Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Christmas Party

We like to have our neighbors over for a Christmas gathering, but the last few years that hasn't happened much.
This year we opted to have just a few close neighbors over, keeping the numbers down make it more approachable....
However, whether I have 3 people or 30, I approach a party the same way.
I plan...a lot. It drives my Hubby crazy sometimes, but without the planning, things don't go smoothly.
This year because it was cold and damp, I added chili with the trimmings to warm everyone up as well as warm cider on the stove.
As neighbors came in they could choose what they'd like and make themselves comfy in the family room...overall I think it went well....
Here are some glimpses of the set-up..
 Here you can see I am laying things out, labeling platters with what goes where helps me a great deal...
I chose a red tablecloth and used this fun paper as a runner...it was quite wide, which helped protect the tablecloth....mostly.
 Here is the maple pecan bread....
 Butter cookies with cocoa in them done with a cookie press, a fleur de lis....
 Our famous Buckeye balls....
 More Butter cookies....
Snowballs, rum raisin, and chocolate chip....
 I always offer a veggie plate....it is always safe, served with hummus....
 Here I have a marble tray with two kinds of cheese, one a soft goat cheese with homemade pepper jelly and a French soft cheese...
I find if I put some dried fruit and some nuts, such as pecans it looks nice, but for some wonderful reason, people eat more....
 I also offered olives and cornichons....
 Here was the chili....it was a hit...I literally put all the ingredients into the crockpot about 5 hours before, and let it do its thing, I would occasionally stir it, but so simple and a great payoff! I added sour cream, grated cheese, avocado chunks and extra spices for people to "doctor" it up....Not much was left...
For every party, I always have savory and sweet....and way too much to eat. But in this case I had a plan. You see, today my daughter is having a party...and leftovers get to go to her house. How smart is that??
Friday, we have another party to go to, so extra cookies can go to that or the freezer for a tea party we are planning in February.
Of course, the big hit besides food at this party...my little 9 week old Grandson...he sort of stole the show...what a ham he has become!
I hope you are having a fun and festive season!
Nancy

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Design Dilemma

If you follow my blog, you know what my livingroom looks like.
I have a dilemma.
You know already I have my eyes set eventually want a fireplace surround, but what I am looking into now is different than just the fireplace. I am hoping I will get some ideas from you....
Here is a view of what I have now....
But what you don't see is ......light!
This livingroom is quite dark. It has two lamps that are on the chair side, and when the Christmas tree isn't there, a light sits behind the couch....That is it. Three lights.
In my old age that is creeping into my life, I have noticed it is quite dark.
Do I get a chandelier? It would hand from our 8ft. ceiling in front of the fireplace mantel....
Or do we get recessed lights??
Ok, here is the messy living room (real life) complete with tree and boxes that are going out...(organizing)...
Would a chandelier be too crowded? If not how big? or should we just do some recessed lights??
I'd love to hear from you!
Nancy

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Lime Marmalade

Well, our lime tree was very prolific this year. It produced oodles of limes. So, what does one do with a great harvest?
Make marmalade!

First step bring in your harvest.....
Wash and dry your fruit. My garden is organic, but it still gets dirty, especially since it often falls to the ground...so be sure to wash...
Then, thinly slice the fruit and put in a bowl. There should be about 2 1/4 pounds of fruit to start....
Let your sliced fruit sit about 8 or so hours, covered. Overnight is good.
Then, when you are ready, put the fruit into your very large pot and add 7 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once its to a boil, turn it down to a simmer until the fruit is tender.
Once it is tender, turn off the stove and measure (careful...this is hot....) the mixture into a another bowl. You want to add one cup of sugar to each cup of mixture. Now, I have read all kinds of directions about heating the sugar etc....I found "bakers sugar" which is Ultra Fine Sugar. If you can get that, use that...it dissolves faster and mixes in very well...worth the extra effort.....
Bring that mixture back to a boil, and let it cook down about 30-45 minutes or so. It should cook down about an inch or more in the pan...
Test a spoonful on a frozen dish to see if it is ready to gel....it kind of wrinkles and slows when it hits the dish....
You can also see in the pan you are cooking in that the sides of the pot are getting thick....
Now if you are planning to can this wonderful marmalade, your pot should already be on and hot and ready to go...the lids washed and in a hot pot waiting...
When the marmalade is ready....spoon it into hot sterilized jars with a 1/2 inch headspace.
For this I used 1/2 pint jars....
I processed in a hot water bath for 12 minutes for those 7 1/2 pint jars. There was still lots left over, which went into pint jars that I cooled and put into the refrigerator.
Take the jars out of the canner when the time is up and let cool completely...
When they are completely cool, wipe the jars down and then label and give!
What a great gift!
Now, if people don't like marmalade....no problem, marmalade is fantastic as a cooking sauce! Lime marmalade is terrific with teriyaki sauce and cooked on chicken or pork! Use it as a finishing sauce on a roast chicken and you will have a delicious meal.
Enjoy!
Nancy

Monday, December 8, 2014

No Fake Trees Allowed Here

It is an ongoing "discussion" between my Hubby and I. Every year it is the same....
In any case, we have a real tree again this year.
Since water and wood floors do not mix so well, I have a routine we do.
It is a bit neurotic I admit, however, it can't be helped and it does work....
First you put down the crib mat that is waterproof (or was 30 years ago)...
Then the galvanized bucket....
Then a black plastic bag, just in case the bucket leaked....
And then the Christmas tree stand and tree.....
and voila! A Christmas tree.....
And yes, I think it does look like its leaning, but it is the tree itself....well, no tree is perfect....it is so much thicker on one side than the other...
I does smell nice, I have to admit....however, there are needles on the floor....
After the tree was done, we did the mantel...
Hope you have a great day!
Nancy

