Sunday, December 28, 2014

Turkey and Cornbread "Dressing" Sandwiches The Reformation Movement

My almost apologies to Martin Luther, but I just had to steal his movements name for a new blog feature here.  Instead of just having leftovers, I am going to reform them into something new and wondrous.  OK maybe attributing wonderment to leftovers is a grandiose concept and I really should just word it as a reconfiguration of that prior served, but the reformation movement appeals more to my sense of humor.  Plus this is just reformed leftovers and all I have to do is make 'em then use a keyboard and hit publish, eliminating that pesky task of all that nailing to the church door.

Tonight we were down to the last bits of leftover Christmas turkey and a handful of fresh cranberries. There was enough left for sandwiches, but the pretty slices were all gone, leaving just the scrappy shreds.  Hmmm, I wanted to use it, but I didn't want to necessarily serve ugly sandwiches.  Also, I wanted something hot and delicious.  Enter the hot turkey cornbread sandwich.

                                               Hot Turkey Corn Cake Sandwich

                                                     Sandwich all nice and ready for eating!

Fresh Cranberry Relish

1/2 cup fresh cranberries, minced
1 inch orange peel, pith removed then minced
1 teaspoon sugar

Mix all together and let it sit while you cook the corn cakes

Cornbread  Corn Cakes

2 packages Martha White Country Cornbread* mix
1/2 small onion, minced
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1 teaspoon dried parsley

Heat griddle on medium until it is hot enough that water drops "dance" on it, but make sure it is set at  medium heat or the cornbread will burn on the outside before it is cooked through. My griddle is a non stick griddle and doesn't need any oil to keep things from sticking.  You know how your cookware behaves so oil it if needed after the pan is hot. ( Use the oil on a paper towel trick)
Now I know there are measurement for the water amount on the back of the package but I totally ignore them and stir in water in a couple of tablespoon increments until it looks and feels like a pancake batter.  It will be a little thinner than traditional cornbread batter. Stir in the onion, poultry seasoning and parsley.  Drop onto the heated griddle and cook until bubbles appear all over the surface of the corn cakes.  Flip and cook until nicely browned.  Remove from the griddle to a heated plate.  Cook all the corn cakes.  You will have about 10-12 depending on how big you made them.

                                                              Open Face View

Dukes Mayonnaise**
Jalapeno pepper jelly
Warm leftover turkey shreds ( I had about 1/2 cup per sandwich)
lettuce leaves for each sandwich

Match 2 corn cakes for each sandwich. ( I always seem to make some larger than others so match by size.)  Spread the inside of each piece with Dukes Mayonnaise and put 1 teaspoon of jalapeno jelly on top of the mayonnaised  bottom piece of each sandwich.  Place the turkey on top of the pepper jelly then top with a tablespoon of the cranberry relish.  Place a lettuce leaf on top of the relish then add the top piece of the corn cake.  And the reformation is complete with the exception of eating it and a nice dry hard cider as the go to beverage.

*You don't technically have to use the Martha White cornbread mix, but it is the best so why not.   Whatever you use please, for the love of all that is holy, do not make sweet cornbread for this. (That means no Jiffy mix)  If you live in an area that does not have it and you would like to try it send me 3 bucks and I will mail you 2 packages.  It will cover the cost of the mix and the mailing.  My email is  I will send you my info from there.

** You also don't have to use Dukes Mayo.  It is made with no sugar so it has slightly different taste.  Any quality mayo will do, I guess.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Cookie, Cookie, Candy Part 2

 I learned my lesson and went back to my old but delicious tried and true Christmas cookie recipes using an old issue of Ladies Home Journal from  December of 1980.  Back when it had a cover it said "Best Cookie Issue Ever" in huge letters.  Now its exterior has been reduced to tatters, but inside those recipes are still safely almost glued together.  The magazine itself now lives in a bright blue plastic portfolio folder, safe from further wear and tear, but it makes an appearance each and every year for our annual holiday baking. ( Who am I kidding, there is no "our" baking.  I bake and they eat)

I had to make 2 recipes of these yesterday to keep up with the immediate demand and still have cookies for our party Christmas Day.  Fortunately this is a very easy recipe and I should have just doubled it from the get-go.

