Holiday Inn: Feeding a Houseful

Say you have a house full of people over the next week or two and you need to keep the meals rolling out. Or, maybe you have been tasked with bringing part of a meal to someone’s house for a vacation gathering. I’ve made a list of some of my favorites. The Baked Ziti with Roasted Eggplant is the most labor intensive, but many readers noted they substituted cooked Italian sausage for the eggplant and an easy meal was ready in no time. I’ve included my fifteen-minute recipe for marinara sauce for a quick bowl of pasta, too.

Rachelle’s Italian Sausage, Onions, and Peppers

 

 

Baked Ziti with Roasted Eggplant, Mozzarella, and Marinara Sauce 

 

 

Yummy Shepherd’s Pie

 

 

Judy’s Mom’s Meatloaf

 

 

@judyschickens Marinara Sauce

 

 

I like to make one of these delicious, crowd-pleasing chilis when I have a lot of people to feed. The Buffalo Chicken Chili is super quick, especially if you use rotisserie chicken for the meat.

Award Winning Buffalo Chicken Chili

 

 

My Favorite Silver Palate Chili

 

 

If you are a duck hunter or know someone who is, chances are their freezers are full of ducks. Ask for a few; I’m sure your hunter friends will share. This stew, served over a wedge of hot cornbread, is divine.

Kelly’s Duck Stew

 

 

If you are a making a turkey dinner for Christmas, check out the recipes for sides under Thanksgiving Week. Note the no-fail make-ahead gravy recipe. You’ll see why reader Susie Ries traveled to her daughter’s house in Wisconsin with a Knorr’s chicken bouillon cube packed in her suitcase.

Foolproof Make-Ahead Gravy

 

 

It wouldn’t be a holiday meal in a big Italian family without batter-fried cauliflower. This is one of the most popular recipes on the blog. I love the festive Brie Bites, too. They take about fifteen minutes to assemble and bake.

Auntie’s Italian Fried Cauliflower

 

 

 

Hot Pepper Jelly and Pecan Brie Bites

 

 

Special morning breakfasts call for special crowd-pleasing foods. Here are a few of our favorites:

Mom’s Monkey Bread, circa 1970

 

 

 

The Biscuit King

 

 

50 Ways to Make a Breakfast Frittata

 

 

Fruit and Nut Bread

 

 

Desserts are my favorite food to cook. These Italian Sesame Seed cookies are not too sweet, easy to make, great dunked in coffee, and last for a long time in a sealed container. After a warm chocolate chip cookie, they are my favorite cookie on the planet. The Ricotta and Lemon Cookies are heavenly, as well.

Italian Sesame Seed Cookies

 

 

Italian Ricotta and Lemon Cookies

 

 

If you are looking for ideas for foods to bring in the New Year, don’t forget to include collard greens, black-eyed peas, and pork. The greens represent the color of money and thus, economic fortune, the peas (lentils, in the Italian tradition) represent coins, and plump pigs represent prosperity. Here are the tried and true recipes I make every New Year’s Day.

Sautéed Collards (or Swiss Chard), Toasted Pine Nuts and Cranberries

 

 

Marlin’s Black-Eyed Pea Salad

 

 

Brooks’ Pork Tenderloin with an Amazing Marinade

 

 

It’s easy to spruce up your dining room table with greens from the yard. I took a walk with my dear friend, Lou Ann Brown and we came up with this post.

Winter Floral Arrangements Using Greenery from the Yard

 

 

 

Happy cooking and happy holidays to you and yours!

Don’t miss a recipe! Become a subscriber and have every post delivered to your Inbox.

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

Always check this website for the most up to date version of a recipe.  

© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Kugel with Raisins, Orange Zest, and Cinnamon, aka Noodle Pudding

This is how my brain works: you say Jesse’s birthday, I think carrot cake. You say Easter, I think Mom’s Roasted Lamb with Herb and Goat Cheese Topping.  For Christmas, it is Mamanika’s “S” cookies, and for Hanukkah, it’s kugel and latkes.

Holidays for me are about the joy of cooking and remembering my favorite relatives through the recipes, songs, and traditions I now share with my family (and friends!). Talking on the phone with family and close friends about what we are each cooking for a special meal or for dinner that night is one of the dearest joys of life. Each year, about a week before Thanksgiving, my mother would always call and ask me to email her copies of The Recipes. She could never keep up with her boundless collection. JudysChickens.org was started as a way to store those time-tested recipes for my brothers, sons, and nieces and nephews.

