Friday, November 27, 2009

The 25 days of Christmas Recipes Exchange

It's begun!!! Today is the start of The 25 Days of Christmas Recipes here and the 25 days of Christmas Cookie Recipes over at Buttercream Lane. Grab the button

and share your favorite Christmas Recipes with us. Write a post on your blog with your recipe and link it up using the Mr Linky below. Please link to the actual recipe post not just to your blog so that we can find the recipes easier. It would also be great if in the Your Name box- Put your name and then the name of the recipe for easier browsing. I can't wait to see all of your recipes. Let the cooking begin.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Thankful Thanksgiving!

I am so thankful for the blessings that God has given us this past year. I am thankful for our health, our family, for each of our children. I am thankful for my oldest daughter's fiance and what a great man he is. I am thankful for our many friends. I am thankful for each of you who keep coming back to read this blog and Buttercream Lane. I now count many of you as a friend through this internet medium. I am thankful for the food and shelter that God has blessed us with and most of all, I am thankful for Jesus Christ who rescued each of us from our sin.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Writer's Workshop Wednesday- When did my life become a cliche?

Over at Mama's Losin' It, she's posted the prompts for this weeks Writer's Workshop.  I chose #4- Write a story in exactly 101 words.  (inspired by Jennifer from The Peterson's Go Public)

Bitsy awoke and realized that come hell or high water, she wasn’t going to throw pearls before swine anymore. Her blood had run cold when she’d heard through the grapevine that, Skip, had been cheating on her. She’d known better. When they'd met she knew, though he was hot as hell, he was also, dumb as a stump and had ants in his pants. Pigs would fly before she’d put up with that crap. She was going to toss him like a hot potato and never look back. She’d find greener grass in another pasture. It was time to move on!

Bourbon or Rum Sauce for all your pies!

This is the best sauce for any kind of pie. We eat it on apple, pecan, and pumpkin pies at Thanksgiving. It's the sauce that they serve at a restaurant called Pappadeaux's Restaurant in Houston. It is thick and creamy and not too sweet. The perfect compliment to a pie, cake or even a spoonful stirred into a cup of coffee. Happy Thanksgiving!

Bourbon Sauce

  • 1 1/2 cups of whipping cream
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 small box of vanilla instant pudding mix
  • 3 TBS Bourbon, whiskey, brandy or rum
  • 1 tsp of vanilla
Pour the cream into a medium mixing bowl and beat just until it starts to thicken.
Add the milk and beat to combine
Slowly beat in the instant pudding mix
Add the vanilla and liqueur and continue whipping until it is well blended and is a thick sauce consistency. It should be almost as thick as pudding and shouldn't be runny. 
Place into a sealed container and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. It will thicken up as it sits. This can be made a day ahead as it stores very well.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Random Tuesday

It's Tuesday already??!!! Time is moving too fast. I need it to slow down. If you want a great laugh, head over to the Unmom for some hilarious bits of her randomness.

The Un Mom

I am so excited for the holidays. Excessively so, I think. I can hardly wait to start decorating for Christmas. Usually I like it, but I really want to get started on it this year. My daughter, refuses to allow any Christmas to be put up until after Thanksgiving is over so, I have been trying to sneak little things up without her noticing. I wonder if she'd notice if I got one tree up. I usually have 5:  2 small, 2- 7' and 1-9' . I bet she'd notice a 7 footer going up but maybe not the 4'????

I am working away trying to get my daughter's fiance's Christmas stocking knitted. I got it 3/4 of the way done before noticing that I had somehow flipped it in my dyslexic brain and it was an exact mirror image of what it was supposed to be. I had to rip it all out because to complete it would have made his stocking hang the opposite way from the rest of the families. Nothing says welcome to the family more than your stocking being the only one facing the wrong direction- NOT. So I started over and really need to get it done.

My best friend and I run quite a few of our errands together. A couple of times a week, we'll plan our errands and go run them together. The grocery store, Walmart or Target, wherever we need to go, we just go together and talk as we shop and drive. Do you do that or are we the only ones making our own fun out of boring tasks?

Oh, my son did clarify that his house of guys has eating dishes just not serving dishes. Serving dishes are for girl's houses. See yesterday's post for the entire funny story.

The boys got home yesterday for Thanksgiving and it's so nice to have some of my kids home for even a few days.
Last night three of them were using my camera to take multi-shot photos of themselves doing silly things. My kids were never bored when they were little, they just played and made up stuff to do. Now, take into account they are now 23, almost 24 and 18. Like I said, never bored. I didn't say grown up.

How's this for a random activity? They did this for 2 hours!!! Hard to believe that the one in the blue shirt has a degree in atmospheric science and geography and is a music pastor at a church, the guy in the white shirt is our adopted son who just got out of the Marines and is a finance major and our daughter is an honor's student in high school. They definitely are from my side of the gene pool. They were very entertaining to watch and the big bonus- no broken bones, just a few bruises.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and start getting those Holiday Recipes ready to post on your blogs for the 25 days of Christmas Recipes' Exchange and the 25 days of Christmas Cookie Recipes' Exchange. It starts this Friday.



Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday's Household Assigments- Thanksgiving Checklist & Cranberry Sauce.

