Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Indulgent Times

** Disclaimer: I am writing this post on my Ipad and Blogger is not cooperating, so I aplogize if the pix are to large or anything else is caddywampus.**

Happy New Year, everyone! Wow, where has 2013 gone? But what a good year it was. For me, having the year bookended with LI contracts, one in January, one in December, was extra sweet.

I don't know about you, but I tend to let myself indulge between Thanksgiving and New Years. Then, by the time the calendar turns to January, I'm sick of eating. Sick of candies and cookies. Sick of my pants fitting just a little too snug. So then it's time to start eating right again and drop some of those unwanted pounds.

However, January doesn't come until tomorrow and our family has one last indulgent event of the season--my mother-in-law's birthday. Yep, she was born on New Years Eve, 91 years ago. Helen Obenhaus (sorry I don't have a pic) is not only the woman who introduced me to Ouray, Colorado, where her parents homesteaded in the 1920s and my books are set, she has also been all over the world, setting foot on every continent, all after the age of 60. Did you catch that? Every continent. Yes, she's the only person I know who has been to Antarctica.

So tonight, we will be celebrating her special day with some grilled steaks and who knows what indulgent dessert.

In the meantime, though, I allowed myself to indulge in one of my favorite dishes. One that is beyond easy, but I only allow myself to have it once a year, because otherwise I would be the size of the Goodyear blimp.

Frito Chili Pie is one of my most favorite things ever. (My brain is telling me we've discussed this recently, but not pinpointing anything, so I apologize if this post is repetitive) And you only need three, okay two, ingredients--Fritos and your favorite chili. (Number three would be shredded cheese)

And this takes easy peasy to a whole new level. 

Start with a bowl of Fritos.

Now heat up your favorite chili and  spoon it over the Fritos. You can top it all off with some shredded cheese, if you like. Stir it up and voila! Heaven in a bowl.

I love this stuff. Of course, it's hard to go wrong with Fritos, so why not find a way to make 'em a meal. :)

Is there something you absolutely love, but rarely allow yourself to have? Ooo...do tell.

Until next year, cheers, y'all!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Black Forest Ham Pinwheels

Jan here, astounded that it's time to turn that calendar page to 2014. Already! Does anyone else feel like 1994 was just last year?

So, how do you celebrate the new year?

Once in awhile we'll have someone over, but more often you'll find the six of us ringing out the old year quietly...if you count playing a game of Mexican Train Dominoes quiet!

We have a tradition of setting out snacky foods and grazing all night.

Well, at least until 10:00 or so. When we lived in the eastern time zone, we'd stay up and watch the ball drop in Times Square, but it loses a little of its punch when you're watching it two hours after the fact!

I like to try a new snack food sometimes to help mix things up, and this year I found a winner. I'm sure you're all familiar with these pinwheels. I've seen them in the deli cases at supermarkets, and they're always a hit whenever someone brings them to my son's office potluck.

In fact, it was after this year's potluck that my son asked me to try making them. So I searched online for a recipe, found a few, changed things up a bit, and came up with a treat I couldn't resist!

Here's the recipe:

Black Forest Ham Pinwheels


8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 teaspoon dill weed
1 teaspoon horseradish (not horseradish sauce - get the real stuff)

8 ounces deli-style Black Forest Ham, sliced thin
I know this says "1 lb family size" - I made two batches and used it all.
4-5 flour tortillas, about 10" in size, room temperature (you can also use the low-carb tortillas)

This is so easy. First, mix the cream cheese, onion, dill weed and horseradish in a small bowl. Taste a smidgen, and add salt and pepper if you want. Remember that the ham is also salty, so you want your cream cheese mixture to be on the un-salty side.

The next thing to do is to lay a piece of plastic wrap down and lay a tortilla on top of it (you'll thank me later).

Spread some of the cream cheese mixture on one tortilla, thick enough to cover it, but not too thick. Lay slices of the ham in a single layer all over the tortilla. Then roll the tortilla up from one edge (not the plastic wrap - yet). Roll it  fairly tight, but you don't have to be a bully about it.

Now wrap the plastic wrap around it and set it aside. (This is where you'll thank me! Just try tearing off a piece of plastic wrap while you're trying to keep your tortilla from unrolling.)

Repeat until the cream cheese is all gone.

Refrigerate the rolls for at least two hours. When you're ready to eat them, unwrap them, and cut in 1/2-inch sections. (Let your minions snack on the ends).

