Friday, December 16, 2011

Two Favorite Traditions at our House...

"The merry family gatherings - the old, the very young; the strangely lovely way they harmonize in carols sung. 
For Christmas is tradition time - traditions that recall the precious memories down the years, the sameness of them all".
- Helen Lowrie Marshall

Christmas is such a joyful time!
I am amazed every time, when I pull out my Christmas boxes, the wonderful memories that flood into my mind from yesteryear... memories, that I hadn't thought about all year, until I saw or smelled something from our Christmas boxes.

Such is the case for these ornaments
My Grandfather lost his wife my Grandma Laura when I was eight years old and shortly after she died, he remarried a wonderful lady named Ruth. We called her Grandma Ruth
She was VERY Victorian in her decor 
and these ornaments remind me of going to her house and seeing similar things at her house.

She also LOVED my Christmas Croissants and was SO excited when we would visit during the holidays and bring this tasty treat. She LOVED them and always asked me about how I made them, wanted the recipe, etc..

Clam Chowder and Croissants...
that's what you'll find us dishing up to eat on Christmas Eve at our house.

Christmas traditions and treats
at our house are usually pretty decadent and not very frugal, but they are only enjoyed during the holidays and the holidays wouldn't be the same without them. 
So, this is the one time of the year that we splurge on goodies and calories!

With a little bit of work and planning
you can ENJOY some flaky, delicious croissants at YOUR house during the holidays!  

They are worth all of the work it takes to make them!
(Recipes below the instruction photos)

for rolling out and baking them...

Croissants (we eat these every Christmas eve with Clam Chowder)
1-1/2 cups butter
1/3 cup flour
2 tbsp. Yeast
½ cup warm water
¾ cup milk
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
3 ¼ to 4 ¼ cups flour
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon milk

Cream butter with 1/3 cup flour. Roll mixture between two sheets of waxed paper into a 12x16 inch rectangle. Chill at least 1 hour.

Soften yeast in warm water. Heat ¾ cup milk, sugar, and salt until sugar dissolves. Cool to lukewarm, turn into large mixing bowl.

Add softened yeast and 1 egg. Beat well.

Stir in 2 cups of the flour. Beat well. Stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can mix with a spoon. Turn out onto lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately soft dough. Continue kneading til smooth and elastic (3 to 5 minutes). Let rest 10 minutes.

Roll into a 14 inch square. Place “chilled” butter on one half of dough fold over other half and seal edges. Roll into a 21 x 12 inch rectangle. Seal edges. Fold in thirds. Roll into a 21 x 12 inch rectangle. Fold and roll twice more: seal edges. Chill after each rolling.

Fold in thirds to 12 x7 inches. Chill several hours or overnight.

Cut dough crosswise in fourths. Roll each fourth into a 12 inch circle. Cut into 12 wedges. Roll up each edge loosely starting from wide edge. Place on ungreased cookie sheet; point down, curve ends.  
Cover, let rise until double. (30 to 45 minutes). 
Beat egg with 1 Tablespoon milk. Brush on tops.  
Bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Clam Chowder
2 (6 ½ oz.) cans minced clams
1 large onion finely chopped (I sometimes put in 2 chopped onions)
4 large diced potatoes 
3 carrots diced
3 stalks celery chopped
1/4 cup butter
¾ cup flour
1 quart half & half cream
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Drain juice off clams and pour over vegetables in medium saucepan.
Add enough water to barely cover veggies and simmer in covered pan until veggies are tender. (about 20-25 minutes).
In the meantime, melt butter. Add flour , blend and cook for 1 minute. Add cream and cook. Stir until smooth and thick.
Add un-drained vegetables and clams. Heat through. Season with salt and pepper.

(it even tastes better if you cook this up the day before as it tastes better the second day after the flavors have seasoned)

I enjoy SO much the traditions that come 
with this most wonderful time of the year!
I've got my butter and flour rolled between waxed paper, chilling, 
ready to be made into yummy croissant dough tomorrow. 

