Chocolate Chip Cookie Day

Today is National Chocolate Chip Day!

It made me think of how good our house smelled when I’d walk in the door after school and Mom would have a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies. They were my favorites.

I tried and failed so many times over the years to recreate her cookies and couldn’t.

Mom was never good about writing down recipes or sharing them, so I finally gave up.

After she passed away, I happened to find her recipe, tried it, and the cookies were just like the ones she used to make.  With every bite of chocolate-imbued nostalgia, they took me back to those days when I’d come home and she’d ask about my day while I sat at the counter and had a glass of milk with a cookie or two.

If you need a good chocolate chip cookie recipe, here’s the one from my mama.

Mom’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients: 

1 cup salted butter, softened

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon baking soda

pinch of salt

2 1/2 cups flour

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugars. Add egg and combine. Add vanilla. Stir baking soda and salt into flour then add a little at a time to dough. Stir in chocolate chips.

Use a cookie scoop, or a tablespoon to drop dough on parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes until cookie are just set and barely starting to brown. Remove from oven and cool for a minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Yield: 36 cookies

What is your favorite way to enjoy chocolate chips?

If you aren’t a chocolate fan, what is your favorite cookie?

Post your comment for a chance to win a set of recipe cards!

 

Cowgirls in the Kitchen – Karen Kay’s Quick and Simple Recipe

 

Howdy!  Howdy!

Welcome, welcome to a marvelous Monday!  Hope this day sees y’all doing well.

The recipe I’m posting here is one very beloved by my grandchildren, as well as my husband (and me, too).

Simple to make.  Delightful to eat.

So, here we go!

Easy, smeesy, Chocolate Truffles!

What you’ll need:

  1. 8 oz. organic semi-sweet chocolate bar
  2.  1/2 to 3/4 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
  3.  1 1/2 Teaspoon vanilla

How to make:

  1. Simmer cream — do not boil
  2. Break up chocolate into pieces
  3.  Pour cream over chocolate and let it sit for a few minutes.  Then, combine until smooth.
  4.  Refrigerate until hard
  5.  Roll into balls with your clean hands
  6.  Roll each ball in cocoa powder or broken/crushed candy canes — the candy canes work well for Christmas.

That’s all!  But, there are some substitutions and some simple tricks, also.

  1. Don’t use chocolate chips because they don’t work well for truffles.  They have a different consistency when cooled.
  2.  Your cream must be whipping or heavy cream.  If you try using half and half, the chocolate will not roll into balls.
  3.  If you have only cocoa powder, you can substitute it in a pinch for the organic semi-sweet chocolate bar by doing the following:  substitute 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder to every ounce of chocolate; add 1 teaspoon melted butter or coconut oil for every tablespoon of cocoa powder; add 1 tablespoon sugar for each ounce of chocolate.
  4. Follow the rest of the recipe above.

There you go.  A wonderful addition to the holidays or just for fun.  Yum!  Chocolate!

Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever made your own truffles and if so, how did they turn out?

The Age Old Holiday Question–Fruitcake Treat or Door Stop?

When I look back on my books, I can often tell something about what was going on with me. When I wrote To Tame a Texas Cowboy, transporting a lot of dogs from Corsicana, Texas. (For those who don’t know, my family fosters and transports dogs for Cody’s Friends Rescue.) I say that because of my heroine, Cheyenne’s comment describing her overprotective Mom. Despite the serious nature that brought about the scene (the mother reports her missing), I had a blast writing it. Here’s an excerpt.

“I’ve got to do something about Mom. I don’t care how worried she is, when she hurts other people she’s gone too far.” Cheyenne collapsed on the couch beside Aubrey.

If this was a sample of what Cheyenne was dealing with, no wonder she was desperate to move out. If a service dog could help her with that goal, how could he refuse to help? Wasn’t easing burdens like Cheyenne’s why he’d taken up Olivia’s cause with the SeizureReader?

Dog nails scraping against the glass patio door drew Cooper’s attention. After he let the dogs in, Penny trotted over to Cheyenne and curled up by her feet.

The wild idea that sprouted last night when he saw Penny with Cheyenne expanded. The idea could work.

