It’s the most wonderful time of the year… Again! Yay!! I’m so excited for Christmas! I mean, I’ve been in the Christmas spirit since about midway through November, I started watching Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel around then anyway! Every year it’s a little hit or miss… It’s either hard to get in the spirit or its Christmas overload! This year it’s definitely Christmas overload! Like I’m about 2 Christmas ornaments away from Whoville! But that’s pretty much the way it’s done at the Hall house. We just tend to take turns being “Christmas-y” 🙂
I’ve already started my holiday baking. I started the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Filling the house with different goodies, making plans for cookie swaps and Christmas parties, looking over new recipes and tweaking old ones. I’m so excited and can’t wait for the days leading up to Christmas! It’s a whirlwind of grocery shopping, last minute gift shopping, cooking, and wrapping presents. And then, there’s Christmas Day. It’s amazing and tumultuous at the same time. Even though I’m almost 27 I’m spoiled by my sweet mommy who still makes sure I have “Santa” every year. I’m pretty sure it’s mostly because she’s tired of wrapping gifts by that point so she says it’s Santa but I prefer to think it’s her sweetness 🙂 anyway! Being the kid I am I still wake up early… Not as early as I once did, but early-ish. Up until my brother got married and moved out, we would both wake up around 5:30, look at our Santa, and go back to bed for an hour or two. Keep in mind he got married when he was 20, so I was 18. We’re kids at heart! Still are! Every year around this time we still try to make time to sit down and watch Home Alone, A Christmas Story, and National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. They were our favorite movies as kids and for the most part they still are! Now, after I have Santa I gather it up, take it to my room, and get dressed for the day. I come downstairs and start cooking. We make turkey, ham, dressing, squash casserole, green beans, anything starchy you can think of we have it. It’s amazing… But I think the best part of all the food are the treats that we have before hand and Christmas Eve dinner. Christmas Day is so crazy. It’s ridiculous. There’s so much going on that you only get to see bits and pieces of everything. The kids opening their presents, the adults trying to keep up with all the kids and trying to open their presents. It’s wild. It’s fun and we enjoy it and I wouldn’t change it for the world; but, a few years ago my brother told us (yes, he told us and we had no choice) that we were starting a new tradition. We go to his house on Christmas Eve, he makes a prime rib, and we sit down and enjoy the calm before the storm. It’s one of my favorite family traditions. It’s easy and laid back. It’s fabulous. I said that to say this; we have our certain holiday traditions. Food, movies, gifts, and trips. But, it wouldn’t be anything without our family! 🙂 so hold your babies tight tonight, tell someone you love them, make sure you keep it about them and don’t get too wrapped up in the presents and decorations and trying to make things perfect. Go with it!
Some people don’t want to go to the trouble of making a prime rib or you don’t know how. That’s ok because I couldn’t even tell you how to do it myself! But I started thinking of what would be a good Christmas Eve dinner or Friend Christmas dinner that wouldn’t take ages to cook and ages to clean. A one or two dish meal that you can throw together and that would feed a lot. My mind immediately landed on lasagna. Lasagna has a few steps to it but it’s something that you can make ahead of time and make a lot of, it’s easy to freeze, it travels well, and you just add garlic bread and a quick salad and you have a full meal! You can even make it in a throwaway container and cleanup is a breeze! I go two steps further and use a jarred sauce and oven ready noodles so I don’t have to boil them first! My mamaw always made the best lasagna and it was so easy so I have to tell you all about it!
Mamaw’s Best Lasagna:
2 lbs hamburger,
1 lb Italian sausage,
2 jars spaghetti sauce of your choice ( I use Prego Pesto Marinara and/or Prego four cheese),
1 can tomato sauce,
1 medium onion,
30 oz whole milk ricotta cheese,
1 cup Parmesan,
1 pkg mozzarella cheese slices,
1 pkg provolone cheese slices,
1 pkg cheddar cheese slices,
1 9oz “oven ready” lasagna noodles,
Garlic, salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning to taste.
Ok, I know it’s a lot of cheese but honestly what’s lasagna without cheese?!? Trust me on this! Brown your hamburger meat and sausage in a skillet… If you don’t like Italian sausage just do another pound of hamburger or ground turkey, or deer meat! Chop the onion. Drain the meat and add the spaghetti sauce and tomato sauce to the meat, then add the onion and season the sauce with garlic, salt, pepper, and Italian seasonings (or oregano, basil, fennel, and sage). Let that simmer while you get the other ingredients ready. In a medium sized bowl mix the ricotta, Parmesan, egg, and salt, and pepper. You can also add cottage cheese or mozzarella to it and I add a few chives and parsley flakes to this as well. Once the sauce is ready and the ricotta is mixed, set up an assembly line. Sauce first, noodles, ricotta mixture, cheese slices. I alternate cheeses between layers. I have to break some of the noodles in half so it will fit in the pan. First, sauce, noodles, ricotta, provolone. Then, sauce, noodles, ricotta, mozzarella. And so on. The last 2 layers should be sauce and cheese. I usually have about two or three slices of each kind of cheese left so I just mix it up. Bake at 375 for about 45 minutes to an hour. Let it get nice and golden brown. I make mine in a extra deep disposable lasagna pan and it made enough for about 15 people give or take. I made some homemade ranch and threw a salad together, made some garlic bread, and it was a done deal! So yummy! And the cleanup was such a breeze!
