Hot Cocoa from Mrs. Claus!!

My ADD brain cannot handle elaborate, perfectly orchestrated holidays full of crafts, baking, and other holiday cheer. 

When I naively suggested we "adopt" an Elf on the Shelf, I had a Pinterest board full of crazy cute ideas and visions of wonder and mirth on my kids faces. Fast-forward to the second week and I was already a pro at reasoning out why our elf, Peppermint, wasn't budging. Who knew that remembering to move a stuffed elf could be so hard! 

I want Christmas to be magical for my girls, but I'm a busy Momma and it cannot happen at the cost of my being stressed out! So while the Elf was a bust, I did create one tradition that I absolutely love because it has all the elements of holiday wonderment I'm going for, but is very, VERY easy! 

Years ago, I decided a fun stocking stuffer for the girls would be hot chocolate, and what would be better than if it came straight from the North Pole and Mrs. Claus's kitchen?? 

Some years the labels I created to re-cover my Private Selection hot cocoa canisters were a bit thrown together, last-minute, but my girls didn't notice. They thought Mrs. Claus's hot cocoa was THE BEST thing ever and looked forward to it every year.  

For a few years now, I've wanted to take some time, do the label up right, and put my lettering and lettering skills to work, creating the beautiful label I had always wanted it to be — and this year was the year! 

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And I'm so excited that now you can use it too!! The printable is only $3 and you can print as many as you need, year-after-year. It really is an easy & inexpensive way to add magic to your kid's Christmas morning & create fun memories! 

If you use it, please show me!!! I'd love to see it in action! Tag your photos #homeagaincreative

xoxo, 

Lori Danelle

December Desktop Download!

Free December Desktop Wallpaper | Home Again Creative

I'm not really a fan of Winter, but I LOOOVVE the Holiday Season. We've had our house decorated — including lights on the outside of our house — since the second week in November. Luckily, we have 2 other neighbors who joined us, so instead of seeming crazy, we all were collectively festive. 

In addition to having a new digital wall paper today, it is also the first day of our 1-week 30% off sale! In the shop I have Holiday greeting cards, gift tags, tea towels which make fun gifts, as well as art prints and cards. Now is a great time to replenish your card supply for the year! No code is needed, just head to the shop to see the prices already marked down!

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the new December wallpaper! I've been rocking it on my phone for a week now. Can you believe I held out that long??  :) 

Click the buttons below to download. 

xoxo Lori Danelle

Gluten Free & Paleo Classic Holiday Turkey

Gluten Free and Paleo Classic Holiday Turkey | Home Again Creative

There's no doubt that cooking a Holiday Turkey can be a challenge, and I have definitely made several turkeys that were worthy of the trash! To cook a great turkey, there are many obstacles to overcome: the white meat needs to be cooked to 160° F, the dark meat needs to be cooked to 175° F, and all the while, you want to get the skin crisp without turning the breast meat to chalk.  

I have read a lot about roasting turkey and through trial-and-error, I've come up with a method that works for me, every time. 

 First, a few rules.

  1. Don't Stuff the bird. No doubt stuffing is awesome, but if you think about it, the thing that makes stuffing awesome is the bird's juices infusing it. However, those juices need to be cooked to 165° F and you can't achieve that without drying out the breast meat. Removing the stuffing to finish on the stove top isn't a good option, because when you remove it you will inevitably cross contaminate the meat. Also, stuffing isn't Paleo, and we're Paleo.
  2. Don't baste the bird. Basting the bird does nothing to moisten the meat and keeps the skin from crisping. Not to mention every time you open the oven to baste, you add to the overall cook time. Salt or brine instead. 
  3. Don't rely on the pop-up timer  — it will likely fail you. However, don't remove it — juices will flow from the gapping hole it leaves behind.
  4. Rest the turkey for 30 minutes. Resting the turkey will allow the fibers to reabsorb the juices. If you don't let it rest you'll wind up with a puddle to clean up on the counter.  
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Home Again Creative's Gluten Free & Paleo Classic Turkey

This recipe is for a 12-14 pound turkey. If you have a bigger turkey, add additional herbs and roots accordingly. Total time for this recipe is 17-23 hours, so be sure to plan plenty of time.

