Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Pumpkin White Russian

Before all things pumpkin go away for another year, and before we swear off baked good and rich food for our New Year's resolutions, I present to you the Pumpkin White Russian.  Donna brought this over on Christmas Eve and it is luscious.  We used half and half, you could use heavy cream or make it lighter and use almond milk (but what would be the point?).  While we mixed up our drinks, Bruce laid claim to his favorite dish on the table...

We enjoyed a cocktail or two, I was home and not driving so I didn't have to worry...Donna had a DD, we were both set.  

Pumpkin White Russian
from Donna

2/3 cup half and half
1 Tbsp. pumpkin puree
1 oz. Kahlua
1 oz. vanilla vodka
pumpkin pie spice

Combine half and half, pumpkin puree, Kahlua, and vanilla vodka in a shaker over ice.  Shake until very cold, strain into two glasses.  Garnish with a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice .  Enjoy.

1 year ago:   Cranberry Bliss Bars and the Cookie Bake-Off
2 years ago:  Cranberry-Orange Cheesecake Pears
3 years ago:  Amazon Packages and Scotch Eggs

December 31, 2014  Sunrise 10:55 am Sunset 2:53 pm   Temp. H 26/ L 17°F

Monday, December 29, 2014

Pink Champagne Cakes for Mug Cake Monday

It was a great Christmas for books.  From my husband, I received all the Chris Van Allsburg books that were "lost" during our redo of the office...all 11 of them.  The Baby Boy has been reading us a book a day, he remembers them from when he was a child and the turn around of him reading to me is pretty sweet.

I received the new Barefoot Contessa Cookbook, my whole family will be enjoying that one!  I also received a Nutella cookbook from a friend at love of Nutella is known far and wide, I'll share some of those delicious recipes soon.

And then we come to Mug Cake Monday...

My dear friend Donna gave me this Mug Cake book.  It has over 100 recipes for mug cakes that can be made in under 10 minutes total.  The cooking time is 1.5-2.5 minutes in the microwave.  I know what she is thinking, I think it all the time...Dear God, please make everyone around me fat...yes my big girl pants will be "shrinking" soon.

So, I decided to start a Mug Cake Monday section for 2015 and I'll start now because I couldn't wait to try out one of these recipes.  This is the perfect cake for the new year, strawberries and champagne baked up in pretty little cups.  How pretty for New Year's Eve or brunch on New Year's Day.

So, Happy New Year!  I wish for you a year full of adventures, joy, good health, and delicious mug cakes!

Pink Champagne Mug Cake
from Mug Cakes by Leslie Bilderback

4 strawberries, washed, dried, and diced
1/4 cup champagne
1 large egg
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 drop red food coloring
1/4 cup granulated sugar
6 Tbsp. self rising flour
pinch of kosher salt

Optional: whipped topping, strawberries

In a large mug, combine the strawberries and champagne.  Set them aside to macerate for 5-10 minutes.

In a second mug (I used my 2 cup measuring cup with a spout for easy pouring), whisk together the eggs and butter with a fork.  Stir in the food coloring, sugar, macerated strawberries, and their liquid.  Add the flour and salt.  Beat the batter until smooth.  Divide the batter between two mugs sprayed lightly with cooking spray.  Microwave separately for 1.5-2.5 minutes each until risen and firm.

Because microwaves are different, start with 1.5 and add time as needed.  If you use a glass mug, like I did, you will need a little less time, a thick mug will take a little more time.

Cool slightly.  Top cake with whipped topping and strawberries and enjoy.

1 year ago:   Homemade Ravioli and the New Pasta Machine
2 years ago:  Greek Yogurt Labneh for an Afternoon Snack
3 years ago:  A Most requested Recipe - Moose Short Ribs

December 29, 2014   Sunrise 10:57 am  Sunset 2:49 pm  Temp. H 24/ L 21°F

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Farewell

She was tired.  The cancer had spread through her body, she was uncomfortable but not really in pain; but she was tired.  She ate her meals, watched Food Network, took her naps, and she was still tired.

