DAY 3 ~ BLOGMAS 2017 ~ FAVORITE CHRISTMAS MUSIC

I’m all over the place with Christmas music – depends on the day, the occasion, my mood, what food we’re eating – just sooooooooo many factors! BUT, I do like it to wait until at least the day after Thanksgiving!
I love the old standards, but I also love country Christmas and Mannheim Steamroller.  I love Christmas carolers, not that you see many these days.  I was even part of the handbell choir at church for Christmas programs.
As for favorite songs I have a few that top the list:
  • Silent Night
  • White Christmas
  • Jingle Bell Rock
  • Winter Wonderland
  • Frosty the Snowman
  • Little Drummer Boy
  • The twelve days of Christmas
  • Deck the Halls
  • Come All Ye Faithful
  • It Came upon a Midnight Clear
  • We three Kings of Orient
  • Joy to the World
  • Rudolph the Reindeer
  • Do You Hear What I Hear
  • The Most Wonderful Time of Year
  • It’s Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas
  • Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

DAY 2 ~ BLOGMAS 2017 – CHRISTMAS MEANING

Christmas is the most important holiday to me and not because Santa comes, though that is pretty important to the kiddos, but more importantly, it’s a caring spirit, a sharing feeling, an attitude that I try to practice all year long.  I truly feel good about giving – whether it’s the Angel trees I select gifts for or the smile from the Salvation Army bell ringer as you put your money in their red bucket and wish them Merry Christmas.

For 10 years I chaired an Angel Tree Program for FISH and I loved doing it! I prepared for it every year and I truly believe each year got better and better.  The night before we distributed the gifts I would go shopping for the teenage girls.  We were ALWAYS lacking in gifts for the teen girls no matter what we tried to boost things up for them.  So now when I choose the angels from the trees in the community I seek out the teenage girls specifically.

Christmas means lots and lots of memories of family, some no longer with us, but always in my heart when I hang an ornament they made especially for me like my cousin Beth who we lost in October or a recipe that they always prepared like my dad’s Oatnut Sourdough Herb Dressing or Gram’s Christmas box full of goodies picked out just for each one of us or…

One of the things I try to practice is to make at least one homemade gift each year – nothing extravagant, but just something that says “I MADE THIS with LOVE JUST FOR YOU“.

The years that I host Christmas include a lot of family recipes.  But,  most importantly, Christmas is the spirit of Love and Giving and it must be felt and shared. Christmas is a gift from above and each year as I grow older I realize more and more that Christmas is about Love, Peace, Sharing, Caring and just being together.


May we ALL carry the spirit of Christmas in our hearts all throughout the year by remembering the REAL reason for the season.
I found this story years ago over at Heather’s blog Family Forever , now a closed blog, but I kept it to remind me to remember this for the future.
I think next year that many of my gifts will be given in the same manner as my family really doesn’t ‘need’ anything, but so many others do. Don’t forget your tissue box as you read this story.
The Simple White Envelope
It’s just a small white envelope stuck among the branches of our Christmas tree. No name, no identification, no inscription. It has peeked through the branches of our tree for the past 10 years or so.

It all began because my husband Mike hated Christmas –oh, not the true meaning of Christmas, but the commercial aspects of it — the overspending, the frantic running around at the last minute to get a tie for Uncle Harry and the dusting powder for Grandma — the gifts given in desperation because you couldn’t think of anything else.

Knowing he felt this way, I decided one year to bypass the usual shirts, sweaters, ties, and so forth.. I reached for something special just for Mike. The inspiration came in an unusual way.. Our son Kevin, who was 12 that year, was wrestling at the junior level at the school he attended.

Shortly before Christmas, there was a non-league match against a team sponsored by an inner-city church.

These youngsters, dressed in sneakers so ragged that shoestrings seemed to be the only thing holding them together, presented a sharp contrast to our boys in their spiffy blue and gold uniforms and sparkling new wrestling shoes. As the match began, I was alarmed to see that the other team was wrestling without headgear, a kind of light helmet designed to protect a wrestler’s ears. It was a luxury the ragtag team obviously could not afford.

