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  • 42 Things To Do On Christmas Eve

    socks by the fire

    One of the questions I love to ask people around Christmas is what their Christmas Eve traditions are. The answers are often things you might expect while others are pretty  unique. Here are some of the answers I've gotten over the years:

     Make paper snowflakes

    Watch Christmas movies

    Bake

    Deliver baked goodies

    Sing together

    Shop!

    View Christmas Lights in the neighborhood

    Ornament exchange

    Read the Christmas story

    Wrap presents

    Play games

    Exchange gifts

    Put cookies and milk our for Santa

    Act out the nativity

    Attend midnight mass

    Make reindeer food and sprinkle on the front lawn.

    After the kids go to bed, string Christmas lights from the tree to their bedrooms.

    A family outing of midnight caroling in the woods with candles.

    Have a Jerusalem Dinner…simple, finger foods by candlelight.

    Dinner out and a drive to look at Christmas lights.

    Have a Star Trek movie marathon.

    Enjoy peppermint tea with a peppermint stick.

    Spray the bottom on your shoes with fake snow, then walk from the chimney to the table where the cookies and milk are, eat and drink most of what’s there, then track to the fireplace and take off your shoes.

    Open one gift.

    Go to bed early!

    Dance around the tree.

    Kiss under the mistletoe.

    Drink egg nog.

    Go ice skating.

    Have a treasure hunt

    Stay up all night.

    Volunteer at the homeless shelter.

    Take photos of your Christmas Tree with all the unopened gifts beneath.

    Play board games.

    Go to a movie.

    Read Christmas books.

    Snuggle up by the fire with cozy slippers and a blanket.

    Host a Christmas Party.

    Make a gingerbread house.

    Write a Christmas story

    Invite close friends over for a little egg nog or cocoa or coffee.

    Have the kids open a present of new Christmas jammies for super cute Christmas morning pictures.

    What would you add to this list?

  • Christmas Morning French Toast For a Crowd

    Christmas french toast bakeThe name of the game on Christmas morning for this girl is simplicity. Especially when there is family in from out of town, a dozen kids sleeping over, and adults up late the night before still assembling toys . . . complicated just will not do.

    Here's a French Toast Bake that is quick, easy and will have your family eating out of your hand. Since this is a Christmas blog, we're touting this recipe as perfect for the King of all celebratory days ~ Christmas Day ~ but really, this recipe is fabulous any time of year when you have lotsa mouths to feed early in the morning. Best part? You put it together the night before, refrigerate, then just pop it into the oven in the morning! It cooks while you sip coffee in front of the Christmas tree. :)

    This recipe in it's original version, however, was a sugar bomb. Being the health freak that I am, I just couldn't recommend it when you're  feeding the people you love the most. But, do not fear, I've made some healthy tweaks so now it can be enjoyed freely!

    • 1/4 cup melted butter
    • 1 cup coconut nectar sugar
    • 1 loaf of thickly sliced bread
    • 4 eggs
    • 1 1/2 cup milk
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • Powdered sugar for sprinkling
    • Cinnamon for sprinkling
    • Raw honey
    1. Melt butter in microwave & stir in the coconut sugar.
    2. Pour butter/sugar mix into bottom of 9 x 13 pan....spread around.
    3. Beat eggs, milk, & vanilla, and set aside. Cut off the crust of the bread (your kids will adore you for this).
    4. Lay single slices of bread in pan, and spoon half of the egg mixture over the bread, topping with cinnamon
    5. Add second layer of bread, and spoon on remainder of the egg mixture.
    6. Cover and chill over night.
    7. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Remove foil for the last 15 minutes.
    8. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with melted raw honey.

    Mmmmmmmm!

    Photo courtesy and recipe adapted from: www.tablespoon.com

     

  • Christmas Morning Pancakes

    christmas pancakesIf you told your kids (okay, your husband too) that there would be cookie-like fare for Christmas morning breakfast, what do you think they'd say?

    "Mom, we can't have cookies for breakfast, it's just not right."

    "Are you sick?"

    "You mean we don't have to eat eggs?"

    Yeah, right!! They may think it, but they aren't going to be saying anything that might make mom come to her senses!

    Now you can surprise your family with regular ol' pancakes, even healthy ones, and make them look like Christmas Coookies by using your cookie cutters. Just prepare your batter as you normally would, place your cookie cutters in the skillet and fill. The trick is to cook them on a lower heat so they have more time to set before removing the cookie cutter to flip.

    Decorate with mini chocolate chips, and serve sausage on the side. Yummy. Your kids will think, no, they will KNOW you are the best mom on the block. Cookies, er, pancake cookies for Christmas morning breakfast. Genius.

     

    Photo courtesy:  http://pinterest.hus.lv/

  • Red Velvet Snowball Cookies

    red velvet cookiesThis week we're focusing on all things snow! For those of us that live in the northern parts, we are bracing ourselves. And, for the rest of you who regularly dream of snow at least once a year, feel free to enjoy your snow(ball cookies) as you sit out in the sun. We are jealous, yes. :)

    Oh, the drama of it all! Who doesn't love Red Velvet Cake with it's brilliant pop of color and familiar hint of cocoa? There is simply nothing to not like. There are rumors that making red velvet cake requires much skill, but I'm here to tell you it doesn't have to. These cookies replace the ubiquitous buttermilk with butter to make a deliciously easy cookie that still delivers on all the drama. You will be the rock star at the cookie exchange with this one. And, for the record, you can never go wrong with any cookie that has chocolate.

