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merry christmas to all…..

December 24th, 2012 | 2 Comments »


We have the smallest amount of snow possible, the rock hard leftovers from the 15 inches that fell on the 9th, then melted, re-froze and eventually got rained on a week later. So technically, we’ll have a white Christmas, but not the magical white, sparkling like a lit up spruce tree. We’ll definitely have cold too, as a deep freeze seems to be settling over Minnesota.

But our Christmas won’t look like this. We woke to this on Christmas Day of 2009 and it was magical.

I have plenty of cookies in the pantry, thanks to a cookie exchange with online friends, the kind of friends that share tiny tidbits of daily life through Twitter, or Instagram, some who have never met but feel like old friends the moment you’re in the same room. There was a lot of hugging at this cookie exchange. Because there was a lot of love. There was wine, beer and simple food. The cookies were secondary; it was time for girls to gather and hearts to open and time to connect. This last week or so held a lot of love between friends. It was just what I needed.

There will be family. There will be food, no doubt. There will be time in the car as we scurry from one house, then back home for a second celebration. There is a tall and regal fir tree in the corner, groaning under the weight of a lifetime, collected carefully and hung like a finely choreographed play, dripping in tinsel, tin icicles, twinkling lights and promise. Garlands are strung, wreaths are hung, and packages arrive, empty boxes and bags here and there, things stashed in closets and under desks and stern looks are sent ’round to not snoop or peek. Eli sits under the brightly lit Christmas tree, gazing at nothing. It warms my heart every time I catch him doing it.

The sky bleeds reds and golds, both morning and night, casting purple shadows across the landscape, the solstice has passed and even caught deep in the throes of Winter darkness and cold, we all know the days are getting longer, and it’s only three months until Spring. The trees know, stark and black against the sky, and the ground knows, frozen solid under our feet, it’s roots asleep. Even our cats know, as we open the door each frigid morning, they sniff the air knowingly, before they retreat back to the warmth. It’s expected, and the extra blankets, throws and lap covers have come out of storage and drape the sofas with promise. Promise of warmth on a cold night. Promise of a season, brief and quiet.

But for now, it’s Christmas. It’s magic and shining eyes and the birth of our Savior. It’s carols and warm embraces and people we love. It’s a fire, a glass of wine. It’s reaching out more and holding back less. It’s hope and affirmation.

From my family to yours, we wish for you the Merriest Christmas, full of light and hope,
and a blissful coming New Year!!

 

{{My blog will be undergoing a big makeover, and I likely won’t be posting much between now and when it’s complete.
Hopefully before the first month of 2013 is over, we’ll sort the details, dot the i’s, cross the t’s,
wrangle the why’s and how’s and begin anew with a quiet ‘Ta-Da!’. See you then, friends!!}}

sugar plums…. a christmas revelation

December 6th, 2012 | 2 Comments »

A few years ago, I had a bit of a revelation in the kitchen. I learned about Sugar Plums. Yes! THOSE Sugar Plums… as in ‘visions of sugar plums danced in their head’; the stuff of lore and childhood wonder on Christmas Eve, the giddy anticipation of morning and a stocking stuffed with toys.

I remember the day quite well; it was a blindingly sunny, brilliantly blue-sky day in December, but the air was frigid with cold, the cold that seems like you could break it with one swift punch. Inside the house, as the furnace hummed, the sunshine on my back so warm that I’d shed my sweater, but kept it close at hand for that magical moment when the sun slips low enough to return the chill to the air. I was gathering ingredients together to make these little gems; dried apricots, figs, and dates, almonds, pecans, pistachios…. it was a heavenly spread laying on the countertop in my kitchen. I had a few round, fat oranges for zest and juice, a jar of honey that caught the sunshine just right, reflecting a golden cast. Everything was measured in to the food processor and I pushed a button. In moments, the mix was reduced to a fine mince and when I popped off the cover, the flood of aromas that swept up to my nose sent chills through me. The hair on my arms stood tall. It was fresh, citrus-y and nutty all at once, and rich with some ancient memory loaded in my mind, far too remote to ever recall correctly. I scraped it all in a bowl, and with a small cup of warm water at hand, I began to form them in to balls. Miles Davis blew his sweet notes on the radio, filling the kitchen with melodious sound, the sun gave the room a drowsy feel, Christmas crept ever closer and in my own two hands, a little Christmas miracle occurred.