Now, I know a lot of ya’ll will love this next recipe! I’ve made it several times now and every time, I get rave reviews! It’s a great breakfast casserole that is so easy and you can bake it for a quick breakfast/supper or throw it in a crockpot for an overnight breakfast/supper. When Ashley got married, she had a brunch for all the girls the morning of the wedding and I couldn’t think of what to make. I had an idea of what I wanted it to be; but, I couldn’t find any recipes for it. I searched Pinterest high and low, I looked through all of my cookbooks, but nothing was just right! So, I just kind of threw it together and crossed my fingers hoping for the best! It turned out great! I love to have breakfast for supper so it kind of worked out in my favor and I know it would make a great Christmas Day breakfast too! If you’re like me, you spend so much time cooking for the actual Christmas dinner that your family ends up going hungry all day until then because you don’t have time to stop and make them a second meal if they want to eat on time! But, that’s just my family 🙂 So! That being said, this would be perfect to turn the crockpot on low, throw in these ingredients, and have it nice and steamy and ready for Christmas breakfast while everyone is unwrapping presents! I’ma call it Cowboy Breakfast Casserole!
Cowboy Breakfast Casserole:
1 bag country style frozen hash browns,
2 lbs Jimmy Dean sausage,
1 1/2 cup colby jack cheese,
1 small yellow onion,
3 green onions,
3 tsp. butter,
salt, pepper, garlic powder, and Tony Chachere’s to taste!
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Chop your yellow onion and brown it with the sausage in a skillet. You can also use: link sausage, smoked sausage, ham, deer sausage, bacon or no meat at all if you’d prefer! While the sausage and onions are cooking, mix the rest of the ingredients together except for the butter. It’s ok if the hash browns are still frozen! I use the shredded hash browns, but you can use the chunks if you’d like! It’s up to you! Drain the meat and add it to the hash brown mixture. Now, put the butter into the bottom of a casserole dish. I use a dark aluminum one but you can use a glass one! I would be careful if you use glass and frozen hash browns! The oven is hot, the mixture will be cold, and the glass may break. Now, I put the putter in the dish and let it melt in the oven, then I spread it all around to make sure it’s nice a coated! Then just pour your mixture in and spread it out! You can cover it with cheese if you want but you don’t have to! If you chose to do this in the crockpot, there are a couple of variables. If you chose to do bacon or ground sausage like Jimmy Dean I would cook that before I put it in the crock pot. But, if you use link sausage, smoked sausage, or ham you can just throw it in there uncooked. I wouldn’t omit the butter either because that will help everything to not stick, plus it gives it a little flavor! Now, I’ve never tried this but I’ve been told if you have some frozen biscuits, I use Mary B’s, you can put a layer of tin foil on top of this mixture, and put your biscuits on top so that it all cooks at once but it’s separate! I’ve never been brave enough to try this though so I always cook mine in a cast iron skillet in the oven! I have to say though, that if you’re not going to make ’em homemade, Mary B’s are the best biscuits in the world! Especially since they’re frozen! They’re amazing!!! Now, I don’t have a picture of the finished product because my family devoured it when I pulled it out of the oven last night, but this is what it looked like before I put it in the oven!
Every Christmas we make a lot of goodies! We have all kinds of cookie tins stacked and filled with all kinds of stuff!
Boiled cookies (I know it sounds awful but oh my gosh, yum!), white chocolate peanut butter ritz, cornflake candy, peppermint candy, cheese straws, oyster crackers, sausage balls (my FAVE!!!), and Chex mix. We have it all!! Now, I told y’all alllllll about a lot of this stuff last year and y’all for sure have to check that blog out!! Click here for that one! Buuuut, this year I’ma have to tell y’all about something different real quick! Fudge! Awesome, easy, delicious, and only 6 ingredients, this fudge is sure to be a knockout treat for any time of year! It’s the best! But before I give y’all the recipe I have to give you a warning. This has to be done exactly like the recipe says or it won’t set up right. Fudge is very finicky and it’s something you can’t really play with! That being said it’s easy but you do have to follow the directions! You can double it but you have to be exact!
Savannah Praline Fudge:
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk,
3 1/4 cup white chocolate,
1 cup caramel pieces,
2 tablespoons water,
1 cup chopped pecans,
Salt, (sea salt if you have it).
