Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas naked are your branches

Here I sit, December twenty-sixth (I'm a poet and I didn't know it) deciding how to describe Christmas 2007. Let's begin with the fact that this is a stinkin' busy time of the year for us Church workers. In the last three days we have had seven services, of which I participated in all seven. This included an 11 PM service on the 24th followed by a 10 AM service the 25th with some Santa duties in between. I was plumb tuckerd out! It has been nice to be able to relax today. The girls and I have just been hanging out and playing with new Christmas toys while the women folk are at the mall (I shudder at the thought). Give me preschoolers any day over the mall on the 26th of December! Saturday found me at the grocery store hunting for all the ingredients for two Christmas dinners. We had Christmas on Sunday with Jill's sisters family and I tried a new recipe for lasagna. Let's just say it was AWESOME. I really don't want to give away my secret but I stumbled upon a great website that has some scrumptious recipes. If you have some time check out You will not be sorry although your waistline might. Here is the recipe for her lasagna. Don't laugh at the ingredients because when they all come together it is a party in your mouth:

1-1/2 pounds ground beef
1 pound hot breakfast sausage (Jimmy Dean’s bulk)
2 cloves minced garlic
2 14.5 oz cans whole tomatoes
2 6 oz cans tomato paste
2 T dried parsley flakes
2 T dried basil
1 t salt
10-oz package of lasagna noodles (the wavy kind) (boil adding ½ t salt and 1 T olive oil to water) al dente

Mix together:
3 cups lowfat cottage cheese
2 beaten eggs
½ cup Kraft Parmesan cheese
2 T dried parsley flakes
1 tsp salt

1 lb sliced mozzarella cheese

In a skillet, combine 1 1/2 pounds ground beef, 1 pound hot breakfast sausage, and 2 cloves minced garlic.

Cook until brown. Drain off about half the fat (or more, to taste).

After that, add two 14.5-oz cans of whole tomatoes, two 6-oz cans of tomato paste, 2 tablespoons of dried parsley flakes, 2 tablespoons dried basil and 1 teaspoon salt.

Mix together thoroughly and simmer, uncovered, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, boil a 10-oz package of lasagna noodles. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to the water, as well as 1 tablespoon olive oil to keep the noodles from sticking. Cook the noodles “al dente” so they’ll still have quite a bite to them. When they’re finished cooking, drain, rinse with cool water, and lay the noodles flat on a sheet of aluminum foil. That way, they’ll be easier to handle later.

While the meat mixture and noodles are cooking, mix 3 cups lowfat cottage cheese in a bowl with 2 beaten eggs. To the cottage cheese, add 1/2 cup Kraft Parmesan Cheese. 2 tablespoons dried parsley flakes, and 1 teaspoon salt. Mix together well.

Now, go ahead and build your assembly line: meat mixture, 1 pound sliced mozzarella cheese, cottage cheese mixture, and cooked lasagna noodles. Lay four cooked lasagna noodles in the bottom of the pan, overlapping as you go. Spread half of the cottage cheese mixture evenly over the noodles. Then lay 1/2 pound of mozzarella cheese slices on top of the cottage cheese mixture. This particular brand of cheese was cut very thin, so I had to double up the slices to make 1/2 pound. Don’t let this throw you off—some brands are cut thicker, and would only require a single layer of slices. NOTE: I prefer sliced mozzarella, but you can certainly use grated mozzarella if necessary. With the spoon, make a line through the middle of the meat mixture so you’ll distribute it evenly. Spread a little less than half of the meat mixture over the mozzarella cheese slices until it’s evenly distributed. Repeat and finish with meat mixture.
Top with a pretty generous layer of good ole Kraft grated parm.

Now pop it in a 350-degree oven for 20-30 minutes, until hot and bubbly. (Alternately, you could cover and freeze it, unbaked, at this point or cover and refrigerate, unbaked, for up to two days before baking.)

