Prepping For A Party

It’s that time of year once again when lights go up, trees or Menorahs are decorated, cards go out and there are parties galore. We are once again opening up our house for our ornament exchange party. We used to have them every year until COVID hit. This is our first one post COVID. I think people are ready to party once again, and I think we are going to have a house full. I LOVE IT!

We have the house all decorated and are ready to welcome all family and friends through the door.

We did NOT put up our big Christmas tree this year, because we just aren’t trusting Juneau around it yet. But we did put up two of the smaller trees, and she is fine with those. So far. We still have to keep everything up high though, because she is still destructive and still acts like the Tasmanian devil.

The stockings are hung.

Before I start doing another round of cleaning and prepping for all the foods I am making, I am going to enjoy a morning cuppa.

I like to host potluck parties. I like to do this for a lot of reasons. It is cheaper and less work, but mainly I love to see the Holiday creations of others too. Don’t be fooled though. I will still be doing a lot of cooking too. You will just have to wait a bit longer to see what I prepare. 🙂

I like ornament exchanges, even more so that white elephant exchanges, for a variety of reasons. When I was little, and couldn’t afford much for my parents, I started buying them ornaments for Christmas. I have been collecting eclectic Christmas ornaments ever since. We have so many different ornaments. We have expensive ornaments; ornaments from our travels around the world; ornaments that represent our hobbies and interests; and we have ornaments both old and new. Each one is unique and each one is priceless in its own way. Each and every one of our ornaments has a story behind it, and when you add up all the stories, you discover who we are. 🙂

So with this, I wish you all a Happy Holiday season, whatever holiday you celebrate. ‘Tis the start of the season. Let it be merry and bright. And to all a good night.

Stay safe and stay well. ‘Til next time.

From Leftovers To Potato Pancakes

Who doesn’t love potatoes. I could eat potatoes all the time. I love them no matter how they are prepared.

I am still finishing up the last of our Thanksgiving leftovers. This time, I used up our mashed potatoes by turning them into loaded potato pancakes. Traditionally, latkes or potato pancakes, are served with a dollop of sour cream or applesauce or both. Latkes need a condiment that will cool the palate and cut through their latke-oiliness. They also add sweetness and flavor. I served them with sour cream for Larry and just plain for me, though if I had applesauce, I might have chosen that.

Potato pancakes are close cousins to their Jewish counterpart, potato latkes. Both latkes and pancakes use potatoes and eggs as the main ingredients. Latkes, however, also include baking powder, matzo meal, and even milk sometimes. Potato pancakes usually do not include these ingredients. Potato pancakes can be made from raw and cooked mashed potatoes.

Latkes were originally peasant food from the eastern European countries of Germany, Austria, Russia and Poland. Potatoes were cheap and readily available and easy to store, which made them the perfect staple for the poorer people of these countries. Latkes were particularly popular among the Jewish communities. The word latke is a Yiddish word that means pancake, and it comes, via Yiddish, from a Russian word meaning “little pancake.” Latkes can in fact be made from almost any vegetable, bean, cheese, or grain. The latke, it turns out, has its roots in an old Italian Jewish custom, documented as early as the 14th century. That, it seems, is where Jews first fried pancakes to celebrate Hanukkah, only back then, they were made of cheese. Latkes are eaten during Hanukkah to remind Jews of the miracle of the oil associated with Hanukkah.

This particular version that I made was loaded. We are not Jewish, but we love latkes. Larry is German, and potato pancakes and latkes are a part of the German heritage as well as the Jewish heritage. I added bacon, green onions, garlic and cheese to mine (well the cheese was in Larry’s portion, not mine). I am pretty sure the original Jewish version does NOT contain bacon though. 🙂

Loaded Potato Pancakes

3 cups cooked and cooled mashed potatoes

1 cup flour

1 cup shredded cheese

5-6 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled

1/4-1/3 cup green onions

1 TBSP garlic

salt & pepper to taste

2 eggs

chopped parsley

4 TBSP butter

olive oil or other oil for cooking

Combine everything together and mix well.

Form into balls about 3-4 oz each. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and chill for at least 10-15 minutes before frying. This is to help them set a bit, making them easier to use.

In a large skillet, add the butter and oil and get it very hot, 350* F or 190* C. Instead of olive oil, I used the bacon grease and butter to fry them up. Place the latkes or potato pancakes in the skillet, but do not over crowd them. Allow them to fry about 3-4 minutes per side, or until they are golden brown.

