Monday, December 7, 2009

Jolly Old Saint Nicholas

When our last two children were born, we decided not to "do the Santa thing." We made a decision to try to keep the Christmas holiday focused on Christ. We felt that playing the Santa game made it all about commercialism and not about the savior. Our older two were in highschool and felt that we were cheating their sisters out of great memories. So we've decided to add to our advent calendar a special celebration for Saint Nicholas.

I don't really know if he was jolly but yesterday was the official day to celebrate Saint Nicholas. Unlike Santa Claus, St Nicholas was a real person.  He was a believer of Christ who was born during the third century in what is now the southern coast of Turkey. He was orphaned by his wealthy parents while still young. But their teaching of the gospels encouraged him to obey the words to "sell what you own and give to the poor." He used his entire inheritance to assist the needy. He dedicated his life to serving God and was made the Bishop of Myra. He was known throughout the land for his generosity. When the Roman Emperor Diocletian was persecuting Christians, Nicholas was put into prison and exiled. There is evidence that he did attend the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. He died on December 6, 343 AD. The anniversary of his death became a day of celebration, St Nicholas Day.

St Nicholas in prison
St. Nicholas in prison
Artist: Elisabeth Jvanovsky

St Nicholas giving gold to father
St. Nicholas giving dowry gold
Artist: Elisabeth Jvanovsky

 There are many stories associated with St Nicholas.  One story that my friend Lynette told me is about a poor man with three daughters.  In those days a young woman's father had to give the prospective husband a dowry-  something of value like land or money.  The larger the dowry the better the chance that a young woman would find a good husband.  Without a dowry, a girl was likely to be sold into slavery.  This poor father's daughters were destined to a life of unhappiness.  Mysteriously, on three different occasions, a bag of gold was tossed through an open window into the girl's stockings or shoes that had been left to dry by the fire.  This is where we get the custom to put things of value into a stocking hung by the fire.  Because of St Nicholas' generosity, the girls were able to provide a dowry and marry well.

Last night after driving down the mountain, we popped a couple of Nick and Willy's pizzas (the mediterranian is my favorite and appropriate since St Nicholas lived on the coast of the Mediterranian Sea.) into the oven and then talked about St Nick.  We reviewed what we had learned about him last year and how he is different than Santa.  Then after eating we brought out the stockings.  The girls each got an ornament for the tree and a few other little gifts.  I did not spend more than $10 each.  The point is not to get more "things" but to learn about the generosity of another believer.  I hope to expand this next year.  I'd like to get a nice book on the real St Nick to read yearly.  I would also like to spend more time planning on practical ways to live out his example.

Cood Weather Food

It is so cold today.  A good coat and warm boots are required.  The nice thing about Colorado is that it may be cold today, but next week it will all be melted.  There will be blue skies and sweater weather. Tonight we are eating another family favorite.  I have never met anybody who doesn't like it.  Actually my husband gets mad when I serve it to company, because there are smaller portions for him.  He doesn't like to share this dish at all!  The first time I made it was with freshly roasted Hatch chiles from my friend Nancy L.  I've never been able to duplicate it with store bought chiles but it is still very very very good.  The key ingredients are the Grandma's noodles.  If you can't find it, don't bother making it with dried noodles.

Chicken Chile Noodle Bake
3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, diced, salted and peppered
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups canned green chilies, large diced
1 can diced or sliced tomatoes (with jalapenos if “heat” is desired)
1 can low fat cream on chicken soup
1 can no fat, low sodium chicken broth
1 8 oz pkg of reduced fat cheddar cheese, grated
1 pkg 16 oz GRANDMA’S Wide Egg Noodles, prepared
Thaw noodles and boil them up.  While the noodles are cooking, sautee chicken, onions and garlic in 1 tsp olive oil until chicken is cooked. Add green chiles, tomatoes, chicken soup and chicken broth and heat thru. Put cooked and drained noodles in large casserole.  I use my Pampered Chef Cranberry Casserole, but a 13" Pyrex is fine too. Next, add most of cheese and pour heated mixture over noodles, stir, cover and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven, sprinkle on remaining cheese and cover. Let rest 10 minutes and serve.
The “heat” can be turned up for those who like it spicier. You can add red pepper flakes, green chilies that are hotter or the canned tomatoes that are extra hot.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Grant Farms Soup

Grant Farms Soup

My parents are in Mexico. Such a life! Well, there are benefits to knowing people who travel.
1. You can stay in their mountain cabin as much as you want.
2. They let you drive their much nicer car.
3. They give you their shares to Grant Family Farms.

Grant Farms is an organic farm in Waverly.
This is a community supported Agricultural project. At the beginning of the year you can buy a share that entitles you to weekly organic fruits and vegetables. The problem is, you don't know what you will get until you get there. This week we got gourds of some flavor, leeks, apples (amazingly sweet), lettuce, spinach, cilantro, parsley, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, and potatoes. This is what I made. Harry is NOT a soup person (must be because of some Seinfield episode) but he LOVED this and went back for thirds. Really yummy and easy.

4 chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 or whole onion
2 c fresh or frozen broccoli
2 c. fresh or frozen cauliflower
1 sm. potato, diced
3 cloves of garlic - smooshed
3/4 c (more or less) cheddar cheese grated
1/2 c. milk
Salt and pepper (no salt if using canned broth)
Hot pepper sauce or chili pepper flakes optional

Bring broth, onion, broccoli, cauliflower, and potato to a boil in a soup pot. Reduce heat, cook covered, 10 minutes. Remove 1 cup plus broccoli and cauliflower pieces, set aside. Cook soup 10 minutes longer. Put cheese and milk into blender or food processor. Ladle in a 1/2c of soup broth. Puree until very smooth. Pour in 1-2 cups of veggies and continue to puree until creamy. (Beware - it's hot!) Return pureed soup to pan with reserved vegetables and heat through, but do not boil or cheese will curdle. Add seasonings.

Upside-Down Carmel Apple French Toast

We are up in Red Feather this weekend for Thanksgiving.  My mom reminded me of one of my favorite holiday recipes.  This is what we usually have on Christmas morning with coffee and orange juice.  It is very easy and very fancy.

Upside-Down Carmel Apple French Toast 

Prepare the night before or at least 3 hours in advance.
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tablespoon water
Combine butter, brown sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat on medium until bubbling, stirring frequently. Place in a 9" x 13" pan and allow to cool for 20 to 30 minutes.
3 Granny Smith apples
Cinnamon, to taste (we like lots!)
1/2 cup raisins, optional
1 loaf French bread, sliced 1 ½ inch thick (about 8 slices)
1 1/2 cups milk
6 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Peel, core and slice apples. Place the slices in rows, close together (overlapping), on top of the caramel sauce in the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon and raisins. Place the slices of bread on top of the apples. Mix together the milk, eggs, and vanilla. Pour over bread. Cover and refrigerate over night. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 60 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy on the top.
Serve upside-down. Spoon any extra sauce in the pan over the French toast. Serve with Crème Topping and garnish with nuts, if desired. Serves 6.
Crème Topping- not at all necessary
1/2 cup whipping cream (or Cool Whip)
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract OR orange extract
Whip on high until thickened. Place 2 tablespoons of topping on top of each serving of French Toast.
Absolutely delicious and so easy to make!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

World Famous Gypsy Soup

Or at least it is famous around our house.  This is a very old recipe that I got from Jane Brody.   Not only is it yummy but it is also very weight watcher friendly. My husband is not a "soup person." Yet, he likes this one.  The ingredients sound a bit odd, but trust me and try it.  You'll like it or your money back.