                                                          Nutmeg Noels

1 tablespoon red sprinkles, 1 tablespoon green sprinkles
1/2 teaspoons nutmeg, divided
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter softened
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon rum extract

350  10-12 minutes

Put each tablespoon of colored sugar in a small shallow bowl.  Stir 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg into each and set aside.

Mix the dry ingredients together and set aside

Cream the butter until it is light and fluffy, add the sugar and continue beating until it is very fluffy.  Add the egg and mix well, then stir in the extracts.  With the mixer set on low, add the flour mixture until it is all combined well, but do not over beat

Set the bowl with the dough in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.  Roll the dough into balls about the size of large marbles.  Dip one side into the colored sugar using half the balls for the red sugar and the other half for the green sugar.

Place on a very lightly greased baking sheet ( or use parchment ) and bake for about 10-12 minutes until the edges of the bottom are light brown.  Do not over bake!  These taste similar to egg nog in cookie form.  I have a hard time keeping these because they are devoured about as fast as I can make them.  Even our sugar cookie hater loves these cookies.

They will keep about a week in an air tight room temp container, or freeze easily for a month.

The candy recipe is something called Needham's Candy.  I have never heard of it before or tasted it either.  I had some potatoes that needed to be used and did a quick google search using some search query like "unusual ways to use potatoes".  Up popped a recipe for Needham's which, after a little research,  I found is a Maine favorite.  I had no preconceived notions nor anything to compare it to, so my trial is simply based on whether they taste good or not.  I claim no similarity to the actual Needham's candy, because I have never had the real thing.  For the record they are delicious!

                                                         Copy Cat Needham's Candy

2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup mashed potatoes
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
3/4 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1 lb bittersweet chocolate squares
1 1/2 tablespoon vegetable shortening ( I use Spectrum a non hydrogenated variety)

Pour confectioner's sugar in a medium saucepan and make a well in the center.  Put the potatoes, butter, vanilla and salt in the well and place the pan over a simmering pan of water.  Stir the mixture in the well with a wooden spoon and gradually add the confectioner's sugar into the potato mixture. Keep stirring until the sugar melts and the mixture becomes a smooth paste. ( 5 minutes)

Remove from heat and add the coconut. Though the directions did not say to do this I found you have to continue stirring it for a few minutes until the candy can be shaped.  On a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet, pat the candy into about a 6x4 rectangle. ( see picture below)  Go ahead and score it in 1 inch square pieces, but do not cut it through until the mixture is completely cool and firm ( not hard and crumbly).  They suggest freezing the candy for 30 minutes, but I found my kitchen was cold enough that the candy firmed up at room temperature.

Now cut into individual pieces.

Over simmering water, melt the chocolate and shortening.  (I used 1/2 the amount of chocolate and shortening and put it in a tall mug inside a small boiler of simmering water.  There was more than enough to coat all 24 pieces)

Using a fork, dip each piece in the chocolate, tap off the excess and put on a waxed paper  covered cookie sheet to harden.  ( They might need a few minutes in the freezer for the chocolate to completely set)

Below is a before and after picture of 3 pieces that melded into one piece. (Can you say drippage?)
Years ago I learned how to "men" sloppy chocolates.  You need a glass of very hot water, a paper towel, and a super sharp paring knife.  Dip the blade of the knife in the hot water for a couple of seconds.  Blot it dry and quickly trim the offending chocolate drips.  If any candy center is exposed, dip the blade again, blot and take a small bit of the chocolate trimmings and place it on the candy with the hot blade on top of it.  The heat will melt a tiny chocolate repair on it.

                                            3 unruly pieces that just did not want to behave.

