Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Recipes, Tips, and Tricks - Oh my!

As the holidays approach this year, I'm reminded of an interview I gave to my daughter Deb, for her blog The Queen Mommy in 2008.  I thought I'd share that interview here with you - my readers.  Enjoy!

Q: How do you prepare for your holiday activities (calendar, lists, etc.)?

I make notes on a desk calendar for any activities going on from day to day, including cookie baking, cookie exchanges, Christmas concerts, etc.

I keep a pocket file folder in my recipe drawer - I have many - but one I have marked "Holidays". I keep my favorite recipes there so I don't have to dig through all my recipes to try to find a holiday favorite. I also use small photo albums (you know - the inexpensive ones from my local dollar store or walmart) and place recipes from newspaper/magazines in them, and mark each of them with the kind of recipes they contain. I have one marked "Cookies" that I refer to often. Others are 'desserts' '9" X 13" pan desserts' 'snacks and appetizers', etc. etc. I stand these little albums on end so I can easily see the one I'm looking for.

I keep a Christmas Card record book from year to year - that way I can make changes in addresses when needed ( I include the year of change also), and I keep track of to whom I send to, and receive from. Most record books are good for 5-8 years. I keep a list of gifts I give to friends and customers from year to year so I will vary the kitchen 'goodies' I share with them and don't repeat - unless it's one of their favorites, which I record, also.

Q: What shortcuts and time savers do you rely on during your holiday preparations?

As I mentioned previously, I keep a list of recipes written out for review & reference. I try to make every minute count - get up and do something while a commercial comes on TV, and I always make myself lists so I can think of what I need to do next.

One thing I do to keep things moving along in the kitchen, is to keep hot sudsy water in the sink all the time I'm working there, and wash dishes when I have a minute in between things. It helps keep the counter cleared and dishes can dry (use HOT water to rinse) and you can put them away when you have another few minutes.

Sometimes, we just have to prioritize. I do that often during this very busy month. And I have to consider what REALLY needs to be done first - usually, according to the day of the week it needs to be ready. We gotta 'keep the main thing, the main thing'....I always record comments on new recipes - 'excellent'....'rubbery' (just did that today with a sugar free cookie I tried =) If the recipe isn't in a book, and I'm not wild about it, I usually throw it away and keep trying new ones.

Q: What homemade gifts do you like to give? How do you package them?

White Christmas Mix is a really yummy, easy, pretty holiday gift to give. Giving it in the holiday printed zipper-seal bags is nice because you can see how pretty the mix is. Even plain ziploc bags, decorated with curly ribbons is 'fun.'

Pretzel Pretties are fun to make with kids, and make a LOT so giving them away by themselves or along with other goodies is nice. If you can keep from eating them all…

Fruited Oatmeal Mix is a nice gift to give – it’s warm and filling and is a healthier option, too! It can be bagged and tucked into a pretty tin or given in a pretty gift jar.

Q: How do you prepare for last minute party invitations or gift ideas?

I buy things (on sale) throughout the year - candles, books, calendars, Avon, & clearance items I come across. I have two file drawers in my desk with gifts in them, so I can look through and see if I can find anything 'fitting' for the person I desire it for. And I always have something edible made up - even if it's in the freezer.
**RECIPES**

WHITE CHRISTMAS MIX

1 lb. white chocolate (or vanilla almond bark)
Melt in double boiler or microwave according to directions

Mix together:
3 cups Rice Chex
3 cups Corn Chex (or combined - 6 cups crispix cereal)
3 cups Cheerios
2 cups mini pretzels
2 cups peanuts
1 lg. bag of M & M's - plain or peanut (optional) (We love using the holiday mix)

Pour white chocolate over everything and mix well. Let dry and place into gift containers.

PRETZEL PRETTIES

13 oz bag Rolos (or 6-7 rolls)
1 bag tiny twists pretzels
1 bag peanut M & M's - we like to use holiday colored ones

Line cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper. Lay out pretzels, place one unwrapped rolo on top of Pretzel. Bake at 300 for 5 -6 minutes or until chocolate becomes shiny.

Take out of oven, place M&M on each one, smashing down rolo. Let cool for 10 minutes, then place entire sheet in fridge or cold room to set for at least 1 hour. This is so great because you can make few or many at a time. A cookie sheet full will make 70-90 treats. May also top with pecan halves instead of M & M's.

FRUITED OATMEAL MIX

6 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped dried apples or dried banana chips or any dried diced fruit
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 tsps. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. salt

(Yield: 7 cups of mix/two batches - each makes 7 servings of oatmeal)

Directions to include with gift:

For each serving:
1/2 cup fruited oatmeal mix
3/4 cup water

In a deep microwave-safe bowl, combine mix and water. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 45 seconds; stir. Cook 20-30 seconds longer or until bubbly.  Let stand for 1 - 2 minutes.

A healthy gift - I use splenda, splenda brown sugar, and reduced sodium salt....Delicious!