Easy Christmas Cookie recipes and What’s Ahead in 2020!

Italian Lemon Cookie recipe is  here

Cranberry Orange White Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe is here

I haven’t started baking yet, but will the second weekend of this month. I have thankfully purchased all the ingredients and can’t wait to try them! Something a little different for the holidays to go along with the thumbprint and sugar cookies I always bake.

What’s Happening with my blog in 2020?

I started my blog in 2009 as an outlet from all the school work I  was always doing–I was in my second year of college and needed a hobby or? something to de-stress and get myself involved in that wasn’t school or work. I decided to blog about my food journey because we were about five years into changing up our lifestyle and I thought that would be fun to blog about..

My blog posts were private for three, maybe four years? Then one day I decided to make some of them public and eventually my blog went public and I began to receive feedback for some of my posts and the rest as they say is history. Through the years this blog hasn’t changed much–at least it doesn’t feel like it. My posts have almost always centered around food, or foraging, or recipes, meals, farmer’s markets, and gardening.

I had zero goals for my blog–it just really always stayed a place for me to write and share what I’d learned about any given subject, but mostly those mentioned above.

Through the years I’ve made some great friends, I think learned to write better( better grammar, punctuation, and better story-telling) had a couple of my essays make it to food research/resource sites, and been lucky to have had over 100 followers (40 added just this year) which to some may seem like nothing but to me means an awful lot.  I feel so thankful that people hit the follow button on my blog which really has never been more than my journal and followed along. Thank you!

Through feeling more confident about writing, I began to do something that had always been a dream of mine and that was writing book reviews. I’ve shared several on the blog. From those experiences I’ve been contacted by publishing companies and authors and now regularly join author book launches, which are a lot of work, and read for publishing companies and authors an average of 5 books a month and write reviews. This is not paid work mind you, which is fine for now, and may someday (I hope) be compensated. That said I work full-time, run a household, have volunteer work, and a pet that has special needs filling up my time as well.

My blog has helped me in several ways meet my dream of being a book reviewer.  So I’m not throwing in the towel completely.  I will continue to blog now and then–returning here when there are container garden pictures to share, and our forever gardens some day soon we hope–once we move, farmer’s market hauls, and a recipe or two. Here and there it will contain a book review  of mine –most likely any cookbooks and/or food related books I review. 

I feel my blog as it has been for the last few years has come to an end.  I’ve always put a lot into every post I’ve written even when it was just me reading my posts. Once I started getting followers I imagined we’d talk passionately about all things food related until all hours of the night–but that never happened. That’s o.k.  I still made friends and found great blogs to follow and I’m thankful for what’s come out of it.

So with that my friends I say–  I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and I’ll see you again at some point in 2020 with a new blog post.

 

 

 

My Christmas Centerpiece & Christmas Tree Meringue Cookies

I  ❤️ this centerpiece–fresh boughs of evergreen in vintage vases/ containers. Perfect and in my case free as we have both pine and juniper trees outside that are lush and green and I have several milk glass containers to put them in. I don’t have a tray quite like this so I will be improvising, but I do have some warm white fairy likes to help warm things up and bring some Christmas cheer to our holiday table.

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My beautiful amaryllis is blooming this week!

Thanksgiving dinner turned out great–if you followed along on my IG stories you saw my preparations and enjoyed some storytelling from Dad and my holiday tablescape!

Just a little over 3 weeks from today and the big day will be here. Between a very busy volunteering schedule- SA ringing the bell, church activities, caroling and putting together Christmas packages for the shelter I volunteer at, I haven’t really found much time to bake. Which is fine because I’d much rather be volunteering than packing on the pounds. This week I will be making rosettes and the Christmas Tree Meringue Cookies

We’ve also been busy with Christmas open houses, the CP Holiday Train and food drive, and the amazing Rotary Lights in La Crosse Wisconsin.

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Christmas Day B’fast- Breakfast Strata

Christmas Dinner Menu

BBQ Beef Ribs
Ham
Rice Pilaf
Mashed Potatoes & Gravy
Scalloped Corn
Brown Sugar Glazed Carrots
Dinner Rolls

I’ve got two new cookie recipes I am trying this week and I will take photos and post them here with recipes soon. Until next time–be well!

