Monday, December 31, 2012

Christmas Highlights

The only thing missing from this Christmas was a family photo. One year I'm going to get one. But everyone is in these holiday photos somewhere. We had fun making memories this Christmas. 













Happy New Year's Eve!
We'll see you in 2013.


After Christmas



The Christmas visits are winding down. Big Sister has gone to visit other family, Mommy and Daddy finally found time for a get-away, Jessica headed back to the city yesterday. So it's just Daddy-O and Baby Sister here with me at the farm now. We'll have her a few more days.

Once we got past the Christmas rush, she has fallen into a pleasant routine. The most important event of her day is finding Daddy-O and taking him out to see the "fruck" (truck) where she makes sure they are both buckled in and then she pushes every button. Then they walk over to see the orange tractor and the blue tractor. She likes sitting in the tractors, too. That's a big change from the Thanksgiving visit when she was afraid of the tractors.

We have enjoyed listening to her constant chatter—like the "sorry 'bout that" when I got her up yesterday from her nap that wasn't happening. She reminds me of Shirley Temple when she says "Oh my goodness!" She helped me put away the nativity set yesterday and named the figures as she handed them to me. "Here's Mary. Here's Shoseph. Here's da baby."

I love that she has no "J" in her speech at the moment. So she wears "sheans" and sings "Shingle Bells" and her best buddy here all week was "Shessica." She told Jessica goodbye yesterday but I'm betting that when she gets up this morning, she'll ask a hundred times, "Where's Shessica?"

This time next week, the floor in my den be cleaner. But there is a price we'll pay for a cleaner house--no Baby Sister bustling around all day. They will be heading home all too soon.

I'll catch up on some new recipes we tried when things are calmer here, but I really wanted to share at least one. I had wanted to try baked oatmeal for some time, but wanted more people here to eat it. Now that I know how good it is, I won't wait to have folks here. We could have polished this off by ourselves. Easy and delicious.


I made this the night before and baked it on Christmas Eve morning. Since it was a holiday, we topped it with whipped cream. Milk, cream, yogurt or fresh fruit would be good, too. The baked oatmeal is drier than stovetop oatmeal. A topping helps. Leftovers (and there wasn't much) were good reheated in the microwave.

APPLE CINNAMON BAKED OATMEAL

3 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup honey
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 egg
1/2 cup applesauce
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 apples, choppped

Mix dry ingredients together. Then, add all remaining ingredients except apples. Stir well, then fold in apples.

Spray 9x13 dish with PAM. Spread oatmeal mix into pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, uncover dish and place into a COLD oven. Then turn over to 350 degrees and bake 35-ish minutes, until the oatmeal is set and lightly browned.





Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Is Coming

Merry Christmas from Mimi & Daddy-O!


Like most of you, I have lots to do in the next few days, so I'm not sure if I'll make it back here to visit with you before Christmas. I wanted to share some of our traditions as we got closer to the day but I only managed one photo of an old Christmas decoration.


He is the plaster of Paris Santa that I painted when I was five. How it has survived all those years (and no, I'm not telling you exactly how many) I have no idea. It looks like I painted it with a watercolor set. Remember the little pots of color in a plastic metal box? It was so long ago that I don't remember for sure.

My Christmas menu is loosely planned. In case you are looking for some last minute ideas, here are a few of our favorites. Some of these will be on our table. Just not sure which ones yet. 


The house will be full in a couple of days. It's time for lots of hugs and laughter. We are watching the weather closely and hoping all our chicks will have no problems driving home this weekend. And we are hoping that you find joy this Christmas however you spend it.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Count Your Blessings

I'm thinking of some of my favorite Christmas things today (and counting my blessings, too.) Here are a few in no particular order, other than the order of the photos on my camera...


I love music. I especially love Christmas music. We watched White Christmas last night, one of my favorite holiday movies. And Count Your Blessings Instead Of Sheep is my favorite song in it. I've had the sheet music for this song for over 50 years (yikes! I'm old) and it is well tattered from much use.


When Mommy was just a baby, I pushed her stroller into a Christmas shop at the beach while on summer vacation. I saw these beautiful Nativity sets and could not stop looking at them. I finally decided to splurge big time (which I now think was an investment) and purchase the entire set. It was meant to be a collected a few pieces at a time but I was worried that before I got all of it, it would be discontinued. Well, you can still buy this Fontanini set, but then I didn't know that it would be around this long. It was one of the best purchases I've ever made. These unbreakable pieces have survived years and years of little hands "helping" when it was time to set it up. For 29 years it has reminded us of how Christmas began. 

