Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Cheer

I hope that all of my readers had a wonderful Christmas day, remembering the reason for the season - the glorious gift of salvation given to us by our blessed Savior.

We had a great day, quiet and peaceful. We made phone calls to loved ones and had a wonderful dinner with my parents.

Our menu was:

Peach Glazed Spiral Sliced Ham - this ham is from Burger's Smokehouse in California, MO, a City Ham. They do great hams and bacon.

For the peach glaze, I combined a can of Delmonte Harvest Spice peaches, drained, approximately 1/4 cup country Dijon mustard, about 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice and 2-3 tablespoons brown sugar. Pop that in the blender and then spoon over the ham while baking. (sorry for the pic, I forgot to take pictures until AFTER we ate - duh me!)

Winter Salad Supreme - just a nice green salad - I used mixed spring greens. Then top with Ranch salad dressing, some dried cranberries, tiny dice of swiss cheese and some caramelized almonds.

To make the caramelized almonds in a saucepan melt 2 Tablespoons butter. Then add 3/4 cup of sliced almonds. Stir and toast for about 4 minutes. Then add 3 tablespoons of sugar. Stir and cook for another 3 minutes or so. Dump onto foil to cool and break apart into little clumps.

No picture here as I used all the lettuce! Mandarin oranges are nice with this, instead of the cranberries - or use a vinagrette dressing.

Delmonico potatoes - I was looking for an Au Gratin recipe and stumbled across this. Very nice, we all loved these. From the Taste of Home Recipe book.

Makes an 8 x 8 pan.

5 medium potatoes

Scrub potatoes well. Place in pan, cover with water and cook 30-40 minutes or until fairly tender. Do not peel, do not cut. Drain potatoes and cool overnight in refrigerator. Take potatoes out, peel and shred coarsely. Grease an 8 x 8 pan. Place potatoes in pan.

1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
8 ounces shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Place milk, cream, salt and spices in sauce pan and heat gently. When bubbles appear around the edge of the pan, stir in cheese. Stir in until good and melty. Pour sauce over potatoes and stir a bit.

Bake at 325F for approximately 50 minutes. I topped it with french fried onions for the last 10 minutes or so. Very moreish!

I believe next time I will stir in just a bit of lemon zest, spark it up a bit.

Brioche rolls - this is the recipe I posted earlier, please see the side bar under breads. Light and fluffy, smeared with real butter, a gourmet's delight! Sorry, I forgot to take a pic of these.

English Trifle - this is just my regular trifle, if you will scroll down in my side bar, I did a couple of posts on trifle earlier in the year. Homemade almond pound cake, sandwiched with seedless strawberry jam, sprinkled with Amaretto syrup. Then sliced strawberries (frozen) with sugar poured over top. Homemade trifle custard, flavored with a bit of rum extract on top of that. Then topped with homemade chantilly cream, some of my caramelized almonds and chocolate flakes. Can we say to die for?

All in all, a simple, yet quite tasty meal. As most of the prep work can be done the day before, very easy to execute also! I made the rolls, cake and trifle custard the day before. Also cooked my potatoes. The ham is as easy as taking out of the packaging, putting in a pan and baking, then glazing. The trifle just needed to be assembled. The salad was washed and put in a bowl, then toppings passed, as they were optional. That gave me plenty of time to enjoy the day with my family.

I hope each and every one of you had as good of a day!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

I would like to wish all of my readers the very Merriest of Christmases and the Happiest of New Years! I really do love and appreciate each and every one of you. I thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to read my rambling, sometimes incoherent thoughts. Thank you for your encouragement and inspiration. Even though we have never met face-to-face, I feel a special bond towards y'all!

The recipe I am going to give you today may sound complicated, but it really is not. Again, this is one of those things I don't make often, and I usually make it at Easter instead of Christmas. No, I am not Greek, but I do love Greek food. Around here, you can buy pre-packaged baklava at Christmas time, but I think mine is much tastier and probably better for ya!(Not that baklava is a healthy choice but hey, this is my blog)

I got this recipe (which I have slightly modified) from the Joy of Cooking.


1 pound of phyllo sheets, thawed

Stir together in a bowl:
3 cups coarsely chopped nuts (I used a mixture of walnuts, pecans and almonds)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (I omitted this)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used more)

1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter

Important: Stack phyllo between sheets of waxed paper and then cover the waxed paper with a damp kitchen towel.

