menu plan monday ~ december 21, 2015

The weather is odd for this time of year. The warm temps seem so wrong. It is Christmas, after all! According to our weather forecaster, we have snow on Christmas Day about 33% of the time. Not this year!

It has been a busy few weeks. I am just getting to posting the week’s menu.

Monday
Fridge Food

Tuesday
Tacos

Wednesday
Cheesy Potato Sausage Soup

cheesy potato sausage soup

Thursday ~ Christmas Eve with my side of the family
I’m responsible for the cookies. Done.

Friday
Merry Christmas!

Older Son and his wife will make quiche for breakfast. Sounds so good! We enjoyed their quiche last Christmas and I asked for it again.

Breakfast
Bacon and Swiss Quiche
Tomato, Basil, Roasted Red Pepper, Spinach Quiche
Oranges

image

Lunch
Spinach and Cheese Strata

spinach and Gruyere strata

Veggies / Dip
Cream Cheese Sausage Balls
Simple Marinated Shrimp
Cheese Tray with Olives and Pickles
Goat Cheese with Pistachios and Craisins / Crackers
Ginger Cake Trifles

ginger cake trifle

Saturday
Chicken and Dumpling Soup

Sunday
Spaghetti
Homemade Sauce
Garlic Bread
Green Salad

You can find many menu ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

~~Rhonda

candied pecans

Simple to make. Delicious to eat. Candied pecans are a great gift for teachers, service providers, hosts, etc.

I found the recipe I use at this link. Cinnamon Pecans

Candied Pecans

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg white
  • 4 c. pecan halves

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325*.

In a small bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon and salt together.

candied pecanscandied pecans

In a larger bowl, whisk the egg white till white and foamy.

candied pecans

Add the pecans to the egg white and stir till pecans are well coated.

candied pecans

Pour the sugar mixture over the pecans and mix well.

candied pecans

Spread the pecans on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. No need to oil the pan, the paper or the foil.

candied pecans

Bake for 20 minutes. After 10 minutes, stir the pecans to prevent sticking and for even crisping.

Remove from the oven and transfer the pecans to a large bowl, breaking up pieces that are stuck together. Stir the pecans a few times, as they cool. Store in jars or air-tight containers.

Makes 4 cups of candied pecans. They store well in a quart size canning jar. Also a nice way to gift them!

But if you leave them where they can be found, this is going to happen…

Candied pecans

~~Rhonda

menu plan monday ~ december 14, 2015

We have a house concert scheduled for this coming Thursday evening. Here’s a video taped at a previous concert in our living room. This year will be the ninth year we have hosted this concert with Nathan Clark George and his friends. This year Mark Stoffel and Henry Haffner will join Nathan.

This is always a beautiful and inspiring Christmas concert. I am so looking forward to it! We expect 40-60 people. DH says 64 is our seating capacity. But there’s always the good view from the staircase!

and up the staircase

The house is in good condition following the open house. There won’t be much to do to get ready for the concert besides moving a little furniture, setting up chairs, and cooking the food. A lot of it can be done a day or two before the event.

Here’s the menu for the week.

Monday
Cheesy Baked Shells and Broccoli
Garlic Bread

Tuesday
Heat Free Chili
Crackers and Peanut Butter
Celery and Carrot Sticks

Wednesday
Alton Brown’s Pot Roast
Homemade Buns
Grapes
Pretzels

Thursday / House Concert with Nathan George and friends

Friday
Fridge Food

Saturday
Cheesy Potato Sausage Soup

Sunday
Boneless Turkey in the Crock Pot
Mashed Potatoes
Steamed Green Beans
Roasted Cauliflower and Carrots

You can find many menu ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

We are looking forward to having the grands stay over the weekend after the concert. They should be pretty wound up about Christmas by then!

~~Rhonda

Christmas tidbits in the kitchen

I promised more Christmas pictures, so am going to show you some from the kitchen today.

