Christmas Church Potato Casserole Recipe

So J chose to be born at the wrong time. Dec. 19. Who does that? Someone who wants to get twice the presents at one time, that's who. At his Dec. 18 birthday celebration this year I ate these amazing potatoes. And I've eaten them as left overs several times since. They're simply amazing. Jarrod's mother, Ruth, was kind enough to share the recipe with me. Happy graduation, Bonnie!

In other news, Bonnie, my friend since junior high, graduated from college this weekend. I went to her graduation party at the Irwin house on Saturday. Congrats, Bonnie! I love you. She is going to be a fantastic teacher.

Christmas Church Potato Casserole

1 (2 lb.) bag of Southern style hash brown potatoes

1 tsp. salt

1/2 c. melted butter

1/2 c. chopped onions

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1 small can of cream of chicken soup

1 pt. sour cream

2 c. grated cheddar cheese

2 c. corn flakes

1/4 c. melted butter


Mix all ingredients except corn flakes and butter. Spread in oiled 9 x 13 pan. Mix corn flakes and butter and sprinkle on top. Cook in preheated oven at 350 for 90 minutes.

Christmas 2015 off to a Lights in the Heights start

Mom and Dad have begun their whirlwind tour of the US. First stop is in Houston. Saturday evening we went to a neighborhood festival called Lights in the Heights. We dressed up Aggie and took her with us.

Aggie dog dressed up for Lights in the Heights

There was a lot of booze, Christmas music and of course lights.

Mom and Dad at Lights in the Heights.

After the light party, we walked over to a favorite restaurant of mine, Zelko Bistro. Oh and the pose is because earlier in the evening I'd taught Mom about skinny arm and skinny leg. It's a thing.

Dad and I at Zelko Bistro

Sunday we went to Brookwood and looked at all the pretty Christmas things and ate a good meal.

Brookwood Community

Mom and Dad leave for Seattle on Wednesday and when they return they will be headed up to Baton Rouge to help Todd and Nick move into their new house.

Nick and Todd at their apartment

Vegan Fudge Recipe and Holiday Cheer Creeps In

christmaslights Last night, on my way back from another great snowy ski day, I heard my first Christmas song of the season. I can’t say that I was surprised. It is the week of Thanksgiving after all.  With a little more than a month till the big day it seems relatively appropriate that holiday cheer begins its creep into the fabric of our everyday lives.

Aside from the Christmas music, over this weekend I participated in my first Friendsgiving. Which if you are not familiar with the concept Friendsgiving is the first excuse for a bunch of people who know each other to drink heavily, eat copious amounts of food and gorge themselves on the first taste of holiday cheer.  It is an all-around good time. As part of this holiday pre-season event it is required that all participants contribute a thanksgiving themed dish.   Since this is only the beginning of the holiday season I did not feel it was necessary to spend all day cooking some elaborate dish. I wanted to make something easy and thanks to the expansive knowledge of tumbler I found one of the simplest recipes I think I’ve ever attempted, 3-ingredient vegan fudge.

3-Ingredient Vegan Fudge


3 cups of dark chocolate morsels

¾ cup of whole coconut milk

2 table spoons of coconut oil

+ any additional ingredients your little heart may desire! For this rendition of fudge I chose to add walnuts and coconut pieces.


  1. Place chocolate chips into a bowl. I placed mine in a metal bowl and then heated it by placing it into a sauce pan of simmering water. Essentially replicating a double boiler.
  2. In a separate sauce pan bring coconut oil and milk to a boil, whisking occasionally.
  3. Pour milk and oil mix over chocolate chips and stir until all of the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. At this point, add any additional ingredients you would like.
  4. Pour mixture into a well-greased pan. I put mine into a 5x5 pan.
  5. Place into the fridge for 2-3 hours or the freezer for 1 hour.

** Recommended augmentations: Add vanilla extract and or powdered sugar, this is to cut the somewhat bitter taste of the dark chocolate morsels.

