Family · Holidays

Christmas 2020

One year ago, we were all hustling and bustling without a virus care in the world.  Stress was high because we put so many expectations on ourselves for the perfect Christmas experience.

Photo by @davidsonluna

Fast forward to Christmas 2021 and our lives are vastly different.  It’s easy to focus on the negatives, but for a moment, I’ll focus on the positives of the COVID experience and a sheltered Christmas.

  • My family and I are COVID free.  Every day I take the time to reflect on this blessing and pray for good health for all.
  • My family and I have shelter and food.  We have the opportunity to help others in need.
  • We are blessed with doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, first responders, and other essential personnel who are working tirelessly to provide services during this challenging time. They have my complete gratitude for going above and beyond on a daily basis.
  • Vaccinations are on the way giving us hope of control of Coronavirus for the future.
  • Family and friends are even more precious. I love and appreciate each and every one of you!
  • Handwashing and mask wearing are second nature.  When I watch a television show or movie where people are in close proximity, and not wearing masks, I get a little anxious.  Do you?  Wearing a mask and maintaining social distancing is the least I can do for the good of our country.
  • Home has never felt so good.  I’ve always enjoyed being home but I’ve found peace and comfort in my own space.
  • Christmas ornaments are full of memories.  Each year, I think of the moment or the year I acquired each ornament.  Decorating the tree in 2020 was a reflection on a blessed life.
  • Christmas magic abounds with young children. My four young grandchildren are filled with wonder and awe for the holidays .
  • My hair is gray.  If you haven’t seen me in a picture or on Zoom, you may not know that I have gone totally gray.  Gray hair symbolizes the accomplishments and stress that I have lived.  It has given me new found freedom.
  • I’m cooking more.  Cooking has always been a passion and with more time at home, I can experiment.  Curbside pickup of groceries is a new service offered that reduces my risk of exposure to COVID and makes quick work of shopping.
  • I’m posting again on Fork-Lore.  I’m cooking; therefore I’m posting.
  • Technology allows me to catch up with family and friends to stay connected and enjoy social interaction.  Our ancestors didn’t have this luxury during other lockdowns, such as the Spanish (ie., Kansas) flu.
  • Journaling this COVID experience for future reflection started in March and goes on to this day.  Truly, I thought I would only be journaling for 3 or 4 months…Silly me!
  • Podcasts, audio books and long walks are saving me. My favorite podcast list has more than doubled and the number of books read in 2021 is far beyond any previous year.
  • Humor sustains me.  There is nothing more humorous than reflecting on the silly things I do and see each and every day.

This Christmas let us find joy, peace, and good health.  Sending virtual love and hugs to all!

Cathy

Family · Family Favorites · Holidays · New Traditions

Christmas Crockpot Hot Chocolate

Hot Chocolate and the holidays just go hand-in-hand.  That warm cozy feeling in your tummy while gathered around the fire or Christmas tree with loved ones is what Christmas is all about.

Christmas Fireplace
Christmas Fireplace (Photo credit: rockinpaddy)

Daughter, Sarah, requested that we try this recipe for Christmas morning 2012 and it was delicious.  It took a little longer to heat in the crock pot so allow plenty of time for it to warm to serving temperature.

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas!

CHRISTMAS CROCK POT HOT CHOCOLATE

1.5 cups heavy cream
1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz.)
2 cups milk chocolate chips
6 cups milk (I used 1%)
1 tsp. vanilla
mini marshmallows

  • Stir together the whipping cream, milk, vanilla, and chocolate chips in a crock pot.
  • Cover and cook on low for 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until mixture is hot and chocolate chips are melted.
  • Stir again before serving. Garnish as desired.

adapted from mrshappyhomemaker.com

Family Favorites · Gluten Free · New Favorite

Easy Peasy Appetizer…Mozzarella and Raspberry Chipotle Jam

Now that I’m MUCH older, I’m feeling a little lazy around the postings so taking it easy for a week or two and celebrating the rest of my birthday month.

Even though I’m feeling lazy, sometimes you want a wonderful appetizer but don’t feel like putting a lot of time into it.  Are you with me?

Many years ago a popular appetizer was a brick of cream cheese with jalapeno jelly and it is still a favorite but I like to shake it up a little.  I purchased a fantastic jar of Shirley Ann’s Raspberry Chipotle Jalapeno Jam a while back and paired it with slices of Buffalo Mozzarella with crackers and sliced baguette. Yummo! It would be equally wonderful with a fine Brie.

Here’s to a lazy August day!

