Family · Holidays

Christmas 2020

One year ago, we were all hustling and bustling without a virus care in the world.  Stress was high because we put so many expectations on ourselves for the perfect Christmas experience.

Photo by @davidsonluna

Fast forward to Christmas 2021 and our lives are vastly different.  It’s easy to focus on the negatives, but for a moment, I’ll focus on the positives of the COVID experience and a sheltered Christmas.

  • My family and I are COVID free.  Every day I take the time to reflect on this blessing and pray for good health for all.
  • My family and I have shelter and food.  We have the opportunity to help others in need.
  • We are blessed with doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, first responders, and other essential personnel who are working tirelessly to provide services during this challenging time. They have my complete gratitude for going above and beyond on a daily basis.
  • Vaccinations are on the way giving us hope of control of Coronavirus for the future.
  • Family and friends are even more precious. I love and appreciate each and every one of you!
  • Handwashing and mask wearing are second nature.  When I watch a television show or movie where people are in close proximity, and not wearing masks, I get a little anxious.  Do you?  Wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing is the least I can do for the good of our country.
  • Home has never felt so good.  I’ve always enjoyed being home but I’ve found peace and comfort in my own space.
  • Christmas ornaments are full of memories.  Each year, I think of the moment or the year I acquired each ornament.  Decorating the tree in 2020 was a reflection on a blessed life.
  • Christmas magic abounds with young children. My four young grandchildren are filled with wonder and awe for the holidays .
  • My hair is gray.  If you haven’t seen me in a picture or on Zoom, you may not know that I have gone totally gray.  Gray hair symbolizes the accomplishments and stress that I have lived.  It has given me new found freedom.
  • I’m cooking more.  Cooking has always been a passion and with more time at home, I can experiment.  Curbside pickup of groceries is a new service offered that reduces my risk of exposure to COVID and makes quick work of shopping.
  • I’m posting again on Fork-Lore.  I’m cooking; therefore I’m posting.
  • Technology allows me to catch up with family and friends to stay connected and enjoy social interaction.  Our ancestors didn’t have this luxury during other lockdowns, such as the Spanish (ie., Kansas) flu.
  • Journaling this COVID experience for future reflection started in March and goes on to this day.  Truly, I thought I would only be journaling for 3 or 4 months…Silly me!
  • Podcasts, audio books and long walks are saving me. My favorite podcast list has more than doubled and the number of books read in 2021 is far beyond any previous year.
  • Humor sustains me.  There is nothing more humorous than reflecting on the silly things I do and see each and every day.

This Christmas let us find joy, peace, and good health.  Sending virtual love and hugs to all!

Cathy

Holidays

Cranberry Orange Bread with Orange Glaze

Cranberry and Orange are a culinary match made in heaven.  The combination in this wonderful quick bread is divine, especially with the addition of Orange Glaze.

The bread is great with a cup of coffee or tea or can be served as a dessert.  

CRANBERRY ORANGE BREAD WITH ORANGE GLAZE

1 1/2 cups all-purpose Gold Medal flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar
Zest of 1 large orange
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh cranberries

For the orange glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest

  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Spray a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 loaf pan with cooking spray and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder. In a small bowl, combine sugar and orange zest. Rub together with your fingers until fragrant. Whisk into the flour mixture. Set aside.
  • In a separate medium bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, orange juice, and vanilla.
  • Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined. Fold in the cranberries. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  • Bake for 70-75 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. If your loaf starts to get too brown drape a piece of foil over the top to finish baking. I did this during the last 10 minutes of the baking time.
  • Remove bread from oven and place on a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes. Loosen the sides of the bread with a knife. Carefully remove loaf from pan. Let cool completely on wire rack.
  • While the bread is cooling, make the orange glaze. In a small bowl, combine powdered sugar, orange juice, and orange zest. Whisk until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the bread. Cut and serve.
  • Note-The bread is best eaten within 2-3 days or freeze.

