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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Prosciutto/Mozzarella Asparagus Wraps, and Christmas With The Dogs!

A couple of weeks ago, I was wondering if my amaryllis bulbs were going to bloom in time for Christmas.
And here we are!

Yeah!

We traveled to Connecticut for Christmas, to my brother's house.  You may remember my post a few months ago , where I showed a clip from ConnecticutStyle featuring his restaurant.

Christmas dinner started off with shrimp & lobster, and ended with cannoli cake.  With a lot of good stuff in between.  

My kids were eagerly anticipating our trip to Connecticut because my brother has four dogs.

I was unable to corral them into a group shot on Christmas, so here's an archive photo from this summer when Hounder (front and center) was a puppy.  All of these dogs are rescues, even the pure-bred Weimaraner.

The cast of characters:

Simba (a.k.a. "old man"), who will be 15 next month.

Hounder, the 70-lb puppy, 8 months old.


Oklee, 5 years old, eyeing one of Mrs. Dog's treats .

Unfortunately, I was unable to get a good photo of 13-year-old Mrs. Dog (a.k.a. "girlfriend").  You can see her in the group photo, she's the black-and-tan dog on the far left.

Today's recipe is asparagus wrapped in prosciutto and mozzarella.  It's one of the side dishes I prepared for my Christmas Eve party.

But before I give you the recipe, I need to show you what Erin's been up to lately:
Aren't they cute?

She made them for our Christmas Eve party.

A double-batch of rice krispy treats, rolled into balls and decorated with oreos, mini reeses cups and pull-apart twizzlers.

The snowman theme continued yesterday, when her BFF Abby came over and they made this cake.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Dog Treats!

Today totally went to the dogs.  Literally.  I've really been enjoying all my Christmas preparations and have been working my way through my list (decorating: done!  shopping: done! cards addressed: done! wrapping: almost done!).  

Gus has been putting up with a lot of solo time.

I was about to get started on another marathon gift-wrapping session, and I looked into his doggy face and ......well.........

We went to the dog park.


Ever since we put down our golden retriever,Gracie, Gus has had a thing for fetching blondes.  As luck would have it, there was a lovely blonde (not a golden retriever, but the next best thing--a yellow lab) at the park today, and her name was Gracie!

I had two tennis balls with me, and I threw them over and over until I thought my arm was going to fall off.
By far, Gus is the best "fetcher" that I've ever owned.  But this yellow lab put him to shame!  She  quickly chased down almost every ball that I threw.

By the time we left, Gus was a muddy (but happy) mess. 

His fun didn't end when we got home.  I decided to make some treats for the doggies on our Christmas list, and Gus was happy to taste-test the treats for me.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Snow-Capped Molasses Cookies

Ahhh, Christmas.  I love everything about this friend-visiting, gift-giving, house-decorating, cookie-baking, card-addressing season!

This last week has been a flurry of shopping, wrapping, making lists and cooking.  No stress involved, I love it all.

Today, Caitie came home and my world is complete.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Pasta With Chicken And Creamy Pesto Sauce

This recipe came about because my daughter needed an empty cream carton for a school project.

To stop myself from pouring the cream down the drain, I thought I would come up with a way to use it.  I know, I know, you're thinking, "well, couldn't you just have put the cream into another container?"

And, yes, I could have put it into another container, but the way that works around here is that I usually forget that I transferred an item out of its original container, so the foreign container would just sit in my fridge way past its prime until someone notices it and says, "hey, what's this (insert your favorite color) stuff?  And I say "what (pink) stuff?" (Pink is my favorite color but you can insert your own color, especially if it's green.)

And then it would dawn on me that the (pink) stuff was the cream which was way past its expiration date.    

To avoid the scenario I just described, I decided to make a pasta sauce with what was left in the cream carton.  And because the Christmas season puts me in a red-and-green mood, I decided that basil and tomato needed to be part of the sauce.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cranberry-Pistachio Bread

I'm surrounded by red and green, everywhere I look.
The last of my amaryllis bulbs has finally started to sprout.  Overnight, it just shot up.  Two shoots from one bulb........I don't always get that lucky, so when it happens it's a pleasant surprise.

This last bulb grew so fast, it's already passed the three bulbs that were beginning to sprout last week.

Remember earlier this week when I transferred these bulbs?  The good news is, two of them have started to sprout, and they also have two shoots coming from each bulb.  

The not-so-good news is the third one has barely budged, and they are all growing so slowly that I can't imagine they will bloom before springtime.

At least the red and green ornaments in the planters are pretty to look at.

Speaking of red and green........

Chock-full of cranberries and pistachios, this bread is such a festive display of red-and-green that it begs to be part of your Christmas baking line-up.

