Christmas Desserts and Family Traditions

The QuipperyThe Fruitcake

Have you ever thought what it must be like to be a Fruit Cake? Made weeks or months in advance of Christmas Dinner, it is left to steep in whatever secret ingredient is used to give it that special flavour (I prefer rum). It is briefly admired as it is paraded down the catwalk of the dessert tray – then ignored by a bunch of carnivores who have just devoured half of a gigantic turkey.

I’ve always liked Fruit Cake. Back in the days when I’d do lots of Christmas baking, I’d serve it with Rum Hard Sauce. It is a simple recipe. Beat 3-4 tablespoons of butter (though my recipe says margarine because back then it was much cheaper than butter.) Add 1 cup of icing sugar, 1/4 cup rum, and 1/8 cup milk. Beat and chill before serving.

In a 1983 New York Times column titled “Fruitcake Is Forever,” Russell Baker claimed to be in possession of a fruitcake that a long-dead relative had baked in 1794 as a Christmas gift for President George Washington. Washington allegedly sent it back with a note explaining that it was “unseemly for Presidents to accept gifts weighing more than 80 pounds, even though they were only eight inches in diameter.
– Mental Floss –

The Sugar Cookie

The Fruit Cake’s nemesis is the Sugar Cookie sitting next to it on the platter. The Sugar Cookie, made just that morning, is unaware that it will be the hands down favourite. It may or may not have been tarted up with icing and silver sprinkles – but it will be devoured. Every last crumb will be gone by the time the last guest has headed  home with a tupperware container full of turkey and mashed potatoes. The Fruit Cake will sit untouched and forlorn on the platter – much to the delight of the hostess who created it (and loves any dessert that contains booze or chocolate or fruit or all three.) It is just a matter of time, however, before the last of the Fruit Cake is also devoured (as is the eggnog) and the hostess – well, she has gained five pounds in weight. (I speak from experience.)

Gingerbread

Baking and decorating Gingerbread is a tradition in our family. I’ve written about this in the past (Line up the Usual Suspects and How to Plan a Gingerbread Party.)

Rum Balls

Rum Ball making has become one of my son-in-law’s traditions. Each year he tries to increase the amount of rum, yet maintain the consistency of the dough such that it can be rolled into balls. Needless to say, Rum Balls are for adults only. Rum Ball rolling is time consuming and is usually done in front of the TV set while watching a movie. In years gone by, the traditional movie for the job was Amadeas. Don’t ask me why it has to be that movie – it is just the right movie for the job.

My eldest daughter decided to introduce Rum Ball making to her family this year. Her post began

Turns out, twenty-two years is enough time to forget a recipe. Although, as I stood in the grocery store calling my younger sister (wife of the rum ball making son-in-law) to find out what almond paste was, it occurred to me that I might not have actually made this recipe before. I did participate in the ritual of drinking wine, watching a movie and rolling. I’m just not sure I ever assembled the ingredients and then mixed them up in such a huge bowl.

Carrot Cake

Huh? Carrot Cake doesn’t seem like a traditional Christmas dessert – but it is just about my favourite treat other than something made with dark chocolate. We have done extensive testing of store bought carrot cake and the Fountain Hills AZ Safeway store makes a carrot cake to die for! Since it is just going to be two of us for Christmas dinner this year, quick and simple Safeway carrot cake is the way to go!

What are your traditional Christmas Desserts?

Indoor Cold Storage – Project Accomplished!

New fridge

The new fridge finally arrived. Twice actually. The first time, the delivery truck couldn’t negotiate the deep snow in our drive way and had to abort the mission. With little hope that the snow would melt before spring, The Car Guy abandoned his plan to mow the grass one more time this fall. He removed the mower from the tractor and installed the snow blade. I helped him. We had some brief discussions about either buying a new tractor with easier implement changing, or moving to the city…

Two days later the fridge was delivered. If you have been following the Fridge in the Middle Story, you will note that the fridge just fit into the cabinet and all is right in the kitchen again. Now, and here is the ‘cool’ part, we have a water and ice dispenser – and not just cubed ice – crushed ice too!

Think of the summer drink possibilities – except now it is fall.

