Monday, November 25, 2013

Showers for Emma, take 2!

Last Friday night, Emma was lovingly showered again -- this time at a shower for mostly my momma friends and their daughters, many of which grew up with Emma.

The shower was held by Melinda and Vanessa.   A few years ago, Emma began working regularly for both of their families, and they have truly become like family to her.  She is a true momma's helper to them, coming alongside them in their busy lives, helping with kids and more.  Emma not only loves their children dearly, but she looks up to Vanessa and Melinda as godly wives and mommas.  I am so thankful for their example to my daughter -- and it is a true expression of what the body of Christ is as people love and build one another up.  I expressed at the shower that Rich and I are just so grateful for their imput in Emma's life. The shower was a beautiful expression of how much they love Emma too!

Melinda hosted this cozy shower on such a windy and frigid evening.  There was a fire in the fireplace and candles everywhere.  It was so inviting and warm.

The theme was based on Instagram -- Melinda made the invitations using their hashtag #marryingsteadman.   So cute.  There were collages of Emma's instagram pictures on the wall, and even as a slideshow on the big screen TV in the family room! It was so clever.   

Here are some of the photos from this special night to remember...


The adorable invite.


Guests were greeted by this canvas and the opportunity to add to a special piece of artwork.  There were letter stickers pasted to the canvas spelling out the words to one of Emma's favorite song lyrics.  Everyone painted over them with the pretty colors & brushes provided...


...and later, this beautiful piece of art was revealed!!  Isn't that amazing? Emma loved it!


Instagram photos made a wall collage in the living room.


The breathtaking tables...


Pretty antique pink china and silver was used. I loved the gold chairs with the china. The flowers were GORGEOUS.


The desserts were simple and oh-so-sweet.
My favorite was the homemade heart shaped pop tarts...some filled with brown sugar and cinnamon, some with jam.  YUM.


A big, fluffy white coconut cake was the centerpiece of the dessert table.


Everyone loves Krispy Kreme donuts! Isn't this the cutest way to serve them?


Emma with her amazing hostesses, Melinda & Vanessa.
Vanessa is one of Emma's bridesmaids, and her three boys Cy, Cash & Colt are the ring bearers. Melinda's daughter, Eloise, is a flower girl.  :-)


Sweet ladies that I love dearly!  l to r:  my adorable sis Suzanne, Courtney, Erica & her mom Anna, Nick's oldest sis Charise, Sabrina & her daughter Jenna


Lindsay, Alik, & and my dear daughter-in-law Stephanie (who looks quite good with a babe-in-arms...just sayin')


A little blurry, but had to post Nick's Mom & adorable sisters, and family friend Claire.


Very special longtime friends Wendy & her daughter Whitney.
And yes, I know Wendy & I look alike  :-)


One of my favorite guests of the evening... little miss Navy Mae!


Opening gifts with little helper, Olive. :-)

Love this Jadeite cake stand!!


Maid of Honor, Kait, always helping :-)


Lastly, as favors we all received these darling notepads with pencils that said #marryingsteadman.  Simply the cutest.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Using your freezer to get ahead for the holidays!

I cannot BELIEVE Thanksgiving is next week!  How did that happen? And since there is one less week between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year -- it's time to get on the ball!

This year, I anticipated that the holiday season might be a bit more hectic with a wedding coming mid January... so I've been working on my Christmas list/shopping for a month or so, and I've been setting aside time to  prepare and freeze some holiday treats for my family, for events & when hosting guests, and even some for gift giving.  It's a big stress avoider for me to operate this way.  :-)

Here are a few of my favorite tips for utilizing your freezer NOW for easy holidays later.  Maybe it will encourage you to take a look at your November/December calendar and see what you can get a head start on putting away to make the holidays more enjoyable.  :-)

Freeze Apple Pie Filling.

This is truly a delicious apple pie -- and the filling can be done in advance and frozen!  How great is that?  I just put two bags of this filling up yesterday --  so my Thanksgiving and Christmas apple pies will be a snap. :-)

All I do is thaw the filling the day before in the fridge, make the double pie crust, assemble the pie, and bake.  Saves SO much time and clean up.  This can be done up to 8 weeks in advance.   Be sure to use apples that are good for baking, such as Fuji or Pink Lady.

Rose's Apple Pie Filling
{from Blissfully Content}

2/3 cup all purpose flour
1-1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon…or to taste
6- 6 1/2 cups peeled & cubed apples
If freezing: 1 gallon freezer bag

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, and cinnamon and mix well. Fold in fruit and toss until well coated. 

Transfer to the freezer bag. Squeeze air out and reseal.
Lay flat and freeze.

To Bake: 

Put thawed frozen pie filling into crust lined pie dish. 
Dot the filling with 3 Tbsp. butter. 
Put top crust on, flute edges, and sprinkle top with cinnamon and sugar, if you like. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes...until hot and bubbly.
{I usually put a cookie sheet on the bottom rack with a little foil on it...just in case the pie bubbles over a bit.}

Bake lots of bacon.

My family loves bacon, but  much to their dismay, I don't make it much.  However, for Thanksgiving and Christmas, I make sure there are lots! This year, I made the bacon for both holidays at once.

