Friday, November 7, 2008

Baking for the Holidays

How wonderful it would be if we could help our children and grandchildren to learn thanksgiving at an early age. Thanksgiving opens the doors. It changes a child's personality...thankful children want to give, they radiate happiness, they draw people. ~Sir John Templeton

I love baking cookies and breads for the holidays. I try new recipes each year, as well as old favorites. Today I have a few to start us off this season.

Praline Apple Bread

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light sour cream
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 cup all-purpose or bread flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups chopped peeled apple
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Cream together the sugar, sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Sift and add to the cream mixture the flour, baking powder,soda, cinnamon and salt. Add the apples and pecans. Mix well. Pour batter into a well-buttered 9x5 loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 60 minutes. When done, pour over the topping and return to the oven for 5 minutes. This is fairly messy (but worth it) so place the pan on a foil lined cookie pan. When you remove it (by removing the cookie sheet with pan still on it) take a butter knife and loosen each side
of the loaf so the topping goes down the sides of the loaf. Cool and then remove from the pan. If you are giving this as a gift, wrap it in foil, then wrap in colored plastic wrap.

Topping: Add the sugar, cinnamon and milk to the melted butter in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add the pecan, stir and turn off the heat. Pour over the baked bread as is directed in the recipe.

Lemon Cookies

1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup dried blueberries, cherries or cranberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl with a mixer. Beat in the yolks and lemon peel. Sift the flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl or container. Gradually add this mixture to the creamed ingredients until it's crumb-like in texture. Stir in the fruit you've chosen with a wooden spoon. Divide the dough in half and knead each half to where it will hold together. Divide each half into 16 balls. Place the balls on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Use the back of a glass dipped in granulated sugar to flatten each ball until it is about 1/4 inch thick. Bake cookies for 12-15 minutes until they are very lightly browned around the edges. Makes 32 cookies.

I've thought about how I could make these lighter and the only possibility is using low fat graham crackers and light butter. Beyond that they are what they are-VERY yummy and fattening!

Coconut Chocolate Bars

2 cups crushed graham crackers
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1 package flaked coconut (7 ounces)
1 can sweetened condensed milk (the regular size)
1 bag-- 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
Optional: whole almonds

Mix the crackers, sugar and butter. Press into a well-buttered 9x13 baking pan. Sprinkle the coconut over the crust. Pour the condensed milk over the coconut. Bake at 350 degrees F. for 15-20 minutes until the top is lightly browned. Remove from the oven. On very low heat melt the chocolate chips in a small pan. Spread over the top of the bars while they are still warm. Optional: Place a whole almond on each bar while the chocolate is still warm. Decide what size you want to make the bars and place the almond in what would be the center of each bar. I usually make them small squares since they are so rich. Cool,then cut.

MORE RECIPES: Favorite cookie recipes for the cookie jar!

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Using Fresh Herbs for Thanksgiving

Out of clutter, find Simplicity.
From discord, find Harmony.
In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.
~Albert Einstein

HOLIDAY/ENTERTAINING TIP: When garnishing your holiday dishes consider using herbs instead of standard garnishes. Even if you are in a cold climate, herbs and edible flowers are usually available in the produce section of larger grocery stores. These make beautiful garnishes for salads, desserts or entrees. They add scent, texture and color.

SAGE: A HOLIDAY FAVORITE The first time I tasted fresh sage vs. dried sage I was SO impressed. There is simply NO comparison. What's even more amazing is how easy sage is to grow, PLUS it stays green even with a light covering of snow. I'm in Zone 5 and I'm always able to harvest some for Thanksgiving dishes.

Use 6 or 7 fresh leaves in place of one tablespoon of dried sage in any dressing recipe. Mince a couple of fresh leaves into fresh greens beans with some freshly ground pepper for a nice side dish. This is much healthier for you than the mushroom soup recipe. You can also brew a lovely cup of sage tea for an after dinner drink. Add honey to sweeten. Chop or bruise about a quarter cup of fresh sage leaves. Add them to a teapot or a glass/ceramic bowl. Pour over 4-5 cups of boiling water. Strain after about 10 minutes
and sweeten. Serve in mugs. (if you are pregnant or nursing you should skip the sage tea.)

