I love granola and really believe that the homemade kind is the best. It’s a softer texture than most store-bought granola and the flavors are always much bolder.
Granola is not only a tasty breakfast or snack but it’s a great gift. Put it in a cute jar and tie with a pretty ribbon or make it rustic with a mason jar and a little twine. No need for a hostess gift or prefer not to give food this holiday season? Then whip up a batch and store it for a few weeks for your own holiday entertaining.
Preheat oven to 300F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large bowl, use a wooden spoon to mix together dry ingredients (oats, apples, sugar, spices, and salt) until thoroughly combined. In a separate small bowl, stir together wet ingredients (applesauce, honey, vanilla and oil).
Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until coated. Spread evenly onto prepared baking sheet.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes, until golden brown. Allow granola to cool completely on baking sheet.
Store in an airtight container. Granola will keep for at least a few weeks.
Serve with milk, over yogurt or ice cream, or eat by the handful on its own.
I really enjoy making variouscandies during the holiday season because they keep so well. I can make the candy in advance and freeze it. I can give it away, and know that the recipients can store it for a while or freeze it if they are experiencing a sugar overload.
Of all the candies I’ve made, fudge (along with bark) ranks up there as one of the easiest and fastest to make. I’ve made chocolate fudge in the past, but this particular recipe highlights dark dark chocolate, one of my favorites. For some extra holiday pizzazz, I filled cookie cutters with fudge and individually packaged the fudge, instead of making a pan and cutting it into square. I’ll be mailing these goodies in holiday care packages and giving them as favors at a holiday party, but if you have kids, this would also make a cute stocking stuffer.
Thanks again to Meal Planning Magic for hosting the 12 Weeks of Christmas Treats. Head over to her blog, or check out the linky at the bottom of this post, for more ideas for your holiday baking.
Makes an 8×8 in. pan (or 8-10 2 in. cookie cutters worth)
3 c. good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips
14 oz. can condensed milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Line an 8×8 inch pan or Pyrex with parchment paper and set aside.
In a double broiler, melt chocolate chips and condensed milk. Stir regularly until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into prepared pan and smooth out with a spatula or knife. Top with sprinkles, if desired.
Refrigerate until set.
Remove fudge from pan and cut with a warm knife.
Fudge in Cookie Cutters: Wrap the bottom of each cookie cutter in aluminum oil and set on a baking sheet before filling. Once set, remove the foil and package.
Freeze: To freeze fudge in pan, wrap tightly in saran wrap. To freeze fudge in cookie cutters, wrap or package each cookie cutter individually. Then seal in an airtight container.
When things are tough, I usually curl up and lose myself in a book. I burrow under a blanket with tea, hot chocolate, or wine by my side. I let the characters take my problems away. The Princess Bride is one of my favorite books to curl up with. I can read it over and over again. As the weather turns chillier and the blanket comes out (along with this book!), I heat up a glass of hot chocolate and get ready to spend a long afternoon on the couch. The hot chocolate recipe is a new favorite recipe of mine. I’ve given it as a gift, but not going to lie, I kept lots for myself.
One of my favorite food blogs is Everyday Annie (previously Annie’s Eats). It’s the first blog I check in the morning; it’s the first blog I check for recipe ideas. Annie is a full-time doctor, wife and mother. Every time I read her blog, I’m amazed at how much she has accomplished.
Last week, on Thanksgiving day, Annie’s father passed away unexpectedly. As I was blessed with a wonderful day with my parents, in-laws, and siblings, Annie was grieving. Tears come to my eyes as I try to imagine what she must be going through. Annie, I’ve never met you, and you probably don’t follow my blog. But this post is dedicated to you and your family. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
The Princess Bride
By William Goldman
The Princess Bride is a classic. You know the movie? Well, the book is even better.
A father reads aloud to his his sick 10-year old son a story by S. Morgenstern. The story that has everything in it: “Fencing. Fighting. Torture, Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passions. Miracles.” (p 9-10) Years later, Goldman gives the book to his own son for his tenth birthday and goes on to discover that S. Morgenstern’s story is not what he thought it was. Goldman discovers that his father only read him the “good parts.” This book is Goldman’s 1973 adaption of S. Morgenstern’s tale, leaving out the boring family genealogies and pages upon pages of descriptions where nothing happens.
Buttercup was a milkmaid and the prettiest girl alive. She falls in love with her “farm boy” Westley, who leaves to make his fortune in America. Not long after he sets sail, Buttercup receives a letter saying that his ship was taken by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who never leaves prisoners alive. That was the last Buttercup heard of her one true love.
Buttercup’s beauty wins her a an engagement to Prince Humperdinck of Florin. Just before their wedding, Buttercup is kidnapped. Twice. The next two hundred pages is packed with fighting, plotting, deceiving, and revenge as Westley struggles to rejoin his one true love.
If this story rings a bell, it’s because the movie was pretty true to the plot as well as the dialog. However, like all movies, it’s impossible to fit everything into two hours. Read the book. You’ll learn the stories behind Fezzik and Inigo – how they ended up with Vizzini the Sicilian, what Fezzik’s childhood was like, and how Inigo’s father died at the hands of the 6-figured man. These are the pieces that make me like the characters even more.
Recommendation: Read it. Please.
And to go with The Princess Bride…. make some of this hot chocolate mix. Give some as gifts or hoard it all. But if you give it as a gift, you should at least hoard a little bit. You’d be sad if you didn’t. And then make it every night with a generous dollop of whipped cream. It’s rich, it’s decadent. It’s grown-up hot chocolate. It’s amazing.
These 5-ingredient little nuggets take a while to make, but they’re easy and totally worth the time investment. A family recipe, these Peanut Butter Balls are a favorite among family and friends. Make them once, and they’ll be requested every year after that!