Friday, December 31, 2021

A tasty disaster!


Photo by Ashton at Something Swanky

One of the kinds of fudge that I really wanted to make this Christmas was some Salted Caramel Fudge.  I had written about this fudge in 2019 during Christmas in July on my Christmas blog.  You can read that post here: Salted Caramel Fudge.  I had found the recipe on the blog Something Swanky and have waited all this time to try it.  Looks good, don't you think?

So it was on my mental, if not my actual candy list for Christmas 2021.  If I had really been thinking, I would have had us make this fudge during our candy making day with the grandkids.  It's one of the easy fudge recipes that has you melting baking chips (white, in this case) with sweetened condensed milk (caramel flavored or dulce de leche in this case).  I had a can of the former in my pantry so that is what we used.

But this was after our candy making day, and Mr. T wanted to make something else from the candy list, so I suggested this easy sounding recipe.  As you see in the recipe if you follow the link, after melting the morsels and condensed milk together and spreading the mixture in a square pan, the next step is to melt either milk chocolate or dark chocolate morsels, spread them over the top, and then sprinkle on some sea salt.

And right there is where Mr. T ran into trouble.  He asked me if I thought he should chill the caramel layer or let it set for a time before adding the chocolate layer.  The recipe didn't say.  It had you seemingly going from one step directly to the other.  Well, I assumed there was probably a good reason for adding the chocolate layer right away ... namely, so that it would adhere well to the caramel layer and not flake off when the fudge was cut.  So I told him to go ahead and add it right away.

When he did, he was quite dismayed.  Rather than staying as an even layer on top of the caramel fudge, the chocolate (we had used dark chocolate) oozed down into it in a most uneven, and to his mind, unsightly way.  You can see a few of the remaining pieces and how they looked in the photo below.

When it was cooled and cut we found the fudge to be absolutely delicious.  However, he was still troubled by the way it looked.  

We usually put masking tape labels on our cookie and candy tins so we can easily locate the varieties we want for a specific use.  Imagine my surprise, then, when I later saw the way he had labeled the salted caramel fudge container:

This not only brought a chuckle to me, but it's been fun for others too.  On Monday night, we had our two oldest granddaughters over for our traditional "Christmas Eve" supper and gifts with them.  (This event hasn't taken place on the actual Christmas Eve for many years.)  Before they left that evening, we invited them to choose an array of cookies and fudge to take home with them.  They had liked the salted caramel fudge, so Mr. T brought in the tin so they could take what they wished.  I was busily hunting for plastic containers, so I didn't see this reaction, but I sure heard it as two laughing young voices chorused incredulously,  "Tasty Disaster Fudge?!?"

It may have a funny label, but it's a very delicious fudge.  Next time, he will let that first layer set before adding the chocolate.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

A favorite gift from this Christmas


One of my favorite gifts this Christmas was made by two of my granddaughters (Julia - 15 and Arielle - 7) with a bit of help from their mom.  I guess you would call this a luminary, or maybe a candle jar.  Whatever you call it, it is pretty!

Photo at top is not the best picture as it was taken with a flash.  However, I do love the reflected tree lights in the photo.  I took another with my Kindle so will try adding that in also to give you a closer look.   Ah yes, this looks better.

I also took a couple Kindle photos in the daylight to show the details better.

The girls also made these for their music teachers (Julia) and Sunday School teacher (Arielle).  It looks as if they decoupaged sheet music, cut to size, and with a snowflake shape cut out of it,  to a pint mason jar with (probably) Mod Podge.  I haven't asked for the crafting particulars, but they did say that their mom cut the snowflake shapes out for them.  The sheet music is a Christmas carol, as you see: mine is O Come All Ye Faithful.  I think this was probably a sheet music printable, but am not sure.  It's lovely, anyway.  Then a simple jute tie around the top and some sweet red berry pips complete the project.  I love it!

Below is a little video of the jar with a flickering tea light inside.  It looks lovely with a real tea light candle (that's what it came with), but the one I used for the video was a battery operated tea light. 

 Isn't this a sweet project?

