Category Archives: Winter 2015-16

santa-and-mrs.-claus

Timeless Traditions Continue

Timeless Traditions Continue

Christmas comes but once a year and each year in Lexington is a special year. Did you know that the one real Santa Claus visits Lexington every year for the Uptown Lexington Christmas Open House? Santa has many helpers all over the world to help him finish all of toys and goodies for Christmas morning, but according to Mrs. Claus, “The real Santa gets to visit one special town every year, and Lexington is that special place.”

If you’ve been a part of the Uptown Christmas Open House, you know the important role that Santa and Mrs. Claus play. The streets are filled with children and families picking up specials Christmas gifts for all their families and friends. The unique presence of having the true Guest of Honor roaming our streets makes you feel like a kid again.

It all started back in 2002 when Mrs. Claus joined Santa on this special annual visit. Since then she’s been helping throughout the holidays around Davidson County. It wouldn’t be unusual to see her reading special holiday children’s books in the schools, or stopping by to add cheer in area hospitals, or even attending the hospital’s employee Christmas party.

Whether you’re young or young at heart, Mrs. Claus and Santa bring something special to our town every year. “Many times the children are so excited to see Santa, but they’re nervous, so I always tell them they can talk to me about what they want for Christmas and I’ll make sure to tell Santa just for them,” says Mrs. Claus.

One of the best stories that Mrs. Claus shared with us was about a time she was reading a children’s story to a group of school children. In the middle of the story her cell phone rang and she stepped aside to take the call. Lo and behold, the elves were calling to let her know they had run out of paint and there were many toys left to be finished. She kindly ended the call and a young boy raised his hand. “Mrs. Claus, I promise you as soon as you finish our story, my mom and dad will drive you to Lanier’s so you can buy some paint for the elves!”

We all know that Mrs. Claus is the glue that keeps all of Santa’s helpers together for the big day. Every year her role is just as important as all the hard work that Santa does. This year renew this timeless tradition or make a new family tradition by visiting Santa and Mrs. Claus at the Uptown Open House on November 22 from 1-5 p.m.

You never know. You might hear the sleigh bells ring and the see the reindeer fly!

Christmas-Cookies

Christmas Cookie Recipes

Cutest Creative Christmas Cookies

 

Everyone loves a good peanut butter or sugar cookie during the holidays, and you can create a version of these classic favorites that will leave a smile on everyone’s face. Plus, they are easy enough to make with the kids!

 

Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookies

 

3/4 c. peanut butter

1 1/4 c. firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 c. shortening

3 Tbsp. milk

1 Tbsp. vanilla

1 egg

1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour

3/4 tsp. baking soda

3/4 tsp. salt

Chocolate-covered mini pretzels

Mini brown M&Ms

Regular-sized red M&Ms

 

Preheat oven to 375°F.

 

Combine brown sugar, peanut butter, shortening, milk, and vanilla in large bowl. Beat at medium speed until well blended. Add egg; beat until just blended. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to creamed mixture at low speed. Mix just until blended.

 

Form dough into 1-inch balls. To make reindeer-shaped cookies, pinch the bottom of the ball slightly to form a point, then gently flatten with your hand. Place cookies about 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes, until cookies are just set or just beginning to brown.

 

Remove from oven and immediately (and gently) press two mini pretzels into the tops of the cookies for the reindeer’s antlers. Press two mini brown M&Ms in for the eyes and one red M&M for the nose (Or use any other color. Some of mine ended up with green noses. They might be South Pole reindeer! )

 

Allow to cool 2 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a wire rack or paper towel to cool completely. Makes about 40 reindeer cookies.

 

Melting Snowman Cookies

 

Your favorite sugar cookie dough

1 bag large marshmallows

Various icing colors for decorating

White icing

 

Roll out sugar cookies onto a lightly floured surface until 1/3-1/2 inch thick. Cut out with a large round cookie cutter. Bake according to directions and cool completely. Quick tip: You can also buy large round sugar cookies or slice and bake them using pre-made dough!

 

Once the cookies are cool, load them up with the cookie icing and spread it around with the back of a spoon, letting some dribble over the edge for a “puddle” look.  I prefer to stick the marshmallow on at this point as it tends to stick easier.

 

Spray a microwave safe plate with cooking spray, and place marshmallows on the plate. Set the microwave for 30 seconds, but watch the marshmallows as they cook. Stop the microwave as soon as the marshmallows start to get puffy. Do not let them double in size.

 

Spray your fingers with cooking spray or grease them up with shortening and carefully pull the marshmallows off, by the base, and set them on top of the frosted cookies. You may push in the tops very gently. You may need to use a little icing on the bottom of the marshmallow to get it to stick if the icing on the cookie has become too dry.

