During the first week of Advent, our church hosts Advent by Candlelight for the women of our parish. The event is beautiful, filled with a candlelit procession, speaker, music and fellowship. Many women host tables of 8. This was my 5th year hosting a table for our MOMS group. I completely enjoy creating a beautiful candlelit tablescape that will be perfect for the Advent season. This year, I went with a elegant and natural woodland setting.
On pale green table linens, I cut sprigs of pine from my yard and elevated white votive candles on paper birch logs. A few shiny silver ball ornaments were scattered on top to add reflection when candlelit. Two cylinder vases were filled with fresh greens and a small statue of the Blessed Mother and Child. Since we represent the Ministry of Mothers Sharing group, we have always tied Mary into our table.
Every table is unique and beautiful and the gathering space at our church is the perfect setting.
Especially at night when candlelit.
Another beautiful event to prepare for Christmas! Once the event is complete, I transfer the centerpiece to my dining table at home. It is now ready for a candlelight Christmas Eve dinner with my family.
Do you love the chill in the air, the change of color? All reminders that it is apple harvest time! This recipe will remind you of apple pie, but in dessert bar form. Layers of a buttery crust, spiced apples and a lightly sweet topping. Let the aroma fill your kitchen!
Apple Harvest Bars
- 1 ½ cups flour
- 2/3 cup sugar, divided
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup cold butter, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 4 cups peeled and sliced apples (about 2-3 large apples)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1/3 cup condensed milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 375° and grease a 9 x 13″ baking pan.
In a food processor, add flour, 1/3 cup sugar and salt, pulsate once to combine. Add butter and pulse a few times until the mixture turns to dry crumbs. Press the crumb mixture evenly into the bottom of the prepared baking pan.
In a medium bowl, toss the sliced apples in lemon juice. Arrange the apples slices in rows on top of the crust.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg. Sprinkle over the layer of apples. Bake for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the coconut, egg, condensed milk, vanilla and pecans in a medium bowl. Remove the pan from the oven and spoon the coconut mixture evenly over the layer of apples. Bake for an additional 20 minutes until the coconut is golden brown.
Slightly cool in pan and cut into bars while still warm.
The aroma of apple pie fills the house!
Tip: Cut dessert bars ahead of time to make an easy-to-serve dessert. Sweet Stackers layer your baked goods in one container so they are ready to serve or transport to a party! Visit sweetstackers.com to learn how you can convert your containers to multi-level.
Attention Moms with school aged kids!
Preparing school lunches turns into a dreaded chore for Moms, especially during the morning rush. A couple of years ago, one of my Mom friends mentioned that they freeze sandwiches. Pull a sandwich out of the freezer when packing lunches in the morning and by lunch time the sandwich is perfectly thawed. At the time I didn’t think much of it, but I also only had one lunch to prepare. Now that I have two kids in school – I totally get this idea! Of course I have two kids that have their own preferences – one like cheese, the other doesn’t – one likes mayo, the other prefers mustard. How can I keep track??!!
This is a great way to save time preparing your kid’s lunch box! Now I make it part of our Sunday night routine. The kids prepare clothes and backpacks and I make sandwiches for the week. Sandwiches can be stored in plastic storage bags or plastic wrap, but I am trying to make an effort to reduce waste and especially at school. I use an air-tight food storage container that will fit sandwiches in layers, using a Sweet Stackers tray to separate each kids lunch. One kid’s sandwiches are layered on the bottom and the other’s layered on top – this way I can keep track when I am packing them. Since, I am not storing the sandwiches for a long period of time, there are no problems with freezer burn or the bread drying out. The kids love them and they do not get soggy. Plus I like that the sandwiches are kept colder longer preventing deli meat or spreads to spoil.
Many Moms have asked, “What type of sandwiches do you make?”. I do prefer to use whole grain breads, but I noticed that my kids get bored with the same sandwich. All kids are different, but changing up the “traditional PB&J” can be fun and a good change for them! This week I am making ham and cheese sandwiches using Hawaiian dinner rolls and peanut butter and Nutella on whole grain Raisin Bread.
A couple of tips:
- Do not freeze lettuce, tomatoes or other similar toppings on the sandwich. Pack these items separately on the side.
- When making PB&J, smear peanut butter on both sides of the bread (at least a thin layer) to prevent the jelly from touching the bread. Jelly will make the sandwich soggy.
- Bento style storage containers (with dividers) are fun for the kids to store sides, dips, crackers, fruits & veggies. (We found some neat ones in the dollar section at Target!)
- Make your own Uncrustables – there are tools that will seal and cut the crust off.
- Shaped sandwich cutters (or cookie cutters) are a fun way to remove crust and cut into cute shapes.
Do you have any great tips to share?
Most of the time, I bake from scratch. But there are those times when you need a quick dessert. I always keep a couple of cake box mixes in my pantry and tada…we have super simple dessert bars! The marshmallow crème makes a tasty and easy topping – a bit of sweet to complement the tart lime flavor.
Coconut Key Lime Bars
- 1 box of Pillsbury Key Lime Cake Mix
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup of butter, melted
- 2 cups of sweetened flaked coconut
- 1 cup of marshmallow crème *
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9 x 13″ pan.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cake mix, eggs, butter and 1 ½ cups of coconut. Spread evenly in pan and bake for 19-20 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean and the edges turn golden brown. Let cool.
Sprinkle remaining ½ cup of coconut on a cookie sheet. Bake for 6 minutes, watching carefully until it is lightly toasted.
Spread marshmallow crème in a thin layer over the dessert bars and sprinkle with toasted coconut.
*note: could use fresh whip cream or Cool Whip as a topping
Layer baked goods in one container using Sweet Stackers! This stackable food storage system insert into major brand food storage containers. The trays are available in 4 sizes and the risers come in two sizes for either cookies or dessert bars. They can even be squeezed flat in between bars or brownies. Why not layer cookies and brownies in the same container?!
Stack the dessert tray over the bottom layer and they are ready to go!
Loving my veggie garden this year because with all of the rain – comes a huge harvest of tomatoes! For Labor Day weekend, I made a few different recipes using tomatoes. Bruschetta was at the top of my list! So easy to make and you don’t need plum tomatoes. I used the large juicy big boy-type tomatoes!
Slice a baguette thin and place on a cookie sheet in one layer. Place under a hot broiler for just a minute or two until they start to brown. Flip to the other side and repeat.
When they come out of the oven, drizzle with olive oil and rub the top surface with a sliced garlic clove.
Using 3 or 4 large tomatoes, slice a tomato side ways (so that the top half of the tomato has the vine) and squeeze the juice and seeds over the kitchen sink. Repeat with the bottom half to remove seeds.
Dice the tomatoes, drizzle with olive oil, S&P to taste.
Fresh basil! Pull 10-12 fresh basil leaves, roll them up together and slice thin. Add to the tomato mixture and stir.
Scoop the tomato mixture on each toasted baguette slice.
A fresh tomato appetizer perfect for late summer. Ready to serve or transport to a party!
Sweet Stackers are reusable, stackable trays that insert into a container your already own. The classic Tupperware 9×9 inch container and 8×8 inch Sweet Stackers tray set is pictured. Two layers of bruschetta in one container without a soggy mess. Ready to transport to a party or picnic!