Happy Thanksgiving!!! This week, it's time to prepare for Thursday.  Here are some suggestions to plan your week and have a successful Thanksgiving.
If you are not cooking dinner then you won't need all of these but it can still help you get ready. 
  • Plan your menu and write it down. Write down how long each item takes to cook and where it is cooked, stovetop, oven, and temps. I've already posted some of the recipes that I use for Sausage Stuffing/Dressing and an apple cranberry pecan version, Sweet Potatoes, and How to Brine your turkey.
  • Write out your shopping list based on your menu. Go through each menu item and make sure you have each ingredient. I set out the recipe and then pile all of the non-perishable ingredients with the recipe on the counter so that it's all together. 
  • Now plan out what you are going to do or make each day. For instance, your cranberry sauce can be made days ahead so it can be done Today. I make my Sweet Potatoes on Wednesday, my pies on Wednesday and part of my stuffing on Wednesday. This means I have far less to do on Thursday and it gives me more time with family and friends. 
  • Lastly- make a time schedule for Thursday. I figure out what time I want dinner and work backwards from that. So if the turkey takes 3 1/2 hours and we want to eat at 2pm then I need to start working with the turkey at 9:30 am. I will rinse the turkey, put a cut up onion, a quartered orange and some fresh sage into the bird. I will rub the skin with some butter and get it into the preheated oven by 10 am. It will bake for 3 1/2 hours and then it needs to sit covered for 30 minutes out of the oven before carving.  The green bean casserole takes 45 minutes so it needs to go into the oven by 1:15. Etc.  This helps make sure that all the items for dinner will be ready at the same time.
  • Do as much as you can before Thursday. I even set out the dishes and silverware onto the table on Wednesday. I put the serving bowls for each item with the serving utensils and a post it note on it so that I know what food will go into it.  The key is to think it all through and write it al down. I have the schedule typed up on my computer to use year after year.  Careful planning will help make your holiday stress free, at least from a cooking standpoint, I can't do anything about your family stress. 
As we were driving on Saturday I got a text message from my son with the picture below and he told me that he was making cranberry sauce. I of course asked where he was, I thought he was with my daughter and helping out. Turns out he was at his house making it all by himself for an early Thanksgiving dinner with some friends.   I'm was so impressed that he made it all by himself. I asked my son to send me a photo of the sauce in the serving bowl to post. He informed me that that that would be impossible because he didn't have a bowl. I found out that his house has no real dishes. He said that guy houses don't need dishes and that's what girl's houses are for. Girls have dishes, that's why guys date girls. I laughed so hard. Well here's his recipe for Orange Cinnamon Cranberry sauce and the recipe that I've used for years for Regular whole berry Cranberry sauce.

Regular Whole Berry Cranberry sauce. This is the version from the Ocean Spray package.
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
1 (12-ounce) package Fresh or Frozen Cranberries, rinsed and drained
  1. Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil; add cranberries, return to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and cool completely at room temperature. Refrigerate until serving time.
Makes 2 1/4 cups

 Tom's Orange Cinnamon Cranberry sauce

1 (12-ounce) package Fresh or Frozen Cranberries, rinsed and drained
1 Cup of orange juice
1 cup of brown sugar
1 1/2 cinnamon sticks
the zest from half an orange. 
Place the washed cranberries, orange juice, brown sugar, and cinnamon sticks into a medium sauce pan. Add enough water to cover the berries. Bring all the ingredients to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 to 55 minutes or until the sauce is thickened. Remove from heat and cool with the lid on. Once it has cooled, remove the cinnamon sticks and discard them. Serve. 
Doesn't it look good? 
I made it this afternoon and my mom made a batch of it as well. 

We both think that this cranberry sauce is absolutely delicious. She said that she tasted it periodically throughout cooking time and took the cinnamon stick out about halfway through so that the cinnamon taste didn't dominate. I love cinnamon so I left it in the whole time. Just keep testing it and pull the sticks out when it has the amount of cinnamon taste that you like. 

Happy Thanksgiving and I hope that you have a wonderful time thanking God for the blessings in your life.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Step by Step Instructions on How to Brine a Turkey!

If you've ever had a dried out turkey, you should consider brining the bird before cooking it. Brining is really easy and adds flavor, and moisture to any kind of meat. Here is a great article on Why Brining Keeps Meat so Moist. Brining not only adds moisture it adds flavor. Here is how I brine my Turkeys. There are lots of different recipes for brining meat out there. Really you can just use a salt and water mixture but I prefer to add some additional flavors and I don't like my food too salty so I use a combination of salt and sugar for my brine

You will need to find the XL Ziploc storage bags or XXL that are sold for storing items in. Ziploc's are so strong and thick that they afre perfect for this task.  
4 qts of water and 3 quarts of ice
2/3 cup Kosher salt or 1/3 cup table salt
1c brown sugar
3T black peppercorns
1 can of frozen apple juice concentrate
2 Bay leaves
6 cloves or 1/2 tsp of ground cloves
A one inch piece of ginger root- sliced or 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 onion, sliced
1 orange, sliced
2 apples, sliced
  • Place your bag open with the sides folded out on the counter. 
  • Find a plastic tub that is big enough for the turkey to sit in. 
  • Pour 4 cups of water into a saucepan and add the salt, brown sugar, cloves, ginger and pepper corns. 
  • Over medium high heat, stir until all the sugar and salt are dissolved. Set aside to cool. 
    • Peel the onion and slice into 1/4 inch slices- really any size slices will do. This doesn't  have to be exact!
    • Slice the apples and the orange- No need to peel or core them. 
    • Pour 4 qts of water and 8 to 10 cups of ice into the bag.
    • Add the apple juice concentrate to the salt and sugar solution and stir to melt then pour this into the big bag with the ice and water.
    • Add the fruit, onions, and bay leaves to the bag. 
    • Remove the turkey from it's packaging and remove the neck and the giblets from the cavities. 
    • Rinse the turkey inside and out.
    • Place the turkey into the bag and place a few slices up on top.
    • Now squeeze the bag and push as much of the air out as you can. I zip the top almost closed and then squeeze. Once all the air is out, I close the zip top then gather the top up and tie it with some string or yarn to hold the bag tight so that the entire turkey is covered with the solution. 
    •  Set the bag into the plastic tub and set into a refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours. 
    I start brining the turkey on Wednesday afternoon then take the turkey out of the brine on Thursday morning Throw away the brining solution,  rinse the turkey inside and out, dry it off then place it back into the empty plastic tub and set it in the fridge for a few hours so that the turkey has time to really dry before going into the oven. That's all there is to it.

