Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to All.
I am feeling truly blessed today.
We had a lovely dinner with my Mom last night. She gave me this Beautiful Christmas ornament. She has always inspired me at Christmas time. Her house is always beautifully decorated. And she loves a pretty tree.

She also made us Cinnamon Rolls.
There is not a recipe today. I have not mustered up the ambition to make rolls. Between my Mother and youngest sister, I am all good on rolls.
My Husband made me a lovely fire for Christmas.
My family is getting together later on today at my Moms. We are doing something different. Lasagna for dinner. No Beef or Ham. Breaking another tradition. We are slowly trying to simplify our Holiday traditions.
Some of us are bringing appetizers and some desserts. I am making a Chocolate Mint Cream Pie. A slice of Heaven. It is not made yet, but I will get motivated soon.
Merry Christmas to all and Enjoy your Day.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Double Chocolate Banana Bread

Merry almost Christmas. Today is our Christmas party at work. More pigging out.... I am going to explode. For the past two weeks there has been food at work. Just when you think you might run out of something, another vendor sends more food.

This is my Christmas tree. I just love Christmas trees.

This is a Frazier Fur that my Husband and I went out and cut down. My Husband's job is to bring it in the house and put it into the stand. The rest is mine. Last year we changed to LED cool white lights. The glow is so beautiful. There is over 800 lights on this tree. I love ornaments. Over the years, I have collected many different types of ornaments. Various colors and styles. I do not think I could have a tree with all the same color and size ornaments on it. Several years ago, I saw Peacock Feathers in the tops of trees at Marshall Fields. I hunted down Feathers and have been using them since.

This year I have decided to include my baking into some of my Christmas presents. Some of my coworkers will receive bags of Caramel Pop/Corn Puffs. I am also making mini loaves of Banana Bread for my neighbor ladies. They are also getting a few more items. I am so lucky to have wonderful neighbors. This recipe has been made before. It is absolutely heavenly. It is a moist intense flavored banana bread. It almost tastes like a Chocolate Cake with Banana undertones. And YES, another way to make banana bread. Who would have thought. Banana Bread for Christmas, yummy.

Double Chocolate Banana Bread
slightly adapted from Beckybakes.net

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter - room temp
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
3 riped bananas
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray or butter a 9 x 5 loaf pan or 4 mini loaf pans and place on a baking sheet.

Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder and baking soda. set aside

Using a large bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter at medium speed for a minute until soft. Add both sugars and beat for two more minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each egg. Reduce speed to low on mixer and add in bananas and mix. Add the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing until they disappear. Still on low, add the buttermilk, mixing until just incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips. Scrape batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 30 minutes. Cover bread loosely with a foil tent to keep the top from getting to dark. Continue to bake for another 40 - 45 minutes. (total baking time is between 70 and 75 minutes. Test with a toothpick into the center for fine crumbs. Transfer pan to a rack to cool for 20 minutes. Once cooled, invent onto plate.

Rich, Dark Chocolate flavor

Such a beautiful color. It looks great on a plate and definitely taste great.

Black Cherry playing with my Christmas decorations
Wishing everyone a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Projects

The weeks just keep flying away.... Where has the time gone? Every year, I always want to be better organized and not freak out. NEXT Tuesday is Christmas. My Christmas shopping is close to being done. A few gift certificates to complete some presents.

There has been no holiday baking. Not really sure when that will happen... At least I am off on Christmas eve. I have a whole day to finish up.

For almost twenty years, I have been sending out my own handmade stamped and embossed Christmas cards. It is a huge project, but I really like doing it. It takes a tremendous amount of time, and no matter how early I start, it always takes longer than I anticipate. And this year was no different.

A Snowman with Cardinals is the theme of this years' card. Very special people in my life receive cards.

This card started with Plain white card stock. A layer of Green, a layer of Red and then the actual Stamped card. Then all of the coloring. I also used some glitter glue for the Snowman's buttons. The layering of paper gives the card some weight. 

This inside of this card was very simple. There was also layering of different size paper. Some coloring of the cardinals. Just a signature and I was done. TIMES 75 cards. Yikes...

