BLOGMAS 2020 ~ DAY 4 ~ CHRISTMAS CARDS & BONUS WRAPPING IDEAS

I try to make my own Christmas cards every year, and I PLANNED to do homemade again this year, but years like this last year full of COVID 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 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. I do still send Christmas cards out, but I fear they are becoming a thing of the past unfortunately as I get fewer and fewer each year it seems.

Because I didn’t make homemade cards this year I’m offering up some cute wrapping ideas.  I have been wrapping presents as I go this year and able to spend a little more time decorating.

BRUSSELS SPROUT CASSEROLE

Fortunately I was watching a Molly Yeh episode of Girl Meets Farm recently and it just happened to be on sides for Thanksgiving. She made the most amazing Brussels Sprouts Casserole, an absolutely wonderful alternative to the tired old Green Bean Casserole and better yet it is ALL from scratch, well except the French’s Crispy Fried Onions 😀 – no canned goods involved!

I only made a couple changes – like trading shallots for the leeks and adding in some crunchy bacon, but nothing that really affected the outcome. I altered her directions to my liking also.

BRUSSELS SPROUT CASSEROLE
2 teaspoons avocado oil
1/2 pound bacon, diced
2 shallots, sliced thin
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
2 pounds Brussels Sprouts, trimmed, halved or quartered as necessary
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoons FRESH thyme leaves, chopped
3 cloves garlic, FINELY minced
3 tablespoons WONDRA flour
2 cups homemade chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup QUALITY Parmesan cheese
ZEST from 1 Meyer lemon
2 cups crispy onions

  • Preheat oven to 400°.
  • Cook bacon pieces crisp in large saute pan.
  • Remove bacon to drain on paper toweling with a slotted spoon.
  • Add avocado oil to saute pan.
  • Add shallots, sauteing 2-3 minutes until beginning to caramelize.
  • Add garlic and Brussels sprouts, sauteing 6-7 minutes until edges of Brussels sprouts are brown.
  • Season generously with FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper.
  • Add thyme, and saute a bit longer until fragrant.
  • In a separate sauce pan melt butter.
  • Whisk in flour, cooking until golden.
  • Alternately add chicken broth and cream, stirring constantly until begins to thicken.
  • Add cheese and lemon zest.
  • Adjust seasoning.
  • Fold together the sauce and Brussels sprouts.
  • Top with crispy onions.
  • Bake 20-25 minutes until bubbly.

BLOGMAS 2020 ~ DAY 3 ~ FAVORITE CHRISTMAS MOVIES

Today’s category is an easy one for me. It’s also one that really doesn’t change much from year to year.  I start taping Christmas movies on Lifetime, Hallmark and INSP as soon as they air so I can watch them ALL year long. I’m a sucker for a happy ending and let’s face it, Christmas movies have happy endings.

So this list could be reallllllllllly long, but I will just keep it to the top 5 MUST watch each and every year movies.

It’s a toss up for me about whether White Christmas with Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Vera Ellen and Danny Kaye or It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart, Lionel Barrymore and Donna Reed is my absolute favorite, but I think I’m leaning towards It’s a Wonderful life!
Which Miracle on 34th street version (the original with Natalie Wood or the remake with Richard Attenborough) is the best? BOTH versions of course!
The Santa Clause with Tim Allen quickly became a favorite – who could resist visiting the North Pole every year?
Now Home Alone is just silly, as is Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase but, they never fail to make me laugh! A new favorite is the Christmas Chronicles with Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn.

BLOGMAS 2020 DAY 2 ~ CHRISTMAS PLAYLIST & FAVORITE SONGS

What are your favorite Christmas songs? Do you have a regular playlist?

I’m all over the place with Christmas music – it really depends on the day, the occasion, my mood, what food we’re eating – there are just sooooooooo many factors! BUT, I do like to wait until at least the day after Thanksgiving!

I love so many of the old standards, but I also love country Christmas and Mannheim Steamroller. I love Christmas carolers, not that you see many these days. I was even part of the hand bell choir at church for Christmas programs many years ago.

