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Recipe: The Christmas Miracle

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An accidental drink creation on Christmas Day last year that I saved to share with you this holiday season (and also because I wasn't going to write a recipe post on Christmas!).

I got some really good chai mix in my stocking, because Papa-Bug loves me. Really good. You can order some of the Blue Lotus Chai here. Before you order, let me warn you that it will ruin you for most other chai. It's so darn good. (They don't even know I'm writing this post, so neither of us gets anything out of my spiel for them. I just love that chai…)

Anyway.

This was my drink of choice last Christmas, and I will be indulging again on Christmas morning.

I call it The Christmas Miracle.

Gently warm a mug of eggnog. Mix in some Blue Lotus chai mix to taste. I like mine one the spicy side and always add more than they call for. No need to add any sweetener – the eggnog took care of that. Gently stir in a shot of rum or whiskey (your choice – I prefer rum but I also don't like whiskey at all).

Sip slowly in your pajamas while you watch your kids break their new toys.

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And have a Happy Holiday.

 

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Recipie: Pear Nibbles

Knitting group was coming over. Snacks were needed. So with some extra puff pastry and pears leftover from the recent canning projects, I pulled these bites together. And they were so good. So autumnal. Not too sweet and just sticky enough.

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Pear Nibbles
1 sheet of puff pastry
2-3 tbl. unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
A pinch of salt
1 tbl. Whiskey or Scotch (optional)
3-4 pears (I used Bartlett, but any pear will work)
1/2 cup (approximate) of chopped pecans

I used silicone cupcake forms, but these could be made in paper lined muffin cups just as easily. I’m really in love with my silicone cupcake forms. I use them all the time – for baking, playdough projects, kindergarten sorting math, toddler games, serving soft boiled eggs…

But back to pears.

Preheat your oven to 400*. Cut your puff pastry into 16 equal(ish) rectangles. Put one square in the bottom of each cupcake paper.

Melt the butter and add the brown sugar. Stir and brown just a little, for about 2-3 minutes. Add the the salt and the whiskey/scotch (if using) and cook for another minute or so. Set aside.

Core and quarter the pears and chop the pears into chunks. Put 3-5 chunks on top of the puff pastry. Add a spoonful of pecans over the pears. Drizzle the butter/brown sugar over the nuts and pears a spoonful at a time. Use it up.

Bake for 20 minutes. Let them cool before serving – this allows the butter and sugar to really soak into the puff pastry.

Enjoy.

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Re-Useable Snackbags – Tutorial and Giveaway!

 
 
I’m back! And I have been oh-so-busy with ever so many different things. And before we launch into all of that, let’s have a tutorial and a give away, shall we? 

 One of the project I recently finished was a set of re-useable snack bags. I get really frustrated with the amount of trash generated by my family. One of the components is ziploc baggies (also I have to remember to buy them at the store….and I never do…and then I don’t have snack baggies…). I looked around at lots of tutorials and came up with my own process. Here we go. 

These are super easy if you have a serger. If you don’t you can still do it, but it’s going to involve zig-zagging and turning and stuff. 

I made mine all different with scraps. What I did buy was rip-stop nylon to line the inside. This gives them a little water resistance (they aren’t at all waterproof, so don’t use them for soup or yogurt). Let’s make a guess. Get about a yard of nylon and a yard of cotton. I think. 

Okay. Let’s get going.

For each bag….

Out of both the cotton and the nylon, cut rectangles the width you want your bag, plus seam (let’s say 6 1/2″), and twice as long as you want your bag to be plus 2 inches (let’s say 8+8+2=18″). I eyeballed this on most of my bags, and I made a variety of sizes, so these measurements are just ideas. 

 
Serge the two rectangles together on one of the short sides of the rectangle – wrong sides together!
 
That serged edge is the front opening of your baggie. Line the fabric up and fold it in half, less those two inches we added. Like so. See how this already looks like a bag?
 
Starting at the bottom of the baggie, serge up both sides. Make sure you are catching the nylon in the seam. 
 
I can be a really picky seamstress, so my big challenge here was to just not worry about how exact my seams were and that everything was spot perfect. These aren’t works of art. They are lunch baggies. 
 
