Friday, December 2, 2016

My Favorites from 12 Days of Christmas Treats Past

Some of you were asking about a few recipes for baking season from the archives so I thought I'd get those in one place for you.  If you're not interested, no reading links this week so I'll see ya Monday!

Egg Nog Cookies  (These babies are always a favorite when someone tries them.  I'm not even an egg nog fan but these things are awesome!)

Ornament Truffles  (One of my post it ideas come to life.  I'll be honest, they are a longer process but SO worth it and people FLIP over these...myself included!)

Snowballs (aka Wedding Cookies)  (While not *my* favorite, they are my most requested for those people I bake for and the Mr. so I had to include them!)

Seven Layer Truffles  (I didn't care for these bars as a kid but I love these truffles!  The perfect bite and one of my most pinned treats!)

Maple Buckeyes  (Peanut butter and chocolate.  *mic drop*)

Gingersnap Truffles  (I can't even...these things are so good and such a great traditional gingerbread taste in a non-traditional package.  Delish!)

Grasshopper Fudge  (Do you like Thin Mint cookies?  Do you like the easiest fudge you'll ever make...for real?  You'll LOVE this recipe!)

ChocoRolo Cookies  (These are absolute heaven.  If rolos aren't your thing, sub some peanut butter chips, those Nestle stuffed chips or whatever you like.  The chocolate cookie is amazing!)

Frosty Hats  (Adults and kids SCARF these!  Use with or without peppermint cookies but the peppermint is always a nice surprise.  No one has thrown one away yet...matter of fact, they usually edge back toward the plate for another!)

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread  (A simple, traditional shortbread that flies off of the platter in seconds)

I hope you pick a couple to try this holiday season if you haven't already!  Many are regulars for our family, friends and work potlucks!

What are your favorite treats to make this time of year?

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Thursday, December 1, 2016

Marshmallow Snowmen

Happy December all!

My hot mug of cocoa has become kind of famous in my inner circle.  When I had a friend over she said "I had a dream about your hot chocolate last night!"  Heh heh.  Part of the appeal is these little guys...

Here's what you'll need:

Bag of marshmallows
Orange candy melts
Candy melts in the color of your choice for the earmuffs
Wilton Food Writer Edible Color Markers (for the black marker)
A few toothpicks

Warm the earmuff candy melts according to package instruction and put in a little snack bag when it's squeezeable.

Cut a teeny tip off of the corner to use as your piping bag.

Make a little earmuff (or Princess Leia bun if you please) on the side

Bring the piping over the top and repeat on the other side.

Just do all of the ones you want to be wearing earmuffs at once and let the piping harden for a few minutes.

Soften the orange candy melts for the snowman noses and cut off the corner of the bag for piping.

Pipe a little carrot on the face for the nose.  (If anything gets clumpy, use a toothpick dipped in water to smooth it out)

In between noses, I keep the bag of candy melts in hot water with the tip out of the water to keep it pliable.

Grab your black food safe marker.  (I used a few different brands and Wilton worked the best for me.)

Draw the eyes and mouth to look like coal.

Time to make the snowmen who prefer to let their ears get cold.

"Her-dee-der y'all!"  (He looks drunk)

Allow them to socialize as they dry.

Look at those cute lil nubbins!

I just put mine in an airtight container and they lasted well into January.

I added a layer of wax paper for freshness and to make sure the green didn't rub off on the ones that didn't have muffs on.

If you want to throw together some fun hot cocoa gifts for co-workers, teachers or friends, get some of those disposable pastry bags.  Add 3 tbsp of your favorite cocoa mix and seal it.  (I used my Food Saver but you could get a cheaper version if you think you'll do a lot of these.)

I cut off the bottom of another bag where the cocoa would've gone and seal the bottom, slide in a filled Ghirardelli square and 3 snowmen and put it in the top of the cocoa bag.  (I keep them separate in case the seal on the cocoa breaks it doesn't make the snowmen look like they've crawled through a coal mine)

Tie the top with a curly ribbon and put in a stocking, mug or mail a few with a box of homemade cookies to someone you love!

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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tic Tac Hack...Hack

As another holiday is behind us, it's time to turn my attention to THE holiday.  The one I've been looking forward to since last Christmas.  One of the things I pinned was how to reuse Tic Tac containers as travel spice containers.  (Google it...50,000 posts will come up.)  That was genius but I needed a little something extra for mine when we travel for yuletide merriment.  I use garlic powder in pretty much anything.  While I could gently shake and hope for no "half the box dumped out onto the chicken" situation or dump it in my hand and pinch it into the dish...smelling like Dracula's worst nightmare wasn't topping my to do list.  I remembered I kept the old plastic colander I had forever when I got a good stainless steel one for a gift.  Eureka!