On Tuesday morning she left us and she won't be tired anymore.

June was a complicated woman.  She was not a loving mother, but she was loved.  She was loving to her two grandsons, but not her granddaughters.  It is what it is, I'm not saying it was right or wrong, I'm just saying how it was.  Her children are sad, and those of us who care for her children are sad.

I am conflicted, I am sad.  I'm sure I'll miss her, but I sure won't miss things like her telling me my pants are too tight, or dinner was "a good try".  I won't miss how she made my children feel less than "her" grandsons, I won't miss the shortness with my husband, and how she just couldn't seem to show him or his siblings love, yet they loved her.  In the last few weeks my husband would hug her before he left and say "I love you, Mom."  Her response was "O.K."  I can't imagine how hurtful that must have been, but he continued because he did love her.

So, our Christmas will be a little different this year, a little quieter perhaps; a little more somber than our usual get-togethers.  At our Christmas dinner toast to those who are no longer with us; a new name will be silently remembered, and there will be tears.

Death is part of our life, and life goes on.  We will strive to remember the good we can glean from her life, the joy she took in simple things, laugh at the frustration she caused us, and remember a mother who raised three children that grew to be loving, thoughtful people...she must have done something right.  So, here is to M. June Kaiser.  May she rest in peace, have a joyous reunion with our Father in heaven, and never be tired again.  I love you, June.

And from above I hear "O.K."

December 24, 2014  Sunrise 10:59 am  Sunset 2:42 pm  Temp. H 7/ L -15°

Monday, December 22, 2014

Cheese Puffs and what makes it feel like Christmas

It is funny the things that makes Christmas, Christmas for us.  My husband said it was when he is wrapping presents and watching football.  For me it is planning and baking for our Christmas Eve open house and sitting in my living room, quiet Christmas music playing and enjoying my Christmas decorations.

I have just a "few" things to decorate my house for Christmas.  One of my most treasured is the nativity my grandma made for me.  Grandma McFadden is basically blind.  She lost the sight in one eye and has limited sight in the other, so when she made this nativity for me 20 some years ago it was a group effort.  She stained the pieces of pottery and a friend painted in the lines for the eyes.  While the kids grew up, we lit the Nativity candle and said blessing before dinner every night from Thanksgiving to New years day.  I love my Nativity and the memories of my grandma it brings.

I also have some new decorations.  My Seattle DIL made this Mr. and Mrs. Clause for me.  I love having them in the living room overseeing all the activities and keeping an eye on the goings-on.  It is a new treasure to add to my trove.

I know Christmas isn't about the "stuff" we surround ourselves with, but, at least for me, the stuff is what helps to remind me of the love, commitment, and sacrifice the true meaning of Christmas is all about.

And because I like to plan...
These little puffs are an easy thing to make ahead and keep in the freezer for your party or when unexpected guests stop by.  Once frozen, you pop them into a big ziplock and they go from frozen to the oven to delicious puffs of light cheesy goodness.  They give you more time to enjoy your Christmas holiday, however you like to enjoy it.
Frozen puffs waiting to be bagged.

Parmesan and Herb Cheese Puffs
Sunset Magazine, Dec. 2014

1/2 cup butter, cut into chunks
1.5 cups water
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1.5 cups flour
6 large eggs
1/2 pound parmesan cheese, grated in a food processor, divided
2 tsp. each minced fresh chives, dill, parsley and rosemary

Preheat oven to 375°F.  In a medium sucepan, bring butter, slat and water to boil over medium high heat.  Add flour and stir constantly until dough comes together and pulls away from pan, 1 to 1.5 minutes.  Remove from heat; let cool 2 minutes.

