December 15, 2004
The Grinch has turned Piggy
There are very few times that I feel like I'm ahead of the game when it comes to our finances. Usually it's a squeak-by sort of thing, with a general sigh of relief when the next paycheck comes. So how fun is it that I can say that I have all my bills paid for the rest of the year (heh - all fifteen days of it), with a little (not much, but some!) money to spare? All the Christmas shopping is done (as of Dec. 9th - I know, you hate me. Go ahead). The only thing left to spend money on is food (which can be quite considerable), a Christmas tree, and any activities we want to do while the kids are here.
So, now I have to find something else to stress about. Any recommendations? Because, like Charlie Brown, if I don't have something to stress about, I stress about having nothing to stress about. Not that I'm asking for chaos in my life, of course. Perhaps I've used up my chaos quotient for the year, what with the kids' car accident and arranging things for that, the flat tire on the Avalanche that had me hauling the tire down to Discount Tire in Marie's truck to get it repaired, the flat tire on Marie's truck that keeps recurring, the stuck oil gauge on the Avalanche that has me expecting an explosion of over-pressurized oil any second... obviously we have had Bad Car Karma lately.
I've always been suspicious of life when it seems to be going well. This attitude has stuck with me for so long, I now doubt that I'm ever going to "outgrow it". But for the next fifteen days, I'm just going to enjoy the heck out of the holiday, and enjoy the heck out of my family, and turn off my brain.
I know I mentioned a few months ago that I was feeling rather Scrooge-ish about the upcoming holidays. That feeling has been replaced by an entirely GEEKED attitude about the whole thing. There are several factors contributing to this:
- Michael, Lilly, Anthony, and Devlin will be here for another good, long stay.
- Calvin and I both have Dec. 22nd through Jan. 3rd off.
- We get to show Lilly how to eat a lobster.
- We're all going to decorate the tree together as a family this coming Saturday.
- Michael and Marie will be waking up at our house on Christmas morning for the first time, ever. Former arrangements with X(f) had them spending the night with her on Christmas Eve, doing presents and breakfast with her on Christmas morning, and then returning to our house around 1:00 in the afternoon. This was the arrangement since Calvin and I have been together, all the way up until last year. But this year, the kids and X(f) aren't exactly getting along so well, and aren't making any holiday plans together. So! Calvin and I get to play Santa, arranging the presents under the tree after everyone goes to bed. Michael has promised to wake us up at 5:00 in the morning, since we've been "getting away with it" (not getting woken up early) for all these years. We'll have a fire in the fireplace, play Christmas music during the Grand Opening, and Calvin is making his World-Famous Skillet for breakfast.
- The house is already feeling quite festive, what with the stockings hung on the fireplace (three more this year!!!), my sister's country-themed decorations up under the plant shelf, and the nutcrackers standing guard on the half-wall. Not to mention the wreath of sleigh bells on the door, which is hugely annoying, but has now become a tradition and is therefore mandatory.
- I'm getting a SLEW of Christmas cards daily in the mail, thanks to Weet's Christmas card exchange.
- I'm getting a SLEW of mix CD's daily in the mail, thanks to the TUS Antichrist(mas) mix CD exchange.
- Marie and I are having our own little wrapping party this evening, and she wants to help me bake the SLEW (okay, enough of that word) of goodies I have on deck.
Speaking of goodies, here are the promised recipes from this entry. I was totally surprised at how many e-mails I got from readers, requesting these. I had no idea my recipes were in demand.
- 1.5 lbs ground beef
- 5 potatoes, peeled and diced -or- 2 packets instant potatoes (ala Betty Crocker)
- 1 can sweet corn, drained -or- 1/2 can corn and 1/2 can green beans -or- 1.5 cups frozen vegetable medley, thawed and drained
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup onion, chopped
- 3 tbsp butter or margarine, divided
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Instant/jarred beef gravy, or your favorite beef gravy recipe
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Melt 1 tbsp. butter in medium skillet. Sautee garlic and onion until softened and slightly browned.
- Add ground beef to skillet, as well as Worcestershire, salt, and pepper. Cook until browned. Drain, removing as much grease as possible.
- Meanwhile, boil potatoes in medium pot with well salted water until tender, then drain. Place potatoes back in the pot and add milk and 1 tbsp. butter. Mash/mix until smooth. OR prepare instant potatoes according to package directions.
