Whipped Sweet Potatoes

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Hi there– Our Christmas table was probably like yours, loaded with our best cooking efforts.  But this simple bowlful was my favorite part of our Christmas lunch.  Sweet potatoes, not too sweet without the customary marshmallow goo, and with a lovely flavor thanks to the “secret” ingredient— vanilla!

WHIPPED SWEET POTATOES
2 large sweet potatoes (orange)
1/4 cup whole milk (or half & half)
2 tab. melted butter (optional)
1/2 tsp.salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla
a handful of pecans for garnish

Bake the potatoes in the oven at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes until a fork pierces them easily.

Scoop the sweet potato flesh out of the skins into a mixing bowl.  Add in the milk, butter, salt and vanilla.  With an electric mixer beat the whole thing until it’s fluffy and light.

Spoon the sweet potatoes into a serving bowl and sprinkle the pecans over the top.  (You can make these ahead and reheat them in the microwave when it’s time to eat!).

Honey Crusted Pork Tenderloin (or Christmas with the family)

IMG_2684Hello all– Hope you had the merriest Christmas celebration.  We’re just winding down here with kids in the house til New Years.  There’s a high stakes Monopoly game going on in the family room right now.  And clutter everywhere. Big fun.

But our big meal for Christmas is  Christmas Eve lunch with our parents and kids and my dear friend Jenon– It’s a riotous squeeze to fit around the table, but I get a lot joy out of seeing the people I love the most sitting down to a big meal together.

We filled our plates with whipped sweet potatoes and broccoli quinoa salad, roasted carrots and this pork tenderloin.  It was just fine for our lunch together.

HONEY CRUSTED PORK TENDERLOIN (OR
1 medium pork tenderloin (about about 4 pounds)
salt & freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup water
1 tab. cornstarch

In a large skillet, melt the butter and honey, stirring them together.  Season the pork literally with salt and pepper.

Set the tenderloin into the hot pan and brown the top side ad bottom for 5 minutes each o medium high heat –be careful it’s not too hot or the honey could burn.

Remove the pork to a baking dish and scrape all the juices from the skillet over the meat.
Put the baking dish of pork into a 375 degree oven for about 30-40 minutes.  Best to use a meat thermometer to see when the interior of the pork reaches 145 degrees.

Let the pork sit 10 minutes before you slice it into 1/2″ slices.

While it rests, scrape the pork juices from the baking dish back into the skillet.  Heat it to a nice simmer.  Shake the cornstarch and water together in a container with a tight fitting lid and whisk it into the hot pork juices unit it thickens, just a minute or two.

Set the hot pork sliced onto a platter and drizzle the sauce over the top.  Enjoy!!

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11062253_797218907055671_22022511148801165_oAll of us set down around the table– It’s one of my favorite moments of Christmas.

 

Christmas Meditation

867e778d6eb2df81485f00e6194d56b6Merry Christmas all– a couple weeks ago a friend read these thoughts to me and it’s become my Christmas meditation– the God beyond the baby come to earth from heaven.  The glorious, all knowing, eternal, inscrutable God…

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgements, and his paths beyond tracing out
Who has know the mind of the Lord?  Or has been his counselor?
Who has ever given To God that God should repay him?
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever!  Amen.    Romans 11:33-36

Hoping you find the glory of God in your Christmas and have warm and wonderful days with people you love wherever you are.

P.S. thank you Kathryn Grady for the photo

They’re coming!!

IMG_2689Last years Christmas morning picture by the tree…

Hi all– They’re coming!!  I couldn’t be more excited!  Pick up Laurel at the airport this afternoon and the rest will roll in tomorrow!  And I’m just about ready:

Cookies baked…  check!!
Tree up…  check!!
Gifts wrapped… check!! check!! check!!
Welcome sign hung on the front door…  check!
Fridge full…  check! check! double check!!
Christmas lights up…  check!
Stack of Christmas stories to read on the coffee table…  checkity check!
Advent wreath ready to light… check and check!!
Heart full and happily waiting for Christmas hugs… checkity check check!!!

