Gift-Giving Part II: Chocolate Coffee Mix

Here’s another quick and easy homemade gift idea: chocolate coffee mix. It’s so simple to throw together and tastes so good on cold winter mornings! In fact, I think a jar or two of this, a jar of spiced tea mix and some delicious homemade treats like cookies, peppermint bark or Chex Mix would make one heck of a gift basket for your friends, family and coworkers! Everybody loves gift baskets full of homemade goodies, right? Right!

This is another one of my mom’s yummy recipes (she has a ton of awesome holiday drink mix recipes!), and somehow I only just discovered it this year! I made a double batch of it and every morning I have a big cup- it’s a perfect way to start my day (believe me, when you teach high schoolers how to sing, you need something a little more special than regular coffee to get you geared up in the mornings…..maybe coffee with liquor in it…..or maybe just straight liquor…). 😉 Make this chocolate coffee part of your gift-giving this year- your friends will thank you!

Chocolate Coffee Mix
-from my mom’s recipe collection (not sure of the original source)

1/2 cup instant coffee (I’m sure espresso powder would be great as well!)
1 1/2 cups powdered Coffeemate creamer (original flavor)
1/2 cup Nesquik (powder)
1/4 cup sugar
dash salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Mix all ingredients in a blender or food processor until well combined.
To serve: use 1-3 heaping teaspoons per cup of boiling water.

*Also tastes delicious with a little crushed peppermint thrown in the mix!

**For gift-giving, I recommend making a double (or even triple!) batch since the recipe doesn’t yield very much


Gift-Giving: Spiced Tea Mix

I’m a big fan of homemade gifts. Mainly because I enjoy food and drink so much, I guess I just expect everyone else to as well (that’s not always the case, but nevertheless, if you’re friends of ours, you can bet your gift will be edible). 😉 My mom makes this spiced tea every year at Christmas and it’s just scrumptious. Really. There’s nothing more comforting than sipping a big cup of this while watching a Christmas movie, and I imagine it would be perfect after an afternoon of playing out in the snow….just a guess, seeing as how we don’t get much snow ’round these here parts!

As luck would have it, this recipe makes a very large amount, so there’s plenty to go around! It looks great in glass jars with a little ribbon or even cute little gift bags. Pretty much everyone who’s ever tasted this loves it- my father-in-law especially! It really is the perfect gift!

Holiday Spiced Tea
-I think this recipe has probably been around a very long time, but I got it from my mother, who got it from Baba many Christmases ago!

1 cup instant tea (unsweetened)
2 cups Tang (or any powdered orange drink- just NOT Gatorade)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves

Stir all ingredients together in a large bowl.
To serve: stir in 2 rounded teaspoons for every cup of boiling water. Enjoy!


A Little Christmas Spirit…

BOY, do I love Christmastime!!! And you’d better believe I squeeze out every second I can- I’m not letting one single holly, jolly moment go to waste! And based on your emails, tweets and facebook comments, I happen to know that there are quite a lot of you out there that get into the spirit of things just as much as I do! So, I decided (just for the fun of it) to post a few pictures of some of my favorite Christmas keepsakes. Ornaments are a very big deal to me- I’m not one of these people who decorate their tree in one shade of glass balls. Nope. I need colored lights, candy canes, precious glass balls of every color and all the funky homemade stuff my husband and I made as kids for our parents’ trees. I love every single bit of it. If this doesn’t get you in the holiday spirit, you probably need a good smacking. 😉

First up, my great-grandmother, Baba’s bells. I have about 30 of these little white bells; they used to be on Baba’s tree. I treasure anything that was once on Baba’s tree!!

This is my little kitchen tree. All the ornaments are food-related (yes, that’s a taco ornament you see in the background). 😉

Yikes. I made this in elementary school. And no, those are not giant striped turkey legs roasting on the fire….they’re stockings. Obviously.

An homage to my quirky side- our Christmas tree wouldn’t be complete without all my Nightmare Before Christmas ornaments!

I think these are my favorites. Joel and I each made these in Sunday school (at different times) as kids…before we even knew each other. They hung on our parents’ trees for years and years; and now they hang our own tree side by side every year.

From our first married Christmas…

Just one of many, many cupcake ornaments!

Baba gave this to me as a wedding gift. It’s significant because she and Pop were married in car (it’s a great story, I just don’t have time to go into right now!). My sister has one too and we both cherish them.

Joel’s mother bought this for me

This is the most special one of all. When we were in high school (long before we had even started dating), Joel brought this to me as a Christmas present. There’s a little button on the bottom that plays jingle bells when you push it; I sat in the floor pushing the button over and over again wishing Joel were my boyfriend! I knew right then I wanted to marry him! I can never hang this on our tree without crying…

So there you have it! Some of my favorite, most precious ornaments and keepsakes. And those don’t even scratch the surface- I have SO much more! I hope everyone is enjoying the Christmas season so far…baking, decorating, singing carols, and being with friends and family! Thanks for letting me share my memories with you!

Happy Baking!


Oatmeal Cranberry Delights…

Some of you may remember me winning a cookie contest last year with my Toasted Oatmeal Cookies with Golden Raisins, Pecans and Coconut. It was pretty cool- got my picture in the paper (a boat-load of times!) and they now sell my cookies at a local bakery. Well, this year they asked me to come back as a judge- neat, huh? I got to judge cookies alongside some of DFW’s most prestigious bakers and bakery owners! Very cool! We tasted 7 different yummy cookies, and I came away with some great recipes to share with you! My favorite being these Oatmeal Cranberry Delights. These were the runner up (although they had my vote for 1st place!) and everyone really liked them. They’re slightly chewy, spicy, a little chocolaty and the cranberries and white chocolate add a whole other level of flavor! A perfect holiday cookie- they’re so pretty (and extremely easy to make!). I highly recommend these for your next Christmas party or cookie exchange!

Oatmeal Cranberry Delights
-adapted from Debbie Nicks, Joshua, TX (runner up of the Ft. Worth Star Telegram Very Merry Cookie Challenge 2010)

1 cup (2 sticks) butter (softened)
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups self rising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 bag of dried cranberries (6 oz.)
1 cup grated milk chocolate bar
1/2 cup melted white almond bark

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla. Mix flour, oatmeal, salt and cinnamon together and add to butter mixture. Stir until ingredients are well mixed. Fold in pecans, crasins, and grated chocolate bar. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for approximately 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. Move to cooling rack until completely cooled. Drizzle melted almond bark over cookies. Serve after almond bark has dried. Makes approximately 40 cookies.