Fridge with a graphic filter

Or, it should be fall except  winter arrived first. The two seasons have been exchanging blows – snow, some melting, more snow, some more melting. Today we are back into snow.

I tried to dig the potatoes during one of the melting spells, but the garden was one large mud patch. It just wasn’t worth the effort for a bucket full of potatoes. It really is too bad, because the hills I did dig yielded very few potatoes, but they weren’t scabby. First time ever. The weather forecast says we return to normal fall weather next week. Maybe I’ll get the spuds out of the ground yet.

Spuds, taters – is there another word for potatoes in your part of the world?

I bought a big bag of potatoes and it’s growing eyes like crazy. Other foods rot. Potatoes want to see.
– Bill Callahan, Letters to Emma Bowlcut –

Another snow day

Fridge in the Middle

The Car Guy and I decided to replace our refrigerator. It is over 20 years old and well past its ‘best before’ date.

This is a haiku
Haiku’s don’t have to make sense
Refrigerator
– Author Unknown –

The appliance store had so many fridges to choose from – at least, that is what we thought when we first walked in the door! But, as our sales associate, Todd, walked us through the choices, it became clear that our new fridge would be ‘one of a kind’. Yes, if we wanted a fridge with an ice maker/water dispenser, with two upper doors and a lower freezer, that would fit in the space we had, in the colour white (to match the appliances we weren’t replacing) – our selection was one fridge.

So we ordered the fridge. It was supposed to be delivered in a week – two weeks tops! That was almost two months ago.

On a very local scale, a refrigerator is the center of the universe. On the inside is food essential to life, and on the outside of the door is a summary of the life events of the household.
– Robert Fulghum –

In the meantime, my old fridge is in a ‘not so convenient’ place in the kitchen. The Car Guy had to pull it out so that he could add the plumbing for the ice maker/water dispenser. He also had to raise the cabinet above the fridge by one inch.

He didn’t move the fridge back into the fridge ‘home’ because the fridge is heavy, awkward to move and only fits into the space if you give it a mighty shove… and the new fridge might arrive any day now!

Figuring out why people who choose not to do something don’t in fact do it is like attempting to interview the elves who live inside your refrigerator but come out only when the light is off.
– Eileen Pollack –

A fridge in the middle of the room seemed like a huge inconvenience initially. Now it is merely a mild annoyance. We can still use the fridge, even if the doors don’t open all the way. We can still get to the coffee maker and we can squeeze by the fridge to get from one room to another!

My theory on housework is, if the item doesn’t multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one else cares. Why should you?
– Erma Bombeck –

In the grand scheme of  Red House Renos, the ‘fridge in the middle’ is way down the list of projects that seemed to take forever to finish!

Open your refrigerator door, and you summon forth more light than the total amount enjoyed by most households in the 18th century. The world at night, for much of history, was a very dark place indeed.
– Bill Bryson –

What is the oldest appliance in your house? Which one would you love to replace?

How many times have you been watching an episode of ‘South Park’ and thought, ‘I’d like to be able to watch this on my television while hooked into my mobile device, which is being controlled by my tablet device which is hooked into my oven, all while sitting in the refrigerator?’
– Trey Parker –

I’d Rather Be… Here than There

March is a strange month.

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.
― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations –

I’d rather be here where it is warm:

Warm and sunny Arizona

Than there where it is cold:

Cold and snowy Alberta

This week’s WordPress.com Photo Challenge is I’d Rather Be…

Where would you rather be?

Christmas Tree

Christmas – there is, perhaps, no other time of the year when Peace and Goodwill is more prevalent. That is what makes Christmas my favorite time of the year and my Christmas Tree my favorite photo this month.

My Christmas Tree is full of decorations that are either home made or from little shops all over the world. There is even something from Qatar where local merchants take a multi-prong approach to marketing for every major holiday, even non-Muslim ones!

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us!

 

They are green when summer days are bright,
They are green when winter snow is white.

