Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Popcorn Crunch

We are closer!  I am almost done, with EVERYTHING!!  Almost!

I wanted to share a fun popcorn recipe because, candy covered popcorn is one of my favorites and I have never tried making it at home.  I tried it, it is a dream, and frankly, I have no intention of sharing my stash.  You are going to have to make your own!

You may notice the recipe calls for M&M's and sprinkles, however, oddly, you can't see any in the photo.  Every. Single. Photo was the same.  I can't believe I didn't realize they all fell to the bottom but I don't think they did!  I don't know what happened!  Food blogger photo failure!  Just trust me!!

This is easy, and you will love it.  It is festive and a nice snack to just keep in a bowl to nibble on!  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did and make sure to make a little extra popcorn, you may prefer it with more!!

You will need:
16-18 cups of popcorn  (I used regular old fashioned popcorn)

To do it the old fashioned way, in case you are to young to remember!!  Add 3 tbsp. oil (veg, peanut, or canola) into a LARGE pot with a lid.  Add in 3/4 cup of popcorn, put the lid on and wait for the first pop.  Using hot pads or oven mitts, keep one hand on the lid and gently move the pot around until the pop slows to almost a stop.  Turn off the burner and move the pot off the stove and let sit 5 minutes.  In this case, until cool. 

If you are using microwave popcorn I am guess you would need a good 6 bags.  But try it the old fashioned way, come on, just do it!

For the rest of the recipe you will need:
2 boxes of red jello, your choice of flavor (sm. 3-3.4 oz. size)
1/2 cup butter
6 T light corn syrup
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
red food coloring
1/2 cup assorted Christmas sprinkles
1/2-1 cup M&Ms
1/4 cup melted white chocolate (I tinted mine red) optional!

After you have placed 16 cups of popcorn into a large bowl, make sure to line a large cookie sheet (or 2) with parchment paper and set aside.  Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F.

Now, melt the butter and syrup in a saucepan over pretty low heat.  When the butter is melted add sugar and gelatin (jello) and bring to a boil over medium heat. At this point add in a bit of red food coloring, I don't like faded colors!  You can choose to leave it out, but bright colors ROCK!  Reduce your heat and let simmer about 4-5 minutes, stirring almost constantly.

Now CAREFULLY pour the syrup over the bowl of popcorn.  Stir like a fool, while the syrup is still hot, get the popcorn covered. If you feel you need more popcorn, add it now and stir.  It is just to your personal preference. 

Now pour your popcorn out unto your lined cookie sheet(s) and smooth into an even layer like this.

Bake for 10 minutes, HOWEVER, after 5 minutes, remove pans and give it a careful toss, replace into the oven and bake another 5 minutes.

When it is done, remove, and sprinkle on 1/2 cup assorted Christmas sprinkles, and 1/2 cup (or more) of Christmas M&Ms. Now is the time to drizzle over any white chocolate if you choose!!  I colored mine red!  Let cool completely, break it up into pieces and enjoy!!  Keep covered in an airtight container to keep fresh and crunchy!


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

-Just For 2 Series: Simple Oyster Stew For Two

I feel like the title should say in parenthesis "And being the daughter of Santa" !

Happy ALMOST Christmas! ACK!  Who has their shopping, wrapping, decorating and baking done?  Not me!  I did take time though to make one of my husbands favorite soups, and I wanted to share our food tradition as a child in my family since it includes this!

What says "Christmas" like oyster stew?  Well it does for me anyway, my mom always made oyster stew on Christmas Eve.   My family always opened gifts on Christmas Eve.  Christmas morning we woke up to what Santa had left us!

