Monday, December 31, 2007

The Year 2007


The Year 2007
The year 2007 was ushered in at midnight in the Swiss Alps Village of Cranes,(Krons). We traveled to Italy to spend Christmas and the holidays with Mary, Silvano, and granddaughters Laura and Anna. December 27 we traveled to the Swiss Alpine village of Cranes. Cranes is a French speaking ski village. The top photo is a shot from the bedroom balcony of our chalet. A brief afternoon snowstorm came through the mountain pass which actually blocked the sunlight. The middle photo is a telephoto shot of the Alps after the snow storm. An interesting fact is there was not enough snow the first few days to allow Laura to ski. The bottom photo shows our son-in-law Silvano serving the dessert with our champagne for the strike of midnight. Happy New Year!
***
Assessing the year 2007 and recounting in retrospect the many blessings for which we are grateful, it takes a brief moment for us to admit that it was a great year. As the Santa Ana winds blow and howl tonight I cannot escape the horror of October 22 and the Witch Fire. Again we were fortunate to escape it's ravages. We pray that the year 2008 will continue to keep our family and friends healthy and safe and that God will protect them.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

A Hidden Beauty ..... From discard to a treasure!

A Hidden Beauty
Today while speaking on my cell phone with a friend, I caught glimpse of color under the leaves of two potted plants on my side garden wall. This plant was left by the previous home owner back under a bush. My first thought was, it needs to go as I am cleaning up around the landscaping. It resembled the two years of absence by the previous owner. I dropped the plant in the trash. The thought of discarding something which might possibly be worthwhile sent me back to the trash can to retrieve the plant. I trimmed it up and split the plant between two pots. I fitted the pots with drain saucers, placed the pots on the garden wall and literally forgot them. Last summer I noticed that two years later had resulted in nothing of significance. I was too busy to do work in the landscaping. Anyhow, I hired a Gardner for the summer months. My plan was that when we returned from Ohio in the Fall I would take care of working with the outdoor garden wall and decide if the plants were worth keeping.
***
This makes me wonder how often we might overlook something in our lives that has "Hidden Beauty". Perhaps it is a fractured friendship, a worn item to be transformed, or just our everday routine which could include someone who needs some of our time or talents.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Dr. "O"

Dr. "O"
Since moving to California, we enjoy freshly picked oranges daily. My mother was a strong advocate of "an apple a day to keep the Dr. away". Advancing in age makes one aware of the gift of good health. There is much controversy about the benefit of vitamin C and the common cold. I for one happen to be a believer in that fact. In California the rule for eating an orange of the new crop is not to pick before December 15. The cool night temperatures change the starch into sugar and sweetens the oranges. For three years now neither my husband nor I have had a cold. We attribute the fact to having a dose of fresh vitamin C daily.
***
The tree which bears navel oranges is just outside the garage on the side of the house. I have learned to use the oranges in many different recipes. I truly enjoy orange marmalade on english muffins for breakfast. I haven't brought myself to the thought of making marmalade yet. A neighbor has made marmalade and gives it as gifts. My husband treasures the fresh fruit and certainly would consider this wasting good citrus. My husband does enjoy sharing the fruit with house guests extolling the thrill of freshly picked oranges daily. It is almost ceremonious the day we savor the last orange from the tree for the season.
***
One bit of trivia that I recently learned was that the orange tree decides which of the blossoms will develop into fruit. In the Spring, the scent emitting from the thousands of orange blossoms on our tree permeates the air with such a wonderful fragrance. The first year I was alarmed by the number of blossoms that fell to the ground. Recently I learned that the tree decides which blossoms mature into fruit and the tree never allows more blossoms to develop than the branches can hold. If that is your question on Jeopardy, you now have the answer.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A San Diego Sky, and a "San Diego" Sky

