BLOGMAS 2022 ~ DAY 14 ~ STOCKING STUFFERS

For me, stuffing stockings is one of my favorite things to do. I’m always on the look out for special little items that I tuck away ALL year long waiting for just this day.

Since the kids are grown, hubby gets my FULL attention and he hates it 😀 (sort of) because he says he isn’t as good at reciprocating the stocking process. But, he tries hard and is getting better at it every year. EVERY year though he complains about having to actually make things ‘fit’ into something stocking shaped. So, THIS year we’ve agreed to use some cute bags I found at Marshalls. These bags are soooooo much easier!!

This is what is in his bag this year. He never reads my blog so I know I’m safe posting this 😀 I may add a few more trinkets if I find them as I finish my other shopping. We have also stopped “BIG” presents to each other so the stocking is our “main” or “BIG” present and we are not going to individually wrap the presents inside the “stocking” so this saves both time and resources. I’m donating most of our wrapping resources to our local Eagles Lodge for their charitable endeavors and the float they’re decorating for the parade.

These pictures are from last year and a few years ago.

CANDIED JALAPENOS aka COWBOY CANDY

CANDIED JALAPENOS aka COWBOY CANDY Adapted from Foodie with Family yields 4-6 half pints

3 pounds FRESH FIRM, jalapeno peppers, washed
2 cups apple cider vinegar
6 cups white granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

  • Wearing gloves, remove the stems from all of the jalapeno peppers and discard the stems.
  • Slice the peppers into uniform 1/8-1/4 inch rounds. Set aside.
  • In a large pot, bring vinegar, sugar, celery seed and cayenne pepper to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Raise the heat to boiling again, add the pepper slices and garlic, return to a hard boil, then reduce the heat again and simmer for exactly 4 minutes.
  • Use a slotted spoon to transfer the peppers into clean, sterile canning jars to within 1/4 inch of the upper rim of the jar.
  • Turn heat up under the pot with the syrup and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 6 minutes.
Use a ladle to pour the boiling syrup into the jars over the jalapeno slices.
  • Insert a cooking chopstick to the bottom of the jar two or three times to release any trapped pockets of air.
  • Adjust the level of the syrup if necessary.
    Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean, damp paper towel.
  • Add new lids and rings until finger tightness.
  • Place jars in a pan full of boiling water. Be sure jars are covered with at least 2 inches of water.
  • Boil for 10 minutes for half-pints or 15 minutes for pints.
  • When fully cooled, wipe them with a clean, damp washcloth then label.
  • Allow to mellow for at least two weeks, but preferably a month before eating.

NOTE: These make great gifts! Add any leftover syrup into half-pint jars and process the same as the jalapenos. Save it for brushing on meat for the grill or add it to potato salad or whatever your heart desires??

BLOGMAS 2022 ~ DAY 13 ~ TAG QUESTIONS

Top 2 Winter Beauty Essentials?

  • A NICE HOT SHOWER to relax and clean out the pores.
  • A super moisturizer to keep away dry skin!

Top 2 Winter Fashion Essentials?

  • I wait ALL year for it to be cold enough to bring out the boots & UGGS!
  • Scarves and gloves.  I have color combos to match anything.

Favorite Winter Accessory?

  • HATS, GLOVES & SCARVES of course!!!!

Favorite Winter Nail Polish?

  • Red for Christmas, but normally a pinky mauve. I just have too much red in my complexion.

Hot Cocoa or Apple Cider?

  • Homemade hot cocoa and MUST have marshmallows and or whipped cream!
  • Apple Cider if it is made into a AVAL POTA TODDY!

Favorite Winter Candle?

  • Apple and Cinnamon

Does it snow where you live?

  • Yes, but after the SNOWMAGEDDON of 2019 with a week long power outage that left us freezing or the SNOW/ICE storm of 2013 that left the cul-de-sac as an ice skating rink, we hope for more moderate levels of snow this year.

Have you ever made a snowman?

  • Absolutely! And a snow woman and snow kids!

What is Your Favorite Holiday Movie?

  • IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE tops the list! Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street and they never get old either.  

What’s your favorite holiday drink? 

  • Coffee
  • Hot Tea
  • Hot Cocoa
  • Hot toddies – never been an eggnog fan

Candy cane or Gingerbread men?

  • I like the chalk style peppermint, but I’m not real keen on actual candy canes and I like soft gingerbread men and sugar cookies.

