Mom’s Christmas Traditions

My Mom’s Traditions 

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What is it about getting older that brings nostalgic thoughts and dream reenactments of childhood holidays? I think this happens to most of us as we age…when we truly realize how special family is and the holidays with them surrounding you. There are some Christmas traditions that mean even more to me as seasons come and go.

Every family has the tradition of special foods that are prepared once a year. My mom made spicy gingerbread men every year. Mom poked holes at the top to string ribbon through. We ate some and hung the others on our Christmas tree. Most Christmas mornings my mom made Bisquick Jam coffee cake. 

Tom’s Mom’s Traditions 

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There was always a clementine nestled in the stocking toe with little boxes of cereal that the four children would eat for breakfast. They would open their stockings early around 4, discovering their new treasures. Meanwhile their mom and dad slept. 

The Sears Roebuck catalog was the wish list and each child picked out one gift they wanted and they always got that one special gift. Tom received a bike when he was 8 or 9. One year the girls got ice skates.

Their father plowed snow and one year he was out all day working and they waited for him to come home to open the presents. I’m sure it was even sweeter that year because the children had to wait, but it was worth it to share with their dad.

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Tom and his cousin Kenny

My Christmas Traditions

Growing up our family had a tradition of opening one small gift on Christmas Eve. I wanted us to continue the fun and so our boys always had one or two presents to open on Christmas Eve. Usually there was new pajamas and an ornament for the tree. It was fun shopping for unique ones that represented the year. One year I bought a little snowboarder for Dylan when he was snowboarding on our hill. Branden got a cinnamon smelling cat as he loved our cats. 


As I wrap up this post I want to thank you all for staying with me and investing your time to catch a glimpse of my life. Many of you have become my friends and I’m thankful for the connections we have made across the country and the world. Things are getting quite busy here with finishing shopping, cooking and baking and wrapping for Christmas. I will not post again until Christmas or after. I wish you all a Merry Christmas with your loved ones and friends. 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul 🎄❤️

My sons in their new pajamas on Christmas Eve
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Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

On the last snow day from school, I  decided to bake this delicious looking version of pumpkin bars from Together as a family site and will post the link to the recipe. I apologize for not having a picture of these but take my word, THEY ARE DELICIOUS! Check out the original recipe at https://togetherasfamily.com/pumpkin-chocolate-chip-bars/?utm_medium=social&utm_source=pinterest&utm_campaign=tailwind_tribes&utm_content=tribes&utm_term=433083832_14813236_267507.

Who doesn’t love pumpkin, especially in late fall? Chocolate is a huge favorite of mine too. A short time ago I  discovered both together in a recipe on Pinterest. The pumpkin has a bold taste and sweet and creamy chocolate compliments it, much like with peanut butter.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Brownies

adapted from Together as Family Blog, Jessica is the author.

My version is going to host semi- sweet chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate chips. I used One- Pie pumpkin filling.

The ingredients
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce ( I used a packaged applesauce cup which was just under a half cup)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree ( I used One- Pie)
2 cups milk chocolate chips ( I used semi- sweet chips and it was delicious)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.
In a mixing bowl, whisk dry ingredients, flour, pumpkin pie spice, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
Beat the butter, applesauce, granulated sugar and brown sugar on medium-high speed until smooth. I used my Kitchen- aid mixer on low. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Add pumpkin puree and mix until combined.
Gradually add dry mixture to wet ingredients until combined. Add chocolate chips.
Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Bake for 35-40 minutes. The edges will begin to pull away from the sides of the pan and will be golden brown and the center will look “puffy” and done. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out with moist/dry crumbs.
Cool bars before cutting out of pan. Store in closed container. These are simply delicious and so moist! I made them last week for Tom and the girls at school and I think everyone enjoyed them!
Check out Togetherasfamily.com to see the original recipe!

Bob B’s Homemade Pizza

 

 

My father in-law left us many special memories, too many to tell in one sitting. From all these remembrances, his fun dinner parties stand out in my mind. When Bob retired, he started cooking. I have his beef stew, taco pie and pizza recipes in my collection. It’s the pizza recipe that remains dear to me as it reminds me of fun times at the Blowey house.

