Monday, December 26, 2011

Relaxing in the Post Christmas Glow

I have a small confession to make- as fun as Christmas is, I think I like it best once we have arrived at Christmas morning and begun the day. I might even enjoy the days after even more. I have a good time decorating, baking, making presents and going to parties, but I love the relaxation after it is all over. My house is mostly clean. The presents have been completed and there are less demands on my time. I have certain traditions, like listening to or seeing "The Christmas Carol" or reading "The Cat Who Came for Christmas" by Cleveland Amory, but they often have to wait until after Christmas so that there is time to focus on and enjoy them, instead of feeling like I am stealing time away from something else that I should be preparing.

We hosted the Christmas festivities at our house this year. It was a big change from the past. We used to have a special breakfast and open presents here at home, but then go to Don and Eleanor's house for Christmas Dinner and extended family time. I contributed several things to that dinner (usually rolls, a side dish and a bushe de noel for dessert) but the time there was very relaxing. After Eleanor died three years ago we kept a similar schedule, though I cooked much of the meal, the other families brought food to the party as well, and we all relxed at Don's house. His house works well for that kind of party. This year he was not up for that so it happened here. We cleaned the house and set tables in three rooms, with five people at folding tables in the living room, three at the craft room table and five or six in the big room at our usual dinner table. We moved out some of the furniture to make room for it all. I was worried that we would all feel seperated, but it worked out well. Every one seemed to have a good time. With Ethan, Evan and Anna all 18 years old, post high school plans were discussed. The boys spent some time together. Ethan and Evan talked skateboarding and long boarding well into the night. My cousin, Marianne, and I also had a chance to have quality time together.

Ham and Potato Soup

3 1/2 cups peeled and diced potatoes
1/3 cup diced celery
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
3/4 cup diced cooked ham
3 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground white or black pepper, or to taste
5 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk

Combine the potatoes, celery, onion, ham and water in a stockpot. Bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the chicken bouillon, salt and pepper.
In a separate saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour with a fork, and cook, stirring constantly until thick, about 1 minute. Slowly stir in milk as not to allow lumps to form until all of the milk has been added. Continue stirring over medium-low heat until thick, 4 to 5 minutes.
Stir the milk mixture into the stockpot, and cook soup until heated through. Serve immediately.

Split Pea Soup

1 pound Split Peas, dried, rinsed and cleaned
8-10 cups Water
Ham Bone
Extra Ham (at lest 1 pound, diced or cubed)
3/4 cup Carrot, thinly sliced
3/4 cup Carrots, thinly sliced
1 Onion, diced
1 1/2 tea. Thyme
3 Bay Leaves
1 1/2 tea. Parsley (optional)
1/2 tea. Smoke Flavoring (optional)
2 Garlic Cloves, minced
Salt and Pepper to taste

Put the ingredients in the slow cooker or in a large stew pot. Cook slowly until the peas have softened. I cook my soup overnight in the crock pot.

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