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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Menu Plan: Days 2 through 8 of Christmas

We have just had a festive and relaxing Christmas Day and weekend. We are looking forward to the next eleven days of Christmas. Especially Rich, because it means no days of fasting at all. We will be celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary this Friday on New Year's Eve. We talked about going out to a rather nice place in town that will have live music, but we decided to use the money we'd spend on the restaurant and babysitting to get some nicer gifts for each other and buy some our most missed foods from living near the sea. So, I will try to recreate another dish from Visconti's for us and make my sweet husband a cherry pie with ice cream.

Something new I'm trying this year is making twelve days of cookies, one for each day of Christmas, rather than trying to make it all at once. I've already made almond brutal, fudge and loads of Chex Mix, and will make some peppermint bark and coconut balls as well. My schedule of cookies is:

Day 1: Brown Sugar Shortbread
Day 2: Sugar Cookies
Day 3: Chocolate Cherry Cookies
Day 4: Zimmesterne
Day 5: Almond Blossoms
Day 6: Cherry Almond Biscotti
Day 7: Snow Caps
Day 8: Pistachio Linzertorte with Cherry Jam
Day 9: Cream Cheese Pastry Cookies
Day 10: Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies
Day 11: Saudi Nut Crescents
Day 12: Glazed Lemon Ricotta Cookies

I, foolishly, signed up to be in charge of the coffee hour at church in two weeks. So, I'll be freezing a bunch of the cookies to put out with the coffee then.

I had a great idea that crushing Chex mix would make a nice coating for chicken fingers, so I told Rich we'd try it out this week. I will report back as to whether or not it was a good idea.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Blessed Nativity!

Thy Nativity, O Christ our God, hath given rise to the light of knowledge in the world; for they that worshiped the stars did learn there from to worship thee, O Sun of justice, and to know that from the east of the Highest thou didst come O Lord, glory to thee.

Christmas is not simply Jesus' birthday. It is the intersection of the Eternal with time. It is the feast of the Incarnation of the Lord. God became Man to reconcile us to Himself.

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Menu Plan: Fourth Week of Advent

Here we are at the last Sunday of Advent. We are busy preparing for the Christmas season now and finishing the last of our gift shopping and making.

Our menus this week are fairly simple so we can focus on our preparations.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Weekly Recipes: December 18

Baked French Toast

This is the basic recipe. It can be prepared almost all the way the night before. I make it about a million different ways. This week, I used cranberry walnut bread and didn't fill it with preserves or cream cheese or put nuts in the topping. I also only used the butter on one half of the bread, since there was no fruit in between.

1/3 cup butter, softened
14 slices of bread
fruit preserves (optional)

8 eggs
2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (if you spread the bread with preserves, you may wish to use half almond extract, depending on the fruit)

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Butter a large baking pan (I have an 11 X 15, but a 9 X 13 will work if you squish them in tightly once they are wet with the egg mixture).

Spread butter on one side of half the bread and lay out the bread slices in the greased pan. Top with preserves, if desired. Spread butter on a second slice of bread and use it to cover the bread with the fruit. You can crowd them, but don't overlap the bread.

Beat the eggs with the cream and vanilla. Mix thoroughly.
Pour this over the bread in the pan. Press down firmly on the bread
with a spatula. You want to soak all the bread.

Let it stand on the counter for about 20 minutes (or you can put it in the fridge overnight, covered tightly with plastic or foil, and bake in the morning). Preheat the oven to 375 F.

Take off any plastic or foil. Melt 1/2 cup of butter with the brown sugar and maple syrup and pour over the soaked French toast. Bake the french toast at 375
degrees, uncovered, for about 35 minutes, or until the top has browned.
Let pan cool on a wire rack for at least 5 minutes.

Dutch Baby Pancake

This is an impressive and extremely simple breakfast or brunch dish. I make them one of two ways, either with almond extract in the batter, served with butter, powdered sugar and lemon juice or with cinnamon in the batter and served with preserves. I use a rather large stoneware pan to make them, but the amount can be proportionately reduced and successfully made in a smaller pan like a pie pan.

6 tablespoons butter
6 large eggs
1 1/2 cups pastry flour (whole wheat pastry flour works beautifully)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
6 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of either almond extract or ground cinnamon
1/3 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put butter in a large round pan with 1 1/2 to 2 inch sides. Put it in the oven when it is mostly preheated and while you are making the batter. Do not allow the butter to brown.

Use either a stick blender or a conventional blender to mix the eggs, flour, milk, sugar and flavoring. Pour into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the top with almonds. Bake for 30 minutes, then turn off the oven and leave in for another 5 minutes.

Serve with either butter, a sprinkling of powdered sugar and lemon juice or fruit preserves.

Spanikopita Bread Pudding

1 pound loaf of bread, cut into 3/4 to 1 inch cubes
olive oil
1 pound spinach (frozen, leaf spinach is fine), chopped
2 onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 pound sheep's milk feta, cut into 1/2 inch or smaller cubes
6 eggs
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon oregano
1 teaspoon thyme
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a large baking pan liberally.

In a medium bowl, mix eggs and milk with oregano, thyme, salt and pepper thoroughly and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a frying pan and saute onions until translucent, add the spinach and garlic and cook until warm and well mixed.

Put half of the spinach mixture in the bottom of the pan. Put the bread cubes all over that and cover with remaining spinach mixture. Sprinkle feta cubes evenly over the top. Give the egg mixture another whisk to redistribute everything, then pour over the top of the pan. Press the bread down into the egg with a spatula to soak all the bread. Let sit for 15 minutes or so.

Bake uncovered for 25 minutes.

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Friday, December 17, 2010

More Last Minute Gifts: Brown Sugar Shortbread

Here is another quick and easy, but wonderful last minute Christmas gift. They can be made in molds as I did above, or just cut into squares and packaged that way.

This only has three ingredients, so use the best you can afford.

2/3 cup dark brown cane sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat all the ingredients together, either by hand or with a whisk attachment on a hand beater or stand mixer. Finish mixing by pressing together by hand.

Press mixture into an ungreased 9" X 13" pan and bake for 18 - 20 minutes, or until golden on top and cooked through. Cut into bars and cool in pan for 5 - 10 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

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Last Minute Christmas Gifts: The Easiest Headband in the World

The older children and I have been making a lot of presents recently, so Jerome and Yasmina wanted to make something, too. They got little scraps of the fleece from the nine (!) neck warmers I made (I'll post photos and a link later) and said they were going to make headbands for Mariam. This seemed overly simplistic to me.

However, since they can't tie, sew, and glue didn't seem to be the right medium, they brought them to me to make. I didn't want to tell them that it wouldn't work, so I just tied the strips together. I thought they looked idiotic, but it made the little people happy. Well, Yasmina promptly put hers on, even though it was supposed to be for Mariam, and it looked alright. The one Jerome "made" was put on Mariam as soon as she awoke from nap, and it looked kind of cute.

So, here's how you make this: Find leftover scraps of fleece. Make a square knot with the ends. The end. If your scraps are too short, you can tie two together. If you have no scraps, you can cut one inch strips to the length you need and tie the ends in a square knot. It's that easy. It's kind of embarrassing to even tell people how to make this. I just thought it turned out kind of cute for a throw together, just satisfy the children craft.

Oh, I even made a little fabric bracelet out of one of the strips that was too short which is now play jewelry for Yasmina.

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Menu Plan : Third Week of Advent

Joy! It is Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent. This is a little pause in the fast to remember to await our Lord with joy. We are still in the Advent anticipation, and still busy with fasting, praying and almsgiving, but are also taking time to remember the happiness that awaits us in His Incarnation and return in glory.

We celebrated this break in our fast by eating all sorts of treats today that we normally don't have during Advent. The rest of the week is still a normal week of the Advent fast. Also, there are three Ember days this week. These are days of fasting and praying that occur each season, for increase of faith, for conversions, for increase in vocations and for special intentions. If you are not fasting from meat on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, these are days to do so, or simply increase your fasting. If you are already fasting from meat, either make the days vegan or fast completely from food. If you cannot fast from food completely, fast from one or more meals that day. These are days especially dedicated to prayer. Begin with penitence. Generally speaking, since Wednesdays and Fridays are traditionally meat fast days anyway, so during Ember days, they would become full fast days. Fridays are even supposed to be full fast days during Lent for those who are able. Obviously, Good Friday is a complete fast day. Christmas Eve is a meat fast day, regardless of what day it falls during the week, the fast is broken at the evening mass. Jesus presumed we would fast and pray regularly. Fasting is not an option as a Christian, but something we are expected to do.

Oh, in the interest of preserving your faith in the internets, we did not have the fish tacos on Saturday, but Rich baked some halibut steaks with salt, champagne vinegar, safflower oil, thyme, smoked paprika and panko. He served it with rice and steamed green beans. It was delicious. Also, on Friday, it turned out that we didn't have as many eggs as I thought we did, so I made a kind of spanikopita themed bread pudding which was also wonderful. I'll post both recipes soon.

Enjoy this week's menu and feel free to ask any questions.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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Sunday, December 05, 2010

Menu Plan : Second Week of Advent

Tomorrow is the feast of St. Nicholas, so we are putting out our stockings tonight! It means that there is a break in our Advent fast, as well. We will have cookies and treats to eat, then back to our fast. We didn't really celebrate St. Barbara this year, like we normally do. Rich and I had somewhere we had to be, and we didn't think we'd spring that effort on the babysitter. I'm thinking of organizing something, maybe with our home school friends, to celebrate St. Barbara as a group. The feast of St. Barbara was when people in the Levant traditionally went door to door in costume and were given sweets and money. Kind of like trick or treating, but without the tricks. They dressed as ragamuffins to imitate her escape from her father by dressing as a beggar.

It turns out that Mariam doesn't like turkey. Her little tummy was quite upset with all the turkey I ate. Alexander was our only other child who was sensitive to turkey. This is really too bad, because I enjoy turkey so much. It will have to go to the back of my mind for a few months, however, until her stomach is better able to handle it in the milk.What is on your menu this week? If you want a recipe, ask and I will provide it as soon as I can. If there are any starred recipes, I will follow up separately with a weekly recipe round up on Saturday.

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