Archive for December, 2013

Christmas is over and the New Year is coming

It’s time to get ready for the new year.

 

December 1982

 

The Christmas company has come and gone. The grownups are quietly aware that another Christmas season of their alloted number on earth is over.

The grandchildren have gone home, hugging the Christmas toys in their arms – so tired from fun and excitement they were asleep before the car got out of the driveway.

The Christmas tree, a sprangly cedar from the pasture on Emma Creek, has been stripped of its glimmering cascade of silver icicles, out by the horseshoe court awaiting death in a blazing bonfire.

The Kodak pictures that will lock this specific Christmas holiday in the panorama of the years are not back from the developer.

The refrigerator sits quietly in the kitchen, stuffed to the brim with leftovers. By the time they are gone New Years will be here.

It will be time to make unkeepable resolutions for the coming year. Time to watch, with friends and family, the old year out. Time to bid it farewell with a tear and a smile and turn our energy toward making the next year the best year ever.

 

*****

 

Black Walnut Cookies

 

3 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons water

1 pound brown sugar

3 cups sifted flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon soda

1/2 cup chopped black walnuts

 

Beat eggs until thick. Gradually add sugar. Beat for 15 minutes. Sift dry ingredients. Add walnuts. Carefully add to egg mixture. Blend until well combined. Form into balls. Place an inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. These puff during baking and crackle on top when done. 12 dozen cookies.

 

Chocolate Chip Meringues

 

2 egg whites

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 3/4 cup powdered sugar

1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

1 teaspoon vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

 

Beat egg whites with salt until soft peaks forms. Gradually beat in sugar, vinegar and vanilla. Continue beating until very stiff.

Fold in chocolate chips. Drop by teaspoonful on greased baking sheets. Bake at 300 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on racks.

 

Quick Gingersnaps

 

3/4 cup shortening

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup molasses

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons soda

1 teaspoon cloves

 

Cream first four ingredients. Sift dry ingredients. Stir into first mixture. Form into small balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Bake on greased sheet at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

 

Cherry Cookies

 

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup butter

2 eggs, beaten

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon soda

1 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup chopped nuts

1/2 cup chopped maraschino cherries

 

Cream first four ingredients. Sift dry ingredients. Add to first mixture. Fold in vanilla, nuts and cherries. Form into rolls. Wrap in waxed paper.

Refrigerate overnight. Slice and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.

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Enjoy the Holidays

Don’t forget to slow down and enjoy Christmas.

 

December 1982

 

Have a happy holiday. Relax and enjoy yourself. If all the handcrafted Christmas gifts you were making aren’t completed toss them in a closet and bring them out to finish next year. This takes a strong will, but it is better than going without sleep in order to get done and then being grouchy on the best day of the whole year.

I wish I’d followed this advice when our children were little. Joy says she always remembers me being cross on important days. Even though I remember staying up half the night to finish a doll’s wardrobe, from swimming suit to pajamas to coat, my daughter’s memory is of a cross momma instead of the gift I worked so hard over.

So if you need more Christmas cookies try some of these easy recipes. The peanut butter ones can made in 30 minutes. The others take less than an hour.

 

Peanut Butter Cookies (Flourless)

 

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup sugar

1 beaten egg

1 teaspoon soda

 

Mix all the ingredients. Roll the mixture into small balls. Bake on greased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.

 

Cookie Pralines

 

1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 egg, separated

1/2 cup flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups chopped pecans

 

Cream butter, sugar, and egg yolk. In larger bowl beat egg whites stiff. Add first mixture. Sift in flour and salt. Add pecans. Gently fold in all these additions.

Drop by a teaspoon into high mounds on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until brown.

A cookie praline is a cross between a cookie and a candy. Store in airtight container.

 

Easy Frosted Cookies

 

1/2 cup butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

 

Topping:

1 cup chopped nuts

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup whipping cream

 

Cream first four ingredients. Sift dry ingredients. Mix together. Shape into 1-inch balls. Place on greased baking sheet. Make a depressions in center of each cookie.

Mix topping. Put a teaspoonful in the depression. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until a golden brown.

 

Date Bars

 

1 cup sugar

3 egg yolks, beaten

1 8-ounce package dates

1/4 cup sour cream – This sour cream is not cultured sour cream. Take plain whipping cream and add a 1/2 a teaspoon vinegar to sour it to produce the sour cream for this recipe.

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch salt

3 egg whites, well beaten

Powdered sugar

 

Mix ingredients in order given. Add egg whites last. Bake at 350 degrees in an 8 x 8 inch pan for 30 minutes. Cut while warm and roll in powdered sugar.

 

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Christmas Cleaning Proves a Snap

How much do you do to get ready for Christmas?

 

December 1989

 

Christmas Cleaning Proves a Snap

 

In the November 11th issue of The Kansan my attention was caught by the headline “Holiday cleaning a snap with right methods.” Now here was a story after my own heart because if there is anything I need right now, just before Christmas, it is learning how to make housecleaning a snap.

In the past the only snap in housecleaning for me has been the snap in my back when I sink to my knees to scrub the kitchen floor. But I pride myself on being open to new ideas, so before I pass judgment on this new snap method of housecleaning. I’d better give it a try.

