil 2-3 minutes, remove add more sauce, broil another 2-3 minutes, repeat with remainder of sauce.
·         Serve with extra dipping sauce if desired.
Source:  I wanted sweet AND spicy wings so this is what I started mixing and my boys rave about this sauce. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Buttermilk Baked Chicken Goes Gluten Free

Buttermilk Baked Chicken Goes Gluten Free

This recipe is one of my family’s absolute favorites!  What’s not to love???  This is comfort food at its best…Crispy baked chicken, creamy mashed potatoes, and awesome rich homemade gravy. 

·         1       (3-4 lb) cut up chicken
·                cups  plus 4 ounces buttermilk, divided (1 cup and 12 oz)
·         2-3    tablespoons of hot sauce, like Franks
·         Cooking Spray
·         ¼      cup butter or margarine
·         1 ½   cups of Gluten Free Kentucky Kernel Flour**
·         1      2.65 ounce packet of Gluten Free Full Flavor Cream of Soup mix*** 


**If you cannot find Gluten-Free Kentucky Kernel Flour you can substitute 1 ½ cups of gluten-free rice blend flour, 1 tablespoon of chicken seasoning, and ½ - 1 teaspoon of ground black pepper.

***If you cannot find Gluten-Free Full Flavor Cream Soup Mix you can to this website and make your own.

·         Place chicken in a gallon zip top plastic bag.  Combine 1 cup of buttermilk and hot sauce; pour over chicken, remove as much air from bag as possible and close bag tightly.  Place bag in refrigerator and marinate at least 2 hours or up to overnight, turning bag occasionally making sure chicken is coated by buttermilk mixture.
·         Heat oven to 425 degrees.  Lightly coat a 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish with cooking spray, place butter in baking dish, place dish in oven until butter is melted.
·         Meanwhile place Gluten-Free Kentucky Kernel Flour in a clean gallon size zip top bag.  Remove chicken from buttermilk mixture, letting excess liquid drip off.  Place chicken 1 – 2 pieces at a time in zip top bag with flour and shake to coat.  Place chicken skin side down in prepared baking dish.  Discard left over buttermilk mixture.
·         Bake chicken for 25 minutes, Turn chicken and bake 10 minutes more.
·         Stir together remaining cup and 4 ounces (12oz) of buttermilk and cream of soup mixture; remove chicken from oven, and add cream of soup mixture.  Bake 10 minutes more or until gravy is hot and bubbling.  Shield chicken with aluminum foil to prevent excess browning if necessary.  Remove chicken from baking dish, and being very careful, stir gravy well scraping up all the little bits and pieces from the bottom of the pan.  Drizzle gravy over chicken and mashed potatoes.

·         I usually use two packets of cream of soup mix and 2 cups + 4 ounces (3 cups) of buttermilk.  My hubby LOVES this gravy and he doesn’t usually care for gravy. 
If you like mushroom gravy like I do you can add mushroom fresh or cooked to the gravy mix when you return it to the oven.
         If you would like to cut some fat and calories you can omit the butter, coat the baking pan with extra cooking spray and then coat the chicken with cooking spray as well.  
·         If your family does not like gravy on their chicken you can bake it for 15-20 minutes after turning, remove it from the pan to a plate and keep warm.  Then add the soup mixture to the baking pan and return it to the oven and bake until hot and bubbly.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Asiago Pesto Chicken Panini
(makes 2 sandwiches)


1 boneless skinless chicken breast (seasoned with salt& pepper)

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 tablespoons  pesto  [Basil Pesto Recipe]

4  Asiago cheese, divided

4 slices hearty bread (I used Udi’s Gluten-Free whole grain bread)

Cooking spray
Season chicken breast with salt & pepper

 In a small frying pan sauté chicken in olive oil until just done, and golden in color on both sides. 

 Remove pan from heat and remove chicken. 

Slice chicken and return to pan with pesto and toss until warm and chicken is coated being sure to scrape all the browned bits out of the bottom of the skillet. 
Place a clean skillet over medium high heat.   Spray one side of a slice of bread with cooking spray. {I generally lean toward all natural but my oil mister bought the farm and I have yet to get another}  Personally I prefer to mist my bread in lieu of using butter because it browns more evenly and is less greasy. 

Place bread in skillet, add 2 tablespoons of the cheese,

 ½ of the chicken mixture, and top with another slice of bread with the outside misted with cooking spray.  

Press down on sandwich with a spatula.  When it is a nice golden brown flip the sandwich and repeat.  If you have a Panini press just assemble the sandwich and pop in the press.

