25 Easy Candy Recipes – Perfect For The Holidays

One of my favorite things about the Holiday season is all the yummy sweet treats. There are special cookies, cakes and desserts we tend to only make this time of the year. Today I’d like to share 25 Christmas Candy recipes with you from the Dining on a Dime cookbook.

Homemade Peanut Brittle Recipe

  • 3/4 cup corn syrup
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 2 cups raw peanuts
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt

Grease 2 jelly roll pans. In a saucepan, add corn syrup, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil and cook to a hard ball stage, 260 degrees. Add peanuts and cook to hard crack at 290 degrees. Add baking soda and salt. Stir well. Pour into pans and spread thin. Cool quickly. I usually make this for Christmas and I don’t have room left in my refrigerator so I just set it outside in the snow for a few minutes until it has cooled. Makes 3-4 dozen pieces.

Homemade Peppermint Patties 

  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 egg white (meringue powder may be substituted)
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 4 small lids peppermint flavoring (try 1/2-1 tsp. then add more to taste if you need to)
  • 1 pkg. (12 oz.) almond bark OR chocolate melting wafers

Mix the powdered sugar, egg white or meringue, butter and peppermint flavoring. Make into small balls about the size of a quarter and then flatten on a cookie sheet. Put in the freezer. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. When the chocolate is melted, take the mints out of the freezer. Put a toothpick through the center of a mint and dip into the chocolate. If the mints on the cookie sheet begin to soften and thaw, refreeze because they are easier to dip when they are frozen. Put the dipped mints back on the cookie sheet and let the chocolate harden in the freezer. Wrap each mint in a piece of 5×5 inch foil. Makes twenty 2-inch mints.

Homemade Peanut Butter Cups

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 pkg. (12 oz.) chocolate candy wafers or almond bark

Cream the butter. Add the peanut butter, powdered sugar and vanilla. Place the chocolate in a microwave safe dish and melt. Microwave until melted, stirring frequently. Pour a small amount of melted chocolate in the bottom of paper holders. Place the filling inside and then pour more chocolate on top until the filling is covered. Let the chocolate harden before serving. Makes 2 dozen.

*When this homemade peanut butter cups recipe was originally written, you couldn’t buy dipping chocolate or the wafers. If you prefer, you can use something like that in place of the chocolate chips and paraffin.

Peanut Butter Balls
Shape peanut butter into small 1 1/2 inch balls. Dip the peanut butter balls into chocolate and place on wax paper to harden.

Grandma’s Million Dollar Fudge25 Easy and Frugal Christmas Candy Recipes

  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
  • 1 Tbsp. butter

Mix ingredients. Then boil 5 minutes.

Add:

  • 2 1/2 large Hershey’s candy bars, crushed (about 6 oz. total)
  • 1 (12 oz.) bag semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 (7 oz.) jar marshmallow cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • nuts

Beat until well blended. Pour into 2 greased 9×13 pans for thicker pieces and add another 8×8 pan for thinner pieces.

English Toffee Recipe

  • 1 cup nuts, chopped (pecans or walnuts are best) *
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Butter an 8×8 inch pan. Spread the nuts in the bottom of the pan. On medium heat, bring the sugar and butter to a boil and boil 7 minutes. Spread into the pan. Sprinkle the chocolate chips on top. Let it sit a few minutes. When melted, spread evenly. Let cool before cracking into pieces. Makes 24 pieces.

*Variations:

White Chocolate with Macadamia Nuts (not cheap but to die for!)
Dark Chocolate with Almonds
Semi-sweet chocolate with Almonds for an Almond Roca flavor

Marshmallow Bonbons Recipe

  • 38-40 large marshmallows
  • 1 (12 oz.) package chocolate chips
  • Coconut
  • Sprinkles
  • Nuts, chopped

Place marshmallows on a pan that is covered with wax paper and place in the freezer. They will be ready by the time you need to dip them.

Pour coconut, sprinkles and nuts on squares of wax paper. You could use a bowl but wax paper saves time and effort in clean up.

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave for a couple of minutes, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted.

Place frozen marshmallows on a skewer or toothpick and dip in chocolate. Then in roll in your choice of ingredients (below).

Use a fork to slide them back on the wax paper. Chill.

Tasty topping ingredients that work well for Marshmallow Bonbons:
Coconut, toasted
Sprinkles
Nuts, crushed
Graham cracker crumbs (like s’mores)
Peppermint sticks, crushed
Candy, crushed
Candy bars, chopped
Dried fruit, chopped
Sweetened cereal, crushed

Once chilled, you can package in clear cellophane bags.

Candied Orange Peels

  • Peels from 3 large oranges, grapefruits or lemons*
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups sugar
  • water

Cut the peel on each fruit into quarters. Pull the peel off in these quarter sections. Slice peel into 1/4 inch-wide strips. In a saucepan add salt and cover with cold water. Boil 15 minutes, pour off water and add fresh water. Boil 20 minutes. Change water again and boil another 20 minutes. Drain and cover with 2 1/2 cups sugar and 1 cup water. Simmer, stirring constantly, until all the syrup has boiled away. Do not let the peels scorch. Spread on wax paper. Roll peels in the remaining sugar. Let dry. Store in an airtight container. These will keep one week or can be frozen.

*If non-organic fruit is used, wash the peels thoroughly before peeling.

Easy Spiced Nuts Recipe

  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 3 cups walnuts, pecan halves, almonds (alone or mixed)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)

In a small bowl, beat the egg white with the water. Stir in nuts, mixing until well blended. In a another small bowl, mix together sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Sprinkle over the moistened nuts. Spread nuts on a pan lined with foil or silpat. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, stirring once or twice. Do not burn the nuts.

