Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Recipes, Tips & Tricks - Oh My!

First of all, I want to wish my dear daughter Deb a very happy birthday today.  How grateful I am that she made me a mommy.  She's such an inspiration in my life and I continue to learn much about life and faith from her. 


HAPPY BIRTHDAY SWEETHEART!  MY FIRST BABY!!!


A couple of years ago,  Deb - The Queen Mommy - interviewed me and shared the questions/answers on her blog.  I think this may have some ideas worthy of passing along to you - especially this time of the year.  Hope you find something to help you sllliiide through this very busy month. 

(We did this interview 2 years ago - before I had my cookbook published.  Now I have 300 of my most favorite recipes under one cover.  What a huge favor I did for myself without even realizing it!)

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 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 don't have to remember 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 other new ones.


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

I believe gifts from the heart are the very best kind - when we give part of ourselves....our time, the work of our hands and our thoughtfulness away.


(KEEP SCROLLING FOR RECIPES) 
(While a newspaper photographer was here earlier this week taking pictures to go along with my monthly newspaper food column, being published next week, I took a few pictures of my own...so fun to get my cookbook in this picture!)


Chocolate Pretzel Rings (page 152 in my cookbook)  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…

(My living room decorations this year - I love snowmen & penguins)

Fruited Oatmeal Mix (page 148) 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, and 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**
Let’s not forget to organize our heart and minds so that we keep the focus on the true meaning of each holiday.  Enjoy this special time with your family and friends because spending meaningful & quality time with your loved ones will mean so much more than any gift you give them.


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.


CHOCOLATE PRETZEL RINGS


13 oz bag Rolos (or about 7 single rolls)
1 bag tiny twists pretzels
1 bag peanut M & M’s – (again, those holiday ones add a special touch)

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, pushing down on rolo so it adheres to pretzel.  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 used splenda, splenda brown sugar, and reduced sodium salt….Delicious!






White Christmas Mix (Page 150 in my cookbook=) is a very 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.’