Christmas has Come.

Today we celebrated our first Christmas; with sweetie’s two daughter’s and his oldest’s boyfriend. We spent most of last evening and this morning chopping, preheating, cutting, washing dishes, icing, glazing, baking, mixing, washing dishes, stirring… (the dishwasher is running yet again as I type; not to mention all the dishes we washed by hand).  My sweetie does not cook, but he takes direction well, and he’s good at sticking with it until the job is done. Together, we made this lovely brunch, and the Christmas cookies and candy:

Brunch

A fruit compote (pineapple, bananas, strawberries, and apples)

Chocolate Dipped Fruit kebabs

Pecan Swirl Cinnamon Rolls

Sausage and Apple Quiche

Dark Chocolate Sugar Cookies

Saltine Toffee

Christmas Wreaths (Holly Crackles)

I ate entirely too much — but it was all so good.  Incidentally, should you decide to make that Dark Chocolate Cookie recipe, I recommend using your own common sense when it comes to cutting them out and baking them.  Martha Stewart must be on crack if she thinks anyone in the real world (read: anyone without a sizeable staff) has that kind of time to devote to one damn batch of cookies.  Read the recipe, you’ll understand what I mean.  I didn’t spend any of that time freezing rolled out dough, I don’t possess parchment paper, and my cookies turned out great.

Sweetie’s youngest loves to bake (and is GREAT at it); she brought a large tray of cookies to add to mine.  I don’t even want to admit how few of those cookies are left on the plates this evening. His eldest brought a gift basket of flavored popcorn, chocolate dipped pretzels, cookies she baked, and some wonderful smelling William-Sonoma hot cocoa. I’m going to need to fast for a few days after the festivities are over…

We gave each of the kids a stocking full of goodies, exchanged a few goodies and lots of conversation; the afternoon was gone before we knew it.

The youngest gave us a “Box of Dates”; to be opened one at a time, any time we decide we need a “date night”.  Some are marked for “winter”, “spring”, etc., and others are marked “anytime”.  Clever gift, huh?  It’s kind of fun to think we get to draw Christmas out by having delayed gratification of one of our gifts…

Box of Dates

Winter arrived this week, as well.  With a vengeance, I might add… Wednesday and Thursday, we got hit hard with a true, honest-to-goodness blizzard.  Trees and wires were felled under the weight of the snow and ice, highways were closed for much of Thursday, and travel was almost non-existant.  The result was roughly a foot of snow, and on Friday, some beautiful sights…

White Christmas

Tomorrow is a celebration with my side of the family, more eating, conversation and laughter.  It also happens to be the due date for grandbaby girl (our first grandchild).  She doesn’t seem to be in a big hurry to join us, but you never know… we’re hoping we get to meet her sometime this week!

A Very Merry Christmas to you and yours…

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Really Random: the 3 R’s

The blog got very quiet when November arrived, did you notice?  November is the month I dread, because at work it is my most challenging and stress-inducing month, and incidentally, seems to be the  l o n g e s t.  At the end of the day I am fairly well spent, and have little time for sewing or socializing, much less blogging about any of it.  Today is the 15th, it’s half over.  Praise the Lord!

I’ve been doing some Pinterest cooking (you know, pinning recipes) and then making them by reading them on the iPad on the kitchen counter. Would you like to see what I’ve made and know how I rated it?

  • I made this Spaghetti with Creamy Butternut Leek Parmesan Sauce.  I’d give it 3 stars; delicious, but mine didn’t look anything like her’s, and the leftovers weren’t fabulous.  A recipe has to provide GREAT tasting leftovers to get 5 stars from me.
  • These I made and enjoyed for days following.  5 stars fabulous.
  • I’m a comfort food junky during times in my life, like “November”, and when the temps start to dip.  One of my faves from childhood?  Grilled cheese and tomato soup. This recipe got another 5 stars.  But sadly, I will never be hired as a food stylist…  Agreed?
  • Gina’s Filipino Adobo Pulled Pork in the slow cooker gets 4.5 stars.  Even my sweetie raved about this one (it’s not that he doesn’t like my cooking, it’s that I am more adventurous with “healthy eating” than he cares to be…) 😉
  • And he gave the No Sugar Sloppy Joe’s 5 stars, I gave them a 3.5 because I wasn’t crazy about the BBQ sauce I used.  Will try this again and tweak it, ’cause Kelly does write some great recipes, and I love the low-no sugar ideas she comes up with.