As for some of MY favorite songs I have a few that top the list:

  • Silent Night
  • White Christmas
  • Jingle Bell Rock
  • Winter Wonderland
  • Frosty the Snowman
  • Little Drummer Boy
  • The twelve days of Christmas
  • Deck the Halls
  • Come All Ye Faithful
  • It Came upon a Midnight Clear
  • We three Kings of Orient
  • Joy to the World
  • Rudolph the Reindeer
  • Do You Hear What I Hear
  • The Most Wonderful Time of Year
  • It’s Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas
  • Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

CITRUS BRINED ROAST TURKEY & GRAVY

CITRUS BRINED ROAST TURKEY & GRAVY adapted from Pioneer woman
Prep Time: 24 hours 45 mins

BRINE
5 bay leaves
5 garlic cloves, minced
Peel of 3 oranges, plus 1 orange, cut into wedges
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1 lime, cut into wedges
3 cups apple cider
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups kosher salt
3 tablespoons tri-color peppercorns

  • Combine all the brine ingredients in a large pot with 2 gallons cold water stirring until the sugar and salt COMPLETELY dissolve.
  • Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and cover.
  • Let cool completely.
  • Pour the cooled brine into a large brining bag or pot.
  • Add the turkey and refrigerate for 16 to 24 hours.

 

  • When ready to roast, remove the turkey from the brine.
  • Submerge the turkey in a pot of fresh cold water.
  • Allow to sit in the clean water for 15 minutes to remove the excess salt.

TURKEY
18-20 pound turkey (reserve the giblets and neck for the gravy)
2 oranges, zested and juiced RESERVE zest and 2nd orange
1 lemon, zested and juiced RESERVE zest
2 sticks salted butter, softened
1 tablespoons finely chopped FRESH Thyme leaves, plus 4 to 5 sprigs (2 for garnish)
2 tablespoons finely chopped FRESH Tarragon leaves, plus 4-5 sprigs (2 for garnish)
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper, to taste
3 cups homemade chicken broth
1 cup dry white wine

  • Preheat the oven to 275 ̊.
  • Remove the turkey from the water, pat dry and place breast-side up on a roasting rack set in a large roasting pan.
  • GENEROUSLY season with FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper.
  • Add juice from 1 lemon and 1 orange to the turkey cavity.
  • Cover with heavy duty foil.
  • Roast 10 minutes per pound.
  • Remove turkey from oven and increase the heat to 325 ̊. Discard foil. Don’t worry that the turkey is so pale!

 

  • Combine the butter, thyme leaves, tarragon leaves, salt and pepper in a bowl until well blended.
  • Smear the butter mixture all over the skin and into the crevices so that the turkey is totally covered.
  • Slice the reserved orange into wedges and place in the cavity of the turkey along with 3 each of the thyme and tarragon sprigs.
  • Cross the legs and tie them together with kitchen twine.
  • Insert a meat thermometer into the thigh behind the leg joint.
  • Pour the chicken broth and wine into the bottom of the pan.
  • Roast for 5-7 minutes per pound, basting the turkey every 30 minutes, until the thermometer reads 165 ̊.
  • Remove from the oven, cover loosely with foil and let rest for 30 minutes before carving.
  • Save the drippings for gravy.

GIBLET GRAVY

Giblet pieces and neck, saved from the uncooked turkey
Drippings from roasted turkey
1/2 cup WONDRA flour (more if needed)
4 cups no-sodium chicken or turkey broth
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
1 tablespoon each FRESH chopped Tarragon and Thyme leaves

  • In a small saucepan cover the giblets and neck with water by 2 inches.
  • Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour to cook meat and create the broth for the gravy.
  • Remove the giblets and neck from the broth and set aside to be chopped into sell pieces when cool enough to touch.
  • Set the broth in the saucepan aside for later.

 

While the turkey is resting pour all the drippings from the turkey roasting pan into a bowl and let the drippings sit and separate naturally, then use a ladle to carefully separate the fat from the liquid drippings (the fat will be on top, while the drippings will settle at the bottom).

  • When ready to make the gravy, return the pan to the stove over medium low flame.
  • Add 1 cup of the fat to the pan.
  • Sprinkle the flour all over the fat and immediately begin whisking it around to make a smooth roux that is not too oily or pasty by adding more fat or flour as necessary.
  • Whisk it slowly for a few minutes, allowing it to cook to a deep golden brown color.
  • Once the roux is ready, pour in 1 cup of the drippings (the gel from under the fat) and the chicken or turkey broth, whisking constantly, cooking 7-8 minutes until thickened.

 

  • While gravy is simmering, use your fingers to remove as much of the neck meat as you can and chop up the giblets into fine pieces.
  • Add as much of the meat to the gravy as you desire.
  • If the gravy seems too thick, add more broth and/or a little of the reserved giblet broth (the water used to cook the giblets.)
  • Taste and adjust seasoning.

To complete our Thanksgiving meal I also traditionally make Sourdough Oatnut herb dressing, Homemade Cranberry Sauce and our Family Favorite Mashed Potatoes.