Like most recipes, you can change this up to suit your own family. Here are some ideas for variations:

*Add dried cranberries to the cream cheese (leave out the horseradish for this one!)
*Use turkey instead of ham, or roast beef, or pastrami.
*Use nuts and dried fruit, and leave out the meat altogether.
*Add fresh chopped mushrooms.
*Add a layer of Swiss cheese on top of the meat.

The variations are only limited by your imagination!

We're planning to start our New Year's Eve celebration tomorrow night after daughter Carrie gets home from playing in the symphony concert. This year's concert sounds like fun - it's a Beach Boys tribute with a band called "The Kahuna Beach Party". (She's been humming Beach Boys tunes all month.)

We'll get the dominoes, set the snacks out, and spend the rest of the evening trying not to get too many points!

What are your New Year's Eve plans? Are you festive, or quiet? How do you like to ring out the old year?

And, of course, we must end with some gratuitous puppy pictures! This was Thatcher's first Christmas, and he did okay with the presents under the tree...as long as they didn't contain food of any kind!

Wynter always takes things a little easy. "Presents, you say? I'll go someplace where I can sleep!"

(By the way, don't forget to head over to Seekerville tomorrow for the big New Year's bash! Readers and writers alike will have tons of fun...and there will be prizes!)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Old Year Blessings

As the year closes, I tend to think a lot about the new year ahead. But I'm counting my blessings for the past year as I looked through old posts!

1) Being part of this blog, working with old friends and making new ones and always learning something new from cooks from all over the country. Like everyone has had an epic blog recipe fail!

All the Yankee Belles confess to recipe fails but apparently Virginia and I really like to document our woes in pictures.

2) Having enough to eat and enough speciality groceries around to make my life easier. There are a lot of folks who are starving for the right food to eat and who have no grocery store with fresh food in their area.

Here I insert a shameless plug for one of my favorite charities to help people who are starving because of disaster or everyday poverty, Stop Hunger Now.

I bet you can think of a local food bank or charity you can give to in the new year. Hunger is one of those things we just haven't seemed to banish.

3) Speaking of food, I nominate my stuffing recipe as my favorite GAL recipe of the year (or half a year since I have only been around since May!)  You can find it Here under New Traditions. Perfect for the New Year.


3) It has been the year of pie! Go ahead, I dare you to do a search for "pie" here on Yankee Belle. It is amazing how we all seemed to go on a pie rift!  Pecan, Pumpkin, Sweet Potato and more. What's so stinkin' funny is Yankee Belle started off with a pie recipe. No wonder we all talk pie with youse on a regular basis. You can find the inaugural post here. And if you couldn't tell by my poor imitation, it's a great apple pie recipe by Ruthy. 

4) A new grandbaby. Might not be a puppy but she is pretty cute as her older brother and sister are!

5) Surviving hospital food!

6) Giving up chocolate and living to tell about it!

Hope your year ends well and the new year starts with hope, anticipation and joy in blessings to be discovered.

What do you count as blessings this year? 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Quick Chicken (or Leftover Turkey?) and Dumplings

Missy, here. I hope you had a fantastic Christmas! I recently came up with a very quick version of chicken and dumplings and thought this would be a good time to share it in case you'd like to just use leftover turkey instead of chicken.

Quick and Easy Chicken And Dumplings
Missy Tippens


3-4 Chicken breasts or a whole chicken (If you want to make this asap, pick the meat off a rotisserie chicken and use a box of chicken broth plus several cups of water).
1/2 bag Frozen biscuits

Yes, that's it for ingredients! 

First, these are the BEST frozen biscuits! I love the tea size, which is what I used in this recipe.

I used frozen biscuits because I cooks several chicken breasts and then realized I didn't have any Bisquick or frozen dumplings! So I thought I'd give it a try using frozen biscuit dough.

Cook your chicken in a big pot of water (enough that you can cook the dumplings once chicken is done). Don't boil it or it'll become tough. Keep it simmering on medium-low until done (about a half an hour).

While chicken is cooking, place half a bag (about 12 small) biscuits on a cutting board to thaw slightly (enough that you can cut them). I cut the tea biscuits in quarters.

Remove the chicken to a plate to cool. Then shred or chop

Keep broth simmering and add the pieces of biscuits a couple at a time. At first, they'll sink.

Then when they start to cook, they'll start floating to the top. DO NOT STIR! Resist the urge to stir or they'll tear to pieces and you'll have a cloudy pot of goo. If you must make sure none are sticking to the bottom (like I had to do), then gently stick in a spoon and give it a brief, gentle stir.

