Holiday Traditions continued

Today, I got to once again with my mom do one of my favorite holiday traditions.  We take one day a year and spend it doing the last-minute holiday shopping for the special people left on our lists.  Along with those last-minute gifts that need to be bought, we have a long lunch, watch all the people scamper around looking for their perfect gifts and of course just enjoy the holiday cheer and decorations at the mall.

Since the Mall of American is one of the largest in the US, how can we say we couldn’t find just the perfect gift? Well sometimes that does happen, but mainly just because the person we are shopping for has everything they need, want or could think of.  The mall has brought in many new stores such as Ed Hardey, the MAC store and so much more.  There are also many of the old-time favorites such as Victoria Secrets, Sears, and Macy’s.  The holidays are such a wonderful time to give, but don’t forget the ones that have had to break family traditions due to financial & other stresses our recent economy has brought on many. 

People have many different holiday traditions from which day is spent with which family, Christmas Eve or Christmas day.  What the meal will consist of; prime rib, ham, lasagna or some other cultural food.  How the family will open presents; youngest to oldest or oldest to youngest, all at one time or many very different ways.  Also, I have heard lately that some families take the time to serve a meal in the food kitchens, go to an elderly home and spend some time with an elder that doesn’t have anyone to come to see them on this very special day.

It amazes me when THE SPIRITS TO MOVE get in the souls of some people what they can actually do to brighten another persons holiday.  Isn’t that really what  this season is really about? How we as good people can help a person less fortunate than us? I do believe that this is what the holiday is about and that there are lots of good people in this world that look to make others smile as well.

With the holiday dancing closer minute by minute, take a moment to reflect on some of your own family traditions and maybe how some new ones could also be added to brighten someone elses holiday.

Holiday meal suggestions

When we woke up this morning in Minnesota, there was a beautiful snow falling with large flakes.  It was truly breath-taking.  However, it made the roads unpleasant for some to drive on and most would have rather stayed at home, snuggled up with a blanket drinking a latte and just relaxing.  With that relaxation starting, along comes the butterfly’s fluttering around in some stomaches about how close we truly are to the day of enjoying time with our family and friends.  Then the big flutter starts…”oh my! What do I serve that is not the same as the last 10 years and will impress my company?”

Then, the SPIRITS TO MOVE set in…

Fret no more…here is a wonderful main dish menu that will make all your guests think that you went to a culinary school over the past year!

Enjoy this wonderful meal arranged by Cat Cora’s “Classics with a twist”.

Pomergranate-Glazed Cornish Game Hens with Wild Rice & Chestnut Stuffing             Serves 4

4 Cornish Game Hens

1 cup raw wild rice

2/3 cup coarsely chopped & toasted chestnuts (either fresh or from a jar/can)

1/2 cup finely chopped medium yellow onions

2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh savory

3 tablespoons finely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

2 tablespoons kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 cup pomegranate juice

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 to 3 cups chicken stock or water

1/2 cup white wine (optional)

Rinse the rice in cool water, discard the water, and add the rice to a 2-quart saucepan with a lid.  Add 3 cups cold water and a teaspoon of salt.  Bring the rice to a boil and stir once.  Immediately reduce the heat to low, and cover the pot.  Cook over low heat for 45 to 55 minutes, or until all the liquid has evaporated.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  While the rice is cooking, remove the chestnuts from the bottle or can, chop them roughly, and spread them on a baking sheet.  Toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes to remove some of their moisture.  When the chestnuts are done roasting, turn up the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl, mix the cooked wild rice, toasted chestnuts, chopped onion, and herbs.  Pat the game hens dry with a paper towel.  If they have been frozen, be sure they are completely thawed, with gizzards removed.  Lightly sprinkle the cavity of each game hen with salt and loosely fill with stuffing. leave a little space in each for the rice to expand during roasting.  Secure the legs, wings, and opening of each hen by trussing with cotton string. (See the note on trussing at the end of recipe).  You will have stuffing left over.  Spoon it into a small casserole with a lid and set aside or refrigerate.  During the last 25 minutes when the hens are roasting, slide the casserole into the oven to heat.

Rub the skin of the trussed hens with salt and pepper and place breast side down on a rack set in a roasting pan.  Place on the center rack of a preheated oven, and allow the hens to cook for 15 minutes before basting with the dark golden brown and the juices run clear when pierced at the thigh.  Total cooking time will be about 50 to 55 minutes.  An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, not touching the bone, should register 175 degrees to 180 degrees.

Remove the birds from the oven, and transfer them to a platter.  Cover them with foil and let them rest for 10 to 15 minutes.  Place the roasting pan with the juices on the stove top over medium-low heat, add about a half cup of the chicken stock (or water) and scrape up any roasted bits from the bottom of the pan.  (This is a good place to cook from the hip as you can use stock here, a combination of white wine and water or just water.)  Sift the flour into the cooking juices and mix well.  Slowly whisk in another cup and a half of stock (or water) and stir well, and let simmer until the mixture is thick and has no lumps, about 5 to 6 minutes.  Add a few more teaspoons of water or white wine if you’d like the gravy to be thinner.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, place a bird on each plate, nap with the gravy, & garnish with finely chopped parsley & little extra rice on the side!

Dome roof to your roof

The most talked about news over the past week-end was the winter snow storm that dropped anywhere from 17-24 inches of snow depending on where you were in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Minnesota and surrounding areas.  By the time the storm moved on…the cities stayed still! Snowplows & metro bus’ were pulled off the road, the Mall of America closed their doors, people had snow up to their waists in some driveways and the METRO DOME roof collapsed!!!  Oh no! Thank goodness there was no one in when the collapse happened (and a quick shout out to the person that decided to leave the cameras on inside to capture it for the world to see).  This raises a question that most people may not think about:

Should I clear my roof of snow accumulations?

Yes!  If you live in a single family roof you most definitely should.  The weight of the snow can also cause your personal roof to collapse or it may create ice damns.  What are ice damns you ask.  These are areas on the roof where the snow has started to melt during the day but the liquid refreezes at night and over a process of time, this causes a damn to build that will not let the water run down the outside of your home, but the INSIDE eventually and may cause a very expensive problem for you over the winter months.  If you live in an association style home or townhouse/condo, contact your association for information on how they handle these situations.

So you say, I am supposed to get up on my roof that is how high with how much snow?!?! You are  thinking I am crazy! If you are the adventurous type, go for it, but make sure your insurance policy is up to date & someone is helping you or know to check on you once in a while! If you are not so sure, there are companies you can hire to clear it for you.  Search your local area to find the one that suits your needs & financial interests.

Keep an eye to the sky and your roof to make sure your dome doesn’t collapse on you this holiday season! Make sure your SPIRITS TO MOVE are decided by you and not Mother Nature!

Do I list during the holidays?

With the holiday fast approaching do you believe many people are still out looking for homes to buy? The holidays are actually a VERY good time to sell a home. Your home is decorated both inside and out. When clients walk into your home, most say they feel a sense of warmth during the holiday seasons. There is just something about the holiday tree, stockings hanging and all those presents under the tree. Be sure if you have your home listed that in order to make your potential buyers feel even more welcomed, make sure the drive & walk are shovled and you may even have fresh made cookies and cider sitting out. Sometimes these simple steps can help THE SPIRITS TO MOVE. Good Luck.