Christmas at Blumenau

Every year my family celebrates Christmas eve at my sister Leah's house.  She has a great eye for decorating and everything always looks so gorgeous and festive. Yesterday she invited Kasidee, my granddaughter, and I to lunch. We had such fun, and also got a sneak peak of her decorating ideas this year.

For lunch she made a "Raggedy Ann" salad and a cute little ham and cheese sandwich in the shape of a heart.

Then we all went out to feed the chickens, pulling some grapevine to take home with me on the way back to the house. Hopefully I'll make something somewhat resembling a wreath out of it.

I thought I would post a few of the pictures I took for you to see. I didn't get alot because her decorating is a work in progress but I'll go ahead and get up the ones I have.

Her colors this year are lime, blue, and copper with some silver and black thrown in.

These urns are super easy to make, she layed a wire wreath on top and filled it with several different fresh greens from around her place and stuck straight sticks out of the top. Gorgeous!

Grapevine was swirled above her double doors with a few hanging ornaments and a wreath hung in the middle. "Simply Elegant".

Oh how I love Christmas and all the creative decorating that goes on. I would love to see your decorations or hear your creative ideas. If you would like to share them with the rest of us just leave a note below with any pictures and I will get them up.

The Holidays are upon us. Yea!!!!


Praline Apple Bread

This Praline Apple Bread may be called a bread, but can just as easily 
be served as a dessert. The batter doesn't have any oil or butter in it, but does call 
for sour cream, which is the secret to the moistness. 

I actually had some sitting on my counter somewhat covered for 3 days,
and it was still moist and awesome. 

The praline topping puts it over the top.

Praline Apple Bread

1 1/2 cup chopped pecans, divided
1 (8-oz.) container sour cream
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups finely chopped, peeled Granny Smith apples (about 3/4 lb.)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

This recipes makes 1 loaf.

Preheat oven to 350°. 

Bake 1/2 cup pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 6 to 8 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring after 4 minutes. Set aside.  

Beat sour cream and next 3 ingredients at low speed with an electric mixer 2 minutes or until blended.

Stir together flour and next 3 ingredients. Add to sour cream mixture, beating just until blended. Stir in apples and 1/2 cup toasted pecans. Spoon batter into a greased and floured 9- x 5-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle with remaining 1 cup chopped pecans; lightly press pecans into batter.

Bake at 350° for 1 hour to 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, shielding with aluminum foil after 50 minutes to prevent excessive browning. Cool in pan 10 minutes; remove from pan to wire rack.

Bring butter and brown sugar to a boil in a 1-qt. heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat, and spoon over top of bread; let cool completely (about 1 hour).

Note: To freeze, cool bread completely; wrap in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil. Freeze up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature.


Creamy Pumpkin Risotto

This has to be one of the best risottos I've tasted.

Perfect for this cooler weather.

If your not a pumpkin fan, don't let that stop you from giving this a try. 
The pumpkin flavor is very faint, if at all. 
The marriage of it with all the other ingredients, turns it into 
one harmonious plate of awesomeness! 

Linked with Weekend Potluck and Foodie Friday.

Creamy Pumpkin Risotto
Serves 4

1 1/2 cup of arborio rice
4 cups of chicken stock
3 shallots, diced finely
1 teaspoon of dried sage
1 glass of good quality white wine
A large handful of cremini mushrooms
1/2 cup of pumpkin puree
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan, and extra for serving

In a pot, bring the stock to a boil, reduce to a low simmer.
In a saucepan, add a good drizzle of olive oil on medium low heat. Add the shallots, and the dried sage. Once the shallots have softened (about 2 minutes), add the rice and and mix, stirring until the rice looks lightly toasted. Add the wine and gently stir. Once the wine has almost evaporated, add the stock one ladle at a time. Keep adding stock once it has almost evaporated in the pan. Season lightly with salt and pepper (the stock will reduce and is salty so make sure not to add too much salt while you're cooking the risotto).

In the meantime, heat some olive oil on medium high heat in a separate pan. Add the sliced mushrooms. Season lightly with salt and pepper and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are cooked through. Set aside.

Keep a constant eye on the rice, adding stock as it gets incorporated into the rice. The risotto should gently simmer for about 16-17 minutes. Once the rice is cooked, add the mushrooms and pumpkin puree. Gently mix them in making sure the pumpkin puree is well stirred through. Fold in the Parmesan. Serve immediately, adding a little more Parmesan if desired. Enjoy!

Grilled Apple Salad with Brown Sugar Vinaigrette

This salad is fabulous. 

It was easy to make and had a wide range of flavors that worked perfect together. 

Grilling the apple brought the sweetness out and added that hint of smokiness that paired perfect with the bite and creaminess of the white cheddar cheese. The vinaigrette has a sweet and sour thing going on with a hint of heat that softly hits the back of your throat. 

Top it off with the toasted pecans and you have a salad that's far from ordinary.

I served this salad along side Grilled Pork Chops and Creamy Pumpkin Risotto.

Linked with Weekend Potluck and Foodie Friday.



Mixed greens and spinach
Gala apples (slice across, drizzle with olive oil and grill over medium heat, 2-3 minutes on each side)
Shaved x-sharp white cheddar cheese
Toasted whole pecans or walnuts

Toss together mixed greens  & spinach, top with grilled apple slices, shaved white cheddar cheese and toasted pecans. Drizzle with Brown Sugar Viniagrette.

Brown Sugar Vinaigrette

2/3 c. olive oil
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 grn onion, minced
1 1/2 tbsp dark brown sugar
3 tbsp basil, chopped
1 tbsp Dijon
½ tsp red pepper
¼ tsp salt

Place all ingredients in a jar and shake.

