Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas 2007

Here are some pictures from our Christmas celebration. (Clicking on any of the photos will take you to the Flickr set where there are even more shots that I didn't feel like including in this blog post.)

Curious George book for my little monkeys
I love Christmas morning. There's something magical about gathering around the tree, anticipating each person's reaction to a special gift, opening up surprises, watching my children's faces.

Grace with gifts
Grace rolled out of bed just in time to open gifts. Here she is, wearing the scarf and gloves I knit for her (the hat is in her lap). She's holding a book that Aunt Terry got me called Hardware: Jewelry From A Toolbox, and it's rather cool.

I don't usually wear jewelry at the moment because it tends to be impractical with maintaining the little people, but this book makes me want to hit the hardwear store and make turn it all into wearables.

Everything is hilarious
Lavella, wearing a hoodie from Jom.

An outfit from Jomby and her first Russian Doll
The entire outfit from Jom. (Jonathan expressly asked to see a picture of her in it within the first three days. You asked my dear, and here she is.)

Big guitar pedal
Greg got this big guitar pedal from his family, and as soon as we were done with gifts, he hooked it into his system upstairs to test it out.

Daisy opening gifts

Some of the books I wanted!
I love these books!

Dinosaur set
A dinosaur set!

Greg surprised the boys with a set of drums.

Little Drummer Girl
The Tiny Beautiful, playing drums.

Making dinner
And of course there was cooking. Grace and I managed to pull together a dinner that was not too time consuming, yet very special. The menu:
Romaine Salad with Pears and Cheese
Bread Pudding with Wild Mushrooms (made with Brioche)
Oven Roasted Brussel Sprouts
Tomato Sherry Confit
Broiled Flank Steak with Soy Citrus Mayonaisse

Greg bought a delicious, round red Reisling which complemented the meal well.

For the past few days we've been baking cookies and cupcakes, so instead of a big, rich dessert, we decided to eat cookies, and have a post-dinner appetizer course of interesting cheeses, crackers, and shrimp cocktail. After the children were in bed, we mixed up some Mojitos and watched the movie "Waiting". Fun times.

It was a wonderful Christmas, but we missed all of you back home. Much love to our family, and thank you all for the lovely gifts!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Gingerbread Village

At the beginning of the week, the boys and I finally made our gingerbread houses. Actually, we ended up doing graham cracker houses, using the tutorial at Martha Stewart's site. I created a whole little village! (Click for gallery if you care to.)
Gingerbread Village
Next year I might play a little more with miniature realism, but I really like the way these came out.

Setting up to decorate:
All set to decorate
A pallet of candy.
Color palette of candy
My tiny elves, working away at their houses. This kept them busy for over an hour.
Cute little Christmas Elves, decorating houses
I found that by giving their houses a thick spackle of royal icing, that then they could just decorate by themselves -- whatever they pushed into the icing stuck right there.
First gingerbread houses
So much fun! (Andrew's is on left, Elijahs' is right.)

I'm nearly done with all of my Christmas knitting. That should be finished tonight before bed, and then tomorrow is baking. I've already got dough in the fridge for 2 different kinds of cookies all set to go.

I hope that you all have a merry Christmas!!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Spicy Curry Noodle Soup with Potatoes and Chicken

Here's a soup I made about a week ago (from my new Bon Appetit subscription -- thank Aunt Terry!!). Greg and I agree that it's a keeper. I'll be making this again soon, when Grace is here to enjoy it with us.

Brilliantly orange-yellow and pungent with spices, this soup is warming and invigorating all in one.

Asian Noodle Soup

The recipe called for sweet potatoes, but I used white potatoes instead, and it was quite good. My husband is not overly fond of sweet potatoes, but I think that the spice quotient is high enough that it might balance the flavors out, so I might try that next time. I used my own chicken broth instead of the low-sodium canned stuff. There is also supposed to be a teaspoon of hot chili paste in the soup, but I think that I might have singed my nosehairs off if I'd done that. Recipe is adapted from Jan '08 Bon Appetit (my changes are reflected below).


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons chopped shallots
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons minced lemongrass (from bottom 4 inches of about 3 stalks, tough outer leaves discarded)
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons Thai yellow curry paste
2 tablespoons curry powder
2 13.5- to 14-ounce cans unsweetened coconut milk, divided
5 cups chicken broth
2 1/2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
3 cups snow peas, cut into 1/4's
2 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled white potatoes (about 2 smallish ones)
1 pound dried rice vermicelli noodles or rice stick noodles
3/4 pound skinless boneless chicken thighs, thinly sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 red Thai bird chiles or 2 red jalapeƱo chiles, thinly sliced with seeds
1 lime, cut into 6 wedges

Heat oil in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add next 4 ingredients; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in curry paste, curry powder, and chili paste. Add 1/2 cup coconut milk (scooped from thick liquid at top of can). Stir until thick and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add remaining coconut milk, broth, fish sauce, and sugar; bring broth to boil. Keep warm. IF YOU WANT TO DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Refrigerate until cold, then cover and keep chilled.

