Summer, Diary 4, 2016

Tawny Scrawny Carrot Stew.

Doesn’t that sound divine?

My kids love the book The Tawny Scrawny Lion by Kathryn Jackson. Incidentally, I do too… the copy we have is mine from when I was a little girl. We read it at least twice a week at bedtime, and lately James has been talking about having bowls of carrot stew and heaping his bowl with berries, and soon enough Roman and Rose started relishing the idea too.

So last week I made Tawny Scrawny Carrot Stew.

I looked up several recipes for cream of carrot soup, and then modified slightly to match the stew the rabbits make Tawny Scrawny in the book. The description was a carrot stew, with fish and herbs and mushrooms.

Oh my gosh… it was so good! I wasn’t sure at first, as it’s not a combination one often sees, but it was delicious and easy and I would make it again in a heartbeat.

My kids ate it for supper, grinning from ear to ear, and then we heaped our bowls afterward with fresh raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries. A perfect finish to this dish.

I LOVE to cook from a good book. Redwall, Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Little House, Boxcar Children, The Tawny Scrawny Lion, Miss Suzy… gosh, there’s so many wonderful books out there that just make me want to eat! 🙂

(Not the best picture. Sorry. I took it with my phone, after my growing hoard had all but consumed the pot.)

VZM.IMG_20160605_195723

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Tawny Scrawny Carrot Stew

Ingredients
• 6 cups Carrots, chopped
• 6 cups Liquid (all water, or a mix of water and vegetable broth)

• 15 oz White Fish (I used Cod)

• 2 T Butter
• 2 cans Mushrooms (4 oz each), drained

• 1/2 tsp Thyme, dry
• 2 tsp Garlic, chopped • 2 T Butter
• s/p to taste

Directions
Put the carrots and liquid in a pot and boil, uncovered, till carrots are soft (about 15-20 minutes). Scoop out into a bowl, leaving liquid in the pot. Add the white fish to the pot, another 2 cups of water, and simmer till cooked (about 10 minutes), till opaque and flaking. Pull fish out, and add the carrots back in. Add the thyme and garlic. Use an immersion blender, or a regular blender, and puree the carrots and liquid.

In a small pan, sauté the mushrooms in the 2 T of butter.

To the creamy carrot soup, add the fish, the mushrooms (and mushroom/butter drippings), and another 2 T of butter. Mix to break the fish up. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

Enjoy.

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Holiday Delights

We celebrated Christmas with Sackett Man’s family. In total we had thirteen people in our home over the weekend before Christmas (fourteen if one counts my soon-to-come baby boy), and I couldn’t have had a nicer time.

I LOVE playing the hostess. I love getting the house ready. I love putting the air fresheners in various rooms (apple cinnamon is the best scent). I love making up the beds with fresh, crisp sheets and warm blankets, setting out clean soft towels in the bathrooms, putting up the finishing touches of Christmas decoration so that the atmosphere is warm and full of the holidays. Most of all, I love to cook. Molasses cookies. Fudge. Artisan bread. Bowls of dried fruit and almonds and cashews for snacking. Scrumptious beef roast with gravy, mushrooms, and onions, roasted in garlic and rosemary and red wine. Mashed potatoes made creamy with milk, sour cream, and butter. Green beans cooked to bright green al dente and tossed with chopped, crispy bacon.

My mother-in-law brought her own delicacies. She made a ton of Christmas cookies, and brought her delicious caramel rolls. My sister-in-laws brought cranberry fluff, homemade punch, english toffee pudding, vegetable trays, ham-and-pickle roll-ups, pecan pie, pickled herring, cheese and crackers, lefse… I’m sure I’m forgetting something… Needless to say, we did not go hungry!

A huge thanks to my wonderful In-Law Family, for coming to visit us and celebrating Christmas in such a special way. 🙂

One thing I tried making this year that I’ve never, ever attempted before, was good old fashioned candy (yes, that you need a thermometer for as you carefully cook the sugar). I made Turkish Delight.