BLOGMAS 2020 ~ DAY 1 ~ ELF ON THE SHELF OR JULENISSER?

This is day 1 of BLOGMAS 2020. We’ve all had a stressful year and need some fun. I want this year especially to be relaxing and stress free. I’m not even doing a linky. Just comment on my post and let me know you’re playing along and I’ll be sure to visit and comment on your post. At the bottom of this post is a list of the prompts.

I know some people begin the day after Thanksgiving, but for us December 1st is the beginning. For several years we’ve done an Elf on the Shelf for the munchkins. Each year we did a “cousin” elf so it wasn’t the same elf every year. I know many parents are dreading that darned elf every year and having to come up with 24 DIFFERENT scenarios that are different from the previous year!

But I’ve discovered Julenisser, a Nordic tradition, this year to replace the previous Elf on a Shelf.   We’re calling him Bailey. I can’t find that a Julenisser is actually given a name, but I’m winging it here. 😀 The nisse is one of the most familiar creatures of Scandinavian folklore.

In Solvang, a Danish community, they actually do a Nisse Adventure like a scavenger hunt and Danish style JuleFest celebration throughout the month.

In Denmark there is a serious subculture regarding the Christmas elves and gnomes known as Julenisser. They live in forests and eat fruits and berries throughout the year before they come spend the month of Christmas with your family. They have BIG hearts and ARE magical! They love to play tricks on you and your family.

So when do you begin? Do you have unique names for your elf? Or do you have a Julenisser?

HAPPY HOMEMAKER & MENU PLAN MONDAY week 49 of 2020

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

GOOD MORNING I hope everyone had a WONDERFUL Thanksgiving and weekend. Ours, like many of yours I’m sure was VERY quiet.  I did prepare a pretty traditional meal with leftovers for a couple days.  I even did a little “Black Friday” shopping 😀 LOCALLY and by appointment with a couple mom and pop shops on Friday – the beauty of small town living and by appointment was NOT getting up at the crack of dawn being able to support local merchants as well as completing my Christmas shopping.

Saturday and Sunday were quite chilly and lazy for me.  I did manage to get Christmas gifts wrapped as well as the Christmas cards addressed and ready for mailing while I watched a couple Christmas movies.

And don’t forget tomorrow is day 1 of BLOGMAS 2020. We’ve all had a stressful year and need some fun. I want this year especially to be relaxing and stress free. I’m not even doing a linky. Just comment on my post and we’ll you’re playing along. I’ll be sure to visit and comment on your post. Here is my list of this year’s prompts.

OUTSIDE MY WINDOW & THE WEATHER OUTSIDE, WHAT I’M WEARING & HOW I’M FEELING THIS MORNING It is supposed to be pretty clear all week with highs in the 40’s and low 50’s which will make for colder nights with lows in the low 30’s. I have on Levis, a favorite plush hoodie and my favorite red UGG’s.

ON THE BREAKFAST PLATE I’m back to hot water regularly and peach yogurt.

THIS WEEK’S TO DO LIST, PROJECTS & APPOINTMENTS
  • LAUNDRY & CLEANING just a couple loads of laundry to be done
  • GROCERIES & ERRANDS I have a pedicure appointment Tuesday so will pick up the few groceries we need as well as run the errands in town I need to accomplish.
  • FINISH HOMEMADE CHRISTMAS GIFTS & CHRISTMAS ORDERS
  • PAPERWORK & PHONE CALLS
  • RECIPE RESEARCH & MENU PLANNING
WHAT’S ON THE DVR/TV
  • NETFLIX – We just finished the Travelers series and were sorry to hear there won’t be a 4th season, but were glad to hear season 2 of Virgin River has been released which we will start tonight.  We also watched Christmas Chronicles 2 with Kurt Russel and Goldie Hawn
  • PRIME – Mrs. Maisel should be released later this week
  • HULU – Just finished REBA and are looking for another late night comedy
  • CABLE – Young Sheldon, American Housewife, Unicorn, MOM which just isn’t the same without Anna Faris, Chicago series (MED, FIRE & PD), L&O SVU, BULL, All Rise, Blue Bloods, Magnum PI, MacGyver, FBI & FBI Most Wanted, SWAT, NCIS, NCIS LA and NCIS New Orleans AND of course there are the obligatory Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies to watch 😀

I’M READING

  • A Home for Unloved Orphans by Rachel Wesson – I’m about half through and am enjoying it, despite its sad topic, as it chronicles the differences and clashes between the cultural classes as well as men and women’s rights post WWI, Spanish flue and the depression of the early 1900’s.