Hoping your Christmas is full of people you love coming through your front door.
Merriest Christmas and God Bless us everyone!

519eKTDhntL._SX379_BO1,204,203,200_P.S.  This old check list reminds me of a favorite Christmas children’s book–  Mooseltoe  by Margie Palatini.  The moose dad works through his Christmas checklist wanting to rustle up the perfect Christmas for his family.  Of course, there’s bumps in the road, but he pulls it off with resourcefulness and comes up with a happy ending.

Christmas Cake

IMG_2502Hi all– this really isn’t much of a recipe– more just an idea for making a cake mix into a cake fit for Christmas–with the help of some mini chocolate chips and a little peppermint extract.  We had a friends Christmas potluck dinner on Monday so with one cake mix I took these two cakes along.  Easy and celebratory enough for a party.

CHRISTMAS CAKE
1 chocolate fudge cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup vegetable oil
water
1 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tsp. peppermint extract

Frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 box powdered sugar (about 3 3/4 cups)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tab. whole milk (or half & half)
garnish:  12 mini candy canes, pounded to bits.

IMG_2506Mix up the cake mix according to the directions on the package.  (my box called for 1/3 cup oil, 3 eggs and 1 cup water).

Then fold in the mini chocolate chips and the peppermint extract. Spoon the batter into 2 8″ cake pans that have been sprayed with cooking spray.  And pop them in the oven at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.

When the cakes are cooled, make the frosting– With an electric mixer beat together the cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and milk until it is smooth and creamy.

Normally I use the frosting to cover a 2 layer cake– but this time for our potluck I wanted 2 smallish cakes.  Who needs a huge dessert after all that yummy potluck food?.

Just spread on the frosting, and sprinkle the crushed candy canes on top.

This could scarcely be easier!!  Hope you have a MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

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Here’s the Monday night friends– just love these gals, every one! We’ve been meeting together for almost 20 years, through thick and thin, we know each other so well…  xo

 

12 Days of Christmas

my-blueberry-jam.blogspot.comMerry Christmas Friends– It’s around the corner all that hub-bub and noise of Christmas! In fact, just 12 days away.  So I’m thinking of how to savor the quiet joys of Christmas in the days ahead– aside from the gifts and the parties and the heartwarming joy of kids bounding in through the front door to stay the week…

I’m hoping to find meaning and peace in small things, in quite moments, in chances to reflect in these 12 days ahead.  Things that don’t take a wallet full of money or a whole lot of time, but give the sweet joy of this holy season.

day #1:  Sit down to enjoy a couple thick slices of toasted orange cranberry bread with a huge mug of tea and a little quiet.

day #2: Settle down in a warm cozy place and listen through a recording of the Messiah
(youtube has the Choir of Kings College, Cambridge–men & boys choir.  Glorious!!)

day #3:  Write out a gift list, not of things I want for Christmas, but a list of gifts I’ve already received, that have brought joy, through  this past year– our new baby Eero, travels with Larry, phone calls from our kids, mom recovered from hip surgery, a new turquoise front door…

day #4:  Bundle up and take a short night time walk through the neighborhood to enjoy the neighbor’s bright Christmas lights.

day #5:  Call an old friend with whom we spent many Christmas days in the past and catch up on all they are doing.

day #6:  Light a whole flock of candles on the dinner table and eat by candlelight.

day #7:  Sit down with a mug of hot tea and read through the Christmas story from the book of Luke, stopping to thank God for the miracle of it all, along the way as I read.

day #8:  Take a loaf of cranberry bread next door to Mr. Wicks and have a chat.

day #9:  Throw the schedule to the wind and read a stack of Christmas books to my kids at school one afternoon.

day #10:  Pick up an extra poinsettia (or a bottle of bubbly– or both!) when I’m at the market and leave it as a surprise on a friends from porch.

day #11:  Pray for each friend and family member as I sit and wrap their Christmas gift.

day #12:  Slow down and make time to thank and worship God through these days, for the gift of his son come to the world.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

P.S. thanks for the photo to my blueberry jam.blogspot.com

Enough

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Hello friends– This is on my mind these days in all the hubbub and excesses of Christmas swirling around me…

“A quiet heart is content with what God gives. It is enough.”
–Elisabeth Elliot, from her book Keep a Quiet Heart (author, speaker 1926-2015)

The best gift of Christmas this year would be a quiet, content heart before God– finding my joy in small things through my days and contentment in a quiet walk with our God.  That certainly is more than enough.

