Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Happy New Year Recipe

I happened upon this "Recipe For A Happy New Year" many years ago in a book titled Leaves of Gold first published in 1938.

Recipe For A Happy New Year
Take twelve, fine, full grown months, see that these are thoroughly free from all memories of bitterness, rancor, hate, jealousy; cleanse them completely from every clinging spite; pick off all specks of pettiness and littleness; in short, see that these months are freed from all the past-have them as fresh and clean as when they first came from the great storehouse of Time.

Cut these months into thirty or thirty-one equal parts. This batch will keep for just one year. Do not attempt to make up the whole batch at one time (so many persons spoil the entire lot in this way), but prepare one day at a time as follows:

Into each day put twelve parts of faith, eleven of patience, ten of courage, nine of work (some people omit this ingredient and so spoil the flavor of the rest), eight of hope, seven of fidelity, six of liberality, five of kindness, four of rest (leaving this out is like leaving the oil out of the salad-don't do it), three of prayer, two of meditation, and one well selected resolution. If you have no conscientious scruples, put in about a teaspoonful of good spirits, a dash of fun, a pinch of folly, a sprinkling of play and a heaping cupful of good humor.

Pour into the whole love ad libitum and mix with vim. Cook thoroughly in a fervent heat; garnish with a few smiles and a sprig of joy; then serve with quietness, unselfishness, and cheerfulness, and a Happy New Year is a certainty.~H.M.S.~

Wishing you all A Happy, Safe & Healthy New Year! Louise:)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

No Doubt, It's St. Thomas' Day

Tis the morning of the feast of St Thomas the Apostle, which usually closely coincides with the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.

The December solstice will occur at 5:30AM on December 22, 2011. It is known as the Winter Solstice in the northern hemisphere and the Summer Solstice in the southern hemisphere due to the seasonal differences. Depending on the shift of the calendar, the winter solstice usually occurs on December 21 to 23 each year
First and foremost, run outside and hug a tree! Yes, you heard me, squeeze that tree with all your might if you're even thinking about having a fertile harvest next year:)
Hugging trees for good luck is just one of many traditions associated with St. Thomas' Day and the Winter Solstice. In fact, many myths and legends have been spun through antiquity.
In ancient times, the evening of the 21st of December highlightened Advent. The dusk of the longest night of the year was greeted with great ceremony. For the fasting of Advent was about to finish and Christmas finally to begin. The rural people would use this night for a blessing of their homestead, the boys would gather and carry song and dance from home to home, to greet the families wishing a Merry Christmas. At Thomas' Night, the halls of spinning were opened the last time this year. The girls met and were joined by the housewifes to spin and to sew their dowry in yarn and linen. The guys came in for match-and merrymaking with music, song and lore.
Within this night, the spinning for the old year had to be finished. It was said, that in the twelve nights to come, the Lady Holle would visit the homes, look after the housework and give her blessing. A find of fibres on the spinningwheel would anger her, nice strands of yarn and finished work be her delight. And so it came, that the night was long. The young and old folks joined together to hear the ancient stories, laugh and play, til all the flax was gone and dawn was near. The longest night had been spent. And finally, Christmastime was here. (source)
St. Thomas' Day celebrates the Apostle Thomas, the doubter, who was the last to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. In the German tradition, it is customary to bake "iced currant buns" much like the Hot Cross Buns served at Easter.
December 21st, the shortest day (longest night / Winter Solstice) of the year, is dubbed St. Thomas Day. In parts of the Sauerland, whoever wakes up late or arrives late to work on that day is issued the title "Thomas Donkey." They are given a cardboard donkey and are the subject of numerous jokes throughout the day. But this gentle abuse ends deliciously with round, iced currant buns called "Thomasplitzchen". In other parts of Germany it is called other names such as Durchspinn-Nacht or Durchsitz-Nacht. Traditionally lot of alcohol is consumed and the next day is often called Kotzmorgen (hangover morning). (source)
I guess you could call me somewhat of a Thomas Donkey, else I would have posted this "emergency" recipe for Currant Cake with Rose Water a tad earlier.

