Monday, December 31, 2012

Best of...?

I'm not one of those bloggers who likes to publish a "Best of..." post at the end of the year.

I figure if you want to spend your last few hours of 2012 looking at my humble little blog, then by all means, go for it.  But you'll have to dig around on your own.   I'm not going to tell you which posts are the "best".  If you really want to know, there's a widget over there --------> that shows which of my posts have been viewed the most.

On the other hand, if you're like most folks, you aren't even reading this message.  You're off partying with friends or playing board games with your kids or listening to a radio countdown or watching a ball drop on TV.  Which is as it should be, I think.  I'm headed that way myself.

Enjoy yourself tonight.  Enjoy your family and friends.  Have fun.  Stay safe.

I'll see you next year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Bi-Monthly Book Look - November/December

I did it, but barely.  I read the 26 books I set out to read this year. 

I was able to finish six books - five novels and one non-fiction -  in November and December:

The Flame Alphabet - Ben Marcus
My Rating: 1 out of 5.

I had high hopes of enjoying this book after reading the jacket flap.  Adults were becoming ill, sometimes fatally so, from the sounds of children's speech.  It seemed like such an interesting, if far-fetched premise, and the type of sci-fi/suspense story I could really get into.  Umm...not so much.  The plot was weak, and there was a Jewish sub-text that didn't seem to have any relevance to the story. I should have ditched this book early on, but I kept reading in hopes of find out why the adults were affected by communication with their children. Unfortunately, I felt as lost at the end as I did at the beginning.  

The Giver - Lois Lowry
My Rating: 4 out of 5.

Gathering Blue - Lois Lowry
My Rating: 4 out of 5.

Messenger - Lois Lowry
My Rating: 4 out of 5.

Son - Lois Lowry
My Rating:  4 out of 5.

I've read more young adult fiction this year than I have since I was a preteen.  This series of four novels was recommended by Kat's mom after I read the Hunger Games series. 

This series consists of three unrelated villages, the third being a haven for those who can escape the first two (as well as other) dystopian societies.  By the fourth novel, the connections between the characters from the different villages is made known.

Like Hunger Games, there are some disturbing premises in these stories.  Unlike Hunger Games, there is very little violence involved.  There are some supernatural elements involved, but if looked at symbolically rather than literally, they don't seem to detract from the plot.

The books, the first of which is a Newberry Medal winner, are well-written and suitable for 'tweens, teens and adults alike.

The Battle of Westport: Missouri's Great Confederate Raid - Paul Kirkman
My Rating: 2 out of 5

I am not a Civil War buff, but The Battle of Westport and surrounding events is of interest to me for its local history.  Unfortunately, this book was hard to follow.  The author seemed to be "all over the place", and I was often confused about who was fighting for the North, who for the South, whether they were in Missouri or Kansas at any given time, etc.  Many of the players' names were the same or similar, but the author would use full names here, only surnames there, until I couldn't decipher who was being written about at times.

I do think an account of this battle is worth my time to read, but I will first seek out a book that is less confusing.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Pork Chops in Onion-Mushroom Gravy

In the interest of cooking "real food" and trying to get away from most processed foods, I've revamped a family-favorite recipe here. This is something I used to make with condensed cream of mushroom soup and dry onion soup mix. Now I use fresh mushrooms, fresh dairy, and fresh onions. It only takes a few minutes longer to make, and in my opinion, tastes better.

Pork Chops In Onion-Mushroom Gravy

Bacon grease or oil of choice
4 pork chops, boneless or bone-in, trimmed of fat
1 medium onion, diced
4 ounces (half a carton) button mushrooms, sliced or chopped
3 Tablespoons flour
2 cups meat stock (I used pork, but could use beef or even chicken)
1/2 cup half and half
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 300°F.

In a large skillet (preferrably oven-proof), heat 2 tablespoons of bacon grease, then brown all chops on both sides.  Remove chops to plate and keep warm

In same skillet, add additional bacon grease if needed, then saute chopped onions and mushrooms until onions are tender, about 5-7 minutes.

Stir in flour and cook for about 1 minute, adding small amount of additional bacon grease if needed.  Whisk in meat stock and half-and-half.  Cook, stirring constantly, for 3 to 5 minutes until gravy thicken and flour loses raw taste.  Season as desired with salt and pepper.