    Those same 3 pieces after a slight trim and mend job



Saturday, December 20, 2014

Cookies, Cookies and Candy Part 1

I get tired of making the same old cookies every Christmas, so I decided to try some new to us recipes.  After all, I am not old and set in my ways, right?  (I am going to keep telling myself that and maybe, just maybe, I might begin to believe it)

 My first experiment was White Chocolate Peppermint Brittle Cookies.  It sounded pretty simple and straight forward.  It was essentially a shortbread filled with white chocolate chips and crushed peppermint bits, patted as thin as possible, given that is was filled with chips.  Then it was baked into a crisp single cookie.  After the cookie cooled it would be drizzled with melted white chocolate and sprinkled with more crushed peppermint bits, then broken into cookie bark pieces.

                       White Chocolate Peppermint Cookie Brittle

Here's the recipe

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 ounces white chocolate, chopped or 1 3/4 cups white chocolate chips (both divided)
3/4 cup coarsely crushed peppermint candy (divided)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Line large baking sheet with parchment and set aside
In a mixing bowl whisk the flour, baking soda and salt.  In another large bowl add the melted butter and both sugars and vanilla.  Stir until very smooth.  Stir in the flour mixture until just blended in.  Stir in 1 cup of chopped white chocolate or real white chocolate chips, and 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy.

Place the dough on the prepared baking sheet and press the dough into a 14 X 8 ish rectangle.  Bake until the top is firm and dark golden.  Cool completely.  Melt the remaining white chocolate and drizzle it from the tines of a fork all over the cookie.  Then sprinkle the remaining peppermint bits over the damp chocolate.  Let dry at least 1 hour, until the chocolate is nice and hard.  Break into irregular pieces and enjoy.

Hmmmmm, not sure how to begin the critique of this.  I may or may not try it again just to see if I can improve on it.  Since the predominant flavors should be white chocolate and peppermint, I am not sure why the recipe included brown sugar.  The brown sugar tasted caramelish after the long cook time and played against the cookie's theme.  Also because you are supposed to bake the cookie until it is dark golden, the white chocolate chips begin to caramelize, so why even bother with them. Then, when you break the cookie pieces the heat from your hands causes the drizzled white chocolate to melt...big mess.

My solutions would be to omit the brown sugar and add 1/3 cup additional white sugar, then nix the chips in the cookie and leave out the peppermint pieces. Change the extract from just vanilla to 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract.  After patting the dough on the baking sheet, score break lines so you won't have to handle the white chocolate as much after it bakes.  When it comes out of the oven and is still soft go ahead and cut the pieces but do not separate them, then drizzle the white chocolate and dust with the peppermint bits. (I think I would almost have the peppermints crushed into a semi fine powder)

To be honest the jury is still out about trying these again or not. Right now I am leaning toward not.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Don't Do This For Christmas Unless You Start Really Early

Most years I create our Christmas card, usually it has a funny photo or caption, and can be made at one of those "1 hour turns your photo into a card" places, or it might be hand drawn.  It really is just serendipitous, based entirely on whatever unusual has happened to us on any given year.

 For example one year we were staying at a Hotel in Portland and a NBA team was staying at the same hotel.  We were going to our room when who should appear in the lobby but Saquille O'Neal.  Our youngest son was young enough to be completely starstruck and asked if he could get a picture with him.  He was gracious enough to allow it, so I knew I would somehow incorporate it into our Christmas card.  It ended up as a dilapidated house with a front door that opened to the picture.  Inside the door it said "From our Shaq to yours, Merry Christmas"  I generally try to have a little word play going with whatever picture I use.

This year nothing was gelling.  We had not seen or done anything spectacular except for becoming grandparents.  I would love to have had a picture of the grand baby on ours, but that is for her parents card, not mine.  The season was getting closer and closer and I had received a bunch of cards, but had sent none.  Finally in mid-December I sat and wrote a little verse.  After a bit of tweaking I had something that I thought was pretty reflective of our current states of minds.  Since everyone I sent this to should have received it by now, I am sharing the utter act of desperation with you.  If you are reading this and have not gotten one, I blame the post office!

