Random Seasonal Favorites

Flower Pot Cookies

These are my favorite cookies for Spring and will work beautifully in the May Baskets. (My photography doesn't do them justice; the flowers are actually the purple of violets.) If you aren’t able to pipe flowers, buy pre-made flower decorations from the grocery store. For leaves, flatten a gumdrop or spearmint candy leaf and cut leaves from that.

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
30 miniature peanut butter cups, halved
Decorator frosting

In a mixing bowl, cream peanut butter, shortening, 1/2 cup sugar and brown sugar. Add the egg, milk and vanilla; mix well. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; add to the creamed mixture and mix well.

Shape into 1-in. balls. Roll in remaining sugar; place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Remove from the oven and immediately lightly press one peanut butter cup cut side down into each cookie to form a basket. Allow cookies to cool completely. Pipe a flower and stem decoration on each cookie. For the cookies pictured above, I used a drop flower tip for the flowers and a round tip for the stems and flower center. Makes about 4 dozen.

Decorator Frosting:

¼ cup shortening
¼ cup butter
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Cream butter and shortening; add sugar, milk and vanilla. Blend on medium speed until all ingredients are well mixed.

Random Seasonal Favorites

Pumpkin Scones

Here’s an old favorite that's perfect for this time of year. This recipe uses some whole wheat flour and applesauce helps to keep the scones moist and sweet. If you like, you can add 1/3 cup dried cranberries and 1/3 cup chopped walnuts along with the applesauce.

1 ¼ cups flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup butter, cut up
½ cup canned pumpkin
½ cup applesauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350º. Stir together flour, whole wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl. Cut in the butter till mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add pumpkin and applesauce and stir just until moistened.

Transfer dough to a greased cookie sheet. Use floured hands to pat dough into an 8” circle. Use a long knife to cut the dough into eight wedges, but do not separate the wedges. Sprinkle dough with brown sugar.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or till browned. Cool slightly; cut into wedges.


Progressive Christmas Tea Party: Chocolate Raspberry Dessert

Now who wouldn't love to have a piece of this pretty chocolate dessert. I found this recipe at Hershey's Chocolate site. I do have one warning: don't make the top chocolate layer too thick, thinking more is better. I did this when I made the cake and the chocolate hardened and was almost impossible to cut...or bite through. Everyone just lifted it off and ate it out of hand. Embarrassing but still tasty. :)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, softened
4 eggs
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/2 cups (16-oz. can) HERSHEY'S Syrup
CHOCOLATE GLAZE(recipe follows)

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 13x9x2-inch baking pan.

Combine flour, sugar, butter, eggs and baking powder in large bowl; beat until smooth. Add syrup; blend thoroughly. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Spread RASPBERRY CREAM CENTER on cake. Cover; refrigerate. Pour CHOCOLATE GLAZE over chilled dessert. Cover; refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Cover; refrigerate leftover dessert. About 12 servings.

RASPBERRY CREAM CENTER: Combine 2 cups powdered sugar, 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter or margarine and 2 tablespoons raspberry-flavored liqueur* in small bowl; beat until smooth. ( A few drops red food color may be added, if desired.)

1/4 cup raspberry preserves and 1 teaspoon water may be substituted for the raspberry-flavored liqueur.

CHOCOLATE GLAZE: Melt 6 tablespoons butter or margarine and 1 cup HERSHEY'S SPECIAL DARK Chocolate Chips or HERSHEY'S Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips in small saucepan over very low heat. Remove from heat; stir until smooth. Cool slightly.


Progressive Christmas Tea Party: Coconut Cake

Coconut cake is a Christmas tradition in my family. I'll be making my first one this year. This is the recipe I'll be using. The cake takes coconut milk and fresh grated coconut. While frozen or bagged coconut is okay for some things, if you're going to make a coconut cake, use a coconut!

2 1/4 cups cake or pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
10 tablespoons butter
3 large eggs

Fluffy Coconut Frosting:
2 large egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups fresh grated coconut

Grease two 9-inch round cake pans; line the bottoms with rounds of parchment paper or waxed paper. Grease and flour the paper and sides of the pans; set aside. Heat oven to 350°.
Heat the coconut milk or milk with 1/2 cup coconut and the 1 teaspoon vanilla until hot. Put in blender and process until coconut is finely chopped. Set aside.

Sift the cake flour into a bowl with the baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a bowl of electric mixer, beat butter until light and creamy. Gradually add the 1 1/2 cups sugar, a few tablespoons at a time, scraping the bowl and beating for about a minute after each addition. Add the 3 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, scraping sides of the bowl frequently. Slowly add about one-third of the flour mixture to the creamed mixture along with half of the milk/coconut/vanilla mixture. Beat on low speed until blended. Scrape the bowl and repeat with another one-third of the dry mixture and the remaining milk mixture. Scrape the bowl and repeat with remaining flour mixture. Scrape the bowl and continue beating on low speed for a few seconds.

Spoon batter into the two baking pans, spreading evenly. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pans on racks for 15 minutes. Invert onto racks which have been sprayed with a little nonstick coating to cool completely.