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

A Christmas cookie quote


I ended up posting quite a few photos (a couple of them are above) of Mr. T's Christmas cookie baking on Instagram throughout December.  Invariably someone would ask what we could possibly do with all of those cookies.  Well, as some of you know, we freeze them and then bring them out for neighbor gifts, hostess gifts, gifts for friends, fellowship dinners at church, and the like.  This year we didn't have a lot of room in the freezer, but it's been cold enough for the cookies to stay frozen on the front porch:

I recently ran across a quote that describes exactly how we use our cookies.  Every December, I get out all of my Gooseberry Patch Christmas books (one at a time) and page through them.    Book 6 is one of my favorites; in fact, I wrote a review of it on my Christmas blog: Gooseberry Patch Christmas Book 6.  This morning I was browsing through the cookie section and came upon a really sweet quote that I wanted to share with you all, for I think you will all recognize the truth of it.  There are sidebar quotes sprinkled throughout the book.  This one is from Rebecca Suiter of Checotah, Oklahoma.

"There is nothing like a plate of beautifully decorated cookies to highlight your Christmas table or to give to a special friend, and most of all, there is nothing like the cherished memory of making them with your children and grandchildren!" -- Rebecca Suiter

Isn't this so true?  Below is a plate of cookies my hubby arranged to take to friends.

And here is the dessert table at our daughter Carrie's on Christmas Day.  Isn't it beautiful?  The large cookie tray in the back was our dessert contribution and was also arranged by Mr. T.  

 Cookies have always been a big part of our Christmases.  And now you see, in case you were wondering, why we bake so many.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Some of our outdoor decorating

 This Christmas season, we did a little bit more outdoor lighting than usual.  Still pushing back against that dark winter!  I'll share some here, and some over at my Christmas blog.

At the top of the post is a little fir tree that is situated amidst other trees between our house and the road.  Mt. T wanted to put colored lights on it to cheer passers-by.

We have a neighbor (I use the term loosely; they live several miles from here) who strings trees in his woods with lights every year.  It seems like each year he adds a few more trees.  I can't tell you how cheering and heartwarming it is to see his simply lighted forest of trees when driving by in the evenings.  From what I understand, he and his wife have even received notes from complete strangers thanking them for the light display.  It is very simple, but so beautifully effective.

But back to our tiny fir tree.  It got nearly buried in snow when we had our nine inches a week or so before Christmas.  The photo above was taken from indoors and may be the best one that we got.  Below is one taken from outdoors.

We also did a little tree on our porch this year.  In the attic, when looking for an artificial tree to place in the loft at the camp, Mr. T came upon the top of a tree that he thought would work to serve as a small tree.  One day I was walking by the garage and noticed a stack of sap buckets.  Lightbulb moment!  Of course, being an artificial tree, it needed something to hold it in place within the bucket and also some weight to keep it from blowing over in the winter winds, so my handy husband figured out a solution with pieces of wood fitted around the trunk in the top of the bucket.

We've been pleased with how cheerful this looks!  Passers-by and visitors to our home can enjoy it, and it's also cheering to us to look out the windows and see it there.  Both sets of lights -- the colored on the fir tree and white on the porch tree -- are on timers set to come on around 4:30 pm and go off around 10 pm.  They also come on again for a few hours in the dark of early morning -- say from 5 am to 7 am.  Just letting our lights shine!

Monday, December 27, 2021

A lovely gift from a friend


 Last week we had the fun of going out to breakfast with our dear friend Terry.  We went to our favorite breakfast spot, which happens to be less than 10 minutes from her house.  They serve the best omelets!  We love one called the Southern omelet, which is filled with sausage and gravy, and also the Benedict omelet which is filled with broccoli and Canadian bacon and covered with the most scrumptious homemade Hollandaise sauce.  This is a win for both me and Terry, because we love Hollandaise and we don't love poached eggs -- consequently, neither of us ever orders Eggs Benedict.  Having an omelet with these flavors is such a treat!

Breakfast also included a special blessing in the form of our server, who noticed us saying grace and came over to thank us for doing so.  She even asked to pray for a specific request.  We all felt that this was a blessing straight from the Lord.

