Tea Time

I’ve started drinking hot tea some evenings. Hot tea seems to go well with cold weather. I especially like the Twinings natural peppermint herbal tea. After you’ve steeped it for four minutes– which is what the packet commands — the room is thick with a minty fragrance. Add some milk, and you’ve got a tasty, warming libation the fortifies you against the winter chill.

Drinking hot tea reminds me of my childhood, when Grandma Neal would watch us grandkids and have us drink tea with her in the afternoon. The tea kettle would shriek, the hot water would be poured into the teapot, and as the tea steeped Grandma Neal would set out a small container of milk, honey, a sugar bowl, and a plate of shortbread. We’d make our tea and sit carefully drinking out of china cups on saucers, dunking the shortbread into our cups of milky tea and trying to eat the result without making too much of a mess.

It all seemed very elegant. It was only years later that I realized that Grandma probably used “tea time” to get a rest. If the grandkids were sitting drinking hot tea and eating cookies, that meant they weren’t tearing around her house causing havoc.

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De Coal Pot

Yesterday we went off in search of authentic Caribbean cuisine. Our search led us to de Coal Pot, a nifty little restaurant near the Cruz Bay harbor that serves the spicy Caribbean food you crave. Given the enormous portions they serve, if you go there expect a long, tasty, relaxing feast.

I got the curried chicken, which came with three — 3! — sides. I went for the spicy rice and peas, fried plantains, and french fries, and ended up needing a take-home box for the plantains. The curried chicken had that rich curry flavor and was served bone-in, so it had extra flavor and super-moist texture. It was wonderful. Because of the bones, deft knife and fork work was required to extricate the meat, which then paired perfectly with the peas and rice. I shoveled in great heaping forkfuls, washed down with ice-cold Presidente beer. The french fries were a nice complement, too.

Our group’s orders included curried goat, which drew raves, a grouper sandwich, and several rotis, which are a kind of local wrap. We really liked de Coal Pot, and I’m thinking we’ll find our way back there again before this trip is through. What’s the Caribbean without legit Caribbean food?

Tin Time

Last night I finished baking and icing the sugar cookies, and this morning I got up extra early to put all of the cookies into their holiday tins for delivery. Then — and this is especially important, because baking and frosting cookies is of necessity a highly messy, creative process (for me at least) — I cleaned the kitchen and returned it to its pristine, pre-cookie frenzy state.

There’s a certain glow of satisfaction in finishing up, and I will enjoy a cup of coffee and some orange juice while I fill out my address labels. I’m ready for Christmas!

Baking Day — 2018

We’ve gotten an early start on Baking Day this year. The necessary ingredients were purchased yesterday, I’ve got my baking/chilling/mixing plan laid out, the Dutch spice cookie mix is ready to go into the refrigerator to chill, and the Christmas music playlist is in full swing on the iPod. (I ‘m listening to Burl Ives’ bouncy Holly Jolly Christmas as I write this.)

I always really enjoy this day. Baking cookies is just fun.

Going Through The Stack

Each year, a key step in the cookie-baking process is going through my stack of tried and true recipes — some of which were singed around the edges by s close encounter with a stovetop in 2014 — and deciding what to make this year. After the recipes are selected, it’s time to prepare the shopping list and hit the neighborhood grocery store before the morning rush really starts.

Every year, I try the new recipes I’ve posted on the blog, so that decision is easy enough. And for me, at least, it wouldn’t really be Christmas without iced sugar cutout cookies and Dutch spice cookies, so they’re in, too. And people seem to really like the cranberry hootycreeks, and they’re fun to make, so they’re in, too.

But what else should be pulled out of the stack? It’s decision time!

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2018 (III)

When I’m trying to figure out what to bake each Christmas, whether something looks like it would be tasty is always the first and most important criterion.  Once that threshold is passed, however, I’m always looking for something with color and texture that will add a little dash to the cookie tins, and I also like to try recipes that are different from what I already prepare.

This recipe, which I found on the www.dinneratthezoo.com website, meets all of those requirements.  The cookies are made with cornflakes, which sounds intriguing, they look great, and they are “no bake” cookies that supposedly can be made in 10 minutes — which is something I’ve not tried before.

Christmas Wreath Cookies

christmas-wreath-cookies-683x1024Ingredients:  1 stick of butter (1/2 cup); 30 large marshmallows; 1 and 1/4 teaspoon liquid green food coloring; 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract; 5 cups cornflakes; 1/2 cup red candy coated chocolates such as mini M&M’s; cooking spray

Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.  Place the marshmallows and butter in a large bowl, and microwave them in 30 second increments until melted.  Add the green food coloring and vanilla and stir until the marshmallow mixture is smooth.  Add the cornflakes to the bowl and gently stir to coat the cereal evenly with the marshmallow mixture.
Pack the mixture into a greased 1/4 cup measuring cup, then turn the mixture out onto the sheet pan. Use your fingers to make a hole in the middle to form a wreath shape and decorate with red candies. (The recommendation from the website is that it’s easiest to form the wreath holes if your fingers are damp or coated in cooking spray.)  Cool completely until firm and serve.

 

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2018 (II)

Every would-be cookie baker needs a taster — that person who will sample your fare and tell you whether the batch is brilliant . . . or a bust.  I’m blessed to have the greatest taster of all under our roof, so when Kish sent along some holiday cookie recipes from the New York Times I had to pick one to try this year.  I like coconut, so this was my choice.

Toasted Coconut Shortbread

merlin_146903328_7ae9fcfc-36b5-47f1-b4da-ae60eb1a466d-articlelargeIngredients:  2 1/4 sticks cold salted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces; 1/2 cup granulated sugar; 1/4 cup light brown sugar; 1 teaspoon vanilla extract; 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour; 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (plus more for rolling); 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon; 1 large egg, well beaten; sanding sugar

Using an electric mixer and medium bowl, beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light and fluffy.  Use a spatula to scrape down sides of bowl, then put mixer on low speed and slowly add flour, followed by 1/2 cup coconut and beat until blended.

Divide dough in half and place each half on a piece of plastic wrap.  Sprinkle each piece of dough with half of the cinnamon, then fold plastic over to cover dough and use your hands to form dough into a log shape about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.  Chill logs in the refrigerator for 1 1/2 hours, until they are firm.

Heat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Brush outside of logs with egg wash, then roll logs in unsweetened coconut.  Slice each log into 1/4-inch rounds.  Dip each round on one side into sanding sugar and arrange on backing sheet, sugar side up, 1 inch apart.  Bake cookies 10-12 minutes, until edges are just beginning to brown.

Calling For Christmas Cookie Recipes — 2018