Layered Mexican Dip

This post for Mexican Layered Dip was sponsored by Sprouts Farmer’s Market. As with all sponsored posts, all opinions are my own.

Layered Mexican Dip

Some of the best parts of any big ballgame are the food and friendship. Even for those of us who might not get into sports, the big game is still a terrific time to invite over a few friends or neighbors. And, of course, it never hurts to have plenty of good food to share. Layered Mexican Dip is a favorite of ours to serve while watching a big game with friends because it requires very little cooking and is always a crowd-pleaser.

Layered Mexican Dip

The only cooking you’ll need to do for Layered Mexican Dip is to brown the hamburger meat and add the taco seasoning. Once that is done, you just simply have to layer the ingredients in a dish. So simple!

The good thing about Layered Mexican Dip is that you can substitute ingredients as you like, and you will still have a terrific dip. Not a fan of guacamole? Leave it out! Don’t want it too spicy? Drop the jalapeños. There are still lots of other layers to provide a full flavor.

To make Layered Mexican Dip you will need:

1 can of refried beans – I used canned refried pinto beans from Sprouts, but you can use refried black beans if you prefer
1/4 cup sliced jalapeños
1 lb. ground beef, browned
1 package taco seasoning – I made my own using this recipe.
1 jar salsa – I made my own using this recipe.
1 8 oz container of guacamole
1 8 oz container of sour cream
1 8 oz block of your favorite cheese, grated – I used colby jack, but cheddar or pepper jack would also be delicious.
1 4 oz can of sliced black olives
1/2 bunch green onion, sliced greens only
Salt

Brown ground beef and add taco seasoning according to package directions. In a 9″x13″ casserole dish, spread a layer of refried beans. Sprinkle the layer with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add a layer of jalapeños, making it as thick or thin as you like. Next add the layer of taco meat. After that, add the layer of salsa. After the salsa, carefully add the layer of guacamole. This will be a little difficult to spread, but should be easier if you let it sit out for a few minutes before spreading. Next add the layer of sour cream. Top that with a layer of shredded cheese. Finish it off with a sprinkle of olives and green onions. Refrigerate if you aren’t serving immediately. Serve with tortilla chips.

Now for a few tips that make this dip delicious and easy to make. While you can make your own guacamole if you are so inclined, we LOVE the hatch chile guacamole from the Sprouts produce department. They make it in the store, and we and use it whenever we can.

Layered Mexican Dip

If you want to try making your own taco seasoning, but don’t want to invest in a bunch of spices, check out the bulk seasoning aisle in Sprouts. You can buy just the amount you need, which keeps you from spending a lot on spices you won’t ever use again. It really is one of my favorite areas of the store.

Layered Mexican Dip

Since this dip is thick, you need a solid chip that won’t break with every scoop. The Sprouts extra thick tortilla chips are the bomb. No chip breakage with these!

Layered Mexican Dip

Y’all invite your neighbors over and get to know them better over a dish of Layered Mexican Dip!

Layered Mexican Dip
A delicious Tex-Mex dip that is terrific for parties, tailgating, or a simple dinner at home. It's always a crowd-pleaser!
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Ingredients
  1. 1 can of refried beans - I used canned refried pinto beans from Sprouts, but you can use retired black beans if you prefer
  2. 1/4 cup sliced jalapeños
  3. 1 lb. ground beef, browned
  4. 1 package taco seasoning - I made my own using this recipe.
  5. 1 jar salsa - I made my own using this recipe.
  6. 1 8 oz container of guacamole
  7. 1 8 oz container of sour cream
  8. 1 8 oz block of your favorite cheese, grated - I used colby jack, but cheddar or pepper jack would also be delicious.
  9. 1 4 oz can of sliced black olives
  10. 1/2 bunch green onion, sliced greens only
  11. Salt
Instructions
  1. Brown ground beef and add taco seasoning according to package directions. In a 9"x13" casserole dish, spread a layer of refried beans. Sprinkle the layer with about 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Add a layer of jalapeños, making it as thick or thin as you like. Next add the layer of taco meat. After that, add the layer of salsa. After the salsa, carefully add the layer of guacamole. This will be a little difficult to spread, but should be easier if you let it sit out for a few minutes before spreading. Next add the layer of sour cream. Top that with a layer of shredded cheese. Finish it off with a sprinkle of olives and green onions. Refrigerate if you aren't serving immediately. Serve with tortilla chips.
The Hill Hangout http://thehillhangout.com/

