Archive | December, 2010

Resolution-less

31 Dec

 

Happy New Year!

 

Tomorrow will bring the start of many voiced resolutions–most of which will fail to live up to their pronouncements and good intentions before January ends.

If there’s one thing I have in common with Kaukab, it is this: “C’mon, what you do for?” Translated, this means, “Why bother; you’re just fooling yourselves!”

See? Isn’t it just easier to surrender to failure from the get-go than to waste precious time and hand-wringing trying to achieve something for the sake of saying, along with millions of other facebook friends, that you’ve made a New Year’s Resolution?

It’ll soon be a new year. Try something different. Make a resolution to not make any more of them.

Instead, do what Kaukab does. Cook.

Balls of Meat

29 Dec

I made these yesterday for a gathering of indie musicians, some of whom played in honor of a final farewell concert at a friend’s house. Mostly twenty-somethings, with a few teens and some oldies, but goodies, too.

Good thing I made a crockpot full, because during each set break, masses of concert-goers (slight exaggeration) would make their way upstairs to the kitchen for more of them, until there were only teensy meat remnants submerged in the leftover saucy glaze. Stephen, one of the musicians whose band was honored, and whose house contained us all, had been ill the past couple days. I had made the meatballs especially for him, since he had worked so hard to arrange the concert. Unfortunately, he missed his opportunity. I suggested that he get himself a spoon and eat the meat remnants with their saucy glaze, which he thought most brilliant. I seem to have that kind of effect on young and impressionable minds, especially on those subjected to little sleep and large amounts of cold medicines.

What I’m trying to say, though, is that my little balls of meat were a smash.

So, just in case you were interested in making some of your own, I’ve included my recipe below.

Cocktail Meatballs aka “Balls of Meat”

Meatballs: Yields 40 to 45 med. sized balls; or 50 – 55 small balls

3 1/2 lbs. ground chuck

2 whole eggs

5 or 6 slices white bread, torn into small pieces

1/4C to 1/3C half/half or mild (whichever you prefer)

1/4tsp.garlic salt

1 sm. onion (to be grated over meat mixture in bowl)

2 – 3 T. worcestershire (prefer Lea and Perrins)

black pepper

canola oil, or other you prefer (to coat bottom of pan)

In small bowl, pour half/half or milk over bread pieces just enough to wet. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine meat with the rest of the ingredients. Add the wet bread into the mixture and, with hands, gently massage ingredients to mix thoroughly. Coat large baking pan with oil. Pat hands with oil to keep the meat mixture from sticking to them. Should be able to fit all meatballs in one large pan. Toward the end of making the balls, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake until browned. While baking, proceed to making the sauce.

Sauce:

1 – 1 and 1/2 bottles of Chili Sauce or, homemade. (if making homemade sauce, omit the tabasco, using rest of ingredients along with those mentioned under homemade sauce)

few drops of tabasco

smidgen (1/8tsp. or less) of ginger paste (minced ginger)

6 oz. to 8 oz. grape jelly, or slightly more, depending upon how sweet you like.

1/2 lime, squeezed

10 oz. beer (any will do; don’t be a beer snob)

(If making the chili sauce, which I ended up doing this time because I had mistook the cocktail sauce bottles for the desired chili sauce, then you can follow my recipe below. But first, a question: Why do they make these sauces look so much alike, and sit them next to one another on grocer shelves? Answer: It’s a conspiracy to boost product sales, particularly these, in an effort to boast about large holiday margins. I’m thinking I might have to involve Kaukab in this matter.)

Homemade Chili Sauce: (I hadn’t ever made, but I figured, while out looking for some, how hard could it be? It’s ketchup with chili pepper.)

1  14oz. bottle of ketchup (I prefer Heinz)

1/8tsp – 1/4tsp. dried red chili pepper flakes (start with the smaller amt. or you might have to ladle some away once start cooking in sauce, as I had to)

1/8tsp. garlic salt

1 T. worcestershire

Plus: the lime, beer, ginger, and grape jelly noted above.

In large saucepan (enough to fit all the meatballs, eventually), pour in bottled chili sauce, tabasco, ginger, and grape jelly and heat on med. heat until jelly mostly dissolves. Add lime and beer. Turn up heat to med-high and bring to boil. Turn down heat to med.low and cover partially. Once meatballs are done, put in sauce. Continue to cook on med. low  for about 30min. or until sauce begins to thicken somewhat.

If making chili sauce, first put in chili pepper flakes and ketchup and stir on medium heat for a couple minutes. Then add in jelly, ginger, garlic salt, worcestershire, and continue heat on medium until jelly mostly dissolves. Add in lime and beer, turning up heat to med-high and bring to boil. Follow rest of heating instructions above. 

