Athena Magazine

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Helping a Pre-Teen Clean a Room February 8, 2009

Filed under: Athena at Home,Domestic Goddess — rebmas03 @ 3:27 am
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skull-and-crossbones2By Julia Pantoga

Last month, I had the great experience of helping my 11-year-old nephew clean his room. Maybe you think that it would have been more fun to take my nephew to the fair, but I was much happier helping him clean his room.

 

 

 

 

Here’s a list of advantages to helping him clean his room over taking him to the fair:

1. It was less expensive (by far).

2. I got to focus on nothing but him and his life for two hours.

3. None of his siblings were “jealous” of our alone time.

4. We accomplished something important to him.

If you were to look at the “before” and “after” (no photos, to protect his privacy), you might suspect that I actually cleaned his room for him. Not true. For most of two hours, I sat in a chair with a garbage bag and bossed him around.

Here’s the progression of what we did: The Lecture. I sat with Sam on his bed and told him what I’m sure his mother (my sister) has told him hundreds of times, “This is your private space; you should be proud of it. Every time you come in this room, you should be happy to do so and you should easily find anything in this room. Your younger siblings look up to you; if you set an example of keeping your room neat, they will keep their rooms neat, too.” Etc., etc. You get the picture.

I followed up the lecture by laughing with him about the sign he could put on his door (he has his own room) to keep the space private (“Keep Out!” with a drawing of a skull and crossbones, for example—well, that’s not the way I would put it, but he is an 11-year-old boy).

broom2Preparation. Before we started, we got set up for some serious room cleaning. First we found a blank sheet of paper and a pen and cleared a place for them on his desk. We would use this paper to write a list that he could share with his mother of the things he needed to keep his room clean. The first item on the list was a “Keep Out” sign for his door.

Next we looked around the room and identified what big containers we would need. This is a variation on the “three container” advice I gave you in one of my first columns, “Order = Calm, Part 3, Down To Business!” We needed much bigger containers though: 1) for garbage 2) for dirty clothes and 3) for things that belong to his brother.

I sent Sam for a yard-size garbage bag. He didn’t have a hamper, so we decided to throw dirty clothes in the hall for now and add “hamper” to his list. He already had a basket started for his brother’s things, so we used what was familiar (THAT was good practice. If his brother and his things are in his room often, he should keep a basket in his room of his brother’s stuff.)

Cleaning. This part was the most miraculous and the most fun. As I’ve said before, while Sam cleaned, I pretty much sat in a chair and held the garbage bag. My method was simple: “Don’t waste energy moving around.”

We made an exception for clothes that needed to be hung up, but, for the most part, when Sam was working on one part of his room (like the top of his desk), I didn’t let him move from that area. For example, if he encountered something on his desk that belonged in his closet, I had him put it on the floor somewhere in the direction of his closet and stay put at his desk, rather than walking over to his closet.

My job was to take care of the three big containers and the various piles. Sam would crawl under his bed and hand me things and say, “garbage,” “laundry, “brother” or “closet.”

Of course we eventually needed far more than three containers. But we kept at it for almost two hours and, by the end, (if you closed the closet door), the room was clean indeed.

Encouraging Note. The final step I took was when I was left alone in his room. I left him an encouraging note with:

1. A repeat of the lecture (This is your private space; treat it with pride).

2. Reminders of the tasks he had left to do (show his mom the list we made, clean his closet, go through his desk drawers).

3. Tips for keeping his room clean (clothes never go on the floor—they are either clean and get put away or they are dirty and go in the laundry, make your bed EVERY DAY, nothing goes under your bed unless you are storing it there).

I loved that I had the opportunity to be so helpful—certainly for a week or two for Sam and his mom, but maybe, just maybe, for the long term too. I guess what I’m trying to remind you is that it isn’t housekeeping skills that make you a domestic goddess; it’s using the skills that you do have to be truly helpful. That’s why I’m certain that we all have the capability to be domestic goddesses.