Return chops to skillet or transfer to an oven-safe baking dish.  Pour or spoon gravy over top.  Cover skillet with lid or baking dish with foil. 

Bake for 75 to 90 minutes or until chops are very tender.  If gravy is too thin after cooking, thicken further with a cornstarch or arrowroot slurry.

Serves 4.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Day After

What a week! 

When I signed off last Tuesday, Kat was missing her second day of school because she was sick.  We found out on Wednesday she had bronchitis, and she ended up missing school all week.

My Facebook followers already know this, but for those who don't, on Wednesday night we had a small smoldering fire in our attic.  It's a long story, but the short of it is that it happened when we threw a breaker and tried to get our power back on, so we found it quickly and there was no damage.  Our fire department was able to extinguish it with a portable water sprayer, so there wasn't even any water damage.  It was caused by a bare wire in our attic, which has since been replaced by an electrician and inspected by our city codes department.  In the near future (early January?) we'll have the electricians back out to update all the wiring in the house to prevent future mishaps.

A hole burned in a rafter, about the size of a softball. 
You can see the bare wire just to the left.

One thing I'd like to say about the fire is that, although we had a good deal more time to evacuate than we would have had the fire been blazing, the idea of grabbing photos, keepsakes, etc., did not even cross my mind or Shane's.  Kat had just gone to bed, so we woke her and got her into coat and shoes and out the door.  Shane grabbed our laptop computers for no other reason than they were easily at hand and he thought it might make dealing with banks, insurance, etc., easier if we did incur a loss.  We each grabbed our phones, wallets and keys, and we each moved a vehicle out of our driveway and into the driveways of some vacant homes on our street.  That was it.  To get anything else out simply didn't occur to us.

Now, you might be wondering what we did about the cats.  We love our cats, but we did not bring them out of the house with us.  Again, this was a smoldering fire, and while we were taking precautions and not trying to extinguish it ourselves in the dark, we did not feel as if the entire house was going to go up in flames.  Our three indoor cats have never been outside, and in this case, we felt they were safer staying inside for the firefighters to rescue if it came to that. 

Thursday was spent dealing with electricians, inspectors, and insurance adjusters (by the way, no claim was required), a sick child, and a grown child with a stalled car in the seasons first snow-fall of the year.  It was a beautiful day. (sarcasm)

Friday evening, with Kat showing signs of improvement, we spent a short time at our friends' house for a small Christmas party.  Saturday we returned to the same friends' house for a cookie exchange and brought home more cookies than we'll eat in a month!

Sunday was Christmas on my side of the family, at my Dad's house.  We met my 80-year-old dad's new "girlfriend", feasted on ham and other good food, and played a gift exchange game.  The party-poopers in my family far outnumber the partiers, so no one was too disappointed when Dad said it was the last big Christmas gathering he would host.  Also -- my next-older sister patted my somewhat jiggly tummy and asked me if I'm pregnant.  Oddly, she remained standing.

Monday was a great day (no sarcasm this time).  We enjoyed breakfast out with Shane's dad and step-mom, and did a little shopping on our way home.  Hitting the stores on Christmas Eve isn't bad when you aren't buying Christmas gifts; we were just buying a few things we needed for home.  Breakfast held us over for the day, then we had an early dinner out with my daughter T and her husband M at a Chinese buffet restaurant.  We weren't the only ones with a good idea - the place was packed and the food was delicious, especially the sushi.  M somehow ended up with three fortunes that night, although he only had the one cookie.  Fortunate, indeed!

Yesterday, of course, was the big day!  Kat seemed thrilled with the gifts we (and Santa) gave her. 

Queen Anne's Revenge!
TARDIS socks!

Shane and I don't exchange gifts, but we do fill stockings for each other and help Kat get one gift for each of us.  I was very happy to get 4 skeins of sock yarn, a yarn cannister, a portable craft lamp and a couple of pairs of warm fuzzy socks.  I made a ham and egg pizza for breakfast, and for lunch I literally pulled odds and ends from the fridge to snack on.  We all sat around watching Kat play or playing with her, watching funny videos on Youtube, and relaxing in general.  It was a very low key day that suited us all just fine.

