Thursday, December 1, 2011Holiday traditions: Food, family & fun
I'm so excited to welcome today a dear friend who mixes two of my favorite things: writing and food. Today she has thrown in a few other favorites of mine for good measure -- history and some old traditions of the holiday season. Please welcome Virginia Campbell.
I am delighted to be here today with my friend Jessica James to share some holiday memories and treats and to learn some of your own holiday stories and traditions. As most of you know, Jessica has written a wonderful book--a superb Civil War romance, "Noble Cause: A Novel of Love and War."
According to the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, Va., the Civil War helped solidify many holiday traditions that Americans still celebrate today. Gift-giving, festive decorations, and cherished times spent with family members and friends during the holidays are especially poignant in times of war. During the tragic War Between the States, when Americans fought against each other on American soil, moments of celebratory happiness would have been touched with a haunting heartbreak. However, for those who believe in the spirit of the season, there is always hope.
What I love most about the holidays is that very special lightness of heart, a feeling that dreams will come true, and the child-like awe of the real magic of Christmas. It's not something that you can touch...but it definitely touches you! I still believe in the Christmas Story. I still leave cookies and milk for Santa. I still love Christmas music, and I still sing Christmas songs...loudly, badly, and with great gusto! I also love the smell of the holidays...greenery, bayberry, peppermint, hot chocolate, fresh frosty air, gingerbread and cookies!
My grandfather loved the holidays more than all the rest of my family put together. He came from a close-knit, loving family unit. They didn't have a lot of money, but they had a lot of heart, and he had a happy childhood. He was a Christmas Tree Expert Extraordinaire! He also loved all the foods of the holidays, and every year he would ask me to make Spritz Cookies. I can't tell you how many of those little butter cookies we ate, but they were as much fun to make as they were to eat!
2 1/2 cups sifted flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated white or brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla or other flavoring
colored decorating sugar
Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine flour and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla (or other flavoring), and if desired, food coloring. Gradually add flour/salt while mixer is running on low speed. Pack dough into a cookie press following manufacturer's instructions (or put into a pastry bag fitted with a large star shaped tip). Press mixture onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone baking sheets. Top with sprinkles or colored sugar. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes, depending upon cookie size.
My grandmother, "the greatest cook ever," used to make delicious snow ice cream. Fresh clean snow (yes, it was cleaner in the "good olde days"), whole milk or cream, sugar, and vanilla. For some reason, I crave ice cream in the Winter--maybe because of Gran's "Snow Cream." One of my mother's favorite holiday treats from her childhood was "boiled custard" (which you must not allow to boil). A rich, cooked drink similar to eggnog, boiled custard is actually a custard which is thin enough to drink from a cup. My grandmother used to make it and pour it into glass jars which she would set down outside in the snow to cool. Mom and her brother and sister would drink it outside straight from the jar and then get "switched" by Gran for stealing the family treat!
Fresh Snow Ice Cream
1 small pkg. regular (not instant) vanilla pudding mix
1 cup sugar
1 pint cream
2 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 pinch ground nutmeg
1 to 2 gallons fresh, clean snow
In an extra-large, heavy mixing bowl, combine pudding mix and sugar. Stir in milk and blend until dry ingredients are dissolved. Blend in cream, vanilla extract, and nutmeg. Cover and chill until ready to serve ice cream. To make ice cream: Stir mixture well and add in enough snow to make desired consistency. Do not over-stir. Serve immediately.
Rich Boiled Custard
1 pint whole milk
1 pint cream
6 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
Into the lower pot of a double boiler, bring water to a medium boil. In the upper pot, add milk and cream. Heat through over medium heat. Beat eggs together until light. Add sugar and mix well. Pour a small portion of hot milk mixture into the eggs and sugar to warm and thin this portion. Pour slowly into hot milk mixture. Cook, stirring constantly until it will coat a spoon. Do not over cook or mixture will become too thick. Stir in vanilla extract. Chill in refrigerator before serving.
