Not Just Another Christmas Cookie

FullSizeRender (2)

This comment (from my cousin) was in response to my post about my traditional Norwegian Christmas cookie post. I took this as a challenge, so I texted him asking for the recipe. A few days later, it arrived in the mail with an additional page of hints and clarifications to the recipe. As I read over the notes and recipe, I tried to visualize each step, it seemed complicated. I put it aside for a few weeks, planning to return to the challenge once I was finished working in schools.

Ingredients were gathered, I reread the recipe, made a quick call to my cousin to clarify a point, then I began. First I stirred up the almond paste filling. It seemed easy enough, I divided it into fourths, then rolled it into a log, wrapped it in Saran wrap to be refrigerated.

Almond aroma fills the air as I stir the filling.

Almond aroma fills the air as I stir the filling.

Pleased with how the filling went, I tackled the pastry portion. This seemed a bit trickier, there were only three ingredients: flour, butter, and ice water. How in the world were these three ingredients going to turn into a flaky pastry? I carefully cut the butter into the flour with the pastry cutter. Slowly I added the ice water, stirring until it became a dough ball. I divided the ball into two portions, wrapped them up, and refrigerated them for several hours.

Once the dough was thoroughly chilled, I rolled it out on my counter (I sprinkled a little cornstarch to prevent sticking). The dough was split down the middle and a tube of filling was placed inside. Working quickly I sealed the dough around the filling with a bit of water.

Rolled dough and almond filling

Rolled dough and almond filling

Soon all dough was rolled out, sealed as tight as possible to prevent the filling from leaking out. I pricked the top to vent the pastry, brushed on egg white, and sprinkled with sugar.

Before baking, wondering if it is sealed.

Before baking, wondering if it is sealed.

After removing the tray from the oven, I took a picture and sent it to my cousin, “Do these look right?” I inquired. “Great for a first try!” was the response I got. But we would not know if this was a successful endeavor until we took that first bite.

After baking, no filling leaked out. The brown bits are from the egg white brushed on them.

After baking, no filling leaked out. The brown bits are from the egg white brushed on them.

I sliced a piece off the log roll, the outside was crispy and flaky. The inside was delicious almond goodness. I think I have a new holiday tradition to bake every year, my Dutch heritage will insist that Banket (bahn-KET) be a part of our holidays.

Banket is hard to resist.

Banket is hard to resist.


Christmas Cookie

Yesterday was the perfect day to begin my holiday baking. The temperatures were frigid. The streets were glazed with ice.  There was no good reason to be out and about. The scent of cookies baking would be perfect.

Every year, I take five simple ingredients, sugar, flour, butter, eggs, and vanilla, and blend them together. The result is a Sandbakkel, a Norwegian sugar cookie. This cookie is part of my heritage. All generations of my family have made this cookie.  It is time consuming, but it is not Christmas until they are made.

Once the ingredients are measured and stirred together, you have to chill the dough to make it easier to press into the fluted tins.

These tins are waiting for the dough to be pressed in.

These tins are waiting for the dough to be pressed in.

Scoop out dough, use your thumbs to press it into the tin. You must be careful to press it evenly and not too thick.

The dough is pressed into the tins, ready to bake.

The dough is pressed into the tins, ready to bake.

Bake for fifteen minutes, then let them cool.

Golden cookies are cooling on the counter.

Golden cookies are cooling on the counter.

Once they are cooled you can lightly squeeze the tin and they should pop out. Sometimes the dough was too thin and the cookie shatters as if falls out.

Oh no! It broke, guess I'd better eat the evidence.

Oh no! It broke, guess I’d better eat the evidence.

Now the Christmas season can begin, the Sandbakkels are made.

Perfectly golden, buttery, and crisp, now all I need is a cup of coffee.

Perfectly golden, buttery, and crisp, now all I need is a cup of coffee.

