Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Thrifty and Crafty

This will be my only attempt at a holiday craft this year, but I kinda like how it turned out. 

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It took about 5 minutes and cost under $5 because I already had a few of my own added embellishments.

The fresh wreath with a few embellishments already on it was on sale at Costco for $4.00 (and hidden way in a back corner – maybe left to die?).  I had four red candles so I added those and then I filled a glass bowl with a few green sprigs from the yard (one of the reasons to live in the Pacific Northwest around Christmas time!), added some frozen cranberries, water, and a floating candle.

Now I’m just waiting for the Christmas spirit to come upon me………….

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

File this under “Strange Coincidences”

Shasta’s collar has been missing for a few days now.  I’ve looked everywhere she and Quinn normally play, assuming that it got pulled off during some especially vigorous roughhousing.  But it’s nowhere to be found.

This morning, as I was tidying up some boxes that have been sitting on the deck for a few months gathering water (and, lately, ice), I noticed something shiny at the very bottom of the box.  I dug around and there, encased in a mixture of mud and ice was a red collar with a brass dog tag and two rabies tags… exactly what we’d been missing!

I brought the collar into the house, filled the sink with warm, soapy water, and began to scrub the collar that had gotten exceptionally muddy and dirty in the matter of just a few day.  And hey – how did it get there, anyway?  Shasta and Quinn play on the deck, but how did Shasta’s collar find its way to the very bottom of a box that was off in the corner?

No matter, I thought.  It’s just good that it’s finally been found after a week.  I’ll wash it off, dry it, and put it back on Shasta, who will surely be happy to have her familiar collar back. 

I reached into the water and pulled out the collar, ready to give it a good scrubbing, and this is what I saw:

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Sweet Tahoe!

Tahoe was our first Golden Retriever, who died suddenly at the age of 14 on Christmas Day, 2004 (the same year that my mom died on Easter morning).

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Sweet, sweet, well-behaved Tahoe! 

Just… things that make you go “hmmm.” And break your heart a little bit.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Let’s say you were a fly on the wall at our Thanksgiving celebration…

This is what you’d have seen:

The table was set by Tuesday.  I’ve learned my lesson on this one: if you wait till Thanksgiving day to set it, you’ll be scrambling for silverware, not to mention glasses and plates!

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Also completed ahead of time  -- this year, at least -- was all food except the turkey, the stuffing, and the gravy – which Tom (turkey and stuffing) and Peter (gravy) are responsible for.

I only captured some of the cooking in photos.  Ulli’s yeast rolls: (The link is to my Thanksgiving menu/recipe post)

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Creamed onions:

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Mashed potatoes:

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And Tom’s signature stuffing, which takes most of the day to make:

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But really, the day is about the people. 

First to arrive was Elisabeth and Danny.  Look at the beautiful flowers Danny brought!

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Kat and Josh brought delicious hors deurves:

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Look at that veggie tray.  See the turkey?  And that cranberry dish that they made up… who knew that cranberries, cilantro, and cream cheese tasted so good together?!

I love this photo of my girls and their guys:

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And this one of Josh tasting his first radish! It was not a real big hit.

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Pretty soon there was a whole gaggle of people at our house!  (Yes, “gaggle” is a Thanksgiving-specific term.  It’s a gobble-gaggle.)

Carrie and Noah, friends of Elisabeth’s, spend Thanksgiving with us each year. It’s always great to see them!

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In addition to eleven people, there were three dogs.

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(Or make that two dogs and a horse?!)

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…and one very spoiled kitty:

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It was great to finally have enough room in the kitchen to actually visit!

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Josh, who works at Microsoft, brought his Kinect.  What a blast THAT was!

Elisabeth and Kat dance to “Toxic.”

Just before we ate, Carrie snapped our obligatory annual family shot:

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Time to eat! Look at all this delicious food!

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We are all truly thankful!

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Hope you had a great Thanksgiving.  Happy leftover day!

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bring on the giving of thanks!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday for a multitude of reasons, among them:

  1. It’s pretty hard to commercialize a holiday that centers on family, friends, and food – which means that companies and corporations have a hard time monetizing  it.
  2. There’s no religious component to it – which means that there’s no “reason-for-the-season” stuff that tends to divide people along philosophical/religious lines. If you believe in good food, friendship, and gratitude you pretty much believe in Thanksgiving!
  3. There’s nothing quite like a “tryptophan afterglow.” (Damn Black Friday for messing with this!)
  4. The colors of the season are just so beautiful.
  5. You don’t have to cook dinner for at least a few days afterwards. (And I’ll be damned if I’m cooking tonight!)
  6. The house smells amazing all day.
  7. It means that my birthday is imminent (though it never falls on Thanksgiving).  That’s not such a big deal now, but it used to be.

