Saturday, January 30, 2010

California Dreaming - a New Photoalbum

I've been working on making a photoalbum of the trip that Ellie, Anna and Christy took last year for Spring Break:

I can't wait to see how it looks. Shutterfly does and awesome job of making full color custom photoalbums for a reasonable price.
Thanks for stopping by for a look. I hope you enjoyed it.

A few design notes:
Fonts include Burton's Nightmare, Peas Lovey-Dovey (from Kevin and Amanda)and Bleeding Cowboy.

Friday, January 29, 2010

A Crafty Valentine Get Together

I love making things. Sometimes it is even better with friends. That was certainly the case last night when my dear friends Laura and Connie came over with their daughters Anna and Christy. It was so nice to come home after an extra long day to a potluck meal of succulent ribs, beans, potato salad and a great rice dish.
That was followed up with the candle decorating craft that I blogged about yesterday. It was such fun to see what everyone came up with. What I thought they would be like, and how they actually came out were wonderfully different.

I had set up the art room table with lots of goodies. I had a ton of self adhesive bling in many colors and sizes. I had lovely scrapbooking papers, paper flowers, colored floss, brads... you get the idea. I also had another craft that we never even got to. I had also purchased a bunch of the new flameless candles. It was inspiring to see it all set out.

The girls gobbled up dinner, grabbed a bunch of art stuff and holed up in Ellie's room. I would have loved to hear their happy chatter as they crafted, but I know they had a lot of fun on their own upstairs. Their candles were so very different and really lovely. They totally blinged out their candles. Good thing I happened to have lots of the rhinestones.

Laura, Connie and I went more along the lines of where I expected us to go, but have very different results. They both thought it was possibly the best crafting they've done at my house so far. Here's what we created:

Finally, here's a bit of fun for the day -

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How about a Bit of Artsy Inspiration? Plus, a Little Recipe

I love a good, artsy movie. Usually they are a little obscure and demand your full attention. When my husband calls me up and says, "We should see this today." I make sure to pay attention. Last night was such the case. We went to see "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassas"

Here's a wonderful example of the power of cut paper animation. It is by Andersen M Studio for the New Zealand Book Council:

How about another one they made for Nokia?

This evening we are getting ready to have a few friends over to do a bit of light Valentine crafting. Here's a great project that I found at the Artful Crafter:

We're going to make a few of those and have a nice potluck dinner. In trying to keep with their food allergies I made a variation on Kheer with Almonds for dessert.

Kheer with Almonds

3-4 cups Milk (you may replace 1-2 cups of the milk with water, if you like)
1 cup Basamati Rice,cooked
1 cup Sweetened Condensed Milk (You may replace this with Coconut milk, if you like)
1/2 cup Sugar
3 TBL. Raisins
3 TBL. Almonds
3 TBL. Pistachios (I didn't have any of these)
1 tea. Cardamon, powdered
(1/4 tea Almond Extract)

In a medium pan warm up the milk and add in the rice. Stir often to prevent burning. Slowly incorporate the sweetened condensed milk and/or coconut milk. Next, add in the sugar. Follow this with the raisins and the nuts. Taste it for flavor. My son wanted more almond flavor so I added a wee bit of almond extract. You can serve this as a drink warm or cold. I cooked it longer to allow it to thicken slightly. You may also increase the amounts of rice, raisin and nuts to meet your taste. Garnish with cinnamon and a few nuts placed decoratively on top.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A Lovely Tea Party

It all started with a blue, or rather teal, dress that Grandma Gay gave Ellie. She's sifted from large sports jerseys to more fitted clothing. She even likes dresses.
Along with that came the desire for a tea party, principally for the occasion to dress up. Only, the dress shifted. The teal one is a tad too large, and much fancier than the ones the other girls wanted to wear. It shifted to a cute summer dress in the cold of January. Ellie had a vision of what she wanted so we, or rather I, set to work on Friday night. First up were the petit fores (some call then petit fours). After doing a lot of research I settled on an unconventional choice - a pound cake with fruit filling. Next up, I made candy roses from Starburst candy. I used some of the royal icing from that project to make decorated sugar cubes. Now, you might be sayin' to yourself, decorated sugar cubes? isn't that a bit much? If I were reading this, I might be saying the same thing. I saw some in the tea shop I stopped by when I thought I'd have to go there to get the sugar cubes. They were so cute, so expensive (15 decorated cubes for $11.95) and so do-able. Ellie said that Christy is crazy for sugar cubes, so they were a must-have, too.
Finally, were the sandwiches. I was going to make very traditional British ones, but the girls asked for ham and Swiss, as well as a Peanut Butter and Jelly.

