Saturday, January 28, 2012

How Christmas Happened At Our House

Me and my son Christmas Eve
Ok, so this post might seem a little dated, and in fact, you maybe thinking, "Am I really following a blogger who probably hasn't even taken her Christmas lights down yet?"  The answer is, "Maybe."  What I mean by that is, yes, my lights are down, but I have fallen a bit behind lately.  Mostly because there has been a string of illness flying around the house, and second, my consulting business seems to have gotten suddenly busy (and sorry folks, that's just a bit more lucrative than my AdSense account!).

But I didn't want to turn the corner to February without a small entry about Christmas.  I hosted Christmas Eve and morning this year and it was quite a hit.

Cranberry Almond Brie
First the fun stuff: The Menu. My brother made it up from California on Thurs night, so we started our happy holiday weekend with a batch of homemade spaghetti and--you guessed it--handmade spaghetti pasta noodles.  What a great way to kick off the holiday, don't you think?

For Christmas Eve, we followed up that ever-so-light spaghetti dish with a traditional Christmas dinner.  So, truth be told, I'm not much of a ham fan.  But since my brother is, and he drove all the way up from California to have it, I gave in and made a Cherry-Glazed Ham.

Here was our Christmas Eve menu and links to the recipes:

Cranberry Citrus Salad - Very light and yummy.  Recommend, especially if accompanying it with a heavy meal.

Cranberry and Almond Brie - Delicious.  Must have at every holiday meal from here on out.

Homemade Green Bean Casserole

Cherry-Glazed Ham - Liked it and would recommend it.  Even for non-ham lovers.

Cinnamon Apples - This was risk.  I mean, apples? I was worried only my two-year-old would like them, but turns out they tasted great with the ham.

Homemade Green Bean Casserole - This was such a hit at Thanksgiving, it was requested I make it again.  So I did.  I'm not one to turn away from rants and raves, afterall.

Cheesecake - This one was a little selfish. I enjoyed the cheesecake so much at Thanksgiving, I made it again.  But unfortunately, the only one who actually eats dessert at my house is my husband, and he doesn't like cheesecake.  So only one slice was taken out of it, and the dog ended up getting it.  He loved it, though.

The Decorations.

Well, you are just going to have to trust me on the menu, as I must have had too much "holiday cheer" Christmas Eve because I forgot to take pictures of anything cooked after noon (I do have some pictures of the lovely brie appetizer though).  Luckily, I did set the table early so I actually have pictures of that.

I used my good china--which happens to be Christmas China and the only China I own.  I found some gold chargers for a $1/piece at The Dollar Tree, as well as some napkins that matched.  Then I mixed and matched wine, beer, and port glasses, plus one port glass filled with Martinele's for Noah!

When Going Get Tough, The Tough Make Strata

In the Christmas movie The Family Stone, Claire Daine's character asks Sarah Jessica-Parker's character, "Meredith, what's going on? You called me to come down here and now you're making strata?"

I mean, are holidays ever perfect? If they are, you are lying or spending them alone. It's the imperfections that make things memorable. So why not embrace that?

My sister and her masterpiece on Christmas morning
That's exactly what me and my sister did. Our family is loud. And opinionated. We sometimes drink too much.  And we argue. But we are who we are...a "Family Stone" of sorts, and I wouldn't trade my family for any other.  So, while watching the Family Stone (I, by the way am the pregnant older sister, and my sister is the one carrying the laundry bag) we laughed about how this could be our family, and then decided to make the famous "strata" dish that gets dumped all over Meredith in a memorable scene from the movie.

I don't know if it was the recipe itself, or if it was the love and laughter put into the dish, but the strata turned out great (my sister, by the way, was the one who made it). We now have a new Christmas Breakfast Tradition, and I think I will always remember this Christmas just because of it!

Note: Strata is made a day ahead of time and then baked the next day, so be sure to prepare ahead of time!

Family Stone Strata
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8 slices of white bread, cut with cookie cutters into festive shapes
8 oz of sliced mozzarella
2 sliced tomatoes
1/2 lb sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup of green and red pepper, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced into thin rings
5 eggs
3 cups of milk
1 tsp of salt
1 tsp of oregano
1/2 tbsp garlic salt
Parmasan cheese
Sliced olives

Thursday, January 26, 2012

If There Is a Real-Life Soup Nazi...

...It would be my father.  My family takes our soups seriously.  My dad will hover around a pot of soup all day, tending to its every whim if that will guarantee a delicious cup of liquid grub.

