I sure hope that everyone’s Christmas was beautiful, meaningful and filled with love. Our home was a little quieter this year, as much of the family was unable to make it due to weather, but those of us who were together had a lot of fun. The grandbaby was here and so all was well. Can’t go wrong with a one year old and her first real Christmas!!
The tree was bare underneath until presents magically appeared Christmas morning! They must have come by train.
I can’t resist waxing philosophical after this past holiday season. Shopping was a truly different experience this year. I don’t know if I have just become more observant or if my patience isn’t what it used to be or if I just naturally see the absurd in my surroundings, but I picked up on a phenomenom at the department stores that I just hadn’t noticed before. People don’t read signs. The best way to get an individual to do exactly what you don’t want them to do is to put up a sign and watch them do the exact opposite – like the lady who was trying to force a baby stroller, full of baby, onto an escalator beside the sign that stated, unequivically, “Absolutely no strollers on the escalator!!!”. It’s like people’s minds go into reading in a foreign language because they obviously don’t understand the English before them. “Je ne comprend pas.” “No comprende.” “Me no speaka de English.”
Now, I try very hard to be a patient line-stander. The reality of today’s society is that we stand in lines. We stand in lines at checkout stands. We stand in line for concert tickets. And we even purposely CHOOSE to stand in lines on Black Friday at 3:00 in the morning just to be first to make a dive for a Doggy Doo game where the child who gets three piles of dog poop on his shovel first, wins the game. I’m not sure if this teaches a child environmental responsibility or the best way to get worms, but it was certainly popular at Toys R Us. But I digress. I really do try to be a very patient line-stander. I use the time in line to pray for those people in front of me or for the checkout personnel. I browse over the titles of the magazines and make mental notes of Jennifer Aniston’s latest flame and what Vladimir Putin’s alien baby looks like. But on Christmas Eve afternoon, I’m ashamed to say, I kind of lost my patience – and I tapped my foot in frustration.
I needed one, measly item that I had forgotten in all of my weeks and weeks of careful planning and lists (yeah, right). A run into Walmart gave me that item – and cheaply I might add – and I decided to go through the express ‘self-checkout’ line because it said “express”. Now, express to me means “faster” or “quicker” or at least “moderately speedier than nonexpress”. It means that the normal person would recognize the word and take it to dictate the necessity to have just a few items. Oh no. People on Christmas Eve can’t read. I think that they read the word “express” and think that it gives them permission to express themselves about every, single item of the 300 in their basket as they swipe them across the barcode reader.
In the particular line in which I was standing, one such woman was at the stand with a buggy piled so high with purchases that she had to get a second buggy in which to place her finished bags because there was no room in the first buggy. There were 6 more people between me and her and these six people each had a maximum of 5 items. The first woman did not know how to use the scanner and contemplated each item, of her pile of approximately 400 things, to determine where in the world she was supposed to swipe for a price. She announced the price as there was final success and carefully moved to the next of her 600 items. The man in front of me held tightly to an ice scraper of which he must have been sorely in need because he tenaciously stood in this line with the optimism of Eeyore. He turned to me, rolled his eyes and said, “You would think that they would put ’10 Items or Less’ on the sign.” I thought to myself that if the word “Express” hadn’t been interpreted correctly, what made him think that this woman could count (with her basket heaping with 700 items)?!
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that the self-checkout to my left and in front of me was miraculously void of all but one customer. I hated to do it to the young man in front of me, but I made a beeline for that stand, careful not to knock him to the ground in my escape. I was also careful not to look smug at my stroke of luck. The woman, who was checking out at that moment, pulled out her card and pressed, “Finish and Pay”, right under the sign that stated, “Credit card, Debit card or Cash Only”. She ran the red card through the reader and promptly got a “Read Error” flashing light. She contemplated the card and tried again. Same response. She turned to her daughter and said, “I guess it wants me to pay the balance first and then use the gift card.” Gift card? The sign didn’t say anything about a gift card. But then, it didn’t say anything about a check either which didn’t stop her from writing one and trying to force it into the cash recepticle of the machine. The check was spit back out and a voice screeched, “Please wait for assistance!!” 15 minutes later, the store clerk, after working on the machine with no resolution, and continually reprimanding the customer for attempting to use a gift card on the machine, flatly stated, “Just go to my stand and I’ll have to check you out there.” She promptly wiped out the entire order and left the lane open for me and my one item. I quickly paid, turned to look at the line of people which had formed behind me and then, as I headed toward the exit, I noticed the young man with his ice scraper still standing in line behind the same lady with the two baskets who was evidently working on item number 800.
I have a recipe for which my family stands in line. It is our traditional “New Year’s Day We Have To Have It To Watch Football Games” recipe. I always wind up making two batches – one before Christmas to give as gifts to neighbors and then one for munching. I have been making this for as long as I can remember and it is one of the recipes that you will find in my family cookbook at the shopping page. I really think that you will enjoy it if you like toffee popcorn and nuts crossed with Cracker Jacks. It is truly yummy. Oh, and my favorite popcorn to use in this is the Act II Butter Lovers brand. It takes 3 – 4 bags of popped corn to make a recipe. I pop it and then make sure to remove any unpopped kernels. This brand has no trans fats and quite a bit of the good fats.
Candied Popcorn and Nuts
5 Quarts freshly popped corn
1 cup salted cocktail peanuts
1 cup butter (you have to use the real thing!)
2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup traditional pancake syrup like Karo
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp butter flavoring (optional)
Variation: Use pecans or roasted almonds instead of peanuts
Preheat oven to 250º
In a very large bowl, place popcorn and nuts and toss
In a medium sauce pan, melt butter with brown sugar and syrup and bring to a boil.
Boil until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage. You can check this with a candy thermometer or by dropping a little of the syrup into a bowl of ice and water. Feel to see if the syrup forms a soft ball in the cold water.
When the soft ball stage is reached, remove the syrup from heat and stir in vanilla
And add the soda, stirring quickly. The soda will make the mixture start to bubble and turn to a foamy light tan color
Pour the mixture over the popcorn and nuts and then begin turning and mixing the popcorn and peanuts to coat
When all of the popcorn and nuts are coated, spread the mixture onto a large, buttered cookie sheet and bake in 250º oven for about an hour, stirring and turning about every 15 minutes to keep it from burning. When done, remove from oven and quickly transfer the hot popcorn by spatula to an airtight container. The popcorn will be a little sticky, but it will come off of the cookie sheet easily. It gets harder to remove as the popcorn candy begins to harden. Once the toffee coating has hardened, shake the popcorn to break it into individual pieces.
This is all that is left of the batch that I just made. Oh wait. No. I’m sorry. I just ate it!!
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Archive for the ‘Finger Foods’ Category
December 1st, my granddaughter turned 1 year old and she got a tea party deluxe. Her mom pinked everything up, made banners and lots of tasty finger food, with beautiful cupcakes filled with lemon curd. It was a lovely day with friends and relatives. My contribution was open-faced, cucumber sandwiches and I thought I’d share those with you today. You can substitute any of your favorite sandwich spreads for this recipe – tuna or chicken salad, ham salad, pimento cheese, etc. I just think these sandwiches are so fresh tasting.
The secret to the prettiest sandwiches is the shape of your bread. You can make a large loaf of bread and cut shapes out with cookie cutters, or you can bake bread in bread tubes and come out with crusty shapes that are pretty and tasty. Or, you can purchase honey whole wheat bread and use cookie cutters on that. Here, I used my standard bread recipe and doubled the amount of honey in it. Also, I added a whole egg. I apologize for the lack of photos in this recipe. It is one of the many earliest posts that lost all photos and I am slowly restoring each post. I will get to the bread post eventually!! But the recipe and instructions are there.
