Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mrs. George Washington's Christmas Cake

Lots of people have Christmas traditions. It appears that our founding fathers of the U.S.A. had them, too. They celebrated the 12 Days of Christmas and usually had a party on January 6th. There is a wonderful article on Guns & Patriots (even if you're not a gun-lover, this article is very informative! It has several more recipes) by Susan Dale describing the celebrations of the 1700s and it includes George Washington's bride Martha's recipe for Christmas cake.

Since I'm collecting stories and recipes, how could I not include this recipe? Enjoy!

Martha Washington's Christmas Cake
"Take 40 eggs and divide the whites from the yolks & beat them to a froth then work 4 pounds of butter to a cream & put the whites of eggs to it a Spoon full at a time till it is well work'd then put 4 pounds of sugar finely powderd [sic] to it in the same manner then put in the Youlks [sic] of eggs & 5 pounds of flower [sic] & 5 pounds of fruit.  2 hours will bake it add to it half an ounce of mace & nutmeg half a pint of wine & some fresh brandy."

Do you have a recipe that was handed down to you through generations? Do you fix any special recipes at Christmas?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When I Was Just a Kid

Author Lena Nelson Dooley shares her poignant story of her childhood at When I Was Just a Kid blog and is giving away her new book, Love Finds You at Golden, New Mexico!

Come visit at When I Was Just a Kid!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Books & Such Literary Agency and Their Marvelous Recipes

You know how much I love books, but now you're beginning to realize that next to a good story, I love a good recipe just as much. I love the stories in families surrounding meals and recipes, because it says so much about them. A single taste or the aroma of a certain food can take you back to a time and place that has already passed.

Anyway, do go over to Books & Such and catch up on the agents' stories of cooking for Christmas. Janet Grant and Wendy Lawton have already posted. Wendy shared her fantastic Rocky Road candy recipe and the story of her mom who was a wonderful woman (I even got to meet her once.) Life is full of treasures that you hold in your mind's eye and with one whiff of cinnamon or oregano, you are transported in time and space to something that's no less than a miracle of the mind. You might even figure out how it works into your writing.

Do you incorporate what you know about food and the food from your families' meals into your writing? How have you done this?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Seven-Layer Bars for the Holidays

Pike Place Market since 1907

My Southern friend, Scarlett* and I were exploring Seattle while our husbands had to go to conference classes. One of our first stops was at Pike Place Market. It was fun watching the crowds, checking out the eats and shopping in the shops. One coffee place had these 7-layer cookie bars that Scarlett absolutely adored. She asked them for the recipe, which of course, they refused. Let me tell you something about Scarlett. She is one determined little Mississippi Girl. She can charm the worst beast into laughing. So, I knew this wasn't the end of her heart's desire.

We went to a great kitchen store called Sur la Tab. In the middle of the store were cookbooks stacked to the ceiling. I have to admit I love kitchen stores. They make my heart sing, just as Scarlett's heart sings over a special recipe to serve. So, she tackled the cookbooks, looking for that recipe! I have a weakness for dinnerware and went wandering. Finally, she grabs my arm, drags me to the stacks and demands that I help her. Realizing that we would be there all day if I didn't at least try, I took a book off the stack.

Flipping to the index, I scanned the listed recipes for some sort of layered cookie. Lo, and behold on my first flip, I land on a recipe that sounded pretty much like the same recipe (our expert tastebuds had discerned the ingredients.) Of course, I smirked, handed her the book and said, "No problem."

This may not be the same recipe, but it is pretty good, if I do say so myself, and I think it would have satisfied Scarlett.

Easy Seven-Layer Bars

1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz.)
1 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 C. butterscotch chips
1 C. shredded coconut
1 1/2 C. graham crackers, crumbled
1/2 C. butter
1 C. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place butter in 13X9-inch pan; melt in oven. Swirl to coat bottom and sides with butter. Spread crumbs evenly over bottom of pan. Layer chocolate chips, butterscotch chips and nuts over crumbs. Pour condensed milk over nuts. Sprinkle coconut over condensed milk.

Bake 25 minutes until edges are golden brown. Let cool before cutting.

*Scarlett is not her real name.

--Crystal Laine Miller

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Happy Birthday, Indiana (And to me!)

Here's a story about a little girl born in Indiana on the anniversary day that Indiana became a state, December 11th.

The day started out as a blizzard, that day on December 11th, Indiana's birthday. Her dad was a long haul trucker and had to work. He was "on the road." Her mom had to make it to the hospital slip-sliding on treacherous roads in Noblesville, Indiana, but she made it in time. The snow stopped.

The doc went outside to hunt rabbits while the young mother, who had lost 5 previous babies, labored and worried. The doctor told the nurse to "hollar out the window" when it was time. The state, Indiana, was celebrating its birthday, too.

The dad finally made it home, came to the hospital, and the baby was already there. The mom, drugged by some drug called "twilight" (awake, but feeling little pain by that point,) cried and said, "I'm sorry, it's a giiiiiiirrrrrl."

The dad grinned and said, "We'll keep her, anyway."

Missing both of them on my birthday, and yes, I'm still a Hoosier Girl.

Wow, that's fascinating
Fascinating Fingers in Indiana

Crystal around 4 years old Noblesville house
Back in the "old" days since the camera mom had didn't have a flash, photos had to be taken outside. Yes, it was cold! It was December in Indiana, c'mon.

