Running the fine line between too hard and too easy

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Displaying Holiday Cards

I love receiving holiday cards. More specifically, I look forward to family holiday cards to see how the children have grown over the year. So much of mail nowadays is junk; catalogs, magazines, bills, advertisements, etc. It's so nice to have such personal and pleasant mail during the holiday season to brighten your spirits and your home. And every year I try and find a way to display each and every card proudly. This year I thought I would hang a wired ribbon (from Martha Stewart holiday collection at Kmart) straight down a wall and then affix each card to the ribbon. Then, I would top it off with a bow. Well, we were blessed to receive so many beautiful cards! I need to keep adding. I'm not 100% keen on how it turned out this year, but I hope to use this as inspiration to perfect it next year.

Card display in my kitchen; where I would be able to enjoy the cards the most.

A close-up of what was the beginning of the display.

Libby's Famous Pumpkin Pie

I made a Pate Brisee on Thanksgiving with the intention of making a pumpkin pie for dessert. We already had an apple pie, so I ended up just freezing the dough for later use. My dad and brother came over for Christmas Eve and my brother wanted a pumpkin pie. Perfect! I had all the ingredients and my frozen Pate Brisee.

Let's discuss the Pate Brisee. Martha Stewart perfected this dough many years ago. The greatest thing about it is you can make it ahead of time and freeze it. It is easiest to make it in a food processor, but since I do not own one yet, I make it with an old-fashioned pastry blender. It's still easy, but takes some elbow grease and time (about 5-10 minutes vs. 30 seconds in a food processor). For this pumpkin pie, I knew I wanted to decorate the top with pastry cutouts, so I didn't divide the pie in half; it was more like thirds.

In the past for pumpkin pie, we have taken sugar pumpkins and roasted them and then used the puree. It is very delicious and quite the experience to roast your own pumpkins. However, I did not have any sugar pumpkins on hand, so I went to the old faithful; Libby's pumpkin puree. I also went ahead and used the famous recipe. I have used a few different pumpkin pie recipes before, and I like using different ones every now and again. This is an incredibly easy recipe and of course tastes wonderful.

I rolled out my pate brisee (the 2/3 part divided) and placed it into my pie dish. Then, I filled in the dish the pumpkin pie. While it was baking in the oven, I rolled out the last 1/3 of the pate brisee and used my little pastry cutters to make little leaves and acorns. I placed them on another baking sheet and put them into the oven during the last 15 minutes of baking. After the pie and the cutouts were finished, I pulled them out and put on cooling racks. I let the cutouts cool for 3 minutes and then arranged them on top of the pie. As the pie cooled, the cutouts set into the pie. Served with a dollup of cream and it's a wonderful end to a delicious meal.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A tip for Sealing Envelopes

I'm not sure if it's a Martha Stewart "Good thing" (it should be if it isn't!), but a friend of mine taught me this little trick a few years ago. It is wonderful when sending out mass mailings (announcements, thank you cards, etc). Like many people I recently sent out holiday cards to our friends and family. This method for sealing is tried and true. I start out by getting a glass full of water. Take a q-tip and lightly dip it into the water and then run the wet q-tip across the adhesive for the envelope. Then just seal the envelope! I find that I only need to dip the q-tip after 3-4 envelopes. It is definitely not needed after every envelope. You will have too much water in the q-tip and it will run into the envelope (off the adhesive). I hope you find this "Good Thing" as helpful as I have!

A gift to a New Mom

A friend of mine recently welcomed a beautiful baby boy into her life. A few friends decided it may be a good idea to make "dinners" for her and her husband to enjoy during the first few weeks while adjusting to their new life with a baby. When people put together a "frozen dinner" it generally is Italian. Lasagnas, pastas, meatballs, etc all freeze wonderfully. I wanted to find something a little different to take. I was venturing around the internet and stumbled upon this simple recipe. Another thing I wanted to keep in mind was that the meal needed to be something the mother could eat and wouldn't upset her baby while he ate. So a spicy dish was out of the question. I found a recipe for a taco casserole that seemed to be a good fit.

The recipe for Easy Taco Casserole

I plan to make it for my husband and myself this weekend. I will be adding some more ingredients to it (peppers, spices, etc) and see how it is. It looked very yummy while I was making it. I hope my friend and her husband enjoyed it!

Let's back track a bit...

I decided to try some new recipes for Thanksgiving 2007. We had some friends over and had a great time enjoying the company, wine, and food.

I usually make a sweet potato casserole with marshmallows. However my husband is not a fan of marshmallows. So, this year I thought I would try one without. I found this recipe online from one of my favorites sites for inspiration: It is a generic Food Network recipe, but it looked really good. I must say...I did not miss the marshmallows. The casserole was delicious and still very sweet.
The recipe can be found here: Sweet Potato Casserole

My Sweet Potato Casserole on Thanksgiving

I also took my first stab at cranberry sauce. I found a cranberry compote recipe also on Food Network that looked interesting. I have to admit; I am a fan of the cranberry, but not a big fan of cranberry sauces. But, I decided to give it a go and see what came of it.

The recipe for Cranberry Compote

My Fresh Cranberry Compote

I also took a nod from one of my favorite Food Network shows (Semi-Homemade) and made this Sweet Biscuit Wreath. It is outstanding. My first attempt to make it (below) is not the prettiest version of it, but it is so good it doesn't even matter! My second attempt to make it will involve not drizzling as much glaze and letting the "wreath" look shine through. It really is very pretty before the glaze with the leaf-cut biscuits. The recipe is incredibly easy to follow and it took very little time to bring the glaze together.

The recipe for Sweet Biscuit Wreath

My Sweet Biscuit Wreath

For the most part, Thanksgiving was a success. My husband tried frying a turkey for the first time and it was a little overcooked. We bought a meat thermometer that was not working properly, so it was a little too done. However, since we have a fryer, we will definitely be trying it again and again (with a newly purchased thermometer).

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Beginning

As each year comes to a close, I find myself reflecting. Most often as I reflect, I look back at different occasions with friends, new things I tried or learned during the year, or even just a fun night with a friend and a bottle of wine. I wanted to find a way to chronicle all the new (and even tried and true) things I enjoy doing. And hopefully as I reflect on this blog, I will have fond memories of exploring new realms of my capability and learning new things about myself and about life.