Thursday, December 30, 2010

not exactly your typical Christmas day...

hello there - just taking a break from Christmas break to share a glimpse of our Christmas day.  we kicked the day off by lighting the final advent candle and opening more presents than i think i have ever seen (we are a spoiled bunch!) then moved outside for some of this:


it was cold.  and loud.  but well worth the company.  i was a wimp and sat in the car with heated seats then headed back to the warmth of the house earlier than the rest of the gang - but not before i snapped some great shots.  hope you had a wonderful Christmas too! 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas, Travel & Spoonbread - 3 clearly related topics

Just hours ago our place was littered with to-do lists and half finished tasks everywhere, I hadn't even finished packing & I was so antsy to get going that I'm pretty sure I was vibrating!  And for some weird reason, I just loved the insanity.  (perhaps I feel at home in the middle of it all?)

We're finally en route and I'm so excited to go see family and spend some time off of work and get on a plane!!!  I can't explain it, but I'm pretty sure traveling has been on my list of favorite things to do since birth.  I'll save that rant for another day though.  For now, in the midst of the craziness, I'd like to share one more recipe off of my Thanksgiving menu with you before we take off - sure, may not be as "healthy" as the other items on there, but it is SO good!!!  (and there is a reason I only make this when I have many mouths to feed... I may or may not will eat the entire thing in one sitting if left to my own devices.)  

And since we're heading south for Christmas and this is my favorite cornbread recipe, it fits in our conversation rather well, if I do say so myself (<--what a bizarre phrase!  where did it come from?).  It's perfectly moist, has a dense almost brownie-like texture, contains just the right amount of sweetness and actually has corn in it (unlike most cornbread), which is ironic because it's referred to as "Spoonbread," not cornbread.  Anyway, enough of my rambling - here is the recipe:

Spoonbread:  The Star on the Cornbread Tree
(in my opnion, at least)

1 box Jiffy corn muffin mix
(yes, I cheat & no, I'm not ashamed)
1 egg
1/2 cup melted butter
8 oz of sour cream
(I used the fat free stuff - you can also sub in plain yogurt, I just didn't have any on hand)
14.5 oz can creamed corn

Preheat oven to 425*F. 

Mix ingredients & bake in greased pan for 30 minutes, until browned. 

Take out of oven & cool a bit then enjoy the best cornbread you will ever eat.  

Merry Christmas!!!  
(this will probably be my last post till the new year, so happy new years as well, I guess.)  

(But who knows, maybe I'll take a break from spending time with family, eating great food, keeping warm, enjoying cold but still sunny days, going for fabulously long runs, playing games, drinking coffee made from home-roasted beans, cuddling to watch a movie, having great conversation, doing endless sudoku puzzles, & not paying attention to (or caring) what time it is etc to share some of it with you -- don't worry, I'll be armed with my camera every step of the way and I'm sure there will be lots of stories to tell upon our return.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

9 days till Christmas!

...6 days till we get to spend time with much loved (and missed) family
...5 dinners left to plan
...4 minutes to spend watching this seriously awesome Story of Christmas video (below)
...3 more presents to finish up
...2 Christmas potlucks to get ready for
...1 more day till Friday!

do you have a running countdown list?  what does yours look like?  is it crazy and disconnected like mine? does it make you just a bit giddy when you read over it?  (mine does)

(I particularly enjoyed the accent, the "sheeps", the star, the littlest wiseman, and the grande finale)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I've never met a brussel sprout I didn't like...

 ...perhaps that's because I've only ever made them one way - and it is mmm mmm good!

Before I ran into this recipe, I'd heard all kinds of awful things about brussel sprouts, but had never tasted them.  Curiosity finally got the better part of me on one of my farmer market binges just after we got back from Egypt.

I delved into the bin at the farmer's market and hand selected the greenest, most tightly wrapped up sprouts I could pick out - I was so excited to try a new vegetable and I wanted to pick out the best ones there.  (much to Daniel's dismay - he didn't want to be the known as the fellow accompanying the crazy lady who spent a full ten minutes picking out brussel sprouts)  

Armed with a bag of brussel sprouts and hopeful anticipation, I began to think about what I would do with them.  I wanted something simple that would showcase the sprouts' flavor - after all, if I was going to try a new veggie, I had to give it a fair audition!  Then I remembered one of Heidi's recipes over at 101 Cookbooks that I had earmarked waaaaaaaaaaaaay  back in the day - it fit the bill so I decided to go with it.  

I don't know how these green little bundles turn out in other recipes, but I love them in this one - so much so that I included them in my family Thanksgiving dinner a couple of weeks ago.  And since I said I'd be sharing some of those recipes, here comes round 2 - Golden-Crusted Brussel Sprouts (borrowed and only a teensy bit adapted from here).  You have to try this - it is so simple and oh so yummy!

