There have been a lot of changes in my life this past year – some good, some bad, some a little of both – but I am thankful for all of it. Many people are familiar with the verse from 1 Thessalonians 5:18: That’s […]
Month: November 2014
About this time of year, I start looking for things I can make as Christmas gifts. A few years ago, being in the middle of nowhere and all, and having nosy children who ran to the UPS truck every time a package arrived from Amazon, I decided that making some Christmas gifts might be a wise choice. Besides, I like making stuff. Creating.
When my kids were little and I was new to homeschooling, I read all sorts of books on how to teach, what my children’s’ gifts were, what kind of teaching style suited them, etc.., etc… One of my children learned best by doing tactile things; he was/is a kinesthetic learner. One is an auditory learner, another a visual learner. When my children took these tests, I also took them. For the most part, I’m a visual person, but I’m also a bit kinesthetic.
So when it comes time to make gifts, I lean toward the visual; I’ve painted paintings, embroidered pillows, and made jewelry. Visual and tactile. Sometimes though, it’s fun to include other senses. Taste, for example.
Most people enjoy food. Well, in fact, now that I think about it, everybody I know likes to eat. And at Christmas time, food can be festive and perhaps even a little decadent.
Like caramel, for instance. Caramel is decadent. Very decadent.
A couple weeks ago my daughter and I went to a baby shower, and one of the foods on the buffet table was an extremely decadent, very smooth, creamy caramel served with apples slices. Normally, I’m not a caramel caramel fan. I like salted caramel. but plain caramel isn’t the be-all end-all for me. But this caramel was just sooooo creamy that I kind of fell in love.
Still, my mind started racing with the possibilities using the recipe- that I finagled out of the hostess – as a base for other kinds of caramel. (‘Cause I like to tinker with my recipes. Even longstanding family heirloom kinds of recipes aren’t immune!) My mind raced through various takes on caramel: salted caramel, peanut butter caramel, chocolate caramel, salted chocolate caramel, banana caramel; well, you get the idea. What I settled on though – for the time being at least – is a mocha caramel. Delicious chocolate with a hint of espresso, all gooey and warm, and… and…. and…
Really, this recipe is just about as easy as it can be. It took all of 15 minutes to make, and have I mentioned that it’s soooo creamy? It would be fantastic served with fruit, crackers, cookies, ice cream – you name it! It’s the perfect unique gift to give your child’s teacher, the mailman, your coworker, or just about anyone.
Mocha Caramel Sauce
Makes 1 quart
- 1 C light corn syrup
- 1 lb light brown sugar
- ¼ C unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ t Kosher salt
- 1 T espresso powder
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 1 t vanilla extract
- 1 t coffee extract
In a heavy 4 or 5 qt. Saucepan, mix together corn syrup, brown sugar, salt, cocoa powder and espresso powder.
Stir together over medium heat, bringing to a boil. Boil for 3 minutes.
Add the condensed milk, and butter, stirring together. Add in both extracts and stir rapidly as the mixture will spatter if you don’t. Bring to a boil once again; as soon as it reaches the boiling stage, turn the heat off. Let cool slightly then pour into 4 pint jars. Refrigerate.
To serve, microwave for 20 seconds at a time, stirring each time, until desired consistency. Enjoy!
-To make the basic caramel sauce recipe, leave out the cocoa powder, espresso powder, and substitute the teaspoon of coffee extract for another teaspoon of vanilla extract.
-If you would like to make this for gifts, pour slightly cooled caramel into 4 prepared pint canning jars and cover with lids. Since this contains dairy, it should only be refrigerated and can not be canned.
When I was a wee one, Thanksgiving was the holiday to celebrate on my dad’s side of the family. The holiday was an all-day affair, and there were tables full of family members, young and old, in mmultiple rooms. Usually more than 50 people showed […]
*This post was written a couple years ago in an earlier incarnation of this blog, but it’s as timely today as it was then. For me, even more so, now that one of my sons is serving overseas. It’s also my sister-in-law’s and cousin’s birthday today, so Happy Birthday, and God Bless the fine men and women who have served and continue to serve the United States!
Last month, in our small little county, in a rural patch of Appalachia, a soldier came home.
He came home to a hero’s welcome. Crowds lined both sides of a 40 mile stretch of the highway from the airport to town. Banners were hung from businesses, people were dressed in red, white and blue, waving flags both large and small. I get teary-eyed – still – thinking about this display of respect strangers had for their hometown hero.
I’ve never seen such an overt display of patriotism in my life. Not even on the Fourth of July. Sometimes, I think, much like Christmas, the importance and meaning of Independence Day or Veterans’ Day is lost on most people. I confess, I’ve often passed it off as just another day without mail service or the banks are closed.
Let’s face it, we don’t celebrate this holiday with parades much anymore. Scores of WWII and Korean War veterans are no longer living. Vietnam vets still harbor bad feelings about that war and their perception of the support for their service. Many veterans of the Gulf War, as well as the War on Terror, are just busy making a living, raising families, and even still serving. Most years, because if there are Veterans’ Day ceremonies, they aren’t publicized in many places beyond the VFW hall, it plays out as just another day.
