Thursday, December 24, 2015

All the Heavy Lifting is Done.....

.....except for the roast and dressing. That's tomorrow.

This past week, I've prepared most of the dishes for Christmas Eve, Christmas Dinner, New Year's Eve and New Year's Dinner. I've done this because I'm old, rickety and want to truly enjoy the holidays (holy days). I've wanted to get the "heavy lifting" out of the way so I could concentrate on the "reason for the season", which is the example and sacrifice of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Cheeeeeep Chicken

Chicken, these days, is among the cheeeepest meat protein we can find. When it's on sale, I buy as much as I can of it and freeze it in meal-sized portions. When whole chickens are less than a dollar a pound, I get them home and roast them all (I usually buy 4 at a time). We eat one that day, and save the rest, frozen, for later.

My Holy Day Menus

Christmas Eve

 Shrimp Egg Rolls with Dipping Sauce
Sesame Wings with 3 Sauces (Teriyaki, Peanut and BBQ)
Garlic Baguette with Hot Spinach/Artichoke Spread
Raw Veggie Tray with Pickles

Christmas Dinner

Roasted Pork Rib  
Sage Dressing
Potatoes Au Gratin
Roasted Carnival Squash
Waldorf Salad
Garlicky Green and Yellow Wax Beans
Mincemeat Pie

New Year's Eve

Pork Egg Rolls with Dipping Sauce
Jalapeno Poppers
Oriental Noodle Salad
 Garlic Butter Baguette
Veggie Tray with Pickles

New Year's Dinner

Chicken Enchiladas
Cole Slaw with Pineapple Dressing
Guacamole with Tortilla Chips
Veggie Tray with Pickles

Having roasted chicken in the freezer makes Chicken Enchiladas and Sage Dressing a whiz to make. I thaw the chicken, remove the meat from the bones, simmer the bones in water for an hour and chop the meat for the Enchiladas. I add a piece of carrot, celery and onion to the water, to make the broth. When the broth is made, strain it through a collander or finer mesh sieve; *discard the bones, etc., and let the broth cool. Pour into plastic containers and refrigerate or freeze until needed. Before using, skim the fat from the top of the broth.

Twice Boiled Broth?

*I don't always discard the bones and stuff. Sometimes, I put them in a roasting pan and roast the whole thing (minus the broth) until all is brown and crusty. Then, deglaze the pan with water and pour all into a soup pot. Simmer gently for 1/2 hour until you have good, brown, stock. Sieve the bones and stuff out and freeze the stock until needed later.

Day before yesterday, I baked two small loaves of bread for stuffing cubes. I use half whole wheat and half white all-purpose flour in the recipe. When mostly cool, I cut the two loaves into 1" cubes and put them on cookie sheets in the oven at 200 degrees F for about 6 hours. I let them cool, completely dried, then put them in a large plastic bag for Christmas Day. The bread, broth, added veggies and butter will make a pot of lovely sagey dressing to go with the meal.

Chicken Enchiladas - I baked these (350 degrees F. about 1 hour), let them cool, wrapped them up and put them in the freezer until New Year's Day.

To make Chicken Enchiladas, I mix the meat from one roasted bird with one (15 oz.) can of refried beans and about 1 cup of shredded cheese (I had cheddar and swiss on hand). I add 1/2 can of mild enchildada sauce and mix well. I wrap the flour tortillas (or corn tortillas, if you like) in about 4 paper towels and nuke them for 1 minute 30 seconds, until they're moist and warm. I put these on my work table next to the filling. On a rimmed plate, I pour enchilada sauce about 1/4" deep. I grease a large baking dish. Here's what to do: lay the tortilla in the plate, then, flip it to make sure front and back are coated with sauce. Put enough filling in to the fill the tortilla from side-to-side. Roll and place, seam side down, in the baking dish. When the dish is full, you're done. Cover the enchiladas with 1 1/2 cups shredded cheese and pour a can of Enchilada Sauce over them. Bake at 350 degrees F. for about 45 minutes, until the internal temperature is 165 degrees F. Serve immediately or let cool and freeze until ready to use.

