Tag Archives: holidays

Happy New Year

Well, it’s the fourth day of the new year and I’ve been having some goals and such floating around in my head that I thought I’d share.  I’m looking forward to seeing what all 2012 will bring.

I haven’t really been one to make new year’s resolutions, much less make a bunch and stick with them for the entire twelve months!  I think it’s usually a good way to set oneself up for disappointment.  Some years I make a few resolutions (pretty much forgetting about them by March, or for sure by summertime) and other years I think that it’s just a silly tradition so I don’t even bother.

This year I feel kind of refreshed and motivated to make a few goals and make 2012 even better than 2011.  It’s actually a perfect time in my life where I need some goals to push me a little, or I just get too comfortable and complacent.

So I’m putting this out there for all to see, and I’ll be having someone/something holding me a little bit accountable.  There’s a few things I really want to do and some areas I want to see myself learn and grow in.  I will follow up with each one on the list, even if it’s a quick note of an update on what I’ve been doing, working on, or haven’t been working on.

I Want To, and I Will, in 2012:

1. Read more often!

  • Books- pick one and try to finish it within a month.
  • The Bible – spend more time in scripture.
  • My magazines and cookbooks that have piled up.

2. Learn, grow, and improve in something I have a love for and hobby in… Photography!  I WILL get better and keep learning.

  • Read Understanding Exposure.  Got this book for Christmas and I want to read it cover to cover.
  • Take a class.  Whether it’s this spring, summer, or next fall, credit or non-credit.  Simply to learn more and get more familiar with the technical side of the camera.
  • Post a ‘Photo of the Week’ on the blog.  This will be any image(s) that I took during the current week, sometimes even one that I used for a recent recipe/post.  It will be a picture that I like and want to share, and it can be with or without captions and explanation.  It will be one, or more, pictures that I take during the week of the post.  This will keep me looking, seeing, and searching more often, and getting more practice with my camera every week.

3. Go for long runs with my dog.  This is a pretty easy one, since it’s what I already do.  I take Jackson out for exercise about 5 days/week, but I want to be running for at least 2 of those.

4. Knit at least one item for myself each month.  I love knitting but usually don’t let myself relax and knit often enough or get real productive with it.  Much less let myself make something to keep.  It’s so easy for a knitter to want to gift their knits!  So if I must quantitate this goal, it will be to make one thing per month for moi!  This can be a big or small project, a simple hat, mitts, cowl, set of dishcloths for the kitchen, or it can be a bigger project like a sweater or shawl.  I would like one of these to be an introduction to knitting lace, or one that teaches me more about knitting cables.  At least one of these twelve knits will be a sweater!  There are several that I have bookmarked that I want to make for myself but I’m always sticking close to the quick-fix accessories and such so I never get around to them.  So by the end of the year I will have at least one cute sweater/cardigan.  And twelve new knits to wear! 🙂

5. Work more, work harder, try harder to have a better job/work/source of income.  Find a second job, or a different job, and/or make more of an effort to do the work my brother hands me to do from his business.  I’m not really happy with this aspect of my life currently, and need something more, something better!  Someday I’d love to turn one of my talents/passions into my work, be able to do what I love to do and generate some income while I’m at it.

6. Meet more people, make more friends.  It seems to me that the older you get, the harder this can be.  It’s so easy while growing up, in college, and just afterwards.  But at this point in life, seems like girls/people my age are either too busy with their babies/kids, or just settled into their life, work, marriage, etc.  And old friends move away and it’s hard to keep in touch and spend time together.  I want to meet more people, and would love to make a couple more good, genuine friends!  Maybe #5 will help with this one.  =)

7. Be more adventurous and make the most of opportunities that present themselves.

And to my friend Lauren, if you’re reading this I loved some of yours that you shared, and I’m totally snagging a few:  =)

8. Try some yoga.  Occasionally do my yoga dvd’s.

9. Explore, don’t let my petty fears take control.

10. Rock a new found confidence.  And a new pair of boots!

Thanks for those ones Lauren!  =)

I’m pretty happy with this.  It’s not too daunting or unrealistic.  There’s a couple more, but no need to ramble on and blog them.

I will report on these, and if you do visit my little online space here regularly, feel free to ask and hold me to it!

