Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Just wanted to say Merry Christmas to everyone, and I hope you all have a wonderful holiday!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Peppermint Bark

Although I wish I had all the time in the world to bake for Christmas, truth is I have so much else to do that I can only fit in a few batches of cookies here and there. So it makes it so much easier when I can make something with only a few ingredients and have it taste like I worked on it all day. That is the case with this Peppermint Bark. It's from Martha Stewart. (What is up with me and her recipes lately I have no idea. I'm more a Paula Deen type.) The recipe calls for only three ingredients. I altered the original recipe a bit mainly because I needed more bark than the recipe called for. This would make a perfect gift for friends, neighbors and kid's teachers. Just be sure to save a little for yourself!

Peppermint Bark

3 pounds premium white chocolate (I used the big block they sell at Sam's Club plus one bag of Nestle white chocolate chips)
12 large candy canes
3/4 tsp. peppermint oil

Line an 11x17 inch baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Chop the white chocolate into bite sized pieces. Place in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir chocolate until melted and smooth.

Place candy canes in a large storage bag. Using a rolling pin or kitchen mallet, pound the candy until it's less than 1/4 inch in size.

Stir the candy and peppermint oil into the melted chocolate. Remove from heat and pour the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread evenly.
Refregerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Break into pieces with a knife (you can use your hands but it gets messy). Store in an airtight container.

Peppermint Patty: [on the phone, to Marcy] Marcy, what book were we supposed to read during Thanksgiving Vacation?
Marcy: This is Christmas Vacation, Sir.
Peppermint Patty: Christmas Vacation? How can I read something during Christmas Vacation, when I didn't read what I was supposed to read during Thanksgiving Vacation?
Marcy: Duck, Sir. Easter is coming

-It's Christmas Time Again, Charlie Brown

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gifts In A Jar- Hot Chocolate Mix

I am running like a crazy person getting ready for Christmas, as I'm sure most of you are as well. I love this time of year, but it's also the most stressful! One of my biggest stressors is finding a way to give a meaningful gift to the numerous teachers and friends of my three young ones. This year, I thought I'd try hot chocolate mix. It was easy and very tasty (oh yeah, I tried a few cups myself. Just a few....). I have yet to have time to cover the tops with the cute Debbie Mumm fabric I found at JoAnn's today, so that'll be this weekends project. Maybe I can get those wonderful kiddies of mine to help!
Hot Chocolate Mix

1½ cups skim milk powder
1 cup white sugar
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa
¾ cup non-dairy creamer

Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir well. For a finer mix, combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and mix well. Add to small canning jars. Fill to the top. Seal with canning lids. Decorate as desired.

Store in an air tight container.

Directions for label (add to ribbon around jar or print out and use as a label on the jar)

Place 2 or 3 tablespoons in a mug and add boiling water or warm milk. Enjoy!

Decorate the jar lid with a circle of fabric or lace, tied on with ribbon or raffia.

"Gifts of time and love are surely the basic ingredients of a truly merry Christmas."
-Peg Bracken

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thursday Thirteen- Underrated Movies and Shows

I haven't done a Thursday Thirteen in ages! But since I've done hardly any baking this week in anticipation of next week's baking blitz, I thought I might give this a go.

One of the things the husband and I do on a regular basis is veg out in front of the T.V. at night. Not exactly a recommended activity, but we are so pooped from the day it's the only way to keep our sanity. Because of all our wonderful viewing experience, we have quite a few shows and movies we've had a chance to see that made us wonder why they weren't more popular. Here are some of those shows:

1. Supernatural- A tv show about two brothers who travel from town to town searching for their father and seeking out mysteries that are weird or well, supernatural. Sort of like an X-Files but with siblings and easier to understand.

2. IP Man- A super awesome movie about Bruce Lee's trainer (which I didn't know until after I watched the movie) and how he made it through some very difficult times by sticking to his morals and using his seriously good martial arts abilities. A must see even if you don't like martial arts.

3. Jericho- An interesting show about what might happen if major cities were destroyed and most of the population was gone. The characters really make this show and the story line is quite plausible.

4. Survivors- A similar story line to Jericho, but a very smart British medical version. A bit liberal for my taste (no guns until late in the show, in the U.S we would have been armed to the teeth within an hour!) but understandable given it's Britian. Adds some medical drama to the already incredible story. Again, the actors really make this a good show.

5. The Simple Life of Noah Dearborn- Sidney Poitier is the star. What more do I have to say? That man can't make a bad movie! Very moving, grabs you in the beginning and pulls you in. You can't help but cheer for him.

6. The Jesse Stone series- Tom Selleck is the main character, a cop with a drinking problem who is hired in a small town. Tom Selleck really pulls off a great performance. Robert Parker wrote the series, one of my favorite authors. I really miss him.

7. Life on Mars- Set in the 1970's, it's about a present day cop that gets pulled into the past to a precinct in the 70's. He spends his time trying to figure out what happened to him, keeping himself out of trouble and solving crimes without letting anyone know where is from. Just fun to watch, remembering all the craziness of the 70's.

8. The Express- a story about racial inequality on and off the football field. Very well done, it's a tough but wonderful story that will stick with you for a long time.

9. Life- One of my favorite tv shows. To this day, I really don't get why they cancelled it. Excellent characters, interesting story line and funny too. It's about cop who gets wrongly accused of a crime, does time, then gets exonerated and gets rehired. He is quirky but lovable and the chemistry between him and his partner is strong. The music on the show is great too.

10. Band of Brothers and The Pacific- I know the Band of Brothers did well (one of the main characters is the lead in Life, the tv show) but I hardly heard anything about The Pacific. Both are fantastic and hard to forget.

11. Taking Chance- Kevin Bacon leads this movie and does an excellent job. It is a very still movie, no action except emotions, but it's unforgetable.

12. Moonlight- ok, it's a vampire show. Still, it was well done and fun to watch. Another one they cancelled and I can't figure out why.

13. Dark Angel- Jessica Alba before all the glamour. Great show, lots of action, a bit corny but it's worth it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cream Cheese Pumpkin Pie

It feels like it's been forever since I've had time to blog. So much has happened since Thanksgiving. My sister had emergency surgery on Monday to have her gallbladder removed. She is doing much better, but it was quite a saga for her. Then I had to attend an all day seminar for credits for my license (National Certified Counselor/Licensed Counselor), see the doc for a checkup and we have company tonight. Whew! Since this all started, I've been wanting to share a new recipe I tried over Thanksgiving. I've been getting a little tired of the same old pumpkin pie so I tried this one instead. Just a little twist on the old favorite! It was really good. Pumpkin with just a hint of tangy sweetness. The above photo is courtesy of Betty Crocker. I never got a chance to take a picture of our pie. It was gone that quick!

Cream Cheese Pumpkin Pie

1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg (I used Egg Beaters)
1 9-inch pastry pie shell, unbaked
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup sugar
dash salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 eggs, slightly beaten (again, Egg Beaters)
1 cup evaporated milk (I used skim/fat free)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, and vanilla extract; beat until light and fluffy. Beat in 1 egg; spread mixture in the unbaked pastry shell.

Combine pumpkin, 1/2 cup sugar, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Blend in the 2 beaten eggs and evaporated milk. Pour pumpkin mixture over cream cream cheese layer. Bake for about 65 minutes, or until set. Cool pumpkin pie thoroughly. Serve with whipped cream.

"I've learned there are three things you don't discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin."
-Linus from A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving