Last Minute Thanksgiving Recipes Sure To Be Gobbled Up

There is enough drama around Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner that it’s best to keep some things very simple. The funny thing is, four of the five super simple recipes listed below are the ones that we get requests to make (and for the recipes… I end up emailing at least a couple of my kids or their friends the recipes every holiday season.

So here are  5 Quick Dishes To Make (or Bring) for Thanksgiving or Christmas. whether you’re hosting at home, or bringing these on the road, you’ll be thankful for a few appetizers and deserts you can make (mostly) ahead.

Artichoke DipQuick Dishes for Thanksgiving Artichoke Dip

8 oz cream cheese

1 c. Parmesan cheese – shredded

1 c. mayonnaise (low-fat or fat-free is acceptable) (pantry)

½ t. dill weed

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (pantry)

Preheat oven to 350

Cream the cream cheese, add the Parmesan cheese, mayonnaise, dill weed  and garlic. Mix well.

Fold in the chopped artichoke hearts and then spoon mixture into a 9×9 pan.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Serve with crackers, toasted baguettes, or toasted pita points.

Serves 8 as an appetizer



Goat Cheese BruchettaQuick Dishes for Thanksgiving Goat Cheese Bruchetta


2     tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2     tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as dill, parsley, or basil
Toasted baguette
Goat cheese


Add the balsamic vinegar and herbs together. Drizzle over slices of toasted baguette or other bread and spread with goat cheese. Finish with another drizzle of vinaigrette. Garnish with thyme.



Drive By Cheese PlateQuick dishes for Thanksgiving Drive by Cheese Plate

For those last minute party invites. Just grab a plate and cheese knife from home. You can assemble once you arrive. (Or, if you’re like me, in the backseat of the car while your hubby is driving…)

Grab at the store:

Camembert  or other artisan cheese

Carr Water Crackers

1 bunch of green grapes



Roger’s Pumpkin No-Bake CheesecakeQuick Dishes for Thanksgiving Pumpkin Cheesecake

2 sticks of cream cheese

1 Cup of sugar

1 Tablespoon vanilla

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

¼ Cup Pumpkin pie filling

Pre-made graham cracker crust


Blend until creamy and fluffy

Pour into graham cracker crust.


Garnish with

Cinnamon sugar  (makes it look baked)

Shaved white chocolate


Refrigerate for a few hours



Roger’s Cranberry No-Bake CheesecakeQuick Dishes for Thanksgiving Cranberry Cheesecake

2 sticks of cream cheese

1 Cup of sugar

1 Tablespoon vanilla

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1/3 Cup Whole cranberries in jelly

Pre-made graham cracker crust


Blend until creamy and fluffy

Pour into graham cracker crust


Garnish with any (or all) of the following:

The remaining whole cranberries/jelly.  I put this just on the outside edge of the pie.

Orange peel zest

Shaved white chocolate

Refrigerate for a few hours

And don’t forget the TURKEY!

Here’s my recipe that you’re sure to love!Turkey in the Oven

 Now it’s your turn. Tell me your can’t miss, so simple it’s embarrassing, recipe that you pull out for the holidays in the comments below.

The Beginner’s Guide to the Perfect Holiday Turkey

Yikes! It’s almost time to cook the Holiday turkey!

Do you have turkey-phobia?

It can seem like a daunting task to make the perfect turkey, but I promise you, it isn’t. Try my recipe and follow my instructions, and you’ll have a table full of guests licking their fingers and begging for more. But beware, this turkey is so good, there may not be any leftovers for turkey sandwiches.

Turkey in the Oven

Kathi’s Brined Turkey


  • 1 gallon water – cold
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon crushed dried rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon dried sage
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 bottle dry white wine
  • 3 oranges, cut in half



  1. In a large garbage bag, combine the all the ingredients.
  2. Wash and dry your turkey. Make sure you have removed the innards. Place the turkey, breast down, into the brine. Make sure that the cavity gets filled. Place the bag in a roasting pan and in the refrigerator overnight, turning once.
  3. Remove the turkey carefully draining off the excess brine and pat dry. Discard excess brine.
  4. Cook the turkey as desired reserving the drippings for gravy. Keep in mind that brined turkeys cook 20 to 30 minutes faster so watch the temperature gauge.

Need a Little Bravery Today

focusonthefamilyFocus on the Family Photo Jim Kathi CheriAre you tired of feeling tied to your everyday way of living?

Are you trying to do something new in your life, but are scared to take the next step?

Boy, have I got something special for you today.

Today on Focus on the Family, my coauthor Cheri and I are talking with Jim Daly about the struggle each of us go through to fight perfectionism and live the life that God designed us to live.