I wasn’t sure about it. I and my family love the Narnia series; our young boys really enjoy the original BBC Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe movie. There’s been curious interest regarding the sweet that was Edmund’s favorite for a while now, so I finally researched and found a recipe and tried my hand at it. Turkish Delight can be made in many, many flavors (lemon, orange, pistachio, chocolate, etc) but the most common is Rose. Yes, Rose flavored candy. I assume this is the flavor Edmund enjoyed, because in every single movie the candy is a soft pink color. To that end I ordered my rose water (Rose Flower Water by Cortas), and— because some reviews said it was a very strong brand— I sampled a teaspoon of it in a glass of water (the recommended amount is 1-2 Tablespoons in a glass of water), and I couldn’t drink it. It was so strong! The scent was like putting my nose smack dab into the middle of the strongest bouquet of roses ever. And then drinking that bouquet. So that made me concerned that the flavor of the Turkish Delight was going to be too much.

I forged ahead anyway.

I used the recipe from this lady’s blog: http://titlisbusykitchen.com/recipe/turkish-delight. Not only does she have the recipe written out, but she has a step-by-step video to go with it. It made the whole experience so much better; there’s nothing that takes the fear out of an new recipe than watching someone with a sense of humor show you how it’s done!

The ingredients are:

  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp rosewater
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • Few drops of food coloring
For the dusting
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • Extra powdered sugar (on hand if needed)

The only modification I made to the recipe, at all, was I halved the amount of rose water. I put in 1½ tsp instead of 1 tbsp. For our American tastebuds, unused to the taste of roses, it made all the difference! It flavored the Turkish Delight delicately, without overpowering it.

My husband and I, used to the scent of roses as being connected to bouquets, soaps, or face wash, like the flavor but are still getting used to attaching it to a food. Our kids, on the other hand, have no such preconceived ideas, and love it!

January Note: One thing to keep in mind: this is an old fashioned candy, made the old fashioned way. There are no preservatives or additives to keep it in perfect form for weeks (*cough cough* months YEARS *cough cough*) on end, so it will sweat and the powdered sugar it rests in will turn into a glaze around it. For the best results, eat the candy within the first five days. If the sweating really bothers you, switch out the powdered sugar/cornstarch every 2-3 days.

Another side note: the recipe says it will keep for a week. That doesn’t mean you have to throw it out on the eve of day seven. It just means that the texture will become softer and less candy-chewy, and it will sweat more and more. I’m nearing the end of week two, beginning week three, and I’ve taken to using a fork to separate the pieces (the best I can) and eating it that way.

My prep for candy making.

My prep for candy making.

Mixing, mixing, mixing as the sugar SLOWLY rises in temperature.

Mixing, mixing, mixing as the sugar SLOWLY rises in temperature.

You can't see it here (sorry), but it has reached temp: 240˚F.  * note: turn off the heat immediately when it reaches temp!!!

You can’t see it here (sorry), but it has reached temp: 240˚F.
* note: turn off the heat immediately when it reaches temp!!!

This is the water/cornstarch mixture. Once this has cooked you add the sugar syrup and cook low and slow to a glowing gold color. KEEP THE HEAT ON LOW! AND MIX CONSTANTLY!

This is the water/cornstarch mixture. Once this has cooked you add the sugar syrup and cook low and slow to a glowing gold color. KEEP THE HEAT ON LOW! AND MIX CONSTANTLY!

After adding the three drops of red food coloring and the Rose Water, I poured (scooped) the mixture into the wax lined/oiled pan. I used this handy icing spatula to spread it out even.

After adding the three drops of red food coloring and the Rose Water, I poured (scooped) the mixture into the wax lined/oiled pan. I used this handy icing spatula to spread it out even.

This is what you will need to finish the Turkish Delight: a cutting board sprinkled generously with powdered sugar. you turn the Delight out onto the board and cut it. 1"x1" is the perfect size.

This is what you will need to finish the Turkish Delight: a cutting board sprinkled generously with powdered sugar. you turn the Delight out onto the board and cut it. 1″x1″ is the perfect size.

