December 21, 2007

Cheryl's Sugar Cookie Icing (Plus)

Nothing says the holidays more than taking three evenings to make one type of cookie, but I like to spread the work out so I'm not standing all night. This iced sugar cookie and recipe is everyone's favorite. I make other kinds, but this is the one I'm demanded to make by family and friends, especially by Kyle who won't let me make anything else for his class and parties. I have lots of cookie cutter shapes for the each of the holidays, because a I think variety on the plate looks festive. And although there's an extra step in this cookie method (freezing the dough over night), it all goes fast once you get the hang of it.

Here's how I do it:

Day 1. I make I make Mamaw's sugar cookie dough and freeze it overnight (freezing makes it less sticky and much easier to roll it out really thin, tomorrow).

Day 2. The next night, I roll the cookies very, very thinly and wafery and bake them so they're still dough-colored, barely browned (so watch them carefully).

Day 3. I ice the cookies.

Cheryl's Sugar Cookie Icing
3 cups confectioners sugar
3 tablespoons butter (melted and hot)
1 1/2 tsps flavoring extract (vanilla, lemon, orange, etc.)
Food coloring as directed below
Approximately 6-7 tsps of milk

1. In large bowl, sift confectioner's sugar.
2. M
ix in very hot melted butter.
3. Stir in the extract.
4. Add food coloring.*
Add the milk 1-2 tsps at a time while stirring with a spoon, and mix until it's thick enough to coat a cookie, excess can drip off, but not run off like water!

NOTE: Extract and food coloring will thin the icing, so for every few drops, you need one less tsp. of milk to thin it. Too thin and the icing will turn speckle-y when it cools.

6. Place cookies one at a time upside down in bowl on top of icing. Remove and let excess drip off.
7. Place icing side up on cookie sheet and refrigerate overnight. Once hardened, transfer to air-tight tin.

*If making multiple colors of icing, separate the icing into equal amounts into wide bowls. Add the different food colorings to each bowl and blend until you have the color you want.

The icing isn't only for Christmas. Depending on the holiday, I use different food coloring and flavoring:

Easter = Lemon extract and an assortment of light pastels (just 2-3 drops of yellow/green/blue/red)
Thanksgiving & Halloween = Orange extract and orange food black, browns and purples.
Valentine's day = red and vanilla; I've even made purple hearts for Memorial Day.
Christmas = Vanilla with 3 colors: red, green and white.

To make the colors darker and richer, I mix them like this:
Green = 2 drops of red for every 6 drops of green to make a rich forest green
Red = 2 drops of green for every 6 drops of red makes cranberry
White = The vanilla extract colors it a rich ivory color

December 18, 2007

Cheryl's Hot Mulled Wine

Here is a drink that makes me feel warm and cozy inside, and always reminds me of Christmas. A friend of mine introduced me to this, oh, about 10 years ago at a Christmas party. She's from England and apparently this is a yuletide staple there. Later this friend gave me a spice mix to add to the warmed wine, but after some experimentation I came up with this version, my very own Mulled Spiced Wine. Funny thing is, after all those years, she and I went through our separations and divorces at the same time. Now we have become great friends. As have our exes.

In a pot on the stove, or in a crock pot, pour a magnum of merlot or cabernet, and warm on med/low.

1/4 tsp. nutmeg*
1 tsp cinnamon*
1/4 tsp cloves* (or more or less to your taste)Orange or clementine rinds (optional)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Warm (remember, don't boil it or you'll lose the kick when the alcohol evaporates out) and serve with a ladle. Mmmm....

*Spices may be loose or put it in a tea strainer [or cheese clothe]. If you put them in loose be sure to strain the liquid before serving.

December 15, 2007

21st Century Magic Bars, with Ginger and Dark Chocolate

The gingeriness of these irresistible bars makes them taste really Christmasy to me!

I love Magic Bars but I always feel like I’ve overdone it after eating them. I don’t remember, even, anyone in the family ever making them. Maybe that’s why. Maybe they are a little over the top for the Methodist sensibility (though anyone who knows me knows that I don't suffer much from that malady, myself). But with the recipe below I think I’ve managed to bring the traditional Magic Bars into the 21st century, and it came about through my effort to do something with those failed butter/sugar cookies (from the random recipe) that turned out like rocks. I mean really, how can one just through away the 2 ½ sticks of butter it took to make them? In a nutshell (so to speak), I crumbed the cookies in the blender and used them to replace the graham crackers in the traditional recipe. This version is not nearly so cloyingly sweet as the original, and the bite of the ginger takes it yet further to the side of decadence without toothache.

