Tuesday, December 22, 2015

More family favorites for Christmas!

This fall I shared some my family's favorite recipes. And we all know that Christmastime brings out a whole array of family recipes and traditions! We have two in our family that we look forward to having only once a year - or only during this season! And I enjoy the treats as much as I can during the season!

FUDGE

The first is fudge. My dad has turned our family and friends into fudge snobs. And I won't hide that fact or apologize for it one bit! My dad is the only one who has truly mastered this task in our family. He learned from his mom - my grandma. It's the real cooked stuff - not the marshmallow fluff stuff. It takes time and is very precise and each batch is made with patience and love.

When dad makes it, he will actually make a triple batch, but the amounts I give are for a single batch. And you have to make it in a copper or aluminum pot or kettle...no stainless steel. Stainless will make the texture too sugary and not smooth and yummy like its supposed to be.

Start with:

  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. half and half
  • 1/3 c. light corn syrup
  • 2 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate bars
Then you will need:

  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 c. chopped nuts (if desired)
Cook the first 4 ingredients over a low heat until the temp gets to 236 degrees. It may take a few batches to get the correct temp on your thermometer. A degree to high or too low can affect the texture of the fudge too. 

Cooking to 236
Once you have cooked to the correct temp, remove the fudge from the heat and place the 2 Tbs of butter on top and let sit and cool. When slightly cooled, come back and add in 1 Tsp of vanilla. (If you add this when the mixture/pan is too hot, it will evaporate away.) Do NOT stir the fudge at any point during the cooling process. Just let it sit and cool to 110 degrees. (So you leave your candy thermometer in the pot the whole time.)

Once it cools back to 110, take a wooden spoon and start beating the fudge. If you want to add mix-ins, which my dad likes to add black walnuts, you can add these in as you are beating the fudge. (about 1/2 c. nuts for a single batch.) 

Starting to beat the fudge
Adding in the walnuts
The fudge has lost the shine and has started to turn dull
Keep beating until the fudge starts to turn dull and looses it's shine. At that point, turn in out into a buttered pan and let it set up for a little bit. 

Getting into a pan to spread out
After its come out of the pan and spread out
Then can cut into desired size pieces. It is rich and delicious, so you don't need very large pieces...dad always cuts them into about an inch square. Enjoy!! It does take some time to make fudge, but the result is so worth it! My dad made about 100 lbs of fudge last year around Christmas. He gives away as gifts to neighbors, friends and farm businesses he works with. And, of course, a batch or two go to this daughter and her family. :)

Always been my favorite part of the process - getting to scrape the pan!
Now my kiddos getting in on the act!

OSTAKAKA


The second delicacy we enjoy during the holidays is ostakaka (some spell it ostkaka.) "Ost" means cheese in Swedish, and "kaka" means cake. So the name basically boils down to cheese cake. It may sound a little odd, but if you give it a chance...it is OH SO GOOD. This is definitely a heart attack in a bowl, but when you only eat it once a year, it is worth the calories and fat! My dad actually learned this recipe from my mom's mom - my other grandma! This is a traditional Scandinavian dish - and it is delicious. Here's what you need:

  • 1 gallon fresh milk - pasteurized, but NOT homogenized
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup of sifted flour
  • 1 tsp rennet
For custard

  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 c. half and half
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Toppings
  • strawberries (the frozen kind - in the syrup)
  • fresh whipped cream

The recipe starts with 1 gallon of fresh milk. It can be pasteurized, but can not be homogenized. My dad has a local place that will sell fresh milk for these kinds of purposes.

Pour the milk into a large pot and warm it to about 105 degrees. When it reaches that temp, take a little bit of the milk (maybe about 1-2 cups) and put in a bowl and mix with 1 beaten egg and 1 heaping cup of sifted flour. Mix all those together until smooth and then add back into the whole pot of warm milk.

