Category Archives: Christmas

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.

Zat You, Santa Claus? Louis Armstrong

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

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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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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Christmas Music: Silent Night, Jennifer Hudson

 

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Mushrooms Stuffed with Wild Rice

Stuffed Mushroom AppetizersStuffed Mushrooms ready to go into the oven just before company arrives – if I manage to get a photo after baking, before they’re snarfed up, I’ll update.

I wanted to try something different for an appetizer for tonight’s dinner. Stuffed mushrooms sounded like it would fit the bill. I searched around for recipes, but I had an idea that I wanted to use wild rice, so I just went from there. Who needs a recipe? I used large button mushrooms because they were appetizers, but I think it would work with portobello mushrooms for a main course or nice side.

Pop Quiz: Is wild rice actually rice? Answer: Nope, it’s a grass.

The best way to cook wild rice, is to bring a saucepan filled with water to a boil add salt and (well washed) wild rice, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 60 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. You’ll want it chewy, try not to overcook it, because then it just gets mushy. Drain as you would pasta, don’t rinse.

Wild Rice Stuffed Mushrooms

  • 12 large white mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup or more of cooked wild rice
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to .

Butter a shallow baking dish.

Snap stems off mushrooms and chop. Place the mushroom tops, bottom up, in the baking dish.

Melt butter in a medium size skillet. Add garlic and mushroom stems. Cook over medium heat, stirring, 3 minutes. Add rice and mix well. Salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from heat and add Parmesan cheese. Spoon wild rice mixture into the mushroom caps. Top each with two or three leaves of rosemary.

Bake in  in a 400°F oven for 10-15 minutes or until hot.  Serve warm.

You can put the mushrooms together ahead of time (I did it the night before), cover and refrigerate and bake just before company arrives.

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Christmas Music: 12 Pains of Christmas, Bob Rivers

It’s just not Christmas until I hear this song. I’m in the kitchen baking more cookies. Lots of cooking left to do for tomorrow’s dinner. House is clean (-ish) and I’ll have to get some actual office work done tonight, but it’s all falling together.

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Christmas Music: Welcome Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Oh, come on, you know you love it, too:

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Christmas Music: Sarah McLachlan, River

Been a busy and fun holiday season, but every once in a while a bit melancholy with Harley being gone, and this is my go-to song when that mood hits. So pretty.

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Friday Recipe Exchange: Christmas Eve Party

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Once again I am hosting Christmas Eve dinner. I try and keep the menu simple because I have a small kitchen and I like to spend time with my guests. I’m actually doing much of what I did last year, because it worked so well.  The menu will serve as tonight’s recipe exchange.  Thanks to JeffreyW for making lasagna this week so that I had an awesome photo to use tonight.

Christmas Eve Menu:

Appetizers –  Herbed Tomato Crostini (recipe here), vegetable tray

Main Event – Spinach Lasagna (recipe here), Salad, Cheesy Garlic Bread

Dessert - Truffles (featured recipe below), Peanut Butter Cookies (recipe here) and everyone’s favorite, a Sundae Bar

With the exception of the garlic bread, because I’m using gluten free noodles, the entire evening is gluten free and vegetarian. Everyone should be happy.

Dinner is at 6 pm, bring the wine.

That takes care of Christmas Eve, but what about Christmas day? How does this sound:

German Pancakes with Walnut Syrup (both recipes here) for breakfast and a Roast, Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Glazed Carrots for dinner (all those recipes are here and tips for perfect mashed potatoes are here).

How are your holiday plans coming along? Do you have a crowd coming? Share your favorite holiday recipes in the comments, I’d love to see what you prepare.

Now about those truffles. This was the first time I’d made them, though I’d thought about it for a while. How hard could it be? It’s basically ganache, right? That was very simple to make. The pain was making the actual truffles, a bit of work and very messy. But I think it was worth it and I’m sure the guests will enjoy them.

Truffles

Here’s the basic recipe, I then added pieces of walnut to the center of some, hazelnut to others and rolled them in either crushed walnut or hazelnut. The rest are rolled in either dark cocoa and powdered sugar. The powdered sugar kind of melted into them, so I’ll probably dust them quickly right before I serve them.

Chocolate Truffles

  • 1/2 pound good bittersweet chocolate (I use 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate)
  • 1/2 pound good semisweet chocolate
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp Grand Marnier, (optional)
  • 1 tbsp prepared coffee
  • 1/2 tsp good vanilla extract
  • Powdered sugar
  • Cocoa powder (I used dark)
  • Nuts, whole and finely chopped (optional)

baking sheet, parchment paper

Heat the cream in a double boiler until it’s hot, not boiling, and then add chocolate chips. Whisk together until fully melted, then remove from heat.  Whisk in the optional Grand Marnier, coffee, and vanilla. Set aside at room temperature for 1 hour.

Spoon a dollop of the chocolate mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, until firm. Roll each dollop of chocolate in your hands to roughly make a round ball. Roll in powdered’ sugar, cocoa powder, or both.

Makes about 48.

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

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