A Fun Idea for Your Advent Calendar – Free Printable

A Fun Idea for Your Advent Calendar – Free Printable

Yup, it’s that time of year again! The Advent Season is upon us and many of us buy new or haul out old Advent Calendars for the kids to countdown the days to Christmas.

In case you’re not familiar with Advent Calendars let me give you a quick lesson on them. First of all Advent is a season in the Christian liturgical or church year. It is the season observed by many Christians as a time of waiting and anticipation. As it is the season just before Christmas and as its name implies (it is derived from the Latin word that means coming) Advent is the time when Christians await the coming of Jesus.

Advent has between 24-28 days and begins in late November or very early December. Its length and start date depends on where it falls on the church calendar which is slightly different from the Gregorian calendar we use today.

But for the purposes of our modern Advent Calendar it generally starts on December 1 and ends on Christmas Eve. The use of Advent Calendars to countdown the days til Christmas began in Germany sometime in the 18th or 19th century.

Traditional Advent Calendars depicted nativity scenes or featured good old Saint Nicholas. Each calendar has 24 doors that are filled with written parts of the Christmas story, Biblical phrases, and a piece of
Chocolate. A door is opened daily to reveal the treat and countdown the days until Christmas.

These days Advent Calendars come in many shapes and sizes and feature pictures from popular cartoon characters like Mickey Mouse, Spider-Man and more. They can be made of cardboard, fabric, wood, or metal. You can pick them up at candy stores, discount stores, supermarkets and more. And they can be filled with chocolates, trinkets, or whatever you can fit behind the little door.

At our house and in my children’s homes we each have a wooden Advent Calendar painted to look like a Neiman Marcus department store. I had picked them up from said store many years ago.

Every year we fill the “doors” with age appropriate treats. This task gets a bit more challenging as the kids get older! Last year when my then 10 year old grandson who lives with us mentioned he needed lip balm I found a box of 12 lip balms in assorted flavors. Wow! I thought this was a great idea! I could place a tube of lip balm behind 12 different doors, this took care of half the calendar. Well, my grandson was not too pleased! Ok, it was a bit over the top, I’m still finds unused tubes of lip balm around the house!

So this year I’ve come up with a great idea for my Advent Calendar. One I’m sure we’ll both enjoy without breaking the bank! Vouchers! Yes vouchers that my grandson can redeem with me or my husband for fun activities we can all enjoy or something he would like us to do for him, like a ride to and from his friend’s house.

So I printed out these vouchers, I’m sharing them here for you to print!

I then hand printed what the voucher was for on the dotted line. I made vouchers for rides to his friend’s house, a day at the beach with Nana, lunch at McDonald’s with Papa, and so on. Basically they’re vouchers that he can redeem for his favorite snacks, activities, etc.

Then I went a bit overboard and made origami boxes and envelopes for each voucher. Totally optional! But it added a cute touch.

Then I placed them all behind the Advent calendar doors!

So print up 24 vouchers and stuff them into your Advent Calendar. Let the countdown begin!

Puff Pastry Chicken Potpie

Puff Pastry Chicken Potpie

What’s better than a chicken pot pie? A chicken pot pie topped with a flaky puff pastry!

 

Don’t you love it when you decide on what to make for dinner and you just so happen to have everything you need right in your very own kitchen?  It’s rare, but it happened to me when I had a craving for chicken pot pie.

I started rummaging through my fridge, pantry, and freezer, and was amazed to find that I could pull this together without even running to the store.  I found puff pastry leftover from my Peach Tarts, heavy cream from my Salted Caramel Oat Bars, and fresh thyme from my Slow Cooker Pot Roast.

Ingredients

 

  • 1 package (17.3 ounces) frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon pepper, divided
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

 

  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh sage or 1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon half-and-half cream, divided
  • 2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (about 10 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 large egg yolk

 

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°. On a lightly floured surface, roll each pastry sheet into a 12×10-in. rectangle. Cut one sheet crosswise into six 2-in. strips; cut remaining sheet lengthwise into five 2-in. strips. On a baking sheet, closely weave strips to make a 12×10-in. lattice. Freeze while making filling.
  2. Toss chicken with 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high heat; saute chicken until browned, 5-7 minutes. Remove from pan.
  3. In same skillet, heat remaining butter over medium-high heat; saute onion until tender, 5-7 minutes. Stir in garlic and herbs; cook 1 minute. Stir in flour until blended; cook and stir 1 minute. Gradually stir in broth and 1 cup cream. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stir until thickened, about 2 minutes.
  4. Stir in vegetables, lemon juice, chicken and the remaining salt and pepper; return to a boil. Transfer to a greased 2-1/2 qt. oblong baking dish. Top with lattice, trimming to fit.
  5. Whisk together egg yolk and remaining cream; brush over pastry. Bake, uncovered, until bubbly and golden brown, 45-55 minutes. Cover loosely with foil if it starts getting too dark. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Test Kitchen Tips