If by chance you happen upon a Thomas Donkey in the near future, you may want to consider a dish of Straw and Hay or (Paglia e Fieno) as they say in Italian. I found this recipe also in the Frugal Gourmet Celebrates Christmas.
Straw and Hay Paglia e Fieno
"The name for this colorful pasta dish comes from the fact that you use pasta of two different colors, yellow and green. Straw and Hay is the rich tasting results." You could use basil pasta in place of the spinach pasta in this dish.
The English were not without their customs for St Thomas' Day. They went A-Thomassing!
Christmas is coming and the geese are getting fat,
Please spare a penny for the old man’s hat,
If you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do,
If you haven’t got a ha’penny, God bless you.
Up until the end of the 19th Century it was traditional in most parts of Britain for poorer people to go door to door collecting gifts of money or food on this day. One favourite food gift was a measure of corn for making Christmas puddings or bread. The women would carry two-handled vessels called gossiping pots or pads in which to get donations of wheat (which is what corn often means in England, it being the usual term for the principal cereal crop of the area). From this they would make furmenty or frumenty (a drink of hulled wheat boiled in milk and seasoned with cinnamon and sugar; its name comes from frumentum, the Latin for corn). Usually the local miller would grind this into flour without making a charge.
St. Thomas' Day was often know as "Mumping", "Gooding" or "Doleing" Day and women and children would say that they were going "a-thomasing", "a-gooding", "a-mumping" or "a-curning". When the gifts were handed out the donors were rewarded with wishes of Happy Christmas and in some areas a sprig of holly or mistletoe. (source)
There are many legends surrounding St. Thomas' Day. Don't be a "doubting Thomas" here are a few to bring you along.

  • In southern Germany, it is hoped that when a bowl of fruit, vegetables and nuts is placed on the table, a lack of them in the year to come will be prevented.
  • If you ate well on St. Thomas Day, you could expect to do so all of the next year.
  • In Austria, legend says that unmarried girls can see their future on St. Thomas Night, if they climb into bed over a stool and throw their shoes toward the door, the toes of the shoes pointing downward. If they sleep with their heads at the foot of the bead, the dreams will reveal visions of their future husbands.
  • If a single woman on St. Thomas Day can pick out a young rooster from among a brood of sleeping chicks, she will soon obtain a husband, or see him in her dreams.
  • In England students of past eras raced to school early on St. Thomas’s Day. If they succeeded in arriving before the teacher, they were allowed to lock him out and so escape their lessons.

  • Kletzenbrot, a moist dense bread, filled with nuts and dried pears, is traditionally baked on St. Thomas Day. The first piece of Kletzenbrot bread must be given to one’s love to make sure that his or her love and affection may continue in the year to come. Another legend tells us if you cut into the bread before Christmas, you will grow Donkey's ears:)
  • On St. Thomas Night (Dec. 20th) cut an apple in two and count the seeds in each half; if they are even, you will soon be married.
  • It is unlucky to sift flour on St. Thomas Day
  • If it freezes on the 21st of December, the price of grain will fall.
  • Those born on St. Thomas' Day will have a bustling life...
St. Thomas’s day is past and gone,
And Christmas is a-most a-come,
Maidens arise
And make your pies,
And save poor tailor Bobby one.

The Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle was traditionally celebrated on December 21. The feast has now been moved to July 3rd.

It doesn't appear that I will be blogging and visiting the rest of the year. There were some complications with the first medication I was using for my eye, (pre-patch:) and now, dear readers I am on a new regiment which seems to be helping. I detest wearing a patch and the limitations it encumbers but, I am trying to be a patient patient which I'm sure my doctors appreciate:) I am however, going to try and visit you all at least once in the next couple of days and hopefully, I will be back to normal (and not in big trouble with Marion for breaking the rules) real soon. A very Merry Christmas and a Joyous Season to you all. Louise

Now days are short, nights long and raw,
With pinching frost, and slabby rain and snow;
But let good rousing fires, and Christmas cheer,
Still mix'd with charity, conclude the year...

John Nathan Hutchins
Hutchins Family Almanac

1. Christmas @ History.com
2. Thomasnacht & Klötzenbacken
3. Old British Folk Tales and Festivals: From the Weird to the Wacky
4. British Traditions
5. St. Thomas’ Day on the Winter Solstice
6. Encyclopaedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences [Volume 3] (1903)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cut It Out! It's National Cookie Day!