So what is kugel? It is a  sweet, baked noodle pudding often made with raisins and spices and served as a side dish at Jewish holiday meals.

I was fortunate to grow up in a blended family long before there was a name for families who came together after a divorce. In our case, our religious practices were blended, too. How many times did my stepfather light a menorah on a table close to my Italian grandfather’s creamy white ceramic nativity set? Kugel was one of the foods that became part of our blended holiday meals.

This is an old photo of my two youngest brothers.

Choosing a recipe for kugel is a lot like choosing one for Thanksgiving dressing (or stuffing) — people want these dishes to taste the way their mother, grandmother or great aunt prepared them. I love that. It shows how deep the connection between holidays, the people present at the table, and the foods served are connected in our memory and ultimately become the traditions we yearn for when family and friends come together.

For Mom’s kugel recipe, at first glance, and every glance really, there are a lot of calories from fat and sugar; that is the way this side dish rolls. In the end, after trying to make the recipe with fewer calories, I found I was only able to dial back the sugar by a quarter of a cup. Woohoo.  I love this dish!

Yield: Serves 8-12

Ingredients:

1  8-ounce package egg noodles (about 4½ cups cooked)
1 cup raisins
1  8-ounce can crushed pineapples with juice
½ navel orange, grate the peel and scoop up the juicy pulp
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt, plus more to salt the water for cooking the noodles
1 pound (almost 2 cups) sour cream
2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar: ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1½ teaspoons sugar

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350º.

Bring salted water to a boil, add the dry noodles, and cook until done. Drain. Place noodles into a 9 x 13-inch casserole or a deep-dish casserole, as I like to do. Add the melted butter and stir. Set aside.

Pour raisins into a small bowl. Grate the peel of one-half an orange over the raisins. Squeeze out the orange’s juice over the raisins. Scoop out the pulp, chop it up, and add it to the bowl of raisins. Discard the pith. Add crushed pineapples with their juice. Mix together the raisins, orange zest, fruit, and juice until each is well distributed in the bowl. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, vanilla, sugar, salt, and sour cream until well blended. Set aside.

Pour the fruit mixture over the buttered noodles and stir. Add the egg batter. Stir until well blended. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake for sixty minutes until the top is golden brown and crunchy and the eggy part is a little bubbly. If the noodle tips start to burn, cover the casserole with foil for the last ten minutes of cooking. Allow to cool for ten minutes before serving. If you want a creamier interior texture, cook it for only 50 minutes. I think the flavors are more intense when it is cooked for the full sixty minutes.

Happy Hanukkah to my family and friends!

Here are lots of recipes, like these Brie Bites, to get you through special meals from now until New Year’s Day.

Meanwhile, I would love a good recipe for latkes. I have never made them but sure have enjoyed eating them.

Don’t miss a recipe! Become a subscriber and have every post delivered to your Inbox.

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

Remember to always check this website for updated versions of a recipe.  

© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

How to Knit a Hat and Make a Pom Pom

Just before New Year’s Day, temperatures in Nashville dropped to the single digits. Neck warmers were no longer enough to keep us warm.

We needed hats! Wool Hats. Hats long enough to cover our earlobes.

My sons and their girlfriends (and their dogs) were still in and out of the house while on their holiday break. Between having a full house and Arctic temperatures, I decided to stay inside and knit some hats. For the first two hats I knit, I used a mix of two strands of yarn: one a variegated worsted weight and the other a complementary wool in sock weight. My sons’ girlfriends loved them.

 

I knit a few more using the leftovers from the neck warmers. More of Mom’s stash!

It’s safe to say if you were in our house during any part of the freeze, you got a hat.

A Walk-Through of How I Made My Niece’s Striped Version of the Hat

The Yarn
I pulled out all the leftover pink and chartreuse balls of yarn I had. For cooks, it’s akin to pulling out vegetables from the refrigerator and asking yourself, What can I make with these? Better yet, What are they telling me to make?

I used two to three strands of yarn for each stripe. I didn’t make a swatch first because, by now, I knew that one strand of worsted weight and two strands of sock yarn created the right gauge. Using one strand of worsted weight and one strand of DK weight worked equally well. By the way, it doesn’t matter if you run out of one of the yarns as you are knitting; just substitute something similar. Nobody will notice.

