Posted by & filed under Christmas, The Voice of Saddleback Employees.

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By Samantha Retzlaff (Customer Service)

My family loves this time of year!!! The kiddos are out of school for Christmas break and we get to spend our days together making wonderful memories! We watch fun Christmas movies, bake Christmas cookies, and make fun Christmas crafts.  Below are a few of the crafts my family has enjoyed over the years and we hope your family will enjoy them too.

 

Handprint Ornaments

4 cups of flour

1 cup salt

food coloring

cookie sheet

mixing Bowl

water to moisten

rolling pin

a wooden cake pop stick or straw

string or ribbon

paint (optional)

 

  1. Blend flour, salt, and water in mixing bowl. Add the items gradually as you can always add more water if needed.
  2. Lightly grease your baking sheet and set aside.
  3. Roll your dough mixture out and form your circles or shapes for the ornaments.
  4. Use your wooden cake pop stick or straw to make a hole in your ornament before your kids make their hand print.
  5. Place your child’s hand in the dough and press down to create the handprint
  6. Place the ornaments in a 150* degree oven for 1 hour.
  7. (Optional) You can paint or gloss the ornaments if you like to add names and to make them more colorful.
  8. Once the ornaments have dried at least 24 hours, pull your string or ribbon through the hole and tie a knot.
  9. Place the ornaments on your tree :)

 

This recipe will make 2-3 ornaments depending on your child’s hand size. You may need to double the recipe if you have more kiddos.  These make great gifts for Grandma & Grandpa too!

 

Christmas Bingo OR Christmas Memory Game

I found this Bingo card online, but you can make your own too.  I used a board like this to play Christmas Bingo with my oldest son’s 3rd grade class at their school Christmas party a few years ago.  I printed 2 boards for myself. I cut the squares out of one board and used them to  draw from a hat while playing Bingo, and the other board I used as my actual board during the game.

I then printed boards for the children and had them laminated.  We used Christmas M&Ms to fill the spaces as we played until someone yelled BINGO…then we got to eat our M&M’s.

 

To play a Christmas Memory Game, you can also print out the boards and cut all of the squares to create a Memory Matching Game you can play with kiddos of all ages.

 

Magical Reindeer Food

My children LOVE to make Magical Reindeer Food on Christmas Eve every year.  They get so excited at the thought of Santa and the reindeer visiting our house. And, since we live out in the country, it is reassuring to them to know that in NO WAY will Santa and the reindeer miss our house when the magical reindeer food is spread on the lawn. *We have also made bags of magical food earlier in the season and given them out as gifts at school Christmas parties.

 

What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup uncooked oatmeal
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup red or green edible cookie sprinkles. (We use sprinkles instead of glitter because we don’t want to harm any other non-reindeer animals or birds that could eat the mix)
  • gift tag or hand printed tag using the Magic Reindeer Food directions below. *Also below is a picture I found on the internet of Magical Reindeer Food to give you an idea of what the finished product looks like.

Directions:

Be sure to take this magic food and sprinkle on the lawn,

On Christmas, Santa’s reindeer travel miles before the dawn.

The smell of oats and glitter path will guide them on their way

And you’ll wake up to Santa’s gifts next morn on Christmas Day!

 

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Posted by & filed under The Voice of Saddleback Employees.

Blog
By Herndon Hasty (Digital Performance Manager)

I’m from Kansas City, and have lived in Texas on and off for 16 years. Stereotypical as it may sound, there are a couple things that it’s fair to assume:

1. I’m nuts over football.
2. I have very strong views on the properness, spelling, and grammatical use of yall.
3. I’m all over barbecue and smoked meat.

Between my upbringing near a virtual barbecue district, my choice of friends, and having access to college tailgates, not only do I have a constant craving for smoked meat, I have some pretty high bars to live up to.

I’ve talked before about things being cooked low and slow being the best way to cook. It doesn’t get much more foundational than doing so outside on low heat, with smoke as a method of flavor and preservation. It was the way of vaqueros, trail bosses, and pirates, and while the tools have changed, it’s still the same method.

