A Woodland Christmas with … White Chocolate and Cranberry Dessert Dip

The buffet is set and ready for Christmas with a woodland scene starring a Santa or two from my collection of Old World Santa’s. This dapper Santa looks like a well-dressed woodsman with his fur rimmed hat, flocked buttoned vest, coat with brocade sleeves and draping chains, and a pack filled with surprises flung over his shoulder.  Snow flocked and copper colored bottle brush trees and gilded holly with berries create a magical Christmas backdrop.

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A birdhouse frosted with snow is tucked among “the holly and the ivy” and a little winter nest is filled with glittered acorns and glass copper pine cones.

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A pedestal cake plate with birdies perched on either side holds woodland treasures cushioned on a bed of moss … a wee lantern with a flickering light looks like it came straight from the set of Amahl and the Night Visitors and a tiny glass jewel box with a bird perched on it’s lid.

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Nestled under the cake plate is a little mercury glassed birdie near clusters of purple grapes tumbling out of an antique sugar bowl.

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Another Woodland Santa wears a wooly coat and carries a wooden staff encircled with twigs.  Pine cones and berries wreath his furry cap and white doves perch on a brim-filled pack and on his coat.

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A grove of bottle brush trees, a miniature bird bath filled with millet, mercury glass mushrooms and copper pine cones resting on their sides add storybook whimsy to the woodland setting.

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Another Santa perches on the tea cart waiting for some Christmas refreshment!

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An ornate silver bowl with brass interior holds a moss-lined nest and little brass bird and is decked “with boughs of holly.”silver bowl.jpg

Click on the following link from the “Cottage Chronicles” to see …

  A Woodland-Christmas Tablescape

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And a Christmas snack fitting for a woodland setting on the buffet … a delicious White Chocolate and Cranberry Dessert Dip formed in the shape of a hedgehog surrounded by a layer of Triple Ginger Cookie Thins and Butter Waffle Cookies from Trader Joe’s.

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I made this dessert dip for our Church Life Group Christmas Party this weekend.  The amount I had remaining in the refrigerator was just enough for one baby hedgehog! (:

 

White Chocolate & Cranberry Dessert Dip

Ingredients:

  • 1 (8oz) package softened cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 (3.4 oz) package Cheesecake Instant pudding mix
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup Nestle’s white chocolate morsels
  • whole almonds or slivered almonds to cover dip

Instructions:

  1. Beat the softened cream cheese and butter together in a mixer on medium-high speed until well blended. 
  2. Add the pudding mix and powdered sugar.  Beat on low to medium speed until the dry ingredients are incorporated.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of milk and beat on high until filling is mixed.
  4. Stir in dried cranberries and white chocolate morsels; mix well.
  5. Scrape the dessert dip into plastic wrap and gently mold into the shape desired for the hedgehog.
  6. Unwrap, place hedgehog shaped dessert dip on a serving platter.  Begin inserting almonds (at an angle and in staggered rows) into the dip to resemble the “body” of a hedgehog.  
  7. Place a chocolate morsel on the “face” (the dip that is not covered with almonds) of the hedgehog  to resemble the nose and use two mini-morsels for the eyes, or chop regular sized morsels into smaller pieces for the eyes.
  8. Refrigerate to “set” almonds in place, until ready to serve.  (NOTE: for traditional shaped dessert dip, after mixing, wrap dessert into plastic wrap and form into ball.  Refrigerate until ready to serve, then unwrap, place on serving plate and cover surface with slivered almonds.)
  9. Serve with gingersnaps, butter waffle cookies, vanilla wafers, graham crackers, animal crackers …

Baby hedgehog

Here’s a sweet little woodland poem about small gifts gathered from the heart; I think it’s the perfect way to end today’s Woodland themed blog!

Small Gifts

He gathers gifts for his dear friends
Searching among the forest trees
And only from his heart he spends. 

For Squirrel, an acorn split he mends
And with a quiet joyful ease
He gathers gifts for his dear friends. 

To Bear, a blueberry he sends
With tender care that it won’t freeze
And only from his heart he spends. 

