Nothing Fancy, Just Good Food

Month: December 2014

Christmas Goodies for All to Enjoy!

Hey yall! It just wouldn’t be Christmas around my house if we didn’t make a bunch of goodies to keep on hand! I remember holidays with my mamaw… The days leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas would be filled with cooking. My Mamaw’s birthday was on Christmas Eve so we would have a little family gathering and we stuffed ourselves with sandwiches and cookies and sausage balls. Mamaw would always change her voicemail to “Deck The Halls” and she and my mom would shop for weeks and spend hours wrapping. Bags weren’t much of an option for them. Mamaw was a floral designer and she had all the crafty stuff down which includes wrapping and bows and decorating… I can do decorating but I can’t make a bow or wrap a gift to save my life. They always turn out too loose, I always have too much tape, and most of the time there’s a space between the pieces of paper. My mom… MY MOM, the woman who is supposed to support you no matter what, and tell you whatever you did is perfect even if it’s awful… My MOTHER!! She laughed at my latest attempt at wrapping… Haha it’s pretty sad. Bags are my best friends! But not Mamaw… She had everything wrapped perfectly with big, gorgeous bows on them, with perfect curls. The one thing she didn’t do was have a real tree which blows my mind, even now after all these years… I mean she worked around so many fresh and gorgeous flowers, you would think she would insist on a fresh and gorgeous tree. But no, she had a fake one and it was almost lifted off the ground with all the gifts underneath it. And there were Santa Clauses everywhere. They were her absolute favorite. When she died, my mom kept all of her Santa’s. Now we have at least a hundred Santa’s… Probably more and they are all over the place! There are skinny Santa’s and fat Santa’s and tall Santa’s and short Santa’s. They have long beards, short beards, long hair, short hair, red coats, blue coats, sleighs, and bags. They’re Victorian, Modern, and Classic. Every type of Santa you can imagine… We’ve got ’em!
 There are two things that always spell out Christmas for us. We can decorate and watch the movies and shop and wrap presents but there are two things that Mamaw ALWAYS did that made us get in the Christmas spirit. First, she made Wassail. Wassail, for those of you who don’t know, is a spiced, mulled cider. Not only is it delicious but when left on a stovetop simmering on low, it makes the whole house smell like Christmas. So… Here’s her recipe for Wassail…
1 gallon Apple cider,
1 qt orange juice,
1 qt pineapple juice,
1 cup lemon juice,
1 cup sugar,
24 whole cloves,
4 sticks cinnamon.
Mix all ingredients together in a boiler, bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. You can add wine, brandy, sherry, or even mulled beer. You can also add some apple slices or orange rind. Now if you want the smell without the drink Mamaw’s favorite Christmas smell was as follows:
1 quart pineapple juice,
1 quart Apple cider,
1 quart water,
3 cinnamon sticks,
16 whole cloves,
1 tsp. allspice,
2 tsp pickling spice,
4 pieces ginger root.
Combine in a boiler, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Put this in an old pot you don’t use a lot. You probably won’t want to use it for anything else. You can also use one of those small crockpots used for potpourri. You can also put this in a mason jar or small bowl and light a floating tea candle in it if you don’t want to keep it on the stove all the time. Back in her day, they didn’t have Scentsy and Christmas scented candles… So this was her alternative. And boy does it smell good!
The second thing she did to make us really get into the Christmas spirit was make peppermint candy. She would buy these red and green peppermint chunks that she could only find at Wilson’s in Jackson, crunch them up even more with a hammer, sprinkle it in melted vanilla “bark”, and spoon it up like little pieces of peppermint heaven. It’s been a long time since we’ve had these. When Mamaw died it was hard for us to find the peppermint chunks and it made us miss her so much that for a long time we didn’t make them. We tried substitutes for them but they just didn’t taste the same. Recently, we found the peppermint chunks and this year we made them. When my brother walked in yesterday and saw them in my Christmas tin I thought that he was going to cry! He lifted the lid and took a deep breath and said, “I’m taking these home and you can’t stop me!” I was more than happy to oblige! This is what you’ll need:
Peppermint candy:
1/2 pkg. red and green peppermint chunks-I’ll tell you where you can find them below
2 pkgs. vanilla flavored almond bark
1 small hammer or mallet… As long as it’s clean!
Wax paper
Ok… I’ve found these peppermint chunks at Create a Cake here in Brandon off of Old Fannin Road. You can also search “red and green peppermint chunks” and find them on Amazon. Andes also makes some peppermint baking chunks but they’re not the same. Smash up the pieces with the hammer… They need to be pretty finely smashed. This makes the peppermint go further but it also makes the peppermint taste more mild and not so in your face! It’s also better for your teeth. 🙂 Lay out a long sheet of wax paper. Melt the bark in the microwave at 30 second intervals. Just melt one package at a time. The good thing about this bark is that you can use the little pan it comes in to melt it and stir in the peppermint, so clean up is a snap. Once the bark is melted, add in the peppermint a little at a time, it takes about a cup of peppermint per package of bark…stir as you go.
