Friday, December 9, 2016

BLOGMAS 2016 ~ DAY 9/10 ~ DECORATIONS & TREES

How I decorate each year changes based on my mood, weather, etc... so it will never be the same twice! EXCEPT for the 1st picture the other pictures are Christmases past.  The remodel is almost done and at least we have a FULL tree this year.  As for us we PREFER real trees, but this year a real tree was going to coast an arm and a leg and be a long drive away.  We decided with the remodel this year to break down and buy an artificial tree.  SHHH don't tell hubby, but I really love this tree. Next year we'll have a real tree again.  We figure we actually saved money and can donate the tree to the women's shelter too.
This is actually the back of the tree, but it was the only way I could get a picture of the whole tree with the star.
Snowman Family then
Snowman Family now

We made the candle yule logs for Advent craft night at church one year and they were a HUGE success and soooooooo easy to do.

These are a few of my new favorites.
My cousin that passed away in 2014 made this ornament for me.  From now it will always be hung by my shooting stars in her honor. That is after I get done being mad at her for leaving me this mess to deal with.
And our new handmade ornament by the Design Chick.  I can show you this now that both DIL's have received theirs in the mail.
And of course the Christmas cacti decorate themselves.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

BLOGMAS 2016 ~ DAY 8 ~ FAVORITE FAMILY CHRISTMAS RECIPE

I've been looking forward to this day! I have many many recipes, but these are the closest to my heart. Grab a cup of my SIL's homemade hot chocolate and homemade marshmallows and join me while we chat.

There are 3 recipes that come to mind here.  The first is my OATNUT SOURDOUGH HERB DRESSING, a recreation of my dad's cornbread dressing.

Several years ago my brother asked me to try and reproduce the recipe as a scratch recipe and VOILA', I did it! This wasn't easy since daddy started with a box of Mrs. Cubbinson's cornbread dressing cubes and then started winging it from there.

OATNUT SOURDOUGH HERB DRESSING
10 slices Brownberry or Oroweat OATNUT bread, cut into bite size chunks
1/2 loaf sourdough French bread, cut into bite size chunks
1 large sweet onion, chopped fine
1 small bunch celery (leaves and all), chopped fine
1/2 bag baby carrots, chopped fine
1 box mushrooms, chopped fine
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon white pepper
2 sticks unsalted butter
4 cups hot water
2 tablespoons Better than Bouillon Chicken base
2 tablespoons Buttery Herb & Garlic Mix (I believe McCormick makes it)
4 teaspoons minced garlic, Jar

  • Cut bread into bite sized chunks and spread out in a thin layer over cookie sheets.
  • Bake at 200 degrees for 3-4 hours until pieces are actually hard.
  • Chop all the vegetables.
  • In a large cast iron pan melt 1/4 cup of the butter.
  • Add the onions and saute until translucent. The add the celery and carrots and continue sauteing until crisp tender. Add the garlic last as it will burn first.
  • Whisk together the water, better than bouillon chicken base and all of the seasonings.
  • Add the melted butter.
  • In a large pan toss the bread slices together.
  • Add the sauteed vegetables and toss again.
  • Add the liquid mixture and toss again until well absorbed.
  • Fold entire mixture into at least a 9x13 baking dish.
  • Bake uncovered 1 hour.
  • At this point I use a small portion for our dinner that night and freeze the rest.
  • When it's time to cook it again, I defrost it, put it back in the same baking dish and bake it again, but this time covered with foil until the last 15 minutes so it doesn't dry out. We like it crisp on top so I remove the foil the last 15 minutes.
The second is crazy aunt Lousie's Corn Flake Wreaths.

My great aunt who I only got to see a couple times a year used to make these every year special for me.  My cousins and I would wait out on the front steps for her arrive just to see them, the wreaths that is. She always made them soooooooooo pretty and perfect!  Aunt Louise was just plain crazy it seemed to me.  I can't pinpoint any one thing that made me think that, but as the years wore she continually proved it.  Let's just say if the made a movie of her life, Shirley MacLaine would play her part.  Aunt Louise reminds me of Shirley's character Ouiser Boudreaux in Steel Magnolias.

