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Holiday Recipe Round-Up It’s down to the wire in Santa’s Kitchen and I’m helping him sort through popular holiday recipes featured in this blog. Reminiscing about these dishes, we force ourselves to stop salivating and start prepping food. Santa needs to start eating holiday foods now in order to build up his stamina for the long hours ahead!

Here are Santa’s picks for this year:

The holidays are not always about sweets. Bowls of Reindeer Snack Mix empty magically, so make sure you make plenty of this salty, sweet, and spicy treat. It also makes a great snack for any casual get-together or game-day viewing!

If mornings are not your thing, try sitting in front of a hot stack of Gingerbread Pancakes with Maple Cream. Your senses will be teased and tickled. Smell the ginger and cinnamon. Look at the light fluffy pancakes. Taste the spice and molasses mixed with the sweet maple cream. You’ll be wide awake in no time!

As much as he would like to, Santa cannot survive only on sweets. One of his favorite salads is not only gorgeous to look at, but is packed with healthy ingredients. Crisp slices of Asian pear mingle with juicy slices of pink grapefruit, crunchy slices of Fuyu persimmons, and beautiful red pomegranate arils. Toasted pine nuts and a fat-free dressing top off this wonderful Fall Fruit Salad.

Finally, here’s a recipe for one of Santa’s favorite cookies. With a buttery crust that’s topped with red currant jam and a lemony-nutty meringue, this cookie is a triple threat. Easily made in a 9 by 13-inch pan, these Yugoslavian Christmas Cookies will undoubtedly become one of your family’s holiday favorites!

This will be my last post of the year, because I will be enjoying the holidays with my family. May your holidays be filled with laughter and love and may the New Year bring peace and joy to you and yours. Thanks for following What About This and see you next year!

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Close up of frog

Photo by Linnell Chang

He: It’s late. Are you coming to bed?
She: In a minute.
He: What are you doing?
She: Taking pictures of a frog.
He: A frog? Where? It’s one o’clock in the morning!
She: Yeah, well, when I was checking the door to see if it was locked, I noticed a frog stuck to the glass. It’s not everyday you can see the belly of a frog up close!
He: I should have known better than to ask you what you were up to!

Opportunities to learn something new present themselves everyday, all day long. It’s easy to ignore or dismiss these moments because we live busy lives and because we take the world around us for granted. So the next time you see something you take for granted – a frog on a window, an autumn leaf on the ground, a candle burning, etc., ask yourself these classic questions: why, when, what, where, and how? For example, how is a frog able to cling to a smooth surface? Why do some autumn leaves turn yellow, some orange, and some red? When a candle burns, where does the wax go? Whether we take the time to observe, study, or investigate depends on our willingness or receptiveness to learn. Don’t forget . . . the more you know, the more you grow.

#1 – Sharpie Art
Sharpie decorated mugs Isn’t it time you learned that Sharpie pens are not just for writing? Take a look at these 20 Sharpie Projects Perfect for the holidays! You’ll be surprised with what you can create with a Sharpie pen!

#2 – Santa Hat Pretzels
Santa Hat Pretzels Looking for an easy-to-make holiday treat? Make these cute Santa Hat Pretzels. Simple, clever, and no baking required!

#3 – Ink and Water

Alberto Seveso

Part of the A Due Colori Series by Alberto Seveso

In the hands of an average person, mixing ink and water together spells out one big mess, but in the hands of Italian artist Alberto Seveso, these two elements create something beautiful. Click here to see more of his intriguing work.

#4 – Random Acts of Kindness
random acts of kindness When we truly open our eyes to the world around us, we take down our blinders and open our hearts, too. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted about random acts of kindness, so when I saw these 16 Unbelievable Acts of Kindness, I knew I had to share them with you. They’ll restore your faith in mankind and propel you to do something kind for someone else.

#5 – Just For Today

Just for today, I will not be angry.

Just for today, I will not worry.

Just for today, I will be grateful.

Just for today, I will do my work honestly.

Just for today, I will be kind to every living thing.

The Five Reiki Principles by Dr. Mikao Usui

Learn something new this weekend!