Tradition plays a tremendous part in the festivities surrounding the holiday season. Be sure to create traditions with your family and friends and do your best to keep them alive in this ever changing world of commercialism. And what better place to begin but in the hearth of the home, the kitchen. Roll-out cookie dough and festive cookie cutters can make holidays memorable. The sheer magic of baking and personally decorating the cookies is entertainment in itself. Just take a look at these Stained Glass Ornament Cookies Pattie created using cutter cookies she found at William Sonoma. Aren't they fabulous! And just wait until you see what she did with them. You'll be as delighted as I was:)

As I mentioned the other day, today is National Cookie Day and we are in the midst of National Cookie Cutter Week. I had big plans for today's celebration. As luck would have it, those plans are not going to come to fruition today. Here's why. For the past couple of weeks, I've been having problems seeing out of my right eye. Thinking it would pass, I just went about my business as usual. Well, it didn't work. As a matter of fact, it got worse. I tried eye washes, resting and even different reading glasses and it continued to get worse. I finally went to the eye doctor today and it seems I have a rather advanced infection in my eye and the doctor tells me it must not only be tended to but also requires a few weeks, at least, of rest. I'm not one to listen to the doctors but, It doesn't take a rocket scientist to plainly see there is indeed something awry. So, dear readers, I'm sorry to say, rest it will be; indefinitely...

I did manage to gather a few cookie trivia crumbs while researching for today's post. Rather than typing these tidbits of goodies here, I will send you on your way at your leisure. I've left tons of links in the resource section below.
Buttered Rum Cutouts
Buttered Rum Cutouts
Better Homes and Garden Biggest Book of Cookies
1 cup butter softened
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp. rum extract
2-2/3 cups all purpose flour
1 recipe Royal Icing
1. In a large bowl beat butter with electric mixer on med high speed for 30 sec. Add brown sugar, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides occassionally. Beat in egg and rum extract until combined.
2. Add as much flour as you can and mix it in with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour with spoon. Divide dough in half. If it is necessary, chill dough for one hr til it is easy to handle.
3. Roll out half the dough onto the floured surface until 1/8 inch thick. Using floured cookie cutters, cut into desired shapes. Place one inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
4. Bake at 350 F oven for 8-10 min or til edges are slightly browned. Let cool on a wire rack and frost if desired with Royal icing.
Royal Icing
In a small mixing bowl combine 2 cups sifted powdered sugar, 1/4 cup warm water, 4 teaspoons meringue powder, and 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar. Beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined. Beat on high speed for 7 tp 10 minutes or until stiff. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons additional warm water, 1 teaspoon at a time, until glazing consistency. If desired, divide glaze and tint each portion with different paste food coloring. Use at once. Keep covered when not in use.
To Store: Place in layers separated by waxed paper in an airtight container; cover. Store at room temperature up to 3 days or freeze unfrosted cookies up to 3 months. Thaw cookies, frost.
Aunt Chick and the History of Cookie Cutters was to be the core of today's post, along with a few chosen cut-out cookie recipes. Let's see how this goes:)

By definition, a cookie cutter is "a device used to cut rolled cookie dough into shapes before baking." Traditionally, cookie cutters are made of copper, tin, stainless steel, aluminium, or plastic. According to the same defining source, the first known use of the words cookie cutter occurred in 1903. I beg to differ: In a Boston Cooking School Magazine article from 1902, titled Some Christmas Fancies, by Julia Davis Chandler, I came across these suggestions:

As you see, in paragraph two, the last sentence makes reference to the tinsmith who can supply the "cutters" by direction. Tinplate was used in cookie cutter production because it was cheap and readily available. It was also easy to form and solder, corrosion resistant, non poisonous and easy to keep clean. Cookie shapes were cut from pastry dough using these cutters made by local tinsmiths. A cookie cutter in the mid 19th century might cost between 5 and 10 cents and a family, in the course of time, might accumulate a dozen or so for use on special occasions.

