Saturday, October 27, 2012

Smokey Cheddar Mac N Cheese

One day, after a chilly afternoon at the barn, I had a craving for rich home made macaroni and cheese.  I hit up my favorite food blog, Iowa Girl Eats, to see what inspiration I could find.  I love this blog because the writing style is so cute and the recipes are always delicious.  With beautiful pictures, and step by step instuctions, this blog will make anyone feel like they can cook!

I chose her recipe called Not Your Mother's Mac & Cheese, but as usual, I made some changes to make it my own.

This is a rich, baked version of mac n cheese that totally hit the spot.  The leftovers were amazing too!

Smokey Cheddar Mac N Cheese with Asparagus
Start by making a crunchy topping:
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 - 1 tsp dried parsley
Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the bread crumbs and stir continuously while browning the bread crumbs.  This happened much more quickly than I thought it would, and I actually burned my first attempt. As the bread crumbs start to toast, stir in the parsley, then remove from the heat.  I would say err on the side of removing "too soon" rather than anywhere near burning.  I put too soon in quotes because the bread crumbs are already pretty crunchy, so you really don't need to toast them much at all.  Set aside the topping for later.

Then work on the pasta and sauce:
  • 1 box rotini (I use the kind that gives a serving of vegetables within the noodles)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 1 and 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1 and 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 lb co-jack cheese, shredded
  • 4-5 ounces smoked cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 can petite diced tomatoes, drained
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Boil salted water in a large pot and cook pasta until it starts to soften, about 5 minutes. Drain the pasta and leave it in the strainer. Using the same pot you made the pasta in, melt the butter over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add flour while whisking for 1 more minute.  Slowly add milk and chicken broth while whisking.  Make sure each addition is well incorporated before adding more liquid. Continue to stir constantly and cook for 10 minutes while the mixture thickens. Remove from heat.

Add cheeses and stir until melted and combined.  It is best to buy blocks of cheese and shred it yourself, because it will melt better than the "preshredded" kind, which I think has some kind of coating to keep it from clumping in the bag, which also makes melt kind of unevenly.  I think my best change to this recipe was the use of smoked cheddar rather than sharp cheddar.  That smoked flavor was addictive and made us keep going back for more.  I think it is what made the left overs so appetizing too.  Sometimes a unique flavor like that really improves a dish.

Next add the pasta into the cheese sauce and stir to coat.  Stir in the tomatoes.  In my usual style, I was looking for a way to add some veggies and make this a more complete meal.  I chose to add the tomatoes, which worked out well.  They added a little freshness (even though they were canned) and a little brightness to the otherwise heavy dish.  I think broccoli could also work really well here. Pour the whole shebang into a greased 8"x8" glass baking dish.  Cover the top of the pasta with the crunchy topping you made earlier. 

Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes. Then remove foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes, until top and sides are just turning golden brown.

I served it with sauteed asparagus for a little more fresh flavor to balance the heaviness of all the cheese.  It was a completely satifying meal, and the left overs were just as good as the first time.  I highly recommend using smoked cheddar as one of the cheeses.  Just thinking about that fantastic flavor has me wondering how soon I can get away with making this again!



Thursday, October 25, 2012

Veggieful Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Ok, so I know it's been a ridiculously long time since I last posted, but what can I say?  I guess I'm not really in the habit of blogging so posting still takes a long time and it never feels like I have enough to say or enough photos to post.  Well, if I want to do this, I have to start somewhere.  My little blog will probably never look or read like the blogs that I love, but at least I can use it to remember important moments, and especially important recipes! 

And recipes are what I'm coming back to share!  I have recently made a couple of things that were totally blog-worthy, even if I don't have great pictures to accompany them.

The first recipe I'm going to share is for chicken and wild rice soup.  I am usually not a big fan of soups, but John loves them, so I occasionally attempt to make them.  The only kinds of soup that I do like are creamy, rich soups or very hearty stews. 

