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Archive for December, 2009

Mimi’s On Vacation

Dear Readers,

Mimi is visting family and friends for the holidays.  Having a great time playing and celebrating with my granddaughter, Emily. 

The blog will return after January 1, 2010.  Check it out on January 5, 2010.  Won’t it be nice to say “twenty ten” instead of two thousand ten?

Keep smilin’!

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The Reason For The Season

Dear Readers,

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace,”  Isaiah 9:6.

May God bless your Christmas with true peace and lasting joy!

And don’t forget to

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

Here’s a simple recipe for Christmas morning that can be assembled the night before and baked in the oven while the family is opening Christmas presents.  It was printed in a December issue of Good Housekeeping and came from Donna L. Scofield of Yakima, Washington.

Christmas-Morning Italian Strata

1-1/2 lbs. pork or turkey sausage meat

1 – 12 oz. loaf French bread

2  – 4 oz. cans mushrooms

6 large eggs

1 quart milk

2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 – 8 oz. pkg. shredded mozzarella cheese (2 cups)

1 – 4 oz. pkg. shredded Cheddar cheese (1 cup)

Chopped parsley for garnish

Night Before Serving:

Grease 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish.  In 10 inch skillet over medium heat, cook meat, stirring frequently to break up sausage, until thoroughly cooked and no longer pink.  Using slotted spoon, remove sausage to paper towels to drain.

Cut French bread into 1/2 inch cubes.  Drain and chop mushrooms.  In baking dish, combine sausage, bread cubes and mushrooms.  In large bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, Italian seasoning,  garlic powder and pepper.  Pour egg mixture over sausage mixture.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

About 1-3/4 Hours Before Serving:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake strata, uncovered, 1 hour.  Remove from oven and sprinkle evenly with mozzarella and Cheddar cheeses.  Bake 15 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Remove strata from oven; let stand 10 minutes for easier serving.  Garnish with chopped parsley.  Makes 12 main-dish servings.

Each serving contains 390 calories and 24 grams of fat.  But who counts calories on Christmas?

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

These peppernut cookies are unusual because they are shaped like little nuts.  They are small but they pack a wallop of taste.  If you like the flavor of cinnamon, cardamom, anise and cloves, you will love these nuggets.  Take these to a cookie exchange and be ready for the compliments.

This recipe came from the 1986 issue of Better Homes and Gardens “Holiday Cooking” magazine.

Peppernuts

3/4 cup sugar

2/3 cup dark corn syrup

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup shortening

1 teaspoon anise extract

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

3-1/3 cups flour

Sifted powdered sugar

In a large saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup, milk and shortening.  Bring to boiling.  Remove from heat; cool about 15 minutes.  Stir in extract, baking powder, vanilla, spices, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Stir in flour till well mixed.  Cover, chill about 2 hours or till easy to handle.

Divide dough into 24 equal parts.  On a surface dusted lightly with sifted powdered sugar, roll each part of the dough into a 1/4 inch thick rope.  Cut into pieces about 3/8 inch long.  Place 1 inch apart on a greased cookie sheet.

Bake in 375 degree oven 10 to 12 minutes or till done.  Immediately remove; cool on paper towels.  Makes 8 cups cookies.

The cookies freeze very well and are great with a cup of coffee!

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

A couple of years ago my husband and I were checking out some model homes in Rancho Mirage, CA.  It was a sunny, Sunday afternoon in early December and the piped-in vice of Frank Sinatra singing “Silent Night” filled the air.  Tears started welling up in my eyes and my husband wondered what was wrong.  I answered that the strains of the hymn carried me back to my childhood and Christmases past.  You see “Silent Night” was a major part of our family tree-decorating tradition.

As a child, I couldn’t wait until we decorated the Christmas tree.  Mom carried a big box of ornaments out of the attic, while Dad secured the tree to the stand.  The next step was positioning the multi-color lights on the tree, while everyone had an opinion about the placement of these lights.  Then my Dad would give us a look and we knew it was time to shut up.  My sisters and I loved selecting the ornaments and hanging them on the tree.