 

 

I fondly remember one evening standing in my in-law’s kitchen, while Bob made homemade pizza with my mother- in -law Theo. She helped arrange the sliced peppers and onions. He was so funny that he would watch her working to make sure she did it the way he wanted. You see, Bobs pizzas were homemade and crafted with love, the very same as Theo’s homemade crafted pies.

 

 

 

Bob made magnificent trays of pepperoni, cheese and even shrimp pizza! When Tom’s siblings visited on weekends, they would have a grand spread of pizza, Bob’s speciality!  Don’t I miss those days and the mouth-watering pies!

 

 

So Bob’s recipes for pizza sauce and the crust have lived in my scrapbook cookbook but I have to confess…I’ve never made them! Maybe I thought that I’d never come close to his creations and the yeast factor scared the heck out of me! ( Yeast and I have never gotten along but lately I’m daring to try it and it’s working well!)

 

 

Here I’ll share his recipe for homemade sauce and crust. You need a full day of cooking the sauce, on and off for several hours for a rich flavor. I made my pizza on a weekend when I had plenty of time.

Pizza Sauce

1/4 c olive oil

1 garlic clove

2 cans tomato paste ( I used the medium size)

1- 15 oz stewed tomatoes, peeled & cut fine

1- 28 oz  diced or puréed tomatoes

1/2 green pepper chopped

1- onion chopped or grated

1 tsp salt

2 tsp oregano

1 tsp Italian seasoning

In a large skillet cook garlic in oil until soft. Add onion and green pepper and cook until translucent. ( just a couple of minutes) Next add tomato paste, stewed tomatoes and diced or puréed tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer. Add seasonings and stir well. Cook sauce for 20 minutes and then shut off. Keep covered. Do this routine three times throughout the day, 20 minutes and then shut off each time. After sitting and simmering all day on and off, it’s ready to top your pizza!

 

Pizza Crust

3/4 c warm water

1 pkg dry yeast

1/8 tsp sugar or honey ( I used honey)

4 c flour

1 tsp salt

1/4 c olive oil

In a small bowl put warm water with yeast and honey, stir. Let stand in a warm place for 10-15 minutes. It will get bubbly. In a large bowl combine 1 cup flour and salt. Add oil to yeast mix. Pour into the large bowl of flour and mix together. Gradually add second cup of flour. Stir  with a wooden spoon. When dough is mixed, add third cup of flour. At this point you may need to add a small amount of water. When it begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, turn it onto a floured board. Gradually knead the remaining cup of flour into the dough. It should become smooth and elastic and no longer sticky. The amount of flour will vary depending on how moist the dough is and the weather. Coat a bowl with olive oil and place the dough ball in it, rolling it to coat it on all sides. Cover it tightly with plastic wrap and set it in a warm place, until it has doubled in size. This takes about 1 1/2 hours. ( I put my oven on and placed the dough on the warmest place on the stove top. )You will know when the dough is ready by pressing your finger in it, it will leave an impression. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Roll out dough on a floured surface. This makes a 20 inch round pan or a 12 x 18 baking pan. Brush oil in pan, place rolled dough and brush oil on dough. Place pizza sauce 1/4 inch thick. Next place sliced green pepper and onions. If you wish to add pepperoni, do it after the veggies. Top with mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle Italian seasoning or oregano on top. Cook 15-18 minutes till brown and cheese is bubbly.

 

So as I crafted my first pizza Bob’s way, I felt that he would have approved. He was so proud of his pizzas and that rubbed off on me, so many years later. I wish to dedicate this post to my father-in-law on the day he was born on. Here are some photos of him fishing and on a camping trip with Tom.

 

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cream Pies ( Cookies)

I must say so myself, these are delicious! Merely the cookie without the filling would be great too!

 

 

Recently I was thumbing through my Better Homes and Gardens Christmas Cookies magazine. It’s been in my recipe collection for 17 years. It’s worn and torn in places, showing its age and constant use. It has been one of my favorite magazines to find cookie recipes all year. I say all year because many of the recipes are good for all through the year and why limit them to December and Christmas?