Ok, wait, let me back up. (You know there is a story here)  My dad has played Santa for probably 50 years or more.  He has a beautiful suit, he is a jolly man, who has the perfect build for Santa! (wink)  He was always Santa at all of our local stores, movie theatre and local events.  MANY times we sat on his lap, asking for our biggest dreams, having no idea it was our own daddy under that beard and wig.  Magical, to me, it is just magical as an adult looking back.  As we got older, and grandkids came into the picture, we had an "incident".  My nephew Brandon, probably  4 or 5 at the time, walked into Grandma and Grandpa's bedroom while we were getting "Santa" ready.  He stopped dead in his tracks, almost like time stood still.  He said, "Grandp..Santa"?  Well, now that creates a problem with about 10 other grandkids in the other room, doesn't it?  (and about 10 more that would come later along with the greats!) So it became common knowledge to the grands in the family that Grandpa was one of Santa's "helpers".  That realistically Santa couldn't get everywhere in one night, but they couldn't tell their friends because he wouldn't be able to keep his special suit and make so many children happy.  Hey, call it what you want, it has worked for a good 30 years now!  We would white shoe polish all of his facial hair since he had black hair, even when he shaved it looked dark, cherry red the tip of his nose, cheeks and lips, double side tape his moustache in place so his beard would fall in a perfect wave down his rich red velvet jacket.  His wig, was smoothed and perfectly fixed before he it was topped off with the magical hat that seemed to instantly transform him into the real Santa.   We would pull up his boots topped with white fur, then on went the snow white gloves and his little wire rimmed glasses.  He would gather his big red bag that "Mrs. Claus" made and off we would go.  Lots of us kids helped but a few of us loved it more than others.  He took these jobs on Christmas Eve to help fund Christmas for his own 10 children and wife.  Starting at about 5pm, one of us, or a couple of us would drive him from job to job, there would be gifts left in garages, in cars, in backyards, and in dog houses. He would fill his bag with them and knock on the front door, or just burst through as he would turn his head and holler back out the door "Come on Blitzen, calm down"  or "Donner, don't you take Rudolph's carrots" or other similar lines.  Sometimes we would peek in windows undetectable to absorb some of the Christmas joy being spread by the man we simply called "dad" but always knew he was made to be, lived his life just like, and in our hearts WAS the REAL Santa.   We helped him deliver a horse with her mane adorned in tinsel, in the snow and ice, up a huge icy hill.  We had to get her at a local stable and walk her to her new home!  There were puppies, kittens,  and one of the most moving deliveries was a simple candy cane, to a woman lying in her bed, taking her last breathes.  She wanted Santa to bring her a candy cane.  In small towns word travels fast and he had heard of her last wish.   So he entered her home with a gentle "HoHoHo", walked her bedroom that had not much more than a bed, and a light bulb hanging from a wire.  With snow falling outside her window  on that Christmas eve he gave her, that candy cane and witnessed the smile of an angel.  He kneeled beside her to pray and as she grabbed his white gloved hand she said, "It's really you Santa".  Her last words.  He was infamous for entering mass right after communion, during the time we call meditation.  He would enter through the back of the church in his santa suit, walked quietly down the center aisle to the stares of disbelief of every child (and adult) there.  He knelt at the nativity, removed his hat, and later admitted that he shed a tear and prayed for all children and families to be healed, happy, and always know the love of Christ.  He got up, put his hat back on, and walked quiet as could be right back out. Sometimes he couldn't resist a faint "HO HO HO MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL" as he exited.    I am guessing you could hear a pin drop for the  next 5 minutes. 

Here is a photo of the last time my dad was able to dress up.  We hold our Christmas celebration in a school gymnamsium since there are so many of us, 10 kids, spouses, grandkids, great grandkids but he always tried to dress up and make sure all of the kids sat on Grandp--oops, Santa's lap.  I will cherish this photo forever, this is my dad, the giver, the miracle worker, the rescuer, the selfless human who will take the shirt off of his back for a stranger, (and has).  The loving, supportive father, who would be surrounded by his children and grandchildren everyday if he could.  He was born to be Santa and in our hearts he always will be.  Now, he is just able to sit back in his grandpa clothes, and enjoy his family together, kids, grandkids, and great grandkids.  He is in all of his glory when he has his family near. 

This is how I grew up celebrating Christmas Eve.  I wanted to share it with you, so you could experience the magic of how the day went for me.  After my dad was done, he would come home, sneak in the back door, get cleaned up and join us for dinner. which was ALWAYS, chicken noodle soup, potato soup and oyster stew.  We were a large struggling family so oyster stew was a holiday treat that was not afforded any other time of year.  In the middle of the rural Midwest you don't get fresh oysters either, so my mom would use those from a can which is exactly how I made mine for you.  We would have deli meats and cheeses for sandwiches, then open gifts and then get dressed in our new Christmas dresses and suits and head to midnight mass where my mom was the choir director and organist.  Memories..........   Thanks for letting me share mine with you. 

If you are able to get fresh oysters, I would use a dozen for this recipe.  Keep the liquor, the juice from them, you will need it!  Even if you used canned, keep the juice!

This will generously serve two, maybe 3.  So if you need a bigger batch just double it or triple it.  I used 2 cans of oysters because my husband loves them but one is really probably enough for most people.  I will leave that part up to you.  This is three ingredients plus salt and pepper, does it get much easier?

