Thursday, December 15, 2016

Kitchen Goodies and Goodness

It was "roll-up-your-sleeves" and "too-much-sampling" day at my house yesterday.  I spent several hours, working in the kitchen with the Bose radio playing Christmas music from Spokane's KISS-FM all-Christmas station. 

The sudden urgency of getting ahead on the Christmas cookie supply came from an early morning awakening/epiphany/whatever you want to call it that CHRISTMAS IS NEXT WEEK, and it's gonna be a hectic week from start to finish.  

So, when morning chores were completed, I brought out the bowls and spoons and eggs and flour, etc., turned on the music and got busy. 

Seems that both of our in-house CD players don't want to spin the Christmas CD's this year, so I have to listen to my baking music via a radio station.  It was okay.  I just tuned out the commercials while mixing up dough, dropping it in the baking pans and then keeping track of progress in the oven. 

At this point, I've gotta focus about my well-used Pyrex baking pans and tell the story of a good and dutiful altar boy named Pat, who's also a dear friend.  

Pat was recipient a few weeks ago of a Lovestead baking pan filled with fresh-baked cinnamon rolls. 

A few days later, he called me and told me the family had enjoyed the cinnamon rolls and that he would leave the baking pan with his daughter for me to pick up. 

He then also almost apologetically informed me that the pan was as clean as he could get it. 

"As clean as he could get it" came after two initial, hard-core scrubbings, followed by a brillo pad workout and finally an intense bath his high-energy dishwasher. 

Try as he might, Pat said he could not succeed at removing the baked-in stains from the Pyrex pan. All I could do was laugh as he described his intense, in vain efforts at getting that pan into spit-shined condition. 

Well, every single one of my Pyrex pans has those baked-in stains, so there wasn't much poor Pat could do to make the situation any better. Nonetheless, I really appreciated his Herculean efforts in trying to return that pan looking like new. 

It's downright impressive when we see that much effort, care and thoughtfulness taken these days.  Thank you, Pat. 

And, thanks to anyone who wants to come forward and share the magic secret for removing several years of baked-in lasagna, chocolate cakes and gooey cookies.  

I know that each time I clean my pans, butcher knives, Comet cleanser and a whole lot of elbow grease go into action.  At least the chunks of stuff that glue themselves to the corner pockets eventually break loose after a whole lot of stabbing.

Anyway, my pans did some extra duty yesterday as two new batches of cookies have gone into freezer baggies to wait for the annual cookie plate day.

My gingersnap recipe cooperated nicely, with the cookies looking and tasting good. I always add pecans and raisins to the recipe for some extra delight with each bite. 

And, I CAN go wrong with my former student Cherry Urch's Plano, Tex., pecan praline caramel bar cookies.  Seems I never read the recipe procedure as closely as I should and always discover that one key ingredient, which was supposed to be Step One, is still sitting and waiting for action on the kitchen island when I arrive at Step Three.

In yesterday's case, two key ingredients contributed to the improvisation stage, which is quite common whenever I'm in the kitchen.  Still, the cookies turned out better than ever, even if the corner cookies attached themselves to the baking pan like rubber cement. 

Bill always gets the rejects, and he's enjoyed an ample supply this year cuz I've been baking a lot of gooey cookies.  

My cookie-baking endurance is starting to wane, but I might be able to muster up the desire for one more batch----one with no goo and one which puts out quantity along with quality.  I'm thinking butter cookies might fill that need. 

All the time I spend in the kitchen, all the 4-H training I received and all the desire in the world to improve my baking skills becomes a moot point when it comes to my friend Margarete Raiha's German Christmas cookies. 

Anyone in Sandpoint who's ever been fortunate enough to be on the Raiha cookie list can spot 'em a mile away. They're PERFECT in every way, especially in uniformity. 

Margarete has reason to be proud of her cookies (here I must add a disclaimer that I think her son Danny has inherited her talent and that it's very possible he helps her in the kitchen when he's not tinkering with computer programs or helping out his wife and son at their farm). 

Anyway, yesterday when Margarete changed her profile picture on Facebook (seen below), the comments started flowing:  everything from "Robert would like to come and sample" to folks wishing they were closer to my "Ahhh, the memories." 

The Love family was introduced to Margarete's famous cookies during Christmas week 1984 when our house burned down. I always mention how wonderful and generous the community was in our behalf and I never forget the countless outpourings of help, care and thoughtful gestures we received. 

Well, Margarete and the Raiha family were among the hundreds of benefactors who helped us patch our lives back together.  That's when we met those Christmas cookies--several attractive varieties, all individually packaged and all introducing our palates to a taste of Margarete's native Germany. 

Bill always looked forward to that plate of cookies, often signaling his favorites, lest they disappear before he had his chance at the plate.  One year, a dog (I believe it was Annie Dog) caught on to the cookies and stole a few before we came to the rescue. 

Christmas season is hectic and crazy and often way too much work, but the memories conjured up of people like Pat and the pan and Cherry, who always sends good thoughtsor great recipes and Margarete and her creative cookies make the season beyond special. 

I guess the tangibles of the season do a pretty good job of reminding us of more important intangibles such as thoughtfulness, friendship and generosity that mean so much in this life. 

Thanks to Margarete, Pat and Cherry and to all who take their time and talent and brillo pads to remind us of the true gifts and magic of the season and throughout the year. 

Cherry's pecan, praline caramel cookies---mighty good even if Marianne does screw up the recipe. 

If anyone can get their cookies to outdo these in uniformity and presentation, I'd like like to see a sample and maybe taste it too.  The famous Raiha brand.  

1 comment:

Helen said...

I would suggest Shirley Mitchell as being up to the challenge. So far this year she has baked 135 DOZEN of the most beautiful cookies I've ever seen!