Cook snow peas in large pot of boiling salted water until bright green, about 20 seconds. Using strainer, remove peas from pot; rinse under cold water to cool. Place peas in medium bowl. Bring water in same pot back to boil. Add sweet potato and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Using strainer, remove sweet potato from pot and rinse under cold water to cool. Place in small bowl. Bring water in same pot back to boil and cook noodles until just tender but still firm to bite, about 6 minutes. Drain; rinse under cold water to cool. Transfer to microwave-safe bowl. IF YOU WANT TO DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 hour ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Bring broth to simmer. Add chicken; simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Add sweet potato; stir to heat through, about 1 minute. Heat noodles in microwave in 30-second intervals to rewarm. Cut noodles with scissors if too long. Divide noodles among bowls. Divide snow peas and hot soup among bowls. Scatter red onion, green onions, cilantro, and chiles over soup. Garnish with lime wedges and serve.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Garlicy Polenta Breadsticks

Today is brisk and cold, but we can actually see the blue sky peeking through the clouds. A perfect day to curl up together with some gingerbread tea and read books like "The Gingerbread Baby" (by Jan Brett).

Bread is baking in my bread machine, making the house smell like my mom is here. It's a good day.
Reading The Gingerbread Baby and drinking Gingebread Tea
Besides opening a door of an Advent calendar each day in December and coloring Christmas themed pages (great ones on the Jan Brett site!), I've also started reading Christmas books to them, and next week we're going to make a gingerbread house together.

In my last post, I promised a recipe for breadsticks. I've finally finished most of my Christmas knitting, so I have (a little bit of) time for blogging again.

Crisp, slightly chewy, salty and well seasoned. Who doesn't like a good breadstick? I got the original recipe from the blog Baking Bites, and adjusted it just a bit. I don't like to separate eggs if I don't have to, especially if the recipe doesn't use the other part of the egg, so instead of using two egg whites, I used one whole egg. Also, I didn't have garlic powder, so I omitted that and the salt, and substituted two teaspoons of garlic salt instead. They turned out wonderfully! And you've gotta love a recipe that can succeed even with extensive help from a toddler.

Painting on the egg wash
These are quick to whip up -- no yeast and waiting for things to rise -- and they taste great. I could easily see these with chili, soup, or a huge dinner salad. This recipe can be easily adjusted by changing the seasonings to suit whatever you'll be serving them with (i.e. chili powder and finely chopped pickled jalapeno peppers for Mexican food, finely chopped rosemary for beef barley stew, basil and oregano for Italian inspired bean soup, etc.)
Max making breadsticks

Garlicky Polenta Breadsticks

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup cornmeal

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp sugar

2 tsp garlic salt

1 tsp dried dill

1/4 tsp ground pepper, to taste

4 tbsp butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

1/2 cup milk

1 egg

1 egg, lightly beaten, for brushing

garlic salt or coarse salt, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, garlic powder, dill, salt and pepper. Add butter and rub in with your fingertips until mixture resembles sand and no large chunks of butter remain.
Combine milk and egg whites in a small bowl, then add to flour mixture, stirring until a dough is formed. Roll dough out on a lightly floured surface until it is a 10×12 inch rectangle and approximately 1/4-1/2 inch thick (about 1 cm). Trim rough edges. Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut into 16 even strips.
Transfer strips to baking sheets, leaving room between them. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle generously with garlic salt (or regular coarse salt).
Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.
Allow to cool before serving. Leftovers can be wrapped and re-crisped in the oven for 5 minutes at 400F.
Makes 16 sticks.

(Full credit to Baking Bites blog)

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cute fellows

I don't have time to blog today, so here's some cute pictures of the boys:

Elijah, giving some breadsticks and egg wash.

Max making breadsticks

Painting on the egg wash
Andrew, showing off a "special" outfit he put together, all on his own (can you tell?)
Sparky shows off a "special" outfit

No pics of Lavella, but she's yelling to me from her room, so I'd better go. I'll post again when I have time, along with the breadstick recipe, which was yummy and simple. It's a version of something I found online recently. Look for it soon!