Tater Tot Casserole for Dinner

No, it’s not breakfast for dinner (or “B4D” as we called it in college) or a side dish for brunch. It’s a meaty, cheesy, filling main course that is sure to be loved by husbands, children, and church potlucks alike!

I combined a few different recipes I found for this dish to make it my own and I’m certain it will be a new “go-to” in my house. This is one of those dinners you can just whip up without much work and everyone is full and happy!

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 an onion, diced
  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 can cream of mushroom (or cream of chicken) soup
  • 1 bag tater tots
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese (divided)

Instructions:

  • First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  • Brown your meat and onion; drain grease.
  • In a large bowl, combine milk, 1 cup of cheese, and can of soup. Mix well.
  • Add browned meat and onion to mixture and combine.
  • Spray a 2.5 quart baking dish (which is a little smaller and deeper than a 9×13) with cooking spray and line the bottom with a single layer of (still frozen) tater tots.
  • Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese over the tater tots.
  • For the next layer, pour in the meat and soup mixture evenly.
  • Top with a single layer of (still frozen) tater tots.
  • Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes and allow to set for 5 minutes before serving. The tater tots will be crunchy and golden brown.

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Enjoy!

LETTERS TO LANDON: I DIDN’T KNOW

My little Landon,

It was early October almost two years ago when I found out that you were growing inside my belly. I fell in love with you before I ever heard your heartbeat or saw your profile on a grainy, black and white ultrasound machine. Before your Daddy and I announced that our little family would be growing, I remember being in a crowd and smiling to myself over the sacred secret I was carrying, wondering all the while what it would be like to hold you in my arms.  I didn’t know.

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t wake up thankful that Jesus chose me to be your Mama. He could have chosen anyone. Yet somehow, He chose me – and it’s my life’s greatest honor. I knew that I would love you, Landon. I just didn’t know how loving you would change my heart.

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I didn’t know that seeing the way your Daddy loves you would heal a brokenness in my heart that I never thought possible. I didn’t know that I could have a peace that truly passes all understanding in the midst of much sacrifice. I didn’t know that you would be the best thing I’ve ever done, and that loving you would be a treasure and privilege I’ll never stop thanking Jesus for. I didn’t know what it meant to be needed, to feel little fingers wrap around mine, to hear the sweet sound of you calling me “Mama,” or to rejoice over the way your eyes light up when you discover something new.

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I didn’t know how much you would teach me. You’ve shown me the little world we share with new eyes, my love. Because of your sweet sense of wonder, your joy, your curiosity, and your laughter… I’ve seen Jesus’ goodness in a way that I never have before. You’ve taught me to be present, to take in the world around me, and to be braver than I’ve ever had to be before.

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I’m so thankful for you, my boy. It’s so crazy to think that I always pictured myself with all girls, because now that you’re mine, I can’t imagine a world without you.

I’ll love you forever, and always more than the day before.

Love,

Mama

The Pleasure of Sonship

Are you familiar with the parable of the prodigal son? It’s a story I’ve read many, many times, but always somewhat struggled with. A few weeks ago, my pastor taught on the passage again and since then, I’ve found myself going back to it time and time again.

 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons.  The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.  After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.  So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.  He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’  So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.  For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.  ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.  But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Luke 15: 11-32

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011

The son who was angry when his brother was welcomed home with open arms (despite the choices he’d made and the way he had hurt his father in the process) wanted the pleasure of sonship without the responsibility of brotherhood.

Isn’t that good? It really resonated with me, because I find myself with that same attitude more often than I’d like to admit. My pastor has a gift of teaching familiar texts in a whole new way, always leaving me searching my own heart and hungry to study His Word more and more.

If you’re like me, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparing the best parts of yourself to the worst parts of others. It’s a slippery slope that distracts us from focusing on Jesus, allows us to ignore the areas that we need to work on in our own hearts, and makes us forget that the only person we should be comparing ourselves to is the person we were yesterday.

When I think of the pleasure of sonship, I think of His promise of eternal life because I’ve asked Jesus to come into my life and be my Lord and Savior. I think of the comfort I have, knowing that my God is for me, that He has a plan for my life, and that He loved me enough to send His only Son to die on the cross for me. I think of my Abba Father, who will never leave me or forsake me, who is the greatest example of unfailing love.

