Gingerbread Cookies


Gingerbread house with path.

Gingerbread house with path. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve used this gingerbread cookie recipe for a long time to make gingerbread men and women, and also to put together gingerbread houses for the Christmas season.  If done right, it makes up into a dough that cooks up crisply and that will hold up to the rigors of being frosting glued into a holiday gingerbread house.  I’m not wonderful using pastry bags to frost too finely, so I resort to using those plastic tubes of frosting that can be found in the baking section of a supermarket.  They come in all colors and some even have changeable tips to make different decorating effects for the finished cookies.  Use whatever shape of cookie cutters move you, but I still prefer the gingerbread men and Santa’s to make gingerbread shapes that can be punched with a hole and hung as decorations, too.  The recipe is as follows:

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 lb. pound unsalted butter (not margarine)
1 cup molasses
1 cup brown sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg well beaten
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons dried ginger powder
1/4 cup boiling water

Cream butter and sugar until blended and light.  Add the egg and molasses.  Mix well.  Dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water.  Sift the flour with the salt and ginger powder and add the hot water to the first mixture and then stir this into the dry ingredients.   Chill this for at least one hour.  Roll the dough very thin and cut with a cookie cutter of your choosing which has been dipped in flour.  Bake in 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for approximately 15 minutes being careful to watch closely as these can burn quickly.  Cookies should be firm but not overly browned.

Cookies can be used as walls and roof for a gingerbread house with either a pre-bought kit or cut freehand from your own pattern.

Serving amount dependent on size of your cookie cutters.  I use a 2 inch cutter.  You  can also make ornament shaped ones using a 2 inch glass rim dipped in flour and then decorated with sugar frosting and sprinkles.

“The snow had begun n the gloaming.
And busily all the night
Had been heaping field and highway
With a silence deep and white.
-LOWELL

Chafing Dish Meatballs


Meat Balls - Lion Hotel

Meat Balls(Photo credit: avlxyz)

Here is a good little recipes that will leave your guests raving.  It tastes great and can be kept warm either in a chafing dish or just use your crockpot to keep it warm.  These come out best when done on the stove top and really aren’t too difficult.  We’ve used them a lot for Christmas Eve buffets and they go over just as big on New Years Eve. These can be made ahead and refrigerated of frozen with the meatballs held in one container and the sauce in a different one.  Thaw sauce and meatballs and put the dish together at the last-minute.

INGREDIENTS:

3 lbs. lean ground beef
1 1/2 cups cracker crumbs
1 cup onion chopped
1 cup canola oil
12 ounces evaporated milk
2 teaspoons salt
3 medium green peppers – diced
1 cup chicken bouillon granules
8 chucks canned pineapple – juice drained
4 Tablespoons soy sauce
4 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 1/2 cups pineapple juice
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon seasoned salt (such as accent)
pepper

Mix the ground beef, cracker crumbs, evaporated milk, onion and salt together until thoroughly blended.  Shape mixture into tiny meatballs.  Brown in frying pan in canola oil.  Remove from heat.  Drain oil from skillet reserving about 2 tablespoons of the oil.  Add bouillon, green peppers and pineapple.  Cover and cook over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes until softened.  In the meantime, mix cornstarch, soy sauce, seasoned salt (accent) vinegar, pineapple juice, sugar, salt and pepper.  Add the mixture to the pineapple, bouillon, and green peppers in skillet and simmer, stirring constantly until mixture thickens.  Return meatball to sauce.  Serve in chafing dish or keep warm in crockpot.  Use cocktail picks to serve.  These go good with cocktail bread or tiny croissants.

Yields:  Approximately 25 servings

May your holiday season be a joyous one.  I hope you like these as much as we do.

Mocha Coffee Punch


Punch Bowl

(Photo credit: Josh Self)

For a different punch while you, your family and friends put up the Christmas decorations, I’ve opted for a cold punch instead of a hot one.  This punch serves 40 punch cup servings (or less in 6-8 ounce glass).  Even though the punch can be used for the summer, it has a heavy-bodied feel that is nice in the winter, too.

1 gallon strong coffee – chilled
3/4 cups sugar
1 gallon chocolate ice cream
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 pint whipping cream (heavy cream) whipped
and sweetened
grated nutmeg

Combine the sugar, coffee and vanilla.  Stir to dissolve.  Refrigerate mixture.  To serve, scoop ice cream into the punch bowl.  Add refrigerated coffee mixture and then gently fold in the whipped cream.  Sprinkle the top with grated nutmeg to taste.