For Deer, green leaves he subtly rends
Although found sparse in wintry breeze
He gathers gifts for his dear friends. 

To Bird, he gives a branch that bends
A perch to rest her tired knees
And only from his heart he spends. 

For all the creatures at Earth’s ends
As Christmas joy in time he sees
He gathers gifts for his dear friends
And only from his heart he spends. 

~  by Benjamin Oldham

Wishing you joy during this blessed season and that … only from the heart you’ll spend!

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From my cottage to yours  ~  Trenda

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Summer Boat Ride … plus Sweet & Salty Trail Mix Recipe

~ Trenda

At the top of our list of “summer chores” is getting our pontoon boat “sea worthy” and all cleaned up for the boating season.  Richard got out the power washer and surprisingly, only found 1 duck egg laying, like a prize on top of our boat cover! (:  After the cushions were sparkling and everything was wiped down, we loaded up the boat and headed “over the bounding main.” Climb aboard, put on your sunglasses and come with us!  We’ve got our Captain, First Mate (our darling grand daughter!) and myself … and we’ve got room for plenty more!  I’ve even packed a summer-y snack!  Let the wind blow through your hair and sweep your worries away for a little while!

 

 First stop … a protected cove where we can enjoy our snacks while “bobbing” gently on the water.  The warmth of the sun and the rocking motion of the boat dissuades any thoughts of worry!

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Look at my “new” picnic hamper!  I love it and found at one of our favorite antique shops!  I was thrilled when I saw it just waiting on the shelf for me!  I don’t think it’s ever been used!  It’s loaded with picnic style plates, cutlery, and plastic stemware and the bottom of the picnic basket is an insulated, zippered ice chest!

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I just had time to grab some quick “fix-in’s” before heading out to the boat.  A little wicker boat holds seasoned crackers for dipping into a creamy pimiento cheese spread.

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 I always love using my favorite wooden “Lake” serving board and it looks perfect for our lakeside picnic with a little oar spreader!

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A miniature creel fishing basket is filled with a Sweet & Salty Trail Mix Snack that is easy to “throw” together and is a great energy snack!  I tucked a tartan colored napkin in our little creel, then filled it with trail mix and added a fun scoop!

Sweet & Salty Trail Mix Snack:

  • 1 cup dry roasted peanuts
  • 1 cup sunflower hearts
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup cheese flavored “Whale” or “Fish” crackers (always a cute addition for lakeside snacks!)
  • 1 cup M&M’s

This recipe makes a big batch so I mix all my ingredients together in a large, air-tight container, to help keep it fresh.

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Okay, brush the crumbs from your lap, pick the seat you want to “lounge in” and settle back.  We’re taking off for some sight seeing!

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We love the rock jetty in front of this house!  The stone wall creates a private swimming area and the sandy beach beyond is strewn with grass covered umbrellas!

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Look at this massive labyrinth; it’s a homeowner’s private boat dock and party area!  If you look to the left and up the slight incline, there is another similar structure that is a playground for some lucky kids! (: 

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White Adirondack chairs are set out in anticipation of viewing beautiful summer sunsets!

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Charming stone boat house and little log cabin!

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Aww … I love his sweet smile and this picture I snapped of our cute Captain! ❤

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And … the darling First Mate with her sunshine-y smile that melts Grandma’s heart!

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The twilight shadows are changing from pinks to deep blues and purple and our flag almost glows in the fading light, as we head home.

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Another beautiful sunset on the lake.

Back home, the boat is docked and with picnic hamper and wet towels in hand, we disembark … and watch the beautiful twilight curtain descend upon the lake.  Hope you enjoyed our cruise! (:

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From my cottage to yours  ~  Trenda

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Hello June! … Delicious BBQ Beans & DIY Place Cards for Father’s Day

~ Trenda

Hello June!  We’ve been looking forward to seeing you! (:

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“Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer …” It’s time to slow down, kick back, and relax!

 WONDERFUL SUMMER!  ~ by Trenda

“It’s the beginning of another …

Snow-cone dripping,

bare foot skipping, 

iced tea sipping,

front porch sitting, 

flip flop plopping,

baseball watching,

mattress floating,

snorkel snorting,

pink nose glowing, 

green grass mowing,

warm breeze blowing,

hot dog munching,

cricket chirping,

sparkler waving,

firework gazing,

sunset blazing …

 wonderful summer!” 