Because I’m not working now, I’ve been able to get a lot done before anyone shows up.  Tom is responsible for the turkey, stuffing, and gravy, so tomorrow will be busy for him, but other than making the mashed potatoes and green bean casserole, my job is done.

I even set the table using Mom’s Rosenthal dishes! And having a gorgeous new kitchen helps a lot too.  All six of us will be here, of course, and we’ll also be joined by Kat’s boyfriend Josh, as well as by at least two (and possibly four) of Elisabeth’s friends whose families live on the East Coast.  This is when it’s hard being so far away from our parents and siblings, but we make do and enjoy the day.  My dad and Lou were supposed to join us, but my dad is still recovering from open heart surgery so there was just no way.

Bring on the day!

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Monday, November 21, 2011

There’s something I need to tell you

I can’t type with 10 fingers.  Never could.  I type with two or three fingers.  And I’m lightning fast!  But still…

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I enrolled in a typing class during senior year in high school (no second grade keyboarding classes for us back then), but ultimately dropped it because it was offered first period and I didn’t have another class till noon. And because I had no plans to become a secretary, which was the only reason to take typing back then, I figured it would never be an issue.

Oh, how dismally wrong I was!  I have always been a writer.  Now I’m also a social media fanatic, a blogger, a business owner, and an all-day typist.  There’s simply no excuse anymore!

Those last three short paragraphs have taken me about five minutes each to type. Why? Because Peter is standing over me, forcing me to type without looking at the keyboard. 

“For how much you type every day, Mom, you really should learn to type!” he insists.  And he’s right.  So the next few weeks are going to be extremely frustrating for me, as I learn to slow down, re-map my brain, and actually learn to use the keyboard correctly. 

Be patient with me!

(That’s the longest it’s ever taken for me to write any blog post!)

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

My annual Thanksgiving menu, shopping list and recipe post

With love, again!

For a few years now, I've been slowly committing our family's Thanksgiving menu, shopping list and recipes to "paper." It's been a slow process but, by jove, I think I might have it just about finished this year.

I've learned through experience that families often assume that favorite recipes will somehow be passed on through the generation -- but if no one takes responsibility to actually document those recipes, they can easily get lost over time. My father knew this and documented Mom's fingergolatschen and zimptsterne Christmas cookie recipes, but I know that many more recipes could easily get lost if we don't make a concerted effort to document them.

And hey -- why not share the joy?

So, from our family to yours…

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…here's our Thanksgiving dinner, presented as a series of lists -- menu, shopping and recipe how-to's. But within this simple list are memories, laughter, joy, and some amazingly wonderful family memories. Some of these recipes, such as the creamed onions and the green bean casserole, can be found pretty much anywhere. But some of the recipes, like my aunt Ulli's rolls (warning: they take all day to make!), Nana's pumpkin chiffon pie or Omi's raspberry cheescake, are dearly beloved and coveted recipes that have been passed on in the family for over 50 years.

Tom's delicious stuffing is absolutely adored by both sides of the family, but when I asked him to sit across from me and recite how he makes it (my mouth is watering as I type this!), his attitude was much like Mom's attitude about both cooking and learning German: "Das fuehlt man!" ("one just has a feel for it!"). "Just use what's around," he says. That's hard to put in a list, but take note!

So from our house to yours, Happy Thanksgiving week! ENJOY!

(Please excuse inconsistencies, formatting issues, typos, etc. This is NOT a professional document! Also, I adore linky-love, so feel free to share this post with your family and friends, but please respect the spirit with which it was posted and only share it with people you know.)

Our Thanksgiving Menu, Shopping List & Recipes

(Serves 10 – 20 people)

Menu:

  • Hors D’eurves (Apricot brie & crackers, veggies & dip)
  • Turkey (and Tofurkey)
  • Tom’s Stuffing
  • Gravy
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Ulli’s Rolls
  • Creamed Onions
  • Betty’s Cranberry Mold
  • Suzie’s Caramelized Walnut and Pear Salad
  • Nana’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
  • Omi’s Raspberry Cheesecake


Shopping List:

Meat:

  • Turkey
  • Tofurkey for vegetarians

Produce:

  • Apples (2 - 3)
  • Orange (1 - 2)
  • Potatoes (1 sm. bag Yukon Gold)
  • Baby Greens (2 bags)
  • Green Onions (1 bunch)
  • Yellow Sweet Onions (3 large)
  • Cranberries (2 bags)
  • Celery (1bunch)
  • Baby carrots (1 bag)
  • Cauliflower (1/2 head)
  • Radishes (1 bunch)
  • Pea pods (some)
  • Cucumber
  • Lemons (1 - 2)
  • Baby pearl/white onions (2 pounds)
  • Fresh garlic (lots!)