 

Scrumptious Hot Cocoa January 29, 2009

Filed under: Domestic Goddess,Food is Good — rebmas03 @ 1:34 am
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By Julia Pantoga

serving-hot-cocoaFor the past month I’ve been on the road, visiting family. Along the way, I did plenty of domestic-goddess things including making a cake with three young children, “helping” a pre-teen clean his room (which mostly consisted of me sitting in a chair and bossing him around for two hours), making dinner with my nine year old niece, washing and chopping vegetables (several people enjoyed having someone around who loves to chop so much). One thing I didn’t do though, is write any of these columns.

Now I’m back home making hot cocoa for friends that are helping me shovel out my car from the snowstorm we had this morning. It is common these days to mix the chocolate sugar that you buy in the grocery store with skim milk and call it hot cocoa. I grew up making hot cocoa from scratch though, and from what I hear from my friends, it is something different entirely. Besides the recipe below, one tip I have is to quadruple the syrup portion of the recipe, use only one portion for the current batch of hot cocoa and keep the rest in a jar in the refrigerator, so that you’re ready for any hot cocoa emergency that pops up. I received fancy cocoa, cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg as gifts for Christmas, so I expect the batch today to be awesome!

saving-syrupHomemade Hot Cocoa

Syrup
Note: Cocoa and cinnamon don’t mix well with milk, so it is essential to do this step independently from adding the milk (you can only imagine what store bought brands do to the cocoa to cause it to dissolve so easily in milk).

3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (this adds quite a bite; you may wish to use even less; but if you use your hands to add a pinch, be sure to wash them thoroughly before you touch your eye.)
Pinch salt
2 tablespoons whole milk (if you have heavy cream, or even half-and-half, for this, use it! The higher the fat content, the better)
½ teaspoon vanilla
dry-ingredients11.    Measure the first six dry ingredients into a sauce pot. Blend together thoroughly. Remember, if you are using a non-stick pan, you must not scratch the non-stick surface with metal utensils. Use a wooden or plastic spoon or a plastic whisk (not only are scratched pans unsightly, you don’t want that toxic non-stick coating in your food.)

2.    Add one tablespoon of the milk. Mix thoroughly into a course paste.
smooth-syrup
3.    Add the vanilla and 2nd tablespoon of milk. Mix thoroughly into a thick syrup. Make sure the syrup is smooth (has no lumps) before storing it or using it in Hot Cocoa.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Cocoa
Syrup (recipe above)
4 cups whole milk
For garnish: chocolate sprinkles, whipped cream, wafer cookies, homemade marshmallows

With the syrup in the sauce pan, add ½ cup of the milk. Mix the syrup and the milk thoroughly before adding the next ½ cup of milk. Mix thoroughly again, then add the remaining 3 cups of milk. Heat gently, stirring often. Be careful here, you want to heat the milk, not boil it. When hot, use a molinillo (Mexican Hot Cocoa Whisk)l to create a froth and make the mixture creamier. Serve and garnish (if you must, I don’t; this hot cocoa stands on its own).

my-molinillo.

 

Holiday Prep: Easiest Holiday Cookies Ever, Part 3 December 19, 2008

holiday-cookies1

By Julia Pantoga, resident domestic goddess

Finally! We are in the last phase of our holiday cookie project: Decorating the Cookies (For reference, the first two steps were making the dough and rolling and baking cookies).

Don’t call the kids in yet. There’s still some set up you’ll want to do before you have young ones underfoot.

The first step to decorating cookies is to make frosting:  a lot of it. I make 4 cups of it for 4 dozen cookies,
(which is my yield from the recipe I gave you back in October in Easiest Holiday Cookies Ever – Part 1)  Cookie frosting has only two ingredients:  confectioner’s sugar and milk. The ratio is 1 ½ teaspoons of milk for every cup of confectioners sugar.  Be careful working with the confectioner’s sugar—it can really be a mess. Wear your apron and whenever you pour it from one container to another, try not to spill (good luck with that, I’ve been handling the stuff for decades and I still make a mess with it).