Egg and flour mixed with some of the warmed milk
Egg and flour have been mixed back in and adding the rennet
Turn off the heat, and add 1 Tsp of rennet. (I almost hate to say what rennet is, but it is necessary for the recipe that you have it! Rennet is acid from a calf stomach. When you put it into warm milk, it will cause the milk to separate into curds and whey.) After adding the rennet, let the milk sit for about 10 minutes. While it is is sitting, use your time to butter your baking dishes. You can use any size dish you want, but it will fit into a casserole dish nicely(like a 9x13 size.) Sometimes my dad gives it away as gifts along with the fudge so he will make many smaller ones in the disposable foil pans. Whatever sizes you want to make! After you butter your dish(es), you should also make the custard to go over the curds. Mix together the 5 large eggs, 1 c. half and half, 1 c. sugar, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp vanilla. Set aside.

The custard is mixed up
Once milk is set up, take a spoon and slice through the curds on the top to separate the curds and whey further. Let stand another 5-10 minutes until the curds settle. Pour the contents of the whole pot through a colander to strain off the whey. Keep draining thoroughly until the curds are about the texture of cottage cheese. Pour the curds into your buttered baking dish (or divide up into smaller dishes if you went that route.) Pour the custard over the curds and kind of mix together and break up curds with your fingers til they are a nice size and spread evenly across the dish.

Straining the whey from the curds
Curds in baking dish with custard poured on over them
Bake in a 300 degree oven for 1 to 1 hour 15 minutes or until the edges are a nice golden brown. Remove and let it cool. Serve with strawberries and fresh whipped cream - the real stuff.....no Cool Whip! :)

Final product - yum!!!!
A big bowl of deliciousness!!
**If you've never made fresh whipped cream, take a bowl and your mixer beaters and place in the freezer about 10 minutes before you make it. Take out of the freezer and depending on how much you want (I usually do about 1-1 1/2 cups), add fresh whipping cream to a bowl with approximately 1-2 Tbsp sugar and whip with your mixer until it forms soft peaks - don't whip too long or it will turn into butter!! You will never buy cool whip again once you have had real whipped cream!

My NEW favorite this year! Egg nog cookies - click on the link for the recipe! These are easy and delish!!


So what is your family's favorite traditional favorites??

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Respect

I'm going to be candid today because it deserves it. Some may not agree with any or all of this. I'm cool with that.

I try every day before school to talk to my girls about being kind. I say to be kind to other kids and respect and listen to your teachers. Above all in this life, I want my children to be kind. Even if that means being kind to a fault. Choosing kindness, I believe, will always come back to you twofold at some point. It may or may not be immediate. And it may even cause you more hardship in the short run. Maybe you will get taken advantage of in some way. Maybe people will use your kindness to their advantage. Maybe.

But modeling and demanding kindness and respect out of my children is not something I will ever compromise. You may think how can I say that now? My kids are little....they haven't been through teen years, etc. I can say without hesitation that I will ALWAYS teach my kids kindness and respect and will not tolerate any less. I don't care if you get called weak. I don't care if you get called fake or whatever other silly thing someone can come up with. Demanding and modeling these traits will not only carry over from how you treat friends, but if you respect your teachers, your efforts in their classrooms will reflect that also, even if you don't get stellar grades. And if you learn to respect others it will carry over to the court or field in sports, even if you don't always come out the winning team on the scoreboard. And learning to respect other will also carry over into the rest of your life...work, family, dealing with life in general.

And it starts with parents. It's so easy to spew hate and "opinions" about blacks, hispanics, people of other religions, people of different abilities, our neighbors, other community members in this present environment. We may think we're just talking....but our kids are listening. Children are not born to be prejudice and hate others. That is a learned behavior. You don't think they're listening and watching...think again.

Who am I to tell other people how to parent? Yes, sure....but when this sort of behavior exhibits itself in a child and it intersects with my child, it is partly my business. I refuse to teach my children to react with anger or retaliation. But the behavior shouldn't have happened in the first place. We don't function by ourselves in this world. We are not in a bubble of our own families and opinions and beliefs. We must learn to tolerate, love and be kind. Even if I don't agree with people, it does NOT mean that we can not be kind and civil with one another. We hold other human beings beyond our circle of influence with such little regard these days. Stop being so scared of everything. Stop being so offended by everything. Being scared and constantly offended only leads to words and actions that are not kind or respectful.