And that’s really all there is to it. Soon, your balls will look just like these:

Enough to host your own night of concert-goers.

But, don’t expect Kaukab to show up. She’s not much into loud music. Or glazed meatballs.

Eggs, without the Christmas Nog.

28 Dec

While out on a Christmas Eve jaunt with her father and Jacob, violin girl ran into something astonishingly amiss. Nestled among the Christmas decoration stragglers at the nearby Rite-Aid were brightly-colored candies of the Easter variety. You heard correctly. E-A-S-T-E-R.

Now, I think we all know that Easter, no matter what Christian denomination you may ascribe to, does not fall within the confines of December. Or any other month which has been understood, by most, as belonging to the season of winter.

So, now not only do I have to worry about fitting Christmas inbetween Labor Day and Halloween, I have to slide Easter candy and bunnies over to Christmas, like some sleazy con’s shell game.

“Go on; Pick a holiday.  Any holiday.”

Christmas Spent

26 Dec

I figured I’d spare you the Norman Rockwell, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” review of our last forty-eight hours of Christmas follies and get on with, what I like to believe, describes how many of us truly spent Christmas.

First up: Christmas Eve

Getting ready for our family dinner, with violin girl’s Jacob in attendance.

A lovely potato au gratin, a specialty of mine (counts as such because it’s my third year making it) made with cream and havarti and butter, about to be placed in oven for a 6:30 p.m. meal, when drummer boy gets a call from his drum buddy, Carter, asking if he could tag along with him and his family to a Christmas Eve church service half-way across town. Wrench thrown.

Being that it is Christmas Eve, I say, “Sure, go ahead. The au gratin won’t mind.” Given that I’ve got plenty of cooked, spiral sliced ham (courtesy of hubby’s employers) and a hefty assortment of frozen green beans and corn (courtesy of Aldi), I spastically run out to the front porch, yelling out an unplanned invite for all to dine with us upon dumping drummer boy at our front door.

The invite is accepted, and Kaukab’s daughter is off and scurrying about, arranging candles and gathering up chairs from various rooms to position about the dining table. There will be ten of us, and the table will allow for it, and not one more.

Send out hubby to comandeer a few bottles of sparkling apple cider, or something of that nature, which he does. He’s exceptional that way.

Meanwhile, driver/shutter boy’s attention has been kidnapped by the Ion channel’s ‘Criminal Minds’ marathon–alarming, yet somehow intriguing.

Earlier in the day, I manage to get in a truly vintage Christmas flick:  ‘A Christmas Carol’ (not all the way back to the original, but the one with George C. Scott).

7:30 and all are back from church.

Nearing 8:00, we gather around the table and proceed in having a festive grand time. Why is it that the most unexpected gatherings always turn out to be some of the best?

Fun Times--Despite the Sullen Faces

Oh, and this to set the mood:

Classic!

After the cheesecake (once again, Aldi), a few parting Christmas photos to remember our wonderful Evening.

'Wild 'n Crazy WV Guys'

Christmas Elves

AND,

Pre-Chocolate-Covered Espresso Beans

After all, but Jacob, leave, we make our way to the living room to watch a modern-day Christmas classic–‘The Polar Express.’ 
12:30 a.m. Kaukab’s daughter is left to rummage among various clothing drawers–in the dark–trying to recall the many gifts she’s managed to distribute and hide so well.
2:45 a.m. Presents wrapped and accounted for.
Christmas Day:
 
Kaukab’s daughter is in no mood to get out of bed, shouting a stern warning to the pitter-patter of teenage feet not to open any presents until she makes her way down to the living room.
Eventually, presents are opened and all seem satisfied. We started a tradition, a couple years ago, whereby we purchase animals, or shares of them, as well as other items in each of their names, to help others around the world who have far less than they. This year, two Bibles, a share of an alpaca, and water-cleansing tablets, along with a water well, were purchased on their behalf. Fortunately, for us, they look forward to these gifts.
Oh, and I got these:

Oh, Come Let Us Adore Them...

Thank you, Hubby! Although, Kaukab would think them too much of a splurge. (I think she needs to stop having tea parties with the Grinch.)
I had planned on fixing a turkey dinner for Christmas, a homage to ‘A Christmas Story’, but the late night gifting session didn’t allow for such an endeavor. Besides, we still had plenty of leftover ham and veggies. At one point, violin girl reminded us that, like the movie, the Chinese place up the street from us would surely be open. She notified us shortly afterward that she had received confirmation from a Facebook friend, who used to live in the area. Not that we, remotely, considered following up.
The rest of Christmas day was spent nursing colds, eating ham, baking cookies, and watching ‘A Christmas Story,’ and our new family movie, ‘The Blind Side.’ Hubby was happy to get ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.’ 

