Just Preparing for the Holidays!

I’m not sure I even have the evidence of last year’s holiday season properly stored away and here it is time to drag all that stuff out again! Well, the spiral notebook is coming out and my holiday lists begin. Over the last few months, my tidy table in the workplace has been piliing up with completed gift projects, books for avid reader friends, Post-It notes to remind me where the Post-It notes are stored, ingredients for holiday menus, piles of ‘gotta try this’ on Thanksgiving/Christmas, and a bouquet of artificial flowers. I do not care for artificial flowers but my cats are afraid of them so that is my cat repellant of of choice.

I do have most of my shopping done as I started the week after Christmas last year. I never see something and think, “Remember to get one of those for whoever,” but always purchase it at time of sighting because I will either forget to put in on the list . . . or lose the list!

My freezer is ready for holiday baking . . . mostly. Butter is expensive so I’ve been stockpiling it in the freezer since June along with chocolate chips and baking chocolate. I have way too much Christmas wrap so don’t NEED to buy any but probably will if it is a.) unique and different, b.) on sale or c.)both.

I just finished packing my Samaritan’s Purse Christmas Shoeboxes and ended up packing two more than planned . . .overpurchased as I can’t resist buying for little children since mine are all grown up.

Hopefully and happily looking forward to Thanksgiving, my favorite meal to prepare of the year. I’ve been doing it since I was twelve years old and look foreward to it every year especially if I have a crowd around the table. And, that gives me the opportunity to start another list. My Thanksgiving list turns into the plural as I need the shopping list, the prep list for timing the food preparation, and the timing list for the actual day as my husband and I have some differences of opinion on who gets the oven first.

Times do be a changing, however, when it comes to holiday meals as one of our guests is a vegetarian, one is a total vegan, and my husband doesn’t eat sugar or gluten. My family and guests, however, are not overall picky eaters and you will find the carnivores enjoying some of the vegan/vegetarian options, too.

A Blessed Christmas!

Advent . . . a time of waiting and a time of preparing. If we gave sufficient time to the spiritual aspect as well as the holiday/baking/gift given perspective, one should now be  with a sense of peace and excitement about what tomorrow will bring.

My husband decided to spend Christmas Eve (AFTER he helps with the housecleaning!), creating a Panettone with my daughter. They have been glued to the bread book all week reading and rereading the directions and lining up ingredients. The recipe calls for a ‘starter’. To those uninitiated in the ins and outs of breadmaking, there are times when a recipe calls for nurturing a mixture of water and yeast into a gentle rise which will be the leavening ingredient in the final outcome. My daughter is 28 years old but decided that the starter needed a name so they have been periodically checking on Hector. He is doing fine, by the way.

Earlier in the month, my daughter and I spent her day off from work icing cut out cookies and the four hours it took were amazingly fun as we talked about things, admired each other’s handiwork and overindulged in edible glitter and sparkles for the cookies.

We plan to attend Mass on Christmas Day and then my job will be preparing a beef roast along with two vegan dishes for my son who went vegan a couple of years ago. After that, presents and another set of memories until, God Willing, we make some more memories throughout 2019 culminating in another Christmas together.

Christmas Baking Completed!

My daughter and I finished off making the last of the Christmas cookies yesterday. We have been watching way too many baking shows so attempted, with a bit of success, to make some better than average versions of the experts’ cookies. We put on Christmas music and spent four hours noting that the first six or seven cookies we decorated were not all that great while one could see our expertise grow with the middle group. The last twenty or so ended up much simpler as we got tired of all the sticky frosting joy. Anyway, this batch along with the 15 other kinds I baked during the week will easily fill up our cookies gift plates for our friends.

HOWEVER, when I say I’m done, I’m talking about the ‘normal’ cookies. My younger son in adamantly vegan so I still have five cookie recipes to bake for his Christmas treats. I asked him once if his three roommates were vegan, too, and he said, “Only when I’m doing the cooking!” I guess that will be the same situation if they want one of his Christmas cookies!

Cookies – Plain, Simple, and Tasty!

I love to bake and enjoy fussing over presentation but there are times when I need something from the oven with limited time in which to get it into the oven. These very basic cookies work well, feed a reasonable crowd. Works well with a scoop of ice cream for a dessert night treat.

One-Baking Pan Cookies

1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup butter
1 egg yolk (reserve white)
1-2 teaspoons almond flavoring
2 cups flour

Cream together sugar and butter until fluffy. Beat in egg yolk and flavoring. Add flour to form dough. Pat dough evenly on ungreased cookie sheet. Brush top of dough with slightly beaten egg white.

Combine ¼ cup granulated sugar and two teaspoons cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly over dough. Sprinkle finely chopped nuts over it all. (almonds, walnuts or pecans.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until very lightly browned. Cool and cut into serving portions.

*I like to double the recipe and press it out in one of my large, rimmed baking pans. Don’t forget the parchment paper lining to minimize clean up and insure nothing sticks. For some holiday drama, you could scatter on some gold candy glitter along with the chopped nuts.

**Gluten-free? Although I haven’t tried it with this recipe YET, I think that one of the cup-for-cup gluten free flour blends would work well with this.

Crispy Coconut Chews

Crispy Coconut Chews

My husband doesn’t like coconut but, for some reason, he likes these cookies! They are easy to make and a nice contrast to all the chocolate and spice cookies that show up at Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I have absolutely nothing against chocolate and spice cookies but don’t mind chomping down on an extra coconut cookie in addition to the rest! Sometimes, I use bran flakes for the called-for crushed flake cereal in the ingredients. I’m always sneaking in extra vitamins and fiber even with treats.

½ cup butter
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup crushed flake cereal
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup coconut
½ cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream the butter and sugars until smooth and fluffy. Stir in egg, extract, and lemon zest. Add the flour, baking soda, and baking powder to the butter mixture. Add the oatmeal, cereal, coconut, and walnuts. Mix gently until well combined.

Drop dough by tablespoons onto greased baking sheet, keeping them about 2 inches apart to allow for spreading. Bake for approximately ten minutes or until cookies are lightly browned at the edges. Cool on wire racks. Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies depending on size.