I’m off to take down the Christmas tree.

And one more little thing from Christmas, my mom got me a new big 16 qt. soup and stock pot!

Isn’t it pretty??  Thanks mom!

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Gift Knitting

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas!  Now that the exciting day is over and my knits aren’t such a secret, I can finally share them with you.  Right around Thanksgiving I decided that a bunch of my family needs a nice warm and comfy hat for winter.  It all started when I made one of TFA’s Grammy’s Hats for myself…


I then had to make one for my mom’s Birthday gift, which I’m counting as part of my Christmas knitting since it was only a month beforehand, and the beginning of my hat kick…


Then I realized a couple of these would make great Christmas gifts for our niece and nephew…


While I was on a roll, how could I forget that my aunt and my cousin had put in a request for a red one and a grey one?  Being the great cousin and niece that I am, I didn’t forget, and wanted to surprise them with a little holiday cheer…


Turned out I loved that yarn, I picked up this Universal Yarn Classic Shades while on Thanksgiving vacation and it’s so soft, such a great deal, and packed with a lot of yardage.  197 yards for 8.50, and did I mention really soft?

Next I decided that my dad, brother, and husband need a new comfy hat…

And with the completion of dad’s hat, the clock ticked to Christmas Day.  So I am now working on my hubby’s, then will make my brother’s, THEN the Christmas knitting will be done!  I’m making their hats with the same yarn (different colors) as in my dad’s, Cascade Yarns Eco Cloud, and I love it!  It’s 70% undyed merino wool and 30% undyed baby alpaca, so it is really soft, comfortable, and I love the natural color.

Actually there is one more knitted gift that is missing here, and I will have to get a picture and share that later.  I made a simple but lovely pair of Grammy’s Mitts for my mom, to go with her hat of course.

I think I am Tanis‘ biggest fan of her Grammy’s Hat pattern!  It is simple and quick, but the 2×2 and 2×6 rib provide a little texture and gives you a very comfy, one-size-fits-all hat.  Perfect for gifts.

Eight and a half gifts down, one and a half to go!  And yes, I’m counting my own, because every knitter has to make a gift for their self every once in a while!  =)

THE Perfect Holiday Treat : Apple Zeppoles

I am so excited to share these with you.  Good things are even better when shared, right?  These little babies are so, SO yummy!

I think if my blog ends up being good and useful for one thing, I’d hope that it’s this recipe that gets put to use!

I made these Apple Zeppoles at work this last fall, and now over this holiday season I’ve made them (big batches) two weekends in a row.  Last weekend I cooked up more than 50 for a holiday get together with some friends, and they were a huge, HUGE hit!  Everyone really loves them.  Not to mention my husband who said, as I was cooking all these up and he had a couple, “Maybe we shouldn’t go anywhere…  We could just stay home and eat these.”  Ha!  Good suggestion, honey.  😉  So this weekend we had some friends over for a little dinner, and I had to make them again, of course.

Zeppoles are an Italian dessert like a small fritter or doughnut, and are made with a Pâte à Choux dough.  This pastry dough can be made sweet for lovely treats like profiteroles, or cream puffs, eclairs, beignets, or zeppoles; or it can be made savory for something like cheese popovers.

I started making choux pastry several years ago while working in restaurants, always using it to bake into profiteroles.  But over this past fall season I was having fun using apples in new yummy ways, and I realized how versatile this dough is and what an amazing little zeppole treat it can be turned into.

They’re so comforting and perfect for this time of year, all warm, soft and airy on the inside, with the outside all crisp and rolled in cinnamon and sugar.  If you haven’t made these before, or any choux pastry, don’t shy away!  It is really easy.  Frying up a big batch of the Apple Zeppoles does take a little time, but trust me it is very well worth it!

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::Apple Zeppoles::
(Adapted and modified from Giada’s Apple Zeppole)

  • 4-5 apples, or 3 c. peeled and grated apples, Granny Smiths work well
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. unsalted butter
  • 1 c. water
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 2 c. AP flour
  • 8 eggs
  • Canola Oil for frying, can combine a little olive oil and/or vegetable oil with it
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar + 1-2 T cinnamon combined in a pie dish

In a large saucepan or deep frying pan, pour in the oil(s) to 2-3 inches deep.  Use a candy thermometer and heat the oil to 360 deg F over medium heat.  Crack all eggs into a bowl and set aside.  Grate all peeled and cored apples (food processor is quick).  I squeeze out the liquid in the grated apple by handfuls as I move it all to a bowl.  You can stir in a little lemon juice and set aside.

