December 17, 2010

Utah in T-minus 18 hours

Well, I need to confess something. When it comes to anything (I mean ANYTHING) that makes me anticipate something exciting, I literally need to be drugged in order to get a full night's sleep. In fact, when I was little my mom used to slip us kids(I'm not alone in this issue, my 3 siblings have it too!) benadryl so that we would sleep at LEAST until 4am on Christmas Eve. Crazy you say? Yes, yes it is, but I love every minute of it.

Needless to say, this last week has been nigh-unto Christmas levels of excitement as we've counted down to heading home to Utah for the Holiday next week. Thank goodness for my good supply of Christmas movies and a newly fixed laptop or else my hubby would be insane by now! haha. Right now we're about 18 hours away until we leave(we're driving from CA to UT-14hrs) and I am D.Y.I.N.G!! I think my house has been cleaned at least 4 times today and I've repacked us a couple more times too. Jon slyly snuck out to do some "maintenance" on the car we'll be driving (smart man; knows how to keep his sanity).

Let me explain the reason for this craze. Last Christmas Jon was at Basic Training and all we got was a 1 hour phone call to celebrate together....soooo, this year we are making up for last year's lameness. We're going shopping and partying it up with the families. We've cooked like crazy and have big plans for our week in UT with friends and family. AAAAAH! I can't wait!!! hahaha. We also get to stay 1 night in Park City, compliments of my sweet boss. Basically, it will be amazing and I promise to return with stories and pictures galore....

Happy Holidays to you all!!!

December 12, 2010

My Yummy Christmas Neighbor Gifts

My sweet (literally) little neighbor gifts are all done and beautified! I'm so excited to share this with my near and dear this year (totally did NOT mean to rhyme.). Jonny and I were baking fiends all day yesterday, partly because these needed to be done, and partly because we were both feeling super cozy and Christmassy because of the pea-soup fog outside all afternoon. I LOVED IT! We made Mint Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies, CRACK mix(aka: coconutty chex mix), Peanut Butter Fudge, Cherry Chocolate Bars, and my favorite Pretzel/Hug/M&M treats.... It was like Santa's Bakery in our house yesterday!

Starting at the top center and going right: Cherry Chocolate Bars, Mint Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies, CRACK Mix, Peanut Butter Fudge, and in the center my Pretzel Bites...mmmMMMmmm.
The final product...some also have a Christmas card along with it. I think it's just perfect!! :)
Me with my goodies and my cute Christmas Apron!
Mint Chocolatty goodness

My festive Holiday Recipe Booklet.

My line of plates still to be wrapped up...
Piles and piles of finished gifts!
4 x 4 deep. It's going to be a fun and BUSY week handing these all out!   XOXO -Linz

 Here are the recipes I used for these yummy treats. 

Peanut Butter Fudge
The easiest fudge you'll ever make!

12oz Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips 
12oz Crunchy Peanut Butter
1 14oz can Sweetened Condensed Milk

Place chocolate chips and peanut butter in a microwaveable bowl and cook on high for about 1 minutes or until the chips are melted; stir often to avoid scorching. Remove from microwave and stir in the condensed milk. Pour the mixture into an 8x8x2", lightly buttered or sprayed pan (be generous if using spray, or line your pan with wax paper for easy removal). Slice into desired cubes.

Mint Chocolate Chip Meringue Drops
Let your stand mixer do all the work!
3 Egg Whites
1/2 tsp Peppermint or Mint Extract (I think Orange would be yummy for this too!)
1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
1/4 tsp Green Food Coloring (or color to compliment flavor choice)
2/3 c White Granulated Sugar
1/2 c Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Beat egg whites at high speed until foamy, then beat in the cream of tartar. Slowly beat in the sugar, 1 T at a time until the sugar dissolves and stiff peaks have formed. Beat in Peppermint (or other) extract and food coloring; gently fold in the mini chocolate chips. Drop the mixture by teaspoonfuls onto parchment or foil-lined baking sheets. Bake at 250 for 45-55 mins; or until firm on top to the touch. Turn the oven off and leave overnight (or store, once cooled, in airtight container). 
Makes 4 dozen.

Cherry Chocolate Bars
(from my favorite "Recipes to Remember Lindon 11th Ward" Cookbook)

1 pkg Fudge Cake Mix
1 21oz can Cherry Pie Filling
1 tsp Almond Extract
2 Eggs; beaten
1 c White Granulated Sugar
1/3 c Milk
5 T Butter
1 c Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a jelly roll pan and set aside. Mix the cake mix, cherry pie filling, almond extract, and eggs by HAND. Stir until well mixed and moistened. Spread into evenly into the Jelly Roll pan. *NOTE* It will look like there's not enough mixture to cover the pan, but trust the recipe, the mixture totally puffs up during baking and will rise to the top edge of the pan. 
For the frosting, mix together in a saucepan the sugar, butter, and milk. Stir at a boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add the chocolate chips; stirring until smooth. Pour this over the bars and let it set. 
***These are so, so easy and are always a hit. The frosting is to die for!