You will need:
2 cups half and half
4-5 tbsp. butter (I know, but it is Christmas guys!)
1 dozen fresh oysters with liquid or 1-2, 8oz cans
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium sauce pan melt your butter.  While it is melting drain your oysters but KEEP the juice!  When the butter is melted, add in just the liquid from the oysters and the half and half.  Let simmer for 3-4 minutes, until it is almost simmering.  Add in oysters and simmer for 2-3 more minutes.  If you are using fresh oysters, as soon as you see them start to curl they are done.  Don't over cook this or they will be tough!  Now salt and pepper to taste and serve!

Could it be easier?  It is silky, and perfect.  My mom would be proud, and Santa, well, Santa would be to busy to eat a bowl, but wouldn't mind, because spreading joy to the world is exactly what my dad does. 

People will jokingly say, "You know, if you don't believe in Santa (insert a plethora of endings).  I always reply with "I know Santa is real, he is my dad". 


Monday, December 15, 2014

Caffe Mocha Spoons

Do you know how many times I have made these spoons?  ALOT!  I debated over if I should share them or not, they are so easy and honestly, does one really need directions?  Well, you see which voice won my inner battle, eh?

I love cookie trays, I really do.  I do not like brown cookie trays.  This is all old news, but you know the ones that are all brown cookies, dry looking, mystery crumb stuff that you feel like you shouldn't even eat?  The unidentifiable stuff, the dry, choking hazard stuff, it is just a bummer.

I like adding fun things like this to trays.  Maybe even some marshmallows, or find an old fashioned glass jar, add some cold milk and deliver it ASAP with a bunch of these spoons.  Maybe a bag of popcorn too!  How fun is THAT?

I might have stirred one of these into my Boston Cream Coffee this morning, and it might have been amazing.  I do hope you give them a try.

Oh and for the record, I saw these in a store recently, they had candy sprinkled on top.  I don't know about you but I am not about to have floaties in my drink.  DOWN WITH FLOATIES.  Ewww!

You will need:
20-24 plastic spoons (use real spoons if you want to thrift store for some)
2 cups milk chocolate chips (divided)
3/4 cup instant coffee granules

Melt 1 cup of milk chocolate chips either in a microwave, 30 seconds at a time or in a double boiler setup.  When it is completely melted, stir in the instant coffee granules.  When mixture is all combined, use a butter knife or another spoon and fill the spoons up with the mixture.  Level them off at the top or leave them a little higher, the choice is yours.  Set on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet until all are done.  Refrigerate for 1 hour. 

Now, melt the remaining milk chocolate, and dip each spoon in and give it a full turn, covering the coffee/chocolate mixture.  Let the extra chocolate drip off and place back on parchment.  Let sit until hardened.  (You can place back in the fridge).  When they are set, melt the white chocolate and using a spoon or piping bag, zig zag, polka dot, or curly que your way to completion!

While I did not show it in the photo, if you are using these as gifts, attach a tag that says to stir 6-8 ounces of hot milk.  Let the spoon sit for a few seconds and then stir.   You will enjoy a cup of chocolaty, coffee, warm goodness!


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Chocolate Peppermint Candy Cane Cookies

ACK! 15 more days until Christmas!  Are you ready?  How are you doing on the shopping?  Are you at the "OMG I have no have to pay more than the price of the gift to get it shipped in time" phase yet?  I started wrapping last night.  We discussed, if you follow me on Facebook about how I am about that kind of thing.  Yikes.  But I enjoy soft lights, Christmas music and beautifully wrapping the gifts we have chosen for those we love.  It is relaxing, and my husband always says I should start a gift wrapping business at the holidays!

I did get in the kitchen yesterday and get these wonderful treats made.  They are a favorite in our family, and I wanted to make sure to share the really special treats we love with you this year.  It is a really busy time and developing new recipes this time of year, (which actually started 2 months ago for me.  I am like retail!) I just want to enjoy the beauty of the season, the reason for the season, my family and friends and spending a lot of time developing anything new isn't in my game plan for this month, especially this year with my grandchildren now living in the same city.  They are our families Christmas miracles as they were born last Christmas Eve, 6 weeks early and yet, they have grown into beautiful, funny, healthy little monkeys who we can't imagine life without!  Though this isn't technically their first Christmas, it kind of is.

I have to share one of their Christmas photos with you!

