Month: December 2010

Beef, it’s what’s for New Year’s Eve or Baby, it’s cold outside….

Beef, it’s what’s for New Year’s Eve or Baby, it’s cold outside….

Late afternoon, 12/30/2010

When it’s nice and cold, 
I can hold my baby closer to me–
and collect the kisses that are due me.
I love the winter weather 
’cause I’ve got my love to keep me warm….

Today, Emi and I ran out to get a video game, hit Whole Foods and King Sooper’s.  In the middle, we just had to have lunch together.  As we sat by the window of the restaurant, I looked outside and said, “We’ve got to get home.”   There’s just this look in the skies and about the air when all hell’s about to break loose.  The snow began to fly as we drove south, but it let up by the time we got to the grocery store.  I ran in the liquor store to grab a little Cotes du Rhone to round off the bean soup and wienies for dinner, while she got started on the grocery list.  Five minutes later, I walked in to find no carts at all.  I knew we were in trouble.  It was us and everybody else in Colorado Springs.  All at King Sooper’s.  Together.  The bread aisle was slim indeed and I was thanking God I got my bread earlier at Great Harvest.  Milk?  Same story, but thanks be I only needed heavy cream for a horseradish sauce for a friend’s New Year’s Eve tenderloin.   The lines were 6 deep, but all of registers were open.  Thanks for good planning, store manager.  Emi said, “This is how the store where I live is all the time… and people are not happy in line.  No one talks or smiles.  New Jersey, ugh.”  I seldom wait for more than one or two people in front of me; often I’m first.  Wow.

By the time we got out to the car, visibility was zero.  Snow was flying in all directions, mostly sideways.  The wind had picked up to an amazing pitch and the temperature had dropped ten degrees.  Two inches of snow were on the ground and it was a freezing mess to just open the trunk door and throw the bags in.  We felt our way home behind a crawling car in front of us and were very grateful to see the little grey, wooden house coming up on the right…finally.   It was about 2pm and it was obvious it would be dark early, which it is.


Thanks, God, for a warm house, heat, hot water, loving family, a working stove (where the bean soup bubbles) and a lovely fireplace where we’ll roast wienies tonight.  Why not?

If you don’t cook in the fireplace, try it sometime.  Fun, fun.  This pic if one I took last spring when the menu was the same as tonight.


Meantime, I thought I’d leave you with a great New Year’s Eve dinner that you might really like to make–either now or later.  But I think it’d be a wonderful celebration for 6-8.  Not a tenderloin and not the price, this time-taking (yes) prep is made with flank steak.  Cool thing is, it braises slowly in the oven while you share a bubbly or two with your friends and put your feet up on the coffee table.  Once the prep’s done, the work is nearly done.  


Here’s what it looks like from nearly the beginning to end….  I like some skinny green beans cooked in the microwave, a great baguette, and some fresh pasta with it.  You could make do with a salad and bread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ultimate Beef Braciole (Tyler Florence)-Alyce’s altitude/seasoning adjustments in italics 
   Note:  do not try and get this tender in the amount of time allotted if you’re at altitude
 Ingredients

For the Braciole:

  • 1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 anchovy fillets, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup buffalo mozzarella bocconcini balls, sliced in half if large size
  • 1/2 cup store-bought, drained and roughly chopped roasted red peppers
  • 3 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-pound piece flank steak
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, quartered lengthwise

For the Braising ingredients:

  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, gently smashed
  • 2 small onions, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • 2 c red wine
  • 1 (28 ounce) can tomatoes (recommended: San Marzano)
  • 8 vine-ripened tomatoes, separated from vine
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons good-quality balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 bunch flat-leaf parsley, chopped for garnish

