Thursday, October 28, 2010

Scare Away Hunger

This Friday night is Scare on the Square in Historic Downtown McKinney.  

Streets in downtown McKinney are closed off for trick-or-treaters to cross the streets safely, going from shop to shop to collect goodies from local business owners. Families can celebrate Halloween in a safe and festive environment in our charming and unique downtown.

Scare on the Square also serves to help the needy in our community.
Once again this year, Main Street is partnering with 3E McKinney and is requesting those attending Scare on the Square bring canned food donations to benefit the Food Pantry.
Date: Friday, Oct. 29
Time: 4 – 6 p.m.
Place: Historic Downtown McKinney
3e McKinney will be collecting 15 oz canned vegetables and 15 oz canned fruit for the Community Food Pantry of McKinney.

Look for our collection site on the corner of Louisiana and Tennessee (on the Courthouse lawn) during the Scare on the Square.

Scare Away Hunger is also happening this same weekend throughout McKinney.

In Collin County (one of the most affluent areas in Texas), more than 8 percent of children (more than 65,000) live in poverty. The poverty line is defined as a family of four living on less than $22,050.

Several local churches, partnering with 3e McKinney, desire that we be a group of people, so impacted by Christ's love, that we become Christ's hands and feet.  We can demonstrate the difference Christ has made in our lives by showing compassion for those in our community who don't have the basic necessity of food.

 In case you can't make a food donation at the Scare on the Square event on Friday, there are three alternate food collection sites available for you on Saturday:
Market Street Grocery Store
Brookshire's Grocery Store
Sam's Food Club

You can check out the Scare Away Hunger website for more details.
Till tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Restroom Suites

Returning home from our recent trip to the beach I needed a restroom break.  It's a full 12 hour drive from home to Pensacola, so we try to plan our stops via the "Cracker Barrel Map."
I know, I know...there are many of you out there that HATE Cracker Barrel.  Me..I love their books on CD's.  (I know, you can check CD's out of your local library, but we like to browse the books at Cracker Barrel.)
You pay for the CD initially, but if you return it within 7 days it only cost you about $4 for the rental.  We try to find a 5 to 10 hour book to listen to while driving, and will plan our next stop (via the Cracker Barrel map) when we know our CD is just about over.  Cracker Barrel has clean restrooms and the CD books are near the register for a quick look.  I can always find something interesting...Biography, Suspense, Inspirational...more than you'd think.  Check it out for yourself!

On our return trip home we somehow got off track for stopping and ended up looking for a "clean restroom" in Louisiana, just West of Baton Rouge.
We spotted a gas station and I saw the word "restroom" on this grey building.  At first it looked like it was attached to the gas station, but turned out it was a stand alone building in front of the station.
We pulled into the parking lot and went inside.

We were greeted by a very friendly "receptionist". She immediately started her "spiel" about their restrooms being similar to a fine hotel, and each suite is completely cleaned, refreshed and sanitized before the next guest checks in.

Fine hotel?
Guest check in to use a restroom?
The rooms are accessed via a key card and she said that the price to use the "room" was $5.00 (each), but she'd let us share the 'same room' for the one price.
(I can remember paying .10 to use clean stalls in the olden days!) HA! HA!
At this point, I know my mouth was hanging open! 
So...did we pay the fee?  Guess you'll have to decide. 
AND...if you don't believe me...check it out!
Is this the wave of the future?
Till tomorrow...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Thoughts

Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee

Henry J. van Dyke, 1907

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,

God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flow’rs before Thee,
Op’ning to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness;
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee,
Earth and heav’n reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee,
Center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain,
Flow’ry meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain
Call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving,
Ever blessing, ever blest,
Wellspring of the joy of living,
Ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother,
All who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other,
Lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the happy chorus,
Which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us,
Brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward,
Victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward
In the triumph song of life.

Psalm 71:23 (NASB)

My lips will shout for joy when I sing praises to You;
And my soul, which You have redeemed.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Creepy Christmas Idea

I've spent several evenings browsing through new catalogs looking for Christmas ideas for this year. 
I love looking at the different ornaments, gift ideas, and new "items" they're pushing this Christmas season.
The pictures of homes beautifully decorated almost (I said almost) make me want to drag out the Christmas boxes and get a head start on this season.

HOWEVER...the summer temps are still a daily occurrence here, and it doesn't feel like Christmas!  As usual...after Thanksgiving, when the weather does begin to cool down a little, I will feel more in the Christmas Spirit!

As I've looked through the catalogs I've seen some good ideas, and I've seen some "gifts gone wrong".
Sometimes I ask myself...WHAT were they thinking?
My latest find is a Christmas Ornament (or as suggested a "book mark") with the inscription:
"Merry Christmas From Heaven
I love you all dearly,
now don't shed a tear
I'm spending my Christmas
with Jesus this year."

