Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day and Snow in Tulsa

Well, Tulsa got dumped on last night - snow for Christmas in Tulsa - who'd a thunk it? It shut us down. (Nephew) Greg came over last night in the midst of the sleet and rain and took me to Sand Springs where I camped out for the night. The trip took a short eternity! (Cousin) Marshall brought me home in the 4-wheel drive truck and we decided that (Sister) Glenda and family were staying in Sand Springs today instead of coming to my apartment for dinner. What to do with all the food I bought? Neighbors! The neighbors are snowed in and either don't have family or can't get to family, so I am cooking and we are going to have Christmas dinner.

God knew all this, don't you think? What a gift!!

So, Merry Christmas to all of you and I hope any sudden changes to your holiday plans open up to God's plan for the day!

Excuse me now, I have food to prepare for some lovely people I am getting to know a little better today...

Later on in the day, after dinner:

Well, five of us put a tiny dent in the food I prepared. I had bought food for seven with plenty of leftovers in mind for people to take with them. The five of us - Bill, Darlene, Bob and wife Eva and I - had a wonderful time! I listened to the stories of years gone by and some of Bob's experiences as an EMT and a chaplain for the Rader Center and another jail that has since been closed down. I understand this is the last month that the Rader Center will be operating as well. Bill was quite taken with my cook books and while he joined in the conversation as well, he had a fun time reading the recipes and, I am sure, making mental notes about which cookies I need to make for him in the very near future.

They told stories about coping with growing older (Eva and I are the babies in the building with the others all being 75 and up) and laughed about it all. The biggest insult to these spunky people is when other well-meaning friends, family and health care people try to put them in wheelchairs. No way! They will adapt to walkers if necessary, but not the dreaded wheelchair - that means you are really old!

Darlene will be a proud 88 on Sunday, so we are going to have another party here to celebrate her. I am making a chocolate angel food cake and will put out more of the Christmas cookies and we are inviting a bunch of other tenants to come join us for dessert and coffee.

Snowed in, maybe, but not slowed down!

Chocolate Angel Food Cake

3/4 cup cake flour
1/4 cup baking cocoa
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
12 egg whites (1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup superfine sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract

Stir together the four, cocoa and the first confectioners' sugar; set aside.

Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until foamy. Add the superfine sugar a little at a time while continuously beating on high speed until the meringue holds stiff peaks. Gently fold in the flavorings with a wire whisk. Sprinkle the first mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, over the meringue, folding in gently just until the mixture disappears.

Push the batter with a spatula out of the bowl and into an ungreased tube pan (not a bundt pan). Using a knife, cut through the batter gently to remove air bubbles.

Bake in 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes or until the top springs back when lightly touched with your finger.

INVERT the tube pan on a funnel and let it hang until the cake is completely cool so the cake does not fall.

Run a knife around the edges of the cooled cake, and turn out onto a cake plate. This is delicious when frosted with whipped cream that has a little cocoa whipped into it. You could also serve it with strawberries, mandarin oranges, or a blend of berries and put whipped cream on top of each piece instead of frosting the whole cake with whipped cream.

Hope you had a Merry Christmas, even if it turned out to be other than planned!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Fun connections and more recipe tweaking!

This past week I made two pies for a birthday celebration for one of my co-workers. I had made a cranberry pie several months ago and took it to work for the "guinea pig test". I do this to them often when I am trying, or developing, a new recipe. I did not like the pie, so I discarded the recipe. But, lo and behold, she liked the pie and requested it for her birthday. I relocated the recipe and made it, to her delight. Since I needed two pies to be sure every employee got some, the second pie I made was a cranberry pecan pie, which I like a lot!

Our newest employee is a young Russian immigrant whom we have enjoyed having as a part of our office. When he saw the cranberry pecan pie, he was so impressed, he got out his phone and took a picture of it! (I really like this young man!) A few moments after he ate a piece of the pie, he was at my desk telling me I needed to open a bakery. I told him the story of The Almond Branch, and he bought both of my cookbooks on the spot!

One of the other women in the office and I decided that if he bought the books, he needed to use them and bring the results into the office. We told him this, but he said, "No, I bought the books for someone else to use to cook for ME!"

Before I give you the update on tweaking the White Chocolate Cherry Berry recipe, here is the recipe for the cranberry pecan pie I made. I think it came from a magazine of some sort years ago.

Cranberry Pecan Pie

3 eggs, beaten
1 cup light corn syrup
2/3 cup sugar
2 Tbs butter, melted
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1 Tbs grated orange zest

Prepare your pie shell.

Combine the eggs, sugar, syrup and butter. Stir in the cranberries, pecan and orange peel. Pour into the pie shell and bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour or until the mixture is firm in the center. Cool completely before serving. If the crust edges are browning too much before the pie is finished, cover the edges only with aluminum foil.

Now, on to the tweaking!

I played some more with the white chocolate cherry berry cookies and this is what I did for Christmas (cookies are in the freezer!) I used:

8 oz of white chocolate (not vanilla flavored chips, but either Baker's white chocolate or Ghiradelli), chopped coarsely

1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips

1 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans

6 oz. dried cranberries

2 tsp. grated orange zest

1 Tbs. water

Also, decrease the oats from 2 1/2 cups to 2 1/4 cups.

I baked them at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes. I used a 1 oz disher (a small ice cream scoop you can find in restaurant supply stores). One oz is equal to 2 Tbs.

As I said in the original recipe, it is fun to paly around with your added ingredients and see what YOUR taste buds come up with!