24 small brussel sprouts*
1 tbsp olive oil
fine grain sea salt & black pepper (preferably freshly ground)
grated cheese to taste** 
(I use Parmesan)

*the original recipe says this makes 4 servings, but we usually split it between the two of us -- it seems we eat heftier veggie servings than most
** Heidi suggests 1/4 cup, I prefer just a light dusting  

1. Wash sprouts, removing any loosey-goosey outer leaves and cutting off any stem ends that are jutting out. 

2. Cut each sprout in half from stem to top.

3. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a skillet large enough to hold all your sprouts in a single layer. 

4. Place sprouts in pan on their flat side, cover and cook for 5 minutes-ish, giving it a shake every once in a while.

5. Once the bottoms start to brown, cut into or taste one to test for tenderness.  (if its not tender, cover and cook a tad longer)

6. As soon as they are good and tender, uncover & turn up the heat, allowing for the bottoms to carmelize a bit.  Toss or stir them along the way to get some color on the rounded sides as well. 

6. Top with salt, pepper, and grated cheese.

7. Serve immediately (...assuming you haven't already polished them off!) --these babies are at their peak right after you're done preparing them! 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

with hearts full of thanks and mouths full of food

We celebrated Thanksgiving a couple of Saturdays ago...  Why a Saturday, you ask?  Well because living in Canada is not conducive to celebrating American holidays.  So since we didn't get any time off during the week to cook up a storm , Saturday was dubbed our substitute turkey day.

I played head chef, mom was my sous chef/turkey cooker and dad my dishwasher.  The rest of the gang were good sports and played guinea pigs for the day.  To my delight (and surprise), they seemed to actually like it.  Not just thank you helpings, but stuffed to the gill helpings!!! (still not over it, can you tell?) 

I was super excited to cook such a big meal for such a big group (7 people is huge when you're used to cooking for 2!). So excited, that I actually put together a formal menu (yup, I'm that dorky ...and I never actually ended up using it, but was fun to make regardless). 

I was really eager to share the kind of food that I eat - wholesome food that starts with real ingredients, that's put together from scratch, that uses unprocessed ingredients and that tastes great.  My siblings insist that I eat all I ever eat is "cardboard and grass" and that "Angy food" is bland and lacking in flavour -- I just wanted to prove to them that you can eat well and love it. 

It was a bit stressful at times, but a great experience overall.  To be honest, I'm already looking forward to my next opportunity to cook for a group.  In the meantime, I thought I'd share some of the recipes from our Thanksgiving meal, starting with the Focaccia bread.   I got this recipe from Home Ec class back in Grade 9 and hadn't looked at it since - the original recipe calls for all purpose flour, but I subbed in white whole wheat and it turned out great.  So without further ado...

Whole Wheat Focaccia Bread

2 1/2 cup White Whole Wheat Flour
1 tbsp Quick Rise Yeast
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 tsp Thyme
1 tsp Savoury
1 1/2 tsp Oregano
1 1/2 tsp Basil
3 tbsp Olive Oil
(I used extra virgin)
1/2 tsp Sugar
1 cup Warm Water
Olive Oil, Coarse Salt & extra herbs for topping

Combine 1 1/2 cups of the flour with yeast, sugar, salt and herbs.  Combine warm water and oil in a separate bowl, then pour into flour mixture.  Gradually add the rest of the flour until a soft dough is formed. 

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a minute or two.  Divide dough into two halves and coat each half with oil, then gently press them into ovals.  Cover dough and let rise 10-15 minutes in a warm place.  Use this time to preheat your oven to 450* F. 

Brush your "loaves" with olive oil and sprinkle course salt and extra herbs on top (as much or as little as you like). 

Bake in top 1/3 of the oven for 15 - 17 minutes (if it doesn't brown in that time frame, broil the top for 1 minute).  Serve with olive oil & balsamic vinegar - or alongside soup! 

Friday, December 3, 2010

despite appearances...

... i am still alive and still very much interested in keeping up with this blog.  but alas, it has been a long, busy, and at times a bit of a hard week.

it feels like forever ago now, but just last Saturday we celebrated Thanksgiving as a family -- i've got a post in the works to share that with you, it was a wonderful time.

we're also preparing to travel to see family for the holiday season coming up - i'm sure i'll have plenty of photos to share with you from that trip.  we're really looking forward to it (counting down, in fact)!

countless Christmas parties and get-togethers are also very near in the future - which means lots of planning for events and attending events.  which is great - we love opportunities to connect with others can also become draining if we're not careful, though.

all that being said, the business of the season is definitely kicking in, and as we approach the heart of the season let's try to keep in mind the real reason behind all of the glitz and craziness - let us adore Him, and from the outflow of that, let us seize every opportunity to reflect who He is to those whose paths He has crossed with ours.
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