What’s your favorite holiday/Christmas song?

What is most important to you about the Christmas holidays? 

  • That it is genuine and homemade for the most part.  It is not a commercial holiday for me. I believe in trying to remember the real reason for the season and keep the Christmas spirit in my heart and life ALL year long.

BLOGMAS 2022 ~ DAY 12 ~ FAVORITE DECORATIONS & ORNAMENTS

My husband would tell you I never met an ornament I didn’t like. He would also tell you that our tree is going to collapse under the weight of all of the sentimental and treasured ornaments. 😀 What he forgets is that MOST of our family has made me the “safety deposit box” for all things nostalgic.

One of our favorite shows was THE BIG BANG THEORY which always makes me laugh as I picture Penny asking about Sheldon’s Ornament Placement Template. LOL There is no such thing as a proper way to place an ornament in our house 🙂 We believe in the more the merrier theory.

The ornaments below are some of our homemade bulbs.  Several years ago I made quite a few and then did them with my girl scout troop also. Hubby liked them so well that we have now donated all our store bought bulbs and made MORE than enough of these for the entire tree.

My cousin that passed away in 2014 made the ornament below for me.  It will always be hung by my shooting stars in her honor even though I’m still mad at her for leaving the mess called A HOUSE FROM HELL for me to deal with as well as her father who swindled us out of more than $75,000 dollars and 3 years of our life, but that’s NOT a story for Christmas time.
And our handmade ornament by Design Chick Creations.

I do have MANY favorite indoor decorations. Hubby and I agree on outdoor decorations, mostly generic and none that are very sentimental, but indoor decorations are mainly hand me downs and sentimental so I am more particular about them AND their placement.

My newest addition that I absolutely adore is my Scentsy nativity. I tried to buy it last year, but they sold out almost immediately. My concultant searched all year for one from her sources and then informed me they were bringing it back by popular demand. So, I was on line the minute they went on sale this year to make sure I didn’t miss out again.

What about you? Do you have favorite decorations and ornaments? Are they hand me downs from family?

HAPPY HOMEMAKER MONDAY with MENU PLANS week 49 of 2022

Be sure to join us for Happy Homemaker Monday and link up with our host, Sandra at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom

What can I say, but

It truly is! The bird bath freezes over nightly and at this point won’t truly thaw until spring. This past week we have seen rain, sleet, snow, wind and more weather pattern changes than I can count. This next week is supposed to be more of the same. Now that most of the Christmas decorations are up, I’m okay with all the weather, but it wasn’t too much fun last week going from sun to wind to rain and snow! 😀 Turtlenecks, flannels and hoodies are the layers of the season 😀

The Christmas season is truly here coupled with winter. I’m trying to get a more concise calendar going so that I can stay on top of the homemade gifts I’m working on. Mornings have become my “inside” work time because of the cold, so my breakfast is generally mid morning and yogurt and a half cup of coffee.

I’ve ended up a bit busy this past week and trying hard to stay on top of the BLOGMAS posts also. Here is the link to BLOGMAS 2022 that is up to date. I hope you get a chance to join in where you can.

THIS WEEK’S TO DO LIST, PROJECTS & APPOINTMENTS
  • LAUNDRY & CLEANING I did a deep clean, but then started sorting again so I need to dust and vacuum again. I need to do the bedding laundry today also.
  • GROCERIES & ERRANDS Groceries are good, but I do need to pick up a couple stray items when I go in for a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday. There is also a local craft fair on Friday that I want to get to.
  • PAPERWORK, PHONE CALLS & PROJECTS I’m still working on setting up next year’s calendar and organizing some end of the year files. I did a painting class yesterday for a second snowman, the one with the cardinal, but need to finish the trees and few other touch ups. Next week is the Highland cow that I’m really looking forward to.
  • RECIPE RESEARCH & MENU PLANNING December menu is done through the 15th, but as always, especially at this time of year I’ve made it really flexible.