A San Diego Sky
The most beautiful blue is found in the San Diego sky. Since San Diego receives an average of 10.7 inches of rainfall per year, we seldom see clouds. We are entertained by the weather announcers on T V. When temperatures hover in the fifties, viewers are warned to bring out the gloves and muffler "as it will be cold tonight. The announcer is often garbed in a leather coat, muffler, and gloves warning viewers that is will be frigid tonight with temperatures in the fifties. Coming from the Midwest where the average rainfall is 38 inches. We were accustomed to seeing clouds frequently. We also knew what cold was. Freezing temperatures were not bad but you were happy when the temperature was not a single digit.
***
We met a delightful San Deigan nearing his 100Th birthday on a sailboat with his two sons and granddaughters at Pelee Island, Canada when we spent a week three years ago. We chatted and learned he actually lived not too far from us. Evan spent mornings at the local Starbucks daily. He had a following of maybe five other retirees who met with him daily to discuss the events of the world. Evan sent an email to his families daily in Ohio and Massachusetts. Evan said he always began his emails, "just another beautiful day in Rancho Bernardo". When we returned to San Diego in mid October, we learned that Evan passed away two weeks prior at 103. What a luxury to go to Starbucks the day befor you die at 103 and able to visit and converse with friends.
***
No matter who you are or where you go, "there is nothing more beautiful than a San Diego sky"! Check the photo posted yesterday.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Be It Ever So Humble, There Is No Place Like Home!


December 27, 2007
We returned to our home in San Diego after a visit of one week to the Bay Area. Christmas was well celebrated this year. Christmas 2007 was filled with family, friends, and oh so much food!
***
We took a different route on our return flight home as the flights from the San Jose airport were heavily booked and flying stand-by could mean we possibly could be delayed. We flew from San Francisco to LAX and then on to San Diego.
***
I had something happen at LAX which I interpreted as a kind gesture. The gate agent came over to me befor boarding the plane and kindly asked if he could assist me onto the plane. I told him that I was flying stand by which means I board after everyone else with a ticket is on the plane. He smiled and said oh! He hesitated and looked at me like he knew I would need help getting on the plane but then went back to his business of letting the ticketed passengers board. Don said to me, "go sprint Donna. Show him how able you are and that you don't need help!" I swear I am going to be a blonde! He really was trying so hard to be considerate of someone who looked through his young eyes like they might need help.
***
As much as we look forward to seeing our children and celebrating with them, we are happy to be back in our nest and sleeping in our own bed! Tom and Susan and family left today for a skiing trip at Lake Tahoe and Barbara is on her way to London for a week's visit with Silvano, Mary, Laura and Anna. The celebrating will continue!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

December 26 ..... Italy celebrates the feast of St. Stephano


December 26 in Italy
December 26 is celebrated in Italy as the feast of St. Stephano. The day is observed almost as holy as Christmas as he is the patron saint of Italy. Do you remember the song about Good King Wensaslaus he went out on the feast of Stephan, When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even. That song was written for the day of December 26. Christmas 2006 we celebrated in Milan with our oldest daughter and family. Laura is the older granddaughter and Anna is the younger.
***
Traditional food is served both days. Fish is served on Christmas day. Early the morning of the 24th, women hurry to the grocery store to select the freshest fish and the other groceries they will need to prepare the holiday meals. Our son-in-law Silvano is an excellent cook and assists our daughter Mary with the holiday meals. Our son-in-law's mother speaks no English and I speak no Italian and we truly do enjoy each other's company with the help of our granddaughters translating for us.
***
We were truly impressed how the grocery stores as well as any other stores are closed December 25 and 26. Traffic is very light both of the days as time is spent with family. Traffic picks up in the evening of the 26th as family members return home.
***
This year our youngest daughter leaves tomorrow for a flight to join Mary and family to celebrate New Years eve and day. How lucky we are with modern day travel that we can traverse this world in hours. It does keep our loved ones near.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas ... A celebration of many things, a newborn King, traditions, family and friends!!!




