Friday, December 30, 2011

Savor the Season - Good Luck Foods for New Years

By Karla Jones Seidita

Everyone has a good luck food to eat at the stroke of midnight.

They vary from culture to culture, region to region but they all have the same thing in common..... they promise good health, good luck and prosperity in the coming New Year.

Lentils have long symbolized wealth and prosperity for the New Year because they're said to resemble a dish filled with coins.   

Greens also symbolize money but they also symbolize good health…. which many believe is the real wealth.    Cabbage, kale and collards all count no matter how you serve them.   

Sauerkraut counts as a green, too, even though it looks white, because it's made from cabbage which is green... well, light green anyway.

Eating Hoppin John (black eyed peas) is the traditional Southern way to insure wealth and prosperity.  

Pork and ham symbolize a prosperous New Year, too.
Pigs dig forward with their snouts.   Moving forward is good.

Fish is another good choice.  
Fish swim forward and never look back plus their scales are said to resemble coins.  What's better than a fish swimming out to meet you covered in money?

And let's not forget dessert.  
Fritters, doughnuts, cakes and sweet breads with coins or rings inside.

Seems like fried or heavily layered with butter are keys to health, good luck  and prosperity…..funny, the rest of the year they are taboo.  Oh, well, guess you shouldn't mess with tradition.   
Foods to stay away from?
Chicken and lobster. 

When chickens scratch their claws on the ground, the dirt they scratch moves backwards.  Lobsters, trying to walk on land, shuffle about in a backwards motion.   Backwards is bad.

So, even if chicken and lobster are your favorites, steer clear of them for New Years.  You just can't take any chances….especially if you've had a rough year! 

No matter what the tradition, there's a good luck, good health and prosperity food to eat on New Years.

But which one to choose?
Better not take any chances… have some of everything!  

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Savor the Season - Winter, The Gift of Rest

By Karla Jones Seidita, Home Economist

The seasons are a gift of time..... time to sow, time to reap and time to rest.

Winter is the time to rest.

With all the hustle bustle of the holidays, it's hard to rest but that's exactly what Mother Nature intended during this cold, dark time of year.

Rest isn't a bad thing.

You don't take to your bed to wait out winter.
You don't stop living or miss out on the celebrations of the season.

Rest is simply the time to look inward.

Winter is the time for introspective pursuits, snuggling down and warming foods.

It's a time for body maintenance, alternative activities and planning for spring.

The extended hours of darkness make it all so much easier.... just like nature intended.

You'd never run your car 24/7 without regular down time and maintenance yet that's exactly how we run our bodies then scold them when they break down.

When you give your body rest, you regroup, energize and gather yourself for positive steps forward into spring.

Celebrate winter as a season of rest.

Work with Mother Nature not against her.
You'll be healthier for it!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Savor the Season - For Better Health No Cooking Allowed

By Karla Jones Seidita, Home Economist

Yes, raw berries on a festive
Christmas cake counts as a
serving of enzymes!

I went grocery shopping yesterday and was deeply saddened by what I saw.

Being Christmas, the store was packed and carts were piled high but the people all looked so unhealthy.  No one seemed to be happy even in this season of joy.

They were grossly over weight, coughing, sneezing with tortuously bad skin... desperate to be freed from their bodily prisons.

The children were no better and perhaps worse since they were far too young to have these maladies.

But taking a look into their grocery carts, it was easy to see why they suffered needlessly.  Their carts were filled with life-less food.

Oh, I saw a lot of people checking labels for fat and sodium and they had plenty of festive, yummy fare in their carts - that's for sure - but what they didn't have was live food.

That's the key to good health... live food.

Now what does that food???

Well, live food is food that contains natural enzymes.

While cooked and processed food may contain nutrients, they do not contain enzymes.  Enzymes are the keys that unlock the cells so nutrients can slip inside. Without enzymes, your body is just getting by.

Prepared entrees, cookies, chips, drink mixes, bottled orange juice, canned soups even canned vegetables... are all sources of calories and nutrients but, because they have been heated above 104 degrees Fahrenheight, none contain enzymes.  Only raw, unprocessed food contains enzymes and you're got to have some each day.

