December 28, 2010

A White Christmas

We are loving the rare snow for a White Christmas here in Georgia with marshmallows and a bonfire. The chickens...not so much. They just keep looking for a spot with no snow so they don't have to get their feet cold and wet!


December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry CHRISTmas!!! May the joy of the Lord be with you and your family today and alway.
He was born 2000 years ago as a tiny helpless baby. Let us celebrate the miracle!


December 20, 2010

How to Eat a Pomegranate

Delicious pomegranate! We love these little beauties at our house. A while back I posted about the POM Wonderful Juice, but my real favorite is the fruit. My oldest knows when he starts seeing them available in the grocery store, his birthday is coming up. He always requests them on his November birthday menu, but they are perfect for Christmas and Valentines Day. These are actually fruit in season as opposed to that other red fruit that's soooo NOT in season during the winter. Have you ever actually tasted a winter strawberry? They are blah - nothing like the sweet summer berries when they should be eaten.

 Invariable someone asks me, "how do you get the seeds out?" So I put together this little photo tutorial, which I learned from a POM pamphlet.  Start by cutting the fruit in half like the photo above. Be careful where you cut because this juice will stain.
Get a bowl of water and put it in your sink to prevent splatter stains. Putting the fruit under water start bending and rubbing the seeds loose. If you are under water, the splatter won't go anywhere.

After pulling apart the peel and white membranes, you should start to see the seeds will fall to the bottom of the bowl, while the white pith will float to the top. You can just scoop it out and toss it (or compost it). Then pour all of it through a strainer. This is what you end up with, beautiful crunchy tart pomegranate seeds. They are delicious straight up, with yogurt, or over cereal. They are a lovely addition to any Christmas serving platter since they are already dressed for the season! Sprinkle them around your turkey or over fruit salad.


December 13, 2010

Spiced Pumpkin Soup

 This soup recipe comes my my friend Judith who blogs over She is a wonderful cook and I love everything she creates. I once had two baby showers to attend on the same day, at the same time. I chose the one Judith was catering! She's from Ireland and has the most lovely accent and a warm heart.

This soup was served at a New Mother's Tea. Our church, Fellowship Bible Church throws a bi-annual tea party for all new and expecting moms. It's a huge undertaking and such a gift for the attendees. Each organizer has talents that are put to great use. The creative ladies make beautiful invitations. The chefs prepare delicious food. The hostesses greet and make everyone feel comfortable. It's a fabulous party. I had to have another baby just so I could go again!

My family makes this every winter several times. The kids really love this soup since it's kinda sweet. Readers have asked how I get my kids to eat soup. Simple. When they were little I gave it to them in their sippy cups (lukewarm of course). Now they are bigger, I often serve the soup in mugs so they can drink it instead of dealing with a spoon. Course, having some fresh bread to dunk in the soup makes it even more fun!

Spiced Pumpkin Cream Soup
1 c onion, minced
4 tbsp butter
6 c vegetable or chicken stock
1 15oz can of pumpkin
1/2 c brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/2 c heavy whipping cream (I use 1/2 skim milk and 1/2 c cream)
1/4 c sour cream

Melt butter in saucepan and saute onions in pan until tender. Add stock, pumpkin, sugar, and all seasonings to the pan. Bring it to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream (and milk) until the soup is heated throughout.

Serve in bowls or mugs with a dollop of sour cream and a pinch of nutmeg for garnish.

December 8, 2010

Gingerbread House Tradition

Every year the kids head over to my parents house for Christmas fun. The annual date gives me a chance to wrap presents and get the breakable decorations up without little helpers.

Their big event during the Christmas weekend is making gingerbread houses. Mom prepares for the decorating by purchasing gingerbread kits during the after Easter and after Halloween sales. These kits provide icing, candies and fitted gingerbread pieces and she gets them cheap. You don't have to use all of their stuff so it won't look like Halloween, but I did notice the kids wanted the bats on their houses this year. I also gather LOTS of Halloween candy and send it over with the kids so they don't eat it. It's a great way to get rid of the Halloween candy without complaints. You can see the in photo above some gummy burgers which my son used to create his gingerbread cafe.

My mom has an awesome way of organizing all the little candy pieces shown here. She makes royal icing in white for the main parts, but they find ways to incorporate the orange or pastels of the holiday kits.

Royal Icing Recipe
3 tbsp meringue powder
4 c (about 1 lb.) confectioners' sugar
6 tbsp warm water
Mix all ingredients with a mixer for about 10 minutes until it looks smooth and forms peaks. Makes about 3 cups of icing.

There is even a tire swing in the front yard.

This year they really got crazy and wild making one house with actual windows! Mom used melted hard candies to make the windows and added a string of lights inside the house to actually light it up. The lights have the added benefit of making the house warm enough to scent our breakfast room with gingerbread smells...yum! After the kids come home with their beautiful creations we use them as centerpieces for our table, which means they don't want to eat them since they are the stars of the show.
See the cute fish pond? It's melted Laffy Taffy with Swedish Fish. And the mailbox is a toothpick with mini gumdrops.


December 3, 2010

Sparkling Green Pepper Jelly

This recipe comes straight out of our family cookbook that my Grandfather created back in 1996. This recipe is one of his that he used to sell at fairs and festivals. I learned how to can food by watching and helping him. I loved going out to the garden and picking blueberries or grapes and then canning.