So sorry I don’t have a picture of the finished product, all cut and dusted. Just imagine your favorite picture of Turkish Delight from the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe… it really is just that pretty!

Autumn Green

It snowed last night. The snow melted immediately once the morning light touched it, but its brief presence made one things very clear—

The garden must be picked.

Unfortunately I am in no state to do it. I am confined to my husband’s recliner with my laptop, taking vicodin every four hours, because yesterday I was in the hospital having a cerclage. So my husband geared up with grocery bags, scissors, laundry baskets, and gloves. Our oldest bundled up in his winter coat, hat, gloves and boots. The two of them are outside picking EVERYTHING. Bless them!

Most of what’s coming in I can take care of later. One thing, however, cannot wait, unless I want a limp, green, slimy mess.

Ew.

What is this potential mess? My cilantro. I love cilantro! Its fresh lemony scent wafts through my nose and washes my thoughts clear of any stress and trouble. Its bright flavor bursts in my mouth and proves to every taste bud that God loves each and every one of them and wants them to be happy!

But cilantro attacked by the unforgiving, freezing forces of nature? A malicious cruelty done to a completely innocent herb, if you ask me. So Sackett Man is outside with scissors and cutting and bagging it all for me. I figure that I can take five minutes today to stand in my kitchen and preserve it. Despite my achy back and other, general achiness, it will be SO worth it!

Mom and I have tried different ways of preserving cilantro over the years. We’ve tried drying it, which preserves it nicely, but you loose the fresh, bright burst of flavor that I love so much. We tried freezing it whole last year, in ziploc bags, but it was difficult to pull out just what you needed and when it thawed it was just not the same. And then one day a couple of weeks ago I was on the phone with Mom, and she was telling me about all the things she was doing with her garden produce. That day she happened to be making pesto, and I thought… “Pesto. Pesto! PESTO!” And why not? Why NOT make a pesto out of cilantro? As far as I know there’s no law that says pesto can only be made out of basil, but even if there is I’m willing to risk jail for this wonderful and amazing concoction. Because it’s delicious.

The next day I picked a bunch of cilantro to try it out. My heart pounded as I put it in the blender; my hands shook as I added the oil. My whole body quivered as I pushed the button and watched as it spun and blended into a brilliant emerald green elixir. I carefully, meticulously measured in the salt and the lemon juice, and blended it once more, gently and lovingly.

And then… I tasted it.

Oh heaven! I had found it… the perfect way to preserve cilantro so that its fresh wonderfulness could be enjoyed even in the depths of winter. I made Indian chicken and rice that night, and tried a spoonful of the Cilantro Pesto on top. It was fantastic, and Sackett Man gladly put it on top of his second and third helpings.

The process is really and truly very simple.

You’ll need 10 cups of cilantro total, but be aware that you’ll have to add it in a bit at a time.

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 8.48.53 PM
Firstly, I put 5 cups of cilantro into my blender.

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I added 1 cup of olive oil, to give the blender enough moisture to blend.

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I pulsed the blender, using the handle of a wooden spoon to push the cilantro down in between pulses.

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 8.50.41 PM
I added the last 5 cups of fresh cilantro and pulsed all over again. Then I added approximately 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and some salt. A quarter to half a teaspoon, depending on how salty you like it.

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 8.50.55 PM            Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 8.51.09 PM

Look at that! Isn’t it the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?

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I put it into two quart-size ziploc bags, and spread them flat to put in the freezer. Flattening them works well for usage, too, because you can just open the bag and break a piece of the frozen ‘slab’ off whenever you want to use some.

This is what I shall do with the cilantro my husband is bringing in today.

I can’t wait!

 


 

~ Cilantro Pesto ~ Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 8.51.35 PM

• 10 C. Fresh Cilantro
• 1 C. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
• 1 ½ – 2 T Lemon Juice
• ¼ – ½ tsp Salt

Put 5 cups of cilantro and the olive oil into the blender. Blend in pulses, scraping down the sides in between. When it’s blended, add the rest of the cilantro and blend again in pulses. Add the lemon juice and salt to taste and blend just enough to mix.