Magic Bars with Candied Ginger and Dark Chocolate

1 1/2 cups cookie crumbs (you can use graham crackers here, or crumb some butter/sugar cookies)

1 Tablespoon ground ginger
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 1/3 cups sweetened flaked coconut, halved
1/3 cup candied ginger bits
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk)
1 cup chopped pecans

For Ganache
1 pound dark chocolate, broken up into chunks (the better the chocolate, the better the dish)

¾ cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1. With a whisk, combine the ground ginger with the crumbs.
2. Add the candied ginger.
3. Add half of the coconut.
4. Pour the melted butter over the crumb mixture, and toss.
5. Press firmly into a square brownie pan.
6. Pour the sweetened condensed milk over the pressed crumbs.
7. Top with the remaining coconut and press down with fork to compact.
8. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned.

9. While the baked part is cooling slightly, put the chocolate chunks in a heat-proof bowl.
10. Boil the cream.
11. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and let it sit, undisturbed, for five minutes.
12. Whisk the warm mixture until it is homogeneous.
13. Pour it over the baked crumb part.
14. Chill in the refrigerator for an hour, then remove and cut into squares.

Yum! Yum! Yum! Yum! Yum! Yum! Yum! Yum! Yum! Yum! Yum! Yum! Yum! Yum!

December 12, 2007

"The Recipe" from Our Mamaw, and Jam Thumbprints

I'll get to the cookies on the right in a sec. First, "The Recipe." This is the coolest story, and we totally have to have this as a "syllabub" option this holiday. Here's how my mom tells it: Aunt Janey was cleaning out the downstairs freezer at the Smith Estate (smile), and in it she ran across a peanut butter jar labled, in masking tape, with the simple moniker: "The Recipe." Apparenlty all three sisters were in attendence at the house, and with a little reflection it hit them what this was.

Mamaw, "Mother" to them, had when she was living of course belonged to the Desk & Derrek Club, an organization for women who work in the oil industry. The Club had conventions, as clubs tend to do, and Mamaw's friend Ola Chapman every year brought "The Recipe" as her contribution to the refreshment table. Mamaw brought frozen strawberry daquiries. Sounds like rather a lively convention of ladies, no?

At any rate, of course, Mamaw has been gone a while, and my own mother says that the best they could figure it was at least 10 years before her death that she'd attended a Desk & Derrek convention, as she had natuarally been retired for some time. Nonetheless, the sisters opened the peanut butter jar with its Masonic-secret sounding label and toasted their departed mother with its contents, "The Recipe." It was quite fine. They could not, however, find the recipe for The Recipe.

But not to despair. Ola Chapman is still living, and quite present in my mother's weekly bridge club. Ola filled my mother's request for the recipe, and so we have it here. I think you'll agree, The Recipe sounds fantastic. As a holiday syllubub I can't see that it can miss. I beleive that we should honor Mamaw, her long working life, and the little-seen fun loving side of her that would, according, again, to my mother, most years bring home a jar such as this filled with this drink and in the evening walk a few steps through the kitchen while prepairing dinner for "just a spoonful" of The Recipe. Cheers, Mamaw.

The Recipe

1 12 oz. can frozen lemonaide
1 12 oz. can frozen limeaide
2 10 oz. bottles of Squirt
1 quart ginger ale
1 quart whiskey

Mix in an air tight container, then transfer to the freezer. Don't thaw -- just serve it directly from the freezer.


On another subject, just a quick note about these delicious little jam thumbprint cookies. I've adapted Ina Garten's recipe for the ones pictured. Essentially, it's the same. But I added an egg (this might not be necessary, but I was having trouble that day getting the dough to come together), made them smaller than hers, and used lingonberry jam. I love the little sheen and very, very slight crispness the egg wash gives them. Making them small like this means that each one is a single bite, and so each bite has jam in it! The lingonberries of course are a nod to Scandinavia, which is forever in my mind as the most beautiful place to spend Christmas in the entire world (besides, other than grape it was the only jam or jelly I had on hand!).

Jam Thumbprints
adapted from Ina Garten

3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (I use the
preserved vanilla bean paste)
3 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

7 ounces sweetened flaked coconut
Lingonberry jam

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar until just combined, and then add the vanilla.
3. Separately, sift together the flour and salt.

4. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar.
5. Add the egg. Mix until the dough starts to come together.
6. Dump on a floured board and roll together into a flat disk.
7. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
8. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls (I used a teaspoon to measure them out).

9. Dip each ball into the egg wash and then roll it in coconut.
10. Place the balls on an parchment lined cookie sheet and press a light indentation into the top of each with your finger.
11. Drop just enough jam into each indentation to fill it.
12. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the coconut is a golden brown.
13. Cool and serve.

