Winter 2014

Winter 2014

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Cranberry Cake with Butter Sauce

Thanksgiving is in a couple days.  When we think of Thanksgiving in the United States, we think of turkey, stuffing and cranberries.  Wisconsin is one of the biggest producers of cranberries.  Last year I made a very good jellied cranberry sauce for those who like cranberries in the shape of a can.  In my opinion cranberries in a can aren't the real thing, but it is all some people will eat.  This recipe doesn't have high fructose corn syrup so it is a better option.  You can use a jello mold or pour it in an empty can to gel.

This year I decided to make my mom's Cranberry Desert Cake.  I thought I had blogged this recipe before, but I haven't.  My mom had this desert for the first time at a coffee klatch when I was in elementary school.   Someone in the family has made it almost every year since.  The butter sauce that goes on top has a most amazing taste.  If you don't like cranberries, the sauce alone could be eaten with a spoon.  No kidding.

This is the original recipe.  It makes a 9 inch square pan.  I doubled the recipe and put it in a silicone bundt pan.  It took much longer to bake.  Mine took 60-70 minutes.  Keep testing until the testing stick comes out clean.   I also used cranberries that I had in the freezer.  I thawed them under running water and drained them well.  Then I shook them in a little flour to absorb some of the moisture.  It also helps the wet cranberries from sinking to the bottom of the baking pan. 

I doubled the recipe and baked in a bundt pan.

Cranberry Desert Cake 

1 cup sugar
4 Tablespoons softened butter
1 cup milk
2 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole cranberries

Mix sugar and butter together with a mixer until light and fluffy.   Add the milk and combine.  Then add the dry ingredients and beat until just combined.  Add the cranberries and stir them in with a spoon.  The dough is fairly stiff.

Prepare a pan by spraying with cooking spray and then dust with flour.  Spoon the batter into the 9 inch pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Serve with butter sauce. 

Butter Sauce

Melt 1/2 cup butter
Add 1 cup sugar and 3/4 cup heavy cream
Bring to a boil and boil for eight minutes.
It will thicken up.  Watch it carefully because it burns easily

Happy Thanksgiving 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Yearlings Looking For Mom

It is Monday, November 24th, 2014.  It's only a few days until Thanksgiving.  It has been a crazy day as far as the weather goes.  The last couple days have been quite mild.  Yesterday we had temperatures in the 50's.  It felt very seasonable for November in Wisconsin.  When I got up this morning, it was dark and dreary.  It was misting a little, but the temperature remained mild.

We helped our daughter out today and stayed at her house to let some delivery people in.  While we were waiting, the weather took a turn.  It started to snow slightly.  The temperature dropped to 37 degrees.  When the young men came with the delivery, it was snowing quite hard.  Afterward we quickly headed home, but not before the roads became slippery and the temperature dropped again to 34 degrees.  We made our way slowly and turned into our driveway just as the temperature dropped to 30.  We were very happy to walk into a warm house.  Actually looking out at the weather, it is quite pretty.

As we were sitting trying to decide what to make for dinner, we had deer visitors.  Two little yearlings came over to the window.  They stopped at the birdfeeder but couldn't get up that high.  I didn't see anything of their mom.  I hope we didn't lose her to deer hunters.  Every night she would come with her twins.  Now the twins are on their own.  Either she sent them off or something happened to her.

The twins are looking for corn.

One checking out the bird feeder.

Making eye contact,

and asking for food.

I went outside at this point.  They ran a short distance away until I put out some corn.  It's dark now, but I'm sure they are back filling their bellies.  I will find out tomorrow when I check the trail camera.  It will be fun to see how quickly they return.  I'm hoping mommy deer will show up on the camera, but I don't have a good feeling about that.

*I am happy to report that I was wrong.  Twelve hours after I posted this blog, I spotted Mama deer with her twins.  She was hiding in the woods, but safe and sound. 

