Tuesday, December 4, 2012

After Parade Hot Chocolate and Cookie Buffet!

     In my little hometown, where we just moved back to this past August, they hold an annual Christmas parade on the 1st Saturday of December. There are craft fairs, and carolers, and often raffles. It is a fun day, so I wanted to share it with family and friends! I spent most of last week baking and decorating, all the while watching the 6 month old Nugget! I was tired by the end of the week, but everything was ready!

    I rearranged our sitting room to accommodate as many people as possible! I decorated our artificial tree, as it was a little too early to get a real one, then set up the hot chocolate buffet!

     I made hot chocolate from scratch using chocolate chips, cream, milk and sweetened condensed milk. (sooooooooo indulgent!) I set out little dishes with cocoa powder, crushed candy cane and cinnamon. There were also marshmallows that I'd dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with candy cane, mini marshmallows, chocolate chops, candy canes and whipped cream!
     The cookie table was groaning under all the goodies! I made gingerbread men and sugar cookies, our guests contributed red velvet white chocolate cookies, chocolate chip cookies, butterscotch gingerbread, double butter cookies and Oreo truffles!

Then we all donned our most festive gear and walked down to see the parade. (our apartment is right on main street!

     It was a lovely parade, and it was snowing! You can't get better than that for the start of the holiday season! I met a few family members at the parade and invited them up to join us, everyone needed to warm up, it was VERY cold out!

We compared ugly Christmas sweaters!
The Nug got to try his first candy cane! I think he liked it,,,, hehehe!   
It was a fun day, and I hope to do it again next year! Have your Christmas festivities started up yet? I hope you are enjoying the start of the season too!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Granny Squares

     Hello! I hope you are enjoying your Saturday! It is sunny and mild here in Maine today, and Mr Evans and I are enjoying a day of relaxation. I am working on piecing the afghan squares that I have been making all year. I am hoping to give the blanket as a gift this Christmas.

     I have been bundling the squares together in groups of 20 as I have made them, aiming at getting 20 bundles, I have 13 so far, but decided to start putting them together, to see how big it is so far.

     I started by sewing each bundle of squares into a strip,

     Then I sew the strips together. It is looking nice and colorful so far. It's my first traditional granny square blanket, I am copying the one that my husbands great grandmother made, as seen here,

     I quite like this project, it has been a stash buster, using up all sorts of odds and ends yarn. Even the colors I do not really like are going to add to the bright and cheerful blanket. This is another project that is extra thrifty, as I am using a lot of yarn that was given to me, and end pieces from other projects, making it virtually free!
     Also, in other news, Mr Evans started his new job this week! WOOOHOOO! We are quite happy with it, as it comes with a raise, something we haven't had in years. Don't get me wrong, we have been VERY grateful that he has had a job through this awful recession, we are just happy to have been blessed with a new job that will make it less of a struggle to buy the necessities. He will be working at a small company that makes dough for pizzas, partly as a dough maker and partly as a delivery man. Coming home after his first day he brought in no less than a dozen dough balls of assorted flavors! I see a lot of pizza in our future! Oh gosh, this is going to murder my diet! But hey, we are still in a position where free food is good food, so I have been using up some of the dough in creative ways. Today, its a batch of cinnamon buns, YUM!
     Well, better head into the kitchen to make a pot of tea to have with the buns, I hope you enjoy your weekend! God Bless!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pillow Puff Quilt

     I have been trying to slip in some quilting on the days I am not watching The Nugget, who by the way has learned to sit up on his own! Albeit only for a few seconds:)
     This picture is blurry as he was swaying around a bit, but he is pretty excited about the accomplishment!
     I am working on a quilt I started a while back, before the move. It is made by cutting 4 and 1/2 inch by 8 and 1/2 inch rectangles of cloth. Fold the pieces in half so that good sides are facing in and sew up two and a half sides, leaving an opening. Turn right side out, lightly stuff with fiber fill and sew closed the opening. You end up with a little pillow!

     I am making as many as I can in red white and blue themed fabric from my stash and am using stuffing from my stash as well, all of which were given to me by various friends and family, so its a free project! To make the quilt you just sew the little pillows into strips,

 then sew the strips together, and the finished product will be a warm comforter type quilt that doesn't need to be backed or edged! Easy right?

     Here is what I have done so far. It is going to be a nice warm quilt, perfect for cold winter nights! I don't know if I will keep it or give it as a Christmas gift yet, I need to stop getting emotionally attached to my creations! I hope you Christmas crafters are getting stuck into your work load, time is ticking my friends!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Creamed Orange Veggie Soup made with Homemade Chicken Stock!