Peppermint Bark Recipe

  • 1 lb. white almond bark
  • 1 cup crushed peppermint candies*
  • 1/4 tsp. peppermint flavoring (optional)

Melt the almond bark in the microwave according to the directions. Stir in peppermints and flavoring. I like my bark really minty so I add more flavoring. Pour onto waxed paper or silpat on a cookie sheet and let harden. You can put it in the fridge if you prefer. Then break into pieces.

*To crush candy canes, put them in a ziptop bag and smash them with a rolling pin.

Variations: You can put just about anything into almond bark for different flavors!

Almonds
Almonds and Cherries
Peanut Butter Chips
Oreos
M&M’s
Caramel Bits

 

Homemade Caramels Recipe

  • 2 cups brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup white corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup nuts
  • melted chocolate (optional)

Combine sugar, corn syrup, evaporated milk, butter and salt in a saucepan. Heat gradually to boiling, stirring constantly. Boil until golden brown, 7-10 minutes (240 degrees). Add vanilla and nuts. Pour into a well buttered 8 inch pan. Cool several hours or overnight. Cut into small squares. Dip in chocolate if desired. Makes 64 pieces.

Turtles

  • 72 pecan halves (about 4 oz.)
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
  • 24 caramels

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with foil, shiny side up, and grease. For each candy, place 3 pecan halves into a “Y” shape on the foil. Place 1 caramel on the center of each “Y”. Bake just until the candy is melted. If they looked deformed after baking, reshape while the caramel is warm. Heat chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly, just until melted. Spoon mixture over candies, leaving the ends uncovered. Refrigerate until firm (about 30 minutes). Makes about 24 turtles.

 

Homemade Jelly Candies
(called Applesauce Candy in Dining on A Dime)

  • 1 cup applesauce*
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 pkg. fruit gelatin
  • extra sugar for coating

Combine applesauce and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes. Dissolve the gelatin in the applesauce mixture. Pour into an 8×8 inch pan. After 24 hours, cut into 1 inch squares and roll in sugar. Roll in the sugar a second time 24 hours later. Makes 64 pieces.

*Puree fruit cocktail, peaches or pears instead of applesauce

2 Ingredient Easy Fudge Recipe

  • 3 cups of chocolate chips*
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk

Pour both ingredients into a microwave proof bowl. Melt in 30 second increments. Stir after each 30 seconds. When melted, pour into a greased 8×8 inch pan. Let cool in the fridge and then cut into pieces.

Variations:

Add Nuts as desired
Cherry Mash: Use cherry chips to make to the fudge. Then pour melted chocolate chips on top with peanuts.
Peanut Butter: Use peanut butter chips to make to the fudge. Then top with chocolate or don’t, if you prefer not to.
Dark Chocolate: Use dark chocolate chips
Mint- Use mint chips, mint pieces or 1 tsp. mint flavoring

Easy Chocolate Truffles

  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. desired liquor (optional) – (brandy, amaretto, kahlua, rum etc.) or any flavoring (orange, mint, raspberry, coffee)
  • 1/2 cup nuts, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder*

Combine the sugar, whipping cream and butter in a 1 quart saucepan. Cook and stir until butter is melted and mixture is very hot but not burned. Remove from heat. Stir in semi?sweet chocolate until melted and well blended. Stir in liquor. (If desired, halve the batch at this point and stir 1 Tbsp. of 2 different liquors into each portion.)

Cover and chill 1 hour or until mixture is completely cool, stirring often. Drop mixture from a rounded teaspoon onto a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Chill 30 minutes or until firm. Roll balls into nuts or unsweetened cocoa powder. Store in a cool, dry location. Makes 15-20 pieces.

*You may roll truffles in coconut, sprinkles, powdered sugar or dip in melted white, dark or milk chocolate.

  • 2 Ingredient Coconut Haystacks
  • 12 oz. chocolate
  • 3-4 cups shredded coconut

Melt chocolate. Add desired amount of coconut. Place by spoonfuls on waxed paper or silpat on a cookie sheet. Place in the fridge to harden.

Almond Joy Truffle

  • 24 oz. shredded coconut
  • 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 24 oz. milk chocolate (chips), melted
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups whole almonds

Mix coconut, sweetened condensed milk, powdered sugar and vanilla until well blended. Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper or silpat. Place 1 almond in the center of each ball and reform coconut mixture around the ball. You can use extra coconut to make it stiffer. Place in the freezer to set up for 15 minutes. When set (they won’t be hard), dip in the melted chocolate. Place back on waxed paper and let harden in the fridge.

Lower Your Food Bill With Food You Family Will Love!

Would you like to serve food that will lower your grocery bill and your family will love to eat?

Click here to get the Dining On A Dime Cookbook, with tasty recipes and great tips to make your life easier and save you money!

Frugal Thanksgiving Shopping Tips

The following is a short excerpt from the Hillbilly Housewife Thanksgiving Planner available from Amazon. I hope you find my frugal shopping tips helpful as you prepare for Thanksgiving. 

Shopping for Thanksgiving Dinner can put quite a dent into your grocery budget for that week (or even all of November.) Below you’ll find some of my favorite tips and strategies to get the best deals.

By far the easiest way to keep down cost is to ask everyone to bring a dish to share. Offer to cook the turkey and make a batch of hot rolls and let everyone else take care of side dishes, appetizers and dessert.

If that’s not an option, or you prefer to do all (or most) of the cooking yourself, keep reading to make sure you get the biggest bang for your buck this Holiday season.

Thanksgiving Dinner Shopping ListShop Around And Take Advantage Of Loss Leaders

In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, grocery stores will do everything they can to get you in the door to do your shopping with them. One way they do this is by using something called ‘loss leaders.’

These are items that they sell you at cost or close to it to get you in the store. The plan is to then entice you to buy all sorts of other stuff that the grocery store will actually profit from.

