One Day To Go


Only one more day to go before December!  Can you believe the last month of 2007 is finally here?  What a year.  My news that I never did explain was that we bought our first house.  Finally!  It seems like it has taken so long, but then we’ve only been married for 5 years – many couples wait a lot longer than that to get into their first house, so I think we’re actually especially fortunate.


So, this means we get to celebrate Benjamin’s first Christmas in our first house.  We have a bunch of photos of the place, but I don’t have them right now.  I’ll post them another time.  At any rate, needless to say, I am very excited about the Christmas season this year.  Not just Christmas day, but all the wonderful moments leading up to it.  Sights, sounds, smells, tastes, songs, stories, and games.

As such, I have decided to post every day during the month of December, to include a decorating idea, poem, song, recipe, craft, or memory, anything that sparks my interest for the month.  I hope you find this holiday season to be a very merry one!

Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions

Serve with slices of fresh baguette, and apple, like Honeycrisp or Braeburn.  Take a trip through the fancy olive bar at your local grocery store, and you’ve got yourself the perfect appetizer snacks for a party!  Hope you enjoy… 

Baked Brie with Caramelized Onions

1 large sweet onion, sliced into 1/4" thick rings
1 T Olive Oil
1/4 cup pecans, roughly chopped
2-3 T dried cranberries
2-3 T dried apricots, roughly chopped
Frozen Phyllo Dough, thawed (about 5-7 sheets)
1-2 T Butter, melted
1 largish wheel of Brie Cheese

1.  Make the filling:  Caramelize the onions by heating the oil in a large pan over medium high heat, then add the onions.  Cook, stirring somewhat frequently, until very soft and golden brown, about 20-30 minutes.  Add the nuts and dried fruit and cook for another 10 minutes until mixture is toasty, and fully caramelized.  You may season with some salt and pepper, but I find it tastes wonderful as is.  You might like adding a tad bit of balsamic vinegar.

2.  Prepare the dough:  Slice the wheel of brie horizontally in half; set aside.  Carefully unroll the sheets of phyllo dough, set one sheet on your work surface and immediately cover the rest with a damp tea towel to prevent it from drying out.  Lightly brush the sheet with melted butter, then lay another sheet on top, angled clockwise from the first sheet.  Smooth together with your hand, then brush with more melted butter.  Keep adding layers, at an angle, with melted butter inbetween, so you have 5-7 layers of dough loosely making a circle. 

3.  Assemble the cheese:  Lay the bottom round of cheese in the center of the dough, rind side down.  Generously pile on some of the filling on top of the cheese.  Lay the remaining half of cheese on top, cut side down, then generously pile on more filling on top.  (You’ll have some filling leftover, good to eat with cooked chicken, pork, or beef!)  Bring a corner of the dough up over the cheese, and brush with some melted butter.  Keep bringing up more of the dough, all the way around, brushing with butter, until the cheese is completely and nicely covered with the dough.

4.  Set cheese on a baking sheet, and bake on the middle rack in the oven preheated to 350 for about 25-30 minutes, or until golden and fragrant.  Soooooooo yummy!

Thanksgiving Goodness


"Welcome to my heart, Spirit of Christmas – I’ve been waiting for you all year!"  -Kimber Anne Engstrom.

Well, it was a fine Thanksgiving weekend, wasn’t it?  The weather over here in Washington State was our family’s absolute favorite – bright and sunny, but cool and crisp.  I of course was inside for all of it, however, but that is exactly where I wanted to be, as I was cooking up a storm.  I know that most people are trying to get away from the whole spending-all-day-in-the-kitchen thing, but I’m young and energetic and still want to make things from scratch, so I was very happy. 

I split most of the cooking with my mother-in-law – she made the traditional things, and I made some brand new things.  I was so proud of myself this time, I actually was staying on schedule.  See, i print out my recipes, and write down exactly what needs to be done for each, and what time they need to be done, so that everything’s on the table at the right time.  Unfortunately, I hadn’t taken into account the need for Elaine and I to coordinate when she arrived at our home with four dishes that needed to be heated up, and two dishes of mine that needed to be made at the last minute, while keeping the stuffing and meat warm. 

Ah well – I know better now what to do for next time, and the food really did all taste good.  We had turkey, stovetop stuffing, mashed potatoes, candied yams, green beans with toasted almonds, balsamic cipollini onions, cornbread stuffing with roasted fall vegetables, brussels sprouts with chestnuts and gorgonzola, cider glazed pork loin, then all the usual accompaniments.  I made Chris’ favorite appetizer – a baked brie wrapped in phyllo dough and stuffed with a mixture of toasted pecans, caramelized onions, and dried fruits.  I was thinking of putting this recipe in the next newsletter, but then I realized that is the January/February Newsletter, so it isn’t really fitting.  So, I’ll just blog it, then you can make it for your guests!