Add eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each addition until eggs are incorporated and dough is glossy.  Stir in 1 1/4 cups cheese.  In a small bowl, combine herbs, then stir 1.5 Tbsp. into dough.

Line rimmed baking sheets with parchement paper.  spoon dough onto sheets by 4-tsp. portions - I use my medium scooper, about 1 inch apaprt.  Combine remaining cheese and herbs then sprinkle onto dough.

Bake 1 or 2 sheets at a time, switching positions halfway through baking until puffs are deep golden, about 30-35 minutes.  With a small knife, poke each puff at the waist to release steam.  Bake until crisp and richly browned, 5-8 minutes more.  Serve warm.

Make ahead: portion puffs, top with cheese and herbs then freeze.  Once frozen, place in zip top bag and keep in freezer until ready to use.  Bake frozen straight from the freezer.

1 year ago:   Buckeyes and the Early Morning Scare
2 years ago:  White Chocolate Peppermint Popcorn
3 years ago:  Espresso Martini and Last Minute Christmas lists

December 22, 2014   Sunrise 10:59 am  Sunset 2:40 pm  Temp: H -2/ L -4°F

Thursday, December 18, 2014

bacon wrapped stuffed dates

Every Christmas Eve, we host an open house.  This year is no exception.  I do as many things ahead of time as possible, and this is a time we do the same foods over and over, with one or two surprises.

One of the regulars at our party is bacon wrapped stuffed dates.  I love them.  The sweet, chewy dates are offset by the salty crisp bacon and the almond in the middle keeps them nice and warm and gives it a good crunch.

These are so easy and I make tons of them ahead of time and keep them in the freezer.  Then I just take them out of the ziplock bags, plunk them onto parchment lined cookie sheets and bake them until the bacon is cooked and crispy.  It is a mindless job to do while watching t.v. or visiting with family.

My dear friend Donna is not a fan of bacon, (I know, but I love her anyway) but her husband is, so I make extra for him.  He stands close, but not too close, to the plate of bacony goodness and eats his fill.  He has to stand close because my brother in law is also jockeying for a position next to that coveted plate and neither one wants to miss out on their share.
We put them together assembly line style...first stuff the dates with almonds.
This year we had big dates and small almonds, so we put two almonds in each date.
After the sticky fun is over, we wrapped each date in a piece of bacon...
and secured it with a toothpick.
Then placed them on a cookie sheet for a quick freeze.
Once frozen, they go into gallon ziplock bags, stored in the freezer and ready for snacking goodness.

Bacon Wrapped Stuffed Dates

whole almonds
sliced bacon, cut in half or thirds (depending on the size of your dates)

Stuff each date with a whole almond.  Wrap each date with a slice of bacon and secure with a toothpick.  You can freeze them at this point or bake immediately.

To bake:
Preheat oven to 375°F.  Place bacon wrapped dates on parchment lined cookie sheets.  Bake 15-20 minutes or until bacon is cooked and slightly crisp, but still has some chew (You don't want the bacon to shatter when you bite into it).

Let cool at least 5 minutes.  These hold the heat a long time because of the almond.

1 year ago:   Deep Fried Halibut and Middle of the Night Power Outage
2 years ago:  Russian Tea Cakes and the Closing of School
3 years ago:  Chocolate Crinkle Cookies and Holiday Traditions

December 18, 2014  Sunrise 10:56 am  Sunset 2:39 pm  Temp: H 17/ L 4°F

Monday, December 15, 2014

Early Christmas Gifts

I had the night off from June duty and was home madly making Christmas cheer, meaning I was finally wrapping Christmas gifts for under the tree. I got three gift wrapped; one each for Dave, the Bboy, and the Chick, and moved on to other things, but I had gifts under the tree and was feeling good.

The next night I was at June's and I got this text from my son...