Creation of a List

A few weeks back I received notice from Twitter that I was mentioned in a tweet. Of course, I immediately was curious because I am a wish-I-could understand-Twitter-and-use-it-more-but-I-don’t kind of Twitterer. Terje (Just for a Month) had tossed a challenge my way. Create a list of 100 things I am grateful for. Whew, that’s a lot, but I let the idea simmer in my mind. Then last week Jaana (Jaana’s Writing Blog) created and delivered her list. I knew I had to get started. So here is my list of 100 things I am grateful for:


  1. my husband
  2. my son
  3. a daughter-in-law
  4. a granddaughter
  5. a granddaughter waiting to be born
  6. family near and far
  7. friends near
  8. friends from long ago
  9. a comfortable home
  10. a teaching career
  11. connections through blogging
  12. opportunities for learning
  13. Friends of the Library sale
  14. good health
  15. time to savor life
  16. ocean cruises
  17. wandering
  18. pizza
  19. scarves
  20. picture books
  21. a comfortable car to travel in
  22. sunshine
  23. awesome neighbors
  24. road trips
  25. having an office for my “stuff”
  26. professional books
  27. a son who usually calls weekly
  28. grilled cheese
  29. camera in my phone
  30. nieces and nephews
  31. blue cheese
  32. work colleagues
  33. toasty fires
  34. Italian cream cake
  35. visiting family
  36. new recipes to try
  37. Draw Something friends
  38. iPad with photos
  39. key lime pie concretes at Andy’s Frozen Custard in July
  40. biking
  41. Thanksgiving with family
  42. cousins who cook fabulous dinners (yes, that is you Phillip)
  43. eating out
  44. pumpkin food in the fall
  45. mail
  46. bright colors
  47. husband who keeps everything clean
  48. coffee with friends
  49. some time alone (not a lot)
  50. meeting slicers (17 so far)
  51. anything with coconut
  52. a great teacher retirement system
  53. fuzzy lined moccasin slippers
  54. granite counter tops
  55. comfortable patio furniture where I can read and enjoy sunshine
  56. heated seats in cars
  57. internet connection
  58. surprises
  59. discovering nature’s wonder
  60. bead stores
  61. bead stores with a sale
  62. blog comments
  63. Pandora
  64. Christmas celebrations
  65. diet cherry Dr. Pepper
  66. just picked peaches
  67. pedicures
  68. river cruises
  69. hamburgers
  70. freedoms of our country
  71. down pillows
  72. watermelon in summer
  73. computer techs
  74. teachers who want to learn
  75. pasta meals
  76. juicy berries
  77. cups that don’t sweat
  78. taking my mom out for a meal
  79. on-line shopping
  80. ice cream
  81. hot running water
  82. bookstores
  83. cozy comforters
  84. NCIS reruns (love Gibbs)
  85. Instagram
  86. changing seasons
  87. finding bargains
  88. garden tomatoes
  89. crispy bacon
  90. getting into a sun-warmed car on a cold day
  91. dark chocolate
  92. fleece vests
  93. appliances that make life easier
  94. snow days
  95. snow blower
  96. ice makers
  97. fingerless gloves to keep my hands warm when I type
  98. friendly smiles
  99. All Write Conference
  100. a husband who helped me get to 100 items when my brain shut down


If you made it all the way to the end, I congratulate you. Now I challenge you to develop your own list. :-)

Maps or GPS?

I trusted Lola (my GPS system) to get Kim and me to the hotel in Warsaw. She had done a fine job the year before, so I had no reason to doubt her abilities this year. I should have known something was not quite right when I could not locate the place I stopped at for lunch last year. The landscape was familiar, but doesn’t one suburb area look much like another especially when you are not from the area? Finally, we gave up and stopped for lunch. I just knew it would be in the next shopping center down the road, but it wasn’t. We never saw the center from my memory. I should have known, she was leading me down a different path.

We did need to take a small detour because of an accident, but Lola recalculated and put us on a road to Warsaw. We arrived just in time to pick up our registration packets and meet up with friends. Once we were in Warsaw, I had a guide to help me navigate the streets, so Lola was put away.

Saturday was going to be a day of exploration. Kim and I planned on driving north into Amish territory to view garden quilts and devour treats not to be missed (according to the natives of the area). With general directions, we set off to find Das Dutchman Essenhaus for breakfast. No help from Lola was needed. It was after breakfast when we encountered our first quandary.