We pulled out some of my fun serving items, packed them up and went to Christy's house for the party. The kids were there and excited. They dove into the food and enjoyed nearly all of it. Then the itch to be a kid took over. Jeans were pulled on under the dresses and they headed out to play on the trampoline.

Ellie was very happy with how it all came out. She say, "Mama, thanks for doing that for me. It was even prettier than I thought I would be. I love you." You can get a better reception than that.

Here's the recipes in the event that you want to put a tea party on too:

Chef Heather Hurlbert's Magnificent Moist Whipped Cream Pound Cake
(From Bakewise by Shirley Corriher)

** This is a truly fabulous recipe. It may even be my favorite cake recipe.)

2 TBL. each Flour and Butter to prepare the pans

2 cups Butter, unsalted, at room temperature and cut into smallish chunks
2 3/4 cups Sugar
1 TBL Vanilla Extract
6 Eggs, large, at room temperature
2 3/4 cups Flour, all purpose, spooned and leveled
1/2 cup Heavy Cream, whipped
(2 cups Blueberries - I did not use these for this go round.)

(** I jar nice fruit jam - I used raspberry - for the filling**)

For a regular pound cake you would butter and flour a 12 cup Bundt pan (or two- three loaf pans). For my purpose I made a half recipe, cooking them in loaf pans that were lined with no-stick foil.

Arrange a shelf in the lower third of your oven and preheat it to 350 degrees.

With the mixer on medium, beat the butter to soften it. Add the sugar and continue to beat/cream until it is light and fluffy, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl at least once. While creaming, feel the outside of the bowl. If it is not cool, place it in the freezer for 5 minutes to cool it down.

Beat in the vanilla. On the lowest speed, beat in the eggs one at a time.

Add the flour in several batches, mixing until just blended.

Stir 1/4 of the whipped cream into the batter. Gently fold in the rest, being careful to not pop many of the bubbles in the whipped cream. If using, fold in the berries. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Place the cake in the oven and cook until a toothpick inserted comes out moist but without crumbs, 50-60 minutes for the Bundt cake, 20-30 minutes for smaller pans. Place the cake in the pan on a cooling rack for at least ten minutes to cool.

*** From here I removed the cake, cut it into 1" slices. I then used a square fondant cutter from Wilton (a cookie cutter would work, too)to cut out the small cakes. While the cake was baking I placed the jam in a sauce pan with 2 TBL of water and warmed it up to make it easy to spread. I then spread a small, even layer of the jam on half of the cake squares and placed another bit of cake on top of that.***

Lovely Glaze - From Martha Stewart
Makes enough for 32 petits fours

* 9 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
* 1/2 cup light corn syrup
* 1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
* 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
* Gel food coloring, in desired colors


** Be sure to take the time to sift the powdered sugar to reduce or eliminate lumps in your glaze. Also, be very careful to not stir too quickly or too hard. This may cause bubbles in your glaze. This is a job for your spatula in hand, not your mixer! I used half a recipe. ***

1. In a heatproof bowl set over (but not touching) simmering water, mix sugar, corn syrup, 1/2 cup water, vanilla and almond extracts together until they are warm, well combined, and smooth. Stir in enough food coloring until desired color is reached. Do not overheat. Let cool about 8 minutes before pouring.

Candy Flowers

Starburst Candy or Laffy Taffy (I used 2 pks. for 22 petit fores)

Unwrap the candy. Soften it in the microwave. I needed to heat the red and orange candies for 12 seconds while the lighter colors only needed abut 8 seconds.

While the candies are warm, place them on a piece of waxed paper and use a rolling pin to flatten them. Then use scissors to cut them into long strips. Roll then up loosely, using your fingers to form petal. Be sure to curve some of them outward.

Attach them to the petit fores with royal icing.

