Monday, April 30, 2007

"Heavenly Delight" -- a wonderful fudge recipe


Fudge always makes a nice kitchen gift all by itself, in combination with other homemade candies, or as an addition to a cookie tray. Here is our family's top favorite in the fudge department:

HEAVENLY DELIGHT
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 1/2 cups sugar
7-ounce jar marshmallow fluff
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1 tsp. vanilla

Line an 8-inch square pan with foil, extending the foil over the edges
of the pan. Measure the peanut butter chips into a small bowl, and
measure the chocolate chips into a second small bowl. Set aside.
In a heavy 3-quart saucepan, combine the sugar, fluff, evaporated milk,
and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the
mixture boils. Boil and stir 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir
in the vanilla.

Immediately pour half of the hot mixture into the peanut butter chips.
Stir until the chips are completely melted and incorporated into the hot
mixture. Quickly pour the peanut butter mixture into the prepared pan.
Stir the remaining hot mixture into the chocolate chips until they melt
and are completely blended in. Quickly spread this mixture over the
peanut butter layer.

Cool the fudge completely before removing it from the pan. Lift the
fudge out of the pan by the foil, put it face down on a plastic cutting
board and peel off the foil. Cut the fudge into 1-inch pieces.

This terrific recipe is also from Cook & Tell, my favorite cooking newsletter. The actual name of the fudge is "Double-Decker Peanut Butter Fudge". But when Esther, my daughters'
college roommate and friend, tasted this, she promptly named it "Heavenly Delight". And so it has been, ever since.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Fantabulous Flapjack Mix


Here's another favorite gift idea from my kitchen. I made this for all of the guys in my family one Christmas. They absolutely loved it and asked for refills when the mix was gone!

FANTABULOUS FLAPJACK MIX

4 cups quick-cooking oats
2 cups flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup nonfat dry milk
3 Tablespoons baking powder
2 Tablespoons cinnamon
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. (I prefer to
sift together the flours, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and cream of
tartar into the bowl -- it mixes them better -- then stir in the oats,
brown sugar and dry milk until well combined.) Place in an airtight
container until ready to use.

To make flapjacks, you need:
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup oil
2 cups flapjack mix
1 cup water

Blend together eggs and oil in a large bowl. Stir in the flapjack mix
alternately with the water, beginning and ending with mix. Pour batter
by 1/4-cupfuls onto lightly greased hot griddle. Cook until bubbles
form on top of pancakes, then turn and cook on the other side until
golden.

This pancake mix is simply wonderful! It makes a great gift -- you can
package it in a tin or in a zip-top plastic bag inside a cloth sack.
Tie the sack shut with a ribbon and add a non-stick pancake turner or a
wire whisk to the bow. These pancakes are yummy and so nutritious too!


Saturday, April 28, 2007

A kitchen gift -- Zesty Horseradish Dill Pickles




I don’t usually make pickles for Christmas gifts, but this recipe, which I discovered in 2006, makes a wonderful gift for anyone who enjoys the flavors of horseradish and dill. This starts with prepared pickles which you buy at the grocery store, and is incredibly easy. A great gift for men!

ZESTY HORSERADISH DILL PICKLES

1 32-ounce jar whole dill pickles
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup prepared horseradish

Drain the juice from the pickles and discard it. Slice the pickles into spears (or rounds if you prefer) and return them to the jar. In a saucepan, bring the sugar, water, and vinegar to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the horseradish. Cool the mixture slightly, then pour it over the pickles in the jar. Cool completely, then cover the jar and shake well. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight (to blend flavors) before serving or giving. Yield: 1 quart pickles.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Gram's Hot Chocolate Mix


Here is the recipe for my grandmother's hot chocolate mix. She would mix up a giant bowlful of this (sometimes enlisting the aid of a younger grandchild or great-grandchild), then transfer it to jars for gift-giving. We always were happy to see a jar of this arrive at our house. It's richer and creamier than my own homemade hot chocolate mix, but I think mine is a tad healthier. If you do try this, though, you're sure to enjoy it.