Back at Terry's house, we settled in for a short visit and opened her Christmas gift to us: the gorgeous snow globe pictured at the top of the post.  Below, if the video works, you may be able to see it with the glittery snow falling.

What a kind and generous gift!  Terry knows that we love snow globes -- and we share a common love of church family and God's people.  So a winter scene featuring a church was most appropriate.  Pictures cannot really do this snow globe justice.  It is simply amazing.  We were so touched by Terry's thoughtfulness and generosity.

Hope you've enjoyed this peek at a delightfully thoughtful gift from a special friend!

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Sunday Scripture


Here is our last Sunday Scripture for December.  Remember, I am writing these posts from an Advent study that I did with Good Morning Girls in 2013.  The study, Keeping Our Hearts Focused on Jesus, is still available as a free download, so if you are interested head on over there and get it.  Scroll down and click on the book-like image similar to the illustration above, and the pdf should open right up.

Just a note too that I am also doing Sunday Scripture posts over at my Christmas blog, Mrs. T's Christmas Kitchen -- and I am using different verses (from the same study) in those Sunday posts.  So if you really want some biblical encouragement during this Christmas season, you might enjoy reading at both blogs.

I've mentioned before that I like to use the SOAP method of Bible study, and the studies from GMG use a very similar one.  I find this method a real blessing whether I am studying shorter passages or longer ones, so I hope you'll give it a try if you haven't ever done so. Just a reminder that the S is for Scripture -- just write it out -- and the O is for Observation, the A is for Application and the P is for prayer -- concerning how you'll apply this verse or passage,  or praise for what it means to you.

Each week of this Advent study focuses on a theme: Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace.  This fourth, and last, week's verses are focused on Peace.

Today's Scripture is Isaiah 9:6.  In the actual study, this one was from December 23 -- just in case you downloaded the study and are following along with it.

S=  "For unto us  a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."  (Isaiah 9:6)

O= Written by the prophet Isaiah, these beautiful words speak eloquently of Christ's birth.  No ordinary child, the government would be upon His shoulder.  The fact that He is given these names of God -- Counselor, Wonderful, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace -- prove once again that Jesus is God.

A=  I've been reminded that "Wonderful" here is a noun and speaks of Christ's person and work.  On my behalf!  Because I have accepted His free (but oh-so-costly!) gift of salvation, I can see Him at work in my life every day in these magnificent roles.

Counselor -- I can turn to His Word every day for guidance and wisdom.
The mighty God -- He is sovereign and all-powerful.  What a blessing it is when I acknowledge this!
The everlasting Father -- God Himself is my heavenly Father and cares for every area of my life.
The Prince of Peace -- as I trust my heavenly Father and rest in His love, trusting Him and acknowledging His sovereignty over my life, I have peace in my heart.  This peace that passes all understanding could only come from the Prince of Peace!

P=  "Lord, I praise You for for all that You are, as depicted in this beautiful verse from Isaiah.  I praise You for Your magnificent work in salvation and for drawing me to where I accepted Jesus as Savior.  Since that has taken place, I see the realities of this verse in my life every day.  

"I thank and praise You for Your Word, in which I can find counsel, guidance, and direction for my life.  I praise You that You are the mighty God, omnipotent and sovereign over all the events of history, working all things together for our good and for Your glory!  I thank You that You are my heavenly Father, perfect in Your love and care for Your children.  And I praise You so much for Your peace that surpasses human understanding -- that peace which garrisons my heart as I commit my cares to You.  Truly, You are Wonderful!  In Jesus' name, Amen."

And that's our last Sunday Scripture for December!  I hope that the profound truths of Isaiah 9:6 have been a blessing to you today.


Saturday, December 25, 2021

Merry Christmas!


Mr. T and I would like to wish all of our friends a very Merry Christmas!  

 Our day started off with our usual quiet times and then a very simple breakfast of cheesy scrambled eggs and wonderful rye bread from our neighbor Walter (his traditional gift to us) and clementines.

