Tuesday, December 28, 2010

More fun with felt food


Here is some of the play food I made for grandkids' Christmas gifts. I didn't get all of the things made that I planned to, so will be making more of these, plus some other, for spring birthdays coming up. Not all of this is made of felt, as you will see for yourself.

I made a bunch of felt Cheez-It® crackers and my husband found small boxes of Cheez-Its® which we emptied out and put the felt crackers (packed in zip-top bags) into. They came out really cute but apparently I forgot to take pictures. Suffice it to say that they look real enough that my 1-year-old grandson tried to eat a handful. Hope they keep the rest of the food out of his reach. You can see pictures and a tutorial here: Felt Cheez-It® Crackers.

I also made some felt Christmas cookies. I wish I had had time to make more of these as they came out simply adorable. Next year! Here is a plate of cookies.

And here are the cookies packaged in a zip-top bag for giving and storage.

This next one is supposed to be a pincushion, but I couldn't resist making a chocolate donut! I wanted to make 2, and then 2 more for another family, but ran out of time. I used beads rather than pins for sprinkles, but they still wouldn't be safe for a child of the age to put everything in his mouth. Neither would the Christmas cookies, which also have beads instead of sugar crystals.

Here's the donut on a plate:

And in a bag, ready to give.

Lastly, I made some bow-tie pasta. This was very easy and came out so real-looking. Here are a few bow ties on a plate:

And more of them in a bag:

Still on my list: pancakes, cinnamon rolls, bacon & eggs, cheeseburgers, popsicles....

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas to each and every one of you! Soon, I hope to post a Christmas kitchen report and also to put up some photos of the handmade gifts I made this year. But in the meantime, I hope that each and every one of you has had a truly blessed Christmas Day!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Snowy Lemon Snack Mix


I guess this recipe is technically titled Chex® Lemon Buddies, but in my opinion that name doesn't really do it justice. so I gave it a new name. I tried this Sunday afternoon when I really wanted to bake some Christmas cookies, but didn't have time. I had seen the recipe on someone's blog and it sounded intriguing. It was very quick and easy to fix. Here's the recipe:

Snowy Lemon Snack Mix

9 cups Rice Chex cereal
1 1/4 cup white vanilla baking chips
1/4 cup butter or margarine
4 tsp grated lemon peel (may use less)
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 cups powdered sugar

Measure cereal into a large mixing bowl and set aside. In a microwaveable bowl, microwave chips, butter, lemon peel and juice uncovered on high for 1 minute; stir. Microwave about 30 more seconds or until mixture can be stirred smooth. Pour mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly coated. Pour into a 2-gallon resealable food storage plastic bag. Add powdered sugar, seal bag and shake until all the cereal is well-coated.

Notes:

* The recipe didn't say how to store this mix, but obviously airtight is a good idea. I put some in a tin to send to faraway friends who love lemon. I put the rest in a zip-top plastic bag. The blogger who shared this says she keeps hers in the fridge and that makes it even tastier. I haven't tried that, though.

* I just used the juice and rind of one lemon, which turned out to be about 2 tsp. grated rind and about 2 Tblsp. lemon juice.

* I only had 1-gallon zip-top bags to shake the mixture in, so I used one of thosse and just shook half the mixture at a time with 1 cup of powdered sugar. It worked out fine.

This is really delicious if you enjoy lemon, and quite different. Best of all, easy!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cranberry Pistachio Bark


This candy recipe has been on my want-to-try list for Christmas goodies for several years now. I finally got around to trying it yesterday. I recommend it!

One thing I did differently was to use dark chocolate almond bark (candy coating) in place of the semisweet chocolate chips. I'm sure the semisweet would have been better, but the almond bark worked just fine and was easy to melt in the microwave. Given some of my disasters in the kitchen lately, I didn't want to take a chance on messing up the melting of the chocolate chips. I already had the coating on hand, and melting it is pretty much foolproof.

So take your choice -- chocolate chips or chocolate coating. Either way, I predict this candy will be a success with your family and friends!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Candy


On Saturday, I made some of these delicious little candies. They taste like chocolate covered peanuts, only they are in little clusters, not individual nuts. What I love about these is that they are sort of chewy, not hard like just clumps of chocolate and nuts. Here is the link: Chocolate Peanut Candy. I had not made these candies for several years and had forgotten how good (not to mention how quick and easy) they are. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Anniversary giveaway at Green Twig!


I'm posting about this Christmasy giveaway on both of my blogs, because I know that not all of my readers visit both of them regularly.

This giveaway is over at Green Twig, the blog of my real-life friend Mrs.D. She is celebrating the one-year anniversary of Green Twig with this special event.

She is giving away a gorgeous Christmas-themed market tote and also a sweet set of wintry-looking teacups and saucers with little pine branches on them. Mrs. D is an incredible seamstress and quilter, and made the bag herself. It is so cute and looks as if it would hold a lot of groceries.