GRAM'S HOT CHOCOLATE MIX

1 pound Quik chocolate drink mix
1 11-oz. jar Coffee Mate
1/2 to 3/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
8-quart size Carnation instant dry milk

Mix all ingredients very well in a very large bowl. Transfer to jars
to give to your family for Christmas. When serving, use 1/3 cup mix in
each large mug; fill up with boiling water and stir very well.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

"Bessie's Chex Mix"


Here is one of the recipes mentioned in the previous post. Tomorrow I'll plan to share my grandmother's hot chocolate mix, which is quite a bit different from mine.

"BESSIE'S MIX"

As mentioned previously, I've been unable to locate the exact recipe
Bessie used. What I've done is to cobble together a couple of recipes
from the 1950s that hopefully taste like what I remember.

2 cups Corn Chex
2 cups Rice Chex
2 cups Wheat Chex
2 cups Cheerios
2 cups thin short pretzel sticks
3/4 cup salted peanuts
1/2 cup melted butter
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon seasoned salt

Preheat oven to 250°. Mix cereals, pretzels and peanuts together in a
large bowl. Combine the melted butter and seasonings; pour over cereal
mixture and toss all together to mix very well. Spread cereal mixture
on a baking sheet or in a 13x9-inch pan. Bake mixture for 1 hour, stirring
every 15 minutes. Spread mix on paper towels to cool before serving or
packaging.

Transfer mix to Con-Tact™-paper-covered cans with lids -- like coffee
cans or peanut cans. Give a tin of mix to everyone on your Christmas
list.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Kitchen Gifts Remembered




I've been thinking lately about gifts from the kitchen. I'll write more about this and post recipes at a later date. Kitchen gifts come from the giver's heart and also from the heart of the home. When I was growing up, our family always gave away lots of cookies, fudge, and yeast breads at Christmas time. We were also the recipients of some kitchen gifts, and I'm going to share a few of those memories this morning.

Aunt Bessie always made large batches of Chex Mix and gave tins of it to everyone on her list.
I've done a bit of research to try and find the recipe Bessie would have used. It's somewhat different from the Chex Mix of today. I seem to recall that there were short, thin pretzel sticks in it, peanuts, and Cheerios. I definitely remember fighting with my siblings over the Cheerios. These seemed to absorb the butter and seasonings better than anything else, and were really tasty. Somewhere I can picture the recipe, written in Bessie's handwriting on Ralston Purina letterhead (her late husband had worked for Ralston, and they were also the company Chex cereal was originally made by, so this was quite meaningful) but I haven't been able to find that paper. Bessie would pack the mix in recycled cans which she covered with Con-Tact™ paper.

In later years, my grandmother also had a traditional homemade gift which she would give -- large jars of creamy hot chocolate mix. She would stir all the ingredients up in a gigantic bowl and then transfer the mix to jars for giving. It made a very rich-tasting cup of hot chocolate, so
we kids were always happy to see that jar! Recently, my mom reminded me that Gram also traditionally made a special kind of fudge. I think it was basically the "Five-Minute Fudge" and that she used to use both chocolate chips and butterscotch chips in it.

Neighbors also shared kitchen gifts with our family. There was a German family who always brought an assortment of delectable homemade cookies. Another neighbor traditionally made a pear quick bread. And another delivered her gift on New Year's Day -- a dessert called Pumpkin Snow (made from her own pumpkins) with an accompanying jar of custard sauce.

What fun it all was! Wouldn't it be nice to get back to those simpler times? Let's try it this Christmas. Maybe we'll start a trend...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Jar of Jelly


Many years ago I found this poem in the Farm Journal Christmas Book from 1966. I have always loved this poem and hope that others will enjoy it, too. The accompanying photo is one that accompanied the poem in the book, along with, of course, a variety of recipe for gift jams and jellies. Enjoy...

