Monday, December 31, 2007

Wishing You a Green New Year

Making those New Year’s resolutions?
While I’m sure you don’t need any suggestions:
here are a few widely agreed-upon tips that will reduce energy and save you some money.

Use compact fluorescent bulbs which will save you about $30 over their 7,500-10,000 hour life. (You should take them to a recycling center instead of tossing them in the trash, though, because they contain a minuscule amount of mercury.)

Lowering your thermostat 5 to 10 degrees at night and when no one is home can cut heating costs by 20%. Programmable thermostats can make this easier.

Insulate hot water pipes and lower your temperature on your water heater from 130 degrees to 120 degrees.

Choose Energy Star when in the market for new appliances, but be aware that hidden energy drains such as lighting, ice makers, and special settings (such as the pots-and-pans cycle on dishwashers) are not factored into energy-use figures.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Nighttime Prayers. . .

Gracious God, we remember this night our brothers and sisters in the Midwest
where the ice storm has stranded travelers in airports and truck stops;
has left thousands without electricity and has taken the lives of 35 people.
May they know your presence and mercy
as emergency relief teams work
to relive and support them.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. AMEN.

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Friday, December 07, 2007


Here's what a plate of Springerles looks like.

The Ghosts of Christmas Cookies -Past, Present and Future

My home is full of good smells... I've made some multi-grain/most oatmeal cookies with raisins. This is my personal favorite. What's yours?
The dog has finally decided that she doesn't have to follow me from one side of the kitchen to the other and is napping. I have the double chocolate pinwheel dough chilling in the refrig and I'm taking a coffee break while I look up ingredients for spritz cookies.
By now you are asking, "Why is she going on about baking cookies?" Here's the answer:

St. Margaret's Sixth Annual Cookie Sale
Saturday, Dec. 8 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Women of St. Margaret's are holding their sixth annual Christmas cookie sale this weekend. Many bakers are in their kitchens preparing tasty and festive treats for your holiday table. Come early for the best selections! Park in the Church lot off Elm Street.
There is early drop off for convenience of bakers (no early sales! Sorry.) Friday evening from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and Saturday morning starting at 8:30 a.m.
Jill Tillotson is the chairwoman for this event.

But as I'm baking, memories are coming to me. I remember my Mother setting up a card table so that we could cut out and decorate Rich Roll Cookies (recipe in The Joy of Cooking). As I recall it, neighborhood children would be included. AND my brother and I ate the dough. It was so good. Now recipes include a warning not to eat raw dough that includes eggs because of the possibly of sominla posioning. Makes you wonder how future generations will cringe at our current practices.

I wanted to try a couple of new recipes this year so I picked up the Better Homes and Garden 100 Best Cookies magazine while in line at the grocery check out. I've read it cover to cover. It is full of post-it notes.
Here's two things I discovered. My favorite recipes are all there except one. The German springerle (SPRING uhr lee). More about that later. And second, according to a 1796 cook book, there are some ingredients we no longer use! How do these ingredients sound? 3 pounds of flour, a tea cup of fine powdered coriander seed, 1 pound of butter and three teaspoons of pearl ash dissolved in a tea cup of milk. Yipes! And then, this advice...these cookies would be "finer, softer, and better when 6 months old." The magazine editors made a point to say that this old time recipe did NOT enjoy the approval from the Bether Homes and Gardens Test Kitchen.
The German stamped anise cookie...the Springerle. Ahhh...that's where my real memories lie. My paternal Grandmother made these early each December. Then she carefully wrapped them and let them harden. The anise flavor deepened. And we all enjoyed them as a dunking cookie. I watched my Father hide his in his bedroom wardrobe. My Brother looks forward to the ones I give him each year. Two years ago, I mailed some to my Uncle in California. Aunt Mary reported he was so touched because he hadn't had any since his Mother died and when they came East to visit, they gave me my Grandmother's springle rolling pin.
I don't use the "magic" ingredient hartshorn and it is not my family's habit to decorate the white squares after baking with edible food coloring "paint". This cookie says "Christmas" to me. I kind of ignore the history. But am including it here, now, for your enjoyment...
The name Springerle comes from an old German dialect and means "little knight" or "jumping horse." Historians trace these cookies back to the Julfest, a midwinter celebration of pagan Germanic tribes. Julfest ceremonies included the sacrificing of animals to the gods, in hope that such offerings would bring a mild winter and an early spring. Poor people who could not afford to kill any of their animals gave token sacrifices in the form of animal-shaped breads and cookies. Vestiges of these pagan practices survive in the baking of shaped-and-stamped German Christmas cookies such as Lebkuchen, Spekulatius, Frankfurter Brenten, and Springerle.
I have made these cookies annually since 1968. Now, I make them with my adult Daughter. The recipe in the Joy of Cooking is adequate. I add one teaspoon anise extract. Note that "beat until light" means that you will beat the eggs with a hand mixer for almost 8 minutes. This is important. I also buy my eggs several days ahead as fresh eggs do not seem to work as well. Note the lower oven temperatue and longer baking time. Watch springerles carefully- only the bottom turns pale brown. Do not over bake.
So what are your traditions? What are you baking for the holidays?

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