Holiday Goodies

In between semesters is when I do the most cooking, and I am usually making sweet stuff. :) These are some of my favorite things to make this time of year, especially for Christmas:

Mint Brownies

One of everyone’s FAVORITES is my mint brownies, and they’re probably one of the easiest, too: Take your favorite plain, fudge brownie recipe and make it just like you always do (or you can use a box mix;)) Ten minutes after the brownies come out of the oven, put one (4.67-oz) pkg. of Andes creme de menthe thins (mints) on the brownies so that they are more or less evenly spaced. Five minutes later, take a spoon and swirl the chocolate mint around until it evenly covers the brownies. Then let it cool (and don’t forget to lick the spoon).

Petits Fours

Not quite as easy, but still simple are Brownie Petits Fours: Again cook some plain brownies. After they have cooled, cut them in to 1 1/4-inch squares. (It helps if you line the pan with foil or parchment paper, so it is easy to lift them out of the pan for cutting.)

Even as we get older, as my brother and sisters and I sit around decorating these, there are still some CRAZY looking pictures that come out :) But they still taste good <3

You also need:
1 (16-oz) pkg. semisweet chocolate chips
1 (16-ox) can chocolate fudge frosting
1 t vanilla
several colors of decorator frosting

In a medium saucepan, melt chocolate chips over very low heat, stirring constantly. (I use a double boiler for this, mostly because I hate stirring anything constantly.) Add frosting and vanilla; mix well till combined. Heat for a minute or two more, then remove from heat. (Keep it on the heat if you’re using a double boiler. It will give you more time to work; just keep it on low once everything is melted.)

To coat each brownie with icing, place it on a fork over the pan and spoon icing over it. If the icing thickens, heat it over low heat until it is back to the right consistency (this is also why I like the double boiler). Let them cool on a wire rack. (Any icing you don’t use can be put on parchment paper to cool and be eaten later as fudge.) Then grab the kids or a friend and decorate your petits fours. (Feel free to eat a few, too.)

These are fancy but easy treats, and I haven’t found anyone that doesn’t like them. ;D

Glazed Sausage

2 pounds pork sausage links (I usually am lazy and get the cooked stuff, but it doesn’t matter)
2 large tart apples, peeled and sliced
1 large onion, cut (cubed or strips, depending on if you want your kids to pick them out or not)
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
(I’m not sure that I have ever used these exact measurements, but it is a good guideline.)

If your sausage is uncooked, cook it according to package directions. Add onions, apples, water, and brown sugar. Over medium heat and stirring occasionally, cook for 5-8 minutes or until the the sugar turns to syrup. (It always seems to take longer. :P)

One more: Caramel-Pecan Bars

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cut up 1 (18-oz) pkg. refrigerated sugar cookies and place in a 13×9-inch greased pan. Press dough into one big cookie, making sure to get the corners. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes. (You’re looking for a golden brown.)

1 (12.25-oz) can caramel ice cream topping (yes, of course that 0.25 is important :P)
2 T all purpose flour
1 cup pecan pieces
1 cup flaked coconut (this can be omitted, but I don’t see why you would want to)
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (ya, like that’s enough…)
(I always end up adding more of the pecans, coconut, and chips. If you leave the coconut out, make sure to replace it with a little extra other stuff.)

When the crust comes out of the oven (I should probably say that it will be hot), sprinkle pecans, coconut, and chips over it. Mix caramel and flour together, and drizzle it over the bars as evenly as you can. Bake for another 15-20 minutes or until bubbly. I know this is hard, but let it cool for at least an hour and a half before cutting and eating.

The Big <3

by seyed mostafa zamani

I haven’t posted in a while because of school. I’ve been sooooooooo busy!! :P But I couldn’t let Valentine’s Day slip by without a post, so here it is ;)

In Japan

Interesting fact that you might not know: In Japan, only girls buy Valentine’s Day gifts (at least that is the tradition). For February 14, a girl will buy a small box of chocolates for everyone male that she has much contact with (her boss, her co-workers) and then a nicer box for her boyfriend or husband. Don’t worry girls, White Day is around the corner! On March 14, one month from Valentine’s Day, the boys that got chocolate from girls now get a chance to give those girls a more expensive box of chocolates (or some other gift). These chocolates are normally in white boxes (since it’s “White Day”). Of course, the stores in Japan see all of this as a way to make money and therefore put out a boatload of displays, so that not even the most forgetful of the girls or boys can claim they forgot to pick up a present.

But don’t get wrapped up in it

I don’t think I have given or received more than one or two Valentine’s Day cards/gifts in the last ten years, and the ones I have gotten were from my best friend (not a boy). This is not to say that I really care about that. Rather, I would encourage you not to care about it if you don’t get much.

Don’t get worked up about getting everyone you know a Valentine, either. When you were in first grade, you might have made or bought something for everyone in your class, but, especially if you’re college age and have no money, there is no need to do that now. If you want, you can cut out hearts for your good friends. But unless you have one significant other that you want to go out with, I would suggest getting together with a few other friends that don’t have a boyfriend/girlfriend. You can all chip in for a pizza and maybe eat a little candy and popcorn while watching a funny movie.

