Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Biggest Gingerbread Man!

My neice Helmi is a smart little girl.  We always joke with my brother that she is going to be "just like Sarah".  I was the nerd in the family... Math and Computers girl.  James, the artist and musician.  Since James and Shelley are both accomplished artists we know that side will come out in Helmi, but for now, she's "just like her Aunt Sarah".

This week she is in Jackson at my parents' house.  My Aunt Dee came up and Grammy is there as well.  Dee has everything gingerbread man... she does this theme in her classroom.  Dee is that teacher we all had as kids that was our favorite.  Always has a theme for every season and can find a million and one little odds and ends, activities, crafts, etc to go with it.  

She brought her Gingerbread Man baking sheet up and they made a cookie cake last night.  Once again, Helmi is following in her Aunt Sarah's footsteps... she likes baking!  

Here is the cookie before it went in the oven (check out the time... Neenie let Helmi stay up late!).

And after decorating it this morning!

BEAUTIFUL!  I wish I was there with you guys!  

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas 2008 - Sarah's Family

When my mom mailed me the sweatshirt for the Tacky Sweater Christmas Party, she also included these two ornaments. The first is in honor of winning my work Bake Off last month (still need to write about that). I love this ornament as it really reflects what I love -- Baking! The second is a 2006 Hallmark "Our Family" ornamant with the picture from the infamous holiday hockey game. Both are proudly displayed on our tree.

My parents and Grammy arrived on Christmas Day. I guess I should say Christmas Night as it was 9:30 when they finally got here. The trip should have taken about 7 hours but took them 9. They had a couple of hiccups along the way -- a "low tire" signal just outside of Jackson and Grammy leaving her purse at the Jack-in-the-Box in Diboll, Tx. Luckily neither event led to anything major... the tire just needed some air and a nice, honest man turned in Grammy's purse. Whew.

We opened gifts late that night. My dad always tries to find something goofy for Ryan. This year, it was the "Make Your Own Hot Sauce Set". Ryan LOVES hot sauce so I think he will actually enjoy this. Grammy is the lady with everything, so I just got her a box of goodies -- Cream Soda, raisins, animal cookies, crossword puzzle book -- her favorites. The highlight is always watching Admiral open his gifts. Dad didn't snap the picture quick enough when Admiral had his nose all the way in the bag but these are pretty cute!

Since we had eaten a big lunch with Ryan's family (more on their Christmas when I get the pictures from his dad/brothers), we weren't too hungry. Mom and Dad brought us some Feta Dressing from Keifers so we just had Pita Mozz for dinner! MMMM. Perfect way to end the day!

On Friday, Mom and I ran to Target to check out the after Christmas sales. I noticed a few days before Christmas that both Target and Walmart had LOTS of decor left and I need some more ornaments and decor for the new house and for when I put all four sections of the tree up. We planned to hit Walmart too, and invited Grammy to go with us, seeing as she is the Walmart Queen. When Mom asked if she wanted to go, or if she wanted to stay home, she (gasp) CHOSE TO STAY HOME (gasp)!!! We were pretty shocked and a little worried. Grammy never turns down a trip to Walmart. When we returned from Target, Walmart just looked too crowded so Mom and I skipped it.

We went to Double Dave's for lunch and had the buffet. I had a "Buy One - Get One" coupon for the buffet AND we got the "Senior Citizen" Discount so it was a pretty affordable lunch of all you can eat pizza, pepperoni rolls and dessert pizza. MMM. After lunch we took a tour of some of the houses Ryan has built. This trip was two fold. Mom, Dad and Grammy always like to see the houses and Ryan and I are looking for ideas for our new house (we start construction the first week of January!!!). We also took a trip to show Grammy our new neighborhood. There isn't much too see since our lot is just a lot of trees. But, it was sort of eventful. We got stopped by the Game Warden...on our new street. The look on his face when he peeked in the truck and saw Mom, Grammy and Dad squished in the back seat was priceless. He thought he was gonna catch someone trying to hunt illegally... instead he sees sweet Grammy in the back seat... though she has been known to shoot squirrels with a BB Gun!

After our tour of homes, Mom and I decided to hit WalMart. This time, Grammy hopped up off the couch in record time. Saturday morning, Grammy laid in bed for a while, until Mom told her we were going to Hallmark to check out the Christmas Sales. Her feet were on the ground and she was up and ready to go in no time. She was "back"!

