Friday, December 31, 2010

Side Dishes

No one just wants a main dish. There has to be a dance partner on the plate. Here is a list of flavorful accents to your main dish!

Bacon & Cheese Fritters
Cheesy Garlic Monkey Bread ~ A change from the garlic bread norm

Cheesy Polenta with Mushrooms ~ Very simple to make and full of flavor

Fried Rice ~ Easy Chinese ~ An extremely easy way to make take-out style fried rice at home!

Fritters ~ Bacon & Cheese ~ Quick and simple to make.

Fruity Ambrosia Salad ~ Not your typical ambrosia salad…fresh, light and Jell-O free!

Grandma Stella's Cornbread ~ My Grammy's cornbread recipe (traditional or sweet)

Cheesy Polenta with Mushrooms
Homemade Cranberry Sauce ~ After savoring this sauce, there is no reason to ever used canned again.

Honey N' Spice Sweet Potatoes ~ An alternative to the traditional sweet potatoes...sweetly spiced & just a little salty.

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes ~ A perfect side dish for any meat-n-potatoes dinner

Sauteed Garlic Mushrooms ~ One of our family's favorite side dishes. Mushrooms & garlic galore!

Simple Pinto Beans ~ Perfect for Mexican dishes, a BBQ side or Grandma Stella's Cornbread.

Sweet Potato Banana Crumble Casserole ~ An amazing addition to any holiday meal...or just an everyday treat.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Family Tradition Out The Window

Photo: Embassy Of Norway, DC

Today I'm a little bit frustrated...alright, I'm ALOT frustrated. Tomorrow is my precious Grace's 6th birthday, and it just happens to also be Christmas Eve when I'm used to celebrating Norwegian style...but this year I'll be rushing through the day only to go to work for an unknown amount of time. Originally those of us working were told that we'd be able to come in early and finish our shift by at least 8p...well, that's all changed. Why do businesses do that to their employees? It's just plain WRONG! I ask myself, "Is it really worth it to go in and miss my daughter's birthday night & family's traditional celebration for only $40?" Nope, it's really not worth it...but then I'm faced with the fact that if I call-in and don't show, the other people working with me won't get back to their families until after midnight...and I just can't do that to them. It's not their fault that we're all stuck working beyond the time that we were told we'd be working. I mean, they are just as frustrated and disappointed as I am. AGH! Sometimes I wish that I didn't care or think about how one thing I do could effect others...but I do. So now I'm in the madcap rush to get a gingerbread house's parts baked. Get the Lefse, Kranskake & Fyrstekake made. Make sure that my daughter is all set for her birthday and face the ugly fact that I will be missing the entire evening. :( Next year this will NOT be happening! Fun little tidbits:

Norwegian Christmas At Union Station

For the 14th year in a row, The Royal Norwegian Embassy celebrates the Christmas season at Union Station, with a 32-foot Christmas tree on display through January 3, 2011, and a train exhibit.
December 2nd : 6:00 pm: Tree lighting ceremony to light the 32 foot tall Christmas tree, decorated with 20 000 lights and streamers of Norwegian and American flags. This event annually draws hundreds of Washingtonians to the main hall of Union Station. The tree is a gift to the people of Washington, D.C., and is a symbol of friendship between the United States and Norway. It also expresses Norway’s gratitude for assistance received from the United States during and after World War II. The nationally recognized Children’s Chorus of Washington, representing over 100 schools in the metropolitan Washington area, will be performing holiday songs. The tree and decorations will be on display from December 2 through January 3, 2011. Statoil is the sponsor of this year's Norwegian Christmas at Union Station.

Traditional Christmas Eve in Norway & Iceland - Wikipedia

Further information: Jul (Norway)
In Iceland and Norway, Yule(jul/jól) starts on the night of December 24, at 6:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. respectively. Church bellsring at that time and people either sit down for holiday dinner at home or with their family. After that they open gifts and spend the evening together. In Iceland people most often eat hamborgarahryggur and svínabógur, while in Norway there are a wide variety of traditional meals depending on family traditions and geographic location. E.g. In the northern part of the country, Cod and Lutefisk are typical, while in the western part Pinnekjøtt, which is steamed ribs from lamb, that is more common. In the east the most common meal is Ribbe, which is oven cooked Pork ribs.

