Category Archives: Christmas

18th Century Christmas Recipe Meets 21st Century Tech

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The Recipe!!

I have this recipe I collected from the mother of my mother-in-law twice-removed. When I was a very young mother, with very small children, my cooking repertoire was limited to easy, and then easier. This recipe kind of intimidated me.  It intimidated me  because it was a ‘steamed pudding’. Which is a yummy, slightly sticky cakey-like Christmas treat. I’ve only once eaten it at said mother-in-law, twice-removed, mother’s home … I loved it. Great-Grandma Mitchell served it warm, with a slightly caramelly sauce.  This card has been picked up time and again, carefully looked at every time I’ve opened my old recipe box for my raisin oatmeal cookie recipe, and then just as carefully placed back into the old recipe box.

Looking at the card you might think I made it all the time. It has turned brown with age, and has oily spots on it. The ingredients aren’t difficult to gather together; grated carrots, potato, and apples mixed with flour, sugar, nuts and spices. Very Christmasy. The hidden terror to my neophyte young mother’s brain was first it was cooked in a coffee can (which I never managed to save) and then the cooking method wasn’t baked, but steamed for two and one-half hours!

That cooking method and time required just totally overwhelmed me … so its yummy stickiness stayed just a memory and a maybe I’ll make that … some time, until this past week. I had the thought to make my favorite mother-in-law’s (twice-removed), Christmas memories for her Christmas gift.  The first memory was date-filled sugar cookies, and the second, of course, Grandma Mitchell’s Steamed Pudding & Dip (Sauce). The cookies took two tries to get them to look and taste as I remembered them. Then out came the daunting steamed pudding recipe. Since I still had no coffee tin (does coffee even come in a can), I opted for a large size vegetable tin (tomatoes or pumpkin pie filling sized). I mixed it up (fingers crossed since I had never seen it in its raw form) and then it was steam time.

My new best cooking friend! (Thanks Angie De)

Online I found many ways to steam foods, including puddings, but they all took the same time … lots of time. THEN I HAD THE ANSWER!! I’ll use my brand-new, only used once for ham & beans, Crockpot Pressure Cooker (which has a steam option!!). I had to read some other blogs and looked for cooking tips to figure how to adjust a 19th century recipe to a 21st century appliance.  After much sorting and hemming and hawing I decided 60% of the approximate 2 1/2 hours should do it.

I followed the steaming instructions from the how-to booklet, popped the can of pudding mix into the pot, twisted on the lid, pressed steam … set the time and pressed start. While it was doing its thing I cleaned up my kitchen … I am not a neat, nor terribly organized cook. I always have grand intentions to keep things tidy … then something happens and I’m  sweeping flour from the counter and floor. What is that sticky stuff?

The Results! Steamed Pudding via Crockpot Instant Cooker

Ding, time’s up. The cooker slowly cooled. Anticipation. When it was no longer steaming I timidly twisted the lid off and watched steamy water drops drip from the lid onto the pudding … not a good thing (hint to myself … put a foil cover on the can next time).  Using a hot pad I picked the can up, set it on a rack and let it cool a long time. It seemed like about 4 hours before it was cool enough to tip it from its tin.  Nothing happened. The pudding was stuck, even though the can was greased and floured. I tapped it, I shook it … nope. Stuck. Then I thought, it’s suction! I found a church key (can opener) and popped a tiny hole in the bottom. Voila! The pudding slid out and there it was standing on the cooling rack just like I imagined it might. I made an additional tiny pudding from the left-over mixture that wouldn’t fit in the cooking tin … it was as yummy as I remembered.

My first 19th century recipe, cooked, cooled, wrapped and dropped at FedEx for an overnight delivery. Hope she loves her box of memories.  Now that’s what I call a Christmas wrap!

Just so you know: (Great)- Grandma Mitchell passed at the age of 99 and some months (and that was like 20+ years ago) … the recipe was her mother’s if I remember the story right.

 

The Great Christmas Tree Hunt of 2016

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I wasn’t going to put up a Christmas tree … I decorated the house, the mantel and chandeliers, but I wasn’t going to put up the tree. We were going to be gone, in and out, all month. What was the point?

Well, Dang! I missed the smell of pine in the air (and not from a scented candle). The corner where the twinkling lights warmed the winter evenings was dark … I missed it! Then I realized I was missing something else … my Christmas spirit.  I was missing my traditions! The tree … I needed to put up a tree … I needed my tradition of choosing and decorating that tree; watching It’s a Wonderful Life  while adding the lights, bobbles, and glitter to it’s branches and sipping eggnog from a crystal goblet. That tradition sparks my Christmas engine.

img_3963Yesterday, a few weeks later than usual , we stopped at our local Forest Service office and purchased tree hunting tags (10$ each, a bargain anyway you look at it). At home we layered up,  looking a lot like Ralphie’s brother after we pulled on knee-high rubber boots, jackets, snuggy gloves, and hats (beside being winter  and cold … it was snowing).