Cut-Out Sugar Cookies
Cookie decorating dates back to at least the 14th century when in Switzerland, springerle cookie molds were carved from wood and used to impress Biblical designs into cookies.
The art of decorating cookies can be traced back to Medieval Germany where Lebkuchen was crafted into fancy shapes and decorated with sugar. During the 17th century, Dutch and German settlers introduced cookie cutters, decorative molds, and festive holiday cookie decorations to the United States. German cooking utensils, including cookie cutters, were imported between 1871 and 1906, and the American tradition of decorating cookies for Christmas tree ornamentation took hold.
Lebkuchen (gingerbread) was probably the first cake/cookie traditionally associated with Christmas. For Christmas over a hundred years ago, Pennsylvania German children in Lancaster County helped cut out and decorate foot-high cookies to stand in the front of windows of their stone or brick houses. These cookie people–often gingerbread men and women iced with rows of buttons and big smiles–were a cheerful sight to snow-cold passersby. Figural cookie-making was practiced in Europe at least as far back as the sixteenth century–most of them were made using intaglio molds rather than with cutters. (source)
Sugar Cookies for a Crowd
The Best of Amish Coooking
Phylis Pellman Good (1988)
The quintessential cut-out cookie is the sugar cookie. Also called Amish Sugar Cookies or Nazareth Sugar Cookies, the modern sugar cookie was created by the Moravians, who settled in the Nazareth area of Pennsylvania during the mid-18th century. As a matter of fact, Pennsylvania adopted the Nazareth Sugar Cookie as the official state cookie in 2001.
I was graciously awarded with the Liebster Award by Helene from Masala Herb. (Thank you again Helene. It was sweet of you:) With her unique approach and style, Helene's blog never disappoints. I've discovered so many new ingredients and dishes by visiting her and her positive encouragement is contagious. Drop by and say hi when you get a chance:)

"The Liebster Blog Award comes from the German word meaning "dearest" or "beloved" and is given by fellow bloggers to new blogs with 200 or less followers, with the aim of encouraging new connections." I hope Helene understands that I think it best to simply accept her award without passing it on for the time being.

I would like to thank my latest followers though. They are:
Sarah: @ Muffin Top Confections
Someone? @ To Be Announced
Russ & Jenna @ Mr. & Mrs. Johnson
Emily @ Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

For those of you talented cookie bakers out there, I happened upon a Holiday Cookie Contest, over @ Yummly Nibbles & Bits, that you just might find interesting. It seems the prize is a 7-Quart KitchenAid Stand Mixer. Hurry though. It closes December 9, 2011. Good Luck!!!

I have no intentions of not making some visits every now and again and there is no way I won't be popping in to wish you all a Happy Holidays. However, just in case we miss each other, enjoy the Holiday Season everyone and bake a lot of cookies!!! As a matter of fact, if you would like to leave your favorite cookie link in the comment section, link away!!! Louise:)

Apple Butter Cookies
Good Housekeeping Cook Book (1944 ed.)

Cookie Cutters:
1. American Cookie Cutter Manufacturer
2. Copper Cookie Cutters
3. Dog Bone Cookie Cutters
4. Hammersong Cookie Cutters (unique & whimsical)
5. Hand Crafted Cookie Cutters
6. Poppy's Cookie Cutters
7. Walnut Creek Home and Garden-A family owned business in Metamora, Indiana
8. Cookie Cutter Ideas
Cut-Out Cookies
1. The History of Fruit Cake and Other Christmas Goodies
2. Tips and Hints for Making Cookie Cutter Cookies
3. How to Decorate with Royal Icing
4. Tips for Icing
5. Easy Cake Mix Sugar Cookies
6. Cookie Decorating Recipes
7. Fond Memories of “The Original” Cookie Cutter Lady
8. German Cinnamon Stars (Zimtsterne)
9. Coffee Ginger Cookies

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Welcome December; Let's Celebrate

If you take a peek to the left over there, you will notice the pickins' are slim for national food celebrations for the month of December. Quite frankly, I for one, am delighted. What we may be missing in monthly celebrations, we'll surely make up for weekly and daily. However, we'll get to those later.

Egg Nog Month

That's right "kiddies" December is National EggNog Month! (forgive the dual spelling, after all these years, you would think I would know how to spell egg nog, or is it eggnog?) If you think the spelling is blurry, the history of egg nog is even more obscure! Here's one explanation from the folks at Pillsbury.

