Children’s Songs and Games: The Magic of Music!

You think you will remember all the songs you heard as a child……but when you have a baby, or grandbaby, it takes a while to start sharing them because you have forgotten all the words!

After 30+ years of singing songs and making up games for our own two children and my little students I was teaching, I’m now having to pull them up again for my little grandson!

When he was born, I instinctively began singing to him.  I used 2 or 3 songs most of the time, knowing that babies like the repetition so they can learn language.  The most important reason, of course, was to let him know he was loved and to comfort him with a familiar loving voice.

As he grew, I added more songs and sounds, such as animal sounds and other sound effects.  The sound effects prompted lots of smiles, laughter, and eventually his own sounds and babbling.

His Mommy and Daddy knew he loved music and sounds, and they provided music and songs at home.  One of the sweetest moments I experienced was when he was only a few weeks old.  I was driving him and his Mommy (our baby) to a doctor’s appointment.  He was in his carseat, a little restless, and our daughter began singing an old spiritual she sang in chorus many years ago.  Her voice was beautiful as she sang, and he calmed and dozed off to sleep to his mama’s loving voice.

Babies and children don’t care how we sing or if we have perfect pitch and tone.  They only sense the love and the rhythm of sound.  They learn to make connections to life, and they learn how to understand and express their own language.

First Songs:

1 — Anything that is meaningful to you and Baby.  We have a musical teddy bear that belonged to our daughter and stays in our grandson’s crib at our house.  The music plays “Jesus Loves Me.”  He heard the music, and I sang the song.  It became a routine for me to sing it as I held him and comforted him when he was tired and ready to sleep.

Musical teddy bear

Musical teddy bear

2 — When babies are new to the world, we generally think of singing relaxing and gentle songs.  As they grow, they start to enjoy more interactive songs like “Old McDonald Had a Farm.”

3 — If someone plays a musical instrument, begin exposing Baby to ways to make music as soon as it’s possible.  We have a piano, and our 14-month old grandson has been “playing” the real piano since he was about 7 months old!  He loves to play with both hands and began using single fingers to play individual keys before he was a year old.  He enjoyed a Christmas decoration piano with Snoopy and learned to turn it off and on with one finger to hear Snoopy play his piano!

Exploring the piano!

Exploring the piano!

Using both hands...

Using both hands…

Turning on Snoopy's Christmas piano!

Turning on Snoopy’s Christmas piano!

4 — Toys, books and any play activity can be put to music.  Make up little songs and phrases that can be sung to any melody to make the game more fun!  When our grandson began to play with his magnetic shapes puzzle book, he first picked out a red lollipop circle.  I started singing an old tune “Lollipop, lollipop, la-la-la lollipop, lollipop!”  He imitates “lollipop” and knows which piece to reach for.

Magnetic Puzzle Book with Shapes

“Lollipop!”  Magnetic Puzzle Book with Shapes

Exploring the shapes and singing songs to encourage Baby

Exploring the shapes and singing songs to encourage Baby

5 — Babies of all ages usually love movement and dancing with Mommy and Daddy.  Slow or fast, it doesn’t matter to them.  They feel the loving interaction and special bonding time with their parents, or grandparents!

I will be posting some favorite songs and ideas for related games for babies and young children.  Of course, they will be inspired by my own children and grandson.  What songs are inspired by your children or grandchildren?!?

 

Valentine’s Day: 3-in-1 Cake Surprise

For a special Valentine’s Day treat, a nice homemade dessert is filled with love!

It doesn’t have to cost a fortune or take all day.  All it takes is a cake mix, a few little ingredients you probably have on hand, and a lot of love.

Whether it’s for your sweetie, a friend, or your kids, you can create a triple surprise on a shoestring budget.  I made these little surprises for my sweetheart (my husband), and my children and grandson.  I had a red velvet cake mix which I thought would be perfect for Valentine’s Day.

Valentine's heart-shaped cupcakes

Valentine’s heart-shaped cupcakes

Valentine’s 3-in-1 Cake Surprise

1 Red Velvet Cake Mix (or your favorite or what you have in the pantry) – bake as directed

Ingredients as directed (3 eggs, 1 c. water, 1/3 c. oil)

1 container of prepared frosting (or homemade if you have the time!)

Directions:

Prepare 3 different pans for baking.  I used 1 8″ heart-shaped pan, 1 miniature bundt pan and a silicone heart-shaped cupcake pan.

Heart-shaped cupcake and mini-bundt pans

Heart-shaped cupcake and mini-bundt pans

Spray each pan with cooking spray and add a little flour to prevent sticking.

Mix cake batter as directed and pour some batter into each pan.  Fill up to 1/3 or 1/2 of the pan or cupcake section with batter.  If you overfill, the cakes will be rounded when you turn them over to frost.  If that does happen, just trim the excess and frost anyway!