Servings:  40 punch cups full

I serve this up in an antique milk glass bowl, but it also looks great in a cranberry glass bowl and ladled up with a silver ladle.

Some appetizer recipes are to follow.

Happy decorating.  It’s time to bring tree, ornaments, and lights from the storage room!!!

Hanukkah (with recipe)


The last night of Chanukah; Menorah with all 8...

Photo credit: Wilkpedia

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah (Chanukah) takes place this year from the evening of December 8th through to the evening of December 16th, 2012.

Hanukkah is a happily celebrated holiday that starts on the 25th day of Kivlis (according to the Georgian calendar and is dated based upon the cycles of moon.  Hanukkah is also referred to as the Festival of Lights and is usually celebrated on a date falling somewhere around November into December.  It takes place for eight days and nights.  The festival is in celebration of the rededication of the ‘Temple of Jerusalem’ – or Temple of Menorah in 165 B.C by Judas McCabe.  The word Hanukkah in translation means ‘dedication’ in Jewish.

During the Hanukkah celebration in the eight successive nights, the menorah is lit.  The special menorah that is used by celebrants is called the ‘hannukkiyah’.  The special ninth candle that is used is called the ‘shamish and it takes a central space on the menorah.  It is the ‘servant’ candle used to light the other candles.  On night one, the first candle is lit and they are lit successively until all are completely lit on the eighth night.  The candles are usually lit from left to right.  A blessing thanking God is usually said before and after a candle lighting.  A Jewish hymn is sung during the lightings.  The menorah is often placed in a front window of the celebrants home.

Gift giving has become the norm and gifts are now given on each of the days of Hanukkah.  This is a more recent tradition  Games are played during Hanukkah including ‘sivivon’ and ‘dreidel’.  Foods fried in oil such as latkes and donuts filled with jams are very often served.  Of the many foods served during the celebration, honey spice cookies are popular among children and following is a recipe that I used for a bake sale held at a local temple some years ago.   I share it below:

HONEY-SPICE COOKIES —

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup margarine (60% oil), softened
1/2 cup honey
1 large egg
2  1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1  1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1  1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoons ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

FROSTING:

2 beaten egg whites
2  1/2 cups confectioners sugar
Tablespoon of lemon juice

In mixing bowl, cream margarine and brown sugar with electric mixer.  Beat in the honey and egg until thoroughly combined.  In a small bowl, mix the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, cloves and salt.  Add honey mixture and mix on low speed until well blended.  Cover up the dough and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  Can be refrigerated for up to two days.

When ready to bake, grease 2 large cookie sheets and set aside.  Working rapidly, quarter the dough, and one piece at a time roll out on a surface dusted with flour to a 1/4 inch thickness.  Using shaped cookie cutters (star, dreidel and menorah) cut into desired number of cookies depending on size of cutters.  These can also be cut by hand with sharp knife.  Reshape scraps and cut more cookies from it.  Place on shapes on greased baking sheets and bake in a 350 degree oven for 7-8 minutes or until golden.  Quantity of cookies may vary due to size of cookie cutters.  Transfer cookies to wire baking racks to cool.

To frost cookies – In large mixing bowl, combine egg whites, confectioners sugar, salt and lemon juice.  Beat this on high until mixture forms peaks.  A bit of water can be added if too stiff or add more sugar if too runny.  Using pasty bag with fitted tube, decorate with icing.

Blessed is the match consumed in kindling flame
Blessed is the flame that burns in the secret fastness of the heart
by Hannah Senesh

Italian Ricotta Pie


Ricotta cheese.

Ricotta cheese. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Usually during this time of year, holiday tables are full of dessert pies made of a variety of fruit fillings.  On our table for Thanksgiving Day is a variety of ethnic dishes including one for this Italian basic ricotta pie.  It’s very rich, but it can be made with part-skim ricotta to cut down a bit on calories.  This is a quick and easy pie to make and should add a very distinct flavor to your holiday meal.

