All posts by Abby Hughes

Valentine DIY

I co-teach the kindergarten Sunday School class with my boyfriend, Tim.  We usually have a plethora of personalities to keep us busy, but this week a lot of people were sick.   We only had one little girl named Amelia.  She’s as sweet as can be and usually really shy. However, this week we got her to open up more because she was the only one.  Since Valentine’s Day is coming up, we decided to ask her if she liked any boys at school.  After much prying, we discovered the name of her crush.  I’m not allowed to tell you who it is because it’s top secret.  We had fun teasing her about it though.  She always insisted that “He’s not my boyfriend!”  But he totally was.

After that lively discussion, we taught her the parable of the pearl of great price.  Since we had some time left (and only one kid in class), I decided we could make some Valentine cards.  She decided to give it to her brother. Oh well…

I found this idea on Etsy and thought it was the cutest thing ever.  It looked simple enough to make, so I thought I’d give it a try!  If you are making this with older kids, they could probably do fine cutting everything out themselves, but you can make it easier by pre-cutting the pieces.

Here’s what you’ll need.

  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • Colored construction paper
  • Pen
  • Small ribbon

First, cut out all the pieces.  For each card you will need:

  • 6 small hearts (use the first one as a template to cut the others so they’re all the same size)
  • 3-8 clouds
  • 2 baskets

Use the blue construction paper for the card so it looks like the hot air balloons are in the sky.  To make the balloons, put glue on half of two hearts. I didn’t have a glue stick when I was taking these pictures so I used tape.  But the ones we made in class with the glue stick were a lot easier.

Then attach another heart to each of the glued halves.

now you can put glue on the back and stick it to the card.  Do the same thing for the other balloon.

Now you’re ready to glue on the baskets below the hearts and draw the strings! Then sprinkle the clouds around.

Making the little bows was kind of tedious, but it’s too cute to leave out.

Now for the most important part… Open it up, and add your special message!

I really had fun making these.  After we helped our little student with hers, Tim and I both made one.  Then, our friend, Mary came in and made one!  I don’t always take the time to make handmade things, but doing crafts is a great way to bond with people.  Plus, who doesn’t love getting a handmade card?  I give this one 5 stars because it would be a great thing to do with kids of all ages, and it always turns out looking great!

I made them with the two-year-olds I babysit. They were so proud of their cards!

On a side note, I finally got to try out my candy molds!  Back when I posted about my dark chocolate recipe, I mentioned that I didn’t have any good molds, so my sweet Aunt Denise mailed me some! Thank you, Aunt Denise!!!

Here’s how they turned out! I tried some new flavors — some good — some not so good… but they looked amazing! I’m definitely going to make them again!

The peanut butter cups were everybody’s favorite.

I hope you all have a Happy Valentine’s Day!

Sending love,  Abby

2018 Farm Dinners!

When I posted about the Edible Nashville Farm Dinner, several of you were asking about how to get tickets for the next one.  They have just released the dates for the 2018 Farm Dinners and you’re invited!  I hope you can attend one of these fabulous feasts hosted by Edible Nashville.  But hurry! Tickets go fast!

Here are the links to purchase tickets:

April 21, 2018

July 21, 2018

Oct. 27, 2018

The Big Diet Myth

I was never big on New Year’s resolutions until about two years ago.

Gross as it may be, I used to only floss my teeth right before going to the dentist for a cleaning.  I would inevitably get the speech of “you should floss regularly for healthy blah blah blah.”  But one day I actually listened and decided to make a New Year’s resolution to floss my teeth every night for a whole year.  It took a lot of hard work and determination, but I did it!  Now I’m an avid flosser and I’ve kept that resolution (with the exception of a few days) ever since.

Most people make resolutions to be more active and to eat better.  I was one of them.  I can’t remember a time where I wasn’t concerned about my weight.

I ran a lot and tried really hard, but I still wasn’t happy with how I looked.  I would cut calories, but always got discouraged by the lack of results.

My mom and I stretching for a 10K. 2015

One day, I was so upset that I didn’t eat the entire day.  That night I looked in the mirror only to see that my pooch and love handles were still there.   I just felt squishy and hungry all the time.