After cooling each cake or cupcake, frost with your choice of frosting.

For my Red Velvet cakes and cupcakes, any of these flavors would work well.

——White Cream Cheese Frosting (leave white or add red food coloring)

——White Vanilla Frosting (leave white or add food coloring)

——Any kind of Chocolate frosting (after all, the Red Velvet cake is chocolate!)

1 – Frost a large heart-shaped cake and decorate as desired.  I used the chocolate fudge frosting. and added a white heart and “Luv U”.  I then sprinkled the heart with a little powdered sugar.

Heart-shaped Cake

Heart-shaped Cake

2 – Frost the heart-shaped cupcakes with small frosting hearts and red sprinkles.  I added “I-L-U” on one for my sweetie.

Valentine's Cupcakes with frosting and sprinkles

Valentine’s Cupcakes with frosting and sprinkles

3 – Frost the remaining mini-bundt cake with a drizzle of chocolate frosting.  I softened the frosting for 5-10 seconds in the microwave, added to a disposable piping bag, and drizzled the thinner frosting back and forth over the top of the little bundt cake.

Mini-bundt red velvet cake

Mini-bundt red velvet cake

TIP:

I used one cake mix for all three surprises, but the amount of batter from just this one cake mix could be further divided to make:

—-6 more cupcakes, or

—-1-2 more mini-bundt cakes, or

—-1 more heart-shaped cake layer to make a 2-layer cake (with slightly thinner layers)

This was a treat for Valentine’s Day, but you can use the same idea to make multiple treats for any occasion, birthday, or family gatherings.  Use any cake mix or frosting, and use your favorite pans!  An ordinary cake mix can create several special treats!

 

Snow, Beautiful Snow — Snow Cream Treat!

After such a warm winter in the mountains of North Carolina last year, we were all a little spoiled by the unusually warm weather.  We also missed out on any significant snow.  Good for safe traveling, but no chance for snowballs, snowbuilding or snow cream!

Snow Cream!

Snow Cream!

Yes, Snow Cream!  For anyone who has not tried this tasty treat, it is so easy and so  much fun for kids and adults alike!  As a child, my mother and grandmother made snow cream every winter.  We used to have several good snows each winter.  Lately, it’s been small amounts of snow every once in a while.

We used to help make snow cream in the winter and put some in the freezer to have in the summer.  It didn’t usually make it to the summer because we would raid the freezer and eat it up by spring!  When our kids were little, we made snow cream maybe once or twice a winter.  Some years there wasn’t enough snow to make it.

I save up freezer containers (which I haven’t used for the last few years!), and use a couple of large bowls to gather the snow.  Once there’s a few inches, take a large clean spoon and bowl outside and scoop in “Clean” snow.  Or, leave a couple of large bowls outside in a clean open area where clean snow can fall naturally.  Less scooping!

Snow Cream!

Large bowl of snow

Sugar or splenda (yes, splenda’s okay)

Milk, cream (evaporated milk)

Vanilla flavoring (real or imitation)

Large spoon, Freezer containers

The old original method was adding a lot of sugar and whole milk and vanilla.  Over the years, I used whatever type of milk or cream I had available.  As long as you have the vanilla and sweetener, it will all taste good!  Use your preferred sweetener, something like Splenda-type sweeteners should work.

When our kids were little, I learned to adjust to a little less sugar so they didn’t go bouncing with too much sugar!  There are no magic measurements for snow cream. You learn as you mix.  Snow must be clean, no contaminants, no sticks or leaves, etc!

If the snow is light and fluffy, it’s perfect!  It’s harder to get good snow cream if there is sleet or ice in the snow.  When gathering the snow, spoon about an inch or so above the bottom so it’s cleaner.

Setting out the bowls to gather the snow

Setting out the bowls to gather the snow

2 Bowls of snow ready to turn into snow cream

2 Bowls of snow ready to turn into snow cream

 

Don’t pack the snow, just scoop it into the bowl.  Then sprinkle on sugar.  For a large bowl, you could use about 1 cup.  If you like it sweeter, go for it!

Stir gently and quickly so the snow doesn’t melt.  Then pour a couple of teaspoons of vanilla over the top of the snow.  Pour milk a little at a time, just until the snow is the consistency you want.  It tastes great if it’s a little damp, but not melting wet.

Stir sugar, milk and vanilla into the snow

Stir sugar, milk and vanilla into the snow

We like to fill the available freezer containers first, and get them into the freezer before they melt and get soupy.  The snow cream freezes better and is easier to eat when you take it out.  Then the “chefs” get to eat what’s left in the bowl.

Snow Cream ready to eat or freeze for later!

Snow Cream ready to eat or freeze for later!

If you have a large snow, you might make several batches in a day!

