Happy Christmas Eve!

Nativity scene at Sacred Heart Catholic Church...

Nativity scene. The reason for the season!  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Woke up at 3. Read the final chapters of a book I needed to finish. Got up at 4 and decided to finally bake my Christmas cookies and bars. My 21 year old son who has odd sleeping habits was awake, so he helped me, making the chore much more jolly. I put on a  little Christmas music and we measured and mixed and dotted the thumbprint cookies with seedless raspberry jam, added the chocolate chips to my never fail Toffee Bars, and put a frozen pizza in for my son’s breakfast.

By my very nature, I do not like to be in the kitchen for more than 30 minutes at a time–but at this time of year I make a little more of an effort. I still have some chocolate caramel fudge to make, and am having a ham for Christmas Eve and prime rib for Christmas Day, and…… a brunch for my other son and his girlfriend tomorrow morning (something I just found out about–but my husband has volunteered to make pancakes–so that with some bacon and fried ham {leftover from tonight} and a little fruit should cover it). I think I spend more time in the kitchen at Christmas then I do for the whole rest of the year. I am trying to look upon this as not a chore, but as making memories ~ it makes the tasks so much easier.

I still have all my presents to wrap, but I think most of them will get the wrapped in tissue and bag treatment, with a few officially wrapped just so people can tear a little wrapping paper off for good measure. I may even throw on a bow or two.

Yesterday, I cleaned up the office, which is also my dining room and found the top of the table. I cannot believe how nice it is in this room now. It was well worth the effort. Now we can have our Christmas feasts at a table rather than on our laps.

I am busy–but who isn’t? My food will be simple, my gifts will be wrapped (somehow in some way), the stockings will be stuffed, and I will relax with my favourite glass of rose (my newfound favourite drink–silky on the tongue with plummy overtones and like heaven with dark chocolate.)

Reprise album The Soupy Sales Show (1961).

Reprise album The Soupy Sales Show (1961). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A random Christmas Eve memory or two:

1.I remember when I was a kid there was a local program called the Soupy Sales Show and on Christmas Eve Soupy kept us updated on where Santa’s sleigh was in relation to where we lived, so we could get to bed and not catch the big Elf putting presents under our tree. I still remember watching the program with great concentration–I did not want to do anything that might deter the big guy from coming to my house.

2. Another Christmas Eve, when I was about eight, I heard footsteps on the roof over my bedroom and then jingle bells, and my sister and I were sure Santa was at our house. We squeezed our eyes shut and held our breath–we did not want Santa to know we were still awake. Why we did not venture out to find him in our living room I will never know–I think we were indoctrinated to believe that Santa would not leave us anything if we caught him. Found out later that our big brothers had climbed on the roof over our bedroom to keep the magic alive for us. And they did. I still believe in Santa Claus.

Do  you still believe in Santa?

Christmas Cookies from Mom’s Recipe Box or It Must Be Saturday ‘Cause I Am Giving You Another Recipe

A cone and holly.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fifty-six years. That is how long it took me to bake my favourite Christmas cookies.  It is a simple recipe {with just a few more than my usual five ingredients}, or I would not have even attempted them. I am now wondering what took me so long. Was it my fear of flour, my impatience, or my lack of confidence in my baking skills? Most likely all three.

Actually making the cookies was quite a breakthrough for me. My fear of flour was conquered. Being able to follow a recipe to its fruition, then eating the fruits of my labour was truly satisfying.

Of course, this is no ordinary cookie—it is a recipe I remember my mom making Christmas after Christmas. She would sometimes make them during the year but never with the seedless raspberry jam dropped oh-so-elegantly into a little indentation in the middle of the cookie.  That was saved for the special occasion of Christmas alone.

During the year they were known as Ice Box Cookies and had chopped up walnuts in them, but at Christmas they became Thumbprint cookies with a bright dab of jam. I can, and do eat these by the handful with a glass of cold milk.

Cookies!