It also doesn’t get much more intensive as a cooking method. Your cook time starts well ahead of when meat meets rack, getting your vessel up to the right temperature. You’ll be tending that fire, maintaining the temperature and smoke, and basting most of the day. When your dad or church group spends all day sitting around a smoker, they’re not avoiding other work…well, not just avoiding other work. It’s a long meticulous process to get your brisket, ribs, chicken or pork to a place where you make it disappear in no time flat.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Technology has given us the means of maintaining a temperature. It can certainly produce enough heat to set wood smoldering. And while we love meat done the old fashioned way – and the original will never be beat – to smoke meat on a regular basis requires a lot of help, a lot of patience, and a quick learning curve lest you waste time, money, and a hungry family’s patience.

Masterbuilt’s line of electric smokers is the way to thread the needle of great food, ease of use, and convenience.

It’s like a giant outdoor crock pot with a wood-burning heat element. You set the temp, add water, woodchips, and food. Outside of adding more wood, basting, and taking in the aroma, that’s it. You can even walk away from the house while it’s running – it needs more wood every 60-90 minutes, so don’t plan on going to a movie or anything, but it’s that self-sustaining.

And good heavens does the food taste good.

No, it’s not the same as a meal and smoker you’ve tended the whole day. There’s no way to get championship barbecue that doesn’t involve that much effort, and if that’s what you want to get to, you’re going to need to put in the time to get there. We at Saddleback highly encourage you to learn the old way, and learn it good.

But, for someone who might not always have the time to tend a smoker all day, or who has little experience in smoking the old fashioned way, a tradeoff of maybe 20% of the quality for 80% of the work is worth it – especially for the same cost you’re looking at for a standard one.

If you’re in for barbecue on the regular but are constantly short on time – an electric smoker’s worth the look.

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Posted by & filed under Christmas, The Voice of Saddleback Employees.

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by Nick Bridwell (Customer Service)

Bob Dylan, “Must Be Santa” – If watching Bob Dylan playing Santa in a curiously Tom Petty-ish wig isn’t enough of a reason to watch the video, the song is pretty catchy in its own right. This is the sort of party I’d like to throw every year. Classy, rockin’, people swinging from chandeliers and jumping out of windows. My kinda hootenanny.

Chuck Berry, “Run Rudolph Run”- The godfather of Rock and Roll here gives us the greatest song ever written about that little red-nosed reindeer. If you’re caught on a layover,, play this track and have some fun dodging those airport blues.

Louis Armstrong, “Zat You Santa Claus?” I love listening to EVERY Louis Armstrong song during the holidays. He’s warm and inviting, like every holiday party should be. This is one of the most Christmas-specific of his tracks.

Coldplay, “Christmas Lights” – The band that brought nostalgia and reflection back to music stuffs the stockings again with this little Christmas ditty.

Best Coast and Wavves, “Got Something For You” – The real life couple behind these two awesome bands come together for a Christmas track that is just perfect for that alternative Christmas eve on the sandy beach.

Eartha Kitt, “Santa Baby” – This is song, sung by one-time-Catwoman Eartha Kitt, is the Christmas cat’s meow. Still the best version after who knows how many covers. This is the one track on this list that might end up making grandma’s list, too.

Ryan Adams, “Hey Parker, It’s Christmas” – This is a beautiful track from my generation’s greatest lyricists. It was probably a love letter to then-girlfriend Parker Posey. It still rings true as a universal Christmas song.

Ron Sexsmith, “Maybe This Christmas” – If you were like me, you probably heard this track for the first time on Fox’s the O.C. It’s been on my Christmas playlist ever since. It has that indie 2000s vibe that is equal parts heart and spirit. Love it.

Bobby Helms, “Jingle Bell Rock” – It’s the version you all know, you just didn’t know who sang it. Jingle Bell Rock was the song I used to wait to hear on the radio as a kid because it was so much more fun than the slower, more reverent songs. I mean, this is a jam Yukon Cornelius could get down to. know what I mean?

