Melt in Your Mouth Christmas Cutouts

The holiday season is upon us and it’s just about time to start our Christmas baking.  We had a great time this weekend as we welcomed a few young guests to share in the fun.  I was happy to have found some package labels (last year’s clearance aisle) to wrap up our tasty treats for gift giving.  As one of my favorite cookie recipes, I posted it several years ago… You can find it here.  These tasty morsels truly do “melt in your mouth” and they are relatively simple to make.  Great little gifts for those that we share our lives with… Coworkers, colleagues, the mail carrier, our anyone else that you care to share a heartfelt gift with.  

Wishing you the blessings of the season as you celebrate the holidays with your family and friends.




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Festive Cranberry, Pecan and Feta Salad

I recently attended a daylong training in Indianapolis.  A soup and salad lunch was served mid-day.  One of the local restaurants was asked to provide a bounty of fresh rolls, piping hot turkey chili and a fabulous cranberry and feta salad.  I passed on the rolls and chili but piled a healthy portion of the salad on my festive plate.  As I munched on the salad, I was reminded of a recipe that I used to make years ago and made a note to look through my cookbook collection to remake the dish for the Thanksgiving table (for some lighter fare.) Here is the version that I made… I don’t recall where the recipe originated, I have a handwritten note with the dressing ingredients loosely estimated.  We sure enjoyed this recipe. To save time, I’ve used a bottled raspberry vinaigrette or poppy seed dressing.  I have also added some freshly sliced pears to the mix. Super easy and delicious! Great for the upcoming holidays.

 

Festive Cranberry Feta and Pecan Salad

2 tablespoons raspberry or apple cider vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon sugar or the equivalent sweetener

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

6 tablespoons olive oil

6 cups mixed salad greens, rinsed and dried

3/4 cup dried cranberries

3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 cup pecan halves, lightly toasted

In a small bowl, stir together the vinegar, mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper; mix until sugar and salt dissolve. Slowly whisk in olive oil.  In a chilled  glass salad bowl, toss together the greens, cranberries, pecans, and cheese. Drizzle with vinaigrette, and gently toss to coat. Serve immediately.

Lemon Christmas Cake

A couple of years ago, I was invited to an afternoon luncheon where a gathering of friends would celebrate the coming of Christmas. When I arrived, several women were happily chatting as they placed holiday favors at each place setting.  An assortment of Christmas chocolates, candy canes, and holiday ornaments were individually wrapped for each guest.  One woman had made at least 3 dozen mini-quick bread loaves, each beautifully bundled in festive cellophane wrap. She had baked lots of different flavored loaves; pumpkin nut, cranberry orange, banana, and lemon pound cake.  I was tickled to receive the lemon flavored loaf for the glaze glistened through the cellophane and looked absolutely delicious.
Arriving home, I promptly put on the kettle and sliced the loaf to share with the family. A quick bite had me rummaging through my recipe files as the taste reminded me of an old recipe I had tucked away years before.  The lemony flavor is perfect and the texture is incredibly moist.   This recipe makes a beautiful bundt cake that is baked for about 1 hour.  (I often pour the batter in two 8X4″ loaf pans and bake for 40-45 minutes.) The zesty glaze adds a boost of flavor that soaks into the cake and makes it a wonderful addition to the holiday dessert table.

Lemon Christmas Cake

For the cake:

2 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups butter, softened

4 eggs

3 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

 1 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt

1 teaspoon lemon extract

For the glaze:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest

For the cake: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a bundt pan.

Beat sugar and butter together in a bowl until light and fluffy, nearly 10 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, thoroughly beating after each addition into the butter and sugar mixture. Stir in lemon extract.  In a medium bowl, sift flour, salt, and baking soda together. Add a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture; mix well. Pour in half the buttermilk and beat until combined. Continue adding the remaining flour mixture and buttermilk, beating well after each addition, and ending with the flour mixture. Evenly pour batter into prepared pan. Before baking, reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 60 to 75 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing from pan.

For the glaze:

Beat confectioner’s sugar, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons butter, and lemon zest together in a bowl until glaze is smooth. Pour about half the glaze over the cake; let cool. Pour remaining glaze over the cake.