Divide your frosting into several small bowls and color each using the deluxe food coloring that I recommended that you buy in Easiest Holiday Cookies – Part 1. Don’t forget to set at least a cup of your frosting aside to use whenever you need white frosting. You can see from the photo below that I forgot to do that and had to go back later to make more frosting.

several-colors-of-frosting

Once you have your frosting made and the confectioner’s sugar is put away, call the kids! Remember, the thickest cookies and the ones with the fewest appendages will be the easiest to handle. To the extent that you can control which cookies little ones select to work on, direct them towards the thickest cookies.

Another thing you should have picked up at the decorating store back in October was a small, angled and tapered spatula and paintbrushes for icing your cookies. As you may recall, I’m not crazy about decorating cookies—so instead of painstakingly applying detail to each one, I try to get the entire job done as quickly as possible. Here’s what I do (I’m using my Christmas tree cookies for this example):

1.     Pour about one teaspoon of base color frosting to each cookie. You may need to thin the frosting a little bit for this step—use milk, added ¼ teaspoon at a time. For my Christmas tree project, the base color was medium green.
2.    Use your spatula to spread the frosting over the entire cookie.
3.    While the frosting is still wet, decorate the edges with small candies.
4.    Choose a darker color and apply light brush strokes to the top of each cookie. For my Christmas trees, I used dark blue-green.
lots-of-christmas-trees(You’ll see this whole process again when I post my Valentine’s Day column, except the cookies will be shaped like hearts and the frosting colors will be pink and dark red.)

I decorate all of my cookies either painting solid colors or using this “gesso” painting process.  The only other technique I use is to sometimes put a smaller cookie of the same shape on a larger cookie.  If you insist on using other decorating materials on your cookies, make sure that everything dries eventually.  Gel decorating products are beautiful, but the if the gel doesn’t dry, you end up with ridiculously fragile smeared cookies.

The cookies at the top of this essay were decorated by a professional artist friend of mine and the cookies below were decorated entirely by yours truly.

finished-cookies

 

Holiday Prep: Stunningly Beautiful and Delicious Drink December 18, 2008

By Julia Pantoga, resident domestic goddess

finished-cranberry-vodkaI used to try to give this one away for gifts, but by the time I found bottles to use for giving it away, my friends and I had already made history of it.  Basically, it’s vodka marinated for 10 days with orange peels and cranberries.  The vanilla in the cranberry mixture makes it taste vaguely like cherries.  I serve it “neat” (with no garnishment), but it can be served mixed with tonic water, ice and a lime garnish.

Here’s the step-by-step:
1.     Combine 1 lb. cranberries, 1 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons vanilla in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the berries burst, about 5 minutes.
2.    Wash and peel 2 oranges.  Cut peels into strips.
3.    Pour 1 bottle (750 ml) of vodka over orange peels and cooled cranberry mixture in airtight container.  After 10 days, strain into a clean bottle.  Store in refrigerator.
cranberry-vodka-marinatingAt left, marinating vodka-cranberry mix.

 

Holiday Prep: The Easiest Holiday Cookies Ever! Part Two December 17, 2008

holiday-cookies
By Julia Pantoga

Do you remember that I recommended that you break your holiday cutout cookie baking into three steps?

1.    Making the dough
2.    Rolling and baking
3.    Decorating

This is Step Two: Rolling and Baking. I assume you have three packages of cookie dough in your freezer, as I advised you back in October in The Easiest Holiday Cookies Ever! Part One.

I’m a flour-flying-all-over-the-kitchen kind of baker, so this very neat, no-flour-mess method of rolling out cookie dough was counter-intuitive to me. But it works—really well.  And it’s really neat. I did it wearing dress clothes and no apron.

