Monday, December 31, 2012

# 80 ADA BLACKJACK by Jennifer Niven



Looking for a good book?

Ada Blackjack  (2003) by Jennifer Niven is well worth a read.

This book is a true account of an Inuit girl who joins an expedition to Wrangel Island, north of Siberia, in 1921.  As a seamstress and cook, Ada Blackjack accompanies four young, enthusiastic but inexperienced and unprepared explorers.  They're gone for two years.  Only Ada survives.

Niven's book is based on the diaries and photographs of the men and Ada.  You'll be impressed by Ada's courage, determination and resourcefulness.

For a quick overview of Ada's story, check out this YouTube video by Hannah Green.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Top Three Recipes for 2012


These past few months I've enjoyed living in the Land of Blog.  It's been a creative challenge to come up with ideas to write about and items to share.  It's also been interesting to observe how recipes consistently rank the highest in my "page views".  I guess many people are like me and (more and more) resort to the Internet when cooking.




Here are my Top Three Recipes for 2012...

In first place, Poppy Seed Bundt Cake!  This is an "oldie", originally from Family Circle, 1979.  A "one bowl, from scratch" cake, it's easy to whip up. First posted on November 9th, this cake has been  viewed daily, especially once it was featured on a Weekend Potluck at The Country Cook.  This week, I found it on www.justapinch.com - a new site to me, full of interesting recipes I plan to go back and explore.  



Coming in second, my husband's favourite, Chocolate Peanut Butter Squares - a super easy, five ingredient, no-bake square.  I made these just recently for Christmas...there are none left...sigh!




Third place?  A personal favourite, Oatmeal Muffins.  This is a recipe I changed, tested, adapted and tweaked.  Not "high drama" like cake or squares, but easy, reliable and tasty.




Cheers!

Maggie






Saturday, December 29, 2012

Mexican Beef Enchiladas - thanks, Vikki!!


Guess what we had for dinner last night!

After multiple days of company and entertaining (or prepping food to take with us when we visited), today we found ourselves a little family of two again - with a very full fridge of leftovers and various ingredients.  

A post on Mexican Beef Enchiladas by Vikki at Wallisfarm's Daily Walk was the inspiration we needed.  (Bonus: We actually had all the ingredients so no trip to Safeway!!)

Vikki makes her enchilada shells from scratch, mixing together one egg, 1 1/2 cups water, 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup cornmeal.  This makes a very fluid batter that you cook almost like a crepe.  The beef and refried bean mixture was also easy to mix up.  All in all, supper was very tasty.

While eating, we googled other enchilada recipes and found multiple references to masa harina... hmmm....

What's that?

"Masa harina is a very finely ground corn flour made from corn that's dried, cooked in water with slaked lime (which gives it distinctive flavour), ground, and dried again. Mixed with water (or sometimes oil), it forms the dough called "masa" that is used to make corn tortillas."

Totally different!  What gives?  And where do I get masa harina?  If you can fill me in, please do!

Living north of the 49th parallel, I'm totally out of the loop here!

Cheers,
Maggie (from Canada)


Friday, December 28, 2012

Maple Glazed Carrots and Beets



Today, it's all about carrots, beets and (yum!) maple syrup.  This was the vegetable dish my daughter and her boyfriend made for Christmas dinner...

Delicious, easy and beautiful!  

I'm not listing specific amounts as this is the kind of side dish where amounts are not really all that important - just make enough to allow a good spoonful of each per person.

Maple Glazed Carrots and Beets

carrots, peeled and sliced in rings
beets, peeled, quartered and sliced

Steam the carrots until cooked; set aside.
Using the same pot, steam the beets.
(This step can be done a little ahead of time.)

1/2 cup of maple syrup
2 tablespoons butter

Warm maple syrup and butter in frying pan.
Gently saute and coat the carrots. Place in serving dish.
Next, saute the beets.  
Add more maple syrup and butter as needed.


Important!  
Don't mix the two vegetables or you'll end up with pink vegetables!  Instead, line up carrots on one side of serving dish and beets on the other.  The two strong colours, side by side, are beautiful. Sprinkle with dill if you want to get fancy!

