Monday, December 31, 2007
There is a saying that when one door closes, another one opens. Our story today is a wonderful example of that.
We are on winter break and we decided that it would be a good time to start figuring out what kind of kitties we wanted to get. Heaven knows we have to have kitties! We visited two of the local no-kill shelters. We found lots of lovely kitties. Many of whom could have been good additions to our home, but none of them said, "I MUST go home with you." I began to wonder why that was. It seemed odd. I thought maybe I was just not ready to get new kitties yet. We took a break from looking to visit a friend and exchange presents. She owns a farm and has wild life conservancy land. As we were leaving Ethan noticed two kittens huddled in a deep bank of snow along Karen's fence. We got out of the car to check on them. As Ethan picked up one it meowed for the other. They are obviously siblings. They were cold, wet and scared. Our hearts went out to them. We took them into the car to warm them up and get them dry. They were thankful to have been found. It was clear that they were not outdoor or feral cats since they did not know how or where to hide. We were concerned that the kittens had gotten lost so we walked around the neighborhood to try and find their home. After going door to door we found that no one recognized them. One person told us that lots of animals get dumped. People seem to think that any animal knows how to hunt and be safe. After a lot of grappling we decided to take them to the local shelter to see if they had been micro chipped. We wanted to make sure that these beautiful babies got back home. The people at the shelter scanned them and found no microchip. We then had to make a choice. My husband was concerned because we know nothing about them. The kids and I could not stand the idea of putting them in the shelter and we really wanted them. These kitties were the reason we did not respond to the others. We are sure of it.
We took them home. The next step was to see what they thought of Reisha, our Golden Retriever. She was as happy as the rest of us. She smiled and waged her tail. The boy kitten was curious. The girl was not so sure about the dog. A few hours later we let them see each other and were happy to find it was a good match.
The kittens must have been outside for some time. They ate and pooped three times within the first few hours at home. Then they explored every room on our main floor. It was clear by then that they were going to stay. We decided to call the girl Moxy and the boy is Toby.
The kids are sure that they were sent to us by our beloved kitties who have passed away. Toby has many of Winston's unusual behaviors. He drinks, eats and plays like Winston did. Moxy, on the other hand, looks a lot like Winston and acts a bit like Chesterfield did. It seems too much like a coincidence that we needed two kitties and that we found two kitties. In all my years I have not seen kittens in the snow like these were. We are so happy and thankful that this miracle has occurred. As I write this blog entry the kittens are running and playing. They are even including Reisha in the escapades. Don't you think these babies were heaven sent?
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Thursday, December 27, 2007
The day after Christmas cousin Evan came to stay the night. It is really fun getting to spend more than an hour or two with him. He is such a great young man. It is easy love them.
We took Evan, Ethan, Ellie and Christy sledding. Christy was not too sure she wanted to go, but was glad that she did. We found a great place that has a nice bit of hills, but also a reasonable climb back up. Also, the stand of trees just west of it blocks most of the wind. The kids enjoyed sledding for several hours. They sipped on hot mint tea as we drove to Noodles for dinner. It was a lot of fun.
Monday, December 24, 2007
When I was young my mother saved up and took the family to see "The Nutcracker" twice. It was very special for me. Last year I decided that our kids are old enough to appreciate the ballet so I asked my in-laws if we could go together. Every Christmas we see some sort of production and this was just the right one. I could hardly wait for Saturday to arrive. It was a great evening. The dancers, sets, costumes - all of it was amazing! My kids had so much fun. One other neat thing was to see the glass chandelier. We had seen it up close and personal when it was being created in New York. What an amazing thing to see it hanging at the Ellie Calkins Opera House in Denver.
Sunday evening we had dinner with some friends. They made an amazing meal. We had thick and wonderful pork chops that they had marinated in terriyaki sauce over night and grilled. I had no idea they could be so good! There was also a nice almond rice dish and a great vegetable casserole dish. We finished up the meal with a brownie pizza with a brownie base cover with a cream cheese mixture, strawberries, pineapple, blueberries, walnuts and chocolate sauce. As if that was not enough we topped it off with whipped cream. I ate more that evening than I usually do in a entire day. The conversation was fun and petting her many dogs (they breed dogs) was a lot of fun, too.
Today I am finishing up last minute stuff. I've made cheese wafers and the cake for the busche de Noel. Christmas proper gets started this evening.
Broccoli & Carrot Casserole, inspired by Paula Dean of Foodtv.com
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped broccoli & carrots cooked and drained
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup grated Cheeses (sharp & medium cheddar, swiss)
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 cups crushed crackers
4 tablespoons butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13 by 9-inch baking dish with vegetable oil cooking spray.
