Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas Dinner

As I was putting the finishing touches on our Christmas table, my mom came in the dining room and said she hoped I wasn't going to any extra trouble because she and my dad were there. I had to laugh as I looked down at myself, and I told her you could hardly say I was going all out. I was still in my pajamas, after all!

And that's why you will see pictures of our spiffy Christmas table, but not the lazy hostess!

I hope you have taken some time to linger in your PJs this holiday season. I highly recommend it!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas Ho-Ho-Ho

Joe and Mary Ashley shared some giggles Christmas Eve as they batted the puffs on their Santa hats.

Could this be the holiday version of butterfly kisses?

Christmas Memories

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Breakfast

Christmas morning was all about gathering around the Christmas tree with the family!

Toothpicks inserted into a plastic foam cone made a sweet little Christmas tree covered with doughnut holes.

Fresh fruit and Christmas morning cups offered sweet and savory treats. Joe's Christmas morning must-have is his mother's sausage pinwheels. To make these, roll out a can of biscuit dough into a long rectangle. Spread sausage over the dough and roll the dough to make a long tube. Slice into pinwheels and bake at 350 degrees on a slotted cookie sheet for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with grape jelly alongside.

My traditional favorite is Pillsbury orange sweet rolls. I grew up with these, but I rarely serve them because I'm the only one in my household who eats them. I was thankful my parents were here Christmas morning so we could share them!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Eve

I decided to do a Williamsburg style centerpiece for our Christmas table this year. I guess it made a big impression on 3-year-old Emma; she told everyone she saw that we had a pineapple on our table.

We were so happy my parents spent Christmas Eve with us this year.

Little touches gave the dining room a festive flair, and a wrapped gift at each place started our evening together with a fun surprise.

Hmmm, whatever could it be?

Keep scrolling to discover our Christmas Eve surprise!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Twas the Night Before Christmas ...

When all by the hearth,

Not a creature was dressed -- not even a scarf.

We sat in our stockings, heads hung in despair.

For St. Nick was coming, and what would we wear?

The children were longing to nestle in bed,

My parents -- so tired they were bobbing their heads.

And I in my kerchief, and Joe in his cap,

Drew close to the fire -- all too cold to nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I urged Joe to find out what was the matter.

Away to the window he spun like a globe,

Tore open the sash and threw on a robe.

And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof,

The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

As I drew in my head, and was turning around

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fleece from his head to his toe,

Pajamas covered with polar bears in the snow.

A bundle of jammies he had flung on his back,

And he looked like the Sandman just opening his pack.

He was sleepy and plump, a right dreamy old elf,

And I yawned when I saw him, in spite of myself.

A wink of his eye, and a pat of his breast

Then gave me to know I would soon get to rest.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,

And dressed us in PJs, then turned with a jerk.

And laying his finger aside of his head,

And giving a nod, he sent us to bed.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,

And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him exclaim, ere he linked to this site,

"Order here for next Christmas; now you'll find them half-price!"

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:14).

Merry Christmas with Love from the Lesters

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Creamy Tomato Soup

I posted this Southern Lady recipe early on in my blogging, but wanted to feature it again this Christmas season. This versatile dish is equally at home dazzling the crowd on a full-course holiday menu, or relaxing with toasted cheese sandwiches for a simple weeknight supper. With its zesty aroma and smooth texture, this soup is one of our wintertime favorites.

Creamy Tomato Soup with Sourdough Croutons

3 T. butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 (14-1/2 oz.) cans diced tomatoes with Italian herbs
2 c. chicken broth
2 c. (1 pt.) whipping cream
1 small can tomato paste
1 T. sugar
1/4 t. pepper
Sourdough croutons
Fresh thyme leaves

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute 3-5 minutes or until tender. Stir in diced tomatoes and chicken broth. Transfer half of mixture into container of an electric blender; cover and process until smooth, stopping once to scrape down sides; place in a bowl. Repeat for remaining half, then return all of pureed mixture to saucepan. Add whipping cream, tomato paste, sugar and pepper; stir well with a wire whisk. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thoroughly heated. Ladle into individual soup bowls. Sprinkle with croutons, and garnish with fresh thyme leaves, if desired. Yield: 8 cups

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Morning Cups

We are so excited my parents will be gathered with us around our Christmas tree this year for Christmas. None of us will want to miss a moment of the children's excitement Christmas morning, so I'm planning an easy menu of finger foods for breakfast. I love Panera Bread's baked egg souffles and wanted to find a recipe to approximate the turkey sausage and potato souffle. One of my favorite foodies featured a recipe awhile back for Crescent Bacon and Cheese Tarts, so I adapted Steph's recipe to incorporate the flavors I'm craving this Christmas. I made these Saturday and have enjoyed leftovers this week reheated in the oven for a few minutes at 350 degrees.

Christmas Morning Cups

1 (17.3-ounce) package puff pastry sheets
4 tablespoons sausage, cooked and crumbled
1 cup southern hash brown potatoes, fried until crisp in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and seasoned to taste with salt and pepper
2 teaspoons red pepper, diced
4 tablespoons shredded cheddar cheese
1 egg
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Thaw puff pastry according to package directions. Spread dough and press perforations to seal. Cut the dough into 8 squares, and press each square into a muffin cup. Equally divide sausage, potatoes, red pepper and cheese among the pastry cups. Beat the egg in a small bowl and whisk in cream. Pour the egg mixture over the other ingredients, and bake at 375 for 15-20 minutes, or until the pastry tips are golden brown and the filling is set. Cool 5 minutes, then ease the Christmas cups from the muffin tin and serve.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cranberry Eggnog Scones

I love to pause during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to enjoy a cup of Christmas tea. Saturday afternoon was the perfect time to invite the family to join me in front of the Christmas tree for afternoon tea.

