Christmas morning breakfast

I have usually made granola for our Christmas morning breakfast in the past because it's easy to make ahead of time, and we don't have it often, so it seems special.  But this year I found another make-ahead recipe I wanted to try.  It's Baked French Toast, from the King Arthur Flour blog (GREAT baking blog, by the way; I love it) and you can find the recipe here.

I made it with my own wheat bread and it was delicious!!  I put it together the night before (it only takes 10 min. to prepare or so.)  Then I put it in the oven when we came downstairs on Christmas morning and it was ready when we were done looking at our stockings.  We also baked the bacon (Beth taught me that you can do that, but I usually forget to try it---it's a great method though) and everyone declared that we'd found our new Christmas morning breakfast tradition. 

Would you like to try it for New Year's?  Here is the recipe with my suggestions:

Glaze---this is 1 1/2 times what they suggest; I found there wasn't enough syrup the first time I made it (my bread soaked up more, perhaps?)

3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
3 tablespoons honey
Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add sugar and honey and cook it for a few minutes, till it boils and the sugar dissolves.  Pour it into a 9x13 glass pan so it coats the bottom.

Lay slices of bread on top to cover the syrup.  (About 9 pieces of bread, or 6 if they're big)

Then whisk together until smooth:
1 1/2 c. whipping cream, half-and-half, or milk (I did 1/2 c. cream, 1 c. milk)
5 eggs
1 t. almond extract
1 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt

Pour this custard over the pieces of bread, making sure everything is well-coated.  Cover the whole pan with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight.  The bread will soak up the custard as it sits.

In the morning, mix this Topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (they say 1/4 t. of each, but I always double my spices in something like this)

Remove the plastic wrap from the pan and sprinkle the topping evenly over the bread.  Then bake it at 350 for about 45 minutes.  (If desired, put the bacon in for the last 30 minutes or so.)

When you serve it, drizzle some of the extra syrup from the pan on top (you can also flip the pieces upside-down so the syrup side is up).  It is also good re-heated the next day (right, Sam?) if you have any left over---which you won't unless one of your ravenous children is not feeling quite as ravenous as usual :)

Christmas Eve

The boys love candles

Christmas Eve is one of my favorite days (nights?) of the whole year---we have our butterscotch roll party in the morning and then in the evening we have dinner by candlelight and Elf Olympics and various other festivities.  The last few years we've made a greater effort to have everything ready/wrapped early, which allows us to relax and have fun on the 24th.  This year we watched last year's Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concert on KBYU, and it was excellent---we all loved it---so I think that may become part of our tradition too.

Elves.  (Malachi was doing this toothy thing all night---not sure why)

One of the contests is Lego-building.  Here we have my Segway scooter---with peepholes for younger riders.

Seb explains his creation (very elaborate)

The Sock Game (with animals---renamed "Load Santa's Sleigh").  Great hilarity always ensues during this game.  Seb's scary red eyes edited out, to become scary black eyes.

Sometimes I

yell "Stop that!" to Sebby in the other room, even though I don't know what he's doing.

And usually, I'm right.

Not that the nature of the thing has changed

So, you know how supposedly as you become more familiar with something you tend to like it more?  Like that saying---first we dislike, then tolerate, then embrace (or whatever it is---sorry for the bastardization)?  Well, I guess that's really true.

Because there's this kid who sits in front of us every year at the BYU basketball games.  And apparently we are really, really fascinating to him because he always turns around and STARES at us, wearing this vacant, slack-jawed expression.  Usually I meet his eyes right on, or wiggle my eyebrows at him, which freaks him out so he turns back around, for a few minutes anyway.  But this has been going on for YEARS now, and at first he was just a tiny kid, so you figure, kids are just like that, but then as he got older it got kind of annoying and I kept wondering what was wrong with the kid, quit staring, sheesh!  I mean, Sam and I cheer and sing the fight song and yell at the refs, but really we are not THAT loud or surprising so I don't know what the open-mouthed captivation is all about.  It bothered me and for awhile I took to giving him stern and forbidding looks every time I met his eyes.

Anyway, now he's this hulking preteen, and it was so weird, because he came to a game for the first time a few nights ago, and when he sat down I felt this surge of almost paternal affection for the kid.  (I say paternal, not maternal, because it was kind of detached---a pat on the head rather than a hug.)  Like, "Oh, look at our little guy, getting so big and independent!  I can remember when he was just a rosy-cheeked young pup holding his mom's hand, and now look at him going out to get his own popcorn!"  When he turned around and looked at me (he's getting slightly less obvious about it, too) I felt so proud and proprietary, I'm pretty sure I actually beamed at him.  (Which still freaked him out and made him turn back around, I might add.)  How odd!  I suppose all those hours of exposure* to the little dear finally wore me down. 

