Posts Tagged ‘food’

Our Silver Christmas

August 25, 2016

TIMG_20131129_211658_753his year we experienced a special celebration at our house.  It was my wife and my 25th anniversary.  It made me stop and think about the 25 Christmases that we experienced as a family.

Our first Christmas we did not have much money.  We got a Christmas tree, a star to top it, lights, and some garland; but we did not have ornaments.  My wife had some books with bead patterns for Christmas ornaments.  We must have made several dozen ornaments, bells, stars, ball ornaments filled with figures.  Many of these ornaments we still have and still put on our trees.

A few years later we had some little ones to enjoy our Christmas trees.  By this time we had some store-bought ornaments hanging from the branches.  We also had a train running around the tree.

Then came a major move from the Gulf states to the upper Midwest.  We no longer had room for the train.  The tall trees did not fit either.  We started using a 4-foot tree set on an end table.  The star and the bead ornaments were still there, and more children were enjoying Christmas with us.  We finally bought a slim 6-foot tree and started decorating the tree with color-themes.  Our favorites color themes are red and silver, blue and silver, and purple and silver.

Many of our Christmas traditions were set during this time.  Every year we set up our tree the day after Thanksgiving with all the children helping decorate.  We usually take a Saturday in December to make several kinds of cookies.  The family decides on 3 or 4 kinds of cookies to make. (At one time we let every child choose a cookie recipe to make on that day; but as more children arrived, cookie making day became a chore instead of being enjoyable so we cut down on the number of cookie choices.)  Every Christmas morning we have a hashbrown breakfast casserole.  Last year when my wife and I talked about doing something else for Christmas breakfast the children spoke up and made us know that they wanted the traditional hashbrown casserole.  Unlike many families who have turkey with all the fixings for Christmas dinner, we have an extra-cheesy, extra meaty lasagna.  It sure simplifies the clean up.

Then came another move, not so far this time.  Now we are able to comfortably set up two Christmas trees.  We decorate one tree with a color-theme and the other with our favorite ornaments.  The train has also reappeared.

The next 25 years will be full of surprises.  As the children grow and move on to make families of their own, I am sure we will be dropping some traditions and adding new ones.  The trees will lose some ornaments and gain others.  But, oh, the fun we will have getting there.

Merry Christmas!


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.

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Joy To The World

June 27, 2016

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven and nature sing,
And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.

In the days of Isaac Watts, the author of this hymn, there was in England extreme prejudice against newly-composed hymns.  Congregations were strictly devoted to singing the Psalms in worship.  So Watts reworked certain Psalms in freer and more spontaneous versions.  In 1719, he published Psalms of David, Imitated in the Language of the New Testament, creating a new style of church music.

“Joy to the World” is based on Psalm 98, which tells of the Messiah’s coming and kingdom.  The reader may be able to see Watts’s first stanza in Psalm 98:2-3—and the arrival of a victorious King.  The second stanza is drawn from verses 4-8—through the praise of all creation.  The fourth stanza is seen in verse 9 –God’s righteous and loving reign.

Watts strayed a little from Psalm 98 when he wrote the third stanza to this hymn—“No more let sins and sorrows grow/Nor thorns infest the ground.”  This seems to be a direct command from the divine King Himself.  Then Watts returns to the psalm, imitating the last sentence in verse 3—“He comes to make His blessings flow/Far as the curse is found.”

Set to a tune by the greatest of all English composers, George Friedrich Handel, “Joy to the World” can powerfully fill the heart with the joy of Christ’s coming, especially when sung standing with a congregation on Christmas Eve!

– From the book The Carols We Love by Daniel Partner, Published by Barbour Publishing, Inc


Heavenly Mix

Ingredients

2 cups butter
2 cups white sugar
2 cups corn syrup
1 (17.5 ounce) package crispy corn and rice square cereal
1 (17.5 ounce) package crispy rice cereal squares
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
1 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Directions

  1. In a large bowl or disposable roasting pan, toss together the corn and rice cereal, rice cereal, almonds and coconut.
  2. Combine the butter, sugar and corn syrup in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, continue to cook for 3 minutes. Pour over the cereals, using a large wooden spoon to stir the mixture until evenly coated. Spread out on a cookie sheet to cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Christmas in Ireland

May 25, 2016

irish-christmas-cakeChristmas in Ireland, with all its religious overtones, is a time for family.  The religious nature of an Irish Christmas begins with Advent.  Starting four Sundays before Christmas Advent is a time to ponder the birth of Christ and get ready for the celebration of His birth.  It is a time for confession of sins and for expressing sorrow for wrongdoing.  One must be holy when expecting a holy Visitor.