Before I give you the step-by-step, there’s two important notes:
•    Many recipes for rolled dough assume that flour will be added to the dough during the rolling process, so this method won’t necessarily for sugar cookie dough recipes other than the one I gave you.
•    The proper height for a rolling surface is slightly below your hips. That means that if you are on the short side a table, not a counter, will work best for you. You need the leverage of being able to bend over your project easily.

dough-rolling-setupHere’s the step-by-step for my no-mess method of rolling cookie dough (The parchment paper and tape industries ought to be sending me kickbacks for this!):

1.    Put a cookie sheet in the refrigerator.
2.    Tape a piece of parchment paper to the rolling surface.
3.    Put a small disk of dough on the parchment paper (about ½ of one of the bags you made in October, or, if you didn’t do that, about 1/6 of the recipe I gave you, or, if you’re using a different recipe, about 1/3 pound).
4.    Tape a larger piece of parchment paper over the top of the dough.
5.    Roll the dough slowly to 1/8” thick.  Eliminate any creases in the parchment paper as you go along, as creases in your final dough will cause your cookies to crack and break. I don’t recommend rolling any thinner that 1/8”, because thinner cookies break easily when you decorate them.
6.    Carefully lift off the top layer of parchment paper, leaving it taped to the rolling surface for the next rolling.
7.    Remove the bottom layer of parchment paper with the rolled dough on it and place it on the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for at least ½ hour.
8.    Repeat steps 2-7 until all the dough is rolled.  When you have finished, put the top piece of parchment paper on top of all the layers.

rolled-dough-in-the-refrigerator Well, I sure wish I had learned that trick of refrigerating the rolled dough years ago!

While your rolled dough is chilling, set up for cutting and baking your cookies. Put the cookie cutters and cookie sheets that you want to use right next to where you will be working with the dough. Your cold dough will make it infinitely easier to move raw cookies around, but you still want to minimize how far you move them.  The best tool for picking up and moving cookie dough (even cold dough) is and angled (not tapered) spatula used for frosting cakes.

After baking, you want to handle and move the cookies as little as possible before you decorate them (minimize opportunities for breaking cookies), so you may want to set up the area where you will have your cookies cool as well.

cutting-setupTake your rolled dough out of the refrigerator, one piece at a time and work quickly, as cold dough is much, much easier to work with than room temperature dough! Leave the cold cookie sheet in the refrigerator, as you will have enough dough scraps to make a second (maybe even a third, but no more—by then your dough will be terribly worn out) batch of cookies.

After cutting, bake your cookies for 5 minutes at 400°. While they are baking, gather and roll the scraps of dough, using the parchment paper and tape routine I described above. It is at this point that I begin to become irritated with the entire holiday cookie project and mutter to myself, “How on earth could anyone think this is a fun project?” Thrifty as I am, I use the parchment paper over that I used before and tape only the bottom piece down.

OK, in a few days, I’ll show you how to decorate these bad boys.

Why so many Christmas trees?  Tune in in a few days and find out!

Why so many Christmas trees? Tune in in a few days and find out!

 

Holiday Prep: Super-Yummy, Fast-Fast Party Snacks December 12, 2008

By Julia Pantoga

finished-scarabs1These are so easy, that you’ll be hard pressed not to laugh when you tell others what you did. Last year we named them “Scarabs” because they resemble Scarab beetles. But the name that sticks is “those Rolo-pretzel things.” Essentially, this elegant looking snack is a pretzel with a Rolo candy melted over it, topped off with a pecan. As my friend’s mother said, “The hardest thing about them is unwrapping all those *!#@$ candies!” Here’s the step-by-step:
1.    Unwrap two bags of Rolo candies. I take care of this step in front of the TV, the night before I make these. At Halloween, they sell the candies wrapped in packages of three; if you pick up a few bags then, you’ll save yourself some unwrapping work.
2.    Preheat oven to 300°.
3.    Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
4.    Spread pretzels out on the cookie sheet (not too close to each other or the melted caramel from one will stick to the other).
5.    Top each pretzel with a Rolo candy.
6.    Bake for 10 minutes. When they are ready, the candy will be soft, but it won’t melt over the pretzel.
baked-scarabs7.    Press a pecan into each candied pretzel.
8.    Let cool before bagging up for the freezer.
baggies-of-scarabs

I keep baggies of 2 dozen in my freezer, for quick contributions to informal parties. I’ve also been known to take baggies of these with me on long car trips.  This is a fabulous treat!