In a hot serving dish (wrapped up in a towel), this dish transported well on Christmas Day.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Turnips 'n Apples


Today, it's all about R, R  and R ...  rest, relaxation and rutabagas!

We had a wonderful time these past few days visiting and sharing great meals with family and friends. 

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners were all about the vegetables - my area of responsibility.  Since I'm not allowing myself to even THINK about cookies and treats, I thought I'd share a few vegetable recipes made over the past few days just in case you're still  entertaining and need a few new ideas.

Today it's all about turnips - not everyone's favourite veggie, but one I just have to have for Christmas dinner.  This version is great for two reasons - adding a layer of apples really perks up this casserole dish.  Also, the fact that I can make it early and toss it in the oven well before company arrives is an added bonus.

TURNIPS 'N APPLES
adapted from Enjoy!  (Best of Bridge Series; 1979)

1 very large rutabaga
1 tablespoon butter

Peel, dice, cook, drain and mash turnip with butter.

2 apples
1/4 cup brown sugar
 healthy dash of cinnamon

Peel, core and thinly slice apples.
Toss in cinnamon and brown sugar.

1/3 cup flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter

Combine and crumble; set aside.
In a greased 8x8 casserole dish, layer half the mashed 
turnips, then the apples and top with the rest of the turnips.
Sprinkle flour and brown sugar mix on top for a crust.

Bake (uncovered) at 350 degrees for one hour. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Greetings!


May the Spirit of Christmas that forever endures
leave its rich blessings 
in the hearts of you and yours.


Monday, December 24, 2012

Soft Ginger Snaps


Hi!  It's me!  Glad to be back....finally!

Today I've started my Christmas baking.  A little tardy, you ask?

Just trying to save myself from all those calories.  Stashing things away in the freezer doesn't help.  I'm still willing to nibble... :  )

Soft Ginger Snaps
Today's recipe was given to me by a dear, sweet German lady about 15 years ago and I think I've made it every year since.  

It's easy and reliable and makes a lot!  I often just make half the recipe and I still get about 3  1/2 dozen (tiny) cookies.

Soft Ginger Snaps

3/4 cup margarine, melted
1  1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup table molasses

Cream margarine and sugar well.
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add molasses; mix well.

4 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ginger 

Combine dry ingredients and add to liquid ingredients 
(about 1/3 of the flour mixture at a time).

Roll into tiny, one inch balls.  Dip and roll balls in sugar.
Place on greased cookie sheet.
Bake at 350 degrees for 8 - 10 minutes.



Friday, December 14, 2012

Hmmmm....

Looks like it will be another week before I'm back in business...see you then!

Monday, December 10, 2012

A sad day for my computer : (

Posts might be hit or miss this week... the hard drive on my laptop has died : (

My brother-in-law plans to operate (send good thoughts my way!!) later this week when he comes down to visit, but it will be difficult for me to spend time blogging until my computer's fixed.

Sigh.....


Saturday, December 8, 2012

# 79 Tea and Cookies, anyone?


This morning it's snowing lightly (Welcome to Canada!!) and I feel like baking...

...first, let me make you a cup of cranberry tea.  Thank you, Chinese Grandma!

Cranberry Tea from Chinese Grandma
Now, down to business and some more favourite cooking websites...

Alaska From Scratch is one of the newest (to me) food websites I've started following.  Don't these cranberry orange cookies look delicious?  I'm adding them to this year's Christmas baking.

Cranberry Orange Cookies from Alaska From Scratch

I also like to keep tabs on Mel's Kitchen Cafe, too. "Ready to bake" gifts - good idea!

Mel's Kitchen Cafe - great idea!!

And, last but not least, They Draw And Cook.  A feast for the eyes!

They Draw and Cook - artwork from around the world
More tea?

Friday, December 7, 2012

# 78 A little thing that makes a difference...


I often use a "half water, half vinegar" solution for cleaning.  

Why?

"...studies... show that a straight 5 percent solution of vinegar―the kind you can buy in the supermarket―kills 99 percent of bacteria, 82 percent of mold, and 80 percent of germs (viruses)."
 - www.care2.com

At school, kids could use it for cleaning desks.

