Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas Popcorn

Everyone has that recipe that always gets the requests at the holidays. Mine is surprising because, while I am a baker and get orders for my cakes and treats all year, one of my most requested recipes is one of my easiest and could be made by anyone. Funny how that goes, isn't it? But year after year I have multiple people ask if they will be getting my Christmas Popcorn, so here is my handmade post for day 14 of the idea room's December photo-a-day here's my Christmas Popcorn recipe yumminess!

Christmas Popcorn
(can really be anytime popcorn, and with all its wonderful sweet and savory flavors, you can make it every day once in awhile, as you like!)
1 cup popcorn kernels
1 cup salted peanuts
2 cups salted pretzel rods
2 lbs. white chocolate ( I use these because they melt wonderfully and taste AMAZING)

Pop the popcorn and melt the chocolate in the microwave or in a double boiler until completely melted and no chunks remain. Then in a large bowl, combine the nuts and pretzels with the popcorn and pour the chocolate over the top. Use a spoon to thoroughly mix it all together. Once it is all combined, pour it out onto wax paper and spread it out to be a thin layer. Wait for it to dry, then break it into pieces and eat it all give it to all your friends!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Stockings

I know Christmas stockings aren't something many people think about. You hang them by the chimney with care, then store them back up till next year. In our family, however, our stockings have always been quite a big deal. Growing up, each of our stocking was hand made with care by our amazing Grandma. Each time a new baby came, it was exciting to see what their new stocking would look like and how it would look hung next to the rest of the families. I always loved my stocking, being the first grand daughter, I got a big Santa.
I always knew they were hard work and that Grandma spend almost the whole year working on the new stockings. Once I got married, I was so excited when she spent the time making one for my husband who didn't really have a stocking that was his. They just had decorative stockings, but not really an assigned stocking. My Grandma knew how I treasured mine and went through all the work making one for him.
Then even her most beautiful work yet, for my sweet daughter when she came along. It was when this one came as her Christmas gift, after a year of some health problems for my Grandma that I truly knew what a sacrifice and absolute labor of love they were from my Grandma, and became definite holiday treasures to me.
 As I said, I always knew that they were a great deal of work, but I never realized just how much work they really were, until this year. With my Grandma's health and getting up in years I fear that her stocking days may have slowed to an end. So, this year with my new son here and a few of my siblings married and having children of their own, I set out to find the company that made the stocking kits thinking I'd take up the mantle of stocking maker going forward. I started looking after Thanksgiving, thinking I'm a pretty crafty person and could probably whip out what takes my Grandma a year to do, maybe by Christmas for a few gifts this year. I went to a local Joanns and found this... My daughters beautiful stocking. It was at that moment that I truly appreciated, and even became a little teary eyed at my Grandmas love to make these stockings for us. As, I sat there looking at each little piece on the back that had to be sewn and attatched individually, I could picture my Grandma's tiny fingers sewing and threading for what must have been hours and hours throughout the year trying to finish each heirloom, and realized as crafty as I was- these truly were gifts of love that would take more than just a quick needle and thread to make. SO, while I will still try to make stockings for my family going forward- I know they will definitely take me more than a quick 2 weeks to do. Making these precious stockings, truly treasured family heirlooms. I absolutely love gifts of the hear, and this wonderful season that inspires us to remember those gifts.
These stocking kits are made by Bucilla. They have TONS of different patterns and cute designs! I had a really hard time finding out who made them and where to find them. Check them out here! Bucilla Stockings

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Holiday Blessings

As this year comes to an end, looking back on what was an extremely hard first half of the year, having a family member loose their precious little daughter to debilitating Batten Disease, and myself getting through my 3rd pregnancy with Hyperemesis Gravidarum, we lost our twin pregnancy 3 months in, but having made it through the first six month of the year down 17 lbs and surviving daily IV therapy and rejoicing on days when I was able to eat a portion of a baked potato that day and actually keep down 8 oz of fluids I have become incredibly grateful for the 2 beautiful blessings in my life and my family. When marrying my sweet husband 14 years ago, neither of us every anticipated the struggle we would have to go through to grow our family, him coming from a family of 6 kids and myself from a family of 5 kids.
 After 6 years of fertility drugs, artificial insemination's, 3 rounds of IVF and 2 1/2 pregnancies, all encompassing Hyperemesis Gravidarum the entire duration and weight loss of 18 lbs the first time, 17lbs the second, I have spent the last half of this year growing more grateful each day for my sweet babies who hung in there so strongly and fought with me to get here. I find even on the days when everything seems overwhelming and life seems to rush by, I'm drawn to those memories and, while it used to give me anxiety attacks to think back on the experiences, now I look on it with an increased appreciation for them and what I went through to get them here.
You always tend to roll your eyes when others go on and on and on and on ....you know the ones- wink wink... about how wonderful it is to be a mother and have children. But what has surprised me about it all, esp since coming out of my last pregnancy, is what a huge place in your heart feels so full of love towards your children, that you never knew or could imagine you had.
 So to all that, I say hold and treasure your little ones while you can. Because tomorrow is an uncertain day and they're only little once and no one wants to live with the regrets of "I wish I had...."
Children...the biggest blessingyou never realized your life was missing.      
Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cozy Inside Day

