Monday, December 31, 2007

Menu Plan Monday for December 31


Another Monday! Where does the time go? And tomorrow we begin a new year as well! This week I am planning several crockpot meals to give myself more free time to work on getting the house in order and on finishing up some handcrafted gifts. Here’s my plan:

MONDAY: Tamale Casserole, Fruit & Nut Tossed Salad

TUESDAY: Fish Sandwich Loaf, Coleslaw

WEDNESDAY: Tortilla Enchilada Soup, Cornbread

THURSDAY: Southwest Spaghetti Pie, Zucchini/Squash Blend

FRIDAY: Italian Wedding Soup, Rolls or Cornbread

SATURDAY: Herbed Tomato Soup, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

SUNDAY: (potluck at church) Pepper Jack Chicken, Southwestern Rice Bake, Merry Berry Salad, Eggnog Dessert

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Favorite Ingredients Friday for December 28


This week's theme is Side Dishes. Here is one of the side dishes I made for Christmas dinner. It was a new recipe for us, and it is really delicious. It will become a standard menu item for special meals, I think.

GINGER-GLAZED SWEET POTATOES

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 Tblsp. olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 Tblsp. chopped crystallized ginger
3 Tblsp. apricot jam
1 Tblsp. butter
1/2 tsp. salt

Place the cubed sweet potatoes in a gallon-size zip-top bag with the olive oil. Seal bag and shake well to coat potatoes with oil. Empty the bag into a foil or parchment-lined 15x10-inch baking pan. Roast at 450º for 30 minutes, stirring twice during that time.

In a microwave safe bowl or liquid measure, combine remaining ingredients. Cover with wax paper or plastic wrap and microwave on high for 1 to 2 minutes or until heated through. Pour over sweet potatoes; toss to coat with glaze. Bake 10 minutes longer.

Yield: 5 servings. May be easily doubled.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Show & Tell Friday for December 28


For Show & Tell Friday today, I want to share just a few of my favorite vintage Christmas cards. Years ago I did lots of art projects with children in Sunday School and also in a Christian school where I worked. Word got around that I could use old Christmas cards, so people were always handing me bags of them. A couple of elderly folks gave me ALL of the old cards they had been saving, so that is how I came into possession of most of these. No way was I going to cut up these beautiful vintage cards for art projects!

Here is a picture of my ribbon board where I display my favorite cards. This is in the front hallway, and I have made a second board in neutral colors to display treasures from other seasons when this board is put away.



This blue card is one of my very favorites. I love the way the sleeping village is nestled in the wreath.


This card, with the country mailboxes, is another one I love. It is so reminiscent of the days that used to be, back in the 1940s and 1950s.


Don’t you love the cozy look of this firelit room?



I think this little girl with her candy cane and kitten is just adorable!


“Greetings” spelled out in tree branches with bluebirds perching on them.


This lovely card has a bow of real red satin ribbon attached.


This card, with the music for “Silent Night” also has a “bookmark” made of real red satin ribbon.


This skating scene is so lovely. I would like to be part of this scene!


My daughters always loved this ski-jumping scene.


I could go on and on sharing my favorite cards, but this is probably enough for now. Hope you enjoyed this look at my vintage Christmas card collection!

To see what others have shared for Show & Tell Friday, go to There is No Place Like Home.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A few more Christmas house photos

Here are a few more pictures of our home and its Christmas/winter finery. First, the wreath on our front door, trimmed with my handmade sparkly heart ornaments. These are appropriate right through Valentine’s Day, and some of them are trimmed with jingle bells which give off a festive sound when the door is opened.


This wreath was decorated by our young granddaughters and given us as a gift last Christmas. It has a place of honor in our front hallway.

Also in the hallway is this handmade ribbon board filled with my collection of vintage Christmas cards.


Here is another look at our hallway and some of our Christmas cards taped up on the wall. There’s also a pretty lace wall hanging -- and our “kissing ball” made from old Christmas cards hanging in the doorway to the living room. You can glimpse the Christmas tree through the doorway.

Here’s a look at the lighted snowflake/icicle garland over the picture window. One of my photo ornaments hangs from the center, and you can also see one of my hubby’s old work socks embellished with Christmas trims. The garland itself will stay up all winter.


