Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cookies (the kind you bake)

Today I made gingersnaps from this recipe...not an old family recipe, but very yummy!


3/4 C. butter
1 C. sugar
1/4 C. molasses
1 egg
2 C. sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
2 t. soda
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. cloves
1 t. ginger
granulated sugar for rolling

Cream butter; add sugar gradually. Blend in molasses, egg and sifted dry ingredients; chill. Shape into 1 inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place 2 inches apart on greased cooky sheets. Bake at 375º 10 to 12 minutes; cookies become crisp when cool.

Makes about 6 dozen

Or not. Why is it that I never get as many cookies as the recipe says I will? My theory is that these recipes get handed down over the generations and when they originated people ate a lot less and cookies were smaller. Still, even though I use a scoop to portion out the dough and maybe they might be a bit bigger than 1 inch, I made a double recipe and only got about 9 dozen.

Okay, so the dough is not so pretty...
But the cookie scoop works great!
And I'm with Martha...I LOVE Silpat. I don't know if everyone has this problem, but my oven seems to bake unevenly, so halfway through I switch the trays from top to bottom.
And the results were delicious...
Although Purrkins was bored with the lot of it...maybe I should be baking catnip brownies?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

More photos

My daughter, the photographer, is clamoring for more photos from my new camera, so here a few random shots. Probably not the artistic stuff she had in mind , but all that I have taken so far.

I don't know what kind of bush this is in our front flower bed, but thought the red berries were pretty.
Here are some of my Mary Engelbreit Christmas figurines, adhered to the shelf with museum gel to protect them from Graycie the cat. She is quite the climber and has broken a few things in the past.
And my "feather" tree with Waterford ornaments, also secured but with a wire coat hanger and clear duct tape (I never knew there was such a thing.)
One of my favorites...You'd Better Not Pout nutcracker.
And here is our fireplace. Yes that is a picture of the Buena Vista over the mantle. Mike is a native of San Francisco and we always go there for an Irish coffee when we visit.
Well, Kate, I know these aren't what you had in mind...maybe I'll take some pictures of the cats today :-)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

They've bloomed...

Here are the first shots with my new camera. This is the amaryllis we planted November 11, exactly one month ago. It has a second, unopened stalk that I didn't get into the picture. And here are the paperwhites. I'm afraid Martha's tip about the 10% alcohol solution didn't work...they are still quite long and leggy...
...but still quite beautiful, and they have a wonderful fragrance.
I had three bulbs left over that I had stashed in the refrigerator, so they should bloom for New Year's and prolong our enjoyment of them.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Santa came early...

...and look at what he brought me!
I must have been very good (or very naughty in a good way :-) The man at the camera store asked me what I wanted to use it for. I was too embarrassed to say "To take pictures for my blog" so I mumbled something about food photography. We looked at a couple of Canons, but I've always been a Nikon girl. Pictures to follow...

Oh, and here is shirt v 2.0. I couldn't stagger the motifs like in the original because the panels closest to the placket weren't square...the original was a XXL, this one is a small. Still cute though, I think...

Friday, December 7, 2007

Work in progress

My mother's birthday is December 10th. It has always kind of sneaked up on me because I start thinking and planning for Christmas and then I realize we're into the second week of December and I need a birthday gift for her. Two years ago, the year I got my Bernina Artista, I embroidered this shirt for her. I got basic shirt at the Quilt Festival from All About Blanks.

My mom has subsequently lost about 90 pounds, so it obviously doesn't fit her any more. My plan this year was to make a new, smaller, replacement shirt. I had forgotten that each of these motifs are in the 28,000 to 31,000 stitch count range. I started embroidering yesterday afternoon after my cookie exchange guests left...I got 2 done then and one today after getting home from work. That leaves 4 plus the checkered trim for tomorrow before the last mail pickup at 4:30pm...wish me luck!

Thursday, December 6, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Today's cookie exchange was a great success...12 attendees=12 different types of cookies! I made lunch for everyone, too...Jamie Oliver's Chickpea and Leek Soup. No's not very pretty, but DELICIOUS! I did however take advantage of the opportunity to wear this cute vintage Santa apron. A good thing about having the cookie exchange this early is that I was motivated to do some Christmas decorating. I put the Spode Christmas Tree china on display in the china cabinet (and served lunch on it :-)
This cute little cup and saucer is from my childhood.
And I just found four of these last week at the thrift store for $1.00 each!
We have five of these fabulous retro glasses from the 50s. Mike thinks they belonged to his aunt. Don't they just make you want to have a hi-ball?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


I'm hosting a cookie exchange tomorrow, so today I baked 12 dozen (is that a gross?) of these cookies. The recipe is from my grandma, the cookie queen, who got it from her Aunt Ida, so it goes waaaaay back. It was published in many of the Milwaukee Gas Company's Festive Foods cookbooks after my grandma worked in their home service department in the very early 50s.


