Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Recipe with a history! My mother's famous maple fudge

vintage card from my collection
 Yankee magazine has had for years a feature called "Recipe With a History", and I am borrowing their title for this post.  This truly is a family recipe with a history.

I shared this post on my Christmas blog some time ago, but I realize that not all of my readers visit both blogs, so I share it again here for those who may have missed it or who may be new.

Today I thought I'd share a family heirloom recipe.  However, it's a recipe I can't exactly recommend that you try -- unless you are the sort who loves a challenge and doesn't mind wasting some very expensive ingredients.

My mother was locally famous for this creamy maple fudge. All during my growing-up years, she made batch after batch of it at Christmas time. When she first perfected the recipe, she often made pounds of this fudge for the Methodist church's Christmas fair, where it was in great demand.   In later years the fudge production was for the benefit of family and friends, some of whom expected to receive maple fudge every year and would have been cruelly disappointed not to receive it.  It has a true maple flavor and a creamy texture and should be cut in tiny pieces around an inch square because it is very rich. 

My mother had been given the recipe by a neighbor lady.  Years ago I scanned the recipe to include in a Christmas memory book for my kids, so I have it in my mother's printing, right out of her Christmas notebook.
 
Over the years, many people asked my mother for the recipe, and she happily shared it. However, it was a very tricky recipe and no matter how good a cook she gave the recipe to, the fudge would seldom come out right. Boiling, candy thermometers, cooling to the exact right point and then what seemed to be hours of beating were all involved in the proper preparation of this delicacy. Yes, it was delicious, and it certainly was a triumph to be able to produce something so difficult that no other living woman (other than the neighbor lady who gave her the recipe) had been able to do. But it always looked like a lot of trouble to me! My siblings and I used to enjoy scraping the fudge kettle, but none of us had much interest in learning to make the candy ourselves.

My mother has passed on now, and the secret of the maple fudge has gone with her. Even though I have the recipe, I can't imagine going to that much trouble. I will share it here, just for old time's sake. But I make no guarantees!

MAPLE FUDGE

2 cups dark maple syrup
5 cups white sugar
2 cups cream

Mix together in heavy pan. Cook (keeping a steady boil) to 238º on candy thermometer. Cool to lukewarm. Beat until mixture loses gloss. Add (coarsely chopped) walnuts and pour quickly into a buttered roasting pan (13x9-inch pan works fine). Cut immediately into small squares.

If you try this fudge and it comes out well, pat yourself on the back. You've achieved something very few cooks have been able to do. If you try it and it doesn't work, don't blame me -- I did warn you! (Incidentally, failed fudge may work well as a sauce over ice cream.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A little tradition in the making

 ... and a few other Christmasy preparations.

Last Saturday we took three of our grandchildren out for brunch and some shopping for their parents and baby sister.  We started this little tradition a few years back when we took them to a favorite shop on an evening before Christmas for ice cream sundaes.

from the first year, I think

Flags top off the sundaes
 We then went to a local McDonalds for supper -- yes, that was getting it a little backwards, but the shop with the ice cream closed early so we had to do supper and dessert in reverse order.

After that, we took them to a favorite shopping place where Mr. T and I enjoy going at Christmas time.

 
A walk over to see the waterfall is essential.  And then we took them to a local dollar store where they bought gifts that they later wrapped and smuggled under the Christmas tree to surprise their parents.

Last year we did the same outing, only we were able to switch things around and have supper first.

This year, because of our time constraints (we had a party to attend at supper time) we decided to take them out for brunch at a favorite diner, rather than the McDonalds/ice cream sundae route.  Then we visited the waterfall and a couple of shops prior to the shopping trip.  I am really not sure which they liked better -- fast food/ice cream sundaes, or the diner, where they chose lunch and Mr. T and I enjoyed omelets.  We will have to confer with them and their parents, but I suspect we may have messed with tradition and that it may be back to ice cream next year!

While at the dollar store, I found some great jars to package hot chocolate mix in -- nicer than these,

which are from a previous year.

I was also able to find some other components for a gift I wanted to make.

When we got home, Mr. T and another grandchild made some peppermint bark and also set up our lighted houses under the Christmas tree.
Peppermint bark is in the center of this cookie tray.  The chocolate cookies at the upper right are Sacher Torte cookies, which I baked some of this week.
The lighted houses in years gone by
That night I was able to finish a crocheted Christmas stocking I was making and also to start one of these Christmas star dishcloths:

And of course we have been continuing to bake.  Sacher Torte cookies, which I refer to above and which I baked yesterday and filled today, may be found at this link:
Fun and Festive Cookies.

Those are some of the Christmasy happenings in our world!

