Category Archives: Christmas

Caramel Apple Salad

  
This is a whole bowl of YUM!  Seriously, what’s better in the fall than a caramel apple?  When you’re finally sick of all the pumpkin stuff…

Plus, this salad has candy in it.  It’s a CANDY salad.  What the wha???

Caramel Apple Salad

  • 5-6 apples, cored, peeled and chopped (I used a combo of Granny Smith and gala)
  • 1 bag fun size snickers bars (about 25 fun sized bars, cut into quarters) – could also use Milky Way if you’re avoiding peanuts
  • 1 container cool whip
  • Caramel ice cream topping
  • 1/2 cup Chopped peanuts (optional)
  1. Place chopped apples, chopped candy bars, and cool whip in a large bowl.  Mix well.
  2. Drizzle with caramel sauce and top with nuts.  

Enjoy!  

Weeknight Mash

weeknight Mash

Spring has sprung in our neck of the woods.  We are experiencing a mixture of warm sunny days and cold/windy/rainy days.  When it’s cold, I like having something warm and comforting to eat.  And going outside to grill just doesn’t seem like a good idea.

On days like that, I want a comforting side dish.  The most comforting side dish I can think of is mashed potatoes.  But, I grew up in a small town in Idaho where our high school mascot is a potato.  So, if you don’t know how to make a decent mashed potato and you come from Shelley, Idaho, there is definitely something wrong.  Well, these potatoes are more than decent.  They’re delicious.  And QUICK!

The ingredients are the normal mashed potato ingredients: potatoes, milk, butter, salt and pepper.  It’s the method that makes these potatoes my go-to recipe.  And there’s enough for 6 to eat, with leftovers!

Sure, you can feed your family potatoes from a box.  Or spend close to an hour waiting for the huge pot of water and potatoes on the stove to come to a boil.  But, seriously, boxed potatoes taste kinda funny.  And who has time to wait for water to boil on a glass-top electric stove?  I swear, the stove we have is the SLOWEST thing I’ve ever cooked on.  Ever.

I hope you’re able to try this recipe, and that you love it as much as we do.

Weeknight Mash

  • about 5 lbs russet potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into 1-1/2 inch chunks
  • 4 quart glass (microwave-safe) casserole dish with lid
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  1. Place potatoes in the casserole dish with enough water to come half way up the sides.  Put on the lid and microwave on high for 10 minutes.  Check the tenderness of the potatoes with a fork – if they are soft and break easily, then they are ready to mash.  If not, give them a good stir, and microwave on high for another 3 to 4 minutes.  Drain potatoes.
  2. Place milk and butter in a microwave safe dish (I use my pyrex measuring cup) and microwave about a minute.  Watch it to make sure it doesn’t boil over.
  3. Place potatoes back into the casserole dish or in a mixing bowl.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Using an electric mixer, add about half of the milk/butter mixture, and whip on low speed.  Keep adding the milk until your desired consistency is reached.  If you like thinner mashed potatoes than I do, you might need more milk.
  5. I whip mine in the same dish I use to cook it in, but you could also whip the potatoes in another dish and add back to the casserole dish.  I like to serve in that dish because it’s already warm!

You could also flavor these mashed potatoes with roasted garlic, sour cream and chives, sour cream and cheddar– whatever!  🙂

Almond Coconut Candy

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It’s that time of year.  A time where it seems that everyone I know is posting pictures on facebook from a tropical island, holding a drink in a pineapple or coconut.  I’d love to crawl in someone’s suitcase, but I’d definitely be over the weight limit.  So, I decided to contribute to my weight instead.  Ha!

This candy is awesome.  It’s not an Almond Joy – there’s way more almonds than that.  Almonds all through the candy, not just in a bite or two.  Go ahead.  Indulge in a little island paradise without leaving your kitchen!

Almond Coconut Candy

  • 2 cups sliced almonds, roasted
  • 2 cups flaked coconut (unsweetened is better)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp coconut extract or vanilla extract
  • 6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 200°F.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.  Spread the coconut and almonds on the sheet pan in an even layer, and set them in the oven to warm.  Butter a separate large sheet pan and set aside.
  2. In a 2-quart saucepan, combine the sugar, water, corn syrup and cream.  Heat over medium until the mixture boils.  If needed, you can use a wet pastry brush to ‘wash’ the side of the pot at any time.
  3. Insert a candy thermometer.  Heat over medium heat until the temperature reaches about 280°F.
  4. Stir in the butter, one piece at a time, until it is all incorporated.  It will BUBBLE LIKE CRAZY.  Click the thermometer back on, and cook until the temperature comes back up to 280°F (the temp will drop when you add the butter).
  5. Remove the pot from the heat and add the warmed coconut and almonds, salt, baking soda, and coconut or vanilla extract.  Stir well.
  6. Quickly dump the mixture onto the prepared cookie sheet.  Using two forks, spread the mixture out into an even layer.  Sprinkle chocolate chips on top.
  7. Place sheet pan in 200°F oven and let it warm about 20 minutes.
  8. Carefully take the pan out of the oven, and spread the melted chocolate evenly over the top of the candy.  Let sit at least 4 hours (overnight is best), then break or cut into pieces.
  9. Ignore the dishes, laundry, etc.  Kick up your feet, and watch an episode of Gilligan’s Island. 🙂

