Hello everyone! I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas (or Saturday to those of you who don't celebrate.) I went up to New Jersey Wednesday night to visit my family and just got back this afternoon. My last three visits up to Jersey have been rushed and/or stressful (boyfriend meeting the parents anyone??) so it was nice to have a calm, relaxing visit for once.
I managed to escape work a bit early on Wednesday, and headed over to Union Station to catch an early train home. While I waited, I wandered around and looked at the Christmas decorations. I used to live a few blocks from Union Station and it always drove me crazy when people would stop and gawk, and photograph everything when I was walking through there just trying to get to work. Just a couple years later I've become one of them!
Now that I'm not rushing through on a daily commute, I get it. How could you not stop and take pictures in a place as gorgeous as this?
Annie, Emma (our non-blogging sister), and I spent Christmas Eve at our Mom's house. We've always done fun finger food and appetizers on Christmas Eve instead of having a formal sit down meal. This year we had baked brie in puff pastry, buffalo wings, shrimp and grits, and spinach dip. I'm a huge fan of appetizers, so this is pretty much the perfect kind of meal for me.
I made the spinach dip (recipe below), but my Mom cooked the rest of the food. While she cooked, we decided to take a few photos in front of the tree...
I wish I smiled for this photo...I'm really quite surly in pictures sometimes.
Annie and Emma...Emma found out the day before Christmas Eve that she got accepted into her first choice college for Fall 2011! Congratulations Emma!
And last but not least, A Bitchin' Kitten. This is Pumpkin, who is clearly tuckered out from playing with the "seagull on a string" toy I bought him for Christmas.
We chowed down on appetizers throughout the day including this shrimp and grits recipe that my Mom served in a martini glass. I believe she got the recipe from Paula Deen, and I highly recommend it.
We also put a big dent in this spinach dip. Unlike most spinach-artichoke dip recipes, it's done on the stovetop instead of in the oven. I like it better that way, because it doesn't get the hard crispy top that makes dipping bread or chips so annoying. It makes about 7 cups of dip (what you see below is a very, very small amount of the whole batch).
1/4 cup salted butter
2 (10 oz) packages frozen chopped spinach, partially thawed
1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 - 2 (16 oz) containers sour cream*
1 1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese (I recommend shredding your own or buying a tub of the pre-shredded kind versus using the stuff in the canister. It will melt much better.)
Garlic salt, to taste
Melt the butter in a large deep pan over medium heat. Stir in the spinach and artichoke hearts, and cook for about 5 minutes. Mix in the cream cheese and sour cream until combined. Stir in the parmesan cheese and garlic salt. Continue cooking for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until thickened. Transfer to a slow cooker, and keep it on the warm setting, if desired.
*I would use 2 if you plan to keep the dip warm in a slow cooker like I did. I only used 1 1/2 and the dip got super thick. If you plan to serve it right away 1 1/2 would be perfect.
* * *
On Christmas Day, Annie, Emma and I went over to my Dad's place. We went to church in the morning, and came back and had cinnamon rolls and fruit salad for breakfast. We opened presents right after, and imagine my surprise and excitement when my first one from my Dad contained this:
Yes, that is the Canon Rebel XS.
My current camera is the Canon PowerShot a1000IS. It has been a reliable little camera for about a year and a half now, but it's really not cut out for food blogging, or the type of photography I'd like to learn to do well. Plus, I dropped it on my birthday back in April (things seem to slip from my fingers much more easily after a few beers), and it has an entire chunk broken off the lense. I'm really quite astonished it's made it through the past 8 months at all.
I spent the rest of Christmas Day taking pictures of random objects around my Dad's, and can't wait to photograph some new recipes with it! I plan to take a class to learn about all the features, but if anyone has beginner tips feel free to leave them in the comments!
For dinner, my Dad made chicken parmesan. I actually got the recipe we have for it on our blog from him.
I better wrap this up before it morphs into the worlds longest post. I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas as much as I did!