Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cranberry Christmas Cookies

Cranberry Christmas is one of 21 children's books written and illustrated by husband and wife team Wende and Harry Devlin, 15 of which were written about the fictional town of Cranberryport, which is presumably a New England coastal town.  The Devlins also have a series about Old Witch, which I must write about at some point!  You can read about the authors and all their books at

The Cranberryport series of books (which were written between 1971 and 1995) focuses on a girl named Maggie, her Grandmother, and retired local sea captain and family friend Mr. Whiskers, so called because of his lovely long black beard.  In most of the books, there is a mystery that involves people underestimating or taking advantage of poor Mr. Whiskers, who solves these problems with the help of Maggie and Grandmother.

Cranberry Christmas, for example, finds Mr. Whiskers in quite a predicament.  There are two problems, actually: for one, the pond next to his house used to be bustling with the activities of ice skaters - laughing, joking, and enjoying life - but grouchy new neighbor Cyrus Grape, who lives on the other side of the pond, claims that he is the pond's rightful owner, and he hates ice skating, children, and fun in general.  Mr. Whiskers is sure that he's the rightful owner, but can't find any paperwork to prove it.  And so, the skating has been stopped.

If that wasn't bad enough, Mr. Whiskers's "persnickety" sister, Sarah, has just written a letter announcing that she is on her way from the city for Christmas, and she is expecting him to return to the city to live with her for good!  "You can't take care of yourself.  Your house looks like a shipwreck and your money box is always empty," she explained.  Mr. Whiskers is absolutely furious (and very sad) at the thought of leaving Cranberryport, but he has to clean up his act to convince his sister that he's self-sufficient.  (Ironically, this requires the help of Maggie and Grandmother.)

Now, with all that's going on, do you think it's possible that both problems can be solved?  Perhaps a solution can be found that will fix both problems at the same time!

As the happy little group gathers to sing Christmas carols, Grandmother and Maggie enjoy their favorite spiced cider and cranberry cookies.  In happy news, the back cover or last page of most of the Devlins' books contains the recipes found in the book!  In other news, I didn't use that recipe.  I used a recipe that I found in a magazine a few years ago, that I've had a few people request the recipe for (it was called "Christmas Sandies."  I'm afraid I have a photocopy of the recipe but I'm not sure which magazine this came from, except that it says Christmas Cookies 2009).

Cranberryport Cranberry Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup finely chopped cranberries (I chopped mine in the food processor - so easy!)
2 tsp. finely grated lemon peel
Granulated sugar to roll in

1) Preheat the oven to 350.  Beat butter with a mixer for 30 seconds at high speed.  Beat in powdered sugar to combine.  Beat in vanilla.
2) Beat in as much flour as you can.  Stir in cranberries, lemon peel, and any remaining flour, using your hands to mix if needed.
3) Shape mixture into 1/2" balls.  Roll the dough in granulated sugar* and put on an ungreased cookie sheet. (*The original recipe calls to roll the dough in nonpareils instead of sugar, but I liked the sugar better.)
4) Bake the cookies for 10 minutes or until the bottoms of the cookies are golden brown.
 These are sandies, which means that they're mostly flour, and therefore don't brown up very much.  This picture (above) is of the finished, cooling cookies.  They are so yummy!

Today is not only during the Christmas season, but also Hanukkah - Happy Hanukkah!!! I have a couple Hanukkah recipes to post for you, and several more cookies, so stay tuned!  As always, please feel free to contact me via email or facebook!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

How The Grinch Stole A Roast Beast

It's that time of year again!  Time for tinsel and holly and lights and goodwill towards men and silly songs and movies -- and stories!! (And food!!)  I have a bunch of awesome books to talk about this year, but let's start out with a real classic.