Christmas 2007
Our Christmas Day celebration began with the gift exchange for our grandchildren. Goodness, that Santa carries a larger sack than years ago. The 10 o'clock mass was attended at St. Raymond's Church with Fr. Wm. Myers. (no relation) celebrating. After a leisure afternoon, we drove to Greenbrae in Marin County to the home of Karen, the sister of our daughter-in-law. Karen is one of those hostesses that you describe as someone who could give "Martha" a lesson. Son Sam is such an able assistant in the kitchen. We enjoyed such a wonderful meal which we all agreed, which dish could you choose as a favorite as the entire meal was just spectacular. Karen graciously agreed to share two recipes which I will post for you. The salad was absolutely refreshing and the vegetable dish of Brussel Sprouts was the absolute best I have ever tasted and Karen agreed to share with you the blog readers!
***
Crab Mango Avacado Salad with Citrus Dressing
Ingredients:
Dressing:
3 Tablespoons orange juice
1 Tablespoon lime juice
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon grated orange peel
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 red onion thinly sliced
***
Combine first four ingredients and whisk in oil.
***
Salad:
1 pound crab meat
1 large mango sliced
1 large avacado sliced
12 large Boston lettuce leaves
***
Directions:
Layer lettuce leaves, top with mango, avacado, and crab. Add dressing. Serves 4
*****
Brussel Sprout Hash with Caramelized Onions
Ingredients:
6 Tablespoons butter
1/2 pound shallots, sliced thin
salt
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 teaspoons sugar
3 - 4 slices bacon - cut in small pieces
1 1/2 pounds brussel sprouts, trimmed
1 cup water
***
Directions:
Melt 3 Tablespoons butter in skillet. Add shallots and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Saute until soft and golden. Add vinegar and sugar. Stir until brown and glazed about 3 minutes.
***
Halve the brussel sprouts and cut lengthwise into thin (1/8") slices.
***
Cook bacon until brown; and then add brussel sprouts. Continue to cook until lightly brown, 5 - 6 minutes. Add 1 cup water and 3 Tablespoons butter. Cook until water has evaporated. Add shallots, salt and pepper. Serves 8 - 10
***
Note to Karen: Thank you for the absolutely wonderful meal but mostly the true spirit of Christmas, sharing with family and friends.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Joyce's Fig Sauce

Joyce's Fig Sauce
Saturday I went grocery shopping with our daughter-in-law in Redwood City, CA. A tradition in many California Food Stores is to provide samples of seasonal items or new products. As we passed the cheese counter, we noticed a block of Blue Cheese with Fig Sauce set out for sampling. As we stopped to sample we met a most delightful lady and of course we struck up conversation. She shared she made a fig sauce which was much better than the commercial sauce offered. I am sure you have guessed the conversation continued. Actually the conversation didn't end briefly but not until we had exchanged email addresses and she had the blog information.
***
Today I was thrilled to receive an email from Joyce. Joyce sent the recipe for her fig sauce. To make it more special is the fact that Joyce created this recipe. It does not use pectin to make it firm like preserves so we call it sauce. Lucky for those who have a fig tee or for those who have a friend with a fig tree. Lucky is the person who meets Joyce and has a new friend ... that is me!
***
JOYCE'S FIG SAUCE
Joyce uses the Tupperware 8 cup measuring pitcher:
Ingredients:
8 heaping cups of figs mounded even
6 cups sugar (using same measuring pitcher)
6 lemons squeezed, adding juice and pulp
***
Directions:
Joyce combines the three ingredients and brings it slowly to a boil, cooking it for about one hour then turning it down and lets it simmer. 

Remember cooking it longer does not make it thicker. It does not include pectin. It is called sauce, not preserves.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Peanut Brittle ..... Daughter Barbara made a double batch for her office party. Check her secret ingredient !!!

Peanut Brittle
Barbara has made this recipe for years. Actually she is known for her delicious peanut brittle. She does not use the peanuts in her recipe but ramps it up a notch with the Deluxe mix of cashews, almonds and pistachios.
Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light Karo
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
1 cup Deluxe mixed nuts
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon baking soda
***
Directions:
Lightly butter a cookie sheet and set aside. Have all ingredients measured and set aside before beginning as the recipe cooks fast.
***
In a heavy 2 quart pan, over medium heat, bring to a boil sugar, corn syrup, salt., and water. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in nuts. Set candy thermometer in place, and continue cooking. Stir frequently until temperature reaches 300 degrees, or until a small amount of mixture dropped into a glass of very cold water separates into hard and brittle threads.
***
Remove from heat; immediately stir in butter and baking soda; pour at once onto cookie sheet. Pour at once onto a cookie sheet. With two forks lift and pull peanut mixture into a rectangle about 14 X 12 inches; cool. Snap candy into pieces. 
Yield: one pound.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Metro Kathmandu .. 311 Divisadero .. San Francisco, CA ... 415-552-0903 and request a table!

