LIFE ON REGAL HILL December 12, 2007

I continue to work on my Christmas preparations here at Regal-Hill. I still have more cards to do, but I am hoping to have them finished and mailed by the end of the week.

Decorating is finished, but the baking of special Christmas cookies and breads continues. Thanks to Allegra, all I did was mix up the cookie dough and chilled it, then she rolled out the cookies and decorated them. After she got them ready to bake, I baked them. I still plan to make more cookies and breads, especially traditional recipes that I make every year like Pineapple filled cookies and Parcel Post bars that everyone likes.

I haven’t done much gift buying yet. I have some ideas but have not gotten anywhere to get them so far. As always, I try to be practical as much as possible. Items that will be used seem to make more sense. Of course they are more apt to use an item if they like it or if it will keep them warm this time of year.

A friend said she was going to give her adult sons and daughters-in-law money so that they could get what they want or need. That sounds like a good idea to me. Another thought is gift certificates which are nice providing you can easily get to that particular store or use it on-line.

Children aren’t any easier to buy for than adults since many have so much already or don’t have to wait until Christmas or their birthday to get what they want. Sometimes gift certificates and money are nice for them, except that you don’t get to do much gift wrapping that way. Although that is all right with me since I really don’t care about having to wrap gifts.

Whatever you are doing to prepare for the holidays don’t forget to get in the mood by putting a CD or tape of Christmas music on while you work. It really does make it more enjoyable even if you also have to wrap gifts.

Even though we bake cookies all yearlong, at Christmas time we tend to bake special ones that we only bake at that time of year. Christmas cookies can be no-bake or more complicated where they require rolling out, baking and decorating. If you are short on time, try these cookies. I think you will be glad you did.

Chow Mein Butterscotch Cookies
1 bag (11 ounces) butterscotch morsels
2 cups chow mein noodles (from a 5-ounce can)
1 cup salted peanuts, optional
You’ll need 2 baking sheets lined with wax paper. Melt butterscotch morsels over low heat in a medium saucepan.
Stir in chow mein noodles and peanuts. Drop heaping teaspoonfuls onto lined pan. Let stand 20 minutes or until firm. Store airtight at room temperature up to 1 week.
Makes 48
Woman’s Day December 4, 2007

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 large egg
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped nuts
Heat oven to 325 degrees F. You’ll need a 9-in. square pan lined with nonstick foil (let foil extend 2-in. above pan on 2 opposite sides).

Put sugars and butter in 2-qt. saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, 5 minutes or until butter is melted and sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool about 5 minutes.
Whisk in egg, then whisk in remaining ingredients until well blended.

Spread in prepared pan. Bake 30 to 35 minutes until sides begin to pull away from foil and pick inserted near center comes out with moist crumbs clinging. (Batter will rise then fall. Edges will be higher than the center; that’s OK.) Cool in pan on wire rack.

Lift by foil ends onto cutting board. Cut into 6 strips, then cut each strip into 6 squares. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

Makes 36 squares — Woman’s Day December 4, 2007