Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Holiday Season

I'm off to see family and celebrate the rest of Christmas and the New Year. I'm looking forward to lots of eating, talking, laughing, game playing, present opening, and just general family wonderfulness.

Jeremy and I celebrated with a quiet, restful 4-days at home over Christmas. We watched lots of movies, ate tasty food, talked, read, and enjoyed each others company. And, I was thrilled to finally receive Helene Hanff's book Apple of My Eye. I've read the rest of her better known works and this was the final one to add to my collection. And may I suggest to you again, read Helene Hanff? Start with 84 Charing Cross Road. You won't regret it.

If I have a chance, I'll post my final reading round-up before the year is out. Otherwise, I'll see in 2010 with reading updates and perhaps a few book suggestions.

I hope you all are enjoying holiday celebrations with family.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

What's Been Cookin' in my Kitchen

Can I just say that I've been suffering from severe lack of inspiration/interest in the kitchen? The creativity well dried up and I was left with no new ideas and not very good remakes. This problem has been fueled somewhat by infrequent trips to the grocery to restock the pantry and fridge. (I'm to the point of having almost no fresh or frozen veggies, so the grocery store is calling my name.)

Last night, after a very frustrating day at work, I had a burst of kitchen interest that I quickly acted upon using the spare ingredients I have around. I made Dijon lemon salmon, baked potatoes, herb roasted carrots with onion, and creamed spinach (which I made my own white sauce for!). Jeremy loved the creamed spinach (recipe from Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food. A most wonderful cookbook!), so I think that will be repeated sometime.

I may win Jeremy over to being a soup-guy one of these days just because I keep making them. When I don't know what to make, I think soup. It's usually easy and it's comforting. Two new soups I've tried recently are Vegetarian Black Bean Chili with Orange and Cumin and Italian Chickpea Soup (from Bon Appetit and Vegetarian Times). For the chili I cut way back on the cinnamon called for in the recipe and if I made it again, I'd cut out the orange peel that was added at the end, otherwise, quite good. I was pleasantly surprised by the chickpea soup, which also has sweet potatoes in it. I did add some mushrooms and broccoli.

To send in Christmas gifts to some family, I made a batch of gluten-free Double Chocolate Mocha Biscotti from this recipe. Because I didn't have agave nectar, I substituted with other sweetener and added an egg for some needed liquid. It turned out very tasty!

Even though it's snowing outside, I think I have to go food shopping. Tomorrow I work all day and I don't want to wait until Christmas Eve.

I do hope you all are experiencing more creativity in the kitchen. If you've made anything brilliant lately, please feel free to share!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Traditions Old and New

Why is it raining outside? It's December. It's a week and a half until Christmas. Isn't it supposed to be snowing?

Our tree is trimmed. Most gifts are purchased. Christmas cards need to be addressed and sent. I listen to Christmas music nearly everyday. If the weather won't cooperate, at least I'll create the atmosphere inside.

I love Christmas. So many happy childhood memories revolve around the holidays. I imagine some of that is because my parents were amazing at building fun traditions. Like our tree trimming party, a new ornament every year, lots of Christmas baking and sharing of those goodies, Dad's highly anticipated stockings.

Sometimes I miss it. Somehow Christmas, while still wonderful, is a little bit different when it's just you and another person. Jeremy likes Christmas, just not the way I do. (I hypothesize that this is because he spent some Christmases on his own and therefore fell away from participating in a lot of traditions.) I'm trying to instill in him my love of the season. The vote's still out as to whether or not that's working. :)

As for my own Christmas baking, I've felt quite at a loss this year. With Jeremy's Celiac disease diagnosis back in the summer, it's left me without much in the way of recipes I can make. It's a bit sad to let go of childhood favorites. I still eat them when family makes them, but I think I'm going to have to find new recipes to build my own Christmas baking traditions. For our tree trimming evening, I baked up a mix of gluten-free brownies and made some impromptu chocolates by dipping chopped almonds and dried cherries in chocolate. And a few with rice Chex and craisins in the chocolate. They were surprisingly tasty. But that's all I've tried my hand at. Maybe someday I'll have more inspiration in this new realm of baking. For now, I guess I'll take what I've got.

What's your favorite Christmas tradition?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Flavor Memory

When I was much younger I sucked my thumb. (Unfortunately I can't say, "When I was a baby I sucked my thumb." I mean I did. But the thumb sucking far surpassed baby and toddler years. Um, you might say I had quite a habit going. It wasn't easy to stop. My parents may have despaired that I'd ever stop. They might have tried every trick in the books to no avail. Okay, but that's not the point of this entry...) Sometimes I sucked my thumb in front of people, like relatives. And I distinctly remember my grandpas asking me what my thumb tasted like because it sure must taste good if I was sucking on it.

My answer every time? Chocolate ice cream. Apparently chocolate ice cream held the highest delicious flavor award in my mind (followed closely by chocolate cake, I imagine).

I'm still very much a chocolate loving kind of girl. Dark chocolate in particular. However, chocolate ice cream faded into the background years ago (perhaps when the thumb sucking ceased?) in the face of other flavors like moose tracks and mint chocolate chip and cookies 'n cream and cookie dough and French silk.

This week I picked up a pint of Breyer's chocolate for $1. Thought I'd give it another chance. And I'm so glad I did. It was delicious! The simplicity of the flavor and the creamy texture were a pleasant change from those fancier flavors.

I'd say, chocolate ice cream may be making a comeback in my books. But, I will leave the thumb sucking behind. I kicked that habit once; don't want to try to again!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Please pray for my little niece, Sienna. She broke her leg yesterday and is in quite a cast. Also pray for her parents, Tim and Kathleen.

Monday, December 7, 2009

First Snow

December arrived and with it some 50 degree weather and no snow. Although I'm not a particular fan of snow, I always look forward to the first snow of the season (and I have to admit to enjoying white Christmases when they happen). However, when I wistfully and nostalgically pondering the first snow, I wasn't anticipating the actual first snow. Today.

Jeremy went out to drive to work. He returned two minutes later, "Steph, I need you to drive me to work. My car's broken. The clutch is stuck down." So I quickly scrambled to put clothes on and out the door we went. Now, up here where snow is fairly regular, the snow plows do a pretty good job of keeping the street ice and snow free. I don't know what happened today, but the roads were icy! We only have a smattering of snow on the ground, but those roads were pretty treacherous. I drove between 10-25 most of the way. Traffic was heavy. And we were late to work.

On my drive home I missed a turn because of ice. My wheels were turned. I was going straight. And this was from a stop at a stoplight...not from taking it too fast. I made it home without mishap (on days like this I truly feel God's protection). Then I waited on hold with AAA to get J's car towed in. Now I'm going to be late for work as I wait for the tow truck to arrive.

And, if that's not enough, this weekend we had our ATM account shut-down because someone got in. As well as a credit card shut-down because of online purchases that weren't ours. It's been a weekend and start to the week!

Here's to hoping the week looks up and that the car repairs aren't costly!
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