When they are done, serve them immediately with with a dollop of sour cream or applesauce, or both and enjoy. These are best when served hot. They are crispy on the outside and smooth and velvety on the inside. Perfect! Mazel Tov!

Have a great day Everyone. Stay warm, stay safe and stay well. ‘Til next time.

Nature Walks – A Bunch Of Ring Necks

With the changing of the season, we are getting more and more varieties of ducks out on our lakes now. Each and every one of them are always welcome, anytime. The other day, there many different ducks. I was having so much fun just clicking away with my trusted camera. All the ducks and geese were just having a great time swimming around all together in the icy cold waters. Today, my camera focused a lot on the Ring Necks.

It was funny as I was taking pictures, there were a couple of ladies out and they noticed all the ducks around me. hey were literally just flocking towards me. The two ladies thought they were all just mallards until I started pointing out all different kinds we had. At first they didn’t believe me until I showed them my photos. They never knew we had so many different kinds of ducks about.

Hope your day is just ducky in every way.

More Leftovers From Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday by far. It is all about being grateful and thankful for what you have. It is also the holiday that keeps on giving, at least with the food. I didn’t think I prepared a ton of food, but apparently, I did. I am still creatively using up my leftovers, with a few more to go too.

When I first stared my blog, originally, the thought was to use my recreated leftovers as the main feature, but I realized I had to make the “firstovers” first before I could serve up the leftovers. Now, both the “firstovers” and the leftovers get fairly equal billing. My latest leftover creation was a Thai curried turkey with vegetables over noodles. This time it was a green curry.

I love curry, but the Thai curries are my favorites. Curries are an important part of Thai cuisine and refer to both the dish as well as the curry paste used to make the dish. There are three main types of Thai curries—red, yellow, and green—which are categorized by the color of the curry paste. The color of the chilies and other ingredients gives each curry its distinct hue.

Traditionally, all Thai curries were made with the same ingredients except for one thing: the chilies. Red curry was made with several red chilies for a fiery hot dish, while green curry was made with green chilies and yellow curry was made with yellow chilies. In Thailand, these chilies have slightly different taste characteristics in addition to their color. Over time, however, other ingredients have been added to the curry pastes to enhance each recipe, making them more distinct from one another. Although all three colors may be spicy-hot depending on the chef, normally green is the mildest and red the hottest with yellow falling somewhere in between.  Out of all the colored Thai chilies, green curry is considered the most popular curry in Thai cuisine. I make all colors of Thai chili, and love them all.

Curried Thai Turkey and Vegetables

I always cook with a lot of vegetables. In my view, the more the merrier, and I am always mixing them up too. I like to use a wide array of colors with my vegetables. The larger the collection of colorful vegetables, the healthier the dish will be. This time the vegetables I used were pumpkin (I still have A LOT of pumpkin yet to use too), bell peppers, green onions, mushrooms, green beans and carrots. I also use vegetables that are complimentary to the dishes I make and to their ethnicity if I am making an ethnic dish. I added some diced turkey to the vegetables and made a Thai green curry sauce and served it all over some leftover fettuccine noodles. Once again, the meal was a success, and I got to use up a lot of my leftovers. In my book, that is always a winning combination. WHOOOO HOOOOOO!!!!! 🙂

The Green Curry Sauce

1 can coconut milk

1 TBSP garlic

1 TBSP ginger

1-2 TBSP green curry paste

2 tsp curry powder

1 TBSP honey ginger balsamic vinegar, optional

1 tsp red pepper flakes, or to taste

Just combine everything together and set aside until ready to use.

I cooked the vegetables first for about 5-7 minutes in olive oil and a little lime olive oil. Lime juice is also a very popular ingredient used for Thai dishes, as is basil. I would have used basil, but I didn’t have any at the time I was making the dish. I like to cook my ginger and garlic with my vegetables to help really bring our their flavors.

Next came the turkey, which was already cooked. You can easily do the same thing with chicken or raw turkey too, just cook them first before adding to the vegetables.

Once everything was combined well and heated through, I added the sauce. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce the heat and continue to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. This dish could easily be made vegetarian too. We are meat eaters, so I add meat. To Larry more so than me, a meal just isn’t complete without some kind of meat.

When everything was ready, I served it all over some noodles and topped it with some green onions and chopped peanuts. I added some fried potstickers and dinner was done. I served it all with a cool, crisp chardonnay on the side. Delicious!

Have a great day Everyone. Happy Holidays. Stay safe and stay well. ‘Til next time.

