Expect Miracles: A Christmas Poem, and Some News

Image

This image has been my cover photo on Facebook for months, but it felt appropriate to share it here tonight. I hadn’t realized it had been such an incredibly long time since I posted. I think you’ll forgive me. We are very happy to have some news to share, and I felt like Christmas Eve was the right time to share it. This day has long been my favourite of the year. The shopping is done by necessity, everything is calm and quiet, and it is easy to believe that miracles really do occur. In true Little Farmhouse style, I present to you….

The Night Before Christmas

or, A Short History of the Little Farmhouse

‘Twas the night before Christmas and through the little farmhouse

Not a creature was stirring, not even a field mouse.

Elaine’s stockings were hung by the chimney with care…

Oh wait! Not a chimney – it’s no longer there!

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

I ran to the window, was nearly in flight –

Threw open the blinds and… turned on a light.

Santa was there! He looked so perplexed.

“Oh help me!” he cried, “What should I do next?

People these days, they move all about.

I’ve lost track of which family members have moved in or out.”

“I feel your pain,” I replied as I ushered the way,

“I’m still learning names… are there more everyday?”

I poured Santa a drink, a fine Irish stout,

“Not to worry,” I said “We’ll figure it out.

Take a seat in that rocker, where once sat Kathleen

Who kept the wee farmhouse happy, fed & clean.

She and Herb had 5 kids. The boys lived there, all three!

And that was the 2nd generation, you see.”

“Oh yes!” Santa laughed, “I visited then.

I barely remember that, way back when.

Carry on, don’t you stop, who came after that?

I know there were kids, did I bring one a bat?”

I cleared my throat and continued: “Well, Becky married Glenn

And they made the small house their family den

They soon had two tots – oh yes – there were more!

And so the old stead saw generations three & four.”

The house had some renters but was destined for kin.

Kate married me, and then we moved in.

There’s news now to share. We’re excited, can’t lie!

Generation 5 will be here in July.”

Yes, dear blog followers… Santa will have a reason to visit this wee house once again! Baby is due July 25th, and we couldn’t be more thrilled as we celebrate this holiday season. There’s lots to do, and I’m looking forward to sharing it with everyone. For now, Happy Christmas, everyone!

Best Brussels Sprouts

Okay folks. I know, I know. You either love brussels sprouts or you hate them. There’s no middle ground, and people can’t be swayed. Like palm trees, get it?

This is how brussels grow on their stalks. They always remind me of crazy little palm trees!

Anyway to the swaying. Think you hate brussels? Try these. I credit my friend Donna who gave me this vague recipe 3 years ago when I did my first Thanksgiving dinner. They’re a family staple now. I’m sorry I don’t have pictures – I had meant to, but I actually completely forgot them until everything else was on the table!  I’ve had requests to post the recipe, though, so I won’t hold back. Maybe I’ll take photos next year.

You Need:

  • Lots of brussels sprouts
  • Half an onion, finely chopped. FINELY. Trust me.
  • Butter
  • Bacon
  • Chicken Broth
  • Poultry Seasoning (it is Thanksgiving, after all).
  • Salt and Pepper

Here’s What You Do:
Do the prep the night before, or in the morning at very least. The first part is a bit tedious.

  • Wash your sprouts, remove the outer leaves, and cut off the bottom. Slice them into ribbons. The best way I’ve found to do this is to cut them in half vertically (if they were standing on their ends), then lay flat and slice. Remove any particularly fibrous cores.
  • Cook some bacon. I like lots. Pat off the fat with paper towels. Crumble and set it aside.

If your sprouts and bacon are ready to go, the actual cooking only takes 5 minutes or so. This really should be the last thing you do before y’all eat, because they’re best hot and don’t reheat super well.

  • Melt your butter in a skillet and throw the brussels sprouts and onion in. They should start to get nice and browned around the edges. When the skillet is getting a bit dry, add a little chicken broth, and keep going.
  • Season liberally. The broth will add a lot of flavour, but I like the poultry seasoning and pepper. Add a little salt to taste, but between the butter and broth you may not need any.
  • When all the broth has simmered away, stir in the bacon.
  • Serve immediately, and watch brussels sprout skeptics go back for more.

I’ve never had any leftovers to worry about.

Trivia: It’s Brussels Sprouts, not Brussel Sprouts. The little cabbages are popular, and may have originated, in Brussels, Belgium.

Orange Dreamsicle aka Mandarin Orange Jelly Salad

Family Favourites, Thanksgiving Edition!

