armadillas


Mistletoe

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It’s Christmas Eve! I can hardly believe it. I don’t know what it is about this year, but it does n’t really feel all that much like Christmas to me. Perhaps it’s the crazy Virginia weather we have. 70 degrees one day, 35 the next. It’ll throw a person for a loop! Oh, but wouldn’t it be nice if we could get a little snow? For the most part, it snows once or twice a year around these parts. Sure, it melts almost as soon as it comes, but even one day of a winter wonderland is a magical, wondrous thing. Last year the magic didn’t come. I think we had an hour tops of flurries and not a spec of it showed up on the ground. I suppose I better stick some mittens under my pillow to invoke some winter chill. I remember doing that as a little girl. I don’t recall who taught this ritual to me, but every year I would pull out my mittens or even some gloves if mittens couldn’t be found and I would whisper some Christmas prayer in hopes to wake up the next morning to a frosted window. Believe it or not, it worked…though that’s likely due to the fact I usually did it on nights that were already calling for snow. Magic or no, it’s a tradition I always enjoyed. Like the elves knocking on our door every Christmas Eve and leaving pajamas. I still can’t figure out how those “elves” managed to ring the door bell every year without getting caught. Oh, the joys of Christmas.

But this year I don’t quite have the Spirit that I usually do. I just chuck it up to all the recent changes in my life. There’s just too much stimulation to sit down and really enjoy the nog, which goes completely against my last post about Indian Time. Plus, all my friends are spread out across the continents this year and things are just not the same. But that’s okay. I’ll still relish a feast of beasts tonight along with a little Christmas mass. And let’s not forget the presents either! We finally finished up the last of our presents last night and I’m rather satisfied with everything. Now I just need to get some boxes to start shipping a few things out to those too far away to visit (sorry guys…you won’t be getting anything until after the holidays).

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Christmas aside, I did promise to finish up my Thanksgiving posts and true to nature I’m cutting it right down to the wire. But my first recipe is for a lovely blackberry-cranberry sauce that would be just perfect for Christmas dinner. See, I’m not late. I’m just making the recipe better accessible for holiday chefs.

Now I’ll admit that this recipe is not completely my own. It’s a hodge podge of at least three different ones I found while browsing the web. Here are the links in case you’re interested to draw some inspiration of your own:

Spinach Tiger’s Cranberry Blackberry Sauce and Syrup

Joy of Baking Cran Raspberry Sauce

Fake Food Free Blackberry Cranberry Sauce with Cinnamon

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Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 1 package fresh blackberries (I used the large pack)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 lemon juice
  • Honey
  • Cinnamon

I promise is super easy, much easier than the last recipe I posted. The first thing you want to do is rinse off your cranberries and blackberries, then dump them into a decent size pot/sauce pan. We’re making sauce after all!

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Add a 1/2 cup of sugar…

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And a 1/2 cup of lemon juice (or however much your taste buds desire!). If you’re feeling real adventurous, throw in some zest too. I prefer lemon juice, but you could totally substitute orange juice. Be creative

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Now for the cinnamon and honey. This step is completely optional and completely to taste. I really enjoy both cinnamon and honey, so I was a little generous with my shakes and tablespoons

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Stir stir stir and set your heat to medium high

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Watch it bet bubbly!

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Did you know sitting a wooden spoon over your pot helps prevent it from boiling over? I wish I had known this years ago. It would’ve saved me a lot of clean up and certainly is a lifesaver nowadays. Stir occasionally as your sauce boils, about 10 minutes or so. You’ll hear the cranberries popping away.

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After 10 minutes of boiling and your berries are all popped, turn the heat down low to simmer. This is where you should taste taste taste to see if your sauce is too bitter, too sweet, not cinnamony enough. Adjust accordingly. This is YOUR sauce! Also, as your sauce simmers, it will thicken

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Of course, you can remove your sauce from the heat if you want to skip the simmering bit. Either way, it will thicken. I just like to simmer for another 10 minutes because it makes me feel important and sophisticated. When you have enough sophistication in your life, turn off the heat. Once the sauce is cool, you can put it in a pretty mason jar!