      Saturday, November 21, 2009

      Traditional Sausage Stuffing and Apple Cranberry Stuffing with Pecans

      Call me old fashioned but, there is nothing as good as the old fashioned traditional sausage stuffing at Thanksgiving. I make it exactly the same way as my mom makes hers and it has become a tradition in my household. I brown the meat and steam the vegetables  the night before and then stick the whole pan into the fridge. I also cube my bread the day before and season it. On Thanksgiving day all I have to do is bring the sausage mixture back up to a simmer and  dump it over the bread cubes for perfect stuffing ready to go into the oven.
      I always make 2 kids of stuffing. Regular traditional sausage stuffing made with Sage sausage and then a  Apple Cranberry Stuffing made with Maple flavored sausage, fresh apples, dried cranberries and chopped pecans. Once you have the basic recipe you can doctor it up anyway you want. 

      Both start the exact same way and then you can add to it any way you'd like.
      Here is the basic ingredients for Traditional Sausage Stuffing
      1 Lb of Sausage- any flavor you like. I prefer the sage. I really like Jimmy Dean but any kind you like is fine.
      1 cup chopped onion
      1 1/2 cups chopped celery
      1/4 cup of butter
      1 loaf of good sturdy white bread. I like Pepperidge Farm's  white sandwich bread cut into 1/2" or so cubes- crust and all.
      2 tsp crushed sage- 1 tsp if you are using the Sage stuffing
      1/2 tsp ground pepper
      Salt to taste.

      For the Apple Cranberry Stuffing with Pecans, you'll need these additional ingredients:
      2 apples peeled, cored and chopped
      1/2 cup of pecans
      1/2 cup of dried cranberries
      • Cube the bread and place it into a large bowl that has a lid, if you are not using sage sausage, sprinkle the dried sausage and pepper over the top of the bread cubes and toss until mixed. Place the lid on and set aside. 
      • Place the sausage and the chopped onions into a large frying pan- that has a lid. 
      • Over Medium to Med-High heat, brown the sausage and the onions until the meat is completely cooked through.

      • Place the celery, and butter for the traditional and the celery, apples, pecans, dried cranberries and the butter on top of the sausage and onion mixture. DO NOT STIR. 
        •  Place the lid on and turn the heat off. Let sit for 20 minutes. This allows the celery and apples to soften but not get smoochy. 
          • If you are doing this a day ahead, Place the pan into the fridge at this point. The next day, remove from the fridge and over medium heat stir the ingredients for 10 minutes or until everything is heated through again. 
        • After the 20 minutes, dump the meat and veggie  mixture over the top of the bread cubes and stir until combined. Place into a greased casserole dish and bake for 30 to 40 minutes at 350 degrees until heated through. If the stuffing seems too dry you can use some canned chicken stock to moisten it or pan juices from the turkey.
        I'll tell you that it has become a tradition for my girls and I to eat a small bowl of stuffing, scooped right out of the big bowl, for breakfast before spooning it into the casserole dishes. We love it.

        Friday, November 20, 2009

        Sally's Sweet Potatoes with Cranberries and Pecans

        When my husband was in business school, over 25 years ago, we had a great group of friends and one of them, Sally, made this for a pot luck Thanksgiving dinner. She generously shared the recipe with me. Every year, as I make it for Thanksgiving, I think of her and her family. It's the perfect combination of flavors and textures. You can make it a day ahead and the best part is that you can use the microwave to heat it if you don't have any oven space. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

        Sally's Sweet Potato Casserole
        4 large sweet potatoes
        ½ cup packed brown sugar
        2 TBS. butter
        1 to 2 cups cup fresh cranberries- I like to use 2 cups but it is up to you.
        2/3 cup orange juice
        • Wash the sweet potatoes and Slice them into ½- ¾ inch slices (with the skin on)  
        • Boil the potatoes until tender- 20 to 25 minutes. 
        • Drain them and let cool slightly and remove skins. The skins will just peel right off of the slices 
        • Layer half the potatoes into the bottom of a greased casserole dish. You can use a 2 quart casserole dish or a 9x13 inch pan. 
        • Sprinkle half of the sugar and the cranberries over the potato layer. Dot with half the butter. 
        • Form a second layer with the remaining potatoes, sugar and butter
        • Pour the orange juice over the top. Place in fridge for up to 2 days or cook immediately.
        • Cover and bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven or Microwave on 80% for 5 to 10 minutes or until hot.
        • Top with pecan topping and bake for 10 more minutes. If microwaving you can put topping on then microwave for 2 more minutes or I do pop it into the oven for 10 minutes to crisp up the topping.
        Pecan Topping: 
        Mix together the following:
        ½ cup chopped pecans
        2 TBS melted butter
        2 TBS brown sugar
        ½ tsp cinnamon

        Thursday, November 19, 2009

        Sharing Your Holiday Family Traditions- What do you do?

