November 28, 2012

Holiday Cheer - Treats for the Sweets

By Kathy Otten
I love the holidays. Once Thanksgiving is over I usually start baking for Christmas. I give gifts of candy and cookies to my coworkers, neighbors and friends. When my kids were younger they helped, and gave home-made treats to their friends. We ate whatever goodies remained. There was one traditional candy though that my family refused to allow me to give away and that was the peanut brittle I made every year. My family loves it and here is the recipe I have made every Christmas for the past thirty years.

Buttery Peanut Brittle

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
½ cup water
1 cup butter
2 cups peanuts chopped (I never chop mine-too lazy)
1 teaspoon baking soda

Heat and stir sugar, syrup and water in 3 quart saucepan till sugar dissolves. While syrup boils, blend in butter. Stir often after 230°. Add nuts at 280°; stir constantly to hard crack stage 305°. (I suggest using a wooden spoon. Metal ones get hot and the white plastic ones melt, as my daughter discovered when she made some for her boyfriend) Remove from heat. Quickly stir in soda, mixing well. (I usually have the nuts and soda measured and ready ahead of time) Pour onto 2 cookie sheets. Stretch thin by lifting and pulling from edges with forks. (And as good as it looks too eat, do not lick off spoon or fork until cool.  Trust me it is hot and you will burn your lips and tongue and won’t be able to taste the peanut brittle or anything else until it heals.) Loosen from pans as soon as possible. Break up. Makes 2 ½ pounds.

And to get you in the holiday spirit, here is an excerpt from my Victorian Holiday novella, ANOTHER WALTZ.   

The winner of the Nook give-away will also win a PDF copy Another Waltz!

Squinting, Madeline peered around the branches of the large Christmas tree, which filled the back corner of the ballroom. 

Hoping to avoid the prying eyes of Lucille’s guests, Madeline had just stepped through the servants’ door and sidled along the back wall until she’d reached the wide boughs of the twelve foot Douglas Fir.

Red and gold ribbons, strings of popcorn and cranberries, all twined around the tree. Paper angels and cornucopias hung from the many branches. Silver and gold Dresdens in shapes of animals and trains filled the empty spaces, and hand-blown, glass ornaments from Germany had been clipped to the tree, each holding a candle, their tiny flames flickering like stars among the branches. 

She focused her gaze on the blurry rainbow of beautiful gowns swirling across the floor. The gentlemen, austere in their dark tail coats with splotches of white waistcoats and shirts, partnered the perfect complement to the ladies’ finery.

Garland of evergreens, ivy, dried flowers, and red bows festooned the large windows, doorways, and picture frames.

Stringed music floated from the raised platform at the north end of the ballroom to mingle with the laughter and conversation of more than seventy guests.

Pressing her white gloved hands against her waist, she tried to still the fluttering butterflies. Though the taffeta gown had been one of Lucille’s hand-me-downs, Fiona, Lucille’s ladies maid, had spent all her free time remaking the evening dress.

Using the extra yards of blue silk designed to cover an outdated bell-shaped crinoline, Fiona had draped an overskirt then created a pleated underskirt and train. While the skirts on many of the dresses worn tonight had three and four tiers of lace-edged fabric, Fiona had designed Madeline’s dress with one tier, claiming it would make her seem taller and not like an over-stuffed sofa.

Then as soon as Fiona had finished helping Lucille dress, she had come upstairs to Madeline’s room. Working quickly, Fiona lifted the dress over Madeline’s head then pulled back her hair on either side, arranging the thick tresses to create a cluster of
long brown ringlets, which brushed the nape of her neck.

When Madeline had looked in the mirror and seen the beautiful stranger staring back, she forgot she was the awkward, spinster sister of Payton Charles Winthrop the Third. For the first time in her life, Madeline had felt like a princess.
From the other side of the Christmas tree, floated the hushed tones of several women, seated in a few of the many chairs placed around the perimeter of the ballroom.

Madeline glanced down at the shimmering blue fabric of her beautiful new ball gown and smiled, imagining what James would think when he saw her. He would bow and kiss her hand, then with his charming Irish accent he would say, “Will ye honor me with this waltz?

With a graceful swish of fabric, she would take his arm and let him escort her into the center of the room. A hush would fall over the crowd as all eyes turned their way. The Cabots and Lowells would whisper behind their fans, wondering who this

stunning couple was. Gradually the other dancers would move toward the walls until she and James were left to float across the parquet floor in a world that only existed for two. Closing her eyes, she swayed dreamily beside the tree, as the music flowed through her body. 
Do you bake for the holidays? What is your favorite food to give away as a gift? What is your favorite food to receive as a gift.

Happy Holidays!
Kathy Otten

ANOTHER WALTZ NEW RELEASE (Victorian Holiday Novella)


Kathy Otten said...

Hi Anna,
Thanks so much for having me on your blog today. It's a great place to come and get in the holiday spirit.

Paty Jager said...

Hi Kathy!