(*Note to self: do not watch any more Elijah Wood movies!)

Lights and hot chocolate

Do you celebrate the anniversary of the day you got engaged?  Tell your husband that you ought to.  We don't do anything elaborate, but it's another excuse to do something fun and tell your kids the story of how it all happened, which we all like a lot. 

Last week we bundled up and rode Trax up to see the lights on Temple Square.  It was freeeeeezing!  7 degrees.
This little bundle was the warmest of all, zipped into Daddy's coat
Luckily I had taken the precaution of telling the boys several times earlier in the day, "You will be cold!  You will be really, really cold, and you'll want to complain about it, but it won't help, because I will not feel bad for you, and I'll tell you there's nothing I can do about it, because there won't be, and then afterwards we will warm up with hot chocolate."

So the complaining was minimal.  Also, we were wearing double socks (for some reason the boys thought that was really hiliarious).
The lights were gorgeous.  I had heard they'd scaled back the number of Christmas lights on Temple Square, and they had, but it was still so beautiful.  Daisy (the warm one) just looked around happy and bright-eyed the whole time.  The boys liked the fountains (still running) and the lights floating on the pond.

Afterwards we went to our favorite chocolate place.  Oh, it is SO good.  Hatch's Family Chocolates---it's in the Avenues---a little family-run chocolate shop that sells THE BEST hot chocolate you will ever have.  It tastes like pure melted chocolate (which it basically is)---like what I always imagined the chocolate river in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory would taste like.  [Remember when Willy Wonka dips out a cupful of that chocolate and gives it to Charlie?  That always sounded so good to me.]  If you are ever in Salt Lake, and are cold, you must go try it.  The address is 390 E. 4th Ave.

Their chocolates are really delicious too.  These pictured are peanut-butter-filled dark chocolates with sea salt on top---they're amazing.  And Hatch's also has ice cream for sale---if we ever make it there in the summer I'm going to have their hot fudge sundae, which I've heard is great.

Don't forget . . .

to come have yourself glamourized at our party tomorrow!
We can't wait to see you (come hell or high water).  And if you didn't RSVP . . . come anyway!
See you then.

My new favorite pie crust

I like making pies and pie crust.  My mom taught me how to make a good crust when I was pretty young, so I'm not scared of it or anything, but I don't think I've ever mastered it quite as well as she has.  In my attempts to improve, I've tried lots of recipes with various "secret ingredients" (7-up! Vinegar!), but I always come back to Mom's recipe because it tastes so great.  Occasionally, though, I have problems with it shrinking a little in the oven---or folding down on one edge---which never seems to happen with my mom's crusts.  Maybe my technique is not quite the same as hers?

Anyway, I saw this recipe on The Pioneer Woman, so I tried it out.  And it worked SO well!  Here are the things I like about it:
  • It has shortening in it (I like a pie crust with shortening instead of butter; somehow they work better for me)
  • It doesn't require a food processor (I don't have one---and anyway I like using the pastry blender)
  • It makes 3 crusts, and they are meant to be frozen, so I can easily keep a spare crust in the freezer---which is great because I make dinner pies quite often and that will save me time
  • It makes a supple crust---easy to roll out and mold, but doesn't shrink! (With my other recipe, if the crust feels too supple, I know it's going to bend or shrink in the oven---but if it's drier, it's harder to roll out in the first place!)
  • It is THE FLAKIEST crust I've ever made.  Cast your eyes upon it in the top picture.  Delicious!!
So, I recommend this recipe with my wholehearted approval.  Again, you can go here for her pictures and step-by-step instructions, but here are my notes.

Pie Crust 
1-½ cup Crisco (vegetable Shortening)
3 cups All-purpose Flour
1 whole Egg
5 Tablespoons Cold Water
1 Tablespoon White Vinegar
1 teaspoon Salt

Preparation Instructions

In a large bowl, with a pastry cutter, gradually work the Crisco into the flour for about 3 or 4 minutes until it resembles a coarse meal. In a small bowl, beat an egg with a fork and then pour it into the flour/shortening mixture. Add 5 tablespoons of cold water, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir together gently until all of the ingredients are incorporated.