 

Holiday Prep: Quick Handmade Gift Ideas December 8, 2008

By Julia Pantoga

Gifts can be made from the most surprising things.

Gifts can be made from the most surprising things.

This is the gift-giving season.  But most years, I find myself fairly broke at the beginning of December, and certainly not in a financial position to spend January rent on holiday gifts. However, I like to give gifts to everyone: parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, spouses, and of course, my son. In my family, that’s a minimum of 20 gifts! Pretty daunting for my paltry budget, but I always find a way to do it.

My main strategy is to give the same gift to everyone in the same category. For example, all the adults, or all the children or all the nieces, etc. When I am out shopping during the year, I look for items on sale and buy several of them and store them on my “present” shelf. Last year, I found orange and lime green plastic shoe bows on sale for 50¢ at the hobby store and I bought four for my nieces.

Framed Stamps
framed-stamps4One of the gifts I’ve made many, many times is a framed sheet of stamps.  Every time I go to the post office, I peruse all of the current stamp designs.  If you live in a major city and go to the philatelic counter at the main post office, you will find a spectacular array of designs to choose from. But, even if you live in a smallish town (as I do now) and the display is limited to the most-used denominations of stamps, you will be surprised at how wonderful and varied stamp artwork is. Over the years, I’ve framed wildflower, sports team, superhero, picture book character, famous author and movie star stamps.  The stamps I’m using in the pictures below, were just regular 41¢ stamps I bought at my local small post office.  Here’s the easy and fabulous way I turn sheets of stamps into artwork.

humble-sheet-of-stamps
1.    Buy your stamps in sheets.

framed-stamp-supplies
2.    Take your stamps to a craft store and buy a background sheet of paper and inexpensive frame that match the stamps.  (I buy frames all year around when they are on sale.)
3.    Use an Exacto knife to cut the paper to fit the frame. (OK, I’ll share my tip here—take the glass out and use it as a guide to cut your paper.)
4.    Assemble the paper and the stamps in the frame (Here’s another trick— affix the sheet of stamps to the paper with little pieces of tape on the back, so the stamps don’t slide around under the glass).  Consider the border markings from the post office, as something that adds charm and authenticity to your work and spare yourself the time of trimming it off or cutting a paper mat to cover the writing.  Just put a piece of nicely covered paper behind the stamps.

Aprons (or whatever is most you)
Last year, plain children’s aprons were on sale at the craft store, so I bought one each for each of my nieces and nephews (and my son).  Later, I bought paints, a paintbrush and stencils and painted the first initial of each of their names on an apron.  That was one of my most expensive homemade gifts.  I think I spent about $8 per apron.
aprons

Use What You Have Around
Some of the best gifts I’ve made have come out of times that I had almost no money at all and had to look around my house for ideas of things I could give for gifts.
One of those times came when my son was in kindergarten. I looked around the house, and all I could see was piles and piles of artwork he had come home with.  Luckily for me, he went to a school where all the artwork was on identical paper.  I selected the 20 pieces that I thought were the most appetizing and took them to my local copy shop and laminated each of them to make 5 sets of 4 placemats each.  When I was looking for placemats to photograph for this article, I found out that most had finally disintegrated after years of use (my son is 21 now).  My brother-in-law said, “That was one of the best gifts we ever got.”  Luckily, my mother stored this precious artwork of her grandson carefully, so I am able to show you photos of what the finished product looked like:
placemat-2

placemat-3
Another year, I spied my collection of shells, which were taking up a lot of display space and were breaking one by one every time they were moved.  The next time I went to the craft store, I bought a set of plain magnet disks (I’d imagine you could buy them at the hardware store too).  I glued magnets on the back of my shells and gave each of my nieces and nephews a set of shell magnets.  I only kept a few for myself.
shell-magnets
Then, of course, there have been plenty of years when I’ve grabbed bars of cookie dough out of the freezer, put a bow on it and given that away.  But me and frozen cookie dough is another story, for another time…  (I now label and mold all my dough, but in the old days, I used to store it in wax paper and slap a bow on it before I gave it as gifts.  No one ever complained about the humble wrapping.)
cookie-dough