 IMG_4022  IMG_4027
Once it looks like this:
You can start spooning it onto the wax paper. Give it a few minutes to dry and then you’ll have heavenly goodness for days!
Even though these are some of my favorites from Christmas holidays past, there are plenty more! I also love Sausage Balls, White Chocolate Dipped Ritz Crackers, and Oyster Crackers!! We buy little Christmas tins at Hobby Lobby… They’re usually 50% off at Christmas… Sometimes 60% right before and maybe a little more right after! We fill the tins with all these treats and snack on them during Christmas and when we take our family trip to the ranch after Christmas!
   A family favorite is probably the easiest… White Chocolate Ritz. It’s so simple and easy to make and every one goes crazy over them. We probably go through about 4 boxes of the mini peanut butter ritz every Christmas, if not more! This is what you’ll need!
White Chocolate Dipped Ritz:
1 box Bite Size Peanut Butter Ritz,
1 pkg. vanilla flavored almond bark,
Wax paper.
Now let me start this off by saying one thing. I know that you’ll want to try it with white chocolate chips. I know that you will because even though I’ve been told and even though I’ve done it before and it didn’t work out right, I tried again this year. And it didn’t work out right. Again. So just do yourself a favor and get the almond bark. If you can’t find it (I couldn’t which is the reason I just tried the regular white chocolate) wait until you can find it. It’s just easier and cheaper that way. Again, you can leave the bark in the container it comes in, take off the plastic, and put it in the microwave. 30 seconds and stir, 30 seconds and stir, 20 seconds and stir. Lay out some wax paper. Then add in the Ritz, a few at a time. Using a fork, roll the Ritz around, then pick it up and set it on the wax paper to dry. If the chocolate hardens before you’re done with it, just stick it back in the microwave for 10 or 15 seconds. Once they’re dry just pull them off the wax paper and put them in a tin.
While that’s a family favorite, my brother and I love, love, love Oyster Crackers! They’re simple and easy too and they go a long way! While I don’t remember Mamaw making them a lot, I do remember her making them every now and then. And then I remember my sister making them and me falling in love with them all over again. So I got the recipe and now, it’s not Christmas without them. If I could, I would eat a whole box in one sitting 🙂 they’re amazing!
Hidden Valley Oyster Crackers:
1 16oz box plain oyster crackers,
2 pkgs Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing Mix,
Garlic powder, dill weed, and white pepper to taste,
1 cup vegetable oil,
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil.
Combine all the ingredients except the oyster crackers. Whisk them together thoroughly. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper. Spread the oyster crackers out in a single layer. Pour the oil mixture over the crackers evenly and stir allowing the oil to coat all the crackers. Bake at 300 degrees for 15-20 minutes. You may want to check on them every 7-10 minutes and stir to make sure the bottoms don’t burn. Allow to cool and then place in a tin!
Sausage balls… My personal favorite! My dad likes them… My mom will eat them… Everyone else will snack on them if they’re around… But me? I devour them! Why? Because it’s sausage, and cheese, and biscuit and it’s amazing!!!! Hmm… Maybe I should blow off this blog to eat some really quick…. Anyways… They’re really easy but they can be kind of messy so don’t say I didn’t warn you! Mamaw always said that you could only use Jimmy Dean Sausage and I did try it with another brand. The taste was the same but they were very greasy. So it’s up to you what brand you use! She also used Coon’s Brand cheese or Coon Hunters cheese or something like that and I can never find it in the grocery so I just use Kroger brand Sharp Cheddar.
Jimmy Dean Sausage Balls:
2 pkgs. Jimmy Dean Sausage,
4 cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese,
1 medium onion,
1 tsp garlic salt.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Chop the onion very finely… I use a food processor. I also buy the blocks of cheddar and grate it myself. You don’t have to but I feel like it melts better. Now mix all the ingredients together… Don’t cook the sausage first! I use my hands because it’s easier. Once it’s all blended together fully, form the ingredients into balls. Place them on an ungreased pan and bake for 15 minutes. You may want to line the pan with wax paper. The cheese melts and can make a mess on your pans and that’s a pain to scrub off! Once they’re cooled you can take them off the pan and put them in the tin! Yum! Now I’m seriously ready for some more food! And I believe we have enough of it!
 I’ll be sitting down to give y’all some yummy recipes for the New Year and maybe some more Christmas recipes if I can find a little extra time! I have to bake cookies and watch A Christmas Story with my nieces and nephews, then I’ll be trading Christmas gifts with my best friend in the world, then it’s Christmas Eve with my brother and his girls. THEN, it’s Christmas for the Hall house! And at some point, I’ll have to see my Bella girl again before I leave for a long eight days at the J Bar S ranch in southwest Texas…If not… I hope y’all have a very Merry Christmas! I know I sure will!!