Tips:

For a chocolaty treat, sprinkle a pack of hot chocolate mix and stir it into the snow.

I have seen recipes for using sweetened condensed milk. I’m sure it’s heavenly, but it may be a little difficult to stir and mix. Remember the touch of vanilla!

 

 

Family Recipe – Daddy’s Thick and Hearty Vegetable Soup

One journey finished, another started!  I have not posted in a few weeks because I have been busy shifting the focus of my life!  I have now retired as a full-time teacher and am spending my time taking care of my little grandson and my family.  Except for some part-time work, I am re-visiting my daily routines, and catching up on some cleaning and busy work I have not had time for.

Teaching and working with young children has been a blessing in my life, and my students will always have a special place in my heart.  Now we are blessed with our own little boy who needs lovin’ while his parents work, and I’m blessed to be able to provide that.

The support of my loving friend of over 32 years, my husband, has been a blessing during this transition.  Leaving behind over 32 years of students, education and training, planning, and colleagues has been harder and more emotional than I expected, and he has provided his shoulder when I needed it.

This month, for example, he has helped with dinner while I began my new job or while I was caring for the little one!  Tonight, he made his wonderful beef and veggie soup that he has made for years, and it is especially tasty on this cold winter night with a winter storm approaching!  We will have leftovers for a couple of days — it stretches out the food supplies when bad roads rule!

Hot Soup - Easy and Hearty

Hot Soup – Easy and Hearty

Perfect snowy day for a hot bowl of homemade soup!

Perfect snowy day for a hot bowl of homemade soup!

Thick and Hearty Vegetable Soup

1/2 to 1 lb. of lean beef (1/2″ cubes)

2 cups water

1-2 Tbl. red wine vinegar

4-5 small-medium potatoes (diced)

3 carrots (diced)

1/2 rib celery (minced)

Salt & Pepper to taste

2 cans tomato sauce

1/2 – 1 tsp. chili powder

2 cups chicken broth

1 small onion (minced)

2 green onions (diced)

1 Tbl. minced garlic (optional)

1/2 cup broken spaghetti

Boil meat and water for 5 minutes.  Skim the fat off.

Cut beef into bite-sized pieces...

Cut beef into bite-sized pieces…

Meat in the pot, skim the fat...

Meat in the pot, skim the fat…

Add vinegar and cook 1 minute.  Add the broth, vegetables and garlic.

Veggies for the soup...

Veggies for the soup…

Diced veggies

Diced veggies

Bring to a simmer and simmer for 1 hour.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes longer.  Let stand about 10 minutes.  After standing, add the broken spaghetti pieces.

Veggies in the pot ready to simmer for 1 hour...

Veggies in the pot ready to simmer for 1 hour…

Adding tomato sauce for final 30 minutes...

Adding tomato sauce for final 30 minutes…

Ready to serve with your favorite bread!

Ready to serve with your favorite bread!

Serve with your favorite biscuits, rolls or garlic toast. Makes enough for a family or 2-3 meals for 2!  And the leftover soup can be frozen for a later meal!

Tip:

Adjust amounts and ingredients according to taste.

Optional ingredients:

1 small green pepper (minced)

1/4 cup turnip (diced)

parsley

bay leaf

 

 

 

 

Preserving and Writing Family History and Genealogy

Family History

Family History – “If you don’t recount your family history, it will be lost. Honor your own stories and tell them, too. The tales may not seem very important, but they are what binds families and makes each of us who we are.” Madeleine L’Engle

Preserving family history can seem like a huge undertaking and it is!  Getting started is the scariest part for me – not knowing how to begin. There are the facts that I have gathered so far, but a family history is more than just the names, dates and places.

So Far…..

I have researched family genealogies for over 10 years and have been able to gather thousands of names and dates.  I have been able to verify more names and locations as I continued my searching and improved my search skills.

I have met new cousins and heard family stories that helped to verify details that I had already found.  Hearing the family tales have brought to life those names – those people that were our grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles and cousins.

We have connected through family reunions and gatherings, encouraged and asked for any old pictures of the family.  Even if we did not know who each person was, we brought them along to the reunions and asked other family members if they recognized them.  We have been able to put faces with the names and added photos to our large family tree.  When they were identified, the stories started and family members would tell what they remembered or family “lore” they had heard about these people.  This made those grandparents and cousins more real to the younger ones.

Now what?

This helped us to think of what their lives were like.  The timelines of when they lived can help us understand their occupations, their way of life, and their losses in times of great illness.  History was never a huge interest of mine, but now I look for historical perspective to learn more about what my ancestors may have lived through.

For most genealogists and family history buffs, our attention and interest does not peak until we are older and our kids and jobs are not as demanding.  As we get older, maybe our realization kicks in that half of our life is behind us!  Maybe we have lived enough life that we understand better what our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents must have had to endure in their journeys.  As tough as we think we have had to live, they may have had to fight many more battles to survive and raise a family.

