Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Making Christmas Sugar Cookies

I had been avoiding any holiday baking of those delectable and tempting treats that fall under the "once a year/only at Christmas" category since I seem to have a mental block that justifies-or at least overrules any opposition to- eating massive quantities of such delicacies since they only come around Once A Year. I thought I would do best to just avoid them altogether. But then I decided that Eileigh and I should make a batch of sugar cookies together since A. She loves being in the kitchen and 2. We could give them away along with our Christmas cards to the three neighbors that we have relationships with. Therefore I would be able to bypass any extended consumption of cookies remaining in the house. I further decided to make a double batch since I wasn't entirely sure one batch would be enough. We mixed up the dough one night before bed and then cut, baked and frosted the next day. Eileigh was the sprinkle master- only she called them "sparkles" which sounds like farkles. So we had sugar cookies with lots of farkles. Oh, and my story ends with the sinking realization that I had run out of paper plates and being as Mike was on shift and I never quite got around to getting all three of us presentable enough to go out in public I didn't make it to the store and ended up consuming fairly massive quantities of sugar cookies. But it's only once a year, right? :)


She took a bite off of a candy cane-shaped cookie and exclaimed, "It's a seahorse, Mama!!!"

Seahorse sugar cookie

Selah spent her time scooching around on the floor on her back and sipping water. Couldn't have been happier.

Those are cousin Boone's jammies, which Eileigh loves. (The jammies and the cousin).

Farkle master.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Eat Your Garnishes

Right now I'm attempting to be dairy free. To see if it will make a difference with Selah's eczema on her arms (it's bad). In case you were unsure, Christmas/the Holidays really IS a difficult time to be strictly off dairy... especially if you're new to a food restriction... and especially if prior to said restriction it was a fairly large contributor to your daily diet... and especially if you just plain like it a whole lot. So I would be in mourning for the loss of dairy except that I haven't been so great about actually being strictly off it. Whoops. Must try better tomorrow. Anyhoo, our doc is of the opinion that the dairy industry has done a really great marketing job of convincing us that we need dairy products for our calcium intake when in fact we can just get it (in more readily absorbable form) from dark leafy greens. (slight shudder: the dark leafys). I'd prefer to try to get what I can out of the dairy and avoid the dark leafys altogether but such is not to be the case right now. SO: Kale. That's the really curly stuff restaurants throw on your plate as a garnish. People also grow it as an ornamental plant in flower beds. Apparently it's really good for you; apparently you're supposed to eat it.... apparently I should have been eating it waaaay before this point in my life. But all is not lost- I discovered a fabulous, beyond easy recipe and I am loving it!!! Hooray! My bones may not be riddled with osteoporosis by my next birthday after all. Mike's bones will be good as well since he actually goes back for seconds... on kale. I can hardly believe it. Now I just need to try kale chips... if anyone has a great recipe, please send it my way!!! :) *Buy organic if you can; dark leafys grown in nitrogen fertilized soils tend to concentrate nitrites (i.e., not good for you).

Italian Kale

1 large bunch kale, washed, stems removed and coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tblsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tblsp. balsamic vinegar
sea salt and pepper to taste

Cook kale in large covered saucepan (put about 1/8-1/4 c. water in bottom of pan) over medium-high heat until leaves wilt and volume is reduced by half. Uncover and stir in garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Cook while stirring 2 more minutes (make sure you cook about 2 minutes otherwise if too little time it will be a lot more vinegar-y tasting). Add salt and pepper to taste.

Pirates, Parlay... Parsnip?

I was supposed to receive 5 lbs. of parsnips but they must have multiplied in transit because the final amount has left me overwhelmed in the parsnip department and scrambling for tasty parsnip-incorporating recipes. Parsnips are interesting little root vegetables. They were ousted by the carrot at some point but medieval doctors used to prescribe parsnip for toothache, stomachache, impotence and dysentery. They contain cartenoids and vitamin C, calcium and potassium and are rich in fiber. My source of this modest info being of course Nourishing Traditions, pg. 393. So we've had them diced and fried in butter, in various casseroles, pot pies and stews and our favorite way: made into Parsnip Patties and drizzled with honey. Their appearance kind of reminds me of hash brown patties/potato pancakes only I don't think you'd want to put ketchup on these. Honey is much better. We've done breakfast for dinner and had fried eggs and Parsnip Patties a few times and I'm sure we'll do it again before the Mother Lode of parsnips runs out!!! :)

Parsnip Patties

3 c. shredded peeled parsnips
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. honey

Combine all ingredients except honey into batter. Drop by 1/2 cupfuls onto lightly greased hot griddle. Fry over medium heat 4-5 minutes per side until veggies tender. Serve with honey.