A Houseful of Christmas 2014

 

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The fam at it’s best??  Well, I just like this wacky out of focus picture in front of (& totally blocking) our tree!

Hello all– It’s been a fine Christmas– we’ve had our small house full of kids coming and going for 10 days– so much cookie eating, game playing, and noisy meals together. Just what an old mom loves…

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DSC00077     10899959_10103786507620183_1618436917478308224_oThere were lots of meals together around the table– the table all set for Christmas breakfast, a plateful of ham lunch on Christmas Eve, breakfast oatmeal in the kitchen, and Christmas morning panettone French toast, Christmas night tapas by the fireplace (my favorite meal) and seated around the table on Christmas Eve lunch.

IMG_3575IMG_3586     IMG_3585We opened this Christmas gifts with a flurry and some thank you hugs.

DSC_0212     IMG_3514And enjoyed celebrations with our larger families on both sides.–Here’s the annual “cousins picture” with Grandma Lo– and my mom with her great grand-daughter Jobay, examining the nativity– at my brother’s house.

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After the celebrations. we spent our days out and about–  walking around the lake at Tri-City Park and of course, stopping at the playground.

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DSC00174     DSC00179On Saturday we took a multicultural trip around LosAngeles– Grand Central Market, Olvera Street (original L.A. street), Little Toky0–Maryann’s nibbling her ice cream mochi.

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10341752_10103785124486993_842882026834444943_nAnd all the times in-between, we just kicked back at home– decorating Christmas cookies, looking at photos, playing with new Christmas toys and, of course, the requisite walk to Yogurtland, reading through the stack of Christmas story books and playing endless games of “heads up!” (telephone charades)

It was a grand time together.  Thanks for coming home Micah, Jodi, Charlotte, Maryann, Jobay, Ani, Brian and Laurel-Lu!  Loved it!

P.S.  I have to write down another few favorites (is anyone still reading by now??!!) –things I want to remember– like the Midnight Christmas Eve service at St John’s– all those carols and handbells,  the beautiful  day at the beach with Ani & Brian, “The Muppets Family Christmas,”  Girls making place cards for the Christmas table, snacking and yakking with all the Sittigs at Grandma Honey’s house, girls in their tent beds, Laurel’s Christmas stocking…  I am thankful.

Christmas Benediction

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Hello friends–We’re just home from a heartwarming Christmas Eve midnight service.  I wasn’t going to post anything today–  but this benediction was a true blessing, so I wanted to send it on to you…

“May you be filled with the wonder of Mary,
the obedience of Joseph,
the joy of the angels,
the eagerness of the shepherds,
the determination of the magi,
and the peace of the Christ child,
And may the Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, bless you now and forever.”

Merry Christmas! Thanking God for his son come to earth and for his blessing and help in the year ahead.

thank you lisettewoltermckinley.com for the pic

Joy at Christmas

december desktop-blogHello friends–   Hope you are sitting down around the table with people you love– And hope you are tucking into a sumptuous meal and there is laughter and hugs all around.
Hope you have the joy of Christ come to us–in your heart.  That is the true joy in our world.

Joy to the world! the Lord is come:
Let earth receive her King!
Let every heart prepare Him room!
And heaven and nature sing…

Wishing you Real Joy.  Merry Christmas!!

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Thanks to thornandsparrow.com for the pic

Crafting Christmas Wreaths

IMG_3220Hi friends– I’m not much of a Christmas crafter– No painted ornaments, no knitted stockings…   But when we were up in SF over Thanksgiving, Jessica took us down to Studio Choo– for a morning wiring together Christmas wreaths– and it couldn’t have been more fun!

