Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

12 Days of Christmas - Gingerbread House

Kaity made this really cute Gingerbread House...notice the mosaic tile paved sidewalk and the Andes mints tile roof!

We are not going to show it after the ants attacked it! Oh well, just that many fewer calories to consume!

Merry Christmas to all...and to all a good night!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

12 Days of Christmas - Candy Train

Years ago Donna Tobler used to do a class for the Relief Society Christmas workshop so we could make these candy trains....

Here's the engine with the orange slice cow catcher...

Here's a new car we made carrying rock candy.

And this is the oil tanker car...

And the Christmas tree car with Lego presents...

And the tootsie roll log car...

And finally Santa's sleigh...


Saturday, December 19, 2009

12 Days of Christmas - Persimmon Cookies

Since we have a persimmon tree these are always a must for the holidays...I never make them any other time of the year, even when I freeze the persimmon puree to use later...I never do...they just are better between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

More than you ever wanted to know about persimmons:
There are two kinds...the Fuyu, that can be eaten crisp like an apple, and the Hachiya, which is the kind we have and must ripen to the consistency of a water balloon before scooping out the soft pulp to use in cookies and breads. We pick them soon after Thanksgiving when they turn bright orange. But they are hard as rocks and can take three weeks sitting out on a counter to soften. To speed up the process I've usually put several in a plastic bag with an apple and then put it in a paper bag in the pantry. The apple gives off ethylene gas (I think) which promotes ripening in 5 or 6 days. Another quicker way is to just put them in the freezer over night and then let them thaw out...I don't know if they develop quite as good a flavor that way.
So when you get some soft persimmons, pull off the stem, cut down the middle and scoop into a blender with a little lemon juice. (a few persimmons will have a seed so remove it before blending). You need 2 Cups puree to make a batch of cookies...about 4-5 persimmons.

Grandma Janiece's Persimmon Cookies

Mix and set aside:
2 C persimmon pulp
2 t baking soda

1 1/2 C shortening (I just use Crisco)
2 C brown sugar
add 2 eggs

Add the persimmon mixture to the creamed ingredients.
Then stir together and add:

4 C flour
2 t baking powder
2 t cinnamon
2 t nutmeg
1 t cloves

Then add:
2 C raisins
2 C chopped walnuts

Drop onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 about 10-12 minutes. They are great glazed with a little powdered sugar, milk and flavoring.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Not Quite Gma Sycamore's ...but close!

This is all that is left of four loaves of bread that I made yesterday! I did give a loaf to Kendra, but I would assume that's gone too...So I sort of made up this recipe in my search to get bread like Gma Sycamore's without going to Utah. This may not be quite it, but it's definitely a contender!
It's based on the Amy's Cinnamon Roll dough....but with a few adaptations:

Gma Nieman's Bread

3 T SAF yeast
1 C warm (115 degrees) water
1 t sugar
Mix and let "work" while you do the next two steps:

1 C boiling water
1/3 C dehydrated potato buds (from food storage)
Stir until thick and dump in mixing bowl.

1 6 oz. pkg vanilla pudding mix(the kind you cook)
3 C milk
I put this in a 4 C pyrex measuring cup and cooked it in the microwave until thick, stirring every 2 minutes...6 minutes total.
Dump this in the mixing bowl and add:
1 cube butter (1/2 C)

Turn on mixer to stir in melting butter. Add and mix well:
4 eggs
1/2 C sugar
1 T salt

Continue mixing and add:
the "proofed" yeast/water
1/2 C gluten flour
11 1/2 C bread flour

Let knead 4 minutes.
Stop mixer and let rest 7 minutes.
Start kneading again for 6 minutes.

Dump into an oiled bowl; oil top of dough or spray with Pam; cover with saran wrap and warm dampened hand towel; place in slightly warm oven. Let raise about 30 minutes. Divide into 4 loaves (2 lb. each) on oiled counter and place in pans sprayed with Pam. Let raise again about 30 minutes. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Butter tops when loaves come out of oven.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

12 Days of Christmas - Sugar & Spice Nuts

Don't eat too many!

