Guys, the countdown is real. We’re a week and a half away from Christmas Day. Slightly unbelievable. So glad I have almost all my shopping done. And by shopping I mean I’ve clicked buy now on Amazon Prime for everyone on my list. Ha! I’m trying to really soak in these last few days of holiday cheer. I’m listening to Christmas music and baking cookies. I’m so excited to go home and see family. I’m pretty sure Laurel is going to make out like a bandit present wise this year. She will definitely be getting more than anyone.

She has already met Santa twice. Once was at a big light show here in Georgia at Callaway Gardens. It’s called Fantasy In Lights. We took the “jolly trolly” that drives you through the very extensive light show. In fact it was so extensive that we were pretty ready to get off the jolly trolly. The wind really picked up on it and it got cold fast. Thankfully I had Laurel dressed warm and bundled her up in a blanket.

It was fun and she enjoyed looking for a while, but almost an hour was too long! After the lights, we walked around and went to their store with tons of holiday gifts and lo and behold, there was Santa. We are very aware that Laurel has no clue what’s going on, so getting a picture of her with the big man is solely for our own pleasure. She didn’t mind a bit. I guess this is probably the last picture of her sitting in Santa’s lap not crying for a few years.

Actually not the last because the next day Santa was in the big shopping area around us. It was free too! They let you take a picture with your phone. We had just bought a cute elf outfit so we quickly changed her into it for the picture. They only had in a 3-6 month size, so it is a little big but does the job. She will wear it for a couple Christmas parties this weekend and for Christmas!

Been wanting an easy, healthy, and delicious dinner? I got you girl.

I don’t know about you, but this time of year I am all about the crockpot. I crave warm, comforting dinners. I’m totally into the crockpot and totally into soup. I was trying to think of soups that I love to make. Olive Garden has some of the best soups out there in my opinion. Their Chicken and Gnocchi one is the best but of course is also probably the highest fat and calories. Ah well. Their Pasta E Fagioli is also fantastic. So I decided to make a copycat version of that. It’s so good! It is like an Italian chili. It is healthy with lots of veggies. I find it easier to get veggies in in soup. It has basic ingredients so nothing to weird to have to go hunt down. Since the soup is totally healthy, I like to add a side of beer bread. HA. This stuff is seriously so good. Balance, people. Here is the recipe for both!

OLIVE GARDEN COPYCAT PASTA E FAGIOLI

1lb extra lean ground beef

1 cup sliced carrots

1 cup chopped celery

2 tsps minced garlic

2 cans fire roasted diced tomatoes (14.5 oz each)

1 can dark kidney beans undrained

1 can white cannellini beans undrained

1 jar spaghetti sauce (14oz)

2 tbsp tomato paste

3/4 cup ditalini pasta (I just threw in a lot)

Seasonings:

1 1/2 tsp seasoned salt

3/4 tsp cracked pepper

1 tsp oregano

1 tsp basil

1/2 tsp thyme

1/2tsp Italian seasoning

1 bay leaf

Parmesan cheese

**Brown beef in skillet. Put in crockpot. Add in all other ingredients except the noodles. Cover, and cook on high for 3-5 hours, or on low for 5-7 hours or until vegetable are tender. About 30 minutes before done, add in uncooked pasta. Turn heat to high. Garnish with parmesan cheese.

I found this at Chelsea’s Messy Apron.

BAM. Donezo. It’s that simple. And so delicious. This made enough for Josh and I to eat off it twice and still freeze leftovers to enjoy another time.

Equally delicious is this beer bread. No worries if you don’t like beer, don’t have it on hand, or don’t want to cook with it. You can substitute lemon lime soda. I have not done this yet so I do not know how it changes the flavor. I do know that I hate beer, but I still like this bread.

Beer Bread

3 cups flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 can beer (12oz) or lemon lime soda

1/2 stick butter

**Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with non-stick spray. In bowl, add flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add beer and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. Pour 1/2 of the melted butter in the bottom of the loaf pan. Add batter, then pour the rest of the butter on top. Bake for 50 minutes.

I found this recipe at Glitter and Goulash.

I’m so glad I found these two recipes and they are definitely now a part of the Hester dinner rotation. I did take my own pictures of them but where the pictures went, I’m not sure. I guess I deleted them. Oops. These would be great to make for family coming to visit for the holidays. I feel like most people would like it makes a lot. If they don’t like the soup they will like the bread! I hope you try them and like them 🙂

I should have another post up next week before Christmas. Have a great rest of your week lovelies!

Lindsay