Once the entire mass was formed, dredged in coconut or powdered sugar and set in the refrigerator, I felt like I’d stepped in to another dimension in time. Years and years of hearing the same Christmas story, thinking of my own childhood Christmas Eve, laying in bed thinking I will never! sleep! due to all the excitement and waking up with a start, shot through with the thrill of Christmas morning, I never even imagined that such a thing existed as a Sugar Plum. Ages before the Internet could bring anything in your head to reality, I just figured it was a treat of bygone days that no one had any clue how to make. If my Mom didn’t know (because you ALL remember when your Mom knew everything) then it couldn’t possibly be real.

But real they are. And that little treat, passed around to wide eyes as Christmas drew nearer that year, brought exclamations of the same; “These are real?” as eager fingers held one for examination. I nodded. “I know!” and with one bite, a burst of sweet fruit and crunchy nut, with the hint of orange juice and I could see the idea settling in everyone who tried them. At some point, ancient in time I imagine the Sugar Plum was likely something else all together, that slipped from our collective understanding, lost forever. But these are a worthy replacement, ready to be placed front and center in your holiday celebrations.

“I wish I’d known about this years ago.” someone said to me then, biting in to the fragrant mass. “I would have added these to our holiday baking every year.”

“Well,” I said to her, ” now you can.”

Sugar Plums

2 cups almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup pitted dates
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
Unsweetened flaked coconut or powdered sugar for rolling

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

2. Combine almonds, apricots, dates, cinnamon, and zest in a food processor and process into a finely ground mixture.

3. Add orange juice and honey, and combine until the mixture becomes a sticky ball.

4. Pinch off pieces of the mixture and form into 1-inch balls. Roll in coconut or powdered sugar. Place on the baking sheet and chill for about 1 hour until firm.

Recipe from Field Guide to Candy by Anita Chu; Quirk Books, 2009

 

KATE’S NOTES: 

I used two cups equivalent of nuts, utilizing pistachios and pecans as well as almonds. It’s my holy trifecta of nutty favorites. Or you could use other nuts like peanuts, walnuts, brazil nuts. The possibilities are endless for dried fruit substitutions; raisins both black or gold, cranberries, cherries, currants, pineapple, mango. . Try it with lemon juice and zest for a different flavor, or maple syrup in place of the honey. Use cardamom instead of nutmeg and cinnamon.

I added a bit more honey and orange juice, as the amount in the recipe didn’t seem to be enough to make the mixture as sticky as it needed to hold together. Adjust it according to your taste preferences.

These improve, and deepen in flavor the longer they sit in the refrigerator. For optimum flavor, make them a week ahead of time.

REMINDER!!
You still have some time to enter my giveaway for a set of Chinet’s Disposable Bakeware.
Go see THIS POST for more details!  

the ‘to don’t list

December 5th, 2011 | 8 Comments »

I’m most frantic with trying to handle all the red-hot details of so very much these days. And I’m no different than anyone else who makes an extensive list that helps organize and pull it all together. The process of extracting it from my brain into line by line visuals takes it from a jumbled mess in my head to categorized chaos on paper, and sometimes it helps pull it all together. Sometimes.

And then, inevitably, I just make more in my head and it starts all over again. Or the list is paralyzing in it’s length, or breadth and it causes me to stare, incomprehensibly at what I think I should do.

Then I lay there this morning, much as I do every day, thinking about the hours ahead and the things I want to do, and a thought struck me so profound and immense that I sat up, quickly, and reached for my phone. Because in this season of ‘To Do’ and ‘To Decorate’ and ‘To Bake’ and ‘To Cook’ and all the other ‘To Do’s we force ourselves to create, I started to think of the ‘To Don’t’ items, the ones that I wish to shut the door on, both this season, and all to come.

