Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year and Black Eyed Peas

There was one major tradition that I was introduced to when I started dating my husband.  His Dad firmly believes that eating black eyed peas on New Year's Day brings prosperity.  With having a third generation family business, prosperity is a serious matter.  It doesn't matter who you are, how long you have been in the family, or if you even like the way they taste - if you are in the family you eat black eyed peas. PERIOD I remember when we first started dating, I could hardly swallow one black eyed pea.  Then as the years went by I would act like a five year while trying to swallow one spoonful with a huge glass of tea.  Nineteen years later, I can honestly say that I have grown to like these little peas...beans...peas - it's confusing, man!  I do think the name has a lot to do with the distaste; black eyed beans, black spotted beans, white and black beans all sound so much better. So now, I look forward to this deep-rooted, Southern tradition.  Our kids have joined in since they were on solid food.  However, their opinion are split on the issue.  They all agree to eat them because of the tradition of prosperity, however, their love for the pea/bean varies.  Our oldest will choke down one and only one with a huge glass of tea.  Then he will grimace and shake as if he just made a huge sacrifice for our family business.  Our middle child will eat and eat and eat multiple bowls of black eyed peas... only for the rest of us to suffer in misery later...  Our youngest will gladly eat her bowl while proudly proclaiming how they are "full of protein" (she is all but 5). I could give you an actual recipe but that isn't how I make them.  This is what I do:

I will remind my husband at least six times to please bring home a bag of black eyed peas and 1lb. of bacon.  Just like my turkey at Thanksgiving, I cross my fingers and pray that my black eyed peas do not get sold to someone else. :)  Once the beans make it safely to our home, I soak them over night in cool water.  Then on New Year's morning while I am enjoying my coffee, I chop and fry the pound of bacon.  From here I chop an onion, green bell pepper, and red bell pepper.  After removing most of the bacon grease, I add the onion and peppers to the bacon and cook for a few minutes.  I drain and rinse the beans and place them in the pot with the rest of the goodness.  Next comes water and chicken broth.**I use low sodium chicken broth in place of water for most recipes.  It really gives everything a better taste.  The water/chicken broth must cover the beans.  Next it is time for seasoning.  I typically just use salt and pepper along with a small amount of Cajun spices.  I bring everything to a boil and then simmer for a 2,3,4 hours.  **Cornbread and hot sauce must be present at the table. :) It is not a recipe, it is love, and the hopes of prosperity for our family business.  Too much???  On New Year's Day this is how we rank what is important: God
Black Eyed Peas - Amen!!! Here's to 2016!!!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Christmas Fudgies

So I am in my happy place - Christmas Baking Season!!!  This year I am "filling the freezer" for my parents, grandmother, and Charlie's grandmother.  Last weekend we made multiple pans of lasagna, King Ranch Chicken, and individual servings of chicken pot pie.  Last night I made Christmas Fudgies (we also call them Graham Cracker Fudgies).  Today I am hoping to make ranch seasoned crackers, chocolate covered pretzels, and a batch of homemade bread is rising on the counter as we speak.  Tomorrow will be our last day of the baking spree with our annual cinnamon rolls.  Like I said, it is my happy place! :)

I thought I would share the Christmas Fudgie recipe.  It has been passed down from my great grandmother Elsie.  The cookies (if that is what you want to call them) were a favorite of my grandfather (her son).  He was a favorite of mine, so these cookies have naturally become a favorite because they remind me of him. :)
There is something so special about a handwritten recipe.  I also love anything that is in my grandmother's handwriting. :)

The recipe is super simple, and only calls for 3 main ingredients.  

Christmas Fudgies:

6oz. chocolate chips (I used semi sweet)
1 can sweetened condensed milk 
1 box (3 sleeves) graham crackers - a little under 4 cups

**Crush graham crackers into small crumbs and place in large bowl.  Melt chocolate chips in the microwave or on the stove top, stirring continuously to keep from scorching.  Remove from heat, stir in sweetened condensed milk.  Pour mixture of chocolate and sweetened condensed milk over graham cracker crumbs and stir - a lot! :)  Once combined, scoop out small amounts and roll into balls.

At this point you can be done or add various ingredients for some different options.

Option 1:  roll balls in powdered sugar (so, so good - see picture)
Option 2:  roll balls in coconut flakes 
Option 3:  roll balls in crushed nuts

And that is it!!!  Super simple and really yummy!!!

