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Friday, December 31, 2010

Baking with Grandma...

My mom did some baking with the girls just before Christmas.  The girls were so excited to do this with Grandma, and I appreciate that my Mom took time to do this with the girls!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Favourite Appy..

Yes, I know, it looks awful.  Trust me sisters, it ain't.  This is one of my favourite appetizers to make, and to eat!  It's always a hit no matter where it is!  I believe it originates from one of my hubby's cousins, but don't quote me on that.
It's called Hot Ham & Cheese Dip.  Here's the recipe:

8 oz. Cream Cheese (1 block) - room temp works best
1.5 cups of sour cream (doesn't work as well with light sour cream)
2 cups grated cheddar
1 cup cubed, cooked ham
1/4 cup onion ( I think I use more like 1/2 cup)
2 tsp red pepper diced (I use a whole, small red pepper cuz that's just how I roll)
1 tsp Worcheister Sauce

Here's the easy part:  throw all of the above into a corningware dish, blend it with your electric hand held mixer, cover and throw in the oven for 1 hour @ 350*.

Hollow out a sourdough loaf, save the 'guts' and cube them up.  I also usually buy a loaf of french bread and cube the whole thing up as well to serve with the dip.

After the dip has cooked for an hour, pull it out, let it sit for approx 10 minutes, and pour into sourdough loaf.  Note:  it will be runny right after it comes out of the oven, but it will thicken up fast!

It definitely ain't fat free, but it smells and tastes heavenly!  Perfect appy for New Year's Eve!

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Favourite Tradition...

Our Annual Church Skate is one of our favourite family traditions.  This year was no exception!  My brother, Dave, came along and we gave it our all.  My only regret is somehow not getting any pictures of Olivia!  She's already forgiven me.  Here's a few shots of the event...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Ladies Who Brunched...

Formally known as the Ladies who Lunch.  Our group of gals got together for our annual Christmas Brunch.  It was a lovely day.  This year the brunch was at my place.  There was so much laughter and fun and the time flew by faster than any of us thought!
The food was so delicious and plentiful, the cards were special, and the gifts were beautiful! Here's a taste of our time together:

Prezzie Time:  Rhonda recieved some beautiful hand knit gloves from Cindy as well as a few other goodies.  Jill recieved some lovely place mats hand-sewn by Sarah, and Sarah recieved a gorgeous quilt that Rhonda made her!  I had Cindy in the draw this year and I made her a table topper specifically for her bright and cheery kitchen.  I'm so glad she liked it!

And now for my present...this deserves a post all on it's own, but I won't hold you in suspense!  Jill had me in the draw this year and I am still overwhelmed by the beauty of the gift she made me.  This is an advent/family tradition calendar of sorts.  It is a flip style book that has a page for every day of December.  Jill decorated each page individually and it's all ready for me to add pictures of our family traditions.  I have never seen this before and I instantly fell in love with it!  I love anything paper crafted and this gift is so special to me!  I think I will have to make a few of these for future gifts.  Jill put so much love and effort into this gift, and that in itself is such a special part of the gift.  So, thank you Jill.  This is one of the most beautiful, and meaningful, gifts I have ever recieved.

Thanks Ladies...for one of our best memories yet made!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas at King...

The girls' school has a traditional sing-a-long every year at Christmas.  The sing along was on the last day of school for the year and I was working so this year Rob took the afternoon off so he could go with the kids.  Abby's Kindergarten class was being featured so out came the camera!  The pictures turned out a little blurry, but I appreciate Rob taking a few while he juggled Isaac!  Abby's class performed a few numbers and Abby had no trouble belting it out and grooving through it all!  Shane & Angela Wiebe were kind enough to lead the sing-a-long portion.  We will miss them so much when they move out East!  There's nothing like a kids Christmas presentation to get you in the Christmas spirit!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Christmas Project...TBC

TBC = To be completed.  A friend of mine recently asked me to teach her a quilting/sewing project.  We had fun browsing at the local quilt shop and choosing one of my favorite lines of fabric by Moda called 'Fruitcake'.  We've spent a few evenings over the past months getting together and assembling this cute table topper.  I've done this particular one many times, but usually with the fall theme.  In all the hustle and bustle of the season, we've had to put this project on hold for now.  It's so close to completion, but there are other projects that HAVE to be finished by Christmas for gifts, and these ones will have to wait!  Speaking of gifts, I did, indeed, complete this exact topper as a Christmas gift for a friend recently.  You'll see the finished product in an upcoming post. 

