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Holiday Recipes

  • A Fall Hot Dish Recipe

    minnesota phrasesAs you all know, I live in Minnesota. And, as most regions of our country do, we Minnesotans have certain ways of saying and doing things that are unique. When I first moved here 11 years ago, I heard some of these for the first time, and let me tell you, they ARE definitely unique.

    Phrases like "up north", a place that everyone headed to come the weekend. So many people that I met were going there, and I honestly thought it must've been a phenomenal town!

    Another oddity is how natives drag their o's out....as in Minnesooooohta. It doesn't take long to pick up this midwestern accent and not even realize it.

    meatball hotdish

    Then there's the hot dish, otherwise known as a casserole, popular at not just church potlucks, but come fall, in homes across the state. Hot dish recipes come out of the woodwork this time of year, and I've got one of those today that'll warm you right up, Gnocchi and Meatball Bake. You're going to just love it.

    Italian spices are a big favorite in our house, and this recipe is a solid staple on our fall menu. When you combine homemade meatballs, potato gnocchi, tomato sauce and cheese, well, what's not to like about that? It is a real winner.

    You can find the full recipe and instructions here.

     

    Photo credit:  Minnesota phrases

     

     

  • Creative Use of a Button

    rustic buttonOne of the things my creative mind loves doing the most is finding multiple uses for simple, ordinary things. It is my industrious character trait coupled with creativity and, of course, frugality at work! And, what could be more basic than a button?

    I dare say few things are more rudimentary than a button. :) Think about it, we've been making buttons to clasp things closed for a very long time, way before we learned to make them in a factory. Wood sticks and loops of twine is just one example!

    I think we can take this inexpensive little thing called a button and make some really charming Christmas items. Here are just a few examples:

     

    button card

    Now isn't that just about the cutest card you've ever seen? It has that minimalist look too that is so popular, and what you see ends up being way more than the sum of its parts.

     

    button cookies

    How about button cookies? These are simple sugar or butter cookies, too! After you roll out your dough and cut your circle, take a cookie cutter just a little smaller and press lightly for the groove. Then poke 2 holes in the center with a skewer. I think these would be adorable as a table favor at a ladies Christmas party, or a very creative way to bundle up plain sugar cookies for a cookie exchange.

     

    button ornament

    I LOVE this idea. It involves a package of colored buttons in various shades, some thin wire and ribbon. These can be ornaments for the tree or even gift tags! This is a tag that your sewing friend will definitely not throw away, and will forever think of you as their most creative friend.

    While going to the spendy department store for their annual Christmas ornament is a tradition for many, I simply love the idea of crafting one of our own annual ornaments from the staples of life.

     

    Photo credit:  Wooden stick, card, cookies, ornament/gift tag

     

     

  • Are You Ready for Some Fall?

    pumpkinsI saw this picture this morning on one of my friends Facebook wall, and I have to admit that my heart sank just a little. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE the fall season and everything about it, but I'm just not quiiiiite ready to let go of summer. Nonetheless, the calendar will turn over to the 'ber months in just a few short days, ready or not.

    So, let's start getting ready. Last time we explored this fabulous holiday aroma that will have everyone either salivating or plopping down on your couch for a visit. The scents of cinnamon lend a very homey, comfy feeling, don't they? Even tho the spice combo that I shared with you is definitely a Christmas thing, it is also very fall-ish. Those warm spices ~ cinnamon and cloves ~ have a way of changing just about anyone's mood for the better, and especially so in the fall months. Somehow a cup of spice fits perfectly with the changing of the colors!

    Starbucks, for many years has hopped on board with these very popular palette pleasers when they created their pumpkin spice latte and Chai. There is nothing like running through the drive thru lane and treating yourself to one of these, yes? :) I'm right behind you, friends! Do you ever wonder how they make it taste so good?

    pumpkinspiceI do, so I decided to find out exactly what they put in that addictive drink, and imagine my surprise to learn that there is actually NO real pumpkin in it! I will reserve comment on the other ingredients, because we aren't here to bash the coffee giant, just to learn to make a worthy rival of one of their most popular drinks. And one that is, shall I dare say, healthy? Okay, I'll say it. It IS healthy, and especially if you sub out the 2 tablespoons of sugar in the recipe I'll be sharing and, in it's place, use honey or monk fruit or even chicory!

    Dying to know how to make your own Pumpkin Spice Lattee? Here ya go, you can find the full on recipe right here, complete with instructions!

  • Cranberry Margaritas, Yes Please!

    margaritaIt's Friday right before a holiday weekend. You might be going out of town, but if you aren't you are a little irritated that I just reminded you, lol. Like me, you are likely trying to stay focused on getting that last little bit of work done so you can truly relax on Monday. I know that's what I'm up to today!