Metro Kathmandu ... Lamb Chhoila recipe follows
Friday evening we dined with son Tom and wife Susan at the restaurant Metro Kathmandu. The owners, Roshan and his new bride Shradha, opened the restaurant last summer specializing in the cuisine of their country of Nepal. What a wonderful treat. Each taste was better than the previous. You wondered how much better can it get but it did. Each dish could be recommended with the highest recommendations if six stars were used in the rating system. The chef is from Kathmandu and has the flavors created to a science. I would like to describe the gastronomic adventure for you.
***
When we were seated and water glasses filled at the table, we were served a Daikon Radish appetizer. It is cut into strips about 1/8" thick and about 3/8" wide and approximately 2" long, and cured with mustard seed, turmeric, and chili pepper. The first dish is complimentary. It awakens the taste buds.
***
We placed our order for a selection of appetizers. Vegetable Momos which are round little pouches and look like a pot sticker and are served with a dipping sauce. I would guess that the sauce contained a base of pureed lentils or chick peas with seasonings but just delicious. Samosa which appear to be cone shaped and are crusted potato and lentils which are then deep fried. They are served on a plate with the sauce. Lamb Choilla is leg of lamb which has been cubed, grilled, and tossed with seasonings. Chicken Momos are a semi-circular shaped filled dumpling which look like a pot sticker with a chicken filling. The sauces served with the Momos are so tasty and such a compliment to the dishes they accompany.
***
Our Entrees were even better yet. Just when you are thinking it couldn't get any better, you are served the next course. Lamb Kabab which is cubed lamb, grilled to achieve a smoked flavor, and tossed lightly with a few chopped greens and seasoned. Chicken Tikka Masala which is a chicken cubed and served in a creamy sauce that makes you almost wish you could eat an extra bowl of the sauce. Shrimp Masala is served with a sauce which is a different sauce used on the chicken recipe. The fourth entree we shared was the Mixed Vegetable Curry. All dishes are served with a bowl of rice. If I was asked to choose which dish was a favorite, I would have to study long but probably couldn't single out one as a favorite from those we sampled as they all were just delicious and prepared to be outstanding. The dishes were full of flavor and not hot and spicy as one might expect.
***
The wine pairing was a Domaine Talmard Macon Chardonnay 2006 and a Souverain Cabernet Sauvignon 2004. The owner's knowledge of domestic and imprted wines assists his customers creating full enjoyment of the flavors of the meal.
***
You may be wondering how we managed to have thoughts for dessert. We looked at the choices and said "let's share". The Flourless Carrot Cake is beyond description. I am so accustomed to the dominating flavored clove-cinnamon carrot cake that having a dessert with blended flavors rather than a dominating flavor was very nice. I chose the Mango Kulpi ice cream also. I will only say, to miss a dinner at Metro Kathmandu is to pass a treat of a lifetime!
***
Lamb Chhoila
The menu description is spicy lamb tossed with oil, ginger, garlic and chili pepper. Roshan shared the recipe with us.
Ingredients:
Leg of lamb
olive oil
chopped garlic
chopped ginger
salt
red chili pepper
cilantro
***
Directions:
Remove any fat from the lamb and cut into cubes. Grill on open flame as the lamb requires the smokey flavor imparted. When medium rare remove from flame and lightly coat with olive oil. The seasonings are adjusted according to taste.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Easy Spaghetti Bolognese ..... Make that Christmas Eve Dinner Easy as Spaghetti!

Easy Spaghetti Bolognese
Our oldest daughter Mary lives in Italy with her family of husband and two daughters. We have made several trips to Milan to visit. Much to our learning, the Italian pasta varieties and sauces are almost unnumbered, made with fresh ingredients and in 15 minutes or less, and oh so delicious. This recipe is the most basic of all recipes.
Ingredients:
6 ounces bacon slices, cut in 1/2" pieces
1 yellow onion, diced
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds ground beef
6 ounces tomato paste
1 cup milk
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 pound spaghetti, cooked, water reserved
***
Directions:
Cook bacon until crisp reserving 1 Tablespoon fat. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt; stirring occasionally, cook until tender about 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add ground beef and 1 teaspoon salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until beef is no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, milk and 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese. Cook over low heat until sauce thickens. Skim fat off sauce. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper.
***
Cook paste to al dente. Add to sauce and add enough pasta cooking water to loosen sauce. Toss to combine. Transfer to individual bowls. Sprinkle with additional cheese. Serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Roasted Fig And Walnut Tart ..... "Oh Bring Us Some Figgy Pu" .. Make it Tart!