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Yum yum, if this doesn’t get you into the holiday spirit (whether it be Thanksgiving or Christmas), I don’t know what will

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Be warned! This sauce may be a little too tart for your friends who insist on buying the sugary sweet store bought stuff in a can. That just means there’s more for you! But seriously, if you aren’t big on tartness just bump up the amount of sugar in the beginning. But I embrace the tartness! Ah, isn’t is just beautiful?

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Happy (late) Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas! Now, where can I find some mistletoe…

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Airports and airways

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Let’s talk about Christmas cheer. As you can see, Toby is ready for Christmas. We’re only 10 days away folks…which of course means only 15 days until my birthday! I really can’t believe how quickly this year blew by. I remember how time seemed to move like molasses when I was a little girl. It took forever for Christmas and my birthday to roll around, which sucked anyway because they were only five days apart. As an adult, I thoroughly enjoy the fact that my birthday falls on the 30th, but come on- what kid wants to split presents like that? But now that I’m all grown up I feel like my years are getting shorter and shorter. Seriously, in 15 days I will be 24. Isn’t that a strange thought! It seems like yesterday I was 13 counting down the years before I could drive. I think the only age milestone I have left is being able to rent a car. So here’s to one more year of “adolescence” if you will.

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Oh yeah, we were supposed to be talking about Christmas cheer and not silly things like turning 24. I love Christmas. Absolutely love love love it! I may be biased since I’m almost a Christmas baby and do love my birthday (if you haven’t figured that out yet!), but there’s something about wintertime and Christmas that just sends thrills down my spine. It’s just such a happy time. I used to be one of those bitter people that complained about hearing Christmas music all the time, but it’s really not that bad if you take the time to just slow down and enjoy it. I think that’s the problem with everything nowadays. Everyone is always running around to get somewhere. To do this, to do that. Rush rush rush. I myself fall victim to the  hustle and bustle of life. Before you know it, Christmas is over, it’s the new year, and you missed all that music you were complaining about. I really do believe the reason time flies by so fast is because we never stop to appreciate the time we have. Our concept of time can be so rigid. Time is money, right?

That’s why I try my hardest to work on Indian time. Do you know what that is? Well, I’ll tell you! Indian time means that things will happen when they happen. You’ll arrive when you’re supposed to arrive. Etc, etc. A good example of this is when I hosted Thanksgiving. I told everyone to be hear at 2 but gave myself until 3 to have food on the table (though I think we actually ate at 2:30). Anyway, my point is that Indian time is just a more relaxed worldview I guess you could say and it’s so much less stressful than constantly worrying about deadlines and appointments and time in general. Things will happen when they happen and the way they’re supposed to happen. And that’s that!

So in celebration of Christmas spirit, holiday cheer, birthday extravaganzas, and not letting time pass us by…let’s enjoy a cup of eggnog. Mmm I love eggnog. It’s just so sweet from the sugar and cream yet spicy from the bourbon and rum. It’s quite pleasant really, though as with most things I didn’t discover this until recently. I’m sure my mother had something to do with that. I’d bet money as soon as she warned me of the evils of drinking raw eggs I was turned off of the stuff forever. Fortunately, I grew out of that picky stage and forever is a rather relative term.

This recipe is supposedly the one used by my sous chef’s grandmother (though it looks suspiciously like something i ran across on the Food Network). I tripled the ingredients to fill a large serving dispenser, but feel free to make less generous amounts.