Royal Icing (made with real egg whites) from The Joy of Baking

2 large egg whites

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

3 cups (330 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted

For Royal Icing with Egg Whites: In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the egg whites with the lemon juice. Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined and smooth. The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air. Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.

*Note: You can also buy meringue powder if you would like to avoid the raw egg issue.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Buried Treasure of a Literal and Metaphorical Kind

(Pictures to come soon)
One of the great joys of being a parent is watching our kids grow up and become their own person. We revel in their new developments. If you read any of the blogs written by parents of younger children, you will see that. There is a wonderful video of a cute girl nearly ready to walk. There is an account of the first words another sweetie is beginning to learn to utter. The joys you find when you are raising teenagers is quite different. In an amongst the angst, the bad moods caused by lack of sleep and/or eating poorly, are glimmers of the wonderful person you see forming before you. Those glimmers give you a window into what has been significant to them in their young lives.

I got such a wonderful glimmer, this time an extended one, earlier this week. And I'll tell you, it warms my heart! The school my kids go to is very different from a traditional school. It is a k-12 setting where the kids of all ages have a chance to mingle and interact. When Ethan was younger he would take delight when the older, cool kids took time to create some fun activity for them. Often it would involve some sort of finding of a treasure or winning a contest. My son, the lover of digging and orchestrating people, put together a treasure hunt for the little kids and he made it worth their while. He placed six dollars worth of coins in a really neat, old cigar box. He then sealed it with wax, tied it with ribbon and sealed that, complete with an ornamental bit of glass. This was then secretly buried in the sandbox in the school yard. The pit was about 3'or 4' deep. He gathered the kids who wanted to take part, encouraged them to work in team and gave them a set of hints. Most kids worked at it from time to time. Others devised a strategy for their attack. He rewarded the hardest, most diligent workers with more refined hints. In the end there were just a few who persisted. They worked well, figuring out who would dig when, how they would split the booty. It was pretty impressive. One of the little girls had even dug wholes right next to where the treasure was hidden. Finally, Ethan gave her a much stronger hint. You can imagine how excited they were when she hit the bricks that covered the box of treasure. You can imagine his sense of joy and satisfaction when he got to witness their success. Even those who did not find the box had a grand time. Ethan had spent the day outside, making sure that it was safe and fun. I love the fact that he would, of his own accord, spend his energy and thoughts on such an endeavor. Perhaps this act of kindness that he has shared with these little kids will be played forward by them in the future. I love that he has this kind of action in him. While he created a treasure for them, he also found one within himself.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Of Harry, of Princes and a Touch of Butter Beer

We've been on a movie jag of late. Last week we watched the Lord of the Rings movies, starting with the last one and working towards to the first one. Last night we watched "Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince".

I made popcorn and butter beer for the occasion.

Butter Beer

1 can Cream Soda (about 1.5 cups)
1/4 cup Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/4 Butterscotch Topping for Ice Cream
2 TBL. Butter, melted

Warm up the soda in a sauce pan with ample room as it will foam more as it heats. Stir in the milk and the butterscotch. Once these are incorporated stir in the butter. Serve warm

Serves 2

Monday, January 18, 2010

Scrapin' California and Cooking Up Some Chicken

I think it is kind of funny how many of us can be motivated by a coupon or a gift card. I recently received a free book coupon from Shutterfly, my favorite personal photobook printer and it has sent me into a creative spin. At first I was going to try their new simple path series. However, while the page backgrounds were beautiful, I could not control the placement of the photos and text enough to be happy with it, so I am creating them in Photoshop. I have the first two done, but I might yet change out the backgrounds. Those were based on the simple path pages I was hoping to coordinate with.

The girls had such fun. I want to capture that. I find it a challenge to work with photos that they took. It helps me see how much framing and composing I do in my head.

