COCKTAIL CRAB DIP

When we were detoured back home at Thanksgiving time, our friend’s graciously included us in their Thanksgiving dinner. Heather served a dip we had never had before, but instantly fell in love with. I’ve adapted this from my memory, but think I’ve come close.

COCKTAIL CRAB DIP
8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup cocktail sauce
8 ounces Krab, chopped or shredded
1 small bunch green onions, chopped, greens and whites divided
1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
1 small can chopped olives

  • Toss crab in cocktail sauce and then let drain through a small colander.
  • Whisk cream cheese smooth.
  • Spread cream cheese in serving dish.
  • Spread strained cocktail sauce over the cream cheese.
  • Sprinkle Mozzarella cheese over cocktail sauce.
  • Toss together the Krab pieces, onion white and olives.
  • Layer Krab mixture over cheese.
  • Top with green onion tops.
  • Serve with wheat thins or Ritz crackers.
  • Sprinkle Krab mixture over cheese.

BLOGMAS – DAY 14 – COOKIES & GOODIES

One of our new favorites for Christmas is:

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** Was 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.

AND the other is this wonderful no bake recipe:

CHOCOLATE PRETZEL PB SQUARES
2 cups pretzels, crushed into crumbs
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 ¼ cups peanut butter
¾ cup butter, melted
1 ½ cups milk chocolate chips
½ cup Heath bit pieces

  • Spray 13×9 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray!
  • In a large bowl mix together the pretzel crumbs and powdered sugar until well blended.
  • Mix in melted butter and 1 cup of the peanut butter.
  • Press mixture evenly into the bottom of the baking dish.
  • Sprinkle evenly with Heath Bit pieces.
  • In a microwave safe bowl melt combine the remaining peanut butter with the milk chocolate chips. Heat at 30 second intervals, stirring after each until melted and smooth.
  • Spread over the layer in the baking dish.
  • Garnish with Heath bit pieces and broken pretzel bits.
  • Chill at least 1 hour before cutting.
  • Store in airtight container  in the refrigerator.

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.

Now there is much debate over Gran’s cranberry salad recipe, but one thing was for sure, she’d have to make a double batch, one for my mom and aunt and another for everyone else.  Now while I usually helped prepare the above recipe, AND I hated it the prep AND the salad itself!! One year she even decided the grapes needed to be peeled – need I say more? And recently Jean from SO NOT ORGANIZED pointed out that the grapes in the recipe seemed strange, but I’m here to tell you that they really MAKE the recipe. 😀

I much prefer the recipe below.  Shhhh, don’t tell anyone, but I usually eat a whole batch by myself.

HOLIDAY SALAD
1 package (3 ounces) cherry Jell-o
1 package (3 ounces) black cherry Jell-o
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 can (14 ounces) whole berry cranberry sauce
1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple, undrained
2 cups seedless green grapes, quartered
chopped pecans (optional)

  • Dissolve the jell-o in the boiling water in a large bowl.
  • Fold in the pineapple and cranberry sauce.
  • Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Fold in grapes and pecans if desired.
  • Refrigerate until firm.

Now on to the REALLY yummy stuff!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

CHUNKY MONKEYS
3 cups crushed pretzels
1/2 cup sugar
scant 1 cup butter, melted
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Line a 13×9 cake pan with heavy duty foil, leaving plenty on the edges to use as handles later.  This will make clean-up so much easier.
  • In a medium mixing bowl stir together the pretzels, sugar and melted butter until well blended.
  • Press the pretzel mixture evenly into the bottom of the cake pan.

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
11 ounce package caramel baking bits (or 14 ounce vanilla caramels, unwrapped)
2 cups honey roasted peanuts

  • In a medium saucepan melt butter over a medium heat.
  • Whisk in the whipping cream and brown sugar until sugar is dissolved.
  • Stir in caramel bits, stirring constantly until bits are melted and sauce is smooth.
  • Add in peanuts to coat well.
  • Immediately pour over pretzel layer, spreading evenly.

1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
3/4 cup Heath milk chocolate toffee bits

  • Scatter each of these over the caramel layer.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes or until edges are bubbling.
  • Cool in pan on a wire rack.
  • Lift foil edges to remove bars from pan.
  • Cut into bars.
  • Layer between wax paper in an airtight container.  I store them in the fridge, but the can also be frozen for 3 months.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

My great aunt who I only got to see a couple times a year used to make these every year special for me.  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 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.

A few more favorite links are:

BBQ HOISIN BRISKET ala SLOW COOKER

This is one of the tastiest AND the simplest of recipes.  The combination of the BBQ sauce and the Hoisin sauce is well paired for a bit of salty AND spicy with JUST a hint of sweet in every bite.