For pate choux: In a med/large saucepan, combine the sugar, butter, water, and salt and heat until it’s all melted and starts to boil.  Once it reaches a boil, take off heat and stir in two c. flour with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.  Keep stirring, set back on hot burner, for 2-ish minutes until the dough forms a ball and is all clumped together.

Transfer the mixture into the bowl of your stand mixer and using the paddle, turn on medium speed and add in the eggs one by one.  Incorporate each egg completely before adding the next.  Beat until smooth and slowly stir in the grated apples.

Set out a baking sheet with paper towels on it, have a soft-tipped tongs or a ‘spider’ ready to use.  Once the oil reaches 350 – 360 deg F, drop in spoonfuls of dough, about 1-2 T each, using a small cookie scooper or a tablespoon.  You want them about 2″ around once cooked.  They will drop to the bottom of the pan and pop back up.  I let each one pop up to the surface before adding the next.  Work in batches so not to over crowd the pan.  Let cook for about 2 minutes then flip over for another 2 min., using the nylon-tipped tongs or the spider.  They will puff up and be very golden brown when done, remove and lay onto paper towel lined baking sheet.  Roll them in the cinnamon + sugar while still warm.  Move them to a serving platter or baking dish and enjoy!

Notes:  Monitor the oil temperature while cooking, it will drop once all the dough is added in so you can turn the heat up a bit while they’re cooking.  If you want to cook up the remaining batter later, the oil can be cooled and set aside (covered) and the batter can be covered with plastic wrap and set in the fridge and used within four or five days.

So the method part is a little long-winded, but don’t run away from this thinking they’re too much work!!  I so hope you make these, you (along with your friends and family) will be glad you did.  =)

And if you so desire, make up some delicious whip cream to complete them:

::Cinnamon Whipped Cream::

1 to 1 1/2 c. whipping cream
3-4 T powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
1-2 t cinnamon (optional: cardamom, nutmeg, allspice, ginger.. they’re all good here)

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk, whip the cream to medium-stiff peaks.  Halfway through add in the powdered sugar, vanilla and cinnamon spices.  Set in a bowl and enjoy immediately or set in fridge for later.

Enjoy!  And I hope you’re having a lovely week-before-Christmas.  =)

My Holiday Dinner Must-Have

Several years ago I tried out Tyler Florence’s Green Bean Casserole and have made it during the holidays every year since.  The cremini mushrooms are sauteed with minced shallot and garlic, then made into a cream sauce, the blanched green beans are added to it and it’s all poured into a baking dish, which is then topped with parmesan and homemade croutons and it’s all baked and ready for indulging.

If you’re still making Green Bean Casserole with a can of Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup and a can of green beans, shame on you I’m here to help.  Although I think that classic casserole is enjoyable because it takes me back to my childhood, reminds me of my grandma, is so easy to make, and pretty good with lots of those crunchy french onions on top, I thought I’d share my ‘MUST-have’ for the holiday dinner.

This year for turkey day we will be out of town, but I’m still going to make my favorite casserole, and a dessert (of course!).  I’m pretty excited for all of the holiday fun, so I cooked this up for part of our dinner last weekend.

The recipe is here, I make it pretty much the same.  I do love to use creminis and one big portabella for this, and simply using just fresh thyme to herb it up works well.  I add in a few minced garlic cloves when sauteing the shallots.  The cream sauce can sometimes be a bit thin, so be sure to simmer for 5-7 min. once the cream is poured in.  Only bake the croutons for ten minutes, or just until they’re starting to turn golden since they’ll toast up more later when baking.

My food photography really doesn’t do this delicious dish justice as the pics were taken indoors and at night, but (in my opinion) the holiday dinner table just isn’t complete without it. =)


It was great with the Elk Steak that Will grilled up and the acorn squash that I baked with butter and brown sugar.

The only bad thing about this casserole– it is very likely that you will already be filled up on half of a pan of warm yummy croutons before the dish ever hits the table!