Sweet Almond Pound Cake

Over the years I’ve baked lots of tasty loaves for friends and co-workers to celebrate the holiday season.  This week is no exception for I’ll be pulling out all of my favorite baking pans and an array of Christmas wrapping paper to start my traditional holiday bake. I usually make an assortment of flavorful loaves… a cinnamon swirl loaf, a poppyseed bread loaf, an applesauce nut loaf, and a sweet zucchini breakfast loaf.  Some of which are made from the carefully shredded and frozen excess garden produce that I tucked away during the late fall months.

This year I have added a simple, delicious recipe to the mix.  This Sweet Almond Pound Cake is moist, dense and full of flavor.  While the directions would have you bake the cake in a bundt pan, you can use the same recipe to make this delicious treat in a basic 9×5″ loaf pan. Sprinkle this baby with a bit of confectioners’ sugar or frost with a drizzle of cream cheese frosting before serving or wrapping.  A sprinkle of red and green candies makes for a festive addition. Give this loaf to those that you would like to recognize during this gift-giving season or place it on the holiday table for family and friends to enjoy.            

…Sending along a wish for the best of health and happiness in the coming year!  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Simply Made Kitchen and Crafts!


Sweet Almond Pound Cake

1 package white cake mix

1 (3.4 oz.) package vanilla instant pudding and pie filling   (the coconut flavor works well too!)

4 large eggs

1 cup water

⅓ cup vegetable oil

1 tbsp. almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour 10″ Bundt pan. Combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, water, oil and extract in large bowl. Beat for approximately 2 minutes. Pour into prepared pan. Bake 40-45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool cake for 10-15 minutes.  Carefully remove from pan and cool completely. Dust with sifted confectioners’ sugar or frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting.

Adorable Sock Snowman Craft

At a recent holiday party, one of my co-workers was kind enough to demonstrate the assembly of this adorable sock snowman craft.  You won’t believe how quick and easy this no-sew project is to assemble.  A simple white sock, some string, and a few sewing notions make for the cutest of holiday projects for any age to enjoy. 

While I was lucky enough to have a personal tutorial, I was able to find a similar link for a quick tutorial video. Here it is… https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=pB4jFqkn8MY

Honey Nut Snack Mix

By popular demand, I am posting one of my all-time favorite snack mix recipes.  It never fails, whenever I make this mix, I am always asked for the details of the recipe.  During the holidays, I usually pack this lip-smackin’ snack into decorative jars to pass along as a homemade gift from the kitchen.  Light, buttery, and full of that scrumptious honey flavor, this sweet treat is a winner.  Make a big batch and keep a watchful eye as it cools on the kitchen counter.  The mix has a tendency to disappear as the minutes tick by … Irresistible!



Honey Nut Snack Mix

6 cups Chex or Crispix cereal

1 1/4 cups mini pretzels

1 cup nuts (peanuts, lightly chopped pecans, or lightly chopped walnuts)

1/3 cup butter or margarine

3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 cup honey

1 teaspoon vanilla

Coat a 13×9″ pan with cooking spray.  Add cereal, pretzels, and nuts; set aside.

In a large saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, and honey.  Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil and continue to boil for 5 minutes, DO NOT STIR.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Carefully pour the hot syrup over the cereal mixture, stirring until well coated.  

Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour; gently stirring every 15 minutes to distribute the syrup evenly over the mix. Let cool on cookie sheets lined with parchment or wax paper.  Store in an airtight container.

Recipe adapted from “The Family Table” by Brenda Hyde

Moist and Tender Prime Rib

As tradition would have it, one of our favorite holiday meals includes prime rib. Tonight, my family and I will be enjoying a night out on the town in downtown Chicago. We are going to one of our favorite restaurants, Lawry’s Prime Rib. While I will be pampered tonight, I usually make my own version of this delicious roast. I have reblogged my recipe for those that might be preparing a Holiday feast this week. Happy holidays to all.

Simply Made Kitchen and Crafts

Prime Rib

Prime rib is one of my favorite dishes to prepare for special occasions. Recently, I hosted my extended family for Thanksgiving. Family members traveled in from neighboring states to celebrate the holiday. After an early breakfast, I asked my neice to join me in the kitchen to prepare the prime rib. She is such an adorable kitchen helper…always willing to take on any task and eager to learn. It warms my heart as I watch her run to the kitchen drawer to find my handmade aprons. There she carefully ties the apron strings around her slim little waist. When we first started cooking together, I would hike up the apron and fold a crease in it to shorten the length to match her 1st grade height. I’d scoot a stool over to the countertop so that she could follow along as we cooked together. These days, she’s older and wiser…she…

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