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Archive for December, 2010

Shopping on New Year's Eve

December 31st, 2010 at 10:08 pm

I, unfortunately, am a collector. I think I've written that I like Blue Willow dishes. I better like them, because we have a whole lot of it.

We went to an "antique mall" near us today and DH found a Blue Willow teapot that he felt I should own. It wasn't a whole lot and it was in nice shape so I succumbed to temptation and purchased it.

I really enjoy cooking and one of the things I enjoy looking at in stores would be kitchen things. I am incredibly dismayed that just about everything nowdays is made in China. With the paint scare on toys earlier this year, how do I know the stuff is safe?

So, last summer I went on a kick of replacing my plastic containers that we used to heat stuff in the microwave with Pyrex dishes -- older ones -- ones that were not made in China. I have also purchased those old glass lidded refrigerator dishes to store leftovers in. For awhile, it was a struggle to find them, but now lots of places have them out to sell.

I have a friend who turns her nose up at my purchases because I'm buying used stuff. When I grew up, we didn't buy a lot of new things because we simply didn't have the money. As long as it is clean and in good shape, I don't have a problem buying something that has been previously used. Many times I can find something much more reasonable that has been "loved before."

Although I spent money instead of saving it today, I enjoyed looking at all the other things. And maybe having bought things more cheaply, I can rationalize my purchase. Or not.

Anyway, it was a nice way to spend today. My husband found a train that he swears he had one when he was a kid. It was a heavy Lionel engine -- big wheels and very heavy. I can see him and his brother clunking each other in the head with it on occasion too.

Hope you have a wonderful New Year's Eve and that 2011 brings you much happiness.

Retro Quiche?

December 29th, 2010 at 02:52 pm

I remember in the 70s when quiche was all the rage. There was that saying that "real men don't eat quiche." I found it humorous then and even funnier now considering most men's love affair with breakfast, especially eggs. Brinner anyone?

I'm not for sure, but I think American's love affair with quiche was squelched when it was thought that eating eggs was bad for you. Now eating eggs is OK.

So, I'm hoping to bring back quiche. We visited my husband's aunt and uncle yesterday and we normally go out for a big lunch. We usually have dessert and sit and visit and then make the over two hour drive home, the last thing I want to do is fix a big meal for two reasons: I'm tired and we aren't very hungry.

Since I'm on vacation from school, I have had time to peruse some recipes. I was going through and saw a recipe for quiche. That proverbial light bulb went on! Sometime I can fix ahead and put in the fridge and bake when we want it after we arrive home!

The original recipe calls for Cajun stuff. No offense to those of you who like Cajun cooking, but it is too spicy for us. But the basic recipe was simple and I just added what I had. I will admit I did not make my own crust. We had bought some frozen pie crusts made by the Amish and I pulled one of those out and thawed it and blind baked it for a few minutes.

Here's the simple recipe:

1/2 cup of shredded cheese
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup of half and half

Pour into a pie shell.

Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes and let sit a few minutes out of the oven.

I added leftover ham. I had some Colby cheese that I shredded. I covered it with foil and slipped it in the fridge. When hubby decided he was hungry, I pulled the pie pan out of the fridge, put a little foil around the edges of the pie crust so it didn't burn, put it on a baking sheet, and baked it. I served it with a fruit salad.

It was yummy. I was thinking I could have added vegetables and other types of cheeses to change it out.

So, do you think quiche will become popular again? chocolate cake!

December 27th, 2010 at 03:40 pm

For dessert on Christmas, I baked a cake. I'm always trying different cake recipes because I find good and bad things about each. This time I tried a recipe by Ian Garten. One bite and my husband informed me this was the best chocolate cake I've baked so far.

Beatty's Chocolate Cake

Butter, for greasing the pans
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups good cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pans.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined. In another bowl, combine the buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry. With mixer still on low, add the coffee and stir just to combine, scraping the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 30 minutes, then turn them out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.

Place 1 layer, flat side up, on a flat plate or cake pedestal. With a knife or offset spatula, spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer on top, rounded side up, and spread the frosting evenly on the top and sides of the cake.

I'm including her recipe for the frosting, but I'm going to admit I didn't use it exactly. The raw egg yolk kind of worried me. I added a little milk instead.

Chocolate Frosting:
6 ounces good semisweet chocolate (recommended: Callebaut)

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 extra-large egg yolk, at room temperature

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

1 tablespoon instant coffee powder

Chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until just melted and set aside until cooled to room temperature.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-high speed until light yellow and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and continue beating for 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to low, gradually add the confectioners' sugar, then beat at medium speed, scraping down the bowl as necessary, until smooth and creamy. Dissolve the coffee powder in 2 teaspoons of the hottest tap water. On low speed, add the chocolate and coffee to the butter mixture and mix until blended. Don't whip! Spread immediately on the cooled cake.

