Saturday, December 24, 2011

EGGnog: The Real Deal

Tradition has it that every year (at least for the last three or four years) I whip up a batch of eggnog. Of course I only do it at Christmas time and it is indubitably declared a delicious but once-a-year indulgence. All that is now going to change. I foresee an integration of this beverage into our regular, non-holiday existence. This is because I now have a recipe so healthy it's almost a crime NOT to drink it on a reasonably regular basis. Chock full of a few of my favorite things: raw milk, raw egg yolks and raw honey. It tastes AMAZEing. Much better than the high fructose CornNog at the store. :) As always, get your food from a reputable source and make sure the cows are grass fed and the chickies are pasture run (the closer to orange your yolks are, the better). Save the egg whites to make meringue since raw egg whites can block your body's absorption of biotin (resulting in hair loss... not highly recommended).  I'm told that freshly grated nutmeg really "makes" this recipe and maybe I'll get myself a little nutmeg grinder in the future but for now I'm going to use up the rest of my already-ground nutmeg. It's still delish. The girls surely think so.


2 c. raw whole milk
2 c. cream (preferably raw, at least organic, not ultra-pasteurized)
8 large egg yolks (preferably pastured, at least organic free-range)
1/4 c. raw honey or Grade B maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract (I used homemade vanilla extract made with rum for extra flavor)
Freshly grated nutmeg to sprinkle on top
Optional: Good Kentucky bourbon or rum

Blend ingredients together in blender or food processor until smooth. Pour into glasses and add bourbon or rum if desired. Grate fresh nutmeg over each glass and serve.

 Good.... the last....


Thursday, December 22, 2011

First Letter to Santa: Snowman edition


Most of what we've told the girls about Santa has been in relation to the historical Saint Nicholas, peppered in with some info about his "helpers" that you see dressed up around the malls and finally topped off with a small amount of whimsy as the "elves" bring the girls goodies every morning in the Elf Pails hanging on the Christmas tree. It makes for some interesting questions, such as "How do the elves get to our house every morning? Do they walk?" (we thought that perhaps they take Santa's sleigh out for a spin...)... until... "Is Santa up in Heaven?" and then it all gets a bunch more muddled from there.
At the post office a couple days ago Eileigh spotted the little red mailbox for the Santa letters and insisted that she get hers mailed off. I think it had more to do with the stamping and mailing than it did with Santa but she proudly drew her snowman and then asked me how to spell Santa's name, carefully writing each letter after I said it. Just so you know, she didn't scribble over his eyes, she just colored them in because they needed to be brown. (This was with a black pen. Eh. You win some, you lose some.)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Coq Au Vin at Le Fire Stationne

Sure that's French. Rolls right off the tongue. Better than "caserne de pompiers" which would be the official French phrase for fire station as defined by the dictionary (or at least the first French definition that Googled itself up). As long as you say it with a French accent you'll be good to go. Now this story just got a little better. As I further realized I don't actually know how an (authentic) French-speaking person would pronounce Coq Au Vin I decided to Google that up as well. I'd been pronouncing it "coke au vinn" to myself and anyone in hearing range so I snickered as I read the pronunciation and then listened to the audio clip: kawk au VAN. Then the light shone through my mental fog as I further realized it did not just mean Chicken In Wine but in fact, the literal translation would be Cock in Wine. I think I may have snickered myself back to Jr. High. Luckily Mike's working and I've been spared the official eye roll. :)

So this morning we planned on a make-up Music class session and then ferrying dinner over to Mike at the station. Do you ever have those days where you're all dressed up and ready to go and just want to get out and do whatever, enjoy your freedom... Why does it always happen to be that ONE day that you already have something else to do that's important? Why couldn't I get one of those motivated-for-fun days on a day that I often end up wearing exactly what I slept in the night before because I have no good reason to get out of those grubbies? (These would be days Mike is on shift. Mostly.) All this to say that I ran out of time and had to choose: Class or Coq? 

Coq au vin (winner!) was surprisingly simple for all of the flavor going on. Perhaps that's because it's braised in an entire bottle of red wine. I love this meal for winter- I think of it as highfalutin' comfort food. Simple. GOOD. Just make sure you get the pronunciation correct when you serve it to your dinner guests. 

Coq Au Vin

4 Tbsp. butter
4 lbs. bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (split breasts cut in half, drumsticks and/or thighs)
Sea salt and pepper
10 oz. or about 1-1/2 c. mushrooms, cleaned and quartered (I used 12 oz... the more the merrier)
1 c. sliced shallots
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves 
1 tsp. fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 bottle dry red wine
3 c. chicken broth
3 bay leaves
2 Tbsp. butter, chilled and cut into pieces (to be added at the end of cooking, optional but do it)
2 Tbsp. minced fresh parsley

Heat the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and brown on both sides for about 8-10 minutes. Reduce the heat if the pan begins to scorch. You may need to brown the chicken in two batches depending on the size of your pan. Transfer the browned chicken to a plate. 
Pour off all but 1 Tbsp. of the liquid left in the pan and cook mushrooms, shallots and salt over medium heat until lightly browned or for about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, thyme and rosemary and cook for 30 seconds longer. Stir in tomato paste and cook for 1 minute longer, stirring constantly. Slowly add wine while scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Then slowly stir in the chicken broth. Stir in the bay leaves and bring to a slow simmer.
Add the chicken back into the pot making sure all the pieces are covered with the braising liquid. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer gently until the chicken is fully cooked. This will take about 40 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to your serving platter and over to keep warm. Continue to simmer the braising liquid over medium-high heat until it has thickened and measures about 2 cups. This will take about 20 minutes longer. Once you reach this point, turn off the heat, remove the bay leaves, whisk in the chilled butter (optional but not really, you must do it), and season with salt and pepper to taste. Spoon sauce over the chicken and sprinkle with parsley.

