Friday, December 31, 2010

Menu: December 27-January 2

I have been busy enjoying some "stacation" with the hubby and kids! We actually haven't been eating many dinner meals this week. The hubby makes awesome breakfasts so they've been a big focus for us.
  • Monday was my dad's 55th birthday so we spent the day with family eating leftovers for lunch and then went out for dinner.
  • Tuesday we had steak and egg fajitas for breakfast (from the leftover fajita fixin's, scrambled eggs, salsa, sour cream, and a little cheese). Then the hubby made some amazing grilled chicken breast, roasted red potatoes, and corn.
  • Wednesday we went out with some friends after I got off work. I had a tropical mahi-mahi dish with mango salsa, black beans and rice, and sauted veggies. :o)
  • Thursday we had steak, eggs, and hashbrowns for brunch then munched on fruit, veggies, and other healthy snacks the rest of the day. The kids had the leftover chicken and potatoes from Tuesday for supper.
  • Friday (New Year's Eve) I made Sweet Potato Muffins for Sunday's breakfast and then let the kids have a couple for breakfast with their scrambled eggs. The hubby and I had leftover steak, a couple of eggs over-easy, and some whole wheat toast. Yummy! Tonight is our church's College/Career class' New Year's Eve party. Everyone is to bring an appetizer, finger food, or soda. I will be bringing some fresh veggies and dip, and my cocktail wieners and pretzel sticks.
  • Saturday we'll spend the afternoon/evening at my MIL and FIL's watching the Badgers dominate in the Rose Bowl (at least we hope they will). For dinner we'll be grilling up some burgers and such.
  • Sunday we're having crockpot Chicken 'n' Rice with mixed veggies.
Here is the Master List if you need a few other ideas for dinner this week.

Cocktail Wieners

1 package Hillshire Farms Lit'l Smokies (Smoked Turkey variety)
1/2 cup of your favorite BBQ sauce (I prefer Sweet Baby Ray's)
2 tablespoons sugar-free or low sugar grape jelly

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan or 1 quart crock pot. Simmer till sauce is smooth and wieners are hot. Serve with pretzel sticks. I love how easy and yet flavorful these are.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

We wish you a Merry Christmas. We wish you a Merry Christmas. We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

We've had a very enjoyable Christmas spending time with family both yesterday and today. I enjoyed cooking the hubby yesterday for Christmas Eve dinner with his family. The adults enjoyed conversing while the kids had lots of fun playing with their cousins.

Gifts are not the main focus of Christmas for us but here are a couple of cooking-type gift ideas that were a big hit -

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cookie Swap 2010

I happened to see a book while doing some Christmas present browsing. The name of the book was along the lines of the Great Cookie Swap Cookbook or something like that, and it made me think... Wouldn't it be fun to have a ladies get-together sometime around Christmas and exchange our favorite holiday cookie or candy?

Last night we got together (9 ladies total) and shared Christmas memories and traditions. We played some games, ate some goodies (cold veggie pizza, ham & cheese kabobs, crackers and cheese, chili garlic chex mix, and cranberry punch), and had a nice time of fellowship. Each person attending brought 4 dozen of their favorite holiday cookie/candy to exchange and a copy of their recipe(s) for me to post here (listed below). We really enjoyed it and are definitely planning to make it a yearly tradition! Maybe you could get one together in your area and among your friends. Or have you already hosted one of these over the holidays?

Cookie Swap 2010 Recipes
Cookie Dough Truffles (by Tanya and Sarah)
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 lb. semisweet (or bittersweet) chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • Mini chocolate chips or M&M's (for garnish)
  1. Cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the flour, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla until incorporated and smooth. Stir in the chocolate chips. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the mixture is firm enough to form balls.
  2. Shape the chilled cookie dough mixture into 1 inch balls. Place on a wax paper-lined baking sheet and freeze for 1-2 hours.
  3. When ready to dip the truffles, melt the chopped chocolate in a double boiler (or in the microwave at 50% power, stirring frequently). Using a toothpick, dip each chilled truffle, one at a time, coating in chocolate and letting the excess drip off. (If the cookie dough balls become too soft, return them to the freezer to chill for 30 minutes.) Transfer the dipped truffles to a wax-paper lined surface. If using mini chocolate chips for garnish, sprinkle on top quickly after dipping each truffle before the chocolate sets. 
  4. Store in the refrigerator and serve cold. These can also be frozen for longer storage.
Heath Bit Peanut Butter Cookies (by Tanya)
Recipe coming soon.

Oatmeal Cranberry White Chocolate Chunk Cookies (by Chariti)
  • 2/3 cup butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cups dried cranberries
  • 2/3 cup coarsely chopped white chocolate
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Combine oats, flour, salt, and baking soda; stir into butter mixture one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in dried cranberries and white chocolate. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets.
  3. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes in preheated oven, or until golden brown. Cool on wire racks.

