Getting ready for the holidays

How it already got to be December 14th, I have no idea!!! This month is passing by way too fast! Holiday parties are in full swing, presents are being bought (and made!) and planning for special holiday dinners is well underway.

Cooking dinner during all of our busy lives is challenging as it is but add in all the holiday pressures (and good times!) and it becomes next to impossible! I have been relying on my crock pot to help have a warm and delicious dinner ready after all the running around all day. Thanks to winning a giveaway on one of my favorite blogs, A Year of Slow Cooking, I now have a new fancy slow cooker! I love my 10 year old crock pot and will continue to use it from time to time, but I love this new one! It is a 6 quart oval shaped one from Hamilton Beach. You can set the temperature, it has a warming function and the lid clasps shut. Now I don't have to tape the lid shut, like I did on my old one when taking it somewhere :)

Last week I made a pork roast with butternut squash and parsnips.I put a 3lb pork roast in the crock pot with 2 parsnips (large chunks) and 1 medium butternut squash (large chunks). The pork roast was rubbed with flour, coriander, chili powder, salt and pepper and placed on top of the veggies. I topped the pork with a sliced apple and one medium onion sliced. For the liquid I used about 2 cups beef broth with a little balsamic vinegar. Cooked on low for about 8 hours. It was melt in your mouth delicious!


I also made a vegetarian chili and french onion soup. My crock pot has been busy. For the chili I just added a can of tomato soup, can of tomato paste, 1 medium onion (diced), garlic, chili powder, cumin, can of corn and a can of black beans. Cook on low until heated through. Sometimes I add a little apple cider vinegar too and leftover chicken, beef or pork once its heated. This only takes 2-3 hours, so its perfect to put in during the kids afternoon nap or while they are occupied with an afternoon snack, and then its ready in time for dinner!

Monday I made my Coconut Curry Sweet Potato soup. I made it for a recipe exchange party, which ended up being dinner for me and Andrea. Andrea if you're reading this, thank you! I had fun! The chicken and quinoa was delicious!

Today I made apricot bbq chicken. This was roughly based on this from a Year of Slow Cooking, but crossed with the sauce I make for meatball appetizers. I added in about a 1/4 of a jar of apricot jam, some bbq sauce, couple splashes of Worcestershire sauce and white balsamic vinegar. Add 1 medium diced onion, clove of garlic and 1/4 cup of brown sugar.

The chili and the chicken I've made in the last week have really helped to clear out my pantry and fridge a little. Always nice to do before the holidays to make room for the the holiday food!

Outside of my crockpot, I made a baked cheeseburger ziti. I have been craving baked ziti. Maybe it is because we have been watching the first season of the Sopranos. This recipe is amazing! Try it!

I am making some gifts for our maintenance men, neighbors and others. I have found some great ideas on Pinterest. I'm only making one this year (that I also made at Thanksgiving), but have "pinned" others for the future.

These are the treats I'm making:

Pretzel Hugs

Easy Fudge

Sugar Cookies (I buy the premade dough and frosting. Its enough work to get a 4 year old to press the cookie cutters in and stay focused!)

Homemade Salsa: 1 large can of whole or diced tomatoes, 1 jalapeno (take out seeds and chopped), about 1/2 a red onion roughly chopped, cilantro (to your taste - I usually grab a handful), salt, pepper, about a clove of garlic, minced. Put ingredients into a blender or food processor. Mix until it is the consistency you want. Less if you like it chunky and more if you want it smooth.

Good luck staying sane during the holidays and if you have a question while you are getting ready, feel free to ask Mamma!