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We got a quick lesson and then were left with bountiful buckets of greens and berries and the tools to go to work!…

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It took us a while.  And every wreath was individual– from Ani’s pinkish flowery wreath to Jessica’s asymmetrical berry laden one.

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All around the studio, everything was beautifully organic.

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So fun to watch how each wreath developed stem by stem wired around the ring.

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Thanks Jessica for one of the best “Girls’ Day Out” ever!!

 

Christmas Books for Kids (& people who read to them!)

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Illustration by Eva Erickson

Hi Book Buddies–  One of my favorite parts of Christmas is the big stack of books I lug off to school December 1st.  In room #2 we read a Christmas book every morning to kick off our study day.  Everything from The Nativity to The Grinch.

— And now with the Grand-girls coming for Christmas this year, I’m collecting a stack of my favorites on the coffee table for a little pre-bedtime reading with the girls, cozy on the couch under a blanket.  It’s a very readable time of year.  So here are just a few of our favorites:

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Christmas in the Barn is one of those cozy books that make perfect bedtime reading.  The lilting words and the gentle pictures are like a sweet lullaby.  It’s a different telling of the nativity by Margaret Wise Brown (who wrote Goodnight Moon)– simple and perfect for small children.

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If you’ve ever been involved in a church Christmas pageant, you’ll love this rollicking story of the year the Herdman’s, the most notoriously mean kids in town, who stride into Sunday School and take over the Christmas program.  The rag tag siblings put a whole new spin on Mary, Joseph and the 3 wise men.  And the result is surprisingly touching.  It’s a short chapter book– just read it aloud to my 4th graders.  We loved it.

 

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This is a book about Christmas wishes– a small girl wishing for a family.  A doll wishing for a girl to claim her.  And the Joneses wishing for a daughter to share their Christmas.  There are twists and turns in a snowy English village as all their wishes converge into one suitably happy ending.  I think I love this book because years back I read it every Christmas with my two girls. –A sweet and satisfying Christmas tale.

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If you’ve only seen the Grinch movie, I’m asking you– oh please do read the book,  How the Grinch stole Christmas  —soon.  (it’s so much better!). That old Grinch mischievously tries to ruin Christmas, only to find it can go on without presents or trees or roast-beast.   It’s Dr. Seuss at his very best, with his inventive rhymes, quirky illustrations, thoroughly likable characters, and crazy story line all wrapped up with a heart-warming ending.

Simple Christmas

IMG_6375Hi there– A friend asked me to give a little seminar a couple weeks ago.  My topic– Simplifying Christmas.  So, first thing, I googled just that.  And you’d be astonished how many people have written on Simple Christmas!!  So I gathered up ideas from here and there and here’s a just a few I found to make Christmas a little simpler and most of all, more meaningful:

#1.  It starts with a budget.  I read that 2/3 of American families have no idea exactly how much they spend on Christmas.  Decide how much you want to spend on each area of Christmas (gifts, decorations, entertaining, meals, cards, donations travel…) and keep totals as you go.  Then stick to it (the hard part)!

#2. And budget your time as well.  Open your calendar early on and budget how you really want to spend those precious December days. I read about one family who finished shopping, baking decorating… by December 13th and then went on to spend  the “12 days of Christmas” enjoying a simpler quieter Christmas time together…

#3.  Take a pre-Christmas family survey.  Around the table, or by email, ask your family, “What 3 things make it a good Christmas for you? What could we skip and not miss? What should we change?”  Last Christmas I realized I did not actually have to bake 12 kinds of Christmas cookies, so I emailed my kids and asked which they’d like to see in the kitchen when they came home– and just baked up their favorites. Better!

#4. Can you be the brave one in the family to suggest drawing names or just buying gift for children?  Saves time, shopping anxiety and money!

#5.  Give events as gifts, not things in boxes– for example:  craft pamphlet for a January “Girl’s Day” out with your mom and sisters, or plan an individual date with a grandchild.  How about a January scrapbook date with kids to chronicle 2014?  Or tickets to the zoo, a museum, bowling, the movies…  Last year for Christmas we invited our kids to a February dinner at Bar Jules and a night at the SF symphony– great fun! (and no gift shopping or wrapping involved!)

