Christmas Together 2016

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Hello there– Hoping you had a sweet Christmas time with people you love–hugs and talks and good meals together.  We started off with a quick trip up the coast for Christmas with kids and then came home for more Christmas with kids here.

San Francisco Christmas with old AA, Jessica, Mae & Eero.
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photos: By the Christmas trees, always reading, walk to Blue Bottle for coffee.

Then home for 10 days o Christmas with family.
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photos:  Christmas cooking decorating, art projects and Christmas books.

It was a chance for cousins & grand grandparents to meet new little Lois.
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photos: Maryann gets to know her new cousin, Four generation photo with Great Grandma Lo, Great Grandma Helen cuddles Lois, Little Lo sleeping on Grandma’s lap.

My favorite times were sitting down together around the table.
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photos: Great Grandparents, Helen, Stu & Lorraine after Christmas Eve lunch,  cooking in the kitchen with Jodi, my second-sis Jenon on Christmas Eve, Christmas breakfast, Christmas night supper–tapas by the fire.

And there was some gift opening on Christmas morning after Grandpa Larry read the Christmas story.
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And a last few photos to remember the days together.
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photos: Micah, Jodi & 3 girls off to have family portrait taken, Ani & Brian (with little Lois) on a post Christmas hike, Laurel-the ever ready baby holder, family together on Christmas Eve.

Sorry for the photo overload!!  It was a fine full couple weeks.
Hope your Christmas was a sweet one and that you are hopeful for all that the New Year holds ahead…

Maple Butternut Squash Mash

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Hi there– Our big Christmas meal is on Christmas Eve, with the Great Grandparents and family come in from far and wide.  It’s a little hectic (read, stressful) getting it all on.  And a definite squish to squeeze all of us around the table.  But it’s one of my favorite parts of Christmas, Larry pouring wine, Jodi taking pictures, Laurel and the grand-girls trading puns.

And here’s one of the things we served up this year…

MAPLE BUTTENUT SQUASH MASH
1 large butternut squash, peeled & cubed
(about 6 cups of cubes)*
3 tab. olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
garnish: sliced green onion (or pumpkin seeds or pecans or feta… )

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Peel and cube the butternut squash.  Then mix it in a bowl with the olive oil and liberally salt and pepper it.  Spread the squash out on two baking sheets that have been sprayed with cooking spray.  Roast the squash in a 375 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes until it is tender.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the roasted squash, milk, vanilla, salt and maple syrup with an electric mixer or a stick blender.  Continue beating until it is smooth and creamy.  Serve it up nice and hot (you can make this ahead and heat it in the microwave at the last minute).

*Cooking the big meal for Christmas Eve, I didn’t want to take the time to peel and big squash, so I used 2– 32 oz. bags of cubed squash from Trader Joe’s.  Works fine in this recipe.

And here’s the family, sitting down to eat our Christmas Eve lunch.
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Chocolate Cranberry “Fruit Cake”

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Hello all– We all know that people have definite opinions about fruit cake.  My dad loved it.  But the rest of us were not so sure.

So this cake is my compromise.  It sort of looks fruit cake-esque.  Little bits of dried cranberries and chocolate bits (I know, not a fruit!).  And then, cream cheese frosting which nothing like a fruit cake.  oh well.

And we ate it after Christmas Eve lunch with the grandparents– such a sweet time with them. There’s just one slice  left on the kitchen counter.  I’m pretty sure it will be someone’s midnight snack.

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CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY “FRUIT CAKE”

Cake:
1 white cake mix
3 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup water
1 cup dried cranberries, chopped to bits*
1 cup mini chocolate chips**

Frosting:
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temperature
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1 pound box powdered sugar (3 3/4 cups)
1 tsp. vanila
2 to 3 tab. milk

Garnish:
1 cup cranberries
3 to 4  tab. sugar
greenery

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Mix up the cake according to the directions on the package. Mine called for 3 eggs, 1/2 cup canola oil and 1 cup water. Gently fold in the chopped cranberries and mini chocolate chips.  And scoop the batter into two 8″ or 9″ cake pans that have been sprayed with cooking spray.

Bake the cake layers 25 to 30 minutes at 350 degrees until they ae lightly browned and are firm to the touch. Let the cake layers cool.

To make the frosting, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla.  Add 2 tablespoons of milk and if it seems a bit stiff still, add the 3rd tablespoon of milk.  Frost the cake layers.

Put the cranberries and sugar into a small zip loc bag and shake until the berries are coated with sugar.  Arrange them on the frosted cake with a bit of greenery ( I used bits of pine from the the back of the Christmas tree!)  Enjoy!

*I like to mince the dried cranberries so they just give a touch of sweetness, but don’t seem gummy.
** Use mini chocolate chips– they won’t sink to the bottom of the cake like the standard chips do.

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Sweet Jobay & Jodi– ending up our Christmas Eve lunch and ready to open gifts with the Great Grandparents.

 

Tender Mercies

perwinkleliving-tumblr-comHello all– I was able to snatch part of a morning this week to read through the story of Jesus’ birth, to sit and think and pray…

And the words that stayed with me were when Zechariah spoke of “the tender mercy of our God.” (Luke 1:78)  It made me want to look for God’s “tender mercies”through these days of Christmas.

The mercies of my mom growing stronger, of squeals from the grand-kids.  The splendid mercy of real conversations with our children.  And Christmas music in the house, of sitting down to meals together and the sun through the bare maple trees in the yard.

And the best mercy of God’s son come to earth for us.  I remain  profoundly grateful for God’s merciful love.