Gypsy Soup
2T olive oil
1-2 cups chopped onions
2 or more large garlic cloves crushed
1/2 c celery chopped
2 c peeled, chopped sweet potatoes
3 c broth (not brother)
1 bay leaf
2 t paprika
1 t turmeric
1 t basil
salt to taste
Dash cinnamon
Dash cayenne
1 c chopped tomatoes
3/4 c green beans
1 can drained chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
1T tamari or soy sauce

In a large pot, heat the oil and saute the onions, garlic, celery and sweet potatoes for about 10 minutes.  Add the broth, bay leaf, paprika, turmeric, basil, salt, cinnamon and cayenne.  Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat and cove while simmering for at least 15 minutes- until sweet potatoes are almost soft.  Add the tomatoes, green beans, and chickpeas.  Simmer for about 10 minutes longer.  Stir in the tamari if  desired.  Serve warm- Great with home made bread.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pumpkin Chocolate Comfort Cookies

Some people might think that this is my glorified recipe file, but really I like to share a good thing when I find it.  And nothing is "gooder" than food.

Autumn is one of my favorite seasons.  One of the best things about autumn is the wonderful comfort food that comes with the cold weather.  Today we baked up some Pumpkin Chocolate Comfort Cookies.  I got the basic recipe from, but of course made it my own.  I'm sure that I remember there used to be a Weight Watcher recipe like this that used rasins, applesauce and sweetnlow.   What follows is the non- Weight Watcher recipe.  It is more cake-like than a traditional cookie.

  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or whatever nut you have on hand.  I used pecans.
  • 4 drops red food coloring (optional, makes it look more pumpkin-y.
  • DIRECTIONSCombine pumpkin, sugar, vegetable oil, and egg. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, ground cinnamon, and salt. Dissolve the baking soda with the milk and stir in. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture and mix well.Add vanilla, chocolate chips and nuts.Drop by spoonful on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for approximately 13 minutes or until lightly brown and firm.  Because of our altitude, I had to leave it in longer than the directions called for.  Make sure yours are not over  baked but also not gooey in the middle.  These are autumnal perfection when served with hot cider.

Alice in the Oven

Today my girls requested Alice in the Oven. This is a recipe that is like a skillet custard baked in the oven. We love this! It is easy and uses basic ingredients. I was trying to figure out how it got it's name. There is no reference to this on the web. Because we are always looking for yummy protein based breakfasts, we use this one alot.

Alice In The Oven
1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 eggs
2 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
and one stick (1/4 lb) butter

Preheat oven to 350. Put the butter in a 12" cast iron skillet and melt it in the oven. Pour batter into the pan with melted butter. Bake until the top is golden brown about 35 minutes. Can be served with maple syrup, sliced fruit or plain.


Have you ever read the book Jamberry? It has been a favorite for all of my children. But not all jam is made from berries.

Today I was looking at all my left over tomatoes from my summer garden. I didn't have enough to even make a decent spaghetti sauce, but I had tasted a burger at CB Potts last week that had "tomato jam" listed in the ingredients. It was a great burger. So I looked up Tomato Jam on the internet and found almost a hundred variations.

My mom had just given me my first food processor and I quickly plopped all those red, orange and green fruits into it's plastic bowl. With a quick flip of my finger, I had pureed them all up into a soup like mixture. Next, I put about 5 cups of the tomato stuff and 5 cups of sugar into a pot to boil for 20 minutes. After transferring into a bigger pot after it boiled over onto the stove, I added 2 large packages of raspberry jello. Cooked until dissolved.

It was great! It smells and tastes just like raspberry. Now I have to get some jam jars and get ready to give them away for Christmas gifts. My friend Maria made empanadas and her daughters thought that it tasted just like strawberry jam. Gotcha!

Second Time Around

Somethings are better the second time around. Have you ever had leftovers that tasted better than the first meal? What about second marriages? Well, this blog is my second attempt. I had one called Mountain and Prairie. I had grand plans but really only posted a few times. But, I can't use it any more. It was tied to an old email account and I can't remember the old password.
I will repost the few items that I wrote there and we will start over. I hope to make this blog as much like me as possible. I will post ideas, memories, inspirations, recipes, projects in process and maybe even a few completed projects.
I invite comments. It is nice to know that I am not just writing to invisible beings from the movie Contact. Please add your own ideas, recipes, and thoughts.