And I promise to post my Thanksgiving entries soon. The goal is hopefully before Christmas. I told you time likes to get away from you! Oops…

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Ingredients:

  • 12 egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar, plus 3 tablespoons
  • 3 pints whole milk (6 cups)
  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 9 ounces spiced rum
  • 4 ounces bourbon (1/2 cup)
  • 12 egg whites
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg

You could do this in a stand mixer if you have one handy. I don’t so we have to improvise a little bit. But that’s part of the fun! In the largest bowl you have, beat the egg yolks until they begin to lighten in color

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Gradually add the cup of sugar

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Slowly add in the milk, cream, and liquor. I just measured it all into a large pitcher and dumped it in

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Sprinkle in some nutmeg and cinnamon. The recipe called for a tablespoon, but I like to go by taste. Stir to combine

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Now for the egg whites! In another large bowl, though not your largest, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. We’ve done this before with our waffles. Unless that’s one of the entries I haven’t posted yet. Either way, you just keep beating away until your egg white take more of a solid shape. In my opinion, they will end up looking like whipped cream

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Add in the 3 tablespoons of sugar

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Now listen carefully. Because we tripled the recipe and are beating together 12 egg whites…your arm might get a little tired even using an electric beater. Don’t give up. After so long you may begin to think your whites just aren’t going to fluff up. They will. Patience is a virtue when it comes to anything worth waiting for. See?

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Of course, you can skip that whole step and omit the egg whites. But I like a little egg foam in my nog. Once all is said and done and your whites have turned into peaks, fold the “foam” into the milk and yolk mixture

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There you go folks. Quick and easy homemade eggnog. Admire your work!

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Serve in a lovely drink dispenser you received last year for Christmas. with some extra cinnamon and nutmeg for those that like things really spiced up.  Actually, this stiff is kinda thick so I recommend serving it in a punch bowl with a lovely ladle

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But make due with what you have

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Yum. Now go sit back and listen to some darn tootin carols and let the scrooges mind themselves. Cheers!

Tijuana


Nothing like it

I never liked sausage all that much. I didn’t care for hot dogs. I didn’t eat kielbasi. I hated brats. In fact, I remember the first time someone offered me a brat. I was at a barbecue and brats were the only thing on the grill. I remember they looked good. They smelled good. So I plopped one onto a bun, squeezed on some spicy mustard, took a bite…and tried my hardest not to spit it back out. It was terrible. I don’t know if it was the grill master or the brat itself, but I swore them off for a couple years, categorizing them with all the other sausage products I didn’t eat.

Of course, my tastes have expanded now. Kielbasi? Yes please! Italian sausages? I’ll have seconds! Brats, you say? Bring them to mama! Since that terrible brat moment, I’ve since learned that brats are my friend. Especially the beer brats. Mmm mmm mmm! Seriously, I could eat a whole pack by myself. There’s no such thing as leftovers. So I only make them when I know I’ll be sharing. Otherwise I’d surely go into a brat coma and never recover…

My preferred method of cooking brats? Well, as you all know I am a devoted advocate of the broiler. It’s December. I am not standing outside by the grill (though recently you would think it was May rather than December the weather’s been so nice). Besides, broiling is a pretty quick cooking method and now that I’m working that 9-6 schedule, quick dinners are something to be desired. And for brats, all you need is a pan and the meat and your good to go!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 package beer brats (or any brat of your choosing. Or kielbasi. Or Italian sausage- the possibilities are endless)

This is so easy, I’m inclined to write it down in steps. A little change in pace if you will

Step 1– Preheat broiler. Mine is 500 degrees. Make sure your oven rack is about 7 inches below the broiler

Step 2– Pull out your broiler pan and line it with your sausages. If you want those pretty grill marks, lay them horizontally so you can tell everyone they’re hot from the grill

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Step 3– Place pan in oven. Cook for about 8 minutes. Throw some pierogies in the oven while you’re at it

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Step 4– When your timer goes off, flip those brats! See? Grill marks! Mission accomplished

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Step 5– Cook for another 8 minutes or so and Voila! All done. So go get your grub on. Wasn’t that easy? Dinner ready in under 20

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I don’t know about you guys, but I would totally cook these up for a quick breakfast, too. It’s sausage, right? Enjoy!

Tijuana