12-7-2017 Holiday Traditions, Old and New

This time every year I dig deep into my closets to pull out my holiday paraphernalia, like dinner and glassware from my husband’s parents, decorations passed to me from my mother, and cherished table linens handmade by my grandmother. I will spend an afternoon cutting greens to place in newly polished copper and silver containers, that were had been buried in my great grandmother’s backyard in Norway during WWII. Quickly I will take a pantry inventory to make sure all ingredients are on hand for baking cookies, made using my grandmother’s handwritten recipes that still reside on a small piece of paper. The list of traditions goes on. But there is one tradition that was not passed down, and instead came about organically, a lovingly curated collection of Christmas books.

 

Over the years, my parents and then eventually just my Mom (my parents were divorced), occasionally would give me a Christmas book, filled with beautiful illustrations and heart-warming stories. Stories about kids, kittens, snowmen, Santa, families, and the occasional troll or two (from the Norwegian side of the family). In my 20’s I started adding to this collection myself by purchasing a holiday book yearly and have now my husband fulfills the tradition. The collection grows and grows with new stories of families, kittens, dogs, trees, traditions, and a new one about trolls. These books are hand-picked, then signed and dated by the giver.

 

Today my collection contains 40 or so books. Most are packed up and put away on the 1st of January, but two books from the collection stay out all year long. The first, a stunner given to me about 2 years ago by my husband, is entitled Christmas in America. The other is titled A Christmas Story by Mary Chalmers. The latter represents the past, given to me by my parents in 1972, and the other one represents my future. One tells of holiday traditions across the country with stunning pictures; one of a little girl Elizabeth and her friends Harry Dog, Alice Rabbit, and Hillary Cat as they head out into the snowy landscape to find and decorate the perfect Christmas tree.

 

This holiday tradition, which I have passed on to my kids, either as individual books or as the entire collection, contains themes of glistening snowy days and starry nights filled with hope, peace, and magic.  Each year when I read my books, my heart is refilled with that hope… hope for both peace and magic this time and all throughout the year.

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10-5-2017 Celebrating Variety and Creativity for National Pasta Month

One of the things we love about pasta is how versatile it is. Literally, there are over 600 Pasta Menudifferent shapes of pasta, which can be made into an unlimited amount of recipes. Try imagining any flavor combination, and I guarantee you, there’s a pasta recipe for it. Gouda and pears? Yep, here you go. Chicken and plums? C’mon, too easy. Try this delicious cold salad.  Bacon and beer? Um, yes please, I think I will try that carbonara.  Chocolate and strawberries? There are even dessert recipes that include pasta!

Continuing on the diversity of pasta, we also appreciate that it can be scaled both up and down. Pasta is just as appropriate for an elegant dinner party as it is for a week-day meal for your children. Here we found some clever recipes and ways to get those little ones to finish every last macaroni or tortellini morsel.

Now let’s talk pairing. The different pastas go well with a variety of drinks. Wine, beer, soda, juice. Again, with an infinite number of combinations, we’ll let you choose your pasta partner.

As we look to celebrate National Pasta Month, we want to celebrate all the pastas, recipes, and ultimately, experiences and memories we make while enjoying these diverse dishes. How wonderful that we can explore our own creativity with this special food.

So cheers, pasta. It’s your month, and we’re going to celebrate all 600 of you.

 

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5-8-17 ~ Real Life

As moms trying to feed our families, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to provide homemade meals and not rely on prepared box dinners. I was talking with my sister about this the other week and we both agreed that having grown up with a mother who is an amazing cook, we were used to having meals made from scratch. I don’t recall having boxes of mac ‘n cheese in our house. Ever. So as adults, we both strive to provide these same homemade experiences to our own children.

With today’s busy schedules – work, daycare, sports practices, homework, volunteerism – sometimes homemade is just not possible. And you know what I’ve finally come to decide? That it is okay.

This past week I added a jar of pasta sauce to sautéed chicken, topped that on some Country Pasta, and added frozen veggies and garlic bread to the side. It was hearty, healthy, and most importantly for that night, a fast meal for my hungry family. Pasta dinner with garlic bread and corn

We are proud that Country Pasta is so versatile that it can be used as a quick go-to meal to fill hungry bellies on a busy night, or as a leisurely prepared Sunday supper.

We know many dads help with the dinner duties as well, but with Mother’s Day this weekend we have all you busy moms on our minds. And we salute you for all the work you do to provide healthy meals for your families. Just remember to give yourselves a break sometimes and reach for the jar. It’s okay.

Wishing you a relaxing and enjoyable Mother’s Day!

Heather

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Dinner is Done!

Once a week I try to plan a crock pot dinner for our family. And let me tell you, that is the night I always look forward to. Who doesn’t? You get to walk in to a delicious smelling house, pour yourself a glass of wine, and relax because dinner is done.

Cajun Chicken Alfredo

Prep, Set, Enjoy!

I have been using and recommending crock pot recipes for years now, and hadn’t given much thought to the history of them until today. So, after a very quick search on Google, I found this article from The Huffington Post: A Brief History of the Crock Pot.

I found it interesting that it took over 30 years from when the original slow cooker was patented, to when it became a regular household item. It was developed in 1936 to cook a bean based stew. The inventor, Irving Naxon, eventually sold his design to Rival Manufacturing in 1970 and they re-branded the item to become the Crock Pot.

The Crock Pot was marketed to…you guessed it…working mothers so they could prepare the food in the morning and have dinner ready and waiting when they got home. Things haven’t changed.

Working mother or not, I think we can all agree it is nice to have your dinner ready and waiting at the end of a long day. I recently came across a wonderful  Cajun Chicken Alfredo – Slow Cooker recipe that I made for my family this week. It was a huge hit. Although the Country Pasta needs to be prepared separately, it was still a simple dinner that allowed us to maximize our time together that evening.

I hope you enjoy the history and this slow cooker recipe. When you do, remember to grab a glass of wine and say a toast of thanks to Mr. Naxon for making your relaxing dinner night possible.

Salute!

Heather

 

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Planning the Perfect Holiday

fall-to-do-list-cropped-and-editedWhat is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the holidays? Family? The scent of pumpkin and spice? Mom’s dressing?

And then again, maybe stress is the first thing that comes to mind as you begin thinking about the big day. After all, if you are hosting, there are so many details to keep straight.

Growing up in our house (and even now), we tend to miss the dinner time by at least one hour each year. My mom, who is an amazing cook, seems to always add more and more to the menu, thus putting herself behind a bit. Don’t get me wrong, we all try to plan and pitch in on the family meal, but she usually just takes things in her own hands and assigns us the easy tasks like corn and cranberries. And although we like to tease her relentlessly about her timing, I have to admit, in the end, it’s always worth the wait!

My mom laughs at our teasing now, probably because she is an old hat at this, but if you’re new to hosting, or even just want to try to make things a little easier on yourself, there are plenty of online resources you can turn to. We have compiled a list of some we are going to try this year, amy-w-holiday-glow-and-deep-thoughtsincluding how to prepare a big meal, what family friendly movies to put in the queue, or even a checklist in hopes of keeping stomachs full and faces smiling.

We hope these are helpful, and we wish you a relaxing and memorable time with your family. Don’t worry, even with your completely organized event, they will certainly find other things to tease you about. That’s all part of the fun!

Happy holidays,

Heather

 

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