Love & Be Loved: A Very McHendy Christmas

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After family Christmas parties last weekend and on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Monday was our McHendy Christmas.  A day we gather together with our “best friend family” – the McKinneys and the Hendersons – to celebrate.  We have been a McHendy friendfamily for over 25 years.

This year welcomed a few new members.  Here are the new moms with “B” and “C.”

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New moms mean…

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new grandmas…

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and grandpas…

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who nurtured while the rest of the gang…

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played crazy games like the hilarous SpeakOut – where you put a contraption in your mouth and try to enunciate what is on your card while your team mates try to guess what you are saying,

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and the social word game CodesNames, which I totally recommend for a great, easy to learn and fun to play group game.

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It was so fun to get this gang together in one place from all over the country this holiday season.  From tiny babies to adults and growing families, wings have stretched and flown, but when we’re all together, it feels just like home.

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We decided on a no-gift theme this year, and instead, contributed in a small way to a charity of choice, Ronald McDonald House Charities, by purchasing matching #LoveandBeLoved T-shirts.  You can learn more about LoveandBeLoved here, a great organization I learned about through the receptionist at my office who heads the local chapter with her husband.  Their mission is a simple yet profound one:  It is every human being’s God given responsibility to show love, and every human being has the right to be loved regardless of their race, gender, age, sexuality, or beliefs.

Sending Love with Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Bacon & Caramelized Onion Mac ‘n Cheese

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Bacon & Caramelized Onion Mac ‘n Cheese….

You want to get this in your belly!  No joke!

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Who can resist a yummy, cheesy, creamy, comforting homemade macaroni and cheese?

But add bacon….. and some sweet, buttery caramelized onions…. and oh dear lord!

Mix up you favorite cheeses.  I used extra sharp cheddar, Parmigiano Reggiano, and fresh Mozarella.  Tangy…. Salty and Nutty…. and Dreamy Creamy…. all in one dish!

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I made this dish (adapted from Ree Drummond’s Fancy Macaroni) kind of on a whim at the last minute to serve with our Prime Rib Christmas Eve family dinner.  I was going to roast some potatoes, but then decided to kick it up a notch!  And boy am I glad I did.  What a delicious hit this was!

Make this for your next special occasion.  It’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser!

You can thank me later when everyone is ooooing and ahhhing and singing your praises.

Bacon & Caramelized Onion Mac 'n Cheese

Ingredients:bacon-and-caramelized-onion-mac-n-cheese

  • 1 lb. Rotini or Macaroni or your favorite pasta shape
  • 8 Tbsp Butter (1 stick)
  • 2 Large Sweet Onions, cut in half & sliced thin
  • 10-12 slices Bacon
  • 1 Tbsp Bacon Grease (reserved)
  • 1/4 cup Flour
  • 2 cups Milk
  • 1/2 cup Half and Half
  • 2 Egg Yolks, beaten
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup Grated Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
  • 1/2 cup Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
  • 6 oz Fresh Mozarella Cheese

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cook macaroni for 2 mins. less than package instructions. Drain and set aside.

Fry bacon until slightly crispy. Drain on a paper towel. Reserve 1 Tbsp. grease.

Melt 4 Tbsp. butter in a skillet.  Saute onions for 10-12 mins. or until golden brown. Set aside.

Melt remaining 4 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. bacon grease in a large pot.  Sprinkle in flour and whisk to combine. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium heat for 1 min. Pour in milk and half & half, then cook for 3-5 mins.or until thick. Reduce heat to low. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Beat egg yolks and drizzle 1/4 cup hot mixture into the yolks, stirring constantly. Stir to combine. Pour egg mixture into sauce and cook for another min.

Add all cheeses and stir until melted. Add onions and bacon and stir. Taste for seasonings.  Add more salt if needed. Add cooked macaroni, and stir to coat.

Pour into a baking dish and bake for 20 mins.

This decadent dish tastes great with with red meat and/or a green salad!

Enjoy!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Charlie’s Night Before Christmas

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‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
not a creature was stirring, except a brown dog.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
and Charlie couldn’t reach them – he didn’t even dare.

Mom and Dad were nestled all snug in their bed,
while visions of head cold relief danced in their heads.
But Charlie was anxious, he just couldn’t sleep.
He wondered if Santa would bring him a treat.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
Charlie ran to his door to see what was the matter.
He flew out onto the porch and skidded across
Woofing and sniffing even every piece of  moss.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
made it a bit easier for Charlie to see all below.
When what to his wondering eyes should appear,
but a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

“It was SANTA – Oh Santa!  You’re coming to my house.
I knew you would remember – I’ve been a good boy!”
Charlie ran back inside and jumped into bed,
he climbed under the blankets to cover his head.

He quietly waited and listened intently,
but he waited so long, he fell back asleep.
The next thing he knew, Dad was getting out of bed.
Mom gave him a pat, and said “Okay – Go Ahead!”

His stocking was full!  Santa really was here!
A new donut, a new donkey, and a tasty new bone.
Another Christmas miracle
for an adopted brown dog.

Merry Christmas Eve!

