Jane Lawson’s holiday family photo:  Husband, Danny, son, Kellan, almost 6, Carsten, 3 and Jane.
Jane Lawson’s holiday family photo: Husband, Danny, son, Kellan, almost 6, Carsten, 3 and Jane.
December 23, 2013

When I think back to my most memorable Christmas, it has to be one where I received a doll I named Molly. Growing up, it was more than a challenge to find a doll that resembled me. I have black hair, brown eyes and tan skin. I loved dolls more than anything and like every little girl, I wanted a doll that looked like me.

My mom looked far and wide to find dolls that had darker complexions and dark hair instead of the usual blond-haired and blue-eyed baby dolls. I can't remember where she found Molly, but as you can imagine I was ecstatic when I opened her on Christmas Day.

Molly looked like a baby about 9 months old with short black hair. She had a removable pacifier, and she talked if I took it out of her mouth. She came dressed wearing a lavender one-piece outfit and white shoes. She was beautiful to me and remains one of my favorite Christmas gifts ever.

Who knows? Maybe this Christmas will be the one that remains the favorite in the heart of your loved ones. Besides meaningful gifts, delicious tasting food is another way to add merriment to your holiday.

Crock Pot Italian Beef Sandwiches

I love to find new recipes that turn out to be instant favorites. This is one of them. For my holiday luncheon at school I signed up to take a main dish after seeing this recipe on the blog Iowa Girl Eats. I love pepperoncini peppers and knew they would be tasty with beef.

The Italian beef sandwiches were a hit, and all of the meat was gone by noon. It was so good I plan to make it again as part of our casual Christmas lunch including plenty of appetizers.

3 lb chuck roast, trimmed of visible fat and cut into large hunks

1 envelope Good Seasons Zesty Italian salad dressing mix

8 oz pepperoncini pepper slices + splash of juice (plus extra peppers for serving)

8 oz Giardiniera (Chicago-Style Italian Sandwich Mix in oil) drained (plus extra for serving)

1 (14.5) oz can beef broth

provolone cheese slices

hoagie buns

Place chuck roast into the bottom of a 5.5- to 6-quart crock pot then sprinkle with salad dressing mix. Add pepperoncini peppers plus a splash of juice, Giardiniera, and beef broth then lift up chuck roast pieces to get broth underneath. Place a lid on top then cook on low for 9 hours or until meat shreds easily with a fork. Shred then place meat back into crock pot and cook on low for 1 more hour.

Split buns in half then scoop the shredded meat mixture on top and add provolone cheese slices. Top with additional pepperoncini peppers and Giardiniera, if desired, then serve.

Serves 6 (I found it served many more, it depends on the size of the buns)

Buttermilk Bacon Whipped Potatoes

Still looking for that perfect side dish? Potatoes with bacon with weelicious.com are sure to please everyone's palate.

4 slices thick-cut bacon

3 large yukon gold potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 4 cups)

2 teaspoons salt

2/3 cup buttermilk

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Place the chopped potatoes and salt in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and cook the potatoes until fork tender, about 5-10 minutes.

While the potatoes are cooking, lay the bacon in a skillet over low heat and cook until crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove to a paper towel to blot out any excess grease, then chop or crumble into small pieces.

Heat the buttermilk and butter in a saucepan until warm and the butter is melted. Place all the ingredients in a large bowl and whip with an electric mixer until fluffy and creamy adding more buttermilk if needed.

Spinach Artichoke Dip

If you're planning an appetizer table, like us, a warm and gooey dip is always welcome. Serve it with tortilla chips, crackers or chunks of beer bread.

1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped

1 lb frozen spinach, thawed and chopped (or 2 bunches of fresh spinach can be used)

16 oz cream cheese, cubed (2 - 8oz bricks)

2 1/2 cups Monterey jack cheese, cubed (1 small cheese brick)

2 1/2 cups mozzarella cheese, cubed (1 small cheese brick)

3 garlic cloves, minced (add more garlic depending on how much you like)

1/4 teaspoon black pepper (this can be adjusted to taste)

Cube cheese and add to slow cooker. Chop artichoke hearts and spinach and add to cheese. Place in a slow cooker on high setting. Add garlic and pepper. Heat until melted, stirring occasionally. Cook about 1-2 hours stirring occasionally.

Serves 4

Chocolate Mint Kiss Crinkles

Over the weekend I had the most delectable white chocolate mint frozen yogurt. I absolutely adore mint and chocolate together. Recipegirl.com combined the two to make sweet mint crinkles perfect for Christmas.

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups granulated white sugar

1/2 cup vegetable oil

4 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon peppermint extract

1 cup powdered sugar

2 teaspoon green colored sugar (optional)

bag of mint truffle flavored Hershey's Kisses (they are green on the inside

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, and eggs until well mixed. Whisk in extracts. Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients just until combined. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Roll dough into 1/2 tablespoon balls. Roll balls into mixture of powdered sugar/green sugar. Place on cookie sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart. Bake for 11 to 13 minutes, until cookies crackle and dough doesn't look raw.

While cookies are baking, unwrap the kisses and make some room in your refrigerator or freezer for the cookie sheets. When the cookies come out of the oven, immediately place a kiss in the center of each cookie and press lightly. The kisses will start to get melty, so it's best if you are able to place the cookie sheet (with the kiss cookies still on it) directly into the freezer or refrigerator until the kisses can cool off and set up.

Glazed Eggnog Bread

If you need bread to go along with your Christmas brunch or a last minute gift to give, try eggnog bread from Recipe Girl. Eggnog makes a moist and scrumptious bread.


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

2 large eggs

1 cup granulated white sugar

1 cup eggnog

1/2 cup salted butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla (or eggnog extract, if you have it)

1/2 teaspoon rum extract, optional

Eggnog Icing:

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

dash freshly grated nutmeg

2 to 3 teaspoons eggnog

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and 1/2 inch up the sides of a 9x4x3-inch loaf pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, sugar, eggnog, melted butter, vanilla, and rum extract (if using). Add egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir just until moistened (batter will be lumpy).

Spoon batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 45 to 50 minutes. Check for done-ness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the loaf - it should come out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on a rack.

Prepare icing: Combine sugar, vanilla, and nutmeg. Stir in enough eggnog to reach drizzling consistency. Drizzle cooled loaf with icing. Grate a little bit of fresh nutmeg over the icing then let icing set completely before wrapping loaf.