Mr. T is currently at his usual Saturday morning flag wave.  I have a couple more small gifts to wrap and then need to put together a salad and a cookie and fudge tray to take to our daughter's where we will be for dinner and the afternoon.  During that time we will likely Skype or FaceTime with our Nevada daughter and her family.

I can't think of a nicer way to extend our Christmas wish to you than to share this beautiful poem by the beloved writer Edgar Guest:

God bless you all
This Christmas Day;
May Bethlehem's star
Still light the way,
And guide thee to
The perfect peace
When every fear
And doubt shall cease,
And may thy home
Such glory know
As did the stable
Long ago.

Edgar A. Guest

May you enjoy a blessed Christmas day and week and a very happy, healthy 2022!

Friday, December 24, 2021

Tweaking my traditional Christmas Eve Soup


 For decades, I have made the same soup for Christmas Eve; just a simple creamy potato soup with some carrots and celery included, and with crumbled bacon and shredded Cheddar cheese to sprinkle on top.  We used to always serve it with biscuit, rolls, corn muffins or some other type of bread.  In more recent years we have often served it with pizza.  You can find the recipe here: Christmas Eve Soup.

This year I am going to tweak it just a bit.  A month or so ago, I tried a recipe from a Gooseberry Patch cookbook, Sunday Dinner at Grandma's.  This happens to be a cookbook which I received for free in exchange for having a recipe published in it.   You can also find it here at  Gooseberry Patch.  (Interestingly, it was a soup recipe that I had published in this book -- Cream of Broccoli Soup!)

The recipe I tried recently, though, is Grandma Jo's Potato Soup.  Interestingly, the ingredients are almost exactly the same as our Christmas Eve Soup.  But this soup was much tastier!  What is the difference?  I've scanned the page from the cookbook to show you.

 My usual recipe calls for light cream; this one calls for evaporated milk.  The only other difference is that this calls for "onion and garlic seasoned salt".  I didn't have any of that, but I did have a container of garlic pepper seasoned salt, so I liberally added that to taste.    This added zesty seasoning, plus the creaminess from the evaporated milk, has to make the difference.

So this Christmas Eve, I'll be serving Grandma Jo's Potato Soup instead of my usual!

* The illustration at top is a scan of one of my very favorite Christmas cards, which features the Fred Swan painting Walking to Town.  To me it just says "Christmas Eve".  I actually have a cross-stitch kit of this design.  Maybe this year I will actually get to it! *

Thursday, December 23, 2021

A Christmas kitchen table


This is pretty much a repost of something I wrote back in 2008.  I've been trying to simply feature it as a featured post, but since Blogger won't let me do that, I'm going to repost it  Only a couple of readers commented on it in 2008, so I'm sure my newer readers won't mind me posting it again.  Here we go:

This little display on my kitchen island (really an old formica-topped desk built by my dad) sums up so much of what I feel about a Christmas kitchen. The Christmas bandanna underneath it all is one I bought many years ago with just such a use in mind. The little "oil" lamp is from a dollar store and the Merry Christmas ribbon some I bought at Walmart a few years back. The two Gooseberry Patch books, Christmas Pantry and Comfort & Joy, fit perfectly in my kitchen this time of year. The pantry is stocked with plenty of cookies, fudge, and apricot fruitcake, and the makings for many other food gifts. And I find my kitchen at Christmas time to be truly a place of comfort and joy.

The "ribbon candy" is really ornaments, made by my daughter Joanna in 2007. I love the way she packaged them to look like real candy -- and I enjoy them as much (or more) as part of a display like this as I do hanging them on the Christmas tree. The cookie cutters are some of my favorites, and the oversized teacup is from the Mitford snowmen collection. (I found it in a consignment shop a few years ago.) The little rolling pin recipe holder with the candy cane handles was a gift from my granddaughters, and the cut-out cookie recipe is a favorite from my good friend Marilyn. I found the package of vintage light bulbs when we were cleaning the attic, and saved them for just such a use as this.