And guess what one of the biggest loss leaders is around Thanksgiving? Yes, it’s turkey. Look through sales flyers and find the best deal for your turkey. If Thanksgiving is still more than 3 days away, opt for a frozen one and thaw it later in the fridge.

Baking supplies are also often on sale this time of the year. The one thing I noticed that made a pretty big difference on my own grocery budget a few years ago was spices. Look through your spice cabinet right now and see if you have everything you need.

I was running low on both Rubbed Sage and Poultry Seasoning and by the time I made it to the store they were completely sold out on store and bargain brands. I ended up having to buy what was left on the shelf, which, of course, was the premium brands, which cost three times as much as the store brands.

Sit down and figure out what you’ll be fixing and then start keeping an eye out for bargains on anything you need. Don’t forget about turkey roasting pans, oven bags, disposables and the likes.

If you can’t find a good deal or a coupon for a particular item, large discount and warehouse stores like Wal-Mart, Costco, etc., are often your best bet for low prices.

Don’t forget to stock up on containers and bags to store leftovers. You don’t want to throw out half a yummy casserole because you have nowhere to put it. I like smaller containers and freezer bags because they allow me to cram lots of leftovers in even the smallest of spaces in my fridge and freezer.

Use Your Grocery Store Card Strategically

Many grocery stores that use customer cards (often called VIP Cards, Savings Cards, and Customer Loyalty Cards, etc.) will offer you a free turkey or even an entire holiday meal if you shop with them frequently.

If you can find an offer that appeals to you, it may be worth paying attention to how often you shop and what you spend. That free turkey may be worth an extra trip to the store to stock up on non-perishables to qualify for that week.

Adjust Your Menu According To What’s On Sale

You know I’m big on planning ahead and making a menu. It’s a great way to save time and money, but it is also okay to be flexible.

For example, if you were planning to make a broccoli casserole for Thanksgiving, but broccoli happens to be fairly expensive by the time you get to the store, it’s okay to change your mind and make a green bean casserole instead.

Look for what’s on sale and make it work, especially when it comes to side dishes.

 

The Hillbilly HThe Hillbilly Housewife Thanksgiving Plannerousewife Thanksgiving Planner

Don’t run around like a chicken (or should that be turkey?) with its head cut off on Thanksgiving morning. The Hillbilly Housewife’s Thanksgiving Planner will help you plan ahead and stay on top of things so you can actually enjoy Thanksgiving with your family & friends.

If you take a quick minute to read the first chapter you’ll realize how easy your Thanksgiving celebration will be. There are plenty of tips and ideas to make sure this year’s feast doesn’t stretch your budget to the breaking point, too.

There are also 2 bonuses tucked inside: A printable planner & checklist and all of the recipes in a printable pdf file.

http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/thanksgiving 

Earth Day Projects For The Whole Family

With Earth Day coming up on April 20th, this is the perfect time to teach your kids about little things we an do every single day to protect the planet we call home. Here are some ideas for easy earth day projects the whole family will enjoy.

Kids love being a part of efforts that they know will help to protect the earth. Not only do they like knowing that they have a respected role to play but they like the fact that their parents and other adults acknowledge their abilities and maturity enough to discuss important issues with them like the environment.

Earth Day is an opportunity to really think about the messages and actions that cities and regional governments across the country are promoting to help our environment. “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle” are messages that can take on greater meaning through purposeful activities that you choose to do with your family on Earth Day. To begin with, why not gather everyone around and talk about the following questions:

What can we recycle in our household and how can we recycle these items?

How many disposable items, from diapers to plastic bags do we use as a family, and how many items can we choose to do without?

Where can we reuse items we no longer want?

Earth Day Projects For The Whole FamilyHere are some uses for existing items that might be in your household:

  •  Reuse a plastic or paper bag as a gift bag – place some decorative stickers or other decorations on it and you’ve got a replacement for wrapping paper!
  • Reuse empty food containers as storage for leftovers.
  • Decorate a can and reuse it as a pencil holder.
  • Habitat for Humanity accepts building material donations – contact your local office for this non-profit group before disposing of old building material around your home.
  • Your local Goodwill can make good use of your gently worn clothing and gently used furniture or other household items. Contact them to find out delivery options.

Suggest that your children organize an Earth Day Groceries project with their classmates and teacher. The project involves each child in the class decorating a cloth, canvas or other durable and reusable bags that can serve as great grocery bags. Once the bags are done present them to your local Grocery store as a way to promote Earth Day and the strong relationship between your local store, school and patrons in the community.

Hiking is a great family activity that can turn into a enjoyable Earth Day Activity if the purpose of the hike is to pick up garbage in your local park or trail. It’s a satisfying project that will make kids feel they are doing their part to take care of an area that gives them and their friends in the community much enjoyment – especially animals!

One of the best ways to teach our children about the impact of trash on our environment is to show them the “trash trail.” Where does the trash go after we put it out for the garbage truck? On Earth Day why not take your kids on a little journey along the “trash trail.”

The garbage workers or sanitation engineers take residential garbage usually to a transfer station that collects the community’s waste/rubbish before shipping it off to a regional solid waste facility. In many cases the garbage gets trucked to a landfill or incinerator plant. Sometimes that garbage is then burned to produce electricity – depending on the town.

Investigate if you are within traveling distance to a waste facility and ask if they do tours for schools or community members. If so, you’ll be in for an eye opening experience that will make this Earth Day one that will be an educational and fun experience for you and your family.

April Fool’s Day Treats – You Are Serving WHAT For Dinner?

April Fool’s Day is the perfect day to have fun with the meals you serve. Surprise your family on April 1st with these fun meal ideas.