Up Pole Creek Road we drove, a few white knuckle slides until Sweetie put the truck into 4-wheel drive. Peering through snow crusted windows we searched for the perfect trees, close enough to the road we wouldn’t need a search party to find our way back, but far enough away to meet the 50′ from the road rule.

We spotted two little trees not far apart off the side of the road, well, down the hill off the side of the road. Excitedly I stepped from the cab where briefly I was on top of the snow before I abruptly dropped  through to the ground below … up to my knees (and my boots weren’t tall enough either).  Blazing trail Sweetie dropped off the road, carrying the bow saw and even following in his footsteps I was  pushing through thigh-high velvety powder (where were my skis?).

You know of course the rule that a very small tree found outside grows like Alice taking her 2nd pill and fills every available space once it enters the room. After forgetting this rule numerous times we attempt to err on choosing the smaller of small when on the hunt for our Christmas trees … even then we generally lop off branch ends to fit.

With little effort the trees were  down … actually Greg cut and hauled them … I took pictures.  Back up hill we went, Sweetie dragging both trees to keep from tipping over.  I had one thing to do … pull one tree 10 feet up to the road …  I dragged and slogged, and dragged some more grabbing whatever short branches poked above the snow to pull myself forward … near the top I floundered … I slipped, one leg beneath me and if a quickly thrust bow saw handle wasn’t within reach I would have tumbled head over tookus … me and the tree.img_3970

It was a very successful Christmas tree hunt … bagged, tagged and back to the house in under an hour … the snow inside my boots didn’t even have time to melt.

Right now, behind me, one of the trees is looking over my shoulder, wondering how the heck it ended up inside this tiny room when yesterday it was part of time and space .  It must be in shock! But it’ll be happy to know that once it shares our Christmas celebration it will grace our field sheltering quail from predatory birds.

Hey! I just realized I can tradition twice this year! Once in Council, and again in Boise … how can a girl get so lucky? Especially one who loves a good goblet of eggnog!

May your traditions lighten your heart and home with joy and happiness in this Christmas season. The celebration of the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ. (Luke 2:1-20) … the greatest gift of all.

Merry Christmas!

Pierogi Makin’ Time

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Final Results … 100 Plus Pierogi

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Yummm … Pierogi

I’m loving the beginning of this El Niño … our small ski resort has over 104″ of snow (and that’s before Christmas)! Last weekend we ventured out to the slopes for our first shussh of the year … or at least Sweetie did … I left my knee braces in Boise so I spent the afternoon reading in the grill and watching the snow fall.  It would have been a perfect afternoon except the snow had knocked the power out and there wasn’t a hot chocolate or hot cider to to be had. Drinking ice water on a snowy afternoon?

I’m making up for it this early morning … hot mint tea, a fire, wrapped in a squishy blanket and watching the Christmas tree twinkle.  It’s pierogi making day …  and just what is pierogi I know you are dying to ask … small dough stuffed dumplings filled with cheesy riced potatoes … home-made dough rolled paper thin using the handy dandy pasta noodle maker, round cut using a tuna can, filled with fresh mashed potatoes and cheese … folded and the edges crimped together.  These are popped into a simmering pot of hot water and served topped with  a half-pound of melted butter and browned onions.

This traditional Slovak / Polish dish is hearty … it fills not only the body but the soul.  It is one of the many combined Vergari & Holecko family food traditions we’ve incorporated into our own  Christmas Eve dinners.  Typically it would be 7 different fishes, but like all good traditions we’ve incorporated some whole, changed others, and added a couple of new ones and now we have our own traditional Christmas Eve meal … homemade mushroom soup, pierogi, tuna sauce and spaghetti (I know sounds strange but tastes lovely), and a fish … this year its Dover Sole. Dessert will be Chocolate Pots (ala Peter Vergari) with Chocolate Mousse (ala Me).

… our fingers are crossed  that El Niño winter storms don’t close the passes in the Blue Mountains between Boise & Portland … treacherous in winter … this year Greg’s family is coming over those passes for a few days of Christmas merriment and maybe a day or two on the slopes.  I’m sending prayers heavenward that they will have safe travels on their way here.

So … it’s time … I’ll finish my tea, absorb a bit more warmth from the fire, wake up the Sweetie and then it’s Pierogi makin’ time!

Merry Christmas! May your heart and soul be filled with this season of light and peace …

 

Traditions!! Grandma Keri’s Gingerbread Day 2015

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Gingerbread Day 2015 …

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Patient Mom (Angie Taylor) roof holding while frosting sets with Megan & Jerika (standing)

I’m singing with Tevye from Fiddler on the Roof … Traditions!  I Love Traditions!! My tradition? Grandma Keri Days!

