Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ellie Gets Her Driving Permit

Yesterday Ellie was finally able to take the written portion of the driving test and she passed with flying colors. She has been chomping at the bit to get her permit. In order to be able to get it now, even though she is still just 15, she had to take the "Alive at 25" class. A small happy dance in celebration is in order.



I also it would be fun to post a photo of the mittens I recently finished. She loves my sugar skull mittens, but wanted her own pair, ones with longer cuffs. I was happy to do it. It is always more fun to knit something for another person, a person who actually wants what you are making for them. Plus, it pushes me out of my usual color range. These are done with DK weight Cascade Superwash wool. That means they are thick, warm and washable. I used the Memento Mori Mittens pattern that can be found over at Ravelry.I think the pattern is well written.
When Ellie was little, we used to listen to books on tape during road trips. We listened to The Hobbit more than once. I think she did not like this at all. As a result, she was not interested in seeing "The Hobbit" at all. She spent the day with Kohlton, so Larr, Ethan and I went to the movies without her. "The Hobbit" is beautifully done, just as I had expected. Peter Jackson embellished the story significantly, but I believe that it was in keeping with the intent of the story.

There were many handsome men in the movie, as you can see here.



I also saw "Anna Karenina" recently. The new version of this classic Russian novel is unusual, with nearly everything looking like it is taking place on a grand stage. The costumes, the sets and the actors are all very lovely.



Next up, I want to see "Les Miserable."

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Eve with Kohlton, Mark and Martine

Breaking away from tradition and doing a new thing for Christmas this year was good. It as a lot of fun up at Mark's lodge in the mountains.
It is not a small place, but it still feels cozy with the overstuffed couches and the wood burning stove. There are mounted heads on the wall (most of them festoonded with garlands) and furs on the floor. There are strings of lights on the support beam and special string of lights that look like tiny oil lanterns.
The kids and the men went for a walk on the mountain while Martine and I stayed behind. After several days of food prep., I was happy to sit, relax, knit and talk.

The skies were clear blue, crisp and cold. Great conditions for a walk.




A bit after their return, we sat down for a wonderful meal. It started out with crab legs that we steamed in the microwave (I posted the recipe in a previous posting) which was served with butter, garlic butter and garlic dill butter. I also brought up some English crackers, to which Martine and I added Almond Rocca (a lovely chocolate and nut toffee.) They remind me of Christmas time with Eleanor, my long gone mother-in-law.

For the next course we had salad with feta cheese, craisins and glazed walnuts. That was followed grilled rib-eye steak and mashed potatoes. I had rubbed the steaks with olive oil and dusted them with Montreal Steak seasoning. As I stood at the grill, I enjoyed the delightful snow. The flakes were large and substantial. I could feel each flake as it landed on me. We had hoped for such a nice snowfall.

The last bit of dinner was the Nantucket Cranberry pie. By then we were all full and happy. Some of us were even a bit sleepy.


Ellie tempted Kohlton into taking a few barefoot turns around part of the yard. The fun of it pleased her. Their feet quickly froze so they warmed them up by the wood burning stove.

Into the evening we watched, "The Christmas Story" and played Texas Hold'em. Kohlton was teaching me how to play and I was doing rather well for a beginner. Around midnight we all drifted off to bed.


We awoke to a white Christmas, just like the ones in the movies. At the end of the hallway Mark has a large window that looks out over the meadow. I stood there, transfixed by the snowy scene. (I wish I had taken a photo, but it had not occured to me at the time.) W

e had a leisurely breakfast and opened presents. All too soon it was time to head back down the mountain as we were hosting Christmas dinner at our house in the afternoon.






Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Eve and Christmas Menus & Recipes




Christmas Eve and Christmas will be a bit different this year from our usual routine. We will spend Christmas Even up in Nederland with our family and Kohlton, his dad, Mark and Martine. It will be like staying at a lodge in the mountains.



I planned the menu. We will return midmorning on Christmas day and have the extended family over for Christmas dinner, instead of having it at Don's house.

