Thursday, December 13, 2012

Whisked Away Christmas Gift Giving Guide 2012

I love giving people gifts.  I love peering into their souls and trying to come up with a way to make them happy.  Does that sound creepy?  Some people have a hard time coming up with what gifts to give people, but for me I have always loved the challenge!

The first rule of thumb I follow is think out side of the box - literally.  Maybe your gift can't be wrapped....sometimes, those things make the best gifts!
The second thing I do is I fall back on my trusty "The 5 love languages" rule.  I think I have talked about this book before, but in case I haven't here is the long and short version of it.  Harry Chapman came up with a philosophy called "The 5 love languages".  He says that everyone gives and receives love in 5 different ways.  Most people give in 2 ways, and receive in 2 ways.  Once you figure out what love language makes someone feel loved and what language they give love in - you really can understand them so much better!  So if someone doesn't feel loved by receiving gifts, but instead feels loved by words of affirmation - sitting down and writing them a letter would be better than buying them a gift.  This book changed my life...really it did.  I don't say that often, so believe me, it is true.  Once I read the book I sat down and looked at everyone in my life and wrote down how I thought they felt the most loved.  I highly recommend doing this when you are thinking abut what to give someone.  You should go borrow or buy the book, but until then here are the 5 love languages.

1.  Words of Affirmation - "You is kind. You is smart. You is important." - The Help
2.  Acts of Service - Doing the dishes, watching someones kids for them...etc.
3.  Gifts - Usually material things - don't think this need explaining.
4.  Physical Touch - Hugs, kisses, know the mushy stuff : )
5.  Quality Time - Talking on the phone with someone, spending an afternoon just listening to a friend, taking time out of your busy life to devout your attention 100% to someone.

Also - the other thing I do is think about the person's likes and dislikes.  Do they like gift cards?  Do they like only local gifts?  Are they a fan of a certain show or sports team?  Really think about what makes them happy!  Or I also like to stop and observe someone going about their day to day - maybe you notice that their car is wicked dirty - buy them a car washing gift certificates, or better yet - take the car to get cleaned.  Or maybe you see that they could really use a night away from home - offer to babysit or hire a babysitter for them.

My Papa used to love giving gifts to his family.  When he was in his 60's and 70's he would go out shopping for gifts for all of his 24 grand kids.  He had all of our names on a list and had so much fun picking out gifts for them all.  On more than one occasion we would be his shopping buddies and helped pick things out for our cousins - what fun we had!  As we and he got older he gave money.  Then the last Christmas gift he gave me was a hand written card just telling me how much he loved me.  Little did he know that would be my most treasured gift from him. : )  Just remember that the best gift is one that shows that you put thought and effort into it. : )

Also, here are some of the things on my Christmas giving list this year:

1.  Baking/Cooking Classes
-  check out your local community college, most of them offer some sort of cooking classes.  Or if you are near a Viking cooking school - they offer fun classes too!

2.  Netflix or blockbuster subscription

3.  Cookbook!  Joy the Baker or Smitten Kitchen

4.  Homemade Truffles are so amazing...

5.  Movie Night Basket - Favorite Movie, popcorn, PJ's

6.  Homemade Biscotti is delicious, and has a fairly long shelf life - so people can enjoy it throughout the Christmas season

7.  Hot Cocoa Mix with Marshmallows

8.  Breakfast Basket with Homemade pancake mix, maple syrup, farm fresh eggs, local bacon or sausage, coffee

9. Etsy!!!! Where you can buy things like this awesome bracelet

10.  Subscription to a magazine or publication...Clubhouse Jr, Martha Stewart, Verily, Radiant, Catholic Digest, Food Network Magazine etc...

As I finish this post I realize that my Christmas shopping is far from being done.  I have gifts for only 4 out of the 14 people on my list.  Oddly enough this doesn't stress me out - instead I am grateful that I have 14 people in my life to give presents to.  In the meantime...I should probably start gifting soon : )

Promise to post a recipe soon!  I have been swamped at work, sick with the evil cold, and just down right busy!  I have yet to bake a single Christmas cookie this year!!!  Holy Moley what have I become? : )

Happy Advent to you all!!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sweet Potato Casserole with Homemade Marshmallows

Is it possible to still be full from Thanksgiving weeks later?  With the copious amounts of food we consume on Thanksgiving I dare say a man could go a whole year without eating another thing besides that Thanksgiving feast and still live on.  How many turkeys did you have at your meal?  Don't count the human ones : )  We had 3 turkeys!  So many turkeys!  And at the end of the meal we barely had leftovers to spare!  How the heck did that happen?  I don't want to know!

The turkey fryer on fire!

I looked up the definition of Turkey to see what it said...just out of curiosity, and this is what it said:

1.  plural also turkey : a large North American gallinaceous bird (Meleagris gallopavo) that is domesticated in most parts of the world

2.  Failure, Flop; especially: a theatrical production that has failed

3.  Three successive strikes in bowling

4.  A  stupid, foolish, or inept person

I am going to start using the word "Turkey" at least once a day...guess I will either be bowling a lot, or hanging out with some real goofy people. : )

Our pretty table!

I was fortunate enough to spend many Thanksgivings with random families while I was in boarding school and then college away from home.  I always find it funny that people insist upon having certain dishes at their Thanksgiving meals...including myself in this as well.  They hold these foods near and dear to their hearts.  So...when you have many people from different families come together for Thanksgiving sometimes you end up with competing dishes...which is why we had 3 turkeys!  Each person was so insistent that their way to cook the turkey was the "only" way to do it!  So we had a fried one, a grilled one, and a smoked one.  Fried turkey won!  Sorry other contenders!

One dish that we insist upon having at our Thanksgiving meal is sweet potato casserole.  I am sure this is found on most tables for Thanksgiving, where it rightfully belongs.  I decided to play around with my traditional recipe a little bit.  I reduced the sugar, increased the streusal, and made homemade marshmallows to top it off.  I have to admit, I loved it.  The day after Thanksgiving it was the only thing I wanted to eat...well that, and this apple pie of course. : )  This will now be making an appearance at our Christmas feast as well!!

Marshmallows chilling out before being cut into chunks!

Sweet Potato Casserole

6 cups roasted sweet potatoes, mashed
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla


2 cups chopped pecans
2 sticks melted butter
1 cup brown sugar
6 TBS Flour

Homemade Marshmallows I made, and then ones made without refined sugar 

I roast/bake my sweet potatoes because it helps them maintain their natural sugars.  You can cook them anyway you like, but I prefer roasting them.  I simply wash them, wrap them individually in tin foil.  Stick them in a 375 degree oven and bake until tender - this all depends upon how thick the potatoes are so just check them every 10-15 minutes.  Once baked - allow to cool for a few minutes, scoop out the flesh and mash.

Mix the cooked sweet potatoes, sugar, cream, eggs, and vanilla together until smooth.  Place in a 13x9 baking pan and spread smooth. 

In separate bowl mix together the topping ingredients until combined: pecans, melted butter, brown sugar, and flour.  Sprinkle over sweet potatoes.  Bake in 350 degree oven about 20-25 minutes.  Top with homemade marshmallows and bake until marshmallows are melty and toasted - about 5 minutes.

Look Ma - I made marshmallows!

Lovely Thanksgiving plate : )

Make this casserole, listen to this song, and don't forget to prepare your heart for Jesus this Advent!