I can never make peanut brittle. It never gets brittle! My grandmother used to make the best peanut brittle. I make pound cake and fudge to give to friends and my hubby's co-workers. And if family comes for Christmas they get cookies and fudge. I can't wait to read another waltz. It's on my kindle I just haven't had the time to read it yet. Have a wonderful Christmas!

Stacey Joy Netzel said...

I have a cookie bake weekend with my sisters and cousins, and we do tons of cookies and Christmas treats. Peanut Butter Balls are my favorite to give, and I love to receive white chocolate covered pretzels. :)

Loved the excerpt!

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Paty,
I guess the secret to the brittle is to get it to that hard crack stage. I've had many years of mistakes to get it perfected. I do love fudge and make that every year too. Merry Christmas!

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Stacey,
I've already had co-workers ask me if I've started making peanutbutter balls yet. They are a big hit, though no one has asked if I've started baking cookies yet. One year my daughter (the same one who melted the spoon in the peanut brittle)dipped pretzle rods in white chocolate then rolled them in crushed candy canes.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Kathy, when my mom was alive, she always made peanut brittle for my husband. He loves it, but prefers the peanuts whole.

Sharon Kleve said...

Your book sounds wonderful. I can't wait for Christmas to come. I decorated my tree last night. I'll defintely try your recipe. Thank you for sharing.

LisaRayns said...

I help my mom bake for Christmas and I like anything with nuts in it.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Kathy, thanks for being my guest today. Your books sounds great and the recipe yummy. I'm not sure if I can make it, I'm not good at candy that has to been cooked to a certain degree. But I love brittle. I make pumpkin bread (recipe coming soon on Holiday Cheer Event) for family and friends. I love peanut butter balls, too!

Celia Yeary said...

Hi, Kathy--I bet I've made a mountain of peanut brittle over my lifetime--and I am a champion candy maker. Your recipe and advice is spot on--and of course--never chop up the peanuts.
I like to make candy to give away at Christmas. My favorite lately is peanut patties--you know, those pink patties that melt in your mouth? I have those perfected, too. I thank you for the suggestion--I was wondering what to make this I know it will be peanut brittle and peanut patties. Much easier than cookes, in my book.
Your excerpt is so good--but then, you are a very good writer!

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Caroline,
I've never chopped the peanuts, I'm usually sick of chopping walnuts for fudge and thumbprint cookies.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Sharon,
Wow, Paty has all her presents purchased and wrapped and you have your tree up. I'm way behind on Na No Wri Mo, and I haven't even started Chrismas shopping, or baking.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Lisa,
The most fun about Christmas baking is when my girls come home and help. I love it when everyone is focused on some baking project in their corner of the kitchen as we share measuring cups and chat.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Anna,
It's been great being here today. All this talk of candy, cookies and bread is making me hungry. I can see my diet is going to go out the window again.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Celia,
I've never had peanut patties. They sound good. There are so many things I want to bake, I wonder if I'll get to them all. Thanks for your kind words, too.

Romance Reader Enthusiast said...

It's actually not baked. While my nieces were growing up, I came across this "recipe" for making M & M ornaments. It's very simple to do and all you need are your favorite M & M's, plastic wrap, and curling ribbon. You tear off pieces of the plastic wrap and in the center you would put in the M & M's (how much you put in the center depends on the size of your wrap. You bring up all the corners and then tie with the curling ribbon. You want to make sure that you make a loop so that these can be hung on the tree. Then you curl the ribbon. My nieces couldn't get enough of the M & M's.


Kathy Otten said...

Hi Lynn,
What a cute idea. I used to make popcorn balls for the tree, but this sounds a lot easier and pretty. It will be more fun than dumping M&M's in a dish. Thanks for stopping!

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Lynn, I love the gift idea. I can see how the kiddos would like doing it and getting them. Thanks for sharing.

Romance Reader Enthusiast said...

Even though the nieces have grown, they now share the tradition with their families. And if your family doesn't like M & M's, you could probably switch them out for something just as colorful and delicious.

Anna Kathryn Lanier said...

Shut your mouth, Lynn....who the heck doesn't LIKE M&M's?

Becky said...

I have never made peanut brittle before. I think I will try this recipe and see how it turns out.
Another Waltz sounds like an interesting reading.

Kathy Otten said...

I think Skittles could run a close second to M&Ms. My kids always liked them anyway.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Becky,
I hope the recipe works out okay for you. If not you can always wrap up some M&M's. :)

Carla Buchinger said...

The Peanut Brittle sounds really Good.

Loved the Excerpt from your Book

Kathy Otten said...

Thank you, Carla. Appreciate your stopping by.

Barbara Mountjoy said...

One of my clients always sends peanut brittle and it's to die for... that and buckeyes are two treats I have never made but love to eat! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

ANOTHER WALTZ was really heart-warning. I loved the mystery aspect!

Calisa Rhose said...

I've wondered how to make brittle! I love it. Lovely excerpt too. Thanks Kathy.

Calisa Rhose said...

I've wondered how to make brittle! I love it. Lovely excerpt too. Thanks Kathy.

Karen Michelle Nutt said...

Never thought of making my own p-nut brittle. I might have to give it a try.

Your books sounds wonderful. :)

kmnbooks at yahoo dot com