I have sadly forgotten who Mrs. F.E. Smith was, as well as what relation she had to my family; whatever relation it happened to be happened a long, long time ago. What I can tell you is that this recipe has been passed down through my family for at least three generations, and it came from this particular someone named Mrs. F.E. Smith.
During one of the last visits I had with my Nana, we got to “talking shop” (which, in this case, means recipes) and ended up going through her antique, foot-long metal recipe file.
(Yes, it was a metal box that was approximately twelve inches long. And it was full.)
While she pulled out various recipes she thought I’d enjoy, I recognized this recipe from my mother’s own recipe box. My Nana waved her hand and told me matter-of-factly in her sweet Southern drawl to “not even bother with any other peanut butter cookie recipe, because this one was the best there was.”
This recipe produces a perfect peanut butter cookie. Not too sweet, just salty enough, and equally delicious with a glass of cold milk as with a cup of hot cocoa…
Mrs. F.E. Smith’s Peanut Butter Cookies
½ C white sugar
½ C brown sugar
½ C butter
½ C chunky peanut butter
1 egg slightly beaten
1-1/4 C flour
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp baking soda
In large bowl, combine sugars, butter, and peanut butter. Add egg and mix thoroughly. Sift together dry ingredients and combine with the peanut butter mixture.
Mold dough into a long, even roll and wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate 1 hour or until dough is firm.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Slice to approximately 3/8 of an inch thickness, and place cookies on ungreased cookie sheet. Using the tines of a fork, create a grid-shaped decoration, if desired.
Bake at 375 degrees F for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown.
by Danica Waters / butternut squash image courtesy of www.cookinglight.com
This, dear readers, is a recipe for Butternut Squash soup excellence. Clipped from an issue of the Rocky Mountain News years ago, this recipe qualifies as one of my personal all-time favorites for the following reasons:
It is definitely “comforting”, which makes it a great bet for weekend soup-and-sandwich fare (think grilled Havarti cheese with caramelized onions on French – or better yet, homemade – bread);
It is also extremely sophisticated, which makes it an outstanding choice for a formal, multiple-course meal;
But the best part of all is that this is not your ordinary comforting cream soup. It is far more exciting; the addition of cayenne pepper creates a sensory surprise and leaves a delicious tingle on your tongue; go sparingly at first and add to suit your preference.
Creamy Squash Soup
(as seen in the Rocky Mountain News)
1/3 C diced white onion (don’t substitute – the white onion is more delicate than its yellow cousins!)
3 Tbsp dry white wine
1/8 tsp marjoram
2 lb butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks*
4 C rich chicken stock
1-1/2 C heavy cream or half and half
4 Tbsp butter, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
Garnish: sour cream, freshly snipped chives or fresh rosemary sprig; toasted pumpkin seeds or toasted chopped walnuts
Saute the onion in one tablespoon of the butter until soft and transparent. Add the wine, marjoram, squash and stock and bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce heat to medium and simmer for about 30 minutes or so, or until the squash is very tender.
Carefully puree the mixture in a blender, a little at a time. Pour it back into the pan over medium heat and add cream and butter. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. Heat the soup, stirring constantly, until heated through (do not allow to boil). Taste and add more seasonings, if desired. If the soup is too thick, thin it with more stock or cream.
Keep the soup warm over low heat or over a double-boiler. Be careful not to scorch it. Serve the soup in mugs or wide, flat bowls with your choice of garnishes.
*Note from author: Figuring out how to cut and peel a butternut squash safely and efficiently is a bit of a challenge due to their hard, thick skins. Here’s some tips:
1) Use a large, very sharp Chef’s knife or Santoku.
2) Use a thick cutting board with a non-skid bottom. Wood is great!
3) Turn the squash on its side, and, cutting from the widest end first, cut the squash into rings approximately 1-1/2” thick.
4) Remove the seeds and fibers from the inside of the rings and discard.
5) Cut the rings into quarters.
6) Using a paring knife, peel the hard skins off the squash and discard.
7) Cut the squash into smaller pieces if desired.
