Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How to Simplify Christmas


Christmas is just a few weeks away. Preparing for Christmas may seem like a mountainous task – decorating, shopping, wrapping, cooking, and baking!!!!! It can be an endless list of chores that can steal away your Christmas spirit if you let it. The two main culprits are time and money – you never have enough of these two things!

You need a Christmas Notebook! A Christmas Notebook will save you time and money by organizing your Christmas preparations. Buy a spiral notebook or a binder and some notebook paper. Print out the month of December and glue or tape on the first page. Fill in special dates, parties, and obligations as you receive them. You will use the next few pages of your notebook to make shopping lists.

1. Gift list. List the person’s name, gift ideas, and a price range. Leave a few spaces for revisions and fill in the final gift. Don’t forget the newspaper boy, garbage men, etc.

2. Decorations. Do you need to buy a Christmas tree, new lights, a wreath, extension cords, wrapping paper? Add to this list as you set up your decorations.

3. Food. What cookies, candies, and breads are you going to bake? Are you going to have a party or a special meal? Write out a preliminary menu. Pull out the recipes for these foods and store them in your notebook – you can make a copy or just tape them in. Make another list of special ingredients or staples you need to buy.

4. Entertainment. Are you having a party? What party supplies do you need to buy? Will you be attending a holiday show? Do you need to pay for tickets or meals out?

5. Cards and postage. Do you need to buy holiday cards and stamps? Do you need to mail packages?

6. Reservations. Are you traveling? Do you need to make plane reservation? Hotel reservations? Do you need to buy things for your trip?

7. Charities. What charities do you want to donate to this year?

After you have made these lists, you can budget your Christmas. Decide how much money you can spend on Christmas. The best way is to set aside some money for Christmas every month or an extra paycheck or two during the year. If you have not already done this you need to figure out how much money you can come up with using what you have, spare savings, credit cards, maybe even a part time job. On a new page, list the major categories of gifts, decorations, food, entertainment, cards and postage, charities, and travel expenses. Estimate your expenses for each category using your lists and adjust according to the total amount you want to spend. You may have to eliminate some items to make your budget work. Maybe you can make some gifts or reduce your gift or party list.
You can add chores, party and dinner plans, menus, phone lists, addresses, and just about anything else you need to remember. Everything you need to remember will be in one place.

This notebook can be used for several years by adding on more pages. Add recipes, Christmas ideas, crafts, and cutouts from magazines to your notebook. Take pictures of your decorations if you want to repeat them next year and might not be able to remember. Keep a record of the gifts you give so you don’t repeat them the next year. Make one page a list of gifts and decorations that you buy in the after Christmas sales so you know what you have already bought for the coming year.

Once you have something written down and a semi- plan in place you can forget about the hassles of Christmas and relax and enjoy the season!


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Fast and Easy Pumpkin Recipes


Thanksgiving is almost here and it is time to enjoy some pumpkin pie with whipped cream topping and a delicious cup of rich, fragrant coffee. What a way to end a meal!!! I have several fast and easy pumpkin recipes which are also low in fat. Here are some of my favorite pumpkin recipes:

Pumpkin Pie Dip
1 (15 ounce) canned pumpkin (or 2 cups fresh pureed)
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
2 cups 10x confectioners sugar
4 ounces cool whip

Using an electric mixer on low speed, blend the pumpkin and cream cheese until smooth.
Add pumpkin pie spice and confectioners sugar and blend with mixer until smooth and creamy.
Fold in the cool whip and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Serve with ginger snaps or cinnamon graham crackers.
(My daughter’s special recipe!!! Use low fat or fat free cream cheese for a low fat version.)

New Fashioned Pumpkin Pie
(from Pillsbury’s Healthy Baking)

Pastry for one-crust pie
Filling:
¾ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
½ teaspoon salt
1 - 16 ounce cans pumpkin (2cups)
1 – 12 ounce can evaporated skimmed milk (1 ½ cups)
½ cup frozen fat-free egg whites, slightly beaten
Topping:
1 cup frozen light whipped topping

Prepare piecrust or use frozen one for 9 inch pie.
Heat oven to 425 degrees. In large bowl, combine all filling ingredients and blend well. Pour into pastry-lined pie pan and carefully transfer to oven. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake an additional 40 – 50 minutes or until knife inserted comes out clean. Cool and refrigerate until serving time. Serve with whipped topping. Serves 8 -10.
This pie is low fat and healthy, easy to make, and tastes delicious!!!!


