Thursday, December 27, 2012

Glad Tidings of Joy

Throughout my adult life Christmas has always been such an enjoyable time of year, but honestly, the past thirteen Christmases filled with the joy of little people that have made all the difference. Their excitement and giggles, their enthusiasm as they tear open the gifts, the HUGE mess they leave of wrapping paper, ribbons and empty boxes. The spirit of Christmas is found in their laughter without a doubt. We enjoyed a relaxing day with family, good eats and a warm fire on our rainy Christmas Day 2012.  Here's a peek at what our day held....

Santa? You up there?


Who would have thought such a tiny toy could bring so many hours of joy?
Have I mentioned how much I love my china?

Butter molded to compliment the china pattern...


Yes, we roasted chestnuts on an open fire - we really get into the spirit of things around here.
And finally, finishing our day with hot cocoa and snuggles...perfect.

Wishing you and yours a fresh, rested start to the New Year!
Many Blessings,

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Way to Anyone's Heart

One of the best parts of Christmas is gift-giving. And, one of my favorite things to give is food! I'm not a caterer of fine food a or maker of fabulous cakes like the Goddess, but I do enjoy making yummy and pretty food. When Christmas rolls around each year, I get excited about making treats for the special people in our life. 

The popular phrase is, "the way to a man's heart is through his stomach." But I contend that food lovingly prepared and given as a gift is special to anyone (not just men). Here are a few of the items I made and gave this year.

I can't think of any better combination than chocolate and peanut butter! I have always loved Buckeyes, and now I have discovered that I can have that same great taste with half the time and effort. For the recipe follow this link.

For several years, I have been making the Pioneer Woman's amaaaazing cinnamon rolls. Her recipe is extremely decadent. The rolls are yummy and unhealthy and yummy and full of butter and yummy! When the Pioneer Woman recently posted a recipe that converted her cinnamon roll dough into Pull-Apart Bread, I couldn't wait to make it. I was not disappointed! In fact, I'm pretty sure I will make them this way from now on.

I'm not sure where this candy got its name, but I suppose it is because it is hard to say no to the second and third (or fourth or fifth) piece of it. This is homemade toffee and chocolate. Go on over to this blog post and check it out. I found this recipe on Pinterest, but I plan to peruse the whole fabulous looking blog soon!

This treat is often called Peppermint Popcorn Bark. But when I make it, I use less of the almond bark. This ensures that the snack is like a flavored popcorn, rather than a candy bar. It is a special treat and looks mighty cute packaged in storage bags and cardstock (a trick I learned here). For the recipe for Peppermint Popcorn, visit the Plain Chicken.

Need more ideas? Come see me on my recipe blog, Family Favorites. I recently posted some other food gift ideas.

Need still more ideas? You can look at the links I have posted on my Holiday Cooking board.

Happy cooking, y'all! Happy gifting! and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

If You Haven't Got Your Health...

If you've ever watched the movie, "The Princess Bride" (and really, who hasn't?) then you most likely remember the scene near the end where the tortuous doctor is working to heal the hero before continuing agonize him. The doctor says to Wesley, "If you haven't got your health, you haven't got anything". Truer words have never been spoken. I manage my health really well...when I'm pregnant. And as most of you know, I have not been pregnant for almost two years now and that means that I have been putting my own health on the back burner, taking for granted my natural level of high-energy and tapping that well so frequently that eventually it nearly drained. Oops. A few weeks ago, after realizing that I had struggled with one virus or another for a steady three months, I decided it was time to reinstate an old habit. Vitamins and smoothies. The Music Man and I have been avid believers in Shaklee vitamins for 16+ years.  While I took them religiously during the first few years of our marriage, I have had a difficult time of late remembering to take them. Throw in my recent pregnancies - popping out two more children in two years - and add to all of this the fact that these two toddlers began pre-school this year and encountered a whole new set of germs which they promptly brought home to share and, well....hence the 3-month journey through sick-ville. Drastic times call for drastic measures and it was time to reinstate supplements and vitamin packed beverages. The below recipe for my breakfast smoothie is packed with vitamins, fiber, protein and naturally sweetened with agave nectar. It's my new fave. Yes, it's green and looks gross, but it's so good for you and tastes great, I promise!

I start by layering frozen fruit (pictured are peaches, pineapple and strawberry, but I most often use straight strawberries as the frozen fruit) followed by 3 cups of spinach, 1/2 cup greek yogurt, a whole banana and a hefty squirt of agave nectar - about 2-3 Tbs. Add a little liquid to your smoothie to get it going, I usually use about 1/4 - 1/2 cup orange juice or water.

Puree until smooth - the above portions make enough to fill my 32 oz. tumbler with lid and straw which I tote around with me all morning, slurping down the deliciousness.

The second factor in my nutritional overhaul is the vitamins. They make a huge difference in my day and energy level. They truly are my secret weapon. My husband and I have been reps for Shaklee vitamins for over 10 years as they are the only supplements we use for our family. (If you are interested in learning more about their products or how to order wholesale, you can email me at: I am particularly fond of the vita-strips which come in pre-portioned strips that I tear off daily. You can see below just how many vitamins are included in each daily strip. Shaklee guarantees that you will feel better within 30 days or your money back. I began to feel better and restore my energy after just one week. My day often does not go as planned, but these vitamins (and my morning coffee) are a consistent must-have. I can't say enough great things about them. 
May you and yours enjoy your brightest, healthiest Holiday Season this year and always!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

'Tis the Season!

The countdown is on - Christmas is coming and that means the next few weeks will be filled with holiday parties. Maybe a few cookie exchanges and perhaps a bit of stress. Whether you have one such sweet treat exchange to attend or need a bit of sugar to calm your stress, these perfectly nutty cookies are sure to fit the bill. 
When I was young, elementary age, I lived next door to a very sweet couple. We were close - so close that I called them "Aunt" and "Uncle" despite being of no blood relation. I lived in Oklahoma and my extended family lived in Ohio and these sweet neighbors filled the absence of nearby relatives. I learned so many things from them - how to sheer sheep, milk cows, butcher a chicken and even helped a cow give birth to her calf. Clearly, this was a rural community. Every June I made peanut butter cookies for my stand-in "uncle" on his birthday - they were his favorite cookie and to this day I rarely make these without thinking about him. He was a kind, gentle, soft-spoken, patient man - completely the opposite so many men in my life at that time and I will be eternally thankful for his mild and considerate example. I was pregnant with my second child when he passed - I am certain that he is sitting at the feet of Jesus. I hope they have peanut butter cookies there.
Classic Peanut Butter Cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup peanut butter chips
Cream together butter, peanut butter and sugars. Beat in eggs. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking pwder, baking soda, and salt. Stir into batter. Add peanut butter chips and stir by hand to combine. Refrigerate batter until set - at least 30 minutes - can keep in an airtight container for one week and bake a few at a time for a wam after shcool snack.
Roll into 1-inch ball and put on baking sheets. Flatten each ball with a fork, making a criss-cross pattern. Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until cookies begin to brown.