Paladini Potpie

Adventures within The Crust!


Christmas Card Prayers

I always stick our Christmas cards up on the dining room wall with sticky-tac or poster putty. They’re one of my favourite decorations!

One Christmas season about twenty years ago John was looking at them and he noticed one he hadn’t seen yet.

“I didn’t know we got a card from these guys…” He was so happy to see it!

 He began to wander along the wall, looking at other cards; and we realized he had missed several Christmas greetings.  How sad! 

 So a new Paladini tradition was birthed.

 When the Christmas cards come in the mail I don’t open them. I save them till dinnertime, and set one or two by each plate as I set the table. I go “clockwise” around the table, divvying them out.

Some days we only get one or two in the mail, but at the height of the Christmas season we might have several by each plate.

 After dinner we stay at the table, and take turns opening our cards and reading them out loud.  We pass around enclosed pictures and read the enclosed newsletters.  And then whoever opened that card prays aloud for the person or family who sent it.

We’ve found that it’s a sweet and really meaningful way to stay connected as a family – and it’s a good way to feel connected to our extended family and friends.

 But as I say that, I realize we’re already feeling pretty well connected with most of the people who are dear to us.  There’s much to be said for e-mail and cheap phone calls and facebook.

 Things are changing. 

And as far as that goes, things are changing in our little empty nest too! This year it will just be John and I gathered around the table reading Christmas cards aloud. But we’re looking forward to it and I have my new package of sticky-tac ready to go!


Our Christmas Tree Burl Chain

We call it our Christmas Tree Burl Ornament, but we should call it our Christmas tree memory chain.

I got the idea from a Mother Earth Magazine the first year we were married. Mother Earth: I guess that’s how the burl idea got planted and rooted so firmly in my mind. (okay – no more puns in this post. I promise.)

The dictionary says a burl is “a hard, woody rounded deformity in a tree, often due to an injury to the bark.” (Think burlwood coffee tables and decoupage art…Mother Earth…) Our “burls” are just slices of tree trunk.

John slices a circle from the trunk of our Christmas tree when he levels it to put it in the stand. And then we store it away to dry completely. (The burl, not the tree.)

The following year as Christmas approaches we pull out the burl and pictures from the previous year. I glue a picture from that Christmas on each flat side of the circle. We usually put a picture of the kids on one side and a picture of John and me on the other. Then we put an eye-screw in the top and the bottom of the circle, and connect them with fishing swivels.

Now, after twenty-eight years, we have a long chain of Christmas burls. Hanging down both sides of the doorway between the dining room and living room, the circles range from two inches in diameter to the size of a dessert plate. The smallest burl has a picture of chubby cheeked toddlers, reminding us of the reason we had such a tiny tree set high up on a table. The one with the biggest diameter pictures mighty hunter children who went in search of “…the tallest tree we can find – one that touches the ceiling!”

One of the pictures shows our oldest son, Matthew cutting down the pine tree that grew too big for our front yard. And the burl is from that same tree. One of them shows the kids in Christmas pageant outfits, and one of them pictures three very pale sick kids…

“This was the year such-and-such happened…”  We gather around and look at the pictures and turn them over and remembe all the Christmases past.

Our Christmas Tree Burl Chain heralds the season. It’s the first ornament I hang up at Christmastime, and I believe today is the day!

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Seven Score and Several Years Ago

Seven Score and several years ago, our president brought forth this proclamation of  Thanksgiving.  Today is a good day to read it, and to take measure of where we are in our national life and personal lives.

It’s a good day to give thanks to God and recall his promise in Second Chronicles 7:14 – “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

A Thanksgiving Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln   Date: October 20, 1864

It has pleased Almighty God to prolong our national life another year, defending us with his guardian care against unfriendly designs from abroad, and vouchsafing to us in His mercy many and signal victories over the enemy, who is of our own household. It has also pleased our Heavenly Father to favor as well our citizens in their homes as our soldiers in their camps, and our sailors on the rivers and seas, with unusual health. He has largely augmented our free population by emancipation and by immigration, while he has opened to us new sources of wealth, and has crowned the labor of our workingmen in every department of industry with abundant rewards. Moreover, he has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage, and resolution sufficient for the great trial of civil war into which we have been brought by our adherence as a nation to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions.

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may be then, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid, that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust, and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the great Disposer of events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased him to assign as a dwelling-place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.

In testimony whereof, I have here unto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this twentieth day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-four, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-ninth.


