One Week Away . . .

C

Here we are one week until Christmas! How are YOU doing with your preparations (shopping/baking/wrapping/etc.)? Like my last post, I’m slowly ‘getting there’ – accidentally found the window ‘decals’ that I usually put on the bathroom mirrors and on the back door window – they were stuck to the underside of the Christmas placemats! Strange, but it made me happy – I’d been wondering where they went! ALMOST all of the decorating is done – the main Christmas tree stands in the livingroom awaiting it’s lights before being lifted onto the piano top. Yesterday found my dear husband patiently trying to figure out why only half of a strand of lights worked (the ones that used to be on the garland over the fireplace). He patiently worked at checking each individual light and socket, only to finally say: “Throw these out!” I told him we could just buy a new strand, but he’s diligent and frugal (at times), so he persevered. The new strand of lights is up on the fireplace, the garland & lights are on the secretary, lighted wreath in the window, ceramic lighted trees up – all that’s left is the main tree. Not sure, right now, just ‘when’ that will get done; husband just got home from an early morning trip to the car dealership to have our 2010 Dodge Ram van checked out – routine maintenance, then a quick trip to our appliance dealer to buy new plastic shelf supports for our over 30 yr old fridge. We have a Fridgidair – it’s been a real workhorse for us BUT there’s one manufacturing ‘FLAW’ – they made these flimsy plastic braces for the ‘in the door’ shelves; the braces/clips, whatever they call them have very THIN hooks that fit into the door – after approx. 2 yrs the plastic gets fragile and snaps – another trip to buy more. Each time we go to this place they can’t seem to find the part. My husband took down all the information and then ended up calling me: “Will you check the inside of the fridge for the model #?” I had it all written down for him, but . . . after his verifying the info. with the lady, she said: “We don’t have that # with an ‘H’ at the end!” Anyway, he just came home with two new braces – YAY! Now our ‘in the door’ “stuff” (ketchup, mustard, Miracle Whip, salad dressings, etc.) are back in their old places, not inter-mingled with all of the top shelf ‘stuff’ in the fridge! YAY! (Aren’t you glad you now know that? Didn’t that just enrich your day??? hehehe).

Hey, how about the GAS PRICES lately? Don’t know about your neck of the woods but here they are down to $3.17/9 a gallon for the lowest grade – WOW! Yesterday I was amazed when I saw $3.29, then later in the day it had dropped to $3.19 – husband said it’s $3.17 today! Hope it stays that way for the holidays – lots of people are traveling and that would really help them.

Food/recipes/baking, etc.: still haven’t managed to get any baking done BUT did figure out a shortcut for our mail lady. Sunday was my turn to bring Sunday School snacks – I’d gone to WalMart and found those little mini-frosted cupcakes and some nice fruit breads. When we got home Sunday afternoon, there were still LOTS of the cupcakes so I decided to wrap some up along with some mini gingerbread men and some mini candybars thrown in for fun. I try, every year, to leave some treats for our mail lady – she’s very nice and always seems so surprised to get them. (guess not many people think of their mail people – to me, they do a much needed service and deserve something!) Tomorrow is the ‘appointed’ day for grocery shopping – have on my list “Christmas Bread mixes” – so that’s not far off (those are for our neighbors – they seem to like getting ‘homemade’ breads each year.) Just got 3 ‘very ripe’ frozen bananas out of the freezer to make banana bread, just to have it on hand. With middle son not living here, foods don’t get eaten like they used to. (Sent about 12 mini cupcakes home with him the other day – I’m always looking for opportunities to ‘send food home’ with him – helps with leftovers, too!). Lots of holiday recipes coming – my job is just to post them for you!
=================================
Pumpkin Gingerbread


1 1/2 C. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 C. pumpkin puree*
1/2 C. butter, melted
1/2 C. dark brown sugar
1/2 C. molasses
1 T. finely minced candied or fresh ginger
(optional)
2 eggs, beaten
3 T. water
1/2 C. raisins (optional)

Preheat oven 350 degrees F.
Grease 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan with nonstick spray
or butter. In medium bowl, vigorously whisk flour,
salt, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon & nutmeg. In
another bowl, using a wooden spoon, mix together
pumpkin puree, melted butter, sugar, molasses,
fresh/candied ginger, eggs & water. Combine wet &
dry ingredients. Add raisins (if desired) Stir only to
incorporate. Pour batter into pan, bake 50-60
minutes (when wooden toothpick inserted into
center of loaf comes out clean). Remove from oven
let cool in pan 10 minutes. Gently run a knife around
edge of loaf, invert onto a wire rack; let cool 30
minutes or longer. The loaf’s flavor will improve
with time. If you cut it while it’s still warm, it may
be crumbly. Makes 1 loaf.