Here is the link to our conversation.

And here is the the free download that we talked about – how to discover which of the four perfectionist bullies is beating you up and what to do about it:

The 4 P Bullies at a Glance

Cheri gets real and honest about her struggles with perfectionism (talking about stuff even I didn’t know) and what it led her to. You won’t want to miss this powerful couple of days.

How to Make Homemade Vanilla Extract




2014-11-02 06.09.24
I am a mass consumer of vanilla extract.

I have vanilla on my oatmeal every single morning. The problem? I can absolutely tell the difference between vanilla extract and imitation vanilla. And the real stuff? It’s not cheap.  At our grocery store, the good stuff is $3 an ounce. Our family joke was that it would be cheaper for us to take a Baja cruise and get of in Ensanada to buy cheap vanilla than for me to get it at Costco.

So when I saw recipes floating around the web for homemade extract, I gave it a try. It is super easy (the hardest part is waiting the six weeks for the beans to masticate in the vodka.

Want to make this cheaper (and oh so delicious) version?

This is all you need:

1.75 liter bottle of Vodka

25 Vanilla Beans (If you want to just try this recipe out you can buy 25 beans here. If you want to go into mass production, here is where you can buy beans in bulk.)


2014-11-02 06.10.23 1. Cut the beans lengthwise down the middle.



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(This will open up the beans and let all the good “vanilla dust” soak into the vodka.)


2014-11-02 06.34.332. Put the cut vanilla beans in the vodka bottle. Replace the lid and shake the bottle. Store the vodka bottle in a cool, dark place and shake the bottle once a week for the next six weeks.









2014-11-02 07.46.05If giving as gifts, you can order these adorable brown bottles off of Amazon. fill each bottle with four ounces of your six week old vanilla extract.









2014-11-02 07.20.50Add a cute label. (Anything can be elevated with a cute label.) This is an Avery kit with all sorts of pre-designed labels. All you have to do is add your verbiage and you are good to go!









2014-11-02 07.48.40The world’s cutest gift. With a personalized label:

Lipp Private Reserve
Vanilla Extract
Bottled 2014

Delicious and about 10% of the cost of store bought vanilla.

I’ve given vanilla extract to all of my kids and they have all demanded refills!


5 Ways to Avoid Conflict During the Holidays


Is it possible to avoid conflict during the Holidays? I think so!

But the time to start thinking about it is now – not when you start threatening your husband with a spontaneous trip to your moms house because you just can’t stand his mom anymore.

All of these strategies, (bathed in prayer and a whole lot of grace and some extra dark chocolate thrown in for good measure,) will help this be the most peaceful holiday season since the time you and your husband got snowed in and couldn’t travel to be with family.

Here are a few tips:

Have the conflict early. Most of the conflict that families experience is because we are trying to avoid conflict early on. We hope that things will “Just work out.” And that everyone will, “Just be cool.” If there is a hard conversation that needs to be had about how your father-in-law talks to your kids, or how much your adult daughter drinks at the family gathering, the time to have those hard conversations is November 5th – not November 27th.

Take the “Plans” approach. My stepdaughter, Amanda, just got engaged this week. We could not be more thrilled and it’s kind of hard to contain our excitement about planning. So when she called me to talk wedding plans, I said, “Hey, if you don’t want to get together and talk weddings, I totally understand. You’ve got a lot of people you’re trying to please.” Then she told me something that made my burst with pride. She said, “Actually, I’m doing the same thing you and dad do. I’m saying, ‘Here are the plans I’ve made. If you’re able to join us for ________, that’s great. If not, we totally understand.’ She said that it’s taken so much of the pressure off of trying to make everyone happy, and giving people a choice.

I love it. She is behaving in a totally healthy way, not giving her control over to other people, and not feeling like she needs to control others either.

Know the Rule of Three. In engineering, there is an old saying; “You can have it better, cheaper, and faster. Pick two out of three.” And it’s true. How could you have a product delivered with better quality, made cheaper, and ahead of schedule? It might be possible, but you’ll kill the engineer in the process.

Roger and I have adopted a similar motto for family celebrations; “You can celebrate on the right day, you can have the whole family together, or you can have people be happy about it. Pick two out of three.”

With blended families and in-law relationships (heck, even if your son is dating a girl!), holidays not only put stress on you and husband, but on your kids as well. They are charged with keeping loyalties, keeping the peace, and keeping things from blowing up.

We realized early on in our marriage that there were two things that were important: Having everyone together, and everyone being as happy (as possible) about it. The date? That really didn’t matter to either of us. Often, we celebrate on a different date. We are having Thanksgiving on the actual day this year, but we are celebrating Christmas on the 26th when all the kids can be here. On the 25th? Church and then jammies all day.

