Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Holidaze

ROBERTA: 'Tis the season for marking the upcoming holidays and this year I'm finding decorating and baking to be a grand tool for procrastination. We have our tree up and decorated, lights outside and on the mantle, and I'm well into Christmas cards and wrapping presents. I've even contemplated dragging out the sewing machine and whipping up a few things. Besides that, I've made my first batch of sugar cookies--they're almost gone so natch, I'll have to bake more. Doesn't that sound like more fun than slogging along in another first draft? In case you, too, need a distraction, here's the recipe for my sugar cookies:

1 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 and 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt

cream butter and sugar, beat in egg and vanilla. combine flour and salt separately, then mix in with the butter/sugar mixture. chill the dough 3 hours. preheat oven to 350. roll out dough to 1/8 inch thick on lightly floured surface. dip cookie cutters into flour before each use. bake on ungreased cookie sheets about 10 min or until lightly browned.

They are good this way, but even better with creamy vanilla frosting:). beat 3 cups powdered sugar with 1/3 cup softened butter. stir in 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and about 2 tablespoons milk. color and ice as desired.

How's your holiday spirit this year?

JAN: Usually I feel oppressed by the commercial demands of Christmas, but this year I'm into it. Maybe because my daughter, the self-proclaimed Xmas Nazi, was in Dubai for a month last Christmas. This year, I'm happy, instead of irritated, when she puts on the Christmas music. House already decorated. One batch of cookies made and eaten. I even sent out one card: to a friend I've lost contact with. The real question: WILL I DO THE CANDY??? All that stirring.....we'll see.

HALLIE: As the recipient of some of Jan's last year's toffee: Please, Jan, MAKE CANDY! I'll definitely be making a batch of dark chocolate-covered orange rind.

I stuck some greens on the front door, which is about the only Christmas-y thing I do. And baked a batch of mandel bread which are twice-cooked cookies kind of like Jewish biscotti (for Hanukah--made with oil instead of butter) loaded with almonds, raisins, and cherries. Easy and delicious. And I've laid in some nice Yukon gold potatoes for latkes and stocked up on oil.

Have been to the mall once and it was mobbed. Am I the only one who thinks people are shopping again?

HANK: Yes, people are definitely shopping. And one boosktore owner told me they're buying lots of games! (Apparently families are staying home...which is an interesting development. We should talk about games some time..don't play with me, I'm too competitive.)
So, yes, I'm getting ready for the holidays! I purchased holiday cards which are now taunting me from their boxes. And that's---about it. Hmm. Interesting.

RO: I'm definitely in the spirit. I've been to five holiday parties (and two birthday celebrations.) My tree is up, but not yet decorated. I've already had one baking session - the infamous cranberry tarts and applesauce spice cake. (I tend to make each half a dozen times before the market runs out of cranberries.) Rachel Ray has a quickie latke recipe that I like which would probably horrify a purist - she uses shredded frozen potatoes - but I'll make it anyway. Anyone ever hear of The LeeVees? They have a cd of Hanukah music including that perennial favorite Latke Clan.

But this year my stepsons are staying in California and I have no immediate family so it will be a quiet one chez Harris. Bruce, me, lots of baked goods for two people and repeated viewings of Love, Actually.

ROBERTA: Hallie--need that recipe for biscotti. Our supper club is having a Hanukah theme this month and I'm in charge of dessert. I know they are traditional, but I have never liked ruggelach (spelling?). And Hank, games. We wouldn't dare play with you. But if we did, it should be this new smash sensation game called Bananagrams. We are so hooked. It's like Scrabble only each player uses her own tiles to make words. addictive!

RHYS: I've sent out over 100 holiday cards, all over the world. I keep threatening to cut down the list, but we never seem to. And sometimes it's the only way to keep in touch with almost-forgotten friends in far flung places.
I've done a lot of shopping online this year and bought theater tickets instead of presents for one daughter and her family (whoops, I shouldn't have said that, should I? But I blogged on my other blogsite on the overwhelming abundance that spoils my holiday spirit. I don't want choirs and orchestras singing carols. I don't expect a Lexus under the tree. I'm all for the home made gifts and the baking and decorating with greens.
I haven't started baking yet but I'll be expected to do the usual mince pies, sausage rolls and stollen. Interesting mix of English and German, but I happen to love stollen--nobody else does but I still make it.
My granddaughter Lizzie got Bananagrams for her birthday last week. We love playing family board games and I also belong to a group of women who play.

And one last word from JAN: If anyone is around and awake tomorrow morning, I'll be on Reading With Robin's program talking about the Best Books of 2009. That's 7:20 in the am. on 920 AM WHJJ. Call in with your favorites and we can chat! (come on JR readers, set your clocks and give her a buzz!)