The beauty of the 3-ingredient fudge is not only that it is ridiculously easy but also that it is a crowd pleaser. Although everyone was stuffed to the brim from pre-season thanksgiving foods several people asked if they could take doggie bags home of vegan fudge. With holiday cheer, aided by red wine, I gladly obliged their requests.

So as the holiday season swings to full tilt, remember 3-ingredient fudge for those moments that to embark on an extravagant dish would bring out the Grinch in anyone. But until then revel in the glittering splendor that is the holiday season and don’t be ashamed to crank up the volume when your favorite holiday song comes on the radio. I know I did.

Sarah eating vegan fudge

Grandma's Thanksgiving Roasted Bacon Mushroom Green Beans

Happy holidays, Macrander family! It's here finally. Last night, J and I went over to his grandmother's house for Thanksgiving-Christmas dinner with his out-of-town aunt. She's going to be with her partner for the holidays and they will not be traveling so we had to celebrate early. Here's the standout dish from last night. Grandma's Thanksgiving Roasted Bacon Mushroom Green Beans

Grandma's Thanksgiving Roasted Bacon Mushroom Green Beans

Prep time: 15 minutes

Bake time: 20 minutes

Heat oven: 375 F


2 lbs. fresh green beans

2 tbsp. EVOO

2 tbsp. all purpose seasoning

6 slices (or more) thick-cut bacon

1/3 cup sliced shallots

2 tbsp. (or more) garlic

12 oz. fresh mushrooms

1 cup low sodium chicken broth


1. Trim and wash the green beans. Toss with EVOO and seasoning.

2. Roast beans in the oven for 10 minutes.

3. Dice and cook bacon in deep skillet (iron skillets make magic). When bacon begins to brown, add shallots, garlic and mushrooms. Stir fry until bacon is brown. (You might want to drain out the bacon fat at this point, or what the hell, YOLO, leave it in.)

4. Add roasted beans to the mix and add 1 cup broth. Cover pan and cook on medium for 10 minutes.

First lazy Saturday of 2014

Ah. I'm back home. Sitting here with mountains of laundry and bills I'm to frightened to open. Home is where the peace is, right?

It is nice to be home, but, you see, I didn't realize-no, I didn't want to realize-that over the last two months as family came and went, I never really cleaned my home. You know about those hiding spots? The one you shove stuff in when company is coming over in five minutes? I started the cleaning process this week and my home has exploded. That's what I get for surface cleaning for two months, right?

It seems like the last two months went by in a blur. I was with the Underwood's for Thanksgiving. Then Jarrod came in town for his graduation at the beginning of December. Then Mom was in Houston for a day. Then she left. Then she and Dad were in town for a day. Then they left for Christmas in Baton Rouge. I went to Christmas in Sugar Land with the Underwoods. Then it was off to Alabama for a week. Then I came home. Todd and Nick came in town for about a day and a half for to celebrate the new year. Then they left. Then Gonzalo came by with his crazy dog. Then Jarrod came by with my crazy dog. Then it was 10 p.m. on the night before I had to go back to work!

I'm glad Todd and Nick came in town. They got to hang out with Todd's friend Angie from high school. Jarrod and I went to a couple friends' home to celebrate the new year and we played rummy. I've never played before, though I think I got the hang of it.

The next day, Jan. 1, Todd, Nick, Angie and I went to Ikea. Yep, that's right. Todd and his lover come in town to visit me and all they want to do is go to the Ikea. Nick helped me assemble a Target shelf for my new mixer. So thank you very much for that. Anyway, we had a fruitful visit to the land of Ikea. Let's see if I can remember what they got: a lamp with a crinkly paper shade, a bathroom rug, some candles, some picture frames...all for less than $100! Bargain.

While at Ikea we came across these adorable cultural stuffed dolls. Todd and Nick posed for a "family portrait."

Happy New Year, family. Many adventures to come in 2014.

Now get to cleaning your houses your nasty hoes. I know your home is as messy as mine.

Best part of a hairdresser brother? Free haircuts.

