Tag Archives: Christmas

Your Tray or Mine Recipe of the Day: Chocolate Crinkles

18 Dec
Betty Crocker's Cooky Book

Can you spot the Chocolate Crinkle cookie on the cover of our cookbook?

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 15, 2011

This recipe is an original to our cookie trays and I like it because it makes a lot of cookies, so it’s not a cookie that you have to ration one per tray or anything like that. You can be generous when you give them out.

I also think these are such pretty cookies, like snowflakes, which is funny for a chocolate based cookie.

They’re easy to make but you do need to make sure you make the batter ahead of time and chill it, so take that into account when you’re doing your planning.

CHOCOLATE CRINKLES

INGREDIENTS

1/2 cup vegetable oil

4 sq. unsweetened chocolate (4 oz.) melted

2 cups granulated sugar

4 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

2 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup Confectioner’s Sugar

Chocolate Crinkles on baking sheet

Chocolate Crinkles fresh out of the oven

DIRECTIONS

Mix oil, chocolate and granulated sugar.

Blend in one egg at a time until well mixed.

Add vanilla.

Measure flour by dipping method or by sifting (I really just measure. I’m not sure what either of those methods are, although it says See p. 5 to find out what the dipping method is.)

Stir flour, baking powder and salt into oil mixture.

Chill several hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into confectioner’s sugar BEFORE rolling into balls. Roll in sugar, shape into balls. (This is how you get the snowflake look when they bake.)

Place about 2″ apart on greased baking sheet.

Bake 10-12 minutes. Do not overbake. Makes about six dozen cookies.

Three tiered cookie rack with crinkles

This recipe is the whole reason why I wanted this three tiered cooling rack this year. It makes a ton of cookies!

Baking with the kids

Many hands make light work. Messy work, but light work. Powdered sugar everywhere!

Your Tray or Mine: Baking with the Grandmas…More Family Favorites

16 Dec

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 14, 2011

I am very, very lucky and I know it. I still have two of my grandmothers living and although they are both now in their 90s, they are both healthy and they are both tremendous cooks. I literally was born into this tradition of baking and cooking. Knowing that so many of the grandmas’ recipes were “in their heads,” we’ve taken a great deal of effort to get them to put them down on paper recently. Especially important to me are the two recipes for the cookies that go on our Christmas Cookie Trays. Grandma Rose makes hundreds of tiny Wine Biscuits each year for her trays and ours, and Grandma Grello makes her delicious iced Prune Cookies for our trays as well. Like I said, we are very lucky.

In honor of the Grandmas I am going to share with you their two cookie recipes. Consider them passed on from me to you. 🙂

Grandma Rose

This is Grandma Rose with our girls, three of her five great-grandchildren, on her 90th birthday this past November.

GRANDMA ROSE’S WINE BISCUITS

5 cups flour

1 cup sugar

3 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup wine (Deep Burgundy)

3/4 cup oil

Grandma Rose's Wine Biscuits

Can you imagine making 400 of these every Christmas? Grandma Rose can!

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Roll dough into small logs, form into knots.

Brush beaten egg yolk on knots for glaze before baking.

Bake 18 to 20 minutes til lightly browned

*******************************************************************************************************************

Grandma Grello and the girls

This is Grandma Grello with our girls, three out of I think 15? great grandchildren, this past July which is shortly after she turned 91 in May.

GRANDMA GRELLO’S ICED PRUNE COOKIES

*Note: This recipe, as well as her Meat Pies recipe, was featured in the Providence Journal’s Food Section this past year.

A note from my mom:

Although this recipe may seem involved, it’s really not difficult because the cookies are made in several steps, and the various steps can be spread out over a period of time.

FOR THE FILLING:

1 large box of pitted prunes (18 oz. or more)

1/2 lb. raisins (dark, not golden)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup strong black coffee

Zest of one lemon and one orange

1/2 lemon

1/2 orange

=====================================

10 oz. jar maraschino cherries, drained and chopped

1/2 cup coffee brandy or Kahlúa

=====================================

Cover prunes and raisins with water.  Add sugar, coffee, lemon zest, orange zest, the half lemon and the half orange.  Cook until prunes and raisins are soft to the touch.  Drain well and return to pan.  Add chopped cherries and coffee brandy or Kahlúa.  Mix well and refrigerate overnight or for several days.

This is what the finished Prune Cookies roll looks like before you slice it for serving or putting on trays.