WHAT’S ON THE DVR/TV
  • NETFLIX – We started the new “Wednesday” series from Tim Burton based on the Addams Family and are enjoying it.
  • CABLE – COOKING SHOWS The Big Bake, Christmas Baking, Holiday Wars, Christmas Cookies, Guy’s Game Night, Girl Meets Farm COMEDIES Young Sheldon and Ghosts POLICE/MEDICAL/DRAMAS NCIS series – regular, LA and Hawaii, Chicago series – Med, Fire and PD, Blue Bloods, FBI series – regular, Most Wanted and International, Law & Order series – regular and SVU, Rookie & Rookie Feds, The Resident, New Amsterdam, The Good Doctor, Fire Country, Yellowstone and Tulsa King  SYFY/FANTASY Quantum Leap, La Brea, The Walking Dead just finished, but not really as they have several spin offs beginning in 2023 REALITY Amazing Race – I like all the teams this year so am pleased with the final four going into the finale HALLMARK Christmas movies

I’m still bound and determined to finish reading Beyond the Moonlit Sea by Julianne Maclean. It’s been a really slow go though despite the fact that I do love this author. I had trouble getting into the story as she wove through the back story flashbacks over a couple decades. I’m now three quarters of the way through so am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Not to mention I have been falling asleep as my head hits the pillow each night, so I haven’t read much at all lately.

MONDAY
TUESDAY
WEDNESDAY
THURSDAY
FRIDAY
SATURDAY
SUNDAY
DINNER
 APPLE BALSAMIC CHICKEN, SOUTHERN CORNBREAD & BUTTERED CARROTS
 SALISBURY STEAK POTATO SKILLET
 HAMBURGER STEAK with RED PEA & ONION GRAVY with BUTTERED ROASTED POTATOES
 OVERNIGHT MAC & CHEESE and HAMBURGERS
 HONEY THYME ROAST CHICKEN
 BLOOMING QUESADILLA RING
OUT
DESSERT
 
 HOLIDAY JAM and CANDIED JALAPENOS MAKING DAY
 

My Christmas Cacti are blooming 😀

The trellis fell victim to a wind storm and the kittens decided it was a new jungle gym 😀

Such a pretty idea if you use liquid laundry detergent…

BLOGMAS 2022 ~ DAY 11 ~ ARTIFICAL OR REAL TREE?

This is one of those categories that should be easy, but it’s a bit complicated for us. We USUALLY had a REAL tree. Until we didn’t.

Several years back hubby’s National Guard unit was put on alert one September and by Thanksgiving they were shipping out to IRAQ. They left sunny southern California and headed to Washington to be integrated into the Army, which for hubby was easy because he had already served in the Army and then joined the National Guard so it was like going home for him. I was lucky because in the end he was named the Rear Detachment Commander and sent home to man the Armory and guys that remained behind for one reason or another.

But, I digress. While he was gone I needed to put up the tree and just couldn’t talk myself into doing a real tree by myself so I purchased a really nice artificial one. I put it up and decorated it that year and the next while he was still deployed. The following year we went back to a real tree. The year after that we moved to the north woods and REALLY enjoyed live trees again for a couple years.

During that time the artificial tree stayed boxed up. When we were in Texas live trees were exorbitantly priced so we used the artificial tree again for several years. When we came back to Oregon we went back to live trees until the year of the COVID pandemic and the local tree farm closed early leaving us live treeLESS so we pulled out the artificial tree again.

LOL this is my long winded way of asking you if you can tell the difference between a few of the trees from the past few years? Which ones are real and which ones are artificial?  😀 Live or artificial doesn’t matter to us anymore – being decorated with all the sentimental ornaments is what makes either tree special. A LIVE tree smells good, but honestly a nice artificial tree is easier and a whole lot less mess in the long run. We did buy a LIVE spray for inside and wreaths for outside!

 

BLOGMAS 2022 ~ DAY 10 ~ ADVENT CALENDAR

Do you use an advent calendar? Advent calendars have an interesting history. These are the two I alternate between.

There are literally thousands of different advent calendars. These days most are promotional items and come in every form from daily chocolates to beers. You can make your own, find them on ETSY, EBAY… but what do they stand for? What is advent?

Advent itself is Christian followers remembering the birth of Christ in celebration of His birth and the anticipation of His return. Advent originates from Latin meaning “coming” or “arrival. Advent begins on the 4th Sunday before Christmas.

This year the first Sunday IS TODAY, December 4th. The second one is December 11th and the third will be December 18th. The third one is also known as Gaudette Sunday and is a time of rejoicing that the fast is almost over.

Advent calendars are a cute little way to help kids not only countdown to Christmas, but also learn along the way. Many families offer up a daily scripture or devotional reading to go along with the chocolate treat as a way to stay focused on the reason for the season.