This dish was a hit that is for sure. Then on yesterday I made my grandpa's famous Muscacholi. It is super good too!!! Here is the recipe for that one:

1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 pound ground pork
3 slices chopped bacon
1/2 cup diced mushrooms
1 onion chopped
2 cloves fresh garlic chopped
2 6 oz can tomato paste
1 12 oz can Italian style peeled tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 teaspoon dried basil leaf
3 Cups grated mozzarella
1 cup grated chedder
Parmesan Cheese
One box of muscacholi, cook according to directions for "al dente" (don't overcook)

Cook bacon in large frying pan. Drain fat, add half the onion and garlic to the same pan and cook till you can see through them. Add the ground beef and pork and brown. Drain fat, and scoop meat into a large pot. Add remaining onion and mushrooms along with red wine to frying pan and saute. While sauteing, use a potato masher and break up the browned meat into small pieces. Add mushrooms and onions to meat. Add tomatoes, one can of tomato paste, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Stir well. Add 1/2 cup of water if you feel the sauce is too thick (even more if needed). Simmer for one hour. Add other can of tomato paste, stir and check your seasonings. Let simmer for 15 more minutes. Remove bay leaf.

Cook pasta according to directions but do not overcook! Pour sauce over cooked muscacholi and add 2 cups of mozzarella cheese, stir well. Put in a 350 degree oven for 45 min. Add last cup of mozzarella, one cup of chedder and some parmesan and sprinkle it over the top and put it back in the oven until the cheese is all melty (YUM!).

I cook my sauce the day before and put it in the fridge. I think it tastes better that way. Here is a picture of the finished product (note: I doubled the recipe this year).

So with full bellies and happy but noisy children Christmas was going quite well...then there is the tree.... Remember the tree from the post from a few weeks ago? Well this tree with the nest was not the best at staying hydrated. We had noticed quite a few needles dropping the past week or so and about four days ago we noticed that they were falling at an alarming rate. So much so that we were sweeping up every few hours. It became progressively worse and by Christmas Eve there were some definite bald spots on the tree. It was looking pretty bad. We all started cracking up when we would hear the avalanche of pine needles every few minutes fall upon the presents below. By last night quite a bit of the top of the tree was bare and then I decided to see just how dry the tree was. One touch to a branch and it released its entire load of needles as easy as new fallen snow. I was intrigued and with some help from some friends we shook the tree a bit and the following pictures will describe much better than words will:

So the tree is naked and has been relegated to the street, but of course we saved the nest and put it with all the ornaments for next year. All in all it was a great day with family and friends as well as good food and drink. I pray that you all had a blessed day as well!

Well I hope you have enjoyed this edition of cooking and Christmas trees, until next time.....

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas 2007

Kinda a busy day around here.  I will post later... possibly to eat some yummy muscacholi... but here is a tease:  The Christmas tree is naked!!!  Really!!!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Move In Day- 2007

It is hard to believe that it has been almost a year since our girls moved in with us. It seems like not too long ago I was blogging about their arrival. Looking back at the year it is amazing to see how far these two girls have come. Both girls came to us with joyful smiles but hurting hearts. It did not take long for us to bond as a family and I can’t seem to imagine my life before them. I remember vividly the events when our girls first walked through the doors of their new home. They were both hungry so they sat at the little red table in the dining room and ate cheerios. My oldest did the talking since her sister did not have much of a vocabulary. Speaking of my youngest, she could not even get up on the little chair without help the first day they were here. For months bedtime was rough. Countless tears and screams, stumbled trips in the dark to calm nervous toddlers; that was our life, and I loved it!! It was not long before I was quite competent at changing a diaper at 2:00 AM in the dark, silent as a ninja. Those first few months were quite noisy around our house; lots of screams and grunts and tantrums on the floor. But in the midst of it all was the formation of a family. Built with hugs and kisses, ketchup dip and applesauce, we were all being changed and it was great. Our girls have grown up so much in the past year. Most of the screams have been changed to laughter; grunts have become words (lots of words!!). It is not uncommon to hear the "ABC song" or "Angels We Have Heard on High" at all hours. Colors, numbers, and shapes dominate the girl’s thoughts and they just love to be silly (silly shoes, silly cereal, silly pants, silly songs, silly anything). Dora and Diego have been teaching them some Spanish and Elmo and Cookie Monster help them learn other new things, not to mention what those Disney Princess are teaching them. Our girls are quickly ascending the size charts and we are on the lookout for shoes in size 8 and 9 now! They are thriving in preschool and they love playing with their new friends and learning about Jesus. One of the highlights of my day is being able to sing with them at bedtime. A few months back I taught the girls a song that my Oma sang to me when I was a child. It is called “Müde bin ich geh zur Ruh”, and like my Oma, I sing it to them in German. They now sing right along with me and at times it brings tears to my eyes. It has been a year filled with amazing highs and even a few lows but through it all it has been the best year of my life. Have a great week!!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree...