This bread recipe, after baked, can be frozen and that is what I will be doing with my tubes of bread to hold them for Christmas day. I will thaw them and slice them and then add different toppings for a lovely assortment of open-faced sandwiches. You can find bread tubes on Ebay.com or Amazon.com or Pamperedchef.com or in any kitchen shop. Of course, you can use mini loaf pans too.
First, spray mini loaf pans or bread tubes, with one end cap attached, with spray olive oil, making sure that all areas are covered.
Flour the pans generously so that all surfaces are floured.
Oil and flour the other end cap to the bread tubes.
Here are two flower shaped bread tubes and a mini loaf pan prepared.
After making the bread dough, divide it into two or three sections, depending on the size of your pans. You may notice that the sections are on an Oklahoma Pastry Cloth™, except I got in a hurry and didn’t notice that I floured it upside down!! The pastry cloth will work on the right side or the wrong side.
Roll the sections to fit inside of the tubes, or shape for loaves and place into pans
Place the bread tubes upright onto a baking sheet and cover with a warm, wet towel. Allow to rise in a warm place. I turn my oven on to 150º, let it heat up and then turn the oven off, placing the dough into the warmed oven.
When the dough rises nearly to the top of the tube, it is ready to bake.
Preheat the oven to 350º and place the other end caps that have been oiled and floured, onto the bread tubes. Bake for twice the length of time normally used for a loaf of bread. The dough takes longer to bake in the bread tubes than in a standard loaf pan. In this case, I baked the bread in the mini loaf pans for 20 minutes and that in the tubes for 40 minutes.
In the meantime, for cucumber sandwiches, you will need:
1 8 oz package softened creamed cheese
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp dried dill
sliced olives for garnishing
Place the first four of these ingredients into a mixing bowl.
Mix the cheese and spices until well-blended. You can use a wooden spoon or small hand mixer
When the bread comes out of the oven, allow it to cool until you can handle the metal bread tubes. Remove the end caps and using a butter knife, carefully loosen any edges of bread dough. Push the bread out of the tube and allow it to continue cooling on a rack. If making mini loaves, lift the loaves out of the pans.
Using a serrated knife, slice the loaves of bread about 1/4″ thick and spread cream cheese mixture onto each slice. Place a slice of cucumber on top of the cheese and garnish with a slice of olive. Aren’t they pretty? And they taste good too!!
Just 5 days to go!! Don’t forget to comment to enter this month’s giveaway for the treats pictured above. Just in time for Christmas: Shortbread cookie mix and a set of cookie cutters to make a cookie Christmas tree!!
I told you in my last post that I would put up some “finger food” ideas for the holiday entertaining season and this is the next in that list. Hope you can use it!!
A long time ago, an employer took me and friends to a restaurant in Knoxville, Tennessee. It was quite an experience for a younger person who didn’t have two pennies to rub together. There were no prices on the menu and so I have no idea how much the meal cost. However, I’ll bet that the bill would be considered astronomical even today!
Appetizers were ordered first and I chowed down on the Crab Louis on crackers. I had never had caviar and made a pig of myself. As has always been my habit, I took mental notes of the tastes and the ingredients as the flavors slid over my taste buds. I have no clue what I had for dinner and dessert. I just remember the appetizers!
And of course, when I went back to the real world of the lowly, young wife of a farmer, I experimented until I created that appetizer to use for my own entertainment occassions. It may seem like a bit of work, but the neat thing is that you can make the sauce days ahead of time and just keep it in the frig where the longer it sits, the more the flavors combine. You can cook the crab ahead of time or you can use frozen claw meat or lump crab meat. Assembling the treat just takes a matter of minutes so it’s all in the planning! You will impress your guests and they will think that you are really posh. Do we use that word anymore???
For a lighter version, you can use light mayonnaise and the low-fat half and half. And if you think that I spent a bunch of money on caviar, think again! Shhhhhhhh. It was on the top shelf at Walmart with the canned oysters, canned shrimp and canned tuna!! That means that anyone can serve the “Toity” without it being so “Hoity”!!
