Sunday, December 25, 2011

This has been a difficult Christmas weekend.  Although I have felt blessed by the season, we were saddened by an unexpected death in our family.  Even though my heart was gladdened and uplifted by song or smile of loved ones, my heart went out to grieving family.  How I wish we all lived closer to each other!  It's hard to rejoice when someone you love is hurting beyond words.  I hope he knows how much we all love him and wish we could be there for him.   Isaiah 40:31

Merry Christmas!

Wow, this has been a wonderful Advent Season, and now we look forward to the magical Christmas Season!  Most people think Christmas is over by the 25th of December, but it is actually just beginning.  That's when I do most of my Christmas baking and sharing.  A recent tradition in my house is Cranberry Orange Pancakes for Christmas breakfast.  My daughter found the recipe and urged me to try it.  It turned out great.  In a pinch, I've even used instant (dare I say) pancake mix and canned cranberries.  It just makes breakfast a little extra special.  Homemade sausage on the side, fresh hot coffee and you've got the fixings for great breakfast memories. 

Cranberry Orange Pancakes
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 -3 teaspoons orange zest, finely minced
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg , slightly beaten
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted


1.      In a small bowl, mix cranberries, sugar & zest & set aside. 
2.      In large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt. 
3.      In another small bowl, mix egg, buttermilk, OJ & butter, then add this mixture to flour mixture, stirring until just combined [batter should be lumpy]. 
4.      Fold cranberry mixture into the other mixed ingredients. 
5.      Heat a lightly greased griddle or heavy skillet over medium heat. 
6.      Pour about 1/4 cup batter onto hot griddle for each pancake. 
7.      Cook pancakes until golden brown, then turn to cook other side.
8.      Serve hot!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Truffles

It feels strange talking about Christmas Candies when the weather here is so absolutely beautiful out.  I'm still looking for a LITTLE bit of snow so it feels like Christmas, but I'm glad it's not so cold.  I love making truffles and just ran across this one.  I hope you enjoy it!

Chocolate Hazelnut Truffles

  • 3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking cocoa
  • 4 milk chocolate candy bars (1.55 ounces each)
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 24 whole hazelnuts
  • 1 cup ground hazelnuts, toasted
  • In a large bowl, sift together confectioners' sugar and cocoa; set
  • aside.
  • In a small saucepan, melt candy bars and butter. Add cream and
  • reserved cocoa mixture. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until
  • mixture is thickened and smooth. Pour into an 8-in. square dish.
  • Cover and refrigerate overnight.
  • Using a melon baller or spoon, shape candy into 1-in. balls; press a
  • hazelnut into each. Reshape balls and roll in ground hazelnuts.
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Yield: 2 dozen.
Click here to find out more!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It's hard to believe we're halfway through Advent.  Christmas is almost here!  Here is a wonderful and easy Tortilla soup to warm your soul as your prepare your heart for Christmas:

Chicken Enchilada Soup
  • 2 bone-in chicken breasts
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Onion, chopped - about 1/4 cup
  • Red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 10 ounce package of frozen corn
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 10 ounce can enchilada sauce
  • 1 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Chili Powder
  • Cumin
  • Pepper Jack or Colby Jack cheese, for sprinkling on top
  • Tortilla strips, for sprinkling on top
  1. Place chicken into crock pot, add 4 cups of water, and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper, 1 teaspoon chili powder, and 1 teaspoon cumin over the chicken. Cook on low for 8 hours.
  2. Remove the chicken from the crock pot. Allow it to cool, and then cut it into pieces.
  3. Strain the broth into a large pot.
  4. In a large pot, add the olive oil, and heat over medium high heat. Add the bell pepper and onion, and saute for about 3-5 minutes. Pour in the reserved chicken broth, enchilada sauce, tomato sauce, corn, and black beans. Reduce heat to medium low, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Mix the corn starch with the cream, and slowly add it to the soup. Simmer for another 5 minutes, and season to taste with the additional salt, pepper, chili powder, and/our cumin.
  6. Ladle into soup bowls, and sprinkle with cheese and tortilla strips.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

I am reading the most interesting little book right now, called The Autobiography of Santa Claus.  It starts out as a historical account of Christmas through the eyes of St. Nicholas, Bishop of Myra.  Then the story takes a fun twist into fiction, but it's still fun to read.  I can't remember when I realized the truth about Santa, but I know it wasn't a traumatic experience.  We hung our little red felt stockings on the west front door of our house.  Our mother hung some kind of banner on the door and the stockings were pinned there.  We would wait in such anticipation for Christmas Eve, wondering what would be brought and stuffed into our stockings.  I do remember NOT being able to sleep at all on Christmas Eve and we would shout out to our parents..."Is it Christmas yet?"  We would hear tired mumblings of  "no... go to sleep..."  Our poor parents had to wait a long time for us to truly fall asleep.  Even as older kids, we would sneak out in the night, hopeful of getting a glimpse of our presents. 

Here is a wonderful recipe for the second week of Advent:  Speculaas.  Enjoy!

Saint Nicholas Day Baking Project

The following recipe, for "speculaas" (speculations) ginger cookies are served especially on Saint Nicholas Day. The recipe is from A Continual Feast, by Evelyn Birge Vitz (Ignatius Press), and is traditional in the Low Countries. (In America these cookies are called "windmills", usually embellished with almonds, and can be brought at the grocery store.)
This cookie dough may be cut into the shape of Saint Nicholas, following our pattern here, which can also be used for coloring. When cool, the cookies can be decorated with icing "paint" -- thinned icing colored with food coloring -- and applied with brushes.
This delicious ginger cookie might also be cut into other shapes, recalling other aspects of the kindly bishop's legendary life and work: such as the three young girls to whom he threw the three bags of gold for their doweries, or the three little boys whom he brought back to life, or the sailors whom he saved from the storm.
Speculaas cookies
1 Cup (2 sticks) sweet butter, at room temperature
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 eggs
Grated rind of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg or mace
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Optional: powdered sugar for decorative icing
In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy. Stir in the eggs one at a time, blending thoroughly after each addition. Stir in the lemon rind.
Sift the spices and salt with the flour and baking powder, and stir gradually into the butter mixture. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and chill for several hours or overnight. (If you are in a hurry, start the chilling process in the freezer: leave the dough in the freezer for about 20 minutes.)
On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch, or for larger figures to about 1/4 inch. Cut out with cookie cutters, or trace around a heavy paper pattern with a sharp knife. This dough can also be used with a cookie mold, or can be molded by hand.
Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned. If you like you cookies soft, remove them from the oven when they are just set -- the longer the baking time, the crisper the cookie.
Optional: Paint when cool. These cookies ­ especially when baked in the form of Saint Nicholas ­ are fun to paint with colored icing.
Icing "paint"
In little pots or plastic containers, mix powdered sugar with a little bit of water (or lightly beaten egg white, or lemon juice) and a few drops of food coloring, to produce the desired shades and the desired consistency for painting. Apply with small paintbrushes.
Yield:: approximately 3 dozen cookies or fewer large figures.