Recipe from twopeasandtheirpod.com 

Holidays · New Favorite

Skinny Peppermint Mocha

Peppermint Mocha is my favorite coffee drink of the year but I rarely order it at Starbucks because it’s loaded with empty calories.  After several years of using COFFEE-MATE Peppermint Mocha Sugar Free Coffee Creamer, I decided to try making my own Peppermint Mocha with the help of the internet.  This was a great recipe that I’ll make again and again!

The second recipe is for a Pepper Mocha Creamer which is also good, but the first recipe is my favorite.  For the creamer, I added a packet of Stevia to my coffee before using the creamer.  The creamer is a little strong for my taste, but still good!

SKINNY PEPPERMINT MOCHA

2/3 cup black coffee brewed, medium roast or coffee of choice
2/3 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 packet stevia or sweetener of choice (I used 2 packets)
1/8 tsp peppermint extract

Toppings (optional)

Reddiwhip use coconut for dairy free
Cacao bites or sprinkles

  • Brew coffee, I used leftover coffee that I stored overnight in the refrigerator and warmed in the microwave.
  • In a small pot, combine milk, cocoa, stevia and peppermint extract.
  • Bring to medium heat for 2-3 minutes until cocoa powder dissolves and liquid becomes bubbly.
  • Pour into a large coffee cup with the coffee then use a handheld foamer to blend until it becomes frothy and foamy. Add additional toppings as desired and enjoy.
  • OR I heated all ingredients together and then poured in a coffee mug and topped with Coconut Reddiwhip.  YUMMY!

Recipe slightly adapted from Skinnyfitalicious

Skinny Peppermint Mocha Coffee Creamer

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk
  • 1.5 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp coconut sugar
  • 1/2 tsp espresso powder
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp peppermint extract
  • 1/4 tsp chocolate extract
  • Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Process on high until the ingredients are fully combined.
  • Transfer to a glass container and store in the refrigerator up to 2 weeks to add to brewed coffee or baked goods.

Recipe from Skinnyfitalicious

Czech Heritage · Family Favorites · Holidays · Home · My Roots

Cherry Kolaches, our Christmas Day Tradition

The gifts are wrapped, the house is decorated, and the baking is done. This year I thought I’d take a break from making Kolaches for Christmas Day until I mentioned this to my family. WHAT? BREAKING FROM TRADITION? So, I will not break the tradition and made them today.  The truth is I love them as much as my daughters and their families.

This year I used my Mother’s Foundation sweet dough which she used for cinnamon rolls and Kolaches. My KitchenAid mixer makes easy work of making bread instead of taxing my arthritic wrists. The past several batches of bread I’ve made from standard flour have been too dense, so I decided to try King Arthur’s unbleached bread flour. I loved the result with a very light sweet dough that melts in your mouth.

The cherry filling started with a bucket of frozen sour cherries I purchased at the Farmer’s Market last summer. img_8562

There is nothing better than the taste of those cherries. Truly, I could eat a bowl of the cherry filling and forget the bread dough!

I also make a dozen chocolate kolaches which started as a request by one of son-in-laws, now a family favorite as well.  I simply put chocolate chips (or this year a dove milk chocolate square) in the middle of the dough ball and then pinch it closed.  Let it rise to double in size then bake. When you remove from the oven, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.

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Another tradition for our Christmas Day celebration is the Nordic Kringla.  Turns out Kringla is a big hit with my 3 year old grandson and 1 year old granddaughter.  My 6 week old grandson has yet to weigh in…but next year…

Wishing all a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful and healthy New Year!

CHERRY KOLACHES, our Christmas Day Tradition

Mom’s Foundation Sweet Dough

2 cakes (Packages) yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons shortening (I used unsalted butter)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6-7 cups flour (I used 6 cups King Arthur Bread Flour)
3 eggs, beaten

  • Dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in lukewarm water. Set aside to soften and rise.
  • Scald milk.  Add shortening, sugar and salt; cool to lukewarm. Add 2 cups flour to make a batter.  Add the yeast mixture and beaten eggs, and beat well.
  • Add remaining flour or enough to make a soft dough. Knead lightly and place in greased bowl. Cover and let set in warm place, free from draft.  Let rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
  • When light, punch dough down and shape in balls about the size of a walnut and place on a greased cookie sheet. Let rise for 10 minutes
  • When risen, push the centers of balls down and fill with cherry filling (or filling of your choice).  Let rise again.
  • Bake at preheated 400 degree oven (375 degrees for convectional oven) for about 7 minutes or until golden brown.

