Ornaments for Kids to Make

This year my 4 year old wanted nothing to do with a big Christmas tree. He only wanted the little pre-lit 3 foot tree that I usually put on a table somewhere. He says, “Mom, I am little. I need a little tree. This one is just my size.” So, this year we opted out of my big tree with with all the pretty ornaments and set up the small tree with all the random ornaments that have been collected over the years. Lance thought that we needed more ornaments to decorate it, so we set off to make some more. We used a basic salt dough.

Salt Dough

1 cup salt

2 cups flour

1 cup cold water

Stir it all together and knead just until its well mixed. Bake in a 200º oven for 1-2 hours, depending on the thickness, until they are dry and hard.

 

Once you have your salt dough you can either shape the dough like clay or roll out and cut with cookie cutters. We opted for the cookie cutter route. Poke a hole in the dough with a toothpick for hanging. We painted our, but you can also draw on them with markers or leave them as is for a more natural look. Put string, thread, ribbon or whatever you have on hand through the hole to hang. It’s a fun and simple project to keep those little ones busy this time of year. They also make cute gifts too!

Have You Ever Had Homemade Marshmallows?

Did you even know you can make homemade marshmallows? Most people have never seen homemade ones! Homemade marshmallows….they are amazing. That’s all I can say. So far superior to the ones in the stores. I have made them a few times over the past few years and they were a bit difficult and involved a candy thermometer and lots of time. Well, this year I stumbled upon a MUCH simpler recipe. No candy thermometer needed! And since I have a stand mixer, they only took a few minutes of actual work on my part. I love that. I made these to send out for a few gifts this year. So, how do you make these amazing little puffs of wonderfullness….you head over HERE and watch the video and follow her step by step instructions. It’s that easy and only takes a few simple ingredients. All of which I already had in my pantry. Now, I did not make peppermint flavored ones. I just used vanilla to flavor mine. Then I covered them in belgian milk chocolate. I melted the chocolate in a glass bowl in the microwave in small batches and dipped away, letting them set up on wax paper. Then I store mine in the freezer to last longer. Soooo good and a great gluten free holiday treat for those who are on restricted diets!

 

 

Make Ahead Holiday Mashed Potatoes

I would have to say that mashed potatoes are one of my all time favorite foods. They are the ULTIMATE comfort food for me. If I’m sick, or stressed or just hungry, they are a go to staple for me. I just don’t like having to make them every time I am craving them. That’s where grandma’s Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes come in really handy. They can be made and stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks or frozen without losing their texture when thawed. Plus they taste amazing! Give these babies a try for the holidays. Who doesn’t love side dishes you can make in advance? One less thing to do on the big day, just heat and eat!

Refrigerator Mashed Potatoes

5 lbs russet potatoes peeled (if you don’t want peelings on) and cubed

8 oz cream cheese

1 cup sour cream

2 Tbsp butter

1 tsp salt

2 tsp onion salt

1/4 tsp pepper

Boil and mash potatoes. Add everything else and beat until creamy. Put in a casserole and and dot top with butter. Bake at 350º until hot about 25 min. If refrigerated, they may take up to an hour. To freeze these, I like to use my large cookie scoop (1/4 cup) and plop them down on a cookie sheet and freeze until hard…about 2 hours. Then place in baggies. Just pull out what you need for dinner and microwave or heat in the oven if you like. Mashed potatoes any night of the week or for breakfast…I don’t know ANYONE who does that. Oh wait, maybe that’s me!

Holiday Staples with New Flavors

 

 

I am all for family traditions…can anyone say “green salad”, and no I don’t mean lettuce, but that is a recipe for another day. When it comes to the holiday table, I like to vary my flavors. I cannot have the same foods on the holidays year after year after year after year after year. You get the picture right? Today I would like to share with you two new recipes for traditional holiday side dishes: stuffing and sweet potatoes. I encourage you to think outside the box when it comes to your holiday menus.

I must confess….I love just about any kind of stuffing, but I get sick of the same general flavors of poultry seasoning or apples. A few years ago, we were at my Aunt’s house for one of the holidays (Thanksgiving or Christmas. I can’t even remember which now!) and she had a new stuffing recipe that has become my new favorite! It’s spicy and flavorful and not your “typical” stuffing. I LOVE it! Even my non stuffing eater of a husband likes this one. I am not sure where the recipe originally came from, so I cannot give credit, but I will share it will you all.  At least this way I will have it online too, instead of jotted down on a piece of scrap paper! Note: I have never made this inside a bird.

Cornbread, Chorizo and Jalapeño Dressing

3/4 c butter

1 1/2 c coarsely chopped onion

2  jalapeño peppers seeded and minced

1/2 lb chorizo sausage with casings removed browned, drained and crumbled

1 6 oz. package cornbread stuffing mix

3 c dry bread crumbs

2 c warm chicken stock

1 egg beaten

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

5 chopped celery stalks

1 red or green bell pepper

1/2 c fresh parsley chopped

1 tsp dry oregano

1/2 tsp dry coriander

1/2 tsp dry sage

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/8 tsp nutmeg

Melt butter in a pan and add onions, celery, and bell pepper. Saute 5 min. In a large bowl add bread crumbs, sausage, chicken broth and remaining ingredients. Stir together and place in 9×13 baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes at 375º.

