Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Birthday Cupcakes

First, Never, Ever, have a baby on Christmas day.  That's my advise and I'm sticking to it.  First of all it involves calling your sister early Christmas morning and begging her to drive through a blizzard to pick up your other kids and take them home for the day without their getting to open more than one present they picked to bring with them.  On the bright side I got to watch White Christmas during the birth.  But on the down side age 7(in 4 days) was a Premie and that meant he got to stay in NICU for 3 weeks and I got to make daily trips and have Nazi nurses make sure I was waking up every two hours to pump 'liquid gold,' as they put it.  I did not sleep for at least 4 months (time that baby actually got off all oxygen and monitor tubes)  And also by Premie, I mean still larger than most full term babys currently being born in my neighborhood.  The premie nurse that came by every month was awwed at her first ever baby that was over 30lbs before a year old.  My son(s) wore size 6 diapers by 1 1/2 years and the neighbor boys age 3 are still in size 3.    It's hard to find a rear facing car seat for over 20 lbs.      Ok, off topic a bit.  I tend to get bitter about my boys birthdays.  If only one was a month earlier and the other a month later.

So, once again I do not recommend having a Christmas baby.  It means that for a little while all the stress of preparing for Christmas changes to Stress about Birthday and Parties.  Luckily, he doesn't seem to mind and thinks it's kind of cool and doesn't hold the getting Christmas presents for birthday thing against us yet, which he totally doesn't, he gets separate presents but you know...  So today is his birthday party.  I decided he was just too jumpy and excited to wait until after Christmas and he needed a diversion.  

He had designed a birthday cake, pretty detailed, just too hard for me to pull off this time of year.  Or maybe I should say, this year.
I asked him why he wanted Merry Christmas on his cake instead of Happy Birthday. He doesn't really separate the two.

This is what I decided on. He wanted the little Christmas symbols on them somehow. He put the stars on, after breaking the first snowflake side thing.

Aly, I used your frosting, yum. I was surprised that it held up so well.

Now we will just wait and see how the party goes this afternoon.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cooked Pumpkin

As per a friends suggestion, I am putting on my blog how to bake a pumpkin so you can use fresh pumpkin in your pies and goodies.  I wasn't very timely for pumpkin pie season though.  The pumpkins I had chosen sat on my table all through November and some of October and clear until almost Christmas.  The reason I finally got around to it was that my Wonderful husband cleaned a lot of the house Saturday while my daughter and I were gone.  I do not know how he got the boys to help him, I never seem able to do this.  The pumpkins were placed on the floor and caught my eye, I now popped them to the top of my to do list.  In fact I think I did not leave the kitchen the rest of the day. 

You can cook your pumpkin by either baking it or steaming.  I have done both and the last few times have steamed it.  The reason I would steam it over the baking method is that I was using a larger pumpkin that didn't fit well on a baking sheet. 

Sugar or pie pumpkins are prefered to use for eating pumpkin but you can use the larger more common jack-o-lantern pumpkins but the flavor is not as nice and they are more stringy and tough.  This time I had my pie pumpkin and also a smaller JOL pumpkin I decided to save for pie and combined the two.

 Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Wash pumpkins and twist or pull the stems off.  Then cut in half top to bottom and scoop out insides.  (remember to save the seeds.)  Place the halves on baking sheet open side down or shell side up.  You can lightly spray the pan to keep it from sticking.   Bake for about 1 hour or more until fork tender.   

You can then move to other put off projects like taking all the food and shelves out of the fridge and deep cleaning it. 

Scrape the insides out and put in processor.  Process until smooth.  Transfer pumpkin to a strainer.  This is important.  Let pulp sit in strainer for a long while.  You need to reduce the water content to use the pumpkin for baked goods.  

My two pumpkins made two strainer fulls and yeilded about 1 1/2 cups liquid each, and I could have left it longer probably for more.  I think I left them about and hour each.  You could use cheese cloth as well. 

After this you can use it or freeze it.  I put aside 1/2 cup for use soon and put the rest in two cups per bag.  When you freeze it, it will release more moisture as it thaws, I recommend thawing it in the strainer as well.   

Enjoy your pumpkin in your favorite way.  I will share mine later. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Anadama Bread

There are several versions of this old New England bread around. Some use fruit for more flavor and sweetness.  One version I have includes a story of how the bread got it's name.  A disgruntled New England fisherman on one of the countless evenings when his unimaginative wife, Anna, presented him with his usual dinner of cornmeal mush and molasses.  Disgusted he mixed the ingredients together to form a bread dough and while it baked, he's said to have muttered, "Anna, damn her."

I've seen the recipe several times but never made it before.   It's a hearty bread, more reminiscent of corn bread than bread bread.  It was fine, but not so wonderful as to be on my regular rotation. 