But it can’t stop there. In John 13:34, Jesus says, “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.” With love comes understanding. With love comes forgiveness. With love comes grace… the same kind of grace I’m so thankful for each and every day, because Lord knows, I need it. The responsibility of brotherhood is love. Jesus didn’t suggest it, he commanded it.

Studying the way the father in this parable celebrated the return of his lost son is so good for my unforgiving heart. It’s something I have to work on every day, because we can’t truly enjoy the pleasure and blessing of sonship without striving to embrace the responsibility of brotherhood.

Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, passion, and anger. No more shouting or insults, no more hateful feelings of any sort. Instead, be kind and tender-hearted to one another, and forgive one another, as God has forgiven you through Christ.”

Lets encourage one another today, friends!

 

 

Landon’s First Haircut

Grayson and I have gone on several fun little day trips this summer, the most memorable being our trip to Mount Airy, NC last weekend with my Mama. The last time I went to Mount Airy, better known as “Mayberry” from the Andy Griffith Show, I was in middle school and since then, I have developed a whole new appreciation for it’s charm and nostalgia. I’ve always been an Andy Griffith fan, but in the weeks following bringing Landon home, Grayson and I watched all eight seasons (that’s 249 episodes, in case you’re wondering), which was lighthearted and classic – perfect for new, exhausted parents.

We left home around 9:00 on Saturday morning so we could take our time and make it there in time to eat lunch at Snappy’s, a little spot that’s famous for their pork chop sandwich. Snappy Lunch was not only mentioned on the Andy Griffith Show, but Andy also ate there when he was a little boy and it is is Mount Airy’s oldest restaurant, circa 1923. The pork chop sandwiches and cheeseburgers were delicious, and we were so glad we made it our first stop!

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While waiting in line for our Snappy’s pork chop sandwich, I tried to convince Grayson to get his haircut at Floyd’s Barber Shop, which was right next door on the little downtown strip. That’s when we got the idea that it would be SO COOL for Landon to get his first haircut at Floyd’s. We had been talking about getting Landon’s hair cut for a while, but my mama heart kept putting off the grown up look that inevitably comes with a boy’s first haircut.

I’ll be honest, I did shed a few tears when those first few blonde curls fell to the ground, but I couldn’t ask for a sweeter memory! It was such a great experience, and the staff at Floyd’s treated us just like family. I can’t wait for Landon to grow up watching the Andy Griffith Show, and to be able to tell him that he got his first haircut in that same chair! The only thing that could have made it sweeter is if my Paw could have been there. He would have loved it and been just beaming!

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Doesn’t he look so handsome!? I think she did a great job, and I’m so glad we made another spur-of-the-moment that will be a sweet memory for years and years to come.

It was a great day and the weather was perfect!

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If you’re looking for a fun way to spend a Saturday, I’d definitely recommend making a trip up to Mayberry!

Homemade Fudgesicles

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This tasty summer treat is so easy to make and better than any store-bought fudgesicles you’ve ever had! All you need is a small box of (instant) chocolate pudding. Make the pudding (according to the package directions) and just pour into your popsicle molds (they have these and these at Walmart). Let them freeze overnight and enjoy!

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Easy Peach Turnovers

If you’re looking for the perfect dessert that’s easy to make, doesn’t require a ton of ingredients, and just tastes like sweet summertime… you need to make these bad boys TONIGHT! You’ll be so glad you did!

I mentioned a few weeks ago that we found the most darling little peach stand right across the border in Filbert, SC. Since then, we’ve made several more trips there to get peaches, produce, and ice cream!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 large peach
  • Sugar
  • 1 can of crescent rolls
  • Butter
  • Powdered sugar
  • Milk, water, or liquid coffee creamer

Instructions:

  • First, preheat your oven to 375 and line a baking sheet with tin foil.
  • Spray the tin foil with cooking spray (these will stick if you leave out this step!).
  • Peel and slice your peach into small pieces and sprinkle with sugar (as much as you like).

