Monday, November 30, 2009

It's Finally Here!!!

Let's talk Christmas tree ornaments... please, please, please! I have been waiting since July for Christmas time to arrive and FINALLY!!! IT'S HERE! (I'm capitalizing because I'm shouting) I have been so excited about decorating our new home for the first time although it's really just putting the same stuff up in a new place. But I want it to be special for me and my Mr.

I am the type that enjoys a touch of holiday in each room. This week I want to talk about my kitchen. I have a small, four foot Christmas tree in a corner of my kitchen. Usually I will put items on it such as cookie cutters and kitchen-y items. This year I wanted smells of Christmas and more natural items that would also make the room smell of holiday when you walk into it. Let me tell you, after this past weekend the poor little thing is just full!

The first thing that I thought of to decorate my kitchen tree was fruit. I knew there were a couple of oranges and at least one apple in the refrigerator. When I found those I also found a lemon that I had used some of the zest off of on some asparagus last week. Here's what I did:

I preheated the oven at it's lowest temperature which was 170 degrees. Next I sliced the oranges, apple and lemon cross-wise into pretty thin slices. I took whole cloves and gently pushed them into the fruit and sprinkled the apples with a little cinnamon. I placed them onto a cookie cooling rack and popped them into the oven. You can place them directly onto the oven rack but keep an eye on them because they could fall through. I let them cook for about 40 minutes.

When they cool you can easily poke a hole through the citrus with a toothpick and thread ribbon or twine through them for hanging. It adds a touch of Christmas into the air when you walk into the kitchen. If you try this I am sure you'll enjoy it too!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sweet Goodness and I mean the potatoes!

Hiya Turkeys! Not you of course... or is it? Let's see... I talked about baking, cooking, parades, pecan pie, cranberries, congealed tin can.. what's left? Oh I know. What am I most thankful for this year!

Last night while waiting for the finale of Dancing With the Stars to come on I thought about my blog post for today. I wanted to share one more recipe before Thanksgiving but also touch on what I am thankful for. I started making a list, it seemed to go on and on and on. This year I have been so incredibly blessed with my new husband and home, our fruitful garden this summer, my wonderful family, my time with Sipsey (sniff), my job, there's just so much. I feel like there are people out there that find it hard to think of something to be thankful for and I am thankful that I am not one of those people. That I can see and realize that life gives us so much to appreciate. Sweet, Sweet Life... let's enjoy it while we have it.

Sweet Potatoes

2 big cans of sweet potatoes (I buy the big ones this time of year)
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons orange juice
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 good dashes cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain juice from sweet potatoes. Pour sweet potatoes into and bowl and mash. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the marshmallows. Pour into 2 quart casserole dish. Top with marshmallows. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until marshmallows are lightly browned.

You can make a variation to this my omitting marshmallows and adding chopped pecans, cinnamon and brown sugar on top.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What's For Dessert?

Real quick post today folks! Thanksgiving is now 2 days away. I simply can't wait to spend the morning in my kitchen cooking up a storm while listening to the parades on T.V. in the other room and occasionally running in there to check out a float. In all the kitchen fury it takes careful planning and timing to get everything ready to go when it's time to leave and head to my Sister's house.

One of my items to bake that is requested every year by my Father is good ole pecan pie. It is a simple recipe that I cut off of a Karo Syrup bottle years ago. It is probably still on the label printed today but I thought I would share it with you.

Pecan Pie

3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup sugar
1 cup light or dark corn syrup
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup pecans, whole or chopped
1 nine inch pie shell unbaked

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together first five ingredients then add pecans. Pour into pie crust. Place pie on a cookie sheet (in case the pie over flows) in oven. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes.

For a variation to this recipe you can add 1/2 cup chocolate chips.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Not Your Ordinary Cranberry Dish

I know it is a holiday staple on most American holiday tables on Thanksgiving, when I think about it there is a certain twinge of a cringe in my shoulders. I think it is a scar from childhood of the infamous, canned-shaped, dark red congealed mound resting on a bed of lettuce that makes me make the face I am making now. The face of... "you can't possibly make me eat that and by the way what is it?!"

