Food for Friday

So, earlier this week our complex manager and January’s employee of the month, Diana, not to mention any names or anything, asked for a recipe with five ingredients or less!  Apparently, she’s a little tired when she gets home from managing the staff and guests for this whole place, go figure ..  So I thought for sure I’d find one of those 5-ingredients cookbooks down in Mrs. Claus’ Parlor ~ but no luck.

Luckily, I found Fast-Fix Meals from Gooseberry Patch, so problem solved.  From “Sizzling Skillets” to “Simmering Soup Pots,” “Dinner on a Bun,” and even “Desserts in a Jiffy,” this volume has got you covered.  Some of the recipes list more than five ingredients, but they all promise to go from refrigerator to table top, passing through appropriate appliances along the way, in 30 minutes or less.  (Try Grandma Goldie’s Sketti  or Husband-Pleasin’ Dirty Rice” for a couple of quick choices!)

Here’s one that should be served with hot buttered rolls and some wicked-good coleslaw that a friend of mine makes – one day I’ll get that recipe!  One day!

Connie’s Skillet Meatloaf

Ingredients
2 lbs lean ground beef
2 eggs, beaten
1 sleeve saltine crackers, crushed
1 potato, peeled and shredded
1 carrot, peeled and shredded
15-oz can tomato sauce, divided

Mix all ingredients together, reserving half the tomato sauce.  Pat into a lightly greased electric skillet.  Pour reserved sauce over meatloaf.  Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes at 350 degrees; cover and simmer an additional 15 to 25 minutes.  Or, simply pat into a greased skillet and cook on the stovetop over medium heat, as directed.  Serves 6.

Okay, so you’ve already counted and you know that it has 6 ingredients, not five.  I think that, since 2 of the ingredients require no preparation at all (crackers & sauce), this should not count against me.  I think I can rationalize away this problem of the extra ingredient!  I think she’ll be too tired, she just won’t notice.  I think I’ll shut up now.

If the workday or work week leaves you a little short on energy for dinner preparation, this is the cookbook for you – proven family recipes that are a snap to assemble and yield delicious results.  Remember, it’s usually the case that the freshest ingredients prepared in the simplest way give the best outcome.

The sun is still shining here in East Tennessee – no more snow (until Sunday morning, maybe…).  I’m going out to enjoy the afternoon – hope you do, too!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

The Partridge & Pear Restaurant Update

A reader has asked for an update on the restaurant ~ we’re still on track for an early summer opening (notice how carefully we are avoiding a specific date…).  There has been progress on both the interior and exterior of the building, but it’s not quite beautiful yet – just bits are beautiful!  Here are some photos I took a couple of hours ago.  As you’ll notice, it’s another cloudy day here ~ in fact, it began snowing again about 10 minutes ago.  I tried to panic and head for home, but the boss would not hear of it.  Meanie.

Coming soon - The Partridge & Pear Restaurant at Christmas Place!

The Conservatory

Clearly, it’s already in use for private parties!  (Flashback to December, I just remembered I was supposed to get a couple of those chairs for Christmas!  Who had my name in the drawing?  Someone’s got some ‘splainin’ to do..)  The last time I was in this room, the floor was a bed of loose rocks.

I did not even notice the fireplace hiding behind the ladder on the left when I was taking this picture of the marvelous tray ceiling that’s going in!  You can see it’s all taping and spackling inside this week.

A second fireplace in one of the dining rooms.  It’s become a bit of a rabbit warren now, and I can’t tell you for sure yet which room is which.  Chef Aaron knows, I hope!

 I think I was meant to use one of those hard hats .. but at least I have plenty of hairspray working for me against hard objects falling from above.

Oops!  Looks like the kitchen is last on the list for some TLC.

We’re anxious to see the stone go up on the outside of the building, and the hand-painted murals coming to life on the inside.  I’ll be back with more pictures when that starts to take shape.  Until then, keep an eye out for this logo around town ~ it means a really great food experience is heading your way!  We’ll set a place at the table for you.

Partridge and Pear Logo

You know what this all means??  Soon you’ll be able to come for a fabulous dinner, shop a little (or a lot), spend the night in luxury – and still make it to work on time in the morning!  Now that’s a quick and complete getaway.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Ornament Sale!

It’s back!  Once again, we’re offering our Buy-3-Get-the-4th-Free ornament sale at Christmas Place – both in the store and on our shopping site.  Use the link above to start shopping now – everything in this category is included in the sale – about 1,600 items, even ornament display stands.

Right now, there are NO exclusions!  Every ornament in the store is included.  We count ornaments as anything with a string or a hook on the top that can be hung in a Christmas tree.  (Believe me, we had several debates on this!)  We also count birds that have clips on the bottom to attach to a tree limb.  You’ll see the wide variety of items as you page through your choices.

If you buy a pre-packed set of 3 or 4 or a dozen ornaments, that counts as one item and you need to buy 2 more to get your free fourth set. 

