Saturday, April 13, 2024

Three recipes worth a trip down the chimney


 Yes, that is the whimsical title of a Hershey's ad I had clipped and saved some years ago.   In case you missed it, I thought it would be fun to share here in the Christmas kitchen.  I cropped each one out of the ad to make the recipe easier to read.

First is Santa's Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies.  This sounds pretty amazing -- a chocolate cookie with melted vanilla chips swirled on top, then sprinkled with toffee bits and, if desired, a maraschino cherry half.  How festive!
Cherry Cheesecake Bars are next.  I always like a good bar cookie, and cherry cheesecake is a favorite.  This is a brownie with a baked on cheesecake topping which includes chopped maraschino cherries and almond extract.

And lastly there are Holiday Mini Kisses Treasure Cookies.  These are made with graham cracker crumbs, sweetened condensed milk and coconut, making them sound a bit like the Magic Cookie Bars of days gone by.  But they are not at all similar.  These are a drop cookie and are baked.  (Regular semisweet chocolate chips can be substituted for mini kisses.)

I'm thinking I may try one of these for Christmas 2024.  What do you think?

Friday, April 05, 2024

Quick and Easy Christmas -- another Gooseberry Patch book review

 This cookbook interested me, and I loved the cover art, so I found one for a super reasonable price on Thriftbooks.  I figured it would make a lovely display piece at the very least, but upon receiving the cookbook I found it to be filled with recipes that I would actually use. 

This cover has so many fun details! In the foreground is a plate with a pretty red and white rim, containing two scrumptious looking cinnamon rolls and a red, white and green candy stick.  It's garnished with festive greenery and red berries.

To the left is a jar of gumdrops turned into a jar candle.  With its gift tag and ribbon, it's obviously intended to be given as a festive gift.  In the background is a wooden fence with a runner sled propped against it.  The entire scene is framed in birch twigs and has a few blue snowflakes scattered here and there.
The cover blurb specifies, "Over 220 Christmastime recipes ... most in 30 minutes or less!  Plus simple decorating ideas & gifts."
The dedication reads, "For those who take pleasure in preparing a homestyle Christmas ... and make time to enjoy it too!"
There are six chapters: Breakfast & Brunch; Snacks & Appetizers; Soups, Sides & Salads; Mains; Desserts; and Slow Cooker.

For Breakfast & Brunch, there's everything from Creamy Cinnamon Rolls to pancakes, quiches and other egg bakes, French toast, biscuits, fruit dishes and more.  Strawberry Cheesecake French Toast sounds amazing!  The Yuletide Orange Smoothies are a recipe I often made for brunch guests back in the day.  Donut Hole kabobs, in which a variety of donut holes are skewered and then placed in a vase for serving, is just one of the fun ideas suggested at the bottom of each page.

For Snacks & Appetizers, there are meatballs, dips and cheese balls, snack mixes, cheese logs and more. The Mexican pinwheels is a recipe I've made and they are delicious.   I really want to try the Glazed Walnuts, which are made with maple syrup instead of sugar and sound scrumptious.  They would make a great kitchen gift.  Bacon Cheddar Appetizers with a base of shredded wheat crackers sound good, as do Feta Squares with party pumpernickel bread squares as the base.  There's even a homemade summer sausage!

Soups, Sides & Salads contains many yummy looking recipes for these items.  The one for Oven-Fried Potatoes is very similar to the potato wedges I often make, except that my recipe calls for less oil.  And I find it works much better to stir the potatoes with the oil and spices in a bowl, or to shake them together in a plastic bag, rather than brush them on the potatoes.  I've also made the Sweet Potato Casserole for Thanksgiving many times and it's very good.  There's a Tortellini Broccoli Soup that sounds easy and so good.  An Easy Cheese Orzo might make a great potluck side.