Much must be done to prepare for Christmas.  Houses must have a thorough cleaning.  The grounds and all out-buildings get a good tidying also.  Christmas cards are sent to neighbors, friends, and family members.  Most of these cards have religious themes but Santa Claus, reindeer, and snowy landscapes may also be seen.

Christmas trees did not become a regular part of Christmas decorating until the 1960s.  Some people put their trees up the first week of December while others wait until Christmas Eve.  Electric lights, tinsel and a variety of purchased and homemade ornaments adorn each tree.

Even churches get in the spirit of the season by decorating the pillars and the altar with garlands of holly leaves.  A nativity scene is also part of every church’s display usually found near the altar, in the back of the church, or outside in front of the church.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Eve day final preparations are made for the Christmas celebration.  As expected, unmarried children, no matter their age or how far away they live, arrive at their parents’ house.  Most, if not all, Christmas shopping is done; but many shops stay open later than normal for those last-minute shoppers.  The house fills with glorious odors as food preparation begins in earnest.  The family goes through the house giving it a final tidying before the celebration begins.  Some of the more religious families fast on Christmas Eve until dinner when a simple meal of fish and potatoes is served.

Many families wait until Christmas Eve to put up their Christmas tree.  Candles are placed in the windows.  For many the Christmas season is about to begin, with the lighting of the candles.  Traditionally the main candle is lit by either the youngest child in the family or a daughter named Mary.  Some children hang their stockings before the family goes to Midnight Mass; others wait until after mass.  After returning from mass the children go to bed.  After the children fall asleep the parents place the children’s gifts under the tree or around the room often arranged in piles on chairs with the child’s name on the chair.

Christmas morning children awaken and rush to see what Santa Claus has left for them.  Most gifts are practical, but as Irish affluence increases the gifts become less practical.  Some who did not go to Midnight Mass, and some who did, attend “First Light” Mass at either 6:00 AM or 8:00 AM.  After mass the men and boys enjoy games of hurling (a game similar to field hockey), Gaelic football (a game like soccer), shooting competitions, and hunting rabbits with greyhounds.

The women prepare the Christmas feast and deliver gift baskets to less fortunate neighbors filled with the ingredients for a “proper” Christmas dinner.  The Christmas table is covered with a linen or lace tablecloth and set with the best china, polished silver, and cut-glass stemware.  The traditional Christmas dinner may consists of roast goose or turkey (often served with ham) stuffed potatoes heavily seasoned with black pepper, mashed or roasted potatoes with gravy, and one or two vegetable dishes.  Desserts may include Christmas cake, Christmas puddings such as bread pudding or plum pudding, mincemeat pies or tarts, sherry trifle, soda scones, fairy cake, and cookies.

After the Christmas feast families stay home relaxing, talking, singing and playing musical instruments, and telling stories.  Irish history was once passed from one generation to the next via stories told at family gatherings like Christmas.  Therefore, it is not surprising that some of these stories are of family ancestry, the famine, Irish heroes and villains, the countryside, as well as the Nativity.

Nollaig Shona Duit  (Merry Christmas!)

For more information about the Irish Christmas season visit CustomsOfChristmas.com.

Christmas Recipes from Ireland

February 25, 2016

I have been doing some reading on Christmas traditions from Ireland.  Here are some recipes that may be used in many Irish Christmas dinners.  Enjoy!

Christmas Roast Turkey with Sage and Onion Stuffing Recipe

Remove the turkey from the fridge several hours before cooking as it must be at room temperature before cooking to prevent the turkey drying out in the oven.

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1lb/450g pork sausage meat
  • 2 level tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
  • 2 level tbsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 oz/25g fresh white breadcrumbs
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 14lb/6.3kg oven-ready turkey
  • 4oz/110g soft butter
  • 8oz/225g streaky bacon, thinly sliced
  • 1¼ pints/1 liter poultry stock
  • 2 tbsp all purpose/plain flour
  • ¼ pint/150 ml Port
  • 2 tbsp redcurrant jelly
  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook Time: 280 minutes
  • Total Time: 325 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 8