Evelyn's Honey Bars & A Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

Long time friends of ours, Evelyn and Paul Bostick, had a B & B in a small town outside of Waco, Texas, Clifton,in the central Texas hill country. She is an excellent cook and this was one of her very quick and unusual cookie recipes. Clifton is the Norwegian Capital of Texas - they have great annual festivals there. Clifton also has been recognized as one of the top 100 small art communities in the nation on several occasions. Think you would like it, Margaret. Small college town.

No, John and I didn't make it to their B& B. They both were corporate or medical people - wanted to get out of the hustle and bustle of the DFW area so bought the B& B. However, they found it tied them down and so sold it. Paul had continued to work for the health insurance, etc. Back to the recipe. Paul and Evelyn are Methodist, we became friends, enjoyed going to a Cowboys game or two and exchanging recipes. They live several hours from us so we don't get to see them too much. Just good folks. She would often bring these cookies to potlucks (we Methodists love to do potlucks, of course), and this is her most requested recipe. I truly don't know where it came from originally, but sure is good. I just pulled a batch out of the oven. A quick 15 minute or less preparation -- and it bakes in 20.

Evelyn's Honey Bars

Mix together:

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup cooking oil
1/4 cup honey

Mix together and add to oil mixture:

3 cups sifted flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon


1 egg, beaten
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts seem to be the best)
Press dough into a cookie sheet with sides.

Bake at 325 for 20 minutes and glaze while hot.


Thoroughly mix:

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 Tablespoon mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip)
1 Tablespoon water

And there is an good hot chocolate mix that can be made up and kept on hand:

3 Cups powdered milk
3/4 Cup good cocoa
3/4 cup fine sugar

Stir thoroughly.

Mix 4 Tablespoons with 8 oz.. of hot water and enjoy.

London Fog -- The Wilbois' Traditional Christmas Eve Party Drink

London Fog

1 gallon of vanilla ice cream
2 cups of gin
½ cup of cream of sherry

Blend all the ingredients thoroughly with mixer or immersion blender, then put it in an air tight container and back into the freezer for at least an hour. Remove it from the freezer 40 minutes before serving to let it soften up.

You can always mix in more ice cream if it is too strong for your taste (or visa versa).

Kristy's Story: This drink has been the house drink every year at my mother’s annual Christmas Eve open house party. It was always a big hit and people would look forward to having it each year. It packs a powerful punch, so be careful! One year my sister was in town from Minnesota. It was Christmas Eve and we would make an enormous amount of London Fog to accommodate all of the guests. We would put the buckets of it out on the back porch to keep them cold because we wouldn’t have enough room in the freezer. This particular Christmas my sister’s schnauzer, Ashley, was let outside to do her business. She evidently, however, got into our business!

Somehow, apparently, she got the lid off of one of the containers of London Fog, and, unbeknownst to us, decided to help herself to the holiday cheer! When we let her in later, we noticed she was behaving very oddly. She was running into things and acting quite “out of it.” She tried to go down some stairs but her front paws were glued to the floor and she lifted her back legs up in the air trying to move-- she was doing a hand-stand (or paw-stand)! When we went to get the London Fog from the porch we saw that over a cup was missing, explaining the dog’s behavior. Most of us thought it was hysterical, but my sister didn’t see it that way. She thought Bill and I intentionally got her dog drunk! Poor dog, the whole next day she didn’t even move!

The sad part of it is that my sister and her family moved to Florida and Ashley was eaten by an Alligator. It lived in the pond very close to their house. I guess Ashely is one of those dogs who would have been better off staying inside.

December 11, 2007

Sugar Cookies That Work, with Four Variations

Here is my mom's favorite sugar cookie recipe. If it's the one I think it is (and I'll tell you on Monday), it will make perfect cookie-cutter cookies. I needed this recipe badly, since my efforts have been less than stellar on the decorated Christmas sugar cookie front.

Yes, of course there is lots of Christmas cookie baking going on at the Waverly Place residence -- at least as much as the mandatory 60 hour work week I'm operating under in my day job allows (sorry, just had to add a little whine). I cannot say that I'm yet an expert cookie baker, but I'm learning. Last night a metrosexual man friend (and yes, I mean friend) came over and we played with making fun cookie glaze colors, painting the sugar cookies in all sorts of child-like, crazy ways, and generally discovering that our lack of talent was not a detriment to cookie decorating enjoyment. I'll take some pictures! I love most, I think, the red-headed angel I made for my red-headed daughter (see the picture? isn't it pretty?). Or, from my friend, the purple mane and tail he painted on my sky-blue pony.