Hope this finds all of you enjoying 
the wonderful traditions of your families 
and savoring and cherishing the 
"Merry Family Gatherings" 
that are abundant during this 
happy and joyful month of December!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

'Tis the Season for Holiday Goodies!!

'Tis the season for one of my favorite activities...
making my home smell delicious by making 
 Cinnamon Roasted Almonds and Caramels.
I just LOVE going to the mall during the holidays
and smelling the aroma of the Cinnamon Roasted Almonds.
It is heavenly and something that I never tire of.

11 years ago we had a family event and Mrs. Taylor brought a bowl of homemade cinnamon almonds and I loved and ranted and raved so much about them that a week later I got a sweet letter in the mail from her with the recipe. 
Isn't it wonderful when people share recipes!!

I have been making them ever since
and Christmas wouldn't be the same if family and friends didn't receive this yummyness from our family.
I don't know how many people tell me that this is what they look forward to all Christmas more than anything else is these boxes of goodies.
Some parents have been known to take the boxes from the kids
and then eat them after the kids have gone to bed.
Usually, I fill boxes with almonds and homemade
Vanilla and GRINCH caramels (caramel recipe here)

HOWEVER, this year, I embarked on a new adventure 
of hand dipping chocolates!
WOW, lots of work, but SO worth it! 
Despite my deformed hands that can't quite work the chocolate perfect,
things turned out wonderful and what matters most is that they  
TASTE so good!
(someday, they'll be perfectly pretty looking as well!)
As long as you have a candy thermometer, almonds, cinnamon, sugar, water, salt and vanilla...
it's as easy as 1, 2, 3...

ANYONE can make up this yummy treat
and the aroma that will fill your house will make you feel like you are out Christmas Shopping at the mall!
 (only you don't have to deal with the hassle of large crowds of people)

Cinnamon Roasted Almonds

Roast 3 cups of whole almonds in a 350* oven for 15 minutes,
stirring every 5 minutes (so they don’t burn).
Pour almonds into a large metal bowl to cool.

Mix together:
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
2 teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
Bring ingredients to a boil and stir occasionally until soft ball stage.
Remove from heat and add in 2 teaspoons of vanilla.
Pour mixture on the roasted almonds and stir until set and starts to turn white.
Put on wax paper to cool. 
Break apart.
Happy Holiday treat making! 

Go spread some holiday cheer  
to neighbors, family & friends...
this is something that is sure to impress, 
be a hit and best of all it is so EASY to make!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas came early this year...

(Tracy's Christmas mouse he's had since childhood....Isn't he SO CUTE? Sad that this was the last photo he would ever be a part of...we sent him on this year as the moths had been a little too harsh on him over the past four decades)

"Christmas is forever, not for just one day,
for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away
like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
The good you do for others is good you do yourself..."

~Norman Wesley Brooks, "Let Every Day Be Christmas," 1976

I feel blessed beyond measure with true and wonderful friendships!
I have been SPOILED so much...
Christmas came early this year for me, with meeting wonderful blog friends, unexpected gifts in the mail and friends that took time out of their day to let me come and spend time with them in their kitchen.
I was hoping to have this blogged about last Tuesday, December 6th, but I have had non-stop obligations the past week. Grateful that life is finally slowing down a little.

In order of occurrence, here are photos from my past few weeks of my wonderful Christmas I have had!
My sweet friend Jennifro (here)
mailed me a gift for no reason at all, other than to say
"one good turn deserves another...thought you could enjoy this cookbook"!
YES, I have always loved "The Pioneer Woman cookbook", but never wanted to spend the money on it
I'm SO excited to try some yummy new recipes, like Sour Cream Pancakes, Cowboy Calzones, Chicken Fried Steak and many others.
The day this package arrived it was a nice afternoon full of LOTS of sunshine and blue skies, but, then the grey skies set in and it was dark and dreary and I kept saying to myself
"I miss the sunshine"!
Who would have known that sunshine would arrive later that afternoon in the form of a book, in the form of simple, sweet acts of kindness from a friend who lives clear across the country!
I am RICH in friendships for sure!!