Voila! You have conquered a butternut squash! (Andyouget to keep your fingers!)
Of all the napkin folds, the French Fold is one of the easiest to achieve; it’s simple, elegant, and fast! When you’ve finished the fold, simply drape it at the dinner place. Voila!
Here’s the “How-To”:
Lay the napkin face down in front of you.
Fold the napkin in half diagonally, making sure the corners line up neatly.
Bring the top corner down diagonally towards you, so that the crease is an inch or two in from the original bottom corner and creates a new point a few inches to the right of the same original bottom corner.
Bring the top point down towards you, being sure to pivot at the same place the last fold pivoted, to create a new point on the far right. Ensure the new fold is placed at an equal distance from the other folds for a crisp, symmetrical presentation.
This next step takes some time and lots of talking, so be prepared.
With the sometimes mind-numbing hustle and bustle of the holiday season, all too often gift-giving endeavors are reduced to:
a) an ever-evolving list of people who should receive something of equal or greater value to the gift slated for the next person on the list, often based on a sense of historical or social obligation vs. inspiration and joy;
b) a distribution from a pile of whimsical but impersonal things collected from various sales throughout the year;
c) a detached, materialistic and rather mechanical “thing that must be done” during the holidays, often accompanied by little or no thought of the person to whom the gift is to be given;
d) a dreaded financial burden when all is said and done.
Needless to say, kids get confused when they are told time and again that “giving is better than receiving”, and yet they never really learn the art of giving and how it can make them – and the gift recipient – feel when the act is genuine, personal, and from the heart. Like any other life skill, kids only know what they’re taught. Kids can learn how to “get off the hook” and mechanically give Grandpa another token pair of holiday socks just as easily as they can learn how to really consider everything Grandpa really means to them and construct a meaningful gift accordingly.
Listen to your heart.
Try this: before you write your holiday gift-giving list, take a quiet moment to ask yourself who impacted your life in a truly positive way this year. What does that list look like? Don’t be surprised if you’re surprised; the list may include people you don’t really know, but really, really appreciate, like that checker at the grocery store who always manages to put a smile on your face, even when you’re grumpy after a long day, or that teacher that makes your children feel inspired, like they can achieve anything? (Note from author: To me, honoring these folks first makes me feel like I’m honoring myself and my intuition, adding emotional substance to the gifts I choose to give and the reasons why I choose to give them. It also helps me put my values and my relationships in perspective, while taking a good look at how I impact others’ lives, as well.) Do this by yourself first; then sit down and try the exercise with each of your children. You’ll gain precious insight into their lives and their values, as well.
Sometimes folks can feel put on the spot, or perhaps as though you have ulterior motives, when they receive a gift of appreciation. In instances where you would like to show your appreciation but feel that it might result in an uncomfortable situation, giving anonymously is a great way to go. Even if you don’t get the pleasure of seeing the recipient’s response, please don’tever underestimate how much that coffee house gift card will be appreciated.
On the same note, unconditional giving means that even if you give personally and directly and do not receive the kind of appreciative response you’d hoped for, your heart was in the right place. Do not become offended. It just might be that the recipient is overwhelmed, self-conscious, or simply doesn’t know how to respond appropriately. Move on, forgive, and be happy knowing you gave for all the right reasons.
A great way to teach your kids the joy of unconditional giving is to come together as a family to choose a recipient for an anonymous family gift. In addition to charitable giving, choosing an anonymous gift for someone who is just simply an awesome human being is a fun way to bring your family together to celebrate great energy.
Great gifts mean something .
Retailers are there to be, well, retailers. They put lots of “pretty shiny things” out to attract and distract shoppers, usually overwhelming and confusing them to such an extent that they end up purchasing items they never intended to buy in the first place. Putting thought into the meaning behind your gift-giving will not only help you stay on track with your budget, but it will ensure that the meaning behind the gift you give will not be diluted along the way. Does your aunt really need another scarf/hat/mitten set? Or would it mean more to her for you to give her a unique piece of vintage jewelry to add to her collection? In talking with your son about a possible gift for Grandpa, chances are that token pair of holiday socks will turn into an elaborate handmade picture of the time he took your son fishing, accompanied by an assortment of Grandpa’s favorite fishing snacks. More expensive? Nope. More meaningful? Absolutely.
