Thursday, 18 December 2008

holiday humor

I'm really dragging today ... too much to do, deadlines fast approaching, exhausting work days. So I thought we ALL needed a little holiday humor:
Just something to think about when you dig into those mincemeat pies ... or whatever kind of pies y'all enjoy!

Monday, 15 December 2008

tipsy coffee cups continued

A little more progress ...
... plain mocha-coloured strips sewn on vertical sides of tipsy squares, and then ...... colourful little bits added to the horizontal mocha strips. These colourful little bits will turn into one inch squares at each corner of the tipsy cup squares. Next step, putting it all together. Is it going to be a coffee table runner? Or a wall hanging? Who knows yet. I just know it's darned cold out, and therefore a really good time to be indoors playing quilter!

Friday, 12 December 2008

11 Days and Counting

God help me, but I've been blessed with ANOTHER one of those annoying email surveys (you know who you are {o) blast you!) I seldom answer them, and even less seldom forward them on to five people. However, I thought I'd be different and answer the questions here. If y'all feel like doing this survey, have at it. If not, fine by me.

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Egg Nog if I make it myself to my own taste - not too sweet, skip the nutmeg; Hot Chocolate if someone else is making the Egg Nog.
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? What tree would that be?
3. Colored lights on house/tree or white? I don't do seasonal lights. The hydro company makes enough money off me.
4. Do you hang mistletoe? My goldfish isn't allowed out of his tank to hang around under the mistletoe, and it's not much fun hanging around under the mistletoe by myself. So no mistletoe.
5. When do you put your decorations up? Did that November 25th. Even blogged about it!
6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Turkey stuffing. You can keep the turkey, just save me the stuffing. And maybe a bit of gravy.
7. Favorite holiday memory as a child? Not a lot of good ones, but one clear one is the Christmas I was recovering from Scarlet Fever. They put a big armchair in my bedroom door to keep me isolated, and my cuzzin Les sat on the back of that armchair to open his stocking and presents while I wasn't allowed to exert myself opening gifts! But that's okay. By Easter, I was well enough to kick his a** again!
8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I was 4 and I got up out of bed because I heard a noise and thought it might be Santa. It was my Dad putting a book of paper dolls in my stocking.
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Sometimes.
10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? I don't do a Christmas tree. However, I do have a Norfolk Pine in my living room year round, and on November 25th, I hang my single beaded snowflake on it.
11. Snow. Love it or dread it? I live in the north. Loving it or dreading it is irrelevant 'cuz we got it October to April.
12. Can you ice skate? Of course. Might not be skating this winter, though. Broke my right foot a month ago, and it's still somewhat swollen and tender.
13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Mechanical pencil crayons from Uncle Dudley and Aunt Minie. Twenty four different colours! Amazing! I think I was 7.
14. What is the most important thing about the holidays for you? Time off work.
15. What are your favorite holiday desserts? Fruitcake.
16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Dickens' Christmas Carol. Either hearing it read aloud, or seeing it performed on stage.
17. What tops your Christmas tree? See #10 above.
18. Which do you prefer: giving or receiving? There's nothing I really want that I can't get for myself throughout the year, and I hate receiving gifts that I don't really want. So giving. I like to do something charitable that makes another person's Christmas nice.
19. What is your favorite Christmas song? O Holy Night.
20. Candy Canes. Yum or Yuck? Look great hanging on someone else's tree. I'm not sure why anyone would want to eat them, though.
21. What do you want for Christmas? Sheesh! See #18 above already.
22. Do you attend an annual Christmas party? Not if I can help it.
23. Do you dress up for Christmas Eve or wear jammies? I like to go to Christmas Eve Mass, but I don't think jammies are suitable attire there.
24. Do you own a Santa hat? No.
25. Who do you normally spend Christmas with? See #4 above.
26. What are your least favorite things about Christmas? People who insist that enjoying a comfy day at home with my goldfish, a glass of wine, and a good book is wrong and that I absolutely have to come and spend an uncomfy day hanging around their house and eating their food instead.