To reheat for dinner, take them out the night before and let them thaw in the fridge. Heat them at 350 degrees F., covered with foil, for about 45 minutes or until the internal temperature in 165 degrees F. Let stand 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with guacamole, sour cream, salsa, etc.

Left-over Filling and Tortillas

I had left-over tortillas and filling, so I made three good-sized burritos with that and threw them in the freezer for another meal, some other time. We nuke these in their wax paper wrappers about 2 minutes, then fry them in a little oil or bake them on a rack in the oven, until the tortilla is crisp. Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese, salsa, guacamole, etc.

Chirstmas Rice Pudding Breakfast

I didn't want to fuss with breakfasts during the last few days before Christmas so I made a large batch of Rice Pudding. This is just rice (Jasmin), 3 eggs, about 1 1/2 c. milk, 1/4 c. sweetener, and a handful of craisins and raisins with 1 t. Cinnamon, 1/2 t. Ginger, 1/4 t. Nutmeg and 1/8 t. Cloves (all ground). Bake it until firm in a water bath, about 1 hour at 350 degrees F. Serve hot or cold with milk and brown sugar. Usually, a small bowl of this will last us until afternoon.

Another breakfast that's quick and easy is Yogurt with Granola or Meusli. This is just 3 heaping teaspoons of plain Greek Yogurt, a sprinkling of cinnamon, a handful of craisins and a handful of granola or meusli. I add a small handful of pecans, as well. Doesn't look like much, but it stays with you.

Quick Shake-n-Bake Sesame Wings  

I added Brown Sesame Seeds to the Shake-n-Bake mix and tossed the trimmed wings in it. To trim the wings, remove the tips and save for broth, later. Cut the wing at the second joint and rinse well with water. Bread and bake these about 40 minutes at 400 degrees F. until the internal temp is 165 degrees F. Save the bones from these for broth too. I put the wings in a ziplock bag in the fridge for Christmas Eve.  When ready for them, nuke them in small batches, about 4-6 minutes each until hot. Serve with your choice of sauces. We're using Teriyaki, Peanut and BBQ sauces.

Well, that's the menu, so far. Got to go bake the baguette, now and made the Spinach/Artichoke dip. Then we're ready for the Christmas Eve. We'll nibble and tell the rest of the story of the life of Christ, whose birth we celebrate and through whom, we may have Everlasting Life.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Simple Gifts

We were singing this song old song my mother used to sing to us.....

Mama's little babies love shortnin, shortnin;
Mama's little babies love shortnin bread!

Has anyone else ever sung that little song? That's all I remember of it....there must be more to it than just those two lines.

Anyway, in case you haven't guessed, yesterday was Shortbread Day at our house. It snowed and drizzled all day and we mixed and baked and decorated our way through the morning. In the afternoon, we rested on our laurels (I didn't know that's what you call a Lazy Boy Recliner.).

Shortbread Bells, Stars and Bulbs

Shortbread Cookies Recipe

5 c. All-purpose Flour
1 1/2 c. Sugar (or half Stevia and half sugar)
2 c. Butter (doesn't have to be salt-free)

Cut the butter in little cubes. Mix the Flour and Sugar well together. If you want to add flavoring, now is the time. A teaspoon of Vanilla, 1/2 t. Almond or 1 t. Maple sprinkled over the flour....these are good choices.Or, leave it plain. 

Add the butter to the flour and mix the whole thing with your fingers until it resembles coarse crumbs and will stick together without too much cracking when it's squeezed. If it won't hold together, add another 1/4 c. of butter, cubed, and mix it in.  When it's the right consistency, wrap it in plastic wrap and let it rest while you make the mincemeat treat, below, from some of the dough. 

After about twenty minutes, roll the dough out 1/2" thick. Cut shapes with cutters or just cut the dough into squares. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for about 20 minutes at 325 degrees F. Take the cookies out when the edges of one or two are looking slightly tan. 

Don't let them brown at all. You can't under bake them, really.

When they were done, I painted them with colored glaze frosting. I like this glaze frosting because you can package it and it doesn't make a mess. It dries nice and hard and actually strengthens the cookies. Bulbs.....