Here's what you'll need:

Garlic powder (or other powdery spice like ground ginger, cloves, etc)
Plastic strainer (Dollar store if you don't have one)
NON-MINTY Tic Tac container  (Get orange, strawberry, fruit mix, etc.  No spearmint and the like unless you like minty freshness infused into your spices!)
Glue (optional)

Empty your Tic Tac box any way you deem appropriate.  I won't judge.

Remove the wrapper, which peels off very easily.

Pop off the lid.

Put the lid on the strainer and cut a little wider than the lid size.

Like so.

Depending on the stiffness of your strainer, you may be able to pop it inside the lid and be done!

Funnel in your spice.

I was able to get 20g in or I think about 20 servings according to the bag.  (10 servings according to me!)

If you aren't having luck with the mesh staying on it's own, you can cut some way wider than the opening and try to place the lid back in place.  Mine was too thick so it was a no go for me.

You could also put a dab of glue on the inside front and back of the lid.  It will never touch the spices.

Clamp one side down whilst it dries and be more patient with the other side because there will be nothing to clamp to so it's you bonding with your lid...hopefully not literally.

If the thought of glue skeeves you out, just run some clear tape around the edges.  Because you'll be popping it back in the container, it'll hold just fine.

Worked like a charm!

See?  But if you're a little irritated at the look of the tape and want to cover that up, no worries.

Nothing a little washi tape can't cover.  ;-)

If you're an uber nerd like me, you can head over to and make a fun little label to tape to the top so you can easily see at a glance what you're looking at.

Just trim the tape along the side of the pop up lid so it doesn't keep lifting off with every use.

Oh yeah babe...many a good meals will be made with this and a few other spices I'm bringing along!

Make sure you keep the lid free of caked on spices as you use them (especially over steam as it can cake easily).  These lids aren't necessarily air tight and you want them to close properly.  For the car ride, I'm rubber banding the lids and sticking them all in a sandwich bag as a precaution.

I don't want a spice blowout!  Then I suppose I could call it a "rub" and all would be good anyway.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Saying Goodbye

As I mentioned a little while ago, it looked like this holiday season was going to be our last with Grandma.  Since we're giving ourselves some peace for Christmas, I knew Thanksgiving was going to be the last time I saw her this holiday season.  I knew it could likely be the last time I saw her for good.

As I went into the day, baking my pies and getting things ready.  I thought back to how many times she lovingly prepared meals for her family on big holidays like this.  I am my grandma's granddaughter and I stress out as much as she did.  She was known to break out the tude while trying to get it all done in time.  As a kid, you don't understand it much but as an adult you totally empathize and appreciate what all those that came before you did to make the holiday special.

This was the first time we were seeing the set up with the bed in the living room.  It wasn't quite as intrusive as I'd pictured.  Some of the furniture was rearranged and she was in the bed and awake for once.  (Every holiday the past 2 years that I've seen her, she's been comatose from drugs)  I went over and kissed her head and said hello and rubbed her arm.  She didn't really look at me but I couldn't help but notice the extreme tremors she was having.  Her hands shook pretty violently the whole time and sometimes her legs would shake.  It was like watching a Parkinson's patient and I immediately wondered if it was Lewy Body like Robin Williams had.  I sure as heck wasn't going to bring it up.  I know my place on that front now.  Say nothing because no one wants to hear it.  I was a little alarmed to hear that she'd been basically taken off of all meds except one pill and occasionally an anxiety med.  If she's off meds that controlled the shakes, why was she taken off of them??  I gave it to God and asked for a prayer of forgiveness for whomever decided that didn't need to be addressed.

When I went back a few minutes later, sat beside her and said hi again.  She looked my way and tried to show me this stuffed animal her sister made for her.  I touched it and told her how pretty it was and how nice it was that she made that for her.  As I sat beside her, very low under her breath I could hear her say "mmm hmm."  This is something she has said her whole life and I say it too.  It's more the way it's said, kind of like the period on the end of a sentence.  (Not like Sling Blade or something, more like the mom in Edward Scissorhands.)  Like when she was teaching me how to make noodles, she would say "just use the drippings for the gravy...mmm hmm."  To hear her saying it even low enough for only me to hear was very comforting.  There were times she would lean forward or would shake very violently like she wanted to move and I would rub her back or her arm and she would calm down and lean back in her chair.  A few times I was rubbing her back, she would scratch her ear or in that direction and I would stop in case she was trying to tell me to stop but couldn't.