Dairy:

  • ½ & ½ (1 quart)
  • Whole milk (1/2 gallon)
  • Butter (2 - 3 pounds)
  • Sour Cream (1-2 quarts)
  • Eggs (1 - 2 dozen)
  • Whipping cream (1 qt)
  • Brie with apricots (sold as a package)
  • Cream cheese (1.5 pounds)

Dry, Canned and Packaged:

  • Crackers for Brie (2 boxes)
  • Graham crackers or graham cracker crumbs (2 - 3 boxes)
  • Turkey stock (1 large can)
  • Onion Soup mix (1 box)
  • Olives (1 can)
  • Water Chestnuts (1 can)
  • French friend onion toppers (1 can)
  • Mushroom soup (2 cans)
  • Unflavored gelatin (2 envelopes)
  • Canned pumpkin (2 large cans)
  • Dark brown sugar (1 -2 boxes)
  • Raspberry Jello (1 large box)
  • Flour
  • Wondra flour
  • Pears (1 reg can, or better yet, fresh)
  • Craisins (1 package)
  • Raspberry dressing
  • Granulated sugar
  • Corn starch
  • Yeast (fresh?)
  • Raisins

Breads:

  • Pumpernickel
  • Sourdough
  • Cornbread
  • Other breads for stuffing, as desired
  • Bread crumbs (1/2 c at most) for creamed onions

Herbs, Spices & Nuts:

  • Chopped walnuts (1 bag)
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger
  • Allspice
  • Garlic
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Sage
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Bay leaves
  • Salt (including sea salt) & pepper
  • Juniper berries
  • Vanilla

Frozen:

  • French Green Beans (2 bags)
  • Raspberries (2 bags)

Liquor:

  • Red & white wine
  • Beer
  • Sherry
  • Etc!

Other Liquids & Drinks

  • Coffee beans (regular and decaf)
  • Sparkling cider
  • Pop/Soda
  • Juice
  • Bottled Water
  • Chicken broth (you can hardly have too much!)
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Soy sauce
  • Olive oil

(This year I want to add this to the hors deurves:)

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Recipes:

Brining & Cooking the Turkey:

Brine: Use any aromatic spice or herb you like: rosemary leaves, bay leaves, sea salt, dried apples, juniper berries, lemon peel, garlic, rosemary, thyme, black pepper, and bay leaf. On Tuesday night, soak rinsed turkey in bring ingredients, mixed with water in an ice chest, cover for 24 hours.

Turkey: ½ to 1 pound per person, cook as directed after brining.

Tom’stuffing:

Combine dry ingredients: Pumpernickle, sourdough, & corn bread, cubed and dried.

Combine: Sliced black olives, celery, cubed apple, raisins, Craisins, walnuts (if desired), water chestnuts.

Combine: chicken broth, red wine, soy sauce, garlic, onions, Worcestershire, at least 1 stick butter, thyme, oregano, rosemary, sage, basil, salt and pepper to taste (be careful with salt!), olive oil, etc per “feel” (das fuhlt man!”).

Mix together in big VAT until it feels right. Loosely stuff some into turkey and put remainder in casserole dish. Bake till done.

Gravy:
Pan drippings
Wondra flour
Chicken broth

Use the pan that the turkey cooked in. Drain excess fat. Place pan over two burners, set on very low heat. Slowly (very slowly!) add Wondra to soak up pan drippings, scraping drippings from side. Slowly add chicken broth as needed to add volume, keeping the gravy thick. (Warning: It’ll thicken further, even after removed from heat.)

Mashed Potatoes:

(12 servings)

  • 5 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
  • 2 (3 ounce) packages cream cheese
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cube butter, softened
  • 2 teaspoons onion salt
  • ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

Place potatoes in a large pot of lightly salted water. Bring to a boil, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes.

Drain, and mash.

In a large bowl, mix mashed potatoes, cream cheese, butter sour cream, milk, onion salt, and pepper. Transfer to a large casserole dish. Store in fridge a few days, if desired.

Let stand at room temperature, 30 minutes. Cover, and bake for 50 minutes in the preheated oven.

Green Bean Casserole:

  • 1 can (10 3/4 ounces) condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 4 cups cooked green beans
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 1/3 cups French fried onions

Mix soup, milk and pepper in a 1 1/2-quart casserole dish. Stir in beans and 2/3 cup of the fried onions. Bake for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees F. Top with the remaining 2/3 cup fried onions and bake about 5 more minutes, until onions are lightly browned.
Serves 6.

Ulli’s Rolls:

  • 2 cups milk, scalded and cooled
  • 1/4 cup butter, dissolved in hot milk
  • 2 cakes fresh yeast, dissolved in 1 T lukewarm water
  • 1 T sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 4-3/4 cups flour

Beat the eggs, add sugar and salt. To beaten eggs and

sugar add milk mixture and dissolved yeast. Then add the

flour. Beat well. It will not be a very firm dough. Let

rise. To make the rolls, you have to keep your hands

well floured, or the dough will stick badly. Pinch off

pieces of dough, roll into a ball, roll in melted butter

and arrange in angel food pan. Let rise. Bake at 400°

for 30-45 minutes.