Cover and let simmer about 10 minutes. Longer if you're using bigger biscuits.

Before serving, add the shredded chicken in to reheat (again, gently so you don't destroy your dumplings). Spoon into bowls and serve. Add salt and pepper to taste. This turned out surprisingly well! I don't think that I'll make dumplings from scratch or from a baking mix again.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

Extending The Season For True Lovers of Christmas!!!

Oh, merriest of happy Christmases past and present to the lot o' youse!

Now some of youse are reading that title, cringing and RUNNING back to Seekerville, hands over ears, eyes down, muttering words to Straight No Chaser's "Christmas Can Can" as you go....

Enough is enough, you say! And I respect that, I truly do.

Finn is already "Scootching" along... No, Finn!!!! STOP!!!


For those among us who revel in all things Christmas, I bring to you some fun ways to think about extending the season. Why, you ask?

Well, the Biblical telling of Jesus' birth isn't a one-day event, right? We've got a space of time from the Angel Gabriel's appearance to Mary to the twelfth night in early January. On a mother's and grandmother's practical note, this isn't just a reason to party on! That extra time gives us ways to get it all in, enjoy family, food and friends now that the days of Advent waiting are behind us!!!

Bake a Memory Day 2013, note the CLUTTER behind the scene. :) Kids don't care about clutter...
They just like to have fun with grownups!!!
1. Spreading parties out: Well, this is huge and  a no brainer if you've got lots of families involved. We have my family, Dave's family and our family together.... So that's three separate gigs right there. Oh. Wait. I have four married children.... AND THOSE ADORABLE IN-LAWS CAME WITH... WAIT FOR IT:  FAMILY!!!!   So now you add four (4) other families to the holiday mix, each one coming with their own set of customs, traditions and sometimes... er....gulp!!!  rules!!!!!!!

We do my family party mid-December. We realized a long time ago that weekends in December vanish into thin air, similar to weekends in June, so we plan accordingly now.... And that helps. We set a date because there is no date that is perfect for everyone, and we run with it. And it's fun!

Christmas Eve:  Dave's family

Christmas Day:  Our immediate family in town, the ones that don't get a better offer from in-laws!!!!  :)

Weekend between Christmas and New Year's:  Our family Christmas celebration with all the grandkids and as many of the first generation as possible.

2. Keeping Christ in Christmas:

Ach, a tricky one these days, but doable!!!!  We use our Holy Land Advent book and read a story each day while re-hashing the previous stories of Mary and Joseph's travels to Bethlehem....

This year we began a tradition of Mary and Joseph "walking" around the room, moving a little closer to the stable scene each day.... So the kids can "see" the journey unfold before them. And if they're good while we do our Advent stories, a bowl of chocolate candies in bright foil wrappers is their reward!

Hay or yarn in the manger: This is a sweet custom someone shared with me when my own kids were little. I used it in "The Lawman's Holiday Wish" and we use it with our little ones here every year. The manger was cold... clear.... stark..... a hay box isn't exactly the most comfy-cozy of places, so for every good deed a child does during Advent, they get to lay a piece of yarn in the manger. That way, when Jesus is born, his resting spot will be warmed by good deeds!

The waiting creche....

And now, the creche with baby Jesus, and the bits of yarn earned by our good deeds:

Services at church:  It's so easy to skip church now and again, especially with kids in basketball tournaments, cheerleading tournaments, holiday plays, concerts, fundraisers, etc. but going to church regularly during Advent stirs the anticipation of longing for Christ's birth. Such a simple way to show family the devotion and commitment to the reason for the season!


Life/time are precious commodities and if you find yourself stressed over the lack of cookies, sit down and read Max Lucado's "The Crippled Lamb" and you will then be able to shrug off cookies, watch a holiday classic, and support your local economy by buying a dessert at the bakery. I love baking and I love baking with kids, but full-time-working parents today need to cut themselves some slack: It's not about the cookie, it's about that first gift of Christmas: a child.  :)  I'm so glad there weren't Pinterest and Facebook perfect mothers back when my kids were little, because I'd have fallen WAY SHORT!!!! There's a reason they make red and green-filled Oreos!!!

We do schedule an annual "Bake a Memory Day" here at Grammy's house each December. We gather the grandkids, make a fun mess of the kitchen and do whatever we can to make a fun baking day filled with cheer... and memories. Nothing is more precious than that memory of baking with someone, standing on that stool, stirring in the flour or the nuts or the chocolate chips....

