Sunday, December 19, 2010

Nativity Scene

This beautiful nativity scene in our neighborhood has been displayed at a corner home for the past five years. It expresses the true Christmas, Christ's birth. The King is born in Bethlehem.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gingerbread House

Turn up your speakers and watch the 31 second video,  below,
to hear about this little gingerbread house.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas Tree

Christmas trees with ornaments from throughout the years are my favorite because they are so personal. As each ornament is hung you remember that person and that year. Some of those people are still in your life, others lost to time and moves.

Our tree for the last 10 years has been an artificial tree with attached lights. After several years we quit using the bottom and now have it smaller on two of my old iron ladies, treadle sewing machines. This is the view entering the front door, the teapot wall, turn top card table and tree.

The next view is from the livingroom, all set up with a cozy fire and mantle decorated with silverplated Wallace bells. The first bell was 1979 from my boss, Ray Wilshire, when I worked for him in Hanford, California. It was such a beautiful large jingle bell I collected a few more over the years and even found an older one with a 1971 date.
(Click on Read More to see some of the ornaments)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Iron Cookware and Corn Stick Recipe

My iron skillet was banned to the dark corners of cupboards for years when I went through the phase of non-stick skillets, they seemed like magic, they were so lightweight. Non-stick skillets seemed great at first but they chipped and warped quickly, even when you were careful not to use metal utensils. After some years I realized certain foods just did not cook properly or tasted as good. Besides that there are health benefits to cooking in iron.

I went back to my iron skillet in the late 1980s and realized it was non-stick also. There are two important things about iron cookware. One is the skillet must be seasoned, some iron cookware comes pre-seasoned. There are many directions on the internet for how to season iron cookware so I won’t go into that. Secondly, the cookware must be properly heated to prevent sticking. Let it preheat well starting on low, heat at least 5 minutes and it will be non-stick, even cheese will pop right off on a well heated and seasoned skillet. Notice the following two photos, at the front is a piece of cheese directly on the skillet and after popping it up, yummy cheese wafer. Preheating the skillet to prevent sticking is not often mentioned, that had been my problem many years ago.

While putting away an iron skillet I realized how much iron I have, here is my selection.

On the left are three corn stick pans and three skillets. There is nothing like good crunchy corn sticks to go with soup, stew or chili. I started with only one pan in the late 1960s but seven little corn sticks is not enough so over the years I bought a second then a third, all three fit in the oven with an inch between for heat circulation. When making corn sticks or cornbread put the cookware in the oven while it preheats. Pull it out, oil the cookware then add the batter, you will have nice toasty food.

Next are the three iron skillets under the corn stick pans. One is thinner, Wagoner brand, I don’t like to use it. My favorite is my newest Lodge skillet with a long handle on one side and a loop handle on the other side, it makes lifting and moving it much easier.

On the back right burner is a wok I purchased when we lived in Holland between 1990 and 1993. I had never seen an iron wok before and bought it new at Hema, a chain department store. In the wok is a Lodge 4 quart Dutch oven that Hubby uses for no-knead bread.

The pan with 19 shallow round holes is a poofertjes pan, not an ebelskiver pan. I bought it at a rommelmarkt, flea market. Dutch Pooferjes are more shallow than Danish ebelskivers. Pooferjes are little puffy pancakes made with a yeast batter and served with butter, powdered sugar and often with strawberries. Check out pooferjes on YouTube, the professionals bake 100 or more at a time. They go down the rows, flip flip flip flipping each to the other side.

The flat grill in front is for making tortillas, I’ve owned it at least 30 years. Flour tortillas are made on a dry flat top, no oil. Another day I’ll go into tortilla making.

 A myth about iron cookware is that you cannot wash it with soap and water. Of course you can, just do it quickly and dry it immediately, we set the pan on a burner to dry it well. Too many times we have forgotten that a burner was on so we set a timer for several minutes to remind us to turn it off. Iron does rust so don’t let them sit in water. A blue Scotch Brite non-scratch scrubbing pad works well to clean and not damage the seasoning.

Corn Sticks Recipe

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 eggs
1 cup milk, microwave a few seconds to slightly warm

Put two corn stick pans in oven to preheat to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
In a mixing bowl mix the 5 dry ingredients, a whisks works well.
In a small bowl whisk the eggs, add slightly warm milk and melted butter.
Pour wet mixture into dry ingredients and whisk together.
Pull out hot pans, oil each corn stick depression, use a heat resistant brush.
Pour batter into corn stick pans.
Bake 18 to 20 minutes till lightly browned.
Turn out onto a rack and eat immediately, they are best still warm.

 Reese and Davis last week with basket of corn sticks.
Lisa and Doug with a tummy warming meal of lentil stew,
corn sticks and red wine.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Angels and Chimes

It’s funny how memories can be very different for everyone. I purchased these Swedish made brass angel chimes about 1968 and enjoyed the soft chimes. What beauty the first year when they were new and untarnished. Little did I know what a pain they would be to clean every year when the house was decorated for Christmas.

