Tuesday, December 27, 2011

My Husband, The Videographer

Brian won a new video camera at a Christmas party this year.  All I can say is it took him about 12 hours to make/edit this……

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Tree Shortbread Cookies

Lights are twinkling, Christmas music is jingling, and the hot buttered rum is errrr…….rumming.  Yes, the hot buttered rum is rumming.  Excitement and anticipation abounds at our house because it is Christmas Eve!

Amber, my youngest, is the most excited of us all.  Early this morning she sat at the table making a letter/picture for Santa.  (From the picture above you may note that we also need to do some spelling practice over this Christmas break.)

I made some cookies yesterday just so Amber could leave some with her note.  I have it on good authority that Santa often prefers a shortbread type of cookie…..like what you might have with some SleepyTime tea.  These cookies from Better Homes and Gardens looked like a good choice.  

Well HO-HO-HO to BHG!  Thanks for telling me that it will take about 2 hours to roll 396 little balls to complete the entire recipe!  After rolling 166, I gave up and settled for just fifteen cookies instead of three dozen.

Regardless of the effort, they are a perfect little buttery cookie and they are very cute, don’t you think?

Christmas Tree Shortbread Cookies

·        1 cup butter softened
·        ½ cup sugar
·        1 Tablespoon milk
·        1 teaspoon vanilla
·        2 ¼ cups flour
·        Powdered sugar icing to drizzle
·        Decorative candies

In a large bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in milk and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Using a wooden spoon, stir in any remaining flour. Remove 1/2 cup of the dough. Tint the remaining dough with green food coloring.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. For each cookie, use the green dough to shape ten 1/2-inch balls. On an ungreased cookie sheet, arrange balls in a row of four, topped by a row of three, then two, then one on top. As you arrange the balls, gently press them into each other. Use the plain dough to make a 3/4-inch ball and place it at the bottom of the tree for a trunk. Repeat with the remaining dough, leaving 2 inches between cookies on cookie sheet.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are light brown.  Cool on cookie sheet for 2  minutes. Carefully transfer cookies to a wire rack; let cool.  Drizzle icing back and forth over cookies to look like strings for lights.  Add decorative candies to icing.  Let stand until icing sets.

Give yourself a big gold star if you rolled ALL the little balls and made the 3 dozen cookies.  You are my hero.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Candy Cane Kiss Cookie Bark

I have been resisting making sugar cookies this  year. (Here’s My Fav. Recipe)  I just don’t have the energy to roll, cut, and decorate even though I LOVE them so.
But alas, it is Christmas.  I made soup, sixteen of my mom’s famous cheese balls, and even did a craft…..but no desserts or cookies.  My husband just isn’t satisfied with a bowl of M & M’s and the kids are begging to make some goodies to take to our neighbors.
I bought about one hundred bags of Hershey’s Candy Cane kisses because they always run out quickly at the commissary and those things are the bomb diggity.  But even I can’t eat one hundred bags.  (Okay, maybe I don’t have one hundred bags, but I have a lot.)  So I googled Candy Cane Kiss recipes, found one that was easy enough for my daughter to make, and dug deep into my Christmas soul to grant her and a friend permission to use my Kitchen Aid. 
Thank you Abbey & Sydney for helping me make these!  They will be perfect for Santa!
Peppermint Bark Cookies
(Recipe from www.recipegirl.com some ingredients
have been modified.)

