Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Thanksgiving day has come and gone... 

The day began with a simple breakfast.  I got a late start making the coffee cake (which everyone requested), and by the time it was done, hardly anyone wanted any.  I'm not hurt,  It turned out beautiful!

Then the real cooking began!  

The stuffing was made entirely from scratch (including the bread).  After the stuffing was prepared, we browned the turkey wings, layed them on top, and baked for an hour.  This gave the stuffing real yummy turkey goodness, without being soggy.

My husband and I worked hard to put together this classic dinner.

Everything was made from scratch, and it all turned out delicious.  Those rolls are my favorite "Rustic Dinner Rolls" recipe from Cook's Illustrated.  Actually, every recipe here (with the exception of the gravy and salad) comes from Cook's Illustrated.  

This is the Thanksgiving blessing we prayed before dinner:

Father, we do well to join all creation,
in heaven and on earth,
in praising you, our mighty God
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

You made man to your own image
and set him over all creation.
Once you chose a people
and gave them a destiny
and, when you brought them out of bondage to freedom,
they carried with them the promise
that all men would be blessed
and all men could be free.

What the prophets pledged
was fulfilled in Jesus Christ,
your Son and our saving Lord.

It has come to pass in every generation
for all men who have believed that Jesus
by his death and resurrection
gave them a new freedom in his Spirit.

It happened to our fathers,
who came to this land as if out of a desert
into a place of promise and hope.

It happens to us still, in our time,
as you lead all men through your Church
to the blessed vision of peace.*
After a busy day of feasting, my wonderful little family enjoyed a fun time together!  How special it is to be able to sit and play games with our children.

Oh, I almost forgot the pie!  Here it is:
It's gorgeous, isn't it?  Well, it tasted okay.  I put too much lemon in with the apples, and I made an upper crust.  My husband prefers the streusel topping on apple pie.  I deviated.  Sorry, my Love.

Do you have recipes you like to use every year for Thanksgiving?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Tupperware Party!

Oh Blog, I am so sorry for staying away for so long.  Our school schedule keeps me so busy, that when night comes I am T-I-R-E-D!  My dear husband and I have also been waking at 5:45am to workout, so that adds to the exhaustion so early in the evening.  Excuses, excuses, I know, but I truly am sorry for neglecting you, dear Blog.

Sooooo, the other night I hosted my first Tupperware Party!  I've never done anything like it before.  When invited, I enjoy going to Pampered Chef, Norwex, and Mangosteen parties (always with the promise to my husband that I won't buy anything).  But after attending a Tupperware party last year, I left very excited to someday host my own party.  It really WAS fun!

In order to take on some of the challenges placed before me by my local Tupperware consultant, I worked hard telling people about it, collecting orders, and trying to make sure I had plenty of ladies to attend.  Whew!  I REALLY wanted to earn some free Tupperware!

The time for the party came, and I had an awesome group of ladies attend.  The theme was "50's Housewives", in honor of Tupperware being quite "vintage itself".  Martini's were shaken, wine tasted, cheese eaten, and appetizers served.  It was a fun night and, frankly speaking, I was shocked at how much free Tupperware I earned!  Wanna see?

I also got a little key chain, not pictured.
The morning after, my head ached (from all the craziness), and was faced with the aftermath of the party.

Is it obvious I LOVE Tupperware?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Wine Making Part I

I am now in my fifth year being involved at a local Montessori Center.  Each year the center holds its annual fund-raising event.  This past year my husband and I purchased tickets to participate in a "Be the Wine Maker" event at Rappahannock Cellars.  I would like to share with you, Part I of this incredible  experience.  

The date for the harvest of Norton grapes (any grapes) depends upon what the season brought.  Being a dry season, the grapes were ready almost 1 month earlier than usual.  On short notice our group of about 40 people were notified that the grapes were ready.  On the designated date only about 20 of us showed up at 8:30 am ready to do some work!  Thus the day began with coffee and doughnuts, simple instructions, our brand new cutters, and 1 bucket.

Yes, we did eat some.  These grapes are SWEET and scrumptious!
The sun grew hotter, the harvest continued, water was offered to thirsty participants, and we were loving it!  It took us about 4 hours to harvest 1 acre, totaling 2.3 tons of grapes.  Once the buckets were full we emptied them into these big bins.

All the bees and wasps were enjoying the harvest as well. 
By 1pm we completed the last row!  Imagine a bunch of red-faced and sweaty people, cuts on their hands, scratches on arms, red grape stains everywhere, bugs flying, and the sweet smell of grapes (fresh ones and even shriveled ones).  That is what it was like.  We had to complete the job...the wine depended upon our work.  There was no quitting!  The sun was high and hot but we all did it, and with JOY!  We all felt such a mutual sense of accomplishment.  It was awesome....I would do it again...but start earlier in the day....maybe 5am?

So what came next?  We were given a fantastic BBQ lunch accompanied with fantastic wine.  We then gathered around to the back of the winery where we saw the fruits of our labor.  These crates were lifted up and emptied into a destemming machine.  This is what it looked like:

There is the owner (our host) emptying the grapes into the destemmer.  The winemaker is putting an empty crate underneath  to catch them at the other end.
There they go!  On the far left, in the back you can see all the full crates.

So what was the logical thing to do next?  Yes, it was time to STOMP!  One couple even decided to dance on the grapes.  It felt good to stomp on those wonderful little grapes we had gotten to know so well that day.