In a large mixing bowl, combine broccoli & carrots, mayonnaise, cheese, soup and eggs. Mix well with a metal spoon. Mix in 1 cup of crushed crackers and mix again. Place the mixture in the prepared baking dish. Top with the crushed crackers and pour the melted butter evenly over the crackers. Bake for 35 minutes or until set and browned.
1/2 # Swiss Cheese, shredded
1/2 # butter, room temp.
1 1/3 cup Flour (maybe more)
1/4 tea. Pepper
Mix all ingredients together well. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place a mounded tablespoon of mixture on a cookie pan. Test it by cooking one . A good cheese wafer is delicate but cohesive. If it is too lacy add a small bit more flour and mix again. Once it is correct cook the rest, topping with paprika for a nice touch. Keeps well for a few days in an airtight container. These are a nice change from so much sugar.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Sunday dawned on a splendid day full of blue skies and a light, pleasant breeze. My kitchen was clean and my tables were cleared just in time for a few friends to show up to make cookies. Unloading the car was a bit of work as we ended up with three working stations complete with stand mixers, measuring cups and the works. We each made a few different things and then split the goods amongst ourselves. I made the Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars from the recipe I posted about a week ago. Ellie and I made Piazelles together and I made a Dried Cherry Almond Biscotti with White Chocolate coating. Connie made fudge and cookie brittle. Missa made Christmas Cand Cane cookies and Whoopee Pies. It hectic, but also a lot of fun. Missa's recipes came from FoodTV.com so I put up the recipes here. We put some candy canes in the food processor for the topping for the cookies and loved how it came out. They made a terrible racket, but were beautiful. I just had to take a photo before she used them. And the smell was heavenly, too. Her Whoopee Pies were a bit of a challenge, but the result was very tasty. She says she is not too sure she will make them again. They are not the prettiest of cookies, but my mouth sure finds delight in them. My husband loved the cookie brittle that Connie made. It is rather like an extra crispy, buttery chocolate chip cookie. We loved the fudge, too. Here's recipes for you to try.
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate,
chopped 4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup natural cocoa powder, such as Hershey's or Scharffen Berger
1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons fine salt
18 large marshmallows, (not minis)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking sheet.
Put the unsweetened and semisweet chocolates and butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl; heat at 75 percent power until softened, about 2 minutes. Stir, and continue to microwave until completely melted, about 2 minutes more. (Alternatively, put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with an inch or so of water to a very slow simmer; set the bowl over, but not touching the water, and stir occasionally until melted and smooth.)
Whisk the sugar, eggs and vanilla into the chocolate mixture until smooth.
Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt into another bowl. Gradually whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until moistened. Switch to a rubber spatula and finish folding the batter together; take care not to over-mix.
Use a small cookie scoop or spoon to drop a heaping tablespoon of batter onto the prepared pan. Repeat to make 36 cookies, spacing them about 1-inch apart. Bake until the cookies spring back when lightly touched, about 6 minutes.
Cool the cookies slightly. Transfer half of the cookies to a rack. Turn the remaining cookies on the pan over, so they lay flat side up. Place a marshmallow on top of each flipped cookie and return pan to the oven. Cook just until the marshmallow begins to soften and puff, about 3 minutes. Cool marshmallow topped cookies slightly, about 2 minutes. Top with the remaining cookies, pressing lightly to make sandwiches. Cool whoopee pies completely on wire racks. Serve.
Store in tightly sealed container for up to 1 week.