Reading on I found the first item of instruction was what to do if the guests were on their way and you discover a chip or two in your best crystal.

“Don’t panic,” was the advice, “just use emery paper on the small chips and nicks – use the finest grade available, moisten and rub over the chip until it smooths out.” This sounds sensible so I decided to try it. But first, I had to locate my best crystal (also, my only crystal). After a search I found it hiding behind a miscellaneous assortment of plastic cups and jelly glasses on a top shelf. It passed inspection with a lovely variety of chips that qualified for the smoothing out process.

Now, where was the emery paper? I located some sandpaper, but the article warned against using that – too rough, it said. Finally I discovered a circular piece of paper that I recalled having seen used on an emery wheel a long time ago. With high hopes I set to work. A half an hour later the nicks were still there but the skin had disappeared from the tips of my fingers.

One of the next enumerated jobs called for cleaning the outside of the house with a pressure washer spray that powers off dirt and grime. I sallied forth to check the outside of the house. My spirits lifted. “This will be a snap.” I said, “as soon as I find a pressure washer.”

Years ago we had one for cleaning the milking barn and it worked great when it worked. Now that I needed it I couldn’t find it so I decided to get through the holidays with an unwashed exterior rather than spend the money I had earmarked for Christmas presents for the grandkids on a new pressure sprayer.

Anyway, with my luck if I had the exterior walls of the house immaculate the Christmas Day weather would be too snowy and cold for the guests to gather around the outside of the house and exclaim, “Isn’t this siding the cleanest in all of Harvey County? Not a speck of dust on it.”

I turned my attention back to the paper and read the paragraph about cleaning the fireplace so Santa Claus could step out of it on Christmas morning with all his fur white and shining. Now I don’t have an authentic fireplace, but I do have an open fire in a Franklin stove and I’m sure Santa would not emerge spanking clean from the chimney no matter what gigantic cleaning feat I attempted. No use to try. So it looks like Santa will just have to fly back to the North Pole and put on a fresh suit of clothes after he makes his visit here.

The next instructions for snap cleaning called for shining up the household brass (doorknobs, etc.). They were tantalizingly simple – just use a lemon rind dipped in a little salt, rinse and buff before applying a coat of wax. Feeling a bit tired from all of the decisions I had been making I decided to sit down and make a glass of lemonade out of the juice of the lemon, before the rind and I went to work. When we did, I discovered my brass door knobs were too old to take a shine so I abandoned the lemon rind to the garbage disposal.

Now the final activity before the coming of Christmas was a speedy cleaning of the crystal chandelier in the living room. The directions were to cover each light bulb with a plastic bag securing it with a rubber band before spraying the pendants with glass cleaner. The zing of the rubber band snapping on to the neck of the light bulb might qualify as the elusive snap or the snap might be the housewife’s neck as she fell off the stepladder while stretching to get each pendant covered with spray.

Suddenly, I made a snap decision. If I did all this snap cleaning I’d have to forego buying the Christmas presents, writing notes on the Christmas cards and making the peanut brittle, tea balls and peppernuts that are family traditions. I’d never have the time or strength left to put up and decorate the Christmas tree or go to the Christmas programs or read the grandchildren the story of that long ago night in Bethlehem when Christ was born.

So I’m canceling cleaning the house by the snap method for now. Maybe, next year.

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Christmas is coming

Christmas is coming and it’s important to try and keep it simple. Though I’ve never attempted to make this many cookies or candies.

 

December 1978

 

Just over three weeks to get ready for Christmas is what the calendar says. Unbelievable, you say. The coming days promise to be as hectic and hurried as wheat cutting, milo harvesting or hay baling time, but at least they will be more fun.

Creating the atmosphere for the family holiday festivities rests squarely on the shoulders of the mother. Quite a load, isn’t it? To try to do too much and end up being cross and worn out when the big day arrives is a temptation difficult to resist. It takes will power to decide not to spread oneself too thin. Myriad activities in the home and in the community entice us to spend long hours on them. And that’s good as long as the hours are available, but if not, try to simplify.

Cookie baking is traditional and a lovely part of the whole holiday scene but do we need peppernuts, lebkuchen, tea balls, date pinwheels, snicker doodles, almond crescents, scotch shortbread, and decorated sugar cookies to exclaim over before eating them? Choose a few to make and let the rest go.

The same philosophy goes for candy making. Instead of bogging down in divinity, fondant, fudge, and peanut brittle stir up 1 or 2 batches and call it quits. Then go visit a neglected friend or read somebody’s kid (preferably your own) a Christmas story, or just take a brisk walk with your farmer if you can locate him.

For me, I’ve selected the 3 p’s for our Christmas food tradition peppernuts, peanut brittle, and popcorn balls. After I finish making these standbys, I try something different each year from what we usually have. Last time it was chocolate fudge with home grown black walnuts. That is ruled out this December – the candy was so sweet and creamy I overindulged, and the bulge I acquired is still bulging away on my waistline a year later.

Here is a simple recipe you might enjoy this Christmas.

 

Apricot Coconut Balls

 

1 ½ cups dried apricots, ground

2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk

2 cups shredded coconut

 

Combine apricots and milk. Let rest 30 minutes. Add coconut. Shape into balls. Keep refrigerated in covered container.

 

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