...and Santa and Reindeer guarding the whole thing. These will be given as gifts in our neighborhood.

To make the Colored Glaze, in five small custard cups, place 1/4 c. powdered sugar each
Add flavoring, now, such as a few drops to taste of Vanilla, Run, Maple, Almond, etc., extract.
To each cup, add 1 Tablespoon of cold water. Mix well until smooth.
To each cup add a different color, leaving one white. I used 3 drops each of Red, Yellow, Blue and Green.

Dip a good watercolor brush in cold, clear water, and begin painting. Keep the clear water on hand to clean your brush between changes of color. 

After the first coat dries on the cookies, you can add patterns and dots on top. You really can get quite elaborate with the painting! I didn't, because my .... um.... laurels were calling....

Meanwhile, there was a mad cat in the office, tearing up the old chair. Yes, you, Katrina. I can see you have the heebie-jeebies. 

"Not me. Not the heebie-jeebies. I'm just full of Christmas Cheer!"

"When I'm full of Christmas Cheer I have to rabbit-kick this old chair and hang from the arm like a monkey."

"And then look around, innocently. Who me?"

We also made Mincemeat Shortbread Bars. These are very rich, but an easy recipe.

Cut them while they are warm and serve at room temperature or cold. Great little squares to include in a gift basket. I wrap them in waxed paper and put a Christmas sticker on each one to keep them tight.

Mincemeat Shortbread Bars

Take 1/3 of the dough above or about half of the above shortbread recipe, and press 2/3 of that amount into the bottom of a greased 9"x9"x2" baking dish and bake at 350 degrees F. for about 10 minutes. Remove the dish and spread 3 cups of prepared mincement over it.

Now, you don't have to use mincement. You could use Strawberry Jam, Orange Marmalade, etc., instead. Any fruit spread or mixture with bits of fruit. Jellies don't work very well here.

Take the remaining shortbread dough and mix it, with your fingers, with 1/4 c. Butter 3 T. Brown Sugar and 1/2 c. Pecans, Almonds, Walnuts or any nut of choice, ground well. Sprinkle this over the fruit filling and press it down a little. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 20 minutes or until the edges begin to brown.

Nice little treats for a neighbor or friend; or just to keep out on the table for the visitors who are bound to arrive, sooner or later.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Real Christmas

Keeping Christ in Christmas

I've offered this free coloring book in the past and here it is again.

Some sample pages..... on the link above, download......

...and print. The booklet includes the Christmas Story from the Book of Luke (King James version) and pictures, like the above, to color.

Just what you need for a last-minute, REAL, Christmas Gift. This, plus a box of colors, fits nicely in a stocking.

Merry Christmas, friends, and Happy New Year
From Kathie and Erin at Prairie Cottage Corner

Layers of Flavors Latte'

I'm not a coffee drinker but I like the  smell of it. I've often thought of just buying some coffee beans, like they have at the perfume counter, and sniff them whenever I have a for the smell of coffee.  I tasted a mocha latte' one time that someone in our quilting crowd was having. It was very nice. It made me wonder. Could I find a way to have this, without the coffee? I guess so: ENTER PERO

See, that's the Pero in the back. It's made from BARLEY and other grains. Looks and tastes and smells like coffee but no caffeine. You can find Pero HERE. Also, see my Frother tool in the picture? You can get one of those (runs on 2 AA batteries) HERE.

I put 2 t. of Pero in my 16oz cup with 1 t. Cocoa Powder, 2 t. Stevia (or Sugar), a dash of Cinnamon to taste, and hot water to 1/2 of the cup.

Looking good. Now, froth it with a frother or a small whisk.

Fill to within 1" of the top of the cup with milk, cream, or egg nog. I'm using the nog. Add 1/2 t. Vanilla and 3 drops of Rum Flavoring.

Nuke it for 45 seconds to 1 minute (depending on cup size - you don't want it to boil)

Take it out and froth it again to mix everything up really nice and....yum.

Here's my cup of warm, sweet, comforting, latte' with the Hen Potholders my friend, Shari, gave me for Christmas (I couldn't wait, so I opened the package). Aren't they sweet?

