CHARCUTERIE BOARDS

The greatest meal on a busy holiday eve is a charcuterie board to graze on while you work. 😃

This time of year can be stressful and super busy (normally pre-pandemic) so to make things easier we have gone to making charcuterie boards on the “eve” nights of holidays. The word charcuterie sounds a bit intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be.

Charcuterie Boards are suddenly all the rage, but the culinary art of preparing charcuterie boards dates back to the 15th century. The person who prepares the charcuterie board is a charcutier which literally means “Pork Butcher” in French. The original process/meaning was intended as a way to preserve meat before the invention of refrigeration, especially pork products.

The revived comeback of the charcuterie board brings it front and center to our tables and has been born out of the necessity of our busy lives as well as our love for farm to table and deli style meals that are also quick and easy.

Since the original meaning dealt with preserved meats, adding fermented, farm to table, home canned and prepared foods just falls into place along side the meats.

One of the best things about serving a charcuterie board at your own party is that there are NO RULES! It’s yours for the making – make it as simple or as sophisticated as YOU like. One of the greatest aspects of a charcuterie board is that you can mix it all up to fit EVERYONE’S taste.

You can make these as simple or as sophisticated as YOU like. For us it is ALL about favorites and yummy satisfying and filling “bites” of food. Below is a list of some suggestions for building your own charcuterie board for your next party.

Next year I’m going to do a “DESSERT” charcuterie board for a girlfriends party instead of a cookie exchange.

  • Breads & Crackers – Crostini with toppings, Artisan Breads, Crackers, Fruitcake
  • Spreads – Jams, Chutneys, Dips, Flavored Mustards, Sauces, Dressings, Flavored Honeys, Flavored Horseradishes
  • Fermented/Pickled – Stuffed Olives, Pickles, Green Olives, Giardiniera, Peperoncinis, Pickled Carrots, Baby Corn
  • Cheeses – Cheddar, Havarti, Brie, Baby Swiss, Gouda, Pimiento Cheese, Manchego, Bleu Cheese
  • Meats – Salami, Roast Beef, Pancetta, Prosciutto, Pepperoni, Ham
  • Nuts & Seeds – Pistachios, Walnuts, Pecans, Macadamias, Sunflower seeds, Pumpkin Seeds, Almonds, Chocolate covered raisins
  • Dried fruits – Dates, Prunes, Apricots, Golden Raisins
  • Fresh fruits – Grapes, Oranges, Berries, Apple slices, Pears, Grape tomatoes, Kiwi, Starfruit
  • Decorations – sprigs of Rosemary, Thyme or Basil

 

BLOGMAS 2021 ~ DAY 29 ~ NORAD, TRACKING SANTA & THE MEANING of the 12 DAYS of CHRISTMAS

We’re on winter storm watch here just like so many other places this Christmas, but there is no need to worry ~ NORAD will be watching to track Santa’s progress.

Every day of the year, Cheyenne’s Mountain (AKA Stargate to many SYFY fans 😀 ) NORAD defends North America using an all-domain and globally integrated approach to track everything that flies in and around Canada and the United States. But, on Dec. 24, NORAD adds a VERY special mission ~ tracking Santa Claus. 

Like so many origin stories, NORAD’s mission to track Santa truly began by accident when in 1955 a young child, trying to reach Santa, dialed the misprinted phone number from a department store ad in the local newspaper. Instead of calling Santa, the child called the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.  

Air Force Col. Harry Shoup, the commander on duty that night who answered the child’s phone call, was quick to realize a mistake had been made and assured the child he was Santa. After more incoming calls, Shoup assigned a duty officer to continue answering calls and a tradition was born, that continued when NORAD was formed in 1958.  

Each year since, NORAD has dutifully reported Santa’s location on Dec. 24 to millions of children and families across the world. Because of the support, services and resources generously provided by volunteers and our government and corporate contributors, NORAD Tracks Santa has persevered for more than 65 years.  

In fact, what started because of a typo has flourished and is recognized as one of the Department of Defense’s largest community outreach programs. 

Each year, the NORAD Tracks Santa Web Site receives several million unique visitors from more than 200 countries and territories around the world. Volunteers typically answer more than 130,000 calls to the NORAD Tracks Santa hotline from children across the globe. 

In addition to the phone line and website, children and the young-at-heart can track Santa through our mobile apps and our social media platforms:  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/noradsanta 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NoradSanta 

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/NORADTracksSanta  

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/noradtrackssanta_official 

NORAD Tracks Santa Website: https://www.noradsanta.org 

NORAD Tracks Santa Newsroom: https://noradsantanews.com/newsroom

Several contributors such as OnStar and Amazon Alexa also provide convenient ways to keep tabs of Santa’s location. 

