It's the Holiday Season......

HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON

This post is a little later than I thought it would be.  Where does the time go?  I do have to talk a bit about Thanksgiving this year even though it has already been celebrated. 

Thanksgiving just happens to be my favorite holiday.  The center of attraction being a big golden brown turkey surrounded by fresh mashed potatoes, corn (from last summer's harvest), sweet potatoes topped with perfectly toasted marshmallows, multiple salads, fresh veggies and dip, and of course stuffing.....oh the tasty stuffing.  And, of course freshly ground cranberry relish.  For those of you who don't know this little hint, always freeze your fresh cranberries and grind them frozen.  You'll save yourself some clean up time and avoid a squirt of juice into your eye.  And, the yummy pies, Pumpkin, Apple, Cherry, French Silk and Crack.  Crack pie is made up of eggs, cream, sugar and other ingredients.  Rich and smooth! 

                                                                                                                Yummy peach pie and milk.  Heaven........

                                                                                                                Yummy peach pie and milk.  Heaven........

My fond Thanksgiving memories from my own childhood included the big family feast with my parents, six brothers and sisters and Grandpa Harry.  After the feast, we would watch something on TV.  Mom sometimes surprised us with some freshly made candy like fudge or toffee in the late afternoon.  See where I'm going with this?  Good food and family time were a big part of my childhood.  I grew up knowing that food is involved in every aspect of our life.  I passed this on by cooking for my own family and teaching my children how to cook. 

Not quite finished with Thanksgiving.  I have to share a turkey tale from my very early years, maybe 1960 or 1961.  My dad owned a gas station.  He had fixed a truck tire for a gentleman over by Wellman.  This fellow always had a flock of the gobblers.  When my dad delivered the repaired tire, there was a bit of bartering and he ended up with a live turkey.  He delivered the bird to mom and we tied a rope to its leg and left it tied to the fence until it was time for....you know.  Anyway, said turkey wouldn't have any of it and tried to fly away.  Ended up hanging itself on the other side of the fence.  Anyone who knows anything about turkeys will tell you this fiasco is not an unusual occurrence as these birds are not known for their cleverness or intelligence.  Well, mom got to work quick.  Soon the turkey was in the scalding water for feather removal and other unpleasantness.  He was roasted up and we enjoyed a truly farm fresh turkey that Thanksgiving! 

This year's Thanksgiving was a busy one for the bakery.  Julianna and I continue on our learning curve.  Not always a straight upward line but we're always trying.  As you can guess, pies were the order of the day.  The kitchen was filled with the aroma of fresh bubbling fruit fillings on the stove.  Julianna worked her magic on the flaky tender crusts...going through many pounds of butter, shortening and flour.  I worked on the French Silk filling.  Julianna assembled the pies while I got dish pan hands.   By the day before Thanksgiving, we were done.  With the pies loaded, we set out for deliveries.  We were just finishing up when the weather turned down right nasty and we slid into home! 

Above:  Grasshopper Pie garnished with fresh whipped cream, Andes mints and drizzled in dark chocolate. Right:  Blackbird.....Oh I mean fresh Cherry Pie.

Above:  Grasshopper Pie garnished with fresh whipped cream, Andes mints and drizzled in dark chocolate.

Right:  Blackbird.....Oh I mean fresh Cherry Pie.

blackberry-pie.jpg

The Christmas season is in full swing and so are we.  Candy platters have been our focus.  The orders have been pouring in for any one of our three sizes.  We've been working hard on the candies and cookies.  I make many of the candies using old family recipes.  I will not pretend to be perfect having had to dump a batch or two.  Getting candy to the right temperature is an art.  I grew up using the cold water method.  Testing the candy by dropping a tiny bit into cold water to see what happens.....will it form a soft or hard piece or will it fall to the bottom and spread out like crabgrass?  This is not always reliable if the microwave is involved.  The microwave can definitely be a candy making monster, if you know how to harness such a beast.  An electronic instant read candy thermometer is essential.  We have a great selection this year, fudges, buckeyes, caramels, peanut blossoms, no bake cookies, Scandinavian cookies, bourbon balls, date balls, Oreo truffles, toffee and more!   I've spent more than one evening in front of the television wrapping caramels.

