Monday, December 21, 2015

_The Hancock News_ Column-- December 16, 2015

They say that it’s better to give than to receive, and I believe it. Way back when I was four years old, I remember clearly the pain caused by receiving one Christmas gift. 

Now I’m sure my babysitter, Mrs. K., thought she had found the perfect present for me. After all, my best friend Denise and I spent hours of our playtime at Mrs. K.’s house adorning ourselves with pictures of jewelry we’d oh-so-carefully cut out of fat Sears and J. C. Penney’s catalogs. I’ll bet she figured we would each just love to have a toy jewelry set.

However, I will forever think of that gift as an amateur torture kit. The necklace and ring were only slightly uncomfortable, just a bit of plastic pokes here and there. But those clip-on earrings were another story. They pinched onto my ears so tightly that I wanted to cry.

To make matters worse, my mother insisted I model the whole set for a picture. I did my best not to cry and to put on a smile while waiting for the camera’s flash to warm up, but anybody could notice a difference between the me in the jewelry picture and the me showing off a cheerleader costume, my Snoopy scissors, and my Pepsi toboggan. 

I begged my mother not ever to make me wear those earrings again, but also never to tell Mrs. K. that I didn’t like them. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

Evidently, my son is a bit more blunt than I was. Last weekend my in-laws were visiting. When his grandfather returned from the grocery store and presented my son with the impromptu gift of a packet of seasoning he’d used to make jerky, my son quickly said, “No, thank you. I like Daddy’s better.”

I was horrified.

While giving is important, we should also learn to receive graciously. I told my son that no matter what gift you receive, you should always say, “Thank you.” Even if it doesn’t fit, it’s ugly, or you just don’t like it, a gift is the giver’s way of saying, “I care about you,” and “Thank you” is our way of replying in kind.

No matter how many of the packages you find under the tree end up being returned or re-gifted, remember this holiday season that the thought behind the present is the true gift.


One gift I will never, ever, ever re-gift or return is my friend’s candied nuts. They are so good that I can’t thank her enough. These sweet nuts packaged in a jar with a ribbon tied around make the perfect gift for just about anybody, so make enough for yourself and to share with somebody you care about.

I haven’t tried it yet, but I do plan on experimenting with a few more spices. I think a pinch of cayenne might spice things up a bit for those who like some heat with their sweet.

Delicious Nuts

1 egg white
1 tsp. vanilla
4 cups pecan or walnut halves
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt

Whisk the egg white in a bowl with vanilla until fluffy. Add the nuts and egg mixture to a zip lock bag and mix until coated. 

In a small bowl, mix the sugar, cinnamon and salt. Add to the nuts in the bag and shake until all nuts are coated. Spread on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 250ºF for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Let the nuts cool before packaging them up.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Peppermint Princess or Candy Cane Queen?

Last week we celebrated our last family birthday of the year, and that means another cake.

The birthday girl had been asking to eat candy canes recently, and that was my inspiration for this cake. That, and her grandmother who really likes peppermint patties was able to be here for the party.

Hello, yummy princess!

Easy yarn sash with bow

When I took the pan out of the box to make the cake part of this, I was totally concerned because the doll insert's arms had broken off entirely. I don't know if one of the kids saw the box in the basement and wanted to play with the doll or if things just broke on their own, but it's safe to assume that poor cake doll will never move those arms again thanks to super glue.

Anyway, all the candies were peppermint, and I added some peppermint oil to the frosting to make it super-yummy, too. The cake inside was a chocolate pound cake. The whole chocolate-mint combo was just about perfect to my taste. 

In fact, this whole cake was a big success. The birthday girl loved it, and it was so easy to just smear on a layer of frosting with a knife and push in the candies to decorate. I even had the right color yarn handy, too.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like. . . ?

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas?

"I'll have a blue-berry Christmas without you!"

"Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light!"

"Lo, how a rose e'er blooming. . . "

"The holly and the ivy. . . ?"

Sure, Christmas is only 12 days away, but you wouldn't know it by looking in my front flower beds. We've got blossoms even more than these. The windows are open, and I'm letting the kids play outside in short sleeves. It's that warm out. 

Certainly we're not even close to a white Christmas. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Presents, recommended

Okay. I don't have a large blog following. I don't have any affiliate links (mostly because I don't have a large blog following). But if I did, I would totally link up to those American-made silicone-coated baking pans. You know, the ones with all the funny ridges.

I'd received a gift card to King Arthur flour once and bought a jelly roll pan with all its waves. Then I received a 9 by 13 inch one as a gift, and let me tell you, nothing sticks to that thing. No ruined cakes! Amazing. The only truly non-stick I've found. And it would seem they are not so chemically yucky as those other alleged non-sticks. (Tell me if you find out otherwise.) So, of course, I've been begging for more.

Especially the muffin tins. I like to make muffins, but I hate the waste of those buying those paper liners. BUT I hate scrubbing all those individual muffin cups if you don't use the liners. I tried silicone liners, but then I just had to wash those, too.

Well. No more.

For my birthday I received a new muffin tin, and for you viewing pleasure, I will present why I love it.

Muffins, ready to be removed

In the back, one of my old muffin tins, my best old one. In the front, my beautiful new muffin tin.

Now watch as my lovely assistant tips the new muffin tin.

Watch out below!

Would you look at that?  All I did was lightly grease the tins, and they just tumbled out. Easy peasy. No torn up muffins.

Check out that empty muffin pan!

Do you see any nasty crumbs on that empty pan? I didn't. It just took a quick dip in suds with a little swipe of the dish cloth to make it all clean. Ain't it a beauty?

And in comparison, here I am tipping the old muffin tin, greased exactly the same as the other.

These muffins are holding on for dear life!

It took some prying to get these out. It wasn't horrible, but one muffin did suffer extensive injuries. And then there was more elbow grease necessary to get the pan cleaned out.

So there you have it. Buy these new wavy pans. They are worth any extra money. Trust me. I'm not getting paid for this. But if you make these pans and you want to pay me, I'll gladly accept :)

And if you don't know the type I'm talking about, here they are on Amazon.