We all know this book.  I could have labeled this simply "Roast Beast" and everyone would know which book we were going to talk about (unless you're like me; I have read this book and/or seen the movie version every year for almost 3 decades now, and tend to call any roast a "roast beast").  But just in case you're not into that sort of thing - today we're talking about Dr. Seuss's classic How The Grinch Stole Christmas!  Just as a warning, though, I am totally going to ruin the end of this story, so be forewarned.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas! (yes, the ! is part of the title) was written by Dr. Seuss in 1957 as a comment on the commercialism of the holiday.  Our story begins as the town of Whoville is merrily preparing for Christmas by decorating and celebrating.  Everyone is having a wonderful time - everyone, that is, except the Grinch, who lived just north of town with his trusty dog, Max.  It's bad enough when everyone opens their gifts and plays loudly with them, but then - then!! - the Whos all gather and start to SING.  The Grinch knew he wouldn't be able to stand one more Christmas celebration, and he thought up a devious Grinchy plan "to stop Christmas from coming."

First, he made himself a Santy Claus hat and a coat, and he dressed up Max as a reindeer, and then he snuck into Whoville and, as the town was asleep, stole every gift, every candy cane, every tree and ornament and stocking!  That Grinch took the Who Pudding, the rare Who Roast Beast!  Why, that nasty fellow took the last can of Who-Hash, and left nothing but crumbs much too small for the Whos' mouses.  But then, as he got up to the top of Mt. Crumpit to dump all the cheerfulness over a cliff, he paused to listen ... and heard the Whos singing, even without their material goods!  He discovered that Christmas "came without ribbons.  It came without tags.  It came without packages, boxes or bags."  It is only then that he realizes that Christmas doesn't come from a store, and, with his undersized heart expanding wildly, he returns everything to the Who families, and he - he himself, the Grinch - carved the Roast Beast at their dinner feast.

I love this book, and I'm quite partial to the 1966 TV version that was narrated by Boris Karloff.  (Fun fact: the "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" song was sung by a gentleman named Thurl Ravenscroft, who was also the voice of Tony the Tiger and sang the "No Dogs Allowed" song from Snoopy, Come Home.)

Anyhow.  Roast Beast is a lovely way to ring in the Christmas season, and Guest Chef Theone made this one for us!

Roast Beast
- one 5 lb. beef roast, with no bone
- Olive oil
- Pepper and assorted spices, as per your preference
- Potatoes, carrots, and celery, as per your preference
- Lard for the pan (optional)

Here is Theone's recipe:

Hi Kat!     
Here's the roast beast with potatoes (actually a 5 lb beef roast, no bone). 
1) I dried the roast with paper towels (because Julia Child says to), rubbed it with olive oil and rubbed a mixture of pepper, sage, lemon thyme, rosemary & onion powder into all the sides, although any combination of herbs that make you happy will do.  (Note the spice coverage! Beautifully done! -Kat)
2) Then I plopped it on top of some cut up potatoes, fat side down, threw in a few garlic cloves, a bit of lard (it was a lean beast & there's nothing worse than burnt potatoes) and some more potatoes.
3) I cooked it at 350 for an hour (covered) and 300 for another hour (uncovered). 

I plan on serving it with horseradish sauce but a cream-vermouth sauce would be tasty, as would some high quality bleu cheese dressing or some dark, complex mustard. 
Bon Appetit!

Doesn't that look absolutely delicious?! It's making me hungry to look at it, and i just had dinner!

Here are some of my own notes:
* I usually sear my beast before I put it in the oven, to get a lovely brown crust on the outside.  This is a personal preference.  Some people say they can't tell the difference.
* A medium-rare beast is going to be 145 - 150 degrees inside when it's done.  Use a meat thermometer to determine when it's done.  The USDA doesn't recommend eating it if it hasn't been cooked to at least 145.  Please note that your roast will continue cooking for a few minutes after it's out of the oven, so you should cook it to at least 140, and it will be fine.
* Do NOT cut into your beast until it has rested for 15-20 minutes!!!  All the juices will run out, and you'll be very sad to have a dry cut of meat.  Use this time to make dinner rolls or something, or set the table.  And wash your hands.
* I've never used lard in my roast beast, but I trust GCT fully, and I'm sure it's delicious.  Don't fear the lard! (Or, if you do, a little beef stock or onion soup to keep the taters from burning should be nice.)
* For my favorite use of leftovers, slice the beast thinly and make a sandwich with the meat, horseradish sauce, and a little Swiss cheese on sourdough.  (I usually sprinkle with oregano and stick this under the broiler.)  You can also reheat slices in onion soup and serve with mashed potatoes.  Yum!!

As a side note, I have been nominated as one of the FriendsEat best blogs of 2012!  Please click on the banner to the right and "Love" my blog!  You can also Like me on Facebook!  Or email me at!  So many ways to show your love!

I've Been Nominated!

I've been nominated as one of the best food blogs of 2012!  Please take a second and click the link to the right and "Love" my page on!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bear Gives Thanks: Candied Nuts

Bear Says Thanks is the newest in the Bear series, written by Karma Wilson, and beautifully illustrated by Jane Chapman.  I want to give an additional shout-out to Jane Chapman here: I LOVE her illustrations.  I would buy a print and hang it on my wall.  I mean, look at this!

Let me just say that I may be a little biased here: I love Bear.  I am a huge fan.  So when the newest Bear book came out, I had to buy it for my library, and I am so glad I did.

Bear is the title character in this and 7 other books, which began with 2002's Bear Snores On (in which our hero is asleep in cave despite the multitude of animals that join him in order to warm up).  Bear is usually doing something that everyone can relate to - such as getting scared when all alone (Bear Feels Scared), losing a tooth (Bear's Loose Tooth), or making new friends (Bear's New Friend).

Bear Gives Thanks starts with Bear feeling "bored, bored, bored" and missing his friends.  Then, he has a great idea - he'll invite all his friends over for a delicious feast!  Unfortunately, he finds that he has absolutely nothing in his cupboard.  This doesn't stop his friends from coming over, though, each bringing a tasty dish to share with everyone.  Mouse brings a huckleberry pie, Hare brings muffins, and Gopher and Mole bring fresh honey nuts!  As more friends arrive, Bear becomes more and more flustered - they have all brought food to share, but he has nothing to share with them! Will his friends mind that he has nothing to give?

Edited to add: This is also an excellent Thanksgiving book that really gets to the heart of the matter.  There are no pilgrims, there is no turkey, but there is a lovely gathering of friends, sharing of food and company, and general gratitude.  Thanksgiving is a holiday that too often gets shortchanged as an almost-Christmas holiday.

Though these are not honey nuts like Gopher and Mole brought, I figured I, like Bear, could be forgiven, because I misremembered the specific type of nuts when I was looking for recipes, and by the time I realized it, I already had all my ingredients (and realized I was out of honey).  So, we're having Candied Nuts instead.  And, oh! Are they delicious!  Just a note: This is not a recipe that the kids can help with all the way through, but they can help with measuring and mixing.  As a bonus, the kitchen smells really good.

Gopher and Mole's Candied Nuts
1 egg white (from an egg - this won't work with EggBeaters)
1 tbsp. water
10 oz. nuts* (I used walnuts)
1 cup white sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. salt

1) Preheat your oven to 250.  Thoroughly grease a cookie sheet (or cover with parchment paper), and set it aside.
2) Whip the egg white with the water until it becomes frothy (an electric mixer comes in REALLY handy here).  In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar, cinnamon, and salt; set aside.
3) Once the egg white is frothy, mix in the nuts until fully coated and there is no liquid left in the bottom of the bowl.
4) Pour the nuts into the sugar mixture, and mix thoroughly, until there is no more sugar left in the bowl (it should all be stuck to the nuts).  Then, spread these nuts out onto the greased cookie sheet, trying to keep them from overlapping if you can.
5) Bake the nuts for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

*The original recipe, which you can see here, calls for 1 lb. of pecans.  I used 10 oz. of walnuts, and I did have a little much glaze on my walnuts - but no complaints from me!  You can try fiddling with the amount and nut variety to your own taste - and please let me know what you think!

