Time for shopping for our loved ones, holiday baking for our co-workers and neighbors, trimming the tree, plugging in all the lights to see which ones work and which don’t, Christmas cards, table centerpieces made of holly, greenery and cranberries, choosing the perfect wine to accompany the perfectly planned out Christmas dinner and all the laughter and joy around the Christmas tree opening gifts and treasures. What isn’t there to love about Christmas!
We’ve started a new Christmas tradition with the Elf on the Shelf this year. Jerry is our elf and he is sometimes nice and sometimes a little naughty. He’s been seen fishing in the bathtub, having a snowball fight, on a sugar high, toilet papering the bathroom, on top of the Christmas tree, handing out early Christmas gifts and even pinned up by Jake and the Neverland Pirates for stealing Caston’s candy loot. If you have no idea what Elf on the Shelf is- check this out and for great ideas head on over to Pinterest!
Not only did we adopt Jerry the Elf this year, but we also added another tree to the mix of my expansive collection. NOTE: Do not judge. I have a Christmas tree problem…I can’t get enough of them! I have admitted to my problem and I’ve went in for help, but the problem revisits me every Thanksgiving. So….I gave up!
We’ve got a tree for about every room in the house and each has it’s own theme. Caston loves our house at Christmas and was a total help decorating everything this year, even baby sissy’s new tree. I go all out at Christmas, just as my mother did when I as a youngster (and happy to do so to see the joy and excitement in my children’s eyes). Something magical about a homey-feeling house during the holidays. Even Charlie got into the spirit and hung lights on the house this year and the shrubs (he is a pretty amazing daddy.) Caston told him, “This is so cool dad. You’re the best!”
I always think how pretty our house looks with all the trees, stockings, lights and other décor – until I go to Silver Dollar City (SDC). Then I see real work at its best during the holidays. If you haven’t made the journey down to Branson to walk through the park, do so. The hot cocoa, wassail, and even the deep-friend goodies are splendid and the lights are beautiful.
So, in honor of “Steal Your Dollar Holler,” as my husband likes to call it – I’m posting a Hot Wassail recipe I know you will all love!
Wassail is a mulled cider type drink that is a holiday tradition in many countries. This hot, spiced punch is most popular at Christmas. It usually contains fruit juices, cinnamon, cloves and other spices.
McConnell Holiday Wassail
1 qt. apple juice
1 qt. orange juice
2 c. cranberry juice
2 tsp. lemon juice
3 T. honey
1 cup sugar
3-4 cinnamon sticks
8 whole allspice
Navel Orange Slices
Combine all ingredients in listed order to your crockpot, at least a 4 quart crock. Cook on low setting for about 4 hours or until heated to desired temperature. You may also cook it on high initially for an hour and reduce the heat to save time. This reheats well for 3 days, plus your entire house will smell like Christmas – what gets better than that!
As I was making a pot of crab soup this morning for the upcoming Soup-Off Contest at my local farmers market, I thought about the people I have met throughout my life and how they have made footprints in my life. For instance, the soup recipe is from a couple in Maryland my family are friends with.
About 5 years ago I met Cecil and Michelle. My parent’s had decided that they were going to sell our family farm and purchase another one closer to Springfield, Mo. As soon as they put the farm up for sale, people were visiting from all over the county to look over the farm. There were people from California, Florida, Colorado, New York…I was amazed by the response.
But while all this was happening my parents were having their doubts about their choice to sell. I was unhappy about the decision from the get go. The family farm meant the world to me. Every childhood memory I had steamed from those hills, trees, creeks, barns, cattle, the swimming hole, dirt roads, fences and the “love tree.”
The “love tree” you ask? This is a very special place on my parent’s farm. My niece named this tree. The love tree is on the largest hilltop on my parent’s farm. It overlooks the entire farm, stock and barns. On this very special hilltop my husband proposed to me in 2002. We engraved our initials in this tree, and that is why my niece calls it the “love tree.”
Every memory of mine is wrapped into our family farm. So, when a couple from Maryland came for a visit (Cecil and Michelle) and decided to make an offer on my parents farm that matched my father’s asking price…..I became very worried!
This was the first buyer that asked the full asking price. Would my parent’s sell? Would I loose my hill country? Would I ever see our love tree again? Would I never be able to take my kids to the farm?
I met Cecil and Michelle and they were a wonderful couple. They had decied to move from Maryland to the Ozarks to escape the big city life and move their family to the country. They always wanted to have a farm and timber and they loved my parent’s farm.
For about four months the couple made frequent visits to our farm, as they were trying to sell their business in Maryland. During that time my parents and the couple became very good friends.Then one day my father called me and asked me, “Lane how would you feel is we didn’t sell the farm?” Although my father knew the answer to this question I gave him an answer. “That would be the best news in the world, dad.”
