Thursday, December 27, 2012

Kitty Ornaments Fom My Collection

I have collected these kitty treasures over many years. Actually, most of them were given to me by my sister Lucia who lives in New York City and seems to come up with a precious cat ornament every year, which she sends with her incomparable plum pudding. I am still waiting for this year's installment...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter Solstice

Diagram of the winter solstice from " Windows to the Universe"

     Welcome to the Winter Solstice—the longest night of the year and the shortest day, when the sun  reaches its lowest point in the sky at noon. The word solstice is derived from the Latin sol 'sun' + stit (sistere) 'stationary', and the winter event is, of course, associated with many festivals. The Wikipedia link.
     On a positive note:  Technically, the winter solstice lasts only a moment in time, after which the days  start getting longer. And in the Southern Hemisphere, residents are welcoming summer on the longest day of the year.

Green Bin filled with seasonal flora gathered in my neighborhood for the winter solstice

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Candy Cane Cookies

Freshly-baked Candy Cane Cookies
      Every Christmas during my childhood my mother baked Candy Cane Cookies and Starlight Mint Surprises. My sister and I would demand these two favorites, and we helped with the baking and testing. These were classics of their era (the 1950s) and in a recent search of the web I found so much nostalgia for these delicious morsels that I realize my family was joined by a nation of Candy Cane Cookie-lovers. By all accounts, they are still admired and included in Christmas baking lists. The preparation is a bit time consuming, since you have to divide the dough, color it, braid it and form it, but that was part of the childhood ritual and totally fun. Miraculously, I still have my mother's old metal file and her original recipe, clipped from who-knows-what magazine. This is the very copy we used to bake cookies  every holiday season. She covered it in a plastic sleeve, so there are no smudges. Talk about nostalgia!

The original clipping from my mother's recipe file
     Since it is difficult to read the yellowed original Betty Crocker recipe (above), I advise clicking on the link below for a clear and legible recipe. Many websites offer this, but interestingly, the current Betty Crocker website prints a version using peppermint instead of almond extract, which would disrupt the perfect balance of flavors and ruin the cookie for me. I advise sticking with the original. Be sure to read the helpful comment below the recipe.   RECIPE FOR CANDY CANE CANE COOKIES

     As well as recipes, one can find specific cooking videos on the Internet. Above, you can access a terrific demonstration from the Joy of Baking website which takes you step by step through the baking process, ensuring that you will create a perfect batch of Candy Cane Cookies. As my mother's copy says, "So different, yet so easy!"

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

December Persimmons (#3)

 Hachiya persimmon tree on Shasta Road, Berkeley--Dec. 4th

                                                                                    Lingering Fruit
                                                                               On barren branches
                                                                                  Lonely Winter                                                              

Arch Street persimmon tree in early November
 Tree in December with one half-eaten persimmon   

For one last persimmon treat, I reached for Fresh from the Farmer's Market by my friend Janet Fletcher. She suggests freezing persimmons and making a simple "ice cream" in the food processor. But smoothies are even more fun and much easier. She freezes two super-soft hachysas, then takes them out of the the freezer, softens slightly, removes the core, quarters them, and puts them in the blender with some brown sugar, or honey, buttermilk and vanilla. They make a fabulous thick smoothie, and with buttermilk, it's low-cal.  Now's the time to buy (or pick) persimmons and load up the freezer.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Buddha's Hand

Buddha statue with buddha's hand         
                            "True freedom comes when we follow our Buddha nature,
                                     the natural goodness of our heart."

Jack Kornfield. Buddha's Little Instruction Book. Bantam Books,1994.
The above quote comes from this small handbook of instructions and
words of wisdom by the well-known American Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield. He has managed to distill and adapt ancient teachings to the needs of contemporary life, as he has done in so many previous books and classes.

For information on the amazing citrus fruit, buddha's hand, photographed by Ricki Pollycove, check the always useful source Wikipedia Description of buddha's hand