We didn’t put a tree on top the fridge this time. It always seemed a tad too big for the space and we were cutting out a few things to save on decorating. Not that you could tell! So no tree in the kitchen this year, except for the small half tree that hangs over one of the pantry doors.

Our kitchen was originally an enclosed back porch. It’s 27′ long and 11′ wide with a 12′ ceiling. One end is walled off as a pantry with two small doors, one on each end. A large gingerbread cookie cutter hangs over one door and a small half tree hangs over the other door. Family pictures hang over the catch-all dresser. The old walnut dresser came from DH’s side of the family.

Kitchen photo wall

We’re enjoying the amaryllis. I’d encourage you to try forcing one if you haven’t done it before. The flowers are so beautiful and the growth rate, once it gets going, is amazing. Something fun for the kidlets to measure each day. The lidded glass jar came from my dear mother-in-law. We have fallen into the tradition of keeping old fashioned peppermint balls in it at Christmas time. The photo on the dresser is of Older Son and Youngest Daughter and was taken in 1999. Now he is 36 and she is 17.

amaryllis

I love the four little elves my sister found at a thrift shop. Aren’t they the cutest?

Elves

The shelves over the kitchen table are decorated for Christmas. Don’t you love these shelves? A friend of ours made them to order for us in 2006 or so. The vintage canning jars near the top are filled with bead garlands, blue and silver jingle bells, tinsel, and small blue and silver ball ornaments.

kitchen shelves

This is a thrifted nativity. It came with identical twin wise men.

kitchen shelves

The angel came on a floral arrangement quite a few years ago. She graces the shelves every Christmas.

angel

Even the fruit bowl was decked in red and green. And orange…

fruit bowl

Just to the left of the fruit bowl is the window into the dining room. Remember, this room used to be a porch. I didn’t tidy the baker’s table for this picture…probably should have… The framed picture is a page out of a 1918 (I think I have the year right) magazine. It’s an ad for bread. Cute, curly-headed little boy in a high chair eating a slice of bread. The ad tells the mom how good the bread is for growing boys and girls. The door to the left goes into the front hall.

kitchen window to dining room

One evening last week, we had the most beautiful sunset. The entire sky was pink and purple and blue. This is looking south east. You can also see the garland over the kitchen windows with its collection of snowflake and icicle ornaments, and there’s a peek at my pie plate collection above the windows.

Sunset

That’s it from the kitchen. I’ll do another room soon.

I hope your home is decorated and ready for the celebration of Christmas!

~~Rhonda

open house cookies and candies

The day after the open house, we divide the cookies and distribute the leftovers. I put one box of cookies in the freezer for my side of the family’s Christmas party, one in the freezer for our church’s Christmas party, and one box of truffles in the freezer for the concert we host in our home each December. Then I loaded two 9×13 aluminum foil pans for the local volunteer firefighters and one pan for the police department. The firefighters also get the extra Chex Mix and Candy Jumble. They meet on Monday evenings, so it’s perfect timing. We want to be sure they know how much we appreciate their service to our community all year long. I also packed a small box of goodies to send to Younger Son and his wife who are not able to be at the open house.

I have been asked how many cookies and candies I make each year for Christmas. Here’s this year’s list.

.
Sour Cream Sugar Cookies
I double this recipe for the open house. I bake the cookies and freeze them. The day before the party, they are taken out of the freezer and thawed on the kitchen table. Tip: Not opening the cookie containers until thawed keeps condensation from forming on them.

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

.
Nutmeg Logs
Over the years, I have found these freeze just fine with the drizzle on them.

Nutmeg Logs

.
Elfin Bites
Tiny little shortbread cookies. Adding the sprinkles and cutting them small was something I came up with years ago. Elfin Bites seemed the perfect name. The recipe is from the Fanny Farmer Cookbook. I double the recipe for the open house.

Elfin Bites shortbread

.
Holiday Icebox Oatmeal Cookies
A simple cookie, but I love the crispy oat flavor.