These cookies are so good.  The chocolate flavor is rich, and though the actual cookies isn't super sweet, the addition of the white chocolate drizzle and crushed peppermint, makes it the perfect cookie.  When you see the amount of sugar you might say, "WHOA", but using the unsweetened chocolate, in addition makes the flavor so much richer.  It makes over 5 dozen cookies, don't worry, you won't consume it all at once! They are easy, the dough is beautiful, and they don't take long to bake or cool.  I think it would be fun to let the kids drizzle and sprinkle them with anything they like! 

Here is what you will need:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
2 tsps. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
4 oz. melted unsweetened chocolate (I used the already melted variety because I had it on hand)
1 cup white chocolate chips melted
crushed candy canes (how many is up to you)
You can use any other candy or decoration to sprinkle over the top as well it doesn't have to be peppermint!

In a large bowl or the bowl of your standing mixer, cream together, cream cheese, butter, sugar, salt and vanilla extract together until creamy.  Add in baking soda and mix well.  Start adding in  your flour and beat (stand or hand mixer) slowly at first, so you don't get covered in flour and add until it is all incorporated!  Now, pour in your melted unsweetened chocolate and let it mix until well combined. 

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Take a tablespoon size scoop or actual spoon and roll that amount into a ball. Next roll it into a long snake shape, you can do them as small or as big as you like, but the size I did, I got a nice size cookie, and ended up with over 5 dozen.  Shape them into a candy cane shape and place on parchment lined or non stick cooking spray, sprayed, cookie sheets.  I easily get 12 on a sheet, they don't spread a lot but they do spread a bit. 

Bake for 10 minutes.  That is the exact time that I find keeps them soft, even with the carry over cooking.  Place them on a cooling rack to cool!


Melt white chocolate in either a double boiler set up or in the microwave, 20 seconds at a time on half power.  Trust me, just trust me.  Place into a piping bag or Ziploc that you have cut the tip off of.  You can even just use a spoon or fork to drizzle.  While the white chocolate is still wet, sprinkle with your crushed peppermint candy or whatever you choose to sprinkle on them.  Let sit until the chocolate is set and enjoy!


Monday, December 8, 2014


I love the Grinch!  I seriously, must watch this movie 10 times each holiday season.  Then there are those few times during the year I just need my "fix"!

But let's get to the real questions....lollipops or suckers?  Lollipops to me, but suckers to most where I grew up.  It is funny how all of these regional things never seem to occur to you until you move to a new region.

It has been a heck of a week.  I made these 4 days ago, and never got them shared with you until now.  So sorry but, the truth is, I have 2 crying grandbabies in the other room so we need to make this a quickie!  I think these would be awesome added to your holiday cookie trays and thanks Yolli Ltd. for these cute lollipop sticks!  They have everything you need for all things sweet in your life!

These are made from Jolly Ranchers candy.  You must use the hard candy, not the soft chews!!  I went to a party store where I could get all red and green but heck, use all the colors if you want!

You will need, but the quantities are really up to you!

Popsicle or lollipop sticks (as many as you need)
Jolly Ranchers (all unwrapped)
Parchment paper

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees F.  Place your unwrapped candy however you want them to melt.  Make sure they are touching, I used different patterns, but I use 2 or 3 for each one.  I think that makes a decent size who-pop!  Place into oven (WITHOUT THE STICKS) for 5-6 minutes.  They will have melted together to touch, when you get them out, immediately take your stick and sort of roll it into the middle so it is all covered with the candy.  If you are using a flat stick, you can actually lay them down on the parchment and put the hard candy on them and let them melt right onto the stick.   Let cool 15 minutes and wham, bam, thank you WHOVILLE for these adorable pops!


Monday, December 1, 2014

Three Meat Quiche

Good Morning......err... wait, evening! HA!  Eggs, sausage, etc, had me thinking morning, but in reality, this can be eaten anytime!  This is my first quiche, ever.  It is true, I have never made a quiche.  Why not you ask?  No idea, none at all, just haven't. 

This was a request of my husband.  And how about this, I have him thinking like a food blogger/food stylist.  He asked me to not put the bacon inside but make the top a lattice work of bacon.  Genius.  He is adorable and he never ceases to throw out ideas for me.  I love that he is so supportive, I am grateful and blessed.  He is a meat man, so I made this a 3 meat quiche.  I mean, it is basically a savory custard, what have I been so afraid of?  I feel so silly!  This is EASILY made ahead if you are expecting company.  And how about lunch with a salad?!  Soup and some quiche, YES!

