Friday, February 28, 2014

Angel Food Candy -- a fun kitchen gift

Photo from Taste of Home
Still looking through those December back issues of Country Woman!  This week I came upon a recipe I'd tried years ago, from the November/December 1992 issue.  I'd forgotten about this candy, but it is delicious and fairly simple to make.  It also might be a fun edible "science experiment" for kids to observe, since there is quite a spectacular foaming action when the baking soda is added.  They could help with some of the prep work too, but should not be the ones to add the baking soda, since the mixture is very hot and the possibility of spattering too great.

Here's the link: Angel Food Candy.  Hope you enjoy this sweet taste of the past!  It would make a nice candy to put in Easter baskets, too.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

"Yuletide Signs" -- another poem discovery

There's a lot to be said for browsing through old Christmas magazines.  One of the most fun things for me (aside from the recipes, crafts, and decorating ideas) is the discovery of some lovely poems by rural women who contributed them to Country Woman magazine's Readers' Poetry Corner.  I found this in the November/December 1002 issue.  It's by Louise Pugh Corder.

Yuletide Signs
Rushing and bustling,
Secrets and glee,
Shopping and baking, 
Trimming the tree;
Practicing carols, 
Cards from those dear,
Anticipation --
Christmas is near!

Pageants, cantatas,
Candle's gold beam,
Feasting and presents,
Tall fir agleam;
Visiting, worshiping,
Angels bent near,
Birthday celebration --
Christmas is here!
~ Louise Pugh Corder
   Franklinville, North Carolina

I just love how the poet evokes the anticipation and celebration of the season.  It brings back memories of when my kids were at home and all of the gleeful secrets, the shopping and baking, the practicing for cantatas and plays.  Hope you enjoy the poem, too!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Happy February Rudolph Day! (and a cookie recipe)

Photo by Taste of Home
Happy Rudolph Day to all those who are observing it!  I don't have time to do a lot of Christmasy things today, although I am drinking a cup of Christmas tea and listening to lovely Christmas carols as I write.

In a way, I guess I could say that I actually will be working on Christmasy things today, as my main focus for the day [other than a stint of writing/studying] is to see how far I can get in getting two large, belated Christmas gifts completed.  They may be half done -- maybe a little more than half.  So we will see how that goes.  They are still a secret so I can't post pictures.  I'll just say there is lots of felt, cutting, and gluing involved.

I also wanted to share a Christmas cookie recipe for those who may be in the baking mode today.  I haven't made these cookies, but they are on my want-to-try list: Spritz Holly Wreaths.  This pressed cookie recipe contains cream cheese, so the cookies wouldn't dry out as quickly as a regular spritz.

Spritz wreaths were a part of my childhood Christmas memories, as they were among the baked goods sold at a church Christmas fair we usually attended.  So pretty -- ruffly white wreaths trimmed with bits of red and green candied cherries.  I vowed to make cookies like that myself someday, and when I grew up and acquired a cookie press and a kitchen of my own, I did just that.  I also found that the wreath shapes broke apart very easily once baked.  So I'm hoping that this recipe may solve that problem.  Maybe you would like to try this recipe, too!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

"Season's Greetings" -- another inspiring Christmas poem

Small vintage card from my personal collection
I'm continuing my browsing through my older December issues of Country Woman magazine.  I'm continuing to find fresh inspiration as I do so, and today I'd like to share another lovely poem with you.  Over the years, Shirley Harvey's poems have often been published in this magazine's Readers' Poetry Corner, and I frequently have found that they really resonate with me.  Perhaps because I'm also a New Englander, this poet's words often speak to my own memories and also to the sort of tradition that I want to preserve for my own grandchildren.  Here's my most recent find:

Season's Greetings
 Evergreens wear stars and silver bells;
The kitchen's full of ginger-spicy smells.
Carols echo through the soft, still night.
Red candles shed their lovely, glowing light.

The creche is set about the fireplace,
Where flickering embers light the Infant's face.
Families gather home from far and near.
It's Christmastime -- the crowning of the year.
~ Shirley Harvey,
   Barre, Vermont

Isn't that beautiful?  Instantly I saw the foil-covered star topping our childhood tree, smelled the red-and-green sugar-topped molasses crinkles, and pictured the glowing red candles at my grandmother's house.  I hope that you all enjoyed the poem, too, and that it evoked some similarly sweet memories for you.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Fudge Puddles

Photo by Taste of Home
 I'm continuing my look-through of older December issues of Country Woman magazine.  So inspiring!  If you're not familiar with this magazine, look around on eBay and elsewhere and see if you can find yourself some back issues.  They are some of the most helpful December magazines in my collection, and also have few if any advertisements in their pages. 

This week I was looking through the Nov/Dec. 1992 issue.  Turns out it's the one from which I took my recipes for Whipped Shortbread Cookies and Eggnog Log Cookies.  Both of these recipes have become cherished family Christmas traditions for us.  I couldn't have said just how long I'd been making these recipes, but now I know it's been over 20 years!

In this same issue, which featured the winners of a Christmas cookie recipe contest, I found two more recipes I want to try.  One of them is these Fudge Puddles, which would be good any time of year at all.  I remember wanting to try this recipe at the time, but guess I never found the extra time to do so.  I know that Fudge Puddles have become a tradition in some families at Christmas, and I definitely want to try making these.  Now I can post the link here and know exactly where to find it!  I'm thinking of trying to do the peanut butter cookie part gluten-free, and will keep you posted. 

Sunday, February 09, 2014

"Christmas Memories" -- another lovely Christmas poem

Yes, I'm still looking through those back December issues of Country Woman magazine.  I came across this truly lovely poem written by Shirley Harvey, and just had to share.  It spoke to my own Christmas memories.  Here it is:

Christmas Memories
At Christmas I remember
Popcorn on a string, 
Cookies made of gingerbread
And carols that we'd sing;
Icicles upon a tree,
A gold star shining bright;
Candy canes and  oranges 
And sleigh bells in the night.

At Christmas I remember
Red stockings in a row;
Families coming home again
In spite of ice and snow ...
And all these special memories 
Draw me close each year --
To other times and places
And those that I hold dear.
-- Shirley Adwena Harvey, Barre, Vermont

Isn't that lovely?  It brought back so many memories for me -- stringing popcorn and cranberries, for example, and the icicles that my mother always insisted be draped just so as the magical finishing touch to our Christmas tree.  And there were always oranges in the toe of each red stocking -- ours were heavy red wool felt trimmed with white chenille at the top with felt details, and our names on little felt banners.  Our extended family would gather at the farm often "in spite of ice and snow".  Our Christmases were a very, very special part of my childhood, and this poem brought it all back.  I hope you enjoy it, too.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Inspiration for Christmas kitchen gifts ... and a recipe to try

From a vintage Farm Journal Christmas magazine
I love to give gifts from my kitchen!  And, if you've been reading very long, you also know that I have quite a collection of older [some vintage, some not] Christmas magazines.  In 2014, I'm going to try and keep looking through these all year round to get some inspiration.  The inspiration will take all sorts of forms -- handmade gifts, kitchen gifts, poems, recipes, memories, decorating ... pretty much what this blog is all about.

This week I was looking through some older Country Woman magazines.  Sometimes, one can find fresh inspiration in the simplest of prose.  That was the case here with the introduction to an article called "Give Gifts of Good Taste This Christmas".  I'm not even sure who wrote these words -- possibly the food editor, who at that time was Janaan Cunningham -- or possibly someone else, so I don't even know who to give credit to.  But the writer's words inspired me:

"Stirred up 'from scratch' and seasoned with love, gifts from the kitchen capture the spirit of Christmas in a delicious way.
"So go ahead and simmer some zesty picante sauce, bake a batch of rich Christmas cookies or set a special bread rising to the occasion.
"Then package your yummy presents in pretty tins or on colorful plates ... and tie them with bright ribbons or twine.  Each will wrap up the holidays with memorable down-home flavor!"

As I thought about these words -- and the article, which included recipes for hot picante sauce, rosemary jelly, and more -- it occurred to me that sometimes, in order for kitchen gifts to happen, we have to plan way ahead.  Say, right now, when we're dreaming over seed catalogs and planning our gardens.  My own garden is tiny and I'm not enough of a gardener to grow quantities of produce.  But if you are, why not make some plans to grow extra tomatoes and some hot peppers for picante sauce or salsa; herbs to make herb jellies or butters with; cucumbers for pickles, and so on?  Or plan now to go berry picking and make jams or jellies for Christmas gifts.  When I was a child, such gifts were common among neighbors, and we always looked forward to the various treats.

Of course, kitchen gifts can include much more than canned or pickled items.  I enjoy giving cookies, fudge and other candies, jar mixes, spice blends, and more.  Snack mixes or special nut blends are also favorites.  To see some of my favorites, you can click on the "kitchen gifts" label in the label cloud at the top right.  Or you could also check out my my Kitchen Gifts board on Pinterest, where I have over 100 great kitchen gift ideas pinned.

In browsing through another older December issue of Country Woman, I came upon this delicious sounding recipe for Iced Almonds.  I just may try it for the coming year!