Icebox Oatmeal Cookies

After making the Holiday Icebox Oatmeal Cookies for many years, I tried scooping the dough without chilling it. I rolled the balls in sugar. It’s a quicker and easier way to make the same cookie.

Holiday Icebox Oatmeal Cookies

.
Peppermint Meltaways
I think last year was the first year I made these. Delicious! Somehow, I don’t have a picture of the finished cookie, but they look just like the ones pictured on the recipe site.

.
Cranberry Orange Cookies
These are very good. You can taste the orange zest and the tang of the dried cranberries.

Cranberry Orange Cookies

.
Macadamia Nut Shortbread Cookies
Roll the dough into balls and dip them into white sanding sugar for a pretty sparkle on the cookie tray.

Macadamia White-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies

.
Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread Cookies
This picture doesn’t do these beautiful little cookies justice. Pretty and delicious!

Chocolate Peppermint Shortbread Cookies

.
Holiday Petits Fours
This is Middle Daughter’s favorite holiday treat. They are not hard to make. They just take a little time.

Holiday Petits Fours

.
Date Balls
My friend Mellanie shared this recipe with me years ago. One of my favorites.

Date Balls

.
Sugarplums
I love these dried fruit and nut treats.

sugarplums

.
Daniel’s Cookie Bar Bites
Named for Younger Son who used to make these cookie bars when he was living here.

Daniel's Cookie Bar Bites

.
Toffee Bar Crunch Biscotti
This has become a holiday favorite! If I made only one kind of biscotti, it would definitely be this one.

Christmas Open House

.
Brownie Biscotti
A pretty cookie, with the dark chocolate in contrast to the bright almond slivers.

Brownie Biscotti

.
Peanut Butter Cup Cookies
While the chocolate is melted, you can add a Hershey’s Kiss to the top. Or wait until the chocolate has hardened and add ganache or frosting to the top of the cookie. Or leave it plain. They are so good no one will complain.

peanut butter cup cookies

.
Chocolate Creams
I’ve made these for Christmas for a long time. I’ve also made them as wedding favors. A very chocolaty candy.

Chocolate Cream Truffle

.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles
I didn’t make these one year and there was a regular hue and cry about it. Now I make them every year.

Peanut Butter Truffle

.
Chocolate Raspberry Truffles
A simple addition of seedless raspberry jam dresses up the chocolate truffles.

Raspberry Truffles

.
Mocha Truffles
Yummy coffee flavor.

Mocha Truffles

.
Oreo Truffles
Everyone seems to love these simple to make candies.

Oreo Truffles

.
Cherry Fudge Truffles
These seem to get even better after a day or so. They freeze well.

Cherry Fudge Truffles

.
Oreo Cherry Truffles
These are a favorite of Older Son’s wife. She is a wonderful daughter to us. Helpful and encouraging and loving. A very real blessing. It is a delight to make these for her.

Oreo Cherry Truffles

.
Almond Truffles
Made with almond extract (not imitation).

Almond Truffles

.
Minty Cream Cheese Truffles
This was a new recipe for me this year. It got a lot of rave reviews and some requests for the recipe.

Minty Cream Cheese truffles

.
Candy Jumble
Quick and easy. This is a treat the kidlets can help you with.

Candy Jumble

.
Macadamia Nut Craisin Bark
Super easy and very tasty.

Mac nut bark

.

Christmas Mice
These little mice are a Christmas tradition at our house. I am sure more go home from the open house wrapped in napkins than are eaten at the party!

Christmas Mouse

.
Candied Pecans
Can’t stop eating these…

Candied Pecans

.
Chex Mix
This salty treat is a good counterpoint to the sweetness of the cookies and candies. This recipe will fill two one-gallon-size zippered plastic bags.

Chex Mix

There you go. All the recipes I used to make the open house goodies. I had to hunt a few down. I have pages in my Christmas Notebook with the recipes, but didn’t have a link for all of them. Now I do.

