Christmas Prep Week

This weekend, I put all of my fall decorations away, and pulled out several bins of my christmas decorations. I found the lights, tinsel, wall hangings and wreaths, and what I have left of my christmas tree ornaments.

I started putting a few things up inside the house, and made plans to string the outside lights this week sometime.

I also processed the last of the pumpkin, so I can make cookies and other things with it through the winter season.

The tree will probably go up late this week, with all of the other decorations preceding it. Watch this week for my snowflake display tutorial, as well as several different cookie recipes.

This year is about making new traditions and starting new memories. I love the weeks in the end of november and the beginning of December, as they are all about preparation, and the hustling bustling spirit of christmas is so easily caught, felt, and passed on to others.

 

It’s a French Toast Morning

Yesterday I had a craving for breakfast. All day. And today too. So I decided to make french toast, because I have all of the ingredients right now, and because it’s quick and so easy to do.

I mixed 3 eggs with a little vanilla extract and some cinnamon. Then I added about 2 cups of milk, and whisked it all together. I preheated my fry pan to a little higher than medium, and gathered all the pieces to french toast assembly onto the stove.

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then I double dipped the french toast into the batter, and placed 2 slices side by side in the greased pan. I waited for about 3 minutes, and flipped the toast just after it turned golden brown.

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I made 8 slices of french toast today. I love to dress them up with a little peanut butter and syrup, topped with a dusting of icing sugar. Then they turn into a gooey, messy, and delicious treat.

 

Spaghetti Supreme

Last night was spaghetti night…I haven’t had spaghetti in quite a while, so it tasted even better, and it was fun to make too! That is always a bonus.

I started by thawing out 2 pounds of hamburger and browning them. I chopped up the celery and onions, and grabbed a can of diced tomatoes to toss in after the meat was brown.

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When the meat and veggies were steaming, I started the spaghetti noodles in a pot of boiling, salted butter with a bit of margarine, so the pasta doesn’t stick together. because the vegetables add a lot of moisture to the meat mixture, they need to be simmered off for about 20 minutes

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As the noodles soften and the meat mixture simmers off, I grate a bowl full of marble cheese to add directly to the pot when the pasta is done.

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Here is how it works: Drain the pasta, put it back in the pan. put grated cheese on top of noodles. put meat and veggie sauce on top of cheese. Put 1 can of tomato/spaghetti sauce on top of meat and veggie mix. stir the entire pans worth of layers together, and let sit when fully incorporated for about 5 minutes, to absorb additional moisture.

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I usually make a large pan of this spaghetti, so I have enough for leftovers and sometimes for freezing as well.

That Bread with the Bananas

Mmmmmmmmmmm…. Smell that?

It is the oh so familiar scent of banana bread that has just come out of the oven.

It was one of my favorites growing up, and still is one of my favorites. It is healthy enough that I sometimes swap it for toast or cereal in the morning, and it is snacky enough that I can serve it with a little butter after school as well.

My recipe for banana bread is very loose, and I have made it enough times that I barely measure the ingredients anymore. I know the amounts out of my head, so I toss it all in a bowl, whip it together, and it has never NOT turned out yet.

I am not shy for substituting ingredients for the standard bananas, and have adjusted my recipe for many different takes on a classic:

Banana (Nut) Bread

1/2 c – cooking oil                                                 1/2 tsp – baking powder

1 c – sugar                                                            1/2 tsp – salt

2 eggs, beaten                                                                3 tbsp – milk

3 ripe bananas, mashed                                                           1/2 tsp – vanilla

1 tsp – baking soda                                                        1/2 c – walnuts (optional)

2 c – flour

mix… bake… 350°F  for 45 min to an hour, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Makes 2 reg sized loaves

 

Variations:

APPLESAUCE BREAD: Replace bananas and milk with 2 cups applesauce and 1 tbsp cinnamon

BERRY BREAD: Replace bananas with 1 1/2 cups blueberries or mixed berries

PUMPKIN BREAD: Replace bananas and milk with2 cups pumpkin puree, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp allspice, and 1tbsp molasses

STRAW/RHU BREAD: Replace bananas with 1 cup chopped strawberries and 1/2 cup chopped rhubarb

ORANGE/CRAN BREAD: Replace bananas and milk with 3/4 cup orange juice, 1 cup chopped cranberries, and the zest of 1 orange

LEMON POPPYSEED BREAD: Replace bananas with 3 tbsp poppy seeds, 1/2 cup lemon juice, and the zest of one lemon


Photo Credit: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-02-04/banana-growers-fear-cyclone-will-see-flood-of/1929542

To Beet… Or Not To Beet

Today is the day of red-ness… or pink-ness…

Red beets are the most color intense vegetable that I have ever worked with. Once you start processing them, your hands, countertops, floor, and sometimes your dishes will be stained a shade of red for a little while.

I didn’t grow a garden myself this year, but I DID get some things out of Dad’s garden. The last vegetable to work away for me this year is the beets. This morning I started with boiling the beets, with the skins still on, until they are cooked all the way through. This takes a long time, as beets are slower in softening than some other foods. My beets averaged in size from a ping-pong ball to a large baseball, so I simmered them for a good hour.