For our Christmas tea, I tried a new recipe from Allrecipes for cranberry eggnog cornbread scones. We enjoyed them with lemon curd, almond cream and raspberry jam.

Cranberry Eggnog Cornbread Scones

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, chilled
3/4 cup sweetened, dried cranberries
2/3 cup eggnog

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Stir the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a mixing bowl until blended. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or two knives until coarse crumbs form. Mix in the cranberries. Use a fork to stir in the eggnog and make a sticky dough. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface; dip hands in flour and knead the dough about 10 times. Pat the dough out into a disk about 1/2-inch thick. Dip a 2-inch diameter biscuit cutter into some flour, and cut out 8 to 10 rounds. Place rounds about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Use up remaining dough by patting it into a smaller disk and cutting again. Bake in preheated oven until risen and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I enjoyed leftover scones yesterday while Joe and the children spent the day in town, and I stayed home to wrap our gifts. I barely got everything wrapped and tucked away before they returned, but it is done!

I hope you will have a moment to linger over a cup of Christmas tea this holiday season!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Gingerbread House Party

After last week's stressful ordeal with Mary Ashley's injury, this weekend's Gingerbread House Decorating Party with our friends Lizzy and Emma was even more of a treat! The girls and their mom, Stacey, joined us Friday afternoon for a delightful afternoon of icing, candy and giggles.

I decorated the gingerbread house above to take with me to a couple of speaking engagements earlier this month where I shared Christmas party ideas. A few candies fell off in transit to and from the first church I visited. On the day of my second engagement, Emma turned her back quickly when I entered the kitchen. "Emma, what are you eating?" I asked. Embarrassed, she covered her candy-filled mouth and replied sheepishly, "Some candy fell off that house." Apparently, it fell right into her mouth! A whirlwind of travel and Hurricane Emma did some serious damage to this gingerbread house, so before the party it needed a little maintenance before taking up residence on the table.

My tiered servers looked festive threaded with lime green and red ribbons. All the candies pictured came with the gingerbread house kits, and a couple of days past the party we still have extra candy. The top tier of the server holds shredded wheat cereal, which I like to use to make a snow-covered roof. This cereal was lightly sugared on both sides, but I prefer the shredded wheat that has sugar only on one side for the snowy effect.

This is not the best photo, but it gives you a glimpse of the table all set for my little elves to start decorating.

Part of the fun of a Gingerbread House Party is sampling all the candies, so I tried to balance out the sweets with party ham rolls, veggies, chips and dip. I misplaced my favorite party ham roll recipe between making my grocery list and preparing this simple appetizer, so tried a new recipe I didn't like quite as well. Right before the party I found my preferred recipe, so I set it aside to post here. It has gone missing again, though, so I'll need to call my mom to get it. Then I'll add it to this post so I will be sure to find it next time I need it!

Keep scrolling for more gingerbread fun and fabulous finds!

Gingerbread House Party: Festive Finds and Favors

Tucked into this festive tin bucket, aprons from Hobby Lobby kept our little guests clean during their afternoon of gingerbread house decorating. And embellished with machine embroidery designs from Stitch N Time Embroidery Designs, the children can reminisce about our fun afternoon during their holiday baking for years to come.

I fell in love with these dessert plates from the Peppermint dinnerware collection from J.C. Penney! I thought they would be a refreshing addition to my friend, Stacey's, holiday table -- and a sweet reminder of our get-together. Find individual pieces in stores, or find the 16-piece dinnerware set half-price here.

And with an inscription on the bottom commemorating the party, this ornament from Hobby Lobby can remind the girls of our special friendship.

Gingerbread houses from Target -- just $8 apiece -- were a good value. These kits come with a pre-constructed gingerbread house, candy and icing. To hide the cardboard base, I mixed up a decorator icing of 2 cups shortening, several tablespoons of water and 2 pounds confectioners sugar. I used an icing spatula to smooth the icing over the cardboard, then dotted the snowy-white icing with marshmallows. I kept the remaining icing so the children could use it during their decorating; the royal icing included with the kits can be a bit stiff to work with.

For our tablescape, I used the plastic red tablecloth leftover from Christian's recent Star Wars party and topped it with this fun wrapping paper. These polka-dotted acryllic tumblers from Wal-Mart (only $2 each) are getting a lot of use this holiday season!

The Gingerbread Kids

Mary Ashley and Emma are sweet as sugar in their new aprons.

And Lizzy and Emma are candy cane cuties!

Carson is so artistic, I was eager to see what he would do with his gingerbread house. Unfortunately, a headache cut his decorating short.

Christian discovers that part of the fun of a gingerbread house party is sampling the icing ...

and the house, too!

(All the children are so eager to eat their gingerbread houses, I am having a difficult time getting them to let us display them until Christmas!)

Notice Emma's face in this group picture, as she tries to figure out how to use the royal icing included with our gingerbread house kits.

These two were the most dedicated gingerbread house decorators. They had definite ideas about what they wanted to do, and I loved hearing the back stories for their houses.

Emma made two little girls out of candy -- herself and Mary Ashley making snow angels -- and tucked them into the icing in front of the gingerbread house. Precious!

Thanks, Emma and Lizzy, for helping us make some sweet Christmas memories at our Gingerbread House Party!

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