A Christmas Miracle, or Three.

First Christmas miracle of the holiday occured at Changi airport, terminal 3, row 11. You may have missed it unless you happened to be the unfortunate family behind us at the United counter. I accidentally booked my husbands flight as Andy Donahue. His passport of course reads Andrew. In short, they were not going to let him fly unless he rebooked the ticket. Don't try to follow the logic, you'll just end up having a stroke. After trying to kill her with my death ray vision and then attempting to telepathically make her understand our situation she relented, changed the name on his boarding pass to Andrew and sent us on our way.

The second miracle occured during our layover in San Francisco. We were waiting in baggage claim, watching the minutes tick by. Since we had to leave the international area, and then check in for a domestic flight we were a little sensitive to the time. Our patience wore thin, but we preveiled. At long last the luggage started circling about the carousel, and we found 3 of our suitcases. Sadly we watched as all of the luggage was claimed and we were missing one piece. With only a few minutes to spare to make our connecting flight to Seattle, Andy/Andrew patiently explained our situation to the customer service clerk. When I say patiently, I mean it. Instead of attentively helping us (her job) this woman was on her walkie talkie to someone named Doris complaining that no one had come to relieve her for her break. Apparently her need for a coffee break superceded our need to be home for Christmas. Periodically the girls would run back to check and see if the suitcase had appeared (hope springs eternally in the young), many prayers were said, and Doris came to relieve our heroine for her coffee break. Doris then informed us that we had missed our connecting flight, we tried not to call her a liar but it was implied. On a last minute dash to baggage claim, there circling all by its lonesome, was the missing suitcase! To add to the joy, we waived goodbye to Doris the liar, were escorted through security, and found our flight to be delayed by 30 minutes! We were finally on the last leg of our journey home for Christmas!

The third miracle was simply being home. Being in the company of my wonderful and very funny cousins, sitting around drinking coffee with my parents in the quiet of the morning, and shopping at Target. Yes, Target is a miracle. If you have ever lived overseas you will understand this to be true.

We spent Christmas Eve with our extended family, laughing until we cried, crying over the events of the past year, remembering those we love, loving those we are with. We exchanged silly gifts and too many hugs and kisses to count. And today is Chrismas. I love this day for all that it means. The waiting of advent is over, the hope of the new things to come hangs in the air, the gifts have been opened, and the squeals from the girls tell me that we did good. Tonight we will not so quitely gather with family again to eat, laugh and share our lives and good fortune.

We're having Prime Rib with Horseradish Crust, Au Gratin Potatoes, and Roasted Red Onions
And this Deep Dish Caramel Apple Pie

I hope you have a blessed Christmas spent in the company of friends and family!
Merry Christmas!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

When attending a White Elephant gift exchange it's important to make sure you have the right gift. By that I mean, something horrible and cringe worthy. My mom favors terrible clocks. Clocks with peacock feathers, or reclining women holding bunches of grapes with the clock part in their belly. A friend of mine gives out Traditional Chinese Medicine, dried sea horse anyone? The dried sea horse is to be steeped for a bit in water and then the liquid drank like a tea. It is supposedly good for your complexion. I'll let you figure that one out for yourself. My gift of choice is a fruitcake. In the past few years there have been a number of fruitcakes that have been passed back and forth amongst our group of friends. Passed, shipped....abandoned at undeserving peoples homes, call it what you will. Those suckers need their own passports. I have a friend who used her husband as a mule to smuggle one of those fruitcakes back into Singapore from North Carolina. Yes, it is in my possession once again. I won't name names, but you know who you are. I have plans for that fruitcake, big plans. And I am a patient woman.