Here's what we are having:


Christmas Eve with Mark, Martine and Kohlton

>Appetizers:
Nachos
Buffalo Pretzel Bites
Pistachios (in the shell, roasted and salted)
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Peppakorkar Cookies (Aunt Lynne's Molasses Spice Cookies)
Eggnog

Dinner:
* Green Salad with Feta Cheese, Glazed Walnuts, Craisins, Raspberry & Walnut Vinaigrette Dressing
* Crab Legs with Dill or Garlic Lemon Butter
* Ribeye Steak with Montreal Seasoning
* Mashed Potatoes

Dessert:
* Nantucket Cranberry Pie
* Cherry Pie

Christmas Morning Breakfast:

* Sausage, Cheese, Egg and Hash Brown Casserole
* Clementine Oranges
* Orange Juice

---------
Peppakorkar Cookies (Aunt Lynne's Molasses Spice Cookies)

6 TBL. Butter, softened
6 TBL Canola Oil
1 1/2 cup Sugar
1 Egg
1 TBL Water
1/4 cup Molassas (Brer Rabbit is best!)
Cream the above items together.
Mix in:
3 cup Flour
1/4 tea. Cloves, ground
1/4 tea. Ginger, ground
1 tea Cinnamon, ground
2 tea Baking Soda
1/2 tea
Salt
The resulting dough will seem very dry. Form small balls. Place them onto the cookie sheet. Place extra sugar in a small bowl (I use a ramakin) , dip the flat end of a drinking glass in the dough, then into the sugar and use to flatten a mound of dough. Repeat until all cookies are flattened and sugared. Dough should be kept cool at this point.< Bake at 375 in a [reheated oven for 8 minutes. Watch closely as they burn easily. Remove onto a rack or paper towels to cool. This makes about 60 cookies. They freeze well. ----------- GLAZED WALNUTS
via:COOKS.COM

1/2 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 lb. walnuts (4 cups)

Melt butter in 2 quarts container. Add brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir
until dissolved in butter. Cook 2 minutes on high. Add walnuts. Stir into
glaze. Cook 3-5 minutes on high. Spread on aluminum foil to cool.

-----------
Steamed Alaskan King Crab Claws

Recipe courtesy Alton Brown
Show: Good EatsEpisode: Crustacean Nation III

6 Alaskan king crab claws, thawed
2 sprigs dill
Directions
If necessary in order to fit in microwave, cut claws at joints. Wrap 3 claws at a time in a damp paper towel, along with 1 sprig of
dill, and then wrap in plastic wrap. Place wrapped claws in microwave 1 package at a time and cook on high for 2 minutes.
Remove and unwrap carefully. Serve immediately

Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 6 min
Serves: 2 servings
------

Crab Legs with Garlic Butter Sauce
via: Allrecipes.com

1 pound Snow Crab clusters, thawed if
necessary
1/4 cup butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper

1. Cut a slit, length-wise, into the shell of each piece of crab.
2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat; cook the garlic in the butter until translucent; stir in the parsley, salt, and pepper. Continue to heat mixture until bubbling. Add the crab legs; toss to coat; allow to simmer in the butter mixture until completely heated, 5 to 6 minutes.

--------

Ribeye Steak

Ribeye Steaks
Olive Oil
Montreal Steak Seasoning

Line a jelly roll pan with foil. Place the steaks in the pan. Pour a small about (about 1 teaspoon or so) of olive oil on the steaks. Rub it into the steaks with the back of a spoon or your fingers. Sprinkle with the Montreal Steak Seasoning. Flip the steaks over and repeat.

If you are cooking them in the oven, preheat the broiler on high. If you are cooking them on the grill, preheat the grill. Cook them on one side for about 4 minutes. Flip and cook 3-6 minutes, depending on how rare or well done you want your steak. We like medium rare, so we do 4 minutes on both sides.

---------

Cherry Pie
Filling recipe via BunkyCooks

1 batch Double Crust Pie Dough, divided & chilled

Filling:
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 cups whole pitted dark sweet cherries (about 2 pounds whole unpitted cherries) * I used another cup since the cherries were so large.
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon (about) milk

Vanilla ice cream, for serving

directions:
For crust:
1. Whisk flour, sugar, and salt in large bowl to blend. Add butter and rub in with fingertips until small pea-size clumps form. Add 5 tablespoons ice water; mix lightly with fork until dough holds together when small pieces are pressed between fingertips, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry.

2. Gather dough together; divide into 2 pieces. Form each piece into ball, then flatten into disk and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Do ahead Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled. Let dough soften slightly before rolling out.

For filling:
1. Position rack in lower third of oven and preheat to 425°F. Whisk 1 cup sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium bowl to blend. Stir in cherries, lemon juice, and vanilla; set aside.

2. Roll out 1 dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch glass pie dish. Trim dough overhang to 1/2 inch. Roll out second dough disk on floured surface to 12-inch round. Using large knife or pastry wheel with fluted edge, cut ten 3/4-inch-wide strips from dough round. Transfer filling to dough-lined dish, mounding slightly in center. Dot with butter. Arrange dough strips atop filling, forming lattice; trim dough strip overhang to 1/2 inch. Fold bottom crust up over ends of strips and crimp edges to seal. Brush lattice crust (not edges) with milk. Sprinkle lattice with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.

