Pretzel Turtle Candies

It’s one week until Christmas! I know, it snuck up fast on me too! If you’ve been procrastinating on the holiday baking, or you need a fast gift for a neighbor, co-worker or mailman (perhaps all three)… don’t freak out. I’m sharing my favorite homemade treat that takes almost zero effort and zero time to make. (Thank goodness for Rolo and their genius recipe on the back of the bag!)

These Pretzel Turtle Candies are so simple and so festive. This year, I put them in a Christmas tin to share with my next door neighbors (and kept a few for myself!) Turtles are my absolute favorite candies, and the pretzel bite adds just the right amount of crunch to satisfy your salty-sweet cravings.

Ok, lets not waste any more time. You’ve got wrapping to do, I’ve got wrapping to do… and Santa waits for no man. Merry Christmas!

INGREDIENTS
Pretzel Squares
Rolo Candies
Pecan Halves

PREP
1. Pre-heat oven to 350.
2. Layer pretzel squares flat on a baking sheet covered in tin foil.
3. Place one Rolo candy on each pretzel square
4. Place in oven for 4-5 minutes until the candy softens
5. Remove from oven. Place pecan piece on each piece of candy and press down gently.
6. Let candy cool for 2-3 hours and it will harden. (You can also place in the fridge and then remove when candy is hardened.

3 Mushroom Stuffing

This three mushroom stuffing has become a household tradition for special occasions. I’m making it my first post of 2016 for two reasons: 1) It puts a bow on another successfully delicious holiday season, and 2) it sets up my theme for 2016.

This year, I want to blog about more vegeterian meals and tips for living a more environmentally-conscious life. Those are two things I’m not only passionate about, but am interested in learning more about, and I’m looking forward to sharing my discoveries with you in 2016!

With that in mind, lets get back to this beautiful mushroom stuffing, shall we?! I found a version of this vegeterian recipe on Epicurious. I made it for Thanksgiving last year.  My  mushroom-loving husband and I liked it so much we decided to make it one of our official “holiday dishes.” We made it again for Christmas dinner this year along with a goose. (P.S. I think we liked the stuffing more than the goose. Too fatty, chewy – but that’s for another post)

My favorite part of this recipe is creating your own broth by softening dried porcini mushrooms in warm water. It adds loads of flavor to the dish, and it avoids using chicken or beef broth to moisten your bread.

This is just the first of many vegeterian dishes I plan to share this year. I’m excited about curating a year’s worth of yummy food. Happy 2016!

INGREDIENTS

(Slightly modified from Leak and Wild Mushroom Stuffing on Epicurious)
1 1/2 cups hot water
1 cup butter
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 pound white mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 cups chopped leeks, white and pale green parts
3 stalks of celery, sliced
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon thyme
1 1/2 French-bread baguettes, sliced into 1 inch rounds and then cubed.
1 egg

1. Slice bread into cubes and set aside in large mixing bowl, meanwhile, allow dried porcini mushrooms to soak in 1 1/2 cups of hot water to soften, about a half hour. Remove mushrooms, but save the water. Strain out the sediment and reserve mushroom liquid.
2. Chop the porcini, shiitake and white mushrooms.
3. Melt butter in heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add shiitake and white mushrooms and saute for 10 minutes. Add chopped leaks and celery and saute another 5 minutes.
4. Add porcini mushrooms, wine and thyme. Cook until wine evaporates, about 5 minutes.
5. Add mushroom mixture to the mixing bowl with bread cubes and stir to combine. Add reserved mushroom liquid to moisten. Season with salt and pepper and mix in egg.
6. Heat oven to 350°.
7. Butter 13×9 glass baking dish. Transfer stuffing mixture into baking dish.
8. Bake uncovered about 40 minutes.

Seattle Animal Shelter Giving Tree

SAS Giving Tree 1The more ornaments, the merrier. That’s true for most Christmas trees, but there’s one Christmas tree in particular that would be beyond beautiful with no decorations at all.
SAS Giving TreeThe Giving Tree at the Seattle Animal Shelter has been trimmed with ornaments featuring pictures of shelter dogs, cats, and critters that need a little help this holiday season. Each ornament has a donation amount on the back along with the corresponding treatment or care plan that your money will pay for, like blood tests or medication. The animals will thank you, and you be able to keep that warm feeling all season long by taking your ornament home as a keepsake. It’s a wonderful way to give back and support Seattle’s shelter animals this holiday season, especially if you’re not in the position to adopt.
Giving TreeIf you ARE thinking about expanding the family and bringing a shelter animal home for the holidays, good news, SAS is extending its $15 “Home For The Holidays” adoption promotion through December 31. (Excludes two-year license fees) With regular adoption prices of up to $145 (plus applicable license fees), this promotion offers up to $130 in savings! Learn more about what the adoption fee covers here.

Brussels Sprouts With Bacon, Feta, Walnuts & Dried Cranberry

Brussels Sprouts With BaconBrussels sprouts have come a LONG way since I was a kid. Back then, this weird veggie tasted like stinky feet and I was forced to sit at the table long after dinner until my plate was clean. Now, out of nowhere, Brussels sprouts are suddenly everywhere. The “it” veggie, if you will. They’re being dressed up with bacon, nuts, and dried fruit, and they’re all the rage with celebrity chefs on tv. Huh? What am I missing? I decided to torture my inner child and give these sprouts a second chance. I can honestly say, I’m sooo glad I did! Take THAT 8-year-old me!
Brussels SproutsI was inspired by a beautiful dish from Family Fresh Cooking. A gorgeous combination of  roasted Brussels sprouts, toasted walnuts, bacon, feta and dried cranberries makes a gorgeous side dish for your Christmas gatherings. A touch of honey during the roasting process gives your sprouts a wonderful hint of sweetness. Finish them off in a pan with the bacon renderings and you’ll forget that you ever turned your nose up at this veggie once upon a time.
Brussels sprouts, feta, walnuts, bacon
INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 pounds Brussels Sprouts, sliced in half
5 slices of bacon (pre-cooked)
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/3 cup crumbled feta
1/3 cup dried cranberries
salt
pepper
Olive Oil for drizzling
Honey for drizzling

PREP
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Trim ends off Brussels sprouts and slice in half. Arrange on baking sheet.
3. Drizzle sprouts with olive oil until nicely coated. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle honey on sprouts making sure each one gets a good shot.
4. Roast for 20 minutes, flip once half way through.
5. While the Brussels sprouts are roasting, cook bacon until crispy. (I used pre-cooked bacon and warmed it in a pan until it was crispy.) Remove bacon from the pan and chop into small pieces. Add walnut pieces to the pan with bacon drippings to toast for about 7-10 minutes, stirring so they don’t burn.
6. Add bacon pieces and roasted Brussel sprouts to the pan. Cook for 5-7 more minutes until the sprouts are slightly golden brown.
7. Move sprout mixture to a serving bowl. Top with feta and dried cranberries. Toss and serve.