Directions

To make the Braciole: Toast the panko bread crumbs in a dry skillet with a little olive oil over low heat, until golden. Add to a large mixing bowl along with the anchovy, garlic, bocconcini, red peppers, parsley, a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper, to taste. Stir together until well combined.
Set the flank steak on a piece of plastic wrap. Make a deep horizontal slice along the steak almost all the way through and fan open like a book. Lay another piece of plastic wrap on top. Using the smooth side of a meat mallet, gently flatten the steak until about 1/2-inch thick; take care not to tear. Discard the top sheet of plastic wrap; rub the surface with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Spread the stuffing evenly over the meat, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Arrange the eggs lengthwise down the center of the meat and roll up like a jelly roll log, using the plastic wrap as support. Tie the roll with kitchen twine in 4 to 5 places to secure – this will help hold the shape and keep the filling from falling out.  Season outside of roll very well indeed with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put a roasting pan across 2 burners and heat over medium heat. Add a 3-count of olive oil and add the thyme and garlic. Cook for about a minute until fragrant. Carefully add the braciole and sear until evenly browned all over, approximately 2 minutes each side.
Add the sliced onions and bay leaves, then stir in the beef broth to deglaze. Add the canned tomatoes over the top, then nestle in the whole vine tomatoes around the braciole. Bring to a simmer, then cover with foil and put in the oven to braise for 45 to 60 minutes.   Add 20-30 minutes if at altitude…serve when tender. When done, remove the foil and remove the braciole to a carving board to rest. Carefully remove the whole vine tomatoes, with a slotted spoon, to a plate. Let the sauce cool for about 5 minutes. Discard the thyme stems and bay leaf, then add the sauce to a blender and puree. Pour the sauce back into the pan and set over medium heat to bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, to taste, and add the balsamic vinegar. Remove the kitchen twine from the beef and cut into 1-inch thick “pin-wheel” slices. Arrange the slices on a platter and arrange the whole vine tomatoes around the beef. Pour the sauce over the top, garnish with
chopped parsley and serve.

Haricots Verts with Lemon

1.5 # haricots verts
1 t freshly grated lemon rind 
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large, microwave proof bowl, place beans with 1/4 cup water.  Cover tightly and cook in microwave at full power for about five minutes.  Test for doneness.  Drain and place in serving bowl.  Dust with lemon rind, salt and pepper to taste.

Fresh Pasta

Here in the Springs, I buy pasta (linguine for this) at Mollica’s on Garden of the Gods.  Two pounds for 8 people is plenty and will cost you about $11.   Call ahead to make sure they have some; you can order some a few days ahead to make sure.  Bring 10 qts of water, well salted and peppered, to a boil and gently place raw pasta into the water… you’ll need to carefully separate the strands of linguine. Cook until al dente…perhaps five or six minutes.  Remove from water  or drain and, after placing in a serving bowl, add 1T olive oil and  1/4 c chopped fresh parsley.

Wine

We liked a Barbera ($) or a Barolo ($$) with this. Vintages Wine on Tejon has some  lovely choices.

Baguette

Get your baguette at Marigold or La Baguette.

Starters

I like a little sparkler and some spiced nuts…not much more.  This is a big meal.  Gruet (New Mexico) makes a sweet sparkler that’s not overly priced and is nearly local.   Otherwise, grab some prosecco and be glad. 

Stay warm,  be happy in 2011.  You will be if you eat this for New Year’s Eve.
Alyce      
 

If you live in the Springs, I’m thinking you should have bought New Year’s Eve dinner already.

Dave’s Cranberry Almond Chocolate Bars with Tangerine Zest And a Little Christmas

Dave’s Cranberry Almond Chocolate Bars with Tangerine Zest And a Little Christmas

 …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

Chocolate Begins Here….

Chocolate, chocolate everywhere and lots of drops to drink.

Chocolate. Chocolate. Chocolate.  Christmas is chocolate.  Sounds like a good song.  And it’s just the fourth day of Christmas.  Four calling birds.  And so on.  Until Epiphany…which can also go on.

The chocolate bark from our goodie tray this year is a bark that Dave had made for me for Valentine’s Day a couple of years ago.  Truth to be told, his bark is better than mine.  Candy maker, I’m not, though my toffee was to die for this year.  (pat pat)


This bark is at the top and center of the goodie tray.  Gotta have chocolate on a holiday cookie platter.

If you’re bringing a little goodie to the New Year’s Eve party, maybe you might want to try this sweet bark, which is tres lovely with a nice red.  Of course, I favor Pinot Noir, but you might like a big Cabernet Sauvignon, a Zin or even an Italian red.  No special dessert wine needed.  Just have a little plate of this chocolate ready for dessert.  If you have a neighbor drop by for coffee, this is just the thing to pull out.  Make someone happy.  This recipe came from the Food Network (courtesy Dave Lieberman), as do so many scrumptious things these days.  There is hardly an easier dessert to make except perhaps to clean strawberries and arrange them in a bowl come summer.  And that’s not really making dessert.

