Monday, December 12, 2011

Busy Baking Day

Yesterday I made chocolate chip cookies - my old recipe that I've used for 40 years - and today I made cranberry almond ones. I decided that those are the only 2 cookies I should ever try to make. They're foolproof, fairly easy and, best of all, delicious.

Mike chopped the fruit and made Gaby's punch while I did the baking. Yummy smells.

Big mess!

The first 2 cranberry-almond batches. Unfortunately, there was 1 cookie in each of the batches that was "ugly" and we had to eat it, so I only got 44 from the recipe.
Here's the recipe:

Cranberry Almond Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
2 large eggs
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups chopped fresh cranberries
1 cup slivered almonds, toasted

Beat butter at medium speech with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugars, beating well. Add almond extract and eggs, beating until blanded.

Combine flour, bakig powder, and salt; gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in cranberries and almonds. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake at 375 degrees for 9 to 11 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Yield: 3-1/2 to 4 dozen.

May be frozen up to 6 months.

This is the best thing I've bought this year. I think I'm late to the party, but it makes plopping out cookies so much easier than in the past. How did I live without it?

Oh, and here's the chocolate chip cookie recipe. I like it because it has the slightest salty taste and lots of chips and pecans. So easy too.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup granualted sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp soda
1 (6-oz) package (1 cup) semisweet chocolate pieces
1/2 cup broken nuts

Cream shortening and sugars, egg and vanilla until light and fluffy. Sift together dry ingredients; stir into creamed mixture and blend well. Add chocolate and nuts.

Drop onto cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Makes 3 dozen.

I also made some cranberry bread since I was chopping cranberries anyway. It's an old standby, but it's been a few years since I've made it. Stella has enjoyed the new holiday things around the house.

Guarding the manger. We were amazed that she climbed up on the velvet-covered table, crawled under the little tree and settled herself down without causing even one ornament to fall.

When she asked to go outside this morning, she didn't bargain for rain. Here's her "Let me in immediately" face.
So the baking is done now and I don't having anything to cook until Wednesday when we get ready for the girls to come in on Thursday. Then it's Mexican casserole, chicken enchiladas and a new Southwest salad I'm going to try. We'll spend Friday and Saturday in Andalusia and probably make the usual turkey and dressing dinner before Emily has to head back to Washington. Elise gets to stay with us until Christmas.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Holiday Pictures

I'm not through with Thanksgiving yet.

When we went to the nursing home to visit Roy at Thanksgiving, I was amazed at the size and color of these marigolds. Beautiful. And a bee too. They had already put in the winter/Christmas landscaping the next time we went, but I didn't have my camera.

This is the nursing home foyer before the tree was decorated. It's much prettier now.

Roy's magnifier - which keeps him up on the outside world - reading newspapers and cards, etc.

Again, more and better pictures next week now that he's settled in a little bit.

I've been slowly decorating around here a little bit but just a few things.


I planted the narcissus bulbs and the amaryllis bulbs the same day. I'm not sure what happened to the narcissus. They popped right up but seem to be just sitting there. I may have watered them too much since this pot has no drainage.

This amaryllis I love.

Usually the stems grow and grow until they're so tall they're almost tipping over, but this one grew a few inches and then started to bloom, the shortest I've ever grown.

And my crazy "Christmas" cactus. It's likely to put out a few blooms when you least expect it any time of year, but just for this occasion I got one bloom only.

A few more random pictures. Nothing like the beautiful mantels and table settings I love on the blogs I read, but just using what I already have, it's nice and cozy and pretty festive,

The small tree in the den. I have to say I enjoy this one more than the bigger one. But they both make me happy, the big one with all the memories and this one with where we stay most of the time.

Side door wreath. This is one of my favorites. Elise either bought it for me in Greensboro or bugged me until I bought it. The pears have a tendency to fall off now and then and seem to need a little glitter updating. These stockings! I made them in 1978 and have never been allowed to replace them. It was Emily's first Christmas, and she would stand beside me and sift her hands through the sequins while I worked. Fun times. I've tried to do similar ones for Stephanie and Ryan but never came close to the gaudiness of the originals.

And that's it. Wreaths hung outside and getting ready to make wassail and cookies in a few days.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

With just the 3 of us this year, it was a tiny tailored Thanksgiving feast. Only the things we liked and very few dishes. It was perfect. Stuffed as usual afterwards, but LOTS of leftovers in the refrigerator.

We had the usual turkey and dressing - this time turkey slices from the deli at Publix - and dressing that has just the right amount of seasoning and moistness.

Sweet potato casserole and brown rice and mushrooms.
Sugar snap peas (frozen - 5 minutes to cook and really good) and sauteed mushrooms.