Fake Hot Dogs And French Fries

Your kids will love fake hot dogs and French fries for lunch this April fools day.
Peel a banana and spread peanut butter all over it to give it the appearance of a hot dog. Serve it in a hot dog bun with some strawberry preserve drizzled over the hotdog to make it look like ketchup.

For the fries, peel some apples and cut them into sticks resembling fresh fries. Roll them in a cinnamon and sugar mixture and bake them for 8 to 10 minutes in a preheated 400 F oven. Serve with a side of strawberry preserve as fake ketchup.
What a fun lunch.

Fool everyone in the family with these fun dinner and desert ideas. They won’t believe you are actually serving cake for dinner and spaghetti for dessert.

April Fools Day Cherry Cake Or Meatloaf?

Your Family will be in for a big surprise with this meatloaf cake.
Prepare your favorite meatloaf and bake it in two 9-inch cake pans. Reduce the cooking time from what you would usually cook it since the meatloaf cake is thinner.

While the meatloaf cakes are baking, prepare some creamy mashed potatoes. Spread a layer of mashed potatoes on one of the cakes and top it with the second one. Use the remaining mashed potatoes to “frost” your cake. Cut a few cherry tomatoes in half and use them to decorate the top.

Serve Spaghetti As Desert

Since your serving cake for dinner, it only makes sense to eat spaghetti for dessert.

Put a slice of pound cake on a plate. Spoon some softened ice cream in a pastry bag with a thin round tip. Pipe the ice cream over the pound cake in a swirly motion to resemble spaghetti noodles. Freeze for about 15-20 minutes to allow the ice cream to harden back up. Top with strawberry jam as tomato sauce and a few coconut flakes to resemble Parmesan cheese.

Don’t Forget The Drinks

Meals like these deserve a fun twist on a beverage as well. Prepare some lemon Jello and pour it into glasses. Add a straw and let it set. It will look just like a glass of lemonade. You can even decorate the glass with a slice of lemon.

Have fun with these creative April Fool’s recipes this April 1st. They are sure to make your family smile. Enjoy!

 

April Fool's Day CookbookFor more fun April Fool’s Day recipes, grab a copy of my latest Kindle Cookbook “April Fool’s Day – Fool Me Once, Feed Me Twice

April Fool’s Day is a great time to let your inner jokester out. And while you were probably taught to never play with your food, you can make an exception today ;-) Here are some safe, fun food tricks to fool your family and friends including:

  • Melty Mallow Fried Egg
  • Bottoms Up Glass of Jell-o
  • Candy Hamburgers
  • Goofy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
  • Cake Con Carne
  • Celebration Mini Meal Surprise
  • Butter Cream Potato Frosting
  • Silly Strawberry Whipped Potato Frosting

http://www.hillbillyhousewife.com/aprilbook

Simple St. Patrick’s Day Kid- Friendly Food Fun

Since St. Patrick’s Day is almost here, I thought I’d share a few crafty sweet treats that kids really enjoy.  These are not only delicious, they’re fun! The following are from the “On St. Patrick’s Day Anyone Can Be Irish” Kindle book. It’s full of yummy recipes and some fun crafts and games for the kids. 

Leprechaun Ale

Place a scoop of lime sherbet into a tall glass.
Pour ginger ale over the sherbet and watch it fizz.
Serve immediately with a straw and spoon.

This can be made even more fun.  How about a sugary rim on the glass?  Here’s how:

Cut a lime and juice it into a shallow bowl.
Fill another shallow bowl with green sugar crystals.
Dip the rim of the glass into the lime juice.
Dip the rim next into the green sugar crystals.
Now make your Leprechaun Ale.

Lucky Shamrock Cake

Lucky Shamrock CakePrepare a cake using a boxed cake mix in a 9×13 cake pan.  Remove and let cool.

Get out a heart shaped cookie cutter and cut out hearts from the cake.

Arrange the cake hearts on a plate with the pointy ends touching in the center.  It should look like a clover leaf.  You can use three to look like a shamrock, or four to look like a four-leaf clover.

Use a can of vanilla frosting to make this recipe as simple as possible.  Color the frosting green with food coloring, mixing in as much as you need to get the color you want.

After you have your cake hearts arranged and the frosting the color you want, apply frosting to the surface of the cake.  You can sprinkle green sugar crystals on if you like.

Now that you’re in the mood for St. Patrick’s Day food, let’s see what else we can put on the menu to make this day special.

You’ll find traditional meals, fun salads, side dishes, and snacks.  And, we can’t forget the green smoothies and decadent desserts.  There’s even a nice surprise for the grownups to close out the day.  Enjoy!

On St. Patrick's Day Everyone Can Be IrishOn St. Patrick’s Day Everyone Can Be Irish

St. Patrick’s Day gives us all an excuse to have some fun and eat delicious comfort foods.

Just thinking about corned beef, cabbage & soda bread give me goose bumps.  Those classic Irish dishes are among some of my favorite but it’s fun when you can find new recipes that make your tummy happy.

Since St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner I thought it would be nice to put together some recipes and crafts and create a kindle ebook to celebrate.

You’ll find delicious Irish food along with a bunch of crafts that your family will enjoy creating together.

And remember, with all Kindle ebooks, you don’t need a Kindle to download them. Amazon makes it easy to put right on your computer, laptop, or other e-reader or device. And the price is right, too!

www.hillbillyhousewife.com/stpaddybook

National Pancake Day 2014

Today is National Pancake Day and in honor of this fun event, I thought I’d share some of my favorite pancake recipes with you. I plan on making a big plate of pancakes for dinner along with some bacon or sausage and some fresh fruit.

How about you? Are you celebrating National Pancake day today? If you don’t have the fix in’s to make your own flap jacks, consider going to IHOP. From 7am to 10 pm today (March 4th 2014), they are offering a free stack of pancakes to customers. Here’s a little more information on the event.