Pour into two quart ziploc bags, flatten, and freeze.

Enjoy!


Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!

How does time get away from us? Imagine my surprise (and guilt) when I connected here to discover that the last time I had posted was February 12th, and here it is March 26th.

Shame on me.

A lot has been keeping me busy. We had the Memorial for Sackett Man’s grandmother. Another grandparent had to go to the hospital, as did another, and two of them moved into a nursing home. I’m doing preschool at home with Roman, James outgrew his clothes and I had to go burrowing into boxes in the basement to find any that did fit, and Rose is crawling, walking along furniture, and getting into everything. I’ve written 13 chapters in a ff story, and have been arranging babysitting services for our kids during a business trip Sackett Man and I are taking in April.

But I’m still ashamed. So forgive me.

On the other hand, I’ve had lots of wonderful recipes I’ve been making, and let’s just say that life with children 5 and under is a huge adventure. And we’ve gotten more snow. Again. And again.

I’ve consoled myself by baking desserts for the family and pretending that Christmas is coming twice this year.

Spring is here at last! Can't you tell?

Spring is here at last! Can’t you tell?

Mom and I are also going through the seeds we’ve got waiting in a bag in the fridge, and planning our two big gardens. We’re going to create some mounds in the snow for the squash, watermelon, and potatoes, and we’re going to plow some nice long rows and plant the seeds in the snow. Then the summer thaw come and we’ll sigh as we watch our frozen seeds get washed away in the snow melt. By midsummer we won’t dare mow because there will be little tiny plants sprouting up everywhere in our yard EXCEPT in the nicely plowed garden, and Mom and I will be wandering around with our heads to the ground trying to identify what’s growing and if it’s edible, and hoping that the whats-its and whatchamacallits ‘bear fruit’ before the Autumn snows.

Okay, not really. By May (I hope) there will be bare ground to plant in, and God willing we’ll have a fantastic harvest of squash, melon, potatoes, kale, swiss chard, tomatoes, onions, peppers, green beans, beets, and herbs. Among other things. But right now I feel like Mrs. Beaver stuck forever in a never-ending winter.

On the Plus Side, the cliffs and mountains of snow lining our driveway are glorious in size, and during the few days it’s warm enough our two boys and Sackett Man enjoy going out and digging tunnels through the packed giants. By the time Spring is actually here, we’ll have the BEST ‘underground’ tunnel system.

I, in the meantime, have been indulging in cooking and baking. I made a cake, for no reason at all, and took Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.00.31 AMan entire afternoon on it. Yep. I baked, I cooled, I stacked, I frosted, I decorated. It was pretty, and it was delicious. Raspberry Silver cake with a lemon butter frosting. Mmmm… I love making cakes. I never have the time I would like to do all of the ones I want to do, but then again I guess that’s a good thing… Sackett Man and I have no desire to match our sons’ growth spurts; two inches every two weeks would put us in dire straits!

The ‘flowers’ are supposed to be purple. I’m not sure what happened in the photographic translation… I also decided I need more practice at making flowers. Professional I am not. But the family sure enjoyed it. It was gone in two days.

I also made molasses cookies. These are some of my favorite cookies, but then I’m a big fan of molasses. Rich, dark, deep tones tantalizing the tastebuds… Try a tablespoon in a cup of milk. Yum!

Anyway, I creamed the butter and the sugar and the egg. Then I added the molasses and creamed some more. (Thank you Mom and Great Grandma for teaching me how to cream with a wooden spoon!)

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.04.48 AMAnd this is how I do dry ingredients. I like to sift it all through my mesh sieve. It takes the lumps out of everything (like the baking soda) so that it is all fine and fluffy and partially mixes everything for you. Then you can finish mixing by hand.

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.05.00 AMAfter combining the dry and wet, I ended up with a VERY thick batter. Time to taste test. Yes? No? Not sure? Taste it again. And again. I think three times is the required number.

Mmm!

Roll by the Tablespoons in sugar and line them on your Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.05.09 AMpan. Little brown, sparkly balls of goodness just waiting to be eaten! Just make sure you bake them first. That’s a very important step.

