My mom made birds nest cookies every year at Christmas and they were treasured because they were a small batch cookie and once they were gone, they were gone. Over the years, the nuts my mom used for the nests changed. Traditionally, she always used chopped walnuts as those were readily available in grocery stores. Once my parents started spending their winters in Arizona, with pecan trees all around them, mom switched over to pecans, as she often made her Christmas cookies in Arizona and then brought them home in tins for the holidays.
This family recipe comes from my mom's mom and is one that my sisters and I are all making this year.
Birds' Nest Cookies
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg, separated
1 cup AP flour
pinch of salt
chopped nuts or coconut
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cream butter and sugar. Add beaten egg yolk. Mix in flour and salt. Roll into small balls (about half a tablespoon) and dip in beaten egg white and then in chopped nuts.
Place on baking sheets and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and press "thumb" (or end of wooden spoon) in the centre of each cookie and bake for 10 more minutes.
Fill with jelly, jam or marmalade and cool.
This year I used Richmond raspberry jelly and my blackberry jelly, made in September, inspired by my mom.
And that's it for this year's holiday treat week...I am ready with recipes for the next round of baking and treat-making closer to Christmas.
Merry Christmas and wishing you happy holidays with family and friends.
I have made this Cranberry Eggnog loaf before and it was a hit. Nice and moist and festive looking. We had a little holiday celebration at work last Friday and I made a loaf to take with me.
The original recipe is found on Canadian blogger Angie's site, Echoes of Laughter here.
Cranberry Eggnog Loaf
1 cup sugar
1 cup eggnog
1/2 cup butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups AP flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup cranberries (frozen or fresh)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and spray the bottom of a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
In a bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, eggnog and melted butter until well mixed. Add the vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg and then fold gently into wet mixture until just mixed. Stir in the cranberries. Pour into the loaf pan and bake for 45-55 minutes (depending on your oven and loaf pan). Check the centre of your loaf for doneness with a cake testing stick (wood or metal skewer). If batter is still wet and sticking to the stick, bake for a few more minutes and check again.
Cool loaf in pan for about 20-30 minutes and then turn out onto cooling rack to completely cool. This year, I added and eggnog glaze to finish off the top of the loaf. I sifted about a cup of icing sugar into a bowl and added small amounts (teaspoons) of eggnog until I got a thick spreadable consistency.
I always like having a roll or two of frozen cookie dough ready to bake when a batch of fresh holiday cookies are needed. This year, it will be these toffee bits shortbread cookies.
Original recipe is an Anna Olson one found here on the Hershey's Canada site.
Toffee Bits Shortbread
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1/2 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups AP flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup Chipits Skor Toffee Bits
Beat the butter for a minute and then add the icing sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about one minute. Add vanilla. Beat in flour, cornstarch and salt until mixture comes together in a ball. Stir in the toffee bits.
Shape the dough into two 25cm logs, about 4cm across. Wrap logs tightly in plastic wrap and chill for about 2 hours, or freeze.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line baking sheets with parchment paper. Unwrap and slice dough into 0.5cm thick cookies and lay out on baking sheets with space around each cookie. Bake for about 15-16 minutes, just until the outer edges begin to show a bit of colour. Cool cookies on baking sheet.
These were sweet and buttery and are a new family favourite.
Last summer I worked on mastering homemade caramels but for the holiday season, I was looking for the same luscious taste but quicker and less chemistry-involved! I've been following Rebecca Cooper's blog for years and had pinned her recipe for microwave caramels and have been meaning to try it for awhile. Although not a fan of micowave cooking, I will make an exception for caramels. Rebecca's blog post about the caramels is here.
Another great gifty treat.
Easy Peasy Caramels
2 1/2 cups lightly packed brown sugar (I used Best Brown)
1 cup butter (I used unsalted)
1 cup light corn syrup (I used Crown Lily White_
414 ml sweetened condensed milk (I used Eagle Brand - converted from 14 US ounces)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Butter a 9x13 pan.