I also made pumpkin pie from scratch this weekend, as in, I baked two sugar pumpkins and everything.  Followed this recipe for the most part.  It was fabulous, at least 6 stars tasty.  It is, of course, long gone.

I have a bunch of pumpkin stuff pinned, that I am hoping to try next week.  Well, Pumpkin is one of my comfort foods, too, y’know.

Tomorrow I am heading to retreat.  I am over-the-moon THANKFUL for the vacation day from work and looking forward to hours and hours of sewing time…

Hoping to finish up this quilt top:

btw, go see Stephanie, she finished her Urban Nine Patch quilt top (those 3 awesome blocks on the left) — a  really cool quilt…

And go see Cindy, where I’m linking up today, for Really Random Thursday.

Live A Colorful Life

Candy Corn Crazy

BLOGTOBERFEST, Day 30

It’s true, October 30th is National Candy Corn Day… I’m not sure why we have National “Days” for everything under the sun, but there it is.  And, I admit it, I have a weakness for this stuff.

Candy corn is a sweet confection, made to look like dried corn kernels. It’s considered a “mellow cream,” a type of candy made from corn syrup and sugar that has a marshmallow-like flavor. Although candy corn tastes rich, it’s actually fat-free.  But keep in mind, that does not mean calorie free!  And if you are like me, one handful is never enough…

There are any number of Candy Corn inspired recipes out there, such as Candy Corn Cheesecake:

Candy Corn fudge:

Candy Corn truffles (which look pretty darned tasty):

There are even recipes online for making your own Candy Corn, though I’m not sure why you would bother when Brach’s does such a wonderful job of it for you.

There is no shortage of candy corn inspired crafts either.  I even posted one of my own last year, a Candy Corn themed favor bag, tutorial here.

I might have to make one of these to celebrate next October 30th:

I’m sure you’re hungry by now so go treat yourself to some Candy Corn in honor of Natioanl Candy Corn Day, October 30, 2012…

Pie-a-Palooza

Some college friends and I try to get together monthly for a Girl’s Night Out.  This month there were only three of us, and our night fell on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, so we stayed in, and had a pie-making night. 

We made TWO pumpkin pies with pre-made roll out dough, and the recipe from the Libby’s Canned Pumpkin label… I had a helper when mixing my pumpkin pie:

The baked Pumpkin Pie looks so much better than the “raw stuff”–and it tasted even better!

and we made FOUR oatmeal pies with “from-scratch” crust (recipes for both Oatmeal Pie and our Pie Crust, below)  What?!  You’ve never had Oatmeal Pie?  Tastes a lot like Pecan Pie… and the recipe was adapted by my best friend after trying Oatmeal Pie at a restaurant, Mondo’s.  It also doesn’t look so good before baking:

..but after?  Yummmmm….

Recipe for Pie Crust:
3 C flour
1 C Crisco
1 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
5 Tbsp Ice Water
1 tsp vinegar
Work Crisco into the flour with pastry cutter or knife/forks.  Add remaining ingredients, mix well with fork.  Divide in two and roll out.  Makes two 9-inch pie crusts.
Recipe for Oatmeal Pie:
3 eggs
1 C Sugar
1 dash salt
1 C Dark Karo Syrup
1 C oatmeal
8 Tblsp margarine, melted
unbaked Pie Crust
Mix all ingredients together, pour into unbaked pie shell, and bake for 60 minutes at 350 degrees(f). 
Delish.  It is best served with Blue Bunny brand Cinnamon Ice Cream (only available at the holidays!) and, yes, Blue Bunny brand is the best!
I’m getting excited to decorate for Christmas… at last week’s Des Moines Modern Quilt Guild meeting, I received these fun towels and picture frame from Marny in our Holiday Swap.  Just my kind of Christmas colors, bright, with pink and lime green included! 
Marny provided a simple tutorial for making these towels (using 5″ Charm squares!!) on her blog, Modern Quilt Relish.  Thanks, Marny, I really, really, like them!

Summer Greek Salad

Another summer recipe…  This is a new one, I adapted from a magazine recipe.  It was EXCELLENT, even the next day as leftovers.

Chunky Chickpea Greek Salad

1 cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 C scallions, thinly sliced
15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
10 Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
Sweet vinegar & Olive Oil dressing
Feta cheese

Combine first five ingredients in medium size bowl.  Add chickpeas and olives, and 2-3 Tbsp of Hendrickson’s Sweet Vinegar & Olive Oil dressing (or a handmade vinaigrette dressing of your choice).  Sprinkle with feta cheese for garnish, and serve:

Hendrickson’s is my dressing of choice, it’s preservative and gluten free, fat free and low in calories.  But most of all, it’s delicious!  This is the same dressing I use on the quinoa recipe that I shared last week.  You can find it in most major supermarkets:

Do you have any favorite summer recipes in your house?