  • For a crisper crust, bake on a rimmed baking sheet. Trim lattice to fit baking dish, then place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 400&deg. for 20-25 minutes. Then place on top of your hot filling before serving.
  • Unless otherwise specified, Taste of Home recipes are tested with lightly salted butter. Unsalted, or sweet, butter is sometimes used to achieve a buttery flavor, such as in shortbread cookies or buttercream frosting. In these recipes, added salt would detract from the buttery taste desired.
  • To make a fresh garlic clove easy to peel, gently crush it with the flat side of a large knife blade to loosen the peel. If you don’t have a large knife, you can crush the garlic with a small can. The peel will come right off.
  • Check out 11 of our most genius crumb crust ideas.

 

Nutrition Facts

1 serving: 523 calories, 25g fat (10g saturated fat), 118mg cholesterol, 768mg sodium, 42g carbohydrate (4g sugars, 6g fiber), 30g protein.

 

For more recipes click her..!

 

 

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Gingerbread House & Cookie Decorating Party – Vegan Gingerbread Recipe

Gingerbread House & Cookie Decorating Party – Vegan Gingerbread Recipe

The holidays are always fun for kids and adults of all ages.  There are so many fun activities to do!  One of the things our family loves to do during the holiday season is to make gingerbread houses.  We never seem to be satisfied with just one!

Gingerbread house and cookie decorating is also a great holiday party activity, both kids and adults love it!  So if you have a birthday child in the month of December, a family or company holiday party, or just want an excuse to throw a party, why not throw a Gingerbread House & Cookie Decorating Party!

gingerbread

 

It’s easy and budget friendly.  The best part is the guests make their own party favors!  Here are some tips for planning and hosting your Gingerbread House Making Party.

1.  Keep your guest list on the small side, preferably have only as many guests as you can seat on your dining table.  If you’re hosting a larger party you will have to set up tables for guests to use.
2.  Set up your tables with pre-made gingerbread houses for kids’ parties.  You can use graham crackers, pretzels, or home made gingerbread to make the houses.  For recipes and instructions on how to make gingerbread houses and icing click here.  Be sure all the houses are the same, you want to avoid bickering.  Set the houses on cake boards, aluminum pans, or foil wrapped cardboard to make it easier for guests to take home.
If you’re hosting adults you can lay out pre-made gingerbread parts, or boxes of graham crackers or pretzels, and icing for guests to build their own house.  Alternatively you can provide a store bought kit for each guest.  Provide a base for each house.

Gingerbread Decor

3.  Set out all the decorations:  Candies, cookies, cones, etc.  Keep them neat and organized in several muffin tins or you can give each child their own set of decorations by putting them in paper cupcake cups.

 

Gumdrop place cards

4.  Place cards are a nice touch and avoids seating arguments.  Here’s a cute idea from Gimme Some Oven using gumdrops as place card holders. It’s simple and very budget friendly, just print each guest’s name on the cards.

5.  Before you begin the activity it’s a good idea to serve a healthy meal or snack.  This is crucial for kids’ parties, you know that many of the candies will end up in their tummies and not on the gingerbread house.  To avoid sore tummies and a major sugar rush be sure kids eat something first. Finger sandwiches, veggies with dip, and even hot soups would make a hearty meal or snack on a cold winter day.
 6.  You may want to have a contest and guests can judge each other’s creations and award prizes for different categories:  Prettiest, Most Creative, Most Original, etc.  You can make ribbons to pin on the winning houses.  This may be too competitive for younger kids unless each child gets a ribbon.

Cocoa Bar

7.  Setting up a beverage bar would be a nice touch.  A hot cocoa bar for kids or a coffee or tea bar for adults.  Whichever you decide keep it simple, remember the main event is the Gingerbread House!

 

 

I a family member or guest has egg, nut and dairy allergies you can easily bake Vegan Gingerbread Cookies.  I make a large batch of Vegan Gingerbread Cookies for my grandson Jett, but everyone in the family loves them.  If you don’t tell anyone they’re vegan no one will ever know!  Yes they’re take yummy!  Best of all you don’t have to bake 2 different types of cookies nor do you have to separate the non-vegan ones from the vegan ones.  So much easier and less confusing!