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After the cooking process was done, I lifted the beets into a bath of cold water in the sink, and let them sit there until they were cool enough to handle. then I slipped the skins off of the beets and cut them into large chunks. I then packaged them into freezer bags, labelled and dated them, and put them into the freezer for meals all winter long.

Herb Drying… Take 2

After about 2 weeks of drying, my lovage leaves are ready for stage 2.

They have been lying in my dad’s greenhouse on a sheet of plastic, slowly drying into their crumbly wonderfulness… now they are ready to be turned into the flaky powder that is a great addition to soups and stirfries.

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I set up my workspace with 2 pails and a strainer. The leaves would have to fit through the holes in the strainer before I would be happy:

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I crushed small handfuls into the strainer, and continued to work the leaves between by fingers to produce a fine dust (yes this is dusty work).

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From a 4 liter ice cream pail full of dried leaves, I produced about 2 cups of finished product. I double sifted the herbs, then filled up my spice jars.

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From the plant to the spice rack, it doesn’t take as much effort as one may think to produce your own herb blends. For this year, Lovage (maggi plant) is all I will be doing. Next year, I plan a whole lot more…

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Finished Product

The Wonderful World of Pudding

When I was little, the word PUDDING made my ears perk up. It was a treat that came in little prepackaged cups, and was flavored with either chocolate or vanilla. As the years passed, the flavor fan spread, to butterscotch, banana creme, oreo, triple chocolate, lemon, and many more.

As I grew older, I found out that one could also buy pudding in powder form, and make it in a bowl at home, adding milk to dissolve the mixture, then leaving it in the fridge to set.

There is rice pudding, and tapioca pudding, and pudding with all kids of additives. Some are egg based, some milk, others have spices in them.

Then one day, I stumbled on something that didn’t sound right: BREAD PUDDING. and soon after, sticky toffee pudding… This didn’t sound at ALL like the milk based smooth snack that I was used to…

So what constitutes pudding? This is what http://www.wikipedia.com has to say:

Pudding is a kind of food that can be either a dessert or a savory dish. The word pudding is believed to come from the French boudin, originally from the Latin botellus, meaning “small sausage”, referring to encased meats used in Medieval European puddings.

In the United Kingdom and some of the Commonwealth countries, pudding can be used to describe both sweet and savory dishes. Unless qualified, however, the term in everyday usage typically denotes a dessert; in the UK, “pudding” is used as a synonym for a dessert course. Dessert puddings are rich, fairly homogeneous starch- or dairy-based desserts such as rice pudding, steamed cake mixtures such as Treacle sponge pudding with or without the addition of ingredients such as dried fruits as in a Christmas pudding. Savory dishes include Yorkshire pudding, black pudding, suet pudding and steak and kidney pudding.

In the United States and some parts of Canada, pudding characteristically denotes a sweet milk-based dessert similar in consistency to egg-based custards, instant custards or a mousse, often commercially set using cornstarch, gelatin or similar collagen agent such as the Jell‑O brand line of products.


In Commonwealth countries these puddings are called custards (or curds) if they are egg-thickened, blancmange if starch-thickened, and jelly if gelatin based. Pudding may also refer to other dishes such as bread pudding and rice pudding, although typically these names derive from the origin as British dishes.

Rice, pistachio, tapioca and sticky toffee pudding are my 4 favorites. Pudding makes fore a wholesome snack, and is a great addition to any menu.

Recipes:

http://www.food.com/recipe/pistachio-pineapple-pudding-28018

Soupy Season

It’s soup weather… inside and out.

Let’s start with OUTSIDE: the wind is blowing, it’s cold and damp, here in Alberta, we have days where it snows occasionally too. There is mud, wet leaves, ice some mornings, clouds, fog, and a few sunny days just to round it all off.

So I consider the weather and the conditions around it to be soupy. Lucky for us, that also means things get soupy INSIDE as well!

Meatloaf, casseroles, chili, and SOUP! Thick pea soup, pepper pot soup to clear your sinuses, tomato vegetable soup to remind you of the garden, cream of mushroom as the old standby, and the get well soon favorite everywhere… chicken noodle soup.

It was HARD for me to find a proper chicken soup recipe, but a few years ago I found a simple chicken broth recipe from Chef Michael Smith. It has become the base of my soup, to which I add a variety of vegetables, chunks of both dark and white chicken, pasta of any kind (or barley if you are feeling healthy or adventurous) and fresh herbs for added flavor. 

When I make soup, I usually make enough to feed a small army, so we eat untill we are full, then I portion off and freeze the rest for a quick lunch option, an easy dinner side, or a made to order sick day alternative to cooking when you are unwell.

Regardless of what kind of you make, or how much you end up making, soup is a great way to warm up as the days grow colder.

Picture credit:

The Spanish Kitchen: 6 Soups You MUST Try This Winter!