Sugar & Spice Walnuts

2 1/2 C walnuts

Put walnuts in a 8x8 pan in the oven at 375 for 5 minutes. Turn off the oven when they are heated and leave them there until the syrup is ready.

Butter the sides of a 2 qt. saucepan.
Mix in the pan:

1 C sugar
1/2 C water
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt

Stir until mixed, then cook without stirring on medium high heat until syrup reaches the soft ball state (about 236 degrees on a candy thermometer). I put a few ice cubes in a cup of water and drop a little of the syrup in to see if it turns into a soft ball. It takes about 10 minutes. Then add:
1 1/2 t vanilla and stir in the nuts. Dump out on foil to cool.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Birthday, Alec!

Age 13

On top of the world (Mt. Whitney)

Balboa beach- 2008

Camping at Tony Grove...2006

Today is Alec's 15th's been a great 15 years!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

12 Days of Christmas - Austrian Raspberry Shortbread

Hmmm....seems I'm on sort of a shortbread streak...This is actually a new recipe...from Smitten Kitchen...and quite unique; rather than patting the pastry into the pan, you divide the dough into two balls and freeze...then grate one half into the pan, drizzle with the jam and then grate the other half on top...

1 lb unsalted butter, slightly softened
4 egg yolks
2 C white sugar
4 C flour
2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1 t almond (I added this)
1 C raspberry jam (I used seedless)
powdered sugar for the top

Cream butter, egg yolks and sugar; add almond flavoring and dry ingredients. Divide into two balls and wrap in saran or foil and freeze until least 3 hours.
To assemble, grate one ball of dough using a hand grater or a food processer with the largest grating blade; place in 9 x 13 glass pan without compacting. Then stir the jam a bit with a fork so it's quite runny and using a pastry bag or a zip lock bag with a small corner cut, drizzle this over the cookie "shards"...I had a 12 oz. jar of jam and used the whole thing...and I think it was a bit too sweet and the bottom layer a little just stick with the 1 C of jam. Then grate other ball and sprinkle evenly over the jam. Bake at 350 about 50 sure it's a little browned; it may take a bit longer. Sprinke with powdered sugar while warm...try to wait until it's very cool to slice.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

12 Days of Christmas - Isobelle's Shortbread

We have a patient (who really is from Scotland) who bring us this every Christmas...Hers is still better than mine...maybe you have to be Scottish...but I think we are)...anyway she makes it by hand, beating the butter with a wooden spoon!

Isobelle's Scottish Shortbread

  • 1 pound butter (room temperature-very soft)

  • 1 Cup sugar

  • 1 Cup rice flour

  • 4 Cups (approximately) white all purpose flour

  • superfine sugar for sprinkling


Whip the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Stir in the rice flour and enough of the regular flour to make a stiff dough. It should be firm, but not dry or crumbly.

Divide in half and pat each into a 9 inch square baking pan, lined with parchment. Prick with a fork.

Bake at 300 for about 55 minutes. Cut into bars and sprinkle with superfine sugar while still hot.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Twelve Days of Christmas - Scottish Raisin Strips

I don't know what makes these Scottish...but they are yummy, and another quick one that makes a bunch....

Scottish Raisin Strips

1 C butter
1 1/2 C sugar
1 egg
2 C flour
2 t baking soda
1 1/4 C rolled oats
2 C raisins

Cream butter, sugar. Add egg. Stir in flour, soda, oats and raisins. Roll into 8 " ropes laying across the cookie sheet. Flatten with palm of hand. Sprinkle with white sugar. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Cool 2 minutes, then cut diagonally into 1 1/2 " strips. Cool completely; then store in airtight container.

White Christmas in Clayton!

It's been 35 years since we had snow on our lawn in Clayton, although most years there are a few times when it snows on Mt. Diablo...this last snowfall was really LOW...on all the foothills by Seeno's house...

Our front lawn....