Family · Family Favorites · My Roots

Tenderloin Sandwiches…just the way Mom used to make

Saturday night dinner at the Smaha Farm often consisted of tenderloin sandwiches, still one of my all-time favorites.  My girls have joined the fan club.  Tenderloin sandwiches are easy to find in restaurants in Iowa but I haven’t seen one on the menu, yet, in Colorado.  In Iowa, the tenderloin is typically twice the size of the bun.  I prefer to keep mine bun size.

Mmmm….sweet Saturday night memories around the kitchen table.

PORK TENDERLOIN SANDWICHES

Boneless pork chops, thin
Beaten Egg
Fine bread crumbs (or cracker crumbs)
Canola Oil
Salt & Pepper

  • Remove fat from pork chops.  Pound chops with meat tenderizer until thin (tenderloin).
  • Beat egg(s) and place in separate bowl.  Pour fine bread crumbs, salt and pepper into second bowl.
  • Heat oil in large skillet.
  • Dip each pork tenderloin in egg wash and then in bread crumbs.
  • Place tenderloin in hot oil and brown well on both sides.  When cooked through, remove to plate with paper towels until ready to serve.

 

Serve on bun with traditional mayonnaise, lettuce and dill pickle slices (or whatever suits your taste).

 

 

Holidays

4th of July Cake…God Bless America!

The Fourth of July, Independence Day, is a day of family gatherings, neighborhood parades and parties, and fireworks.  Hopefully we all take a moment to remember the true meaning of the holiday, celebrating our countries independence from Great Britain in 1776.

This year I was invited celebrate the 4th of July with a Barbeque on July 2 and decided to try this Flag Cake I have seen many times, but have never made.  It is easy, although not on my diet, beautiful and delicious.  Perhaps a new tradition for our family?

4th of July Cake

1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® white cake mix (Water, vegetable oil and egg whites called for on cake mix box
1 box strawberry-flavored gelatin
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cold water
1 box (4 serving size) white chocolate instant pudding and pie filling mix
1/3 cup cold milk
1 container (8 oz) frozen whipped topping, thawed
1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Make and bake cake mix as directed on box for 9×13″ cake.  Cool completely in the pan for about an hour.
Pierce cooled cake with rok at 1/2 inch intervals.  In a medium bowl, stir gelatin and boiling water until dissolved.  Stir in cold water.  Carefully pour mixture over entire surface of the cake.  Refrigerate at least 3 hours until serving time.
In a large bowl, mix pudding mix and milk until well blended.  Gently stir in whipped topping.  Spread over cake.  Arrange strawberries and blueberries on top of cake to look like a flag.  Serve in immediate future.
Store leftovers in the refrigerator, loosely covered.
Recipe from: Betty Crocker 
Family · Home

Exterior Home Makeover…why did I wait so long?

The past several weeks have been a little crazy for me.  Not only was my first grandbaby expected but I was getting new vinyl siding.  No more blue house for me…or as the kids called it…the smurf house.  In the ’80s, country blue was big but honestly, it’s been out of style for a long time.  The decision to paint/repair or to buy new siding was a big economic commitment.  I finally made the decision…vinyl siding.

The kids were a little nostalgic about the change…no more smurf house!  I was excited to see my house transformed.  The results were amazing.

BEFORE
BEFORE…Smurf House
IMG_2258
AFTER…Is that my house?

You know the old saying that once you start fixing one thing it leads to a host of other needed improvements.  I intended to paint the old garage door but after 15 minutes of scraping, I realized this door was not going to stay.  My garage was always dark and a door with windows was on my wish list. Voila! Home Depot had the solution.  Now when I walk into the garage, my first reaction is ‘I must have left the garage door open since it’s so light in here’ but realize the new door makes that much difference.

Every big job must have at least one issue and mine was the mailbox.  So what does a new siding job have to do with a mailbox you ask?  During a delivery of siding supplies, the workers knocked over my old mailbox.  It was vintage (meaning ready to be replaced anyway), so another trip to Home Depot for a brand-spanking new white mailbox and post.  The workers installed it for me while I was away at an appointment (bless their hearts!).  Only problem…it was installed hanging about 6-8″ over the sidewalk.  Needless to say, I didn’t want to be the owner of a mailbox that took out the neighborhood kids skating down the sidewalk.

Neighbor, Gary, to the rescue.  He was kind enough the next day to move it back to the safe zone for our neighborhood.  Now, I hope, I’m on the good side of the HOA and my neighbors.

This job now has me contemplating my next project…I think the smurf shed needs a transformation, too!