Chunky yarns are too thick for this pattern unless you go up in needle size and down in the number of cast on stitches. I stayed away from changing the plan. That would require thinking and I couldn’t do that and binge watch A Place to Call Home. Think Downton Abbey Down Under, post-war.

Ultimately, the yarns in the picture above lent themselves to the color scheme below.

.

The Pattern:
All the hats were knit on size 9 needles with a cast on of 80 stitches.
Row 1: Knit 3, Purl 2. Repeat across row.
Row 2: Knit 2, Purl 3. Repeat across row.
Repeat pattern until the fabric is seven inches long and then start the decreases to shape the top.

The Decreases: 
The decreases are made while continuing in the ribbing pattern. It looks scary, but it’s not as long as you realize it is just a method to decrease 8 across a row while staying in the ribbing pattern.

Row 1 RS (Right side): K2 together, K1, P2, K3, P2, repeat across row. 72 stitches remain.
Row 2 WS (Wrong side): K2, P3, K2, P2. Repeat to end of row.

Row 3 RS: K2, P2, K2 together, K1, P2, repeat across row. 64 stitches remain.
Row 4 WS: K2, P2, K2, P2. Repeat to end of row.

Row 5 RS: K2, P2 together, K2, P2, repeat across row. 56 stitches remain.
Row 6 WS: K2, P2, K1, P2. Repeat to end of row.

Row 7 RS: K2, P1, K2, P2 together, repeat across row. 48 stitches remain.
Row 8 WS: K1, P2, K1, P2. Repeat to end of row.

Row 9 RS: K2 together, P1, K2, P1, repeat across row. 40 stitches remain.
Row 10 WS: K1, P2, K1, P1. Repeat to end of row.

Row 11 RS: K1, P1, K2 together, P1, repeat across row. 32 stitches remain.
Row 12 WS: P2 together, P2, repeat across row. 24 stitches remain.
Row 13 RS: K2 together, K1, repeat across row. 16 stitches remain.
Row 14 WS: P2 together, repeat across row. 8 stitches remain.
Row 15 RS: K2 together, repeat across row. 4 stitches remain.

Cut yarn tail to about 12-inches long. Using a blunt sewing needle, capture the remaining 4 stitches and pull the yarn through them. Do not cut the tail of yarn.

Finishing:

Lay the fabric flat, wrong side facing up. It’s time to clean up the loose threads. I tied a single knot between the strands of yarn where the color changes occurred (example: between the yellow and pink yarn) to secure them. Next, I wove the yarn ends into the ribbing for about one 1½ inches.

I snipped the remaining tails of yarn. Now it is nice and clean.

I tidied up the other loose ends in the fabric from where I had to add more yarn in the middle of a row.

Sewing up the seam:
Align the two sides of the hat together with the right sides facing. I use quilting clips to temporarily line up and attach the sides together.

Next, thread a 12-inch strand of strong, matching yarn (I use cotton yarn) through a blunt sewing needle to sew the seam. If the tail of yarn leftover from the cast on row is long enough, you can use it instead to sew the seam.

I use the “mattress” stitch to sew the two sides together. It creates a beautiful, invisible seam. To do so, pick up two horizontal bars of knitted yarn from each edge of the hat. When I get through a few inches of picked up bars, as in the picture below, I pull the sewing needle taught (but not to the point of bunching) and continued sewing.

To say it works magically sounds childish, but every time I pull that thread taught, I think, Magic.

 

The last step is to pretty-up the bottom cast on row of the hat. After making the bottom edge look neat, I turn the fabric to the wrong side, tuck in the yarn, and snip what remains.

 

On the wrong side of the fabric, a ridge will be created by the side edges that have been brought together.

How to Make a Pom Pom (without a commercial pom pom gadget)


In the olden days, we wrapped yarn around a 2-3 inch piece of cardboard to make a pom pom. Now I use a cell phone, either my husband’s or mine, depending on whether I want a 2-inch or 3-inch ball.

I usually use four or five different colors of yarn to wrap around the phone to give the pom pom more color and texture.

 

Slide the yarn off the phone or cardboard (or even a credit card– whatever is handy!). Use a 12-inch piece of strong cotton yarn to tie across the center of the wad of yarn. You need a very tight knot to keep all the threads together. I use a hemostat to hold the first knot tight. Tie a second knot to secure it.

