Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve 2009

The thing I love most about Christmas Time is that it is full of Traditions. Everything that you do, derives itself from something you did or didn't do as a child growing up. I've noticed a lot of my family traditions revolve around food. Which, is probably a lot like most families (either that or we're just a bunch of pigs!). Of course our Christmas Eve traditions involve food.
I find that Christmas Eve, especially as an adult becomes almost more magical than that of Christmas Day itself. I don't know if it's because we're all in on some special little secret, or that we know that as soon as the gifts from Christmas morning are unwrapped, it's the starting of a bittersweet end to a season that just seems a little warmer in heart than the rest?

For our family, Christmas Eve starts with the unwrapping of one gift from Mom and Dad. We've been doing this tradition (passed down from Jon's side of the family) for a few years now. Every year, it's pajamas. I still don't know why the kids think they'll actually get a toy? But oh, it's so fun to see their little disappointed faces. LOL



Jack was none to pleased to see that all he got was PJ's!


But he eventually got over it and joined back in with the fun.






As for other Christmas Eve traditions in our house, we go back to what I was saying about food. There is ALWAYS a feast! On Christmas Eve, it is our tradition to feast on crab legs, buffalo dip and snowman punch. Makes for a VERY interesting combination. But, it is what it is.
The crab legs and buffalo dip actually started out at Mom and Dad's as crab legs and buffalo wings. Neither Jon or I are huge fans of buffalo wings but we've been making this chicken buffalo dip for a little while now and decided to make it part of this years tradition.

But there is also a final tradition that we always follow. After the PJ's have been unwrapped and our feast has been prepared, we watch 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.". We are NOT allowed to watch it before Christmas Eve or the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future will haunt our sorry souls for the rest of our lives! We set up a family room picnic of our feast and laugh along with Clark and his merry ways. This year, since the gift I ordered for my Dad was on back order, I sent him a very special shirt. Since we couldn't be together, I thought this was the next best thing:

This is my Dad, at their house preparing their version of the Christmas Eve Tradition.


Finally, just before we put the kids to bed to dream of sugarplums, we go to the computer to track where Santa has been and where he's at now. We then tuck the kids in and Jon and I settle in to watch more Christmas movies, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Jolly Fat Man.

Merry Christmas to all.....and to all a good night.



Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Cookies

Each Christmas, like most families, we make Christmas Cookies.  Almost every year, these are part of the gifts the kids give to their teachers. This year, I also bought some very cute tins and gave them out as Holiday Gifts to my friends.

I decided to make a few different cookies this year. Of course, I ALWAYS start off with the Hammie's very favorite: No Bakes!




We all absolutely LOVE these and when I make them, you better get 'em while you can because they go FAST! But oh, are they such a stinker to make at times! If the culinary Gods are not aligned, then you might as well kiss your cookies goodbye.
This year, the Gods were definitely laughing at me. I think I attempted at least 3 or 4 batches of these bad boys before I got a good batch. They would come out too thick and be crumbly piles of dust. Or they just plain wouldn't set up and I would have to toss the whole batch. I went through so many sticks of butter, jars of peanut butter and oatmeal that I swear, I might as well of bought stock in them. No bakes are a lot like fudge. You have to make it when the weather is just right, the kitchen temperature is just perfect and you have to be able to have a good attitude or you'll end up flinging solidified oatmeal chunks, in a fit of rage, at the nearest object. Whether it be man, woman or child.
After about 4 batches, I had to give up for the day. Obviously, it wasn't meant to be.

But, the Spirit of Christmas stayed with me and the next day I tried again. Perfect-O! After that, I had no problem whipping out batch after batch of these yummy chocolate peanut butter creations of baking delight.

I also decided to try a new recipe for cookies this year. I made White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies.



These are not an overly sweet cookie. The sweetest part is going to be the White Chocolate in them. But they are so delish when dipped in ice cold milk. I ended up making two batches of these. The adults seemed to like these much more than the kids did, so they made it past Christmas before being completely wiped out. They are a good cookie, but I'm still debating on whether or not they'll become a Christmas staple in our house.

Every year, I also make a version of Christmas Crunch.





Now, I've heard this called a couple of differnt things: White Trash Chex Mix, Chex Mix M&M's.... I've also seen different ingredients used in it: Peanuts, coconuts, Honey Nut Cherrios.....

To each their own! That's what's so great about cooking. Everyone has their own style and flavor they can throw into it to make it work for them!

In mine (which of course, I got from my Mom), I use Corn, Wheat, and Rice Chex Mix, regular Cheerios, plain Holiday M&M's, and pretzels (the twisty, knot kind). I then melt down a whole package of Almond Brick(which I added red and green sprinkles once melted). Dump it into dry mix, combine and then spread out on wax paper to let cool and harden. Break off into chunks and store in air tight containers (Holiday Tins are AWESOME for this!).

An old school favorite of mine are Holiday Wreaths. It's just one of those cookies that I can remember my mom making and what can I say? They bring out the kid in me.


They're made a lot like Rice Krispy Treats. Melt down marshmallows, add green food coloring, dump in corn flakes. Then on wax paper, drop in rounded spoonfuls and working quickly and with buttered fingers shape into wreathes. Add Red Hots for the berries and Pull-n-Peels for the bow. This is a great cookie to have the kids help with. They love putting the berries and bows on. At least Cassie did. ;)


This next cookie has MANY names. Crescent Cookie, Mexican Wedding Cookie, Italian Wedding Cookie....My Mom has always called them Christmas Crescent Cookies and so shall I.


