Saturday, December 22, 2012

Almost Ready for Christmas

Two more days until Christmas, and I'm just about done with everything.  We put up a small tree this year, so that didn't take long to decorate.  I put on some of our favorite ornaments.
Michael made this when he was in kindergarten.
This is one of Patrick's favorite ornaments.
Grace made this when she was in kindergarten.

My friend Patti Hinton made this ornament.
This little angel is made from pasta.
This glass ornament looks so much like real candy that folks are tempted to eat it.

The "Dirty Santa" gifts are all wrapped and ready for Christmas Eve.  We always play this game on Christmas Eve when the grands are here.  I buy all the gifts and I have a lot of fun doing this.  The grands always ask, "Are we going to play Dirty Santa this year?"---even now that they are almost grown.
Dirty Santa gifts ready for Christmas Eve. There will be eleven of us this year.
 The spiced pecans are ready for friends and neighbors.
Spiced pecans ready for neighbors.
Check out the recipe for pecans.
And I have one batch of cookies, chocolate chip, baked.  I still have to make another batch or two of cookies and toffee.  I'm also going to make meringue cookies/candy this year.  I haven't made a cake nor a pie---but I may make the Lottie Lane Fruitcake that Mama always made before New Year's.  This will be one of the few years that I haven't made it. 
Chocolate chip cookies.

Lane fruitcake that I made two years ago.

This was always my favorite fruitcake.  All the fruit is in the icing and filling.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Shrimp Paella for Lunch

I should have been making toffee or baking for the weekend, but instead Patrick came over and made paella for Dan and me today. When we were in Spain years ago, Patrick became very fond of paella, and he's been wanting to come over and prepare some, so I got the ingredients and he did the cooking.  I'll post the recipe we used.


Paella can be made in many different ways and with many different ingredients. This version is adapted from The Unsalted Paella in a restaurant will have anywhere from 780mg to as high as 5050mg of sodium. This recipe is flavorful and very low sodium.
Shrimp Paella  Serving's:  4
Per Serving: - Calories 395; Sodium 115mg

It is important to get all your ingredients chopped, measured, prepared before you start cooking. 

1 pound uncooked, peeled deveined shrimp(or shrimp and scallops)
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 Tbsp EVOO
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic minced
1 cup Arborio rice
2 medium tomatoes, skinned and chopped coarsely
1 red bell pepper sliced
4 large Crimini mushrooms quartered
½ cup frozen English peas
½ tsp Saffron threads
½ lemon juice
1 tsp smoked paprika

1. Put the 2 cups of chicken broth in a large pot, add the saffron and bring the broth to a very low simmer to allow the saffron to mix well. 

2. In a large skillet add 2 Tbsp olive oil and on medium high sauté the onions until translucent.  Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. 
3. Next add the bell pepper and cook for 5 minutes stirring so that it doesn’t stick.  Add the mushrooms, peas, tomatoes and cook 2 minutes more.
4. Add 1 Tbsp of the oil & rice in the pan and sauté for 3 minutes making sure that the rice becomes completely coated. 
5. Add the hot chicken broth and the smoked paprika.  Cook over medium heat until the liquid is almost gone, approximately 20 minutes or until the rice is tender.  If rice is not tender, add a little more chicken stock (or water) and simmer until rice is done.
6. Nestle the shrimp into the rice, cover and cook until shrimp are opaque in center, about five minutes.
7.  When the rice is done, squeeze the lemon over the dish and cook for another minute. Season to taste with fresh ground black pepper.

Saute onions, garlic, red pepper.
Add tomatoes, mushrooms, green peas.
Add rice.
Add broth.
When rice is cooked add scallops and shrimp.
Ready to eat.

Ready to eat, and it was delicious.  Thanks Patrick.  You can come back anytime and cook paella for us.  He didn't offer to stay and help with making the toffee or with the baking.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Table Decorations

I'm finally getting in the Christmas spirit.  Today I decorated the dining table and with very little expense.  In the News and Observer the other day I saw a suggestion to use your crystal glasses inverted as candle holders.  Following their suggestion I used two iced tea glasses and two water glasses and filled their cavities with silver ribbons, tied ribbons around the stems and placed the glasses down the center of a green runner that I've used before.
Inverted tea glass as candle holder.
Silver ribbons fill the cavity of the glass.

At Target I found these LED votive candles which I placed on the now inverted feet of the glasses.  On Christmas Eve and Christmas I'll use real votive candles, but with the LED candles I can leave them lit in the evenings until then and not worry about catching something on fire. 
LED votive.