FAVORITE PHOTO FROM THE CAMERA This is a silly photo this week. Years ago I was so tired of wasting the last of any shampoo in the bottle or just couldn’t talk myself into not finishing a bottle even though I didn’t care for the shampoo.  That’s when it occurred to me that I didn’t need to buy shower gel or even hand soap, but just make my own by funneling it all into my favorite pump bottles.  Now I don’t waste anything and it’s even kind of pretty looking! As for conditioner, it makes a great vehicle for shaving your legs while also moisturizing them 😀

INSPIRATIONAL

LIFE TIP

HOMEMAKING/COOKING TIP

MENU PLANS FOR THE WEEK

MONDAY
TUESDAY
WEDNESDAY
THURSDAY
FRIDAY
SATURDAY
SUNDAY
DINNER
MEATLOAF, DRESSING and SALAD
PORK CHOPS and SCALLOPED CORN
C.O.R.N.  clean out refrigerator night
CHICKEN & PEANUT STEW
ITALIAN PIZZA CASSEROLE
ANCHO HONEY GLAZED PORK TENDERLOIN & SALAD
C.O.R.N.
clean out refrigerator night
DESSERT
strawberry lemonade bars

SUCCESSFUL RECIPE LINKS FROM LAST WEEK

FEATURED PARTY LINKS FOR THIS WEEK

RECIPES TO LOOK FOR THIS NEXT WEEK OR SO

  • APPLE LEMON HARVEST BUNDT CAKE
  • CITRUS BRINED ROAST TURKEY
  • BRUSSELS SPROUTS CASSEROLE

BACON WRAPPED CHICKEN & PEA MEDLEY

Casual? Elegant? A little bit of both which makes it perfect for serving company. This recipe was originally written using chicken thighs, but I prefer thin cut chicken breast steaks. As always I made the recipe in its entirety as written the first time through and then made the necessary changes to make it even better, in our opinion.  It needed more “sauce” so I added the chicken broth and flour to create more of a gravy.  I also added the thin slice of provolone to give the chicken inside a bit of oomph. The recipe also had you starting the chicken on the stove and then moving the pan to the oven.  I found that the bacon crisps up better when cooked entirely in the oven where the grease drained off into the baking sheet.

BACON WRAPPED CHICKEN & PEA MEDLEY
4-6 boneless, skinless thin cut chicken steaks
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
4-6 slice provolone cheese
8-12 bacon slices, not too thick
1 teaspoon avocado oil
2 tablespoons butter
4 shallot, sliced
2-3 cups sugar snap peas, trimmed
1 can LeSeur peas, drained
2 tablespoons WONDRA flour
1/3 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon FRESH chopped thyme

  • Preheat oven 400°.
  • Generously season chicken steaks on both sides.
  • Roll each chicken steak up with a slice of Provolone cheese on the inside and wrap with 2-3 slices of bacon, securing with toothpicks.
  • Place chicken breasts on a wire rack on a baking sheet
  • Place baking sheet in oven for 25 minutes while you prep the snap peas.
  • Remove baking sheet from oven, remove toothpicks and transfer chicken to serving platter to keep warm.
  • Heat avocado oil in an enameled cast iron pan over medium high heat.
  • Add butter to melt.
  • Add shallots, cooking 2-3 minutes.
  • Add sugar snap peas, stirring occasionally 5-7 until tender.
  • Sprinkle with flour and stir to blend.
  • Stir in broth and thyme, cooking several minutes.
  • Add heavy cream and cook several minutes until it begins to thicken.
  • With a slotted spoon transfer the peas and shallots to the platter.
  • Drizzle sauce over chicken breasts.
  • Garnish with additional thyme if desired.

NOTE: To change the flavor profile a bit try using different herbs, tarragon, dill etc…

VODKA CHICKEN POMODORO (VODKA TOMATO CHICKEN)

The word pomodoro or Pomo d’oro is Italian for tomato, or more specifically “golden apple”. LOL 😀 that is about all that is actually Italian about this recipe! Yet another possible origin of the word is derived from the aphrodisiac qualities in the french translation pomme d’amour, the love apple.

While researching the word pomodoro, I found that tomatoes aren’t even indigenous to Italy, meaning they weren’t originally Italian, though they are a staple in the Italian kitchen of today!  Tomatoes were first discovered in Central America, but made their way to Italy in the late 15th century and because the growing conditions were ideal for tomatoes Italy became a prominent tomato region making tomatoes a staple in Italian kitchens and Mediterranean recipes!

