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Holiday Highlights

Hellohello! I am checking in after a week off from blogging. Hope everyone had a good Christmas! I am finally starting to come through the other side after getting chemo last Wednesday. I also stopped taking Prednisone last Friday, so between the chemo side effects and withdrawals, I’ve been feeling pretty crappy. Here are some of the holiday highlights though!

Finally got my Christmas picture of Buster! He got so spoiled this year. All of my family members bought him gifts (a coat, booties, treats, and toys), not to mention nonstop love and cuddles from all the people in the house.

Archie however, kind of hated this Christmas. I think that cute spaniel ruined it for him. Poor poodle.

We had snow for Christmas! It’s all melted by now, but I hope it comes back soon. As much as I love warmth, I love my seasons. Cold and snowy ones included.

My dad bought the third-last Christmas tree in Moncton on Dec 23rd. It is so ugly. It looks even wider decorated!

My middle sister (I have two older sisters) came home from Quebec! I love having all of us girls together. Until we start drinking at arguing that is (joking!) (mostly!).

My oldest sister who used to live in Ottawa lives at home with me now. I keep her well fed, she keeps the house clean, ha.

We played games on Christmas Eve. I won, thanks to the help of my little teammate. Buster mostly just tried to catch and eat the dice.

For Christmas brunch we had baked French toast with sugared pecans. Usually we do a ham, egg, and cheese casserole thingy, but I can’t eat ham or cheese this year because of the drugs I’m on. Don’t even get me started on how lame it was to have food restrictions over Christmas…

And of course, on Christmas morning we opened gifts! Packed in reused gift bags over the years.

How sweet of Buster to get me something. Ha!

My step-siblings stopped by in their Christmas peejays. I’ve got five teenage step-siblings – three on my mom’s side and two on my dad’s side. It’s kind of ridiculous, but I also love being part of a big family.

Last but not least, my contribution to Christmas dinner, a pumpkin trifle! Recipe found here. I would definitely recommend this as a recipe to try, it was a fun way to change up our usual fruit trifle. Usually I make closer to half of the Christmas dishes, but this year I was just too sick and fatigued. The cooking is my favourite part so I was bummed to miss out on it!

Overall, this Christmas gets a solid “okay.” One of my grandmothers went into the hospital Christmas Eve after falling at home. She is fine, nothing is broken, but she is quite shaken up. I of course was sick from chemo and drug withdrawals. I usually take a lot more photos but didn’t feel inclined to do so this year, as I honestly don’t really care to remember the Christmas I was sick, bald, and had a swollen face.

Most of all, I am looking forward to the New Year. To put 2011 and all of its crappiness behind me. To start fresh chemo-free. The worst of my last chemo is behind me and I’ve got nothing but new days ahead of me to feel better and better. Four weeks until the PET scan to see if there’s any signs of remaining cancer. Please start crossing your fingers now!

Christmas Dinner: The Recipes

Now that the leftovers are gone, I feel ready to talk about their recipes!

These are some of the more unique dishes we enjoyed on Christmas Day. Ones we’ll definitely be making again.

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First up is the Wife Saver.

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The name of the dish comes from my step-dad’s family who make a very similar breakfast for Christmas Day. But it isn’t the same recipe as theirs. I also call this a savoury bread pudding and based it off of the Pioneer Woman’s version.

  • 3-4 cups cubed stale bread (I used a fluffy French bread, but a denser bread works much better)
  • 1 lb cooked ham, rinsed and cubed (rinsing it will make it less salty)
  • 3 cups chopped spinach
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup egg whites (or another 4 whole eggs)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 cup grated or crumbled cheese (I used old cheddar)
  • Pepper to taste

Layer your bread, ham, spinach and onion in a greased casserole dish. Mix together the remaining ingredients and pour over top. Bake for one hour at 350F. This can be made the night before and popped in the oven in the morning. I made it the morning of and just let the bread soak up the liquid for an hour before baking.

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This also makes great leftovers and tastes almost as good cold!

 

Mom’s Layered Salad

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The elements of this salad can be changed based on your preference. But a few things can’t be changed: the iceberg lettuce, peas, cheese and dressing. Why? Because I said so ;) Here’s the order of layers:

  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Sweet bell peppers, chopped small
  • Celery, chopped small
  • Red onion, chopped small
  • Carrots, chopped small
  • Frozen peas (using frozen helps the dressing seep through the salad)
  • Dressing (1 1/4 cup mayonnaise + 2 tbsp white sugar to taste)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Bacon pieces

This is also best made the night before so the dressing has time to seep through the salad. This is one of the few salads that actually gets better with age. I like eating it best on Day 3!

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Again, you can play around with what chopped veggies you use. Some people also add boiled eggs, or a little spinach.

 

Scalloped Tomatoes

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This is a recipe I’ve been sitting on for months now and Christmas Dinner provided the opportune time to try it! This version came from this Smitten Kitchen recipe with a few changes because I have issues following recipes.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups french bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 4 large tomatoes, cut into 1/2 – 1 inch cubes
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup thinly slivered basil leaves, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3/4 cup shredded mozzarella

Toast the bread in a pan with olive oil. Meanwhile, mix up the tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper. Once bread is crispy and toasted, add the tomato mix and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in basil then transfer to a greased casserole dish. Sprinkle cheese on top and bake in a 350F oven for 35 to 40 minutes.

