Saturday, November 30, 2019

Getting ready!

Yes, tomorrow is December 1!  I'll be swinging open the door here in the Christmas Kitchen and will be eagerly anticipating your visit!

As I usually do in December, I'm hoping and planning to be here in the kitchen every single day.  I'll share poems, recipes, maybe devotional thoughts and carols, vintage Christmas things and memories,  craft and decorating ideas, gift suggestions, or maybe just my progress through the delightful, busy month of December.

Do plan to stop in, won't you?  And be sure and double click on the image at the top of the post.  The details are beautiful!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Last but not least ... this year's tentative Kitchen Gifts list

I just love making kitchen gifts at Christmas time!  You really don't have to read too much here to realize that.  There's even a "kitchen gifts" label in the label cloud, and I hope that you will click the label and read further.  So many good recipes and wonderful ideas!

This year's kitchen gift list is quite short, but I imagine it may be added to as the weeks go by, since it is still a "tentative" list.
Let's see if I can find links for these recipes.

Okay, here goes: the Cinnamon Pretzels are super easy and go nicely in pretty dollar store tins.

 (I don't think I need to add this, but I will anyway.  Any tin you buy to use for gifting or storing your kitchen gifts, whether you buy it at a thrift store, yard sale, or regular store, needs to be washed and thoroughly dried before packaging anything in it.  Wash it like any dish, but to dry it place both tin and cover in the oven and set the oven temp at 290ΒΊ or so.  Less than 300ΒΊ, anyway.  When the oven reaches temperature, turn it off.  Leave the tin, or tins, there until the oven cools down.  It is now ready to use.)

Christmas Granola is next in line, and it's so simple.  I use my regular formula for Homemade Granola.  After it's baked, while still warm, I stir in dried cranberries and shelled pistachios (red and green, get it?) to taste.  Voila!  Christmas Granola!

Hot Chocolate Mix is next, and this is my own recipe.  It always seems to go over well, and sometimes people bring the jars back for a refill.

Bran Muffins sounds like a rather mundane Christmas gift, but I'll explain.  Years ago I started giving my mother-in-law containers of Bran Muffin Batter at Christmas.  (The first year, I gave her silicone muffin pans as well.)  In more recent years, it's become more difficult for my mother-in-law to bake, so I just bake the muffins myself, using the same batter recipe, and give her a half dozen or so.  I've also experimented a bit with cutting the sugar in the recipe by about 1/3.

And lastly on the list is Christmas Jam from Kitty's Kozy Kitchen.  I made this last year and so loved giving it as part of a gift basket or using as a hostess gift.

Probably more kitchen gifts are going to make it onto the list.  Just as I've been adding photos to this post, I've seen so many fun ideas that I've used in the past.  Good thing the list is tentative!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Christmas freezing instructions 101

When I posted about my tentative Christmas cookie baking list, one reader had a question about baking and freezing Christmas cookies.  Vicki suggested that I could email her with any help, putting "Freezing for Dummies instructions" in the subject line.  I did that, though I gave it a more tactful title for publishing here on the blog.

Here's what I wrote to Vicki:

Freezing Christmas cookies is very, very easy.  I most often package the cookies in large round tins, but you can use Tupperware containers of any shape or even large plastic containers (with covers) from Walmart or even the dollar store.

I have used all of the above containers at various times (I tend to run out of containers as Christmas draws near and get sort of desperate), and I can honestly say I have never had cookies get freezer burned or lose quality in any other way.

In addition to your containers, you will also want to have a package of waxed paper on hand.  Either Cut-Rite or a store brand works fine.  Masking tape and a permanent marker are helpful for labeling.

Bake your cookies as usual and cool completely on racks. 

(If the cookie has a filling and/or frosting or glaze, be sure that layer is well hardened and firmed up before you package the cookies.)

Line your container with waxed paper.  Arrange a layer of cookies in the bottom of the container, then place a piece of waxed paper over that layer and continue layering cookies and waxed paper until the container is full.  Place the cover securely on the container.

I then place a piece of masking tape on the cover and write the name of the cookie in Sharpie.  I use the tape because I use the same containers over and over and it would be confusing to write the name of the cookies directly on the container lids.

Then place the container of cookies in your freezer.  That’s it!

You don’t have to thaw the cookies before placing them on a tray or plate to serve or give.  Cookies are small and thaw out very quickly.

Below you see a tin full of whipped shortbread all ready for the freezer once the lid is added.
It is also possible, if you live in a cold climate like we do, to store the filled cookie tins on a covered front or back porch.  I often do this if I run out of room in the freezer.  (Vicki lives in Arizona, so this won't work for her cookie storage!)
Now as you see in the illustration at the top of the post, the advice I gave Vicki could be supplemented with a few other thoughts.

* This is a no-brainer, seems to me, but only store one type of cookie per tin.  You don't want the flavors to get all mixed up.

* Store soft cookies and crisp cookies separately.

* For bar cookies, I cut them in the desired size when completely cool and transfer them to containers with waxed paper as described above.

Vicki also asked me if there were any types of cookies that should not be frozen.

There are no cookies that I know of that should not be frozen.  I think if that were the case the recipe might specify.

She also asked about freezing fudge.

Yes, you can freeze fudge.  What I most often do is cut the fudge first and then I freeze it in foil packages.  If I have a square pan of fudge, I’ll cut it and put about 1/4 of the fudge in each little package.  If I have more than one layer of fudge in the package, I put a little piece of foil or waxed paper in between the layers.  If you like, you could put a number of foil packages inside a ziplock freezer bag.  It’s easier to keep track of them that way.

Sometimes I package fudge in small tins, also lined with waxed paper or foil.  Every kind of fudge that I have frozen has kept its consistency just fine.

Other candies, like peanut butter balls or the chocolate dipped orange slices, I freeze just as I do cookies in containers with waxed paper. 

I've made almond and peanut brittle before but I don't remember if I have ever frozen them.  I would be concerned that brittles might become sticky in the freezer.  Pretty sure I would store those at room temperature in a covered tin.

Another kitchen gift that I bake and freeze ahead is little loaves of quick breads or fruitcakes.  After removing these from the loaf pans, I cool them completely on wire racks before wrapping them individually in foil.  I will then freeze the little foil-wrapped loaves in either a tin or plastic container or even a large zip-top bag. 

When I am ready to gift these little loaves, I wrap them in either colorful foil or food-safe tissue paper and add a little embellishment like ribbon, trim, or baker's twine as pictured below.
There you have some thoughts on freezing Christmas goodies for later.  Hope this information is helpful to someone!

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

And here is 2019's tentative Christmas candy list!

As I mentioned, on the reverse side of my Christmas cookie baking list I always make two more lists.  One of them is the tentative list of Christmas candies I want to make.

I come from a long line of Christmas candy makers.  My grandmother loved making the traditional Five-Minute Fudge, and made batches of it at the holidays -- both Christmas and Thanksgiving.  My mother, as I've said here many times, was locally famous for her delectable (but difficult) Maple Fudge.  (I'm sure you could easily find Five Minute Fudge with an internet search, and Maple Fudge can be found by doing a search here on the blog.)

I tend to make only a few kinds of candy at Christmas time, so my list is quite short.

Here's the list in case you can't read the one at top.  I'll include links too, along with a couple of photos.

Arlene’s Easy Fudge

Chocolate Dipped Orange Slices

Heavenly Delight

 Special Holiday Fudge 

Date-Nut Casserole Cookies 

These date balls I linked to above aren't really a cookie; they are more of a confection.  So that's why they're on the candy list rather than the cookie list!

And there you have it!   Of course,  you never know.  I've posted other fudge and candy recipes over the years that I just might be motivated to make for 2019.  That's why my lists are tentative!  They are subject to change as the season rolls along.

Happy candy making!

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

2019's tentative Christmas baking list!

So this morning I was able to take a few minutes and make some plans for Christmas baking.  I typically bake and freeze many of our Christmas cookies ahead.  We give cookie trays as gifts, plus it seems as if a cookie and fudge tray always works well for any holiday potluck or party we are invited to.

Often, if it works out for me timewise, I will begin my Christmas cookie baking on the day of our first significant snowfall, which is often before Thanksgiving.  Astute New Englanders will quickly grasp the problem with this otherwise charming idea:  There are times -- not often, it's true -- but there are those occasional years when we don't get snow until very close to Christmas indeed.  So if I held to my "first snowfall" tradition, we might not have any Christmas cookies baked and stored away for gifting!  So I usually start sometime in November, definitely before Thanksgiving.

Mr. T is retiring from his logging job mid-December, so he will get to help me this year.  He loves baking Christmas cookies!

You may not be able to read that scribbled list, so I will type it out here, adding links to recipes as I can.

🌟Lemon Shortbread Thumbprint Cookies

🌟Chocolate Spritz

🌟  Sacher Torte Cookies

🌟 Eggnog Log Cookies

🌟  Whipped Shortbread Cookies

🌟  Chocolate Mint Crisps

🌟Almond Shortbread Thumbprints

🌟Christmas No-Bakes

🌟 Secret Spice Cookies

🌟Gingerbread Men?

🌟Christmas Tree Spritz?
I've also purchased (on clearance after last Christmas) a few plates to use in gifting cookies:

Now: on the reverse side of my tentative baking list, I make 2 more, shorter, tentative lists: one for kitchen gifts and one for candies and confections.  I'll share those lists soon!