I didn't attempt to even eat cranberries until adulthood and to my surprise I loved them. Now I eat them dried and juiced and adore making breads and muffins with them. But the congealed version... still not a fave.

I now wish to pass on my Thanksgiving version that I'm almost certain has replaced the indented, rimmed version that used to grace our table. I have realized that there is a certain twang that a cranberry dish adds to a homemade turkey dinner and I personally enjoy the taste... even if not many others do. Huh.. that's probably what the canned eaters think too!

Cranberry Relish

1 orange
1 bag of cranberries
orange peel from orange
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Dice all up. That's all my recipe says!

I use a mini food processor to do the dicing for me. Chop up the cranberries and peeled orange. Using a lemon zester, scrape off the orange part of the orange peel if that makes sense and add it to the cranberries and oranges. Next add the sugar and pecans. Refrigerate and serve in a pretty bowl. No lettuce bed needed.

It's super easy and is truly better if made the night before. I love this medley so much I could just eat it with a spoon!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Feedin' The Birdies

Hi Y'all and a very good morning too you! Last weekend... not this past one.. the one before, I did a lot of fun stuff I was just too busy at work to blog about it so I'm passing it on this week. For one of my birthday presents this year my dear sweet Mama sent me a subscription to Birds & Blooms magazine. I had a subscription years ago and wound up cancelling for one reason or another but certainly not because I didn't like the magazine. Well I received my first of I think twelve issues and I am once again loving it! I have poured over this issue more than a dozen times.

Last Sunday I decided to try my hand at making my own suet to feed the birds with. I have a couple of bird food recipe books but haven't tried much in them. This issue had several recipes that I was more than willing to give a try. Now you know that I will never pass on a recipe that I haven't tried myself. This recipe is on page 37 of the October/November issue of Birds & Blooms magazine. I'm not one to really go looking for links but I'm sure there is one to the magazine and maybe even this recipe but you'll have to look it up yourself and I hope I don't get in trouble for passing it on. With that said... here is what I did.

Tried and True Suet

2 cups lard
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups cornmeal

Melt lard and peanut butter in a sauce pan and add cornmeal. Pour into a 9x13 inch cake pan and put into the freezer. I also added 1/4 cup birdseed and 1/4 cup crushed cereal that had been opened for a little too long in my opinion but the birds don't care. Add your extras such as raisins, crackers crumbs, crushed cereal, nuts or oatmeal before pouring into pan. Now if you finish reading this you will find out what to do next.

I have to tell on myself. After I made this suet and put it into the freezer I got to reading other recipes. Almost all of them had something to say about lining the pan which I did not do. I just rolled my eyes. Before this I had poured a small amount into a little bowl and put it into the refrigerator because I was just so excited. Well it stuck.. big time. Needless to say I waited four days, dreading the event of digging my suet out of my cake pan. Now I'm not certain to say that it was because I used a metal cake pan but this may just be the cause. I retrieved my suet on Thursday and to my delight if I had turned the pan over it would have fallen right out! What a relief! I cut the frozen suet into six squares, stored five of them in separate sandwich freezer bags and put one right outside into my suet feeder cage.

So far so good the birds seem to love it. It may just be the time of year, but it has lasted for about five days now. I estimate using one a week until winter gets here and then we'll see. There is another recipe that I intend on trying once I've gotten up enough leftover bacon fat so I'll report back when I try it. It will eliminate buying lard. And Hey if you want me to make you some I surely will let you buy some! Making it sure beats buying it especially when you can get rid of some of the older things in your pantry. The enjoyment of watching the birds slowly devour my product just tickles me too.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Indoor Plant Love

Good afternoon all! I would like to talk about indoor plant care for a minute and pass on a tip or two.
Please let me introduce Lola. Lola is my 16 year old Peace Lily or a more proper name is Spathiphyllum 'Lynise'. I don't usually name my house plants but she is pretty special. She has been repotted into bigger pots about 6 times. I have transplanted her sproutlings and watched her bloom and have enjoyed having her around.