        I've been thinking a lot this week about our family traditions for the holidays, which ones we have and where we got those traditions. For instance, at Thanksgiving we always have a sweet potato dish that came from one of our friends from school and a cranberry grape salad that was my husband's mom's recipe. We go around the table after eating and say one thing we are each truely Thankful for from the past year.

        On Christmas Eve we come home from church, everyone opens one package, it's never a surprise. It's always new pajamas for everyone. We put on our new pajamas, eat fondue in the family room in front of the fire, while we open presents in our jammies. The fondue tradition came from my family and the new Pajamas to open and wear on Christmas Eve came from my best friend's family. The tradition of Cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning came from his family, my family always had oyster stew for Christmas breakfast- Great for night but not for breakfast, I was glad to give that one up.

        Here's my question: What are some of your family traditions for the holidays? Where did those traditions come from? Are there any traditions you'd give up or change if you could? Which ones are your favorites.  Write a post about your traditions and then link on up so that we can all read about them. Who knows, maybe we'll all gain a new tradition for this upcoming holiday season.

        Wednesday, November 18, 2009

        Writer's Workshop Wednesday

        I love Wednesdays and getting a prompt over at Mama's Losin' It
        to think and write about. Some are funny and some are sad but thet are a ton of fun. If you haven't ever joined in, today is the day. Head on over, pick a prompt or two and write. Then post your link for us all to see. It's really easy!

        2.) Describe the most destructive thing your pet has done.  Oh this is easy! We had a yellow lab 20 years ago and he was the sweetest thing. We had 4 little kids at the time and the kids could sleep on top of him he was that sweet. We didn't realize that we were having a problem with him until one day I was sitting and nursing a baby in the family room and I head this scratching noise in the wall. I got up and went over to the wall and could see some claw marks on the paint- COMING FROM THE OUTSIDE SCRATCHING IN!!!! I went outside and around to the side of the house. Understand there was this 3' wide space between that side of the house and the fence. It had a bush in front of the enterance so you couldn't see that side until you went around the bush. The DANG DOG had chewed off the siding of the house. Not just a small area but 20 feet long and 4 to 5 feet up all chewed off, the insulation torn out and in that one spot he was coming through the wall into the house. Needless to say after the repair, we decided that he needed far more room to play than our little tiny city yard and he went to live with really good friend out in the country where he could romp and play.

        3.) Describe in 1000 words or less a time when something happened and you knew that life would never be the same.
         I knew my life was never going to be the same the day we found out that my dad's brain tumor was a metastasis of another cancer that had gone undetected. By the time he had any symptom, the cancer was far spread. He only lived for 16 weeks after we found out. I can still remember everything about that moment when the doctor came out. The color and print of his scrub cap, what I was wearing. The look on the doctor's face as he walked toward us was the moment that I knew that life was changed forever. I miss him every single day!
        There is an author named, Kate Braestrup who has a book called, Here If You Need Me. While she has some theological points that I disagree with, it is one of the best books that I've read this year. She calls moment like these "Hinges".  She describes a Hinge as, "a moment or event that changes everything from that point forward." I think it's a perfect description. She does go on to say, "In a hinge moment, look around for God. He will be right there standing on the hinge, holding His arms out to you. If you are wise, you let go and fall against that love and be held." This is the best advice I could ever give to someone in a hinge moment. You have a choice to be angry with God or to be comforted by God. We in our finite minds cannot comprehend the infinite plan that God has for each of us and those around us. The loses and hard things in life just don't seem fair or just, but in everything God does have a plan, EVEN WHEN WE CAN"T COMPREHEND or see it. I choose to lean on and trust in God and be held in his arms for the comfort that there is a purpose even when I can't understand it. Call it weak, or call it simple but the peace and comfort that I have found in His arms in very difficult situations far surpasses the other option of being angry and sad for the rest of my life. Regardless of your view point, you should read the book. It's amazing.

        An Uninvited Guest Post- How long can you freeze stuff and Freezer Storage Times

        This post came to me unsolicited from my best friend, on and off the internet, Gina!  She sent it to me as a joke not thinking that I would post it but the information is really good, so I am. I'm not stupid enough to turn down a free posting that I didn't have to write and especially one that has such great information. Thanks Gina!!!!!

        Here's her email!
        I have a blog post for your blog.
        I know - you didn't ask me for one.

        Read it and call me.
        I'm messing with you.
        You don't have to post it.

        I was not invited to guest blog for the Fact Woman today.  She didn’t invite me.  I just invited myself.  My own blog is certainly not the place for such useful information.
        No, I don’t really have any facts in my head or at my fingertips.  When I need facts, I go in search of them or call Margaret.  I had a very painful factual search this week and thought I would share.

        I was cleaning out my freezer – started with the butter shelf – that’s a whole different story. But then things went awry when I got to the meat shelf. How long can you keep meat in the freezer anyway? Good question!

        I looked it up online, (Margaret was at bible study and couldn't take my call.) – went to 6-7 different websites because I was pretty sure the first one was a liar.  I was wrong.  The keeping in the freezer time is woefully short!

