Texas Christmas Recollections Day One

Church bells.  Lawn mowers.  Shoes on wood floors.  Waking up in Caldwell is always the same.  The Lutheran Church is two down from my house and the church bells sound every hour.  When it’s Christmas time, there’s usually a Silent Night chime and then the “DONG!” “DONG!” “DONG!”  On our first morning back, there were 11 dongs before we got up.  I guess that happens when you don’t get in until 2 AM.  Denver weather backed everything up.

Mr. Perry is our neighbor.  He loves his riding lawn mower.  So, most mornings you can hear him and since my bedroom window faces his house, I get it in full effect.  I don’t mind.  I like the sound of lawn mowers.  It sounds like progress.  You know that when you’re finished mowing that you can see what you’ve done.  You don’t have to run any reports to chart your progress, there’s no specific measurable matrix you have to fit into.  The yard is either mowed or it isn’t.  Simple huh?

My parents house, which was my grandparents home and the one my Mom grew up in is really old.  I think it’s almost old enough for Willard Scott to wish it a happy birthday and it comes with all the moaning groaning you’d expect from a house that old.

Dad wakes up early. Which can be good, when he’s got a project.  When he doesn’t have a project, then it’s bad news for everyone.  This morning it was breakfast and inappropriate jokes.  His first one started, “Hey”  (that’s how all his jokes begin), “Hey, have you heard of the new sexual position for married couples?”

Finally, I’ve got a bit of a situation cooking up here.  You see, my parents keep the house freezing!  I’m serious, I can see the thermostat from here and it says, 68! So, not that that’s ridiculous, but I, knowing how cold they keep the house, brought socks specifically designed for cold weather and walking on wood floors.  They’re the kind with rubber traction on the bottom and they have little slots for each of your toes.  You know the ones right.  So, now I’m forced to wear borrowed flip flops and freeze my little tootsies off :(

To my delicious and fabulous blogroll posse, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

African Kelli

Kelli, most times I get tired reading your blog.  How do you have time to bike, run, swim, sew, craft, cook and be so thoughtful at the same time?  When I think about what I liked about biking most, it was the spokes and the plastic things on the wheels that made noise when you rode.   Then I thought about streamers, man, I loved the streamers on my bike.  And being the crafty little vixen you are, I thought you’d like to make your own!

Cupcake Queen

I won’t forget the day Hubby came in and said Aunt L has a blog, you should read it.  I thought it was the coolest thing since, well, the coolest thing since the cupcake!  I’ve had a ton of fun blogging and even more fun seeing all the cool stuff you’re doing.  For Christmas, you get this kick ass video!

 

Feasting in Phoenix

Seth, I know your roomie has moved out and I hope that you’re adapting.  I laughed out loud when I read about the ‘ax whilding’ night at your house.  I thought you could use this. And if you DO wear this outside, please call me.

Super Wife

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the prettiest blogger of them all?” “Why Molly of course.”  I know that since you have a tall, handsome, guitar playing, poetry speaking hottie, that you would like nothing more than for him to get out of medical school so you can be that amazing trophy wife you always wanted to be. Well baby girl, Merry Christmas!

 

Tequila Stakes Croquet

Melati, Thank you so much for inviting Hubby and I to your most amazing party.  Fitting with your karaoke legacy, I’d like to get you for Christmas, a few props.  I’m guessing you can figure out what to do with all of it :P

The PMA

It’s really old by now, but the image of you running through that ghetto mall, with your two laptops (nerd alert!) trying to catch a bus really does make me laugh.  I didn’t know if you’d be lonely this holiday, you know now that you have the luxury of going to and from work in your own car, so for Christmas, I thought I’d get you a little visit from your old friend.

Hubby

I love you.  Desde aqui hasta la luna.

I have a tamale lady, but I don’t know her name or have her number.

I take my tamales seriously. So much so that, at a work function the other night, we all had to submit a statement or a fact and the title of this post was actually submitted by a colleague. Poor thing, I badger him regularly, because he has a tamale lady and he has never brought any to work.