At home, it removes hard water residue on my Silestone quartz kitchen countertop. 

It's cheap!

BUT, I don't like the smell. 


So... I tried soaking orange peels in my vinegar for a week first. (Thank you, Pinterest!) 

And now it smells not half bad!

Monday, December 3, 2012

DIY... (free!!) initials, labels and tags to download...


Happy Monday!  We had a productive weekend at our house - items were purchased or made and a number of names have been checked off the list.  

So... today, wrapping is on my "to do" list.

For many years our gifts under the tree have not had name tags.  

No, it wasn't a quaint tradition...

The moment gifts came into the house, they were wrapped and tucked under the tree.  Without tags, we reasoned, it was a little more difficult for the kids to determine what was inside those mysterious packages.

Anyway (fast forward to today), our smaller gifts (in an effort to minimize commercialism and stress) in their (recycled) gift bags are becoming more difficult to distribute Christmas morning.  

So, this year I've decided to add initial tags... 



These small (1.5 x 2 inches), initial tags could be printed on coloured paper or cardstock.  They come in three colours or you can print them in black like I did.  Print landscape and you'll be able to get eighteen to a page.  Punch a hole and add a ribbon, raffia or twine for a tie...you're set to go!  



Cathe Holden designed these 2.5 inch diameter, round, blank labels - six colours available.  As she points out on the website, you can "use these vintage designed round labels for your jars with jam, tin containers for candles, use them for wedding favor gifts, for organizing your kitchen, for organizing your personal items or for anything you need to make look beautiful!!!"

Looking for something bigger?  Wedding Chicks has the answer!



And for those of you with a colour printer and LOTS of time today, check World Labels Pinterest site - free printables for every occasion!  

PS  Put on a BIG pot of coffee first.  

Have fun!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

# 77 Edward Yudenich - worth a listen!!



Isn't this little guy cute?

He's talented, too. His name is Edward Yudenich.

My band conductor forwarded some links this week of Edward conducting the Student Orchestra of the State Conservatoire of Uzbekistan.  

I tried googling Edward's name but couldn't find any concrete information about him other than the fact that he's also a whiz at playing the violin.  If you can find out more, please let me know!

So, take a few minutes, sit back and enjoy a second cup of coffee this morning as you listen to Edward conduct! 



Isn't he great?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Boterkoek... a special treat for St. Nicholas' Day (December 6th)


Scrolling through an old cookbook this morning, I rediscovered a recipe one of my "mothers" gave me for Christmas my first year teaching.  

Boterkoek (butter cookies) is a Dutch treat.  It was often featured on December 6th, St. Nicholas' Day.  If you enjoy the richness of shortbread, you'll love this recipe.

Boterkoek for St. Nicholas' Day

This is the recipe I was given.  

Boterkoek

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 egg yolk

Mix (low speed) until dough forms into a ball. (3-4 minutes) 
Knead on counter for about five minutes.
Pat into a greased 8" pie plate.
Glaze with some of the egg white.

Bake at 400 degrees for 12 - 15 minutes.  It should be 
nicely browned on top, but the inside should be slightly soft.

Cool before cutting into very thin wedges.
Cookies do not keep long, but if baked until done, 
they become too hard.



I'll definitely make this again, but here are a few things I learned today...

Because of that warning not to bake too long, I took mine out at 12 minutes.  Next time, I'd leave it in for a few minutes longer.  

When I googled other Boterkoek recipes to compare, I learned that many used almond flavouring and added almonds in a pattern on top.  I like the flavour of my version, but almonds would be nice to try.

A great website to check is The Dutch Table.  Their version of Boterkoek is similar, just a larger quantity and they've added vanilla and lemon!  A fancier  Boterkoek might also have almond paste sandwiched inside!  Yum!  

The Dutch Table shows how to press the traditional pattern on the top.  I tried pressing a design with tiny cookie cutters, but it didn't really show up well after baking. 

The Dutch Table - traditional pattern for Boterkoek

Would I make this again?  You bet!  Because it's a smaller quantity of dough and uses an 8" pie plate, it would be easy to make in a disposable, aluminum pan, perfect for a hostess gift.


See this recipe and other great treats at Weekend Potluck #44.


