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Posts tagged ‘Christmas’

Homemade Inexpensive Holiday Gifts & Christmas Crafts

It’s almost December already, and time is flying by again this year. It seems no matter how many years pass I can never be completely ready for the holidays. I say to myself every Thanksgiving that this year will be the year that I’m going to have everything I wanted to accomplish finished by Christmas….yeah right.

In the meantime, I’ve done a bit of searching and found some great things to share for creative and inexpensive Christmas gifts.

Also be sure to read my Yahoo article; 10 best bargain Christmas gift ideas.


These decorative candles are great for your holiday mantel or table centerpiece. Wrapped with the sheet music of your favorite carol and pictures of your family, they’re a great family keepsake or seasonal decoration.

Christmas Candles

1. Photocopy music or photos onto regular printer paper. 2. Trim the paper so it’s no taller than the candle. 3. Affix the paper to the candle with straight pins. 4. With an embossing gun, heat the candle until the wax saturates and melts completely through the paper. Remove the pins. 5. Embellish the candle with ribbons, charms or other notions.

Noel Candle
1. Wrap various ribbons around a candle. 2. Attach alphabet charms with adhesive dots.

Peace Candle
1. Glue pressed leaves on candle. Coat with decoupage medium. 2. Adorn with ribbon and a mini tag.

Believe Candle
1. Cut canvas to fit around candle. 2. Stamp “believe” on the canvas with StazOn ink. 3. Set a snap on the canvas. 4. Pin embellished canvas to candle. 5. Heat with an embossing gun until the wax saturates and melts completely through the canvas.

HOMEMADE COCOA KIT GIFTS

CLASSIC COCOA

Layer 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 cup powdered milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips, and 1/2 cup miniature marshmallows. Makes 1 quart mix or 12 servings hot cocoa.

Per serving: 142 cal., 20% (29 cal.) from fat; 3.7 g protein; 3.2 g fat (1.9 g sat.); 30 g carbo (2.6 g fiber); 1 mg chol.

MEXICAN COCOA

Layer 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 cup powdered milk, 1 cup firmly packed brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, and 3/4 cup chopped Mexican chocolate (such as Ibarra). Add a few cinnamon sticks to top of jar. Makes 1 quart mix or 12 servings hot cocoa.

Per serving: 158 cal., 14% (22 cal.) from fat; 3.4 g protein; 2.4 g fat (0.8 g sat.); 33 g carbo (2.1 g fiber); 1 mg chol.

PEPPERMINT STICK COCOA

Layer 1 cup powdered milk, 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup miniature chocolate chips, and 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy. Makes 1 quart mix or 12 servings hot cocoa.

Per serving: 172 cal., 17% (29 cal.) from fat; 3.7 g protein; 3.2 g fat (1.9 g sat.); 37 g carbo (2.6 g fiber); 1 mg chol.

MOCHA COCOA

Layer 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup espresso powder, 1 cup powdered milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate or miniature chocolate chips. Makes 1 quart mix or 12 servings hot cocoa.

Per serving: 141 cal., 23% (32 cal.) from fat; 4.1 g protein; 3.5 g fat (1.9 g sat.); 28 g carbo (2.3 g fiber); 1 mg chol.

Photos by David Prince

Sources: Vintage straight-sided Ball canning jar. Rounded 1-liter French canning jar from the Container Store (www.containerstore.com or 888/266-8246). Vintage metal-clip jar. Glass 1-quart cracker jar with aluminum screw-top lid from the Container Store.

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A perennial winter favorite, hot cocoa with all the trimmings (mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, and a cherry-red gumdrop) sports an even sweeter look packaged as a cone. This makes a great gift for babysitters, teachers, and neighbors. Be sure to add a tag letting your recipients know the cone contains enough for four servings.

RECIPE INGREDIENTS:
3/4 cup cocoa mix
2 (6- by 12-inch) cone-shaped cellophane bags (available at party stores)
2 clear rubber bands (we used ponytail holders)
Scissors
1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
3/4 cup mini marshmallows
1 large red gumdrop
1. Pour the cocoa mix into one of the bags. Close the bag with a clear rubber band, then trim the end of the bag 1 inch above the band.

2. Place the cocoa-filled bag into the second bag and flatten its top so the end doesn’t stick up.

3. Layer the chocolate chips and the marshmallows, then top with the gumdrop. Secure the bag with the other rubber band.

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Christmas HOT COCOA KIT

You can make one of all of the above cocoa mixes (mocha cocoa, pepp. candy cocoa, mexican cocoa, etc) and put them in a basket with cute Christmas cups, Christmas Hershey’s Kisses and marshmallows…mmmmmmmm 🙂

Another Homemade Cocoa Kit

This easy-to-make kit, with cocoa mix as the centerpiece, is a fun holiday gift. Package it in a pretty gift box lined with tissue. Include Hershey’s Kisses — they further sweeten and deepen the chocolate flavor — and marshmallows for dropping into the cocoa, if you wish.

