Quick & Easy – Easter Chicks!

Easter is upon us, and guests at The Inn at Christmas Place on Saturday will be treated to cookie decorating before the 5th annual egg hunt on the lawn.  Here’s a sneak peek at the cute cookies guests will be decorating (and eating, of course):

Pilsbury Bunny Butt Cookies

Hmmm.  Something must have slipped when I cropped that last picture.  Guess you’ll just have to come and be our guest this Easter to see the rest of that cookie story.

Anywho, on the way to deciding on the cute cookie idea, Kristy came across another, equally cute idea – it just takes a little bit longer to create, so we suggest you try this at home.

Easter chicks

The basic idea is shared on the site Sweet Simple Stuff, and it’s pretty easy.  You need (emphasis provided by Kristy):

  • FLAT candy sticks or coffee stir sticks – round ones are just trouble, nothing but trouble
  • Nabisco® Nutter Butter cookies
  • Yellow candy melts
  • Reese’s Pieces®
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Orange Tic-Tacs®
  • Parchment or waxed paper

Melt the candy.  If you have the patience, you can split the Nutter Butters open and add a dab of melted candy in the middle to secure your flat stick; or, you can just insert the stick between the layers and go on.  You’ll get better results if you use a spoon or spatula to coat the cookie with yellow candy – dipping can lead to an unfortunate and messy loss-of-cookie situation.  While your candy coating is still good and melty, place two chocolate chips for eyes, a Tic-Tac for the nose, and two orange Reese’s Pieces for the feet.  To complete your chick, add a yellow Reese’s Piece on each side of the cookie to make wings (not pictured here, you can see them on the site if you use the link above).  Cool on your food-safe paper of choice.  Place on the BREAKFAST TABLE (my emphasis), and quickly devour eat .  (I have been told it’s not polite to devour at the breakfast table.)  (I didn’t have a whole bag of Reese’s Pieces to use for my display picture .. but I did quickly devour the samples, not at breakfast.)

Don’t you just love using The Google to look for all kinds of fun and easy ideas to brighten your holiday table?  Hope you’re planning some fabulous treats for your Easter weekend!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S.  Up next, pictures from our pop-up Spring Shop at the store – Christmas first, but we have to get past spring (and summer and fall) to get there, don’t we?!

“Sunday in the South” Book Signing & More

This Saturday, October 29th, from 1 to 4 pm, Christmas Place hosts author and chef Ginny McCormack for a signing of her book, Sunday in the South.

274000

More than just a cookbook, although it is filled with delectable recipes, Ginny’s book includes 350 photographs of  food, gorgeous table decor, and beautiful Southern imagery.  Complete dinner menus; quotes, stories, and humorous anecdotes; and tips and techniques fill each chapter, making this much more than a simple cookbook – it’s a story about incorporating food into the best times of our lives with Southern  grace, hospitality, and congeniality.

Chapter topics and recipes cover a range from “A Formal Sunday Feast” to “A Comfort Food Family Dinner,” “A Seafood Lunch on the Porch,” “A Hearty Outdoor Dinner,” and “Ten Southern Classics,” and include breakfast and other meals.  I’m going to check out her recipe for Southern Key Lime Pie – it’s my personal favorite, and I’ve been gathering ideas for making the best!  In the mean time, can I interest anyone in Southern Home Style Meatloaf with Sweet Chili Glaze,  Creamy Corn Pudding, and White Cheddar Cornbread, finished with Peach Bread Pudding?  (I would just choose today to write about this, when I left my lunch sitting on the kitchen counter at home!!)

Ginny is a cooking instructor, speaker, author, food columnist, editor of an online magazine, and host of GinnyMcCormackCooks.com.  She has appeared regularly as a T.V. chef.  She lives with her family in Marietta, Georgia, and enjoys writing and teaching about the art of Southern hospitality and new Southern cuisine.

This is Ginny’s first visit to Christmas Place, and we are looking forward to meeting her.  Her book would make a fabulous Christmas or special occasion gift!

Also at 1 o’clock on Saturday, our Floral Department will be demonstrating  how to assemble and decorate the mesh boxes that are such a favorite for holiday decor – and especially since they can be themed for any occasion, not just Christmas.

We’ll see you Saturday!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S.  Two more signings on Saturday – you can take care of all your Christmas at one time! – Ne’Qwa Inside Art Ornaments, painted on the inside of glass ornaments – Trieste will be here once again demonstrating her amazing painting technique – sometimes she brings brushes you can buy to try it yourself.  I have painted on glass – it’s a very mental challenge, because you have to think about the image in reverse order from traditional surface painting.  (This iconic snowman & cardinal image is my personal choice – I got mine signed when it was first released in 2008.)