Cherry Filling
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup juice from cherries
3 cups pitted tart red cherries (water pack)
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon red food coloring

Combine 3/4 cup sugar with cornstarch.  Stir in cherry juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, till mixture thickens and bubbles; cook 1 minute longer.  Add remaining sugar, cherries, butter, and food coloring and cook until thickened. (Mixture will be very thick.)  Let stand while preparing bread dough for Kolaches.

Reference:

KOLACHE … Bohemian Heritage and Christmas Tradition

Holidays · Home

The Day After Christmas

Christmas decorations in Braga, Portugal.

The vision of the holidays brings about fond memories, warmth and good cheer. Once they are here, we all seem to hustle and bustle around, becoming too busy to really enjoy the season and remembering the ‘reason for the season’.

As I did my last minute shopping for groceries and gifts, it was easy to see the stress on the clerks faces as well as the faces of the shoppers.  It makes me sad. I, too, am guilty of being stressed over the holiday and it is all self-imposed.  The perfect Christmas newsletter must be produced (not so perfect this year!), cookies and candies to be made, gifts to be purchased and wrapped, menus planned, etc., etc ., etc.

As I look at the decorations in my house that need to come down and the beauty of the Christmas tree disappearing, I searched for a song about ‘after Christmas’ and discovered this great song by Matthew West.  It captures my sentiments and hope that you, too, will keep ‘The Light of the World’ in your heart all year long.

Advent wreath Русский: Рождественский венок Sl...
Advent wreath Русский: Рождественский венок Slovenčina: Adventný veniec (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Matthew West – Day After Christmas Lyrics

Artist: Matthew West

Album: The Heart Of Christmas

DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS

Here comes the letdown Christmas is over
Here comes the meltdown, there goes the cheer
But before we have a breakdown, let us remember
The light of the world is still here

Happy day after Christmas
And merry rest of the year
Even when Christmas is over
The light of the world is still here
The light of the world

Come January I’m ready for summer
The Super Bowl’s over and I’ll settle for spring
Sometimes we all need a change in the weather
But it won’t change the reason we sing

Happy day after Christmas
And merry rest of the year
Even when Christmas is over
The light of the world is still here

The light of the world
The light of the world
The light of the world

So take down the stockings, take back the sweaters
Take down the lights and the star and the tree
But don’t let this world take your joy after Christmas
Take joy to the world and just sing

Happy day after Christmas
And merry rest of the year
Even when Christmas is over
The light of the world is still here

Happy day after Christmas
And merry rest of the year
Even when Christmas is over
The light of the world is still here

The light of the world
The light of the world
The light of the world
The light of the world
The light of the world
The light of the world
The light of the world

Read more at http://www.songlyrics.com/matthew-west/day-after-christmas-lyrics/#DfXc2tXWkIsX00G1.99

Czech Heritage · Family · Family Favorites · Holidays

Chocolate Kolaches

Christmas morning without Kolaches is like the 4th of July without fireworks. Cherry Kolaches have always been my favorite and, until a few years ago, the only kind I ever made.  What to do when your new son-in-law doesn’t like cooked fruit? You can never go wrong with Chocolate.

Hershey's Chocolate Kisses
Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses

The first year I was a bit doubtful about the results but I was pleasantly surprised. I took a piece of dough, as I would for the cherry kolaches, but flatten in slightly, pressing 1-2 chocolate kisses in the dough, then pinching the dough closed around the chocolate.

Update January 2021:  I have made these every year but have graduated to a higher grade of chocolate, using Ghirardelli chocolate chips or squares.