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.05.29 AMEight minutes later you will have beautiful brown, sparkly balls of slightly crispy, beautifully soft goodness just waiting to be eaten! And it’s okay, because now they’ve been baked. There’s nothing to stop you now. There was certainly nothing to stop me.

Many of them did make it into my apple cookie jar, I am proud to announce. My self control kicked in soon enough!

This is a family recipe. It’s been made many, many, many times.

~ Molasses Cookies ~ Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 11.05.38 AM

  • ³/8 C. Shortening
  • ³/8 C. Butter
  • 1 C. packed Brown Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • ¼ C. Molasses
  • 2 ¾ C. Flour
  • 2 tsp Baking Soda
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp Ground Ginger

Cream the Shortening, Butter, Sugar, and Egg. Add the Molasses.
Stir in the dry ingredients.
Scoop by the Tablespoon and form into balls and roll in white sugar. Place on a cookie sheet 2 inches apart.
Bake at 350º F for 8=10 minutes.

Enjoy!

Mushrooms ala Cocoa

Is it wrong to think that the mixed scent of warm chocolate and cooking mushrooms is fantastic?

This is the conundrum I found myself in one night last week. It had been a very long day of housework and taking down, packing, and storing all of the Christmas decorations. I had the remains of the Beef Roast and its gravy (which I had frozen to be used later, on a day like this day), sour cream, and some fantastic portobello mushrooms, so I decided to make a Throw-Together Beef Stroganoff for supper. I got some noodles boiling, and started sautéing the mushrooms in my cast iron pot, and immediately the kitchen began to smell delicious. As I stood there, my aching feet decided to make their presence known, as well as other various body parts that had been used and abused carting large and heavy bins around, and I felt in a desperate need for a pick-me-up. Thankfully I have a small bag of Chocolate Mint Cappucino mix in my cupboard, which made for the perfect cup of decadence.

I stood there at my stove, stirring the sautéing mushrooms and sipping on my cup of chocolaty goodness, taking deep breaths and thinking to myself how wonderful mushrooms and chocolate smell.

(The stroganoff was fantastic. I poured the left-over roast and gravy into the pot with the mushrooms and let it all heat through, then I put in about a cup of sour cream, and mixed in the noodles. There wasn’t much left for leftovers once my family got to it.)

Family Roast

Who doesn’t love a good beef roast? That’s what I made yesterday, throwing it into the crock-pot at eight-thirty in the morning in preparation for the fifteen family members that were going to descend upon our home that afternoon. My mom brought a fantastic potato salad and a fruit salad with crunchy, candied pretzel pieces in it. My two sister-in-laws brought hot, creamy spinach dip and delicious cranberry-white chocolate bars. There was also salad and homemade biscuits-n-butter. Yum!

Sackett Man camped out in his recliner, resting and icing his knee (which is doing well), though he did rise up and, crutch in hand, venture outside to try out his new turbo flashlight. No animal is safe from detection in our woods anymore.

We opened presents; we shared good company and good food.

That’s why I like the roast. I had a TON on my plate (pun intended) that only grew larger when it snowed and I had to spend two hours yesterday morning plowing our driveway. Yet I was able to do so without stress, because I knew that in the house it was starting to smell wonderful as the feast cooked and grew delicious all on its own.

I don’t really have an exact recipe, because I tend to eyeball it. But it’s a very forgiving recipe; you can adjust all of it to your taste.

1 Beef Roast (any kind)

Crockpot Roast with: onion, mushrooms, garlic, rosemary, red wine, mushroom soup

Crockpot Roast with: onion, mushrooms, garlic, rosemary, red wine, mushroom soup

2 onions, quartered

2 packages of sliced mushrooms

1 T minced garlic

1 T rosemary, dried (I would do less if you’re using fresh)

1/2 – 1 Cup red wine

1 can cream of mushroom soup

s/p to taste

Set your crock-pot on High for 6 hours.