The Mains chapter is filled with recipes that sound so good.  A Crabmeat Casserole is tempting and so is Cheesy Sausage, Noodle & Broccoli Bake.  Taco Pasta Skillet sounds tasty.  I would leave out the corn.  This might be a meal I will try for my volunteer cooking gig.  Curried Chicken Broccoli Casserole is one I have made many times and have devised a number of variations on it as well.  Trim-the-Tree Casserole has chicken and broccoli, Swiss cheese and is topped off with stuffing.  Yum!  Just my kind of dish, though I ordinarily avoid stuffing due to the carbs.  Chicken & Rosemary Pizza is another want-to-try, as is Turkey Meatloaf with Cranberry Glaze.
A fun idea from this chapter is to display holiday cards, attached to strips of holiday ribbon, in every room in the house.  My daughter attaches ribbons to her kitchen cabinets and to areas in her living and dining areas as well, for this very purpose.   It adds such a festive touch and it's fun to look at the various cards her family has received.

The Desserts chapter is also a winner.  Holiday Cranberry Trifle is made with a real homemade cranberry mixture and real whipped cream and sounds absolutely scrumptious.  That may be something I try for next Christmas.  Cherry Cheese Pizza sounds delicious and so festive.  The Chocolate Fudge Pie is one I've made a few times.  It's so good and easy!  Lemon Fluff starts with a lemon cake mix and is layered with a cream cheese lemon pudding mixture, then whipped topping.  Fastest Cheesecake is an easy cheesecake pie made in a chocolate crust and topped with raspberry preserves and whipped cream.

I'm always up for trying a new Christmas cookie recipe, and Grandma's Kolachy Cookies (made with yeast!) sound so good and pretty too.  Molasses Popcorn Balls sound just like the ones my Gram used to make in her New Hampshire farmhouse.  One of the fun ideas in this chapter is to give a family a gift of a board game, or a couple of card games, along with a tin filled with homemade popcorn balls for the next snow day. 

Lastly is the Slow Cooker chapter which has everything from dips to desserts.  I love my slow cooker and would be tempted by many of these recipes.  A Broccoli & Cheese Casserole includes rice and cram of mushroom soup and sounds like a good potluck option.  I've made a baked recipe for Festive Apples & Squash many times, but never a slow cooker option -- so I'm thinking about trying that.  I've made a similar recipe to Italian Sammies, too, but this one differs slightly from mine.  Just a good Italian beef that would make great sandwiches!  Garlic Chicken Alfredo is a quick easy meal I'd like to try, as is Mediterranean Pork Tenderloin.  Among the desserts, the Apple Peanut Crumble stands out.  It's a slow-cooker apple crisp with a bit of peanut butter added to the topping.  It would be fabulous with vanilla ice cream!
You can probably tell that I would highly recommend Quick & Easy Christmas!  It would be so much fun to use in decorating -- but it's also filled with amazing recipes. 

Saturday, March 23, 2024

American Chocolate Week in the Christmas kitchen


 So the third full week in March is American Chocolate Week every year.  Who knew?  Certainly not me.  Squeaking in under the wire (since today is the last day for it this year) I thought I'd just refer readers to a few chocolate recipes on both of my blogs.

On my Kitchen Table blog, check out the "Chocolate" label in the label cloud.  You'll find a multitude of wonderful recipes, from cakes and other desserts to candy and cookies.  I also learned that I need to apply the chocolate label to many more of my posts.  I evidently added it to my list of labels at some point and there are many older posts that don't have it.  But I'm sure you'll have fun with the recipes that you find there.

On this Christmas Kitchen blog, I'm just now creating a chocolate label, so I've only applied it to a few posts so far.  But it's snowing here in New Hampshire today, really a huge snow dump as over 20 inches is predicted.  If I was a) eating carbs or b) eating chocolate right now, I would be in my kitchen as we speak whipping up a cozy muffin recipe with plenty of chocolate.  Like one of these: Chocolate Gengerbread Muffins or these Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Muffins.  

I suspect Mr. T may be making some fudge later.  He seems to have reached the conclusion that fudge in the freezer is a year-round necessity.  Although I'm trying to stay away from it, I really can't disagree.

Wednesday, March 06, 2024

A very vintage paper plate


 Yes, this is one of two I found in a plastic bag at my childhood home.  My mother stored Christmas items in special attic storage areas.  In this particular one were things like holiday tablecloths, both paper and plastic, placemats, holiday napkins,  table runners, packaging for kitchen gifts, and more, in addition to festive paper plates.