They might be something like this:

~~Don’t fall in to the hype of a commercialized Christmas.
~~Don’t get caught up in piteous little daily things and ignore your coffee when it’s hot.
~~Remember, every single day, why we celebrate Christmas. The real reason.
~~Don’t buy anything that you don’t think you will use for 12 months a year.
~~Don’t bake anything you don’t like.
~~Don’t say ‘Yes’ unless you absolutely can.
~~Don’t forget about you, your son and your husband.
~~Don’t wait to decorate if it’s what you want right now.
~~Don’t think you have to be there when the perfect tree is found. They can do it too.
~~Don’t pass by that beautiful light display, glancing at it out of the corner of your eye. Stop the car. And really LOOK.
~~Don’t think you can’t go for a walk when it’s cold; bundle up and suck it up.
~~Don’t forget your camera, regardless.
~~Don’t ever forget where you came from, ever, when you start thinking you don’t have enough.
~~Don’t forget that when you gather, it’s about the company and community and not about the food,
the treats or anything else.

And oh my word, could I fill these pages with my ‘To Don’t's. Because, really,  this list is never-ending. And it doesn’t just apply to Christmas time, with all it’s frantic rushing and shoving through my days, exhaustively pressing pencil to paper in an attempt to slow it all down and control it. I have the same 24 hours as anyone on the planet. And no memories are made when I’m racing around in a panic, trying to fit it all in. And in among the massive endless ‘To Do” tasks that we think we have to accomplish, something will inevitably get lost, those moments forgotten in a mad rush or ‘this’ thing, or ‘that’ thing. And what are you willing to forget, to let go and push aside because some list of stupid tasks is more important?

All we’ve ever done, since list-making was created was make our ‘To Do’ lists, scratching out what we think is some semblance of order. For a dramatic change in perspective, I encourage you to write your own ‘To Don’t’ list.

What would be on it for Christmas this year?


It’s Just Write Tuesday over at The Extraordinary Ordinary. I’m a bit early this week.

perfect christmas

December 21st, 2010 | 7 Comments »

I have a lot of Christmas photographs, wrapped carefully in paper envelopes, high on a shelf in a box in my closet. It’s pre-digital Christmas, numerous shots of Griffin, and my siblings surrounded by piles of paper wrapped gifts, sporting huge smiles. I don’t pull them out much to look at physically because the images are stored in my head; multiple Christmases full of insane laughter and a wide-eyed little boy opening box after box from his adoring aunts and uncles. The year he was three, his pile of presents towered over him, and he proudly stood next to the stack, his eyes shining in anticipation.

(photo from wallpaper sphere)

It was a lot, those piles of gifts. Too much, and I had to gently tell my siblings not to indulge him so much. They couldn’t help it, and it made for a pretty joyful Christmas, especially in those early years with Griffin and I as there wasn’t always the best of circumstances in our lives. My siblings never let my boy go without, and helped me to give him some delightful Christmas experiences.


(photo from hubpages.com)

It's hard to express what a perfect Christmas entails, and everyone has a different opinion about it. It's about the food, or the goodies served, or the decorations. It's the pile of gaily wrapped gifts, with ribbons and glitter. Or it's the gathering of the clan. Our culture has given us George Bailey's Christmas, with the ringing of the christmas bell as the angel gets it's wings, or Ralphie pining for his Red Ryder BB gun. It's also given us Linus, eloquently stating the true meaning of Christmas on a dimly lit stage as his friends watch and listen. But in many ways too, far more than I wish to understand, our culture has forced a sense of commercialized perfectionism on a holiday where the true meaning of why it's celebrated has been painfully lost.

(photo from viewpoints)

It's lean for us this year, far leaner than we expected as we had to replace our furnace last Friday. But we're not a big blowout kind of Christmas family anyway. We're really simple, and most of our gifts, in all honesty, were purchased all together last week. Griffin needed basketball shoes, and asked for a new basketball. I wanted a better computer bag and Mike needed a few items as well and so we just bought them together, making sure we got what we needed. There will be a few wrapped gifts under the tree, but we reflect and focus on the meaning of the season far more than the gifts. We count our blessings amidst the dwindling numbers in our pocketbook. We know..... really, it could be far worse. I've been there. I've been face to face with poverty and want; struggling to feed a little boy and myself, shrinking to the tiniest I've ever been because I wasn't eating enough. I've laid awake at night, listening to the little boy sleeping peacefully, and shook in fear over the speedy onset of Christmas, and being so poor that I couldn't even consider what gifts I could wrap for him. And twice in my life, for two consecutive years, the spirit of Christmas, the generosity that pours out of others spilled into my life like a flood and gave me reason to celebrate when the effort of putting one foot in front of the other was about all I could do each day.
(photo clipart from christmasgifts.com)
In 1996, Griffin was two and Christmas was approaching and I was working a minimum wage job that barely kept us floating. It was really an awful time for me, but my boss became my first Christmas angel when she delivered a box at work for me from her teacher husband's high school class. They'd gathered items to give to charity, and as her story went, they had more than they needed so she asked to bring the excess to me. I don't recall how many years passed before I realized that I was part of that charity, but the box I brought home held enough items for me to be able to give my boy a wide array of presents on Christmas Day and I recall weeping with relief as I removed toy after toy from that carton, along with some very nice items for me. Every Christmas, I think of her generosity and grace, of how she lifted me up without my even knowing. We just recently reconnected on Facebook and I plan to thank her again for being the angel she was that year.