Enjoy! If you try any of the recipes, let me know how you like them. Merry Christmas!

~~Rhonda

Christmas open house 2015

This was our 25th Christmas Open House. We began with an open house to introduce a missioinary family to our church family. The afternoon was so much fun that we decided to have another open house for our church family the next year. And the next. And so on. Each year we invited more poeple.

We start in October with preparation. Putting up trees. Decorating. Baking. Yes, it’s a lot of work. We depend on my sister Genny, on our family and on our friends to help. We all work together to make it work. Thanks to each of you who helped. And thank you to my husband who works hard to make it happen just because it makes me happy.

Here is DH, greeting our guests at the door.

Christmas Open House

We were presented a beautiful poinsettia from dear friends.

a present from dear friends

Just inside the door is a little Jesse tree. I have made some ornaments for it, but have more to make. Might need a larger tree if I ever get them done!

Christmas Open House

Across the hall from the Jesse tree is a small dresser that usually holds the guest book. During the open house, the guest book was on a table on the porch. The little tree on the dresser was decorated with candy canes for the littles who came by that day.

Christmas Open House

Next to the dresser is the staircase where we hang our family stockings.

Christmas Open House

Across from the stockings, guests rest on the old church pew, taking some time to visit.

church friends

This year, I used my Liberian nativity set in the living room. Older Daughter brought it home for me after a mission trip several years ago.

Christmas Open House

The family tree sits next to the fireplace in the living room. It holds all the family ornaments we have collected over the years and all the ornaments the kids have made.

Christmas Open House

This Christmas cactus belonged to my mother. She got her start from my grandmother’s house. It lives in the corner of the living room and has beautiful fuchsia colored blossoms. It always begins to bloom during the first week of December. I can remember my grandmother’s plant, heavy with blossoms. A favorite memory of her house.

Christmas Open House

We set up the cookie table in the dining room. I made large Putz houses from boxes…cracker boxes, butter boxes, medicine boxes…whatever worked. I used Christmas cards for the roofs. They turned out better than I thought they would. The frame on the left tells our guests which treats are gluten free. The one on the right gives all the truffle flavors.

Cookie table

The buffet in the dining room was used as the coffee station.

Open House

In the kitchen, my sister Genny (in the blue shirt) entertains guests and keeps the cookies coming. My thanks to her and to those who gave her some help during the afternoon.

Christmas Open House

We call this room the “music room” because this is where the piano lives. But it’s basically a hall from the kitchen to the library (family room) and from the main house to the addition. This fall we moved a small sofa into this room and also a desk where I am able to craft without taking the long staircase upstairs when my knee isn’t cooperating. Since then, the room is being used more often than it had been in the past.

Christmas Open House

Of course, I’m not able to craft at the desk right now because it is currently displaying the bubble light Christmas tree. This will probably be the first tree to come down!

Christmas Open House

The room also has our large chalkboard where Genny and I draw our chalkboard tree each year. This year, the theme was toys.

Christmas Open House

The next room is the library, which functions as our family room. This year, we put the glass tree up in the library rather than the upstairs bedroom. Middle Daughter is using that room right now. I gave both the girls the option of closing their rooms to the open house, which they chose to do. The glass tree is my favorite, so we put it in the library where I can enjoy it.

Christmas Open House

It was a good spot for some guest portraits.

church family

The nativity tree is usually displayed where the glass tree was put this year. We took some of the nativity ornaments and decorated what had previously been the Three Kings tree.

Christmas Open House

My favorite nativity was displayed in the library. My mother gave me this one in 1983.

Christmas Open House

Here’s another nativity in the window in the addition hall.

glass nativity

Upstairs we go. The first thing we see is the mouse house. They’re decorating their tree!

Christmas Open House

The bedroom to the right is the smaller guest room. The old iron bed came out of the barn on my in-laws’ farm. We took it to an auto body shop and had it sandblasted and painted with white auto paint. I made both the quilts.