R. J. McDonald is back with us for the weekend to sign his wonderful Santa prints and giclees – some of which can be personalized by adding your family names to Santa’s “nice” list!

Come see us!

Last-minute Snacks

Surely it is party- and/or treat-time in your world about now, so here are a couple of delicious, sweet snacks that are easy to make and better to eat.

WARNING:  If you work with me, please stop reading now and navigate away to another post or site.  Otherwise you’ll just be spoiling your own surprise this year!

People Chow

6 C Crispex cereal
1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 C peanut butter
1C confectioner’s sugar

Melt chocolate chips and peanut butter in a heavy pan; pour over Crispex cereal and stir.  Place in a seal-able plastic bag, add powdered sugar, and shake well.  Refrigerate.  Makes about 8 cups.

Snack Mix Squares

2-1/2 C pretzel sticks, halved
2 C Corn Chex cereal
1-1/2 C M&Ms candies
1/2 C butter or margarine
1/3 C creamy peanut butter
5 C miniature marshmallows

In a large bowl, combine pretzels, cereal, and M&Ms.  In a large saucepan, over low heat, melt butter and peanut butter.  Add marshmallows, cook and stir until completely melted and the mixture is smooth.  Pour over pretzel mixture and stir to coat completely.  Press into a greased 13×9 inch pan.  Cool until firm.  Cut into squares.  Makes about 3 dozen.

And easiest of all, melt milk and white chocolates separately on the stove top and dip  mini pretzels into each, one half at a time, or drizzle the two chocolates over the pretzels ~ or go crazy and dip one half and drizzle the other half!  Add a dusting of crushed sprinkles or crushed peanuts, let them cool, and arrange festively on a plate or package for gifting.

I just realized I’ve totally neglected my responsibilities – I should have cooked up a batch of each recipe to photograph for this post, so you could see the final results.  WEll, I have a mission, now!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Food for Friday

Though the rest of the world may have celebrated Boss’s Day only on Thursday, here in the office at Christmas Place we value our bosses so highly that we decided to celebrate Bosses WEEK.  Needless to say, next week we are starting a new exercise and diet competition, as the calories have been flying around here with great abandon!

We started the week with a hot breakfast on Monday, offered fruit selections on Tuesday (chocolate covered strawberries are too a fruit), and Wednesday…ah, Wednesday.  Chocolate.  All chocolate.  Thursday, we gave a certain credit card holder the opportunity to take us to lunch; and today was a pot luck that included my chili recipe and a delicious chicken casserole, the maker of which promises the water chestnuts and broccoli will be remembered next time around…  I’m sharing with you today the dish I brought on Monday.

ATTENTION PEOPLE OF THE NORTH:  You have nothing to fear from grits.  Sure, we may be in the south, but I have cooked this for people from as far away as Minnesota, Australia, and even Cincinnati, and they have loved it, too.  Now, I, for one, never, EVER, eat restaurant grits (yuk!), so please do not use them as your standard when contemplating the consumption of grits.

You have to cook your own, and they are the easiest thing in the world to make.  If you can boil water, you can cook grits.  Just get the water boiling, add the grits, turn down the heat a little and stir often until your grits have reach the desired consistency ~ which will vary according the manner in which you choose to eat said grits.

For a hot cereal with butter, sugar, and a touch of milk, take the pan off the heat a little earlier.  Adding a slice of cheese, cook a little longer for a thicker consistency.  Same for just slapping them on the plate.  My heavens, you can even cook grits in the microwave these days, but I’m a pan purist.

Mom’s Sausage Grits Casserole

1 lb sausage
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1-1/2 C sharp cheddar cheese, shredded & divided
1 C uncooked grits
Salt to taste, start with a teaspoon

Cook grits according to package instructions ~ but do not cook them too dry, leave in some extra liquid  to compensate for oven time.  Cook sausage, pepper, and onions together.  Mix grits, sausage, salt, and 1 cup of cheese together and spread into an ungreased casserole dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and top with remaining half cup of cheese; return to oven and bake about 5 more minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling.  Serve hot!

Spice this up with a flavored sausage or add a few jalapeño peppers ~ or try both, if you dare.  This freezes and reheats beautifully (unless your grits are too dry, in which case just add a little more water and mix it up again).  It usually figures into our family’s holiday gatherings at least once.