Spice-Kissed Hot Cocoa Mix For 8 cups

* 1/3 cup best-quality unsweetened cocoa powder
* 1/4 cup superfine sugar
* 1 whole star anise
* 2 cinnamon sticks, each about 3 inches long

Mix together all of the ingredients. Place in a tin or jar that seals securely. Add a recipe card with the following directions: Hot Cocoa 8 cups whole milk Spice-Kissed Hot Cocoa Mix 8 Hershey’s Kisses (optional) Marshmallows (optional)

In a heavy saucepan over low heat, bring 1 cup of the milk to a simmer. Stir in the cocoa mix. Mix until well blended. Add the remaining 7 cups of milk and bring back to a simmer.

Remove the star anise and the cinnamon sticks and discard. Serve hot, along with the Hershey’s Kisses and marshmallows, if desired.
From Christmas Family Gatherings © by Donata Maggipinto. Used with permission of Chronicle Books LLC, San Francisco. Visit chroniclebooks.com.

Brownie Mix in a Jar

Who doesn’t love brownies? Nobody, that’s who. That’s why a brownie mix in a jar makes a great gift: it looks cool, it’s easy and inexpensive to make, and it turns into brownies! I like to keep a couple of these on hand for “emergency” situations, like when someone gives you an unexpected gift and you want to look like you already planned something in return.

Basically, you layer all the dry ingredients in a jar, then add a tag explaining what wet ingredients (like eggs and oil) to add and how to finish the recipe. There are countless variations; this one comes from Allrecipes.com and includes pecans, which have no business in a brownie but can be replaced with chocolate chips or even coconut. In addition to the ingredients themselves, you’ll need quart jars and tags for the baking instructions. Buy everything in bulk and you’ll have enough lovingly homemade gifts for everyone on your list.

One final note: this doesn’t have to be a regular old brownie mix. Search Allrecipes.com for “in a jar” and you’ll find loads of brownie varieties as well as cookie recipes. Yet another variation: Family Fun’s Hot Chocolate Cones, which rely on cone-shaped bags instead of jars. Whatever mouth-watering mix you choose, don’t forget your favorite editors during this special season.

Holiday Peppermint Bark

Spray a large cookie tray with non-stick spray and then line it with a piece of way paper. Take several large candy canes or a bag of peppermint candies and crush them into small pieces. (How much peppermint flavor you like should determine how many you chop up.)

On the stove, melt two bags of white chocolate chips at a low temperature. When melted, add most of the crushed peppermint and stir it in. Pour the mixture onto the cookie tray and spread over the tray until flat and even. Sprinkle the remaining peppermint pieces on top, pressing them in with a spatula.

Let it cool. Peel off wax paper and break into pieces. Enjoy!

Here’s a site that offers ‘how to’s’ on making your own creative Christmas projects and crafts;

http://www.allfreecrafts.com/christmas/index.shtml

and here’s a cute project that’s great if you want to recycle those favorite Christmas cards;

How to Make Greeting Card Placemats

Recycle your Christmas cards, or other greeting cards, to make pretty placemats for your table. This is one way to keep and display some of your prettiest, or most memorable, greeting cards. Next year, you can bring them out for holiday entertaining; perhaps your guests will even recognize their own cards in your selection!

Supplies:

Christmas cards or greeting cards
clear contact paper or self-adhesive plastic film
drinking glass or cardboard circle template
pencil
scissors
optional: wrapping paper or card stock as a backing; glue stick

Craft Project Instructions:

Assemble your collection of greeting cards and a circle template. You can make a circle template from cardboard, or use a drinking glass to trace around.

Begin tracing four to six inch circles around key areas of your greeting cards, centering the most pleasing designs.

Cut out the circles.

For the backing, cut a piece of clear contact paper, wrapping paper or card stock in a rectangle that is approximately 20 inches wide by 26 inches long (or trace around an old placemat).

If using contact paper, peel away the backing and lay it on the table, sticky side up. If the paper curls up at the sides, find something to weigh it down at the corners while you proceed with the next steps.

Arrange the greeting card circles in a trial run on the table. You can use a layout like the one shown, with three circles in the top row, then four circles in the center row, and a bottom row of three more circles, with the circles overlapping so there are no spaces between them.

