Hershey’s Kiss Brownie Bites

Hershey’s Kiss Brownie Bites
might just be the ultimate  little treat
for the inner chocoholic in
all of us (well – 99.999999% of us… Hard as it is to believe – there is an itsy bitsy, teeny tiny  population of people on this earth who do not like chocolate!)

But for the rest of us….
Imagine a bite-sized scoop of Ghiradelli Double Chocolate Brownie mix
baked to perfection of fudgy center with slightly hardened and cracked outside
in a mini muffin baking pan (be sure to line) and topped off with a smooth, creamy milk chocolate Hershey’s Kiss.

Not only are they sheer decadent delight, they are about as easy to make as desserts come.

I have started baking for my son’s wedding next month.  We have a unique tradition in our little part of the world that requires an overflowing cookie table at weddings.  The cookies are eaten for appetizers, dessert (along with wedding cake), and supplied to take home in to-go boxes.  I’m happily in charge of the cookie table for the wedding, so a baking I will go.

I started with these little brownie bites and will be stocking the freezer with chocolate chips and apricot kolaches and lots more in the coming weeks!

Wedding cookie table or not, you are going to want to try these.  Your friends and family will thank you, and you won’t be sorry!

Hershey's Kiss Brownie Bites

Ingredients:

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Line mini-muffin baking pan with foil mini-muffin liners.

Prepare brownie mix according to package directions by combining mix, water, oil, and egg.  Scoop batter into foil liners to 3/4 full.

Bake for approximately 12 minutes.  While brownie bites are baking, unwrap Hershey’s kisses.  Remove from oven and immediately insert a Hershey’s kiss into the center of each brownie bite.  Press gently.  Allow to cool.  The kisses take a while to set, so be careful.

Enjoy!

Cheers & Chocolate Kisses,
Jodi

A Brunch & Bubbly Bridal Shower

I had the joy and privilege of hosting a Brunch & Bubbly Bridal Shower for my bright and bubbly daughter-in-law to be this past weekend.

I had fun decorating and preparing for our girly party!

Thanks to Matron of Honor and beautiful sister, Laura, and loving, gentle mom, Pat for co-hosting with me.

(And a super special thanks to my BFF Jill for taking all of these photos as well as helping with anything else needed while I was busy hosting.)

Liz was surrounded by the love of her Mom and three sisters…

and there is another beautiful girl on the way to add to this gang!

First things first – the Bubbly!

and a toast to the bride-to-be.

Friends and family attended.

Families mingled meeting and getting to know each other…

and several generations shared in the joy and love.

New moms and great grandmoms…

and moms with babies on the way,

and moms who get to share ❤ .

Then there was brunch.

Where we served a buffet of Chicken  Salad on Sliced Crostini, Crispy Veggies with Hummus, Fresh Fruit and Honey Walnut Brie, along with…

Mini BLTs served on Heart-shaped biscuits,

Loaded Deviled Eggs,

and a Strawberry Spinach Salad with Feta Cheese and Candied Pecans.

Aunt Kathy made the MOST amazing cupcakes I’ve every tasted!  Strawberry Lemon with Swiss Meringue Buttercream Frosting,

My friend, Pam who makes the most amazingly beautiful sugar cookiedoodles, made these gorgeous and delicious treats that we served along with my cookie pops.

The guests brought and shared amazing gifts for our newlyweds to be.

We played a few games.  Pretty simple ones really… Like guess the number of corks and gave away prizes when a timer went off during gift opening.

Some sweet and funny stories were shared when guests filled out a “Mad Lib” story…

and then chose to share with the group.

And then the groom-to-be (my son, Nick) arrived with flowers, smiles, and a tight hug.

Favors of Homemade Lavender Sugar Scrub were given to guests as a thank you before leaving.

A kiss and an “I love you” at the end of the day, but the beginning of a lifetime.  (with a little bit of sweet granddaughter drool on my shoulder)

It was a great day to celebrate a great young lady!

Love you Liz!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Thanks Jill!