Family Favorites · Holidays · New Traditions

Baked Ham…Crockpot Style

Easter and Christmas holidays call for a baked ham.  Easy-peasy recipes allow the host/hostess to enjoy their family and friends and this recipe, coupled with the crunchy potato casserole (March 29, 2013 post), make preparation easy.

My family doesn’t enjoy spiral sliced hams, honey-baked hams, but they LOVE this recipe.  The leftover ham makes wonderful sandwiches, too.  Typically I purchase a Butt Portion Ham, often available for $.99-$1.39 a pound, a true friend of the family budget.

BAKED HAM CROCKPOT STYLE

Pour 1/2 up water in Crock Pot. Wrap precooked 3-4 pound ham in foil; place in Crock Pot. Cover and cook on High 1 hour then turn to low for 6-7 hours or until ham is hot. If cooking a larger ham, cook 1 hour on high and 8-10 hours on low.

Cathy’s method: I follow the instructions above put typically have to cut a few slices off the ham to make it fit in the Crock Pot and . I start the process about an hour before bedtime and then turn to low and cook 12-14 hours. The ham is juicy, tender and delicious.

Adapted from Rival Crock Pot Cooking

New Favorite

Cranberry Bars…perfect for your Valentine!

Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars are daughter Sarah’s favorite holiday treat. When she was a teenager I bought her a pan of Cranberry Bliss Bars for her November birthday and she was ‘WOW’d’. Before Christmas this year she was very depressed that Starbucks/Denver had sold out of Cranberry Bliss Bars and, being pregnant, she had cravings that we needed to fill.

 

Sarah found this recipe on Pinterest and we made them for the holidays. They were delicious and very close to what we experience at Starbuck’s.  Perhaps this will become a new Valentine’s tradition in our house and in yours.   XOXOXOXOX

CRANBERRY BARS

BLONDIE LAYER:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) salted butter, cubed
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup dried cranberries
6 ounces white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped

FROSTING:
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
6 ounces white baking chocolate, melted
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a 13×9-inch baking dish with nonstick spray.
  • Prepare the blondie layer: In a medium bowl, melt butter for one minute in the microwave; stir in brown sugar. Scrape the butter & sugar into a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Use an electric mixer to beat in the eggs and vanilla. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; gradually add the dry mixture to the butter mixture. Stir in the cranberries and chopped chocolate (the batter will be thick).
  • Spread the blondie batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 18-21 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean (do not overbake). Cool completely on a wire rack.
  • Prepare the frosting: In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the cream cheese and powdered sugar until well-blended. Gradually add half of the melted white chocolate; beat until blended. Frost brownies. Sprinkle with cranberries. Drizzle with remaining melted white chocolate. Cut into bars- square or triangle-shaped. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Tips:

*If you’d like to add an orange flavor to these bars, add 1 tablespoon grated orange zest to the frosting.

Recipe from:  http://www.recipegirl.com/2011/11/14/cranberry-bliss-bars/

Czech Heritage · Family Favorites · My Roots

Roasted Pork Loin … Savory Deliciousness!

Roast Pork was a staple on the farm, most often served with mashed potatoes, gravy and our beloved sauerkraut.  I don’t make it as often any more, but thoroughly enjoyed roasting this beautiful pork loin, prepared with olive oil and Bohemian Forest Rub from our local spice shop, Savory Seasonings.

SAVORY ROAST PORK LOIN

4-5 pound pork loin
olive oil
garlic salt
Bohemian Forest Rub (Savory Seasonings) or rub or choice

Pork Loin ready for the oven

  • Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  • Rub Pork Loin with Seasoning.
  • Roast pork, uncovered, for 3 hours or until internal temperature is at 180 degrees.
  • Let roast sit for 10-20 minutes before slicing.
New Favorite · Vegan · Vegetarian

No Bake Energy Bites

No Bake Energy Bites were another Pinterest find.  They sounded delicious, somewhat healthy, and easy. They remind me so much of the no-bake chocolate cookies we made when I was a kid (and for my kids).

I added cinnamon to the recipe and also rolled some of them in oatmeal, just to add a little visual interest. Next time I plan to add some chopped walnuts, almonds or sunflower seeds.

Energy bites any time of day for energy or when your sweet tooth is getting the best of you!

No Bake Energy Bites

1 cup dry oatmeal
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/3 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

  • Mix all ingredients together.
  • Roll into balls and refrigerate. You can also roll the bites in the oatmeal again to coat (optional).

Adapted from:  http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/no-bake-energy-bites/