BBQ HOISIN BRISKET ala SLOW COOKER for 2-4
2 pound brisket*
2 cups Hoisin sauce
1 cup Sweet Baby Ray’s Original BBQ sauce
1 cup Beef Broth

  • Whisk together the Hoisin sauce, BBQ sauce and beef broth.
  • Spray the crock insert with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Place brisket in insert, fat cap up.
  • Pour Hoisin mixture over top.
  • Cover and set on low for 7-8 hours.

NOTES:

  • I buy a 4 pound brisket, cut it in half and freeze half for the next time. It seems impossible to find a brisket under 4 pounds anyway.
  • Buy a cut with the largest fat cap you can find – they are the MOST flavorful!

CHOCOLATE PRETZEL PB SQUARES

The beauty of this recipe is that there is NO baking involved!  This is a new favorite recipe that we will be making again and again!  You can cut them any size so they make the perfect addition to any goodie plate.

CHOCOLATE PRETZEL PB SQUARES
2 cups pretzels, crushed into crumbs
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 ¼ cups peanut butter
¾ cup butter, melted
1 ½ cups milk chocolate chips
½ cup Heath bit pieces

  • Spray 13×9 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray!
  • In a large bowl mix together the pretzel crumbs and powdered sugar until well blended.
  • Mix in melted butter and 1 cup of the peanut butter.
  • Press mixture evenly into the bottom of the baking dish.
  • Sprinkle evenly with Heath Bit pieces.
  • In a microwave safe bowl melt combine the remaining peanut butter with the milk chocolate chips. Heat at 30 second intervals, stirring after each until melted and smooth.
  • Spread over the layer in the baking dish.
  • Garnish with Heath bit pieces and broken pretzel bits.
  • Chill at least 1 hour before cutting.
  • Store in airtight container  in the refrigerator.

BLOGMAS 2019 – DAY 12 – CHRISTMAS CARDS

I try to make my own Christmas cards every year, and I was hoping to do homemade again this year, but years like last year and the year before full of health issues, surgeries and issues from the HOUSE FROM HELL sometimes finds me sending out box cards. They are pretty cute and I’m glad to be using them up!  I WILL do homemade again next year 😀

I tried an annual letter a few times, but ended up in just doing a few paragraphs eventually hitting the highlights from throughout the year since. I do still send them out, but I fear they are becoming a thing of the past unfortunately as I get fewer and fewer each year it seems.

MUSHROOM CREAM CHICKEN

This recipe originally called for bone-in chicken and was for a slow cooker, but we MUCH prefer not to deal with bones and I wanted it to be a week night easy recipe, so we I have adjusted it to a boneless version. Plus hubby doesn’t care for mushrooms so it makes it easy to serve this way and I get ALL the mushrooms. 😀

MUSHROOM CREAM CHICKEN serves 4
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 8-10 tenders
1 ½ teaspoons herbs de Provence
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
¼ cup WONDRA flour
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon avocado oil
1 cup chicken broth
½ cup white wine
2 tablespoons flour
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 leek, halved lengthwise and chopped
½ cup heavy cream

  • Generously salt and pepper each chicken breast.
  • Combine flour and herbs de Provence.
  • Dredge chicken in Wondra flour mixture.
  • Heat butter and avocado oil in large skillet over medium high heat.
  • Sear chicken pieces 4-5 minutes on each side until golden.
  • Remove chicken pieces and keep warm.
  • Add leek pieces and mushrooms to skillet and sauté’ until golden.
  • Using a slotted spoon remove onions and mushrooms to the platter with the chicken.
  • Whisk together the chicken broth, white wine and 2 tablespoon of flour.
  • Add to skillet and bring to a SLOW boil.
  • Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.
  • Add heavy cream and whisk until well blended and you reach desired consistency.
  • Return chicken, leeks and mushrooms to pan and turn to coat with sauce.
  • Serve over mashed potatoes or pasta.

BLOGMAS 2019 – DAY 11 – WINTER PICTURES

This is a placeholder post as we won’t be home from the coast until later tonight and we will NOT be decorating outside until tomorrow.  I have some AWESOME NEW pictures to post at that time from the 33rd annual Holiday Lights in Coos Bay which was a walking tour instead of in a car like the one we usually go to.

These were from 2014 and one of my favorite picture years.