My favorite memory of the chimes was Christmas Eve 1975 when Joe and Doug were 11 and 6. It was during my first marriage when we were stationed at Barber’s Point in Hawaii and lived in Navy housing among other young families away from home. Three other families came over with two children each, including my sister and her children, Cindy and Troy. Eight unusually well behaved children from 4 to 11 sat at the dining room table for hot chocolate and home made cookies. The lights were dimmed and the brass centerpiece of chiming angels gently twirled from the heat of the candles and a pattern of shadows twirled around the ceiling and candle light glowed on the children’s faces. They chatted with anticipation of Christmas morning and Santa Claus, I looked around at each little face, so much like an angel that evening and knew it was a Christmas memory I would never forget.

Davis, Doug 41, Reese
Joe 46, Lisa, Larry
Two of those angels, now ages 41 and 46 in above photos, sat around a table with the angel chimes last night and told me of their memories. Doug remembers having to polish the chimes many years, Joe laughed saying he wasn’t good at it so didn’t get the job.

Nobody polishes the chimes now, they are dull but magically look polished in photographs, a Christmas miracle.

Turn up speakers and listen closely to hear the chimes.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pecan Pie

Precious daughter-in-law, Lisa, called about 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning to Facetime me. I looked like crap at 8 a.m., had just quickly brushed my teeth and brushed back my hair to get started baking pies for our Thanksgiving meal in Hanford at my sister’s. With iPhones in hand Lisa and I could see each other’s morning loveliness, she was still laying in bed. I reversed the camera so she could see the kitchen counter mess of ingredients for the pumpkin and pecan pies.

I’m the pie lady every year. We must have two pumpkin and two pecan pies. The pumpkin pies are made from the recipe on Libby’s Pumpkin, not the pre-made pie filling. One difference I make is to increase the spices a little, make the teaspoons slightly heaping.

Everyone loves the pecan pies. I’ve been using the Dear Abby recipe since the 1960s.  Abigail Van Buren had an advice column for years. Every year her recipe appeared and several times I cut it out, here is a scan of a clipping.

There was one thing Lisa complained about every year since she and Doug married in 1993, the whole pecans in the pie. Every year she kept telling me I should chop the pecans, chop the pecans, chop the pecans. So, maybe I was trying to make points, one year I did make them with chopped pecans and only a scattering of whole pecans on top for decorating. She still complained! She wanted every pecan chopped. I came around and must say, it is better with chopped pecans. Pecans float and every bite will have an equal amount of chopped pieces. Here is the recipe the way we like it.

Deluxe Pecan Pie

3 eggs
1 cup dark Karo corn syrup
1 cut brown sugar, not packed
2 Tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
a pinch of salt, that’s a little less than 1/4 teaspoon
1 1/2 cups of chopped pecans, don’t skimp on pecans

Prepare a 9 inch pie shell, uncooked. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl, beat slightly with a whisk.
Add the syrup, brown sugar, melted butter, vanilla and salt, whisk together, then stir in the chopped pecans.

Pour filling into pie shell, bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a butter knife inserted halfway between center and edge comes out wet but not brown syrup clinging.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Bean Taco Night

Yes, bean tacos!  

They are so simple, such wonderful peasant food, I adore them. My Dutch hubby prefers them to meat tacos. Before I left for a few hours at the office we talked about what we would have for dinner, I wouldn't be back till 6:15 and hubby had a Bible study to go to by 7 p.m. so bean tacos fit the schedule.

Before I got home hubby made salsa, graded cheese, chopped onions,  sliced lettuce, opened a can of re-fried beans and had one of my iron skillets hot and ready. I poured about an eighth inch of vegetable shortening in and heated to medium high. Spoon a small amount of beans in center of a tortilla, see note at the end about what type of corn tortillas to buy. Don't use too much beans, about two tablespoons.

Using tongs fold the edges up, and rest bent bottom in hot oil so it will not crack, hold till folded side is well set and firm, then lay taco in oil on its side and do two more, three will fit an average skillet.

Continue cooking till they are toasty hard on both sides. Add oil as necessary but not much, you only need enough to cover the bottom of the pan.

Drain on paper towels, open up each taco and add cheese first to melt into the hot beans.

Add whatever else you like, I just add lettuce then hubby's flavorful salsa made with canned chopped tomatoes, cilantro, jalapenos, onion, lemon or lime juice and garlic. Three glorious little bean tacos are just right for a light meal.

Tortilla buying tip, for best flavor and no aftertaste, buy tortillas with no preservatives. They should have only three ingredients, ground corn, water and a trace of lime. As far as the beans, canned Rosarita are just fine.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wine a bit.... You'll feel better!!!

Wine girls at the Madera Wine Trail on November 13, Chris, Tracey and me.