Monday, November 26, 2012

Christmas Craft Ideas

I am so excited about the Christmas season! I found some really cute Christmas craft ideas on Pinterest that I hope to try soon.

Here are some good gift wrapping ideas. I really like the wrapping paper bows! It is such a good way to use scraps of wrapping paper.

This Christmas tree made of newspapers reminds me of the ones I used to make out of old telephone books as a child. Although I have to say that this one is MUCH cuter. My phone books ones were kind of ugly but they were fun:-)

One last one...paper stars





Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving Dinner

In my opinion, the best part about Thanksgiving dinner is the sides. I could pretty much just forget the turkey (!) and just enjoy everything else. However, if there wasn't a turkey then it wouldn't seem like Thanksgiving so I guess we will just have to keep turkey as part of the dinner. I have been looking at new ideas for side dishes this year and found a few good looking ones.

Here is one of that looked really good for any time of the year.
                                                      
                                                                        Cauliflower alla Parmigiana

  • Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly coat an 8- by 10-inch oval baking dish with butter. Bring a large pot of water and 3 teaspoons salt to a boil. Add the cauliflower and boil until they are slightly softened, about 4 minutes.
  • Drain well, cool slightly, and slice stems lengthwise to 1/4-inch thickness. Arrange the slices, overlapping them tightly, in the prepared baking dish. Season with salt and black pepper, and dot with butter. Sprinkle the top with the cheese. Bake uncovered until lightly browned on top, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.


  • Read more: Cauliflower alla Parmigiana - Country Living

  • 1 head(s) (1 1/2-pounds) cauliflower, separated into large florets
  • 1/4 teaspoon(s) sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon(s) ground black pepper


  • Read more: Cauliflower alla Parmigiana - Country Living

  • 1 head(s) (1 1/2-pounds) cauliflower, separated into large florets
  • 1/4 teaspoon(s) sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon(s) ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 tablespoon(s) butter
    localoffersIcon
  • 1/3 cup(s) freshly grated Parmesan chees


  • Read more: Cauliflower alla Parmigiana - Country Living

  • 1 head(s) (1 1/2-pounds) cauliflower, separated into large florets
  • 1/4 teaspoon(s) sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon(s) ground black pepper


  • Read more: Cauliflower alla Parmigiana - Country Living

  • 1 head(s) (1 1/2-pounds) cauliflower, separated into large florets
  • 1/4 teaspoon(s) sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon(s) ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 tablespoon(s) butter
    localoffersIcon
  • 1/3 cup(s) freshly grated Parmesan chees


  • Read more: Cauliflower alla Parmigiana - Country Living

  • Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly coat an 8- by 10-inch oval baking dish with butter. Bring a large pot of water and 3 teaspoons salt to a boil. Add the cauliflower and boil until they are slightly softened, about 4 minutes.
  • Drain well, cool slightly, and slice stems lengthwise to 1/4-inch thickness. Arrange the slices, overlapping them tightly, in the prepared baking dish. Season with salt and black pepper, and dot with butter. Sprinkle the top with the cheese. Bake uncovered until lightly browned on top, about 30 minutes. Serve hot.


  • Read more: Cauliflower alla Parmigiana - Country Living 


    Ingredients
    • 1 head(s) (1 1/2-pounds) cauliflower, separated into large florets
    • 1/4 teaspoon(s) sea salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon(s) ground black pepper
    • 2 1/2 tablespoon(s) butter
    • 1/3 cup(s) freshly grated Parmesan cheese


    Directions
    1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly coat an 8- by 10-inch oval baking dish with butter. Bring a large pot of water and 3 teaspoons salt to a boil. Add the cauliflower and boil until they are slightly softened, about 4 minutes.
    Drain well, cool slightly, and slice stems lengthwise to 1/4-inch thickness. Arrange the slices, overlapping them tightly, in the prepared baking dish. Season with salt and black pepper, and dot with butter. Sprinkle the top with the cheese. Bake uncovered until lightly browned on top, about 30 minutes. Serve hot
    1 head(s) (1 1/2-pounds) cauliflower, separated into larg

    Read more: Cauliflower alla Parmigiana - Country Living

    Monday, November 19, 2012

    Cooking for the Holidays!