This recipe is a staple for family “big dinner.” You know, holiday types. It’s labelled in my book as “Grandma’s Mandarin Orange Jelly Salad” but people are adverse to that word “jelly” these days and my friend Beck and I thought it needed a better name. It’s one of those desserts that cleverly makes it’s way into the main courses for some reason. It tastes a bit like an orange creamsicle to me, and I love this stuff.

My grandma often brings this with her and kindly offered to do so to my Thanksgiving dinner tonight, but I needed to do it for a post!

You will need: 1 small can mandarin oranges, 1 pkg. orange jello, 1 pkg. dream whip (and the 1/2 c. milk required to whip the dream) and 4 oz. brick cream cheese (you’ll want this at room temperature).

Bring oranges to a boil. Stir in the jello so that it takes on a much less natural orange hue. Stir it well, you’ve been warned. Let stand while you prepare the next part.

Beat dream whip to package instructions. Add cream cheese and beat until blended. Pour in jello/orange mixture and beat well. Beat WELL. Slowly and thoroughly or you’ll have lumps. I think the hand mixer does a better job of this than the stand mixer – live and learn. Kindly don’t look too closely at my finished-product photo.

Pour into your serving bowl and chill until set.

This is a nice easy dish to make the day before you plan to serve it.

Recipe in Full

Ingredients:

  • small can mandarin orange segments
  • 4 oz softened brick cream cheese
  • 1 pkg. Dream Whip
  • milk
  • 1 pkg. orange jello

Method:

  1. Bring oranges (with liquid) to a boil.
  2. Stir in jello. Stir well. Take off heat and let stand.
  3. Beat Dream Whip to package directions.
  4. Beat in cream cheese.
  5. Add jello/oranges mixture and beat well.
  6. Pour into your serving dish and chill until set.

Christmas at the Farmhouse

Welcome! Step on through the gate and take a look at the beginnings of Christmas at the farmhouse with me!

While we’ve been busy with other projects this fall & winter, I didn’t want our first Christmas here to go by without starting some traditions.  This is our third Christmas since we got married, and the first time I’ve had the room for a tree! This house DEMANDS a tree, it really does. I thought it was a little sparse at first, but grabbed some on-clearance sets of baubles today at Canadian Tire. Does every first tree get decorated with look-alikes? My parents, married in the 70s, had loads of red and gold ornaments covered with a coarse glitter that gets everywhere. I loved them as a kid, and a few have survived to this day! I may have a couple myself (but they may be packed away in some unknown box). I hope that the silver and purple ones I picked up today make it just as long!

I think it looks great all lit up! I do hope to find a star for the top, though.

You can see the new purple ornament in the background, and the silver up front. I really like them! Maybe they’re like my parents’ old ones after all. The tin “tinsel” is from Lee Valley Tools and I think they’re so much nicer than the disposable kind! The blue and white wedding cake is a Wedgewood that I picked up for our first married Christmas. I keep fantasizing about a whole tree full of Wedgewood ornaments… a girl can dream.

Peanut Butter Cups Recipe

I made these amazing and indulgent chocolate peanut butter cups last night. They’re for birthday gifts, but I may have to make a second batch for holiday visitors. Or Santa or somebody. 😉

I think they’d make a great gift wrapped up on a cute holiday plate with cellophane. Or keep a few in the freezers for people who drop by on Christmas Eve. Do people do that anymore? I think they should.

 

Anyway, not only were they delicious, they were easy too. You need only 5 things:

  1. Chocolate for melting. Lots. I used 2 bags of  Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips (but the proportions are approximate)
  2. Smooth peanut butter.
  3. Icing sugar. Sometimes called “powdered sugar” or “confectioner’s sugar.” Or “that-really-messy-sugar-that-gets-everywhere.”
  4. Unsalted peanuts.
  5. Tiny paper muffin cups. I used ones with a festive design.
Here’s what you do, in approximately this order:
  1. Lay the mini muffin cups on a baking sheet.
  2. Start to melt and stir your chocolate. I hear people use a microwave for these things, but I’m an old-fashioned kinda gal who likes a double-boiler. It has the advantage of being able to be turned down low and still keep your chocolate warm while you’re working with it.
  3. Prepare the filling. Mix a 1:1 ratio of peanut butter and icing sugar. If you need to, you can add a little bit of milk, but use it sparingly. It should form a dough that reminds you of playdough.
  4. Drop small spoonfuls of chocolate into each cup.
  5. Make small pancakes with the dough and lay them on top of the chocolate.
  6. Top with more chocolate.
  7. Chop up some peanuts and sprinkle them on top.
  8. Allow to set.
You really don’t need very much of the peanut-butter mixture. I used 1 cup each peanut butter and sugar, and it was way too much for my two standard-sized bags of chocolate chips. I definitely have enough filling already for that second batch.
You can keep these in the fridge, but they’re best brought to room temperature before serving. Bite in and admire all your hard work. Mine looks like this:

 

Happy Belated Thanksgiving!

