Advertisements
RSS Feed

Tag Archives: christmas

Friendship Fruit Cake

Posted on

I posted the recipe for the friendship fruitcake starter yesterday, and although the holidays are still far in the distance, I wanted to post the full recipe for the fruitcakes now to help you decide whether or not you want to embark upon this fruitcake adventure, because the decision will need to be made fairly soon.  The starter takes three weeks to make, and the cake itself takes a month.  So I figured you’d need a better description of the resulting cake and photos to help you understand why you should bother with any cake that is going to take this long to make.

After you have your starter ready, you will add peaches, pineapple, and maraschino cherries to it over time, along with copious amounts of sugar.  Your fruit will become essentially candied in it’s own sugary juices, giving you the most flavorful candied fruit you could ever add to fruitcake.  This fruit beats the stems off store-bought candied fruit.  It is just sooo….fruity.  Usually when I taste a candied cherry, it doesn’t taste like much except sweet.  This candied fruit is sweet, but has so much flavor!

The actual time you will spend working on the starter and the fruit is maybe a minute a day, and totally worth the result.  And if the fruit itself wasn’t enough, the recipe for the cake itself is outstanding.  I have two versions available, but both are moist and delicious, and studded with this magical fruit, nuts, and shredded coconut.  Absolutely fantastic and nothing like the fruit cake you last turned your nose up at.

Now, let’s talk about the batter that surrounds the fruit, nuts, and coconut.  Usually, friendship fruit cake is made with a cake mix.  Two of them, to be exact.  When I made this cake last year on Christmas eve, I only had one mix, and of course every grocery store was closed, and I couldn’t find a single convenience store that sold cake mixes.  Rather than let the lack of a second mix defeat me, I decided to halve the recipe for the cake (what I now call the “easy version” although technically it’s the “original version”) and use half the fruit for it, then make a batter from scratch to mix the remaining fruit into.

To tell you the truth, I really can not pick a favorite.  I love, love, love them both.  In fact, I actually would recommend you do the same as me, halving both recipes and using half the fruit in both to see if you can pick one.  (Just be very careful to halve everything–this can get tricky if you don’t physically write down the new measurements before starting.)  They are so different and both so good in their own way.

The cake mix cake is very moist, and very sweet with a great cake mix flavor.  I’d say the cake mix version has more of a holiday feel than the other, because it is sweeter.  The cream cheese cake is less sweet, the slight tang of the cream cheese pairing nicely with the sweet, candied fruit.  It tastes more “real,” for lack of a better word, more home made.  It seems more of like a cake to enjoy with tea, and this would be a great version to make throughout the year.  I keep wanting to pick the cream cheese one as my favorite, until I remember how nice the cake mix one was, so I have given up.  I leave the decision entirely up to you, but either way, I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Friendship Fruit Cake

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

Day 1
In a large glass bowl, combine:

  • 1 pint friendship fruit starter
  • 1 (16 oz) can sliced peaches with juice, each slice cut into 4 pieces
  • 2 ½ cups granulated sugar

Stir every day for ten days.  When not stirring mixture, keep it covered with a splatter guard, paper towel, foil, or a loose lid. Let sit at room temperature. Do not refrigerate it or cover it airtight. A pan of water underneath the jar or bowl will keep the ants out, but I had no problem with bugs since I made mine in the winter.

Day 10
Add:

  • 1 (16 oz) can chunk pineapple with juice, each chunk cut in half
  • ½ cup granulated sugar

Stir every day for ten days.

Day 20
Add:

  • 2 (10 oz) jars maraschino cherries, drained, and each cherry cut in half
  • 2 ½ cups granulated sugar

Stir every day for the final ten days.

Day 30
Drain fruit and reserve it and the liquid.  Pour the liquid into three glass pint jars.  Save one for yourself for your next fruit cake, and give two to friends, along with a copy of this recipe.  Cake must be started within 3 days after receiving the starter or you should freeze the starter to use at a later date. Do not use plastic or metal containers to store liquid.