Ingredients

(1) 12-14 pound turkey with neck, giblets, and tail piece
(6) sprigs of thyme
(2) onions, chopped coarse
(2) carrots, chopped coarse
(2) celery ribs, chopped coarse
(3) tablespoons ghee

Instructions

Trim any excess fat from the turkey and set aside the neck, giblets, and tail piece.

Salt or brine the turkey, though I recommend brining. For instructions, see our blog post How to Salt & Brine Poultry.  After brining, you will need to air dry the bird. Pat the turkey dry in the cavity and outside and place it on a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet; refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

Chop the thyme, onions, carrots, and celery; melt the ghee. Toss 1 tbsp of melted ghee with the herbs and vegetables, and place the mixture inside the turkey cavity, then trestle (tie the drumsticks together with string) the turkey.

 Adjust the oven racks to the lowest position and preheat to 400° F.  

Brush the turkey with the remaining ghee.

Place a cup of water into the roasting pan and start roasting the turkey breast side DOWN for 45 minutes. 

When the 45 minutes is completed pull the turkey from the oven and flip it, using paper towels. Then return it to the oven breast side UP for about an hour, or until the breast registers 160° F and the thighs read 175°F. 

Remove turkey from the oven & onto a carving board, tipping it cavity side down into your roasting pan, so any juices in the cavity run into the pan. Let the turkey rest for 30 minutes, and finish the gravy.   

After that, carve, serve, and enjoy!! 

The Home Cook's Guide to Buying a Turkey

Turkey Buying Guide | Home Again Creative

Most of us purchase a turkey once or twice a year, usually for friends and loved ones on a special occasion, so it’s important to get it right. I’ve spent a lot of time reading and experimenting with these birds and have gotten results that range from a bird with the texture of chalk, all the way to really darn good.

With all the failures along the way, I have figured a few things out and would like to share what I have learned and continue to learn (this post will be updated and reposted annually). In the spirit of ongoing education, I invite you to share your tips and tricks in the comments below.

WHAT KIND OF BIRD TO BUY?

I’ve tried several types of turkeys and have classified them below. Statements are true for whole turkeys and breast a like.

Before we begin, a sidebar: I know there is a movement regarding ethically raised food that I do tend to prescribe to. However, I’m not a scientific researcher, so I have deemed that this forum is not the place for that discussion. Also, hunting — which I partake in — is mentioned in the post. I know many have huge opinions about hunting pros and cons. We could talk for days on the ethics regarding to-hunt or not-to-hunt, but again, I’m not a professor of ethics, so...not the place. My blog, so I get to delete comments that are not respectful or on topic.

Here we go! First thing that needs to be said is, you should buy the best quality bird YOUR money can buy. Everybody has a budget and I don't think anyone should be putting a feast on credit. Also, it's been my experience that the most expensive birds aren't necessarily the best birds.

First up are what I call "Supermarket Turkeys” and are what is most commonly available. The pros of these Toms is the price per pound, and I have had good results with them. They are a great choice for many families. The cons are that these birds are usually very lean as they are bred to be broad-breasted, which means they are dryer than other turkeys and are sometimes “pre-basted.” Personally, I have found that pre-basting causes the meat to be soggy, and washed out, so I typically skip the pre-basted guys.

If you choose this type of turkey be sure to check out our salting & brining method, in How to Salt & Brine Poultry,  if it ISN'T pre-basted. If it's pre-basted, skip the salt or brine, but be sure to air dry the bird as outlined at the end of the blog post.

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Supermarket Turkeys come with a lot of labels.
Below are some of the most common explanations, curtesy of the USDA.


FREE RANGE
or
FREE ROAMING

Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.

Key words here are "demonstrate" and "allowed access." Basically it means that the birds are allowed to roam around a warehouse and can go outside if wanted. It does not mean that they get to be natural birds foraging around for insects and such.


FRESH

"Fresh" means whole poultry and cuts have never been below 26 °F (the temperature at which poultry freezes). This is consistent with consumer expectations of "fresh" poultry, i.e., not hard to the touch or frozen solid.


