Friday, November 30, 2007

It's time for the Cinnamon Bear!

It's that time of year once again - time to break out The Cinnamon Bear, that classic radio program following Jimmy and Judy as they go on their search for the Christmas Star.

You can sign up here to have links to the downloadable episodes emailed to you each week. There are 26 15-minute episodes in all, so if you start now, you can listen to one each day right up to Christmas!

I downloaded it last year so I could burn it to a CD, and so I can tell you that it is the original version, the one they play on the radio each year. It's a really fun program. If it's anything like last year, they'll also send you a bunch of other Christmas-related radio programs, too. Fun stuff!

Anybody else remember how the Cinnamon Bear used to visit Frederick & Nelson stores each Christmas and hand out those giant cinnamon bear candies?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Darn you crafty people!

Craftiness is, apparently, a virus.

I blame Norma. Well, mostly Norma. Elaine, too. Oh, and we musn't forget Sue. Or Carla, for that matter. Always showing off, describing or posting pictures of their latest beautiful, cute, homey, or just downright fabulous creation. Or posting links to blogs with more cuteness, more fabulous creations. Showing off the treasure from the latest swap. Making it look so easy.

And now, here I sit, bouncing from blog to blog, looking at projects and thinking "that looks easy enough, I could do that!". Signing up for my first swap, changing my mind 50 times about what to include. Perched on the edge of going to blow the rest of my allowance at Joann's on my lunch hour. Wanting to buy odd-sounding items like chenille sticks and fat quarters. So I, too, can post pictures of fabulous creations.

Darn you crafty, creative people.

But really, who knew that craftiness was as contagious as the flu?

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Holiday Traditions and Memories, Part 2 - Christmas Eve

Growing up, Christmas Eve was typically spent in one of two places: at my grandparents' house, near Seattle, or at the home of some friends of my parents, who lived in the same town we did. At least once we were at my uncle's house in California, the year we went to Disneyland. I don't remember having a Christmas Eve dinner at home until I was well into my teen years.

As a young child, going to my parents' friends' house was great. We'd have a big dinner, complete with clam chowder (and ever since, clam chowder has been particularly associated with Christmas Eve in my mind). There was always a birthday cake for Jesus, and we'd sing the happy birthday song. Then, we'd go upstairs and have a pinata. That was the best part of the whole evening. They had a big open rec room with a high ceiling. They'd tie it to the high point of the ceiling, and we'd all take turns being blindfolded and smacking it with a broomstick. It was always full of candy and little toys. After the pinata, we'd exchange gifts between the families, before we went home to await our visit from St. Nick.

Going to Grandma and Grandpa's was equally fun in my mind. Oh, I don't remember what we ate for dinner, which is surprising because so many of my childhood memories center around food. I do remember begging and begging to open just one gift on Christmas Eve. Sometimes Mom gave in, and sometimes she didn't. And I remember the tree – they had these really beautiful old lights that had a plastic collar around them, so they looked big and full even though the bulb themselves were small. And they had bubble lights. I could stare at those things for hours! Grandma collected nativities, so their tree was full of ornaments featuring the Blessed Family. Who knew there were so many different kinds!

One year, I was probably about 12, we were at Grandma and Grandpa's house and I was sleeping in the living room. They had a funky fold-out chair that turned into a bed – like a sofa bed but much, much smaller. The chair was right next to the Christmas Tree. Sometime in the middle of the night, I awoke to a faint jingling sound, and heard a rustling next to my bed, near the tree. Excited and terrified, I stayed as still as I could, eyes squeezed shut, pretending to be asleep. Something brushed my cheek, just for a moment, and then all was still. I finally dozed off again and awoke to a beautiful Christmas morning. To this day I have no idea what or who that was. Could have been one of the dogs. Could have been my brothers messing with me. I highly doubt it was my parents, who were the epitome of “early to bed, early to rise” people, and simply didn't get up in the middle of the night. But that year, I believed in Santa Clause like no other.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

My new favorite meal

All I have to say is, YUM!