Saturday we FINALLY made a trip to Mel's Country Cafe. I drive by Mel's every day and it is almost always packed. Everyone I have talked to that knows about Mel's has said it's great. So, we decided to go. The prices were so good we figured you wouldn't get much food on your plate. Ryan ordered the 8oz Chicken Fried Steak (after briefly considering the 16oz), I got the catfish plate, Grammy got the Catfish Sandwich, Mom got a Cheese Burger and Dad got a Double Cheeseburger. Our plates came out and our mouths DROPPED! Grammy's sandwhich had two large filets on it. My plate... FIVE FILETS plus sides. Dad's double burger was HUGE and the Chicken Fried Steak, yeah, no way could Ryan have eaten 16 ounces. And then, Dad ordered Banana Pudding. We were stuffed! It was SOOOOO much food but OH SO GOOD! Good Prices, Good Food, HUGE Portions!

Grammy ate ever bite of her Catfish!

After Mel's, we headed to Cypress to the Outlet Mall. I was pretty successful in spending my Christmas cash/gift cards, but still have a little leftover!

I have been promising Ryan fudge. I tried 2 years ago with no success so I decided to try again. Mom gave me two new candy thermometers for Christmas so I thought I was set. Yeah, not so much. I am "oh for two" ... as soon as I dropped it in the pan, it became hard as a rock. It was dry and gross. To the trash it went. I don't like defeat in the kitchen but don't have the patience to try again yet.

Mom, Dad and Grammy just left. Hopefully they get home quicker than they got here. They will be having Christmas with my Aunts, James and Helmi on Monday. Ryan and I are watching football and just vegging out today. It's finally cold after a week of warm weather!

Stay tuned for Christmas with Ryan's family... hopefully with video!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tacky Sweater Christmas Party

Ryan and I hosted a Christmas Party last night... Tacky Sweater Style. Everyone wore "Tacky" Christmas Sweaters -- I use quotes because "Tacky" is an opinion that is not shared by all... my mom and her sisters have been known to wear a sweater or two during the holidays... specifically the one I wore to the party.

The first Christmas we were married, Ryan and I had Christmas with his family. My brother was also not in Mississippi for Christmas so my mom's family rented a condo in Pensacola and had our first Christmas not in Meridian and Grammy and Pop's. During their trip to Pensacola, they went to see the former Pensacola Ice Pilots (hockey team) play... this is what the girls wore:

Ryan and I have always given them a little grief about this picture, but when we decided to have this party, I thought the sweatshirt would fit the theme quite well. Dee and Mom both sent me theirs, but I couldn't convince Ryan to wear one!

Back to the party... I made several appetizers and a couple of holiday beverages. All the food was a hit and there was very little left over.

We had about 20 guests total. We voted on the "favorite" tacky sweater and awarded first, second and third prize. Admiral won first, then Brandon, then Eric.

And here are the rest of the tacky sweaters. As I mentioned, Ryan wouldn't wear the matching sweater with me, so he made his own with Christmas ornaments and an old green cardigan.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Peppermint Oreo Dessert

Once a year, Blue Bell does something that makes my husband turn into a mad man... They deliver their seasonal Peppermint Ice Cream to the local grocery stores.  Blue Bell is could be considered a delicacy since it is only available in certain states.  Their Peppermint ice cream is, by far, a delicacy to even those of us so lucky to have Blue Bell in the freezer section.

Ryan loves the holidays, purely for Peppermint Ice Cream.  When November rolls around, he reminds me to "look for peppermint ice cream" each time I leave for the grocery.  And, I look, and wait, for it to arrive.  It's sometimes hard to spot because the container is almost the exact same color as the Mint Chocolate Chip!

As mentioned in my previous post, one of his family's favorites is Peppermint Oreo Dessert.  So, over Thanksgiving while we were at my parents house, I decided to make him a little something from home.  He insisted that I call his mom to find out how to do it so I didn't mess it up!

Peppermint-Oreo Dessert

1 stick butter
1 package Oreo's
1 half gallon Blue Bell Peppermint Ice Cream

Put ice cream on counter to soften.

Crumble 2 rows of the Oreo's (leaving 1 row for the top layer).

Melt butter.  Mix crumbled Oreo's with butter.

Spread into 9x13 pan.

Spread ice cream on top of oreo crust.  There was probably about 2 (Ryan sized) servings left in the container when I was done... my pan was only 8x12 though.

Crumble remaining Oreo's on top.

Freeze until Ice Cream is hard. 