So the first step is jut to get started!  Break it down into smaller steps!

Starting the family history……

1)     Journaling doesn’t have to be complex or scary.  Just make a few notes when you think of a topic you want to remember or write about.

2)     Make a list of those family stories you have heard over and over from your parents and grandparents.

3)     Think of and list the timeline of important times in your parents lives – their childhood, where they grew up, their schools, their churches, their maternal and paternal families, how they met, their courtship and wedding.  Then list their children, homes, jobs, grandchildren, pets, etc.

4)     Do the same for your grandparents and any other living relatives you may be blessed enough to share stories with.

5)     Ask the oldest living relatives to share their journeys, their stories, with you.  Use video on a camera, laptop, camcorder, or even write it down on paper if they are not comfortable with being on camera.  My first filmed video was with my mother, and I set up a laptop and a camcorder to make sure I didn’t miss anything.  If one method works better or has a better sound or viewing angle, then you can choose which to use when putting a family video together.

6)     Keep attention focused on your relative during the interview, suggesting topics, letting them do most of the talking, and make notes later of new questions you have or stories that came up that you want more detail about.  Break the interviews into a few sessions, so neither of you have to sit for too long or get too tired.

7)     Parents and grandparents tend to tell stories on each other, usually funny stories, sometimes touching ones.  Siblings are great at sharing stories about each other!

       My father’s “story” was of the time he made his daddy jump into a creek because he hollered “Snake!”.  He laughs now, but my grandpa wasn’t happy to be tricked!  He ended up with scratched up legs from hitting the rocks in the creek!     

        My “story” is about being pregnant with our  second child. We had mostly boys in our family and we had a four-year-old son.  He said our baby was going to be a girl.  We explained that we would love a boy or a girl, we just prayed for a healthy baby, a little brother or a sister.  He replied that he had already told God he wanted a sister – the faith of a child!  He got his little baby sister!

So, whether the stories are about how the old-timers grew up, how eccentric or special their cousins or uncle was, or how siblings got along, they are all stories that bring life to the family history.

One day, when we are gone, fifty years from now, when our grandson is 50, I hope he will be able to read about – hear on audio – or see on a video – the stories and journeys that we lived, our parents and grandparents lived, and know that he comes from a long line of love and blessings.

No Sewing – Iron-on Tigger Onesie

My husband said, “Our grandson will not go hungry or naked!”  Yep, as long as he has grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, his parents won’t have to worry about clothes or food!

Like books, we can’t stop finding cute little clothes that he could use, and like books, there are a lot of ways to find them!  I found free iron-on designs available online, and found a cute Disney Tigger design I thought would be great for our grandson, since he loves to bounce!

Tigger Onesie

Tigger Onesie

I found the design online for free, and then found great transfer printer paper that goes right into your paper tray and prints out the design.  I followed the steps given on the paper I bought and created a great little shirt.  This process was easier than I thought it would be!

Steps for Iron-on Tigger Onesie

Step 1 – Search online for sites with free (really free) designs for iron-on.  You could use a regular design, but remember that when it prints out, the design ironed on will show up reversed.  For example, if you use written words, then would have to be reversed or the writing will iron on backwards. I found this Tigger design (for our bouncer!) on a Disney website search for free iron-on.

Disney website - free Tigger and Mickey ears iron-on design

Disney website – free Tigger and Mickey ears iron-on design

2 – I bought a pack of iron-on transfer paper made especially for regular printers. Follow the directions for how to load the paper so the design prints on the right side. The directions are included in the package and some are printed on the backing paper of each sheet.

Iron-on Transfer Paper

Iron-on Transfer Paper

Following directions, trimming the edges from the actual Tigger design

Following directions, trimming the edges from the actual Tigger design

Step 3 – I followed the directions in my iron-on transfer paper package, and trimmed all the white outer edges from the actual Tigger design.

Tigger trimmed and ready!

Tigger trimmed and ready!

Step 4 – The directions said to set the iron temperature to hot/cotton setting, and to be safe, I set it a little lower to make sure my hot iron did not burn or melt anything!  I made sure the iron had time to heat, and directions said to pre-iron the shirt so it would already be hot and ready to accept the design. I turned the design upside down to place it in the middle of the shirt.

Design face down on the onesie

Design face down on the onesie

Step 5 – Follow directions on the package for how long to iron and press down the design. Most directions will suggest several seconds of pressing the iron down on each part of the design, making sure not to wiggle too quickly so the design will not move.

Iron and hold on each edge of the design according to directions

Iron and hold on each edge of the design according to directions

Step 6 – Iron for recommended time, then let design and shirt cool for recommended time.  My directions suggested letting the shirt alone for a few minutes, then moving it to a cooler spot away from the ironing board.to cool even quicker.