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  • Lay out your crescent rolls flat and put a small piece of butter on the large end of each one.

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  • Next, spoon a few of the sugary peach slices onto each one, right on top of the butter.

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  • Roll them up, sealing any openings as best as you can and place on prepared baking sheet.

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  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, until crescents are golden brown.
  • Make a glaze of powdered sugar and either milk, water, or (if you’re feeling spunky) flavored liquid coffee creamer. I used vanilla caramel creamer and it was DELICIOUS (it gave just a hint of flavor that complimented the peaches really well).
  • After the turnovers have cooled completely, drizzle glaze over them and enjoy!

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He is still good

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“God, when You choose to leave mountains unmoveable, give me the strength to be able to sing it is well with my soul.”

I sat in the congregation yesterday with tears rolling down my cheeks listening to Grayson sing those words. You see, for the last 10 weeks, we’ve been waiting for an answer, knowing without a shadow of a doubt that our God is able, but having to trust His perfect plan and His timing more than ever before. There’s more to this story than even we can see, and we are confident that no matter the outcome of this trial we’re in the midst of, our Savior will be glorified in the end.


Thanks to my friend Jessica over at Grace While We Wait for this sweet reminder on my arm (from Daniel 3), it means more now than ever. You can check out her Etsy shop to see more beautiful, meaningful pieces.

Just Peachy

What says SUMMER better than a big bowl of sugary peaches and cream with butter toast and coffee every morning? Not much, if ya ask me.

Needless to say, I was THRILLED when we stumbled across this darling little peach stand (while on our our way to get gas just over the South Carolina border, where it’s cheaper… and only about 8 miles from our house).

Peaches and cream, peach cobbler, peach smoothies… coming right up!

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The Beach With Two Toddlers

Well, another beach trip is in the books and it was so much fun! You might remember this post about Landon’s first ever beach trip last summer. This year, we went back to Morehead City again with our friends, Kayla and Jeremy, and their little boy, Berkley. Berkley is almost two years old, and Landon turned 13 months while we were there. Looking back at the pictures from last year’s trip makes me want to cry because our boys were so little! Babies don’t keep, ya’ll.

This year, Kayla and I went down on Monday and Gray and Jeremy came down later in the week. We stayed at her aunt’s house, cooked almost every meal, packed picnic lunches, and had so much fun watching our boys play together. I was surprised at how restful the week was, even with two toddlers!

I was afraid that Landon would hate the sand but he had the time of his life! He played with sand toys and had a great time at the pool. He took naps and ate peanut butter sandwiches on the beach. We took a little blow up pool for the boys to play in, and that helped too. Every stage is so sweet, so even though it hurts my Mama heart for him to be getting so big, I love watching his little personality!

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We are so thankful for our friends and a great week at the beach!

Chip Chop Cookies

Ok, you guys. I know I’ve said it before butttt this time, it’s for real. I have found the BEST chocolate chip recipe EVER (thanks, Pinterest). I mean it, I’m never making another chocolate chip cookie recipe ever again. This is BY FAR the best recipe I’ve found (and, just ask my husband, I’ve tried literally hundreds in the last 4 or 5 years).

I am so excited to share it with ya’ll, I can hardly stand it. You need to run to your kitchen and whip these up TONIGHT. They’re that good.

What makes these cookies the “best,” you wonder? Well, they aren’t “cakey,” they are full of chocolate chips, just chewy enough, and they are so buttery!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 bag of chocolate chips

Instructions:

  • Preheat your oven to 350°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with non-stick spray..
  • In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda and salt together.
  • In mixer bowl, beat together the butter and sugars for 2 minutes.
  • Add the egg and vanilla and mix on low speed until mixed in well.
  • Gradually add the flour mixture and mix in until just incorporated. Do not overmix.
  • Add chocolate chips and stir with a wooden spoon, just until incorporated.
  • Scoop small balls of dough onto prepared baking sheets and bake for 8 minutes.
  • Allow cookies to cool on a wire rack (they will become slightly crispy on bottom and chewy in the inside as they cool).

 

I found this recipe on Pinterest and you can see the original here, a great place for baking inspiration, tips, and ideas!