Layered Mexican Dip from TheHillHangout.com

Top 2015 Recipes from The Hill Hangout

Top 2015 Recipes

Can you believe 2015 has come to a close and 2016 is here?!? I hope you and yours are off to a terrific start. The beginning of a new year is a great time to reflect on the victories and challenges of the previous tear. The Hill Hangout has a transition year in 2015, as I took on a full-time job outside of the blog world. As a result, you have seen far fewer posts from me this year. That’s something I’d like to work on in 2016. However, you remained faithful and 2015 was a year full of good food, good travel, and good spiritual growth for us. And you, dear readers, must have been cooking, traveling, and growing right along with us because you viewed some of our posts over and over again. In fact, here’s a little glimpse into the top 2015 recipes from The Hill Hangout…

#10. Creole Seasoning

Top 2015 Recipes from The Hill Hangout

#9. Cheesy Smoked Sausage Dip

Top 2015 Recipes from The Hill Hangout

#8. Cornbread Dressing

Top 2015 Recipes from The Hill Hangout

#7. Perfect Pound Cake

Top 2015 Recipes from The Hill Hangout

#6. Chicken and Dumplings

Top 2015 Recipes from The Hill Hangout

#5. Peanut Butter Pie

Top 2015 Recipes from The Hill Hangout

#4. Fiesta Corn Dip

Top 2015 Recipes from The Hill Hangout

#3. Greek Seasoning

Top 2015 Recipes from The Hill Hangout

#2. Loaded Cornbread

Top 2015 Recipes from The Hill Hangout

#1. Creamy Sriracha Dipping Sauce

Top 2015 Recipes from The Hill Hangout

Hope your 2016 brings you more and more of the things you love!

Prayer for the New Year

Prayer for the New Year from THeHillHangout.com

One of my favorite prayer resources is The Lutheran Book Of Prayer (affiliate link). Though I am not Lutheran, I have prayed many prayers from this little book. It has prayers for specific days of the week, holidays, life events like the birth of a baby or a new home, as well as prayers for specific people like pastors, children, spouse, or world leaders. As 2016 is just beginning, it is timely to share with you their prayer for a new year.

It is on account of Your mercy alone, O Lord, that I am not consumed, because Your compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. Abide with me, O God, throughout the coming year. Be my guide in all my perplexities, my strength in my weakness, my ever-ready help in all my troubles.

Forgive me all my sins. O Sabaoth Lord, look down from heaven and in grace behold and visit Your holy Church, which You have chosen for Your own. Preserve for us Your saving Word and Sacraments, that Your vine may send out its boughs from sea to sea and its branches to the uttermost parts of the earth.

Look graciously upon our nation and all the nations of the world, and bless them with peace. Grant to all that are in authority wisdom and courage to rule in such a way that we may lead a quiet and peaceful life in all godliness and honesty.

To You, almighty Creator and gracious God, I commit this nation, my church, my family and loved ones, and myself. Abide with me. With Your grace and mercy preserve me whole—soul and body—blameless to the coming of my Lord Jesus Christ.

I pray 2016 brings you much joy, peace, and love, my dear readers.

Bowl Game Tailgating at Home

Bowl Game Tailgating at home

My Auburn Tigers had a tough season this year, and the Birmingham Bowl was the end of the line for them. Whaa-whaa-whaa. But we are still big fans of the bowl games and usually watch games all day on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Since we are watching on TV, we do our bowl game tailgating at home. I will traditionally make quite a few appetizers and pick-up foods, and we are with our teams in spirit. It works for us.

This year some of my food blogger friends have helped me pull together a list of recipes so that you, too, can do your bowl game tailgating at home. Take a look…

Bacon and Cheese Party Sandwiches from Mary at Chattavore. I’ve made a similar sandwich with ham and swiss, but I love Mary’s idea of using bacon, gouda, and maple syrup.

Bowl Game Tailgating at Home

Mary’s party sandwiches would pair terrifically with BBQ Red Slaw from Donya at A Southern Soul.