It also makes me smile every year when I put it out. When Mommy was just three, I turned around to see her adding the white fence sections from her Fisher Price farm set to the scene. Slightly aggravated that she was messing up my beautiful display, I asked her what on earth she was doing. She explained that she was "fixing it so the cows wouldn't get out." She--the child of a cattleman--understood all too well, even that young age, that it is not a good thing when the cows get loose! We left the fence up that year.


For the last several years we have attended an outdoor Nativity scene held in a field beside a local country church. We love going because it is so simple and real. I love the glorious wonderfully rehearsed productions that other churches do—sound systems and elegant costumes and trained musicians. But this one, when we sit in cold metal folding chairs outside and listen to the Christmas story being told by their pastor, seems maybe closer to how it happened. A couple of years ago, the shepherds' bonfire caught the grass on fire. A little extra drama that year.

Last night when we came home from the outdoor Nativity, chilled to the bone from sitting outside on those cold metal chairs, I had supper waiting. This new recipe that turned out to be a winner. Daddy-O ate three sandwiches. (Not quite as bad as it sounds—I bought the small buns.) It was a little spicy but when the meat is combined with the bun and cheese in a sandwich, it was just right.


PEPPERONCINI BEEF SANDWICHES

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 lb beef roast, trimmed of excess fat
4-5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 16-oz. jar sliced pepperoncinis, undrained

crusty sandwich rolls
sliced Provolone cheese

Heat oil in a pot or high-sided skillet over high heat. While the oil is heating, combine the salt and pepper and rub it into the meat. Add more if necessary.

When the oil is hot, sear the roast on all sides so the outsides of it is browned and a little crispy.

Transfer the roast to a slow cooker and add the minced garlic and the entire jar of pepperoncinis (along with juice.)
Cook on LOW for 8-10 hours or until the beef is 
fork tender.
 Drain and shred. Keep the peppers!

Toast buns. Pile drained, shredded meat on bottom bun and top with cheese. Put back under broiler just long enough to melt the cheese. 

I used a chuck roast yesterday. No trimming was needed on the outside of the roast but I did use a very sharp knife and cut out as much of the "inside fat" as I could to keep the finished dish from being too greasy. You could also use a round roast.








Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Convenience Has Its Place


When I happened up on the "buy one, get one free" bags of potatoes at the store, I remembered a recipe I had not made in a long, long time. I'm the one who always says, "How hard is it to peel a potato?" But every now and then, convenience food wins out. My reasoning then is that it's better than another fast food meal that includes french fries. Tonight I was glad I bought the potatoes.


I don't even remember where I found this recipe years ago, but it's a good one when you are in a hurry. Save it for "one of those days." You know which ones I'm talking about.

ROASTED ROSEMARY POTATOES

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
1 (1.25-pound) package refrigerated new potato wedges
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon salt  
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with PAM. 
2. Combine oil and garlic in a large bowl (you need room to toss).  Add potatoes; toss to coat.  Sprinkle potato mixture with rosemary, salt and pepper; toss well.
3. Place potatoes in a single layer on lined baking sheet.  Bake at 450 for 15 minutes.  Turn potatoes with a spatula.  Bake an additional 5-10 minutes or until browned and crisp.

Serves 4


Tonight I paired the potatoes with grilled chicken and grilled zucchini slices. If you buy the thinly sliced chicken breasts, it cooks in a jiffy. (Love my Calphalon grill pan. Easy to use. Easy to clean.)

I thought my new bottle of dried rosemary looked very "spikey" so I crumbled it between my fingers a little before I sprinkled it over the potatoes.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Countdown Begins


Waiting for the choir to enter.


Music in the hospital lobby.

It's the same every year. I think there is plenty of time to get it all done. And then I'll see an ad somewhere proclaiming "15 days to Christmas!" There is a moment of panic. Then somehow it (mostly) gets done. Part of that has to do with a lesson I learned long ago—keep paring down the "to do" list as the days grow shorter. No one else knows what I had planned to do, so if it doesn't get done, no one is the wiser. 

The music at church yesterday was wonderful. I was one of several musicians who accompanied the choir. All those years of piano lessons were not wasted. The ukulele band played this morning in a hospital lobby for anyone passing by. We have done this before and it's one of my favorite gigs. It's an unexpected bit of cheer where people need it most.

