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

Family · Holidays · Home

Generations of Mother’s Day Sentiments

Mother’s Day holds a special place in our hearts that grows each and every year. This Mother’s Day I ventured down Memory Lane reading sentiments shared through the generations and, again, realized the love we hold for Mother’s is so very dear. How I miss my Mother and wish I could hug her and talk with her one more time.

My Mother often expressed her feelings in poetry and I found a poem she wrote in 1956 about her sweet Mother, Susie:

Cathy 006

HOW WELL I DO REMEMBER

By Betty Gaunt Smaha

How well I do remember
My Mother sweet and fair,
Who was the first to hold me
And utter a thanks in prayer.

She taught me first to sit up straight
Then baby words to talk,
She gently led me around the room
Until I learned to walk.

She sat me down upon her knee
And taught me how to say,
‘Now I lay me down to sleep’
So I’d know how to pray.

She also taught me how to love
My sisters and my brothers,
To share my toys and not complain
Twas a trying time for Mother.

She proudly sent me off to school
With a smile upon her face,
And assured us all twas well
As off to school we’d race.

She could look at me and always smile
With a twinkle in her eyes,
She loved me in a clean starched dress
Or knee deep in mud pies.

As years passed by and I left home
Mother silently shed some tears,
For she wanted just my happiness
For the many coming years.

But now I am a Mother
With children of my own,
But ‘Mother’s Day’ is special
For that dear sweet Mom back home.
—————————
Most of my childhood drawings and cards are long gone, but one card survived.  I only wish I had inherited my Mother’s poetry gene.

Mother’s Day card to my Mother about 1958 (age 5)

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There is nothing more precious that the hand-made cards from the girls through the years. I’ve saved many of their cards and drawings and want to share two of my favorites.

Mother’s Day card from my daughter, Sarah

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Mother’s Day Poem from Daughter, Megan

Mothers Day Poem from Megan 1995

To Mother’s everywhere, have a wonderful Mother’s Day this weekend!

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

Family Favorites · Gluten Free · New Traditions · Vegan · Vegetarian

Spiced Pecans…favorite of the Holidays

Spiced Pecans are a family and gift tradition started a few years ago. I do not remember where the recipe came from, but it is an all-time favorite. It makes a great gift for friends and family and a nice change from the traditional sweets of the holidays. Spiced Pecans can be made early in December and given throughout the holidays. I typically triple the recipe and make several batches.  Enjoy!

IMG_3676 IMG_3682

SPICED PECANS

2 cups pecans

SPICE MIX:
2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

GLAZE:
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast pecans on a baking sheet for 6 minutes.
  • Stir together the spice mix in a small bowl.
  • In a saucepan, combine the glaze ingredients. Bring glaze to boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Stir in toasted nuts and continue to stir until all the nuts are shiny and the liquid is gone (1-2 minutes).
  • Place glazed nuts in a bowl, sprinkle on the spice mix, and toss well to coat. Spread the coated nuts on a cookie sheet and return them to the oven for another 4 minutes.
  • Remove and cool.

Yield: 2 cups

Family · Holidays · Home · Humor

Aunts and Uncles…storytelling…treasures of the family

Aunts and Uncles are a bit like Grandparents.  They get to spoil the nieces and nephews, shower them with affection and love, and leave when they are amped up on sugar and fun.  It’s a good gig! I was an Aunt at age 7 and grew up with my niece and two nephews. It was wonderful having playmates and helping out my older sister and brother. A highlight of every year was when they came to stay with us and go to Bible School at the rural Carlton Brethren Church, a half mile from our house. There were sticker charts, ice cream, indoor picnics, dress-up (sorry Jeff and Duane), and so many stories!

Aunt Cathy and Sherri
Aunt Cathy and Sherri

sherri duane and jeff christmas about 1969

After college I moved out-of-state and was always sad not to be closer to my family but treasured each of the visits back to see everyone. I was very fortunate to have wonderful Aunts and Uncles as well.  Not all of them lived close but my siblings and I always knew we were loved with the hugs/kisses that went with their visits.

At this state of my life, I have 3 Aunts and 1 Uncle.  Uncle Jack will be 90 this month and planning a big celebration.  Aunt Joyce (Jack’s wife) turned 86 in February. Aunt Lora (also my Mother’s BFF in school) turned 94 this year. Aunt Wilma will turn 100 next June.  From these wonderful people I learned the importance of family/loyalty, laughter, music, traditional dishes prepared for holidays and family gatherings.

Several years ago, when camcorders were new to the market, we traveled to Iowa with our newborn daughter to celebrate Christmas.  Christmas Eve day several of my family members were visiting at my Mother’s House.

Cathy and Uncle Jack
Cathy and Uncle Jack

We turned on the camcorder asked our family members ‘what is your favorite Christmas memory?’  I tear up just thinking about it.  The heart-warming, loving, funny, and sarcastic stories were great at the time but are true treasures now.

Stories
Stories (Photo credit: Enokson)

This holiday season let’s spend our time BEING PRESENT and sharing stories for our children and grandchildren to treasure.   Break out the smart phone and make a video, perhaps the best PRESENT of the season!