You could also try a pyramid (like the triangle shape of a Christmas tree), or maybe experiment with a wreath design.

Once you have a design that you like, begin placing the greeting card circles on the backing sheet. If you’re using wrapping paper or card stock, swipe a glue stick across the back of each circle, just to hold it still until the top contact paper is in place.

Cut a piece of contact paper the same size as your backing.

Peel away the backing paper of the contact sheet and carefully place it over your card design, aligning the edges as well as you can, and smoothing out any bubbles.

Trim the placemat all around, leaving about 1/2 inch to one inch of space around the card circles. You can keep the corners square, or place your circle template close to each corner, tracing around the upper section of it to round off the corners.

Variations:

Cut the cards into different shapes – triangles, or free-form shapes, instead of circles.

To make a reversible placemat, glue two identical shapes together, with right sides out, so a design can be seen on either side of the placemat.

Write the year of construction on the placemat somewhere, to create a dated archive of your favorite card collections.

The Winter Emergency Car-Kit

You can either make one or buy one made by AAA for pretty cheap.

Think of a friend or loved one stranded in the ditch while the snow continues to pile up. Not a pretty picture, is it? A homemade emergency kit not only helps ensure their safety, it also says you care.

Start with a large coffee can. Decorate it as you see fit, starting with blank or holiday paper wrapped around the outside. Now, fill it with the following:

* Rock salt, filling roughly half the can. If the car gets stuck in the snow, the salt will help give the tires some traction and, hopefully, get it unstuck.
* A few roadside flares.
* A couple granola bars (stranded people get hungry).
* A pair of stretchy knit gloves (which are very small until you pull them over your hands). Maybe a knit cap, too.
* A small flashlight and a pack of fresh batteries.
* A mini first-aid kit with bandages and aspirin.
* A small bottle of water. Yes, it may get frozen, but it’s still worth having.
* A pocket-size book of Sudoku puzzles to pass the time waiting for the tow truck.
* A small, laminated sheet of emergency numbers, like AAA, towing services, etc.
* If you’re really ambitious, add a compatible Energizer Energi To Go powerpack for the recipient’s cell phone. Because the battery will invariably die the moment the car gets stuck.

Everything but the rock salt should go inside an oversized Ziplock bag to keep it from getting mixed in with the salt. All told, the kit shouldn’t cost more than $10-15, unless you add the Energi To Go (which costs around $20).

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MORE!!

More Holiday Recipes :

Recipes from My Family to Yours
Collins Family Traditional Christmas Cookie Recipes
What to Serve at a Party? Easy Sweet Treats; Dessert Cheeseball Recipes; Key Lime, Turtle Cheesecake Ball Recipes and More
Swedish Meatballs; Holiday Recipes and Perfect Party Fare
Easy Mushroom Puffs; Holiday Recipes and Perfect Party Fare
Scallop Ceviche; Holiday Recipes and Perfect Party Fare
Asian Chicken Won Ton Cups; Holiday Recipes and Perfect Party Fare

THANKSGIVING

3 Thanksgiving Day Drink Recipes for Both Kids & Adults
Thanksgiving Dinner Recipes; 2 Savory Side Dishes; Bartlet Pear, Granny Smith Apple & Hazelnut Dressing, and Squash & Spinach O’Gratin
Country Thanksgiving Dessert Recipes ; Granny-Smith-Caramel-Apple & Pecan Bread Pudding & Cranberry and Walnut Cake with Maple-Bourbon Sauce
Thanksgiving Brunch Recipes: Layered Turkey Dinner Brunch Casserole, Spiced Orange Pound Cake French Toast with Maple Orange Sauce

 

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Great Thanksgiving and Holiday Pumpkin Recipes


We all love the holidays, if not for the family and friends gathering together for fun and memory making, then definitely for the food!
I found some really great recipes I wanted to share while looking for step by step how to make homemade pumpkin pie recipes.
(I really needed to use that big pumpkin I never carved).

I just couldn’t…..didn’t have the heart to take a knife to it this year, this particular pumpkin was too pretty…..but now, I have to use it…..can’t let it go bad!

So….a pie seemed the nicest thing I could do 🙂 There’s also some other pumpkin recipes you might enjoy 🙂

From Simply Recipes; A beautiful chiffon topping and a spicy crust – a light pumpkin pie with beaten egg whites folded into the pumpkin custard, spiked with rum, set in a gingersnap cookie crust, and covered with whipped cream. The recipe comes from Heidi who pulled it from the Boston Globe a few years ago. And as they say in New England, it’s wicked good.

