Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Recipes I Want to Make Again

Is everyone ready for the New Year? I’m looking forward to all of the recipes I plan to share with you, plus the ones I haven’t discovered yet.

I love food blogging. The only drawback is I’m always trying new recipes, so I don’t often get to go back and make my favorite ones from the past. Once I post a recipe, I’m on to a new one.

Here are my favorites from 2012…some of which I’ve made over and over and others I plan to fit into the menu planning again soon!

Needy People Chicken Soup: I’ve made this one a lot. Actually, I make my thrown-together chicken soup and add Asian flavors inspired by a Nigella Lawson recipe. Yummm.


Pimiento Cheese: I love this creamy-chunky spread, and this Canal House Cooking recipe is perfect.


Orange Marmalade Teacake: Perfect to go along with a winter cup of tea…or coffee at breakfast!



Ina Garten’s Mexican Chicken Soup and Chicken Piccata: Two great dishes from the Barefoot Contessa.


Oven-Baked Pork Chops: I make these all the time!


Birthday Baked Beans: No one of my favorites, but my husband, The Picky Eater, loves this dish!




Coffee Cup Chocolate Cake: I make this one a lot when in need of a comforting chocolate treat.


Ultimate Grilled Cheese Sandwich: This is the ultimate!


Fresh Fruit Supper:  A taste of summer any time of year, but best with fruit from the farmer’s market.


Mini Meatloaves and Slow Cooker Meatloaf: Both are favorites in this household!




Snap Crackle Crunch Ice Cream: I may not be able to wait for summer to make this one!


Roast Chicken a la Julia Child: One of my all-time favorite dinners.


Pot Roast: My husband’s all-time favorite Sunday Supper!


Slow Cooker Vegetable Beef Soup: I think this recipe will show up a lot this winter.


Wow, picking my favorites was hard since my mood often dictates what my appetite desires, so this list could be different from day to day.

Here is my New Year’s Resolution to you: I promise to create a recipe index to make it easier for you to find my past recipes. Stay tuned.

Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve. I hope 2013 brings you all your heart desires!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Merry Christmas!!!

I'm off for a few days to celebrate the holidays...

And our first wedding anniversary on Christmas Eve!

However, I do have a lot of great recipes to share with you after all of the Christmas fun. So stay tuned....!!!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Wassail for a #SundaySupper Holiday Party!

“Here we come a wassailing…!”
When I found out drinks and appetizers were on today's #SundaySupper menu, I immediately thought of my mom’s Wassail recipe. I grew up with the smell of it wafting through the house as Christmas approached and the weather turned colder. Then, after the sad events in Connecticut last Friday, it became clear that a warm, comforting drink and a little holiday cheer is what we all need about now.
Those of you who read this blog on a regular basis know I am also a preschool teacher. What happened to those children and teachers hit me quite hard. I can just imagine the reaction my students would have to such a terrible, traumatic event. However, it is comforting to be able to share this family recipe with you, and to teach about its history.

The word “wassail” comes from the late-21st century English toast “was-hail,” which means “be in good health.” To go wassailing was singing carols from door to door in hopes of a warm beverage and treats. The drink itself was a warm spiced ale or wine garnished with roasted apples.

Mom’s wassail recipe is very simple. Just wrap the whole spices into a cheesecloth pouch and pop it into a pot full of apple cider and cranberry juice. (If you can’t find apple cider, just use apple juice.) You may need to add a little brown sugar depending on the sweetness of the juices. For a party, warm the wassail in a slow cooker and float a few apple rings and cinnamon sticks on the top.

Mom never spiked hers, but I’ve found a bit of brandy dresses up this holiday drink. Not only is this a festive beverage, but it also helps you cope with the viruses and colds that float around this time of year. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator. Then, when the wassail craving strikes, just fill up a mug and warm it in the microwave.

Enjoy a mug of wassail, and cheers to you this Christmas and throughout the holiday season!


2 quarts apple cider (or apple juice)
1 1/2 quarts cranberry juice
8 to 10 whole allspice
10 whole cinnamon sticks
20 to 25 whole cloves
1/2 to 1 cup brandy (optional)

Cut a piece of cheesecloth and place the whole spices in the center. Pull up the edges to make a pouch and tie with butcher’s twine.

Pour the cider and juice into a large pot or slow cooker. Add the spice pouch. Bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. (Or heat in the slow cooker on low for 4 to 5 hours.) Before serving, taste for sweetness and add 1/2 cup brown sugar if necessary. Also, add the brandy for a more adult beverage.

Check out the party creations from my fellow #SundaySupper bloggers, but please be aware that some of the participants decided to postpone their blog posts because of last Friday. Plus, there will not be a #SundaySupper chat this week. However, visit their blogs anyway. They are full of lovely recipes.

