Monday, December 28, 2009


Growing up in northern Idaho (many years ago), about the most tropical of a fruit that was available to us in grocery stores was a banana. My mom always had fruit in the house; but it was always of the more ordinary kind ... apples, bananas, oranges, etc. Having grown up this way, I don't think about trying some of the more unusual fruits available to us now. I finally bought some kiwis for the first time this past year after having found out that my kids love them. Poor kids -- I felt like I had deprived them. And then last month, a friend told me that one of the stores was having a sale on pomegranates. I confessed that I had never eaten a pomegranate. He happened to have one with him, and gave me and my daughter a taste of the delicious seeds. That was all I needed. I went straight to the grocery store and bought a few pomegranates. They were so good. And then a couple of weeks ago, the same friend told me that mangoes were on sale ..... and yes, once again I had to confess that I had never had a mango. So for Christmas, I received several mangoes from this friend who must surely think I am deprived when it comes to enjoying fruit. But wait, the story gets better ... after cutting into my first mango, I came across this great big seed in the middle. It was about the size of the palm of my hand. I was so surprised! So before I even ate breakfast, I quickly checked on the internet for planting instructions, and planted my first mango seed. This will be a fun experiment.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Christmas to all ......

During the past couple of days, and especially today and tomorrow, there has been a lot of bustling in my kitchen. The aroma of fresh cookies, sweet rolls, homemade dinner rolls, etc. have been very pleasant. So today, while I have a very brief moment away from the kitchen, I wanted to wish you a very Merry Christmas!! Enjoy your time with family, and savor every precious moment. God's blessings to all of you.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Advent Surprise

Each morning during this Advent season, I have been writing a little note to my youngest daughter. This note then gets folded up and placed in a cute felt pocket, along with a little treat, and then placed on her bedroom doorknob for her to find when she wakes up. We have been following this little tradition for several years now. Many times I will find the same felt pocket placed on the stairs that go up to my bedroom with a little note and treat inside for me. Through the years I have saved every single note from her. They are so sweet.

Recently, my treat from her was a package of Christmas pencils. It has not been uncommon for me to give the kids "fun" pencils throughout the years; but to actually get my own package really was a treat for me. And the very best thing about this particular package of pencils is that there were two (yes, two!) red pencils with white polka dots on them inside. What fun I will be having making lists in the near future!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It's a start

Christmas cookie baking has officially begun at our house. Whenever I begin my holiday baking, I always begin with what we call "powdered sugar cookies". Technically the recipe is entitled "Pecan Cookie Balls", but I can't think of them any other way than just plain "powdered sugar cookies". To me these are the ultimate Christmas cookie. When I was younger, that was the one cookie that I would always look forward to my mom making for us. One bite of them just says "Christmas" to me.

The second type of cookies that I made are called "Magic in the Middles". This recipe came from a Rachael Ray magazine a couple of years ago. It is soooo good. Peanut butter is in the middle of each rich, delicious chocolate cookie:

We are just getting started though. I hope to many more varieties of cookies and candy in the next few days. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas .....

Pecan Cookie Balls (aka Powdered Sugar Cookies)

Cream 1 cup butter and 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Stir in 2 cups sifted flour, 1/8 tsp. salt, 2 cups finely chopped pecans, and 2 tsp. vanilla. Mix well. Shape the stiff dough into small balls. Place on a greased (or parchment lined) cookie sheet, and bake in 350 deg. oven for 12-15 min. Remove from pan and carefully roll the hot cookies in powdered sugar. Cool, then roll again in powdered sugar. Store in a tight container.

Magic in the Middles

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar (plus more for dipping)
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup creamy peanut butter, divided
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375 deg. Whisk together first 4 ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, beat together granulated and brown sugars, butter, and 1/4 cup peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg, beating to combine. Stir in dry ingredients, blending well. Set dough aside. Stir together remaining 3/4 cup peanut butter and powdered sugar until smooth. With floured hands, roll peanut butter mixture into 26 (1-inch) balls. Break off about 1 tablespoon cookie dough; make an indentation in the center with thumb, and press a peanut butter ball into indentation. Wrap dough up and over filling, pressing to seal. Roll cookie to smooth it out. Repeat for each cookie. Dip top of each cookie in granulated sugar, and place 2" apart on a lightly greased (or parchment lined) cookie sheet. Used greased bottom of glass to flatten each cookie to about 1/2" thickness. Bake at 375 deg. 7 to 9 minutes or until set. Let cool on wire rack.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Treasures

Christmas decorations make me smile. For me, it isn't about having the most beautiful decorations, or a tree decorated according to a particular theme. It is about memories of past Christmases. When my children were younger, I always tried to come up with a new craft of some sort for them each year. I have saved all of those projects; and now, when I pull out these various projects, they really do make me smile. I can remember their little hands being so busy around the table working on their projects. Here are a couple of treasures that my son made when he was probably about 4 years old (17 years ago). How can these not make someone smile?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas and Chocolate

I don't think that there are too many things better than the combination of chocolate and Christmas. Maybe the reason they go so well together is because at Christmas we have an excuse to make the rich and creamy desserts that normally we might try to talk ourselves out of because of the extra calories, etc. Last year for Christmas, one of my daughters gave me the book, I'm Dreaming of a Chocolate Christmas by Marcel Desaulniers. What a delightful book this is!

I think that Mr. Desaulniers is one of my very favorite cookbook authors of all time. I have several of his books, and have even made a few of his recipes. The results are always out of this world delicious.

Yesterday when my youngest daughter indicated she was suffering from boredom, I suggested that she make some cookies. This was the book that she chose, and made these:

They were melt in your mouth delicious! If any of you are interested in the recipe, just leave a comment indicating so (making sure I can link back to you some way), or e-mail me (see my profile), and I will be happy to send it to you.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Cranberry Salad

With all of our attentions having turned towards Christmas, I thought I would share a few special dishes that I like to prepare during the holidays. Growing up, my mom always made a special cranberry salad, which I must admit, I didn't care for when I was younger. An immature palate I guess towards cranberries. However, now that my palate has fully matured, I enjoy this salad tremendously. My mom would always present it beautifully garnished; and it looked so pretty on the table amongst all of her other delicious dishes. Its main ingredients are orange jello, cranberries, apples, and oranges. Having a tart and sweet taste at the same time, it really works well as a side dish with a meal, and doesn't seem like a dessert.

Cranberry Salad

Dissolve 2 cups boiling water, and then 1 cup of cold water with a 6 ounce package of orange jello. Let thicken to egg white consistency. In a food processor, process one large orange (peel too - but I section it up to remove the seeds first), one large or two small red delicious apples (including peel - but again removing the core and seeds), and 1/2 bag of frozen cranberries. Fold these ingredients into the thickened jello and put into a jello mold, pretty bowl, or 8" square dish. Keep jello in refrigerator until it has set.