I have several other indoor plants and some that I keep outside during the summer and inside during the winter. Every couple of months I will bring each one to the kitchen sink for grooming. I remove and clean the water catcher from underneath the pot, trim dead leaves and give them a really soaking bath. By bath I just mean that I will saturate the dirt until it pours out of the bottom. I sit the plant in the dish drainer to let all of the excess water drain out while I do all the necessary grooming. All in all the process for each plant only takes a few minutes.

Each time I groom my plants it includes a light dusting of their leaves. Dust, dust mites and allergens land and form on the leaves and stems of your plants just like on furniture but is often overlooked. When I soak my plants I simply take a moist paper towel and gently wipe each leaf off and down them stems.

Outside of my grooming ritual that I believe makes my plants very happy I water them about once a week. Now for the "tip or two" I mentioned.

1. I have found that my indoor plants tend to dry out quicker during the winter months when the air is dryer from indoor heating systems. Check your plants more often to made sure the soil isn't too dry.

2. Place mulch on top of the soil in the pot to help hold moisture in the soil.

3. Trim brown or discolored leaves from the plants. I mean they're dead anyway... get them out of there! Also don't be afraid to trim plants that tend to vine wildly. It won't hurt the rest of the plant to keep it well groomed.

4. If you own this particular type of plant then you know that after the white bloom opens and you can see the inside cone soon after it will polenate and a white dust will sprinkle the other leaves or whatever else the bloom is above. You can keep this sprinkling from occurring by cutting out the cone of the flower. I know this is part of the beauty of the plant but I dislike the dust.

Hope you all have a wonderful week!

A Child-Like Heart

Good morning viewers! This past weekend goes in the good book of weekends. I helped out at the turkey shoot, hung laundry on the line Saturday and Sunday, hung out with friends, baked and cooked but my favorite was what my Mr. did for me.

Yesterday I woke up talking about a rope swing. After breakfast Shaun headed out to his shop and I thought he was just going out to work. I walked out there and low and behold he was cutting a seat for my new swing. We walked around and finally picked out a good tree, which was not the one I had intended because the branch didn't go out far enough. After several attempts at throwing the rope over the branch the rope swing was tied up and secure enough for the maiden voyage. I took a turn and my Mr. took a turn (I took pictures of him but was told not to put them on ebay... or mypage). I swung for a little bit and then went back to my Sunday doings.
Later on I went back out by myself. The swinging was wonderful. The breeze felt perfectly cool and the sky in front of my feet felt touchable. I have always loved to swing but this time it made me feel like I was too old to be doing this. What is inside of me that made me want this swing in the first place? There aren't any children here to use it. I caught Shaun watching me and thought.. what is he thinking? Does he think I'm too old for this too? I got off the swing and went back inside.

After Shaun left to go hunting I went back out to the swing and as the sun went down my thoughts were settling down. It's OK to let your inner child out. If you keep it inside and never let your actions show that your youth is still in there it will get lost. It feels good to the soul to jump, run, swim, scream, laugh and even swing.

What is your inner child asking for?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Coconut Goodies

Enough already!!! Let's get to the sweet stuff!

If you stop by my house on a Sunday afternoon you are likely to smell something sweet coming from the kitchen. My "Sunday sweet tooth" kicks in about mid day. Sometimes it's just because I want to spend time in my kitchen creating something. Sometimes it is so we'll have something sweet for our lunches during the week. Regardless of the reason for making it, it's generally there.

This past weekend was no exception. Sunday afternoon rolled around and the cravings began. I looked around to see what I had, which was slim pickins in my opinion. I did manage to find three half used bags of coconut in the freezer so my recipe search began. I went to my old faithful, red and white checkered, Better Homes and Gardens cookbook and located an easy recipe for Coconut Macaroons. They turned out so good and tasty that I thought I'd share them with you.