    It is my favorite time of year...the chill in the air, the smell of smoke from the chimney, warm cozy sweaters, bustling shopping malls, time spent with friends and family, Christmas music, and the smell of turkey dinners and pumpkin pies. One thing I always bake this time of year is a pumpkin roll. Somehow it is like the official start of the holidays for me...here is a recipe that is for my personal favorite thanksgiving desert. Happy Thanksgiving!



    Ingredients

    • 3 eggs, separated
    • 1 cup sugar, divided
    • 2/3 cup canned pumpkin
    • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • FILLING:
    • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
    • 2 tablespoons butter, softened
    • 1 cup confectioners' sugar
    • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • Additional confectioners' sugar, optional

    Directions

    • Line a 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan with waxed paper; grease the paper and set aside. In a large bowl, beat egg yolks on high speed until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually add 1/2 cup sugar and pumpkin, beating on high until sugar is almost dissolved.
    • In a small bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining sugar, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold into egg yolk mixture. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; gently fold into pumpkin mixture. Spread into prepared pan.
    • Bake at 375° for 12-15 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched. Cool for 5 minutes. Turn cake onto a kitchen towel dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Gently peel off waxed paper. Roll up cake in the towel jelly-roll style, starting with a short side. Cool completely on a wire rack.
    • In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter, confectioners' sugar and vanilla until smooth. Unroll cake; spread filling evenly to within 1/2 in. of edges. Roll up again. Cover and freeze until firm. May be frozen for up to 3 months. Remove from the freezer 15 minutes before cutting. Dust with confectioners’ sugar if desired. Yield: 10 servings.

    Sunday, November 11, 2012

    Cuisine of the Emerald Isle



    With vast green plains and rugged cliffs that line its shores, Ireland is a country of beauty. While its western terrain is rough and rocky, the terrain between the east and southern areas of Ireland is rich and good for growing crops and grazing cattle on. The climate is moderate with temperatures rarely exceeding sixty-eight degrees Fahrenheit or dropping below thirty-two degrees Fahrenheit.  Plenty of heavy rainfall attributes to the country’s proverbial forty shades of green and its nickname “The Emerald Isle.” The fertile soil and temperate climate of Ireland has allowed agriculture to be a major part of its economy. The availability of many grains and root vegetables along with dairy products has molded Ireland’s cuisine throughout history from the arrival of the Celts to modern day.

    The ancient eating habits of the Celts were recorded by several classical writers including Posidonius, a Syrian Greek philosopher. He described feasts that would take place among the Celts, in which they would “place dried grass on the floor when they [ate] their meals, using tables which [were] raised slightly off the ground” (Davidson 149-50).  Posidonius also described daily eating habits in which the Celts “sat on the ground on straw or hides, and ate their meat with their fingers in a cleanly by leonine fashion, raising up whole limbs in both hands and biting off the meat” (Wilson 68). The men would be served by their children. Cooking methods of these ancient Celts was simple and consisted of stewing or roasting over an open fire. They used a cauldron for stewing which is a large, open mouthed  pot with an arched shaped hanger that would allow it to be hung over a fire. In order to roast meats, they would place them on a large branch and hold it over the hot coals. The Celts were mainly hunters and gatherers of food, eating what they could hunt and the odd vegetables gathered from the woods. In coastal regions their diet was supplemented with seafood as well (Ireland - Traditional Irish Cuisine). During a part of this period of Celts, known as the Celtic Iron Age, the establishment of salt preserved meat came about. In order to preserve meat for the winter the Celts would salt the meat and then steep in a brine for seventeen days followed by a two day drying period, then rubbed with oil and vinegar to further preservation, and finally, smoked for two more days. As with many other countries, necessity became the mother of invention for the ancient Irish, and they constantly found new ways to survive and gather food to be eaten in times when there was none.