Let’s dig into some yummy pancake recipes:

Cute Valentine’s Day Ideas For The Whole Family

 

Valentine’s Day is a day  to share with the ones that you love. <3

There are many ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day with the whole family…so I’m gifting you with a short ebook that gives you plenty of ideas to do just that.

Inside you’ll find:

7 Ideas for Kids

Fun stuff for the kids to make and do.

7 Valentine’s Ideas for Families

Because you’re never too old or too young to need Love.

5 Couples Valentine’s Ideas

These ideas aren’t limited to just one day a year.

Get ready to share the love with your family this Valentine’s Day. Although this special day has become alarmingly commercial over the past few years, there’s no need to break the family budget. After all family bonding is always free.

Valentine’s Day Ideas (pdf)

Valentine's Day Candy

A Fun Little History Of Valentine’s Day

Each year, couples from around the globe celebrate their love on February 14. They exchange cards, flowers, chocolate and other gifts, and go out for special dates. But have you ever wondered why we do this?

There were actually three saints with the name Valentine, all of whom were martyred on February 14. This makes it a bit harder to pinpoint the exact origins of the holiday, but a popular theory is that the holiday is named after St. Valentine, a priest in the 3rd century.

This priest performed secret marriages against the wishes of Roman Emperor Claudius II who thought men should stay single, as they would be more likely to enlist in the army. Rumor has it that he healed the jailer’s blind daughter, and then sent her a note before his execution that said “From your Valentine.”

st-valentineEngland’s King Henry VIII declared Valentine’s Day an official holiday in 1537. At this time it was still a religious holiday; it was another 500 years before Valentine’s Day cards became non-religious. The day remained a Church holiday until 1969 when Pope Paul VI removed it from the official Church calendar.

Whatever the background reason, it has become an American tradition to celebrate this day and show your love for the special people in your life.

The best part is that you don’t have to join into the mass buying of pre-made cards, flowers and chocolates. Instead, use this day to spend some quality time with the love of your life. Use some of the fun and inexpensive date ideas I shared earlier or come up with some of your own.

If nothing else, take a few minutes to reflect on the wonderful relationship you and celebrate it with your partner. Make a card, bake a treat, cook a special dinner or just snuggle up on the couch with your significant other.

Why We Ring In The New Year With Blackeyed Peas and Collard Greens

As many of you know I grew up in Germany. After I married my husband, my wonderful Mother-in-Law made sure I fixed some black-eyed peas and collards on New Year’s Day. She said the peas were for good luck and the greens for prosperity in the new year. I’ve cooked them every January 1st and thought I’d do a little research this year to see where these culinary traditions came from. I’ve come across some interesting stories and while I have no idea how historically accurate they are, I thought I’d share them with y’all today. And yes in case you’re wondering, my black-eyed peas are happily boiling away on the stove and my collards are cooking in the crockpot this year. We’ll have a couple of slices of leftover ham to round out the dinner.

Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens

Let’ start with blackeyed peas. I’ve gotta tell you… they are not my favorite and I usually make them just once a year. I enjoyed the story behind them though. In my research I’ve come across two different stories. The first one claims that after Sherman’s march through the South, many Southerners were left with only black-eyed peas and salted pork. Even though the peas were usually used as animal feed, people considered themselves lucky to have them to fill their bellies. Thus the idea that black eyed peas were lucky.

The other story I’ve found involves slaves and the Emancipation Proclamation that went into effect January 1st 1863. Blackeyed peas were a common staple in African Americans diet at the time and probably played a big part in celebratory meals that day. From this the tradition of eating them on the 1st of January may have been born.

I didn’t find a great story like that to explain why we eat collard greens. Mostly they are one of the latest crops in the south and still readily available by January 1st. The green color of this yummy veggie is associated with our green dollar bills. According to tradition, each bite of greens you eat is worth $1,000 in the coming year.

I did come across something new though that has me adding to our New Year’s Day Menu this year. I’d thought of making some biscuits to go with the ham, black-eyed peas and collards. It’s going to be switched to corn bread since there is a tradition of eating it to make sure you have plenty of spending or pocket money during the New Year. The gold color of the corn bread represents gold or coins.

I’ve had a lot of fun looking into these traditions. They make me appreciate cooking (and of course eating) this traditional New Year’s Day meal even more.

How about you? Do you have any special New Year’s Traditions? Do you cook something similar? Did you hear a different story about why we eat this stuff? Leave a comment below and let’s chat about why we ring in the New Year with black-eyed peas, collard greens and corn bread.

St. Nikolaus Traditions

One of my favorite things about December is all the different Holiday traditions. As you may or may not know, I was born and raised in Germany and try to incorporate some German Traditions throughout the year. One of my favorite is St. Nikolaus Day.

St. Nickolaus would come by during the night with his big bag and leave some goodies in your shoe. I’m sure this sounds familiar… Santa Claus evolved from St. Nik. Here’s a little more information about this saint from Wikipedia

Saint Nicholas (15 March 270 – 6 December 343) was a historic 4th-century saint and Bishop of Myra in Lycia. Because of the many miracles attributed to his intercession, he is also known as Nikolaos the Wonderworker.

He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, and thus became the model for Santa Claus.
His feast day is the 6th of December.

Here are some of my family traditions for December 6th.

Putting Out The Boot

Growing up we would always put one boot out on the front porch on December 5th. In the morning, the boot would be filled with walnuts, tangerines, chocolates and of course a chocolate St. Nikolaus. Can you see how the Santa tradition is closely related to St. Nikolaus? It was always a lot of fun and even though it wasn’t a whole bunch of stuff, those were some nice seasonal treats and a great reminder that St. Nik is the protector of children.