My parents after many months of “to sell or not to sell” had decided to remain on our Ozarks farm. But the friends they had made, Cecil and Michelle, did purchase a farm about 20 minutes from my parents and the couple remains close family friends of ours.
It’s experiences like these that bring all different types of people into our lives. My friends stem from Charolais cattle breeders, former FFA’ers, college friends, overseas experiences, co-workers, local Mid-Mo friends, local fishermen, many ag-related groups I serve on….all these experiences and relationships shape our lives and the individuals we become. I am thankful to have met so many wonderful people throughout my life like Cecil and Michelle an others.
Here is a crab soup recipe that Michelle passed on to my mother and me. It is way too easy to be as good as it is! Today I made the soup with fresh blue crab meat that my friend, Larry Burt, the owner of Big Pop’s Louisiana Seafood hooked me up with. Let’s hope the soup fetches me a prize at the Soup-Off tomorrow.
Cream of Crab Soup
(This makes a very large batch. I usually cut it in half, unless I’m serving it for a party.)
6 cans of cream of celery soup
2 quarts half and half
1 stick of butter
1 lb. of crabmeat (if using canned crab meat 4-5 (6 oz) cans)
A bag of steamed broccoli florets
1 ½ tsps. of Old Bay seasonings (found in the spice area in your local grocery store)
2 T. garlic powder
3T. dry mustard powder
Put everything except the crabmeat and broccoli into a large pot. Bring ingredients to a slow simmer for 25 minutes. Be sure to stir quite often. Meanwhile, steam your broccoli florets and when steamed chop coarsely.
After the soup mixture has simmered for 25 minutes, place crabmeat and broccoli in pot and simmer till the mixture is thick enough for your own taste. Garnish with any white cheese and oyster crackers.* After I add the crabmeat and broccoli I usually only simmer the soup for another 10 minutes and then remove it from the heat.
My husband’s mother, Josefa, is from Madrid, Spain. Charlie’s family all still resides in Spain and we were lucky enough to go and visit them some years ago (that is why Charlie and I look so young…this was BEFORE we had wee ones).
We spent three weeks touring across Spain and I’m looking forward to a visit again soon. I was thankful to be apart of the real culture there, as we stayed outside of Madrid with Charlie’s family and no one spoke English (which was interesting at times). We had our own tour guides, as Charlie’s Uncle Andres drove us all over and we enjoyed the family environment found at the local bars.
Three foodie teachings I picked up in Spain that are now incorporated in my food “Must Haves” include: Anchovy Stuffed Olives, Prosciutto and Paella. The olives are a MUST HAVE in your pantry. Perfect light meal option with some cheeses, crackers and sliced apples…and of coarse a local wine pairing for one of Missouri’s great wineries.
Find these items and more at the Global Market on S. Grant Street in Springfield, Mo., or order online through Latienda.
There are always new gizmos and baby gadgets to choose from, and for the most part, I stick to the basics. I mean they’ve worked for years and for many mommies before me, why not?
Teething…it’s hard stuff. On mommy, daddy, baby and siblings. All you want to do is take away the pain and help the little one through it quickly and painlessly. With my son frozen washcloths were the ticker. I would have at least 4 frozen in the freezer and we would switch off when one would loose it’s icy cold effect. But, with Cora – she hates frozen washcloths.
I tried everything for her to naw on, but nothing seem to pleased her…until the Chewbeads I ordered online (from the suggestion of my friend Lindsay) arrived in the mail.
I will always give credit, when credit is due…and these Chewbeads have been not only a lifesaver for the teething trials, but a fun toy to also help Cora with her grasp and reach.
Chewbeads are trendy jewelry that mommy can wear and baby can enjoy! I highly suggest putting it on your gift registry if you are expecting or if you are looking for a great mommy-to-be gift.
When I told folks I was going to make my own homemade baby food..they laughed. “Yeah, we will see how much time you have for that after the baby comes…” Mind over matter people! This was back in 2010, when my now 3-year-old son, Caston, was ready to begin solids. He NEVER ate any jarred baby food and now I’m on my second little bundle of joy, Cora, and she’s just started on solids.
Well, come on over to my house and see the bags of baby food I’ve made over the past couple weeks – in a very short amount of time I might add. Only the best for Cora!
I made sweet pea puree the other day and looked at how brightly colored the peas were. The jarred stuff looks like a brown-green color and I’ve never known a baby to like peas. Well, mine does! It’s hher favorite thus far.
I’m also making sure Cora has an adventurous palate by incorporating things like avocado, salmon, pumpkin, butternut squash and even kale. I think kids are picky eaters bc they aren’t shown how fun food is! Caston is an incredible eater and love fruits and vegetables…I think in part to all tasty and diverse foods he was introduced to at an early age.
Plus, making your baby’s homemade food is not only healthier and tastier-you save money! Trust me on this and read this.