Well, we ended up walloping them. We took every weight class. And as each of their boys got up from the mat, he swaggered around in his tatters with false bravado, a kind of street pride that couldn’t acknowledge defeat.

Mike, seated beside me, shook his head sadly, ‘I wish just one of them could have won,’ he said. ‘They have a lot of potential, but losing like this could take the heart right out of them.’ Mike loved kids — all kids — and he knew them, having coached little league football, baseball, and lacrosse.

That’s when the idea for his present came. That afternoon, I went to a local sporting goods store and bought an assortment of wrestling headgear and shoes and sent them anonymously to the inner-city church. On Christmas Eve, I placed the envelope on the tree, the note inside telling Mike what I had done and that this was his gift from me. His smile was the brightest thing about Christmas that year and in succeeding years. For each Christmas, I followed the tradition –one year sending a group of mentally handicapped youngsters to a hockey game, another year a check to a pair of elderly brothers whose home had burned to the ground the week before Christmas, and on and on. The envelope became the highlight of our Christmas. It was always the last thing opened on Christmas morning, and our children, ignoring their new toys, would stand with wide-eyed anticipation as their dad lifted the envelope from the tree to reveal its contents.

As the children grew, the toys gave way to more practical presents, but the envelope never lost its allure. The story doesn’t end there. You see, we lost Mike last year due to cancer. When Christmas rolled around, I was still so wrapped in grief that I barely got the tree up. But Christmas Eve found me placing an envelope on the tree, and in the morning it was joined by three more. Each of our children, unbeknown to the others, had placed an envelope on the tree for their dad. The tradition has grown and someday will expand even further with our grandchildren standing around the tree with wide-eyed anticipation watching as their fathers take down the envelope. Mike’s giving spirit, like the Christmas spirit, will always be with us.

May we all remember Christ, who is the reason for the season, and the true Christmas spirit this year and always.

FRENCH PEAR TART

8 or 9 years ago when I was a new food blogger, I joined a MEME group known as Tuesdays with Dorie where we made a different recipe from her cookbook, Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, each week. Of ALL the recipes we made this was one of my all time favorites! It is PERFECT for this time of year!

FRENCH PEAR TART
SHELL
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick plus 1 tablespoon very cold unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk

  • To make the dough, put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse a few times to combine.
  • Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely.
  • Add egg and process in long pulses about 10 seconds each until smoother.
  • Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing.
  • Gather dough into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap well and chill for at least 2 hours or for up to 1 day.
  • Butter the tart pan and press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
  • You want to press the crust in so that the pieces cling to one another and knit together when baked, but you don’t want to press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly texture.
  • Freeze the crust for an hour before baking.
  • To partially bake the crust, center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375°.
  • Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminum foil and fit the foil tightly against the crust.
  • Bake the crust 25 minutes.
  • Then carefully remove the foil. If the crust has puffed, press it down gently with the back of a spoon.
  • Bake for another 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer the pan to a cooling rack.

PEARS
3 medium pears, firm but ripe
1 lemon
1 cinnamon stick
4 cups water, optional
1 1/4 cups sugar, optional

  • Peel the pears.
  • In a saucepan just large enough to hold the pears, whisk together the water and sugar until the sugar dissolves.
  • Add the cinnamon stick and the juice of the lemon.
  • Bring to a boil.
  • Add the pears to the boiling syrup, reduce the heat so the syrup simmers to GENTLY poach the pears for about 15 minutes. They should be tender when pierced with a knife.
  • Remove from heat and set pan aside to cool the pears to room temperature.

ALMOND CREAM
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup ground blanched almonds
2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 large egg, room temperature
2 teaspoons dark rum or 1 teaspoon PURE vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

  • Add butter and sugar to a food processor and process till mixture is smooth and satiny.
  • Add the ground almonds and continue to process until well blended.
  • Add the flour and cornstarch, process,.
  • Add the egg, processing for about 15 seconds more, or until the almond cream is well blended.
  • Add the rum or vanilla and process just to blend.
  • Scrape the almond cream into a container and either use it immediately or refrigerate it until firm, about 2 hours.

