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!