Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas and Relationships

What do you love the most about the holidays? I know some might say the time off from work, or going hunting, or even the ball games.  But I think most of us truly enjoy the family time we have together, both with family and friends we see all the time, but also with those we only see rarely.
Here's a quote from Robert Dodd in a little Advent Devotional book I am reading:

The only thing we take out of this world with us is our relationship with God and our relationships with one another. Everything else we leave behind: our wealth, our possessions, our homes, our cars, even the clothes on our backs. Our relationships are responsible for making us the persons that we are. We are part of everyone we meet and even of the people we have not met whose stories are familiar to us.  This means that we should give a top priority to our relationships.

Our local "family friendly" (that title is apparently more "pc" than the label "Christian") radio station is encouraging people to do Random Acts of Christmas.  The idea is to just find someone you can help, in a big or small way.  And try to do it every day, or as often as you can through the holiday season.  I like the idea, and want to encourage all my readers to try it.

The people around us are important, and should be a priority.  David preached a sermon today in our homechurch about how we treat our family and friends.  One of his comments he made was how so often we call others names.  Sounds childish, but we do it.  How many times could someone catch you calling "pig" to a cop? Or muttering "idiot" under your breath when the boss walks by? How we treat people is who we really are. 

This holiday season, try to do a small, random act of kindness every day.  Get your kids involved in this project at some level, but mostly these acts will happen at the spur of the moment, with a right now kind of timing. Don't put a great deal of thinking into this because trying to come up with some- special- something -for- someone will bog you down and cause you not to do anything at all.  Just do it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mini Honey-Chocolate Cheesecakes

We made mini cheesecakes for Thanksgiving.

But before I give you the recipe, I have to tell you about Thanksgiving.

We left to go to our son's house, who lives about 45 minutes away.  We were all dressed up, and just threw on light jackets even though it was drizzling.  We had put tables, chairs, a child's cardboard table, boxes of food, a crockpot full of stuffing and a large pot full of chicken and noodles into the back of the truck.  Because the tables stuck out of the back, we could not put on the bed top.

So we began our drive, and were singing "Over the River and Through the Woods", and it was nice because we really do go over a river and through the woods to get to our son's house.

About 20 minutes into our drive, David sees a low tire warning sign, and suddenly our tire blew.  We were out in the middle of no where on a very narrow country road, so the only option was to off road it into a nearby cornfield.  By now it's pouring down rain, and the temperature had dropped at least 10 degrees, to about 30 degrees.  The guys gallantly get out, and find out no matter how hard they try, they can not get the spare to lower under the truck bed (it was one of those convoluted key-in-the-hole, remove plug and the insert some other contraption to get the spare down, but we apparently didn't possess the other contraption needed.)  David called people, got out manuals, even got on the internet to find a solution, but there didn't seem to be any.  Every few minutes they would jump out and try something else, only to get drenched, muddy, and frozen stiff.

Our truck on a day when we liked it.

Finally we gave up, called the tow truck, and paid $184 to have the tire changed.  The food and tables in the back were ruined because of the rain, we sat for 2 hours in a cornfield,  we missed Thanksgiving dinner, but if that's the worse that happened, we still consider ourselves very blessed during this Thanksgiving season. We are healthy, all our children are well, we have food on the table, and clothes on our back, and the love of an entire extended family and church fellowship.  We are blessed people.

So, the day before we had made the most delicious, yummy mini cheesecakes.  Those got the privilege of sitting in the truck bed with us and poor Christian cried continually for them while we waited on the repair man to show up.  We are making these for our Cooking with Honey class coming up in December.

Honey-Chocolate Mini Cheesecakes (Note: this makes a custardy type cheesecake)
Line cupcake tin with paper cupcake holders. Put in 2 vanilla wafers in the bottom of each cup. Drizzle melted chocolate and honey over each wafer.

Take 1 package (8 oz) softened cream cheese and cream with 1/2 c honey with mixer.  Continue mixing, adding 2 eggs, 1 at a time.  Add 1/4 c sour cream and dash of vanilla or almond extract.

Fill each cup with some of this mixture.  Bake at 350 for 15 min.

After cakes are done and cool, drizzle over more melted chocolate and honey. (You can of course, omit the chocolate and honey drizzling and put on cherry or blueberry pie topping).


