Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Recipes I Tried for Christmas Eve

Alton Brown's Cooked Eggnog and Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate were two new recipes I tried for Christmas Eve.

Due to popular demand, I'm posting both recipes here. They are both worth making---truly delicious.

Make these for your New Year's Eve or New Year's Day gathering.

Alton Brown's Cooked Eggnog

4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 tablespoon
1 pint whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
3 ounces bourbon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
4 egg whites*

(I added a teaspoon of vanilla to the mixture at the same time I stirred in the bourbon.)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually add the 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until it is completely dissolved. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, over high heat, combine the milk, heavy cream and nutmeg and bring just to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and gradually temper the hot mixture into the egg and sugar mixture. Then return everything to the pot and cook until the mixture reaches 160 degrees F. Remove from the heat, stir in the bourbon, pour into a medium mixing bowl or pitcher, and set in the refrigerator to chill.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. With the mixer running gradually add the 1 tablespoon of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Whisk the egg whites into the chilled mixture.

My suggestion: Serve the eggnog in decorative glasses. Garnish with a sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg.

Slow Cooker Hot Chocolate

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
6 cups whole milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

In slow cooker (Crock Pot), stir together heavy cream, milk, vanilla and chocolate chips. Cover and cook on low for 3 hours, stirring occasionally, until chocolate chips have melted and mixture is hot. Stir again before serving. Top with your favorite fixings! Mini-marshmallows are a nice touch.

Refrigerate any leftovers. We froze our leftovers and the frozen concoction is wonderful. We call it "Frozen Hot Chocolate" and eat it in bowls with spoons, like ice cream.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Chocolate Crinkles from Memories Around the Table

Make these Chocolate Crinkles for your Christmas celebrations. They're easy to make and great for chocolate lovers! The recipe comes from my cookbook, Memories Around the Table: Treasured Recipes, and is in memory of Margaret Garman, mom to my friend, Barb Eyster.

Chocolate Crinkles
Margaret Esther Garman
June 21, 1926 ~ May 10, 2012

1 cup cocoa
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups white sugar (I usually use less)
4 eggs
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons buttermilk
For dipping
Powdered sugar
White sugar

Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate the dough overnight. When ready to bake, take the dough out and roll it into small balls. Dip each in white sugar and then in powdered sugar. Bake at 350⁰ F. for 8-10 minutes.
Don't over bake.

Merry Christmas!

Memories Around the Table is available at Amazon and at my Rivers of Life Gift Shop.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The cookie recipe from inside a novel

The aunt in my novel loves cookies. Here's a recipe from the novel.

Recipe for Aunt Kazuko’s Oatmeal Raisin Cookies (1946) from the new novel, Under the Silk Hibiscus by Alice J. Wisler (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 ½ cups rolled oats
2/3 cup buttermilk
½ cup chopped nuts
1 cup seedless raisins
Cream shortening, blend in sugar and add egg. Beat until smooth and light. Sift flour with salt, soda and cinnamon. Stir half the flour in with egg mixture; add milk, the rest of flour, and then oats, nuts and raisins. Stir till well mixed. Drop from a teaspoon onto a buttered baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F. for 10 minutes or until nicely browned. Yields about 36 cookies.

Book blurb for Under the Silk Hibiscus:
During World War Two, fifteen-year-old Nathan and his family are sent to Heart Mountain, an internment camp in Wyoming for Japanese-Americans. Nathan desires to protect the family's gold pocket watch, a family heirloom brought over from Japan. He fails; the watch is stolen. Struggling to make sense of his life in “the land of freedom” as the only responsible man of the household, Nathan discovers truths about his family, God, and the girl he loves. Get a copy of Under the Silk Hibiscus here.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Dear Santa, just get me through the season!

It's that season again, the one where we are supposed to feel joyful. Excited, as the commercials on TV tell us that new cars and diamonds bring happiness. Festive, as recipes for desserts circle social media. In love with our extended families, even though we haven't spoken to them since last Christmas.

But what if you just feel blah?

The problem with feeling like Scrooge is that we think we're alone. That's because few are brave enough to step up and admit, "I hate this season." "I want to sleep it away." "I don't care about any of it."

My psychiatrists friends are busy this season, not with baking pies and going to parties, but with clients who ask for help. "Just get me through Thanksgiving and Christmas," one of my friend's patients said.

When the season presents itself as a huge undertaking and there is no energy for it, sometimes that's all we ask: Just get me through it.

Forget the shopping, the sales, the glitter, the fun.

I remember feeling like that for the first Christmases after Daniel died. Take a dirty rag, wipe the sky and everything around me with it, and that was how I felt. To avoid the usual Christmas tradition, which Daniel would no longer be part of, we left Durham. Our first Christmas was in Greensboro at an Embassy Suites. The next was in the Outer Banks, the third without him was at a beach in Virginia. We left the house where Daniel had celebrated four Christmases and did something different.

And we lived through those early agonizing holidays without him.

Those experiences help me to see that others also find Christmas to be hard. You don't have to have had a death of a precious child to feel distraught during the season. You might be going through other calamities----the loss of a marriage, a job, declining health, or the loss of even hope.

Perhaps deciding not to believe the myth that everybody else has great plans or is happy will help as you make your way through December and into the new year. Perhaps journaling will benefit you as you pour your frustrations and fears onto paper. A meditative walk might give you new focus.

Others might suggest reaching out to those who are less fortunate is the answer. But when you're trying to hold your life together, you may not have any ability to reach out to anyone. Praying might even be more of a wrestling match than a time of solace and mercy. You might just want to put on a slow song, set the timer and give yourself permission to cry for five good long minutes.

This season could be just plodding through one day at a time. I'm no psychiatrist, but from my own sorrow, I would say: Allow yourself to plod. Not feeling joyous at Christmas is not a punishable crime. Besides, to be honest, no one is experiencing every day of the month with bright smiles and sugary bliss, even those who appear to be.

The season will end, and at the end, you can say that you survived. It might not seem like a big feat, but deep down, you will know that it's a big accomplishment. The skills you discover might come in handy for other times when life is tough.

After all, life is all about adjusting and adapting. To live is to struggle. Don't believe anyone who tells you that life is meant to be a bowl of happiness.

Even the son of God, whose birh we celebrate at Christmas, came into a suffering world to suffer. He knows just how dismal being human can be. And He reaches out to all, offering peace, love, and hope.

Struggling with getting out of bed in the morning? This little devotional might help.