 

Chocolate Cranberry Poke Cake

 

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Merry Christmas! — If you’ve read this blog much, you must think all we do around here is sit and eat cake!  It’s kind of true.  Especially at Christmas–so many excuses to pull a good cake out of the oven.

This one is chocolatey and cranberry tart and creamy– all around delicious.  And just about the right way to end a Christmas meal.*

CHOCOLATE CRANBERRY POKE CAKE

Cake Layer:
1 dark chocolate cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup canola oil
water
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Toppings:
1/2 cup sugar
1 tab. cornstarch
1/2 cup water
2 heaping cups of cranberries
3 to 4 tab. chocolate ice cream syrup
1 pint whipping cream
2 tsp. powdered sugar
2 tsp. instant vanilla pudding mix**
leaves for garnish

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Make the cake according to the directions on the package (mine used 3 eggs, 1/3 cup canola oil & water).  Mix in the chocolate chips.  Then spoon the batter into two 8″ or 9″ cake pans and bake according the directions.

While the cakes are baking, make the cranberry sauce.  In a saucepan stir together the sugar and cornstarch until there are no cornstarch lumps.  Then mix in the 1/2 cup water and cranberries.  Cook the mixture over medium high heat until it simmers for 2 to 3 minutes while all the cranberries “pop” and the liquid turns a deep red.

With a slotted spoon, lift the cranberries to a heat proof bowl to cool.  Leave the sauce in the pan.

When the cakes and and sauce are cooled, poke holes all over the cakes with the handle end of a wooden spoon. Then drizzle the chocolate sauce into the holes. Next drizzle the cranberry sauce (not the cooked cranberries, just the sauce) into the holes.

Beat the whipping cream with an electric mixer, adding in the powdered sugar and the instant pudding mix.

Heap the whipped cream onto the cake and top with the cooked cranberries and garnish with a few (non poisonous!) leaves from your yard (these are rose geranium leaves).  So pretty!

**The pudding mix stabilizes the cream so it stays whipped even after a couple hours out on the table.

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*I made this recipe into two smaller cakes (8″ cake pans) because sometimes just a small liver of cake is a good way to cap off a meal.

*The cake mix makes two layers of cake.  I did two individual one layer cakes, because sometimes a small little piece of cake is just enough after a big meal.
**The pudding mix stabilizes the cream, so it will hold up out of the fridge for hours.

White Truffle Cake

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Merry Christmas!!  Did you have a favorite celebration so far this year? I think mine could be our evening at Susan’s last week.  All the Wednesday night ladies came and we munched on salty snacks and Christmas desserts.  Susan made a fire in the fireplace and we sat around her family room and talked together about Mary and the annunciation of the Angel.  We prayed and laughed and passed around Christmas hugs.  Such a memorable evening.

Here’s what I brought to set on the table– so rich and smooth, and pretty on the plate.  It just looks like Christmas.

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WHITE TRUFFLE CAKE

Cake layer:
3 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/3 cup flour
pinch of salt

Truffle layer:
1  1/4 cup heavy cream
12 oz. good white chocolate*
8 oz. mascarpone or cream cheese

Garnish:
white sprinkles
greenery

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To make the cake, use an electric mixer and beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla for about 3 minutes until it is foamy and increases in volume.  Gently fold in the flour and salt with a rubber scraper.

Then scrape the batter into a 8″ springform pan (or deep cake pan) that has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Put it into a 350 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes until it is lightly browned and firm to the touch.

While the cake is cooking,  bring the heavy cream to a boil in a saucepan.  Drop in the white chocolate and turn off the heat.  Stir until the chocolate completely melts.

Then let the cake cook and the chocolate/cream mixture cool completely.

When the cream is at room temperature, cut the mascarpone (or cream cheese) into cubes and drop into the cream mixture.  Beat with an electric mixture until it is blended and smooth.

Pour the truffle white chocolate mixture over the cooled cake and refrigerate for a least 2 hours (overnight is best).

Decorate with white sprinkles and a touch of green (snipped from your tree??)  Voila!

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Christmas Books for Little Readers

 

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Hi there– Do you have favorite Christmas books that you go back to every year?  I have a stack right here on the coffee table, just waiting for the grand-girls to come through the door.  We like sweet. We like funny. We like endearing Christmas books.  Here’s a few if you happen to have little readers on hand at Christmas:

513uldt0lkl-_sy337_bo1204203200_The Christmas Pageant by Tomie DePaola makes use of the text from the gospels of Matthew & Luke, along with the simple, charming illustrations that are instantly recognizable as DePaola’s work.  The story takes us through the Christmas story as presented by a group of children in their Christmas program celebrating Jesus birth.


unknownFather Christmas
by Raymond Briggs is almost wordless, but chronicles Christmas Day for a rather grumpy Santa through a series of detailed illustrations.  This British Santa packs his thermos of tea, flies over Buckingham Palace and makes a Christmas pudding.  You have to admire this intrepid Santa and enjoy his little celebration when he finally arrives home.

61twq0ouzvl-_sx399_bo1204203200_Christmas in the Country by Cynthia Rylant is the sweet story of a small girl who describes her Christmas in the country home of her grandparents.  There’s the awkward Christmas tree that “seemed sometimes like an embarrassed guest” and Christmas dolls and aunts & uncles & cousins bringing pies– a gentle story made even better by DianeGoode’s tender illustrations

51jka-7wl-_sx398_bo1204203200_Auntie Claus by Elise Primavera is a rollicking adventure of Sophie and her mysterious Auntie.  When she stows away in her Aunt’s luggage, she finds herself on a revealing trip to the North Pole and learns a lot about herself and Christmas.  Vivid illustrations and a satisfying ending made this a fun book to read together.