Archive for the 'Everything Else' Category

How to make Christmas cookies: Sweet Crescents

Sweet Crescents - Clovice's favorite!

This recipe is my husband’s absolute favorite!

Sweet Crescents

(makes 64 small crescents)

First, make the dough. Cream together:

  • 1/2 pound softened unsalted butter
  • 8 ounces softened cream cheese

Then, add and cream again:

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Next, add:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour

Mix until a ball of dough forms. Take dough ball and divide into 8 pieces. Take 8 pieces and form into a patty. Place dough patties on a plate and chill until firm.

How to shape the crescents:

You’ll need

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • Stuffing: 1 cup of each (depending on your taste): chopped dates, raisins, chocolate chips, walnuts, sweetened coconut

Remove dough patty from refrigerator just before rolling. Soften for about 5 seconds in the microwave to make rolling easier.

Put a dusting of powdered sugar on your rolling surface. Place dough patty on top. Dust patty with more powdered sugar. Roll patty into a 10 inch circle. Divide circle into 8 slices. On the outside edge of each slice, add your stuffing choice. Roll the stuffing up into the dough by starting at the outside edge and rolling in towards the middle of the circle.

Place on lightly greased pan and bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool on rack, then transfer to storage container. To serve, sift more powdered sugar on top and place powdered crescents on serving plate.

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How to Make Italian Christmas Honey Cakes (Struffoli)

Christmas Honey Cakes (Struffoli)

Honey Cakes (sans honey) ready for shipment back East.

Christmas for my sister and I always began with my Aunt Pauline her family coming over to our house shortly after Thanksgiving for the two day process of making Italian Christmas Honey cakes, or Struffoli. I guess my Aunt Pauline came from a part of Italy that wasn’t satisfied with just a “ball” shape – we made festive shapes like Christmas Trees, a Baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes, and Christmas Wreaths.

I thought I’d post the recipe here so my sister could find it….not that she’d ever make these. Somehow, this part of our Christmas tradition got handed down to me.

You’ll note this is a written version of a recipe made from watching my mother, so all measures are approximate. (Mom, remember when we made these in Liberia during your visit to me while I was teaching at ELWA??!! Ahhhh, Christmas on the beach with Italian Honey Cakes! What a fine memory!)

Italian Christmas Honey Cakes
(yields 2 Family-sized Glad plastic container –13 cups – filled to the brim)

6 heaping c. flour
3 heaping t. baking powder
2 1/2 rounded t. salt (1t if using salted butter)
2 rounded T. sugar

Mix dry ingredients together. Cut in:

1 1/2 c. butter

Then, add

5 large eggs slightly beaten
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 c. milk

Knead dough for 15 minutes. Add milk and butter if too dry, and flour if too sticky. Dough should be smooth and not tear as you work it – like the consistency of pasta dough. Separate the dough into 4 loaves and place in an oiled bowl. Cover.

Now, some videos on how to shape the dough:
(Aubrey, the daughter of our friends Joe and Renee, did the camera work and appears as my helper!)

The Christmas Tree Shape

This is my favorite shape. Easy to make, and very impressive when you’ve got a forest of them on a gift plate.

The Baby Jesus Shape

OK, so you need to use your imagination a bit with this shape…

The Christmas Wreath Shape

I usually make only one wreath for each gift plate I give, as it takes a bunch of dough and is not as much fun to eat as the Christmas Tree shape.

And, now on to the frying.

I like to let my shapes sit overnight covered with a dishtowel (this helps them to not come “unglued” when frying.) Set your deep fat fryer at 375 degrees and fry shapes until they’re a rich, golden brown. (If you don’t have a deep fat fryer, use a heavy deep pot filled with 2 inches of vegetable oil. Heat until a 1″ cube of bread fries to golden brown in 60 seconds – that’s about 375 degrees. Be VERY careful when deep fat frying. Keep a fire extinguisher close by and NEVER overload the pot. I don’t add more than 12 trees to the pot at any one time. You’ll need to change the oil after about 3 batches, as it starts to foam up and is difficult to control. I find stirring the foam helps. Three quarts of oil will suffice for the amounts given in this recipe)

Drench your shapes in honey. You can also sprinkle with colored sprinkles or silver coated sugar balls. My sister and I called the silver balls “buckshot”, ’cause that’s what they looked like, and what they were like biting into. I don’t use the silver balls any more. Maybe you won’t want to use them, either….(they were pretty, though.)

This recipe also freezes well. Put your cooled, fried shapes on a baking tin and freeze. Then, place the frozen shapes in a plastic bag. They will keep this way for at least a month. To thaw, take them out of the bag and place on a plate or baking sheet. Drench with honey after they’re thawed.

Health Care Community Discussion

Here’s a link to our UU community’s discussion on health care as requested by Tom Daschle and the incoming Obama administration:

Healthy conversation

A Boy is Now a Man

This is a picture of my brother-in-law Garry, my nephew Maxx, and my sister Janice at Herb and Colleen’s retirement party at SWA. This is really about my nephew, though. It was only yesterday he was turning his stuffed toys into make-believe guns because his mom wouldn’t let him play with weapons…. You can’t stop someone from living his destiny!

Garry, Maxx, and Jan at Herb and Colleen's Party

Social Intelligence And The Biology of Leadership

or, “Why Barack Obama Might Have a Better Chance at Reaching The Oval Office Than John McCain”.

I came across this article in the Harvard Business Review this morning. Brain function has always been interesting to me, as is leadership development, so naturally I was drawn to the material within.

Leaders who have true empathy with their followers not only connect with them figuratively, but researchers have discovered the brains of both the leaders and the followers become “fused” into a single neural system.

The authors of the article also list the seven characteristics they identified for social intelligence. They have developed an assessment tool for CEO’s, managers, leaders, etc – anyone willing to take the steps necessary to plan for and improve their social intelligence. Here they are:

  • Empathy
    Do you understand what motivates other people, even those from different backgrounds?
    Are you sensitive to others’ needs?
  • Attunement
    Do you listen attentively and think about how others feel?
    Are you attuned to others’ moods?
  • Organizational Awareness
    Do you appreciate the culture and values of the group or organization?
    Do you understand social networks and know their unspoken norms?
  • Influence
    Do you persuade others by engaging them in discussion and appealing to their self-interests?
    Do you get support from key people?
  • Developing Others
    Do you coach and mentor others with compassion and personally invest time and energy in mentoring?
    Do you provide feedback that people find helpful for their professional development?
  • Inspiration
    Do you articulate a compelling vision, build group pride, and foster a positive emotional tone?
    Do you lead by bringing out the best in people?
  • Teamwork
    Do you solicit input from everyone on the team?
    Do you support all team members and encourage cooperation?

May the man with the best social intelligence win!

Smoke from Northern California Fires

This is a picture I took this morning from the deck of my house. There are fires ringing Clear Lake and we’re pretty much relegated to staying indoors. It’s very smoky, and my eyes are burning. Cobb has been evacuated (a community about 10 miles away), though we appear to be safe at this time.

However, it does make for a very beautiful sunrise!


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