It's so extraordinarily good, however, that I'd bet you'll be baking it year-round!

Put on your favorite Christmas CD and play it loud while you do your baking.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Puff Pastry Omelette Torte

I haven't been baking too many sweet confections lately.
Erin's been taking care of that.

She baked these cupcakes to celebrate a friend's birthday (hence the "K"), but made extras for us to enjoy.

I've been doing baking of a different variety.  This morning was the meeting of my "breakfast club,"  a more-or-less-monthly standing date with four of my dearest, sweetest-most-wonderful friends.  

We take turns hosting our little breakfast dates, with the hostess providing the coffee and the guests each contributing a breakfast item.

Gayle hosted this morning's soiree.   It gave me the opportunity to bake a breakfast torte, a recipe perfectly suited for any breakfast gathering, from cozy little get-togethers to glitzy Christmas brunches.

This recipe is very easy to prepare.  Total prep and baking time is about 1 1/2 hours.  You can also prepare it ahead of time, refrigerate it overnight and bake it the next day.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Chicken Tortellini Soup......and a Christmas Towel Tutorial

I have not ever found a vintage Christmas tablecloth that I didn't want to take home with me.

The fabric! The graphics!  The colors! 


Though the tops may be covered with faded stains,

the good stuff remains along the sides.

Waiting for me to frame in a pillow

or embellish towels for my kitchen.

Fifteen minutes from start to finish.

Wanna know how I make them?

First, just like when you're cooking, you gather your ingredients.

You will need:

-An image, cut from a vintage tablecloth.  
-Coordinating rick rack
-Iron-on adhesive (double sided, like HeatnBond)
-Wonder tape (1/8" wide)
-a kitchen towel

You will also need your iron and a sewing machine.

First, I decided on an image.

Should I pick the candy cane?

Or perhaps a wreath, tree or band of merry musicians?

The musicians and the wreath were too big for my towel.  The tree is too similar to the one I used on a towel I made last week.

I'm going with the candy cane.

I cut the image of the candy cane from the tablecloth.  I decided to go with a simple rectangular shape.  No crazy angles or curves.

I did a quick mock-up, placing the image where I thought it should go, and deciding which trims I would use.

If the tablecloth has a coordinating border, I usually cut a strip of the border for the bottom of the towel.  

I did not like the border on this tablecloth, so I decided to trim the bottom of the towel with rick rack.

And I took the rick rack away, just to see what the towel would look like without it.

I decided I liked the way the rick rack looked.

Cut a piece of the iron-on adhesive to iron onto the back of the image.  It does not have to be a perfect shape, you just want to use it to hold the image in place.

See?  Not perfect.

Iron it on, paper side up on wrong side of image.

Peel the paper off, and now the adhesive will be on the fabric.

Do the same with the Wonder tape, adhere it right down the center of your rick rack.

Carefully peel the paper off, and the adhesive has transferred onto the rick rack.

I like to use iron-on adhesive to hold my images and embellishments in place before I sew them.  No pins involved.

Arrange your rick rack and image on your towel.

Iron it into place.  The adhesive bonds almost immediately.  Just quickly glide the iron over the image and rick rack without stopping.

Once the transferring is done, you are ready to sew your image and trims into place.

First, just do a quick straight stitch around the border of the image.

After the towel has been washed, you'll get some really cool texture going on with the stitching around the border of the image.

Then, straight stitch right down the middle of the rick rack.  You could do a zig-zag stitch instead, but I don't want to scare you.  A straight stitch will also get the job done.

And stitch right down the center of the rick rack that borders the image.


And you're done!

No lie, it took me 17 minutes to embellish this towel, and that included the time it took me to take the pictures.

Including this picture of Gus.  I didn't want him to feel left out.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Buttermilk Blueberry Muffins

Yesterday, I replanted some of the amaryllis bulbs I've been growing in my basement.
Every year, I start growing them around November 1, keeping my fingers crossed that they will grow and be ready to bloom when I do my decorating.

Out of the six bulbs that I started, two of them have shot up and started to bloom already.  I replanted them side by side, surrounded by shiny little ornaments.


And I found a nice, sunny spot for them.

These three have barely started to grow.

I put them in a large planter and I'm hoping that moving them upstairs (instead of in the gloomy basement) will prompt them to grow.

If they're happier with their surroundings, will they grow faster? Surrounding them with shiny ornaments can't hurt, either.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Giveaway Winners! And Pasta with Chicken, Mushrooms and Sun Dried Tomato/Cream Sauce

Thanks to random.org, the winners of the giveaway have been drawn and are #13 Kelsey (please contact me with your address so I can send the ornaments to you), #9 Maureen and #11 Libby.  Happy tree-trimming!

And now that we are into December, I'm going to give you a Christmas playlist!