This Tuesday John sweetly used one of his days off on a day that I also am off.  We ran some errands and then made a stop at Erbert and Gerbert's for lunch.  It had been years since I'd had Erb's and Gerb's and we both had things we were excited to order.  I was craving beer-cheese soup and John really wanted chicken and wild rice soup.  Unfortunately for us, neither of those soups were on the menu that day.  I thought to myself...I bet it would make John really happy to get to eat home made chicken and wild rice soup...and it's a soup that I even like.

I searched my go-to recipe site,, and found a recipe that I felt I could adapt to make a veggie-filled version of chicken and wild rice soup.  This soup turned out so wonderfully!  If you have ever enjoyed a bowl of rich, creamy chicken and wild rice soup, you've got to make this simple yet delicious soup!
The finished product in the big soup pot

Soup pot ingredients:
  • ~1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 - 3/4 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic (I use the refrigerated pre-chopped kind)
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 - 1.5 lbs cooked shredded chicken breast
  • 6 oz box quick cooking long grain and wild rice with seasoning packet
Place olive oil in large soup pot. Saute carrots and celery for a couple minutes.  Add onions and continue to cook a couple more minutes.  Add mushrooms and cook until onions are translucent and mushrooms start to brown. Add garlic and cook just long enough to get the flavor to come out, being careful not to burn. I always like to have a wet ingredient ready when I'm using this type of garlic because it seems like it burns easily.  Have the chicken broth handy and add it when the garlic is done toasting.  Then add the water. Add the shredded or cubed chicken. Bring this pot to a boil.

Just as the broth begins to boil, add the long grain and wild rice.  Keep the seasoning packet aside - we will use it in the other pot to make the creamy sauce. After adding the rice, cover and remove from heat.

Small bowl ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
Combine these 3 ingredients in a small bowl and keep next to the stove with a large tablespoon inside for combining it slowly into the sauce.

Medium Sauce Pan ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • seasoning packet from wild rice
  • 2 cups 1% milk
Melt butter over medium heat.  Add seasoning packet and stir until bubbly. This should happen pretty careful not to burn the butter.  Reduce the heat to low.  Start adding the flour mixture by tablespoons, mixing very well with each addition.  The mixture will get very thick, even chunky. I was worried at this point that my sauce would be lumpy, but it was fine.  Slowly add the milk while whisking.  Be sure the milk is well incorporated into the sauce after each addition. You will end up with a creamy sauce. Cook the sauce over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  The sauce will thicken somewhat. 

Add the creamy sauce to the large soup pot with the broth, veggies, chicken, and rice.  Cook over medium/low heat for 15 minutes.

Enjoy your restaurant quality soup!  John said it was good enough to sell. :-)

Delicious Veggieful Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

My recipe is quite a bit different from the inspiration recipe. I added all of the veggies (which is why I called it veggieful!) to make it healthier and add flavor. I also used 1% milk instead of heavy cream. The sauce was plenty rich and creamy this way, and it decreases the fat and calories. I also used a larger packet of rice than the original recipe called for. I was a little worried that there wouldn't be enough liquid, but it was just fine.  I'm finding that I really enjoy modifying recipes to fit our tastes and squeeze in more veggies wherever I can.

I am really proud of how this turned out! It makes me feel so good to know that I've made one of my husband's favorite foods, and that it was healthier than what he would have gotten at the restaurant.

Seriously, you have got to make this soup!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

True Connection with a Horse is Life Changing

One of the blogs I occasionally read is written by the owner of a retirement farm for horses in TN.  I love reading about the antics of these extremely well-loved and well cared for horses, whose owners choose to fund a life of luxury for them after their riding careers are finished.