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The days of June are marked off the calendar with the “procession” of different celebrations and “happenings.”  Flag Day – June 14th … Father’s Day – June 18th … and the longest day of the year, Summer Solstice – June 21st.  Keep the “red, white, and blue” decorations handy and get out those summer recipes and “Father’s Favorites!”  Two of our favorite’s here at Cottage Green are … my recipe for Delicious BBQ Beans and Sand Pail Ice Cream

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We love the smoky flavor of these “Delicious BBQ Beans” and the enhanced layer of flavor that the bell pepper adds!  I also love that the beans are cooking in the crock pot while I’m away or I’m busy preparing other dishes.

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Now, for some elegant DIY place cards that are easy to make that will add an “air” of sophistication to your “Father’s Day” table.  If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you know I love “dressing” the table!  One of the easiest ways to make your table festive and make every guest feel important is by adding place cards to your tablescape.  I made these simple, but elegant place cards for a graduation party and they are perfect and serving “double-duty” … for our Father’s Day celebration!

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Here are supplies needed to make these place cards:

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I bought my miniature decorative tassels in the “Notions” section at Hobby Lobby (where the fabrics/buttons/ribbons are located).  I also bought my place cards and my clear stamp pads at Hobby Lobby, in the stationery section.

place cards.png Instructions:

  1. Punch a hole in upper left-hand corner of each place card, making sure you punch the hole through the front and back of the place card.
  2. Insert the opposite end of the tassel through the punched hole in the front of the card (insert, front to back) so that the tassel is in the front of the place card.
  3. Bring the looped end of cord over the top of the place card and insert (thread) the tassel through the corded opening and pull gently to secure the “tassel in place.  Make sure the knot is not taut, so the tassel drapes loosely down the front of the place card. * (see photo below)
  4. Stamp the front of each place card with a filigree frame of your choice from your selection of clear stamp pads.  Make sure you allow enough time for the ink to dry before handling.
  5. After ink has thoroughly dried, write each person’s name centered in the stamped frame.

*Close-up photo of #3 instructions:closeup tying

I love the elegant and “man-ly” look of these place cards and can’t wait to show you how they look “gracing” our Father’s Day tablescape!

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Now hang up your hammock, get out the ice cream maker, and drape your patio in party lights and “Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer … you’ll wish that summer could always be here.” ~ Nat King Cole

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From my cottage to yours ~ Trenda

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Lakeside Picnic and Recipe for Stuffed Pepper Soup …

by Trenda  

I already have “spring fever!”  I “caught it” from the birds who have been “twittering and flitting about” hunting for the perfect place to raise their little families! (:  Friday and Saturday were “zip-a-dee-do-dah” days with spring-like temperature’s … “My oh, my, what a wonderful day” … and  taking our cue from the birds, we took advantage of our warm day with …”Plenty of sunshine headin’ my way” and worked outside and enjoyed a picnic by the lake.

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Welcome to our lakeside picnic!  Everything always tastes better when dining al fresco (: and our lunch of Turkey & Swiss Wraps with roasted red peppers, Red Delicious Apples and spiced tea, was no exception!


After our picnic we were “energized” … we sat a little while longer, enjoying the sunshine and the day then we were ready to get back to work.  By late afternoon the wind started picking up and the water started getting choppy.

Dark blue-gray clouds began rolling in … 


And we began to hear rumbles of thunder, as we hurried to finish our work …

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We finished … just in time with thunder distinctively warning us to get inside, as the first raindrops began to fall!

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Later … feeling cozy and clean and hearing the gusty wind and the sound of the waves crashing against our retaining wall, our “gift” of a spring day in January was over and our stormy night seemed the perfect time for some homemade soup … Stuffed Pepper Soup.

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 Stuffed Pepper Soup Recipe …

recipe final.pngLater, as I drifted off to sleep, the last lines of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Under A Spreading Chestnut Tree” came to mind.