375º for about 10 minutes

3 C. flour
1 t. salt
1 t. ginger
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. ground cloves
6 oz. chopped, pitted dates
1 C. chopped pecans
1 C. butter
2 C. sugar
3 eggs
3 T. milk
1 t. baking soda

Mix and sift flour, salt and spices; add dates and pecans and mix well. Cream butter well, add sugar gradually and continue creaming until light and fluffy. Add well-beaten eggs and mix well. Add milk in which soda has been dissolved and mix well. Add flour mixture gradually and mix. Form dough into 3 rolls about 2 inches in diameter, wrap in waxed paper and chill thoroughly. Slice thin and bake on baking sheet in preheated oven. Approximate yield: 6 dozen. Store in covered container.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I'm on a roll here...

After posting an entry three days in a row, I'm kind of challenging myself to see how long I can keep it up. I know that November was the official blog every day month, or whatever, but hey, I have always marched to the beat of a different drummer. And even though I'm dog tired after a late-ish evening out last night at the KUHF holiday party and a 12 1/2 hour day at work today, I thought I would share this picture of my ornament wreath. I made it several years ago, but it always seems to need some sprucing up. After an hour or so with some replacement Shiny Brites and the glue gun it's back in pretty good shape. The vintage rubber reindeer toy was a gift to me from Santa Claus on my first Christmas in's in pretty good shape for being 56 years old!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Bulb update

Here are the paperwhites I started forcing three weeks ago. They are about 18" high and the buds are quite full. I'm not sure if the 10% alcohol solution has made a difference...we'll see what happens when the blooms open up.The amaryllis is doing beautifully. I can't believe how quickly it has grown...maybe it is the warm weather. Yes, it was 80º yesterday. We had a holiday open house to go to which requested "festive attire." Right. I ended up wearing a short black sleeveless Chico's Travelers dress with a red silk black velvet or red plaid taffeta in that weather. Anyway, this is what the amaryllis looked like yesterday.
And this is what it looks like today!
I'm sure it will open up in no time. And look how tall it is, with the second shoot poised take over when the first one is done. Yes, I do have the back door open. It is down into the 60s today, and I'm loving it!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Mom's gotta brag

My daughter, Kate (you know, the one who just got married), is quoted today in this New York Times article on name change.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Wedding last

We finally got the photographers' images from the wedding. Well, at least Kate has the images...I sent the check and they mailed the disc to her...go figure. She did upload some for me because I want to get busy on our Christmas cards. This is the one I am using:

You can see all the pictures online here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

More pies...and some cranberry sauce

One of the things I miss the most in Houston is cooking Thanksgiving dinner. Now it is much easier for everyone if we go to my brother's. So I have been relegated to making pies and bringing wine. This afternoon I baked two pies, one apple and one pumpkin. My pie crust attempt last weekend was so successful that I did it again.
One thing I have never done is make a pumpkin pie totally from scratch, cooking the pumpkin. This is as close as I get...

We are huge NPR junkies, and after many years of listening to the piece about Mama Stamberg's Cranberry Relish Recipe I started making it a few years ago. Now it's one of our standards.

Try'll like it!

Bulbs, week one

Wow, the amaryllis has absolutely shot up! I can't believe how much it has grown in one week.
The paperwhites are taking their time...hopefully this means that the alcohol solution is working and they won't be so tall and leggy.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Pie baking

We had a dinner party on Saturday night for several Japanese visitors to M.D. Anderson. Mike made a meal including a roasted chicken and several other dishes from Mario Batali's Molto Italiano. I decided to get into the Thanksgiving mode and make a more traditionally American dessert, apple pie. This is the recipe I always use:

1 10-inch unbaked pie crust
7 cups apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 T. lemon juice


1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

Mix apples, flour, sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and lemon juice. Pour into unbaked pie shell. Combine topping ingredients using a pastry blender or food processor. Sprinkle topping over apple mixture. Place pie in a large paper bag and close bag with staples or paper clips. Place bag on cookie sheet and bake in center of oven at 400º for 1 hour.

I even made the crust from scratch...don't remember the last time I did that! I used Martha Stewart's Pate Brisee recipe, which turned out very well. My mother has always insisted that lard makes the best pie crust, but I couldn't find any lard at Whole Foods! I used unsalted butter, just as the recipe calls for. I did come to realize that my food processor is not big enough to make a two crust batch, so I end up doing it by hand.

I love my apple/peeler/corer...I'm sure I would never make an apple pie without it!
It made fast work of those Granny Smiths!
Yes, you really do bake it in a paper bag. I'm not sure why, you just do...
The result was delicious...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Holiday blooms

One of our favorite holiday traditions is to force bulbs to bloom indoors. I guess this was so appealing in Wisconsin because by December NOTHING is in bloom, compared to here in Houston where something is always blooming. I took this picture of a hibiscus flower in our backyard today.

So over the past weekend we bought some paperwhites to force. In the December issue of Martha Stewart Living it says that using a 10:1 solution of water and rubbing alcohol will prevent them from getting so tall and leggy that they fall over. I figured it was worth a try...I'll let you know how it works.We also bought a amaryllis bulb to force. It is planted in dirt, and will get transplanted to our yard after it blooms.
Hopefully it will be as beautiful as this Wisconsin bloom from 2000.