 

Holiday Prep: Decorating Your Home Simply and Sensibly November 27, 2008

Filed under: Domestic Goddess — rebmas03 @ 5:42 am
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christmas-treesBy Julia Pantoga

Christmas Trees
I love Christmas trees. I own all the accoutrements: tree stands, tree aprons, tree toppers, lots and lots of lights, garland, and, of course, boxes of ornaments. BUT, I have also lived in many different places, many of which cannot accommodate a full-size tree. In fact as of the writing of this article, this is the third year in a row I haven’t had the space for a full-size Christmas tree.

One alternative I have for a full-size Christmas tree is to display several small trees. You can either group several together (as I have for the photo) or spread them strategically throughout the house. Either way, I would choose a theme for my trees, such as gold trees, ceramic trees or frosted trees.  You will not be able to use your store of Christmas tree trimmings, but you will certainly be able to give your home a festive flair that you can easily move and set out of reach of pets. This is also a good option for the person that will be traveling through the holidays.

decorate-everythingDecorate Everything

Save any pretty cloth ribbon you find, and pack it in your Christmas box. Actually, I keep a separate Christmas box just for ribbon and bows, so I can get to it easily. Collect your ribbons, then go around the house and decorate everything. Pay attention to what you are doing, so you don’t tie your CD player shut. If you don’t have a collection of ribbons, you can buy ribbons and bows quite inexpensively and in bulk at discount stores, at fabric stores, or at hobby stores.

floating-candlesFloating Candles

I discovered floating candles several years ago when I was getting ready for a party. I float my candles in festive green bowls, but you could float them in any container that will hold water, including an unused sink or an outdoor fountain. Light your floating candles while they are still dry–i.e. before you float them in water! Any water on the wick will extinguish your match.

hoiday-shelf-displaySet Up One Special Display

If you can’t have a tree, clear off one or two shelves of a bookcase and set up a special holiday display. This will give you the opportunity to display your favorite holiday decorations. With Christmas trees scattered around the house, ribbons on everything, candles floating around and your special shelf, your home will look quite festive.

Think ahead

On December 26, go shopping for Christmas decorations that you will use next year. Look in places that you already are, like the grocery store, at the post-Christmas sales – you will be surprised at what you find. I have been doing this for twenty years now, and it’s been a long, long time since I’ve had to shop for wrapping paper, ribbons, or household decorations before Christmas. Shopping before Christmas for Christmas decorations and supplies can be awful: there are too many cars in the parking lot, the check out lines are too long, there are so many people in the Christmas aisles that you can hardly browse, etc. You can avoid that next year. If you mostly give away baked goods, as I do, wrapping paper will last for years.

wrapping-paper-and-ribbons-collected-over-the-years

 

Holiday Prep: Two Recipes for Great Baking Gifts November 25, 2008

wrapped-gift-cakesBy Julia Pantoga

In my column, Giving Away Baked Goods, I promised to give you the recipes for some of my favorite baking gifts. Here, you’ll find two recipes and instructions for making them. See the Domestic Goddess column Giving Away Baked Goods for information about wrapping and ordering.

In my mind, here’s what makes a food fit for giving away:
•    It packs/wraps easily.
•    It can go without refrigeration for several hours.
•    It can be made and wrapped in advance and be stored in the freezer.
•    There is at least one thing “special” about the recipe that makes it unlikely that your recipients would make it on their own—which makes it a treat.

