Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Ham, Ham and more Ham

You may be in the same blessed predicament as us to have more ham than you can think of what to do with after Christmas. Paul came home with a Honey Baked ham last Tuesday - a gift from his company, and we have to finish it in a week (or so the instructions say) before it spoils. I love Honey Baked ham, but because ham is so salty, I get tired after a few days of ham with green beans, ham with carrots, ham with broccoli, and on and on.

The solution for me was to go to my favorite book of all cookbooks, one that I found years ago at a used bookstore: The New York Times Menu Cookbook, published in 1966. The fun thing is that this huge book of recipes was written pre-carbs and fat days so the recipes are based purely on taste rather than health - a bad thing most of the time, but occasionally it must be done! It also has a fantastic index. I looked up "ham" and came up with dozens of recipes including ham. This is what I chose, and it was a wonderfully delicious choice that tasted like a cross between a creamy Italian pasta primavera dish and a vegetable medley/pot pie (don't let the simple, innocent name deceive you):

Ham and Vegetable Casserole

4 Tbs. of butter
1 small chopped onion
1.5 Tbs. flour
1 cup milk
1 cup of diced potatoes
1 cup of diced carrots
1 cup of chopped green beans
2 cups of diced cooked ham
1 cup of fresh bread crumbs (put a few slices in a food processor or vitamix and you have crumbs)
Few slices of bacon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F
1. I chopped all veggies (onions separately) in a food processor to cut down on time.
2. Melt butter in saucepan and add onion, cooking until transparent.
3. Bring milk to a boil.
4. Meanwhile blend flour in with onions and start the bacon cooking in a frying pan (you will need the drippings so don't microwave).
5. bring some water to a boil and cook the chopped veggies for only a few minutes ~2-3.
6. Add the boiled milk slowly in with the onions/flour/butter mixture, mixing until it thickens.
7. Add cooked veggies and season with salt and pepper to taste.
8. Place mixture into a 1.5 quart casserole dish.
9. Dice up the cooked bacon and sprinkle on top.
10. Add bread crumbs to the bacon drippings and sprinkle on top of everything.
11. Bake the casserole for thirty minutes or until mixture is hot and the bread crumbs are brown.

Note: this is supposed to serve 6 but really in today's serving sizes, especially if you are serving no side dishes, serves 3 to 4. Even that looks like a small amount, but it is surprisingly filling - really packs a punch. We had enough for the two of us to have dinner last night and leftovers for lunch.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas Pics for the Family

Merry Christmas again everyone! This post is mainly to thank our moms, dads and sisters for the wonderful gifts you sent. So here is our Christmas morning....
Clementine is not quite sure about the disco ball from my sister. It will take her ~ 4 months to get used to it, but Clementine still said, "Thanks Aunt Heather"

Paulie in his new homemade Christmas PJs (from me).

Paul says, "Thanks, Mum, for Batman!"

This shirt from my mom and dad says, "May the forest be with you." Quite cleverly paralleling Paul's favorite movie trilogy of all time.

" Thanks for the top and purse, Alison, Barry, Craig and Adam!" (my family-in-laws)

Love the apron, M & D!!! I used it already when making cinnamon rolls. Heather, thanks so much for you generosity and great ideas!

Hitchhiking Fairy coming in for a closer look. She spent the whole morning preening the fuzz on the santa hat!
Thanks again everyone for the wonderful gifts!

And Paul says thanks too (foot shot to include Christmas PJs).

Heather, the Thomas Kincaid puzzle is so much fun!! We have much more done since this picture was taken a few days ago. The Vader puzzle we started Wednesday night and finished on Christmas.
The 47 kajillion veggie dinner spread of savoy cabbage, carrots and swede, sweet potatoes, roast potatoes and parsnips, ham and broccoli.

Carrying out the English tradition of pulling Christmas crackers (as provided by M & D)

After reading the enclosed jokes and trivia, we donned the included golden crowns.

Funny story about going to the neighbors to give out our plates of cookies on Christmas eve. We finished the cookies and mince pies around 4:30 and I left the cinnamon roll dough to rise for the 1.5 hours that's required. Thinking we'd be gone 20 minutes or so I almost left the birds out of their cages. Paul said he thought we'd be gone for quite some time because we'll probably end up talking, etc. "oh, no, I don't think so." I explained, "everyone will be getting ready for Christmas and so we'll deliver our cookies, wish them merry christmas and move on."
How wrong was I! We were invited in, given drinks and snacks and experienced the full hospitality that can be offered. Feeling more comfortable about our relationship with the lawn lady across the way, we were so happy that the past could be forgotten. Four hours later and three plates of cookies delivered, we came back home.
Sadly, the cinnamon roll dough had risen and fallen, being that it was left for too long. But nevermind, a new batch was started the day after Christmas and they are delicious! Plus, I got to use my new apron and measuring spoons.
Mom, Dad and Heather, I lost my old recipe! This is a new one I found on the internet - that's why they may look a little different. They are flatter, but moister, hmmm.. can't figure out why!

