11/26/18

A Cookie A Day Until Christmas: Graham Cracker Marshmallow Fruitcake Bars (No Bake)





I was 'gifted' these fruitcake bars on a plate with various other cookies and candies by a co-worker at my job, years and year (and years) ago.  I would have been about 21 years old at the time and although my husband and I enjoyed tasting the other goodies, neither of us wanted to taste the 'fruitcake' bars because neither of us liked fruitcake.  Finally, I relented and picked it up to smell it and then taste it.  Whoa!  This isn't fruitcake!  This isn't even remotely similar to fruitcake at all.  It was so good that I later had to ask my co-worker, (who became a dear, dear friend) for the recipe.

That was back around 1991 and I've been making this recipe ever since.  That dear friend passed away from breast cancer a few years ago and although I think of her a few times during the year for random reasons, it's without a doubt that she comes to mind every single year when I make these bars.

Not at ALL like fruitcake except they use candied fruit and nuts; it's a graham cracker and marshmallow base and once people get over the 'fruitcake' connotation, these bars fly off the serving plate.
 

No Bake Fruitcake Bars

1 lb. butter*
1 lb. mini marshmallows
3/4 c evaporated milk
1 lb. pecans
1/2 lb. walnuts
1/2 lb. whole green candied cherries
1/2 lb. whole red candied cherries
1 lb. raisins
1 lb. graham cracker crumbs

Melt the butter, marshmallows and evaporated milk in a pan on the stove over low to medium heat.  In a very large bowl mix the rest of the ingredients.  Add the melted marshmallow mixture.  Stir and mix well.  Press into a greased or foil lined 9X13" pan.  Press flat and freeze or refrigerate overnight.  Thaw a bit before slicing to make it easier.  Slice into 3 long sections or rows and slice each row into thin slices to serve.

**I've been using a little less butter over the past few years (perhaps 3 1/4 sticks instead of 4) and it's been perfectly fine.  Feel free to cut back a bit on the butter if you want to try it that way.  You can also change the amounts of the nuts, raisins and cherries, etc. I've used craisins some years, and doubled the red cherries and halved the green cherries, etc.  You can play with this recipe a bit.  







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Pressed into the pan, ready to go into the freezer until needed.


An easy way to press into the pan is to use a piece of plastic wrap on the top and then press or roll it flat.






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11/23/18

A Cookie A Day Until Christmas! Mexican Wedding Cakes - or Russian Tea Cakes


This cookie is one I've been making for too many years to count.  Originally I made it because it sounded interesting to me due to the use of only a few ingredients; including ground up nuts and very little sugar. After they were made I recognized them!  It was a cookie I had tasted and loved previously, given to me by one of my neighbors in our little cookie exchange baskets.  (Our neighborhood at the time had about 4 or 5 of us that would walk around and deliver goodies to everyone as a Christmas 'hello'). 

It's a small, round cookie that looks like a little snowball.  It's dry, crunchy and isn't too sweet, but just right.  Great with coffee and good for people who like walnuts and/or pecans.  A lot of 'older' folk like this cookie. 

Originally when I first started making them I was trying to roll them in the confectioner's sugar a little too soon and the powdered sugar would 'melt' a bit and just get sticky and disappear so I'd have to do a double rolling/dusting.  After a couple trial and errors I realized there is no rush to roll.  Just toss them with the powdered sugar at any point after they've mostly cooled and you're fine.


Russian Tea Cakes
Mexican Wedding Cakes
Snowballs

1 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 c powdered or confectioner's sugar
1 t vanilla
2 1/4 c flour
3/4 c finely chopped nuts (typically walnuts but also consider pecans or almonds)
1/4 t salt
more powdered sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 375. Mix butter, powdered sugar and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Stir in flour, nuts and salt. Shape into 1 inch balls. Bake 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheet for about 10-12 minutes. They should not brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool slightly and then roll in powdered sugar and let cool. Roll a second time. Can freeze for later use. 

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11/22/18

Happy Thanksgiving! Traditional Pecan Pie and Blueberry Pie!


Happy Thanksgiving to my readers and my family!  Yesterday I made the pies for today and this year, we are just having 2 pies and neither are pumpkin.  We are not hosting a large gathering, so two pies are sufficient and I went with two kinds that everyone loves; pecan and blueberry. 

As a matter of fact, my future son-in-law apparently only likes my pecan pie - which is surprising because there isn't anything special about it.  It's about as traditional 'made like great grandma used to make' as you can get.  But last year there was a store bought pie and my pie both brought to one of their Thanksgiving get-togethers with friends and he and another guy ate the entire pecan pie I had made.  They had one bite of the store bought and pushed it aside.  I would have thought they would taste the same?  Apparently not.

And my youngest daughter's favorite pies are apple or blueberry.  I had a huge bag of frozen blueberries in the freezer so... blueberry it was!

Easy as pie....