I whole-heartily believe this is the best food for your baby….no preservatives and additives- just fresh and healthy food! Give it a shot, you will be so happy you did this for your baby! Recipes to come…
One special homemade gift my mother and I enjoy making together is Jalapeno Jelly. We always have plenty of Jalapenos from the garden and it seems like we always have to find something to do with them. Plus, I have this amazing job that gives me quite the hook-up on local produce at the Farmers Market of the Ozarks.
Making jelly isn’t as difficult as most believe- it’s actually quite simple. Just be sure and wear gloves when preparing the peppers so your hands aren’t burning for a week. And yes…they will burn for a week – trust me on this! And whatever you do, don’t touch your eyes without throughly washing your hands, or-you-will-be-sorry.
This jelly makes a perfect holiday gift for neighbors and friends. Serve this jelly with a cream cheese topped cracker for your holiday gatherings! Simple and easy appetizer.
Yields: about 5 half pints
¾ lb jalapeno peppers (or more if you want more heat)
2 pouches liquid pectin
2 c. cider vinegar (divided)
6 c. sugar
Green or red food coloring
Wash peppers; drain. Remove stems and seeds. Puree peppers and 1 c. vinegar and sugar in a large pot. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Stir constantly.
Stir in liquid pectin and return to a rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, while continuing to stir.
Remove from heat and skim foam if necessary. Stir in a few drops of food coloring of choice. Ladle hot jelly into jars in a boiling water canner.
NOTE: When cutting and seeding the peppers, wear rubber gloves to prevent hands from being burned.
Don’t know how to can? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! Check out the University fo Missouri Extension website for info on how to can.
They are both pretty beautiful, aren’t they? My mother and Lil Miss (my nickname for Cora) are quite the pair. At Thanksgiving while my mother and I were rolling out pie crusts and preparing the 20 pound fresh turkey I purchased from a local grower I, confessed to her how I was really adjusting to having two little wee ones.
“Mom, it’s mentally and physically draining,” I said. She laughed and said, “Boy isn’t that true. But – enjoy them, they are only this little once.”
She’s right, they are only little for a little while, however, there are the days when the tantrums, the crying and the non-exsistent listening skills are all too much and I’m ready to throw my hands up. Then, there’s the times where Caston calls me his “cupcake”and gives me one of those great big toddler messy kisses or when Cora gets so excited she’s done something new like experienced the taste of blueberries…and then I know that being a mommy is God’s truest gift.
What I’ve Learned Since Becoming A Mommy:
And, as my mother said, “Enjoy them while they’re young.”
Looks tasty, huh? Working on actually writing this recipe down to share with you friends!
Nothing fancy about this recipe, it’s simple and easy – BUT classic. I’ve tasted the Chocolate Pecan Pies before and they are good, but sometimes it’s just best to keep it simple and go back to the basics.
That’s what the recipe is, basic and scrumptious! And you will notice I use pancake syrup, instead of the dark Karo syrup that most pecan pies consists of. That makes the pie not so sugary sweet.
2/3 cups sugar
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/3 C butter
1 C. syrup (1/2 pancake syrup and 1/2 white Karo syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup of whole Missouri Pecans
Beat the eggs well, add sugar gradually, salt, melted butter, syrups and vanilla. Do not mix hard for a long time or mixture will become foamy. Pour onto unbaked pie crust. Sprinkle with whole pecans (about 1 C.) Bake at 375 degrees until nicely set and browned on top. Normally 40 minutes. The pie will be a little jiggly in the middle when you take it out, not to worry though…it will set up.
Perfect Pie Crust
(makes 4 single crusts)
5 1/4 C. of flour
1 tablespoon of kosher salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
1 3/4 C. shortening, chilled (Crisco)
1 C. ice water
Place flour and salt in large deep bowl and stir. Cut cold butter up and then with your fingers or a pastry cutter crumble the butter and flour together. There should be no lumps in the mixture and it should resemble coarse crumbs. Next, cut up the cold shortening and cut it into the mixture as your did with the butter. The dough will come together and you’ll be able to form a ball. Take the ice water and pour into the mixture. You will be worried that it’s too much water, but keep mixing with a spoon or your hands, and eventually the water will absorb into the dough. Roll dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. Keep in the frig for at least 2 hours.
Rolling The Dough Out
The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 6 days. When you are ready to roll out a pie, cut dough ball into four quarters. Take one quarter out at a time and place the rest back into to he frig. This dough needs to stay cold. Roll out dough on a well floured surface and when dough is the correct size for the pie plate, roll it up around your rolling pin (see link for images of this). The link I’ve included gives great images on how to roll out dough and putting it into your pie plate.
