Thursday, 27 December 2012

Pumpkin Pizza Wreath

The newest great recipe we have discovered is a pizza pumpkin wreath. Not only is it delicious, but it also looks nice. After we had it for the first time, Shawn said, “I think that’s a having-people-over recipe.” In our house, that’s the highest rating I can get. I made it for a staff lunch potluck on the last day before the Christmas Break, and again, beaming, I accepted any and all praise bestowed upon it.

Here you go.

Just be warned: eating homemade pizza can be very tiring. (Note the pizza crust in Nevin’s hand in the above picture. Falling asleep in the middle of dinner is another great thing we can all add to the list of “why its better to be a kid.”)

Pumpkin Pizza Wreath
(from Going Home to Roost – this is one of my favourite blogs, and the pictures that go along with this recipe are fantastic)
whole wheat pizza crust dough
2 cups of roasted pumpkin puree
1 cup onions
1 tbs butter
1 crispy apple (like fuji, honey crisp, etc); chopped
2 cups of fresh spinach
1.5 cups of mozzarella cheese (vegan: daiya cheese)
~ ½ tsp garlic powder*
~ ½ tsp dried thyme*
4 tbs olive oil
* the original recipe recommends sage and oregano as seasoning

1. Over medium heat, melt the butter in a frying pan. Caramelize the onions. You’ll know they are ready when they are golden and translucent.
2. Preheat oven to 400*F.
3. Roll out the dough into a very long rectangle on a piece of lightly floured piece of parchment paper. Imagine the dough in lengthwise thirds. The middle third will be the bottom of your pizza and the backbone of your wreath. The top third and bottom third will serve as the ribs the will be wrapped over your toppings, like ribs. Slice vertical stripes about 1 inch apart along the top third of your dough. Repeat along the bottom of the dough.
4. On the middle third, spread the pumpkin puree. Sprinkle the garlic powder and thyme on top. Spread the onions on top of the pumpkin. Next, spread the apples, then the spinach and, finally, the cheese.
5. Now, cover the toppings with the dough strips. It looks quite nice if you criss-cross, or “braid”, the strips.
6. The trickiest part is next: take the two ends and move them towards each other to make the circle shape of a wreath. Squish the two ends together.
7. Transfer the parchment paper onto a baking sheet. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the dough is golden brown.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Potato Peels, Baby Jesus and Santa's Helpers

What Santa Needs by SashaWarner
What Santa Needs, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
We are busy helping Santa, getting ready for tomorrow's Christmas dinner and enjoying each others company.

The mashed potatoes are our responsibility. It shifts from year to year. Although no one is looking for advice at this time of year, I am going to give you two tips regarding mashed potatoes:
1) Use cream cheese, lots of cream cheese, when making mashed potatoes. Everyone loves cream cheese mashed potatoes.
2) Don't throw away your potato skins. Instead, turn them into chippies, as detailed below (via Oh, Bite It!).

Potato Peel Chips
Clean potato peels
4 Tbsp olive oil
Salt, pepper and garlic powder, to taste

Toss the potato peels with the oil and seasonings, to coat.
Bake at 375*F for about 20 minutes.

p.s. We survived church tonight, which was much longer and more tiring for the kids then the usual Sunday mass. There were only borderline tears once - when Nevin discovered that the Baby Jesus that we have been talking about so much wasn't a real babyThe "pretend baby" at the monger scene at the front of the church was NOT what he was expected.  He was trying so hard to hold back the tears and be a big boy. Thankfully, he reasoned his way through it and pulled through: "Mommy, is there a pretend Baby Jesus at the front of the church because the real Baby Jesus is still in Mary's belly?" I said yes - it seemed easier then theological history lesson.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

This is Santa's big scene.

This is Santa's big scene. by SashaWarner
This is Santa's big scene., a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.

True Story.  Mostly copied and pasted from my email.  What kind of racket are they running up there?
6:30 PM.  Phone rings.  "This is Mrs. Claus.  I know we were supposed to Skype tonight with the kids, but can we postpone it until tomorrow?  We are visiting our neighbours.  And can you please remind Santa of anything he should mention?"