Pecan Pie

1 - 9" unbaked pie crust (homemade or store bought)
1 c light corn syrup
1 c brown sugar
4 eggs
1/3 c butter
dash of salt
1 t vanilla
1 1/2 c pecans (more or less)

Preheat the oven to 350. In a bowl combine the corn syrup, sugar, eggs, butter, salt and vanilla. Mix well. Pour filling in the crust and position the pecan halves around the pie in rows until you finish with one pecan half in the center. Bake in a gas oven approximately 50 minutes and in an electric oven about 1 1/4 hours. You can cover with foil if it is getting too brown on the edges for your tastes. 









BLUEBERRY PIE


3 pints blueberries - either fresh, cleaned and stems removed or frozen
2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 c all purpose flour
1/2 c sugar (I use a mixture of brown and white)
1/4 t cinnamon
2 T butter, cut up
dash of vanilla
A double pie crust


Mix the blueberries, lemon juice, flour, sugar and cinnamon together in a large bowl and then place in the bottom crust. Top with the cut up butter and then carefully place the top crust over and crimp or use a fork to seal the edges. Slice a pretty star shape on the top with a knife or fork to let steam escape. Optional:  to sprinkle the top with sugar and/or cinnamon.  Bake at 425 for 20 minutes and then lower the temperature to 350 for another 30-40 minutes.  Cool.









Are you doing any Christmas shopping soon?  Do you need household items or kitchen appliances or even decor?  Clothes? Diapers?

Can I ask a favor???

If you enjoy visiting An American Housewife, please consider using this affiliate link if you are planning to shop for anything (seriously, anything!) at Amazon. - An American Housewife at Amazon. Thanks so much!









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11/20/18

Carrying on Family Tradition - Thanksgiving Mini Candy 'Dinner' Cupcakes






Soooo many years ago (18 I think?) I started to make Thanksgiving cupcakes that looked like tiny Thanksgiving dinners.  I've posted about them here on An American Housewife many times over the years but they are a tradition in our family.

The cupcakes are decorated with a cookie that doubles as a 'plate' and bits of frosting, sprinkles, jimmies and candy are used to make a complete 'meal' of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberries and either green beans or peas (depending on what candies you choose that year).

I'm thrilled to see that as my kids are growing up and leaving the nest, they are continuing our family traditions.  My oldest daughter sent me these pictures yesterday of the mini Thanksgiving Cupcakes she made to hand out to her little boys preschool class and for daycare and teachers.

When you are a young Mom and you start to do a few little 'traditions' for your own family, you just never know how important they become to your kids.  I'm seeing this first hand with SO MANY of our traditions.  It's heart warming.

My second oldest child, my son, lives about 1000 miles away.  He texted yesterday to say he was cooking a full Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow in his apartment!  And... starting out with another tradition of OUR family; watching a Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving dvd while they eat a 'Charlie Brown Thanksgiving' lunch - if you've seen the classic cartoon then you know it's the meal they have at the end; popcorn, pretzels, toast, jelly beans and sundaes!  Ha ha.

All these goofy traditions I started for fun... and they became so important to my kids over the years that they are starting to recreate them on their own.  


My daughter's version - as a Thankful For You gift for preschool teachers and daycare providers....





________________________________________________________________________________


I've posted this 'recipe' for years - here is a copy of one of the posts from my archives






  • Brach's Maple Nut Candies
  • White frosting
  • Yellow gel food color (in a little tube)
  • non-perils - red or green (for tiny red cranberries and green peas)
  • I bought the long shapes and called them 'green beans'
  • caramels, melted or chocolate chips or butterscotch chips for 'gravy'
  • a package of cookies with an 'edge' - I choose the ones with the 'pretty edge' to look like a plate
  • yellow frosting or other for the 'plate'

Bake and cool your favorite cupcake recipe. Place frosting on the cupcake and top each with a cookie while the frosting is soft to 'adhere' the cookie-plate to the cupcake.

Slice the maple nut candies thin and layer them as 'turkey'.
Dab some white frosting next to it for 'mashed potatoes' followed with a little dab of yellow gel food color as 'butter'.
Melt your caramels, butterscotch or chocolate chips and thin with a little vegetable oil. Drizzle over the 'turkey' as gravy.
Finish it off with the 'cranberries' (red colored sugar or non-perils) and little green 'peas' or 'beans'.



You can slice the top off the cupcakes
if you filled them 3/4 full and they have
a little peak. This will let the 'plate'
evenly on the top of it.

I have made these too many times to count - as they are a tradition in our home *most* Thanksgivings.
I've used all different sorts of cookies as the plate as you can see from yet another photo of the many versions
I've made over the past almost 25 years.







****************


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11/16/18

A cookie a day until Christmas! 2018 Version - MACARONS


The holiday baking has begun here at the home of An American Housewife.  This early on, I only start with things that can be safely frozen in the deep freeze for a couple weeks.  Yesterday I made up 4 batches of cut-out sugar cookie dough, 2 batches of peppermint melt-away cookie dough and 3 batches of molasses cookie mixes.  All are just chilling in the refrigerator to bake (maybe tomorrow?).

Today was almond macaron bake day!  I ended up doing 4 batches.  I decided to make them all red so it would be easier later on to fill and sandwich them. 

I don't really care about taking pictures... and it's a 'good' day when I remember to grab my cellphone and take some.  So the only photo above is actually from a snapchat I sent to my family and friends on my snapchat 'story' and it happened to be from a 'thicker' batch so the little piping point didn't fall completely down flat.