And now...I hope to get back into some daily routines, sans holidays, illnesses and near-disasters.  Washing dishes and doing laundry sounds good to me. 

Ordinary is the order of the day.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Happy Holidays To All!

With a very full social calendar beginning Thursday, and a very sick Kat beginning yesterday, I've decided I'm going to take a break from blogging until after the holiday is over.

I wish a very Merry Christmas to those who celebrate, and a wonderful week to everyone, regardless of what or when you celebrate.

I'll see you on the 26th!

Monday, December 17, 2012

And I Thought Memory Was The First Thing To Go

Yep, that's me.  Yesterday was my birthday and I turned 49. Now, I didn't know this, but when you turn 49, you lose all ability to make decisions

Shane asked me what I wanted to do yesterday, but I couldn't decide

I sat with my recipes in front of me (aka, Pinterest) and considered what to make for dinner, but I couldn't decide.

When I asked Shane what we should do about lunch, and he bounced it back to me with "It's your birthday, what do YOU want to do for lunch?", I didn't know whether to laugh, scream, cry or strangle him.  Not only couldn't I decide about lunch, but I couldn't even decide how to feel.
Yep, it was one of those days.  I finally asked him to please take over because I didn't know what the hell I wanted other than to not have to make decisions.

So, in the end, we stayed home all day in our jammies, ate chicken soup for lunch and I made meatloaf for supper.  Turned out to be a pretty good birthday after all

And, you know, I'm feeling much more decisive this morning.  Today I'm going to make cookies.  Definitely cookies, or maybe I'll make fudge.  Some brownies might be nice instead...

Friday, December 14, 2012

Friday Foto Fest with Random Ramblings

I caught Siesta drinking water from Shane's glass and trampling his blueprints.

Up On The Rooftop.

Shirt-sleeve weather on Dec. 1 and 2 was perfect weather
for hanging Christmas lights...

and waving to me while hanging on for dear life.

Blurry, but I like it!

End result.  The white blobs in front and center are deer.

New, thinner tree fits our room much better. 
Blob in front and center is Siesta.

Purple and gold.  We unintentionally picked our school colors.
Some days, all you can do is sleep...

or scowl.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12 Treats of Christmas - Day 12 - Easy Cheese Stick "Eggrolls"

Last, but not least, of the 12 Treats of Christmas is this repeat of a recipe I posted in October, but it's just perfect for holiday parties or at-home snacking.

Easy Cheese Stick "Eggrolls"
1 package string cheese (16 oz. = 16 pieces, usually)
1 package wonton or egg roll wrappers
Peanut oil or other oil for deep frying

Heat oil in a deep fryer to 375°F.

While oil is heating, remove wrapper from string cheese pieces.  If using egg roll wrappers, you will need one wrapper per piece of cheese.  If using wonton wrappers, you will need to cut each cheese stick into thirds crosswise and use three wrappers.

Wrap each piece of cheese "burrito-style" by placing a single wrapper in front of you with a point toward you.  Place piece of cheese across the wrapper near the center.  Fold the point nearest you up and over the cheese, but a 1/2-inch or so below the top point.  Brush exposed edges of wrapper with water.  Fold in side points, then roll cheese toward top point, pressing to seal all edges.  Set aside and cover with a barely-damp paper towel while rolling remaining cheese sticks.

Deep fry appetizers in batches in hot oil until wrappers are golden brown and bubbly.  Drain on paper towels and cool slightly before serving.

Alternately, place rolled appetizers on a lined baking sheet and bake 375°F degrees until golden brown, turning once to brown on all sides.  Let cool slightly before serving.

(BTW, I think I first saw this recipe somewhere on Pinterest, but I don't see it on my boards now, so I don't know who should get credit.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

12 Treats of Christmas - Day 11 - Bubbly Cranberry Punch

Bubbly Cranberry Punch

2 (15-oz.) cans jelled cranberry sauce
1 cup orange juice
1 cup lemonade
2 liters ginger ale
ice cubes

In a large pitcher or punch bowl, whisk cranberry sauce until smooth. Stir in orange juice and lemonade until well combined. Chill this mixture until just before you are ready to serve the punch.

