Thursday, April 30, 2009

Foodie Friday - Cinco de Mayo para dos

For our Cinco de Mayo celebration we invited Jose... set a bright table...
and whipped up a batch of Shrimp and Black Bean Enchiladas.
This recipe uses corn tortillas, and features a salsa created from fresh tomatillos, green chiles, scallion, garlic, cilantro, black beans and corn. It's a tangy, refreshing change from the run of the mill red salsas, and it's heart healthy! The recipe comes from the Mayo Clinic Williams-Sonoma cookbook. If you need to monitor cholesterol and fats, yet still want to enjoy gourmet food, give this cookbook a try. You won't be disappointed.
For dessert, we kept it light too, and made Cinnamon Crisps.
The bases for these fabulous morsels are flour tortillas that are kissed with vanilla, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, then baked. Top them with non-fat whipped cream and fruit and you have an easy and elegant dessert. Tonight we used fresh raspberries, kiwi and mandarin oranges. In short order, there was only one crisp left on the plate.
Alas, that too disappeared, but not to worry...they're so fast and easy we can make more any time! You can find the recipe here.

Now vamoose over to Designs by Gollum and see what everyone else has cooked up to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Our hostess, Michael Lee, has Mr. Linky ready to serve as your guide.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Foodie Friday - Spring Fling

One of our favorite Spring vegetables is asparagus, and perhaps the way we like it best is in a stir fry with carrots, fresh ginger and a dash of soy sauce. Paired with teriyaki glazed Salmon and a wild rice medley, courtesy of Uncle Ben, it's a meal that can be on your plate in about 30 minutes.
It's the perfect, easy meal to prepare after a day spent working in the garden.

Looking for more Springtime meal ideas? Stop by Designs by Gollum and see the offerings for this installment of Foodie Friday.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Foodie Friday - Easter Food Review & The Blessing of the Baskets

Holy Week is the busiest week of our year. My husband and I both sing with the choir, so we're at just about every prayer service and mass. I also help with altar preparations and decorating, and of course there's the cooking and baking that has to be done. This year I worked out a schedule that I'll probably use next Easter season. I was tired, but not frazzled, and everything got done. I always consider that the second miracle of Easter!

I baked two large loaves of Greek Easter bread. This is the after...
and this is the before...
I also made a cheese filled babka, which is my husband's favorite.
We baked ham, cooked kielbasa and boiled and colored eggs. Salt and pepper shakers were filled, and coffee, sugar and prepared horseradish were packed into containers. We also made sure that we bought a chocolate cross...
and that the lamb carved out of butter, that I wrote about in last week's post, was ready to go.
This is the reason that all of our cooking, baking and shopping had to be finished by Saturday morning.
All of the food that's served for our Easter breakfast, is packed into baskets and taken to church to be blessed at noon on Saturday. Baskets start to line the altar steps by 11:30AM...
and soon the aroma of smoked meats and freshly baked bread fills the sanctuary.
We were early, so I hopped up to the choir loft and started to snap pictures, but they weren't what I had hoped. The lights are put off after morning prayer and the church remains dark until the lighting of the new fire at the entrance to the church at the beginning of Easter Vigil at 8:00PM. I had to shoot in natural light on night setting and didn't bring my tripod! This was the best I could do under the circumstances. The day was overcast, but the sun did break through for a few minutes, and at least allowed me to take this blurry shot.
One of the wonderful things about the blessing of the baskets, is its multi-generational nature. Three, and sometimes four, generations gather together to carry on this tradition. I was able to get a cute photo of our friend's grandchildren.
At noon, our Pastor began the brief ceremony. He read from scripture, and spoke about his experiences with this custom, (he happens to be of Polish descent),
and then he blessed the baskets.
On Easter morning, our table was set with all of the traditional foods that had been blessed the previous day.
A few years ago, I found a tablecloth that we use every year. I love the way the pattern frames each place setting...
and the lovely scalloped border. The design is painted on the fabric, and then outline stitched in the same color.
After Easter we were faced with the annual ham and hard boiled egg dilemma. Ham sandwiches, ham salad sandwiches, ham and potato casserole, egg salad, and split pea soup are old standbys, but this year I really wanted to try some different recipes. I've never tried my hand at puff pastry sheets. I've always limited myself to the full size shells, and more recently the mini shells, but it looks so wonderful on so many blogs, that I gave it a try. I layered shave ham, sliced tomatoes, caramelized onions and sauteed mushrooms, then topped it with a mixture of spinach and cream cheese and fresh basil leaves. The results were wonderful! I'm sure I'll be experimenting with it again in the near future.
I hope you'll stop by Designs by Gollum and take advantage of the Mr. Linky feature that our hostess, Michael Lee, so generously provides. Mr. L. will take you on a delightful culinary adventure.