“… Each morning sees some task begin,

Each evening sees it close;

Something attempted, something done,

Has earned a night’s repose.”

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From my cottage to yours  ~  Trenda

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I would love to read any comments or questions you may have!

 

 

Winter Weather and Outdoor Tablescape and Picnic for the Birds

by Trenda at Cottagegreenonthelake.com

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Seeing snow in East Texas is always an anticipated occasion, like a circus or carnival coming to town!  Everyone dashes to one of our two grocery stores and stocks up on groceries, hot chocolate and firewood … hopeful that the possibility of the “flurries” predicted in the forecast will somehow materialize into towering drifts and days enjoyed in front of the fireplace.

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So .. with a forecast of possible snow on Friday, there was expectation in the air as the temperatures hovered below 30 … and by afternoon, our hope of seeing some snow was rewarded when the first tiny flakes appeared!

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I wanted to make sure our “furry friends and feathered folks” had plenty to eat to keep themselves warm and I decided to set up a winter picnic for them with some extra special treats… birdseed ornaments!   I chose a recipe that Mavis Butterfield eHow Contributor submitted on Pinterest (click here for Mavis Butterfield eHow Contributot’s recipe for birdseed ornaments) During the entire process I was apprehensive that my ornaments wouldn’t slip out of their molds or remain intact and I was happily surprised when each of the ornament’s “held” their shape and slid out easily from my plastic cookie cutters (part of an extensive collection my dear daughter in law (DDIL)(:  gave me.

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Assorted ribbons and twine added to the birdseed ornaments …

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I love these “woodland” tags and thought they would add a little whimsy, hanging amongst the branches with my birdseed ornaments.  This is a free printable I downloaded from Decorator’s Notebook by Bethan John (click here for free printable woodland tags) They printed off beautifully and I made extra’s for package tie-on’s and other ideas, yet to come!

Free downloadable gift tags from Decorator's Notebook 14 designs

I also made some extra tags using a die-cut label maker and some rubber stamps that fit right in with my woodland/lakeside theme: a clump of oak leaves and acorns stamp, a single leaf stamp, and a bird nest with eggs stamp … the bird nest is my favorite!  I used a hole punch to make a hole in each tag and then slipped ribbons through the hole.  To add a little variety to my paper ornaments, I used several different ribbons and  either knotted the ends of the ribbon and slipped the labels over a branch or clipped them to my little fir tree, using mini-clothespins.

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Then I had the fun of creating my winter tablescape and putting out “picnic fare” for our birds and lakeside critters. (:  I covered our outdoor table with a Coleman blanket in a buffalo plaid in navy, khaki and forest green and placed a tall Fir tree (one of our Christmas decorations) in the center of the table … it worked great for hanging my birdseed ornaments and woodland/lakeside tags on!   A sweet little birdbath that Richard gave me (usually a part of our cottage decor inside) is filled with fresh water and I used chunky urns and “woodsy” platters to offer a buffet of different seeds and peanuts.

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A Hairy Woodpecker “heard it through the grapevine” that there were peanuts on the menu! (: A little Red-breasted Nuthatch, native to Ontario Canada perches on the side of a “new favorite”  … a rough blown-glass bowl, a special gift from our daughter’s boyfriend, that is  perfectly suited for Cottage Green with painted pine boughs and a “sprinkling” of snow.

img_0284Look how adorable my cookie cutter letters spelling B-I-R-D came out!  I loved how charming these letters looked all together so I just lined them all up on a forest green plate edged with leaves and acorns and set them out for the birdies to enjoy!

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A Cardinal surveys the winter buffet …

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The “piece de resistance?” … sunflower hearts!

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Today’s Menu …

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A House Finch awaits his turn “in pecking order” on the downspout …

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Well, we didn’t have any accumulation of snow, but we did enjoy our beautiful snow flurries … our whirling, twisting, dancing flakes and we enjoyed 3 cold winter days.  But 3 days is just enough … and we were ready for the return of our usual, mild Texas winter weather.  Happily, today’s temperature was in the mid 60’s and Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday … it’s going to be in the 70’s!  Ahhh … now, that’s more like it!