Now, I'm all for recreational eating and home cooking..... I do it quite a bit of it myself  ....but a steady diet of  life-less food yields a life less body and a life-less life.

When you eat live foods, you have good health.  When you have good health, your cells glow from the inside and you radiate from every pore of your body.  WOW!

So, how do you get live foods into diet?

It's very easy.... just begin with raw fruits, vegetables and nuts.

A green salad with dinner,  lettuce and tomato on your sandwich, cole slaw with your fast food, raw veggies as a snack, fresh fruit drizzled with raw honey as dessert, a hand full of raw nuts while watching TV......even a frozen banana.  It doesn't take much and you'll still have room for the recreational Twinkie, bowl of chili or pizza dripping with cheese.

Here's your reward.... the more raw (live) fruits, veggies and nuts you eat, the better you'll feel (and the better you'll look) so you'll naturally want to choose them more often.  Good for you!!

But remember, no cooking is allowed or you'll destroy the enzymes.

It's that easy!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Savor the Season - The Importance of Passing Down Family Recipes

By Karla Jones Seidita, Home Economist

For as long as I can remember, mothers and grandmothers have passed down family recipes to their daughters and granddaughters.  It wasn't just our at house.  It was every house.

The recipes represented each family's heritage and expressed a way of life the family embraced.

Sometimes the fathers and sons get involved but most often it is the women who are the keepers of tradition and family history.

Some recipes celebrate the family's ethnic heritage.  
Some recipes are added to the family collection as friends become part of their extended family.   
And still other recipes, for no particular reason other than everyone likes them, just become part of the family's holiday tradition.

Who we are and where we've come from is never more obvious than at the holidays.

Pass down those treasured family recipes to the next generation and celebrate your family heritage.  

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christmas Baking Made Easy - Molasses Crinkles

From the Kitchens of Cheesecake Farms

I've never meet a cookie I didn't like but these little rounds of sugar crusted heaven are among my favorites.

So easy to make and they last a long time,.... if you don't eat them all as they come out of the oven.  

They freeze well and ship well plus the molasses is packed with lots of healthy nutrients.... an all around winner if there ever was one!!  

Get the kids (or grand kids) to help!

Makes 4 dozen (2 inch) cookies
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter (margarine not recommended)
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
1 egg (large or extra large - 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup molasses
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
Dipping sugar: 3/4 cup (approximately) natural, raw (demara) or coarse grain sugar 

In a medium bowl, cream butter and brown sugar together. 

Stir in egg, molasses and salt. 

Sift remaining ingredients (except dipping sugar) together and stir into butter mixture.

Cover dough and chill 1 hour (up to 24 hours is OK). 

When ready to bake, position oven rack so cookies will bake in center. Preheat to 375 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets or cover with parchment paper.

Divide dough evenly into 48 pieces. 

Roll each piece into a ball and dip one half into dipping sugar. 

Place sugar side up on cookie sheet - 12 cookies evenly spaced per cookie sheet or 2 to 3 inches apart when using other than a standard size cookie sheet.

Bake 10 - 15 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned on bottom.  Remove from oven. Cool two minutes before removing cookies from pan.

Karla's Tip
Only coat the top half of each dough ball with sugar.  

Coating the dough ball all the way around results in the bottom of the cookies baking a little too dark because sugar is touching the hot pan.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas Baking Made Easy - Yummy Honey Chocolate Rum Balls

From the Kitchens of Cheesecake Farms

Ready for Christmas!
The Tack Room Suite at Cheesecake Farms

Sometimes you just want a quick little, something fancy, something to spruce up the cookie tray.   These make wonderful gifts, too.

Nice wrapped individually in colored cellophane.
But for-go foil.  The alcohol will pit it.

Yummy Honey Rum Chocolate Balls
An adult, make ahead cookie that's a must on every southern table. 
Don't waste these on the kiddies!

Makes 2 1/2 dozen (1 inch) cookies
No baking required but cookies need to mellow at least 1 week before serving

1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
3 tablespoons honey
2 3/4 cups plain vanilla cookies (crushed into fine crumbs - like Nilla wafers, Pecan Sandies or similar cookies)
1/2 cup powdered sugar (sifted)
1 cup walnuts (chopped)
1/2 cup dark rum (approximately - we used Meyers brand)

Put chocolate and honey into a microwave safe bowl.  Heat until just melted - about 2 minutes. 

