Category Archives: Thanksgiving & Christmas

Holiday Gifts Ideas: Spritz Cookies

Spritz Cookies

I love spritz butter cookies. They’re tiny little, melt-in-your-mouth bites that go great with a cup of coffee. I didn’t realize how easy they were to make. It helped that a friend of a friend loaned me her all metal, ratchet handled press. These are not easy to come by any more, at least not when I went looking. Most of the new ones are partially plastic and received tepid reviews, especially for durability and ease of use.

Speaking of reviews, I was reading the reviews when JLB posted her favorite recipe along with her review at Amazon. That ended up being the recipe I decided to use and it worked beautifully.

Although my Christmas trees kind of look like trilobites, they taste great.

If I make these again, I might divide the dough into thirds and make one plain and then make one with lime zest and another with lemon zest and dust with citrus powdered sugar.

Spritz Raw

Here is JLB’s perfect recipe (with my thanks!):

Spritz Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened/room temp – set on counter for about 15 minutes
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 egg yolks, room temp
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add egg yolks and vanilla mixing well. In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, and salt with a wire whisk.

Add dry ingredients slowly to the butter and sugar and mix until the dough is in small to medium sized clumps. Now mix with your hands to form dough into a ball. (Should have a consistency similar to Play Dough, but not dry.) If your dough is sticky, add flour; a tablespoon at a time. If it seems dry, add softened butter; a tablespoon at a time. (TaMara’s Note: I gently kneaded the dough for about a minute to get the right consistency)

Load dough into press. Top with colored sugars or other sprinkles. Bake on ungreased cookie sheets for 8 – 10 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes on cookie sheets before removing and placing on cooling racks.
Makes about 5 – 6 dozen.

Me again. A few tips on using the cookie press. Put your baking sheets in the freezer, this makes the cookie dough stick when you press them on the sheets. Like putting your tongue on a frozen light pole. :-) I put them out on the patio to cool in between batches before pressing more cookies.

Fill the cookie press 3/4 full, that seems to be the easiest to handle.

I pulled mine from the oven while they were still light colored. One batch got a little golden. It definitely changes the flavor and I preferred the light colored ones, but experiment, you might the golden ones better.

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Christmas Carols: Nothing But a Child

This is by far my favorite Christmas carol, and still in awe that it was written by Steve Earle. I like this Kathy Mattea version, though the version I have on my CD player is my favorite. Maybe next year I’ll get around to uploading it to youtube.

Braised Turkey Update

Braised turkey prep

 

I stashed away a frozen turkey just before Thanksgiving and when I had fully recovered from the family festivities, I decided I would try the braising method found here. I did not brine it first (I’ve made it no secret I do not understand brining – extra work and messy for not much reward IMHO).

This method is fairly easy to do. You need to have a sharp knife to separate the leg/thighs from the bird and I also removed the backbone and wings before cooking to use for soup stock.

I can’t say that it was any better or worse than the cooking in a bag method, but it did make the best gravy ever. So I might do it again.

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Zat You, Santa Claus? Louis Armstrong

At a young age, I discovered my parents Louis Armstrong collection and was quickly a fan.

Side Dishes: French Onion Casserole

 

final casserole

When I was home for Thanksgiving, I learned that I had missed out on this casserole. My sister-in-law, Tracie, had taken it to the big family get-together the weekend before. There was not a bite leftover by the end, so I am assuming it was a success. It sure sounds good.

I thought it would be nice to post it in time for this month’s various holiday get-togethers.

French Onion Casserole

  • 2-3 tbsp of butter
  • 3 large sweet onions (or 4 medium yellow onions),thinly sliced
  • 8 oz shredded Swiss Cheese
  • 1 can condensed cream of chicken soup (substitute mushroom soup for vegetarian)
  • 2/3 cups milk
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • pepper
  • 8 slices of French bread

skillet, shallow 2 qt casserole or baking dish (glass)

Melt butter in skillet over medium heat and add onions. Sauté until onions are translucent, a little caramelization is ok.

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In baking dish, layer onions, 2/3 of the cheese and pepper to taste.

Onions

 

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In skillet, heat milk, soup and soy sauce, stirring to blend well.