*To make pumpkin puree:
Using pieces of leftover pumpkin, roast or boil
pieces until tender, then remove skin. Smash
cooked pumpkin with a fork. If using whole
pumpkin, sugar pumpkins work best. Cut in
half, scoop out strings & seeds, bake pumpkin
halves 350 degrees F. on a foil-lined baking pan
until soft, about 45 minutes-60 minutes. When
cool, scoop out flesh & mash with a fork.

(recipe: Rhonda G-Marys Recipe Exchange)
————————————–
Chestnut Turkey Stuffing


2 lb. chestnuts
1 C. chicken broth
2 T. butter
1/4 tsp. sugar
salt & pepper
1/2 C. fresh bread crumbs
1 beaten egg

Slit chestnuts, bake or roast 20 minutes. Remove
both skins; place in a pan with the broth, using
only enough to cover them. Continue cooking
chestnuts until tender & almost dry, shaking to
prevent burning. Rub through a fine sieve; add
remaining ingredients & mix together.

(recipe: Rhonda G-Marys Recipe Exchange)
———————————————
Rum Balls


1 (6 oz) pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips (1 C.)
1/2 C. granulated sugar
1/3 C. rum
3 T. light corn syrup
2 C. crushed vanilla wafers (44)
1 C. ground walnuts
confectioners sugar (to roll balls in)

In a saucepan melt chocolate over low heat.
Stir in sugar, rum & corn syrup. Fold in wafers &
nuts. Shape into balls, using 2 T. of mixture for
each ball. Roll in confectioners sugar. Store in
an air-tight container for several days before
serving.

(recipe: Rhonda G-Marys Recipe Exchange)
————————————-
Gingered Squash & Apple Soup


3 T. vegetable oil or butter
2 celery stalks, chopped
6 scallions, white part only, chopped
1 T. grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground red pepper
1 large green apple (Granny Smith,
Pippen, etc) peeled, cored & diced
5 C. chicken stock
1 C. apple juice or cider
2 lb. (about 8 C.) peeled & diced
butternut squash
salt & pepper
1/2 C. chopped chives

Heat oil in large pot; cook celery & scallions
over medium heat, until soft, about 3 minutes.
Stir in both gingers, pepper & apple; cook until
fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add stock, apple
juice & squash. Bring to a boil over high heat.
Partially cover & simmer about 20 minutes or
until squash is very tender. Puree in blender or
food processor until smooth. (If consistency is
too thick, add water or stock). Taste for salt &
pepper. Serve, sprinkled with chives. Makes 8
servings.

(recipe: MomsMenu.com)
——————————————
Watergate Salad


1 (20 oz) can crushed pineapple in juice,
undrained
1 (3.4 oz) Jello Pistachio instant pudding mix
1 C. miniature marshmallows
1/2 C. chopped pecans
1 1/2 C. Cool Whip, thawed

Combine first 4 ingredients in large bowl,
stir in Cool Whip & refrigerate 1 hour.
Makes 8 servings, about 1/2 cup each

(recipe: Kraft foods)
————————————
Creamy Crab & Red Pepper Spread


2 green onions, thinly sliced, divided
1 (8 oz) tub cream cheese, softened
1 (6 oz) can lump crabmeat, drained
1/2 C. shredded Sharp Cheddar cheese
1 small red pepper, finely chopped
1 T. Dijon mustard
crackers

Reserve 2 T. onions. Mix remaining onions
with all remaining ingredients except
crackers. Refrigerate 1 hour. Top with
reserved onions & serve with crackers.
Makes 18 servings, 2 T. cheese spread &
5 crackers each.

(recipe: Kraft foods)
————————————–
5-Minute Fudge Ring

(READ RECIPE BEFORE MAKING,
TIME-SENSATIVE DIRECTIONS)


1 (12 oz) bag semisweet chocolate morsels
9 oz (3/4 of a 12 oz bag) butterscotch morsels
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 (8 oz) can walnut halves
1/2 C. currants
8 inch cake pan, lightly greased with
softened butter
Candied cherries, red & green, for garnish
(optional)

Place a heavy pot on stove, preheat over low
heat. Add chips & milk; stir until chips are
melted & milk combined. Save empty condensed
milk can. Stir in vanilla & remove fudge from heat.
Add nuts & currants, stir in immediately. Cover
empty condensed milk can with plastic food wrap,
center it in greased cake pan. Spoon fudge into pan
around can, making sure to recenter can if it drifts.
The fudge will set up ALMOST IMMEDIATELY. Garnish
can only be added in first minute or two the fudge
is in the pan, so work quickly. Decorate your wreath
with ‘holly’ made from cut candied red & green
cherries. You can also decorate the wreath with a
fabric bow when serving. Chill, covered, in
refrigerator and slice fudge very thin when ready
to serve – very rich fudge. Makes 2 lb./32 servings

(recipe: Food Network)
———————————————-
Triple Chocolate Fantasy Bars


1 (18 1/4 or 18 1/2 oz) pkg. chocolate cake mix
1/4 C. vegetable oil
1 egg
1 C. chopped nuts
1 (14 oz) can Eagle Brand CREAMY CHOCOLATE
sweetened condensed milk (NOT evap. milk)
1 (6 oz) pkg. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla
dash salt

Preheat oven 350 degrees F.
In large mixing bowl, combine cake mix,
oil & egg; beat on medium speed until
crumbly. Stir in nuts. Reserving 1 1/2 C.
crumb mixture, press remainder on bottom
of greased 9 X 13 baking pan. In small
saucepan, combine Eagle Brand with
remaining ingredients. Over medium heat,
cook & stir until chips melt; pour evenly
over prepared crust. Sprinkle reserved
crumb mixture evenly over top. Bake
25-30 minutes or until bubbly. Cool
thoroughly; cut into bars. Makes 24-36
bars.

(recipe: Mary Free-Mary’s Recipe Exchange)
—————————————-
Spicy Deviled Eggs


12 hard-cooked eggs, shells removed
1 packet Ranch salad dressing mix
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 T. sweet pickle relish
1/4 C. mayonnaise
1/4 C. Ranch salad dressing
1 tsp. yellow mustard
paprika, for dusting

Slice eggs in half lengthwise. Carefully
scoop yolks into a bowl; mash with a
fork until they reach a grainy
consistency. Stir in salad dressing mix
then cayenne pepper. Add pickle relish;
mix well. Stir in mayonnaise, ranch salad
dressing & mustard. Pipe egg mixture into
the egg white halves using a pastry bag
OR a zip-top bag with a small corner
snipped off. Arrange on serving platter &
dust tops with paprika. Chill, covered,
until serving time. Makes 24 halves.

(recipe: Kroger)
———————————————-
Spinach Appetizers


1 pkg. frozen chopped spinach,
cooked, drained & cooled
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1/2 C. mayonnaise
1/3 C. Parmesan cheese
6 slices bacon, cooked crisp & crumbled
garlic powder, to taste
flour tortillas

Blend all ingredients well. Spread on
tortilla shells. Roll up & chill. Slice
about 1/2 inch thick & serve.

(recipe: Rhonda G-Marys
Recipe Exchange)
—————————–
Cheesy Bacon Chicken Breasts

4 skinless boneless chicken breasts
1 T. vegetable oil
1/4 C. barbecue sauce
2 T. prepared mustard
4 slices bacon, cooked until nearly crisp
2 C. shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven 350 degrees F.
Melt butter or margarine in large
skillet over medium-high heat. Add
chicken breasts; saute until just cooked,
don’t brown. Place chicken on a lined
cookie sheet. Spread a little barbecue
sauce, then mustard, evenly on top
of each breast. Arrange a bacon slice
on each breast, then cover all with
cheese. Bake 30 minutes or until
chicken is cooked through & juices
run clear.

(recipe: Mary Free-Marys Recipe
Exchange)
————————————
Honey Carrots with Toasted Almonds


1 lb. baby carrots
1/4 C. golden raisins (optional)
2 T. margarine
2 T. honey
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. ground ginger (optional)
1/4 C. sliced almonds, toasted

Steam carrots & raisins on stovetop
or in microwave until tender; drain.
Stir in margarine, honey, lemon juice
& ginger. Spoon into serving bowl &
sprinkle top with almonds. Serve hot.
Serves 4