Budget. If money is one of the biggest stressors, then the weeks leading up to Christmas are the Hot Zone times on the calendar for conflict. Come up with your budget now so that everyone’s expectations will line up.

Ask. Ask your family what traditions are important, and which ones have run their course. All the kids love the Starbucks and Christmas light night, but are over the matching pajamas on Christmas morning? Kill the PJs and keep the lights.

Are You Ready for the Christmas Challenge?

Okay, so I know it’s just now the first of November, and we’ve still got Thanksgiving to celebrate…which we will! We’re so thankful for everyone of you and thankful for so many blessings in our lives!

BUT, Christmas will be here before you know it. Think about it. Church musicals, Progressive dinners, and family gatherings will start to fill up your December calendar before November is even halfway through. This can be an exhausting time of year, (and if you contract the lovely stomach flu that tends to go around during the Holidays, that adds to the “joy”) but it doesn’t have to be.

That’s why we’ve decided to do a Christmas Challenge this year. We want to help you get ready for the joyous season so you won’t be too overwhelmed to remember the REASON for the season.


So if you missed my Quick Start post last week, check it out!

And make sure to sign up for the 21 Day Organize Your Christmas Challenge!



Photo of woman:


Ten Things to Do for your Husband When Marriage is Hard

10ThingstodoHusbandLast week, I published a list of 10 Things to Say or Text When Marriage Is Hard. The response? Overwhelming. It became one of my most popular posts of all time. And I get it – marriage is hard and we are all looking for ways to connect during the hardest times.

But as much as words mean during these times, actions can be even more important. So here is my list of what to do for your husband when marriage is hard.

  1. Feed Him When life is at its busiest and we just seem to keep missing each other, food can make all the difference. Cook him one of his favorites- your recipe, his mother’s, whatever food makes him feel like everything might be OK for just this one hour. Bonus points if you sit down together and eat.
  2. Brag on Him Let him hear you bragging on him – to your friend, to your kids, to his mom. Pick one thing he did this week (went to work on a hard day, played tickle monster with the kids,) and make sure he knows how much it meant to you.
  3. Unburden Him Is there one of his regular chores that you could take off his list. A few months ago, I took my husband’s car to get washed. We were both having a rough week and I knew that he hated going and having it washed. When I got home I asked my son where my hubby was. My son said, “He said he was going to go get your car washed.”
  4. Seduce Him Sex has an instantly relaxing power over men. It is usually the fastest way to break down tensions and meet his needs.
  5. Date Him Plan a date geared for him. Get a gift card to his favorite dinner spot and two tickets to a movie that involves a ball, something blowing up, or robots.
  6. Treat Him A Jamba Juice can improve my husband’s outlook on the world. Surprise him with a little something to let him know that you were thinking of him.
  7. Encourage Him When life is hard, your man may have trouble seeing his worth. Reassure him that you see it, even when everything around you both is difficult.
  8. Tag Him Give your man a Facebook shout out and let the world know why he is just that awesome.
  9. Pray for Him Set an alarm on your phone and stop and pray for your husband every single day.
  10. Surprise Him I have an alert on Amazon any time my man’s favorite author comes out with a new book. Surprise him with something he loves.



Nicaragua with Compassion International

Compassion2014When my agent asked me if I wanted to speak on behalf of Compassion International two years ago, I was intrigued. I’ve always loved their work, and our church has a project in Nicaragua.

But you know how these things go – we had a couple of conversations, but it never really went anywhere. Yes, we sponsored a child, but I didn’t really have a story that was compelling for audiences about Compassion and the idea of supporting kids.

About six months ago, I hired a new booking agent, Julie. Julie has a huge heart, is super talented, and oh – she used to work for Compassion with their Artist Program (working with speakers and musicians.)

So I told Julie about my desire to work with Compassion – and she set up the call. The call that changed it all…

When we talked with Nate with Compassion, he said yes, we’d love for you to speak on behalf of Compassion. Then he asked, “Do you already have a Compassion child?” When I told him that yes, we sponsored Roger in Nicaragua, Nate suddenly got very quiet. Finally he asked, “What are you doing November third through seventh?”


That’s when Nate invited me to go to Nicaragua to meet Roger and see the work that Compassion was doing there. Then Nate asked, “Do you want to go?”

And my first thought was “Um – NO!”

I’m not ready.

I need to speak Spanish first.

I need to lose more weight first.

I need to be in better shape.

I need to write more letters to Roger.

I’m not ready.

But good thing I didn’t say that out loud.

What I did say was, “Let me talk to my husband and pray about it.”