But the trouble is finding exactly the right sugar cookie recipe. I've tried two in the last two days. One just wouldn't come together, so I added a whole egg to the one yolk it called for, and still the dough would not roll out, so I made little balls that I then pressed with a cookie form. They taste like rocks. The batch I made last night rolled great, tastes great, but the cookies puffed up upon baking a lot more than my mother's or Mamaw's ever did. I know this beyond a doubt, because I am using the cookie cutters that my mother used when we were growing up, and her angels and Santas and bells and stars and odd Celtic cross thingy were always quite well formed, almost identical to the mold, and mine came out looking like cloud forms that one, with enough leisure to stare at the sky, might imagine were angels and Santas and bells and stars and odd Celtic crosses.

Nicely, though, this morning I received an email from Aunt Janey sending me, at her request, my mother's favorite sugar cookie recipe. Thanks, Mom. You heard my plea. I thought at first this was the recipe from our childhood cookies, but here's what Aunt Janey says about it: "I believe the recipe came from the Midwest Living Magazine. I made them for the first time two years ago, took Christmas cut-out cookies to Salem, that was when your Mother first tasted them and said she liked them better. I don't decorate them at all - just don't take the time. Guess the cream cheese takes some of the sweet out and may be the reason I like them over the traditional sugar cookie. Mother's sugar cookies were always so delicious - sometimes my stuff doesn't turn out like hers."

I hope to make these this coming Sunday. Can you believe I have something booked every single night from now until Saturday? My God. Here's the cookie recipe. If you try it before I do I know we'd all love to hear and see your results!

4-in-One Cookie Dough

The cream cheese adds richness and flavor to this simple, versatile recipe.

1 pkg (8 oz) Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
3/4 cup butter(1 1/2 sticks)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda

1. Beat cream cheese, butter, sugar and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended.

2. Add flour and baking soda, mix well.
3. Wrap and refrigerate for half an hour.

Proceed below to the variation of your choice. They look great on their own or together on a tray.

Pinwheel Cookies

1. Divide above dough in half.
2. Add 2 sq. melted Bakers Semi-sweet Baking Chocolate to one half of dough, mix until well blended.
3. Divide each half into 2 equal parts (you should have 2 white and 2 chocolate pieces).
4. Roll 1 of the white and 1 of the chocolate dough pieces each into a 10 x 8 inch rectangle on floured surface.

5. Place rolled out chocolate dough onto rolled out white dough and press gently to form even layer.
6. Starting from the short side, roll up dough tightly to form a log; wrap in plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining dough.
7. Refrigerate 1 hour.
8. Preheat oven to 350 F.

9. Cut dough into 1/4 inch thick slices; place on ungreased baking sheets.
10. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned.

Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

Thumbprint Cookies

1. To the basic dough recipe above, add 1 cup finely chopped pecans.
2. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 350.
4. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Place on ungreased baking sheets.
5. Indent centers.
6. Bake 10 minutes.
7. Fill each cookie with about 1 tsp. of your favorite preserves.
8. Continue baking 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Sugar Cookie Cut-Outs

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Roll basic dough recipe above to 1/8 inch thickness on lightly floured surface.
3. Cut into assorted shapes and place on greased baking sheets.
4. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until edges begin to brown.
5. Transfer cookies to wire tack.

You can frost these when they cool, or sprinkle with colored sugars before baking - use your imagination!

Pecan Bars

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Press dough firmly onto bottom of ungreased 15 x 10 x 1 inch baking pan (cookie sheet).
3. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.
4. Meanwhile, combine until well blended:

2 eggs
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla

5. Stir in 3 cups chopped pecans.
6. Spread the egg/nut mixture evenly onto the warm crust.
7. Bake an additional 20 to 25 minutes or until the topping is firm around the edges and slightly soft in the center.
8. Cool and cut into 60 bars.

All this from one recipe! No wonder it's my mommy's favorite!

December 10, 2007

Hot Toddie from Lisa: Minted Mocha Hot Chocolate for Grown-Ups

Lisa says: This is a delish spiked hot chocolate. Doesn't get any easier. You can make hot choc from scratch, or just heat milk and add Hersheys syrup, or buy the envelopes [see Margaret's recipe below]. A candy cane stirrer looks festive, too.

1 oz.
peppermint schnapps
Hot chocolate
Whipped cream

Mixing instructions:
Add the schnapps to the hot chocolate and stir. Top with whipped cream.
Option: Sprinkle with chocolate

Lisa's story: This comforting hot chocolate was served to me by my freelance writer friend, Carol. It was a chilly (for FL), very windy evening last December. It was already dark out when I got to her house, and the kettle was whistling invitingly. Expecting a hot cup of tea, I was pleasantly surprised when she set down this fragrant mug in front of me. It smelled like a peppermint patty, a favorite candy of mine. She winked and lifted her cup, "Cheers, dear!"