Friday, December 5, 2014

Christmas Tree Decorating

Today is the day.
We are going to get our Christmas tree.
We have had all kinds of discussion about "real" versus "fake", and Hubby still insists on a "real" tree.
I am personally tired of cleaning up after trees during this season, tired of having to wait to get a tree, when one could just get it out of the garage. Tired of worrying about fire hazard, the drying out and getting down on my knees to "water" it. I want a "fake" tree. But, alas, I have again lost the battle. He wants the "smell" of a "real" tree.
So, today is the day.
Then, I have to decorate it.
I always have great plans to make it look designer, but also simple is good.....
How do you decorate?
I found these samples on Pinterest....



It used to be I had all colors of ornaments....now a days I tend toward white and red....but these trees are inspiring..
What do you do with your tree?
Nancy

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Canning Jam

I think it was watching the "Buying Alaska" marathon yesterday....it spurred something in me along with my success in making marmalade...I woke up planning to can jam.
Well, actually, I pulled out frozen figs from the freezer to thaw, knowing I was going to make jam.
After all,  the equipment was already out. Why not?
So, after a quick breakfast and a couple of cups of coffee, still in PJs, I began.....



Yup, that messy kitchen is mine...I am known for being a whirling person in the kitchen...
The first batch was ready and the jars were not, so off I went to the freezer to get more figs. But of course they were totally frozen, not thawed. So, I tried to break them up, and ended up using the blender...which of course makes a different product...so we will see.
With jars almost done in their boiling sterilizing bath, the second batch of jam should be ready soon. Hopefully, this time my timing will be a bit better. I hate having a few jars in the big kettle. I really need the small batch canner....(I told Santa so)....
So, in the meantime, I am getting you up to date on my plans....
Four minutes remaining.....
Have I told you how much I love the small batch jam/jelly maker?? It cooks to perfection, every time.
So far, what I have tasted of the fig jam, it is pretty yummy. So, imagine this. I was given beautiful figs, about 3 years ago. I put them in the food saver bag, so they were completely sealed. These are the figs I am making jam from. It was definitely time.
Batch one, from the thawed overnight bunch.
Batch two, from frozen to jam.
The first batch was beautiful...just as I thought.
The second batch I had my doubts. It looked pretty mushed. But, when the jammer was done, it was the same beautiful hue, just a bit thinner, no doubt due to water content.
In twelve minutes the canner will be done....
And it is only 10 AM.
Now, here they are!


After almost 32 or so years of canning, I am still amazed by the whole process and final product.
It requires timing, which I often don't do quite right....ie, the canner isn't ready or the canner is ready and the jam or fruit is not. So, bringing them together successfully, is amazing.
It requires planning...I do, but even the best laid plans......
And it requires patience...which every time, I am made to develop.
I really like the idea of canning on a rainy day, versus the hot summer day. Freezing delays the canning until you are ready. I do however recommend the thawing of the fruit. If it is sealed, air can't get in and it gets "happy" in its juices.
Of course, one cannot freeze whole veggies that need to be fresh for pickling for example, but for jam it works.
I respect the canner, sometimes it can be a bit scary and a whole giant kettle of hot boiling water should be respected and carefully watched especially around little people.
I have yet to ever be brave to do pressure canning.
Any of my readers do that?? Do you have a brand of canner you like?
Well, now to clean up that mess I made and do some sewing....
Nancy

Monday, December 1, 2014

More Preserving....

Our Lime tree has been busy. Far more productive than years past, however, the crop was late. Usually, we sell limes at the neighborhood garage sale in October, but this year they weren't ready. So, what to do with a plethora of limes? Well, google recipes of course.
Yesterday, I started limes for making marmalade. They need to sit overnight. That is what I did yesterday.
Today, while the concoction start boiling, I made Red Pepper jelly, using the jalapenos from the garden and a red pepper (from the store), a yellow one (from the store) and a green one just starting to turn from the garden. In 21 minutes I had pepper jelly!
When the pepper jelly was ready, the lime concoction was ready for its next phase, adding the sugar and cooking it for almost 20 minutes....When that was done, jelling on a frozen plate, I canned them!
Well, that was super yummy! I can't wait to try it to finish off a roast chicken with it.....
Then, with all the other limes that tree gave us today I was trying to find ways to preserve those. I found online that you can dehydrate limes....hummm, I can do that. Supposedly, they are terrific dropped into tea.....so I sliced four trays worth for the dehydrator....
Then, with some still left, I read you can freeze whole limes! Really?? I have frozen slices before, but whole? cool....
So, I filled this cookie sheet up more than in this picture, and stuck the whole thing in the freezer....to be bagged when they are frozen....
So, that is three ways to preserve limes....yummm.
Afterwards, the egg shells that I saved and dried, were ready to crush up and sprinkle on the raised bed where the slugs and snails have all but demolished my crop of cabbages. Supposedly, the shells will cut the creatures up. However, I have a dog that will eat everything. Humm....how do I make the crushed shells small enough she can't really eat them? Ah! the spice grinder (which is really just a coffee grinder that I don't use for coffee)...
Here are the shells, lightly crushed.


First grind in the grinder...(the brown stuff is onion skin that was on the counter, just threw that in for good measure)...
Now here it is a fine powder...
I put that around the cabbages, so we will see, if anything it will add calcium to the garden....
Hope you had a grand and productive day!
Nancy