About a week ago my friend Laura gave me a huge bag of chicken thighs. I've been making yummy dishes with it all week long. Here are two you might like:

Honey Mustard Chicken
from Aunt Lynne

2 TBl. Butter
4-6 Chicken Breasts (I used 8 chicken thighs)
1/2 cup Apple Juice (Aunt Lynne buys a small amount in the baby food section of the grocery store)
3 TBL. Honey Mustard (I often substitute 3 TBL. Dijon Mustard mixed with 1 TBL. Honey)
3 TBL. Peanuts, finely chopped for topping (optional)
3-4 TBL. Flour
1-1.5 cup Chicken Broth to extend the gravy

Saute the chicken in the butter. When they are nearly done add in the apple juice and the mustard. Mix well. Cover and let it cook until it is done. Add in the chicken broth. Mix the flour with a small bit of cold water. Add this to the gravy and stir. Add more if it does not thicken enough.

This is a very fast dinner. I can usually get it on the table in under 30 minutes.


Chutney Chicken

1 bottle Chutney (I used an apricot chutney that I mixed with left over cranberry relish this time. You can also get a nice slightly spicy result with Major Gray's Chutney.)
8 chicken thighs
A small bit of water
1 envelope Onion Soup Mix powder (optional)

Put the chutney into a bowl and add a small bit of warm water to make it more manageable. You can also add in the onion soup mix powder, if you like. I did not have it this time and things worked great.

Line a 9"x13" pan with foil for easy clean up. Remove the skin from the chicken thighs. Divide the chutney topping over the chicken thighs. Cook for 20 minutes. Then check the chicken and teaspoon over any topping that may have slid off. Cook for another 30 minutes, or until done. If you are in a hurry, you can start off by browning the chicken in a skillet. This warms it up, pulls out much of the fat that you would drain off later, and shortens the oven cooking time.

This was very popular with my family. It was also extremely easy.


Saturday, January 09, 2010

Homemade Noodles and Alfredo Sauce, Plus a bit of Spinning

On Friday Larr went climbing at an indoor gym. Ellie was spending the night at Anna's house. That meant that Ethan and I had a night alone together. I thought it would be fun to do something together.

After discussing our options we opted to go to Whole Foods Market and get some fun food for dinner. We also intended to make homemade noodles. We came home with basil pesto, red pepper pesto (which was really very yummy), a nice chunk of Parmesan cheese, a popcorn ball and a lovely chocolate pistachio dessert canoli. I also picked up stuff to make Alfredo sauce.

Ethan made the noodles while I made the sauce. He took the time to separate the yolks from the egg whites by hand. He found the texture and cohesion of the yolk interesting. It was a little rough at first as we were trying a new recipe. In fact, we were not sure that it would come together nicely, but in the end they were the best noodles he has made so far. He made some thick ones, some thin ones and had a little dough left over. We cooked the pasta and had lots of toppings. Each of us ended up with little bird's nest like piles on our plates so that we could taste a little of each topping. It was really quite fun. We also watched Wall-E. It was a perfect way to spend an evening with my boy.

On Saturday we met up with the team for indoor spinning practice. It is not as exciting as riding outside, but I think they had fun seeing everyone again. It was a long, intense and sometimes grueling 2 hour session.

Here are the recipes:

Homemade Noodles

3-5 Egg Yolks
1 Egg Whole, beaten
1 tea. Salt
3-6 TBL. Milk
2 cups Flour, all purpose

We make our noodles by mixing up the dough on a cutting board. Do this by making a pile with the flour and creating a bowl in the center. Place 3 egg yolks, the whole egg and a the salt in a bowl and beat with a fork. Pour this into the well that you have made in the middle of the flour. Use a fork to incorporate the eggs into the flour. Add the milk to the dough as needed. The weather impacts this process greatly. You may have to add the extra egg yolk(s) and milk if the dough is too dry and shaggy. Knead the dough for about 3-5 minutes, cover with plastic and let it rest for at least 10 minutes. It is great if you can let it rest for 1-3 hours, but we were impatient so we rolled it out quickly. Once the dough is done resting cut it into four chunks. Roll out the dough. Put through a pasta machine, if you have one. Otherwise, roll out by hand and cut with a knife. You can cook them immediately by dropping them into boiling water or you can dry and refrigerate them. These are very tasty.