    Politics and wars often have a way of changing culture and cuisine in a country or region which Ireland experienced early in their history. The arrival of the Norsemen in the eight century limited hunting as the Irish were no longer allowed to hunt where they pleased. People began to grow their own small gardens of wheat, peas, and beans to live off of which became the new staple foods. The Norsemen, as well as the English who invaded in the twelfth century, brought with them and introduced foods to the Irish which eventually became integrated as part of their cuisine. Agriculture, along with the cultivation of wheat, oats and barley was introduced as well as domesticated animals such as sheep, goats, cattle, hens, ducks, and geese. Raising cattle led to producing dairy products and supplementing their simple, yet nutritious, diet with milk, butter, and cheese. Although all of these foods had been added to the staple diet of the Irish, the goals of innovation by the invading British, who had begun to clear the ancient forests, had little effect on the Irish due to the wars that constantly waged. The Irish, who had become adjusted to having their own little plot of land and a few cattle to live off of, were being forced off their property and on to the bleaker regions of the west. This was the area of Ireland that lacked the rich soil and fertile ground of the east and was harder to grow on. Their diet, which had been growing varied, became very simple and bleak causing poverty to break out all over the land.

    It was then that the most popular food of Ireland was introduced; the potato. It was a lifesaver for the poverty stricken, a miracle. The potato grew in the hard soil of western region of Ireland and because it grew underground, it was protected from the cool weather even through the ice age of 1650 to 1720. The potato crop is one of the most efficient crops for converting natural resources, such as labor and capital, into high quality food, which can be harvested after sixty days. It provides much needed carbohydrates to the poverty stricken (Linnane).  By 1663 the potato had become the staple food of Ireland replacing older staples, and the average Irish male consumed them at a rate of fourteen pounds a day. The Irish diet at this point, along with potatoes, included mostly stews made by cooking tough meats for long periods of time and roasted meats that had been preserved by salting or drying. With the addition of some dairy products and oats the rural population began to come out of poverty. By 1770 the potato began to be called the Irish Potato and was heavily associated with the depressed agricultural areas. This one small plant introduced by the new world had the power to give a war torn and poverty stricken people the ability to survive.

    The potato did more than just save the lives of the impoverished; it changed the population in a drastic way. It required no threshing, curing, or grinding like the other foods that the Irish had previously depended on and was so simple to grow that the children could do it. The climate proved to be perfect for growing potatoes and soon they went from being an addition to a meal to being the main course. Health benefits were high which led to a drastic drop in infant mortality and encouraged early marriage. This led to the population growing so rapidly that it doubled by 1780 (Chappman 1). The potato had singlehandedly changed a country in a way that no other food product has ever done before.

    The potato was in fact the Irish economy, and when the potato was doing well, so was the economy, but if the potato failed, this would also mean that the economy would as well. Ireland had become solely dependent on the potato. In fact, by 1840 half of Ireland’s population survived solely on potatoes, particularly a few high volume varieties, and milk. The economy’s drastic upward climb suddenly came to a halt and a quickly descended through a series of famines that occurred between 1739 and 1847. The first one in 1739 was caused by extreme cold rainy weather which affected the crop negatively and led to several poor harvests. Hunger and starvation, which had started to become a distant memory in the lives of the Irish, once again started to abound and led to many fatal diseases. As if this wasn’t bad enough, 1846 brought the worst famine yet, known as the Irish Potato Famine, which led to the greatest period of poverty and starvation Ireland had ever known. It was caused by a disease known as the potato blight (Phytophora Infestans). The Irish refer to this famine as the Great Famine which translates in Gaelic to “an Gorta Mór” or “an Drochshaol” which means “the great hunger” or “the bad life.” In 1846 and 1847 alone, 1,000 lives were lost, 2,000,000 Irish emigrated, and another 3,000,000 became reliable on soup kitchens alone for survival. Ireland’s population declined by over fifty percent and became known as “the land of beggars.”  It seemed hard to believe that a simple, odd shaped, starchy, tuberous crop could serve as both the lifeline and the destruction of a nation.