Dave’s Cranberry Almond Chocolate Bars with Tangerine Zest

1/2 c slivered almonds
3 cups chocolate morsels (I like 1/2 milk chocolate and 1/2 bittersweet)
1/2 c dried cranberries
1/2 tangerine, zested

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Line a 13×9″ baking pan with aluminum foil.

Lay out almond slivers on baking sheet.  Bake in oven until light brown, shaking the baking pan occasionally to mix them around, about 10-15 minutes.

Melt the chocolate morsels in a double boiler over low heat.  Mix in the cranberries, almond slivers and tangerine zest.

Pour into prepared pan.  Smooth the chocolate mixture out into an even layer.  Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until hard, at least 1 hour.  Use a knife to break up chocolate into jagged, varied sized bars.

Oh, I almost forgot this…Jen gets Emi’s Hair all beautiful for Christmas!

Raspberry Shortbread Sandwiches and Valrhona Chocolate Shortbreads

Raspberry Shortbread Sandwiches and Valrhona Chocolate Shortbreads


Merry Christmas, Friends, Family and other Loved Ones

A promise is a promise and here are two more of the cookies from the tray:

 These cookies are at the right of the tray and are both shortbread cookies made from the same recipe, but finished differently.  The recipe is Eli Zabar’s  (NYC) and I took it straight from Ina Garten.  Just the end results are totally different.  And while these are not terribly innovative, they are terribly delicious.  Addictive, in fact.  Go ahead; you still have time to bake.  No?  How about for New Year’s?  Truthfully, the 12 days of Christmas haven’t even begun yet.  Get out those trays and crank up that oven.  Take a batch to a neighbor you wish you knew better or run up to the local church for services tonight and give a batch to one of the musicians.  Like me.  I’m working tonight. 



Shortbread Cookies from Eli Zabar via Ina Garten and Alyce Morgan

3/4# soft unsalted butter
1 c white sugar
1 t vanilla extract
3 1/2 c unbleached flour
1/4 t salt (no salt if you used salted butter)


For sandwich cookies:  3/4 c seedless raspberry jam and 1T Cointreau
For chocolate dips:  3-6 oz Valrhona Chocolate melted*; 1T coarse sea salt

Instructions:

Mix together together the butter and the sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until just combined.  Add vanilla.  Sift the flour and salt and add it to the butter an d sugar.  Mix until the dough starts to come together.  Dump on a floured board and shape into a flat disc. Refrigerate, tightly wrapped, for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Roll dough out 1/4″   thick on a floured surface and cut with 1 1/2- 2″   fluted cookie/biscuit cutter.  Bake on an ungreased sheet for about 10 minutes–until edges show the faintest signs of gold.  Let cool to room temperature.


For Raspberry Shortbread Sandwiches:


Mix jam with Cointreau and heat briefly; stir well.  Turn cookies flat side up and, holding one, place about 1/2 t jam mixture on it.  Place another cookie, flat side down into the jam mixture and press together lightly.  Place  cookies on racks as you finish them.  When all are done, dust with confectioner’s sugar shaken from the shaker or through a small strainer/sieve.


For Valrhona Chocolate Shortbreads:


Chop or grate chocolate into a small sauce pan.  Place sauce pan over  another with an inch or so of simmering water.  Let chocolate melt slowly.  When melted, take each cookie and dip halfway.  Place each dipped cookie onto a wax paper lined tray to dry.  Place a piece or two of sea salt, if desired, on the chocolate side before the chocolate dries.  

*Depending on how much of the dough you commit to the chocolate variation.


Store these cookies in tight containers after they are very dry.  Place wax paper between layers.

Merry, Merry Christmas and may all your New Year’s dreams come true,
Alyce



Drop in and Decorate Monday December 20, 2010

Drop in and Decorate Monday December 20, 2010

Thanks to all involved, particularly Lydia Walshin of Perfect Pantry--(check out her blog) Drop in and Decorate is her brainchild and is now a nationwide cookie-baking and decorating effort to help wonderful things happen in our local communities.  It’s a tremendous way of doing a little bit of good and having a great time while you’re doing it.  Who doesn’t like cookies?  And why shouldn’t they bring us together?  You can host your own event (not just in December, either)…check out the info on Lydia’s blog.

