December 2019


Saltine Toffee

(Christmas Crack)

December 25:Christmas

During the holiday season, Islander participates in many cookie and treat exchanges through her cake and culinary clubs. At different meetings every year, someone has brought “Saltine Toffee”, which are salty crackers topped with toffee, chocolate and nuts. It is also nicknamed “Christmas Crack” because it truly is an addictively sweet-salty-crackly treat. They are popular to give as foodie gifts for family, friends, co-workers and neighbors, to take to holiday potluck parties and to snack on them throughout the Christmas festivities. Bring joy to everyone’s world and make Saltine Toffee!

Recipe

(Adapted from Southern Living Magazine)

Ingredients

  • 1 sleeve saltine crackers (as many pieces to fit in a jelly roll pan)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 package (12 ounces) chocolate chips
  • ½ – 1 cup nuts (we used pecans)

Directions

Line a jelly roll pan with foil. Generously mist with cooking spray. Arrange the crackers to fill the pan. In a saucepan, melt the butter slowly over medium low heat. Slowly stir in the brown sugar.

Keep stirring the brown sugar until bubbling and thickened (about 3 minutes). Pour evenly over the crackers. Bake in a preheated oven at 325 degrees F for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and spread the chocolate chips on top while the crackers-toffee are still hot.

Spread the melted chocolate evenly over the top (return to the oven for a minute or two if needed to melt more). Sprinkle with nuts. Let cool to room temperature then place in the refrigerator to set until firm. Slice or break into pieces. Store chilled in airtight container.

Notes

  • Avoid stacking the Saltine Toffee to avoid sticking and melting together. Place the pieces between sheets of waxed or parchment paper. Or layer them loosely on a serving platter.
  • Merry Christmas to our blog readers!

Christmas Morning Punch

December 25: Christmas

Boozy beverages like egg nog or Christmas cocktails are popular at parties for grown-ups. But on Christmas morning, kid-friendly fruit juice is a festive alternative for the whole family. Serve this punch while everyone gathers ‘round for breakfast or brunch, before going to Christ’s mass or church service or during the opening of presents under the tree together. Make this morning merrier with a sweet and simple Christmas Morning Punch recipe. Merry Christmas!

Recipe

(From Steve A.)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups orange juice
  • 2 cups cranberry juice
  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 cup ginger ale soda
  • orange slices, frozen whole cranberries and fresh mint leaves (optional garnishes)

Directions

In a large pitcher, pour the orange, cranberry and pineapple juices. Stir in the ginger ale soda. Refrigerate. Serve chilled in glasses. Garnish with fruit and mint leaves (optional).

Notes

  • Lemon-lime soda may be used as a substitute for ginger ale.
  • Search our blog for other Christmas/winter beverages.

Coquito

(Puerto Rican Egg Nog)

December 24:National Egg Nog Day

Egg-less egg nog? We were skeptical at first, but after tasting Puerto Rican Brother Jose M.’s recipe for coquito, we were hooked! Coquito features two kinds of rum from his island—clear (white) and gold or spiced—and sweetened with a tropical flavor, cream of coconut—hence, the name is translated as “little coco”. Brother Jose makes and bottles coquito and gives them away to his campus ministry staff. From him we received his recipe as a great gift to share with our blog readers during this holy holiday season and on National Egg Nog Day. Gracias, Jose, and Feliz Navidad to everyone on Christmas Eve!

Recipe

(From Jose M.)

  • 1 can (15 ounces) cream of coconut
  • 2 cans (12 ounces) evaporated milk
  • ½ can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
  • ½ cups white rum
  • ½ cup gold or spiced rum
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • Nutmeg to taste

In a large container, place the cream of coconut, evaporated milk, sweetened condense milk and white rum.

Pour in the gold or spiced rum. Season with cinnamon and nutmeg to taste (start with ½ teaspoon each). Pour into a blender and stir until well mixed but not too foamy. Place in a glass pitcher and chill for at least an hour to thicken. Before serving and pouring into glasses, mix to break up any thick liquid.

Notes

  • Some coquito recipes do add eggs to this Puerto Rican egg nog, which make this drink thicker. But the fats in the cream of coconut, evaporated milk and sweetened condensed milk help to thicken the coquito over time as it chills in the refrigerator.
  • Try the recipes for egg nog white Russian, egg nog ice cream and Mexican egg nog gelatin for more National Egg Nog Day deliciousness!

Fried Shrimp Dumplings

December 20: National Fried Shrimp Day

Yum yum, dim sum! Fried shrimp dumplings with sweet mayonnaise dipping sauce are Islander’s favorite, among her other top choices of siu mai (pork hash), har gao and char siu so.

Dim sum is literally translated as “touch the heart”. It is not often that we eat at a dim sum restaurant, unless it is for a special occasion or when Phyllis S., our American Chinese friend visits us from San Antonio, Texas (she is a Hawaii ex-pat like Islander). Then we eat dim sum to our heart’s content!