If you're curious the blog is Paradigm Farms.
Flash, January 2012
I feel a strong connection with the spirit of this place and these owners, because my own faithful equine companion of 18 years, Flash, is now past his riding days.  At almost 29 years old, he has a degenerative condition of his connective tissue, which is most evident in his hind legs.  I no longer ask him to carry me around the arena, or travel the distances we once did exploring new trails, or go round and round struting our stuff in the show ring, or endure the distance and stress of a parade route.  I no longer have the pleasure of his powerful comfortable gaits, feeling just as strong and borrowing some of his beauty and grace as we rode.  He no longer teaches children how to ride, explaning the importance of quiet gentle hands through his quick response to their every move.  But it is because of all of those things he has done that he deserves nothing but the best retirement.  I am incredibly thankful for every ride we had, and still today for every moment I get to enjoy his quirky personality which still remains, despite his declining physical condition. 
Flash and I, Winter 2006
He is no longer the boss in his pasture, but rather now needs to wear a sheet or warm blanket in any type of inclement weather, because he quickly cedes the ample covered space to any horse that looks his way.  His teeth are worn to nubs, and he requires a specially soaked nutrient packed diet to attempt to keep weight on his once lovely round frame. (Thankfully we have a wonderful barn manager who does all she can to tempt him to eat all of his mushy ration, as well as organize chores to give him ample time to eat.)  He needs a patient and efficient farrier to trim his hooves while respecting his difficulty in bearing all his weight on one hind leg or the other. (Thankfully we have a fantastic farrier that we love!)

But my deep connection with my horse makes any extra expense and stress necessary in maintaining a senior horse more than worth it.  (Thankfully I have an exceptional husband who understands this without question.)
John and Flash Winter 2006
It is hard for me to imagine ever truly knowing another horse the way I know Flash, but I am now beginning to try to form that bond with my new mare Lizzie. 
Lizzie and I, First ride at home, April 2012

The reason I got started writing this post was to share a blog post I became aware of through Paradigm Farms.  This post was not written by the owner of Paradign Farms, but rather by a blogger named Nicole Cliffe.  The original is here, but I also feel a need to copy and paste the text to my blog, to be certain I will never lose this interesting observation.

This truly helps to explain why the relationship between humans and horses is so unique, why horse people need to think with a different mindset around our equine companions, and why the differences in a relationship with a horse (as compared to a dog or cat) have the potential to make it such a deep, trusting, and beautiful partnership.

The Horse, Explained (emphasis added)
"You may or may not be familiar with The Horse. Perhaps as a child, you had many Marguerite Henry books, or you watched National Velvet every day after school for four months, or you pretended to be taking jumps over fences during long car rides. Perhaps you held fake weddings for your model horses (in retrospect, your pink My Little Pony was ill-suited for a life with your foot-high faux-Shadowfax).

Some of us, apparently, actually got to take riding lessons as children, which allowed said children to get all of this out of their system at an early age, while others did not gain access to actual horses until moving to the sticks in their mid-twenties and discovering that full-board was cheaper than their city parking space had been.

In your mid-twenties and beyond, the equine learning curve is steeper. You are further from the ground. You do not bounce upon making contact with the ground, so much as splat. You are closer to being aware of your own mortality. (You are mortal, in case you didn't know.)

If you haven't spent a lot of time around horses, you may have the idea that they are like dogs and cats (really big, dangerous dogs and cats). This is untrue. YOU are like dogs and cats, in that you are a predator. Let's not get sucked into the canines/intestines/primates-eating-fruit aspect of our disputed status as omnivores. The fact is, if someone says to you "hey, let's try this new brunch place that has amazing cocktails," there's a decent chance you'll say "great, meet you there." Your dog feels similarly. New things are fun! That is because you are a predator.

Prey animals do not think new things are fun. New things, if you are a prey animal, usually mean a swift death. Horses are like deer. They see something unexpected, they freeze for a second, and then they book it on out of there. They don't like to leave the herd. They have no interest in breakfast cocktails. If you try to take your horse to a new brunch place, you need to convince them that a) you've been there before, b) there are no cave trolls at the brunch place, c) there will be other horses at the brunch place, and d) you will be a royal pain in their ass until they quit dicking around and agree to go to the brunch place.

There's a decent wash-out rate when people begin riding horses, for just this reason. It's also why you should begin your equine journey on a five-thousand-year-old Quarter Horse gelding. They've been to a lot of brunch places, and if you give them something resembling the correct cue, they'll do what you say.

Or, you can be kind of a fool, and buy (see picture) a stunningly beautiful three-year-old half-Thoroughbred mare who, if asked to come up with a list of her fears, would instead come up with a (brief) list of not-fears (her own stall, dressage arenas, baths, treats, boy horses). This is not...necessarily...a disaster, if you have a good trainer (thanks, Aurora!) and are not in a rush. But it's not what you would call a good idea.

