Samaritan’s Purse Christmas Boxes!

November is my favorite month of the year and not for the usual ‘turkey’ reason you might think! November is when I start planning and buying for my Samaritan’s Purse Christmas shoe box for children in far away places. This will be my third year and I’ve gone from doing one box the first year all the way up to four this year. What can I say? I’m addicted and love thinking about some child in strapped circumstances finding a shoe box loaded with all kinds of unexpected items including one special thing like a tee shirt or baseball for a boy and a pretty dress for a girl. It is amazing how much you can cram into one of the plastic shoe boxes you can find at Walmart for under a dollar. My younger daughter started doing shoe boxes for the first time last year. She is hooked now and planning to do two of her own. Besides, we like the challenge of my husband saying, “You are never going to get that stuff packed in that shoe box and proving him wrong!

I usually buy my proposed shoe boxes in the summer. Every time I find something cute, fun, or useful for my chosen age group, I buy it and toss it in one of the four boxes I already have on hand.

Truth be told, depending on what you buy, it can cost around $30 including the $9 donation to go towards the shipping. It is a challenge trying to keep within a budget but when I look at what has been purchased for my own children compared to this simple shoe box, I buy what I need for some child’s first real Christmas and worry about the cost later.

My husband’s part in this is taking our boxes over to the collection center. There are collection centers all over the country so most everyone finds a convenient one. Last year, he was one of a small group at the center at the same time. The person in charge asked each person to state something in their lives that needed prayer and the people all gathered in a circle, holding hands, and praying for each other and for the safe and happy delivery of each Christmas box to a happy child.

Interested? https://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/ Some people have told me that it just doesn’t fit into their Christmas budget. The only way we can manage is to consider the overseas recipient children as part of our Christmas costs treating them like one of our children. And, if you start in the summer to start stockpiling items, you usually only have to get a few more items and the box is quickly packed and on its way.

Apple Oatmeal Bars

Apple Oatmeal Bars

When Fall approaches, apples are in abundance. Nothing like a spicy apple and cinnamon concoction to put the scent of holidays into the air just a bit! This is a cookie-type bar cookie with a lot of taste and goes well as a snack or dressed up for dessert.

½ cup shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup rolled oats
2-3 green or tart apples, peeled and diced (about 2 cups total)
Juice and zest of one, small lemon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking pan (approximately 12x9x2-inches) with parchment paper or use vegetable oil spray.

Cream together the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a small bowl, mix together the lemon juice, zest, vanilla extract, and the apples. Now stir in the rolled oats, apple mixture and nuts into the flour/butter mixture. Spread the batter in the prepared baking pan.

Bake for approximately 20-25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a cooling rack. Cut into desired-sized bars and either sprinkle with powdered sugar or drizzle with a lemon glaze. Goes well with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a generous portion of freshly-whipped cream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catching Up With Christmas!

Homemade proof that Poinsettias are a summer flower! A very thoughtful friend saved one of the plants that graced our church during the Christmas season and my husband kindly planted it for me. I was walking out for the mail earlier this week and suddenly registered that there was Poinsettia blooming in the garden!

p1020151

Cookies and Memories . . .

I took a couple of days before Christmas to make Christmas cookies. I guess I was feeling nostalgic and probably missing my mother who has been gone for over ten years now but suddenly decided to include a batch of a favorite Christmas cookie in the bunch – Pfeffernusse. It is a small, roundish cookie with a lot of spice packed into it covered in a thin icing. To those used to cutout cookies loaded with icing and decorations, these might be pretty plain but enjoying a few of them with hot coffee or tea and you know you just found the best of the bunch. Not a difficult recipe but a very spicy one!

Pfeffernusse Cookies (translation: Pepper Nut Cookies)

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup almond flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground mace
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
5 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons thick sour cream
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Combine all the dry ingredients and set aside. Combine the brown sugar, honey, butter, and sour cream and stir together until melted and smooth. Cool for five minutes and then stir in the flour mixture. Add the egg and vanilla and mix in thoroughly. Bring the dough together into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate four hours to overnight to let the flavors develop.

To bake:
Preheat oven to 350 degree.

Form the dough into balls about an inch in size. A cookie scoop makes this an easy job if you have one. Keep the dough chilled so work quickly.

Place the the cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake approximately 15-18 minutes or until browned on the bottom. Let cookies cool before removing them to a cooling rack. When the cookies are completely cooled, it is time to make the glaze.

Glaze:
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
3 tablespoons of hot water or enough to make a workable glaze. Dip each cookie, face down, into the glaze, let excess drip off, and place on a cooling rack to dry. If you are quick or have a helper, you can use some colorful sprinkles on them.

The cookies can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container.

Samaritan’s Purse National Showbox Collection – Collection Date is Soon!

Just ordered my labels for my Christmas Shoebox donations! The best part was getting to have an excuse to hang around the toy section to find dolls, cars, and all sorts of fun little items to stuff in my four boxes – two for boys and two for girls.

There is so much joy on the faces of the children who receive these treasure chest boxes of goodies prepared just for them. I’m thinking our children would grow up with more awareness of what is of value in life if we put more into what Christmas is actually about and a shoe box each for their Christmas!

Samaritan’s Purse Shoe Box Collection!

Operation Christmas Child

I discovered this last year and it was so much fun to fill a shoe box with surprises for a boy and a girl in the Philippines. No, you can chose the country but they do tell you once they have been delivered for Christmas.

It is simple! Buy a plastic shoe box with a lid at Walmart or Hobby Lobby and then fill it up! It is amazing what you can cram into the box and how much happiness this effort will bring to a child who might not be expecting anything for Christmas. The link tells you all you need but time is of the essence as the drop-off week for the packed shoe boxes will soon be upon us.

I tried to include one really useful item like a fun tee shirt or a hat along with small games, little doll, gum, lip balm, mints . . . Use your imagination. I purchased my boxes at the onset of my shopping spree and that way I could figure out what would pack well and fit in with the box.

As I said, go to the Samaritan’s Purse link (top of the post Operation Christmas Child) for full in formation. There is a small cost involved to help with shipping and you have to find a drop-off place near you. I can guarantee this will be the most gratefully received Christmas gift you have ever given.

The Trouble With Truffles . . . You Don’t Want to Share!

Christmas Truffles

1 ½ sticks butter (no margarine, please!)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
Finely grated orange zest
2 tablespoons brandy
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (pecans or almonds work, too)

Melt butter in saucepan and stir in the cocoa until smooth. Keep stirring while slowly adding the condensed milk. Stir and cook over low heat for about 5-6 minutes or until the mixture thickened and is shiny and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in rum, zest, and nuts.

Pour into a pan and refrigerate for several hours or until the mixture is firm enough to shape. Using a small cookie scoop or spoon roll into 1-inch balls. At this point, you can roll the balls into more ground nuts or some red and green decorations for the Christmas spirit. Place on a plate to refrigerate a few more hours before serving. Something that can be made the day before to have on hand for a party or just a great treat.

Ideas . . .

This recipe is open to other flavors! Mint? Add a little creme de menthe in place of the brandy or just add some peppermint extract. Could mix in some crushed candy cane in lieu of the nuts, too.

A bit of instant coffee power in the cooking stage take the treat to a more grownup level.

You can roll them in either sweetened cocoa power or the unsweetened version depending on the state of your sweet tooth!

Adventurous? You can get some coating chocolate in either chocolate or white, melt it, and dip some of your truffles in that and sprinkle with decorations for an added dimension.