Our cookies are on their way to The Bridge, Assisted Living Center in Colorado Springs.

Ah, nuts or Go Nuts! or Alyce and Helen’s Spicy Nuts

Ah, nuts or Go Nuts! or Alyce and Helen’s Spicy Nuts

IMG_4425

It’s snowing here.  I’ve been waiting forever.. or it seems like.
This week, it’s been one thing after another; do you have weeks like that?
When you have an agenda only to have it thwarted by work, illness, spouses traveling, or whatever?
Promises, however, are promises.  And the promise to  give you the recipes from this tray:

 

Go Nuts!  Today’s recipe is at center.

is being kept.

Today’s entry is one I may have posted before, but it’s worth repeating if I have.   Surely it’s gone into the Holiday Cookbook  for 2010 on examiner.com.   This is a spiced nut recipe that I originally received from my sister Helen.  I have since called it Go Nuts!  But, having changed it from her recipe to mine, I’ve also called it Alyce and Helen’s Spicy Nuts.  I’m baking five kinds of cookies today and, while looking at an old Betty Crocker Cookbook from the early ’70s, I saw a very similar recipe there!  I’m big on provenance.  If something is original (or I have every reason to believe it is), I want the credit.  If it’s a riff on something, I want the other cook to have the credit; I want to be a honest recipe person.  Sometimes I know there’s nothing new under the sun and, when I really think I’ve done something new (for instance, I grilled pizza in the ’80s) I wish I’d put it somewhere.

They really taste this good.

Well, here’s your recipe for the day.  People adore this stuff.  It does store ok, but is best during the first day or so.

P.S.  I know how pedestrian this post is…   See bottom.

Go Nuts!  Or whatever you want to call it—————-

Ingredients:

  • 3 egg whites, beaten well
  • 1.5 pounds nuts (pecans, cashews and almonds are a good mix; just pecans are scrumptious)
  • 3/4 c white, granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (I like Vietnamese)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
  • 1/8th teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (added after baking)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
  2. Mix together all ingredients well in a large bowl.
  3. On a well-greased half-sheet cake pan (or a large, rimmed baking sheet), spread out nuts evenly.  You can use parchment paper instead of greasing the pan.
  4. Bake for an hour.  Check for crispy brown doneness.  If just chewy, separate out nuts a bit with a fork or fingers (careful!), and bake five minutes longer.
  5. When nuts are crispy, remove pan from oven, sprinkle with black pepper. Cool briefly and break nuts apart and stir as best you can, using a sharp-edged spatula to get the nuts up off the pan.  Remove to another pan for cooling or nuts may stick. (If they do, reheat them for 5 minutes and then remove to another pan.)  For crispiest nuts, let sit at room temperature for several hours.
  6. Store, cooled,  in gallon plastic bags or well-sealing containers at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.  For longer storage, refrigerate.

In Memoriam

Our share cat Skippy Jon Jones had to be euthanized today.  Miss him already.  No words.

Skippy–Luvya!  See you later.
Ginger Repeat

Ginger Repeat

Don’t forget DROP IN AND DECORATE
MONDAY, DECEMBER 20; 4-8PM
I’ll bake the cookies; you come and decorate them!
On Tuesday, we’ll take them to The Bridge, Assisted Living Center

Ah yes, I promised the recipes for all of the cookies on this tray:

And, even though I’ve blogged the ginger cookies (to the far left) before, they’re worth repeating.  In fact, I’m repeating that blog.  Why not? 

It starts here…

Is there anything more Christmasy (food-wise) than a ginger cookie? I have so many foods and ideas to blog for Christmas (I’m making clam sauce today) that I don’t know what to do. But things always boil down to cookies during Advent, don’t they?

One year, I just had to figure out what was


THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO ME AT CHRISTMAS………

What wouldn’t it be Christmas without.

Or, what was Christmas….

You know. It’s the year you decide to drop

ALL that decorating

ALL that shopping

ALL that worrying about when you’ll get it wrapped…

ALL that pouting about “It’s not like it was when ___________.”


And you wonder,

“What is my very favorite thing about Christmas?

Do I need the tree?

Do I need the lights?

Do I need the Starbucks Peppermint Mocha?

Do I need the big party?

Do I need to go to the Nutcracker(again)?