It’s going to be a cold and sunny weekend here, perfect weather for a dish of fancy grits and scrambled eggs – so enjoy!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

 

Food for Friday

Hey, it’s a long holiday weekend for many people, one usually featuring food (we are in America, after all), so here’s an easy-to-make (and store) salad.  I just realized I don’t have a name for it, it’s just written on a slip of paper – my cousins made this on the occasion of the 23rd anniversary of my father’s 27th birthday, and we loved it and it disappeared in a day.

Ingredients:
1/4 C sugar
1/4 C raspberry vinegar
1/2 C olive oil
Raw peanuts, microwaved for 30 seconds at a time to the desired consistency
Ramen noodles, crushed – keep the seasoning packet to use another time
Shredded cabbage
Shredded carrots
Sliced green onions

Mix and eat.  See, I don’t even have volumes for everything, because you can so easily mix as little or as much as you want for your group.  You can expect that a little over 3/4 cup of dressing will go quite a long way, and it should keep well in the refrigerator. 

What shall we name this salad, though?  Please send me some suggestions!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Food for Friday

I found the recipe I promised a couple of weeks back ~ Plantation Crunch, first shared with me by my friend Melissa in Illinois.  This is soooooo scrumptious!

Ingredients:
1 pkg White or Chocolate Almond Bark (I have only used the white)
10 oz creamy peanut butter
12 oz dry roasted peanuts
2 C Rice Krispies
2 C mini marshmallows

Melt the almond bark and peanut butter together in a large, heavy saucepan.  Mix well. Stir in the remaining ingredients; add the marshmallows last and then work quickly so they don’t all melt away.  Drop by tablespoonfuls onto waxed paper to cool.  Makes about 65 pieces (depending on how much sampling occurs during the prep stage…).

I just love the easy, to-die-for sweets for the holidays.  The other to-die-for treat I like to make is a triple layer chocolate cheesecake, but it takes about two hours of work before you even put it into the oven…you only make this for the ones you REALLY love!

Have a sweet day,

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Food for Friday

SOMEone (you know who you are, Kristy) complained that “spaghetti” wasn’t Christmas-y enough for the blog.  (This may have been after I asked her why we do not have any spaghetti ornaments in the store.)  So, this week, here’s one of the desserts I make every Christmas to share with my friends and family.  When I can find it, I’ll be back with a recipe for these scrumptious things, I don’t know what they are called, that are made with white almond bark, peanut butter, peanuts, and mini marshmallows.  (Brief pause here while I run down to Mrs. Claus’ Candy Kitchen for a pick-me-up before I go on.)

My friend Patty first shared this with me when we were in college together just a couple hundred months ago.  Most of the time I burn my finger, because I can’t wait for the pan to cool before going for the last crumbs.

Choc-Quick Oatmeal Cookies

Mix together in a bowl:
3 C Quick Oatmeal flakes
3/4 C peanut butter (smooth is best, reduced fat works fine)
1 t Vanilla
I find a fork pretty effective for incorporating the peanut butter with the oatmeal flakes; this will have a fairly rough texture.

Heat together in a sauce pan large enough to add the oatmeal mix above:
2 C sugar (cane is best)
1/3 C cocoa powder
1/2 C milk
3 T (heaping) butter
Heat, stirring continuously, to a rolling boil.  Boil for a scant minute.

Add the oatmeal mix to the pan and stir as quickly as you can; quickly drop by tablespoons onto waxpaper.  The mixture starts to come together very quickly, so work fast.  Cool completely (I know from experience they taste better when cooled).  Enjoy!

C = Cup; t = teaspoon; T = Tablespoon

Maybe to make Kristy happy I had better add “Place 3 or 4 cookies into a decorative Christmas plastic baggie and tie with a bit of red and green curly ribbon.  Attach a hand-lettered gift tag to each recipient, along with a recipe card if you like.”  (Ooo, Martha moment!)

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Great, now I gotta go ask her if we have ornaments in the shape of a chocolate-peanut butter-oatmeal cookie…….

Food for Friday

Good ole’ family-favorite comfort food – this is the easiest spaghetti sauce, and adored by every kid that has ever tried it.  They don’t throw this on the floor or at their siblings or share it with the furry family freeloaders.  Best of all, when do you ever not have these ingredients in the house??

1 lb. ground beef
1 can condensed tomato soup
1 can condensed mushroom soup
1 t chili powder (or more!)
1 t salt
dash of pepper

Brown the beef in a large skillet, add the rest of the ingredients, and simmer for 20 minutes.  Cook your favorite spaghetti noodles to go underneath and enjoy.  (t = teaspoon)

That’s it.  Thanks, Mom!  Later I’ll share the recipe for Chicken Curry that we picked up years ago in Tanzania, but it requires the preparation of at least 10 and preferably 20 fruit and veggie toppings, so you’ll need a long weekend.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S.  We didn’t do onions or garlic in my childhood home, but I add both now – a package of onion soup mix added to the beef is delicious.