Here’s my recipe for Vegan Gingerbread Cookies

Ingredients:

1/2 Cup Earth Balance Vegan Butter or Shed’s Spread, softened

3/4 Cup Packed Dark Brown Sugar

1/3 Cup Molasses

1 Tbs Ground Flaxseed dissolved in 3 Tbs water (let flaxseed absorb water until it’s viscous – this is your egg substitutes)

2 2/3 Cups All Purpose Flour

1/2 Tsp Salt

1 Tsp Cinnamon

1/2 Tsp Ground Nutmeg

1/2 Tsp Ground Allspice

Frostings, sprinkles, Royal Icing (if making parts for gingerbread house, royal icing is your “glue”)

Directions:

Using the dough of your mixer cream Vegan Butter and brown sugar until fluffy.

Beat in molasses and flaxseed mixture

In a separate bowl mix together all dry ingredients

Gradually beat dry mixture into vegan butter mixture until it forms dough

Divide dough in half and shape each half into a disk

Wrap each disk in plastic wrap and refrigerate about 30 minutes

Pre-heat oven to 350°

Remove one disk from fridge and smooth out plastic wrap – you will roll dough on the wrap to avoid using flour which makes dough to dry

Roll dough to 1/8″ thickness and use cookie cutters to cut out shapes you want.  If using cookies for a gingerbread house cut 4 equal sized rectangles for the walls and 2 equal sized rectangles a bit smaller than the first four for the roof.

I used gingerbread men and women cutters as well as a train cutter.  But you can use whatever you want.

Place cookies on cookie sheet covered with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are firm

Remove to cooking racks and cool completely

Frost and decorate as you want

Sheet pan harissa chicken with chickpeas and sweet potatoes.

Sheet pan harissa chicken with chickpeas and sweet potatoes.

So excited about this Sheet Pan Harissa Chicken with Chickpeas and Sweet Potatoes.

I know it is only Wednesday, but this week has already flown by. I hit the ground running on Monday with meeting after meeting and it was the best way to start my week. It’s odd, some weeks can be full of meetings (either on the phone, or if traveling, in person) while other weeks are full of testing and photographing recipes in the kitchen and talking to almost no one accept the people I work super closely with. So my mom, my brother, and my dad, aka the family. Both scenarios are great, but I always love having productive meetings that leave me feeling excited, and motivated to keep my butt working! Between some fun new projects, finishing up the studio (cannot wait for this to be done!), a little traveling, and of course, new content for HBH, we have so much to look forward to.

…and a lot of work to do. It’s both amazing and a little nerve-racking, especially looking at the to-do list, but at this very moment in time I’m feeling happy for it all. That said, let’s check in again about this all on Friday. I might be singing a different tune…

Sheet Pan Harissa Chicken with Chickpeas and Sweet Potatoes | halfbakedharvest.com #sheetpan #easy #dinner #chicken

Since things are semi busy these days, I’ve been relying on easy, healthy dinners like this sheet pan harissa chicken. It’s a complete dinner made all on one sheet pan and I could not love it more.

Full disclosure? This is one of those recipes that I didn’t actually think I was going to post on HBH, but it turned out so good that I had to share. I made this one night after typing away on my computer all day. Pretty sure I didn’t even start making it until nine or so, but I just threw what I had from the fridge and the pantry onto a sheet pan and it turned into this killer meal.

At this moment in time, my pantry is stocked with Harissa seasoning (which I buy at Whole Foods or from Amazon), sweet potatoes, and chickpeas. Before leaving for South Korea, I made sure to stock up on all the pantry essentials so that I would have a fully stocked pantry when I returned home. Basically anything that would not go bad in a weeks plus time I stocked up on. I know it seems weird to stock up on groceries before leaving for a big trip, but trust me, it is the best having a pantry full of ingredients upon returning home. No one want’s to come home to zero food in the house. Plus, if you’ve read any of my previous posts, then you know how much I hate going to the grocery store…SO glad my dad is back!

Anyway, point is, I was happy to have so many great ingredients on hand. It’s how I created this recipe, which if you can’t already tell, I LOVE.

Sheet Pan Harissa Chicken with Chickpeas and Sweet Potatoes | halfbakedharvest.com #sheetpan #easy #dinner #chicken

Here’s how this works. Season the chicken generously with that harrisa spice. Then add your veggies, chickpeas, and lemons. Give everything a good toss and a good seasoning of salt and pepper. Roast in the oven until the chicken is golden, the sweet potatoes tender, and the the chickpeas are crisp.

When the chicken comes out of the oven, finish off with olives, feta cheese, yogurt, and mint. Serve with fresh naan.

And DONE.

It’s simple, quick, healthy, so easy, and even more delicious. If you like middle eastern and Moroccan flavors, you will love this chicken recipe.