At serving time, slowly pour in ginger ale. Stir gently, then add ice cubes as desired.

Makes about 3 quarts of punch.

Monday, December 10, 2012

12 Treats of Christmas - Day 10 - Easy Wintertime Salsa

I call this Wintertime Salsa because it's an easy salsa to make in the winter, when garden fresh tomatoes and peppers might not be available. It uses canned and dried ingredients, but still has a fresh taste compared to grocery store salsa sold in a jar.

Annie's Easy Wintertime Salsa

2 14.5-ounce cans stewed tomatoes, with juices (use home-canned if you have it)
8 slices of pickled jalapenos (use less for a milder salsa)
2 tablespoons of the juices from the pickled jalapenos (use less or omit for milder salsa)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon bottled lime juice
2 teaspoons dried cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Set one can of stewed tomatoes aside.

In a blender or food processor, combine remaining ingredients and process until fairly smooth.

Add reserved can of tomatoes and process (or use pulse setting) for approximately 1 second at a time, repeating 4-5 times, until tomatoes are blended in, but still slightly chunky.

Pour into a bowl and serve at room temperature or chill, if desired.

Makes approx. 1 quart of salsa.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

12 Treats of Christmas - Day 9 - Cherry Chocolate Malt Cupcakes

I originally made these for Kat's birthday in July of 2011, but they are so festive looking, I knew I needed to include them in the 12 Treats of Christmas!

These cupcakes are dense and fudge-y, more like a brownie than a cake.

Cherry Chocolate Malt Cupcakes


1 stick (8 Tbs) softened unsalted butter
1/2 cup Hershey's semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup cherry preserves (I blended in food processor to make a smooth consistency)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup chocolate malt powder
pinch of salt (I omitted because I used salted butter)
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour (I used 1/2 cup all-purpose white, 1/2 cup white whole wheat)

Frosting (big batch; you could make half...better if made the day before)

3-1/2 sticks butter, softened
2/3 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt - only if using unsalted butter
1 teaspoon corn syrup (can omit)
2 pounds (approx. 6-1/4 cups) powdered sugar
1/4 cup water

1 (5 oz.) package of malt balls (Whoppers), crushed, for garnish
12 whole maraschino cherries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pan with cupcake liners.

Put the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan on the heat to melt. When nearly melted, stir in the chocolate. Leave for a moment to soften, then take the pan off the heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the butter and chocolate are smooth and melted. Now add the cherry jam, sugar, salt and beaten eggs. Stir with a wooden spoon and when all is pretty well combined stir in the flour.

Scrape and pour into the muffin papers in cupcake pan and bake for 25-28 minutes, or until toothpick test comes our clean. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out.

To make frosting, cream together butter, cocoa, vanilla, salt, and corn syrup.  Slowly mix in powdered sugar.  Add water to desired consistency.  Frosting will be a very light brown, but will darken by the next day.  It will also have a more pronounced chocolate flavor the next day.

When the cupcakes are cool, pipe icing on cooled cupcakes using a large star tip.  Sprinkle with crushed malt balls and top each cupcake with a cherry.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

12 Treats of Christmas - Day 8 - Pineapple Smoked Sausage Bites

Sweet, sour and salty combined in one tasty treat!

Pineapple Smoked Sausage Bites

1 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tablespoons flour
2 teaspoons ground mustard
1 cup pineapple juice
1/2 cup white vinegar
1-1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 pounds miniature smoked sausages

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, flour and mustard. Gradually stir in the pineapple juice, vinegar and soy sauce.

Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat; cook an stir for 2 minutes or until thickened.

Add sausages; stir to coat. Cook, uncovered for 5 minutes or until heated through. Serve warm.

Makes about 8 dozen sausages.

Friday, December 7, 2012

12 Treats of Christmas - Day 7 - Mocha Chocolate Thumbprints

Coffee and chocolate ganache.  The perfect combination!

Mocha Chocolate Thumbprints

3 c. flour
2/3 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. sugar
3/4 c. butter, softened
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp baking powder
2 tbsp instant coffee -- I used two Starbucks Via sticks
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 c. cocoa
1/4 c. milk

Heat oven to 350°F. 