Last night instead of our yearly White Elephant gift exchange we switched things up a bit and had a surprise baby shower for a friend. Baby M got a lot of really great stuff, everything was fluffy and impossibly soft, no nuts or unidentifiable candied fruit peels to be found!
If you're looking for something to bring to a holiday party, be it the White Elephant or Baby Shower variety, these cupcake fit the bill. They are moist and chocolately and the buttercream is different from most. It is light, creamy and not too sweet.
Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home
Serves: 14-15 Cupcakes
12 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons brewed strong coffee
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup good quality unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Directions: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, line cupcake pans with paper liners.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment cream together the butter and both sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Lower the speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla.
In a separate bowl combine the buttermilk, sour cream, and coffee. In another bowl whisk all the dry ingredients until well combined.
On low speed add the buttermilk and flour mixtures alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Blend until just combined. Fold with a rubber scraper to make sure the batter is completely blended.
Divide the batter among the cupcake pans filling each paper 2/3 full. Bake 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes, remove cupcakes from pan and cool completely before frosting.
Creamy Peppermint Candy Buttercream Frosting
Makes enough to generously frost 2 dozen cupcakes
6 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 cups unsalted butter at room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 Peppermint flavored candy canes crushed
In a medium saucepan, whisk together the flour and milk until smooth. Place over medium heat and, whisking constantly, cook until the mixture becomes very thick and begins to bubble, 10-15 minutes. Spoon into a small bowl, and place plastic wrap directly on the surface. Cool to room termperature.
Once the flour mixture has cooled, in a large bowl, on the medium high speed of an electric mixer, beat the butter until very smooth and creamy. About 3 minutes. Add the sugar and beat continuously for 5 minutes or until fluffy and all the sugar granules have dissolved. Add the vanilla extract and beat well.
Add the cooled flour mixture a spoonful at a time to the butter mixture. Continue beating until all the flour mixture is incorporated. Beat on high speed until very fluffy and noticeably whiter in color. Stir in crushed candy cane. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes. No longer, no less than 15 minutes. Set a timer! Use immediately.

New Beginnings......I hate them.

I guess you could say I hate new beginnings. It has after all taken me 2 years to get around to writing this post.
Friends and family have encouraged, nagged, prodded even, that it would be a great idea for me to start a cooking and travel blog. There are a lot of reasons why I have put this off:
  1. I am not a writer. This is true, I am not being modest. I am much more comfortable with petri dishes and reading research articles.
  2. Who would read what I have to say other than my husband and my mom. Somehow I don't think my inner middle school girl could survive the humiliation of a lonely unread blog.
  3. Oh the pressure to be creative! Those soft porn food pictures that are all over the blog world. Could I actually pull it off? Me who cuts the heads off my family members in photos.
  4. Then there's that new thing.......
Speaking of new things. My family and I live in Singapore, which really isn't new. What originally was to only be a short stay somehow became 8 years. However, the itch for something new (obviously not my itch) needed to be scratched and lo and behold we are now planning to relocate to Tunisia in August. Slowly I am warming to the idea of new adventures, new climate, new cuisine, and new culture. And the things to be excited about are beginning to outweigh the things that scare the bejezus out of me. Except for scorpions and snakes. They still scare me, but that is another post for another time. It will be titled Things that can kill you in North Africa.
But for now we'll stick to happier topics. Like these muffins. They are easy enough for the kids to make after school, a sort of one bowl everyone in the pool kind of recipe. Nothing fussy. The perfect sort of snack for a cool winter afternoon, or for us, a breezy monsoon season afternoon.
Steiger Haus Apple Carrot Muffins
2 C all purpose flour
3/4 C packed dark brown sugar
1/2 C granulated sugar
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 C peeled and grated carrots
1 C peeled, cored and grated apple
1/2 C sweetened flaked coconut
1/3 C vegetable oil
3 large eggs beaten
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 T granulate sugar mixed with 2 tsp ground cinnamon for topping
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare muffin tin with either paper liners or cooking spray.
In a medium bowl whisk together all the dry ingredients. Make a well in the center and add the carrots, apples, coconut, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla extract. Fold together until just evenly incorporated.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared muffin cups. Sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon mixture. Bake for 12-15 minutes.