Sugar and Thankfulness

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  I woke up early and had some quiet time…a cup of coffee…a little maintenance work on my book business… And it was still early. Not even 8 o’clock! My favourite kind of day stretched ahead of me – yummy smelling candles, a fire in the fireplace, the first Christmas music…spending time in the kitchen making rolls and pumpkin pies and key lime pie.

Which should I do first? I surveyed my domain…and then it hit me!  I used up the last of my sugar yesterday.


I wandered over to the window and looked out into the bleak, foggy morning. It was a perfect day to be snug and warm in the house, baking and listening to music. I did not want to go to the grocery store!

But Thanksgiving is coming; I had no choice. 

Then it struck me.  Thanksgiving! A time to give thanks! I was wearing a warm jacket as I left my cute, cozy house.  I was climbing into my nice clean car, that always starts. (In my life I have owned cars that did not always start.)

I would drive a few blocks to the grocery store, and it would be no effort to pull out $3 and buy a bag of sugar.

 Not everyone in the world is so blessed.

Not everyone in my town is so blessed.

Thank you Lord.

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Humming with Hummus

Two post in one day?  What can I say? It’s Babette season! I’m in the kitchen, and loving it!

Hummus. It’s a Middle Eastern paste or dip made from ground garbanzo beans, olive oil, garlic and sesame seeds. Don’t pronounce it like “human” – that would be humus.  Humus is good for the garden, but who wants to eat dirt?

This recipe is hummus. Pronounce it like “hum” …and you can hum a little tune while you make it, because it’s wonderfully healthy!

The following recipe only has 162 calorie in ¼ cup. It provides 4.7 grams of protein and is rich in calcium and iron. (¼ cup of hummus has twice the iron as ¼ cup of raisins.)  


1 can garbanzo beans

1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)

10-12 cloves garlic

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3  cup lemon juice

½ tsp cayenne (more or less)

Salt to taste

Eat it with crispy fresh veggies for a yummy guilt-free holiday snack!

Blend oil, lemon juice, salt, cayenne and garlic cloves till smooth.

Add tahini.

Begin to add garbanzo beans a few at a time and blend till smooth.


Serve with veggies or flatbread.


Andrena’s Olive Tapenade

I will not be “cutting a caper” in this post. In fact, I’m going to cut out the capers. I used to have a jar of them in the fridge but I got so much grief from my family that I decided to toss them. 

“What is a caper anyway?”  I was asked over and over again.  “They look gross!”

Okay. A caper is a plant from the Mediterranean region. In Provençal the caper plant was known as tapeneï and its little edible bud was the tapeno.  

Tapeno buds have been eaten since as early as 1200 B.C. They were preserved in olive oil in pottery jars, and apparently got mashed into a kind of paste. 

And that has eventually became what we know today as tapenade.

So the name comes from the main ingredient I’m leaving out of my recipe today.  If you decide to add them – which I have done, but they don’t really make that much difference – you can add 2 tablespoons. 

(Some recipes call for anchovies also, but I have never put them in. I’d be the only person in my family who would eat it.)

So…sans the namesake tapano, here is my delicious recipe for olive tapenade.  I guarantee it will be one of the favourite hors d’oeuvre you serve this holiday season!


3 cans black olives

2 cups kalamata olives

1 cup green olives with pimentos

1 bell pepper

½ cup olive oil

1 tablespoon lime or lemon juice


Drain olives well and pack in cup when measuring

Run olives and pepper through a food grinder (do not puree)

Stir in olive oil and lime juice

Mix well and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving

Serve with crackers or bruschetta.


Cranberry Relish with Orange and Pineapple

I’ve talked about how much I love go wild in the kitchen, and what a heroine  “Babette” is to me.  Well, I’m looking forward to one of those Babette weeks as we prepare for our family Thanksgiving Feast on Thursday! 

Today I made Cranberry Relish.

After you try this I’m pretty sure you’ll never buy a can of ordinary cranberry sauce again! It’s so easy and fast and so so good!


12 ounce bag of fresh cranberries, rinsed well

1 orange with half peel removed

1 cup sugar

1 can crushed pineapple

¾ cup pineapple juice (add water to make full amount if needed)

 chopped walnuts (optional)


Chop orange, including peel, removing seeds

Wash cranberries

Place all ingredients (except walnuts) in a heavy saucepan

Mix well.

Bring to a boil

Lower heat to medium and cook for about 8-10 minutes, stirring.

You will hear the cranberries pop and the mixture will thicken as it cooks. 

Add chopped walnuts if desired.  Refrigerate.