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Roasting Brussels Sprouts on a Stalk
Are you a hater or a lover . . . of Brussels sprouts, that is? Which category do you fall into? Scientists at Cornwall College have discovered a genetic reason why people fall into one category or the other. These scientists discovered that some people have a mutated gene which makes them immune to the bitterness of Brussels sprouts. Too bad for those who don’t eat these sprouts, though, because they are packed with nutrients – with high levels of fiber, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K, and iron, just to name a few. I purchased a whole stalk of Brussels sprouts at an Asian market for only $3.99 and roasted it, stalk and all, in maple syrup and olive oil. For an added nutritional punch, I sprinkled fresh pomegranate seeds over it. Treat your family to this visually interesting, nutritionally-charged vegetable this Thanksgiving and you’ll feel less guilty about serving them the other nutritionally-challenged Thanksgiving fare!

Brussels Sprouts Roasted On The Stalk
Recipe from Trader Joe’s and The Fresh Market

Ingredients:
1 Brussels sprout stalk
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil
Freshly ground pepper and sea salt, to taste
Fresh pomegranate seeds or dried cranberries, for garnish

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Trim the stalk down to the fullest, best looking part, if necessary. Trim sprouts off one side of stalk to make a flat bottom. Also trim off any discolored or blemished leaves. Brussels sprouts stalk 3. Rinse stalk and trimmed sprouts in fresh water.
4. Wrap damp stalk in plastic wrap and heat in the microwave for 4 to 5 minutes (or blanch in a large pot of boiling water). Place trimmed loose sprouts in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and microwave for 3 minutes.

Blanched Brussels sprout stalk

Blanched Brussels sprout stalk

5. Whisk maple syrup and olive oil together. Place stalk flat-side down along with any loose sprouts in a roasting pan and pour the maple sugar mixture over it.
6. Use a pastry brush to mop the maple syrup mixture onto all sides of the sprouts and stalk.
7. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Brussels sprout stalk

Ready for oven

8. Place in oven and roast for about 45 minutes or until sprouts on the stalk are fork tender and caramelize to a golden color.
9. To serve: Place stalk on a holiday platter, pour any syrup from the roasting pan over the stalk. Garnish with something bright and tart such as cranberries or fresh pomegranate seeds*. Roasted Brussels sprout stalk with pomegranate seeds

Serves 6 – 8

Linnell’s Notes:
1. The stalk I bought was covered evenly with sprouts, so I did not need to trim off any straggly stem.
2. Before trimming the sprouts off of one side, you need to decide first which side is the most attractive, then turn it upside down and trim off the sprouts that prevent it from laying down flat. Trim off as few as possible. I did not trim off any near the top back portion of the stalk, because when I flipped it over it was balanced and laid flat nicely.
3. If you are blanching the stalk in a large pot of boiling water, instead of microwaving it, you will have to turn the stalk over so that the both ends of the stalk gets some time in the hot water.
4. For easy clean-up, I covered my roasting pan with a sheet of parchment paper.
5. When selecting pomegranates, select the heaviest ones. They’ll contain more juice. It’s not important how red they are on the outside, unless you’re buying pomegranates to dry for decorations.
6. To serve, I just snipped the sprouts off with kitchen shears and served them on the same platter.

*How to cut open a pomegranate easily and without a mess:
1. Wash and dry the exterior of the pomegranate.
2. Fill a medium-large bowl with water and put it in the sink.
3. Cut off the top, just below the crown, and then cut the bottom off.
4. Notice that four to six sections of white membrane are now exposed. Cut the skin vertically along each section.
5. Put the pomegranate into the bowl of water and break apart along the cut lines.
6. Break the sections into smaller parts, loosening the arils and allowing them to sink to the bottom of the bowl.
7. Using a spoon or your hands, scoop up the pieces of white membrane that have floated to the surface of the water.
8. Pour the arils and liquid through a strainer and let drain.

ENJOY!

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Pumpkin Cream Pie As leaves start taking their final bows and nights become longer, fall’s spectacular show appeals to our senses more than ever. Acorns make music as they fall from tall oak trees and drop to the ground. Autumn leaves paint fiery displays of color on bright blue backdrops of sky. Familiar smells of favorite spices set the stage for the holidays. With a little over three weeks until Thanksgiving, now is a great time to test out new fall recipes. Imagine a fluffy and lightly-spiced pumpkin cream pie – one that even non-pumpkin-eaters will like and one that can be prepared in advance. That’s my idea of a fall showstopper!