 

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree,
Your branches green delight us!
– English version of O Tannenbaum by Ernst Anschütz –

 

The Christmas Tree in Canada:  Advent calendars, gingerbread houses, cookies and Christmas trees were all introduced by German settlers who migrated to Canada from the United States in the 1700’s. But it was Queen Victoria’s German husband, Prince Albert, who solidified the Christmas tree tradition when he put up a Christmas tree at Windsor Castle in 1848.

We have a Tannenbaum forest here at the Red House, but my Christmas Tree is a very realistic, artificial tree – I don’t want my forest to think of me as a tree killer…

Are you ready for Christmas, or are there still lots of things to tick off your list before you can say, “It’s a Wrap!”

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Favorite.

Water Fountain Bubble

I could have (okay I did) spend hours one afternoon in front of a water fountain – taking photos of ‘never two the same’ Shape Shifting Blobs and impressively big Bubbles.

Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,

Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,

For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.

– William Shakespeare –

Pumpkin Meets Drill – Cårven Der Pümpkîn – Mirthy Monday (Video)

A well-rounded and compact head – a good description of a cabbage, but it works for a pumpkin too!

drilled hole design

This year I used a drill to make almost perfect round holes in my jack-o’-lantern. (Did you know that the term jack-o’-lantern comes from an Irish folktale? Large turnips and potatoes were used by the Irish in Ireland, but they switched to the readily available pumpkins when they came to America.)

holes drilled zentangle design

‘Jack’ doesn’t look all that handsome in the daylight, but he really ‘shines’ in the dark!

When I was looking for a quotation about pumpkins, I found a musing by Alexander McCall Smith. It reminded me of transporting my pumpkins last year.  I secured them in the back seat of the Jeep and briefly thought about what quiet, friendly companions they were.

The pumpkin looked delicious—almost perfectly round and deep yellow in colour, it sat on the passenger seat beside her so comfortably as she drove out of the car park, so pleased to be what it was, that she imagined conducting a conversation with it… And the pumpkin would remain silent, of course, but would somehow indicate that it knew what she was talking about, that there were similar issues in the world of pumpkins.

There was no harm, she thought, in allowing your imagination to run away with you, as a child’s will do, because the thoughts that came in that way could be a comfort, a relief in a world that could be both sad and serious. Why not imagine a talk with a pumpkin? Why not imagine going off for a drive with a friendly pumpkin, a companion who would not, after all, answer back; who would agree with everything you said, and would at the end of the day appear on your plate as a final gesture of friendship?
– Alexander McCall Smith, The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine –

Happy Halloween, all!

(Is it still called Halloween in your community schools, or has it been changed to Black and Orange Spirit Day?)

There is a growing list of Halloween costumes that have been described as inappropriate because they are negative representations. Lynda Davis, at BoomerBroadcast wonders: “If I answer the door dressed as myself, an aging baby boomer in a comfortable T-shirt and yoga pants will I offend my entire generation?”

Cårven Der Pümpkîn | Recipes with The Swedish Chef | The Muppets

This weeks’ WordPress.com Photo Challenge is Rounded.

Layered Treats – S’mores and Rice Krispies

There are many layers of history for the ingredients in this  S’mores and Rice Krispies® recipe!

Chocolate has been around for more than 2000 years. Sweetened chocolate didn’t appear until Europeans discovered the Americas and sampled the native chocolate drink, which was bitter. They added sugar, and by the 17th century, chocolate was a fashionable drink.

Marshmallows were originally a plant based product that was used for centuries for medicinal purposes. When the plant sap was replaced by gelatin in the late 1800’s, today’s marshmallow was born. In 1927, the Girl Scouts Handbook came out with a recipe for ‘Some More’ which quickly became ‘Smores’.

Graham crackers are made from Graham flour, which is named after it’s inventor Sylvester Graham who began making them in the 1830’s.

Kellogg’s Rice Krispies® debuted in 1927. Their Rice Krispies Marshmallow Treats® recipe was first advertised in 1940. It became a popular food for mailing to service people abroad.

Here is how you put all these things together to make this layered treat! You’ll need:
* 10 oz miniature or regular size marshmallows (2 cups miniature Marshmallows or about 30 large Marshmallows)
* 1/4 cup butter
* 5 cups Rice Krispies cereal
* 3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
* 7 oz jar marshmallow creme (To make your own marshmallow cream, melt 30 large marshmallows with 2 tbsp light corn syrup)
* enough chocolate chips or chocolate bars to make the final layer (and to eat while you are cooking).