Bowl Game Tailgating at Home

To keep things a little on the healthy side, try this Peanut Butter Fruit Dip from Liz at The Farm Wife Cooks.

Bowl Game Tailgating at Home

Ok, enough of the healthy stuff. Check out these Steak Stuffed Jalapeños from Paula at Call Me PMc.

Bowl Game Tailgating at Home

I’ve made Rotel dip with Velvet and sausage a thousand times, but Plain Chicken’s Hissy Fit Dip takes it up a notch. I’m definitely making this instead!

Bowl Game Tailgating at Home

To throw a little sweet and salty in with all those cheese dishes, try my Holiday Rolo Turtles.

Bowl Game Tailgating at Home

This Pull-Apart Pizza Bread by Melissa at Served Up With Love looks divine!

Bowl Game Tailgating at Home

Like the idea, but not in the mood for pizza? Try Bacon Cheese Pull Apart Bread from Call Me PMc.

Bowl Game Tailgating at Home

All the praise hands and all the yesses for Sarah’s Super Bowl Nacho Bar, which you can see at The Magical Slow Cooker.

Bowl Game Tailgating at Home

When you need a little salty and a little sweet, try Fluffy’s Salted Oreo Bars.

Salted Oreo Bars

What about you guys? What are your favorite dishes for tailgating at home?

Creole Pinto Beans and Sausage

Creole Pinto Beans and Sausage

It’s no wonder pinto beans were a staple for cowboys while they were out on the range. Pinto beans are sort of the epitome of a good, cheap, hearty meal. While our family doesn’t spend many (or any) nights near an open campfire, we do still enjoy a big pot of Creole Pinto Beans and Sausage for dinner, especially on cold rainy nights like we’ve had lately in the ‘Ham.

I always make Creole Pinto Beans and Sausage with dried pinto beans. I just think they have a better flavor than canned. However, if you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to soak a package of beans for several hours, by all means use about 3-4 cans of beans. I make mine with smoked sausage, but you can use ground sausage or even ham if you prefer. We’ve made it all those ways, and they get a thumbs up. When I use smoked sausage, I ALWAYS use Conecuh, but if you have a favorite brand, use it.

Creole Pinto Beans and Sausage

For Creole Pinto Beans and Sausage, you only need a couple of ingredients and a handful of spices. I use a 1 pound package of pinto beans, which I soak overnight (or at least several hours). Once they are soaked, rinse and put in a big pot of cold water. Cover the beans with about a half gallon of water. You want the beans covered plus about 1 inch. Cut the Conecuh sausage into one inch pieces and add it to the beans. Turn on medium heat and let simmer for about an hour. Be sure to add more water as it evaporates so that you don’t scorch the beans. To spice it up, you’ll need:

2 tablespoons paprika
3 teaspoons onion powder
3 teaspoons garlic powder
3 teaspoons dired oregano
3 teaspoons dried basil
1.5 teaspoons ground thyme
1.5 teaspoons celery salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

** The listed amounts of peppers will give you a medium spiciness. We use about twice as much of the three peppers because we like it spicy. Dial it back if you want it mild.

Once spices are added, cook about 30 more minutes. Serve it piping hot with a side of our classic Southern cornbread or our loaded cornbread.Y’all invite your neighbors over for dinner, and get to know them a little better. Life is hard for some people, and you never know when people are carrying a burden you can help with.

Creole Pinto Beans and Sausage
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Ingredients
  1. 1 lb dried pinto beans
  2. 1 lb Conecuh Smoked Sausage (or your favorite brand)
  3. 2 tablespoons paprika
  4. 3 teaspoons onion powder
  5. 3 teaspoons garlic powder
  6. 3 teaspoons dired oregano
  7. 3 teaspoons dried basil
  8. 1.5 teaspoons ground thyme
  9. 1.5 teaspoons celery salt
  10. 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  11. 1 teaspoon ground white pepper
  12. 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  13. ** The listed amounts of peppers will give you a medium spiciness. We use about twice as much of the three peppers because we like it spicy. Dial it back if you want it mild.
Instructions
  1. Soak beans overnight (or at least several hours). Once they are soaked, rinse and put in a big pot of cold water. Cover the beans with about a half gallon of water. You want the beans covered plus about 1 inch. Cut the Conecuh sausage into half inch pieces, and add it to the beans. Turn on medium heat and let simmer for about an hour. Be sure to add more water as it evaporates so that you don't scorch the beans. Once spices are added, cook about 30 more minutes.
Notes
  1. Serve Creole Pinto Beans and Sausage piping hot with a side of our classic Southern cornbread or our loaded cornbread.
The Hill Hangout http://thehillhangout.com/