We're right in the middle of the Christmas season, so I figured it was time for a family update. After leaving San Antonio on Friday, Mom and Dad traveled to Baton Rouge to see Todd and Nick. On Christmas eve they went to a posh wine bar called WINO (Wine Institute of New Orleans).

I'm just going to say that Todd looks like he's not so happy in this picture.

Christmas morning dad got up early and made his famous cinnamon rolls. Nick's mom came over and enjoyed Christmas morning with the family.

For Christmas, Dad surprised Mom with a new iPad. We're not sure what we'll call this new addition to the family yet. iPad3? iPad junior? No worries. Mom's old iPad is going to Dad. Hopefully he won't break this one. Beware elder iPad.

Some day later, Mom and Dad went to Regis where Todd cut their hair. True Macrander fact. Todd cuts all of our hair. Every single one of us. I can't remember the last time I paid to get my hair cut or highlighted. That is wonderful. It also helps that Todd is giving of his time and very good at what he does.

Here's a picture of Alaska Mom getting her "Northern Lights" touched up.

Anyway, this evening, Mom and Dad are headed to Birmingham to see Mom's parents. I'm (Emily) already here. I got here last night and had the grandparents to myself for a whole evening.

Before coming to Alabama, I spent the holiday with Underwood clan. Let's see. Christmas eve for me was spent in the afternoon with Jarrod's dad's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Tappmeyer. Then we went to church. Then we chilled and napped. Then church again for the midnight service at Jarrod and I's church Canvas in Montrose. That was special because we usually meet in an elementary school and for this occasion we were in First Christian. I love celebrating the birth of Jesus with my wonderful church family.

Christmas morning we headed over to the Jarrod's mother's parents home for a brunch and then it was back to the Underwood home. I was surprised with a beautiful red KitchenAid mixer from mother and father Underwood and an ice cream maker from Dylan and Kaitlyn. I guess they know I like to cook, right?

The night came to an end with a visit from the Wiesendangers, Mollie and Layne.

Okay, I'm a person that stresses to the max over Christmas. I'm still waiting for the holy grail no-cry Christmas (maybe Christmas 2014??). But all said and done, I am blessed. I have wonderful family spread all over the country and my brother has a loving partner. I have Jarrod and his family is very gracious to me. And I have a little dog.

Christmas with Nick & Todd

We just spent 3+ great days here in Baton Rouge with Todd & Nick. It was a really special Christmas. We had great food, lots of good wine, did some shopping and sight seeing, farkled (Thanks to Sarah for introducing our family to farling) and, generally relaxed.

There are many special times for a parent. The birth (of course), first step, first goal, off to school, becoming an adult and accomplishments and honors along the way. What must rank right up there is being with your child as they cross into that special relationship that makes them whole, happy, and secure. Being with Todd & Nick feels that way. Our family is bigger and stronger.

May you always continue to grow in love and support one another as you mature as people and expand their horizons individually and together.

Thanks for a wonderful three days.

Nanni's / Michael's rolls

One of those recipes that should not get lost is this great family standard.  Just remember, in Alabama these are officially Nanni's rolls.  In TX, AK, etc. they are Michael's rolls.  I will give the real recipe.  For most family occasions, I usually do a double recipe. This is easiest done with a stand mixer, but many rolls have been made with a bowl, a spoon, and elbow grease


1 package yeast

1/4 cup warm water

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup oil

1 cup buttermilk

3 1/2 cups self-rising flour  (this is approximate.  use enough flour to bring the dough together)

Butter or margarine


Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let stand for a couple of minutes.   Add sugar and oil.  Let stand another couple of minutes, so that the yeast can start working on the sugar.  Add the buttermilk and sitr until well blended.  Add flour 1/2 cup at a time until the dough comes together and forms a ball away from the bowl.  Turn the dough onto a floured pastry cloth and knead until it is not sticky.

Roll out to a thickness of 3/4 - 1 inch.  Cut into rolls about 2 inches across.   Using a knife, cut each roll through partially, place a small pat of butter in the middle and fold over.  Place each roll on a greased baking sheet.  Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for approximately 1 hour.