ASSEMBLY & BAKING

  • Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350°.
  • Line a baking sheet and set aside.
  • Cut the poached pears in half.
  • Core them and make sure to pat them dry so that their liquid won’t keep the almond cream from baking.
  • Fill the baked crust with the almond cream, spreading it even with an offset metal icing spatula.
  • Thinly slice each pear half crosswise, lift each half on a spatula, press down on the pear to fan it slightly.
  • Place it, wide-end toward the edge of the crust, over the almond cream. The halves will form spokes.
  • Put the crust on the lined baking sheet, slide the sheet into the oven and bake the tart 50 to 60 minutes.
  • The almond cream will puff up around the pears and brown. Transfer the tart to a rack to cool to room temperature.
  • Right before serving, dust the tart with confectioners’ sugar..

NOTE:  Almond cream pairs well with a variety of fruits such as apricots, peaches and apples as substitutes or combinations.

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DAY 1 ~ BLOGMAS 2017 ~COUNTDOWN SCHEDULE

For the last several years I have done “BLOGMAS” over at Diary of a Stay at Home Mom.  This year I decided to do BLOGMAS, but with my own list.

Unfortunately the surgery I should have had months ago is now scheduled 5 days from now. So, a few categories will be a little off this year, but I’m going to do them anyway. Christmas will be quiet for us this year, but one the best days of the year for us.

These are things that I begin right after Thanksgiving, but I thought it was the best prompt for today. I almost feel guilty that almost ALL of them are accomplished.  With the surgery though I HAVE to be ready way ahead of time! As for this year’s prompt I do both homemade and store bought depending on what someone wants and/or needs.

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TUNA NOODLE or CHICKEN NOODLE CASSEROLE

TUNA NOODLE CASSEROLE
1 large can tuna, drained WELL (a combination of salmon and tuna works well also)
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 small can evaporated milk
1 bunch green onions, chopped or sliced thin
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups cooked egg noodles or pasta of choice
1 can Le Seur peas, drained WELL (optional)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese**
1 cup crushed potato chips##
Fresh ground salt and pepper, to taste

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Whisk together soup and milk until well blended.
  • Fold in tuna, onion, garlic, peas and cheese.
  • When well blended gently fold in noodles and pour into a prepared baking dish.
  • Top with crushed potato chips and bake 30 minutes until bubbly and heated through.

NOTE**Gram’s original recipe called for 1 cup velvet cubes, but I never touch the stuff so adapted it to real cheese

NOTE##Grams always used potato chips, but I also like to use a buttered bread crumb or cracker mixture.

 

CHICKEN NOODLE CASSEROLE
1 1/2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken (can substitute a LARGE can of chicken)
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 bunch green onions, chopped or sliced thin
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups cooked egg noodles or pasta of choice
1 can Le Seur peas, drained WELL
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese**
1 cup crushed potato chips##
Fresh ground salt and pepper, to taste

  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Whisk together soup and milk until well blended.
  • Fold in tuna, onion, garlic, peas and cheese.
  • When well blended gently fold in noodles and pour into a prepared baking dish.
  • Top with crushed potato chips and bake 30 minutes until bubbly and heated through.

NOTE**Gram’s original recipe called for 1 cup velvet cubes, but I never touch the stuff so adapted it to real cheese

NOTE##Grams always used potato chips, but I also like to use a buttered bread crumb or cracker mixture.

SHARING with FOODIE FRIDAY and TASTY THURSDAY.

CLASSIC BEEF STROGANOFF and/or DEVILED STEAK TIPS

CLASSIC BEEF STROGANOFF
1 1/4 pounds sirloin tips, trimmed of fat and cut into 1 inch pieces
2 teaspoons Bragg’s liquid aminos
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 pound mushrooms, sliced thin **
2 teaspoons hot water
1 tablespoon Coleman’s dry mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
Fresh ground black pepper
1 tablespoon avocado oil
1 large shallot, diced fine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons Wondra flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon fresh chopped flat leaf parsley

  • Poke each piece of meat with a fork
  • In a mixing bowl toss meat pieces with Bragg’s liquid aminos, cover and marinate 1 hour.

 

  • While meat is marinating prep mushrooms.
  • In a large skillet melt butter over medium high heat.
  • Add mushrooms and sauce until soft and caramelizeng.
  • Drain mushrooms and set aside.