Stir in remaining ingredients adding enough rum to make a mixture that you can form into 1 inch balls.

Roll balls in powdered sugar or dip into additional melted chocolate. 

Refrigerate or freeze at least 1 week before serving to let the flavors mellow. 

At serving time, roll powdered sugar coated balls in additional sugar.

Karla's Cookie Tip
If the mixture is a little too soft to form into balls because you've added a bit too much rum, simply add additional cookie crumbs to thicken it.

If it's too dry to hold its shape, add a touch more rum.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Baking Made Easy - Linzer Cookies

From the Kitchens of Cheesecake Farms

These cookies take their name from the classic Linzer torte. 

When you see the name "Linzer" on a recipe or dessert, it's a clue that the flavor will be raspberry and almond.

You may think their shape is better suited for Valentines' Day but the heart in seen often at Christmas and comes from both the German and Scandinavian traditions.  It's to remind us that the meaning of Christmas should forever be in our hearts.

Corn meal, in this recipe, is unusual but it gives a nod to our southern heritage and gives an extra bite to the dough. You'll see cornmeal, by the way, added to all sorts of recipes these days - everything from scones to pound cake. 

Make these in the food processor.... couldn't be easier!

Makes about 4 dozen (2 1/2 inch double cookies)
Uses both a 2 1/2 inch and a 1 1/2 inch heart shaped cookie cutter (measured at the widest point)
Parchment baking paper required
Prepare in food processor 
1 1/2 cups natural or blanched almond slices
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (plus more for rolling out cookies) 
1/2 cup corn meal
1 1/2 sticks butter (6 oz cut into random 1 inch chunks)
1 large or extra large egg

Filling - raspberry jam (with seeds or seedless - about 2/3 cup)
Powdered sugar for serving


Pulse sugar and almonds together in the food processor until the almonds are finely ground and uniform looking - about 45 seconds. 

Pulse in the flour, corn meal and butter until uniform - about 1 minute more. (Scrape down bowl, if necessary, once or twice to help the mixture become uniform before the butter gets too soft and melted.)

Add egg and pulse together until mixture comes together and almost forms a ball. 

Using your hands, remove dough from the processor bowl and gather it all together.  Work dough briefly so it's smooth.  Form into a ball.

Still using your hands, flatten dough with into a 4 inch round circle.  Refrigerate, covered, at least one hour.  Over night is OK.

When ready to bake, position oven rack so cookies will bake in center. 
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  
Line cookie sheets with baking parchment.

Remove dough from refrigerator. Cut into 4 equal portions. 

Take one portion and work a bit with your hands to soften slightly. 

Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface making a 9 inch circle. (Dough will be about 1/8 inch thick.)

Using the larger cutter, cut out hearts.   Place the hearts on the parchment lined pan about 1 inch apart. (You can get about 15 hearts of this size on a standard size cookie sheet.) 

Using the smaller cookie cutter, cut out the centers of half the cookie and remove.   Save the centers to bake separately or to re-roll.  Repeat with remaining dough. 

Bake, one sheet at a time, until bottoms are a very pale brown - about 10 to 12 minutes. Do not over bake.  Slide parchment (with cookies) onto cooling rack. 

Assemble cooled cookies by spreading jam on the solid hearts and topping with a cut out heart. At serving time, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Karla's Tips:
Cookies spread with jam will soften - characteristic of classic Linzer cookies. If you prefer crisp cookies, you can keep them in an air tight container and spread them with jam at serving time. 

We like to bake the center cut outs and freeze them. We use them and a garnish to top ice cream and decorate frosted cakes. We've even made cookie snack mix with them adding raisins, dried apples, cranberries and salted pretzel sticks.

Collect cut out scraps but do not re-roll until all the dough has been rolled out.  Then, put all the scraps together and roll out.  This will keep the dough from being over handled and pick up too much flour.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Baking Made Easy - Ginger Rum and Plump Apricot Fruitcake

From the Kitchens of Cheesecake Farms

This is how your lined pan should look

Fruitcake has gotten a bad rap. 