Line a 9×9 pan with wax paper. I couldn’t find a 9×9 pan so I did it in a 9×13 and doubled the recipe In a saucepan, mix your sweetened condensed milk and white chocolate. Stirring constantly over medium heat, melt the chocolate until it’s all smooth and deliciously creamy! Pour half of your mixture into the bottom of the pan. Put your caramel and water into a microwave safe bowl and microwave for 1- 1 1/2 minutes. Stir it until it’s smooth and pour it evenly over the white chocolate. Sprinkle a little salt over the caramel. Now, sprinkle the pecans. And FINALLY, pour the other half of the chocolate mixture over the pecans! Smooth it out as much as you can and let it sit for a few hours! Then cut it up and try not to eat every little piece of that creamy, dreamy heaven! These are great for your cookie swap or for teacher/friend/secretary gifts! Also for those parties you have coming up and it’s a year round treat and not just for Christmas!
It’s so dang amazing! Speaking of amazing, cheese straws… As awesome as they are in the box, homemade is like 50 times better! I’m not a big fan of the flavor of extra sharp cheddar cheese. It’s not that I don’t like it at all, it’s just that it’s got a strong tang that I don’t like. So, I decided to do half sharp cheddar and half mild cheddar. Now, you can use different cheeses like Asiago or Havarti. But I knew everyone would love the cheddar! So this is what we did!
MILD CHEESE STRAWS:
1/2 pound sharp cheddar,
1/2 pound mild cheddar,
1 1/2 sticks butter,
2 cups flour,
1/2 tsp salt,
1/2 tsp dry ground mustard,
1 tsp red pepper.
First, I buy the cheese in blocks and grate it myself. It’s creamier and easier to work with and it doesn’t take long at all to grate it. If you use a bag of shredded cheese it won’t cream with the other ingredients as well but you’re welcome to try it! Cream the cheese and butter together, then add the dry ingredients. Now, I don’t have a cookie press so I just rolled it out; you can use the cookie press, your hands, roll them into straws or cookies, whatever you like! Grease the baking sheet well and place the straws on it. Place them in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Don’t let them brown! These are great for Christmas presents too! Everybody loves a good cheese straw! Plus, it’s super cheap and easy and you can make several batches at once!! It would be really cute to get some large mason jars or burlap bags, tie it up with a pretty bow and give to clients, teachers, and neighbors!
Another awesome gift or party idea is Microwave Chex Mix. It requires a few more ingredients but all you need is a bowl or 2 and a microwave! So easy and barely any cleanup so it’s totally worth a try!!
MICROWAVE CHEX PARTY MIX:
1 stick butter,
2 cups wheat Chex ( I could only find Honey Wheat this year so I just did 3 cups rice and 3 cups corn chex),
2 cups rice Chex,
2 cups corn Chex,
1 cup pretzels,
4 1/2 tsp Worcestershire,
Season salt or Tony’s and garlic powder.
Melt the butter, add the Worcestershire and seasonings, and stir until combined. Add the Chex and pretzels stirring after each addition. Microwave for 4 minutes, stirring every half way through. Pour it out onto a paper towel or some wax paper and sprinkle a little of the seasonings over it. Store in an airtight container and resist the temptation to eat it alllll! You can add peanuts or bugles or even some bagel chips if you want! Some people like it with Cheez It’s or Ritz cheese crackers. Whatever you like!!
Now, I’ve saved the best for last! I love Egg Nog and I’ve always wanted to make my own so I’ve been googling and on Pinterest for ages to find a good recipe and I think I’ve finally found a winner! I’m still going to play with it for sure but what I made the other day was delish! All the kids loved it!!
Egg Nog (2 ways!):
6 egg yolks,
1 1/2 cups heavy cream,
3 cups whole milk,
1/3 cup sugar,
1/2 tsp vanilla,
3/4 cup sugar,
1 1/2 tsp nutmeg,
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon.
Beat the yolks in a electric mixer slowly adding in the sugar until well combined. Add the rest of the ingredients one at a time, mix well, chill, and serve. Easy right? Now, this will be a thinner egg nog and not quite as creamy and dreamy. So, if you want a thicker, creamier egg nog which is what I love, you’ll need to use whole eggs and combine the milk (just the milk) and egg mixture in a sauce pan quickly, and stirring constantly, bring to a slow boil. Don’t let it boil for a long period of time so you don’t curdle your milk or scramble your eggs, just let it warm it up, it should take about 5 minutes on medium to high heat. Once it becomes thick and smooth, it’s ready and you can remove it from heat! This also reduces your small risk of salmonella since the eggs will cook! 🙂 Now, once you remove it from the heat, you’ll add your cream, vanilla, sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon! Whisk it well, chill, and serve. At some point, if you like, you can add about a cup of whiskey or rum or Irish cream to it! Or just add it per glass so the kiddos don’t get more than they bargained for! 🙂
Ok ya’ll!! I guess that’s all for today!! I reckon I will get back with ya’ll at the New Year!! I hope ya’ll have an AMAZING and very MERRY CHRISTMAS!! Ya’ll come back now ya’ hear?!?