  1. Hallie, please post your recipe for orange rind covered with dark chocolate--it's my absolute favorite. I used to get it in a place in Santa Fe but haven't found it for years.

  2. Happily! Candied orange rind
    1. Remove peel from 4 oranges in lengthwise sections and place in saucepan of cold water to cover
    2. Bring to boil and simmer until peel is tender
    3. Drain, scrape off the white part with a spoon, and cut peel into thin strips with a scissor.
    4. Place strips in saucepan with
    1 C sugar
    1/2 water
    2 T corn syrup
    5. Cook slowly until 'clear' (230 F on candy thermometer)
    6. Drain in coarse sieve
    7. Cool on a plate and EITHER:
    - dip each strip in sugar
    - OR dip each separately in melted dipping chocolate and dry on wax paper (you can use melted chocolate chips but add a little Crisco to it -- 1.5 C of chips to 2 T Crisco (NOT BUTTER OR OIL OR OTHER SHORTENING)

  3. Ah, yes, stollen. I hear you, Rhys. When I lived in Cambridge a million years ago, I had a roommate who made it every year--and it was like rock. Made a great doorstop. I've made is since, minus about two cups of the flour in her recipe.

    Last year my daughter and I together made Emily Dickinson's black cake, her traditional holiday gift. It took twenty eggs and five pounds of everything else, but it tasted pretty good (and there are still a few pieces around, if anyone wants really well aged fruitcake!).


    Yes, it's on my calendar.
    Yes, I saw it.
    yes, I saw it a million times.


    Happy Birthday Happy BIrthday Happy Birthday!!!

  5. Hallie, what do you mean, remove peel lengthwise?

    I'm trying to picture the length of an orange.

    Very Zen.

    (Happy Birthday, Ro, did I mention that?)

  6. time zones. From pole to pole ... not across the equator.

  7. So glad all of you have the holiday spirit! After surviving the holiday parade I orchestrate in my day job, I feel like the Grinch grumbling about all the work still ahead for everyone around me to enjoy the holidays (my blog subject this week is how some women HATE Christmas). Maybe it's all because my kids aren't here -- though one returns tomorrow! But all your recipes cheered me up, so thanks!

  8. Okay Hallie,
    I LOVED the time zone analogy, which cleared that one up, but what do you mean by "dipping chocolate." Usually I just melt semi-sweet bakers chocolate in a double boiler, but do you mean that chocolate stuff (with emulsifiers) they sell in the produce section next to strawberries?? Or something else I don't even know about?

    Desperate to know!

    And Pat,
    I've had years when I've felt that way about Christmas, too.

  9. And I should also clear up, by
    "Tomorrow" I meant I'll be on at Saturday morning on WHJJ 920.

    7:20 a.m.


  10. Thank you, thank you, Hank...I'm still celebrating!
    I've never had orange rind covered with chocolate, although I suppose just about anything covered in chocolate would be good. Aching to google Bananagrams. I love playing games but my husband hates to play with me because I am so competitive. Maybe we can have a virtual Scrabble game here..I'll look into it.

  11. Every year I keep saying I'm going to cut back on the craziness--the baking, decorating, filling stockings for grown-ups. Like every other year, it's baloney. I can't help myself!

  12. Definitely in the holiday spirit here. Three loved ones have survived horrid illness and are doing well, one is fighting the good fight. One of my dearest, sweetest little rescue dogs (a tiny Pom all of 4 lbs.) has recovered some of his joie de vivre and is eating like a pig. He's my muse, that boy, and it's good to have him back after a scary couple of months.

    So yep, I'm feeling festive. Normally the house is decorated a la Williamsburg -- lots of apples, pineapples, evergreen and magnolia leaves, &tc., but at the end of this hard year decided to put up animatronic penguins! all over yard! penguins opening boxes! flying a dirigible! teeter-tottering up a tree! The neighborhood kids love it, and I feel a little lighter, too. Though the penguins teetering up the tree really piss off the dogs, who bark at them furiously from time to time.

    Yay holidays! Yay life! Yay chocolate orange peel!

    And, if you wanna get in on some virtual Scrabble, Facebook has an app for it. I'm currently getting my butt kicked by several Highly Intelligent Persons -- and loving it. :) Slow games, played across weeks.

    Happy holidays!

    And Hallie and Hank (and husbands, of course), thank you for the fine meal and lovely company -- and mulled wine (how holiday was that?) last evening.

  13. "Dipping chocolate" - come as little disks - they're called "wafers" - by the bagful. They're already tempered...which means you just melt and dip - they'll dry quickly and won't turn white or grainy. Lots of brands are available - just so you can see what they're like here's a link to one --