Chiffon Pumpkin Pie

Ingredients
Crust:
2 cups crushed gingersnaps (several pulses in a food processor)
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
6 Tbsp butter, melted
Filling:
1 envelope gelatin
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs, separated (or 3 egg yolks and enough egg white substitute for 3 egg whites)
2 Tbsp rum (note original recipe called for 1/2 cup of rum, but I think it’s a bit much) or you could make your own pumpkin rum; Home Made Pumpkin Rum – YouTube
1/4 cup granulated sugar
Purée made from 1/2 of one medium sugar pumpkin* (1 3/4 cups)
1 cup heavy cream, softly whipped (for topping)
Extra crushed gingersnaps (for garnish)
Method
Crust:
Set the oven at 325°F. Have on hand a 9-inch deep-dish pie pan. Butter it lightly.
In a bowl, combine the crushed gingersnaps, sugar, ginger, and butter. Press the mixture into the pie plate with the back of a spoon, making the top edge even all around. Bake the crust for 8-15 minutes, until it is lightly browned (baking time depends on the oven and on the type of pie dish you are using – a ceramic dish will take longer because it takes longer to heat up).
Filling:
In a heavy-based saucepan, combine the gelatin, brown sugar, salt, nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon, milk, and egg yolks. Stir thoroughly. Set the pan over medium heat and cook gently, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly. Do not let it boil!
Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool. Add the pumpkin purée and the rum. Refrigerate the mixture, stirring occasionally, until it thickens enough to form mounds.
In an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and granulated sugar until the form stiff peaks. Stir a few spoonfuls of the egg whites into the pumpkin mixture, then fold in the remaining whites. (If you are concerned about eating raw egg whites, use egg white substitute, dried egg whites, that you can find in the grocery store.)
Pour the filling into the cooled crust. Refrigerate for several hours.
Just before serving, spoon the whipped cream onto the filling and garnish with crushed ginger snaps. Cut the pie into wedges.
Makes one deep 9-inch pie.
*To make pumpkin purée, cut a sugar pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds, lie face down on a tin-foil lined baking pan. Bake at 350°F until soft, about 45 min to an hour. Cool, scoop out the flesh. Freeze whatever you don’t use for future use.

Directions for Making Pumpkin Pie from Scratch
Ingredients and Equipment
a pie pumpkin (see step 1)
A sharp, large serrated knife
an ice cream scoop
a large microwaveable bowl or large pot

Step 1 – Get your pie pumpkin
“Pie pumpkins” are smaller, sweeter, less grainy textured pumpkins than the usual jack-o-lantern types. grocery stores usually carry them in late September through December in the U.S. They’re only about 8 inches in diameter.
Just like selecting any squash, look for one that is firm, no bruises or soft spots, and a good orange color.
Yield: Pie pumpkins are small, usually only 6 inches in diameter. You can usually obtain about 2 or 3 cups or puree per pumpkin.

Step 2 – Prepare the pumpkin for cooking
Wash the exterior of the pumpkin in cool or warm water, no soap.
Cut the pumpkin in half. A serrated knife and a sawing motion works best – a smooth knife is more likely to slip and hurt you!

Step 3 – Scoop out the seeds…
And scrape the insides. You want to get out that stringy, dangly stuff that coats the inside surface. I find a heavy ice cream scoop works great for this.

Note: SAVE THE SEEDS:
The seeds can be used either to plant pumpkins next year, or roasted to eat this year! Place them in a bowl of water and rub them between your hands. then pick out the orange buts (throw that away) and drain off the water. Spread them out on a clean towel or paper towel to dry and they’re ready to save for next year’s planting or roast.

Step 4 – Cooking the pumpkin
There are several ways to cook the pumpkin; just choose use your preferred method. Most people have microwaves, and the use the least energy, so I’ll describe that here. But others make good arguments in favor of using a pressure cooker, steaming on the stovetop or baking in the oven. I’ll describe microwaving here, and at the end of this document, I’ve included alternative instructions to replace step 4, if you’d rather use a different method.

Put it in a microwaveable bowl
Remove the stem, and put the pumpkin into a microwaveable. You may need to cut the pumpkin further to make it fit. The fewer the number of pieces, the easier it will to scoop out the cooked pumpkin afterwards.
Put a couple of inches of water in the bowl, cover it, and put in the microwave.

Step 5 – Cook the pumpkin until soft
Cook for 15 minutes on high, check to see if it is soft, then repeat in smaller increments of time until it is soft enough to scoop the innards out. Normally it takes 20 or 30 minutes in total.