Pumpkin Bread

Sift together and set aside:
2 1/3 cups flour
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves

Mix together:
2 cups sugar
¼ cup oil
8 egg whites
½ cup water
1 cup pumpkin

Add dry ingredients to pumpkin mixture and blend. Pour into w greased loaf pan and bake for 45 – 55 minutes at 350 degrees.
This is a very simple, low fat bread recipe. They make great gifts, especially if you coat the pan with a sugar and cinnamon mixture after greasing. Just wrap in saran warp and tie a pretty bow around them.

Upside Down Pumpkin Pie

Layer 1 (Mix and pour into 9X13 cake pan)
1 - 29 ounce can pumpkin
2/3 cup sugar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger
14 ounces condensed milk
3 eggs

Layer 2 (sprinkle over layer 1)
1 cup chopped pecans

Layer 3
Cover layer 2 with 1 box dry yellow cake mix

Layer 4
Drizzle ¾ cup melted oleo over cake mix.

Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees. Cool, serve with whipped cream.
(Much easier than pumpkin pie and tastes great! Comes out of the oven a little liquidy but gets more solid as it cools!! This is not a low fat recipe!)

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Easy Fall Centerpiece



A cool, sunny fall afternoon is the perfect time to take a long, leisurely walk with your family. Appreciate nature by observing colorful leaves, watching squirrels gather nuts, and the bounty of pinecones, seed pods, and acorns. Collect pretty leaves, acorns, pinecones, nuts, seeds, twigs, and berries to bring inside and decorate your home for Thanksgiving.

Every fall I gather items from my walks and my yard and make a fall centerpiece for my dining room table. I change it every year. My kids love to help. They like to see something they have created decorating their home.


Here are the instructions for making an easy fall centerpiece of your own:

Easy Fall Centerpiece

Materials:
Glass cake stand or plate
Colorful fall leaves (Be sure to choose leaves that have not dried out yet.)
Nuts, pine cones, twigs, berries, acorns, buckeyes, dried seed pods or corn, cranberries,
Jar candle or votive candle in a glass jar

Instructions:
Line plate with leaves - stem side facing in. Fan out around edge of plate.
Place candle in center of plate.
Scatter a variety of nuts, pine cones, twigs, acorns, buckeyes, around candle.

Add cinnamon sticks, coffee beans, or dried apples if you want your centerpiece to have a lovely fall scent. I added cinnamon stick pieces, coffee beans, and a pumpkin scented candle. It smells like Thanksgiving dinner has already been cooked!!!.

Most of these items can be bought at a craft shop if you are unable to collect your own. It is fun to make your own arrangement.

Variations:
Center: Mini pumpkin, acorn squash, candles set in hole carved in mini pumpkin or squash, decorative candle
Outer: Substitute potpourri mixture for nut mixture.
You could also arrange an assortment of gourds on a bed of leaves.

Fall leaves are great decorations for your home. Fan some out around and under your dinner plates. Cut some branches of fall colored leaves and put in a vase. Hollow out a butternut squash or pumpkin and arrange some small branches of fall leaves or fall flowers for a small centerpiece. Fruit and vegetables are very good decorations. Make candle holders from hollowed out pumpkins, gourds, squash, and even apples. Fill mason jars with cranberries and set a candle in the center. Use washed and hollowed out peppers, squash, and pumpkins to hold dips.

Some of these items are flammable so be careful when burning candles.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Halloween Hangover or what do you do with all that letover Halloween candy?


Too much candy!!! What can you do with all that leftover Halloween candy? Here are 10 ideas:
1. Chop up chocolate candy bars and add to cookie, brownie, or cake batter.

2. Use leftovers to decorate a gingerbread house. An easy gingerbread house can be made from graham crackers and glue.

3. Make a Snack Mix such as 1. Gorp : Mix equal amounts of M&Ms, peanuts, and raisins or 2. equal amounts of candy corn and peanuts ( tastes like a payday).

