Nativity scene in the nation’s capital this season. The Supreme Court has ruled that there cannot be a Nativity Scene in the United States Capital this Christmas season. This isn’t for any religious reason. They simply have not been able to find Three Wise Men in the Nation’s Capitol. A search for a Virgin continues. There was no problem, however, finding enough asses to fill the stable.
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Poppy Seed Pinwheel Cookies

Last year I picked some up poppy seed filling from a German/European Specialty store, thinking I would find some way to use it, besides in a strudel, then saw some spiral cookies with poppy seed. It seems Eastern European countries like poppy seeds and all seem to have their version of poppy seed cookies… From Kolache, pinwheels, logs and just poppy seeds mixed in the cookies. . .these are similar to Hungarian Pinwheel Cookies.

Poppy Seed Pinwheel Cookies

-1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened or 1 stick
-1/4 cup granulated sugar
-1 tsp grated lemon peel
-1 large egg
-1 Tbsp sour cream
-1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
-1 tsp baking soda
-1/4 tsp salt
-1/4 tsp ground cloves
-1 tsp vanilla (I used my homemade vanilla extract)
-*Poppy seed filling ¾ cup ( I bought mine made at the German Store and used the whole tub)

*You can use canned or make your own, I bought mine at Geier’s Sausage Kitchen a German meat market and food store. If you make your own, here are a couple of recipes:
•1/2 cup milk
•1 Tablespoon honey
•1 cup ground poppy seeds
•2 Tablespoons sugar
•1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup poppy seed
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup honey
1/3 cup chopped dates
1/3 cup chopped nuts
Dash of cinnamon

Make the Dough:
With an electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar, egg, and sour cream in a large bowl. Stir in the flour, salt, cloves (I added a little mace to mine too) and lemon zest to make a soft dough. (The dough may be made ahead and refrigerated covered, for up to two days.) I wanted to say I had to make mine by hand because my electric mixer burned up making my molasses gingerbread cookies. It can be done!
I don’t think my dough was stiff enough, but I rolled it in between two sheets of waxed paper into a…err…rectangle..

… which is easier said than done, so I adjusted it with a a little cut and paste.

Spread the filling on the dough, which went on quite easy. Yes, it’s not the neatest, but you can get picky with yours if you like.
When you roll it up start to peel back the waxed paper as you go. You can use parchment paper instead if that’s what you have. Some suggested to refrigerate before rolling… probably a good idea.

At this point I tried to cut the cookies and the dough was just too soft, the end just mushed. So I refrigerated it for a bit until it was easier to cut. When you are ready, preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Then cut roll into ½-inch slices and arrange them about 1 inch apart on prepared cookie sheets (or just use your stoneware jelly roll pan like I do). Bake for about 10 minutes or until edges are light brown.

Cool pinwheel cookies on baking sheets for a couple of minutes before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar before serving if desired. That end piece is great for sneaking a taste of the cookies, and save the pretty ones for guests!

These are now a seasonal regular with cookie baking in full swing!


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From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly.  Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics.

It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church. Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality
which the children could remember.

  • The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.
  • Two turtle doves were the Old and New Testaments.
  • Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.
  • The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
  • The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.
  • The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.
  • Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit–Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.
  • The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.
  • Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit–Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.
  • The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.
  • The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.
  • The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles’ Creed.

So there is your history for today. This knowledge was shared with me and I found it interesting and enlightening and now I know how that strange song became a Christmas Carol…so pass it on if you wish.’

Merry (Twelve Days of) Christmas Everyone – and, remember, the Twelve Days of Christmas are the 12 days following December 25th.  The Christmas Season runs until Epiphany, January 6.

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Tradition versus Normal

[from Latin trāditiō a handing down, surrender, from trādere to give up, transmit, from trans- + dāre to give]
1: an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action, or behavior (as a religious practice or a social custom) b : a belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable
2: the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction
3: cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions
4: characteristic manner, method, or style
5: The passing down of elements of a culture from generation to generation, especially by oral communication.
6: A mode of thought or behavior followed by a people continuously from generation to generation; a custom or usage.
7: A set of such customs and usages viewed as a coherent body of precedents influencing the present: followed family tradition in dress and manners.
8: A body of unwritten religious precepts.
9: A time-honored practice or set of such practices.
10: the handing down from generation to generation of the same customs, beliefs, etc., esp by word of mouth.
11: the body of customs, thought, practices, etc., belonging to a particular country, people, family, or institution over a relatively long period.
12: a specific custom or practice of long standing
aprons 3

