Approximately one year ago I decided that I was getting tired of seasonal decorating. Next year, I thought, there would be no more garlands all around the front porch- no more gigantic, overly decorated trees- no more little Christmas elements stuck on every shelf. I was as beat up as an old bat trapped outside of her cave.
Well… fast forward to this year – a lot can happen to one’s psyche in a year don’cha know. Maybe it’s the Keto lifestyle kicking in. It really does punch up the energy factor to sky high. Or, more likely, it’s retirement from the post office. Whoot-whoot! This year is the first time in many that I also decorated the bedroom for Christmas. Come along then – let me show you what I did.
Merry Christmas everyone! No matter what holidays you celebrate, I wish you and yours the very best season and all the new year to come.
Can you believe that it’s almost Christmas? Again?! I’m so excited to show you my Christmas decorations reveal, but first, take a look at what the living room looked like before the Christmas transformation.
After the hoopla of my Halloween decorations, autumn looks very understated. To make a fast transformation I took away all things that were strictly Halloween and added a few fall touches to complete my living room in time for Thanksgiving company.
And now, just like that, the next post will be to share my Christmas decorations. It is the first time that I decorated even the bedroom. I usually just do the kitchen and the living room for company, but this year… well, you’ll see.
Crochet in fall and winter? Oh yeah! What better craft to keep you warm while you are constructing it?
I wanted to make an afghan for my Mom that would be super soft against her frail skin but that would still keep her warm and cozy. I used a supposedly baby blanket yarn from Bernat. I say supposedly because when I was finished with the afghan, I realized that it would be too heavy and would smother my bed-ridden mother let alone an infant. The finished afghan is way heavier than expected. I’ll confess though, that was probably my fault since I used a heavily textured crochet pattern called the “Wave” stitch and a size 10mm crochet hook.
There are seriously thousands of free crochet patterns on the web. The variety of styles and difficulties of pattern can be mind boggling. Talk about spending hours cruising the web. This pattern comes from a square that was used in a patchwork sampler afghan. I liked the square so much that I decided to make a whole afghan out of that “Wave stitch” pattern.
You may recall my post about a caramel sauce using Keto friendly “brown sugar”. Well, the taste of that sauce brought back such fond memories of penuche that I knew I had to make some for the holiday festivities. When I was a kid, I used to spend part of my lunch money to buy it almost every day at the convenience store on the way home from school and I STILL love the flavor. (Don’t tell Mom though.)
Sometimes penuche candy is referred to as brown sugar fudge because of the creamy texture. It can be shaped as a little patty or it can be cut into squares like a fudge, but it is all the same- a creamy, delicious brown sugar flavored confection packed with nuts.
In this recipe, you do not need a candy thermometer or any of the lengthy machinations that were involved in the old directions. Nope. I experimented a little but I didn’t stray too far from a traditional recipe except to make this candy very easy, very fast and Keto friendly.
I used my own “brown sugar” concoction with Xylitol and brown sugar flavor extract. You can find the details in the caramel sauce post. The Swerve Brown sweetener seemed to crystallize on cooling more than the Xylitol, but it works if you don’t want to buy a brown sugar flavor extract to make your own “brown sugar” substitute.
You will need to prepare a foil lined baking dish to make cut squares or a foil lined cookie sheet to make candy patties. I used the baking dish this time. The easiest way to line a baking dish with foil is to first shape it over the back side of the dish and then fit it inside.
– 1 cup butter, either salted or not
– 2 cups granulated Xylitol
– 2 tsp brown sugar flavor extract
– 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 3 1/2 cups powdered Swerve sweetener
– 1 cup chopped walnuts (it’s good with peanuts as well)
Prepare an 8×8 baking dish lined with foil and sprayed with a non-stick cooking spray (I use avocado spray)
1. Mix the Xylitol with the brown sugar flavor extract until well combined
2. Melt butter in a medium saucepan over med-high heat
3. Add the “brown sugar” and bring to a boil, stirring constantly
4. Pour in the cream stirring for another five minutes or so
5. Remove from heat and let cool for about 30 minutes
6. Stir in the vanilla extract and walnuts
7. Pour into a foil lined 8×8 baking dish, cover with fol and continue to cool in the refrigerator until firm
8. Remove from dish and cut into small squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Be sure to cut this candy into fairly small squares. It is SWEET and guaranteed to satisfy even the biggest sweets fans out there.