Cream sugars and butter together, then add eggs.  Add cocoa, coffee, salt and baking powder, then flour; add milk to moisten.

Cover dough and chill for 1 hour to overnight  (I didn't, and they turned out fine, but the dough might be more manageable if you do.) 

Roll into 1-inch balls and then make an indentation with either your thumb or rounded side of a teaspoon after laying them on your parchment covered cookie sheet. 

Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes; transfer to a cooling rack and make certain they are fully cooled before adding topping.

For the ganache: 

6 to 7 ounces milk chocolate chips
4 to 6 tbsp heavy cream (I used evaporated milk)

Place chips in a microwave safe bowl; microwave at 50% power for 2-4 minutes (depending on your microwave).  Stir chips and add 4 tbsp heavy cream.  If the mixture seizes, add 2 more tablespoons on top and microwave for another 1-2 minutes and stir until smooth.  It should be about the consistency of pudding

Add a heaping teaspoon full on top of each cookie and allow to solidify before freezing or storing.  Sprinkle with white nonpariels, if desired.

Makes 4 dozen cookies.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

12 Treats of Christmas - Day 6 - Flaky Sausage Foldovers

Here's another great appetizer to take to a potluck or to enjoy at home.

Flaky Sausage Foldovers

1/2 pound pork breakfast sausage (regular or hot)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 15-oz can or jar of pizza sauce
1 pkg. refrigerated pie crusts, near room temperature
1 egg, beaten

Heat oven to 425°F. Brown sausage in small skillet; drain well. Stir in garlic powder. Add 1/4 cup of the pizza sauce; mix well.

Unfold 1 pie crust. With rolling pin, roll into 13-inch round. With 3-inch cutter, cut 11 rounds*. Repeat with second pie crust

Spoon about 1 teaspoon sausage mixture onto each round. Fold each in half; seal edges with fork or fingers. Cut slit in top of each with sharp knife. Place on ungreased (or parchment-lined) cookie sheet. Brush each foldover with beaten egg.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden. Meanwhile, heat remaining pizza sauce in small pan until hot. Serve warm appetizers with warm pizza sauce for dipping.

Makes 22 appetizers. *

Source: Pillsbury Holiday Appetizers and Desserts December 2003

* I was able to get 20 rounds from each crust and had plenty of filling for a total of 40 appetizers.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

12 Treats of Christmas - Day 5 - Crockpot Peanut Clusters

Candy doesn't get any easier - or tastier - than this!

Crock-Pot Peanut Clusters

One 12-oz. bag (2 cups) white chocolate chips
One 12-oz. bag (2 cups) milk chocolate chips
One 12-oz. bag (2 cups) semi-sweet chocolate chips
One 16-oz. jar (3 cups) salted dry roasted peanuts (the salt really adds to this recipe)

Combine all ingredients in Crock-Pot set on LOW.  Stir frequently until all chips melt and peanuts are evenly coated.  While you don't have to stir constantly, do stir the mixture often so that it doesn't burn around the edges of the Crock-Pot.  If your slow cooker has a KEEP WARM setting, use that after the chips have all melted and while you are spooning the candy out.

Spoon candy into miniature muffin tins lined with decorative mini muffin papers.  Alternately, drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper or parchment paper.  Store in a cool place (or the fridge) until candy is firm.

Makes about 50 peanut clusters.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

12 Treats of Christmas - Day 4 - Brew Pub Pretzels

These are great to take to a party or to enjoy as an evening snack at home.

Brew Pub Pretzels

3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
4 teaspoons cooking oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 quarts boiling water
2 teaspoons water
1 egg white
1 T. water
Coarse salt
8 ounces shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup strong ale or beer
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds or caraway seeds (optional)
Dash black pepper

In a large mixer bowl, combine milk, sugar and yeast. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, oil and flour. Combine well. Using dough hook attachment, knead until dough is soft and elastic.

Place dough in oiled bowl and cover with a towel. Let rise until dough has doubled in size. Punch down.

Heat oven to 475°F. Grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper; set aside. Roll dough into a 10x6-inch rectangle; cut lengthwise into twelve 1/2-inch strips. Roll each strip into a rope about 16 inches long (I recommend at least 20 inches long). Shape each rope into a pretzel.