Mom took a few pics of us and when she was holding up her animal a little, my mom laughed and said it's like she wants her animals picture taken and she slowly lifted it in front of her face, like "take the picture."  It was so cute.  Then it was picture time.  Since her diagnosis, none of us have taken pictures at the holidays anymore.  No one wants to remember what she was like at that time of decline.  But this year, everyone brought their camera and we all knew why.  Each family posed with her in her wheelchair and all of the girls both daughters and granddaughters posed with her.  We all knew it could be the last pictures we took with her.  It was bittersweet and honestly, I won't likely look at them often because the real story is being told in glaring detail.  All of the women putting on brave smiles as Grandma looks elsewhere, unaware of what we are doing and why the flashes keep going off.

When it was time to move her back into the bed, it took four grown men to do it.  FOUR.  Don't even get me started.

As we were all leaving, we each took turns saying goodbye.  One of my aunts broke down when she walked away from her bed and I held her while she cried.  We said we loved each other as she told me how it killed her to see her that way and she doesn't want her to see her cry.  I said goodbye to her twice.  The second time I went over, she looked up at me and I said "me again!  I just wanted to say I love you and Merry Christmas."  She looked over at the tree and I said "see your pretty tree!  It was decorated with love just for you so you can enjoy it this year.  I love you grandma, you will never know how much I love you" and kissed her goodbye.

I thought about it being the last time I may see her and because I have mourned her loss for years (2 1/2 years since she last knew who I was), I am relatively drained emotionally due to the circumstances involving not just her disease but her treatment.  I have come to terms with the fact that the way they chose to care for her is certainly not how I would have done it but it has allowed the Mr and I some good talks when it comes to our own futures should we ever be faced with that.  I love my grandma with all of my heart but I want her to have peace.  Each moment is a struggle for her now with that violent shaking and when God decides to take her, I am spiritually at peace with that.  As much as I will miss the arms that held me, the smile she so rarely showed (she never liked showing her teeth for some reason- I thought they were fine!) and the voice that comforted me, there will be some relief in knowing that every minute of her life is not faced with not just what we can see outside but the things she can't tell us that are going on inside.  I saved her some of the Christmas cookies I made in a tin along with the snowball cookies she loved, I made them straight from her recipe.  I brought the platter because I wanted to make sure that she got some Christmas cookies this year even if she didn't make it to Christmas.  If it's one small way to bring her some pleasure, I'm glad I did it.

When I look at the pictures from that night, my heart breaks.  It very much reminds me of the final picture we have of our dog the day we had to put her to sleep.  She looked like a shell of herself and in pain with a blanket covering her.  Grandma looked the same...frail, sad and a shell of her former shelf.  They are pictures I'm glad to have but will not likely look at them again.  I have several very good pictures of us together of the woman she wanted me to remember and out of love and respect, that is how I will remember her forever.

I pray our family can find a way to recover because it's not just the person that suffers, it's the whole family.  I am scared of what's to come when she is gone because I see the impending self destruction of our family in many ways.  I hope I'm wrong but signs are pointing to a very trying battle that will have only begun once she's gone.

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Monday, November 28, 2016

Hectic Holiday Weekend Recap

My Lord am I glad this holiday weekend is over!  It was flippin' crazy cakes.

I felt really good mentally Thanksgiving morning.

I baked my apple crumb pie the night before, my stuffing was done like 3 weeks prior and frozen (and tastes delicious btw), the night before I made my pie filling and gingersnap crust so all I had to do was bake my light pumpkin pie and do mashed potatoes.  Oh yeah and frost and plate the Christmas cookies I was bringing but I'll get to that.

So I came down and put my filling into the pie tin and put the pie in the oven and used that baking time to go down and do my PT and iron my clothes for the day.  Then the Mr came down and I chose our workout for the day...a nice long strength session (50 minutes) on Fitness Blender and kicked our butts.  When the pie was done, I did a little work (self employed people know that there is no such thing as a day off), I frosted the cookies and dipped the peanut butter balls.  I wasn't running behind as usual where I'm running around and felt pretty mellow.  I went up and took a shower and then decided I should get to peeling potatoes.  The Mr was supposed to but he was editing and I didn't want to interrupt him.  Well, I should've because it took longer than I wanted to peel and cut and before I knew it, I was rushing having to time warming up the stuffing, boiling the potatoes and putting the non frosted cookies in a warm oven to revive that fresh baked taste.  Of course the water decided to boil over as I added the potatoes and flood the stove.  It is just not a holiday unless something goes awry.  (Like last year when I left the pumpkin pies out overnight and then wondered if I was going to give everyone food poisoning.  Since the internet was about 50/50 on that front, I erred on the side of caution and threw them out and baked new pies on the spot.  We were late because I did roasted sweet potatoes which only two people other than us really liked because they appeared healthy so no one else wanted to touch them (they weren't there was candied bacon and syrup involved.  Oh well, more for us!) and they took more time than I thought.)