The Jar of Jelly

To others' eyes, it may not look like much;
"it's just a jar of jelly." some would say,
"Wrapped up in festive ribbons and some seals
To make it look more Christmasy and gay."
But you for whom it's meant will find, I know,
All that is packed within the little jar,
You will translate the label properly
And see just what the contents really are.
"Wild grape -- " you'll say, and suddenly
You'll not be walking dusty city halls,,
But down an autumn-gilded little lane
Between the jewelled vines of old stone walls.
Instead of dingy bricks beyond a court
You'll see a spruce-green hillside, sharp and clear,
Sweet fern and bayberry will scent the breeze,
The whirr of partridge wings delight your ear.
It is not much to send, this one small jar,
But you will see that in it, pure and true,
Shimmers the essence of the place we love,
Preserved especially by me, for you.

-- Barbara Overton Christie


I have loved this poem for many years. My mother had several issues of Farm Journal's Christmas Book, and I loved to peruse them every year. This poem was included on a page with recipes for gift jams and jellies. I was fortunate enough to be given some old issues of the Farm Journal Christmas Book in later years, and the issue containing this poem happened to be one of them. I have enjoyed so much having these books for my very own. This poem in particular shows how even a very small gift can come straight from the heart.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Gingerbread Memories


GINGERBREAD HOUSES

I confess to always having had a fascination for gingerbread houses. One time, my aunt Rosalie brought one she had made to Christmas at Gram's. It was on display in the dining room for the day, and I don't think I or the other cousins who were there that day ever forgot it! Years later, when I asked them for their memories to help me make a Christmas memory book for our Gram, the gingerbread house came up several times.

For many years, the Good Housekeeping magazine featured a gallery of gingerbread houses in its December issue, complete with photos and the directions for making each house. Every
year I would look at them and want to try making one, but would never find the time. In fact, I saved the magazines from year to year, ever hopeful...

One year I did it! I think the magazine I found it in was McCall's. It seemed a lot easier than other patterns I had seen, but it did take time. The roof shingles were chocolate-covered graham crackers dusted with confectioners‚ sugar "snow". There was even a gingerbread wall around the "yard", studded with almonds to resemble rocks in the wall. Thankfully, we did get some photos of this creation.

Years later, the gingerbread bug bit again, and we made another one. It was during a Thanksgiving break and our young nephews Travis, Corey, and Chad were staying with us. This time we all looked through those old Good Housekeeping magazines and decided on one to make together. It seemed to me like a project that would keep all the kids busy and occupied, and for the most part I think it worked. We kept that one in the attic for a few years and brought it out at Christmas time, but eventually we decided to put it outside for the little furry creatures to enjoy.

More recent forays into gingerbread-house building have featured the pre-baked variety often found at half-price after Christmas. Especially with little children, these are every bit as much fun and much less nerve-racking. This is undoubtedly the route I'll go in future gingerbread construction projects. But still, there was that gingerbread general store I found in an old issue of Country Living...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Special Holiday Fudge


Here is one of my favorite fudge recipes. This special fudge makes a wonderful gift all by itself or in combination with other treats. It tastes something like chocolate-covered raisins. The orange and almond extracts give it that special holiday flavor.

SPECIAL HOLIDAY FUDGE

1 and 1/3 cups sugar
1 and 1/3 cups miniature marshmallows
1/4 cup butter or margarine (1/2 stick)
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. orange extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped pecans

In large heavy saucepan, combine first 5 ingredients. Bring to a boil
over medium high heat. Boil 5 minutes, stirring with a wire whisk.
Remove from heat, stir in chips until melted. Stir in the extracts and
then the nuts and raisins. Replace your whisk with a spoon and beat by
hand until glossy, 30 to 60 seconds. If needed, you may add up to 2 Tblsp. water to make it glossy, but you probably won't need to. (I have never added the water.)

Turn into a buttered 11 x 7-inch or 9 x 12-inch pan.

Cool completely, then cut in squares.

This fudge is absolutely wonderful! It really tastes like Christmas!
I found the recipe in my favorite cooking newsletter, Cook & Tell , and
have made it nearly every Christmas since then.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

My own Hot Chocolate Mix


My grandmother often made a huge batch of hot chocolate mix at Christmas time. She divided it into jars and gave them to her married grandchildren and other folks. Her recipe (which I'll share here at a later time) is a bit too rich for my taste, although it is delicious. I've come up with my own recipe which is a big hit with those I give the mix to at Christmas. Some people even send the jars back for refills! I love the touch of malted milk flavor in this recipe.