The Festival of Lights is now 28 years old and a great way to kick off the holiday season. It’s ALL Volunteer and NON-Profit.  It began as a fundraiser sponsored by the Rotary Club to help get the city out of debt and then took on a life of its own and now helps with scholarships and special projects. The festival runs every night from Thanksgiving to New Years.  So if you have company in town for Thanksgiving it’s a great jump start to your holidays.  You can drive your own car or take a horse drawn carriage ride through the displays.  They have also coordinated a local radio station to listen to as you view the displays.  The night we went through the fog was moving in early so a few of the pictures look a bit “smoky”.

As of this year they have the world’s tallest (41 feet, 16,000 pounds with  working jaw) nutcracker built by a local company, 500,00 lights, 90 animated displays, 3D displays, horse drawn carriage rides through the displays and a Holiday Village with Santa, hot cider with a bake sale and a synchronized light show in the courtyard.  The displays depict fairy tales, the military, patriotism, the local logging industry, local vineyards, local fishing and the traditional Christmas songs and scenes.  People come from all over to see it. Unfortunately for locals, it doesn’t change much, but is still fun every few years.

Three of my favorite munchkins from next door were coincidentally there the same night we were so had to snap a few pictures of the discussions with Santa. They have grown SOOOOOOOO much!
Even the pictures with errors turned out cute.  It was difficult to get great pictures or continuous pictures of the animated scenes since there were so many cars behind us.
This snowman is on a corner in our neighborhood hugging a light standard.
And these pictures were from 2013 – the year of the “white” one 😀
Hubby made this for me to wake up to in the back yard before the snow got too bad.
The house across the street usually looks horrible, but NOT when it’s under a blanket of snow.
Unfortunately, being in a cul-de-sac, delivery tracks leave MANY tire tracks at this time of year to mar the beautiful snow cover.
Even Rudolph was shivering! But not this year as he was donated to charity last year 😀
The first day after he storm was absolutely gorgeous though!
The duck pond behind the neighborhood was truly a work of art.
Obviously we hadn’t gone anywhere – no tire tracks!
The fish ladder was like glass with the cold and ice.

ROASTED APPLE PIE

ROASTED APPLE PIE
CRUST
3 cups flour, plus dusting
¾ cup COLD unsalted butter, sliced
5 ½ tablespoons COLD crisco
1 ½ tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon FINE sea salt
6-8 tablespoons COLD Vodka or water

  • Pulse together the flour, unsalted butter slices, crisco, sugar and sea salt in food processor until you have a coarse crumble.
  • Gradually add water or vodka 1 tablespoon at a time while pulsing 5-6 times until dough comes together. Divide dough in half, shape into 2 disks, wrap in saran and chill AT LEAST 2 hours.

FILLING
6 medium Granny Smith Apples
¾ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup WONDRA flour
½ cup PACKED brown sugar
1 + 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
¼ teaspoon FRESH grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon FINE sea salt

  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Mix together the granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons of the flour and 1 teaspoon of the pumpkin pie.
  • Toss apples in sugar mixture.
  • Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat.
  • Pour apples out onto silicone mat.
  • Bake 30 minutes until tender.
  • Cool 30 minutes.
  • Transfer apples to large mixing bowl.
  • Fold in brown sugar, remaining pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, sea salt and remaining flour.
  • Chill 1 hour.

ASSEMBLY
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into thin slices.
1 LARGE egg
1 tablespoon water

  • Unwrap 1 dough disk and turn out onto a lightly floured surface.
  • Roll out a 1/8-1/4 inch thick round.
  • Fit into a lightly greased 9″ pie plate.
  • Repeat with 2nd disk and cut into lattice pieces or shapes, set aside.
  • Spoon filling into pie plate.
  • Dot with butter slices.
  • Arrange top crust or pieces as desired.
  • Chill pie 30 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 375°.
  • Whisk together egg and water.
  • Brush crust with egg wash.
  • Place on lower rack.
  • Bake 1-1 ½ hours. After 30 minutes shield crust edges with foil to prevent burning.
  • Cool on rack 2 hours before serving.

BLOGMAS 2019 – day 10 – CHRISTMAS PAST

Christmas Past is a COMPLETELY subjective category. The older I get, the more I realize that it’s the traditions and the memories that weave our holidays together. It’s little things like the who puts the lights on the tree or the angel on top of it. It’s the favorite recipes that you only make at Christmas time. It’s the laughter of the munchkins each morning as they discover what mischief AnnaBelle has gotten into. It’s a baking day with the munchkins making your favorite traditional recipes to share on Giving plates to the neighbors…

2 years ago was an unusual Christmas for us with my surgery and it’s life altering outcome, but we did follow many of our normal traditions like putting up the tree, Christmas Eve service with our neighbor who attended the same church and Christmas Eve dinner at a friends (even if I couldn’t eat anything 😀 ). Last year was a little more “normal”, whatever that is.  BUT, this year I feel like I’m getting my “normal” back and am looking forward to the traditions and even the stresses of the holiday.