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I’ve been wondering about the upside down Christmas trees and decided to search and see what I could find out. While I found several places offering background on the upside down tree, one was particularly helpful, ChristmasCarnivals.com which also has many other links for Christmas history to check out too.
“Christmas is associated with many traditions, of which the Christmas Tree is an inherent part. The history of the upside down Christmas Tree has its roots in the 7th century. It is during this period that St. Bonafice journeyed from Devonshire, England to Germany to preach the message of God. He engaged himself in religious as well as social work and spent a lot of his time in Thuringia, a town located in Germany itself, which is the birthplace of the industry dealing with Christmas Decorations.
It is believed that St Boniface, while staying in Thuringia, took the help of the triangular fir tree to represent the Holy Trinity made up of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. As a result, the converted people started to [consider] the Fir tree as God’s Tree. Then St Bonafice, using this triangular shaped tree tried to introduce to the pagan tribes the paragons of Trinity.
By the 12th century, it became a custom, especially in Europe to hang the Fir trees upside down from the ceilings to symbolize the Holy Trinity. The Upside down Christmas Trees was also considered the symbol of Christianity. However, the real history behind the hanging of the upside down Trees remains vague. Presently the trend of hanging a Christmas Tree has changed, because nowadays the tip of the Christmas Tree is made to point towards Heaven, as many think that an upside down Christmas tree is a sign of contempt.”
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How To Make Your Own Smoked Cheese Without A Smoker

It’s time for Fire Day Friday when we take Our Krazy Kitchen outdoors and experiment with live fire (grilling, smoking, roasting, baking using flame).

Today we are going MacGyver! I (Chris from Nibble Me This) am going to show you how to cold smoke your own cheese by using just a cardboard box, a soldering iron, a tin can, and a few miscellaneous items. This is a fun project that you can use to involve the non-foodies in your house.

You can turn this…..

Into this….. (I think this is the first officially licensed OKK product)

But first, the Legal Department here at OKK “asked” (okay….they locked me in a dungeon and force fed me Brussels sprouts until I agreed) to post the following Safety Notice:

For this project you will need:

  • A medium sized box slightly narrower than the racks you will use
  • 1 unused soldering iron without the tip ($14)
  • 1 tin can (burn out the inside with a torch or grill if it has a bpa lining)
  • a rack or two of some sort. I used two resting racks that were slightly larger than the box. You could use the rack out of your toaster oven.
  • Several blocks of various cheeses
  • 1 cup of hardwood or fruit wood chips (you can buy these at many grocery stores and hardware stores these days by their grilling/coal section)
I was using two resting racks so I measured down three inches and 6 inches from the top on the side. I cut slits at both marks on both sides. Work one end of your rack(s) through the slit on one side and then back through the other side like this so the slits are supporting the rack. The rack should stick out a little on each side.

Drill several 1/8″ holes on one side of the can (which will become the “top” side of the can) and a hole in the base of the tin can large enough to accommodate the base of the soldering iron like this:

Add the wood chips around the soldering iron like this. TIP: Use the smallest chips in the bag, you want to maximize surface contact with the iron.

Cut your cheeses into 1″ x 1″ rectangles (however long the length is doesn’t matter) and place them on the racks with room between the pieces.

Place the smoke generator on a trivet or other heat resistant, non-conductive surface in the bottom of the smoke box.

Plug in the soldering iron and wait for the first wisps of smoke (3-5 minutes)…..

Then close the box and tape it shut. You might be tempted to try to seal all the seams of the box for an air tight fit. DON’T. You want the little air gaps and a slight airflow. If you have an airtight fit, the wood won’t be able to smolder and the cheese would sit in stale smoke for an hour. You will have smoke escaping the box like this:

This generator should give you 90 minutes of smoke time, perfect for cheeses. After the 90 minutes, remove the cheeses. They won’t look too different and they may or may not smell very smoky (Your smoke smeller will probably be overloaded at this point). Don’t bother tasting or smelling a piece at this point. IT HAS TO AGE AND MELLOW!!!!!

Vacuum seal the cheeses and refrigerate for two weeks. If you don’t have access to a vacuum seal, double wrap them in plastic wrap and then seal them in a zip top back. This is partially to help them mellow but mostly to keep your fridge from smelling like smoke!

Here are some quick tips I can think of

  1. Bacteria spoils cheese. Make sure your hands, cutting boards, and knives are all sanitized during every step of this process.
  2. Cold smoke. The inside of the container has to remain below the melting point of your cheeses (roughly 70-80f). The smoke generator will raise the temp of your box by 10-15 degrees (the smaller the box, the greater the temp increase). So do this in the shade on a day when the air temps are 45f or less. Don’t you just love the high tech digital control panel of the OKK Smokerator 3000?
  3. Packaging – If packing the cheese for gift packs, pick cheeses that alternate in color and can be cut into roughly the same size pieces.
  4. Experiment with a variety of cheeses – my favorites have been gouda, cheddars, pepper jack, and monterey jack. It occurs to me that I’ve never smoked a blue cheese….and can’t imagine doing so but whatever floats your boat.
  5. Experiment with a variety of woods – my favorites have been hickory, cherry, and a mix of the two.
  6. Soft cheeses take on smoke more readily, hard cheeses take longer.
  7. Use as natural of a cheese that you can. Cheeses with a lot of flavorings and preservatives don’t seem to fare as well.
  8. Use the best quality cheese that you can.
  9. Smoked cheeses are great simply with crackers. But when used as an ingredient with sauces, sandwiches, soups and casseroles, it adds a nice subtle layer of flavor.
  10. Once you have smoked your own cheese, you probably won’t enjoy “smoked” cheese bought at a store because a lot of them just use “smoke flavorings”.
  11. Once you have tried smoking cheese, try smoking nuts, salts, and peppers.
On that note, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. May your stockings be full of high quality, natural hardwood lump charcoal…..