Cooling for suggested time

Cooling for suggested time

Step 7 – After design and shirt have completely cooled, start to carefully peel the backing off, making sure that the design is staying on the shirt. There are suggestions for re-ironing if the design did not fully transfer.  I had no problem with my Tigger design, but I’m sure it happens. I was super-cautious and peeled very slowly to make sure!

Peeled backing and Tigger is ready for bouncing!

Peeled backing and Tigger is ready for bouncing!

Final tips:  My directions suggested washing, and if washing, I would suggest you turn the shirt wrong side out, to protect the design.  I would follow directions for washing the first time, which might suggest to let air dry and then iron lightly (still turned wrong side out or with a cotton ironing cloth to protect the design). I used a clean pillowcase to lay on Tigger, and ironed at a medium heat to continue “setting the design adhesive”.

So easy and so cute!  This design was free and transfer paper was on sale, and I found a plain onesie at the craft store (or at Walmart!).  Happy Ironing!  And Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baby’s First Christmas Onesie Ornament – Special Memories Ornaments

Over the years, I remember my mother talking about their first Christmas tree. They were in a little apartment, had been married for just a few months, and didn’t have a lot to spend on their first little tree. She always remembered that, and from the time we were little, they gave us and our children special ornaments to remember each Christmas.

Yarn Santa made by my father when he was a little boy in the 1940's

Yarn Santa made by my father when he was a little boy in the 1940’s

Santa ornament our grandparents used to hang on their tree

Santa ornament our grandparents used to hang on their tree

They have been married over 57 years now, and they have their own collection of special ornaments they have received from their children and grandchildren. There are still ornaments on their tree with pictures of our kids when they were only a few years old.  We have so many ornaments now as parents and now grandparents, that we don’t have enough room to hang them all – but we try!

Wooden nativity found on a family vacation many years ago

Wooden nativity found on a family vacation many years ago

In our 32 years together, we have given each other special ornaments based on special interests and memories. When we travel on vacations, we find an ornament to hang on our tree. My husband loves to fish, so there are lots of fish on our tree!

Memory of a much loved family cat

Memory of a much loved family cat

Hubby loves fishing and Dr. Who, Dalek Ornament!

Hubby loves fishing and Dr. Who – Dalek Ornament!

Ornament from our grandparents' tree and a painted ornament our daughter made.

Ornament from our grandparents’ tree and a painted ornament our daughter made 20 years ago!

For our grandson’s first Christmas, his grandpa and I were overwhelmed with all the wonderful ideas and ways we could celebrate his first!  Ideas exploded on Pinterest, Google+, and all over the internet on blogs and other websites for homemade ornaments and handprints and footprints! It was hard deciding what to try!

One of my friends has been sharing adorable felt craft ideas from her book, so I was interested in something I could embroider and personalize. Through the Pinterest boards, I found a onesie pattern that was similar to a porcelain ornament I had seen.  I liked the idea of personalizing the design. The original idea came from Crystal Joyner of “Edge of Clarity”  on Etsy.  She had a great idea and pattern which I just tweaked a little for our little grandson. Check out her other products and ideas!

Baby’s First Christmas Onesie Ornament

Step 1: I used white felt to cut out two pieces of the onesie shirt shape.

Step 2: I centered and embroidered my grandson’s name and birthday at the lower end of the shirt in blue thread.

Step 3: I embroidered a light string in green thread at the top of the shirt.

Green string of lights

Green string of lights

Step 4: I spaced out “Christmas light bulbs” enough to embroider the letters of his name. I used primary colors to make multicolored “lights”.

2 felt shirts with embroidered string of lights

2 felt shirts with embroidered string of lights

009

Step 5: I embroidered the light bulbs in alternating colors, and then used opposite colors to embroider the letters of his name in the bulbs.

Alternating colors of light bulbs, then add the letters of baby's name

Alternating colors of light bulbs, then add the letters of baby’s name

Step 6: I cut out patches of cloth from my old flannel maternity shirt I had made when pregnant with my own children. I used 3 small pieces of that cloth to stuff and shape the ornament after the embroidery was done.

Step 7: I used a blanket stitch in blue thread to stitch the edges of the shirt together.

Stuffed ornament ready for blanket stitching, pinned together

Stuffed ornament ready for blanket stitching, pinned together

Step 8: I added a little red thread to the “collar” area of the shirt to use as a hanging thread to hang on the tree.

For a little girl, you could use pink or purple thread around the edges, or pick out any colors that are appropriate for your little baby!

 

Now it was ready to give to his parents to hang on their first tree as a family!

Family Recipe – Daddy’s Christmas Candy – Now the Cocoa Fudge!

