And here we are, all four advent candles lit, ready to close out 2009...almost. We had an amazing amount of snow here this weekend, and while my husband shoveled and my boys sledded on our hill and built snowforts with the neighbors, I spent a lot of the time holed up here cooking. We went through a gallon and a half of milk in cocoa, lots of popcorn, and other snuggly meals and treats. Alas, my living room looks like a winter storeroom moved in--we were not really expecting the second-largest-snowstorm-ever-in-our-city this early in the season. So between the Christmas stuff and the huge assortment of sizes of winter gear that apparently blew up in my closet, I have a lot to do to get ready for Santa. And he is coming on Thursday. I got the email. He's all set. (I love that tradition...for 100 years he's made personal visits to any house that asks in our town. It's awesome.)
This is another "keep it easy" week for me. I had stocked up on freezer meals and it's time to bring 'em on out. For lunches, I have Pasta Fagioli and I made the "Zero Point Soup." To be honest, it's scoring zero points in zing, too, but it's healthy, quick, and nutritious (especially since I am apparently the only North American with too-LOW sodium levels). (And I did find that three cups of liquid was not even close to enough--I used three cans of bouillon and three of water.) And despite the fact that Pillow Pets are sold out until 2011, and one boy suddenly wants the Playmobil mummy more than anything else in the world, I am working hard to remember: Christmas will come just the same. And I will get to reflect on the wonders that baby boys can bring the world.
Monday: cranberry brisket (trying to recreate an amazing meal from a friend through the wonders of the internet); Kelly's potatoes; broccoli
Tuesday: Dinner A'Fare pork chops; rice; salad; brussels sprouts (the obsession continues)
Wednesday: Depends a bit. Two cousins might be with us for the night. If not, I'll have the Trader Joe's pulled pork again, because holy cow, we all loved it, I still have the rolls left, and it was exactly enough for all of us. If the cousins are here, I'll be picking up a tomato and more lettuce and we'll have tacos instead.
Thursday: And then it begins. After Mass, it's seven fishes for us. Shrimp cocktail, oysters (because I like 'em and they are so easy from the tin), bacon-wrapped scallops (thank you again Trader Joe's), lobster bisque, crabcakes, salmon, and California rolls. I know--no baccala, no smelts...I'm a heretic. But I'm the only one who likes the anchovies, and at least this way I have company for some of the meal. My husband doesn't even like tuna (unless it's seared or in sushi) so our old tuna-on-cracker standby doesn't even work out here.
Friday: Bacon and waffles for breakfast. Sandwiches for lunch. And a formal dinner for 30 at the cousins' house. We're bringing the carrot mousse and I'm looking at a pear-cranberry crisp.
Saturday is Boxing Day: Whatever the real celebration is supposed to be, the is the day my husband's nuclear family gets together for a casual, intimate brunch for all 21 of us with an easy food theme: Anything from a box! Though I think we're cheating a bit this year and having quiches. There's a broccoli and gruyere one I'm looking at to use my leftover gruyere. And to go with the "from a box" theme I think I'll make the spinach quiche with the Seabrook Farms creamed spinach box's recipe. (Usually we do lunch and have pizzas and fried chicken and crackers and citrus from the band sale, but this year we had to switch to a brunch due to work schedules for some of the family. This'll be fun too though!)
Also this week, I'll be getting ready for the party of the year that we host: my father in law's birthday on January 1. I'm very excited that I found my sister-in-law's make-and-freeze mashed potato recipe, so I will be doing that in her honor. I'll post the rest of the menu next week but in case any of you need a good freezable mashed potato recipe, I'll include it here.
Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes from Mary Jo
for 7 cups:
5 lb. potatoes (SO excited the organic ones were on sale this week--cheaper than regulars! woohoo!)
1/2 t. garlic powder
3 T melted buter
8 oz cream cheese
1/4 c sliced almonds (optional)
Peel and quarter potatoes. Place in a sauce pan, cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently until tender. Drain well. In the same pot over low heat, combine the egg, garlic powder, salt, and cream cheese. Dump the potatoes back in and mash well b hand or with an electric mixer. Do not use a food processor, you will get paste.
Adjust seasoning if desired. Place the potatoes in a spray treated or greased 3 qt casserole or 9x13 pan. Drizzle with melted butter. Top with almonds. Refrigerate up to 2 days or freeze.
To serve, thaw completely. Bake at 375 F for 30-40 minutes until top is lightly browned.
If you want to get fancy, put the potatoes into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe the potatoes into rosettes onto a greased or parchment covered baking sheet. Freeze in a single layer. Once frozen, place in a hard sided container. To bake, place FROZEN rosettes on a greased baking sheet, and bursh with melted butter. Bake at 400 F until lightly browned--about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with paprika and minced parsley.
I don't know that I'll get that fancy, but there are certainly advantages to it so I just might. I'll be making two batches so maybe I'll try one of each. I'll also be putting up some mac & cheeses for the new year. But that will have to wait for another post.
Still looking for ideas? Try I'm An Organizing Junkie! for the best list on the web. And have a great holiday, wherever you are!