Coconut Macaroons

2 egg whites (by the way you can freeze the yolks for use later)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a baking sheet. In a medium mixing bowl beat egg whites and vanilla with an electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar, about one tablespoon at a time, beating until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). Fold in coconut. Drop mixture by rounded teaspoons onto baking sheets two inches apart. Bake for 20 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Transfer cookies onto wire rack to let cool. Makes about 30 cookies.

These cookies are so light and just a tad crunchy around the edges and taste so good. I snuck a sackful into my Mr.'s lunchbox today after he had made his lunch. I think he'll be pleasantly surprised come lunchtime.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fall Gardening

HHEEYY YYOOUU GGUUUUYYYS!!! Anyone remember that from The Electric Company? That was a kid show on public television when I was a child. Did you know that has some of the clips from the show? Well they do and for a real flashback you can check it out. I didn't realize until a bit ago that Morgan Freeman, the actor, was on The Electric Company! I have loved his work as an adult but had no idea I watched him as a kid. Neato.

Today I was going through "my favorites" on my flickr page to pick my daily wallpaper and got a little inspiration for keeping my summer plants, well at least some of them. I have had two six-packs of pansies sitting by my planter here at work for a week just waiting for me to plant them. I had petunias and a geranium planted there all summer. Sometimes I just hate to throw out my old plants especially when they still have a bloom or two. I decided that the petunias would go but I would re-pot the geranium and bring it in for the winter. So that's what I did.

There are several plants that will survive inside during the winter months and can be re-potted or put back outside in the spring. Geraniums are one of those. They may not bloom inside but rest assured they will next year when they go back outside. Also they need to be kept watered so they don't dry out with the central heat and dryness of the great indoors.

One other gardening tip. I have a bulb planter (or two) that I bought several years ago... why I have two I have not a clue. They are very handy to use when planting more than just bulbs. It is very easy to separate store bought plants from their six packs and dig a quick hole. I changed out the plants here at work in about 10 minutes. It is a very handy and inexpensive way to plant.

P.S. Don't forget to bring in any plants that you still have outside, inside tonight. I heard on the weather forecast this morning that they are to expect a freeze tonight in Nashville so you know what that means for us on the hill. Even if your plants are covered by a porch it's the temperature that will get them. Plants like aloe vera and tropical varieties won't be the same if left out. Just when my orchid was trying to bloom!

Monday, November 2, 2009

What's For Lunch?

Hello All! I hope everyone had a wonderful, safe and spooky Halloween weekend. I sure have enjoyed the beautiful full moon that was still looming outside my bathroom window this morning. Aside from all the candy that was consumed this weekend... yes by you... I wanted to pass on a healthier lunch that you can try.. minus the candy. It can be prepared ahead of time for at least three lunches for yourself during the work week. This is one that I made up so bear with me while I explain.

Workday Lunch

White Rice
Broccoli (1 bunch, usually 3 heads, washed)
Lemon Pepper Seasoning
Wheat Crackers (or whatever your favorite healthy cracker is)
Half of an Apple Sliced

In 3 microwavable containers, pour in 3 Tablespoons of plain white rice into each container. Next add one head of broccoli to each bowl just using the tops and stems. Add a couple of dashes of lemon pepper seasoning (sometimes I use dill also). Add just a sliver or two of butter (this can be omitted.) Put the lids on the containers and store in the refrigerator.

At lunchtime, at home or work, add enough water to cover the rice and then just a tinch more. Heat on high for a minute and a half with the cover on but not sealed... just laying on top. Let sit for one minute to let the water absorb into the rice. If you have too much water you can drain it off. Have a half of an apple sliced, some wheat crackers, maybe even some sliced cheddar on the crackers and a bottle of water. It's a quick, easy and healthy lunch that I hope you enjoy!