Christmas Brings on the Memories . . .

As we grow older, we discover that each new Christmas sharply brings to mind the people who are no longer  gathered around the Christmas dinner table and festive tree any longer. Although, we never stop thinking about them, the joys of the season seem to accentuate the empty ache in our hearts.

For the people who don’t see past the decorations and mad shopping preceding the days to the ‘reason for the season’, one has to feel sorry for them. When we take note of the changes that are felt more strongly in the midst of joy, we have to solace of knowing that we can pray for their souls and still send them good wishes and kind thoughts in spite of their physical absence. For those who believe that life is terminal as we cease to exist the moment we close our eyes in death, you have to wonder how they cope with such a finality without hope.

Given these thoughts, I think that is why I was actually thankful that two of my offspring decided to come early and grace the Christmas season in December. I suppose, to them, it is often an inconvenience in having to share the holiday. I look at it as a happiness to take the edge off the people in my life that can only be here my thoughts and prayers.

 

Not a Science Experiment!

Even before the various tainted greens reports, not even bagged lettuce or cabbage ever came to the table without a thorough bathing! First, I cut or shred the greens to the size I want for my soup or salad. Then, I put them into a large bowl with half a bottle of hydrogen peroxide and fill the bowl to the brim with water. And there it will rest for 30 minutes while I go about my other kitchen chores. Then I pull out the greens with tongs and place in the colander. No sense in pouring the soaking water over the lettuce again. Just look at what it left behind after the soaking! When you pick up a head of lettuce,red-leaf lettuce, or kale at the market, they are always so damp and crisp feeling giving you a false sense of security about the food you want to put on your table. However, when you think about it, how many people have touched your salad greens before they end up in your serving bowl for dinner?

Thought I’d share my method with you. After I rinse the formerly peroxide-soaked greens, I given it a good, long clean water rinse and have been known to even add some vinegar to the rinse. Then, the greens are laid out on a length of triple-layered paper towel, rolled up and then rolled into a clean, cotton dish towel and stored in the refrigerator until needed.

Thanksgiving Is When?

Somehow, I seem to have misplaced a few days of allotted time and it was suddenly revealed to that Thanksgiving is NEXT week! How could that be as it would mean Christmas can’t be too far behind. First Sunday in Advent is closing in which means that the holiday season is showing up long before I can get my ‘comfort and joy’ into holiday gear!

I have spent the last two days working on my schedule for preparing the Thanksgiving feast. Yes, I have a day-by-day schedule and so help the person who moves it from its place on the counter for easy referencing! Then, the second page sets out the order of the menu along with what days they need to be prepped or completed. My husband deals with the turkey but, given my organizational gene, he gets hourly reminders on that. The third page is my grocery list according to store. You can’t stock up too soon but one does not want to fight the last-minute panic at Walmart and Costco where people grab the pumpkin pies from the harried clerks the minute they appear from the bakery.

Along with the food aspect, I have the house cleaning schedule with a request that each person highlight the job they have accomplished . . . and so help them, if it doesn’t reflect a job well done as they will lose their highlighter marker and go back to step one.

With these happy reflections in mind, I actually don’t mind Monday and Tuesday of THANKSGIVING WEEK, my last two days of sanity! We don’t have a large house but it is amazing how family members can escape me without leaving said house.

Monday is bread baking day and cranberry relish day. With very little prep, these items bake/cook on their own leaving me to hunt down missing relatives who seem to be afraid of me for some reason.

All this, as you might have guessed, is a prelude to sharing my cranberry relish recipe!

Cranberry Relish

4 cups of fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 cup of freshly-squeezed orange juice
Finely grated zest of said orange BEFORE you squeeze it
2 peeled and diced green apples
dash of cinnamon
dash of salt

Rinse the cranberries and add to a large pot with all the ingredients and bring to a boil (stirring constantly) and then reduce to a mild simmer with stirring ever so often. Keep cooking until all the berries burst, the apples soften, and the mixture thickens. If you don’t feel it is thick enough, mix a tablespoon of cornstarch into a quarter cup of water, add to the pot, stir and continue simmering until it reaches a thicker state.

Now, you have a choice! Do you want sauce with the evidence of the fruit basically intact or do you want smooth? When it cools down a bit, you can blend the mixture in a blender until it reaches the texture you like.

