Thursday, July 20, 2017

Vintage Style Hand-Knit Christmas Stockings for Christmas in July


All the talk of Christmas in July this month has started me thinking about Christmas and traditions. Family traditions play a big part in creating a family's identity.  They enrich and give color to a family and my family is no different.

Does your family have cherished traditions? You might have traditions for celebrating birthdays.  Do you have specific clothes that have become part of your family's traditions? Weddings, christenings, and Christmas often include specific items that are worn by family members.  We've never done it, but many families dress in the same pajamas for Christmas morning.  One of my family's Christmas traditions is hand-knitted Christmas stockings.

Hand-Knit Christmas Stockings, A Family Tradition



My mom started the hand-knitted Christmas Stocking tradition for my siblings and me.  She made each of us our own, huge, wonderful Christmas stocking that was always filled to the brim with surprises by Santa.  Over the years, the tradition has expanded and been passed down.  Spouses were welcomed to the family with their own custom-knit Christmas stocking.  As grandchildren were born, Mom made each child his or her own custom-knit stocking for their first Christmas.

A Girl and Her Christmas Stocking
A Vintage Family Christmas Stocking

These stockings have become a well-loved family tradition and now the honor of knitting them has passed to me.  I have been busy the past couple of years, making custom stockings for new family members and even passing the tradition on to other families.  I like to make a special stocking as a baby shower gift for moms-to-be.

These hand-knitted stockings are large.  The ones I make are 25 to 30 inches long and about eight inches wide.  Made of acrylic yarn, they stretch nicely which makes it easy to fill them with goodies of all shapes and sizes.  I think that's why the kids in the family love them so much.  They never know what surprises Santa will be able to fit into their stockings.

The adults in the family love these hand-knit stockings, too.  We still fill stockings for the adults in the family.  Generally, spouses and significant others take over for the moms and dads when the time is right.  Theses stockings are so durable that all the adults in the family still use the same stockings they had as children.  That makes this tradition a special reminder of the good times the family has shared through the years.
Santa Christmas Stocking


I've started an Etsy store in order to share this tradition with other families.  Most of the stockings I am selling are knit following vintage 1950s patterns.  I love the vintage feel of the designs for Christmas stockings.  Because these stockings are hand knit by me, there is a very limited supply.  I have a few stockings in inventory, ready to be personalized with a name.  Those can be shipped within a week of the order.  

I also accept custom orders.  Most recently I completed an order for six stockings that replicated ones that had been knit many years ago by my customer's grandmother who has since passed.  My customer was so delighted to receive the six stockings I lovingly made for her family. I'm still accepting custom orders for 2017.  Custom orders will be accepted through September 30th for delivery in the fall. 

Three Santa Christmas Stockings
Three Personalized Santa Stockings


Santa has been the most requested style of Christmas stocking to date.  Other styles are available to order as well.  Choose from colorful stripes, Santa, Mrs. Claus, Reindeer, and a Snowman.  If the idea of custom Christmas stockings for your family appeals to you, please check out my Etsy store.  You'll find some stockings in inventory just waiting to be personalized.  I'd be happy to knit a custom order as well. To me, these are not just Christmas stockings.  They are about tradition, family, and memories.

I'd love for you to share my stockings with family and friends through Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Monday, July 17, 2017

A Quick and Easy Shrimp Pesto Alfredo Dinner

Weeknight dinners can be a challenge. For me, the closer I get to the weekend, the less motivated I feel about dinner planning. I'm tired, but not in the mood to go out for dinner. I want dinner to be yummy.  I want it to signal the end of the week and the beginning of a relaxing weekend.  I want it to be easy. That's when I turn to my freezer and pantry.

Shrimp and Ravioli Pesto Alfredo

Shrimp Pesto Alfredo
Grilled Shrimp Pesto Alfredo

Do you want the same?  Well, with ingredients you have on hand or a quick trip to the grocery store you can make it happen.  This Shrimp Pesto Alfredo with Cheese Ravioli is slap-me-delicious but easy enough to tackle on a Friday night, or any night of the week.  I'm always pleasantly surprised when a yummy meal can be pulled together in a few minutes with just a few ingredients.
Shrimp Pesto Alfredo


Using packaged fresh cheese ravioli, or frozen, if that's what you have on hand, some cream, butter, Parmesan cheese, and prepared pesto you can make a delicious dinner that will make you very happy to be at home instead of sitting in a noisy restaurant.
Grilled Shrimp Pesto Alfredo with Cheese Ravioli

This recipe uses prepared pesto.  It makes sense to keep pesto on hand in your pantry or frozen in your freezer.  This time of year, you can make your own pesto and freeze it in convenient to use cubes.  That means you'll have pesto ready to use any time of year.

During grilling season, I like to grill the shrimp rather than cook them in the sauce.  Both ways are delicious, so choose which suits you on the day you make this.  To grill the shrimp, toss them with a little olive oil and Italian seasoning and grill until pink.  The recipe below gives the directions for cooking the shrimp in the sauce.