Frosting: Bring the 1/2 cup water and 1 cup sugar to a boil; cover and cook without stirring for 1 minute. Uncover and boil, stirring frequently, until mixture is hot enough to spin a thread when a little is dropped from a spoon, or to about 230°. Remove from heat and set aside. In the bowl of electric mixer -- with whisk attachment if available -- beat the eggs until fluffy and soft peaks form when you lift the beaters or whisk. Still beating on high speed, gradually add the sugar syrup in a thin stream. Continue beating until the frosting is fluffy and holds peaks.

Invert one of the cakes onto a serving plate; frost top and sides with frosting. Place the second layer atop the first and frost the top and sides liberally. Sprinkle fresh grated coconut over the top of the cake and toss coconut gently onto the sides.


My World Wednesday

I had planned to show some photos of my home all dressed for Christmas but my new camera has a problem. The flash won’t pop up because it thinks another flash is attached. Apparently this is a pretty common problem with the Canon Rebel. There is a slim chance my husband can make the repair but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for him.

Instead of talking about Christmas, I'm going in a totally different direction today. I want to share some questions from the US Naturalization Test. As I might have mentioned before, I teach English as a Second Language. Helping my students become citizens is an exciting part of the job. The test is hard even for people born in the US. See how well you can answer the first 25 questions. There are 100 possible questions on the test. Even if you aren’t a citizen of the US, think about how you’d answer the questions about your own country.

1. What is the supreme law of the land?
▪ the Constitution

2. What does the Constitution do?
▪ sets up the government
▪ defines the government
▪ protects basic rights of Americans

3. The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution. What are these words?
▪ We the People

4. What is an amendment?
▪ a change (to the Constitution)
▪ an addition (to the Constitution)

5. What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?
▪ the Bill of Rights

6. What is one right or freedom from the First Amendment?
▪ speech
▪ religion
▪ assembly
▪ press
▪ petition the government

7. How many amendments does the Constitution have?
▪ twenty-seven (27)

8. What did the Declaration of Independence do?
▪ announced our independence (from Great Britain)
▪ declared our independence (from Great Britain)
▪ said that the United States is free (from Great Britain)

9. What are two rights in the Declaration of Independence?
▪ life
▪ liberty
▪ pursuit of happiness

10. What is freedom of religion?
▪ You can practice any religion, or not practice a religion.

11. What is the economic system in the United States?
▪ capitalist economy
▪ market economy

12. What is the “rule of law”?
▪ Everyone must follow the law.
▪ Leaders must obey the law.
▪ Government must obey the law.
▪ No one is above the law.

13. Name one branch or part of the government.
▪ Congress
▪ legislative
▪ President
▪ executive
▪ the courts
▪ judicial

14. What stops one branch of government from becoming too powerful?
▪ checks and balances
▪ separation of powers

15. Who is in charge of the executive branch?
▪ the President

16. Who makes federal laws?
▪ Congress
▪ Senate and House (of Representatives)
▪ (U.S. or national) legislature

17. What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress?
▪ the Senate and House (of Representatives)

18. How many U.S. Senators are there?
▪ one hundred (100)

19. We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?
▪ six (6)

20. Who is one of your state’s U.S. Senators now?
▪ Answers will vary. [District of Columbia residents and residents of U.S. territories should answer that D.C. (or the territory where the applicant lives) has no U.S. Senators.]

21. The House of Representatives has how many voting members?
▪ four hundred thirty-five (435)

22. We elect a U.S. Representative for how many years?
▪ two (2)

23. Name your U.S. Representative.
▪ Answers will vary. [Residents of territories with nonvoting Delegates or Resident Commissioners may provide the name of that Delegate or Commissioner. Also acceptable is any statement that the territory has no (voting) Representatives in Congress.]

24. Who does a U.S. Senator represent?
▪ all people of the state

25. Why do some states have more Representatives than other states?
▪ (because of) the state’s population
▪ (because) they have more people
▪ (because) some states have more people


Progressive Christmas Tea Party: Muscat Poached Pears

At our family Christmas tea, the tea room we visited served a similar pear dish for the salad course. Everyone loved the sweet pears.

This recipe is for only four pears. You can double it if you have a big and deep pan in which to poach the pears. Make sure to turn the pears often while poaching to ensure they soften all the way through.

1 ½ cups Muscat or other sweet white wine
1 cup water
½ cup sugar
4 bay leaves
4 whole cloves
4 firm ripe pears, peeled

Bring first 5 ingredients to boil in heavy saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low. Using apple corer, carefully remove cores from pears at base, leaving pears whole and stems intact. Add to wine and poach until tender, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes.

Transfer pears to serving dishes. Garnish each pear with 1 bay leaf and 1 whole clove. Boil poaching liquid until reduced to ½ cup, about 20 minutes. Pour syrup over pears and refrigerate. Can be prepared up to 6 hours ahead.


Progressive Christmas Tea Party: Fresh Gingerbread Men

Actually it’s the ginger that is fresh, not the gingerbread men themselves. :) This takes a lot of ginger; grate it in a food processor.

½ cup butter, softened
½ cup sugar
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 egg
½ cup molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ cup grated fresh ginger
3 cups flour

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves. Beat until combined. Beat in egg, molasses and vanilla until combined. Beat in grated ginger and flour. Cover and chill dough about 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 375º. On a floured surface, roll dough until 1/8-inch thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut out dough. Place cutouts 1 inch apart on lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes or until edges are firm and bottoms are light brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool. Decorate as you please.