Have you ever baked your bacon?  I do it all the time -- it's easier and affords WAY less clean up.   

If you cook and freeze your bacon, later you can just put it on the foil lined cookie sheet frozen, and warm it in a 400 degree oven for a few minutes. You can then have warm, hot bacon ready to serve in hardly NO time and with NO mess!

To bake from raw, I line rimmed cookie sheets with a few layers of foil, overlapping them over the edge so no grease can get through to your cookie sheet.   Lay bacon slices side by side (do not overlap) and cook in a 400 degree oven until done.  

If I'm going to be freezing the bacon, I undercook it slightly, so when it's re-warmed it isn't petrified.  :-)   The time it takes to cook will vary, but it's approximately 1/2 hour.  I turn the pan (not the bacon itself) every 5 minutes until it is done.   When done, drain the bacon on paper towels and carefully fold the foil full of bacon grease up and throw away -- virtually no clean up.

Yesterday, I baked 8 pounds of bacon and stashed it away in the freezer.  Hope nobody finds it before then! 

Saute and freeze stuffing vegetables.

One of my favorite tricks that my mother in law taught me is to get a head start on the stuffing veggies for Thanksgiving.  If you saute all your veggies (I use onions, celery, mushrooms, and eggplant) in advance and freeze them, it makes your stuffing on Thanksgiving day SO much easier.   Just thaw the veggies, mix them in a bowl with the remaining ingredients, and bake.  No chopping or sauteeing on Thanksgiving day.  Ahh.

Make and freeze sweet rolls.

Our family's traditional breakfast on Christmas morning is cinnamon rolls (and bacon, of course).  But, Christmas eve is so busy I don't usually like to prepare them then.  So, I get ahead of the game by preparing and freezing the rolls.   I just undercook them slightly, and do not frost.   I wrap them tightly in foil and freeze.   The day before, I thaw them, and bake them 5-10 minutes to warm.  I top the warm rolls with icing and serve fresh, hot cinnamon rolls with hardly any effort at all.  I haven't yet put up my cinnamon rolls, but yesterday I made some orange/cranberry sweet rolls for a Thanksgiving brunch we are having this Saturday for Rich's family.  They are super easy to make, and perfect for the season.  They also make a great gift -- give frozen -- just provide the frosting separately and it's a welcome and inexpensive gift.  You can easily double this recipe.

Orange/Cranberry Rolls

2 ¼ tsp. yeast
½ cup lukewarm water
½ cup lukewarm milk
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. butter, soft
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
3 ½ - 4 cups flour

In KitchenAid bowl, combine yeast and warm water and let set 3 minutes.

Add lukewarm milk, sugar, butter, salt, and egg and mix 1 minute.

Switch to dough hook and begin to add flour, ½ cup at a time, until dough cleans the sides of the bowl.  Add only enough flour to achieve this result.

Knead on low speed for 2 minutes. 

Place  dough in a greased blowl, turning to coat.  Cover and let rise in a warm place 1 hour, or until doubled.

Divide dough in half.  Roll each half into a 7 x 12 rectangle.  Spread each with ¼ of the following mixture (saving half for frosting) and half of the fresh cranberries.

3 cups powdered sugar
6 Tbsp. butter, soft
2 Tbsp. grated orange peel
4 Tbsp. orange juice

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cranberries

Roll up dough into a roll, pinching edges tightly, and cut into 1/2” thick rolls.  Place rolls, cut side down, into two greased round cake pans.  Put in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes, or until doubled. 

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.  Frost rolls with remaining frosting while they are still warm.

Bake and freeze cookies and quick breads.

Plan to set aside some time to make some treats and freeze them.  Even if you don't have a specific time you think you'll use them, I promise they will come in handy for that forgotten gift for someone, for an event you need to bring a sweet treat to, or when you have unexpected friends come by and want to have something to serve with coffee.   My favorite pumpkin bread recipe is listed below, and I've also included a very special treat if you are gluten-free or want to give something yummy to a GF friend.  :-)  I like to bake the pumpkin bread in mini loaf pans for the holidays.  They look extra pretty if you sprinkle some pumpkin seeds and turbinado sugar on top before baking.

Pumpkin Spice Bread

2 cups canned pumpkin
3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 cup coconut oil
4 eggs
3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cloves

Heat oven to 350.

In KitchenAid, combine pumpkin, sugar, water, oil and eggs.
Beat until well mixed.

Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, nutmeg and cloves into mixer.  Beat until combined.

Grease two 9 x 5 inch loaf pans or 1 9 x 5 loaf pan and 3-4 mini loaf pans.
Evenly divide the batter between the pans.

Bake for 60-70 minutes (40 min. for mini loaves) or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool for 10-15 minutes, then remove from pans by inverting onto a rack and tapping the bottoms.

Gluten & Dairy Free Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup organic palm shortening (Sprouts)
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups gluten-free oats
1 cup Pamela’s gluten-free artisan flour blend (Sprouts)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup raisins, dried cranberries or dairy free chocolate chips 

Preheat oven to 375.  Cream sugars with shortening.  Add egg, water, and vanilla.  Add oats, flour, salt, and soda.  Stir in raisins or chocolate chips.  Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Happy Holiday Season to you!