Saturday, December 26, 2009

Shaking Things Up in Time for Christmas

A couple weeks ago, I was invited to a cookie exchange with eleven other ladies, each of whom would bake and bring twelve dozen cookies. At the risk of acquiring a Santa-belly, I knew it would be nice to spend time with some friends and make some new ones, too.

Though I had to take some liberties with the recipe as not everything is available here, I took these cookies, the recipe for which I found online at

Cinnamon Oatmeal Cookies

Original Recipe Yield: 78 servings (I must have made them smaller, because I got about 13 dozen from this recipe!)

2 1/2 cups shortening (I substituted 2 ½ c margarine and used no salt)
5 cups sugar
4 eggs
1/3 cup molasses (I substituted ¼ cup brown sugar and 1 1/3 tsp water)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 3/4 cups quick-cooking oats (I used rolled oats)
4 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt (which I did not use because I substituted margarine above)

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the shortening and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in molasses and vanilla. Combine the remaining ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture. Drop by tablespoonfuls 2 in. apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350oF for 10-12 minutes, or until edges are firm. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Unfortunately, it is rainy season and it was, in fact, raining when I came home from the party. I managed, with the help of plastic wrap, to protect the goods from the rain, but I couldn’t protect them from myself. When I was only about eight yards from our door, my foot slid on a metal grate. My feet slipped out from under me, and I flew into the air and fell flat on my back. I promise you, it was just like the cartoons, except I didn’t manage a 360.

I did, however, toss my cookies. All over the lawn.

My husband found me sitting in the wet grass, picking up cookies and extracting blades of green from them before putting them back on the tray. By golly, I was determined, despite my bruised back, that not all one hundred forty-four cookies were going to be lost to the neighborhood dogs.

On Christmas Eve, I went to take some Orange Juice cake to a neighbor (a yummy moist cake recipe! Let me know if you want it). Standing on her porch, I heard a roar. Then the floor on which I was standing began a rolling shake. Finally the dishes in the house started to rattle.

“That was a good one!” my friend said.

It took me a moment to process that this Christmas Eve tremble had been an earthquake. I stopped and concentrated on it and I could still feel the ground lightly tremoring beneath my feet.

Things were just getting shaken up around here. Take that word, “tremoring,” for instance. You see, I have always thought it was a word, but my spell checker is putting a wavy red line under it.

Anyway, turns out it was a 5.4 magnitude quake, the epicenter of which was pretty close to Goroka, PNG.

I had been standing in the kitchen preparing for Christmas all day. We had some friends – three single gals – coming for dinner before the Christmas Eve service. Since we had eaten spaghetti for Thanksgiving, I figured we could have Mexican for Christmas Eve, si? The tortillas had already been rolled and cooked, so I chopped vegetables and made fresh salsa for dinner. In addition to the Orange Juice cake, I also made Puppy Chow (aka, Muddy Buddies) and Mocha Mousse Pie. Since no graham cracker crusts are available here, I had to make the pie crust from crushed up Australian Bush Biscuits and melted margarine. That worked out alright, but then I goofed up the pie recipe and had to improvise. It turned out kind of more like a Mocha Cream pie, but no one complained. (I know what I did, if anyone is interested in a Mocha Cream Pie recipe …)

Paul teases me that he always knows when the holiday season is upon us when the first half-gallon of eggnog comes home from the store (typically during the first week of December.) Well, I have managed to keep off the pounds this season (no, I didn’t eat all 144 cookies) as there is no eggnog to be had. But, then again, it just wouldn’t be Christmas Eve without it, so to the recipe boards I went. I found this delicious concoction …

Eggnog (makes 3 quarts)

12 eggs
1 cup sugar
6 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 Tbl rum flavoring

In a large bowl, beat together eggs and sugar. Beat with mixer on medium speed for 3-4 minutes. Add 2 cups of milk and beat to mix for 30 seconds. Pour mixture into a large saucepan and add the rest of the ingredients, except the rum flavoring. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture starts to steam. DO NOT ALLOW TO BOIL!

Remove from heat and stir in rum flavoring. Chill completely in refrigerator and stir before serving. Garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg on top of each serving, if desired.

You can’t see the blissful expression on my face, but let me just say …. Mmmmmmmmm.

Another of our Christmas traditions, which the kids had asked about, is to have Sausage Balls on Christmas morning. However, someone brought us a wreath of cinnamon rolls (complete with maraschino cherries) on Christmas Eve day and our Christmas day houseguest cooked Papaya Coffee Cake, so we waited until December 26 to have our sausage balls … after all, it was still Christmas in America, right?

Sausage Balls

16 oz hot ground breakfast sausage

12 oz grated sharp cheddar cheese

2 – 2 ½ c Bisquick

4-5 T hot water

Preheat oven to 375oF. Mix all ingredients (you will probably have to knead ingredients together with your hands.) Roll into ¾” balls and bake on ungreased cookie sheet for about 15 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm!

OK … time for another personal earthquake. Breakfast sausage is not available here, and neither is Bisquick (and if it was, I don’t think I would want to pay the price for it.) Gotta get creative; time to search the recipe boards again. Fortunately, I had paid the price for shortening after having to substitute for it in my cookie recipe. I figured shortening would last a long time, right?

Bisquick Equivalent (1 cup)

1 cup flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon shortening

Mix dry ingredients together, and then cut the shortening into the mix.

Breakfast Sausage (1 lb)

1 lb mince (ground pork or beef)

2 t salt

1 t sage

1 t fennel seed

½ t cayenne pepper

Dash pepper

Dash garlic powder

1 large egg, beaten

Ahhhh … it took longer to prepare everything, and they were not the golden reddish-brown color that comes from using American breakfast sausage in the roll pack, but, yep. They would do.

I guess we’re getting used to life here. Though, this holiday season, things were a bit shaken up, so to speak, and we were unable to be with our families, we had a very blessed Christmas. I pray that yours was blessed, too, as you celebrated the birth of our Lord.

Merry Christmas!

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(Updated 13 April 2013)