Making time to do good deeds privately or in the public view. I make sure to schedule bell ringing for the Salvation Army because they're on the streets, helping the homeless, the tired, the wretched every single day while I whine if I run out of coffee.... I'm such a stinkin' baby.

Okay, that's a good beginning of how to stretch the season without killing your wallet!  If you have family customs or ideas that make the season less chaotic, share them! I love stealing... I mean incorporating ideas!!!!  (BIG GRIN HERE!!!!)

And here's a little bit of fun nonsense that the littlest children L-O-V-E!!!!

Wishing you/us all an ongoing Christmas season filled with love and laughter... and may your visits to the cemeteries of life be filled with joyous memories of forgiveness and grace while taking hold of the life God gives us!

God is good, all the time: And all the time, God is good!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Table Topper and Easy Sugar Cookies with Stained Glass Windows

Hello everybody! Merry Christmas EVE! Of course, by the time you read this, it will be Christmas, but for me, right now it's.... time to prepare for the Christmas day feast!
First, the table topper. We put all the leaves in the table and it seats ten. (Still not enough, but we'll stick the kids somewhere nearby.)
 Ha! Love my little guy's expression here. "Mom, stop taking my picture!"
 Greenery from outside, dollar store candles, some silk flowers chopped up, and paper punch snowflakes are just about perfect.
Love those red berries!
I put in a silver snowflake ribbon and had another ready, but it just didn't look right to me.
 Maybe it looked like a fire hazard!! What ever it was, I decided we should use that somewhere else. I set the candles on upside down ramekins so they might be a little farther from the greenery.
 Here it is, all finished. Total cost? $10 of Dollar Store materials! I love Pinterest. It made it really so easy to find a look I wanted for the table.
 Speaking of tables, my friend Mindy brought me a gift. It's a replacement of a  bowl I broke earlier this year. Another friend, Barbara, had given me a 'Fruits of the Spirit' fruit bowl. It was really special to me, and when it broke I was so sad! You can imagine my surprise when I opened this! My little guys said, "Hey, she fixed your bowl!" Ha!  I'm definitely thrilled to have this sweet reminder of the Holy Spirit on our table again.
So, before the table topper, we decorated a premade gingerbread house. MMMMM.....
Found these really sweet gingerbread men at the grocery store and decided we had to have them. Usually, there are not enough 'figures' for a family our size. We just make do. But hey, there were enough for each one of us AND a few friends!
 My brother likes to post pictures of his recent climbing expeditions and the kids put one of the gingerbread men on the roof and called it 'Uncle Conrad'.
 A Lego man crept in here somewhere. I think it's 'Pirates of the Caribbean' plus the Lone Ranger's hat. Poor little gingerbread man to the left is holding on to his gum drop for dear life.
Thrift store candle holders for .50 and that awesome paper punch plus some mod podge = some pretty votives for my kitchen! I'm all about the teal right now.These keep me company when I set up to work at the counter in the middle of the night. 
Some of these deadlines have come hot and heavy right on top of each other. What's a girl to do when she just can't sit at that desk another minute? Why, pull a Mrs. Gaskell (author of North and South) and write in the kitchen with wee children underfoot. I usually don't write during the daylight hours since our kitchen is a bit of a superhighway, but I've learned to edit with one eye on the crazies.
We put out our luminaria on Christmas Eve. We didn't get a chance to put up lights this year so it was nice to have an outward sign that we're celebrating!!
So,  my friend Barbara (she of the fruit bowl fame) asked us if we'd come sing carols at the nursing home on Christmas Eve. Of course we said yes, because we're always up for a good party! We also wanted to bring cookies, so it was a good time to try out a giant batch in the new mixer.
What you see there is 15 cups of flour, 12 eggs, 4 1/2 cups of butter, 6 cups of sugar, 3 tsp vanilla, 3 tsp salt, 3 tsp baking powder. 
Edna was watching with bated breath. She had never seen so many ingredients put in one bowl. 
Boris handled it like a champ.... except for one small incident. Apparently, he is ticklish. I had just put in the 12 eggs, the 4 1/2 cups melted butter and the 6 cups of sugar. I started him up, and thought it was a bit too high so I felt around his ribs for the little lever... He started to twitch and giggle, and I somehow pushed it all the way to the right.
Eggs, butter, sugar.... EVERYWHERE. Boris has power, no doubt about it. It took us 20 minutes to clean it all up. My daughter and I were laughing at how far we found globs of goo. A whole egg yolk was on the opposite side of the kitchen! Ok, once we changed, we started on the cookies...
 Stained glass window cookies are made by cutting out a regular cookie, then making another cut out inside of the first. Break hard candy like Life Savers or Jolly Ranchers and fill the hole. Bake as normal at 350F for 8-10 minutes, on a cookie sheet with tin foil.
When you take them from the oven, let cool on the counter for a few minutes. Then put them either in the freezer or leave them on the counter for ten minutes. Since we only have two cookies sheets, I put them in the freezer for 3 minutes or so to save time. 