Eels, “Christmas is Going to the Dogs” – Because even your pup needs a yuletide carol. This track is a Christmas song just for your family dog. It’s sort of genius. If you’re going to hang a stocking for them, the little beasts should at least get their own Christmas track.

Bonus: Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don’t Be Late) – This song is the fun and ironic song for your shindig. If you don’t love the Chipmunks I just don’t know how to relate to you. Honestly. Have fun with this one. Hey, I think I see my Christmas tree on fire! ALVIINNNNNN!

And because I love you all, a special holiday greeting from Johnny Depp:

Have any other ideas about awesome Christmas tracks? Post the links. We’d love to jam out.

Merry Christmas,

Nick

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Posted by & filed under Gift Ideas, Christmas, The Voice of Saddleback Employees.

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By Tim Kramer (Social Content Guy)

It’s December and we are officially into the ‘holidaze.’ If you are a procrastinator this time of year is probably really awful. Even for the well organized there is still so much stress around this time of year. We all know and say it doesn’t have to be this way yet every year the craziness creeps in on us somehow. The spirit of Christmas can easily be pushed aside by the spirit of a culture centered on doing rather than being. In the midst of doing we often forget the most important aspect of this season-the gift of being present.

I woke up this morning thinking about how everything has turned into an opportunity to take a selfie, tweet on Twitter, or capture a video to post on Facebook. At restaurants, concerts, birthday parties, etc. the odds are most people will at some point be on their phone or tablet. There’s nothing wrong with taking a picture and capturing some memories but from my experience it can also mean you’re missing the actual moment.

Does a picture on your camera roll or posted on Facebook mean you were present at that moment? I think most of us have traded being present in the moment for being behind the screen and missing the actual moment. The thing about time is that it is always changing and you can never make it up.

I was reminded of this a few months ago when I went to see Social Distortion with friends. Going to a concert to see a legendary band like Social Distortion and then spending the whole concert taking pictures, posting on Instagram, and browsing Facebook defeats the purpose of going to see the band. You might as well stay home and watch videos of the band on YouTube. I was also distracted by the people in front of me taking selfies during the show and then posting to Instagram.

As we approach Christmas day the same challenges and distractions are there. After spending days or even weeks shopping and checking off items from the list will we be present when our family opens the presents? Or will we be busily distracted capturing the moment?

For me Christmas is always a reminder of the most extravagant gift ever given-Jesus, God with us, Emmanuel. If Christmas is about anything it is about the God of love being present. John 1:14 says, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” He could have made a way of salvation in many other less personal ways. No other story has a love this extreme! God loving us so much that he would come live with us and be present. Wow!

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This Christmas I challenge you to slow down, put down the tech, and be present. In addition to the tangible gifts you give consider giving the gift of time. Take your spouse out for coffee and leave the phones and tablets in the car. Gather around a jigsaw puzzle and don’t post any pictures on social. If need be, power down your computer, smartphone, and tablets then put them away in a drawer for a day or two. I know that sounds crazy but trust me you’ll survive! Make the choice to be present and build memories without feeling like you have to post anything on social media. This Christmas let’s give the best present-being present to one another. Merry Christmas!

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Posted by & filed under The Voice of Saddleback Employees.

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By Nick Bridwell (Customer Service)

I love a good book. And I’m talking about an actual physical accumulation of paper with printed words and bound up in leather or better paper. In particular, I love reading fiction. I love novels so much that I wrote one, but that’s not exactly what I’m writing about today. Now, if you’re reading all of your novels on the iPad, at least you’re reading something. But, studies have shown that you’re not retaining that knowledge as well as if you had gone old school. So, for the sake of today, assume I’m suggesting a good old fashion book made of paper and glue and ink. I want to talk today about a few of the reasons that reading fiction is important.

