Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Marble Man's Cure-All;

Several people have asked for the recipe for Marble Man's "special tea". OK, confession time: this is not something he came up with. I told him how to make it for me and he did a bang-up job. He comes from a long line of tee-totalers (but it was remarkably easy to corrupt him!). When I feel cruddy from a cold, and don't want to take Nyquil during the day, I make this tea remedy and it really helps:

1.5 ounces bourbon, whiskey, or brandy
2 tsp honey
neutral-flavored tea (Lipton's or Twining's English Breakfast are best for this)

Add hot water, steep, and drink it up while it's hot. Repeat until you can no longer sit up straight :-) Guaranteed, you'll get some good naps in!

Friday, December 19, 2008

It's Beginning to Smell A Lot Like Christmas

I've been in a baking frenzy these past few days, which is crazy 'cuz it's just Marble Man and me this time around. Still, the cookies are flying out of the oven, the fruitcakes are beckoning, and the gingerbread houses are ready for habitation. Soon to come: Julekake (Norwegian Christmas Bread)... and even MORE cookies! Mmmmmm.

The fruitcakes I make are not the running jokes being passed from house to house, year after year.

My recipe came from an old family friend, a lovely Frenchwoman named Idalette Baker. I remember being a small child, hanging about in her Country French-styled kitchen while she prepared the 7 course meals she'd serve guests for dinner. Although she didn't have children at that point in her life, she treated me as though I had something valuable to contribute at the tender age of seven. She taught me subtle lessons in the kitchen that I observed as pure fun at the time, and still use today.

One night, she served her wonderful fruitcake and, after tasting it, I begged for the recipe (which she had to convert from metric for me). She happily shared it and I treasure it, as now she's gone. It's so darned rich with butter and sugar (and the only rum in it comes from soaking the raisins before it all goes together) that I make it rarely. But when I do, boy do we enjoy it!

Our favorite Christmas cookies also require a heap of butter (God, I feel my butt growing wider as I type this post!). I asked Marble Man to tell me his two top faves, and I picked my two. His: Checkerboard Cookies, and Chocolate Crinkles; and mine: Walnut Crescents and Peanut Butter. So far, I've made one for each of us.

MM got his Chocolate Crinkles

and my (unbelievable - no flour!) Peanut Butter cookies are in the freezer so I can take out one per day.

The Peanut Butter Cookies are truly amazing - and would be great for anyone with wheat and gluten allergies. (Nut allergies? Sorry, can't help you there.) They require just four ingredients: peanut butter, egg, sugar and vanilla - that's it!

After mixing the batter, I rolled them into spheres

and flattened them with some beautiful cookie stamps

If you don't have stamps, you can oil the bottom of a glass and use that instead, or use the bottom of the PB jar - then you get that nice recycling symbol on the cookie tops! :-) . They are light, delicious, and anyone tasting one would never believe the absence of flour.

I think the ones with the thistle design taste the best - it's my favorite stamp.


Unfortunately, a few of the Ya'ya's got sick this week (guilty as charged), so we postponed the holiday party with the planned gingerbread hi-jinx. By this afternoon, I was feeling a little better, and tackled the gingerbread house project on my own. I'd already told our neighbors that I'd be making the houses, so they're expecting them. I can't disappoint small children at Christmastime! Luckily, the kits I bought had the house components already made - all I needed to do was make the royal icing and stick on the candies. Oh yeah, and melt the Jolly Ranchers to make windows and ponds.

They came out pretty well for a first-time project. We'll take them over tomorrow morning and present them to the kiddles.

Then, it's back to the sweatshop, uh, I mean, the kitchen.