Thursday, December 25, 2008

Monday, December 22, 2008

"I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day..."

This Christmas Carol is based on the poem "Christmas Bells" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, during the American Civil War.

Longfellow had just lost his wife in a house fire and his son had been severely wounded in battle. When he stepped outside, on Christmas morning, to the sound of bells chiming, he was anguished. The world was not at peace. How could anyone ring those bells? Then he worked out his pain on paper. It's worth reading. A poem of hurt and dispair but also a poem of understanding and hope.

And isn't hope what Christmas is about?

If you would like to hear a very stirring rendition, go here.

Photo: Public Domain

Sunday, December 21, 2008

"Had I But One Penny in the World, Thou Shouldst Have It for Gingerbread." --Wm. Shakespeare

I don't like crunchy cookies. I like them soft.

These gingersnaps are a family favorite but they don't snap so maybe we should call them Ginger Squishes or something along that line.

The secret is the cane sugar and the margarine. The one and only time I will use margarine is when I am making these cookies. If you substitute butter, they will be harder cookies. I recommend Parkay Margarine. If you use another brand, make sure you are not using one which consists largely of water or you will have a mess on your hands. Likewise, if you buy a "brown" sugar instead of true cane sugar, you will not get the best results. Many cheap brands of brown sugar are simply beet sugar with molasses. The taste is very bland in comparison. True cane sugar is tastier and safer for those of us on a gluten-free diet.

SOFT GINGERSNAPS 375F cookie sheets 12-15min. approx 3 dozen

1 cup light or dark cane sugar (C&H Brown Sugar)
3/4 cup Parkay margarine
1 egg
2 1/2 cups flour ( for GF cookies use 2 1/2 cups Bob's Red Mill
Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour sifted with 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger

some white sugar in a bowl, custard cup, or shallow mug

Cream the cane sugar and the margarine together.
Add the egg and mix well.
Add the molasses and mix well.
Stir the dry ingredients (except for the white sugar) together in a separate bowl and then mix into the wet ingredients a little at a time.

Chill the dough for at least one hour.

Roll into balls, roll the balls in white sugar, and bake for 12-15 minutes at 375 degrees F.

You can really impress your guests by serving these, hot out of the oven, with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Halcyon Days

The fourteen days preceeding the winter solstice are referred to as Halcyon Days. In ancient times, the belief was that this bird, a kingfisher, nested on the sea, which it calmed in order to lay its eggs on a floating nest. For this reason, the ancients expected the weather to be calm around the winter solstice. Ultimately, the term "halcyon" came to mean calmness or peacefulness.

I mentioned previously that I'm not all that fond of winter. Still, I think these last, short days of the year are a wonderful time to reflect and look forward to lengthening days and more sunshine. I am a Christian, but I observe the solstice as well. I see no conflict here. Rather, it is another way of marking time and remembering to be grateful for all the wonderful gifts we have in the natural world.

photo licenced by david meeker