~To make the cake~

Easy version

2 (18.25 oz) yellow or butter recipe golden cake mixes
2 (3.5 oz) boxes instant vanilla pudding mix
1 1/3 cups vegetable oil
8 eggs
2 cup raisins (golden or regular, or a combination)
2 cups chopped nuts
2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
Reserved fruit

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour two 12-cup Bundt pans or four large loaf pans. In a very large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding mix, oil and eggs.  Stir in the raisins, nuts and coconut, and the reserved fruit from the starter. Stir until all ingredients are well combined. The batter will be stiff. Spread batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 60-75 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Sit on wire racks and wait ten minutes before turning them out onto the racks to cool completely.  I spray my cakes thoroughly with water while cooling to help make them more moist—the water absorbs and does not change the flavor.  Store in an airtight container or wrap in plastic wrap.  Serve at room temperature.

Cream Cheese Version
5 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups granulated sugar
2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup vegetable oil
8 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups golden raisins
2 cups chopped nuts
2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut
Reserved fruit

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour two 12-cup Bundt pans or 4 large loaf pans; set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.  In a separate large bowl, cream together the butter, cream cheese, and sugar.  Beat in the oil. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract until incorporated.  Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients; the batter will be thick. When barely any streaks remain, mix in the raisins, nuts and coconut, and the reserved fruit from the starter stirring well.  Scrape batter into the prepared pans, smoothing the tops.  Place the cakes in the oven and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Advertisements

Friendship Fruitcake Starter

Posted on

Yes, I know it isn’t even Halloween yet and you’re thinking I’m crazy for posting such an obvious December holiday-related recipe, but bear with me, I have good reason for posting this early. 

Many of us have heard of and possibly been gifted (AKA cursed) with friendship bread starter. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can either click here to find out more, or just pretend you never heard about it and maybe you can live out the rest of your life in friendship bread-less bliss. OK, I have to admit that friendship bread is delicious, but it never dies and once the starter infiltrates your circle of friends, you practically have to start shooting people to get them to stop pushing it off on you.

(Forgive me, I still suffer post-traumatic friendship bread disorder, despite my temporary reconciliation with the starter.)

Well, friendship fruitcake starter is a whole different ball of wax. This starter is not the same flour/sugar/milk mixture that is aged and fed like a sourdough, nor is it as widespread, at least not in my neck of the woods. This starter is a thick, red, fruity syrup that you use to candy real, non-dried fruit, and you have enough leftover after making your cakes that you can either pass it on to two other friends, or keep all three jars for yourself and freeze them to use throughout the year.

The kind of fruitcake you get from this starter is also unique. It is not the typical disgusting sickeningly-sweet brick you find in grocery stores.  In fact, I can tell you flat out that this is not only the only good fruitcake I have ever had in my life, it is actually so good that I would eat it any time of year, not just because it’s a holiday tradition.  Seriously, you’ve never had a non-alcoholic* fruitcake that tasted this good, and maybe not even one that has been completely doused with alcohol could be better than this.

*Brandy is used in this initial starter recipe, but since you are using it to candy fruit, and not adding the liquid itself to the cake, you will put very little alcohol into the cake because of it, and the amount you put in will bake out.  Also, once you make this starter, you never again have to add brandy to the future starters that come from this batch, so the percentage of alcohol will become nill after several batches.

If you don’t already have one of these starters in your freezer, and you would like to try this fruitcake for yourself, you will need to plan ahead and make the starter fairly soon, which is why I’m sharing the recipe for it now rather than after Thanksgiving.  The starter takes three weeks to make, and the fruitcake takes another month.  If you want to make small loaves as gifts before Christmas, start your starter now-within the next week or so.  If you want to have your fruitcake ready on Christmas day, start by November 4 or 5 at the very latest.  I guarantee you that you will have some very impressed people when you give them this fruitcake or at your party where you serve it, and many disappointed that you only have two starters to share.

I believe it will most likely take further persuasion on my part to convince you that this fruitcake is worth your time, so I will be following this recipe tomorrow with the two recipes I have for the cake itself, one using a mix, and one that I created from scratch.

*A big thank you to my friend Cheryl in Florida for passing the starter recipe and instructions on to me since she couldn’t give me one of her starters in person.*

Friendship Fruit Cake Starter

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 (20 oz) can pineapple chunks, drained
1 (16 oz) can apricots, drained
1 (16 oz) can sliced peaches, drained
1 (10 oz) jar maraschino cherries, drained
1 1/4 cups brandy
1 1/4 cups sugar

Combine ingredients in a large glass jar or bowl and stir well.