- Spray a large casserole dish (13x9 - ish) with non-stick spray. Put browned beef in the bottom of the casserole dish. Place vegetables of choice on top of beef. Finally, spread mashed potatoes evenly on top.
- Spread 1 tbsp butter over the top of the potatoes, and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper.
- Cover, and place in oven. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. If a browned top is desired, remove casserole from oven, uncover, and place under broiler for a SCANT few minutes, until potatoes are lightly browned.
- Heap onto plates and serve with gravy.
Chicken, Black Bean, and Red Potato Skillet
- 3 chicken breasts, cut into one-inch pieces
- 4 tbsp olive or canola oil, separated
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire
- 1 tbsp chicken seasoning (they usually sell a chicken seasoning mix in the spice area of the store)
- 4 large red potatoes, cut into one-inch pieces (don't remove skin)
- 1 cup onion, chopped
- 1 can sweet yellow corn, drained
- 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 1.5 cups salsa of choice (we use mild)
- 2 tsp. green tabasco sauce
- 2 tsp mexican seasoning (found in the same place the chicken seasoning is)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Boil potatoes with the skin on, in a large pot filled with well-salted water. Cook until done but still slightly firm. Drain.
- While potatoes are boiling, heat oil in a large skillet. Add chicken, garlic powder, worcestershire, and chicken seasoning. Sautee until chicken is cooked through and lightly browned. Remove from skillet.
- Place cooked potatoes in skillet with 2 tbsp. oil and chopped onion, and cook until both are lightly browned. Then add to skillet the chicken, corn, beans, and salsa. Sprinkle with green tabasco and mexican seasoning. Stir to combine ingredients, and cook on low heat until everything is heated.
- Top with sour cream or shredded cheese, if you so choose. Calvin just coats everything with ranch dressing.
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 egg
- 3/4 cup bread crumbs
- 1/8 cup minced onion
- 1 tsp oregano
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp parsley
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- 1 tbsp. Worcestershire
- 1 large jar spaghetti (tomato) sauce, or 16oz home-made sauce
Preheat oven to 450 degrees
- Mix all ingredients EXCEPT spaghetti sauce together in a large bowl
- Shape mixture into 1 to 2 inch balls, place on cookie sheet 1 inch apart
- Bake in preheated oven for five minutes. Remove, turn each meatball over, and cook for an additional five minutes (they will not be fully cooked at this point).
- Place spaghetti sauce in a large sauce pan or pot.
- Place meatballs in sauce, coat thoroughly.
- Simmer on low for one hour.
- Serve over pasta, or on sub rolls with sauce and mozzarella cheese.
- 1 lb raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 3/4 cup white wine
- 1/4 cup light olive oil
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons margarine
- 3 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 tablespoon parsley flakes
- grated parmesan cheese, to top
- Heat wine, olive oil, butter, margarine, and garlic in a large skillet on medium heat until it just starts to simmer.
- Add paprika and parsley flakes, stir, immediately add shrimp.
- Cook for about 4 or 5 minutes or until shrimp turns pink. Don't overcook!
- Spoon shrimp onto plate with the cooking sauce and top liberally with parmesan cheese. Can also be served over pasta.
Garlic Lime Salmon (with Black Bean and Corn Relish)
- 2 lbs. salmon, cut into serving sized pieces (4)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 tbsp. butter or margarine, softened
- 2 limes, cut in half
- salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Black Bean and Corn Relish
- This is a recipe that Dawn gave me.
- Make a tinfoil "boat" for each piece of salmon, raised on the edges so the juices don't run over.
- Place each piece of salmon, skin side down, into a boat. Place boats on a cookie sheet.
- Sprinkle the juice of half a lime onto each piece of salmon.
- Mix together minced garlic and softened (not melted!) butter, spread evenly over salmon pieces.
- Sprinkle each piece with salt and pepper to taste.
- Cook in oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.
- When the salmon is done, the skin should adhere to the tin foil, making it easy to peel the salmon away and place it on a serving plate. I usually put the edge of a metal spatula in between the salmon and skin and ease them apart that way.
- Top each piece of salmon with Black Bean and Corn Relish (optional - again, Calvin just covers his in ranch dressing).