Christmas Open House

The Victorian tree in the smaller guest room.

Christmas Open House

We have a room for our eight year old twin grands. They stay over quite often. Their tree is a spiral of color. It’s a nine foot tree.

Christmas Open House

Even the stairs to the upper bunk were decorated. We put a garland across the steps so guests wouldn’t climb them. Snow White didn’t want anyone in her bed.

Christmas Open House

At one end of the upstairs hall is a bathroom. An iridescent glass ball tree hangs in the window.

Christmas Open House

At the other end of the hall is my wonderful craft room.

Christmas Open House

A vintage 1970s Sears nativity is displayed on the counter.

Christmas Open House

I made a lot of ornaments for the mission tree. We gave out ornaments as a thank you gift to anyone who gave a donation to our church’s mission fund. Thank you to all who participated!

Christmas Open House

Then it’s back downstairs for more cookies!

down the staircase

This post is getting long. I’ll try to get more pictures soon. Some with details of the rooms that you might enjoy seeing. I hope you’ve enjoyed the tour!

My thanks to Peggy and Susan who shared some of their pictures with me!

~~Rhonda

cream cheese mints as truffles

I have a “truffles” board on Pinterest where I save recipes I might want to try. One of the recipes I saved was for Cream Cheese Mints. I added extra butter to mine. Also a pinch of salt.

Minty Cream Cheese truffles

Minty Cream Cheese Truffles

8-oz room temperature cream cheese
6 T room temperature butter (not margarine)
pinch of salt
1 tsp peppermint extract
green food coloring (add a few drops, mix and add more until desired shade is achieved)
2 pound bag powdered sugar (reserve 1 cup)

Almond Bark
pink sanding sugar for topping

In a large bow, mix the first six ingredients, except the one cup of reserved powdered sugar, until smooth.

Making mint truffles

Drop by small spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil. I used a small cookie scoop to form mine.

Making mint truffles

Making mint truffles

Sprinkle a little of the reserved powdered sugar over the balls, then roll them into smooth balls.

Making mint truffles

Dip the balls into melted candy coating. I use almond bark. After all are dipped, tint the remaining almond bark a light shade of green and drizzle it over the candies. Before the drizzle hardens, sprinkle it with pink sanding sugar.

Minty Cream Cheese truffles

This is the first year I made the Minty Cream Cheese Truffles and they received a lot of good remarks. A few of our guests asked for the recipe, so here it is! Enjoy!

Minty Cream Cheese truffle

My blog editor was out of whack today and was just fixed, so I finished this post I started a week or so ago, and I will blog about the open house tomorrow.

~~Rhonda

quick update

Here is a quick peek at a few things we have going on.

I made large Putz houses out of miscellaneous boxes. I’m hoping to get them painted and decorated for the cookie table.

Making large Putz houses

Made Brownie Biscotti. Drizzled it with white chocolate after it cooled.

Brownie biscotti

Made two big batches of Chex Mix.

First batch of Chex Mix

Made Holiday Petits Fours. I sent this picture to Middle Daughter at work. She replied “Yay!!” as this is her favorite holiday treat.

Christmas cake

Candied Pecans Youngest Daughter’s fave.

Candied Pecans

And while I was baking and cooking and basically hiding in the kitchen, I was also FaceTiming with DH as he decorated. He couldn’t do it without my help, right? Isn’t technology fun??

Double duty

Last evening, after I had retreated to the recliner to rest my leg, DH and I FaceTimed again. He walked all through the house and I dictated notes for a new to-do list. Older Son and three of our friends are coming over today to help. A new list was needed and I feel like I got a good view of all the decorations and where we stand. DH tweaked a few things for me and was very patient as I directed. “Move that blue vase to the left a few inches… Put that jar of ornaments next to the picture…” He is a most patient man.