And if you are going out with a significant other, then don’t stay out too late. Between the roses, chocolate, and emotions that come with Valentine’s Day, too long of a date might not be a good idea. Hollywood has turned Valentine’s Day into Sex Day, but don’t fall into that!!! I pray that all young people would show some backbone and stay sex free till they are married! (NOT just until they are pretty sure… that this might be the one… in a few more years!!!!)

One last thing

I though that this video was pretty funny. It was featured on YouTube last year, so I searched high and low and found it for you ;) Hope it’s not just a chemist thing.

And you can take that to the snowbank

The Doggies are wrestling


If you don't get covered in snow from head to toe, there is something WRONG


It doesn’t happen often, only one or two times a year, but if you don’t have to drive anywhere it can be fun!

In Central Illinois, we have hot summers, cold winters, and little snow. When it does snow, it usually drifts because there are few trees and nearly no hills to block the wind. With plowing apparently becoming a luxury this year, it has made driving hard. But as long as you don’t have to go anywhere, the snowbanks and drifts can be a lot of fun ;D

Things to do: snowball fights, snowmen, and wrestling with dogs. Even just rolling around in it can be fun!!

So Cute

Christmas Traditions

Even if we don’t notice it at times, we probably all have them… Christmas Traditions. Whether it’s in the kitchen, decorating the tree, a little of both, or something else altogether, we do it year after year… unless your tradition is to do Christmas differently each year ;D

My family has a few traditions, too. Most of them are not anything out of the ordinary. We decorate, we cook, we eat, and we hang gummi worms on the tree.

Gummi Worm Tree of 2009

Yes, there is a reason

When my oldest brother was two or three, he didn’t like candy canes. When Mom and Dad asked him what he liked, he told them: “Gummi Worms!!.” So ever since then, we have hung gummi worms on the tree — though we have also, most years, hung candy canes on it, too.

It really is a nice look, though. They look something like colorful icicles with the Christmas lights shining through them.

It’s something you can have the kids do

Though, in the last few years, little sister support has slacked off hanging the gummi worms, it used to be something that all of us kids worked on. (I wonder if that was because Mom didn’t want to do it all by herself.)

Anyway, it is easy to do:

What you need

All you’re going to need are gummi worms (original works best, but sour will be all right), wire ornament hooks, some little helpers (optional), and a tree. Before you omit the little helpers from this list, consider the following: Mom always had us help her put up the tree (even when we were more hassle than help), and one out of five kids has fallen in love and completely taken over her decorating job. She can now rest easy every winter because she let us put the balls and the gummi worms on the tree for her.

The process: Hook the worm, hang the worm, and now you’re done ;D. It’s that easy!! (OK, so I will never make it as a “paid programing” sales person. Big deal :P) I find that the best icicle look is created if you just hook the worm once through the head or tail (we aren’t going fishing with these worms, and we do want them to come off the hook). After you have done all this “hard” work, you can sit back and watch as, one color at a time, the worms are taken off the tree and eaten. (Green is usually the favorite, despite the fact that the colors do not affect flavor.)

**WARNING: If you have a weak stomach, please use caution while performing this project, as gummi worms are now made with heads!**

Have a worm Christmas

Along with looking cool, hanging worms on your tree is a great conversation starter. Even if you don’t do this, I hope you will enjoy whatever traditions that you do have. Merry Christmas, everyone!!!

The Best Things About Halloween

We never did the whole dress-up-for-Halloween thing at our house, and I’ve only done trick or treating once. Living out in the middle of nowhere, it is easy not to do anything (though we will buy candy, just in case ;)).

Candy and sweets

In the 1880s, this brilliant guy named George Renninger, who worked for the Wunderlee Candy Company, created candy corn. This candy is great because it is one of the few that will tell you a serving size is 21 pieces.

Mountain Dew comes out with a “new” drink around this time each year, too. I think I first saw it about four or five years ago, when it was called Pitch Black. This year it is Ultra Violet, but it is still good and now comes in diet ;). They keep this out till after Thanksgiving usually, and it is always some shade of purple.

And then, only now at this time each year can you buy a hand at Wal-Mart. Made out of gummy candy and various hard candies, it almost looked good enough to get (but I passed :P).

Other things

Scooby-Doo is good for any season, but this song is a classic for Halloween:

Then of course, the best part about this time of year is that God’s creation is showing its colors in beautiful scenes no artists can match and no photograph can completely capture.

Things to look out for

There are things that I find weird and a little scary during this time of year, too, and it is normally something to do with costumes. Now my Math professor dressing up as a cowboy is fine (he was kind of odd to begin with). But when the boy that sits three rows over from me comes in dressed in a mini skirt, black tights, and high heels you have to wonder about his sanity. The Math professor was sure that the high heels were damaging his brain somehow.

And only in America at this time of the year does Cinderella go to college (the rest of the year she is stuck in her rags cleaning kitchen floors).