We took a long drawn out sip and in unison, sighed, "AAAhhhhhhhh."

That warm break from routine was special, unexpected, and made our quick hello a festive little visit. I have made it since, and it always leaves me feeling like it's holiday time!

Margaret's Note: Here's my favorite way to make hot chocolate (adapted from Ina Garten), which I think would work fabulously with Lisa's Minted:

2 1/2 cups whole milk
2 cups half-and-half
4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate
4 ounces chopped milk chocolate
1 tablespoon sugar

Heat the milk and half-and-half in a saucepan on medium heat to just below the simmering point. Remove the pan from the heat and add both chocolates. When the chocolates are melted, add the sugar and vanilla extract and whisk vigorously. Reheat gently and serve immediately.

December 2, 2007

The History of Syllabub, and a Tudor Recipe

Cookies, hot toddies, syllabub -- these are our favorite things, for our December recipe call, anyway.

What is a syllabub? A syllabub is something Papaw asks for sometimes when he wants a cocktail. Growing up, I always thought it was a funny word my Papaw made up! Now that he’s nearing 100, and I 50, and my aural travels have brought me far enough afield to hear the word spoken outside of my grandparents’ house I find that a syllabub is a real thing, a dessert, a drink, a frothy liquor confection apparently greatly loved by the Tudors and Stewarts and perhaps by those dwelling even farther back in time than they. (And yes, those who know me can wink at the odd little Tudor connection there). So, this Christmas I vow to make my Papaw a real, true syllabub. Will he like it? I’ll let you know. But I’d love to collect some syllabub recipes here, and hear from you about your experiences making or imbibing it. And I’d love to know if anyone else’s grandpa ever referred to his cocktails this way. Also, just pure curiosity, is the plural of syllabub, syllabi?

-- Margaret

This recipe and commentary are from Food Heritage dot com:


Syllabub was a popular dessert in seventeenth, eighteenth and early nineteenth century England. It was popular for celebrations, special occasions and holidays due to its festive appearance. Many original recipes survive with various modes of preparation. Generally Syllabub was made with a mixture of whipped cream, whipped egg whites, white wine, sugar, lemon juice and zest of lemon. The quantity of white wine added would determine the consistency qualifying whether the mixture would be a creamy dessert or a popular punch. White wine could be substituted with apple cider or other alcoholic beverages. One could always detect the drinker of the beverage by the thick white mustache left behind. The following modern adaptation will make a Syllabub Dessert Parfait for 10 people. For a punch add more wine until you have achieved the desired consistency.

2 cups of whipped cream
½ cup of white sugar
1/8 cup of white wine
1/8 cup of freshly-squeezed lemon juice and zest of lemon
grated nutmeg
sprig of mint
lemon slice

Whip cream until thick in a chilled bowl. When the cream begins to thicken, add the sugar, white wine, lemon juice and zest of lemon. Continue to whip until thick. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Spoon the mixture into footed parfait glasses and garnish with a sprig of mint, a slice of lemon and a sprinkle of grated nutmeg.

10 servings

December 1, 2007

Cookies! Hot Toddies! Sillubub!

Thanksgiving. And a plethora of dressings. Bill’s mother-in-law Carol brought one, Bryan (brought along by Molly) brought one, and I made the oyster version.

I have to say, though, that minus that fruity one I made a couple of years ago (which seemed to make everyone forget all the good dressings I’d made in the past and decide I was a lousy stuffing maker) I am missing the cornbread-based versions I’ve whipped up in years past. Those were great. The last two years my mom has had packaged cornbread/bread crumb mixtures laying around and wanted me to use them, and really I’ve been rather horrified at the results, oysters or none.

Next year, then, I vow to post two stuffing recipes: my favorite, made from cornbread crumbs baked the night before and left out, half-crumbly to dry; and Mamaw Greatie’s, which in spite of its use of the packaged crumb product was always wonderful, not at all slimy or chewy. Had I remembered her recipes was in a pile of papers in my bedroom I would have made it! Alas.

In spite of that embarrassment of dressings and a few cranky persons (including myself) it was wonderful to see the old Papaw hanging in there for yet another holiday. Nearing 100. Wow, are we lucky.

And so -- on to December! with its call for Cookies! Hot Toddies! And Sillubub! Send them in, dears. Let’s launch this last month of the year with bang.