Norwegian Christmas Traditions -

Norwegian children always remember a little gnome Nisse at Christmastime. He guards all the farm animals, and he plays tricks on the children if they forget to place a bowl of special porridge for him.Norway has its gift-bearing little gnome or elf. Known as Julebukk or "Christmas buck," he appears as a goat-like creature. Julebukkharkens back to Viking times when pagans worshipped Thor and his goat. During pagan celebrations a person dressed in a goatskin, carrying a goat head, would burst in upon the party and during the course of evening would "die" and return to life.During the early Christian era, the goat began to take the form of the devil, and would appear during times of wild merry-making and jubilation. By the end of the Middle Ages, the game was forbidden by the Church and the state. In more recent times the goat has emerged in the tamer form of Julebukk.A favorite holiday cookie is called a sand kager is made by mixing 2 cups of butter and sugar, 4 cups of flour, and 1 cup of chopped almonds. This pressed into a tin, baked until golden brown, and cut into squares.In the dark afternoons, in the Viking tradition, children go from house to house asking for goodies.Norwegians eat lye-treated codfish, and wash it down with boiled potatoes, rice porridge, gingerbread, and punch.Norwegians are very close to the North Pole, and they strongly hope for the magic of snow for the holydays! Christmas in Norway begins with the Saint Lucia ceremony on the 13 December. At the crack of dawn, the youngest daughter from each family puts on a white robe with a sash, a crown with evergreens and tall-lighted candles, accompanied by the other children, the boys dressed as star boys in long white shirts and pointed hats. They wake their parents, and serve them coffee and Lucia buns, lussekatter. The custom goes back to a Christian virgin, Lucia, martyred for her beliefs at Syracuse in the fourth century. The Saint Lucia ceremony is fairly recent, but it represents the traditional thanksgiving for the return of the sun.The Christmas tree, juletre, spruce or pine tree usually, are often decorated with candles, apples, red harts, cornets, straw ornaments, balls of glass and tinsels, all depending on what you like. The homes have a scent of resin, hyacinths, red tulips, spices and tangerines. Some children, especially in the country still believe in and remember a little gnome or elf, fjøsnissen at Christmas time. He is told to guard all the farm animals, and he plays tricks if the children forget to place a bowl of special rice porridge, risengrynsgrøt, in the barn or outside for him. This is old superstition. Norwegians also love to eat this porridge on the 23 December, lillejulaften, and then it holds a magic almond inside. The one who finds it gets a prize. Some eat the rice porridge for lunch on the 24th. Perhaps in the evening they have some gløgg, it is a spicy drink (you can add some red wine if you like), with raisins and chopped almonds. Julaften, on the 24 December, a lot of people go to church service before they gather at home around the table for a nice Christmas Eve dinner. The dinner can consist of a rib with a good crackling, ribbe, (served with "cabbage à la norvégienne", surkaal, potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, sprouts, prunes and brown sauce), salted and dried ribs of mutton, pinnekjoett, (served with potatoes, carrots and mashed swedes), or lye-treated codfish, lutefisk (served with potatoes, bacon and pea stew). For dessert: rice blended with whipped cream served with a red sauce, riskrem, caramel pudding, cherry mousse, or whipped cream blended with multer (orange, wonderful berries found on the mountain - looks like rasberries). In the evening Santa Claus, julenissen, arrives with gifts. Often it is snowing. In the days between Christmas and New Years Eve, romjulen, the children sometimes go from house to house in the afternoon asking for sweets, this tradition is called "Christmas buck", julebukk. The tradition harkens back to the Viking times when pagans worshipped Thor and his goat, but just a few children keep up the tradition today. On Christmas Day a lot of people have a big brunch at noon or dinner in the afternoon for friends and family. It is done the Italian way and can last for several wonderful hours! Traditional cakes and cookies made at Christmas can be julekake (with raisins), kryddekake, delfiakake, rosettbakels, fattigmann, smultringer, goro, silkekaker, pepperkaker, kokosmakroner. Different nuts, fruits, figs, dates and sweets also belong to the celebration. God Jul! (Merry Christmas!)

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Family Recipe Favorites

Christmas time has always been my favorite time of the year....all of the baking!!!

I remember going to my grandparents' house every year a few days before Christmas Eve and beginning our dessert baking process. My Daddy's family came over from Norway when he was only 10 years old...and I love that the traditions that they had in Norway are still continued today. This year is the first year that I am the official keeper of my Grandma Elly's Kransekake ring molds...that's HUGE. It's the highlight dessert of the evening...perfect alone or being dunked into a cup of hot coffee or cocoa. And to know that my 100-year-old Grandma knows that her traditions are being carried on with her great-grandchildren, well that's just something that warms my heart and brings tears to my eyes...she's thrilled too. Here are a few of our family's favorite recipes for the Christmas celebration...