 

Thankfully, I found a better way.  My definition of eating healthy has changed a lot over the past year because I changed the misconception that was hard-wired into my brain by magazines and media.

I used to eat salads for two meals a day, and try to avoid sweets.  I was always hungry and craving something I couldn’t have.  I love salads, but it’s very hard to get enough calories eating ONLY veggies.  I thought I was being healthy, but nothing could be further from the truth.  I was starving myself, and that isn’t mentally or physically healthy.

I was under the impression that the less I ate, the more I would lose.  

This method for losing weight is widely preached among women, but it doesn’t bring long-term results.  It’s a myth.  You may lose a few pounds but you will inevitably hit a plateau.  That’s because you are in a habitual caloric deficit. Your body realizes that it isn’t getting enough food to continue burning calories efficiently, so it learns how to burn fewer calories to complete the same tasks.   Your metabolism drastically slows down, and you gain weight — even though you’re always hungry.

Thankfully, it’s very simple to reset your metabolism.  It only takes one or two weeks.  Ever since making this one simple change in my diet, I started seeing results.  I’m full.  I’m happy.  And I’m still skinny! I don’t count calories, I eat as much as I want, and I have actually lost inches.

I discovered it’s more about WHAT you eat than how much.  I started cooking for myself every day.  I eat fish, a LOT of chicken breast, veggies, sweet potatoes, rice, oatmeal, avocados, almonds, some fruit, some red meat, protein shakes, and eggs.  I make sure to eat a good amount of protein at each meal so I’m FULL when I finish eating.  I usually don’t even want dessert.  I used to eat 1500 calories a day.  Now my diet is closer to this.

It’s taken most of 2017 to adjust my taste buds, but now I actually prefer healthy food.  Sweets don’t seem as appealing, and when I do indulge, a small amount will usually satisfy me.  Veggies don’t need salt, and sweet potatoes don’t need butter because I’ve gotten used to enjoying their natural flavors.

It took almost a year to get to this point, but I promise you, it’s worth it.  I’m so much happier now that I’m not hangry (hungry/angry) all the time and I’m fueling my body with nutrition.  I encourage you to give it a chance in 2018.

Now I make resolutions like “get a six pack by 2018.”  I never would have dreamed that was even possible a year ago.  But now it’s a realistic goal.

This is just a quick summary, but I wanted to share it with you because of how it’s helped me! I didn’t know it was possible to eat so much food (I eat all the time) and be happy with how I look.  If you want to learn more about tips for eating right, please leave a comment so I’ll know how to post more of what you want to hear!

Here’s one of my favorite recipes for chicken breast to help you get started!  The pineapple juice tenderizes and caramelizes.  It’s great with white rice and roasted asparagus. Be sure to read the notes and give it a try!

-Abby Hughes

Hawaiian Chicken
 
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A great make-ahead meal with minimal prep. Designed for those with a busy schedule. Healthy and delicious! Goes great on salads, in stir-fry, or stand alone!
Author:
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 4 6-oz. Chicken Breast
  • 2 TBS Olive Oil
  • 1 cup Pineapple Juice
  • 3 TBS Teriyaki Sauce
  • 3 TBS Soy Sauce
  • 2 TBS Red Wine Vinegar or Balsamic
  • 1 TBS Minced Fresh Garlic (or 1 tsp garlic powder)
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • ½ tsp Crushed Red Pepper (optional)
  • ¼ cup Hot Sauce (optional) (I like Valentina hot sauce)
Instructions
  1. If you are using large chicken breasts, cut it in half horizontally through the thickness of the breast. This is called butterflying.
  2. Set the chicken aside, and whisk together all remaining ingredients in a medium bowl.
  3. Toss chicken in marinade and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 2 days.
  4. Preheat a pan by putting it on high heat for about 2 minutes. This will help sear the chicken and get good caramelization.
  5. Meanwhile, drain the chicken.
  6. Once the pan is hot, drizzle some olive oil and add the drained chicken (it should sizzle).
  7. Saute for about 2 minutes on each side (or till browned), then reduce heat to medium.
  8. Cook just until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees. Be sure not to overcook so the chicken will be tender and juicy.
  9. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes before serving.
Notes
A food thermometer can keep you from overcooking chicken. Even lean chicken breast is moist and tender when only cooked to 165 degrees. But you should also avoid undercooking chicken so you won't get sick.
Preheating the pan is important. The sugars in the pineapple juice should caramelize and create a nice brown crust on the chicken. Don't miss that step.
This is great for making ahead and leaving in the fridge until ready to cook. This marinade also works well on pork and steak.

