Wow, it has sure been awhile since I posted here. Things have been going crazy ever since Thanksgiving, and it’s long past time for me to check in and report on the Christmas cooking that went on around my house. I hope anyone who happens to be reading this had a nice Christmas!
Cook & Tell is my favorite cooking newsletter and a fantastic source of new and different recipes. As usual, I used my Dec C&T’s a lot through the holiday season. There were many occasions to cook and tell, from tea parties to Christmas dinner, from refreshments after caroling to a New Years’ open house. If anyone is interested in checking out Cook & Tell for themselves, I have a link here on my blog. Back issues are still available, and a year’s subscription is $20. You’ll find the details on the C&T site.
My husband had 2 of his wisdom teeth out in early December, which meant soft foods for awhile -- not for as long as the oral surgeon suggested, but for awhile anyway! . One of my early “comfort food” meals for him as he survived on a soft diet was the Shepherd’s Pie from Dec. 98. Very tasty! Another thing I tried in that time frame was the Avocado Omelet from Dec 01. We loved it!
I tried a couple of new cookie recipes this year in addition to some of our family’s old favorites. One such was the Peppermint Snowballs from Dec 98. I made them round rather than flat and didn’t bother to roll them in confectioners sugar (it seemed unnecessary to me) -- just drizzled the glaze and sprinkled with the crushed candies. Oh, are those good! Have any of you tried the Celestial Seasonings holiday tea called Candy Cane Lane? Wish I had bought more -- that stuff is so addictive. It’s green tea with peppermint and a touch of vanilla -- actually does have a “candy cane” flavor, much more so than regular peppermint tea. Anyway, the Peppermint Snowballs have much the same flavor. I love them and will make them a regular in my Christmas baking.
Another cookie recipe I tried from another source also became an instant favorite. I found them in this year’s Country Woman Christmas magazine. They are a sort of a chocolate crinkle cookie, but when they come out of the oven you top each one with an Andes mint, wait a minute or two and swirl the melted mint into an icing. Wonderful! The icing sets and hardens into a smooth chocolate-mint glaze that holds up just fine in the freezer.
Old favorites I made this year were Sacher Torte cookies, Whipped Shortbread, Eggnog Logs, Chocolate Spritz, and Gingersnaps. I also tried another new one -- a Lime Spritz recipe (actually can be made with any flavor) made with lime jello, from a Taste of Home. Interestingly, I had several requests for this recipe from those who tasted it. It livened up my cookie plates -- I used the tree disc of the cookie press. Wreaths would be nice too.
I also did Christmas cookie baking with the grandkids... and their moms. I’m not yet brave enough to take all three of them all by myself. (And by the end of May there’ll be a fourth.) We all had such fun! We’re thinking we may try it again with Valentine cookies.
Of course, I made Double-Decker P.B. Fudge from Dec 96 (aka Heavenly Delight in our family). Made a batch for nibbling and gifting, then later made a double batchfor gifts. That is one terrific recipe. It never fails!
Special Holiday Fudge (Dec 88) also is one that I always make. Just as good as ever! This one, with its nuts, raisins, almond and orange flavoring, really tastes like Christmas to me.
I tried a new fudge recipe this year called Four-Chip Fudge (semisweet, milk choc., p.butter, and butterscotch). Oh, was that good, and the recipe made a LOT of fudge. I’m sure I’ll make it again, even though it wasn’t quite all that I hoped for, You see, when I saw the recipe in an old Taste of Home, I was hoping it might taste like some fudge a dear elderly lady used to make for our family. She never would share the recipe, even though she was otherwise a most generous soul, but she passed away some time ago. This recipe came close to tasting like her fudge -- but, as my friend Marilyn reminded me, Peggy’s fudge had streaks of peanut butter in it. We’re not sure if that was by design or if she just didn’t stir it in well enough. If anybody reading this recognizes the recipe, speak up! We would love to know how to make that fudge.
