Sometimes others do things better than I do. German potato salad –

I have finally given in for real to the fact that sometimes other people do things much better than I do.

Case in point,I have been trying to make German potato salad as good as the Creamery for years. It seems to be an effort in futility. I would love to find someone in the family to give me the recipe, but that, I doubt, will happen.

So my lack-luster versions or even decent versions, have been just that, to me – lack luster compared to the Creamery. I thought about it so much before our Easter picnic luncheon and realized that be beloved father-in-law loved a canned German potato salad. And, honestly, it was the first German potato salad I had ever had too. So, damn it, I just did that.

Read German potato salad is what I went for – I mean, why not? My in-laws like it, I like it the MotH likes it. The Boy likes it. Why make things more difficult?D&D_1846

That is not to say that I did not “decorate” it. I added minced chives and some amazing local (Fairhope, AL) Bill-E’s bacon. Because, um, again why not gild that lily?

Sausage & Eggs

When I was young I had all kinds of allergies. Lord knows that is the truth. I had to go through food allergy testing to see what I was allergic to after my fish incident that sent me into anaphylactic shock at 5 years-old after dinner one night – lips turn blue and throat closed up. So I had to be tested to see what other things I was allergic to. 

Mostly just trees, grass, mold, dust mites, dogs, cats, air in general, but eggs seemed to be a problem too. So my mother never really feed me eggs. Nor did I get the MMR shots as a kid, nor did I get flu shots – No vaccine built in an egg. I did finally get the MMR to go to university, had to – they do not let you in otherwise, but by then I was about 25 then.

But no matter what, the only time growing up that I had eggs was this non-recipe recipe. And I guess that is why this is the only time I eat them now.

It is one of my favorite things, um, ever. 

Basically, you cook a pound of sausage in a skillet and then scramble up a few (4 or 5) eggs and then cook them in the grease left by the sausage. This, to me, is pretty much heaven on earth. My mom made this for us for dinner – not breakfast. I don’t think she used hot sausage, but I always use hot sausage for any recipe that calls for breakfast sausage. In my head there is no other kind. Don’t get me started on sage sausage (blech) or lord help us, maple sausage (I love maple syrup w/sausage, but maple flavor in sausage – that is just too strange to be believed).dd_2016-12-25-14-13-50

I am pretty sure I just told you how to make this. It is quick, easy, and amazingly good. My mom had good handle – a very good handle –  on what was good. And this is good in spades.

It is a favorite Christmas breakfast (not dinner) for us – or maybe just me. Well – sometimes you just want what you want and everyone else has to go along with plan. I am pretty sure no one complained.

2015 – Parmesan Shortbread – Nigella
2015 – Fusilli with Artichoke Hearts and Parmesan Cream

Vanilla Taffy

I have never posted this recipe. It is a family recipe that is so special to me. It may mean nothing to anyone else – probably will not. But this is one of those handed-down recipes for something not many people make at all … and there is a story to it.

My mom made this every winter, not every Christmas because this recipe depends on the weather. There has to be low humidity and in the South that usually will only happen sometime between late December and late February. So this did grace the Christmas Eve party on occasion -yes, but there was no guarantee. It is North Florida after all. We oftentimes wore shorts on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This was a recipe from my mom’s mom, Daisy, and my mom would describe how Daisy made it in the winter* and then to get the taffy hard they would toss it in the snow. We never were able to do anything like that, but it is kind of cool to understand where a recipe really comes from.

To be honest, I have never seen a recipe like this. Most people, when they think of taffy, think of salt water taffy which is soft,  but this is not. We (me and the Boy) have taken to calling it crack because when you pull it right and put enough air in it, it gets opaque and, well, looks like crack – at least the kind I have seen on Cops  (read: have no practical experience in the real stuff, but from TV, I can totally see it).DD_9068

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 Tbs butter
1 tsp vanilla

Necessary – candy thermometer – not kidding. Necessary.

Place sugar, water, corn syrup, and cream of tartar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Then cook without stirring until candy thermometer reaches 266 degrees.

Remove from heat and add vanilla and butter and stir until dissolved. Pour onto sil-pat lined baking sheet. When still hot, but cool-ish enough to pull, pull small bits in cords until opaque – you will burn at least your thumbs, but probably a couple of other fingers in the process. Twist into ribbons and lay on wax paper-lined baking sheet. When hard, break into pieces (just drop on baking sheet and see what happens) and wrap in cut waxed paper, or if you want to be fancy, wrap in pieces of parchment. We used waxed paper growing up, but I have taken a liking to parchment in the last few years.  

*They also butchered a pig each winter. Something I completely understand, but an not likely to be involved in.

2016 – Tomato Soup with Spinach and Mozzarella

Overwhelming 

If you follow food online this is the most overwhelming time of the year – between Thanksgiving, or maybe even Halloween, and New Years.

I get so many emails in my gmail account* with “29 recipes for dressing,” or the “best pecan pie,” or, heaven-forbid more recipes for Brussels sprouts – I am sorry there is not enough bacon in the world to make those things taste good. They should be called what they are, nasty little cabbages. Do not care how you shave them for a raw salad or what you roast them with. Am not doing it. Um, ever. 

The whole holiday food situation is just overwrought.

It is just a bit overwhelming and I think the best thing you can do it avoid it as best you can. Which is what I do around the holidays – avoid as best you can.