A real meal before all the sweet Christmas treats coming your way!

Hey ya’ll! It’s that time of year again! The most wonderful time of the year!! CHRISTMAS!!! It’s time for white chocolate covered Ritz, oyster crackers, boiled cookies, fruitcake, cornflake candy, and all the goodies that we never make except for at Christmas. It’s time for hot chocolate, Christmas cookies, cookie swaps, Home Alone, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, and Christmas lights. It’s time for family and friends, Christmas vacations, hunting trips, and Christmas parties! It’s CHRISTMAS! I’m so excited! I can’t wait! I know we have lots of junky sweets coming up and I totally don’t need it which is why I’ve already ordered my next Advocare 24 Day Challenge to start the day that my family and I get back from our annual family hunting trip in Texas! But, in the meantime, I’ve got plans to make tons and tons of food. I’ll make my mamaw’s famous icebox fruitcake, boiled cookies, chocolate dipped peanut butter Ritz, cornflake candy, toffee bars, Ranch oyster crackers, Wassail, sausage balls, and lots and lots of other stuff!!! I know… you’re thinking, “Did she just say FRUITCAKE?!?!?” Why, yes I did, missy or mister because I love me some fruitcake! I’m going to be making some pretty easy dinners, if I make dinner at all, considering I’ve got so much going on! So I figured I would give ya’ll one more good, real meal before I start posting about Christmas food. I’ll probably make some chicken and dumplins one night and maybe a roast but I’m going to be posting about a lot of Christmas stuff so get ready!

Since we last spoke, I had a successful deer hunt with my dad and killed my biggest deer to date. I’ve sold a couple of houses, had some new clients, and done A LOT of online shopping! We’ve also had our office Christmas party where we were surprised by Front Gate with a CRUISE to Cozumel! I’m so excited and I just can’t wait! We’re going to have so much fun! We’ve also added a lot of people to our office over the past couple of months and I’m so excited to be able to spend some quality time with all of my co workers and get to know them better!! We are truly blessed to work for such a wonderful, generous, and supportive company!

my nebraska deer daddy's nebraska deer

These pictures sure don’t do the size of the deer justice! They were like small pony’s with huge racks!

cruisin to cozumel Merry Christmas ya Filthy Animal Front Gate Crew

Since I’ve been so busy, I’ve been eating out a lot! You know that means I have to give a little shout out to some awesome restaurants around here! I think I’ve mentioned that I love going to Canton on Friday nights and enjoying a humongous 22 oz. ribeye with sides for only $22.50 at Ratliff Ferry Trading Post. They have other stuff too but the steak is truly outrageous! It’s the best steak I’ve ever eaten and that’s including my own! And you know I think all of my food is better than anyone else’s so you know I’m telling the truth! Plus it’s a great price and they have alcohol so ya’ really just can’t beat it! 🙂 The owner also asked me to mention how sexy he is but I’ll let ya’ll make that decision for yourself 😉 I also had a divine pizza at the fabulous Pizza Shack recently that will knock your socks off! The Pizza Shack has been voted Best Pizza in Jackson for a couple of years now and it’s definitely worth it! I can’t forget though to tell you that my cousin’s husband just opened up a restaurant that I’m dying to try out called Lou’s Full-Serv… it’s been met with rave reviews from people all over the state and I can’t wait to make a trip over to see for myself.

Ratliff Ribeye  pizza shack pizza

As good as all of these places are though, there aren’t many that are better than a good old home cooked meal! Which brings me to the glorious food I have prepared for ya’ll’s reading pleasure! My very first time I went to Longhorn Steakhouse, I ordered chicken. Yep… chicken at a steakhouse… such a horror! But I will not ever regret it and neither will you my friends; because, I fell in love with the chicken and had to make it for myself at home! I fiddled around with ideas, looked stuff up online, and went back to have a second tasting of this heavenly chicken. I finally settled on a recipe and made it with bated breath for my family. Then I realized that as rich as it was I would only make it once a year on special occasions. It’s not hard, in fact it is very easy to make; however, it’s alfredo sauce covered chicken with a ton of cheese on top! 🙂 And you have to serve it with mashed potatoes and just so you don’t feel too guilty at least with one green veggie! Haha it’s worth it though for just one bite of heaven!