 

Next, using very sharp scissors, start snipping the loops as shown in the photo. Once the ball emerges, start snipping it to round out the sphere. Hang on to the ends of the cotton used to tie the knot. That’s what you are going to use to attach the pom pom to the hat.

Using your sewing needle attach the pom pom to the hat. Turn the hat inside out and tie the ends to the ends remaining from bind off row. Next, I use the sewing needle to go in and out of the pom pom a couple of times to better anchor it to the hat. Weave in the ends of yarn and you are done!

There are gadgets to help you make the perfect pom pom. I used one of them to make the 1-inch balls for this scarf.

These hats are for my goddaughter Leigh and her daughter who is due in March. Looking forward to having a little girl around — and her grandmother, Becky.

You can do it, Readers! If you have questions, ask them in the Comments section.

Next up: Pot Roast

Related Posts
A Birthday Tribute for my Mother: Knitting Neck Warmers with Mom’s Stash
What to Knit for a Baby: a Hat, a Sweater and a Blanket
Sick Soup, Sometimes Known as Snow Day Soup

Always check the website for the most current version of a recipe or pattern.

If you enjoyed this post, become a subscriber! Be sure to confirm the subscription on the follow-up letter sent to your email address.

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

A Birthday Tribute for My Mother: Knitting Neck Warmers with Mom’s Stash

Knitting and cooking were two activities Mom and I enjoyed doing together. It had been that way since I was a child.

A birthday card for Mom in heaven:
In December, I discovered, by looking at the photos in my Instagram feed, that sometimes the colors in a knitted swatch looked very similar to the shots of food I had cooked or grown. I went through my photos and pulled out pictures of knitted fabric that matched up colorwise with pictures of food, and sent them to my son, Andrew. He created a slideshow. Since today is my mother’s birthday, this is my birthday card for her to let her know I’m carrying on her legacy.

 

Mom loved color and texture, and there were always plenty of both to be found in yarn and food. She could not resist a gorgeous hank of smooth, hand-dyed wool any more than she could resist a shiny, plump eggplant. Accordingly, her refrigerator was a palette of colorful vegetables and her art studio shelves were overflowing with skein after skein of yarn.

When she died, as the only daughter of her seven children, I inherited her yarn stash. It was an extraordinary stash, filled with gorgeous single balls of unlabeled wool as well as multiple skeins of labeled yarn. The possibilities were endless — a knitter’s dream — and a gift to her daughter. In her collection were ten knitted squares, part of a quilt I had started her on when she was in rehab after her brain tumor recurred. To say the squares were not uniform is being gracious. Had she not died within the year of knitting them, I would most certainly have unraveled them. Instead, they became a final memorial to her. Morose, I know, but it was the last thing she had knit before she died and I am sentimental and there’s a thing called a grief journey and I’ve been on it. Having said all that, my mother was a beautiful woman who never left the house without looking her best; she would never have wanted to be remembered by those tangled-up, messy squares.

Homebound, while recuperating from the flu in October, I went through Mom’s stash to look for yarn to knit a sweater for my grandson. I came across The Squares. I looked at them for a while trying to decide what to do with them. Thanksgiving, Christmas, her birthday in January — all food and family days she loved to celebrate — were around the corner. The last two holiday seasons without her had left me feeling blue by the time her birthday rolled around. Mom would have told me to move on. She was always my friend and coach.

I unraveled the squares. I ended up with a colorful ball of heavy worsted-weight cotton and wool blend called “Nobori” by Noro Yarns. I found the matching skeins in Mom’s stash.

I used them to knit a bright and chunky, double cowl. I cast on 32 stitches on size 9 needles and used about 300 yards. The finished cowl is 8″ wide and 58″ long. I decided to knit it in the basketweave pattern so the edges of the finished fabric would remain flat instead of curled inward as they would have had I used the stockinette stitch. I love the way the changes in stitch direction, with the basketweave pattern, reflect light in contrasting ways.

 

That’s my bestie cousin, Marion, on the left. Her Pumpkin Bread with Chocolate Chip is one of the most popular recipes on Judy’s Chickens.

Once I finished my cowl, I knit one for my dear friend, Wendy Martin. Can I just say here that it is a thrill to see people wearing stuff you make for them? Wendy’s cowl was knit with a light worsted weight superwash yarn called “Wild Flowers” by Lichen and Lace. I bought it from Mason-Dixon Knitting’s online shop. I cast on 40 stitches on size 7 needles. The finished fabric was 8″ wide and 52″ long. I used a knit 5, purl 5 basketweave pattern. This cowl was light enough to be worn as an indoor scarf, as opposed to my bulky, outdoor cowl.

 

When Thanksgiving vacation rolled around and my sons were home, I knit a “neck warmer” for each of them using yarn from Mom’s stash. I changed the name from cowl to neck warmer because cowl sounded like a feminine garment. I wasn’t sure the boys would like them, but to my surprise, they all wanted one. You can imagine my delight when this photo of my son was posted on Instagram the day after he returned to school —  he wore his neck warmer to work! He liked it. He really liked it.

 

That gave me an idea. I decided I was going to make neck warmers for all my brothers, their wives, girlfriends, and their children using yarn from our mother’s stash for this year’s holiday presents. The side benefit was that I would be able to reduce the size of Mom’s stash and find a use for all the singlet balls of yarns that are often hard to use up. It was similar to cleaning out the refrigerator. In a way.

I Got Into It & It Got Into Me

To make knitting so many neck warmers creatively challenging I made a rule: I had to use at least two strands of different yarns twisted together for each neck warmer. This was because Mom had so much sock and DK weight yarn that needed to be used up. But, oh, did it ever make the entire process so much more fun. Mom would have loved seeing the results. I definitely felt her presence knitting by the Christmas tree in the early morning and evening hours of December.

   
   

Because the yarn weights varied, I did a swatch of each intended combination to see how they looked together and to calculate their stitch per inch count (gauge) so I would know how many stitches to cast on. The count had to be a multiple of four for the basketweave pattern to work. All of the scarves were knit on size 10½ needles with a cast on of anywhere from 20-36 stitches depending on the thickness of the strands. My goal was a finished product that was somewhere between 6½ and 7½ inches wide with a somewhat stiff texture. I didn’t want the neck warmers to be floppy. The length was 21 to 23 inches depending on when the ball of yarn ran out. For the children’s sizes, I made them 6″ wide by 18″ long.

The Basketweave Knitting Pattern
-If the number of stitches is divisible by 8, such as 24 or 32 do the following:
Rows 1-4: knit 4, purl 4, repeat across row
Rows 5-8: purl 4, knit 4, repeat across row
Repeat rows 1-8 until the desired length is reached.

-If the number of stitches is 20 or 28 (an uneven number of blocks) do the following:
Rows 1 and 3: knit 4, purl 4, knit 4, repeat across row
Rows 2 and 4: purl 4, knit 4, purl 4, repeat across row
Rows 5 and 7: purl 4, knit 4, purl 4, repeat across row
Rows 6 and 8: knit 4, purl 4, knit 4, repeat across row
Repeat rows 1-8 until the desired length is reached.

This chart of yarn weights might help you choose yarns from your stash:

By the time Christmas and Hanukkah came around, I was finished.

I mailed the neck warmers to each of my brothers’ homes. My brother Charles sent me this photo when they arrived.

Using my gifts of knitting, cooking, and otherwise caring for my family, I had a beautiful holiday season filled with the love of family and friends. I learned that grief has its own timetable and ain’t nobody gonna rush it.

To end, here’s a picture of Mom knitting and smiling at her sons, Carl and Sam, who even as adults couldn’t keep their hands off each other. Mom laughed easily and my brothers loved to make her laugh.

Next year, I’m going to spiralize vegetables like this strand of zucchini and knit them into edible sweaters. Happy New Year, Readers!

A Few Stories About Mom
A Biography Tour with My Mom in Rochester, NY: A Remembrance
Judy’s Mom’s Meatloaf
Mrs. Walker’s Cranberry Nut Pie
Mom’s Roasted Lamb with Herb and Goat Cheese Topping
Aunt Bridget’s Chicken Soup with Little Meatballs
We Will Remember Them
Roasted Acorn Squash, Applesauce, and Cinnamon

Always check the website for the most current version of a recipe or pattern.

If you enjoyed this post, become a subscriber! Be sure to confirm the subscription on the follow-up letter sent to your email address.

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.