Life on Regal-Hill: Dec. 3, 2008

Probably the least favorite chore I need to do as I prepare for Christmas here at Regal-Hill is shopping for gifts. The problem is ideas and I prefer that it is something that is useful.
Now that Allegra has a horse I may think of something Thunder needs and thus save her from buying it for him. Well, so much for that; when I checked, a blanket had just been ordered on-line. Maybe that is all right since it is snowing quite a bit as I write this, and Thunder really needs it now so I wouldn’t want to wait until Christmas to get it.
Warm clothes may be good for Allegra so she can ride Thunder when it is cold, although she won’t be in public at a horse show. At least there won’t be a problem keeping her head warm since her helmet is a given and it seems to me a helmet would be warm.
Sometimes when I can’t think or don’t know sizes I will give loved ones checks so they can get whatever they want or need. Gift Certificates are nice but if they aren’t used within a certain length of time the store won’t acknowledge the entire amount. This happened to Allegra last year. Another idea is to shop on-line, but I am not very experienced in doing that so I would have to ask the younger generation for help.
Another gift that could be given is a cell phone providing one can get at least halfway decent reception. If one is in Kingston or Oneonta and calls home there is reception but not closer like Margaretville or Arkville.
I imagine you have your shopping all done. Allegra had her shopping done several weeks ago. I sure wish I did.
Christmas isn’t Christmas without cookies that are made especially for the season. If you wish to store them for Christmas giving they can be frozen or stored in a tightly sealed container for several weeks. One of these is Gingerbread Boys and Girls. Another is Pecan Clusters. Be sure to try at least one of each before you give the rest away.

Gingerbread Boys and Girls
Gingerbread Cookie Dough
3-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
2 large eggs
1/4 cup molasses
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons milk
Assorted food colorings (optional)
Prepare gingerbread cookie dough: In medium bowl, combine flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. In large bowl, with mixer on low speed, beat brown sugar and butter about 3 minutes or until well blended, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula. Add eggs and molasses and beat until combined. With spoon, stir in flour mixture until well blended.
Divide dough into 3 equal pieces; flatten each into a disk. Wrap each disk in plastic wrap, and refrigerate 1 hour or until firm enough to roll.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
On lightly floured surface, with floured rolling pin, roll 1 disk of dough 1/8-inch thick. With floured 4-to 5-inch gingerbread boy and girl cookie cutters, cut dough into as many cookies as possible; wrap and refrigerate trimmings.
Bake cookies 10-13 minutes or until browned around edges. With wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire racks to cool, about 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough and trimmings.
When cookies are cool, prepare icing: In medium bowl, with fork, stir confectioners’ sugar and milk until smooth and an easy piping consistency. If you like, spoon some icing into smaller bowls and tint with food coloring as desired. With decorating bag, fitted with small writing tip, pipe icing on cookies to decorate. Set cookies aside to allow icing to dry, about 1 hour.
Store cookies in tightly sealed container, with waxed paper between layers, at room temperature, up to two weeks or in freezer up to three months.
Makes 3-1/2 dozen cookies.
Good Housekeeping December 2008
“A Very Paula Christmas.”

Pecan Clusters
1 bag (12 ounces) chocolate kisses
1 jar (7.5 ounces) marshmallow crème
2-1/2 cups sugar
1 can (5 ounces) evaporated milk
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups pecan halves
Place chocolate kisses in large bowl with marshmallow crème; set aside.
In 2-qt. saucepan, stir sugar and evaporated milk; add butter and heat to boiling on medium. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour hot sugar mixture over marshmallow mixture and stir until well blended and chocolate melts.
Stir pecans into marshmallow mixture; drop by rounded measuring teaspoons onto waxed paper. Cool completely, at least one hour.
Store clusters in tightly sealed container, with waxed paper between layers, at room temperature, up to 1 week or in freezer up to three months.
Editor’s Note: We made these clusters without stirring the pecans into the marshmallow mixture. Instead, we dropped the marshmallow mixture by rounded teaspoons onto waxed paper, and pressed a pecan half into each.
Makes: 8 dozen clusters
Good Housekeeping December 2008
“A Very Paula Christmas”