100 Dishes in Alabama: Felix’s Fish Camp

Felix Fish Camp

It’s been a while since I’ve written about our adventures through the list of 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die. We spent a little time in south Alabama this weekend, so we were able to hit a few spots on the list. I must say, I have missed working my way through the list, and I’ve certainly missed sharing with you all the dishes that have given my homeland quite a name in the culinary world.

Felix Fish Camp

Friday night took us to Felix’s Fish Camp on the Causeway in Spanish Fort, where they are known for their crab soup. And let me tell you, that crab soup did not disappoint. Jonathan ordered it as soon as the waitress told him it was their specialty, and he was sweet enough to share it with the rest of us. It was thick enough to eat it from a plate (which MA did), and it was full of fresh, lump crab meat. He declared it the best crab soup he’d ever eaten, and I’m inclined to agree. It was some delicious stuff. It’s definitely not a low-calorie dish, but it’s worth every bite.

Not only was the crab soup delicious, but we each really enjoyed the seafood we ordered. Felix’s sits right on the Mobile Bay, and their seafood is all freshly caught. J and I both ordered the grouper, grilled and lightly seasoned. MA ordered the fried fish, and it was crispy with a hint of spiciness. The wait staff really goes to great lengths to serve the food well and make customers feel like it is a special event to dine at Felix’s. All in all, it was a fabulous meal.

The next time we are passing through Mobile, we will definitely stop by Felix’s again for a bowl of their famous crab soup. I would suggest taking advantage of their reservations or call-ahead seating options, as we had to wait for an hour. Not bad for a Friday night, but we will call ahead next time. They also suggest dining around sunset to take advantage of their spectacular view. The back wall of the restaurant is complete windows and it overlooks the bay. I’m sure that dining with that view would be a special treat.

My Biggest Homeschooling Mistakes

One of the biggest decisions we will make in regards to raising children is how to educate them. This post is not meant to proselytize you into homeschooling. Believe it or not, I DO NOT believe that homeschooling is for everyone. However, if this is the path God has for you and your children, I’d love to have you learn from my biggest homeschooling mistakes in the hopes that you can avoid the pain of repeating them.

Homeschooling has been, for our family, one of the biggest blessings we have received. But it wasn’t always easy. In fact, the early days brought on a lot of frustration for me as well as my little ones. When we started homeschooling, we didn’t know anyone else who homeschooled. I had NO ONE to guide me through, save the Susan Wise Bauer books that I checked out of the library. Unfortunately, I made more than my fair share of mistakes. But even with a rough start, I thankfully learned a few things quickly to make our life together more manageable. I hope this little confession of my biggest homeschooling mistakes helps you avoid similar pitfalls.

My Biggest Homeschooling Mistakes

Expecting Too Much of Myself and My Child

While many people begin their homeschooling journey with fear and insecurity, others jump in with excitement and big plans. I fell into the second camp. While a healthy level enthusiasm is good, I fell into the trap of wanting to teach her EVERYTHING. RIGHT NOW. If this sounds familiar, can I encourage you to slow down and take a deep breath? Homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint. If you set the bar too high for you and/or your children, you will have everyone feeling like a total failure when you start to lose steam. Pace yourself. You will have many weeks, months, and years to teach all that you want your children to know.