May your Christmas kitchen be a place like this... filled with sweet old memories and new ones being made... a place where you and your family find joy and where others find comfort too... a place from which your light shines forth to encourage friends and neighbors at this blessed season.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

A meaningful Christmas quote


 I found this quote in one of my favorite Gooseberry Patch Christmas books, Book 7.  It's on the left above.  I really need to do a review of this book because it is filled with great recipes and ideas.  In this book there's a lovely quote from a reader named Cyndy Rogers of Upton, Massachusetts.  This little quote is part of a longer memory shared by Ms. Rogers.  Here it is:

"Christmas memories are some of the sweetest and fondest of those we carry through our lives.  From our earliest childhood recollection, Christmas memories are stored in a special place in our hearts, to be recalled during quiet times of reminiscing." ~ Cyndy Rogers

This is so very, very true.  Let's make sure we are making plenty of these rich Christmas memories for our children and grandchildren, even more so when the very celebration of Christmas is being threatened.

Above is a memory from my own childhood -- the fireplace and tree in my grandmother's living room.  I believe that is my stocking to the left with a felt candle on it.  My Christmas memories are so very rich.  I want the same for my grandchildren.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Two more of the candy recipes we used


 I had promised to share recipes from our candy-making day with the grandkids.  Over on my Christmas blog, I have shared the links to recipes for Creamsicle Fudge and Rocky Road Fudge.  I will share the links for the other two candy recipes here at my kitchen table today.

One is the Candy Cane Fudge.  You see Sam preparing the first layer of it above.  It's the type you make in the microwave, using chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk,  which makes it relatively fast and easy.  (Of course, if you don't have a microwave or prefer not to use one, the melting steps can easily be done using a saucepan on the stovetop.)  Unfortunately, I misread the recipe and thought it called for 1 cup of crushed candy canes in each layer, rather than a total of 1 cup.  You sprinkle half in the bottom of the square pan before adding the chocolate layer, and mix the rest into the white portion for the top layer.  

 We also failed to find the mini candy canes the recipe calls for and thought it would be no problem to use the large ones.  But Sam (who is incredibly strong) found it quite a task to crush the larger candy canes and ended up doing so out on the porch using a hammer!

All in all, though, in spite of my mistakes and missteps, this candy turned out well   It seemed a little too sticky at first (and that could have been due to using too much crushed candy), but after it set in the fridge for awhile, all was well.  Here's what it looks like (Taste of Home photo):

And then the last candy we made was Chocolate Dipped Orange Slices.  This has become a huge favorite among our family and friends, and is so easy!  You just melt chocolate chips and then dip the orange slice candies (the ones at our supermarket are naturally flavored!) in the melted chocolate and place them on waxed paper to harden.  I use dark chocolate chips to make them really good.  Julia made these and I failed to get any photos of the process.

There you have it!  I hope to try one more fudge recipe this week, but we will see.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Letting our Christmas light shine


Even before we found the weather conducive to staying two nights at our camp in December, Mr. T had the literally brilliant idea that he wanted to place a lighted Christmas tree in the loft for the Christmas season.  He put the tree up there, with lights on a timer, several weeks ago.

Then he decided he also wanted candles in the windows.  We have these fun vintage candoliers, with plastic bases, that had belonged to my grandmother.  As I mentioned last week, the windows in the camp do not have window sills.  He hasn't completed the window trim yet, but even if the sills were in place they wouldn't be at the right height for these candles.  So he decided to fabricate some temporary shelves to hold the candles.

Voila!  You can see three of the little temporary shelves in this photo.  There are four total.  Now see how they look from outside:

I think that the last photo may be the best one of the candles.

Mr. T tried to photograph the candlelit windows from outside, the first December night we spent at the camp -- the 16th.  But his photos just didn't come out well.  So he tried again on the night of the 17th, using a small tripod this time.  Success!

I absolutely love that in the blackness of a winter night on a dirt road in the woods, lights are shining forth from a little cabin.   Such an important lesson for all of us.  Once again we are being promised a dark and dire winter.  It need not be that way, friends.  Let your Christmas lights shine!