St. Nicholas

St. Nikolaus Plates

Alternatively, if you don’t want to do the boot thing, or you’re surprising an adult, plates are an alternative. They are also a nice seasonal treat for family, friends, co-workers or an elderly neighbor. Get an inexpensive seasonal plate. I like picking them up at the dollar store and then just arrange some homemade cookies, nuts, fruit etc on there and take it to the recipient.

St. Nikolaus Comes To Visit

Once when I was little, my parents got together with two other families and hired a St. Nikolaus to come visit us. He read from a big golden book and recounted things we’d done during the past year that he was proud of. He also pointed out a few things we still needed to work on. Then he gave each of us kids a present from his big bag. It’s something I’ll never forget and a tradition I want to pass on to my daughter… now I’ll just have to talk Hubby into renting a Santa suit and playing the role.

St. Nikolaus Socks

This is a bit of a long story… My Dad was named after St. Nikolaus so the 6th of December is his name day (something we celebrate a little in Catholic Germany). My Grandmother would knit him a new pair of socks each year for St. Nikolaus Day.

Fast forward a few decades. I finally learned how to knit socks. Last fall I met a fellow German knitter on Ravelry and she shared that one of her family traditions is to knit socks for everyone in her immediate family for St. Nikolaus Day. I loved the idea and made it one of our own. For the past two years I’ve been knitting a pair of socks for Hubby, our daughter and myself in time for St. Nikolaus Day.

Of course you don’t have to learn to knit (though it’s lots of fun) to make this part of your own family tradition. Buy some fun new socks… even better, make them Christmas themed socks and gift them on December 6th. Or make it PJs or Sweaters instead.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my German Holiday Traditions and St. Nikolaus Day. Maybe you’re even inspired to make them part of your own Christmas Season.

Traditional Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays, because it is all about family and spending quality time while cooking and sharing a nice meal. There are no presents and not too much commercialization of the event.

And since we’re just a few short days away from Thanksgiving Day here in the US, I thought I’d share a few of my recipes with you today. In the pdf below you’ll find detailed instructions and photographs for making the following:

•   Turkey dinner Cranberry Sauce From Scratch
•    Simple Turkey Stuffing
•    Brining A Turkey
•    Roasting The Turkey
•    Turkey Gravy

Why not try one or two of them this year?

Traditional Thanksgiving Recipes (PDF)
Enjoy and a very Happy Thanksgiving from my family to yours.

Gratitude and Happiness – A Thanksgiving Message

I’d like to introduce you to a new friend of mine today. Her name is Sheri Graham and she’s a homeschooling mom of five and a fellow Christian. One of the things that first grabbed my attention was her happiness and contentment. Life is often stressful, particularly around the Holidays and it’s important to focus on the good things and enjoy our time with loved ones.

Last night I started working through Sheri’s 30 Day Thanksgiving Journal and knew I had to share it with you. Take a look at it. It’s $5 for the ebook and I plan on making it a part of my November each year from here on out. I hope you will as well.

I also asked Sheri to share some thoughts on Gratitude and Happiness with us. Here’s what she’s come up with. I think it’s a wonderful inspirational message for this time of the year.

Choosing Contentment in the Here and Now!Thanksgiving Journal
by Sheri Graham

Choosing contentment is a battle that we all face each and every day.  How do we go about choosing to be content when our work as a wife, mom, homeschool mom, never ends?  When we find ourselves at the end of our strength and longing to be in another place, another time?  How do we do it?  Before I dig in, I want to begin with a quote on contentment from Lysa TerKeurst’s book, Becoming More Than a Good Bible Study Girl

“Maybe this is the true secret to being fulfilled and content.  Living in the moment with God, defined by His truth, and with no unrealistic expectations for others or things to fill me up.  Not reaching back for what was lost in my yesterdays.  And not reaching for what I hope will be in my tomorrow.  But living fully with what is right in front of me.  And truly seeing the gift of this moment.”

The gift of this moment…It seems that when I am discontent, I am not acknowledging “this” moment as a gift from God.

Another quote on contentment from Linda Dillow’s book, Calm My Anxious Heart

“Most of us base our contentment on our circumstances, on our feelings, or on other people.  However, true contentment is separate from our circumstances.  Contentment is a state of the heart, not a state of affairs.”

I want to share now something that the Lord laid on my heart a while back. While this article is on contentment, I feel that what I am about to share is closely tied to not choosing contentment…not choosing to acknowledge “this” moment as a gift from God…not choosing to be content in the “here and now”.

“Instead of relishing each moment, each year, each opportunity, each step on the journey, I’m constantly overeager to get to the next thing, which always looks more enticing than what’s currently before me.”  (excerpted from The Resolution for Women by Priscilla Shirer)

HappinessIt is this very attitude, this state of mind, that I struggle with at times, and what the Lord dealt with me about one morning a while back…

One morning when I was doing my reading, I came across some verses in John 6. Jesus had just finished teaching that He was the bread of life. That He was the Living Bread that would fill them and abide in them. Here are some verse quotes:

John 6:60 – “Many therefore of His disciple, when they had heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can hear it?’”

John 6:66 – “From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.”

John 6:67 – “Then said Jesus unto the twelve, ‘Will ye also go away?’
Then Simon Peter answered Him:

John 6:68-69 – “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.”

When the teaching got too hard, some of the disciples left and followed Jesus no more. As parents, when what we hear the Lord teaching us (through His Word and His Spirit) gets too hard, do we bail out as well and not continue to follow Him for our lives and for our families? Will we also “go away?”

When the teaching gets hard (steps on our toes or is overwhelming) and others are turning away and not following Jesus any longer..will we follow suit? OR will we remain steadfast following Him because we KNOW that He is the Bread of Life..the ONLY ONE who can impart Life to us!