You know what, I don’t need your tamale lady, there’s a whole festival where all they have is tamales!  I’ll go there and you and your tamale lady can be happy by yourselves! And to show you, I’ll eat a million of them!  See,

And if you try to get in between me and my tamales, this guy’s got my back.

Everyone is busy :(

Everyone seems that they’re busy with conference calls to India, writing on this, advocating that.  Heck, Hubby’s just up and left for India then decided he needed a suit from China, so now he’s there.

You know what people! I’ve been busy too.  For example, on Sunday night I reached the end of the Internet and do you know who I met there? Huey Lewis and Gweneth Paltrow.

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas and I didn’t bake a thing!

Sweet snacks.  That was my agenda for today. One thing I miss about my mom’s house is that during the Holidays there are so many sweets around.  She must have 1o cookie jars and each one has something different in it.  Pralines, divinity, sugar cookies, peanut brittle and the list goes on.

I wanted to be in the kitchen today, but I didn’t want to commit to the whole baking thing today, so I managed to pull together a few quick, minimal prep sweet snacks.  Something to feel a bit like home.

Peppermint Bark

2 lbs White Chocolate
8 oz crushed Peppermint (candy canes)
1 t Peppermint Extract

Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler, add in the crushed peppermint and a dash of peppermint extract. Smooth the mixture out on a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet and put in the fridge for until its hard. Break into bite size pieces.

Deb’s Sweet Trail Mix

2 c Peanut Capt’n Crunch
2 c Rice Krispie’s
2 c Mini Marshmallows
2 c Salted Nuts (cashews)
1 c Pretzel Sticks

16 oz White Chocolate

Mix all of the dry ingredients together. Melt the white chocolate in a double boiler. On a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, spread out the cereal mix. Pour the melted white chocolate on the mix and stir all together. Put cookie sheet into the fridge until it is hard. Break into bite size pieces.

Melissa’s No Bake Bars

Morsels (chocolate, peanut butter, butterscotch)
1 can condensed milk

Graham crackers
1 c butter

Not a lot of exact measurements for this recipe. Use a 9×12 baking dish and spread crushed graham crackers and butter mixture (like you’re making a cheesecake crust). Pour one can of sweetened condensed milk over the graham cracker crust. Pack your choice of morsels on-top of the condensed milk. I used chocolate, peanut butter and toasted pecans.

Ah, and here’s another Christmas tradition, the Christmas Tequila Shot, ahhhhh.

It’s just like Betty Crocker, Really, It’s Betty Crocker Banana Nut Bread

I picked up some bananas last week and I’ve been waiting for them to get gooey, so they’d make extra delicious banana nut bread. Let me tell you, I’ve tried quite a few banana bread recipes in my day and this one I found on Betty Crocker’s site is unbelievable.  Check out my muffins:

As I sit here enjoying my little treat, I can’t help but give you a little update on the family.  Hubby decided to get the dogs beds.  They’re huge, because we have huge dogs. The sad part is that they’re beds to date has been an old blanket, so they’re not too savvy on this whole bed thing, but Bidi is starting to figure it out. We hope she’ll make it, actually on the bed by this weekend.

Banana Bread

1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed very ripe bananas (3 to 4 medium)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts, if desired

1. Move oven rack to low position so that tops of pans will be in center of oven. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease bottoms only of 2 loaf pans, 8 1/2×4 1/2×2 1/2 inches, or 1 loaf pan, 9×5×3 inches.
2. Mix sugar and butter in large bowl. Stir in eggs until well blended. Add bananas, buttermilk and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt just until moistened. Stir in nuts. Pour into pans.
3. Bake 8-inch loaves about 1 hour, 9-inch loaf about 1 1/4 hours, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans and place top side up on wire rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours, before slicing. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days, or refrigerate up to 10 days.

St. Louis via St. Paul via Phoenix all the way to you on the World Wide Web Salad

“You have a salad spinner!” Have you seen these? You wash the lettuce, put it in a bowl with a lid, push the button and it spins the water out. It’s amazing.

I was in Minnesota with a friend this summer when her Mom was showing off in the kitchen with her spinner. I don’t know what she’ll do next….maybe an automatic chopping device.

Out of that salad spinner came an amazing salad.  I actually forgot which restaurant in St. Louis she said she adapted it from, I call it my St. Louis via St. Paul via Phoenix Salad.

St. Louis via St. Paul via Phoenix Salad

 

3 romain lettuce hearts
1/4 head of iceberg lettuce
10 oz. can of artichoke hearts drained (not pickled)
4 oz. jar of diced pimentos drained (not seasoned)
10 oz. can of hearts of palm drained
1/2 large red onion
1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1/3 cup Wishbone Italian, 1/2 cup Wishbone Ceasar Mixed

Wash it, chop it, mix it in and enjoy.

Oh, and one more little tip.  If you mix the salad dressing in the hearts of palm jar, it makes it easy to store.

Arizona Farmer’s Market

Eat locally.  It’s a concept, a philosophy, a movement to be aware of the impact you can have by thinking about what food is available to you locally.  You impact local economy.  You impact the environment. I know I’m not equipped to make a full on switch to only locally grown food, but I get it and when I can, I try to give my patronage to locally owned businesses, including Agri-business.

Impact the environment.  Did you know there’s a type of potato that’s been genetically engineered to help corporations like McDonalds produce more uniformed french fries? The problem with this science is that the potato, like corn feed chickens, is so full of artificial “hormones” that the original nutritional value is almost null (not like that didn’t happen after they’re fried in transfat). Here’s the kicker.  The water demands to grow these super potatoes is so great, that it’s threatening the ground water supplies in the areas where there are massive crops. Isn’t that amazing?

Busy lives.  I feel pressed to cook during the week, and cooking during the week can be a chore. That’s why I’m happy to find that the Arizona Farmer’s Market group is getting organized and making larger efforts to advertise themselves.

They’re new site is awesome and it’s easy to find dates and locations where communities are hosting events. Check out their new site and find one in your neighborhood. Arizona Farmer’s Markets.

Awesome Portobello Brucetta…This should knock their socks off

“I thought 10 lbs of potatoes would be enough,” is how Thanksgiving started last year at RJ and Melissa’s house. I had never seen 10 lbs of mashed potatoes anywhere except at the Golden Corral, but it was the first Thanksgiving she was hosting and my first one away from home, so neither of us knew better.

This year, we’ve learned some lessons and Mel decided to throw another bash.  I’ve got some traditional Southern dishes I’m whipping up and more on that later, but the appetizer I’m contributing should knock their socks off.  Its one I found in a Gourmet a few years back and I made it for a bookclub meeting when we were reading The Other Boleyn Girl.  Here it goes:

Portobello Brucetta

1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
6 4-inch-diameter portobello mushrooms, stemmed, dark gills removed
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 red onions, sliced (about 6 cups)
2 large red bell peppers
3 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 3 1/2-inch-diameter sourdough or French-bread baguette, cut into 24 slices
Additional olive oil

Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix vinegar, honey, brown sugar and thyme in medium bowl. Transfer 1/2 cup marinade to small bowl; set aside. Place mushrooms in 15×10-inch glass baking dish. Pour remaining marinade over mushrooms. Cover baking dish with foil and bake until mushrooms are tender, about 40 minutes. Transfer mushrooms to work surface; cool. Cut mushrooms into 1/2-inch-wide slices.
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add red onions and sauté until very tender and beginning to brown, about 25 minutes. Pour in reserved 1/2 cup marinade and cook until liquid is absorbed and onions are glazed, about 6 minutes. Set onions aside.

Char bell peppers over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Enclose in paper bag and let stand 10 minutes. Peel, seed and chop peppers. Place peppers in medium bowl. Add green onion, basil, garlic and 1 tablespoon oil and toss to combine. (Mushrooms, onion mixture and bell pepper mixture can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover separately and refrigerate.)

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place bread slices on baking sheet. Brush bread with additional olive oil. Bake until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Layer portobello mushroom slices, arugula, onions and then bell pepper mixture atop bread slices. Bake until heated through, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.