 

Turkey Dinner for 12 & gratitude printable

This week I found a fantastic printable that I copied onto my chalkboard.
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Source for printable–  & may I say that I just love this blog-All Things Bright and Beautiful

Well folks, its Thanksgiving week already. Where does the time go? My husband and I went shopping this past weekend to avoid the big rush and purchased a ton (it sure felt like it) of food. We helped friends host family members and a deer hunter get-together and helped feed over 40 people for 3 days. On top of that we finished our Christmas shopping, painted the bathroom, picked out new carpeting and both worked overtime at our full-time jobs. But oh the reward of the big feast all weekend. I made a lot of homemade sloppy- joes, bbq’d what seemed like an endless supply of brats and baked 6 pies. Now after another full week of work, we’ll be doing it all over again come Thursday. It’s very rewarding to cook for people who love to eat and we are extremely grateful to have friends and loved ones near us throughout the Thanksgiving and holiday season. I’m thankful to know such wonderful people not only through work, but through living in this area and through the various organizations we volunteer for. It’s  really a labor of love to entertain the special people in our life.

For Thanksgiving dinner there will be 12 people give or take 5 more. I wanted to make sure we had plenty of food and also some leftovers as well as something here and there to send home with everyone. So I perused the internet until I found some pointers about how much food to prepare for 12 people. I will be the main cook/hostess so it’s all on me. Here’s what I found at Taste of Home .   I think we nailed it with what we bought and have on hand- I currently have two 20-pound turkeys defrosting in the refrigerator and I’ll be baking 1-13# ham.  We’ll be having sides of mashed, rice and stuffing, along with cauliflower, squash, brussels sprouts, corn and sweet potatoes. We will have both veggie and fruit trays for before the meal and cookie and cake trays after the meal. The desserts are yet to be decided, I’m thinking cheesecake, pie and creme brulee . On Wednesday, after work, I’ll be making the homemade bread and rolls. Having a lot of people for dinner isn’t new to us but this is the first Thanksgiving I’ve cooked alone for more than 10 people.

Until next time, I wish all of my readers a wonderful Thanksgiving day(if you celebrate the day)and as always until next time–be safe and be well.

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Homemade Turkey Gravy

Over the years I have perfected two things Thanksgiving dinner related- the turkey and the turkey gravy. The only thing about my thanksgiving meal that never turns out is the stuffing. I’m not one to stuff my bird– I’ve tried bread crumbs and day old dried bread but it never tastes as good as store bought. But store bought has so many ingredients in it. Have you ever looked at the ingredient list for Stove Top stuffing? We cannot eat it. So no stuffing this year, but of course there will be a well made Turkey and lump free gravy.  And lots more, but this post is about turkey gravy (ahem).

My tried and true recipe is here . Where it says gravy or cornstarch, I always use cornstarch. You are to dissolve the cornstarch in water ( as little as needed to make a thin paste) and while it is dissolving I take a clean finger and stir it around until fully dissolved and then add to the drippings in the pan. When I used to use a spoon to help dissolve it, the cornstarch (clumps of it) would stick to my spoon. Make sure your paste of cornstarch is thin. Besides being a simple recipe, it is simply delicious and your people will thank you.

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Here’s wishing all who are following my blog, or who just stop to read a post or two, a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

Forest Bathing —therapy and healing in the forest

I’ve spent at least half my life in the forest/woods among trees. Starting at the young age of 13, I sought refuge there from the stress of school and the overprotectiveness of a parent.  Many a time I lay on the ground without a worry of ticks, or spiders, or whatever creature insect might be crawling around me. Listening as I lay there to the trees speak.  If you are reading this and find yourself hesitant, curious, doubtful, or interested–I invite you to make time to go somewhere, anywhere there is trees and quiet. Sit. Release your worries, stress, anger, hurt and relax in the sway that is a tree. Now at 55, I am still among trees and will be long after this “trend” and certainly from a time long before. Forest bathing or Shinrin -yoku (“taking in the forest atmosphere” or “forest bathing.” ) has been around since the 1980s and originated in Japan as a form of therapy in nature. I say trend because “suddenly” it’s the new thing, which you know new or old, I hope it encourages people to try it, connect with nature, and make a vital connection between  planet earth and their health igniting in them a sense of motivation to protect both.