 

Decorate as you like with Wilton frosting or your own homemade frosting! I was pleasantly surprised at how yummy the Betty Crocker cookie icing was! Very surprised!

 

Homemade Cookie Frosting

 

This dries hard and shiny. It is very pretty and easy to store. This frosting layers well, just make sure and let the base coat dry VERY thoroughly first. (It takes a full 8 hours or overnight to dry entirely. I wait 1 hour in between applying the base coat and decorating, letting them dry overnight.) While the base coat is drying, tint the remaining icing into different colors. The amount of icing you will need depends on the number of cookies you decide to bake or buy. The recipe below will ice about a dozen cookies.

 

1 c. confectioners’ sugar

2 tsp. milk

2 tsp. light corn syrup

1/4 tsp. almond extract

Assorted food coloring

 

Directions

 

In a small bowl, stir together confectioners’ sugar and milk until smooth. Beat in corn syrup and almond extract until icing is smooth and glossy. If icing is too thick, add more corn syrup. Be patient and get it the right consistency! It should drip slightly off of cookies, but for decorating it should be stiffer and you will have to adjust it with more powdered sugar. This is easy to do.

 

If you don’t want to bother with the above icing step, no problem, Betty Crocker and Wilton both make a powdered icing base that you can whip up in minutes. Then use decorator frosting in the little tubes or cookie decorating pens.

 

Tip: Add your favorite extract flavoring to your favorite cookie dough mix. It makes them taste homemade. You can also add lemon and/or orange rind with orange or lemon extract. So yummy!

freezer-food

Time to Freeze!

It’s Time to Freeze!

It’s that time of year when we’re all like hermit crabs hiding inside our shells. The days are short and sunlight is minimal. When the short or long days of winter — depending on your preference — are upon us, I like to hibernate in my kitchen. Aside from the holidays, I like to do a lot of preparation of hearty and homey meals that my entire family can enjoy for months down the road. Not to mention that it’s super easy to pop a meal into the oven on a busy day and still have a good wholesome meal for my kids to enjoy.

I used to make meals and put them in our outdoor freezer for a later time, but how much time? I usually caught myself spending a moment with the freezer door propped open to think about how long ago I put that lovely dish into the deep freeze. But, is it still okay? It’s been a few months and maybe I shouldn’t feature this on my table tonight.

I’m sure you’ve been down this road as well. Many times those meals that I spent so much of my hibernation time fixing for a later date end up in the bottom of the garbage. Not only is that a waste of time, but it’s a huge waste of money!

After doing a little research, I realized that those bundles of joy that I put into the freezer might not last as long as I once thought. So I changed my philosophy! In the past, I would put the date on the dish when I put it into the freezer. Now, I put the expiration date on the food instead. This way I know what needs to be eaten and what has a little more resting time in the climate controlled dungeon.

Here are a few great ideas that I use in my kitchen that will keep things simple and help make dinner a breeze.

Flash Freeze Protein

Instead of tossing leftover, uncooked chicken breasts or other pieces of protein in a freezer bag, place them on a cookie sheet and pop them in the freezer for about 30 minutes to an hour. Then grab them up and toss them in one big freezer bag. This way you can use as many pieces as you need without having to thaw out the entire bag, and you’ll know exactly what you have left. This simple trick is great for chicken breasts, fish and pork chops.

Go On and Brown

Brown your ground turkey, chicken, beef, or pork and then drain. Once it’s fully drained and has cooled, put it in a freezer-safe container and set it in the freezer to use at a later date. This way you have saved one step already in the preparation of your meals and you’ll be ready for dinner in a flash.

Breakfast Right Out of Bed

Mornings can be tough in my house, but preparing breakfast muffins on a weekend allows me to get ready for weekday breakfast meals for everyone. Simply pull out what you want to eat that day, pop it in the microwave for a few seconds, and a perfect and healthy meal will await you.

Skip The Bulk

Large plastic containers can be troublesome for many modern day freezers. Try replacing your large plastic containers with plastic freezer bags instead. Chili, sauces, and stews are all great to add to plastic bags. Remove all the air and lay them flat. They’ll store well and cleanup is a breeze.

Deconstruction At Its Best

We’ve all heard of deconstructed “X, Y, Z” on the restaurant menu. Now it’s time to take that philosophy home. Want Sloppy Joes for supper? Put your Sloppy Joe mixture in a plastic bag, freeze the buns alongside the meat mixture and you’ve got a great meal without an extra stop at the grocery store. You can also break down recipes with raw ingredients into bags, and then place them in the freezer. When you’re ready to cook you have an entire meal prepped and ready for dinner in a flash.

Cool It

For the best freezer results and to get the greatest shelf life out of your freezer meals, make sure to cool the food first. When you cool your food it reduces the size as cold items retract. This is the key to keeping those sauces, stews, and soups nice and flat in bags. It also reduces condensation on containers.

