For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Moving On, and see what else has been going on.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Aftermath

Christmas has come and gone, though for us the season continues until Jan. 6.  This being Boxing Day, we're making a point of staying well away from stores! ;-)

Christmas was a lot of fun this year.  We stretched our Wiglia meal from somewhere before 7pm to past 11:30.  During one of the breaks between courses, Dh had time for a short nap. *L*  The Scallop Shumai turned out all right - Eldest and Dh liked them the most.  I'm not a seafood lover, so to me they were just okay, and Youngest wasn't too keen on them... which suited Dh and Eldest just fine. :-D  I managed to NOT cut my fingers off while chopping the shrimp, but not for lack of trying. *L*  I have a noteable chunk of my index fingernail missing now, and an annoying little slice on the side of my thumb that keeps catching on things.
Ah, the joys of cooking! *L*

The appetizer course also included a cheese plate.  Along with some tried and true favourites (havarti, gouda and brie), we tried a new artisanal goat cheese.  Mon ├óme est aux Terres de Portneuf ce que mon coeur d'artisan est fromage.  The goat cheese was coated in ash.  I figured the ash might lend a saltiness to it.  I was wrong.  No, this method brought out the painful side of ash.  It was extremely acidic.  Strangely, Eldest developed a taste for it, though it needs to be eating rather carefully! *L*  We also had a variety of olives to nibble on.  Plain black olives, caper stuffed green olives (way too salty!), and cheese stuffed green olives (quite nice).  There were pickled onions (very harsh and vinegary: I'll have to remember to stay away from this type in the future) and tiny pickles (much sweeter than I expected!) with fruit, sourdough bread, a baguette and olive and cheedar bread.  To drink, we had warm apple and cranberry juice (about a 50/50 mix) heated in the slower cooker with whole cloves, a few cinnamon sticks and some nutmeg.  We fished out as much of the spices as we could when it reached a flavour we liked, after a few hours in the slow cooker.

After a break to digest, Eldest made her Greek Salad.  We were still pretty full, so it was after this course that we took an even longer break and Dh got his nap in. *L*  After that we had the ham (falling off the bone tender!), garlic mashed potatoes and tourtierre, and the roasted leek and apple dish.  That was the one thing that could be considered a failure.  It was *really* sweet.  Even though it used only one apple, it dominated the dish, while the leek flavour just sorta disappeared.  I wouldn't mind trying it again without the apple, though.

When we were done with that, we waited long enough for the whipped cream to be made.  It was sweetened only with the crushed candy canes.  It was all right, but not something I'd want to do again.  Probably because we're just not really fans of candy canes in this household. *L*  The apple pie, however, was really good.  Youngest and Dh didn't actually have any.  She doesn't like apple pie or whipped cream, and Dh figured he'd screwed his blood sugars up enough already. *L*  So Eldest and I get the pies all to ourselves.  Mind you, there were also chocolates (boxed mix), cookies (we actually bought those as much for the tin as for the cookies) and brownies for sweets, too.  Those actually didn't see a lot of action.  The chocolates are gone by the end of Christmas Day, but there are still plenty of cookies and brownies.

After we finished eating, we relaxed for a while until midnight, then opened our gifts.  I am so glad I set up the video camera to film this!  The kids were pretty excited about their gifts.  We got Youngest a stereo CD player.  She's needed one to practise her singing in her room, but we have had the worst luck with basic portable players.  The CD players on all of them never seem to last more than a couple of months.  The radio's continue to work fine, but we really don't listen to radio.  With that in mind, we sprung for a higher end system that I really hope will last her a while.  I've been hearing her singing in her room for the past two days now. :-D

As much as she liked that, she was even more excited over the carved rosewood crochet hook and skeins of Peruvian wool yarn we got for her. *L*  Gosh, it's so much fun watching the kids unwrap their gifts.  With the hook, all she could do was squeak in excitement, and she was literally speechless when she unwrapped the yarn.

Those where the highlights of Youngest's gifts.  Eldest was just as fun.  We got her several books, including Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and The Zombie Survival Guide (I may be remembering the Zombie title wrong).  Then there was the big, hardcover reference book simply called Birds.  The remote control spider robot was a hit, too.

Dh's gifts were much enjoyed.  Some were hobby related, like the photography book on family portraiture.  I think he had the most fun with the Hickory Farms kit Youngest bought for him, with sausages, cheeses, etc., complete with a mini-cleaver.  She got it because of the cleaver.  It's adorable! *L*

The highlight of my own gifts was most definitely an autographed copy of Ree Drummond's The Pioneer Woman Cooks!  I love cookbooks that you can read to start with, but throw in some amazing photography and Pioneer Woman's fantastic sense of humour, and I'm totally hooked!  I keep reaching for it and flipping through the pages.  I'm really looking forward to trying some of those recipes!

