Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013: My Year in Photos

January:  A trip to the Florida Keys with Dan and Patrick.
Patrick on the Water Taxi in Fort Lauderdale.

March:  Grandson Zach's Broughton High Basketball Team played in the 4A High School State Finals in the Dean Dome. They were runner up. 
Zach playing in State Finals in the Dean Dome (Photo by Ava Barlow.).

April:  Back to Florida to visit Cousin Elizabeth in West Palm Beach.
The Breakers in West Palm.

June:  Zach graduated from Broughton High School in Raleigh, NC

Zach graduates from Broughton High School.
and went to Australia with Claire and her Mom.
Zach, Claire, Jeanette at Great Barrier Reef, Australia.

My Cleveland County family surprised me with a birthday party---not my birthday.
Pat and Dan surprised.

July:  Cousin Robin and Elizabeth came down and we visited some of our Cleveland County cousins.
Cleveland County cousins: Jimmy Hawkins, Donna Wilson, Shelva Wilson, Jerry Scruggs.

August:  Attended Joe and Alice's 50th Wedding Anniversary Party.
Dan and Joe.

Flew with Maggie to Nova Scotia for two wonderful weeks.
Maggie enjoying the beach at Marble Mountain.

September:  Attended the Hawkins Reunion in Cleveland County.
Dan and Jerry at Hawkins Reunion.

October:  Back to Nova Scotia for two more weeks.
Fiona and Iris at potluck supper at Wendy's.

November: My sons and I traveled to Cuba with the Wolftrekers.
Patrick, Michael and I ride in a 1957 Chevrolet convertible.

  Friend Virginia here for her birthday and Thanksgiving.
Virginia opens her birthday gift.

December:  Christmas festivities with family and friends.
GrandPat and her Grands.
Pat and Dan. 

 Love to all my family and friends for making 2013 such a fine year.  

Friday, December 27, 2013

Eating 3 Bean Salad with a Tiny Cocktail Fork

Tiny cocktail fork compared to salad fork and dinner fork.

For our Christmas Eve Dinner we always have oyster stew for the adults and chicken rice soup for the young crowd.  In addition we have a buffet of mainly finger foods: cocktail shrimp, hot meatballs, cheese, crackers, nuts, deviled eggs, and this year I added a 3 bean salad.  I set the table for the soup, and then folks mainly graze from the buffet, but some folks do go back to their tables after gathering a plate of finger foods.
Table set for soup. 

I had found these cute little disposable cocktail forks at Party City and used them on the buffet for the shrimp and for the meatballs.

Tiny disposable cocktail forks.

Buffet: Cheese and clementines.

Buffet: Deviled eggs.

Buffet:  nuts and cheese ball shaped like a hedgehog.
I later realized that in the dining room, folks were trying to eat their 3 bean salad with those tiny little forks.  Son Michael even commented,"Mom, do you have any teeny butter knives?"  I had put soup spoons on the table but had forgotten knives and forks.  Of course they needed knives for buttering their bread and forks for eating their salad.  Some actually thought I intended them to eat the beans with the tiny little cocktail forks. Apparently my sons were having fun eating the salad, bean by bean, as they tried to pierce the beans with the teeny fork. I did get them the proper  forks for eating their salad.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Our Elf on the Shelf Has Disappeared

Ellie on hearth among gifts.
I don't really know what is involved in the Elf on the Shelf craze, because I don't have any little ones, but I did see this cute little elf in the store the other day and on impulse I bought her.  I even named her "Ellie".  Now I have her sitting around the house in different places as I get ready for Christmas.  When any of the grands come by (they are not so young anymore--the youngest is twelve) I will ask them to look for the elf.  They humor me and play along with their Grandpat.
On a shelf in one of the bookcases in the living room.

Here's what our Elf has been doing as I get ready for the holidays.

Among the Christmas gifts.

On porch waiting for carolers.

Hanging out with the Christmas gnome on front porch.

On cabinet in guest bathroom.

Hiding behind one of my favorite pieces of pottery in the guest bedroom.

One morning I found her on a shelf in the cookbook bookcase.  I decided perhaps she was wanting to help me cook.
On a shelf in the cookbook bookcase.
And sure enough, she helped me make spiced pecans, gifts for our friends and neighbors.
Ellie helping stir in the melted butter before roasting the pecans.
Sometimes she doesn't really like being on a shelf.
Being a couch potato.

One night, I discovered she was having a sleepover with Maggie our puppy.
And there she was on the top of the tv in the den the other day.
On top of tv. 

It's been fun watching where she will show up each day.

On Christmas Eve when we were having our traditional Christmas Eve supper/party Ellie was there, but after it was over she was tired from all the merriment.

Tired Ellie.

Ellie has gone back to the North Pole.
This morning when we got up, Ellie had disappeared.  I understand elves go back to the North Pole on Christmas Eve so she must have hitched a ride with Santa last night.  Maybe she'll return next year. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Miss Lucy's Coconut Cake (In Memory of Roz on her Birthday)

Miss Lucy's Coconut Cake, Christmas 2010.
I really had good intentions of making this cake this Christmas (2013) but alas I didn't get around to it.  But if you are looking for a recipe for a really good coconut cake this is it.  The only baking I've done this year has yielded chocolate chip cookies and two pies---one pecan and one pumpkin.  But I'm reposting this blog in memory of my mother.  Today would have been her birthday.  