        The USDA states, Because freezing keeps food safe almost indefinitely, recommended storage times are for quality only. Refer to the freezer storage chart at the end of this document, which lists optimum freezing times for best quality.
        If a food is not listed on the chart, you may determine its quality after defrosting. First check the odor. Some foods will develop a rancid or off odor when frozen too long and should be discarded. Some may not look picture perfect or be of high enough quality to serve alone but may be edible; use them to make soups or stews. Cook raw food and if you like the taste and texture, use it.
        1. Ewww……I am not waiting for a lump of meat to defrost so that I can get a whiff of rancid meat right before dinner.
        2. What do they think I’m eating the meat for?  Quantity?  I’m eating meat for the quality.  I’m not falling for the fact followed by disclaimer.  I’m following their disclaimer.
        Here’s the chart:
        Freezer Storage Chart (0 'F)
        •  Bacon and Sausage - One to Two Months
        •  Casseroles - Two to Three Months
        •  Egg whites or egg substitutes - 12 Months
        •  Frozen Dinners and Entrees - Three to Four Months
        •  Gravy, meat or poultry - Two to Three Months
        •  Ham, Hotdogs and Lunchmeats - One to Two Months
        •  Meat, uncooked roasts - Four to 12 Months
        •  Meat, uncooked steaks or chops - Four to 12 Months
        •  Meat, uncooked ground - Three to Four Months
        •  Meat, cooked - Two to Three Months
        •  Poultry, uncooked whole - 12 Months
        •  Poultry, uncooked parts - Nine Months
        •  Poultry, uncooked giblets - Three to Four Months
        •  Poultry, cooked - Four Months
        •  Soups and Stews - Two to Three Months
        •  Wild game, uncooked - Eight to 12 Months
        Margaret- Don’t be going and checking out my facts! I already did that so you don’t have to. (I double checked them anyway, I couldn't help myself- M)

        Oh and if you want to freeze a squirrel – according to another website – it will last 9-12 months, Tofu – 6-8 WEEKS.  I’m just covering my bases here!
        Well, I gotta run.I have to sneak to the dumpster behind the grocery store to offload 4 bags of meat from 2008.

        Tuesday, November 17, 2009

        The 25 Days of Christmas- Recipe Exchange is coming to your blog!

        My randomness is below this post. 
        I'm making a list and checking it twice- we're gonna find out who's naughty or nice- Beginning the day after Thanksgiving, Fact Woman and Buttercream Lane will be co-hosting, "The 25 Days of Christmas" recipe exchanges for us to share our favorite Holiday recipes. My Fact Woman blog here will host a recipe exchange for any kind of holiday recipe you'd like to share. It might be a festive drink, a main course, an appetizer, or any recipe that just says the holidays to you! Buttercream Lane will be hosting recipes for Christmas cookies!

        Here's how it will work. Beginning the day after Thanksgiving, you'll post your recipe on your blog and link it up here or at Buttercream Lane. The Mr Linky will be put up the day after Thanksgiving. You may post as many recipes as you'd like and hopefully spread the word to others so we'll have lots of great recipes to try.So pull those recipes out and get ready to start posting them a week from Friday.

        In addition to all of your great submissions, I'll be posting 12 great Christmas cookie recipes of my own for you to make and 12 holiday treats to make for yourself or give as gifts. How about instructions and the recipe to make cranberry liqueur to give as a gift or to use during your holiday parties?That's one of mine!

        You can grab your buttons below, spread the word and get ready to find some fabulous new recipes to try over the next few weeks. You may post more than one recipe to each Exchange. The more people we can get to participate, the more great recipes we'll have to try! I can't wait!!!!!!!

        TITLE NAME

        TITLE NAME

        Random Tuesday

        It's that time of week again for Random thoughts and mussing. If you have any randomness of your own, head on over to The Unmom to link up. Do it quietly, she's not feeling well.

        How this for random? My 20 year old is flying to Vancouver this week. She got a call from a Korean record label that is looking for a new pop star. They want her to come audition. She's the only non-Asian that they've invited to come sing for them. They got her audition tape from another Asian label that she auditioned for last year. She was one of the final 3 out of 8000 that auditioned. She didn't get the contract but not bad. It helps that she speaks very good Mandarin Chinese and Korean and she speaks passable Japanese- in addition to 8 other languages. The kid has a true gift for languages. I wish she'd gotten that from me. I hope she get's a contract this time. She's always wanted to live in Asia somewhere.

        Random is cleaning all my baseboards with a toothbrish yesterday. The carpet cleaning company is here today. He noticed them! No one else will.

        Last week my friend and I were at our annual outing to this one Holiday craft show, half way through, she gasped and panicked. She'd remembered that we still had yet to find Holiday gifts for the 250 staff members at the high school. I've been panicking for 2 weeks. See last random item on my list today!  Usually, I've found and purchased the gifts by July, but this year I just couldn't find anything I liked. We only have about $2.00 per person and we always try to get something useful and practical. Anyway, we got into the car to head home and she made me pull a U-turn to head for the store. She said we couldn't go home until we found something. Well, we walked into Target and there in a bin were nice Ice Scrapers that were 50% off, I swear to you we heard angels singing. AHHHHHHHH. As we headed to the register discussing what could we put with the ice scrapers,  we saw racks of  those stretch gloves and it all came together. A great gift in our budget. OK, it did take 3 more Targets to get as many as we needed but we did it and have a useful gift to give.