Okay, my last post detailed the recipe and method my Daddy uses to make his Brown Sugar Fudge (tastes so much like pralines, my mouth waters just thinking about it!). Now I want to share his recipe for his Cocoa Fudge!  This is the deliciously chocolate fudge that is made with real cocoa powder, and can be made with or without the nuts!

Family Recipe - Daddy's Christmas Cocoa Fudge

Family Recipe – Daddy’s Christmas Cocoa Fudge

Daddy has always used pecans in his Cocoa Fudge, but I’m sure you could use walnuts or other nuts if you prefer!  He has a couple of grandchildren that also love the Cocoa fudge without the nuts, so he likes to please all of us and makes some without just for them!  It is heavenly chocolate either way!

What follows is his recipe for his Cocoa Fudge as he has made it for the last 30 or 40 years, along with the pictures he let me take while he made it this year.  I needed to watch and learn his methods, because they work!  For those of you who are practiced at making candies, this may seem easy, but to me, I needed the extra tutorials from my Daddy, even if I’m 54!

Remember, these are his little tricks and tips, including adding newspaper or some type of covering to line the stove and floor around the bubbling chocolate to make for easier clean-up!  Just make sure the cover you use is not near the hot burner! He also recommends using a long-handled spoon since this chocolate fudge can bubble and pop more than the brown sugar fudge he makes!

Cocoa Fudge

Daddy's Cocoa Fudge - Very Heavenly Chocolate!

Daddy’s Cocoa Fudge – Very Heavenly Chocolate!

3 cups sugar

2/3 cup cocoa

1/8 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups evaporated milk

4 1/2 Tbl. butter

1 tsp. vanilla

Place buttered platter in the fridge to chill while cooking the fudge!

Place buttered platter in the fridge to chill while cooking the fudge!

Butter a large platter and place in the fridge to chill.

Add cocoa and salt to sugar in a very large cast iron pan

Add cocoa and salt to sugar in a very large cast iron pan

Mix cocoa, sugar and salt

Mix cocoa, sugar and salt

In heavy large cast iron pan, room temperature, add sugar, cocoa and salt.  Stir to combine all the dry ingredients. Use a long handled spoon to stir since the mixture will pop and splatter!

Evaporated milk added to cocoa mixture

Evaporated milk added to cocoa mixture

Add milk and stir thoroughly to combine well before placing on the stove.

Cocoa mixture will pop and splatter, so this is how Daddy covers the area to make clean-up easier.

Cocoa mixture will pop and splatter, so this is how Daddy covers the area to make clean-up easier.

Daddy recommends covering the areas of the stovetop and floor with some newspaper to make the splatter clean-up easier.  This fudge can boil and splatter over a foot away!  You might want to put the newspaper on the floor and foil on the stovetop around the burner area.  Make sure no flammable material is near the actual hot burner.

Stirring the fudge!

Stirring the fudge!

Heat over medium heat (Daddy uses “6” of 9 setting) bringing to a boil and stirring constantly.  Do not leave the mixture!

First steps of stirring constantly

First steps of stirring constantly

The cocoa mixture can scorch a little on the bottom of the pan, but will be fine, just don’t scrape it up off the bottom. It will expand to the top of the large pan while boiling and then decrease again when it is almost ready.

Keep stirring! Filling up the pan!

Keep stirring! Filling up the pan!

Check for soft ball stage...

Check for soft ball stage…

 

Continue stirring until it reaches the soft ball stage.  As in the brown sugar recipe, have a cup of water nearby to test when the fudge is ready to cool.

Fudge settled back down and about ready to cool.

Fudge settled back down and about ready to cool.

Fudge is ready to set off the heat and cool...

Fudge is ready to set off the heat and cool…

When it reaches soft ball stage, remove from the heat and place on protected counter to cool.  Add the butter and vanilla and let mixture cool until able to stir and it starts to thicken.

Add butter and vanilla and let sit...Do not stir yet!

Add butter and vanilla and let sit…Do not stir yet!

Remove chilled buttered platter from the fridge and set it near the pan of cooling fudge.

Stir quickly and pour (nuts or no nuts!).

Stir quickly and pour (nuts or no nuts!).

Pour cocoa fudge onto chilled buttered platter!

Pour cocoa fudge onto chilled buttered platter!

 

If adding nuts, make sure they are at room temperature so the mixture doesn’t cool too quickly. Stir nuts into the fudge and pour quickly onto the platter. If not adding nuts. Just stir the butter and vanilla into the fudge and pour out onto the platter.

Cool fudge until ready to slice into squares and store in covered container!

Cool fudge until ready to slice into squares and store in covered container!

Let the fudge cool until able to cut into squares. Don’t wait until it is completely cool, because it will be too hard to cut!  My father uses a sharp buttered knife to make cutting easier.  Place pieces into a covered container and enjoy!