Alfredo Sauce

3 tablespoons butter
1 cup heavy whipping cream
3-4 TBL. Cream Cheese
Salt to taste
1/8th (pinch) Nutmeg, ground (use freshly ground nutmeg, if possible.)
1/4 tea. Pepper, ground
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (for a topping)

Melt butterin a saucepan over medium heat. Add 3/4 cup heavy cream, stirring gently. Add in the cream cheese and stir as it heats enough to become mostly melted. Stir in salt, nutmeg, and pepper. Let it cook for about 5 minutes to thicken slightly. Meanwhile, add the egg yolk to the remaining 1/4 of cream. Mix this well, but not vigorously. Add the grated Parmesan cheese, and grated Romano cheese. (You can double the Parmesan if you do not have the Romano) Stir constantly until melted. Gently mix in the then mix in cream and egg yolk. Simmer over medium low heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Garnish with additional grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Another Rather Colorful Poster for the ACA

Here's what I created for the ACA Awards Party for the Adults. I had lot of fun creating it.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Back to The Daily Grind - Reviewing a Little of My Work at Home

Before a break comes I have all kinds of plans, ideas and well, fantasies really, about what I will do with my time. I usually underestimate how long housework related stuff will take and overestimate the leisure time I will have. This go round was exactly that, but I did get lots done. I cleaned out two rooms and donated lots of stuff. I cranked out a poster for the ACA Jr. Awards party.

I also did a wee bit of scrapbooking. I had hoped to get Ethan's Jamaica book done, but I found it hard going when he was not around to give me guidance of tell me the stories. I did manage to get two pages completed and a few others started. I'm pretty happy with how these turned out:

I'm hoping to carve out more time in the next few weeks to finish up the 2009 book that I started last year. I had resolved to try and keep up with each month's scrapbooking. I failed, but I have nonetheless set that task for myself again. Perhaps this time I will be closer to accomplishing it.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Cooking Up a Fine New Year's Eve - Recipes Included

Our dear friends, Laura and Davis, renewed their vows on New Years Eve. I volunteered to make them a cake as a way to celebrate who they are together. She requested a carrot cake and expected something in a 9"x13" pan. I however, could not be satisfied with that, so I began researching recipes and looking for nice ideas that would be festive but not too over the top. After testing a few recipes, I have created a recipe that I am very happy with. I made it for my mother's party and it was a big hit. She took the left overs to work the next day and they were gone very quickly. I decided that meant it was a keeper. I found the idea for decorating it with an edible flower while looking through an old Martha Stewart Living magazine. The flower was a blast to create. You need candy melts (I used the ones by Wilton) and some leaves that are the correct shape that are not poisonous or have been sprayed with herbicide. I used leaves from Satsuma oranges I got at the grocery store. You simply melt candy melts in a small dish and use a small spoon to brush on the melted candy melts onto the back of the leaf. I cover my work surface with waxed paper and place them on a cookie pan to harden. You can even put them in the freezer. Once the melts had hardened I was able to peel the leaves from the candy and reuse them again. I was going to make green leaves, too, but decided to use real mint leaves instead. There are also a few red hots to add a bit of color to the base in addition to the coconut that I added to the sides. We also brought along some Garlic Cheese bread sticks.

We had a lovely time at their party, but had to leave before it was over. Laura said the cake was a hit. That made me feel good. Ellie stayed with them as she had her own plans. Anna and Ellie helped with a special event at the Evergreen Lake. There was night time ice skating, fireworks and merriment. Ellie and Anna handed out party favors. Laura and Davis manned a warming drum. The girls had a great time. They wore glow necklaces that they later cut open so as to splatter the glowing stuff on their gloves. Confirmed rumor has it that a cute young man took a liking to Ellie and followed her around most of the evening. In typical 14 year old boy fashion he started out nice and friendly, them became pesty in a puppydog kind of fashion. He and Nial (Anna's boyfriend) zoomed around them, shot hockey pucks between them and made them laugh a good bit. Between the fun and the caffeine they ingested, they did not get to bed until around 3 a.m. She came home happy, tired and with a bruised back from falling so often.

Larr, Ethan and I visited for a short while with Rex, Perrin and Calvin. Then we went home to prepare for the next party at the Rigg home. Ethan made Bacon Wrapped Pineapple Chunks and I made Cheddar Puffs. We found the recipes on The Pioneer Woman website and they were both a great hit. I've included the recipes below.