For the past few years I have purchased my Christmas trees online. For some of you this may be hard to believe. Many of you would never even think of buying a tree sight unseen, but I like it. It is kind of a mystery. The mystery of the tree started a few years back when Jill and I went to the local home improvement super-center to buy a tree. As we arrived the crew was unloading a new shipment of trees and Jill asked if we would have one off the truck. They were still all wrapped up in netting and you could not tell what they looked like. I didn’t really like the idea but I daily live under the following mantra, “Happy wife, happy life!” With the mystery tree tied to the top of the Subaru off we went and when we got home, we were greeted with a tree with… lets just call it character. It was a tree only a mother could love, and Jill thought it was the best. For a few years we just picked up trees without looking at them and I soon began to like this new tradition. A few years later I decided to take this one step further and purchased a tree on the internet, again sight unseen. The first year we had a rather robust and even symmetrical tree, but they all haven’t been that way. This year I placed my order right before Thanksgiving from a place that I had not tried before, and as promised our tree arrived via UPS on my front steps this past Friday. The girls helped me open the box and they were so excited to see their Christmas tree. Our tree grew up on a farm somewhere in Michigan and had no idea it would make a trip to beautiful Long Beach California to fulfill its destiny. As I slid the tree out of the box I noticed that some of the farm came with the tree. It had some mud on the branches and some dead leaves stuck to it. As I placed it in the stand and cut off the net I was greeted by a wonderful surprise. Up in one of the top branches was a well-crafted birds nest. It was the best! The girls wanted to know where the birdie had gone it was a crack-up. So this year our tree came with one decoration of its own. Now the tree is up, the twinkle lights are on the house and it has been downright cold here in SoCal (it was 42 degrees yesterday morning!!) The holidays are in full swing and my girls can’t wait for Santa to bring them presents for Jesus’ happy birthday party. Here is a picture of the nest for your enjoyment. See you next week…

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

My Tuesday post...on Wednesday

So last night after the girls went to bed, I started watching some mindless TV thinking to myself, "I can't believe I don't really have anything else to do." Well, lets just say this little blog slipped my mind, even after I had told a few people what I was going to write this week. I guess this adds some spice to my life.

Like I have mentioned before on this blog, I try to take Tuesdays as my day off. Not that Tuesdays are the best day for it but it just seems to work in the calendar of my life. On that note, I took the girls to school yesterday and then hit the gym. I really like going to the gym and try to get there at least three times a week. Some days it is a chore but I have really enjoyed listening to my iPod while working out. Lately I have been listening to some podcasts. Specifically I have spent my workout time with the Kevin & Bean Show from KROQ radio here in LA. I basically grew up with these guys and their morning show and now I can listen to them on my time instead of 5:30-10:00 AM. The podcast is not the whole show but the highlights and they are quite funny. They make an hour on the treadmill go by pretty fast. So back to my day, After the gym I had to go to the bank. I needed to actually go into the bank itself and it was kinda strange. It has been a long time since I have gone into a bank to do business. I am an ardent supporter of the ATM and if I can't do it there, I usually don't do it. So there I was standing in line which brought back all kinds of memories of being a kid an going to the bank with my parents. One time when I was quite young, I was dressed up like a cowboy and my mom let me "hold-up" the teller and she gave me some money. Life was simpler back then.

After the bank and picked up a sandwich and checked out what was playing at the local cineplex. Nothing really struck my fancy but I decided to try Fred Claus. It was an enjoyable 2 hours of entertainment. I do feel like it is Christmas now. A few things really struck me while I was in the theater. First of all I was the only one there for the noon show! It was really surreal. No bothersome loud talkers, no fussy kids, no one spoiling the next scene, just me and the empty red velvet sets. The second thing was, during the movie one of my favorite Christmas songs was used in the climactic scene. The song Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses is not that well known but I have loved it since the 80's. The Waitresses have a spot in the heart of most of us who grew up in the 80's especially those of us who like the TV show "Square Pegs" since they did the theme song from that great show. I love the 80's!! That is all for today see you next week and until then please enjoy the following videos:

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