 See that tomato garnish on the plate?  I am going to pop that in my Panini and as I like a little acid to cut through the oil in the pesto.  YUM!

Basil Pesto

Basil Pesto

I found this recipe on Pinterest and fell in L.O.V.E with it.  It is from Natasha’s Kitchen and here is the link    I am going to check out her site and try some more of her recipes and so should you!



·         1 cup fresh basil leaves, packed

·         1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

·         1/4 cup olive oil (extra virgin is best)

·         1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts

·         1 large or 2 small garlic cloves

·         1/8 cup lemon juice or juice of 1 lemon

·         1/4 tsp salt

·         1/8 tsp pepper


1.    Wash and dry the basil leaves.

2.    Place basil into a food processor, add cheese, nuts, garlic cloves, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

3.    Process until smooth.


HINTS:  from Crystal.  I make a quadruple batch at a time, all summer long when I have copious amounts of gorgeous basil in my humble little container garden.  What we don’t use right away I freeze in silicone ice cube trays that hold one tablespoon per cube.  I double wrap it super tight in plastic wrap and pop it in the freezer.  Make sure it is completely wrapped you do not want everything in your freezer tasting of pesto ;).  When it is frozen I pop it in labeled zip top heavy duty bags.  Now I can pop out exactly what I need when I need it and no waste!  NOTE:  I have read that you should not add the cheese before freezing but to date I have not had any issues at all. 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Coffee Syrup


2   cups water
3/4 cup brown sugar (preferably organic)
1   cup pumpkin puree (preferably organic)
2   teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3   teaspoons pumpkin spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)


In a medium saucepan over medium heat combine water and brown sugar stirring until sugar melts.  Add the remaining ingredients stirring to combine and making sure to remove the spices clinging to the side of the pan.  Continue stirring until mixture is thoroughly combined and close to the boiling point. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool.  

Once mixture is cook strain it through a sieve into a bowl with a tight fitting lid.  Keep refrigerated up to two weeks.   

NOTE: Because these are real ingredients and not a chemical crap bomb you may have a little grittiness at the bottom of you cup. Personally I think it is well worth it not be consuming a cup full of chemicals.

Add as little or as much as you would like to your coffee. Please refrain from drinking it straight from the bottle ;)  I think it would also be great in hot chocolate...mmmmm.


You can cut the recipe in half if you think you may not use it all but I say make the full recipe and share with a friend! 


“Magic” Meat Sauce

I like to cook meals that do double duty…from this one sauce (which is awesome as is), I am going to post 4 additional recipes.  It is one of my favorite time and money saving recipes.  When I make the basic sauce I make multiple batches at once, it freezes beautifully, taste even better the second day, and makes it super easy to get dinner on the table multiple other nights all from one afternoon of cooking.


The original Meat Sauce recipe, Inside-Out Pizza Rolls, Beer Enchiladas with Jalapeno Slaw, & Three Cheese Manicotti are all from Rachel Rays magazine, the Bolognaise Sauce is my personal adaptation.

“Magic” Meat Sauce
Makes: 7 cups  Prep: 15 min.  Cook : 2 ½ hours

·         ¼   cup extra-virgin olive oil
·         ¼   cup chopped pancetta
·         1    onion, finely chopped
·         1    carrot, finely chopped
·         2    celery stalks, finely chopped
·         1    clove garlic, finely chopped
·         2    pounds lean ground beef
·         ½   cup dry red wine
·         One (28oz) can tomato puree
·         Salt and pepper

·         In a large, heavy pot, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add the pancetta and cook until the fat is rendered, about 5 minutes.  Increase the heat to medium, add the onion, carrot and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 8 minutes.  Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Increase heat to medium-high, add the beef and cook, breaking it up, until no longer pink, about 8 minutes.  Stir in the wine and cook until the piqued is cooked off, about 5 minutes.
·         Stir in the tomato puree and 1 cup water; and bring to a simmer.  Partially cover and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally for the last 30 minutes, until thickened, about 2 hours.  Season with salt and pepper.

·         Bolognaise Sauce
·         Inside-Out Pizza Rolls
·         Three Cheese Manicotti

·         Use a chopper or food processor to finely chop the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic.  They need to be very fine so the incorporate into the sauce.
·         Cook multiple batches (i.e. double, triple, or quadruple the recipe), cool and either store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
·         Be careful during the last 30 minutes of cooking, the thicker the sauce gets the often you will need to stir it.