holiday

Happy New Year!

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2015

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Cranberry Sauce

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Cranberry Sauce

I made my first “homemade” cranberry sauce tonight. It turned out really well! I’m not a fan of the jelly cranberry sauce from a can, but I really like other things with cranberry, so I thought I would try to make my own. I added a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon and that made all the difference in the world.

Cranberry Sauce
Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup orange juice
4 cups fresh cranberries
Optional additions: Orange zest, raisins, blueberries, cinnamon, nutmeg, and/or allspice.

Instructions:
1. Rinse cranberries. Throw away any damaged or bruised cranberries. Pour the water, orange juice and sugar in a medium saucepan on high heat and bring to a boil. Stir well to dissolve sugar.
2. Add the cranberries to the pan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until most of the cranberries have burst. I mushed them up a little bit once they were soft.
3 You can leave the cranberry sauce as it is, or add some other fun ingredients. You could add raisins or even blueberries for nice sweet flavor. I love cinnamon and nutmeg, so I added a bit of each of those to mine.
4. Remove the pan from heat. Let cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a bowl to put in the refrigerator. The cranberry sauce will continue to thicken as it cools. It will be ready to serve after 30 minutes or so.

Buckeye Balls

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Buckeye Balls

Buckeye Balls are one of those holiday treats that you will always remember the very first time you had one. They are just so good, they will make a lasting impression in your mind. And if you haven’t had them yet, what are you waiting for?? They are amazing! The peanut butter balls are so soft and wonderful. The chocolate coating on the bottom goes so well with the peanut butter, they will melt in your mouth. And then you will want another!

Buckeye BallsMaking the peanut butter filling can be a bit tricky. Make sure you work the dough thoroughly. I use a Kitchen Aid and then use my hands to knead the dough a little more. When you make the balls, they might be very crumbly if you don’t mix the dough well enough. This is an all-hands-on-deck kind of recipe. I bring anyone who is home, in to help form the peanut butter balls. Otherwise, it would take forever.

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 (1-pound) box confectioners sugar
9 oz. (about 1½ cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 tbsp shortening

Buckeye Balls

Instructions:
1. In a large bowl, mix together the peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and confectioners sugar using a Kitchen Aid mixer. It will be dry and crumbly at first, but keep working it until everything is very evenly mixed.You may need to knead it by hand as well.
2. Form into 2 large balls, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30-60 minutes.
3. Shape into tablespoon sized balls. Roll them in your hands to smooth. Place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper.
4. Refrigerate for about an hour.
5. In a small saucepan melt chocolate chips and shortening over low heat, stirring constantly. When smooth, remove from heat.
6. Use a toothpick to dip each ball into chocolate mixture and place back on baking sheet.
7. Refrigerate until chocolate is set. (About an hour.) Use the back of a spoon to smooth over toothpick holes.
8. Eat. Share. Enjoy.

Buckeye Balls

Chocolate Fudge

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Chocolate Fudge

This is quite possibly the easiest fudge in the world to make. It’s simple, basic and only requires 5 ingredients. And only 4 ingredients if you don’t add the nuts. I happen to like nuts, but just didn’t have any in the pantry. This fudge is great to take to holiday gatherings, give as gifts, or just enjoy by yourself!

INGREDIENTS:
3 cups (18 oz.) semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14 oz.) can Sweetened Condensed Milk
Dash salt
1/2 to 1 cups chopped nuts (optional)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Chocolate Fudge

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Line a 9-inch square pan with foil.
2. Melt chocolate chips with sweetened condensed milk and salt in heavy saucepan over low heat.
3. Remove from heat. Stir in nuts and vanilla. Spread evenly into prepared pan.
4. Chill 2 hours or until firm. Remove from pan by lifting edges of foil. Cut into squares.

Chocolate Fudge

Red Velvet Cool Whip Cookies

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Red Velvet Cool Whip Cookies

My friend Amy gave me this recipe. She told me these cookies are amazing and she was right! They’re gorgeous too. Also, they’re super easy to make!

Ingredients:
1 package of Red Velvet Cake Mix
1 tub of Cool Whip
1 egg
Powdered sugar

Directions:
1. Mix all ingredients together, using an electric mixer if possible.
2. Roll dough into tbsp sized balls and roll in powdered sugar.
3. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes.
4. Enjoy!

Concord Grape Swizzle

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Concord Grape Swizzle

I invented a new drink last night. I’m calling it the “Concord Grape Swizzle”. I think it has a fun little ring to it. My husband picked up a bottle of Swedish Hill Concord Grape wine for us to enjoy. We love our New York State wines, especially the nice sweet wines.

Concord Grape Swizzle

As I was sipping the wine, I thought, I wonder what it might be like if I added some bubbly ginger ale and a slice of lime? Both of which I just happened to have in the fridge. The result was a yummy, new favorite drink!