There are just a couple of things that need to be done ahead.  You need a pie crust, you can either buy one or use my recipe which is perfection, you can find  it here.  You need to blind bake the crust.   I baked mine at 425 for 12 minutes.  You need the pie crust to be baked so it will hold your custard filling and not get soggy!

While you have that in the oven, use 1lb, thick cut bacon and lattice it on parchment paper laid on a baking sheet.  (see photo) Bake it for 20-30 minutes, same temp as the shell, until it is crispy.  Remove from the oven and let it sit to cool so you can pat off the extra fat.  I can trimmed mine, so when I was ready it would fit perfect on top.  The trimmings you ask?  Cooks treat, duh!  Lower oven to 350 now!

4 eggs
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup diced bacon
1/2 lb. ground breakfast sausage, browned and drained
1 lb. thick cut bacon
1 pie crust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In cooled crust, add in browned sausage and diced ham.  Spread evenly like this...

In a bowl whisk together eggs, heavy cream, and parmesan cheese.  Pour over the meat in the pie crust.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until set.  You should be able to insert a knife and have it come out clean.  Let it sit for 10 minutes.  Lay your latticed bacon that you have patted dry of extra grease over the top. 



Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Butter Pecan Pie

A classic for sure!  Right?  When I think "Thanksgiving" I think, turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and pecan pie!  It is one of my husbands favorites and I can't wait to share my recipe with you.  I borrowed one from my mom, I like using recipes she has used, but she didn't regularly make it.  Therefore, I played with one she gave me.  So I created my own spin, and upped the butter, of course, and the pecans, of course, and a few other things.  I like this texture, and before this whole pecan pie thing, which, I don't necessarily care for, I never knew I preferred one texture over another with this one. 

Now, I have seen pies that cook the ingredients first, and I have seen recipes with so few pecans, I doubt you could call it a "pecan" pie.  I wanted more of a buttery pecan pie so that is what I created.  I don't know if it is necessarily more or less buttery than any other pie but to me, it is perfection, and to my hubby, it is perfection.  That was all the "go ahead" I needed to share it with you.  This is a toss it in one bowl and pour it in kind of recipe.  This one takes a bit longer to bake, but it will be so well worth your wait! 

I am also including a little recipe for a powdered milk whipped topping.  I was using the powdered milk for some frosting and saw this recipe on the back.  I decided to try it out.  While it isn't fresh sweetened whipping cream (swwooonnn), it is a great substitute in a bind.  It tastes nice, it is easy to make with things that are likely pantry staples for you.  Just please follow the directions just as they are written.  Ask me why I say that.  Go ahead..........    I tell you that because 2 times I didn't follow them exactly and two times, it failed.  Save yourself the hassle!

You will need:

1 9 inch pie crust buy or make mine
1/2 cup light corn syrup
4 eggs
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
8 tbsp. butter, melted and cooled
2 tsps. vanilla extract
1 1/3 cup chopped pecans
2/3 cup whole pecans
aluminum foil or a pie crust guard

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Place your crust into a pie plate if needed.  Finish the edges how you like, IF you like and place in refrigerator.

Combine, corn syrup, eggs, brown sugar, butter, and vanilla into a mixing bowl and whisk together.  There is no need to pull out the standing mixer or even the hand mixer, just whisk this together until smooth and you are done!  Now take crust from refrigerator and place all of the pecans in the bottom of the crust.  I love the combo of chopped and whole.  It just adds some texture and I like it.  Use all chopped if you like.  Just make sure there are 2 cups.  I like "heavy on the nuts".  Now carefully pour your mixture on top of the nuts, place into your oven for 55 minutes, after that cover with foil, and bake another 15-20 minutes.  When the middle barely jiggles or doesn't jiggle at all you are done!  Remove and place on cooling rack.  Let cool COMPLETELY.  We clear on that part?   Serve with love!

For the whipped topping you will need:
1/2 cup ice cold water
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup powdered milk
3 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Now, remember do this in the order I tell you!  I did this in my standing mixer, use an electric mixer if you like.  Combine water and lemon juice, then add your powdered milk and stir until dissolved.  Now beat for 6-10 minutes, until you get a stiff mixture.  Add in sugar and vanilla and beat until combined.  That is it.  I have mine in the refrigerator, I have no idea how it will last, but since I made a double batch the 3rd time I figured I should see how it fares in the fridge.