Merry Christmas!

I won't be posting to my blog until after the holidays. That doesn't mean I won't be around, I'll still be popping in to read about everyone's Christmas. I want to finish out 2007 with some post cards from 100 years ago. I love the way Santas have changed through the years.

The first Santa looks like one we'd see today. Notice the American flags decorating his sleigh.
This is an embossed card with unusual blue to pink shading. I love this Santa's full beard and long hair.

This Santa is my favorite in his blue outfit.

Quite modern looking except for the black fur on his suit. The look of the children is especially interesting on this card.

I had to include "Scary Santa" in the group. Isn't he the creepiest Santa you've ever seen? I know I wouldn't want to find him coming down my chimney!

Merry Christmas, everyone! See you in the New Year!


Doggie Christmas Treats

No, these bone-shaped cookies wouldn’t go over so well at your next tea unless you’re serving afternoon tea to your canine friends. Hmmm, now there’s an idea for a tea theme! Your doggie buddies will love these and you’ll feel good knowing exactly what’s in the cookie.

1 package active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
1 teaspoon beef bouillon granules
2 tablespoons boiling water
2 ½ cups flour
1 cup nonfat dry milk powder
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup cooked long grain rice
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 jar (4 ounces) vegetable beef dinner baby food
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. In another small bowl, dissolve bouillon in boiling water. In a large mixer bowl, combine the flour, milk powder, wheat flour, rice and gelatin. Mix in the baby food, egg, oil, yeast mixture and bouillon mixture until combined; mix until a ball is formed. If your mixer can’t handle this, knead by hand.

Turn onto a lightly floured surface; roll to ¼-inch thickness. Cut with a floured 2-inch bone cookie cutter. Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake at 300º for 25-30 minutes. Remove to wire racks to cool. Let stand for 24 hours until hardened. Store in an airtight container. Makes about 3 dozen.


My World Wednesday: Christmas at my House

When my husband was a boy, he saved his allowance to buy Christmas lights for the outside of his parents' home. He's been a nut about Christmas decorating ever since. My decorating doesn't live up to his fussy standards so he does it all himself. I'm not complaining, everything always looks good and I can concentrate on cooking.

Here's what he's done this year. A live tree, 12 feet high, in the Middle Parlor holds everything from our most precious antique ornaments to red popsicle stick sleds I made 30 years ago.

Do you have a pickle on your tree? Tradition says that the first child to find the pickle on Christmas morning gets an extra gift.

These next two ornaments came from my husband's grandparent's tree. They are handpainted, a skier and a blue Santa.

Our newest tree in our dining room.

This is our Front Parlor tree which is decorated in Hallmark Ornaments. We started collecting them in the early '80s and now have...well, too many to count. (Although my husband keeps a notebook indexing each one. I told you he's a Christmas nut!)

Katherine at Yellow Rose Arbor shows her beautiful collection of Nativities this week. Stop by to see them! Here is the one we use at our house. My husband received one piece for attending Sunday School each year. We have 18 different pieces, including 6 sheep for some reason. Each piece was made in Italy and is quite detailed for something that was probably very inexpensive at the time.


Chocolate Toffee Bark

Every few years a recipe goes around that, at first look, seems really strange. Who can forget that strawberry Jello and pretzels dessert everyone served a while back? Weird combination but it tasted good. I can even remember when broccoli salad hit our area. Raw broccoli and mayonnaise—no thanks! But since tasting it, broccoli salad has been a favorite, served at almost every picnic I’ve had. It will even make an appearance on my Christmas dinner table this year.

This next treat fits right into the strange dishes category. My friend Una brought this to our Cookbook Club’s cookie exchange and it was the hit of the day. I hope you’ll try it. It takes only minutes to make and really does taste great.

1 sleeve saltine crackers
2 sticks butter
¾ cup sugar
1 12-ounce package chocolate chips
3 Heath Bars, crunched
1 teaspoon vanilla

Place one layer of saltines on a jelly roll pan which has been covered with foil and sprayed with cooking spray.