See last post for Pecan Panocha (Brown Sugar Fudge) for more tips and the similar process to this fudge process.

 

Family Recipes – Daddy’s Christmas Candy – Brown Sugar Fudge and Cocoa Fudge

Every year at Christmas time, our Daddy makes his Brown Sugar Fudge and Cocoa Fudge. The brown sugar fudge, called Panocha, is a praline flavor fudge and if you love pralines of any kind, this is the fudge for you!  You could probably leave out the pecans and make a brown sugar fudge, but these are really good!

The chocolate fudge uses real cocoa, and can be made with or without pecans or other nuts. We have some in the family that like plain chocolate and some that love the nuts, so our Daddy, “Granddaddy”-“AnDaddy”, has always tried to make special batches for each.

Brown Sugar Fudge - slicing and preparing to eat!

Brown Sugar Fudge – slicing and preparing to eat!

He is a husband of 57 years, a father of 2 girls, grandfather to 4 grandkids and their significant others, and now great-grandfather to a baby boy. He’s a very busy man, though retired, continues to work in his family business, and still makes time for his family, trying to do special things for all of us.

Just before Christmas, he spends a day or two making several “runs” of fudge candy and packs it into Christmas tins and containers, labeled for all the kids and grandkids. He passes it out on Christmas Eve, and we have it to enjoy as long as it lasts!

Recently I tried to make his fudge from his recipes and it didn’t turn out well, so he let me watch and take photos of his process so I could really see how to do it right!  It really isn’t that hard, but his tips really helped to know “when” to take the next steps. Following is the recipe for the Pecan Panocha Fudge along with pictures of him, his fudge, his process, and his tips!  I enjoyed spending this special time with my parents, even if I am only 54!

Happy Cooking!   Next blog post:   Cocoa Fudge

Pecan Panocha Brown Sugar Fudge Recipe

Pecan Panocha – Brown Sugar Fudge Recipe

Pecan Panocha  (Brown Sugar Fudge) 

1 box (3 cups) light brown sugar

1 cup evaporated milk

2 Tbl. butter

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans (room temperature!)

Large Cast Iron Skillet, large buttered platter, long handled stirring spoon

Large platter, buttered to receive the final fudge

Large platter, buttered to receive the final fudge

Before beginning, take a small amount of butter and coat a large platter where the final fudge will cool and be sliced. Place the platter in the fridge to cool while fudge is cooking.

Ingredients ready for Brown Sugar Fudge

Ingredients ready for Brown Sugar Fudge

Pouring evaporated milk into brown sugar

Pouring evaporated milk into brown sugar

Brown sugar mixture on cool stove, then turn to medium heat and stir constantly until ready. Do Not leave alone!

Brown sugar mixture on cool stove, then turn to medium heat and stir constantly until ready. Do Not leave alone!

In a cool heavy pan (cast iron), dump brown sugar and pour in evaporated milk. Stir until blended evenly, then place on stove.

Brown sugar and milk, stirring constantly, starting to bubble

Brown sugar and milk, stirring constantly, starting to bubble

Bubbling, getting closer, but not yet....

Bubbling, getting closer, but not yet….

 

 

Spoon - halfway through, not ready yet, keep stirring!

Spoon – halfway through, not ready yet, keep stirring!

Stir continually over medium heat (Daddy places it on “6” of 9). This process of stirring and bubbling takes several minutes until the mixture reaches “soft ball” stage.

Just about ready, check for soft ball stage

Just about ready, check for soft ball stage

If you are familiar with candy making and candy thermometers, you understand. If not (Daddy doesn’t use one), continue stirring until the candy coats the spoon more evenly and when dropped into cup of cold water, forms a soft ball of candy. Daddy tests it 2-3 times to make sure it is ready.

Drop a little into a cup of cold water to see if it creates a little lump or ball...

Drop a little into a cup of cold water to see if it creates a little lump or ball…

Touch with fingers to see if the candy is forming.....it will still be soft....

Touch with fingers to see if the candy is forming…..it will still be soft….

 

At that point, take off the heat and set on a heat proof counter. Slice butter into smaller piece and drop onto the candy, but DO NOT stir.

Ready to set off the heat.

Ready to set off the heat.

Cooling, with butter, NO stirring...

Cooling, with butter, NO stirring…

 

While the candy is cooling, chop nuts if not already done. Make sure they are at room temperature so they do not cool the candy too quickly when mixed.

Cooled enough to stir with butter, set out the chilled platter and be ready to pour!

Cooled enough to stir, set out the chilled platter and be ready to pour!

 

Let sit until cooled slightly, add vanilla to the butter and fudge, and you are ready to stir the butter and vanilla into the candy. It should not be too runny.

Stir with butter and vanilla....

Stir with butter and vanilla….

