Kissing the old year out, kissing the new year in!

Ahh, Bing Crosby!

I don’t think there will be much kissing goin’ on but we are having a little New Years Eve shindig going on tonight!  It has become sort-of a tradition to have a smorgasbord of snacks and a bonfire on New Years Eve at our house.  Unfortunately it is VERY windy so I don’t think we will do a bonfire but we do have LOTS of snacks prepared!

New Years Eve Menu:

Potato Skins
Fried Chicken Wings
Mini Pigs in a Blanket
Shrimp Cocktail
Veggies and Dip
Cheese and Crackers (Mango Stilton, English Cheddar with Carmalized Onions, French Brie)
Fruit and Chocolate Fondue
Korbel Champagne

Yes it is a lot! And NO it’s not very healthy but I don’t make too much of anything and it is the ONLY thing we eat New Years Eve.  We set everything on the table buffet style and then we eat in the living room and watch a movie.  After the movie we play cards or something and TRY to stay up til midnight!  Richie’s mom will be joining us and so will her best friend Judy that lives down the street.  I would have also invited our very good friends Dee and Randy and their two kids but they are somewhere in the middle of that Caribbean right now on a cruise! How dare they! :) (We miss you guys and hope you are having fun!)

Here are some recipes!

Cocktail Sauce

1/2 C. Ketchup
1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
Good sprinkle of celery salt
2 Tbs. Prepared Horseradish
3 dashes of Franks Hot Sauce

Mix well with a spoon. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Serve with cooked shrimp.

Chocolate Fondue

16 0z. Chocolate (milk, dark or semisweet) broken into pieces
1/2 pint whipping cream
1/2 cup caramel topping
3 Tbs. favorite liqueur (I’m using Kahlua)

Place all ingredients into fondue pot over low heat. Stir constantly until melted and smooth. Do NOT allow mixture to bubble. Serve with an assortment of fruits, nuts, pound cake, and marshmallows.

Have a safe and Happy new year and if you drink, PLEASE designate a driver!  Keep yourself and others safe!

Down in Yon Forest

I recently purchased an amazing CD made by Elizabeth Ann Barlow, one of my farmgirl friends.

This Christmas CD is her latest and is an absolute joy to listen to. Her voice is like an angel!

Here is the description of her CD as found on her etsy site:

Twelve carols for the twelve days of Christmas, featuring the talents of songstress Elizabeth Ann Barlow (yours truly), with harpist Hanna Barlow and Julian Nelson on recorder. The carols are beautifully obscure, including many examples from medieval Britain, and one selection from early America. The recording was made in a historic building with a lovely acoustic (formerly a general store and now an art gallery). The CD is packaged in a creamy cardstock folder and tied with a festive green ribbon. You’ll find no plastic here.

I HIGHLY recommend this CD and plan to order her other CD very soon. You can order her Christmas CD from her Resolutely Outmoded shop on etsy and you can here a sample of her voice on her my space page.

Eggplant Parmesan {In the Kitchen}

I love vegetables but my husband is definitely a meat (usually fried) and potatoes guy! This year I want to really try to increase the amount of vegetables we both eat.  I have plans for a good sized garden and I am looking forward to putting that in in the spring. I have spent the last week pouring over seed catalogs and trying to narrow down my choices.  I have also decided that I am going to cook at least one “vegetarian” meal per week. I still plan on using eggs and dairy products but the meal will not contain any meat.  Today we had eggplant Parmesan and it was delicious.

Granted Eggplant Parm is probably not the healthiest of vegetarian dishes but Richie likes it and I felt like it was a good place to start.  Here are my recipes.  Of course I suggest the use of local produce or organic when available.  Unfortunately this time of year, Mexican Eggplant was the best I could do!

Eggplant Parmesan

1 Large Eggplant
1 Jar Organic Sauce (I used Prego Organic Tomato Basil)
6 Cups Shredded Mozzarella
2-3 Organic Eggs
Organic Bread Crumbs
Canola Oil
Basil, Oregano, Salt and Pepper

