Friday, December 27, 2019

Christmas Cookies

Here is a list of the Christmas desserts I like to make each year (reminder to self for following years as I seem to be more forgetful with age):

* Mocha Sandwich Cookies - Fine Cooking, these are a bit of work, but so worth it, I try to make them first so I don't get burned out with too much to do
* Fudge 
* Chunky Hazelnut Toffee Cookies
* M&M cookies
* Peppermint bark

Next Christmas I want to try Chocolate Crinkle Mint cookies.  I kept seeing them on Twitter and they look awesome.

Most of these make great gifts!  

Cherry Winks

I know this is a very common recipe, but my mom made a few minor changes that make this a family favorite so I need to document it here.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 2 tablespoons cherry juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup diced maraschino cherries
Mix the first two ingredients with a kitchen mixer until well blended.  Add cherry juice, vanilla and eggs until well mixed.  Add remaining ingredients until well blended.


Topping:
  • 1 1/2 cup smashed cornflakes
  • 14 maraschino cherries, cut into quarters
Create cookie balls and roll in the corn flake mix, then add one quarter cherry on top, continue until all dough is finished.

The beauty of this recipe is the cookie turns pink with the juice and makes a really pretty cookie.  We've omitted nuts due to personal preference.  

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Christmas Cards

Every year that I sit down to do Christmas cards, I start by updating the address labels list.  Who has moved, died, divorced, etc.  It always surprises me at how much can change in one year, then I go back to past years to make sure I didn't miss anyone and I see more major changes.  I must have missed updating our list for a couple of years as I had to start with 2017 and that made the changes even more drastic:

* Husband's uncle/aunt moved due to tornado that completely destroyed their home
* Death of my mom's 2nd husband
* Aunt moved back in with her elderly father, don't need prior apartment address
* Death of husband's great aunt
* Death of husband's step-uncle
* Friends in Dallas moved in the last couple of years, need to recheck their address
* Death of husband's cousin
* Why is my Great Aunt Millie still on there??  She died in 2013! 
* Found friend Bob from a really old address page, he might have moved in the last 5 years, I can't remember, but he deleted his facebook page so hoping this reaches him.

For one year I'd like things to stay the same, no deaths, no forced moves, but that's not realistic now is it. 


Monday, December 16, 2019

1st Snow of the Season

I was really hoping the kids would get a day off, but sadly all they got was a 2 hour delay.  It really derailed my morning because I lost all focus.  I slept in till 7am, then sat for 40 minutes drinking coffee and reading news.  I then wandered upstairs and reorganized Violette's clothing bin so we could find her school clothes, got two girls dressed for school and by this time the youngest was pushing quit urgently to go outside and play in the snow.  I pushed back more insistently that she must eat breakfast first, get her hair done, then go outside and that took until 9am.  I don't know how it took that long, I spent time in the basement looking for boots, then again for gloves which I thought had already been placed into the snowsuit bin.  In between jumping up to look for things I ate bites of butternut squash bread.  By 9:15 three girls had made it outside, I still hadn't finished breakfast or made lunches!  I was exhausted, still hadn't showered, and it's a work day!  See this is why I wanted a "snow day" and not a delay because the delay just delays the kids leaving for school and letting me get on with my day!  At least they had fun making snowmen and various other things.




Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

I'd like to give a shout out to our favorite seed company, Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.  We first discovered them when looking for Purple Sweet Potato plants and we've had great success with everything we've bought from them.  I think next year we will expand our Tex Mex plants to the following:

  • Anaheim peppers
  • Poblano Peppers
  • Tomatillos 

The Poblano's are impossible to find after the season is over so I'd like to stock up on these for our Salsa Verde Pork.  With the Anaheims I'd like to can as green chili's in small jelly jars!  I think that would be about the same size as green chili cans from the store, not that we care if it's an ounce more.



Monday, December 09, 2019

Blueberry Streusel Recipe

I love blueberry streusel pie, but some days I don't have time for a homemade crust so this makes a perfect, quick dessert without the fuss.

It's winter, so I went with frozen blueberries but this can work just as well with fresh in the summer.

Recipe:

  • 2lbs of frozen blueberries
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix by hand, if the berries look a bit whitish, bake in the oven for about 10 minutes and stir again, then add the streusel.

Topping:
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons butter cut in small pieces so it blends better
Pulse all topping ingredients in a food processor until chunky and then spread evenly over the blueberry mix.

Total baking time - 30 minutes at 350.  Best served while warm.

Use 8 x 8 glass or metal pan, or double the recipe to use a full size cake pan.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

Fiesta Corn and Jalapeno Dip ~ Slow Cooker

This dip has become my favorite side with almost anything!  I even made it on Thanksgiving and it was happily consumed all afternoon while we played board games.

Ingredients:

  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and diced (retain some seeds depending on how hot you want the dip)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese or monterey jack 
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Homemade Taco Spice
Optional - 4 slices of bacon

Throw everything into a small slow cooker for 1-2 hours, stir before serving.

Saturday, December 07, 2019

Salsa Verde Carnitas

My husband's from West Texas, so my cooking style has been Tex-Mex for 20 years, we make all the basics like Taco's, Beef Enchiladas, Chicken Quesadillas, etc., but lately I've wanted to branch out and master the art of braising meat.  We've been practicing with this recipe and I think it's finally time to post it here! 

Pork 2-3lbs - using 2 tablespoons of oil, brown in a dutch oven until all sides are browned.

Veggies:
  • 1-2 Poblano Chili's, I find Green Bell Peppers work fine in the winter when you can't get Poblano's.  Cut into 1-2" wide strips and remove stems, seeds, etc.
  • 1 yellow onion - remove skin, cut in half, then slices
Spread peppers and onions on the bottom of the dutch oven, placing the browned pork on top of these veggies.