Grease a 9 x 13 pan. Preheat oven to 325F. Place 2 sheets of phyllo in pan and brush top sheet with melted butter. Repeat twice, for a total of 6 sheets. Sprinkle with half the nut mixture. Stack another 6 sheets, 2 sheets at a time, brushing with butter each time. Sprinkle with the other half of the nut mixture. Cover with all remaining phyllo sheets, 2 sheets at a time, brushing with butter.

So basically - 2 phyllo sheets then butter, another 2 sheets then butter again, 2 more sheets and butter, nut mixture and then repeat with dough.

If there is any remaining butter, pour it over the top.

Using a sharp serrated knife, cut through all layers into 2 inch diamonds or squares. This is very important, because you cannot cut it after it is baked, it will shatter.

Bake for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 300F. Bake another 45-60 minutes.

During last 30 minutes of baking, combine in a saucepan:
1-1/3 cups sugar
1-1/3 cups water
1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Zest of one orange, removed in large strips (I omitted this)

Bring above mixture to a gentle boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. Strain the hot syrup and pour over baklava right after you pull it out of the oven. Let cool completely, at least 4 hours at room temperature before serving.

Now, the modification I made was . . . . Way back in the summer, I posted a Rose Petal Jam recipe I had made. Well, you can use rosewater (I was out) in the syrup, so I thought hmmmmmm . . . why not. So after the syrup was done simmering, I stirred in 3 good spoonfuls of rose petal jam. This made the prettiest rose-pink syrup ever! It is not a really pronounced taste, but just a little, almost indefinable perfume. I also halved the recipe and used a smaller, 11 x 7 pan.

(The pink things on top are the rose petals from my jam)

I am going to try some next time with orange blossom water. Then I will definitely use the orange zest and lemon zest.

I had to laugh, I had the dough covered and my son was watching me - he said "so, the dough is light sensitive or what?"

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Family Traditions

We may not have a lot of real family-oriented traditions (we like to try lots of new things) but one of my traditions has been to make kolaches at Christmas time and share them.

Kolaches are a Czech or Slovak pastry - a kind of sweet roll - similar I guess to a Danish. They are so good, kind of flaky and buttery, with fruit filling. Sometimes I put on popsika - another name for struesel. Sometimes powdered sugar icing. Any which way I fix them, they are good. The reason I only make them once a year is they are rather labor intensive!

Where my Mom and Dad were born, there are a lot of people who are of Czech ancestry. My Dad's mother made THE best kolaches. Mine still are not as good as I remember hers tasting. After we had moved to Missouri, she would make some and freeze them for when we came to visit.

You can fill kolaches with many different fruit fillings. I usually do blueberry, cherry and apple. The traditional ones are prune, apricot and poppyseed (an acquired taste). Poppyseed is probably my favorite.

I usually make them right before Christmas and then take some to people at church. This year I sent a dozen with Honey to work.

Makes 3 dozen

This dough is definitely not traditional, but it is oh, so good. I really think Grandma would have approved!

1 package (4 oz, the big box) vanilla cook-n-serve pudding mix
1-1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup butter
2 packages yeast
1/2 cup warm water
2 eggs
1 teaspoon salt
5-5 1/2 cups flour

Make pudding as directed on box, but use only 1-1/2 cups milk. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Cool to lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water and stir into pudding mixture. Beat in the eggs and salt and add enough flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto floured board and knead 10 minutes. The place in greased bowl and set in warm place until dough doubles in size. Pinch off balls of dough about the size of an egg and place on flat baking sheet, 1 dozen to a sheet. Take your fingers and gently pull the dough from the middle outwards to make a depression in the middle. Put in filling - not too much, about a scant tablespoon, maybe 2 teaspoons per roll. Let rise again until double. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool on rack.

For popsika:
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/4 Cup flour
1 Teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons of melted butter

Combine all ingredients until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.

Sprinkle popsika over before putting in oven, if using.

If icing, let rolls cool, then drizzle with a simple powdered sugar icing. Solo sells the poppy seed filling - but it is an acquired taste apparently! Any good canned pie filling will do - but I make my own - these are a labor of love after all! I like to do a cheesecake one - about 2 oz. cream cheese, an egg yolk, little sugar and then some orange rind or mini chocolate chips.

Yes, I got my cherry filling a bit thin. But they are edible! For the brownish looking ones, I used Solo Almond filling, not almond paste, but a similar taste, just goopier! Very nice!

I love you Grandma!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook

Go to The Simple Woman's Daybook to read the rest!

FOR TODAY December 22, 2008...

Outside my window... pale morning sunshine and Jack Frost visited during the night and painted some beautiful frost flowers on my storm window.

I am thinking... of how I wish that I did not have to work today.

