Wednesday, December 16, 2015

5 Last Minute Christmas Eats!

The Headlines:


Planning a Party?

Or even if you're not... these are some good eats.

Super simple.

Super Yummy!

And don't forget the Cranberry Cocktail (at the end)!



Every year, around December people all over the world start to plan parties.  Many cater them, some go out, we do neither.  To make matters worse, we do ours on the biggest Eve itself!  Yup, Christmas Eve.  It started out years ago because my family would come over for the holiday.  We'd do cocktails and appetizers and it was always a fun celebration!  Then I started inviting a few co-workers, a few neighbors.  Pretty soon it was a party tradition. I figured if I'm making apps for 6 - I can make them 16.  Then 26.  Then 36, 46, so on and so on.  Anyways, our party has steadily grown larger each year and we topped out in 2014 with our biggest guest list ever.

And the only reason I still do it all on my own is because I assemble the easiest recipes on the planet and use those!



Yes, we have some staples: a large "smoked" salmon, tri-tip, cheeses and bread.  But the best part is all the other fun foods!  Because at parties... people expect FUN food!  Here are some of them:

1 - Guacamole with Pomegranate Seeds

Everyone loves guac, even during the winter.  Throw in some Pomegranate Seeds and it takes the traditional dip up a notch.  Plus, looks oh-so-festive.  See above.  You can even buy the guacamole and just add the seeds if you'd like... or you can find my recipe HERE!

2 - Bacon Wrapped Potatoes

It can't get any easier folks.  Here you take small potatoes, the tinier the better.  You wrap a piece of bacon around them, stick a toothpick in it and bake it at, I think it was like 400 degrees.  For like a half an hour.  It was so easy I forget!  But I'm doing it again this year...




and you should too!


3 - Finger Salads!
At a party, you actually need some variety.  People don't even know it but they want a little veggie taste thrown in, in some tricky way!  So try this... because like many others, I am so over the boring veggie tray.  This is way more fun!


You basically toss a head of radicchio, 5-10 chopped peperoncinis, 2-4 ounces of goat cheese with some red wine vinegar and EVOO (1 tspn each).  You can add some pine nuts too if you choose.  Then take a spoon full and roll it in a large piece of salami.  Use toothpicks to fasten it together and you have a salad you can eat with your fingers!   Told ya, tricky!


4 - Peppermint Red Velvet Cake
You must have a few sweets at Christmas time!  A cake thrown in a party is never a bad thing!  Try this one.  It's a Red Velvet Cake with a twist. And it's so easy because you use a mix while adding some extra ingredients!



You Need: 
Box of Red Velvet Cake Mix
1 cup buttermilk
3 large eggs
1/3 cup coconut oil (or canola but coco is better for you)
1 pkg cream cheese (softened)
4 oz white choc
2 sticks unsalted butter
4 cups of powdered sugar
1/2 tspn vanilla
1/4 tspn peppermint extract
1 cup heavy cream
Peppermint candies or crushed candy canes

You Do:
Turn oven to 350.  Line 3, 8 inch cake pans with wax paper or heavily spray with non-stick spray or cover with butter.  Prepare cake mix according to directions but sub buttermilk for water.  Divi batter evenly among pans.  Bake for approx 18 minutes.  Let cool for 10 minutes.  The  remove from pan and cool completely on wire rack.

Microwave white chocolate until it melts (no more than a minute).  Beat cream cheese and butter.  Add white chocolate to mixture.  Add powdered sugar, vanilla and peppermint.  Beat until smooth.  Then increase speed and beat until fluffy.  Take first cake, place on cake plate, flat side up and frost top.  Add the next cake, carefully frost top and then add final cake.  Frost sides and then place in freezer for about 15 minutes.  Save a little of this frosting...


Now, whip heavy cream and fold remaining frosting from last step into the mixture.  Frost entire cake once more to give it the finished look.  Add Peppermint candies to center or crushed candy canes on top, whichever look you prefer.  People will LOVE!  It;s really quite tasty and stunning!

5 - Graham Cracker Toffee
This next and final recipe needs it's own blog post, I swear.  Why?  It's ridiculous.  I got it from a court clerk by the name of Karen.  She worked at the city courthouse in Spokane, WA when I was a reporter trolling the halls looking for news in that town!  She made some, handed them out and my life's never been the same since!  It's like you're eating real toffee from a candy making metropolis but you're not and it's made with 4 ingredients.  BAM - my kind of recipe!  Unfortunately, when I made it last year I only snapped this quick picture before it was even put in the oven.  I guess after it came out - it was eaten too fast!