Crust:

 

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick margarine
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 egg yolks (from large or extra large eggs)

Filling:

2 pounds Ricotta cheese (or part-skim_
1  1/2 cups confectioners sugar
2 egg whites (from large or extra large eggs)
2 teaspoons lemon and rind
1  1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (not imitation)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit

 

 

For the crust, place 2 cups flour in large mixing bowl with baking powder, stir dry ingredients to blend.  With fork, cut in margarine until small balls form.  Add vanilla and slowly put milk in while blending with fork until ball forms.  Add egg yolks and continue stirring until a large ball forms.  If it is too dry to roll, add just a small amount of milk until of rolling consistency.  Roll out dough onto waxed paper – one for top and one for bottom.  Put half of dough into bottom of 10 inch pie plate.  Reserve other half for top of ricotta pie.

For the filling, in mixer bowl place ricotta cheese, egg whites,  lemon and rind, mix.  Then add the confectioners sugar and vanilla extract.  Blend for approximately 7 minutes of medium speed or until smooth.  Pour into pie crust.  Place reserved pie crust on top of filling and crimp the edges as desired.  Brush top crust lightly with egg white and place four small cuts to vent steam.  Cover edges with aluminum foil to protect rim of pie.

Bake at 425 degrees for 40 minutes or until lightly browned.

 

Over the River…….


English: Lydia Maria Child (February 11, 1802 ...

English: Lydia Maria Child (February 11, 1802 – July 7, 1880) was an American abolitionist, women’s rights activist, opponent of American expansionism, Indian rights activist, novelist, and journalist. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For this post I don’t have to go far from home to remind me of the holiday season, of  Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I’m reminded of one day in the 1980’s when I toured the home of Lydia Maria Childs’ grandparents who had owned an old Georgian Colonial on the other side of the Mystic River in Medford, Massachusetts in the U.S.A.  I had saved up enough money for a down payment on a house and Lydia Maria Childs’ grandparents old home was for sale.  I toured the house with my husband and I was extremely excited by the prospect of owning such a wonderful piece of American history. I said yes to the real estate agents offer of a purchase price of only $42,000.  Unfortunately, after adding up the costs of owning and maintaining such a large structure, we decided against the purchase and moved on to other options.  At a later date, Tufts University bought the home for a huge sum and the house remains on the U.S. Trust for Historic Preservations’ registered historic homes list.

Lydia Maria Child was a author, abolitionist and activist who was born into a prominent New England family in Medford, Massachusetts.  She was schooled in her early years in Medford Schools.  She would often visit her grandparents at their home and wrote this song as an adult.  Sometimes when the snow is deep and the air is chill, you can almost see the her sleigh coming across the old Craddock Bridge in Medford Square.

Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandfather’s House We Go

By Lydia Maria Child

Over the river, and through the wood,
to Grandfather’s house we go:
the horse knows the way to carry the sleigh
through the white and drifted snow.

Over the river, and through the wood,to Grandfather’s house away!
We would not stop for doll or top,
for ’tis Thanksgiving Day.

Over the river, and through the wood
oh, how the wind does blow!
It stings the toes and bites the nose,
as over the ground we go.

Over the river, and through the wood,
and straight trough the barnyard gate,
We seem to go extremely slow,
it is so hard to wait!

Over the river, and through the wood,
when Grandmother sees us come,
She will say, ‘o, dear, the children are here,
bring a pie for every one.’

Over the river, and through the wood,
now Grandmothers cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

May your holidays be as filled with joy as the young Lydia Maria Childs’ was on that long ago Thanksgiving Day.

Mexican Christmas Eve Salad


English: fresh fruit salad

English: fresh fruit salad (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fresh fruit and vegetable of Mexico in Mexico ...

In this salad I use the original beets as it lends a festive air to this Mexican style salad.  If you want to use this for a dessert instead, leave the beets out.  Fresh beets are best, but for ease of preparation canned beets may be used if thoroughly drained.  Fresh fruit is preferred.  Sugar is the only sweet added or it may also be served with a thinned mayonnaise.  I like the following combination, but you can substitute a fruit ingredient for some other that you prefer.

INGREDIENTS:

1  3/4 cups orange sections or mandarin orange sections
1 cup apples, unpeeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 3/4 cups pineapple chunks
1 cup sliced bananas
3/4 cups roughly chopped unsalted peanuts
seeds from 1 medium pomegranate
1 cups cooked sliced or diced beets
1/4 cup finely chopped peanuts

Mix all fruit pieces together.  Top with pomegranate seeds and chopped nuts

Sprinkle with superfine sugar (or granulated) or serve with thinned mayonnaise.

This makes a wonderful dessert or dinner starter served before a holiday meal.  It is usually served as part of the Christmas Eve meal in some parts of the world.