As our priorities tumble and crumble and finally crystalize, we straighten out and fly right…

Knowing just exactly what we need at Christmas as we walk to the stable, waiting for the savior to be born in OUR hearts because we need to be new and clean and loving so very badly.

As I’ve walked (not run) each of the years since my priorities scrambled and came round right, I’ve discovered I like these things best about Christmas:

1. Spending time with my family

2. Worship–Christmas Eve especially

3. Baking Christmas cookies for my family and friends

Well, gee, I guess you couldn’t figure it out.

Oh, this is a food blog–right?   Back to the cookies.

And, if I just had to name my very favorite cookie (and my children and husband each have theirs), I guess I would name

ALYCE’S GINGER COOKIES–a word or two about them:

These cookies are a cross between a cookie sold during Needlework Week at Woodlawn Plantation in Alexandria, Virginia (where I worked for several of my lovely years at the National Trust for Historic Preservation) and the cookies they sell in Coshocton, Ohio and are OH SO famous for.

These are not snaps, no, definitely not. They aren’t the Gingerbread Girls of the Drop in and Decorate variety. They are cookies. Crispy and chewy at the same time. Sweet and spicy and even a tad “hot” all together. Throw out your old bottle of ginger and get a new one before you begin. These are why cookie jars were invented, my friends. Why kids come home. Why husbands raid the freezer middle of the night.

Make ’em; make ’em right. You’ll always be tweaking them between the kinds of sheets and the oven temps………. Are they done? Are they not? (Don’t overbake them; they’re toasty garbage.)

The recipe is a guide. You’ll make them your way and they’ll be your cookies. Eat them with milk. Eat them with hot tea. Eat them with coffee or hot cocoa. For capital G-Goodness sake, just make them and eat them. What else do you need? Part of Christmas is… well, it’s just ginger cookies.

ALYCE’S GINGER COOKIES–A BIG BATCH –6 DOZ 2-3″ COOKIES

1 1/2 c shortening ( I know, I know)

2 c sugar (plus more for rolling)

1/2 c molasses

2 t freshly ground ginger

2 eggs

4 cups unbleached white flour

4 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons cinnamon (I like Penzey’s Vietnamese cinnamon)

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves

1 tsp freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F.


Beat well the shortening, sugar, molasses, egg and fresh ginger until fluffy. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Shape into 1″ balls. Roll in granulated white sugar and place on cookie sheet two inches apart. Bake until edges are quite dry, but centers are soft and still a tad gooey. If you overbake them, they’re dunking cookies.


Let cookies sit on trays for 5-8 minutes. Remove from trays to cooling racks until completely cool. Store in airtight containers for 1-2 days. Freeze for up to 2 weeks if not using immediately.

Just ginger.  Again.

What I’m reading and listening to:

BOOKS-
IN THE KITCHEN WITH A GOOD APPETITE by Melissa Clark
JACQUES PEPIN:  THE APPRENTICE  by Jacques Pepin
AROUND MY FRENCH TABLE by Dorie Greenspan
THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN by Garth Stein (Book Club’s at my house in January.)
THE LIGHT WILL SHINE; A STUDY FOR ADVENT

MUSIC-
John Rutter’s “Gloria”
my own piano playing
“my” choir’s cantata
Dave practising
Straight, No Chaser’s “12 Days of Christmas
The whipping of the trees and the scuttling of the leaves as winter weather moves in.
My daughter’s voice on the telephone

VIDEO:
Oh, and my favorite food video of the year is Yeo Valley:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eOHAUvbuV4o&feature=player_embedded

Sing a new carol; bake a new cookie,
Alyce

Today–Hazelnut Snowballs…. Eat ’em up, eat ’em up; rah, rah, rah!

Today–Hazelnut Snowballs…. Eat ’em up, eat ’em up; rah, rah, rah!

 

Today’s cookie:  Hazelnut Snowballs

       

So I said keep your eyes on the prize….that I’d be back with the recipes for the cookies on this tray
and here I am…just a couple of days later.  Our hazelnut cookie is to the left of the middle of the tray–just right of the ginger cookies and left of the spiced nuts.