How would you give this as a "gift" to someone? 
How well would you have to know them?
How would it be received? 
Would they be offended? 

My daughter and I had a brief conversation about this ornament.  I told her I think it would have to be a personal purchase.  Really, how would you present this to someone that had just lost someone?
SO, if I purchased this for myself, I would have to leave it in the Christmas boxes with the label:
"Mom's creepy ornament
Open Upon My Death!"
We both had a good laugh, but decided this was just all kind of wrong as a Christmas Ornament (or a bookmark!)
I did suggest I should buy one for each girls they could each have their own
"Creepy Mom Ornament!"

You decide...
Till tomorrow...
2 Corinthians 5:8 (New Living Translation)

Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Left over Pumpkin Seeds - Pumpkin Seed Toffee

When last we "met" I still had all those left over pumpkin seeds.  I cleaned the "slimy pumpkin gunk" off of them. (Yes, that's a real cooking term!) and sprinkled the seeds with sea salt and chili powder.  My husband loves to munch on them and likes them spicy. 
I put them in the oven at about 200 degrees and they were slowly roasting (stirring them up often.)

In between stirrings, I thought I'd just look around on the Internet for other pumpkin seed recipes and see what might be "new" out there.  WELL...I found a recipe for Chili Pumpkin Seed Toffee.  Sounded too good to pass up!
The blog is "In Praise of Leftovers" and is written by the Leftoverist (Sarah).
She has a lot of great ideas for those items "lurking" in the back of your fridge.
As I read her recipe I realized she did not fix her pumpkins seeds first (as I was doing) but instead used them as is...then sprinkled salt and chili powder on top of the Toffee.
Not deterred!
Looking in my own fridge - I had all the ingredients. (One butter is missing...I already dropped it in the pot to begin melting.)

Sarah gave some very helpful and specific hints about using the candy thermometer.  I found her instructions clear and precise.

I did not have a jelly roll pan, so I lined a regular pan with parchment paper.

I sprinkled on the semi-sweet chocolate chips


and spread them over the top.

I will not steal Sarah's thunder or her precise instructions.  You can find them here and follow her complete directions.  I've listed the ingredients and the steps necessary to make the Toffee. 

I sprinkled my roasted pumpkin seeds in the mixture, as directed, and on top.  My seeds were roasted with the chili powder and the salt, but I did add more on top before the mixture completely cooled.

I must is delicious.  Just enough sweet and salt!  I think it would be perfect on top of Blue Belle Vanilla Bean Ice Cream......

Be sure and check out "In Praise of Leftovers"...I'm sure you'll find something you'd like to make.  And leave the Leftoverist a sweet note!

1 cup (two sticks) butter, plus a little extra for buttering the saucepan and baking sheet
1 c. sugar
3 Tbs. water
1 T 1 Tbs. light corn syrup
1 cup pumpkin seeds (or you can use chopped almonds or hazelnuts, toasted) I would probably use pecans also.
3/4 c. finely chopped bittersweet chocolate (or semi semisweet chocolate chips)


Butter the sides of a heavy 2-qt. saucepan, then melt 1 c. butter in it. Butter a baking sheet with sides.

Add sugar, water, and corn syrup, cooking and stirring over medium heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture boils. Continue cooking and stirring until the mixture reaches 290 degrees, watching carefully after 280 degrees. (Note: The temperature will hover close to boiling, 212 degrees, for awhile as the water boils off. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can leave the pan unattended or stop watching the temperature. Once the excess water is gone, the temperature will shoot up fast.)

Remove from heat and quickly and carefully stir in 1/2 c. of pumpkin seeds.

Carefully pour the hot mixture onto the buttered baking sheet. After 3 minutes (and not a second less, as I discovered), sprinkle the surface with chocolate. When the chocolate begins to melt, spread it evenly over the candy. Sprinkle the remaining nuts over the top.

Chill at least 15 minutes until firm, then break into pieces.  Sprinkle  1/2 tsp. flaked salt and a smidgen of Ancho chile powder.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kürbis - Pickled Pumpkin

I'm sure you've noticed I've been away.  My husband and I took a little break and headed to the beach! 
He is in the middle of a lot of renovations and moves at work, so this was a perfect time to squeeze in a little time for us.  The weather was glorious and the temperature was perfect (cool nights and warm days.)  The Gulf is still warm and inviting and there were plenty of shells to pick up under the glassy water.

The wild life was everywhere...sea turtles, birds, butterflies.  As you can tell, we had a perfect time!

