Monday, December 29, 2008

The next best thing to a White Christmas

Nothing to report on from the kitchen front as I haven't cooked dinner in more than a week! I am loving my cook-cation...almost as much as all the holiday fun.

No snow this Christmas, as it was in the low 50s Christmas Eve. But regardless, Christmas Eve and morning were wonderful, with the boys' excitement reaching a fever pitch just as we were preparing for Santa to visit us.

As R said when he woke up Christmas morning, "I think I heard reindeer last night on our roof!"

I replied, "you did!?"

R: "Yes, but I only heard Dasher and Rudolph. I didn't hear any of the other reindeer."

Here are some quick pictures:



R was a bit disappointed (and concerned about Santa's sleigh riding without the snow) that we didn't have a White Christmas, but if you can't have snow, how about record high temperatures a couple days after Christmas in the high 60s?


Yeah, I decided that "go-outside-and-play-with-no-coats" weather trumps a white week.

Hope your holiday has been Merry,
SPC

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Morning

Need a healthy, fun Christmas (or any old) morning breakfast idea?

Check out my Gingerbread Waffle House post on familyeducation.com.

Sweet!
SPC

Merry Christmas

Can you guess what we've been up to lately?

Betcha can't guess which cookies R and G decorated above?


New this year: Jam Thumbprints. Yum.

As I was plating up cookies, I realized this plate could be entitled, "The SP family on a plate."

The meals this week will be easy and simple...except Christmas of course. This year we're staying home for Christmas, just the 4 of us.

What are your plans this year?Italic

Not sure how many posts will make their way to SP&P in the next week, so in case you don't hear from me before Thursday,

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Peace,
SPC

Friday, December 19, 2008

Spa-ahhhhhhh Therapy

This is the time of year when I start scouring my drawers for extra Chap-stick, lotion and anything, anything that will help my skin from feeling so dry. My hands especially take a beating, since the air is so dry and I sometimes feel like I wash my hands non-stop during the day.

So when the day is (almost) done, and SPH is upstairs giving R and G their baths, I take a little time to give my hands a little moisture therapy. I've tried everything from Vaseline Intensive Care, pure Cocoa Butter, L'Occitane, Aveda, and just about anything else out there.

My favorite?


I slather (is that even a word?) some of this on my hands, whip on my dishwashing gloves and start working on the dishes. The warm water helps soothe my hands as this lotion does its magic.

It's the little things...
SPC

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

My go-to holiday potatoes

Sometimes the most sublime foods are the most simple. Roasting potatoes isn't exactly rocket science, but the more I try different things, the more I realize there is some a little science behind making these potatoes simply delicious.

The science of perfect oven roasted potatoes:

1. The potato: I use plain old russet.

2. The oven: 425 degrees...not too hot, but hot enough to give you a good crust.

3. The pan (this is key): Put the pan into the oven, by itself, while the oven is preheating, and allow it 5-10 minutes at 425 before you put the potatoes on it. Then, when you put the potatoes on the pan, they will instantly begin to lightly brown/crisp the bottoms of the potatoes, given you really nice crunch, followed by a soft interior.

4. The oil: Extra virgin olive oil, about 2 tablespoons per 5-6 potatoes. Less and they don't get a good brown, more and they are too greasy

5. The seasoning: Plain 'ole salt and pepper works great, but if you are going to add herbs, please use fresh. Dried herbs have a tendency to burn at this high roasting temperature.

Perfect Oven Roasted Potatoes


5-6 Russet potatoes, unpeeled and cubed into small bite size pieces
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1 T fresh rosemary, minced.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place cookie sheet in the oven to heat. Mix all the other ingredients, stirring well to combine. After the cookie sheet has been in the oven for 10 minutes or so, carefully pour the potatoes onto the cookie sheet.

Roast for 15-18 minutes, then take a spatula, flip the potatoes and roast for another 15-20 minutes.

These beauties go so well with any holiday or any-time-of-the-year meal!

SPC

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Trains, Manes, Staying Sane

These past 4 days have flown by the Sweet Pea home, full of activity and fun. In a nutshell, we saw some more trains:

got a haircut for G's mane:



and had a date night out, just SPH and I, to stay sane.

Can you tell I just watched a World Word show that included lots of rhyming? (BTW, am I the only one who thinks that "Duck" from World Word sounds remarkably similar a Bill Clinton impersonator?)

Then this morning was our annual MOPS Christmas Brunch, which was preceded last night by a MOPS leadership ladies' night out to Figlio.

Throw in the normal activity of our home, a double ear infection and perforated ear drum for R and some Christmas Cookie making and delivering, and you pretty much have summed up our weekend/Monday.

Our meals for the week:
Grilled Chicken Brats, Sauerkrat, German Potato Salad, Green Beans
Pasta Carbonara, Butter Beans
Cheddar Crab and Broccoli Soup
Homemade Pizza
Baked Burritos

Hope your week is sweet,
SPC

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Another Dinnertime Serenade

G is turning into quite the dinnertime performer. Here's his latest hit:


video

SPC

Friday, December 12, 2008

Meet me at FE

I am blogging over at FE, aka, familyeducation.com today (and yesterday) with two more recipes for Gifts from the Kitchen.