Unfortunatly, with all the other food and desserts of the holidays, not enough of this dessert was eaten.  We tried to transport it home with ice packs and a thermal bag, but it arrived as soup.  Oh well, I tried, and Ryan had a little taste of home while away from family!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Baking - Part 2 - Ginger Cookies

Everyone's family has that one thing that IS Christmas.  And most have some sort of baked good that their Mom or Grandma always made.

Growing up, at Christmas time, Mom and I really only baked one thing with consistency--Iced Sugar Cookies.  Mom always made Pecan Pie for Thanksgiving and Christmas and I think she would often make her Brown Sugar Cookies.  But the old faithful was the sugar cookies. 

Grandmother (my dad's mom) always made Chocolate Chip Cookies.  They were my dad's favorite and she could make them like noone else... no matter how hard we tried.  She put pecan's in them and they were always so evenly cooked and NEVER flat like mine.  She swore that all she did was follow the Nestle's Tollhouse recipe only changing one thing... she "twice baked" them, flipping them over halfway through.  I've tried, but its just not the same.  I think she had a special ingredient that she never shared with everyone else.   After she moved to Virginia after Granddaddy died I remember she would send them to my dad in the mail.  Always in the same, old, gold cookie tin (Dad always returned it so he would get cookies again).  Most of the time, no matter how well she packaged them, they arrived broken and crumbly.  But Dad would eat every last crumb (and I am sure I helped some too!)

In Ryan's family, his mom would bake all kinds of treats during the holidays.  Ginger Cookies, Pepppermint-Oreo dessert, Choc-o-mellow Logs, Snickerdoodles, Fudge, and more.  Their house at the holidays is heaven for a person with a sweet tooth!!!  The two items that have stood out to me as the ones all the boys fight over and love are the Ginger Cookies and the Peppermint-Oreo dessert (I made this over Thanksgiving and will write about it soon!)

So this year, I asked Ryan what Christmas treats he wanted, knowing I couldn't make them all.  His requests were Ginger Cookies and Fudge... and that is what he shall get.

Diane's Grandma D's Ginger Cookies
(I hope its okay to share this recipe... there were no disclaimers when it was given to me!)

Mix these ingredients:
3/4 c. Crisco
1 c. Sugar
1/4 c. Molasses
1 egg

Sift these ingredients together:
2 c. Flour
2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/4 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Cinnamon
3/4 tsp. Cloves
3/4 tsp. Ginger

Add dry ingredients to mixed wet ingredients until well blended.

Roll dough into balls and place on greased cookie sheet.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes -- they should be a little soft and chewy

Dip or Sprinkle with powdered sugar (I put a spoonful in the sifter and shook it over the cookies).

A happy husband tonight!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Baking Part 1 - The Lazy Method

Before I start my baking story, I thought I'd share another piece of the holiday decor.  This is the table behind one of our couches.  I realized I had an extra lighted garland this year so I found it a home!  I bought some $.50 red berry picks from Hobby Lobby (love their big half off sales) to spruce it up a bit.  It turned out nice!  

Now, to the baking.  I really wanted to make some iced sugar cookies.  That always gets me in the holiday spirit.  But, I didn't have the time or patience tonight to make dough, roll it out cut cookies, bake and ice.  So, in the spirit of Sandra Lee, its "Semi-Homemade".  Pillsbury has these nice new baking sheets of their sugar cookie dough, perfect for cut out cookies.  I had Pillsbury coupons this week so I picked these up instead of the pre-shaped sugar cookies.  This made me feel like I was doing a little more of it myself.  

I cut out Candy Canes, Trees and Stockings.  The only downside of this sheet dough is that it doesnt re-roll very well.  I guess if I sprinkled some extra flour, it would but that was too much work for tonight.  I used the package suggestion and rolled the dough into balls, then pressed them out into circles using the bottom of my wine glass.  I turned these into ornaments so that they fit the Christmas theme.

16 minutes later (2 batches of 8 minutes) I had a nice rack of sugar cookies. 

While the cookies baked, I made a batch of the Wilton Butter Cream Icing that I have written about before.  I made this instead of Grammy's Creamy French Icing for two reasons: (1) I didn't want to do the boiled sugar/water thing--one less thing to clean--and (2) I wanted white-white icing.  I have not done sugar cookies with this icing so I was a little nervous.

I used a variation between medium and stiff using 1/2 stick of butter and 3/4 cups shortening. Then, I colored the icing red and green, leaving a little white for my stripes and stocking tops.  And the results turned out great.  Ryan gave them the seal of approval.  Half are going to work with me tomorrow and the other half staying here!

I am sure I will make some "real" sugar cookies this year, but I do really love a Pillsbury "Slice-n-Bake" cookie!

background image