Christmas Candy Cane Cookies
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy canes or hard peppermint candies
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter or margarine, at room temperature
1/2 cup plain or butter-flavored shortening
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon liquid red food coloring
Adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Have ready two ungreased baking sheets. In a small bowl, mix the sugar with the crushed candy; set aside. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer at medium-high speed, beat together the butter, shortening, confectioners' sugar, egg, vanilla, and peppermint extract until light and fluffy, 2 or 3 minutes. With the mixer at medium-low speed, gradually add the flour, beating just until blended. Remove half of the dough from the bowl and set aside on a sheet of waxed paper. To the dough remaining in the bowl, add the red food coloring and beat until evenly colored. (At this point both of the doughs can be tightly wrapped separately in aluminum foil and refrigerated for up to a week or frozen for up to three months. If frozen, thaw in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before proceeding.) For each candy cane, scoop 1 teaspoonful of the plain dough and the same amount of pink dough. Roll each scoop between the palms of your hands to make a 4-inch rope. Twist the ropes together and shape into a candy cane. As they are made, arrange the canes on an ungreased baking sheet, spacing them about 1-inch apart. Bake for about 9 minutes until firm to the touch and barely golden. Reverse the baking sheets on the racks and from front to back once during baking. The moment the cookies come from the oven, sprinkle each one with the sugar-and-peppermint mixture. With a wide turner, immediately transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Store in a tightly covered container, separating the layers with sheets of waxed paper.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Last month my brain was set on fire when I surveyed the Basic Grey November 2007 Newsletter. The first page featured these wonderful blocks that spelled out "Noel." I was on a mission - I wanted to create those blocks for myself. My local stores were out of the specific papers so I had to revision the idea and come up with something slightly new. I found these fun papers in a pad. I decided that I had to have it. I then had my father-in-law make me a mound of wooden blocks. They were a blast to make, but they came out different than I had expected. For one thing these babies are HEAVY. They could hold down your tablecloth in the event that a gale force wind swept through your house. And the took MUCH longer to make than I had expected. But, it was still a lot of fun. I used my Cricut machine to cut out the letters using the "Opposites Attract" cartridge. I used the "George and Basic Shapes" cartridge to cut out the various squares. I figured out four colors for each side and made one large square as well as one small square of each of the colors. I then glued all of the large base colors on each of the sides. While those were in the various stages of drying I cut out the letters and ran them through my Xyron machine so that they would be easy to attach. I then glued on the smaller squares. Lastly I embellished each inner square or letter and put them together. One set went to my Secret Santa at work. Another will go to my friend, Natalie. Hopefully I will get them to her sometime before the holiday is over. If you wanted to make some of these but don't have a father-in-law to make them for you check your local craft store for other options. At Michael's I saw a sheet for something similar that was done on Styrofoam blocks.
Monday, December 10, 2007
It was the last race of the season. And a very important one since it was the 2007 Colorado Cyclocross State Championship.
We had to leave our home around 6:30 in the morning to make it to the race in plenty of time. The roads were not as icy as I thought they might be. The snow began falling on Saturday afternoon and had not stopped. Lyons had about 8" of the soft snow. The kids, especially Ellie, were happy to race in the snow. It is a slower race, but it had its own fun. Ethan says your back tire kind of fish-tails around, making it a very different experience from the usual race. (It is really kind of cool, Mom) If you look at the photo of Ellie here you will see her big smile. I love how she loves to race. Ellie came in 5th in her division and Ethan came in 8th. I was please with those results.
I have mixed feelings about the season being over. I will enjoy not getting up before dawn to make sure we are out of the door and on the road in plenty of time to get registered for the race. I will not miss the squabbles they seem to start as we rush out the door. I will not miss having to unpack a car that looks like a "stuff" bomb went off. (You might be amazed how much gear, food, water bottle, tools, etc. you take to a race.) However, I will miss the opportunity to cheer for my kids and their team mates when they whiz past me. I will miss taking photos of them and being thrilled when I get good ones. I will miss being an active part of this activity. It gives us a way to be focused together. Racing picks back up in March, so we will have to find ways to fulfill those need in another way;.
Friday, December 07, 2007
Now, I need to find two more recipes. Any suggestions?
Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bar Cookie
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter 1/4 cup sugar 1/3 cup cocoa 1 large egg, beaten 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs 1 cup shredded sweetened coconut 1/2 cup finely chopped blanched almonds
Peanut Butter Filling:
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened 1/3 cup peanut butter 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Line an 8 by 8-inch baking pan or casserole with aluminum foil, with long flaps hanging over each edge.
For the cookie:
Put the butter in a heatproof medium bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with an inch or so of water to a very slow simmer over medium-low heat. Set the bowl over, but not touching, the water. Once the butter is melted, add the sugar and cocoa, and stir to combine. Add the egg and cook, stirring constantly with a whisk, until warm to the touch and slightly thickened (it should be about the consistency of hot fudge), about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in graham crumbs, coconut and nuts. Press the dough firmly into the prepared pan. (Save the pan of water for melting the chocolate.)
For the filling:
Beat the butter, peanut butter and confectioners' sugar together in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until light. Spread over the cookie and freeze while you prepare the chocolate glaze.
For the glaze:
Put the chocolate and butter in a medium heatproof bowl, and set over the barely simmering water. Stir occasionally until melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. (Alternatively, put the chocolate and butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Melt at 50 percent power in the microwave until soft, about 1 minute. Stir, and continue to heat until completely melted, about 1 minute more.). When cool but still runny, pour the chocolate layer over the chilled peanut butter layer and carefully smooth out with an offset spatula. Freeze 30 minutes.
To serve, remove from the freezer and let sit at room temperature for 5 minutes. Pull out of the pan using the foil flaps and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 1-inch squares with a sharp knife. Serve cool or at room temperature.