HOLIDAY WREATHS
(these are better when they are made a few days ahead)
30 large marshmallows (or 1 jar marshmallow cream)
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoon green food color
3 1/2 cups cornflakes
Red Hots
  • Combine marshmallows, butter, vanilla and food color in top of double boiler. Heat and stir frequently until well blended.
  • Gradually stir in cornflakes until well blended.
  • Drop onto wax paper and arrange into wreath shapes. I plop them onto the wax paper and then push out from the center to form the wreaths.
  • Decorate with red hots.
  • Let cool.
  • If your house is warm - chill in refrigerator until set.
The third is a fairly recent one for my Marinated Prime Rib.
MARINATED and SEASONED PRIME RIB
5 pound boneless beef rib roast
3/4 cup Mad Housewife Merlot wine
1 small Vidalia onion, sliced thin
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Avocado oil
*2 tablespoons  Savory Spice Shop Hidden Cove Lemon Garlic Blend
*2 tablespoons  Penzey's English Prime Rib Rub 
*1 teaspoon  Penzey's OR Savory Spice Shop's Horseradish powder
  • Whisk together the wine, water and Worcestershire sauce.
  • Place roast in a large plastic bag that has been placed in a shallow baking dish.
  • Pour marinade over roast and seal bag.
  • Marinate 6-8 hours, turning bag occasionally.
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Place sliced onions in bottom of roaster.
  • Drain roast and discard marinade.
  • Rub roast generously with the avocado oil. Let roast sit on drainboard a moment to allow excess oil to drain off.  At this point wash your hands to remove the excess oil also so the rub will go on better.
  • Stir together the Hidden Cove Lemon Garlic Blend, English Prime Rib Rub and the horseradish powder until well mixed.
  • Sprinkle rub mixture over roast until well coated all the way around.
  • Place roast, fat side up on onion slices.
  • Insert oven thermometer.
  • Roast until desired doneness (we like medium rare which was 135 degrees and about 2 1/4 hours), but no more!
  • Transfer roast to cutting board and immediately tent with foil for 20 minutes before carving. This is the resting phase and mandatory to the perfect prime rib. During this phase your roast will raise another 10 degrees. 
*If you want a thicker rub add more spices making sure to keep these proportions.
DO NOT SKIP THE RESTING PHASE!!
This is for one of my go to neighbor plate recipes:
CARAMEL BUTTERSCOTCH FUDGE
1 1/4 cup milk chocolate chips
1 1/4 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup Kraft caramel bits
1 can Eagle-Brand sweetened condensed milk
1/3 cup Fisher's Cinnamon Pecans

  • Line a 9x9 pan with heavy duty foil leaving enough foil overhanging the edges to use as handle to lift the foil out of the pan after the fudge has set.
  • Using a double boiler over medium heat melt the chips, caramel bits and condensed milk together until smooth.
  • Immediately pour into the foil lined pan.
  • Top with pecans using a piece of wax paper to press the pecans slightly into the fudge.
This is Cinnamon Roll day too - YUMMY! One of my favorite days of the year.  The recipe originally came from one of my favorite aunts who taught me a lot about art, cooking and just plain being creative.  I have made a few minor updates to suit our tastes, but this recipe was ALL her and a secret that my cousin and I kept until the day she died.

ROLLS OF SHARON aka CINNAMON RAISIN BUNS
ROLLS
2 packages Fleischman’s Rapid Rise Yeast
1/2 cup + 2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 cup WARM water
1 cup scalded milk (2 minutes in the microwave)
1/2 cup Crisco stick
5 cups flour, divided
2 large eggs, well beaten
1 teaspoon salt
  • In a small bowl combine the warm water, 2 teaspoons of sugar and both packages of yeast until well blended. Set aside.
  • In a mixing bowl combine the scalded milk, Crisco stick, 1/2 cup sugar and salt. Blend well.
  • Add yeast mixture and blend well.
  • Add the well beaten eggs and half the flour. Mix until well blended.
  • Add the remaining flour (a little more if too sticky) and mix well until dough leaves the sides of the bowl and is elastic.
  • With vegetable oil, wipe the inside of another bowl.
  • Place dough in bowl and turn once.
  • Cover with wax paper and a towel.
  • Let rest in a warm place until double in size.
  • Punch down and divide into 2 balls.
  • Put one on the pastry board and one back in the bowl.
  • Let rest 10 minutes.
  • While resting prepare the filling ingredients.
  • Roll the dough to 1/8 inch thickness in a rectangle about 18×24 inches.
  • Spread half the melted butter over the dough and sprinkle with half the cinnamon sugar.
  • Spread half the raisins over that.
  • Roll tightly jelly roll style and cut into 18 rolls.
  • Place rolls in greased pans 1/4 to 1/2 inches apart.
  • Cover with wax paper and a towel.
  • Let rise again until double in size.
  • Bake 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees.
  • While baking prepare the icing.
  • When rolls come out the oven, put globs of icing on each one. Return to the oven for a minute or two to melt icing all over the rolls.
FILLING
1 stick melted butter
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon Pumpkin pie spice
1 cup golden raisins
  • Whisk together the sugar and cinnamon until well blended.
ICING
1 stick butter, softened
3 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon powdered vanilla
4-6 tablespoons milk
  • Mix all together until smooth.
When re-heating rolls, put a pad of butter on top of roll before microwaving.
These freeze really well.