4. Chop up and garnish pudding, ice cream, or frosted desserts.

5. Having a party in the near future? Save leftovers and use in a piƱata or treat bags.

6. Make a brownie pizza and decorate with candy leftovers.

7. Donate to a homeless shelter or nursing home.

8. Hang it on your Christmas tree or use it to make Christmas Tree Ornaments. You can make a train ornament by gluing a pack of lifesaver to the flat side of a pack of gun or a candy bar. Glue on peppermint or butterscotch candy for wheels. Glue a caramel on top of lifesavers for a cabin, a Hershey Kiss for a spout arranging paper streamer to look like steam and a Rolo for the engine front. Glue a ribbon to the top middle for hanging.

9. Make an Oreo cookie turkey for Thanksgiving:
Ingredients:

24 Oreo Double Stuff cookies
12 miniature peanut butter cups
12 malted milk balls
1 cup candy corn
4 ounces chocolate frosting
4 ounces white frosting
red food coloring

Assemble:
1.Place one Oreo cookie as the base. Put one teaspoon of chocolate frosting on top.
2. Place one small peanut butter cup on it's side so that the top and bottom are perpendicular to the base -- and stuck in the frosting. Place a teaspoon of chocolate frosting on the top(widest part) of the p-butter cup.
3. For the second cookie. Stick some candy corn into the oreo 'stuff' along one edge for the feathers -- pointy side down. They should fan out around the edge. If you have trouble doing this, you can help them stick with some white frosting.
4. Place this second oreo cookie (the tail) on it's edge and sticking to a dab of brown frosting on the back of the peanut butter cup.
5. Place a dab of chocolate frosting on top of the peanut butter up (for the head). Place a malted milk ball on top for the head.
6. Take a small amount of the white frosting in a separate dish. Mix in red food coloring.
7. Use a toothpick with the white and red colors to place eyes, and wattle. You can pinch off the small pointy top of a candy corn and dip it in brown frosting for the beak. This recipe and picture comes from Recipezaar.com.

10. Decorate a plain Christmas wreath by gluing on assorted candy and a pretty bow and hang on your front door.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Easy Baked Chicken Recipe

My husband hates cheese. This is a problem for me when I am trying to figure out what to make for dinner. Most of the time, he can sniff it out if I try to hide it. He gets mad if I try to hide cheese in his food. Last night I was in the mood for Parmesan Chicken. I knew he wouldn’t like it so I looked for a substitute recipe without the cheese. I found a really good recipe for Baked Chicken that I want to share.
Oven Fried Chicken Breasts
Ingredients:
6 pieces boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
1 egg
¼ cup skim milk
1 cup dried whole wheat bread crumbs
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon paprika

Beat with a fork in a small bowl: 1 egg and ¼ cup skim milk.
Shake in large bag: bread crumbs, pepper, salt, garlic powder, thyme, and paprika.
Dip chicken in egg mixture, and then drop into bag of coating. Shake gently. Place well coated chicken on greased cookie sheet and bake for 45-60 minutes at 350 degrees. Smells and tastes delicious.
While my chicken was baking I made quick and easy baked potatoes. I washed the potatoes, poked them with a fork and cooked them individually in the microwave for 4 minutes. I wrapped them in foil and put them in the oven to finish cooking along with the chicken. I think they taste better that way. Then I steamed green beans. We all agreed it was a really good meal, one that I will repeat often. I found this recipe at Allrecipes.com and changed it a little.

Easy Baked Chicken Recipe

My husband hates cheese. This is a problem for me when I am trying to figure out what to make for dinner. Most of the time, he can sniff it out if I try to hide it. He gets mad it I try to hide cheese in his food. Last night I was in the mood for Parmesan Chicken. I knew he wouldn’t like it so I looked for a substitute recipe without the cheese. I found a really good recipe for Baked Chicken that I want to share. I found it at Allrecipes.com and altered it.

Oven Fried Chicken Breasts

Ingredients:
6 pieces boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
Beat with a fork in a small bowl: 1 egg and ¼ cup skim milk.
Shake in large bag: 1 cup dried whole wheat bread crumbs
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon paprika
Dip chicken in egg mixture, and then drop into bag of coating. Shake gently. Place well coated chicken on greased cookie sheet and bake for 45-60 minutes at 350 degrees. Smells and tastes delicious.
While my chicken was baking I made quick and easy baked potatoes. I washed the potatoes, poked them with a fork and cooked them individually in the microwave for 4 minutes. I wrapped them in foil and put them in the oven to finish cooking along with the chicken. I think they taste better that way. Then I steamed green beans. We all agreed it was a really good meal, one that I will repeat often.