1 1/2 c Butter
1 c Karo Syrup (light)
1 c White Granulated Sugar
3 c Rice Chex
3 c Corn Chex
6 c Golden Grahams Cereal
1/2 c Shredded, Sweetened Coconut
1 - 1 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/4 - 1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Vanilla
Chocolate Chips (opt; add at the cooling stage)

Combine cereals and coconut in a LARGE bowl and set aside. In a saucepan, melt the butter then add the Karo syrup, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and vanilla. Bring to a boil for 2 mins stirring constantly (it tends to bubble up and over quite easily). Pour over the cereal mixture and stir to coat well. Spread the mixture out onto waxed paper sheets (don't EVER put this on doesn't end well) to cool. If I'm adding chocolate chips I usually sprinkle them on at this point, or else right before I'm about to put the mix out onto the paper. This stuff is VERY addictive, thus the name of it! haha! Enjoy!

Pretzel M&M Treats

1 bag Window Pane Pretzels (butter flavor is preferrable)
1 bag Regular M&M's
2 bags Hershey's Hugs (we used the Cookies & Creme ones they have out right now)

Preheat the oven to 350 (if you broil them, the tops get too crispy and this won't work). Layout the pretzels on a cookie sheet; just as many as you can fit on there. Place 1 hug on each pretzel. Put the cookie sheet into the oven and watch closely; it takes about 5 mins. When the hugs are warmed enough to still hold their form but not melt completely down, remove and place 1 M&M on top of the hug (right in the middle). Don't push it all the way down, as this pushes the Hug onto the cookie sheet and it gets stuck. These are so easy and completely out or you'll have eaten 3 or 4 before you'll even realize it!

 Happy Holidays!

December 04, 2010

Holiday Prep

So being a said, "military wife", the less-than-loved salary comes right along with it. I've had to really get my creative juices flowing this year in regards to gifts to give. I have a few ideas and here are the ones I'm willing to least before the holiday :)

1. Holiday Recipe Cards
I love recipes. All kinds and all genres. So, this being the case, I can honestly say I have quite the collection of Holiday-Specific recipes and thought I would share them with those I love! In my mind's eye I pictured beautiful scrapbooked-looking, vintage-lovely cards, but being on a budget again I had to do what I could with what we had. What do you think???

I got a few of my ideas out of this fantabulous book. I got this from Mom Raymond last year for Christmas and it's one of my faves!!!!!
This is one of my prized Christmas books. It's about 4x6" big but it is sooo much fun to read through. She has little quotes and everything you see is hand-drawn and hand written. It's super cute. In fact, on one of the cards below, there's a "Recipe for a Happy Christmas" quote that's taken from this book.
All of the recipe cards lain out. I got some cute ribbon today that I'll be finishing these up with. Can't wait to see the final product!

If anyone of you tries these recipes, let me know what you think! I can't wait to try all of these! XOXO

Thanksgiving and Homemade Rolls!

This is tad late-coming, but honestly life has been a blur since Thanksgiving!!

For the big day, we had over 10 other couples and had MORE than enough food; plus some! We've discovered that our friends are quite the culinary epicurians! We had (you ready for this?):

- Smoked Turkey
- Homemade Honey-Baked Ham
- Mashed Potatoes and Gravy
- Sweet Potato Crunch Casserole
- Homemade Cranberry Conserves
- Homemade Macaroni and Cheese
- Homemade Stuffing (or Dressing; whichever you prefer)
- Cheesy Green Bean Casserole
- Cranberry Jello Salad
- Homemade Rolls
- Veggie Tray (with Green Olives!!)and Pickles
- Asparagus
- Cheesy Cornbread Casserole

Now for the Desserts!
- Homemade Black Forest Cake/Torte(sooo beautiful!)
- Homemade Apple, Cherry, Pumpkin, and French Silk Pies

Here's a picture of my lovely homemade rolls. I was so glad they turned out like they did because I was expecting them not to rise like they should. Let me explain. Shortly after I had put the dough aside to rise for the night(yes, all night, and in the fridge!), Mom Raymond called me and asked how things were coming along and asked me if I had found the right Lehi Roller Mills Turkey Flour at Costco out here...yikes!! I had totally forgotten that you needed that particular kind! Well, what was done was done and we'd just have to wait until morning to see how things turned out. If I had to, I had enough time to make a different recipe of rolls if needed. Needless to say, things turned out great! I was soooo happy with my first attempt at bread baking!!! yay!!! What do you think? They were as scrumptious as they look(at least to me at least, they ARE my babies.) 
The recipe is one from my favorite cookbook, "Recipes to Remember Lindon 11th Ward 2004"
The recipe's super easy once you understand the processes:
Sunday Rolls
Recipes to Remember - Lindon 11th Ward 2004
Cream together in a LARGE bowl:
1 c Butter; sliced thinly in pieces                          
3/4 c Sugar
2 tsp Salt