So I'm sopping up water with paper towels and transferring the potatoes from the in pot strainer that I never used before into the stockpot and praying they boiled in time.  Then I realized that instead of grabbing two 6 lb bags of potatoes, it was actually 6 lbs total.  Well given how many people were expected, that wasn't going to fly.  So those mashed potatoes I made for the channel, got pulled out of the freezer and I tested them and those babies were fresh as hell, yo!  I was happy to know I could make those ahead and Food Save them in the future and they wouldn't be a watery mess since I didn't use broth for them.  So I supplemented what I had (which would've ended up being fine) with the microwaved frozen ones and added them to the mix.  I pulled the stuffing out of the oven and into the carrier and pulled the cookies out of the oven and plated them and the ones waiting.  Oh, all in my skivvies no less.  I wasn't risking getting the war zone all over my outfit.  I snapped at the Mr who likes to stare at me while I'm bouncing off the walls of our 2 butt kitchen which makes me incredibly anxious.  Hovering is for mother in laws, Mr...sit down!  Somewhere in there I did my make up.  I did a basic job on the hair that I wasn't pleased with but didn't care enough to fix and threw on my clothes.

We drove up the road and I didn't even get a nice long car ride this year to relax on the way there.  The Mr walks in and cheerily says hello and Happy Thanksgiving.  *crickets*  I guess my mom did say hello but no one else acknowledged him.  I was behind him arranging my pies and when I heard the cold reception, I just kind of felt like "why is it I'm so opposed to alcohol again?"  I followed him back out but I guess he was just grabbing our water bottles and he said "time to go back into the warm welcome."  We went in and my mom was at least in a chatty mood so we talked for a few and everything looked like it was ready to roll and we were just waiting on my cousins to get there.  Twenty minutes pass and they are just throwing the homemade noodles on.  Are you kidding me!?  So twenty more minutes later, one branch of cousins (about 10 more people) aren't there and they say it's time to eat.  I know the noodles aren't ready at that point, at least not thickened up.  Don't have to tell me twice, pit hunger had set in by then since I hadn't eaten much that day.  It was hot inside and since we were expecting 10 more and we're always kind of hogging the main table, we thought we'd sit out in the patio room with the two cousins that did show since they were hot too.  Then my grandma's husband comes out there after he'd just been griping about how cold it was (the Mr turned down the blast furnace from "Hades" to "Tampa" on the thermostat) but he's going to sit basically outside with us?  I assume he wanted to because we're faces he doesn't see regularly like everyone inside.  Three more people show up about half way through dinner and 7 other people are missing in action and never showed.  I assume it was made as clear to others as it was to me that we were to decorate for Grandma as a family and such but whatever.  It was actually nice to be able to have a little breathing room but still, I don't know what happened to all of them.

I was glad we were on the patio because frankly the mood in the main area was described by the Mr and myself at any given time afterward as "forced" and "soulless."  This did not remotely resemble Thanksgiving to us.  My uncle, for 20 years, has always made a point to save a turkey leg for the Mr and kind of makes a big announcement about it.  I saw them when he was murdering the turkey with that old school electric knife (please don't do that to your turkey) but they weren't even out at all.  Later the Mr said "this is the first time I didn't have a turkey leg on Thanksgiving."  I told him I had 4 in the freezer and would gladly thaw one and he said no but he said he felt stupid for feeling like it was a big deal but it was kind of tradition that he missed.  Everyone was plastering on fake smiles when they bothered to smile at all.  We didn't look at ads for Black Friday which has happened every year since I was a kid.  When her husband and I got in a trivial conversation (no, not about politics), he was really beginning to irritate me so I got up to go into the main room to get away from him and everyone was just sitting there watching football not speaking.  Sigh.