Preheat oven to 375º.

Meanwhile boil sugar and butter on medium heat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and add vanilla.

Pour over crackers and spread evenly.

Bake 8 minutes. Let settle for 1 minute.

Pour chocolate chips over crackers. When melted, spread evenly over crackers and sprinkle with Heath Bars. Chill several hours. Peel from foil and break into pieces.


A Christmas Tea: Martha Washingtons

Here's another treat for the candy plate!

½ cup butter, softened
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 1-pound package powdered sugar
2 7-ounce cans sweetened flaked coconut
2 cups finely chopped pecans
1 cup maraschino cherries, well drained and finely chopped
20 ounces dark chocolate candy coating
4 ounces baking chocolate or semisweet choco chips

In a large mixing bowl, combine butter and milk. Gradually add the powdered sugar, blending until smooth. Stir in the coconut, pecans and cherries. Cover and chill 2 hours or until firm.

Line 2 baking sheets with waxed paper. Shape the mixture into balls ¾ inch in diameter. Place balls on the lined baking sheet. Cover and chill 1 hour or more. Here are the pretty centers:

Cover a large countertop area with waxed paper.

In the top pan of a double boiler over hot but not boiling water, melt the candy coating and chocolate together, stirring until smooth. Using a toothpick, fork or dipping tool, dip each ball into the melted chocolate until coated. Drop onto the waxed paper. Let stand until the chocolate is firm. Store in an airtight container.


A Christmas Tea: Yule Log

3 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee granules or crystals
Chocolate Buttercream Frosting:
1/3 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
1/3 cup butter, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 to 2 tablespoons hot water
Meringue Mushrooms

Heat oven to 375°. Line 15x10x1-inch pan with foil or waxed paper; grease with shortening or cooking spray. In small bowl, beat eggs with electric mixer on high speed about 5 minutes or until very thick and lemon colored. Pour eggs into large bowl; gradually beat in 1 cup granulated sugar. Beat in 1/3 cup water and the vanilla on low speed. Gradually add flour, baking powder and salt, beating just until batter is smooth. Pour into pan, spreading batter to corners.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately loosen cake from edges of pan; invert onto towel generously sprinkled with powdered sugar. Carefully remove foil. Trim off stiff edges of cake if necessary. While hot, carefully roll cake and towel from narrow end. Cool on cooling rack at least 30 minutes.

In chilled medium bowl, beat all filling ingredients on high speed until stiff. Unroll cake; remove towel. Spread filling over cake. Roll up cake.

In medium bowl, beat cocoa and butter on low speed until thoroughly mixed. Beat in powdered sugar until mixed. Beat in vanilla and enough of the hot water until frosting is smooth and spreadable.

For tree stump, cut off a 2-inch diagonal slice from one end of cake. Attach stump to one long side using 1 tablespoon frosting. Frost cake with remaining frosting. With a palette knife or the tines of fork, make strokes in frosting to look like tree bark. Garnish with mushrooms (below.)

Meringue Mushrooms

1/2 cup egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
4 ounces chocolate confectioners' coating

Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper or aluminum foil.
In a large glass or metal bowl, use an electric mixer to whip egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla. Continue whipping until the whites hold soft peaks. Gradually sprinkle in the sugar so that it does not sink to the bottom, and continue whipping until the mixture holds stiff shiny peaks.

Place a round tip into a pastry bag, and fill the bag half way with the meringue. To pipe the mushroom caps, squeeze out round mounds of meringue onto one of the prepared cookie sheets. Pull the bag off to the side to avoid making peaks on the top. For the stems, press out a tiny bit of meringue onto the other sheet, then pull the bag straight up. They should resemble candy kisses. Do not worry about making all of the pieces exactly the same. The mushrooms will look more natural if the pieces are different sizes. Dust the mushroom caps lightly with cocoa using a small sifter or strainer.

Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven, or until the caps are dry enough to easily remove from the cookie sheets. Set aside to cool completely. Melt the coating chocolate in a metal bowl over simmering water, or in a glass bowl in the microwave, stirring occasionally until smooth.
Poke a small hole in the bottom of a mushroom cap. Spread chocolate over the bottom of the cap. Dip the tip of a stem in chocolate, and press lightly into the hole. When the chocolate sets, they will hold together. Repeat with remaining pieces. Store at room temperature in a dry place or tin.


My World Wednesday On Thursday: Cookie Day!

For the last 32 years, my mother and I have been baking Christmas cookies together. Yesterday was the day. And since I had an appointment and had to leave early, today is the day too. As you can see in the photo of my mother and the cookies, we made quite a few. Oatmeal-Raisin, Peanut butter, Sand Tarts and just for some color those Pillsbury cookies that come already made. Today we'll make three or four more kinds, including a Chocolate Toffee Bark that I'll post about later.

My mother always likes to count the cookies, writing down how many we made of each kind. I've saved those slips of paper and it is fun to look back to see the kinds we used to make. One year we made 1142, our highest ever. And that was done all in one day. Starting at 8:00, we used to work until about 7:00 in the evening.

We have a couple disasters each year and yesterday was no exception. We mixed up baking powder for baking soda in one recipe and then just added the soda on top of the mixed dough. That didn't ruin the cookies but they probably weren't as good as they could have been. Then switching the trays, my mother grabbed the ones just out of the oven in place of the cool tray to be baked. Ouch! The hot tray flew up in the air and cookies landed around the room. While I'm sorry for the burnt fingers, I do kind of wish I had a picture of that moment.

So, I've got to run for now. Because of the icy conditions predicted here I'm getting pick-up service. I'm a big sissy when it comes to driving in ice or snow, even when cookies are involved.

I'm going to edit this after reading Gina's comment. No, I won't eat all the cookies myself! In fact, I brought only two of each kind home with me and my husband will probably eat them. My mother gives most of the cookies as gifts and we'll have them on our Christmas Day dessert table for the entire family to enjoy. Don't worry, I'll still be able to walk through doors after the holiday season! :)


A Christmas Tea: Chocolate-Covered Cherries

I usually have a My World Wednesday post each week. But I’m going to bump that to tomorrow. Instead today I’ll continue with the Christmas Tea.

Chocolate-covered cherries aren’t difficult to make but here are a few hints:

Make sure the cherries are really dry; any wetness will cause the fondant to slide off.

Don’t skimp on the piece of fondant you use to cover the cherry. Form it into a little rectangle in your hand before trying to put it over the cherry.

Use the best candy coating you can find. Ghirardelli, Mercken’s and Baker’s all make chocolate coating.

Don’t allow even one drop of water to get into your melting chocolate or it will seize. The only remedy for seized chocolate is to throw it out. It isn’t hard to keep the water away, only something you need to be aware of.

Cover the cherry completely with chocolate. If there is even a tiny uncovered hole, the fondant will leak and make a mess.

1 16-ounce jar maraschino cherries with stems
3 tablespoons butter, softened
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups powdered sugar
10 ounces dark chocolate candy coating
2 ounces baking chocolate or semisweet choco chips

Leaving stems intact, rinse and dry the cherries by patting with a paper towel. Line a baking sheet with waxed paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the butter, corn syrup and salt. Gradually add the powdered sugar, stirring until smooth. Knead by hand until the fondant is smooth and creamy. Pinch off a small amount and shape around each cherry. Place on the baking sheet. Cover and chill 1 hour or until firm.

Cover another baking sheet with waxed paper.

Melt the candy coating and chocolate together, stirring until smooth. Hold each cherry by the stem and dip into the melted chocolate until coated. Allow excess chocolate to drip off. Place on the lined baking sheet. Let stand until the chocolate is firm. Store in an airtight container. The cherries will keep up to a week in the fridge.