Now to the topic at hand...Kürbis!
For those of you NOT German... it's pumpkin!
It's also "shorthand" for pumpkin pickles. If you are lucky enough to have a German (or European) Deli near your home, you can pick up a jar to bring home and try.

However, I know many of you don't have that I'm going to tell you how to make your own.
I first learned of Kürbis in the late 1970's while living with a German family on Long Island, NY. (Thank you RT for sharing your mama!)
OmaF was a great cook and I learned much from her.  I've come to believe she was my "preparatory school" before meeting my future MIL "OmaR". 
OmaF had certain ways that things were to be done...and it was always done that way!  OmaF also does not have recipes (neither does OmaR!)  They both learned to cook from their mother's in Germany before they immigrated.
Cooking with the Oma's always requires that you pay close attention when ingredients are added and how things are prepared.
Years later, while trying to write those recipes down, I would ask her for ingredients, measurements, times, oven temps...etc.  To NO AVAIL!  Some recipes (Rote Grütze for example) I only have the measurements.

So, with that in mind, here is the recipe I received from OmaF:
3 cups sugar
1 cup vinegar

I've figured out some things on my own, so I'll also give you some hints as to how I've learned to make my batch of Kürbis each year.
I start with about a 4 lb pumpkin.  You can adjust if you want to make more, but that would be the least I would start you feel it makes it worthwhile for all the cutting you're going to be doing.

Like I said...cloves, but OmaR says it has to have cinnamon...(she agreed with the ingredients...and the amounts but insisted it have cinnamon.)

Now OmaF was very specific about cutting off the skin...unless you want to break your teeth.  I laughed and told her I would make that batch for people I didn't like.  She didn't laugh (those Germans!)

Cut all pumpkin at once to cook it all together.
I love how specific she I'm peeling!

and I'm cutting.

She usually cuts larger pieces, but I'm not using big jars and I want the pieces to be more bite size (I'm sure I'll get a bad grade for that...against her rules!)

Bring to boil the cloves, sugar and vinegar.

While this is boiling I'm also preparing the lids for the canning jars.  I've put the jars through a dishwasher cycle so they'll be hot and ready for the Kürbis when it's finished cooking.

Once the sugar, vinegar, cloves and cinnamon have started to boil, place pumpkin pieces in the boiling liquid and keep at a low rolling boil. (The liquid will not cover it all).

Stir and continue cooking until pumpkin is glassy looking (clear).
The Kürbis will boil down some and you will be able to see the change in the color and look.  It truly will become glassy looking.

 Store in jars, cover with juice and store in fridge.  At this point OmaF takes the cloves out so as not to stain the pumpkin.  I like to leave a few in each jar, but I do take out the cinnamon sticks.

At this point OmaF lets the Kürbis cool and puts the jars in the refrigerator to be eaten (usually by the end of the year.)  She told me yesterday that she found one in the back of the fridge left over from last year and it tasted perfectly fine.  She'd never had one left over before, so she was a little amazed that it was still good.
OmaF has had to relocate recently and she said she was missing her kitchen.  I'm not sure she's up to cooking anymore, but she was an excellent cook in days past.  I have many wonderful recipes and memories from our times together.
I usually make Kürbis every fall.  Many times when OmaR was visiting she would tell me about her canning days and give me helpful pointers...of what I was doing wrong.  She is the one that pointed out I needed cinnamon in my Kürbis.  I'm sure "many cooks spoil the broth"...but I'm thankful for both Oma's and the knowledge they've "passed on" to me.  This fall I'll be sharing more German recipes from OmaF and OmaR...I'll have to work on those measurements, though. 
Through trial and error here is the recipe I made today.

Fresh Pumpkin - about 4 pounds
3 cups sugar
1 cup vinegar
Cloves (1 tablespoon or more if you like stronger flavor)
Cinnamon sticks - 4 to 6

Peel and cut all pumpkin at once to cook it all together.
Bring to boil the cloves, cinnamon, sugar and vinegar.
Once it begins to boil, place pumpkin pieces in mixture and keep at a low rolling boil. (It will not cover all). Stir and continue cooking until pumpkin is glassy looking (clear). (I neglected to time this, but it's a little over 30 minutes.)
Prepare your canning jars (boil lids and make sure your jars are clean and hot so that the hot liquid will not crack the jars.)
Store in jars, cover with juice and store in fridge.
For you to decide...whether you will take the cloves out so as not to stain the pumpkin, or leave them in the jars.  We eat ours so quickly, there is no time for the Kürbis  to be stained.

For those of you that don't waste anything...I've saved the seeds and I'll show you next time what you can do with them!

Till tomorrow,
P.S.  For you Germans reading this...if you have other helpful hints or want to share you knowledge of Kürbis...please leave a comment for all of us to enjoy!  Thanks...