Meantime, I’ve been working on the holiday cookbook recipes for Examiner and have loved through the cantata at the church …  (I’ll post a photo or two at the end.)  The Hazelnut Snowballs were published today in the cookbook, but here is your very own copy of the recipe.  It’s much like Almond Crescents, Mexican Wedding Cakes or Russian Teacakes.  Instead of almonds, pecans or walnuts, however, it uses hazelnuts.  You can shower them with “snow” (powdered sugar) or drizzle them with “mud” (melted chocolate) or, if you’re in the mood for tres festive, you can roll them-before you bake them- in red or green sugar.  For a more pronounced (and a little more chunky)  hazelnut flavor, beat in half of the ground nuts as per directions, saving the rest to hand stir-in at the very end before baking.  That’s an Aida Mollenkamp tip.

Hazelnut Snowballs    makes about 72 cookies

Ingredients:

* 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

* 2 cups confectioner’s sugar, divided

* 2 t vanilla extract

* 1 c ground hazelnuts

* 3 cups flour

* 1 t cinnamon

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease your cookie sheets or place parchment paper on each sheet.

2. Beat together butter and 1 cup of the confectioner’s (powdered) sugar on high for 2 minutes using electric hand-held or standing mixer.

3. Add the vanilla and hazelnuts and mix well.

4. Add flour and beat together well.

5. Using your hands, form the dough into 1 1/2″ balls and place one inch apart on cookie sheets. (If you’d like the colored sugar effect, roll the balls in the sugar now-before baking and do not follow instructions for sifting powdered sugar and cinnamon below.)

6. Bake about 8 minutes until firm, but browning only slightly.

7. While the cookies bake, sift together the remaining cup of confectioner’s sugar and the cinnamon.

8. Remove the cookies from the oven and cool briefly before sifting the sugar mixture over them lightly. (You can use a fine, small strainer if you don’t have a sifter.)

9. If you choose to chocolate drizzle, let the cookies cool completely before drizzlingthe chocolate with cookies on racks (with trays beneath) or on waxed paper. Let dry well for a few hours before storing in careful layers. Place waxed paper between each layer.

10. These cookies store well, tightly covered, for several weeks.  I think they keep well because they contain no eggs.  Truly, they’re great for a long time.  Even at altitude.  You may also freeze them.

 I loved the photographs up close of these cookies almost as much as I liked eating them…so here’s another.
Two-Life Kitchen:  The Church at Woodmoor Choir
This choir did such a bang-up job on their cantata.  It seemed every week we had someone new join the choir and the sound just kept getting better.  For the offering during worship, we added flute, claves and organ to the piano, as well as several folks from the congregation who read the parts of Isaiah, the Innkeeper (who named himself “Bob”), the shepherds, Mary, and so on.  We had a slamdunk narrator from downunder, who just had the voice of a narrator.  You know how that is?  Not everyone has it.  For those interested, I have a recording.  Was there ever a better story on earth about which to write music???
Gettin’ ready for the miracle!!

The wonderful accompanists! 

Part of the group…with my flying arms.

More of us….telling about the Savior’s Birth and loving it.
You Don’t Need a Cookie App or The Only Fig Newton You’ll Ever Need

You Don’t Need a Cookie App or The Only Fig Newton You’ll Ever Need

 Don’t forget Drop in and Decorate:  Monday, December 20, 4-8pm……….………

Watch this space…throughout the season for the recipes for these cookies.

  Are you really carrying your smart phone to the store and searching your cookie app for ingredients?  I’d like to know.  Are you deciding which cookies you’ll make based on which cookies are on your app?  Or is this just a cool thing to look at on subway or while you’re waiting for the dentist?

I mean, it sounds kinda fun.  Maybe.  Squinting at a screen while in the grocery…trying to remember what you already have at home…bringing the recipe up over and over as you move from aisle to aisle or while you argue with your toddler or husband.   How about stopping in the midst of the Christmas grocery crowd and actually writing a list down?  How’s that goin’?  Is a smart phone dictating your Christmas cookie list?  Now, now, now.  I have to know.

New recipe;  Oatmeal cherry chocolate almond….Coming soon!