        Random is tomorrow's post. I opened my email last week and low and behold, was a post written by the above friend, Gina from, My Own Brand Of Crazy, for my blog. All typed and ready to go. I didn't ask for a post, nor was I expecting one but she wrote it up because it was great information but it didn't fit on her blog. It's too practical! So an unsolicited post for tomorrow that I didn't even have to write.  She's a great friend.

         I just haven't been able to shut my mind off the last few weeks and sleep.  Nothing serious just thinking about my daughter's wedding, another daughter's college applications, the million other things that need to get done, lack of teacher's gifts, Thanksgiving being next week and Christmas right around the corner. Who needs sleep? Today I went to the doc to get some sleeping pills, it's gotten a bit ridiculous how tired I am. I get to the doctor's office, step out of the car and noticed that I was wearing my slippers, yep slippers. I'd forgotten to put my shoes on.  I went in anyway, it was way too much effort to drive back home and then back. Of course in the waiting room is a woman that I've know for years, figures.  Thankfully,  it did nothing but bolster my case that the lack of sleep is effecting my everyday life! The staff had a good laugh over it. I'm always entertaining even if only to myself. I have a prescription in my purse and will head out to fill it, now that I have some shoes on!!!!

        Monday, November 16, 2009

        Monday's Household Assignment-Get ready for the Holidays!

        This week is the week to get your house ready for the upcoming Holidays. As much as I hate to say it, it's time to do a really deep cleaning. UGH. I hate this post because it means that I have to do it too.

        Once you get started, it goes pretty fast. I have to work quite a bit this week so I won't have the luxury of just spending a whole day cleaning, I'll have to break it up. Obviously, the most important place to start is where your guests and family will be spending most of their time. Here are some things to do and some techniques for doing them: First grab a couple of old toothbrushes, you'll need them.

        General Cleaning:
        • When you clean always clean from the top down. Do your dusting and wiping down first before you vacuum and dust the top shelves first and work down. This way any dust or dirt you disturb falls down onto a dirty surface not a clean one. 
          • This is the time to remove everything from shelves before cleaning it instead of just dusting around the items. 
            • Knickknack Shelves or Picture Shelves: I take everything off the shelves and put them on the floor. I wipe off each shelf with a damp microfiber cloth and then wipe down each item before putting them back. Rearranging your shelves will give a new look to your room without spending a dime. 
            • Book Shelves: I don't take all the books off!  I just take a vacuum with the brush attachment and vacuum the tops of the books and them wipe the shelves around them. When you place books on shelves, insert some stacks of books that are laying on top of each other and some other items to break up a long span of standing books. It gives a shelf some visual interest.
          •  Go around each room and using a damp cloth and maybe a bit of vinegar, wipe off all of the face plates and any smudges and marks on the walls or, in my case this morning, the ceiling. How did my kids get a hand print on the ceiling? I don't think I want to know. Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser is great for marks on walls, but only use it on walls painted with flat paint and you can't scrub too hard or the paint will come off.  Don't forget to wipe down all the doors, too.
          • Wipe down the baseboards. I use a damp microfiber cloth and a toothbrush for this. The baseboards don't look that grungy until you start then you have to do the entire room because you can see the difference. 
          • The last cleaning chore in a room will be vacuuming. 
            • First take the time to vacuum the insides of the chairs and sofas. Remove the cushions and vacuum the cracks and crevasses of the furniture and the bottoms of the cushions.  If you think that there might be some earrings or valuable items in those creases, take a nylon knee high stocking and elastic band it around the tip of the wand. This will catch all the big items and hold them. Once you get all the big stuff caught, remove the stocking and vacuumed up all the crumbs.
            • When you vacuum for deep cleaning go around the baseboards, edges  and corners of the room with the hose attachment to get all the dist and  stuff that the vacuum reall never picks up,  then vacuum as usual.  Don't forget to get under the furniture.
          • Bathrooms- Get an old toothbrush and use it around the faucets and the faucet handles.

              I also use a different one old toothbrush around the base of each toilet. I throw this one away as soon as I've finished cleaning around all the toilets so I don't accidentally use it by the sinks. 
            • Go get a holiday candle to set in the guest bath and some seasonal air freshener for guests to use if they need it!!! LOL
            • I know it's tacky and wasteful but I have a roll of paper towels in my guest bathroom instead of cloth guest towels. They're on a cute red holder! Unless your guests are washing their hands for 2 full choruses of Happy Birthday, they're not getting many germs off of their hands before using a guest towel which means that the towel is a cesspool of germs. To prevent the spread, I use paper towels for guests. I do try to get the rolls of cute holiday print.
            • Hide an small air freshener on the floor behind the toilet. It will smell fresh without being obvious.