 

  • Whisk together the water and mustard powder with the sugar, and some pepper just until a smooth paste forms. Set aside.
  • Pat meat dry with paper toweling.
  • Season with fresh ground pepper.

 

  • Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat.
  • Add beef pieces and sear on ALL sides, reducing heat as necessary to prevent burning. Transfer eat to plate.
  • Add Add onions and saute until caramelized and browning.
  • Add in the tomato sauce and flour, stirring to blend.
  • Stir in beef broth, mustard paste and wine until well blended and bring to a SLOW simmer, cooking until slightly reduced and starting to thicken.
  • Fold meat pieces and mushrooms into the sauce and cook a couple minutes more until heated through.
  • Remove from heat and fold in sour cream.
  • Serve immediately over buttered noodles.
  • Sprinkle with parsley.

*NOTE*: I prefer thin sliced mushrooms, but some prefer larger mushrooms in which case you should use 1 pound and quarter them.

OR You can make this version of the same basic style meal – just depends on your flavor palette:

DEVILED STEAK TIPS serves 4-6
2 pounds boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 inch cubes
2 1/2 tablespoons avocado oil
1 shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons Wondra flour
3/4 cup beef broth
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon creamy horseradish
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Fresh ground sea salt and black pepper

  • Pat beef dry.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • In a large skillet heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat.
  • Add half the beef and cook until well browned on all sides, turning as needed, about 6-8 minutes.
  • Remove beef with a slotted spoon to a bowl and add second batch.
  • Remove second batch with slotted spoon.
  • Add remaining oil to the pan.
  • When oil is hot, add onion and season with salt, sautéing until soft.
  • Add garlic and season with pepper.
  • Add in flour and stir to blend, cooking until golden.
  • Whisk in tomato sauce, beef broth, vinegar, horseradish, mustard and water. Be sure to scrape up any browned bits from the pan bottom.
  • Return beef and any accumulated juices to the skillet.
  • Simmer, stirring occasionally 1 – 1 1/2 hours until sauce is thickened and meat is tender.
  • Season to taste and serve over buttered noodles.

SHARING with FOODIE FRIDAY and TASTY THURSDAY.

BACON HERB ROASTED TURKEY

BACON HERB ROASTED TURKEY
1 pound bacon, chopped
2 sticks butter
1 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup dry sherry
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup, chopped flat leaf parsley
3 sprigs fresh thyme, stems removed
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, stems removed, chopped
3 sprigs fresh tarragon, stems removed, chopped
15 pound turkey, rinsed, drained and innards removed and reserved for gravy
1 medium red onion, peeled and quartered
1 large lemon, rested and quartered
1 blood orange, quartered
2 tablespoons avocado oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons fresh ground Himalayan salt
2 teaspoon fresh ground tricolor pepper
5 large carrots, washed and trimmed
5 stalks celery, washed and scraped

  • Pulse together the bacon, shallots, garlic, sherry, green onions, mustard, tarragon, thyme and rosemary until you have a smooth paste.
  • Refrigerate until chilled through. I like to make this part on Tuesday so it is well chilled.
  • Preheat oven to 350°.
  • Lower oven rack to bottom.
  • Arrange carrots and celery on bottom of roaster in a basket weave pattern.
  • Place onion, lemon and orange quarters in turkey cavity.
  • Tie legs with food grade twine or baking bands.
  • Whisk together the lemon zest, avocado oil, salt and pepper.
  • Carefully separate skin from the body without tearing or piercing the skin.
  • Insert the bacon paste between skin and meat, massaging into an even layer.
  • Coat the outside of the turkey with the oil.
  • Pat brown sugar over oil.
  • Place the turkey in the roaster on top of carrot and celery grid.
  • Tent loosely with foil.
  • Bake 20-25 minutes per pound or until turkey reaches 150° (in the thigh). Baste ever 20 minutes or so.
  • Remove foil and bake uncovered until skin has browned and temperature has risen to 160°. Continue basting every 15  minutes or so. You want the skin to crisp, but NOT dry out.
  • Remove turkey from oven, tent with foil and allow to rest 20 minutes or so.