Nature Walks – A Late Season Heron

I love our big Blue Herons. But we usually see them in the summer. Yesterday I saw one, but I think he was actually a Grey Heron rather than a Blue Heron. This is very late in the season for Herons, so I was very pleasantly surprised to see him (or her). He looked different than our normal Herons, but he was just as gorgeous. He was hiding in the reeds, hoping I wouldn’t see him. But I did. He posed for the camera and gave me some great shots. 🙂

Have a great day Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Herbed Melting Potatoes

Potatoes are like bread to me. I can eat them every day and never get tired of them, especially since there are so many wonderful ways of preparing them. I discovered yet another new way to enjoy them and I now sharing that with you.

These potatoes are called melting potatoes, because they just melt in your mouth. They are also known as fondant potatoes. Fondant is a derivative of the word fondire, which means to melt in French. They are crispy on the outside and smooth and velvety on the inside. YUMMY!

The potatoes are pan-fried first in butter and olive oil, then broiled to perfection in chicken broth after they are browned on both sides. This is the secret and magical touch that makes them so creamy on the inside.

Herbed Melting Potatoes

3-4 large Yukon gold or Russet potatoes, peeled

3/4 tsp Kosher salt or coarse salt

fresh ground pepper

2 TBSP olive oil

6 TBSP butter

3 sprigs fresh thyme

3 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 TBSP garlic

1 cup chicken broth

Preheat the oven to 425* F or about 220*C.

Cut the ends off the potatoes to make them flat, then slice them into thick rounds, about 1 1/4 inches thick. Place them in cold water for about 5 minutes.

Get a cast iron skillet very hot, then add the olive oil and 2 TBSP of the butter to coat the bottom. Carefully add the potato slices in a single layer. Do not overcrowd the pan. Cook for about 7-10 minutes, or until they are are browned. Turn them over and continue to cook for another 7-10 minutes on the other side. I cooked hem for about 9 minutes, which was a bit much. So next time, I will cut the time down to 7 minutes.

Add the remaining butter, thyme, rosemary and garlic, then carefully add 1/2 of the chicken broth to cover the potatoes. Roast in the oven for about 15 minutes. Spoon the liquid over the potatoes, then turn them over and add the rest of the broth and continue to roast for an additional 10 minutes. When they are done, discard the rosemary and thyme sprigs, and serve up to enjoy. Top with more of the buttery sauce.

I served mine up with some ham with a honey Dijon mustard cream sauce and some green beans topped with red peppers, onions, mushrooms and garlic. I served a cool crisp chardonnay on the side. This was a nice warm meal for a cold, crisp night.

Have a great day Everyone. Stay warm, stay safe and stay well. ‘Til next time.

Nature Walks – Plump And Healthy Prairie Dogs

Yesterday, I shared my coyote pictures, Nature Walks – Coyote Trail and many of you commented on how healthy the coyotes looked. They are very healthy. Part of the reason they are so healthy is because we have a lot of prairie dogs out in the open space, and the coyotes were out hunting for the prairies dogs and rabbits. It is not only coyotes who are plump and healthy though. The prairie dogs are plump and healthy too.

Of course in my house, we are all plump and healthy. I guess it is a vicious cycle. 🙂

Pomegranate Gingerbread Cookies

The holidays are here, and it is time to do some holiday baking. I love to bake all throughout the year, but during the holidays, I like to make things even more festive, to celebrate the season. Gingerbread is one of those flavors that is just perfect for the Christmas season, and has been a Christmas tradition around the world for centuries. There are three main types of gingerbreads – brown gingerbread, wafer-based gingerbread and honey gingerbread.

Gingerbread or Lebkuchen, as it is known in German, is a traditional German cookie given as gifts at Christmas that date back to the 1300’s. Lebkuchen is very similar to gingerbread but it is much darker, more dense and rich, and chewier. Lebkuchen is never crunchy. It is made with honey, whereas gingerbread uses molasses Gingerbread and all its variations are very traditional Christmas or holiday treats in all parts of Europe, but interestingly, it seems like it is more apart of the colder cultures, like Germany, Sweden and Russia. The tradition of the gingerbread man comes to us from Russia, from the late 17th century, when Russian bakers prepared gingerbread men and women as replicas of those people attending parties. 