A tradition we have to have to start Christmas at our house is the old English drink, Wassail! I'm surprised year after year how many people coming to our parties and house to visit, have never tried it! Every time I smell that amazing smell it brings me back to my childhood days of coming home from school or in from the cold and smelling it constantly roasting on the stove top throughout the month in our kitchen. When I don't think of that, I'm fondly reminded of drinking it as we wandered through our local Dickens Festival after usually performing with our dance group. Anyway you slice it, they're all wonderful memories of the smells and joys of the season!
I made it from scratch for years, but then I discovered a wonderful mix that got the taste to exactly the way I loved it, without having to spend a fortune on TONS of spices. Once I started using it, I was able to throw it all in our coffee peculator and let it sit and now I can get up to a week of enjoyment out of it. The more it simmers and heats up, the richer and more complex the flavors get. Can you say perfect for a warm winters night?!
 The mix is made here locally by the Squire family and is absolutely wonderful! I don't follow the instructions, but instead I throw an entire gallon of Cranberry Juice and the same amount of Apple Juice into my pot, with a half bottle of the powder mix. Stir it up, then in the top of the peculator ( or directly into the pot before my peculator days), I toss in a sliced orange, about 6-8 cinnamon sticks, a handful of whole cloves and a few allspice berries, and off it goes to become the amazing drink it is!!
 Enjoy on a cozy winter's night by the fire with your favorite book, or while getting in the Christmas spirit wrapping gifts!!
#theidearoom @theidearoom

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Snow? What Snow!?/ Snow Tutorial

Day 9 for photo a day's theme is weather. Normally by now here we are in the 20's-30's during the day, sometimes in the single digits- those are reeeeeeealy cold days! However, right now here it is a pleasant 58! My kind of winter thus far!! Since there isn't any snow, and it feels really strange to sing "It's Beginning to Look A lot Like Christmas" when my front yard looks like this...
We decided to make our own snow!  It's probably the same two recipes everyone in the world has, but I've had some people give me the deer in the headlights look when I ask their kids if they want to make snow! SO, in honor of our beautiful, perfect (according to me) winter weather- here are our two favorite snow recipes!
Magic Puffy Snow-
 
3 cups of baking soda
1/4 cup of any shampoo
5 Tbsp water
1/4 cup of Citric Acid -click the link to find it, or you can find it in the canning section of your supermarket
food coloring- optional
In a large bowl combine the baking soda, the shampoo and any food coloring you want 1-2 drops. Then let your kids hands do the work and mix them all together until they're combined. After combined add the water until the dough is a little crumbly. They can make snowballs and play with it like this for awhile and when you're ready, sprinkle on the citric acid and watch it puff up and grow! It will keep growing and puffing for 30- 45 minutes or so. Enjoy!!
 
Fun Snow
This is a drier snow and is more powdery for sculpting.
 
2 16 oz containers of corn starch - I've used just one container and 1 can and get good results still
1 can of any shaving cream
glitter, peppermint extract etc. for effect- optional
this recipe can be halved as well
 
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix with hands until fully incorporated.
Play!!
#theidearoom @theidearoom