“Think beyond the stuff”.
Most of the time, stuff is just that: STUFF. We don’t know what to do with the stuff we’ve already got, let alone more of it. As a happier alternative, give gifts of shared time and/or experience, such as a monthly scheduled tea party with Grandma or tickets to the museum for your child and his/her BFF. Be creative. Make it special. Try giving Grandma a new calendar with pre-scheduled dates for your tea parties already marked in bright, happy colors – make each party have a different theme, i.e. – February = Valentine chocolates, March = lemon cakes, September = celebrate the blackberries, etc. Lighter on the heart, easier on the environment!
Wrap It Up!
Yes, it takes time. And patience. And maybe even a couple of tries. But what would YOU rather receive: an unwrapped gift, or one that had been carefully wrapped to the best of the giver’s ability?
Now take gift wrapping one step further: how can you make it eco-friendly?
Here’s a video on how the Japanese utilize pieces of cloth to wrap their gifts:
Photo Credits: Gift w/ Gold Ribbon courtesy of www.mysmartshop.wordpress.com
Hands holding heart courtesy of www.esquire.com
“Pay it forward” courtesy of www.midatlanticarthritis.wordpress.com
Smiling Child courtesy of www.couponsaver.org
Seedlings in eggshells courtesy of www.themorningnews.org
Clip art gifts courtesy of www.absoluteuniquegifts.com
by Danica Waters / photo courtesy of wowhowsnacktastic.wordpress.com
While on the subject of tea and scones, this is an awesome little recipe you’ll want to have in your teatime repertoire. These scones are easy to make and fill the house with a delightful smell; they’re just the thing for those stay-in-your-jammies, wintery weekend mornings when you want to treat the family (and yourself!) to something special.
They look as divine as they taste; the little wedges with their jewel-toned centers add visual richness and texture to serving platters at teatime.
Jam Filled Walnut Scones
2 c all-purpose flour
½ C finely chopped walnuts
¼ C granulated sugar
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, chilled
2/3 C buttermilk (or 2/3 C milk + 1 Tbsp white vinegar)
1 tsp vanilla extract
¼ C strawberry or other preserves
Preheat oven to 400? F. Lightly butter a baking sheet.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, walnuts sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut the butter into ½ inch cubes and distribute them over the flour mixture. With a pastry blender or two knives used scissors fashion cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. In a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk and vanilla and stir to combine.
With lightly floured hands, divide the dough into two equal-sized pieces and put each portion into a 5-inch circle on a lightly floured cutting board. Cut each circle into 6 wedges. Transfer the 12 pieces to the prepared baking sheet. Dip the point of a sharp knife in flour and make a slit in the top of each scone, dipping the knife in flour as needed. Carefully spoon 1 teaspoon of strawberry preserves into the sit in the top of each scone. Bake for 17 to 19 minutes, or until the tops are lightly browned.
Remove the baking sheet to a wire rack and cool for 5 minutes. Using a spatula, transfer the scones to the wire rack to cool. Serve warm, or cool completely and store in a single layer in an airtight container. These scones freeze well.
by Danica Waters / photo courtesy of liluinteriors.com
Remember being a little kid and absolutely dreading those first few awkward minutes of meeting someone you hadn’t seen in a long time, or perhaps didn’t know at all? No matter if the semi-strangers had extended an invitation to an event at their home or if the occasion found them invading your home, one of two things was certain to happen during the greeting process:
1. You’d be eyeballed up and down like you were some sort of germ-ridden-troublemaker-to-be and summarily dismissed, or;
2. You’d end up having your cheeks pinched off your face as you were slathered in kisses and lipstick stains, barraged with a million questions you didn’t know how to answer, by someone you really didn’t know all that well at all.
