Let It Snow…Finally

The snow is falling…finally!  It’s been such a mild winter, that I’ve had to remind myself almost daily that spring is not just around the corner.  Today, it’s not hard to remember it is February, and isn’t the snow beautiful? IMG_2092 What better way to spend a snowy February morning than baking zucchini bread (I froze a little shredded zucchini from the summer garden back in August for just such an occasion) and making Valentines with my son for his preschool class?  The idea for the Valentines came from a Seventh Generation blog post, and the zucchini bread recipe comes from my old trusty Better Homes and Gardens cook book (handed down from my grandma) but I linked to some similar recipes in a previous post. IMG_2097 IMG_2098 How are you spending these February days?

My Week in Review

I can hardly believe that Christmas Eve will be here on Tuesday.  For the week before Christmas, it’s been a pretty manageable one.  We:

  • Finished shopping
  • Baked cookies
  • Made cornstarch and salt dough ornaments
  • Painted
  • Dropped packages at the post office
  • Read lots of Christmas stories
  • Helped decorate Mimi’s and Boo’s new home for Christmas

…and we are counting down the days until the big day!  How is your family preparing for your celebrations?

My son (3) is so excited!  I love watching him remember things from last year, and piece together all of the fun and joyful aspects of our holiday celebrations.  He has also just begun saying “I love you” to his dad and me!  This is the greatest gift he could give us this year 🙂  He really enjoys making gifts and getting them ready to give.

My daughter (1) is enjoying all of the reading and baking of the season!  She also seems to like the music and dancing.  I even notice her trying to sing the words to a few familiar songs 🙂  I can’t wait to see her reaction on Christmas morning.  The 1st year that they are old enough to understand what’s happening is so fun!

I am still knitting like crazy to finish the last cowl.  I’m busy getting all of the ingredients ready for our last batch of Christmas cookies (my favorite, Black Forest Cookies), our Christmas morning egg bake, and Christmas spaghetti dinner.  I’ve finished most of my wrapping.  Just a little more to do and a lot of assembly yet to be done this weekend.  This final stretch is always a little bitter-sweet for me (kind of like the beginning of autumn).

To every hearth a little fire,

To every table a little feast,

To every heart a joy,

To every child a toy,

Shelter for bird and beast.

(Traditional)

Warm wishes and blessings to you and yours this Christmas!

Gingerbread Cookies

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Nothing says Christmas time to me like the taste and smell of gingerbread!  When I was a little girl, my grandma (Tutu) would make gingerbread cake with lemon sauce, and it was my favorite.  I have never been able to get her cake quite right, but I have come to love making gingerbread cookies instead.  Since my son really loves gingerbread too, and really really loves the story of The Gingerbread Man, this will be our 2nd year making gingerbread people cookies for Christmas (we actually make these other times in the year too)  🙂

We like to start by telling or reading the story of The Gingerbread Man.  Then we wash up and get the step-stool ready in the kitchen.  My son (3) likes to scoop the sugar and flour into the measuring cups.  He (and his sister) also love to lick the beaters from the mixer when we’re all done mixing 🙂  Here’s my recipe (You can use any shape cutter you like.  In years passed I used a pretty snow flake cutter):

Gingerbread Cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temp.

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1.5 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1 egg

1/2 cup molasses

1 tablespoon vinegar

2.5 cups flour (I use whole wheat)

Mix butter with an electric mixer for about a minute.  Add sugar, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves to bowl and mix until combined.  Then add egg, molasses, and vinegar.  Begin adding flour slowly, mixing until all of the flour is incorporated into the dough.  Cover the bowl and refrigerate a couple of hours or over-night.

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Roll the dough 1/4 inch thick and cut with cookie cutter of your choice (I used a 3 inch person-shaped cutter).  Transfer to a cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 8-12 minutes (less if your cookies are smaller than mine).  Edges will be starting to darken.  Let cool before decorating.  Makes about 12.

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I like to glaze my gingerbread with lemon glaze.  It reminds me of my Tutu’s lemon sauce.  To make lemon glaze simply mix about a cup of powdered sugar with a table-spoon or two of lemon juice.  Stir it up and add more powdered sugar or lemon juice to get the consistency you like.  Then spread or drizzle it on each cookie.  I let my son do this step.  I also set out raisins and almond slices for him to decorate with.  The toppings stick pretty well with the glaze.

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As you can imagine the entire process is infused with chants of “Run, run, as fast as you can!  You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!”  which makes the experience that much more fun 🙂 .  Happy baking to you and yours this holiday season!

Taco Tuesday

A neighbor gave me this recipe for a meat rub that makes delicious tacos! 