 

Take the Cake

Christmas is quickly approaching!  And you know what that means!?  Party time!  Christmas parties and potlucks are some of my favorite get-togethers of the whole year, but there’s always the question of what to bring.  No one wants to be the person whose dish doesn’t get eaten. So how do you know what will be popular?  My advice, bring a classic.  Stick to the normal crowd pleasers and then dress them up in their Christmas best!  I know time is always an issue, so here are some of my favorite simple treats for potlucks that I’ve found on Pinterest. Whether you’re hosting or just attending, these are guaranteed to get gone.

However, if you’re looking for something a little fancier, keep reading.

My mom’s birthday was right before Thanksgiving, and I made her a classic chocolate cake with whipped ganache.  I found the inspiration on, you guessed it, Pinterest, and was able to easily recreate it!  The design looks elaborate but is really very simple. It would make a stunning dessert for Christmas dinner.  Here is the Pinterest picture I found.So here’s what I did.  I’ll be willing to bet most of you already have a killer chocolate cake recipe, so I won’t bore you with mine, but I would recommend jazzing it up with espresso or your favorite liquor (I used Bailey’s Irish Cream).  I filled and iced the layers with a traditional whipped ganache (also flavored with Bailey’s), and then covered it with a soft ganache. After that, I simply piped rosettes and topped them with my favorite Lindor chocolate truffles.

The tricky part was the basket in the middle.  This cake would still be spectacular without it, but it does add a very dazzling showpiece. I had never made a basket like this before and was able to get it on the first try.  It really isn’t as complicated as It looks.  I know you can do it if you have time!

You make the baskets by drizzling melted almond bark (or tempered chocolate if you’re brave) over some air-filled water balloons (I happened to have those on hand because I’m a child) and set them up in some cups.  Put those babies in the freezer to chill, then just pop the balloons.  Tips! Make sure you POP the ballon instead of letting the air slowly seep out.  I did that at first and it made the chocolate break because it was too slow.  You just gotta rip it out like a band-aid.  Also, make more than one.  Even I, being the culinary genius that I am, make lots of mistakes. 😉 I think at least two of the four that I made broke.

After you finish decorating, cut the cake with a HOT knife to get those beautiful, picture-perfect slices.

Well, there it is!  I hope you can wow your friends with this fabulous cake! Merry Christmas!

Abby Hughes

Soft Ganache
 
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This ganache is very versatile. Great for icing cakes or making into truffles. This recipe will ice one 8-inch cake.
Author:
Cuisine: Dessert
Serves: 16 oz.
Ingredients
  • 8 oz. Chopped Dark Chocolate (or chips)
  • 8 oz. Heavy Cream
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Flavoring
Instructions
  1. Heat heavy cream to simmer in a saucepan. Be careful not to scorch.
  2. Remove from heat and add chocolate.
  3. Let sit for 3-4 minutes before stirring.
  4. Add vanilla and stir until smooth.
  5. Pour over cake while warm. If making truffles, refrigerate till firm and roll into balls. Cover with chocolate or cocoa powder.

 
Whipped Ganache
 
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Use as an icing or filling.
Author:
Recipe type: icing
Cuisine: dessert
Serves: 24 oz.
Ingredients
  • 16 oz. Heavy Cream
  • 8 oz. Chopped Dark Chocolate or Chocolate Chips
  • Vanilla Flavoring
Instructions
  1. Put cream in a heavy saucepan. Heat to simmer. Be careful not to scorch.
  2. Remove from heat and add chocolate.
  3. Let sit for 3-4 minutes before stirring.
  4. Add vanilla and stir until smooth. Refrigerate until completely cooled.
  5. Whip till stiff peaks.
  6. Use to ice cakes or as a sweet filling.

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