So that was it!  We got our shoes back on, were given a complimentary bottle of wine (for all our extra hard work), and took a group photo.  My husband and I were tired, dirty, and sunburned.  As we walked at a snails pace back to our car, feeling good about the day, we talked about the coming winter when we have a chance to taste from the barrel.  Some grapes will be used for a Norton wine, others will be used for port.  That will be Part II.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Making Memories

A few summers ago, a close friend of mine graciously let me and the kids run a lemonade stand at her home.  On that perfect summer day, as our children were in the midst of serving fresh squeezed lemonade, my friend turns to me saying, "Memories!  You're making memories!"  That moment has stuck with me ever since. 

As a mother (and I suppose most mothers feel this way) I have this incredible desire to create wonderful, homey, comforting, and fun memories for my children. 

As much as a trip to the beach is truly memorable, so is being buried in the sand!  The feel of sand in your hair all the way down to your toes is simply delightful when you are a child.

Have you ever made hand cranked ice cream?  As a child I always thought it took "foreeeeever" for that ice cream to be done.  Yet my parents encouraged me to be patient and keep turning! 

I remember the sound of the crank, the salted ice, and the taste!  There is nothing like the taste of homemade ice cream.  It was like a little bit of magic.  I pray my children remember this.

So what is special about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich?  It is such a basic thing, yet how special it is to finally be able to make your own!  Bitty is here making his first pb&j, and boy does he feel all grown up.  He put so much love into such simple little food.  How profound!  Don't mothers try to do the same thing?  We put all of ourselves into the little simple things, making memories for our little ones, making a little bit of magic.  :-)


Friday, September 3, 2010

My Heritage In Food

One particular recipe I have spent years trying to perfect, is albondigas soup.  It is a Mexican meatball soup I grew up with.  My father is Mexican.  When he was going to marry my mother (mostly of Norwegian descent) his mother, Mama Chita, thought it VERY important that she teach my mother how to make dad's favorite Mexican dishes.  My own mother was a fantastic student, and I remember growing up eating tortillas, beans, rice, tamales, enchiladas, and albondigas on a regular basis. 

The smell of these foods always take me back to my mom's kitchen, and even to my uncle's home, where our extended family would gather and create memories!  These are those happy wonderful childlike "homey" memories that only special smells can conjure in the mind of an adult.  For me, this experience only happens in my mother's kitchen, my own kitchen, or one special little restaurant on Olvera Street in the heart of Los Angeles, where I was often taken as a child.

When my husband and I left California and moved to Virginia, we quickly saw that finding good Mexican food would be a challenge.  Not ready to despair, I remembered a recipe book that my dear cousin, Nita, gave us for our wedding.  It contains many family recipes I promised myself I would master and pass on to my children.  It had one huge omission -  NO albondigas soup!!!  A quick call to my mother, and she shared her secrets all from memory.  I tweaked it until it was perfect, at least in my humble opinion.  A few years later... I know this recipe like an old friend.  I am teaching my oldest daughter, Peanut, how to make it.  It is so special to me, that when someone wants the recipe, initially, I get this fear, that I'm giving a part of myself away.  But no.  It is simply my heritage in food.  So here is a little picture:

I had already eaten half the bowl before realizing I should take a picture.
Now here is the recipe!

2 onions, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
3 tbls bacon grease
1 14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 tsp ground cumin
3 quarts beef broth

2 lbs lean ground beef
2 eggs
1/2 cup rice
1 tsp ground cumin
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

Large handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

1  7 oz can "El Pato" brand Mexican hot tomato sauce (always available at Mexican markets).  This will add the spicy hot flavor to the soup.  Use more or less according to  taste.  You may also use fresh serrano chili or jalapeno. 

In a large stock pot, heat bacon grease over med-high heat.  Add onion, bell pepper, carrots, and celery.  Saute a few minutes until fragrant, then add diced tomatoes and cook liquid down a little (about 5 minutes).  Stir in cumin, add broth, and Mexican tomato sauce.  Bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, prepare meatballs (albondigas).  Combine eggs, cumin, rice, garlic, and 1/2 the cilantro in a large bowl.  Whisk it until "foamy".  Add ground beef and mix with your hands.  Shape into small balls and drop into boiling soup.

Cook albondigas about 15-20 minutes.  Skim any fat from the top, then add the remaining cilantro just before serving.  Serves well with tortilla chips, especially homemade.  Also, very tasty with heated fresh corn or flour tortillas and butter.

****If you decide to make this, come back here and leave a comment!  I want to know what you think.  :-)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Food Failures: Eat at Your Own Risk

I hate to give the impression that what I serve to my family is always wonderful, healthful, and tasty.  In that spirit, I give you the following:

What is it, you may ask?  I don't really know. 

Here is the back story:  This day I was battling a headache, and my creative juices and energy were at an all time low.  So this is was I came up with.  It's ground beef, onion, celery, crushed tomatoes, chili powder, and broccoli.  The main ingredient causing problems was the excessive amount of potatoes.  I figured that if I shred them, like hash browns, they might cook faster.  As it was cooking, it simply turned to mush!  Peanut was helping me in the kitchen and was having fun seeing this horrible looking concoction come together.  Or maybe the fun part was mommy's reaction to the whole thing! 

In the end, those children who chose to reject my new creation were, on this ONE occasion, allowed to have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich if they wanted.  These children of mine know that if they are allowed to have something other than what I make for dinner, it is only because mommy thinks dinner is pretty terrible.

So those of you who are just itching to get their hands on this recipe, let me know in the comments box, and I will be happy to pass on this work of art to you.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Through the Eyes of a Child

Every now and then my little Tomato likes to borrow my camera and take photos.  
This is a peak into her world.

Meet Sophie Bear, Tomato's loyal companion.
Tomato felt that a close up picture of Sophie Bear was necessary.  
Catching her big sister, Peanut, lost inside a good book.
Two photos of Sophie Bear were simply not enough.
This must be a nod to her little brother's faithful companion, Buz.
Yes, this is truly her world, and I love to be a part of it!