Naughty and Nice Cracker Spread

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It’s that time of year.  That time where everyone is put into one of two categories.  You know the ones – Naughty or Nice.  Well, what if you’re a little bit of both?  What if your halo is held a little crooked because of those cute little horns coming out of your forehead?  Is there a gray area?  No, not one of the 50 shades…

Well, Santa, I’ve been NICE this year.  I’ve done some good deeds, thought some good thoughts, put others before myself.  But I’ve also been NAUGHTY.  I snuck Halloween candy and ate it without telling my hubby I bought any.  And I didn’t share.  I let my babies cry on the floor when they didn’t want to do tummy time and I made them do it for a few minutes more anyway.  And I ate my dinner before feeding the dog.  Because I was hungry.

So, this cracker spread is a little like me.  There’s the nice side that is all creamy and sweet.  Then there’s the naughty side that you THINK is creamy and sweet– until it punches you in the taste buds.  Don’t be surprised if you have every intention of sharing, then end up in the closet with a few Ritz crackers and a spoon.  Go ahead.  Double dip.  Be naughty.  I won’t tell…

Naughty and Nice Cracker Spread

  • 2 (8 oz.) blocks cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup raspberry preserves (I used seedless)
  • 1 cup jalapeno pepper jelly (I used Tabasco brand)
  • Crackers (Ritz are NICE)
  1. Plop cream cheese blocks onto a plate- I used one that was about 15″ in diameter.  Use a rubber spatula to smush and squish the cream cheese into a flat layer.  Smooth out the top.
  2. Pour raspberry preserves on one half, and pepper jelly on the other half.
  3. Serve with crackers.

By the way, the spicy NAUGHTY side is fantastic on a bagel in the morning.  Especially with bacon.  😉

Workplace and Neighbor Gifts, 2012

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T’was the week before Christmas,

And all through the home,

Not a single gift was wrapped,

Not even the phone!

The stockings weren’t hung by the chimney with care.

Why? I knew St. Nicholas wouldn’t be there.

For Christmas, you see, we must drive away.

So we can spend time with family

On Christmas Day.

As long as we get there,

Everything’s just fine.

So sit back, relax,

Have another glass of wine…

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Well, that explains it all right.  I didn’t have one single gift wrapped prior to Saturday.  Normally, I have cards sent out, the tree up, and gifts wrapped and ready to go by the first week in December.  But this hasn’t been a ‘normal’ year.

It’s funny how this time of year really makes you look back and appreciate all the blessings that have happened.  I am thankful my husband and I are living in the same house again (we spent 18 months living a 5-hour drive apart due to job relocation), and we are thankful for our health and the health of our families.

I am thankful I am in my 30’s and still have a grandma to hug tight when I go home to visit.  And I am also grateful that at 86 years old, she still wears me out!  🙂

I am thankful my mother is my best friend.  She has always been there for me, even when I didn’t deserve it.  It’s funny how when you get older, you realize your parents really DID know what they were talking about.

I am also thankful to have such wonderful coworkers and neighbors.  This year, I put together three gift baskets to hand out.

For those that cook, but don’t love sweets, I made a gift basket that included a large soup mug, dry soup mix, and a cloth napkin.  I got the soup mugs at the craft store for $1, the dry soup mix at World Market, and the napkin at the dollar store.  I wrapped it all in clear cellophane with a bright red tag that said, “Warm Wishes this Holiday Season”.

For those that cook and love sweets, I made a little scone gift basket.  I got wooden spoons and glass bowls from the dollar store, and different flavors of scone mixes from World Market.  I wrapped them in cellophane with the same “Warm Wishes” tag.  We tried out a scone mix over the weekend– had to make sure they were good before we gave them to anyone else, you know.  They were FANTASTIC!  And SO EASY.  All they require is a little water, a brief stir, and a 12 minute bake.  Yum!