#6. With our extended family–we pass a basket and  in lieu of gifts everyone can slip in some cash to send to World Vision to buy a donkey for a family in need in another country, to buy mosquito nets, a flock of ducks or vaccinations for children–or to send $35 it takes for a child in a third world country to go to school…

#7.  While you wrap up gifts for friends and family, take a minute to pray for that person as you tape up the package and tie the bow…

#8.  I love Elizabeth Elliot’s idea to save the gifts until Epiphany (King’s Day) –January 6th and keep the focus on the real meaning of the day on Christmas.

#9.  Keep wrapping supplies tucked in a shopping bag. Pull it out and wrap as you bring gifts home.  Don’t save them all for a Christmas Eve wrap-a-thon!

#10. To decorate the house– don’t shop!  Use what you have.  And if you just need  fresh Christmas things, invite friends to coffee along with their used Christmas items and have a decoration exchange!

#11. Cut greenery from your yard (it doesn’t have to be pine, any green is pretty)– and spread it around to decorate.  I planted a holly bush a few years back so I could trim it and bring those shiny leaves and red berries into the house in December.

#12.  Decorate your coffee table with a stack of colorful children’s Christmas books– Don’t buy them– hit the library!  ( This comes in handy for cozy times with kids in the house)

#13.  Limit the space you allow for Christmas storage (like my smallish upper hall cupboard)– so if you get something new– you have to throw something away to make it all fit.

#14.  Instead of the time and expense of Christmas cards to 100 people– send 5 handwritten notes to the ones you love the most.  Or just send a photo-laden Christmas email out.  Or opt for Thanksgiving cards,  a New Year’s letter or Valentines!!!– to stay in touch with people you care for.

#15.  Feeding people is one of my favorite parts of Christmas!! But sometimes the simplest meals are the best.  A friend went through a difficult divorce one Christmas time.  All she had on hand for Christmas Eve supper for her and the kids was cans of Clam Chowder.  But the next year, remembering that dear time together, they decided to do the same– and now it’s become their tradition.  My family lived in Spain for 12 years, so Christmas night after all the hub-bub is past, the girls and I set out simple tapas on the coffee table by the fire place.  It’s my favorite Christmas time meal.

#16. If you must throw a big Christmas party– make it pot luck!!  Let everyone chip in.  Or save the party time with friends for New Year’s Eve or a Super Bowl soup-fest when life isn’t so busy.

#17.  Allow your self to gain 2 pounds over the holidays so you don’t anguish over every bite you take.  January’s privations are around the corner!

#18.  Christmas carols– play them at home, in the car, at work… They are free and simple and set your heart to the joy of Christmas!

#19.  Set out the nativity scene together as the first part of your Christmas– I read of one family that wrapped all the nativity figures in Christmas paper and set them at the dinner table.  Then each person unwrapped their figure, explained who/what it was and placed it in the stable.

#20. Celebrate Advent with your family– each Sunday until Christmas– or, if you’re not altogether until the week of Christmas, read and sing and light the candles all in one day.  Here’s a link to an advent idea:  Christmas Advent

#21. Simple tradition– Have Grandfather or perhaps the oldest grandchild read the Christmas story from Luke 2 before you open your gifts.

#21.  As your gift to Jesus this Christmas, memorize a bit of scripture– Luke 2:8-14 (the Angels announcing to the shepherds) or Isaiah 9:6 & 7 (For unto us a child is born…) or sections of Psalm 86 (my favorite Psalm of devotion)

#23.  With your extended family have a Christmas Night Talent Show!– our line up in the past included– 5 red nosed family members whistling Rudolph!  Silly Christmas poems, the arrival of the world’s skinniest Santa, “What Child is This?” solo on the flute by a 9 year old, the 12 Days of Christmas rewritten to poke fun at family members, and the Nativity Tableau of little cousins all dressed in bathrobes and sheets (great for photos!).

