Wednesday, December 31, 2008

O Holy Night

O Holy Night

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
'Til He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O, hear the angels' voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Behold your King.

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

This is my favorite Christmas song. My husband and I were married on December 31, 1994 and this is one of the songs that was sung at our wedding. The funny thing is that my hubbie & I didn't have all the verses memorized and forgot to put a songsheet by our seats! So, we did as best we could without the lyrics. At one point, I remember looking at my husband and stifling a smile because our attendants didn't have copies either. It was still memorable to hear all the verses sung. This song's words are so well chosen and the music is beautifully reverent. Honestly, hearing the first chorus line makes me want/need to fall on my knees . . .

Monday, December 22, 2008

Scandinavian Meatballs

Until now, I've never known the ingredients for Scandinavian meatballs. I just found a recipe, adjusted it to suite what I had on hand, doubled it for tonights meal, and it's so good! Why didn't anyone share this with me? Of course, I probably could have asked . . .

Right now, the meatballs are in the oven covered with homemade gravy.

The meatballs with be served with leftover mashed potatoes - the kind of potatoes that have all the 'good stuff' added to them. By 'good stuff', I mean butter, sour cream, veggie cream cheese, sea salt & white pepper. The potatoes are prepared ahead of time (up to 1 day ahead of time) and then baked in the oven until heated through. They are a great time-saver.

Scandinavian Meatballs
Yield for Double Batch: Approx. 60 meatballs

4 lbs. ground hamburger
6 Tbl. dried onion soup mix (or 2 packets)
1 cup milk
1-1/2 cups bread crumbs
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all the ingredients together. Using a cookie scoop, form the meatballs and place them about 1/2 inch apart on a brownie pan (A double batch will need two brownie pans, and I line the brownie pans with foil for easier clean-up). Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until done. Once done, either use the meatballs immediately, or prepare for storing. The meatballs can be easily frozen for later use and this would make a great OAMC recipe!

Shortbread Creations

Shortbread is another of my favorite cookies (I don't think I remembered it for my list, though). I like to purchase the shortbread cookies in bulk. The tins are beautiful and can be used for candy and gifts afterwards. With just a few extra ingredients, these cookies can be dressed up into tasty Christmas cookies that everyone will enjoy. They are even easy for kids to decorate!

Dipped Shortbread
Yield: You decide!

Ingredients can include, but are not limited to the following:
Shortbread cookies
1/4 pkg. Ghirardelli chocolate - either milk chocolate or white chocolate - purchased in approx. 2.5 pound packages
Nuts - pecans, cashews, peanuts
Candy - a variety of sprinkles, crushed candy canes, etc.

Lay out waxed paper to cool the dipped cookies. Melt the chocolate in the microwave for 1 minute; remove and stir. If the chocolate is not completely smooth, melt for an additional 30 seconds. Dip half the cookie in the chocolate - I try to only dip the front side of the cookies. Place the dipped cookie on the waxed paper. (If you are quick, you may be able to dip all the cookies before sprinkling the toppings. However, I usually dip two cookies and then sprinkle, to make sure the topping will stick.) Next, sprinkle the chocolate dipped portion of the cookie with nuts or candy. Let the chocolate harden.* Move the cookies to tins or plastic containers for freezing or storage.

*Sometimes, I speed the process along by placing the waxed paper on cookie sheets. When the cookie sheet is full, I place it in the frig or freezer to harden the chocolate faster.

This is the package of shortbread cookies I used. The cookies are wrapped in two stacks of about 10 cookies each within the tins. Sometimes there is a little breakage, but not much (besides, we all need a sample!). There are enough cookies in the package to let you try a variety of toppings.

Another decorating option that I've used is to drizzle either chocolate over the cookies. Just melt the chocolate in a quart-size freezer ziploc baggie for about 45 seconds to 1 minute. Squish around in the bag until completely melted. Snip the corner of the bag and squeeze out the chocolate; drizzling over the cookies (the cookies have been placed on waxed paper). Let the chocolate harden and then store.

Pecan Rolls

I've been searching for a Pecan Shortbread cookie recipe for some time and have found quite a few (though I haven't had the time to bake any of them!). However, a friend made these Pecan Rolls for a Christmas Cookie exchange, and they do fill my yearning. They are very similar to Pecan Shortbread, but a little sweeter as they are rolled in powdered sugar after baking.