Egg Nog French Toast ~ A wonderful way to enjoy egg nog in the morning

Spiced Monkey Bread ~ This monkey bread is the hit of any breakfast, brunch or dessert

Fruity Ambrosia Salad ~ My Momma's recipe. Not your typical ambrosia salad…fresh, light and Jell-O free!

Prosciutto & Cheese Rosettes ~ Very Simple To Make…perfect for special events or family get-togethers

Fyrstekake ~ Norwegian Almond Coffee Cake (Royalty Cake) ~ A wonderful Norwegian coffee cake packed with almonds

Kransekake ~ Norwegian Crown Cake or “Viking” Wedding Cake ~ Almond “cake” ringed tower**

Cheat-N-Eat Candy Cane Cookies ~ Perfect way to dress-up sugar cookies for the holiday season

Sweet Potato Banana Crumble Casserole~ If you like sweet potatoes, you will love this recipe…if you don’t like them, then you will love this casserole. Perfect as a side or dessert dish!

Homemade Cranberry Sauce ~ After savoring this sauce, there is no reason to ever used canned again.

Cinema Sunday ~ A Two-fer For Christmas Time

bing-crosby-white-christmas-gene-kelly-dvd-cover-art holiday-inn-bing-crosby-dvd-cover-art

With all of the Christmas holiday preperation, not to mention my daily work, I have been taking a little break from writing and reviewing...
My apologies. Really, I have been wanting to do some good old Hollywood reviews of Christmas-time cinema fun, the time just keeps getting away from me.
So, here are two of my absolute favorite Christmas holiday movies...if you haven't already had the pleasure of viewing them, then take a little time out of the chaos and pop a big bowl of popcorn, relax and enjoy a little Bing Crosby (& Danny Kaye) this holiday season.

White Christmas & Holiday Inn

Not only is White Christmas one of my all time favorite songs and movies, but it was originally sung by Bing Crosby in Holiday Inn. And being that we are all out shopping and decorating for Christmas, the vocals of Bing Crosby are so ideal for chiming in the Christmas season. Listen, watch and enjoy!

The old Hollywood Classics are my favorite movies to watch this time of year...and it doesn't hurt that Bing Crosby is one of my favorite crooners. If you have never watched Holiday Inn (shown in the video) or even heard of it, then head to the movie supplier of your choice and invest one evening into some old Hollywood magic. There is just such a classic air of romance that sets them apart and makes them truly "Classic Hollywood". The plot behind Holiday Inn is very similar to that of White Christmas...just a few changes here and there. But Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire are such a brilliant pairing that it really doesn't matter...

View complete posting: Cinema Sunday ~ A Two-fer For Christmas Time

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dressed-Up Classroom Cupcakes ~ Princess Cupcakes

My little Grace has a birthday coming up...specifically Christmas Eve. So, since her school lets out on the 18th, we had to bump up the date to spring sugar onto her little classmates. When I agreed to bring in some cupcakes the Wednesday before the were released for the Christmas break, I didn't think about the fact that they would be having a party the following day. 
Oh, her poor teacher...sugar with 3-5 year-0lds two days in a row! Of course my little princess was thrilled that she was getting to have a "cupcake party" at school...and of course, Momma was completely drained this particular morning with cupcakes at the top of the "To Do List". I never knew that making simple cupcakes could be so energy & mind zapping. And I never thought I'd be sleep deprived because of writing a blog post! *ha-HA!*
There is something that I have come out of this with that is now firmly not spend three evenings writing and photo editing until 4:00am when your children get up at 7:15am-8:00am. The effects of sleep deprivation changes making simple, little cupcakes into a major task.
But, I took a deep breath, made a 6-cup pot of coffee, got breakfast going for the kiddles and jumped right into my task at hand. You may notice how quickly the mug tends to go down as I go along. Figured that Pooh would help me get through my morning all bright and sunny yellow...kinda worked. 
At first, I was going to make some of the cupcakes chocolate and some strawberry. But that was just too simple for me. I couldn't just make plain chocolate and strawberry cupcakes...I mean, kids need something with a little surprise in it. Something to make them go, "Oooo! Look!"
So, since I was needing as much help as possible to just get the task done...I leaned on Duncan Hines & Pillsbury this morning. As I made one cake batter in Duncan Hines' Dark Chocolate and the other in Pillsbury's Strawberry it came to me. 
I even shocked myself just because of the simple fact that the caffeine had not kicked-in yet. Okay, get the strawberry cake mix going..
Grace had the eggs covered...she insisted that she had to wear her pink Barbie jammies to help...

And just like that *snap*, we had beautiful cream strawberry goodness. 

One down, one to go....drink some more coffee.
Get the mixing bowl cleaned up. It's not free from working yet.
Next up, dark chocolate fudge cake mix.
Another few swigs of coffee....notice anything? 
It's going fast. In reflection, I'm actually pretty proud of myself for not downing the whole mug within the first 2 minutes.
Okay, enough reflection...2 minutes goes by and I now am looking at a bowl full of chocolaty batter.
Mmmmm...should I or shouldn't I take a little taste? Nah, I'll wait.
Okay, confession time. My sister-in-law Rachael gave me this brilliant idea to keep the mess down to a minimum. When dealing with cupcakes, pour the batter into ziplock bags and snip off a little bit of the corner...

Usually I have batter all over the pan from spooning it into the paper cups. Not anymore! Thanks Rach! 

Alright, so here's how I did it....pour a little bit of the main flavor (chocolate here) into the bottom of the paper cup...

Then pour just about a tablespoon's worth of the other cake batter (Grace's strawberry) right in the center. 

Then make a ring around the edge of the paper cup with the main batter, working toward the center to cover the other's surprise inside. Alright, drink a little more coffee....savor the taste....deep breath.....batch number 2! Notice how the coffee is dwindling?

With another jolt of caffeine, I grabbed my trusty baggie of strawberry batter (after a quick refill) and went to work! 

It came together amazingly fast this time...I had this baggie thing down pretty good now. (if only my hands weren't so sticky from the first run with the chocolate) 

And the coffee is now hitting just about the one tablespoon point in my happy, little mug. Good thing I still have another 4 cups ready and waiting for me in the coffee pot. 

Alrighty, my oven is piping in both trays go. (I don't have time to waist on doing things one at a time) Cook my beauties, cook into perfect, fluffy, little cakes of happiness. 

Timer goes off....checking doneness....toothpick is clean! Thank you for your obedience you yummy goodies you. 
Pop everyone out of the muffin tin, onto a cooling rack...and grab two just to see how everything turned out on the inside.
BEAUTIFUL! I must confess that I thought there would be a dot of the other batter right in the middle...but this was even better! And Grace went nuts when she saw the inside.

"These are princess cupcakes Momma! Is that magic? Can I have one?" Music to my ears. Grace is excited, so that means I have succeeded. It's not just me who thinks that these look fun & special. 
Give Grace a cupcake (she goes for the chocolate, of course) and one to Rose (who is my fruity little sweetie, so strawberry is perfect) and get ready for FROSTING.

Frosting, bought chocolate?

Not feeling it.

Simple white icing? Nope, not good enough.

Ah, I have it! A Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting...PERFECT. (see recipe)


Whip that frosting up really quickly...5 minutes is all I need. Grab another little sandwich baggie, fill it, snip it and grab cupcake #1.

Here we go. I started frosting from the outside rim. The look I was hoping for was something along the lines of a flower for the final result. So I started doing little circles as I frosted. Outer ring done. Nice.

Ring #2....almost there. Alright, I only need two little circles for the center.

YES! A beautiful bunch of rose cupcakes. But off-white is not really the good enough. Sprinkles, I needed sprinkles. None in the cupboard. Not good. Sugar! Sugar + Food Coloring = Super Fine Sprinkles! Pour a 1/4 cup of granulated sugar into a tea cup and head to the pantry for my food coloring.


Come on red, we're going for light pink sprinkles. As I'm mixing this sugar the thought comes to me, "The boys will hate having pink cupcakes. Oh well, it's not their birthday."


So the mixing continues until it all blended into a gorgeous girly pink.

Time to apply the magic...Sprinkle, sprinkle...careful, not too much. There we go. Very pretty...but still needs a little something to make it "pop".

And for a final touch, a dark chocolate covered raisin right in the center. Now that's a princess cupcake!

Needless to say that when I got them to the school the kids went nuts. So did the teachers.


Not too bad for a sleep deprived Momma.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Destruction Zone ~ I Am Learning A Valueable Lesson

This morning I woke to find that my main blog site had vanished.

Yes, vanished.

This is definitely a DESTRUCTION ZONE. And this one will take far more time to fix than any other that I've had to deal with.