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Eating Cake

Honey Applesauce Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I made this cake this week.  It is really good.  You need to keep it put up in a refrigerator if possible because of the cream cheese.

Here's how it looks now after Christian was allowed to sit with it at the table unsupervised for a bit:

 1/2 c shortening
3/4 c honey
2 c flour (whole wheat works well)
1/4 t cloves
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg
1/4 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 c applesauce
1 c raisins (we omit)
Grease and flour pan.  Oven set to 350.  Mix shortening and honey well.  Stir in dry ingredients, applesauce and raisins.  Bake for 45 min.

Cream Cheese frosting is easy enough made from real cream cheese.  And, if you get the cheese on sale (I can get it for 99 cents or less) it's cheaper than frosting in a can. (But when time is short, use the frosting in a can!!!)

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 softened 8 oz cream cheese
powdered sugar (I have never tried this with honey instead of powered sugar before, if someone tries it, let me know at sheriburns62@gmail.com so I can comment about it.)
1 tsp vanilla
Dash of milk

I start softening up the cream cheese by leaving it out on the counter for an hour or so.  Then I begin whipping it, while adding powdered sugar (I usually end up using about 1/2 a box or so).  Depending on how "stiff" it is, I add a dash a milk at a time until I get it to frosting consistency.  Add the vanilla at some point.

Honey keeps things like cake retain moisture.  If you needed to send something to someone for the holidays, or off to a child at college, use honey because the baked goods will last longer.

Here's a quick cinnamon coffee cake made with honey:
2 c flour
1/2 t salt
4 t baking powder
1 beaten egg
1 c milk
4 T butter, melted
1/2 t cinnamon
Greast 8 inch square or round pan.  Oven at 375.  Sift together flour, salt, baking power.  Add 2 T honey, egg, milk, then butter.  Stir together.  Spread into pan.  Dribble remaining honey over top and sprinkle with the cinnamon. Bake 30 minutes.

Enjoy these, we did!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

How to Drink Honey - Smoothies, Slushies, and Shake-Ups

One of the best ways to eat honey is to drink it!

Everyone knows it's great in hot tea, coffee, hot chocolate and hot mulled cider.

But have you tried it cold?

Try this Smoothie:
1 pint vanilla yogurt (you could use yogurt if you want this for breakfast, or frozen yogurt or ice cream if you want a snack or late night treat)
cupful of ice cubes (omit ice cubes if you are using frozen yogurt or ice cream)
2 - 2 1/2 c fruit (your pick: try berries, bananas, peaches, etc.)
1/2 c milk
1/4 c honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
Blend all about 30 seconds until smooth.

1 can frozen cranberry juice
1 can frozen orange juice
1 can frozen lemonade
8 c water
2 c honey
1 bottle clear fizzy soda like Sprite, 7 Up, ginger ale, etc.
Thaw juices and then mix all thoroughly.  If you wish to make ahead of time, mix all except soda, freeze in containers.  Then using ice cream scoop, scoop out spoonfuls into glasses, then pour soda over.

4 large lemons
1/2 c honey
3 - 1/2 c water
1 c berries
Squeeze lemons and strain juice.  Add most of the honey and mix well, then add water and berries. Use the remaining honey to sweeten to taste.  Put into a quart jar, adding lemon wedges and ice. Shake occassionally to squeeze out juices of lemon and berries.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

This Year's First Christmas Disaster

I really like Christmas.  I think it comes too early.  I believe if we had Christmas at the end of January or early February, it would make winter go more quickly.  The way it's done now, it comes at the first part of the winter, and after that it's just 3 months of ice and snow and slush.  So I think if we could get a recall on the date (it's not really Jesus' birthday on Dec. 25 anyway), I think far less people would get depressed and have cabin fever.

So every year I try to think of something different to do.  I love Christmas traditions, but I like to think of something just a little extra special.  One thing I think I will try this year is a candy making party with my granddaughters.

But I also thought I would take Christian to the Christmas store today and let him pick out one special tree ornament, and mark it with the date and his age.  And then maybe every year I would take him back and let him pick out another and then eventually have a box full he could take with him when he grew up and got his own house and his own tree.  I had planned this all out and was excited about making this a special trip.