I don't think I have ever been more excited
to meet a blogging friend than Connie (here)

It truly was the highlight of my December
getting to meet this amazing woman!
Out of all of the wonderful women that I know in the blogging world she has been the one that has inspired me the most.

She possesses all of those homemaker skills that I would love to have and be better at AND she has such a wonderful way with words and the best sense of humor.
Her daughter Camille was marrying a man from Rexburg and we got an invitation to the wedding reception.
JOY is what I experienced getting to meet her and her wonderful husband Andy.
It was such a great time and we enjoyed great conversations.
She is SO NICE!!

My little Ethan Kip just LOVED Connie SO much, that all night long
(and for most of the day on Saturday), he kept saying
"Connie is amazing! I really wish she could be my grandma. I know that I already have 2 grandmas, but I wish that Connie could be one of them as well. I really hope we get to meet her again.
Did you know that she is just awesome"!

I can't believe what she sent us home with...
a jar of Grape Juice, Grape Jelly and Apricot Preserves!
I made up a batch of Buttermilk Biscuits (here)
and we opened up the Apricot preserves and we were in absolute HEAVEN!!
My kids commented over and over that they haven't had better Apricot jam/preserves!

Saturday, December 3rd,
we were busy trimming our house for Christmas and so it was late when we got the mail and there was a Walmart bag tied to our mail box with a package in it.
It was from my sweet friend Ann Marie (here)
Oh my goodness, the beauty that the box held, Stitched Christmas art, glitter butterflies, a heartfelt note and it was all wrapped in the the most awesome white paper with glitter polka dots that I have ever seen!!
It was one of those HAPPY moments
to know that someone out there was thinking of me!
I can't believe how spoiled I am!!

(who has a gorgeous smile that brightens anyone's day!)
And then there is this WONDERFUL friend Tauna (here)
I have been the recipient of her chocolates on many an occasion and she just dropped us off a bag of chocolate covered cinnamon bears for Halloween and they were better than ANY chocolate covered cinnamon bears you can purchase at the store.
So, I thought I would just ask her if she would let me a know a good place to purchase chocolate AND if she could email me with instructions how you "dip" cinnamon bears because I have tried and had no such luck.
Not only did she order chocolate for me (as well as toasted coconut),
she took an afternoon
on one of her precious afternoons off and showed me all of the tricks of the trade
to making HAND DIPPED chocolates!
She is truly AMAZING to watch her mix and work the chocolate.
Hopefully, someday I can be half as skilled as she is with my hands, when I work with the chocolate!!
AND I love her cute cozy is PERFECT!!
She used her chocolate for us to dip
(she wanted me to save my block for chocolate dipping at my house...truly an extra miler)
and then she had orange and peppermint fondant for us to dip, we dipped cinnamon bears, we dipped some caramels AND we made some HAYSTACKS!!
for the gift of time that you gave to me TAUNA.
I appreciate it more than you'll ever know!
(Happy to say, I finally put my large 10 pound block of chocolate to use, by dipping 5 pounds of Cinnamon Santas, caramels, a pound of Orange Slices and made another bunch of Haystacks...NOW to just have the time to put my boxes of goodies together to deliver to friends, neighbors and family)

All I can say, is WOW,
I have some of the worlds most amazing friends and
they are women that have inspired me greatly in my life
AND women that I know because of the wonderful world of blogging!
Here's to friendship!!
(hoping I can be half as great of a friend to them as they have been to me!)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's beginning to taste a lot like Christmas!