Store at room temperature, covered with a lid or plastic wrap, for three weeks, stirring at least twice a week. Mixture will become more and more red as time passes.  This is what mine looked like on day 21:

Drain fruit and reserve the liquid. You should have two cups of liquid, and this is your starter.  It won’t look as red or thick as the photos above because those are photos of the starter you get after you use this initial starter to candy your fruit when you actually start making the cake.  The 2 cups of liquid you have now will all be used for candying fruit.

You can save the sweetened, brandied fruit for another use (topping on ice cream, turn it into jelly, etc.) or discard.

I added some cinnamon and instant pectin (it needed quite a lot, 1/2 cup if I remember correctly) to mine after pureeing in a food processor to make a brandied holiday fruit jam.  It wasn’t sweet enough, so I’d suggest adding your sweetener of choice if you go this route.

***

Wow, guys!  Thirty people signed up for the cookie swap as soon as it was open for business. I’m kinda scared of your enthusiasm, and excited by it at the same time. :D Rock on!

Bird’s Nest Cookies

Posted on

Most of my readers probably know by now that I’m a Christian.  What might surprise you is that I don’t celebrate Christmas and Easter as Christian holidays.  We do the secular stuff with our families, exchanging gifts, hunting for baskets, but we do not recognize any affiliation of those holiday traditions with our faith.  We recognize Christ as our savior, remember his birth, life, death, and resurrection, but we do not do it just because it’s Easter or just because it’s Christmas–holidays that ultimately have pagan roots and nothing to do with Christ, despite the emphasis put on Him during this time by many. Not that I despise that emphasis, it’s actually refreshing, but we choose to keep these holidays secular while keeping our focus on Christ year-round.  Make sense?

*crickets chirping*

Hello?  Is anyone left?  Hopefully I didn’t lose everyone by starting out on such a serious note.  I have lots of thoughts on this subject…and maybe I should share them some day.  I was thinking about starting a “my faith” page on my blog where I can file my thoughts on spiritual matters in more detail.  Let me know if you’d be interested.

Anyway, whether you celebrate Easter or not, these moist chocolate macaroons shaped into nests with white chocolate truffle “eggs” are a perfect spring-time treat!  I made these a couple years ago and nearly forgot about them until I ran across the photos I took.  Perfect timing!  I hope you enjoy them, I know our family did!

Bird’s Nest Cookies

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

2 squares (2 oz) unsweetened baking chocolate
2 egg whites, room temperature
1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and chopped*
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 (14 oz) bag sweetened shredded coconut
16 to 18 white chocolate Lindt Lindor balls (2 bags), or other egg-shaped candies

Move the oven racks to the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 275 degrees. Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Melt baking chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave on high 30 seconds at a time. Stir after each stop until melted; set aside.  With a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat the egg whites on high until stiff and glossy. Add the salt, vanilla extract, powdered sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and chocolate. Beat until mixed. Stir in the coconut and hazelnuts. Scoop into mounds with a small (size 24) ice-cream scoop or a 1/4th cup dry measuring cup. Place on cookie sheets and make an indent in the middle with your thumb.

Place both cookie sheets in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Switch the cookies to the opposite shelf halfway through baking. This will prevent over-browning. Meanwhile, unwrap the candy.

Move cookies to a cooling rack and allow to sit for five minutes, or until they are barely warm to the touch. If you place the truffles on top while they are more than barely warm, they will melt into goo. If you are using candies with a shell, wait until the cookies are cool to place them on top, or the shells will crack. For the truffles, working quickly, set the Lindt balls on top of the cookies. Let cool completely. The Lindt balls may drip a little so you may want to place a sheet of parchment underneath the cookies.

*To toast the hazelnuts, place them in a small bowl and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Stir, and microwave another 30 seconds. Immediately rub together in a paper towel to remove a little of the excess skin. Leave most of the skin on. Chop coarsely and set aside.

Makes 16 to 18 large cookies.

Recipe source: The Cooking Photographer

Question of the day: if you celebrate Easter, what are your favorite traditions?  Our family (technically Den’s family–mine doesn’t really celebrate) always does a Easter basket hunt, even for the adults. I love hiding them almost as much as finding them! :)

Christmas Card Outtakes & an announcement

Posted on

Happy new year!  I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday break and is geared up to make 2012 a great year!

