Crock Pot Mashed Potatoes

Mashed Potatoes With the Holidays just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about comfort foods!

And what’s more comforting than a bowl of  mashed potatoes, just dripping with butter or gravy?

As much as I love them, I will admit that I don’t enjoy all the last minute fuss they call for – or the messy kitchen they leave behind.

But then I discovered how easy it was to make them ahead in the crock pot! Now I can make a batch on Saturday, put it in the crock pot liner in the refrigerator, and pull it out Sunday morning before I leave for church.  It cooks in the crock pot on low all morning and we have hot and tasty mashed potatoes for lunch!

I’ll do the same for our Thanksgiving meal and even our Christmas Eve supper.

Don’t want to use the crock pot? No problem! They can be baked in a casserole pan at 350 degrees until they are heated through.

My mother-in-law even makes them weeks ahead and freezes them in 9 x 13 aluminum foil pans. She just sets them out the day before to thaw and bakes them normally.

The recipe can easily be doubled or even tripled, just add some extra cooking time.

Follow the recipe carefully and don’t add milk or the end product will be too runny!

Crock Pot Mashed Potatoes

1 package (3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup butter, softened
6 cups warm mashed potatoes (prepared without milk or butter)

In a bowl, combine the cream cheese, sour cream, and butter. Stir in potatoes. Transfer to a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 2-4 hours. Yield: 8-10 servings.

Or put in a greased 9 x 13 pan and bake 350 for 45 minutes to an hour.

If frozen, allow to thaw before baking.

Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Orange Cranberry Relish

I just enjoyed this recipe at Mom’s last weekend. I’m so glad she was willing to share it with us all- it is yummy!

Orange Cranberry RelishI have always liked cranberries, especially the ones my mom would cook up into a sauce.

Some of my children like the canned jellied cranberries, but I still prefer the sauce.

It can be messy and time consuming to make, but the rich flavor is worth the extra time!

You can even store the cranberries in the freezer until you are ready to use them.

This recipe is from our REC magazine (REC stands for Rural Electric Cooperative for you city slickers.) It isn’t quite like my mom’s, but we love it!

It does not have the “crunch” of traditional relish, but is tasty, cooks while you are doing something else & doubles as a potpourri fragrance!

Slow Cooker Orange-Cranberry Relish
From REC magazine

1 Cups Sugar
1 tsp Grated Orange Peel
1 Cup Orange Juice
1-16oz Pkg Whole Cranberries

In a slow cooker, combine sugar, orange peel & juice. Stir until dissolved. Add cranberries, stir and cover. Cook on low for 6 hours. Mash berries after cooking. Chill before serving. May be kept in refrigerator for several days.

Until next time,
Nana Shirley

Swedish Fruit Soup

Fruit Soup My husband’s parents are Swedish and Norwegian, so I married into some strong Scandinavian traditions.

This traditions are especially evident at Christmas!

Thankfully we enjoy Swedish meatballs instead of Lutefisk on Christmas Eve!

One tradition that always appears on our Christmas Eve smorgasbord is Swedish Fruit Soup. Made with dried fruit, you can almost taste the history behind the dish!

My mother-in-law adjusted the recipe slightly to use the crock pot which makes it much easier to prepare!

Swedish Fruit Soup

Combine in crock pot:

2 quarts water
1 cup raisins
1 1/2 cup prunes
1 cup dried apples
1 stick cinnamon

Cook on low for 2 hours. Add 1/2 cup quick tapioca and cook one hour more, stirring occasionally.

Remove from the crock pot and store in the refrigerator.  Serve cold on Christmas Eve and again Christmas morning.

We have added other dried fruits, including dried peaches and apricots and have loved them all!

God Jule!

Mashed Potato Candy

Mashed Potato CandyAs Christmas approaches, my work in the kitchen grows more frantic! The standards, Oreo truffles, peanut clusters,and peanut butter balls, are made and hidden in the freezer.

Now it’s time to branch off into the new and different!

My sister Sandy shared this recipe that, with mashed potatoes in the middle, definitely qualifies for the different! But since I love both mashed potatoes and chocolate, I was game to try it! Believe it or not, they really taste good!

Mashed Potato Candy

Combine in mixing bowl: 4 cups powdered sugar, 4 cups coconut, 3/4 cup of cold mashed potatoes (without butter or milk), 1 1/2 tsps. vanilla and 1/2 tsp. salt.

Line a 9 inch square cake pan with foil and butter it. Spread the coconut mixture into the pan. Cover and chill overnight.

Cut into 2 inch by 1 inch rectangles. Cover and freeze.

Melt 1 pound of dark candy coating. Dip the bars in the coating and place on waxed paper to harden. Store in airtight containers.

These do freeze well, so they are perfect to make ahead and hide until you need them!

Children’s Christmas Program

Last night I once again directed our church’s annual Children’s Christmas Program.

I love the Christmas Program.

To some it may be just a tradition, but not to me.  To me it’s one of the most important things I do during the Christmas season.

Why would I say that?

It’s not just because the kids are so cute- although they are! Last night the littlest angel refused to go on stage- she wanted to sit in Grandma’s lap instead!

It’s not because it’s the easiest job in the world to corral a group of kids on sugar-overload to remember their lines and sing the right words in tune at the right time. It’s not.

