Tag Archives: mincemeat tarts

Making Do

I’m reminded of an old story where a young bride goes to make her first roast for guests and her husband sees her cutting off an entire end of the roast before placing it in the oven. “Why did you just do that,” he asked. She told him she didn’t know, that her mother always did it that way.

She asked her mother. Same answer. She asked her mother and sure enough, her mother didn’t have a pan large enough for the roast. So much for family tradition!

When my own mother came into her own in the kitchen she decided to create a very British Christmas because her father was from Jolly Olde England and she also had Irish relatives. Unbeknownst to me, she wasn’t a fan of turkey and while it was OK to have it once a year for American Thanksgiving (she was always a Canadian citizen) she wasn’t about to have it for Christmas as well.

So it was to be prime rib au jus, roasted potatoes (in the drippings, yum), lots of different veggies and Yorkshire pudding. For dessert, she and my sisters baked for two months, beginning in early November but the most Brit of the desserts was mincemeat tarts. She and my aunt tried to make mincemeat one year but that’s another story. So Crosse and Blackwells it was. Now she had to make and cut the tart pastry.

By the time I became aware of my passion for cooking, she already had the routine down pat. For the bottom she used an old champagne glass, the type that was made to fit Marie Antoiette’s breast and not the kind that does the most for Champagne’s bubbles. For the “hats,” as my Aunt L called them, that called for a small champagne flute. They were both the perfect size. We only had one of each glass and they were not fine crystal by any means, but they served their purpose for many years.

I hope Mom passed those along to my sisters, who often bake. Whenever I saw a cookie cutter over the years I’ve been on my own, one that I like, I’d buy it. Then I started making dog cookies so found the requisite paw and bone-shaped cutters for those.

It was only when I went to cooking school that I found that one could buy measured cookie cutters nested in their own little box. I recently found one on Amazon with 12 round cutters that range from one inch to 4.4,” all for about ten bucks. My old fluted set rusted out but this one should last, especially if I don’t let them soak in soapy dishwater. That may be the perfect gift for my sisters, for other purposes. They’re already making do with Mom’s muffin tins and the two perfect champagne glasses, for mincemeat tarts.

I think there’s some mincemeat in my new pantry. I may have to find out which cutters fit my muffin tins! Cheers! Dee


Sugar and Spice, and Herbs

At lunch time my major concern is that window washers are coming down and there are ropes hanging. Our poor old dog doesn’ know what to do so I’m awaiting their arrival and introducing them as our friends, as I do every year.

I cannot go out or get lunch anywhere until they are below us and friends.

Today my husband went out a new adventure. Part of it is attending a wedding for a young cousin. Brava! We sent her one gift this morning, no, two. I had the opportunity to teach the bride and her cousin cooking classes, two years at Thanksgiving, when she was just a little girl. I heard that she and her future husband  like to cook together.

All I’ll tell you about the first gift is that it includes reference works (how romantic) plus the same spiced nuts I place on Nanny’s table every year for 14 years come next week. The spiced nuts were not sent to the bride, but to her mother, to calm her nerves and know everything will be OK. Don’t stress! Nanny and I are there in spirit for you. Just place the nuts on the table, take a breath.

Of course for Thanksgiving I never would have tried to do pies or cakes. First, I do not bake. Second, you couldn’t imagine the tastes up there on that Thanksgiving table. Forget the table after being satiated by turkey, ham, brisket and numerous side dishes. Feeding 50+ with just desserts, one must use windowsills et all!

I thought a lot of fresh spices and herbs would complete our wedding package so ordered it from Penzey’s this morning and it will arrive before the wedding as well. I remember when the bride’s youngest brother climbed off his mother’s lap and insisted on kissing me goodbye. He’s grown now and would hate to hear that story. I’ll keep it for blackmail!

For the bride and groom come common herbs, chilis and cinnamon sugar, sugar and spice. Congratulations, newlyweds!

In the beginning I  concentrated on two things and knew no-one left much on the kitchen table. I brought my homemade boursin and crackers, plus spiced nuts and just left them on the table. During The Game all the ladies congregated in the Kitchen and I hope I had a part in that. Next year I gave them spinach balls but left that recipe to a new bride in my new family.

Mincemeat tarts, Brussels sprout and cauliflower vegetarian (but rich and sinful) gratin. I don’t remember the rest at the moment, only that the boursin and nuts always are on the kitchen table and after all the good dishes are cleaned and replaced that’s where we go to relax before the next round. Yes, there’s a next round after The Game and it entails plastic cups and paper plates.  That’s why I wanted cousin the MOB to have the nuts on the kitchen table in a bowl, or wherever she wants them. My husband flew them south this morning and will take another flight and car to the wedding.

Sorry I will not be there. I did go off the bride’s gift list but then again, I taught her cooking when she was a little kid and her cousin K said my first year (before marriage) that “Nanny has shoes like that.” Ouch! Love these gals and it makes me feel really old to see one getting married. To Bride and Groom! Dee


Why are menus so difficult? When I was freezing cold sitting under an arctic weight comforter many years ago with a coat and gloves in my small bedroom, separate thermostat up to 55 degrees for my presence (the others were at 45) I spread out cookbooks and melded tastes and textures and flavors for the perfect meal.