Now, I usually like to start cooking my roast around nine or ten o’clock and let it cook (first on High, then on Low for the remaining time) all day for a five or six pm supper. The meat is literally spoon-tender at that point and moist and succulent. Yesterday we ate at two-thirty, so the meat wasn’t quite as falling-apart as I prefer, but it was still tender and moist and fantastic!

This makes for, honestly, one of the easiest decadent meals I’ve ever made. All you need to do that night is steam a veggie and put out some delicious bread. Mashed potatoes are good with this, too.

Enjoy!

 

Chocolate Therapy

It’s eight in the morning, and I’m here at my table, having watched the sky grow from dark to blushing pink to blue (thank you, baby daughter, who got me up so early). I am finishing up the comic for my nephews today, and wrapping the last gifts for the last extended family gathering, which will be had at my house. I am also going to indulge in some fantastic cups of indulgent, velvety, rich homemade hot chocolate. Why? Because I’m nervous, and nervous = chocolate therapy.

“Why are you nervous?” One might ask. “So far it sounds like you’re just doing art, which you do all the time anyway, and having some family over. What’s the big deal?”

Well, tomorrow, early in the morning, my husband is having knee surgery. I know that isn’t the biggest thing in the world; not the most dangerous, or most fearful. But he’s never had surgery before. He’ll be out for it, and intubated (“Just in case”, the doctor’s say. That’s not very reassuring.), and then out of commission for two weeks. I’ll need to make sure our two boys (5 and 2) don’t leap on him or bump his legs during that time.

And I’m his wife. It’s my job to worry about him.

He’ll be fine; probably the hardest part, for him, will be the two weeks of inaction. Sackett Man is a man of movement. He’s always doing. So not doing is probably going to give him a worse case of Cabin Fever than our -45˚ weather ever could.

It’s only -10˚ today, by the way. We’re having a hot streak.

My mom is graciously watching our boys tomorrow (I’m keeping the baby girl), so that I can be with Sackett Man. Thank you, Mom!

And today: today I am mixing up my homemade hot chocolate mix. And having some of it. It’s really the EASIEST thing in the world to make, and it’s so, so good!

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

A Cup of My Homemade Hot Chocolate

A Cup of My Homemade Hot Chocolate

3 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar

2 1/4 cups Cocoa Powder (I use Dutch Cocoa)

1 1/2 tsp Salt

Combine all ingredients in an airtight container, and mix.

Add 2 Tablespoons to a cup of hot water, and then added a splash of milk at the end (like one does for coffee). YUM!!! Garnish as you wish: with nothing, or marshmallows, or whipped cream… you get the idea.

NOTE:

If you want to have just a little bit to try (who wants a tub of something they don’t like?) then do these amounts:

1/4 cup Powdered Sugar

2 1/2 T Cocoa Powder

1/8 tsp Salt

This will give you a good amount for sampling purposes.

Then if you like it, you can make the tub!

A Fudgy Christmas

Christmas Eve was magical… in a snowy, swirling, hold-your-breath kind of way. We were traveling to visit the Grandparents, and it began to snow. It was dark, and in the dark the wind swirled the falling snow all around us. The highway was eerie; we were the only car that we could see for most of the drive. Once in a while other cars would appear, their red taillights glowing hazily around us, and then in a swirl they would disappear, coming and going in the gusts and flurries like ghosts.

As I said, magically eerie.

We made it, and spent a wonderful Christmas with the inlaws. Good company, delicious food, talk and games and laughter. We video-chatted with some relatives living oversees right now, and loved and missed them all the more.

Now the cleanup begins.

My house is a mess; it always is in the aftermath of packing for a trip. But that’s okay. Refreshed from the holiday and nourished with a large mug of steaming coffee I am ready and armed to tackle the house and the gremlins that messed it up!

For those of you that don’t know, I am fully convinced that every house has gremlins. They’re the ones that take and hide things you put in a ‘safe’ place, and they like to collect socks. Just one of each pair, because they have no sense of decency or polite manners.