This Thanksgiving was one of my more meaningful ones, I think.  I am so thankful for so many things, and I love a holiday that centers around gratitude.  Gratitude must be rather important to have an official, government-declared holiday dedicated to it, don’t you think?  I am so thankful that I was able to celebrate Thanksgiving in our new home.  I realized that at 29 years old, we now have a business, a home, a son, friends and family, even a cat.  I’ve had some less than wonderful days lately, but when I look at the big picture, I realize that we are truly richly blessed.  Currently I’m reading a series of books I haven’t read since I was a child, which is set with a family of pioneers who have traveled west to stake their claim in uninhabited territory.  We take a lot for granted here in America.  I can open a refridgerater full of food and complain that there is nothing to eat.  I could complain that our house needs a paint job, new carpet, or a bigger kitchen, but I have running water, a roof over my head, and warm bed to sleep in.  My child is not only healthy and happy, he sleeps through the night!  And now we welcome in the first Christmas season in our new home, with our new son, and I am just tickled.  To see Christmas through the eyes of my child…I can’t imagine any higher privilege in life.

Happy Thanksgiving, and welcome Christmas Spirit!

C is for Cooking

C is for cooking.  I love to cook.  This is a fairly new thing for me.  I wasn’t taught to do much cooking as a kid; my involvement with dinner was relatively limited to setting the table and doing the dishes.  But when I graduated high school and moved to Seattle to go to college, I got on this handmade kick that came out of nowhere.  I wanted to learn to make everything, and from scratch.  I don’t really know why, it just felt really good to take piles of stuff and turn them into something.  I learned to make bread (sort of), soap, to crochet, and I started cooking. 

My love affair with food has grown slowly and steadily for the last 10 years.  When I got my first job in Seattle and started going to lunch with my coworkers, I was introduced to even more new foods and new flavors.  This meat-and-potatoes country gal is now cooking fancy-schmansy yummy nummy foods like flank steak, crepes, cheesecake, Vietnamese, Indian, and all sorts of delicious dishes with ingredients like curry, rice noodles, sweet potatoes, fresh herbs, chilies, lime juice, fresh ginger, caramelized onions, and oh….yum.  Fortunately, I have a very understanding and adventurous husband who says he is willing to try anything at least once, and has.  I’ve only had one flop so far, a broth-based soup with gobs of spinach and not much else.  It was very…green.  It was very yummy when I had it at Beth’s house, but in my kitchen it was a flop.

Some of my favorite recipe websites are Cooking Light Magazine’s, The Food Network’s, and Epicurious.  This weekend we hadn’t much food in the house at all, and of course we were very hungry, and I whipped up something that even made Chris say "I could be a vegetarian every now and then if I got to eat food like this."  It was sooooo good.

Roasted Harvest Vegetables

1 Yam or Sweet Potato, peeled and cut into 1.5" cubes
4 medium Red Potatoes, quartered
1/2 small Pumpkin (like Sugar Pie), peeled and cut into 1.5" cubes
2 Carrots, peeled and sliced 2" thick
1 Zucchini, sliced 2" thick
1 Onion, sliced 1/2" thick
1 Garlic head
2 T Olive Oil, plus extra for drizzling
1/4 cup Chicken Broth
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground Black Pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 loaf of yummy crusty bread

1.  Preheat oven to 425.
2.  Remove outer papery layers of garlic head, and slice off top 1/3 (don’t peel the cloves).  Drizzle with a teaspoon or so of olive oil and wrap with a double thickness of foil.  Set in the middle of a jelly roll pan.
3.  Arrange vegetables in a single layer in the pan around the garlic, placing the slices of onion toward the corners, and any thicker pieces of vegetables toward the middle.
4.  Drizzle with olive oil and chicken broth, sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic, and thyme.  Toss to coat.
5.  Roast in the oven for 45 minutes, or until tender, taking out once to turn (and sprinkle with more olive oil, salt, and/or pepper to taste) after about 20 minutes.

Serve the vegetables with crusty bread, cheese, and fruit.  Unwrap the garlic from the foil, squeeze out the cloves, and eat with the vegetables, or spread over the crusty bread.  Experiment with different vegetables if you like, such as rutabega, turnip, parsnip, or different types of onion.  If you have any leftovers, heat them up the next day along with any leftover chicken broth, puree in a blender, add a little milk or cream, and season to taste, and you have a yummy, healthy autumn vegetable soup!