MARINATED and SEASONED PRIME RIB

My mom and stepdad will be here tomorrow and we are doing the first of 3 Christmas dinners on Saturday.  This will be the most elaborate of the 3 since it is for the most people and my stepdad specifically asked for prime rib.  I went grocery shopping today to one of my very favorite markets and made my menu around their offerings.

Central Market has the most awesome butchers.  I was going to make my life easy and buy a boneless prime rib, but they didn't have any the right size so I bought a bone in and the sweet man cut the bones off for me and then tied them back on so we will have AWESOME flavor AND the ease of boneless with a BONUS of the bones for a GREAT stew too.
PLUS this market has some great deals and fun new things to try. There was a demonstrator for these salad dressings and I was really hungry so I tried the salad they were offering and it was really good!  I picked up a couple bottles of two different flavors and put them in my cart.  As I began to leave she called out to me not to forget my free items.  Yep, EVERYTHING besides the 2 bottles of dressings was FREE! A retail value of $26.
This is my go to recipe for prime rib.  It never fails!   
MARINATED and SEASONED PRIME RIB
5 pound boneless beef rib roast
3/4 cup Mad Housewife Merlot wine or Velvet Devil Merlot
1 small Vidalia onion, sliced thin
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Avocado oil
*2 tablespoons  Savory Spice Shop Hidden Cove Lemon Garlic Blend
*2 tablespoons  Penzey's English Prime Rib Rub 
*1 teaspoon  Penzey's OR Savory Spice Shop's Horseradish powder

  • Whisk together the wine, water and Worcestershire sauce.
  • Place roast in a large plastic bag that has been placed in a shallow baking dish.
  • Pour marinade over roast and seal bag.
  • Marinate 6-8 hours, turning bag occasionally.
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Place sliced onions in bottom of roaster.
  • Drain roast and discard marinade.
  • Rub roast generously with the avocado oil. Let roast sit on drainboard a moment to allow excess oil to drain off.  At this point wash your hands to remove the excess oil also so the rub will go on better.
  • Stir together the Hidden Cove Lemon Garlic Blend, English Prime Rib Rub and the horseradish powder until well mixed.
  • Sprinkle rub mixture over roast until well coated all the way around.
  • Place roast, fat side up on onion slices.
  • Insert oven thermometer.
  • Roast until desired doneness (we like medium rare which was 135 degrees and about 2 1/4 hours), but no more!
  • Transfer roast to cutting board and immediately tent with foil for 20 minutes before carving. This is the resting phase and mandatory to the perfect prime rib. During this phase your roast will raise another 10 degrees. 
*If you want a thicker rub add more spices making sure to keep these proportions.
DO NOT SKIP THE RESTING PHASE!!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

BLOGMAS 2016 ~ DAY 7 ~ COOKIES & GOODIES TO BE BAKED

Now there is much debate over Gran's cranberry salad recipe, but one thing was for sure, she'd have to make a double batch, one for my mom and aunt and another for everyone else.  Now while I usually helped prepare the above recipe, I hated it!! One year she even decided the grapes needed to be peeled - need I say more?

I much prefer the recipe below.  Shhhh, don't tell anyone, but I've already eaten a whole batch by myself.  In my defense it was while I wasn't feeling good and had a sore throat.