I need to get back to work. Today I’ll be dipping things into chocolate and making Christmas Mice.

More soon! ~~Rhonda

monday before the party

A few highlights…

I baked.

Cranberry Orange Cookies

Cranberry Orange Cookies

Rolled them in sugar mixed with orange zest.

Cranberry Orange Cookies

Then I shmooshed them with a fork. Shmooshed: technical term.

On winter afternoons, the sun pours through our south-facing kitchen windows. It can be difficult to wash dishes between 1:30 and 4:30 because of the angle of the sun. Blinding. It made the cookie balls look pretty, though. They sparkled in the sunlight.

Cranberry Orange Cookies

Cranberry Orange Cookies

These are good. Crispy sugary coating. Softer center.

Cranberry Orange Cookies

I baked more cookies.

Peppermint Meltaways. These will get a dollop of frosting and a sprinkle of crushed peppermint the day before the party. For now, they wait in the freezer.

Peppermint Meltaways

I printed more pictures for the wall in the kitchen.

DH put them up. Gotta love Command Picture Hanging Strips.

Kitchen photo wall

OK. I confess. The part of the table you can’t see is knee-deep in stuff that needs to be put away… We just shoved it back for the picture. And moved the cat food bowl. And closed the pantry doors. And cleared off the dresser.

Kitchen photo wall

I also pondered eggs. So pretty. Great packaging. So good for you. Versatile. Tasty. The incredible, edible egg. God’s handiwork is amazing.

the incredible, edible egg

Winston loves Christmas. Or at least, loves sleeping under the bubble light tree. Looks like he’s trying to stare down the goose. Or he’s thinking about Christmas dinner?

Winston loves Christmas

DH worked at checking things off the list. I took a nap. He rode his bike. I supervised some decorating. He painted a few scrapes on the wall. I made large Putz houses for the cookie table. We’re getting there.

~~Rhonda

menu plan monday ~ november 30, 2015

This is a very busy week for us. We will host our annual Christmas Open House this coming Sunday. There is a long list of things to finish before Sunday gets here. Today, I did some baking and made some truffles. I have five or six items that can’t be made until Thursday or Friday, so those will wait.

I mixed together a double batch of Peppermint Meltaways and put that in the fridge. I’ll bake them tomorrow. Then I made Butterscotch Gingerbread cookies. These spicy cookies make the house smell SO good! And they are as delicious as their smell promises. I topped them with white chocolate and sanding sugar because they are for the open house, but they are delicious on their own, without the party clothes.

Butterscotch Gingerbread cookies topped with white chocolate and sanding sugar.

I made the Oreo Truffles which seem to be everyone’s favorite. They are stored in the fridge since we are so close to the big day. I have frozen them in the past without any trouble.

Oreo Truffles

I kept the menu simple. We don’t have time to put a lot of effort into meals this week. Fridge food (leftovers) will be important for lunches! Tuesday, Thursday and Friday menu items will be made in the crock pot.

Monday
Pizza

Tuesday
Irish Stew

Irish stew

Wednesday
Chinese Takeout

Thursday
Smoked Pork Shanks and Ham
Cornbread

Friday
Alton Brown’s Pot Roast
Homemade Rolls

Saturday
Pot Roast or Chicken Salad Sandwiches
Homemade Buns
Chips
Fresh Veggies and Dip

Sunday
Ham or Turkey Sandwiches
Chips
Fresh Veggies and Dip

Older Son is coming Wednesday to help DH with plugging away at the to-do list. My sister and my daughter-in-law will be here Friday evening through Sunday to help with the last minute party prep. I can hardly believe it is almost time for the Open House!

The cats seem fine with the hustle and bustle. They go about their business and let us go about ours. This evening, Clark tried to make friends with Cedar. Cedar was more receptive than usual. Perhaps they will become friends. Clark sure hopes so!

Clark and Cedar are becoming more friendly.

You can find many menu ideas at Menu Plan Monday.

~~Rhonda