Pumpkin Cream Pie
Recipe from The Pioneer Woman

INGREDIENTS
For the Crust:
1-1/2 package graham crackers (about 15 Cookie Sheets)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 stick butter, melted

For the Filling*:
1 box (3 oz. box) Vanilla Pudding (Cook and Serve variety)
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup heavy cream
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
2 tablespoons whiskey, optional
1/2 cup pumpkin purée
1/2 cup additional heavy cream
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Extra graham cracker crumbs, for garnish

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 300 degrees F.

2. Grind graham crackers in a food processor (if you don’t have a food processor, place them in a large Ziploc and pound them with a rolling pin). Add powdered sugar and melted butter and process until totally combined. Press into the bottom and sides of a pie pan until nice and firm. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until warm and “set.” Remove from oven and allow crust to cool completely.

3. In a medium saucepan, mix dry pudding mix with half-and-half and cream. Add spices. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is bubbly and thick.

4. Remove from heat and stir in whiskey, if using. Add pumpkin and stir to combine. Place lid on pot and set aside to cool. When cool enough, place pot in the fridge to cool completely.

5. When mixture is cool, remove from the fridge. In a mixing bowl, add 1/2 cup heavy cream and brown sugar. Beat until very light and fluffy. Fold in pumpkin cream mixture until combined. Pour into cooled crust.

6. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight. Serve with graham crackers crumbled on top.

Serves 8

Linnell’s Notes:
1. This recipe called for 15 graham cracker “cookie sheets” which I assumed meant 15 double sheets or the sheets as they come out of the bag. This was way too much, so the author’s definition of a sheet must be half of that. I used part of the leftover crumbs for the garnish.

2. *In the photo of the pie on The Pioneer Woman I noticed the pie looked a bit shallow, so I decided to double the filling ingredients. A 15-ounce can of pumpkin purée was a bit more than what a doubled amount would have been, but I went ahead and used the whole can. Didn’t make sense to let a small amount of pumpkin go to waste. Extra filling filled four individual ramekins and was called pumpkin mousse!

3. The next time I make this pie, I will try sprinkling a tiny bit of finely chopped candied ginger on top along with the graham cracker crumbs – just for a special interest.

Enjoy!

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Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without Christmas cookies. After all, how would Santa maintain his energy during his night-long trip, if no one left out a plate of cookies for him? When my daughter and her friends were looking for something to do the other day, I suggested they bake Christmas cookies. Narrowing down which Christmas cookie to bake was easy for my daughter. The recipe for Yugoslavian Christmas Cookies, a holiday family favorite of ours, is one of the first recipes I received from my mother-in-law after I first got married. No, her family did not originate from Yugoslavia and no, I don’t know the history behind this beloved recipe. I do know, however, that the combination of the buttery cake/cookie crust, slathered with red currant jelly, and topped with a delicate lemony-nutty-meringue is worth savoring. Some recipes were meant to be kept in the family, but others, like this one, beg to be shared! Happy Holidays!

Yugoslavian Christmas Cookies
Adapted from a family recipe

Bottom Layer Ingredients:
1/2 pound butter (2 sticks), room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon salt
2½ cup flour, sifted

Middle Layer Ingredient:
1 cup blackberry or currant jelly, stirred

Top layer Ingredients:
4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup ground walnuts
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Cream butter and 1/2 cup sugar thoroughly. Add egg yolk and salt.
3. Sift flour and stir into butter mixture. Pat dough into a 9-inch by 13-inch pan.
4. Beat egg whites until stiff. Gradually add 1 cup sugar. Continue beating until egg whites are a meringue consistency.
5. Fold in ground walnuts and lemon extract. Set aside.
6. Spread slightly whipped jelly on dough crust and swirl meringue over the jelly layer.
7. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts.
8. Bake for 40 minutes.

Makes 3 dozen squares.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. Please note there are two ingredient entries each for sugar and for nuts. I have italicized the measurements in the recipe text to avoid any confusion.

2. After baking, these cookies must be allowed to completely cool in the pan. They are much easier to cut once cooled, since the jelly will not be as “oozy.”