My older sister’s job was to decorate the creche.  Our nativity scene consisted of a stable constructed with cherry tree branches and designed to look like a log cabin.  It was hand-crafted by Dad’s deceased youngest brother.  Martha would carefully apply cotton batting to the roof to simulate snow.  Real straw from our neighbor’s stable of horses, rested on the floor and in the crib.  Mary, Joseph and the Baby Jesus were arranged along with the shepherd boy, the Three Wise Men, and various stable animals.  An angel with flowing robes and a banner that read “Peace on Earth” was anchored atop the stable door with a white tree light that shone down upon the scene.

Trimming the tree took a lot of time but when we were finished, we were so proud of our handiwork.  It was at this time that Mom turned off all the lights in the house and Dad turned on the lit tree.  Then we all held hands and Dad, with his strong tenor voice, led us in singing “Silent Night, Holy Night”.  This was the magical Christmas moment awaited by all of us.  Here I was standing in the soft glow of the tree with the people I loved most in the world, and all of us singing a song that truly represented the meaning of Christmas.  What a beautiful memory my Dad created with that tradition.  It will remain with me and my sisters always!

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

Hope you read my last blog about the bank tellers.  This recipe is for the cake I baked for them for many Christmases.  The recipe appeared in the 1976 Better Homes and Gardens “Holiday Cooking & Entertaining Ideas” magazine.

Brandy Nut Cake

3 cups coarsely chopped walnuts

1-1/2 cups halved maraschino cherries

1 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup dark raisins

3/4 cup flour

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

2 tablespoons apricot brandy

1/2 cup apricot brandy

Combine nuts and fruits.  Thoroughly combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt.  Add to nut mixture, tossing to coat well.  Beat eggs till frothy; add the 2 tablespoons brandy.  Pour egg mixture over fruit mixture; mix well.  Pour into greased and floured 9x5x3-inch loaf dish.  Bake in 300 degree oven for 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Cool in pan.  Remove from pan.  Moisten several layers of cheesecloth with 1/4 cup of the brandy.  Wrap cake in cheesecloth, then in foil.  Store in refrigerator.  In 2 or 3 days, moisten cheesecloth again with remaining brandy.  Re-wrap cake.  Store in refrigerator.

This cake freezes very well.  If you bake it using the Mimi method, you can moisten the cake itself a couple more times using 1 or 2 tablespoons of brandy at a time, making sure the cake is absorbing the brandy.  Just don’t light a match around it!  (Only kidding!!!)

Keep smilin’!

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Dear Readers,

We lived in Pennsylvania for over 30 years and during that time we dealt with the same bank.  The ownership changed hands about four times; the last two owners were Provident National Bank and finally Wachovia Bank.  As the ownership changed, one thing remained constant and that was the three women tellers, who over the years became my friends.

You see there were no ATM’s in the early 70’s, so every bank transaction was made through a teller.  Weekly trips were made to the bank to deposit my husband’s paycheck and withdraw cash for the purchase of groceries and gasoline.

The ladies behind the counter were courteous and friendly.  There were photos of their children and grandchildren by their stations.  If the bank wasn’t crowded, we would chat about family, the weather and other pleasantries.  Each teller kept a container full of lollypops on the counter for children.  Even if I was alone, they encouraged me to take a lollypop home for my daughter and son.

One Christmas, I decided to do something for them in appreciation for their thoughtfulness.  A large plate full of Christmas cookies and thick slices of my “Apricot Brandy Nut Cake” would be their reward.  The nut cake was a type of fruitcake that did not contain the dreaded candied fruit!  Walnuts, maraschino cherries and raisins were the main ingredients.  But the best part was the apricot brandy; two tablespoons in the cake mixture and another 1/2 cup used to moisten the cheesecloth surrounding the cake.

The recipe read “Moisten several layers of cheesecloth with 1/4 cup of the brandy.  Wrap cake in cheesecloth, then in foil.  Store in refrigerator.  In 2 or 3 days, moisten cheesecloth again with remaining brandy.”  Needless  to say, Mimi moistened that cheesecloth several times.  That cake was so full of booze, if a match was struck near it, it would have exploded into flames!

Well, the bank tellers liked the cookies but loved the cake.  The “Apricot Brandy Nut Cake” became a Christmas tradition for quite a few years.  I grew tired of baking the cake but sure enough every November one of the tellers would ask if I was baking it again that year.  How could I let them down?

I just hope they double-checked their figures when counting money, after having a piece of this cake!  Look for the recipe in my next blog.  Until then,

Keep smilin’!

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