After the gift opening, it was off to bed.  In the morning, we had our stockings waiting for us for a few more gifts, then a quiet Christmas day.  We've been drinking a lot of tea lately - one of Eldest's gifts was a tea chest, so we're working through all the flavours.  The days are sunny and relatively warm - after the Arctic deep freeze and snow we've been having, our current -6C is practically t-shirt weather - so I'm hoping we'll get a chance to head out somewhere and do some exploring and picture taking.

There's still New Year's to celebrate, and finally, Three Kings Day.  Dh doesn't even have to go back to work until the 4th, which is kinda nice. :-D

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Recipe: Apple Pie

The girls and I just finished baking a couple of apple pies, plus some tarts with the leftover dough and filling.  The following is a modification of the recipe, Blue Ribbon Apple Pie, from the Land O Lakes Treasury of Country Recipes.  I kept the ingredients the same, but changed how the filling is put together. 

For one 9" double crust pie

Crust:

2 c all purprose flour
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup butter
1/3 cup shortening
4 - 5 Tbsp cold water

(note: using 2/3 cups butter instead of butter and shortening works very well)

Filling:

1/2 c sugar
1/4 c firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 c all purpose flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 c whipping cream
6 c tart cooking apples, peeled, cored nnd sliced (I like Granny Smiths)

Top: (optional - I usually skip it)
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp sugar

Pre-heat oven to 400F. 

Making the dough.
While the oven is preheating, stir into a large bowl the dry filling ingredients.  Cut in the butter (and shortening, if used) until crumbly.  Mix water in with a fork until moistened.  Divide the dough in half and shape into balls.  Wrap one in plastic and refrigerate.  Roll second ball on lightly floured surface to fit bottom of 9" pie plate.  Trim and set aside.

Making the filling.
In a large bowl, combine all the filling ingredients, except the apples. Combine well, then add the apple pieces and stir to coat.  Spoon into prepared crust.

Roll the remaining refrigerated pastry ball out to about 12"   Cut in vent slits, then place over the filled pie shell.  Crimp or flute the crust.

Optional topping:  Melt 1 Tbsp butter and brush over top crust, then sprinkly with 1 tsp sugar.

Cut a strip of aluminum foil to cover edge of pie by 2 inches and cover.  Bake in preheated oven for 35 min.  Remove foil and bake another 10-20 minutes, or until crust is lightly browned and juice begins to bubble through the vents in the crust. (Note: it helps to place a cookie sheet on the oven rack under the pie to catch any drips.)

Serve warm.

The original recipe didn't add the whipping cream until after the pie had baked.  The cream was to be added to the pie through the vent slits, then returned to the oven long enough to warm up the cream.  I found it extremely messy and frustrating trying to get the cream into the pie that way, but find it works wonderfully to just add it to the filling right from the start.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

So close!

Just a couple more days before we start celebrating Wigilia.  Today, the girls and I did the food shopping.  The only thing we'll have left is getting the lettuce for the salad and the fresh shrimp and scallops - though it looks like we'll have to go with frozen scallops, at least.  I asked at the grocery store today and was told they won't be getting more fresh scallops until after New Years - the suppliers are out.  With that in mind, we'll be picking up frozen scallops tomorrow, rather than waiting for Christmas Eve morning.

We'll need to time some things out rather carefully.  The apple pie(s?) will be baked tomorrow.  I'll be starting the ham early in the day, as I'll need the oven for the roasted leeks and apple dish.  The ham can be kept warm more easily than a vegetable dish.  Of course, we'll need the oven to heat up the tourtierre, as well.  The hot spiced apple drink can be done in the slow cooker, so all we'll lose there is counter space. 

I do still need to look for more stocking stuffers for Christmas morning.  I'll make a run out again sometime after Dh gets home from work.  I'll have to remember the plug the van in for the night, too - we're dipping below -20C tonight.

I am hoping to post a couple of recipes in the next day or so.  If not, I don't expect to post again until after Christmas.  We'll see how it goes. :-D

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas, and health, wealth and happiness in the coming New Year!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Our Menu

The girls and I have worked out the menu plan for this year's Wigilia.  Traditional, it's not! LOL!

Here's what we've worked out.

Appetizer: Scallop Shumai
recipe from: The World in Bite Size

It's a combination of chopped fresh shrimp and whole scallops in won ton wrappers that are steamed.

Salad: Greek Salad
(no recipe)

I wanted either a soup or salad for the second course.  Usually, we have a soup, then a salad with the entree.  The soup we usually had would be something like a clam chowder, which I found too heavy.  So my restriction with a soup was that if we had one, it would be something light.  Instead, Eldest suggested she could make a Greek Salad.  She makes an excellent Greek Salad, so we're going with that. :-D

Entree:
Baked ham studded with whole cloves, roasted with apple juice.
Tourtierre (this year, our filling mix included elk!)
Garlic mashed potoatos with cheese (Youngest asked for this one. :-D )
Roasted Leeks & Apple

The roasted leeks is a recipe from The Philosopher's Kitchen and includes white wine, honey, marjoram and anise seed with the apple and leeks. 