Note: You can also cook it on the stovetop; it takes about the same length of time in a steamer. I use a double pot steamer, but you could use an ordinary large pot with a steamer basket inside it!:

Step 6 – Scoop out the cooked pumpkin
Whether you cook the pumpkin on the stove, microwave, or even the oven, once it is cooked until it is soft, it is easy to scoop out the guts with a broad, smooth spoon, (such as a tablespoon). Use the spoon to gently lift and scoop the cooked pumpkin out of the skin. It should separate easily an in fairly large chucks, if the pumpkin is cooked enough.

Many times the skin or rind will simply lift off with your fingers . I’ll bet you didn’t realize making your own pumpkin glop… err, “puree” was this easy!

Note: there are many varieties of pumpkin and some make better pies that other (due to sugar content, flavor, texture and water content. Drier, sweeter, fine-grained pies; the small (8″ across) ones called “pie pumpkins” are best. If your pumpkin is more watery than the puree in the photo at right (there should not be any free water), you may want to let it sit for 30 minutes and then pour off any free water. That will help prevent your pie from being too watery!

Tip from a visitor: “I make my own pumpkin pies from scratch all the time. To eliminate watery pumpkin I strain my pureed pumpkin through a cloth overnight. If I use frozen pumpkin I do the same again as it thaws out. It works great and my pies cook beautifully.”

Step 7 – Puree the pumpkin
To get a nice, smooth consistency, I use a Pillsbury hand blender. A regular blender works, too (unless you made a few frozen daiquiris and drank them first..). Or even just a hand mixer with time and patience.
With the hand blender, it just takes 2 or 3 minutes!

Step 8 – Done with the pumpkin!
The pumpkin is now cooked and ready for the pie recipe.
Get the frozen daiquiris out from step 7 and take a break! 🙂
It’s ready to pop in the fridge or freezer (just pack it containers, like Ziploc bags or plastic containers, exclude as much air as you can, and freeze it!)
It is not suitable for home canning – See bottom of this page for the safety reasons why.
Start making tasty treats!

Alternative Cooking methods for step 4
If you don’t have a microwave, or prefer another method, try these:
Stovetop steaming – Place your steaming basket or grid in the bottom of a large pot. Put enough water so it won’t boil dry in 20 minutes, and yet is not so high that the pumpkin is touching the water level. You may need to add more water during the cooking. Add the pumpkin prepared in step 3, and get the steamer going. The cooking time is only between 8 and 12 minutes, depending on the range (gas or electric), and the pumpkin literally falls off the skin.

Pressure cooker – Place your grid in the bottom of the pressure cooker. If your pressure cooker came with directions, follow those for pumpkin and/or winter squash, like butternut squash. If, like most people, you’ve long since lost the directions, try this: Add enough water to just touch the bottom of the grid or shelf that you will place the pumpkin on. Add the pumpkin prepared in step 3, put the lid with the gasket, the weight and anything else your cooker requires in place, and turn the heat on high. Once it starts hissing, turn it to medium or medium high. The cooking time should only be about 10 minutes, and the pumpkin should literally fall out of its skin.

Oven – You can also bake the prepared pumpkin in the oven, just like a butternut squash. This method takes the longest. Just put the prepared pumpkin in an ovenproof container (with a lid), add about 3 cups of water to help prevent it from drying out and pop it in an 350 F (200 C) oven. It normally takes about 45 minutes to an hour; just test it periodically by sticking it with a fork to see if it is soft!

How to Make Homemade Pumpkin Bread!
Pumpkin bread is a traditional sweet desert bread, popular in the cooler fall and early winter months, with a flavor reminiscent of a pumpkin pie! It’s very easy to make and you’ll be suprised how good it tastes!

Ingredients and Equipment
2 cups of fresh cooked pumpkin
(see this page to make your own from a fresh pumpkin)
OR one 16 ounce can of canned pumpkin
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (not self-rising flour)
2 tsp. baking soda
3 cups sugar or 3 cups of Splenda OR a 50:50 mix of the two.
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup vegetable oil
1 and 1/2 tsp. salt 2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1/2 cup raisons (also optional)
Water:
1/2 cup water if you are using fresh cooked pumpkin
OR
2/3 cup water if you are using commercial canned pumpkin
Makes 2 loaves.

Pumpkin Bread Recipe
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and sugar (or Splenda).

3. Add the eggs, water, oil and pumpkin.

4. Stir until blended.

5. If desired, add the raisons and/or nuts. Mix well, either by hand or with a mixer.

6. Pour into two lightly greased and floured 9×5″ loaf pans.

7. Bake approximately 1 hour at 350 F (175 C). The test for doneness is the knife test: when a clean knife can be stuck in and removed cleanly.