How to Give Your Crust the Perfect Final Touch
Ever wonder why some people’s pie crust are perfectly golden and shiny? Well listen closely, I’m going to let out the secret: 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of water or heavy cream. Whisk together and you have a perfect baste for your crust. Baste just the tops of the pie crust with the mixture before placing your filling into the pie and place in the oven. I guarantee you’ll have a beautifully golden crust when it comes out. And, for your fruit pies, I like to sprinkle the tops of the crusts with raw sugar for an added crunch.
Merry Christmas, hope this pie brings smiles to your family’s faces.
Of all the pies around I will say that pumpkin is my all-time favorite. Now, I’m not talking about a pumpkin pie made from canned pumpkin either. Better be fresh or out with the rest!
Nothing beats a fresh pumpkin pie, NOTHING. I’ve had many friends doubt this, but after they try this pie, they always change their tune. The texture and flavor is unbeatable. I recall many late nights in my mother’s kitchen working on batches of pumpkin puree with my mother. The entire kitchen would be covered with puree, pots, pans, freezer bags, spoons…it was quite the sight. I never really knew the difference until I had a pie at a friend’s house that wasn’t the REAL thing. As I say now, “Think outside of the can.”
Some years dad grows his own French pumpkins, but the years he doesn’t, I always purchase local pumpkins at the farmers market from growers I know. Talk to your farmers and learn the different varieties they are growing and ask them what would be best for processing for puree. Cinderellas, sugars “also called pie pumpkins” and the French pumpkins have the best flavor.
My mother’s recipe is very easy to follow and was whipped up years ago when my parents first married. I have provided the recipe along with the steps of “How to Process a Pumpkin.” It may seem like a lot of work to process your own fresh pumpkin, but it’s really not that difficult and worth the mess. Give it a try, I know you will be suprized how simple it really is.
Just think, you will have your own fresh pumpkin to cook with for pumpkin muffins, soups, pies and my favorite – pumpkin bread! Plus, pumpkin is very nutritional. It’s low in saturated fat, and in cholesterol and sodium. And, if you have wee ones in your house, don’t forget that pumpkin puree makes an excellent baby food puree. My baby Cora enjoys it for breakfast with a dash of cinnamon and a little oatmeal.
Mom’s Pumpkin Pie
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon Ginger
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
1 1/2 C. Sugar
1 1/2 C. Fresh Pumpkin (key to making this pie the best it can be)
2 C. milk (1, 5 oz can of evaporated milk fill rest with milk)
Mix well. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn oven down to 350 degrees. It will be done when you can insert a knife into the pie and the knife comes out clean.
How to Process Pumpkins
Split the pumpkin in half, remove all seeds and strings. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Take the pumpkin halves and place in a large cake pan. Place pumpkin pulp-side down into the pan. Add 2 cups of water to pan. Bake the pumpkin for about 1 hour in the oven. You will know when the pumpkin is ready by pushing on the skin and it feels soft to the touch. If the pumpkin is still hard, let it remain in the oven for another 20 minutes.
After you have your pumpkin cooked, remove all the pulp and place in large bowl. With a blender add 1 cup at a time, along with 1/4 cup of water. Puree into a smooth mixture.
Let the pumpkin cool, add to freezer bags and freeze flat. I like to place 2 cups or 1 1/2 cups of pumpkin in each bag.
Ever sampled Missouri pecans before? If not, you don’t know what your missing out on. Missouri pecans are smaller than the traditional Southern Pecans that most of us are used to. Smaller yes, but BIG on taste.
Missouri pecans are typically sweeter than most. I like to say it’s because of the blessed soil and loving hands that tend to the soil that make the nuts tasty. But in fact, Missouri pecans are extra special because of the cooler climate and shorter growing season.
You can find Missouri pecans at a few of the local farmers markets, local food stores such as Homegrown Food and Mama Jean’s and even on the shelves at Hy-Vee and a few of the other grocery stores in and about 417 land.
If you really want to learn more about Missouri pecans and meet some of your own local growers, check out the Missouri Northern Pecan Growers site. The Kimmell family are growers up by Nevada that help to harvest and distribute the product throughout the state and nation. Give Drew a call, he will hook you up for the holidays.
Here is a special pecan recipe that is always part of my Christmas basket that I prepare for neighbors, friends and business associates. Check that the water is very cold and the egg white is room temperature to ensure the mixture becomes frothy. This is a great sampler for any upcoming New Year’s Eve parties you might be throwing this year too.
But, don’t forget to Buy Local when it comes to your ingredients!
1 egg white
1 teaspoon cold water
4 C. (1 lb.) pecans
½ C. sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
Beat egg white and cold water until frothy. Mix with pecans until coated well. Mix sugar, salt, cinnamon in a paper in a paper bag. Shake pecans until all the sugar is used.
Bake at 225 degrees on a baking sheet for 1 hour. Turn pecans every 15 minutes. Cool and store.