I went to the bathroom and came out and they were starting to pack up leftovers because people were acting like they were leaving and in my mind, I'm like "aww HELL NO!" so I asked when we were all going to decorate the Christmas tree and my aunt was like "oh the ornaments are over there if you want to do that."  Hmm, this was presented like we, as a family would decorate the tree.  So I told the Mr to go out to the car and he got the platter of Christmas cookies and our Christmas music we brought.  People's eyes lit up when they saw all of them even though they were in food comas.  My mom asked what I did and I said "you can't decorate for Christmas without Christmas cookies and music!"

The kids grabbed a few and people were grabbing here and there as they went by and the Mr and I decorated the tree.  He leaned over and whispered "we were sold a bill of goods" and I laughed and said "yes we were!"  The tree is pretty pencil thin though so even just the two of us was almost too much.  Suddenly it felt like the mood lightened a bit and kids were laughing and people were talking and the guys were in a huddle talking sports or something and it felt a little more like the holidays.  People got plates of Christmas cookies to take home with them which was my intent.

We all cleared out about the same time and I guess I assumed due to the multiple runs to the car that the Mr had taken our leftovers out to the car.  When we got home and were discussing the evening, he commented on how we must've been on the sh*t list because we didn't get ANY leftovers but everyone else seemed to.  Never in my LIFETIME have I not gone home with noodles...even when they were burnt last Christmas.   I still took some home...and then into the trash but that's not the point.  The thing that bothered me the most is my aunt shared pics of her and mom hanging out with their friends the next day totally belly laughing until they were crying.  I felt like "gee, thanks for saving the "fun" you for your friends but giving the white flag version of yourself to your family."  I understand they're burnt out and they're sad it's likely Grandma's last holiday season but I feel like Grandma is still very aware of energy around her and I sure as heck wasn't going to spread the feeling of doom that was in the air.  So yeah, t'was not stellar but I've had worse holidays I guess.

Friday was work filled for both of us and the kitchen looked like it had exploded because I didn't even bother to clean it up the night before.  I started slowly taking down Fall decor so we could be ready to get Christmas stuff up.  (I've never not had my tree up by Black Friday but too much work to do to care the past few weeks.)   My big Black Friday purchase was a new Food Saver that was 33% off and then I got double cash back through Ebates so I got almost $8 back on that.  My current one is on it's last legs after 10 years and I use that thing so much it's not funny so it's definitely worth the investment at $80.  Oh and since I was still ticked at getting no noodles, I whipped up a 2 person batch myself so pffft!  I don't need your damn noodles!

Saturday we watched college ball and had our annual appetizer spread which I look forward to because I don't have to fix anything major for it.  That always ends up being our lunch and dinner and I feel like I could be eligible to be flown for the Macy's parade from sodium bloat.

Sunday the plan was to put up the Christmas tree.   I wanted to take my newly acquired butt muscles and slowly building hip muscles for a test drive on the historic district's cobblestone streets.  Typically we walk 3 miles there (what the DPT wanted me to increase to on our hood walks) but my hips are always so screwed up I'm limping by the end.  I will say I was able to feel the booty engaging and about halfway through even though I had hip soreness, the newer muscles started to engage to help out.  I was worried my calves would lock up but they didn't, at least not on the walk so I was able to actually enjoy the best of both worlds by having Fall colors and some Christmas stuff out to ooh and ahh at.

The plan on putting up the Christmas tree was tossed because my legs weren't having it.  I've never NOT had my tree up by this weekend but tough noogies.   Lots of things are different this year so why not this?  I think we're shooting for Tuesday.  Now I just want to sleep for a week but I have a holiday excursion to plan.  I see our destination has a nice layer of snow on the ground.  Just keep a base and I'm good to go.

For those of you who remember the Christmas cookie blast I did a few years back, things like that will be on the YouTube channel from now to keep that kind of temptation off this site.  So if you are looking for a new recipe every day for the first twelve days of December, here's a sneak peek of what is coming.  Make sure you subscribe there so you don't miss it!  And for those who asked, yes, this will be a year round venture not just holiday time.

How was YOUR holiday weekend?

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Friday, November 25, 2016

I want YOU... share your Christmas tree/holiday decorations!

I had so much fun seeing your trees and decorations last year and several people mentioned they hoped I'd do it again this year.  Well I am!

Since I didn't have time to read much this week, I want you to take a picture of your holiday tree or decorations and send it to me either on Facebook or my contact info is in the FAQ's.  I will post them Christmas week so we can all bask in the holiday cheer together!

So take a picture of your tree all decked out or that menorah that's been passed down generations or maybe you want to show off your home all lit up at night.

Send one picture and the first name you want used with it.  Deadline is Friday, December 9th

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving and if you're out doing Black Friday shopping, God speed.

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