3. Place pie on rimmed baking sheet and bake 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Bake pie until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown, covering edges with foil collar if browning too quickly, about 1 hour longer. Transfer pie to rack and cool completely. Cut into wedges and serve with vanilla ice cream

Adapted from Bon App├ętit, June 2008
--------

Nantucket Cranberry Pie
(inspired by the recipe found on The Pioneer Woman)

2 TBL Butter
12 oz. (about 21/2 cups) Fresh Cranberries
1 cup Pecans (or Walnuts)Chopped
2/3 cups Sugar
1 cup Flour (Whole Wheat Flour works nicely)
2/3 cup Sugar
1 stick Butter, melted
2 whole Eggs, Lightly Beaten
1 teaspoon Pure Almond Extract
1 Tablespoon Sugar For Sprinkling

Preparation Instructions

*Adapted from a recipe by Laurie Colwin*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Generously butter a cake pan or pie pan. Add cranberries to the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle on chopped pecans, then sprinkle on 2/3 cup sugar. Mix this around to combine nicely.

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, 1 cup sugar, melted butter, eggs, almond extract, and salt. Stir gently to combine. It will be very thick.

Place the batter over the top of the cranberry mixture. Spread gently if necessary.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes. Five minutes before removing from oven, sprinkle surface with 1 tablespoon sugar for a little extra crunch.
--------

Breakfast Casserole

1 pound Breakfast Sausage, cooked and broken up into small pieced
1 Onion, diced (saute with sausage)
1 pound Hash Browns
3 TBL. Olive Oil
5 Eggs
1/2 cup Milk
1/2 tea. Onion Powder
1-2 tea. Garlic,minced
Pepper, ground, to taste
12 oz. Cheddar Cheese, Shredded (about 1 1/2 cups)

Heat up the olive oil in a skillet. Add hash browns and cook until they are beginning to crisp.

Layer 1/2 of the hash browns in the bottom of a 9"x 13" pan. Top with breakfast sausage.

Mix eggs, milk, onion powder, minced garlic and pepper. Pour this over the sausage and hash browns. Top with half of the cheese.

Top this with the remaining hash brown and top that with the rest of the cheese. Bake for 1 hour in a 350 preheated oven.





Friday, December 21, 2012

Ethan was on the News This Evening!

Ethan was on the news this evening, featured as a person watching an explosion.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Small Token for Some of My Students

My students love when I write their names on the white board in a fancy way. A while ago a few of my ESL students told me that they would love to have their names done in a fancy manner on nice paper that they could frame and hang in their rooms. I thought about this for a while and decided that it would be a nice gesture for the holiday season. Here's the first set:





Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Gift From My Love

I love Christmas lights. I think they are my favorite Christmas decoration. I especially love the blue lights.
On the day after Thanksgiving my husband had been out running errands. He called and asked me to go out to his car to see something. I went out with my apron and slippers on, expecting to peak my head in the car door, see the something special and then return to what I was doing. Instead, he asked me to get in the car. He drove around the neighborhoods near our house showing me some of the nice displays that were already up. As we neared our destination he had me close my eyes. He parked and had me get out, eyes still closed, to follow him. Once we were in the right position he allowed me to see the surprise. I was thrilled with what I saw - a perfectly light Christmas tree, in fully glowing glory. At that moment we stood, holding hands, gazing at the lights. My heart swelled with love. This was a token to let me know that he knows what is in my heart, what will bring me join and found a fun way to share it with me. It means a lot to me to have such gestures from him. It is another reason to count my lucky stars - I have a husband who, after so many years (we've been together since 1983) still loves me. I love him more now than the day that I married him.

When I was little my mother would take us around to see the lights. We'd even ride the bus down to downtown Denver to see the special window displays The Denver Dry Goods and Joslin's Department store. Each year the stores would have a theme or tell some sort of story. The Nutcracker or Swan Lake were always my favorite. One year they even did a Peter Pan meets Santa story line. At May D&F. you could go skating and have hot drinks. We would wonder in to find our way to the basement where there was an elaborately created Christmas village with a pathway that led to Santa. It was pure magic!

When Eleanor, my mother-in-law was alive, we used to drive around and look at the displays. I would have the kids bundled up in the back. We would return home, satisfied and happy, topping off the evening with hot chocolate topped with whipped cream.