We can make soup out of just about anything: turkey, ham bones, wontons, tomatoes, peas, beans...and we argue about the best ones.  I personally love Albondigas with turkey meatballs.  My brother? Split Pea from the Thanksgiving ham.  And my sister?  Well, she has a long list: WonTon Soup, Navy Bean, Egg Flower, and...Tomato Bisque.

So here we are, a few weeks into the New Year with a renewed vow of healthy eating, and a starving appetite.  But you can have your cake and eat it too.  Or at least, you can have your soup and eat it too on Weight Watchers.  Here's a modified version of tomato soup--half the fat, good for you, and delicious!

English: Tomato soup served hot or cold.

Reduced Fat and Calories Tomato Bisque

4 tablespoons of reduced fat butter (I use I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Light)
1 onion, chopped
1/2 package of carrot chips
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 cloves of minced garlic
5 tablespoons of whole wheat flour
5 cups chicken broth
1 (28-ounce) can whole, peeled tomatoes (with liquid), roughly chopped
parsley sprigs, 3 fresh thyme sprigs, 1 rosemary sprig, and 1 bay leaf, tied together with a piece of string
1/2 cup fat-free half and half
1/2 cup of fat-free milk
1 3/4 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan (to top)


Heat the butter in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Lower the heat to medium, add the onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until soft and fragrant, about 8 minutes.

Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for 3 minutes. Pour in the broth and tomatoes and bring to a boil while whisking constantly. Tie the parsley sprigs, thyme, and bay leaf together with a piece of kitchen twine and add to the pot. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

When the soup base is cool, remove and discard the herb bundle.

Whisk the half and half, milk, and salt into the soup and season with pepper and Parmesan to taste.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I Spent All My Allowance At Pottery Barn...

...And this is what I bought.  Happy Birthday to me.  Now maybe I can fill it with wine....hmmm, that might be tricky.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

An Appetizer That Will Impress Your Snobbiest Friends

Even Better Holiday Brie
Um, what is better than brie?  I used to think nothing.  And then I took brie, wrapped it in Philo Dough with almonds and fruit, and now it's simply (or sinfully) divine!

I made this little appetizer on Christmas Eve.  It was such a hit, I had to delay dinner because everyone ate too much.  Then I made it again on New Years.

So enough already.  If you like brie (I mean, who doesn't?), impress your friends with this no-hassle, impressive appetizer.

Better than Brie


1 Sheet of Frozen Pepperidge Farm® Puff Pastry Sheets
1 Brie Wedge or Round
Apricot Preserves
Sliced Almonds
Dried Cranberries or Cherries (I used a combo of both)
One egg white


Ten minutes before prep, remove puff pastry (philo dough) from freezer and set out in room temperature.  When it is soft and pliable, lay on a lightly floured surface.  Coat one side with apricot preserves, a few slivers of almonds, and dried cranberries/cherries.  Place brie wedge in the middle and wrap puff pastry around the brie entirely, filled side in.  Cut off excess an set aside.  Remove any seams by dampening with water and smoothing over with finger.  Use the access pastry dough to cut out a pretty shape and place on top for decoration.  Mix together egg and 1TBSP of water.  Coat the puff pastry with a brushing of egg mixture. 

Cook at 400 degrees for 30 minutes until golden brown.  Let sit for 20 minutes before serving.

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Next Local Brewhaha? My house!

We have this little saying in our house: "Here we don't drink bitch beer, we have bitches that drink beer."  Yup, it's sort of a family motto.  So what's more domestic and Bend-like than learning to brew your own beer?

So, that's exactly what I did.  The funny part about the whole thing is the fact that the beer kit was actually given to my husband as a gift, but for those of you who read my blog, my husband orders drinks with umbrellas, not beer.

I however love beer:  Porter, Stout, Amber (LOL..appropriately named), Oktoberfest, Hefeweizen, Blonde...just about anything that's not a Pale Ale or IPA (of which, only Deschutes Green Lakes Organic Ale is acceptable).

So, I gathered together my barrel, some cleaners, mix, yeast, and, three weeks later, BEER!  I chose the Golden Ale.  I have to tell you, I was a bit nervous about this batch.  When I barrel tasted it two weeks in, it tasted a little watered down.  But after the carbonation process, it was in fact, DELICIOUS!  Sort of Cascade Lakes Blonde Bombshell meets Bud Select

So, if you've ever wanted to try to make your own beer, I recommend it.  In fact, I'm thinking about growing my own hops this year!

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