This is the playground above Diablo View...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Twelve Days of Christmas - Hello Dolly Cookies

Not just a Christmas cookie, but great when you're trying to produce a variety of goodies as quickly as possible. I don't know where the name came from...but it's cute. I think we also used to call them 7 layer cookies (I think there are 7 layers)...not nearly as cute a name!

Hello Dolly Cookies

1 pkg graham crackers crushed, or 1 C crumbs
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C butter, melted

Mix and press into bottom of 9 x 13 pan. Over this spread or sprinkle or drizzle....

1 C chocolate chips
1 C butterscotch chips (or just use 2 C chocolate chips)
1 C coconut
1 C chopped walnuts
1 can (15 oz) sweetened condensed milk drizzled over the whole thing

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. At Christmas you can get red or green chips that could be substituted for some of the chocolate or butterscotch chips...although losing chocolate in this cookie might be a big mistake!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Twelve Days of Christmas - Whirl A Ways

This is a quick and colorful cookie for the can make several rolls and keep them in the refrigerator or freezer for last minute treats.


1 C butter
1 C powdered sugar
2 t vanilla
1 1/2 C flour
1 C oats (quick or old fashioned)
Colored sprinkles

Mix and divide into 2 rolls on waxed paper. Roll in the colored sprinkles. Chill 3 hours. Slice about 1/3 inch thick and bake on ungreased sheet at 325 for 15-18 minutes.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

12 Days of Christmas - Snowflake Cookies

This recipe came with the cookie press my mom had when we were kids. We made them at other times of the year but especially at Christmas...the Christmas tree with green colored sugar, the pointsettia with red sugar, the camel, the star, doggies and butterflies if we didn't run out of dough. Today we just buy jars of colored "sprinkles" but in my day we put a cup of white sugar in a bowl and added a few drops of food coloring and mashed with a fork until the sugar took on color...usually much paler that what's available today in little bottles.

Snowflake Cookies

1 C shortening (Crisco)
3 oz pkg. of cream cheese...I don't think they make 3 oz. pkgs any more...just double or triple the recipe and use a whole 8 oz. pkg.
1 C white sugar
1 egg yolk
1 t vanilla
1 t orange zest
2 1/2 C flour
1/2 t salt
1/4 t cinnamon

Cream shortening, cream cheese, sugar and egg; add flavorings and dry ingredients. For in cookie press on ungreased cookie sheets. Sprinkle with colored sugar. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes. (You can also color the dought if you want the whole cookie to be colored)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Twelve Days of Christmas - Sugar Cookies

What's Christmas without Sugar Cookies. Aunt Thelma(Grandpa Earle's sister) was the Queen of Sugar Cookies in our family. Aunt Val has taken on that role...This is the recipe I have used for years to make tender, flavorful cookies for any holiday....

Sugar Cookies

1 1/2 C powdered sugar
1 C soft butter
1 egg
1/2 t almond flavoring
1 t vanilla
2 1/2 C flour
1 t baking powder
1 t cream of tartar

Cream butter and sugar; add egg and flavorings; stir flour, baking powder and cream of tartar together slightly and add. You can put the dough in a plastic bag and refrigerate for an hour, but I usually roll it right out. Bake at 375 for 10=12 minutes

Not Grandma Sycamore's but....

So having returned from Thanksgiving in Utah, we are suffering Grandma Sycamore's Bread withdrawal (especially Kendra)...this was a recipe found online that perports to be similar to that's not, but was still very good. There is no fat in it unless the lecithin is considered a fat substitute. It's more like french bread. The crust is very "crusty" and can be softened by rubbing with a cube of butter after it comes out of the oven.
Here is the recipe and the modifications I made...because of course I couldn't really follow a recipe...

Not Grandma Sycamore's Bread

10 1/2 C bread flour ( I used about 9 1/2C King Arthur's Bread Flour plus 1/2 C gluten flour...the dough was very sticky and light, more like roll dough)
4 C hot water (115 degrees measured with instant read thermometer)
3 T SAF yeast
1/2 C sugar
1 T salt
I also added the grated zest of one orange (just to make it smell really good)
3 T granulated lecithin (from Harvest House) The recipe called for liquid lecithin which is why I cut back a bit on the flour...if you used honey instead of white sugar you might use the full 10 1/2 C flour.