Several years ago, I saw “Saving Private Ryan” in the theater and it truly changed the way I viewed at Veterans’ Day. My grandfather fought in the European theater during WWII and while he wasn’t part of the Normandy Invasion, I’m certain he saw things no one should have to see. The movie opened my eyes to the realities and sacrifices of war. I felt differently about those who served. And I felt differently about the cost of freedom.
But nothing brought it home like that day last month when a soldier came home.
When Marine Lance Corporal Frankie Watson came home, he came home in a casket.
I saw with my own eyes what freedom is really about. I saw that not everyone who fights for my rights and privileges as an American comes home to their loved ones. And even though I didn’t personally know Frankie – although I know many that did – it hurt. It hurts still. I know that others along the parade route felt it in their gut too… That feeling of loss for someone so young and brave and dedicated to protecting his country. A feeling that we should have expressed our gratitude and pride before it was too late.
So I can’t even imagine the pain and grief the families, friends and the brothers-in-arms must feel when they lose a loved one in combat.
It must hurt too, when a soldier who put his or her life on the line, maybe lost a buddy or two, or perhaps lost eyesight or a limb, comes home without that hero’s welcome.
Because they most assuredly deserve it.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you to all who have ever served or are serving your country. What you do matters…. more than you will ever know.
May God Bless You for your sacrifices and dedication each and every day.
Unlike the majority of America, I’m not on board the Pumpkin Spice Latte Express. Yes, I like pumpkin. And yes, I like pumpkin spice things. More like pumpkin muffins, breads, pies, etc…; I like traditional pumpkin spice things. I don’t have to drink it in coffee form to enjoy it.
I am however, completely on the Buffalo Chicken Flyer. Pretty much any kind of buffalo chicken food item, and I start to drool over it. Buffalo chicken mac n’ cheese, buffalo chicken pull apart bread, buffalo chicken dip, buffalo chicken meatballs… Well… you get the idea. Frank’s Hot Sauce and I have quite a special relationship, truly.
I can’t always spend loads of time on making said buffalo chicken things, and me being a healthy, exercise-y kind of girl, I tend to eat salads. A lot. A lot of salads. So one day, after I had made a huge portion of shredded crockpot buffalo chicken, I looked in my fridge to store it, but saw 3 heads of romaine lettuce that would have to be eaten in order to store the chicken.
Darn! That meant I needed to make salad. What dumb luck on my part.
So I thought to myself, “Self, why not make a buffalo chicken salad?”
“Brilliant!” I said to me, because talking back to myself seems to be a thing I do.
At the time, I had Ken’s Blue Cheese Vinaigrette on my pantry shelves (I’ve since tinkered around to make my own), so I grabbed some lettuce, celery and carrots (because they’re always served on the side with buffalo chicken wings at restaurants), and threw a bit of cheese and shredded buffalo chicken on top.
It’s become my daughter’s favorite salad in a rotation of about 11 staple salads. Because I pretty much always, always, always have some shredded buffalo chicken in the freezer, as well as lettuce, carrots, celery, cheddar and Gorgonzola in the fridge, this is easy and quick to throw together.
And probably so much healthier than deep fried buffalo chicken wings too! Enjoy!
Buffalo Chicken Salad with Bleu Cheese Vinaigrette
–makes 2 large dinner salads or 4 side salads
- 4 – 6 C romaine lettuce
- 1 large celery stick, diced
- ½ C matchstick carrots
- ½ C diced scallions
- 1 ½ C shredded buffalo chicken
- 2 oz. Bleu cheese*
- 2 oz. Shredded mild cheddar cheese
- Bleu cheese dressing*
Evenly divide lettuce, celery, carrots and scallions in salad bowls. Toss bleu cheese, cheddar and a few tablespoons of salad dressing with the lettuce. Top with warm shredded chicken and serve.
For Buffalo Chicken:
- 6 large chicken breasts (thawed, if frozen)
- 1 bottle Frank’s Buffalo Hot Sauce
- 2 T butter
Line a crock-pot with slow-cooker liner. Place chicken breasts and butter in slow-cooker and pour Frank’s Hot Sauce over. Cook on medium for approximately 5 hours. While in the crockpot, take two forks and shred the chicken, mixing with the juices and sauces. Cook for another hour. Remove 1 ½ C of shredded chicken for salad. Place remainder in plastic baggies to freeze for later use.
- 4 oz blue cheese*, crumbled
- 2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ C white balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp maple syrup
- Salt & pepper to taste
Whisk together and set aside in the refrigerator until needed.
*I prefer crumbled Gorgonzola. Tubs are easily available at most grocery stores.
When I was around 12 or 13 years old, I can distinctly remember having a conversation with my grandfather, that somehow ended with the words “I’m sorry.” It was probably a meaningless conversation along the lines of… “Did you finish eating the watermelon?” “No, I’m sorry.” […]