Winter Warmers: Melanie’s Potato Soup

2013-12-11 18.11.34 (800x600)I have a love affair with potatoes. And cheese. And anything that I can put in a crock pot and not have to deal with all day. This recipe is one I found a while back and have made multiple times over the years – it usually gets fixed at least once each winter. Actually, I might have to make it this weekend…

You will need:

  • about 4 lbs of potatoes (I prefer golden potatoes, but russets also work well)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped (about 1 to 1.5 cups)
  • 5 ¼ cups chicken broth (42 oz)
  • about 1 tbsp garlic
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 2 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ¼ tsp ground pepper
  • 1 cup whipping cream or half and half
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • 8 oz (1 container) of sour cream (optional)
  • about ¼ cup cooked and crumbled bacon or bacon bits (optional)
  • Extra shredded cheddar cheese (optional) Continue reading

The Story Behind the Carol: Silent Night

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87q5dmW6zDg[/youtube]

On Christmas Eve of 1818 the young priest of St. Nicholas parish church in Obendorf faced disaster. The organ had been incapacitated by mice. The chance of fixing the instrument before the evening service was nil. Father Joseph Mohr was not a man to just give up however. He pulled out a poem he had written several years before called “Stille Nacht”. Mohr took his poem to the schoolmaster and organist of a nearby town, Franz Xaver Gruber. He asked that Gruber write a melody to accompany the poem on guitar. In several hours, Gruber had the music done and the carol was played for the first time that night at the Christmas Eve service.

The song was not translated into English for another 50 years. Episcopalian bishop John Freeman Young published the English translation that is most frequently sung today in 1859. The writing of the song is unique enough but one other interesting factoid makes this carol special. In 1914, during the Christmas truce, the song was sung in French, English and German simultaneously. It was apparently the one song that all the soldiers on both sides knew.

What are your favorite Christmas Carols? Do you know the story behind them?

- Maggie AAR

The Infinity Scarf: Yes or No?

Sometimes I become obsessed with the strangest things, and at the moment it’s infinity scarves. Do I own any? No, not a single one. But I’m considering. In fact, I’ve been looking at so many online that wherever I go on the web my “pop-up” ads all now feature infinity scarves in a variety of colors and fabrics.

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a story about a dream, dying, and the power of Krispy Kreme

6md4g.AuSt.156A month ago my youngest children, seniors in high school, came home raving about a school assembly they’d attended. “Mom, this guy was amazing,” my daughter said. “Cool,” I replied and then the talk moved on to our family’s upcoming Thanksgiving.

I should have paid more attention.

This past Monday, at their school, something extraordinary happened; the sort of thing that makes you believe in the wonder of  “living, loving, and trying” even as you accept the implacability of loss.

Here’s the story. It’s worth reading. Be prepared to cry.

http://www.newsobserver.com/2013/12/03/3429622/durham-man-achieves-krispy-kreme.html

Winter Warmers: Lea’s Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and dumplingsMy dear mother-in-law, now 83 years old, is simply the best cook I have ever known. Cooking wonderful food for others remains one of her greatest joys in life and she continues to cook or bake for hours upon hours each week. Although she can compete with the chefs that rule today’s Food Channel, her upbringing in the hills of southeastern Oklahoma means she’s an expert with old Southern favorites as well. Our family has enjoyed many a cold winter day savoring her Chicken and Dumplings. This recipe is from her cookbook she penned for family and friends more than twenty-five years ago.

Chicken and Dumplings

Boil one fat chicken or use chicken pieces. Cover with water. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer until tender. Remove chicken from broth and take out 2/3 cup of broth for the dumplings. Continue reading

Winter Warmers: Mary’s Ham Bone Soup

With the holidays upon us, in addition to turkeys on every table many of us will be cooking large hams to feed our loved ones. After you have eaten as many ham sandwiches from the leftovers as humanly possible, please do not throw out that bone!! The ham bone makes an excellent soup (especially if you leave some meat on the bone).

Ham Bone Soup

  • 1 ham bone with meat still clinging to bone (you can also include some leftover ham slices)
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 3-4 stalks of celery chopped
  • 4 large carrots diced
  • 2-3 potatoes cubed
  • 1 can of tomatoes diced (fresh tomatoes can be used as well)
  • 1 can of tomato sauce
  • 2 TBSP of ketchup
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • ½ to 1 tsp of garlic salt
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in large double boiler or in your crock pot. Add enough water to cover the bone. Cook until vegetables are soft. Serve with cornbread.

- Mary AAR

AAR at the Movies: Catching Fire

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAzGXqJSDJ8[/youtube]

Friday night, my friend and I went to see the second instalment of Suzanne Collins’s massive smash hit trilogy, adapted for the screens. I wasn’t going to see it, honestly. I’d seen the first one, and there was something about seeing the physical and psychosocial trauma that hit me viscerally in a way that the books couldn’t translate. Yes, I knew it was fiction, and yes, I knew what happened anyway. But I found the experience quite frightening, to be honest.

But then the reviews for Catching Fire came out (mainly glowing, in a nutshell), and my curiosity got the better of me. I also had a free movie voucher, and I thought, well, I could save it for The Devastation of Smaug’s Cumberbatched Voice (aka The Hobbit part 2), or I could suck it up, be my age, and see Lenny Kravitz, Jena Malone and Stanley Tucci do their thing. And you know what? I’m glad I did. Continue reading

The 30 Best TV Detectives and Sleuths?

This week I saw a link to the “30 Best TV Detectives” from the Telegraph’s website. As a big fan of mysteries – both written and video – this was too good to resist. Since it’s a UK publication, I expected a lot of British detectives. Not a problem, as I’m a huge fan of many of the BBC mysteries that appear on Masterpiece Mystery. Truthfully, I was surprised at how many U.S. TV shows are featured on the list, and many that appeared over 20 years ago.
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