26 December 2008

Piglets in a Blanket

We have returned home after a whirlwind of travel delays over the holiday. While we did get a little restless living out of a suitcase for nearly two weeks, we were fortunate to have the chance to spend so much time with our family and friends. One afternoon my mom and I made loads of fingerfoods to have on hand while a few dozen of family members came by to visit. We made a cheese plate with brie and blue, mini roast beef and cheddar sandwiches with horseradish and artichoke dip.

But knowing we'd have kids among the mix, I wanted to make sure there was something on the table they'd enjoy. I immediately thought of a favorite in our house, Pigs in a Blanket. It's a meal that, of course, isn't on the diet menu, but, wow, it's heavenly. I make biscuit dough and wrap it around a hot dog sliced down the center and stuffed with cheese. On a really good (or bad, depending on your perspective) day, I'll also make my mac' 'n' cheese to go alongside.

Of course mini-versions of everyday favorites are becoming poplar, perhaps thanks to this year's foodie fascination with all things Spanish, including tapas. It seems sliders, the cute name for mini burgers, have been the front runner even making it on to family chain restaurant menus.

I had a fabulous time making mini Pigs in a Blanket when I enlisted my 5-year-old niece, Lily, as my sous. We used the standby Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough instead of homemade biscuit dough. The taste is just as good, and it is actually much easier for little hands to work with. We served ours on a tray with small dishes of ketchup and mustard for dipping.

The only trouble was that I couldn't make enough. About 50 pieces disappeared shortly after the tray hit the buffet table. It turns out it wasn't just the kids who loved them!

Piglets in a Blanket

1 can Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough
1 12-ounce package mini sausages such as Lil' Smokies
Condiments for dipping

Unroll the Crescent roll dough on a lightly floured surface. Pinch together the pre-cut sections of dough to make one large, uncut piece. With a rolling pin, roll the dough slightly thinner. Using a knife or pizza cutter (the good option for kids), cut strips approximately one inch in length. Then, cut the inch-wide strips into pieces about 3 inches in length. Cut one test strip and wrap around a sausage to make sure the size is correct.

Continue cutting dough into strips. Wrap each sausage in the dough, leaving the ends uncovered. Place on cookie sheets, seam-side down.

Bake according to package directions, cutting the time down to account for the small pieces. Dough should be firm and slightly golden when done. Serve warm or room temperature.

04 December 2008

Family Thanksgiving

Since moving to the Northwest almost eight years ago, I've learned to spend holidays in an entirely new way. Growing up, my family always got together for the holidays. We typically spent them all with my dad's parents, and we had a Christmas Eve tradition with my mom's brother and his family.

So, when you move away from everything and your husband works a swing shift, the holidays can turn blue. The very first Thanksgiving I spent out here was actually before Seth and I were married, and I was just visiting. He had to work that evening, so I snuggled up on the couch with a frozen dinner. Pathetic, huh? Since then, my holidays have (slowly) progressed into our own traditions. There was the year I cooked one tiny game hen for myself and enjoyed a bottle of wine. Bad idea.

But as jobs changed and life moved on, we began to create traditions of our own. We enjoy quiche on holiday mornings and Lamb Popsicles on Christmas. We've roasted turkeys with friends and had many wonderful meals around our table. But this year was different. With the recent addition to our family, I can barely plan humdrum weekday dinners, so thinking about Thanksgiving was a little overwhelming. We'd let our friends know they were welcome to come over, but everyone was headed out of town or to a family function.

Then I got a call from cousin Nathan who recently moved to Oregon via Dallas; Togo, Africa; Boston; New Zealand; the French countryside; and, most recently, Northern California. Our dads are brothers and we grew up about three hours apart -- he in Dallas, and I outside of Oklahoma City. We played together as kids during holidays and summer visits, but as we got older, we saw each other less. Then after college he joined the Peace Corps and started a journey that would take him around the globe. He's an organic farmer, winemaker, carpenter and generally all-around-going-to-make-it-anywhere kind of guy.

Nathan and Amy

Somehow or another, we've both now landed fairly close to each other. He just bought some land and an old farmhouse that's about an hour from our home, and he plans on starting his own farm.

This year, it was Nathan who completed our holiday. He called the Friday beforeand said he wanted to come for dinner, and he also had a nine-pound turkey he'd raised that he wanted us to roast.

The extent of my meal planning was a trip to the farmer's market to pick up whatever veggies looked good. Then I ran by Julia Bakery to pick up their delicious challah to make a pumpkin bread pudding (which I served warm with some yummy homemade maple ice cream).

Thanksgiving afternoon, Nathan, Seth and I took turns entertaining Jasper, and we all helped with the cooking. It was a small gathering but one that won't soon be forgotten. We had great company, ate good food and drank good wine.

Of course this year we have plenty to be thankful for, but the opportunity to share a holiday with family who lives close was an added treat. Not to mention the fun of having the farmer and the winemaker at the table with us.