Busy baker's tips: Finished bars can be wrapped in the pan in plastic wrap, then aluminum foil and frozen for up to 1 month.
Nanaimo Bar Recipe - Traditional
½ cup unsalted butter (European style cultured)
¼ cup sugar
5 tbsp. cocoa1 egg beaten
1 ¼ cups graham wafer crumbs
½ c. finely chopped almonds
1 cup coconut
Melt first 3 ingredients in top of double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, coconut, and nuts. Press firmly into an ungreased 8" x 8" pan.
½ cup unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. and 2 Tsp. cream
2 Tbsp. vanilla custard powder
2 cups icing sugar
Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light. Spread over bottom layer.
4 squares semi-sweet chocolate (1 oz. each)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Melt chocolate and butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, but still liquid, pour over second layer and chill in refrigerator.
Orange Nanaimo Bars Recipe
2 cups Graham wafer crumbs1 cup Coconut, unsweetened, flaked1/2 cup Pecans; toasted, chopped2/3 cup Butter1/3 cup Cocoa powder; unsweetened sifted1/4 cup Sugar, granulated1 Egg; beaten
Grand Marnier Layer
2 cups Icing Sugar1/4 cup Butter; softened1/4 cup Grand Marnier;or orange liqueur1 tablespoon Orange rind; coarsely grated
1 tablespoon Butter4 ounces Semisweet chocolate; melted
In bowl, stir together crumbs, coconut and pecans. In small saucepan, gently heat butter, cocoa and sugar until butter melts. Remove from heat; whisk in egg. Blend into crumb mixture. Press into greased 9 inch square cake pan. Bake in 350F oven for 10 minutes. Let cool on rack.
Grand Marnier Layer: In bowl, place half of icing sugar with butter, mix in half of the icing sugar with butter; mix in Grand Marnier, remaining icing sugar and orange rind. Spread over base.
Chocolate Topping: Stir butter into chocolate until melted; spread evenly over Grand Marnier layer. Let cool for 20 minutes in refrigerator; cut into bars. (Bars can be covered, refrigerated up to 2 weeks, or frozen up to 2 months. Let soften slightly before serving.
Cherry Almond Nanaimo Bars
From Canadian Living Magazine, September 1988, adapted from the Captain Kennedy Tea House Cookbook, by the Captain Kennedy Tea House in Lockport, Manitoba.
1/2 c. butter
1/3 c. cocoa
1/4 c. sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 c. graham cracker crumbs
1 cup dessicated coconut
1/2 c. chopped almonds, toasted
In heavy saucepan over low heat, cook butter, sugar and egg until thickened and smooth, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. (or, in microwave-safe bowl, cook same ingredients, whisking every 30 seconds, at 50% until thickened and smooth, about 3 minutes) Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Add graham cracker crumbs, coconut and almonds. Pat firmly and evenly into greased 9" square pan. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
2 c. sifted icing sugar
1/4 c. butter, softened
2 tbsp. maraschino cherry juice
1/4 tsp. almond extract
1/3 c. chopped maraschino cherries
In bowl, using electric mixer, beat together icing sugar, butter, cherry juice and almond extract until smooth. Stir in cherries. Spread over bottom layer. Cover and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.
4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
2 tbsp. butter
In top of double boiler over hot not boiling water, melt chocolate with butter, stirring until smooth. (or melt chocolate with butter in microwave at 50% for 3 minutes, stirring once) Spread over filling. Cover and refrigerate until set, about 1 hour. Bars can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks or frozen several months if well wrapped.
Our local library rocks! They offer fun, free classes. The most recent one we attended was the Tanabata Star Streamer class. It is a Japanese decoration that is part of a festival in July. They did it now because they are nice decorations. They connect to a story about a princess who is a good weaver and her lover turned husband who is a Shepard. The king allows them to marry, but then the lovers become engrossed in their love and forgo their daily duties. The king then split them up and allowed them to only see each other one day a year. They then became a star and the Milky Way in the sky. The folded umbrellas represent the stars. At the bottom of the streamer is a small banner on which you write a wish.
The Star Streamers look better in person than they do here in the photos. You make an uneven number of the little umbrellas which are created with a simple origami fold from squares of paper. You separate the umbrellas with beads. We used tube beads and pony beads. At the end you put little streamers with a message or a wish written on it. You can see some awesome photos of the real deal here.
They were an absolute blast to make. I love how Ethan's streamer with the wooden beads came out. His paper squares were cut from ads in a magazine. The print is very suited to the craft. I would like to try and make some of these with my students.
Next up, my Secret Santa crafts. I hope she loves what I made for her.