Our land lords, whose farm we live on, had a Mama goat die suddenly and we've been bottle feeding the kids who are cute little devils. every time I show up with the bottle they start bleating their wee heads off and climbing ALL over me! They are so adorable when they're small, these kids are mostly Nubian and have floppy ears to add to the cute factor. And speeking of cute, they also bought four Alpaca recently and I call them the Dr.Seuss beasties, because they are just the silliest looking creatures I've ever seen! Friendly and amusing little guys.
I've been farm sitting this week for them too, so Christmas has kind of got away from me this year. But, for now, it's time to just stop stressing over unfinished projects and enjoy the holidays.
I LOVE Christmas, and in my family of Scrooges, I'm considered eccentric and a bit crazy for my enthusiasm, but I must say , that we are NOT made of money and even though we save back a bit for it, having a Christmas with gifts for friends and family , a nice Christmas tree and lovely table with all the trimmings is getting over the top spendy!
From now on, I will be employing all of my crazy off the wall ideas ALL year long to pull off the Christmas that everyone knows me for! I can just see the eye rolling and hear the sighing and grumbling of my poor stolid long suffering dad now =D
Every year we end up doing this little comedy of calling friends and seeing who's truck we can borrow to go buy a tree and bring it home, since we drive a little green VW "bug" and little green bugs and big Christmas trees don't work out too well. So this year, we did all of the calling and begging, got the loan of a truck and off we went to our regular tree lot and our jaw dropped due to the cost! Almost double what it was just last year. We found a beautiful tall pine and were already talking about how to decorate it when she said the tree would be $70! , which we were not willing to spend on a dead tree. We ended up with a smallish scotch pine and our little 5 foot tree cost $40! Last year we bought a 7 foot tree from them for $35.Wow! We could have shopped around, but decided not to this year, since we were already standing there looking through the trees and chatting with the tree lot lady. I think I'll be heading over to the University nursery and buying a bunch of young trees to plop in the rear of the property to start growing my own! Yes I'm a penny pincher and proud of it!
Lest any one thinks I've become a complete Grinch, there is the fact that homemade Christmas candy is just not that expensive to make and so, so rewarding. Here are three recipes gathered from around the web to add to your holiday indulgences
~* Orange Dark Chocolate and Coconut Pieces*~
2 cups quality dark chocolate, bar or chips
1 teaspoon orange extract [or almond extract]
1 cup almonds, toasted and then chopped
1 cup shredded [sweetened or unsweetened] coconut, toasted
Using a double broiler, melt the chocolate. Once it’s all melted, add the orange extract.
Make sure almonds and coconut are completely cool before you stir into the melted chocolate.
I used silicon baking cups, but you can use either a cupcake pan [sprayed with non-stick] or drop directly onto parchment paper – lined baking sheet. With an ice cream scooper or spoon, drop chocolate mixture into the cups or onto parchment paper.
Place baking pan/sheet in the refrigerated for about 2 hours, allowing them to harden.
~* Salt and Pink Peppercorn Caramels *~
Prep: 30 mins Cook: 40 mins
1 cup butter
1 16 ounce package packed brown sugar (2-1/4 cups)
2 cups half-and-half or light cream
1 cup light-colored corn syrup (I use agave syrup)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 - 1 1/2 teaspoons flaked sea salt, tho' other large grain sea salt would do
1/2 - 1 1/2 teaspoons pink peppercorns, crushed
1. Line an 8x8x2-inch or 9x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Butter the foil. Set aside.
2. In a 3-quart heavy saucepan melt butter over low heat. Add brown sugar, half-and-half, and corn syrup; mix well. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture boils. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan (see Candy Thermometer, below). Reduce heat to medium. Continue boiling mixture at a moderate, steady rate, stirring frequently, until the thermometer registers 248 degrees F, firm-ball stage (40 to 50 minutes). Adjust heat as necessary to maintain a steady boil.
3. Remove saucepan from heat; remove thermometer. Stir in vanilla. Quickly pour mixture into prepared pan. Cool 10 to 12 minutes; sprinkle with salt and pepper. When firm use foil to lift candy out of pan.* Use a buttered knife to cut into 2x1/2-inch size pieces. Wrap each caramel in waxed paper or plastic wrap. Store up to 2 weeks.
And last of the sweets are these delicate mints. These mints were my mama's favorite and they have a lot of Christmas family tradition attached to them. Eat them with caution, they are surprisingly addictive!
~* Cream Mints *~
Prep time: 30 minutes
3 tablespoons reduced fat cream cheese, softened
1/4 teaspoon mint extract
food coloring (optional) - i used a few drops of yellow to get a very soft butter color
4 to 4 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
about 1/4 cup superfine or granulated sugar
beat the cream cheese until soft and fluffy, about two minutes. add the mint and food coloring, if using, and mix until blended.
add the confectioners sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, until it forms a stiff mixture.
form into little balls no bigger than a nickle, roll in the superfine sugar and flatten with your thumb or tines of a fork. store in the refrigerator. Yum!
And now it's time for me to start wrapping and baking some more, so I wish all of you a splendiferous holiday!