 

  • According to studies at Emory University, reading fiction can improve one’s “theory of mind”; the ability to attribute mental states — beliefs,intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc. — to oneself and others and to understand that others have perspectives that are different from one’s own. Essentially, to experience what others experience.
  • A study from Washington and Lee University has shown that reading literary fiction decreases racist tendencies and helps to break down stereotypes.
  • 50% of the unemployed between the ages of 16 and 21 cannot read well enough to be considered functionally literate. There is a direct correlation between income and literacy level.
  • Students don’t connect emotionally with on-screen texts. From the Huffington Post: “A 2012 study featured in the Guardian gave half its participants a story on paper, and the other half the same story on screen. The result? iPad readers didn’t feel that the story was as immersive, and therefore weren’t able to connect with it on an emotional level. Further, those who read on paper were much more capable of placing the story’s events in chronological order.”

 

Reading fiction is important to me because it allows me to better understand the human condition. It’s just an added bonus that the science can back up the art.

 

If you’re looking for a good book, here are five of my favorite:

 

  1. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway- A war vet and his pals run around Spain, befriend bull fighters, drink wine.
  2. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse – A young man gives up everything, has it all, and roams the world in search of…everything.
  3. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh – A painter looks back on the one summer at his wealthy friend’s estate and the long-term effects of that friendship.
  4. The Quiet American by Graham Greene – The personal relationships of a British war correspondent and a young idealist American play out over the tragic war in Vietnam.
  5. Arthur & George by Julian Barnes – Based on true events: In his old age, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the writer, must evoke the spirit of his famous creation, Sherlock Holmes, to free a local legal clerk from a crime he may or may not have committed.

 

Bonus: my novel, Nicholas Bridwell’s The Ties That Bind, a multigenerational five-family saga with a murder mystery twist set in Texas, France, and Japan!

 

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Posted by & filed under Traveling, The Voice of Saddleback Employees.

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By Herndon Hasty (Digital Performance Manager)

Four ready-packaged adventures, and their Saddleback bag pairing

 

If you’re ever looking for ideas for trips, adventures and getaways, Dave and the Saddleback team are always great resources. Between where we’ve been and where we want to go, we’re always full of dream lists just waiting to experience and share.

 

Here’s a further list from the team of destinations that we’ve done or want to do that have an element of adventure built in, and the Saddleback bag to pair with it.

 

  1. The Hermitage Plantation Inn, Nevis. If you’ve ever see the most recent Thomas Crown Affair with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo, you’ve probably drooled over the mountaintop Caribbean villa that the protagonists steal away to before things start getting really heavy. While there’s probably a way to get ahold of that particular property in Martinique, the next best thing is something that mere mortals can afford.

    The Hermitage is a bed and breakfast made up of shared and private cabins and villas, set on Nevis’ central mountain / volcano / rain forest. It has the comforts of a hotel – restaurant, pool, shuttles to the beach – while still getting you away from it all, giving you some space, and all happening relatively far from the beaten path of the Caribbean tourist magnets. Pack a dry bag or waterbag for a short or long trip, respectively.

    Your location alone is a adventure, but being in a remote setting puts you in a position to hike jungle trails, explore colonial-era forts and towns, take to the seas, or just lay in a hammock with some Gypsy Kings playing on a resort-provided CD player, and listen to flamenco guitars and monkeys chattering plots about how to get at the food they know you’re keeping in your cabin. Forgot to mention the monkeys…anything with monkeys has to be an adventure, right?

  2. Sinya on Lone Man Creek, Texas Hill Country. Looking for the Thomas Crown getaway experience a little close to home? Or maybe a place to try tent living before asking Dave how to get some house tents of your own? Sinya, located 5.5 miles from Wimberly Texas (itself located about 15 minutes from the middle of nowhere)  is a luxury tent getaway for those who could really use a little space.