A Christmas Tea: Chocolate-Cherry Tarts

For the Christmas Tea, place both these Choco-Cherry Tarts and yesterday's Tiny Chess Tarts on the same serving tray. Your guests will definitely take one of each!

1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup butter
2 to 3 tablespoons water
1 21-ounce can cherry pie filling
Sliced almonds
Whipped cream

For pastry, combine flour, sugar and cocoa powder. Cut in butter till pieces are the size of small peas. Sprinkle with water, 1 tablespoon at a time, tossing till moistened. Form into ball.

Divide pastry into 24 balls. Place each in an ungreased 1 ¾-inch muffin cup; press dough evenly against bottom and sides. Spoon a generous tablespoon of cherry pie filling into each muffin cup. Bake in a 325º oven for 15 to 18 minutes. Cool 30 minutes in pans. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire racks. At serving time, dollop with whipped cream; top with 2 or 3 almond slices.


A Christmas Tea: Tiny Chess Tarts

This recipe could not be easier; it doesn’t even require a mixer. For the Christmas Tea, try a red and a green jelly for a festive look.

1 11-ounce package piecrust mix
½ cup plain yogurt
2 slightly beaten eggs
¾ cup sugar
3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons milk
1 ½ teaspoons cornmeal
½ teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
1 ½ teaspoon lemon juice
Jelly of your choice

Combine piecrust mix and yogurt in a mixing bowl; stir till moistened. Form dough into 36 balls. Press onto bottom and up sides of 36 ungreased 1 ¾-inch muffin pans.

For filling: stir together eggs, sugar, butter, milk, cornmeal, lemon peel and lemon juice in a bowl. Spoon about 2 teaspoons filling into each cup.

Bake in a 350º oven for 25 to 30 minutes or till golden and set. Cool on a wire rack. Spoon jelly into centers.


A Christmas Tea: Orange-Sugared Snowballs

Time to move on to the sweets course of the Christmas Tea. Everyone has cookies this time of year, either those created in your own kitchen or ones given to you as little gifts. If you’re still looking for a great cookie recipe, here it is. This very pretty cookie has a great orange zing.

Orange-Sugared Snowballs

1 cup butter, softened
¾ cup sifted powdered sugar
1 tablespoon finely shredded orange peel, set aside
2 teaspoons finely shredded orange peel, set aside
1 tablespoon orange juice
2 2/3 cups flour
¾ cup sugar

Preheat oven to 325º. With an electric mixer, beat butter on high speed for 30 seconds. Add powdered sugar and beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in the orange juice until combined. Beat in the flour and 1 tablespoon orange peel.

In a food processor or blender, combine the sugar and 2 teaspoons shredded orange peel. Blend until well mixed. Shape dough into 1 ¼” balls. Roll balls in the sugar-orange peel mixture to coat. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Roll balls in the sugar-orange peel mixture again while still warm. Transfer to wire racks to cool. Makes about 30 cookies.


A Christmas Tea: Ginger Cashews

These Ginger Cashews have a great, light flavor. Your house will smell wonderful as they bake too. Garam masala is an Indian spice mix that should be in your grocer's spice aisle.

2 cups lightly salted cashews
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons garam masala

Preheat oven to 300º. Toss together cashews, butter, ginger and garam masala in a medium bowl. Line a shallow baking sheet with foil, spread nuts on sheet. Roasted about 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.


A Christmas Tea: Sweet Pear and Cheese Crostini

For those who don’t like blue cheese, try taleggio instead.

16 3/8 inch thick baguette style French bread slices
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled OR 8 ounces taleggio cheese, rind removed
2 small ripe pears, cored and very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons flavored honey

Preheat broiler. Place bread slices on baking sheet. Broil 4 to 5 inches from the heat for 30 to 60 seconds or till bread is toasted. Turn each slice and top with some of the cheese. Broil 30-60 seconds more or till cheese is bubbly and bread is toasted. Top each bread slice with a pear slice and lightly drizzle with honey. Arrange bread slices on a serving platter and serve immediately.