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This smelled soooo good thanks to the basil and garlic. And it tasted just as well! My only complaint is the bread gets mushy despite the toasting, but you can’t go wrong with the flavour combination. Fresh basil is the bestest.

Last, but certainly not least, the course I am most proud of – dessert.

Pumpkin Roll

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I didn’t even know this dessert existed until I saw it on Jenna’s blog. It sounded like a nice light dessert as opposed to the heavy pie we usually have after Christmas dinner. Plus, I’ve never rolled a baked good before and I love a good kitchen challenge!

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I immediately got concerned when I read I had to beat together the eggs and sugar for 10 minutes. My mom doesn’t have a Kitchenaid mixer, so I beat it with a hand mixer until it got thick and pale in colour.

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Then of course came the pumpkin. As mentioned before, I’m slightly frightened of pumpkin. It’s tasteless, mushy, bright orange. It’s mashed vegetables in a can. I tried not to gag as I scooped out the grown-up baby food.

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I have a really bad habit of not checking to see if I have the proper pans before baking. But this regular baking sheet seemed to sub well as a jelly roll tray.

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Jenna’s recipe says to just remove the cake and roll it up with the frosting as soon as it cools a little. But every other pumpkin roll recipe I read instructed to roll it up in a towel first to set the shape before adding the icing.

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This is where I started to get reeeeally nervous.

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Dessert. In a towel. I let that cool for a little bit while licking the cream cheese icing bowl. I slowly unrolled it and evenly spread the frosting from corner to corner, then attempted to roll it back up without the towel. This is where it got tricky, as the cake started sticking to the towel and I could see it tearing a little. Slow and steady did it. I managed to get it in plastic wrap and in the fridge without making a scrambled cake!

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Classic Pumpkin Roll

serves 10-12

  • 3 eggs, room temperature (I used cold eggs, whatever)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1.5 tsp pumpkin pie spice (I used a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

for cream cheese frosting:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 T soft butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350. Beat the eggs and sugar together with a Kitchen Aid on maximum high speed for about ten minutes. When done, the mixture will be very thick and very, very pale. Add the lemon juice, vanilla and pumpkin and stir gently.

In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet and mix just until combined.

Pour the cake batter onto a sheet tray (or jelly roll tray) that has been greased and lined with wax paper. Spread out the batter evenly and bake for fifteen minutes, or until golden.

Let cool on the pan for about ten minutes and start your frosting.

Whip the cream cheese and butter together on medium speed for three minutes or until creamy looking. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and whip on high for another six to eight minutes. Set aside.

After you have cooled the cake for a few minutes, turn over the sheet pan and gently peel off the wax paper. Spoon the frosting on top of the cake and spread out. Starting at the far edge, roll up the cake. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for about an hour before serving.

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The end result was downright delicious. You really can’t go wrong with a spiced cake and cream cheese. With a scoop of frozen vanilla yogurt, it was the perfect end to the perfect meal. If I ever make this again, I think I will skip the towel step. Rolling it twice just gives more opportunity to screw it up, and I don’t mind a few torn edges to nibble on ;)

Christmas Dinner, Redone

Woke up to some pretty yucky weather this morning.

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It called for one thing: pancakes.

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For some reason, you can only buy 28oz cans of pure pumpkin around here. So regardless of what you’re making, it always seems like you’re left with tons leftover.

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I’m kinda scared of pumpkin. The canned stuff seems so far removed from the actual vegetable itself. Creepy. But it does lend itself wonderfully to spiced desserts.

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Or, err, breakfast ;)

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I tripled Jenna’s recipe for Whole Wheat Butternut Squash Pancakes to serve the whole family, with a few modifications:

1 3/4 cup + 2 T whole wheat flour

2 1/4 tsp baking powder

3/4 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp salt

2 1/2 tsp cinnamon

3/4 tsp nutmeg

1 1/2 tsp ginger

1 1/2 cup milk

3 eggs

3 T brown sugar

3 T melted butter

1 cup canned pure pumpkin

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So fluffy. So spicy. It’s cold outside but ohsowarm in my belly.

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Dipped in my favourite E.D. Smith sugar-free syrup.

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Paired with a couple boiled eggs for my protein and healthy fats.

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Chased down with a couple mugs of Jumping Bean East Coast Roast.

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I don’t know what makes this roast East Coast though. It didn’t taste like Tim Horton’s!

Har har. Local humour.

The leftovers continued into lunch. I think I actually like eating up leftovers better than the dinner itself.

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My step-dad got a George Foreman grill for Christmas, so I christened it with a turkey, cranberry and stuffing sandwich.

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SO much better than the version I had at Starbucks. Why is stuffing only ever enjoyed over the holidays? I want it once a week pleaseandthankyou.

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Along with the last of the layered salad. I shed a slight tear with my final bite. One of the few salads that gets better with a couple days of sitting in the fridge.

I then proceeded to stay in my peejays until 4pm only to shower and change into yoga pants. Aahhh… I love the holidays.

 

Question of the Day: What’s your favourite way to use up pumpkin? Preferably ways that aren’t mushy and won’t make me gag. Thanks :)

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