Riley had chewed open the only gift I had gotten so far for the Chick...crap.  I was really planning on just gift cards for the kids this year, and this one "real" gift for the Chick.  And Riley ruined it.  So we went to plan B and I went shopping over the weekend.  I guess it wasn't the worse thing that could happen that day, but I have decided to drink my way to January.  Cheers!

Candy Cane Cocktail
from Drink Kings
1 tsp. grenadine
1 oz. peppermint schnapps
1 oz. white cream de cocoa
2 oz. heavy cream

Pour grenadine into cocktail glass.  Shake peppermint schnapps, white cream de coca and heavy cream in cocktail shaker with ice.  Strain slowly into prepared glass. You could garnish with a candy cane on the side, but that just gets in my way when I'm trying to drink.  Enjoy and wrap some more gifts.

1 year ago:   Pound Cake with Grand Marnier Poached Fruit
2 years ago:  My New Nativity
3 years ago:  Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons

December 15, 2014  Sunrise 10:52 am  Sunset 2:40 pm  Temp. H 19/ L 9°F

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas lists and Rice Krispy Treats

I have quite the cooking/baking list for the holiday season: peppermint marshmallows, cookies, saffron lollipops, bacon baklava, cookies,  pumpkin cheesecake, sticky buns, sweet potato latkes, and I haven't even started thinking about the cookies I'm going to make for the office cookie exchange!

This is a very different year with the needs of June and I spend more time at her house than my own, so I know the list will not be completed (except the bacon baklava...mmmmmm bacon).  I did have about and hour at home the other day so I decided to make something.  The only thing I could get enough energy up for was rice krispy treats...I know it's not much, but I did feel better mixing that melted butter with the marshmallows and the rice cereal.

Now, I did have a whole hour, so I decided to cut out shapes and decorate just a little.  I made the rice krispy treats, spread thinly in a cookie sheet and let them cool.  Then I tried cutting them in star and snowflake shapes.  That marshmallow sure sets up!  I enlisted my husband to help me cut them.  He cut a couple and then pulled out the rubber mallet to assist in the cutting of the shapes (it was truly a boy thing).  He pounded, I added a little frosting, some silver glitter, a couple of sugar candies, and we called it good.

I spent the rest of the evening congratulating myself on getting something Christmasy done as I ate all the scraps from cutting the cookies was a win-win.

I made him cover the cookie cutter with a pot holder so it wasn't so loud!

Decorating at it's finest, I'm sure.

Rice Krispy Treats
You know, I couldn't even find the recipe on the box of cereal!  So I just did what I remembered...

3 Tbsp. butter
1 bag mini marshmallows
6 cups rice cereal

Butter a cookie sheet, set aside.
Melt butter in large pan, add marshmallows and stir until melted.  Remove from heat and add rice cereal.  Stir until completely mixed.  Pour onto cookie sheet, with buttered hands, spread mixture into an even layer.  Let cool.  Cut into desired shapes and decorate.

1 year ago:   Rice Krispy Treat Balls (I must like rice Krispy treats around Christmas time)
2 years ago:  Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookes
3 years ago:  Pear-tini and the Unfinished Quilt  (and yes, the quilt is still unfinished!)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas Present Requests

It was early October and I was sitting in a Buffalo Wild Wings in Michigan enjoying a dirty martini and trying to keep my eyes open until my dinner arrived so I could eat and walk across the street to my hotel room and go to sleep.  It had been a long couple of days for work out of town and I was really tired.  I got a text from the California DIL.  She asked if it was too early to make suggestions for Christmas presents.  I texted back that I always loved ideas.  So she asked if I would make her a Christmas tree skirt.  I started to cry...I was tired, I'm a big cry baby, the Cali DIL wanted me to make her something she would use for years, I'm a big cry baby, and I was really touched she asked.  The waiter came over and warily asked if everything was o.k.
"My daughter in law just asked me to make her a tree skirt!" I sniffed.
"And that's a bad thing?" he asked.
"No, it so sweet, it just made me cry." I hiccuped.
"Can I get you another drink?" he asked and scooted to a safe corner.