We had a great time at our party, too. Ken and Jane always do such a nice job. I loved the fine china place settings and drinking water from a silver goblet. We watched "The Blind Side" and sang Auld Lang Syne. We toasted our missing Eleanor and I cried through the song. Hopefully that part will get easier.

It was a hard year that also had many wonderful parts. Here's hoping you all have a great 2010!

Carrot Cake with Maple Cream Frosting - for Laura and Davis

Cake -
4 eggs
3/4 cup Buttermilk
3/4 cup Canola Oil
1 1/2 cup Sugar
2 tea. Vanilla Extract
2 tea. Cinnamon, ground
1/4 tea. Salt
2 cups Flour, all-purpose
2 tea. Baking Soda
2 tea. Baking Powder
3 cups Grated Carrots
1 cup Coconut, flaked or grated
(8 oz. pineapple, crushed, drained - I did not use pineapple this go-round, It can be included or omitted)
1 cup Walnuts or Pecans, chopped rather fine
1 cup Raisins

Frosting -
10 oz. Cream Cheese, at room temperature
5 TBL. Butter, unsalted & at room temperature
2 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar
1/4 cup Maple Syrup (be sure to use the real stuff!)

Cake -
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (175 degrees C). Grease a 9"x13" pan or two 8" rounds, or prepare cupcake papers.

In a large bowl beat together the eggs, buttermilk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and salt.

In another bowl combine the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Stir to mix well.

Fold this into the wet mixture, being careful to not overmix. Add in remaining ingredients and mix as little as possible. (Overmixing results in a dry cake.) Pour into the pan(s)/cups. If making cupcakes, be sure to only fill the cups about 3/4 of the way to prevent overage.

Cakes will take about 40-50 minutes to bake. Cupcakes should take about 15-30 minutes to bake. Remove when an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Let the cakes cool for at least 10 minutes before turning out from the pans.

At this point the cake freezes successfully. It is easier to frost when it is just beginning to thaw. However, you can also frost it once it is cool.

Frosting -

Use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and beat at a low speed until well incorporated. Add in the maple syrup and mix well.

Garlic Cheese Breadsticks
from More Bread Machine Magic

Breadsticks -
1 3/8 cup Water, Warm
4 tea. Butter, room temperature
2 tea. Sugar
2 tea. Salt
4 cup Bread Flour
2 1/2 tea. Yeast

Topping -
1/4 cup Butter, melted
1/4 cup Olive Oil
2-3 Garlic Cloves, finely minced
4 tea. Parmesan Cheese, finely grated

Place all of the ingredients for the bread sticks into your bread maker in the order that they are listed. Select the dough setting and set it to work (this takes 50 minutes in my machine.)

Once the dough has risen long enough remove it from the pan and turn it out onto a well floured surface (I use a cutting board.) Knead the bread a bit more and shape it into three sections. Work with one section at a time, creating a rectangle shape. Use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into 12 strips. Place them slightly apart from each other on a baking sheet. (I cover mine with foil to make clean up faster.) Repeat this step for the other dough bundles. Cover the breadstick and let them raise until doubled. This usually takes about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. It is best to let it preheat for at least 30 minutes before baking the breadsticks.

Create the topping my mixing all of the ingredients for the topping in a measuring cup. Right before you bake the breadsticks brush on half of the topping. Then cook the breadsticks for about 15-20 minutes, or until nicely browned. Brush the remaining topping on the breadsticks after they have been removed from the oven.


Bacon Wrapped Pineapple Bites!
from Tasty Kitchen, added by Wendy Darling
· 1 pound Bacon

· 1 can Chunked Pineapple (large Chunks)
· ½ cups Brown Sugar

Set your oven to 375F.
Cut the pound of bacon in half. Put the brown sugar in a shallow bowl. Take a half a slice of bacon and dredge it through the brown sugar. Put a chunk of pineapple on one end of the bacon slice and roll up. Secure with a toothpick.
I put a cookie cooling rack into a foil-lined jelly roll pan. Lay the bacon pineapple bundles onto the rack.
Bake for at least 25 minutes, or until the bacon looks brown and crispy. Sometimes I pop them under the broiler for the last few minutes just to get them really crisp. But watch out – the sugar will burn!
Try to wait for them to cool slightly – only because the tasty goodness will burn your lips if it’s too hot! Enjoy.


