The Baking Begins

Diabetics beware!  Do not come within 5 miles of our house for at least the next couple of weeks.  It just isn't safe.

OK.  You've been warned.

Although the high winds we've endured as we entered the Red Zone before the Holidays have done their best to destroy...or at least rearrange...all the outdoor decorations, I'm happy to report that we have escaped relatively unscathed.  It took some hasty hammering of stakes to anchor the Reindeer, but they are still standing as of this A.M.

The one casualty is Santa...he of the blow-up variety.  His chimney filled with water...from the rains and wintry mix...and that turned to solid ice when the temps dropped into the teens.  I attempted to free him from the frozen chunks, and in the process managed to hopelessly entangle one of the motors in the folds of the fabric.  Arrrggghhh.  So, Santa is currently unplugged and in triage, awaiting the arrival of decorating specialist Dr. T from his Baltimore/DC trip on Thursday.

Anyway, it's time to move the action back indoors...or more specifically, to the kitchen!

Making first batch of Christmas Cookies:
Toll House Chocolate Chips
 I asked Mr. T (before he left last week) what the first batch of cookies should be:  chocolate chip (with pecans), oatmeal raisin (his favorite), or butterballs (my favorite).  Diplomatically, he selected the compromise:  chocolate chip (photo, left).

I use the original Toll House recipe from the Nestle's bag, which I have taped inside one of my upper cabinet doors.  To the letter, no changes, believe it or not.  Well, I stand corrected:  I do make larger cookies by using a cookie scooper, so I get fewer cookies for each batch than the recipe says.  No matter.  I love that scooper!  Use it for all the dough-type cookies.  My cookie sheets (2) can each hold 13 cookies (in a staggered pattern of 3+2+3+2+3), so I get 26 cookies per 6 more to freeze for the Emergency Bake.  Like when Mr. T is on his way home...and I've eaten all the cookies in the house...and he wants one/some when he walks in the back door.  Ahem.

Next up after the cookies came the first batch of Nuts 'n Bolts.  That's Mom's name for Chex Party Mix, which she's been making during the Holidays since I was a child.  That link is pretty close to her recipe, although she used Wheat Chex (I didn't this time), and we always use broken pieces of bagel chips instead of the croutons.  I didn't have any Cheerios, but I did have a box of Crispix; I substituted cup-for-cup, and it turned out fine.  Of course, in our family, we are rather heavy-handed with the Worchestershire sauce in everything, and we always use more than a dash of Tabasco.  Tee hee.

First a sweet treat, then a salty.  Next up:  a little bit of both!

I microwave-melted a cup of Nestle's White Chocolate Chips with 1 T. of Crisco (don't try this with anything other than Crisco; not butter...not oil...not margarine) in a Pyrex measuring cup.  Then, I dipped pretzel sticks in the melted chocolate, one at a time.  Let these cool/harden on wax paper-lined cookie sheet.  When I got down to the bottom of the cup and could no longer dip the sticks, I threw in some pecan halves.  All good!

Bread...and really neat bread keeper
with slicing guides
 On Monday, it was a couple of loaves of bread (photo to right).  I used a basic white bread recipe and added 1/3 cup of mashed potatoes to the dough, just before the first kneading.  Oh yes...!  Bread is good, and the house always smells fantastic!

A note:  I absolutely love this bread keeper we have.  It has a bread slicing guide, built right it.  A real handy-dandy tool.

Today, I'm planning on making Baltimore Butterballs.  (Mr. T is out-of-town, so I got to make the decision...:)  These are also called Snowballs, Crescent Cookies, Swedish Wedding cookies...among other names.  Whatever.  My recipe, which I have used for years...and the exact cookbook origins of which are lost in time...calls for finely ground pecans rather than walnuts, like that link says, but the result is similar.  Once you roll them in confectioners' sugar (twice!), you won't know which nut is inside!  Or care.

That leaves the following on the Christmas baking list:  oatmeal raisin, no-bake oatmeal, homemade fudge, Microwave Pralines, Anne's Cut-out cookies, and Hello Dollies.  Another batch of Nuts 'n Bolts. A Rudolph cake for this weekend's family get-together.  Some cheese wafers for Mom.  And, last but not least, a Coconut Cake for Christmas Day. 

Better stop blogging and get busy!


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