My Aunt Bert’s Cream Cheese Kolachkys

Even my son Brian remembers them and it’s been about 20 years since he ate one. Heavenly diamond shaped butter and cream cheese dough pastries with a dab of fruit filling in the middle. Brian fondly recalls cherry. I have a strong memory of apricot.  My Mom’s family Christmas gatherings wouldn’t be the same without them.

The holiday dessert table at my Aunt Bertha’s and Uncle Sam’s never failed to offer dozens of these little Eastern European gems. We called them kolachkys, a.k.a. kolaches. A bit of research reveals that Bert’s recipe probably was of Polish origin, and therefore spelled kolaczki. Who cares how they are spelled or what they are called, I was just glad they were a holiday staple! (Well, if you do care, check out this post by Eastern European food expert, Barbara Rolek. as well as a brief bio highlighting her culinary career.)

 

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Like Brian, I’m able to conjure up the image and taste of kolachkys from Christmas past, even fifty years later. Food memory is powerful and good for our emotional state. Culinary historian Kyle Cherek explains that experiences of eating are imprinted on the neuropathways in our brain. The positive associations between home, good food, and family gives us a grounded sense of place in our world and personal identity. Cherek admonishes that continually taking shortcuts by sub-contracting flavors to take out and processed foods sabotages this aspect of well-being. He kiddingly remarks, “Occupy Kitchens!”

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This season, kolachkys were my Christmas treats for friends in our  new neighborhood. To my delight, when I handed this boxed assortment to the couple next door, they both exclaimed their grandmas used to make kolachkys for the holidays as well!  Another heart-warming food memory reinforced.

It also felt satisfying to pull out my stand mixer, sifter, and pastry wheel; items my Mom used on a regular basis for holidays long ago.

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Thanks, Bev Augusta, for sharing your Mom’s recipe.  While Aunt Bert is no longer with us, her tradition of Christmas baking continues in many of our hearts and homes.

CREAM CHEESE KOLACHKYS

Ingredients:

1 cup of butter, softened

1 8 ounce package cream cheese, softened

½ cup of powdered sugar

2 cups of all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon of salt

1/3 cup canned filling (strawberry, raspberry, cherry, apricot, cream cheese, nut, etc.)                                      (Aunt Bert always used Solo Brand. I like Comstock.)

Be prepared to have a lot of filling leftover. Fortunately, it does freeze well. For a how-to, go to the end of this recipe.

Directions:

  1. Cream butter and cream cheese until fluffy.  Gradually blend in sugar.  Stir together flour and salt; mix into creamed mixture.
  2. Cover and chill dough several hours or overnight.
  3. About an hour before you roll out the pastries, set out the dough to soften it up a bit.
  4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  5. Divided dough into thirds.  On a lightly floured surface, roll each portion to a 12 by 10 inch rectangle.  With a fluted pastry wheel, cut into 2 ½ inch squares.  Place a dot of filling in center of each square, bring up two diagonal corners to center, pinching together well to seal.
  6. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until firm but not too brown on bottom. Eleven minutes in my oven works great. The recipe suggests 12.
  7. Place cookies on a rack to cool. While still a little warm, sift powdered sugar over them.

 

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My Aunt, Bertha Laidman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Grief Observed

Almost a year ago, I honored the life and passing of Don Reinhart and so many friends who were suffering from loss of loved ones. I recently spoke with Don’s wife, Jan, who is valiantly walking through this painful journey. For Jan and others, this season warrants a life reset with one person painfully missing from the family portrait. Interestingly, this piece about grief was 2016’s most viewed and shared post on my blog.

Season Six(ty) life in the 60 something years

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“We were promised sufferings. They were part of the program. We were even told, ‘Blessed are they that mourn,’ and I accept it. I’ve got nothing that I hadn’t bargained for. Of course it is different when the thing happens to oneself, not to others, and in reality, not imagination.”                              C.S.Lewis in A Grief Observed

I’m a bit of an eclectic reader, so I’m not surprised that I picked up a book that I knew might depress me. It turned out to be one hard read.

Only Spring is the journal of a father who lost two sons: one to suicide at the age of 22 and the other to leukemia at age 6. You can only imagine the pain that bled through each page.