Holiday Cocktails

Holiday Appetizers or Hors d’oeuvres

Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas Cookie Exchange for Friday Cookie Jar

I love the idea of a Christmas cookie exchange.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, it's where a group of friends gets together, each guest bringing one type of cookie. Then everyone swaps cookies so you leave with an assortment of cookies for the holidays. This makes holiday baking easy since you only have to make a lot of one type of cookie.
Traditionally each person brings a dozen of their cookies for each guest, so if there were eight people at the party, you make eight dozen cookies. Then everyone leaves with eight dozen different styles of cookies. The extra dozen (since you don’t keep a dozen of your own cookies) are for everyone to enjoy that evening. Often the extras are given to a charitable group, such as the local police or fire department, nurses at the local hospital, the local shelter, a food pantry, or a hospice/nursing home.

Unfortunately I didn’t have time this year to plan an exchange with my friends and family, so I thought I’d have a virtual exchange with all of you!

All year I have made cookies to share with you on this blog, each time thinking, “These would be great for Christmas.” So here are the ones I’ll be making this holiday season:

Citrus Butter Cookies (Okay, yes, this is a recipe from 2011, but perfect for Christmas!)

Cherry Nut Cookies (From Mamaw’s Recipe Box.)



Plus, I’ll also be making:

Simply Crackers Candy (What’s Christmas without candy!)

Honey Spice Loaf (another 2011 recipe that I’ve wanted to make for the holidays.)

If you give any of these recipes a try, be sure to share your results! And I’d love to hear what cookies you are making this year! Please share!




Saturday, December 1, 2012

Hot Chocolate and Snow…or the Lack Thereof

Excuse me as I go on a rant for a few minutes. I promise to make you a wonderful cup of homemade hot chocolate as compensation for listening to my complaint.

Today is December 1, the start of my favorite month of the year! I’ve loved our twelfth month my entire life, not only because of Christmas, but also because my birthday is on the 29th. (When you have a birthday during the holidays it seems as if the entire world is celebrating with you, though the presents can be lacking since everyone gave four days earlier.)
And now I have even more to celebrate, with my first wedding anniversary coming on Christmas Eve!


So my favorite month begins today…and the temperature is going to be in the upper 60s.

Tomorrow and Monday we may break record highs by reaching the 70s.


I want snow!
After almost 20 years of living in New England, my brain and spirit are programmed to expect snow at Christmas time. In fact, I start looking for it in October. I enjoyed many a Thanksgiving and Christmas watching the snow fall. Okay, I saw a few when it was raining, too, but at least it was cold!

I knew when I moved to Topeka in 2010 that the winters would be different. I grew up in neighboring Missouri and I don’t remember a single snowy Thanksgiving or Christmas. The snow usually showed up right after the holidays, enough to bring on the occasional joyous snow day off from school.

Kansas, you fooled me! My first winter here was filled with snow, including a white Christmas and birthday! As a preschool teacher I got many days off because of the white stuff. I was thrilled to see how beautiful my new home state looked with the wide-open fields showing off their of blanket.

I knew that much snow was unusual, but reality hit last year…the year with no snow. Okay, that’s not completely true. We had snow…a dusting here and there. Once I think we got up to a half an inch, but that was it. We had one of the warmest winters on record. No snow days.

Now this year is starting to look the same.


I know winter hasn’t officially arrived yet, but 70 degrees in December is just wrong! Jack Frost has only nipped at our noses a couple of times. I’ve only worn my favorite heavy sweatshirt once. We are going through cycles of days reaching the 60s and 70s. Each time a cold front goes through to drop the temperatures into the 40s, I start to hope fall and winter weather has finally arrived, only to have the mercury climb back up again.

I already had to do my Thanksgiving baking with the windows open to keep the oven from heating up our apartment too much.

We have to turn on the air conditioner in our car because the sun has heated up the interior too much.

Winter, where are you??????

So my Christmas wish is for snow. I would like to take a sleigh ride for my anniversary. I want to build a snowman on my birthday. Kansas is going through a very bad drought, so snow would be a good thing. I would even like rain. Anything to break up the sunny-and-warm monotony!

Thank you for listening.

Here is the promised cup of hot chocolate. This recipe is a chocoholic’s dream—rich and decedent, and full of spirit-healing goodness. If it’s too rich for your tastes, just add an extra cup or two of milk, which is what I do when serving a large group. I like to fill a slow cooker with this recipe for everyone to enjoy on Christmas day. It’s also easy enough to make any day of the week.

My plan is to drink a cup and keep wishing…

Homemade Hot Chocolate

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the milk, cream and sugar until it beings to simmer. Reduce the heat to low and add the cocoa powder and chocolate, and then whisk until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla.

To dress up the hot chocolate, serve with a candy cane or cinnamon stick. Or add some instant espresso or a splash of your favorite liquor (Kalhua, Frangelico, Amaretto, and Bailey’s Irish Cream) for a more grown-up beverage.

If the recipe is too rich for your tastes, just add more milk.

For large gatherings, just double or triple the recipe. To keep warm, pour the mixture into a slow cooker set on the “keep warm” setting. Stir occasionally.