Melt butter in microwave. Add rest of ingredients except for vanilla.
Mix thoroughly and microwave for 4-5 minutes. Remove and stir thoroughly with a whisk. Microwave for 4-5 minutes. Remove and stir thoroughly with a whisk - this time my mixture was starting to boil. Microwave for 4-5 minutes. Remove, add vanilla and stir thoroughly with a whisk.
Pour into buttered pan and set aside to cool for 1-2 hours.
Cut wax paper into 4x6 inch rectangles and cut caramel into log-like pieces. Wrap in wax paper, twisting ends.
I microwaved the mixture for the full five minutes each time. I guess you might have to adjust this depending on the strength of your microwave. I could tell that my mixture was going to set up the last time I pulled it out but you could check using the drop of mixture in a glass of ice water method to see if it firms up.
Apparently wax paper is not sold in Safeway here anymore. The woman I talked to thought that it wasn't even made in Canada any more! She found an already opened box of wax paper tucked away in storage for me. It really is the best way to wrap the caramels - parchment paper is too stiff and plastic wrap is too sticky.
I sprinkled Pink Himalayan Salt on half of the caramel and I really like the texture and saltiness that it adds.
Welcome to another year of my Holiday Treat Week. Posts and recipes from previous years can be found by clicking on the "holiday treat week" link in the word cloud in the right side bar of the blog.
First up is cinnamon sugared almonds. I've actually never made seasoned nuts before but am often given them as gifts during the holidays and they always get eaten up around here! This recipe was found here.
When I read the recipe, I didn't really believe the syrup would dry and crystallize the way it suggested it did, so I was happily surprised when it all worked out.
Cinnamon Sugared Almonds
1 cup white sugar
1/2 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup water
3 cups raw almonds
Add sugar, cinnamon and water to a large skillet or pot over medium-high heat and stir until sugar dissolves and syrup starts to bubble.
Add nuts and stir to coat with syrup.
Keep stirring for about 6-8 minutes and sugar syrup will dry and crystallize on the almonds.
A year ago I did the eulogy at my mom's service. A year ago last Friday, my mom passed away after a tragic time in the hospital. My sisters and my dad are all still grieving and all still in shock that it happened and that our lives are going on without mom.
Missing mom happens unpredictably for me. I wake up in the middle of the night sometimes still, and can't get back to sleep, my thoughts consumed with the last weeks of her life. I will be driving and a song comes on the radio, particularly now during the Christmas season, and I am reminded of her. Living in Richmond, there are many places I drive by or go to that remind me of mom and my heart saddens. The times that are hardest for me are actually often the times of great joy in our family when I want to be able to pick up the phone and share the news with her. When Adam got his driver's license, when we found out Adam would be going to Japan to play hockey, when Colin excelled at parkour or when Colin completed the First Responders coucrse - all times I would have loved to share the news with mom, knowing how much pride and joy should would have felt along wth me.
Remembering and honouring mom is something I am thinking a lot about this month, especially as our family comes to celebrate Christmas - mom's favourite time of year. Last week on the anniversary of her death, I wore a pendant of hers that I have had but have been unable to bring myself to wear. The argillite whale that was gifted to my mom and is carved by a now internationally recognized Haida artist was a pendant she often wore when she was teaching. I have many memories of her wearing it with a turtleneck and plaid skirt. So mom.
I was at a conference with 800 people last Friday and in a small session of about 30 people, as we were introducing ourselves, I heard a familiar last name from a woman from Haida Gwaii. I found her later and introduced myself and showed her my pendant. She recognized it as her brother's work and we chatted for awhile. It was just a serendipitous encounter and one that made me feel so connected to mom.
Mom was able to always find a positive way to look at things and to find joy in small things. Nothing made her happier than a visit with her grandchildren, playing the piano or having some time with a cup of tea and reading a book. As we move into the holiday season and what can sometimes become hectic and busy, I will honour mom by finding joy in small things and enjoying the time that I have with family.