Have a sweet weekend,
SPC

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cracker Crack

Is it me or has it suddenly become hip to create homemade Christmas gifts year?


A few years ago if you said you were making your gifts it would conjure up one of two images:


A. A Martha Stewart type that can create homemade baked goods, packages in a homemade box created from some wood pulp harvested from an organic pine tree that you grew from seed –OR--

B. A preschool style gift, such as a jewelry box with glued uncooked pasta on top and spray painted gold.


But this year, well, even Oprah is getting in the spirit of homemade gift giving. It is *the* thing to do, so get ready for some posts featuring my favorite gifts from the kitchen. I found a recipe for homemade caramel corn on one of my favorite blogs, Rookie Cookie.


This recipe is Whitney of Rookie Cookie’s recipe, just altered a bit to add nuts and more popcorn. You make it all in the microwave and clean up is easy peasy because you do the mixing in a clean brown paper bag.


I actually have decided to stop making this for a bit because I was eating just as much as I was able to give away for gifts. It is quite possibly the most addictive thing I have ever created in my kitchen. You know Cracker Jack? I nicknamed this concoction Cracker Crack.


Sweeten someone’s holiday with this amazing treat.


Rookie Cookie’s Caramel Corn


10 cups of popped popcorn*

1 cup of dry roasted peanuts

4 tablespoons butter, melted

1 cup of brown sugar

¼ cup of corn syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda


Mix popcorn and peanuts in a clean brown paper grocery bag. In a large (4 cups is a good size) glass pyrex measuring cup, melt the butter in the microwave. Once melted, add the brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla and salt. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Stir well. Microwave for 2 minutes and then add the baking soda (mixture will be foamy).


Stir well and then pour over the popcorn and peanuts. Mix well and close the bag, shaking to ensure complete mixing. Microwave the bag on high for 1 minute and pour out onto some wax paper to cool.


(I cannot for the life of me find my "finished product" picture...check out the one on Rookie Cookie instead)


Break into chunks and try, try, try not to eat it.


Sweet!
SPC


*Need an easy, all natural way to make popcorn? Try this homemade microwave popcorn trick.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Would you like a second helping?

How's your Christmas List coming? No, not the kind you write to Santa, the list that may go something like this:

Wrap the Presents
Buy Stocking Stuffers

Bake Gingerbread

Make Candy

Deliver Gifts to Neighbors

Mail the Christmas Cards

Appetizer for Christmas Party


Since my list didn't seem quite long enough, I decided to add one more item:

Blog for familyeducation.com

I am thrilled to expand to a second helping of the Sweet Pea Chef with a new stint on Familyeducation.com's blog page. If you haven't checked out familyeducation.com, it is a fantastic site for all sorts of parenting information.

I'll still be keeping up with SP&P too, so we'll see how this all shakes out...sure to be a full plate of blogging, so I need to figure out how to divvy up my time and recipes. But, now if you excuse me, I am going to go work on the other parts of my Christmas list...

Assemble Big Wheel for G
Figure out Christmas Morning Menu

Make New Year's Eve Reservation

Put together "soup mix" gifts


SPC

Sunday, December 7, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Friday night we continued to Christmas-fy ourselves at the local tree lighting ceremony. Our town does it up right, complete with reindeers, s'more making over fire pits, hot chocolate, Santa, singing, horse drawn carriage rides and even...drumroll please...ice sculpture making. Two men were using chain saws and something looking like a military flame thrower to create amazing works of art out of blocks of ice. Every boy within a one mile radius was enthralled ("chain saws and fire? I'm there!"). Despite a near brush with frost bite on G's fingers, it was a really fun night.(R and I at the local tree firehouse during the tree lighting)

G's first taste of a s'more:


Then, it started snowing in earnest on Saturday...

The Sweet Peas were off Saturday morning (with about 10 million others) to the local mall's indoor play area while SPH did some Christmas shopping. When we passed the mall photo place, there were literally at least 3 dozen children under the age of 5 waiting to get their photos taken, and they all looked none too happy to be in itchy/uncomfortable/"please don't get them dirty or wrinkly" clothes, waiting, waiting, waiting to be memorialized for Christmas. The scene sent shivers up my spine as I thanked God that we already had our Christmas photos done and ordered. Thanks Shannon!

When we came out from the mall after our lunchtime feast at Chick-fil-a, there were a couple inches of snow on the ground. R was ecstatic. He immediately started asking when we were going to go sledding, which thankfully, has somehow become SPH's "thing" with R, so I was off the hook.

Saturday night was SPH and my date night. Wonderful. We went to Ha Long Bay, Vietnamese Kitchen. It was the best Vietnamese I have had since we left DC. If you live in the Columbus area, you should check it out.

Sunday we did church and afterward, while SPH and the boys were playing in the snow, he met our new neighbors that moved into the house behind us. They have a 5 year old boy! Hooray!! I am thrilled to have a new neighbor with a son R's age.