There are two things that I want to point out in this post. One is that even the Swerve brown sugar will crystalize once your sauce cools down. The second thing is that once I figured out which sugar free sweetener to use to make my own brown sugar, it tasted like penuche candies which I LOVE.
Both caramel sauces and penuche candy call for brown sugar. Sooo I will tell you how to make your own approximation of sugar free “brown sugar”. This post will also be followed by a really great Keto friendly penuche candy recipe. Yay!
On the first attempt at the sugar free caramel sauce, I grabbed my Swerve brown sugar. What a waste of a whole bag of sweetener!
The most important part of this sauce recipe is to make your own “brown sugar” with Xylitol and a brown sugar flavor extract. I ordered the extract online from Olive Nation. I was blown away by how many different flavor concentrates and extracts that I found online. On a side note, I also bought the marshmallow flavor concentrate which is awesome for making Keto whipped marshmallow fluff. Yum!
To make the “brown sugar” replica, use 1 tsp flavor per one cup of granulated sweetener. I used granulated Xylitol to make the mix.
I made one cup of “brown sugar” to use in this caramel sauce recipe.
The traditional caramel sauce recipe that I found called for Corn syrup. Since I’m trying to make Keto friendly sauce, I used a Stevia sweetened pancake syrup that I bought at Safeway grocers in place of the corn syrup.
Make 1 cup of the “brown sugar” sweetener as outlined above.
In place of corn syrup, I used Stevia sweetened cinnamon flavored pancake syrup that I bought at Safeway grocery store.
– 1 cup homemade sugar free “brown sugar”. I used Xylitol granulated mixed with 1 tsp brown sugar flavor extract.
– 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
– 1/4 cup Stevia sweetened sugar free cinnamon maple flavored syrup
– 1 tbsp butter (I used salted butter)
Throw everything together into a medium sized saucepan.
Heat to boiling, stirring constantly until the granulated sweetener has dissolved.
Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken.
Let sauce cool down a bit so that you can pour it into an airtight jar.
5.Store in a pantry or cupboard. No need to refrigerate.
Use this sauce to top cakes, cookies, custard, mousse, ice cream….the choices are many! Enjoy.
No bake cheesecake? Yep, and this cheesecake mousse is probably the easiest and fastest desert that I know how to make whether it is chocolate, cappuccino, strawberry or even pumpkin.
Pumpkin anything is still a favorite of mine. In autumn I HAVE to have pumpkin everything. I even have a foamy pumpkin spice topper for my coffee during this holiday season.
Regarding the traditional Thanksgiving pumpkin pie though- not so much. If you have read any of my past recipes about pies, you already know that I do not like pie crust so pumpkin pie is pretty much out of the picture. This is especially so at dinner parties where I am likely to embarrassment Les by eating only the whipped cream and pie filling leaving a rather unsightly crust gunking up my desert plate. And I will do that without hesitation. (grin)
Soooo, to avoid pie crust, I loves me some pumpkin mousse or pumpkin cheesecake. In that vein, this recipe is for all of my friends who would rather just eat pie filling with no soggy, lardy pie crust!
Preparation: First! Grab that cream cheese out of the fridge to bring it to room temp while you are assembling all of your other ingredients.
1- 12 to 15 oz can pumpkin puree (I have cans in both sizes and I just use whatever I have on hand at the time)
12 oz softened cream cheese
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup Xylitol granulated sweetener (if you do not have a huge sweet tooth like me, then start with 1/3 cup sweetener of your choice and sweeten to taste)
3 tsp pumpkin pie flavor extract (you can sub 3 tsp ground pumpkin pie spice if you like)
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1. Use an electric mixer to combine pumpkin puree and cream cheese until smooth and creamy.
2. To the pumpkin/cheese add all of the rest of the ingredients.
3. Mix all ingredients until the mousse is a desired consistency.
4. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Top with whipped cream or a caramel sauce and sliced almonds as you like.
