Strawberries for Dinner

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If there was ever a Holzmann family signature dessert, this would be it: buttery whole wheat biscuit, mounds of sweetened whipped cream, and far more luscious, red strawberries than strictly necessary. It’s filling enough to make an entire meal, and at times (usually on Father’s Day) we’ve considered it one.

The story behind this amazing feast is from the 1970s. Teenaged Pete decided to ride his bike the 30+ miles to his aunt and uncle’s home in upstate New York. When he finally arrived, hot and hungry, a plate-sized strawberry shortcake was waiting to reward his efforts. I could tell from the way his eyes lit up every time this landmark event was mentioned, that creating a repeat performance would be enthusiastically welcomed. So I did. And it was.

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The Very Best Christmas Cookie

“Here, you will need to learn these recipes!” My future mother-in-law pressed the cookbook into my hands. She was smiling, but I knew that she was serious. Pete’s mom was 100% Finnish, and now she expected me to help carry on her family traditions.

Finnish cookbookThe Finnish Cookbook, by Beatrice A Ojakangas, was published in 1964, and to a great extent, the contents reflected that era. There were numerous casseroles and few vegetable dishes. Almost half the book was devoted to the “coffee table”—a spread of cookies, cakes, breads, tarts, and tortes all containing huge quantities of butter, cream, and sugar. It all looked delicious—and really, really bad for you. I quickly realized that while I might learn to make these things, I was going to have to ration them carefully!

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As Easy as Apple Pie

20131221_162652My husband, Pete, loves apples. His formative years spent in the apple country of upstate New York left a lasting mark on him. He eats at least an apple a day, preferably a crisp, tart McIntosh. Even better, he loves apples baked into a pie. I’m not talking about a mere platonic relationship here. This is true love. He really enjoys a towering slice of deep-dish apple pie.

On the other hand, I am allergic to apples. Eating even one bite causes me severe digestive distress, to put it politely. So of course we up and married each other.

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Some Sweet Advice

I know. This isn’t really a food blog. But I’m so frustrated with some of the misinformation out in web-land, I’m going to rant about food today. Specifically, I’m targeting sugar.

Friends recently posted a couple of recipes on Facebook, claiming they were very healthy:

Banana Bread with honey and applesauce instead of sugar & oil….Delicious & Healthy….

When you have a sweet tooth and want to stay on track, here’s a nice treat. Sugar is NOT an added ingredient. (The recipe for oatmeal cookies includes three ripe mashed bananas and ½ cup raisins.)

Wondering if either recipe fits my low-glycemic (that means food that won’t spike my blood sugar levels) diet, I did some calculations. Are they really healthy? Is either recipe actually low in sugar?

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Gingerbread Persons

Making and decorating cookies is one of our family’s Christmas traditions. I don’t make as many kinds as I used to, since the last thing I need is more tempting desserts hanging around the house, but when I tried skipping the cookies altogether, we all felt that part of Christmas was missing.

With our kids grown, we’ve evolved a new tradition. I make the cookies—either rolled butter cookies or gingerbread men—and then we all get together to decorate them. (See the bottom of the page for my favorite gingerbread cookie recipe.)  At the end of the day, the cookies go home with the artists.

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Apple Cake with Rum Sauce

I haven’t shared a recipe in quite a while. With the “food season” upon us and the markets full of fall apples, I thought this might be a good time to post my favorite apple cake recipe. It’s very easy to make, especially since you don’t have to peel the apples. Maybe you can make it to show your appreciation to your favorite veteran!

Disclaimer: I happen to be allergic to apples (weird, I know), so I can’t vouch for the flavor, but it sure smells heavenly while it’s in the oven. Plus, my husband and guests assure me that it’s, as my daughter would say, fabulous! Are they telling the truth?

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Rolled Butter Cookies

One of my earliest memories is making these cookies with my mom. There was always a batch for Christmas, and I would spend hours and hours decorating them with different colored frosting, creating works of art that were always proclaimed “too pretty to eat.”  But eat them we did. First we ate the “oops-es” and then the less perfect ones, and finally the rest. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without a day spent in the kitchen, covered with flour.

1988-12 kids making cookies 073When our kids were small (see photo), of course we had to make the same cookies. It has now become a family Christmas tradition.

These cookies are also a really great excuse to collect cookie cutters. I have dozens, and am always looking for another good one. A good cutter has no narrow spots, where the cookies usually break. It isn’t so big that it swallows up all the dough. And it’s a fun shape for decorating. I even still have the original cutters I used as a preschool-aged child—the horse, rabbit, dog, fir tree, circle (with crinkle edges), star (also crinkled), bell, and especially the crescent moon, whose shape was perfect for fitting between all the other cutouts.

What about you? What are your favorite Christmas cookies? Is there a special recipe that  your family always makes for the holidays?

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A Better Carrot Cake Recipe

After a summer of salads, the cooler weather has me wanting to bake again. Autumn always makes me think of the color orange, and what is more orange than carrots? I really like this recipe for carrot cake because it is chewy and moist but not greasy. The sugar content is under control, and you don’t need frosting—a dusting of powdered sugar is enough to give it a finished look. Try making it for your small group meeting or as the finale to a special dinner.

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I Love Chocolate

I love chocolate. I admit it. I’m one of those people you could find wearing a T-shirt reading, “Hand over the chocolate and nobody gets hurt.” It’s definitely one of the major food groups. I could hug the scientist who named the cacao plant Cacao theobroma—literally, “chocolate God-food.”

There has been plenty of research now indicating that chocolate (sans the sugar) is actually good for you, but a little more encouragement can’t hurt. I recently read an article containing the phrase, “The incidence of fatal heart attacks correlated inversely with the amount of chocolate consumed.”[1] In other words, eating chocolate reduces your chances of dying from a heart attack. Pass the Toblerone!

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