8. Remove from the oven and cool slightly (10 minutes).

9. Then take out of pans to let cool on a rack.

Like banana bread, pumpkin bread tastes better if you wrap it in plastic wrap (Saran wrap, cling film), refrigerate it and wait until the following day to eat it. It keeps well in the refrigerator and can be frozen.

Easy Pumpkin Ice Cream Recipe
INGREDIENTS
• 1 3/4 cups pumpkin purée (1 15-ounce can pumpkin purée)
• 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
• 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
• 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
• Pinch of salt
• 2 Tbsp brandy (optional)
METHOD
1 Put the pumpkin puree, sugar, spices, and salt in a blender. Purée until smooth. Slowly add the cream, a tablespoon or two at a time, pulsing after each addition. Chill for 15 minutes (or longer, this part you can make ahead).
2 If you are using brandy, mix it in to the cream mixture right before churning. Churn in your ice cream machine 20 to 25 minutes. Keep in freezer until served.
Makes about 1 quart.

Directions for Making Pumpkin Soup from Scratch
3-4 cups mashed cooked pumpkin
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 large mild (sweet) onion, chopped
6 fresh carrots (finely chopped or grated)
3 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
one half teaspoon salt and dash of pepper
1 pint half-and-half (I use fat-free) If you want to go “au naturale” try your favorite milk instead (half and half gives it more body, though)
2 teaspoon thyme
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 stalks of celery (not 2 bunches!)
Recipe and Directions

Step 1 – Cooked pumpkin
Yes, you can used canned pumpkin.. .but how do you know what it even is? It looks nasty (no insult meant to Libby’s). But look at the fresh, bright color of fresh cooked pumpkin (there is NOTHING added to it, that’s its natural color). It’s easy to make your own from a fresh pumpkin

Step 2 – Gather the other ingredients
1 pint of half-and-half (I use the fat free type to keep this healthy)

• 1 large onion
• 4 tablespoons parsley
(fresh is better, but not necessary)
• 6 fresh carrots (grated or finely chopped)
• 1 Tablespoons minced garlic
• 2 teaspoons thyme
• 2 stalks of celery (not 2 bunches!)

Step 3 – chop the onion and celery
I use an electric copper or food processor until the pieces are about 1/8 in size.

Step 4 – Sauté the onion and celery
Sauté the onion, celery and the grated carrots in butter until tender.

Step 5 – Add the rest of the ingredients
Add remaining ingredients except half-and-half. Cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Note: If you want to freeze the soup for use later, stop now and freeze it. When you are ready to use it, defrost it, heat it up and resume with step 6!

Step 6 – Add the half and half and serve!
Add half-and-half, and heat (on the stove on medium, while stirring, or a minute in the microwave). Serve warm. Makes 6-8 small servings.

Homemade Pecan Pie

Ingredients
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp molasses
2 Tbsp melted butter
2 Tbsp flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups pecans, coarsely chopped
1 9-inch pie shell, chilled for an hour if freshly made, defrosted for 10 minutes if frozen. (See pie crust recipes.)
Method
1 Preheat oven to 375°F. Spread pecans along the bottom of the pie shell. Mix the remaining ingredients and pour over pecans. The pecans will rise to the surface of the pie.
2 Bake at 375°F for 45-50 minutes until the filling has set. About 20 minutes into the cooking you may want to use a pie crust protector, or tent the edges of the pie crust with aluminum foil to prevent the pie crust edges from burning.
3 Remove from oven and let cool completely.
Serves 8.

Maple-Glazed Sweet Potatoes with Pecan Topping

Ingredients
4 lbs of sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
8 Tbsp (1 stick) chilled butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Method
1 Preheat oven to 400°F. Butter a 13x9x2 inch glass baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add yams. Cook until water returns to a simmer, about 4 minutes. Drain; rinse in cold water.
2 Arrange yams in baking dish, overlapping pieces. Sprinkle with salt. Pour maple syrup over yams. Dot with 3 Tbsp of butter. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until yams are almost tender, about 25 minutes.
3 Mix flour and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Add remaining 5 Tbsp of butter. Rub in with fingers until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Mix in pecans.
4 Sprinkle pecan mixture over yams. Bake yams until tender, about 20 minutes.
Serves 12.