You can mix and match between ornaments, too.  Many of them are also on sale; in each case, the lowest price ornament will be the free ornament, if your choices have different prices.

Why are you still reading this??  Don’t you know how many pages of ornaments you have to be looking through already?

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

P.S.  Next time you come to the store, ask if you can try out one of the new double-decker shopping carts we’re testing this winter.

Elf of the Month Award!

A big shout-out to Diana Jones, our Elf of the Month for January 2010!  Diana is our senior complex manager, responsible for, among other things, making sure the right associates are on the floor and at the cash registers all week long ~ and even when not everyone can make it to the store because of snow in the mountains.  Diana does a fabulous job of leading and motivating the Retail Team, and we thank her for all her hard work .. and for occasionally giving us chocolate at 9:00 a.m.!  What a way to start the day.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Christmas Village Display

Do you go all-out with your lighted Village display at Christmas time?  Why else would you collect the houses if you didn’t intend to enjoy them yourself and show them off during the holidays ~ or any time of year? 

One of our long time associates here at Christmas Place, Miss Phyllis, brought in photos of her own Village collection as displayed in her home last year.  The display reaches almost to the top of her window frame, and includes an elevated mountain-scape above a train track.  She created the entire landscape herself, carving and painting the mountains, tunnel, and archways.  I think you’ll agree, she put together a really beautiful scene!

I think the skiers up at Whistler would be wishing for such snow-covered slopes!  I asked Phyllis if her family helps with this, and she says no, it is entirely her own project.  What a talented and creative lady she is. 

Thanks for sharing your photos and your inspiration with us, Phyllis!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Two plus Two plus Two for Tuesday

Hey, are you a little weary of this winter of 2010?  I’m getting that way ~ it has snowed here all day, at times through brilliant sunshine, which is quite spectacular, but I know we’re starting to get spring fever already.  I took a peek into Department 56 this afternoon, and was delighted to spot a fabulous spring display, complete with a bright blue sky and fluffy white clouds!  Check out the Snowbunnies on parade.

Even surrounded by snow-dusted, Christmas-y pines, they look like a breath of fresh air.  These darling figurines are flocked for spring and as perky as can be.  Here’s a sampling.

My Baby Bunny

My Eggs are Chocolate

Cruisin' With My Chick

Totally Huggable

The Tortoise and The Hare

But, Bunnies Love Carrots

Don’t they just put a little grin on your face?  I think they’re cute enough to melt your chocolate Easter bunny and your cold, cold heart – or fingers, or toes, or whatever part of you is currently frozen to February.  Enjoy!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Food for Friday

Just in case you’ve been living in a cave or on Mars or under the sea for the past twentyleven days, this Sunday is Valentine’s Day, time for all things red and sweet and chocolate.  And since everyone agrees that breakfast is the most important meal of every day, how about starting the morning with a bit of all three?

I found these sweet recipes in the Tennessee Cook Book, a collection of recipes from across the state, including many from private family collections.   Alongside the  unique dishes and interesting ingredients featured in the book, you’ll find interesting Tennessee highlights covering the state from east to west.

From Judy & Robert Hotchkiss, the proprietors of Prospect Hill Bed & Breakfast in Mountain City, comes a recipe for Strawberry Crepes with strawberry filling and sauce.  I’m going to suggest that you go daring and pair this with Sharon Spears’ Chocolate Biscuit Gravy for a special treat!

Strawberry Crêpes

Ingredients
Crepes:

6 eggs
4 t sugar
1 t salt
2 C flour, sifted
2 C milk
1-1/2 C chopped fresh strawberries
Mint or parsley sprigs for garnish

Strawberry Filling:
3 10-oz cartons frozen strawberries in juice
1/4 to 1/3 C sour cream

Beat together eggs, sugar, and salt.  Add flour and milk alternately, beating til thoroughly incorporated.  Heat skillet over medium to high heat (remember the old electric skillet??  Perfect for crêpes!) and pour 1/4 cup batter into center.  Cook until lightly browned, turn and brown the other side.  Remove the crêpes to a flat work surface.  Place 1/8 cup strawberry filling along one edge of each crêpe.  Add a layer of chopped strawberries, then roll crêpes and place on serving plates.  Garnish with strawberry sauce, Chocolate Gravy, and mint or parsley.

For strawberry filling, defrost strawberries overnight.  Warm thoroughly in microwave and then mash and drain through a sieve, reserving the juice separately.  Stir sour cream to taste into mashed berries.

For strawberry sauce, place reserved strawberry juice into a microwaveable container; add 3 tablespoons cornstarch and whisk together.  Microwave in short intervals until sauce thickens, stirring often.

Chocolate Biscuit Gravy

Ingredients
1 C sugar
1 T (heaping) cocoa
4 t flour
water
2 C milk
1 t vanilla
2 T butter

In a skillet, mix sugar, cocoa, and flour; add enough water to make a paste.  Cook over medium heat, adding milk and stirring until mixture thickens.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and butter.  Serve over strawberry crêpes.