Pecan Rolls
Recipe From : K.G.
Yield: Approximately 3 dozen

1/2 pound butter
4 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup finely chopped pecans*

Mix together like pie dough. Roll between hands to make small logs. Bake 30 to 40 minutes at 325 degrees. Roll in powdered sugar while still warm.

Mine are a bit too big, but they still tastest great! I'll work on my technique . . .

Notes: K. G. notes that these are nice because you can put them quite close together while baking because they won't spread (just make sure you don't completely melt the butter, like me, or they will spread more than you want. Her Pecan Rolls were much more log shaped then my fat little logs!!). You can pretty much bake one batch on a cookie sheet at the same time!

* K.G. also suggested purchasing the pecans at Fleet Farm. She said their chopped pecans are more finely chopped than at other stores. I'll admit the pecans on and in her cookies looked beautiful and provided a very nice texture. I plan to add it to my Fleet Farm shopping list. For this recipe, I finely chopped the pecans with my Magic Bullet.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Simple Gifts & Birthday Memories

  • Grandpa teaching his 5 yo grandchild to tie his/her laced shoes - what a great gift.
  • Having my mom organize my china cabinets - some of the items haven't been seen since we lived in NE (and that was 10 years ago). I am enjoying the view.

  • Grape flavored frosting for the writing on my birthday cake . . . no further comment needed.

  • A snow day/blizzard on the day before my birthday! I absolutely cherish snow days and winter scenes, especially when I don't have to go out in the minus degree weather with even lower wind chills.

  • A dozen roses from my hubby; they are beautiful. Roses are my favorite flower.

  • The home-made and hand-picked cards from my kids.

  • Sharing a birthday with my brother! He was the best present I got on my 5th Birthday. I remember getting the call from my dad, and I was extremely happy that night.

  • Sending the kids over to my in-laws for a sleepover = dinner at home with my husband . . . JUST THE TWO OF US!
I did receive other gifts (a sewing machine, a Magic Bullet, pedestal candle, jewelry) for my birthday, but I mentioned these because they made me happy, were memorable, and they were heartfelt. I am loved!!

Saint Zita

SAINT ZITA Virgin(†1278)

Saint Zita for forty-eight years was employed in the service of a citizen of Lucca, Italy. During this time she rose each morning to hear Mass while all in the household were asleep, and then toiled incessantly until night came, doing the work of others as well as her own (I added the italics to emphasize this part! Isn't this what we moms do every day?).

Once Zita, absorbed in prayer, remained in church past the usual hour of her bread-making. She hastened home, reproaching herself with neglect of duty, but found the bread made and ready for the oven. She did not doubt that her mistress or one of her servants had kneaded it, and going to them, thanked them. They were astonished, for no human being had made the bread; Angels had made it during her prayer.

For years her master and mistress treated her as a mere drudge, while her fellow-servants, resenting her diligence as a reproach to themselves, insulted and struck her. Saint Zita offered these sufferings with those of Christ her Lord, never changing the sweet tone of her voice or forgetting her gentle and quiet ways. At length her employer, seeing the success which attended her undertakings, gave her charge of his children and the household. She dreaded this dignity more than the worst humiliation, but scrupulously fulfilled her trust.

By her holy economy her master’s goods were multiplied, while the poor were fed at his door. Gradually her unfailing patience conquered the jealousy of her fellow-servants, and she became their advocate with their hot-tempered master, who dared not give way to his anger before Zita. In the end her prayer and toil sanctified the entire house, and drew down upon it the blessings of Heaven. She died in 1278, and at the moment of her death, a bright star appearing above the attic where she slept showed that she had gained eternal rest.

Reflection: “What must I do to be saved?” said a certain person who feared damnation. “Work and pray, pray and work,” a voice replied, “and thou shalt be saved.” The whole life of Saint Zita teaches us this truth.

Source: Little Pictorial Lives of the Saints, a compilation based on Butler’s Lives of the Saints and other sources by John Gilmary Shea (Benziger Brothers: New York, 1894).

