Time to clear the deck and get all those recipe clippings out of the to-do pile. For years, I have organized recipes in binders. I tear them out of magazines and clip them from newspapers. I jot down a family recipe or receive one in email after a party. In the past, I kept this all very neat. Of late, I had had really let it go. There was a grouping in front of one binder of the last-added recipes. This was the on-deck group for sorting later in the proper, existing binder sections. Then, there was the grouping collecting dust in a magazine rack. The turn of the new year beckoned as the right time to literally sort out this recipe madness. The other challenge was I have three binders. One is for desserts and easily identifiable as such. With the other two, I tend to grab the wrong one for meats or salads. All that was needed is a label on the binding of each with a rundown of the contents. This is one of those really simple tasks I just normally don’t get around to do addressing. It really only took a half-hour or so to collect the stray recipes, organize them, file them and label the binders. The best part? I added a new section of smoothie recipes to start the year with a healthy kick.
Our family Christmas traditions include trimming the tree together, writing riddles on gift tags about the presents within the wrapping, and baking butter cookies with cutout shapes. Last summer, while visiting family in Vermont, I found a palm tree cookie cutter at a bake shop and decided it would be perfect for Gulf Coast Christmas cookies. We live in Houston, which is full of palm trees. Also, there may have been palm trees surrounding the Nativity in Bethlehem, making the shape even more appropriate for the holiday. This year was the first for the palm tree Christmas cookie and I used the occasion to alter my mother’s basic butter cookies recipe. In addition to butter, sugar, vanilla and flour, I added a bit of orange extract, a pinch of ginger and a healthy sprinkle of cinnamon. Some of the cookies were sprinkled with colored sugar, in line with tradition, while others were pressed with mini chocolate chips and chopped cranberries.
I decided to try something new for me as well by making pretzel bark. I simple smashed up pretzels in their bag and smashed up some pecans in their bag. A rolling pin comes in very hand for this task. In a big bowl, I mixed the smashed pieces with chopped cranberries and then poured it out onto wax paper in a jelly roll. Finally, I drizzled on melted chocolate and melted white chocalate. That went into the fridge for a couple of hours before being broken into pieces. This turned out rather good, but I need to work on my chocolate melting and spreading technique. The proportion of pretzel to chocolate may have been too pretzel heavy. Still, it tastes delicious, especially if you are a chocolate fiend like me. After putting together the Christmas cookies and chocolate, I could not wait to get on a plane to visit my family in Vermont. Although the forecasts suggested otherwise, I was hoping for at least a hint of a white Christmas. When I packed up my vehicle to head to the airport in Houston, it was balmy and pouring rain. When the plane landed in Boston, it was warm and you could see the snow-less ground. I brought the rain system with me, thanks to El Nino, and we are gathered around in rainy Vermont for our family Christmas, butter cookies and all.