Friday, December 18, 2009

My Favorite Finds #10

One of my favorite memories as a child was going to my Grandma's on Christmas eve and getting to eat her Gingerbread Cookies. They were always decorated perfectly. She even used silver dragées, which, as a child, I thought I was in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory candy garden! Come to find out later, she didn't make them. Her sister, my great aunt, made them and sent them to her. When I "grew up" and went out on my own, I wanted to make the same cookies. I found the recipe that tasted almost the same as her's, but my cookies never did look as perfect. As I started my own family and traditions, my gingerbread cookies became a part of our Christmas! I found this recipe in an older version of Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. I use their Butter Frosting recipe as well.

Gingerbread Cutouts

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup molasses
1 egg
1 tablespoon vinegar
2-1/2 cup all-purpose flour
Beat shortening in a mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, and cloves. Beat until combined. Beat in molasses, egg, and vinegar until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer.
Stir in remaining flour with a wooden spoon. Divide dough in half. Cover and chill about 3 hours or until easy to handle.

Roll each portion of dough on a lightly floured surface until 1/8 inch thick. Cut with a floured cookie cutter.
Bake in a 375 degree F. oven for 5 to 6 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheet. Transfer to wire racks to cool. Makes 24 to 30 cookies.

Butter Frosting

1/3 cup butter or margarine
4-1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Food coloring (optional)
1. In a mixing bowl beat butter until fluffy. Gradually add 2 cups of the powdered sugar, beating well. Slowly beat in the 1/4 cup milk and vanilla.
2. Slowly beat in remaining powdered sugar. Beat in additional milk, if needed, to reach spreading consistency. If desired, tint with food coloring. This frosts tops and sides of two 8- or 9-inch layers.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

My Favorite Finds #9

My family always tries to put out bird seed and suet throughout the year for our feathered friends. The birds love our pond and stop often to drink and bathe. During the winter months, we try to do a little extra for the birds by putting out special treats for them. Below, you will find a couple of recipes that we enjoy making and putting out for the birds! It's a fun family project and it helps teach your children to enjoy and respect nature.

*This first recipe is a classic project and is easy enough for a younger child to do.

Seed Cones

pine cones
peanut butter
birdseed (your choice)

ribbon, string or wire

Place birdseed in a bowl or pour out on newspaper or waxed paper. Spread peanut butter all over the pine cones and roll them in the birdseed. Tie a piece of ribbon, string or wire to the top of each cone and hang them on tree branches. The birds will pick them clean!

*My daughter made this for one of her classes in high school. The birds devoured it and it was all gone within a couple of days!

Bird Pudding

1 cup melted lard or beef suet (we used the drained fat we had saved from when we cooked hamburger)
1 cup peanut butter
2 cups quick oats
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar (optional)

Melt lard and peanut butter together in a pan over low heat. Take off heat, and add remaining ingredients. Spread on a cookie sheet, and allow to cool in the refrigerator until the mixture is just hard enough to cut into pieces. Store in freezer bags and use as needed. Place the pieces into a suet holder or place into a plastic or clay flower pot saucer. (We placed the cookie sheet on the front porch during the winter and it cooled real fast! It actually froze, but it worked just as well.)

Recipes courtesy of:

Monday, December 7, 2009

Squirrels and brownies?

Gosh, I couldn't get my camera out fast enough, or I would have had the funniest photo to share with you! I went home for lunch today and as I pulled up, there was a big old squirrel sitting on my front porch rail, eating! I couldn't figure out what he was eating at first. Then it dawned on me.....I had thrown away half a pan of overbaked, hard brownies (my 17 year old daughter's baking attempt....she used too big of a pan). The squirrel had dug into the trash cans and came up with a 4 inch by 4 inch piece of brownie and was munching away! That's a good way to put on fat for the winter!

My Favorite Finds #8

A co-worker brought this recipe into work several years ago and it is fantastic! Talk about simple, anyone can make this! It is one of my new traditions in my home during the Christmas season. I have taken it up one more level, which I will explain at the end*, but both ways are wonderful! Enjoy!!

Praline Squares

20 to 24 graham crackers
3/4 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a 15x10x1-inch jelly roll pan with graham crackers. Bring butter or margarine and brown sugar to rolling boil; reduce heat slightly so as not to boil over, boil 2 minutes, stirring the whole time. Remove from heat. When bubbling subsides, stir in vanilla and chopped pecans. Spoon over graham crackers. Bake praline squares for 10 minutes. Cool slightly; cut into squares.

*For the chocolate lovers: After you remove the pan from the oven, sprinkle your favorite chocolate chips (milk chocolate, semi-sweet, dark, etc.) over the graham crackers (about a cup); wait a couple of minutes, then spread the melted chocolate chips with a knife or spatula. Yummy!