Cheddar Puffs
from The Pioneer Woman

Prep Time: 15 Minutes Cook Time: 10 Minutes Difficulty: Easy Servings: 8
· 1 loaf Crusty French Bread, Cut Into 1-inch Cubes
· ½ sticks Butter
· 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
· 1 whole Shallot, Minced
· 1-½ teaspoon Dijon Mustard
· 8 ounces, weight Cream Cheese, Sliced
· 1-½ cup Grated Cheddar Cheese
· Salt And Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
· 2 whole Egg Whites, Beaten
Preparation Instructions
Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots and saute for 1 minute. Add Dijon and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low.
Add cream cheese and stir until melted. Add grated cheddar and stir until melted. Turn off heat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Fold in egg whites.
Dunk bread cubes in cheese, coating thoroughly. Place on a nonstick baking mat or sheet of waxed paper and freeze for 20 minutes, uncovered. Remove frozen chunks from tray and place into a Ziploc bag. Store in the freezer.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place frozen cheese puffs on a baking sheet with a nonstick baking mat or parchment paper, and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Christmas Recap

Wow, I can hardly believe that I have not posted anything for this past week. I had such intentions of posting everyday. We had fun, busy stuff going on, but I just didn't get to it. I didn't take many photos either.

Christmas went well. I was finishing the crafting right down to the very last minute. Crafting for teenagers can be such a challenge since their tastes have become to much more refined, and in constant change. I will be sure to share photos of what I made. When I went to bed on Christmas Eve I was nervous that Ellie would not like the jewelry or the name banner that I made for her. I did not want her to have the struggle between oh-I-don't-like-this-but-I-don't-want-to-hurt-my-mom's-feelings kind of situation. Thankfully she liked it all. I am still working on the photo album of Ethan's trip to Jamaica. I could not come up with anything to make for my husband. He explained that the problem of handmade gifts, such as knitted hats that he wears all of the time because he shaves his head, is that he has to keep track of them and worry about them a bit. He simply prefers to have hats that have no sentimental value. I can understand that.

Amazing as it is, Larr and I awoke before the kids did. What a weird feeling that was. I kept trying to go back to sleep, failing at that and then wondering if we should wake them up. I really thought they'd be up early, just like every year before. In the end I decided to bath. Larr made coffee. They finally dragged their sleepy butts out of bed around 8:00 a.m., a far cry from the 5:30 a.m. of the past.

There were other important differences. After quickly opening their stockings the kids settled in and demanded that I open the present they got for me first. It was pretty cool to see how excited they were. They had pooled their money together and gotten me a proper popcorn making pan.

Ethan also got me some new kitchen towels that are blue with white snowflakes, as well as a few lovely, blue small dishes. I felt like he really gave thought to what he got for me. Ellie made me a very cool storage chest she made from scrapbook paper. (I'll have to include photos if it a bit later on.) Larr got me several gifts. My favorite is Bakewise. It is a food science book by the same author of Cookwise. I've already started plowing through it.

We enjoyed our quiet morning together and then headed over to Don's for Christmas there. We took over the food I had prepared the day before and got the ham underway.It was important to me to preserve as many of our traditions as possible so I set the tables for dinner in the same way that Eleanor always did it. It was my way to honor and include her in the holiday. I cried my way through the process. I tried to do that privately so as to not upset anyone else. Once I had a good cry I was good to go for the rest of the day. It was like I needed to process that bit.

It was also great to have some time to visit with Doug and Laura who flew in the night before. Laura and Ellie talked "Farmville" a lot. They both enjoy doing that in their Facebook accounts. Laura actually runs her farm, as well as those belonging to Doug and Pearl.

Truike and Jan were supposed to be here, too, but their international flight from Roderdam was canceled due to a big storm raging on the East Coast. We were disappointed to not have them with us, but we Skyped them instead. It was wonderful to see and talk to them on the computer as Larr traveled around from person to person. Skype is a wonderful tool.

Midafternoon the rest of the family arrived. We enjoyed the appetizers while looking at photos that Mark and Lilia brought with them. Next, Aunt Kathy, Marianne and Evan arrived, shortly followed by my mom.

We missed Eleanor, but we had the kind of Christmas she loved.