According to Il Pomodoro Italiano, “The Italian Tomato”, there are over 320 different variations of the tomato. The beautiful golden tomatoes (Pomo d’oro) tend to have a sweeter taste and have a low sugar and acid content. For more information on the varieties of Italian tomatoes check out Delicious Italy.

VODKA CHICKEN POMODORO
4 boneless, skinless chicken steaks
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
garlic salt
1/4 cup WONDRA flour
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup QUALITY Vodka
1/2 cup homemade chicken broth
Juice of 1 LARGE lemon
2 tablespoons FRESH chopped tarragon
1 bunch green onions, sliced thin
1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons heavy cream

  • GENEROUSLY season chicken steaks with FRESH ground sea salt, black pepper and garlic salt.
  • Heat large skillet over medium heat and melt butter.
  • Dredge chicken steaks in flour and add to skillet.
  • Saute; chicken steaks 3-4 minutes per side until JUST cooked through.
  • Transfer chicken to platter and keep warm.
  • Deglaze pan with vodka and cook 1-2 minutes until alcohol is cooked off.
  • Add onions to pan, stirring 30 seconds or so.
  • Add chicken broth, lemon juice and tarragon, blending well.
  • Add cream, stirring to blend before adding tomatoes and returning the chicken to pan, turning to coat.
  • Heat through and serve with your favorite rice or mashed potatoes ad sauce drizzled over top.

CHEDDAR PAN ROLLS

CHEDDAR PAN ROLLS
3-4 1/4 cups flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt 1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
2 cups WHOLE milk
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups + 1/4 cup FINELY shredded cheddar cheese
1 LARGE egg white, beaten

  • In a large bowl whisk together 2 cups of the flour, sugar, salt and yeast.
  • In a small saucepan heat the milk and butter to 120°-130°.
  • Add milk mixture into the dry ingredients, beating until smooth.
  • Stir in cheese and enough flour to form a soft dough, but do not knead!
  • Cover and let rise in a warm place 45-60 minutes until doubled in size. Dough will be soft.
  • Punch dough down and divide into 2 portions.
  • Shape each portion into 12 balls.
  • Place your rolls into a greased 9×13 greased baking pan.
  • Cover and let rise in a warm place for another 45 minutes or so until double in size.
  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Brush with beaten egg white.
  • Bake 20-25 minutes until golden.
  • Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese last 5minutes.

TUNA NOODLE CASSEROLE (NOT YOUR GRANDMA’S)

TUNA NOODLE CASSEROLE (NOT YOUR GRANDMA’S)
1 stick butter, divided 2 tablespoons + 2 tablespoons + 4 tablespoons
1 tablespoon avocado oil
FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper
3 cups DRY wide egg noodles
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch green onions, whites only sliced thin
4 cups SMALL broccoli florets (about 3 crowns, stalks discarded or used elsewhere)
14 ounces marinated artichokes, drained WELL
1/4 cup WONDRA flour
4 cups WHOLE milk
1/4 cup cream sherry
4 ounces cream cheese, sliced into 8-10 pieces
2 LARGE cans white albacore tuna in water, drained WELL
1 cup shredded Gruyere
1/4 cup FRESH chopped Parsley
Several sprigs FRESH thyme
1/2 cup PANKO crumbs

  • Prepare noodles al dente per package instructions. Drain and set aside.
  • Melt avocado oil and 2 tablespoons butter in large saute pan.
  • Add green onions and garlic, sauteing 2 minutes until garlic is golden and fragrant.
  • Increase heat to medium-high and add broccoli florets, sauteing 7-8 minutes until broccoli is tender and vibrant green.
  • GENEROUSLY season with FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper.
  • Add artichokes and Parsley, cooking several minutes more until all liquid is absorbed.
  • Pour broccoli and artichokes into colander and drain off any remaining oil.
  • Return pan to stove and melt 4 tablespoons butter.
  • Whisk in WONDRA flour until smooth and golden.
  • Gradually add milk and cream sherry stirring well after each addition. Cook until slightly thickened.
  • Add cream cheese pieces, whisking until smooth.
  • Add Gruyere, whisking until smooth.
  • Adjust seasoning.
  • Fold in tuna until well blended.
  • Fold in broccoli and artichokes until well blended.
  • Fold in noodles.
  • GENEROUSLY season with FRESH ground sea salt and black pepper.
  • Transfer to 3 quart 9×13 baking dish.
  • Melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.
  • With a fork blend melted butter and Panko crumbs.
  • Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over casserole.
  • Bake 30-45 minutes until crumbs are golden and casserole is bubbly.
  • Garnish with green onion tops if desired.