Crystal at 5
5th Birthday in Noblesville, Indiana (note the milk box behind the little brother)
Hey, You! This is my doll.
Hey, you!
Chickens are almost too close
I still look like this in the morning!

Crystal, still in Indiana on her birthday (and yes, it's cold and snowy)

Happy Birthday, Indiana!
December 11, 1816
(And no, I'm not telling you what year I was born.)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Cara Putman's Hazelnut Crinkles (Cookies)

Stars in the Night by Cara C. Putman
Have I told you how much I love the scones that Cara Putman makes? If not, then here is a public declaration. Cara is a friend and she just had her fourth child. I'm so thrilled for her. Also, I love her writing, but mostly, I just think she's one of the nicest people I know.

Anyway, here's the promised cookie recipe. These are yummy and from the kitchen of Cara Putman. Eat them while reading her latest book, Stars in the Night. You'll be glad you did!

Hazelnut Crinkles (makes about 4 dozen)
(Cara Putman)

3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. hazelnut spread (Nutella, which has some chocolate in it)
1/2 c. butter or margarine (softened)
1/2 t. vanilla
1 egg
1 34 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
3 T. course white sugar crystals or regular sugar

1. Heat oven to 375. Beat sugar, Nutella, butter, vanilla and egg in large bowl. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt.

2. Shape dough by rounded teaspoonfuls into 1-inch balls. Roll in sugar crystals. place about 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

3. Bake 7 to 9 minutes or until puffed and edges are set. Cool on cookie sheet 1 minute. Remove to wire rack. Cool.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


When I first moved here, I couldn't get a library card. Really. It frustrated me to no end and I tried every angle. What had we done moving to such a literary forsaken place??!

But then I took Doc Hensley's writing class at Taylor University in Ft. Wayne and he got me started on the road to writing book reviews--and with book reviews came FREE BOOKS.

Back then (about ten-twelve years ago) that was a revelation to me. I also got on board with Multnomah Publishing as a reviewer, giving feedback to them on books they sent to me. Before I knew it, I had started libraries in two churches and in an elementary school. Of course, I didn't give away the ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies,) but I did give away many books to these libraries.(And still do.)

Now, after a thousand published reviews and countless copies of books, you would think I have had enough. Not so. Even though I gave up my book review column in a magazine, I still review for Church Libraries Journal and will influence for Christian authors as I am able. And I sometimes enter drawings on blogs for books I am thinking of getting. That's what I did when I entered the contest for Dining with Joy by Rachel Hauck in the Thomas Nelson contest.
Dining with Joy by Rachel Hauck (Thomas Nelson) released November 2010
I was hoping to win her new book. Well, I ended up winning the grand prize, too--a Kitchen Aid mixer! That was something I would have never thought would happen.

I influence heavily for my Indiana ACFW authors, but also any ACFW member, so don't tell anyone, but I'd do this without winning a book or a mixer (but I can't tell you the boost of joy--pun intended-- that it gave me on Tuesday to learn I'd won!)

Do you have a blog where you do influencing for authors? Do you belong to a book review group where you are sent books in exchange for a word about them?Do you ever enter the book contests either to win a book or other prizes?

If nothing else, I will always be a reader. And when you offer a reader a free book, how can she resist?? We didn't have to in this contest (though encouraged to do so,) write a food preparation faux pas, but I put mine in the comments section on Rachel's blog.

Here it is:
"I've been married about 30 years now and have done LOTS of cooking since for our four sons and my hubby and lots of family and friends. BUT when I first got married, my husband was in school and we lived on scant groceries and creativity. One night I was in a big hurry to get supper on after teaching all day. I had chili powder, but for some reason as I mixed chili ingredients, I got the cinnamon! I dumped out the cinnamon before I realized what I had, so frantically I scraped as much of the cinnamon off as possible. It wasn't even an option to start over!

I gave the chili extra chili seasoning, as I knew some of that cinnamon soaked in. Then, I got out some applesauce and sprinkled generous cinnamon on top. I set that next to my husband's bowl and hoped he wouldn't notice. Back in those days I was still sensitive about my cooking, so no way would I admit what I'd done.

Hubby took a bite and then put down his spoon. Little did I know I'd married a man who would could discern every ingredient, could taste the difference between Coke and Pepsi, Lay's Potato Chips and Seyfert's. He says to me, "Is there cinnamon in this chili??"

And I'm alarmed but still not wanting to own up to my mistake. I say, "You have cinnamon on your applesauce." (See? Not really lying....) He puts the applesauce on the other side of our table and takes another bite.

"Yup. Tastes like cinnamon. New recipe?"

At that point I broke down. We laugh about it now....

I can't wait to read Dining with Joy! Love stories like that."

See what admitting your mistakes can do? Enter a book contest today! (I'm a happy camper.) Now, to find a good cookie recipe to mix up in my new Rachel Hauck/Thomas Nelson Kitchen Aid mixer so I can eat cookies with my new book. (I'll post a cookie recipe tomorrow.)

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

The Best Christmas Pageant EverThe Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When my boys were young, I read this book to them and fell in love with the story. It's one of my favorite stories EVER. I read it to my boys every year until they simply got too old to sit night-after-night approaching Christmas to sit and listen (Four boys are quite busy.) I hope that we all can approach the Christmas story with the fresh eyes of someone hearing the story for the first time.Robinson captures it perfectly with endearing characters and humor.

If you haven't read this story, no matter if you have children in your life or not, you must read it, is my advice.

View all my reviews