Since no one pays me to blog and I don't care to spend oodles of time trying to take picture-perfect photos, you get what you get.  Quick snapshots on my cellphone.  :)

I made all 4 batches red with vanilla flavoring.  My initial plan will be to fill them with a white buttercream filling flavored  with a light peppermint and possibly rolling the edges in fine crushed peppermint candy.

But for now the almond macarons are baked, cooled, packaged and are resting in my deep freezer to be filled closer to Christmas.


Almond Macarons

1 cup fine quality almond flour
2 cups powdered sugar
3 egg whites
1/4 t cream of tartar
dash of salt
1/4 c fine granulated sugar


Mix the confectioner's sugar and almond flour very well either by pulsing in a food processor until combined or using an electric stick blender or electric whisk, sifting it, etc. It should be mixed very well and quite fine.

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Whisk whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and a dash of salt; and whisk until soft peaks form. Reduce speed to low, then add a drop or two of food color if you are using it, a drop or two of flavor extracts if you are using them, and the fine white sugar. Increase speed to high, and whisk until stiff peaks form. Sift flour mixture over whites, and fold until mixture is smooth and shiny.  Take your time folding and don't rush it or you will break down the beaten egg whites.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip if you have one, or if not, leave the round 1/2 inch opening of the bag or the white plastic piece you would normally put a tip on, and pipe 3/4-inch rounds 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.  If you remember, drag the pastry tip to the side of rounds rather than forming peaks (like you see in the photo above! Ha).

Tap bottom of each sheet on work surface to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for 15-20 minutes.
Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macarons are crisp and firm, about 18 minutes.

Let macarons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Sandwich 2 same-size macarons with 1 teaspoon filling of your choice. Serve immediately, or stack between layers of parchment, wrap in plastic, and freeze for up to 3 months.




Ready to add the almond flour/confectioner's sugar mixture...


Remember to get it nice and 'fine' by processing or sifting, etc. first.


Starting to fold it in... slowly.  Don't break down the egg whites.


Almost there!


Another random photo from my personal snapchat story to my family....  ha ha.











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11/13/18

Grocery Delivery Online From Amazon: Do you live in an area where it's offered?






The first time I wanted to use a grocery delivery program was long (long long) before it was a 'thing'.  It was 2002 (I think) and a friend and her family had relocated across the country to the East coast for her husband to start a new job.  Although I knew they were struggling, I didn't realize how much until I picked up a few clues in a phone conversation we had.  Money was unbelievably tight and she was having a hard time affording groceries.  They had two girls in middle and elementary school at the time, and I decided I wanted to surprise them by gifting them with groceries.

Although I was prepared to buy various foods, box them up and send them through the mail, I went online to a very 'new' internet and found there at that time, just 2 grocery delivery services; so very brand new that almost no one had heard of them.  It was a hassle, and fairly expensive, but I did it and she was so very appreciative!  The gift of food is welcome almost anytime but for them, at that time, it was a dire need.

Flash forward...  Over the past six years or so, I've looked into various options for food delivery for my father-in-law.  He's 90 years old, lives out on a farm in a very, very small town in the midwest and although he drives to doctor's appointments, church and shopping - I would rather have him not have to do so in the winter months, on icy, snowy roads.  

I've looked at almost every option available from Schwans delivery to grocery delivery services, Walmart and other grocery stores delivery options and of course, Amazon... but because of his location it's difficult.  There aren't any really good options yet at this point for 'fresh' foods, because of where he lives.

On the flip-side however, I have family members who live in larger metro areas that have all sorts of options available to them.  And even if you live in an out of way 'small' city, sometimes you STILL have some great options.  My oldest daughter for example, orders almost everything (literally everything) online.  She primarily uses Amazon - but also uses other companies based on what she needs at the time.  She also utilizes Walmart's free pick-up service for fresh foods. In the past 6 months I believe she's only entered a grocery store (it was Walmart) one time and when she left she texted me to say THAT is why she only orders online!  She had 3 little ones with her (ages 4, 2 and a newborn) and she hasn't yet stepped foot in a store.  From Sam's Club to Walmart, to Amazon, Wayfair, pet companies and more...  she has everything from diapers to lettuce to shampoo either delivered or ready for drive-up pickup.

Which is where this post comes from today.  

I am (again) looking at all the options for food delivery to my father-in-law - as a Christmas present.  Because Amazon has made great strides in opening up their fresh food delivery service to more areas, I logged in to check my father-in-laws address.  It's still not offered for his location (and mine either for that matter) but because I'm an Amazon affiliate, and because my website is FOOD based, I decided to do a quick post so my readers might be able to check if this was something they would be interested in!

You can have FRESH FOODS delivered from Amazon if you live in a covered location; not just household goods and dry goods!  How does it work?  It's part of the Try AmazonFresh program.  You shop for your groceries online, schedule your delivery time... and it's delivered to your door.  Meats, vegetables, fruits along with whatever everyday essentials you need.




To see if your address is included in the delivery area just follow this link; Try AmazonFresh Free Trial








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