    It offers isolation, space and exploration of a different sort. Your resort pool is a creek, at least after the Spring rains have come through. Your walking and hiking paths are through Hill Country brush and woodlands, and ziplines over nearby canyons. Monkeys are replaced by the owner’s pomeranians – known to make visits – which, if you squint, can seem like you’re being stalked by small happy lion cubs (as a pom owner, I can attest to this…especially if they’re super-fluffy or just been shaved). And while you’re more solitary than you might be in the Nevis interior, you have the same comforts and luxuries of an in-town resort – to use or unplug as you please.

    Come to get a jump on that novel you’ve been thinking about, toss your SLR in a Gadget Bag and drink in the scenery, or just let your worries dissipate in either the open Texas sky or the private hot tub.

  3. Drive A Tank, Mankato Minnesota. While Mankato, Minnesota might not strike you as a tourist destination (save for Vikings fans looking to see their team at training camp), it’s got a gem built into it: Drive A Tank.

    Man, I love straight talk. Something that says what it is, and delivers on that promise. And Drive A Tank is nothing if not straight forward: You go there to drive tanks. It offers packages named things like ‘Drive a Tank Over a Car’ and ‘Drive a Tank Through A House’. That poetry alone is captivating let alone, you know, the opportunity to drive tanks over things.

    They even offer a partnered package with Extreme Sandbox, which offers a less martial man-fantasy of using heavy digging and construction equipment.

    I don’t have authorization from Dave to promise this, but if anyone manages to make it out to DAT and can furnish pictures of a classic briefcase after surviving a tussle with tank treads, or hanging on the end of a tank turret atop the ruins of a Buick, I’m sure we can find something extra special to share with you.

  4. Mt Titlis, Engelberg, Switzerland. An alpine glacier, which normally makes you think of skiing, snowboarding, chalets and hot chocolate. It’s that too, but like other ski resorts, it has to make a living during the summer months, too.

    It’s living comes from standard things like hiking and biking trails, but also gondola rides up the mountain, crossings on Europe’s highest suspension bridge, it’s spectacular ice caves, and any number of creative ways to get back down: Off-road bikes, scooters, or even another scenic cable car ride back down, with lake boats waiting for someone to row them at the bottom. This is definitely backpack material, be it a purpose-built backpack or one of the many models that can be converted.

    Catch a stay at the Hotel Europe or Hotel Bellevue, associated with the local school of hotel management (and thus potential deals on some beautiful spaces), and press on to historic Lucerne just 45 minutes away for more of the same, or to Zurich to check in on your bank account.
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Posted by & filed under Gift Ideas, Christmas, The Voice of Saddleback Employees.

Blog
By Sarah Farver (Public Relations)

We all feel it creeping up on us. The craziness of December gets me every year. We find ourselves sucked into it in spite of how hard we resist. I’d like to encourage you to make a change this year and keep things simple. Yes, we want to buy gifts for friends and family to celebrate Christmas, but you can make a conscious choice to do a few things that may help you enjoy the season more. Be thankful, regardless. Want less. Spend less time on your electronic devices and more face-to-face time with people. Don’t over commit to things.

1. Not sure what to get your son? Put him on the path to manhood with something every man should have–a sturdy wallet. It’ll age with him, and stretch over time to fit more cards and bills. // Saddleback Leather’s Front Pocket ID Wallet. $43

2. Looking for something for your daughter? Love41’s sleek clutch is sized (and priced) just right. Designed with a fresh and young style, it will still serve her well for years to come. // Love 41’s Umuragi Legacy Mini Clutch. $49

3. Shopping for a college student? Our book bag is an ideal college sidekick. It’s a featherweight in the size department, but packs a punch in terms of style and durability. Interior and exterior pockets make room for precious cargo–like cell phones and calculators. // Saddleback Leather’s Book Bag. $139

4. For the person who already has everything…S’well’s Teakwood Water Bottle promises to keep drinks cold for 24 hours and hot for 12. We also like how rugged it looks, and that every bottle sold means S’well plants another tree in an American forest. // S’well Teakwood Water Bottle. $35