 I can't believe how fast the month is just flying by... 
here we are 6 days into the month of December and before we know it Christmas will be here!
 When I think of a favorite flavor of Christmas time, it is that of 
Peppermint, Cinnamon and Oranges

 As I was shopping in November, 
I noticed these fun Andes Peppermint baking chips.
I instantly thought of Tracy and Jade who love MINT anything.  
 Jade loves mint tea, mint gum and loves to take candy canes and break them into his hot chocolate.
Tracy's FAVORITE ice cream is "Mint Chocolate Chip"...every time we go to an ice cream shoppe, I can always count on him to pick out that flavor.
SO, I took my Double Chocolate Cookie dough recipe and made it up, 
replaced 1/2 of the chocolate chips for Peppermint chips 
and these were MORE than a hit with my family
(I had to make another batch the next day)
AND they are also SO yummy and FESTIVE for the Christmas Holidays!

If you need a quick recipe to make up to bring to a  
party or a cookie exchange, 
these are easy and definitely a very big HIT 
with the perfect amount of chocolate and mint!
Peppermint Chocolate Cookies
(cream together)
1 cube REAL butter  (1 cube of butter equals 1/2 cup)
1 egg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp vanilla

(then add in)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup plus 1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup Andes Peppermint Crunch baking chips

Roll into balls and bake 350 degree oven for 14 minutes or until no longer doughy.
Remove from oven and as you pull them off the cookie sheets and put them to cool "smash" the cookies down with your spatula. Let cool on wire racks.
Make some for your family today and it will have you singing...
"It's beginning to taste a lot like Christmas..." 
at your house as well!
Happy Holiday Baking!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

One more Taste of Fall Recipe!

Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes!
So, if you are still have leftover pumpkin, OR, squash puree  
(OR you have bags of puree in your freezer)
and you want a quick and easy sweet treat  that is the perfect amount of spice,
is very moist
uses basic food storage ingredients, 
is topped with delicious cream cheese frosting  
AND makes a batch of 24 cupcakes, this is a great recipe to make up.
(perfect to make up even at Christmas as the flavor reminds me of Spice Cake or Gingerbread)

It's delicious for an afternoon snack for kids, 
perfect to send in your families lunches, 
OR, to enjoy a "taste of fall" (OR, Christmas)
anytime of the year.

Easy, Delicious and Amazing!!  
Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes 
1 cup pumpkin/squash puree
1/2 cup buttermilk
(mix together buttermilk and squash puree in a bowl and set aside) 
1 cube butter
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 large eggs
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
2 cups unbleached flour

Beat together butter, sugars and vanilla  for one minute until fluffy.
Then add in eggs (one at a time) scraping down bowl as needed
Then add in salt, baking powder/soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and mix well.
Then add in flour alternating with buttermilk/squash mixture until well combined.
Spoon batter into 24 muffin tins (lined with baking cups).
Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes, OR, until toothpick inserted in comes out clean
Remove from oven and let stand for 15 minutes.
Remove cupcakes from tins and let cool one hour
Frost with cream cheese frosting and ENJOY!

Cream Cheese Frosting 
1/4 cup REAL butter
4 (oz) cream cheese
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
Beat together butter, cream cheese and vanilla until light and fluffy. 
Gradually add in powdered sugar, beating until smooth.

Enjoy a "Taste of Fall" all year long...
as long as you have pumpkin puree in your freezer
you can ALWAYS make these up to enjoy...
and take my kids word for them,
"they are absolutely delicious"!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Five Wonderful Days...

 Thanksgiving 2011 was a wonderful time
(although I had to work both the day before and day after Thanksgiving)

Tracy and the boys had five wonderful days off in a row together. 
I LOVED knowing that my boys got to have a few days of "one on one" with Tracy.  Dad's work SO hard providing for the the family, that sometimes they don't get as much one on one with the kids...
I love when these moments come around as my sweet Ethan, LOVES following Tracy everywhere, including the attic (where they spent hours pulling wires for our new lights Tracy installed this past weekend).  
Tracy and Ethan are the BEST of friends!  
It was SO priceless that Ethan kept asking 
"Are we going to go up to the attic again"... 
he loved the adventure of that SO much!