(recipe: Unilever)
————————————–
Lemon-Basil Roasted Vegetables


3 T. margarine, melted
2 large zucchini and/or yellow squash,
chopped
2 large red bell peppers, chopped
1 small red onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
2 large tomatoes, seeded & chopped
1/4 C. loosely packed fresh basil
leaves, thinly sliced
1 T. lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Preheat oven 450 Degrees F.
Toss margarine, zucchini, red
peppers & red onion in shallow
roasting pan. Roast until vegetables
are tender, about 45 minutes. Toss
hot vegetables with garlic. Arrange
tomatoes, basil, lemon juice, lemon
peel & black pepper in large bowl.
Combine roasted vegetables with
tomatoes. Serve warm, room
temperature or chilled. Serves 6

(recipe: Unilever)
————————————
Mashed Potato Layer Bake


3 1/4 lb. baking potatoes (about 9), peeled
chopped & cooked
1/2 lb. sweet potatoes (about 1 large),
peeled, chopped & cooked
1 (8 oz) tub Philadelphia Chive & Onion
cream cheese spread
1/2 c. sour cream
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 C. shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 C. (Kraft) shredded Triple Cheddar
Cheese with a touch of Philadelphia

Preheat oven 375 degrees F.
Place potatoes in separate bowls. Add half each
of cream cheese spread, sour cream & pepper to
each bowl; mash until potatoes are creamy. Stir
half of Parmesan into white potatoes, then stir
half of Cheddar into sweet potatoes. Layer half
each of potatoes in 2 qt clear casserole dish;
repeat layers. Bake 15 minutes; top with
remaining cheeses, bake 5 minute or until
melted. Makes 14 servings (1/2 C. each)

NOTE: Can be made ahead; Do not add cheese
topping. Refrigerate casserole & cheese topping
separately up to 3 days. When ready to serve,
bake casserole, uncovered, as directed, increasing
baking time as needed until casserole is heated
through. Top with remaining cheeses & continue
as directed.

(recipe: Kraft foods)
—————————————–
Slow-Cooker Chunky Chicken Chili


1 (15 oz) can dark red kidney beans,
rinsed
1 (15 oz) can light red kidney beans,
rinsed
1 1/2 C. thick & chunky salsa
1 (16 oz) can tomato sauce
2 T. chili powder
1 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs,
cut into bite-sized pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 C. frozen corn
1 C. (Kraft) Mexican-style finely shredded
Four cheese

Combine beans, salsa, tomato sauce & chili powder
in slow cooker. Top with chicken, onions & corn.
DO not stir. Cover & cook, on LOW 6-8 hours,
or High 4-5 hours. Stir just before serving. Serve,
topped with cheese. Makes 8
(1 C. each) servings

(recipe: Kraft foods)
————————————
Caramel Apple Bites
Filling:
1/3 C. finely chopped unpeeled apple
1/3 C. evaporated milk
1/3 C. sugar
1/3 C. chopped walnuts

Dough:
1/2 C. butter, softened
1/4 C. confectioner’s sugar
1/4 C. packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. salt
2 C. flour

Topping:
1 (14 oz) pkg. caramels
2/3 C. evaporated milk
wooden toothpicks
1 C. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven 350 degrees F.
In small saucepan, combine filling
ingredients. Cook & stir over medium
heat until thickened; set aside to cool.

In large bowl, cream butter & sugars until
light & fluffy. Beat in egg, then vanilla.
Combine flour & salt; gradually add to
creamed mixture; mix well.

Shape dough into 1 in. balls; flatten &
place 1/4 tsp. filling in center of each. Fold
dough over filling, reshape into balls. Place
1 inch apart on greased baking sheets.
Bake 12-15 minutes or until lightly
browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.

In small saucepan over Low heat, cook
caramels & evaporated milk until
caramels are melted; stir until smooth.
Insert a toothpick into each cookie & dip
into caramel until completely coated;
allow excess to drip off. Dip bottoms into
chopped nuts; place on wire racks to set.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

(recipe: Sandy-Marys Recipe Exchange)
=========================

Well, dears, that’s the news for today. I’m finding I’m posting LOTS of sweets recipes and not so many savory recipes, but that’s just what’s ‘coming down the Pike’, so to speak. Health-wise I’m doing good/well-was almost expecting today to be a day of tired (lots of down on the floor sitting Indian-style, on my hands & knees under the baby grand piano, etc.) – lots of movement, but surprisingly, I’m doing GREAT! Tonight’s the Knit group Christmas gathering so I’m trying to ‘lay low’ on the extra activities, just so I have enough energy for that. Been knitting baby hats in between doing all the decorating; it helps me relax and recoup my strengths.

Stay healthy – enjoy the days ahead!

Hugs;

Pammie

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