Christmas Greetings

Victorian Father Christmas

Victorian Father Christmas

This Victorian Father Christmas is from my collection of  “Gift Givers”, a series of Christmas figures from many cultures who brought gifts during the Christmas season.  These were all handmade by me, at an earlier time.

To all my readers and faithful followers,  I wish you the warmest thoughts and best wishes for a Joyous Holiday Season, and a very Happy New Year.

I hope your day is filled with good friends, family and good food, for that is what makes happy memories.

 

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Thoughts on July 4th.

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The skies are cloudy today with thunderstorms threatening–not a nice day for outdoor cookouts and picnics, parades, and neighborhood gatherings.  Hopefully the weekend will give us some nicer weather.

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But let’s not forget what today is all about.  The anniversary of the birth of this country, the Declaration of Independence, freedom to be who we are and who we want to be.  The weather shouldn’t have even the smallest impact on all those reasons to celebrate, so celebrate we will.  Whether it’s just you with one special person, or with a whole host of family and friends, I hope you have a bang-up, knock-em-down, light-up-the-sky kind of day and weekend.

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As for me, I see some shopping in my near future,  maybe a nice seafood dinner at the shore, and if the sun makes an appearance, some grilling on the back deck–cooking up something new to share with you.

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Have a wonderful weekend, folks!

A Day to Celebrate

My perennial garden with garden house.

My perennial garden with garden house.

What is there to celebrate today?—-ME!   Today is my birthday, and I’m taking the day off because its going to be a very busy day.

Just thought I would share a few thoughts with you before the day gets started;  a break from my usual blog format.

This evening I am dancing in a special show called a “Showcase Ball”,  where I’ll be dancing a solo routine with my teacher/dance partner.  We’ve been working on this since  February;  first choreographing and learning the routine, then practicing it, then tweaking and polishing it till it’s performance ready.  Hope all goes well.  I don’t usually get nervous at these performances, but you never know what may happen and I need to stay focused.

Early morning sun filtering through the young leaves of a red maple tree.

Early morning sun filtering through the young leaves of a red maple tree.

So far this month, the weather has been spectacular.  The sky is the deepest blue, and the light green of budding trees silhouetted against it is so awesome .   All the homes in my neighborhood have beautiful flowering trees in full bloom.

Flowering Crab-apple tree.

Flowering Crab-apple tree.

White flowers now, red berries in the fall that the birds love.

Kousa Dogwood tree;  white flowers now, red berries in the fall that the birds love.

Purple phlox, and chartreuse Euonymus, a striking color combination.

Purple phlox, and chartreuse Euonymus, a striking color combination.

There is so much beauty everywhere I want to photograph it all.   I think May is the prettiest month, and I feel so lucky that it’s my birthday month.  It makes me want to celebrate.

A tiny beauty peeking out.

A tiny beauty peeking out.

Another tiny beauty; a species tulip.

Another tiny beauty; a species tulip.

More of the same.  Aren't they cute?

More of the same. Aren’t they cute?

The photos I’ve included in this post were taken in my yard.  Although I love to see mass plantings of one kind of flower for its impact value, when I take pictures I like to focus on just one or two flowers and bring out the details.  I also look for color combinations that I find striking.

A white daffodil, so lovely!

An all white daffodil, so lovely!

Flowering Qince

Flowering Quince

Grape hyacinths, a mass of them planted outside the garage welcomes us home.

Grape hyacinths, a mass of them planted outside the garage welcomes us home.

I hope you enjoy my photos.  You probably have some of the same in your yard, but its kind of fun to see others, too.

This azalea provides a bright spot of color at the side of our deck.

This azalea provides a bright spot of color at the side of our deck.

Sunday, coming up, brings with it Mother’s Day.   Another wonderful day for celebration.  Honoring our mothers  (and fathers, too, on their day), is a wonderful thing to do.  We owe them so much—we wouldn’t be who we are, or where we are without them.  So if you still have your mother with you,  give her a big hug and kiss, and do something really nice for her.  And for all you mothers out there I hope you have a wonderful, love and family-filled day.  Be good to yourself, and have a great weekend.  See you on Monday with another really yummy recipe.

View of the perennial border.

View of the perennial border.

Early May morning.

Early May morning.

All photos taken by yours truly.  If you would like to reuse them, you may do so only with my permission.

Holiday Good Wishes

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I want to wish all of my readers the best and happiest Holiday.   In whatever way  you celebrate it make sure it contains Family, Friends and of course, Food.

The picture above is a Father Christmas from my collection of porcelain “Gift Givers”, all hand made by me at an earlier time.  I hope you enjoy it.  He joins me in hoping you get all that you wish for at this wonderful time of year.