As parents, are we following Jesus because He is our Life or is it because we seek the benefits He brings us? What are we imparting to our children? We are to disciple them as the Lord disciples us. If we as parents are not truly being discipled by Jesus, then we cannot disciple our children as unto the Lord.

This phrase, “Will ye also go away?” has been running through my head a lot lately. This is what the Lord has been speaking to me . . .

  • When my children come to me wanting to me to do something with them, and I would prefer to sit and read, work on the computer, etc. what will I choose? Then I hear, “Will ye also go away?”
  • When the heart training times get so challenging and I don’t know if I can deal with one more battle . . . I hear “Will ye also go away?”
  • When responsibilities at home, such as getting the house organized & cleaned, meals prepared, laundry done, etc. are needing attention, and I would prefer to just sit or leave the house to do something with the kids (to avoid my ministry at home) . . . I hear “Will ye also go away?”
  • When my children are eager to tell me something and I am in the middle of doing something else. . . will I stop to “really” listen to them or . . . then I hear “Will ye also go away?”
  • When the best thing for my children is to bring them alongside of me during the day to really disciple them and train them up in the Lord, BUT I don’t want to take the time – I hear . . . “Will ye also go away?”
  • When I am feeling the Lord leading me to be a little more organized and intentional in educating my children at home, but I prefer to just “go with the flow” (and not get much done in the process because of lack of discipline and laziness) . . . I hear, “Will ye also go away?”
  • When it is the Lord’s will for me to be a true helpmeet to my husband and support, honor, and submit to him in the Lord – but I would prefer to do things MY way – I hear . . . “Will ye also go away?”
  • When dinner time comes and I haven’t been a good steward and planned ahead, I hear . . . “Will ye also go away?”
  • When I sit down for my quiet time but then realize there is something else that needed done before the kids wake up, I hear . . . “Will ye also go away?”
  • When I see sin in my children’s lives and realize that they are a reflection of me – will I choose to go to the Lord to allow Him to change me first OR . . . “Will ye also go away?”

I could go on and on with ways that the Lord has spoken these words to me. It has challenged me in so many areas of my life. Will I choose to also go away? When times get hard, the teaching gets tough, and those around you are choosing the wide path . . . Will I also go away or will I choose the narrow path (Jesus) that leads to Life?

Will I choose contentment in the “here and now” or constantly strive for the future when things will be “better” or “different”?Thanksgiving Journal

As we look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving and as we desire to be thankful and content, my prayer is that this has been a challenge to you. May these few simple words penetrate our hearts and spur us on to choose His way – His Life – in all we do each day, and choose contentment in the “here and now”…where God has us!

The Hillbilly Housewife Recommends:

Ready for more from Sheri? Take a look the 30 Day Thanksgiving Journal.

For each day of November there is a verse to copy, memorize, and/or journal about.

Pumpkin Carving Tips

Few decorations herald the season like carved pumpkins. You don’t have to do the traditional jack-o-lantern face; you can get really creative and carve all kinds of designs. Here are some tips for pumpkin carving.

1. The Perfect Pumpkin

The perfect pumpkin may not be what you think. Round and flawless may seem like the ideal shape, but think a moment about the more oddly-shaped ones. They can inspire interesting designs, and may result in a very unique pumpkin!

Regardless of shape, look for a firm pumpkin without any soft or rotten spots.

2. The Right Tools

This is one of the most important tips for pumpkin carving. Not only do you get more attractive results with the right tools; it’s also safer to have tools that are designed for the purpose. Here are some of the tools for pumpkin carving:

  • Knives – First, you’ll need a large knife to cut the top off the pumpkin. A large carving knife or a serrated bread knife – both as sharp as possible – are good choices. You could also use a small saw, such as a coping saw or keyhole saw. For carving, a small paring knife with a thin, sharp, flexible blade is helpful. A box-cutter or X-acto knife can also work well.
  • Spoon – A large spoon is essential for scooping out seeds and pulp. Some of the pulp can be stubborn, so a metal spoon is a better choice than a plastic or wooden one. If you have a fruit spoon with a serrated edge, that might come in handy for scraping out stubborn bits. Also, a small fruit spoon with a serrated edge can help if you want to scrape some of the pulp thin for a glowing effect without actually cutting through the flesh.
  • Toothpicks – Having some toothpicks handy can help if you cut off a chunk you meant to leave in! For example, if you are carving teeth and cut one of them off, you can use a toothpick to re-attach the “tooth.”

Pumpkin Carving3. Cutting Techniques

When you cut the top off of your pumpkin, think of a bathtub plug shape. These plugs are wider at the top and narrower at the bottom, so slant your large knife slightly inward so that the base of the cut-off top will be narrower than the top.

When you carve out your design, sources recommend going slowly, and making sure that the blade of the knife never comes out of the pumpkin flesh when you’re cutting with it. Starting with the center and working outward also tends to work better than going from the outside inward.

A Brief History Of St. Patrick’s Day

History cannot say for one hundred percent certainty who the real Saint Patrick was, but he is believed to have been Maewyn Succat, born around 385 AD. Succat, baptized Patricius (or Patrick), was the son of a Roman nobleman, and was born in Scotland. He was kidnapped from his hometown and taken as a slave into Ireland around the age of 16. He escaped to Gaul, at the age of 22, and returned to Scotland. There he followed his father and grandfather into the Celtic Church and later he became a missionary who returned to Ireland.

To learn about the man behind the holiday, one can read Confessio and Epistola, letters he wrote. The first is described as Saint Patrick’s spiritual autobiography. The second is his attempt to right the mistreatment of Irish Christians at the hands of the British. These two works, however, do not teach us enough about the man to know what is true and what is fancy.

st-patrick-statueBecause so little is written about Saint Patrick, there is much that remains unknown about the man. The folklore surrounding him, however, abounds. He is believed to have raised people from the dead. The fact that there are no snakes in Ireland is also attributed to the man, although snakes have never been indigenous to the country. Whatever the folklore, Patrick is said to have lived in Ireland as a missionary for thirty years establishing monasteries and schools wherever he went. He also converted people to Christianity throughout the country.