Dump water, half the flour, salt, and sugar into mixing bowl. Blend, then add lecithin, yeast and additional flour. Save out the last cup of flour until you see how dry the dough is. I found another blog site about making bread that had a good tutorial:

She was making wheat bread and using a recipe more like Simple Bread...but the tip I liked was to let the bread knead about 5 minutes, then let it "rest" 7 minutes, then continue kneading another 5 minutes. That seemed to make a difference. After 5 minutes, my bread was "leaving" the sides of the mixing bowl...but after resting and kneading some more, it became very sticky again...I was tempted to add more flour but didn't. I scraped it into a bowl sprayed with Pam (another tip of hers) sprayed the top of the dough with Pam, then covered with a warm (wetted) terry cloth hand towel and put in a slightly warmed oven...I came back after 30 minutes and the dough was EXPLODING over the sides of the bowl...I quickly dumped it out onto my greased counter (using oiled hands ) divided into three loaves and placed in Pam sprayed bread pans, let raise barely another 30 minutes (be careful not to let the bread raise so much it falls back into itself...this is "over-proofed") and baked at 325 (I have a convection oven...bake at 350 in a regular oven) for 30 might take 5 minutes or so longer in a regular oven...then buttered the top and dumped out on the bread board after cooling for 5 minutes in the pans. It was perfectly done...I tend to under bake and have a doughy middle, but this was completely done...

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Twelve Days of Christmas - Jingle Bells

This being December and the month for delectible Christmas Cookies, I thought I'd try to come up with a family favorite every day for 12 days...I may have to add the pictures later as I actually bake, first....Jingle Bells...
These are actually Mexican Wedding Cakes or Russian Tea Cakes...but at Christmas we make them a little smaller and then put two of them together with red and green frosting.
Mexican Wedding Cakes
1 C butter
1 t vanilla
1/2 C powdered sugar
1/4 t salt
2 & 1/4 C flour
3/4 C chopped walnuts (or almonds)

Mix and form small balls; flatten slightly on cookie sheet. Bake at 400 for 10 minutes. Roll in powdered sugar while still warm. Roll again when cool. For jingle bells, as I said, put two together with frosting, buttercream or the kind you buy in tubes.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Happy Birthday, Karl!

December 3, 1969....Happy Birthday...Jochim Karl Christian Nieman (what were we thinking?)
(I've got a more pictures to add when I figure out where they are!)

Here are 4 generations of Nieman...all oldest sons I think. Grampa Walter, Grampa Gil, Dad, Karl(in the blanket)!

Karl on his blessing day.

Learning to walk...11 months.

Two years old...the elephant cake.

The cutest picture...Karl in leiderhosen John got at a postal auction.

One of many fishy pictures.

Karl holding new sister, Kendra. It's about this time he used to call me into the bathroom and watch him...he was practicing being baptized...I had to see if he totally submerged...not easy in our bathtub as big as he was getting...he'd come up and ask, "Would that count?"

Karl, Kendra and our little dog Peanuts.

Karl, Kendra, and Michael. Someone went to Hawaii and brought home wasn't us.

Karl in the mud pits around our almond trees before we built the pool. He wearing a shirt I made...I used to make all of his t shirts.

Swimming in the mud with Mike Busch.

A big fish caught while up at Grandma and Grampa Ecks in Gasquet.

Playing chess with Gpa Gil.

Baptizing Kaity.

High school graduation picture.

With Gpa and Gma Eck down in Fresno just before he left on his mission. They are standing in front of our "potato" van.

Karl the missionary...mission to Paraguay.

Bringing Amber home to meet the folks...they got engaged the next weekend.

Married in Salt Lake Temple.

We weren't good about getting pictures when Karl got his Eagle, but here he is with Mark.

Receiving his doctorate from Utah State!

The Nieman brothers...

The Karl and Amber Nieman branch of the family tree! We love you bunches!