5. Looking to spice up your stocking-stuffer game? Try Joe’s Wicked Good Beef Jerky. This isn’t the stuff you get a gas station. This is jerky as it’s meant to be–made in California and tasting like ‘Merica. // Joe’s Wicked Good Jerky. $6

6. Got a coffee-lover on your list? Give them something delicious and meaningful. HOPE Coffee provides high-grade coffee, while the profits go to supporting Honduran farmers and the churches in their community. You can gift a friend with one bag of coffee, or an entire year’s subscription. // HOPE Coffee Subscription. $13.99 per month

7. Need something for a musician? Show them you’re in tune with who they are. Anthology Gear Wear creates note-worthy leather items for musicians–including everything from guitar straps to drum stick bags. They’re made from soft full-grain leather and can withstand lots of wear. (And that’s coming from us.) // Anthology Gear Wear’s Blackwood Guitar Strap. $159

8. Need a gift for a guy with a beard? Consider Can You Handlebar’s beard oil. Proving that good things come in small (and preferably vintage-style) packaging, Can You Handlebar’s beard oil comes in a variety of rustic and masculine fragrances. // Can You Handlebar’s Honor Beard Oil. $24

9. Shopping for the cook in the family? Here’s an old favorite. Lodge’s Cast Iron Skillets are the stuff of American legend. Made by an old Tennessee family, these sturdy pans last for generations, and (as with all good things) get better with age. // Lodge Cast Iron Skillet. $12-$60

10. How about something for an adventurer? This belongs in every adventurer’s toolkit. The LifeStraw filters out all sorts of nasty, and allows you to drink from a river without fear. It’s pretty cool. // LifeStraw $19.95-$54.95

11. Searching for something really different? Try the art prints from Liberty in North Korea. Painted by Sun Mu, an artist who escaped from North Korea, these are vibrant, colorful pieces. Printed on high-quality canvases, all of the proceeds go to Sun Mu himself, and to further Liberty in North Korea’s efforts to help other people who have escaped North Korea. // “Nostalgia” Canvas Print. $45

12. Looking for a versatile gift that would fit just about anyone? Try giving socks for Christmas. Yeah, we know, that’s pretty much like getting underwear. Boring. Except when the socks are made from “smartwool” that wicks moisture and make you feel like you should be walking in the Scottish Highlands. // SmartWool PhD Slopestyle Light Switch Ally-Oop Socks. $24.95

13. How about a little something for him? Here’s the kind of thing you give to someone you really, really love. For a real showstopper, look no further than the Saddleback Thin Briefcase. You know about Saddleback’s 100-year warranty, and all that is true here, too. But our thin briefcase tops off the practicality with a look that’s extra sleek. As in tailored-suit-sleek. It also comes in all our traditional colors, so you can customize the bag to fit the man. You’re welcome. // Saddleback’s Thin Briefcase. $459

14. Searching for a gift she’ll love? Love41’s leather tote keeps everything simple. She’ll love how the clean, modern style highlights the variations in the leather, and that this bag will go with just about every outfit she owns. // Love41’s Simple Tote. $169

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Posted by & filed under Christmas, The Voice of Saddleback Employees.

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By Samantha Retzlaff (Customer Service)

The Holiday are upon us and I can just feel my thighs getting bigger and the buttons on my blue jeans needing to be loosened. But, boy am I one stuffed and happy camper! Here are a few of my family’s favorites that we like to enjoy during the holidays!

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread
This stuff is VERY addictive! Although it’s tempting to slice the bread and eat straight out of the oven, It actually tastes better if you wait a day and let the flavors sink in! It’s soooooooo very moist and filled with cinnamon, chocolate chips, and pumpkin.
Ingredients:
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light or dark brown sugar
1 and 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)
1/2 cup vegetable oil, canola oil, or melted coconut oil (I use coconut oil)
1/4 cup orange juice
½ bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees and use the lowest oven rack to prevent the top of your bread from browning too much too soon. Spray a 9×5 inch loaf pan with non-stick spray. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, and brown sugar. Whisk in the pumpkin puree, oil, and orange juice. Pour these wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and gently mix together. There will be a few lumps. Do not overmix. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Pour the batter into loaf pan. Bake for 60-65 minutes, and cover the bread with aluminum foil halfway through to prevent the top from getting too brown. The bread is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean with only a few small moist crumbs. Cooking times vary depending on your oven, so begin checking every 5 minutes at the 55 minute mark or so.

