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Friday, December 9, 2011

Three Gifts for Christmas

Last night we had a lovely evening with a dozen or so girlfriends at Renae's "My favorite things" party. It was a blast! Everyone chooses one of their favorite things (for less than $7) and brings five of that same thing. Everyone there puts their name in a bowl on five different pieces of paper and goes home with five different favorite things.

There was everything from favorite nail polish, mascara, bath fizzies, chai tea latte mix, water bottles, kitchen utensils and more! It was so fun to hear about why each person loved the thing they brought. I think we as women are always into hearing about the latest and greatest. Thank Renae for being such a gracious hostess!

After we had finished with the gifts, we went around the room chatting about our favorite Christmas traditions growing up. There were so many good ideas! Pretty much everyone gets matching Christmas pajamas and gets to open one gift Christmas Eve. Baking and family get-togethers were also common.

One idea that stuck out to me was the "Three Gifts for Christmas" idea. Apparently it is very popular, but I have not heard of it! The basis of it is that you give each of your children three gifts, just as the three wise men gave Jesus three gifts.
(Apparently there is also a book you can read as a family.)

I love the reference and the concept. I also think that simplicity is a spiritual discipline and I want to teach my children that as well. (Although I'm sure less presents will take some adjusting, start 'em when their young!)

I found a blog that described their specific gifts as, " one “gold” gift, the big item they are longing for; one “myrrh” gift, which is for their body, such as clothing; and one “frankincense” gift, for their spiritual growth."

I would like to take this idea and adapt it to our own family. The only other thing I would like to teach them is a way to give to others in need. I know of a lot of opportunities to give through our church, but I want to make it special for the kids in the giving process, to help teach them the importance of that. Does anyone have any ideas for this???

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Memories of Thanksgivings Past: Welcome my Aunt Anita as a guest blogger.

My Great Grandma Miars Handwritten Recipe

Memories of Thanksgivings Past

“I need your cranberry relish recipe please!!! It’s my favorite.


This was the first text I read this morning from one of my daughters-in-law, 2000 miles away in Indiana. Followed not long after by this from the other one in San Francisco;

“Would you send me your pecan pie recipe?

Max would like to make it for our Thanksgiving.


I was so pleased to have been asked for these recipes I have used for thirty Thanksgivings. Our family has grown from just my husband and myself, to three sons, two of whom are husbands with wives and babies of their own. It seems the foods we enjoyed together on those special days really did hold meaning for them.

I scrambled to sort through my mess of printed pages, old cookbooks and hand-written recipes in my kitchen cupboard in order to email them quickly to “my girls”. I have recipes hand-written from my great-grandmothers, grandmothers, my mom, my mother-in-law, my sisters and many from good friends.


I found the cranberry relish recipe in an old email since that one had been requested before. I entered the pecan pie recipe (the one I have used since we were first married) into a new word document since my scanner hasn’t been working for a while now.


When I had finished and sent it off to the girls and cc’ed my young married nieces in Michigan (Katie included), I googled “pecan pie”. I watched a video of efficient instructions on how to make a Southern classic pecan pie.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVNIjLYz7HE


I never saw the woman baking the pie, only her hands showed up, forming the crust edges and turning the oven knob to 350 degrees.


So I decided to watch a whole person and googled

“Pecan Pie Paula Deen” and got this one;


http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/chocolate-pecan-pie-recipe/index.html


This was about 4 minutes of video of Paula demonstrating how to make her Chocolate Pecan Pie with her signature charm and ebullient laughter. It looked like it would taste amazingly good!


My hand-written pie recipe suddenly seemed a bit archaic.


It made me stop and reflect a minute. If the thousands of recipes and videos on how to make cranberry relish and pecan pie are available to my girls in an instant, why had they asked me for mine?


I decided these girls had been raised right. They had experienced family traditions of generations of women working in the kitchen together to make the magic of Thanksgiving happen. They had memories playing in their minds of the aroma of onions, celery and sage sauteing in butter on the stove as the beginnings of the stuffing their grandma made every year.


I have memories of my own Grandma Cogie in her late 70’s, wearing her faded smock apron, peeling a mountain of potatoes as she sat at the kitchen table, expertly letting each chunk fall from the worn paring knife into a huge kettle of water with a little kerplunk. I remember the comforting aroma of the turkey roasting when my mother would baste it so it would be moist and golden brown.


