The sun came up over the southern ridge at 7am, but Tyler and I were watching it from 5:45. Little Man woke up at 5:30 and I helped him back asleep—a huge victory and wonderful night compared to the past several weeks. Between dry cold air and smoke from the wood-burning stove, he has been congested and coughing for a month. We finally kicked the cough in the rear this last week and had to help work him back into a good night’s sleep and no milk/juice breaks during the night. It has been a sleep-deprived few weeks– pretty much like when we had a newborn– and we were feeling it.
Today I’m just starting to feel normal.
One more week in language school before our 2-month winter break, when everyone who can makes a break for the warmer plains. We’re trying to stay focused and learn as much as we can before the gears shift and we spend time traveling, visiting old friends, and investigating opportunities for the future.
I broke out the Teavana white spiced tea my mother-in-law gave me last year for Christmas, figuring that I’ve been away long enough and would probably enjoy it. I am. The sweet spiciness is setting nicely as I spend a few moments alone with Little Man napping and Tyler at class.
This week we’ve been watching a friend’s kids each afternoon, and coming up with fun for the two of them to do. Little Man has had a blast with them.
Yesterday Tyler hiked 11 miles to visit a friend’s village in the hills. While he was gone, my 18-year old neighbor A. was here to help me with the three kids and we made dozens of Christmas cookies, icing, and no-bake cookies. The kids had fun helping (and mostly sneaking bites) and tomorrow we’ll go around to our friends and teachers here and give them away to say “Merry Christmas”. I made the no-bakes with our strict vegetarian friends in mind, since they have no eggs.
This holiday season has been strange. It has been our first one away from family as a married couple. I realize how much we have always relied on our parents—both sides—and my grandma, to cook, to bake, to decorate, and in general to make everything homey and festive. Without them I have been forced to try some of my mom’s tried-and-true recipes, to go looking for some new ones, and to pretty much put a lot more work into it since baking ingredients are not as readily available here. … And since our mountain power fluctuates so much that the toaster oven doesn’t do a very consistent job. Even so, I have managed to make some yummy treats, and almost always with A., making memories along the way.
I thought this would be a good moment to share some of the best recipes I’ve enjoyed recently. As a bonus, they require ingredients one can find in most medium-to-large cities around the world. Hope some friends read this and enjoy making some of my latest favorite “taste-of-home” treats!!
Peanut Butter Popcorn
Basic Sugar Cookies
I used this recipe from Martha Stewart for sugar cookies. Didn’t have to make any adjustments for elevation (we are at 8000 ft)… but had to turn off the dyer, the fridge, and the hot water geezer to make sure that the toaster oven did it’s job for all 15 minutes of baking.
Used this buttercream icing recipe for the decorations. Making icing with anything except pure butter, sugar and vanilla is just plain wrong. Don’t make icing at all if it’s not going to taste delicious and pure. 🙂 That’s just European roots coming out. And the kids were covered with it by the end! Here it is…
From: Buttercream Frosting
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream
In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.
Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.
Last, but definitely not least, is my sister’s all-time-favorite No-bake Recipe. Best thing about these is you don’t need power or an oven!!
My sis doesn’t really enjoy cooking… so she doesn’t do it very often. I’m actually not sure how her family would survive without take-out (hehe… just kidding Jen!). BUT she makes the most incredible No-Bake cookies and she does it in 15 minutes flat. The key to No-Bakes is boiling them for the right amount of time. If you boil them under a minute they will stay mushy and never harden. If you boil them too long they look dull and crumbly. You want them shiny but firm.
1. Boil well for 1 minute: 2 cups sugar, 1/2 cup milk, 1tsp vanilla, 1/2 cup cocoa, 1/4 lb butter (1/2 cup), pinch of salt
2. Have ready and add: 1/2 cup crunch peanut butter, 3 cups oats, 1/2 cup coconut (optional)
Stir one minute, then drop onto waxed paper and cool.
I used to sub 1 cup of oats for 1/2 cup ground flaxseed and 1/2 cup of crushed nuts. I also used raw PB and fresh unsweetened coconut. Oh, the luxuries of a local organic/health foods store! But alas, these still tasted scrumptious with none of that yesterday… so, no worries!
I’m off to get ready to climb to class, but I hope that everyone enjoys these tasty homey treats, brought to you from our kitchen in the Himalayas. May this be the richest of holidays yet for you and yours.