Friday, December 30, 2011

Foodie Fridays: Apple Crisp

From Taste of Home

Years ago I attended a university in the apple-growing region of upstate New York, and it was here that I discovered the Cortland apple.  It was love at first bite!  This delicious fruit has a thin skin, soft flesh, and a slightly tart flavor, much like a MacIntosh apple but slightly sweeter, and it became my favorite eating apple.  Unfortunately, when I left upstate New York I discovered that the Cortland apple had an evil twin, sharing none of the qualities of my favorite except for the name.  The few times I was able to find Cortland apples in supermarkets outside of New York they turned out to have tough skins, hard flesh, and a sour, unpleasant taste -- suitable for cooking, perhaps, but totally unacceptable for eating fresh.  I dubbed these "supermarket apples" and learned to avoid them.

Last year I sent gift boxes of apples from an orchard in New England to my relatives for Christmas.  My relatives got MacIntoshes, but when I found out that the orchard had Cortlands, I asked if they were the good variety or the supermarket apples.  Assured that they had my favorites, I ordered them, and I was not disappointed.  They were just as wonderful as I remembered, and I was delighted.  This year I ordered them again, but to my chagrin, they turned out to be the supermarket variety.  What a letdown!  Needless to say, I will not be ordering them in the future (I may try the MacIntoshes), but now I have a box full of apples that cannot be eaten raw.  I can either feed them to my horses and donkey, or I can seek out my best cooked apple recipes and deal with them that way.  My first choice will be to make an Apple Crisp.  I use a recipe from an old Pillsbury cookbook that is quick, simple, and tasty.  Even if you don't have a surplus of apples to use up, make yourself this comfort food on a cold winter day -- it is guaranteed not to disappoint (unlike a certain New England orchard that shall remain nameless for now)!

Apple Crisp

6 medium apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (about 6 C.)
1 T. lemon juice
1 T. water
3/4 C. brown sugar
1/2 C. flour
1/2 C. rolled oats
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 C. butter
1/2 C. chopped nuts (optional)

Place the apple slices in the bottom of a 9-inch square pan.  Sprinkle with lemon juice and water.  Combine the remaining ingredients in a small bowl to form a crumbly mixture.  Sprinkle over the apples.  Bake at 375 degrees for 40-45 minutes until apples are tender.  Serves 6.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

This 'n That Thursdays: Cats on the Table

While I don't approve of real cats on surfaces dedicated to food preparation or consumption, I think these Black Cat Mugs would be marvelous on the dining table!  The mugs and their matching 8-inch plates are sadly no longer available, but I'm hoping they will make a return appearance in the future.  If so, here are my ideas for a table setting incorporating these feline finds:

Clockwise from top left: Black Cat Plate Set from Cherry Gal (no longer available);  Artesia Charger from Crate and Barrel; Fern Green Tablecloth from Crate and Barrel; Diaz Candleholders from Crate and Barrel; Black Cat Mug Set from Cherry Gal (no longer available); Fiesta White Flatware from Dinnerware Center; Wheat Grass Centerpiece from Centsational Girl; Red Napkins from Create and Craft; Center: Paradiso Black Dinner Plate from Bed Bath & Beyond

The color scheme is sort of Christmassy, so this table setting could even grace the holidays next year.  These dinnerware cats are welcome on my table any time!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wish List Wednesdays: Cats Pajamas

What could be more warm and snuggly for a cold winter's night than this Flannel Cat Pajamas Set?  And to keep your tootsies toasty, try these adorable Kitty & Yarn Slippers:

Complete the outfit with this Happy Cat Robe and you're all ready to curl up in a big comfy chair by a crackling fire with a nice hot beverage:

I'm purring already -- this cats pajamas ensemble is truly the cat's meow!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Holiday Hits: National Fruitcake Day

From King Arthur Flour

As if National Fruitcake Month was not enough for December, today is National Fruitcake Day!  Just in case you didn't get your fill of fruitcake at Christmas, you could make one of my two fruitcake recipes, or you might want to whip up a batch of Fruitcake Cookies instead.  Or, like most people, you may prefer to ignore this particular holiday, and I can't say that I could blame you!