This category for me is also subjective based on where we are living at the time. This year being back in the cold of the Pacific Northwest is actually making me remember Snowy Christmases for some reason.  A couple of my favorite Christmases were when we were in Upper Peninsula Michigan.  Maybe it was the trees, water and snow, but for me it was also the old churches.  There was so much history there.  These are 2 of my favorite country churches from Michigan.  I took these pictures in 2011 at Christmas time ON THE SAME DAY, just minutes apart. That’s how fast weather changes with lake effect snow!

I JUST LOVE OLD CHURCHES! The bottom 3 pictures are from a REALLY neat old stone church in the middle of town.
But, my favorite country church is from a teeny tiny little town called Mansfield. It was once a growing little town until there was a mine disaster.  Now all that exists is the monument to the disaster, the church and a few random homes.
And then while cleaning out some old files I found this OLD Christmas picture from a million years ago, well maybe not a million, but a really LONG time ago!  Just goes to show you how subjective your memories of the past can be

HAPPY HOMEMAKER & MENU PLAN MONDAY week 50 of 2019

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

GOOD MORNING ladies!  I’m getting an early start this morning so I’m just going to jump in here.  I hope you had a fantastic week and are having an enjoyable journey to the holidays! We’re just 16 days away from Christmas.

I spent the past couple days decorating and sorting though Christmas decorations.  I did the whole FENG SHUI things and held each item before deciding whether to donate, hang it on the tree or pack it away for next year.  I am seriously downsizing on “things”.  I dropped off 3 bags at Goodwill yesterday before I had a chance to change my mind.

OUTSIDE MY WINDOW & THE WEATHER OUTSIDE & WHAT I’M WEARING We’re starting the week off ALMOST dry, but that will go away quickly and the temperatures will be dropping a bit too.

ON THE BREAKFAST PLATE Black Cherry Yogurt and a banana with hot water

AS I LOOK AROUND THE HOUSE, WEEKLY TO DO LIST, HOUSE & CRAFT PROJECTS, APPOINTMENTS

  • LAUNDRY, LIVING AREAS & KITCHEN… today is laundry and errand day which includes some groceries
  • YARD… decorate for Christmas sometime this week
  • APPOINTMENTS & TO DO… going to Shore Acres (a light display) and I will do a post with pictures later this week.
  • BLOG… BLOGMAS, recipe updates, holiday related posts
  • CRAFTS/PROJECTS… still trying to decide on faces for the bowling pin snowmen so I can finish them and post a picture soon

WHAT IS ON THE DVR, I LIKE OR ON THE LIST TO WATCH/SOMETHING INTERESTING I WATCHED

We are still only about halfway through Dolly Parton’s Heart Strings on Netflix – a series of heart warming stories.  We’re hoping to get the new season of Mrs. Maisel started this week.

The DVR is finally getting cleaned out with ALL the fall finales taking place.  Some of the shows we’re watching for this year are:

  • CRIME, POLICE & MEDICAL  – Chicago Series (Medical, FIRE and Police), Law & Order SVU, Blue Bloods, Hawaii 5-0, Magnum PI, FBI, NCIS, NCIS LA, NCIS NOLA, All Rise, Bluff City Law, The Resident, New Amsterdam, The Good Doctor, StumpTown, The Rookie, Bull, 911, Emergence, Seal Team
  • COMEDIES & FAMILY – Young Sheldon, The Good Place, The Unicorn, American Housewife, GOD Friended me

I’M READING Kissing Jenna Book #2 of Kristen Proby’s BIG SKY series

FAVORITE PHOTO FROM THE CAMERA

Saturday was raining ALL day EXCEPT for about 3 hours mid morning so we took a bunch of stale food over to feed the peacocks.  They rewarded me with some awesome photo ops. 😀

I ALWAYS forget how much work decorating for the holidays.  I ALWAYS remember why it’s worth the trouble after we’re done. 😀

INSPIRATION & A FUNNY

HEALTH & BEAUTY TIPS

HOMEMAKING/COOKING TIP

MENU PLANS FOR THE WEEK
MONDAY – BBQ HOISIN BRISKET, BAKED POTATO & SALAD
TUESDAY – OUT
WEDNESDAY – OUT
THURSDAY – CHICKEN CORDON BLUE DELUXE, FRIED POTATOES & SALAD
FRIDAY – TUNA MELTS & TOMATO SOUP
SATURDAY – SEAFOOD SALAD & PARMESAN ROLLS
SUNDAY – TOMATO SAUSAGE BARLEY SOUP & CORNMEAL ROLLS