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Sunday Scripture


 Here is our third Sunday Scripture for December.  Remember, I am writing these posts from an Advent study that I did with Good Morning Girls in 2013.  The study, Keeping Our Hearts Focused on Jesus, is still available as a free download, so if you are interested head on over there and get it.  Scroll down and click on the book-like image similar to the illustration above, and the pdf should open right up.

Just a note too that I am also doing Sunday Scripture posts over at my Christmas blog, Mrs. T's Christmas Kitchen -- and I am using different verses (from the same study) in those Sunday posts.  So if you really want some biblical encouragement during this Christmas season, you might enjoy reading at both blogs.

I've mentioned before that I like to use the SOAP method of Bible study, and the studies from GMG use a very similar one.  I find this method a real blessing whether I am studying shorter passages or longer ones, so I hope you'll give it a try if you haven't ever done so. Just a reminder that the S is for Scripture -- just write it out -- and the O is for Observation, the A is for Application and the P is for prayer -- concerning how you'll apply this verse or passage,  or praise for what it means to you.

Each week of this Advent study focuses on a theme: Hope, Love, Joy, and Peace.  This third week's verses are focused on Joy.

Today's Scripture is 1 John 1:4-7.  In the actual study, this one was from December 16 -- just in case you downloaded the study and are following along with it.

S=  "And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. 
"This then is the message which we have heard of Him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.
"If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth.
"But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin."  (1 John 1:4-7)

O=  John's first letter has been described as a family photograph album in which God's children learn of the likeness they are to have to their heavenly Father.  One of John's reasons for writing these things, as stated in verse 4, is that the joy of these "little children" might be full.  

He goes on to talk about the conditions of fellowship with their Father and the necessity of walking in the light.  Since God is light, with no darkness in Him at all, it's impossible for His children to walk in darkness and still have fellowship with Him.  We must walk in the light, as our Father is in the light.  When our sin prevents us from doing that, we turn to Him for forgiveness, cleansing, and restoration of fellowship.

C.I. Scofield writes, "To walk in the light is to live in fellowship with the Father and the Son.  Sin interrupts fellowship but cannot change relationship.  Confession restores fellowship, and immediate confession keeps the fellowship unbroken."  

A=  It's so good to know that our joy is not dependent on life's circumstances.  Regardless of the situation, if my heart is right with God it is always possible for my joy to be full.  To that end, I need to be sure I am keeping "short accounts" with God in regard to my sin.  If I am going to speak to others of the fellowship I have with Him, I need to be very sure that I am not walking in darkness in any way.

P=  "Lord, I thank and praise You that true joy does not depend upon the circumstances of my life.  My joy may be full as long as I stay close to You, confessing sin as I become conscious of it.  Help me, Lord, to walk in the light, as You are in the light.  Help me every day to keep short accounts with You.  In Jesus' name, Amen."

There is our Advent study for this Sunday.  I hope it's been an encouragement to you!

Saturday, December 18, 2021

A December evening at our little camp


 Yes, you read that right.  In mid-December, we were able to spend the night at our largely uninsulated camp.   This is not something we would have believed to be possible.  We've added insulation to the walls and ceiling in this large room, but as I've explained before, there is no insulation under the floor and no insulation at all in the other two rooms.  The thought of staying there in winter is just not appealing.  But we were having a warm spell and the forecast was for temps in the 40s overnight.  So we decided to give it a try!

I was glad we had already done a little bit of decorating a week or so ago.  This little tree has seen better days (it's one we'd purchased for my parents many years ago) but it does lend a festive air to the living room.  You can also see in the photo at top that we sort of have candles in the windows.  These windows have no trim or windowsills as yet, and when they do the sills are likely not to work with this sort of candle.  But Mr. T was undaunted (because he really wanted to have candles in the windows) and he created temporary little shelves to place the candles on.

I made the snowman garland years ago.   Haven't displayed it for a long time.  Bag in foreground contains all of my Christmas card paraphernalia.  I actually got a few written!

A peek at the cozy loft

Found this sweet sign at Dollar Tree

Cute felt skater has paper clips for skates!  Granddaughter Julia had the idea of hanging ornaments from all of the hooks that hold the windows open in summer.