Many of you may know this jelly for its appetizer. You take a brick of cream cheese and spoon some of the pepper jelly over it - serve with crackers, especially Triscuits. However, the most important way to eat pepper jelly in my opinion is after Thanksgiving on turkey sandwiches. Spread a little mayo, pepper jelly, lettuce and fresh roasted turkey - serious good food!! How do you use pepper jelly?

Pepper Jelly
Makes 8 pints

1 c ground bell peppers OR 1/2 c bell and 1/2 c jalapeno
1 1/2 c vinegar
1 c water
1 pkg pectin
1/8 tsp green or red food coloring
5 1/2 c sugar

The easiest way to grind the peppers is to clean them and cut them into sections. Then put them in a bag in the freezer. When you are ready to make the jelly, take them out and pulse them in the food processor. When they are frozen, they will mince into little pieces easily like this. Depending on how hot you want your jelly, you can use the jalapenos or not.  But if you do use those, be sure to wear gloves when cleaning them or else wash your hands REALLY well after you clean them.

In a large dutch oven or saucepan, put the ground peppers, vinegar, water, pectin and coloring.  Stir well. Bring this mixture to a boil and then add the sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Bring it back to a boil (watch carefully because it can and will boil up and over if you aren't careful - the voice of experience here). Boil about 1 minute. You can skim the foam off the top if you don't like the look of it in your jelly, but I'm too lazy and never do.

Pour hot jelly into prepared clean canning jars. Leave 1/4 headspace. Put screw tops on. Process the jars in hot water for 10 minutes. When they have cooled, you can take the rings off and store them in your pantry with just the lids.

This jelly makes a great gift for Christmas due to it's beautiful red or green color.


November 30, 2010

Sausage Balls - Perfect Party Food

Every year for Super Bear's birthday party, we have to make sausage balls. It's a required item on the menu (which he plans). This recipe came from a friend I met while in MOPS (Mother's of Preschoolers) which is a great organization that saved my sanity when I first became a mom. It's yummy, portable, contains protein and makes a perfect hand's free snack or meal. I've served it for breakfast, in lunch boxes, or as an afterschool snack.

Sausage Balls

3 c baking mix (Bisquick)
1 lb sausage
4 c shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 c grated parmesan cheese
1/2 c milk
1/2 tsp crushed dried rosemary (do not skip this one, it's what sets this recipe apart from others and makes it delicious)
1/2 tsp parsley flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingrediants in a large bowl. You'll probably need to do this with your hands to get it really mixed. Roll about 2 tbsp worth into small balls. Place the balls on a greased cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Best served warm or room temperature.


November 24, 2010

Secret Agent Birthday Party

My oldest, my Super Bear just turned 7 years old! He is into Secret Agent and Spy stuff. When he settled on that for his birthday party theme, I was not surprised at all. We determined that we would need some serious spy games to play and a cool secret mission. When the kids arrived at the door, they were greeted with a sign that said, "International Spy School. Knock twice to enter".

We gave each child a secret agent notebooks to record all of their findings while they were in Spy School. Then our first training mission began with testing our taste senses. Each agent-in-training got a film canister (left over from the space party a couple of years ago) filled with different flavors of round candy. They had to taste each one and record what flavor they thought each was.

Then we fingerprinted each of them with this cool fingerprint kit and taught them how to look through a magnifying glass to see their whorls and arches. We talked about how each fingerprint is different and how they don't change as you get older and bigger.

We tested their powers of observation with a tray full of little items and then covered it up while they wrote down as many as they could remember. I was amazed at how well they did at this test. I have no memory at all.

After all this training we knew they would be hungry, so we served lunch with a little geography lesson included. We figured they would be working throughout the world, so we wanted to expose them to foods from different countries during their training. The menu was recorded on a world map posted on the wall, so they could actually see where the countries were located.

Sausage balls from Germany (recipe here), red bean buns from Taiwan, Nachos from Mexico, oranges from South Africa, edamame from Japan, mango lassi and chai tea from India.

After they were fueled up and awarded their official spy binoculars (toiler paper rolls taped with duct tape, painted black with string attached - we're on a budget here), we started them on their first official mission. They received their dossier (had to explain that SAT word) in a manila folder with their first clue. Each clue led to another which they had to read and decipher. I couldn't believe how fast they blew through the clues! I thought they were difficult, but not for these smart kids.
The clues finally led to the sunporch where the cake awaited. Of course singing "Happy Birthday" diffused the bomb and all were awarded cake and ice cream.
The cake was made with the Wilton ball cake pan. I have learned when using this two part pan, it's best to make a pound cake. I love the recipe in the Fanny Farmer cookbook. This cookbook is great for any and all basic recipes, a definite must for any cook, beginner or advanced.
After I baked and cooled the cake I cut off a little from the bottom to keep it from rolling. Then I frosted it with buttercream icing to hold the halves together and provide "glue" for the fondant. I bought black fondant from Wilton again and put it over the ball. I'm not proficient on the fondant yet, so it looks a little rough, but a cannonball is supposed to be rustic. I added half a marshmallow covered in fondant on the top for the fuse base and used a Christmas spray for the fuse. I wanted to use a sparkler, but you can't find those in November here in Georgia. The "kaboom" was added for fun as well as some manufacturing information on the back. (Notice the smear on the letter "O" caused by the Sausage Boy. You think I would have learned my lesson back with this cake.)

My precious first born declared it a great birthday...Mission Accomplished!


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