Many families also use an Advent Wreath, burning the candles as they countdown to Christmas. Each week features a different liturgical theme. Traditionally the first week features hope and expectation of the Jewish people as they await the Saviour’s arrival and reminding Christian believers to wait for Jesus’ second coming. The second week focuses on preparation and the third week celebrates the coming of the Messiah while the final week celebrates God’s peace and love.

Both royal purple and Sarum blue are used to symbolize the preparation, penitence and royalty to welcome the new king at Christmas time while purple is also used as the color of suffering during the week of Lent and Holy Week. Most churches have shifted their emphasis to the Sarum blue for Advent and reserving the royal purple for the Easter season. Pink replaces the blue in week 4 as a shift happens to lessen the emphasis of penitence and turn the attention to the celebration of the season.

Red and green derive from old European practices using evergreens and holly to symbolize the ongoing life and hope that Christ’s birth brings to the world. Red and green are NOT actually liturgical colors for the season.

BLOGMAS 2022 ~ DAY 9 ~ CHRISTMAS CARDS & WRAPPING IDEAS

Do you still send “snail mail” Christmas cards? 😀 I do! I know a lot of people have stopped or send virtual cards, but I’m a die hard on this one. I just love sending and getting Christmas cards in the mail. But, I fear they are becoming a thing of the past. Unfortunately I receive fewer and fewer each year it seems. Vitual cards just aren’t the same to me. AND I can’t reuse virtual cards to make the next year as gift tags.

I even painted a set of old shutters in Christmas colors to display them.

I DO try to make my own Christmas cards when I can, and I PLANNED to do homemade again this year, but years like this last year full of issues sometimes finds me sending out box cards.

A local store carries boxed cards that are really nice quality, pretty cute and super affordable.  I’m bound and determined that I WILL do homemade again next year 😀

I did try an annual letter a few times, but ended up in just doing a few paragraphs eventually hitting the highlights from throughout the year since.

Here are some cute wrapping ideas. I have been wrapping presents as I go again this year and able to spend a little more time decorating by doing it that way.

BLOGMAS 2022 ~ DAY 8 ~ WINTER MUST HAVES

What I CANNOT live without in the winter is many, many things, but these are my top items! Then again, SNOWMAGGEDDON 2019 proved there are things I CAN live without, but choose not to. 😀

The one thing I am absolutely sure of is that if I have a sore throat, dry skin, cold feet or hands, cold food or catch a cold I am NOT a happy camper so I go out of my way to prevent that. I like to try and not go out unless the temperature reaches 45, but I don’t hibernate well either so that is just a pipe dream of a rule.

I drink a cup of green tea every night and try to make very balanced comfort food meals to warm up my family from the inside out.

I also have a newer and occasional favorite hot toddy, a Lemon Aval Pota Hot Toddy courtesy of McMenamins one of our local favorite resort chains.

LEMON AVAL POTA HOT TODDY

2 ounces Aval Pota Whiskey
2 bar spoons QUALITY honey
Juice of 1 small FRESH squeezed lemon

  • Pour ingredients into a coffee glass or mug and top with hot water.
  • Garnish with a lemon zest twist.

Here are the links to a few of our favorite soups and stews for you.

BLOGMAS 2022 ~ DAY 7 ~ CHRISTMAS COOKIES & TREATS

This is a FUN category! Do you do a lot of baking for the holiday season? Do you have special recipes that you use only for Christmas time? Are they hand me down recipes from your mom or grandma? Do you participate in cookie exchanges? Do you bake for your neighbors?

This year I am trying 2 new recipes (Peanut Butter Balls and Carmelitas), neither of which is exactly a cookie, but will be in addition to the traditional recipes that I make for the “GIVING PLATES” I use for the neighbors each year. I LOVE these plates. They are my way of hopefully spreading some positive random acts of kindness.

Remembering back to being a kid always seems like going home to me.  Dad would buy all sorts of nuts by the pound during the holidays and of course bring out the nutcrackers. There was always a box (or 2 OR 3) of See’s candies (I just loved the milk chocolate Bordeauxs and since there was only 1 or 2 in each box I always tried to be the first to find them) and there would be tins and tins of butter cookies, snickerdoodles, peanut butter fudge, chocolate fudge as well as the sugar cookies that us kids iced and decorated.

Here are some of my favorite recipes and a few links to recipes for even more favorites!

One of our newer favorites though for Christmas are GOOEY CARAMEL TOPPED GINGERSNAPS.