I am thankful for... a warm house, good food to eat, Jesus in my life.

From the kitchen... Nice hot potato soup, John Wayne Specials, lemon curd, Berry shortbread dreams and Nutcracker Sweets.

I am wearing... my new fleece nightie and some long underwear bottoms, housieslippers.

I am creating... pomanders. I just love the smell of a pomander.

I am going... to go shopping early tomorrow morning. Stamps at the post office, go to the library, Aldi's, Country Mart and Wal-Mart.

I am reading...Not much, but I have some new Janette Oke books set aside for later this week.

I am hoping...that it will not be as cold today as it has been.

I am hearing... the space heater blowing from under my desk - blissful warmth.

Around the house... Not a lot, but the kitchen needs a good scrubbing.

One of my favorite giving someone something - especially when they are not expecting it!

A few plans for the rest of the week: Today - work, bake cookies. Tomorrow - shopping, cleaning, baking. Wednesday - make roll dough, thaw ham, fix potatoes and refrigerate, make trifle custard. Thursday: Fix salad and bake ham and rolls. Assemble trifle. Relax! Friday: Last day of work for the company I work for now. YAY!

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

Cranberry Cake with Hot Butter Sauce
Serves 12

2 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
2 cups fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9 x 13 glass pan. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Combine butter and sugar in large bowl. Beat with a mixer on medium speed until well-blended. Add eggs. Add milk alternating with dry ingredients, starting and ending with dry ingredients. Mix well. Stir in cranberries. Transfer to baking pan. Bake 30 minutes.

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
1 cup cream or half-and-half
2 teaspoons vanilla

To make sauce, combine all ingredients in saucepan over medium-low heat and cook 10 minutes or until sugar is melted, stirring frequently. Pour hot sauce over cake.(Best to pour sauce over individual pieces of cake)

Could substitute blueberries, blackberries, raspberries or even cherries!

This is the cake I served at my Christmas Tea and everyone loved it. A very pretty presentation and I could eat the sauce with a spoon!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Joy

Christmas should be a time of joy, of celebration, of love, of laughter. Not a time of hurry-scurry, of worry, of fret, of woe.

Why worry about keeping up with the Joneses? The Joneses may have lots of things, but they may not have the love that you share with your family. It is my observation that the more things a person has, the less happy they become.

In our house, we live by the KISS creedo - Keep It Simple, Stupid! We have learned to say no. We have learned that it feels great doing things for other folks - without expecting something in return. That takes the joy out of giving.

My home may not win any decorating contests, but it is decorated with love, laughter and joy. With peace and contentment. I may not have a huge tree with gifts spilling every-which way underneath - but I have hope that I will not live in this world forever.

I do like to make good things for the holidays and I usually bake up a storm.

These "cookies" are one of the most simple ones I have ever made! They are a copycat of the Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies.

Copycat Thin Mint Cookies

1 package (12 oz) mint chocolate chips
2 sleeves Ritz crackers

Melt chocolate over low heat. Dip crackers in melted chocolate on a fork, tapping to get excess off. Put on waxed paper (or foil) and pop in the fridge to harden up.

As you can see above, they are a favorite around here!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Soup - Again??

Yes, I love soup. I am officially the soup Nazi! Mess with me and you will not get any soup at all! We have been having cold and snow here, so once I again I shifted into soup mode!

However, I had to go grocery shopping with Honey, so DS took over and he did quite a nice job, too! We ended up having to add some chicken broth as I forgot to tell him to only add 1/2 the bag of tortellini, but it was delicious, especially after slogging through the slush and snow and cold!

This is a super easy soup for a busy night!

Tortellini Meatball Soup
Serves 4-6

1 regular-sized jar marinara sauce
1 jar water
Frozen meatballs - as few or as many as you like
1/2 bag Barilla 3-cheese tortellini (or whatever kind you like) I used dried, but can use fresh also

Pour sauce in largish pan. Fill jar to same level with water, put lid on and shake well. Pour into pan and stir. Heat to almost bubbling, toss in meatballs and tortellini and cook until done - ours had to cook about 14 minutes or so. I thinned mine down with a can of chicken broth as we used the whole bag of tortellini.

He also made breadsticks with some frozen bread dough, brushed with butter and sprinkled with garlic powder, parmesan cheese and italian seasoning. Mmmmmmm!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY December 15, 2008...

Outside my window... There is slush and sleet. Yich!

I am thinking... that I can't wait for Honey to get home so we can go to the pharmacy and get something for my ear - it is stopped up horribly.

I am thankful for... a God that provides for and even anticipates my every need.