NOTICE: I will be departing for my annual hide-under-a-rock retreat on December 23rd, and will not have regular Internet access until January 4th. Just so's y'all know.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Colourful Coffee Cups Continued

No recipe today. I ate leftovers. You DON'T want to know how to make leftovers, do you? However, I made some progress on my quilting project.First, I solved the lack of extra swirly-creamy fabric for side #4 of my squares by eeking out the tiny bit of swirly-creamy fabric I DID have combined with the plain mocha fabric. Made perfect sense to me! And doesn't look too bad either ... I'll just say that's how I planned it. Shh! Don't tell!
Second, I cut out a 7 1/2 inch square paper template, then used that to create smaller "tipsy" squares from my original large squares. Okay, I know you might think this is wasting fabric. It is ... BUT I already have an idea for using up the odd triangles created.
Here are the first six "tipsy" squares (laid out on my kitchen floor) beside six about-to-become-tipsy squares. I was just checking my paper template to make sure the first square on the right got "tipsy" in the right direction.
And here are all twelve 7 1/2 inch tipsy coffee cups. That's right. Twelve. I know, I had 24 colourful coffee cups to start with. I still have the other 12. I edited my "vision" along the way, and decided a coffee table runner would be more fun to create, and only needed 12 squares to do that. Now I have to decide what kind of border I want all around them. But not today!

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Recipe #4 -- Tuna Noodle Casserole

There is a whole lot of this ... ... outside, so I stayed in to work on this ... ... my Colourful Coffee Cups quilt blocks. Once I get busy creating, I tend to forget to make meals, and consequently when I finally realize I'm hungry, I'm more than just a little hungry. With no time to waste, I whipped up another one of my favourite in a hurry meals ... Tuna Noodle Casserole.There are probably a gazillion versions of this casserole, but here's the version I've grown accustomed to. First, Mix together a can of Cream of Celery soup and a can of tuna. I used to use Cream of Mushroom, but over the years, I've discovered I like Cream of Celery better. Of course, you're welcome to use whatever kind of soup the floats your boat.Second, throw in a tablespoon of soy sauce for flavour. If you happen to have some chopped onion, celery, or sweet pepper handy, you can throw that in too. I didn't, and I didn't feel like taking the time to chop some, so my casserole got a spoon of soy sauce only. Third, mix in a bunch of cheese. I USED to be a purist and ONLY used good cheddar. These days, I'm more of a "whatever" kind of cook ... it's just me eating it most days, and I don't complain to the cook too much! Today the "whatever" assortment of cheese consisted of some grated Asiago and a generous cup of Cheez Whiz. Again, you are welcome to use the kind of cheese you either have in YOUR fridge or YOU prefer.Then mix in some kind of partially cooked noodles. Pretty much any kind of pasta will work just fine, from Ichiban to spaghetti and anything between ... although I'm not so sure about lasagna noodles. When I opened my pantry door today, a box of rigatoni fell out, so that's what I used. NOTE: it's important to only partially cook your noodles before adding to this casserole. If you cook your noodles completely, your casserole will turn into mushy slodge, which is not pleasant.Finally, create a topping for the casserole. When I'm feeling particularly domestic, or I'm seriously craving home and comfort food, I make a batch of baking powder biscuits ... or cheese biscuits, YUMMY! ... and lay them on top of the noodle mixture. Neither feeling was happening for me today, so I crushed up a few crackers and drizzled a bit of melted butter over them.
Bake at 325 degrees F until the soup mixture is bubbling hot, and the topping is sufficiently browned ... or the biscuits are cooked.This is not an elegant dish, but it tastes darned fine and fills the empty tum. It's easy to adapt to what you have on hand, and simple to multiply to feed more than one or two people. I have enough left to reheat tomorrow, which is a good thing because I want to continue working on my quilt blocks.
I got my Colourful Coffee Cups all cut out today -- 24 squares in all -- and added browns to three sides of the centre squares. Turns out I don't have the same amount of creamy-swirly fabric as I do of the dark brown fabric, so now I need to rethink the picture in my head!
One final note ... last night I went to the annual CBC Radio / local Library public reading of Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol. (I do this to celebrate my Scrooge-ness!) As this event is a Library fundraiser, there is a Silent Auction conducted during the intermission. I fell in love with this delightful little wooden kitchen stool. It has a plate with cookies hand-painted on it. It didn't have any bids, and I felt sorry for it ... but I'm not complaining. I got it for $20.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Recipe #3 -- Banana Brownies

It's snowing outside, and I'm in the mood for something chocolate. Not that chocolate has anything to do with snow ... I never REALLY need an excuse for chocolate! However, I do have some very ripe bananas that need to be used up. Usually I make banana bread, but tonight I felt like something different. So I turned to this book ...If you are remotely interested in chocolate and you haven't checked out this book yet, you haven't truly experienced chocolate! The book itself is a joy ... expensive-looking chocolate bar cover, gilded page edges, built in book mark ... rather like a nice bible. It's just beautiful! And the recipes inside ... oh baby! So let's dive right in and make Banana Brownies. Here's the "cast of characters" (as Pioneer Woman would say) ...