Bake at 400 until browned on the top.

Twas a Macrander eve before Christmas eve

On the eve before Christmas eve and all through the nation, Mom and Dad were driving to Baton Rouge and trying to agree on a radio station.

Excited to visit Todd and Nick, and wave goodbye to their daughter,

Mom exclaimed, ‘Oh my! Texas couldn’t be hotter.’

So far in the trip Dad had visited his sister,

And Mom had bought some cheap shoes that dad swore would cause a blister,

Shout out to Kayla, the newest addition to us all,

Who was born at just over six pounds on Friday and oh so small.

Todd was busy cleaning, while Nick busy mixing,

Lots of treats to fill their home, Mom and Dad would surely find transfixing,

Sarah was still in Denver, though lonely was not she,

For the beauty of friends and mountains, how much better could life be?

So this morning, Emily sits at her computer not working, oh no, no,

Excited to see Jarrod and family, but more to the point Santa, ho ho ho.

God is great, Jesus is born, this is the reason for the season,

But getting to see the ones we love sure is extra pleasin’

So as we close this year before,

Let’s enjoy our moments together and plan for many more.

Christmas in New Zealand

Image and video hosting by TinyPicI will report out on my trip to New Zealand in another entry in the blog, but I thought this was perfect for a funny happenings entry.

The New Zealand that I saw from the air and in the brief taxi ride from the airport into town was a phenomenal landscape of mountains, coastline, and agrarian fields that were reminiscent of Hawaii and the Lord of the Rings movies. The town of Dunedin (pronounce doon-ee-dn), though, was nothing spectacular. Actually, it very much had the look and feel of a mid-sized Midwestern city, buildings 2-3 stories high sidewalks overhung by awnings on storefronts, small businesses, etc. There was kind of a barely prosperous look to the whole thing. My hotel was about a mile from the meeting sight, so I got in nice walks each day going to and from.

Similar to the city, the people were very English, not the most attractive people in the world. It was a combination of rosy-cheeked flat- faced young boys growing into stolid George Smiley (literary reference here) older men. And, there were pinch-faced girls trending toward stout Mrs. Doubtfire matrons.

The first two days were cool, overcast, and drizzly. The weather made me glad I had taken my gortex, and, leant an even greater sense of a community in doldrums. On the third day I hung in my room catching up on email and work until about 11, then, headed out under clearing skies and warming temperatures for the walk to the conference. With the great weather, the sidewalks were packed with shoppers that I realized were beginning to get serious about the Christmas holidays. I caught the festive feel and there was a spring in my step and a smile on my face.

Walking along, I became aware of a car driving down the street with the windows rolled down and a Christmas song blasting from the radio. The jingling bells and piano of the instrumental break were from jingle-bell rock. Looking at the car I saw a grundgy boy behind the wheel and a tattooed and pierced tough looking girl hanging a cigarette out the window with a smirk on her face. Ah, the wonders of Christmas. Even the young toughs have the spirit. How nice.

As the car passed me and the music began to fade, the next verse started up. “You make my d--- swell, as I moan and yell….” OMG! Did I really hear that? As the sound of the song faded into the traffic and street noise, I wanted to turn and chase the car to see if it was real or just my dirty mind playing tricks on me. But, the rest of the day, as I tried to listen to complex talks on whale genomics and sound propagation and exposure, those two lines continued to bounce around my head.

I did a search on Jingle Bell Rock spoofs and, indeed, the song is real and I heard correctly. It is so bad that I will not post the link here. WARNING. This is pretty graphic stuff and you may not want to forever have these lyrics in your head. DO NOT listen to this at work, unless you have earphones in. Having given these warnings, I know everyone will listen. Happy Holidays.

Holiday travels begin

First, Mom and Dad visit Sarah in Denver for Thanksgiving.

Then, Mom flew from Denver to Houston to hang with me in Houston for a week.

Mom and I were blessed to be able to visit Brookewood, a home for functionally handicapped adults, on their open house! Many Christmas gifts were purchased.