One more note: If you are using dried and it's a year or so old you may want to replace it. The flavor will not really be strong enough to add much to your recipes.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

November Gardening Tips

People who are not gardeners always say that the bare beds of winter are uninteresting; gardeners know better, and take even a certain pleasure in the neatness of the newly dug, bare, brown earth. ~Vita Sackville-West

Chrysanthemums should be cut back fairly close to the ground once they have stopped blooming and the cuttings can be added to your compost pile. If you have potted mums that you purchased, remove the plant and add to the garden, giving it a hole a little bit bigger than the pot. After planting, cut as mentioned, water and mulch.

If your peonies, roses or hollyhocks developed diseases such as rust, blight, or anything similar, remove the leaves or branches that were effected and burn them or dispose of them in your waste bin-- don't compost. Do the same things with other plants and trees too. Check your phlox, beebalm (mildew can effect it), dogwoods and lilac.

If you have noticed webbing (bagworms etc.) in your trees or shrubs you'll need to remove those and burn or dispose of them.

This is also the time you'll want to empty out all your outdoor planters, baskets, clay pots and window boxes. Empty the soil into the compost pile and wash the containers with soap and a weak bleach solution before putting into storage where they will stay dry and not freeze. You'll be way ahead in the spring!

Water all of your evergreens deeply one last time before a major freeze. This will help them throughout the winter season.

We all know mulching is great to keep moisture in during the hot months, but it also offers protection during the winter. However, it's really best to wait until the ground starts to freeze but before the blizzards hit. I know-- it's a much colder chore doing it this way, but if you do it too soon you may be making a nice cozy place for mice and other critters to hang out. Mulch can be free organic matter like pine needles, straw, chopped leaves or bark chips/shreds.

If you have planted trees this year you may have been given advice on wrapping the trunks with a paper tree wrap, but it's been found to actually injure trees in many cases. If you do decide to wrap the young trees trunks do it ONLY in the winter and remove it in the spring. You can protect the tree trunks from rodent damage by using plastic guards or mesh wire. It can be from 12 inches to 2 foot tall. If you have very deep snow in the winter you may want to go taller than that. Remove before the tree grows too wide. Also, make sure there is no debris around the tree trunks.

A few notes for warm climates:

Some of you are entering a cooler season but won't have the cold winter many of us do. You can plant bedding plants now such as snapdragons, calendula, ornamental kale or cabbage, and dianthus. Some wildflowers can even be direct seeded now: bluebonnets, rudbeckia, pansies, calendula, candytuft, foxgloves, snapdragons, stock, and sweet alyssum. Calendula is a wonderful cool weather plant and is easily grown!

In locations like Southern Florida vegetables can be grown now such as tomato, endive, escarole, snap beans, potato, peppers, peas, lima bean, collard greens, parsley, celery, turnip, mustard, onions, spinach, lettuce, radish, cabbage, beet, carrot, cauliflower, and broccoli.

One note for warm climate gardeners on bulbs. If you are in Zone 8 or up you will need to chill your spring bulbs before planting. It's usually 10-12 weeks of chilling in the refrigerator.

we have an article on OFL with proper mulching tips:


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day Cake

In days past you'd actually be served cake and a beverage at the polls. Wouldn't that be neat? I say it's always a good time for cake!

American Cookery by Amelia Simmons, printed during 1796 in New York, shared this Election Cake Recipe:

Thirty quarts of flour, 10 pound butter, 14 pound sugar, 12 pound raisins, 3 doz eggs, one pint wine, one quart brandy, 4 ounces cinnamon, 4 ounces fine colander seed, 3 ounces ground alspice; wet flour with milk to the consistence of bread over night, adding one quart yeast; the next morning work the butter and sugar together for half an hour, which will render the cake much lighter and whiter; when it has rise light work in every other ingredient except the plumbs, which work in when going into the oven.

Did you catch the QUART of brandy?

This is a more modern version of an Election Cake recipe:

2 tsp. powdered instant coffee (or grind it finer)
2-3 Tbsp. milk
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup diced, candied fruit
2 cups plus 2 Tbsp. water
1 pkg. boxed hot roll mix
3 eggs
1 package spice cake mix
1/2 cup diced, mixed candied fruit
1 cup golden raisins

In a large bowl, combine 3/4 cup warm water and the yeast from the hot roll mix. Stir until the yeast is dissolved. Add eggs and the hot roll mix. Blend. Add the remaining water, spice cake mix, raisins and candied fruit. Grease and flour a 12-Cup Bundt Pan. Pour the batter into the pan and allow it to rise for 1 hour in a warm place. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour or until it tests done. Cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then turn out on a wire rack to complete cooling.