 

It was a Saturday afternoon and I wanted to whip up these peanut butter oatmeal cream pies ( cookies) for Tom and the girls at school. I try to bake for them all weekly and the weekend off is a great time to do it! I gathered my ingredients, lit my kitchen candles and away I baked!

 

Homemade Peanut Butter Oatmeal Pies

Taken from Better Homes and Garden Christmas Cookies publication

1/4 c. flour

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/2 c. butter, softened

1/2 c. sugar

1/2 c. brown sugar, packed

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. quick cooking oats

Filling

2 tsps. hot water

1/4 tsp salt

1- 7 oz. jar marshmallow cream ( Fluff)

1/2 c. shortening

1/3 c. powdered sugar

 

My new mixer that I have used a lot!

 

 

1. Preheat oven to 350  degrees F. Grease a cookie sheet. In a small bowl combine flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder. In a large bowl combine butter and peanut butter. Beat on medium until combined. ( I used my Kitchen aid mixer but you could use a hand mixer) Beat in sugars until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla until just combined. Stir in flour mixture and oats.

2. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons 2 inches apart onto cookie sheet. Bake in oven for 8-10 minutes or until edges are light brown and centers are set. Cool for one minute and then transfer to wire cooling rack.

3. In a medium bowl combine hot water and salt. Stir until dissolved. Add marshmallow cream, shortening ( I’m not crazy about shortening and may use butter next time) and powdered sugar. Beat until well combined.

4. Spread filling mixture onto flat side of half of cookies. Top each frosted cookie with another cookie. Makes 13 sandwich cookies.

I store my cookies at room temperature in my plastic cookie keeper that’s air tight. These are so much better than store-bought cream pies…look out Little Debbie’s!

 

 

Enjoy your week and take time to bake for your friends and loved ones!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul

 

 

 

Raspberry Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

 

I missed making this treat for Christmas so managed to get it done this weekend.

 

 

 

I remember that many years ago my mom made a cream cheese Bisquick Raspberry coffee cake for Christmas morning. She had a special book in the eighties with the recipe and now my sister has the book. It’s a delicious and easy coffee cake to try for your family.

I don’t usually buy Bisquick but I do especially for this delicious coffee cake!

 

 

 

I’ve made it several Christmases, switching the raspberry jam for strawberry and it still had the same delicious taste! It’s been a few Christmases since I’ve made this , so this weekend I decided to try it again. It’s yummy warm and accompanied with a cup of coffee.

The recipe- Bisquick Cream Cheese Coffee Cake

You will need for the cake:

1 ( 3 oz) pkg. cream cheese

4 Tbsp. butter

2 c. Bisquick mix

1/3 c. milk ( I used Lactose free for Lactose Intolerance)

1/2 c. raspberry jam ( can substitute strawberry)

 

For the Glaze:

1-2 Tbsp. milk

1 c. confectioner’s sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Maraschino cherries

 

Cut cream cheese and butter into Bisquick. Mix until crumbly. Blend in milk. Knead with hands into a smooth ball. Tear off two pieces of waxed paper the size of a cookie sheet. Place the dough on one piece of paper with the second piece on top. Roll out dough to a 12 x 8 rectangle. Remove the top paper and flip the dough on a greased cookie sheet. Spread jam down the center. Make 2 1/2 inch cuts at one inch intervals on each side of the dough. Fold the strips over the jam. Press lightly so that the strips seal together. Seal ends so the jam doesn’t seep out. If you noticed I didn’t seal it up on one end by mistake but it came out okay.

Bake at a preheated 425 degrees F oven for 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool. Drizzle coffee cake with the icing. Garnish with cherries or walnuts if desired.

 

 

 

Do you have a favorite coffee cake recipe? Is there a story with it?

 

All My Best,

Heart and Soul

Cookies, Cookies, Cookies!

There’s nothing as comforting as a plate of homemade cookie concoctions baked fresh out of the oven! With a glass of milk or coffee a cookie is a special treat, especially around Christmas. Recently I’ve spent much busy time in my kitchen baking different cookies for fundraisers, co-workers and family. It has been a peaceful and fun week as I listened to my Spotify Christmas playlist and baked my heart away.