          • Kitchen
            • This is the week to run a cleaning cycle on your oven if you have it. That way anything in there won't burn as you run your oven for hours, making Thanksgiving dinner. If you don't have a self cleaning oven, do a good scrub and wipe out to get ready for baking. 
            • Take the vacuum and vacuum out the silverware holders. I hate it when we have a ton of company and I empty out a holder to find lots of crumbs in the bottom- Yuck! 
            • Scrub and bleach your sink. Fill the sink with hot water and add a cup of bleach. Let it sit until the water has cooled. Your sink will be sparkling clean and disinfected. Throw your sponges and scrubbers in to soak too. 
            • Wipe down all the cabinet and drawer fronts with a damp cloth. 
            • Clean off the junk pile and your desk. Sort it all out and put it away. 
            • Sweep and mop the floors. Really get into those corners with- you guesses it- A toothbrush. I told you it was deep cleaning. 
          • Bedrooms- Same in here: dust, walls, door, baseboards,  and vacuum
          • Getting ready for guests:
            • If company will be staying over, have a basket filled and ready to set out in the bathroom for guests. I have one and it holds travel sizes of: shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash, deodorant,  a new disposable razor, shaving cream, a new toothbrush and toothpaste, lotion and mouthwash, plus some little paper cups. This helps out guests who may have forgotten one of these items. Make sure that there are easy to reach extra rolls of toilet paper near the toilet.
            • If you have the luxury of a separate guest room,  Put clean sheets on the bed and fresh towels in the room. I wash sheets after a guest leaves but I fold them and make the bed just before company comes so that the bed is freshly made. 
            • If you don't have a guest room and will be using a kids room for guests. Have a spare set of sheets for that bed that are for company only. Have them washed, folded and ready to use along with a set of towels for each guest. Keep them all together so that when you need to "flip" the room you'll have everything that you need to get it ready in a few minutes.
            •  Make sure that there are some empty hangers in the closet for their hanging items and a place to set their suitcase. I have a couple of those folding luggage stands for guests to use.
            • Set a few newer magazines next to the beds for bedtime reading.
            • Make sure that there are tissues in the room as well. 
          I'm off to scrub and clean. Have a great week. 

            Sunday, November 15, 2009

            Cinnamon Syrup or as my kids call it Pancake Gravy

            This is one of those funny recipes that has become a family tradition. I used to feed 20+ high school kids breakfast once a week, at 6am, when they would come for bible study. One of their favorite breakfasts was pancakes with gravy. This cinnamon syrup looks exactly like the brown gravy you put on mashed potatoes. New kids would come and look at it with hesitation but, as soon as they tasted it they'd be back for more and their moms would call me for the "gravy" recipe. Surprise your family with it for a Saturday morning breakfast and it will become a family tradition for you as well.
            Cinnamon Syrup
            • 1 cup white sugar 
            • 1 cup brown sugar
            • 3/4 cup corn syrup- deal with it, it's just another sugar
            • 2 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
            • 3 TBS butter
            • 1/2 cup water
            • 10 oz of evaporated milk- You can use low fat!
            • 1 tsp vanilla
            1. Mix the sugars, corn syrup, cinnamon, butter and water together in a large non stick pan- Large is a key word here. Unless you LOVE cleaning up boiled sticky sugar from your stove, the pan needs to be larger than a sauce pan because it has a tendency to boil over and we all know how much fun that is. 
            2. Bring to a full boil over medium-high heat.  
            3. Boil for 2 to 3 minutes. 
            4. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes. I will sometimes boil the sugars the night before, leave it covered on the stove so that in the morning all I have to do is warm it back up until it starts to steam- Don't bring to a boil or you'll have to let it cool off again. If it's too warm it will curdle the milk and you'll have lumpy gravy. It still tastes fine it just doesn't look as good.
            5. Once it's cooled off some, add the condensed milk and the vanilla.If the syrup is too thick, add a bit more of the milk to it if necessary.
            6. Stir until combines and serve warm over pancakes.  
            This will keep well in the fridge for a couple of weeks so make a double batch and just heat and serve whenever you need it.

            Friday, November 13, 2009

            Pumpkin Muffins with Streusel Topping

            I love pumpkin muffins and love playing with recipes, so this is the result of taking the best parts of 4 different recipes and combining them into one great tasting muffin. The browned butter adds a nutty flavor to these muffins that sets them apart. They are perfect for your Saturday morning breakfast.

            1/3 cup of melted unsalted (sweet)butter, browned- Instructions below.
            2/3 cup brown sugar
            1 1/4 cups flour
            2 tsp baking powder
            1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
            1/2 tsp nutmeg
            1/4 tsp ginger
            1/8 tsp cloves
            1/4 tsp salt if using unsalted butter
            1 cup pumpkin
            2 eggs slightly beaten
            1/4 cup milk
            1 tsp vanilla

            2 TBS flour
            1/4 cup white sugar
            1 TBS butter softened
            1/2 tsp cinnamon

            • Grease a 12 hole muffin pan
            • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
            • Place the butter into a small saucepan over medium heat.
            • Have a small heat proof bowl waiting next to the stove. 

            • Allow the butter to melt and boil until it just starts to turn a light golden brown, stirring or swirling as it cooks to prevent burning. As soon as the color begins to change to the light golden color, immediately remove from heat and continue stirring for 30 seconds or so. The butter will continue browning from the heat in the pan. It should be a medium golden brown. 
            • If it starts getting too dark, QUICKLY pour into the standby bowl to stop the cooking process. Set aside to cool.  

            • In a small bowl, stir together the topping ingredients until the butter is incorporated and it is a bit crumbly.
            • Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves together into a medium size bowl.
            • In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, milk and vanilla. 
            • Add these wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until barely combined. 
            • Add the browned butter and stir until combined. Don't over stir. 
            • Divide the batter up into 12 muffins. 

            • Sprinkle a spoonful of the topping over the muffin batter
            • Place in oven and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center come out clean. 

            • Cool in pan for 15 minutes and then remove the muffins from the pan to continue cooling. 

            Thursday, November 12, 2009

            A Square Toed Mary Jane Slipper Pattern- Crochet

            OK, I've never written a pattern before so please forgive me if I have not done it correctly. As is my habit, I saw many patterns for Mary Jane slippers on the internet but they didn't look the way I wanted them to so I experimented with a few pairs and created this pattern. I love the squared off toe opening. They are really fast and easy to make. Have fun and enjoy the pattern. How perfect that this also is one of  Mama Kat's Workshop prompts this week for Writer's Workshop Wednesday! 2 birds with one post!!