From the kitchen... Tortellini Meatball Soup, Garlic Breadsticks, Pizzelle cookies and fudge!

I am wearing... Navy skirt, socks and tennis shoes, white T- shirt and gray pullover sweatshirt - it is cold here today!

I am creating... cookies and candies for our trays that we are giving to loved ones and friends this year.

I am going... to be starting a new job soon!!!! Actually my old job that I quit 2 years ago. But the company that I am with now has cut our wages for the second time in as many years and not only can I not afford the pay cut, but it is the principle of the thing - if someone is a skilled worker - I have 15 years experience - then do you keep cutting their wages and expect the same amount of work from them? In other words, if my years of experience and expertise mean nothing, then get Joe Blow in off the street and let him do it and see how you get by. Sorry for the rant!

I am reading... Doomwyte by Brian Jacques.

I am hoping... that my ear problem will be taken care of tonite.

I am hearing... not much, pretty quiet around here.

Around the house... not a lot, we did a good clean Friday and Saturday.

One of my favorite things... is hot tea. I just love a cuppa on a cold afternoon!

A few plans for the rest of the week: Today: Make cookies and fudge. Tomorrow: More cookies. Mail Christmas cards. Wednesday: Laundry. Thursday: More cookies and candy.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

Black Bottom Cupcakes

1-1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine first 5 ingredients in large bowl. Combine next 5 ingredients in small bowl. Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix well. Fill paper-lined muffin tins approximately 3/4 full - I got 18 cupcakes with this.

1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons mini chocolate chips

Combine these ingredients until slightly lumpy. Spoon into center of chocolate batter in cups.

Bake 20-25 minutes. Let cool in pan 2 minutes and then remove.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wednesday This-n-That

Not sure what all I will put on here today . . . Just random things I guess.

We got SNOW last night! Only about 1/4 of an inch, but it was still snow. I was excited, if no one else was! It was so pretty coming down, big fluffy flakes.

This is taken on our back deck.

Dad just called and I guess we are going to cook our spiral-cut ham for Christmas. I was planning on a beef roast. That is ok, I can do the roast for New Year's. The sides I had planned for the roast will go well with the ham. So ham for Christmas and beef roast and chicken (ds does not eat beef) for New Year's.

I cannot find my Christmas cards! I put them somewhere and now I can't remember where! So frustrating. I hope I find them this next week or I will have to go and buy some - Ugh.

I have decided that whoever wallpapered this house was an idiot. I am talking overlap of 4-5 inches. And then wonder why the glue does not hold - DUH! I did manage to get one part of the loose border re-stuck down, working on the other part.

My poor husband doesn't know what to think. I cook all manner of things he is not used to eating. He does not care for squash unless it is summer squash. I love squash of all sorts. He does not like beans - I love them. It is funny, I can always tell when he doesn't care for something - he will eat it in big mouthfuls and eats it all, first thing. He will eat it, tho, brave boy. Last night I fixed this dish that I loved and Honey - well, he ate it in big mouthfuls first thing. I tried telling him how good dark orange veggies are for you but he said it was like having cowboys and indians in his stomach. I settled him down with a rhubarb cookie (recipe tomorrow).

Butternut Squash with Leeks and Bacon

1/2 of a small butternut squash, peeled and sliced fairly thin
a knob of butter
a handful of sliced leek
2 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
cajun seasoning or whatever you like
a bit of chicken broth

Melt butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Fry squash, turning once. Season well. Toss leeks in towards the end and give everything a good stir. Pour a bit of chicken broth, maybe 1/3 cup or so over all and let it cook until almost totally gone. Top with crumbled bacon and serve.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


There is just something about soup that is comforting. Hot, steaming in the bowl, it is just friendly. To slurp or not to slurp, that is the question! We eat a lot of soup when it is cold outside.

Today turned off quite cold, after being warmish yesterday. We are supposed to get some snow tonight, I can't wait!

We received a blessing this past weekend: Apparently one of the potato chip companies had refused some potatoes - not the right size or something, so they were giving them away. My Dad called and procured 350 pounds for the church. We have some widows, so that is great for them. We ended up with 20 pounds. I felt that potato soup was in order.

Country Style Leek and Potato Soup
Serves 2 hungry people or 3-4 not so hungry

2 nice leeks, washed and sliced
2 tablespoons butter
1-1/2 teaspoons flour
1-1/2 cans chicken broth
3-4 medium potatoes, diced
6 ounces kielbasa or smoked sausage, sliced or diced
Salt and pepper

Melt butter in heavy pan - saute leeks approximately 15 minutes. Sprinkle over flour and stir and cook about 2 minutes. Increase heat to high, whisk in chicken broth gradually. Add potatoes, reduce heat to medium and simmer, covered until potatotes are tender. Stir in kielbasa. Turn heat off and let pot stand 10 minutes. Season with salt (lightly) and pepper. Can add 1/2 cup of milk or so, I did. I served with rolls and butter. Would be good with some shredded cabbage tossed in, too.