From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly.  Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics.

It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality which the children could remember.

  • The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
  • Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
  • Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.
  • The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
  • The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
  • The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
  • Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit–Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
  • The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
  • Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit–Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.
  • The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.
  • The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
  • The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.

So there is your history for today. This knowledge was shared with me and I found it interesting and enlightening and now I know how that strange song became a Christmas Carol… so pass it on if you wish.’

Merry (Twelve Days of) Christmas Everyone – and, remember, the Twelve Days of Christmas are the 12 days following December 25th.  The Christmas Season runs until Epiphany, January 6.

BLOGMAS 2021 ~ DAY 28 ~ CHRISTMAS MENUS

While there are family and even cultural traditions for Christmas menus, we try and vary it to OUR own tastes each year. Sometimes that is also dependent on regional availability of the specialty items needed to create those menus.

This year with it just being the 2 of us, we’re really making a super simple “trimmed” down menu. I found a turkey breast instead of the WHOLE turkey and the butcher is even cutting me an extra small prime rib 😀

BLOGMAS 2021 ~ DAY 27 ~ FAVORITE CHILDHOOD MEMORIES

WOW I’m truly blessed with so many to choose from!

Some of my favorites are my very first personal desk when I was 9, my aunt coming to visit from Texas around that same time and sitting on the floor in a leather dress playing  A Barrel of Monkeys with the younger kids or maybe the year I got my first bike, whoops wait that was the birthday before Christmas.

But I think my all time favorite was when my grandfather worked for General Electric as an X-ray technician of sorts (he oversaw the installation and calibration of X-ray equipment) and the year he brought home a GE Snow tree and the beautiful ornate ornaments (I still don’t know the correlation between between being an X-ray technician and Christmas trees).

Anyway this tree had a HUGE decorated cardboard base and once the tree was up and decorated you filled this base with thousands of tiny Styrofoam balls and when you turned the switch on the tree would make it’s own snow.  As a kid I thought it was pretty cool, but as an adult I look back and realize what a MESS it made!! Especially when the Santa Ana winds were blowing and the static electricity was high – those damn balls stuck to EVERYTHING! We lived in the high desert of southern California and the winds were ever present during December, often morphing into their severe form of Devil Winds and the snow was nowhere to be found so the tree was a novelty we all enjoyed.

But wait, that is not my favorite memory.  It turns out that my favorite memory is of trying to stump my dad each AND EVERY year with his gift – it became a mission of sorts to be the first to stump him.  I swear the man was Carnac when it came to knowing what was inside a box. We tried EVERY year to stump him and I don’t remember ever being able to do it.  We tried adding bricks, taping a silver dollar with duct tape to the bottom so it would flip back and forth to make noise when you shook it, the box insides a box trick, adding a pair of old shoes… but he ALWAYS guessed!  I still don’t know how he did it.

BLOGMAS 2021 ~ DAY 26 ~ GIFTS ~ LAST MINUTE / HOMEMADE

I’m a Virgo and as such tend to make lists and be over-prepared as the general rule.  So, the only last minute gifts I tend to need are a couple extras for those unexpected visits that come up like a surprise gift from a neighbor.

A few of the “things” I keep on hand (with a festive ribbon already tied to them) for those occasions are:

  • Coffee gift cards
  • Homemade JARS such as the Harvest Soup or Brownie mixes I did this year
  • Homemade applesauce
  • Homemade jam
  • And closer to the actual day a plate full of homemade goodies

Here are a couple of recipes I make most years that are great to have around and NEVER EVER go to waste whether they are given as gifts or eaten in house LOL 😀

CARAMEL BUTTERSCOTCH FUDGE
1 1/4 cup milk chocolate chips
1 1/4 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup Kraft caramel bits
14 ounces Eagle-Brand sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup Fisher’s Cinnamon Pecans
  • Line a 9×9 pan with heavy duty foil leaving enough foil overhanging the edges to use as handle to lift the foil out of the pan after the fudge has set.
  • Using a double boiler over medium heat melt the chips, caramel bits and condensed milk together until smooth.
  • Immediately pour into the foil lined pan.
  • Top with pecans using a piece of wax paper to press the pecans slightly into the fudge.

CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup milk chocolate chips
14 ounces Eagle-Brand sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup Crushed Honey Roasted Peanuts or walnuts

  • Line a 9×9 pan with heavy duty foil leaving enough foil overhanging the edges to use as handle to lift the foil out of the pan after the fudge has set.
  • Using a double boiler over medium heat melt the chips and condensed milk together until smooth.
  • Immediately pour into the foil lined pan.
  • Top with peanut pieces using a piece of wax paper to press the pecans slightly into the fudge.

BLOGMAS 2021 ~ DAY 25 ~ WHEN DO YOU OPEN PRESENTS?

When does your family open their presents?

This category has changed a lot over the years for me as I have gotten older and had my own family. Being a military family on a tight budget I’ve always started shopping early (like in January) to work everything we want to do into our tight budget. So I anticipate watching as my friends and family open their gifts that I have tried to select perfectly just for them.

My family traditions as a kid were of a BIG Christmas eve open and that carried on through college, but as we (cousins) all got older and began getting married with families of our own, our grandparents passed on, some of us moved away, blended families (with their own traditions) were formed, etc… getting together for both Christmas Eve AND Christmas Day became harder and harder to do. 

Eventually Christmas eve became a MUCH smaller event for mainly immediate family for a small dinner and to open our gifts to each other.  Christmas morning was for being at our respective homes with our kids opening presents and then the larger family get together much later on Christmas day for dinner at just one place, usually my mom and dad’s house which became our house after my dad passed away.

These days with everyone all over the country and now with the pandemic, both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are mainly just hubby and I with LOTS of phone calls to family and friends and we open our gifts on Christmas morning.

We did attend our Eagles Christmas party yesterday though and opening gifts for the secret gift exchange was part of the activities. It was as if they knew me. I love my new Starbucks coffee cup and hot cocoa! 😀

BLOGMAS 2021 ~ DAY 24 ~ CHRISTMAS PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE

I know this category sounds a bit like Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. That was intentional on my part. I believe there are truly lessons to be learned from that story! I don’t believe that we have to be the mean spirited, unkind Ebeneezer Scrooge with a life gone wrong though LOL 😀 in order to benefit from the lessons. We can CHOOSE to live a better life and be PRESENT in order to make a better FUTURE. There is ALWAYS room to BE BETTER and MORE loving and MORE giving!

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…

Last year 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 😀 ).

This category for me is also subjective based on where we were 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. That’s how fast weather changes with lake effect snow!

I JUST LOVE OLD CHURCHES! The bottom 3 pictures are from a REALLY neat 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 these OLD Christmas pictures 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. The little boy with his back to you is my brother who in the next picture though much younger is much bigger than I am. I have NO idea what that look is all about, but it doesn’t look like I was very happy 😀 And it seems like there are a bunch of pictures with us sitting on that step 😀

FUTURE
None of us actually know what the future holds. I pray that it holds an end to this crazy pandemic and a return to a more traditional friends and family centered holiday and everyday life for us all!

BLOGMAS 2021 ~ DAY 23 ~ THE MEANING OF CHRISTMAS

THE 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 we host the Christmas holidays we include a lot of family recipes.  But,  more 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 with others.


May we ALL carry the spirit of Christmas in our hearts all throughout the year by remembering the REAL reason for the season.

BLOGMAS 2021 ~ DAY 22 ~ WEATHER & WINTER WONDERLAND

2013 – the year of the “white” one 😀 was the first truly white Christmas we had here. I have HIGH hopes for this year though.
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. We are looking forward to the “new” neighbors who recently purchased it though as they appear to be making some rather nice updates while it sits vacant. So we will see after they move in after the new year.
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.
This was 2014 and one of my favorite picture years.  Plus a few NEW pictures.
The Festival of Lights is now 25 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 were coincidentally there that same night we were so I had to snap a few pictures of their discussions with Santa. They have grown SOOOOOOOO much! The two oldest now tower over me!
Even the lights 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.

BLOGMAS 2021 ~ DAY 21 ~ WRAPPING IDEAS

Sorry everyone – not sure how it happened, but I have gotten a few days behind, but WILL catch up today and tomorrow! Odd, because I’m actually ready for the holidays 😀  but I did get a bit overzealous with baking the past few days!

I wrapped as I went this year and boy did that make things easier than facing a large pill of gifts to wrap all at one time! I also went pretty simply with color coordinated papers, matching ribbons, cute little tags or their favorite character ornaments and colored twines.

There are some of the MANY fun ideas to try ALL over PINTEREST, but these are some of my favorites!  These are also some simpler, but classic ideas! I LOVE that some of them are so creative and use plainer papers – papers that can be used year round and then spruced up for whatever the occasion is.