Shrimp Pesto Alfredo with Cheese Ravioli

Print Recipe
Shrimp Pesto Alfredo Ingredients
Shrimp Pesto Alfredo Ingredients
Serves 4
  • 1 pound of cheese ravioli, fresh or frozen
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup prepared pesto
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 pound 21-25 count shrimp, thawed and shells removed
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • salt, to taste
  • fresh basil, chopped, for garnish

Directions
In a large pot, heat salted water for the ravioli over medium-high heat. Following the package directions, cook the ravioli to time readiness along with the sauce.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter and stir in the cream and pepper. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes stirring constantly while the cream mixture bubbles and thickens slightly.

Use Heavy Cream to Make the Sauce
Heating the Cream and Butter
Stir in the Parmesan cheese. Add the pesto and cook, continuing to stir for 3 to 5 more minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.

Parmesan Cheese and Pesto in the Sauce
The Sauce Thickens with the Pesto and Parmesan Added
Add the shrimp to the bubbling sauce. Cover the pan and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until the shrimp is pink. Drain the pasta and add it to the pan. Toss the sauce and pasta together. Serve immediately.

Shrimp Pesto Alfredo
Shrimp Pesto Alfredo with Shrimp Cooked in Alfredo Sauce

Fast and easy enough for a Friday night dinner, yet decadent enough to serve to company.  Go ahead and invite some friends over.

Your Essential Kitchen Tools

(These are affiliate links. I'll receive payment that will support the costs of this blog if you purchase using these links)

A 12-inch Skillet
Wooden Spoons
A Stainless Steel Colander

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Enjoy!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Decadent Chocolate Brownie Cake with Hot Fudge Sauce

This Hot Fudge Pudding Cake has been a tried and true recipe for my family for many years.  It's one of the recipes I turn to when I want a homey, comfort food dessert.  It has so many yummy things going for it.  First, it is chocolate.  That puts it high on my yumminess scale.  Next. it reminds me of an ooey, gooey brownie and brownies are one of my top five desserts.  Lastly, it creates its own hot fudge sauce and any dessert with a hot fudge sauce is a winner in my book.

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake


Hot Fudge Pudding Cake
Hot Fudge Pudding Cake
I've been making this recipe at my house for years and years.  It is very easy to assemble and takes forty-five minutes to bake.  You can have a warm, gooey, chocolate dessert in about an hour so it is especially wonderful when a chocolate craving hits.

Of course, ice cream is a must have addition to this hot fudgy deliciousness.  Vanilla is my ice cream of choice.  I like to add a few maraschino cherries, too.
Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

There's nothing exotic about the ingredients.  You probably have them all in your pantry right now, so there is nothing in the way of you having this for dessert tonight.


Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake Ingredients
Hot Fudge Pudding Cake Ingredients
Printer Friendly Recipe
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cocoa
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil, or melted butter
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1-3/4 cups hot water


Directions
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.

Measure flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, two tablespoons of cocoa, and salt into a bowl.  Blend in the milk and oil. Stir in the chopped nuts.

Spread the mixture into a ungreased 9x9x2" pan. The batter will be very thick.



In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar and 1/4 cup cocoa powder.  Sprinkle the mixture over the batter in the pan. Pour the hot water over the batter.

Making the Fudge Sauce
Making the Fudge Sauce

 Bake for 45 minutes. You'll see the fudge sauce bubbling up around the edges.

The Baked Hot Fudge Pudding Cake
The Baked Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

When you break through the cake layer with your serving spoon you'll find the yummy hot fudge sauce. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.


Make it, love it, enjoy it!

Shared on Meal Plan Monday.

Essential Kitchen Tools

This cake is so easy to make you'll need very little for tools. Here are my favorites. (These are affiliate links for your shopping convenience.  I'll receive compensation when your purchase through these links.)

If you like this recipe, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Yum.

Enjoy!

Monday, July 10, 2017

My Classic Basil Pesto

I'm happy to say it is time to give my basil plants a haircut.  This has been a very good year for herb growing.  All of my basil plants are doing very well and I couldn't be more delighted.  I recently used up the last of my frozen basil from last year's harvest so I have been waiting patiently for the time when I could make my first batch of pesto this season.

How to Make Classic Basil at Home

Fresh Basil Pesto
My Classic Basil Pesto

Pesto has become a staple in my freezer.  Once you get used to having it on hand you never want to be without.  It works for appetizers and main dishes and is a flavorful condiment to perk up an otherwise ordinary sandwich.  Freezing my basil in individual cubes makes it very easy to keep them on hand.
Fresh Basil Pesto

Pesto Frozen in Cubes
Make Basil Pesto Cubes

Pesto is a versatile condiment to keep on hand.  It is a delicious way to jazz up a simple pasta dish.  I love to add it to bread crumbs to make a special beef tenderloin dinner.  We love, love, love pesto as a spread for freshly baked foccacia bread.  I use pesto so often that I make sure to stock my freezer with my summer bounty of homemade pesto for year round use.