What’s your story?

New Favorite

Cranberry Bars…perfect for your Valentine!

Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars are daughter Sarah’s favorite holiday treat. When she was a teenager I bought her a pan of Cranberry Bliss Bars for her November birthday and she was ‘WOW’d’. Before Christmas this year she was very depressed that Starbucks/Denver had sold out of Cranberry Bliss Bars and, being pregnant, she had cravings that we needed to fill.

 

Sarah found this recipe on Pinterest and we made them for the holidays. They were delicious and very close to what we experience at Starbuck’s.  Perhaps this will become a new Valentine’s tradition in our house and in yours.   XOXOXOXOX

CRANBERRY BARS

BLONDIE LAYER:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cranberries
6 ounces white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped

FROSTING:
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
6 ounces white baking chocolate, melted
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13×9-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
  • Prepare the blondie layer: In a medium bowl, melt butter for one minute in the microwave; stir in brown sugar. Scrape the butter & sugar into a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Use an electric mixer to beat in the eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; gradually add the dry mixture to the butter mixture. Stir in the cranberries and chopped chocolate (the batter will be thick).
  • Spread the blondie batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 18-21 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean (do not overbake). Cool completely on a wire rack.
  • Prepare the frosting: In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar until well-blended. Gradually add half of the melted white chocolate; beat until blended. Frost brownies. Sprinkle with cranberries. Drizzle with remaining melted white chocolate. Cut into bars- square or triangle-shaped. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Tips:

*If you’d like to add an orange flavor to these bars, add 1 tablespoon grated orange zest to the frosting.

Recipe from:  http://www.recipegirl.com/2011/11/14/cranberry-bliss-bars/

Family Favorites · My Roots

Sugar Cookies…for your special Valentine

This was my Mother’s favorite sugar cookie recipe.  She made them every Christmas and frequently during the year.  They are melt-in-your mouth yummy!

I decided this would be a wonderful Valentine’s treat to share with friends and family. The traditional chocolates would have been nice, but nothing beats homemade cookies!

Wishing you a Valentine’s Day full of love and friendships!

SOFT SUGAR COOKIES

2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups white sugar
2 cups margarine
4 eggs
2 cups vegetable oil
1 teaspoon lemon extract
3 teaspoons vanilla
8 cups flour
8 heaping tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

  • Mix sugars, margarine, eggs, oil, and extracts together until well blended.
  • Sift together flour, salt, baking soda, cream of tartar and nutmeg and add to sugar mixture. Blend well and mix with hands when it gets too stiff to continue with mixer.
  • Roll dough into balls the size of a walnut. Put on cookie sheet and press with a glass dipped in sugar or press with glass and sprinkle with colored sugar.
  • Bake at 350 degrees until very light brown, about 8-9 minutes. Do not leave until brown or overbake. Cool.
Fresh baked sugar cookies

These cookies freeze wonderfully. I have often made for the holidays and freeze.

Family Favorites · Holidays · My Roots

Fruit Bread your friends and family will beg for

Fruit Bread conjures up visions of old-fashioned fruit cake that is hard as a rock and entire communities have contests to see how far they can chuck the cake. NOT the case with this Fruit Bread recipe.  In fact, it is really a banana bread with chocolate chips and chopped cherries.  It makes a festive bread to give or to serve during the holidays.

This recipe originated with my Aunt Joyce.  When I was younger, she made it every Christmas and it quickly became a family, and personal tradition.  Each year I make several batches and give to family and friends.   I hope that you’ll try the bread and it will become one of your traditions!

FRUIT BREAD

Double or triple the recipe to make several loaves.

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour (plus 2 T. if baking at high altitude)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup mashed banana
1/2 cup maraschino cherries
1/4 cup chocolate chips

Cream butter & sugar. Add eggs & beat well.  Sift baking soda & flour; add to egg mixture alternatively with mashed bananas.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Pour into greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

New Traditions

Mini Red Peppers stuffed with herbed goat cheese

 

to die for!
Mini Peppers stuffed with herbed goat cheese

Recently I discovered this recipe on the bag of mini peppers I bought at Costco.  I’ve experimented with the recipe and love a variation of this recipe, combining goat cheese with the Savory Seasoning of Tarragon Shallot Citrus.   The sweetness of the red peppers combined with the goat cheese and citrus blend is scrumptious. When the peppers come out of the oven, you can also top with half of pecan (or walnut).  A very simple appetizer for your holiday parties.

Mini Red Peppers stuffed with herbed goat cheese

Mini Red Peppers
Softened goat cheese (or cream cheese)
1/4 cup snipped fresh herbs (chives, parsley, thyme, basil) or Savory Seasoning Tarragon Shallot Citrus Seasoning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Rinse red peppers and cut a slit down the side of the pepper.  Remove seeds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Combine softened cheese and herbs.  Place a heaping teaspoon of the goat cheese mixture in each pepper.  Bake for 20 minutes until peppers are soft-crisp and goat cheese is hot.
  • Optional: Serve with pecan or walnut half (or basil leaf) on each pepper.