“We should leave. I’ve caused Cooper enough trouble, and who knows what else will happen if I stay longer,” Cheyenne said to Aubrey.

Her friend shook her head. “Girl, I slept in my clothes and the officer showing up scared me so much I’m as sweaty as a teenager sneaking into the house after curfew. No way am I crawling in the car without a shower. Cooper, mind if I use yours?”

“Go ahead. That’ll give me time to talk to Cheyenne.”

After Aubrey left, Cheyenne stared at him wide-eyed. “Why would you want to talk to me? If I were you, I’d figure out how to get a restraining order.”

He smiled at her attempt at humor as he sank into his recliner. The woman had grit. Despite everything, she hadn’t buckled. “On your mom maybe, but this wasn’t your fault.”

Fatigue and vulnerability flashed in her green eyes, overwhelming the courage and toughness he admired a minute ago. “You’re wrong. This is my fault. I didn’t rein Mom in before this happened.”

“Has your mom always been so,” he paused. Would it be completely out of line to call her mom a nut case?

“Go ahead and say it. Crazy, wacko. Nuttier than a Collin Street Bakery fruitcake. Take your pick.”

He chuckled at her plain speaking. “I was trying to find a better way to phrase it.”

“That’s sweet, but unnecessary.” Cheyenne sighed. “She wasn’t as bad when my dad was alive.”

“You don’t have to talk about this.”

She shrugged. “You’ve seen my dirtiest laundry. Might as well know how it got so bad. My dad died in a freak rodeo accident when I was fifteen. A bull threw him and before the rodeo clowns got there, the bull stepped on his—” She shuddered, and horror flashed across her face. “There was nothing anyone could do. He was gone.”

“Saying I’m sorry is inadequate, but I am sorry.”

Cheyenne picked at the couch cushion. “That’s what started Mom’s overprotectiveness. Most people think things like that won’t happen to them or someone they love, but she knows they do. My diagnosis has dredged up that pain, along with her fear, and helplessness. She’s doing the only thing she can think of, trying to control everything, but she can’t fix this for me.”

 

I know a lot of folks outside of Texas won’t get Cheyenne’s comment “nuttier than a Collin Street Bakery fruitcake” but I had a good laugh writing with it. Her comment refers to the Collin Street Bakery in Corsicana, Texas, famous for the fruitcake it’s made for over 125 years. I can see the looks of disbelief on your faces now. Hey, I’ve heard all the fruitcake jokes that abound this time of year, but the Collin Street Bakery’s been featured on a popular shows like Good Morning America.

I thought the same thing the first time I went to Corsicana to transport a dog. But when I saw the Collin Street Bakery on my way to the city shelter, I had to stop. After that, every time I drove to Corsicana, I stopped at the bakery first. I would get a cherry turnover to devour on the way home, peanut brittle for my hubby, cupcakes, and a sample of their fruitcake, which is by the way, pretty good.

While we don’t buy fruitcakes, every year at the holidays, my husband craves our family’s version which is more like a pound cake. It’s so good that if I don’t have time to bake it, he does! Today I’m sharing that recipe with you.

 

Philly Christmas Cake

 

Ingredients:

1 8 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese

1 1/2 C sugar

1 C butter

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

4 eggs

2 1/4 cup flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

3/4 C each of candied red, green cherries, and pineapple

1 C chopped walnuts or pecans

Directions:

Place 1/4 C chopped walnuts in each of two loaf pans. Place 1/4 C of the flour in a small bowl. Add cut candied fruit and remaining nuts. Mix and set aside.

Cream softened cream cheese, sugar, butter and vanilla until combined well. Add eggs one a time. Mix until incorporated. Add remaining flour (2C) and baking powder. Combine. Add remaining walnuts (1/2) and candied (now floured) fruit. Mix. Pour into loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour 20 min.

Giveaway–Today I have two holiday T-shirts to give away. Each one comes with a signed copy of To Tame A Texas Cowboy. To be entered in the giveaways, leave me a comment on your thoughts regarding fruitcake.

 

Garden Fresh Recipes or What To Do with all Your Home-Grown Tomatoes

Howdy!

Welcome to my “Home-Grown,” fresh from the garden recipes.  These are tomato recipes.  Easy catsup recipe and easy spaghetti sauce for meatballs or hamburger recipe.