Maybe it’s like watching Food Network.  Of course, I watch Food Network.  Where would I be without Ina?  How would I make (ok, Dave make) Christmas dinner without Tyler?  And how fun has it been to leave the tv on in the sunroom while I cook during the day.  I can’t see it, but I can hear the pitter-patter of Jadey’s little feet or the whirr of Ina’s electric juicer.  I can get the hell out of dodge whenever the Neely’s show comes on.  Or, as one person wrote, “I have an incredible urge to smoke a cigarette whenever Neely’s comes on.”  Yes.  Me, too.  And I don’t smoke anymore.  (6 1/2 years now)

But if you keep your eyes on this blog (I’d like that!), I’ll give you the recipes for the cookies on the tray at the top of the post.  One or two at a time.. or what I have time for.  We’ll start with

The Only Fig Newton You’ll Ever Need

The Only Fig Newton You’ll Ever Need or How Alyce Conquered The Fig Bar
makes one 9×12 pan of cookies

Ingredients:

 2 c dried figs, stems snipped, chopped (I do it in the food processor w/ a little flour)
1 1/2 c brown sugar, divided
1 c water

2t vanilla extract
1/2 t almond extract

1 c unbleached flour
2 c oatmeal, uncooked
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted

Directions:
  • In a medium saucepan, bring to a boil figs, 1/2 c of the brown sugar, and the water.  Reduce heat and simmer about five minutes.  Remove from heat and cool a little while.  Add vanilla and almond extracts.
  • Combine flour, oatmeal, remaining 1 c brown sugar, the baking soda and salt, stirring and tossing them together.  Add melted butter and mix thoroughly.  
  • Press half the mixture into the bottom of the 9×13 pan.  Spread with the cooled fig filling.
  • Sprinkle filling evenly with rest of oatmeal mixture.  Press it gently into the figs.
  • Bake about 30 minutes or until gently golden brown.
  • Remove from oven and cool in the pan on a  rack.  Cut into squares the size you like.
  • Store at room temperature 2 days or in refrigerator 1 week.   Can freeze for up to 2 weeks. 
These started out as Fanny Farmer date bars…nice morph, huh?

Sing a new song; bake a new cookie;
Come listen to “my” choir sing their Christmas cantata this Sunday at 10.  In fact, if you read well, come to dress rehearsal on Saturday at 1pm and sing along.  Blessings if you’re moving through Advent right now..walking down the path, following the light, squinting into the distance…

Alyce

Two-Dog Kitchen Returns:  (Skippy Jon Jones, grown up, reappears this weekend for a month.)

Resting while mom bakes!   Tucker (left),  Gabby (right)
DROP IN AND DECORATE-PLEASE COME!

DROP IN AND DECORATE-PLEASE COME!

When: Monday, December 20

Time: 4pm-8pm (anytime/come and go)

Where: Alyce Morgan’s house,
              719-635-1799 rsvps helpful!!

What’s up: Stop in and decorate a few cookies Alyce has baked up. Stay for a bowl of soup and eat any cookies you messed up. Sing or play a carol or two or twenty. All ages welcome.

What happens to the other cookies? The other cookies, the ones you didn’t “mess up”, go to The Bridge Assisted Living Center on December 21

Hope to see you come sing a new carol or decorate a new cookie,
Alyce

Pumpkin-Ginger Bread–or Alyce Tweaks the Pumpkin Bread One More Time

Pumpkin-Ginger Bread–or Alyce Tweaks the Pumpkin Bread One More Time

Muffin version in front of my winter herb window

PREVIEW:  DROP IN AND DECORATE IS MONDAY, DECEMBER 20 4-8PM

COME BY ALYCE’S TO DECORATE A FEW COOKIES, SHARE A MEAL OF SOUP AND BREAD, OR TO JUST ENJOY THE SEASON.  COOKIES WILL BE HAND-DELIVERED TO THE BRIDGE, ASSISTED LIVING CENTER THE FOLLOWING DAY.  PUT IT ON YOUR CALENDAR.  SEE YOU THEN!!!! 

One or two things I make during the holiday season go from September-January.  Pumpkin bread is one of them.  If you know me well, you’ve eaten my pumpkin bread.  I have several versions and every one is different and unique and yummy and… special.  I kind of work of it from year to year.  My choirs eat it; my husband lathers cream cheese on it.  I make it into muffins; my friends husbands say to their wives, “Why don’t you make anything like this?”  (Mostly because they’re eating cake at dinner.) 