Christmas Cheer

And, the turkey will be cooked one day later. Kaukab will surely see this as a complete failure on my part. But, I’m good with that.
Merry Christmas!


Stockings To Be Stuffed (And Turkeys To Be Defrosted)

20 Dec

Just Hanging Out

See those stockings? Up there, in the picture? They need stuffing. Unlike my turkey. It needs defrosting.
I transferred the frozen bird from its freezer sleep to the fridge, yesterday morning, in hopes that it’ll be ready for cooking on Christmas Day.
The stockings are another matter.
You see, I have a love-hate relationship with Christmas stockings, which, of course, reaches far back into my childhood–where everything else dysfunctional about me resides. As a kid, I always yearned for those pre-made netted “stockings;” the ones filled with all sorts of cheap, hard candies and toys nobody really wanted. But, I wanted them, because in my childhood mind, I believed they represented an American family’s picture of Christmas. Unfortunately, Norman Rockwell didn’t knock on our door.
So, when I had my own family, Mr. Rockwell not only knocked, he was welcomed in with a hearty Christmas cheer. Hence, the stockings you see pictured above.
I think the best part about Christmas shopping (There’s a BEST part?) is thinking up ways to fill up the stockings with clever, yet satisfying, stuff. Each year, I seem to outdo the one before. This year presented some challenges, in that, the last two Christmases afforded them with many electronic gadgets, and, really, how many gadgets does any one person need? Candy is a given. Money, too.
I headed out to a few select places and managed to find some unexpected treasures.  Can’t divulge them, though. You never know who’ll be reading this. Well, actually I do know. The boys will not be reading this post. Or any post of mine, since they think it’s a complete waste of time. But, violin girl occasionally indulges me, so, for her sake, I will not disclose.
While out shopping, I found some ornaments at MARSHALL’S–on sale!
And two of these: One for our tree, and one to be tied to a gift bag of goodies for our neighbor friends–a Christmas tradition started by driver/shutter boy.
Last year, pretty much everything was found in their stockings. So much so, that violin girl requested that I wrap something, anything to put under the tree. In fact, after opening a gift, a friend had given her, she wrapped it in tissue paper and placed it under the tree. She didn’t think it was right that all the gifts be stuffed into a fake, exaggerated stocking.
This year will be different. There will be one, wrapped and bowed, and placed under the tree, awaiting her.
The boys?  They’re good with the fake, exaggerated stockings.

‘Fair Trade’

18 Dec

I’m a big proponent of  ‘Fair Trade’ market products. I can find really great dark chocolate and full-bodied coffees.

I realized, yesterday, that I, too, have a ‘Fair Trade’ product.

Remember my olive tampenade? (You do remember, don’t you?)

Well, Rebekah, a dear family friend, paid us a visit to return my dishes which contained the tampenade that I had given them a few days prior.

And this:

Yummy

Actually, all these:

9 - 1

And, that’s why Kaukab never gets her just desserts.

Winter’s Beauty

17 Dec

      Morning was met with a blustery winter snow. Driver boy decided to hang some ornaments on the forsythia bush out front–despite the fact that our indoor tree lacked any for the moment.

These three ornaments are very special to me; in that, I bought them for the kids years ago, when they were small and Christmas was still magical. These were meant for each to have for their own special trees when they grew up and had homes of their own.

I like how they hang quietly in the bare branches, sillouetted against the snow’s purity.

I especially like watching them from the warm comfort of my couch, hands warmed from a Fiestaware cup of hot cocoa.

Priceless.

And, Holly berries, to usher in Christmas.

Soup Weather

16 Dec

The weathermen (and women) are all in a frenzy. They seem to get like that when a snow storm’s about to blow in. Personally, I think they need to chill a bit.

And, I know the perfect remedy.

Soup!  Potato, specifically.

Triple Your Pleasure

I must admit. It’s my first try at making potato soup. I figured I’d adapt the broccoli soup recipe, I posted earlier, and add a few things. Like, bacon.
Ingredients:
1. 3 bacon strips
2. 2 – 3 stalks celery, sliced lengthwise, then finely sliced
3. 3/4 to 1C flour
4. 1-3/4 sticks unsalted butter
5. 4 – 5 med. sized potatoes, cubed
6. 1 small onion, finely chopped or 1 lg. leek (Leeks tend to run expensive, and Kaukab might have a fit if she found out we spent so much on them, but you decide.)
7.  6oz. fontina cheese, or any other you like that melts well, like gruyere.
8. 1 qt. half-half
9. 1 qt. chicken broth
10. 3 – 4C. water
11. garlic salt
12. cracked black pepper
In the large soup pot, on med. high heat, fry bacon strips. Once browned, remove. Turn heat down to med. and add 3/4 stick butter along with onions and celery. Add a few pinches of salt, or garlic salt, and cracked pepper. Stir and cook until tender and translucent. Add rest of butter and begin adding the flour. (I place a large whisk in the pot, and as I’m stirring, I add a bit of flour at a time, so that it breaks over the whisk–a short-handed sifting.) Stir the roux until smooth and turning a nutty-brown. (The bacon will already have given it a headstart with the color.) Stir for a couple minutes. Turn up stove to med. high and add chicken broth.

Organic is Better

Whisk until incorporated. Add 2C. of water and whisk some more. Add the half-half, and continue whisking. Adjust for flavor with additional salt and pepper. Add in potatoes. Once begins to form tiny bubbles around the edges, whisk again to clear pot’s bottom and turn down stove to med. low and whisk in cubed cheese until melts.

The Big Cheese

Turn down to simmer and cover, slightly tilted. Simmer, occasionally whisking to make sure nothing sticks to pot’s bottom. Simmer, until potatoes are cooked, but not mushy. (About 30-40 min.)
You’re now ready to face any weather advisory those annoying weathermen (women) can throw at you.

‘It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like….’

14 Dec

A Fresh Start

So, we’ve got the tree. I gave Hubby orders to trudge on over to our Farmers’ Market and bring us home a tree. There were only a few specifications to satisfy.
1. The tree must be a Fir.
2. The tree must be of suitable height and fullness (but not too full).
3. The tree could cost no more than $50 bucks; $55, tops.
Well, Hubby did not disappoint. Not only did he fulfill the first two requirements; he came in under the $50 mark. Most excellent work.
The tree pictured above is without its ornaments. Oh, it’ll get them. But, I wanted to take a picture of it while it was still innocent. There’s something nostalgic about a tree with just its slim branches awashed in the simple colored lights of a by-gone era. I especially like the bubble lights of  my childhood.

Kid-Friendly

Makes you want to smile, doesn’t it?
You know what else makes me smile?
The fall decorations are finally gone.
Yep. We can thank Hubby for that, as well.
Okay, then. Time to make some soup.
Kaukab’s going to call soon. I can just feel it.

Tampenade For (Almost) Everyone!

11 Dec

My Olive Tampenade

 

In Kaukab’s home, olives were served in their original shapes. Whole. With pita.

But, we’re cooking in my kitchen, so we’re going to let loose and pulverize them into a wonderful pesto to appetize on to our heart’s content. Oh, Kaukab’s gonna be real mad.

Don’t you worry, though. It’ll be a while before she finds out. Long enough for you to make this delicious recipe for your holiday party guests.

Let’s get started.

You’ll need these fine ingredients:

12 oz. kalamata olives, pitted (or any other flavorful type you prefer; in fact, a mixture of green and black would be great, too)

1 lemon, used for both lemon zest and flavoring

1/4 to 1/2 C. pine nuts, lightly toasted

3 – 4 med. sized garlic cloves, cut in half lengthwise and again crosswise.

1 small bunch parsley, tops only

3 – 4 sundried tomatoes in oil, coarsely chopped

You can throw in a few capers, if you like. I didn’t, but that’s just me. Hubby likes capers, though.

4 oz. parmesean cheese (from wedge), cut into 5 – 6 pieces

sea salt (very little, just for added taste, since you’ve got the salt from the olives)

cracked black pepper

The Ingredients

 

Firstly, place your pine nuts in a small saute pan and on the lowest heat, possible, toast until lightly brown (about 5 – 7 min.), stirring every so often. Set aside to cool.

In food processer, dump in: olives, tomatoes, cheese, parsley tops, pine nuts, and zest of 1 lemon, and juice of 1/8 – 1/4 lemon, salt, and pepper to taste. Pulse until ingredients become a light paste, like pesto. Taste and adjust, if needed.

Hangin' Out In The Processer

 

And, that’s it! Simple.

Serve with a crostini or good crusty bread.

Don’t be concerned with that voice coming all the way from Cleveland. It’s just Kaukab wondering: “Why you make like dat?”

Unlike her daughter, who made two bowls-worth of the olive spread–one for violin girl’s college English class party (watch me brag); one for us–you don’t have to answer.

Double Trouble

Just enjoy your tampenade.
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