Buckeyes, caramel pecan patties and sugar cookies, oh my.

Buckeyes, caramel pecan patties and sugar cookies, oh my.

Toffee, no bake cookies and caramels!. Yum!

Toffee, no bake cookies and caramels!. Yum!

Growing up in a large family we looked forward to Christmas.  The Sears and "Monkey Ward" catalogs were worn and dogeared by Thanksgiving.  October and November had been focused on "what we wanted for Christmas."  Lists and more lists were made.  By December 1, we could not wait much longer.  We got an early start on the the fun with a visit from St. Nicholas on December 6.  St. Nicholas was a Greek Christian bishop of Turkish descent who had a reputation for secret gift giving. St. Nicholas Day is highly celebrated in Europe.  Children place their shoes outside for St. Nick to fill with coins and little gifts.  Hmmm, sounds pretty similar to Santa Claus.  Look it up.  Well, we Mayer children dutifully placed a shoe on the front porch and low and behold, there would be a piece of one of those giant candy canes and an orange or apple in each shoe.  There also may have been a quarter in each shoe.

Pre-Christmas activities for the Mayer clan included heading to Wellman to the tree lot on highway 22 for the best smelling tree with soft pliable needles and sap dripping down the trunk.  Dad or Mom, not sure who, had to trim the bottom of the trunk and get the tree into the stand.  More often than not, the tree ended up tied with twine to the nearest window sill to keep it upright.  The lights were strung and we went to work.  Construction paper chains and strung popcorn went up next and then the ornaments, many homemade. 

My childhood home.  See the porch where we left our shoes for St.Nick?

My childhood home.  See the porch where we left our shoes for St.Nick?

The finished masterpiece.  The Mayer Family Christmas Tree.

The finished masterpiece.  The Mayer Family Christmas Tree.

Our own children, Julianna and Jarad, looked forward to Christmas with the same excited anticipation that I had experienced.  Of course, we always went to Mass on Christmas Eve.  The church was packed to the rafters.  The ushers would set up extra seating in the aisles and in the back.  Yes, you had to be early to get a choice seat, or any seat for that matter.  The church was always decorated with poinsettias and Christmas trees with tiny twinkling lights.  The large Nativity scene had a place of honor in the front.  The whole scene was beautiful.  All around us were other families, many from faraway coming home to celebrate the holiday. 

Jarad and Julianna all ready for Christmas Eve Mass.

Jarad and Julianna all ready for Christmas Eve Mass.

Julianna showing off her new doll that Santa had brought her....circa 1991 or 1992.

Julianna showing off her new doll that Santa had brought her....circa 1991 or 1992.

Our children are grown but we gather on Christmas along with other relatives in our home to celebrate.  And, of course there are lots of tasty foods to try.  Our family is not short on good cooks and bakers.  Everybody contributes and we have a feast, fit for the people of Whooville.  I'm sharing a recipe from our son-in-law's mother, Jan.  She always brings it and it is a hit!  It was a favorite of Brandon's (Julianna's husband) growing up and he always looks forward to it.

 
 

Mushroom Roll Ups

1 package crescent rolls

8 oz fresh mushroom, chopped

4 oz softened cream cheese

1/4-1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp minced onion (optional)

3 dashes Worcestershire sauce

Roll out dough, pressing seams together.  Mix the rest of the ingredients and spread on top of the dough. Roll up the long way and seal the seam. Slice into desired thickness, around 1/2 inch or thicker. 

Bake on parchment lined pan at 375°F 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. 

Best when served warm!

 
 

           Ho, ho ho......Merry Christmas!

I can't end this post without this...........

 
 

MERRY CHRISTMAS 2014 and HAPPY NEW YEAR 2015 from me and my rugged farmer husband, John!