Food for Friday

My sister sent me this list of ingredients which, when combined, are supposed to make a fantastic turkey burger.  Teensy little problem, she didn’t send that sometimes helpful element called “measurements.”  Okay.  So, she later told me that it came from an Oprah Winfrey show, and I really tried to find the recipe on her site.  “The Oprah.com search feature is currently undergoing a major upgrade and is temporarily unavailable.” 

Although I managed to navigate through to the recipes section and found two other turkey burger choices, I could not find this list of ingredients.  But, sister friend assured me Oprah had encouraged viewers to enjoy and share the recipe.

Finally, thanks to the wonders of google, I found the details, and Bob’s your uncle.  Created by Jeff O’Neil and served at the private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach.  Will be on the menu in New York City, Chicago, and my dinner table.  (T = tablespoon, t = teaspoon, C = cup)

Ingredients
1/4 C scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 C celery, finely chopped
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced*
1/8 C canola oil
4 pounds ground turkey breast
2 T salt
1 T black pepper
2 t chipotle Tabasco™
1 lemon, juice and grated zest (yay! an excuse to use my zester from Sur La Table!)
1/2 bunch parsley, finely chopped
1/4 C Major Grey’s Chutney, pureed (good stuff – try it on chicken curry, too)

Sauté the scallions, celery, and apples in the canola oil until tender; drain and cool.  In a large mixing bowl, combine the sautéed items and all remaining ingredients.  Shape into eight patties, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours so they’ll retain their shape well on the grill.  Season the patties with salt and pepper before grilling, about 7 minutes on each side, and make sure the meat is thoroughly cooked.   You can also bake these in an oven or even a toaster oven (saves you heating the big oven in the summertime).  The original recipe recommends serving these with a side of Mar-a-Lago Pear Chutney (yummy!) on toasted bread of your choice.

Now, don’t let the fact that old Teddie Turkey up there happens to be packing a shotgun keep you from trying this yourself.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

*from a friend in culinary school – when dicing, do your best to make sure all the pieces end up the same size to ensure even cooking – and all this time I thought it was just for the prettiness!  dope slap.

Food for Friday

Wow, we had a real gully-washer in town today, right at lunch time – we were taking off our shoes to run to the car, it was coming down so hard and rushing so deep.  Roof gutters filled up and overflowed right over the door, natch.  Anyone driving too close to the sidewalk came in for some abuse, too!  It has been so dry around here ~ though nowhere near California-drought-dry ~ that no one is complaining – what a lovely sound rain makes, beating down on a dry landscape, and how refreshing to see some of the dust of early summer washed away……………..oh, for cryin’ out loud, this means I will have to mow again in the near future, doesn’t it?!  Rats rats rats.  There goes my silver lining……………..

A fellow elf remarked that rain like this is good for staying in bed under the covers ~ perhaps with a bowl of warm gruel?  Here’s a recipe for a great summer soup which I enjoyed courtesy of Mom on the Fourth of July.  Scrumptiously flavorful!

Golden Cauliflower and Cheese Soup

Courtesy of FreeFoto.com

1 medium head califlower, separated into florets
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 stalk celery and leaves, finely chopped
4 C chicken stock
2 C light cream (ah ha!)
1/2 t Worcestershire sauce
1 C grated cheddar cheese
Salt, pepper to taste
Chopped chives to garnish

Put cauliflower, onion, carrot, celery, and chicken stock in cooker (crock pot).  Cover and cook on Low for 6 to 8 hours.  Force the mixture through a sieve or puree in blender (or food processor – this is from an older cookbook).  Return to cooker.  Blend in cream, Worcestershire sauce, and cheese.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Stir to mix well.  Turn control to High and heat through.  Garnish each serving with chopped chives.  Makes 8 servings.
Note:  for a thicker soup, use less liquid.

The Crockery Cookbook, by Marie Roberson Hamm, ©1975

(Remember, C = Cup, t = teaspoon)

The soup has a lovely golden color and the richest and smoothest taste going down.  You will not be disappointed ~ and I haven’t even had it with the onion, yet.

Okay, and just found a website entirely for cauliflower – www.cauliflowers.com!  What a wonderful world.  Unlike some people (you know who you are), I am unafraid of cauliflower – in any form.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S.  Sadly, I could not find a cauliflower ornament in the store.