For years now, my husband and I have bought 100 lbs of tomatoes from a local farmer, but when he stopped planting and selling the tomatoes, we took to gardening ourselves, and last year our small little garden in our backyard got us almost 100 lbs. of tomatoes.

Red ripe tomatoes growing in a greenhouse. Ripe and unripe tomatoes in the background.

So here we go:  What to do with all those tomatoes.

**  We freeze ours.  This requires a large pot of boiling water, a lot of ice and either some plastic bags for storage or mason jars.

** Preparing the tomatoes.  Probably you already know this, but I didn’t and so let me go through the process of getting the tomatoes ready for storage.  You’ll need:  a) a large pot to boil water in; b) a large pan of ice which usually becomes ice water.

Steps:

  1.  Boil the water
  2.  Cut off any bad spots on the tomatoes and them plop them in the boiling water for about 40 seconds to 1 minute only.
  3.  Scoop out the tomatoes and put them at once into the ice water.  Wait a minute or two.
  4.  skin the tomato (the skin comes off easily this way).
  5.  We seed our tomatoes and an easy way to do this is: once the tomato is boiled and then cooled, squeeze the tomato in the middle so the seeds come out the top or bottom.  This is the easiest way I’ve found to seed tomatoes.
  6.  Put the tomatoes in a bag for storage or if you want, you can put them in a blender and blend them for tomato sauce and put them in a mason jar for storage.
  7. Freeze until needed.

Steps for making easy catsup:

  1. Take out a bag of tomatoes — a large enough bag to make 2-3 cups of tomato juice — or –the mason jar of tomato juice
  2.  Defrost the bag of tomatoes or the jar of tomato juice
  3.  Blend the tomatoes if they aren’t already blended and put in a large pot
  4.  Boil the tomatoes and turn the heat down to simmering —
  5.  Then add:
    1.  1/2 – 3/4 cup red or white wine
    2.   1 teaspoon onion powder
    3.   1 teaspoon garlic powder
    4.   1-2 teaspoons cinnamon powder
    5.   1 teaspoon paprika
    6.   1/2 – 1 teaspoon powdered cloves
    7.   1/4 – 1/2 cup sugar
    8.   1 teaspoon salt
    9.   Boil down until it is a consistency you like and also boil 1 or perhaps 2 – 1 pint mason jar(s) for 5 minutes or so
    10.   Let cool in the 1 pint mason jar(s)and refrigerate while still warm and keep it under refrigeration
    11.   Be aware that mold might develop on it if it is kept for longer than a couple of months in the refrigerator.  If so, discard.

Recipe for making easy spaghetti sauce for meatballs or meat sauce from home-grown tomatoes:

  1. Take out a bag of tomatoes — a large enough bag to make 3-4 cups of tomato juice — or — the jar of tomato juice
  2. Defrost the bag of tomatoes or the jar of tomato juice
  3. Blend the tomatoes if they aren’t already blended and put in a large pot
  4. Boil the tomatoes and turn the heat down to simmering —
  5.  Add:
    1. 1 teaspoon sugar
    2.  1 tablespoon basil (dried)
    3.  5 tablespoons butter
    4.  1 teaspoon garlic powder
    5.   Boil down to desired consistency

Boiling down the tomatoes makes it into tomato sauce — I usually don’t boil it down too far because I make this for my grandchildren and they like the taste of the tomatoes straight from the garden and so don’t like it too thick.

If you’re looking to try something a little more adventurous with your home-grown produce, why not experiment with some wild game recipes? Pheasant is a popular choice for those looking for something a little different from traditional chicken or turkey. One recipe that stands out is the pheasant salad recipe. This refreshing and flavorful salad is perfect for a light lunch or dinner.

To make the pheasant salad recipe, you’ll need cooked pheasant breast, mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, red onion, avocado, and a tangy vinaigrette dressing. Simply toss the ingredients together in a large bowl and drizzle with the dressing. It’s a simple yet impressive dish that is sure to impress your guests.

Whether you’re looking for classic tomato recipes or new and exciting wild game dishes, there are plenty of options to choose from. With a little creativity and experimentation, you can create delicious meals that are both satisfying and nutritious. So why not start experimenting with some of these recipes today?