    When you get home from work, won't you join me by throwing on some comfy clothes as we sit outside with a glass of this?! Ohh la la!! Technically called a Christmas Cranberry Margarita Cupcaketini, it is refreshing just looking at it, isn't it?! Definitely not just for Christmas! I think it's pretty near perfect for a day like today.

    I like traditional things that have a bit of a twist, and this cupcaketini meets the criteria. Instead of salt on the rim of your glass, this recipe says to use sugar. It's also great if you want to stick to the salt, I think it will be equally good, just different. And you will be defending the honor of margarita tradition and that's a good thing. :) You can find the recipe here.

    If you don't imbibe, there is a great alternative too.  Simply replace the alcohol components with sparkling water and regular orange juice! Just make sure you put it in a glass capable of holding sugar or salt on the rim.

    Happy sipping now and at Christmas dinner!

  • Oh Those Cranberries

    cranberry feta

    After my post yesterday about the tartness of an unsweetened cranberry, I began looking around for some other ideas of what to do with these beautiful little red nutrient bombs. There had to be a way to use them in cooking that didn't involve adding a bunch of sugar, I reasoned. And, I reasoned accurately. :)

    Unbelievable how many ways there are to use unsweetened cranberries. How has this escaped me all these years? They say that need is the mother of invention, and that when the student is ready the teacher appears.....loosely applied, I guess I just wasn't ready to find all these cranberry treasures until now! But, now that I have, I have to share.

    First up are these adorable cranberry pinwheels. Oh la la! What if to our sour, pucker-face cranberries we add a bit of green onion, a bit of cream cheese and some feta, mix it all up together and spread it over a tortilla? Talk about a nutrient bomb, these are also a flavor bomb!

    You can find the recipe and instructions here. No more puckering with cranberries, but prepare yourself for a barrage of inquiries as to how on earth you made such a heavenly treat.

    Bon apetit!

     

    Photo credit

  • In Honor of Chocolate Chip Day

    frangoI may have mentioned a time or two that I am a big fan of chocolate mint meltaways. Marshall Fields used to sell what they called Frango Mints, a much beloved confection in Chicago around the holidays. Also, anyone who filled out a credit card application would receive a free box! Stories were told about people filling out fake applications in order to get more free boxes of Frango Mints! They stopped making them in 1999 and 6 years later Marshall Fields was acquired by Macy's (and some have never gotten over their bitterness!).

    Macy's has tried to mimic the well loved chocolates, but how can you even come close to a candy that is hand made on the 13th floor of its originator? I have had the Macy's version, and it's not half bad, but Frango Mints will always be remembered as the folkloric taste of Chicago.

    magic mint choc barkPerhaps second best to the long lost 13th floor creation is something we can make in our own kitchens. I don't think there are many ingredients that, when combined with chocolate, top mint. Am I right? Caramel comes close. Peanut butter a close third. But, mint remains clearly at the top. We can recover some of the magic of those scrumptious, melt in your mouth, chocolates with today's recipe for Magic Mint Chocolate Bark. Okay, we can at least try. :)

    So, in honor National Chocolate Chip day, you can find the recipe for this tasty treat here. Happy May 15th to you!

    Photo credit:  Frango, Bark

  • An Old Fashioned Christmas | Visions of Sugar Plums

    The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
    While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads...

    sugarplums

    Most of us could probably quote the poem "Twas the Nite Before Christmas", but if we were to do that and one of our most curious children were to pipe up out of bed and interrupt, asking,  "Mommy, what's a sugar plum?", what would you say?

    While it would have been common in the "olden days" to offer a piece of fruit as a sweet, a sugar plum really has nothing to do with fruit. In fact, sugar plums were one of the most difficult and tedious confections to make, requiring special equipment and real expertise. Just a single batch of sugar plums could literally take days. So, if they aren't actually plums, what are they?

    A sugar plum could best be compared to what we call Jordan almonds, an almond with a hard candy coating over it. Also, think peanut M & M's.  Sounds simple enough these days, but not just anyone could have made these candies, and as such, they were usually only found among royalty or the very wealthy. These were, indeed, quite special treats.