This was another project that I tackled this year. All over Pinterest  there were tomato cages with lights and some green garland. I started out that way, and realized that was just not enough for me. So off to the Dollar store  I went and found two $10.00 four foot trees. Shoved them up the middle of the tomato cages and I was in business. Shatterproof ornaments were inexpensive and some pics and I was done. I had a few pieces of burlap left over from my place mats, covered the base, viola. Done.

We drilled small holes into the container, used zip ties and attached the cages to the container.

They look great from the street. We put some sand in the bottom of the container for weight.

For many years, I have purchased real evergreen wreaths. They smell fabulous and look great. But in January the wreaths were dead and all the decorations need to be removed. So this year I purchased plain artificial wreaths and decorated them. I used some of my existing decorations and added a few more to match with all of my new stuff. And when January comes, they will go into a bag and into the attic.

We used different colored light bulbs to reflect differently off of the wreaths.

The Christmas Trees sit right below the wreaths. Together they add a color punch to my driveway.

Also on Pinterest, I saw all of these beautiful garlands for front entry ways. I had to do it. I was not sure how it would hang, but in my mind, that would be solved. That was my Husbands job....

Several years ago, I made a lighted garland for staircase near my front door. Very pretty and made such a grand entrance when you walked into my house. The first Christmas we had Apple Jax (CAT), she was very destructive to the garland. She found it to be the best play toy in the world. All night long she would 
pick and play. The next Christmas, the garland did not go up.

I measured the garland, decided to purchase two piece of plain greenery and go from there. I had some artificial poinsettia's on hand, and purchased more shatterproof ornaments. The garland and the greenery wrapped together. Using florist wire to attach all of the ornaments. I recycle my old garland and made it absolutely beautiful. We used the clips to hold the lights to the gutters and attached the garland with zip ties. The garland going down the newel post was also attached with zip ties. Very secure.

I also made the baskets with the left over burlap and the extra ornaments. 

With the exception of the cards, all of these projects will be able to be used next year.
It was a lot of work, but I really enjoy the Holidays and dressing up my House.

I will definitely take a picture of my tree. It is absolutely beautiful this year.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sunflower Seed Cookies

Today is my youngest sister's birthday. I still remember the day she was born. It was an exceptionally warm December day. I was ten years old and already had two sisters. We were so happy to add another girl to our group. My sister change the dynamics of our family. There had been seven years since a child was born, so this new sister made for a new "baby" in our family. My parents had taken many pictures of me when I was a baby, being the oldest. The next two girls some pictures, but this new baby. LOADS of pictures. I am not sharing any bad pictures today. (upside down picture in an early posting provides that)

Yesterday, I was talking to my Mom about dinner for my sister's birthday. My mother was looking for a specific cookie recipe. I do not think she found it. BUT, she came across this recipe for Sunflower Seed Cookies. She rattled off the recipe, and I went home last night and made cookies. These are fabulous. I could eat the whole container. My Mother's aunt Hilda gave her the recipe many years ago. Hilda is from George, Iowa and she can also be found in the Hope Reformed Church cookbook. I am sending her a thank you note for this wonderful recipe. We really should have made these sooner.

These are a fabulous tea cookie. Not to sweet, just enough salt from the sunflower seeds. A perfect blend of ingredients that just melt in your mouth.

Sunflower Seed Cookies
adapted from Hilda Hilbrands

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup oil
2 cups white sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 1/2 - 4 cups flour
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 cup roasted sunflower seeds.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper. Set aside

In a large bowl of a stand mixer, combine the butter, oil and sugar. Cream together until smooth.
Add eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.
Add in baking powder, baking soda, and flour, gently mix in.
Fold in coconut and sunflower seeds until incorporated.
Using your cookie scoop, place dough on baking sheets and cook for 8 - 10 minutes. The edges should be just starting to turn brown.

just the perfect color. Brown on the edges.

Happy Birthday to my youngest sister on her National Holiday
and thank you to my Great Aunt Hilda for a fabulous cookie recipe. 

Sadly, these will be gone soon. A package shipped off to Colorado for my Stepson.
Some for my sister and her Birthday Holiday, and the rest to a few special friends.
I love sharing good cookies. Bringing Smiles