- 1 sm. can corn niblets
- 1 sm. can black beans, rinsed and drained
- 2-3 tbsp. fresh cilantro
- 2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 2 limes, cut in half
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- Fat free Italian dressing
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, squeezing the juice of the two limes into the mixture, and using enough dressing to give it a "relish" texture. Chill. Leftover relish is excellent on top of pasta or when mixed with a can of tuna fish for a good and healthy lunch.
And now the goodies that we'll be baking for the holidays. Along with the Killer Fudge and Magic Cookie Bars, there will be:
Vanilla Rum Balls
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 cup confectioners sugar
- 3 cups vanilla wafers, crushed
- 4 tablespoons dark corn syrup
- 1/2 cup dark rum (more or less, depending on personal tastes - this tends to be a bit strong, but the flavor fades as the days pass)
- extra cocoa or ground chocolate, to roll the rum balls in
- In a large bowl, sift together the cocoa and confectioners sugar.
- Crush the vanilla wafers, either using a food processor or put them in a baggie and roll them with a rolling pin or pound them with a mallet.
- Add the crushed vanilla wafers to the sugar mixture and combine.
- Add the remaining ingredients.
- Form the mixture into 1 inch balls with your hands.
- The balls should hold together easily and retain their shape.
- If the mixture is too dry to hold together or too wet to form balls, you can easily adjust the consistency by adding rum/sugar accordingly.
- Sprinkle the extra cocoa or ground chocolate on a flat surface and roll the balls in to coat.
- That's it! No baking required. Balls harden a bit (heh. hard balls.) as they sit.
Hershey Kiss Cookies
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 4 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 cup sugar (for rolling dough balls into)
- 2 packages Hershey's chocolate kisses
- Cream the first 5 ingredients until light and fluffy.
- Sift the dry ingredients and gradually add to wet ingredients until mixed well.
- Form into small balls (1.5 to 2 inches) and roll in sugar.
- Place on lightly greased cookie sheet and flatten slightly with fingers, not too thin, just a little.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.
- As soon as you remove cookies from oven, push a Hershey's Kiss into the center of the cookie, and cool completely.
Chocolate Coconut Snowballs
- 1/3 cup butter
- 3 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 teaspoons almond extract
- 2 teaspoons orange juice
- 1 1/4 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 (14 ounces) package coconut, divided
- 1 (12 ounces) package semi-sweet chocolate chips
- In large bowl, cream butter, cream cheese and sugar.
- Add egg yolk, almond extract and orange juice, beat well.
- Combine flour, baking powder and salt and gradually add to creamed mixture.
- Stir in 3 CUPS of the coconut.
- Cover and chill for an hour.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Stir chocolate chips into dough.
- Shape dough into 1" balls and roll each in remaining coconut.
- Place on ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes or until light brown.
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup brown sugar (I used light brown)
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars at high speed.
- Add egg, vanilla, and beat until smooth.
- In another bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar.
- Pour dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, mix well.
- Preheat oven to 300° while you let dough rest 30-60 minutes in fridge.
- In a small bowl combine topping.
- Take about 2 1/2 tablespoons of dough and roll it into a ball.
- Roll this dough in the cinnamon/sugar mixture and press onto greased cookie sheet.
- Lather, rinse, repeat for the remaining dough
- Bake cookies 10-12 minutes, NO MORE. Cookies may seem undercooked but will develop.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup butter, cut up
- 1 (12 ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature, beaten to make it fluffy
- 2 1/2 cups raspberry preserves
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten
- 3/4 cup finely chopped almonds
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- Stir together flour and salt; cut in butter with a pastry blender until crumbly.
- Stir in cheese until blended.
- Shape mixture into 1-inch balls.
- Cover and chill 8 hours.
- Pat each ball on a lightly floured surface into a 2 1/2-inch circle.
- Spoon 1 teaspoon raspberry in center of each circle.
- Fold circles in half, pressing edges to seal making sure no air is inside.
- Place on lightly greased baking sheets.
- Brush with egg white.
- Stir together 1/2 cup sugar,cinnamon and almonds; sprinkle evenly over crescents.
- Bake at 375° for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
Oof. Have I mentioned that we like to eat?
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