FOR THE DOUGH:

6 cups all purpose flour

3 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1 cup Crisco shortening

1 1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup milk

2 tsp. vanilla

6 eggs

Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and set aside.  In another bowl, combine sugar and shortening and beat with mixer until smooth.  Add milk and vanilla.  Add eggs one at a time.  Add this mixture to dry ingredients and mix together by hand with a large spoon.  Once incorporated (and with lightweight “kitchen-type” gloves, if possible), finish mixing with your hands until it comes together into a smooth dough.  Transfer to a floured surface, and use a knife to cut dough into six pieces.  Roll each piece out into a long strip (approximately 13-14” long and about 7” wide), one at a time, and fill center of strip with a portion of the prune filling.  Fold each side over the middle and fold the ends under.  Place filled strip on parchment-lined cookie sheet (two strips per sheet) with seam side down.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack and cool completely before adding glaze.  (If desired, the strips can be frozen without glaze for later use.  To freeze, wrap them individually, first in parchment paper and then in heavy duty foil.  Then when needed, thaw completely and add glaze.)

Let glaze “set” (dry), and then slice before serving.

Here is what they look like once they are sliced.

FOR THE GLAZE:

The following amounts may be adjusted for consistency and flavor desired, but these ingredients should frost six strips.

4 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar

4 1/2 tbl. lemon juice

3 to 4 1/2 tbl. hot water (try with 3 tbl. first, then add more as needed)

Multi-colored nonpareils (optional)

Mix until smooth.  Top each strip with glaze, and if desired, add nonpareils.

ENJOY TODAY’S COOKING WITH THE GRANDMAS RECIPES!

Enjoy!

Christmas Dessert: Mocha Roll and Christmas Cookies

29 Dec
Christmas cookie tray

All together now: all of the cookies made by my mom, me and both grandmas, all on one tray.

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 29, 2011

This week I’ve been posting in retrospect about our Christmas Dinner. To me, the best part of any dinner is always the dessert. And like our Christmas Dinner, which is much the same every year, our dessert selection is as well.

First off, there’s the tray of Christmas Cookies. Together with my mom and two grandmothers, we put together a tray of cookies that has about 13 different varieties to choose from. We all have our favorites.

But…we’ve been eating cookies on and off now for two weeks. Well, at least I have. So we have to have another choice also. Enter…the Mocha Roll.

My mom makes the most fabulous frozen dessert called a Mocha Roll.

The Mocha Roll, before the first piece has been cut.

The Mocha Roll before the first piece has been cut.

This picture looks nice enough, but you truly can’t get a good enough idea of what this dessert really is unless you see it cut into a serving, which you will in a minute, when I post the recipe. However, I first must give tons of thanks to my mom here, because I decided to ask her for the recipe *just* as she was getting ready to leave for a cross-country, day-after-Christmas trip and I’m sure she had better things to be doing than emailing me recipes, but sure enough, there it was in my inbox this afternoon. So 1) She made it for yesterday’s dessert, 2) she typed up the recipe for me already so I don’t have to do it and 3) she took the time to send it to me. Thank you Mom!!

Single serving mocha roll

Here’s my dish, whipped cream on the side because I don’t actually like whipped cream. I did that just for you!

Here’s the recipe for her Mocha Roll for you!

FROZEN MOCHA ROLL

(Good Housekeeping Magazine – 1974 or earlier)

Note:  Can be made and frozen one month ahead.

INGREDIENTS

5 eggs, separated, at room temperature

1 cup confectioner’s sugar, divided

Cocoa

Dash salt

Mocha cream (recipe follows)

DIRECTIONS

Day before or early in day:

Preheat oven to 400º.  Grease 15½ X 10½ jelly roll pan with shortening.  Line plan with waxed paper, then grease again and flour.

Separate eggs while they are cold, taking care not to get any yolk mixed in with the whites because if any egg yolk is present in whites, the whites will not beat to their highest volume.  Also, for greatest volume, cover bowl and let egg whites warm to room temperature before beating.

In large bowl, with mixer at high speed, beat egg whites until soft peaks form.  Beating at high sped, sprinkle in 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar.  Beat until sugar is completely dissolved.  Do not scrape sides of bowl.  (Egg whites should be stiff with glossy peaks.)  Set aside.

In small bowl, with mixer at high speed, beat egg yolks until thick and lemon-colored.  At low speed, beat in 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar, 3 Tablespoons cocoa, and dash of salt, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula.  Gently fold yolk mixture into whites until blended.  (To do this, with a gentle downward motion and using a spatula, cut through the center of the whites, across the bottom and up the side of the bowl.  Then, give the bowl a quarter turn and repeat the cutting motion until egg-white mixture is broken to the size of small peas.  Fold just until all ingredients are combined, using spatula or whisk.  Over-folding breaks air bubbles, causing a flat jelly roll.)