Roasted Fig And Walnut Tart
My mother believed in the medicinal benefits of eating figs. She often purchased Fig Newtons at the A and P Store. I grew up liking the bar cookies. On one of my first trips to Milano, our son-in-law Silvano treated me to fresh figs and prosciutto. That was a delightful treat. As you can tell I do enjoy figs. Several years ago, I read a book written by a distant cousin on the genealogy of my paternal grandfather's lineage. One of my granddad's great aunts was a cook for Queen Victoria as the family originated in London. I have wondered what capacity she served. Was she the pastry chef who prepared the Queen's High Tea with sandwiches and crumpets? The author wrote the family had the queen's recipe for the either Plum Pudding or the Figgy Pudding from the kitchen of Queen Victoria. I read this several years ago so I can't recall just which it was. I sometime later telephoned the late author to learn if she knew of anyone who might have that recipe. The author was 94 at that time and in a Nursing Home living in the assisted living area. She was unable to know if the recipe survived the years and generations. Good try on my part!!! This recipe is as close as I will come to Figgy Pudding. The Mission Fig which is black grows so abundantly here in California? Oh, are they sweet and juicy!
***
Ingredients:
Pastry:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup icing sugar
pinch salt
1/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 Tablespoons cold water
1 large egg yolk
***
Filling:
2/3 cup walnuts
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 Tablespoon flour
12 to 15 large black figs
1/4 cup apricot jam
***
Directions:
Combine flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl or a food processor, add butter and cut or pulse in in until it resembles small peas. Beat water and egg yolk together until uniform and add just enough to bring the pastry together into a ball (it may be slightly more or less liquid depending on the level of humidity in air). Wrap pastry in plastic and chill for at least 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Roll out pastry on a floured work surface and fit into a 9" tart pan. Cut away excess pastry. Prick pastry base with a fork, line with foil and fill with weights. Place tart pan on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, remove weights and bake for 8 minutes or more until pastry looks pale and dry but not baked through. Remove weights and foil and cool.
Increase oven temperature to 400 F.
Place walnuts (which you have heated in the oven at 350 about 8 minutes until the skin blisters. Place in a towel to cool, then rub with towel to remove skins.) and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in the bowl of the food processor and pulse until the walnuts are finely ground.
Place the butter and remaining 1/4 cup sugar in a mixing bowl and beat until fluffy. Add walnut mixture and beat until well combined. Add yolks and lemon zest to mixture and beat until mixture is uniform. Stir in flour. Scrape walnut cream into pre-baked shell and spread in an even layer.
Cut the figs into quarters, but not all the way through the base. Fit the figs into the tart shell, allowing them to stand slightly open at the top (like flowers), but without leaving any large gaps between them.
Place the tart pan on a baking sheet in the lower third of the oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until walnut cream is puffed and slightly golden, and tips of the figs are slightly crisped.
Heat apricot jam in the microwave or a small pot over a low heat. Strain out and discard any bits of the apricot. Use a pastry brush to coat the figs with apricot glaze. Serves 8

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Prosciutto Roll-Ups ..... Quick and easy but so delicious!


Prosciutto Roll-Ups
This recipe comes from daughter-in-law Susan. Susan loves a party with not just a few people but a huge crowd. Her cooking is also done on a large scale. Since she also works she must budget time. Susan likes quick but delicious recipes.
Ingredients:
1 pkg frozen puff pastry
honey mustard
4 to 6 oz. thinly sliced prosciutto
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
***
Directions:
Unfold thawed puff pastry to form a rectangle. Spread a layer of honey mustard over the pastry. Arrange the prosciutto to completely cover the pastry and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese. Roll pastry from each side to center. Place in freezer till firm.
Cut into 1/4 inch slices and place on prepared baking sheet. Bake at temperature according to directions on box.
***
Since a box of Puff Pastry has two sheets of pastry, this recipe can be doubled so easy. Thanks Susan!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Brie Toasts With Chardonnay-Soaked Golden Raisins ..... First, last or intermezzo?