Party Supplies:
Toasting Flutes for Mimosa Bar
Juice Carafes for Mimosa Bar
Tissue Paper Tassel Garland
Tissue Paper Pom Poms
Tissue Paper Honeycomb Balls

Cake Pops! Tips for Beginners


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Cake Pops!  Tips for Beginners.

I adore cake pops!

Because… really…  what could be better than a bite-sized morsel of cake dunked in chocolate?  And then maybe adorned with sprinkles?!

They are delicious and pretty and cute; but until this past weekend, I had never tried to make them.

I wanted to practice for an upcoming event or two, so I read and researched and asked around and gave them a whirl this past weekend.

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They are really not that difficult, but there are a few tricks to success.  I thought I would provide a few tips that helped make mine turn out delicious and beautiful!  At least that is the consensus I got from the party I took them to as “practice” pops.

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To make cake pops, bake a cake mix – whatever you favorite flavor is.  Then follow these tips for success.

  • Freeze cake – even if overnight.  It allows you to plan ahead and also adds to the moisture of the cake.  Simply place baked  cake – crumbled, broken pieces, or all in one piece – in a large Ziploc bag in the freezer.
  • 1 boxed cake mix  makes approximately 3 dozen cake balls.
  • When ready to assemble, defrost the cake and crumble to fine crumbs with your hands in the bag.
  • Add only enough frosting (ready made works perfect) to add a bit of “glue” for forming and holding balls together.  I used 1 heaping tablespoon – that is it!  This allows your cake balls to truly taste like cake.
  • Scoop crumb mixture with a small scoop to form uniformly-sized 1 inch balls.  Then roll with your hands to round ball.
  • Melt chocolate candy melts in microwave in a deep cup that is not too wide to allow for ease of dipping.  It only takes 1 1/2 – 2 minutes.
  • Dip tips of sticks into candy melts and insert into cake balls.
  • Refrigerate or freeze for at least a half hour or several hours.
  • Remelt chocolate at 30 second intervals until desired consistency.
  • Dip cake balls on sticks into chocolate candy melts.  Allow excess to drain.
  • Place on parchment paper if using with stick up, and sprinkle with jimmies or edible glitter.
  • Stick into styrofoam if using cake ball up and decorate as desired.
  • Make ahead up to 3-5 days if needed – no more than 7 days.  (there are horror stories of moldy cake balls made too far ahead of time)
  • I found this site – Heavenly Cake Pops – to be extremely informative.

Have fun and enjoy!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Peanut Butter Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

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Peanut Butter Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips.

I had a few bananas hanging out that were getting very ripe, so I decided to make a loaf of banana bread yesterday morning.

Instead of making my usual, I wanted to try something different.  Knowing how yummy peanut butter toast is with sliced bananas (right??!!), I thought peanut butter would be a wonderful addition to banana bread.  And while I was at it, why not throw in a few chocolate chips?!

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Thinking I was a genius for coming up with this idea, I searched online just in case.  Well of course others had tried this combo!  (Where have I been?!) I found a few different versions, so I took what I liked from them and adapted to come up with this one below.  It was delish!  The peanut butter is subtle, but adds a wonderful new twist.  This bread is SUPER moist and really wonderful warm out of the oven.

Hope you’ll give this twist on banana bread a try!

Peanut Butter Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

Ingredientspeanut-butter-banana-bread-with-chocolate-chips

  • 4 medium ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk (I make by mixing milk and a dash of vinegar)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease or spray a large bread loaf pan (of course I use a stoneware bread pan), then line with parchment paper allowing it to hang over the edges for easier removal.

In a large bowl, combine first 8 ingredients.  Mix well.  Add baking soda, salt, and flour.  Mix until combined.  Gently fold in chocolate chips reserving a handful to sprinkle on top. of batter.

Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake approximately one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.   If the bread starts getting too brown, place a tent of foil over top at around 45 minutes.

Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then lift out by grabbing parchment paper.  Cool on wire rack.  