Monday, December 15, 2014

My "Christmas Cookie Exchange" Pinterest board


Photo from Taste of Home -- I am hoping to try these cookies today!
Today I would like to invite you all to visit my Christmas Cookie Exchange!.  Just a virtual cookie exchange, it's my Christmas Cookie Exchange Pinterest board.

Tomorrow I will post about a few more of my cookie pins over on my Christmas blog.  For today, I will just share a few of them here.

Jocelyn, over at Inside BruCrew Life, is one of the top bloggers of sweet recipes, in my opinion.  She is always baking up something new and different, and often has fun stories to share about her family or about how a particular recipe came to be.  Two of my cookie pins I'm sharing are from her blog:

Hot Cocoa 3 Musketeers Brownie Bites
Photo by Inside BruCrew Life

and

Cinnamon Caramel Cookies.
Photo from Inside BruCrew Life

If you like oatmeal cookies but they seem a bit plain for Christmas, go over to Kleinworth & Co. and check out Gina's Eggnog Oatmeal Cookies.  A delectable-sounding chewy oatmeal cookie with a glaze made from real eggnog -- they sound wonderful!

Just one more for today -- Peppermint Chocolate Shortbread Bites from Jenn at Clean & Scentsible.  This is one recipe I'm definitely going to try!

Photo from Clean & Scentsible
Have you tried any new cookie recipes this season? Which ones would you like to try from my Cookie Exchange board?  Please share in the comments!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Advent Bible study: The Road to Christmas, Week 2


I've just completed the second week of the Advent Bible study "The Road to Christmas" from Love God Greatly.  As I mentioned last week, the focus of the study is on some of the women who were included in the genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1.  This week's study deals with Rahab and then, later in the week, with Mary, the mother of Jesus.

I may have gotten something quite different out of this study than others, but I did find that it challenged me to greater obedience to the Lord.  In the verses which I SOAPed regarding Rahab (Joshua 6:17, 22-23, and 25), the city of Jericho was about to be destroyed.  Everyone in the city would die, all but one family.  This was the family of Rahab the harlot, who had hid the men Joshua sent to spy out the city ahead of time.  They agreed to spare Rahab and her family when the city was taken, and instructed her to bind a scarlet cord in the window of her house and to be sure all her family was there in the house with her.  As these verses describe, Joshua sent the spies to Rahab's house before the battle to bring her and her family out to a place of safety.

Here is the application I got from this passage:  The spies had spelled out exactly what Rahab had to do to be sure she and her family would be saved when the city was destroyed.   She needed to bring her family into the house with her, and she needed to bind the scarlet cord in the window. 

In the same way, God spells out exactly what we must do to be saved.  He then gives us explicit instructions for living the Christian life.  We must follow His directions, first to be sure of salvation and then to walk with Him.  Obedience is of utmost importance if we are to experience God's richest blessings!

And then Friday, I SOAPed verses from Luke 1 -- verses 34-38, detailing part of Mary's conversation with the Angel Gabriel.  He explained to this young girl that she had found favor with God and would become the mother of God's Son.  Mary's first response was a simple logistical question.  How could this possibly be?  The angel explained that this miraculous conception would be the work of God's Holy Spirit.  He then gave Mary the news that her aged, childless cousin Elisabeth was also miraculously pregnant.  He reminded Mary that nothing is impossible with God.

These answers:
1.  The Holy Spirit will do this;
2.  Nothing is impossible with God
were all that Mary needed.  Her swift response was: "I am the Lord's handmaid.  Be it unto me as you have said."

Here is how I applied these verses to my own life:  Mary's willing obedience, at such a young age, is such a rebuke to me!  So many times I question why things happen,  or I hold back from complete obedience.  I fail to see God's hand in my circumstances.

From Mary's response and from her song that follows in verses 46-55, we see that Mary knew God's Word well.  Her song is filled with Old Testament references and is reminiscent of Hannah's song in 1 Samuel. 

Unlike Mary, I am blessed to have all of God's Word at my fingertips.  Like Mary, I have much of it hidden in my heart.   God is using His Word to help me grow continually in my understanding of His character and attributes.  And so, I really have no reason not to have a heart of willing obedience similar to Mary's.  I know God would have me to do so -- and I know He will enable me to do so!

Are you doing an Advent Bible study this December?  If so, please leave a comment and share some of what you are learning!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Gluten-free gingersnaps

cookie photo is from Pixabay
 It can be a real challenge to bake gluten-free Christmas cookies.  I try to avoid wheat -- and, though I have found I can eat it occasionally with no problem, I'm not likely to ever go back to just eating wheat whenever I want.  As I've mentioned before, going wheat-free not only helped some digestive issues I was having, but -- after a couple of months -- my hip pain went away completely and has never returned.  I was able to stop taking glucosamine which I'd been taking to help battle the joint pain.  This was pain that kept me from sleeping and would occasionally bring me to tears.  So, since I have a simple way to keep pain-free, I will continue consuming very little wheat.