    Another thing I love about these cookies is that they aren't too sweet. True, the confectioners' sugar that they are covered in is, well, sweet, but the dough itself is just delightful. Let's get started.

    • 1 1/2 cups butter
    • 1 cup plus 2 tbsp confectioners’ sugar
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon (or more if you want them REALLY dramatic) red food coloring
    • 3 cups all purpose flour
    • 1/2 cup almond flour/meal
    • extra confectioners’ sugar, for rolling 'em around
    1. Preheat your over to 375, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
    2. Beat together butter, sugar, vanilla and salt until creamy.
    3. Beat in cocoa powder and red food coloring until you have a solidly bright red batter.
    4. Gradually add the flour and almond meal until thoroughly combined.
    5. Shape the batter/dough into 1 inch balls and bake until lightly browned, about 10--12 minutes.
    6. Cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.
    7. When cookies are completely cooked, roll 'em in the powdered sugar. Do it more than once if you have to. They are snowballs. :)
    8. These girls (red velvet cannot be a boy, no way) store well when in an airtight container or bag.

    This will make about 4 dozen snowballs! Red Velvet Snowballs!!!

     

    Photo and recipe courtesy of: bakingbites.com

  • Wine Glass Christmas Centerpiece

    Wine Glass CenterpieceIn a perfect world, we would all have created a Christmas Notebook back in July, we would have been gathering ideas all year long and filling said notebook and all its various categories and sections. AND, we would have been busy creating all kind of handcrafted beauties for the people we care about and want to give to so that when the day after Thanksgiving rolls around, we can smile with confidence knowing we've got it all under control. Even the Christmas Day meal would already be organized, invites would go out early, lists would be made and cross referenced with other lists. Is it like this at your house too?

    Wait, who are we kidding?! My world is not perfect and I suspect that unless you are Martha Stewart yours isn't either. But, that doesn't mean we have to sacrifice elegance and charm, especially when it comes to the centerpiece for Christmas Dinner.

    I so so so love this idea. And, one of the best parts is that this is not just for Christmas. By switching out the color of the bulbs, this elegant centerpiece can be used many times over for New Years Day, Valentines Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving! Even for birthdays and anniversary parties, all you have to do is choose a favorite color of the one you're honoring and you've got such a gorgeous display.

    Simple. Easy. That's how we roll around here.

    Merry entertaining!

    Photo credit:  http://www.pinterest.com/pin/543106036284489651/

  • Santa Cake

    santa cakeAs much as we talk around here about keeping things simple and quick, sometimes spending a bit more time is just really nice, and ever so appreciated. A couple of years back when the two girls were just finishing up school and starting out (read: no money), they made a suggestion for Christmas gifts. The suggestion was that we exchange hand-made gifts that year, and the "rule" was that all the supplies to make said gifts could total no more than $10 each. It was challenging, but I gotta say that it was one of the best, most meaningful Christmases for us. There was more anticipation when opening the gifts that year maybe because we DID spend more time and had more personally invested! Lotsa smiles 'round the tree that year.

    So it is with today's Christmas dessert idea, one that will take a bit more time but be totally worth it.  Just to look at this Santa Cake makes me smile, and I'm guessing it does that for you too.  You can pass the tedium of slicing the heads, err hats, off of the strawberries with Christmas music, no? :)  And, yes there is a cake underneath all that cuteness, but I'm going to assume that we all know how to make a basic cake mix and frost it. :) Here's the deats for this adorable Santa Cake:

    • 1 lb large strawberries
    • 1 package cream cheese
    • 4 Tablespoons powdered sugar (or sugar substitute - to taste)
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    1. Cut the strawberries in half, creating the hat from the top.
    2. Mix the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla together until creamy.
    3. Using a piping bag (or Ziploc with the corner snipped off), fill the bottom half of the strawberries.
    4. Top with the hats and decorate!

     

     

  • Christmas Pictures

    Today I bring you a veritable feast for the eyes that is sure to bring a smile to your face. You know those baby pictures that your parents took of you that they brought out every time you started dating someone seriously? My parents had a picture of me lying on my tummy in my birthday suit on a black couch. For whatever reason they thought it was adorable, sweet, endearing. Okay, I admit it, it kind of was. But, I didn't think so at the time. Just think what could be done with these adorable shots:

    baby 1

    Rudolph

    baby 2

    Osh Kosh Oh My Gosh

    baby 3

    Pretty as a bow

    baby 4

    Wake me when it's time to go

    baby 5

    I'm in lights!

    baby 6

    No jacket required

    baby 7

    Are we done yet?