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cranberry Bliss...

Baking is one of my favourite hobbies, period.  But, Christmas baking is even MORE fun!  I already posted about our big bake-fest, but I decided to do a few other recipes just for fun.  This one was a first for me.  I googled 'Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars' and came up with a whole realm of suggestions, but this is the one I singled out.  I have to give bragger rights to top secret chef Todd Wilbur for his version of this creation. 

1 cup butter at room temp.
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cups diced, dried cranberries ( I chopped mine up fine in my mini food processor)
6 ounces (squares) of while chocolate, cut up

4 ounces (1/2 block) cream cheese softened
3 cups icing sugar
4 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup diced, dried cranberries

Drizzled Icing:
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp milk
2 tsp vegetable shortening

Preheat oven to 350*F
To make cake:  Beat butter and sugar together until smooth. 
Add eggs, vanilla, ginger and salt, beat well.
Gradually mix in flour until smooth.
Mix 3/4 cup cranberries and chopped chocolate into batter by hand
Pour batter into greased 9x13" pan.  Spread evenly across pan
Bake 35-40 minutes or until cake is light brown on edges
Let cool

Frosting: combine cream cheese, 3 cups powdered sugar, lemon juice and vanilla with electric mixer until smooth.  Once cake is cooled, spread over top of cake.
Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup cranberries over the frosting.

Drizzle:  whisk together 1/2 cup icing sugar, milk and shortening.  Drizzle over the cranberries in sweeping motion.  ( I used piping bag with small round tip)

Once the cake has set/cooled for several hours, slice once, lengthwise down the centre, then 3 more times width-wise.  This makes 8 large squares.  Then, I cut each of these squares into 3 finger length slices.  You could also slice them the 'starbucks' way and cut each square diagonally creating 16 triangular slices.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Spot of Cider...

So I'll admit it.  I actually don't really care for apple cider.  I don't detest it, I just don't love it.  Same with apple juice...hmmm, I see a pattern here.  But, this time of year it is so nice to have a pot of cider on to welcome guests in from the cold.  It seems kind of ironic that I buy supplies regularly this time of year to make it, but maybe partake in only 1 or 2 cups during the whole season.  I've had a few requests lately for my 'recipe' for cider, so here's my 'secret'.  For the past 5 years or so I've use the Epicure Cider Mulling Spices, but I didn't have any at the start of this season so I went hunting.  I discovered a local tea shop in our mall.  The store sells loose leaf teas in hundreds of blends.  When I asked about a mulling spice they showed me their 'Yoga' Blend.  Hmmm...not sure where the yoga inspiration came from, but it was just what I was looking for.
It's a blend of: cinnamon, cardanon, ginger, cloves and black pepper. 
In your crockpot:  I do 2 parts apple juice to 1 part cranberry/cranberry blend juice
Add approx 1 tsp of mulling spices for every litre of liquid.  If you like, you can float a few orange slices and cinnamon sticks on top.  I set my crockpot on low and let it simmer for 4-6 hours before I need it.  The house smells wonderful!  Don't forget to have a strainer handy for when it's time to serve!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Oli Does Volley...

Olivia joined the volleyball team this year.  It's so great to see her getting out there and enjoying herself.  She gets a little nervous come game time, but she loves the teamwork and hanging out with friends.  Today was their tournament with a bunch of the local teams.  Abby, Isaac and I rotated our chairs all over the gym to watch her play her games.  It was a fun day...but I have to admit, I don't miss the smell of an elementary school gym filled with hundreds of sweaty little bodies...nope, don't miss it at all.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Sold out....