I took trays of cookies almost everywhere we were invited. For an open house at our pastor’s home, I also took along a couple of blue cheese logs (from a cheese ball recipe) rolled in toasted pecans. This is a recipe from Ken Haedrich’s book Home for the Holidays. My youngest daughter loved to make this in years gone by for different holiday events. Alas, she and her hubby did not come East this Christmas. But the cheese logs brought back some very nice memories.
Christmas Eve we had our “Christmas” with our local kids and the three grandchildren. Made our usual Christmas Eve Soup which I’ve been making probably close to 25 years. It’s just a simple potato soup (but made with cream) with carrots and celery which you garnish with shredded cheddar and crumbled bacon. This year we served cheese pizza alongside, as all the kids will eat that. My daughter-in-law brought a salad, and that rounded out our main course. My daughter brought a dessert -- a chocolate peanut butter trifle -- and I made a gingerbread trifle. Both recipes were from Quick Cooking. Of course I also put out a plate of cookies and fudge.
For Christmas dinner, we ate with my folks after church. They really don’t cook much these days, but they heated up a purchased chicken pie and some frozen peas and Dad cooked a squash. I brought a plate of ham, some mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. For dessert we had leftover gingerbread trifle and -- what else? -- the inevitable cookies and fudge.
Five other ladies and I have been getting together for a lunchtime “tea party” each month for almost a year now. Fun! We take turns hosting the group, which includes two little children as well. For December, we decided that a progressive tea party was in order, so we could all see one another’s decorations. One of the group had family visiting from Scotland, so her mom was able to join in too. At the last house -- ours -- the spouses joined us for dessert. I made a caramel pecan pie from a Gooseberry Patch Christmas book, a cherry mousse pie from an old Taste of Home, and of course the good old tray of cookies and fudge. I also made a wonderful drink from C&T -- a delicious Mulled Cranberry Orange Juice from Dec 98. That went over very well and smelled and tasted so festive and warming. I’ll be making that again before the winter is over! I also tried something very different -- a recipe called Effortless Eggnog from a recent Taste of Home. It contains no eggs, just French Vanilla instant pudding mix, milk, vanilla and spices. What a great recipe! Everyone loved it. It tastes completely “real”, yet there’s no worry about raw eggs or the fuss of trying to cook the egg mixture.
This past Saturday we had friends over and served lasagna. I have a veggie lasagna recipe I cobbled together from a C&T recipe of years gone by and another recipe I had. This time I made it with Alfredo sauce rather than the spaghetti sauce I usually use. What a hit! Also served a regular meat lasagna, French bread (from Walmart’s bakery --really quite tasty and only $1 ) and a medley of roasted veggies -- mushrooms, zucchini, baby carrots, red & yellow peppers.
Tonight’s supper is Beef Barbecue from Dec 94. It’s sort of an Italian beef, made with a pot roast, dry Italian dressing mix (I make my own) and banana pepper rings. Quite a favorite. I’m serving it on Italian dinner rolls from the supermarket bakery, with coleslaw on the side. (The easiest cole slaw in the world is made like this: get a bag of coleslaw mix from the produce section and put as much of it as you want to use into a bowl. Add mayonnaise -- I like Hellman’s light -- until the mixture looks just a little bit too dry for your taste. Then dribble in some seasoned rice vinegar and mix until the coleslaw is as moist as you like it. That’s it! There’s some salt and sugar in the rice vinegar, and you’ll find that’s all the seasoning you’ll need. This good idea comes from the book Saving Dinner.)
A part of Christmas I always enjoy is sharing homemade goodies with others. As usual, again this year I spent time at my kitchen table packaging up treats to share. I usually try and make a bread or fruitcake in small loaves, to include with cookies, fudge, cookie mixes, etc. This year I made something new (to me) called Gift of the Magi bread. It did look jewel-like, containing bananas, cherries, and mandarin oranges, among other ingredients. I didn’t get to taste it myself, but it looked lovely and festive wrapped in brown paper with red ribbons, and I hope everyone enjoyed it.
You know, it occurs to me now that although this Christmas was different for me, and I didn’t feel as organized or ready as I often do, I may have done more cooking than usual -- and I definitely found more joy in doing so.