Brie Toasts with Chardonnay-Soaked Raisins
Tradition, especially in Europe, calls for serving cheese after the meal. To serve as an appetizer, plate this to prevent dinner guest from over eating. People don't stop when it comes to cheese. Serve with a nice selection of olives. Pair with a chilled Chardonnay or other fruity white wine.
*
Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup chardonnay
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons sugar
1 vanilla bean, split in half vertically
1 cup golden raisins
24 slices any double cream Brie
24 slices baguette cut 1/4 inch thick
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
***
Directions:
In a medium sized saucepan, combine the water, wine and sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat. Scrape the insides of the vanilla bean. Add raisins. Let seep uncovered for 1 hour at room temperature. Refrigerate overnight.
***
Drain raisins, reserving liquid. Discard vanilla bean. Put liquid back in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to 1/3 cup, or until syrup turns a deep golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Watch carefully so syrup does not burn. If it starts to foam remove from heat. At this point the syrup is probably at the point of finished. The syrup will continue to thicken as it cools.and have a texture similar to a light maple syrup. Cool completely.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush butter on both sides of bread slices. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool completely. Put a slice of cheese on each toast. Sprinkle with a few raisins and drizzle syrup over the top. Makes 24 toasts.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Spinach and Caramelized Onion Strata ..... A Great Prepare Ahead Breakfast Dish.


Spinach and Caramelized Onion Strata
We will travel to The Bay Area to celebrate the Holidays with our two younger children and family. My blog allows me great portability with recipes as I travel with my laptop. I am looking forward to serving this recipe as the breakfast dish for the family. Stratas are a wonderful dish as the ingredients can be combined the evening prior, covered and refrigerated, and baked in the morning allowing you to maximize your time with the family. This recipe makes 10 servings.
Ingredients:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 large onions (for 2 cups chopped pieces)
2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen spinach
8 eggs
3 cups milk
3 cups shredded Swiss cheese (divided use)
1 loaf French bread (12 ounces for 8 cups cubes)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
***
Directions:
Heat the oil in a 10 inch skillet over medium heat. Meanwhile, peel and coarsely chop the onions, adding them to the skillet as you chop. Cook stirring occasionally over medium heat, until soft and caramelized, about 7 minutes.
***
While the onions are cooking, place the spinach in a microwave-safe plate and cook on high power for 3 minutes, or until thawed well. (Some ice crystals may still remain. That's okay.) Place the defrosted spinach in a colander and press to remove as much water as possible. Leave to drain.
***
In a large bowl, crack the eggs and add the milk and 1 cup of the cheese. Add the drained spinach. Whisk to mix well.
***
Spray a 13 x 9 inch baking disk with cooking oil spray. Cut the bread in one inch cubes and place them in the dish. When the onions are caramelized, toss them with the bread cubes, making sure to combine them well. Slowly pour the egg mixture over the bread cubes and onions. Press the bread cubes down in the egg mixture. making sure they are completely soaked. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the casserole, add salt and pepper, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
***
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake the casserole for 1 hour, or until hot and bubbling along the edges. Remove from the edges. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Spiced Pecans ..... This is a quick gift, or take along to a party, or how about just for a snack!

Spiced Pecans
A few years ago before we moved from a small town in North central Ohio I walked into the paint store. The lady working that day had a dish of spiced pecans for the customers. I thought the pecans were pretty tasty and requested the recipe. Mary Lou obliged. What I like most is the fact that most spiced nut recipes begin with "melt butter" (and usually a large amount) and this recipe does not. I think you will like these spiced pecans.
I also have to share a coincidence. I was in the store shortly after my father passed away. Mary Lou had read the obituary in the newspaper and realized that her grandparents and my grandparents lived on adjoining farms. When she shared that with me, I shared that I remembered they also occasionally spent evenings together visiting and playing cards. What a great coincidence.
***
Ingredients:
1 egg white
1 teaspoon water
1 pound pecan halves
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cinnamon
***
Directions:
Beat egg white slightly, add water and beat until frothy but not stiff. Fold in pecans. Combine sugar, salt and cinnamon, add to pecans and mix well. Spread in a lightly buttered baking sheet. Bake at 250 for 1 hour. Stir every 20 minutes.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Flash Back Friday ..... Happy Birthday Brother Robert!


Happy Birthday Robert!
Today my brother Bob is Medicare ready! I will let you either guess his age or you can ask him! This portrait is the only portrait I have of myself as a young child and it is of my brother Bob and me. Since I was fourth in line and Bob was fifth, I am sure my mother had her hands full (especially with me!) I remember so vividly the day Mr. Heiser the local photographer came that early morning to the house to take this picture. I was approaching Kindergarten and I think my poor mother realized I did not have a portrait or the common term of that time a "Baby Picture". I was so excited to have my picture taken. We were getting ready for the shoot when brother Bob had just finished his breakfast and came into the living room. Mr. Heiser said lets do both of the children, that would be so cute. I can still hear that echo. Now I had picked out the dress I was wearing and I am sure in my mind of that time I thought I was quite the fashion statement (with high top shoes and all). A good mother kept high top shoes on her young children to strengthen their ankles as they were growing. In my mind I got a little upset with Mr. Heiser because that was supposed to be MY picture and anyhow Bob was wearing a little of his breakfast on his shirt. Today I am so happy that decision was not mine and I have that picture of a priceless brother. HAPPY BIRTHDAY BOB, you ole rascal!!!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