Finally, serge across the last side of your rectangle. This makes the top of your flap. Now you have a basic baggie and all you need is a closure. 
 
 

Finish the rest of your serging and make a whole set of these things. You will need a standard sewing machine next. All you need to do is add velcro to the openings. I used a zig-zag on the sticky side of the velcro because that was just easier.

Shazam!! A snack baggie! 

Like I said earlier, I made a whole bunch of these, in many sizes. I’m really looking forward to taking them on a test run when our family goes hiking this weekend. 
 
Another side benefit was using up some of my larger scraps – especially ones that have some kind of sentimental value. See that blue and white stripe one? That was from a maternity dress I made for myself more than 8 years ago, pregnant with my first baby. And now it’s a snack bag. Stuff like that makes me happy. 
But wait! There is more. I mentioned a giveaway, did I not? 
 
I made a lot of these. More than my family really needs. And I know that we are all out there doing our back-to-(home)school preparations. Many of those preparations will involve making lunches for people. 

 So I have a set of 4 snack baggies for one lucky winner! 

I’m doing this giveaway on my Facebook Page. It’s really easy. Click over to my page, like my page (if you don’t already), and leave a comment on the giveaway post telling me what you would like to use these bags for – hiking and trail mix, sack lunches and sandwiches…extra peanuts for a ball game? 

I’ll pick a random winner from the comments next Friday (August 15th). 

That’s it! Fun and easy, right? 

About Dulce de Leche

We have been participants in the Deck Family Farm dairy herd share for about two years now. The flavor of raw milk is so good – totally different from store milk. Recently we ended up with extra milk. We just didn't drink it as fast as we usually do. I was thinking of making the extra into yogurt, inspired by my friend's post about making her own yogurt.

But then Papa-Bug showed me Smitten Kitchen's recipe for Dulce de Leche from scratch, no sweetened condensed milk involved. Really…why would I make yogurt when I could make that?

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Smitten Kitchen's recipe is very simple. It's not even that attention consuming. My brother came over with his son and we had a play date, chatting, eating lunch, and periodically stirring our carmelizing milk. From a half gallon of milk (plus sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon) we each got about a pint of heaven to eat with a spoon.

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So what did we do with that Dulce de Leche? Well… It was good on a spoon. And in popovers one morning. And on the second of February we made crepes.

We always make crepes on the second of February. It's Imbolc or Candlemas – a day on the circle of the year to welcome back the sun. It translates to a Catholic holy day as well, and a French teacher once told me that in France, February 2nd is called Chandeleur and celebrated with crepes – piles and piles of golden crepes – to represent the golden candleglow of the holy day. Now, I will eat crepes for any reason and that seems like a particularly good one. So annually we welcome back the glow of the sun with our golden crepes.

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For these crepes I used some more extra milk to make a simple soft cheese that I flavored with a little vanilla syrup. Each crepe got a filling of soft cheese, a spoonful of Dulce de Leche, and had more Dulce de Leche drizzled over the top. It got rave reviews from everyone at the table and Brother-Bug told me that I am the best cook ever. So I'll call that a success.

It was so good. And there was a little Ducle de Leche left over.

Our little valley has been snowed in for the weekend. So we made cookie bars. Another Smitten Kitech recipe. (I got the cookbook for Christmas and have been a little obsessed with it…) This weekend we made Gooey Cinnamon Bars from the book. Basically they are an excuse to eat a stick of butter. My favorite kind of cookie.

And then Papa-Bug said, “You know what would gild this lilly…” Whenever he says that it likely means something gastronomically amazing.

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With the last of the Dulce de Leche we made sundaes. A Gooey Cinnamon Bar on the bottom, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and all topped with the Dulce de Leche. And that lilly was well and truly gilded. The bars by themselves were so good. The Dulce de Leche was amazing. The combination was a perfect dessert.

And now the Dulce de Leche is all gone.

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But that's okay because I know how to make more.

 

Recipe: Tropical Gelatin Salad

One of Brother-Bug’s resolutions for 2014 was to eat a papaya. I love that. So simple. An easy win. So, at the grocery store last week we bought a papaya and waited (with much impatience) for it to ripen.

