Tuesday, December 27, 2011

holiday festivities

We were burning up the road Christmas weekend!  Lots of good times, good company and good food!

On Friday, Uncle Jeff and Mema came to Thomson to visit.  It was great to have them there!  The boys were about to go hunting.  Neither Brad nor Levi had any luck all weekend.  :(

Dad has been doing conservation easement appraisal work since retiring and he decided that this would make his job so much easier.  Plus, he can use it on the land in Thomson for hunting, hauling firewood, etc.  Brad was drooling for sure!  This is on our list once we get our land.  (Fingers still crossed!)

We had some drinks and got to visit with the Heaths Friday night.  They are new parents to precious Henry!

On Saturday, I hosted brunch for the Shinglers.  This is Cooking Light's ciabatta french toast stuffed with gruyere and topped with a warm apple maple syrup. Every bit as good as it sounds!

The ever-popular ham and swiss sandwiches with a poppy seed and mustard dressing.  Mmmmm.  I do mine a little bit differently than most.  I do not use any mayo or miracle whip - ick.  So, I just layer ham and swiss on King's Hawaiian rolls.  Then I mix only the butter, poppy seeds, mustard and worchestershire together (no onions).  I slather this on the inside of the rolls, not on top.  These are Brad's favorite!
My favorite baked grits recipe.  A ton of flavor.  Fat too but, hey, it's Christmas!  Thank you, Paula Deen!

To lighten things up a little, I put together some fruit parfaits.  I mixed some plain yogurt with vanilla extract (you could use vanilla yogurt but I didn't have any on-hand).  I layered the yogurt with fresh, cut strawberries and kiwi for a festive look.  I also added granola and drizzled it with honey.  Yummy!

I don't have a picture but, to start, I made portobello pizzas.  I just cleaned out the caps, drizzled the insides with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with oregano and thyme.  I baked these, covered with foil, until tender.  I added a sliced tomato and mozzeralla cheese to each and returned to the oven to melt.  They were a hit too!

As per tradition, we decorated sugar cookies together.  Brad got gruesome and painted red on the neck of a gingerbread lady that 'lost' her head.  Don't you love his football player?

We headed back to Thomson on Friday for more fun.  We exchanged gag gifts on Christmas Eve.  Brad got a mini UTV like Dad's.  Mom bought this before they even thought about Dad getting one.  Levi got Brad a UF koozie.  That thing is going in the fire soon!

Warning: whole animal being cooked ahead...

Instead of doing the traditional Christmas dinner (Brad and I were going to have two in one day), we smoked a whole hog!  Levi borrowed Walker's smoker and they got started at 4:30 am on the coals.  They did a great job!

We only ate a portion of his shoulder.  This guy was only 65 lbs but he produced a lot of meat. 

Levi pulling the meat off.  It was so tender and juicy.  They brined it in salt and brown sugar the night before. 

Ok, this is gnarly but reminds me of one of my favorite movies - the Princess Bride.  Remember the ROUS - rodents of unusual size?  Those teeth!

At the Shingler house for our second Christmas celebration.  Debbie did a great job getting dinner ready despite the ovens going on the fritz!

After our Shingler dinner, we went to the Revell house to hang out with Hunt and John and Lauren. 

I was going to take a nice photo of John and Lauren by the fire and then Hunt and Adi jumped in the picture with random objects.  Good times!

Brad and I had a great time visiting with friends and family during this most-special season.  So much to be thankful for in 2011!

80s christmas

The Trotters, Dunstans and Rigsbys hosted an 80s Christmas party a few weeks ago.  It was rad!  :)  Some folks came over beforehand to preparty.

Brad went for the GNR look and I went for the Footloose look.  His mullet cracked me up all night!  My dress was $15 at Goodwill - a steal.

Eric was a British rocker and Mel a groupie.

Gail and Allen

Liza and William

The girls.  Don't you love my Keds? 

Allen drinking out of the moose cups made famous by Christmas Vacation.  They were a huge hit!  Jennifer bought the whole set - love it!

With Blake.  Isn't her jumpsuit classic?

Mike and Blake.  His uncle actually wore this to a prom in the 80s!

Brock, doing his best Cousin Eddie.

The 6-pack of Busch is pretty awesome too.  I am loving those shoes though.

Eric and Brad rocking out.  They had a great soundtrack for the party.

The guys.

With Jennifer and Michele.  This was actually Jennifer's middle school formal dress. 

Jennifer and Michelle with Eric.

Jennifer tried on Brad's wig and sunglasses.  This is awesome!

Brad with John.  Although they don't look too much alike dressed like that!

With Kathi.

Michele found a wig and some glasses too.  Ha.

Eric jamming.