Today was a sad day for me. Will it be monumentally impactful to our lives? No. But it just shouldn't be what our school staff spends their day dealing with. I wish to give thanks to people at our school, and schools across the country, who work to try to undo the things these kids hear and see at home..and then live out and say at school. That they will not accept these things as "how kids are." Today, especially, I am grateful for that. So it's up to parents to be the example. I will rarely be upset with a child. A child who is just saying and doing what they hear and see from those at home. We must do better.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

6 Years Old - Time Marches On

I look at her so many days lately and I just think, "How did she get so grown up??" I remember kindergarten kind of did that to Alaina last year too. I miss my little girl. She's still little, but not quite little enough anymore. I miss her little voice and her hilarious, uncoordinated, never ending running in circles through the house. Oh she had the sweetest little toddler voice. I can still her saying "bi-per" (diaper) through her muk(pacifier) and look at me with the huge, round, blue eyes. She's always been beautiful.

Today my sweet Aubrey turns 6. I haven't written much on here about her yet. She's..."the middle child." I write so much about Alaina because, well, like I said, life with her is just as much different as it is the same as anyone else. And Wesley, his birthday was in July and he had his post.

This girl sits silently right in the middle of my heart. She is sassy. Oh is she sassy. She's grown up to be so independent and smart. Wow is she smart. Aubrey obviously is maturing and growing up a little differently from Alaina, so everything with her is just as new and surprising to me as it is with Alaina, even though Aubrey is our second and only 15 months younger. Some days lately I sit in awe as I watch her do things and think "when did I not have to help her with this anymore?"

Just as fiercely independent and smart as she is, she is also just as kind and tender hearted. She's quick to cry, no doubt about it. Some days that is beyond frustrating, but secretly I still kind of like it because it in some ways means she's still little. She's a good friend and an even more affectionate and loving daughter and grand daughter. She freely gives hugs and kisses, which I love. She's always thinks of other first - even when sometimes it may not seem like it. She always tells me she "just loves the whole world!" She's got a crazy good sense of humor and a laugh - what a laugh. Bryan and I just look at each other when we hear her get a good belly laugh in in the other room. It's kind of hilarious.

She's the ring leader. She may be the middle child, but she kind of rules the roost. Alaina is so go-with-the-flow, and Wesley isn't QUITE old enough to know better yet. Although he's getting there. So it's her show, man. She's a 6 year old who can put together shows for the kids to do. She makes sure that most situations "somehow" work out in her favor. (She has it down to a science who it will land on if she does an eeny-meeny and rules pop up out of nowhere that always seem to tip the scales in her direction.)

But she is a just the most beautiful little soul. She's a beautiful little artist and is quick to offer up drawings so you feel better or know she's thinking about you. She's a wonderful sister and would do anything for Alaina and Wesley, they are kind of a team and she's their fearless leader.

I love this little girl more than life itself. I love her beautiful blue eyes, her crazy blonde, bouncy hair and her beautiful little heart. She's got an imagination. She's a little hoarder and is a real free spirit. And while I'm in awe and so proud of what she's growing up to become, each birthday brings a tinge of sadness as my little girl fades another year further away.

Please indulge me in a little trip down memory lane. She is too cute to not take a look back. Happy birthday, Aubrey Jo. We love you lots. :)

Sweet baby - just new

I mean...those cheeks!

She's been funny since day 1
Things like this could be part of the reason she's so tough
Look at that face...
Possibly one of my all time favorites of her
Already 1 year old!
All kinds of sweetness!
Another up on the favorite list-the feet!
2 too soon
Beauty
The running days - caught her mid run
My little Easter bunny
Swiping yogurt was supposed to be doing something magical 
Oh that face!!
The eyes
The wild blonde hair
Tiny dancer

Already 3!
Hickory Park birthday sundae
Up near the top of favorites too
Look at that expression...right in the middle of a performance - she saw dad and grandma :)
And the outfits she can come up with...
Starting to really grow up
Big 4 year old
Natural beauty
She's up for anything - she's my little explorer
Sweetness
This is right after 5th birthday
Kindergarten round up
Artsy, independent girl wanted some hair chalk
Might be the highlight of her life thus far - WDW
But she loves the rodeo too
Love that face
Looking too grown up
6 year old Hickory Park birthday sundae
6 year old beauty
We love you more than anything, Aubrey! Thanks for 6 wonderful years of letting me be your mom.