Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ice Skating at Skyline Park and Hot Chocolate at Starbucks

Monday smelled like winter had arrived, finally. I've been waiting, patiently, for it to arrive. The nice weather had been wonderful, but I really like a change of seasons, too.
Ellie thought it would be fun to go skating downtown at the skate rink in Skyline Park in downtown. It is sponsored by Southwest Airlines. It was pretty cool.

The zamboni was painted to look like an airplane, complete with a rear ruder. I'd like to drive one some time.

I was happy to find that there were tall tables and stools where I could knit while enjoying watching the skaters.

Afterward we stopped at a nearby Starbucks for some peppermint hot chocolate - a lovely, smooth and tasty treat.

I tried to capture some of the fun and festive lights we saw on the way home. The camera just could not capture that magic.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Little Fun Music

Here are a few videos that I have been enjoying. I thought you might like them, too.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Vedauwoo, Wyoming - A Girl and Her Dad Take A Quick Trip

On Saturday, Ellie and Larr went for a drive. Larr had not been in the mountains for nearly three weeks and was feeling the need to connect with nature.
Ellie convinced him to go to somewhere new. I am not sure how they came upon it, but they decided to head to Vedauwoo in south eastern Wyoming.

Larr and Ethan had been through Vedauwoo some years back when they went to a rock climbing festival.

My husband always takes such lovely photos.

Ellie has that same wonderful photographic vision and talent.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Prepping For Thanksgiving

I took a break from cleaning and planning to glitter a few snowflakes. I love the cut paper and lazer cut look of some Christmas decorations. It took me years to figure out what I really like, but I see this thread through all of my favorite holiday items.

This year we are actually having fall weather, so I took advantage of the beauty of the day and did my glittering outside.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving Day Prep.- Really Cooking

We are having 16 people over for Thanksgiving. The Cures have joined us today to help get the cooking underway.

Aaron brought over leather working stuff to make special napkin rings. Ethan and Kenzie joined in the fun.

Ellie (and sometimes Kenzie) played some video games online with her friends.

Katy, Sherry and I cooked.

I made a triple batch of cranberry relish.

Cranberry Orange Relish

2 cups Fresh Cranberries
2/3 cup Sugar
3/4 cup Water
1/4-1/2 cup Orange Juice
Zest from 1 Orange

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan. Stir to combine and cook on medium until the cranberries begin to burst or pop. Allow relish to cook before serving.

I also made a citrus brown sugar brine for the turkey. I filled a cooler with ice. Next, I place the turkey in a double set of trash bags and poured in the cooled brine. After knotting the bag, I tucked it all in the ice and left it until the next day.

I taught Katy how to make pies.

She did a great job!

Here's what we are having for Thanksgiving:

Cream Cheese with Raspberry Chipotle Sauce
Chex Mix
Cheese and Crackers
2 more items other people will bring
(Chocolate Chip cookies, if time allows to make them.)

White Cranberry Spritzer
Cranberry Wine
Dark German Beer (Ayinger)

Smoked Turkey
Roasted Turkey with Sage Maple Glaze (brined in a citrus brine (with Orange Juice substituted for some of the liquid)
Corn Bread with Bacon Dressing
Stuffing for the Roasted Turkey
Mashed Potatoes with Gravy
Sweet Potatoes with Nutmeg and Parmesan (which is really made with yams - 2-3 colors)
Something Green

Pecan Pie
Pumpkin Pie
Nantucket Cranberry Pie

Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Blessing of Friendship

Today I am thankful for many things, but especially for friendship.

Natalie and I. We met in college.

I am so thankful for the cherished friendships that have been able to transcend their origins (dorm life in college and bike racing, specifically) to become full, rich and satisfying. I am thankful that they are the kinds of friendships that thrive, but do not reassurance on a very regular basis, that we can pick up after not having seen each other for an extended period of time and they are just as if that gap of time never existed.

I am thankful that they have been able to survive, even thrive, even though our lives have evolved with the changes that accompanying getting married, having a family and having our kids approach adulthood.

On Monday I spent the day with Mike. She and I met through biking. We've come to find that she share many things in common, including the joy of cooking. I went to her house in Monument on Monday. We had intended to make a cornucopia of pie crust dough, but it did not work out. It turns out that you must use bread dough. It was fun to make the forms from foil, to visit and to go window shopping.

On Tuesday Natalie, Camille and Ben visited. We were on a mission to get some Christmas gifts made. I love making things with other people and the kids seems to like making things with me.

We got Ben set up in the craft room using my Cricut machine. He and his mother are making paint chip bookmarkers for the kids in his class.

(This photos is from Tumblr. I included it here to give you an idea of what was being created. Imagine names spelled out instead of images.)

He used the Cricut to cut out the letters to spell each person's name. He is a boy who like clean, crisp lines and has an eye for detail. I was sure that he would like using my fun machine.

I pulled out my jewelry making tools to teach Camille how to make earrings.
She was a fast learner and seemed to enjoy it.

