Friday, December 21, 2012

#26Acts and Hungarian Flowers in Watercolor

In honor of the 26 who died at Sandy Hook Elementary School a week ago today I have been participating in #26Acts.  For each person who died I am doing something kind.  Some are a positive message with a dollar bill attached and some are giving to may favorite charity in memory of one of the victims.  I am making sure that each one is associated with a specific name in the hopes that they will not be forgotten.
Getting ready to start:
Here's something I painted as a Christmas gift for my mom a few years ago but never got around to sharing here:

Here is my list of the kindness acts so far.  I'm not counting the cookies and chocolates because they didn't have a victim's name attached and I strongly feel the need to associate a name to each kindness.  I still feed good about brightening those guys day, though, they work hard!

Happy Holidays to All!

Sharing with my friends at Paint Party Friday.

Paint Party Friday

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Roasted Rosemary Almonds

While most people are baking Christmas cookies, my go to holiday treat are Rosemary Almonds. I make these every year, sometimes to take as an appetizer to parties or to give as holiday gifts (as I did this year) and sometimes just because they are so darn yummy and I crave them.

Roasted Rosemary Almonds
2 cups raw, whole almonds
1 1/2 teaspoons butter
1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Spread almonds on baking sheet and roast in 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, tossing almonds a occassionally.  I like my almonds a bit crunchy but you can toast for less time if you like.  While almonds are roasting melt butter in medium saucepan.  Remove from heat and add rosemary, brown sugar, cayenne pepper and cinnamon.  Add roasted almonds and toss to coat.  Cool slightly then add kosher salt and toss again. 

These are delicious served warm or room temperature and they can be stored in the freezer for longer life.  This year I made a HUGE batch (14 cups!) and was able to give out 10 gift bags and keep some for us to enjoy at home.   
Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Finished Hungarian Floral Bird

Last week I showed you my work in progress, a Hungrian folk art bird in pen on paper.

Here's the bird and her floral tail all colored in.  I'm very happy with the color. 
She might just get wrapped up as a Christmas gift (If I can bear to part with her.)

I hope the holiday season is going smoothly for all of you.  I am 99% done with my shopping and now I am sending out holiday cards.  I don't do cards every year but this year we have a cute picture and I was able to get it together in time.


I am calmer than I was last week despite a bit of stomach flu in our house.  The most stressful thing left of the holiday season is figuring out where to put our Elf on the Shelf every night.  This is the first year we have had one (was I the last mom to hear about these things?)  My daughter was pretty sad that we did not have an elf in our house so she wrote Santa a lovely letter and our elf arrived the next day!  Keeping her moving each night has been a bit of a challenge.  The other night I woke up with a jolt at 3:30am realizing I hadn't moved her!  A few nights before that it was 5am.  Still...if this is the most stressful thing I have going on right now, I'd say I'm doing pretty good!

Sharing with my friends at Paint Party Friday.

Paint Party Friday

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Manicotti, one dinner, four ways

One dinner, four ways. 
Yesterday was my turn in the "mealtrain" that has been making sure my friend L and her family are eating well since her surgery.

Since I made manicotti for L almost 10 years ago when her older daughter was born I thought it would be fun to do it again.  Since I was cooking on a weekday, I was hoping to make the same for my own family to save time but herein lies the problem:

L is a vegetarian
My son is allergic to dairy
I am gluten free

After a bit of consideration here is what I did.

1. For L and her family I made the recipe as listed above.  Sorry about the flash obscuring some says "in a pan heat."  I did add sauteed onions to the mix and a little dried basil...because I can't leave recipes alone.  I substituted half the Parmesan with mozzarella because I like the cheese to be a little more gooey.  I also didn't steam the spinach first, totally unnecessary! (top right in picture)

2. For my husband and daughter I made a second batch in the same way but I used precooked Italian sausage instead of mushrooms.   I cooked the sausage the night before, just squeeze meat out of sausages, discard skin and cook meat like any ground meat. (top left in picture)

3. For myself I made a polenta bake, I crumbled most of a package of polenta (the tube from Trader Joes) in the bottom of an 8X8 baking dish and covered with some spaghetti sauce.  Then I added the ricotta/spinach/Parmesan/mozzarella/sausage mixture prepared in the same way as above.  I topped with more spaghetti sauce and then sprinkled 1/4 cup each shredded mozzarella and Parmesan.  I baked covered at 350 for 45 minutes. (bottom left in picture)

4. For my son, I reserved 4 manicotti.  I used the last bit of polenta, about 1/3 cup and mixed with about the same amount of the cooked Italian sausage.  I added some spaghetti sauce and then about 1/4 cup of non-dairy "cheese."  I use Daiya brand.  I stuffed the 4 manicotti with this mixture and then followed the same instructions as the Manicotti above, some sauce in the pan and more on top of the manicotti. (bottom right in picture)

In the end this did not save ANY fact it was hectic and a bit crazy to make all of these variations but I also found the process of accommodating all these dietary requirements quite amusing.

Everyone enjoyed their meals. 
L specifically mentioned how pleased she was to have mushrooms and spinach in her manicotti. 
My son was thrilled to eat something that normally would be full of allergy inducing cheese and he loved the taste of my concoction. 
My polenta bake as amazing...I didn't miss the pasta at all.  And of course my husband and daughter loved their gooey traditional manicotti.

I don't recommend cooking like this often...but it made me happy to please everyone!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Oh, December!

Oh, December!  We've entered that time of year when I can't remember anything and I have to rely on lists and my calendar and my iPhone to keep me on track.  There are so many extra activities, holiday parades, holiday sings at school, holiday parties, gifts, plans...I get a little frazzled.  I somehow found the time to draw this Hungarian folk art bird which I am loving.  I love it in black & white, love the graphic nature of it, but I think I will love it even more in color and will do that soon.

Mostly what I have been doing lately in my free time is reading.  I find it funny that in the year I've been blogging I have not mentioned reading because I love to read.  I read about 3 or 4 books a month but in the last 3 weeks I've read the Night Circus, Gold, The Art of Fielding and am now on The Second Empress. 

What are you reading?
Friend me on Goodreads and you can see follow my books and I can follow yours.  (Hopefully this link works...I've been having a hard time with it!)

Finally I leave you with this pencil sketch of more Hungarian inspired flowers...this was done a couple of years ago but was lost in a sketchbook until this week.

Happy Paint Party Friday!  I'm hoping for equal parts relaxing and getting some holiday stuff done.

Paint Party Friday