In the dining room, here’s how I trimmed the chandelier, with plaid bows and fabric trees plus some brown-paper gingerbread men. I made these years ago and used to use them on a garland on the stairway railing. I haven’t used that garland in awhile, but the trims are very much at home on the chandelier.

On the back door, here’s a favorite wooden sign.


Over the kitchen window, I always hang this rag garland which I made years ago. This year, I added the festive heart ornament bought at Cracker Barrel.

Here’s a little display in an upstairs bookcase -- an old-looking paper sign, a winter photo of two grandchildren, and a crewel picture of a little boy skating, which I stitched for my son when he was little.

In the guest room, here’s a snowman tin on a little table.

Also in the guest room, my granddaughters decorated this mini tree when they stayed over one weekend.

And on the desk in the master bedroom, my Christmas cactus. It isn’t at all spectacular but I am just happy that it blooms. I thought the contrast of the blooming cactus with the snow behind it was sort of neat. After last Thursday’s storm, the snow was covering the entire bottom half of this window. But we had rain on Sunday and that diminished the snow quite a lot. You can also see in this photo some special Christmas cards under the glass top of my desk. This is where I sew, and it’s fun to look at the pretty cards as I work.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!



Here are just a few photos of Christmas at our house! First, the gingerbread house which our granddaughter Sarah made in school. It is brightening up our dining room table.



This garland of snowmen is hanging on a beam above our dining table.



Here is my kitchen island all decorated for the holiday. I had lots of kitchen gifts on this island, but now they have all been given away, and this festive assortment took their place. The “ribbon candy” is actually a box of ornaments made of real ribbon, made by my daughter Joanna. The candle is Yankee Candle's Pomegranate Cider -- what a wonderful scent!



And last of all here is my hutch, decorated for the season. I had so much fun decorating the three lower shelves, especially. The wooden crèche was made by my dad many years ago. The ironstone china on the bottom shelf is from my mother’s family.


That is all I have time to share for now, but I hope each of you has had a wonderful Christmas with family and friends. We surely did.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Show & Tell Friday for December 21



I've mentioned before about the treasured antique ornaments given to me by a great-aunt. Still tucked into the ancient brown shoebox in which she gave them to me, they include colorful, tarnished glass balls, shiny cardboard reflectors to place on the old-fashioned colored lights, and some cute felt ornaments. There are two of these snowmen, and I love them.

They are made out of white felt in approximately the shape of a snowflake. Each snowman's head is a wood ball with painted features and a three-dimensional red nose, and they wear black top hats. They sport green collars and have red "berries" for hands and feet.


Here is a white plastic reindeer from my childhood. The ones on my grandmother’s tree were tied on with red satin ribbons. I loved seeing them as a child!


This little sock was given to me by my grandmother, tied onto the bow of some gift in my teen years. I think there was money folded up and stuffed into the little stocking. It is so cute. I have kept it all these years and now it hangs on my tree every year.


Now here are a few newer ornaments that I have made. The first one is from the humble lid of a frozen juice can and a wrapping paper scrap. I love this ornament, because I always loved that particular wrapping paper and now I have a way to keep it always.



This little teapot was made by either me or my daughter. We made a bunch of them one year and also did this as a craft at a ladies’ Christmas fellowship.



And here is a favorite ornament of mine. I saw them in a pricey catalog one year and decided they wouldn’t be too hard to make. The hemlock cones are from our woods.



And this is how our tree looked last year. We put it in a different place than ever before, and put my lighted village underneath it for the first time (the village is usually displayed elsewhere) but we really liked the location of both tree and village, so we are using the same locations for 2007. If you look closely you can see my lighted snowflake/icicle garland above the window, and Mr. T’s embellished work socks hanging below the garland.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Menu Plan Monday for December 17



Monday again! And next Monday will be Christmas Eve! I just don’t know where the time goes. Again this week I have a few repeats owing to some meals that didn’t get used. I’m tending to serve leftovers whenever possible, and am using the crockpot as often as I can in these busy days. Here’s my plan for the week:

MONDAY: Vegetable Chili, Cornbread

TUESDAY: Curry Crab Sandwiches, Speedy Vegetable Soup

WEDNESDAY: Rigatoni & Sausage, Zucchini/Squash Blend, Italian Bread

THURSDAY: Chicken Pineapple Lo Mein, Asparagus Stir fry Vegetables

FRIDAY: Tamale Casserole, Fruit & Nut Tossed Salad

SATURDAY: Lentils Ole´, Baked Potatoes, Coleslaw

SUNDAY: Crockpot Ribs, Baked Potatoes, Coleslaw

Friday, December 14, 2007

Favorite Ingredients Friday for December 14


Today’s focus for Favorite Ingredient Friday is on Quick and Easy meals. To me, especially in cooler weather, soup can be one of the quickest and easiest meals there is. If one needs to be really, really quick, heating up a can of vegetable or tomato soup and making grilled cheese sandwiches is my best advice. But if you have a few minutes more than that, try one of these easy soups. All you need to serve alongside is some bread or rolls which you can buy. Or you could make a loaf of bread in the bread machine which can bake all by itself and be timed to be ready when your soup is. You could also make cornbread, either from a mix or from my easy recipe; just put it in the oven before you start the soup, and it should be baked in plenty of time to be ready when the soup is. Here are the recipes:


TACO SOUP

1 1/2 pounds ground beef (or use less -- even as little as 1/2 lb.)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 can (28 oz.) crushed or diced tomatoes
1 can (14 oz.) kidney beans, not drained
1 can (17 oz.) whole kernel corn, not drained
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1 package taco seasoning
1 to 2 cups water
Shredded cheddar cheese
Crushed tortilla chips

Brown beef in large heavy kettle or Dutch oven; drain off any fat and add onions. Cook until onions are tender. Add remaining ingredients except cheese and chips; simmer for 15 minutes. Ladle into bowls; top with shredded cheese and crushed tortilla chips, to taste.

Yield: 4-6 servings.

This simple recipe has been a lifesaver for me so many times!

***
ALPHABET SOUP

1 pound ground beef
1 c. chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
2 c. beef broth (use a can, or use 2 c. water with 2 bouillon cubes)
2 c. water
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 c. frozen mixed vegetables
5 Tblsp. alphabet macaroni
Parsley if desired

In a soup pot, cook the first 3 ingredients together over medium heat for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring often, until the beef is browned well and the onion is tender. Drain off any fat.
Add the tomatoes, beef broth, water, and seasonings. Simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes. Add the vegetables and the pasta. Cook uncovered over medium heat for 10-12 minutes or until the pasta is cooked the way you like it. Stir in some chopped parsley if you like. Yield : 4 servings.

This homemade alphabet soup is delicious and so easy. It really hits the spot on a cold evening, and also makes a great lunch.
***

BEEF RAVIOLI SOUP


1 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup sliced carrots
2 Tblsp. olive or vegetable oil
4 cups beef broth
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 15-oz. can beef ravioli
Chopped fresh parsley
Grated Parmesan cheese

In large kettle, saute´the celery, onion, and carrots in oil for 3 minutes; add broth and seasonings. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in ravioli and heat through. Garnish with parsley and Parmesan.

Yield: 1 1/2 quarts (4 to 6 servings)

This good and easy soup recipe came from Country Woman magazine some years ago. Makes a quick, easy supper with crusty bread or rolls!

***
ZESTY CHICKEN CHEESE SOUP

1 can whole kernel corn (don’t drain)
1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies (don’t drain)
1 small can diced green chilies (optional)
1 can premium chunk white chicken, flaked
8 ounces velveeta-type cheese, cubed

In heavy saucepan or dutch oven, combine everything except the cheese and begin heating these ingredients while you cube the cheese. Add the cheese to the saucepan and continue to heat, stirring until cheese is melted and soup is piping hot.

This recipe came from an early Quick Cooking magazine and is the fastest soup you will ever make -- just a matter of opening cans, heating and stirring -- and is also delicious!

Finally, here is my corn bread recipe for those who would like to try it.

FAVORITE CORN BREAD

3 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1 stick melted margarine (1/2 cup) -- I sometimes use 1/4 cup oil instead of margarine
2 cups buttermilk baking mix (I use the store brand)
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal (I use the Hodgson Mill stone-ground brand)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9-inch square pan. Blend eggs, milk,
and melted margarine. Sift sugar, cornmeal and baking powder together and add to egg mixture along with baking mix. (There will be some bran left in the sifter if you use the stone-ground cornmeal. Just add it into the mixture.) Whisk the ingredients together just until blended. Pour batter into greased pan and bake approximately 30 minutes, until a wooden pick inserted in the center of the corn bread comes out clean.
(It may take up to 40 minutes, depending on your oven.) Makes one 9-inch pan of corn bread. Recipe may be doubled and baked in a 9 x 13-inch pan.