You’ll preheat your oven to 200 degrees and line a 10X15 pan or tray with parchment paper.
In a pot, combine the marshmallows with the butter. Heat and stir until well blended. Stir in the cereal and graham cracker crumbs.
Press the mixture into the prepared pan. Spread the marshmallow creme on top with a spatula. Sprinkle the chocolate on top. (By licking all the spoons, spatulas, and pots, you can do your initial quality testing…)

Place the pan in the oven or about two minutes, or until the chocolate melts. Remove from the oven and spread the chocolate. Let cool for 10 minutes.

Starting at one end, carefully roll the layered concoction up like a cinnamon roll. Peel the parchment paper away as you roll. Pinch the seam when you finish rolling.
Place seam side down, and refrigerate for half an hour, or until the chocolate has set. Slice and serve!

My other S’mores recipes are at How to Make S’Mores – Traditional and Super Simple

This week’s WordPress.com Photo Challenge is Layered

These Things Match up with Things on my Wants List

565-save-time

Sometimes it is best if The Car Guy just agrees with me…

565-bird-house-bench

This bench would be perfect on my patio! Too bad it is in a store in Calgary, not Phoenix.

565-neon-sign-dads-garageThis would be perfect in The Car Guys garage.
Too bad it was in a store in Phoenix and not in a store in Calgary.

565-cereal-and-ice-cream

Ice Cream and cereal and fruit – a good match when I’m out of milk and yogurt.

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is A Good Match.

Christmas 2016 – Santa and the North Pole

558-christmas-tree

Christmas is very nearly here, and I’d like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas, and All the Best in the New Year. As you can see from this photo of my Christmas tree, I’m all ready for Santa to visit.  I anticipate one very nicely wrapped medium sized gift of the hair drying appliance variety!

For better or for worse, Christmas is a time for gifts and giving. Who knows that better than Santa – and Wal-Mart, Costco and Tesco, to name just a few of the larger retailers!

While it is easy to walk into the familiar brick and mortar stores in communities around the world, it is quite impossible to visit Santa’s establishment. There are several reasons for this. First, of course, is the fact that Santa is not a retailer. He is the owner of a factory and distribution outlet. His business model simply does not include on-site sales.

Then there is the issue of the location of his  facility. It is, according to lore, at the North Pole – a place that isn’t even located on a land mass. It is nearly in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, and  is almost permanently covered with constantly shifting sea ice. So, even if you could get to the North Pole, you might find Santa’s factory at the designated GPS location or it might be miles (kilometers) away in an undetermined direction.

The North Pole, in the winter, is a very cold place. Winter temperatures can range from about −50 to −13 °C (−58 to 9 °F). It is quite inhospitable. Despite that, several countries have laid claims to these icy high seas (Canada, Norway, Russia and Denmark.) It could be decades before their claims are scrutinized by the United Nations and one of them is declared the owner. When that happens, Santa, Mrs. Claus and all the elves will have to apply for citizenship, I suppose. The paperwork will be monumental…

While you may not be able to visit Santa at his home, you can certainly mail him a letter. Canada has assigned the North Pole a Postal Code, so letters to Santa can be mailed to North Pole, H0H 0H0. Finland says Santa’s official office is in their country and his address is Tähtikuja 1, 96930 Arctic Circle. There is place called the North Pole in Alaska, USA. Letters to that Santa can be mailed to North Pole Postmark Postmaster, 4141 Postmark Drive, Anchorage, AK 99530-9998. In the UK, Santa’s letters go to Santa/Father Christmas, Santa’s Grotto, Reindeerland, XM4 5HQ. In Australia, letters may be mailed to Santa, NORTH POLE 9999. Santa has other addresses in other countries and these can be found at a site called Letters to Santa.

I’ll end this post with a burning question – should the North Pole become part of any country at all? By extension, should Santa have to become a citizen of any country, and if yes, which country do you think it should be?

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Anticipation.