So head on over to Green Twig and leave a comment. If you have a blog of your own, Mrs. T also asks that you post about her giveaway there. Two fortunate readers will win either the bag or the teacups, so check out the giveaway now!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Focaccia Bread recipe


Sorry I have been absent from the Christmas kitchen for a couple of days! Some of that time I have been busy in my real Christmas kitchen!

I'd like to share one more bread recipe which can turn a simple soup supper into a smashing success of a meal -- Focaccia Bread Squares from Taste of Home! We love, love, love this bread. A simple bread machine dough and easy press-into-pan preparation produces something absolutely delicious and quite impressive.

I usually substitute olive oil for butter in the dough. Sometimes I substitute Italian seasoning or pizza spice for the rosemary in the topping.

This bread is a tiny bit more work than just a bread machine loaf, but it is well worth the extra time. Enjoy!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Cheddar Cheese Bread


Here's another bread machine recipe that would accompany any of yesterday's soups nicely.

CHEDDAR CHEESE BREAD

1 cup water
1/4 cup buttermilk powder
1 to 1-1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
4-1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
3 cups bread flour
1-1/2 tsp. dry yeast

Place all ingredients in bread machine pan in order suggested by manufacturer (which would most likely be the order shown here up through the flour; make a well in the flour and put the yeast in the well). Use basic setting, and I would recommend the light crust setting.

I copied this recipe from my daughter's bread machine cookbook while we were visiting out West one year. It's a keeper!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Recipes to simplify the season


Yesterday I mentioned how I like to let supper "cook itself" to free up a little time in this busy season, and promised to post some crockpot soup recipes and more bread recipes. Well, I decided to simplify things for myself today and just copy and paste some recipes from my personal cookbook (on my computer in a word processing program) so there is just one bread recipe here. It's a delicious one, though. Perhaps tomorrow I can post some links for more bread recipes. I think this assortment of soup recipes will be plenty, though. Something here for everyone's taste!

OLD-FASHIONED OATMEAL BREAD (for the bread machine)
1 1/3 cups water
1/4 cup molasses
2 Tblsp. butter or margarine, softened
4 cups bread flour
2/3 cup oats (either type - I use old-fashioned)
2 Tblsp. dry milk
1 1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. yeast

1. Measure and add liquid ingredients to bread pan.
2. Measure and add dry ingredients (except yeast) to bread pan.
3. Use your finger to make a well in the dry ingredients where you will put the yeast. Yeast must NEVER come into contact with liquids when adding ingredients. Measure the yeast and pour it into the well.
4. Snap pan into the bread maker and close lid.
5. Press "Select" button to choose the Sweet setting.
6. Press the "Crust Color" button. I prefer the Light crust for this
bread.
7. Press the Start button.

This is one of our favorite bread recipes to bake in the bread machine. The recipe is from the book which came with our machine.

ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP (for the crock pot)

6 cups chicken broth
12 to 15 1/2-ounce frozen meatballs (or 6 to 8 1-oz. ones)
1 small boneless skinless chicken breast (may be frozen)
Sliced celery to taste (I usually use a cup or two)
Cut-up carrots to taste (I usually use baby carrots and quarter them -- again, about a cup or two)
Spinach to taste, stems removed (can use up to a bunch of spinach -- I have also used part of a bag of baby spinach leaves or of frozen cut leaf spinach)
Garlic powder to taste
Lemon pepper to taste
1/4 cup tiny pasta, like alphabets or orzo (add during last hour of
cooking)
Parmesan or Romano cheese to taste

Put the meatballs on a microwave safe plate and defrost them for a
minute or two, so you can quarter them. If using the larger (1 oz.)
meatballs, cut them in eighths.

Put in crock pot along with broth, chicken, vegetables and seasonings.
Cook all day on low or 3 hours on high.

Add pasta during the last hour of cooking. (In the case of alphabets, I have added them just before serving and they cook just fine.)

Before serving, remove the chicken breast and cut it or shred it in small pieces. Return chicken to the soup.

Serve with Parmesan or Romano cheese for people to add to taste.
Probably makes about 6 servings.

This is one of my crock pot standbys!

Here is another favorite:

TORTILLA ENCHILADA SOUP

4 cups chicken broth
2 cans chicken with rice soup
1 small boneless skinless chicken breast (frozen is fine)
1 cup salsa or picante sauce
1 can red enchilada sauce
Flour tortillas
Shredded cheddar cheese OR cubes of velveeta-type cheese

In crock pot combine the broth, soup, chicken breast, salsa, and
enchilada sauce. Cook on low for about 4 hours. Remove chicken breast from soup; shred it or cut in small pieces. Return to soup.

When ready to eat, cut flour tortillas into strips (scissors work best
for this).

Put tortilla strips in each bowl and ladle the hot soup on top. Top with shredded cheddar or cubed velveeta.

About 6 servings.

This is just delicious and soooo easy. Great with cornbread!

As you'll see, the following one can be done either in the crockpot, or at the last minute on the stovetop. Naturally, at this time of year I prefer the crockpot option.