Sheet Pan Harissa Chicken with Chickpeas and Sweet Potatoes | halfbakedharvest.com #sheetpan #easy #dinner #chicken

I actually ended up making this last night…for like the fourth time in two weeks, for my parents who returned home from South Korea on Monday night. I was dying for them to try this because I knew they would love it. Mom loves roasted chicken and my dad loves anything with some good Moroccan Harissa.

They said it was the perfect welcome home dinner and loved every bite.

Also, all of the Gerard’s are now back on US soil. YEAH! While we all loved South Korea, it’s always nice to come home, and I think my parents, who were in South Korea for almost three whole weeks, are especially happy to be back. Mom is happy for breakfast bread and hot chocolate, and dad’s just happy not to have use chopsticks for every single meal…the chopsticks were a bit of a challenge for him.

And of course, they’re happy to be eating my meals again, meals like this chicken, which you should consider making tonight. Again, because it’s so delicious. For more recipes just Click Here..!

Sheet pan harissa chicken with chickpeas and sweet potatoes.
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Christmas Craft for Kids to Make

Christmas Craft for Kids to Make

 

The holiday countdown has begun, we’re all very busy getting ready.  We’re shopping, baking, wrapping, decorating, entertaining, and crafting!  I know many of us are trying to get as much done before school lets out for the winter break.

Here are some crafty ideas to keep the kids busy when they’re home and gets them involved in this year’s holiday preparations.

If you’re playing the neighborhood holiday game “You’ve Been Jingled” let the kids join the fun!
They’ll love the idea!  They can help make up the gift baskets and older kids can even drop them off!
They’ll love the idea of ringing a neighbor’s door way and disappearing without being seen!
For FREE game printable click here!

Image from Savvy Nana’s 

Santa Paper Plate Craft

Stock up on paper plates for kids to use in these paper plate elves and snowman from Crafty Morning.  [spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]

Snowman Paper Craft

Stick craft

Pick up some popsicle sticks from the craft store and have kids make these cool ornaments from  Chickabug. [spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bead craft

Buggy and Buddy use beads and pipe cleaners to make these pretty ornaments.[spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]

Pom pom craft

Cut out candy cane and wreath forms from cardboard and have kids glue on pom-poms to make these ornaments.[spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]

 

 

 

Button

Use buttons to make ornaments like this tree ornament by UK Lass in US.

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Dough craft

Make sweet smelling ornaments with this No Cook Cinnamon Salt Dough by Growing a Jeweled Rose.[spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]

 

 

 

 

Paper Towel Roll Craft

Use paper towel rolls to make these star ornaments.  Learn how from Blog a la Cart. [spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]

 

 

 

 

Ornament

Recycle plastic container lids and make this glittery ornament from No Time For Flashcards. [spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reindeer Thumbprint

Thumbprint ornaments are easy to make and will make a wonderful keepsake ornament for years to come.[spacer height=”-100px” id=”8″]

 

 

 

 

Reindeer Food

A great activity, have the kids get ready for Santa’s Christmas Eve visit,  make Rudolph and his friends reindeer food.

Get tutorial from Smart Schoolhouse here!

For more holiday craft ideas for kids follow my board on Pinterest!

 

Roasting the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

Roasting the Perfect Thanksgiving Turkey

This time of year I get hungry for a juicy turkey dinner!  It’s no wonder, Thanksgiving is right around the corner.  It’s about the only time of year that I roast a whole turkey.

I still remember my first time roasting a turkey, I had no idea what to do.  Over the years I’ve perfected it, and my family expects a Thanksgiving feast every year.

In recent years deep frying turkeys have been real popular.  I’ve heard deep fried turkeys are delicious, but in our family you don’t experiment on a Thanksgiving turkey.  So I’ve always roasted my turkey in the oven using the brown bag method.  I’ve been roasting my turkeys this way for over 30 years.

It’s easy, no basting involved. You just place the turkey, roasting pan, and rack, in to a brown paper bag, slide it in to the oven and roast for the required time. You tear off the bag about 30 minutes before it’s done to get the nice golden brown color.  When the timer rings take the turkey out of the oven and let rest for 15 – 30 minutes before carving.

Trust me you’ll end up with a delicious juicy turkey everytime.  You’re family will love it!

Here are instructions for Savvy Nana’s Brown Bag Roasted Turkey!  Psst!  There’s a roasting chart on that post too!  Believe me it will come in handy!

My 24 pound bird last year.  Perfect!

Last year’s Thanksgiving feast at my house.

Thanksgiving at my daughter’s house in Colorado.  Smaller bird cooked the same way, perfect every time!