Which started with Pumpkin Patch Day … when I had grown pumpkins in my garden for the first time and had the little ones over for pumpkin carving and hot dog eating.

I was a working Grandma and quickly found out if I wanted to enjoy the company of these funny, quirky, entirely unique and wonderful people I would have to schedule the time … that’s when annual Grandma Keri Days began.

Initially they were holiday based … Pumpkin Patch Day, Gingerbread Day, Valentine’s Day, and Easter Egg Coloring Day.  Then I added in things like 24th of July Pioneer Day, then separate Grandson & Granddaughter weekends (sleepovers & activities). We had Family Field Days for a few years, and Service Project Days at Thanksgiving time. Friends and extended family are always part of the fun and often messy excitement.

First Gingerbread Day 2002

First Gingerbread Day 2002

I don’t have favorites … I love, love, love each Grandma Keri Day … they are like my children & grand-kids; wonderfully unique … but Gingerbread Day might certainly be close to the top.  Like all traditions it started small; I made gingerbread, then we’d all cut, bake and frost gingerbread men (or at least my very patient mom, daughters, daughters & son-in-law, who did most of the building & frosting those first years). One of the first invitations included the story of the Gingerbread Man who yelled, ‘you can’t catch me I’m the Gingerbread Man’.

Gingerbread Day 2003

Gingerbread Day 2003

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2004 R-L Bryson, Kylee, & Wyatt Taylor With Uncle Steve (Beepo) Vest

One year we tried graham cracker houses … now that wasn’t the best idea … it took a LOT of TIME. But from the smiles on the little’s faces it was worth it!

2004 Wyatt, Kaylee & Bryson in Boise

2004 Wyatt, Kaylee & Bryson in Boise

Gingerbread Day @ Garner Village 2007

Gingerbread Day @ Gardner Village 2007

Christmas Cabin Weekend 2009

Christmas Cabin Weekend 2009

This year I found the coolest cutter & recipe to make the gingerbread houses.  The fruit of many online searches was the  “Swedish Gingerbread House

Pattern Cutter from Fancyflours and a gingerbread construction recipe that uses margarine, no spices, and no leavening (they are sweet, but pretty much inedible) … I spent most of last Monday making, cutting, and baking 20 house kits (like 9 – 10 hours baking). The dough was easy to work with and baked up to an almost indestructible house component.

How can you not smile with these people for family? Tony, me, Wyatt, Bodie, Clint 2015

How can you not smile with these people for family? Tony, me, Wyatt, Bodie, Clint 2015

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Cecily & Bodie Humble … Bodie’s First Gingerbread Day …. 2015

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Me & Great-Grandson Silas Hodgins’ at his First Gingerbread Day … 2015

The ‘older’ boys couldn’t quite get in the build a house mode  but hung around laughing and teasing and 4 of the granddaughters had to work … I really missed them!

This year  was my youngest grandson Bodie and my first Great-Grandson Silas’ first Grandma Keri Day … oh! and I’m not Great Grandma Keri I am gma-squared. LOL.

Life is Good and I am Blessed.  

I wish you all of the Peace, Joy and Love that comes from knowing our Savior Jesus Christ, not only at this time of year when we celebrate his birth, but in all ways in throughout the year.

Love and Merry Christmas!

 

OK, Now it’s December … Trees, Lights, & Eggnog

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So, now it is December I can quit ranting about Thanksgiving being shoved aside for the commercialism of Halloween and Christmas.  I’ve been telling everyone that each time a Christmas light is lite or a carol is sung before December the elves drown a baby reindeer.  The herd is getting pretty small ….

Tomorrow after Sweetie spends the morning in his masochistic sport of chucker hunting, we will buy our Forest Service Christmas tree permit,  and will hunt out our perfect tree; fresh and green.  Over the years since the chicks have flown the coop, I have developed my own Christmas decorating ritual;  I fill a crystal goblet with eggnog (no, not homemade), put in my favorite Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed and begin draping its_a_wonderful_lifethe fireplace in greenery, and placing the Nativity fresh from its wrappings in its place of honor near the front door where it is the first thing I see entering, leaving or passing the hallway.   The next evening once the tree is cut and placed ready for decorating I will again pour eggnog and put in my other most favorite Christmas movie, the 1951 black and white version of  A Christmas Carol with Alistair Sims as Scrooge.scroogeandghost2

As the children and grandchildren have grown there are few wrapped gifts ‘round the yule tree as in years past  … gift cards, activity passes, ski days or gifts of service have taken the place of the wrapped and stacked booty of yesteryear.  There will be a Christmas village beneath the branches and empty gift bags as a reminder to myself that the greatest gift I can give is of myself; to give of my time, talents and everything with which the Lord has blessed me.

Christmas … a reminder of God’s greatest gift to us, His Son, Jesus Christ.

Life is good … Happy first week of December!