Summertime, and the Livin’ is Easy…

Well, okay–given the heatwave we are still in the midst of, it isn’t exactly easy or pleasant these days, but I do like that old tune.  Since early June, I’ve been longing for childhood summer days, (and envying those that still get them!)– three months off, playing outside nearly every day, riding our bikes to the pool, not caring how hot and humid it got, staying out late to catch lightning bugs in a jar.  Yeah, summer was way more fun as a kid.  Yeah, I said it.  Way more fun.  Needless to say, most of my time these days is spent indoors trying to “keep my cool”.

I’ve been doing some Summer cooking inside, making use of some of the new kitchen gadgets we received as wedding gifts.  I’ve made lemon zest before, but never with a real zester And my new Kitchenaid funnels?  Kept the lemon seeds out of my smoothie! 

Actually, this green goo is not a smoothie, it’s Avocado Ice Cream.  No ice cream maker needed–and it’s fabulous.  My sometimes picky sweetie even liked it.  It could be consumed as smoothies as it was pretty tasty even before being frozen.  

I made a rhubarb pizza one day, and because my sweetie won’t eat rhubarb, I consumed the entire thing myself over the course of a few days.  I did run the oven for that one, but not for a very long time.  Easy, quick and delish!

And I made my favorite summer entree, Strawberry Cucumber Quinoa Salad.  Yum.   If only I had the ambition to cook this way all the time, we’d be eating a lot healthier. 

RECIPES:

Mary Jane’s Avocado Ice Cream (From Mary Jane’s Farm Magazine)
Prep Time: 15 minutes / Makes 3 cups

1 large avocado, peeled and diced
1 C half-and-half
2/3 C powdered sugar
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/3 C fresh lemon juice

1. Combine avocado, half-and-half, sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice in a blender. Puree until completely smooth.
2. Poor mixture into a 2-quart dish.
3. Cover and freeze until firm, about 4 hours. (Can be kept in an air-tight container in freezer for up to one month.)
4. Before serving, let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. (I recommend topping with fresh raspberries!)



Rhubarb Pizza

Pizza Crust:
1 C flour, fluff to aerate before measuring
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter, cut into small cubes
1 egg whisked with 2 Tbsp Milk

Topping:
3 C rhubarb, chopped
3 oz. raspberry or strawberry flavored gelatin powder (I used Jello Sugar-Free)
1 C sugar
1/2 C flour, fluff to aerate before measuring
1/3 C melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter pizza pan.  In medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt.  Cut in butter until the dough becomes small crumbles and butter is well-distributed.  Stir in the egg/milk mixture to form a dough.  Press dough into pizza pan, using your hands, slowly working the dough to the edges of the pan (wet fingers as you go if the dough seems to sticky to spread).

For topping, top unbaked crust with rhubarb.  Sprinkle gelatin powder evenly over the rhubarb.  Mix the sugar, flour and butter, sprinkle over the top.

Bake 40 minutes until slightly brown on top, cool for at least one hour before serving.



Strawberry-Quinoa Salad
serves 4

1 C quinoa, rinsed
3 C strawberries, hulled & halved
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1/2 C sesame-ginger dressing (I use a ready made vinaigrette)
1 (5 oz.) container of baby arugula salad blend

Cook quinoa according to package directions.  Transfer to a large bowl and let cool completely, about 20 minutes.  Stir in strawberries, cucumber and 1/4 C of the dressing.

In second bowl, combine the salad greens and the rest of the dressing; toss to coat.

Divide salad blend among four plates, top each with equal amounts of the quinoa fruit mixture. 

Because I am usually cooking for two, I onnly prepare enough of the salad greens for two servings, refridgerate the leftover quinoa fruit mixture for up to three days, and preapre greens later as needed.

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Just as the July heatwave was getting into full swing, I made and decorated yet another cake

This one to honor my sister and the little gal she is about to bring into the world.  The cake itself was cherry chip/white chocolate and that icing is pure, from-scratch, Doris-made, all calories included old-fashioned buttercream.  YUM.  My own design, trying to emulate the design of the paper products her mother-in-law chose for the party.

For my Summer Quilt, see my last post.

And for all the other Summer Quilt Show and Recipes go here.