Glaze: Mix the instant coffee with the milk. Add to the sugar slowly until the glaze is thickened but still thin enough to drizzle. Drizzle over the cake. Sprinkle the 1/2 cup fruit on top.

Happy Election Day, and be sure to get out and VOTE!


Monday, November 3, 2008

The Holiday Season Begins!

So dull and dark are the November days.
The lazy mist high up the evening curled,
And now the morn quite hides in smoke and haze; The place we occupy seems all the world.
~John Clare

I am astounded that it's already November and time to start planning our holiday gatherings, giving and dinners. I thought I would start out November with recipes that I've been sent from visitors to OFL.

Sheila Bynum sent in this great fall recipe:
Apple Stuffed Butternut Squash

1 medium butternut squash cut in half and seeds removed
2 medium apples chopped
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
3 Tbsp. honey
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 Tbsp. butter melted

Place squash in 9x13 baking dish. In saucepan,melt butter and add apples and raisins, honey and spices saute on low.Remove from heat. Add walnuts and stuff in the squash sprinkle with additional cinnamon lightly. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 until squash is tender, about 30 minutes.

Here is a great Autumn/Winter recipe for Polish Sausage and
Cabbage! ~Lor in Canada

Polish Sausage and Cabbage
(I increase according to number of people I'm serving.)

1/2 Cabbage ~ course sliced
2 Onions ~ large, cut 1" slices
2 Potatoes ~ large, peeled and sliced in chunks
2 lbs. Polish sausage ~ cut 1" chunks
2 teaspoons Pepper; freshly ground
14 ounces Chicken Broth/Vegetable Stock
1/2 teaspoon Caraway seeds(optional)
1/2 cup Polish dehydrated mushrooms
(or button mushrooms~canned or fresh)

Place sliced cabbage in crock pot. Toss with potato, pepper and caraway seeds. Add sliced onion, mushrooms and Polish sausage. Pour chicken/vegetable broth over all; stir lightly. Cover and cook on Low setting for8 to 10 hours or on HIGH setting for 2 to 4 hours. This dish is delicious served with mustard or horseradish. Makes 4 servings(about 3 1/2 quarts). Serves: 4

Lor also sent in this wonderful cheesecake recipe!

Grandmother's Cheese Cake (Sernik Babci)
1-1/4 cups flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 egg
3 Tbsp. sour cream
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar

6 eggs
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 lb. farmers cheese or ricotta
2/3 cup melted butter
1-1/2 cups mashed potatoes (not seasoned)
(*Save mashed potatoes from the night before)
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup grated orange or lemon peel

For the dough, combine the flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl. Cut in the butter with a fork. Beat egg into the sour cream. Stir into the flour mixture then stir in the sugar. Knead the dough until well mixed and smooth. Roll dough on a floured surface into a rectangle. Line a 13x9x2 inch pan with the dough and bring dough part the way up sides.

For the filling, separate 1 egg and reserve the whites, beat remaining yolk and whole eggs with the sugar for 5 minutes at high speed of a electric mixer. Add the vanilla, beat at high until the mixture is soft. Press cheese through a sieve, blend cheese with butter, add potatoes,baking powder, nutmeg, and salt. Stir in orange peel. Fold into the egg mixture. Turn into prepare crust in pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 45-55 min. or until set. Cool well before cutting.

Here's another cheese ball recipe. The ingredients for this one sound a little strange, but it is very good!

Pineapple Cheese Ball

1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 (8 oz.) can crushed pineapple in juice, well drained
1 tbsp. finely chopped green bell pepper
(use red for Christmas!)
1 tbsp. finely chopped celery
1 tbsp. finely chopped onion
2/3 c. chopped pecans
1/2 tsp. salt
Dash of hot sauce (opt.)

Fold pineapple, bell pepper, celery, onion and 1/3 c. chopped pecans into cream cheese. Add salt and hot sauce. Form mixture into a ball; chill for 1/2 hour.After ball is firm, roll in remaining pecans to cover. Chill cheese ball overnight before serving. ~Enjoy, Miranda in Hawaii

On OFL we have step by step instructions for a cute Thanksgiving Tree with a picture. A great way to teach gratitude!