Sprinkle with a dash of Nutmeg, and enjoy!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

What Was Christmas Dinner Like in 1896? Ask Fannie Farmer!

The "modern" 1896 lady of the house kitchen.

For the last little while, I've been fascinated with cookbooks published before the microwave oven came into common use in America. For years, I've used a 1964 edition of  THE JOY OF COOKING by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker. My husband, a professional cook and baker, used the AMERICAN HOME ALL-PURPOSE COOKBOOK by Virginia T. Habeeb, published in 1966. When I left home, my mother gave me her BETTY CROCKER BOOKBOOK, which she received as a wedding present in 1942. These three cookbooks were basic in our younger days of keeping house. They are a link to the past but are also interesting reading when you compare the recipes then, with the recipes now. Which foods and products were in common use, then, that are no longer available, or have evolved into something else today?

My old standbys. Veterans of many meals and they bear the marks to prove it!

I have two other cookbooks I like to read and use: THE FANNIE FARMER COOKBOOK, published in 1896; and THE SETTLEMENT COOKBOOK, published in 1965, with first editions published in the early years of the Twentieth Century. It has been updated through the years. Fannie Farmer was the product of the Boston School of Cooking and the Settlement book was the brain child of Mrs. Simon Kander, a cooking teacher at "The Settlement" in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; a school set up to help the many immigrant housekeepers new to America, around the turn of the century. All five of the cookbooks I've mentioned so far, are good teaching tools for the beginning cook.

I thought it would be fun and interesting to look at a Christmas dinner menu and recipe set from the turn of the century and ponder the differences between the methods and recipes, then, and those in common use today. There is a version of the 1896 Fannie Farmer book online which you can download for free, if you like. I used it so that I could easily capture the recipes and instructions to include here.

First, the Christmas Dinner Menu a la Fannie Farmer:

Fannie Farmer's Menu for Christmas Dinner, 1896. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear......

The menu from The Settlement Cookbook was similar: Consomme' with Egg Custard; Roast Goose, AppleSauce, Orange Sweet Potato Puff; Eggplant-Zucchini Casserole; Mince Pie; Grant Thomas Pudding; Nuts; Mints.

1. Consomme' - The first part of many dinners in those days, was a bowl of hot-steamy Consomme' (con-sew-may). The recipe follows. All the recipes and pictures with the same background are from the online version of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

The tools useful to the home cook in 1896:

On the table, when the dinner was being served were the following Condiments:

Bread Sticks
Salted Pecans

Recipe for Bread Sticks:

Recipe for Salted Pecans (begin by lightly frying them in butter, about 3 minutes):

Recipe for Roast Goose with Potato Stuffing (honestly, this is the best picture of a bare-naked goose I could find; you'll want to refer to it when you get to the part about "trussing"):

 (A hot oven is 400 to 450 degrees F.)

Recipe for Applesauce:

Recipe for Duchess Potatoes:

Recipe for Cream of Lima Beans:

Recipe for Chicken Croquettes:

Recipe for Dressed Lettuce was simply iceberg lettuce wedges with French Dressing.


Recipe for Cheese Straws:

Recipe for Puff Paste:

Recipe for Plum Pudding with Sauce:

Recipe for Bonbons:

Recipe for Brandy Sauce:

Recipes for Cocoa and Hot Chocolate:

Cafe' Noir was made by brewing coffee either with twice the amount of coffee as usual or half as much water as usual.

Recipes for Frozen Puddings:

Some ads from the back of the cookbook:

Well, what do you think? Have things changed much since 1896? All my cookbooks have recipes for roast goose, even though I've not had that for a Christmas dinner since an attempt as a student in college many decades ago. It was successful, but we didn't really like it all that much. It was a much more common special meal item in years past.

So what's on the menu for our Christmas dinner? Here goes:

Pork Rib Roast
Potatoes Au Gratin
 Roasted Winter Vegetables
Waldorf Salad
Cranberry Sauces
Pickle Plate
Mince Pie
Hot  Spicey Apple Herb Tea Egg Nog

Recipes to come.

Do tell what your favorite Christmas fare is!