Onion Potato Gratin

Ingredients
1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
3/4 pound onions, thinly sliced
1 cup (packed) grated Gruyere cheese (about 4 oz)
8 Tbsp (packed) freshly grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 oz)
2/3 cup whipping cream
Method
Preheat oven to 400°F (unless preparing in advance).
1 Combine Yukon Gold potatoes and sliced onions in heavy large saucepan. Add enough water to cover. Bring water to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are almost tender, about 3 minutes. Drain potato onion mixture well.
2 Arrange half of potato-onion mixture in 11×7 inch glass baking dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle mixture with 1/3 cup Gruyere cheese and then 2 Tbsp of Parmesan cheese.
3 Arrange remaining potato-onion mixture atop cheeses. Pour cream over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the remaining 2/3 cup of Gruyere and 6 Tbsp of Parmesan cheese. (Can be prepared 8 hours in advance. Cover and refrigerate.)
4 Bake gratin uncovered in 400°F oven until cream thickens, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven. Preheat broiler. Broil gratin until top is golden, about 2 minutes.
Serves 4.

Indian Pudding

Ingredients
• 6 cups of milk
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
• 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
• 1/4 cup flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 cup molasses
• 3 eggs, beaten
• 1/3 cup of granulated sugar
• 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
• 1 teaspoon of nutmeg
• 1 cup golden raisins (optional)
• Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream
Method
1 Scald the milk and butter in a large double boiler. Or heat the milk and butter for 5 or 6 minutes on high heat in the microwave, until it is boiling, then transfer it to a pot on the stove. Keep hot on medium heat.
2 Preheat oven to 250°F.
3 In a separate bowl, mix cornmeal, flour, and salt; stir in molasses. Thin the mixture with about 1/2 cup of scalded milk, a few tablespoons at a time, then gradually add the mixture back to the large pot of scalded milk. Cook, stirring until thickened.
4 Temper the eggs by slowly adding a half cup of the hot milk cornmeal mixture to the beaten eggs, whisking constantly. Add the egg mixture back in with the hot milk cornmeal mixture, stir to combine. Stir in the sugar and spices, until smooth. At this point, if the mixture is clumpy, you can run it through a blender to smooth it out. Stir in the raisins (optional). Pour into a 2 1/2 quart shallow casserole dish. Bake for 2 hours at 250°F.
5 Allow the pudding to cool about an hour to be at its best. It should be reheated to warm temperature if it has been chilled. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.
Serves 8-10.

Creamy Sweet Potato Soup

Ingredients

• 2 Tbsp (1/4 stick) butter
• 1 cup chopped onion
• 2 small celery stalks, chopped
• 1 medium leek, sliced (white and pale green parts only)
• 1 large garlic clove, chopped
• 1 1/2 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes (yams), peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 5 cups)
• 4 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth (use vegetable broth for vegetarian option)
• 1 cinnamon stick
• 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
• 1 1/2 cups half and half
• 2 Tbsp maple syrup
• The leafy tops of the celery stalks, chopped

Method
1 Melt the butter in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add chopped celery stalks and leek, sauté about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 2 minutes.
2 Add sweet potatoes, chicken stock, cinnamon stick, and nutmeg; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
3 Remove cinnamon stick and discard. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until smooth. Return to pot.
4 Add half and half and maple syrup and stir over medium-low heat to heat through. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool soup slightly. Cover and refrigerate soup and celery leaves separately. Bring soup to simmer before continuing.) Ladle into bowls. Sprinkle with celery leaves.
Serves 6 to 8.

Why Can’t I Make Home-Canned Pumpkin Puree or Pumpkin Pie Filling?
I get asked this question a lot! You may can it in a cooked, cubed form; just not as a puree or ready-pumpkin pie filling. (see this page for instructions about how to can it in cubed form). Of course, you can freeze it, too, in cubed or puree or ready filling form (see this page for those instructions). And while I do have a recipe for canning pumpkin butter, I still keep the jars in the back of the fridge until I use them. Here’s the reason!
According to The National Center for Home Food Preservation (a land-grant university consortium sponsored by the USDA, and considered to be the leading authorities on food safety science and food preservation research) (and I am quoting them here):
“Home canning is not recommended for pumpkin butter or any mashed or pureed pumpkin or winter squash, but we do have directions for canning cubed pumpkin. Pumpkin puree can be frozen or made into a spicy pumpkin leather…
There are not sufficient data available to allow establishing safe processing times for any of these types of products. It is true that previous USDA recommendations had directions for canning mashed winter squash, but USDA withdrew those recommendations…
Some of the factors that are critical to the safety of canned pumpkin products are the viscosity (thickness), the acidity and the water activity. Studies conducted at the University of Minnesota in the 1970’s indicated that there was too much variation in viscosity among different batches of prepared pumpkin purees to permit calculation of a single processing recommendation that would cover the potential variation among products (Zottola et. al, 1978). Pumpkin and winter squash are also low-acid foods (pH > 4.6) capable of supporting the growth of Clostridium botulinum bacteria which can cause the very serious illness, botulism, under the right storage conditions. If the bacteria are present and survive processing, and the product has a high enough water activity, they can thrive and produce toxin in the product.
More recent research with pumpkin butter has been done at the University of Missouri. Pumpkin butter is mashed or pureed pumpkin that has had large quantities of sugar added to it, but not always enough to inhibit pathogens. Sometimes an ingredient such as vinegar or lemon juice is added to the formulation to increase the acidity (decrease the pH). However, pumpkin butters produced by home canners and small commercial processors in Missouri have had pH values as high as 5.4. In fact, the pH values seemed to be extremely variable between batches made by the same formulation (Holt, 1995).
It is not possible at this point to evaluate a recipe for pumpkin or mashed squash for canning potential by looking at it. At this point, research seems to indicate variability of the products is great, and in several ways that raise safety concerns. It is best to freeze pumpkin butters or mashed squash.”
Obviously, pumpkin pie filling is essentially “pureed pumpkin” and similar to pumpkin butter. This means that neither the cooked pumpkin puree not the pumpkin pie filling (puree plus sugar and spices) would be candidates for safe home canning.
The University of Illinois Extension also says: “Canning pumpkin butter not a good idea, but try pieces or freezing. “