She created great earrings. Like most people who make jewelry, I think she is a bit tempted to keep what she made.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Prepping for Thanksgiving - Make Ahead Gravy, Stuffing Prep. Turkey Brining

Right now it smells very yummy in my house. I have bread raising near the stove. I am roasting a pan of Brussel sprouts with onions and bacon. When they come out of the oven, I will sprinkle them with chopped pecans and aged balsamic vinegar. I've also got a loaf of French bread raising on the stove top.

I've begun my Thanksgiving preparation in earnest. I'm making a healthy, flavorful turkey stock from scratch, which will be transformed into turkey gravy. The bread will become the base for the dressing for the turkey. And oh yes, let's not forget that I need to brine the turkey. I've included the recipes below. (If you are interested in the science of brining a bird, you 'll find a detailed, excellent write up over at the food lab.)

Here's a little bit of music to get it all started:

Turkey Gravy - Made Ahead of Time, Mostly

Turkey Stock -

5 pounds turkey wings
1 turkey neck
2 tablespoons vegetable oil or Olive Oil
1 red onion, cut into chunks
3 carrots
2 celery stalks
10 Peppercorns, whole (Tellicherry)
3-5 Bay leaves
3-5 stalks of Fresh Thyme

Preheat oven to 450°. Spread turkey wings, turkey neck and onion in a large heavy roasting pan which has sides. Lightly coat the turkey wings with oil; roast until browned, about 1 hour. Flip half way through.

Once the turkey wings are cool enough to handle, tear the skin and meat from the bones. Place all of the turkey, skin and bones, along with the roasted onion in a heavy pan with 8 cups of water.Place the carrot, celery, peppercorns, bay leaf and thyme in the pan.

Now, back to the pan which was used for the roasting. If there is an excess of fat, pout it off. (Mine did not have this issue.) Place the roasting pan on the stove top, pour in two cups of water and bring it to a simmer. After simmering for about 5 minutes, carefully hold the pan and scrap the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon in order to remove the caramelized bits on the pan. Once this process is complete, pour this mixture in the pan with the turkey, veggies, water and herbs.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer uncovered, skimming surface occasionally, for 3-4 hours. The goal here is to reduce the stock to 6 cups, intensifying the flavor.

Let the broth cool and then strain it. This stock can be kept for up to 3 day in the fridge, or frozen.Strain into another pot; boil until reduced to 2 quarts, about 30 minutes longer.

Turkey Gravy -

4 TBL unsalted butter or turkey fat
4 TBL all-purpose flour
6 cups turkey stock, warm
2 tablespoons Madeira (optional)
Kosher salt

(Optional Add-In, as suggested by Bon Appetit Magazine)
For every 6 cups of Turkey gravy, add:
1 1/2 cups Dry White Wine that has been heated and reduced to 1 cup.
1 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce & 1 tsp. Soy Sauce
1 cup + 2 Tsp. Apple Cider (simmer for 5 minutes before adding to the gravy.)

Melt butter or turkey fat in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking, for 1 minute. The roux will become smooth and golden brown. Keep whisking! Within 2–3 minutes it will be the color of caramel or cafĂ© au lait. Gradually whisk in the warm turkey stock, bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the gravy's at a bare simmer. Add Maderia (if using) during the last few minutes before adding the turkey pan drippings. Season with kosher salt and serve. Or keep the gravy warm until the turkey is finished and take it one step further... Transfer your turkey to a cutting board and strain the drippings from the pan into a measuring cup. Skim the fat; add enough water to measure 1-2 cups. Place the pan across two burners set on medium-high heat. Add the drippings mixture and deglaze the pan, stirring and scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon. Strain into the gravy; simmer until slightly thickened, 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and serve.

Apple and Sausage Stuffing
via: Handle the Heat Blog
YIELD: 8-10 servings

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound spicy pork bulk sausage
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced peeled and cored Granny Smith apples
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons minced fresh sage
1 bay leaf

1 (1-pound) loaf French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes (with crusts)
1 cup whole milk
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large eggs, beaten to blend

Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and saute, breaking up into pieces, until browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the sausage to a large bowl. Add the celery, onion, apple, garlic, parsley, sage, and bay leaf to the skillet and saute until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Add the vegetable mixture to the sausage in the large bowl. Can be made 1 day ahead of time, cover and refrigerate. Reheat to lukewarm before using.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Add the bread to the sausage mixture. Whisk the milk, broth, and butter in a large measuring glass or small bowl to combine. Add to the stuffing and season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in the eggs then transfer mixture to the prepared baking dish. Bake uncovered for about 50 minutes, until cooked through and browned.

From Bon Appetit


Balsamic Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Onion
via: Jelly Toast Blog
Serves 6-8

2 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut in half
2 small red onions, sliced
5 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
4 strips of bacon, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Coarse salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
(1/2 cup Pecans, finely chopped)
2-4 Tablespoons of good quality, aged balsamic vinegar (if you don’t have a good quality aged vinegar, you can boil regular balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan, and reduce it until it becomes syrupy)


Preheat oven to 400°.