It's not surprising when it's made with yucky, artificial tasting candied fruit poking out of a dry, commercial tasting batter.  

And most fruit cakes are way too big so you wind up with half eaten, dried out cakes hanging around till Easter.  Not a pretty sight.

Well prepared, home made fruitcake made with real, natural, wholesome ingredients is absolutely divine and steeped in a rich heritage. 

Long before the fancy baking powder leavened cakes of today with their sugary icings and creamy fillings, fruitcakes were the norm. They were made without baking powder and were sweetened with dried fruit and often a little honey.  Instead of icing, rum or brandy was brushed on top to keep the cakes from drying out. 

Fruitcake recipes are always long so they seem involved but they're much simpler to make than they seem. 

There are only three things required to make your home made fruit cake a spectacular dessert and late night nibble:

1.  Soak the fruit in advance
2.  Line the pan
3.  Bake slowly.  

Ah, a perfect fruit cake
hot from the oven!
Everything else is, well, a piece of cake! 

Karla's Ginger, Rum and Apricot  Fruitcake

The flavors blend and soften as the cake mellows so give it at least 2 weeks before cutting.  Longer is OK.  If you cut it too soon, the rum is very strong tasting and sharp. 

Next year, you can make this recipe months in advance and keep it in the freezer.  Then by Christmas it will be perfect!

Cuts best when cold so store the cake in the refrigerator.  Tastes best cold, too! 
Serve in thin, small slices - with a little butter, if desired. YUM!

Unlike regular cakes, fruit cake batter fills the pan
Be sure to press it down lightly to prevent air pockets

Makes 1 (8 1/2 X 4 1/2) inch loaf
20 - 24 servings


Fruit must be soaked 24 hours in advance
Parchment (baking) paper needed to line the pan
Finished cake needs to mellow at least 2 weeks before serving


3/4 cup dark rum plus extra for brushing on the finished cake
4 oz dried apricots (snipped into random 1/4 inch pieces - about 3/4 cup)
3 oz dried apples (snipped into random 1/4 inch pieces - about 1 cup)
3 oz dried currents (about 3/4 cup - raisins not recommended)
10 tablespoons softened butter (for the batter - margarine not recommended) plus a little extra to grease the pan (white vegetable shortening, oil or cooking spray not recommended for greasing pan) 
3 oz crystallized ginger (about 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup dark brown sugar (packed)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 large or extra large eggs (3/4 cup)
1 cup + 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground all spice
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
Grated rind of 1 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)

Prepare the Fruit the Day Before
Twenty four hours before you bake the cake, put 3/4 cup of the rum into a medium sauce pan. Stir in the apricots, dried apples and currents. Cover pot. Heat over medium until steaming - about 5 minutes. Cool in pot (covered) then transfer to a ceramic, glass or stainless steel container or bowl and refrigerate, covered, over night. (Storing in a plastic container is not recommended.) 

Next Day
Remove the fruit from the refrigerator as you begin so it can come to room temperature.  Most, if not all, of the rum should have been absorbed.

Lining the Pan
Cut pieces of baking parchment to fit the pan as follows: 
Cut 1 piece to line the bottom.
Cut 1 strip to line the length of the pan with a 2 inch over hang at each end to use in lifting the cake out of the pan.
Cut 1 strip to line the width of the pan with a 2 inch over hang at each end to use in lifting the cake out of the pan.

Remove the paper from the pan. Butter the pan making sure the corners are well buttered. Put the bottom parchment into the pan - pressing lightly into the butter. Position the length and width pieces over the bottom piece pressing them lightly into the sides so they stick to pan. Be sure you have an even amount of over hang on all sides. The corners of the pan will not be covered with parchment. That's OK. Crease the over hangs against the rim of the pan so they don't fold over the cake batter during baking. Set aside while making batter.

Make the Cake
Position the oven rack so the cake will bake in the center. Preheat to 325 degrees.

Pulse the white sugar and the crystallized ginger together in the food processor until the ginger is in small (about 1/4 inch) pieces. (No food processor? Cut the ginger by hand using a sharp knife. Toss with the sugar.)