Spread batter evenly in pan and bake 12-13 minutes.  Cake is done when top springs back when lightly touched with finger.  Do not overbake.

Meanwhile, sprinkle a clean cloth towel with cocoa.  (A flat weave towel, rather than a terry towel, works best.)

When cake is done, use a small spatula to immediately loosen edges from sides of pan.  Invert cake onto prepared towel.  Gently peel waxed paper from cake.  Roll towel together with cake from one of the narrow edges (jelly-roll fashion).  Roll as tightly as possible, but do not press down on cake.   Cool completely, seam-side down, on a wire rack.  Meanwhile, prepare mocha cream.

When cake is cool, unroll from towel.  Evenly spread Mocha Cream on cake almost to edges.  Starting at same narrow end, roll up cake without towel.  Place cake seam-side down on top of plastic wrap.  Wrap cake and then place on heavy duty foil; wrap and freeze cake for several hours or overnight.

About 15 minutes before serving, remove cake from freezer; unwrap; let stand for easier slicing.

MOCHA CREAM:

In medium bowl, whip together, until soft peaks form:

1 cup heavy cream

1/4 cup light brown sugar

3 teaspoons instant coffee (prefer decaf, but not required)

(You can buy 16 oz. container and use remaining 1 cup to whip and serve with cake; add a little confectioner’s sugar to cream before whipping.)

Serves 8 to 10. This can be refrozen if there are leftovers!

What’s for Christmas dinner: Make ahead twice baked potatoes

17 Dec
Christmas Dinner: pork chop with homemade applesauce, green beans, twice baked potatoes, butternut squash

Today’s post is all about the potatoes.

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 28, 2011

Yesterday I wrote the first part of my post about our Christmas dinner, which is a great meal for any occasion:  roasted pork chops, homemade applesauce, Twice-Baked Potatoes, sauteed green beans and butternut squash.

At the end of the post I promised that I’d be sharing the make-ahead process that Don uses for the Twice-Baked Potatoes, which also provides you with a ready-made appetizer: potato skins.

To begin, you need baking potatoes. I get mine at Aldi’s. They sell the perfect sized and shaped potatoes in a big bag so that you don’t have to hand pick every single one. I buy two bags of them.

Early in the day on Christmas Eve, they go in the oven to be baked just as you would for any baked potato. Don bakes them at 400 degrees for one hour.

After that, they cool on top of the stove for two hours.

Potato skins

You want to take off the tops, but leave enough potato on them to make a hearty potato skin appetizer. You don’t want just skin.

At that time, Don cuts the top skin off of the potatoes, putting the tops in a serving dish to be used as Potato Skins for the next day and leaving the bottoms on the tray to be used for the Twice Baked Potatoes.

potato shells

You don’t want to scrape right down to the skin, leave enough flesh on the skin for a sturdy shell.

The next step is to scoop all of the potato flesh out of the skins, and into a mixing bowl.

making mashed potatoes for twice baked potoatoes

Next, you make mashed potatoes.

Next, you make the filling. We use butter, milk or half and half, salt, pepper and cheddar cheese, mashing the mixture just as you would for mashed potatoes.

Then, you fill the potato skins back up again. They should be slightly more full than they were before because of the added cheese, milk and butter.

Wrap the entire tray with saran wrap and refrigerate overnight.

On Christmas morning, when it’s time to cook, take your potatoes out. Let them sit on the counter for about 20 minutes to bring the temperature up a bit. Bake them in the oven 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Sprinkle cheddar cheese on top of each one, and broil for a few minutes until brown and crispy. Eat and Enjoy!

Twice Baked Potatoes

Good enough to eat!

Additionally, to make your potato skins appetizer, you use the tops of the skins from the day before, sprinkling them with any toppings you’d like. We use cheddar cheese and bacon bits. Broil them for a few minutes in the oven before serving. We serve with a side of sour cream.

Family Movie Night and Two Books: The Snowman, Some Snowflakes and a Craft

12 Dec
The Snowman movie based on the book

This movie is quick, 23 minutes long and is based on the book by Raymond Briggs

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 16, 2011

Today is Friday, our wind-down night and often-times we have a Family Movie Night, as I said in last Friday’s post. Yesterday’s recipe was for Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, which I said make me think of snowflakes, even though they are chocolate based cookies. That thought of snowflakes leads me to today’s movie, book and craft for kids.