Now, this isn’t their exact recipe, only my version of it, but it’s really close! The recipe is really good for 5 or 6 chicken breasts but I never measure when I make the sauce so I always have some left over. In that case, I add the extra sauce to my mashed potatoes… wicked, I know, but DELICIOUS!!! 🙂 You’ll see 😉

Creamy Parmesan Chicken:

4-6 Chicken Breasts-boneless, skinless,

1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream,

1 stick butter,

6 oz. parmesan cheese,

1 cup shredded mozzerlla cheese,

1 cup shredded pepper jack or Monterey jack cheese,

Garlic salt, ground black pepper, Tony Chachere’s.

Place the butter in a medium saucepan and melt over medium heat. Once it’s melted, remove from heat and slowly add the whipping cream. It’s really important to do this slowly or your cream will curdle. You have to introduce the cream to the heat as carefully as possible. Place back over the heat and bring it to a boil. Add 4 oz. parmesan cheese and seasonings and stir occasionally until the sauce is thick. Just make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. This is pure deliciousness. Don’t worry about how much seasoning you add. Just taste as you go and make sure that it’s as tasty as you want! While that’s thickening, place the chicken in the bottom of a casserole dish. Once the sauce is thick, pour the sauce on top of the chicken.

alfredo alfredo 2 Parmasan chicken

Now, just sprinkle the rest of the parmesan and other cheeses on top. Don’t be afraid to add extra cheese. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Here’s the tricky part…. trying not to eat it until it cools!!

parmasan chicken 2 Creamy Parmasan Chicken

So the only thing that I can ever eat with this is mashed potatoes. I shouldn’t…. it’s so starchy…. but I LOVE IT!! (Did anyone else just read that in Ricky Bobby’s kids voices?) Showing my redneck side 🙂 Anyway…. this is how I use my extra parmesan sauce leftover from my chicken!

Parmesan Mashed Potatoes:

1 bag of fingerling potatoes,

the remaining sauce,

a little salt and pepper to taste.

Boil the potatoes in water. Once they’re fork tender, add the sauce, and mash thoroughly. I like mine kinda chunky, especially when I’m doing it by hand (because I’m lazy!). Once you’re happy with the consistency, add the salt and pepper. Stir again and serve! This doesn’t make a ton of mashed potatoes. Definitely enough for about 4 people though. I like to add some purple potatoes to this or some red potatoes. Red potatoes are sweeter and go really well with the heavy cream in the parmesan sauce.

Potatoes Parmasan Mashed potatoes

So, I tried something new with my green beans. I was trying to cook less and without all my kitchen equipment. I was at a friends house and only cooking for two. I baked them instead of cooking them in a skillet so it was different but good. I did the same thing that I normally do with a skillet just in a throw away baking dish. Green beans are a simple and delicious side. You don’t have to do too much with them, yet you can do so much with them. This is how I did it and I’ll put instructions for the skillet version in the instructions 🙂

Green Beans:

2 cans French style green beans,

1/2 small onion,

1/2 cup Kroger brand Oil & Vinegar dressing,

3 strips of bacon,

Salt and Black pepper to taste.

Drain the juice off of one of the cans, NOT BOTH!!! It needs to cook in some of it’s own juices! Pour both cans into the baking dish. Chop your onion and mix it into the green beans. Pour the dressing on it and mix it again. Layer the bacon on top and sprinkle on the salt and pepper. Bake it at 350 for about 20 minutes. Stirring occcassionally. Now, when I do it in the skillet, I cut my bacon strips into smaller chunks. My mom likes me to cook it first but I see it as an unnecessary extra step…. again, I’m lazy haha. I let it simmer in my skillet on medium heat for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. This serves 2 or 3 people large portions or 4 people smaller portions. If you use more than 3 cans though I recommend doing a whole onion. Also, this works for whole green beans, I just tend to like French style. You can also use one bag of frozen green beans or a good bunch of fresh. Don’t forget to cut off any stem of the fresh green beans though!!

Well I guess that’s all for now! I’m just about done with my Christmas candies and treats so I’ll probably be back with ya’ll on Saturday writing about chocolate covered ritz, sausage balls, oyster crackers, boiled cookies, cornflake candy, toffee bars, and my mamaw’s personal favorite….. peppermint candy 🙂 I can’t wait to share these recipes with ya’ll. They’re so near and dear to my heart and I know ya’ll will love them. I’ll also include some pictures of the awesome light displays I’ve been seeing all over town. Tomorrow is steak night at Ratliff Ferry and I hope to see some of ya’ll there…. if  not I guess it’s just your loss 🙂 Ya’ll have a good night and check back in a couple of days!!






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