HOLIDAY SALAD
1 package (3 ounces) cherry Jell-o
1 package (3 ounces) black cherry Jell-o
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 can (14 ounces) whole berry cranberry sauce
1 can (20 ounces) crushed pineapple, undrained
2 cups seedless green grapes, quartered
chopped pecans (optional)
  • Dissolve the jell-o in the boiling water in a large bowl.
  • Fold in the pineapple and cranberry sauce.
  • Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • Fold in grapes and pecans if desired. 
  • Refrigerate until firm.
Now on to the REALLY yummy stuff!
CHUNKY MONKEYS
3 cups crushed pretzels
1/2 cup sugar
scant 1 cup butter, melted
  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Line a 13x9 cake pan with heavy duty foil, leaving plenty on the edges to use as handles later.  This will make clean-up so much easier.
  • In a medium mixing bowl stir together the pretzels, sugar and melted butter until well blended.
  • Press the pretzel mixture evenly into the bottom of the cake pan.
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
11 ounce package caramel baking bits (or 14 ounce vanilla caramels, unwrapped)
2 cups honey roasted peanuts
  • In a medium saucepan melt butter over a medium heat.
  • Whisk in the whipping cream and brown sugar until sugar is dissolved.
  • Stir in caramel bits, stirring constantly until bits are melted and sauce is smooth.
  • Add in peanuts to coat well.
  • Immediately pour over pretzel layer, spreading evenly.
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter chips
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
3/4 cup Heath milk chocolate toffee bits
  • Scatter each of these over the caramel layer.
  • Bake 25-30 minutes or until edges are bubbling.
  • Cool in pan on a wire rack.
  • Lift foil edges to remove bars from pan.
  • Cut into bars.
  • Layer between wax paper in an airtight container.  I store them in the fridge, but the can also be frozen for 3 months.
BUTTERFINGER COOKIES
Ritz crackers
creamy peanut butter
almond bark
sprinkles
  • Spread peanut butter on ritz crackers and top with another cracker. 
  • Melt almond bark in the microwave. 
  • Dip each cookie in the almond bark and set onto wax paper to harden. 
  • If you're using sprinkles do so before the almond bark hardens.

My great aunt who I only got to see a couple times a year used to make these every year special for me.  My cousins and I would wait out on the front steps for her arrive just to see them, the wreaths that is. She always made them soooooooooo pretty and perfect!  Aunt Louise was just plain crazy it seemed to me.  I can't pinpoint any one thing that made me think that, but as the years wore she continually proved it.  Let's just say if the made a movie of her life, Shirley MacLaine would play her part.  Aunt Louise reminds me of Shirley's character Ouiser Boudreaux in Steel Magnolias.

CRAZY AUNT LOUISE'S HOLIDAY WREATHS
(these are better when they are made a few days ahead)
30 large marshmallows (or 1 jar marshmallow cream)
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoon green food color
3 1/2 cups cornflakes
Red Hots
  • Combine marshmallows, butter, vanilla and food color in top of double boiler. Heat and stir frequently until well blended.
  • Gradually stir in cornflakes until well blended.
  • Drop onto wax paper and arrange into wreath shapes. I plop them onto the wax paper and then push out from the center to form the wreaths.
  • Decorate with red hots.
  • Let cool.
  • If your house is warm - chill in refrigerator until set.
A few more favorites are:

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

BLOGMAS 2016 ~ DAY 6 ~ POT SIMMERS

When I read today's prompt for pot simmers I drew a complete blank and now feel really silly.  My go to was always oranges with cinnamon and cloves, but for several years now I have been using essential oils and wax melts.

Monday, December 5, 2016

HAPPY HOMEMAKER & MENU PLAN MONDAY 12-5-2016

I HOPE EVERYONE HAD A GREAT WEEK. I can't believe it's December! the 5th already no less.  Christmas is only 20 days away so time to kick it up into high gear!

Our weekend was rainy since last Thursday, but that worked in my favor as I had to put the house back together after the carpet installation, was starting to wrap gifts and do Christmas cards and we got the tree up too. We also had a great Christmas program at church last night. Our neighbor is in the choir and hand bells so it makes it even more personal.

On to our regularly scheduled Happy Homemaker Monday.
OUTSIDE MY WINDOW & THE WEATHER OUTSIDE
It is still dark, gray and rainy, but tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and then we get an arctic cold mass by Thursday which hubby and I will seriously enjoy.  We TRULY miss the cold weather and hope to be back in it by this time next year!

ON THE BREAKFAST PLATE
An english muffin with peanut butter and coffee.

AS I LOOK AROUND THE HOUSE
I'm  a bit frantic trying to get it done before Thursday!  There are still things everywhere and then there are also Christmas presents and wrappings everywhere as well as shipping boxes.

WEEKLY TO DO LIST & HOUSE PROJECTS
I have approximately 72 hours to finish my projects before we have to pick mom up at the airport.  It's going to be a BUSY week.