Allow the dough to rise, per the recipe, and bake.  Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar when removing from the oven (optional).

See the original recipe on my Cherry Kolaches post.

Family Favorites · Holidays

Chocolate Dipped Pretzel Rods

There is something decadent about chocolate with something salty. Chocolate dipped pretzels are a favorite of mine and last Christmas I made Chocolate Dipped Pretzels Rods in white chocolate and with dark chocolate to give as gifts. Ahem…except for those that didn’t make it past my mouth!

CHOCOLATE DIPPED PRETZEL RODS

White Chocolate Chips
Dark Chocolate Chips
Pretzel Rods
Sugars and Sprinkles

  • Spread waxed paper on cookie sheets.
  • Melt chocolate  per instructions in microwave and pour melted chocolate into cup for dipping (makes about the right depth on the pretzel rods).
  • Over a separate plate or bowl, sprinkle the pretzel rods with sugar or sprinkles and place on waxed paper to harden.
  • Place pretzel rods in pretty tin or cello bag to give as gifts.

 

Family · Family Favorites

Christmas Memories 2013

The hustle bustle of Christmas is over.  The decorations are still brightly shining and the memories are precious. To share but a few…

Big BAD Joe after he ate all of the Christmas Cookies (not so precious):

IMG_3372

Grandson Evan posing in front of the Christmas Tree (but terrified of my new Canon DSLR camera):

IMG_0010

Evan with Santa

evan and santa 2013

Believe, it or not, Evan really isn’t into crying unless he is scared so, just for the record, here’s a picture of the true Evan, happy and fun!

IMG_2013_12_25_0157

Family photos taken September 2013 finally delivered by the photographer after our Christmas Cards and Newsletters were sent:

Family horizontal 1

Our family is blessed and we enjoyed spending time together. Now, on to 2014 and the adventures of a new year.

AULD LANG SYNE

Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?

CHORUS:

For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Family · Family Favorites · Holidays · New Traditions

Christmas Crockpot Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate and the holidays just go hand-in-hand.  That warm cozy feeling in your tummy while gathered around the fire or Christmas tree with loved ones is what Christmas is all about.

Christmas Fireplace
Christmas Fireplace (Photo credit: rockinpaddy)

Daughter, Sarah, requested that we try this recipe for Christmas morning 2012 and it was delicious.  It took a little longer to heat in the crock pot so allow plenty of time for it to warm to serving temperature.

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas!

CHRISTMAS CROCK POT HOT CHOCOLATE

1.5 cups heavy cream
1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz.)
2 cups milk chocolate chips
6 cups milk (I used 1%)
1 tsp. vanilla
mini marshmallows

  • Stir together the whipping cream, milk, vanilla, and chocolate chips in a crock pot.
  • Cover and cook on low for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until mixture is hot and chocolate chips are melted.
  • Stir again before serving. Garnish as desired.

adapted from mrshappyhomemaker.com

Holidays

Peppermint Candy

Every Christmas, for many years, we have made Cinnamon Hard Candy.  I’ve often wondered how Peppermint hard candy would taste and it is also very good.  My girls are freaked out by the blue color but you could also make it without any food coloring if you are smurf-adverse.

PEPPERMINT HARD CANDY

1 cup white sugar
1 cup Karo syrup
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon peppermint oil (usually behind the prescription counter at your grocery store)
1/4 teaspoon blue food coloring                                                                   powdered sugar

  • Combine sugar, syrup and water in a sauce pan.
  • Boil without stirring, over medium-high heat until it reaches hard crack stage (300-310 degrees).
  • Once the candy starts to thicken and turn golden brown, watch carefully or it can scorch.
  • When done, remove from heat and quickly add peppermint oil and food coloring.
  • Pour into a metal pan that has been lined with about 1/4 to 1/3″ powdered sugar.
  • Sprinkle powdered sugar on top of candy immediately. Let cool until the edges start to firm up and then immediately begin to score the pieces from around the edges and keep cutting inward, in squares, as the candy hardens.  This makes it easier to break into more uniform pieces once the candy has hardened.