1 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces dark, semisweet chocolate
3/4 cup butter
1 1/4 cups dark
brown sugar3 large eggs
2 ripe bananas

Begin by generously buttering a pan. This is one of those little 9 inch square baking pans. Don't ask me to translate that into metric. Some things I just can't translate!Then melt your chocolate squares, butter, and brown sugar over very low heat, or in a double boiler. Yes, I did say BUTTER. I refuse to use margarine. I have a "thing" about consuming whipped plastic with artificial colour and flavour. But I will not judge you if you choose not to use real butter. Okay? Okay. I think I've said that a couple of times in the last month, so I'll try not to go on about butter versus margarine again.While your chocolate is melting, mix together your flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder.Then mix in your eggs, pecans, and banana. The recipe calls for coarsely chopped pecans and mashed banana. I like chunks of things. Tasty surprises for my tongue, teeth, and taste buds. Please feel free to chop up your pecans and mash up your bananas as much as you want.Then add the melted chocolate-butter-brown sugar mixture to the rest of your ingredients, and mix it all together. Don't get too excited about making this batter super smooth. Brownies are better if you leave the batter a bit lumpy and bumpy.Spread this batter into your buttered pan, and ...... bake at 325 degrees F for 30 to 35 minutes. If you try to test for doneness with a toothpick or dinner knife blade, your tester object will likely come out with a bit of batter stuck to it. This does NOT mean your brownies are uncooked after 35 minutes (unless you forgot to turn your oven on). This means your brownies are nice and moist THE WAY GOOD BROWNIES ARE MEANT TO BE.Let cool. The recipe says this will cut into 24 brownies. HAH! Only if you're planning to feed 24 Lilliputians! I'm going to frost these babies with cream cheese frosting, cut them into 12 pieces, and take them to work in the morning for our Friday morning staff meeting.

Or not.


Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Recipe #2 -- Quick Spicy Salmon Fillets

This is one of my favourite "in a hurry" meals. And I WAS in a hurry tonight ... I was starved! It was a long and busy day ... food donations for our Christmas hamper program started arriving by the truckload today and our phone lines were totally on overdrive ... and I didn't have a chance to stop for lunch. So, without further ado, I give you Quick Spicy Salmon Fillets. Note: this really is QUICK, so it's a good idea to start your rice or potatoes, or whatever you plan to serve WITH these fillets FIRST.These are the critters I use. I love salmon, but fresh salmon is not readily available here in the northern interior of the province. These frozen fillets are available, and they're generally not too expensive. I try to keep a package or two in my freezer specifically for days like this.First, heat a tablespoon or so of sesame oil in a fry pan. You can find sesame oil in the Oriental foods section of your grocery store. If you can't find it, your basic olive oil or butter would be just fine. Second, you want to briefly cook a bit of sliced onion and sliced fresh ginger root in the sesame oil. You want enough ginger and onion to more or less cover the bottom of the fry pan. In other words, bigger fry pan, more onions and ginger. Okay? Okay. I like hot and spicy, so I add a teaspoon of dried chili flakes. If you don't like that kind of fire power, please feel free to leave out the chili flakes.As soon as you can smell the heating ginger (and it smells WONDERFUL!), place your frozen fish fillets on top of the onions and ginger.Then add some sliced garlic ... I used 5 cloves ... I won't be kissing anyone tonight ... and 2 tablespoons of honey for each fillet.Finally, pour on a splash of wine (I happened to have a bit of nice Chardonnary in the fridge, but you could substitute some white grape or apple juice if you aren't into the boozy stuff) ...... then cover the fry pan and let steam/simmer for 4 or 5 minutes, OR until the salmon is starting to lose that pink uncooked look. It's important to NOT overcook salmon.Flip the fillets over and cook for another couple of minutes, JUST UNTIL the salmon flakes easily when you poke it with the tip of a knife. This is NOT the time to go read the newspaper or check your emails. This fish dish cooks QUICK.

