Thursday, December 08, 2011


Is everyone in full holiday spirit? This time of the year life gets a little rushed and hectic. The planning, decorating, shopping, cooking, parties and on it goes. Sometimes it’s just too much. I’m always rushed to finish everything that I don’t take time to enjoy the moment. I have a poem on my desk that I cut out of the paper in 1999, the year I sold my first book. It’s very simple, a little sad, but says a lot. It was written by Jeremy Richard Frampton, one of the twelve who died in the tragic Texas A&M Bonfire collapse. The university is about ten miles from our house.

If I stare long enough
If I talk hard enough
If I touch soft enough
If I look good enough
If I love deep enough
Will I live long enough
To love life enough

I love this poem so I’ve decided to enjoy the holiday and my family because it’s time to say enough is enough. I plan not to agonize over gifts and drive myself crazy. And to keep everything simple. We’ll see how that goes. It’s really nice Mother Nature has decorated our yard. That’s even better. These are Texas Yaupon holly shrubs and the bright red berries are gorgeous. After the drought, I thought they wouldn’t make this year, but they did.

Are you ready for the holidays?

Wishing each of you the best holiday ever.
The Texan’s Christmas – Dec ‘11

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Fudgey Christmas Memories

I have to keep with the spirit of the season posts here, as today I'm baking cookies. I've been gathering new recipes and might stir up some rum balls for a change of pace. However, my family demands I make Chocolate Chip cookies, and people tell me they hope I give them some in tins. Which is strange because my "secret" recipe is the Nestle Toll House Cookies recipe on the bag of semi-sweet morself. LOL So everyone could make them, if they wanted to. The only thing I do that's not listed on the bag is put foil on my baking sheets (because I reuse the cookie sheets during the baking of a batch). Here's what I made for Santa last year. He didn't eat all of them, but he made a pretty big dent.

I like rolled cookies that are pretty shapes and have icing, but not sprinkles or sugar. Making them is a chore, however, even though I like to decorate the ones that turn out. There's something about rolled dough that challenges me. You can use your Valentine heart cookie cutter for Santa, just put heart tip at the top for his hat. For a few years, I made Linzer cookies, which are basically shortbread-like cookies with red raspberry preserves. Again, they're not easy--too much rolling and cutting and perfecting. I'm more the drop-from-a-spoon type. Maybe that says something about me in general, but I'm not going there. :)

Could be I'm missing the rolling-dough gene. My mom wasn't a cookie or pie baker, but she made moist cakes with frosting that would make your knees buckle and FUDGE to die for, just from the smell. I'd love to be able to make it like she did. But Mom cooks by experience, not by a recipe, so we may have lost this treat forever. She can't cook with anyone in the kitchen, nor can she cook when trying to write down what she's doing. This doesn't bode well for us, especially as Mom hasn't been able to make Fudge for a few years now. Since I don't have a grasp of what a "hard ball or soft ball stage" looks or feels like (or how a drop of fudge cooked to that stage reacts in a cup of water!), I tried to make fudge using a candy thermometer. No luck. I tried different measurements of liquid to attain a "messy but not sloppy" consistency. I kid you not! That's how much milk to add, according to Mom. Now you're getting an idea of what I'm up against. I won't even try to explain how you know when you've beat it enough, but it includes the words shiny and glossy (however, you only want one and the other is bad).

But even if we can't have the Fudge itself, my siblings and I will cherish the memories of buttering the dish, getting to eat the fudge off a beater or scrape the bottom of the saucepan, waiting for the fudge to set enough to eat that first cut bite, still warm, or cheerfully assuring Mom that the "bad" batch of spoon candy (when it didn't set up) was not really a disaster because it tasted so good. Same with the rock hard, chisel-a-chunk-free batches. That smell of rich, luscious fudge cooking on the stove--aaah, my mouth waters!--would bring us from wherever we were in the house.

So, no, I never missed home-made cookies when we had something a zillion times better. Fudge, cooked with love, by Mom. Thanks for the memories, Mom.

Is this peculiar to my family, or is there a food in your family that no one else can make or there's no written recipe for? Do y'all have any suggestions for me--perhaps a good recipe I should try?

Wishing y;all a happy holiday season, with warm fudge, warm times with loved ones, and warm memories for your future.

Megan Kelly

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Red Kettle History

In the midst of all your shopping, last-minute errands and trips to the grocery store as you prepare to celebrate Christmas, please remember those less fortunate in your communities.  Make the holiday special for someone in need by dropping a few coins into the Salvation Army Kettles outside your local grocery store or favorite big box retailer.  Dig between the sofa cushions, check beneath the seats in your car and ask your kids to spare a few pennies from their piggy banks…a little goes a long way!   

Here's a little history on those famous RedKettles.

In 1891, Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee was distraught because so many poor individuals in San Francisco were going hungry. During the holiday season, he resolved to provide a free Christmas dinner for the destitute and poverty-stricken. He only had one major hurdle to overcome -- funding the project.

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Where would the money come from, he wondered. He lay awake nights, worrying, thinking, praying about how he could find the funds to fulfill his commitment of feeding 1,000 of the city's poorest individuals on Christmas Day. As he pondered the issue, his thoughts drifted back to his sailor days in Liverpool, England. He remembered how at Stage Landing, where the boats came in, there was a large, iron kettle called "Simpson's Pot" into which passers-by tossed a coin or two to help the poor.

The next day Captain McFee placed a similar pot at the Oakland Ferry Landing at the foot of Market Street. Beside the pot, he placed a sign that read, "Keep the Pot Boiling." He soon had the money to see that the needy people were properly fed at Christmas.

Six years later, the kettle idea spread from the west coast to the Boston area. That year, the combined effort nationwide resulted in 150,000 Christmas dinners for the needy. In 1901, kettle contributions in New York City provided funds for the first mammoth sit-down dinner in Madison Square Garden, a custom that continued for many years. Today in the U.S., The Salvation Army assists more than four-and-a-half million people during the Thanksgiving and Christmas time periods.

Captain McFee's kettle idea launched a tradition that has spread not only throughout the United States, but all across the world. Kettles are now used in such distant lands as Korea, Japan, Chile and many European countries. Everywhere, public contributions to Salvation Army kettles enable the organization to continue its year-round efforts at helping those who would otherwise be forgotten.

Do you have a favorite charity you like to donate to during the holidays?

Marin Thomas
A Rodeo Man's Promise (Dec 2011)
Arizona Cowboy (Feb 2012)

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Nuts about the holidays! (recipes)

Looking for tasty snacks to have on hand when family and friends drop by?

Here are two easy make-ahead recipes to put out for your guests.

And if you package them in pretty glass jars, they also make great hostess gifts!

Spicy Almonds and Pecans

1 cup whole almonds, with skins on
1 cup pecans
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until the nuts are coated with seasonings. Spread the mixture in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the baking sheet, let the nuts cool, and store in a tightly sealed jar for up to a week.

Curried Cashews

3 cups roasted cashews, unsalted
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons coarse salt
2 tablespoons curry powder
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lime zest

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Toss all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until the nuts are coated with seasonings. Spread the mixture in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the baking sheet, let the nuts cool, and store in a tightly sealed jar for up to a week.

The preparation instructions are pretty much the same but temperatures and times are different, so they have to be roasted separately.

Happy holidays!

Until next time,
The Christmas Secret (Nov. ‘11)
The Daddy Project (TBA)
Daddy, Unexpectedly (TBA)