Terrifying Tuesdays: Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962)

I just couldn't let the holiday season go by without mentioning "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" (1962), one of my childhood Christmas favorites!  This animated musical adaptation of the Charles Dickens story is actually quite faithful to the tale, although condensed quite a bit to keep the story interesting to children.  I found the ghosts of Jacob Marley and of Christmas Yet to Come to be quite frightening when I was young, and even now they can bring on a shiver or two!  Watch this TV movie for free on YouTube:

This film was recorded in six parts for YouTube, but the story moves quickly so it is relatively painless to get through all six segments.  I hope you enjoy this version as much as I do, but if not, then "Bah, humbug!" to you (just kidding)!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mystery Mondays: Agatha Christie's "The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding" (1960)

From Tea with Mary Kate

"The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, or The Theft of the Royal Ruby" (1960) is an Agatha Christie mystery short story featuring her eccentric Belgian detective, M. Hercule Poirot.  Since a lot of the action takes place on Boxing Day, it is an appropriate read for today.  The tale begins on Christmas Eve, with M. Poirot as one of several guests at an English country manor called Kings Lacey, presumably so that he can experience a typical old-fashioned English Christmas.  In reality he is there to help solve the mystery of a ruby stolen from a young Eastern prince.  Meanwhile, three of the young people in the group decide to test Poirot's detective skills by staging a fake death on Boxing Day, the day after Christmas.  Also, that night Poirot discovers a rough note on his pillow warning him not to eat the Christmas pudding to be served the next day.

For Christmas a hearty dinner is served, including the pudding, which contains the traditional tokens, although the head of the house, Colonel Lacey, ends up with a non-traditional piece of red glass, much to his annoyance.  The next day, the fake murder is staged, but to everyone's astonishment and consternation, Poirot pronounces the young victim dead.  Panic of all sorts ensues, the royal ruby is recovered and the thieves revealed, and the murder victim miraculously comes back to life, all thanks to the clever machinations of M. Hercule Poirot.  Even the mystery of the note on Poirot's pillow is solved, and so the holidays end happily for everyone except the thieves, who don't deserve a merry Christmas anyway!

This story is part of a collection first published in 1960 under the title of The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding and a Selection of Entrées.  A very detailed summary of the story can be found on Wikipedia.  This story was recorded for the BBC Radio Series and when available can be heard here.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Holiday Hits: Twelve Days of Christmas

The Twelve Days of Christmas are celebrated between Christmas Day, December 25th, and January 5th, or Twelfth Night.  This celebration, known as Christmastide, is largely forgotten in the United States, except as the lyrics for a well-known Christmas carol.  While the gifts mentioned in the song are impractical in this day and age, it is easy to come up with substitutes which honor the spirit of these presents but would be much more acceptable in the modern home.  Here is my wish list for the Twelve Days of Christmas:

Left to right from top: Partridge Accent from Home Decorators Collection; plus Pear Tree Pillow from Pillow Modern; Dove Candle Holder from @rtyfax (no longer available) - two; Hen Art Glass Figurine from Bonanza - three; Etched Bird Wine Glasses from Etsy - set of four; Gold Bird Napkin Rings from Gracious Style - set of four; plus Harbinger Ring from BHLDN; Goose Egg Cup from houzz (no longer available) - 6; Origami Swan Linen Napkins from Etsy- two sets of four (one extra); Davenport "Milk Maid" Tea Saucer from eBay - four; plus Davenport "Milk Maid" Tea Cup from eBay - four; Nine Ladies Dancing Gift Tags from Etsy - two sets of six (three extra); Lords a Leaping Charm from - ten; Piper Piping Ornament from CharmingShoppe (no longer available) - eleven; Little Drummer Boy Coasters from Dear Lillie (no longer available) - three sets of four

Unfortunately many of these items are no longer available, and it may be difficult to find more than one set of the "Milk Maid" tea cup and saucer, but this is just a wish list after all, and I can wish for anything I want!  Enjoy your Twelve Days of Christmas, and wish for anything you want as well -- after all, holiday miracles can happen!

