Sunday, March 16, 2014

My Favorite Christmas Tradition!

This year I continued on my favorite Christmas tradition but this time finally in Houston: my 5th Annual Ornament Exchange! It is just one of my favorite parties to host and makes me all giddy inside when planning;)
When I was in college, my dear friend and roommate, Lacey,  invited me to her sister's annual ornament exchange. I had no idea what it was but I was told to bring a wrapped ornament and show up ready to eat, drink and be merry. So I did and that started my love of ornament exchanges. There was Christmas music in the background, yummy party foods to snack on and girls chatting and favorite kind of party. When it was time for the exchange part I learned that we play "dirty santa" and open each others ornaments or you could steal from someone else if you love their ornament enough.

 So I went to her sister's ornament exchange every year until I moved away from Louisiana and decided it was only right to bring the tradition to Nashville when I moved. So I did and had so much fun every year doing it and had my own annual ornament exchange for 4 years while there. I have very special memories with my dear friends from these parties will living there that I will always cherish.

When I moved to Houston, I so desperately wanted to have one for our first Christmas there but a certain precious angel arrived 3 weeks early and there was no time for an ornament exchange!!  But this year, I finally was able to bring my favorite tradition to Houston. I invited some of my sweetest friends from school, church and other walks of life and my little heart was content. I think my favorite part of this tradition is unpacking ornaments each year before putting them on the tree and remembering the ornament exchanges that I been to and hosted. If you asked me, I could tell you about each ornament...

Did I mention that this party was strategically planned on the night that us teachers got out of school for Christmas break? It was the perfect way to celebrate and ring in the holiday season!
As far as the menu...that was one of my favorite parts. I made Pesto Lasagna Roll Ups, Puppy Chow, Peanut Butter Haystacks as well as two dip recipes that were sweetly given to me by two very dear friends. Kelley gave me her Creamy Sausage Dip recipe and Mary Rachel gave me her Cheesy Corn Dip. And oh sweetness...these dips are so easy and so delicious. And my sweet Gabe even brought a few amazing dishes so we had plenty of food! Everyone brought their favorite drink to share. I made Poinsettias with champagne, cranberry juice and cranberries. It was a hit!

Peanut Butter Haystacks
These little gems remind me of Christmas growing up. My mom loved making these and for our first married Christmas I wanted to make them, too. They are a hit and so incredibly easy.

1 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup peanut butter 
1/2 cup salted peanuts
2 cups chow mein noodles 

Melt butterscotch  chips and peanut butter in a microwavable bowl, stirring ever so often.
Stir in peanuts and noodles gently into melted peanut butter mixture.
Drop dough by forkfuls onto waxed paper. Cool until set. 

*You can also add chocolate chips and omit the peanut butter. Delicious, too! 
Creamy Sausage Dip 
Seriously one of these easiest dips you could ever make and way too addicting. 
Many thanks to Kelley!!

2 8oz. packages cream cheese, softened. 
1 can rotel 
1 lb. breakfast sausage, browned

Mix and melt together over medium heat on stove. Serve immediately in dish.
Serve with fritos or tortilla chips!

Cheesy Corn Dip
I fell in love with this dip at Mary Rachel's house and wanted this recipe! It too is addicting. Don't say I didn't warn you .The best part is you can make ahead! This is a perfect recipe to take outside on a picnic or outdoor party because you serve it cold. Thank you so much, Mary Rachel! 

1 jar chunky salsa
3 cups mexican cheese
1 Tablespoon of mayo
1 can mexicorn drained
chili powder to taste

Mix together and chill. Serve with fritos and corn chips.

Pesto Lasagna Roll Ups
This is definitely a great dish to make ahead and even freeze for busy nights!
8 oz. uncooked dried lasagna noodles
4 cups pasta sauce
1 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup pesto
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 cup fresh mushrooms, chopped
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions, drain.

Meanwhile, spread 2 cups of pasta sauce onto bottom of 13x9 inch baking dish.

Combine ricotta, pesto and egg in a small bowl and mix well. Place cooked lasagna noodles onto waxed paper.

Spread 3 tablespoons pesto mixture along each lasagna noodle. Top each with about 2 tablespoons
mushrooms and 2 tablespoons mozzarella cheese. Carefully roll up.

Place over pasta sauce, seam side down. Pour remaining sauce over lasagna roll ups; sprinkle with remaining cheese. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake 20 minutes. Uncover; continue baking for 10 to 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and light golden brown.

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