Salsa:

  • 5 tomatillos, hulls removed and cut in half (remove the small circle where stem was attached)
  • 2 jalapeno's, remove stems, cut in half, keep some of the seeds for heat
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cloves
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
Boil on stove for 10 minutes, then strain water from the veggies and add the following:
  • 2 teaspoons dried cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons salt
Puree in a food processor.  Pour over the meat.  Add one cup of water to the dutch oven so nothing burns to the bottom.  Place in oven for 5-6 hours at 300.  

Around the 4 hour mark, begin to pull pork apart and mix with the veggies and sauce, add more water if necessary so nothing burns to the bottom.

We like to serve this with Corn Jalapeno Dip, corn tortillas and chips.  

Snakes, Snickerdoodles and Santa 2019

Our local Museum of Fine Arts hosts a show called Snakes, Snickerdoodles and Santa, this will be our third year attending.  The snakes are part of a presentation put on with Reptile World by Michael Shwedick.  He presents a wide variety of snakes and other reptiles in a very interesting and scientific way.  Even after three years of seeing the same animals I still learn something new.  This has become a highlight of things to do in the Christmas season.  





This last photo is very special because it's the first year that Evie has agreed to sit with Santa, she is still very nervous.  Santa spoke very quietly to her and let he know there was nothing to be afraid of.  He then read through her wish list which includes a blue dolphin named Rainbow and a white kitty with pink eyes.  It was truly a special moment to witness.

Friday, December 06, 2019

2019 Christmas Tree

Originally I had hoped to decorate for Christmas on Thanksgiving weekend, but we spent Friday doing yard work at mom's house, I can't remember what happened on Saturday.  Sunday was the day we noticed Princess's health was failing in a big way so no one wanted to celebrate, instead we got the kids caught up on their homework and spent time with her.  Fast forward to Friday and I was determined to celebrate in a big way starting with chocolate scones, Mandalorian episode 5 and setting up the Christmas tree! 

We got all the way to pulling out the decorations when suddenly a call came through that Mike's grandfather had broken his leg, the femur bone was shattered.  While I spent a few minutes calling my mom to ask for prayer and writing to the church prayer chain, the kids managed to cover the entire tree with ornaments.  That's okay, they enjoy it so much and I'm glad they had fun.  As for husband and I, we're sad and having a tough time getting into the spirit of things.  I think it might be one of those years where we do Christmas for the kids because I can't even bring myself to write out a list of things I might want for presents. 

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

My first day without a cat in 20 years

Oh what a strange feeling to wake up without a feline family member in the household. 

Our first cat, Zorak, came into our lives in 1999.  He was a tiny kitten full of spunk and vigor.  He was probably too wild to contain inside a house and his lack of affection is probably what led us to get Princess and Rumble in 2001, but he certainly made up for the love factor in his later years. 

We lost Zorak at the end of 2012, right before Christmas, two days before if memory serves correct.  It was, like this year, a struggle to get into the holiday spirit.  His passing was sudden and unexpected.  With three little children under the age of 5, our attention span was just enough to keep the pets watered and fed.  We didn't notice any changes in his behavior until it was too late so we took this one quite hard.


Princess was our second cat.  We got her from my friend Jill.  She was a tiny terrified puff ball who wouldn't have anything to do with us at first.  It wasn't until we took a week vacation and left her with my friend Carol that she decided we might be acceptable humans. 

Princess was the smallest of the three cats and the most agile, I suppose she had to be to stay out of the boy cats way.  Ours were never a pile of happy cuddly cats that you see in meme's.  They were a prickly bunch, staying out of each other's way as best possible in a two bedroom condo.  I think their lives improved drastically with the move to Maryland.  We didn't have any windows that got sun in Florida, not like the huge bay window in Maryland anyway!  Princess and Rumble seemed to agree that their retirement home was exceptionally nice.  



Rumble was our third cat, we got him a few months after Princess.  At the time, my husband was a security guard and where he worked this young cat, a few months old, had been wandering around the premises for a few days.  He jumped up to the side of our pick up truck and hung onto the window seal while meowing at me.  I took him home on a Saturday thinking I'd take him to a shelter by Monday but by then he had sat in my lap all weekend so we decided to keep him as the other two cats were not nearly as cuddly.  Rumble loved sleeping in my house plants and he was terrified of all of my children.  He moved with us to Maryland in 2013 where he lived in the basement for his last year, coming up only when the kids had gone to bed or school where he would sit on the back of the couch soaking up the sun, while watching birds and squirrels.  We lost Rumble in 2014, he was 13 years old, I was pregnant with Evie at the time and life was less hectic so we were more aware of his
failing health. 


So here today I suddenly find myself in a cat free home for the first time in 20 years.  No litter boxes to clean, no cat hairballs to swoop up before the dog gets there, no accidental kitty turds for the dog to snack on (disgusting, but it happens). 

Regardless of how sad I feel about having no cats, I'm ready to take a break.  I've started planning how our next house must have a cat room, with floors that are easy to sterilize, and windows with plenty of sun.  It will happen when it's meant to happen.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Princess 2001 ~ 2019


This is Princess in June, she enjoyed the summer, spending much of it outside in the sun.  This was unusual because for her entire life, until her very last year, she had been an indoor cat.  Then in late 2018, we moved to a duplex with a tiny back yard.  The backdoor is mostly glass making it so easy to see outside and follow the dog.  It became her thing, spending days in the sun, and I think it may have helped extend her life because she was dealing with extensive arthritis in her back legs which got significantly worse once winter set in.  We will always remember her as a loving family member who stayed underfoot to remind us of her love, and her need for love from us.