When I was an elementary teacher, the book, “The Snowman” by Raymond Briggs was one of my favorites to use as a wintertime activity with the kids. A wordless book, it had gorgeous illustrations, depicting a boy’s journey with a snowman. I used to love having the kids make their own version of the words to go along with the pictures.

That book is now a movie, and although I have not seen it, I wish I had it! According to the description on Amazon, it is based on live action flying footage. It sounds fantastic!

This is the same book that our family had for years until just last week.

The book that I used to have is now gone, donated just a couple of weeks ago, by my generous kids who each year have to make a big pile of books and toys for children who don’t have much, just before Christmas.

Clearly they couldn’t read my mind and know that I was going to use that very book in my blog post this week. When I heard it was gone, I almost went after it but my husband assured me they were putting the boxes on a truck as he was dropping them off, it was gone. So, instead, I am including the picture from Amazon. Sigh…I loved that book.

Speaking of books and snowflakes, when my daughter Caroline was in first grade, she checked out this very cool book about William Bently, a man who studied snowflakes. It includes really amazing photos of snowflakes and my kids were thoroughly intrigued by it. It truly shows that every snowflake is unique.

To me, nothing says winter crafts like paper snowflakes. One year I had my kids make snowflakes for all of the windows in the house (this was not an overwhelming task, we don’t have a ton of windows!) Each of their snowflakes was different and unique, just like real snowflakes. I loved the ones they put up on my bedroom windows so much that I never take them down. My side of the bed is the window side and I happen to sleep on my left side so I look out the window all the time when I’m laying there in the mornings just waking up. I love seeing those snowflakes.

Therefore, my craft for the day is just that: simple.paper.snowflakes.

Enjoy!

Paper snowflakes made by the kids

Every snowflake is different and unique, just like the children who make them!

Paper snowflakes made by our girls

I keep my paper snowflakes on my window all year long!

Monday Musings: Giving in preparation for receiving

9 Dec
December, a month when we get so much from others, is a great time to focus more on the gift of giving to others and spreading peace.

December, a month when we get so much from others, is a great time to focus more on the gift of giving to others and spreading peace.

Christmas is coming!

In our house, the countdown is on in a couple of different locations around the house. We’ve got a countdown to Christmas written on the fridge memo board and we have a Christmas House countdown where each day, beginning with December 1, you open a window of the wooden house which has a tiny treat inside. You eat the treat, and wait for the next day when you do it again. At our house, each day has three M&Ms inside: one for each kid. Every year they await the day we decorate our living room and the Christmas House comes out of its box and goes onto the hutch next to our Nativity scene.

This year though, there’s an added twist to our countdown house. Just before the start of the month, a friend of mine, Gina, sent me a link she thought my kids would enjoy. The link, to 100 Days of Real Food, contained 25 business card-sized messages which each fit nicely, one per day, in the windows of our Christmas House, along with our three M&Ms. I read through the messages which gave daily Random Acts of Kindness (RAKs) and I loved the idea of including them in our countdown to Christmas. The RAKs gave ideas about sending a note to someone you haven’t seen in a while, or helping a parent/teacher/friend/sibling, and things of that nature.

What I liked most about this new idea was that it encouraged the kids to think about other people every day over the next month. I think overall we do a good job of raising our kids to think of other people, but this month-long activity would really put the focus on good deeds as the kids anticipate the arrival of Christmas.

I decided to write them a letter explaining to them this new twist that would be appearing in the Christmas House on the first day and every day throughout the month, and leave it for them propped up in front of the house for that first morning. I told them that there was no pressure here, that whichever of the RAKs they could accomplish would be one more nice thing than they might have normally thought to do on any given day and would brighten someone else’s day. I did not take away the treats, as I didn’t feel the need to erase one tradition in order to add in another. I placed an empty vase behind the house, and a post-it note sized note pad next to it. I asked them to fill out a piece of paper each time they accomplished one of the RAKs and throw it into the vase.

This was not to keep score, or to track who is doing RAKs and who isn’t. There will be no comparisons in the end. It was strictly a visual for them: at the end of the month they will be able to “see” what a difference they’ve made in other people’s lives through the season of Advent as they watch the vase go from empty to full.

Now that it’s begun and we’re a week in, I find it interesting to hear them talk about how this or that RAK  is one they already do frequently or one they’ve recently done for someone, or to hear them thinking about ways to accomplish that day’s RAK. It’s just nice to hear them talking about putting other people before themselves. It’s also neat to find other things we’ve done throughout the day and note that they’re also RAKs even though they weren’t necessarily the suggested ones in the window that day. This weekend for example, they made pillowcases for Kids Conquer Cancer at their sewing class, we bought a toy doll for a three year old girl who lives in a local shelter for our church’s giving tree, we bought pajamas for a school pajama drive, and we donated money to a charity for foster teens by attending a local fashion show for which their ticket prices went towards Christmas gifts for the teens. Having regular opportunities to talk about these actions reminds them that they truly do a lot of “good deeds” as the days go by.

Last week, Nelson Mandela passed away. At 95 years old, he was one of the worlds most prominent examples of a peacemaker; someone who dedicated his lifetime to being a truly good, peaceful person. As we sat in church this past Sunday morning, our pastor spoke about Mandela and his calling. He talked about what a leader Mandela was, what a role model he was for living a truly peaceful life. The pastor reminded us that we are all called to something bigger than just our own daily lives and responsibilities; although clearly we’re not all called to do such a huge job as Mandela, each thing we do makes a difference in the world.

Since the Newton CT. shootings at Sandy Hook last year, there are many people who chose last year and are choosing this year, to do 26 RAKs in December to honor the 26 victims of that shooting. I loved that idea as well. What a wonderful way to honor the victims of such a violent tragedy, by working to spread peace to others.

I feel like our 25 days of giving to others is an example of the little things we do in our lives that make a difference in the world, no matter how small. I’d never dare to even compare myself or my family to Nelson Mandela, but I do believe that we make a difference. I know we do. We are helping to spread goodness and peacefulness to others. We’re focusing on it a lot during Advent, as we prepare for Christmas, but it’s something we’ve built our family morals and values on as well, and we focus on it year-round.

I’m enjoying watching our vase fill with RAKs as the days go by, and I’m sure that this new type of countdown will be something we will add to our Advent traditions again next year. I’m certainly thankful for my friend Gina, that she came across this and thought to send it our way.

No matter what you celebrate or how you do it, I hope that your holiday season is peaceful and wonderful!

And last but not least, my gift: Smart Mug for my lunch

28 Jan
One mug has my morning coffee and one mug has my soup for lunch!

One mug has my morning coffee and one mug has my soup for lunch!

I got the coolest gift this year for Christmas!

I wanted a mug that I could plug into my car AC adapter in order to reheat my coffee during the day. Oftentimes, I’ll leave the house for work with a mug of hot coffee, get to my destination in just a couple of minutes, and then when I come out an hour or so later, my coffee is now ice cold. Then I drive around all day, wishing I had that hot coffee.

This year, this was one gift I really wanted, a mug that would warm up my coffee. There are lots of them out there, but this one says “Tech Tools” on it and its official name is the Princess International PI-4121 Red Retro Smart Mug. You can get it here on Amazon.com.

I totally love my mug. This weekend I used it after church. Similar to a work day, I often leave the house to go to church, bringing my coffee in the car with me. Ten minutes later we get there and I sadly say goodbye to my coffee because I know that later when I come out, it’s going to be cold while we run our errands during the hour the kids are at CCD.

Not anymore. This Sunday, my coffee was still semi-warm when I got out to my car, but all I had to do was plug in my mug, flip the little switch on the cup and wait for it to hit about 100 degrees. I was golden. I enjoyed every sip of my coffee during our hour.

With every sip, I thought, “This is the coolest thing.”

But actually, it’s not even the coolest thing of all.

My friend Paula, of the blog My Soup For You, enlightened me to the fact that rather than keeping cookies in my purse and in my car for when I’ve missed lunch and am totally starving after being on the road all day, I could plan ahead just a little bit and make a soup that I could drink, such as her Creamy Lentil Soup, which I’ve linked over to just above. (If you remember, I don’t really love traditional lunches, such as sandwiches, so I never pack one. Plus, I’d rather eat cookies anyway.)

Paula said that now that I had this nifty mug, I could then put my soup into my mug, and flip the switch when I’m ready to eat.

Amazing!

And guess what: She was right!

A couple of weeks ago I did not have enough time to go home in between stories for lunch, so I packed our chicken and veggie chowder for the road. I had time to sit in my car and eat it though, so I took a spoon with me when I left the house.

I left one story and turned on my mug to heat up my soup, so that before I had to go into the next story I had time to eat my soup.  It made my day so much more enjoyable because I was not starving. I don’t like to go and buy food for lunch when I’m working unless I absolutely have to, so I was happy to have avoided that. I went from my second story to my third one with a full belly.

And then, I had my cookies for dessert.

This mug has gotten great reviews from others, and I hope that my experience continues to be as great as it already has been so far, because I really love being able to take soup on the road.