Throw It Out

You know the rule, “When in Doubt, Throw It Out.” If something is already questionable in your fridge, don’t toss it in the freezer. The likelihood of your getting sick is just as possible after it’s frozen as it was in the fridge.

Did You Know?

You can freeze some very non-conventional items. Check out a few of these that you might not know about. You can freeze:

  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Bread – Perfect for small households where it’s impossible to consume an entire loaf of bread before it goes bad.
  • Fruit – If it’s too ripe, just toss it in the freezer and don’t let it go to waste. It’s great for smoothies or cobblers.
  • Stock, Juices, and Flavored Liquids – If you need to preserve that chicken stock before it goes bad, put it in an ice tray and freeze it. Once it’s good and frozen, remove the cubes and place them in a baggie for later use.

Thaw It Out

It’s frozen. Now what? Safely thawing your frozen items is just as important as proper freezing techniques. These suggestions are the safest way to thaw foods before consumption.

  • In the Refrigerator – Although it’s not always the fastest, it’s the safest because it slowly brings the food back to a cool temperature for consumption. With a little bit of pre-planning, this is the safest way to enjoy your freezer meals.
  • In Cold Water – Yes, COLD, not hot. Place frozen items in a bowl or pot of cold water for 30 minutes and then replace with more cold water, if necessary. Again, this keeps the food at a safe temperature during the thawing process.
  • Microwave – This method can actually lead to uneven thawing, but in some cases it is a sure, fast way to get your frozen items thawed quickly. Uneven thawing can cause bacteria growth, so when thawing fruits and vegetables using this method, consume them immediately.
  • Room Temperature – Breads, pastries, and muffins are the only items that should be considered when using this method to prevent the growth and development of bacteria.

By using these tips, you’ll be ready for the cold winter days ahead and on the path to easy meal preparation for your family. To share your tips or suggestions on great freezer meals visit us at dcfocusmagazine.com.

kissed-by-the-baddest-bidder-soryu-

Cold Weather Fashions

Quick Six Styling for Cold Weather Months

By Olivia Brown

What comes to mind when you think of fall? Leaves changing, bonfires, pumpkin patches? Well, one thing I can guarantee that comes into many people’s minds when thinking of fall is how they are going to dress. The main issue with fall fashion is staying warm and looking super cute doing it!

Fall is a time like no other. Whether you are sipping hot cocoa by the fire or out on a hayride, there are so many fashion opportunities to embrace. First, you need to get some staple items that you will use on a regular basis to make your fall outfits warm and fashionable.

Scarves. Printed, solid, fuzzy, cotton — there are endless possibilities when using scarves. There are colors, prints and fabrics to go with every outfit you have, while also keeping your neck and core warm.

A Good Pair of Boots. Whether you are walking through ice or snow, or sitting through a football game, a good pair of boots can take your outfit to the next level. You can keep it simple with a pair of booties, or go all out with knee-highs.

Leggings. Yes, everywhere you look during fall you see many different uses for leggings. However, one “fashion don’t“ is wearing leggings as pants. Leggings are meant for you to wear with your favorite short dress in the winter. You don’t want to have to put all of your cute dresses away for the season! Leggings are the perfect solution, and you can also wear them under pants for even more warmth.

A Vest. This is the most fashionable and warm item you can have in your closet during the fall. Throw on a fur vest over a long-sleeved shirt and you are ready to go. Keeping your core temperature warm keeps the rest of your body warm also.

A Trench/Pea Coat. This is essential as the temperature starts to drop. If you want to guarantee warmth, this is the way to do it. If you mix in a cute scarf and a pair of knee-high boots, you’re ready for any weather autumn throws at you!

Layering. Layering is the most useful fashion tip you will have during the fall. When fall transitions into winter, snow can put a damper on your fashionable outfits.

The “Go-to” Outfit. Here’s a go-to outfit when it’s snowing.  First, start with a short-sleeved shirt or tank top to wear under your blouse. Next, add a cute long-sleeved shirt or blouse to keep you warm. Then layer a warm knit scarf over your blouse. Depending on your personal preference, add either a fuzzy vest or a long pea coat. For your bottoms, depending on how cold it is, a thick pair of skinny jeans is a fashionable way to keep warm. Add over the knee socks, and pair with some knee-high boots. Make sure that the boots you choose to wear in the winter have traction on the bottom so you can walk through the ice and snow.

All of these tips and tricks can be used with your own personal flair. Whether you want to keep it simple with a pearl necklace or go all out with chandelier earrings, accessorizing can be your best friend when you need something to spice up your outfit. A beanie is a modern fashion trend in the fall and a cute and fun way to add something to your outfit in the winter. Don’t let cold weather put a damper on your style. Embrace it!