Monday, January 16, 2017

So Long...For A While

Christmas is a fond memory... but it will be back again. 

And so will we.

Meanwhile, we'll continue to add recipes and ideas to the Holiday Goodies blog -- many are frugal delights that help you stretch your money even further!

Stop by in the fall for more holiday treats. Have a great year.

A Final Look At the Seven Fish Dishes

I've been meaning to tell you how the Seven Fish Dishes went.

The Feast of the Seven Fishes is an Italian Catholic tradition: seven seafood dishes to commemorate the Seven Sacraments.

(No, we're not Italian. Not Catholic, either.)

But we are Christians -- and this is a wonderful way to celebrate the birthday of our King. After the Christmas Eve service, we set the table nicely, using antique china inherited from my (Great) Grandma Pearl, with silverware my Grandma Cumings used for her tribe. We light the candles, pull British Christmas crackers, and wear goofy paper hats while we read the jokes to each other. (Which are usually awful -- but the presents inside the crackers are cool!)

Then, we pop the cork on the wine and enjoy -- dish after dish, carefully counted to at least seven. (This year, the total came up at nine.) We take out time, and everyone invariably waddles out, hours later.

This past Christmas Eve, the Brick played for every one of the three church services. Fortunately, I did not, which made setting up the Fish Dishes much easier.


Here's what we ended up having:

Lobster Bisque   (canned condensed soup -- ironically, from the Dollar Store!)
Angels on Horseback   (oysters wrapped with bacon)
Spaghetti with Clam Sauce
Shrimp Scampi
Tuna Casserole
Grilled Salmon fillets with lemon-garlic sauce
Grilled fresh sardines
Grilled sliced octopus

Lessons learned:

*The soup was very, very good -- especially with an extra can of crabmeat stirred in.

*I'd always bought fresh oysters for the Angels before. Canned oysters were a heck of a lot cheaper -- and just as tasty.

*I used to make Devils on Horseback, too -- chicken livers wrapped bacon. I thought no one liked them -- turns out Daughter #1 did! So next year, I'll restore those to the list.

*The Shrimp Scampi is terrific -- but only if you saute it at a bare minimum. Barely cook it, until the shrimp turns pink, and it's amazing -- cook it longer, and you've got 'boingy' shrimp.

*Ditto for the octopus. I messed up on this one -- it was like gnawing on a rubber band.

*The tuna casserole: winner!  A can of tuna, mixed with canned mushroom sauce, fresh mushrooms, a chopped onion, a sprinkle of Parmesan and fresh-cooked noodles -- then baked until hot. Yum.

*The spaghetti with clam sauce: failure. (sigh) Even with extra clams and a shot of wine, the dish was boring. The chickens got nearly all of it.

*Grilled foods are wonderful -- but not when you're in a hurry, and it's freezing outside. The sardines, done Greek-style with garlic and olive oil, tasted good -- but had lots of bones.
     The salmon fillets, on the other hand, were outstanding.

All that seafood would have been cloying without some 'refreshers:' blueberry/strawberry smoothies, fresh rolls with butter and jam, green salad and relishes. And dessert was a lot simpler than originally planned: Christmas cookies, chocolates and a dip from the fruit bowl on the table.

Hot, strong coffee and spumoni (chocolate/strawberry/vanilla ice cream, Italian-style) finished the meal.
     A good time was had by all.

For more fishy ideas, try my earlier post on the subject. Or check out some of the earlier years' Seven Fish Dishes for more ideas.

(This also ran on the Brickworks blog.)

Saturday, December 17, 2016

You Can't Catch Me -- I'm The...

Gingerbread: it's one of the best desserts to serve on a cold and blustery night. The Gingerbread Man would have had a run for his money this weekend -- we're supposed to have a HIGH of 3 above tomorrow. Whoopee.
     You can literally stir up a pan of gingerbread batter in less than ten minutes. (Cookies take a bit longer! 😁 ) Even nicer -- this pan of hot, spicy goodness is also low-budget. Win win. 

Here are some gingerbread ideas worth exploring.

*The basic recipe. This is my go-to...and it's close to Taste of Home's version.

from Taste of Home


  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup hot water
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour  (heaping measure, if you're at high altitude)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix everything together quickly, then pour batter into a greased 9" square or round pan. Bake at 350 degrees 20-25 min. Serve warm. Feeds 9, if you're polite -- 4, if you're cold and hungry.

*How about a gingerbread bundt cake, instead? This version, from Honestly Yum, features a coffee/cardamom glaze.

*Laura Ingalls Wilder was famous for her gingerbread. The author (or co-author, as it may be) of the Little House books often baked it for special events. Here's her recipe, as given by Laura in a letter:

"1 cup brown sugar blended with 1/2 cup lard or other shortening. 1 cup molasses mixed well with this. 2 teaspoons baking soda in 1 cup boiling water (Be sure cup is full of water after foam is run off into cake mixture). Mix all well. To 3 cups of flour have added one teaspoon each of the following spices: ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, cloves and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Sift all into cake mixture and mix well. Add lastly 2 well-beaten eggs. The mixture should be quite thin. Bake in a moderate oven for thirty minutes. Raisins and, or, candied fruit may be added an a chocolate frosting adds to the goodness."

If you want Laura's gingerbread in recipe format, go to Patty's Kitchen. She'll help out.

*Got any gingerbread left over? A trifle might be just the thingTaste of Home is all over this.

Looks good, doesn't it? From Taste of Home

*Use your cookies to decorate a cake! Like this version, courtesy of Betty Crocker. Oh my.

photo from Betty Crocker -- thanks, lady.

...and a good recipe for gingerbread men here, adapted from Real Simple's version. 
They're cute on the cake, but tasty by themselves, too.


  1. cups all-purpose flour
  2. teaspoon baking soda
  3. 3/4teaspoon salt
  4. 3teaspoons ground ginger
  5. 1tablespoon ground cinnamon
  6. 1teaspoon ground nutmeg
  7. 1/2teaspoon ground cloves
  8. 1cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  9. 1cup packed light brown sugar
  10. 1large egg, at room temperature
  11. 1cup unsulfured molasses
  12. 1teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Cream butter, egg and sugars together, then add all dry ingredients except flour, along with molasses and vanilla. Beat til thoroughly mixed, then gradually add flour, a cup at a time. You should have a firm dough by the time the flour's mixed in; if not, add another 1/4-1/2 cup flour. (Keeping the dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour will also help it to firm up.)
  2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough out on a floured surface; cut men (or other shapes) with cookie cutters. Transfer to greased cookie sheet; bake 12 min., or until firm. Let cool, then decorate with white icing and candy embellishments.  Makes about 4 dozen cookies, depending on cutters used.

*This one's a charmer from way back:  gingerbread houses that perch on your coffee cup. They even have a version for sugar cookies in a later post. (Thanks, Not Martha, for sharing. Liked 'em then -- love them now.)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Christmas - What You Can Do With Frosting! has some amazing ideas, often with purchased cookies and candies, that use frosting.  (Homemade is okay, too.)

Here's one of them -- Christmas trees. Drizzle frosting on pretzel sticks placed on wax paper, then add sprinkles on top. Once the icing is dry, peel the tree motifs off. They're perfect for 'foresting' your favorite cake or cupcakes!

Click on the link above...or go here for more: 30 ideas in all. Wow.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Cookies for the Holidays: Pecan Tarts

   I'm saying it wrong. The Brick, who's North Carolina-bred, insists these are called:



    At any rate, these tarts disappeared at the speed of light from our Thanksgiving table. I'm going to have to make a fresh batch already, just in self-defense.


(These can be made in cupcake tins; I use a tart pan that holds 8 larger tarts. They look like these...but are connected to each other.)

You'll need:

1 batch of pie dough:  crumble 5 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 cups of flour together. Add 5-6 tablespoons of water, a little at a time, until mixture clings together in a ball.

Divide into 8-10 portions for tart pans; 12-16 for muffin tins. Pat dough into pans, pushing it up to the sides. (Use extra flour on your hands as needed to keep dough from sticking.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. (No sense doing it earlier, and wasting heat.)


3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla   (a shot of bourbon or whiskey here is nice, too)
1-2 cups pecans -- halves look nice, but chopped will do

Beat everything but the pecans together. Now drop pecans in tart shells until approx. halfway full. Pour egg mixture over until covering the pecans.

Bake for approx. 30-45 minutes, until pie is set and crust is lightly brown.

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream. Oh my.

Edge them with coconut, if you like. Either way, they're good.

Cookies for the Holidays: Scotch Shortbread

    Want a cookie that can be made in 10 minutes (or less), needs just a few ingredients...and tastes delicious?

Scotch Shortbread is for you.

Normally I sprinkle these rich butter cookies heavily with regular sugar -- but red and green sprinkles would look even more festive. Here we go:


1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/2 cup sugar (granulated or confectioners) --
     add another 1/4 cup if you like your cookies sweeter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring (opt.)
2 1/4 cups flour

Mix it all together; you'll have a somewhat crumbly mixture. (Put in the fridge a few hours to firm up, or just continue.)  Now press into a pan -- this takes about 2/3 of a 9 x 13 cookie sheet, or use a smaller pan for a thicker cookie.
       Sprinkle heavily with sugar.

That's it. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 min., or until firm, but not brown.
Let cool a little, then cut into squares or diamonds. (You can also drizzle them with frosting, like the jam cookies in this photo.) You'll get 12-20 cookies, depending on size.

Especially good for coffee, tea or hot chocolate. Yum.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Cookies for the Holidays: Snowballs -- Even When It Isn't

I can't remember NOT having these crunchy, white-powdered cookies on the Christmas platter. The Mama called them Russian Teacakes, but I've also heard them referred to as Mexican Wedding Cakes and Snowballs, as well.

No matter. Whatever you call these rich butter cookies, they're especially good with hot drinks. The balls shower powdered sugar all over your mouth...and lap while you're munching. But it's worth it.

Wicked Good Kitchen has a nice Snowball Christmas cookie recipe. I also like Allrecipe's version, which they also call Russian Teacakes. It's been adapted slightly to mirror The Mama's interpretation.

Try to eat just one.

illustration from

Russian Teacakes...Snowballs...or whatever

1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
6 tablespoons powdered confectioner's sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

extra powdered sugar for rolling the cookies in

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Mix all ingredients, gradually adding flour, then finally nuts. (At this point, you may want to hold off on the oven and chill the dough for an hour or two, to make it easier to work with. Or maybe not.)
     Roll dough into balls (about a tablespoon's worth) and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake about 12 minutes, until balls are done...but not brown. While they're still warm, roll in powdered sugar.  Makes about 3 dozen -- store between layers of waxed paper in a closed container.

Now invite me over for coffee!

UPDATE:  Crazy for Crust just posted a bunch more recipes for snowball-style cookies.
 See them here.