To get my own year off to a great start, I am going to take a break from blogging this month, though I might stop in from time to time with a recipe or a Thankful Thursday.  I have been going strong on posting 5 or more days a week since last May, and it got to the point where I had to let other things go in my life in order to do so, so I’m going to just take a break to catch up on life and then when I come back, I most likely will be posting less frequently.  I really love my blog and my readers, but I don’t want to have to give it up completely so I’m going to have to ease off a bit in order to keep it going without letting other things slide.

When I told my husband my plan to take a break, he offered to fill in for me and I immediately took him up on his offer.  He has a great sense of humor and I have a feeling you’ll enjoy his craziness.  He won’t be posting daily, but at least weekly, and I can almost guarantee you at least a few belly laughs.  If anyone else would like to guest post for me during January, shoot me an email at vraklis@yahoo.com with your idea and I will consider it.  I would especially love to feature another person’s (blogger or not) “thankful Thursday” write-up!

Before I start my break, I thought I’d leave you with a few outtakes from our Christmas photo shoot.  My sister met us at the baseball diamond practice fields near our home because they have lots of evergreens there, and we wanted to pose in front of one.  I told Danielle to just keep snapping photos until her finger was numb because when you have an ADD dog and a husband that has a knack for closing his eyes right when the shutter snaps, you know that you need at least a million and one shots to find one that might work.  And of course, the first shot of the day was no surprise.

And it didn’t get much better after that.

Jessie: “Yawn. Can we play now?”

Dennis gave us this “natural smile” after many pleas for him to keep his eyes open.

I figure since the universe seems to be balanced, such as the ratio of men to women, for example, somewhere out there is a dog with an unnaturally short tongue to make up for Jessie’s unusually long one.  She likes to let it flop to the side to give the impression that she’s an idiot so people are impressed when she understands a simple command.  It seems a bigger feat for a dog with its tongue flopped over on the side to sit when told than when an alert, bright-eyed dog shakes hands, and she probably gets more treats because of it.  She’s an evil genius.

The odds of us all not being ready when the camera snaps is always greater than us all being ready. I call this my glazed drunk-eyes smile and Dennis is giving us his usual closed-eyes, “I’m too busy talking to actually smile” look. Jessie looks like this, her mouth closed on her tongue, when her attention is suddenly drawn away. Think “squirrel!!” from the movie Up. Makes her look REALLY smart. ;)

This is what she was looking at:

A field of geese!

Of course Dennis had his eyes open when I had another drunk smile and Jessie and I were both looking away from the camera.  It’s just the way things work with us.

Jessie: “I’m not listening. lalalalala.”

I’m pretty sure I qualify for the role of Alphaba (wicked witch of the west) in Wicked for my chin length alone!  You know you’re jealous.

Had to share the outtake of our photographer, It. ;)

There she is! :)  You remember Danielle, right?  She was ready to give up and go home at this point, but I was sure that the million photos she’d taken weren’t sufficient, and convinced her to keep snapping them.  Thanks for your patience, Dani!

Jessie: “Look at mah throat! I could swallow you in one gulp. Bwahahahahaha!”

Dennis’ face.  Priceless.

After a million and two shots (you can thank me for not including them all here!), we finally have a winner!  Eyes are all open and on the camera, smiles all around. YES!

I uploaded the photo to picnik.com and did some tweaking to come up with the photo that I used for our card:

And I’m sorry but I just have to share this photo I snapped of Jessie chewing on a stick during the shoot.  I thought it was just too cute!

Hope you enjoyed the shoot! Enjoy my husband while I’m away (come on now, you know what I mean!) and I’ll see you again soon. :)

White Trash


I drafted this post on December 26th, 2009. It is the oldest draft in my collection, so I’m pretty excited to finally have a fairly decent photo of it so I can share the recipe with you!

On my wedding day eleven years ago, my new Grandmother (this one) gifted me with her church’s fundraiser cookbook*, which included many recipes from her and other members of my new family.  I treasure it!  I love spiral-bound recipe books like these because they are filled with tried-and-true recipes that real people use–simple, unpretentious, and delicious.

Love that it has a cornucopia on it--perfect for my blog! :)

Take this one, for example. I had to giggle when I read the name “White Trash.” I really like the name because it’s funny and does accurately describe the appearance, but it is also known in classier circles as “Christmas Crunch.” I don’t care what you call it, it’s salty and sweet and addictively-delicious!

So this is the last recipe I’ll be sharing before the holiday, and I think you’ll find it a perfect treat to whip up if you need a last-second snack or gift.  Dennis and I are heading to Abilene as soon as we get out of church to spend Christmas** with his family, and will be back some time on Monday so I won’t be posting anything else until Tuesday at the earliest.

I wish you a merry Christmas! Be safe and have fun!

White Trash

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

3 cups Rice Chex Cereal
3 cups Cheerios cereal
2 cups salted, roasted peanuts
2 cups pretzel sticks, broken in half
1 lb. white chocolate or vanilla almond bark*
1 (12 oz) bag M&M’s in seasonal colors

Mix all ingredients except chocolate or almond bark in a large bowl. Melt chocolate or almond bark as package directs; pour over mixture, mixing to coat well. Spread out onto waxed paper to dry. Break into chunks and store in airtight containers or Ziploc bags. Saves well for several weeks.

*1 lb. of almond bark is 8 rectangles.

Recipe source: tweaked from Donna A’s recipe.

*Although I’m very thankful for this cookbook, I don’t advocate any church fundraising beyond the weekly collection.  You can click here for a good article that reflects my thoughts on church fundraisers.

**You can also click here to find out why I’m a Christian that doesn’t celebrate Christmas as the day of Christ’s birth, and why the mention of it is never on our holiday cards!  Don’t be too alarmed, we will be honoring our savior in worship on Christmas, because it is the Lord’s day, just like every Sunday. :)

Toffee Crack(ers)


Salty + sweet = addictive for me in most cases, and this saltine toffee is no exception.  It’s very easy to make, and very delicious to eat.  I’ve made it with and without the nuts and really, I like it both ways!

Toffee Crack(ers)

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

40 saltine crackers
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter
12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
¾ c chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Line a 10×15 cookie sheet with foil and spray with oil. Cover cookie sheet with the whole saltines (don’t crust them). Melt the sugar and butter together in a saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Pour mixture over saltines and spread evenly. Bake 5 minutes, or until the toffee is bubbling evenly over the whole surface of the crackers. Remove from oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips Let sit for one minute, then spread melted chips with spatula. (An offset spatula works very well here.) If using nuts, sprinkle them on now, and press down lightly.  Cut on diagonal immediately or cool until firm, then break up; pieces can be frozen in an airtight container.

Yield: about 30 pieces

Recipe source: adapted from the back of a Kroger saltine box.

Pecan Toffee Fudge and some sad/happy news


Usually I don’t include my daily life in food posts, but I wanted to honor sister June, whose funeral I’ll be attending this morning. June was 95 years old and it was her time. She spent her last night on Earth in good spirits with her family in Christ at our weekly Bible study, then she passed gently in her sleep. It is such a joy to think of her with her heavenly family now, that I have not shed more than a few tears, but I’m sure they will come in abundance as we remember her life here and how she touched each of us. It was a privilege to know this dear & faithful lady, who I knew only to miss a handful of church services due to health concerns. She was such a treasure and such a blessing to everyone who knew her–she had a great sense of humor and some really great stories!

I thought I would share this video of June from our preacher’s holiday party last year, in which she got quite the hilarious white elephant gift from Dennis. (That’s her son, Mike, helping her open it, and I would appreciate your prayers for him during this time of mourning. He never married and lived with her all these years, so this will be hardest for him.)

OK, let’s talk fudge.  (Sorry, terrible segue, but how do you segue from a funeral announcement to fudge???  Maybe that’s why I don’t talk about my personal life in these posts-LOL!)  I’m featuring only simple holiday recipes this week, since Christmas is less than a week away and you might need a little help with last-minute goodies ideas.  This one certainly fits the bill!  It doesn’t involve cooking or a candy thermometer, just beating some ingredients together and voilà!  Absolutely perfect, delicious, soft fudge, studded with toffee and pecans.  Fantastico!

Pecan Toffee Fudge

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 teaspoon butter
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
3-3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Dash salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup English toffee bits

Line an 8 or 9-in. square pan with foil and grease the foil with butter; set aside. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar. Beat in the melted chocolate, extract and salt until smooth. Stir in pecans and toffee bits. Spread into prepared pan. Cover and refrigerate overnight or until firm. Using foil, lift fudge out of pan. Gently peel off foil; cut fudge into 1-in. squares. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Yield: 2-1/2 pounds.

Recipe source: slightly tweaked from Taste of Home

%d bloggers like this: