BLOGMAS 2022 ~ DAY 25 ~ LAST MINUTE GIFTS & HOMEMADE

I’m a Virgo and as such tend to make lists and be over-prepared as a 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
  • Soft, comfy lap blankets
  • 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 2022 ~ DAY 24 ~ 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 who 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 with beautiful ornate ornaments (I still don’t know the correlation between between being an X-ray technician and Christmas trees though).

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 person to stump him. I swear the man was like 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 actually 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 inside a box trick, adding a pair of old shoes… but he ALWAYS guessed!  I still don’t know how he did it. Sadly 🙁 this will be the 30th Christmas without him. He died so young, but I have so many wonderful memories of him and Christmas from when I was young.

BLOGMAS 2022 ~ DAY 23 ~ MEANING OF CHRISTMAS

Today was supposed to be about the weather, winter wonderland and Timber Town parade. But, then I realized I planned that poorly as tonight is this year’s parade. So, I’m trading today with tomorrow 😀

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 and boys that always seemed to fall through the cracks in the donations.  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 2022 ~ DAY 22 ~ WRAPPING IDEAS

I touched on this topic a bit in a prior post. But, just giving you some ideas didn’t seem like enough. There are questions. Lots of questions 😀 There are so many ways to wrap or bag presents!!

Do you save paper from year to year? My grandmother always neatly unwrapped her packages so she could save the paper to re-wrap something in the future.

My cousin is an artist and loves to die her own fabrics that she uses to wrap gifts in.

Do you write directly on the paper or bag or do you like cute gift tags? Do you make your own? Do you use last year’s cards to make this year’s tags?

Do you prefer gift bags? Do you use tissue paper?

Do you use bows or ribbons or both? Do you add stickers? Do you add ornaments? Do you use decorative tapes?

Do you disguise the gift in the way you wrap them to try and confuse the receiver?

Or do you a little bit of all of the above?

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. For the munchkins I always have some fun ornament style tags made.

There are so 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.

 

BLOGMAS 2022 ~ DAY 21 ~ FAVORITE CHARACTERS

Do you have a special character that you collect and decorate with? Originally I collected Angels and Santas. Then I added snowmen. Then I added Reindeer. And then I added gnomes. And then I added Peanuts. And I LOVE to find unique nativities. I also love bubble lights and have added a few displays. I want to like nutcrackers, but I just can’t get there 😀

BLOGMAS 2022 ~ DAY 20 ~ FAVORITE FAMILY TRADITIONS

Today is supposed to be about your favorite character, but I didn’t get the pictures for it done before we went on our trip that we won’t be home from until later today so I’m trading it with tomorrow’s favorite family traditions 🙂

This has always been a really hard category for me.  I LOVE Christmas!  There is nothing about this season I don’t like short of maybe crowds of rude people and Black Friday.

Sometimes seeing things through someone else’s eyes can give the same old traditions new meaning and in the long run that can also make the favorite traditions and the memories mean even that much more.

If I had to pick just one tradition though, it would be putting up the tree as a family while eating leftover turkey (from Thanksgiving) sandwiches.  When I was a kid we usually put our tree up the day after Thanksgiving and leave it until Kings Day, the Epiphany on January 6th. 

Hubby and I USUALLY still do that and for that reason we like to go cut our own tree so it’s fresh and lasts the entire time.  I use an apple cider/sugar mix that keeps the sap from forming on the cut area and keep the water cool and full. But, this is the year we broke with tradition and used the artificial tree, put it up before Halloween and ate out for Thanksgiving so didn’t have any leftover turkey for the sandwiches 🙁

When I was a kid we did a BIG family get together with a HUGE buffet of fun food and we opened our family presents on Christmas Eve.  I just saw a few of my cousins recently and we were reminiscing about some of those holidays and LOL how horrible our wardrobes were back then. Thankfully, I’m not in the bottom picture because I remember what I was wearing! But I love my brother’s plaid pants and Monica’s floral blouse. If you don’t hear from me for a few days I’m SURE it’s because one them found me after seeing that I posted this picture LOL 😀My mom recently retired that tablecloth finally! I never did like it so that made me very happy!

Then on Christmas Day we would do Christmas morning and “Santa” with just the immediate family followed by a BIG turkey dinner with all the trimmings including my dad’s stuffing and giblet gravy with ALL the family as well as extended family, which included crazy Aunt Louise and Uncle Herb. I replicated dad’s stuffing recipe a few years ago (Oatnut Sourdough Herb Dressing) and that is now a MUST TRADITION for the Christmas meal no matter what the protein is.

But, what was is just that, WAS so our newest tradition in the last several years is watching Christmas movies, just the two of us and dreaming about moving to every small town depicted in them, kind of like Stars Hollow from the Gilmore Girls.  We loved that show!

 

BLOGMAS 2022 ~ DAY 19 ~ STORIES & INSPIRATIONS

BEFORE I get to my normal more solemn stories and inspirations I wanted to share this story that made me laugh and then laugh some more! I found this on facebook so don’t know where it actually originated.

My husband added these “cookies” to his Walmart order last week, to meet the minimum amount for free shipping. If he’d clicked on them for more info before clicking “Add to Cart,” he might have noticed the very tiny letters that said, “real USA chicken as the #1 ingredient” and questioned his purchase. But, as he did not do that, they ended up on our front porch, along with a pack of Oreos. This was a pleasant surprise to my kids, who wasted no time digging in. I opened the package for them, which I might not have done if I’d noticed the tiny words on the label that read, “treats for dogs.” Or if I’d noticed that some of them were shaped like a dog bone. Or if I’d sniffed them after cutting off the shrink-wrap.

But, as they looked like cookies, said “Christmas cookie biscuits” on the label, and arrived with Oreos, in no part of my mind was I thinking that maybe I should verify that they were for human consumption.

So strong was my assumption that they were actual cookies, that I thought nothing of it when my 11-year-old daughter complained that they tasted bad. Store-bought sugar cookies are always gross, which is why I wasn’t tempted to eat one. I shrugged and said, “Try microwaving it for 10 seconds, they’re probably frozen from being outside.” She did so, but it didn’t help. She told me they tasted the way she imagined dog food would taste. STILL no alarm bells in my mind. Meanwhile, my 14-year-old son ate all of his cookie with no complaint. One of my neighbor’s boys even ate one later that evening, again with no complaint!

The next day, my 6-year-old son, who hadn’t had one yet, joked that he was going to have a dog treat (referring to the cookies). I asked why he said that, and he said because they were shaped like bones. Wait… what?! I grabbed the package to inspect it, and sure enough. They were dog treats! I fed my kids DOG TREATS!! I FED MY NEIGHBOR’S KID DOG TREATS!!!!!

Though shocked and somewhat horrified, I literally fell on the floor dying of laughter, especially when my oldest said, “I thought they were good!”

After confessing to my neighbor that I’d fed her son a dog treat (she also thought it was hilarious, thankfully), I gave them to a much more suitable recipient: her German Shepherd.

However, I did make one of them into an ornament for our tree. Because that is a Christmas memory that deserves to be preserved.

INSPIRATIONS

FAVORITE STORIES

This is such a beautiful story that makes you understand that things truly do happen for a reason. Don’t forget to grab the tissue box.

The brand new pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first ministry, to reopen a church in suburban Brooklyn, arrived in early October excited about their opportunities. When they saw their church, it was very run down and needed much work. They set a goal to have everything done in time to have their first service on Christmas Eve.

They worked hard, repairing pews, plastering walls, painting, etc… and on December 18th they were ahead of schedule and just about finished.

On December 19th a terrible tempest – a driving rainstorm hit the area and lasted for two days.

On the 21st, the pastor went over to the church. His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster about 20 feet by 8 feet to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit, beginning about head high.

The pastor cleaned up the mess on the floor, and not knowing what else to do but postpone the Christmas Eve service, headed home. On the way he noticed that a local business was having a flea market type sale for charity so he stopped in. One of the items was a beautiful, handmade, ivory colored, crocheted tablecloth with exquisite work, fine colors and a Cross embroidered right in the center. It was just the right size to cover up the hole in the front wall. He bought it and headed back to the church.

By this time it had started to snow. An older woman running from the opposite direction was trying to catch the bus. She missed it. The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus 45 minutes later. She sat in a pew and paid no attention to the pastor while he got a ladder, hangers, etc… to put up the tablecloth as a wall tapestry. The pastor could hardly believe how beautiful it looked and it covered up the entire problem area.

Then he noticed the woman walking down the center aisle. Her face was like a sheet.. ‘Pastor,’ she asked, ‘where did you get that tablecloth?’ The pastor explained. The woman asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials, EBG were crocheted into it there. They were. These were the initials of the woman, and she had made this tablecloth 35 years before, in Austria.

The woman could hardly believe it as the pastor told how he had just gotten the Tablecloth. The woman explained that before the war she and her husband were well-to-do people in Austria. When the Nazis came, she was forced to leave. Her husband was going to follow her the next week. He was captured, sent to prison and she never saw her husband or her home again.

The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth, but she made the pastor keep it for the church. The pastor insisted on driving her home, that was the least he could do. She lived on the other side of Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn for the day for a house cleaning job.

What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve The church was almost full. The music and the spirit were great. At the end of the service, the pastor and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said that they would return. One older man, whom the pastor recognized from the neighborhood continued to sit in one of the pews and stare, and the pastor wondered why he wasn’t leaving.

The man asked him where he got the Tablecloth on the front wall because it was identical to one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria before the war and how could there be two tablecloths so much alike.

He told the pastor how the Nazis came, how he forced his wife to flee for her safety and he was supposed to follow her, but he was arrested and put in a prison. He never saw his wife or his home again all the 35 years in between.

The pastor asked him if he would allow him to take him for a little ride. They drove to Staten Island and to the same house where the pastor had taken the woman three days earlier.

He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman’s apartment, knocked on the door and he saw the greatest Christmas reunion he could ever imagine.

This true Story was submitted by Pastor Rob Reid.

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

Or this story I found 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.

HAPPY HOMEMAKER MONDAY with MENU PLANS week 50 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

This will be pretty quick this morning as we’re leaving this morning for our Christmas trip to the coast. There is a small craft advisory and wind predicted at the coast as well as a 10 degree temperature drop so I’ve packed accordingly. I even packed an umbrella in case it does rain. Weather around here can change at the drop of a hat 😀

We almost weren’t going to be able to go. The vacation rental we rented and prepaid for last month canceled on us. 🙁 Fortunately, the management company is really good though. 🙂 They found us another rental, still on the water, but actually bigger and better AND they covered the price difference! So, we’re really excited about these couple days away.

One of the reasons to go to the coast for a couple days and have reservations to see Shore Acres. It’s a wonderful light display that has been closed down since COVID. We went the Christmas before COVID and it was great, but POURING down rain. So, I’m REALLY looking forward to this year. It’s supposed to be REALLY cold, but at least the rain/snow is supposed to hold off until after we return home. I’ll post pictures later this week.

Doing Happy Homemaker Monday, EVERY MONDAY, loyally for all these years and so extensively helps keep me on track of my daily life as it summarizes the past week and lays out a fairly concise plan for the current week.

THIS WEEK’S TO DO LIST, PROJECTS & APPOINTMENTS
  • LAUNDRY & CLEANING After I get back on Thursday I’ll finish cleaning up from all the sorting I’ve been doing.
  • GROCERIES & ERRANDS Thursday I have a couple appointments in town and will get caught up then,
  • RECIPE RESEARCH & MENU PLANNING Thinking of making a HUGE return to the more basic recipes in the coming new year.

WHAT’S ON THE DVR/TV
  • NETFLIX We finished the first season of Wednesday and found it really fun. We are going to finish NCIS next – we’re at season 16
  • CABLE With most shows in winter hiatus I’m catching up on Christmas movies and cooking shows.

A favorite fun author I read gave a us a fun little read for Christmas if we downloaded her new app which will make getting her books easier for all. I’m going to start it for our little trip.

MONDAY
TUESDAY
WEDNESDAY
THURSDAY
FRIDAY
SATURDAY
SUNDAY
DINNER
 OUT OF TOWN
 OUT OF TOWN
OUT OF TOWN
CRISPY PORK MEDALLIONS with APPLE HORSERADISH SAUCE & BROCCOLI HASH
 SALISBURY STEAK POTATO SKILLET
 APPLE BALSAMIC CHICKEN, SOUTHERN CORNBREAD & BUTTERED CARROTS
WHITE BEAN SOUP & CHEDDAR BISCUITS
DESSERT
 
 
PEANUT BUTTER BALLS
 

One of favorite places is this 124 year old tavern.The exposed brick walls inside and out are part of the charm that makes this old building so unique.

We’ve been coming here for the past 10 years and through 4 owners. The BEST thing is that through all those owners, not one of them changed the menu! They have THE BEST sandwiches and all the recipes are still made the same way despite the change in ownership over the years.

And I took a Christmassy Highland Cow painting class yesterday. I’ll do the fine touches later this week as I ran out of time.

BLOGMAS 2022 ~ DAY 18 ~ DAY #2 of FAVORITE PARTY FOODS

WOW this is a HUGE category!  I HAVE SO MANY FAVORITES! So I HAD TO continue it into a second day, called party favorites. 😀

Because of growing families with plenty of munchkins being born and in-laws to accommodate, one of hubby’s sister’s family traditions is to celebrate the weekend before as a LARGE group and then be at each respective home for Christmas itself or with their in-laws.  As the family has grown, Christmas dinner became a larger and larger production.  Eventually instead of a “dinner”  it became a “cocktail” party with each person bringing an appetizer type dish for 20.  So Christmas dinner became a HAPPY HOUR and it has worked out fantastic over the years.  Everyone pretty much has a “signature” dish so we end up with a WIDE variety of everything from homemade Egg Nog to Salads and Chicken Skewers on the BBQ with plenty of tasty fudges and goodies too.

A few years back some friends took us to lunch at Jack Allen’s Kitchen when we were visiting in Round Rock, Texas and the food was SOOOOOOOOO good that I bought the cook book and have been experimenting ever since.

One of our favorite recipes is for pimento cheese spread made from scratch.  I now make it in bite sized balls so you don’t have to mess with a knife and and all the cracker crumbs.

I had some fresh pecans and ground them fine.  Then I rolled the cheese spread into small balls and then rolled each one in the pecans.  I chilled them overnight and then used toothpicks for serving. Sorry I didn’t get a picture when they were on the pretty plate.

PIMIENTO CHEESE
8 ounces softened cream cheese
1/2 pound Monterey Jack cheese, grated
1/2 pound Medium Cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup Duke’s mayonnaise
1 large Red Bell Pepper, washed, seeded, roasted and chopped fine
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Sherry Vinegar*
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • Mix together the cream cheese, mayonnaise, Worcestershire sauce, Vinegar and salt until smooth.
  • Blend in the grated Monterey Jack cheese and grated Cheddar cheese.
  • Fold in bell pepper until well distributed.
  • Chill well.
  • Serve with crackers.

NOTE: *I didn’t have any so I used Golden Balsamic Vinegar

We also love to make VAMPIRE SLAYER ARTICHOKE BREAD and cut it into small bites for appetizers. OMG This appetizer replaces any entree – it’s ooey, gooey, cheesy and literally melts in your mouth all the while tantalizing your taste buds from the very first bite!

VAMPIRE SLAYER ARTICHOKE BREAD Adapted from Crumb
2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced fine

14 ounce can artichoke hearts, drained REALLY WELL and chopped small
1 cup shredded Face Rock Vampire Slayer Cheddar cheese
½ cup shaved Parmesan cheese
¼ cup sour cream
1 bunch green onions, finely minced
1 package Seattle Sourdough Ciabatta rolls
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
  • Preheat broiler, and line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  • In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, melt the butter until foamy.
  • Add garlic and green onions sauteing until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Remove from heat, and stir in artichoke hearts, mozzarella, cheddar, Parmesan and sour cream until combined.
  • Slice the bread lengthwise.
  • Place the bread halves on the prepared baking sheet, cut side up, and spoon the cooled cheese and artichoke mixture over top.
  • Lightly salt and pepper to taste.
  • Broil until cheese is melted and bread is hot.
  • Cut each half into pieces and serve right away, while the cheese is still nice and melted.

Another of our go to “PARTY” foods that I tend to only make at Christmas time is Cowgirl kisses.

COWGIRL KISSES
8 ounces cream cheese
2 tablespoons Foothill Salad Seasoning
1 slice bacon per pepper
Jalapeno Peppers
Raspberry Chipotle Sauce (see below)

  • Mix cream cheese and Foothill Salad Seasoning until well blended.
  • Clean and remove seeds from peppers.
  • Fill peppers.
  • Wrap each pepper with a slice of bacon.
  • Bake or grill over low heat until bacon is crisp.
  • Serve with raspberry chipotle sauce.