Woofs & Wags,
Charlie

Charlie is an adopted dog with brown eyes and a white-tipped tail who brings joy and laughter to his family and friends.  Charlie is a gifted writer, raving food critic, cat, chipmunk, and donut lover, and exceptionally photogenic model.  Some of his best friends are Mike the UPS Man, Cliff the Mailman, and ANYONE who delivers pizza to the house.   If you would like to read more guest posts by Charlie, simply type “Charlie” into the Search box at the top right hand corner of this link: thecreativelifeinbetween.com.   If you would enjoy a companion like Charlie, please consider pet adoption.

 

 

 

 

Apricot Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies

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Do you love buttery shortbread as much as I do?
Add a dab of apricot jam and a drizzle of icing, and O M G!

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I wanted to bake one more batch of Christmas cookies and wanted them to be something with apricot for hubby as it is one of his faves.

I usually make Apricot Kolaches, which we love, but I just ran out of time and energy to make them this year.  When I found this recipe for Apricot Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies at Little Spice Jar, I thought I would give them a try.  No rolling, no folding, no pinching, less time, less work, and all the ingredients that that make yumminess for a Christmas cookie is a winner in my book.

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If you are still baking and still looking for that last amazing, delicious, beautiful cookie, here is a great recipe for you to try!

Apricot Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies

Ingredients:apricot-shortbread-thumbprint-cookies-3

  • 2  cups butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 tsp vanilla
  • 4 cups flour
  • 10-12 oz jar apricot filling or preserves
  • Glaze:
    • 2 cups confectioners (powdered) sugar
    • 2 Tbsp half & half or milk
    • 2 tsp vanilla

Directions:

Cream butter and sugar in electric mixer 1-2 minutes.  Add egg yolks and mix completely.  Add vanilla.  With mixer on low speed, add flour slowly and mix until dough forms.

Place dough in airtight container or Ziploc bag and chill for at least 4 hours.

Heat oven to 350.

Roll dough into tablespoon-sized balls.  Place on backing stone or cookie sheet, and bake 3 minutes.  Remove from oven and carefully indent center with your thumb.  Add 1/4 – 1/2 tsp apricot filling.  Return to oven for approximately 12 minutes.

Allow to cool for 30 minutes.

Prepare glaze by stirring powdered sugar, half & half and vanilla until smooth.  Pour into small baggie.  Snip small corner of baggie.  Squeeze gently to pipe in stripes on cookies.

Enjoy!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

*recipe originally found at Little Spice Jar

A Christmas Cookie Exchange Party

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My sweet daughter-in-law never ceases to amaze me!  With a brand-new baby, she still managed to pull off the loveliest of Christmas Cookie Exchange parties this past weekend.  I am so proud of her.  I love that she values creating traditions and memories for her family…. and admire that she does it on a few hours’ sleep each night!

This year, three new babies attended the party.  Although our granddaughter is the first grandie on our side, she is the fourth on her other side – three of which were born this year!   What a joyful occasion.

Of course no cookie exchange party is complete without a hot cocoa bar (oldest nephew’s fave – especially when stirred vigorously with peppermint candy cane sticks).  And my daughter-in-law’s s’mores cookies made it even more special.

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And don’t veggies taste better when shaped into a Christmas tree on the platter?

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And cheese and sausage on a bed of aromatic rosemary shaped into a wreath?

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Deviled eggs are more festive, too, when dyed red and green.

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There is nothing like Christmas through the eyes of children and passing down traditions.

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Lovin’ from the oven!  The best kind.

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Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Revised Christmas To Do List

My Revised Christmas To Do List – I posted it last December and also the year before.

It is a great reminder every year around this time for all of us.

With only 10 days left until Christmas Eve (which to me is just as special a day  as Christmas Day), let’s not get caught up in what is not important.

I know I could.

I still have gifts to buy, let alone have anything wrapped.  I’ve barely baked, haven’t written or sent out cards yet….  The list of things I have not done yet could go on.

But the older I get, the less it matters.

I am going to cocentrate on the revised list…

I want to focus on being present, giving hugs, sending love, taking time for and with the people I love and myself.

Will you try too?

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

 

Best Ever Homemade Caramel Corn

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One of the things I make every holiday season for parties and gift-giving is homemade caramel corn.

This is not your ordinary caramel corn, however; and the secret is that its made with Hulless Puff-n-Corn instead of regular popcorn.

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Its super simple, makes a huge batch, and I have never taken it somewhere or given it away without being asked for the recipe.

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I got this recipe years ago from my dear friend, Pam, who is, by the way, one of the best Jewish “Christmas cookie” bakers I know!

Here’s the recipe, and be warned….. it is crazy addictive!

Best Ever Homemade Caramel Corn

  • Servings: huge batch
  • Print

Ingredients:caramel-corn-1

 

  • 2 6-oz bags Snyder Puff-n-Corn (or a brand you can get locally)
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter
  • 1 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup Karo light corn syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda

Directions:

Spray large roaster pan with Pam cooking spray, and empty both bags of Puff-n-Corn into it.  Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

In a large saucepan melt butter and peanut butter over medium-high heat.  Once melted, add brown sugar and corn syrup.  Bring to a boil.  Stir constantly, and boil for 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add vanilla and baking soda and stir well.  Pour mixture over popcorn, and stir well to coat.

Bake in oven for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.  Allow to cool.

Enjoy!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi