Posts Tagged ‘cookies’

These recipes sound so good and Christmasy.

January 24, 2016

Last week I saw this book at my local library; Christmas Cookies Are For Giving by Kristin Johnson and Mimi Cummins.  As I leafed through the book these two recipes looked so good that I would love to try them.  Perhaps someday I will.  If you try them please let me know how they came out.

Cranberry Decadent Cookies

Dried cranberries and cinnamon transform this reverse chocolate chip cookie into a holiday favorite.  The coffee granules subtly enhance the flavor of the chocolate.

2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ cup solid vegetable shortening, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
1 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup dried cranberries

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease two baking sheets or line them with parchment paper.  Sift together flour, cocoa powder, ground cinnamon, baking powder and baking soda, and set aside.

In a large bowl beat butter shortening, granulated sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing until fully combined before additions.  In a small cup, mix together the vanilla and the coffee until the coffee is dissolved, then add to the butter mixture; beat to combine.  Gradually add dry ingredients, mixing until combined.  Stir in white chocolate chips, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and dried cranberries.

Drop 1 tablespoon of dough at a time onto baking sheets, spacing cookies about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until firm.  Let cool for 1 minute then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Store in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 1 month.  Makes about 48 cookies.  These cookies are excellent for shipping.

Cheddar Crunch Apple Squares

The recipe reminds me of something my grandmother used to say every time we ate apple pie: “An apple pie without cheese is like a kiss without a squeeze.”  Apples and cheddar make a perfect marriage in these tasty bars.  Recipe courtesy of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. – Mimi

1 box (12 ounces) vanilla wafers, or 3 1/3 cups vanilla wafer crumbs
1 ½ cup flaked coconut, chopped
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ cup shredded Wisconsin cheddar cheese
½ cup salted butter, softened
2 cans (21 ounces) apple pie filling

Pre-heat oven of 375 degrees F.  Make crumbs in food processor or with rolling pin and combine with coconut, cinnamon, cheese and butter to form a crumbly mixture.  Press one half of this mixture firmly into the bottom of a greased 9 x 12-inch baking pan.  Spread apple pie filling on top of bottom crust.  Top with remaining crumb mixture, do not press down.

Bake for about 40 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool completely in pan on wire rack in refrigerator and cut into squares about 2 x 2 inches.  Serve with cinnamon ice cream or warmed honey.

Store for up to 2 weeks in airtight containers in the refrigerator.  Makes 24 squares.  These bars should be hand-delivered.

4 Holiday Diabetic Recipes

September 25, 2015

As the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays approach thoughts turn to the great foods to be served.  Some, however, dread this time because they have medical conditions that prevent them from enjoying the good, rich food.  Below we have 4 diabetic recipes: 2 beverage recipes, 1 dressing or stuffing recipe, and 1 cookie recipe.  The bonus is that the cookie recipe is the traditional rolled sugar cookie recipe.

Low-Calorie Eggnog

(Serves 8 – ½ cup per serving)

2 eggs, separated
4 cups skim milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 packets Equal sweetener
½ tsp brandy or rum flavoring
Ground nutmeg

Combine the egg yolks and milk in a saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until the mixture coats a metal spoon.  Cool.

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form.  Add to the egg custard mixture with the vanilla, sweetener, and flavoring.  Mix lightly.  Cover and chill.  Pour into serving cups and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Hot Wassail

(Serves 18 – ½ cup per serving)

4 cups (1 quart) unsweetened apple juice
3 cups unsweetened pineapple juice
2 cups cranberry juice cocktail
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
lemon slices

Combine all the ingredients in a large kettle and simmer for 10 minutes.  Serve hot.

Apple and Prune Dressing

(Serves 16)

¼ cup vegetable oil
1 medium-size onion
2 celery stalks, cored and chopped
2 apples, chopped
16 prunes, snipped into pieces
1 cup water
10 slices fresh whole wheat bread cubes (6 cups)
1 tsp dried sage, crushed
¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Combine the oil, onion, celery, and apples in a large skillet.  Saute for about 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.  Remove from the heat.  Add the remaining ingredients.  Toss gently to mix well.  Use to stuff a 12- to 18-pound turkey or spoon the stuffing mixture into an oiled 2-quart baking dish.  When baking the stuffing in a casserole, cover and bake in a 325-degree oven for about 1 hour.

Rolled Sugar Cookies

(Makes 72)

½ cup margarine
½ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder

Cream together the margarine, sugar, vanilla, and egg until light and fluffy.  Add the flour and baking powder.  Blend until well mixed.  Chill the dough for 2 hours or overnight.  Roll out on a lightly floured surface until 1/8 inch thick.  Cut with a cookie cutter.  Place on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake in a 375-degree oven until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.  Cool before serving.

Christmas Customs in the Netherlands

July 25, 2015

St Nicholas Parade with St Nicholas and Black PeteThe Christmas season in the Netherlands begins in mid-November when St. Nicholas arrives with his companion Black Pete. They travel from Spain, where, according to the Dutch, St. Nicholas lives, to the Netherlands by steamship. Each year they choose a different city to visit. St. Nicholas and Pete disembark to a large parade put on by the city with floats, bands, and balloons. The parade is broadcast on television to the whole nation. At the end of the parade St. Nicholas addresses all the children at the parade and watching on television letting them know what he expects of them.

Each night between St. Nicholas’s arrival and the eve of his day, December 5, children leave their shoes by the fireplace, or a window, or a door hoping Pete and the saint stops by to leave some treats. He usually visits at least once before his day and sometimes more than once. The main gifts for the children, St. Nicholas brings on December 5.

More Dutch Christmas customs will be presented next month. Like many places throughout the world the Dutch have special recipes they bring out for St. Nicholas Day and Christmas Day. Below is a recipe for snowball cookies.

Sneeuwballen (snowballs)

½ cup water
¼ cup unsalted butter
1/8 tsp salt
¼ tsp sugar
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp dried currants or raisins
2 Tbsp diced candied fruits or peels
oil for deep frying

  1. Combine water, butter, salt, and sugar in a small, deep saucepan and bring to a boil.  Boil gently until all the ingredients have melted.  Remove from the heat.  Add the flour all at once and mix rapidly with a wooden spoon to a smooth paste.
  2. Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.  Add currants or raisins and candied fruits.
  3. Heat oil to 375 degrees F and, with a metal spoon that should be dipped in the hot oil, drop the dough by spoonfuls into the oil.  Fry 5-8 minutes or until puffed up and golden brown.
  4. Drain on paper towels and dust with powdered sugar.

Yield: 8 large or 16 small snowballs

Have a debt-free, stress-free Christmas

October 24, 2014

It is that time of year again where thoughts are turning to Christmas. What presents do the children want?  Who sent us cards or gave us gifts that we should reciprocate this year?  How much will it cost?  I just finished paying for last Christmas!

How many times have we approached the Christmas holidays with intentions of not over spending only to succumb to advertisements shouting, “Spend, spend, spend!” What can we do to stop, or at least minimize, this emphasis on breaking the bank?

The primary way to keep from going overboard this Christmas is to set up a budget and stick to it.

Set up a category in your Christmas budget for gifts. Include every person you plan to give a gift and the maximum amount you wish to spend.  Then make a game of it.  See how many people you can go under budget in your Christmas shopping.

Do not forget to budget for incidentals like wrapping paper, tape, stamps, and cards. Things like these can sneak up on you and break the bank before you know it.

Another big item to put in your Christmas budget is food. Include everything you need for your Christmas baking: flour, sugar, baking chips, etc.  Add everything you expect to serve for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  If your family is like mine you will have foods, rich foods, which you would not normally have so it is best to budget for them so you are sure to have the money to pay for them without going deeper into debt.

Setting up a Christmas budget will help keep you from over spending this Christmas. Be sure you budget for every little thing you can think of.  You may even include a miscellaneous category to cover anything you forgot.

Have yourself a carefree little Christmas without all the worries that over spending can bring throughout the new year.

 


Our family likes to start off Christmas day with a breakfast casserole like the one below. Since this is not a usual breakfast fare we need to make sure our budget has the money for the ingredients we do not have on hand.

Sausage Breakfast Casserole
6 slices bread
Butter or margarine
1 lb bulk pork sausage
1 ½ cup (6 oz) shredded Longhorn or mild Cheddar cheese
6 eggs, beaten
2 cups half and half
1 tsp salt

Spread butter over bread slices; place in a greased 13x9x2-inch
baking dish; set aside.

Cook sausage until browned, stirring to crumble; drain well.

Spoon over bread slices; sprinkle with cheese. Combine eggs, half
and half, and salt; mix well and pour over cheese. Cover casserole
and chill overnight.

Remove from refrigerator 15 minutes before baking.

 

We like trying new recipes at Christmas time. This recipe turned out to be a great variation on the traditional pumpkin pie.

Double Layer Pumpkin Pie
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup + 1 tbsp cold milk
1 tbsp sugar
1 tub (8 oz.) whipped topping, thawed
1 prepared graham cracker crumb crust (6 oz.)
1 can (16 oz.) pumpkin
2 pkg (4-serving size) vanilla flavor instant pudding
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves

In a large bowl, mix cream cheese, 1 tbsp milk and sugar with wire
whisk until smooth. Gently stir in 1 ½ cups whipped topping. Spread
on bottom of crust.

In a second bowl, stir pumpkin, pudding mix, and spices into remaining
milk. Beat with wire whisk until well blended. (Mixture will be thick.)
Spread over cream cheese layer.

Refrigerate 4 hours. Serve with remaining whipped topping. Makes 8 servings.

Spritz cookies are easy to make with many variations. A single batch can make several dozen cookies.  Here is a basic spritz cookie recipe with some variations to try.

Basic Spritz Cookies
½ cup butter or margarine, softened
¼ cup vegetable shortening
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt

Place butter and shortening in large mixing bowl. Cream together
on medium-high speed. Add sugar gradually. Beat until light and
fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add egg and vanilla. Mix well using
medium speed.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in separate bowl. Add to
butter/sugar mixture in three additions, mixing well after each
addition. Dough will be stiff.

Assemble and fill cookie press with desired disc. Press cookies on
ungreased, uncoated baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to
12 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Do not overbake.
Makes 6 to 7 dozen.

Variations:
Chocolate-Almond: Decrease vanilla to 1 teaspoon; add 1 teaspoon
almond extract and 3 tablespoons cocoa.

Egg Nog: Add ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg to flour.

Orange: Substitute 2 teaspoons orange extract for vanilla; add 1
teaspoon finely grated orange peel.

Raspberry-Nut: Substitute 1 ½ teaspoons coconut extract for vanilla;
2 tablespoons seedless red raspberry jam. Sprinkle with chopped nuts
before baking.

Christmas Customs From Denmark

September 25, 2014

Cut and Paste Day: Usually in mid-December family and friends gather for “Cut and Paste Day,” a day to make new handmade ornaments.  Hearts, woven heart baskets, Danish flags, paper cones (to be filled with candies and nuts), three-dimensional stars, nisse (made with yarn) pine cone ornaments, little drums, and wooden figures are among the favorite handmade ornaments made on “Cut and Paste Day.”  Most, if not all of these ornaments, will be red and/or white in color just like the Danish flag.

Advent Calendars and Candles:

Like children everywhere Danish children get excited with the anticipation of the Christmas celebration. So, when December 1 rolls around, out comes the advent candle and one or more advent calendars.  Advent candles have marks on them one for each day of December leading up to Christmas.  At some point each day, a family member lights the candle.  The candle is allowed to burn to the next mark but no further until the candle is allowed to burn down to the final mark Christmas morning.

Advent calendars may be homemade or store-bought, simple or elaborate. Some may have only windows to open revealing a verse or saying about Christmas.  Others may include cookies, toys, small gifts, candles, candy, or gum for the child fortunate enough to expose the day’s goodies.  A couple Danish television stations produce a special advent calendar in the form of a Christmas show that is divided into twenty-four episodes.  These shows are like The Cinnamon Bear, Jonathon Thomas And His Christmas On The Moon, and Jump-Jump And The Ice Queen radio shows produced in the United States during the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Christmas Seals: The purchasing of Christmas seals to raise money to treat children with tuberculosis began in Denmark.  In 1903, Danish Postal clerk Einar Holboell looked at all the Christmas cards and mail going through the post office and thought what if people could purchase a Christmas “stamp” to place on their packages.  He designed the first Christmas seal, had them printed, and sold them raising much money for the fight against tuberculosis thus beginning the beloved custom of purchasing Christmas seals.  Norway and Sweden were the first countries to adopt this custom followed by the United States in 1907.

Collectible Christmas plates: In 1895, the porcelain company Bing and Grondahl decided to make a special Christmas plate.  It was to be colored blue and white, involving one of the more complicated processes in plate-making.  On Christmas Eve the company made that plate a true collectible by destroying the mold.  Every Christmas since then Bing and Grondahl has created limited edition Christmas plates breaking the molds for the plates on Christmas Eve.  In 1908 Denmark’s oldest porcelain maker, Royal Copenhagen, started making its own Christmas plates following the same processes used by Bing and Grondahl.  And like Bing and Grondahl, Royal Copenhagen breaks their molds on Christmas Eve.  These plates have become the most sought after plates by plate collectors worldwide.

Learn more about Denmark’s Customs of Christmas here.

Here’s a Christmas cookie from Denmark.

Brune Kager (Brown Christmas cookies)

1 cup butter or lard
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup dark corn syrup
1 tsp cardamom
1 tbsp grated orange peel
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
½ tsp salt
½ tsp allspice
4 ½ cups flour
¼ cup finely chopped almonds

At a low heat, melt the butter (lard), sugar, and syrup. Add the other ingredients and mix well.  Form the dough into rolls as if making refrigerator cookies.  Store the rolled dough in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 weeks.  Aging greatly improves the flavor.  Cut the rolls into very thin cookies and decorate each with half of a blanched almond.  Bake at 375 degrees F until the cookies are crisp (approximately 5 to 7 minutes).  After cookies have cooled, store in a covered jar or tin.

Christmas Recipes From France And Denmark

August 25, 2014

Last month I presented some Christmas customs celebrated in France.  One of the main ingredients of a celebration, it seems, is food.  Here is the recipe for Chocolate Buche De Noel, Christmas Yule Log cake, a must to finish off a French Christmas meal.

Chocolate Buche De Noel

Sponge cake:

  • 4 eggs (room temperature)Yule Log Cake
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cake flour

Chocolate buttercream:

  • 7 egg whites
  • 1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
  • 6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups plus 3 tablespoons butter, softened

How to make chocolate buche de noel:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a 10-inch by 15-inch baking pan with a 1-inch lip (jelly-roll pan) and line it with parchment paper. Butter the parchment or spray it with cooking spray. Set the pan aside.

Beat the eggs for 5 minutes, until they turn thick and foamy. Add the sugar, vanilla extract, and salt to the eggs and continue beating for 2 minutes. Fold the flour, a few tablespoons at a time, into the whipped egg mixture. Once the flour is incorporated into the batter, stop mixing. Do not over mix or the cake will bake up into a tough texture.

Gently spread the batter into the prepared pan. There will be peaks of batter; gently smooth over them, but do not press the batter down. Bake the cake for 10 minutes, until the cake is just set. Invert the baked cake onto a clean, dry kitchen towel and peel off the parchment paper. Wait 3 minutes and then gently roll the cake, still in the towel, starting at the 10-inch end. Allow it to cool completely.

To make the chocolate buttercream:

In a clean, completely dry bowl beat the egg whites on high until soft peaks form. Set them aside for a moment.

In a small saucepan, bring the sugar and 2/3 cup water to a boil. Allow it boil until it has reduced into a slightly thickened syrup. Begin beating the egg whites on high speed again, and pour the hot sugar syrup into the eggs in a slow, steady stream. Pour the melted chocolate, espresso powder, and vanilla extract into the egg whites and continue beating them until the meringue has cooled completely, about 5 minutes.

Add the softened butter to the meringue, 2 tablespoons at a time, while beating on high speed, until all of the butter is incorporated into the frosting. If the buttercream becomes runny at any time in this process, refrigerate the meringue until it has chilled through and continue the process of beating the butter into the meringue.

To assemble the chocolate yule log:

Unroll the cake and set aside the towel. Evenly spread 2 cups (or desired amount) of the chocolate buttercream on the inside of the cake and following its natural curve, gently form it into a cake roll. Cut off the ends of the cake roll on the diagonal and reattach them in the center of the cake with a bit of buttercream to fashion a “branch” coming off the main Yule log.

Spread the exterior of the buche de noel with enough chocolate buttercream to cover it and gently pull a butter knife or small, offset spatula through the frosting to give the appearance of rough tree bark. Add a Pere Noel figure and meringue mushrooms to complete the festive look.

Chill the cake before serving it, and refrigerate any leftovers.

This chocolate yule log recipe makes 14 servings.

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Next month I plan to share the Christmas customs of Denmark.  To spark your interest here is a recipe for a Danish Christmas cookie, Pebber Nodder.

Pebber NodderPebber Nodder

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. In a large bowl, mix together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, stirring until light and fluffy. Combine the flour, cardamom and cinnamon; stir into the sugar mixture just until blended.
3. Separate the dough into 6 balls, and roll each ball into a rope about as big around as your finger on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces, and place them on an ungreased baking sheet.
4. Bake for 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

 

How to have the Christmas you’ve always wanted – part 2

August 25, 2013

Women – the Christmas logistician

In many homes across America, preparations for the Christmas celebration are
carried out by the women. They decide what decorations go up, where the
decorations go up, and when the decorations go up. And if they don’t have the
decorations they want, they buy them or, better yet, make the decorations
themselves. They plan the Christmas feast. They spend long hours shopping for
just the right gift for everyone on the Christmas list. They clean the house
and prepare the guest room for the Christmas family get together. They help
with the church Christmas program and prepare for the neighborhood Christmas
party. Sound busy yet? When you add all this extra work to the busyness of the
everyday job and housework, it’s no wonder many women feel so stressed out and
tired at Christmas. They feel tired and yet happy too. They love making
Christmas special for their loved ones and gladly make the sacrifice.

What women don’t realize is that this added stress and busyness of the Christmas
season builds up and can burn them out. Christmas becomes a chore, no longer
enjoyable. They dread each Christmas season and can’t wait until it’s over.

Women have a great capacity to love. Into each facet of the Christmas
celebration they add their special touch of love, Many pour so much love and
concern into the celebration and into their families who don’t always show
appreciation for what they do that they figure why bother. Just like
rechargeable batteries need to be recharged when they run down women need their
love batteries recharged, something many women don’t take time to have done.

Some women strive to give their families the perfect Christmas. They scour the
Christmas magazines in store checkout lanes looking for the perfect theme for
decorating their house. Or they remember childhood Christmases and try to
reproduce them. Or they come up with their own ideal Christmas and try to come
as close to that ideal as they possibly can. And each year their anxiety level
climbs as they look around and feel that all their efforts fall short of what
Christmas should be.

Following this are some exercises that each woman should complete to discover
what, if any, changes should be made to make Christmas more enjoyable for the
family and less stressful overall. These exercises are taken from the book
Unplug The Christmas Machine by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli.

Exercise 1: Life-style Inventory
Many women overestimate the time they have available for holiday projects. Take
the following life-style inventory to get a sense of how busy you are before you
add on the responsibilities of Christmas.

1. Check all the following statements that are true for you:
I’m employed full-time.
I’m employed part-time.
I have young children who are not yet in school or daycare.
I have children in school or daycare.
I’m a student.
I’m a single parent.
I have extended-family obligations.
I am primarily responsible for managing the household.
I have the following additional commitments:
Church
School
Volunteer work (boards, charities, committees, etc.)
Children’s activities
Classes
Other

2. As a general rule I can count on _____ hours of free time a day.

3. I usually spend those unscheduled hours in the following ways:

4. To find time to prepare for Christmas I usually take time from:

Exercise 2: Examining the Work of Christmas
This exercise will help you gain a more objective view of all the holiday
responsibilities you may be adding to your everyday schedule.

1. Look at the following list of typical holiday responsibilities and place a
check by the ones that you were primarily responsible for last year.
Making up a gift list Getting the tree
Christmas shopping Decorating the tree
Making gifts Outside decorations
Wrapping gifts Hosting parties
Mailing gifts Preparing company meals
Writing cards Helping with school activities
Making cards Planning family gatherings
Helping out at church Making Christmas dinner
Holiday baking Extra grocery shopping
Home decorations Making travel arrangements
Sewing clothes Packing
Special holiday cleaning Preparing for houseguests
Advent preparations Other

2. Add any tasks that we have overlooked.

3. Spend some time remembering how you felt last Christmas as you were doing
each of the chores that you checked. Put a star by the ones that you actually
enjoyed.

4. Take a piece of paper and write down the tasks from the above list that you
did not enjoy doing last year. Beside each one, write down a few words that
describe the reason(s) for your dissatisfaction. Here are some common reasons:
Not enough time
Not enough money
Not enough family support
Not enough help
Don’t enjoy this kind of activity
Don’t value this kind of activity
My performance didn’t measure up to my expectations
Wasn’t creative enough

Completing these exercises should give you a better idea of how much time you
have available for holiday projects, how much you attempt to do each Christmas,
and how you feel about those tasks.

The Christmas Pledge

Believing in the beauty and simplicity of Christmas, I commit myself to the
following:
1. To remember those people who truly need my gifts
2. To express my love for family and friends in more direct ways than presents
3. To rededicate myself to the spiritual growth of my family
4. To examine my holiday activities in light of the true spirit of Christmas
5. To initiate one act of peacemaking within my circle of family and friends

The material presented here was taken from the book Unplug The Christmas Machine
by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli published by William Morrow and
Company, Inc.

What?! Change Christmas?! . . . Can I?

July 24, 2013

Was Christmas 2012 everything you hoped it would be? Did you do something that once was fun but turned out to be more trouble than it was worth? Has your family situation changed so that the Christmas celebrations that you once knew are no longer practical or even possible?

My family loves Christmas and love celebrating Christmas. If I had my way we would live in a house with a large living room and dining room decorated with lots of Christmas greens and lights. A large Christmas tree would stand near the fireplace. Guess what! We don’t have a large house or even a large living room. A small apartment-size tree makes our cramped living room even smaller. At this time decorating a large tree is not possible for us, but we don’t dwell on what we can’t have. Instead we gather together as a family and together decorate our tree and enjoy what we did all season long.

When my oldest daughter was younger (she’s 18 now) we set aside one Saturday in December to bake cookies. Everyone in the family picked their favorite cookies (there were only 5 of us then), and we baked. Each child helped me make their favorite cookies. By the end of the day we made double batches of at least 6 or 7 different kinds of cookies. As our family grew (there are 9 of us now) that day became a chore instead of fun. I began dreading baking day. Two years ago I decided we needed to change this tradition a little. We put together a list of cookies we wanted for Christmas. We still made 5 or 6 different kinds of cookies, but we changed how we did them. My daughter loves Choco-Mint Snowtops. She made them during the week while I was at work. We also cut down the amount of cookies we made from 2 batches to just 1 batch. One last change we made was to use … oh, horrors … say it ain’t so … refrigerated, store-bought cookie dough. Now the day that became a dreaded tradition is fun again.
About 3 years ago we decided that we wanted to make our Christmas breakfast a special meal to look forward to in addition to our Christmas dinner. We looked at recipes for breakfast casseroles. My wife made sure they didn’t have a bread base. She doesn’t care for them. We found 2 recipes that looked delicious. The first time we made 1 of each. The next year, since we knew which one we preferred, we made just 1 recipe. That’s one of our newest family Christmas traditions.

For us Christmas is more than music, lights, presents, and food. It is remembering the reason for the season, Jesus, whose birthday we celebrate every Christmas. Several years ago we started gathering a number of advent books to read during Advent. 3 of the books are stories of characters, children, who may have played a part in the Christmas story. They are fiction stories, but we enjoy the stories seeing how the events in the lives of the children in the stories intertwine with the characters we all know of the Biblical Christmas story. The fourth book contains inspirational readings, passages of the Bible to read, and songs to sing as we anticipate and prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus our Savior. This is another family tradition that our children look forward to each Christmas season.

These are just some of the ways our Christmas celebration has changed over the years. What about your Christmas traditions? I would love to hear about your Christmas traditions that changed over the years. Perhaps you no longer use them in your celebrations. Perhaps you added them to enhance your enjoyment of Christmas. Whatever they are I’d love to hear about them. Perhaps I can add them to our Christmas celebration.

Starting next month I’ll be sharing a series of blogs called How to Have the Christmas You Always Wanted based on the book/seminar series Uplug the Christmas Machine by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli. You won’t want to miss this series. Invite someone read them with you.

Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole
1 lb ground sausage ( “hot” or “sage” flavored)
¼ cup chopped onions
2 ½ cups frozen cubed hash brown potatoes
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
8 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese (2 cups)
1 ¾ cups milk
1 cup baking mix
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1. Cook sausage and onion in large frying pan over medium-high
heat for 5 minutes or until meat crumbles.
2. Stir in hash browns, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until sausage
is no longer pink and hash browns are lightly browned.
3. Drain mixture well on paper towels.
4. Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 13×9-inch baking dish.
5. A stoneware baking dish works really well.
6. Stir together the lightly beaten eggs, shredded cheese, milk,
baking mix, salt, and pepper.
7. Pour evenly over sausage/hashbrown mixture.
8. Stir well.
9. Cover and chill for 8 hours.
10. Bake covered with foil at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
11. Uncover and bake 10 to 15 minutes or until a wooden pick
inserted in the middle comes out clean.
12. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes.
13. You can also keep the casserole warm until you are ready to eat
by covering it with foil and putting it in a 200 degree oven.
14. Optional toppings: sour cream, favorite sauce of your choice
(picante, hot sauce). You can also garnish it with parsley.

Christmas in Italy – part 1

May 25, 2013

nativity sceneItaly enjoys a wide range of weather conditions during the Christmas season. In southern Italy Christmas is warm and sunny. In Rome, Christmas tends to be chilly and damp, almost Spring-like. In the mountain regions of northern Italy, Christmases are white with a lot of snow, ice, and cold temperatures.

Preparations for Christmas begin in December. People around Sicily also enjoy puppet shows with hand-carved puppets performing fairy tale stories and enacting legendary battle scenes. Storekeepers decorate their shops with lights and greenery. Families visit vibrant Christmas markets looking for presents, goodies, and new figures to add to the home manger scene. In the schools children put on plays, give recitals, and make decorations. People begin visiting friends and family bringing gifts, sharing good food, and visiting as many magnificent nativity displays as possible.

On December 6 many Italians celebrate the feast day of San Nicola (St. Nicholas). All along the Adriatic coast, children anxiously await the visit of the saint with his gifts and goodies he brings.

On December 13 the people of Sicily celebrate the feast day of Santa Lucia (St. Lucy). Tradition says that, on the eve of her day, Lucia travels the countryside accompanied by a donkey carrying baskets loaded with gifts for those she visits. Children leave their shoes on the doorstep along with food for the donkey. Lucia then fills the shoes with presents. On the morning of St. Lucia’s day, a child, usually the oldest daughter of the family, dresses up as Lucia and serves the family breakfast in bed.

The Christmas season really starts in Italy with Christmas Novena. This is a nine-day period of spiritual preparation ending Christmas Eve marked by attending church services.

Christmas Eve is spent with family and for making final preparations for Christmas day. They may enjoy the sights and sounds of Christmas and the smells of the Christmas markets. Some Italians attend midnight Christmas Eve services at their local churches. In Cortina D’Apezzo, a town in northern Italy, families gather to watch the Alpine guides ski down the mountain carrying flaming torches.

Christmas Day arrives with the pealing of hundreds of church bells. The tradition of ringing church bells at Christmas is thought to have begun nearly 1,600 years ago by Bishop Paulinas of Nola. Families spend the day together exchanging gifts, playing games, telling stories, and feasting.

On December 26 a number of Italians celebrate St. Stephen’s Day. Once a day of religious devotion St Stephen’s Day is now spent relaxing or visiting friends and family.

As Christianity spread in Italy in times past the Christmas season was extended to January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. Cities and towns host Epiphany parades, and people sing songs honoring the three kings.

The following recipe is a favorite at Christmastime in Italy.

Almond Macaroons

1 can (8 ounces) almond paste, cut in pieces
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 egg whites
Pine nuts

Combine almond paste, sugar, and egg whites in a bowl and work with a spoon until smooth. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheets lined with unglazed paper. Top with pine nuts. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit about 12 minutes, or until delicately browned. Cool slightly, then remove cookies to racks to cool. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

Thinking of Food at Christmas

August 25, 2012

When I start thinking about Christmas I usually start thinking of good food, the good food I’ve had at Christmases past, and the good food I anticipate having at the coming Christmas.

Every Christmas, when I was growing up, my family and as many of my aunts, uncles, and cousins who could make it went to my grandparents’ house for Christmas dinner.  That was one crowded house.  Imagine about 30 or more people in a 3-room house and you’ve got Christmas day at my grandparent’s house.  There were at least 2 turkeys filling the house with their scrumptious aroma,  pans of hot baking powder biscuits,  huge pots of turkey gravy with baking powder biscuits floating inside, large bowls of mashed potatoes, and apple pies and berry pies covering the tops of the washer and dryer.  I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

It’s different now.  We aren’t able to get back home for Christmas as often as I’d like so we’ve come up with some food traditions of our own.  When the family was smaller we made dozens of cookies making sure we made cookies requested by each member of the family.  Now that my family is so large, it is impractical and too time consuming to make all those cookies.  So we cut down on cookie making and decided to have a special breakfast dish and a couple of pies.  One of our favorite Christmas cookies (anytime really) is Peanut Butter Kiss cookies (recipe below).  We make them a couple of weeks before Christmas, and if we don’t freeze some they don’t last until Christmas.  For breakfast Christmas day we enjoy a savory Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole (recipe below).  Several of our children request this tasty dish every year.  For several years now we’ve made at least one new recipe part of our Christmas celebration.  This year we may try a pie recipe.  The Black Forest Pie recipe shown below sounds so good I may have to test the recipe before Christmas.

Well I hope you enjoyed my reminiscences about Christmas foods.  Next month I hope to get back to Christmas customs around the world.  Christmas blessings to you.

 

PEANUT BUTTER KISS COOKIES

1 ¾ cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 egg
2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Combine ingredients. Roll into balls, roll balls in sugar. Bake on cookie sheet at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Top with chocolate Kiss immediately upon removal from oven.

 

Hashbrown Breakfast Casserole 

1 lb ground sausage ( “hot” or “sage” flavored)

¼ cup chopped onions

2 ½ cups frozen cubed hash brown potatoes

5 large eggs, lightly beaten

8 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese (2 cups)

1 ¾ cups milk

1 cup baking mix

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

1. Cook sausage and onion in large frying pan over medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until meat crumbles.

2. Stir in hash browns, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes or until sausage is no longer pink and hash browns are lightly browned.

3. Drain mixture well on paper towels.

4. Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 13×9-inch baking dish.

5. A stoneware baking dish works really well.

6. Stir together the lightly beaten eggs, shredded cheese, milk, baking mix, salt, and pepper.

7. Pour evenly over sausage/hashbrown mixture.

8. Stir well.

9. Cover and chill for 8 hours.

10. Bake covered with foil at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

11. Uncover and bake 10 to 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

12. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes.

13. You can also keep the casserole warm until you are ready to eat by covering it with foil and putting it in a 200 degree oven.

14. Optional toppings: sour cream, favorite sauce of your choice (picante, hot sauce). You can also garnish it with parsley.

 

Black Forest Pie

4 (1 ounce) baking chocolate squares, broken into pieces

1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon almond extract

1 ½ cups frozen whipped topping, thawed

1 (9 inch) prepared pie crust

1 (21 ounce) can cherry pie filling, chilled

In a large saucepan, combine chocolate pieces and sweetened condensed milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in almond extract. Pour mixture into a large bowl and allow to cool completely in the refrigerator. Beat cooled mixture until smooth. Fold the whipped topping into the chocolate mixture. Pour into the prepared pie crust. Refrigerate 4-5 hours or until set. Before serving, pour cherry pie filling over pie. Refrigerate leftover pie.

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