Pomegranates are traditional holiday foods in the Mediteranean regions of the world. Pomegranates are a symbol of Christmas in Greece and many of the Mediterranean countries. In the modern Greek tradition that meaning has shifted a little, with the pomegranate now being a symbol primarily of prosperity and good fortune. Habitually, a single fruit is hung up above the door of the house on Christmas Day. On New Year’s Day, just after midnight, the fruit is smashed on the doorstep to ensure another year of good luck for the household and those within it. Jewish tradition teaches that the pomegranate is a symbol of righteousness, knowledge, and wisdom because it is said to have 613 seeds, each representing one of the 613 mitzvot or commandments of the Torah.

When I made my pomegranate gingerbread cookies, unbeknownst to me, I was actually making cookies that were very culturally blended and just perfect for the holidays; all holidays, from many cultures, celebrated at this time of the year. I was just looking for fun new cookie recipes and thought these were very festive. I had seen an interesting recipe for pomegranate cookies, but then I lost it, and was looking for it again when I came across this recipe instead. So of course I just had to try it. I am very glad I did too. You know I had to personalize it though and make it my own. Would you actually expect me to follow the recipe exactly? 🙂

Pomegranate Gingerbread Cookies

Preheat the oven t 350* F or 190* C.

2 1/1 cups flour

1 TBSP ground ginger

1 TBSP cinnamon

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp allspice

1 tsp salt

1 cup or 2 sticks of softened butter

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 cup pomegranate molasses

1 egg

The Icing

1 cup powdered sugar or 1 container of premade white frosting

5 TBSP softened butter

1 1 /2 TBSP pomegranate juice

pinch of salt

pomegranate seeds

crystallized and/or candied orange peel – You can also use crystallized ginger

orange extract

Combine all the dry ingredients together and set aside.

Mix the butter and sugars together until creamy, then add the egg and the pomegranate molasses and beat again until creamy. Add the flour 1/2 at a time, mixing in between. I made my own pomegranate molasses just by combining some molasses with pomegranate juice.

Drop about 1 TBSP of dough on top an ungreased cookie sheet, about two inches a part and bake for about 15-18 minutes, or until the tops have slightly cracked. Allow the cookies to cool slightly on the cookie sheet and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before adding the icing.

Soak the orange peel in some orange extract and heat for about 30 seconds or so in the microwave, then allow to set for at least 5-10 minutes to soften before dicing them into very small pieces.

Remove all the pomegranate seeds from the skin and the pith and set aside.

While the orange peel is soaking, make the icing. I had some white frosting that I used, but it is very easy to make the icing with powdered sugar and butter. Whatever icing or frosting you are using, add the pomegranate juice and combine well. Spread the frosting/icing on top of the cookies and add both the pomegranate seeds and the candied orange peel on top of the cookies and let harden. Then share with friends and enjoy. 🙂 Someone accurately described these tasty cookies as a wassail in a cookie.

I was familiar with the gingerbread tradition in the Northern parts of Europe and Russia, but I was not familiar with the holiday traditions of the pomegranate until just now. I learned something new today. I hope you did too. 🙂

The holidays are here. Enjoy them all, whatever holidays you celebrate. Stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Nature Walks – Coyote Trail

I was out walking in our open space yesterday with my new blogger friend Laura from http://apictureasongaliteraryquote.wordpress.com/, when we encountered not one, not two, but three, maybe four, coyotes out in the open space with us. They were a little too close for our comfort, but all worked out well. I did get some great shots of them though.

Laura and I found out we live just minutes away from each other and decided it would be fun to meet up and go for a walk. We really enjoyed each other’s company and our walk, but we weren’t expecting all the coyotes as company. They are beautiful though. We hear them all them time, and we see them quite often, but not usually so many and not so close. They were definitely bolder than usual too. I am not afraid of them at all, but we were definitely on alert and were being very careful. We had no choice but to keep walking back “to civilization”, and fortunately after a few minutes, they turned to go the other way, but the experience did raise our hair up another level or two. They are really just big dogs, and my dogs are much bigger. 🙂

This one is hidden in the tall wild grass. He is camouflaged well.

Whether we want them to be or not, everyday is an adventure. Live life to the fullest and embrace all of life’s adventures. Stay safe and stay well.

Nature Walks – Just Flying Around

For those of you who are photographers, you know that so much of what we “shoot” is luck and timing. As you all know, I love photography, particularly nature shots. And I love my birds too. It is hard to get good shots of birds in flight, but every now and then I get lucky and am able to snap off a few. Here are some of my recent shots of birds in flight, from ducks to hawks to egrets.

Mallards

Red Tailed Hawk

Canadian Geese

Snowy Egret

and even a dragonfly.

Have a great day Everyone. ‘Til next time.

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