Shrimp, Sausage and Grits

Yea for shrimp and grits!!!!! would never know it, but this is a lightened up version. 

Linked with Foodie Friday and Weekend Potluck.

Shrimp Sausage & Grits

1 cup of Quick Grits
5 cups chicken broth, divided use
1 cup fat free 1/2 and 1/2
2 oz sharp white cheddar cheese
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 slices of turkey bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large stock of celery, chopped
1/3 cup red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Red pepper flakes, if desired
1 package of turkey sausage, cut into bite size pieces
2 tbsp flour
1 bay leaf
14 oz. Jumbo Raw Shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt and pepper
Frank's Hot Sauce

Green Onion

Bring 3 cups of chicken broth and 1 cup of fat free 1/2 and 1/2 to a boil. Slowly add 1 cup of grits, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Stir in 2 oz of shredded white cheddar cheese, salt, pepper and Frank's hot sauce to taste. Keep warm.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large skillet. Cook bacon until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Saute onion, celery, red pepper, garlic and red pepper flakes (if desired) until softened. Add sausage and cook 3-5 minutes. Stir in 2 tbsp of flour and cook 1-2 minutes. Add remaining 2 cups of chicken broth and bay leaf stirring until it simmers then add shrimp and cooked bacon. Cook 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

 Serve over grits. Top with parsley, green onion and Frank's hot sauce.


Macadamia Nut Brownies

These Macadamia Nut Brownies have to be one of my all time favorites.

My sister is an awesome baker. 

The first time I tasted these was when she made them for dessert during our 
catering stint. I can't begin to tell you what a huge hit they were with everyone. Especially me! I've been making them every since then.

A moist and chewy chocolate brownie studded with macadamia nuts, sits on a 
brown sugar oatmeal crust, topped with creamy buttercream frosting. 

I mean....what's not to love

Linked with Foodie Friday and Weekend Potluck.

Macadamia Nut Brownies

1 cup quick oats
1 1/4 cup flour, divided use
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter
2 sq. unsweet chocolate
2 lg eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Heat oven to 350*.

Stir together oats, 1/2 cup flour, brown sugar, 1/2 cup melted butter, and salt. Press into a 8" pan and bake for 10 minutes.

Melt together 1/3 cup butter and chocolate squares. Set aside. 

Beat eggs until thick and pale. Add sugar and vanilla, stir well. Stir in chocolate mixture then remaining 3/4 cup flour and nuts. Pour over oatmeal crust and bake for another 25 minutes. 

Cool completely then frost with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting.


1/4 cup butter, softened

2 cup powdered sugar
1-1 1/2 tbsp cream or milk
1/4 tsp almond extract
1/8 tsp vanilla extract

Beat butter; add sugar and milk beating until creamy. Adjust milk depending on desired consistency.

New York Style Cheesecake

This cheesecake is the most awesome cheesecake ever!!!! 
The best I've ever tasted, and I've tasted a lot.

The recipe is my moms, which she tweaked to perfection when she added it to the dessert menu at "The Bears Den" (our restaurant back in Wyoming) starting back in the mid 60's.

My favorite way to enjoy it is with a simple "Sour Cream Glaze", but the possibilities
 are endless. A fruit compote or raspberry glaze on top would be good, 
or a white chocolate and sour cream sauce with chocolate curls would be delicious too. 

My husband says "just a plate and a fork please".

Linked with Weekend Potluck and Foodie Friday.

New York Style Cheesecake

1 3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp flour
1/4 tsp salt
5 - 8oz. cream cheese (room temp.)
1/4 tsp vanilla
3/4 tsp lemon zest
1/4 cup cream
5 eggs & 2 egg yolks

Beat all ingredients until smooth & pour into prepared crust (recipe follows). Bake at 425* 13 min. then reduce oven to 300* for 35 to 45 min. The middle will still be a little jiggly (my technical term). Turn off the oven and with door ajar, leave cake in another 30 min. Once cooled refrigerate at least 6 hours or over night. Glaze with a simple sweetened sour cream if desired.

1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 beaten egg yolk
3/4 tsp lemon zest

Heat oven to 400*

Mix flour & sugar, cut in butter until pea size pieces. Stir in yolk and zest. Press 1/2 of crumbs on bottom of a 10" springform pan. Put side band on and press remainder apprx. 1" up the sides. Bake for 8 min. Remove crust and set aside. Increase oven temp. to 425*

Mix 1/2 c. sour cream with 1 tbsp. sugar until dissolved. Spread over chilled cheesecake.

Braised Chicken Breast in Golden Gravy

This recipe has all the elements I love. 

It was so easy to make, required very view ingredients and was really delicious.

I love it served over egg noodles but would taste just as 
delicious over brown rice or mashed potatoes.

Braised Chicken Breast in Golden Gravy

4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp olive oil
½ onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
4 oz jar pimentos, drained
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup fat free condensed milk
1/2 tsp turmeric
½ tsp basil
Salt and pepper
12 oz egg noodles
Heat olive oil over medium heat; salt and pepper chicken and brown well on both sides; remove to plate and set aside. Add onion to pan and cook until you see some color; add garlic and cook 2 minutes more; add pimentos, turmeric and basil. Stir in 1 tbsp of flour; cook a couple of minutes then whisk in broth and milk. Bring up to a simmer and add back chicken with any juices. Simmer for 8-12 minutes (depending on thickness of breast) or until chicken is cooked through. Add salt and pepper if desired.

Cook egg noodles according to package directions in salted water. Drain and return to pot; stir in 2 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of fresh parsley. Keep warm.

If desired; remove chicken and thicken sauce with a couple tsp of cornstarch mixed with a little bit of cold water. Whisk into sauce and bring up to a simmer.