To serve, invert the angel food pan onto a platter. The

rolls can easily be broken off.

Creamed Onions:

  • 1 pound small white onions
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup heavy or whipping cream
  • chicken broth, milk, or onion cooking liquid to thin sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • Splash of sherry

Peel the onions. Cook in about 3/4 cup water until tender. Make white sauce. Melt butter in saucepan over medium low heat then stir in flour; gradually add cream and sherry, stirring constantly until thickened and bubbly. Cover with bread crumbs, if desired.

Betty’s Cranberry Mold:

  • 1 large raspberry or cherry Jello

Make Jello according to directions - add 3/4 cup sugar.

When Jello is half set, mix in:

  • 2 cups cranberries - raw and chopped
  • 1 small orange
  • 1 apple, chopped

Fill into oiled mold, refrigerate.

Suzie’s Caramelized Walnut and Pear Salad

(4 servings)
6 cups mixed baby greens/Romaine mix
1 cup Caramelized Walnuts (recipe below)
1 cup crumbled bleu cheese
2 pears, cut in 1/4-inch dice
1 cup thin strips of red bell pepper
1/2 cup Raspberry Vinaigrette
Pear slices and julienne red peppers, to garnish
In a large bowl, toss together the greens, walnuts, bleu cheese, pears
and red pepper in the Champagne Vinaigrette. Place mixture in a salad
bowl, then garnish with red peppers and slices of pear
Caramelized Walnuts
1/2 pound walnuts, about 1 3/4 cups
1 egg white
1/3 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 350º. Mix walnuts, egg white and sugar together in a
medium bowl. Place on sheet pan and bake at 350º degrees for 15 to 20
minutes. Let cool, then break into pieces if necessary.

Nana’s Pumpkin Chiffon Pie:

  • 10” pie shell (see ingredients below)
  • ¾ c milk
  • 2 ¼ c canned pumpkin
  • 1 ½ c brown sugar
  • 1/8 t salt
  • ¾ t ginger
  • ¾ t cinnamon
  • 1/3 t nutmeg
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 1/3 c cold water
  • 1 ½ cups cream
  • ¾ t orange rind
  • 1/3 c sugar

CRUST (per crust):

  • 1 ½ c graham cracker crumbs
  • ¼ c sugar
  • ½ c melted butter
  • 1/3 t cinammon

Combine ingredients and bake for 5 minutes at 350 degrees.

Heat milk, pumpkin, sugar, salt and spices together over medium to low heat. Dissolve gelatin in cold water. Separate egg yolks from egg whites. Beat egg yolks and add to heated mixture, which is still over low heat. Heat until thickened. Remove mixture from heat and add softened gelatin. Cool mixture until further thickened. Whip cream and slowly add orange rind to cream. Chill.

While both mixtures chill separately beat egg whites and slowly add sugar until peaks form. Remove both pumpkin mixture and whipped cream from fridge and gently fold all three mixtures (pumpkin, whipped cream and egg white) together. Pour into baked pie crust(s) and chill.


Omi’s Raspberry Cheesecake:

  • 1 3/4 c. graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/3 c. butter, melted (the original recipe calls for margarine)
  • 1 1/4c. sugar, divided
  • 24 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract (I use 3)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 c. dairy sour cream

Combine crumbs, butter and 1/4 c. sugar. Press on bottom and 1 1/2 inches up side of 8 or 9 inch spring-form pan; set aside.

With electric mixer on high beat cream cheese, remaining sugar, and vanilla until creamy (this is a great time to taste it too

Beat in eggs, one at a time. Blend in sour cream. Spread in prepared pan.

Bake at 350* for 60-70 minutes, or until center is set. Turn off oven, leave door slightly ajar. Leave cheesecake in oven 1 hour to prevent it from falling to much. remove from oven and cool completely. Pour raspberry sauce on top!

Raspberry sauce:

  • 1 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp. corn starch
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • frozen raspberries

Cook all together.

Pour onto cooled cheesecake.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

Breakfast muffins

I’ve been a bit (understatement) of a Pinterest groupie lately.  If you haven’t explored that site, stand warned: it’s addictive.  “Nuff said!

This morning I made these breakfast muffins and all I can say is “Yum!”

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I hardly even need to provide you with a recipe or instructions because the photos make it pretty obvious.  Suffice it to say that you’ll be chopping up fresh veggies and  herbs (and anything else that you’d normally put into an omelet), putting them into greased cupcake tins, covering them with grated cheese, pouring raw beaten eggs over it all, topping each with more grated cheese, and baking in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.

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That’s it.  Easy enough?

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