Whether you use homemade or store bought, these cookies turn out swoon worthy of ANY holiday goodie platter. They are sooooo simple, but look and taste sooooo decadent.

GOOEY CARAMEL TOPPED GINGERSNAPS
42 gingersnap cookies, (homemade or store bought)
14 ounces KRAFT caramels
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup + 1/4 cup finely chopped honey roasted peanuts
12 ounces combination of white and dark chocolate
Sprinkles of choice (I like chocolate for the holidays)

  • Arrange cookies on cooling rack line baking sheet.**
  • In a microwave melt the caramels with the heavy cream, stirring until smooth.
  • Stir in peanuts.
  • Spoon about a teaspoon over each cookie.
  • Refrigerate until set.
  • Alternately melt white and dark chocolates.
  • Coat each cookie halfway with one of the chocolates, return to the rack allowing the excess to drip off.
  • Sprinkle with sprinkles and/or crushed peanuts.
  • Refrigerate until set.

NOTE** Wax paper or parchment paper works well also.

GINGERSNAPS
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup CRISCO
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup molasses
4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
1 teaspoons ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
sugar for rolling

  • Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ginger, nutmeg and ground cloves. Set aside.
  • Cream butter and crisco together until smooth.
  • Add sugar and molasses, blending until smooth.
  • Add flour mixture gradually until well blended.
  • Chill dough for at least 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Roll dough into small balls
  • Roll balls in sugar and place on cookie sheet.
  • Bake 8 minutes for soft chewy cookies and 12 minutes for crisp cookies.

Then there are the tried and true favorites of the past!

PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE DROPS
2/3 cup HOT water
10 ounces Land of Lakes cocoa mix
2 cups JIF creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
3 cups C&H powdered sugar, divided 2cups + 1 cup
2 cups crushed vanilla wafers
2 cups crushed ginger snaps
72 Hershey Kisses (I like the cherry cordials)

  • Whisk together the hot water and cocoa mix until smooth.
  • Add peanut butter and corn syrup. Blend until smooth.
  • Add 2 cups powdered sugar and stir until well blended.
  • Stir in cookie crumbs until well blended.
  • Spray wax paper with PURE (these will be sticky so don’t forget this step).
  • Drop heaping teaspoonfuls of dough onto the wax paper.
  • Place the remaining 1 cup of powdered sugar in a shallow bowl.
  • Roll each piece of dough into a ball and dredge in powdered sugar.
  • Press your thumb into the center and fill with a Hershey’s kiss.

The category is cookies, but cookies come in many forms as far as I’m concerned 😀 These are some of my favorite Christmas “non-cookie” recipes.

My great aunt Louise’s corn flake wreaths are not technically cookies, but they are a treat that I try to make at Christmas time. My great aunt who I only got to see a couple times a year used to make these every year for us kids, but especially just for me because I ALWAYS asked for them.  My cousins and I would wait out on the front steps for her arrive just to see them, the wreaths that is.

She always made them soooooooooo pretty and perfect!  Aunt Louise was just plain crazy it seemed to me.  I can’t pinpoint any one thing that made me think that, but as the years wore on she continually proved it.  Let’s just say if the made a movie of her life, Shirley MacLaine would play her part.  Aunt Louise reminds me of Shirley’s character Ouiser Boudreaux in Steel Magnolias.

CRAZY AUNT LOUISE’S HOLIDAY WREATHS  (these are better when they are made a few days ahead)
30 LARGE marshmallows (or 1 jar marshmallow cream)
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoon green food color
3 1/2 cups cornflakes
Red Hots

  • Combine marshmallows, butter, vanilla and food color in top of double boiler. Heat and stir frequently until well blended.
  • Gradually stir in cornflakes until well blended.
  • Drop onto wax paper and arrange into wreath shapes. I plop them onto the wax paper and then push out from the center to form the wreaths.
  • Decorate with red hots.
  • Let cool.
  • If your house is warm – chill in refrigerator until set.

Another fun recipe that can be dressed up with colored sanding sugar are SEA SALT & CARAMEL RICE KRISPY TREATS.