What happens, though, when you fall in love with an ill-advised horse, is you become kind of a wonderful bitch, in a good way. You have to be braver than you really are, or you'll get hurt. You have to fake it. You have to convince this beautiful, dumb, flighty creature that you are a strong and bossy person who knows what's best. You need to pretend you're a horse, as a rider, in a way you never really have to empathize with your dog or cat. "Oh, there's a plastic bag drifting across the arena. That's terrifying." "That other mare is in heat, and if I get too close to her, she's going to kick me in the face." "Everyone's getting fed right now, so we kind of want to duck out at the gate."

Horses are sublime. They're gorgeous mythical beasts that emerge from antiquity to destroy your bank account and break your collarbone. They're fragile. They're dangerous. They need new shoes every six to eight weeks. They eat your heart. They fall in love with your vet, and deliberately colic themselves in order to spend more time with him.

You are not vitally important to your horse, not really, not like you are to your dog, ever. They never figure out who you are, and why you do the silly things you do. You have to forge a relationship with your horse while knowing that, given the chance, they'd probably rather hang out with their buddies than spend time with you. But then, one day you pull up to the barn, and you realize that your horse has memorized the sound of your car, as opposed to other people's cars, and has wandered over to the gate to greet you.

It makes you feel lucky. Not just "oh, God, I can afford to do this idiotic sport" lucky, which you should feel every day, but some kind of stupid semi-spiritual lucky, because you've managed to connect with an animal ten times your size, and convinced them to ignore every instinct they possess in order to let you clamber onto their back and stick a metal bar in their mouth. It's crazy. It doesn't make any sense.

You're a horse-person now. Maybe it'll pay off when the zombies come, and the gas pumps stop working."

While some of this is tongue-in-cheek and meant to be funny, much of it is true and interesting.  I hope this touches someone else as much as it does me.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Mom's Sweet Chili

I know it's been a ridiculously long time since I last posted, but today I need to record my mom's recipe for chili.  John and I had a craving for chili today, due to the cold rainy weather that caused us to hide inside most of the day.  (Though I did wake up early and head to the barn for a ride on my new mare, Lizzie. She was fun as usual, but even after riding inside, I came home chilled.  I definitely need to make a few posts about my new girl!)

I looked at chili recipes online, but I feel like chili is one of those things that can vary so widely based on tastes, and probably on where one was raised.  Personally, I expect my chili to be somewhat sweet and not too spicy.  We make it with both ground beef and kidney beans.  We also mix elbow macaroni into our chili, so I guess it's a little more of a casserole?  After looking at a lot of recipes online, I decided that only my mom's chili would do.  So I called her up and got her simple but delicious recipe that would perfectly fulfill our chili craving.

Mom's Sweet Chili

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium sweet vidalia onion
  • garlic to taste
  • 1 (12 oz) can dark red kidney beans (could use 2 cans)
  • 1 (12 oz) can condensed tomato soup
  • 1 (12oz) can tomato paste
  • 2 (12 oz) cans stewed tomatoes
  • 1 (12 oz) can V8
  • ketchup to taste
  • chili powder to taste
  • 1 box elbow macaroni - I always try to use a "healthier" pasta, either with extra fiber, or one that contains extra servings of vegetables
  • shredded cheese - this time used a local colby-jack and it was really good
Chop the onion and place in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add a little vegetable oil if the onion wants to stick to the bottom of the pan.  Once the onion is beginning to become translucent, add the ground beef.  Don't cook the onion for too long - one of our favorite parts of this pot of chili was the fact that the onions retained a little crunch in the final product. 

Stir while browning the beef to break beef into small pieces.  Meanwhile, start a pot of water heating in order to cook your elbow macaroni.  When the beef is browned, drain off excess grease. 

Move beef and onions to the side and add some garlic.  I probably used 1 clove of garlic today.  I like to use the chopped garlic that's kept in the frig for convenience.  Toast the garlic for a short time, being careful not to burn it.  Nothing ruins a meal like the pervasive taste of burnt garlic - and ugh, what a bummer to cook a whole meal but have the burnt garlic taste take over.