You Need:
12 whole graham crackers
1 1/2 cups butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups sliced almonds

You Do: 
Line a baking sheet with foil. Place crackers in pan. In a sauce pan, melt butter and brown sugar. Bring to a boil, stir constantly.  Pour mixture over crackers. Sprinkle with almonds. Bake at 400 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes or until you see it bubbling. Cool in pan about 5 minutes,  Cut each cracker into 4 sections.  Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.  Then get ready to dive into perfection!

There you have it - 5 of the easiest Christmas Party Eats a person could (barely) bake/cook/assemble on their own!

Oh, I almost forgot... if you're looking for a Christmas Cocktail - look no further - serve the CRANBERRY MARGARITA.   Click HERE for the recipe.  NOW, you're ready to Party!

Merry Christmas, good luck and may the force be with you... it's absolutely crazy around here too! 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

5 Ideas to Christmas-ize!

The Headlines:

'Tis the Season to decorate

Try some of these ideas




Sorry.  That's what I call it:  Christmas-ize, Faller-ize, Springer-ize... you get the picture.  It's my slang for decorating for the season at hand!  Something happens about this time of year, every year.  People who don't usually decorate, do.  They feel enormous pressure because, it seems, like the whole world is celebrating a season!  Any of them: Christmas, Kwanza, Hanukah, etc... so people do what they can in their own homes to take part in the festivities.

Now, you can either spend a TON of money at your local Pottery Barn, Ballard Designs (catalog) or any other decor store you can think of... and look like all the other houses on your block.  ORRRRR you can try these, easier (cheaper) things.   Up to you.



1 - Nostalgic Toys
Can it GET any easier?  Look around your house.  Or your Mom's house.  Or heck, even your Grandmother's!  See what's there.  During Christmas, toys become decor.  Especially if it's nostalgic and cool looking.  Here are some super simple ideas.  The scene is set in the above picture.  Can you see them all?  Let's zoom in.


You're not seeing things... that is an old block container and my first camera just sittin' there on the coffee table.  And it's cute.  Just beyond that... yep, there are those blocks spelled out to say Merry Christmas of course!  Now tell me your house doesn't have those blocks?  Spell out what you wish and put it on your hearth, mantel, kitchen table, wherever you're feeling it!


Did you notice what else is on that hearth?  Indeed, those are roller skates.  I'm glad my Mom kept them... so cute!  The kids are enamored with them!   I even have another pair (not pictured). Remember the ones you put over your shoes?  Uh-huh... those are under the tree!


 Have a tricycle?  Yep, us too.  Put it anywhere and it becomes decor this month!


Or one of those adorable cars everyone's selling these days... definitely use that!



2 - Light up Your Life!
Obviously, you can't decorate for Christmas anymore without putting plenty of lights up.  Luckily, the stores have finally gotten that memo.  These tiny, battery powered "wire" lights are simply THEEE coolest things on the planet.  It makes it easy to light up ANYTHING!  Check it out....


I got these at WALMART (about $6).  But get them fast, they sell out!  Then, go to WORK.  One idea that's really hot (not pictured) is putting these lights in a jar.  It looks great at night but rather  boring during the day.  So I'm not doing it, yet.  Here's what I am doing... the nativity set below looks way better lit up.  Praise Jesus.


And that front door wreath... with lights - Gorge!


In fact, any wreath you have any WHERE get some light on it!  This is in my bedroom...


Don't forget the kids rooms... light up those head boards!


If you turn them on mid-way trough the day - the timer will automatically turn them off before they're off to bed!


Super hard to beat.  But try... with this 3rd idea...

3 - Accent Pillows
Forget changing out all your sofa pillows, just change one!  Here in our "white" living room it works well.  I actually do this every season in this room.


Even in my bedroom "living room," it makes a world of difference!  It instantly whispers - it's CHRISTMAS to anyone who see it!!  Where can you get them?  Anywhere.


4 - Wreaths everywhere 
I know, this is a no brainer.  I've talked about this in years past... I wrote of it above here but I must discuss again.  It absolutely deserves its own number!  Because you really can't have enough wreaths at Christmas.


Put them in each person's room, over the fireplace, front door, in your kitchen windows and even on a CAR!  I wrote about it a few years ago... you can see that HERE .  Then, go get your wreaths on!

5- Bows on Anything (it looks like a present)
Finally, and again it really can't get much easier here friends.  Buy some ribbon.  It MUST be the ribbon with the wire on the sides.  Then, "wrap" things in your house.  Like some boxes...



Some baskets....


Even a chalkboard.  Stick a bow on it and it instantly turns festive.  Now that's easy.


Plus, don't forget to put a bow around your cookie jar!  Or in this case your candy.
BONUS: Speaking of candy I didn't add this as a number (because it's kind of a given for me now) but as always, use candy to decorate!


Throw it anywhere...  even on your chandelier.


I do this every year... just don't turn on the lights!


Not it's your turn - go try your own Christmas-izing!