Place pretzels 1/2 inch apart on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 4 minutes. Remove from oven. Reduce heat to 350°F.

Dissolve the 2 teaspoons salt in boiling water; reduce heat to simmer. Slide pretzels, a few at a time, into water and simmer, uncovered, for 2 minutes, turning once. Using a slotted spoon, remove from water; drain on a wire rack. Place 1/2 inch apart on well-greased (or parchment lined) baking sheet.

In a small bowl, beat egg white with 1 Tablespoon water. Brush pretzels with egg white mixture; sprinkle lightly with coarse salt. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to wire racks; cool slightly.

Meanwhile, in a medium saucepan combine process cheese spread, ale, celery seeds and black pepper. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until cheese is melted. Serve with pretzels.

Makes 12 pretzels.

Monday, December 3, 2012

12 Treats of Christmas - Day 3 - Old-Fashioned Black Walnut Cookies

To me, nothing brings to mind an old-fashioned Christmas better than the taste black walnuts, in fudge or in these cookies. These cookies are a little "fussy", so I highly recommend following these tips:
  • Don't try these without parchment paper, or maybe a Silpat, on your cookie sheet. I really don't think they'd come off any pan, even a non-stick one, without parchment or a Silpat.
  • After combining all the ingredients, let the batter rest for about 10 minutes. It will get lighter and foamier and not spread so much on the cookie sheet. It also seemed to make the cookies easier to remove from the parchment.
  • As with most cookies, don't put the batter on a warm pan. If you have only one or two pans, let them cool between bakings.
  • Finally, keep your eyes on these. One pan came out beautifully at 10 minutes, but the next, also at 10 minutes, were a little over-baked.

Black Walnut Cookies

2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups chopped black walnuts

Heat oven to 375°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. (My addition.)

Beat brown sugar and eggs in large bowl until light and fluffy.

Stir together flour, salt and baking powder, then beat into egg mixture.

Stir in black walnuts. Batter will be very thin, like pancake batter. Let batter rest for 10 minutes until light and foamy. (My addition.)

Pour about 1/8th cup of batter (I used a small ice cream/cookie scoop) onto parchment lined cookie sheets, keeping batter 2-3" apart.

Bake at 375°F for 8-12 minutes, depending on your oven, until just lightly browned. Watch these carefully because once they start to brown, they brown very quickly.

Transfer cookies, still on parchment paper, to cooling rack. Let cool completely before removing from parchment (you may have to peel it from the bottom of the cookies.)

Store in an air-tight container.

Makes 3-4 dozen.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

12 Treats of Christmas - Day 2 - White Rotel Dip

Shane is no lover of Velveeta. Aside from the fact that it is an extremely processed "food", he just doesn't like the flavor or texture. Instead, we make our Rotel Dip with cream cheese.

White Rotel Dip

1 8-ounce bar of cream cheese (or equivalent homemade cream, yogurt or kefir cheese)
1 can Rotel or similar diced tomatoes with chiles, as hot or mild as you like (or home canned)
1/2 pound pork breakfast sausage, crumbled, cooked and drained
diced tomatoes for garnish

In medium saucepan over low to medium heat, combine cheese, Rotel and sausage.  Heat and stir until mixture is smooth.

Spoon into serving dish; garnish with diced tomatoes if desired.

Makes about 2 cups.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

12 Treats of Christmas - Day 1 - Chewy Chocolate Cluster Candy

Welcome to the Haphazard Homestead's 12 Treats of Christmas!  For the next dozen days, I'll be featuring some tried and true recipes for holiday treats, both sweet and savory.

Credit for the first treat goes to Mennonite Girls Can Cook, where I originally found the recipe.

Chewy Chocolate Clusters

1 12-oz pkg. chocolate chips
2/3 cups butter
1 bag marshmallows (large or mini)
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups crisp rice cereal
1 cup shredded coconut

Melt chocolate chips, and butter over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until smooth. Add marshmallows; stir until melted and smooth.

Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla, then add cereal and coconut until dry ingredients are well-coated.

Drop by spoonfuls (or use a small ice cream scoop) onto a cookie sheet or on to waxed paper.

Roll in additional coconut if desired.

Chill until set.

Makes 4-6 dozen, depending on size.
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