Preparation

Heat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7

  • Prepare the stuffing: In a large bowl mix together the onion, pork sausage meat, herbs, breadcrumbs and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  • Slip your fingers under the skin at the neck end and loosen to create a cavity over the breast. Stuff the neck end with the onion and sage stuffing up to the breast. Tuck the loose skin underneath and secure with a fine metal skewer.
  • Smear the soft butter evenly over the breast and legs of the turkey. Lay thin slices of bacon neatly across the breast and top surface of the legs. Sprinkle the whole turkey liberally with salt and pepper.
  • Lay two large sheets of aluminum foil over a roasting tin large enough to hold the bird. Place the bird back down and fold the foil loosely over the bird leaving a roomy gap between the bird and the foil to allow steam to escape.
  • Roast in the preheated oven for 40 minutes then lower the temperature to 325°F/160°C/Gas 3 and cook for 3½ hours basting from time to time.
  • Remove the turkey from the oven, raise the temperature to 220°C/425°F/Gas 7. Fold back the foil on the turkey, remove the bacon and pour any juices into a jug or bowl. Return the turkey to the oven and cook for a further 30 mins to crisp the skin.
  • Remove from the oven and check the temperature with a meat thermometer placed into the thickest past of the thigh, the turkey is cooked if the temperature is 175°F/80°C. If you don’t have a thermometer the turkey is cooked if the juices run clear when the thickest part of the thigh is pierced with a small sharp knife. If the juices are pink return to the oven and cook until they run clear. When cooked, leave the turkey to rest for 30 minutes wrapped loosely with fresh foil before carving. Meanwhile make the gravy.
  • Pour all the juices from the roasting tin into the bowl or jug with the juices saved from the foil. Spoon off all the fat which will float to the surface and discard. Place the roasting tin on a high heat on the stove top, add the flour and stir to scrape up all the sediment from the tin. Cook for one minute. Pour in the port and stir well then add the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the turkey juices, bring back to the boil and cook for a further 3 minutes. Add the redcurrant jelly stir until dissolved then strain into a gravy boat or serving jug.

Irish Christmas Cake

Ingredients
* 2 c. butter
* 2 c. sugar
* 8 well-beaten large eggs
* 1/2 c. brandy, optional
* 1 tbsp. rose water, optional
* 1 tsp orange extract
* 4 c. flour
* 2 tsp ground allspice
* 1 tsp salt
* 1/2 c. ground almonds
* 3/4 c. whole almonds
* 1 pkt (15-ounce.) raisins
* 3 c. currants
* 3/4 c. candied cherries
* 1/4 c. minced lemon peel
* 1/2 c. minced orange peel (candied peels)

Directions
* Cream butter and sugar; add in Large eggs, brandy, rose water and orange extract and beat till fluffy. Sift flour, all spice and salt. Stir in ground almonds and stir flour mix into creamed mix. Stir in whole almonds, fruits and peels. Grease a 19-inch springform (tube-type) pan and place on baking sheet. Pour batter into pan and bake at 300 degrees for 2 to 2 1/2 hrs.

* Cold in pan on rack. Remove sides from pan and cold cake on rack. Frost with almond paste as follows. Place of an 8-ounce. can of almond paste in layers of waxed paper and roll to 1/8- inch thick. Press pcs against side of half the cake, repeat with second half of can. Roll another 8-ounce. can of almond paste to a 10-inch circle, 1/8-inch thick, cut center away and place circle on top of cake. pat sides and top together. Finally, frost with Royal Icing. Make icing by combining 2 egg whites at room temperature, a lb. package of powdered sugar,1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar and 1 teaspoon vanilla in a small mixer bowl. Beat till very stiff.  Frost cake immediately because frosting gets very hard. Wrap cake well in tightly covered wrapping or possibly in container.

View this recipe online at http://cookeatshare.com/recipes/irish-christmas-cake-306703?ref=mail

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.

Count your blessings this Christmas

December 14, 2014

It recently came to my attention how blessed my family and I are.  I do not know why I did not particularly notice it before.  I mean God has blessed us and is blessing us daily, but this year it finally hit me how blessed we are.

Two years ago at this time I was out of a job.  God blessed me with a job for Christmas.  I had an hour and twenty minute commute.  God blessed us with a house only fifteen minutes away from my job.

Now the house we are staying in is being sold.  God blessed us with another house more affordable than the last.  What a blessing!

We are a large family, my wife and I and our seven children.  It takes a lot to feed everyone.  We were blessed to have several organizations offer to bring food stuffs.  One of them even brought presents for the family.  What another blessing!  God is so good to us.

This year we are counting our blessings.  Why not count your blessings this year.  Whether you have a lot of presents under your Christmas tree or just a few, a lot of food on your table or just enough for those around it, count your blessings.  You may find that you are blessed beyond your wildest dreams.

Merry Christmas!

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.

 

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