The reason the program is so important to me is simple: “out of the mouth of babes”.

For many the true meaning of Christmas, the message of salvation, is more easily heard when it comes from the mouths of children. People who wouldn’t think of entering the doors of the church will come in to see a little one dressed as a shepherd and saying his part…

“I am just a shepherd boy little Jesus…”

It’s for all those moms and dads and grandpa’s and grandma’s and aunts and uncles and friends in the audience that the Christmas Program is given.

And that makes it all worthwhile!

Caramel Corn

My dad is famous for his popcorn and the size of his popcorn bowl! But when the calendar turns to December his favorite treat gets a sweet holiday make-over into Caramel Corn! Mom was kind enough to share our family recipe with you all- enjoy!

Carmel Corn

Here on the prairie we have 6 inches of snow covering everything and blowing about into drifts. Our Christmas Tree is up along with other traditional decorations.

Now it’s time to think about making all of our favorite Christmas treats, starting with caramel corn!

Popcorn is a staple at our house. We eat it every Sunday night and many times will have a bowl in the evening. But at Christmas Papa Jim turns the ordinary into a treat when he makes caramel corn!

A large tin of it provides a sweet and crunchy snack.

No one can resist the fragrance of warm caramel & freshly popped corn. We get it picked up off the counter and in the can as soon as it is cool to be sure we have some for later!

Papa Jim has experimented with several different recipes including one that you bake in the microwave, but we’ve always come back to this one. It was given to us years ago by good friends. (They still make it too- although for health reasons they can only eat the “puffed corn”. So this year she used this recipe to make caramel puffed corn! Which is melt-in-your-mouth delicious!)

Oven Carmel Corn
From Karen Jungling

Pop 8 or 9 quarts of popcorn and set aside. Do not salt or butter.

Mix together in a saucepan:

2 Cups Brown Sugar
1 Cup Margarine
½ Cup Syrup (light or dark)
¼ tsp Cream of tarter
½ tsp Salt

Bring to boil. Boil for 3 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat.

Add 1 tsp. baking soda & stir well. It will foam. Keep stirring until soda is well-mixed & foaming dies down. Pour over Popcorn. Mix with wooden spoon until corn is coated.

Put in cookie sheets—can be a thick layer.

Bake in 250° oven for 1 ½ hours, stirring every 15 minutes.

Pour out on a flat surface to cool.

Store in an airtight container.

You can add peanuts to the popcorn before you pour the caramel over to make your own cracker jacks! Almonds or walnuts are also delicious.

This makes a great and inexpensive gift to share over the holidays with friends or teachers. Just put it in a pretty jar or even a plastic bag with a bright bow and a tag!

Until next time,

Nana Shirley

The Creche: A Christmas Tradition

Nativity

One of the things my husband and I bought with our wedding money over 18 years ago was a beautiful porcelain nativity set.

We displayed it every year for Christmas until our first born turned two.

That was the year we realized that while a porcelaim set was very beautiful, it was not very practical to keep little hands away during the entire Christmas season, especially since I was already expected our second child and was exhausted.

I did not want to have a home full of no-no’s for little ones. I wanted them to be able to touch and play with the nativity, act it out, make it real in their little minds.

That year we found a nice little plasticine set on sale at a craft store.

Our little 2 year old sat with Daddy and set it up that night. Daddy told him the story and he carefully set out all the pieces.

He was so taken by it that every day after that, he would go and move the characters around the stable and told the story in his own special toddler-speak.

A new tradition was born.

Now every year we pull out the plasticine set and Daddy sets it up with the children, telling the story of the first Christmas.

The year Pedro was two he was so taken by the donkey that every day he would sneak it out and take a nap with it. Somehow the poor donkey lost his ears.

It now reminds me of the set my parents had when I were growing up. They bought it 40 years ago from a catalog and it has seen many Christmas’s. It has been arranged and rearranged by many little hands over the years, children and now grandchildren.

If you study the picture you will note that there are no shepherds and the donkey is with out ears. All were lost or broken at some point over the years.

They now have a beautiful new Nativity set, hand carved from Israel. But they still display this one over the holidays as a reminder that the Christmas story is to be touched, felt and lived for it to be remembered.

What a beautiful tradition!

Shop by Seasons

A quick stop at the grocery store tonight yielded some great buys. Since the July Fourth weekend is coming up soon, many of the foods traditionally served on the Fourth are on sale.

Think hot dogs, hamburgers, brats, pop, buns, chips, condiments, watermelon, etc…

I used this same principle back in November when the store had a great price on turkeys. I bought four nice size ones and put them in the freezer. Two of them are soaking in a brine tonight and will be put in the smoker tomorrow.

The smoked turkey will be served at our family reunion next weekend. The other two will be smoked later in the summer for another reunion. It will be a fairly cheap (but delicious) meal because I bought in season. To buy a turkey now would not be as cost effective.

I wish I had used this principle to buy bacon. I was shocked at the price when I checked today! The guy in charge of the meat department told me that every spring the price of bacon goes up because of the demand for BLT’s. Bacon is always cheaper in the winter. That’s a tip I need to remember!

Watching the calendar and stocking up on the holidays is a great way to bag some great deals and save some money in your grocery budget!