Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Grandma's Raisin-Filled Cookies

Like most people, I'm not a huge fan of raisins. But, like most people, I LOVE these cookies. It's more than just the sentimental value of them too--more than the memory of going to my Grandma's house and eating these at her kitchen table. These cookies are truly delicious and the sweet raisin filling complements the cookie perfectly. My daughter calls these cookies "pocket surprise" cookies.

This recipe has been in our family for generations. Make some memories with your little ones and whip up a batch this week!

Cookie dough:
6 c. sifted flour
2 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
2 c. shortening
2 c. white sugar
1 c. brown sugar
4 eggs
2 Tbsp. water
2 tsp. vanilla

2 c. raisins
¾ c. sugar
1 Tbsp. flour
1 c. water
1 tsp. vanilla
½ to 1 c. chopped walnuts

Directions:1. Cream shortening and sugar. Add the eggs, water and vanilla and mix well.

2. Combine all the dry ingredients together and then stir into the shortening mixture.
3. Divide the dough in half. Roll each half into long rolls. Wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper and refrigerate for a few hours.
4. Meanwhile, prepare the filling by combining the raisins, sugar, flour and water in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until thick. Remove from heat and had the vanilla and nuts.

5. To prepare the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 and slice the dough into rather thin slices, about 1/8 of an inch thick. Place a slice on a cookie sheet and add a tsp. of filling (sometimes I make a little divot in the cookie dough to place the filling into).

6. Place another cookie slice on top and bake until light brown.

No need to tell you to enjoy these--there's no doubt you will!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Grandma's Baked Yams

Here is the much requested yam recipe. I realize that it is after Thanksgiving, but these really are good enough to eat any time. (Actually, I was going to put this recipe up before the holiday but realized I didn't have a picture... and after making them for Thanksgiving, I still don't have a picture. No excuse. You'll just have to trust me that these are DELICIOUS!)

Grandma's Baked Yams

3 cups mashed yams
1/3 cup melted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
2 eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla

1/3 cup melted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans and/or walnuts)

1. cook yams in skins. (I usually slice into about 4 dics and boil) When soft, peal and mash with electric mixer.
2. add sugar, milk, butter, eggs, and vanilla
3. pour yams into a 9x13 pan
4. Blend brown sugar,butter, flour, and nuts until crumbly. Sprinkle over yam mixture
5. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes.

This is the original recipe, BUT I think the topping to yam ratio is too much. When I make a 9x13 pan I always double the yam part of the recipe and leave the topping the same. (Because the yam layer will be twice as thick, you'll need to bake for close to an hour. The yams 'puff up' when they bake, so when the middle finally 'puffs' they're probably done.) If you only want to make a single recipe, just put the yams in a smaller pan and use half the topping.


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pie Crust Inspiration

Lately I've been trying some different spins on my regular pie crust. I thought I'd share my ideas before everyone bakes their Thanksgiving pies.

So here are my thoughts...

toasted walnuts or pecans

lemon or orange zest

or a shortbread or ginger snap crust in place of the regular graham cracker

oh, and the one I can't wait to bake, toasted coconut crust (my husband and I are suckers for anything coconut.) French silk pie with toasted coconut cust anyone?

Good luck with your holiday baking and have fun trying something new!

Monday, November 22, 2010

New Tradition: Pear Plum Pie

Everyone has their own personal taste in pies. Some people prefer French Silk pie or Reece's Peanut Butter pie while others prefer Lemon Meringue pie or fresh strawberry pie. Some people wait all year for the smooth spicy flavor of pumpkin pie or for a sweet nutty pecan pie. But if you are like me, then you pretty much love all pies.

But if you are really like me, then this pie, THIS PIE is YOUR PIE. Oh my gosh, it is so amazingly good. It has this perfect fusion of sweet, tart, spiciness that you can't get enough of. This pie is my new favorite pie, and that is why it is going to be on my Thanksgiving table every year for the rest of my life.

Introducing, the Pear Plum Pie:

Every pie starts out with a good pie crust. Here's what a good pie crust should look like after you've mixed in your fat, before you add the water. Nice, pea-sized chunks of dough.

Then for this pie, you need some good firm-but-ripe pears and plums. I used red pears, and I was hoping to find some plums that were also red on the inside, but I could not. These were also great. 

 Cut the fruit into nice, healthy-sized pieces.

Stir in sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, cinnamon, cornstarch and pour them into your prepared pie shell.

Tuck the fruit into a double-layered pie crust by adding another layer of pie dough on top. Brush with egg+milk. Sprinkle with sugar. 

Bake and drool over your perfect pie. 

Mmmmm. Stop drooling and just eat it! A scoop (or two) of vanilla ice cream never hurt either.

Enough pie pastry for a top and bottom
1 c. sugar
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
5 c. cored and coarsely chopped pears
2 c. chopped plums
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 egg, beaten
1 Tbsp milk, cream, soymilk, etc.