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Last night I made Pad Thai for dinner and it needed a side. It was full of veggies and proteins already, and pantry options were looking slim. Then I found a can of coconut milk and remembered the papaya. Happily, all of those events happened early enough in the day that I had time to utilize the handful of gelatin packets that the Toddler-Bug brought me when he was tearing the pantry apart. And this very tasty gelatin salad was born.

Tropical Gelatin Salad

1 15 oz. can of coconut milk

1 can of crushed pineapple

4 packets of unflavored gelatin

1 can of pineapple chunks (or half a fresh pineapple)

1 ripe papaya

Pour the juice off the pineapples and mix in the gelatin. While the gelatin softens, bring the coconut milk to a low boil. Stir in the pineapple juice, gelatin, and crushed pineapple. Mix well and pour into a 9×13 baking pan. Chill for 3 or more hours until the gelatin is well set.

Once the coconut milk gelatin is set, peel and seed the papaya (and the fresh pineapple if you took that route). Cut the fruit into medium chunks, fairly uniform with a chunk of canned pineapple. Cut the gelatin into similar sized squares. Mix the fruit and gelatin all together in a large bowl.

That’s the kid-friendly version. To make this a little more interesting (though it is plenty good as it is) add some finely shredded fresh basil and red chili flakes, to taste.

Ten-Minute Sausage Dinner

It's the Holidays and I know we are all too busy creating and shopping and celebrating to cook. But we still get hungry and fudge doesn't really make a meal.

One of our favorite easy dinners is a sausage roast. It's too easy to really be a recipe. It's always a crowd pleaser.

Preheat the oven to 425*.

Cut winter/root vegetables into large chunks. I use whatever is convenient: potatoes, squash, rutabaga, turnip, sweet potatoes, celeriac, parsnip… Add large chunks of an onion and a couple of apples. Toss all the veggies with your favorite oil: olive, coconut, tallow, lard, butter…. Add salt, pepper, and herbs/spices.

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Ready for the oven – these are Deck Family Farm garlic lamb sausages for something extra special.

Lay the sausages across the bottom of a baking dish. Add the veggies on top. Cover with foil. Pop in the oven. After about 30 minutes remove the foil. Finish cooking – it's done when the veggies can be easily pierced with a fork.

It actually takes about an hour total to cookin is, but it is a full and complete meal with ten minutes of prep. And for me, that's good all year 'round. Especially during the craziness of the holidays. Add a side salad and it's a simple, tasty meal for the busiest night – maybe for Christmas Eve?

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Thanksgiving Recipe Links

There are a lot of recipes out in the world. There are a lot of recipes on this blog – I know because I just scrolled through them. I did this thing to collect the best recipe for Thanksgiving from this blog, to bundle together here for you! Here goes:

Sides

Carrot-Raisin Salad. Supremely simple and almost all kids will eat it up.

Carrot Cloud. A favorite in our family, but you need a food processor or good blender to whip it up right.

Savory Spaghetti Squash. Something a little more “main dish”, but easily put with the sides as a filling addition to…well…everything else.

3 Simple Sides. Our favorites: Roasted pears with rosemary, Brussels & Bleu cheese, Honey-roasted roots. Thanksgiving essentials for us.

Baked Items

Crackling Cheese-Chive Muffins. So good, and a fun alternative to rolls.

Palee-ish Corn Muffins. Another twist on rolls or bread. These have bacon and apple in them.

Desserts

Pecan Pie. Nothing else need be said.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake. It’s full of veggies, so it’s actually good for you!

Coconut-Almond Tart. Grain and dairy free…chocolate laden.

And Pie Crust Tricks. Because pie crust is important.

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I do not have recipes for turkey, dressing, or potatoes – those things just live in my head, well-worn after years of repetition. I tinker with the cranberries every year. Sister-But has decided that she must make tappenade. This is just a few recipes – a place to explore and glean ideas for your own Feast. I hope you enjoy these recipes (if not now, then someday…) and I hope your table is laden with bounty, love, and peace.