NATURAL

A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed.

Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product. The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as "no artificial ingredients; minimally processed").


NO HORMONES

Hormones are not allowed in raising hogs or poultry.


NO ANTIBIOTICS

The terms "no antibiotics added" may be used on labels for meat or poultry products if sufficient documentation is provided by the producer to the Agency demonstrating that the animals were raised without antibiotics.


YOUNG

Turkeys of either sex that are less than 8 months of age according to present regulations.


KOSHER

"Kosher" may be used only on the labels of meat and poultry products prepared under rabbinical supervision. I won't expand on Kosher, because I'm not Jewish, would get it wrong, and possibly offend some people with my ignorance. For my purposes, Kosher means it's pre salted. Kosher birds are a good compromise between natural and self-basting birds.


I couldn't find an explanation on this from the USDA, but my research tells me it basically means they weren't fed slaughter house byproducts, or in other words...other chickens. This sounds horrifying, but in truth, chickens are omnivores, readily eating bugs and small animals when available, so I'm not sure a forced vegetarian diet is a good thing or even possible.

However, what I was able to find was vegetarian feed is becoming popular in industrial chicken farming because it reduces the risk of animal diseases being spread through poultry feed. This is a particular concern to industrial chicken farmers because the conditions in which animals are raised makes them more susceptible to disease. Thus, it's definitely bad for birds to eat sick birds that were used in the feed.

VEGETARIAN FED


USDA CERTIFIED ORGANIC

To sell organic poultry meat, birds must be fed and managed organically from the second day after hatching. All agricultural components of the feed ration, including kelp and carriers in feed supplements, must be 100% organic. All poultry must have access to the outdoors. (There's that key word: ACCESS.)

Organic poultry producers must establish preventative livestock health management practices. Medical treatment cannot be withheld from sick animals or flocks to maintain the birds' organic status. The use of growth hormones, antibiotics, genetic engineering, and animal cloning is prohibited, as is the feeding of slaughter byproducts. All organic poultry production and processing operations must be done by USDA-accredited certification agencies. Detailed records of all feeds, medications, and transactions must be maintained. Organic integrity must be protected by preventing organic birds and poultry products from coming in contact with prohibited substances or being commingled with non-organic products.


WATER CHILLED

This means the turkey is dunked in a clorine bath during processing causing it to retian moisture, this washes out the flavor of the turkey. Most turkey's in the supermarket are water chilled, so try to find an "Air-Chilled" Turkey.


PRE- or
SELF-BASTED

This pretty much means the bird was injected with a solution of one or more of salt, oils, broths, spices, sugars, preservatives. I have always found these birds to be spongey and washed of true turkey flavor.


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Beyond the adjectives that they can throw on the label of any bird, regardless of the variety, there are also some distinct types of turkey:


BONE-IN TURKEY
BREAST

Most groceries offer two types:

  • Regular / True Cut Breast will include the breast with ribs, a portion of the wing, and a portion of the back, and neck skin.
  • Hotel / Country Style Breast is the same as the True Cut, but also include the wings, neck, & giblets, all of which is essential to making gravy or sauce for the turkey.

WILD

Wild Turkeys are exactly that: you go out and hunt and harvest them yourself. You never know what you’ll get with these guys. Some are the best you’ll ever have; some are stringy & awful. Wild Turkeys are are nomadic animals, so you just never know where and what they’ve been eating. Due to the unpredictable flavor of wild turkeys, I don’t recommend them for dinner parties.


HERITAGE

Heritage Turkeys are direct descendants from wild turkeys, and bred to be...not wild, meaning farmers got tired of chasing them all over the woods, so they bred the nomadic characteristics out of them. They are typically treated like royalty; pampered, fed a very high quality all vegetarian diet, and are free to roam. While, I have certainly found some very tasty heritage birds...them birds are expensive and I mean expensive, and I’m not convinced they are worth the price. 


LOCAL

Local Turkeys are probably the best turkey you can buy. This is the type of turkey where you meet the people that raised the bird and they give you personal guarantees. These people make it or break it on their honesty, so they have an incentive to be straight forward about what they are raising. Not to mention the positives of spending money in your local community, etc.