Buying Too Many Materials

One of the best pieces of advice I received as a prospecting homeschooler was to attend a homeschooling convention. At these conventions, you can visit the vendor hall and view curricula, books, and other materials before deciding what to invest in. The problem is, as a new homeschooler you really don’t know what you need. I easily justified in my mind the purchase of too many materials. You will not need every map, ruler, coloring book, or laminating machine that you come across. You can easily rack up a hefty total for these things if you don’t carefully consider whether you’ll actually use them. My advice is to take your time perusing the options. Look carefully at curricula and textbooks to decide what you really will need to teach your child. Avoid the temptation to make your dining room look like a traditional classroom, unless you really will be using the things that will cover the walls. Purchase only the basics, and make notes of what you might want to add in the future. Utilize FREE resources like your local library and educational apps and websites. Get your year started and spend some time learning how your child learns best. ALL THE THINGS might actually turn out to be a distraction for your student. Stick to the basics to begin with and add to your stash as needed.

Buying Only New Materials

New textbooks and materials can be very costly. It’s easy to feel like you need to buy everything at the homeschool convention, but using a little self-control can save you big money. When you find a new curriculum or textbook you want to use, look at eBay, your local library, or find a Facebook homeschooling buy/sell group. You can cut your book tab by over half by using used materials. Be careful, however, to ask about condition to be sure answers haven’t been filled in, etc. Also, be sure you know which pieces of a set are included and what you’ll need to purchase separately.

Sticking With a Curriculum That Doesn’t Work For Us

There are so many good choices in curricula, but not every book works for every child. Sometimes we make mistakes and purchase something that simply doesn’t work for us. While that can be costly in terms of money, not switching to a better fit can cost your child a love of learning. Try your best to purchase wisely, but don’t be too slow to make a change when something isn’t a good fit. There are too many good options out there to be miserable.

Giving Busy Work to Fill Our Day

Because you FEEL like school has to look a certain way and take up a certain amount of time, it’s easy to fall into the trap of filling up your day with busy work. Listen to me, mama: there is not one thing wrong with doing school for three hours, if that’s all it takes your child. Do not give into the urge to make your babies do worksheet after worksheet or project after project, just so you feel like you’ve done a complete school day. If it takes your child only a few math problems to get a concept down, stop giving more required work than they need. If your kid is a smarty pants who thrives on math work, then by all means, let him do his thing. But if they would rather have their nose buried in a book, let them move on to another activity that they enjoy. If they can’t wait to get outside and play, let them have that time, too. Children learn from doing all sorts of activities, even playing. Don’t give in to the temptation to fill a 8:00-3:00 day with book work. It usually isn’t necessary.

Teaching for Tests 

I set out as a homeschool mom to teach my children to love learning. I just knew that if I could help them fall in love with learning, they would never stop learning. Sounds good, right? It was and is a good approach, but somewhere along the way we fell into teaching so that they could pass tests. It was an easy transition, so I didn’t see it coming. We didn’t test at first because I thought my little student was retaining everything I taught her. But after a few months I realized she couldn’t remember half of what we’d learned. I decided to give tests to give her some accountability for listening and retaining information. She began to remember more of what we studied. I felt like we were winning. Somewhere along the way, though, she began learning just enough to pass the tests and then forgetting it all when the test was over. She’s a sly one. We had to learn a new approach that included not only listening with wonder and excitement, but also remembering longer than testing lasted. For us, that meant reviewing more often and helping her connect the dots on why this material was important. When we know our “why” our “how” and “what” become easier.

Not Plugging in Socially

It’s no secret that socialization is one of the hot topics of homeschooling. How will they ever learn to behave around their peers? Most homeschooling parents quickly learn that their children will do just fine socially as long as they are still involved in field trips, church activities, sports, or other extra-curricular activities. What I failed to realize, however, is MY need for socializing. It is super easy to slide down the slippery slope of thinking you’re fine at home, doing the thing God has called you to. You click along, doing your daily school routine, not realizing the isolation that creeps in. One day you look up and realize you haven’t left the house in days and haven’t been in touch with friends in far too long. And now that your children are home with you all day, how could you do any of that stuff anyway? Mamas, I want to encourage you to make time with friends happen. Make date nights with your husband happen. Make beach weekends with your sisters happen. Go to that ladies night out with your church friends. You need it. You cannot keep pouring into your children without being filled up. That well will soon run dry. Get over the guilt and realize that you are a better homeschooling mom when you take time to engage with people who do not live in your house. Isolation=desperation. Nip that in the bud.