RASPBERRY CHIPOTLE SAUCE
1 cup Raspberry Jam
2 tablespoons diced chipotle peppers
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons apple cider or rice wine vinegar

  • Whisk all ingredients until well blended.
  • Chill until ready to serve.
  • Warm before serving.

BLOGMAS 2022 ~ DAY 17 ~ FAVORITE CHRISTMAS FOODS & PARTY IDEAS

This really is SUPER easy topic and category for someone who loves to cook and bake. The one thing I am noticing as I type each entry is that by doing this, I am remembering so many silly stories and anecdotes about aunts, uncles, cousins and such that keep bringing smiles to my face. These memories are part of what this season is all about to me.

I’d like to say that our table always looked just like the one in the picture. Well Christmas day was usually pretty close, but Christmas Eve was ALWAYS much more casual. One of my earlier memories is of a very warm Christmas Day, a backed up sink/garbage disposal (I don’t think we ever had a holiday in that house where the garbage disposal didn’t have an issue of some sort) and then having to transport all the prepared food from my parent’s house to my grandparent’s house via my grandmother’s RED (kind of like a Christmas sleigh) Chevy station wagon (remember those?) while my uncle and I sat in the back keeping the food from toppling over.

CHRISTMAS EVE – Served Buffet style since this was the night we did most of the present opening and the adults didn’t want to spend all their time in the kitchen – in later years we would have it catered (so to speak – they prepared the food, we picked it up and displayed it) from Rattler’s BBQ. We also began to use “FINE CHINA” as hubs calls it aka decorated paper plates, bowls and napkins.

  • Sandwich makings – roast beef, ham, cheeses
  • Potato Salad
  • See’s Candy boxes
  • Wintergreen ribbon candy
  • Chocolate covered cherries

CHRISTMAS DAY – This is where we dug out the REAL fine china and crystal as well as the silver and cloth napkins. I loved setting the table for this meal. There were always enough people that we had a KID’S table too. When I was younger I hated the kid’s table – all the good stuff was sitting at the grown-up’s table!

  • Roast Turkey, Baked Ham or Roast Beef
  • Daddy’s Stuffing – now recreated from scratch to taste virtually the same as my Oatnut Sourdough Herb Dressing
  • Mashed Potatoes ALWAYS from scratch – it was those potato peels that were one of the biggest garbage disposal problems
  • Giblet Gravy
  • Cranberry Sauce – my family always used Ocean Spray from a can but nowadays we make my homemade sauce ALWAYS (though our oldest prefers canned sauce LOL 😀 and if he’s here I but a can just for him) Cranberry Sauce
  • Baked Ham – in later years it was always HONEYBAKED HAM and I loved making Split Pea soup with the left over ham bone.
  • Glazed Carrots
  • Green Bean Casserole (THEN) Brussels Sprouts Casserole (NOW) 😀
  • Gran’s cranberry salad – she’d make two, one for mom and aunt Liz and one for everyone else.
  • Rolls and butter
  • Traditional pies like pumpkin, Cherry and as well as Cherry Pineapple Dump Cake.
  • See’s Candies

When we go to my SIL’s family for Christmas (or any other big family get together) we do Hor’deouvres. The family is so big now that over the years we have found that if each person brings an hor’deouvre to feed 10+ people that we can make a HUGE feast. We just serve it buffet style (skipping the sit down meal) and mingle and play – it is ALWAYS the best time.

Here are a couple recipes that have been added to the MUST have during the holiday season pile over the years.

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.

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.

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These days with the popularity of charcuterie boards they have been added to the greatest meal category 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 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.

Last year I said I was going to do a “DESSERT” charcuterie board for a girlfriends party instead of a cookie exchange, but sadly that isn’t this year, but I have high hope for next year.

  • 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

Here are some of my FAVORITE RECIPE LINKS to make for a crowd. They make some pretty impressive foods and drinks for a buffet table.

 

BLOGMAS 2022 ~ DAY 15 ~ GOODIES & TREATS FOR ALL

I keep a station set up just outside the front door in the alcove for delivery drivers with a nice variety of drinks and snacks for them to choose from.  They all seem to enjoy it and our regular drivers have come to know it will always be there.

One of them saw me at the post office the other day and actually asked if there would be my ‘special Christmas goodies’ again this year. I add special goodies (banana bread, peanut butter balls, cookies) at this time of year with an even nicer variety so they really realize just how much they have become essential in this day and age.

I usually do a large plate of goodies for my neighbors and regular delivery people. But, again this year with smaller gatherings still happening and everyone having been home so much and already snacking too much probably, I changed it up again to make it easier on me, more cost effective for me and more fun too.

This year I’m adding my Christmas Jam and Cowboy Candy aka Candied Jalapenos.

These jars are brownie mixes that can be used whenever they want instead of a plate of goodies that may go bad before they eat them all.

PEANUT BUTTER* BROWNIE MIX
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup baking cocoa
1 cup peanut butter chips*
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup FINELY chopped walnuts

  • In a quart size mason jar, layer the ingredients in the order listed, packing down well between each layer. This is an important step s these ingredients literally fill the jar!
  • Cover tightly. Store in a cool, DRY place up to 6 months.

Include a cute little square of Christmas fabric, some ribbon and tag with the following instructions:
ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS
2 LARGE eggs at room temperature
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon PURE vanilla extract
Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • In a bowl combine eggs, butter and vanilla with the brownie mix, folding together in as few strokes as possible.
  • Spread into a greased 8×8 baking pan.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes until set.
  • Cool on wire rack.
  • Dust with powdered sugar if desired.
  • Cut into squares.

NOTE*: It is easy to change up this flavor by just changing the flavor of chips you use. I’m posting my peanut butter recipe, but you’ll notice the picture is of the jars I made with mint chocolate chips.  This batch of 12 had a variety of peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, caramel chips and mint chocolate chips, LOL 😀 NOT all together  of course!

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These are this year’s recipes:

HARVEST SOUP – picture soon
3/4 cup dried split peas (yellow or green)
1/3 cup+ granulated beef bouillon
1/2 cup barley
3/4 cup dried lentils
1/2 cup dried, minced onion
3/4 cup long grain wild rice
3/4 cup mini bow-tie or alphabet pasta

You can do this two ways. You can make pretty layered rows of each ingredient ending with the granulated beef bouillon allowing it to trickle down through it all. Or you can mix it all together and then fill the jar and add a lid.

Include a cute little square of Christmas fabric, some ribbon and tag with the following instructions:
ADDITIONAL INGREDIENTS:

28 ounce can diced tomatoes (DO NOT DRAIN)
1 1/2 pounds stew meat
1 tablespoon butter or oil
1/4 cup flour
FRESH ground salt and pepper, to taste

  • Dredge stem meat pieces in seasoned flour, shaking off excess.
  • In a large stock pot melt butter or oil.
  • Sear stew meat pieces.
  • Add soup mix, 3 quarts of water and diced tomatoes.
  • Bring to a SLOW boil.
  • Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 1-2 hours until peas, lentils and rice are tender.
  • Makes 16 cups.

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HERB RICE MIX ~ PER 1 PINT JAR:
2 cups long grain rice
2 tablespoons celery flakes
2 tablespoons dried, minced onion
1 teaspoon dried chives
2 tablespoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon sera salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

  • Combine all the ingredients, mixing together well.
  • Funnel into a pint sized mason jar.
  • Seal with a fabric square between the ring and the lid.
  • Tie with a cute ribbon that attaches the instructions.

INSTRUCTION TAG:

  • In a saucepan over medium heat, bring 2 cups water and 2 tablespoons of butter to a boil.
  • Add 1 cup of rice mix.
  • Reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes.
  • Let stand 5 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.
  • Fluff with a fork and serve.

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CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER COOKIES – this jar will be seriously FULL so pack each layer as tightly as possible!

1 cup PACKED brown sugar
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup baking cocoa
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

  • In a 1 quart wide mouth canning jar, layer the brown sugar packing it down as firmly as possible.
  • Add the powdered sugar also packing it down as much as possible.
  • Add the cocoa once again packing it down firmly. With a dry towel clean excess cocoa from the inside edges of the jar.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together. Add to the jar, packing tightly.
  • Include a cute little square of Christmas fabric, some ribbon and tag with the following instructions:

additional ingredients
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 eggs

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Cream together the butter, peanut butter and eggs.
  • Gradually sift in the dry mix.
  • Shape into balls and place on a LIGHTLY oiled baking sheet.
  • Bake 15-20 minutes.