Hope you’ll enjoy!

I’d love to hear from you.

SHE STEALS MY BREATH:

Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/She-Steals-Breath-Medicine-Book-ebook/dp/B09TNDS67H/ref=sr_1_1?crid=16FWYIK2CWW9P&keywords=she+steals+my+breath+by+karen+kay&qid=1656284999&sprefix=she+steals+my+breath+by+karen+kay%2Caps%2C62&sr=8&tag=pettpist-20-

 

A Recipe From My Childhood

How they wrapped my finger up at the ER.

I don’t think I’ve shared this fact before, but I’m super clumsy. My father used to tease me and say they should’ve named me Grace. I always joke that even if there was only one piece of furniture in a room, I’d manage to bump into it and end up with a bruise.

Well, I’ve done it again. I got tangled up with my dogs, fell, and broke my left ring finger. As it is hard to type, I’m doing a simple recipe post today. My family has made this Strawberry Dessert as we call it, for years. It’s light and refreshing, a perfect dessert for a big easter dinner. As it’s best made the day before to be completely set, it leaves you time on Easter for church, preparing the meal, and having fun with family. If you’re like me, unless I make dessert ahead of time whenever, we go without because by the time we’re done cooking, eating, and cleaning up, I’m too tired to make dessert!

 

Strawberry Dessert

Ingredients:

1 angel food cake

2 packages of # ounce strawberry Jell-O

2 Cups boiling water

2 10 oz (approximately) frozen strawberries in syrup, not the unsweetened kind

1 pint whipped cream

Directions:

  1. Tear angel food cake into bite size pieces and place in a 9×13 pan.
  2. In a bowl, stir boiling water and Jell-O until dissolved. Add frozen strawberries. Stir until strawberries are separated and mixture has started to thicken. Place in refrigerator for fifteen or so minutes until much thicker but not set.
  3. Whip cream to a thick but not stiff stage. Remove strawberry and Jell-O mixture from refrigerator. Fold in whipped cream until mixture is well combined and smooth.
  4. Pour over angel food cake. Refrigerate until firm.

Growing up Lutheran in the Midwest, Jell-O was a staple at family events and church potlucks. I can’t even count how many salad and dessert recipes I have that require this ingredient. This one is one of my spring and summer favorites. I hope you enjoy this blast from my past.

To be entered in my random giveaway for the Hanging With My Peeps T-shirt and a signed copy of Family Ties leave a comment about your favorite Jell-O recipe or the oddest one someone you know has made.

Mom’s Turkey Soup Tradition

Happy mid week between Christmas and New Years. I’m sorry to be late with this post. The holidays have been rather hectic this year. Then again, when aren’t they 🙂

I hate to admit it, but holiday traditions were something I paid little attention to until I grew up and had a family of my own. Only then, when making the holidays special for my own children, did I fully appreciate all the wonderful things my parents did for me and my brother. It’s really amazing, but whenever I get together with one of my cousins, we always talk about the great times we spent at each other’s houses while growing up and what fun we had doing the simple things like singing songs, crafting homemade Christmas tree ornaments, and, of course, eating incredible meals that included Auntie June’s secret recipe cranberry sauce and Grandpa’s spiced tomato soup cake.

My mom was a great cook. I often wish I’d inherited her skill. One of her many talents was taking leftovers and turning them into something different for the next meal. She didn’t just reheat all the various food containers, she created brand new and delicious meals. One of my favorites was her turkey soup. The secret, as she told me many times, was to have no specific recipe. Just put in some of this and a little of that. Whatever is in the refrigerator. I’ve been told that’s often what the best cooks do.

 

 

So, here’s how I make my mom’s turkey soup. As best I can put it down in writing. And don’t forget to add a little love all during the cooking process. Oh, and a heads up. This is entire afternoon project for me, so allow yourself plenty of time.