Islander and Phyllis try to make dim sum, too. They make a lot of won ton, egg rolls, manapua (char siu bao), shrimp balls, fried shrimp dumplings, etc., and take home half of the work they do together so they can enjoy the food later with their families. This has become their friendly motto:

Even though we’re far apart…our dim sum will always “touch the heart”!

Make, cook and eat dim sum with a beloved friend, particularly fried shrimp dumplings on National Fried Shrimp Day.

Recipe

For the fried shrimp dumplings

  • 1 pound shrimp, uncooked
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • salt and white pepper to taste
  • round won ton wrappers
  • water for sealing the wrappers
  • oil for frying

Directions

Wash, dry, remove shells and devein the shrimp. Mince finely and place in a mixing bowl. Stir in the egg whites and olive oil.

Stir in the sesame oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix everything well, cover and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to develop and ingredients to stick together.

Place the a tablespoon of filling in the center of a round won ton wrapper. Moisten finger from the water bowl and trace around the edges. Fold and pleat the edges.

Deep fry the shrimp in hot oil until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot with sweet mayonnaise dipping sauce or other favorite sauce (soy, chili or hot sauce).

For the mayonnaise dipping sauce

  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon honey

Directions

In a measuring cup or small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, milk and honey. Transfer to a dipping saucer and serve with hot fried shrimp dumpling.

Notes

  • Cover the won ton wrappers with a moist cloth or paper towel when not using to prevent them from drying out.
  • We hope Phyllis S. visits more often so we can eat dim sum every day while we are together!
  • Make dim sum for the lunar new year or for Asian-inspired tea parties.
  • Find other fried shrimp recipes on our blog for National Fried Shrimp Day.

Honey Scones

December 18: National “I Love Honey” Day

Our wedding anniversary this year happened to coincide with our Scottish clan society’s annual general meeting at which Islander had to present a major project (updating a 35- year-old publication). Although it was a working weekend for us, the appreciative event organizers tried to make our anniversary as memorable as possible. We got a blessing at the clan tent at the highland games in North Carolina (see Notes); the simple ceremony concluded with us drinking a wee dram of whisky from a quaich. At the banquet, Highlander wore his new kilt and Islander wore a tartan ribbon sash and, as advised by our chieftain’s wife, Lady G., a silk floral head wreath using the clan plant (bay laurel leaves), Scottish thistle and white heather (as shown in the photo above). Lady G. said thistles and heather grow all over Scotland but white heather is rare and special and symbolizes good luck in love and marriage.

We have incorporated Scottish heather honey in a scone recipe for National “I Love Honey” Day. Considered the “Rolls Royce” of honey, it made these honey scones the most fragrant out of the oven! But it cost nearly $12USD for a 4-ounce jar of Scottish heather honey. We have tried a few other honey (including organic Hawaiian honey and local Texas honey) for this recipe and they all work wonderfully well. But we wanted to use our prized heather honey for a special Scottish scone to remember our anniversary celebration and celebrate National “I Love Honey” Day.

Recipe

Adapted from “The Honey Book” by Lucille Recht Penner

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cold
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons honey (we used Scottish heather honey)
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • milk

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter and mix until coarse and crumbly. In a mixing cup, blend the egg with honey. Stir it into the flour mixture.

Fold in the raisins. Make the dough into a disc and place onto a clean, well floured surface. Roll to ½ inch thickness. Cut into two-inch rounds. Place on a greased baking sheet at least an inch apart.

Brush milk on top. Bake in a preheated oven at 425 degrees F for 10-12 minutes or until the tops are browned. Remove from oven and cool slightly. Serve warm with butter, clotted cream or jam.

Notes

  • North Carolina also has some good quality honey. There are many vendors selling them on the roadside. We especially love honey barbecue sauce on pork ribs!
  • Search our blog for other scones recipes.

Pecan Noodle Kugel

December 11:National Noodle Ring Day

Even though we lived in San Antonio, Texas, a predominantly Roman Catholic city, Islander befriended a Reformed Jew from the local cake club where they were both members. Charles M. served as chairman of the cake show and Islander was the web and graphic designer for the event. But we had moved to the Gulf Coast in the middle of the planning year and she was very sad to leave her brother and friends. So it made her happy to see Charles just a month after when he came into our new town for a cake class (which took place at a cake shop where meetings were held for the local cake club). Islander eventually became president of that cake club and travels back and forth to different cake shows in Texas throughout the year. Those familiar faces from cake clubs all over Texas make everyone feel connected……

…..Just like the pasta and pecan pieces in the noodle kugel dessert Charles mentioned that some of his fellow Jews would eat around this time of the year in celebration of Hanukkah. The noodles are bound by eggs and the native nuts stick together with a caramelized mixture in a ringed pan. This kugel-cake is different from the cakes that Charles and Islander decorate, but it is a sweet symbolism of far-away friends and family coming together to celebrate a special occasion. Pecan noodle kugel is great to make and serve on Jewish holidays and on National Noodle Ring Day.