This ornament was purchased from Etsy seller Marjorie at Treasures with a Twist!

I have two of these plates, so brought one to the camp to display on a cabinet door.

Snowflake ornament on a kitchen cabinet door

This shot out the bathroom window shows there really is a little bit of snow on the ground.

And that's our Christmasy camp.  Can't help but love it!

Friday, December 17, 2021

A fun idea for displaying and serving cookies


 Recently I rediscovered the vintage cookbook above.  This was already a used book when I purchased it, I think for 25¢ at a book sale to benefit the humane society.  I came across it the other day in a shelf of cookbooks and decided to peruse it for December blog ideas.  

I found a great one which I intend to combine with a recipe of my own -- if not this year, then next -- for a fun cookie display.  Here's the basic idea, as seen in the directions for Holly Leaf Cookie Bough, below:


It can also be made as a Holly Leaf Cookie Wreath, which must be similar to what is shown on the cover of the magazine, on the silver plate to the right.

Now, I happen to have a recipe for Holly Leaf Cookies which I love, and haven't made in years. Mine are prettier than what is pictured here, and they are very delicious -- though I imagine that the Orange Cinnamon Sugar Cookies suggested here are also very tasty.  My cookies are greener, having green food coloring in them, and they have a very vintage look.  I have two holly leaf cookie cutters, a plastic one with a sprig of 3 leaves and a metal one which is a single leaf.

Here's the link to my recipe: Holly Leaf Cookies.  If I make a cookie bough this year, I will make sure to get a picture!

Thursday, December 16, 2021

A few tips to make things easier in the Christmas kitchen


 Today I thought I'd just share a few tips that might make life a little easier at this busy time.  

1.  Waxed paper is absolutely a must in my kitchen any time of year, but even more so at Christmas.  I use it for lining and separating layers of cookies in tins and also spread it beneath cooling racks when I am glazing or frosting cookies, to catch any drips.  I also use it to roll out pie crusts.  We actually ran out of waxed paper this week!  Thankfully, we were able to use parchment paper instead, but you can bet that waxed paper -- 2 rolls of it -- is  on my shopping list as we speak.  

2.  I find myself using lots of eggs at Christmas -- either for festive breakfast egg bakes or for a quick frittata or omelet for supper.  If you need to beat a large number of eggs with milk or cream and spices for a purpose like this, the absolute quickest and most mess-free method is to use the blender to do so.  Just put the eggs, liquid, and any spices called for into a blender and buzz it all for a minute or so, then proceed with your recipe. Cleanup is easy too -- just add some warm water and a squirt of dish soap to the blender, cover,  and buzz again for a few seconds.  You'll still want to wash the blender, but the hard part is done.

3.  If melting chocolate in the microwave, as some of the grandkids were doing during our candy making spree, the best tool for stirring is a chopstick (choose one without metallic lettering).  That way, you can leave it in the chocolate in between stirrings and there are no worries about placing a spoon or spatula somewhere on a counter where it is very likely to pick up moisture and cause your chocolate to seize up.  (Ask me how I know.)

4.  If you're baking cookies and run out of counter space for your cooling racks, do what we do and lay down sheets of newspaper on your dining table.  Then you can place the racks atop the newspapers and will end up with no crumbs, grease, drips or anything else on your table.  This is routine for us at Christmas time, with the large amounts of cookies that Mr. T bakes.  When you're done you can just roll up or fold the newspaper sheets to throw away.  No muss, no fuss.  You can see the newspaper in the photo below.

5.  I always keep Better Than Bouillon on hand for when recipes call for chicken broth.  I try to keep homemade chicken broth in the freezer, usually a few quarts -- and I also keep the boxes of chicken broth in the pantry if need be.  But when a recipe calls for just a small amount of broth, or if you don't have any on hand for whatever reason, it sure is a help to have Better Than Bouillon on hand to use with water to create broth.  I share the screenshot below to show you what the jars look like if you're not familiar with this product.


Anything that saves me time in this busy season is a win.  Hope one of these ideas helps someone else.