Dessert: home made apple pie
I use a recipe modifed slightly from one in Treasury of Country Recipes that is incredible.  I'm not actually a big apple pie fan, but this one is an exception!  We'll be baking this in the next couple of days.  Eldest recommended we try it with a whipped cream with crushed candy canes in it.  Should be interesting. :-D

Drinks
hot drink: Spiced apple and cranberry juice
(no recipe)
cold drink: Cranberry and ginger ale punch
(no recipe)

Along with this, we're going to have a cheese plate, fruit, and little nibblies like olives, tiny pickles, pickled onions and whatever else I see that looks good.  Hmmm... maybe we can do a fondue?  The kids love that. :-D

I'll have to see what nice breads I can pick up, too.  The breads, lettuce and seafood won't be picked up until the last minute - Christmas Eve morning, if I can swing it that late.  Otherwise, the night before.

I figure by the time we finish the feast, it'll be midnight or so. *L*  It easily takes us several hours to finish it, as we take our time with each course.

The family is debating whether or not we're going to Midnight Mass this year.  We're not practising Catholics at all, but Midnight Mass is something special.  We've got a Catholic church just up the block from us now, but I have no idea what they're got scheduled, if anything.  We'll see how that works out.

Either way, I'm looking forward to our first Christmas in our new home!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Getting in the Christmas spirit

Today, the girls and I decorated the Christmas tree.  It has actually been up for a couple of days, but we had to get rid of an extra couch - a friend of mine was able to make use of it - and rearrange the living room.  While Eldest and I delivered the couch, Dh and Youngest moved furniture around so that the tree could fit right in the corner.  Since it's covered on two sides by walls, that meant we only need to decorate the front half.  There isn't a lot of room there.  We pulled it away from the corner and Eldest helped me put on the lights and garlands, with one of us in the corner and the other in front, passing things back and forth.  Once that was done, we pushed it back in, then did the front.  I asked Youngest if she wanted to help, but she pointed out there really wasn't any room for her to be in there, too, so she went back to using her bead loom. :-D

Looking at the tree as I write this, I find it seems to be tilting to one side quite a bit.  That's never been an issue before.  Could our floor really be that much uneven?

Now that the tree is up, we can work on decorating the rest of the house.  The tree has LED lights, but I still have my old strings of lights that can go around windows or something.  The girls can decorate their rooms, too.  At some point, I'll have things organized enough that we can position the couch and armchair in places we won't want to move them from until after the tree is down again. 

Today was also the day I got to open my first Advent gift exchange gift.  I've become a member of a local crafter's group and a bunch of us signed up for an exchange.  The person organizing it paired off the people who signed up for it.  Once we had our partners, we filled out questionaires for each other, sharing things like what our favourite (and least favourite) colours are, what kinds of crafting we like to do, what music or books we like, etc.  Then we each had to buy 24 small gifts (maximum $5 each) and 1 large (maximum #24) gift. My partner actually numbered all the gifts!  Much more ambitious than me. *L*  Mind you, she also had 2 others she was collecting for, as she was doing exchanges for her kids, too, so labelling was necessary.  I just made sure the last gift had something different about it.  I did consider numbering them, but aside from the last gift, it really didn't matter too much what order they were opened in.

Today, I got a set of transparent decorative balls that looked like they would go on a tree, except that the "confetti" inside was meant to dissolve in bathwater for a luxurious soak.  What a cute idea!  She got them at Michaels and, even though I've been there several times recently, I had never seen them.  I look forward to trying them. :-D

Meanwhile, I've been trying to place an order for our tourtierre meats.  I want to have the meat by friday, so we can make them this weekend, but I haven't been able to get through to the butcher.  I did leave a message saying I wanted to place an order, but no one's called back.  Looks like I'll have to do it in person.  For this year, I think we'll do Elk for the game portion of our pies.  We're planning to do two dozen pies this year, so we're looking at 24 pounds of ground meats.  I need to figure out what I'll use to cook them.  I might have to buy a new pot.  At my in-laws, we'd use my MIL's roaster and lid (which could double as a second roaster on its own), each over 2 elements. I have two roasters, but our oven is bigger than hers, so they can't straddle two elements.  I've seen some big, deep pots that should work, but at $80 - and that's the cheap price! - it's pretty expensive for a pot I'll only use once a year. We did 12 pounds of meat last year, and it just fit in one roaster (we hadn't bought the second one yet), with barely enough room to stir it, so I know using what we have now will be a pain.  I really do need something else.  I just hate spending money if I think I can get away without.*L*