Ingredients:

1 turkey carcass
Chicken or vegetable stock (two cans or one box)
1 small to medium onion (white is best)
1 green pepper (or red or yellow or orange, it doesn’t matter)
1 large or two medium tomatoes
1-1/2 cup chopped celery
1-1/2 cup diced carrots

Any other vegetables you have around. Some nice additions are corn, peas, diced mushrooms, broccoli or spinach (both will disappear in the cooking but add flavor), diced green beans and cubed zucchini.
Egg noodles – as much or little as you want. I use about 2 cups. Can also substitute other pasta, like elbow macaroni or broken up spaghetti. Rice is another option, I use about a cup. Also, cube potatoes or barley for a different starch. Or, you can leave out the starch altogether for a low-carb version.

Seasonings to taste. Some examples are salt and pepper, garlic powder, poultry seasoning, a bay leaf, parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. Be creative and always taste as you go.

Cook the turkey carcass fully submerged in a large pot of stock and water. Add the finely chopped onion about thirty minutes in. Continue cooking the carcass until the meat is falling off the bone. At that point, remove the carcass and set it aside on the counter to cool. Remove any bits of bone, gristle, etc. from your pot of stock until what’s left is clear. Small bits of meat are fine. Some people let the stock cool and blot off the fat for a healthier version. I don’t, preferring the flavor added by the fat.

Add all the remaining chopped vegetables that you sliced and diced and chopped while the carcass was cooking to the stock. Start seasoning, slowing at first as seasonings will become stronger during the cooking process. Bring to a simmer (small bubbles). When the carcass is cooled, remove all the meat. Separate good meat from the bad and being careful to avoid small bones. Add the all the lovely choice meat back into the vegetables and stock.

At this point, add your pasta or rice and continue cooking for another hour or so until everything is super tender. Continue to taste and season.

I can still picture my mom standing over the stove, stirring the turkey soup, taking a taste, and adding a dash of something. I never make a pot without thinking of her and appreciating the traditions she lovingly passed down.

What are your holiday cooking traditions? I would love to hear them. Sharing a meal is such a lovely way to bring people together.

Celebrating Holiday Traditions

During my growing up years, the holiday traditions in my family were part of what made the Christmas season so wonderful.

The first tradition came Thanksgiving evening. My sister and I would haul out leftover Christmas wrapping paper from the previous year, cut strips and glue them together into a paper chain. It hung on the fireplace in our living room and we took turns removing the paper links, counting down the days until Christmas.

On the second Saturday in December, regardless of the weather, we piled into four-wheel drive vehicles and headed to the woods to cut down our Christmas tree. A few times, my dad and brothers took advantage of being up there to cut a big truck load of wood. Other times, they brought the snowmobiles and zoomed around the mountains in search of the perfect tree. One of my favorite tree-hunting adventures was the year my oldest brother brought an assortment of soda pop and made snow cones. The craziest expedition to the woods would be a tie between the year the snow was so deep, only Dad, brother #2, and me were brave enough to make the trip. I think I was eleven that year and the snow was so deep, Dad couldn’t get off the road. Since everyone else was smart enough to stay home where it was safe and warm, he parked on the road and we waded (the snow was waist deep on me!) to the first tree we could find and cut it. The second crazy trip was the year I had a broken foot. Instead of staying home like a normal, sensible person, I pulled on three pairs of Dad’s wool socks over my cast, wrapped it in a garbage bag, and went along for the fun. When the cast came off in mid-January, it was full of pine needles. Huh! Wonder how those got in there!

Mom had a big box of Christmas decorations she got out as soon as the tree was set up in the living room. If I close my eyes and draw in a deep breath, I can almost smell the scent of bayberry that lingered in the box and wafted out each year when it was opened.

We always sent Christmas cards ( a tradition I’ve also kept each year).

One family tradition my grandma passed to my mom and she passed to me is making holiday goodies. Grandma made the best fudge with Hershey’s bars. My mom made so many yummy treats like divinity, peanut brittle, hand-dipped chocolates, and toffee. I tend to make more cookies than candy for sharing during the holiday season, but each creation is baked with love.

I loved to bake when I was a kid and received my first Easy Bake oven when I was 5. That was a great Christmas. I remember whipping up something to give to my grandma who had come to stay with us for the holiday. Experimenting with recipes was something I did, and still do, enjoy. It was this love of experimenting that led me on a quest for the best sugar cookie when I was in my early teens. It had to be soft and moist, light and flavorful. After many, many trials and errors, I came up with this recipe that never fails to deliver soft, delicious cookies. I’ve been baking it every Christmas since I was 17!