(photo from majorly cool things)

The following year I had a similar experience, and I recounted it in this post about my most favorite Christmas ornaments. Again, a friend stepped up and gave of themselves to help lift my spirits and make a better celebration for my little guy. It was the last year that I struggled against the tide that was trying to push me over the edge, and the remaining years of Griffin’s young life were much more hopeful.


(more from majorly cool things)

It isn’t about the number of packages under your tree, as the Grinch clearly found out. The Who’s down in Whoville knew exactly what it meant, each dawn of December 25th. We’ve faced some pretty mean challenges from life in the past few years but each time we feel like we’re teetering on a cliff about to slip off, something happens and the ground stabilizes. We’re blessed. And we know it. It’s hard to see among the trials we face each day, but when we awake this Saturday, we know in our hearts what really matters. We’ll sit by our lush Balsam pine, thick with ancient memories and stories, with glittery ribbon tinsel and sparkling tiny lights and we’ll smile and enjoy each other and the safety and warmth of our home. We’ll celebrate with family, laugh and drink and eat and laugh some more. The gift is here, right now, with us. It won’t be found in a box, no matter how beautifully it’s wrapped, or a meal that’s carefully thought out and prepared, or even in a plate of cookies.

The perfect Christmas is here, in the heart, with us all the time.

Merry Christmas to all,

and to all, a good night!

(photo from teal town)

ornamental memories

December 5th, 2010 | 18 Comments »

My friend Missy, the Marketing Mama has gathered some blogging friend together to talk and reminisce about Christmas ornaments that they love, and the reasons why they’re so important to them. I knew I had to participate in this fun blog carnival because I’ve often considered the fact that should I ever have a fire in my home, one thing I know I would be crushed to lose would be my boxes of Christmas ornaments. The history that unfolds each year as I pull them out and unwrap them never ceases to amaze me, and to fascinate Griffin. He loves looking them over as much as I do, and has contributed many ornaments over the years that are absolutely priceless to me.

And that’s where I will start…. with the first ones he gave me.

This wreath was made when he was in Kindergarten, in the after school program he went to each day.


It’s the simplest thing; a hangar twisted until it was round and then covered with dozens of strips of cut white plastic garbage bags that were tied on. Here you can see a little more detail.

My little guy was mighty proud of this when he showed it to me, and I was really impressed, especially when his teacher told me that he was very diligent about tying his strips on to ‘make it look really nice’. I’ll never forget his face as she praised him, and when he handed it to me. He looked like he could burst wide open. This wreath graces our front door every year, and I love how it looks against the lovely green tone.

The very same year, from his actual Kindergarten class came this adorable little Christmas tree, complete with his Kindergarten picture. It’s faded almost to gray and most of the glitter has worn off, but it is always placed in a very prominent position on our tree every year.

The best part about this particular one is that I have one to match it from when I was in Kindergarten. That faded little paper chain was something I put together when I was but a five-year old too, some 30 years before my own young man. His is imbedded with the year 1999, and mine was made in 1969. These two ornaments always hang next to each other.

Another treasured set of ornaments date that far back as well, and likely even before. These are ones that my Grandma made for us each year.

Some of them even still carry the tags she attached, penned in her careful script.