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Feijoada – Brazilian Celebration Meal! Cultural Connections

This month for Cultural Connections I am making Feijoada, it is the national dish of Brazil. This hearty meal is traditionally served on Saturday and is a celebration meal served with family and friends. I can see why, it makes a lot! I originally posted this on my blog The Tiny Skillet and thought it would be perfect to bring it back for this time of year. You can try it with a Coquito a Puerto Rican eggnog and have a festive time!
All I want to say is, I don’t know what made me research this and make it, but I am glad I did! I am definitely keeping this recipe in with our regulars.
It was said that it originated in the sixteenth century from slaves, where the dish was first made using all parts of the pig such as ears, feet, snouts and what ever else they could use and cooked with beans. I suppose like the chili recipes in the US, and paella in Spain, feijoada has many different recipes, each family or region has it’s variation.

I started out by stopping at our German meat market and store, Geiers Sausage Kitchen. I had a blast checking out all the different sausages, fresh and smoked…so many choices.
I picked up some Hungarian cured bacon to use in the Feijoada, polish sausage, and smoked chorizo. A lot of the recipes called fore dried beef to add some depth, but I found mine had plenty of depth with out it. It is also commonly made with black beans, but my husband is not crazy about them so I mixed in some pinto beans because I like the flavor of them. Pork is usually the star, but again I had my reason for not using much. I just had some pork loin which was too lean in my opinion, pork butt (shoulder) would work better. This is my version after plenty of research! I will try to get the amounts down for you, but as always with cooking (not baking) nothing is exact! (You can use all black beans or great northern if that what you like, and adjust or change the meats, but it is so worth it to make this dish) Give it a try!

1 1/2 cups dried black beans -soaked overnight
1 1/2 cups dried pinto beans -soaked overnight
3 or 4 slices of bacon (I used Hungarian bacon cut in small cubes like lardons)
1 link smoked chorizo -sliced
1 pound Polish sausage (I used one large one)
1 pound eye round steak -cubed (not the best choice, but ok)
1 pound ox tails
3 shallots or 1 yellow onion – chopped
2 carrots – diced
2 stalks celery -diced
4 cloves of garlic – sliced
2 teaspoons coriander
2 teaspoons Mew Mexico green chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons tomato paste
5 dried chilies
6 bay leaves
salt and pepper
1/2 bunch of parsley chopped with stems
4 cups broth (I used organic beef broth) and some water to cover

Near the end I added some cubes sweet potato and chayote, you can add butternut squash or skip it. I added some purple sweet potatoes, and I was going to add some chopped cilantro to it at the end too, but forgot!

After the soaked beans are rinsed and added to a pot with broth, start to cook them. I used my crock pot for this because it was one thing that was large enough to hold it all. Because I bought fresh polish sausage I pricked some holes in it and roasted it in the oven with the ox tails for 30 – 40 minutes. While the sausage is roasting and the beans are started, in a large pan , saute the bacon to render the fat, then brown the lean beef.
Add the shallots, celery, carrots, and cook 2 -3 minutes, then add the garlic and tomato paste, cook a little more. I then added the coriander, chili powder, salt, pepper and smoked paprika.
Slice the chorizo sausage to add to it. Some recipes had you slice the polish sausage and some had you leave it in big chunk, so I did both with that!
Combine the meat and remaining ingredients…

I added some water to cover everything to cook in my crock pot. It probably took another 3 – 4 cups of water, (you can use more broth is you wish) once you add all that meat to the beans…

If using a crock pot cook on low for around 8 to 10 hours or on high for 5 0r 6. I had it on all day around eight hours. I started high for about an hour to get it going then turned it low for the remaining time. Then we went out a played on the boat all day, and the last hour or so I added the sweet potato, but of course that is optional.
If making it on the stove top, it cooks for around 3 hours until everything is cooked through and tender.

The meat should be falling off the bones…if using meat with bones, like ox tails or pork ribs…
Don’t forget to remove the bay leaves and dried whole chilies.
Serve over some nice fluffy rice.
Traditionally served with steamed kale, orange slices and toasted manioc flour. I only had cassava flour, which I understand is too fine to use and just wouldn’t work, so I skipped it. My kale was a little sorry looking, but that’s okay, it wasn’t the star!
We all loved this dish, and I am so happy I tried it. I brought some to work for my co-workers, and I still had some left over to freeze for later. It sounds like a lot of work, but it was not really(and it was worth it)…the hardest part was trying not to forget anything that goes in it!

Now I have to find some of this manioc flour!
Hope you enjoy it! Happy Holidays!
Feliz Natal!”
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