This may not be the healthiest corn bread in the world, but it may
well be the best corn bread you’ve ever tasted! Wonderful with a bowl
of chili or soup!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Baked Fish Chowder


Someone had asked for my baked fish chowder recipe. I originally found this in Cook & Tell, my favorite cooking newsletter (see link in sidebar), but I have adapted it somewhat to make it much lower in fat than the original. The seasonings remain the same, and this is very flavorful and warming.

BAKED FISH CHOWDER

2 lb. haddock, hake or pollock fillets (probably most any mild white fish
would work fine)
4 med. potatoes, peeled
2 1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. freshly ground pepper
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1/4 t. chili powder
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 bay leaf
3 med. onions, cut in chunks (I sometimes use 2 or 3 green onions, snipped, instead)
1-2 T. butter, cut in 2 pieces (original recipe called for 1/2 cup butter -- I can’t even imagine it!)
1/4 t. dried dill weed
2 1/4 cups boiling water
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------
1 can evaporated milk, fat-free or regular (original recipe called for half & half cream)

Preheat oven to 375º. Put fish in a 3 qt. casserole dish with a cover, or a Dutch oven. Layer potatoes on top of fish. Sprinkle with the salt, pepper, cayenne, and chili powder, then add garlic and bay leaf. Top with onions, butter, and dill. Pour in boiling water. Cover and bake for 1 hour. Stir evaporated. milk or half and half into the chowder. Remove bay leaf and serve hot with crusty bread or crackers.

This is probably the easiest fish chowder recipe I’ve ever seen, and it is fabulous! The spices give it a nice flavor and an unusual “kick.” This is so yummy on a cold night. When fresh fish is too costly, frozen fish fillets work just fine in this recipe.

Monday, December 10, 2007

What I did on my vacation

Well, it really is past time that I posted about our vacation, now that we’ve been back well over a month. I started writing a post a few weeks ago, but it was turning into more of an Amtrak travelogue and was going to take me forever to actually finish it.

So I’m just going to share the highlights, with a few pictures.

The first photo was actually taken from the bus station. We took a bus to Boston to catch the train to NYC and then get another train -- the Silver Meteor -- to Jacksonville, FL. There was a pretty sunrise while we were waiting for the bus, so Mr. T got this photo.



Much later in the day, aboard the Silver Meteor, he got this beautiful sunset picture as well.



We had left Boston around 8:30 a.m. and arrived in Jacksonville about 24 hours later. The Enterprise people picked us up at the Amtrak station and took us back to the car rental place to do the paperwork for the rental car. It was there that I learned that our sneaky youngest daughter and her 1-year-old son had flown from Nevada to Jacksonville and were even then waiting for us to pick them up at the airport. What an incredible surprise and blessing!

We were to stay with friends in Panama City -- these friends are like parents to my daughter, and she was surprising them as well. Since she had previously (by phone) questioned me thoroughly as to what activities were planned for our vacation, she knew just what we’d be doing. One plan had been to go camping at the beach for a couple of nights, so my resourceful child had packed one whole suitcase full of camping gear. Tent, sleeping bags, rain fly, tarp -- you name it.

We arrived at our friends’ home on Thursday afternoon after driving through a torrential rainstorm. After they got over their shock at seeing 2 extra people and made arrangements to borrow a high chair and pack’n’play, we had a wonderful evening together which included an incredible Southern meal. I’m sure to forget something, but there was fried turkey breast, mashed potatoes & gravy, field peas, cornbread.. to name just part of this feast.

On Friday evening, we were invited to a relative of our friends for supper. Our friends bought fresh gulf shrimp and we had a shrimp boil at a wonderful old Florida farmhouse. Mr. T and I had never tasted such delicious shrimp in our lives! We also had baked potatoes and salad, and our hostess had made a lovely cake with an orange sauce for dessert.