So, why a post about St. Zita?? A few years ago, a very creative family attended the All Saints Party at our church. One of their daughter's dressed as a baker - St. Zita. It was clever, and I'd never heard of her before. As moms, we need to be economical and use time, talents and money in the most responsible way. St. Zita's bio mentions her attention to economy and that intriqued me. (In college, my major was Agricultural Economics, so I'm naturally inclined to think about economics!). There are many aspects of this saint that draw me to her . . . doing her share and more, unfailing patience, work and pray, being an advocate for others, and caring about the least while increasing her master's goods. I aspire to be like her - uncomplaining, never raising my voice, and being able to sanctify my whole house. There is much to do, both interior and exterior, so I will work and pray, like St. Zita!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Candy-Making Tips

On the same page as the Buttery Cashew Brittle, Better Homes and Gardens Magazine from December 1997, the author offered some candy-making tips that would be helpful to all of us. Candy usually has expensive ingredients and is more time-consuming to make than cookies or cakes. It would be better to make sure that our thermometers and supplies are in working order before starting a batch of candy - than find out after the fact that the candy failed to set up because the thermometer was broken!

Here are the tips:

1. Candy mixtures should be cooked to the exact temperatures the recipe calls for. A good candy thermometer is a worthwhile investment. Before you start to make candy, test your thermometer with boiling water.

2. Use only wooden spoons for stirring candy mixtures.

3. Make homemade candy on a dry day. Candy mixtures react to the humidity in the air. If the humidity goes above 60 percent, your candy may not set properly.

4. Only butter should be used in candy recipes unless the recipe specifically allows for margarine to be used instead. If using margarine, make sure it is not a reduced-fat variety.

Here are a few additional tips from me!

5. Always set out all the ingredients. I cannot tell you how many times I've forgotten to add the vanilla or almond extract to my Divinity! We still eat it, but that extra flavor is missing. If all the ingredients are set out, you can SEE what has or has not been added, especially if you are in the habit of putting away or moving used items to a 'used ingredient' spot.

6. Don't overdo it. Being able to spread the baking out over November and December, then freezing the goodies is my favorite way to lessen the stress. Most goodies can be frozen for a month or two without any difference in taste, especially if they are well packaged.

7. Save those tins! From Boy Scout popcorn tins to Schwans ice cream tins to Sams cookie tins . . . they will all be useful for storing your goodies or providing a showy, pre-decorated package for your goodie gifts to friends, neighbors or relatives. An additional bonus is that they hold up well in the freezer and protect your goodies from freezer burn when lined with wax paper, foil, or saran wrap.

If I think of more tips, I'll add them later.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cashew Brittle

My second favorite holiday treat is Cashew Brittle. I found this recipe eleven years ago and have made one or two batches every year. It makes a great gift! I’ve been asked for this recipe many times and have been happy to share. After tasting this, peanut brittle just doesn’t cut it!!

Warning to Moms with young children: this is a recipe that requires your attention, so make sure the kids are entertained before you start.

Favorites Forever: Buttery Cashew Brittle
By David Feder in Better Homes and Gardens Magazine, December 1997
(I told you some of these magazines had been around awhile! This is from the year my oldest son was born.)

2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
½ cup water
1 cup butter
3 cups cashews (the recipe calls for raw, but I always end up using salted cashews purchased in bulk – that way my husband has a treat ‘before the treat’)
1 tsp. baking soda

In a 3-quart saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup, and water. Cook and stir until sugar dissolves. Bring syrup to boiling; add butter and stir until butter is melted. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Reduce heat to medium low; continue boiling at a moderate, steady rate, stirring occasionally, until thermometer registers 280 degrees (about 35 minutes). This is the soft-crack stage.

Stir in the cashews; continue cooking over medium-low heat stirring frequently until thermometer registers 300 degrees (10 to 15 minutes more). This is the hard-crack stage.

Remove mixture from heat; remove thermometer. Quickly stir in the baking soda, mixing thoroughly. Pour mixture into two buttered (okay, I did use spray!) baking sheets or 15x10x1 inch pans.

As the cashew brittle cools, stretch it out by lifting and pulling with two forks from the edges. Loosen from pans as soon as possible; pick up sections and break them into bite-size pieces. Store tightly covered. Makes about 2 ½ pounds (72 servings).