1. Preheat oven to 375. Roll out pastry and transfer to a 9-inch pie pan.
2. In a small bowl combine sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest,  cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. In a large bowl combine pears and plums. Add lemon juice and vanilla then add the sugar mixture; toss to coat. Transfer to prepared pie pan.
3. Roll out the remaining dough and place over the filling. Crimp the edge as desired. Cut a few slits in the top to allow steam to escape.
4. Combine egg and milk; brush on pastry. Place pie on a lined baking sheet.
5. Bake 1 hour and 20 minutes. To prevent overbrowning, cover the edge of the crust with foil as necessary. Cool on a wire rack.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Family Tradition: Eggnog Pie


This pie is so good! Every year for Thanksgiving my family makes eggnog pie because EVERYONE loves it. I happen to be of the opinion that strait eggnog is a bit heavy and strong, but this pie mixes that wonderful eggnog flavor with vanilla pudding and whip cream and what you get is a PERFECT eggnog flavor and texture. You must bring this to your Thanksgiving celebration this year. It will be a huge success.

1 lrg box (~ 4 to 5 oz.) vanilla pudding, cook and serve

3 c. eggnog
1 c. heavy whipping cream, whipped with 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar and ½ tsp. vanilla

1. Combine the pudding mix and eggnog in a sauce pan. Stirring constantly, cook until thickened (about 10 minutes) then cool.
2. Fold the whipped cream into the eggnog pudding mix and put into a baked pie shell of your choice (pastry, graham cracker, gingerbread cookie…)

note: if you have only a 3-oz. box, use only 2 c.eggnog.

Print the recipe.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Balsamic Pears and Green Beans

I never met a dish with Balsamic Vinegar that I didn't like, but this one is top-notch. The tangyness of the balsamic vinegar is tamed with an equal amount of brown sugar and partnered with delicious seasonal pears. This will be on our table for our Thanksgiving feast.


12 to 16-oz bag of frozen green beans
2 firm-ripe pears
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook the green beans.
2. Meanwhile, peel and slice the pears. Add them to a nonstick pan with the other ingredients. Saute for about 5 minutes. Add the green beans and combine until everything is coated in the sauce and warm.
3. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Voila! Delicious!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Favorite Fall Breakfast: Gingerbread pancakes with glazed apples

I love gingerbread and I always make gingerbread to eat on Christmas Eve, but lately I've been craving it and didn't want to wait clear until Christmas! But I also didn't want to spoil the special Christmas Eve dish, sooo I decided to try gingerbread pancakes. I made these pancakes for breakfast this past weekend and they were fantastic. I like my Christmas Eve gingerbread with applesauce or whip cream, and since it was breakfast, I decided to make some glazed apples to go with them. Delicious and heavily feeling of fall and the approaching holidays. I highly recommend trying them sometime this season. Enjoy!

Pancake Ingredients
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. cocoa
Dash ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. milk/soy milk/almond milk
1 egg
2 Tbsp. molasses
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil

Apple Ingredients
2-3 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. sugar
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1 c. apple sauce

1. Place all the ingredients for the glazed apples in a pan and cook on medium heat until the apples are soft.
2. Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine milk, egg, molasses and oil; add the dry ingredients and mix well.
3. Pour batter onto a hot griddle; turn when bubble form on top of pancake. Cook until second side is golden brown.
4. Serve and enjoy!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Growing Amaryllis

It's that time of year!

 Time to get your amaryllis planted for glorious December color. Right now is the perfect time to plant your bulbs so that they will be in-bloom for Christmas.

And who wouldn't want this beautiful flower as part of their holiday decor?

This first year of amaryllis growing is pretty easy; it's getting it to come back the second year that takes care and planning. Hopefully this will be my second year that I get to see these beautiful blossoms for the holidays! I envision a house full of these someday. :) 

There is even an Amaryllis website dedicated to helping you be successful at growing these beauties (which I have used several times).  

In short though, this is the easy part of the amaryllis cycle: just plant the bulb in some good soil, leaving the top 1/3 out of the soil.  Place in a sunny, warm spot and water enough to keep the soil a bit moist, but not wet. As blossoms appear, water more. Alternatively, there are some attractive clear glass pots available now that dangle the roots in water and require no soil. You should have beautiful blossoms by Christmas!

To get your amaryllis to bloom again the next year, cut the stem off after the flowers have faded but leave the leaves. Allow them to grow all year until they start to die at the end of summer. Then, dig up your bulb, clean it off, and store it somewhere cool for 6 weeks. Then repeat. Voila!

Amaryllis bulbs are easy to find this year--I've seen them in grocery stores (I bought myself a new one this year that is red and white), Target, Walmart, etc.

Happy growing!


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Crocheted Beanie with Lining

I crocheted David a beanie the other day, but I was worried that it wouldn't be quite warm enough for the winter. I decided it needed a lining, so here's what I did.
Trace the hat on a piece of knit fabric, (you'll need 2 layers). Make sure the stretch goes around, not up and down.

With right sides together, sew your layers together along outer edge. Make sure to use a stretch stitch (zig zag works). Leave the bottom open.

Slide the lining inside the hat.