Some things to remember when making your pesto:
  • Quantities are approximate. Use this recipe as a guide. A little more or less of anything just makes the resulting pesto more yours. No two batches of my pesto are ever the same.
  • While pesto is traditionally made with basil you can experiment with other herbs and leafy green vegetables as well.  For example, try kale like this recipe from The Perfect Pantry.
  • When you don't have pine nuts, substitute walnuts or almonds.
  • You can substitute Pecorino Romano cheese in place of or along with Parmesan cheese. Use what you have.


Pesto Ingredients
Pesto Ingredients

My Classic Basil Pesto

Printer Friendly Recipe
  • 5 1/2 ounces of fresh basil, about 6 cups packed
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh-ground black pepper, to taste


Directions
Pick the leaves off your basil, wash and spin dry. Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat. Watch them carefully because you want them to be lightly browned, not burned. Remove them from the heat when you start to smell their nutty aroma.

Fresh Basil
Fresh Basil

Place the basil, pine nuts, garlic, and a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in the bowl of your food processor or blender. Process until it forms a paste. Drizzle the remaining olive oil into the paste while the machine is running. Stop the machine, add the cheese, and process to blend together. Taste and add salt and fresh ground black pepper as needed.

Make Pesto in a Blender
The Blender Makes Pesto Easy


Tip:  To freeze your pesto, fill the individual sections of an ice cube tray with pesto. Place in your freezer until frozen. Remove the cubes from the tray and package in zip closure freezer bags for longer term storage.

How easy is that!

We enjoyed our pesto with some homemade focaccia bread.  Oh, baby, was that ever tasty! You'll also love your homemade pesto in this Shrimp Pesto Alfredo recipe.

Shrimp Pesto Alfredo with Cheese Ravioli
Shrimp Pesto Alfredo with Grilled Shrimp

Shared on Meal Plan Monday.

Your Essential Kitchen Tools

(These are affiliate links.  I earn compensation that helps support this blog when you purchase using these links.) 
Ninja Blender
Ice cube trays
Half-cup ramekins for dips and condiments
Dip spreaders


Enjoy!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

A Summer Pasta Salad Packed with Flavor

The heat of summer and the increased opportunity for casual outdoor eating begs for a pasta salad. Most people I know have their go-to favorite. Mine is this Italian Pasta Salad made with tri-color pasta. I love how colorful this pasta salad is to start. It is a feast for the eyes. Taste it and you'll realize your eyes did not deceive you. The flavors in this salad are a feast for your taste buds.  No boring salads are allowed on my table!

My Italian Pasta Salad with Tri-Color Rotini

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Italian Pasta Salad
A Summer Pasta Salad Packed with Flavor


I always make this Italian Pasta Salad with tri-color pasta because it adds to the visual appeal. You don't have to choose tri-color, but choose a pasta with some substance. I like rotini or bowtie pasta. You want a pasta with a surface that will absorb the flavor of the dressing.

Choose colorful vegetables.  For today's pasta, I used red bell pepper, English cucumber, grape tomatoes, red onion, and black olives.  Some blanched asparagus would be nice.  Some yellow and orange bell peppers would be nice.  Choose a combination of colors that appeal to you.
An Italian Pasta Salad Packed with Flavor

I like to add a little spiciness with either pepperoni or Genoa salami. Today I chose pepperoni. I also like to add some cheese.  For this salad, I chose mozzarella cheese, but chunks of provolone would also be nice.

Your dressing is important. You want to choose an Italian dressing that is packed with flavor. You can make your own, but I always choose a preferred brand of bottled Italian dressing. This is an easy summer salad and there really is no need to add an extra step.

Add some fresh herbs if you have them.  This time of year I have parsley and basil growing in pots on my deck.  I also have some chives in my garden.  Chop up a little of whatever you have for some fresh from the garden flavor.

Finally, make this salad a day ahead of serving.  You want to give it time for the flavors to distribute throughout the salad.




Donna's Italian Pasta Salad


Printer Friendly Recipe

The Colorful Italian Pasta Salad Ingredients
Colorful Italian Pasta Salad Ingredients


Directions

A day before you plan to serve the salad, cook your pasta as directed on the package in boiling, salted water.  While the pasta is cooking, prepare the vegetables.

Drain the pasta and pour it into a bowl. Add 1/2 cup of the dressing, while the pasta is still hot, tossing to distribute well. Set aside to cool.

Mixing the Italian Pasta Salad
Combine the Ingredients Well

When the pasta has cooled to room temperature, add the rest of the ingredients and 1/4 cup of Italian dressing. Reserve the rest of the dressing for just before you serve the pasta salad. Toss well, making sure everything is well coated with the dressing and all the ingredients are well distributed throughout the salad. Cover and chill.

Before serving, stir the salad and taste.  Does it need more dressing?  If yes, add the remaining 1/4 cup of Italian dressing and stir to combine.  I like to serve this salad in a glass bowl because it is so colorful.  Garnish with some fresh herbs.

Essential Tools
Kitchen Strainer
Glass Salad Bowl
Glass Measuring Cups

Get more salad ideas from my Salads Pinterest Board.


Thanks for sharing this yummy salad on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Yum!


Enjoy!

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