Add pecans, stir quickly to pour onto platter.

Add pecans, stir quickly to pour onto platter.

Pour and spoon fudge onto chilled buttered platter.

Pour and spoon fudge onto chilled buttered platter.

When fudge is starting to cool, but still “stirrable”, stir in the chopped nuts and quickly pour out onto chilled platter and spread to make an even layer. Done! Let cool slightly until you can score or cut pieces of fudge. If you wait too long, it will be hard to cut. Store fudge in covered container.

Fudge on the platter, ready to cool for a few minutes.

Fudge on the platter, ready to cool for a few minutes.

Slice fudge with buttered sharp knife, while still slightly pliable, before it is too hard to cut.

Slice fudge with buttered sharp knife, while still slightly pliable, before it is too hard to cut.

Tip: Daddy uses a buttered sharp knife to slice the fudge into cubes.

Enjoy!!!!

Next Post:    Daddy’s Cocoa Fudge (with or without nuts!)

 

Family Recipe – Holiday Cranberry Surprises – Salad and Cranberry Blueberry Smoothie

Cranberries!  One of those foods that we love to use around the holidays, and seem to forget the rest of the year!

I forget about them until I need a dish to take to a gathering or lunch meeting.  Then the first dish I think about is the one I found by accident while looking through a collection of recipes.  It was one of those books of recipes made by a church or community that I don’t even have anymore.  Among the congealed type salads, with mostly fruit, nuts, maybe cream cheese, I saw a salad that combined cream cheese, pecans, whipped cream and cranberries!

I thought it was too good to be true, but it has a great combination of flavors that I look forward to every year. As a teacher and for family reunions, I have had lunch meetings, pot-luck meals, where I needed to find some kind of dish to take that wasn’t chips and dip or mac and cheese.  We were all trying to eat healthier, but wanted something tasty and festive for the holidays.

I have adapted this recipe a little, using low-fat options where possible, and a sugar substitute. Still tastes fantastic!  And it looks colorful and pretty, too!  And as a special treat, I use a little of the cranberry in my blender to make a Cranberry Blueberry Smoothie!  For more smoothie ideas, check out my post Healthy Smoothies from 6-3-2013!   Enjoy!

Cranberry Surprise Salad

2 bags of cranberries (rinse and discard stems and bad berries!)

1/2 cup sugar or sugar substitute (I use Splenda-type sweetener)

1 small can crushed pineapple (drained)

3/4 cup chopped pecans

1 8 oz. block softened cream cheese (low-fat Neufchatel works fine!)

1/2 tub low-fat (or no-fat) whipped topping

 

Rinse and pick through cranberries.

Rinse and pick through cranberries.

Rinse cranberries and check for stems and bad or soft cranberries. They should be hard and firm. Place good cranberries in blender or food processor (I have a Ninja that works well).  Pulse a few times just until cranberries are chopped, but not pureed.  Place the cranberries in a bowl with sugar or sugar substitute. Stir and let sit for a few minutes to let the sugar create a little juice.

Rough chop in blender.

Rough chop in blender.

Crushed pineapple, cream cheese, and whipped cream

Crushed pineapple, cream cheese, and whipped cream

Cream cheese and pineapple in.....Then add pecans and whipped cream!

Cream cheese and pineapple in…..Then add pecans and whipped cream!

 

 

Add softened cream cheese, pineapple that has been drained, and pecans.  Stir until well blended with cranberries.  Then stir in the whipped cream.  Cover the bowl and chill in refrigerator overnight or a few hours until the cream cheese and whipped cream have firmed up a little and flavors have blended.

Finished Cranberry Pecan Salad ready to take to holiday gatherings!

Finished Cranberry Pecan Salad ready to take to holiday gatherings!

Extras:

1.   If you have extra time and want to make individual hand-held treats, place a spoonful of cranberry salad into bought bite-sized pastry shells.

2.  Now that I have made this for over 20 years, I add extra pecans, less sugar, less whipped cream, and adapt to my tastes.  Still tastes wonderful!

3.  While making today’s salad, I realized I wanted a smoothie, so I held out about 1/3 cup of the chopped cranberries and used them as the base for my smoothie!  Ingredients follow:

Cranberry Blueberry Smoothie

Chopped cranberries, banana, yogurt, base for Cranberry Blueberry Smoothie!

Chopped cranberries, banana, yogurt, base for Cranberry Blueberry Smoothie!

1/3 cup chopped cranberries

1 banana

1 cup vanilla light soy milk

1/2 cup Greek vanilla yogurt

1/3 cup blueberries

1/3 cup frozen spinach

Cranberry Blueberry Smoothie

Cranberry Blueberry Smoothie

Place all in blender and mix!  Ready to enjoy!

More Smoothie Recipes on my post from 6-3-2013 – Healthy Smoothies!           .