·        2 cups all purpose flour
·        1/4 teaspoon salt
·        1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
·        1 cup granulated sugar
·        1 teaspoon vanilla extract
·        1 large egg yolk
·        1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
·        1 cup chopped Hershey's Candy Cane Kisses (or use crumbled candy canes)
 1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan with nonstick spray. Line bottom of pan with long strip of 9-inch-wide parchment paper, leaving overhang on both short sides of pan.
2. Whisk flour and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in sugar. Continue beating until mixture is light and fluffy, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla, then egg yolk. Gradually add flour mixture, beating on low speed just to blend.
 3. Drop dough by the tablespoonful into prepared baking pan, spacing evenly. Using moistened fingertips, press dough to form even layer over bottom of pan. Pierce dough all over with fork.
 4. Bake cookie base until light golden brown and slightly puffed and edges begin to come away from sides of pan, about 30 minutes. Place pan on rack; immediately sprinkle chocolate chips over cookie. Let stand until chocolate softens, about 3 minutes. Spread bittersweet chocolate over top of cookie in thin even layer. Immediately sprinkle chopped candy cane kisses over the chocolate layer.
 5. Chill until chocolate is set.
 6. Using paper overhang as aid, lift cookie from pan and transfer to work surface. Using large knife, cut cookie into irregular pieces.

Linking up with........

The Sasse Life...uber cute blog!
Bassgiraffe's Thoughts Thursday Blog Hop

Ranch Goldfish

The girls have been out of school since Friday.  The weather is cool, and we are all staying inside baking and enjoying some much deserved rest.  

I took some pictures of the falling…..fallen leaves of the little Japanese maple in our backyard.

The girlies each did a huge puzzle at the dining room table.  It was two days of sister togetherness.

Tonight we are making chicken noodle soup.  It’s not homemade though.  What’s better than homemade????  According to Amber, “DOUBLE NOODLE Cup-O-Soup!”

For the rest of us.......those who are missing the “homemade love”.....I made some ranch oyster crackers.

Except I had a problem.  There are no oyster crackers to be found in Japan.  So I improvised.

Don’t laugh.  It worked.

Ranch Goldfish

  • 1/2 teaspoon dill weed
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 3 bags Pepperidge Farm saltine goldfish
  • 1packet Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix

Place crackers in a large bowl.  Pour oil over crackers and stir until all the fishies are coated.  Add dressing mix and garlic powder.  Bake on an ungreased baking sheet at 250 degrees for 15 minutes.  Stir every five minutes or so.  Store in a plastic container or serve it to your kids while they sit happily at the table doing Christmas puzzles.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Broccoli Cheddar Soup - Panera Style

Living so far away from the conveniences of America, we sometimes have to come up with substitutes for the things we like and miss.  For instance, this year’s live Christmas tree was replaced by a fake one.  We tried the real ones that were sold last year, but when we brought it home it was dead.  Sagging branches.  Brown needles.  Major fire hazard. Dead.  So when the store had a 90% off sale the week after Christmas, we jumped on the fake tree wagon and went FULL TILT ARTIFICIAL with this bad dog…..
Geez.  I hope I don't scare people away from my blog by posting that!  I can't get a good picture of it no matter how hard I try. I promise it looks much much better in real life.
Another thing I miss about America is the food.  Although I don’t need it, I dream of things like Olive Garden and Chik-fil-A.  Back in the states I would be a mad-woman shopping right now.  We would go to Panera Bread I’m sure, because it is right across the street from Target. (Oh Target I miss you too!)   I would get the Broccoli Cheddar Soup in a sour dough bread bowl and I would be happy.  I deserve to be happy right?
So I caved, and I made Broccoli Cheddar Soup.  I resist the copy-cat recipes because really????  Is that copy-cat Iced Lemon Pound cake really as good as a cup of coffee with your BFF and the REAL Starbucks pound cake?  I think not.  But recipe was good.  Very very good. 
Now if only I knew how to make sourdough bread bowls.
Broccoli Cheddar Soup – Panera Style
Recipe adapted from www.myblessedlife.net

  • 2 T. Butter, melted
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 c. butter, melted
  • 1/2 c. all purpose flour
  • 4 c. half and half
  • 4 c. chicken broth
  • 1 lb. fresh broccoli
  • 2 cups, julienned carrots
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 t. nutmeg
  • 16 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Saute onion in butter. Set aside. Whisk butter and flour over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Stir constantly and slowly add half and half. Add chicken stock, still whisking.
Simmer 20 minutes.  Do not cover! (Only say this because I might have covered it, tried to start some laundry…..until I heard frying sounds and saw smoke coming from the kitchen!)
Add broccoli, carrots and onion. Cook over low heat until veggies are tender – about 20-25 minutes. Add salt and pepper. The soup will have thickened by now.
Carefully transfer soup mixture to blender and puree. Return soup to pot (or crockpot) over low heat. Add cheese. Stir until well blended. Add nutmeg right before serving.
Makes 8-10 servings.