Up Close and Yummy!

Patron of Cooks

St. Martha
Feastday: July 29

Patron of cooks

Martha is the patron saint of servants and cooks. In Her Footsteps Dorothy Day said: "If everyone were holy and handsome, it would be easy to see Christ in everyone. But it was not Christ's way for himself. Ask honestly what you would do when a beggar asked at your house for food. Would you give it on an old cracked plate, thinking that was good enough? Do you think that Martha and Mary thought that the old and chipped dish was good enough for their guest? It is not a duty to help Christ -- it is a privilege." In what ways do you serve Christ and others grudgingly or sparingly? How can you serve them the way Martha served Christ, putting her whole self into it?

Saint Martha, pray for us that we might serve Jesus better. Help us to overcome our distractions and worries to listen to his words and be present to him this day. Amen

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

In Honor of Saint Juan Diego...

Today is the feast day of Saint Juan Diego, humble servant of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It's not often I'm thinking ahead with feast days and corresponding them to the food we eat that day, but the Saint Gianna's Maternity Home newsletter came yesterday and featured a wonderful article about Saint Juan Diego. That started me thinking about today...

So, tonight we had a very modest meal, made very quickly in a dutch oven (supposed to be skillet, but sometimes you use what's convenient!). Here's the recipe and a few pictures to entice you to make the recipe sometime in the future.

Mexican Skillet with Corn Dumplings (Adapted from: 'Help, My Family's Hungry!')
Yield: 4 very large servings

1 lb. ground beef
1 pkg. taco seasoning mix
1/2 cup chopped onion (I substituted 2 Tbl. minced onion)
1 can (16 oz.) chopped or diced tomatoes
2 cups frozen corn
1 can (4 oz.) chopped green chilies
1 can (4 oz.) black olives
1 package (10 oz.) corn bread mix

In a large skillet (or in my case, a dutch oven!) with a lid, cook and brown ground beef until cooked. Drain grease. Stir in taco mix, onion, tomatoes, corn, chilies, and olives. Cook 2 minutes, stirring often.

Prepare the corn bread according to package directions. Drop the batter by spoonfuls on top of the meat mixture.

Cover and simmer about 15 minutes or until the dumplings are done in the center. The meal is simple and tasty. I did save time by using already browned frozen ground beef. If you do this, however, make sure you heat the mixture fully before dropping the batter over the top.


I've been perusing my cookie magazines, too! The favorite recipes are marked with sticky notes and, of course, drips and dribbles of extract or batter. Some of my magazines are saved from the years before I was married, so they've been around for a while.

So far, I've made one batch of Divinity (yes, I'll be making more), but am trying to decide which other 'staples' I should bake or make for our upcoming celebrations. For sure, I will make another favorite - Cashew Brittle. Sorry, Peanut Brittle just isn't good enough anymore!

At our church's Christmas celebration this past weekend, I purchased some Chocolate Almond Bark prepared with chopped pecans mixed into it. It was VERY good, so I'd like to try to replicate that, too.

My favorite Christmas Cookies or Candies or Goodies are:

1. Divinity
2. Cashew Brittle
3. Frosted Sugar Cookies
4. Creme de Menthe Brownies
5. Turtles
6. Cheesecake (almost any variety!)
7. Pecan Shortbread Cookies (this is a relatively new favorite, so it may move up the list if I find a good recipe)

P.S. This is not a finite list!

Monday, December 8, 2008

What Spice Are You Test...

Your result for What Spice Are You Test...

You are Sage!

0% Habanero, 40% Sage, 0% Thyme, 10% Ginger, 40% Garlic, 10% Curry, 0% Cinnamon and 0% Oregano!

Sage is a very classic herb. You tend to use intelligence in making decisions instead of brute force.

You are the type of person that people want to get to know and be friends with. You don't feel as if you have to impress people because you tend to be very self assured.

At a party you would be happy to just sit in the corner and watch people, or perhaps find someone to have an intelligent conversation with.

You prefer to think before you act, as you are rather analytical. You can be both dazzling and graceful. People tend to notice you without you trying to make it happen.

You may not be religious, but you are very spiritual. You desire relationships that last rather then passing ones.

Take What Spice Are You Test at