 

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FRESH OR FROZEN?

Unless you are buying a turkey from a local farmer, fresh isn't best. As mentioned above, a "fresh" turkey can be chilled all the way to 27 degrees fahrenheit & still be considered fresh. Turkey's freezing point is 26 degrees, but the moisture, from processing, can still crystalize and damaged the meat. Then during transport the bird may be introduced to a higher temperature thawing the crystals, then be reintroduced to extreme cold and form again, and further damage the meat, resulting in the proteins not being able to retain moisture during cooking. When serving, the result will be tough, chalky meat.

Frozen turkeys on the other hand, are blast chilled, which eliminates crystals from forming, and is not introduced to temperature fluctuations. The least amount of damage to the poultry is done by blast freezing.  

SIZE OF TURKEYS

I don't recommend buying a turkey over 14 pounds, as I have had better results with smaller birds. Rule of thumb is you'll need 1 pound per person. If you're feeding more than 14 people, I would recommend getting or borrowing a portable roaster oven and cooking 2 smaller birds rather than 1 giant one. If this doesn't work for you, just go as small as you can.

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Now that I have bored you to tears with all the nuances, here's the quick and dirty of my experiences:

• I don't purchase pre-based / seasoned birds.
 

• If a knew someone who raised local Turkeys I'd go that route, but like most folks, I don't.
 

• First Pick for my budget is Organic, Frozen, Young birds.
 

• If my budget is a bit tighter, and sometimes it is, I go with All Natural, VegEtarian Feed, No Hormone, No Antibiotic, Frozen, Young birds.
 

• Finally, AS a compromise, I'd pick a Kosher bird.


I hope this helps clear the muddy waters when it comes to selecting a Turkey! Please let us know if you have something we missed — best way to learn is from each other. Be on the lookout for our upcoming posts on how to cook up that perfectly selected bird! 

November Desktop Download!

Free November Desktop Wallpaper | Home Again Creative

Happy November everyone! This past week or so here in Nashville have finally started feeling like Fall. The crisp weather is helping me to get into the mood for all the yummy soups, stews, and Thanksgiving on the the horizon. A holiday in which we gather around a table full of wonderful food with family and friends? Yes please!! 

So let's jump into November with this brand new — and oh-so-cute illustrated desktop and phone wallpaper! I hope you're a fan of cute, because this little guy is definitely adorable. :) 

Click the buttons below to download. 

xoxo Lori Danelle

Love you to the Moon

Love you to the moon art print | Home Again Creative

Sometimes, a design lives in my sketchbook a long time before it makes it out into the world. 

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I started this sketch on a plane, headed to Dallas TWO YEARS ago. 

I loved it, but didn't have a complete vision in my mind of how it should look, so it got pushed aside by ideas that were more complete. 

Recently, I saw something that rekindled the idea and made me know just what this design was supposed to look like! I am so tickled with how it turned out — especially since it's so different from my first vague thoughts, and yet parts are exactly the same!

I enjoyed creating To the Moon so much that I just couldn't stop with just one! I love the idea of the two of them hanging together in a kid's room! 

Both designs are available as 8x10 and 11x14 art prints, and have added To the Moon to my greeting card line up!! 

I hope you love these as much as I do and can't wait to see them hanging in your little one's room!! 

xoxo Lori Danelle

How to Salt and Brine Poultry

Salting or brining poultry in a saltwater solution is a great way to boost the flavor and juiciness of the meat. However, before you go anywhere near your chicken with salt, there's an important question that needs to be asked first: 

What type of kosher salt do you use?

Believe it or not, but there's a big difference between Diamond Crystal & Morton Salt brands – sorry Morton Salt girl – it affects how much salt you should use! 

How to salt and brine poultry

Morton Kosher Salt (as well as most other store brands) is made by flattening salt granules into large thin flakes while Diamond Crystal uses a 100-year old proprietary evaporation process in which upside-down pyramids are stacked one over the next to form a crystal. Diamond Crystal's method results in a hollow pyramid-shaped grain. This hollow structure accounts for the salt’s lightness, & crush-ability. Because of the hollow pyramid's shape, each teaspoon of Diamond Crystal Salt has less salt than Morton Salt, thus you are less likely to over salt (you can always add more salt).