(Or early, if you’re an American friend!)

I think I’ve recovered. I got the farmhouse ready last week and cooked Thanksgiving dinner for BOTH sides of the family, which was 12 adults and a baby. It seemed a little crazy to me, and it was definitely cozy, but we had a great time and I’m glad to know that we can FIT people in this way! My parents, brother, and grandparents came, and the Mr.’s dad, brothers & their wives, and our nephew joined us as well. Sadly, my mother-in-law is in England attending to the funeral of her mother. I missed her, and I’m thinking about doing a smaller version all over again when she returns (smaller! Did you hear that?).

I sent Cora to the groomer’s while I was cooking, partially to get her out of the way and partially because she was covered in mud from digging a hole or two earlier in the week. She likes to visit the horse in the field next to our yard… what can I say? Here she is looking both adorable and slightly absurd, waiting for our guests to arrive:

By the way, she weighs 50lb now!

Alright, this was the second Thanksgiving dinner I’ve done, and I feel like I’m starting to learn what I like and what I don’t, and what works best for me. Here are my Important Things to Remember. This year’s dinner went amazingly smoothly, and I’m looking forward to doing it again. Next year.

  1. Leanne Ely’s FREE Thanksgiving Menu Planner was helpful. I didn’t use all her recipes because I like our family traditions, but her turkey instructions were perfect. The turkey was moist and delicious, and I definitely preferred it to the in-a-bag turkey that I did last year. I did ours unstuffed, and I like that she offered options for seasoning the inside of the turkey in an “unstuffing” sort of way. I even followed her timeline on the FlyLady website, which really helped take any stress out of the day.
  2. Cola ham is delicious. I’ll follow up with the recipe that I used, because most of the others I see online use WAY too much Cola. We actually used Dr. Pepper – this was my husband’s choice, because he wanted to be able to tell people we were eating “Dr. Pepper Ham.” I admit, it has a ring to it. My Dad says it’s the best ham he’s ever had.
  3. Mashing the potatoes when I had time during the day and keeping them hot in a crock pot was a truly inspired plan. Leanne warns that some people’s crock pots may be too hot for this. Ours turned out perfectly, but that may have just been a stroke of luck.
  4. I used both crock pots and I can see a use for a third. Warning to my husband – I sense an obsession coming on.
  5. There MUST be a still-unpacked kitchen box somewhere! I thought we were done with them, but we need to go on a search. I’m missing my gravy boat, serving platters… and who knows what else?
  6. A cinnamon candle is always a good idea. I didn’t bake the pumpkin pies, but my house smelled like I did.
Dr. Pepper Ham Recipe:
Sometime I post recipes so that I know where to find them later. I hope that you might enjoy them, too. Here’s how I did the ham:
  1. Buy a smoked ham. Mine was a standard 2kg or so.
  2. Bring it home and wonder what to do with it. Find THIS recipe!
  3. Send husband to get a single-serve bottle of Dr. Pepper.
  4. Pour half the Dr. Pepper in a glass, over ice. Start sipping.
  5. In a small saucepan, mix 1/2 cup brown sugar with 1tsp. dried mustard. Stir in just enough Dr. Pepper to mix into a paste, and heat only until the sugar dissolves. Splash in more pop as needed and “oooooh” over the way it bubbles up when it hits the heat.
  6. Cut some diamond-pattern into the top of the ham. I don’t know why we do this, but it was pretty.
  7. Use a pastry brush to coat the ham with the sugar/mustard/pop mixture. Give up, wash your hands, and give it a good rub.
  8. Pour 1/4-1/2 cup more Dr. Pepper into the bottom of your crock pot.
  9. Put ham in crock pot and cover. Turn on Low. Cook for 6 or so hours. This is a pre-cooked ham, it just needs to heat.
  10. Sip more Dr. Pepper, play around on the internet, eat some lunch. Realize you still have a TURKEY DINNER to cook and get off the couch!
That’s it. It really was out of the fridge and into the crock in 5 minutes flat.
With two kinds of meat on the feast table, we have lots of leftovers. Expect a few foodie posts this week!