Each year on Christmas Eve, my Grandma came to our house for dinner. We loved her arrival because she always had a box with her, filled with her handmade ornaments, one for each of us. She had 15 grandchildren, and she did this for all of them each year. We loved the anticipation of what was to come, and often mobbed her to help her with her coat, get her boots off and have her situated so she could bring out our box. We would then rush to our huge tree in the corner to add it to the staggering wealth of ornaments hanging there already. It seemed like each year when we opened our boxes that we had so much to place on that tree. I get that same feeling now, but I place them all carefully so that I can see each one. My Grandma passed away in 1988 and had long gotten out of the habit of making our ornaments each year, but to have these on my own tree always reminds me of her warm smile and the way she would throw her arms around us to give us those perfect grandmotherly squeezes.

I have even yet another set of very special ornaments that were given to me by a friend when Griffin was three years old.


These are superbly old fashioned glass ornaments and are very fragile. I’ve lost a few over the years to eager little fingers but when I pull them out of their tissue packing I remember a year that was very difficult for me, and a friend that stepped up to try and add some necessary cheer to a cheerless situation. It was my first Christmas as a single parent, I had little money and was feeling extremely sad about celebrating. This friend took me out shopping one evening and bought me a small little tree for my tiny apartment, a stand to put it in, a cute holiday tree skirt for underneath, some light strings and a few ornaments, including this set. They simply said ‘You need to have Christmas for your little boy.’ and I was not allowed to say ‘No’. I’m very grateful for that generosity because it helped make our first Christmas alone a little bit better. Growing up, we had a small box of old-fashioned ornaments that were very similar to these so they carry fond memories of when I was really young too.

One last decoration that requires special mention is this porcelain christmas tree.

Griffin’s paternal Grandmother gave this to me many years ago. I had always admired it in her home each season, and when she moved from a house to an apartment, she passed on many treasures to me, including this little tree. It has tiny glass bulbs that slip into holes on the tree branches, and when it’s plugged in it shines with it’s numerous colored lights on a lamp stand in my office. It’s so unique, and so perfect. Grandma Annie passed away this past March, yet she left me several wonderful keepsakes of her and this tree will always have a place in our holiday decor.

This year, on a whim, I took that old tree skirt from my friend, the one that covered that tiny Christmas tree in 1997 and laid it out for the cats to use as a festive means of celebrating Eli’s first Christmas with us.


Because I think everyone in this house should get into the holiday spirit, even if they’re covered in fur.

Join the rest of the bloggers participating in this fun walk down memory lane. Follow the links to their sites to see what they’ve got hanging around their homes this holiday season.

Merry Christmas to all….

December 24th, 2009 | 6 Comments »

Every year, with the boxes all around me and the tissue paper pushed back, I gaze at my life in ornaments and baubles and am in awe yet again at the wealth of memory and nostalgia that we place on the accepting branches of our chosen tree.


That gorgeous crocheted Santa, aptly named Lunar Santa, was made by my sister. It’s one of my most favorite ornaments. And I still have a handful or ornaments that my Grandma made for us. Every year when she came for Christmas, she would bring a box of her handmade treasures. They had tags on them, with our names in her perfect script. Several of mine still hold those tags, that memory of her permanently in ink. Some of the items on our tree were made by Griffin’s paternal Great-Grandmother too.

I love this faded and fragile paper Christmas tree, with Griffin’s tiny little face in the center. He made it in Kindergarten and I hope I never forget the look on his face when he brought it home to me. He swelled with pride when we placed it on our tree that year. Next to it, see that even more faded little paper chain? I made that in Kindergarten, thirty years earlier that the date on Griffin’s tree.

The year that Christmas almost wasn’t was when Griffin was three. It was a pretty hard time of my life and the ocean of sorrow that swirled around me left me almost broke and lacking much holiday spirit. A friend of mine refused to let me wallow, and said “You need to celebrate for your son’s sake.” They took me shopping and bought me a few ornaments, a tiny little tree and stand and a few groceries. Among the ornaments was a box of these old-fashioned styled glass baubles in all sorts of shapes and colors.


My family had some ornaments like this when I was very little and they reminded me of a better time of life, a time when we just had no clue as to the difficulties that lay ahead. Now, when I pull out the tin that lovingly holds this collection, not only do I remember some beloved childhood treasures, but I also recall the support and guidance of someone who gave selflessly to me at a critical time of need.

