I love recipes like this for this time of year. Super easy, quick and a crowd-pleaser. Every year my book club (of 9 years) does a cookie exchange and one of the girls made this popcorn. With these ingredients I can't imagine there are very many people out there who wouldn't like it. 


18-20 cups popcorn
1 6oz box candy canes
1 package of almond bark
1 teaspoon peppermint extract

Place popcorn in a large bowl. Crush candy canes in a food processor and pour over popcorn. Melt almond bark and mix in peppermint extract. Pour almond bark over popcorn and stir until well coated. Spread onto wax paper to harden.

I love making homemade ornaments for our Christmas tree. This year my daughter and I stayed up late two weekend nights watching movies and stringing popcorn. I actually had to go out and buy non organic popcorn just for that purpose because the organic popcorn we actually eat is about half the size of the non organic...go figure. 

Citrus ornaments are beautiful and easy to make. They remind me of stained glass when the tree is all lit up and shines through the fruit segments. 

All you need is some citrus fruit...the larger the better. Lemons really are too small if you are decorating a large tree. My two favorites are pomelos and grapefruit. 

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F, slice the fruit as thin as you can. Having a sharp knife really can help this you can see knives are on my Christmas list. And bake the fruit for a few hours, flipping every 30 minutes. My fruit slices were a little on the thick side so it took about 4 hours to dry them out completely. Some pieces took as long as 5 hours. 
Tie a ribbon or twine through one of the dried segments and you have a beautiful natural ornament. 

We also decorated the tree with pheasant feathers...well we are trying to. My husband comes home from hunting weekly and brings me a new supply of feathers to replenish the tree because of my puppy. You see, his life is consumed with hunting and pheasants and he simply cannot resist those feathers sticking out of the tree. He has to have one in his mouth at all times.


This tomato sauce is light, quick and easy. 

Fresh Tomato Sauce

Adapted from Food Network
Makes 3 Cups

2 to 2 1/2 pounds of fresh tomatoes (4 large beef tomatoes or 10 to 12 plum tomatoes)

3 tablesppons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped (about 6 small cloves)
Pinch crushed red pepper
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
Kosher salt
Freshly chopped parsley leaves

Peel tomatoes by scoring the skin of each tomato with a sharp knife (do not cut too deep). 
Then, place scored tomatoes into a pot of boiling water and boil for approximately 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. 

Remove tomatoes and plunge into cold water. Peel and dice tomatoes and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a saucepan and add garlic and crushed red pepper. Saute until garlic turns slightly golden, about 45 seconds. Add chopped onion and saute an additional 2 1/2 minutes.

Add chopped tomatoes and cook approximately 5 minutes. Add salt to taste. Add chopped parsley and extra virgin olive oil if desired, just before using.

I love this time of year, not for the weather (we are reaching some negative numbers tonight) but for Christmas programs. My daughter had hers tonight...
she loved playing an angel!




The cookie jar and buttery, soft centers with crispy edges...this is the perfect cookie! I love to make these cookies bite size and then I freeze them. This is my go to chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Cook's Illustrated Magazine (May/June 2009) via
Makes 16 large cookies or about 45 small cookies

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour ( 8 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons unsalted butter ( 1 3/4 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar ( 3 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar ( 5 1/4 ounces)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate chips (Ghirardelli recommended) or 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips ( Ghirardelli recommended)
3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional) or 3/4 cup walnuts, toasted (optional)

Note: I use dark chocolate chips and I like to make my cookies smaller so I use a small Pampered Chef cookie scoop (about 1 tablespoon) and bake each cookie sheet with cookies for about 7 minutes, better to under-bake than over-bake. I also usually add M&M's right after the cookies are pulled out of the oven.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12- inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10 inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons or (1 tablespoon if making small cookies). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Make sure you set some dough aside and store in the refrigerator for your husband.  :) 
Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, (or about 7 minutes for small cookies) rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; add M&M's if you are using...
and cool cookies completely before serving.

Rufus at 8 months and Buddy at 8 years...


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