Home Stories A2Z

Friday, December 16, 2011

Yesterday I Got My Craft On

I used to be really really crafty.  I say “used” to be, because all of my stamps, scrapbooking supplies, beads, paint, glitter and more are all in storage…….in Texas.  Since moving to Japan I now only have one small cupboard allotted for craft storage, and Hobby Lobby has yet to become an international sensation.

Lucky for me, I have a few friends who, despite the lack of space, have Modge Podge, acrylic paint, and sparkly embossing powder, oozing out of their windows.  AND they are nice enough to share. Plus….this is hard for me to say….they are much more creative and crafty then I will ever be.
Yesterday our culture group and these super crafty creative ladies, got together for our Christmas party.  We made these……

Wonderful don’t you think?

To make one you will need:
·        A piece of wood. (Size depends on what size your letters are.)
·        Acrylic paint (any color you love)
·        Die cut letters (the crafters had a die cut machine)
·        Transfer paper (so your letters stick to the board)
·        Some glossy varnish ( just in case you hang it outside)
·        Glue gun
·        Pretty wired Christmas ribbon
First, paint the wood on the edges and one side.  Any color will do.  I chose red, but one of the Japanese ladies chose a pale purple and it was lovely.  You may need to do several coats depending how porous your wood is.

Once it is dried, attach your letters to the transfer paper.

Place the transfer paper sticky side down on your painted board, and rub the letters firmly with a scraper.

Gently peel back the transfer paper to reveal the letters sticking neatly on your board.

Cover the sides and edges with a coat of varnish.

Glue on a Christmas ribbon to the back with a glue gun.  We used a 2 ½ inch wired ribbon cut into two lengths.  Again, the size/length of your ribbon will depend on the size of your board.  Tie in a bow.  

All finished!  Now now you have a cute and easy Christmas hanging.  The Japanese ladies LOVED theirs!

And I love mine too!

Linking With:

Monday, December 12, 2011

Reindeer Poo and Grinch Pills

Because my two oldest girlies are in middle school this year, they each have seven or eight teachers.  My normal go-to gift of a Barnes and Nobles gift card multiplied by sixteen, just isn’t going to fly financially…….no matter how much of Santa’s magical reindeer dust I use.

The girls are old enough to understand that presents cost money, but they are also old enough that they really enjoy giving their teachers a little something.  So, via ideas from Pinterest, the girlies got a little crafty and made their teachers and friends Reindeer Poop and Grinch Pills!

For the Reindeer Poop (found on Blooming Where I'm Planted) Abbey made her own toppers and filled cellophane bags with Whoppers candy. 

The poem reads,

Santa looked at his list.
He even checked it twice.
And he did find out,
You haven't been too nice.
Since coal is so expensive,
Here's the inside scoop....
Santa is filling your stocking,
With lots of Reindeer Poop.

She added a “thumbprint” reindeer head, drew on the antlers and eyes, and stuck a pom-pom nose on with a glue gun, and stuck on a Santa sticker.

Cute huh?

Allie sort of thought the poop was gross, so she went with the Grinch Pills.

We found this idea on Custom Creations by Tamera Bennett but we couldn’t find green Tic-Tacs in Japan so we improvised with Eclipse gum.   Allie made a simple card to stick on the cover and tied it with shiny red curling ribbon.  (Right click on the image and save, to print your own.)
Both girls stuck a To/From tag on the bag of their little treats and the projects were complete!

Merry Christmas everyone, from the Three Girlies!  Abbey, Allison, and Amber!

Linking with: