Thursday, November 29, 2012

An Anniversary Present

Today is my 27th wedding anniversary.  Well, I share it with Breck.  We celebrated last night with a nice dinner in town and came home to find this large box waiting for us on the porch.

We knew what was inside contained no glass.  It was a gift for each other that we had agreed upon weeks before.

It goes along with our purchase of a State Park Pass and desire to visit all the parks in Texas.

It will help us keep track of our progress and also adorn our entry hall.

Yes, we opened it backwards.  A little anticlimactic for the camera.

Do the pins help you guess what this is?

A beautiful 40 x 40 fabric mounted on cork map of Texas.

We wanted it large to fill the wall space.

I think it does that just fine.

And now we can put in a pin every time we go to a new park.  We have a good start with Lost Maples and South Llano River State Park.

This will be a fun project for us to share for years, and also a great conversation piece in the front hall.  Happy Anniversary, Honey.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving By The Fire

Now that most of my online Christmas shopping is done, laundry from the weekend cleaned and stowed, and my house is on the clean side of making me happy, it's time to update you on Thanksgiving Unplugged.  The fall color was brilliant again this year and you know how much I LOVE fall.  I could link you here to every fall post I have ever made to prove it, but you know.

Of course, there was coffee on the fire every morning for the early risers.

Entertainment was found in simple pleasures.

There was plenty to do.  There were ATVs for riding on the trails,

a tire swing for the kids (and not so young kids),

and some folks took in some target shooting.

Amy took some time to prepare some of her fabulous Christmas wreaths.  So cute.

Do you know what Frisbee Golf is?  There was a little of that, too.

The food, as always is the case when you cook on a campfire, was amazing.  Ed deep fried a couple turkeys.

Most of the side dishes were cooked in the coals including my packets of sweet potatoes, stuffing, and veggies.

Here is the ham I made in packets in advance.  I used two sheets of foil to help insulate the food from burning, but also so I could unwrap the outside first, removing the ash, so I could then upon the inner layer.  Learned by doing here.  Poor Cameron got a bit of ash in his food.

The sweet potatoes were very good too, though I would cook them for only 25-30 minutes next time instead of the suggested 40.  The pineapple juice (left over from the ham above) kept the apple and potatoes looking great with no browning.  The brown in the picture is cinnamon.

The turkey in packets. (Thanksgiving Unplugged) came out good as well.  Next time more gravy, and less cook time.  Dani's, with no turkey, got a little burned not having the meat on the bottom to provide a barrier to the direct heat.  I would put hers on the grill next time and not in the coals.  The fresh herbs I threw on before pouring the gravy really made it smell great.

We didn't have a traditional pecan pie, but Dani brought some upside down pecan cupcakes to share.  And yes, I did get the recipe.  She was kind enough to share.

After the feast we all hung out around the fire.

How will we top this next year?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Home Grown Tangerines and a Thank You

This is not the Thanksgiving post you may be expecting.  I took over 1,000 pictures with many to share, but have not had the time to get them ready, or to pick which ones made the grade.  Instead I'm going to tell you about my wonderful neighbor, Peggy, who brought me some home grown tangerines from her father's place. They looked so amazing in the bag with their leaves still intact.

They looked even prettier in a bowl.

I saw this great way to peel an orange on Pinterest.  Cut a little off both ends.

Then a small slit in the peel.  Don't go all the way through.

Then you just fold it open and separate the segments.

They just pop right off the peel.  How pretty is that?  And no peel to get caught under your fingernails.

Thanks, Peggy.  They are so sweet and delicious.

As long as I am being thankful, I would love to mention some other people who are fantastic.  My brother and his wife Jane for letting us use their land for Thanksgiving.  My mom and dad for their generosity.  And all the other friends and family who came to camp and made it a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Unplugged

I spent the morning getting all the food ready for our camp out Thanksgiving.  No microwave, stove, or oven means that I had to think a little differently this year, but I didn't want to give up on the traditional foods I look forward to.  One of those is stuffing.  I love the flavor, but also the smell of the holy trinity of cooking (carrot, celery, onion) sauteing on the stove.  Amazing.  

 Once I had everything prepped, I packed the food into baggies for the cooler.  We are having turkey, stuffing, gravy, cranberries, and green beans.  This should take about 20-30 minutes to cook when the time comes.  I will wrap a little of everything in foil (1 pack for each of us) and bury it in the hot coals.

Don't worry.  I also made sweet potatoes with dried cranberries, cinnamon, a touch of butter, and apples to go with our meal.  You didn't think I would forget the sweet potatoes, did you?  I used pineapple juice to keep the apples from turning brown and yucky.  These will take 20-30 minutes as well.

With Thanksgiving meal ready to wrap in foil to toss on the coals, I got my other meals pulled together.  I soaked some raisins in apple juice to plump them up.  I really like what this does for the flavor of raisins in baking, but also it improves the texture.

 These I sprinkled on top of sweet potatoes and pineapple with a little butter and brown sugar.  Perfect for our vegetarian guest.

 I made our meal just like hers, but added ham and did not use the raisins.  These foil packs will get tossed on the coals and cooked for 20 minutes.

The last meal to ready is a lunch.  I sliced and diced onion, mushrooms, red and green peppers, squash and zucchini and tossed them with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.  These will be great with some chicken breasts on the fire.

Now the food is in the cooler, drinks are in another cooler, and all the food not needing to be kept cold is in bags.  This includes a sampling of the breakfasts I made this past weekend (Scones and Kolaches and Biscuits. Oh My!)

And we are off.  Can't wait to be at the fire, relaxing, and taking lots of new photos, and enjoying the company of friends and family.  No cell phones.  No computers.  Unplugged.  Happy Thanksgiving to you all.  I am sure I will have a lot to share when I get back.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pie Poll

All I have in me today is to post a new poll.  Thanksgiving is coming and my mind is on cooking, my feet are tired, and so am I.  I hope you enjoy the poll and will vote.  I am motivated to keep blogging by your poll participation and your comments.  If you have had trouble in the past commenting, please give it another try.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Scones and Kolaches and Biscuits. Oh My!

Thanksgiving is coming!  I am not hosting a big Ta Do like last year; instead family and friends are heading to my brother's land to camp.  We have done this before and had a great time.  Since this is the last weekend before we load up the car and head for east Texas, I needed to get some cooking done. I have 2 dinners (one being Thanksgiving), one lunch, two breakfasts, and some snacks to pull together.  Today I aimed to get breakfast done.

First, I pulled up a recipe from Keeping Life Creative for Bacon Cheddar Biscuits.  Oh my!  I cut them into squares instead of the usual rounds so I would not over work the dough and they would get fluffy.  The one change I made to the recipe was sprinkling some coarse ground black pepper on the egg wash before baking.

Then I worked on Cranberry Orange Scones from  Honestly, I didn't know that cranberries had little seeds in them and such a great looking inside.  You learn something new everyday.

Some reviewers complained these needed more flour, but that depends on the texture you prefer.  I made them as directed and found that dropping them on the cookie sheet they baked up soft and light.  You could add more flour if you like a more formal shape and denser texture.  I could go either way.  I doubled the recipe and made 21 large scones.

Since I was on a roll, I decided to make some more sausage and cheese kolaches.  They freeze so well and also would be perfect for the trip.  All in all, a great morning in the kitchen.

I had a little extra kolache dough, cheese and bacon, so I slipped in a special mini kolache for my breakfast treat.

So now that breakfasts are out of the way (with plenty of extras for the freezer), I can relax and enjoy this beautiful weather we are having here today and plan the other meals.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Another Cookie Exchange! Yes!

I took the plunge and made it official (sorry for the poor quality photos).

I am going to host another cookie exchange party this year.

I made up the invitations with scrap book paper I had left over from last years cookie exchange Mod Podge clip boards.  It's a simple envelope with 4 sheets of card stock cut to fit.  One for main invitation, one for the rules and one each for the ornament exchange and directions.

Now comes the fun planning part.  Last years party was a lot of fun and I can't wait for this one.

Again, sorry for the photo quality.  I should have taken shots when I had all 15 invitations (each is different), but my battery was dead.  Poor Janet was sick today so I had hers left to take a picture of now that my battery has charged.

Check out these posts from last year's party.
Cookies. Check!
Ahhhh.  Party Over.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Cute and Functional

Ever since I began stocking my freezer with meals for the month ( Now to Put My Feet Up ), I have struggled with keeping track of what I have and what I need.  I tried the list on a piece of paper, but that didn't work for me.  Then I found an idea on Pinterest from The Creative Mama.  She uses this to plan her weekly meals, but with a little tweaking I knew it would be great for me to catalog my freezer.

I opted not to use a frame.  I wanted something less bulky looking.  I picked up an artist's canvas board for a couple dollars to serve as the back and some scrapbook paper, mini clothes pins, paint, glue, and magnets.  The first step was to pop the springs off the clothes pins and paint them to coordinate with the scrapbook paper.

Then I Mod Podged the pretty paper to my artists board and let it dry over night.

After it was dry, I coated the paper with Mod Podge (just like my Christmas Clip Boards).

I was in a quandary as to what to use for my little boxes.  The paper itself would not be strong enough.  I went digging in the pantry and found two boxes of Jell-O and knew the size would be perfect.  I opened them both up and cut  a little off the top to make a nice straight edge.

These got Mod Podged as well with paper, then the excess paper was cut to match the box.  The one in the foreground is cut and ready to go.  Yep.  That's my Kracken all in my business.  Caught him in a big yawn.

I folded the boxes back into their original shape.

Last thing to do was to attach the magnets to the back of the board, glue down the clothes pins and boxes, and let it dry one more time.

Now I have a system in place that is functional and, I dare say, cute.

I printed little cards to write the items on.  Things I have in the freezer go in the top box, used items (I will reuse the cards) and blank cards are in the bottom one.   I may laminate these so I can write on them and wipe them clean to use again.

I can clip the cards with the clothes pins (one for each day of the week) to remind me to pull food out to thaw.

Now that I have a method for my madness I'm ready to plan some meals, grocery shop, and get some more cooking done.