Other than the buttermilk, I had everything else on hand. Since I was going to make cornbread, the buttermilk came in handy and since I'm baking another cake this week to take to my husband's aunt and uncle's for a belated birthday, I will use the buttermilk.

The cake is moist and yummy -- far better than a storebought cake. And, no preservatives either!

If you try it, let me know what you think.

Merry Christmas!

December 25th, 2010 at 02:57 pm

Merry Christmas, everyone!

I hope you all have a blessed day!

An exciting gift

December 22nd, 2010 at 12:42 am

I am just starting to come down from a high.

No, I don't do drugs...yesterday we took some students from one of my schools on a luncheon donated by our favorite restaurant. The owner, Benny, told me last week he wanted me to bring some students over so he could treat them to lunch. It was a last minute planning session for the principal and me. We couldn't get a bus because it was too late. But we worked it out!

Our High Honor Roll students were treated to a free lunch of salad, all the breadsticks they wanted, spaghetti, and dessert. And talk about royal treatment -- cloth tableclothes and napkins, real china and glass glasses. No plastic stuff! That was heady enough, believe me. Many of the students haven't had the opportunity to eat at a nice restaurant like this.

Then, today, the local paper put out a great article about it. The paper interviewed the principal and the owner of the restaurant and had some comments from the children. Apparently the Associated Press liked it because it then was put on the mobile part for AP. A friend emailed me the url for it:

Then, we saw the video the newspaper created. Wow. It showed the kids and the principal and even my husband who volunteered as a chaperone. My husband is showing the fine art of preparing olive oil and Parmesan cheese to dip breadsticks in.

What a day! The students were excited about the meal and the aspect of being in the paper and video. The principal is pleased that his school received some positive publicity. Our district is equally pleased that we had some great news coming from one of our schools. The restaurant owner was pleased the he could be generous and be part of our community. It doesn't hurt that he loves children and likes to see them happy.

It's going to be hard going back to "normal" after all this good stuff that happened!

Christmas Carols

December 18th, 2010 at 03:44 pm

I love Christmas music.

It's simple, I love Christmas music because it makes me happy. It makes me thoughtful. And, because it is often enjoyable and something I know the words to.

I listen to Christmas music year round in fact. Call me weird. There's one CD I like to clean house by. I don't know why. I just do. Well, there's also a Beach Boys CD I clean house by too. I bet those surfing guys never pictured that.

With You Tube, we can get so much music out there and find new artists and this and that. And see some of our old favorites.

I love acapella music. I don't have perfect pitch so I can appreciate those who have it. There's a group out there called Straight No Chaser and although I have purchased two of their CDs, I still like seeing them on You Tube because I can "see" them. Their Twelve Days of Christmas is a classic. Today, on Facebook, a friend shared their Christmas can can and it was a hoot.

I don't go out caroling because if I breathe too much cold air, I get bronchitis. But, I certainly like listening to Christmas music.

Do you have a favorite Christmas song?

Christmas Goodies

December 14th, 2010 at 01:44 am

Yesterday was a horrible day outside. We had blowing snow and frigid temperatures. After church, it was a blessing to get inside and be warm and safe.

It was also a good day to bake. I baked breads and cookies and some brownies. I've already shared my banana bread recipe a few months back, but here's a recipe for peanut butter bread and you are to serve it with jam. I saw Paula Deen make it a few years ago and had to try it. It's easy and fairly tasty.

Peanut Butter Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup peanut butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine dry ingredients. Add milk and peanut butter. Pour into a greased 8 by 4 by 3-inch loaf pan. Bake for approximately 50 minutes. Serve with your favorite jam.

I actually had 3 smaller loaves because I wanted to put them with banana bread and cookies and dipped pretzels for some gift trays. Some of us are at a point that we don't need to give gifts of objects -- we appreciate the time and effort of something home made!

The Annual Christmas Letter, orThe Written Bragfest

December 10th, 2010 at 01:53 am

It arrived yesterday in our mailbox - the annual Christmas letter from this fellow we know. Each year he puts in detail what he has bought and in great detail. Last year's letter was all the stuff he bought for his house and where he traveled and how much he spent. Forgive me, but who needs tumbled marble tiles in his crawl space?

This year's brag was 3 ties for $625. Apparently they are like the ties Donald Trump wears.

Apparently this person has money to spend like this, but I personally would prefer to be ignorant of it.

His whole letter is about him, what he did, and what he spent. It's sad in a way that he has to brag each year what he did and bought.