Slice eggplant into 1/4 inch thick rounds. Sprinkle generously with salt and place into a microwave safe bowl.  Add 1/8 cup of water, cover with plastic wrap and microwave on high for 5 minutes.  This helps to soften the eggplant.  Remove from microwave and allow to cool until you can handle.  Place 2 eggs in a small bowl and beat until yolks and whites are well mixed.  Place breadcrumbs into a separate bowl and add salt, pepper, basil and oregano to taste.  Heat a large skillet and add about 1/4 inch of oil to the bottom.  Dip slices of eggplant into egg and then into the breadcrumbs. Fry in the hot oil until golden in color.  Drain on paper towels.  When all eggplant has been fried you can assemble the casserole in a 9×13 baking dish.  Pour 1/4 of the sauce into bottom of casserole dish. Lay down a single layer of eggplant and cover with cheese.  Add 1/4 of sauce, more eggplant and more cheese.  Repeat with any remaining sauce, cheese and eggplant.  Top with sauce and finish with cheese.  Bake in a 400 oven about 25 minutes or until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly.  Any remaining sauce can be served on the side.

Garlic Cheese Biscuits

1 Cup Organic Budget Mix
1 handful shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
Organic Milk
3 tbs. organic butter
Garlic powder

In a bowl combine budget mix and cheese. Add milk and stir until a stiff biscuit type dough forms.  Dough will be wet.  Drop spoonfuls onto a baking dish.  You will get about 8 large biscuits.  Bake until golden in a 400 oven. About 12 minutes. While biscuits bake melt butter and garlic powder in a microwave safe dish.  Remove biscuits from oven, drizzle with garlic butter and serve.

Steamed Asparagus

1 Bunch Asparagus, ends trimmed
Kosher Salt

Trim woody ends from asparagus. Place into a skillet with a small amount of water (1/8 cup or so).  Cook over a high heat until the spears develop a bright green color and are heated through but still retain their crispness. Remove from pan to a serving platter and season with salt.

Looking for more of what I have been up to {In the Kitchen}? Click the logo below for more!

TSO

We just got back from another AMAZING Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert!  This was our second year to go and it was just a fabulous!  If you are not familiar with TSO you need to check out their site! TSO puts on an amazing rock/light/pyro show with a Christmas theme.  I have never seen a show with such great lights and fire and talented musicians.  This year Richie and I took two of our students from school with us. J and G are both into music and G even has his own band yet neither had ever been to a show like this before.   It was in the Alltel Arena in Little Rock.  We even managed to get floor seats which was really cool. J and G really had a great time and were wide eyed through the whole show.  I think J even recorded the whole thing in 3 minute increments on his cell phone!  It was really great!  Here are a few pictures of the lights but words and even pictures can not describe how amazing the show is!

We will definitely be going again next year!

Sewing Soft Blocks

I made these cute Soft Blocks for my 9 month old nephew for Christmas.  They were super easy to make! I didn’t use a pattern I just cut 2 squares from 3 different pattern fabrics and then stitched them together.  I used basic fiberfil to stuff them.  I cut 8 1/2″, 6 1/2″, and 4 1/2″ squares and used a 1/4″ seem allowance and got  8″, 6″ and 4″ finished blocks. I found a great FREE online tutorial if you want to make your own soft blocks! Ester over at London Mummy has a fabulous blog! She also has a great flickr tutorial for making soft blocks.  I highly recommend that you take a look at her blog and her tutorial.Here are a few pictures of my nephew enjoying the holidays!

Merry Christmas from Illinois

We have been away visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Illinois for a few days.  Of course it is my nephews first christmas so that has been really fun! He sure brought in the loot today.  My mom and dad are here too which is also great.  I will post more when we get back home. It looks like Richie has a hunting trip planned for Friday so that will give me lots of time to catch up on all of my blogging. I want to add a new tutorial feature at least once a week for the new year so I also plan to spend some time getting that ready.  Any way, I hope you all had a wonderful day with you family and loved ones and I will post again in a few days.  Merry Christmas! I will leave you with this beautiful picture of my sisters house!

Advent

I haven’t had an advent calendar since I was a kid.  The once we had were those cardboard kind that had the little chocolate candies hidden inside of the perforated doors.

I saw an abundance of advent calendars on the internet this season and that got me thinking of making one for myself and for my sister and brother-in-law who would be spending their first Christmas with their new son, Silas, my first nephew!

There is a great advent calendar group on flickr.

www.flickr.com

photos in Creative Advent Calendars More photos in Creative Advent Calendars

 

I made my own advent calendar based on Jenny B. Harris’s tutorial on www.allsorts.typepad.com and sent it to my sister.  I am working on my own to use next year.  Here are some pictures of the one I made hanging up in my sisters house.  Each pouch has a little candy and a little dangle inside of it.  I enlarged the pattern a bit and added some decorative stitching onto the pouch for the 25th.