Here are some photos from our wonderful five days we had together as a family...
 Morning favorite time of the day!
It was such a treat to be able to enjoy the morning sun rising over the hilltops.  This time of the year I rarely get to enjoy it as I leave for work at 6:30 and it is still dark.
As I was baking in my kitchen on Thanksgiving morn 
I kept looking out the window and enjoying the spectacular view of the hilltops being lit up by the morning sun!
 Our yearly tradition of the Thanksgiving Choir Program 
at the Historic Tabernacle in Rexburg. 
 I LOVE this tradition...the music just feeds my soul and it is such wonderful thing to be with community members and running into people you haven't seen in awhile. 
I also love snuggling on the bench with the love of my life Tracy and seeing the excitement of my boys as they enjoy the program, especially this year, when the choir sang "Grandma's Feather Bed" and people were playing the wash board, spoons and the jug! We had lots of great laughs and were once again AMAZED with all of the musical talent we have in our area.
I had SUCH a wonderful morning 
doing what I love to do best...BAKING!
2 batches of rolls, 
2 coconut cream pies, Lemon Meringue pie 
and Pumpkin cookies!
People have told me I should open a Cafe or bakery and as tempting as that may be, it would take a hobby and make WORK of it and so I'll just stick to baking for fun! 

Needless to say, I enjoyed my morning greatly.

This shows we still have little kids in the family... 
LOVE the cute little pilgrims that Lisa and her kids colored. 
Holidays wouldn't be as fun without the LITTLE ONES that bring SO much joy to all of our lives! 

We bought new light fixtures last year 
when we installed our hardwood floor,  
but we barely got our life semi put back together before last Thanksgiving... 
and then the busyness of the holidays came and one day rolled into the next and here we were a year later with lights that we still hadn't installed. 
SO, since Tracy had to install 3 different lights and make NEW holes in the ceiling and run wire/power to them, he hasn't been too motivated to start on the project...
This is what having 4 days off in a row together is like...
 you actually get to make PROGRESS on home improvement projects. 
7 new halogen track lights,
New Chandelier over the dining room table
New Ceiling fan over by the parlor stove
AND 2 art glass pendants above our bar in the kitchen. 
LOVE how they all turned out.
Along with installing lights, we also hung some things on our walls.
(it's going to be the most exciting day of all, when our brassy kitchen cabinets 
have new knobs, hinges and a fresh coat of Beach Sand paint)
 This is the glow I woke up to Monday morning...
 LOVE how things are coming together in our home.
Someday, it will all be finished...for now I will enjoy what I have, which is WONDERFUL!

We have all been dealing with a 
really bad cold and sore throats.
Thank goodness for an awesome dad that takes a chicken carcass, boils it up with LOTS of onions, garlic and garden veggies and Cayenne Pepper and makes the yummiest, nutritious soup for us to enjoy to help us ward off the cough and flu season.
Soup is truly comfort food indeed!
 We have also gone through 
over nine pounds of limes/lemons 
 and 1-1/2 large jars of honey, making up mugs of our honey and lemon tea to soothe our throats and to give our bodies a boost of LOTS of Vitamin C. 
I think we are now all finally on the mend! 

 "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas"!
SO happy to say that at least one area of my house has 
had the magical touch of Christmas Cheer...

I love the centerpiece for our dining room table...
 the Christmas balls in my lime green jar are GORGEOUS, festive and give off such a warm glow in the afternoon sunshine!
Looking forward to getting the rest of my house decorated 
and for all of the FUN and TRADITIONS 
that the month of December brings!
(Christmas Cards, clam chowder, spiced cider, croissants, our home filled with Christmas music, the excitement of kids as they notice new gifts wrapped under the tree, gumdrop bread, cinnamon almonds, Grinch caramels, crab and artichoke dip, Caroling, Christmas parties, Christmas Omelets, enjoying BOXES of oranges/clementines, reading Christmas books, playing "Secret Santa", watching ELF and other family favorite holiday films, and the list goes on...)