In the center of the table I used a silver vase and arranged white hydrangeas and variegated acuba from the garden to make a very simple yet effective arrangement. Spill a string of silver beads down the runner and voila the table is finished. 
Arrangement of white hydrangeas and acuba.

The acuba complements the white hydrangeas nicely.

Silver beads spilling down the green runner.
Add the silver chargers I bought last year at the After Christmas Sale at Target and the table is ready to be set and for less than $50.00 including the fresh flowers.

Silver charger purchased on sale last year.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bare Trees in Winter

Our red oak in the winter against the grey sky.

I love our big red oak in the back yard in all seasons. It provides wonderful shade in the summer, it's beautiful in the fall with its red leaves, but I think it is most beautiful in the winter when it's bare.

Here's Bare Trees by Fleetwood Mac.

I like this poem by Hank Kalet that I found on his blog

Bare Tree by Hank Kalet

like an old woman's boney fingers

the tree's bare branches stretch out
in gnarled twists
swollen and knotty with time


Our oak is the last to shed its leaves in the fall, and that means there are leaves to rake quite late into the leaf season.  But raking leaves is great exercise.  I much prefer raking to blowing the leaves.  

Raking leaves.
Leaf Pile.


Oak leaf, one of many.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Westmoore Pottery's Holiday Open House

Dan and I visited with Dave and Mary at Westmoore Pottery on Saturday when they were hosting their Holiday Open House.  Mary always has the shop decorated so pretty for Christmas. 

I especially liked the tree with the "Dear Santa" notes and the ornaments from their collection.

Candle ornament.

Heart ornament.

Erik's plates are very popular, and the pierced plate he did would make someone a great Christmas gift. 
Erik's plates.

Erik's pierced plate.

Dave's salt glaze Santa with his pack on his bag is not for sale, but it is used in their Christmas decorations each year.  It is very unique.
Dave's Santa Claus.

There were lots of poinsettias throughout the shop.
 Check out their website, Westmoore Pottery,  for more of their lovely pottery. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Stockings Are Hung by the Chimney with Care

From Sam to Grace.
For the past twenty five years we have been decorating our mantle with stockings for the grandchildren.  And even though some of them are grown and out on their own, we still hang their stockings.  And "Santa" still fills them. 

In 1987.....
Sam and Ian.

In 1990....
Erik and Luke.

In 1994....

In 1997....

In 1999....

Do you notice by this time we had seven grandsons?

And then in 2001 Grace arrived to keep these seven boys (especially her three brothers) in line----and she does.
Our Christmas Croc.

For a number of years our Christmas Croc (a gift from Kim) has adorned the hearth.

Now if we can just get the Christmas tree up and decorated.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Chicken/Shrimp Gumbo

It's the okra that makes it gumbo.
Tired of turkey, my family requested that I make a big pot of shrimp gumbo.  It was a welcome change.  Here's the recipe. 

1 small whole chicken (I used an organic one from Whole Foods.)
3 or 4 cloves garlic
1/4 c olive oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1/3 c flour
2 c No Salt Added Tomatoes
1 frozen package of okra (okra is what makes it gumbo)
1 lb shrimp
1/4 t Tabasco
1 teaspoon paprika
Fresh ground pepper to taste

1.  Cook chicken with 5 cups water & garlic until tender; remove the chicken and cut into pieces.
2.  Cool the broth and skim off fat.
3.  Brown the red pepper and the onion in the olive oil.  Add flour and brown.
4.  Gradually stir in broth.
5.  Add tomatoes, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
6.  Add chicken and okra and simmer for a few minutes.
7.  Add shrimp and cook until shrimp are pink about 3 minutes
8.  Season with pepper, paprika and hot sauce.
9. Serve over rice.

When I make gumbo, I think about the Hank Williams song that my Dad loved.  Here's Hank singing Jambalaya.   This song mentions filet gumbo, which is actually ground leaves of the sassafras tree and is used as a thickening agent.  I used flour and didn't need the filet gumbo. 

Cook whole chicken in five cups of water with garlic until tender.
Remove chicken and skim fat off broth.

Brown flour mixed with browned red pepper and onion to make a roux.

Gradually add broth.

Add tomatoes and simmer for 30 minutes.
Add chicken and okra.

Add shrimp.
Serve over wild or brown rice.

 This is easy to whip up, and it's very tasty and freezes well.