I want to wish you all the merriest of Christmases! I read this quote the other day and thought it was just lovely. May the peace of the Christ child be with you all! 

“And when we give each other Christmas gifts in His name, let us remember that He has given us the sun and the moon and the stars, and the earth with its forests and mountains and oceans--and all that lives and move upon them. He has given us all green things and everything that blossoms and bears fruit and all that we quarrel about and all that we have misused--and to save us from our foolishness, from all our sins, He came down to earth and gave us Himself.”  ― Sigrid Undset

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Let the Festivities Begin!

Merry Christmas, y'all! Christmas is in full swing at the Obenhaus home. Round one took place Saturday when my oldest daughter and her family made the trek from Oklahoma. All the kids and grandkids were together for a day of fun.
Our daughters and sons-in-law. As you can tell, somebody did not want their picture taken. Can you guess which one?
The grands managed to entertain themselves until it was time to open presents. Although, every now and then, one would trickle into the den and ask, "When can we open presents?"
Of course, it's not only the little ones who get bored.
Hubby and my mom.
Looks like our grandpup, Scout (who is a character in my newly contracted book ), wants to sit with Big Daddy.
Finally, everyone was present so the frenzy of gifts could start.
Well, there's our granddaughter and our youngest grandson, Elijah. Not sure where all the rest slipped off to, but this may not be good.
One of the grandkids favorite treats is one that really requires no cooking/baking all. It's so easy, even the kids can help. No skill involved. Only love and a little patience.
Chocolate-Dipped Pretzel Rods are as pretty and festive as they are tasty.
And this is all you need:
Yep, pretzel rods and Almond Bark. You can do white or chocolate almond bark, but we prefer the white. There are a couple of optional items that I'll get to later.
First, you'll want to chop up your almond bark. Doesn't have to be itty bitty pieces, but the big chunks take longer to melt. You can melt it in the microwave, per the instructions on the package, or melt them in a saucepan over the lowest heat setting. That's the method I chose.
Melt and stir until everything is nice and smooth.
Now pour the melted candy into a tall, narrow glass.
You don't have to do it this way, but I find it easier.
Mmm...wouldn't you like a nice long drink of that?
Then place the cup in a container of hot water to keep it from thickening while you're working.
Now dip your pretzel rods.
(Like you really needed a picture for this)
When you remove the pretzel, tap the top several times with a rubber spatula to help shed the excess coating. Too much coating and you'll have a puddle when you lay them on your waxed or parchment paper.
Continue until all the pretzels are coated.
I only made 20. You'll find out why in a minute.
Also, you can see I put sprinkles on the ones to the right. Do this right after coating, before you lay them on the paper.
The rest, I wanted add a different touch.
These Wilton Candy Melts are so easy to work with and come in just about any color imaginable. But, this being Christmas, I went with the red.
Just melt them per the package instructions. I put them in a glass measuring cup in the microwave.
Then I transferred the melted candy to a zip-top bag and snipped off a tiny section of one corner so I could drizzle the candy over the dipped pretzels.
I usually hold the pretzels when drizzling, hence the puddle of drizzled candy.
But the end product looks much better using this method. At least for me.
Once the pretzels are dry/set, I slip them into these neat little pretzel bags I found at Walmart.
20 in a package.
Keeps them fresh and makes them great for transporting, too.
(also protects them from all those little hands when they get to grabbing)
 Don't they look great? 
Festive and ready to party.
Tonight will be Christmas, round two, exchanging gifts with our youngest daughter and her husband, then tomorrow we'll celebrate with our middle daughter, our boys, my mother and our granddaughter. This is the first year we've had to spread it out like this, but hey...sometimes you gotta be flexible and simply extend the fun.
I pray your Christmas is joyous one. Whether you're surrounded by family or by yourself, may the spirit of the season fill your heart and mind as we dwell on the real reason for the season.
Thank You, God, for the greatest gift we could ever receive... Jesus!
Merry Christmas!