I try to carry on the tradition with my kids, though it is different now that they are older. I simply ask if they would like to join me and be happy when they go. Otherwise, I am content to go by myself.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Finally Feeling Better - Back to Cooking

I am finally beginning to feel better. Saturday we spent the day at the Cure's house
making candy and then celebrating Aaron's birthday. On Sunday I cooked, cleaned and enjoyed listening to my daughter sing Christmas carols as she worked on a project in Photoshop. That is a lovely thing.

Here's a video we enjoy. Maybe you'll enjoy it, too.



Cheeseburger Soup

Brown:
1 tea. Butter
1 pound Ground Sirloin or Hamburger
1 cup Onion, diced
3/4 cup Celery, diced
1/2 cup Carrots, diced
1 tea. Garlic, minced
Saute until the meat is done and the veggies are tender. If the meat you use is fatty you may need to strain out the extra fat.

Stir in:
3 cups Chicken Broth
2 cups Russet Potatoes, peeled & diced
1 tea. Basil.

Melt:
3 TBL. Butter
1/4 cup Flour
1 1/2 cup Milk
Stir to combine then whisk into the soup mixture.

Add:
2 cup Cheddar, shredded
1/4 cup Ketcup
2 TBL. Yellow Mustard
Salt & Pepper to taste
Stir into soup and serve. Top each bowl with a little extra cheese. It can be fun to also top with shoestring potatoes and/or croutons.

Shoestring Potatoes - Homemade
Cut russet potatoes into long strips that thin (approx. 1/2" wide or less). Fry quickly in veg. oil that is heated to 350 degrees. Drain on a paper towel and add salt.
------

Swedish Meatballs

2 TBL. Butter or Olive Oil
Premade Meatballs (or use the "Pete's Famous Meatballs" recipe I posted a while back)
(1 Onion, chopped - optional)
1 1/2 cup Beef Broth
1 can Evaporated Milk or 1 cup Sour Cream
1/2 tea. Nutmeg, ground
1 tea. Dill
1/4 cup cold Water
2-3 TBL Corn Starch

Melt butter in a large pan. Add the meatball and heat throughout. If the meatballs are frozen this may take 10 minutes. If you decide to add onions to your recipe remove the meatballs to a bowl and saute the onions until they are soft and semitranslucent. Put the meatballs back into the pan. Add the beef broth and boil for 10-15 minutes. Add the evaporated milk or sour cream. (Either one works, the sour cream has a bit more zing than the evaporated milk.) Stir to combine. Add in the nutmeg. This adds a subtile depth to the flavor. Next, add in the dill. Sometimes I add more than I stated in this recipe. Simmer for 10-15 more minutes. Pu the cold water in a mug and mix in the corn starch. This is then added to the meatballs. Stir until thickened. Enjoy over egg noodles or toast. This is a lovely comfort food that freezes well.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Putz House Christmas Display



One of my favorite Christmas decorations at my mother's house is her Putz village. (I have a thing for little villages.)
The original Putz houses were made from cardboard and clear plastic containers from things like cereal and crackers. Last winter I made myself a set. I made most of the ones you see above. They were time consuming and very precise, but I loved making them and I am thrilled with the display.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Collage Class with Mary Morrison & Golden Paints

On Saturday I got to take a Mix Media with Acrylics class hosted by Mary Morrison, a working artist for Golden Paints. It is always a treat to take one of her classes. Golden are hands down my favorite art company. They have quality products, lots of interesting variety and a good company ethic.
This first project was just a quick one to see how well the paint responded to a light fiber paste sub-strait (base). I love how the colors feather out as if it had been wet watercolor paper. I will most likely go back in and add more to this painting. It is my painting of a black bird, though there is no actual black. I am all about color.


Next up was working with large brushes to create a background for a piece. I've always worked with tiny, fussy brushes, so this was exciting and freeing.
I went to town with the big brushes and created this colorful background. I applied the light fiber paste to a canvas first and worked in the paint while the paste was still wet. It was tons of fun, but did not really work for the project. I had intended to paint a light section and a dark section, with words carved into the dark part (sgraffito). The words are a saying about blackbirds in folk lore. I thought I might paint a large bird in the middle. We'll see. It may simply be too busy for what I have intended.
I quickly moved onto my next canvas and made a much more simple background. Then I moved onto the college part. Many people covered their canvas with images and then painted over parts. I was inspired by a monoprinted piece and began to cut out bits from magazines to make trees. Pretty soon it looked like I was channeling Eric Carle. I love him, so I went with it. The pieces are not actually tacked down yet. I am still thinking about it. I like the piece, but it is a bit literal and childish. I have not decided if that is the way I want to go.