December 13, 2007 ..... Another Birthday Party


Another Birthday Party
Today is my birthday and happy to say it is a blessing to celebrate with good health. The photo I have included was recently sent to me by a classmate of her 12Th birthday party. I do remember Lee's party very well. She was known then as "Cookie" by her classmates. We were in the sixth grade at St. Paul's Elementary. One thing that impressed me when I attended her party was how her mother dressed in a beautiful dress, jewelry, heels and hosted our class with such ease. Yes, those things did happen other than June Cleaver. One other thought was how we all went out in the snow and huddled to have a photo taken. In those days if you did not have a flash bulb or the flash attachment for your camera all photos were taken outdoors for the lighting. Then development of the film was from the drug store which required another week to see if the photo had a good likeness. Yes those were the good old days. We could feel free to live in a civil society. Advancing in age does have many benefits . When in Ohio I have my Golden Buckeye card. Yes that is a card you flash and many merchants respect your age with a discount! In California, I learned one of my favorite neighbors celebrates her birthday today. What a co-incidence! Yet another elderly gentleman celebrated his birthday yesterday. We enjoyed lunch with him Wednesday at noon to celebrate his day at a nearby Bistro. I was once told that you should never count life by years but friends. I thank God daily for my dear family and friends. Happy Birthday on your day!
P.S. That is me on the left in the front row!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Pecan Tassies ..... Day Twelve of "Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies".


Pecan Tassies
This recipe is another favorite of my husband. While the cookies require a little time in the preparation I make them only at Christmas. I did buy a "tool" called a tart tapper that is used to form the crust in the small tart pans which saves much time. You put a measured amount of crust dough in your pan, push down with this tool and VIOLA your crust is formed and ready for the filling.
Ingredients:
Crust
1 cup butter
3 cup flour
1 cup sour cream
***
Cream the butter and sour cream and gradually add the flour. Chill the dough for 2 hours. Using a small walnut size amount form the tart crust.
***
Filling
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cups light corn syrup
1/2 cup milk or light cream
1 cup chopped pecans
Topping: 1/4 cup chopped pecans
***
Directions:
In a double boiler mix butter with brown sugar till blended. Add granulated sugar and mix well till blended. Add eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Add salt, corn syrup, and cream or milk, mix well. Cook and stir for five minutes. Remove top of double boiler from the pan of water, stir in nuts. Top each tart with 3/4 teaspoon chopped pecans. This is filling for 48 tarts.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Russian Tea Balls ..... Day Eleven of "Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies".


Russian Tea Balls
This recipe has many different names. Whatever the name this buttery cookie is a crowd pleaser. This cookie is a favorite of my husband. When I do my holiday baking I am sure to include these Russian Tea Balls.
***
Ingredients:
1/2 pound butter
6 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
2 cups pecans, ground fine

***
Directions:
Cream butter and sugar; add vanilla, nuts and flour. Mix well. Form dough into walnut sized balls. Place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 275 for 50 to 60 minutes.

Cut-out Cookies ..... Day Ten of "Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies". No matter what your recipe is, everyone claims their recipe is the best!


Cut-out Cookies
This is another recipe from my files which I am so happy to share. My Aunt Pearl was a great baker. At Christmas and Easter she made large batches of cut-out cookies and decorated them so beautiful. This recipe came from her and is supposed to be the recipe of my paternal grandmother. I hope your opinion matches that of so many who have tasted and said, these are wonderful! I have such wonderful memories of these two great ladies and the impact they have had on my life!
***
Ingredients:
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup shortening
2 Tablespoons sour milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup ground nuts
***
Directions:
Mix dry ingredients Blend in shortening. Add beaten eggs, milk and flavorings. Form dough into a disk and chill dough. Divide dough in quarters and work with each quarter while keeping the remaining dough refrigerated while you cut out cookies. Bake at 400 just until dough looses its gloss and the edge shows the slights shade of brown. Try to keep cookies about the same sizes on the baking sheet. Yield 4 Dozen.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Peanut Blossoms ..... Day Nine of "Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies".