Bourbon Bread Pudding
I might as well spread this stuff all over my thighs because that is where it is going to end up, but boy is it GOOD!
Ingredients:
3 cups milk
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons rum
1/2 cup raisins
7 (1/2-inch) slices brioche bread, cubed or torn
4 eggs, beaten
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Ingredients for Bourbon Sauce:
2 egg yolks
1 stick butter, not margarine
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup bourbon whiskey, to taste

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large saucepan, add milk, butter, vanilla, cinnamon, brown sugar, rum and raisins and heat until warm. Simmer and stir until sugar dissolves.
In a large bowl add the cubed bread and pour in the hot milk mixture. Let sit for 30 minutes so the bread absorbs the milk.
Beat eggs in mixing bowl and add to the bread and milk mixture and stir. Pour bread pudding into a buttered 1 1/2-quart baking dish and bake for 50 minutes.
Directions for Bourbon Sauce:
With an electric mixer, beat egg yolks until thick. In a saucepan, melt the butter and sugar. Pour the butter and sugar mixture over the egg yolks, beating constantly with the mixer, until well thickened. Stir in bourbon.
Serve the pudding warm and if you chose, pass the hot bourbon sauce on the side. The pudding is really yummy with vanilla ice cream too.

Cranberry Ginger Holiday Cocktail:
Ingredients:
12 ounces vodka (optional: use flavored such as cranberry)
24 ounces cranberry juice
32 ounces ginger ale
lime slices for garnish (2 limes)
frozen cranberries for garnish
Directions:
Mix the vodka, cranberry juice, and ginger ale in a large pitcher. Add a handful of cranberries and the lime slices from 1 lime. Fill the rest of the pitcher with ice, and then stir. Serve or refrigerate. Garnish glasses with lime slice and additional cranberries if desired.
* For non alcoholic version, use 16 ounces 7 Up, 8 ounces cranberry juice, 8 ounces sparkling cider, and fresh cranberries. In a pitcher combine ingredients and a handful of cranberries. Mix well, and serve over ice with additional cranberries as a garnish.

Cornbread Dressing:
One of our family’s favorite because we love cornbread with EVERYTHING!
Ingredients:
8×8 pan of pre-cooked cornbread
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon rubbed sage, optional
3 eggs
1 medium onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 stick butter, sliced
4 cups cream of chicken soup
6 cups chicken stock
1 lb pre cooked ground sausage
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350º F.
Crumble cornbread in large bowl. Add salt, pepper, eggs, onion, celery, butter, cream of chicken soup, and chicken stock, and sausage. Stir until well-combined.
Pour dressing into two 9×13 baking dishes and bake until browned for 30 – 45 minutes. If the center of the dressing moves, then the dressing is not cooked through in the center. Continue to bake until the dressing is set throughout.

Broccoli, Cheese and Rice Casserole:
This one is a yummy side dish to add to any holiday meal!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter
1 package (16 ounces) frozen chopped broccoli
1/3 cup milk (we use 2%)
1 – 10 ½ oz. can Cream of Mushroom Soup
8 ounces Velveeta Cheese
1 1/2 cups cooked long grain white rice
½ diced onion (optional)
Directions:
Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender stirring occasionally.
Stir in broccoli and cook until it’s slightly tender, but still crisp. Stir in the milk, soup, cheese sauce and rice. Cook and stir until the cheese is melted. Pour the broccoli mixture into a 2-quart shallow baking dish.
Bake at 350°F. for 20 minutes or until the mixture is hot and bubbling.

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