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No matter how far I plan ahead and prepare for the holiday season in advance, I always feel so busy and rushed as it gets closer and closer to Christmas. As I am buying and wrapping Christmas gifts, baking cookies, writing Christmas cards, and getting ready for family the last thing I want to have to worry about is what we are having for dinner. Thankfully, I don't have to worry about it since I can pick up Red Baron® Deep Dish Pizzas at Sam's Club and have them ready to go in the freezer on busy nights.
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I love love love making homemade candy at Christmas. It's a family tradition we have been doing for years. It is so easy to make and it's a wonderful treat to gift to family and friends. I think by far the easiest type of homemade candy to make is peppermint bark.
You simply crush peppermint candy and sprinkle it over melted chocolate. Let it harden and cut or break it up. So easy and delicious!
Layer white chocolate over dark chocolate for a pretty layered look.
White chocolate or almond bark (Make sure to use melting chocolate for candy making)*
Dark or milk chocolate (also make sure to use melting chocolate for candy making)*
1. Crush peppermint candy. I put candy in a ziploc bag, wrap it in a thin cotton towel (I think the towel helps keep the peppermint powder mess to a minimum.), place it on a cutting board and crush with an iron skillet. You could also use a hammer to do this or use a food processor.
2. Melt chocolate. Melt in a double boiler or in the microwave in short increments (stirring in-between) There are often melting directions on the package.
3. Spread melted chocolate on a wax paper lined cutting board or cookie sheet. If layering white and dark chocolate, you can put the bottom layer in the fridge or freezer to harden quicker in between layers.
4. Spread the top layer of chocolate over the bottom layer then sprinkle crushed peppermint on top while still melted. You can speed hardening in the fridge or freezer if you like.
5. Once set, cut or break apart into pieces.
*My favorite chocolate for candy making is Ghirardelli pictured below. You can also buy it at Big Lots, Kroger, and Walmart for $3.75 to $4.99 a bag. It is the best quality I have found for candy making. My second favorite is Wilton. You want to use good chocolate for candy making when making layered peppermint bark or the chocolate layers can have trouble sticking together. I would not suggest chocolate chips for this.
Last year my boys and I came up with this simple and frugal teacher gift idea. We wanted to give nice gifts that were still affordable. Since we have multiple school age children, often with more than one teacher, this can add up quickly. And we can't forget our Sunday school teachers!
To start, I bought lots of Christmas coffee mugs from my favorite local thrift store. I think I paid around 10 cents a mug. You can find really cute mugs in thrift stores for a fraction of the retail price and they wash up just fine. In fact my favorite mug (I always use it if it is clean) is a Christmas mug I bought at the thrift store.
Here's a glimpse at our real-life crazy looking house that day. All you need is some goodies for your mugs like cocoa packets, candy canes, chocolate mints, tea bags, etc. You can even add small bags of homemade candy if you like and if it fits your budget you can add $5 gift cards for your local coffee, donut, or pastry shop.
Tie gift tags on with ribbon and use some filler or put in gift bags for easy wrapping and a nice presentation.
What are your favorite simple and frugal teacher gift ideas?
Even though most of us are at the end of apple season, I'm sharing my favorite recipe for homemade applesauce. Because...most of us can go to the nearest grocery store and buy a great big bag of apples anytime we want. Wow! We have it good! Feeling thankful right now. I have heard stories from my Mom and my Grandpa about what my family had to eat during the great depression (like lard sandwiches and mush) so I'm guessing a big bag of (store bought) apples would have been a lavish treat.
Since we're on the subject of food insecurity, I looked up the stats for the state of Kentucky where I live. I found data from 2016 that shows 17% of Kentuckians are food insecure. That's 743,310 people just in KY including over 222,000 children. As a mother of four, it breaks my heart to think of children without enough to eat. I did not set out to write on this topic today, but since we're here, take it as a reminder to count your blessings and if you have more than enough, share with those who do not. Most communities have opportunities available through food banks and churches to help those who need it. Find an opportunity and bless someone.
To make this applesauce, put all of the ingredients in a microwave safe dish and microwave for several minutes until tender enough to mash. It really is that simple except for all of the time it takes to peel and core the apples. There is nothing simple about peeling and coring apples when you have little ones around, but if you can find the time ...totally worth it.
My parents have an apple tree. We don't know what kind of apples they are, but they make really good applesauce. My Mom came down to visit this fall and brought us a big grocery bag full of apples. Since we have an extra fridge, I stored them and made several batches of applesauce over the next two months. I was even able to gift some to friends and freeze some for later. Homemade applesauce makes great gifts, but if you don't process it so that it is canned you need to make sure the recipient knows to refrigerate or freeze it.
Since I was making so much applesauce, I finally figured out that I could use the crock from my slow cooker to make triple batches. It was the largest microwave safe dish I could find that would still fit in the microwave. I did not use the cover since it has a metal ring around the rim, but the crock worked perfectly. You will want to cover the applesauce with a vented lid or cover of some sort when microwaving. We have a vented microwave cover so I used it as a lid for the crock when cooking. A sheet of wax paper would work fine too. Actually, if want you could just cook this in the slow cooker all day. Wouldn't that make your house smell amazing? Once the apples are cooked, you just mash everything together to make applesauce. I just use a simple potato masher (pictured above). You could use an emersion blender or hand mixer too.
In a microwave-safe dish combine ingredients. Cover with a vented lid
(to let steam out) or a sheet of wax paper. Microwave on high for 10 minutes.
Using a hand blender or potato masher, blend to desired consistency. Serve warm or chill for later use.
This is one of my favorite sides to serve with pork loin or Pork Schnitzel. A nice pork loin with some homemade applesauce would go well as part of a festive Christmas meal.
Linking up at Mommy Moments
I received this product for free from Moms Meet (momsmeet.com) to use and post my honest opinions. Compensation for this post was provided and this page may contain affiliate links.
Two things our kids love are nature and reading so Hey, Baby!: A Collection of Pictures, Poems, and Stories from Nature’s Nursery has quickly become a favorite. It is visually stunning, whimsical, and filled with interesting animal facts. Our boys love this book!
Hey Baby! is filled with gorgeous photos of baby animals from all over the world. The boys get sucked into this book and could look at it for hours. Our kindergartener can't read it all by himself yet, but he loves looking at the pictures and trying to read some of the captions.
The older boys enjoy reading the stories like the story of Jess, the sheepdog who became a babysitter holding bottles for baby lambs. My 4th grader was reading this book before school this morning and kept sharing the stories with me. He loves reading, nature, animals, and especially facts so this has quickly become one of his favorite reads.
Win a copy of Hey Baby! from National Geographic Kids for the budding naturalist in your life!
Hey, Baby!: A Collection of Pictures, Poems, and Stories from Nature’s Nursery is available to purchase wherever books are sold, including traditional bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million, as well as local independent stores, and mass merchants like Target, Costco, Walmart, amazon.com, and shopng.com/books.
Welcome to Home Ec @ Home
Hi, I'm Faith, a former Family and Consumer Science teacher turned work at home Mom blogger. I love God, my family, and food. You can usually find me in the kitchen preparing family friendly, homemade recipes and taking lots of pictures.
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