If you're not already using it, I recommend making a switch to Diamond Crystals, if only because it's much more forgiving in the kitchen. Also, most recipe writers don't specify which salt they use in their recipes, but I have a hunch since most chefs (at least that I know) use Diamond & most cook books are at least co-written with a chef, Diamond Crystal are being used in the recipes.   

We use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt in our kitchen, so if you're using Morton's simply reduce the measurement by 1/3. For example, 1 tsp Diamond Crystal = 2/3 tsp Morton Salt.

ADD SALT TO POULTRY BY EITHER BRINING OR SALTING

WHY IT WORKS

Salting Poultry is a great way to keep lean proteins juicy. When salt is added to the surface of poultry it draws the moisture out. The salt then dissolves in the juices forming a brine that is eventually reabsorbed. When the salt is reabsorbed it changes the structure of the cells making it more tender and allowing it to hold on to more of it's natural moisture by about 10%. Most unsalted meat will loose about 20% of it's moisture during cooking, so by adding the salt you basically cut the moisture loss by half. (Sorry I can't explain further than that — I wasn't that great of a chemistry student.) Salting does take more time, but it won't keep you from getting crispy skin when cooked, if desired. 

Brining poultry works in pretty much the same way by changing the structure of the cell wall, tenderizing, and giving the cell the ability to retain moisture. The differences are brining is faster, & will add moisture to the meat, not just retain it, resulting in super juicy poultry. The downside is, with all the extra moisture, achieving a crispy skin becomes more difficult. Another complication to brining is space, as you need a container big enough & the fridge space to store the bird. I use a huge soup pot and have our fridge shelves situated so that it the pot fits. In the past I have also placed the birds and salt solution in a cooler with ice – just make sure to add ice as needed.

So, in short, if you want a pretty juicy bird with crispy skin, salt the poultry; but, if you want a super juicy bird and don't care about the skin, brine the bird.

Regardless, only salt or brine poultry that HASN'T been pre-basted, koshered, treated, or seasoned. It has already been salted. 

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SALTING POULTRY

When salting, apply kosher salt evenly inside the cavity and under the skin of the breasts and legs. Let sit on an elevated surface, such as a wire rack placed in a cookie sheet, and place in the refrigerator. If salting for longer than 12 hours, you'll need to wrap the poultry tightly in plastic wrap to keep it from drying out. 

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BRINING POULTRY

When brining, I do use table salt instead of kosher salt as it dissolves more quickly. Make sure to fully submerge the chicken or turkey with water.

For chicken, the ratio is 1/4 cup salt for every 1 quart of water. 
For turkey, use 1/2 cup salt for every 1 gallon of water. 

Use the chart below as a guide.

Be sure to plan accordingly this method takes time to brine and air dry. 

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After brining to achieve the most crisp skin possible you'll need to air dry the bird. First, pat the bird dry inside and out with paper towels. Then set it on a wire rack placed on a baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 8 hours up to overnight.

 
How to Salt & Brine Poultry  |  Home Again Creative

So glad for Octobers!

Free October Desktop Wallpaper  |  Home Again Creative

I'm a little leery of Fall. 

I like cardigans, cider, and boots, but Fall comes a little too close to Winter to make me truly comfortable.

That said, I'm a big fan of Halloween. 

I LOVE LOVE LOVE the creativity and imagination that goes with Halloween. A single day, every year that we collectively decide to be who or whatever it is that we dare to dream up. 

Also. What other day of the year does your entire neighborhood come to your doorstep and ring your doorbell?

We live in a cookie cutter neighborhood that I have a love/hate relationship with. On the one hand, I went to ART SCHOOL. I like original. I don't do planned neighborhoods. The fact that my house looks like my next-door-neighbor's, and the one across the street AND the one 2 houses down, etc., etc., etc., really bothers me — even though our brick and shutters ARE different colors. As if we those changes would make us forget. . . 