Bacon-Leek Tart

Absolutely devourable. And I was actually able to share the love with a few family members that blessed us with a surprise visit... so I was very thankful that this turned out to be a treat for the tastebuds. I. Love. Leeks. And off the top of my head I can't really think of anything better to go with them than bacon, cream, eggs, flaky butter crust.... you get the picture.

Bacon-Leek Tart

2 c. flour (I used unbleached)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/2 c. cold butter
9-11 Tblsp. cold water

In bowl combine flour, salt and sugar. Cut in butter until crumbly. Gradually add cold water, tossing with a fork until a ball forms. Cover and refrigerate 30 minutes.

1 lb. thick sliced bacon, diced
3-1/2 lbs. leeks (white portion only), sliced
2 Tblsp. flour
4 eggs
1 c. half-and-half cream
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/8 tsp. nutmeg

In large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels, reserving 2 Tblsp. drippings. Saute leeks in drippings until tender; stir in bacon. Stir in flour until blended; set aside.

On floured surface, roll dough to 1/8-inch. thickness. Transfer to ungreased 10-inch springform pan. Spoon bacon-leek mixture into crust. Trim pastry to 1/4 inch above filling, press pastry against sides of pan (or don't trim crust and just fold over on itself if your husband is a fervent crust-enthusiast). Bake 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a bowl beat eggs, cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Pour over leek mixture in pan. Bake 20-25 minutes longer until clean knife inserted to center. Serve warm. Yields: 8-12 servings

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Nog, Nog, Noggin' on Heaven's Door....

That is to be sung to the tune of Guns N' Roses because um, yeah... I think this Nog is pert near close to Heaven. Actually, I theologically completely disagree with my own statement but practically speaking, I'm just trying to tell you that this is unbelievably good Eggnog. I forced a few willing participants to imbibe in said Eggnog (one was my mother-in-law who formerly did not care for the libation) and they all came back for more! Success. *I should note for conscience' sake that I did not force the spirited version on anyone. Far be it from me to provide something not everyone can enjoy. Enter: the double batch, divided into near-equal spirited and non-spirited portions. At least, the portions started out nearly equal in size... until someone decided to turn the remaining virginal nog into its slightly more robust counterpart. This was my 3rd year to make Holiday Eggnog- I think I have successfully started a new tradition!!

Holiday Eggnog

6 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups milk, divided (I used whole milk- go big or go home, right?)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (I used some of my homemade rum-vanilla extract... mmm)
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup heavy whipping cream
Additional whipped cream and ground nutmeg, optional

In a large heavy saucepan, whisk together the eggs, sugar and salt. Gradually add 2 cups milk. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until a thermometer reads 160°, about 25 minutes. (It usually takes me 35-40 minutes since I go so slow to prevent scrambled eggs! Grab a good book to read while stirring.)

Pour into a large bowl; stir in the vanilla, nutmeg and remaining milk. Place the bowl in an ice-water bath; stir frequently until mixture is cool. If mixture separates, process in a blender until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

When ready to serve, in a small bowl, beat cream on high speed until soft peaks form; whisk gently into cooled mixture. Pour into a chilled punch bowl. If desired, top with dollops of whipped cream and sprinkle with nutmeg. Yield: 6 servings (about 4 cups). *I doubled recipe and then spiked half of it.

Spiked Holiday Eggnog: Reduce milk to 3-1/4 cups. Heat 2 cups milk with eggs, sugar and salt. Add 1-1/4 cups milk with vanilla and nutmeg. After mixture has cooled in ice bath, stir in 3/4 cup rum, brandy or bourbon. Proceed as recipe directs. *I used Captain Morgan's spiced rum since it was on sale. :)

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Winter's First Snowfall (location: our house)

We were finally able to chalk up First Snow to the scoreboard for Winter 2010. Eileigh waited in eager anticipation for Mike to get home from shift so they could go out and play in it together. She enjoyed every second of it and probably would have played out there until the last of it melted away.