Sunday, November 27, 2011

Advent Blessings!

On this first day of Advent, I can't help but wish (just a little) for snow.  Not as much as we had last year, thank you very much, but just a little bit to gladden your heart.  Wasn't the first snowfall always magical as a child?  I'm going to try and post recipes that reflect the season in the next few weeks.  Enjoy!

Artisan St. Lucia or Braided Focaccia Bread Wreath


cups all-purpose flour
4Tbsp. sugar
2packages Fleischmann’s® Rapid Rise Yeast
2tsp. salt
2cups water
6Tbsp. margarine
~Toppings: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, grated Parmesan, fresh basil


  1. In large bowl, combine flour, sugar, undissolved yeast, and salt. Heat water and butter until very warm (125 to 130ºF). Gradually add to dry ingredients; and stir until you make a dough.
  2. Knead on floured surface until smooth. Divide dough into 3 pieces; roll each to 24-inch rope; braid ropes. Place braid on greased pizza sheet. Form into ring and pinch ends to seal.
  3. Top with oil to prevent cracking, decorate with cherry tomatoes and bell peppers or your favorite fresh veggies in the manner of a green wreath with berries.
  4. Place large, shallow pan on counter; half-fill with boiling water. Place baking sheet over pan. Let rise 15 minutes until puffy.
  5. Bake at 400ºF for 25 minutes or until done. When almost ready, sprinkle on Parmesan cheese and continue baking until lightly browned. Brush oil on ring. Garnish with fresh basil and tall Advent or St. Lucia taper candles.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

I simply cannot believe it is Thanksgiving already!  Thanksgiving has always been a favorite holiday of mine.  My mom would start weeks early it seemed.  My favorite was always her homemade crescent rolls.  I have not yet attempted to try making my own.  I loved watching her slather each crescent with butter before rolling them and letting them rise.  I always imagine her thinking of all the family that would soon be arriving...  the laughter and the hugs.  It always amazes me to think of how, as our families grew, we all fit so snugly into her home during the holidays.  One by one, the families would arrive and there would be a flurry of greetings and hugs.  Dad would often go out to the driveway and greet each person with a wave and a smile. Mom would be stirring in the kitchen, eyes sparkling as she watched from the kitchen window.  I think she was happiest when we were all together.  The girls would help in the kitchen or play with the new babies and Dad would entertain the boys.  As soon as the last family arrived, the food was heaped on the tables and Mom would lead the prayer.  I am sure she held private Thanks in her heart for her family and the opportunity to gather.  My most poignant memory of family gatherings is feeling the tug in my heart when I knew it was time to go.  There would be long goodbyes and promises to write... and then they would follow everyone out to their cars and linger a while longer.  I can still see them waving at the end of the driveway until the cars were out of site.
Our family certainly held its challenges, but I am most thankful for having that family.  I cherish all the memories and give Thanks every day for each of them.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

First Snow

I read a post this morning where a young mom said her kids woke up to a winter wonderland this morning and how excited they were for the first snow.  We had our first snow during the night, so I missed watching the first flakes fall.  Growing up in North Dakota, the winters did seem magical.  We would rush through breakfast and then pull on our red snowpants and boots and rush out for hours of snow fun.  The one thing I can't remember doing is building snowmen, but I suppose we did when the snow was sticky enough to form a ball.  We ran around making tracks and built tunnels if the snow was deep enough.  I still am tempted to catch a snowflake on my tongue.

I honestly haven't tried this recipe yet, but maybe one of you will try it and let me know how it goes.  It just sounds fabulous.  Happy First Snow!
Wittamer’s Belgian Hot Chocolate
1 quart (1l) half-and-half or whole milk ( I think low fat would work just fine.)
8 ounces (230g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (try and find good quality chocolate)
4 ounces (115g) milk chocolate, finely chopped
tiny pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Warm about one-third of the half-and-half or milk, with the chopped chocolates and salt, stirring until the chocolate is melted.
2. Whisk in the remaining half-and-half or milk, heating until the mixture is warmed through. Add the cinnamon.
3. Use a hand-held blender, or a whisk, and mix the hot chocolate until it’s completely smooth. Serve very warm.
Serve with a poof of whipped cream and chocolate curls.