SEA SALT & CARAMEL RICE KRISPY TREATS
8 cups Rice Krispies
50 Kraft caramels
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup + 1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 bag mini marshmallows
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 teaspoons sea salt flakes
  • In a medium sauce pan over  a low-medium heat stir together the sweetened condensed milk, the caramels and 1/4 cup unsalted butter until smooth.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Line a 9×13 baking dish with foil, extending over the edge.
  • Spray with non-stick PURE or PAM.
  • Melt butter in large sauce pan.
  • Add marshmallows and stir  until just melted.
  • Add vanilla, 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 cup of caramel sauce and stir until smooth.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Stir in rice krispies until evenly coated.
  • Press into pan**.
  • Cool completely.
  • Pour remaining caramel over rice kripy treats and spread even with a spatula.
  • Sprinkle remaining sea salt over top.
  • Enjoy!
  • Store in an airtight container.

NOTES:  **I use a stainless steel spatula that has been sprayed with PURE to keep it from sticking.  It helps to press down firmly to get an even level.

This recipe is just PURE decadence, but has become a SERIOUS CHRISTMAS ADDICTION 😀

CINNAMON BUN CUPCAKES
CUPCAKES
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 LARGE eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons PURE vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream

  • Pre-heat oven to 350°.
  • Line cupcake tins with papers.
  • Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt together. Set aside.
  • Whisk eggs for about 1 minute. They will become frothy and lightened in color.
  • Add oil and whisk again until combined.
  • Add sugar and whisk for about 1 minute.
  • Add vanilla extract.
  • Add sour cream to the batter, whisking until combined
  • Now add the sifted dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk gently. Whisk batter until JUST until combined. DO NOT OVERMIX!

CINNAMON SWIRL
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons white sugar

  • Make the Cinnamon Swirl: mix 1 1/2 tablespoons of ground cinnamon with 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of white sugar. Set aside.

ASSEMBLY

  • Now start by pouring about 1 heaping tablespoon of the batter on the bottom of each cupcake tin.
  • Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the Cinnamon Swirl mixture.
  • Top with another heaping tablespoon of batter.
  • Now, sprinkle another 1/2 teaspoon of Cinnamon Swirl mixture over batter.
  • Top with another heaping tablespoon of batter.
  • Using a toothpick, swirl the batter a few times to create a swirl effect.
  • Top already swirled cupcakes with one final 1/2 teaspoon of the Cinnamon Swirl mixture.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, checking halfway to rotate pans.
  • Remove from the oven once cupcakes are lightly golden brown and puffed.
  • Cool 10 minutes.

GLAZE
+/- 1 cup powdered sugar sifted
+/- 2 tablespoons milk

  • Mix powdered sugar and milk together.

NOTES:  There are many factors that will affect your glaze consistency.  The brand of sugar you use, whether you use a scale or a measuring cup…  If your glaze is too thin and runny, add more sifted powdered sugar and test for consistency again.  If the glaze is too thick and not spreading, add a very, very small amount (1 teaspoon) of milk at a time, until you achieve your desired consistency.

And these brownies are an ABSOLUTE MUST! The mint is perfect (not like toothpaste) coupled with the fudge brownie and rich ganache.

GRASSHOPPER BROWNIES
11 ounce package dark chocolate pieces
1/2 cup butter
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
Creme-de-Menthe Filling (BELOW)
Dark Chocolate Ganache (BELOW)

  • In a medium saucepan, melt and stir 4 ounces (3/4 cup) of the dark chocolate pieces, butter, and the unsweetened chocolate over low heat.
  • Remove from heat; cool.
  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Line a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges of the pan. Grease foil; set aside.
  • Stir sugar into the cooled chocolate mixture in saucepan.
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, beating with a wooden spoon JUST until combined.
  • Stir in vanilla.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, and salt.
  • Add flour mixture to chocolate mixture, stirring just until combined.
  • Stir in the remaining 7 ounces (1-1/2 cups) dark chocolate pieces. Spread batter evenly in the prepared pan.
  • Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack.
  • Spread Creme-de-Menthe Filling over cooled brownies.
  • Place uncut brownies in the refrigerator while preparing the Dark Chocolate Ganache.
  • Spread slightly cooled Dark Chocolate Ganache over Creme de Menthe Filling, spreading to the edges with a spatula.
  • Cover and chill about 1 hour or until set. Using the edges of the foil, lift the uncut brownies out of the pan. Cut into bars.
  • Place brownies in a single layer in an airtight container; cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months.

