Saturday, December 31, 2011

Crunch A Bunch

A holiday tradition in our house is that My Man makes traditional Chex mix.

I like it, but there are usually partial boxes of cereal left and none of us is wild about Chex for breakfast.
I found a great recipe on to use up those partial boxes.  And it's gluten-free!

This  Caramel Snack Mix is sweet and nutty and packs a colossal crunch.  I'm bringing it to a New Year's Eve party tonight so that we can nibble on it while playing board games with our bunch of friends.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees.  Combine a total of 12 ounces of rice and corn chex (or use Crispex, if you prefer), 1 cup of pecans, and 1 cup of almonds in a well-oiled roasting pan.  I keep the nuts whole, but you can chop them if you want.

Melt 1/2 cup butter (no substitutes), 1 cup packed brown sugar, and 3/4 cup light corn syrup in a large microwave-safe vessel.

Microwave on high for 2 minutes or until the butter is melted.  Pour over the cereal and nuts and stir well to combine.

Bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.   Turn out onto some parchment paper to cool, separating the clusters so they don't stick together.  I sprinkled mine with a little sea salt, too, to add a little contrast.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Today has been a flurry of activity:  I have started preparing for the Christmas Eve feast and finished shopping for and wrapping the last few gifts.  We actually went to Christmas Eve service last night (!) since my son is working retail and won't get off until 9 p,m. tonight.  I thought we would open a few gifts, eat a leisurely meal, and maybe watch It's a Wonderful Life together (if we can stay awake!).  Believe it or not, I don't think any of the four of us have ever seen that movie all the way through!

I hope your Christmas is filled with wonder and awe in the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ:
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Santa's Whiskers

When I was growing up, my mom went a little wild with the Christmas baking and decorating.  In those days, most moms were stay-at-home moms, but not all of them were experts in the domestic arts like my mom was. She would decorate every room, wrap each gift exquisitely, then make handmade chocolates, English toffee, fudge, and dozens and dozens of assorted cookies.  I'm sure that if blogging had existed back then, she would have loved contributing.

Today, unbeknownst to her, she is contributing through me.  These are my favorite childhood cookies.  They start with a shortbread dough but red and green candied cherries and pecans are stirred in.

Then the whole (yule) log is rolled in coconut (the "whiskers").  The name alone is so festive, and the taste and appearance are very merry indeed!

Santa's Whiskers
(click here to print)

2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup finely chopped candied cherries
1/2 cup finely chopped green candied cherries
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
1 egg white, beaten
1 cup coconut

Cream butter, sugar, milk and vanilla.  Add flour and mix until just combined.  Stir in cherries and nuts by hand.  (I chopped the fruit and nuts in my food processor.)

Form dough into 2 logs, each 2 inches in diameter and 8 inches long.

Brush with egg white and roll in coconut.

Wrap and chill overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Slice cookies 1/4 inch thick and bake on ungreased baking sheet for 12 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.

Cookie Time!

Linking to:

Friday Food at Momtrends

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Balls of Jolly II

Yesterday, I shared my Balls of Jolly I recipe for chocolate truffles.  Today, I'm divulging my favorite candy recipe of Christmas.  If you enjoy Almond Joy or Mounds bars, you will love these!

Chocolate-Covered Snowballs
from Emeril Lagasse's book Every Day's a Party ("Bonbons")
(click here to print)

7 oz. pkg. flaked coconut (2 2/3 cups)
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk (fat-free is fine)
1/3 cup confectioner's sugar (half of what the original recipe called for)
1/4 cup sliced almonds, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
1/4 tsp. vanilla

Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Use a cookie scoop or 2 teaspoons to drop onto a non-stick or parchment lined baking sheet.  Cover and refrigerate for an hour or so or until firm enough to roll into balls.  They will have a rustic, shaggy appearance.

Melt 1 1/2 cups of bittersweet chocolate (I like Ghiradelli) for about 2 minutes in the microwave or over a double boiler.  Roll each ball into the melted chocolate, using a toothpick to help move them around and a fork to drizzle more chocolate over.

Refrigerate until set but serve at room temperature.

Fa la la la la la la la LOVE!

Linking to:

This Chick Cooks
Miz Helen's Country Cottage
Everyday Tastes

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Deck the Halls with Balls of Jolly

If you're scrambling to get some yummy treats ready for your family this Christmas, I have two easy, quick and super-delicious recipes that are no-bake.  And they're fun to make!

The first recipe is by none other than the incomparable Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa).  I have been making these for a few years, and the most difficult part is rolling them into balls.  Not difficult, just messy!