The scientifically-proven benefits of Shinrin-yoku include:

  • Boosted immune system functioning, with an increase in the count of the body’s Natural Killer (NK) cells.
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Reduced stress
  • Improved mood
  • Increased ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
  • Accelerated recovery from surgery or illness
  • Increased energy level
  • Improved sleep

The National Institute of Health concludes and accepts proof—it works!  Read here

Science facts here

Forest bathing in Canada  here

Health study articles concluding forest bathing is good for you here

Shinrin-yoku explained here

Trees communicate with each other article by New Scientist here

Books about trees:

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben here

Article about this book in The Guardian UK here

Walks in the Wild by Peter Wohlleben here

**these books are the best and most informative books on trees & nature that I’ve read and I know you’ll love them**

Plant a tree –here is an organization that can help you

One Tree Planted here

 

Fall on the farm in the 70s

Fall time on the farm was many things while growing up. First off, not long after the dog days of summer, cooler weather was upon us in Minnesota. The county fair signaled the end of summer break and the first thoughts of the new school year.

Sometime around the fair time our family, when us kids were younger, all drove to a larger city about an hour from the farm and shopped for school supplies. I also remember a time in the late 70s when I bought my first pair of Levi’s on this trip and my first bottle of cologne called Love’s Baby Soft. Walmart’s weren’t around back then, at least not in Minnesota, so everything we needed for school was purchased at one store and that was called Osco Drug. When we were younger and had less school supply needs we most likely could get everything at our local Ben Franklin.

When the fair came around, sometimes if I was lucky I’d be able to wear a piece from my new back to school wardrobewhich in the 70s comprised new jeans or cords, new turtleneck (always), a new shirt, socks, and underclothing. That’s it! If we needed new jackets, mittens, and caps then we got those right before the first snowfall. For years fair time meant baking cookies, arranging flowers, and trying to find just the right vegetable from the garden to show at the fair. My mom helped me with the cookies, and my grandmother taught me flower arranging and some gardening. I remember receiving several red ribbons (2nd place) and a few prized blue. Fair time meant hamburgers at the 4-h building, rides, and trying to win a big stuffed animal. Though I usually came home with a stuffed snake or banana.

Living out in the country some thirteen miles from town we had to catch the bus every morning for school. I think at one time we were first on the bus—where we were picked up right in front of our house at 7 am. Then after a while we had to hoof it up a hill that was maybe an 1/8th of a mile from our front door. The bus, give or take 5 minutes, would then pick us up at 7:20. We would be alerted when it was time to run when mom could see from our front door the bus approaching a certain spot in the road.  Many a day I remember running as fast as my legs could carry me because missing the bus was never an option. Once school started it wasn’t long before the time changed and we would be waking in the pitch dark and the sky would just be lighting up about the time the bus approached us.

Fall time on the farm meant the last of lawn mowing but more raking leaves. Also every fall I helped to put all my mom’s gardens to bed. This involved raking the ground smooth and then mulching it with leaves. Eventually my bike would be put away for the winter by washing it up good, drying and buffing it, and throwing an old rug or blanket over it until spring. Our momma cats were usually all done having kittens for the year so trying to find them and “help” to take care of them was over for another season. No fall would have been complete without my mom offering out my services to pick up the walnuts off my grandma’s front lawn and the lawn of a close neighbor/friend.

It should be said I did not like school at all. I literally counted the days until graduation. I was the picked on kid for several years starting in 3rd grade and ending in my freshman year. My not liking school is not a direct reflection on my teachers. I had some wonderful teachers and a nice school to go to. Bullying back in the 70s was unheard of unfortunately it still happened rare or not and my being bullied eventually stopped when the bullies graduated or moved away. There was, however, an aspect of school I loved and looked forward to and that was when I could order books from The Weekly Reader. To this day those memories are still some of my most favorite memories growing up.

No fall on the farm would be complete without remembering dressing up for Halloween. I’m not sure there were any factory made costumes back then—I never saw any that’s for sure. Everyone wore whatever they could come up with from whatever silly clothing that could be found. So, there were always hobos, farmers, moms, grannies, clowns, and wearing pj’s (the best of all) or curlers in your hair (very popular). I think I was a hobo every year lol. Trick or treating in the country meant about 5-10 houses and only the ones with the porch light on. We didn’t have fancy pumpkins or bags to throw our candy in instead we used an old pillow case. Seventy percent of what we got trick or treating was popcorn and apples with an occasional Hershey candy bar or lifesavers thrown in. The one thing all kids in the 70s were looking forward to receiving that night were full size Snicker bars. We never went to town trick or treating because of how far we were from town, the amount of candy we would have got, and last but never least the tom foolery usually going on like toilet papering houses and egging cars.