Oreo Truffles (by Melissa)
  • 1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
  • 1 pkg. (1 lb. 2 oz.) oreo cookies, finely crushed (about 4-1/4 cups), divided
  • 2 pkg. (8 squares each) BAKER'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted
  1. Mix cream cheese and 3 cups cookie crumbs until well blended.
  2. Shape into 48 (1-inch) balls. Dip in melted chocolate; place on waxed paper-covered baking sheet. Sprinkle with remaining cookie crumbs.
  3. Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm. Store in tightly covered container in refrigerator.
Peanut Butter Bonbons (by Beka)
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 cup coconut flakes
  • 2 cups crispy rice cereal
  • 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 bar paraffin wax
  1. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the peanut butter, butter, confectioners' sugar, and coconut flakes. Stir in rice cereal. Roll tablespoonfuls of the mixture into balls and chill.
  2. In the microwave or in a double boiler, melt chocolate chips and paraffin wax together, stirring frequently until smooth. Dip the peanut butter balls into the chocolate using a toothpick. Place onto waxed paper to set.
Pecan Tassies I (by Anna)
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups chopped nuts (very fine)
  • 1 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 6-8 ounces cream cheese
  • 2 cups flour
  1. Mix filling ingredients well, and set aside.
  2. Blend batter ingredients by hand until all flour is mixed into butter and cream cheese.
  3. Place dough (about the size of a walnut) into mini muffin pans. Press into bottom and sides.
  4. Into the center put a teaspoonful of mixture. Press down with fingers (not too firmly). 
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Lift out with a fork. Makes 4-5 dozen.
Pecan Tassies II (by Shannan)
  • 1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
  1. Combine cream cheese and butter, mixing well until well blended. Add flour; mix well. Chill. 
  2. Divide dough into quarters; divide each quarter into 12 balls. Press each ball onto bottom and sides of miniature muffin pans. 
  3. Combine eggs, brown sugar and vanilla; stir in pecans. Spoon into pastry shells, filling each cup. Bake at 325 for 30 minutes or until pastry is golden brown. Cool 5 minutes; remove from pans. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired. Makes 4 dozen.
Peppermint Patties (by Sarah)
Recipe coming soon.

Puddin' Head Gingerbread Men (Mrs. P)
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 (3 1/2 ounce) package regular butterscotch pudding mix
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • assorted decorative candies (optional)
  1. Cream butter, brown sugar and pudding mix. Add egg and beat well.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda, ginger and cinnamon; stir into creamed mixture and chill for 1 hour.
  3. Roll part of chilled dough out on floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness.Cut with 4-inch gingerbread man cookie cutter. Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake in 350° oven for 6-8 minutes.
  4. Remove from cookie sheet to rack and cool. Mix up your favorite frosting and frost cookies. Decorate with candies if desired.
Yummy Chocolate Chip Cookies (by Star)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking sode
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, cream softened butter, shortening, sugars, and vanilla. Beat in egg. Gradually add flour mixture and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips.
  3. Place in refrigerator and allow to rest for 30 minutes. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes. (If you take them out they start to get dark they are nice and chewy. Just bake them a bit longer if you prefer crunchy cookies.)
  4. This dough freezes very well. I like to form it into balls and flash freeze them on a cookie sheet and then put them in freezer bags and take a couple out whenever we want warm cookies.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Menu: December 20-26

With this week being Christmas, I haven't thought much about what to make during the week. I've really only thought about what I'll be making for Christmas. I'll be filling in the rest of the week as I get a chance, but here are some things that we'll be having...
  • Monday - Chicken Soup and fresh bread
  • Tuesday - Chicken Pot Pie
    A friend and I will be hosting a cookie swap at out Church tonight and I plan to make some Peanut Butter Bon Bons. We will also have a cheese & cracker tray, veggie pizza, veggie tray, cocktail wieners, cranberry punch, etc. 
  • Wednesday - We'll be at my MIL & FIL's house as usual. :o)
  • Thursday - Meatball Subs, fresh veggies, and a side salad
    I will be making some homemade "gingerbread" cottages (made out of graham crackers) with the kids and getting the house ready for Christmas Eve dinner with the hubby's side of the family as it is our turn to host this year.
  • Christmas Eve Dinner - Steaks (hamburgers for the kids), baked sweet potatoes, grilled asparagus, steamed broccoli, glazed baby carrots, dinner rolls or homemade bread, salad, and I am still deciding on a dessert...thinking about a yule log cake or the usual cheesecake.
  • Christmas brunch - Cinnamon Rolls (with raisins instead of nuts), scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, and fresh fruit.
    Christmas lunch - steak fajitas
    Christmas dinner - Baked chicken, mashed potatoes, and mixed veggies.
  • Sunday -  Sweet Potato Muffins for breakfast;
    Lunch - ???