 

Christmas Cards

I LOVE getting Christmas cards.  It is so nice to go to the post office and get things that aren’t bills or credit card applications.  For the second year in a row I have participated in a Christmas Card swap with 24 other women.  Add those to the ones I get from friends and family and this year I got LOTS of Christmas cards! Today I finally got them all put up.  I’ll add more as they come in! Do you see yours?

Pork Roast with Asparagus and Winter Carrots {In the Kitchen}

I consider myself to be a pretty good cook but every once in a while I make something and I am just like, “MAN! That was GOOD!” Well that is what happened today!


(Again please excuse the lousy cell phone pictures)

As part of the “Know Your Food” merit badge we are supposed to find at least 10 new ways to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into our diets so I have been experimenting with some things we don’t usually eat.

Today’s dinner was such a huge success. It started out with a small pork roast that was just the right size for me an Richie with just enough leftover for tonight’s dinner.  I roasted it in a small dish in the oven adding about 1/4 an inch of chicken stock to the bottom of the dish to keep the meat moist. I used the drippings to make a nice gravy when it was done.

Next were the carrots.  Richie is not much of a veggie eater unless it is mashed or fried potatoes or corn!  The biggest trick is making things he will eat, so kind of off the cuff I invented this recipe this morning.

Winter Carrots

1 tsp. butter
1 shallot, sliced thin and separated into rings
1 slice of raw bacon, diced
1 tsp. Sugar
1 pound organic baby carrots, sliced in half on an angle
Chicken Stock (about 1/2 cup)

In a medium pot melt butter. Add shallot and cook over medium heat until the shallot just begins to caramelize.  Add diced bacon and cook low and slow until bacon is cooked through but not crunchy.  Turn heat to high and add carrots.  Cook about 5 minutes until carrots develop a nice caramelization.  Add about 1/4 cup of chicken stock to deglaze the pan.  Turn heat to low and add about another 1/4 cup of chicken stock.  Allow to cook until carrots are fork tender and most of the chicken stock has cooked off.  Add a pinch of salt to taste and serve.

Richie and I both loved these!  I roasted the asparagus in the oven with just a bit of olive oil and salt.  It was a little bitter but it is out of season and imported from who-knows-where!  I also decided to roast some small red potatoes.  I used my knife to slice off a thin ring of skin around the potatoes.  I then placed them in a baking dish with lots of fresh garlic that I found in our garden yesterday! (who knew!)  I also added salt, rosemary(also from the garden) and olive oil.  I roasted them in the oven until they were nice and soft on the inside and just slightly crispy on the outside!  These were delicious too!

For dessert we had Pineapple.  I bought a “fresh” coasta rican pineapple at the store on Friday.  I sliced it up but it was a little hard and not to sweet so it wasn’t very good to eat raw.  I “browned” chucks of the pineapple in a pan, added some chopped pecans, a tbs. of butter, a handful of brown sugar and a splash (or glug) of Dark Rum.  I cooked it until it was bubbly and served it with some whipped cream! (My friends cow went dry so it was store bought whipped cream :( )

Overall it was a very successful dinner and I managed to get in 3 vegetables and 1 fresh fruit!  The only thing Richie didn’t eat was the Asparagus!

Looking for more of what I have been up to {In the Kitchen}? Click the logo below for more!

Aww.. isn’t that cute!

Our dogs are kind of like our kids.  In the summer they spend most of the time outside but in the winter we feel sorry for them so we let them in. Now you have to understand the size of our dogs! We have 3 English Mastiffs.  Hagrid weighs in at about 115 pounds. He is our smallest but he was malnourished as a puppy and confined to a 5 foot square concrete pen until he was 9 months old and we rescued him.  Lily is next at about 135 pounds.  Thunder (who is the puppy of Hagrid and Lily) weighs in at about 175 pounds!!!!!!  These are NOT small house dogs!  Needless to say no matter where they are in our tiny house they take up a lot of room.  We recently bought them some new dogs beds and put them in the dining area of the kitchen near the propane stove.  When it is really cold they like to be closer to the heat.  Here are some pictures I managed to capture of the three yesterday:

(I am still having problems with my digital camera and I am still using my phone for pictures so please excuse the quality)


Hagrid was getting really cozy in this one!

Well this is how the day started off:

Even Eggnog was hanging out!

And this was the site I found later in the day:

DOGS!

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