Enjoy!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Five-Minute Homemade Rustic Artisan Bread

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Five-Minute Homemade Rustic Artisan Bread.

Aren’t these loaves beautiful?!  I recently found this recipe that makes homemade bread so easy!

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You can mix this dough together in five minutes.  Then it just needs to rest for two hours while you go about doing something… anything else.  After that, throw it in the fridge – for up to 14 days!  Whenever you want a fresh loaf of bread, grab a hunk of dough, and bake it.  Super simple, super delicious!

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So… disclaimer… you obviously can’t make it from start to finish in five minutes, but that really is all the longer the dough takes to mix together, and there is no kneading, so it really is a simple way to make warm, fresh, delicious homemade bread quickly and easily with just a few simple staple ingredients!

Five-Minute Homemade Rustic Artisan Bread

  • Servings: 4 1 lb loaves
  • Print

Ingredients:bread-5-minute-rustic-artisan-bread

  • 3 cups lukewarm water (approx. 100 degrees F)
  • 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp coarse salt (I love using Maldon Sea Salt Flakes)
  • 6 1/2 cups flour

Directions:

Pour water in large bowl.  Sprinkle with yeast and salt, and mix until dissolved.  Add flour all at once, and mix until completely incorporated.  That’s it!  Five minutes.  No kneading.

Place a clean kitchen towel over the bowl and let it sit for two hours.

After two hours, cover bowl with saran wrap (but not too tight as it needs a little vent for gases to escape), and throw it in the fridge.

Your dough is ready to use at anytime in the next 14 days.

When you are ready to bake a loaf, preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Grab a hunk of dough with floured hands.  Do not punch it down, and do not knead or overwork it.  Gently shape as desired into a ball, loaf, rolls – whatever you like.  Place on a baking stone. (I bake absolutely EVERYthing on baking stones – cookies, bread, roasted vegetables, meatloaf, french fries – they are all I use in the oven – and the results are awesome!) You can let it rest for 30-40 minutes or bake right away – depending on the density you desire.  Dust top of dough with flour (and salt if desired).  Slash a few cuts in the dough with a serrated knife.

Place an empty metal broiler pan on bottom rack of oven and fill with warm water right before placing dough in oven.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until the crust is a rich brown color and firm to the touch.  Remove from oven and cool on wire rack.

Enjoy!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

*original recipe found at Leite’s Culinara

Cinnamon Pecan Crumb Cake

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BEWARE:  This Cinnamon Pecan Crumb Cake is only for the most serious crumb cake lovers!  Are you one like me?  Do you love more buttery, sugary, nutty crumbs than cake?  If so, this is the cake for you!  And I dare say it should not be consumed without a large steaming cup of coffee to wash down the “crumby” goodness.  Be still my coffee crumb cake lovin’ heart!

Let’s take a closer look at all that “crumby” deliciousness…

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Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  This is a seriously “crumby” cake!

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With buttery, nutty, cinnamony wonderfulness, this cake is a serious indulgence justified as breakfast when served with coffee…. but Hubby discovered it works very well as an evening snack when topped with a scoop of Vanilla Caramel Gelato!

If you don’t like your cake quite so “crumby,” you could double the cake batter or half the crumb topping.  Also – be careful not to overbake and dry the cake out – –  unless you are eating it with vanilla caramel gelato or dunking it in coffee.  In that case – who cares!

Diet shmiet – this cake is worth the calories!  Enjoy!

Cinnamon Pecan Crumb Cake

Ingredients:cinnamon-pecan-crumb-cake-piece-2
  • Topping
    • 2 1/2 cups flour
    • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
    • 2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
    • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter, melted
    • 1 cup finely chopped pecans (or walnuts)
  • Cake
    • 1 1/2 cups flour
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 2/3 cup milk
    • 1 large egg
    • 2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
    • 3 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325° F.  Prepare  8 or 9 inch square baking pan by spraying with vegetable spray and lining with parchment paper so it overhangs sides of pan. Spray the parchment paper with vegetable spray and set aside.

