Friday, December 23, 2011

Holiday Eggnog Muffins

Eggnog Muffins

Melt in Pyrex cup: 1/4 c. butter
1 c. eggnog -good old-fashioned full-fat eggnog
1/4 c. rum
1 egg

Mix separately:
2 c. flour
2/3 c. sugar
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. nutmeg
Mix eggnog and flour mixes together. Scoop into 12 paper-lined muffin cups. Bake 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until tests done. Cool on wire rack. Eat several muffins with a large cup of eggnog for breakfast or snacking during the holidays. Read the following 'holiday eating tips' that was a forwarded e-mail sent to me by a dear friend if you need convincing. Happy Holiday!

Holiday Eating Tips:

1. Avoid carrot sticks. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Holiday spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they’re serving rum balls.

2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. It’s rare… You cannot find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It’s not as if you’re going to turn into an eggnog-alcoholic or something. It’s a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It’s later than you think. It’s Christmas!

3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That’s the whole point of gravy. Gravy does not stand alone. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they’re made with skim milk or whole milk. If it’s skim, pass. Why bother? It’s like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Holiday party is to eat other people’s food for free. Lots of it. Hello?

6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year’s. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you’ll need after circling the buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.

7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don’t budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They’re like a beautiful pair of shoes. If you leave them behind, you’re never going to see them again.

8. Same for pies. Apple , Pumpkin , Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or if you don’t like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day ?

9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it’s loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards.

10. One final tip: If you don’t feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven’t been paying attention. Re-read tips; start over, but hurry, January is just around the corner. Remember this motto to live by:“Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, chocolate in one hand and wine in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOO HOO what a ride!"

Sunday, December 18, 2011

What a Week!

Last Saturday, I celebrated my birthday with my husband, son, and youngest daughter by making Ciopinno and Coconut Cake (click here), after my husband flew back Friday from visiting our oldest daughter in Austin, Texas; Sunday, my husband and I went to Teatro Zinzani (click here) in Seattle for his company's holiday party -despite the fact that he was pulled from the audience to participate which is exactly what he did NOT want to happen we had a good time; Monday, was my birthday and we went out to dinner at The Prohibition Grille in Everett; Tuesday, my husband's work site was closed and he was laid off -we have been expecting this to happen for quite awhile so it wasn't too much of a surprise; Wednesday, we talked and assessed our situation -we have been preparing for this so for now we are fine, both financially and emotionally; Thursday, the twin lambs were born in the pasture; Friday, we all went to dinner at (click here) Perche No (absolutely FABULOUS Italian food) and then to the Seattle Symphony Handel's Messiah (click here) which was lovely; Saturday, was the beginning of our annual HOLIDAY COOKIE BAKING - we will put them in tins and mail them to our family members living in cities near (Seattle) and far (Austin and San Diego) and my husband put up the tree and decorations; And today, I'm finishing the cookie baking and frosting, last minute shopping and going to see the Nutcracker (click here) tonight with my youngest daughter. What a week!

Thursday, December 15, 2011


As with favorite books and family photo albums, this time of year it's fun to go back and look at a few of the old ones. Favorite posts this week are:

Baby Bunnies (click here), Little Big Guy (click here), Christmas Memories with Recipes: Sugar Cookies (click here), and Noel Balls, Mexican Wedding Cookies... (click here). And Home Made French Fries (click here).

New twin boy lambs born today. I spotted a lone sheep in the middle of the pasture coming home from work today (luckily it was early and still light) and when I slowed to observe her (a lone sheep is not normal) I spotted a cream colored unmoving thing. I was sure that it was a dead lamb. By the time I parked and trotted out to her to check, there was also a black unmoving thing -two lambs just born! They are now all three in the barn moving about and making the bleating and nickering noises of newborn lambs and their mother bonding. It is one of my favorite things about having sheep.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Ciopinno and Coconut Cake

Every year for my birthday, I bake a cake and make the Italian seafood stew, Ciopinno. This year was no different, except that this year it wasn't actually on my birthday day (work schedules and all) that I made this to celebrate with my family. It was the very best stew I have ever made and I had to share.

Adapted from: The Best of Sunset

1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
2 T. dried parsley, minced
28 oz. can tomato sauce
3 -15 oz. cans Italian diced tomatoes
1 glass red wine
2 t. Italian seasoning
Simmer 20 minutes.

1-2 lbs. true cod, halibut or salmon, cut into 1 inch chunks
1-2 cooked Dungeness crabs, add crab legs in the shell and meat from body
1-2 lbs. live Manila clams, scrubbed
1 lb. live mussels, scrubbed
1 lb. shrimp, shelled
1 lb. scallops
1 lb. squid, cut into rings
Cover and simmer medium-low taking great care not to scorch. Clam and mussel shells should open and fish flake easily.

This is better the following day. And the day after that, if one is lucky enough to still have any left in the fridge, which often is the case and one of the reasons for this continuing birthday tradition.

I made this cake found in The Complete Southern Cookbook by Tammy Algood (click here) for my husband's birthday last April but never got around to sharing the recipe. This is the author's grandmother's recipe and her daddy's favorite cake. That I took as a serious endorsement. I made it again last weekend for my birthday (notice the trend here?) and simply had to share it. The first time I made it I wasn't sure how it would turn out. It it put together rather oddly compared to the usual way cakes are made but it's fabulous! The original recipe is a Four-Layer Coconut Cake and when I made it in April I baked the full recipe in three pans (because that's what I have). Last weekend when I made it, I halved the recipe for this Two-Layer Coconut Cake -a more modest approach that means I'm eating cake for breakfast only once rather than all week!

Two-Layer Coconut Cake
Adapted from: The Complete Southern Cookbook by Tammy Algood
Yields 6 southern-style servings (or 8 moderate servings)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease and flour two non-stick 9 inch cake pans.
Combine with mixer, mixing well:
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. cream tartar
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 1/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. solid vegetable shortening
1/4 c. butter, softened

1/2 c. coconut milk
1 t. coconut extract
1/2 t. vanilla extract

Add 3 eggs, one at a time and mixing well after each addition.
Stir in 1 c. shredded coconut.
Divide batter between two pans and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and turn onto racks and cool completely. Frost with Coconut Milk Frosting then sprinkle with shredded coconut. Candles are optional.

Coconut Milk Frosting

Beat with mixer until fluffy:
1/2 c. butter, softened
two pinches salt
1 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. coconut extract

Add alternately:
1 lb. powdered sugar
1/3 c. coconut milk

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Dirt And The Dirty Life

"I had never in my life been so dirty. The work was always dirty, beyond what I'd previously defined as dirty, and it took too much energy to keep oneself out of it. I had daily intimacy not just with dirt dirt but with blood, manure, milk, pus, my own sweat and the sweat of other creatures, with the grease of engines and the grease of animals, with innards, with all the stages of decomposition. Slowly, the boundary of what I found disgusting pushed outward." -The Dirty Life On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball

How could I not want to read a book with this title? And it is better written and even more interesting than I was expecting it to be -I highly recommend it for a perspective on what it takes to grow food. I grew up living in this dirty dirt. It takes A LOT of yuck to alarm me and I forget that the rest of the world doesn't think that way -that animal butchering is not an favorite or acceptable topic of conversation with most people. Too often I am babbling along on the topic of barn to table eating before I notice the incredulous look on the face of the person I'm babbling to. I've recently returned to working full-time and living more and more of my life OUTSIDE of the dirty life with people who are far removed from the source of their daily sustenance. The other day I came home from work and my daughter actually expressed approval for how I was dressed, rather than her more usual dismay at my farmer-fashion-style and "You're not actually going out in public like that are you?" question. Aside from acknowledging my ability to dress myself in a way that is socially acceptable, she says she isn't used to seeing me so clean and it's taking some getting used to!

Today, is a red letter day for us: it's pig butchering day! This morning, I cleaned rabbit trays, then dug out the entrance to the pigpen and separated two lambs from the flock -both in anticipation of the butcher's visit. I've been missing my dirty life lately, but I smell like rabbit pee, pig poo, and sheep grease now -which makes me feel much better. And the day has just begun. I'll probably be involved with some pig blood and innards! It is the smell of life and where our sustenance comes from.