All that to say, we love Christmas cookies in this house and bake most of them with regular flour.  I do like to make a few kinds that I can eat.  A couple of years ago, I found a gluten-free gingersnap recipe that we really like.  It is also relatively low in fat and contains no eggs.  Here is the recipe:

GLUTEN-FREE GINGERSNAPS
1/4 cup butter or margarine, room temperature
3 Tblsp. molasses
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 tsp. ginger
1-1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
2 Tblsp. water, if necessary
White or colored sugar for dipping -- we use red and green at Christmas

In a large bowl, beat butter, molasses, brown sugar and vanilla until well blended.
Sift together all of the remaining ingredients except for the water and the sugar for dipping.
Stir the sifted dry ingredients into the butter mixture, adding water if necessary to form a dough that can be shaped.  Cover and refrigerate for an hour or so.

Preheat oven to 325º.  Line a cookie sheet or two with parchment paper.  Form dough into 1-inch balls (recipe says 16; we got about 24).  Dip each ball in white or colored sugar and arrange them sugar-side up on the parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Flatten them slightly if you like with the bottom of a glass dipped in sugar, but Mr. T forgot that step and they came out just fine.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or just until the undersides of the cookies start to brown.  Let cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.  Store cooled cookies in an airtight container.

This is adapted from Wheat-Free Recipes & Menus, by Carol Fenster.

For more wonderful gluten-free baking recipes, check out The Baking Beauties.  Jeanine has loads of great ideas, including an entire e-book of Christmas cookies.  Her gluten-free whipped shortbread is fabulous!

Another quick thought for baking gluten-free is that Bob's Red Mill has come out with a 1-to-1 baking flour that may be used cup for cup instead of regular flour.  The xanthan gum is included in the blend.  In other words, you may take your old favorite Christmas cookie recipes and just substitute Bob's Red Mill 1-to-1 for the all-purpose flour.  Sounds too good to be true!  But we did buy some and I am going to try it!

Friday, December 12, 2014

My Kitchen Gifts Pinterest board, Part 2

Some of my kitchen gifts in the making!
 I just did a post concerning this board, my Kitchen Gifts Pinterest board, over at my Christmas blog, Mrs. T's Christmas Kitchen.  (The link is in the sidebar.)  This post here at my kitchen table contains different links, so you will want to check them both out!


Let's start with this Cranberry Orange Chocolate Chip Bread with Printable Wrapper from Yellow Bliss Road.

Photo from Yellow Bliss Road
Sounds like a fantastic combination of flavors, and the printable wrapper (not shown in this picture, but it's on my Pinterest board) makes it so pretty for gift giving!
 Don't these Scotchmallows from Project Queen look delicious?
Photo from Projectqueen.org
These handmade Cinnamon Sugar Packets from Positively Splendid are so unique and pretty and would make fun additions to tuck in a gift basket.
Photo from Smart School House via Positively Splendid
Here is a very fun idea for giving a sugar cookie mix!  Check out these Sugar Cookie Sacks from Celebrate Creativity.  I love these!
Photo from CelebrateCreativity.com
 If you are concerned that your neighbors might be on special diets or you are not sure what they like, this simmering spice for neighbor gifts from Dandee Designs might be a great solution:
Photo by Dandee Designs
Next up, some fun ways to package kitchen gifts, especially cookies.  If you click on these bhg links, you will find you can also access the cookie recipes for the cookies pictured with the packaging.
This Decorated Cookie Can is so cute!
Photo from bhg.com

Then lastly there is this festive holiday box.  Hope you've found some great inspiration from these pins!
Photo by bhg.com

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Baking report for early December


Eggnog Logs (photo from Taste of Home)
Here's a little update and some links for the cookies Mr. T has been baking.

So far he has made:

Eggnog Log Cookies
Whipped Shortbread -- so yummy
Whipped Shortbread Cookies
one of last year's cookie trays -- the little round chocolate ones in the top point are chocolate spritz
Chocolate Spritz

He also made Gingersnaps, which are a pretty common recipe that most people have, so I won't share one.  But while they were baking I saw a recipe in Taste of Home for

Gingersnap Coconut Creams

and decided to sandwich some of the baked gingersnaps together with the coconut cream filling in that recipe.
photo from Taste of Home
I think by looking at her recipe that her cookies are softer (they are a drop cookie), where ours are more crisp.  But after being stored in a tin for a day or two, they make a very nice sandwich cookie.  The ginger and coconut flavors are very good together.

That's the update for now!