Buy her something for Christmas that she would never expect in a million years.


Yep, I am posting this even though I am not wearing a bra, haven’t brushed my hair and still have my glasses on.  I still cry just watching it!  My family completely surprised me with a Nikon D3100 DSLR camera with 18-55 mm lens.   Being completely shocked is an absolute understatement.  When I saw the size of the box, I was like “oh, Hannah got me a new pair of slippers!”

A huge thank you to Tony, Hannah, my parents-in-law, my SIL for pitching in for this gift.   I absolutely love it and can’t wait to figure out all it can do.  The good part is that my husband bought it at a small camera store, so I can bring it in and get all the help I want – they even have free two hour classes every Saturday – how cool is that?  So all the pictures on this post are from my new camera – I have a feeling they are really big, so hopefully they won’t take too long to download.

For Christmas breakfast we had corned beef hash, eggs and my MIL’s banana bread – I wish I could describe how good this bread is!

Then it was time to put my bread in the oven.  I love this bread because it only takes minutes to put together, yet needs to rise 8 to 18 hours.  Don’t let that long rise time stop you from making this bread.

Almost No-Knead Bread (courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen)

  • 3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 3/4 cup (7 ounces) water, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (3 ounces) beer (feel free to drink the rest of the bottle like I did!)
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar

Whisk flour, yeast, and salt in a large bowl.  Add water, beer and vinegar.  Using a wooden spoon, fold the mixture making sure you incorporate all the flour.  It’s going to be slightly sticky, and don’t worry if you don’t think it’s rising fast enough – the beer and vinegar are doing their magic.  Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for a minimum of 8 hours or up to 18 hours.

Put parchment paper on the counter.  Take the dough out of the bowl and knead 10 or 15 times with a bit of flour.  Loosely cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 2 hours.**  For the last 30 minutes of rising, heat oven to 500 degrees and put your dutch oven in the oven with the lid.  After 30 minutes, reduce heat to 425 and using the parchment paper, carry your dough to the dutch oven – the parchment paper will be on the sides of the pot, just put the cover on and bake for 30 minutes (and try to remember that the lid is hot!).

After 30 minutes, remove the lid and cook an additional 20 minutes.  Yum!

it's super crusty on the outside, yet tender on the inside

All cut up for our dinner table – I love seeing all the holes in the bread 😀

I also made drop biscuits – but kicked them up a notch for Christmas.  This calls for a whole stick of butter, so these are a once in a while treat.

Gruyere Rosemary Drop Biscuits (adapted from here)

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 4 ounces shredded Gruyere
  • 8 ounces cold butter, divided (2 tablespoons are melted for brushing over the top)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • flaky sea salt is optional for sprinkling over the top (I omitted this)

Preheat oven to 425.  In a large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add the chilled butter (just 6 tablespoons) and using a pastry blender, cut the butter until it is the size of peas.

Add the chopped rosemary, and Gruyere.  Stir in the buttermilk just until the dough is moistened.  Here is where I deviated. I used my 1/4 cup measure and just dropped the biscuits on my cookie sheet lined with parchment paper – so much easier than rolling out.  I also didn’t put butter on top until after they came out of the oven – so the hot biscuit just absorbed all that wonderful butter.  Bake for 2o minutes.  Cool slightly before serving.

I absolutely love the texture of these biscuits – light, tender and flaky – um, pretty sure the melted butter on top helped too 😀

I have Robin Sue to thank for one of my appetizers – she made crab rangoons, but used frozen Fillo cups, which I absolutely loved using – and a 15 pack of cups only cost $1.77 at Wal-Mart.

It helps to start with good crab – we bought this container at Sam’s Club for $17 – I used about half for our appetizers, and plan on making crab cakes with steak later in the week for a variation on surf and turf.

The cups only take about 10 minutes to thaw too, which makes this a quick appetizer from beginning to plate.

Bake for 7 minutes – delicious!

Alright – for some reason I am having technical difficulties – I think I need to resize the rest of my pictures.  Come back tomorrow for Christmas part 2!  Thanks again to Hannah and Tony for getting me the camera of my dreams!

Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend – looking forward to catching up with you all! 😀