Recipe

(Adapted from The Kosher Palette Cookbook)

Ingredients

  • 1 16 ounce package of wide egg noodles
  • 4-6 quarts water (to boil the noodles)
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup brown sugar, packed
  • 6 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup sugar, granulated white
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions

Cook the egg noodles according to the package directions. Drain and set aside in a large mixing bowl.

Generously coat a Bundt or ring pan with cooking spray. In a bowl, combine the melted butter, chopped pecans and brown sugar. Mix well.

Spoon the brown sugar mixture on the bottom of the prepared pan. Beat the eggs and mix with the noodles in the bowl. Stir in the white sugar and salt.

Add the cinnamon to the noodles and mix well. Fill the prepared pan with the noodle mixture over the brown sugar topping. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degree F for an hour.

Remove from the oven and let the kugel cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Loosen the edges with a spatula. Invert it onto a plate. Slice and serve.

Notes

  • Happy Hanukkah to all our Jewish blog readers and friends.

Snow Gentlemen and

Snowflake Cookies

snowflakecookies

December 4: National Cookie Day

‘Tis the season to be baking! As Christmas and the winter season approach, we made some snowflake cookies with bonus snow gentlemen (no top hat, just a cute little bowtie). The dough is flavored with festive crushed candy canes to give the cookies some crunch, color and coolness from the peppermints. Snowflake cookies and snow gentlemen would be picture perfect at holiday parties and be a scrumptious snack, especially on National Cookie Day and throughout the winter season.

Recipe

(Adapted from Sweetopia)

For the cookie dough

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, unsalted, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup crushed candy cane/peppermint candies

Directions

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in the egg. Add the vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and salt.

Gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Mix until a sticky dough is formed. Fold in the crushed candy cane, being careful not to overmix of the dough will turn pink. Roll out dough out into a ball and divide in half. Flatten each ball into a circle between two pieces of waxed paper.

Use a rolling pin to roll to a thickness of ¼ inch. Stack the rolled dough on top of each other and refrigerate until firm (about an hour). Take out one of the flattened dough from the refrigerator. Cut into shapes with cookie cutter. Place on a greased baking sheet two-inches apart.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 10-12 minutes or until the edges start to brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Remove hardened bits of candy from the edges and finish decorating.

For the snowflake fondant decorations

  • Powdered sugar or cornstarch (for dusting the work surface)
  • White fondant
  • Water
  • Luster dust (pearl and silver)

Directions

Dust a clean work surface with a little powdered sugar or cornstarch to prevent the fondant from sticking. Knead some white fondant until pliable. Roll out very thin (about 1/32 inch), being careful not to tear the fondant. It needs to be very thin so that the snowflake cookie stamp leaves a good impression. Dust a little powdered sugar or cornstarch on the cookie cutter to prevent the fondant designs from sticking. Cut out shapes and release with plunger. Keep covered in a plastic zipper top bag to prevent from drying out.

Brush water on a snowflake cookie. Press a matching fondant piece on top. Repeat with all other cookies. Dry brush some luster dust over the fondant. Store unstacked or between sheets of waxed/parchment paper or napkins.

For the snow gentlemen cookies

  • Powdered sugar or cornstarch (for dusting the work surface)
  • Fondant (white, black or dark chocolate, blue and orange)
  • Water

Directions

Dust a clean work surface with a little powdered sugar or cornstarch to prevent the fondant from sticking. Knead some white fondant until pliable. Roll out very thin (about 1/16 inch). Cut out snowperson shapes and keep covered in a plastic zipper top bag to prevent from drying out. Brush water on a snowperson cookie. Press the fondant piece on top, gently stretching to fit the edges as necessary. Repeat with all other cookies.

Knead some black or dark chocolate fondant until pliable. Roll out very thin (about 1/16 inch). Use round tip #7 or #8 to punch out holes for the eyes and buttons. Dot a little water with a thin brush on the white fondant and position the eyes with a toothpick.

Dust the bowtie/ribbon mold with a little powdered sugar or cornstarch to prevent the fondant from sticking. Knead some blue fondant until pliable. Press into the bowtie/ribbon mold. Flatten the back or trim away the excess. Unmold. Add a little water with a thin brush on the white fondant to position the bowtie. Finish adding the buttons in the same manner as the eyes.

Knead some orange fondant until pliable. Roll into a small ball. Shape into a cone/carrot and flatten the bottom. Attach to the white fondant with a little water. Store unstacked until ready to serve on a platter.

Notes

  • Highlander had gifted Islander with the mini snowflake cookie cutter plungers as a Christmas stocking stuffer last year. There were four snowflake designs (and other seasonal shapes) at Michael’s craft stores for $1 each.
  • Search our blog for other cookie recipes for holiday cookie swaps/exchanges and seasonal parties.