On a rimmed baking sheet, toss together Brussels sprouts, onions, garlic and bacon. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Toss to coat. Spread veggies into a single layer.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, tossing once halfway through cooking. Veggies should be tender and golden at the edges, and bacon should be cooked through.

Remove from oven, drizzle with balsamic vinegar (and pecans). Toss to coat and serve!

Brown Sugar, Citrus and Salt Brine
adapted from a recipe from Goodlife Eats Blog

For a 16 - 20 lb. Turkey:
1 cup kosher salt
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole allspice berries
4 bay leaves
5 stems fresh thyme
3 stems fresh sage
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 cup loosely packed parsley (stems ok)
3 Oranges or Tangerines
3 Lemons
10 Garlic Cloves, crushed
peel of 3 tangerines or oranges (optional)
1 gallon boiling water
8 pounds ice cubes

Combine the salt, brown sugar, peppercorns, allspice berries, bay leaves, thyme, sage, rosemary, parsley, garlic, and tangerine peel together in a large stock pot. Add 1 gallon of water. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, remove from heat.
After removing from heat, steep the mixture for 45 minutes. Then, add in enough ice to bring the brine amount up to 2 gallons (2 gallons = 32 cups). This is very important otherwise you will have an incredibly salty turkey.
For smaller stock pots, you may have to allow the brine to cool and add the additional amount when pouring the brine into the bag in the following step.
Place the turkey in a large zip-top bag. I recommend the Ziploc Big Bags (size large). Put the bagged turkey in a clean cooler. Pour the brine over the turkey, in the bag, making sure the breasts are fully submerged. Zip the bag closed. Place the cooler in a cool place, such as your garage or, and allow the turkey to soak in the cold brine for 12-24 hours.
Use gel ice packs or bagged ice around the zipped bag inside the cooler, if necessary, to keep the brine below 40°F. (Adding more ice directly to the brine would only dilute it.)
Alternatively, if you have room in your refrigerator, you may place the bagged turkey in a large foil tray rather than a cooler and store it on the fridge shelf.
After the brining process, transfer the turkey to a roasting pan and discard the brine. Roast according to your preferred method.
Note: For a smaller turkey you may make less brine; however, be careful to do so with the original proportions of ingredient still intact. Too much salt will leave you with an incredibly salty turkey. Also, birds less than 10 pounds will likely not need to soak for the full 24 hours to achieve the desired results.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Annual AVS Auctions

I am thankful for my artistic ability and my knowledge of Adobe Photoshop. I had fun designing the promotional materials for the annual auction that raises money for tuition scholarships.
For the live auction I made a batch of Dark Chocolate Chip cookies. They were paired with an organic orange creme soda and sold for $65. I was pleased with that.

For the online auction I made a bunch of different pairs of earrings. I tried to make a wide variety of designs. It is interesting to see who is interested in what. I was originally going to make something else, but changed my mind when the people who usually bid on my jewelry started to approach me with questions about what kinds of colors I would use this year.

The online auction runs until next Tuesday. You might want to check it out.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wisconsin Cauliflower Soup Recipe

Here's a quick soup that I made to go with seasoned Chicken for last night's dinner. It was very tasty. In searching for something else I came across similar recipe where the soup is topped with cheese which is in turn melted quickly under a broiler, giving it a lovely topping like that found on French Onion soup.

Wisconsin Cauliflower Soup

2 tablespoon butter or coconut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
1 head (2 1/2 pounds) cauliflower, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 - 1 1/2 teaspoon Paprika (Hungarian Smoked Paprika is best)
1 teaspoon Hickory Smoked Flavor (optional)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 cup Pepper Jack cheese, shredded

In a large saucepan, melt butter and/or coconut oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until golden, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Whisk in flour. Gradually stir in milk, chicken broth, and water.

Add cauliflower and heat to boiling over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until cauliflower is tender, about 15 minutes.

In a blender or a food processor, blend cauliflower mixture at low speed in small batches until very smooth. If you have an immersion blender, use it- it literally takes less than a minute to blend.

Return cauliflower mixture to saucepan; heat over medium heat until hot, stirring occasionally. Stir in the smoked paprika and the smoked flavor. Remove saucepan from heat; stir in mustard and 1 1/2 cups cheese until melted and smooth. (Medium - high heat will cause the cheese texture to become grainy. If needed, heat very slowly.) Serve soup with remaining cheese as a garnish.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mile High Urban CX Chaos 2012

We braved the cold weather (about 25 degrees)so that Ellie could take part in the first ever urban cyclocross race. It was pretty cool.
The sponsor built a fun pump track area with ground up asphalt, wood chips and dirt mounds. They included a bit of deep sand as well.

They also included an adaptive (handlecycle) category for the paraplegics and quadriplegics. It was the first of its kind. I am so impressed! I hope this will start a trend.

The venue was interesting, too.

Ellie won her category.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Handmade Jewelry for the AVS Charity Auction

Every year I made some jewelry for the Alpine Valley School tuition assistance fund benefit.

(I see I have to make these match - good thing I caught that!)

This year I incorporated some elements, mostly crystals, that are from 1930's vintage costume jewelry. I had making them. I hope someone else loves them, too.