Now, for the sweet potatoes pictured above. Don’t they look wonderful? They sure taste wonderful! One thing, I don’t like your normal marshmallow covered sweet potato casserole. And the thought of canned sweet potatoes or yams make me want to hurl. This is for the real deal…fresh sweet potatoes or yams. I bought the  ones to make this recipe on sale last week for 4 lbs for a $1! Time to stock the freezer. I am not sure how well this recipe will freeze. I will sure try it out and let you know! If it freezes well,l it would be a great side dish to make ahead for your holiday meal and just heat it up on your big day!  Update: It can be frozen! I stuck mine in a ziplock and froze. I then thawed  it in the fridge and microwaved to heat. Tasted great! This recipe is loosely based off a pomegranate glazed sweet potato recipe that I have had in the past and would work with pomegranates instead of cranberries. I just had cranberries and cranberry juice on hand, so I made my own version!

Cranberried Sweet Potatoes

3 large fresh sweet potatoes or yams or about 5 cups

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp honey

1 cup fresh cranberries

salt and pepper to taste

Peel and cube sweet potatoes. Place in 9 x 13 baking dish. Add oil, honey, salt, pepper and cranberries and give it a stir. Roast at 400º for 45-50 minutes or until tender. Stir a couple times during roasting.

Glaze:

2 Tbsp cranberry juice

2 Tbsp honey

Simmer for a couple minutes on the stove. Pour over roasted potatoes and stir just before serving.

Note: You could also add some chopped toasted walnuts or pecans…my boys won’t eat it with them, so I leave it out.

Spiderman Party….with Recipes!

My son turned 4 last week! I can’t believe how fast the time has gone. He really wanted a Spiderman themed party, so he got one. I made invitations in my computer word processor that looked like concert tickets by using this as inspiration and printing them on card stock. They were a huge hit with Lance and his friends!

Of course I had to make a cake, so off to the internet I went in search of an idea. I was browsing through photos on flickr when Lance came over and said he wanted the cake I was looking at right at that moment. Luckily it wasn’t too elaborate and was totally doable. I then asked Lance if he wanted white or chocolate cake and he decided this year he wanted chocolate. We have a favorite chocolate cake recipe around here that is out of my grandma’s huge cookbook. So here it is….

Moist Chocolate Cake

2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup cocoa

1/4 tsp salt

Sift the above together (I never use a sifter, I just stir with a wisk!)

Add:

1 cup oil

1 cup buttermilk I used the real thing this time but you can use THIS

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

Beat well. Then beat in 1 cup boiling water. The batter will be thin. Makes 2-3 9 inch layers depending on how thick you want them or 1 9×13. Bake at 350 for about 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Since we were making a tiered cake I needed layers, and therefore filling. I decided to take grandma’s sour cream filling and make it chocolate! YUM!

Chocolate Sour Cream Filling

1 cup sour cream

1 scant cup sugar

4 egg yolks

pinch of salt

I just realized the recipe calls for 1 tsp of flour…I didn’t do that and it was fine!

1 tsp vanilla

1-2 oz of baking chocolate squares depending on how strong of a chocolate flavor you want

Boil everything but vanilla and chocolate until thick in a double boiler. Stir in chocolate and vanilla. Cool before using!!!

As far as the frosting goes I used this one which has quickly become a favorite around here. Just make sure to BEAT, BEAT, BEAT it. Mine takes about 12 minutes on high!

I also made some marshmallow fondant to make buildings on the side of the cake. To make impressions of windows on the edge I use legos! Washed ones of course!

Want to see the final product….I know you do…

I also made Spiderman sugar cookies to send home in the kids goody bags. I did them about a week in advance and kept them in the freezer until the day of the party to preserve freshness. This is the first I have used Royal Icing to decorate cookies. It was a lot of fun, but a lot of work too! I used this fabulous tutorial and icing recipe to learn what to do! I used a recipe from the grandma’s cookbook for the sugar cookies.

Rolled Sugar Cookies

1 cup powdered sugar

1 cup softened butter

1 egg

2 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp. soda

1 tsp. cream of tartar

dash of salt

1 tsp vanilla

Cream sugar, butter and egg. Add everything else and mix well. Roll on a floured surface to about 1/4″. Cut with your favorite cookie cutter. Bake at 350° for about 8 min. Cool then frost.

And my finished cookies looked like this:

Shutterfly $25 gift certificate

Shutterfly is a a great website that you can make all sorts of customized photo projects on. I have made cards and photobooks on there as gifts. They are offering a$25 promotion for linking a project to your website or blog, so that’s what I am doing. If you have a blog, you can do it too by clicking here for step by step directions! Here is a sample Christmas card.

All Wrapped Up Christmas Card
Make a statement with custom Christmas cards at Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.

A Few New to Us Recipes We Love

We have found a few recipes around here that have quickly become some of our new favorites. I don’t make claim to coming up with these, but I would like to share them with you so that you may try them for yourself.

The first is a meatloaf recipe. Now let me tell you….we are NOT a meatloaf family. None of us really like it, but I read this recipe in a cookbook my friend brought to our monthly girls Bunco night and I just had to try it. Everything is better wrapped in bacon right! Oh yes, yes it is! CLICK HERE for the recipe from Pioneer Woman.

This is what we had for dinner tonight with fresh corn on the cob and homemade french bread.

Another winning recipe I have found for our family is Brown Sugar Chicken a crockpot recipe from another blog: A Year of Slow Cooking. It is amazing with rice. Who doesn’t love those easy recipes you can just throw in a pot and it cooks for you?

For you Jenny…..Enjoy!

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