Holiday Hits: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Season's Greetings!  Once the presents have been opened, carols have been sung, and the Christmas feast consumed, take a little time to listen to one of my favorite singers singing my favorite Christmas song in my favorite Christmas movie of the same name:

And even if your Christmas is not white, I hope it is still the best ever (until next year)!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Picture Parade: Perfect Christmas Décor

From HomeKlondike

Time to deck the halls, and every other room in the house!  Here is a selection of beautifully decorated holiday spaces for your enjoyment:

From Scottsdale Art Factory

From HomeKlondike

From Home-Designing

From HomeKlondike

From Home Gallery Design

From Home Klondike

From Home New Decorating

From Decor Redesign

From roomenvy

From Coastal Living

From Coastal Living


From Style Estate

From Country Living

From Distro Architecture

From housetrends

These rooms are lovely enough to make anyone look forward to being home for Christmas!

From iQuid

Friday, December 23, 2011

Foodie Fridays: Mom's Sausage Stuffing

From Marie Claire

Because I was down with the flu over Thanksgiving, preparation of the holiday meal was left to my husband.  He did an admirable job, but since we decided to go with a store-bought, pre-stuffed boneless turkey breast, there was no homemade stuffing on the menu.  We both grew up in households that served stuffing cooked in the bird, not dressing cooked separately, which is still our preference.  Over the years I have always prepared my mother's recipe for sausage stuffing, and this one remains our favorite.  I realize that canned soup is one of the ingredients, something I rarely use, but I figure once a year won't hurt us, and besides, it just tastes so darn good!  I have three other recipes that call for canned soup -- one is the Slow Cooker Mushroom Pot Roast recipe I already posted, and the others are traditional Green Bean Casserole and old-fashioned Tuna Noodle Casserole.  In my opinion, there are some traditions that should not be changed!  Anyway, here is the recipe for our favorite turkey stuffing, which I will be serving for Christmas this year.  Happy Season's Eatings, everyone!

Mom's Sausage Stuffing

12-16 oz. pork sausage
1/2 C. chopped onion
1 C. chopped celery
3 C. dry bread cubes
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 C. milk
4 C. soft bread cubes
1 T. chopped parsley
1 tsp. poultry seasoning

Brown the sausage in a large skillet.  Add the vegetables and cook until soft.  Add the dry bread cubes and cook until light brown.  Combine the soup and milk in a small saucepan and heat, stirring, until smooth.  Toss with the soft bread cubes.  Combine with the sausage mixture.  Add the parsley and poultry seasoning.  Stuff lightly into the turkey and roast.  This stuffing can also be placed in a greased casserole dish and baked at 325-350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Seasonal Style: Winter Sophisticated

Winter officially starts today with the arrival of the Winter Solstice, which means it is time for another example of seasonal style!  Here is the pairing I have chosen:

From White House Black Market

From Grand House Design

The color combination of black, white, and red is classic and elegant, a cool and sophisticated look that is just perfect for winter.  Menswear patterns like houndstooth are popular right now, so a few houndstooth pillows on those sleek sofas would add an updated touch to the room, just as it does to the oufit, and both would certainly help to keep the winter blues at bay!

This 'n That Thursdays: Delightful Holiday Table Settings

I am a little obsessed with beautiful table settings, and I love to search the web for images.  The holidays offer up a plethora of such photos, and I thought I would post my finds today as a special treat to myself for the season:

From Keeping the Christmas Spirit Alive, 365

From Pretty Little Things for Home & Life

From Pretty Little Things for Home & Life

From Deluxe Interior

From Chill Interiors

From Shelterness

From Belle Chose Home

From The African Fashionista

From Red Plum

From Apartment Therapy
From Taste of the South

From My Home Ideas

From Better Homes and Gardens

From Modern Architecture Concept

From Dandi

From Freshome

From Interior Design and Furniture

From Home New Decorating

From mydeco

I think twenty-one images is more than enough for now!  I definitely have a preference for red, which is not surprising since red is my favorite color.  The table setting from Taste of the South actually inspired me to buy the Mikasa Red Berries Dinnerware, and will be the basis for the theme of our Christmas table this year.  I wonder which photo will be the inspiration for my table setting next year?