Ellie helped me bring stuff in from the car. She liked these pieces. That always makes me feel good.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Trail of Lights - Chatfield Aboretum

Of all of the different decorations and activities that are part of the holiday season, I think Christmas light might be my favorite. I took Ellie and Kohlton to see the Trail of Lights at the Chatfield Arboretum. I've been to see the Blossom of Lights at the Denver Botanic Gardens, their sister garden, and wanted to see how they would compare. It was a lovely night and the music singing out from some of the rocks was wonderful.
The barn was rustic and romantic.

The kids warmed up by the fire pit.








This just might be the coolest playhouse, ever.














Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Building Cabins - A Bit of Pleasant Distraction Shared with My Son

My son found this lovely video that I thought was worth sharing:


He found it on the John Neeman Facebook page, a place of much inspiration if you love to build things and admire tools.

Here's a bit more Cabin eye candy over at Cabin (Eyecandy).

Reddit is yet another place to find inspiring photos.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Monday, December 03, 2012

Making Christmas Cookies - Part 1 (Recipes Included)













Sugar Cookie Recipe


2 1/2 cups butter (at room temperature)
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
seeds from 1 vanilla bean (or 3 tsp vanilla)
5 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

1. Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of an electric mixer on low to medium speed. (Use the paddle attachment). Mix until thoroughly incorporated – for about one minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a plastic spatula and mix again for a few seconds more.

Over mixing the butter and sugar in this step will cause too much air to be incorporated into the dough. If you’d like a light and fluffy cookie, that’s ideal, however the dough will spread more during baking; not ideal if you’d like the cookie to hold its shape.

2. Add eggs slowly and mix. Scrape down the bowl with your spatula at least once and mix again.

3. Cut open your vanilla bean and scrape the seeds out. Add to mixing bowl. Alternatively, add liquid vanilla extract. Stir briefly.

4. Sift your dry ingredients together. (Flour, baking powder and salt).

5. Add all of the flour mixture to the bowl. Place a large tea towel or two small tea towels between the edge of the bowl and the electric mixer so that the flour won’t escape. Mix on low speed for 3o seconds. Remove the tea towels and observe the dough mixing; when it clumps around the paddle attachment it’s ready. It’s also important at this stage not to over mix the dough (the glutens in the flour develop and the dough can become tough).

6. Roll the dough out between 2 large pieces of parchment paper. Place on a baking sheet and into the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour.

7. Roll out the dough further if you need to, and cut out cookie shapes. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Re-roll scraps and repeat.

8. Put cookie dough shapes back into the fridge for 10 minutes to 1 hour to chill again. They will then hold their shape better when baked.

9. Preheat your oven to 350°F or 176°C.

10. Bake cookies for 8-12 minutes or until the edges become golden brown. The baking time will depend on the size of your cookie.

11. Let cookies cool to room temperature and decorate!

---------------

Royal Icing Using Egg Whites:

from: JoyofBaking.com

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.

--------------

Butter Cream Frosting

from:the Created By Diane Blog

1 cup butter

1 cup shortening

6 cups powdered sugar

2-4 Tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract. if you are making white frosting use clear vanilla.

Beat butter with mixer until pale and fluffy, add sugar and milk along with extract mix until smooth and creamy.

*If the weather is super hot, over 100 and I’m afraid the buttercream will be a mess, I sometimes use all shortening.

**If I want a very rich butter taste, I use all butter and no shortening.

*** for Chocolate Buttercream I use ½ to 1 cup of unsweetened cocoa in place of some powdered sugar.
--------------
Gingerbread Snowflakes
via: Martha Stewart

• 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
• 1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
• 4 teaspoons ground ginger
• 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
• 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
• 1 teaspoon finely ground pepper
• 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
• 2 large eggs
• 1 cup unsulfured molasses
• Royal Icing
• Fine sanding sugar, for sprinkling
Directions
1. Sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl. Set aside.
2. Put butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Divide dough into thirds; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour.
3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough on a lightly floured work surface to a 1/4-inch thick. Cut into snowflakes with a 7- inch snowflake-shape cookie cutter. Space 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
4. Bake cookies until crisp but not dark, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.
5. Put icing in a pastry bag fitted with a small plain round tip (such as Ateco #7). Pipe designs on snowflakes; immediately sprinkle with sanding sugar. Let stand 5 minutes; tap off excess sugar. Let icing set completely at room temperature, about 1 hour.