Ina Garten's Perfect Chocolate Truffles
Slightly adapted from this recipe
click here to print

  • 1/2 lb. bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli)
  • 1/2 lb. semisweet chocolate (I used Hershey's)
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. instant coffee (Ina's recipe called for 1 Tbsp. prepared coffee, but I use instant)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, optional (I omitted)
  • Confectioners' sugar
  • Cocoa powder

Place the chocolate chips in a heat-proof mixing bowl.
Combine the cream and the instant coffee powder.  Heat the cream mixture  in a 2 cup measure and microwave for about 2 minutes or until it just boils. Pour the cream  into the bowl with chocolate. 

Let sit for about 5 minutes so that the chocolate starts to melt.

With a wire whisk, slowly stir the cream and chocolates together until the chocolate is completely melted. It will be nice and shiny.

Whisk in the Grand Marnier, if using, and vanilla. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour.
With a small cookie scoop (I used a 1-ounce size), spoon round balls of the chocolate mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, until firm.  Roll each dollop of chocolate in your hands to roughly make a round ball. Roll in confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, or both.

These will keep refrigerated for weeks, but serve at room temperature.

Come back tomorrow for my favorite candy of Christmas.  They are a family favorite, and there is some greed competition involved when these are around!

Linking to:

Mangia Mondays
Amaze Me Monday
Tuesday Talent Show
This Chick Cooks
Full Plate Thursday
It's a Keeper Thursday

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Toothsome Treats

My 16-year-old son is getting his wisdom teeth out tomorrow; we scheduled it to coincide with his Christmas break.  Ouch!

So today I made his favorite cookie bar so that he could indulge a little before he has to be on a liquid and soft food diet.

Pecan Pie Squares
Original recipe from Taste of Home magazine
(click here to print)

3/4 cup (12 Tbsp.) cold butter, cut in chunks
2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt (omit if using salted butter)

4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Generously spray a 13x9 inch pan with non-stick spray.   Combine flour and sugar, then cut in butter until there are coarse crumbs.

Press evenly into the pan bottom and partially up the sides and bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden.

Meanwhile, combine the filling ingredients.  Spread the filling evenly over the partially-baked crust.

 and return to the oven for an additional 25-30 minutes or until set.  Remove to a wire rack to cool.

When bars reach room temperature, cut around the perimeter to loosen, then cut into squares.

Store in the refrigerator but serve at room temperature.

The original recipe called for this to be made in a 15x10 inch pan, but I like these bars a little thicker.  They taste just like pecan pie!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Crafts

Time has just flown since Thanksgiving.  I don't know what happened, but I don't seem to be very organized this year!  Can you believe that I'm not done shopping yet?

I remember when I was a stay-at-home mom with two young children, and I think I was MUCH more organized and on top of things than I am now.  My shopping would be done, and all presents were wrapped and mailed (if necessary) by Thanksgiving weekend.  Today is December 17, people, and I have barely started anything except for decorating the house!  I had a party last weekend for my church group, so the decorations were a necessity, although My Man was fixing tree lights at the 11th hour!

My Christmas decorations aren't too elaborate since I was sick to death of boxing and unboxing stuff with the floor project.  I decided a simple, less-is-more approach would work fine this year.  I also decided to use some of my favorite vintage pieces which may not always have the WOW factor but certainly stir a lot of great memories for me.  And I even made a few things, just because I wanted to try some projects that I saw on someone else's blog.  I'm great about saving ideas but not so good about actually implementing them.

Here is the first project I tried:

Vintage Book Pages Tree

I saw this on the blog Keeping Up With the Times.  Barb's tutorial is fantastic, so I won't re-hash the process.  I used all of her techniques except that I wrapped the paper around a pencil instead of a skewer (worked better for me, but I think mine is less "curly" than Barb's).

I used a vintage angel ornament as a topper but the net dress had a hole in it, so I covered it with a paper rosette similar to the one I made here.

I just love the facial features on the china face.

The other project I tried was from Miss Mustard Seed:

German Glass Glittered Letters

I made a banner for my mantle:

I wove gold wired ribbon through the greenery (which I added to after this pic was taken), then used vintage blue glass balls and gold and cream candles.  I just love the angel plaque which I picked up several years ago.  The angels remind me of this Bible verse from Luke 2:13-14 and which is also why I chose the word "Rejoice" for my banner:

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 
I also made some silver glittered letters and put them near the nativity scene.  This is a little blurry, but you get the idea.