If you guys have any Christmas pictures you'd like to share, email them to me and I'll post them.
Lots of Love,
Karen and Paul

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Bringing in the Winter

It's been a cold fall so fall seemed to blend seamlessly into winter here... although we did have some T-shirt days this December! I've been in the field for the last two weeks sprinkled with a few days in the office, so the weekends have been jam packed with getting things done and having fun for the Christmas time. A summary of the past 3 weeks.. wow has it been that long?

Our girls have been anxiously awaiting santa, especially Clementine who loves the extra snacks: walnuts and noodles and walnuts and pistacios and walnuts.....

Fairy, the look of an angel but not so this year. We hope Santa will still be gracious, but we will have to see. She has been showing us her alter ego this year by way of behavior problems ranging from screaming, to overly clingy to biting. We took her to a therapist who is baffled.

We had lots of raking to do this fall, and this is the last of it. I dragged Paul out of bed two weekends ago to help, and he's most feeling sorry for himself here. It is a big job, especially since the wind blows the leaves from our neighbors yards into ours!
Same day: Paul helping with Christmas deco. Doesn't he look happy? It was a big day after all, but he got really into the decor after a few minutes and donned the traditional santa hat.

Paul in the Santa hat and the tree finished.

I went to a friend's from work (girls' night) and we did a craft - painted our glass Martinelli's, wine or water bottles, to fill with christmas lights.

Of course what girl party would be complete without the goodies? - everyone brought a dessert and a $5 ornament for the secret santa exchange.
Bottles finished!

Then we helped Tracy decorate her baby Christmas tree.

Today, Paul and I are baking to carry on the tradition. Paul "the Mincer" Pie from last year will be making a reappearance to bake his famous mince pies, and Kare "the bear" will be making cinnamon rolls again. We'll see how much gets done but we are keeping the goal loose so we will stop when we are tired.
Thinking of family all the time- we miss them so much. This is an especially joyous time of year and wanting to be near family and relive memories of days past seems to just come with the season. Not like those thoughts are not there the rest of the year, but especially at Christmas.
Exciting news on the family front: my brother and his wife are expecting their first child! And Paul's mum is making a wonderful recovery and is enjoying some pampering at Alison's, my dear sister-in-law.
I hope you are all able to enjoy your Christmas with loved ones and have much to be thankful for! Merry Christmas and lots of love!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Happy Belated Thanksgiving!

I have not posted in a long time because I have been working on Christmas projects since Thanksgiving, and have been swamped! My blog got back burnered. But I took some fun food pictures of Thanksgiving to share, and wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving.

We decided to hog wild for this Thanksgiving dinner, to enjoy and give thanks for all we have. Actually, we had a little bit of a miscommunication, because Paul thought we were going to cut down on the veggies this year, and I thought we were doing the "Engish Traditional" as I have dubbed holiday dinners that we do. Paul loves to have the fancy 27 kazillion veggies that they do for a traditional English Christmas dinner, and since they don't have Thanksgiving over there, we usually do the same dinner, more or less, for Thanksgiving and Christmas here.

I had to do a pie, and I found a really good apple pie recipe that has caused Paul to beg for a pie every week.

The the turkey that we injected with cajun marinade. It didn't come out real spicy but kept the turkey incredibly moist.

Paul jumped into action towards the tail end of cooking when he suddenly realized we were doing the 27 kajillion veggies. I became frantic in the last 20 minutes and shouted for help! He was hanging curtain rods, and I hated to stop a good thing in action, but crisis in the kitchen was more pressing.
A few of the veggies: green bean casserole, sweet potatoes with marshmallows (my request), roast parsnips in the front.
We also had cabbage, carrots and rutabaga, roast potatoes and homemade cranberry relish.
Finally ready!
Friday night we had a couple over from my work, and we had a leftover party. We contributed our leftovers and they brought their leftovers and we all put it all together for a huge variety, a fabulous dinner reheated in the oven. Paul and I still had more of our leftovers left and didn't have to cook Saturday or Sunday night and we had thanksgiving leftovers for 2 days of lunches at work!
Things that I am particularly thankful for this year:
1) family, family, family (although we don't see them much, they are always on our minds)
1) we both still have our jobs for the moment
2) we have a home
3) we can afford a comfortable life
4) we are healthy
5) Paul and I have each other
6) I love where we live, although I wish family wasn't so far away.
7) we are beginning to make some good friends and feeling more established here
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving too!