Herb of the Year for 2020: Blackberries, raspberries, and their cousins (Rubus ssp.)
Flower of the Month for December: Poinsettia
December is National Egg Nog Month. Fruit Cake Month, too
Week 3. Christmas and Kwanza Week
December 21: Winter Solstice: Celebrating the Shortest Day of the Year
December 24: National Egg Nog Day—just in time for Christmas Eve
December 25: At last, Christmas! Have a merry (and healthy!) holiday
December 26: Kwanza
Week 4. A New Year Begins
December 31: New Year’s Eve
I surveyed the shop, which was beautifully decorated for Christmas with wooden bowls of clove-studded pomanders and potpourri, a tiny Christmas tree decorated with gingerbread cookies and popcorn-and-cranberry chains, and fresh green branches of rosemary everywhere. —Mistletoe Man: A China Bayles Mystery
Christmas is still a few weeks away, which makes this a good time to think about baking some gingerbread decorations for the tree—not as much pressure to get things done, and maybe a little more time to enjoy a project that the kids will love. You’ll have to lay down some ground rules about eating their creations, of course, but that’s all part of the fun–and in Covid-time, kid-focused projects are good news. Make several batches of these cookie decorations, so the children can share them with their friends. Or collaborate with a neighbor mom to trade a few.
Gingerbread Tree Decorations
1 1/4 cup butter or margarine, room temperature
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups sifted flour
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cloves
3 teaspoons nutmeg
Combine butter or margarine, sugar, eggs, and vanilla extract. Cream well until smooth. Sift together dry ingredients. Stir into butter mixture until smooth, adding more flour if necessary to form a firm, slightly sticky dough. Wrap in plastic and chill until cold. Roll out 3/8” thick and cut into shapes. With a chopstick, make a hole through each shape for hanging. Bake at 350 degrees until brown underneath and slightly pale on top. Makes enough for 7-8 large gingerbread figures. If you want to make more, it’s easier to make separate batches than to double the recipe. Decorate with frosting and colored candies.
.If you want to ice your cookies, here’s an easy way to do it without using a piping bag.
You can also use this recipe to make a gingerbread house. Just roll it out a little thicker. And you can freeze any extra doughDid you know? The term “gingerbread” originally had nothing to do with bread or cake. The word is an Anglicization of the Old French gingebras, which is derived from the Latin name of the spice, Zingebar.
Check out Susan’s Christmas-season mysteries (click on the cover to see the book–and snap up a recipe or two):
There’s no mystery about what we’ll be baking this December. Here are the top 10 holiday cookies from Taste of Home. But for China’s all-thyme cookie favorite, bake a batch of Ruby’s Hot Lips Cookie Crisps. They’ll disappear before you can say The Darling Dahlias and the Poinsettia Puzzle (the title of one of Susan’s holiday mysteries).
Did you know that maple bark has been used medicinally? Mohawk Indians and other Northeastern tribes used it to prepare a blood purifier, eye medicine, and cough medicine. Like us, they cherished the sap, boiled, as a sweetener. For a baker’s dozen sweet & savory recipes, go here. (We’re especially fond of the maple-rosemary French toast.)
How many eggnog recipes do you have in your file? Not nearly enough! Here are 20 more—bet there are some you’ve never thought of. And to go with your eggnog (or mulled wine or hot cider), some very special eggnog cookies with eggnog glaze. Oh, my!
Celebrate Kwanzaa with a great Kwanzaa feast. Recipes & ideas for a bright and lively celebration.
Check out Susan’s Pinterest collection of holiday sweets from around the world. Special recipes for a special month of parties, celebrations, and joyous revelry.
Find out what Susan is up to these days by visiting her blog, Lifescapes. There’s always something interesting going on in the Texas Hill Country. She posts book reviews, bookish thoughts, and notes on the fast-changing world of books on her “other” blog, BookScapes.