Saturday, December 8, 2012

Christmas Tips, Tricks & Recipes to Ease Holiday Stress



My Daughter, Deb, did an 'interview' with me about 4 years ago to share at her blog A Latte with the Queen Mommy ...I still use these tools to keep me sane through the holiday rush!  Hope you find some of these helpful for you too. 
Q: How do you prepare for your holiday activities?  What tools do you use to stay on top of everything?

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

Pocket File Folder. I keep a pocket file folder in my recipe drawer marked “Holidays” and put my favorite recipes there.  That way 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 your local dollar stor) 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 and grab it at a moment’s notice.

Christmas Card Record. I keep a Christmas Card record book from year to year so 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?

Since I try to make every minute count –  I keep things written out and just get up and do something while a commercial comes on TV or I find a few free moments, and I always make myself lists so I don't have to remember what I need to do next.

One thing I do CONSISTENTLY to keep things moving along in the kitchen, is keep hot sudsy water in the sink all the time I’m working there.  I can wash new dirty 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.

I often reprioritize throughout the 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?
Handmade gifts require some of your own personal time and effort.  They can show someone you care – even if you use an assembly line process to get things done.  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.


White Christmas Mix (Page 150 in my cookbook=) is a very yummy, easy and 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 and festive.”

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…

Fruited Oatmeal Mix (page 148) is a nice gift to give (the elderly love this too) – 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 products, and a large shelf in a closet to store my gifts, 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.
  
When we organize our minds, we allow our hearts to stay focused 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.

**RECIPES** (Great for Gift Giving)


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.Even using plain ziploc bags, decorated with curly ribbons is “fun and festive.”


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.

This can be a very healthy gift – I used splenda, splenda brown sugar, and reduced sodium salt….Delicious!