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp heavy cream (or half and half)
2 Tbsp Heinz Chili Sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp shredded, fresh horseradish
2 Tbsp finely chopped green pepper
2 Tbsp finely chopped green onion
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
In a small mixing bowl, add mayonnaise
And chili sauce, worcestershire sauce and horseradish
Add chopped green pepper and green onions
Pour in 1 Tbsp lemon juice
Mix all ingredients together until sauce is smooth. Place in the refrigerator to cool. May be made several days ahead of time. This sauce is very good as a substitute for tartar sauce with fried or baked fish or shrimp.
Steam enough crab to make one cup of meat when cracked. For a quicker preparation, frozen lump or claw meat is acceptable too.
Shell the crab using kitchen shears and a nut pick.
Place crackers on a plate and put a small dollop of sauce in the center of each cracker.
Toss one tablespoon melted butter with the crab
Put a mound of crab onto the cracker and into the sauce.
Place another small dollop of sauce on top of the mound of crab
Add a small mound of caviar onto the sauce.
And there you have it. Tasty appetizers!!
Don’t forget to comment to enter this month’s giveaway for the treats pictured above. Just in time for Christmas: Shortbread cookie mix and a set of cookie cutters to make a cookie Christmas tree!!
Tis the season to be eating…or that’s the way it is around here. Between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, Americans consume more calories than any other time of the year, but based on all of the holiday pastry baking going on all over the rest of the world, I’m thinkin’ we aren’t alone!!
Office parties, neighborhood get-togethers, church luncheons and private bashes make up the months of November through January 1st, and finger foods and hors d’oeuvres occupy every hostess’ or host’s brain. Of course, these days, the fat content and calories are considered as well – maybe! I thought that for the next few posts, I would give you some of our favorite goodies that can be prepared either lower calorie or the good ol’ Southern way. I’ve been making most of these recipes for years of entertaining and they are easy and delicious.
This first one was given to me by my friend, Mary, wayyyyy back in the late 1970′s. Having grown up in Virginia, Mary was proud of her state and her heritage and treated me to this concoction called Virginia Hot Dip. I loved it and immediately got her recipe. That IS the official name – however, if you are from Tennessee, you can call it Tennessee Hot Dip or from Michigan – it can be Michigan Hot Dip. I think that we should just label it as the 50 state treat that it is!! So here is the recipe. It takes all of maybe 15 minutes to prepare and then 20 minutes to bake. It can be made ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until just before time for serving, at which time it is baked and then served hot.
(This recipe can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled and any other ‘uple’ you wish according to your crowd size)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (I use a little more)
1 Tbsp. butter (for low fat use 1 tsp)
1 8oz package cream cheese, softened (fat-free or Neufchatel is fine for lower calorie and fat)
1/2 cup sour cream (light sour cream works well too)
2 Tablespoons milk (skim or 2% for lower calorie)
1 Tablespoon minced onion
1 1/2 (2 oz) package Carl Buddig original sliced beef or any other dried beef brand
1/2 tsp garlic salt
Place cream cheese, sour cream, onions, milk and garlic salt into a mixing bowl.
You can make your own garlic salt by adding 2 Tablespoons of salt and 1 Tablespoon of garlic powder into a small jar and shaking to mix. These amounts can be increased proportionally for larger batches.
Cream ingredients until smooth
Slice and chop beef into small pieces
Add beef to the creamed mixer and mix well
Spoon mixture into a greased casserole dish. I use spray on olive oil to grease my dish.
Melt butter in a skillet
Add chopped pecans and lightly saute in the butter.
Sprinkle pecans evenly over the surface of the creamed mixture. At this point, the mixture can be chilled until it is ready to use. Just before time to serve, bake at 350º for 20 minutes and allow to cool just slightly before serving with crackers.