We were able to locate our first garden quilt in the yard behind the Essenhaus. Of course the grass was drenched in dew, so our shoes were soaked walking to view the garden (no path was available :-( ).

Bowtie garden at Essenhaus

Bowtie garden at Essenhaus

Now on to the next location, but where were we exactly? This garden was in the middle of a triangle on our map and the roads on the map were not labeled. mapWe plunged ahead looking to find something labeled on the map to give us a reference point. After a stop in a small shop, we were able to locate our second garden.

Waterwheel at Krider Gardens

Waterwheel at Krider Gardens

While studying the garden and our map, a man drove up to take photos of bikers on the trail. We politely asked for help to determine where in the world were we? It was when we mentioned we were seeking the Rise ‘N Roll Bakery, he became friendlier. His eyes lit up knowingly at the treat we were searching for. With his directions, we were on our way to begin our foray into overdosing on sugar.

Cinnamon Caramel donut, their specialty.

Cinnamon Caramel donut, their specialty.


Rise ‘N Roll was a hopping place and many donuts were being consumed. If you are in the neighborhood, this is a treat not to miss. I also bought a quart of pickled baby beets. Yum!

Sugar high set in and we were off to find our next quilt. Now that we had a point of reference, we were good for the rest of the morning.

Dutchman's Puzzle at Menno-Hof

Dutchman’s Puzzle at Menno-Hof

Goldie's Basket at Farmstead Inn

Goldie’s Basket at Farmstead Inn

But it was time to start the trek back to Missouri, and long hours in the car were ahead of us. First, we needed lunch and the locals dictated we must go to the Blue Gate for pie. Once again the recommendation was spot on. I enjoyed the seasonal Key Lime, while Kim savored every bite of the German Chocolate pie.

Lola was called into action as we wanted to head for home. Her idea was go to Chicago, then down Illinois to Missouri. I was not so sure of that, so we began to retrace our steps going back to Warsaw. She was not happy and constantly wanted to guide us away from our route. Finally I unplugged her and we broke out the backup map. (In retrospect, I suppose I should have listened to her.)

Once we were back to Warsaw, we gave her another chance. Her route seemed odd. Kim took out her iPad and used the map app. It seemed a better route. We followed the iPad. As I drove, whisperings in my mind began to tickle my memory. This was the route from the previous year. There was the shopping area I had eaten at last year!

Lola, I wonder if you need to retire. My faith in you has been compromised. Kim warned me that you were not always thinking clearly. I think I will have to analyze your route and the app’s route next time I plan to go somewhere.


Lost and Found on Pinterest

Pinterest is dangerous. Once you enter that world you could lose many hours of your time. When you leave that world, images might linger in your mind and you want to return to explore more. Then you begin to rush through life so you can feed your Pinterest fix.

I have dabbled in Pinterest for several years, but now I have leaped into the waters of Pinterest in a serious way (at least for me). My broken foot has clipped my traveling wings. I am tethered to the house (unless someone wants to drive me somewhere). I turned to Pinterest for inspiration. Boy did I find it! Tired of same old, same old dinner options? Type in an ingredient in the search and you have pictures galore of tasty treats.

This is how I found myself in trouble one day. I found a recipe for a salad dressing. Maple syrup and basalmic vinegar, mmm, on a spinach and apple salad. Perfect! I have all ingredients needed.

I used my iPad to create the dressing. We had the salad for lunch and loved it. I had not pinned it yet because I wanted to see if we liked it.

After lunch I went back to the iPad to pin it, but where is it? The link disappeared from the Pinterest site when I turned off the iPad. I thought it would still be there when I turned it back on.

Now the mental exercise had to begin. I had found this from another recipe I had checked out. Reconstructing my path was painful. I tried several different searches, but did not come up with the right recipe. Eventually I was able to find the recipe and I immediately pinned it.

I’ve learned my lesson. If you see something interesting grab it quick so it will be there later and you can always delete it then.

The recipe is from Lauren’s Latest.