TACO SOUP

1 1/2 pounds ground beef (or use less -- even as little as 1/2 lb.)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 can (28 oz.) crushed or diced tomatoes
1 can (14 oz.) kidney beans, not drained
1 can (17 oz.) whole kernel corn, not drained
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce
1 package taco seasoning
1 to 2 cups water
Shredded cheddar cheese
Crushed tortilla chips

Brown beef in large heavy kettle or Dutch oven; drain off any fat and add onions. Cook until onions are tender.

Add remaining ingredients except cheese and chips; simmer for 15 minutes.

Ladle into bowls; top with shredded cheese and crushed tortilla chips, to taste.

Yield: 4-6 servings.

This simple recipe has been a lifesaver for me so many times. Very often, after browning the beef and onions, I combine all the ingredients in a crock pot and cook the soup on low for several hours.

The following recipe can either be cooked in a low oven or in the crockpot. The crockpot option seems slightly easier to me.

GONE-ALL-DAY STEW

1 can tomato soup, undiluted
1 cup water
1/4 cup flour
2 pounds beef chuck, cut in 1-inch cubes, trimmed of fat
3 medium carrots, cut in 1-inch pieces
1 onion, chopped (or use a handful of frozen baby onions)
4 medium potatoes, cut in 1 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 cup celery, cut in 1-inch slices
12 whole large fresh mushrooms (optional but good)
2 beef bouillon cubes ( or 2 tsp. beef bouillon granules)
1 Tblsp. Italian herb seasoning mix
1 bay leaf
3 grinds fresh pepper

In a large casserole dish (at least 3-quart) mix the soup with the water and flour until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Cover the casserole and bake at 275º for 4 to 5 hours.

(The stew may also be cooked in a slow cooker on Low for the same amount of time.)

Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

This delicious stew was a staple for us during the years our kids were at boarding school. It was the perfect meal for Sunday lunch before the trip back to school. I can’t even count the number of times I have given out this recipe over the years.

The following recipe uses frozen meatballs which really simplifies preparation:

MEATBALL STEW

3 medium potatoes, cut in 1/2-inch cubes
1 pkg. (16 oz.) fresh baby carrots, quartered
1 large onion, chopped (or equivalent amount of frozen chopped onions)
3 celery ribs, sliced
12 to 16 ounces frozen meatballs, defrosted slightly in microwave and cut in halves or quarters
1 can tomato soup
1 can beef gravy
1 cup water
1 envelope onion soup mix (I used 5 Tblsp. of my own homemade mix)
2 tsp. beef bouillon granules

Place the potatoes, vegetables and meatballs in a 5-quart slow cooker. In a bowl, combine the remaining ingredients. Pour this over the meatball mixture.

Cover and cook on High for 4 to 5 hours. Yield: 6 servings.

This is so good that it's worth keeping a can of beef gravy in my pantry at all times! (I already keep tomato soup on hand, as well as a jar of my homemade onion soup mix. And I keep a bag of meatballs in the freezer to use in Italian wedding soup, so the basic ingredients for this stew are always around.)

The following recipe is a little different with its Italian sausage and seasonings.

HEARTY PASTA TOMATO SOUP (with sausage)

6 cups beef broth
28 ounces stewed tomatoes
15-16 ounces tomato sauce
2 cups sliced zucchini (I use the frozen zucchini-squash blend if fresh zucchini is not available)
1 large onion, chopped
1 cup sliced carrots (I use baby carrots)
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1 medium green pepper, chopped
1 lb. Italian link sausage, sliced about 1/2 inch thick with scissors
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. basil
1 garlic clove, minced
Pasta of your choice, OR 2 cups frozen cheese tortellini
Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Place all ingredients except the last two in a 5-qt. slow cooker. Cover and cook on High for 4 to 5 hours until the vegetables are tender and the sausage slices are cooked and tender.

At this point, add pasta to your taste and continue cooking for 15 to 20 minutes or until pasta is cooked. I used orzo, so only had to wait about 15 minutes. Rotini or elbows would probably take 20 minutes or so. If you choose to use the tortellini, you need to cook it first, then stir into the soup and cook for about 30 minutes or so.

Yield: 10-12 servings

Again, frozen chopped onions and frozen diced green peppers can really simplify matters when preparing a crockpot recipe. I highly recommend keeping them on hand.

This next one has a nice beefy flavor from the beef gravy and mushroom soup. A nice change from tomato flavors.

GROUND BEEF STEW
1 pound ground beef
6 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
16 ounces baby carrots
3 cups water
2 Tbslp. dry onion soup mix
1/2 tsp. minced garlic (or 1 garlic clove, minced)
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted (or equivalent)
1 can beef gravy (or equivalent)

In a skillet, cook beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. In a slow cooker, combine the next nine ingredients; stir in the beef. Cover and cook on High for 4 to 5 hours. Stir in soup and gravy; cover and cook 1 hour more or until heated through.

Yield: 12 servings.

This last recipe is not a crockpot one, but it is incredibly simple to put together at the last minute.