     We have been incorporating more REAL food into our diet this past year, and we are healthier and thinner because of it! If you would like to learn more about real food, I suggest getting the cookbook Nourishing Traditions, it is more than just a cookbook, it has loads of information on nutrition. One of the most informative chapters of the book is the one on bone broths. Broth is a wonderfully healing food, good for aiding in the absorption of minerals and protein, as well as helping to heal your insides and protect against bad "bugs" and colds. Its also a thrifty food, as its made for virtually free, since its made with things usually thrown out, so its a win win!
     To make my bone broth I save the all the bones and carcasses from when I roast chicken and chicken pieces and freeze them. When I am ready to make the stock I toss them in my crock pot and cover with lots of water. If I can find them, I add chicken feet. Now, I know, chicken feet are not something a squeamish cook can handle easily, but I promise you, they make an ordinary stock extraordinary! They boost the gelatin content too, and gelatin, my friends, is why broth is so good for you! If you like, you can add an onion, a couple carrots, a bay leaf or two, some celery leaves and a few peppercorns, these add more flavor to the broth and bring it up to the same level as soup, but they aren't necessary, as plain broth is still very good and great for using in recipes for soups, stews and gravy! I never add salt to my stock, I salt it as I make the recipe, that way I don't need to worry about the evaporation creating an over salted end product.
     So, once everything is in the crock pot, turn it on high until it comes to a simmer then switch to low and cook at least 12 hours, I let mine go for 24, to leach every last drop of goodness from the bones! When done, turn off and let cool a little, then strain through a cloth.

     After you have strained it, you should have a nice rich broth, if its not clear like store bought, don't worry, I find that the flavor of an opaque broth is much deeper and richer!

I usually get almost a gallon of stock from one chicken carcass and a pound or so of the feet. If you don't want to use the feet, save your bones and use two carcasses instead. Oh, and I have one of the big crock pots, I think its an 8 to 10 quart one, so I can make a good sized batch at one time! If yours is smaller, no problem, just use one carcass and your broth will be more concentrated, you can use it as is, or add water to it. Broth is not a fussy food, so try not and over think it!
     I try and make a batch every week or two, and use it up by making soups, stews, gravy, and chili. I seriously believe in the power of good homemade stock to boost the immune system, as we are rarely sick! I invented a new soup the other night, and it came out SO good I just had to share it with you!
      I took a buttercup squash, two large carrots, a sweet potato (not shown) and two cloves of garlic and tossed them in a large soup pot.

     I then added enough stock to cover them and then a little extra. I simmered until the veg were all super soft, then let cool a bit. Since I don't have an immersion blender I put the whole lot through my beloved ninja blender, and ended up with a rich, smooth, creamy soup. I put it back in the pot, and seasoned with sea salt, turmeric (a VERY potent healing spice, google it and find out it's numerous benefits, and anti-cancer properties!) cumin (another healing spice) and curry powder to taste. In the end, the results were bloomin' fantastic!

The husband agreed! Upon tasting, he told me I had better write this invention down!
     This batch made about 10 mug sized servings, perfect combined with some hearty sandwiches! (we shared the sandwiches, I didn't eat them ALL by myself!) I stuck half the batch in the freezer, ready to reheat for an easy weeknight dinner. Very good, and VERY good for you, you can't ask for more than that! Enjoy:)

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Christmas Crafting!

     Even though I have been very busy taking care of the little Nug, I have still been trying to slip some Christmas crafting in. I get Wednesdays off, so I spent yesterday afternoon getting stuck in to some sewing!
     I have been making some rice "socks", as they are lovely to take to bed during the cold Maine winters, not to mention they are a natural way to soothe aches and pains! I almost never go to bed without one, which I put down by my feet:)
     I am also sewing up some fabric ornaments, things I have had in my stash for a few years and have always forgotten. While I was in my stash I dug out some other, coordinating fabric, so if I have time I can try and use them up too!

     The fabric with ornament prints are from 78'!  Not sure if I am going to use them on a vintage themed tree or if I will make them into a wreath, we will see, I think I am going to have a candy cane themes Christmas this year:)

     I have managed to knit up 3 pairs of slippers so far, with the 4th almost ready to come of the needles. I am going to try and make as many pairs as I can, and they make a good all 'round gift.
     Pinterest has given me SO many ideas of things to do and make, but I am pretty sure there isn't enough time in the year let alone day, to do as much as I would like! I am excited that Thanksgiving is a little early this year, because that means I can start celebrating Christmas that much sooner! Have I mentioned how much I LOVE Christmas!!!! Are you making any gifts this year? Let me know, I am always looking for new ideas!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Hunt for Weeping Angels II

      My friend Jen and I (the Nug's mother!) went on another angel search. Jen knew of a place that she thought might have a few, and oh boy was she right! I almost lept ouof the car when I saw the 1st one! Who would have thought it would be so exciting, like a treasure hunt!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie with All Butter Crust

    In a pie plate place cold, leftover chicken, add a cup or so of gravy, or make some up quickly with butter, flour and milk. Add your choice of cooked veggies. Leftover veg work great if you have them, I used an "Italian" frozen mix with Lima, broccoli, zucchini and carrots. Stir, season, cover with crust,
    This is for a top crust only, double if you want a two crust pie!

    In your food processor add 1/2 cup cold lightly salted butter,
    add a cup and a couple extra tablespoons worth of plain flour,
    also a pinch of salt and one sugar. (to aid browning)
    Blitz a few times until its crumbly,
    add ice cold water a tablespoon at a time until the mixture starts pulling together,
    it should be "clumpy" but not soggy, about 3-4 Tablespoons worth.

    Scrape out the dough and squish together, roll out on a generously floured surface. Cover pie, tuck in, crimp edges, cut vents, bake at 400' for about 30-4o min if veg are not frozen, more if they are. When the gravy bubbles out of the vents, it is done!
    YUM! The crust is a buttery, savory, crispy treat. Just like shortbread, just not sweet! Enjoy!