#24. Just sit and watch your family.  That’s who you are doing this all for– Skip basting the turkey again, leave the dishes in the sink.  Just sit. And watch the kids explore a new Christmas toy, study the curve of their cheek, watch your older kids sit and talk over cups of coffee, your mom cut into the chocolate pie, your husband carry in a load of fire wood.  Be present with the people that you love.

#25.  Read through the book of Luke as your own personal Advent.  There are 24 chapters, one for each day leading up to Christmas.  Jesus the newborn babe, the child, the man, the Savior…

As you make your Christmas plans– ask yourself– Does this make Christmas more meaningful for my family?  Does it add joy, not stress to the holiday?  Does it honor the Lord we are celebrating?

Hoping you and your family have a warm and wonderful Christmas time together– simple and beautiful– with lots of hugs, chuckles and good food!

Chicken with Apples and Calvados (apple brandy)

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Hello friends– Been away for a while, but wouldn’t want to miss a chance to send off the recipe for this lovely chicken that we tucked into for Christmas Eve lunch with the family.  Sweet apples laced with brandy and savory leeks all sauced up over chicken thighs.  It’a a nice special occasion dinner that doesn’t take too much time away from your special occasion to cook it up!  Hope you like as much as we did…

CHICKEN WITH APPLES AND CALVADOS (APPLE BRANDY)
3 tab. butter
3 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 tab. olive oil +2 tab. butter
8 to 10 chicken thighs
1 leek, white & light green part
1/2 onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup Calvados (apple brandy)
1/2 cup apple cider
4 sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tab. cornstarch
1/2 cup cream

IMG_6467Christmas Eve lunch– Chicken with apples and Calvados, roasted banana squash, rice medley with brussel sprouts & bacon, roasted asparagus…

In a large pan, sauté the apple in the butter until they are golden. about 10 minutes.  Set them aside on a plate.

In the same pan, splash in the olive oil and 2 tab. butter. When it’s hot, add the chicken thighs (I removed the skin, but they would be fine with skin on as well) to the pan and brown them, about 5 minutes on each side.  Remove the chicken to a plate.

Cut the leek lengthwise and them slice in crosswise into 1/2″ bits.  Add the leek and onion to the pan and cook until softened.  Then stir in the Calvados and cider.  Put the chicken back into the pan and top with the thyme and bay leaves.  Simmer on low for 20 to 25 minutes until the chicken is tender.  Remove it to a pretty platter and cover to keep warm.

Turn up the heat so the sauce in the pan is simmering.  Shake the cornstarch and cream together in a container with a tight lid until it’s all blended and stir it into the sauce to thicken it.  Add the apples for a minute or two and them pour them over the chicken to serve it up.

China Christmas

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Hello friends– Well, even though it’s not an actual holiday in China, there’s plenty of Christmas going on at the Shanghai Sittig’s 10th floor home.  Micah and Jodi summon up a tree, the packages, the meals with friends.  There are photos and gifts and silly late night skyping flying from China to California.  Thanks Micah and Jodi for including us in all your Christmas fun, even long distance…

P.S. -The REAL reason I’m putting up this post is that it’s been way, way too long since we’ve had some sweet grand-girl pics here!  Love those little faces!

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Christmas Past

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MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

My sister put up this 1950’s photo of us in front of that tinsel covered tree.  Sweet to see.  I’m hoping you all have a meaningful, memorable Christmas with your sister or parents or kids–with all the people you love the most.

“For behold I bring you tidings of great joy… unto you has been a born a Savior, who is Christ the Lord”    –Luke 2:10-11

“God bless us everyone”  –Tiny Tim

Cranberry Apricot Pecan Bark

IMG_8292Hi all– Here’s a pretty last minute Christmas treat.  You melt the white chocolate and throw on the fruit and nuts!  Sound easy?  It should be, but last night I melted my favorite trusty rusty old mixing bowl overheating the chocolate (so sad) and when I ran out into the night to get more white chocolate my grocer was all out!  Ugh. But I persevered and it was worth it– think you’ll love this yummy bark!