So I got right to work when I got home.  The plan was to have it done and in the mail before Thanksgiving, and with my travel schedule for October and November I knew I could get it done.  Then June got sick and I ran a little behind schedule.  Well, I did finish, Dave got it in the mail and she should have it any day now.  I really hope she likes it.

What a wonderful thing to ask a mother-in-law.  Thank you Kelly, I hope it is what you were hoping for and you use it for years to come.

1 year ago:   Cherry-Peach Fizz and Bathroom Troubles
2 years ago:  A New Fuitcake
3 years ago:  Nutella Filled Cookie Kisses

December 9, 2014   Sunrise 10:41  Sunset 2:46   Temp. H 4/L -5°F

Friday, December 5, 2014

Easiest Roast Ever!

I don't know what it is about me and mornings.  I know we have been really busy, I know I have a lot on my mind, but I don't know anyone who shows up at the wrong place as often as I do.

So, this morning I was heading for work, I had my cup of oatmeal I was eating on the way, I was at the stop light out of my neighborhood, I was in the left turn lane....but my work is the other way.  Why was I in the wrong turn lane?  Was I headed to the school district?  June's house?  I will never know.  I do know that I realized it and no one else was in the intersection, so I backed up a little and switched to the right turn lane and headed to work.  Sometimes I think it is a wonder that I have pants on and I can finish a sentence!

I made this roast, I saw it on Facebook with a beef roast and a package of ranch dressing and some other stuff.  We don't do ranch because of the milk free kids, so I used beefy onion soup mix.  Yes, I know the butter is milk, but I use butter and it doesn't seem to bother them too much.  This was delicious.  My husband said it was the best moose roast I've ever made!  And it was so easy.  It was a good dinner for a day that started a little mixed up.
Crock Pot Roast
1 moose or beef roast
1 package beefy onion soup powder, I used Lipton's
1 stick butter

Place roast in crock pot, sprinkle with soup mix and top with butter.  Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 7-8 hours.  
Cut  roast and serve with sauce from the crockpot.

Random picture of my two little dogs huddling by the fire.
Don't look at the dust under the wood stove, you would think I never clean there.
Um, I don't...
1 year ago:   Biscuits and Gravy

December 5, 2014   Sunrise 10:31 am  Sunset 2:52 pm  Temp. H 4/ L -2°F

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Peppermint Pretzels

'Tis the Season of Eating!  You know the time between Thanksgiving when you start your eating marathon with a huge dinner and then pie (usually several kinds), and January 1st when you make your "I'm going to get back in control and lose a little weight," resolution.  In between those two events is life, full of cookies, holiday treats, eggnog, office parties, family get-togethers, and Starbucks eggnog lattes.  Yes, the Season of Eating is upon us.

And I am not one to be left out.  I still live by my prayer of "Dear God, if you won't make me skinny make all my friends and co-workers fat."  And I help that along by bringing goodies to work.  I saw a recipe somewhere for pretzel stacks...basically chopped up pretzels mixed into melted white chocolate and topped with crushes candy canes and dark chocolate.  Well, I had one better, I had white chocolate flips for something I was going to do in October and didn't get to it so I used them.  I crushed about 20 small candy canes, melted some white chocolate and some dark chocolate and got to work.

I laid the pretzels close together on a parchment lined cookie sheet, this is two bags...I ate the broken ones.  Then, using a spoon, I drizzled some melted white chocolate on the pretzels and sprinkled with crushed candy canes before the chocolate hardened.  I did two rows at a time to make sure the chocolate stayed soft and the candy cane would stick.
Using the microwave, I melted some dark chocolate in a small baggie, snipped off a small corner and drizzled the dark chocolate over all the pretzels and let them cool.
Once cool, I broke them apart and stored in a container for the 2 hours they lasted!  These were delicious.  I took a container to work and everyone ooooohhhhh'd and aaaahhhhhh'd about them, and they are really no work at all.  That sweet, peppermint, crunchy, with a touch of salt is very addicting.