I made letters for the phrase "O come let us adore him" which I was going to make into another banner, but then I decided against it since they're both in the same room.

Last, I found this cute little posie while out and about.  It just looks like pages from a phone book that were used to make tissue paper flowers.  There is a silver chenille stem with vintage-looking seam binding (?) or ribbon trailing from it.

I'm going to try to make one myself, but maybe another day.  I have some serious shopping to do!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Gobbledy Good Turkey Gumbo

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends.  I enjoy taking the some dedicated time to reflect on the many ways God has blessed me and my family.

I was also particularly excited to prepare the feast this year because I haven't been in the kitchen much lately with all of the home renovation going on.

We, of course, had the traditional roast turkey and all the trimmings.  On Thanksgiving night, I made a turkey stock with the carcass and lots of onions and celery and simmered it for several hours.  I knew I wanted to make a gumbo with some of the turkey leftovers.

Traditionally, gumbo is made with a nice, dark roux.  Roux (pronounced "roo") is nothing more than a combination of fat (vegetable oil, in the case of gumbo) and flour in roughly equal proportions.  Roux is used to thicken and flavor a sauce or soup.  The lighter the roux, the milder the taste and the more thickening power it lends to the finished dish.  The roux for gumbo is dark, sometimes as dark as mahogany-colored.  I like mine to be a little darker than peanut butter, because it is difficult to get the darkest color without burning it.

Traditional roux made with oil
After all of the rich food from Thanksgiving, I decided to make a lower-fat version of gumbo that I have recently perfected.  A typical gumbo recipe has a cup of oil: that's more than 1900 calories!  We certainly didn't need those calories after all of the pumpkin pie and stuffing we have consumed lately.  My mom and her ancestors have French Canadian roots, and my grandmother used to make roux for an apple gravy (that goes with duck) using this method.  I decided to try it for gumbo, and it was a great success!

First, brown a cup of flour in a cast iron skillet in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes, stirring frequently.  The color you are going for is somewhere around the color of peanut butter.  Note that this is very...shall we say...aromatic!  Make sure you have your exhaust fan on because it does have quite a nutty smell.

I browned 2 cups of flour because I plan on making the duck with apple gravy recipe sometime around New Years.  The browned flour keeps for several months in an airtight container.

As you can see, there are quite a few lumps, so sift the cooled flour.

Next, combine 2 cups of cold turkey stock and add it to the 1 cup of browned flour, making a slurry.  Set aside.

Next, saute your veggies (called the Holy Trinity in New Orleans: onions, celery, and bell pepper) in about a tablespoon or two of canola oil for about 10 minutes over medium heat or until clear.

Add a couple of cloves of minced garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Next, add the turkey stock and bring to a simmer.  Homemade stock is really the way to go with gumbo and soups, but you could use canned broth in a pinch.

Next, add the roux slurry to the bubbling stock and whisk well.

Add a pound of your favorite smoked sausage, sliced, and simmer for about 15 minutes..  I used Chisesi green onion sausage, which is my favorite New Orleans brand.

 If you want to cut the fat even more, you could use a smoked turkey sausage.

Add the leftover roasted turkey chunks (about 2 1/2 cups) and heat through, about 5 or 10 minutes.

If you want, you can also add okra.  I like canned okra because it is "de-slimed" and adds some color and a different texture.  I have previously tried using frozen okra and just don't like how it changes the viscosity.  Or leave it out, your call.

Serve over steamed white rice and garnish with green onions.

Reduced Fat Turkey and Sausage Gumbo
(click here to print)

8 cups homemade turkey stock (use leftover carcass) or canned low sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup flour
1 lb. smoked sausage, sliced
2 1/2 cups leftover roasted turkey chunks
1 tsp. creole seasoning or to taste
14 oz. can sliced okra, optional
several dashes tabasco sauce

Brown the flour in a cast iron frying pan in a 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  Stir frequently until evenly browned and about the color of peanut butter.  Remove to cool, then sift.  Combine the dry browned flour with 2 cups of cold turkey stock and whisk to a slurry.  Set aside.

Saute the onion, celery, and bell pepper in oil over medium heat until clear, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute or two.  Add the remaining 6 cups turkey stock and bring to a simmer.  Add the slurry and whisk well, then add the sausage and simmer on medium low for about 15 minutes.  Add the turkey chunks and heat for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, then add the creole seasoning, tabasco, and okra (if using).  Heat through and serve over fluffy white rice.

Gobble it down!

Linking to:

Hunk of Meat Mondays
Mangia Mondays
Tuesday Talent Show