Now I can turn my thoughts to cooking. Our house will be full at Christmas and I'm trying to get a few things ready so that I don't stay in the kitchen the whole time. Tonight I put ham and turkey delights in the freezer. My family loves them. I took a pan to Mommy once when she was in college and her roommates ate them all before she got any! Tonight I made one pan of ham and one pan of turkey. 


These are the rolls I used. There are other brands, but look for something similar.


Assemble the entire thing and then put it back in the pan.
It's easier that way than what you see in the photo.


Once it's back in the pan, cut the individual rolls apart, 
being careful not to cut through the foil pan.


HAM DELIGHTS

1/2 lb. butter, softened
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
3 tablespoons French's mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 small onion, minced
1 lb. ham from deli, shaved (or can use turkey)
7-8 oz. Swiss cheese slices (I used 10 slices for 2 pans of rolls)
2 packages dinner rolls

Mix butter, poppy seeds, mustard, Worcestershire, and onion, blending well. 

Split rolls in half. (I do the whole pan without breaking individual rolls apart.) Spread top and bottom with butter mixture. On bottom half, place ham and cheese. Replace top half of rolls. Put the uncut rolls back into foil pan, then cut individual rolls apart. 

Wrap in heavy duty foil. Bake at 400 degrees and bake for 10 minutes. 


You can make these ahead and refrigerate or freeze them. Be sure to label and date if freezing. 

Each pan makes 12 dozen regular size rolls or you can cut them into 24 appetizer size rolls. 

I think we will have these on Christmas Eve after church. The rest of the menu is yet to be determined, but it all needs to be quick and easy. These definitely fit that bill.


Friday, December 7, 2012

Sounds Of The Season

It's that time of year. When Christmas gets near, it's time for me to practice more. Because I have not blogged in a while, someone emailed yesterday to check on me. Thankfully my absence here has nothing to do with illness. It's because I am spending hours getting ready for the final programs of the year.


Big Christmas music program at church is on Sunday. The best part of being one of the musicians is that I got to hear it in it's entirety on Wednesday at the rehearsal. It is glorious! 


The only time I've spent in the kitchen this week was working on ukulele music. The kitchen is a comfortable place to practice. The Yesterukes (my ukulele band) have two more holiday gigs to go.  Then I'll get back to cooking. And decorating. And wrapping. And ...  Maybe it's best if I don't think too far ahead.


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sweet Treats


This week I'm trying to catch up after weeks of being sick. At the same time, I'm trying not to do too much because I surely don't want a sick "do over." That's most inconvenient right here at the holiday season. Haven't cooked much this week, so I've pulled out a recipe from a past party. You might find it useful during the Christmas season.

I've made these tassies many times. I love them because they are delicious and they look like I've worked much harder than I really did. The above photo is from a bridal shower we hosted a couple of years ago. The tassies are perfect on a holiday buffet table. Or you could wrap a dozen or two in a pretty package for a special gift for a neighbor. And keep the rest for yourself. They are great with a cup of coffee.

The first time I made them was several years ago on a Thanksgiving morning. It was not part of my plan but I had some extra time while waiting for other things to cook. I had the ingredients on hand so decided to try a new recipe while I had some extra minutes. I was thrilled to find out they were as tasty as they were simple to make.

You’ll find the toffee bits next to the chocolate chips in a baking aisle at the grocery store. I also used a couple of those small bags of pecan chips to speed things up. I keep those on hand most of the time.  In fact, most of these things are pantry staples. (Hmmm, wonder if there is such a thing as chocolate toffee bits?)


PECAN TOFFEE TASSIES

1 (15-oz.) package refrigerated pie crusts
¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 (8-oz.) bag Heath toffee bits

Preheat oven to 350°.

Unroll one pie crust onto a lightly floured surface.  Roll into a 15-inch circle.  Cut out circles using a 2-½ inch biscuit cutter, rerolling dough as needed.  Press circles into mini-muffin tins to make crust.  Repeat with other pie crust to make 48 tart shells.

Combine the melted butter, brown sugar, flour, and eggs in a large bowl, mixing well.  Add the vanilla.  Stir in the pecans and toffee bits.  Spoon the pecan filling evenly into the tart shells.

Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until filling is set and crust is lightly browned.  Cool in the pans on wire racks.

As much as I like putting things in the freezer, I did discover these do not freeze well. Tried that once and while they tasted good, the crust lost its crispness when it thawed.