  • Bite-Sized Caramel Apples

    The other day I stopped in to chat with a sweet lady I work with and decided, last minute, to pick us both up a kid sized soft serve treat from the local fast food place.  As we were dipping our spoons into these mini sized cups of yummyness, we both agreed that these little guys are just the right size for those times when you want just a bite or two of something sweet.

    mini carmel applesToday's post brings you another junior-sized idea that is just as sweet and just as popular ~ bite sized caramel apples! As much as I love the caramel apples that decorate the produce section at the grocery store, sometimes it's just too-much-sweet. Plus, have you ever bit into one of those store-bought versions and found part of the apple to be, well, less than appetizing? Me too. So, this pint-sized version I think is the perfect solution.

    I am partial to the Honeycrisp apple ~ a bit pricey, but completely worth it. They are tart and sweet at the same time, the flesh is firm and when wrapped in the gooey bliss known as caramel, well, you are in for a real treat. Pretty healthy too, right?

    Just scoop out round apple bites with a melon baller tool and insert a candy stick through one side without going clear through. Prepare a plate by lining it with waxed paper and coating with Pam. Then, just melt a bag of caramels along with a couple tablespoons of water stirring constantly until smooth. Dip your apple bites into the melted caramel and, if you want, roll 'em in peanuts!

    So, the next time your child tells you at 9pm that they need treats for the whole class the next morning, relax and pull out this recipe. Forgo the peanuts just in case of an allergy, but what a fast, easy, yummy fix, yes? I bet they'd be a hit also for an after school snack.

     

    Photo courtesy

  • Snowman Treats

    donut snowmanFrosty the snowman was a jolly, happy soul....and I'm guessing it's because he included sugar (in limited amounts of course) in his diet. We all crave a sweet now and then (some of us more than others), and today's little treat will not only satisfy that desire but also deliver an adorable feast for the eyes. Aren't these donut snowmen just so fun to look at? They make me smile.

    There have been several variations of this floating around the internet, but I liked Dukes & Duchesses idea the best....it keeps vegetables off my donuts (I  mean, seriously, who wants a carrot in their donut?) and still limits the amount of candy used to decorate. And simple. Doesn't get much simpler than donuts.

    You'll need:

    • 3 donuts per stick
    • Mike & Ike candies (orange and green)
    • Fruit roll-ups
    • Wooden skewers
    1. Thread three donuts onto the skewer, and decorate with the Mike & Ike's candies as shown.
    2. Cut a small strip from a fruit roll up for the scarves, and wrap around the "neck".
    3. Dip a toothpick in black food coloring, and just touch the donut to form the eyes and the mouth.

    So cute. So easy. So you. Will make for much merry making, stress free, during one of the busiest seasons of the entire year.

  • Christmas Soup

    thai curry corn soupI don't know what temperatures you are experiencing lately, but here in Minneapolis it's been all over the place! Fall, however, is coming, and in fact is here according to the calendar at least. As much as I love the heat of summer, I am IN love with the cool temps of the autumn season, and inevitably I get the urge to cook up some savory soup.

    Today I had some fun with a Creamy Winter Vegetable Soup that I saw online. And, don't ya think that when it comes to soup, adaptation is where it's at? So adapt away I did, and created a pure vegetarian creamy soup with all those warm spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and curry. I guarantee we'll be nomming on it for the next few days.

    This got me thinking about how NICE, utterly FANTASTIC it is to have yummy soup around the holidays. It's easy, it's quick, and a nice hot bowl can get you all warmed up for dinner, no? So, let's make some Christmas soup.

    Christmas soupFor today's delectable recipe, I turned to one of my favorite chefs on the food network, Alton Brown. He tells this cute story of how he's been making this soup ever since he was allowed in the kitchen, and it's become one of those great traditions in his family. I loved how the recipe sounded.....yes, it's easy (we've clearly established that's what I do best), but so savory and salty and filling too. I do love to create gourmet-ish soups during wintertime, but this one is not fussy like that at all. I did adapt it a little, sorry Alton, I couldn't help myself.

    So, when you need to be warmed to the bone, try this:

    • 1# kielbasa, sliced 1/4-inch thick on bias
    • Olive oil, as needed
    • 8 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1# red kidney beans, soaked at least 4 hours and up to overnight
    • 2 quarts chicken (or vegetable) broth
    • 1# red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
    • 4 handfuls of kale
    • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1. Sort your kidney beans the night before (or morning of), and soak for at least 4 hours.
    2. Heat up the oil in a large soup pot over med-low heat, and brown the kielbasa for about 15 minutes, turning frequently.
    3. Remove the kielbasa, and add the garlic to the rendered fat in the pot, stirring so it doesn't burn.
    4. Drain the beans and add them to the pot along with the chicken broth (use vegetable broth for a delish vegetarian option).
    5. Cover and cook for about 45 minutes.
    6. Add the potatoes and cover again for 15 more minutes.
    7. Remove the ribs from the kale and tear into bite size pieces, then add it to the pot.
    8. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes or just until the kale is tender (you don't want it mushy).
    9. Finish it off by adding the red wine vinegar, and pepper to taste.
    10. The kielbasa is added after the soup is plated which makes it super easy to accommodate your vegetarian friends too!

    And, there you have it.....Christmas Soup. Maybe it will become your traditional Christmas Eve meal, too.

     

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