And don't forget...the Easter season is just beginning!

The Flowers of Easter

Nothing much is in bloom in our corner of Northeastern Pennsylvania because it's been unseasonably cold. A forsythia here, an occasional daffodil or a very brave early tulip is about all you see outdoors. An Easter with no flowers was unthinkable, but a trip to our favorite garden center solved the problem. The greenhouse was filled to overflowing with wonderful potted plants and arrangements, and we managed to find our favorites. They looked so beautiful, especially with the sun streaming through the windows, that I'll let them speak for themselves.

Don't you think they said quite a bit?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Foodie Friday - Behold The Lamb...

I'm sure I would have loved my husband even if he wasn't of Polish descent, but he is and happily so am I. Our families kept the same traditions, so there was never an awkward moment when we had to figure out how to marry customs.

One of the traditions that we both grew up with, was a lamb carved out of butter that graced our breakfast tables on Easter morning. Our fathers carved the lamb out of a pound block of butter, but I've managed to scale back to a mini 1/4 pound version.
Here are the ingredients and tools.
First step is to make the basic form. This is one stick of butter that has been cut into various shapes and repositioned. At this point, we call him the sphinx and he's already getting soft, so he goes back in to the fridge to firm up a bit.
Next step is to soften all of the hard edges. I liked his basic shape, so I shaved bits of butter from a 2nd stick to create better curves. He started to get soft again, and had to be re-chilled.
Now we create a 'woolly coat' with the tines of a fork.
After yet another stint in the refrigerator, I transfer the little guy into a 'traveling bowl'. He's going to be going to church to be blessed on Saturday at noon, along with the rest of the traditional foods that will be part of our breakfast on Easter morning. (I hope to be able to take photos this year so I can share the tradition of the blessing of the baskets with all of you. It really is a lovely ceremony.)
Finally our little lamb is ready for some eyes, which are whole cloves with the center bud removed. He also gets a bit of something red to create a mouth. We used to use a piece of jelly bean, but this year I used a tiny sliver of dried cranberry.
We add a little parsley for grass, and his flag, and he's done. I love opening the fridge and seeing that sweet face. It's a gentle reminder of why we celebrate Easter.
You can now buy ready made lambs in the dairy section at the grocery store, and you can also purchase butter molds, but somehow it just wouldn't be the same. Watching the lamb take shape is like watching the fulfillment of the Easter promise unfold. We need to experience it every year. It's part of who we are.
Please stop by Designs by Gollum, and discover who else may be sharing some of their 'foodie' Easter traditions. Our hostess, Michael Lee, will have Mr. Linky ready to assist you.
A Happy and Blessed Easter to All... Nancy

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Bunnies On Parade

I usually pull out my bunnies at the beginning of Lent, and don't put them away until it feels like summer. Last year, I 'thinned out' the collection, and hauled quite a few to the white elephant sale at our church fair. This year, when I started to unpack them, it seemed like their numbers had grown again, and I swear I have kept my promise not to buy any more! I'm starting to wonder what goes on in those sealed cartons. It must be true that rabbits do multiply quickly.

I probably still have too many, but there will be no more downsizing. Only my favorites are left, and I'll always find a spot for all of them.
Perhaps the one I favor the most, is this little guy riding a rooster. I have to smile every time I walk by him...
but I also like the other rabbits in my new smaller stash. I like the rabbits who are good friends...

and the bunnies who pretend to be chocolate.
These sophisticates are here to stay.
The small, cuter than a button youngsters will always have a home...

This classic bunny is a keeper,
as is the lop eared.
The rabbits that work, have earned their keep. Some push wheelbarrows...

some haul carts...
some carry flowers...

while others hold eggs...

or candles.
Some just stand around looking pretty while they wait for the Easter Parade.
This fella is handsome, but way to large for most shelves.

There are rabbits over the mantle and on the mantle.

The potholders...

and dishtowls have rabbits on them too!

Oh, and can't forget the bunnies that serve at table...

or the mamas with their young 'uns.

I still love my rabbits, although the live outdoor rabbits have destroyed large chunks of my gardens over the winter. If I could, I'd like to do this with all of them...
Come to think of it, that may solve the rabbit population explosion too! Anyone know how to tell a boy ceramic bunny from a girl ceramic bunny, and where can I buy a bunch of glass domes, cheap???