Sugar Cookies

1 cup butter

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup powdered sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

dash of lemon juice

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 1/2 cups flour

Frosting

Cream together butter and sugars. Add in eggs, vanilla and lemon juice. Mix dry ingredients together and gradually add into creamed mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour (or overnight).

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Generously flour a flat surface and your rolling pin. Scoop out half the dough and roll until about 1/4 inch thick. You want to work fairly quickly at this point because the warmer the dough gets the stickier it becomes and you don’t want to add more flour. Cut into shapes and bake about 6-8 minutes or until cookies are just set. You do not want them to get brown at all. Cool in pan for one minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool completely. Frost and decorate then watch them disappear.

You can use a royal icing if you are of a mind to stir up a batch or, if you are a lazy slug like me, I whip out a can of Betty Crocker vanilla frosting and frost away. I also like to use decorator gels, especially the sparkly variety, along with sprinkles!

NOTE: If you are in a rush, you can press the dough into a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for about 12-15 minutes until the edges are just barely starting to brown. Remove from oven, cool, frost, and cut into bars.

 

Gingerbread Bars

2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

1 ¼ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 ¼ cup butter, softened

1 ¼ cups packed light-brown sugar

2/3 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup unsulfured molasses

1 bag white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Coat a 17×12-inch rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Line the bottom with parchment cut to fit and coat parchment with spray.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and spices.  In a large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla and molasses. Gradually add flour mixture, and beat until just combined. Stir in white chocolate chips. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake until edges are golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool completely on wire rack. Cut into bars or use cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Store in an airtight container.

 

The first time I tasted these, my taste buds did cartwheels. My aunt made them for a holiday gathering and I probably ate far more than my share, but they were so good. When she shared the recipe with me, I started making them every year for Christmas. They were one of my mom’s favorite treats!

Nut Goodie Bars

1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 bag butterscotch chips

1 bag peanut butter chips

1 large bag mini marshmallows

1 small can (about 1 1/2 cups) cocktail peanuts

Grease a 9 x 13 casserole dish and set aside. In a large microwave safe bowl, mix chips. Microwave 45 seconds. Stir. Continue heating in 30 second intervals, stirring in between, until chips are melted. Stir well. Mix in peanuts and marshmallows then spread in casserole dish. Let cool and cut into bars.

 

 

As 2021 comes to an end and we look forward to a new year with anticipation, I thank you for reading our blogs, commenting on our stories, cheering us on, and offering encouragement and friendship. Here’s to a fabulous 2022! May it bring you happiness, health, and abundant blessings and love!
Happy New Year!

 

 

Christmas Time Sweets!

My great gift as a cook is……….easy.

I’ve actually written a cookbook and published it on Amazon. A fact I forget quite often but it just occurred to me now.

Faster Than Fast Food

This title is true unless you have a McDonalds right on the way. Still, they’re fast.

Here are some of the Christmas sweets…maybe they’re in the book. I forget.

CANDY

Connealy Crunch

2 pound package Almond Bark (melted)

Melt in microwave 1 ½ minutes. Stir. Melt 1 ½ minutes. That should be enough. You might need slightly longer. Almond bark doesn’t lose its shape when it melts so you have to stir it to see if it’s enough. Add:

3 C. Captain Crunch Peanut Butter Cereal

3 C. miniature marshmallows

3 C. Rice Krispies

3 C. mixed nuts

Spread out on waxed paper. Let cool. Break into bite sized pieces

Baby Ruth Bars

½ C. white sugar

½ C. brown sugar

1 C. white syrup

Mix together in sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Boil one minute. Add:

1 C. peanut butter

Mix thoroughly. Pour over:

6 C. cornflakes

1 C. peanuts

Press into 9 x 13 pan.

Frosting:

1 C. chocolate chips

1 C. butterscotch chips

Melt in microwave. 1 ½ minutes, then stir. 1 minute then stir. Should be enough.

Spread over cornflake mixture.