Monday, December 8, 2014

Try Something New

Decembers photo a day challenge for days 7 and 8- dinner time and new.... Perfect, we tried something new at dinner time! I'm not an extremely adventurous eater, but I will try almost anything once. Case and point, our vacation to St. Thomas last summer we tried a great restaurant on the beach, Havana Blue and loved everything they recommended. So for my dinner entree I asked what was popular and was told their most popular veggie... Brussels Sprouts. Ok, I hadn't had anything bad yet, so I went along and ordered it. Out came one of the best meals I had ever had!!
 My awesome dinner doesn't look like much, but the lobster was grilled to perfection, the rice was just right- which I've decided is impossible in the Caribbean, the potatoes were unique- "air foam potatoes" and were incredible and the Brussels sprouts were truly one of the best veggies I've ever tasted! It became my life's mission to reverse every ones stigma on Brussels Sprouts and discover the recipe for these babies. I even emailed the restaurant inquiring what they did. I received a very nice response with a few tips but no secret recipe. Boo. Since then we've experimented and tried different ways and this recipe, though simple it sounds- is pretty close to it and extremely tasty. So ignore what you've heard about the little sprouts and just try something new once!
(pardon the camera phone pic!)
 
Awsome Brussels Sprouts:
adapted from dishingupthedirt.com
3 cups of brussels sprouts
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
optional- sprinkles of cooked bacon (can you ever go wrong with bacon? I think not!)
Sprinkle Kosher Salt (yes it makes a big difference) and ground pepper to taste
 
Preheat oven to 400.  Trim the ends of the brussels sprouts, and remove any yellow or dirty outer leaves.  Toss them in a large bowl with the oil, garlic, salt and pepper.  Place on a baking sheet and roast for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.  Stir brussels once halfway through. I like to eat them as they are straight out of the oven, my hubby is a little strange and drizzels white vinegar on everything he can find and loves them that way!
#theidearoom @theidearoom

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Christmas Party and Oreo Ball Tutorial

Day 5 of the Idea Room Photo a Day December is themed for Sparkly! This was easy as we got ready for our 12th annual Angel Tree Christmas Party. Every year we choose the names of 2 children from our local Salvatrion Army's Angel Tree program. They find children in need of extra help this year and list their need on an Angel card and then you bring the gifts back and they distribute them to the families. The first year, my husband and I did it on our own, but then thought we could give so much more if we enlisted friends. So, since many like to give at the holidays but don't always know how, we planned a party around it. We send out the childrens needs with our invites every year and then everyone can brings gifts to the party and enjoy food friends and fun. Even those who may not want to bring a gift are enlisted to help wrap the gifts. Its an enjoyable night and gives everyone the chance to think of and serve another person at the beginning of the Christmas business!
 These oreo balls are AMAZING!!! They were the first thing gone and the most requested refill item at our party. They are also super easy, and did I mention they taste AMAZING? Well, it's worth mentioning again and again! To make these balls all you need is a package of regular oreos, chocolate or vanilla are both delicious, an 8oz package of cream cheese and some melting chocolate. You can use candy melts as well, but these are my favorite because they melt so smooth and are so rich in texture and taste!
 
Oreo Balls Recipe:
1 package of Oreos
1 8oz. package of cream cheese at room temperature
16 oz of dipping chocolate

Place Oreos and cream cheese in a food processor or blender and mix until a fine crumb.
Scoop out enough to roll 1 inch balls, I use a cookie scoop to ensure they are all the same size, and roll them into smooth balls.
Place them on a wax paper covered cookie sheet and into the fridge about 30 minutes.
Melt the chocolate over a double boiler or in the microwave for a minute and then 30 second incriments until it is a smooth ribbon when falling off a stirring spatula.
let the balls sit for a minute or two, then using either a fork or a toothpick, dip each ball into the chocolate, gently taping off the excess chocolate until the ball is smooth.

you can leave them at that or place them in the fridge for 5 minutes just to harden them up when finished. For these I sprayed them with gold Chefmaster edible spray. I think it gives  a more true metallic color than the Wilton brands, but I have used the wilton brands as well and they are fine. After the spray dried, I went over them with a dusting edible gold shimmer dust of  just to get that really shimmery look!
I think they are best served cold, so I keep them in the fridge, but my daughter loves them warm and gooey inside, so to each their own!  Enjoy!! 
here are some other yummies from our party:
from the top: Cranberry Pecan Chex Mix
Snowman Sugar Cookies
Peppermint Patties
Peppermint Cheesecake Cookies
Winter Cherry Snowball Cake Pops
Slow Cooker Candies Pecans- everyone should have this recipe, it smells divine while cooking!
Chocolate Candy Cane Cupcakes
French Vanilla Cupcakes filled with Cranberry Curd and topped with an almond vanilla frosting and sparkling cranberries
#theidearoom @theidearoom