Tuck the bottom edge of the lining under and sew it to the hat. (Remember to use a stretch stitch again). Also, change your bobbin thread so it matches the outside of the hat.

Finished! I you want to, you can hand stitch the lining to the outside at a few points along the side and top, but you don't have to. I'll make a girl version and show another way to put the lining in then.

Now David is just glad I'm done making it, and I'm glad his ears will be warm.

Need a crochet pattern? Here's what I did for Dave's hat.
Chain 4 and join to make a circle
Rnd 1: Ch 1, 10 SC in circle. Join with slip stitch (10 SC total)
Rnd 2: Ch 1, 2 SC in each stitch around. Join with Sl St (20 SC total)
Rnd 3: Ch 1, * 1 SC in each of the next 2 St's, 2 SC in the next St, repeat from *, join with Sl St. You'll be increasing every 3 stitches. (27 SC total)
Rnd 4: Ch 1, 1 SC in each St around, join with Sl St, (27 SC total)
Rnd 5: repeat Rnd 3, this time you'll have a total of 36 SC
Rnd 6: repeat Rnd 4, this time you'll have 36 SC total
Rnd 7: repeat Rnd 3 (48 SC total)
Rnd 8: repeat Rnd 4 (48 SC total)
Rnd 9: repeat Rnd 3 (sorry I stopped counting)
Rnd 10: repeat Rnd 4
Rnd 11: repeat Rnd 3
Rnd 12-33: repeat Rnd 4
(The hat will look narrow, but it stretches)
Also, I used 4-ply worsted weight yarn (it seemed a bit thinner than usual though)
I used a size I crochet hook, and the hat fits a head about 19 inches around. To adjust sized, just do more or less increases (repeats of Rnd 3 and 4). Then just repeat Rnd 4 til its the length you want. Good Luck!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pumpkin Cheeseball

Use your favorite Cheeseball recipe and make it a little more festive by turning it into a pumpkin. Just shape the cheeseball into a ball, cover with plastic wrap and then use a spoon or your fingers to make the grooves of a pupkin. Unwrap and put in a bowl, or on a plate. Stick a piece of celery in the top for a stem and celery leaves or parsley for pumpkin leaves. Tah-dah, a pumpkin!
I don't have a Cheeseball 'recipe' exactly, but I followed these tips from Better Homes and Gardens.
for a complex flavor, blend goat cheese and cream cheese. Or mix shredded cheddars- mild, sharp, and white- with cream cheese. So the cheeseball will firm up when chilled, add 1/2 cup butter for each 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of shredded cheese.
Horseradish or Brown Mustard
Either adds spice and texture. Use horseradish for a more intense flavor. For a milder and slightly sweet flavor use brown mustard.
Fresh Garlic
Mince or crush just one clove of garlic per pound of cheese and thoroughly stir into the mixture.
Toast chopped pecans or walnuts for the best flavor. Try stiring them into the cheese mixture rather than coating the outside.
Fresh Herbs
Pat on or roll the ball in a combination of fresh parsley, oregano, basil, thyme, and/or chives.
Lemon Peel
For color and zest press on fresh grated lemon, orange, or lime peel.
*To change things up, serve the cheeseball with hearty breads or try it with celery or apple slices.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Leaf Crackers

Jaime found this cute idea in Parents Magazine. Then when another friend pointed them out to me, I decided it was time one of us tried it out and fall seemed like the perfect time... for obvious reasons. *I didn't actually have the instructions and just replicated them as well as I could remember- well, and made it less complicated*

Cut uncooked won ton wraps with a leaf cookie cutter. Mix up some dye. I did green, red and orange. (Mixed about 1 Tbsp water with 3 or so drops of food coloring)

Place wrap leaves on a cookie sheet. Use a pastry or basting brush to brush on some color. Sprinkle with salt. Then I made each color a different flavor. I sprinkled paprika on the red, parsley on the green and orange zest on the orange leaves.

Bake in 400 degree oven for 4-5 minutes. Edges should lightly brown. Remove and cool on a wire rack.

Enjoy with your favorite dip! (We ate them with spinach artichoke dip. Yum)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Salvia in the Snow

This is my last salvia plant--the rest have been victims of frost, but this one hung on just so I could take this lovely picture of it on the morning of our first snow fall.

Beautiful. We spent the rest of the morning playing in the snow.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Brown Paper Package Cards

I made these a while ago for a card exchange, and was thinking that they would be perfect for Christmas cards or Thank Yous around Thanksgiving time.
The idea is a 'brown paper package tied up with strings'. I thought it would be great to have a card that was as fun to open as a package. Here's how I made them...

Use an existing card or cut and fold cardstock the size you want. Rip pieces of brown paper bags or other scrapbook paper (or both) and glue to the front, wrapping the edges around to the inside. Add a stamp to the front. Cut a piece of paper that is slightly smaller than the inside of your card when it's open and layed flat. Glue it on. (I had to weight these with books while the glue dried to get them to stay closed nicely.) Wrap the card with string and tie a bow. That's it!