We also had a buck munching on the pumpkins this morning.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Feeding Pumpkins to the Animals

Wisconsin, along with much of the country, has had unseasonable weather.  The temperatures have been below freezing for the past ten days.  Usually we wait until Thanksgiving is over to deal with the decoration pumpkins.  Then, before the Christmas decorations go up, we break up the pumpkins.  The deer and the squirrels love to eat them.  This year was different.  The pumpkins froze solid.  My friend suggested that I throw them on the sidewalk to break them up.  Most years we hit them with an ax or sledge hammer, and they crack into pieces.  It was a funny sight to see me on the top step throwing pumpkins as hard as I could.  They just rolled down the sidewalk like a bowling balls.  I didn't even put a dent in the pumpkins.

The pumpkins were frozen so solid they just rolled down the sidewalk.  I see two bite marks from squirrels before the frost.

Tomorrow the temperatures are supposed to rise into the 40's.  I know as soon as the pumpkins start to thaw, they will turn into a mushy mess.  We had to deal with them today.  We loaded the smaller pumpkins into our wheelbarrow, and wheeled them out to the edge of the woods.

We did a little brainstorming because hitting these pumpkins with an ax or hammer was not working.  I thought of a Sawzall type reciprocating saw.  Those saws can saw through anything including nails.  I asked my husband to help me.

We gave it a try.
It went through the frozen pumpkin like a hot knife through butter.

Within a short period of time, we (meaning my husband) were able to cut the pumpkins in half.  They made cute little bowls perfect for the animals to eat out of.

Next we loaded up the big ones.  We knew the smaller pumpkins could easily be cut in half, but we weren't sure about the big ones.  We were able to cut them just as easily.

These were covered with ice and snow.

Yum, I hope the animals enjoy these.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Thawing Frozen Ground Beef In The Microwave

I had my Tuesday recipe all planned today, but then I saw a very interesting tip.  I was watching Living with Amy on our local Green Bay Fox 11 station.  She often has a representative from the Beef Council of Wisconsin.  They make some delicious recipes.  Today they showed how to thaw frozen ground beef in the microwave.  We have all thawed a chunk of hamburger in the microwave and ended up with hard cooked spots and the rest still frozen.  That is why I came up with the method for cooking the ground beef first and then freezing it.

Here is the link from the Wisconsin Beef Council:

I thought I would try this.  I found a couple chunks of frozen hamburger in the freezer.  They recommend taking the flat pieces off the meat tray and freezing it flat.   Mine were lumps, but it is all I could find.  I put the hamburger in a clean plastic bag.  They said it doesn't have to be a freezer bag, just a regular plastic storage bag is fine.  Some people have voiced a concern to me about using plastic and the microwave.  All I can say is that it doesn't get hot or the beef isn't being cooked in the bag.  I wonder if the Beef Council has addressed this concern.  I imagine a vented glass dish would work.  Then chop up the hamburger after 1 minute instead of kneading it.  Eventually I will try that method. 

These are chunkier than they recommend.

Put the plastic bag in the microwave.

Put the bag of frozen burger in the microwave.  Seal the bag leaving one inch open and not sealed.  Cook on high power for 1 minute.  Take the bag out, let it rest for a minute and knead it to break up the frozen hamburger.  Return it to the microwave and cook for 30 more seconds.  The exact instructions are in the chart and on the Beef Council website.

It worked.

Let it rest for 30 seconds and knead the bag again to break up the rest of the pieces.  It worked beautifully.  There were no hot spots or overcooked pieces.  Ground beef thawed and recipe ready.  Who knew?  You learn something new everyday.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Dog Dish Birdbath