Swedish Meatballs and Spaetzle

To make the spaetzle:

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 t. nutmeg
dash pepper
3/4 t. salt
1/3 cup milk
3 eggs, beaten
4 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 large onion, chopped

In a medium-size bowl, mix the flour, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Gradually mix in milk and eggs, blending until smooth. Bring the chicken broth to a boil. Pour the dough into a colander with large holes. Using a wooden spoon, press the dough through the colander holes into the chicken broth, a little at a time. Reduce the broth to a simmer. Let cook three to four minutes, then remove the spaetzle with a slotted spoon and press another batch through the colander. Note: keep your colander on a plate in between batches, as the dough will run through it a little bit.

Once all the spaetzle has cooked, set aside the chicken broth - you'll need a cup of it for the meatballs.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt, and cook until the onions are soft, about five minutes. Add the spaetzle and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about five more minutes. Serve hot.

Swedish Meatballs

1 2/3 cup evaporated milk, divided
1/4 cup minced onion
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. allspice
pinch pepper
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup cold water
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine 2/3 cup milk, onion, breadcrumbs, salt, allspice, pepper and beef, mix well. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Form the meat mixture into small balls (about 1 1/2 inches) and brown in the butter. Add chicken broth (reserved from the spaetzle, if you make them the same day). Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 12 minutes. Meanwhile, mix the water and flour to make a slurry. Remove meatballs from the skillet. To the chicken broth in the pan, add the remaining cup of evaporated milk and the water/flour slurry. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and boils. Add the lemon juice. Return the meatballs to the pan, warming them through before serving.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A few precious moments

Hubby's off having dinner with his dad and sisters tonight. This means I actually get the house to myself for at least a couple of hours! The good thing about having a husband that doesn't have any friends is that he's always around when you need or want to do something together. The bad thing about having a husband that doesn't have any friends is that he's always around. So, I take these moments when I can get them, and I relish them.

I've been crafting a little. I finally found a needle craft that holds my interest and doesn't frustrate me - needle punch. I've been doing that most of the day, and now I'm going to put in an old black and white movie - The Ghost and Mrs. Muir - and watch it while I work.

For dinner, I'm making sloppy joes. I love them, hubby hates them, so I only make them when he's out at dinner time. So, once or twice a year.

I have a fire in the woodstove, happy animals at my feet, and I'm going to enjoy every minute of my precious moments of alone time.

Happy Sunday, everyone.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

What's cooking today?

I'm having a mini cooking session today. I just cooked up a big pot of brown rice, some of which will be used in pork fried rice for tomorrow's dinner, and some of which will go in the freezer for future meals.

I also put together a big pot of lentil soup, made extra rich with the addition of about a tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. What a great addition that was - don't know why I didn't think of it before!

Finally, I mixed up a batch of Pumpkin Spice Bites (the next post down), which I'll freeze before taking to a potluck at work later this week.

I'm also cleaning and doing laundry. Tonight I'm going to a wedding. Full weekend - how's yours?

Pumpkin Spice Bites

I'm making these in preparation for this week's "healthy foods" potluck at work. As desserts go, they're not bad - they're sweet, but fairly low fat and have a lot of fiber and vitamins thanks to the addition of the pumpkin.

1 box spice cake mix
1 egg
1 15-ounce can pumpkin

Mix all ingredients. Spoon into greased mini-muffin tins. These don't spread very much when they bake, so you might have to press them out a little with your finger to get them to fill the tins. Bake at 350 until a toothpick comes out clean (about 15 minutes).

My mini-muffin tin is little shapes, so I think they hold less than standard mini-muffin tins, and I'm getting about five and a half dozen out of one batch.

Brown Rice Casserole

I don't think I posted this one's one of my favorite side dishes.

Brown Rice Casserole

1 T. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 c. brown rice
2 ½ c. chicken broth
1 t. salt
¼ t. pepper
dash cinnamon

Heat oil in large skillet. Add onion and saute until golden. Add rice, and saute until onions begin to brown.

