Another Christmas is in the memory books. Hope it was a good one for you and your family. Good things happen; bad things happen; time marches on. The lights and displays in our area were beautiful this year, and we almost had a white Christmas! I think Mother Nature got her days a little mixed up this year for a White Christmas on the actual day. We take what we get, though, and be glad we are around to enjoy it.
A lot of you probably already have your tree down and the ornaments packed away until next year. Mom used to take our family tree down on New Year's Day. I broke from family tradition and leave mine up until the Epiphany to enjoy the Twelve Days of Christmas. Often the tree isn't taken down for some (many) weeks. Winter can be so bleak that the pretty lights of Christmas and the fireplace going make it seem pretty nice. This year, like the last two years, I plan to just remove the Christmas balls and leave the lights and tree up all year. Maybe some hearts for Valentine's Day and some shamrocks for St. Pat's Day and some eggs for Easter, then flowers for the rest of the year until the Christmas ornaments go up again. It surely is easier that way. Sometimes it just pays to be lazy! It was a little disturbing this year to have trouble finding Christmas music and shows on the TV. Most that we found were so old that we had seen them more times than I like to remember, and we knew all the scripts. Maybe the lack of them was one reason the season just didn't seem right. Christmas just seemed to drop in on us before we were ready for it. It's funny the way seasons seem to do that the older we get!
As we get older, we get the most joy from the young ones in the family as they celebrate Christmas. Our beautiful first granddaughter is wearing a big diamond this year. Welcome to the family, Cody! And our youngest great-grandson got his first four-wheeler. The kids all in between had a good Christmas, too, and we enjoyed being with those we could as they opened their gifts. Thirteen grands and greats makes a busy season. We love them all! Husband Norm's mother, at 98 years young, seemed her best in quite awhile, so we give thanks for all our family this Holy season of the year.
Next weekend, we start the year all over again. It is truly a good time to "make a new start" if the past year has left us thinking something is missing. Whether we call them New Year's resolutions or not, it is a convenient time to take a personal audit of ourselves and try to better the ways we think and live. It is a good time to check our "Bucket List," too. Everyone gets older each day and we should not put off the things that would make us and our families happy. No one is promised tomorrow.
I will start making plans to do the things I didn't get done this year (ha-ha!). I think I said the same thing last year. Anyway, this year, I am going to try. We have a tendancy to put things off in this old house, so I guess we need to get serious about it or just decide not to do any more remodeling. Also, the seed catalogs will startcoming in any day now, and that annual decision about the size of the garden will have to be made. Norm is winning more and more discussions about that every year. I think I can do things that my body tells me to let someone else do it. It may be just flowers and berries this year and a few tomatoes, and maybe some peppers and cucumbers and squash. You know how it all goes. Stay tuned for further developments.
How do you celebrate New Year? Do you do the northern thing with ribs and sauerkraut or the southern thing with black-eyed peas and ham? I often do both (it keeps me from having to cook for a couple of days leftovers!) and I have two crockpots in which to do it. This year is nice in the way the days fall so that we get two long weekends. This coming one will be spent watching the bowl games and the ball coming down in New York (I wouldn't be in that crowd at Times Square for all the tea in China. Much better to watch it on TV.) As this is written, the forecast is for snow so it may still be around for New Year's. I hope the ice stays away for those who go out to celebrate New Year's Eve. Personally, the fireplace, a rocking chair and a good book are to my liking these days. For those like me, I include my "skinny soup" with which I start each year. It isn't as good as the cookies and candy are, but better for one's tummy. Have a safe and Happy New Year and look for a silver lining in each day of the coming year. Here's to your health and happiness all year long. God bless you and yours.