My mom and I both loved all-out, over-the-top, sing-your-heart-out Christmas music. We had a tradition of loading up our dogs in the car one night each holiday season to go see the Christmas lights throughout the area. Mom and I would sing holiday songs at the top of our voices, and the dogs were a captive audience. We always ended the evening with a trip to the ice cream store! Mom got eggnog ice cream; I got peppermint candy cane ice cream, and the dogs got vanilla! By the way, occasionally our singing did set the dogs off, and then there was howling and singing. Occasionally, my cats will join in the merriment at home!
1 (3-ounce) pkg cream cheese, softened
1 (16-ounce) sour cream
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1/4 tsp salt, or more to taste
1 (7-ounce) jar roasted red peppers , drained, patted dry, and finely chopped (about ½ cup)
In a medium bowl, allow cream cheese to soften at room temperature. Add sour cream, and blend well. Add remaining ingredients. Combine all ingredients until thoroughly blended. Serve immediately or store in refrigerator in an airtight container until ready to use.
Turkey, Bacon Spinach Salad with Honey-Dijon Dressing
fresh spinach leaves (washed & dried)
cooked turkey breast meat, cut in bite-sized pieces
fresh white button mushrooms, sliced
crumbled cooked bacon
small red onion, thinly sliced
cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
crumbled or shredded cheese, like Blue, Feta, or Parmesan
sliced hard-boiled eggs
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp honey (or to taste)
2/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup olive oil
For the dressing: In a bowl whisk together garlic, salt, black pepper, Dijon mustard, honey and balsamic vinegar; add in olive oil slowly until blended. Adjust honey and salt to taste. Chill for several hours before using to allow flavor of dressing to develop.
For salad: In a large glass bowl, sandwich layers of spinach with turkey, sliced mushrooms, bacon, onion, tomato, and cheese. Garnish with sliced eggs and croutons. Serve with prepared dressing on the side. Store any remaining dressing covered in refrigerator.
Apple Butter Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Frosting
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup margarine or butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup apple butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 5-ounce can (2/3 cup) evaporated milk
Cupcakes: In a small mixing bowl stir together flour, baking powder, soda, and salt; set aside. In a medium mixing bowl beat margarine or butter with an electric mixer on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg; beat well. Beat in apple butter and vanilla. Stir lemon juice into milk (mixture will curdle). Add flour mixture and milk mixture alternately to apple butter mixture, beating on low to medium speed after each addition just until combined. Grease muffin cups or line with paper bake cups; fill two-thirds full. Bake in a 350 degrees F. oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Cool on wire racks. If desired, frost with Brown Sugar Frosting. Makes 24 cupcakes.
Frosting: In a small saucepan melt 1/2 cup margarine or butter; stir in 1 cup packed brown sugar. Cook and stir until bubbly. Remove from the heat. Add 1/4 cup milk; stir until smooth. Add 3-1/2 cups powdered sugar; beat by hand until of spreading consistency. Frost cooled cupcakes immediately. (If frosting thickens, stir in hot water, a few drops at a time, until of spreading consistency again.)
2 1/2 c. sugar
2/3 c. evaporated milk
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter
1 1/2 c. semisweet chocolate chips
1 (7 ounce) jar Marshmallow Creme
1 tsp. vanilla extract or flavoring
1 tsp. peppermint extract or flavoring
1/4 c. plus 1 Tbsp. crushed peppermint candy, divided
Bring first 3 ingredients to a boil in a heavy saucepan, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly 6 minutes or until candy thermometer reaches 238 degrees F. Remove from heat; stir in chocolate chips. Stir in Marshmallow Creme, vanilla extract or flavoring, peppermint extract or flavoring and 1/4 c. crushed candy until blended. Pour into a buttered 9-in. square pan. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. crushed candy. Cool and cut into squares.
Holiday Wassail Punch
1 (64-ounce) container apple cider
2 cups orange juice
1 (64-ounce) container cranberry-raspberry juice
4 cinnamon sticks
1 orange, sliced thick, slices studded with whole cloves
Combine all ingredients in a large slow cooker (at least 5 to 6 quart size). Heat on High setting until mixture is steamy. Reduce to low setting to keep at serving temperature. Stir occasionally.
Causes Virginia Campbell Supports
I live in a very small town with few job opportunities. I would love to be employed in a position which allowed me to promote literacy and put books in the...