This is great for people who are lactose-intolerant. I think it would be good for gluten intolerant, too, just leave the flour out or use rice flour.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY December 08, 2008...

Outside my window... it is gray and gloomy-looking. But there are several juncos and sparrows hopping around in my driveway.

I am thinking... that I would like to fast-forward to January. Not that I don't love Christmas, but it is discouraging to see how commercial it has all become.

I am thankful for... A God that loved me so much he made the ultimate choice and sacrifice for me.

From the kitchen... Leek and potato soup with sausage, black bottom cupcakes, lemon curd, double chocolate espresso cookies.

I am wearing... khacki skirt, flowered turtleneck, princess kitty socks and pink housieslippers.

I am creating... decorations for next Sunday's church Christmas dinner.

I am going... nowhere today if I can at all help it!

I am reading... not a lot, need to make a library run.

I am hoping... that I hear from the hospital this week.

I am hearing... silence - blissful silence.

Around the house... not a lot, we had a very productive day Saturday. I do need to go over the bathroom and sweep and mop the kitchen.

One of my favorite things... is popcorn. I just love to eat popcorn, no matter what the weather.

A few plans for the rest of the week: Today: clean bathroom. Finish thank you cards. Get devotional together. Tomorrow: Make venison burgers or meatloaf. Clean the bedrooms. Dig out Christmas cards and get sent! Wednesday: Clean my office. Straighten up basement. Thursday: Deep clean the kitchen. Friday: Clean the living room and do a little baking. Saturday: Christmas Tea at my house for the ladies of the church. Decorate church basement for Sunday. Sunday: Christmas dinner at the church.

Here is picture thought I am sharing . . .

Ain't they cute?

Peggy hosts this every week and it has really grown. Hop on over to The Simple Woman and take a look at everyone!

Thursday, December 4, 2008


For Today...

Dear Lord,

I bring you my shortcomings... that I need to learn patience, even though it seems so very hard for me. I know that your time is not our time and for that I am thankful. I need to be more forgiving, not as critical and judgmental.

I bring you my worship and praise... I want to thank you for coming to this world to save me. You did not have to do that . . . yet you chose to. I praise you for knowing my thoughts before I form them.

I bring you my prayer... I thank you for answering prayer for me concerning my job - you are so AWESOME! I pray that your truth will spread throughout this nation, this world.

You spoke to me... in the pages of a book I read - The Happening - about the Nickel Mines School

Monday, December 1, 2008

Tee Hee

I am a bit of a jokester . . . my top song is now Do You Hear What I Hear?

I am a transcriptionist. I make my living by hearing! And in the office we were always asking each other - are you hearing what I am hearing?

Just a lame joke from me!

Simple Woman's Daybook

FOR TODAY December 01, 2008...

Outside my window... We have SNOW! not much, actually just a skiff but snow nonetheless! I am excited.

I am thinking... of how blessed I am to have a warm home, good food to eat, shoes on my feet and that I know who God is.

I am thankful for... the love of God that I feel in my heart.

From the kitchen... Frosted Rhubarb Cookies, Cetak's hot dogs, tator tots. We have venison chili to go over the hot dogs.

I am wearing... a pink-flowered nightie, pink robe, purple striped socks and pink housieslippers.

I am creating... my cookie list for Christmas and the Christmas tree.

I am going... not much of anywhere.

I am reading...The Happening - a book about the killing at the Amish School, written by one of the survivors.

I am hoping... that I will hear something on a new job today.

I am hearing... the heater blowing out warm air.

Around the house... not a lot, I do need to organize the closets.

One of my favorite things... is SNOW! I loved it yesterday, so pretty with the snow coming down. Snow can make the ugliest things beautiful, it softens the lines and covers the bad parts!

A few plans for the rest of the week: Get closets organized. Begin cookie baking. Mail the rest of my Christmas cards.

Here is picture thought I am sharing...

This is from my uncle's house - my great uncles were quite the inventors. This was basically a homemade switchboard to run the electricity. One part of it is made from an old baking soda can, the gauge is from an old Ford car.

Our gracious host, Peggy, does this every week! Come and read all the rest at The Simple Woman's Daybook. It's great fun!