It really isn’t fully festive during our decorating time unless someone grabs the Santa-inspired tree skirt and dances around the house with it around their waist. Usually it’s me. This year it was Griffin and I almost collapsed from the hilarity. But shhhhh….don’t tell him I mentioned that here. He is 15, you know.

And me? I’m way beyond the need to shake the packages under the tree in a vague attempt to identify their contents, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel the urge every year when they start to accumulate.

I hope that your Christmas is full of treasured people, whether it’s family, or the friends that feel like family. I hope there is delicious food, warm genuine smiles. I hope it is peaceful, because I sure know about celebrating Christmas when it’s the last thing you want to do. I hope snow is involved, if the climate allows, and twinkling lights fill your eyes. We’ll be staring at magical Christmas snow in amazing abundance this year. It is a VERY white Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

A very Merry Christmas to all and a huge Thank You!!

December 24th, 2008 | 1 Comment »

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You’ll notice the orange fluff to the right of this photo- that’s Harmon, trying to get in on the Christmas action by the tree.

So it’s Christmas- again. We have lots of fun family time planned for the next few days and I hope you do too, if you indeed celebrate something this time of year, whether Christmas or Hanukkah or anything. I hope you do celebrate, raise a glass of cheer and see smiling faces all around you. We all deserve, and need that.

The Fur-Boys say ‘Merry Christmas!!!’

cats-at-christmas-005

There’s one little box of new toys under the tree for the cats, as is the norm each Christmas for our catnip addicts. New toys are always appreciated, and often fought over. We need to be fair and make sure there is an equal share or we might see trouble.

Griffin, at 14 shows some excitement for Christmas, but it isn’t the same as when he was, oh maybe 4 or so. He likes getting gifts but he loves the food more, and better yet, hanging out with family. That’s the best part for him. Last night he surprised me before heading to bed by crawling- as best a 130-lb boy can manage- into my lap and snuggling with me, listening to me reminisce about my most favorite Christmas memories of him when he was little. I would have kept him there all night except my leg started to tingle. And to think he once fit perfectly on my forearm.

We continue to get great snow, and the landscape is beautifully white and very Christmas-like. I’m enjoying my cross-country skis, taking twilight excursions through the park near our house. It’s great for de-stressing.

My wish for everyone is to have a wonderful Christmas, and I want to say Thank You from the bottom of my heart for your comments, visits and feedback. Words cannot express how much I appreciate your readership and support. Enjoy the holiday! I’ll see you all soon!

Cookies

December 8th, 2007 | 13 Comments »

Aaaaaaand I’m back! Miss me?

I did treat you to a few posts, shelved prior to ‘the week without tastebuds’ in my house so I wasn’t superbly absent. Interestingly enough, while I recuperated, my blog was inundated with hits, mostly searching for pictures of funny cats. I suppose I’m not so remiss in that area, but this is a food blog!

So it’s December, and the month of Christmas, which means it’s time to bake cookies. Baking for me is highly nostalgic; my mother was a champion baker, if only just for our family. She prided herself on never having store-bought cookies, cakes or anything like that in our home, she baked, and she baked really darn well. If she had one prominent love language to show us, it was in her Baking. She only had to call out “Who wants to help me make cookies?” and I would often drop everything I was doing and race to the kitchen. It was our time to bond, hang out and laugh, not to mention, nibble on warm cookies. Each recipe I have of hers brings me waves of nostalgia whenever I make them- Gingersnaps, Peanut Butter Fingers, Coffee Toffee Bars, Three Layer Bars; they all spelled L-O-V-E in our house. I love to bake but don’t have the benefit of five kids to take away the tempting treats, so I don’t do it too often unless it’s for a crowd, or a special occasion.

Onto the cookies!!!

One of Griffin’s favorites is what our family, and likely plenty of others, always calls ‘Church Window Cookies’. It’s a simple chocolate and colored mini-marshmallow cookie, that when cut (and if you squint and engage enough imagination), can resemble stained glass.

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(jump for story and recipes

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RECIPES:

Church Window Cookies:

Melt one stick of butter and one bag of chocolate chips of your choice, stir gently until smooth, then cool. Pour over one bag of colored mini marshmallows, stir to combine. Either roll into logs, or scoop into plastic drink cups, chill until firm, then slice.

Date-Nut Pinwheels

8 ounce package dates
1 cup hot water
1 cup very finely chopped pecans
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup butter
2 eggs
3-1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine dates, sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla, and hot water in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until thickened – about 6 – 8 minutes. Stir constantly. Remove from heat and stir in pecans. Set date mixture aside to cool. Combine brown sugar and butter. Cream until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs. Combine flour, soda, cream of tartar, salt and cinnamon. Stir into creamed mixture. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and mix well. Divide dough into thirds. Roll each portion into a 12″ square on waxed paper. Spread with 1/3 of date mixture. Lifting up edge of waxed paper, gently peel off dough and roll jelly roll fashion. Wrap rolls in waxed paper and refrigerate overnight. Cut dough into 1/4″ slices and place two inches apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 – 10 minutes. Cool cookies on wire rack.

Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies

3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 (3 ounces) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice
2 cups cake flour
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Cream together butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Gradually add sugar and beat hard. Stir in vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Add flour, mixing well. Stir in nuts. Push small amount from spoon onto a greased baking sheet. Bake at 300 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until delicate brown. While hot, roll in powdered sugar.

RECIPE NOTES:

On the Date-Nut Pinwheels, I doubled the filling mixture, using half dates and half dried sweet cherries. This mixture took a lot longer than 6-8 minutes to thicken, likely from the extra bulk. Cook until it resembles a thick paste, almost jam-like, and allow it too cool completely. I also subbed in some wheat flour, and used a little extra cinnamon. The dough was tacky, I treated it somewhat like pie dough, tossing a little flour over it to keep the rolling pin from sticking. Chill the logs thoroughly and keep them chilled while baking. Any extra filling is wonderful spread on toast.

In our version of the Window cookies, we used Ghiradhelli dark chocolate pieces. If you’re going to eat chocolate, why not make it dark?? Don’t sub the fake stuff for butter; trust me, it tastes so much better to use the real thing. We keep these chilled for a better texture. Cool down the chocolate mix before pouring over the marshmallows or they will melt. Using plastic drink cups is super easy; make sure to press the mixture well into the cup for the best effect. When chilled, cut a slit in the side of the cup and break it apart, pushing the solids onto a cutting board. Use a serrated knife and just a little pressure to slice. *Hint* The bottom slice from the cup is the best part!

For the Cheesecake cookies, I added in about 3/4 of a teaspoon of pure lemon extract to give the cookies more pizazz. It’s been my experience with using just zest and juice that it needs a little added something to really make that lemon flavor shine. Instead of adding in the nuts to the batter, I dipped the cookies into the nuts prior to baking, then finished them with a glaze made of lemon juice and powdered sugar.

Chewy Chocolate Bites

December 11th, 2006 | 11 Comments »

Chewy Chocolate Bites

4 squares Bakers unsweetened baking chocolate

1 1/2 sticks butter (no subs or all of the above mentioned will fail, trust me)

2 c. sugar

3 eggs, beaten

1 t. vanilla

2 c. flour

Preheat oven to 350. Melt chocolate and butter over low heat (or use double boiler) until only small pieces remain. Remove from heat and stir gently to melt completely. Stir in sugar, blend in eggs and vanilla. Add flour, mix well. Chill for 1 hour or until dough is easy to handle. Shape into 1″ balls and place on greased cookie sheets about 2″ apart. Bake 8 minutes or until just set. Do not overbake. (again, trust me, don’t make ‘em crispy ‘cuz all that stuff I said earlier? Yeah, ain’t gonna happen) Allow to cool on baking sheet about a minute then transfer to wire racks.

These are fabulous all by themselves, a dense chewy and rich cookie with amazing chocolate taste. However, you could up the Christmas love by embellishing them any and all ways. Crush some candy canes and sprinkle over the top before baking; press pieces of peanut butter cups in them after they come out of the oven; drizzle them with melted white chocolate (or my fav….melted cappucino chips….this, I swear, could solve world peace) or how about spreading them with a thick layer of mocha icing?? The possibilities are endless and as long and varied as everyone’s imagination. Bottom line…..MAKE them! Do yourself a favor if the omnipresent and ridiculous commercialism of Christmas is in any way getting to you and making you want to hibernate, go into hiding with a container of these and let the rest of the world just fall away. I don’t doubt it would do you wonders.