New Favorite Salad
yield: for 1 person

for the salad-
2 cups lettuce or baby spinach
2 slices garlic & herb deli turkey
2 tablespoons toasted, chopped pecans
1/3 fuji apple, diced
1-2 tablespoons shaved parmesan cheese

for the dressing-
makes enough for large dinner salad
1 clove garlic, finely minced (if I was making this for my husband, I’d do half a clove–its garlicy stuff)
2 tablespoons maple syrup, honey or something sweet
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup light flavored olive oil or canola oil

Pour all ingredients for dressing into a leak proof container or into the bottom of a bowl. Shake or whisk until dressing has emulsified. Set aside.
Make salad by placing all ingredients into a bowl or onto a large plate. Top with desired amount of dressing.

Breakfast Out

Sunday evening, my husband and I realized that we didn’t have to be anywhere on Monday. That realization brought big smiles to our faces. “You want to go out for breakfast?” he asked me.

“Definitely!” I responded.

There’s a little breakfast/lunch place that we love to visit. Some would refer to it as “a hole in the wall” kind of place. Weekends are crazy busy there. People wait for an hour to get in and have a bit of comfort breakfast food.

On Monday there is no wait, we have our choice in seating. I chose the booth (wrong choice for me, read on for reason). We settle in, coffee comes quickly. I notice my usual choice is the special today, $1 off. I am tempted by the cinnamon swirled French toast, but stay with my usual. Two eggs over easy, sausage links, hash browns, plus a biscuit smothered in white sausage gravy will fill me up until dinnertime.

As we wait, sipping coffee, I notice there is a cold draft blowing on my right leg. I reach down to check if it is true or am I imagining. Yes, there is a definite draft blowing. I tell my husband about this cold air, he feels nothing. Maybe it is a draft from the windows at the booth behind me. Must be, I figure. This is an old building.

My food arrives, eating distracts me from the uncomfortable feeling from the cold draft. Once I finish, I am again noticing this cold air. I move over on the booth seat. It’s a little better. Wait, the air is following me. I move over more, if I move again I will be sitting on the floor.

My husband looks under the table. There is a vent on the floor, next to the wall. Someone has placed a magazine over the vent to block the air flow. It has been shifted, allowing air to escape. Apparently they did not like the arctic blast blowing against their leg either. With my toe, I readjust the magazine. The polar blast subsided. I sure wish I’d figured this out earlier. Next time I won’t select this booth, but if there is cold air blowing, I will look for the source rather than endure it.

photo 2 (6)

Gailey’s, where we love to go for breakfast.


One day, when I was in high school, my father came home and told my mother about the most delicious sandwich he’d ever tasted. He described the ingredients Thousand Island dressing, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and corned beef on grilled bread. It sounded horrendous. Thousand Island dressing on a sandwich with sauerkraut? Really?

He was insistent that my mother recreate this concoction. She did and I fell in love with Rueben. The tang of the sauerkraut intermingling with the melted cheese, and the creaminess of the dressing created mouthfuls of deliciousness. The love affair with this sandwich didn’t even begin with real corned beef.

This is the type of corned beef we used. That can was deadly to open. I sliced my thumb several times on the edges.

This is the type of corned beef we used. That can was deadly to open. I sliced my thumb several times on the edges.

We were using the canned variety (we were ignorant when it came to the ways of corned beef in those days). Also, we used wheat bread, not rye. I guess my dad didn’t like rye.

Now, I am a bit of a Rueben snob. When I see it on a menu, I want to order it, but only after a few essential questions are answered. Do you use Thousand Island dressing (not mustard)? Is this grilled or on toasted bread? If it is toasted, I will not waste my time or calories.

It is unfortunate that there are waitresses out in the world telling people their Rueben is grilled, when in fact it was toasted. I was not a happy customer when my sandwich arrived.

However, I have found a place where the cook knows how to make a Rueben extraordinaire. Shane of Shane’s Joint creates a masterpiece of a sandwich. He not only grills the bread, but he also grills the corned beef. Watch out! The filling of this sandwich is hot! Swiss cheese melts down the mound of sauerkraut and corned beef like cheesy lava. The Thousand Island dressing slides on bringing all the ingredients to a perfect blending. The bread is grilled to crisp perfection.

The added bonus to this crispy, melty mess is a side of homemade potato chips, crunchy and warm. Handy to scoop up a bit of sauerkraut that escaped from the bread. Mmmmm!