            Square Toed Mary Jane Slippers

            • 1 skein of worsted weight yarn. I used Vanna’s Choice 
            • A small amount of a contrasting yarn for trim- use some of that leftover yarn I know you have laying about.
            • Size H hook
            • 2 Buttons
            Begin with a magic circle.

            DC 8 into the circle.  Pull the little tail and your circle is made. Once you have formed the circle slst into the top of the first DC and ch 2

            Round 2- place 2 DC into each stitch, slst into the top of the first DC, ch 2 (16 stitches)

            Round 3- 1 DC into same stitch, 2 DC into the next stitch, *1 DC into next, 2 DC into next to the end of the round, slst into the top of the first DC and CH2 (24 stitches)

            Round 4- 1 DC into the same stitch, * 1 DC into next 2 stitches, 2 DC into next, 1 dc into next two stitches and 2 DC into next, repeat until you have 3 stitches lest and single crochet each of them. (31 stitches) For slightly wider foot go ahead and DC 2 in the last stitch for 32 total.

            Round 5 Work 1 DC in each stitch around, slst in top of first DC and chain 2
            Round 6 Work 1 DC in each stitch around, slst in top of first DC and chain 2

            Row 7- DC into the first 22 stitches and chain 2. Turn work. You will be leaving the rest of the stitches unworked and just going back and forth on these 22. When you turn the work, the two chains in the turning chain you just made count as the first double crochet of the new row. So you will want to skip the first DC double crochet and work a double crochet in the second stitch. Be sure to insert hook under top two loops of stitch. Work a double crochet in each remaining stitch across the previous row; at the end of each row, be sure to work the last double crochet in the top of the turning chain from the previous row. Be sure to insert hook in the center of the V (and back bump) of the top chain of the turning chain
            Rows 8- Turn work, DC in second stitch and work across making sure to Dc in the turning chain from previous row.
            Rows 9, 10 , 11 , 12, and 13- Repeat row 8

            Row 14- After chaining 2 and turning work, make your first DC in the first stitch (By making a stitch into the first stitch, you will be increasing the number of stitches by one for a total of 23 stitches.) and work across the row making sure to work the top look of the turning chain from the previous row. Chain Row Row 15- repeat row 13- 24 stitches
            Row 16- repeat 13- 25 stitches
            Row 17 repeat 13- 26 stitches
            Row 18- Turn work, DC in second stitch and work across making sure to Dc in the turning chain from previous row.- 26 stitches
            Row 19- Turn work, DC in second stitch and work across making sure to Dc in the turning chain from previous row.- 26 stitches
            Row 20- DC 5, hdc 4, sc 8, hdc 4, DC 5- This helps round off the heel.

            The length of the slipper is determined by the number of rows that you do. For a shorter foot, stop at row 16 and then do row 20, longer, stop at row 17 or 18 then end with row 20. 20 rows is equivalent to a size 8 or 9 woman’s.

            Seam up the heel by putting right sides together and slip stitching from the top to the bottom of the heel by putting the crochet hook through the back loop of the side closest to you and the front loop of the back half, to make a nice even seam.

            Finishing the top edge:
            Still using the same color yarn as the slipper; Begin at the center of the back of the slipper. SC the center back 3 stitches together, SC4, SC2 tog, SC6, SC2tog, SC to stitch before corner. SCthe last stitch of the side and the fist stitch of the front together (the 2 corner stitches), SC across the toe, SC the 2 corner stitches together. SC down the side until you have 14 stitches left, SC2tog, SC6, SC2tog, SC4. You don’t have to follow this exactly. All you are doing with the SC2tog is making the top edge more snug so that the slipper fits and doesn’t slide off. Making your decreases on the back half of the slipper helps it to fit better.
            When you get back to the beginning, Slst into the beginning stitch and weave in end.

            Contrast and Strap
            Put the slipper on your foot and see how well it fits. If the fit is still too loose, you will need to add a couple of SC2togs to this last contrast row to tighten up the fit.
            With your foot in the slipper, take the end of your contrast yarn and figure out where you want the strap to go across.

            Once you can see where you want the strap to be, place your crochet hook through the stitch on the outside side of the slipper . This is where the strap will come across. To the button.
            Begin SC from that point around the front of the slipper, at each corner SC the 2 stitches from each side of the corner together . SC around
            to the opposite side of the slipper from where you started. If you started the strap 16 stitches from the front on the beginning side, SC 16 on the opposite side so that the strap will go across evenly.

            Chain 20 to 21 stitches depending on how wide your foot is.
            I try the slipper on and see if the strap is as long as I want it to be. Turn and begin working back into the chain. SC in the first stitch from the end, SC, chain 4 to 6 (the diameter of the button)

            skip the same number of stitches in your strap as you just crocheted and SC into that stitch. So if you have a 1” button you would chain 4 and then skip 4 stitches down on the strap before reconnecting the small chain you just made. This creates the Button Hole.

            SC back down the strap to where you began it. SC in that same stitch on the slipper then continue around the back of the heel to where you started. This is back half of the slipper is where you would add some additional SC2togs if you needed to tighten up the fit. Sl st in the beginning stitch and weave ends in.
            Sew your button onto the outside of the slipper and you are done!