> -----Original Message----- 
> From: Sasha Warner
> Sent: Friday, December 21, 2012 7:50 PM
> To: Mrs. Claus

> Subject: Santa's inside info
> Nevin:
> Is getting a plasma car from Santa
> Big highlights from the year... He does lots of "works" at his school, and
> cleans his works up very carefully; holds his sister's hand when crossing
> the street; winter solstice concert; he helps mommy and daddy set the
> table and with making dinner.
> Scarlett:
> Is getting a snow shovel from Santa
> Big highlights from the year... You can be creative with this one - she
> can't understand you anyways.
> Message me if there is anything I missed.

-----Original Message-----
From: Mrs. Claus 

Sent: Friday, December 21, 2012 10:16 PM
To: Sasha Warner
Subject: Re: Santa's inside info

haha...Santa had a little too much Christmas Cheer...will call you!

This whole exchange made me laugh.  Even the Claus's care more about people than presents.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Warning: This is a Hallmark card kind of post.

He Loves Us by SashaWarner
How he makes us feel.
For no one's benefit but my own, I must catalogue a sweet, sweet memory. After lunch, I was sitting at the table, waiting for Scarlett to finish eating. She does not follow the 5 minute eating routine of most toddlers. She is not even a twenty minute-er like most adults. She is more of a 45 minute kind of gal most days. She savours her food, and when she is done eating, she usually insists on sitting in her seat for at least another 5 minutes. Bizarre, I know.

Nevin walked over and climbed into my lap. His hand touched mine. "You're hands are so warm, and mine are always so cold." He looked me in the eyes and asked, "would you like your hands to be warm?" I nodded and he took my fingers in his hands. He sat quietly for about a minute and said, "how is that?" Quite nice, I replied. He let go of one of my hands, put his hand behind my head to pull me closer to him, and kissed me on the forehead.

I hope he treats all the women in his life as well as he has treated the first woman in his life. Shawn has taught him well.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Making memories, one Christmas cliché at a time.

Gingerbread by SashaWarner
Gingerbread, a photo by SashaWarner on Flickr.
The first weekend of December was our kickoff to the Christmas season. It is supposed to be joyous, and joyous we were. We did every traditional Christmas family weekend task that came to mind. Saturday included putting up the Christmas tree, cheesy pictures of the kids dressed up in front of the Christmas tree, and a Santa Claus parade. Sunday we made a gingerbread house and gingerbread men, pigs and moose.

The parade was a highlight. According to Nevin, it was not because of Santa. People have been asking him, "What did you see at the parade?" He smiles wide and exclaims "fire trucks!" And did you see anything else? "There was tractors, too!"

(Side story: as a tractor rounded to corner and came into view, my dad said "Look Nevin, there's a tractor!" To which Nevin responded, "Holy Smokes! I love tractors!" Holy Smokes? I have to stop cussing around the kids.)

The gingerbread experience was more of a day long extravaganza, which is much like everything I fully involve the toddlers in. It was fun. I clipped the recipe from the Ottawa Citizen a few years ago, as it came straight from the chefs at le Courdon Bleu. Our gingerbread house looked nothing like the one in the paper.

Le Courdon Bleu Ottawa Gingerbread House
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
4 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups unsulphured molasses

1. Mix the first three ingredients.
2. Cream the butter and sugar together. Mix in the spices and salt. Beat in eggs and molasses.
3. Add to flour mixture. Mix on low speed until thoroughly combined. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour; preferably over night. (I didn't do this, and the dough was very sticky).
4. On a well floured surface, roll the dough out to about 5mm thickness. Cut it into your desired shapes.
5. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper, place your shapes on the sheets, and refrigerate for about 15 minutes.
6. Bake for about 15 minutes at 350*F.

Royal Icing
2 large egg whites
4 cups icing sugar, or more to thicken
1 lemon juiced

Beat the egg white until stiff, but not dry. Add sugar and juice. Beat for about 9 minutes longer at high speed. Icing should be thick and glossy, about as thick as toothpaste. If icing is too thick, add egg whites. If icing is too thin, add sugar. Icing can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
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