SPARERIBS AND SAUERKRAUT
Salt and pepper
Cut spareribs in serving sized pieces and brown in hot bacon drippings or oil. Season with salt and pepper. Drain sauerkraut and rinse with water and drain again. (I use the plastic bags of kraut found in the meat department, but canned will work, too.) Core and slice one or more apples. Peeling is optional. For one bag of sauerkraut, use one large apple or two small ones and about 1/3 cup of brown sugar. Use 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon caraway seeds. Combine the kraut, sugar, sliced apple and caraway seeds in a Dutch oven or a crockpot. Add water to not quite the top of the kraut mixture. Place the browned spareribs on top. Cook until the ribs are tender. The crockpot is the easiest as you can start them on New Year's Eve and by morning , they are ready to serve for New Year's Day. If you like kraut a little more sour, don't rinse the kraut.
BLACK-EYED PEAS AND HAM HOCK
One (16 oz.) package of dried black-eyed peas
10-12 cups water, divided
One ham hock at least half pound or two or three small ones (with lots of meat on it)
One large onion, whole
Sort an wash peas and place in a Dutch oven. Cover with water 2-inches above the peas, about half of the water. Let soak overnight. Drain peas and then cover with remaining water. Wash ham hock and add to peas. Add onion. Stir gently. Simmer, allowing some steam to escape for about one hour or until peas are tender. Remove onion and discard. Remove ham hock and remove meat from the bone. Dice meat and stir into peas. Add salt to taste. Fresh, frozen or canned peas can be used and don't require the soaking the dried ones do.
Six slices bacon, diced
One onion, whole
Six cups water
One cup dried black-eyed peas
One cup regular rice
One teaspoon salt
One-half teaspoon pepper
Combine bacon, onion and water in a large Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Add peas, cover, and simmer one hour and 45 minutes or until peas are tender. Remove onion and discard. Stir in rice, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer another 20 minutes or until rice is tender.
"DIET" VEGETABLE SOUP
One-and-one-half cups tomato juice
Two cups water
Three cups shredded cabbage
One medium to large onion, chopped
Two tablespoons parsley flakes
Two beef bouillon cubes
One packet dry onion soup
One-half teaspoon garlic salt
Dash Tabasco sauce
One small (4-oz.) can sliced mushrooms and liquid
One can (16-oz.) green beans and liquid
Salt to taste
Combine tomato juice, water and cabbage in heavy Dutch oven. Bring to a boil, then simmer, uncovered until cabbage is tender. Add remaining ingredients and heat to blend. Can keep leftovers in refrigerator for up to a week.
(One way to lose weight is to eat a bowl of soup before each meal.)
One-half cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
Two packages dry yeast
Two teaspoons sugar
Four to five cups all-purpose flour, divided
One-half cup sugar
Two teaspoons salt
One teaspoon ground nutmeg
One teaspoon grated lemon rind
One-half cup warm milk (105 to 115-degrees)
One-half cup butter or margarine, melted
Five egg yolks
One-half cup finely chopped candied citron
One dried bean or pecan half
Sugar crystals purple, green and gold
Combine water, yeast and two teaspoons sugar in a small bowl. Mix well and let stand for five minutes or until bubbly. Combine four cups flour, One-half cup sugar, salt, nutmeg and lemon rind. Add warm, melted butter, egg yolks and yeast mixture. Beat until smooth. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead in enough flour to make a stiff dough. Continue kneading for 8 to 10 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts for one hour or until doubled in bulk. Punch dough down and place on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle with citron and knead until citron is evenly distributed. Shape dough into a cylinder 30-inches long. Place cylinder on a greased baking sheet and shape into a ring, pinching ends together to seal. Place a well-greased two-pound coffee can in center of ring to maintain shape during baking. Press bean or pecan half into circle from bottom so it is completely hidden by the dough. Cover ring with a towel and repeat rising procedure forty-five minutes or until doubled in bulk. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Remove coffee can and place cake on a wire rack to cool. Drizzle cake with glaze and sprinkle with sugar crystals, alternating colors. Man who finds pea or pecan half is "king" for the night.
GLAZE: Two cups sifted confectioners' sugar
Two tablespoons lemon juice
One tablespoon water
Combine all ingredients and beat until smooth.
Contact Patty Christopher at firstname.lastname@example.org