After naps, we went to Ryan's preschool to see the live Nativity. R got really excited when we got to see one of the sheep relieve himself. It's the little things really.

Our meals for the week:
Red and Green Mexican Lasagna
Freezer Dive (I recently went to a meal assembly place and will be using one of their meals)
Breakfast for Dinner
Olive Bar Fish

Have a sweet week,
SPC

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dear G

An open letter to my sweet, sweet G,



I love you. I am glad you are all about using big boy utensils and learning to do everything by. Your. Self.


I won't try and help you anymore. Your highchair meltdowns have got your point across vividly.


Love,
Mommy, aka SPC

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Pistachio and Cranberry Christmas Biscotti

This biscotti is fabulous and so, so easy. Truth be told, I had never made biscotti before whipping up some to develop this recipe. This version uses olive oil and vegetable oil instead of butter and pistachios and dried cranberries to up the healthful factor to about as high as a cookie can get.

The green pistachios and the red cranberries make these beauties shine with Christmas glee.

Whip some up, wrap them up and make someone's Christmas a bit yummier.

Christmas Biscotti

1 T olive oil
1 T vegetable oil
2 T brown sugar
1/4 c white sugar
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cup flour
1/4 t salt
1/2 t baking powder
1/3 c dried cranberries
1/2 c roasted and unsalted pistachio nuts (if using regular nuts, omit the salt)

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Mixing by hand, mix the oils and sugars, then add vanilla and egg until well blended. Combine flour, salt and baking powder, add to the egg mixture. Last, add the pistachios and cranberries.

Form a log that is about 10 inches long by 4 inches wide like this:
Using a Silpat liner or parchment is a good idea.

Bake for 30-33 minutes, or until slightly brown like this:


Let cool for 1-2 minutes. Using a sharp knife, cut into 3/4 -1 inch slices by using firm pressure and cutting down (do not try to saw).

Reduce oven to 275 degrees. Lay biscotti on sides and bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly brown.


Christmas is sweet,
SPC

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Nutty Love

The good people at Everybody's Nuts sent me a package of pistachio love. Don't think you can feel love from a pistachio? Then you haven't tried these nuts.After an email requesting an unbiased review of their product, I responded that I would be happy to taste some pistachios. Sure, I love pistachios, but I wasn't sure what could possibly noteworthy about the EN variety.

So we set up a taste test of SPC's family and friends. There are four types of nuts we tasted (followed by my "2 cents" summary):

Roasted, Unsalted: Very good, but best for baking* and those with sky high blood pressure, watching their sodium intake.

Roasted, Salted: Very, very good and fresh. No pesky "unopened" shells (this is an EN money-back guarantee). Tasty indeed.

Salt and Pepper: Fantastic. Oh-my-goodness good. Ladies and gentleman, we have a winner pistachio. Pistachio heaven in a shell.

English Roast: Amazing. Think pub "chips" with malt vinegar. If you are a salt and vinegar potato chip fan, these nuts will give you a good salt and vinegar fix without feeling guilty#. (Side comment to the good EN folks: you could go a *bit* heavier on the vinegar taste, in my humble opinion).

*To demonstrate how handy the unsalted nuts are for recipes, stay tuned tomorrow for a bonus pistachio recipe. Double bonus: this recipe can be used as a Christmas gift idea.

#I never realized all the good things about pistachios: they're full of fiber, antioxidants, and other good things with lower fat and calories than other nuts.

So there you have it. I'm a believer. You can take nuts from ordinary to extraordinary.

Oh, and to the good folks at EN--thanks for giving me another great Christmas gift idea.

I'm nuts for these nuts,
SPC

Monday, December 1, 2008

Phew!

Am I the only one who had a holiday whirlwind in my home this past week?

The whirlwind began about a week ago as a gentle breeze of meal planning, grocery shopping and preparing.

By Tuesday-Wednesday it was a steady wind of chopping, slicing, mixing, cooking and furniture arranging (to allow for two sets of Grandparents to stay with us in our modest 3 bedroom home).(SPH and R, smoking our turkey this year)

Thursday the air current was festive, fun and full of food...a great day was had by us all.(The view from the end of our dinner table)

Then Friday a gust of Christmas arrived. Determined to experience picking out the Sweet Pea Family Christmas tree and some early Christmas fun while Grandma and Papa were visiting us, we squeezed a tree, some Christmas shopping, Christmas decorating and a whole happy storm of Christmas music before they left on Saturday.
(R picking out a Christmas Tree)

(R dancing with Santa) *side note to my college/post-college roommates...remember what we called this Santa??

(G, with what he thinks is a cell phone (actually a silicone pot handle holder))

(R and G checking out the Easton Express Christmas Train display)

So now the Sweet Peas are fully Christmas-fied and rearing to go. Let December begin.

Our meals for the week:
Chicken, er Turkey Tetrazini (and with this dish, the turkey is G-O-N-E gone!)
Homemade Pizza
Indian Tofu Masala and Curried Cauliflower
Jambalaya
Crab Cakes, with some sides (not sure yet which)

Happy December,
SPC