First of all this was taken on the fly, right as I was about to stuff the last card of Christmas into it's envelope.  I was not wearing my glasses and thought it was focused.  I was wrong!  I am supplying text in case you are unable to see the verse.

Twas the twelfth of December
and all through the house,
"There is no sign of Christmas"
we started to grouse.
Those boxes and baubles
 were still in the vault.
We had no one to blame
it was clearly our fault.
When out on the street
we heard a great racket.
It was our favorite postman
transporting a packet.
"Oh no!" we exclaimed
as he passed by our yard
"In the midst of this chaos
we haven't done cards."
We sat down to think
and put our thoughts to paper.
If we pulled this one off
it would be our best caper.
We wrote and erased
some words better, some worse
And managed to scratch out
this lame little verse.
Our vast lack of talent
creating this card,
is offset by sincerest
Christmas regards.

(printed on the inside of the card)

In closing we wish you and yours
mirth and cheer

For Christmas,

For New Year's,


All Through The Year!

And let's recap why this is a very bad idea to begin this project Dec 12.


 1. Write verse. (Pat self on back for such an easy idea)

 2. Go  to Office Depot to buy papers and envelopes.

 3. Stand in line for 15 minutes waiting to have them printed at Office Depot.

 4. Give up and run by Pete's Printing instead

 5. Leave Pete's Printing because they will not be finished for 5 days (insert off colored car language)    

 6.  Go to Kwik Kopy (Bless them) and have them printed while waiting.

 7. Run by Joanne's and buy 6 feet of very thin red satin ribbon

 8. Go home, stick a load of laundry in the wash, fold green card stock in half

 9. Realize too late you only had the ivory paper cut in half rather than the size you actually needed

10. Grab scissors, ruler and cardboard for template

11. Turn on Christmas music

12. Trace template on the back of every bloomin card

13. Cut and cut and cut and cut a little longer

14. Find small hole punch and begin punching holes in top sheet and front of green card.

15.  Realize the first five cards you punched are upside down.

16. Decide after doing 10, it might be a good idea to tie as you go.

17.  Realize quickly you bought way to little ribbon ( 6 inches per card? Who knew)

18. Find a spool of red and white kitchen twine, untie the ones already tied and re-tie so they all match

19.  Address the envelopes

20.  Look back at the card and think it is too plain.  Draw holly and berries with water colors on each.

21.  Decide you don't like the way the holly looks, get out pen, nib, and ink and detail it

22. Personalize and sign each card and put it in the envelope.

23. Realize you are five short ( remember the one's punched wrong?)

24.  Run back to Kwik Kopy and beg them to sell 5 sheets of ANY GREEN paper

25.  Have insides of the kelly green (looks like St. Paddy's day green) printed.

26. Go home and finish the additional cards.

27.  Go to the post office and buy stamps ( No Christmas stamps so flags it is)

28.  Stand in the post office outer lobby and affix stamps to 80 envelopes (?????)

29.  Stop at grocery store next door to post office and make 2 purchases

30.  Drive home, open bag, open bottle, pour wine and eat chocolate

I am going shopping the day after Christmas and buying cards for next year, nice beautiful cards
that I don't have to do anything to but address and sign!  Or maybe I will start this process in October!

Merry Christmas to all of you and a joyous New Year!


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Book Review "The Christmas Spirit"

Somethings afoot in the small Scottish town of Winstanton ,a short drive from Glasgow, overlooking Loch Lomond.  Natalie arrives with a double mission.  As a newcomer to town she is taking over the town bakery, while the owner recuperates from surgery.  We find early in the book, "The Christmas Spirit"by Susan Buchanan, that Natalie moves about every December with the intent of helping four people who need a little"more".

The book is written as a day by day account of her season in Scotland.  Natalie sets out to make the bakery a delicious haven for all of the town.  We meet all the characters in the book when they stop at various times to grab a coffee and something sweet.  Natalie is the ultimate replacement.  She has a natural affinity for baking truly tasty treats and an equally natural gift of getting to know those who frequent the bakery.