SUCCESSFUL RECIPE LINKS FROM LAST WEEK

FEATURED PARTY LINKS FOR THIS WEEK

RECIPES TO LOOK FOR THIS NEXT WEEK

  • BBQ HOISIN BRISKET
  • ROASTED APPLE PIE
  • MUSHROOM CREAM CHICKEN
  • CHOCOLATE PRETZEL PB SQUARES

BLOGMAS 2019 – DAY 9 – MEANING OF CHRISTMAS

Christmas is the most important holiday to me and not because Santa comes, though that is pretty important to the kiddos, but more importantly, it’s a caring spirit, a sharing feeling, an attitude that I try to practice all year long.  I truly feel good about giving – whether it’s the Angel trees I select gifts for or the smile from the Salvation Army bell ringer as you put your money in their red bucket and wish them Merry Christmas. 

For 10 years I chaired an Angel Tree Program for FISH and I loved doing it! I prepared for it every year and I truly believe each year got better and better.  The night before we distributed the gifts I would go shopping for the teenage girls.  We were ALWAYS lacking in gifts for the teen girls no matter what we tried to boost things up for them.  So now when I choose the angels from the trees in the community I seek out the teenage girls specifically.

Christmas means lots and lots of memories of family, some no longer with us, but ALWAYS in my heart when I hang an ornament that reminds me of that person or a recipe that they always prepared like my dad’s, Oatnut Sourdough Herb Dressing or Gram’s Christmas box full of goodies picked out just for each one of us or…

One of the things I try to practice is to make at least one homemade gift each year – nothing extravagant, but just something that says “I MADE THIS with LOVE JUST FOR YOU“.

The years that I host Christmas include a lot of family recipes.  But,  most importantly, Christmas is the spirit of Love and Giving and it must be felt and shared. Christmas is a gift from above and each year as I grow older I realize more and more that Christmas is about Love, Peace, Sharing, Caring and just being together.

I can only answer for myself, but I assume for those that are not religious, the meaning of Christmas is still a celebration, but one of celebrating friendships and family by gathering to eat together, share their time and share tokens of appreciation in the form of gifts.


May we ALL carry the spirit of Christmas in our hearts all throughout the year by remembering the REAL reason for the season.
I found this story years ago over at Heather’s blog Family Forever , now a closed blog, but I kept it to remind me to remember this for the future.  I think next year that many of my gifts will be given in the same manner as my family really doesn’t ‘need’ anything, but so many others do. Don’t forget your tissue box as you read this story.
The Simple White Envelope
It’s just a small white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas –oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it — the overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma — the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties, and so forth.. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.. Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended.

Shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church.

These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.

Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn’t acknowledge defeat.

Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, ‘I wish just one of them could have won,’ he said. ‘They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.’ Mike loved kids — all kids — and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball, and lacrosse.

That’s when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition –one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on. The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning, and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.

As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn’t end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning it was joined by three more. Each of our children, unbeknown to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope. Mike’s giving spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.

May we all remember Christ, who is the reason for the season, and the true Christmas spirit this year and always.

GINGER ORANGE GLAZED CHICKEN

GINGER ORANGE GLAZED CHICKEN
4-6 ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts, fat removed
¹⁄³ cup WONDRA flour
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon avocado oil
2 green onions, minced, tops reserved for garnish
1 ½ cups orange juice*
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon FRESH ground ginger
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard (optional – see note)
1 orange, zested and sliced

  • Place chicken breasts between two sheets of wax paper or plastic wrap and using a rolling pin flatten to even thickness.
  • Heat large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add butter and oil.
  • Generously season chicken with FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper.
  • Dredge breasts in flour.
  • Add chicken pieces to skillet and sear 4-5 minutes.
  • Flip and sear second side 3-4 minutes until browned and cooked through.
  • Transfer chicken pieces to platter and keep warm.
  • Pour off most of the excess fat.
  • Add green onions, ginger, orange juice, brown sugar and mustard if using. Blend well, scrape up any bits from the bottom of the skillet and cook 5 minutes until thickened and slightly reduced.
  • Adjust seasoning as necessary.
  • Return chicken breasts to pan, turning to coat in glaze.
  • Arrange orange slices on platter.
  • Top with chicken.
  • Top with orange zest and green onion tops.

NOTE:

  • I list it as optional because I’m deathly allergic to mustard and don’t use it when I’m also eating the recipe, but am assured by my mustard loving husband that it is a must when he’s eating it. 😀
  • I like to use pineapple orange juice to zing up the flavor sometimes.