AS SOON AS THE SALMON IS DONE, plate up and enjoy. Tonight, I had my Quick Spicy Salmon Fillets with boiled red potatoes and a bit of green salad. I didn't have the patience to wait for rice (I don't do instant rice), and potatoes were faster. IF I had decided on rice, I would have put the salmon on a warm plate, then quickly reduced the pan juices with a tablespoon of butter, and used that as a spicy sauce over the rice. And yes, those are PRAWNS you see there. They aren't necessary, but they sure do make a plain little salmon fillet look right purtee on the plate! (Especially good trick when you're trying to impress someone.) There. Wasn't that quick and easy? Enjoy!

Quick Spicy Salmon Fillets

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1/4 cup sliced onion

1/4 cup sliced fresh ginger root

(1 teaspoon dried chili flakes for fire power, if desired)

2 frozen salmon fillets

4 or 5 fresh garlic cloves, sliced or crushed

4 tablespoons liquid honey

1/4 cup white wine (or fruit juice)

Monday, 1 December 2008

Recipe #1 -- Ranger Cookies

Yesterday afternoon, I baked Ranger Cookies, a staple item in my kitchen ... and my diet. Now that Nablopomo is over (and, sadly, I did NOT manage 30 posts in 30 days), I thought I would set myself another lofty goal for the month of December. With cookies in mind, I've decided to post 25 recipes during the coming month. So here is recipe numero uno ... Ranger cookies.First, cream together 1 cup of softened butter, 1 cup of sugar, and 1 cup brown sugar. Yes, I use REAL butter ... margarine is whipped plastic with added colouring and which tastes like crap and cannot possibly be good for you, but hey, who am I to judge if you want to use margarine instead of the REAL thing! Oh, and I use pure cane sugar instead of refined white sugar. It's all about being more wholesome. But once again, who am I to judge if you prefer that refined white stuff.Second, add 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 2 eggs, and 2 teaspoons vanilla to your creamed butter and sugar. Nice brown eggs, eh? I finally found a shop that sells great eggs!Third, add 2 1/2 cups of flour, and once that's well incorporated into the creamed mixture ...... mix in 2 cups of rolled oats and 2 cups coconut. Sometimes I use the stringy kind of coconut. Yesterday I happened to have half a package of flaked coconut. Whatever tickles your fancy. Or floats your boat. Or whatever. Now here's the magical bit about this recipe ...... mix in 1 cup each of 4 or 5 different goodies. That is correct ... up to 5 cups of raisins, choc chips, pb chips, dried fruit, nuts ... in whatever combination of yummy additions that YOU enjoy or imagine you might enjoy, or that YOU happen to have in YOUR pantry at the moment. Upon surveying MY pantry, I added sunflower seeds, chopped pecans, whole pine nuts, and sliced almonds. Choc chips aren't allowed to visit my house very often 'cuz I eat 'em ... usually before they make it into cookies. And I didn't want fruity stuff 'cuz I had just finished baking fruit bread. Anyway, YOU decide what YOU want to add, and add 4 or 5 cups of it. Okay? Okay.Your cookie dough is going to be really stiff. If you have to, you can add 2 or 3 tablespoons of liquid to help mix it together. I added a couple of tablespoons of cold coffee. Sometimes I add cream, or something boozy, or lemon juice ... as I keep saying, whatever YOU want to add. The important bit is to be patient and keep mixing until all those nuts, seeds, etc are well distributed.
I shape my Ranger Cookies into balls from about 2 tablespoons of dough, then flatten them between my hands a bit before placing them on cookie sheets. I don't find it necessary to grease my cookie sheets, but I suppose that depends on your bakeware.
I bake my Ranger Cookies in a 350 degree F oven for about 14 minutes. I don't like my cookies too soft. In fact, I prefer them a bit on the crunchy-biscotti side, so sometimes I put them all back into a 200 degree F oven to dry them out MORE after they are all baked. Let them cool completely before stashing in your favourite cookie jar.
I keep trying to count how many cookies this recipe makes, but for some strange reason, cookie monsters keep appearing and disturbing my count! I'm guessing this recipe makes about 4 dozen cookies. If YOU get an accurate count, please let me know!
1 cup softened butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups coconut
4 to 5 cups your favourite cookie additions (raisins,
dried fruits, choc chips, nuts, seeds, etc)
2 to 3 tablespoons liquid to help mix ingredients together.