That means that all of the links that say "View Complete Posting" are not working...because my content on the main site had disapeared into the abyss of cyberdom.

"That's alright, you made backups right?"

Uh, nope...I may be able to write, but when I read WordPress' articles on backing up your blog, it's like reading a foreign language to me. So I am left without a backup of my postings...and right now that REALLY stinks.

SO, unless my server can magically go back to a time before they did their maintenance yesterday, I'll have to try to put on my "Fix-It" cap and get into the mood for RE-blogging.

Say a few prayers for me, PLEASE! I'm not wanting to put on that cap...and I honestly just don't have the time now.

*fingers crossed*

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Personal Spiced Pineapple Upside Down Cakes

I have never really been a fan of the traditional pineapple upside down cake, neither has's just too fruity sweet for us.

And then I had a brilliant idea...why not spice it up just a little bit? So, I did! Oh let me just tell you...the smells that your nose is treated with, they are just heavenly. And now we want this a couple nights a week...which is not a good thing for anyone's waistline, but perhaps it will become a monthly treat. So I start by preheating my oven to 350°F. (or whatever your cake mix box calls for a batch of cupcakes) Next, I tear into that cake box and prepare the batter per the box's directions.
Easy, simple...batter is done and ready to go.

Pull out some crushed pineapple and Maraschino cherries. It's a good thing that I hid the cherries from Charming, there wouldn't be any for the cakes if I didn't. I then pour the pineapple into a strainer and allow the juice to drain...too much juice and it would be a very wet set of cakes.

Next step, a light coating of cooking spray to prepare my cake pan. Once my pan is ready, out come the Marrachino cherries! Place one cherry in the center of each little cake mold.

Then for each cake I take aproximately 1 teaspoon of the pineapples and fill around the cherry.

Over to the stove now to heat up the sugar & spice mixture. Over medium heat I melt my butter and then add in the dark brown sugar (light brown sugar could be used too, I prefer the extra molasses in the dark brown for these cakes), cinnamon and nutmeg.

Then I give it a few minutes to allow the spices and sugar to be well blended. (2-3 minutes) It's still a bit grainy, but everything comes out perfectly after the upcoming bake session in the oven.

Spoon just a teaspoon of the sugar & spice mixture over the pineapple and cherry in each mold.

Then fill each cake mold to the middle of the mold. These are going to puff up quite a bit.

Into the oven for 19-22 minutes, check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cakes. When the toothpick can be cleanly removed, they are done!

I give the cakes a couple minutes to just settle a bit, then take my cooling rack and a baking sheet and invert them onto the cakes. This way I can easily flip the mini cakes right onto the cooling rack...and keep any crumbs off of my counter. FLIP!

Just look at how scrumptious these little beauties are! And if any pineapple is still in the cake pans, just spoon it out and add it where needed. (and sneak a little treat too)

Remember how much they puffed up? At this point you will have a decision to make...leave the cakes as-is or carefully trim off the cakes to make a level surface. I like leaving them just as they are...who wants to bypass a little more cake anyway? Place into a pretty little bowl or plate and they are ready to be dug into. (or you could just pop them into your mouth)

Personal Spiced Pineapple Upside Down Cakes
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 19-22 minutes
Level: Easy
Yield: 22-24 mini cakes

4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) Butter
3/4 cup Dark Brown Sugar
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon, ground
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg, ground 2 cans Pineapple Tidbits or Crushed Pineapple (drained)
Maraschino cherries or candied cherries (optional)

Duncan Hines Yellow Cake Mix
Prepared per box directions: 3 eggs, (per box directions for cupcakes)

Preheat oven to 350°F. (or whatever the cake mix directions call for cupcakes)
Prepare mini cake pan, or cupcake pan, with a light coating of cooking spray. (or butter or shortening)
Place one Marachino cherry in the center of each mold.
Spoon 1 teaspoon of pinapple around each cherry.

In a small saucepan melt butter, dark sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg over medium heat for 4-5 minutes.
Drizzle 1 teaspoon of sugar mixture over pineapple.
Spoon cake mix over fruit.
Fill each cake mold to the halfway point.

Bake for 19-22 minutes, or until a toothpick can be inserted in the middle of each cake and removed clean.
Let sit for 3-5 minutes.
Place an inverted cooling rack on top of the cakes and flip the pan so that the cakes are now sitting on the cooling rack.
Give the cake pan a little jiggle to make sure that the cakes have released fully.
Gently remove the cake pan and allow cakes to cook.

Serve & Enjoy![/print_this]