CREME-DE-MENTHE FILLING
3 ounce package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons GREEN creme de menthe
Milk (optional)

  • In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and butter.
  • Beat on medium speed with an electric mixer for 30 seconds.
  • Gradually beat in 1 cup of the powdered sugar.
  • Beat in creme-de-menthe.
  • Gradually beat in remaining powdered sugar. If necessary beat in 1 tablespoon of additional milk to make the filling slightly thicker than a frosting

CHOCOLATE GANACHE
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 11 ounce package dark chocolate pieces

  • In a medium saucepan, bring whipping cream JUST to boiling over medium-high heat.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Add dark chocolate pieces (do not stir).
  • Let stand for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth.
  • Cool for 15 minutes.
  • Pour over brownies and QUICKLY spread evenly.

NOTE: You can substitute 2 tablespoons milk, 1/2 teaspoon mint extract, and several drops of green food coloring for the GREEN Creme-de-menthe.

SWEET LIME & HATCH CHILE CHEESECAKE

While this recipe is my traditional “COOKIES & CREAM” recipe, you can make any flavor you want – just change out the sandwich cookie flavors.

I have these awesome Sweet Lime Hatch Chile cookies that I’ve only ever found in Texas at HEB. A friend sent me several boxes this year as a wonderful gift so I decided to make this wonderful no bake cheesecake with some of them.

SWEET LIME & HATCH CHILE CHEESECAKE serves 6-8
36 chocolate sandwich cookies
5 tablespoons butter, melted
3 cups cream cheese, softened
⅓ cup sugar
1 tablespoon PURE vanilla extract
1 cup milk, warm
1 tablespoon gelatin

  • Separate the cream from the cookies into 2 different bowls.
  • Place the cookies into a plastic bag and crush them into fine crumbs with a rolling pin. Set aside ½ cup of the crumbs for later.
  • Pour the cookie crumbs into a bowl and combine with the melted butter, mixing until the texture is like slightly wet sand.
  • Press the cookie crumbs in an even layer into the bottom of a 9-inch spring form pan. Set aside.
  • In a medium pot over low heat, mix together the cream cheese, sugar, the cream from the cookies, and vanilla extract, stirring until there are no lumps.
  • In a measuring cup, mix the milk with the gelatin until dissolved.
  • Pour the milk into the cream cheese mixture, whisking constantly until the mixture starts to bubble slightly. Remove from heat.
  • Pour the mixture over the cookie crust in the springform pan. Using a spatula or a spoon, smooth the top.
  • Sift the saved cookie crumbs on top of the cheesecake in an even layer, then refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  • Unclasp the ring of the spring form pan, slice, then serve!
  • Enjoy!

BLOGMAS 2022 ~ DAY 6 ~ QUIET CHRISTMAS, BIG GATHERING or TRAVELING?

Do you have a quiet Christmas or do a BIG gathering with family and friends or are you traveling over the holiday to somewhere special? Which of these applies to you this year? Has they way you celebrate changed over the past few years during or since COVID?

Honestly COVID and the serious FLU strain this year still concern me a bit. I have several neighbors who went to BIG gatherings for Thanksgiving and now have COVID or the FLU 🙁 so it is still a concern for me as an immunocompromised person.

We’ve always been pretty much homebodies during the holidays. Then again we have always lived fairly close to family so traveling was only day trips or short distances. Personally I cannot fathom traveling through an airport or train station with BIG crowds even before the pandemic. The one time we did travel over the holidays, we made a BIG trip out of it leaving well before the holiday and going home long after it.

When I was a kid one of my favorite traditions was that we did a BIG family get together with a buffet of food and opening our family presents on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, after my dad passed, much of this tradition fell by the wayside.

Then on Christmas Day we did Christmas morning at our respective homes with “Santa” gifts and just the immediate family. Then we would do a BIG turkey with all the trimmings including my dad’s old fashioned stuffing and giblet gravy with the entire family as well as extended family and friends, which included crazy Aunt Louise and Uncle Herb. At my brother’s request I replicated dad’s stuffing recipe a several years back (Oatnut Sourdough Herb Dressing) and that is now a MUST TRADITION for the Christmas meal no matter what the protein is.

Christmases for us now are MUCH MUCH smaller and our newest tradition in the last several years is watching our favorite traditional Christmas movies like It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street as well as Hallmark Christmas movies and dreaming about moving to every small town depicted in them, kind of like Stars Hollow from the Gilmore Girls. We loved that show!

This year again we will be having a quiet Christmas with just the two of us. There are several Christmas events leading up to Christmas we will be participating in though.  We are also hoping some friends will be able to join us for New Years, but there are no plans set in stone yet.

So what are your plans this year?