In other words, I did the Jesus-y stall tactic.

As much as I feared going. (“What if I held other people back? What if I got sick from bug bites like in Japan and had to be hospitalized again? What if…”) What I realized I feared more was not going.

Not doing what so clearly felt like a divine God-only opportunity.

Not doing what I knew I wanted to do, but feared.

So we said yes.

My Roger (my husband) is also going. We are taking the typhoid meds, we are learning very bad Spanish, and we are shopping for shoes and T-shirts for little Roger, who we get to meet in just over a week.

Fear almost kept me from the God-adventure of a lifetime. But I refuse to let fear have a foothold in my life. Fear is the one thing that will keep me from saying yes to God. I want fear to have no room to get comfortable in my life.




Quick Start Your Christmas


It’s almost Christmas. I know you don’t want to hear it, but it’s true and procrastinating about it will not only stress you out, but will cause you to miss the beauty of the season. (Trust me I’m talking to myself here too!) So what are we gals going to do about it? I for one would like to enjoy Christmas this year without a ton of stress. I’d like to focus on Jesus, you know, the reason for the season. This month we are going to focus on 3 areas to Quick Start our Christmas. Then, on November 3, we will begin the 21 Day Organize Your Christmas Challenge.


Quick Start Tip #1: Start your gift list now – with amounts to spend.

Gift giving can truly be the most stressful part of Christmas and it really should be one of the most enjoyable! With tight budgets, picky gift receivers, and Pinterest perfect pressure, it’s tempting to put gifting off for the last minute. For all of those reasons, this seems like the most logical place to start. A gift giving plan will give you focus and help you stick to the budget.

Start by brainstorming all the people that you normally buy gifts for:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Service people
  • Neighbors
  • Coworkers
  • Teachers


This is also a great time to talk about expectations with those who are on your list.
Several years ago we let our kids know, early on, that our Christmases were going to start looking different. With four kids and not a lot of money, we needed to focus more on family and faith and less on finding the perfect gift. We now give each kid three gifts: Something to wear, something for fun, and something growth (education, spiritual growth.) We have a budget for each kid and stick to it. We used to spend hours opening gifts and getting unwrapping fatigue. Now, the gift portion of our time is small, but the games and talking part of the holiday are what everyone look forward to.


Maybe there are a few people on your list that are on there out of obligation.
What about having a conversation with them about redoing Christmas – instead of buying another body wash gift set for each other, what if you took that money and went to lunch together in January, or went in on a goat for a family through World Vision? Make new traditions with those you love.


Quick Start Tip #2: Grab a Calendar and Firm Up Where and Who


Plan where you will be spending your time – and with whom.
We have a blended family, so trying to share our kids with multiple other families has gotten complicated over the years. Even without a blended family, extended family and all of their extended family can make for some complicated planning. Talk early and often about plans for the holidays. Last year we had everyone on Christmas. This year, we will be hosting the big Thanksgiving feast, and will celebrate Christmas on a different day. Flexibility and early planning with keep you from tears.


Quick Start Tip #3: Sign up for the 21 Days to Organize Your Christmas Challenge

Starting November 3rd, I will be taking you through three weeks of Christmas prep. This is absolutely free – my gift! A few minutes every day, in November, will help you have the most peaceful and Christ-centered Christmas possible. Join me and hundreds of other women for simple ideas to pull off the best Christmas ever.





10 Things to Say or Text to Your Husband When Marriage is Hard

So often, when money is tight, nerves are strained, and everyone is just so tired, it’s easy to wait for your husband to make the first move. But sometimes, we have to lay down our right to be right.

Sometimes, we need to look at not just the situation, but the relationship, and see what the right thing is to do. Usually, when one of us lays down our “right to be right” great things can happen in our relationships.10-Things-to-Say-or-Text-to-Your-Husband

So pick one. I’m not asking you to lie. There is ONE on this list that you can say to your husband- fighting or now – and it will soften the hard lines that can develop between the two of you.

If you’re really in a tough spot, try texting it to him. It’s amazing what a well timed text can do for your relationship.

  1.  “What do you need from me right now?”
  2.  “How can I help you take some of the burden off today?”
  3.  “I’m sorry.”
  4.  “Thank you for_____________”
  5.  “I’m proud of you because________________”
  6.  “Our kids are lucky to have a dad like you.”
  7.  “Please forgive me.”
  8.  “I love you because___________”
  9.  “I’m going to make more of an effort to____________”
  10. Thank you for being someone I can respect.

Tell me in the comments which one you said to your husband, or suggest one of your own. One random commenter will will a copy of Praying God’s Word for Your Husband.


Last week’s winner was Danielle!