2 or 3 cloves of garlic

2 teaspoons of salt

1 teaspoon of black pepper

1/4 cup of chili powder

1 teaspoon of cumin

1 teaspoon of oregano

1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon

1/4 cup of red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon of olive oil

Mix it all together and rub all over a pork roast or chicken or beef.  Cover and refrigerate over night.  Then cook it according to the type of meat you used.

Last time I cut up a pork roast into 1 inch pieces.  I put the rub and pork pieces into a ziplock bag and squished it all around to coat all of the pieces.  Then I left it in the refrigerator over night.  The next evening I cooked it over medium high heat in a large skillet.  I served it on tortillas with lettuce tomatoes and onions and chopped cilantro.  It was yummy!  My husband especially liked it!

Try it with this rice, my favorite Spanish rice recipe.

Soup Day: Bean and Vegetable Soup

Soup Day:  Bean and Vegetable Soup

Well, it’s soup day and my son is sick again…It feels like someone is sick in this house more often than not these days. I guess illness goes hand in hand with fall and preschool. Hopefully we build up an immunity to these bugs sooner than later.

For my sanity, I chose bean and vegetable soup for tonight’s dinner because it is easy and delicious. For bread today (because you have to have freshly baked bread with soup) I will be getting out my bread machine and letting it do all of the work (I don’t have my son’s helping hands today).

Bean and Vegetable Soup:Start with 1.5 cups of dried beans (soaked over night in water). Drain the beans and set aside.
In a large soup pot brown an onion chopped up in olive oil. The goal here is to get a nice brown coating on the bottom of the pan.
Add a little broth or wine, or juice (about 1/2 c) to onions and let it cook down. I think I’ll use the apple cider that’s left over from our apple picking trip last weekend.
Add the beans and a bay leaf or 2 to the pot and pour in a box of store-bought stock (about 3 quarts). You could make the stock, but I’ve never been successful at making flavorful stock. Bring to a boil and then simmer for a few hours.
Add a can of tomatoes and fresh herbs. I use whatever I have an abundance of in the garden. Be creative!
Add about 1/2 c. of uncooked rice. I like brown or black rice. Keep simmering until the rice is cooked (about 30 min).
Add frozen or fresh veggies (about 5 c. give or take depending on the thickness you like for your soup). I use what ever I have left over in the fridge plus whatever I find in the freezer. You can’t go wrong. Just remember to add fresh root vegetables earlier in the cooking process so that they have time to get tender. Cook for a few more minutes (just to get everything hot. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add a little more herbs if you like.

The best part of this recipe is it’s flexibility. You can use up left overs in the fridge and veggies that are nearing the end. You can even throw in left over rice or meat. Have fun with it!

Happy soup day!

Beef Stew for Dinner

Monday, with crisp autumn temperatures, felt like a perfect day to simmer beef stew (today’s humidity is a stark contrast).  The house smelled deliciously cozy and WOW it tasted good!  The first stews and heartier cold weather meals always taste so indulgent after a summer of lighter cooler dinners.  Here’s my family’s stew recipe:

1/2 to 1 lb. lean stew beef (most butchers will cut any beef roast that’s on sale into bite size stew pieces if you ask)

1 onion

6 potatoes

6 carrots

Any other root vegetables that you have on hand.

Frozen corn and peas

worcestershire sauce

salt and pepper

Corn starch

Start by browning the meat in a large pot (I usually pour a little olive oil to cover the bottom about 1 Tablespoon).  The goal here is to get that nice brown color coating the bottom of the pan.  About 1/2 way through browning the meat add a chopped onion and salt and pepper.

Next, fill the pot with enough water to cover the meat and onions.  Pour in a couple of teaspoons of worcestershire sauce.  Bring water to a simmer and continue to simmer for 1 or 2 hours adding water as needed to keep the meat covered.

Then, toss in chopped potatoes, carrots, and other roots if you’re using them.  (I like to use bite size pieces.)  Add enough water to cover again and return to a simmer.  Continue to simmer 1 hour or at least till the vegetables are tender. 

I thicken it with cornstarch.  I pour about 1/2 cup of corn starch into a bowl and add a little water to make a runny paste.  I stir it together until it’s smooth and pour it into the stew.  Stir stew.  Keep adding cornstarch-water mixture until the stew is your desired thickness. 

Lastly add frozon corn and peas and return to simmer for 5 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning to your taste.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Cold Turkey & Wild Rice Salad

Cold Turkey & Wild Rice Salad

Monday night I made a delicious turkey wild rice salad for dinner. I had a left over turkey breast in the fridge (a local market had a sale on rotisserie turkey breasts). Here‘s a link to the recipe.

I altered the recipe by adding chopped bell pepper, and chopped parsley (both already in my fridge) and I omitted the almonds because I didn’t have them.

The salad was delicious on a sandwich, over a bed of lettuce, or just on its own! I hope you give it a try and let me know what you think.