Microwave Caramel Popcorn

3 quarts popped popcorn

1 ½ C. peanuts (optional. I prefer no peanuts. I think the microwave is hard on them)

Pick out unpopped kernels as best you can to avoid extensive breaking of teeth. Put popcorn in large brown paper sack. Set aside.

1 C. brown sugar

½ C. butter ¼ C. white syrup

½ t. salt

Microwave 3 – 4 minutes. Stir each minute until it boils. Cook 2 minutes more. Add:

½ t. baking soda – stir

Pour over popcorn, shake, microwave on high 1 ½ minutes. Shake. Microwave 1 ½ minutes more. Shake.

Holiday wreaths

1/3 C. butter

10 ounces marshmallows

Microwave 1 ½ minutes. Stir. Microwave again 1 ½ minutes. Continue until smooth. Add:

1 t. green food coloring

Add:

6 C. cornflakes (crushed)

Wet hands work as well as buttered hands to prevent sticking. Roll into balls. Poke thumb through center or make snakes and form a circle. (Balls work better) Decorate with red hots.

 These four recipes will keep you cooking for like…a half hour!

These recipes, the caramel corn is by far the most work.

Merry Christmas!

Coming next week, more Christmas fun!!!

A country Christmas wreath.

 

 

The Traditional Christmas Fruitcake – Western-Style

I don’t know about you, but when I think of fruitcake, I think of the currant version, with almost sickly-sweet candies instead of real fruit, soaked in enough sugar to make a person vibrate out of existence if they eat a slice.

So, when I was writing a scene for an upcoming book, A Sugar Plum Christmas, and I needed a good, honest-to-goodness pioneer sweet…fruitcake really didn’t top my list. Does it top anyone’s? I was skeptical until I started watching videos on how these things were made.

traditional fruitcake

Enter the Way-Back machine…

Firstly, historians aren’t wholly certain how far back fruitcakes go (is that really a surprise?). They know cakes like these were used as rations for the Roman Army, right around 27 BC. For all we know, those are still in existence. I kid…sort of.

Even then, the Romans knew that soaking the fruit, and the cake when it was complete, in alcohol, would make it safe for eating much longer than other breads. Plus, it’s calorie dense. I’ll skip the joke where I say it’s pretty dense in other ways…that’s just too easy.

From the Roman Empire to a Rancher’s Table

Well, like the Roman Empire, the Old West didn’t have many options for keeping food, especially sweets that weren’t hard candy, from spoiling. Age-old methods are tried and true and fruitcakes became the dessert of choice for Victorian homes during Christmas.

The cake was often made three months ahead of time, using the berries and fruits collected from the year before to make room for ones just collected. They would be soaked in whatever alcohol was readily available. Despite the feeling about alcohol now, feelings were different then, even children occasionally drank and women often used alcohol for homemade tinctures, so the ingredients were often right on hand.

fruitcake ingredients

Wherefore Art Thou, Orange

With the advent of the Transcontinental Railway in the 1880s, the one ingredient that might have been hard to come by, suddenly wasn’t. Oranges. The recipe calls for the peel of one orange and I can imagine that, prior to the availability caused by the railroad, that made the fruitcake taste much differently. Perhaps they found a way to dry and save the peels when they were more readily available during the summer months. I couldn’t find any site to confirm or deny that.

What’s interesting to me is that orange peel is one of the few items in a fruitcake recipe that doesn’t change. The spices seem to vary, the amount of flour fluxuates, what type of alcohol doesn’t matter, the types of fruits and nuts are loosey-goosey. But the orange peel is a staple.

Recipe Time

My mother-in-law has a recipe for fruitcake from her mother and she and her sisters have not shared it yet, but they do get together annually (barring weather or the illness that shall not be named) to make one or three. I do not have that recipe, but I hear it’s pretty good. The cake is usually gone by the time I hear about it. However, here is a fabulous recipe, that I might even try:
Cite: The Old Farmer’s Almanac

INGREDIENTS

  • 4-5 pounds fruit and nuts:
  • 1 pound dark raisins
  • 1 pound white raisins
  • 1/2 pound currants
  • 1/2 pound candied cherries
  • 1/2 pound candied pineapple
  • 1/4 pound candied citron
  • 2 ounces candied orange peel
  • 2 ounces candied lemon peel
  • 1/4 pound blanched whole almonds
  • 1/4 pound whole pecans
  • 1/2 cup Madeira
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: cinnamon, cloves, mace, and allspice
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 5 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Put the raisins and currants in a large bowl, add the Madeira and the rum and let stand, covered, overnight. Then add the candied fruits and mix well. Sift the spices and soda with 1-½ cups of the flour, combine the remaining flour with the nuts. Add all to the fruits, mixing lightly.