Put the ginger mixture into the bowl of a mixer. Add the brown sugar, vanilla and the 10 tablespoons butter. Beat on medium until fluffy - about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Mix the flour, the spices and the lemon rind together in a small bowl. Add to the egg/sugar mixture. Mix well. By hand, fold in the rum soaked fruit. (A rubber spatula works well.) Almost all of the rum should have been absorbed but if it hasn't, don't add more than about 1 tablespoon of the soaking liquid to the batter. Reserve any extra liquid to brush on the finished cake.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Spread top level, making sure batter is evenly distributed and there are no air pockets.

Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes then (without opening the oven door) lower the temperature to 300 degrees and continue baking until done - about 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 hours more. Cake is done when it is lightly browned on the top and it pulls away very slightly from the sides of the pan. A cake tester put into the middle of the cake will come out clean or with a few moist crumbs. 

Remove cake from oven.  Let it cool, in pan, 25 minutes. 

Using a thin knife, gently loosen the corners of the cake (where there was no parchment) then carefully run the knife between the parchment and the sides of the cake. Using the over hanging parchment as handles, lift the cake onto a cooling rack and peel the parchment down from the sides. Let the cake cool completely - about 2 hours.

When cool, remove any remaining parchment paper from the cake and brush all sides of the cake (including the bottom) with the remaining 3 tablespoons of rum (or the soaking liquid or a combination of both to equal 3 tablespoons total).

Wrap the rum brushed cake in plastic then over wrap in foil- crimping the ends tightly. Store at room temperature for 2 days then put the loaf (without opening) into a plastic container with a lid (or a heavy, plastic freezer storage bag) and refrigerate for at least 2 weeks before serving. Alternately, cake can be frozen up to 6 months.

Karla's Tips: 

Use regular dried fruit.  Don't use extra moist or plumped fruit because it will not absorb the rum.

Be sure not to grate any of the white pith when you are grating the yellow part of the lemon rind. The pith is bitter.

Lining the pan with something other than baking parchment (like foil or waxed paper) is not recommended.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Christmas Baking Made Easy - Espresso Cookies

From the Kitchens of Cheesecake Farms

Glazed Espressos decorated
with red and green sugar

This is a gorgeous cookie that's rich with the strong flavor of coffee.... one of my favorites!  
Superb with at double shot of espresso or your morning latte.   Addicting! 
For the adult taste so don't waste these on the kiddies!!

Makes about 4 1/2 dozen
Baking parchment paper needed
Uses a pastry brush
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon dry, instant coffee (plain, regular type - not espresso, French roast or flavored)
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks cold butter (12 oz- cut into random 1 inch chunks - margarine not recommended)
1 large or extra large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 pinch dry, instant coffee
1/4 cup brandy (approximately)

Position oven rack so cookies will bake in center.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with baking parchment.

Using the food processor fitted with the dough blade, pulse together brown sugar, dry coffee, baking powder, flour and butter chunks until uniform - about 45 seconds. 
Add egg and vanilla.  Pulse until it almost comes together in a ball.
Using your hands, remove the dough and any fragments.  Briefly work dough until it all comes together.  Do not over handle or the butter will melt.

Evenly divide dough into 54 pieces.  
Using your hands, lightly and quickly roll dough 1 inch balls. 
Place onto parchment lined cookie sheets, one inch apart. 
Cover balls with a piece of parchment paper and using a glass or other flat bottom container, press each ball into a flat cookie about 2 inches in diameter.   Re-position the parchment paper as necessary.
Bake the cookies until just set and lightly browned on bottom - 8 to 10 minutes.  Do not over bake.

Meanwhile, make the glaze by stirring the powdered sugar, pinch of coffee and the brandy together until smooth. Glaze should be runny. Add a little more brandy, if necessary.

When the cookies are done, remove from oven but leave on pan.  Immediately,and working quickly, brush hot cookies with glaze.  Cookie should be well covered but not so much glaze that it puddles at the bottom of the cookie.

Choose your decorating style -
plain or fancy 
Immediately sprinkle with colored or raw sugar, if desired.  
Slide parchment sheet (with cookies still attached) on to rack to cook.  
Remove cookies when glaze has dried - about 1 hour.

So many cookies
So little time!