For those that don’t cook, I made tiny little baskets that contained a manicure set, Christmas socks, nail polish, and a large emery board.  I got the manicure sets and nail polish at Ulta (on sale), and the socks and emery boards at the dollar store.  I bought the cute baskets at World Market on clearance for $0.50. The baskets were wrapped in cellophane with a tag that read, “For Your Mistle-Toes!”.

I just love giving this time of year.  What creative things do you love to give out to friends and neighbors?

Wishing you and yours the BEST this Christmas!

Cran-Pomegranate Jello Salad

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Once in a while, you have a bite of something and all you can think of is Christmas.  This is one of those recipes!  I got the recipe from my dear friend, Leslie.  Leslie’s mother saw it in the paper and made it for Thanksgiving a few years ago.  It was so good!  I’ve tweaked it a bit to make it my own (like adding pomegranate perils and cool whip).  This salad is beautiful and I hope you love it as much as we do.

‘Tis the season!  I love shopping for other people.  The only person I’m having difficulty in shopping for is my Dad.  When he wants something, he just goes right out and buys it!  How do you shop for a person like that?  Any tips?

Cran-Pomegranate Jello Salad

Based on a recipe from the Post Register a few years ago (can’t find the exact date or recipe)

  • 15 oz. can crushed pineapple, drained and juice reserved
  • water
  • 6 oz. raspberry jello (one large box or two small boxes)
  • 14.5 oz. can WHOLE cranberry sauce
  • 1 apple, chopped
  • 2 cups fresh Pomegranate perils
  • 1 small tub Cool Whip or 2 cups freshly whipped cream
  1. Place the reserved pineapple juice in a measuring cup and add enough water to make 2.5 cups of total liquid.  Bring to a boil in a saucepan over medium high heat.  Remove from the heat and add the jello.  Whisk until the jello is completely dissolved.  Let cool until it thickens to the consistency of gravy, about 30 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the crushed pineapple, chopped apple, and pomegranate perils with the cranberry sauce.  Stir in the cooled jello.  Pour into a jello mold or 9″ x 13″ glass pan.  Refrigerate until the jello is completely set.  I usually put it together the night before.
  3. When ready to serve, unmold by briefly dipping in warm water, then turning the mold upside down on a large plate.  Cover the jello salad with cool whip or whipped cream and serve!

Whole Grain Pumpkin Muffins

Whole Grain Pumpkin Muffins

Do you remember a couple of years ago when there was a pumpkin shortage?  I do!  Finding a can of pumpkin was difficult.  I didn’t get to make pumpkin muffins or cookies that year.  I think I went through withdrawls!

Pumpkin is one of my favorite ingredients.  I love pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cookies, and PUMPKIN SPICE LATTES!!!  Pumpkin is packed with vitamins and is very nutritious.  My dogs also enjoy a scoop every now and then.  😉

This recipe from King Arthur Flour is taking the health of pumpkin and elevating it to a new level.  Don’t get me wrong– it’s still packed with sugar and chocolate.  But there’s whole wheat flour in there, too.   These muffins freeze extremely well.  I froze the batch and pulled out a muffin at night for breakfast the next morning.   Yum!

Thank you, King Arthur Flour, for coming out with a Whole Grain Baking Book.  This book is PACKED with AWESOME recipes everything from savory breads to sweet cookies and tarts.  It would be a perfect gift for anyone that loves to bake, but wants to be more health conscious.  It’s already one of my favorite cookbooks!  I would also like to mention that I contacted King Arthur Flour and asked permission to post the recipe on my blog.  They were quick to reply and give permission.  Hows that for customer service?

Hope you can scare up a can of pumpkin to make these soon!! 😉

Whole Grain Pumpkin Muffins

A King Arthur Flour Recipe from Whole Grain Baking

  • 2 cups King Arthur whole wheat flour (traditional or white whole wheat)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/4 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice (or 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground cloves and 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 lg eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup (3 oz.) chopped nuts (I used pecans)
  • 3/4 cup chocolate chips (or raisins or dried cranberries)
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.  Grease muffin tin cups or line with paper liners.
  2. Whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices in a medium bowl.
  3. Cream together butter and sugars in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time, stopping to scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl.  Beat in vanilla and pumpkin.  Add the dry ingredients, mixing until evenly moistened.  Stir in the nuts and chocolate chips.
  4. Scoop batter into the muffin cups so they are about 2/3 full.  Bake until a toothpick  inserted into the center comes out clean, 22 to 24 minutes.  Remove the pan from the oven and wait at least 5 minutes before removing muffins from the pan to cool.