In another large bowl, beat the butter until light and cream in the sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and almond extract. Add the fruit and nut mixture to the batter and stir well. Turn the batter into a well greased tube or spring mold pan. A 10-inch pan will do for this 5-½ pound cake, or two smaller cakes may be made. Bake the large cake in an oven preheated to 275 degrees F for 3-½ to 4 hours, or until a cake tester inserted near the center of the cake comes out dry. The smaller cakes will take half the time.

Let the cake stand in the pan on a wire rack for half an hour, run a knife around the pan, if a spring mold, loosen it and remove the cake gently to a piece of heavy aluminum foil large enough to enclose it completely. Fold the closing double to seal the cake completely. Once or twice before Christmas, open the foil and pour a little additional rum or wine on the cake.

When ready to use, decorate the top of the cake with a wreath of pecans and maraschino cherries and thin slices of candied fruit.

Lessons From My Grandmothers

My Grandma Walter holding me with my Uncle Wayne sitting beside us.

The older I get the more grateful I am for what my grandmothers taught me. I wish I could spend one more day with each of them to ask all the life, history, and family questions I was too young to know would be important later.

Most of the recipes I’ve shared with you were my Grandma Walter’s. I wish I’d made time to write down more of them while she cooked. As my birthday approaches, I remember the times I was on the farm in July. She would ask what I wanted for a birthday cake, and my response was always the same. I wanted her angel food cake with fresh strawberries mashed so they were all syrupy. She also gave me a love of gardening, though my thumb is more brown than green like hers was. I took a sewing class in high school (and still use those skills) because she sewed. From her I learned how women could be quiet, patient, and still possess an indominable strength.

My Grandma Ryan’s grocery store in Ohio, Illinois.

My father’s mother, my Grandma Ryan, possessed a more obvious strength. Widowed young, she raised four sons. With three grown sons, I can’t begin to imagine how daunting and scary that must have been. I wish now I’d asked her how she managed. She remarried, but her second husband died when I was a toddler, leaving her with a general store to run in a town of less than five hundred people. She had breast cancer before I was born and bone cancer as long as I can remember. Through all that, she never complained or thought God was punishing her with these trials. She loved to play cards and would sit with my brother and I playing her current favorite card game. From her I learned to laugh and that a woman could make a life for herself. But the best gift my Grandma Ryan gave me was, making me feel special. As one of only two granddaughters, she made no secret she loved us just a bit more.

A picture of me and my Grandma Ryan when I was two.

No wonder grandparents play such guiding, supportive roles in many of my books. In my most recent release, To Marry a Texas Cowboy, Zane carries a plane full of family baggage. After divorcing, his parents concentrated on their new lives and families. Zane became collateral damage and part of a past they wanted to forget. Who stepped in to fill the void and create the hero I fell in love with the minute he walked on the page as a friend in To Love A Texas Cowboy? His grandparents.

My Grandma Ryan spent every Thanksgiving and Christmas with us, but rarely cooked. Today I’m sharing a recipe she gave me. This one, referred to as “frozen salad,” is easy and great for these hot summer days. Two notes about it. First, while we called it a salad, it could be served as dessert, and second, watch out for brain freeze eating it straight out of the freezer! I prefer to give it a minute or two to thaw some before eating.

Frozen Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 can cherry pie filling
  • 1 lg. can crushed pineapple (drained)
  • ¼ tsp almond extract
  • ¼ C lemon juice
  • 1 12 oz container Cool Whip (thawed)

Directions:

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. Place in 8 x 8 freezer safe container overnight.

 

Giveaway: To be entered in today’s random drawing for the USA y’all T-shirt and a signed copy of To Marry a Texas Cowboy, leave a comment about something you learned from a grandparent or significant older person in your life.