In order to be sure not to burn the garlic, I had my liquid ingredients ready to add to the pot.  Pour in all canned ingredients.  Reduce heat to medium and stir frequently until mixture wants to bubble.  Then I turn it to low to avoid splatters of chili all over my kitchen!

If your pot of water is boiling, add elbow macaroni and set a timer so you know when to check it for done-ness. (Is that a word?)

Start squirting in liberal amounts of ketchup, tasting frequently.  I find that the ketchup adds that sweetness I crave. 

Carefully and slowly add chili powder to taste.  I have a very low tolerance for spice, so I am very careful with the chili powder.  I figure John can always add more to his individual bowl, but once it's in there, I can't take it away! 

Now you can let the chili simmer for as long as you want.  Tonight we were in a bit of a hurry to get to our chili, so I only let it simmer for maybe 10 minutes.  While it simmers, shred some cheese to put over the top of your bowl of chili.

We keep the macaroni separate from the chili for storing, and only mix them when its time to eat. 

Spoon some noodles into your bowl, ladle in chili, and add cheese on top.  I like to eat my chili with buttered saltine crackers on the side, which John finds disgusting. haha

What a fantastic comfort food for a yucky rainy day!  And we LOVE the leftovers.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thai Dinner at Home

Tonight I made Pork in Peanut Sauce for dinner and we both loved it!  I got the original recipe on, but did make several changes to it.

Bailey's Pork in Peanut Sauce

  • 2/3 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (=3 cloves) refrigerated chopped garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 5 tablespoons peanut butter
  • 1 pound boneless pork loin, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil (the original recipe calls for peanut oil, and claims it adds a lot of the peanut flavor, but honestly peanut oil is on the expensive side, so I chose to use an oil I had on hand)
  • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 cup peanuts
  • 1 bag (about 3 1/2 cups) frozen stir fry veggies (mine had sugar snap peas, carrots, onions, and mushrooms)
  • 2 bags microwavable brown rice
  • In a large bowl, stir together soy sauce, chicken broth, ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, and peanut butter. (The peanut butter will not blend in completely, but don't worry, once the sauce is heated it will melt into the sauce.)  Add pork pieces and set aside.  (I only set it aside while I prepared the onion, but it would probably be great if you could marinate it for several hours or overnight.)
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onions to hot oil and cook slightly.  After about 1 minute, add peanuts and continue cooking until onions are soft and translucent.  Pour pork and all of the marinating sauce into the skillet. Cook until pork is done, about 10 minutes.
  • Add frozen veggies to the skillet and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • While the veggies are cooking, throw a couple bags of microwave rice into the microwave and cook as instructed on the package. (Mine only needed 2 1/2 minutes.)
  • Serve pork, veggies, and peanut sauce over rice.

The finished product:

The sauce was somewhat salty, but still tasty.  I saw someone commented on allrecipes, that they added milk to reduce the saltiness of the sauce. So, if you find it salty, that would be something to try.  We loved the crunchiness of the peanuts and that the pork was not dry at all, which is often our big complaint with pork dishes.  I will definitely be making this again.  It was fast and simple.  It would be a great home-made alternative on those nights when we think about getting Chinese take out.  One more picture to whet your appetite.
I hope you try this dish!


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Little More Christmas

I wanted to share a few more pictures from Christmas.

Here's another family photo with my husband's family, at one of our favorite little restaurants downtown.

I also have a couple of our Cavalier King Charles/Bichon mix, Tucker with his Christmas presents.  He got a cow from John's mom and a package of special bones, as well as a reindeer from us.  Of course he loves them all, and has a hard time deciding which one to play with.

All worn out from Christmas, Tucker took one of his toys into his favorite chair and arranged it so he could snuggle with it while he slept.  His cuteness is almost too much!

One of my favorite traditions from childhood Christmases was how my dad would always hang all of the Christmas cards we received on the closet door in our entryway.  I loved looking at them over and over during the Christmas season, and they really added a lot of festivity to the house.  I decided to continue that tradition in our new house using the basement door, which is just off our eat-in kitchen area.  I love seeing all the cards and photos from family and friends.