Make topping by combining flour, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl.  Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the melted butter. Stir to combine, then add the pecans using your hands to thoroughly mix. Topping should have a loose, crumbly consistency.  Set aside.

Prepare cake by whisking milk, oil, egg, and vanilla in medium bowl.  Add sugar, baking powder, salt, and flour.  Stir until just combined.

Pour the cake batter into prepared pan. Add all of the crumb topping evenly over the batter.

Bake approximately 30 mins.  The cake will rise, and the topping will bake into the cake batter.

Remove from oven and cool for 10 mins. in pan. Run a butter knife along the edges of the pan to loosen cake and lift it out to a cutting board. Cut into 9 squares. Sprinkle with powdered sugar to garnish if desired. 

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

*recipe adapted from Garlic&Zest

The Ultimate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cookie & That Something about Baking

reeses-peanut-butter-cup-cookies-stack

The Ultimate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cookie

The Ultimate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cookie

A few months ago, I recall my youngest son, watching me mix together a batch of cookie dough, asking, “Do you actually enjoy doing that?  Seems like a lot of work!”

I thought about it.

It is a bit tedious.

It makes a mess in the kitchen.

I could be binge-watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix or painting or exercising or reading or so many other things.

But…

There’s something about baking…

reeses-peanut-butter-cookies-close-up

There’s something about using Grandma’s old tin measuring cup and reminiscing about childhood summers.

There’s something about the way the house smells like home when you bake.

There’s something about the smiles you know will emerge when hubby sees stacks of cookies cooling on racks when he comes home or comes in from out of the cold.

There’s something about making goody packages to send home with your kids (even though they are grown and on their own and perfectly capable of making themselves).

There’s something about taking a special treat into the office for a long day of meetings and seeing your co-workers’ faces light up.

There’s something about taking a plate of cookies to the Thursday night gang at John’s Bar and watching your buddy eat one cookie before his dinner and two after.

There’s something about trading a cookie or piece of cake with Cliff the mailman when he delivers a package and handful of mail right to the kitchen door (with a treat always in hand for your furry kid).

There’s something about your kids’ friends saying “You make the BEST cookies Mom M!”

reeses-peanut-butter-cookies-with-coffee-and-book

So you see – baking is more than the chore of mixing butter and sugar and flour.  It’s about creating happiness.

When I read a recent blog post by one of my very favorite blog writers, Pam at Catching My Drift, I knew I HAD to try her cookie recipe.  Pam is not a food blogger, but a storyteller – a GREAT storyteller I might add.  And the story she wove about her persistent and passionate quest to recreate her ultimate cookie painted a picture of the most heavenly bite on earth.  Pam tells the story of  how she loves sitting in the Starbucks snack bar of her local Barnes & Noble noshing on the most amazing Reese’s peanut butter cookie while sipping dark Italian roast and paging through glossy magazines.  You must read about her 35-year quest to recreate this cookie and the surprising place she found the recipe.

reeses-peanut-butter-cookies-1

Well, dear Pam, we were certainly not disappointed in this Ultimate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cookie!  It is indeed the ultimate.  It is a new favorite of hubby’s.  And it will now be a staple in my cookie recipe collection!  They are super crispy on the outside edges and tender and  soft on the inside.  The perfect combination of texture and flavor.

Here is the recipe as shared by Pam (which of course I doubled – because I knew I had to share)!

Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup margarine (I used butter)
  • 1 cup peanut butter (I used Jiff Creamy)
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Candy or chocolate of your choice to mix in (I used 4-6 Reese’s peanut butter cups, chopped, and 1/2 cup chopped Hershey’s Kisses.)
  • Sugar for dipping

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat first six ingredients until fluffy.  Add next four ingredients.  Blend well.  Fold in chopped candy.  Shape into 1 1/2 – 2 inch balls.  Roll in sugar.  Place 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.  Flatten with sugared bottom of glass.  Bake 12-15 minutes or until browned on the edges and beginning to crinkle.  Remove from oven, and cool completely on wire cooling rack.  

Enjoy immensely!

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

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