I used to feel sorry for him, but I've since decided he likes living the way he does because he can buy whatever he wants. He fills his loneliness with things and then presses us with the details.

I would rather find satisfaction in what I have and the people who love me.

Needless to say, I won't be sending an annual Christmas letter to anyone.

Society and Shows

December 5th, 2010 at 08:41 pm

Our local university puts on Vespers which is a beautiful Christmas program each year. We look forward to it each year. They have 4 programs -- 2 matinees and two evening performances on the first weekend in December. With the local symphony and 350 voices, it is truly splendid.

However, we have noticed that some people in the audience seem to have forgotten their manners. The evening show for which we purchased tickets was to start at 7 p.m. Strange people that we are, we got there before 6:30 so we could be seated when the doors were opened and make sure things like using the restroom were taken care of. By 6:50 the auditorium was still almost empty. By 6:55 it was almost half full. We knew it was a sell out crowd, so we wondered where they all were.

I guess I misunderstood the 7 p.m. starting time. Apparently, from the behavior of the audience, the 7 p.m. time is merely a suggestion and that means you are to start thinking about finding your seats, but then you throw down your coats and decide to go and find a bathroom. The program didn't start until after 7:10 because we had so many later comers.

The beauty of this program is not only the music, but the choreography -- different choirs go up and down the end aisles because with so many singers, the stage would be very crowded. Throughout the program there were people leaving and then coming back. We had three people in our aisle alone who left and then returned and they did not wait until between songs to leave or enter. We noticed that there were a minimum of 20 people doing this during the program. I realize that sometimes there is an emergency, but why couldn't they wait until between songs to return to their seats?

I am afraid that common courtesy has taken another hit. We've seen this at other concerts and programs. Even at church we see kids and adults leaving and coming back like they are leaving the comfort of their easy chair during a commercial to use the facilities or get a snack.

I had a friend who once told me that she was too busy to get to a performance 15 minutes early. I guess she isn't alone. However, for those of us who would like to get there and have some time to relax and enjoy thee surroundings, these busy people are becoming a nuisance.

Winter has arrived...

December 4th, 2010 at 09:18 pm

It's December and after above normal temps, we are getting our cold weather. We were supposed to get snow last night and felt fortunate that we didn't any. I guess a town 45 minutes north received 4 inches. Ick.

With winter comes the desire for hot food. We attended our church's bazaar and luncheon and boy, that cheesy vegetable soup hit the spot. Nothing like a good soup to warm someone up, eh?

I lucked into a chicken stew recipe a couple of years ago and after making it a few times, tweaked it with my own additions. It makes a good meal and with all the vegetables, it's probably very healthy as well:

Chicken Stew

2 tablespoons of olive oil
3 celery stalks, cut into bite-size pieces
3 medium size carrots, peeled, cut into bite-size pieces
1 small onion, chopped
1 14 oz can of chicken broth (or more if you like the sauce thinner)
1 14.5 oz can of tomato sauce
1 small can of tomato paste
2 chicken boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut up
1 can of red beans
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
salt and pepper
pasta rings (optional)

Heat the oil in a heavy 5 quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the celery, carrot, and onion. Saute the vegetables until the onion is translucent. Add the chicken breast pieces and season with salt and pepper. When chicken is cooked, add chicken broth, tomato paste and tomato sauce. Add the basil and oregano and beans. Cook about 45 minutes or until vegetables are cooked the way you like them. Twenty minutes before you are ready to serve, add the pasta rings (add as few or as many as you want, depending on the amount of broth you added). Serve with bread.

If I don't have the red beans, I'll take some dry lentils, pour boiling water for them for a few minutes, pick out the not so good ones, drain, and cook with the stew. It makes it very hearty and rich and my husband who never would try a lentil, eat them.

A flop!

December 2nd, 2010 at 01:13 am

I just hate it when I try a new recipe and it's awful. I mean, the ingredients were good, but the taste was...well, it left a lot to be desired.

I had a recipe I had found in a magazine for an onion bread casserole. Easy enough...saute 3 onions, tear up a loaf of French bread, add 2 cups of shredded Cheddar cheese, 2 eggs, teaspoon of nutmeg, and 3 cups of milk. Mix together and put in fridge overnight. Bake for 45 minutes at 350. Sounds decent, right?

Wrong! It was soupy and I had put it in the fridge overnight to "soak" so the bread would have the egg and milk mixture throughout. The bread did rise like it was supposed to in the oven. But, it was soupy and pretty bland. I guess I'm used to more flavorful stuff. I was disappointed. We ate it, because it wasn't dreadful, but I doubt if I try it again as it is written.

Guess it's live and learn. I didn't buy anything I didn't already have. Just wonder what I could add to make it better. Any ideas?