But this year (and don't yell at me mom) I actually used a *slightly* different recipe. For some reason, being in the south with the higher humidity it took a lot to get these stinkers to come out right. And I mean, honestly. They are an EASY cookie. My recipe came from my Gourmet Club I'm in. Back in November, the theme was Mexican. I was assigned Mexican Wedding Cookies and Mexican Hot Chocolate. I noticed how similar these cookies were to my mom's. There were slightly less ingredients too. So because of the easy nature and less amount of ingredients to these cookies, I decided to make 'em this year. I think they turned out FAB! But they definitely were not my Mom's cookies. Similar. But just not the same. Next year, I will be making Mom's recipe. It just isn't Christmas without it.

Finally, the last cookie I made are the ever classic Ginger Bread Men Cookies.


I decided to make these just a few days before Christmas. Because, honestly? What will Santa eat if there are no Gingerbread Cookies??
This year, I had a few extra helpers. Besides Jason and Jack, I also had my friend Erin's girls, Carly and Maddie.

Here's Carly, Jack and Maddie hard at work:




Jason with one of his creations:


And Maddie with one of hers:


Here's one of Carly's. All I can say is....Yup. It definitely is a Carly Creation. LOL




All in all it was a GREAT Christmas Cookie season. My waistline my not of forgiven me yet but oh! How my taste buds loved it!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Jill's Christmas Get Together

One of my good friends Jill, decided to have a small Christmas get together at her house for 'The Girls'. Everyone brought a dish to pass and a small gift to exchange. The gift theme was wine. Which, if you know me and my group of friends, is PERFECT! Not that we're wino's or anything but when we all get together, bottles of wine just seem to magically disappear.

Here's us, minus Jill (she's taking the pic):

From Left to Right, you have: StacEy, Me, Erin, Renee and Gia.

Here's one of us with Jill, minus Gia (she's taking the pic):

From L to R, you have: StacEy, Jill, Me, Erin and Renee.

Everyone brought a bunch of yummies to eat. We had humus, brie, different types of dip, buffalo wings, articoke balls and tons more. Jill also made Mexican Hot Chocolate. (YUM!) We sat around the dining room, drank wine, ate and just caught up on everyone's lives.


After everyone was stuffed to the gills, we poured more wine, and headed out to the living room to play Dirty Santa!

For those of you who don't know what this is, it is the game created by the DEVIL (Or Jill, since she's the one who made us do it)! Okay, no...it's not THAT bad. But, it is a stinker of a game. Pretty much you open a present and the next person can decide if they'd rather have what you opened or take a chance and pick out a different gift. I was lucky #1 to pick out gifts.

Unfortunately, Jill played dirty and took my awesome gifts.



Fortunately for me, I ended up with an awesome bottle of wine that I cannot wait to crack into!



All in all, it was a FABULOUS night with some of my very favorite girls.


But also, a little bittersweet. By this time next year, four of us will of moved. It was a wonderful night to celebrate our friendship.



Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Rosettes



When I was little, my family and I would spend Christmas Eve at my Dad's parents house. Every year, I could also count on a few constant things.

One - there would always be raspberry candies. I search high and low each Christmas Season to find these. I have not been lucky this year. :(

Two - Pistachio Pudding. Yum!

Three - My Grandma would make Rosettes.

I loved these Rosettes. Sometimes, I would be lucky enough to be able to help my Grandma by dusting them with powdered sugar. And of course, you know that there were red and green sprinkles in that. The best part was being able to eat one fresh from frying, covered in powdered sugar. Yum!

I was lucky this past summer to stumble across a Rosette Iron while visiting my parents this last summer. We had taken a trip up to Frankenmuth, which is a very cute, German Bavarian town.



There are many Bavarian style buildings, shops, restaurants. Each trip we make up there we always have to have some Bavarian Inn's "Worlds Famous Chicken Dinner."




While scoping out the bakery to the The Bavarian Inn's restaurant, I found the iron.  I was ecstatic and instantly vowed to make Rosettes during Christmas.





So that brings me to the 'Hamrick-Wilbur Family Christmas'. Since my sister and her family were leaving town to go home for Christmas, we had decided to plan a little Christmas get together, complete with opening presents, a big dinner and making Rosettes.

They turned out so very yummy, I thought to present you all with a step by step guide to our Rosette making journey.

Step 1:
Heat your oil in a large stock pan, with the iron in it to 385 degrees.


Step 2:
When oil is ready, remove iron from pot and dab off excess oil on paper towel.

Step 3:
Dip iron into batter. Do not go over top rim of rosette.

Step 4:
Place iron with batter into the hot oil.


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Step 5:
Batter will loosen from iron. Remove iron from oil and let the Rosette brown on one side.

Step 6:
Flip Rosette over to brown on other side.

Step 7:
When finished, removed from oil and immediately pat dry on paper towel.

Step 8:
As soon as your done patting excess oil off, immediately dredge in powdered sugar.


Step 9:
Arrange on a lovely Christmas platter and ........

.......dig in!




Creating new Christmas memories. It's a good thing.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cassie's Chorus Christmas Concert (wow, that's alot of C's!)



As a lot of you know, Cassie is in Chorus again this year. She loves to sing. Thankfully, she has a great voice.
On this day, the Chorus class did a field trip to the local joke, er, mall to put on a little concert and kick off the Christmas Season. (BTW, JCPenney's was a major sponsor of this event. LOL)



Cassie sings Soprano and she even had a small solo.



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Of course we went out to catch the event and embarrass her as much as we could. Mission accomplished and WTG Cassie on your beautiful singing!