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But next time there’s a chance of snow or snow flurries in the forecast for a little town on Cedar Creek Lake in East Texas, you can be sure that … everyone will once again dash to one of our two grocery stores and stock up on groceries, hot chocolate and firewood … hopeful  that the possibility of the “flurries” predicted in the forecast will somehow materialize into towering drifts and days enjoyed in front of the fireplace. (;

From my cottage to yours  ~  Trenda

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Thank you for spending some time with me today.  Please leave any comments or questions you may have, in the COMMENT section.

“Easy Potato Soup” Recipe with Garlic, Parmesan & Cheddar topped Crostini – revised edition

Trenda

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Downshifting from the accelerating month of December, I’m going to “ease” into January by giving you the delicious recipe for …”Easy Potato Soup” that I wrote about in my last post, “Love and Joy Come to You” (click here)and our dinner for two on New Year’s Eve.  This soup is so easy … no prepping is necessary and it is just a matter of opening cans, stirring, seasoning, and warming! (:

  • Easy Potato Soup by Trenda at CottageGreenontheLake.com 
  • Makes 4 – 6 servings
  • Level of difficulty – Easy

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Ingredients:

  • 1 – 10 oz. can Diced New Potatoes (drained)
  • 1 – 10 1/2 oz. can Cream of Celery
  • 1 – 10 1/2 can Cream of Potato
  • 1 and 3/4 cups Half & Half
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Add all ingredients into large saucepan, stirring to blend.  Warm over low to medium heat, stirring often.  Be careful not to scorch soup mixture, but heat thoroughly.  Serve soup in bowls and garnish with desired toppings.  I top our soup with grated cheese and cooked and crumbled bacon.

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I love soups any time of the year but this soup is a wonderful “comfort food.”  I first “created” this recipe when our son was sick and he asked me to make him some “Magic Soup” and I searched our pantry, seeing what magic there was to be found. (:  Now, it is one of our family’s favorites and it is so easy to put together!  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!  AND … if tomorrow is your first day back to schedules, car pools, work, and life in general … I hope your day is “gentle.”

saltAnd tonight, thankful for another day the Lord has brought us safely through … “On my bed I remember you;  I think of you through the watches of the night.  Psalm 63:6

From my cottage to yours  ~  Trenda

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Thank you for spending some time with me today.  I’d love to hear from you.  Please leave any questions or comments you have under “COMMENTS.”

 

Recipe for “Easy Potato Soup” with Garlic, Parmesan & Cheddar topped Crostini

by Trenda
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Downshifting from the accelerating month of December, I’m going to “ease” into January by giving you the delicious recipe for …”Easy Potato Soup” that I wrote about in my last post, “Love and Joy Come to You” (click here)and our dinner for two on New Year’s Eve.  This soup is so easy … no prepping is necessary and it is just a matter of opening cans, stirring, seasoning, and warming! (:

  • Easy Potato Soup by Trenda at CottageGreenontheLake.com 
  • Makes 4 – 6 servings
  • Level of difficulty – Easy

nosalt.pngIngredients:

  • 1 – 10 oz. can Diced New Potatoes (drained)
  • 1 – 10 1/2 oz. can Cream of Celery
  • 1 – 10 1/2 can Cream of Potato
  • 1 and 3/4 cups Half & Half
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Add all ingredients into large saucepan, stirring to blend.  Warm over low to medium heat, stirring often.  Be careful not to scorch soup mixture, but heat thoroughly.  Serve soup in bowls and garnish with desired toppings.  I top our soup with grated cheese and cooked and crumbled bacon.birchtucked.png

I love soups any time of the year but this soup is a wonderful “comfort food.”  I first “created” this recipe when our son was sick and he asked me to make him some “Magic Soup” and I searched our pantry, seeing what magic there was to be found. (:  Now, it is one of our family’s favorites and it is so easy to put together!  I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!  AND … if tomorrow is your first day back to schedules, car pools, work, and life in general … I hope your day is “gentle.” (; salt.png

 

From my cottage to yours  ~  Trenda

Thank you for spending some time with me today.  I’d love to hear from you.  Please leave any questions or comments you have under “COMMENTS.”