Somtimes I have this weird thing about lining things up... It has to be from all my years of dancing and staying in formation. :)

Happy baking!!!!!!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Our Treasured Nativity Scene

When I was growing up one of my favorite Christmas decorations was my mother's nativity scene.  Since the figures were plastic, she allowed me to sit and re-arrange each piece.  My grandmother had given her the nativity set and my grandfather built the stable.  Over the years, my grandmother bought a new piece for each of her grandchildren.  The result would be a full nativity set by the time we were married and in our own homes.  My grandfather also built most of our stables.  I think mine was store bought but I love it just the same. Our little nativity set has also become a favorite of our children.  It sits on the table behind the couch just begging to be played with.  I have noticed that there isn't a day that goes by that one if not all of my kids take the time to move the characters.  Sometimes the characters are crowded into the stable because...well, it is raining. :)  Other times the characters are spread out.  I also noticed one day that the wings from the angel had been removed and were laying beside the stable.  I couldn't quite figure out the meaning behind that one. :) Yesterday when I was tidying up the living room, I noticed a new arrangement of the characters.  They had been organized by their role in the birth of Jesus.  All of the wise men were gathered together.  The shepherds were in a different area but still circled together.  Baby Jesus was left alone in the stable with the animals.  The part I found so fascinating was the scene of Joseph and Mary.  They were huddled tightly together with the angel.  It looked as if the angel was encouraging them about the importance of their child's birth.  I wish I could have heard the conversations and imagination of the child who arranged this scene.  It was so beautiful and sweet.

I feel like our little family has changed so much with our Christmas traditions.  Years ago the focus was Santa and a little of Jesus and his birth.  Now it is the exact opposite.  The kids still believe in Santa but is just isn't the focus.  They mention Jesus's birth (and move the characters of the nativity scene) on a daily basis, yet maybe mention Santa once a week.  It has been a welcomed shift.  In a way, I let the kids dictate what is important and then steer them back when needed.  But I have to say, they have really allowed Jesus to guide their Christmas season. I am going to begin a nativity scene collection for each of them.  I think I will give it to them for the first Christmas they are married.  I had better get started.  Oh my!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Dear Jeans - I am leaving you for Leggings and Y.P. (a.k.a. Yoga Pants)

I read a blog post today that said you should eliminate as much stress as possible during the holiday season.  You know, it suggested things such as, not over-scheduling, trying not to be the "Pinterest Mom", being intentional with family traditions, trying to relax and just enjoy this time with family, etc.  I thought about this for quite some time.  I am pretty good at keeping our schedule manageable.  I have my pinterest freak out moments but for the most part I really do enjoy the craft and festive part of the holidays.  All in all,  I manage the holidays well.  Except for one thing. This one thing must go... This one thing is evil... This one thing does not make for a healthy relationship and will no doubt ruin my holiday season... MY JEANS!!!!! So today, I make it official and I pledge to end this relationship with my jeans.  Here goes... Dear Jeans,
The time has  come, this relationship between the two of us is unhealthy.  I try and I try to stay positive but you just drag me down - always such the Negative Nellie.  When I put you on and begin to pull you up, I like you... until about mid thigh.  Then you turn all ugly and rude.  What did I ever do to you?!  You mock me when I accidentally catch a glimpse of my mid-thigh struggle in the mirror.  When I do get you up to my waist, you make me grand plie and attempt the runner's stretch.  If I sit in a position that is anything less than perfect posture, you make me look like a muffin.  Sometimes, you even make me loose my breath when I put on my shoes.  And even with all of this, I thought we could make it work.  But your ridiculous behavior on Thanksgiving was the final straw.  I can't go on like this. Again, I have tried and tried with this relationship but you just won't give, even when you are filled with room to stretch.  You are stubborn.  You are rigid.  You are no longer a part of me.  I am a better person with Leggings and Y.P. (a.k.a Yoga Pants).  Leggings and Y.P. are so forgiving.  They never mock me and they are so eager to give.  So, this is it.  We are done for this holiday season.  I was given the advice to get rid of all things stressful and that would be you, Jeans.  I have a feeling I am going to be a much more pleasant holiday shopper, Christmas baker, and all around better person if I spend this time with Leggings and Y.P.  Until mid 2016, you will live in the closet.  I hope you can understand, during this time of year MY EMOTIONAL STATE NEEDS TO BE HEALTHY MORE THAN MY HIPS.