Add 1 c BOILING water to the above mixture and dissolve everything completely so you have a buttery/sugary slurry. In a small bowl or cup, add together 1/2 c warm water with 2 T yeast (Red Star brand works best). Put aside for about 5 mins until foam has formed on top, then add it to the large bowl with the butter slurry.
4 Eggs                                    
7 1/2 c Flour (Lehi Roller Mills "Turkey" flour works best for rising purposes)
1 c cold water
NOTE: Add the cold water alternately with flour as you mix together.

Mix well (using method above on "Note") on floured counter. Rinse, then spray large bowl with non-stick spray (we use PAM), then put dough back in large bowl. Cover and let rise in the fridge overnight or 5-6 hours.

Divide dough into 4 equal parts(like a pie). Roll each part into a circle(no oblong circles people!). Cut into 12 pie-shaped pieces.
NOTE: The best method for cutting these is to start with cutting the dough-circle in 1/2 then into 1/3rds then into 1/6ths. This way the slices will stay even.

Brush the slices with melted butter or margarine, then roll up each piece into crescent roll shape. Brush with more butter and let rise for 2-3 hours more on greased baking sheets. (Plan ahead, it really does take that long!) Bake at 375 for 10-15 mins.

**You can keep the dough in the fridge for a few days if you don't want to use it up all at once.**

All in all it was a feast to match all over feasts! After dinner and dessert, we had the chance to place some games. We played Beyond Balderdash; if you haven't ever played this - go out and get this game!!! It's so much fun! The point is this:
1 person is the "reader" and gets to choose a category from one of the playing cards; you can choose from Initials, Words, Dates, Acronym's, and Movies. Once the reader chooses the category, he/she will tell the rest of the players what it is(ie: word = Flibbertigibbet).
From this point, everyone has a little pile of papers with their names written on them, and some sort of writing instrument (we like old, forgotten pencils). The players will now write their own definition of the word given (or whatever the category was that was chosen). The reader will write down the correct answer on a paper of his/her own. The point of the game is to have the other players choose your card/answer and to have yourself guess the correct/reader's answer. Once you've written down the appropriate answer, you pass your paper to the reader who then will read all the cards out loud while the players try to guess the correct answer. Like I said, there are always some AWESOME answers and you'll be guaranteed a great time.

As for decorations, for anyone who knows me knows that I already had up my Christmas (usually up the week or so after Halloween!). I can't help it! I love all things Red, Green, and Christmassy!! hahaha! Well, our friends didn't seem to mind and I had a blast playing hostess for the evening.

Here's our Christmassy-Liscious House:
Our Kitchen sitting room

View from the Kitchen sitting room towards the front of the house

Our little DVD hutch; I love my little snowmen! Mom Raymond made me my cute "Wise Men.." tile last year.
This little chapel was my Grandma LaPreal's. I love it so much...and it's a music box!
My cute caroling Snow-Family!

Our GINORMOUS Thanksgiving table (we ended up eating at one end and on the couches because of all the food!)
How our table usually looks. WAY better suited for 2 people :)

My buffet scene. It looks much better with the lights on underneath.
This is typically where I keep my collection (always growing!) of traditional looking Santas.
Top view of buffet

My "Nativity/Prayerful Santa" corner scene

By the front door.

My cutie little Santas

Close-up of my Santas and my little sitting fairy.

My side of the office upstairs. See my cute Christmas Angel? Mom Raymond made her for my birthday!!

Funny kitties in funny beds. They are in LOVE with printer paper boxes! haha! Ellie (aka; squeekers) on the left, Ezz on the right.

My little side table by the front door. We made the "JOY" sign at a homemaking of Lindon 11th Ward last year. Daddy's favorite Santa book down below.

Side view of Tree.
Side 2 view of tree
My little fiber optic tree upstairs
Same little fiber optic tree upstairs; This is the first tree I ever bought!
My special "Attic" picture on the shelf above the stairs. Dad Raymond made this for me last year!
I know it's not very lovely to see this particular room, but I love my cute little sign!

Here's the same room with my cute nightlight and new Snow Place Like Home sign. LOVE IT!
My festive China hutch with Victorian "woman power" cards hanging from it. Grandma LaPreal would be proud!

The tree all lit up....and Ellie's fluffy tail! haha!

My favorite ornament! It's all my favorite Christmas colors and sparkles so great with the lights....see below?
This is my new ornament this year from Mom R. She's my cute shoppin' lady! She also gave Jonny one of an awesome little cat-man. I put it down towards the bottom of the tree where the cats usually hang out...they love it too!
So pretty with the lights all on it.