HOT CHOCOLATE MIX

5 cups instant nonfat dry milk
2 cups powdered sugar
2 cups instant chocolate drink powder (like Quik)
1 cup malted milk powder, chocolate flavor
1 cup malted milk powder, malt flavor
1 cup non-dairy powdered creamer
1/2 cup unsweetened baking cocoa

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly and store in an airtight
containers. (I use either tins or jars.)

Include these directions with mix:
* Place 1/3 cup of mix in a large mug. Fill mug with hot water and
stir to dissolve. *

Friday, April 06, 2007

Sacher Torte Cookies


Here is another of our very favorite Christmas cookie recipes. These are great all year long for special occasions such as tea parties, showers, etc.

SACHER TORTE COOKIES

1 cup butter, softened
1 (4 1/2 oz.) pkg. instant chocolate pudding mix
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 cups flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup apricot (or raspberry) jam
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3 tablespoons melted butter

Heat oven to 325°. In a large mixing bowl, combine butter and pudding
mix; cream together until fluffy. Beat in egg and extract. Gradually
add flour, beating at low speed with mixer until dough forms. Shape
dough into 1-inch balls. Dip balls in sugar. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased
cookie sheets. With your thumb, make an imprint in center of each ball.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until cookies are firm; remove from
sheets immediately to wire racks to cool.

When cookies are cool, fill each indentation with about 1/2 teaspoon jam. At this point, you may find it helpful to place wax paper under your cooling racks to catch any drips of chocolate from the next step.

In a small saucepan, or in microwave, blend chips and butter over low heat until chocolate
melts, stirring constantly. Drizzle about 1/2 teaspoon chocolate over each cookie.

Yield: About 4 dozen cookies.

These look pretty and fancy but are very easy to make. I found this recipe in a Yankee magazine article about the Wellesley Cookie Exchange. What a great recipe!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Eggnog Logs


Here's another of our favorite Christmas cookie recipes:

EGGNOG LOGS

1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour

FROSTING:
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 cups confectioners sugar, divided
1 tsp. vanilla
2 Tblsp. light cream (or evaporated milk or even eggnog)
Ground nutmeg

Cream butter and sugar in a large mixer bowl. Add nutmeg, sugar, and
vanilla; mix thoroughly. Stir in flour to mix well. If necessary,
chill dough for easier handling. Shape dough into logs about 3 inches
long and 1/2 inch in diameter. Place logs 2 inches apart on ungreased
baking sheets.

Bake at 350° for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.
Remove to wire racks and cool completely.


For frosting, cream butter until light and fluffy. Add 2 cups of the
confectioners‚ sugar and the vanilla; mix well. Beat in cream and the
remaining sugar. Frost cookies. With the tines of a small fork, make
lines down the frosting to simulate bark. Sprinkle with nutmeg (freshly
ground is wonderful).

Makes 4 1/2 dozen cookies.

This recipe was a winner in a Country Woman contest. It's been a
favorite ever since I first tried it. The cookies are easy to make but
rather time-consuming -- still, so many family members love these that I
wouldn't think of not making them!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Raspberry Dream Bars



RASPBERRY DREAMS

Dough:
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups flour
2/3 cup raspberry jam

Topping:
1/4 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cups flaked coconut
2 eggs
1 tsp. sugar

For dough, cream butter and sugar in large bowl until light and
fluffy. Add egg; beat until well mixed. Stir in flour. Pat dough into
a 13 x 9-inch pan. Spread jam evenly on top.

In a small bowl, combine all topping ingredients; spread carefully over
jam.

Bake at 350° for 25 minutes. Cool in pan; cut in very small
squares (about 1-inch) as they are very rich.

Makes about 5 dozen.

I found this recipe in a magazine one year when I was searching for a
new recipe for my cookie trays. If my memory serves me correctly, it
was in a McCall's magazine I was looking through in the kitchen of an elderly friend who was cutting up our home-grown pork. I believe I had been banished to the kitchen while she and her brother-in-law were mixing up their "secret" sausage recipe out in her meat cutting area. These cookies are very easy and have been a hit with everyone who has tried them.