Hawkeye & BurstThe boys have been reading their comic book constantly since they got it. My eldest, who likes to tell me he has ‘super eyes’ when I ask him to look for something (and then he goes around the house, bug-eyed, looking for it) was thrilled to find that his hero-self had the power of Super Sight. And my second son (who runs around the house as fast as possible saying “I’m Fast Man!”) likes the fact that his hero has Super Speed. He now has an excuse to run like crazy through the living room and the hall!

I have made two large batches of fudge. One was enjoyed at the inlaws’, and the second is waiting to be enjoyed with my side of the family. It really is the best recipe ever, and it’s SO easy.

You can do any flavor extract you like, but my favorite is the almond. It pairs beautifully with the dark chocolate!

First, put a piece of wax paper or tin foil in your 8×8 pan, enough so you have some coming up over the two sides. This will be how you get your fudge out of the pan.

Next line it all with plastic wrap.

Dark Fudge — Recipe Dark Fudge

1 can (14 oz) Sweetened Condensed Milk

3 cups chocolate chips (semi-sweet or dark)

1 1/2 tsp Almond Extract

Put all the ingredients into a double boiler (or a pot, as I do) and over low heat. Take a wooden spoon and mix, mix, mix. Stir constantly to keep the chocolate melting evenly and not sticking to the bottom. It will be somewhat stiff. Once it is mostly melted turn off the heat and then mix like crazy to get the last few pieces of chocolate to melt.

Pour into your prepared pan. Put it in the fridge to cool. After two hours, grab hold of the foil/wax paper and lift it out of the pan. Remove the plastic wrap, cut into square, bite-sized pieces, and thoroughly enjoy!

I did. 🙂

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

So this Christmas is a cheaper one, primarily because we had a lot to fix on the house this year after we moved in, and Sackett Man needs surgery on his knee. One of the hazards of being a plumber; so many years spent kneeling and crouching to fix sinks, tubs, toilets, broken pipes, etc. takes its toll.

With all of this in mind, we knew we had to tighten up our financial belts and soldier forward. However, I am an avid gift-giver. I LOVE giving gifts. I love shopping for them, I love making them, I love finding them, I love discovering the perfect gift for that perfect someone… so I was determined that, money or no money, Christmas was NOT going to suffer. Amazon has been my friend. Pinterest has been inspiring. And with the crazy mix of wonderful people in our immediate and extended families, there has been an unlimited amount of ideas to ponder and sift through.

One of these ideas is the gift of Chai. Perishables are a great gift idea for adults, because let’s face it… at a certain point, how much more ‘stuff’ do you really need? I personally always have things I would love, but I also adore food. Cooking it, eating it, looking at it. Food is one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind; otherwise He would have just given us broccoli and beans and water and called it good.

I am so very, very glad He didn’t.

So again, on to Chai. There are many tea drinkers in my family. (And if any of them are reading this post, no, don’t try to guess who’s getting this for Christmas. My lips are sealed.) So I thought, what about a homemade Chai mix? I started doing some research, but there are TONS of recipes out there. Most of them require powdered milk, powdered creamers, etc., but I don’t stock those things in my cupboard and was looking for something I wouldn’t have to go buy special ingredients for. So I looked at the spices and the different amounts, and then I started experimenting with a creamer free, dairy free, sugar free Chai Spice Mix. After two days and many, many cups of Chai Tea, I have found what I think to be a very yummy blend.

The best part? It’s SO easy.

Chai Spice Mix

Chai Spice Mix

Chai Spice Mix

2 tsp Ground Ginger

2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

1 tsp Ground Cloves

3/4 tsp Ground Cardamom

1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg

Thoroughly mix all of the spices together into a container with a lid (for easy storage).

Serving size: 1/2 tsp

When you want a delicious cup, put a bag of your favorite black tea and 1/2 tsp of Chai Spice Mix into your cup. Add the boiling water and let steep for 4 minutes. Remove the tea bag, then sweeten to taste (if you want) and add your milk or cream. It is fantastic!

If you are not a black tea fan, you can just make your cup the same as above, but without the tea bag. You won’t suffer any lack of deliciousness, I promise. (I would still let the spice mix steep for 4 minutes to get the full flavor.)

Try it and let me know what you think!

~ Mary