We had a lot of fun watching Tucker open his presents this year.  He is generally a very well-behaved and slightly timid dog, so it's hard to get him interested in tearing paper off of presents.  We were surprised this year when, with a little encouragement, he tore right in.  It probably helped that John made the reindeer squeak before giving it to him, and that we cut a slit in the plastic packaging around the bones so he could smell them.  Here are a few pictures of him opening the bones.

I have a really adorable video of Tucker opening his present, but blogger is not loading it.  If I figure out how to get it to show up, I will definitely add it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Catching up after Christmas

We've had a very busy Christmas week, as I'm sure is the case with everyone.  I'm thankful to have a busy Christmas, because it means we got to see many family members on both my side and John's. 

We had a great time decorating our house for Christmas, since this is our first year here.  I thought I'd document our decorations from our first year so that we can see how our Christmas collection grows and changes over the years.

First a shot in the daylight of the outside of the house:

Later I added a peppermint wreath to the front door. (I plan to post the pictures/tutorial for how I made it soon.) 

Here are a few of the outside in the dark.  I really wanted a picture of the outside after dark in the snow, but with the warm weather lately, we haven't had much snow to photograph!  I'm not complaining - as my dad said to me today - each warm day during the winter is also one day closer to spring!  (Effectively giving us less winter.)  Although we'd like to go skiing (me) and snowboarding (John) this winter, I wouldn't mind having to drive up north to do it!

I love the bow in the peak instead of a wreath, especially since our home is like a Christmas present to us!

Moving inside, I hung some dollar-store jingle bells on the front door.  They add such a festive sound when we are welcoming guests, or even just letting Tucker outside.

I'm hoping the eventually we will have some kind of garland to drape over and around the door.  I'd also love to put candles in every window in the front of the house next year.

Next I added a little Christmas fun to our wine rack in the front entry.

Both the reindeer and the snowman sing and dance.  I love corny decorations like that!  The reindeer is very special to me.  I had given it to my grandma Noney several years ago at Christmastime.  She thought he was just the cutest thing, with his light up antlers.  She actually kept him on her bed all year long.  Since Noney passed away this year, I wanted a special place for the reindeer at Christmas, so I could see him everyday.  Of course I think about Noney all the time, but this is a fun reminder of all the joy she felt in little things (like a singing reindeer!).  I miss my Noney every day, but I'm also so incredibly thankful to have had such a wonderful grandma in my life for so many years.

Next up, a couple shots of our Christmas tree.  I just love how it turned out.  I especially love the cozy warmth of the lights in the evening.  That's probably what I will miss the most when it's time to take it down.

Tucker snuck into the second one!

Next I have a few pictures of the mantle - I really loved decorating the mantle this year.  This house has such a substantial hearth and mantle - it feels so cozy.

I'm thinking about keeping the light garland up all year - so I can keep some of the pretty, cozy light in the living room (after the tree is gone).

The candle holder gives the little snowmen a little more presence.

And a picture of the family in front of the fireplace.  A great place for a family picture.

Just a couple more accessories completed the extent of my decorating for this year.

Flowers from Hobby Lobby in festive colors.

A dollar store platter with some Hobby Lobby cranberries and a piece of the pearly garland left over from the twig wreath project

Of course, the twig wreath itself.

I added a couple more things after taking the pictures for this post, including a basket full of peppermints.  To make the basket look more full, I placed an upside-down bowl inside the basket, then covered it with green tissue paper before placing the mints inside.  I also have a little Christmas candle holder on the kitchen counter.  You will be able to see it when I post about the edible Christmas presents I made this year.  At the last minute, I bought two antique looking 3D snowflake shaped tealight holders from Pottery Barn on clearance - I love the sparkle and charm they add sitting next to the fireplace.

Well I think that concludes the Christmas decoration tour 2011.  Hopefully I'll be back soon with a couple of the projects I did before Christmas, but didn't have a chance to post yet. Hope you had a Merry Christmas!