When I was growing up, my Mom usually made two cakes at Christmas.  One was Miss Lucy's Coconut Cake.  Back then, without a food processor, it was frequently my task to grate the fresh coconut by hand with the box grater. In Christmas 2010, my friend Stephanie and I made this cake, but we used  frozen coconut instead of fresh.

Since I didn't make the coconut cake this past Christmas, I have made it for Easter.  And I used fresh coconut.  To my delight, I found that the food processor worked just fine for grating the coconut---none of this grating with the box grater.
Fresh grated coconut using food processor.

Here's the recipe for Miss Lucy's Coconut Cake:

1 c. butter                                 ½ tsp.salt
2 c. sugar                                 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 c. plain flour                           ½ c. buttermilk
4 eggs                                      ½ c. water
3 tsp. baking powder

            Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly as each egg is added.  Then add dry ingredients (sifted together) alternately with the buttermilk and water, which have been mixed together.  Add vanilla.  Pour batter into three round pans which have been greased and floured.
            Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

1 large coconut ( or two small ones) grated                                2 tbsp. cornstarch
2 c. sugar                                                                               1 c. coconut milk

(You can supplement the coconut milk with plain milk if needed to make one cup.)

Mix all ingredients in order given. (Save ½ cup of grated coconut for garnish). Place over heat, and cook until thick; cool slightly.  Spread between layers and on sides.   Garnish top with grated coconut.

This cake is a very moist cake.  It is best made several days to a week in advance, and refrigerated so that the filling permeates the cake and the flavors blend. It's best if you let it come to room temperature before serving.
Miss Lucy's Coconut Cake for Easter.

I just had to sample it before Easter. Yum!

This is my favorite coconut cake.


Thursday, December 19, 2013

Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies Redux

I posted this last year, and now that I am beginning my Christmas baking for this year and plan to make a batch of these tomorrow, I thought I would repost this.  These cookies are a big hit and a favorite of my family and friends.

One of my favorite cookbooks is Baking From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan, and this recipe is from that book. 

Espresso Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 sticks unsalted butter (8 ounces) at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
2 large eggs
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate chopped into chips or chunks
1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans*

*I used chocolate that had almonds in it and did not use any extra nuts.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Whisk together the flour and baking soda.
With a stand mixer beat the butter on medium speed for about 1 minute until smooth.
Add the sugars and beat until well blended about 2 minutes or so.
Beat in the vanilla and the espresso powder.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating 1 minute after each egg goes in.
With the mixer speed on low slowly add the dry ingredients until they are incorporated.
On low speed mix in the chocolate and nuts.
Spoon the dough by slightly rounded tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between spoonfuls.
Bake the cookies--one sheet at a time and rotating the sheet at the midway point--for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are brown at the edges and golden in the center.  Allow the cookies to rest for a minute, then carefully, using a wide metal spatula, transfer them to racks to cool to room temperature.
This makes about 4 dozen cookies.

I like to make my own chunks and chips because I can use a better grade of chocolate than is in the commercial chocolate chips.
I chipped this coffee crunch chocolate bar.
I chipped some of this bittersweet chocolate with almonds.
Ready for the oven.
Cooling on wire rack.
A plate of cookies.
 These will be enjoyed on Christmas Eve.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Festivus Chai, a New Favorite Holiday Drink

A bottle of Festivus Chai.

Dan and I drink a lot of hot tea, especially in the winter time.  We also like chai (rhymes with pie)---a beverage that is a blend of black tea, honey, spices, and milk. And we prefer our chai hot.  

I was in Whole Foods the other day and noticed  a bottle of Festivus Chai concentrate on sale.  It probably caught my eye because we had just put up our Festivus Pole for Christmas.
Festivus Chai on sale at Whole Foods.

 If you're not a Seinfeld fan you may not be familiar with a Festivus Pole.  Both my grown boys were and still are dedicated Seinfeld fans, and they can repeat line for line quotes from many of the episodes of Seinfeld.  At Christmas they frequently quote from the episode about the Festivus Pole. 

Several years ago, Dan made us a Festivus Pole---actually I think he made it to surprise the boys.  It has been a fun part of our Christmas ever since.  One is not supposed to decorate the pole in any way, but we usually put a Santa hat or a big bow on top. 

Our Festivus Pole that Dan made for the boys.
Santa hat atop the Festivus Pole.

I brought a bottle of the Chai home and made Dan and me each a cup of Festivus Chai.  It's quite good.  The contents are filtered water, cane juice, black tea, honey, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, clove, allspice, black pepper, nutmeg, cocoa and vanilla.  extract. It's made by Third Street Chai in Boulder, Colorado and is available only at Whole Foods (it's certified organic) and only during the Christmas holidays.  The flavors that are most distinct to me are the cocoa and the nutmeg, both of which I like very much.  
Mix equal parts Festivus Chai concentrate and milk and heat.
A nice hot cup of Festivus Chai.

I think I will serve Festivus Chai this year at our Christmas Eve gathering for those that would like a hot beverage.  

For those not familiar with this episode of Seinfeld check out this video from You Tube.