Expecting My Home to Stay Neat

Since we were home all day, I mistakenly assumed that our home would stay cleaner. Not true. We lived in that home all day, every day, and it stayed messy! Not unclean, mind you, but messy. Sure, the dishes were done, the floor scrubbed, and the laundry clean, but our tables and counters constantly held stacks of papers, buckets of art supplies, and open lesson plan books. Nothing was neat. There were always projects in process. I could either be constantly frustrated at the mess or learn to look at it as a beautiful sign of the homeschooling way of life. I wish I could say that my mind changed instantly. It didn’t. It took me lots of months and even years to accept that being home meant being disorderly. However, over time I learned to accept more messiness and my family learned to keep things neater. We meet in the middle.

Defending My Decision To Homeschool

Not everyone will be as excited about your decision to homeschool as you are. Not everyone will hear from God on this subject like you have. People will not get why you don’t do things the way everyone else does. While homeschooling is becoming increasingly more common, you will still face tension. You might face questions, and even criticism, from friends or family who don’t understand your decision. You will, no doubt, hear retellings of every homeschooling-gone-wrong story that has ever been told. Usually a simple explanation of your desire to homeschool will ease the tension. However, sometimes that isn’t the case. It’s easy to feel the need to defend yourself and your students to anyone who doesn’t agree with your choice to homeschool. Don’t fall into the trap of needing the approval of other people. You can really send yourself into a tailspin by needing other people to accept and agree with your decision, because you simply won’t get that from everyone. As long as you and your spouse are in agreement, and you feel like God is leading you to it, don’t concern yourself with the acceptance of everyone else. Sometimes you have to lead your family into unchartered territory to experience great blessing. Peter had to get out of the boat to walk on water, but he is the only one who got to experience Jesus in the storm.

You will, no doubt, experience mistakes of your own when beginning your homeschooling journey. Try as you might to gain wisdom from others who have gone before you, you will find that you too have blown it a time or two. I sincerely hope that you can avoid some of the things I have mentioned, but just in case… learn to give yourself grace.

Peace to you and your family as you make the homeschooling journey!

Declare Conference

Declare Conference

I predict that last weekend will turn out to be one of the most pivotal times in my life. I spent the weekend with about 125 very wise, godly, master writers at the Declare Conference in Dallas, Texas. It’s a conference for Christian women writers, or “digital evangelists,” as we began to think of ourselves. We heard from the likes of Chrystal Evans Hurst, Janelle Knox, Kris Comely, Kat Lee, and Cari Trotter. Each of these ladies equipped and encouraged us to RUN with urgency and passion the race that God has set us on, to bring His message to the world.

I left so ready to write and beg you to gather your people around the table (literally or figuratively) and love on them and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them and bear their burdens and celebrate their joys because we HAVE to do this thing together if we’re going to do it at all. And please, for the love, invite other people to gather around your table, too. Everybody doesn’t have the home life you have. Everybody doesn’t have the wisdom that God has given you. Everybody doesn’t have the stable family or the financial blessing or the tight relationships you do.

But they can.

They can if they are shown how. And it’s our job to show them how because how will they know unless they are told?

So I left the Declare Inference with a renewed vision for The Hill Hangout. The tone of the conference was writers speaking to writers about the importance of writing. However, many of the comments apply to anyone in any field that God has called them to, so I thought I’d share with you here in case you are needing a little encouragement in your calling. After all, don’t these ladies look like they have some very important messages for you?

Declare Conference

Kris Camealy, developer of Grace Table, challenged us to build altars instead of platforms. I don’t know about you, but I have definitely fallen into the trap of doing things for my own gain (building a platform) instead of laying my desires before God and asking Him to give me His vision instead (building altars). I have been guilty of presenting MY plans to God and asking Him to bless them, when I should have been asking Him for His plans. Friends, He has much better plans than we could ever create in our own strength and wisdom. His plans are able to minister to more, reach more, and bless more than anything we build on our own. Whether we are talking about a career, a set of expectations, a marriage, motherhood, or WHATEVER, please let Him form that instead of going it alone.

Declare Conference

Another of Kris’s challenges to us was that no matter what field of work we are in, we are called to make disciples. If we are writers, we are called to make disciples through our writing. If we are mothers, we are called to make disciples of our children. If we are teachers, nurses, dentists, chefs, librarians, social media consultants, botanists, or photographers, we are to make disciples. God has put you in the job you are in for His purpose, and even if you can’t outright evangelize at work, He wants you to use that position for His kingdom.