Most of the items were newer, from the 1980s and 1990s when my parents hosted many a family get-together.  I brought many of these things home and added the usable ones to my own stash.

Fast-forward to December 2023 when my hubby went looking for a Christmasy paper plate to put some cookies on.  He brought me the plastic bag containing the two vintage paper plates, noting that I probably didn't want him to use these.  

He was so right!  I had forgotten all about them!

Isn't the wintry village scene with the horse and sleigh the sweetest thing ever?  I love the silvery rim that makes it resemble an actual china plate.  

I won't serve food on this plate, of course.  I'll display it, perhaps even with a real plate behind it for stability.  And I gifted the second plate to my daughter, for the same purpose.

Ah, vintage Christmas!  Positively swoon-worthy! 🌲💕

Monday, February 26, 2024

A few more delightful thrift store finds


 It's a special blessing that our local thrift stores have sections specifically dedicated to Christmas and that they maintain these rooms/areas year round!  The Christmas ornament above is but one example.  I bought a package of four, I think, for only $2 or so.  They are truly lovely.

I got the snowflake plate with the plan of gifting it to one of our daughters -- it will be filled with one of her favorite Christmas cookies, Sacher Tortes.  She also loves snowflake themed items.
I can always use another pie plate and I love unusual, decorative ones.  I don't have any that are specifically Christmas themed.  This is pretty, and was only a few dollars!
This snowman shaped plate is fun.  I'll fill it with someone's favorite cookies or treats and it will become part of the gift.
And look at this pretty Christmas tree plate with the cabin scene and the falling snow!  I'll keep this one and use it to bring cookies or fudge to holiday gatherings.  There's a very small chip at top right, but the price was right so that doesn't bother me.

Hope this look at some of my finds has been inspiring for you!  Does your local thrift shop offer Christmas items all year round?

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Thrift store finds with Christmas and winter themes


I always love to visit after-Christmas sales at our local stores -- mostly places like Walmart, Marshalls, Rite Aid and CVS, and even the grocery stores.  I've found some great deals at these places and have written about them in the past.

But only recently have I considered our local thrift stores as a source for Christmas deals -- especially for things like decorations, lights, and dishes.  One has a room dedicated to seasonal dishes.  Another has entire Christmas section.  I bought the snowflake plate at top in 2022 and enjoyed decorating with it.  In 2023 I filled it with my daughter's favorite Sacher Torte cookies and gave it to her for Christmas.

The beautiful pitcher above, a Hallmark design, came from a thrift store.

Both plates in the photo above were found at a thrift store.
The log cabin plate is so sweet.  I found a second one this year and tucked it away to use for gifting cookies next year.

I found the vintage Christmas magazine above at a thrift store for $5!

The mug below is a recent find.  We're using it at our cottage.  It holds a generous amount of coffee or hot cocoa!

Hope you've been inspired by some of my Christmasy thrift store finds.  There are a few more, so stay tuned!

(Below, a closer look at that snowman plate. )

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

A challenging Christmas jigsaw


Back in December, feeling festive, Mr. T and I picked up two Christmas/winter jigsaw puzzles at our favorite thrift store.   At some point in the holiday season, we decided to start one of them.  Of course it is always a gamble of sorts buying a used jigsaw puzzle.  We realized it was certainly possible one or more pieces could be missing, but the scenes were beautiful, and this one called Christmas Cottage was only $3.

What we found upon opening the box was quite a surprise.  

The person who donated the puzzle to the store had included a thoughtful note.  He or she shared the information that the puzzle had a missing piece, but that this need not take away from the fun or the challenge of working the puzzle.  The donor had taken a photo of the puzzle showing just where the missing piece should be.  They even drew a blue arrow (visible in photo of their letter above) pointing out its location in the puzzle.

This was so helpful!  This puzzle was definitely a challenge, but it was so beautiful that we enjoyed every minute of working on it.

Such a fun thing to find in a thrift-store puzzle purchase.  We got much more than $3 of enjoyment out of this.  Now we are wondering what surprises might be in store in the second puzzle we bought that day!