Annadama Bread

3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
3 Tbls. shortening
1/4 cup light molasses
2 teas. salt
1 pkg active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 egg
2 3/4 cups all pupose flour

Grease 9 in. pie pan.  Mix boiling water, cornmeal, shortening, molasses and salt in large bowl.  Cool to lukewarm. 

Dissolve yeast in warm water.  Add yeast mixture, egg and 1 1/2 cups of the flour to the cornmeal mixture. 

Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl.  Stir in remaining flour until smooth.

Spread batter in pan, mounding center higher.  pat into shape with floured hands (batter will be sticky).  Let rise in warm place about 11/2 hours. 

Heat oven to 375 deg.  Bake 50 - 55 min. or until loaf is brown and sounds hollow when tapped.  You can cover with foil for the last 15 min. of baking if it is getting too brown.  Remove from oven and cool.  Brush top with butter.

I am going to try this again but substitute some oats for the cornmeal as suggested and corn syrup for the molasses. 

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cherry Limeade Bars

The other day, when I felt like I had time to spare to try a new recipe, I found this tempting treat.  It boasted Summertime taste, and as it has been snowy and cold I thought it sounded great.  Plus, they look so Christmas-y in their cute red and green. 

They did indeed bring to mind cherry limeade.  They were very sweet and a little one went a long way.     It may not be the traditional dessert when you think of Christmas but with their cute color they certainly look the part.  And who doesn't need a splash of Summer-time in mid-Winter?

I found the recipe over at Cheeky Kitchen with Brooke McLay.  She makes them sound and look so fabulous you just can't resist a try.  

Cherry Limeade BarsTangy and sweet, a twist on the classic lemon bar, these easy dessert squares simply scream summer. A light, buttery crust is cooked with a thin layer of maraschino cherry puree, then topped with a lime custard. These little treats are just as refreshing as a tall glass of limeade. You’re going to love them.
1 c. flour
½ c. butter, softened
¼ c. powdered sugar
Dash of salt
6 oz. can maraschino cherries , undrained
½ Tbsp. cornstarch
3 eggs
1 ¼ c. sugar
3 Tbsp. flour
¼ c. key lime juice *
Green Gel Food Coloring
In a large bowl, combine flour, butter , powdered sugar, salt and flour until well mixed. Press into the bottom of a 9x9 inch baking pan. Pour the entire, undrained can of maraschino cherries into a blender, add cornstarch and blend until well chopped (but not pureed). Using a spatula, carefully spread the cherry mixture over the crust mixture. Bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
In a large bowl, beat together remaining ingredients. Pour over cooked crust & cherry mixture. Return to oven and bake an additional 20-25 minutes, or until the mixture has set. Allow to cool completely before cutting into bars, garnishing with powdered sugar, and serving to your favorite people.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gingerbread Houses 2010

Every year our favorite tradition is making gingerbread houses.  We have been doing an every other year one big one or one each little ones.  In some ways the little ones are easier, some ways not.  There is a lot more cutting out and baking, but they hold together easier and no fights about how to decorate.

This year we made the houses into our Christmas train village.  They are not proportional to the train but so what.

Age14's is hilarious.  It's like a boarded up house with graffiti. On one part it says Coal for X-mas! The door is boarded up and  there are ginger-body parts strewn all over.  Somehow mine is the only one with out something in the chimney. 

Fun times.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Geese

One of my favorite things about living where I do is the wildlife.  I don't see as much as when I first moved here but I still get a lift out of seeing the herd of Prong horns or in this case a large flock of geese.  This isn't exactly out the "table window"  but you can see this particular field out the window, just not so close up enough to spot the geese.

All I had with me was my phone and thus not a very nice picture, but I know what's in the picture anyways.  This isn't the whole flock, just what fit in the view.   I think the geese do a sort of every-other-year thing.  last year I hardly saw them but the year before I saw them almost every morning on my way to school.  I'm sure the carpool kids got tired of me pointing them out.  

I'm going to have to remember to bring my husbands camera in the car as it will be the only way to get a decent picture but with my not so mad camera skills I'm sure it wouldn't matter if I had just stuck with the camera on my phone. 

This morning as I passed by they were all in the sky.    It's been a while since I've seen a fox or a ground squirrel and even the sand pipers seem to be driven out by the other birds now.  I rarely hear a meadowlark anymore or see a magpie and I have to go for a long walk to see jack rabbits.   As the development in the area grows these will be all driven out as well.  So I continue to hold on to my glimpses of prong horn and geese and the ibises and occasional pelicans.   It lifts my days a little and helps bring me down to earth.

On the other hand my neighbor encourages the big flock of whatever those black birds are, they scramble on my roof when the sun hits it in the morning and of course poop all over it as well (He even snow plowed his back yard paths to all the bird feeders).  I wish I could appreciate them as much but I just don't.  except when they all pick up and fly in those amazing cloud patterns, but you don't see that around the houses so much, just in the fields. 
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