OK, I think I’ve caught up (Maybe!)

The Holidays are always such a busy time.  I haven’t intended to stay off this blog for so long, but it happened! Here’s what we’ve been up to.
The week before Christmas we were in pretty good shape. All of the wrapping was done. My Holiday menues were planned, and because I try to buy my recipe ingredients in advance, a little at a time, most of what I needed was on hand. Much of what we ate for dinner in that preceeding week came from my always over-stocked freezer, but there were two fresh and flavorful standouts, Chicken Fajita Quesadillas and Szechwan Shrimp.
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The Monday before Christmas I made my last trip to the grocery store. This was a carefully planned trip with set goals. I only bought fresh produce for the upcoming days, some dairy that needed to be replenished, and most importantly, I kept the number of items below the express lane limit. Because the stores are always such a zoo with people purchasing full carts filling all the lanes, this approach serves me well every holiday.
This year Michael and I were alone on Christmas Eve. Since I was only cooking for the two of us I was able to splurge on dinner. We feasted on the Perfect Prime Rib and it turned out perfectly. Creamy Leeks Parmesan and Cheesy Twice Baked Potatoes along with some of my White Wheat Refrigerator Rolls were delicious on the side without stealing the show.
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We enjoyed Christmas Dinner at Emily’s. Kelton requested crescent rolls, which of course came from my refrigerator roll recipe. Emily’s dessert request was a bit more of a challange. There’s a first time and a last time for everything. Both of those happened at the same time when it came to baking my friend Carol’s recipe for Red Velvet Cake. This cake is as beautiful and festive as it gets, and has a wonderfully unique flavor, but baking cakes is not exactly my strong suit. It took me forever to bake, not to mention the mess I made with 2 oz. of red food coloring. Maybe baking this cake will be kind of like childbirth, and by next year I will have forgotten what a pain it was!
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They say that “necessity is the mother of invention” and in the case of our Christmas cake that was true. I don’t have a cake carrier tall enough to accomodate this cake, and the icing was rather soft and fluffy, so simply covering it with plastic wrap was not an option. After spending quite some time and effort rummaging around the kitchen looking for the solution it came to me. I stood wrapped candy canes around the cake and tented plastic wrap over them. It worked beautifully. I’ll have to remember that trick and add a page to my Lessons Learned.
Aaron, Jen, and Xander arrived on Friday. After snacking on our usual Spicy Sausage Balls and a few other tidbits, Fishy Friday was observed with Saucy Shrimp with Whole Corn Grits. I had to cut back on the spices a bit to satisfy the palate of a two year old, but the shrimp and grits were still good.
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Saturday, the 27th, we entertained Michael’s side of the family. I cheated and baked frozen biscuits to serve with my Simple Pork Tenderloin. The pork was sliced thinly and served at room temperature on the biscuits. A choice of Horseradish Spread or Maple Mustard Sauce worked well with this easy make-ahead appetizer. Tiny Twice Baked Potatoes were made in advance as well.
In all the whirl of activities, the camera was forgotten and I neglected to take pictures of anything on Saturday, but a few leftovers survived to pose for pictures the next day. My sweet offering, Pecan Tassies and just a few of Emily’s excellent Slow-Cooker Buffalo Chicken Meatballs were about all I had to work with.
IMG_1558_1 IMG_1571_1. Among the other delights that disappeared, I wish I had taken a picture of Jen’s Zucchini Appetizers. They were so yummy that I doubt any of the picky eaters realized those little squares are actually good for you.
The holidays continued as we visited my sister, Betsy, AKA Ann, and her husband Wendell on their farm in Tennessee for a little nip of eggnog and snacks. As we were leaving, Betsy shared with us a jar of her homemade Pepper Jelly. I was really impressed. Getting the right consistency to any jam or jelly can be tricky and with pepper jelly you also have the heat factor. This pepper jelly was spot-on. Half the jar was gone the first evening we opened it. I guess I’ll have to make a batch of my own soon. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it turns out as well as hers.
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We flipped things a little for New years. Normally I serve the big dinner on New Years Day, but this year the day was devoted to football. ( More on that in a minute.) My New Years Dinner is very traditional. You have to start with some sort of Pork, so Sunday Pork Roast fit that bill. You have to serve greens to make sure there is plenty of money in the coming year. Michael doesn’t really care for “greens” so I serve braised Green cabbage. Apparently cabbage is green enough, since we are still able to pay our bills. Black eyed peas are served to bring luck. I saved some of last summers home-grown pink eyed peas just for that. Since the pork roast is prepared with mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes were a must, although not called for by tradition.  By some miracle we even stayed up past midnight to welcome in the New Year!  How in the world did that happen?
Now for New Years Day. This year it was the biggest football day of the year if you happen to live in the state of Alabama. Only the Iron Bowl might rival it. Both Auburn and Alabama played in bowl games, and sadly enough they both lost. Superstition tells me that it was all Michael’s fault. Before each and every Alabame football game of the season he has gone to Star Market for a special Terry’s Pizza, but not this time. Frozen pizza it was, and I guess that put the freeze on both teams. He won’t be doing that again, at least if I have anything to say about it. ROLL TIDE!!!
Be thankful for what life gives you.

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