References:
Canning Pumpkin Butter and Mashed or Pureed Squashes: http://www.uga.edu/nchfp/publications/uga/pumpkin_butter.html
Extension Service, USDA. 1994. Complete Guide to Home Canning. AIB No. 539. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC.
Holt, D. September 22, 1995. Re: Pumpkin butter. Email message to fnspec_mg@ecn.purdue.edu.
Zottola, E. A., Wolf, I.D., Norsiden, K.L. and D.R. Thompson. 1978. Home canning of food: Evaluation of current recommended methods. Jn. of Food Science 43:1731.

Feelin’ the Holiday Spirit :)

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Wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year!!!!

Merry Christmas

The blur of another year comes around again, and much sooner than expected!

It never fails, I’m no sooner taking down the Christmas decorations and doing a bit of spring cleaning, then summer comes with all its glory manifesting into Thanksgiving and leaving us here yet again with our hopes for Christmastime to last juusst a bit longer…I just can’t keep up….so that’s it….I’ve given up on tring to keep up…from now on, my calendar is broken.
I’ll be either very very early with Christmas and Birthday’s, or a bit late, depending on God’s time….not my time, GOD’s time…..and that’s just the way it is….
If anyone asks I’ll just say,
“You’ll have to take it up with my boss”.

And doncha’ know it…..
Christmas is always merrier when you share it with family and friends!

here’s a couple on the spot Christmas poems just for you 🙂

Stop worrying about the lights being just so,
even if the presents aren’t all tied in a bow,
The ham may be charred beyond all recognition,
and the bills may be piled to kingdom come’s kitchen,
but we all have eachother to love…
Just pray a little thanks for all your blessings
and may God shine that light
on all you’re stressing
there’s more important things to consider
when looking in a mirror
than the number of lines that have been etched by our times
they’re memories, each and everyone…
so remember, even if our errors and trials succeed or fail…
we all have eachother to love 🙂

Christmas 2008

It’s the day before Christmas Eve and all through the house
Everyone was fretting, even the mouse.
The rooms were all in tatters, the beds were still unmade,
The cheese was still sitting out from last night’s Christmas soiree.

“Oh, my”, said the mommy with tears in her eyes,
“How will we ever be ready for tomorrow night?”
“The house must be cleaned, the presents all need wrapping, and the cookies must be just right for Santa’s midnight snacking”.

And Daddy piped in with his own worries too,
“There’s no gifts for little Suzi this year, no dolls, or even shoes.
I was laid off from work, and the bills are stacking up I’m afraid,
Whatever will we do with no bonuses paid?”

It seemed everyone was upset about one thing or another,
From taxes going up, to the economy going asunder,
There’s wars being fought, for freedoms from poverty, greed & hunger,
Things that would terrify any waking father or mother.

What a sad sight to see, this sorry state of affairs
Had grown overwhelming, in dire need of repair.
“Oh what will we do,” cried the masses is despair,
Who can we turn to when all seems so lost and unfair?”

Then a star overhead shone brilliant & bright
To remind us of why we celebrate Christmas Night.
Jesus was born to save us from all our worries & woes,
Our sins are forgiven, our hearts would evermore overflow.

And maybe, just maybe, for one united eve & day
We could all rejoice in our blessings, Thank GOD for each and every day
Whether by loving eachother, or sharing our joy,
Let’s celebrate GOD’s love for us for every girl and boy.

Merry Christmas!

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