Friday, December 18, 2009

"C" is for "Crafts" and "Chocolate"!

I have a very special collection that is dear to my heart. The trouble is, it stays packed away where it is never seen or enjoyed. Isn't it a bummer how some collections are like that? My little treasure is a box of mismatched buttons that came from my Oma's sewing basket. I'm not at all sure how I first came to own them, but I've had them for years and years. They are in a German Lebkuchen tin, which I'm sure has a story behind it. I bet my Grandparents brought it back from Germany decades ago.

From time to time, when I'm digging in my sewing supplies, I'll lift the lid on the little tin and sift through the colorful, shiny buttons. Their little shapes and bright colors just make me happy. At my quilt shop, I recently saw a little jewelry kit that can be used to make homemade bracelets. I immediately thought about my Oma's little buttons, and instantly knew I'd found a cause worthy of putting my collection to use. I hot glued layers of buttons to the bracelet base to make these sweet little button bracelets! I think they are absolutely charming. I'm going to share them with some family members who loved my Oma as much as I did. I hope they will be a sentimental Christmas surprise!

Tonight we had Nana, Papa, Aunt Sarah, and Papa John over for dinner. Aunt Sarah and Papa John have been Nana and Papa's best friends since the beginning of time. The most wonderful thing about having them all to dinner is that they are a casual crowd. We eat off of paper plates, dim the lights so we're not bothered by the dust, and all pitch in to make the meal happen. We always have a wonderful time when they are here. The two Papas are both engineers, so the guys invariably sit at one end of the table and talk about how things work. Or how they could work. Or how they should work. Whatever. The girls tend to migrate to the other end of the table to swap recipes, share funny stories about kids and grandkids, and laugh at the boys at the other end of the table, who are still debating about who could make it work the best.

Nana brought her scrumptious sausage balls, half of which were made with jalapenos and set my mouth ablaze. Screaming good. Oma made "Heavenly Orange Fluff", and let me just say that they weren't kidding when they named that salad. I made Alpine Chicken, which I dreadfully overcooked. Because they are nice people, no one complained about the fact that it took a steak knife and bulging triceps to cut through the meat, but on a good day, and when you're paying appropriate attention to the kitchen timer, this is a great dish for entertaining. John and Sarah were in charge of dessert, and I'm still thanking my lucky stars that they were, because THIS was the substantial mound of chocolate perfection that arrived through my front door.

Once we all caught sight of this bad boy, dinner was just a formality. A prelude to the real reason for the evening, which was clearly the dessert.

This, my friends, is a seven pound chocolate cake. With chocolate filling. And chocolate icing. And chocolate curls and shavings. Made by chocolate angels in chocolate heaven. Seven pounds?!? Can you say, "Merry Christmas"?

It was a great evening of indulging....and digesting. After everyone left, I found a little surprise that was left on the piano for us. It is an entire tower of candy. My kids went crazy!! I think the chocolate fairies have been working overtime this year, and consequently, I do believe the stretchy pant fairies need to pay me a visit. Good times, good laughs, a roaring fire, and chocolate by the pound. Oh, how I love Christmas!

Alpine Chicken

1 package chicken breasts or tenders
1 package swiss cheese, sliced or shredded
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup cooking sherry (I use about half this much)
1/4 cup water (I increase this slightly)
1 box Stove Top dressing for Chicken
1/4 c. butter (I double this. Just because. More butter always equals better.)

Place chicken in the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan.
Layer cheese on top.
Mix water, sherry, and soup and pour over chicken.
Mix dressing with melted butter.
Spoon over the chicken.
Cover and bake at 350 for 90 minutes (This is what the recipe says, but this is way too long for boneless and skinless breasts. Decrease the amount of time based on the type of meat you use.)
Uncover for the last 15 minutes of cooking time.
Good served with wild rice.

Heavenly Orange Fluff

1 large box orange jello
2 cups hot water
1/2 cup sugar
Mix until dissolved
Add 6 ounce can frozen orange juice
Add one large can crushed pineapple with juice and two small cans of oranges, drained.
Chill until set

"Frost" with topping:
1 package instant lemon pudding
1 cup milk
1 t. vanilla
1/2 pint whipping cream, whipped

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