CHRISTMAS COUNTDOWN — DECEMBER 3

Add a little spice to your holiday celebrations with gingersnaps.  And if you really want to experience a holiday treat, order a tin of crisp, spicy gingersnaps from The Center, a private not-for-profit agency serving persons with developmental and intellectual disabilities (Houston readers can purchase these at the Eastside Farmers Market).  The sale of the gingersnaps began as a volunteer effort led by Alicia Lee, whose son and nephew were residents at The Center’s Willow River Farms.  According to the website, the request for gingersnaps came from Barbara Bush, and Ms. Lee set about testing recipes for months in her quest for a crisp, crunchy, spicy cookie.  She found that one of the secrets was to have fresh and strong spices.  A spice company in Wisconsin had just what she was looking for, and after many more test batches, they sent a sample to Barbara Bush, who loved them, and the rest is gingersnap history.  Each gold tin is decorated with a hand-pressed and gilded ornament, made by one of the Center’s clients.

If you’d like to make your own gingersnaps or ginger cookies, there are a million recipes out there.  My personal favorite recipe is this one, and I bake tons of them every year.

The Center also has a traditional fruitcake that we adore.  It is loaded with red cherries, pecans, dates, walnuts, and coconut, and is more of a confection than a cake.  They are not kidding when they say that this is “the best you have ever tasted! EVER!”  (At the suggestion of one of The Center’s volunteers, we now freeze one of these fruitcakes every year to enjoy as a special treat in the summer months.)

fruitcakesAlthough the gingersnaps are wonderful all by themselves, they are even better served with Amazing Pumpkin Dip.  We discovered this years ago at a small grocery store that had samples out of various products you could order for the holidays, including pies, cookies, and turkeys.  They called it Amazing Pumpkin Dip and had copies of the recipe printed for anyone who wanted one.  What was truly amazing was that we were not asked to leave, because my young son ate at least half of the bowl of dip while I was shopping.  (He tended to view free samples as his own personal buffet.)

If you need to bring a dish to a holiday party, or are looking for something to serve at one of your own, gingersnaps and pumpkin dip are a crowd-pleaser.  You can use any brand of pumpkin butter, but my favorite is McCutcheon’s:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

AMAZING PUMPKIN DIP
Print
Recipe type: Appetizers, Snacks, Desserts
Author:
Ingredients
  • 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 10 ounces pumpkin butter
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 8-ounce container frozen whipped topping, thawed
  • Gingersnaps, for serving
Instructions
  1. Place cream cheese in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add pumpkin butter, sugar, and vanilla, and beat until well-blended. Gently fold in whipped topping. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Serve with gingersnaps for dipping.

IMG_5431

The winner of the paperwhite bulbs giveaway, selected randomly using random.org, is Angela from Seasonal and Savory.  Angela — send me your address and I will get these off to you ASAP, and hopefully, you will have beautiful, fragrant blooms by Christmas.  Thanks to all who participated — watch for more giveaways this month.

 

 

GOLDEN ROASTED PEACHES

IMG_5142

IMG_5145

I found this book, “Flower Children,” by Elizabeth Gordon, copyright 1939, at an estate sale.  The book is dedicated to “every Child-Flower that Blooms Within the Glorious Garden That we Call Home.”

IMG_5144

I was charmed by the colorful drawings of the flower children:

I’m not sure how the creepy old “Grandpa” flower ended up alone with all the Flower Children:

IMG_5151

My oldest Child-Flower left for college last week, just like little Garden Pink (I still have a 15-year old Stinkweed at home):

IMG_5141

I was amused by the idea of Garden Pink insisting that everyone call her Rose Carnation when she came home to visit.  When I turned 18, my Dad told me it was time to start using my middle initial, so I did (while disregarding most of the other advice he offered).  My husband dropped his childhood nickname sometime in college.  My daughter’s roommate, formerly known as Sophie, now asks to be called Sophia.  (Then there’s my friend’s daughter’s soon-to-be-ex-roommate, who insists on being called Thomas and asks not to be referred to as “she” in anticipation of the “changes ahead.” Oh my.)  I wonder if my daughter is going to insist on an adult version of the name she has gone by her whole life.  Doesn’t matter — she’ll always be our Garden Pink.

I have lots to say about the emotional experience of leaving your firstborn at college, but I’m too fragile to write about it just yet.  So for now, if anyone asks, I’ll tell them “I’m just peachy” — which means whatever you want it to mean at any given moment.

Inspired by the book of flower children and the excitement/trauma of taking my daughter to college, I have a recipe for a dessert that is, like me, just peachy.  I know there are lots of recipes for baked/roasted/grilled peaches floating around this time of year, but this one is different in that it uses golden syrup–not maple syrup or honey–to add a touch of sweetness.  Something special happens when the golden syrup, butter, and peach juices simmer together in the baking dish.  The peaches, in all their caramelly goodness, are delicious on their own, but they will not protest if you add a small scoop of ice cream with some of those delicious pan juices drizzled over it.

GOLDEN BAKED PEACHES
Print
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 large, ripe peaches
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons Lyle's Golden Syrup
  • Flaky sea salt, to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut peaches in half, remove pit, and then cut each half into four wedges. Place peaches, skin side down, in a baking dish. Combine butter and golden syrup in a small bowl. Using a pastry brush, brush peaches with butter mixture, pouring any extra over peaches.
  3. Bake peaches until soft and beginning to caramelize, approximately 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly. Just before serving, pour pan juices over peaches and sprinkle lightly with sea salt.
  4. Note: These baked peaches go well with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

IMG_5014

Start with fresh, unblemished peaches

IMG_5059

Arrange skin side down in baking dish

IMG_5064

Bake until soft and beginning to caramelize

IMG_5067 (2)

 A little ice cream never hurts

peach creature

 Remember when the alien popped out of the guy’s stomach in Aliens?