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Learn to knit... more (free!) Christmas tree decorations


After knitting quite a few little stockings and hats, I've moved on this week to Christmas bells.  This has to be the easiest, quickest project yet!  



I started with this free pattern, but have made a number of adjustments (needle size, yarn, etc.) along the way.

Needles: 4.0 mm or size 6 (US)
Yarn: Vanna's Choice by Lion Brand 

Cast on 15 stitches then knit one row.

Row 2: Purl 5; knit 10
Row 3: Knit 15

Repeat rows 2 and 3 until you have about 38 - 40 rows.  Note how the rectangle begins to flare and the five knit stitches begin to curl.  Finish at the curled end (bottom of the bell).  



Leave a 2 foot tail when you cut the yarn.  Use that tail to sew the sides together (a tube shape).  Continue by gathering the stitches around the top and pulling tight to close off the top.  Now that you have a bell shape, put in a few stitches at the top of the bell to secure the yarn.  

But don't cut the tail.  : )

With a crochet hook, use the remainder of the tail to crochet 15 single crochet stitches to make a loop to hang your bell.  Stitch to secure the end of the loop at the top of the bell.

But don't cut the tail.  Not yet!  : )

Use the remainder of the yarn to sew a jingle bell inside.

NOW cut the tail.  : )

Since these little bells are just one colour, you can add a yarn "bow" (2 rows of 15 single crochet stitches), a ribbon bow or a Christmas button to add some extra Christmas colour.

I'm quite excited and looking forward to giving an assortment of these little knitted ornaments to two young families just starting their Christmas tree traditions!  If I have time before Christmas, I would also like to try the little mittens and bags pictured below.





Have a great day!

From Santa's workshop,
Maggie

Check out Craftaholics Anonymous (Christmas Craft Linky Party
for this project and many more.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

# 76 Homemade granola...


Guess what I'm having for breakfast tomorrow!




4 cups oats
1 cup dried fruit
(Your choice!  Raisins, craisins, dried apples, apricots...)
1 cup seeds and nuts
(Sunflower seeds, slivered almonds, pecans, pumpkin seeds...)

Mix in large bowl.

3/4 cup liquid honey
1/3 cup oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Whisk together and add to dry ingredients.
Mix thoroughly with wooden spoon.
Spread on large (12x17") pan with sides.
Bake at 300 degrees for 50-60 minutes.
Stir every ten minutes while baking.
Makes 7 cups.

This would make a great gift for a hostess, neighbour, teacher...

Monday, November 26, 2012

# 75 DIY...free, downloadable letters for crafting


Here's something you might be interested in!

Leo Reynolds has an amazing photograph collection on Flickr!


In particular, look at his collections of letters and numbers.  You can choose a pre-made set of letters such as this one...


... or browse through individual letters for one you especially like.  For example, there are 973 photographs of the letter "A".  You are allowed to download and use the letters for non-commercial purposes.

Imagine printing out the letters for a child's name and framing them individually...  

Or, printing just a child's initial and using it in a collage frame of photographs...


Sunday, November 25, 2012

# 74 What's for lunch? Potato soup...yum!

Maggie's Potato Soup


1/2 cup finely chopped onion or leeks
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
3 cups diced potatoes 
4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon butter
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
salt, pepper, parsley to taste

In a medium pot, melt butter and olive oil.
 Slowly, (low heat) saute vegetables at least ten minutes.
Stir every so often to make sure nothing is sticking.
Add chicken broth; bring just barely to a boil.
Simmer about half an hour.
With a potato masher, mash about half the potatoes.
Simmer another five minutes.



Friday, November 23, 2012

# 73 Cucumber flower cups - super simple!!


Today I discovered Superstore has online videos with one to two-minute "how-to" and recipe clips.  Click on the "recipes" and scroll through the pages to see what I found...

... a video, Beautiful Veggie Hors D'Oeuvres, shows how to make cucumber flower cups!    



I used an English cucumber to try this for myself.  It works!  Even the "twist gently to separate" part was actually very simple.  With some practice, I think I could make the sides thinner which would make the cups even more delicate.  

Filled with dip, these would be a nice addition to a veggie platter.