Visiting Daddy at the Station is never complete without a thorough exploration of the "Weeyu-weeyus".
 Eileigh's favorite: pulling the cord for the bell

 Oh how I love this girl!


Note: not a fan of loud noises. Or even slightly noisy ones.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Take 'Em for a Ride on My Big Green Tractor

Our garage is temporarily housing a riding lawn mower. I'm hoping "temporarily" doesn't evolve into a redefinition of the word embracing some form of permanency. Not that I've been able to park in the garage for over a year anyways. Sigh. Mike and I used to pride ourselves that we could actually park our car in the garage. Pride + Growth (Life happening) = Humbling. And so we learn that the apples really don't fall so far from the trees. 
Yesterday we bundled up the girls and Mike took each one for a spin on the "tractor". Since we're not quite up to sizeable country acreage that would actually require a riding lawn mower, we did it city-style: cutting cookies in the cul-de-sac. It cracked me up to watch Mike fire it up, sit a girl on his lap and drive off into the near-sunset... all the while never even getting close to the grass and just driving around on the street as the girls spun the wheel whichever way the chose. In retrospect I think this really helps the image we're working on with those burnt-out Christmas lights.


Selah, as always, spotted a plane

Saturday, December 3, 2011

I'm Dreaming of a White (Trash) Christmas

My own version of Bing Crosby's big tune hummed in my head until I couldn't help belting it out at full volume, "I'm... dreaming... of a white... *trash*... Christmas..." Mike informed me that after several hours of being in the cold, dutifully stringing up Christmas lights, no matter how many bulbs he replaced or times he fiddled with it, he could not get one section of lights to work. Therefore this year we boast a classic Trash Christmas, burnt out lights and all. I decided to give him a break and fed him dinner and let him go to bed early since he was headed back in to work the next day, amused all the while knowing that at least for a few more nights we'll be exhibiting a quality break in our house's Christmas lighting.


This year, like many years past (except for the one when we scored a great tree for $5), we headed out to Hansen's Tree Farm just outside of town. Somehow we always end up having the whole place to ourselves to browse and this year was no different. The girls found two matching puddles right off the bat. Eileigh hopped in while Selah stopped at the edge and after a slight encouragement waded in. They had a blast splashing together until Mike and I decided to start the search for our tree. Eileigh ran off to join the search but Selah protested all the way out of the puddle and down the road and into the field and down the aisle, calling out her version of "Puddle!" endlessly. She was distracted only by a small plane flying overhead.

Not wanting to hold hands at first.

Watching the plane. Right after this we went to another spot with Selah trailing along behind. I had to return to get her when she kept crying and saying, "Eileigh! Puddle!" and pointing to a pile of dirt that Eileigh had walked through. She was standing with her toes right up against it and apparently had been magically frozen and unable to walk around the dirt.

We traipsed around for a time, marveling that the weather was the warmest it's ever been for tree shopping. Usually it's so cold it hurts our noses and I can't wait to get back to the truck. We've never had too much trouble agreeing on a tree (because Mike goes with the one I want, perhaps?) although this year we found ourselves desiring opposing ends of the tree-fatness scale. I kept wanting them to be wider, more full, fatter. Perfect tree? Nope. Must be fatter. We found one that was pretty good compromise-wise although admittedly a little more post-Thanksgiving meal than emaciated. Makes for good ornament holding.
We three girls incessantly hollered out "Timber!!!" while Mike made short work of cutting down our tree and then we headed back to the truck. Eileigh ran back to the puddle for one more quick dip before we were off to the farm store. By then it was lunch time (which was reheating in the oven back at home) and the girls were hungry but of course had eaten all the snack on the way to the tree farm and I now had nothing left to pass back for them to munch on. So I encouraged that if they were lucky then maybe I could pick up a treat at the farm store for them. Eileigh responded, "I'm going to be lucky, Mom." She knows.

We munched Late July Organic Vanilla Bean with Green Tea Chocolate Sandwiches which are ridiculously delicious and taste way better than Oreos and go perfectly with any need for snacking post-Christmas tree harvest. The ride home was quiet to say the least. So after arriving home, eating lunch and "naps" (quotes because Eileigh generally spends the time playing, talking and singing made-up songs at what is close to the top of her lungs) we were able to decorate the tree. Normally we'd try to get the wildlife out of it before bringing it into the house but since it was going to freeze the next day we didn't want to spray it out with water, didn't have a blower and figured that just leaving it outside wouldn't be any kind of encouragement for spiders to vacate. So we just set it up and got to work. The girls enjoyed hanging the red and gold glass balls and I made a mental note to go with not-quite-so-breakable ornaments for next year. Eileigh had the honors of topping the tree this year and I think we'll leave it exactly the way it is because every time I see the slightly crooked star it makes me smile.

This summer I scored a Nativity set at a garage sale. Always wanted a Nativity set, never had one. This one has a baby Jesus that's removable from the manger so if we wanted to we could have the manger empty until Christmas day and then place baby Jesus there in the manger that morning. I can't bring myself to pack Him up for the rest of the season and so He remains at the center of the scene- right where He is supposed to be. Jesus. He's the Reason for it all. May we be ever mindful of that every day, especially as we celebrate His birth.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

22 Month Comparison

Selah, one crisp November afternoon 2011
Eileigh, one crisp November afternoon, 2009 
(I'm amazed at how much this girl looks like herself!) :)