I LOVE chili, but I MUST have corn bread with it. Or crackers or something! Well, this cornbread recipe fit the bill perfectly.
OK, OK, you got me. I’ll confess that it’s not real cornbread with the corn meal or anything, but this is a really good approximation. The secret is a corn flavor concentrate that makes these little muffins taste like cornbread. For real! I got the organic extract from Nature’s Flavors. This company also has a great video on the difference between extracts and concentrates and how to cook or bake with them. It was well worth the few minutes to watch as I learned a bit about the whole subject that I did NOT learn from Mom.
On a side note: I also bought an apple concentrate flavor from the same company that I will use in a fool-them apple pie made with chayote instead of apples. It should be really good.
IMPORTANT! For some, just the little bit of alcohol in extracts and concentrates can kick them out of ketosis. So consider that before using extracts if you are determined to stay in ketosis at all times. This company also has a line of extracts and concentrates that are specifically Keto friendly so, check it out.
I had planned on making cheddar jalapeno cornbread, but it turned out that I did not have any jalapenos on hand. To spice up the muffins I added cayenne powder. They turned out great.
As with most Keto bread recipes, this calls for a ton of eggs, but not to worry. This corn bread does not taste “eggy” at all.
I used a bit of almond meal to mix with the regular flour to give this bread a more hearty-textural look. This recipe also tastes great with additions like garlic powder, cayenne, extra cheese and /or jalapenos.
Don’t forget to take the eggs out of the fridge before you start gathering all of your supplies. This will bring them up to room temp.
2 cups almond flour
1/2 cup almond meal
1-1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 tsp corn concentrate flavoring
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 eggs at room temperature
Optional: any spices that you want to add (I used 2 tsp cayenne powder since I didn’t have any jalapenos)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare muffin tins by spraying with cooking spray. (I use avocado spray.)
Mix all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl, combining thoroughly.
Whisk wet ingredients together and add to flour mixture in large bowl. Combine. Don’t worry, there will be little lumps.
Spoon batter into greased mini muffin tins.
Bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown.
Let cool a bit and then turn out onto a plate.
Store in an airtight container for a week or refrigerate for two weeks OR freeze for up to six months. (I usually store in a baggie in the fridge since they will all be gone in a week or two anyway.
Here’s a story about a very unloved chair that found happiness under my guidance. OK, I’m just goofing. In reality though, it WAS an unloved chair. The thrift store had marked it down several times and ended at $22.00 and they still could not get rid of it. Until I happened along that is. The chair was solid, the cushions were in good shape, it was comfortable and in a style that I like. What’s not to love? Oh yeah, the totally outdated upholstery fabric and the has-been white washed finish on the pale wood. That was OK though, because I have paint and I know how to use it.
Les was not convinced when he came by with the truck to pick the chair up. I would not have called him because I knew what he would think- that I had lost my mind. He said as much when he laid eyes on my special find. Unfortunately the chair was just too big to fit into my car.
After stripping the blue upholstery, it looked better immediately. A coat of white paint came next and then, after that was dry, a coat of black acrylic paint followed… Oh! I left the upholstery fabric on the back side of the chair and just painted over it with the black acrylic paint.
When the paint was dry (I left it over night) I gave it a good sanding. The goal was to be able to see just a bit of white and the original wood showing past the black paint.
Now, for upholstery- my favorite upholstery fabric is a painter’s drop cloth. It is made of heavy cotton, usually unbleached and CHEAP! I get a 9‘ x 12‘ piece from Harbor Freight for $8.00 when it is on sale.
I covered the body with the drop cloth by cutting out pieces and stapling them right on to the wooden frame. The staples are covered with braid and a glue gun.
I thought that I wanted a contrasting fabric for the cushions. I sewed the top cushion and then was not sure, so the bottom cushion has just been wrapped for, oh let’s see now…about two years. Well, I have finally decided that after the holidays, I am going to cover the cushions with the more natural colored drop cloth.
The happy ending to this story is that the chair that Les hated at first sight has become his favorite because it is so sturdy and comfortable. In fact, that thrifty chair is the most popular chair in the living room with visitors. (In spite of my indecision on a cushion fabric.)