For a couple of years I was a professional “orphan” at Christmas. I was always the 7th to their six, even third to their two. For the past 13 years Thanksgiving is always at my husband’s grandmother’s, whom we both call Nanny. It is a feast of epic proportions and one to be very thankful for one’s participation.

We’ve been by ourselves on Christmas, sometimes being in a new town but we’re back. I love to welcome those with no parents, family halfway around the world, newcomers to town. In no way are they “orphans” but I do love to cook dinner for a few brave souls, usually neighbors, and try to make a menu for them.

These days one must ask allergies and dislikes and one dinner was kicked out immediately. As I age and get more experienced with menus and cooking I must also gauge cooking space in the oven and on the stove.

For those of you who’ve read me for a few years you may remember the capon debacle. Whole Foods, while I love it, will not carry capon. My mother used to make it for every special occasion except Thanksgiving and Christmas and with four kids and a husband, it was pretty much a monthly occasion and her butcher was easily prepared for it.

A few weeks ago I interviewed the head of http://www.roastgoose.com, Jim Schiltz, head of Shiltz Farms. They took on Wapsie Farms’ capon business. Jim, I have to tell you that I will do a goose in the future but right now we’re moving across country in a month and there is much to do and it does not include studying cooking or carving a goose or innovating many leftovers.

I will order a large capon for dinner for six. Make mashed potatoes and probably roasted carrots, steamed green beans. Appetizer undecided. Dessert would have to be cold and kept outside, covered because of no frig space or oven space to make a pie. Or I could make mincemeat tarts in advance. Capon would be stuffed under the skin with butter, s&p and herbs. Stuffed with sausage & apples and toasted wheat bread.

It’s a good feeling so far. I’m now sitting at the computer in 68 degrees next to several cold floor-to-ceiling windows (less than 1/2 degree per year). It reminds me of the old days. For three years we placed all our stuff in storage except for a couple dozen tech books for my husband’s work. I did without cookbooks. If there was anything new I needed ideas for, I looked it up online.

Now my cookbooks are back (at least for now) and to think of something, like Julia Child’s Uncle Hans’ City Scrapple and knowing just where to look it up is a comfort to me. There will never be a total replacement for books, at least while I’m on this earth.

Happy menu planning! My mother went through turkey for years before doing the traditional English feast of prime rib, Yorkshire pudding et al. To each his/her own. Enjoy the holidays. Cheers! Dee


My southern family has its own tradition. We always had a family dinner where we mixed things up year by year. One year mom made a tangerine chicken with a cheesecloth topping to catch a tangerine and butter glaze, probably from Gourmet.

It was delicious. Our Southern family has 65 for dinner and sets up tables throughout Nanny’s house. Years ago I was so afraid of them and asking whether I would be accepted. My MIL questioned me, FIL told Jim after two hours in the car, “When are you gonna ask her, son?”

Then I had the Nanny interview an she told me he wanted my husband-to-be to have a job where he’d get a gold watch after 50 years. Sadly, I told her those jobs no longer exist. She passed me anyway.

We’ll go to Thanksgiving as always, only missed a year because of Black Friday and Jim’s work. I was so afraid of the array of food put out and the hierarchy of women from Nanny on down. Forget it, the men were all watching the Aggies battle the Texans or napping.

I started before we married with the spiced nuts. Then I added boursin. These were not for the buffet but for pre-and post-supper at the kitchen table. Then I taught the girls how to make boursin.

Then I introduced the stalwart spinach ball after we married, and gave it to Jim’s uncle’s new bride. After that, I knew these Southerners loved sweets so wanted to bring some of my own family into the mix. Mincemeat tarts were a hit. So was berry trifle.

Last year I made a spinach-cauliflower gratin because we now have a few vegetarians and one is Val the Vet who took our our Zoe’s hips ten years ago. It was a hit. I’m thinking of adding a corn pudding this year but here’s the thing.

My MIL has a wonderful kitchen and we work well together in it but adding dishes to the three-day marathon may be too much.

I now have to do the nuts (in advance from home), boursin, spinach balls, mincemeat tarts (I bring mincemeat from home), spinach-cauliflower gratin. and now a corn pudding? I think we can handle it.

After all, M has potato rolls by the dozen and brings gallons of iced tea and an Italian Cream Cake. People steal the potato rolls to take home, they’re so good.

Yes, we can do it. Thanks for being the best big sister I never had. And thanks to Nanny for hosting all of us every year. Thanks to all the ladies for your culinary efforts and to A and kids for prepping and serving and cleaning up. Then re-heating, serving and cleaning up. Thank the trash guys for picking up all those bags from a 65-person Thanksgiving. I give thanks before, after and during the day. Dee


It’ll just be us two this year, me and my husband, plus Zoe the dog of course. She has her dinner, taking up much of my freezer.