Christmas Cookies! (Photo credit: .imelda)

For years, my younger sister, who does not share my aversion to baking, brought me  big tins of these cookies at Christmas because she knew how much I love them. And while I would share some of them with my family, I always hid away a little cache of them {if you lived at my house you would understand: cookies get inhaled whole}.

One day, my youngest son asked me why we did not make them. I did not have a really good answer, other than the fact that I probably did not have the ingredients. Well, he wasn’t buying it. So, I found the recipe, which I had copied from my mom years ago and kept safely in a little recipe book that I rarely used.

It turned out that there were no strange or unknown ingredients in the cookies, and that in fact the only thing I really had to make a special trip to the store for was the seedless raspberry jam. These cookies did not even need baking powder, but are content to rise with baking soda, which I always have on hand.

Buoyed  by my son’s enthusiasm I bought the jam and set about to make the cookies. The recipe makes a large batch, which is great for a newly minted baker of cookies. I had to email my sister to ask a couple of pertinent questions, like temperature, length of time to bake the cookies, and should I put the jam in the thumbprints before or after baking. The answers came back: 350 degrees, 8-10 minutes, and put the jam in before baking.

The cookies came out just perfect! I prefer a soft cookie and they are wonderfully soft. And the raspberry jam adds just the right festive note. They also bring back all the lovely childhood memories I have of Christmas—munching on these wonderful cookies while reading a new book left by Santa.

So, if you are someone who is not fearless in the kitchen, or have a strange fear of flour as I did, this is the recipe for you:

Ice Box Cookies:  FROM THE RECIPE BOX OF LOUANN’S MOM

Bake in 350 degree oven for 8 – 10 minutes

Ingredients:

1 cup butter

2 cups brown sugar

2 eggs

3 ½ cups flour

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking soda

1 cup chopped nuts

Seedless raspberry jam or jam of your choice.

Mix ingredients (except for jam) and roll into two rolls; wrap in wax paper. Chill, slice and bake.

OR

Roll into balls, make dent, and put in small amount of jam. I never use the walnuts–but you get to make that call.

Because this is a generous cookie recipe I have made all the cookies at once using the second method; but have also made just some of the cookies and rolled up one roll of cookies and put them away to make another day.

So, have you set your fears aside and made a special recipe for Christmas?

 

If It Is Saturday~Must Be Recipe Day Favourite Easy Recipe of All Time

Mixinsg chocolate chips into cookie batter.

Mixing chocolate chips into batter. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Don’t be fooled. I have lots of “Favourite Easy Recipes” of all time, because that is just the way I roll. This recipe is from a magazine and was included in a “Teens in the Kitchen” article. I figured if kids could do it, I could do it. And—this is the important part – it is from scratch and uses real flour. I used to have a fear of flour. I have conquered that fear. I still have a fear of yeast.

My youngest son loves these bars and asks for them all the time. That is a good indication that it is a good recipe. He is one very picky eater.

This recipe also meets my all important criteria of not having more than five ingredients so  I do not get confused.

So, without further ado:

TOFFEE BARS

1 ½ cups butter

1 ½ cups firmly packed brown sugar

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

3 cups of flour

1 cup of chocolate chips

1. Heat oven to 350 F

2. Put butter, brown sugar, and vanilla in large bowl and mix on medium speed for 3 minutes until completely combined. Add flour and mix on low for 2 minutes. Stir in chocolate chips. (This is not for the faint of heart—by now the cookie dough is quite stiff—good for the biceps!)

3. Put dough in an ungreased 15 X 10 inch baking pan (I don’t have one so use a 10 x 13 I think) and press into an even layer. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool for only 5 minutes then cut into squares. (If you let them cool longer, they will crack when you cut them).

This is a very forgiving recipe as I am a distracted cook—I think I have added the flour with the butter and brown sugar and vanilla, and I usually mix everything on high (remember my brother’s motto—everything is better on high). Sometimes I do not have vanilla. But I always have chocolate chips. This is like a moist brown sugar shortbread with chocolate chips—could there be anything better?

Seriously easy and seriously delicious.

Anyone have suggestions for me on how to get rid of my fear of yeast?

Active dried yeast, a granulated form in which...