"Nog is an old English word for a strong ale. Since eggs were an important part of the creamy ale punch, the rum-laced drink became known as eggnog." Pillsbury Easiest Ever Holiday Entertaining ©1994

Makes sense to me:) I've never been a big fan of drinking eggnog. Despite my aversion, I find baking with store bought eggnog palatable. Take this Banana Eggnog Bread Pudding with Rum Sauce for instance. I have a friend who "flips" at the ease of this recipe:)

1-1 pound loaf raisin bread, cut into cubes
2 medium bananas
3-1/2 cups store bought eggnog
4 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Rum Sauce:
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup dark corn syrup
2 tbs. butter
1/2 teaspoon rum extract
Heat oven 350°F
Butter 13x9-inch (3 quart) baking dish.
Place half of the bread cubes in buttered baking dish. top with banana slices and remain bread cubes.
In large bowl, combine eggnog, eggs, sugar, and nutmeg; blend well.
Pour over bread cubes. Let stand 5 minutes.
Bake at 350°F for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.
Rum Sauce:
In a small saucepan combine all sauce ingredients except rum extract. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils and thickens. Reduce heat to low; simmer 5 minutes stirring onstantly. Stir in rum extract. Serve warm sauce over pudding. 12 servings. Pillsbury Holiday Baking & Gifts ©1995
"In the 1820's Pierce Egan, a period author, wrote a book called "Life of London or Days and Nights of Jerry Hawthorne and His Elegant Friend Corinthina Tom". To publicize his work Mr. Egan made up a variation of eggnog he called "Tom and Jerry". It added 1/2 oz of brandy to the basic recipe (fortifying it considerably and adding further to its popularity). (source)

Fruitcake Month

It shouldn't come as too much of a surprise that December is National Fruitcake Month. (or is that fruit cake:) Okay, so beat me with a wet noodle, I don't care for fruitcake either. Apparently, Martha Washington, wife of George Washington, used 40 eggs and 5 pounds of fruit in her "Great Cake." Not quite like Martha's, here's a recipe for Mini Fruitcakes from Ideal's Christmas Kitchen Cookbook.

Mini Fruitcakes

National Pear Month

And a partridge in a Pear tree...National Pear Month is new to me. I just learned of it a couple of months ago. Don't laugh, but, I'm not a huge fan of pears either. (I just want you to know I'm giggling to myself as I type this:) Why oh why is she sharing these food celebrations when she is so darn picky, lol...However, I LOVE cooked pears!!! Go figure! (I feel the same way about blueberries btw LOVE them cooked in goodies, fresh and juicy, not so much) Very strange since I don't consider myself a fussy eater. Although, you sure couldn't tell by this post, lol...On to the Pears!

Now be honest, doesn't this alluring dish of pears look "divine?"

Roasted-Rosemary Gorgonzola Pears
4 un-peeled ripe firm pears, cut in half lengthwise, cored*
1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (coarse salt)
1 teaspoon coarse ground pepper
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary leaves, crushed.
1/3 cup finely crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1. Heat oven 375°F. Cut thin slice from rounded side of pear halves, if necessary so they'll rest level in pan. In 13x9-inch pan, arrange pear halves, cut sides up. Brush tops of pears with oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and rosemary.
2. Roast uncovered 35 minutes. Fill cored hollow of each pear half with 2 teaspoons cheese. Roast uncovered 10-15 minutes longer or until pears are tender and cheese soft. Sprinkle with walnuts.Drizzle with additional olive oil if desired.
*a melon baller or the tip of a teaspoon works well to core the pears. Be sure to make the hollow large enough to hold 2 teaspoons of cheese. Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook ©2006

You may have noticed that I skipped right over Made in America Month. I'm working on a special post for that celebration and hopefully, good Lord willing and the creek don't freeze, it will be done before the end of the month. We'll see...

Meet Aunt Chick. Actually, that's her pen name. Her real name was Nettie Williams McBirney and, she was the "Martha Stewart" of her day. Mrs. McBirney was quite the woman! Not only did she host a home makers radio show for many years, she also wrote cookbooks and invented a few innovative kitchen aids during the depression. One of her most famous was a cookie cutter designed to easily release molded cookie dough so it could maintain its 3-D appearance. She began selling them in 1948 and they were an immediate success. They are also highly prized by collectors. I'll be posting more about Aunt Chick on Sunday for National Cookie Day and, since the first week of December is National Cookie Cutter Week, it may just be the perfect day to drag out those rolling pins!

Before I forget, today is Eat A Red Apple Day. And, tomorrow is National Fritters Day. Stay tuned for Cookie Day on Sunday!!! If you really must know more days of celebrations in December, check out Lisa Loves Holidays! You'll be delighted:)

1. Brief Eggnog History
2. Cookie Cutters & Aunt Chick (this link is one of the first post I ever did. Be that as it may, you may enjoy the Ginger Snap Rhyming Recipe. It's cute:)