Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas, Christmas Time is Here!

I am such a kid at heart.  I love Christmas!  Celebrating the birth of my Savior, keeping secrets, wrapping presents, and spending time in the kitchen making things that are oh-so-bad for you but taste delicious.

This year, I made Mixed Berry Jam for my co-workers.  I like to give them gifts, but need something cost-effective because there are 18 people, excluding myself, in my department!  So, I used a mixture of blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries that I grew over the summer and froze, then filled a jelly jar for each person.  I used red and green ribbon to tie a red cardstock tag to each jar, and used one of the following verses on each tag:
"We wish you a berry Christmas!"
"Have yourself a berry little Christmas!"
"May your days be berry and bright!"

I've also been making Oreo truffles, chocolate covered Oreos, and Cheesecake truffles this year.

Oreo Truffles:
8oz. brick cream cheese, softened
1/2 package of Oreos, crushed (I used generic Kroger brand, and crushed them in a Ziploc with my wooden rolling pin-very therapeutic!)
1/2 brick chocolate almond bark
2 squares vanilla almond bark
Combine the softened cream cheese and crushed cookies until well mixed.  Roll into 1 inch balls and set on wax paper.
Melt the chocolate almond bark.  Dip each ball into the melted chocolate and return to the wax paper.  Melt the vanilla almond bark, and drizzle on top of the chocolate.  To do this, I dipped the tines of a fork into the vanilla, and just flicked it all over the place.  I tried using a cake decorating tip, but it just looked bad.

Chocolate covered Oreos were just dipped in the leftover chocolate almond bark, then drizzled with vanilla.

Cheesecake Truffles (Recipe from Taste of Home's Appetizers and Small Plates)
3 (8oz packages) cream cheese, softened
1 c. sugar
1 c. sour cream
1 t. vanilla extract
3 eggs, beaten
45 lollipop sticks (didn't use these, substituted toothpicks)
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 packages (10-12 oz each) vanilla or white chips
Toppings:  grated coconut, grated chocolate, sprinkles, or chopped nuts (didn't use this either)

Line the bottom of a 9 inch springform pan with parchment paper  (didn't use this, I don't have either one in my kitchen.  I used a deep dish pie pan).  Spray with cooking spray.  In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth.  Beat in sour cream and vanilla.  Add the eggs, beat on low until just combined.  Pour into pan, bake at 350* for 45-50 minutees until center is almost set.  Cool.  Cover and freeze overnight.  (Ooops, should have read the entire recipe.  I froze for about 3 hours).

Remove from freezer and let stand about 30 minutes.   Place cracker crumbs in a shallow bowl.  Working quickly, scoop cheesecake into 1 inch balls (I knew that Pampered Chef cookie scoop would be useful!  I knew it!)  Roll each ball in crumbs, insert a lollipop stick (or toothpick).  Place on waxed paper lined baking sheets, freeze 1 hour or until firm.

Melt vanilla chips, stir until smooth.  If using topping, place them in shallow bowls. Dip pops in vanilla chips, let excess drip off.  Roll in toppings, place on waxed paper, let stand until set.  Serve with or without lollipop sticks, store in refrigerator.

Also made ham and pineapple kabobs.  My extended family is doing an appetizer/finger food in lieu of a formal dinner.  To make:  Bake a ham and cut into chunks that are roughly one inch.  Drain a can of pineapple chunks.  On each skewer, thread one ham chunk, then 2-3 pineapple chunks (depends on the size of your skewer).  Repeat layers, ending with one ham chunk. 

So, what's in your kitchen?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Elation and Heartbreak, or, A Typical October Week

Note:  I began this post in early November, but was unable to finish it until now.

Apparently, I am only capable of getting pregnant in the month of September.  Jacob, my nine year old, was concieved in September 2001.  In September 2010, my husband and I found out we were expecting our second child.On October 28, 2010, we went in for our first doctor's appointment, and found out that the pregnany had failed due to a blighted ovum.  We were completely devastated.  A year passed, and in early October 2011, we found out about pregnancy number 3.  Obviously, I was concerned, and the doctor ordered bloodwork to check my hcg levels every 48 hours.  The first two were doubling as was expected, and as is good, but the third had dropped.  The next day, the spotting began.  A fourth blood sample revealed even lower hcg levels.  This time, it was a chemical pregnancy.  Call it what you will, it just plain sucks. 

Some will insist that it was so early both times, neither pregnancy "counts" because a baby had not yet developed, and no heartbeat was heard.  This people can kiss my grits.   Both pregnancies, to me, were real.  They counted.  Yes, I am grieving.  Yes, I am angry at the world right now.  Yes, I continue to count my blessings, and am grateful for the child I do have.  But it is so unfair!  I really think I would rather be unable to concieve, than to be able to concieve, but not carry a viable pregnancy to term.

My husband and I had already discussed, after the first miscarriage, that if it happened again, we would look into adoption.  We have pretty much decided on domestic adoption through an agency.  We have talked to DFS about adopting through the foster care system, and possibly adopting an older child, but were told that with foster care, reuinification with the birth family is the ultimate goal (obviously, under certain circumstances, it isn't), and that we could have a child with us for a year or longer, then have that child retuned to the birth family.  For that reason, we decided to use an adoption agency and try for a newborn.