At the next session, Janelle Knox, who runs MICI Magazine, spoke life to us about comparisons. You know what I’m talking about, right? You hop onto Facebook feeling fine, and within a few minutes you are feeling like your life doesn’t measure up. Your kids aren’t dressed well enough. Your vacation wasn’t adventurous enough. Your husband isn’t progressing in his career like so-and-so’s. You’d think that by the time we are adults, we’d stop this nonsense. And yet…

Declare Conference

Janelle reminded us, “The world is always telling us who we aren’t. God is telling us who we are.” If you look to be satisfied with the things of the world, we will never have enough. But if you look at who you are and what you have received in Christ Jesus, you will know true, lasting satisfaction. You can have all the material things in the world, and they can serve to be merely a distraction from relying on the fullness of Christ in you. If we truly grabbed hold of the power of the Holy Spirit within us and the relationship we have with God because of Jesus, the Enemy would have no power against us.

Sisters, it’s time to realize that our salvation has come through Christ, and HE HAS MADE US ENOUGH. Let’s stop telling Him that He hasn’t done enough for us by comparing ourselves to other people. I loved what Janelle had to say about this: “When we feel like we aren’t enough, God isn’t buying it. He made us with depth, color, texture, and creativity. He is pleased with who we are because He created us that way.”

Christian women’s conferences like the Declare Conference have been a huge part of my Christian walk. I have had some of the most defining moments as a result of gathering with other Christian women who believe like I do and want to do a life of ministry like I do. I love pulling up to the table with them and hearing how they walk out their faith in the many roles women have to play. And THAT is why I invite you to the table at The Hill Hangout every week (ok, so it’s been less often lately). I want you to pull up a seat right next to us so that we can journey together, pulling each other into the presence and ministry of Christ. And then I want you to turn around and pull people up to your table and do the same.

A HUGE thank you to Courtney at CocoPaige Photography for the gorgeous photos!

Alabama’s BBQ Scene

Alabama BBQ Trail

When you grow up in Sweet Home Alabama, a good plate of BBQ is not just dinner, it’s a way of life. You cut your teeth on rib bones, and you learn early how to look for the best bark on a brisket. Alabama has an existing and solid reputation as a food destination, but Alabama’s BBQ scene has exploded in the last few years. Our state’s BBQ restaurants and traditions are consistently featured as some of the best in the US and in national media publications. Our state’s tourism department has even declared 2015 as “The Year of Alabama BBQ.” If you’ve ever thought about a trip to the historical civil rights landmarks, the Space and Rocket Museum, or a visit to our beautiful beaches, plan to make several stops along the BBQ trail. You can find a fun list of road trips to Alabama here.

While the best BBQ joints in Alabama are rarely fancy, you will no doubt experience the friendliness and hospitality for which Alabama is widely known. We are a laid-back bunch who knows how to relax and enjoy good food and good company. Life, as they say, moves slower in Alabama, and enjoying a slab of ribs or a BBQ sandwich with friends is definitely a favorite pastime. Every Alabamian has their own personal favorites when it comes to our long list of BBQ restaurants, and I certainly have my favorite spots to meet up with friends and family for dinner.

I live in Birmingham, so the BBQ spots in our area are near and dear to me. First fave: Full Moon.

Full Moon

At Full Moon, you really can’t go wrong with the pork plate, the black angus beef brisket, or the hickory smoked turkey. But whatever you meat you choose, be sure to pair it with their famous vinegar-based slaw, top it with their chow-chow, and round it out with a half-moon cookie for dessert.

Jim ‘N Nicks is a Birmingham landmark, and it is always a crowd-pleaser. I’m a fan of the pulled pork sandwich and fries, but don’t miss their cheddar biscuits. Yeah, you’re gonna ask for another round of those!

Jim Nicks Biscuits

The newest BBQ joint in town is Saw’s, and it has quickly made a name for itself on Alabama’s BBQ scene. Saw’s serves a delicious pork sandwich, served with fried pickles. But if you aren’t in the mood for BBQ, be sure to try the pork on cheese grits, piled with greens and topped with curls of light onion rings.