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Pour soup mixture over casserole and fold in gently to mix.

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Top with bread slices.

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Bake at 350 degrees, uncovered for 15 minutes, bread should be brown and toasted. If not, turn oven to broil to crisp the bread (watch closely).

almost there

Remove casserole, return oven temperature to 350. Push bread slices into sauce, top with remaining cheese, return to oven and bake an additional 15 -20 minutes until cheese is melted.

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Yum

Final 1

 

I think Tracie should blog here more often. Looks great and love all the photos. – TaMara

Christmas balls

Friday Recipe Exchange: Holiday Gifts, Salty-Sweet Edition

Caramel Corn 12-17-11

I love popcorn. So much so, I actually have an electric stirring popcorn popper. It must be a family thing, because my brother, Paul, has all the ingredients to make movie popcorn – and he did serious research on how to get that flavor. I’m good with butter and salt, myself. But my true weakness is caramel corn, so one year when I was trying to think of something fun to give for those neighbor Christmas treat boxes, I decided to try my hand at caramel corn.

And to take it up a notch I decided to make Bacon Caramel Corn. The featured recipe tonight.

But let’s begin with some other salty-sweet ideas for the holiday gift box.

Tex-Mex Popcorn Mix, recipe here.

White Cheddar Popcorn and Chili-Cheese Popcorn, recipes here.

And if popcorn is not your thing, how about some Cajun Spiced Nuts or Indian Spiced Nuts, recipes here.

Finally, the dinner menu this week is all about improving Oven Fried Chicken and amazing Baked Garlic Potatoes, complete menu, recipes, shopping list are here.

What favorite recipes are in your gift box this year? If you give food gifts for the holidays, do you include copies of the recipes? I’m always torn. Either way, go ahead and share some of your favorite recipes in the comments. Next week we’ll tackle sweet treats for gift giving.

Tonight’s featured recipe actually came about because I read this comment at Balloon-Juice, I was intrigued enough to search out a recipe. If bacon isn’t your thing, just omit it from the recipe below to make regular caramel corn, or caramel corn with nuts.

Cashew Bacon Caramel Corn

  • 8 oz maple smoked bacon, cut into eight pieces per strip
  • 12 cups (3 quarts) of popped corn
  • 10 tbsp butter
  • 1-1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups salted cashews (or peanuts, or peanut/cashew mix)
Skillet, saucepan, baking sheets*

In skillet, cook bacon until mostly crisp, drain on paper towels and set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Reduce to 200 degrees after 15 minutes of baking.

Place popcorn onto a well-greased baking sheets.

In saucepan over medium-high heat, melt butter. Add brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a low boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to med-low and simmer until thickened, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat, add vanilla and baking soda (yes, it will foam up so be prepared). Gently stir nuts and bacon into sugar mixture and pour over popcorn, toss, coating popcorn evenly. Bake, stirring occasionally, until popcorn is a deep golden brown, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours  – mine was done at the 1 hour mark. Cool and break apart.

*most recipes call for a roasting pan, I had better luck on my second batch using baking sheets – the popcorn cooked more evenly and was very crisp.

That’s if for this week. Bixby is 6 months old today which doesn’t seem possible and I may have an update on him later, depending on how work goes today  – TaMara

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Holiday Gift Ideas: Flavored Popcorn

I’m repeating the holiday gift series this week. We’ll start with flavored popcorn:

One of my favorite things is the mixed can of flavored popcorn.   Unfortunately they can vary in quality and price.  And if you’re paying a premium, well let’s face it, it all hype, because popcorn is cheap, as are most of the ingredients that go in flavored popcorn.  So  I thought I’d pull a few recipes together this week so you could make your own variety tin of flavored popcorn.  I actually have a tower of gift boxes that I’m thinking of filling with different flavors.  You can use decorative plastic and ribbon, or holiday tins, or zip-lock bags placed in pretty gift bags.

For the first recipes, I thought something cheesy.