On the other hand, there are kids EVERYWHERE. We have a neighborhood pool. There's a greenway and creek that run alongside our neighborhood. We have sidewalks and a big yard. It is really quite perfect for our family right now. 

And yet, I know only the few families who live 2 or 3 houses to the left and right of my own. I realize no great lasting friendships are going to emerge from this one night, but I still think it's pretty amazing that despite all the junk going on in this world, on October 31st, I will have 300+ stranger/neighbors come to my house, while my own daughters giggle their way to each of their houses. 

I think we could use a little more of that all year long. 


So tonight, I got to doodling. I've been thinking of making a desktop wallpaper for some time, but never knew what to make. I wasn't going to do anything for October, but this ghost that has been haunting my sketchbooks for years finally showed me where he belonged.  :) 

Perhaps this will be the start of something fun I do every month. Would you like to see a new one next month?   

I hope you enjoy!! 

Click the buttons below to download:

Feel free to give me a virtual high-five by tagging me on Instagram if you want to share your workspace (I love seeing them!) or sharing on Pinterest!

xoxo, Lori Danelle

Tomatillo Salsa Verde

It's mid-October. The leaves on the trees are falling, but the temperature is finding a way to hang out around 75 – 80 degrees here in Nashville. 

I shouldn't still be making salsa, but I am.

This summer I decided to plant 5 tomatillo plants. I love having tomatillos in my garden! The way they grow is the coolest thing ever with their lantern husks! The past couple of years I only planted 2, but as the flowers cannot be pollinated from flowers on the same plant, I've never had what you would call a bumper crop. 

So this year, I went crazy and planted 5. 

So far, I've made & frozen at least 40 cups of tomatillo salsa, plus the sauces that we've made and eaten right away. Of my 5 tomatillo plants, 3 of them are still going strong with flowers, bees and ripening fruit. There's no stopping them. 

Seriously. I just brought in another 10 - 15 tomatillos today. 

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The great thing about tomatillos salsa is it's easy to make, REALLY REALLY REALLY good, and very versatile. You can eat it with chips, on tacos, and the normal fare, but equally amazing on grilled chicken, pork, steak, or fish. Another way I love to use it is adding it to my salad, along with my homemade ranch dressing. Earlier this week, I even added it to a late night bowl of egg drop soup when I didn't have green onions or cilantro to mix in and it was wonderful!  

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INGREDIENTS

3 jalapeno or serrano chiles
6 medium tomatillos
2 bunches fresh cilantro
1 small white onion - quartered
6 garlic cloves
coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus more to taste
1/4 cup grapeseed oil

DIRECTIONS

Cut the chiles into quarters and remove seeds. For a spicier salsa, leave a few of the seeds in. Husk and quarter the tomatillos.

Cut off the bottom 2 - 3 inches of tough stems from each cilantro bunch. Set aside the leaves and tender stems. 

Nate and I have an ongoing debate regarding the correct way to prepare cilantro. He tends to take the pile of cilantro and remove each and every leaf, stem-by-stem. There's a very good chance that he's correct and this is the proper way to work with cilantro — he knows a lot more than me when it comes to cooking — but I just can't. Many of my favorite recipes to cook include cilantro and I have never once heard a complaint or regretted just chopping off the bottom of the stems. 

You do whatever you want, but I think I'll stick to my way. 

In a food processor, throw in the chiles, tomatillos, cilantro, onion, garlic, 1 tablespoon each of salt and pepper, and 2 tablespoons lime juice. Pulse several times until combines, but still fairly chunky. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, and lime juice as needed. The salsa should be a vibrant green color. 

Serve right away, or tightly cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days. If you've made a large batch, freezing it works well. 

Enjoy!

xoxo, Lori Danelle

Tomatillo Salsa Verde

Introducing: Holiday Photo Cards!

Every year I have grand plans for offering Holiday photo cards, but for one reason or another, it doesn't happen. 

UNTIL THIS YEAR!!! 

I'm so excited to have these cards ready for you!

To order, head over to the shop, pick your design, send me your photos & I'll send you the files needed to print with your preferred printer — whether it's mpix, Costco, or even your home desktop printer!!!