Through her we meet Stanley, a widower, who is unhappy that he has to live his remaining years without Edie, the love of his life.   In fact, he misses her so much he still pours her a cup of tea each day for their morning breakfast "talks.

Next we are introduced to Meredith, the workaholic, ambitious, driven to the extreme business owner and her personal assistant, Sophie.  As much as Meredith loves her regimented life with her complete attention to the details of her business, she fails to notice how overworked and under appreciated Sophie is.

Jacob is the son of wealthy parents who had the best education money could buy.  In fact his parents bought things but were never there themselves.  As a young boy he learned to prefer staying at school over the holidays, rather than to holiday in a home with the help as parents in abstentia.  After their schooling was complete his parents cut all financial ties with Jacob and his sister, Tabitha.  His sister managed to get a good job and is doing fine financially.  Jacob finished school in the middle of a slight recession when very few places are hiring.  At 22 he is living hand to mouth when he goes into the bakery.  Soon Natalie offers him a job because there is more to running the bakery than she can handle by herself.

Poor Rebecca has just been jilted by her live in boyfriend.  3 years into the relationship things just are not working out and now she must look for somewhere new to live.  They bought an apartment together, but she can't afford to keep it on her small salary.  Ethan is going to buy her out.  Imagine he in effect forcing her to abandon not only her love, but also the home she loves.  Now right before Christmas she is forced to begin the process of trying to find a home she loves and can afford.  She is sad and mad at the same time.

The remaining days pass with these folks entering and exiting the bakery, interacting with Natalie and each other.  The book is somewhat predictable but it is a pleasant and quick read during the holiday season.

This year I have had zero Christmas spirit and needed a "fix".  This did not make me want to sit around the campfire and sing Kumbaya nor did it give me a big case of the warm fuzzies, but it was a nice Christmas theme book, plus I snagged to free from ereader news today. If you read on an ereader, I would strongly suggest you add this site to your favorites.  I check it daily for free books.  Most days I get none but I do tend to get all the Christmas books that are free.  At worst, I don't like them and just delete them, but generally they are readable decent stories.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

C Is For Cookies__Texas Sheet Cake Cookies Update

I was bopping around Pinterest and noticed a recipe I thought might be worth trying.  I have always been a fan of Texas Sheet Cake (which I always called lunchroom cake because it was served in every one of my school cafeterias, including college ).  I like the moist gooey chocolate cake and the dry flaky  chocolate icing.  It tastes and reminds me of simpler times.  When I saw the recipe for the cookie version I knew I would make it.

I wish I remember the name of the blog linked to the recipe.  I was in a hurry so I just wrote down the ingredients on a piece of scrap paper and turned off the computer.  Now I have the ingredients and instructions but no website.  So, sorry to whomever I copied this from without giving you credit.  It was not intentional.

                                                     Texas Sheet Cake Cookies

For the Cookie

1/2 cup softened butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Mix the softened butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy.  Add the egg to combine then stir in the vanilla until it is mixed well.  Add the baking powder and salt and blend well.  Slowly add the flour until it is all combined.  Then add in the melted chocolate chips and stir to combine very well. ( To melt the chocolate chips put them in a microwave safe bowl.  Zap for 30 seconds and stir.  Continue zapping and stirring in 15 second increments until they are melted.  It took me 45 seconds total.  Do not over cook or the chips will harden and will not be usable)

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper ( or use a silpat) and drop cookies in about golf ball size balls.  Pat the top slightly with slightly damp fingers and bake for 7-9 minutes.  You really want the cookies to be just well set, but still soft and gooey.  Remove from the cookie sheet to a rack to cool.

While the cookies cool make the icing.

For the icing

1/4 cup butter melted
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Add all butter and coca and stir until smooth.  Stir in the milk and vanilla then slowly add the confectioners sugar.  Stir until smooth adding a few drops more of milk if necessary.

 When cool place  the cookies on a flat tray and heap a mound of chocolate frosting on each cookie.  Let them hang out to air dry before serving.  Makes about 18 2 inch very rich cookies.