3. When cutting these cookies, remember that the meringue layer is fragile. The meringue will crack, but that’s okay. It’s part of the charm of these cookies!

4. Since they are a little messy to serve and eat, I always serve these cookies in muffin/cupcake papers. See photo.

Enjoy!

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Every now and then it’s nice to go out for a good dinner. A couple of weeks ago I was served a flavorful and juicy rack of pork smothered with sweet, caramelized, maple onions. It was cooked to perfection – just a little pink in the center. The name of the restaurant? Well, truthfully, this delicious dish was served to me at my son’s home. He and his girlfriend treated me and my husband to a wonderful home-cooked meal. I love that all my children enjoy cooking and that for a change I can ask them for a recipe! My husband and I purchased an eight-rib rack of pork, which is a relatively inexpensive cut of meat, at Costco and doubled the recipe. We were delighted that the results were just as tasty as the one our son and his girlfriend prepared for us. The moral of the story: Teach your kids to cook!

Rack of Pork with Caramelized Onions
Recipe by Wolfgang Puck

Ingredients:
1 (2-pound) pork rack with 4 bones attached
Salt and pepper
2 ounces olive oil
3 yellow onions, sliced
1-inch fresh ginger, crushed
1/2 stick cinnamon
1 star anise
3 tablespoons sweet butter
4 tablespoons maple sugar
3-1/3 cups apple cider

Directions:
Season both sides of rack with salt and pepper 20 minutes before cooking. Sear in heavy saute pan with olive oil until rack is well caramelized. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In same pan, add sliced onions, ginger, cinnamon, star anise and butter. Slowly cook until onions are well caramelized. Add maple sugar and cook for 2 minutes.

Deglaze with cider, adjust salt and pepper to taste and reduce until glaze forms. Completely cover rack with half of onion compote. Transfer to roasting pan and place in oven. Cook at 20 minutes per pound or until internal temperature is 150 degrees F. Halfway through cooking time, pour over remaining half of onion compote. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Discard the cinnamon stick and star anise.

Serves 4.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. I didn’t have maple sugar, so I used maple syrup instead.
2. Make sure you don’t overcook the pork, unless you like the texture of shoe leather! Is it safe to eat pork that is slightly pink in the middle? According to Wisconsin River Meats: Yes. The bacteria trichina is destroyed at 137 F. Pork cooked to a temperature of 150 F to 155 F will often have a slightly pink middle.

Enjoy!

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Preparing home cooked meals can be challenging during the holiday season. There’s so much to do and so little time. Isn’t it just easier to order out or grab some fast food these days? Well, what about this – get out that crock pot of yours and cook dinner while you shop or wrap? It’s multitasking at it’s best!

Here’s an easy recipe for chicken cooked in a crock pot. It’s called Linnell’s No-Fuss Chicken. I don’t remember the origins of this recipe, so I guessing that it’s probably a conglomeration of recipes that I adapted. It’s certainly not a gourmet dish, but it’s tasty and easy!

2/3 C flour
1 tsp rubbed sage
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp seasoned salt
1 chicken (2.5-3 lbs.), cut up
3 T butter
olive oil
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 envelope Lipton’s Onion Soup
Approximately 2 cups fat free half & half or chicken broth

Directions: In a shallow bowl, combine flour, sage, basil, and seasoned salt. Rinse and pat chicken dry. Cut chicken into pieces. Coat chicken pieces with flour mixture. In a large skillet, melt butter and a couple of swigs of olive oil. Brown chicken on all sides.

Spray crock liner with a vegetable spray and put browned pieces in the crock pot with largest pieces on the bottom. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, stir together the cream of chicken soup and the onion soup. Stir in the fat free half & half or the chicken broth. Pour the soup mixture over chicken. Cover and cook on high for 2 to 2.5 hours until the juices run clear.

Serve on a bed of rice or noodles.

Note: This is a clean out your vegetable bin recipe. Any vegetables such as carrots, bell peppers, zucchini, celery, broccoli, onions, mushrooms etc. can be added. Wash, cut, and place veggies on top of the meat before cooking.

Go ahead and go shopping for a couple of hours. Dinner will be waiting for you when you return home!

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