Peanut Blossoms
This recipe from my collection dates back to 1961. I am not sure of its origin but if you do not remember the excitement when opening a bag of Gold Medal flour to find a strip of baking recipes and the Gold Medal coupons for Betty Crocker silverware and other awards, you missed some fun. My mother was an excellent cook and baker. We would always get to choose a new recipe when she opened a new bag of Gold Medal flour. Amazing how little it took to excite children many years ago.
***
Ingredients:
1 3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 unbeaten egg
2 Tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 bag Hershey Kisses
***
Directions:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream shortening, peanut butter, and sugars; add egg, milk, and vanilla. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt, gradually add to mixture and mix thoroughly. Shape by rounded teaspoons full into balls, roll in sugar and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 8 minutes. Remove cookies from oven and place a chocolate Hershey Kiss on top of each cookie pressing down that cookie cracks around the edge. Return to oven, bake two to 5 minutes longer.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Coconut Macaroons ..... Day Eight of "Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies".


Coconut Macaroons
The recipe shared today is from a friend who attended the same church when we lived in Ohio. Rita shared this recipe several years ago and this cookie has been a part of my baking annually at Holiday time. This recipe makes the softest, chewiest, and sweetest macaroon.
Ingredients:
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 Tablespoon melted butter, cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 2/3 cup coconut
1/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind.
***
Directions:
Beat eggs until foamy: slowly add sugar and beat until thickened and lemony in color, approximately 5 minutes. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon and fold into the egg mixture. Add the cooled melted butter, vanilla, coconut, and lemon rind. Fold just to mix. Drop by rounded teaspoon on prepared baking sheets. Can be decorated with a quartered candied cherry, nut or colored sugar sprinkles. Bake at 350 degrees 15 minutes or until the edges turn brown. Remember: Do not bake on a humid day or they are flat!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Flash Back Friday .. Hedge Hogs ..... Day Seven of "Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies".


Hedge Hogs
This recipe exposes my German roots. A hedge hog is a small animal that is a cross between porcupine and a ground hog but much smaller and is found in Germany. My Aunt Florence shared this recipe. I do like dates and this is a favorite of mine. Gooey, chewy, sweet dates!
Ingredients:
2 cups chopped walnuts
1 cup pitted dates, grind coarse
1 1/2 cups flaked coconut
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs slightly beaten
Additional coconut for coating
***
Directions:
Add ingredients and mix well. Form into one inch round balls (about one Tablespoon dough) and roll in additional coconut to coat. Bake at 350 for 10 to 12 minutes on a prepared baking sheet.
Note: One batch is never enough and I always double this recipe.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Salted Peanut Chews ..... Day Six of "Twelve Days Of Christmas Cookies".

Salted Peanut Chews
A classmate of mine has shared her recipe for a bar cookie. The recipe is guaranteed to be kid tested and has passed the test of time. It has been highly approved by her family. Thank you Lee for sharing the recipe and also the photo.
***
Life has allot of irony. I was often asked by upper class men if my name was Leora (as we knew her then) as I guess we had a resemblance. Today her nephew is married to my niece and they are parents of three cute little girls.
Ingredients:
Base
1 box yellow cake mix
1 stick margarine or butter
1 egg
3 cups miniature marshmallows
***
Preheat oven to 350. In a deep bowl add the yellow cake mix, egg, and margarine or butter; mix the ingredients until they resemble coarse crumbs. Press mixture in an ungreased 9 x 13 baking dish. Bake 15 minutes until golden brown. Immediately place the 3 cups of miniature marshmallows over base, return to oven 2 to 3 minutes until marshmallows puff slightly. Remove from oven to cool slightly while preparing the topping.
***
Topping
2/3 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup margarine or butter
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 12-oz. package chocolate chips
2 cups salted peanuts
2 cups rice krispies
***
Place the corn syrup, margarine or butter, vanilla, and chocolate chips in a pan over medium low heat and stirring constantly until chocolate chips are melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and add the rice krispies and salted peanuts. Stir just to mix and immediately pour over base and spread evenly. Chill and cut into bars. Store in a covered container.
***
Note: Lee offers variations to her recipe. She has often used a chocolate cake mix and instead of the chocolate chips she has used the peanut butter flavor. Lee offers, let your imagination run with this recipe.