I have a somewhat mixed review on these.  The taste was very good and the texture was fine.  I thought the icing was way too sweet and it made entirely too much of it.  I didn't use even half of the recipe.  I stuck the leftover in an air tight container in the refrigerator and will make another batch of the cookies this week.  I will not use chocolate chips in the next recipe.  I am going to increase the sugar by a couple of tablespoons, add 2-3 tablespoons of cocoa powder and a tablespoon of oil. ( Will not be sure of the cocoa amount until I risk my life and actually consume tastes of the raw cookie dough and adjust as needed.  I guess I am just brave like that.)   It should be enough  to compensate for the chips sweetness and fat content.  I didn't find the chocolate taste of the cookies bold enough to warrant using chocolate chips when cocoa should work perfectly fine.  Will let you know!  I guess I rate these and overall good, but I think I would prefer to save the chocolate chips for something that needs them rather than to just give a chocolate flavor to a pretty basic cookie.

Update:  I did try these again substituting 4 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa,  1 1/2 tablespoons oil and 4 tablespoons additional sugar in place of the chocolate chips.  It worked perfectly fine but I can't tell you it tasted exactly the same since I did not have one from each batch to do a side by side comparison.  It was worth it to me if for no other reason than having one less dish to wash.  The cookies had a similar "feel" to them, so I would call it ok to make with cocoa.  I know I will!

Friday, December 5, 2014

SHHHH!...Santa Letter's

Each year my good friend Millie and I send letters to children across our area from Santa.  We started it 5 years ago as  band fundraiser and though our sons have graduated and moved to different colleges, we still continue the tradition for our local high school band and an additional local non-profit organization.  They get the message out that there are a couple of elves who will send personalized Santa letters with the official North Pole cancellation to "your child" for a donation and a little bit of information.  We have always had a pretty good response, but this year there was an avalanche of requests.

Unlike the commercial Santa letters, we do not ask or comment on any particular wants from the Christmas lists.  Instead we ask for a few successes each child has experienced during the year as well as what needs a little tweaking.  Those things are couched in a sweet little note about the elves, reindeer and of course the Claus family.

I thought today I might share a few of the successes and problem areas from the past few years.
One little fellow is now wearing clothes regularly. We have numerous children who are learning to go to the potty.  Several little people are learning their colors, letters and numbers.  Many of the kids are making excellent grades and are involved in everything from sports, gymnastics, cheerleading and scouts to music lessons, dance lesson, and learning foreign languages. ( Special thumbs up to one little fellow who is learning Chinese characters this year and a guy from a couple of years back who had mastered Czech)
Perhaps the nicest things we see are the words "she is kind to everyone" "he is a great helper and has a tender heart" "she makes everyone around her smile" "he tries to make everyone feel included".  Great job parents!

The "needs to work on" list is the funniest most of the time.  We do have the usual request for Santa to say something about nap time, whining, being a nicer brother/sister, sharing, using good manners, listening to mommy and daddy the FIRST time they say something, but we also see some original things that need a little adjusting.  A couple of years ago Santa had to tell one little boy that he had to wear underwear to school-every day!  One little angel need to quit acting like a cat when she meets people.  Another girl needs to quit throwing her spoons and forks at meal time  and several need to tone down the sass.

For the record, though we have request each and every year for Santa to say something about bed wetting, Santa does NOT scold an immature bladder.  If your child wets the bed it is not because he/she wants to or is too lazy to get up.  It is because their bladder is somewhat immature and they don't get "the signal" like everyone else.  Don't worry they will outgrow it.  In the meantime either get up and change their sheets or buy Pull-ups.

Hope you have enjoyed this little window into my yearly Christmas tradition.  Now as we speak about 400 letters are on their way to the North Pole remailing station.  A special thanks to some of the mothers who video their little ones reading their letters then tagging us with it.  The bright eyes and ear to ear grins make 2 days of chaos well worth it.

Oh and for the record, this year Santa had to explain why it is not a great idea to get a seahorse as a pet!