Is this too decadent??  To me, it sounds delicious ~ and I don’t often like chocolate for breakfast.  I may have to set the clock a little early on Sunday and give this a try.  I’ll add a dish of savory eggs & cheese on the side.

It’s snowing in Pigeon Forge again, looking quite beautiful as the flakes drift onto the garden pine trees and garland and bows on balconies over at The Inn at Christmas Place (we really do have a great view across the street from our store!).  Not much accumulation is expected, so enjoy the icing while it’s hanging around today.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

 C = Cup; T = Tablespoon; t = Teaspoon

P.S. I tried taking a picture through the glass – too bad the city hasn’t put the electrical lines underground yet!

Snowing on The Inn at Christmas Place

Snowing on The Inn at Christmas Place

Food for Football

Wait, that’s supposed to be Food for Friday ~ who am I kidding, I can think only of the Super Bowl and enjoying a victory!  You can guess that I’ll be wearing the blue and white on Sunday, but I wouldn’t be totally crushed to see the other team win at this point in their NFL existence.  (You’re right again, I’m not yet sure who my hosts for the game will be cheering, no point getting myself thrown out before the commercials even begin to roll ..) 

I plan to make my semi-famous chili ~ recently a friend asked me to try it with pinto beans instead of kidneys, and I think I will always use only pintos in this recipe from now on and forever.  They have a softer but still very pleasant texture, and blend wonderfully with the other ingredients – it’s my new favorite way to make this chili.   And the pintos are close in color to a Saints  gold.  (Oh, come on, just give me that one already!)

Last year I saw Paula Deen prepare a key lime pie, and that’s on my menu for Sunday, too.  She has a couple of pie recipes out there; my favorite is the one that calls for three egg yolks and baking the filling, not the unbaked version.  I expect I can achieve a pleasing Colts-blue coloration for that filling .. sadly, I am indeed likely to attempt that.  I know.  I know.  (Please don’t tell, but I’ll probably be using a pre-made crust, too.  Better and better.)

Okay, for those amoung you who want a real dining experience, I’ll point you to a wonderful story on NPR’s Morning Edition yesterday in which they offered recommendations from two real chefs.  Read or listen to the story here, and the recipes are posted as well.  Shrimp gumbo is really such a lovely dish .. but the roux has to be stirred for an hour, and then there’s more adding of ingredients and skimming for an hour, followed by simmering for an hour.  And plenty of prep and cooking even before that.  I’m afraid that, since I did not start the cooking process on Wednesday, I simply could not be finished by game time on Sunday (not even pre-game time – doesn’t that start at about midnight on Saturday??).  I just might be able to achieve the pork loin sandwich, but I don’t know much about frying things.

Here’s another option, I came across this post with recipes for seven healthy (and surely scrumptious) snack ideas for the game.  I was just a bit intimidated, though, when the first “healthy” snack called for a cup of mayonnaise and 4 ounces of cream cheese.  REally?  Well, they call themselves a clinic ..

Whether you watch the game or not, lay out a big spread or just enjoy some homemade salsa and chips, I hope you make the most of your weekend possibilities!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Celebrate Valentine’s at The Inn at Christmas Place

Do you sense love in the air?  Valentine’s Day is just a week away!

The Inn at Christmas Place

The Inn at Christmas Place

The Inn at Christmas Place is offering three special deals for Valentine’s weekend ~ and the specials start tonight.  Are you ready to get out of the house now?  Check out the offers and make your reservations here.

In addition to a stay in one of our elegant and relaxing rooms or suites, the pleasure of our unsurpassed hospitality, and a fresh, hot breakfast in the morning, we’ll deliver a dozen red roses & a box of chocolates for your sweetheart and arrange dinner for you at either Bullfish Grill or Carino’s Italian Restaurant, both located right next door to the hotel.

Rooms are available with gas fireplaces and two-person hot tubs, and we also have an indoor swimming pool and family-sized hot tub for winter enjoyment.  Book online (look for the Specials tab on the Reservations page) or call 1-888-465-9644 to speak to a reservations specialist while space is still available!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Two for Tuesday

Okay, I’ll just tell you how it is .. we have bits of snow still hanging around on the ground even after a day of sunshine followed by a day of rain .. and the truth is we are all wishing for more snow!  Not to keep us inside against our wills, but because it’s so pretty and it’s been so long since we had a good, snowy winter.  We were rooting for that groundhog to see his shadow, and our wish came true, but we’re holding out for the serious white stuff now.  When it comes, here’s what we plan to do:

Cherish the Moment

We can find a couple of evergreens and a hammock around here, not to worry!

Need I remind you that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner?  Here’s a very cute little guy who’d be happy to deliver a heartfelt message to your sweetie for you!

We’ll wish you sunny skies if you’ll wish us another round of white flakes ..

~Janet @ The Christmas Place