Quick and Easy Pickles…

I love all things tangy, briny, or “vinegary”. My favorite flavor of potato chip is hands down, Salt and Vinegar (YUM!). So of course, I love to make my own “pickles”- however, these probably can’t really be considered real pickles. They’re more like quick pickles. Let’s call them “Quickles”. Hehehe…quickles….. Anyway, anytime I go to the Dallas Farmer’s Market, I always linger over the short little pickle-sized cucumbers and think, “I could SO make my own pickles”. But I never do and still never have, really. Someday, though, I promise, I’m going to dive head-first into this whole pickling thing- pickles, beets, okra, you name it! Until then, these “quickles” will have to do.

Basically, I slice cucumbers (any size will do, but these little ones work perfectly!), throw them in with some vinegar, water, salt, sugar, pepper and dill; let them sit in the fridge for awhile and voila! Quickles! You can add in anything you want, really- garlic, cayenne pepper…the possibilities are endless! I like mine extra “puckery” so I use plenty of vinegar, but you can use less if you like a more mild pickle. These measurements are just approximations, as I just throw everything in without measuring, so think of them more as “guidelines”.

Quick and Easy “Pickles” (or Quickles!)

10-12 small pickle-sized cucumbers, cut into thick slices
1/2 – 3/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons dill (fresh or dried)
1 – 2 teaspoons salt (depending on how salty you like them)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Check for seasoning. Make sure all the cucumbers are covered by the liquid. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. Serve cold.

*I should mention that these small cucumbers are delicious by themselves with just a little salt and pepper – a great side dish!

And now onto more important matters- the winner of the Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Cookbook! And the winner is…………

Congrats, Jen! And thank you to everyone for your sweet comments! I’m so lucky to have such wonderful readers!!!

*On a separate note: if any of you are having issues with my blog not loading…please be patient- hubby is working on it. Once again, (it seems like this stuff never ends!) thanks to Go Daddy.com, we’re having server issues. Sometimes it kinda sucks hosting your own site……

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Party, Party, Party!

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Last night we had the family over for a big Christmas party. I love having people over during the holidays – I get to show off my Christmas decorations, serve my favorite snack foods, and most importantly, have a good time with the people I love. There were 16 people total, so of course there was lots and lots of food! I made 2 big batches of my toasted oatmeal cookies, a batch of M&M cookies, spice cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and peppermint bark (to name a few).

Toasted Oatmeal Cookies

Toasted Oatmeal Cookies

Peppermint Bark

Peppermint Bark

Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Spice Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

M&M Cookies

M&M Cookies

My sister brought her famous “soggy sandwiches” (you assemble a bunch of turkey and cheese sandwiches, put them all in a big jelly roll pan,  pour melted butter over the tops, sprinkle with Italian seasoning, and bake for 5 minutes until the cheese melts – sinful!!), my Aunt Josie brought a chocolate roll-up cake, and Nana brought crockpot cocktail weenies. And my sweet Grandaddy brought me a big, beautiful Poinsettia! Some of my favorites from the party include:

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Sausage balls – SO good! It absolutely would not be a party in our family without these babies! Recently, my sister found that adding milk makes them a lot more moist. We love to use maple sausage – it adds such great flavor!

Sausage Balls
3 cups Bisquick baking mix
1 pound maple pork sausage
4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup milk
pinch Cayenne Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl (it’s easiest if you have a Kitchen Aid mixer – use the dough hook), roll into 1 inch balls and bake for 12-15 minutes or until the balls are golden brown. Cool completely.

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My mom’s Christmas Wassail – just like the sausage balls, it really wouldn’t be Christmas without this wassail. My mom’s been making it every single Christmas since the  ’80′s and every year we look forward to it! It simmers for 2 hours, so the entire house smells heavenly! Keep the container that your apple cider came in to store any leftover wassail; then just pour yourself individual cups and microwave anytime you want hot wassail!

Christmas Wassail
2 quarts apple cider
1 46-oz. can pineapple juice
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon allspice
15-20 cloves, stuck into an orange or apple
3-5 cinnamon sticks

Combine all ingredients in a large pot or crockpot on high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 2 hours.
*You’ll notice all kinds of stuff floating around in my picture – I added some Williams Sonoma mulling spices that I had on hand; it’s not needed, though.

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And finally, my favorite – Granna’s Green Stuff. This is seriously the best stuff ever – fluffy…creamy…….green. Originally, my great-grandmother would always make this every Christmas, now her daughter-in-law, my grandmother (Granna), makes it a lot, as we request it a LOT! It’s GOOD!! This recipe is as close as I can get to my great-grandmother’s recipe – she never would tell anyone what was in it! I’m pretty sure this is it, though…

“Green Stuff” (It’s really called Lime Jello Salad, but we’ve always known it as green stuff)

1 (3 oz.) pkg. lime Jello
1 c. hot water

(Heat up drained pineapple juice for part of liquid.)
Mix. Stir until well dissolved. Set until jelly-like consistency then carefully whip with electric mixer.

1/2 pkg. (4 oz.) cream cheese
1 can (15 oz.) crushed pineapple, drained
1/2 c. chopped pecans
1 c. whipping cream

Whip cream until stiff. Add cream cheese. Mix in Jello and blend thoroughly. Fold in pineapple and nuts. Put into a serving bowl and chill for at least 4 hours.

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Just look at that fluffy green goodness!! Anyway, we had an absolutely delightful party last night – thanks to everyone who came and brought delicious food and great company!


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Ghoulish Goodies…

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Every year we get together with my family for a Halloween movie night. We eat fun snacks and watch our favorite Halloween movies (things like Hocus Pocus and Disney’s Icabod Crane…good stuff!). This year I wanted to bring something really yummy to snack on, so when I saw this recipe for “Goblin Grub” on Our Best Bites, I immediately printed it off and bought all the stuff to make it. Turns out, this was one awesome snack! Everybody loved it and it got gobbled up pretty quickly! The recipe makes a TON, so if you aren’t expecting a small army of guests, I’d suggest making only half. You could do like Our Best Bites did, and make cute little gift baggies for everyone, or you could just serve it in a big bowl and let everyone go wild. Either way, this is some fantastic Halloween party food!

Goblin Grub (Chewy Chex Cereal Mix)
-Our Best Bites

6 1/2 c. Rice Chex
4 1/2 c. Golden Grahams
1 c. sliced almonds (I used peanuts)
2 c. coconut
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) real butter
1 c. sugar
1 c. light Karo syrup
1 tsp. vanilla

In a VERY LARGE bowl, combine cereal, almonds, and coconut. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, combine butter, Karo syrup, and sugar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and cook for three minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. While the mixture is still hot, pour over the cereal mixture. and stir well so the candy mixture coats the cereal.

If you have leftovers, it stores nicely in a ziploc bag.

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