ZESTY CHICKEN CHEESE SOUP

1 can whole kernel corn (don’t drain)
1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies (don’t drain)
1 small can diced green chilies (optional)
1 can premium chunk white chicken, flaked
8 ounces velveeta-type cheese, cubed

In heavy saucepan or dutch oven, combine everything except the cheese and begin heating these ingredients while you cube the cheese. Add the cheese to the saucepan and continue to heat, stirring until cheese is melted and soup is piping hot.

This recipe came from an early Quick Cooking magazine and is the fastest soup you will ever make -- just a matter of opening cans, heating and stirring -- and is also delicious!

I hope these recipes make your Christmas season a little less stressful -- so you will have more time to truly enjoy the holiday and celebrate the reason for the season!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Cranberry Oat Bread


One of the best ways I have found to free up time for Christmas crafting, baking, decorating, etc. is to have supper cook itself -- that is, put a soup in the crockpot and bread or dough in the bread machine. Bread is the easiest, because there is nothing to do at the last minute. Over the next few days I will post some of my favorite soup and bread recipes, and hope that they will be helpful to someone else.

This is probably our very favorite bread machine recipe. Here's the link: Cranberry Oat Bread. It's very good with raisins instead of the dried cranberries, too. And it smells so wonderful as it bakes!

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Gingerbread Men


Yesterday I spent some good quality time in my Christmas kitchen and baked two kinds of cookies -- Macaroon Kisses and Gingerbread Men. Interesting -- neither of these cookies were on my tentative baking list for this holiday, but I ended up baking them anyway! The macaroon kisses (you can find the recipe by typing the name into the search box at the top left) were baked because I had a package of almond chocolate kisses to use up -- they were from an after-Christmas sale last year. And the gingerbread men -- well, just because. The following recipe is slightly adapted from Cook & Tell, and is my favorite recipe for ginger guys. Note that it is easily made in a saucepan!


GINGERBREAD MEN

1/2 cup shortening (or use real margarine)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 1/2 tsp. vinegar
1 egg, beaten
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. salt

In a large, heavy saucepan, place shortening, sugar, molasses, and vinegar. Bring to a boil, stirring. Remove from heat and cool mixture to room temperature.

Add beaten egg to cooled mixture in saucepan. Sift together remaining ingredients and stir into molasses mixture using a wooden spoon. Mix well. Form mixture into a ball; wrap in plastic wrap and chill for several hours.

Working with a small amount of dough at a time, and leaving the remainder of dough in the fridge, roll out dough 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch thick and cut with desired cookie cutters.

Bake on ungreased baking sheets at 375º for 8-12 minutes. Mine took about 8 minutes or even a little less. Makes a bunch of gingerbread men.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Christmas Cut-Out Cookies

"When lights and decorations go up along main streets across the country, rolling pins and cookie cutters of many shapes soon come to light in the kitchen. Then, more than at any other season, rolled cookies have top popularity. By the time Christmas arrives, cookie stars, hearts, crescents, jaunty gingerbread boys and animals dangle from the branches of twinkling Christmas trees."
~ Nell Nicholson, in Farm Journal's Homemade Cookies.


It's still true. For a good many people, the best Christmas cookies are the kind you cut out with holiday cutters and sprinkle with colored sugars and sprinkles before baking -- or, alternatively, bake first and then frost and add the trimmings. I have made plenty of cut-out cookies in my day -- by myself, with my own kids, and now with grandkids -- and thought I would share a few of my favorites here. There are other cut-out cookies here in the Christmas kitchen as well, and I will label them as such so they can easily be found.

Here's the first one:

SUGAR COOKIES

1 1/4 cups butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
5 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 cup milk

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat until fluffy. Sift
together dry ingredients and add alternately with milk. If the dough is
sticky, add flour if necessary to make the dough easier to handle.

Roll dough 1/4-inch thick on a well-floured surface, and cut with cookie
cutters of your choice. Sprinkle with colored sugars or sprinkles.

Bake on ungreased baking sheets at 375° for 8 minutes. Remove to wire
racks to cool. Makes about 100 cookies.

This recipe came from a Farm Journal Christmas magazine from the early 1960s. It was supposed to be a very easy dough for children to roll and cut, and I remember helping to make these as a child. Later, I used this recipe for my own kids to make and decorate cut-out cookies when they were young.

This next recipe is a newer favorite of mine, although I suspect the recipe itself is quite old.

BROWN SUGAR CUT-OUT COOKIES

2 cups brown sugar
1 cup butter flavor Crisco® (I use the sticks -- so, 1 stick for this recipe)
2 eggs
3 Tblsp. cold water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
4 cups all-purpose flour

Cream sugar and Crisco® until fluffy, using an electric mixer. Add the eggs, water, and vanilla and combine well. Sift the dry ingredients together. Work them into the sugar mixture with a wooden spoon or your hands, if necessary. When well blended, form the dough into a ball and wrap it in plastic wrap to chill for several hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, roll the dough very thin on a floured surface. Cut out shapes and decorate with colored sugars and sprinkles, pressing down lightly. Using a floured spatula, transfer the decorated cookies to a foil-or-parchment-covered cookie sheet. Re-roll the scraps to make more cookies. Repeat the cutting and sprinkling process.

Bake at 350º for 6 to 8 minutes until golden brown. Remove to cooling racks.

Yields a lot of cookies; I have never counted to determine how many, and the original recipe, which I found in Cook & Tell, didn't say.

And this last one is from my dear friend Marilyn's mother. Love the festive combination of flavors in this one!

CHRISTMAS CUT-OUT COOKIES

1 cup shortening (may use half margarine)
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. almond extract
3/4 tsp. vanilla
3/4 tsp. orange extract
2 unbeaten eggs
2 1/2 cups flour

Combine all but the flour and beat thoroughly. Add flour and mix well. Chill dough thoroughly.

Roll small portions of dough 1/4-inch thick and cut out. [Edited to add: decorate cookies before baking with sprinkles and colored sugars; or, bake the cookies plain and frost when cool.]

Bake for 8-10 minutes in 375º oven.

The yield is unspecified on this one, too. You really do get a lot of cookies from cut-out recipes, especially if you re-roll the scraps, a process that sometimes seems interminable. But I always do it.

Whichever recipe you choose, have fun. Happy Baking!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Candy Cane Cookies


Probably almost everyone has this recipe already, but I thought I would share it anyway just in case.

CANDY CANE COOKIES
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. peppermint extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. red food coloring

Heat oven to 375°. Mix thoroughly the butter, sugar, egg, and flavorings. Blend in flour and salt. Divide dough in half and remove one half to a separate bowl. Blend food coloring into one half of dough.

Shape 1 teaspoon of dough of each color into a 4-inch rope. For smooth, even ropes, roll them back and forth on a lightly floured surface. Place the 2 ropes side by side; press them together lightly and twist.

Complete cookies one at a time. Place on ungreased baking sheet as they are completed. Curve top of each cookie down to form the handle of the "candy cane".

Bake about 9 minutes or until set and very light brown.

Remove to racks and cool.

Makes about 4 dozen.

It's been years since I made these cookies, but my kids always liked helping to make these. It's sort of like playing with play dough! I've been thinking I need to make these cookies with my granddaughters this year.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Dipped Cherry Cookies


Here's another recipe link to one of my newer Christmas cookie favorites. I tried these last year for the first time and we liked them a lot -- enough so that they are on my baking list for this year as well. They are a very pretty cookie and add some color to the cookie tray. I did not have edible glitter so I used red sugar and white sugar. You can find the recipe here: Dipped Cherry Cookies. Enjoy!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Double Drizzle Pecan Cookies


As promised, here is a link to the recipe for another of our favorite Christmas cookies. For years, I made a very similar recipe that had only the caramel drizzle, and those cookies are absolutely wonderful. But the chocolate puts this recipe over the top! I hope your family enjoys these Double Drizzle Pecan Cookies as much as we do!

In other kitchen news, I tried a couple of new recipes today -- a bread recipe and a fudge recipe. Both easy recipes. I'll report back tomorrow as to how they turned out!

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Cranberry Pecan Sandies


Today in the Christmas kitchen, here's another recipe:

CRANBERRY PECAN SANDIES

1 package (15.6 oz.) cranberry quick bread mix
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 egg
2 Tablespoons orange juice
3/4 cup chopped pecans
30 to 36 pecan halves
Sugar for dipping

Orange Glaze:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 to 4 teaspoons orange juice

In a large mixing bowl, combine the bread mix, butter, egg, and orange juice. Stir in chopped pecans.

Roll into 1-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. [I tend to line cookie sheets with parchment paper even when recipes say “ungreased”. Just seems to work better with my aging cookie sheets.]

Flatten with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar (grease the glass lightly before the first dipping).

Press a pecan half into center of each cookie.

Bake at 350º for 12-14 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool for 1 minute before removing to wire racks.

Cool completely before glazing.

For glaze, whisk confectioners’ sugar and 2 tsp. orange juice in small bowl; add additional 1 to 2 tsp. orange juice if needed for drizzling consistency. Drizzle glaze decoratively over cookies.

Yield: 2 1/2 to 3 dozen cookies.

These are just delicious and super-easy! The recipe came from the Nov/Dec 2006 issue of Simple & Delicious magazine. I was very pleased to discover that these cookies freeze perfectly, glaze and all!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Raspberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies


Today in the Christmas kitchen, I'd like to share a recipe I adapted from the December 2006 issue of my favorite cooking newsletter, Cook & Tell. This recipe has become a "must-make" for Christmas every year.

RASPBERRY ALMOND THUMBPRINTS

2/3 cup sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 cups flour
1/2 cup raspberry jam

Glaze:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1-1/2 tsp. almond extract
2-3 tsp. water

In large bowl, cream together sugar, softened butter, and 1/2 tsp. extract. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and add flour until well mixed.

Heat oven to 350º. Form dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. Make an indentation in each cookie with your thumb; fill indentation with jam.

Bake at 350º for about 15 minutes or until edges of cookies are lightly browned. Let stand on cookie sheets for about 1 minute before removing to rack.

Let cookies cool on wire racks. I like to place waxed paper under the cooling racks before glazing the cookies.

Stir together the glaze ingredients, using only enough of the water to make a good glazing consistency. Drizzle glaze over cookies. Let set completely before storing or stacking cookies.

Yield: 3-1/2 dozen.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pepparkakor Cookies


It's nearly December, and that means I will be spending lots more time here in my Christmas kitchen. One thing I will be doing is to share a few recipes which I have neglected to post here, although they may very well be on my other blog, "Across My Kitchen Table" which I started a couple of years before this special Christmas one. I thought I would start with this wonderful cookie recipe. Bake these soon, and see if these cookies don't get you and your family in the Christmas spirit!

PEPPARKAKOR

1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 Tblsp. dark molasses
1 egg
3 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 Tblsp. cinnamon
1 Tblsp. ginger
1 Tblsp. cloves
Juice and grated rind of 1 orange
Red or green colored sugar if desired

Cream butter with sugar until light and fluffy; add molasses and egg. Mix until blended.

Sift flour, soda and spices into creamed mixture. Add orange juice and rind; mix until well blended.

Roll dough on lightly floured surface to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into heart or reindeer shapes. Transfer to cookie sheets. Sprinkle with red or green sugar, if you like. I usually do.

Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes, until brown. Cool on rack and store in a covered tin.

Makes at least 3 to 4 dozen cookies.

I found this recipe many years ago in an old Country Woman magazine. The lady who submitted it said that these were the first cookies she baked each year to make her house really smell like Christmas. It works!

Of course, you need not limit yourself to hearts and reindeer; those are just the shapes I most often use. Some years I cut some pine trees and moose as well!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Cookie mystery solved!



(At least in part...)

I've mentioned before how one of my mother's traditional cookie recipes for Christmas was called Chocolate Spritz. These were not made with a cookie press but instead were small molded cookies, shaped into balls and dipped in colored candy sprinkles before baking. We kids adored these cookies. They are very chocolatey and delicious. My mother used to store her bowls of cookie dough in our cold front entry or back porch to save room in the refrigerator. It seemed that at Christmastime there were always several bowls of dough, covered with plates, stacked up in these cold storage areas. We enjoyed all manner of raw cookie dough (and we all lived to grow up, too! Could the eggs have been safer back then?) but the Chocolate Spritz dough was our favorite. It tasted like chocolate ice cream.

One year I remember helping my mother prepare for Christmas by copying some of her most-used recipes onto lined paper, to be placed in her special Christmas notebook. Chocolate Spritz was, of course, one of them. I don't know if I thought, back then, to ask where she found the recipe. I certainly didn't know at that time (I was probably 9 or 10) that the term "spritz" usually referred to a pressed cookie.

Years later, though, I got to wondering about that. I believe I did ask her where she had ever found the recipe, and she said she had found it in a magazine. I don't recall if I ever asked why it was not a pressed cookie. I guess I thought maybe she had never had a cookie press (they were kind of a specialty item back in the 1950s) and so she had probably adapted the recipe to make molded cookies.

Well, the mystery of the recipe's provenance has been solved! Recently I was looking over some very old Christmas magazines which my mother had given me a few years back. She had been saving them for years. One of the oldest was a supermarket magazine called Better Living, from December 1952. This particular magazine was pretty much in tatters, so I decided to just go through it and see if there was anything worth salvaging -- for instance, some vintage ads or pics which I could turn into graphics, or a recipe or gift idea. Not far into the magazine I came upon an article titled "Our Christmas Cooky Swap". Who knew the cookie swap idea was that old? I certainly didn't!

And then, on the next pages, an article titled "20 Great Swap Cookies" with the subtitle "Over one hundred wonderful cookies were exchanged at the two Swaps. We selected and tested these for you." As I glanced over the picture of the cookies, lined up on glass trays, I spied something that resembled my mother's Chocolate Spritz. And sure enough, that particular cookie did indeed bear the name "Chocolate Spritz"! Eagerly, I turned to the recipes to see if it was the same. And guess what? Well, you've probably already guessed it. That recipe had been neatly clipped out of the article, leaving a small rectangular hole in the middle of the page. I will wonder no more where my mother ever found that recipe.

But I will probably never know why this molded cookie is called "spritz"!

Would you like the recipe? I thought you might.

CHOCOLATE SPRITZ

3/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg, well beaten
1/4 tsp. salt
2 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted*
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 Tblsp. milk
2 cups sifted cake flour*
Multicolored candy sprinkles

Heat oven to 375°.
Work shortening until creamy. Stir in sugar gradually, then beat until
fluffy. Add egg, salt, chocolate, milk, and vanilla, and mix well.
Stir in flour gradually.

Shape dough into balls; roll or dip in candy sprinkles. Place on
ungreased baking sheet and bake 8 to 10 minutes.

Makes about 4 dozen.

I've given the recipe here as I got it from my mother, but when I make them I change a few things. *I use 6 Tblsp. baking cocoa instead of melted chocolate, and *I use 2 cups regular flour instead of cake flour. Easier and cheaper, and they don’t taste any different.

Enjoy these vintage cookies!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Chocolate Mint Crisps -- a favorite Christmas cookie!


I've mentioned before how much I love Christmas magazines. Only with great strength of character can I prevent myself from buying some new ones each year! Over time I have noticed that some of them are starting to repeat their recipes and ideas, so I've been better able to resist.

Often, though, I can't resist the Country Woman Christmas special magazines, and this recipe is from one of those, from 2006, I think. Often, when I visit my daughter Joanna in the fall, she will have one of these special issues waiting for me as a sweet welcome gift.

I love chocolate and mint together, and especially at Christmas time. Over the years I've tried quite a few recipes that feature those two flavors together. I can definitely say that this one -- Chocolate Mint Crisps -- is the best of the best I've tried.

They mix up so easily in a saucepan, and the swirled mint topping is so pretty. The cookies freeze well -- always important, to me -- and they are absolutely delicious. I think I would describe them as chewy, rather than crispy, and the topping/frosting helps to keep them that way.

If you're looking for something new and different for your cookie trays, I highly recommend these!

Oh, and by the way, the graphic at the top is one that I made from a very old --1952 -- Christmas magazine!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Simple paper ornaments


Here are some paper ornaments I recently tried making with the help of my granddaughters. They turned out okay, but I guess I will use them for gift tags or package tie-ons rather than enclosing them in Christmas cards as I had thought of doing.

I found these some years ago in a small Mary Engelbreit book -- I forget which one. The instructions were quite sketchy. Basically, one draws a heart on manila file folder or card stock and draws a little design in the center of the heart and decorates the edges of the heart. I used stickers for the center design because my drawing skills are not that great, and used markers for the decorating part.

Then you cut out the heart and trace a second, larger heart with ruffly edges from newsprint, and glue the smaller heart to the ruffly one. Then the entire thing gets glued to another, larger heart cut from red construction paper, and a hanger is added.

I don't have any of the fancy die-cutting machines, which would certainly make this project easier and more precise. I think, in retrospect, that red card stock would be a better choice than construction paper for the largest heart. (These already look pink in the scan, although the construction paper I used was most definitely red.) If I ever acquire one of those wonderful paper-crafting machines, I might give these another try. In the meantime, they will be cute on Christmas packages!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Clearing the decks for Christmas preparations



I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about preparing for Christmas. I want to simplify these last weeks before Christmas, freeing me up to enjoy crafting, baking, and decorating for this most meaningful of all holidays.

• It's always helpful to have some main-dish type meals in the freezer, ready for company or family. I plan to make 2 pans of vegetable lasagna, which freezes beautifully and goes over well with everyone I know. I'll freeze it in foil 13X9 pans so there'll be less cleanup as well. You can find the recipe :here.

Earlier this week, I made and froze five containers of meatballs, using this recipe:Make-Ahead Meatballs. These are a good basic meatball which can be used in a variety of ways -- spaghetti and meatballs, Swedish meatballs, sweet and sour meatballs, meatball subs, soup, or anywhere you would use the purchased frozen meatballs.

Even if you don't have a lot of freezer space, you can do something similar. Each week you could do something like roast a small turkey, bake a ham, or make a large meat loaf. For easy, almost-instant sides, you could fix a large pasta salad or a large potato salad, bake a pot of beans or make a large casserole of macaroni & cheese. Along with things like frozen vegetable blends, bagged salad or baby carrots, you could coast along for a week's worth of simple meals. You can then use the time you saved to do some Christmas baking, crafting, or decorating. This type of meal will also get you out the door quicker (with less cleanup, too) for all of those family Christmas activities you're likely to be involved in.

• Some people take time to clean and organize their craft room or even their whole house in preparation for Christmas. I admire them, and I like the idea in principle, even if I can never seem to make it work. What I've done instead is to sort of clear the decks in my crafting areas, clearing the flat surfaces, getting the ironing caught up so the iron and ironing board are freed up for ready use, and put away any materials that won't be needed for my Christmas projects. As far as the whole house goes, I'll be doing my FlyLady routines to keep it under control and even improve things a little.

* As mentioned in the previous post, I've also taken some time to go through my Christmas notebook and do a reality check concerning my crafting. I've redone my list and, though it is still long, I think it's doable.

I also rewrote my Christmas list -- which includes both crafted and purchased gifts -- as the former one was just a jumble of ideas for various people.

I noted down what gifts need to be ordered online and where I will order them from.

I revised my list of what craft materials I still need to purchase for projects -- it's quite a short list at this point -- and also bought some of these this week.

I located all of the recipes I hope to use for Christmas and also noted down some new ones I want to try.

So there are a few notes on how I'm trying to prepare for the wonderful, busy season ahead. Maybe they will give someone else a few ideas. What are some ways you prepare for the season?

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Reality check ...

... for Christmas crafting


Today Mr. T had to run a work-related errand in a city about an hour from here. He asked if I would like to go along. It's a rainy, rainy day. Rain was steadily falling here when we left and it got much heavier as we neared the city. Now that I'm back home, the rain is falling heavily here too. I took along an embroidery project, but what I really wanted to do was work on something toward Christmas. So I settled on taking along my Christmas notebook and revising my Christmas crafting list.

I had reached the conclusion while we were out West that there was no way I would accomplish that long list I had written out earlier. Major revisions were in order. This little car trip with my hubby today gave me the quiet time I needed to sit and think things through with regard to my crafting list.

I tabled a couple of the big projects that simply weren't going to get done. My list now includes a few more simple sewing projects than it did. Can't share the list here as some of the recipients read my blog. But it is a great feeling to have revised that list. It looks much more doable now.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Tentative Christmas baking list for 2010


Last night I spent a few minutes working in my Christmas notebook. I made up a tentative baking list for this Christmas. Here's the list so far:

Pepparkakor
Whipped Shortbread
Eggnog Logs
Sacher Tortes
Peppermint Cookie Wands*
Almond Raspberry Thumbprints
Chocolate-Dipped Maple Logs*
Double Drizzle Pecan Cookies
Dipped Cherry Cookies
Cashew Crescents*
Mini Cinnamon Roll Cookies*
Golden Apricot Cakes
Paula Deen's Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread

Plus other things -- candy making, homemade mixes, etc.
Hot Chocolate Mix
Pink Hot Chocolate Mix*
Bran muffin batter
Lemon Ice Candy
Heavenly Delight

* Denotes a new-to-me recipe.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pillowcase grocery totes as a gift

I seemed to be in a real pillowcase mode with my Christmas gifts for 2009... I made vintage style ones and also embroidered and cross-stitched ones. But it went beyond that. I saw a tutorial for making pillowcase grocery totes from existing pillowcases. You can find it here:

pillowcase grocery totes


I had so much fun making these. I wanted to make a set for each of my daughters for Christmas. I think I ended up with a set of eight for each girl, plus I made a few for myself. Mostly, I just used pillowcases I had on hand. We love flannel sheets, but we don't love flannel pillowcases (not to sleep on, anyway; I've occasionally used some as sort of slipcovers for pillows). And every set of flannel sheets comes with two of them. They turned out to make gorgeous, sturdy grocery totes. I also purchased several pillowcases at the thrift store for 50¢ each to use for this project. Each tote took an hour or less to make. It was so much fun to see how the different prints turned out!
A snowflake tote.

This was a king-size pillowcase from the thrift store.

A blue toile in flannel

This flannel sheep pillowcase made a smaller tote, so I kept it for myself.

More snowflakes.

A western design.

Most importantly, I managed to devise a way to present the pillowcase grocery totes as a gift! That had been on my mind for some time. Of course I could have just stuffed them in a gift bag or a large box, but then the recipients would have to think of a way to store them. My idea was to make the gift packaging something that would be usable for storing the bags.

As I observed shoppers at my local supermarket, I noticed that most of them who use fabric bags just bring them all stuffed into one bag, and then just send that bag along on the conveyor ahead of their groceries. I also envisioned that they probably store the fabric bags in just the same way -- stuffed into one bag and hung on a peg or nail or whatever.

So it made sense to package the bags within one of the totes. But I wanted/needed some sort of label -- something to make it look a bit gift-y and to identify it. So I came up with the idea to make a clear plastic pocket for the container tote and to attach it with bias tape. I then made up a label to slip into the clear pocket.
For the plastic pocket, I utilized a clear plastic pocket that had come on a package of pillowcases -- a set that I had bought to embroider. I cut the pocket off, then edged it with bias tape and sewed it to the tote, then slipped the label in.
The pocket without the label in place.


I designed the label to be the right size to fit the pocket and printed it out on card stock.

I figured that when the recipient starts using the bags, she can put anything she'd like in the clear pocket -- coupons, shopping list, a picture of the kids, whatever. I am quite pleased with how this idea worked out.
The pocket with label in place

So there you have it. Hope someone else can use this idea!

Some crafting from last Christmas

Okay, I guess I posted these on my regular blog back in January, but I really should have put them here, too. First, here is a train quilt I made for one grandson (age 1 1/2):

This is just a panel, but it came out so cute. It was free, too... the panel and matching fabric came from a thrift store.

This shows the back.

And this, taken a few months later, shows the quilt in use:

From matching fabric I was able to make 2 vintage-style pillowcases for the little guy's siblings.

Two more pillowcases -- one for a girl and one for a boy.


Two more... the pink fabric on one, and the kitten fabric on the other are both vintage fabrics handed down from my grandmother. She would be pleased to see how I've used them. I'm not completely satisfied with the border print on the kitten one, but it was the best I could find to coordinate with the kittens.

Lastly, a snowman pillowcase for a little boy who wanted to build a big snowman. I do apologize for the blurry photo. The fabric is really cute.


This inspires me to get crafting for this Christmas. How about you?