We went into the store and he was mesmerized by the different ornaments.  He in particular loved a little tree ornament that had an actual train that would go around it while it played carols.  He pushed the button over and over to see that train on the ornament.  It was very pricey though, so that one was not an option. He finally decided on a Mickey Mouse train ornament (I really wanted the Santa Claus train ornament.).

He carried the box with the train ornament with us the rest of the morning while we ran errands.  He held it proudly in his hand as he got out of the truck and raced to find his daddy to show him.  He took it reverently out of the box and stroked it with love.

One hour later, this is what the fancy, new tree ornnament looks like:

Things I'm Thankful For

 My Family
Three of my granddaughters and my son

My daughter Jennifer and her family

Daugher Jill and her family

Son David and his wife Nikki

Son Seth - there he is, in the glasses!

Daughter Karee

My husband David and son Christian

Friday, November 19, 2010

This is What I'm Seeing Out My Window Today

I'm looking out my kitchen window today and here flies up one of our black chickens.
Right outside the window is a brick ledge.  I think the bird saw me and thought if it pitifully flew up there and looked at me, I would have pity on it and feed it.  I didn't.

These birds won't lay.  We've had them since summer, but none of them are laying.  The days are shorter now, so I think that's the problem because chickens need about 14 hours of daylight during their best laying seasons.  With my older birds, I keep a light on all the time in the coop, which makes them think the sun is shining longer, so they never stop laying.  Some folks think a bird needs the down time in the winter to not lay, but in my opinion, a chicken has such a short amount of good laying time to begin with (about 2 years) that I really need all the eggs out of it that I can, especially when I spend so much on feed.

Chicken and rice is on the menu for tonight.  This is how I made it:

Chicken and Rice
Meat from one bird. (I debone a chicken and then saute the meat in safflower oil.  You could also use leftover chicken from a bird you had baked or crock-potted, etc.)
2 cups cooked rice (while brown rice is healthier it seems to lack a certain flavor for us in this casserole)
1 can carnation evaporated milk (half and half or whole is a fine substitute)
1 can mushroom soup
2 eggs (from aforementioned chickens)
1 - 2 c shredded cheese (sharp cheddar or monterey jack)
1/2 c chopped onion
sea salt to taste
pepper to taste
parsley or cilantro to taste

Add all ingredients, put into casserole dish and bake at 350 for about 1 hour.

The bird is still looking at me!! :-)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Autumn in the Country, or Where did Thanksgiving Go?

I love Thanksgiving.  Who doesn't? I can ask lots of different folks all the time which holiday do they like the best and you know what they say?


I know why.  First, it's the food.  And quite frankly (I'm shining my nails on my lapel) I am a  pretty good cook, so I know why everyone wants to have Thanksgiving.  But besides that, what is it? It's the non-commercialization of the holiday, right? I was in the local Hallmark store last night.  We had just gone to the annual Parade of Trees (which in my personal opinion this early in November is waaayyyyy too early for that).  In this Hallmark store, it was decked out in Christmas, and finally I found one little tiny shelf with a few knick knack pumpkins and "Blessings" type wall hangings.  One little tiny shelf! Almost like an after thought.

People love Thanksgiving! They love fall colors, football games and that corny Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!  Retailers, don't take it away from us!! Let us bask in the fallen leaves, the colorful pumpkin and turkey drawings the little ones make, and let's see some good old pilgrim plays (do schools even do that anymore?)

I think back in my day, Thanksgiving was a much bigger deal. I remember making Indian vests out of big brown paper bags from the grocers, and putting shaved crayons in between wax paper and using an iron to melt the wax, thus creating autumn leaves.  My husband tried to do this one day awhile back and my iron has never been the same since.

When my brothers and I were little, we had an aunt and uncle that used to put their Christmas tree up on Thanksgiving Eve.  We were horrified at the thought.  I still remember reading stories about families who put up their Christmas tree on the night of Christmas Eve, and the next day the family would come running down the stairs to see it lit up for the first time.

Christmas does come early now in the Burns home.  I am married to an absolute Christmas fanatic, who if he had his way, would be listening to Christmas music before Halloween.  Our outdoor lights are up, but only because I, the analytical and albeit lazy one, decided that I wanted to do it while the weather was warm, so I put them up one day when it was 70 degrees outside.

We still need to get our tree.  I caught my husband eyeing the nice blue spruce outside in the yard today.