Separate the dough into thirds. Form 3 evenly sized balls of dough and place each dough into a large Ziploc bag. Using a rolling pin, slightly flatten each ball of dough (about ½ inch thick) to make rolling easier later. Seal the bags and place them in the freezer until you need them. (If you will be using it immediately it’s still a good idea to put in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes to chill.)

When you are ready to use the dough to make a crust, remove from the freezer and allow to thaw for 15 minutes.  (After 15 min., mine was still cold, so I put it in the microwave on medium power for 20 sec. or so---perfect.)  Then, I always roll my crusts out in waxed paper---it works so much better than the counter for me!  Just set your disc of dough between two large pieces of waxed paper.  You can wipe the counter with a sponge first to get the waxed paper to stick in place, or I just pull the end of the paper slightly over the edge of the counter and pin a corner of it there with my stomach while I roll out the crust.  Sounds super nerdy, I know!  But it keeps it still.  When your crust is large enough, you take off the top waxed paper and flip the crust, crust-side down, into your pie pan.  Then you carefully peel off the other piece of waxed paper.  Voila!  It's in the pan with no mess. 

Go around the pie pan pinching and tucking the dough to make a clean edge.

I made this
turkey pot pie recipe with our leftover Thanksgiving turkey (we had some from both our dinners), and we loved it so much that I made it a couple more times until the turkey ran out.  (It only uses one crust, for the top, so if you make it you'll still have 2 crusts to save in the freezer!)  The only trouble is that I so rarely have meat around to cook with, I don't think I'll have many other chances to make it.  But I was thinking I'd try it next with potatoes and maybe cauliflower in it, without the meat (still using chicken broth for flavor, maybe?) and I bet that would be just as good. 



You may know that I am afraid of things that grow too fast or too big or in the wrong places.  Like this (horrible; I had to close my eyes as I found the link) and this.  That's right, have a good laugh about it.  Wait till your brothers leave vines and branches snaking through your window onto your bed . . .

Sebby is afraid of the Pixar lamp (the one that bounces on and then squishes the "i" in "Pixar").  We have tried to tell him how cute and nice it is, but to no avail.

Abe and Seb are afraid of "the hat" that is hanging on the wall downstairs at my mom's house (one of those cone-shaped Filipino hats).  "I can't go down there!  I'm afwaid of the hat!"

Ky is not afraid of anything, but says he is whenever his brothers are.  ("Fwayd of hat TOO, Mommy!")

Do you have any odd fears I should know about?

The Fwuffball Tree

Sebby: the next Martha Stewart?


Everyone seems to be signing off letters with "Hugs," or "Kisses," these days.  I find it alarming because I already have problems knowing how much affection to show in person, and this just adds another arena in which to display my awkwardness.  (And also, why do I always see the plural used? Not only A kiss, but more than one kiss? Or does the sign-off encompass each singular kiss, given by both parties involved?) 

There are a few people I know I will hug when greeting them or taking my leave (my mother-in-law, some friends) and there are many people I know I will NOT hug (my bishop, the greeter at Harmons), but the in-betweens leave me flustered.  The worst is when you think the other person is going in for a hug, so you hold out your arms and then realize with a sinking feeling that it was only meant to be a handshake.  No doubt some of you have become embroiled in such an exchange, perhaps even with me (sorry, Melissa) and can relate.

I should be grateful, I suppose, not to live on "the Continent" where you have to add kisses ("Bisous!") into the mix: one cheek?  Both?  Even (in a positive orgy of affection) three, on alternating cheeks?  What an emotional minefield!

Anyway, now that the internet has supposedly made us all isolated and distant from each other, are we trying to compensate with virtual uber-affection?  Or are there people who really mean "Kisses!" to all and sundry, and would actually distribute those kisses if they were physically present?  Perhaps the only reason I don't receive such greetings regularly myself is because of the prickly "don't-touch-me" vibes I give off?  I suppose I often sign emails with "love," but that seems a little more ambiguous: Yes, I love you, but don't worry!  I won't be too demonstrative when we meet!

Or maybe people are being forced, through social pressure, to use sign-offs that don't accurately express their sentiments.  For such people, I offer a few possible alternatives to "Hugs," and "Kisses,":


Friendly slaps on the behind,

Fond smiles,

Thinly disguised grimaces of relief,

Cordial Nods,

Poorly executed fist bumps/finger snaps,

and my favorite: the ambiguous

"As ever,"

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