My World Wednesday: Early Christmas Gift

Santa had UPS deliver an early Christmas present yesterday. I received six cups and saucers and six 7” plates in one of my favorite Depression Glass patterns called Harp.

Several years ago we found the cake stand at a yard sale priced at $2.00. My eagle-eyed husband snapped it up recognizing it as Depression. He knows too that I love to use cake stands for my teas. Though I rarely serve a whole cake, the stands hold everything from mini desserts to tea sandwiches piled high.

Depression Glass was really inexpensive, machine produced glass. Like my Holly Berry dishes I showed last week, Depression Glass was sold in Five and Dime stores or given as incentives or promotional inducements to buy other products.

The Harp pattern was made by the Jeannette Glass Company between 1954 and 1957, outside the Depression years. The photo might not show it well but the pieces are crystal with gold trim. In addition to the pieces shown, a 2-handled tray, coasters and a vase were the only other pieces made in this pattern. Because this pattern doesn’t look like typical Depression Glass, it is often mistaken for Early American Pressed Glass.

My husband had been searching eBay for this pattern for more than a year. He found some pieces but they weren’t in perfect condition or the sellers were shipping-price gougers. He was so excited to find this set that he couldn’t keep it a surprise. Santa and I didn’t mind one bit.


A Christmas Tea: Broccoli Cheese Tarts

24 won ton skins
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 egg
1 teaspoon flour
¾ cup chopped cooked broccoli
¼ cup chopped roasted red bell peppers or chopped pimiento, drained
4 ounces (1 cup) finely shredded Cheddar cheese
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Heat oven to 350º. Spray 24 mini muffin tins with nonstick spray. Brush one side of each won ton skin with butter. Carefully press won ton skins, buttered side up, into sprayed muffin cups. In bowl, combine egg and flour with whisk until blended. Stir in remaining ingredients; mix well. Spoon mixture into won ton cups.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until mixture is set and won tons are golden brown. Immediately remove from muffin cups.



A Christmas Tea: Asian Crab Cakes with Horseradish Sauce

For the Christmas Tea, serve these little crab cakes on a cracker or canapé bread base. They can be made ahead and frozen individually. Just reheat in the oven before serving time.

Crab Cakes:

½ cup sliced green onion
1/3 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons finely chopped gingerroot
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 pound lump crabmeat
2 cups crushed saltine crackers
3 tablespoons butter
6 tablespoons olive oil

Combine green onion, sour cream gingerroot, garlic, soy sauce and egg in medium bowl. Stir in crab meat and 1 cup cracker crumbs until well mixed.

Shape level tablespoons of mixture into 1 ½-inch patties; flatten slightly. Place remaining 1 cup crushed crackers in shallow dish. Coat both sides of each patty in cracker crumbs.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter and 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Place 1/3 of the crab cakes in pan. Cook, turning once, until golden brown on each side, 4 to 6 minutes. Repeat two more times with remaining butter, olive oil and crab cakes.

Place browned cakes onto baking sheets. Bake for 5 to 8 minutes or until heated through in a 400º oven. Serve with Horseradish Sauce.

Horseradish Sauce:

¾ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
1 ½ teaspoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seed

Combine all ingredients in a bowl; mix well and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.


A Christmas Tea: Gingerbread Scones

Gingerbread always says Christmas to me. This year I'm giving these scones, along with jars of lemon curd, as little tea gifts.

2 cups flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup butter
1 beaten egg yolk
1/3 cup molasses
¼ cup milk
1 slightly beaten egg white

Combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender till mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center of the mixture.

Stir together egg yolk, molasses and milk in a small bowl. Add all at once to center of the flour mixture. Stir with a fork till combined.

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Quickly knead dough for 10-12 strokes till nearly smooth. Pat or lightly roll dough into a 7-inch circle. Cut into 8 wedges. Arrange wedges about 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Brush with egg white.

Bake in a 400º oven for 12-15 minutes or till light brown. Cool on a wire rack. Serve warm.