Peppermint Pretzels

2 bags white chocolate covered pretzels, like Flips
white chocolate melting chips, I used Ghirardelli
dark chocolate melting chips, I used Ghirardelli
small candy canes, about 20 crushed finely

Lay pretzels on a parchment covered cookie sheet, close but not touching.  Melt white chocolate over a double boiler on in microwave.  Working in batches, drizzle white chocolate over pretzels, sprinkle with crushed peppermint.  
Melt dark chocolate in a baggie in the microwave.  Snip off small corner of baggie and drizzle dark chocolate over pretzels.  Let cook completely so chocolate will harden.  Break apart and store in covered container.

Enjoy the Season of Eating!

December 3, 2014   Sunrise 10:25 am  Sunset 2:56 pm   Temp. H 16/ L 1°F

Monday, December 1, 2014

Sometimes homemade bread is love, even if you use a bread machine...

I told you in October that my Mother in Law (MIL) was losing weight and confused.  She had been complaining about her ribs hurting and for a while; we figured it was because she had a fall.  The dr. agreed, but the MIL kept complaining.  So finally, we requested an x-ray to see what what going on.

We were not prepared for the results.

While we all expected that cancer would take it's toll on the MIL, (she is a breast cancer survivor for l0 years and 88 years old), we easily put away those fears to face another day.  That day arrived.  We found out she has a large mass in her right lung, moving into her ribs, a smaller mass in her left lung, and her lymph nodes are compromised...we really were hoping for pneumonia, that can be cured.  Her cancer cannot.

We have moved into the mode of "kind and comfortable."  We are working to be kind and keep her comfortable.  Hospice is working with us, my BIL spends the days and my husband, my oldest son, and I take turns spending the nights.  We are moving together as a family to help our loved one through this tough transition.

I know that one of the ways I show love for my family is through food.  I bake for them, I plan to make things I know they enjoy, I want a home that smells of delicious things to eat and a warm feeling of love.  So I am working on ways to help my MIL feel loved.

She loves bread and has an old bread machine sitting on her counter.  I know she hasn't used it in years, because it was covered with dust the first time I looked at it.  I have not really used a bread machine but I do have a book full of recipes made for a bread machine, so I am making bread  bags.  I put together the ingredients for a loaf of bread in a gallon bag and in the morning when I wake up at her house I put the contents of a bag in the bread machine, add the liquid ingredients and push start before I go home to shower for work.  By lunch time, my BIL takes the fresh bread out and it is ready to be a part of her lunch.  Her house smells delicious, she eats just a little more than she would have, and there is always fresh bread and some jelly to share with the hospice workers when they come during the day.

I looked for box mixes at the grocery store, I'm sure there used to be lots to choose from, but I could not find any.  So I am making my own mixes.  I am working my way through this old bread book that was really an large advertisement for a type of bread machine.  I've saved it since 1992!  If you have any recipes that are meant for a bread machine, or you have adapted for a bread machine, I would love it if you would share.

Potato Loaf Bread
adapted from an old Dak bread machine advertisement flyer
1 Tbsp. dry yeast
3 cups bread flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1.5 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 Tbsp. instant mashed potato flakes
1/3 cup instant milk powder
1 1/4 cups warm water

To make bag:
Measure yeast, flour, sugar, salt, potato flakes and milk powder in large baggie.

For bread:
Pour bag of mixed flour ingredients into bread machine, add butter and water.  Push start!

1 year ago:   Tucker on the Sofa and Pumpkin Brownies
2 years ago:  Cranberry Shortbread and the Joys of December
3 years ago:  Chinook Winds - Drink of the Week

December 1, 2014   Sunrise 10:19 am  Sunset 3:00 pm  Temp. H 13/ L 10°F