A timesaver hint is when you are ready to refrigerate the cranberries, you can put them in the serving dish you planned for them, cover with saran and put in the refrigerator. On the day (and don’t forget them!), you just have to pull it out, remove the saran, add a serving spoon, and place on the table. Want a more rustic approach, get some medium canning jars for the sauce and you can then provide easy access to it for your guests with several jars on the table. You can put a ribbon around the jars to show everyone how classy you are at the holidays. AND, when the party is over, combine the leftover sauce into one or two jars, put the lid on and back into the refrigerator for leftovers time.

Granny Squares!

After a summer of Christmas gift crocheting, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is now time to start using up the leftover yarn. I’m not one to throw away a few feet of yarn just because the original project is over, done, and delivered. That’s where I go back to my simpler crocheting roots and turn them into Granny Squares when eventually turn into a really nice afghan. My only expenditure for the project is one, main color. As you can see in the picture, black was my choice this time but I recently finished one using white for the borders. My first time going with something other than a dark color and discovered I could now add to my crocheting repertoire!

The reason I enjoy making these ‘scrap’ projects is that they will always be pretty much one of a kind and they don’t have to be done in a day. If I run out of the ‘scrap yarn’ portion, I can always put it aside and wait. I seem to attract a lot of yarn which, in turn, results in a lot of ‘scraps’.

My husband isn’t much help in using up the yarn I have before starting into another project requiring a yarn purchase. Last year, I fell in love with a new type of yarn that comes in amazing variegated shades with fun names like “Gnome”, “Spirit”, and “Centaur”. My husband also liked the new choices so hardly a trip to Walmart goes by that he doesn’t discover a color I don’t have yet and throws two or three skeins in the shopping cart!

Not All Raffle Prizes are Equal!

Suppose you purchased tickets for a raffle and finally, for the first time in your life, actually won something . . . Would you claim your prize or change your home phone number:

1. Choice of king or queen size mattress from the Used Mattress Outlet. Fumigation expenses the responsibility of the winner.
2. Free bail bond – must be used within six months of receipt.
3. Two cubic yards of ready mix concrete delivered to your door on even numbered days if they fall on a Wednesday, between one and two in the morning.
4. Free laser eye surgery from the Derby School of Eye Surgery. (You’ve seen their ad in matchbook covers)
5. Free like-mahogany casket. Must take immediate delivery. Only used once!
6. Free steam cleaning of your front door mat. Good only with cost of carpet cleaning of your entire home.
7. Free bridal dress and accessories. Bride must be born prior to 1948 and wear a size five.
8. Free termite inspection. The company’s motto is We Always Find Bugs. A two percent discount on subsequent treatment of your home.
9. Twenty-five years of life insurance, premium-free. Must be five years or under to qualify.
10. Your grain milled free for a year. Minimum poundage per visit, one ton. Complimentary bale of hay with each visit

(Although I’ve ‘won’ some ‘interesting’ raffle prizes over the years, these (I hope!), are figments of my overactive imagination!)

My Favorite Discovery!

I’m pretty sure I mentioned this before but I can’t help grinning everytime we have fried fish or chicken and do it without flour and still get a great ‘crisp’ on it and a very satisfying crunch. AND, what we use is low carb and good for you, too, fewer calories. It is Whey Protein Isolate! Just scoop out what you need, season it like flour and there is your future crispy coating. You just dip your fish or chicken into some  beaten egg, coat with the seasoned whey stuff, and fry. It works well for onion rings, too.

Horror Movies From the Kitchen!

Horror Movies From the Kitchen
by Barbara Jean & Julianna Barthelette

How many nightmares come true at the dinner table when your mom serves up something only a grown up could like. Here are our ideas of horror movies that would definitely scare us!

The Artichoke, a Dying Vegetable. Some wonderful children are punished for gagging at the dinner table when this vegetable made it debut.

Sour Puss or the Cat that Ate the Pickle. The story of a cat named Dill and the day his owners feed him a pickle for breakfast.

Deadly Nightshade or Mushrooms for Dinner. A suspenseful film of a mother not only serving mushrooms but making sure the children eat them!

A Bump in the Night or the Asparagus that Fell in the Cream Sauce. You can run but you can’t hide from this one as the plot as well as the cream sauce thickens.

Heartburn or the Chili Sauce that Went Bad. What happens when a mom serves leftover chili to her family. It was most frightening when the chili tried to climb out of the bowl.

The Mutant Avocado or the Gruesome Guacamole. Chips are destroyed at a dinner party as people are forced to dip them in the green stuff.

There’s a Leek in the Kitchen and we have to Eat It. Children are traumatized when they find out there is more than one onion in the family.