Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Divine White Stuff

I am not talking about snow!

The Holy Grail of candy making to a southerner is Divinity (pun intended). It requires patience, strength of character, and good weather. Most of us will try to cultivate friendships with those who can and do make divinity in the hopes of a tiny portion presented wrapped in a bright bow at Christmas.

I have a recipe by a gentleman who went to the church in which I grew up. Curtis Williams was an old man when I was a teen. He always seemed gruff and a bit stern, but he had a great fondness for my mother, the church secretary. He made the most amazing divinity and he gave my mom the recipe. He died more than twenty years ago, but the memory of his candy lives on.

I can remember the many failures and few successes Mom had with this, in particular, eating it with a spoon. And I remember her frustration.

Divinity has a texture all it's own and I cannot think of a single thing with which to compare it. Perhaps a nougat, but not quite.

This morning, the sun was out and a quick check of the internet showed the humidity to be only 84% so I decided to give it a try. It turned out beautifully. If you are brave, strong, and true you may want to give it a whirl. (But I would send up a prayer first.)

Divinity by Curtis Williams

3 cups sugar
1/4 c water
3/4 c light corn syrup
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla
3 egg whites
1 c pecans

In a medium boiler, bring sugar, water, syrup and salt to a boil and cook to 250 degrees. Remove from heat and let stand 1 minute.


Add vanilla. Whip egg whites to firm peaks and add syrup mixture in a slow stream. Continue whipping until texture begins to look solid (20 - 25 minutes).


Add pecans and drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper.


Now, to clean the incredible mess...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sugar Coma

I've been very nostalgic lately, beginning in the summer when I bought Fuzzy Navel wine coolers. Very 80s of me. Then, a couple of weeks ago I really wanted ham rolls, so I made them for movie night. There was never a bridal shower, baby shower, brunch or cocktail party in the 80's with out these things. (Little ham and Swiss sandwiches with a mustard, onion, and poppy seed topping.)

And for some reason, I decided to revisit my youth again while making Christmas candy.

I plan on making Buck-eyes, later, but today I made Martha Washington Balls. I remember my mom making these when I was a tween. Once made, she would have to hide them to keep my sister and I out of them long enough for her to give them to friends and neighbors. (I have no idea of the origin of the name. Sorry!)

Martha Washington Balls

2 lbs confectioners sugar
2 stick butter, melted
2 c finely chopped pecans
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 12 oz bag semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1/4 block paraffin

Mix together the sugar, butter, pecans and milk. Roll into balls and refrigerate.

Naked MWB

In a double boiler, melt paraffin and chocolate. Dip balls in chocolate and place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper (or a Silpat) and refrigerate to cool.

Martha Washington Balls

This batch made 8 dozen.


My countdown to Christmas has begun and I've been a very busy girl today. I made some things I can't really mention before I get together with my friends and I made some candy.

First, I made peanut brittle using the recipe of a very old friend of my parents.

Wow! This stuff is easy! The weather doesn't effect the process at all!

Peanut Brittle

If you would like to give it a try, here is the recipe by Robert Bolzle and adapted by me.

Peanut Brittle

3 c white sugar
1 c light corn syrup
1/2 c water
3 c raw peanuts
3 Tbs butter
1 tsp salt
2 tsp soda

Mix together sugar, syrup, and water in a large saucepan. Boil to 250 degrees. Add peanuts and stir well, continuing to stir until candy reaches 280 degrees. Remove from heat and add butter, salt, and soda. Pour onto a buttered board to cool. Break into pieces once cool.

Monday, December 6, 2010

O Christmas Tree

I'm being very brave this year. I put up a Christmas tree.

My beloved Prissy was never phased by the presence of the Christmas tree. This cannot be said of ZsaZsa and Eva.

I was very careful to put my most expensive, beloved, and fragile ornaments up high but they have managed in the last few hours to knock loose and roll around the house a couple of glass balls.


I like the candlelight setting on my camera, but you can't really tell much about the ornaments.

With the flash on, the ornaments are clear but you really can't tell how beautiful it looks with the lights on.


But you can tell, if you look carefully, that the tree skirt is a great place for a nap.

ZsaZsa napping

Now I just have to finish the decorating, put up the rubber totes, bake cookies, make candy, wrap presents,


try to keep the tree upright and the decorations in tact.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Baby It's Cold Outside

Brrrrr! I woke up this morning to snow flurries. No accumulation, but I fixed myself a cup of coffee, grabbed my Snuggie, turned on some Christmas music and watched it snow. It was a perfect cold December morning.

Of course, it was short lived. The snow stopped and the kittens woke up. Mayhem ensued!

I've got a ceramic heater running in my bathroom right now, with the plan being to read in the tub before getting ready to go out.

I'm going with some friends to The Mad Platter this evening. I hope that it lives up to it's reputation.

Karen and Ginny came over last nite and we watched The Man Who Came to Dinner and It Happened on 5th Avenue...two vintage Christmas movies. We ate too much, drank pomegranate margaritas, and had a lovely visit.

Stay warm!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pomegranites, Persimmons, and Pears...OH MY!

I have a hard time walking through the produce department this time of year. Things call out to me.

Beautiful, lush pink grapefruit.

Butternut squash.



And persimmons.

I come home with them and try to eat them all at once. I've roast the butternut squash. I've made salads with it. Risotto. Soup.

I've ruined many tops from the pomegranate juice. I've added the seeds to salads. But mostly, I peel it and eat it.

I've gotten sores in my mouth from eating too much grapefruit. I peel and eat it. I add it to coconut and pineapple. I french it for salads.

I've had peanut butter and pear sandwiches. Pear and blue cheese salads. Pears with cottage cheese. Pears! Pears! Pears!

But the persimmons! The sweetness! The perfection! The joy! I don't cook with them. I don't eat them with other things. I just slurp the juice and chew the flesh and wish I could enjoy this flavor all year long.

I love the bounty of Autumn.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cornbread Dressing

I love cornbread dressing! It is the second best thing about the holidays as far as I am concerned. I could make it more often than I do, but I really associate it with the holidays...Thanksgiving, Christmas, and sometimes Easter.

I prepared a Thanksgiving preview meal for my book group in early November that included chicken and dressing, squash casserole, and a lovely pear, blue cheese and walnut salad with a cranberry vinaigrette. Dessert was a store bought pecan pie (there is a long story about my planned dessert and I won't bore you with it...suffice it to say that Martha Stewart and I are currently on the outs!)

I had planned on posting this last week for the Thanksgiving holidays, but things got a little crazy and, well, life got in the way.

You start with a pan of cornbread. Cornbread must be made in an iron skillet. It's the law. Crumble the cornbread into a bowl. Add any crackers or bread you have handy. (AS a side note, my mom always made us a big breakfast for holidays and used left-over biscuits in the dressing.)

Cut a medium onion and six stalks of celery and place in a medium saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a simmer until veggies are soft. Drain and add to bread.


Add chicken stock, four to six cups.

This next part gets a little tricky. Pull out several spoons. Now add sage. Lots of sage. Salt & pepper. Taste. Does it taste salty enough? Can you feel the sage on the back of the tongue? Adjust as needed.

In this particular case, I roasted a chicken and added the meat to my bread and veggies.


Now add two to three eggs.

Prepare an 13 x 9 baking dish with cooking spray and add the dressing. I like to do all of this a day ahead.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until golden brown and firm.


In case you are interested, here is the squash casserole.


This is the table, including the salads.


So, though it's late, I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving filled with comfort food and family joy!