    So when our modern day children lie in bed the night before Christmas, filled with excitement and wonder and can hardly contain it all in their little bodies, what they might be imagining is "sugar plums"....their favorite and rarely enjoyed sweet....or perhaps it's more of a metaphor for the overwhelming sweetness of Christmas mornings past, filled with love and family and all of their favorite things. And, of course, presents. Or maybe it's merely Peanut M & M's. :)

    So if you're up for the task, go ahead and make some sugar plums.  Many of the recipes will include dried fruit for the center, and that will be equally wonderful and sweet. Alton Brown has a great one that you can find here. As you make these treats, you can have a sweet little history lesson also. :)

    Photo courtesy

  • An Old Fashioned Christmas | Sugar Cookies and Egg Nog

    The humble sugar cookie, surprisingly, has quite an impressive history. Called the "Nazareth Sugar Cookie", historical records date it clear back to the 1700's, and it somehow wiggled it's way all the way to the legislature in House Bill 1982. There it was decided that it'd become the official cookie of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Am I the only one giggling about this?!

    sugar cookiesI'm not much one for politics, but I find it impressive that this baked confection has endured for centuries and still occupies quite the distinguished place in the United States. You might think that it contains some special ingredient, but really, it's just a sugar cookie....sugar, flour, butter and eggs baked and finished only with your lovely and ever creative touch.

    This little confection has long been recognized as, really, the epitome of tradition at Christmas. Even if you don't eat these, baking them is still something you must not skip. And, gathering the kids, the grandkids and friends turns this tradition into quite the family affair. It's definitely old fashioned.

    egg nogHow about making the whole adventure a bit more fun {as if that were necessary or even possible} by adding in a tried and true recipe for Egg Nog? Whether or not you choose to spike it or leave it el naturel, there is just something about that nutmeg-y yummy-ness  that'll warm your heart. I happen to love both the taste and texture of a slightly warm cup of eggnog. I think it just begs to be accompanied by your favorite shaped Christmas sugar cookie.

    I know, I've got the warm fuzzies now too, even in April.

     

    Photo courtesy:  Cookies, Egg Nog

  • An Old Fashioned Christmas | Here We Come A-Wassailing

    We're continuing this week with our theme of an old fashioned Christmas, and I can't believe how much fun it's been to write and plan out the stuff I'm sharing with you! I'm all for chic and modern decor and even incorporating that into Christmas, but there is something so comforting and familiar about simplifying our Christmas celebrations down to how it'd been done years ago.

    awassailingToday we're talking about a-wassailing. What the heck is that, you ask? Good question! We get our practice today of going house to house singing Christmas carols from this old world tradition. But it was much more than dressing warmly and going out singing.

    It was well known that around the Christmas season, the wealthy were significantly more generous. So, often scores of beggars and orphans would dance through the streets of England, and offer to sing songs and tell of future blessings if the householder would give him a drink of wassail . . . hot ale or beer with apples and spices.

    wassail

    It was just alcoholic enough to warm fingers and toes from the cold! Of course, you don't need the alcohol to create the perfect hot beverage for a cold winter evening.

    There are dozens of recipes for wassail, or hot spiced or mulled cider, and most grocery stores will carry a single serving packet of the spices to make it easy. This is one very simple holiday tradition that is just so worth incorporating .... that of putting a kettle of mulled cider on the stove and allowing the aroma to fill the entire house. When folks come to your door, whether they come a-wassailing or bringing a plate of Christmas cookies, invite them in for a hot cup of wassail. It is just so welcoming and special!

    And, if you'd like to sing along with the song "Here We Come A-Wassailing", you can find the video here!

     

    Photo courtesy:  carolers, wassail

     

     

     

     

     

  • A Very Vegetarian Christmas ~ Cocoa Brownies with Raspberry Sauce

    This is going to be the last post in the series I've been doing over the last couple of weeks about lots of great ideas for a Vegetarian Christmas Meal.  We've covered appetizers and soups and salads and of course, the main course. All vegetarian. All interesting. All delicious. Yesterday we brought you a yummy Kahlua Chocolate Fondue, and to wrap everything up I've got one more dessert idea. Not only is it a ubiquitous dessert, this recipe includes a special, secret ingredient that makes it healthy and gluten free.

    black bean browniesChristmas cookies are pretty much a given if you're hosting a group of people for Christmas. So are certain kinds of pies. And, usually you'll have a favorite family dessert recipe that, let's be honest, Christmas would just not be Christmas without it. But, today I bring you brownies. Not your ordinary brownie if there is such a thing. These are simply amazing, both in taste and in concept. You will probably not want to tell your guests what the secret ingredient is in this recipe until after they've tried it and start raving. Then, and only then, can you tell them that these are Cocoa Black Bean Brownies!

    Stay with me. I know black beans are not really considered a dessert ingredient, but I promise you that you'll be simply amazed at how tasty they are.

    You can get the recipe and directions here. I serve these with a dollop of whip cream on top too. Mmmm. Is it Christmas yet?

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