Roll into balls, 2 tablespoons of dough at a time. Flatten slightly. Bake about 14 minutes at 350
degrees F.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

More crafts

Once I get going on a craft "binge", there's just no stopping me. Naturally this obsession occurs when I SHOULD BE working on term papers and final assignments! What can I say? The sun was shining into my kitchen window ... which the plants loved (look at the blasted Wandering Jew on the right ... it's going to need a good trim back soon before it takes over) ... and it was just too darned nice to waste all that great natural light on studying! No? Okay, how about the kitchen cows TOLD ME TO??? (Cows are a very bad influence!) It started with the Christmas stockings, or ... more specifically ... with digging into my fabric bins for suitable fabric for the Christmas stockings. I came across this piece of stashed fabric ... 24 colourful coffee cups on a black background, 2 of each design ... and it preyed upon my mind. (Fabric will do that, especially when one can procrasinate about other tasks.)Naturally, I had to spend some time digging in my fabric bins to see what else I had stashed that might work with these colourful coffee cups. Here are the results: 2 pieces of hot pink that work with the hot pink in some of the coffee cups; 4 pieces of assorted browns, including 2 whole meters of plain mocha-coloured fabric, some cool retro multi-coloured polka dots, and 2 pieces that remind me of the swirling contents of various creamy coffee beverages when stirred.I also found a big chunk of a turquoise print that sort of works with the colourful coffee cups, and a piece of yellow ... just in case this project turns into something that might grace my kitchen table. My kitchen is all about yellow (and cows) don't you know! With a little imagination, I started envisioning a table runner with the colourful coffee cups forming the centres of the squares, and perhaps bordered by that plain mocha-coloured fabric ... oooh! quilted with white thread in that swirly stirred coffee pattern!Of course, THAT picture in my mind inspired me to MAKE a cup of mocha (which is somewhat darker than that mocha-coloured fabric 'cuz I don't like milk in my mocha) ...... 'scuse me now. I'm going to drink my mocha and contemplate this quilting project further!

Saturday, 29 November 2008

I blew it!

So much for Nablopomo! I came home from work last night, made a cup of tea, sat down in my chair to unwind ... and woke up about 4 am this morning. My refreshing cup of tea was cold ... but not spilled ... and my neck was stiff from sleeping in a weird upright position. I guess the week was more exhausting than I thought! Anyway, I didn't post anything yesterday. Good intentions, but my poor old body had other priorities.

So here are the craft pictures I've been promising ... Christmas stockings.First, I drew out the stocking shape I wanted on newspaper. I didn't realize until I started cutting my fabric that the newspaper headline said "day cares suffer as parents have to tighten purse strings". Kind of a bummer, eh? See my nice old-fashioned dress-maker's scissors? They belonged to my great auntie. I did a quilting class last winter, and everyone laughed at them ... they all used rotary cutters. The instructor said I wouldn't be able to cut straight lines or small details without a rotary cutter. Hah! My great auntie did her share of fancy sewing and quilting LONG BEFORE rotary cutters. These babies are razor sharp, and those long blades aimed straight cut really impressive straight lines. But I digress ...After that first stocking, I turned my newspaper pattern over. A photo of a local children's choir was definately more cheery! And here we are ... a whole bunch of fabric stockings cut out and ready to be sewn. Since the stockings are for my office staff and volunteers, I felt obligated to do plaid ones for the gentlemen ... the little old-fashioned lady carollers just didn't look masculine enough.Here I am sewing stocking halves together. Have you ever tried to snap a picture with your non-dominant hand and sew something at the same time? No easy feat!Here are the sewn-together stockings with seams clipped, turned right side out, and pressed ... ready for ...... adding the cuffs. The stockings themselves are woven fabric, but I used some inexpensive white jersey knit fabric for the cuffs.Next step was top-stitching the folded cuffs, and then ...... adding bias tape loops for hanging the stockings up.A final pressing, and ...
A gaggle (herd? bunch? coven?) of festive finished Christmas stockings. The entire project took maybe an hour and a half, and cost less than twenty dollars .
And here are the stockings hanging in our office. I'm not so sure about this location ... on the bulletin board under our "donors' tree" ... but I didn't choose where they would be hung. My office staff and volunteers all came in today (Saturday) to do the Christmas decorating, which I really appreciated as last year, I decorated the place on my own and didn't feel particularly festive about it. (I AM a Scrooge at heart ... mostly ... don't forget!) I arranged lunch for everyone, so it was quite the party atmosphere. My office has really changed over the past year ... for the better! And my staff and volunteers really deserve Christmas stockings (and the goodies Santa is going to be putting in them).
Okay, I've hung up my snowflake at home, and done the office party thing ... can I disappear until after Christmas now???