This year, I had sweet ideas. Whoa:  Candied ginger.  Black pepper.  Cayenne.  Pumpkin seeds.  I tried it out.  Twice. Increased the ginger the second time.  Passed it around at home and elsewhere.  I took some to St. Paul, where we visited for Thanksgiving, froze our butts off, made it through a job interview (me-whewgladitzovah), 13 houses,  and came home drop-in-bed sick from.  We ate it there for breakfast.  Every day. Ah.  Thanksgiving time!  So I’m keeping this version.  It seemed to go over well, even with Sue’s friend Gladys, a top-notch cook and baker at 91.  She did say, however,

“WHAT is in this?  I don’t like eating stuff when I don’t know what’s in it.” 

I think it was the candied ginger and the cranberries.  Of course the black pepper might have done it, too.  Or the cayenne.  Well.   I like pepper in bread; sue me.  And I’m gonna go right on making it. Like that. It does make super gifts and can be made as tiny loaves, muffins or big loaves.  Maybe even T-tiny muffins for a buffet.  Try it; you’ll like it.  Everyone else did.  Better make a bunch.  (Provenance:  I think the original recipe for this came from THE FANNY FARMER BAKING BOOK.)  Freezes well.  (No longer than 2-3 weeks, though)

Pumpkin seeds.  Use some in the bread.  Eat the rest.  Good for you.  Great in bread!

Alyce’s Newest Pumpkin Bread Featuring Candied Ginger and Black Pepper.  OH, and Cayenne, too.

  • 1/2 c dried cranberries
  • 1 c boiling water
  • 2/3 c butter, soft (to cut fat, use half apple-sauce–no more than that)
  • 2 c pumpkin ( a can is 15 oz now; add applesauce to complete the  2 c)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 1/4 c sugar
  • 1/3 c candied ginger, minced
  • 2/3 c evaporated milk, low-fat or fat-free  (can use regular milk instead)
  • 3 1/3 c unbleached white flour
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1 1/2 t salt  (sorry, left out of original post–corrected  11/18/11)
  • 2t Chinese or Vietnamese cinnamon
  • 1/2 t freshly-ground nutmeg
  • 1 t ground cloves
  • 1/2 t black pepper, freshly ground
  • 1/4 t ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/4-1/3 c salted or unsalted pumpkin seeds (I like salted)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F for bread or 400 for muffins. Grease and flour pans.  For muffins pans, grease only.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together cranberries and boiling water.  Set aside.
  3. With hand-held electric or standing electric mixer, beat together in a large bowl butter, pumpkin, applesauce, eggs, sugar and candied ginger until light and fluffy.  Beat in milk until well-mixed.
  4. On top of the wet ingredients, measure dry ingredients:  flour, soda, baking powder, spices.  Carefully mix just the dry ingredients with a spoon or rubber spatula, trying to avoid mixing the dry ingredients into the wet.  Using electric mixer, beat wet and dry ingredients together until just incorporated.  Don’t over beat.  Drain cranberries well and stir into batter gently.
  5. If desired, sprinkle pumpkin seeds into bottom of prepared pans (9×5) or baby loaf pans (3×5 or similar) or muffin tins.  Use ice cream scoop for muffins. 
  6. For loaves or baby loaf pans, bake at 350 for about an hour or half-hour, respectively.  Test for doneness with a toothpick or skewer; it will come out almost clean when the bread is done.  Leave in pans 5 minutes.  Bang bottoms of pans on board, floor or counter before turning out on to racks carefully to cool completely.   If sticking, use thin, sharp knife to go around edges.  When absolutely cool, wrap well in foil.  Store on counter 1-2 days, in frig for 2-3 days, and in freezer up to 2-3 weeks.
  7. If in muffin tins, bake at 400 F for maybe 15 minutes or until nicely browned and firm to the touch.  Turn out immediately onto metal cooling racks.  Follow storage instructions above, though muffins store well in large plastic containers that are freezer safe.

This is a great pumpkin bread pan loaf.  Pan available at Williams-Sonoma.  (Design changes year to year.)

Just thought you’d like to see the options….

Bake now while it’s quiet one night.  Wrap up your treasures carefully in shiny foil. You can even put ribbons on them before you put them in the freezer.  Be ready as you move through Advent into Christmas.  Or as you hit the second day of Hanukkah.  Breathe and study.  Live and love.  Don’t get crazy over what you’re supposed to do.   Or as you live through another day…
Don’t let the light go out (see and hear song, LIGHT ONE CANDLE)  and, while you’re at it, pray that I see the the path where God is undoubtedly shining it if I just could only be aware enough…
 
Alyce