Monday
  • Start at the tire store as we had a sensor go off on the way home from church last night.
  • Errands.
  • Paint entry trim.
  • Paint hallway trim.
  • Paint kitchen trim.
Tuesday
  • Wrap gifts and finish packing shipping boxes.
  • Deal with garage flood areas.
  • LAUNDRY
Wednesday
  •  Central MARKET for groceries.  Our first Christmas dinner is Saturday.
Thursday 
  • CLEAN 
  • VACUUM
  • pick mom up at airport
Friday
  • APPLE store appt. for mom's computer
  • ??
Saturday
  • Christmas dinner
Sunday
  • ??
CURRENTLY READING & TELEVISION / DVR
  • BIG BANG THEORY
  • GILMORE GIRLS
  • WHEN CALLS THE HEART
  • PURE GENIUS
  • NCIS
  • BLUE BLOODS
  • THIS IS US
  • BULL
  • SCORPION
  • SUPERGIRL
  • CHICAGO MED, PD, FIRE
  • HEARTLAND
  • HEART OF DIXIE
  • STRANGER THINGS
  • LONGMIRE
  • Z-NATION
  • DESIGNATED SURVIVOR
  • MADAM SECRETARY
  • ONCE UPON A TIME 
  • CHESAPEAKE SHORES
  • ICE PILOTS
  • ETC....... I'm sure I forgot a few...
READING
MENU PLANS FOR THE WEEK

MONDAY
TUESDAY
WEDNESDAY
THURSDAY
FRIDAY
SATURDAY
SUNDAY
BREAKFAST
YOGURT & FRUIT
SCRAMBLED EGGS & CHEESE
FRUIT SMOOTHIE
YOGURT & FRUIT
MAPLE OATMEAL & RAISINS
??
??
LUNCH
FRUIT & CHEESE
SOUP & CRACKERS
SANDWICH
OUT
MEAT & CHEESE
LEFTOVERS
SANDWICHES
DINNER
CRUSTED ROMANO CHICKEN with BUFFALO POTATO PANCAKES
C.O.R.N.
OUT
CHRISTMAS DINNER with MOM - PRIME RIB, BAKED POTATOES, GLAZED CARROTS
C.O.R.N.
DESSERT





??

HEALTH & BEAUTY TIPS

HOMEMAKING/COOKING TIP
Before you know it it will be time for spring cleaning.  I thought I'd share quick one of the things I've Been doing this the past couple years and it has really helped me make decisions to get rid of those things just taking up space!  I don't use June per se' as my deadline, but I use October instead as I begin to ready the house for the holidays.
THINGS THAT ARE MAKING ME HAPPY
WE HAVE CARPETING!!!  WE HAVE A LIVING SPACE WE CAN  START TO ENJOY!!! We had stacked EVERYTHING in the dining room, and I do mean stacked.  I broke my back trying to get it all back together so we could move forward.
Everyone seems to be settling in well.  The table you see on the floor is in its normal place, but we took the legs off and stored them underneath and are using the table as a sturdy base for the Christmas tree.
One of the things I've been doing is using my old crates for storage (emergency water, misc. items, etc...) under the church pew and it really has helped.  Now that we have the carpeting I didn't want the crates to snag or tear the carpeting so I installed some furniture sliders permanently on the bottom and then used some of the moisture proof leftover carpet padding for the cushion on the inside.
FAVORITE PHOTO FROM THE CAMERA
MY Best Girl after her morning sponge bath.  She's on medication and requires a shower with a special shampoo every other day.  On the days she doesn't get a shower she gets a sponge bath with a different medication.  Poor thing ended up with a horrible infection from laying on the stupid slab floor.  We tried to keep her on throw rugs, but it was near impossible to watch her every move.  Fortunately we now have the carpeting so she will be more comfortable.  We have a wonderful vet and she is always so impressed at how old our animals are.  Both dogs are almost 15 - 3 years past their life expectancy and doing well considering.  The cat will be 19!
INSPIRATION

Be sure to link up with Sandra at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom for Happy homemaker Monday and with Laura at I'm an Organizing Junkie for Menu Plan Monday.

BLOGMAS 2016 ~ day 5 ~ PICTURES and MEMORIES of CHRISTMAS past

I can't actually get to the disks with pictures from some of our more favorite Christmases so will share these 2013 ones with you.  This was a great year as we actually had snow in Oregon. We loved living so close to the Christmas tree farm also.  Beautiful trees for reasonable costs unlike here.
 
The year had been VERY wet which is the normal, but an arctic storm blew in and all of a sudden everything turned white. This was our first snowstorm of the season, just before Christmas.
Hubby made this for me to wake up to in the back yard before the snow got too bad.
The house across the street usually looks horrible, but NOT when it's under a blanket of snow.
Unfortunately, being in a cul-de-sac, delivery tracks leave MANY tire tracks at this time of year to mar the beautiful snow cover.
Even Rudolph was shivering!
The first day after he storm was absolutely gorgeous though!
The duck pond behind the neighborhood was truly a work of art.
Obviously we hadn't gone anywhere - no tire tracks!
The fish ladder was like glass with the cold and ice.