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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Sanguistas

For the past couple days, a friend and I have been exchanging emails in search of the perfect chocolate frosting. She’s gone and made a birthday cake for one of her friends and the request was simple: chocolatechocolatechocolate! Of course, I’m not the biggest chocolate fan, but I understood her needs. We wanted a real recipe, something worth presenting for a birthday! Not one of those wimpy recipes claiming to be the best only to be the most flavorless thing you’ve ever tasted. No ma’am! My first thoughts were maybe something along the lines of a ganache, but considering the size of her cake, well, that would require a lot of frosting and a bit of money. So now there’s naught to do but choose a nice fudgy frosting. I’m sure it’ll work out fine and the chocolate lover will be most happy with the results, which will have consisted of international efforts!

All this talk of frosting has put me in the mood to bake a cake. I’ve never been much of a sweets person, but here lately I seem to be craving them all the time. Maybe craving is an exaggeration, but I usually get around to making something sweet once a week when once upon a time I made something maybe once a year (ahem my own birthday cake, which is quite divine!). I blame all the boys. In this house, we usually have some sort of weekend gathering, typically involving a bonfire surrounded by a lot of menfolk. One day, I decided to make them cookies. Then I made them brownies. Then I made- well, you get the picture. Anyway, I’ve created some sort of monster. They want sweets…and I want to make them! There’s just no controlling this new found urge. Sometimes it’s best just to give in.

Anyway, I went to a little dinner get together last night with my friends and I decided on a whim to provide dessert. For probably the past month I’ve been making a lot of chocolate things (huh?) and was itching for a change. That’s when I stumbled across a bag of pistachios in the cabinet.

Mmm pistachios! I am a recent lover of pistachios. A few years ago a friend’s grandmother made us watergate salad (oh yum!) and I was intrigued. A year later I tried some pistachio ice cream in Costa Rica and I was hooked. Finally, I had a little taste of the tiny green nut itself in a grocery store and I knew there was no going back. What a marvelous little fellow. Great snack! So addicting. Before you know it, the whole bag is gone…be warned!

I do, however, have a confession to make. I cheated. I did not make my cake from scratch. I bought a box and dumped the contents into a bowl then added a few extra tid bits. The cake was good, don’t get me wrong. It was gone by this morning. But in my opinion it was a little on the sweet side so next time I am most definitely doing it start to finish myself so I can make adjustments. But the recipe is a keeper so I thought I’d share as is. It’s a nice summer treat!

Ingredients:

The Cake

  • 1 yellow cake mix
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 2 tsp orange extract
  • 1 package pistachio instant pudding
  • 1 cup water (or lemon-lime soda)

The Honey Frosting

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbs lime/lemon juice
  • 2 tbs honey
  • Pinch of salt
  • Splash of milk

Talk about easy! Take all your cake ingredients and put them in a bowl

Find your mixer and put it to work!

If you want, add some green food coloring (I didn’t have any)

Goodness gracious, this is going to take less then 5 minutes! Take a pan of your choosing and batter up (hehehe get it? Eh, maybe not). I chose to make a bundt cake, but I’d bet money these would make great cupcakes! Always a crowd pleaser

Gah! Go preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Once day you’ll remember to do this ahead of time. Hmph! Now for the frosting, which we are going to do ahead of time so as to let it set up a bit in the fridge. Cream together softened butter and honey. I may have been generous with my honey

Slowly mix in sugar and milk. Now, some people don’t like to find “odd” textures in their food. For the most part, I am not one of those people. That’s why I added both powdered and granulated sugar to my icing. But if you doubt me (and someone did just before they ate two slices), skip the granulated sugar and double the powdered sugar to two cups. No problema

Finally, mix in the rest of the ingredients. I love the tang that cream cheese brings to an icing. Since I didn’t have any cream cheese, I used citrus juice to create a similar flavor. It’s a nice, unexpected surprise. When your all done, put the icing in the fridge. Do you say icing or frosting? Is there actually a difference…

The cake is done. Let it sit for about 5 minutes before flipping it. If you remembered to grease your pan, this will be a cinch!

Ta-da! It’s like magic. What a beauty! Just admire that golden color

If you’re nervous your friends won’t like your new frosting experiment, serve it on the side. Ooh, how fancy!

To make it fancier, sprinkle chopped pistachios on top

To make it even more fancy, spread the nuts in shell around your cake like a professional! It’s all in the details. Guess they liked it

Hope you do, too! Next time, I”m going to try two packages of pistachio pudding. Just to see how it affects the flavor.

Tijuana