On Saturday, we drove several hours to a family reunion for our host’s family. Talk about food! Our friends had promised this would be a spread of real Southern home cooking, and oh, my! They did not exaggerate. Several long handmade tables were set up outdoors and were literally covered with dishes of every description. I wouldn’t be able to list everything if I tried, but it was all delicious. One of the desserts was a yellow cake with chocolate icing which my hostess had previously told me to watch for. This cake had 10 layers! Thin layers, to be sure, but that cake was 10 layers high. It didn’t look to me as if the layers had been split, so I asked the lady who made the cake. Oh no, each layer was baked in a separate pan. I couldn’t resist asking her if she owned that many cake pans. She does!

Following the official reunion, quite a few of our host’s immediate family members gathered at their ancestral family farmhouse for more time together. I enjoyed visiting with some of the relatives on the screened in back porch while I cross-stitched. Mr. T got a tour of the farm and fields from our host. It was another opportunity to see some of the “real” Florida most tourists don’t get to see.



Sunday of course was church and we thoroughly enjoyed time that we spent at our friends’ church, both for the Sunday services and also the midweek service on Wednesday night. It’s a larger church than ours, but very much the same in a lot of ways, so we felt right at home.

On Monday we headed out to St. Andrews State Park, where we would spend 2 nights camping. Our friends have a motor home, and we older folks slept there, while our daughter and grandson stayed in the tent they’d brought. What a wonderful state park it is! We would definitely enjoy camping there again sometime if we had the opportunity. There are actually 2 campground areas within this park -- Lagoon Campground and Pine Grove Campground. Our site was in Pine Grove, and looked right out on the bay. In the mornings we could watch all sorts of water birds fishing for their breakfasts. It was such a great campsite!



One of the days we were there, our hostess drove us to the town of Seaside to do some sightseeing. It’s just a beautiful little community with fabulous, interesting architecture and some very intriguing shops. We went in several shops and also went down to the beach, where these photos were taken.




On Wednesday, our last day at the campground, we went over to the ocean (Gulf of Mexico) side of the state park. We couldn’t swim, because red flags were posted, but we enjoyed walking along the beach and watching and photographing the wind and waves. A large cargo ship was making its way into the harbor, and our little grandson especially enjoyed watching its progress.



Thursday we headed for Tallahassee and spent the night with Mr. T’s sister and her family. That was really nice, as we hadn’t seen them in over a year.

Friday afternoon, we took our daughter and grandson to the Jacksonville airport. It was hard saying goodbye, but we were so thankful for the opportunity to have spent time with them. An hour or so after leaving them, we were once more headed north aboard the Silver Meteor.

Our trip home couldn’t be said to be uneventful... it was a series of delays and disgruntled people, and I must say I still haven’t figured out why Penn Station in NYC has no seating (other than in the food court) for anyone except Amtrak first-class passengers. Everyone else sits on their luggage or the floor, if they sit at all. Oh well, we got safely home, and only a few hours later than planned.

And the next day we had yet another surprise! Our sneaky daughter had not flown home to Nevada after all, but had flown to Boston where her brother picked her up. She managed to surprise another set of people, and to surprise me again too!

All in all, it was a wonderful vacation, even though it turned out very differently than I expected! It was such a treat to see our friends and relatives and especially to be able to interact with our youngest grandson. God is so good!

Menu Plan Monday for December 10


Another Monday! And now Christmas is only a couple of weeks away. I am not ready, and I just don’t know how the time has flown by so quickly. Here’s my menu for this week -- it includes some repeats that didn’t get used last week.

MONDAY: Lots of leftovers from the past few days

TUESDAY: Baked Fish Chowder, Multigrain Biscuits

WEDNESDAY: Rigatoni & Sausage (crockpot), Zucchini/Summer Squash blend, Italian Bread

THURSDAY: Macaroni & Cheese, Broccoli/Cauliflower Blend, Carrot Salad

FRIDAY: Aunt Ned’s Hamburgers, Oven Fries, Coleslaw

SATURDAY: Lentils Ole´, Baked Potatoes, Fruited Coleslaw

SUNDAY: Tamale Casserole (crockpot), Fruit & Nut Tossed Salad

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Quote for the day


“Little self-denials, little honesties, little passing words of sympathy, little nameless acts of kindness, little silent victories over favorite temptations -- these are the silent threads of gold which, when woven together, gleam out so brightly in the pattern of life that God approves.” -- F.W. Farrar