White Cheddar Cheese Popcorn

  • 8 cups popped corn
  • 4 tbsp melted butter
  • 1/2 cup white cheddar cheese powder
  • 1/4 tsp dried mustard
  • dash of cayenne
  • salt to taste

It might be easiest to do this in two batches.  In a large bag, toss popcorn thoroughly with butter to coat completely.  Mix together cheese and spices, toss with popcorn in the bag until everything is well coated.   Spread out on to baking sheet for 30 to 60 minutes before packaging (this keeps it from becoming soggy).

Chili-Cheese Popcorn

  • 8 cups popped corn
  • 4 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • dash of garlic
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan (I’d use the Kraft style for ease)
  • salt to taste (the Parmesan may make it salty enough)

Again, you may want to make this in batches.  Mix together butter and spices and toss with popcorn in a large bag.  Add cheese and toss again until well coated.  Spread out on to baking sheet for 30 to 60 minutes before packaging.

Additional flavor ideas:

White cheddar cheese powder and taco seasoning.   Parmesan and dry packaged  buttermilk ranch dressing seasoning.

 

Originally posted Dec 2011

Please Come Home for Christmas – Double Dose of Jon Bon Jovi in a Tux

Really, a little Jon Bon Jovi can only brighten the holidays.  In a tux no less.  Swoon.

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Thanksgiving Recipes

 

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Wanted to take a moment and makes sure you could find any of our Thanksgiving recipes easily. This link to the Thanksgiving Files should get you there, but you can also search on a specific ingredient or dish to find a recipe.

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The box is at the bottom of this page and it will take you wherever you want to go.

Seach box

JeffreyW has even made a Turducken:

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All photos are from the JeffreyW files. :-)

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving! – TaMara

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Preparing for Thanksgiving

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Cornbread Stuffing Photo by JeffreyW

Bixby and I are hitting the road for the holiday, as long as the weather stays nice. I’m planning on arriving early so I can help with prep, because I like love to cook. Bixby is growing fast and you can see his latest photo here, along with a quick update. I hope he does as well in the car as he did last trip.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, next to 4th of July. Food, family, friends…and leftovers. I compiled some favorite recipes for tonight’s recipe exchange.

JefferyW makes Cornbread Stuffing,  part 1 here and part 2 here.

Roasted Butternut Apple Soup makes a great starter, recipe here.

I think I’m going to volunteer for mashed potato duty this year so I can make these again, a lost recipe found, Hearty Garlic Mashed Potatoes, link here. I made them years ago and then completely forgot about the recipe.

And this recipe is the reason I think I get invited to many holiday gatherings, my Cranberry Upside Down Cake, click here.

Since my brother is cooking again this year, we’ll probably have deep fried turkey, which is ok by me, as long as I’m not cooking it. I have a real fear of deep frying anything, which is why all the deep fried recipes on the blog are from JeffreyW. I will still cook a turkey, though, because, leftovers. This year I’m going to try the braising method from America’s Test Kitchen’s Braised Turkey technique, link here, minus the brining.

Not sure how you want to cook your turkey this year? I’ve listed some ideas from people smarter than I am: turkey four different ways, here.

What’s on the menu for your Thanksgiving this year? Do you have a must-have recipe for your holiday dinner?

I’m not a fan of traditional candied sweet potatoes, so tonight’s featured recipes are some non-traditional styles of recipes for sweet potatoes.

Cajun Sweet Potatoes

  • 4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup butter,  melted
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp Cajun seasoning
  • ¼ tsp cumin (opt)

Covered casserole dish, well-greased

Steamer and saucepan

In saucepan, add water, steamer and sweet potatoes. Steam until you can easily stick a fork in them. They don’t need to be completely soft. About 10-15 minutes. Add sweet potatoes to casserole dish. Combine oil, butter and spices. Pour evenly over potatoes. Cover and bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes until potatoes are soft. You can adjust cooking time if you prefer your firmer or softer potatoes.

Sweet Potatoes w/Apples

  • 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled & cubed
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 apples, cored & sliced
  • 8 oz can sliced pineapple (including liquid)
  • 2 tsp butter
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt

2 qt casserole dish, greased

Add ingredients to casserole dish. Stir gently and bake at 375 degrees for 40-50 minutes, uncovered, until apples and potatoes are very soft. Cover if it begins to brown too much

That’s it for this week. No recipe exchange next week I hope you have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.   – TaMara

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