One of the stories surrounding Saint Patrick is that he won pagan Ireland to Christ by his explanation of the Trinity using a shamrock. His taught, as the story goes, that God is one being, with three separate personalities – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As a teaching tool, he plucked a shamrock from the ground and showed the pagans how the shamrock is one plant with three separate leaves.

Historical accounts say that Saint Patrick died on March 17, 460 AD. Bishop Patrick has been liturgically celebrated as a saint soon after his death, despite the fact he has never been formally canonized. It was also around his death that St. Patrick’s Day was first celebrated. Although there is no proof that Saint Patrick was associated with the Catholic Church, they have embraced him as their own.

March 17 has been celebrated as Saint Patrick’s Day, many believe, since his death. As Irish people have moved out of their homeland, they have taken their holidays and celebrations with them. Of course, Ireland has the most elaborate St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, but they can be found around the world wherever there are large populations of Irish people.

In the United States, Boston, Massachusetts hosted the first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in 1737. Since that time, large cities throughout America have been adding yearly parades, often coloring their food and beer green. Not to be outdone, in 1965 Chicago, Illinois began coloring the Chicago River green each year to celebrate this Irish-born holiday.

On St. Patrick's Day Everyone Can Be IrishOn St. Patrick’s Day Everyone Can Be Irish

St. Patrick’s Day gives us all an excuse to have some fun and eat delicious comfort foods.

Just thinking about corned beef, cabbage & soda bread give me goose bumps.  Those classic Irish dishes are among some of my favorite but it’s fun when you can find new recipes that make your tummy happy.

Since St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner I thought it would be nice to put together some recipes and crafts and create a kindle ebook to celebrate.

You’ll find delicious Irish food along with a bunch of crafts that your family will enjoy creating together.

And remember, with all Kindle ebooks, you don’t need a Kindle to download them. Amazon makes it easy to put right on your computer, laptop, or other e-reader or device. And the price is right, too!

http://www.amazon.com/St-Patricks-Everyone-Irish-ebook/dp/B00BS9LGJG

The Gift Of Love – A Valentine’s Story

The following story always reminds me of what Valentine’s Day is all about. I thought I’d share it with you today. I am not sure where it came from and who first wrote it. I shared it in the newsletter a few years ago and thought today would be the perfect day to share it again.

The Gift Of Love

The passengers on the bus watched sympathetically as the attractive young woman with the white cane made her way carefully up the steps. She paid the driver and, using her hands to feel the location of the seats, walked down the aisle and found the seat he’d told her was empty. Then she settled in, placed her briefcase on her lap and rested her cane against her leg.

It had been a year since Susan, 34, became blind. Due to a medical misdiagnosis she had been rendered sightless, and she was suddenly thrown into a world of darkness, anger, frustration and self-pity. And all she had to cling to was her husband, Mark.

Mark was an Air Force officer and he loved Susan with all his heart. When she first lost her sight, he watched her sink into despair and was determined to help his wife gain the strength and confidence she needed to become independent again.

Finally, Susan felt ready to return to her job, but how would she get there? She used to take the bus, but was now too frightened to get around the city by herself. Mark volunteered to drive her to work each day, even though they worked at opposite ends of the city. At first, this comforted Susan, and fulfilled Mark’s need to protect his sightless wife who was so insecure about performing the slightest task.

Soon, however, Mark realized the arrangement wasn’t working. Susan is going to have to start taking the bus again, he admitted to himself. But she was still so fragile, so angry – how would she react? Just as he predicted, Susan was horrified at the idea of taking the bus again.

“I’m blind!”, she responded bitterly. “How am I supposed to know where I am going? I feel like you’re abandoning me.”

Mark’s heart broke to hear these words, but he knew what had to be done. He promised Susan that each morning and evening he would ride the bus with her, for as long as it took, until she got the hang of it. And that is exactly what happened. For two solid weeks, Mark, military uniform and all, accompanied Susan to and from work each day.

He taught her how to rely on her other senses, specifically her hearing, to determine where she was and how to adapt to her new environment. He helped her befriend the bus drivers who could watch out for her, and save her a seat.

Finally, Susan decided that she was ready to try the trip on her own. Monday morning arrived, and before she left, she threw her arms around Mark, her temporary bus-riding companion, her husband, and her best friend. Her eyes filled with tears of gratitude for his loyalty, his patience, And his love. She said good-bye, and for the first time, they went their separate ways. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday… Each day on her own went perfectly, and Susan had never felt better. She was doing it! She was going to work all by herself.

On Friday morning, Susan took the bus to work as usual. As she was paying the fare to exit the bus, the driver said, “Boy, I sure do envy you.” Susan wasn’t sure if the driver was speaking to her or not. After all, who on earth would ever envy a blind woman who had struggled just to find the courage to live for the past year? Curious, she asked the driver, “Why do you say that you envy me?”

The driver responded, “It must feel good to be taken care of and protected like you are.” Susan had no idea what the driver was talking about, and again asked, “What do you mean?”

The driver answered, “You know, every morning for the past week, a fine-looking gentleman in a military uniform has been standing across the corner watching you as you get off the bus. He makes sure you cross the street safely and he watches until you enter your office building.

Then he blows you a kiss, gives you a little salute and walks away. You are one lucky lady.” Tears of happiness poured down Susan’s cheeks. For although she couldn’t physically see him, she had always felt Mark’s presence. She was lucky, so lucky, for he had given her a gift more powerful than sight, a gift she didn’t need to see to believe – the gift of love that can bring light where there is darkness.