Sold the last of my advent calendars!  I love these advent calendars, and I trust the families they've gone to will too!  I sold one last year, gifted one last year, and have sold 3 more this past month.  That's it, I'm out!  The good news:  I've found all the supplies on sale in the past couple of weeks and have stocked up to make more for next year.
(Go here and click on the calendar link if you're looking for the original post with the directions I used to make these)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

BakeFest 2010

I think we just started a new tradition.  A group of us girlfriends decided to get together and do a bunch of Christmas baking.  Some fun facts about our bakefest:

Fact #1 - There were 6 of us.  Each girl picked 2 recipes and provided ingredients for 15 dozen of EACH recipe!

Fact #2 - Heather brought a huge bottle of bubbly

Fact #3 - It was really good bubbly.

Fact #4 - We baked over 2100 cookies that night

Fact #5 - It took us approx 7 hours to do it.  We started at 7pm - yes, you did the math right, we were up until 2 in the morning.  I'm paying for it this week.

Fact #6 - There were 3 workstations, 3 mix masters, 2 ovens running full time, and a fine layer of flour over every surface, including our faces. 

Fact # 6.5 - Elise taught us all kinds of things about feeling true freedom.

Fact #7 - There were 2 adorable little baby girls to snuggle.

Fact #8 - It took me over 3 hours to clean up the next day (they offered to help but I declined)

Fact #9 -  I found cookie batter up the wall and on my curtains over the sink.

Fact #10 - This was one of the most memorable nights I've had with my besties and I'd do it all over in a hearbeat.

Love the memories we created, the food we made, the laughs we had, the youtube clips we watched, the time with these women who are so special in my life.

Here's a picture of my cut of the take:

These are the recipes I made:

Sugar Cookies:
Preheat oven 350-375*
Cream together: 1/2 cup margarine (cold), 1 cup white sugar.
Add: 1 beaten egg, 2 tbsp milk, 1/2 tsp vanilla and beat until fluffy.
Sift together: 1 3/4 cups flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt and add to wet mixture.
Chill for a few hours as it is very soft dough.
Roll out to approx 1/8" thick, cut desired shapes. 
Bake for 6-8 minutes or until slightly golden on edges.
Ice cookies if you like  ( I combine marg, icing sugar and milk for my icing)

1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips
2 cups crisp chow mein noodles
1 cup salted peanuts
Melt both chocolate and butterscotch chips in a double broiler.  Once melted, remove from heat and stir in noodles and peanuts. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto waxed or parchment paper.  Chill until set.  Store in fridge or freezer.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Who Says Mennonite Boys Can't Dance?

The proof is in the post...

Obviously he takes after his mother father. Obviously.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Crockpot Comfort...

I 'love' my crockpot!  I've done everything from soup to apple cider in it. I use it year round, but this is the time of year that I go back to my guaranteed comfort food recipes!  Olivia knows me so well that she bought me a special recipe book last year that's full of just crockpot recipes.  I tend to use it most on days that are busy, or days that I have to work. One of the recipes I make the most is Chunky Chicken Corn Chowder.  I start it off on the stove, and then let it sit and simmer and finish off all day in the crockpot.  It's a favourite around here.  Whip up a batch of biscuits and call it dinner.  If you're in the market for a new crockpot you may want to head on over to CSN Stores...they sell everything from crockpots to flat screen TV stands!

Here's my Chicken Corn Chowder Recipe:

6 slices of bacon (optional)
1 medium onion
3 tbsp flour
4 cups chicken broth
6-8 cubed red potatoes (with skin)
1 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp pepper
3-4 cups cubed, cooked chicken breast (I have substituted with cooked farmer sausage in the past - but then omit the bacon)
3 cups milk (I use 2% for creamier soup)
1 package frozen peaches & cream corn

In dutch oven cook bacon. Using slotted spoon remove bacon and set aside.  Add onion to bacon drippings and cook, stirring occasionally until tender.  Stir in flour until smooth (will be thick).  Stir in chicken broth, potatoes, sage and pepper.  If you are going to put your crockpot on high, then you can transfer it all over to the crockpot now, but if you want to leave it on low for the day I would suggest continuing to cook on stove top until potatoes are fork tender (approx 20 min).  Add all remaining ingredients.  Let simmer in crockpot until ready to serve.