At different times throughout the book I asked myself, why am…

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What Not to Wear (for Christmas)

Just a few days ago I was bemoaning the fact that I “needed” to come up with not one, but two Christmasy outfits. After all, we would be attending both the Christmas Eve service and Sunday morning worship on Christmas Day.

Wanting to be extra-holiday-ish, I complained that I owned only one festive outfit.

And then I invited some new friends that have been homeless since November to our Christmas Eve service.

This mother and son have no home, no income, and must depend on community and church aid for food to sustain them. 

As soon as the invitation to join us for church left my mouth, it became uncomfortably clear that my earlier clothing complaints  were ridiculous.  Rather than focus on my holiday ensemble, I immediately felt compelled to consider what not to wear. I didn’t want the issue of “church clothes” to be a barrier to accepting my invite. So I told our guests that my husband and I weren’t dressing up for Christmas. Come as you are, I assured them. We’re just happy you can join us. Mom and son thankfully accepted!

I’m trying to spend time with people that experience life differently from me, with new friends that are in situations I’ve never imagined for myself. In this somewhat awkward process, I wonder how they will view me. Sure, I can throw on a pair of jeans for this weekend’s worship to maybe help those with tattered clothes feel less uncomfortable. It’s a nice little gesture. But a larger hurdle needs a bigger leap in my heart and mind. Beyond  efforts to “dress down” will an attitude of “looking down” on the these dear ones seep through my welcoming invite?

Here’s what I hope I’m not wearing to our Christmas services~
a look of judgement,

a mind clouded with pre-conceived notions,

and an air of superiority.

As we don the spirit of Christmas, have we shedded the clothes of a critical spirit, and the attitude of all-knowing and elitism? Can we take off these layers, or do they smother the love of Jesus to the least of these?

This is a big weekend on the church calendar. We’ve decked the halls of our worship facility, fine tuned our instruments, rehearsed the kids’ choir, and carefully prepared the Christmas message. We’re dressed to the nines, as the old saying goes.

But central to an extravagant celebration is a humble beginning.

Jesus.

He made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself.

And this is where we begin to help those in need. Humbled to serve another.

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.

And this is how we continue. Draped in a wardrobe of humility.

Because rich, or poor, or in between, we are all equal at the foot of the cross.

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From our house to yours, Merry Christmas!

Easy Apple Crisp with Rolled Oats for Two

English novelist and poet Dinah Craik got it right when she wrote “a way to an Englishman’s heart is through his stomach.”  This adage that finds it’s origin in her 1857 book, John Halifax, Gentleman, definitely rings true for my husband. Jim never ceases to tell me how much appreciates my good (and not-so-good cooking), especially when I surprise him with an unexpected evening treat.

This season of life has been tough on Jim. Two car accidents and triple hernia surgery have interrupted his active life and interfered with his normal routine with a vengeance. Thankfully, none of these events have been life threatening. Nevertheless,  old-fashioned TLC continues to be the order of the day. And yes, we are using food for comfort!

Trying to provide something healthy and fun can be a challenge. This simple dish of apples covered with oats bubbling hot from the oven and topped with ice cream fit the bill nicely.

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I couldn’t resist bringing a bag of apples home for sauce since Earth Fare had them on sale this week. I thought I was making applesauce in the crockpot to freeze, but I definitely under-estimated how much sauce I would get. One bag of apples does not a whole lot of applesauce make. Instead of freezing such a small batch,  I decided to turn the cooked apples into this fruit crisp. Happily, I ended up with leftover applesauce for a future side dish

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups of rolled oats

1 tbsp. of butter, slightly softened

1 tbsp. of pure maple syrup

1 tsp. of cinnamon

1 bag of Gala apples

water

ice cream

1 1/2 cups of crockpot applesauce (see directions below)

Directions for fruit crisp:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a small bowl cut 1 tablespoon of butter into 1 cup of rolled oats.
  3. In another small bowl, mix 1/2 cup of rolled oats with 1 tablespoon of maple syrup (or 1 tablespoon of butter, the maple syrup is for me).
  4. In an oven safe, cereal size bowl, spoon 1 cup of applesauce and top with the 1 cup of the rolled oats with butter. (This one’s for Jim.)
  5. In an oven safe, small dessert or fruit bowl, spoon 1/2 cup of applesauce and top with the 1/2 cup of rolled oats mixed with maple syrup. (This one’s for me.)
  6. Bake for 20 minutes.
  7. Drizzle with maple syrup or top with ice cream. Or not, depending on your diet!

 

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one for Jim, one for me

Directions for applesauce:

  1. Core, peel, and dice a bag of apples. I think my bag had about 8 apples. Not sure, sorry. More or less really doesn’t matter that much.
  2. Spray crockpot with non-stick spray. Place apples in crockpot.
  3. Add cinnamon and about 1/4 cup of water. No need to add sugar. The Gala apples are sweet enough to make this dessert tasty.
  4. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until apples are very tender and “mashable.”
  5. Mash up apples to the consistency of your liking. I prefer this sauce to be pretty chunky.

 

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Sorry the image of the book cover is a little muddled. I am rather tempted to read it, though!

 

 

One more thought . . . This morning I met with the Executive Director of LoveLife Marriage Ministries to discuss writing and formatting curriculum.  One thing we talked about was what constitutes a strong marriage. For me, Jim’s compliments on my cooking and other things I do are a great encouragement. Let’s remember to find the good in each other and tell them

 

The Yale Book of Quotations
Edited by Fred R. Shapiro
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
2006
Pg. 622 (Proverbs):
“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.”
Dinah Mulock, John Halifax, Gentleman (1857). Mulock’s wording is “the way to an Englishman’s heart is through his stomach.” 

 

Crockpot Banana Bread Steel Cut Oats

I usually don’t like oatmeal, but I took a risk and tried out this healthy breakfast for steel cut oats  from Well Plated. Turns out this recipe is true to its name and the “banana bread” twist with cinnamon, nutmeg, and mashed banana is delicious. 

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summer peaches from my freezer and a few banana slices~ cut back if you’re going low carb!

If you’re having a crowd for breakfast, the amounts given will do nicely. I cut the recipe in half and put it in my small crockpot that my daughter (thank you) gave me.

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It takes a good eight hours, so mix it up in your slow cooker the night before and you’ll wake up to a yummy start to your day.

Top with fruit, drizzle with maple syrup, or add your favorite milk. 

 

For recipe, go here.

By the way, if you need inspiration for holiday meals and those special people gracing your table, check out my daughter’s blog detailing her Thanksgiving meal. Her feast was chock full of goodness! 

The Write Stuff

Words on walls are definitely IN with the HGTV crowd, especially with those fine folks from Waco, Texas. (In case you’re not a fan, I’m talking decorating shows on cable tv, with a nod to Fixer Upper filmed in Waco.) Not wanting to be a designer groupie copycat, I determined to find a pretty piece of art, sans words, to hang above our kitchen sink in our new home. But when a Facebook friend posted her teen daughter’s creation, I knew I had found the piece I’d been searching for. Words and all.

I’m a bit amused about all the current ado over catchy phrases and isms on display in people’s homes. In my more youthful days this was commonplace: witticisms became wall art in dorm rooms, happy thoughts decorated starter homes of marriage millennials, and  mod-podged poetry on cheap wood graced grandmothers’ coffee tables.

Who in their 60 plus years could forget this hippie poster jargon~

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Or this sentiment that saturated the local gift shops~

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And how ’bout this over-used 1970’s fruity aphorism ?

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Words to live by may be a bit overdone in the decorating camp, but the need to anchor oneself with those symbols we call words remains. I think the merging of belief and expression pushes forward in all of us in order to be heard and understood. We yearn to make a statement, to stand for something, to be a sign of something larger than ourselves.

Thus my own newly acquired sign tells a little about what I want for this stage of life. It communicates my hope to be more neighborly, to be more helpful to those in need, and engage in the simple act of fellowship around a simple meal.

(And I love how it looks in my new kitchen. Thanks Emilie!)

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On the Lighter Side

Almond Butter Dip and Apple Slices

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Not everyone at holiday parties is able to eat decadent desserts. So for those watching their sugar intake, I brought this almond-cream cheese dip to our neighborhood Christmas coffee this morning. And I came home with an empty platter!

Ingredients:

1/3 cup almond butter

3 ounces cream cheese

2 splashes of almond milk (or milk of your choice)

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1 tbsp. honey

2 large apples, sliced (I used Gala)

For years I mixed up a small container of strawberry cream cheese and a jar of marshmallow fluffy stuff with a pinch of cinnamon for my fruit dip. Trying to go a bit healthier these days!

Directions:

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
  2. Serve with apple slices.