CRANBERRY APRICOT PECAN BARK
16 oz. good white chocolate (2 2/3 cups chopped)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup dried apricots, cut to bits

IMG_8289Pull out a piece of parchment paper and draw a 8″x10″ rectangle with a pencil.  Flip the paper over onto a cookie sheet so that you can still see the lines but they won’t touch the chocolate.

Put 12 oz. (2 cups) of the chocolate into a glass bowl.  Microwave it 30 seconds and stir.  Do that twice more and the chocolate should be melted and smooth. Then stir in the other 2/3 cup of chocolate immediately until it is melted.  Quickly spread the melted white chocolate on the parchment and spread to cover the area of the rectangle.  Then sprinkle on the cranberries, apricots and pecans and press them down into the warm chocolate.  (It’s important to work quickly, so that the chocolate doesn’t cool and get hard before the toppings stick in).  Let is all sit a couple hours to harden completely and and then cut into polite little bits to pass around to everyone.    Pretty and so delicious!

Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti

IMG_8266Good morning!–  It’s early Saturday here.  I’m so happy I have 3 of our kids still snoozing in the house.  And two more arriving tomorrow.  So the gifts are finally all wrapped, the house clean enough, there’s cranberry bread on the stove top waiting for breakfast and cookies stacked in tins on the kitchen counter.  So many cookies.  And here is a new one that we tried this year…

CRANBERRY PISTACHO BISCOTTI
2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 tab. cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 stick butter
2 eggs
1 cup pistachios
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup dried apricots, cut to bits
1 egg white
sanding sugar

With a mixer combine the flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and cinnamon.  Mix in the butter until you have coarse crumbs.  Then add in the eggs and finally the nuts and dried fruit.  Form the dough into two 3″ side logs and set them on parchment paper on a cookie sheet.  Brush the dough with egg white and sprinkle on the sanding sugar. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes until it feels firm.

Let the logs cool completely.  Then cut them into 1/4 inch slices.  Put them back on the parchment lined cookie sheet and bake 20 minutes more until they are nice and toasty.  Serve them up with a mug of coffee when friends come in or just nibble them standing over the sink in the kitchen when no one is looking.

 

Snowballs

IMG_8248Hello all–  Last week when I talked to my girls on the phone, I asked, “So what should I be baking for Christmas?”  They both said those little gingerbread guys– and fudge and these old favorite snowballs.  They’re buttery, nutty, powdery and just look like Christmas.  If your mom was a baker back in the day, you probably grew up eating these cookies.  So yummy.

SNOWBALLS
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
more powdered sugar (about a cup)

With an electric mixer, combine the butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and vanilla.  Then mix in the flour, salt and walnuts.  Mix on a high speed until the solid dough forms–it will take longer than you think, just keep mixing.  Roll the dough into neat little balls and bake them on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray.  Bake at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes until they just begin to brown.

While the cookies are still hot, roll them in a bowl of powdered sugar and set them out to cool.  After they are cooled down, roll them in powdered sugar once more.

Tiger Bark

IMG_8224Hi there– Been making this tiger bark for a lot of Christmases.  My cousin Stephanie got the recipe when she worked in a candy shop in high school.  She passed it around the family and we’ve all been making it ever since.  You make up a pan full in about 10 minutes, honestly!  If you love peanut butter and chocolate as much as I do, you’ll think it’s just great.

TIGER BARK
18 oz. white chocolate chips*
1 1/2 cup super chunky peanut butter
8 oz. semi sweet chocolate chips

Line a 15″x10″ jelly roll pan with foil.

Put 16 oz. white chocolate chips and the peanut butter in a microwave safe bowl.  Cook it for 2 minutes and then stir it all until it’s smooth.  Spread it into the pan.

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave– about 1 1/2 minutes.  Spoon onto the top of the peanut butter mixture and then swirl it into the bottom layer with the tip of a knife.

Melt 2 oz. (about 1/3 cup) of the remaining white chocolate in the microwave– about
1 1/2 minutes.  Swirl it over both layer to give it some shiny highlights.

Refrigerate until firm (a couple hours) and then cut into squares or triangles.

*  Use good quality white chocolate.  I bought the store brand of white chocolate chips one year and they burned before they melted–a candy disaster!