Instructions:
1. Fill a glass 1/3 full of Swedish Hill Concord Grape Wine (Use grape juice as a nice non-alcoholic substitute.)
2. Fill another 1/3 of the glass with your favorite Ginger Ale.
3. Add ice and a slice of lime. (I threw a few cranberries in too, just because.)
4. Drink and enjoy.

Cheers!

Concord Grape Swizzle

Hot Cocoa Ornaments

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Hot Cocoa Ornament

Looking for an inexpensive, fun and easy holiday gift to give? This is the gift that keeps on giving! It’s a Hot Cocoa filled Christmas ornament. Your gift recipient can hang the ornament on their tree, then when the Hot Cocoa craving kicks in, Voila! There’s some hot cocoa to drink. Just dump the contents into a cup of boiling water and it’s an instant chocolate treat.

And it’s really easy and did I mention, inexpensive?

Supplies:
Clear, empty ornaments. (I picked up a few plastic ones from AC Moore.)
Candy canes for crushing
Hot Cocoa Mix
Mini Marshmallows
Ribbon for bows

Hot Cocoa Ornaments
Instructions:
Open the clear ornaments. Use a funnel to pour the hot cocoa mix into the ornaments. I used 3 packets to get the level I wanted. Crush a candy cane and pour that into the ornament. Fill the remaining space with mini marshmallows. Replace the top of the ornament, tie a bow on the top, and you’re done! Each ornament cost about $1.25 to make. They’re adorable and thoughtful and your gift recipients will love them!

Hot Cocoa Ornaments

Caramel Corn

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Caramel Corn

Do you say “Car-a-mel” corn? Or “Car-mel” corn? I say Caramel Corn. There’s an “a” there and it’s not silent. At least not in my world! However you say it though, it is mighty good. Caramel Corn is a family favorite from my husband’s side of the family. There was a recipe passed down for several generations. I’m not giving the secret family recipe away though! I found a similar recipe on Pinterest, and I am going to post that. I have actually found at least 20 different recipes for Caramel Corn while doing research for this post. They are all slightly different. However you make it, you will love it!

Ingredients:
1 cup unpopped pop corn (Use an air popper, it is SO much better.)
1/2 cup margarine
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanuts (optional)

Caramel Corn

Instructions:
Pop the popcorn, add peanuts now if you’d like them. (I highly recommend salted, roasted peanuts.) Set aside in a big baking pan. (I use my roaster pan, it’s perfect!) Melt the margarine in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Then allow the mixture to boil, without stirring, for 4 minutes. Remove the caramel from the heat and stir in the baking soda and vanilla extract.

Caramel Corn

Immediately pour the caramel over the popcorn in the roaster pan, stirring to coat each kernel. Bake the popcorn for one hour at 250 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes.

Caramel Corn

Remove the caramel corn from the oven. Pour it into a plastic container, a big one with a lid is preferable. Use a wooden spoon to stir the caramel corn, breaking it apart as it cools. Keep doing that every few minutes until they no longer clump together. Eat and enjoy. And store in an air tight container for the best taste.

Caramel COrn

Christmas Pretzel M&M Treats

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Christmas Pretzel M&M Treats

If you’re looking for a simple, fun and delicious treat to bring to holiday gatherings, this could be the one. You only need 3 ingredients. A bag of square pretzels, (you could use other shapes, but I have found the squares work the best), a bag of holiday green & red M&M’s and a bag of chocolate (or vanilla, as pictured) candy discs that you can find at craft stores such as AC Moore or Michael’s Arts & Crafts.

Christmas Pretzel M&M TreatsArrange the pretzels on an ungreased cookie sheet. Put the vanilla (or chocolate) flavored discs on top of the pretzel. Pop in a 275 degree pre-heated oven for 2 minutes. Yes. You read that right. TWO minutes. Not long at all. So don’t leave the room or forget about them. They will melt through the holes in the pretzels and make a huge mess.

Christmas Pretzel M&M Treats

Have your M&M’s ready to place on top of the warm fresh-out-of-the-oven candy. Do this part quickly, get help if you can. You’ll need to do it fairly quickly or the chocolate disc will harden and the M&M won’t stick. And by quickly, you will have a few minutes, it’s not an emergency situation. Just do it as quickly as you can and waste time sipping your coffee between placing each M&M.

Christmas Pretzel M&M TreatsBecause it is winter here in Upstate NY, I set the tray of pretzel treats in the garage for 15 or so minutes so the chocolate solidifies quicker. Otherwise it will take a while before you can put them in a container to store. Or, you can eat them right away and not have to worry about storing them at all!

The neat thing about this treat is that you can make one tray or 5 trays. Or just a few treats at a time if that’s all you want. The clean up is minimal. The prep time is short. The outcome is delicious.