    Even through the harshest times of the famine, the potato remained in the Irish diet and cuisine. Many Irish dishes that came about during the famine and all through the 1800’s are still popular today in modern day Ireland. One popular dish, Irish stew, contains mutton chops or kid, potatoes, onions, and water. The traditional method of making this stew is described by Petter Cassell in his Dictionary of Cookery.

    Take from two or three pounds of chops from the best end of a neck of mutton, and pare away nearly all the fat, for an Irish stew should not be greasy. If liked a portion of the breast may be cut into squares and used, but a neck of mutton is the best joint for the purpose. Take as many potatoes as amount after peeling to twice the weight of the meat. Slice them, and slice also eight large onions. Put a layer of mixed potatoes and onions at the bottom of a stew pan. Place the meat on this and season it plentifully with pepper and slightly with salt. Pack the ingredients closely, and cover the meat with another layer of potato and onion. Pour in as much water or stock as will moisten the topmost layer, cover the stew pan tightly, and let its contents simmer gently for three hours. Be careful not to remove the lid, as this will let out the flavor (Cassell 331).

    Colcann
    Another dish popular in the early 1800’s is called  colcannon and comes from the Gaelic word “cal ceannann” which literally means “white-headed cabbage” although it has also been said to be a derivative of the Gaelic word “ cainnenn” which could mean garlic, onion, or leek, which are all various ingredients that have been found in colcannon. Basically, it is a dish made of mashed potatoes, kale or cabbage, and seasoned with butter, salt, pepper, and a little vinegar.  This dish was considered a special dish eaten for breakfast or served with boiled, salted, meat for dinner.

    
    Blood Pudding
    A few other common dishes include shepherd’s pie and blood pudding. Shepherd’s pie found its roots in early England though it was also popular in Ireland and consists of meat and potatoes. Blood pudding consisted of animal “ blood…mixed with meal, which was processed into a black pudding, then salted or dried and used over the winter as a protein source” (Linnane).
    Shepherds Pie
     
    Stable ingredients found in traditional Irish foods include: oats, wheat, barley, dairy products including milk and cheeses, cabbage, parsnips, rutabagas, scallions, onions, lamb, and beef. Seafood was also found in coastal regions, and today, salmon, trout and lobster are commonly found in Irish cuisine. Seasonings other than salt and pepper were rarely used. Modern day Irish cuisine consists of mainly the same simple ingredients that the Celts and early Irish ate.

    Irish Stew
    Over the last forty years Ireland’s cuisine has experienced a reawakening. Colman Andrews, former editor of Saveur magazine, stated that the Irish are “rediscovering traditional cooking, revaluing locally grown ingredients, and intelligently adapting diverse culinary influences” (Manning).Farm to table dining has become a common theme throughout the “Emerald Isle” as over 320 special food growers and rural food entrepreneurs have built small scale businesses all over the countryside using the raw materials available to them. These businesses have produced world renowned cheeses and dairy products along with famous smoked salmon, soda bread, and beers. The pure, clean foods that remain in Ireland today are a reflection of its past and the many farmers that worked tirelessly to provide their families with food to survive. The potato, which had such a dramatic influence on Ireland’s economy, though beaten down by famine, remains the focal point of every true Irish meal.

     

    Works Cited

    A World By. "Ireland - Traditional Irish Cuisine." 2012. Ireland By. Web. 27 October 2012.

    Cassell, Petter. Cassell's Dictionary of Cookery with Numerous Illustrations. London: Galpin & Co, 1874. Print.

    Chappman, Jeff. "The Impact of the Potato." History Magazine January 2000. Print.

    Davidson, Alan. Oxford Compantion to Food. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1924. Print.

    Linnane, John. "A History of Irish Cuisine." 2 Feburary 2000. Ravensgaurd. Web. 27 October 2012.

    Manning, Ivy. "The new Irish cooking goes far beyond cabbage and potatoes ." 9 March 2012. Oregon Live. Web. 30 October 2012.

    Wilson, C. Ann. Food and Drink in Britain From the Stone Age to the 19th Century. Chicago: Academy Chicago Publishers, 2005. Print.