We have concocted the perfect cocktail for your weekend activities. The best part is you can customize it as you see fit (or your tastebuds do). Since I love the blueberry lemonade at Mammy’s Cupboard, I used their recipe as a base and built this drink from there. Get the girls together and enjoy!

Blueberry Lemonade Cocktail (or Champade)

1 cup blueberry juice

1 lemonade concentrate, thawed

Water

Champagne

Vodka

Combine the juice and lemonade mixture in a pitcher and fill with water. To adjust the sweetness, add sugar to taste. Depending on your preference, top off each glass you pour with either champagne or a shot of vodka (or both) and enjoy!

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I’ve always considered myself as someone who can clean out and throw away when it comes to cabinets, closets, and drawers. As I’ve been putting up Christmas, I’ve been creating a pile to be donated. I learned over the weekend that I do indeed hoard a good bit. When I was forced to clean up my kitchen cabinets, I found an unbelievable amount of plastic shopping bags crammed into the crevices of my kitchen eating up valuable storage. About a year ago, I did make the change to paper when faced with the question “paper or plastic.” I can recycle those each week, and they tend to stand up better when getting from my car to the house in one trip. However, one store in particular does not offer paper options. (Damn you, Wal-Mart.) So, to the trash they went; and I vowed to not keep a single bag this year.

What have you cleaned out in 2019 that shocked you?

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.

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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.

 

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?

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There aren’t many dishes that Dad talks about from growing up, but one that stands out are the stuffed artichokes his grandmother, Bena Guido, would make for an appetizer at Christmas Eve. A few years ago, I tried a recipe I found on pinterest. It was an all day affair to make these things; and while they were good, they weren’t Bena’s. However, I started digging through Nannie’s recipe box and (Voila!) I found a recipe for Stuffed Artichokes. I’m hoping that this is Bena’s famous recipe because I’ll be whipping it up at some point to test it out. (Fingers crossed.)

Stuffed Artichokes

4 medium artichokes

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 cup dry bread crumbs

1/4 cup Parmesan, grated

1/2 cup parsley, shopped

2 ounces ham or pepperoni

1 medium clove garlic

2 teaspoons fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)

1/2 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

Trim artichoke leaves and take fuzzy choke from bottom. Brush ends of the leaves with lemon juice. In processor, blend cheese with bread crumbs, parsley, meat, garlic, and oregano until the meat is finely minced. Stir in olive oil. Sprinkle artichokes with salt, open the leaves slightly, and stuff with 2 tablespoons of the mixture in each leaf. Sprinkle with remaining mixture. Put in shallow dish so they fit snuggly. Cover bottom of dish with water. Cover with foil leaving opening for vent. Cook on high 12 to 16 minutes turning every 4 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

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This recipe is one that my Nannie, Doris Guido, made for every Thanksgiving and Christmas I can remember. When she realized just how much I liked it, it would show up throughout the year, too. I loved it. It was the crunch of the water chestnuts and Ritz crackers, the creaminess of that cheese, and all those veggies that I absolutely adore! Now, Doris loved onion. It was present in everything, but it’s perfect here. Add this to your Turkey Day spread. Trust me.

Zucchini and Squash Casserole

2 cups zucchini and squash, cooked and drained

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 eggs

Salt and pepper to taste

Medium onion, chopped

1 cup cheddar cheese, grated

10 Ritz crackers, crushed

1 can sliced water chestnuts

Cook and drain the squash and zucchini, pressing out all the water. Saute onion in it. Mix together veggies with mayo, eggs, salt, and pepper. Add water chestnuts. Pour in greased 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish. Top with cheesed crushed crackers. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.