My sisters and I would be given various tasks appropriate to our ages. Our favorite was making the chip dip with no recipe from the time I was around eleven years old. My mother would call out each ingredient from memory to me as she patiently stirred her signature gravy in the roaster pan on top of the stove. I got to use the hand mixer and be the first to taste the dip with Ruffles potato chips.


“Cream cheese” she’d call out.

“A little milk after that”.

“Horseradish. About a half a teaspoon.”

“Salt it until it tastes right.”


To this day, my sister’s and I still make this dip. It’s not anything spectacular but it reminds us of our first forays into contributing to our holiday food traditions.

And that brings me back to why we ask each other for recipes when there are thousands available to us online. I think we share our traditional family recipes because women need to connect with other women, especially women we’re related to.


That my new daughters-in-law would want to bring some of our family’s traditional foods into their own celebrations is touching to me. They are honoring our family, their husbands and me by even asking. That’s a great blessing to me and I’m thankful to God for them. I’ll miss having them around my table this year but take comfort in knowing we will all be thanking God for each other and carrying on our traditions on that day, even though we are miles apart.


Oh and I guess I’d better hand write my recipes from now on so my grandchildren and their children can see what my handwriting looked like (although it’s not nearly as pretty as my mother’s meticulous Catholic school cursive). I guess they won’t care as long as the pie turns out well. I’m confident my descendants will know a good thing when they taste it.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Introducing...My mother! Guest blogger extraordinaire.

Wow! I was just realizing the other day that I have been consistently writing on this blog for a little over 4 years! That must be some kind of commitment record for me. For those of you that know me well, rarely do I follow through on a project or finish a complete thought for that matter.

So in celebration of my little blog, I am opening up the mic to hear some fresher, wiser, and wittier voices. Sages if I ever knew them....My mother being one of them :) Incidentally, she is a fantastic writer! Here is her first post in a series. Enjoy!!!


If only I had known (#1 in a series)…


If only I had known the truth about the “Crisper” drawer in my refrigerator. I thought that it was designed to keep your produce crisp and fresh – I imagined my fruits and vegetables lying in the bin as in a vegetable spa…crystal clear water droplets quivering like dew on their skin, their little faces glowing with healthful vitality, as though fresh from a peel. I felt benevolent, like a wonderful hostess as I ushered them into their vacation retreat. And yet, almost as soon as they left my hand to enter their spa experience, I erased their existence from my mind with a push of my hand as I closed the bin. Days, yes, I shudder to confess, even weeks later I opened the bin shamefully, peeking in at their now-rotting carcasses, putrid smells assaulting my senses. No fruit salads chatting by the poolside, no green goddesses lounging around drinking smoothies. I gingerly removed them to the trash can that now housed their decomposing remains, their reedy voices accusing me from the driveway until the garbage truck came and hauled my shameful secret away.



I learned the truth about the crisper and the guilt it had been torturing me with one day while I was helping my sister put away groceries. She told me “Just throw the berries in the rotter.” “The rotter?” I queried. “Yeah, you know, the crisper. You throw your produce in there and you forget that it exists and then it rots. So really, it’s the rotter.” The heavens opened, the angels sang! I was not the only one burdened by shameful veggie abuse and neglect! Someone else had gone so far as to bring their secret into the light and give it a name! I was not alone! I was freed of my burden! Free!



And now, knowing the truth, I no longer had to fear the rotter! I knew what its game was, I knew where it lived. And I would use it to my advantage. No more unrealistic expectations of its purpose. Now I was clear in my knowledge of what it was up to with my pricey peppers, my tender tarragon, my luscious leeks! It was out to destroy them! It was, after all, THE ROTTER!



From this point on I looked at things in my refrigerator differently. I am in control now. When I go into the kitchen to start a meal I look in the rotter first. What is in danger of being ruined in its clutches? That is what I will use first. Who cares if it’s in the ingredient list for my recipe? I will add it anyway and experiment! Anything to save it from the rotter! I will make my grocery list while standing in front of the open rotter drawer – peering in to make sure I have used all the precious produce before buying more. If I haven’t used it and can’t be sure I will use it today, then I will Google “Freezing Apples” or “Freezing Celery” and follow the wisdom of the internet sages who have gone before me into battle with the rotter! Nothing will stop me in my quest to use all these beauties as nature intended!