 

Chocolate Thumbprints

I found this Chocolate Thumbprint recipe on Pinterest, from Shanon at The Curvy Carrot. She is a physician and enjoys cooking and baking while at home. Here is her link for the recipe. Chocolate Thumbprint cookies

 

I’m sharing her recipe for this delicious and beautiful cookie. I doubled the recipe and it made about four dozen. It will be a steadfast addition to my annual cookie list. They are also pretty easy to make and that means a lot this time of year!

 

I used parchment paper and love the results!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next I made Melt in your Mouth  Pumpkin Cookies with frosting to top them off. I love pumpkin cookies and believe they are not just for fall but would be great to add to a Christmas cookie tray. I got this recipe on Pinterest, from Crissy at Dearcrissy.com. See her site for the recipe. Melt in your mouth Pumpkin cookies

 

She’s a mom and wife, writer and food photographer. This recipe is the best pumpkin cookie I’ve ever tasted and baked! It will be a hit at parties, work or just at home.

 

 

 

Every year I write my cookie list to bake for family, friends, co-workers and neighbors this year. It varies from year to year. Most years I make peanut butter chocolate kiss cookies nicknamed Black eyed Susans, a family favorite. My son Branden and I still make sugar cookie cut outs every year. Since he was about 7 or 8, he has had a keen interest in creating and decorating these beauties. I asked him a message recently if he wanted to continue the tradition when he gets home for college break. He said yes, he would love it and so I look forward to this time with him in the kitchen.

 

Today my sister Barb, niece Ella Kate and my sweet mom are coming for Cookie day, a tradition we started a few years ago. Each of us will bake a batch of our favorites and then we split them up between us. We play music, laugh, reminisce and just enjoy each other while baking cookies. It’s a special day for me and I hope the tradition lasts with my future grandchildren.

Are you baking Christmas cookies soon? What are your favorites?

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤

Succulent Squash

The other day I searched high and low for decorative gourds to adorn my Thanksgiving table. The supermarket must have had a rush for them because there wasn’t any left. Walking around the corner where they should have been, suddenly I discovered some unique squashes that could stand in for the gourds and serve my purpose.

 

 

Aren’t they beautiful in colors and shape?

 

 

I chose a golden acorn, an orange squash I’ve never seen before, a bright yellow acorn, and a slender squash and that resembled a gourd. With a little research I discovered that the slender tan squash is called a  Delicata squash. The multi colored acorn shaped squash is a Carnival squash. The orange round one resembles a pumpkin and is called a Golden Acorn. I threw in my home-grown Buttercup squash from our garden to add a little dark color and complete my display.

 

We had eleven diners so we had two long tables. On each table I scattered the colorful squashes amid my pilgrim people and turkey leaf display. My one regret is that I didn’t have time to snap a photo because I was deep into a cooking mode but they did look beautiful! Interspersed with the plates were my niece’s lovely thankful turkeys and artwork.

 

 

Now I have all these squashes and it’s fun to search for different uses. I plan to make all of them within the next couple weeks. In years past I’ve baked squash wedges with a little brown sugar and butter or boiled it. Winter squash is tasty either way and a healthy side dish to any meal! Tonight I baked the golden squash with butter and salt and pepper. It was yummy and accompanied my spiral pasta with local sausage. ( See my side note)

 

A Little Side Note:

Recently my husband and I started buying meat from a local farm in our town. I saw the post on our town blog  from a local farm. They are selling a holiday package of a variety of meats all from their farm and processed in a FDA facility. We were excited to invest locally with GMO free and grass-fed meat and will continue buying from this farm. It feels good to abandon grocery shopping for meat that has traveled many miles from who knows where. Not knowing where your food comes from is pretty scary…especially in this day and age of additives and the Genetically Modified Organisms nightmare.

 

I hope you all enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday and spent it with people you love! I did…it was a special day of feasting, love and family.

Here is a photo of the dinner crew after eating and indulging in these desserts, pumpkin pie, apple pie, apple crisp, Reese’s peanut butter pie, cherry pie and  chocolate cream pie. Wow, there were lots of desserts and leftovers!

All My Best,

Heart and Soul ❤