White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread Cookies

White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread Cookies

White Chocolate Cherry Shortbread Cookies

When I first saw a picture of these cookies I knew I had to make them.  They were so pretty in the picture, with the pale pink cookie dipped into white chocolate, then just the edge dipped into the colorful red sugar.  I thought they would make a great addition to a tray of Christmas cookies.

The other ingredient these cookie have going for them is the addition of Maraschino Cherries.  These sweet, almond-tasting cherries are made from a bitter cherry.  The name Maraschino is from the Italian word marasca– the name of the cherry. and amaro which means bitter.  Somehow they become sweet as they soak in their liquid, and I just love them, but don’t find many ways to use them in cooking or baking.  So I was really happy to have come across this recipe. After I made them, I found them to be everything I had anticipated and more.  Just imagine for a moment biting into a buttery shortbread cookie that also includes the flavor of these cherries and almond.  Really good, yes?  Now add the smooth sweetness of white chocolate.   Oh, WOW!  If you are drooling at this point, you need to go make them NOW!

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Do you know what else?  There’s no need to get out your mixer.  It all gets mixed by hand, and there’s no chilling involved ( well, you can if you want to).  Pretty easy and quick to make.  And believe me, just as easy and quick to eat.

The recipe:  WHITE CHOCOLATE CHERRY SHORTBREAD COOKIES

YIELD:   about 60 cookies.  The recipe divides in half easily, which I did, and got 30 cookies

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup Maraschino cherries, cut up and drained well
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup ( 2 sticks ) cold butter
  • 12 oz. white chocolate chips or squares, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 drops red food coloring ( I used a little cherry juice instead for a paler color)
  • 2 teaspoons shortening
  • decorative sugar or sprinkles

DIRECTIONS

1.  Combine flour and sugar.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender.  Stir in cherries and 4 ounces ( 2/3 cup ) chopped white chocolate.  Stir in almond extract and food color ( or cherry juice).

2.  Stir as well as you can and then knead to form a smooth ball.

3.  Break off small pieces of dough and form into 3/4 inch balls.  Place on prepared cookie sheets. (Greased or lined with parchment paper.)

4.  Using a glass dipped into sugar, flatten into 1 1/2 inch rounds.

Flatten with a glass dipped into sugar.

Flatten with a glass dipped into sugar.

5.  Bake at 325 degrees, for 10 – 12 minutes.  Cookies will firm up as they cool.  Transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.

6.  In a saucepan over hot – not boiling-water, melt the remaining white chocolate with the shortening.  Dip half of each cookie, then roll the dipped edge into decorative sugar or sprinkles.  Stand upright between the tines of a cooling rack to dry.

Standing at attention to dry.

Standing at attention to dry.

Note:  I never find white chocolate easy to melt or dip into, so what I do is this.  When the chocolate becomes soft enough to stir, I use a small spatula to spread it on the cookie, making sure to cover the edge so the sugar will adhere.  This works for me. However, my cookies don’t get that perfectly half-dipped look.

SOURCE:   Martha Stewart Cookies,  I-Pad newsletter

IMG_2204  Here’s an advance look at tomorrow’s cookie recipe.  Y’all come back then.

Continuing the Baking Traditions

Scandinavian Kringla Cookies

Scandinavian Kringla Cookies

As we now count down the weeks and days until Christmas, I will be doing a lot of baking.  It seems as though every weekend brings some event that I will be bringing baked goods to.  The first of these takes place  this weekend at our church where we will be having a “Christmas Cookie Walk”.  This has become an annual tradition where many of the women of the church bake cookies and package  them in half dozen amounts, attractively and creatively presented.  The townspeople look forward to this event and come in “droves” to purchase our home baked bars and cookies.

Baking cookies for the Holidays has been going on in my family for a long time.  For me, baking the same recipes that my mother and grandmother baked is a connection to the past, and like me my daughter also bakes some of these same recipes.  So we are carrying on those same baking traditions.

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I am making two kinds of cookies for our “Cookie Walk”.  One is an old Scandinavian recipe called Kringla that I am happy to share with you today.  The other is a Red Velvet Crinkle cookie.  I will be telling you about that one in my next post.

Kringla is a somewhat plain, not too sweet cookie with a mild anise flavor, made from a dough made tender by the addition of sour cream, and a little butter.  The dough is easy to work with in forming the “ropes” that you shape into the cookie.  Initially, after mixing , the dough is somewhat sticky, but I let it chill for about an hour, and then find it smooth and shapeable. Kids will like forming loops and twists with this easy to handle dough. Because they are pale in color, using decorative sugar to decorate them gives them a festive appearance.  A cup of hot coffee or a glass of cold milk is a must when enjoying Kringla.

KRINGLA

YIELD:   Makes about 48 cookies

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3  3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

    Anise is available as either crushed or whole seeds,or as an extract.

    Anise is available as either crushed or whole seeds,or as an extract.

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 3 egg yolks, slightly beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 Tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1/4 teaspoon anise extract, or  1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • coarse or fine decorating sugar

1.  In a medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

2.  In a small bowl or cup lightly whisk together the egg white and water, set aside.

3.  In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks, sugar, milk, sour cream, melted butter and anise extract, (or vanilla)

Cream together the sugar, egg, butter, sour cream, and anise extract

Cream together the sugar, egg, butter, sour cream, and anise extract

4.  Using a wooden spoon stir in the flour mixture until combined.  The dough will be stiff and sticky.  Cover the dough and  chill for about an hour.

5.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease 2-3 cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

6.  On a well floured surface, drop about 1 tablespoon of dough. Roll dough into a 5- or 8-inch long rope.

Roll small balls of dough into ropes either 5 inches or 8 inches long.

Roll small balls of dough into ropes either 5 inches or 8 inches long.

On the prepared cookie sheet, shape a 5-inch rope into a ring, crossing it over itself about 1 inch from ends.

Form dough into a circle and cross the ends.

Form dough into a circle and cross the ends.

Or fold an 8-inch rope in half and twist three times; seal ends with egg white mixture.

Fold dough in half and twist three times.

Fold dough in half and twist three times.

Repeat with the remaining dough, placing shapes 2-inches apart on the cookie sheets.

7.  Brush cookies with egg white mixture, and sprinkle with decorating sugar.

Brush with egg white and decorate with sugar.

Brush with egg white and decorate with sugar.

8.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until bottoms are a light golden brown.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool.

Baked and cooling on a wire rack.

Baked and cooling on a wire rack.

Enjoy Kringla with a cup of coffee or a glass of cold milk.

Enjoy Kringla with a cup of coffee or a glass of cold milk.

To bake ahead and store: After baking, place cookies in layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container.  Store in a cool area.  They may also be frozen for up to 3 months.

SOURCE;   My Mom’s recipe box.

Giving Thanks

On this day when we stop to appreciate and give thanks for all that we have I want to send a message of Thanks to my readers and friends for their continued interest and loyalty in reading what I have to say about food and its preparation.  Without all of you out there I would just be throwing my words to the wind, but knowing you are there, reading and often times responding to my posts, keeps me fresh and interested in this pastime of mine.  My heartfelt thanks go out to you and may you and your loved ones Have A Happy Thanksgiving!

Blueberry Biscuits

One of the pleasures of a holiday weekend for me is the slow start to my days.  I like to linger over my coffee and enjoy a freshly baked “go with”, talk with Mr. D., plan out the day, catch up on the news and mail,etc.   This past weekend was no exception.

One of the  baked goodies  that I make often are biscuits, and quite frequently I add either dried or fresh fruits to add a little extra nutrition.  This serves as breakfast many times, but they can certainly fit into a brunch menu, especially by adding in savory ingredients like crumbled bacon, chopped chives or grated cheese. The choice of add-ins is limited only by your imagination.

The biscuits I made this weekend contained blueberries , thus the name BLUEBERRY BISCUITS.  They are super easy to make, with hands on time about 20 minutes, and baking time 17 minutes.  The recipe makes 12 biscuits.  These also make a nice biscuit base for strawberry shortcake.  Going that route will produce a ” red, white, and blue” dessert for patriotic holidays.  How neat is that?

Ingredients to have ready are:

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 tesp. baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tesp. salt
  • 1/4 tesp nutmeg
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, or sour milk ( 2 tesp  vinegar + milk to measure 3/4 cup)
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Prepare a parchment-lined baking sheet, or spray  with non-stick spray.
  2. In a large bowl stir together flour, baking powder sugar, salt and nutmeg to thoroughly mix.
  3. Cut  in butter with pastry cutter to make coarse crumbs;  stir in blueberries, then buttermilk. Mix minimally, just to moisten.
  4. Turn out onto a floured surface, gently lift and fold dough onto itself several times, turning a quarter turn with each fold.
  5. Place onto baking sheet.  With palm of hands, form into a 7-8 inch square, approximately 1 inch thick.  Using a floured knife o pizza cutter, cut into 12 biscuits, leaving them intact.
  6.  Bake in upper half of oven for 17 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Cut or pull apart to serve.

SOURCE:  Adapted from Southern Living 1993 Annual Recipes