When I shopped I forgot that we needed to eat for two days, was thinking long-term. The holiday desk didn’t want to deal with me but sent me right to the butcher’s counter (I’m cooking for two) and they took our order. The produce section was busy and if I go again it’ll be early in the morning, or go to another market.

I did make some awesome meatballs for our spaghetti this evening with ground round, sauteed shallot and garlic (allowed to cool), one egg, seasonings, parmigiana and bread crumbs. Plus parsley. They were baked for 40 minutes then simmered in sauce.

Holiday Menus:

Christmas Eve: Rack of Lamb Persillade; Scalloped Potatoes and Haricots Vert. Yes, lamb with potatoes and green beans.

Christmas Dinner: Filet Mignon with Brussels Sprout and Cauliflower Gratin.

Appetizers? I made some spiced nuts today, also perhaps something based on spinach. Desserts? Tomorrow I’d like to make mincemeat tarts. I don’t do dessert except for ice cream and berries and perhaps a berry coulis.

Wishing you the best of times with your family and friends. Cheers and happy holidays! Dee



Yes, over the holidays I have been roped in to a cookie exchange. I do not bake.

Any ideas? If I have to do this I’d at least try to make it interesting. After much research, as I do not make cookies, I’m looking at both lebkuchen and pecan shortbread cookies.

I remember apple shortbreads were always a hit, also my molasses ginger cookie recipe from decades ago is in one sister’s hand, just short of a scanner to send it back.

Our containers were amazing. All came from our great uncle in Switzerland who sent lebkuchen every year. Pirate treasure chest, traditional Swiss tins, they were used to keep many holiday treats safe from weather and young children.

Those containers held mincemeat tarts, Scandinavians, apple shortbreads of course, date squares, snickerdoodles and many more to go from Thanksgiving to Christmas and beyond.

Butter, sugar, eggs, flour and flavorings. I can do cookies. It’s easier to have an oven that actually works. Holiday cheer! Dee

PS Anyone for latkes?



Thanks and Giving

Much to do in the upcoming days. We hope to spend Thanksgiving with family about 1,500 miles away. I’ve got the trip there almost planned with strategic stops along the way so we can see the country and the people who made it great from politics to music to food.

One thing to be thankful for right now is no more negative campaign ads. Yea!

I can now focus on healthcare and financial options at work, get my husband’s oil changed. Now that I’m older and wiser (husband surprised me out at dinner with roses for my birthday) I can get that done this week.

Before we head over the river and through the woods, I wanted to thank you for reading and contributing to this venture.

I’ve been making soups and stews to go along with the cooler weather. There was a special on stew meat the other day so I got double (triple) what we needed so some is frozen for use another day. Beef Carbonnade is a staple, so is curried butternut squash soup (I added roasted carrots this time).

Another task is cleaning the grill, a messy job and one I’ll have to do before the snow sets in. We grill year-round, my husband just shovels a path out there and dons his winter jacket and cossack hat and miner’s lamp. I check done-ness and prepare “sides” in the kitchen. I’m also the official timer.

We’ve never seen a snowflake here so it’ll be an interesting first winter. As to wildlife there are tons of squirrels, I’ve seen a fox once, and there’s a wild turkey living in a park nearby. No, we’re not having this Tom to Thanksgiving dinner!

The election season is over and it’s on to other important things like making better biscuits and whether I should bring mincemeat tarts to Nanny’s. Cheers, Dee

Enter the Shift

The Concord grapes have not even been picked and you, dear reader, are already switching off to my second-most read blog on how to find a capon. It’s like swimsuit season happening in November!

One thing I love is its predictability. Same time each year.

Should I start an Easter blog with lamb (have the perfect thing) or Christmas with Lebkuchen or my mother’s Brit feast with prime rib and Yorkshire pudding?

The numbers may matter, there’s no money in this only five years of finally being able to write and challenging myself to do so. I guess the numbers tell me what you want to read. OK.

Happy Labor Day Weekend! It’s a new year of sorts as businesses start up after the summer. Enjoy! Dee

The Christmas Spirit

Perhaps over the weekend, recuperating from Thanksgiving, we’ll get it. I don’t think my husband ever gets it. I have to hear the right song at the right time on the car radio, shed a tear and then I’m in the holiday spirit.

We’ve seen my husband’s family for Thanksgiving and my family will be absent this year, Patagonia I think. So we’re on our own and tend to take in strays.

Christmas is a holiday in which I can use my imagination. We started with turkey, moved to prime rib, yorkshire pudding and the entire English feast. I’ve done pork roasts with hard cider gravy and corn-stuffed apples.

There’s something about that song of Maria with the Nightengale that brings me to tears every year. It was always on the car radio when I drove home from Thanksgiving with my husband sound asleep in the passenger seat and our dog at his feet.

Do I need to buy Michael Buble’s Christmas to get in the mood to see how many we’ll be feeding this year? Menu, everything, depends on this year’s muse. I have to cry, first. It’s tradition. With love and two new ornaments for a wreath we’ll get this weekend, I remain your trusted scribe and omnivore, Dee