Add chicken broth and seasoning, and bring to a boil. Transfer to greased casserole dish. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for one hour, or until all liquid is absorbed.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Want to see a freaky picture?

Go to google and type in "ewe photo" (without the quotes). The middle picture it shows at the top is a picture of a python that has swallowed a pregnant ewe. I won't post it here because I don't want to freak anybody out.

Freaky. Creepy. Cool.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Boycotting China

If you're fed up with the never-ending list of recalls this year, here's a list of products and brands that will help you avoid purchasing products made in China...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Holiday Traditions and Memories, Part 1 - The Tree

I signed up to participate in

holidaytraditions2007button copia /

As part of my swap package, I'm supposed to write up a "tradition" tutorial, and a recipe. Well, I'm having so much fun remembering holidays past as I try to figure out what on earth I should write up for my tutorial and recipe (and of course there are way too many recipes to choose from), that I feel myself wanting to write up a lot more than that. So I'm sharing with you lucky people.

Yeah, I know it's not even Thanksgiving yet. These swaps take time. Get over it. :-)

And now, for part 1 - the tree...

Growing up, Christmas time was the best. It all started with what I like to call the annual Christmas Tree Brawl. A week or so before Christmas, we'd venture out to the u-cut Christmas tree farm. The five of us would trudge out in the mud (I lived in Washington, it was always muddy out there at Christmas time!), and each seek out the perfect Christmas tree. Then my two brothers and I would get into a big, light-hearted argument about who picked the best tree. Even if we secretly agreed, we still argued. It was all part of the fun. I'm sure it drove my mother crazy!

We'd bring the tree home, and Dad would set it up in a five-gallon bucket in the living room. Then, we'd decorate. Because I was the youngest, my ornaments always had to go on the bottom of the tree. One year, the dog chewed up almost all my ornaments! I still have the Snow White ornament that I rescued that year, complete with a puncture wound or two.

The Christmas tree stayed up until Epiphany, on January 6. Then we knew that Christmas was officially over.

Now we have an artificial tree, which I usually put up early in December. Hubby doesn't like to decorate, so I hanging the ornaments is a special me-time, done while drinking a big mug of hot chocolate and watching my Emmett Otter's Jug Band Christmas video, the sappiest Christmas special known to man, and my all time favorite.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Perfect poached eggs

I'm on an egg kick lately, and there's nothing quite like a warm, creamy poached egg to start your day...

Use the freshest eggs you can find. I always look for a sell-by date that is at least a couple of weeks away. The fresher the egg, the better the whites will hold together in the water. I always cook them two at a time, in my 1 quart saucepan. Here's how:

Fill your pot will water to about 2 inches below the top of the pan. Put on the stove, cover, and bring to a full boil. Meanwhile, crack your first egg into a custard cup or similar small dish (this will let you pour the whole egg in at once, instead of in a stream as it would come out of the shell).

When the water is boiling, add a pinch of salt and stir to dissolve. Turn the heat to low, and lift the pot off the burner (this ensures that the water won't be boiling when you put the egg in, which would break up the whites). Holding the custard cup very close to the surface of the water, slip the egg in.

Return the pot to the burner, and let the egg cook gently while you crack the next egg into the custard cup. Using a spoon, carefully push the egg that is cooking over to one side of the pan. Slip in the second egg. Let simmer (do not boil!) for five to seven minutes, until the yolk is the desired firmness. Remove with a slotted spoon.

When you pour the egg in, you'll get a little stringiness from the outer whites. Don't be alarmed by this. If your egg is fresh enough, the center white and yolk should hold together nicely in a little pillow.

It takes a little practice to know when the eggs are cooked to your liking, but you can tell by pressing gently on the yolk. When the yolk is runny, it gives easily to gentle pressure (careful not to break the yolk!). As the yolk cooks, it resists the pressure more and more. I like my eggs just a tiny bit runny, so I cook them for about five minutes. Hubby likes his hard, so I cook his for about seven. If you like really runny yolks, you'll probably only want to cook them for three or four minutes.