Recipe #1: Ginger Bread with Lemon Icing
This recipe makes enough for six gift loaf pans. Paper pans with wax coating do not need to be prepared.

lemon-brandy

Lemon Brandy
Zest from 2 Lemons
4 ounces Brandy

Steep the lemon zest in brandy for at least one day. You can replenish the brandy twice using the same lemon zest.

Ginger Bread
1 pound butter (2 sticks, I use salted)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup molasses
4 eggs
2 ½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 GENEROUS tablespoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground allspice
4 teaspoons lemon brandy (substitute vanilla at your own risk, do not use lemon extract as a substitute)
1 cup buttermilk

1.     Bring the eggs to room temperature (you can do this quickly, by putting them in a bowl of hot tap water).
2.    Preheat the oven to 350°.
3.    Cream butter and brown sugar.
4.    Add molasses and beat again.
5.    Beat in eggs.
6.    Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, allspice).
7.    Add dry ingredients to mixture.
8.    Add lemon brandy and buttermilk and mix thoroughly.
9.    Arrange six gift loaf pans on baking sheet.
10.    Pour batter evenly into the six pans and bake for 25 minutes, or until a straw inserted in the center of a cake comes out clean.
11.    Cool thoroughly before icing.

Lemon Icing
1 stick butter
Zest of one lemon
Two teaspoons lemon brandy
Two tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups powdered sugar
1.    Cream butter.
2.    Add lemon zest, lemon brandy and lemon juice and beat until fluffy.

Pre-icing the cakes.

Pre-icing the cakes.

3.    Add powdered sugar ½ cup at a time (Watch out. Powdered sugar tends to fly and make a big mess!)
4.    Pre-ice the cakes with 1 tablespoon of icing each. This will eliminate the possibility of crumbs in your lovely final cakes.
5.    After the pre-icing has hardened, ice the cakes with the remaining icing.
6.    Allow icing to harden before wrapping cakes.

wrapped-walnuts

Recipe #2: Fried Walnuts
This recipe falls into the category of recipes that will fool you by having few ingredients. First of all, any time you fry something, it is a mess. Before you start making these:
•    Put on an apron or old shirt on which you don’t mind spattering grease.
•    Clear a large surface for laying the walnuts out (I use my kitchen table)
The reason I make these every year is because they are GREAT. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love them. They also pack really well and one batch makes seven gift bags.

Fry walnuts

Fry walnuts

Ingredients
8 cups water
4 cups walnuts
½ cup sugar
Cooking oil
Sea salt

Drain walnuts.

Drain walnuts.

1.    Bring water to a boil.
2.    Add walnuts to the water and boil for 1 minute.
3.    Drain boiled walnuts and rinse with hot water.
4.    While the walnuts are hot, return them to the pot you used for boiling and mix well with sugar.
5.    Heat 1 inch of cooking oil to 160°.
6.    Fry the walnuts in two single layer batches for 4 minutes (Put lid or spatter guard on the pan to prevent more of a mess).
7.    While the walnuts are frying, lay wax paper on your clear surface.
8.    Scoop walnuts out of the oil with slotted spoon and drain well in a sieve (one year I didn’t drain the walnuts very well and they were so greasy that they were nasty.) [draining walnuts photo here]

Salt walnuts.

Salt walnuts.

9.    Spread fried walnuts in one layer on wax paper.
10.    Sprinkle warm walnuts with salt (don’t over salt). [salting walnuts photo here]
11.    Allow walnuts to cool thoroughly before wrapping.

Stay tuned for more recipes, tips on holiday decorating and parts two and three of my essays about making holiday cookies. See previous Domestic Goddess columns for more holiday tips.

 

The most important ingredient November 20, 2008

Filed under: Domestic Goddess — rebmas03 @ 3:03 am
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heartThe Domestic Goddess wishes to remind you that the most important ingredient you add to all of your cooking and baking is LOVE.