Oh my gosh it's cold.  We are having January temperatures in the middle of November.  I can handle a lot of cold.  I actually prefer it, but this is too cold, too fast.  The birds are being very active at the bird feeders, but the bird bath had to be put away for the winter.  The frozen water doesn't do the birds any good, and if water is left to freeze, the bird bath can crack.  My daughter gave me a bird bath heater several years ago.  It worked but the squirrels would always knock it out of the birdbath.  This year I wanted to come up with another plan.  While at the store buying more birdseed, I saw heated dog dishes in the pet department.  They were a lot less expensive than any other options I found.  I bought it and set it up last week.  We filled our fountain base with sand.  Then we set the dog dish on the sand.  I filled it with water and plugged it in.  When the temperatures fell below freezing, the water didn't freeze.  Some birds and squirrels are beginning to use it.  I haven't taken a photo yet, but I have seen critters there.  I was concerned about the birds freezing while bathing in the winter.  I researched it, and it is safe.  The feathers will shed most of the water and insulate the skin from water.  It is small enough so it provides water, but the birds can't submerse themselves.   I would think that is a good thing.  I just have to remember to check the water level everyday.  The downside is that it has to be plugged in so I couldn't put it where I wanted it to be in the yard.  I didn't feel good about running an extension cord far across the yard.  It isn't where I want it, but it is more important for the birds to have water than it is for me to be able to see it easily.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dad's 90th Birthday Party

The dust has settled on our wonderful weekend.  We celebrated my dad's 90th birthday on Saturday, December 15, 2014.  He actually turned 90 the day before.  He is such a kind man with such a gentle nature that everyone who attended our open house left happy.  He is a kisser so all the girls (and maybe the guys for all I know) got a big smacker for coming and sharing his day.  I can't thank everyone enough for coming.  He wondered how he was so lucky to have so many people come to see him.  I told him that he is loved a lot, and as sad as it is, most people get together like this at funerals.  We agreed that this was much better.

All decked out in Wisconsin Badger red waiting for the party to start.

Luckily many of my first cousins on my dad's side were able to attend. I hadn't seen many of them in a long time.  I wish we would have gotten a cousin photo.  Sadly one of my cousins has passed away, another couldn't come, but the other eight were here.  I have over 30 cousins on my mom's side of the family.  Some of them I don't know as well. 

My dad's only living younger sister came with her two daughter's.  His brother had to stay home with some medical problems.  Hopefully he will get well soon.

Dad with is sister Patricia. 

Dad's Happy Birthday cake.

Lighting the giant candle on the cake.

Five of dad's great grandchildren who live nearby were here.   They love their great grandpa.  They were so good and he got hugs and kisses from each of them.  He has 4 more who live in Michigan.  They tried to make the trip but the roads were terrible.  My sister, her husband and daughter made the trip from Michigan.  They ran into ice, sleet and snow.  Many cars were in the ditch.  They called home and encouraged the rest of the family to stay home.  It was too dangerous.  I am so grateful they made it safe and sound.  Dad went back home to Michigan with my sister.  He is spending the holidays with them.  He will be able to see that part of the family then. 

All and all it was a beautiful day to remember.  I want to thank each and every person who came.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Sugared Pecans

It's recipe Tuesday.  I am having a 90th birthday Open House for my dad next Saturday.  I am having snacks and a light lunch for those who come.  I am making very simple things because I have a tendency to overdo it.  Then I get nervous and can't enjoy the party.  I know people are coming to see my dad and to wish him a Happy Birthday, they aren't coming for the food.  Today I made some simple sugared pecans.  They are so good, I hope they last until Saturday.  Hiding them won't help because I will know where they are, and I'm the biggest culprit. 

Sugared Pecans

4 cups of nuts (I used pecans but any nut works)
1 cup sugar
1 T. cinnamon
2 egg whites

In a bowl mix the egg whites with a fork until blended and slightly frothy.
Stir in the sugar and cinnamon and mix well.  If you want more cinnamon, add it now. I actually used 2 tablespoons of cinnamon.
Add the nuts and stir around until they are well coated.

Place in a single layer on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper or foil.
Bake at 300 degrees for twenty minutes.  Take out of the oven and let them cool. 

You can make any flavor nut using this method.  If you want taco flavor, use taco seasoning.  I think pumpkin pie spice would be good with pecans, but I didn't think of it until I had added just cinnamon.