We had a great time!!  Still enjoy dressing up.  :)

christmas decor

Got a lot of catching up to do!  Here are some pictures I took of the house all decorated.  I really got the decorating bug this year.  I always love it but I was tasked with decorating Champions also.  You would think that would make me sick of it but not so much.  :)  We hired our superintendent's wife to help and she goes ALL out.  That wore off on me for sure...

dining room table.  i just layered greenery, gold ball ornaments and pinecones in my tall vases.  i had them filled to the top but it did settle some.  the lantern is filled with walnuts and cranberries.  love the burlap ribbon i tied on top!  i added the gold pinecone ornaments in the greenery later but am not sure i like them.

i added a small tree in the front window of the dining room.  champions' decor is all very natural and woodsy so i wanted the same thing in my house.  i love the leaf ornaments on this tree - and the ribbon!

the nativity granny made.

tree!!  look at all the presents.

with sweet banjo!

i bought this lenox table runner at tuesday morning but it was too short to use on the table.  so, i repurposed it for the table to tv sits on.  i think it's perfect!

i bought these matte white balls at hobby lobby and couldn't decide what to do with them.  this candy garland used to go on my tree but i don't have enough anymore and bought some red and gold garland last year.  so, the matte white balls and garland found themselves in this glass dish with some silver.  we'll see if it stays that way next year...

i have already purchased a lot of decor on sale for next year.  yay!!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

crawfish au gratin

I have not been cooking much lately due to trips, Thanksgiving and parties.  So, for the latest home-cooked meal, I went all out!  This is a recipe from a past coworker in Birmingham.  Beware: NOT on the diet.

Crawfish Au Gratin
1/2 c butter
3-5 tbsp AP flour
2 c heavy cream (2 c half & half)
1.5 lbs clean crawfish meat
2 c sharp cheddar
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp Tony Chachere's
1/2 c green onions
1 box of pasta

Melt butter in saucepan and add flour to make a roux.  Adjust the amount of flour as you see fit.  Slowly add the cream, stirring constantly.  (My recipe doesn't mention adding the half & half.  I only had 1 lb of crawfish so I just added 1 1/4 c of cream.  That wasn't quite soupy enough so I added the same amount of the half & half.  Why not, right?  It was fat-free after all.)

Once that is nice and thick, add the crawfish (I got mine in the seafood freezer section - near the fresh seafood - in Publix.), onions, garlic and Tony's.  My scallions were old so I used my trusty onion flake and minced 4 gloves of garlic.  Add the cheddar to the sauce.  I added a little asiago too!  With my smaller batch, I used one c of cheddar and 1/4 c of asiago.

Cook and drain the box of pasta.  (I used penne but any will work.)  Mix the pasta with the sauce and place in casserole dish.   Sprinkle a little cheese on top and bake at 350 until bubbly.  Enjoy!

I didn't actually make any side dishes but have had this photo for a while and wanted to post it.  :)
Just saute some asparagus in olive oil and add salt and pepper.  Isn't it pretty??

holiday party

Monday night, we had our management-level Christmas dinner at Bonefish.  Afterwards, everyone came over to our house for dessert and drinks.  I figured this was the best opportunity to have them over since they were already in Richmond County.  Not many of them venture out of Columbia County much.  :)

Of course, no one was hungry for dessert.  That was eaten at work over the next couple of days.  The drinks were popular though.  These are all pinterest recipes.  Notice a trend?

These are so good and pretty easy to make.  Do heed her advice and roll them twice in the powdered sugar.

A maz ing.  For some reason, my crust mixture was very wet.  It worked okay for the bottom layer but would not have rolled out for the top.  So, I just spooned it on top and spread it with a greased spatula as best I could.  However, this did not impact the taste at all.  A few people partook that night and it was gone by lunch the next day!

This was great!  I couldn't find cloudy apple juice and my regular worked just fine.  It is just one cup of apple juice, one cup of cranberry juice, 50 ml vodka (all mixed in blender) and then topped with one cup of ginger ale and ice.  I am not sure the blender action made much difference so if you are pushed for time, I would eliminate it.  This is a teeny bit of vodka so you could always increase that too.  Ha.  I ended up tripling the recipe and it was all gone. 

This was really yummy too.  Just a bottle of white wine, 3 cans of Sprite and a few ounces of orange-flavored liqueur.  I used triple sec because it's what we had but grand marnier would work too.  Garnish with pomegranate seeds and lime wheels.  I cut the limes over the sangria (and let the juice fall in) in order to infuse a little more flavor. 

This was all pretty easy and very good!  I did most of this the night before since we would be at dinner right before folks came over.  I just reheated the pie and added the carbonated beverages to the drinks. 

I also had to have the house fully decorated by then!  I made it and will post those pictures later.  :)

win's christening

Last Sunday, Natalie and I traveled to Louisville for Little Win's baptism.  We had such a great time visiting with this precious family!

Martha with Becca and Big Win holding Little Win.  Martha's Dad is an elder in the Thomson Presbyterian Church so he assisted. 

Little Win getting sprinkled.

Congrats guys!