A surprisingly good strawberry cream pie that we bought for some occasion and never ate. It came in handy today when neither of us wanted to cook a dessert.
It was a nice meal all in all. We missed the ones who weren't able to be here, but we'll see them in a few weeks.

Speaking of baking, this was Mike's next-to-last venture.
It's not an overstuffed sub or a loaf of French bread----

But a pineapple upside-down cake.

We discussed pan sizes ahead of time, and he decided to go against all odds and used a layer cake pan. There was a cookie sheet there to catch any batter than may run over. Unfortunately, there was nothing to catch what ran off the cookie sheet except the bottom of the oven. The smoke and smell did clear out after 3 days, and the cake was delicious - what was left of it.

We spent the afternoon aimlessly, taking Darby for a long walk and riding around and exploring some. We talked to Mike's dad who is newly in a nursing home and heard what a good Thanksgiving dinner he had and how much progress he's making - getting up and visiting friends, talking on the phone, etc. Big improvement over the past few weeks.

Just talked to Emily who is preparing her own dinner for friends. Homemade cranberry sauce, fried turkey, dressing. She gets upset with me because I change the dressing recipe so much (this year I forgot to add "day-old bread"). Pretty soon, she'll be comfortable with her own recipe. and I'll be trying to copy her!

Today is Gaby's birthday. She gets to share her big day with our Thanksgiving Day. I'll have to see if she's tried the sweet potatoes and dressing yet. Happy Birthday, Gaby. I know you're dying laughing over the cake disaster above.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Time for Food

This is the time of year when everyone starts talking about food. Gaby and Dina have been asking about our traditional Thanksgiving dishes and are going to share the Guatemalan holiday favorites. I'm already a big fan of their punch and am looking forward to making it again soon - maybe this week.

We're passing along recipes from Alabama to Texas to Washington to Guatemala for dressing and sweet potato casserole. Everyone makes their dressing differently, and it's hard to tell someone what YOUR recipe is. Once the cornbread is made, then you just start adding the chicken broth and veggies and herbs until it's like you want it. I'm sure I'll make it with a daughter this year, so we'll write down exactly what we do - this time.

Mike and I christened our new mixer last month with a delicious recipe - Pecan Cheesecake Bars - and since a few people have asked for it, I thought I would post it here. I even took pictures for the momentous occasion of my actually cooking something.

The recipe is from this cookbook.

Makes me want to go back to the Red Rooster and sew and eat and laugh and eat some more. On well....

Here is the unveiling of the mixer.

We kind of shared duties, but he got the fun part of putting things in the mixer while I was stuck chopping pecans.

The flour, brown sugar and butter are mixed with a pastry blender along with the pecans and patted into a pan for the bottom layer.

The cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and milk are mixed to make the center filling.

After this has baked and cooled, the topping of brown sugar, corn syrup, butter and eggs along with more pecans is added.

After another baking, this is what it looks like.

Yummy with a glass of milk.


1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar, divided
1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups finely chopped pecans, divided
2 (8-oz) pkg cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
3 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine flour and 3/4 cup brown sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in 1/2 cup pecans. Press mixture evenly in bottom of a 13 x 9 inch baking pan; bake for 10 minutes. In a medium bowl, combine cream cheese and sugar; beat at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add milk and vanilla, beating until well combined; pour over cooled crust. Bake for 15 minutes; remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes. In a medium bowl, combine 3/4 cup brown sugar, corn syrup, melted butter and eggs. Stir in 1-1/2 cups pecans. Pour brown sugar mixture over cream cheese mixture. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until center is set. Makes 2 dozen.

I'm going to go wait for the thunderstorms I was promised by the Weather Channel.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Just to Keep Life Interesting

I'm a bad blogger. I do remember to take some pictures, and I do have things I want to remember, but I just forget to sit down and record them. So this morning since I woke up first and had some extra time, I thought I would cause a little havoc.

I was packing the children's Christmas boxes for our church and just couldn't resist. When Mike wakes up, he pretty much stumbles to the coffee area, and it will be interesting to see his reaction. It's bound to help get rid of a little grumpiness.

Boxes packed and ready to go.

I have a lot of pictures that I downloaded this morning, so this will be random.

We have a long way to go on getting the house the way we want it, but Mike has attacked the yard, and it's coming along. I took this picture of my pitiful side door plants at the end of a summer of neglect.

With just a little work, we've improved that area. The "bricks" are neat plastic/rubber-type rectangles from Home Depot that are light and easy to work with. We'll probably use them again somewhere in the back yard.

Just no time. I'll do more tomorrow.