It reminds me of the traffic in our neighborhood that basically goes to hell in a hand basket between mid November and mid January because we are centrally located – which seemed like a good idea when we moved here, but when you cannot get out of your own neighborhood for about three months, you realize, it is not a good thing.

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Cranberry Relish – an easy tradition

Maybe that is why traditions become so important. They dial down the stress. You have recipes you know work and that you know your family and friends love, so it takes the pressure off. With the caveat that you don’t try to add too many new things in a single year – that way, friends, is disaster. Again, something I am prone to do, but am working on it. So far this holiday season I think I have done an admirable job.

I think the most important things are the things that make you happy. That is what all the holidays are about and that is why I always make M&M cookies for Christmas.

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Yep – M&M Cookies for Christmas

* and this is my fault.

 

Christmas Sugar Cookies 

So I treated myself with two new cookie cutters this year – an intricate snowflake and a Moravian star. The company is Salem Candle Works and the cookie cutters are made in North Carolina in the Moravian area of the state. I wish I had tried to do more things in the state when we live there, but once again, kind of like England, I missed opportunities. That said this is always my favorite sugar cookies – because they are stupidly good. They make me happy and I have been making this recipe since 2002. A Food Network recipe that really works and, honestly, is dead simple.dd_1745

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt

Over a sheet of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Sift in flour, a cup at a time. Blend until just mixed. Pour  onto a surface and mix til it just comes together. Press into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 3 – 4 hours or up to 3 days.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll out dough to about an 1/8 inch and cut with cookie cutters. Place on parchment lined baking sheet and sprinkle with colored sugar. Bake for 10 minutes, turning the pan half way through. Let rest on baking sheet for a minute and then remove to a rack to cool completely.
Dec 2002 – best sugar cookies ever

Jan 2003 – “for cast boy” – bake on parchment not on silpat. Used granulated sugar – very pretty.

24 Dec 2003 – best cookies, took to Samantha’s for Christmas Eve – 8 minutes.

24 December 2004 -vvg as always

24 December 2006

28 January 2014

30 December 2016 – 8 minutes with awesome new cookie cutters.

Cranberry Relish 

I have been making this relish for a very long time and you either like it or you do not – it is either a horseradish thing, or more likely, a cloves thing. I really do not think there is a middle ground here. I am forever in debt to my lovely mother in law – who is now my only mom for the great gift of lots of serving bowls*. I know I use this one year after year, but it is really beautiful. Indeed. dd_1651

I started making this just after the Boy and I came back from England. And I shared it with a really good friend the first time. Now I share with lots of friends – and that makes me really happy. I am 90% sure this is a recipe from Southern Living Magazine.

2 packages (6 cups) fresh cranberries
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups fresh orange juice
1/3 cup prepared horseradish, just drain it a bit
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Rinse cranberries, removing any that seem suspect. Combine sugar and orange juice in a large saucepan. Heat until sugar is dissolved on medium heat. Add cranberries and mix until the cranberries start to burst. Simmer for a bit. Let cool completely. Mix in the horseradish and the cloves. Refrigerate.  This will keep for months. And that is an excellent thing. Because you never know when you are going to need it.

For friends this year:

Traci 
Sandy
Joyce
Elaine
Josh
Tony
Ham

I am on my second batch and I am sure there will be a third batch. I just tell people when your canning jar is empty, let me know and I will fill it up again with cranberry relish. Because this is the time for fresh cranberries.

That being said, frozen cranberries (fresh cranberries that you shuffle off into the freezer), work for this too. No, really, they do. And I do freeze fresh cranberries, because you never know when you want cranberries with horseradish, especially in the summer. Yes, for a summer turkey sandwich with bleu cheese dressing and cranberry relish. That is good stuff.  And Tony says make the sandwich on Hawaiian rolls – I cannot believe I did not think of that before – duh.

* Need to get pictures of all the serving bowls she gave me – they are pretty much amazing.

 

Sunday Sweet Potatoes

I know I do this every year, but this are so important in the pantheon of holiday foods for out holiday. Requested by all and dead simple in the grand scheme of things. DD_0315

3 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes – lately, I prefer roasting them ahead of time
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup coconut flakes
1 cup chopped pecans – or more if you prefer, which I do*
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Mix potatoes, sugar, milk, 1/3 cup melted butter, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl. Put into glass casserole dish**. Blend coconut, pecans, brown sugar, flour and 1/2 cup melted butter. Top potato mixture with coconut/nut mixture. Bake at 375 degrees F.20 – 25 minutes or until brown.
Bench Notes:
*I also usually use a mix of pecans and walnuts and always use more than 1 cup because that is what you should do.
**You can use a 9 x 13″ glass casserole or a 11 x 13″ glass casserole (which I think is a better ratio – more crunchy bits on top).
Since I never have any idea of how many sweet potatoes are needed to make three cups of mashed sweet potato, I always end up with extra – hello, sweet potato biscuits. Now a traditional Thanksgiving appetizer stuffed with ham and horseradish cream. Thanks, JW.
Recipe from my sister-in-law – Wanda. I wonder if she knew when she started making these for our family how important they would become. Because now, no Thanksgiving or Christmas is right without them and the MotH’s family expects this – it is the side that is basically dessert. I guess that is how amazing recipes get shared from one family to another and then to another, and that makes new traditions.