Saws sandwich and fried pickles

We frequently head north to visit the US Space and Rocket Center or various other north Alabama attractions. When we are in Decatur, we never miss Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ, home of the original Alabama white sauce.

Big Bob White Sauce

They have other great sauces as well, but my preference is the white sauce on smoked chicken.

Big Bob White Chicken

Football is king in Alabama, and in the fall we are a state divided right down the middle. Half of us are yelling “Roll Tide” for the University of Alabama, and the rest of us are yelling “War Eagle,” the battle cry of Auburn University.

If Tuscaloosa is your destination, Dreamland is a must-do. I’ve been going to Dreamland since the original location was the only location.

Dreamland

To get the true Dreamland experience, order ribs and white bread. You’ll get a rack of ribs and several pieces of white sandwich bread. That’s it. And you’ll be in heaven.

If you’re headed to the Plains for a ballgame, be sure to stop in at Mike &Ed’s. Like I said, we don’t make things fancy in Alabama. We serve our sweet tea nice and cold, but at Mike & Ed’s you’ll have to get it right out of a trash can. DOn’t worry… it’s clean.

Mike Ed Tea

One of the most notable attractions in Alabama is our coastline. Alabama beaches are the most beautiful anywhere around, as far as I’m concerned. They are sugar white and surrounded by the most quaint and charming small towns. They are definitely worth staying a few days! When in south Alabama, don’t miss the small town of Fairhope, home of lovely shops and fun restaurants like Ben’s BBQ. While I’ve never been to Ben’s, I have it on good authority that it’s the best BBQ in town.

Bens BBQ Fairhope

Fairhope isn’t the only coastal town with good BBQ. Mobile is home to two notable joints. The Brick Pit was featured on an episode of “Man vs. Food.”

Brick Pit Mobile

And I have it on good authority from friends who KNOW good BBQ that Saucy Q is the place to be. With a menu like this, I know the food is the real deal!

Saucy Q Menu

Planning a foodie trip to Alabama is made simple with the new Alabama Travel app, available for Android and iPhone. I’ve downloaded it, and it will notify me when I’m close to one of the BBQ restaurants that I want to try. So fun. You can follow the Alabama Tourism Department on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Y’all leave me a comment and let me know your favorite Alabama BBQ spot.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Alabama Tourism. The opinions and text are all mine.

Comeback Sauce

Comeback Sauce

If you’ve ever eaten at one of the chicken finger chains like Zaxby’s or Raising Cane’s, you’ve no doubt wondered how they make their special sauce taste so good. It is, after all, the crowning glory of their chicken finger dinners. It’s the perfect dip for the chicken fingers, the fires, and even the bread. We southerners are a little crazy about dipping our food. While the actual recipes used by chains are closely guarded secrets, you can make a batch of Comeback Sauce at home that will rival any of the chain sauces.

Comeback Sauce is simple to make, as it only requires mixing the ingredients – no cooking whatsoever. It does have quite a few ingredients, but most of them are items most family households would have on hand anyway. If you’re in a pinch, go ahead and make it without the missing ingredients, as it will still be good. You can mix it with a whisk or in a blender, whichever you prefer.

Here’s what you’ll need for Comeback Sauce:

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup chili sauce or Heinz 57 Steak Sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon sriracha or Tabasco hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon prepared mustard

Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a whisk or blend in blender. Store in air-tight container in fridge.

Comeback Sauce

Comeback Sauce is great on chicken, but it is also good on shrimp, steak, hamburgers, oven fries, and just about anything else you like to dip. It is a great staple dip to have on hand because you can always find something else to try it on.

I hope you all like it!

Comeback Sauce
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup mayonnaise
  2. 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  3. 1/4 cup chili sauce or Heinz Steak Sauce
  4. 1/4 cup ketchup
  5. 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  6. 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  7. 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  8. 1/4 teaspoon sriracha or Tabasco hot sauce
  9. 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  10. 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  11. 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl with a whisk, or blend in a blender until smooth.
Notes
  1. Comeback is a delicious dip that can be used on chicken fingers, steak, shrimp, or fries. It's also terrific on veggies.
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