Holiday Recipes New & Old
I love food, and like Oprah Winfrey, I love bread. Growing up, my grandmother made sourdough biscuits from scratch and fresh homemade bread that was unlike any bread I had ever had. What really set it apart was the texture. Somehow it was light and dense at the same time, with a nice chew that fell somewhere between a sandwich bread and a muffin. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it is good. You’ll have to trust me.
When I was a kid, my grandmother would make these big sandwiches with fresh slices of ham, gobs of mayo, cheese, iceberg lettuce, and her homemade bread – one big bite and I was in heaven. I became a good cook because I wanted to create food like my grandmother’s.
I need to note that 95% of my happiness comes from food. I am a social person, so all my event planning starts with “What are we going to eat?” And while eating at one event, I’m thinking, “What will I eat at the next event?” So when I tell you that my grandmother’s bread is good, I’m not lying. I know good food. (Unlike my friend Gregg who told me his mom was a good cook only to find out she made cornbread with the texture of sawdust and chicken breast so dry it would dehydrate you after just one bite.)
But back to grandma’s bread…
This recipe was lost to me for most of my life, but my sister found a copy of the recipe and texted it to me recently. Rejoice! I did a happy dance and immediately found my bread pans so I could make this bread as a gift this year to give to my family and friends. I’m attaching the picture my sister sent me so you can save it to your computer or phone.
My grandmother, whose name was Hadgie (isn’t that a great grandma’s name), even called it “Light” bread, but that had nothing to do with the calories and everything to do with the texture and taste.
Jen Hatmaker – Feed these People Cookbook
“This book is just another extension of all the beautiful ways Jen shares her heart through her story, laughter, and now—lucky for us—delicious recipes.” — Joanna Gaines, co-founder, Magnolia
I couldn’t agree with Joanna more. Jen shares her heart with us in this cookbook, and this book made me want to cook the recipes for the people I love because you can tell Jen cooks with love.
I rarely buy cookbooks; why bother since you can go online and scrounge up a recipe for just about anything? A good cookbook can also be a cheerful countertop decoration, especially if you have a handy-dandy cookbook holder. I got mine this year from Target ($19.99), where I also got my copy of Jen Hatmaker’s new cookbook.
The cover of Jen’s cookbook will tell you immediately what you need to know – this is not Julia Childs’ French cuisine; it is good, home-cooked meals designed to feed the people you love. The book has recipes that are written more like notes to the reader, they are funny and personal, and I enjoyed just sitting down with a hot cup of coffee and picking out some recipes to try. The first one I tried was her black pepper biscuit recipe. Her biscuits are good, a little heavier than I expected, and they are not as good as this recipe, in my opinion. To be fair, though, Jen does mention that she likes her food more on the savory side because she doesn’t like sweets. She doesn’t like sweets, so much so that she only includes one recipe for dessert in her cookbook, which is both genius and hilarious.
But back to biscuits…
I have made 20 different types of biscuits, and these are the easiest and the best. I add a little extra butter to the recipe, about 1/4th of a stick, and then I serve them with strawberry jam and peppery sausage gravy that doesn’t skimp on the sausage. People RAVE about them; if you are making a Christmas brunch, they are a real crowd-pleaser.
The other recipes I’m dying to try are the homemade onion rings and the French onion soup. (Is the F in French onion soup capitalized? Who knows, I’ll make it capital to be safe). Anywhoozle, the book is delightful, and I’ve included a picture of mine here in my cookbook holder.
I’ve been staring at Jen’s face for a couple of weeks, and it always makes me smile. Last night I grabbed the book, and while my partner and I were eating bacon-wrapped chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans, I read him some of her recipes. We both had a few good laughs. I highly recommend this book, it is just a warm sweater on a cold day, and the recipes are just a bonus. I suggest you get it as a gift for yourself this holiday season, and then as a gift, cook some recipes from it for the people you love. Enjoy!
Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies
About 20 years ago, I stumbled upon this Neiman Marcus cookie recipe from a hoax or an urban legend. The story, which has been applied to other recipes, like chocolate fudge cake, is about Neiman Marcus charging a woman $250 for a cookie recipe. When she asks for a refund, they refuse, so she sets off giving away the recipe to spite them. Sticking it to people that have wronged you must be a condition of being human because after all these years of making these cookies, even though I know the story isn’t true, there is something about the urban legend that makes me feel good about making these cookies and sticking it to someone who did someone else wrong. But that’s a separate tangent, and we are here today to talk cookies.
Over the years, I have made several cookies, but these are my go-to holiday favorites. They are delicious, and they hold up quite nicely for days. The secret is the blended oatmeal. You get an oatmeal taste without the chunky oatmeal texture.
I have made these cookies so often that I know the recipe by heart. I added a few of my notes to the recipe below. Shaping the dough into a roll and wrapping it in Saran wrap, leaving it in the fridge overnight, then slicing the cookies the next day makes for perfect cookies. The texture is crispy on the edges and gooey in the center… be still, my chocolate-loving heart.
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2½ cups oatmeal
- 2 cups flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 12 ounces chocolate chips (I use half semi-sweet and half milk chocolate from Ghiradelli)
- 1 4-ounce milk chocolate bar (I omit this part, some recipes say to use a tablespoon of espresso powder, I tried it and preferred it without the powder)
- 1½ cups chopped nuts (I use pecans, and I toast them first)
Step 1 – Heat oven to 375 degrees.
Step 2 – Cream together butter and both sugars. Stir in eggs and vanilla.
Step 3 – Finely grind oatmeal in a blender or food processor. Combine the oatmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, and soda in a medium bowl and slowly add it to the wet ingredients. Beat just until combined. Grate the chocolate bar using a Microplane grater and add it, along with chocolate chips and nuts, to the batter. Mix to combine.
Step 4 – Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart, on a greased cookie sheet—Bake for 10 minutes.
Making Butter in the Classroom
Don’t Get Bitter. Get Butter!
When I was in 4th grade, we had a Christmas potluck. I remember this one very well because our teacher put the ingredients to make butter in a Mason jar, and then she let us pass the jar around the room, shaking it up until it turned into butter. Later that day, when we ate our festive lunch, I slathered some of that fresh creamy butter on a piece of cornbread. I then popped it into my mouth, and it was glorious. Butter had never tasted so good. It was only years later that I realized that I had been eating margarine for most of my life, that imitation product that we were led to believe was just as good as butter. I’m sorry, but that is not true. But I won’t get into a butter battle here; let’s return to the homemade butter… It wasn’t super thick, like butter that had been in the refrigerator for hours, but it was delicious, like butter and whipped cream had a baby. Yum!
But I’m telling you this story now because it is a perfect way to have a fun class activity that can also be tied to science. It’s a win/win! Plus, I’m 46 now, and that was 30-something years ago, and I still remember it like it was yesterday. Talk about firing up some emotional neurons and getting me to engage with relevant content. Kudos to my teacher Ms. Watts for this little lesson in science and culinary delight at the same time!
I’ve included a video here so you can try this at home with your kids, at school with your students, or both! And if you don’t have kids or students, that doesn’t mean you can’t make it on your own and slather some of my grandmother’s homemade bread with it. You will be so glad you did!
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