So now I know. One of the most basic favors any cook

can do for themselves is to “Work from the rotter first!”.

THE BEST Crockpot meal I've tried yet:

Crockpot Cheese Tortellini  

I made this for the first time last night and it was super super yummy! My hubby and son devoured all of it. Then begged for more! ...The response to this recipe has been fantastic. I am glad so many of you enjoy it.
*Vegetarian Option  

Above, I used ground sausage (pork, cooked before I added it)

Your ingredients! Here I tried chicken sausage (roasted garlic and asiago kind), as seen above.


The only prep work is to brown your sausage, whichever kind you choose.
This kind of chicken sausage, although fully cooked, just needs to be browned for extra flavor.


Ingredients:
1 (19oz) bag of frozen cheese tortellini
1 small bag of fresh spinach (I used about half of a 5 oz package, but more is better!)
2 (14.5 oz) cans of Italian style diced tomatoes, drained
1 block (8 oz) of cream cheese** (softened in microwave)
1 lb. of ground sausage or chicken/turkey sausage
3-4 cups of chicken broth (start with 3, add 1 more if it looks like it needs it)

Brown the sausage and put all ingredients in crockpot,
chunking up the cream cheese.
Cook on low for 4-6 hrs.

Serves 4-6

*Keep an eye on your tortellini, it may be done sooner.
*If still soupy, leave lid off for the last half hour or so of cooking.
*For a vegetarian version, omit sausage and use vegetable broth instead.

**If you use neufachtel (1/3 fat of cream cheese) be prepared that it doesn't melt as well and leaves little curds. 


How can these ingredients not be delicious?
But hey, I'll do anything to get Calvin to eat spinach like that.

Try it!!!!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Glorious sock bun! Tricks I learned...


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GLORIOUS Sock Bun. How I love thee. After a few trials using slightly different techniques. I think I found what works best.
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Dry Hair. Very Important.I actually had to blow-dry after my shower last night. Then slightly dampen the ponytail on the top of your head. I used a little spray bottle just like the one in the sock bun video. I very lightly sprayed mostly 2/3 of the ponytail, towards the ends. But hardly at all. I found when it didn't work the best, I woke up and my sock bun was still damp = not good.

I also used just a couple pumps of anti-frizz serum focusing on the ends of my hair, after lightly dampening the ponytail. Make sure you watch closely how to roll the sock bun with this video: sock bun rolling

Also, I tried using a sock that had a bit more elasticity to it. A tighter sock, if you will.

It only takes a couple of times to practice and then it's easy as pie. Hope that helps you get true "beauty sleep"!!! Seriously. 8 minutes to get totally ready this morning.

:D

Monday, November 7, 2011

Because I LOVE the crockpot.

I am going to share a couple of my go-to crockpot recipes that are super easy and delicious.

Crockpot Roast
(per my mother the barefoot contessa of the family):



5-6 potatoes peeled and cut up into 2 inch cubes.
(If really low on time, they have pre-peeled potatoes in a can! I know, I know, but they taste pretty good.)

1 bag of baby carrots
1 medium to large onion sliced in rings
1 or two cans of beef broth
Roast (chuck, shoulder any kind will do, I usually opt for the smaller ones and put more carrots in ours)
Spices: salt, pepper, paprika, oregano or whatever you want to experiment with...

Layer: carrots first, potatoes, then the roast with the onion rings.
Pour beef broth over all.
Sprinkle the roast and onions with salt, pepper, and spices.
Cook on low for 8 hrs. or high for 6 hrs. or until the meat is very tender and falls apart.

Don't forget to make some biscuits to go with it! This is such a simple, but delicious meal and makes the house smell like heaven. Men also love it. Make it for the hubby. :)

*Also, you can add a few TBS. of flour or cornstarch when it is almost done to thicken up the yummy juices and make more of a gravy.

* I usually assemble the night before and put the whole crockpot (ceramic part) in the fridge, so that when I get up in the morning or late morning early afternoon, I can just put the crock right in the pot and turn it on.....so easy.

* Another tip that I just learned is to buy in bulk these ingredients and fill gallon freezer bags, freeze flat in the freezer and label. The next time you need to make a roast, just go to the freezer pull one out and it's ready to be put in just like that. You may need to defrost enough to get it out of the bag and then put it in there! Make an event of it with several different crockpot meals waiting to be cooked in your freezer.
 
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