Shortly after Halloween all you would hear in the valley that I grew up in were corn pickers and harvesters as the farmers harvested their corn crops for the year. Every night after supper the ground would have a covering of frost. Sometimes I would sit on the swing in our front yard and listen to the corn stalks rustling together and smelling the distant smoke from our neighbor’s woodstove.

Fall on the farm bring memories of hot summers gone and the coolness and colorful beauty of the next season beginning. Leaves, hot cocoa, candy, wood smoke, and harvest. These are the memories I have fall on the farm.

Fall Baking: Pumpkin Bread and Cranberry Muffins 🧡🔴 🎃

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Happy 22nd day of October friends.  Cooler temperatures call for fall baking. The first thing I want to bake is usually pumpkin something, anything. This past Saturday between hiking and golfing I baked both a pumpkin pie and an apple pie. I used homemade apple pie filling for the apple pie and then baked a cooking pumpkin up for the pumpkin pie. I found the recipe for the homemade pumpkin pie here. Around this time I begin thinking about the holidays and the baking I will do for my volunteer work. I bake and then give away a lot of banana and pumpkin bread. I use King Arthur Gluten-Free flour for baking my bread so that I can enjoy a piece or two.  The pumpkin bread recipe I use and have found great success with is here.  We stopped at an apple stand this past weekend and bought more apples and some cranberries. This weekend I plan on making some orange cranberry muffins. The cranberries keep the muffins so moist and are a perfect marriage to the orange. I plan on whipping up some orange glaze with orange peel and then drizzling it over them once they’ve cooled down.

I love the smell of oranges and I am giving serious consideration to having something made with oranges for my birthday dessert instead of pumpkin. But what? maybe some of these – Orange Sour Cream Muffins with Zesty Orange Glaze

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Until next time– happy fall baking friends!

Apple Cider Donuts

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Apples are aplenty this season–we’ve sampled so many good apples from several of our local orchards. This past weekend my husband and I traveled alittle over an hour from home to visit one of our favorite apple stands –Bauer’s Market Place  and loaded up on them.   We also picked up a couple loaves of their famous Apple Fritter bread and two gallons of apple cider.  Sunday  I made some Apple Cider donuts from a recipe I found here.

Since we were near downtown La Crosse WI we decided to find a place along the waterfront to get a bite to eat.

Lacrosse view

While the view was breathtaking–the food, combined with poor service, and the noise level, were not. Two hot sandwiches that were served cold with cold fries for $40.00 was a bit extreme even for waterfront. Worse yet it was during the dinner hour and we were the only 2 customers eating–with one other table of 4 customers enjoying a liquid dinner.

But ah oh yes that view…

Once home I attempted to make my long anticipated apple hand pies with caramel drizzled over the top, but since we were wanting to take them on a picnic the next day–I did not make the caramel to go with them. Also, pressed for time, I did not make my pie crust from scratch. Big mistake. They tasted good but next time I’m going to take the time to make homemade crust and also the caramel–because what’s an apple without caramel?

Best Apples for Cooking and Baking here

Recipe for Cider Glazed Apple Bundt Cake here

Last but never least the final picture of my last two tomato plants–still producing in October.

Most years, just like a lot of other people, when October arrives everything in containers on our deck is basically brown/dead looking. This year is no different. But instead of rushing things I’m letting nature run its course. My plants are still producing tomatoes –they’re still hanging on so I’m going to let them live out their best lives. This coming weekend there is supposed to be frost so time will tell if this years garden season has come to an end and it is time to clean it all up. Everyone on social media seems to be rushing things–first it was fall/halloween mid-August and now some are rushing to Christmas.  At almost 55 I ‘m so over rushing time. Time does a wonderful job of that all on its own. I’m trying to slow time down in any and every way I can. It’s the first week of October for heaven’s sake not mid December lol… Until next time Happy Fall. We are on vacation until the third week of the month celebrating early our 25th (Silver) Wedding Anniversary.