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix in a Jar

I needed a $10 lady's gift for our church's staff Christmas party but have always hated giving the "usual" gifts - store-bought bath baskets, perfume sets, etc. This year I had an epiphany! Why not give a set of jar mixes and some Christmas potholders? I thought it would be a nice homemade alternative to the "usuals". I made up one jar of my "Dreaming of a White Christmas Soup" (I also included a can of the cooked chicken mentioned in the recipe) and another of "Peanut Butter Swirl Chip Cookie Mix" (which I found at and have included below). That way, the person who receives my gift will get both dinner and dessert in a bag. :o)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix in a Jar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels (peanut butter chocolate swirl chips, white and semi-sweet swirl chips, etc.)
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Place flour mixture in 1-quart jar. Layer remaining ingredients in order listed above, pressing firmly after each layer. Seal with lid and decorate with fabric and ribbon.

Preheat oven to 375° F. Beat 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) softened butter or margarine, 1 large egg and 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until blended. Add cookie mix and 1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional); mix well, breaking up any clumps. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Maybe next year I'll make up some Red Beans and Rice Mix for my gift. Want to create jar mixes from your own favorite recipes? Learn how here.

Want a few more jar mix recipes? Check out some of these sites:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Menu: December 13-19

It's another frigid week here so lots more comfort foods on the menu. I will also be doing some baking (both to help warm the house and make for some comforting breakfasts).

  • Cream of Chicken & Rice Soup (I plan to work on this recipe a bit to make it lower in calorie/fat than as written) and dinner rolls
  • Biscuits & gravy (I will be using turkey sausage and skim milk to help cut down on fat) with cheesy scrambled eggs and a fresh fruit salad
  • Swedish Meatballs over No Yolks egg noodles and a side of mixed veggies - to cut down on the fat in the meatballs, I will use 85% lean ground beef, turkey sausage instead of the pork, and half and half instead of the heavy cream.
  • Baked chicken breast, mashed potatoes, veggies, and dinner rolls
  • We are hosting a mystery dinner for our College/Career's Christmas party. But maybe you could make some Calzones. Mmmm...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Book Review: The Nativity Collection by Robert J. Morgan

I was recently provided a copy of this book through BookSneeze.
The Nativity Collection is gift book and contains six short stories centered around different Nativities. Each story takes place in a different part of the world and is set around different circumstances. The purpose of each story is to remind us of the importance of Christ's birth to our very lives. This book would be good for anyone 10 and up to read but might be a little too deep for someone younger.

My Thoughts
The author uses such wonderful wording to paint a vivid picture of each story. Everything seems so realistic that you feel as if this story actually happened and you were there to witness it. There were stories that made me laugh and others that brought me nearly to tears. The illustrations are beautiful but are not necessarily a part of the actual stories. The author presents a strong, spiritual message on different "gifts" because of Christ's birth - hope of salvation, power to change, relationships with others, etc. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a good Christmas read. This book is quite versatile - you could choose to read the whole book in one evening, one story aloud to your family each night throughout the week of Christmas, or even as the inspiration for a church Christmas play. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Menu: December 6-12

It is cold here and I am just thinking about wonderful comfort dishes for meals this week.
Here is the master list in case you need a few more ideas.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Book Review: The Surprising Way to a Stronger Marriage by Michael & Amy Smalley

I have recently begun reviewing books for the Tyndale Blog Network. With my husband and I planning to enter full-time Christian service in the near future, I decided to read The Surprising Way to a Stronger Marriage by Michael and Amy Smalley. The single image on the front cover of a hand mirror aptly describes the book before you even pick it up. It is about taking personal responsibility in your marriage. No matter what kind of shape your marriage is in, you have the power to begin the process of changing it for the best. You cannot base your relationship solely on what your spouse does or does not do. It is your responsibility to change yourself into the spouse YOU should be.

My Thoughts
I was very pleased with the way the Smalleys have written this book. It is laid out in a very informal and straightforward style. I appreciate the fact that they present the material from both the husband's and wife's perspective in sharing personal stories and stories taken from their counseling experience. The material is presented in a step-by-step type process of things to begin working on in your marriage, which makes the change seem more easily achievable. Probably the best part about this book is the fact that all the material is based on what the Bible has to say - we are told to remove the beam out of our own eye before trying to remove the spec out of someone else's eye. God judges us by how we act and react not on how our spouse treats us. The book includes a study guide to help the reader change. It provides a challenge, key verse, and a few questions to ask yourself about the role you play as a spouse. The only downside to the study guide is that there is no space provided for you to write down your answers, thoughts, etc. I have a great marriage but was even challenged to make a few changes of my own. This book will be wonderful material for me to use now in my own marriage and in future ministry helping others. I would recommend this book to anyone struggling in their marriage or planning to counsel someone who is struggling.