This is what my walnuts looked like before being baked:

And this is what they looked like after:
Not particularly pretty looking, but pretty tasty!  I got this recipe from the website, where it's listed as Sugar Coated Pecans.

Kat's side note: Did you ever notice how many bears in picture books are named Bear?  There's Karma Wilson's Bear, Philip C. Stead and Erin Stead's Bear (Bear Has a Story to Tell), Bonnie Becker's Bear (of the Bear and Mouse series), Olivier Dunrea's Old Bear (Old Bear and His Cub), which is not to be confused with Kevin Henkes's Old Bear (Old Bear), Else Homelund Minark's Little Bear (a whole series of him!), Bill Martin, Jr.'s Brown Bear (Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?), and the entire lovably generic Bear family created by Stan and Jan Berenstain (The Berenstain Bears and Any Topic Ever).  You'd think I'd be complaining about this, and begging for more originality, but I'm honestly kind of impressed at how each of these Bears is his own specific Bear with his own specific personality.  Except maybe for Brown Bear, Brown Bear: he doesn't do much, though you can't visually confuse him as any Bear except one designed by Eric Carle.  So, tell me: who is your favorite bear?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

One Green Apple Cupcakes

Every children's literature enthusiast is familiar with Eve Bunting, and with good reason.  All told, she has written over 250 books!  Most of the titles are for children and teens, and while I haven't read every one of them, I do enjoy the ones I have read, which cover many various topics, from homelessness to a moose's Thanksgiving table.

One Green Apple was published in 2006, and is one of Bunting's more serious books.  Ted Lewin's illustrations really capture the emotions of the children in beautiful, realistic watercolor, and help to set the tone for the tale.  It tells the story of Farah, who is not only new in her school but new to the country, and doesn't yet speak a word of English.  Worse yet, Farah is the only one in the school wearing a dupatta (her head scarf) - everything is different, and she can't even explain that to anybody.  She wants to say, "it is not that I am stupid.  It is just that I am lost in this new place," but she doesn't have the words.

On Farah's second day, her class takes a field trip to a local apple orchard.  A classmate introduces herself, but Farah is still nervous and uncomfortable.  In the orchard, each student is allowed to pick one apple, which will all be blended together to make apple cider.  Farah sees a smaller tree with little green apples - "it is small and alone, like me" - and picks one.

After a while, Farah notices that there are some things that are the same in any language - like laughter.  She gets up the courage to join the other children in pressing the cider, and, eventually, to try her first word in English.

This book is a wonderful story for both those who are new and feel isolated, and for those who may be hesitant to welcome someone who is different.  It's also a good fall story - who doesn't like cider?  And what's my favorite thing to do with cider?  Bake with it!  (Actually, I prefer to just drink it, but baking with it turned out to be a very good thing.)

One Green Apple Cupcakes
For the cake:
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 eggs
2 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1) Preheat oven to 350.  Put cupcake liners into muffin tins - this recipe made me 28 cupcakes.  You could do a combination of cupcakes and regular cakes, or one bundt pan, or whatever you like.  If you use a non-cupcake pan, grease and flour it.
2) In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
3) Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and add the remaining ingredients.  Mix well, and pour into prepared pans.
4) Bake in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  This took 25 minutes for my cupcakes.
5) Cool completely, and frost with apple cider buttercream (below).

Apple Cider Buttercream
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup apple cider
3-4 cups confectioner's sugar

1) Cream the butter and apple cider until well-blended, and then add in 3 cups confectioner's sugar until fully combined. Add additional sugar slowly, until the desired consistency.

I got the recipe for the applesauce cake here, at the website.  The apple cider buttercream was found here, on the TLC website.  They came out rather well, if I say so myself - I sold most of them for a bake sale to fund the American Cancer Society.

Question of the day:
What's your favorite Fall book?