Not knowing what to do in either instance, you’d visibly shrink there next to your parents, feeling awkward and silent and uncomfortable and wishing to all heck you could will yourself to disappear altogether. Anxiety amplified as you quickly realized that your own embarrassment was unwittingly embarrassing your parents. “Say something, silly!” they would admonish, nudging you further into the line of fire. “Don’t just stand there like a bump on a log! Ha ha ha….! Kids – I’ll tell you…”
And there you were, feeling like a germ-ridden-troublemaker the rest of the evening.
In the words of America’s etiquette expert, Peggy Post, “Most etiquette dilemmas arise when people don’t know what to do. This results in a feeling of uncertainty and, ultimately, a sense that you may do something wrong or offend someone.” Yep. And that’s not a happy space for anyone to be in – especially kids.
Now’s the time to practice the Art of Greeting, so that your children can negotiate these awkward moments with confidence and poise now and in the future.
Tips to a perfect greeting:
1. Look the person in the eye and smile!
2. No mumbling! Speak confidently and clearly, even if you’re feeling shy.
3. It’s best to call the person by name: “Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Humphries / Aunt Matilda / etc. It’s nice to meet you/see you again.”
4. Strangers or acquaintances should be greeted with a handshake; if the person is a relative or someone close to you, you should greet them with a hug.
How to give a proper handshake:
1. Right hand to right hand, thumbs up (not a limp, palms-down hand)
2. Firm grip, but not too tight or too limp
3. Only two to three “pumps”, then release hands. No shaking the other person’s arm off!
1. Feeling useful is one of the most powerful confidence builders out there. If the event is being held in your home, children can offer to help take guests’ coats or show them a secure place where they can put their bags. Teach them to treat these articles with care. (If you are attending an event at another home, remind children to say “thank you” when someone takes their jacket.)
2. If you’re hosting the event, it’s a great idea to review the guest list with your kids in advance. Letting them know about the personalities and interests of the people coming to the party goes a long way towards helping kids feel confident about their participation in the event.
With practice, your kids’ kind, confident greeting skills might even help them avoid lipstick and cheek pinching altogether.
by Danica Waters / image courtesy of www.moosecrossinggardencenter.com
There are lots of recipes for sautéed green beans out there in the wild blue yonder. Most of those recipes invite a whole lot of other ingredients to the party: tomatoes, wine, garlic, cream of mushroom soup, etc. – the list goes on and on. It seems that somewhere along the way, we forgot that the good ol’ green bean can hold its own on the dinner table; its simple, spectacularly fresh flavor doesn’t need a lot of help as long as it’s treated properly. Allowed to simply be itself, the green bean has all sorts of great things to offer: Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Manganese, and a full range of beneficial B Vitamins, carotenoids, and antioxidans are but a few of its virtues.
This recipe is simple. It features fresh green beans sautéed in a bit of extra virgin olive oil until crisp tender, and sprinkled with kosher salt and fresh lemon juice. Exquisite! .
An excellent accompaniment to Chicken with Tarragon Cream Sauce, these green beans go well with French and Italian cuisines, in addition to fish, poultry, and vegetarian dishes. This preparation is so delicious, it might have you looking at that grayish green been casserole on the Thanksgiving menu in a whole new light.
Green Beans Sauteed in Olive Oil
1 lb fresh green beans, washed, trimmed, and patted dry
2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Juice of ½ a lemon
Kosher Salt to taste
Prepare beans, be sure they are thoroughly dry to avoid splatter when they are added to the oil.
In a wide, shallow sauté pan or frying pan, heat olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add green beans and cover; allow to cook for about a minute. Beans should be lightly browned, but not charred – keep your eye on them. Remove cover and allow condensation to run back into the pan; turn beans and cook another minute. Once beans are browned a bit on all sides, add 2 -3 Tbsp water to the pan. Reduce heat to medium and allow to steam until beans are bright green and crisp tender, approximately an additional 3 -5 minutes, depending on your preference.
Remove to a serving dish; squeeze fresh lemon juice over beans and season with Kosher Salt to taste. Toss well and serve.