One way that our family likes to add in a green vegetable during the holidays is with a pan of these delicious green bean bundles. They are smothered in butter, brown sugar, and soy sauce, which makes them sweet and savory at the same time. During the year, this is also a simple combination to dress up a can of green beans on a Tuesday.

Green Bean Bundles

3 15-ounce cans whole green beans

1 package bacon, cut in half

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup melted butter

1/2 teaspoon garlic salt

Drizzle of soy sauce

Using the bacon strips, secure 5 to 10 green beans into a bundle with a toothpick. Place bundles in a 9-inch by 13-inch baking dish and cover with the marinade of brown sugar, butter, soy sauce, and garlic salt. Refrigerate overnight. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes uncovered.

We love a good Brussels sprout recipe. Whether roasted or thrown in a casserole, we’ve tried several ways to cook up the tiny cabbages. Here is one way I tried for Christmas Eve as an easy pick up. It was one of those Facebook recipes from Delish that popped up on my feed. I thought, why not? While it is a bit time consuming, the end product is pretty good.

Stuffed Brussels Sprouts

1 pound Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 cup ricotta
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus more for sprinkling
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a large baking sheet with cooking spray. In a large pot of salted boiling water, blanch Brussels sprouts until bright green, 2 minutes. Rinse under cold water, then drain. Using a small spoon, scoop out insides of sprouts, then transfer hollowed sprouts to a prepared baking sheet. In a medium bowl, stir together ricotta, Parmesan, bread crumbs, lemon zest, and season with salt and pepper. Spoon mixture into Brussels sprouts, and sprinkle with more Parmesan. Bake until ricotta mixture is warmed through and Brussels sprouts are crispy, 20 to 25 minutes.

I love Gingerbread in all shapes and sizes. I don’t love making those rolled out, cut, and decorated cookies so much. So, I found the perfect happy medium. These Gingerbread Crinkle Cookies are chewy on the inside and full of spice. I’m daydreaming about them now.

Gingerbread Crinkle Cookies

3 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup  dark brown sugar, packed

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons Red Stick Spice Gingerbread Spice blend

1/2 teaspoon salt

12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes

3/4 cup sorghum molasses

2 tablespoons milk

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

Stir together the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, spices, and salt. Add the butter pieces. Mix at medium speed with a hand mixer until the mixture is sandy and resembles fine meal. With the mixer running, gradually add the molasses and milk. Mix until the dough is evenly moistened. Mix until thoroughly combined. Scrape the dough onto a work surface; divide it in half. Working with one portion at a time, shape the dough into two round disks. Cover them in plastic wrap and freeze until firm, or refrigerate the dough overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line the two baking sheets with parchment paper or a baking mat. Take the cookie dough out of the fridge and begin rolling the dough into balls, about 2-inches in diameter. Be careful not to overwork the dough as it will lose its chill and get too warm. Roll each dough ball in the granulated sugar until coated. Transfer ball to confectioners’ sugar and roll again until coated evenly. Place the coated dough balls 1-inch apart from each other on the prepared baking sheet.
Bake the cookies until set in the centers, 12 minutes. Do not over bake. Cool the cookies on the sheets, and then remove the cookies to a wire rack to cool to room temperature. Store gingerbread crinkle cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

There’s only one week left until Christmas Day, and I thought I’d come from under my research in postpartum blogs and recipes of lactation cookies (If you missed it, baby Wes is finally here; and I have the cutest cousin in the world now.) to share my favorite part of Christmas with you.

Ever since my Nannie, Doris Guido, passed away 10 years ago, Christmas has been a little grayer and a little less magical without her. Thankfully I have several pieces of her around my house to make it feel like she’s still around, and at Christmas time she’s everywhere because of her ornaments and decor I now call my own.

She was a stickler for her white flocked tree and giving it a very mauve and pastel appearance with its decorations. The living room it lived in was one of antique furniture in floral patterns and pink, plush velvet, so traditional reds and greens just didn’t fit. She also liked to embellish the decor a little (ok, maybe a lot) with little hints of ribbon and holly. Don’t even get me started on her gift wrapping. Each present under the tree was carefully wrapped, tied with a real ribbon, and donned with extras like snowflakes or holly.

However, one little bit of extra has always stuck out to me. Her collection of mid-century ornaments with painted frost over the aqua blue glass tucked in so nicely to her tree. One of the ornaments was special though and received the Nannie touch. She added a small spring of faux holly to the top of the bauble. Today, it is always featured on my bedroom tree with the rest of her ornaments, and it’s my favorite to find the perfect placement for each year.

Having those little pieces of her make Christmas happy again and make these last ten years without her seem a little less gray.

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Yet another recipe from Suzi’s book of favorites. She always talks about her mother making these overnight cookies when she was growing up. What a fun project with your kiddos this weekend?!

Goodnight Cookies

2 egg whites

1/2 cup sugar

6 ounces chocolate chips

3/4 cup nuts (pecans), chopped

Dash vanilla extract

Dash cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat the egg whites until stiff. Fold in the remaining ingredients until combined. Drop mixture by the teaspoon on a foil-lined baking sheet. Put in the oven, turn off the heat, and forget until morning.

 

As a Christmas present the first year that my parents were married, my grandmother gifted a custom-bound book to fill with her favorite recipes. I’ve seen this book come out of the cabinet all of my life and know that it is filled with recipes that I’ve grown up with and love. One particular recipe that I demand make it’s appearance each Christmas season is for my favorite cookie, Childhood Thumbprint Cookies. The dough is that of a buttery shortbread, and it is filled with a dark fudgey chocolate that I could eat by the spoonful (and maybe have over the years).

 

Childhood Thumbprint Cookies

For dough:

1 cup butter

2/3 cup sugar

2 egg yolks

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

For frosting:

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cocoa

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

To make the dough, cream butter and sugar. Add egg yolks and vanilla. Add flour and salt. Mix well and chill. Roll into 1-inch balls and flatten with thumb. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes.

To make the frosting, cook sugar, cocoa, butter, and milk. Bring to a boil. Boil for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla. Beat until the desired consistency (a thick, shiny fudge). Top each cookie thumbprint with a teaspoon full of chocolate and allow to harden. Keep in an airtight container (and hidden so no one else will eat them).

 

Maybe the average Christmas tree parent doesn’t encounter issues with their decor. Maybe it’s like a free-for-all of tree problems at my winter wonderland because there is one in each room. However, when I came home Sunday night to find my birds and squirrel themed tree on my dining room floor, I felt like I was in the twilight tree zone. After a second tumble while I was in the shower, I was ready to get a new one and throw that particular artificial tree on the curb.

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BUT when Mom and Dad stopped by Monday morning to assess the damage, they found a possible culprit. Jo (the Beagle) was happily running through the house with one of the bird ornaments that resembles a ball of yarn. I mean, the tree is dedicated to she and Jackie’s favorite prey; but after having it up every year, I figured that they were over the tree ornament grab and run. Maybe not. We still have a few weeks to go.

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What do I remember most about Christmas morning at Nannie and PawPaw’s? (Other than the flocked, white tree?) I remember my grandfather, TJ Guido, carefully making up a punch bowl filled with homemade Egg Nog. He spent time whipping the cream by hand and making sure to get the recipe just right. Of course, it was the adult version of egg nog, so I never indulged. Now, I’m still not a fan, but Paul Guido sure is. Here is the recipe they went by year after year.

Egg Nog

1 carton whipping cream

12 eggs, separated

2 cups sugar

1 pint whiskey (or rum)

1/2 gallon sweet milk

Nutmeg

Beat cream. Blend yolks and sugar. Add to cream. Add the milk. Fold in egg whites. Add whiskey. Sprinkle nutmeg on each cup to taste. Can put in punch bowl and will not separate.

As most of you know, I am carrying on the Guido Christmas tradition of having a white, flocked tree each year as my Christmas centerpiece. My grandmother’s tree was epic each year. With her large bay window in the living room, she could afford to get the fattest tree on the lot. She went for short and fat, and she got it right every year. Mom and Dad were always on hand to help with the flocking process; so when I bought my house with a large window in the living room, we knew I would take up the tradition.

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See? I’ve been Christmas obsessed since the early 90s.

Now, over the years, I’ve traded her pastel and mauve ornaments for traditional reds and greens to stand out for the passersby. (Don’t worry. Those “Nannie” ornaments now live on my bedroom tree each year.) And this year was poised to be the best tree yet with the edition of those retro colored lights added to the white lights for a little pizzazz. However, the flocking gods had other plans this year.

In early November, I went to the same old site to get the same old flocking fiber refills that I get every year. I always start the year with five pounds of flock to make sure I have enough to get through the tree. I usually only need 3 or at most 4 pounds, but you just never know how the flocking will go once you get started. When the flock came in, the bags weren’t in the refill packages that I’m used to. They were just Ziploc bags of flock. So I had a slight panic wash over me while looking at this $100-worth box of alien flock. After some Googling and frantic emailing to Fowl Flocker, I found out that Peak Seasons no longer makes the refill packages of flock for my particular flocking apparatus/gun. Again, I panicked. I started looking for new flocking methods. Some said to use a sieve to “dust” the flock. (Yeah right.) Others suggested buying the industrial flocking machine. (Hell no to $1,000+.) Finally, I found a “snow blower” perfect for the amateur flocker. (What a sentence.) So, I was ready.

The morning after Turkey Day, we bought our pre-painted real Christmas tree, got it into the stand, and trimmed the excess limbs to create shape for the flock and the hundreds of lights and ornaments to decorate with. Now, time to flock. The new apparatus called for a spraying of water over the tree as the first step, then the flock was the go on with more water. Already, we’re adding more water than we usually do; and the process calls for a final spraying of water after the flock has been applied. The first pound of flock is poured into the bucket, on goes the shop vac, and bam. The pound of flock is gone. I think I went white lipped. We’ve only made one pass up and down the length of the tree and we’re a pound of my five pounds down. Shit. So we started to strategize this process. Dad handled the bucket. I worked the shop vac power switch. Within 5 more minutes, the flocking was finished. Now to add (more) water to activate the adhesive in the flock. Then the entire tree drooped. More panic. It just needed to dry. Yeah. Dry! Remember now, it was humid as all get out this weekend. That can’t be good for flocking with this much water. So, we decided to let it sit in the carport overnight and think about what it did.

The next morning, I noticed that a little more of the tree had sprung into shape; but for the most part, we were still drooping. So, inside the tree came. I trimmed some more limbs out to lighten the mood. And on went the decor.

It’s not my best tree; but from the road, it looks just fine. I will say that decorating it definitely helped. I gave it a vodka and water last night to help spur it along. However, Peak Seasons and I will be having some words later today about the flocking process. I mean. What the flock?