Wishing You All a Very Merry Christmas from St. Augustine, Florida!!

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Last Christmas – what a difference a year makes!!

Hello Everyone!!  I’m so sorry I haven’t posted for almost a year.  Why, you may ask? Because I had been so busy preparing to move from my beloved Yellow Farmhouse in Massachusetts to St. Augustine, Florida. (I arrived in St. Augustine in July… with, probably, 1/4 of the ‘stuff’ I used to have..)

There was a lifetime of wonderful family memories etc. stored in the attic, the cellar, the barn AND the loft in the barn. Most of it was ‘good stuff’ and I hate throwing good things away.  Luckily, there’s a well traveled road down the hill in back of the farmhouse. We put ‘stuff’ down there and off it would go, often in minutes.  I tell you, we made a lot of people very happy! One woman told me she was helping her daughter set up her new apartment with my ‘stuff’.

I’ll be flying out tomorrow so I can spend the holidays in Massachusetts, and I’m really looking forward to seeimg family and friends. There’s a lot I miss about New England – but there’s tons of things I love about living here in St. Augustine!  (More about that soon..)

In the meantime I haven’t packed a thing for my trip, which is so typical of me.  I spent today day cleaning up and reorganizing things after my very first dinner party in St. Augustine. I have a BIG problem with ‘time management’.  I tend to underestimate how just long it will take to do things, so, as usual, as my guests arrived last night my kitchen was a disaster area.  (It never matters as long as the food is good, the wine is flowing and the conversation is lively.)

Messy Kitchen ... as always..
Yup… what a mess….
lantern on porch - at night
Except for the kitchen… everything looked lovely!

Old Bureau Shines From in All It's Glory - Christmas 2017

EPIC CHRISTMAS TREE FAIL !!

I purchased this little tree when we lived in Malta.  I loved this little tree. I spent a few hours decorating it a few days ago until every little glass icicle and every treasured ornament was in the ‘best place’.  Then … I moved the tree, maybe, five inches… and the stand broke….     ; o (

EPIC TREE FAIL !
EPIC CHRISTMAS TREE FAIL !!!

New and Improved Christmas Tree!!

A nice seven footer, so ALL the ornaments fit!!  Believe me… I was ‘this close’ to saying, ‘Never-mind’… 

New Christmas Tree
Yes!  New tree and MUCH stronger stand!
guests
There’s nothing like old friends – but it’s also fun to have new friends!!

One of my twin sons and his family – plus my twin brother and his wife – were here in St. Augustine for Thanksgiving. It was wonderful!!  If you ever get a chance, come to St. Augustine during the holidays. The Nights of Lights is beautiful to behold. A large part of the city is lit up with thousands and thousands of lights – it’s gorgeous.

The night before Thanksgiving I served my Ravioli Lasagna.  Get this – I made it the day before… so no mess. Why can’t I be like that more often!!

Wishing you all the merriest of holidays!!  (And now… I guess I’ll have to get started on packing that suitcase…)

Here’s the link to the recipe for Ravioli Lasagna

Mushroom Ravioli Lasagna - My Yellow Farmhouse

++ Top Photo of St. Augustine – stock image… 

Love chocolate covered cherries? Then you’ll love these cookies!

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The new ‘thing’ on Pinterest seems to be baking cookies with a Hershey’s Kiss in the center, which is a fabulous idea.  So … I thought, “Why not wrap rich cookie dough around a maraschino cherry & cover the cookie with melted semi-sweet chocolate”?  Yup – Yummy!

Here’s how you get that maraschino cherry in the center. Take a tablespoon of dough, flatten it and wrap dough around the cherry.  It’s fun and easy – as is dipping the cooled cookies in the melted chocolate.

You can make the cookie dough ahead and refrigerate it.  Recently I divided the dough in half, brought half  to my son’s house and made cookies with my grandchildren.  A week later I baked the other half and mailed those cookies to my godmother and uncle. (At the last minute… typical me.  It cost me almost $60.00 to make sure the package would get to Florida by Christmas..)

My grandchildren had fun forming snowmen and candy canes etc.  –  but the dough is far too soft to use for cut-out cookies.

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Yield – about 4 dozen cookies 

Oven at 350F      Bake cookies for 15 – 16 minutes – until bottoms are lightly browned.  (The cookies themselves will be very, very lightly browned at the edges.)

Ingredients and Method

  • 1 1/2 cups butter  ++ Three sticks allowed to come to room temperature   ++ Here’s a ‘cheat’ – place the three sticks of butter on a small plate. Microwave in 10 second increments. DO NOT overdo it …. or you’ll end up with melted butter. Two times at ’10 seconds each’ should do it.     ; o )
  • 1 (8 oz.) package softened cream cheese
  • 2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar   ++ Also know as ‘powdered sugar’ or ‘icing sugar
  • 1 egg at room temperature  ++ I  put the egg in some warm water for a minute
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • red maraschino cherries, drained on a paper towel
  • 1 (12 oz.) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbs. shortening

Method

In a large mixing bowl, beat 1 1/2 cups softened butter, 8 oz. softened cream cheese, 2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar, 1 room-temperature egg, 2 tsp. vanilla extract and 1 tsp. almond extract until thoroughly blended, then continue beating for another minute.

Add 4 cups all-purpose flour, 1/2 tsp. baking powder and 1/4 tsp. salt.  Mix until thoroughly combined.

Dough will be sticky, so I suggest dividing dough into two parts, wrapping in plastic wrap & refrigerating for about 20 minutes.

++ If preparing dough ahead – divide dough into two parts, wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Remove dough and let it warm up a bit before you begin forming cookies.

Using a measuring tablespoon, scoop out a tablespoon of dough and flatten it in your hand a bit. Place a maraschino cherry (don’t forget to put the cherries on a paper towel to dry a bit) in the center and fold up the dough to cover the cherry.  Roll the dough in your hand to form a rough ball.  Place balls about two inches apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

cherries-and-dough-chocolate-covered-cherry-cookies-myyellowfarmhouse-com

Bake cookies for 15 – 16 minutes in a 350F oven until cookies are a lightly browned on the bottom.  Cookies will be very, very lightly browned at the edges.  Remove cookies immediately and allow to cool on a rack.

++ Here’s what I learned… if you pick up a cookie to see if the bottom is browned and it falls apart… it’s not ready yet!   ; o )

Melting the Semi-Sweet Chocolate

Place 1 bag (12 ounces) of semi-sweet chips and  2 Tbs shortening in a microwavable bowl.  Melt chocolate at either half-power or the defrost setting.  Keep checking –  and stirring  – until chocolate is melted and well blended.  Dip each cookie ‘face down’ into the melted chocolate and give it a little shake. Set cookie on rack – repeat.  Enjoy!

++  Try not to overheat chocolate or it may harden up.  Here’s h.e.lp. if that ever happens to you – http://www.sheknows.com/food-and-recipes/articles/977613/in-a-pickle-how-to-salvage-overheated-chocolate

All the cookies but two made it into the Christmas package I sent to my aunt and uncle in Florida.  I  dare YOU to eat just one…!!

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Pumpkin Slab Pie – Bakes in a 15″ x 10″ Pan (Sided Cookie Sheet)

Pumpkin pie is not just for Thanksgiving anymore – especially when you serve pumpkin pie in a whole new way … like this slab pie!  I couldn’t wait to finish my photos ’cause I couldn’t wait to try this. (I ate three pieces!)

A ‘no-roll’ homemade crust – which comes together in minutes – is pressed into a 15″ x 10″ sided cookie sheet. (Also known as a jelly roll pan.)  The crust is covered with aluminum foil and baked for 10 minutes.  The filling is quick to prepare – brown sugar, pumpkin spice, brown sugar, half and half and eggs are stirred and poured over the partially baked crust.  After baking for a half hour the pan pie is cut into 16 pieces and, if you’re like me, smothered with whipped cream

‘Nuff Said – I think you’re gonna love this!

small red heart

Love the taste of ginger?  Add a bit to the filling before baking.

++  Preheat oven to 400 F      Line pan with aluminum foil   

++  Note – crust bakes (covered with two layers of foil) for 10 minutes.  Filling is then poured in and pie bake for 30 minutes.

++  Filling is fully cooked when a knife, inserted in the middle, comes out clean.

++  Pie should be refrigerated within two hours.

Ingredients

   Pie Crust

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup COLD butter – OR – 1/2 cup additional shortening
  • ice water  ++ Add ice cubes to 2/3 cup water.  ++ You probably will NOT use all the water.

   Pumpkin Filling

  • 1 ( 15 oz.) can pumpkin  ++  1 3/4 cups pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup PACKED brown sugar
  • 1 1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten with fork until combined
  • 1 1/2 cups half and half
  • sweetened whipped cream – for topping

METHOD

Line 10″ x 15″ pan with aluminum foil.

In a large bowl stir – using a fork – combine 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 tsp. salt. Using a pastry blender (or two forks), cut in 1/2 shortening and 1/2 COLD butter until mixture resembles oatmeal, and butter/shortening is fully mixed in.

Sprinkle part of the flour mixture with 1 Tbs. ice water and mix gently with a fork. Push moistened pastry to side of bowl. Repeat until mixture begins to come together.  Gather pastry into a ball, kneading gently until it holds together.

++ You will probably only need 5 – 6 tablespoons ice water. You do NOT want a sticky pastry.

Divide pastry into two balls.  Starting at one end, press half the pastry onto bottom and sides of half the pan.  ++ At first, I thought, “This is NOT going to be enough. But it was!   ; o ) Repeat using second ball of pastry.  ++ Do NOT prick pastry.  Cover pastry with TWO layers of aluminum foil.  Bake for 10 minutes. Remove foil.

In a large bowl combine 1 3/4 cups pumpkin, 3/4 cup PACKED brown sugar, 1 1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice and 1/2 tsp. salt.  Stir in 4 slightly beaten eggs until just combined. Gradually stir in  1 1/2 cups half and half. Pour filling over partially baked pastry.  Bake for 30 minutes, or until knife inserted in middle comes out clean.  Cool on wire a rack.  ++  Pie should be refrigerated within two hours.

Dollop on some whipped cream, sprinkle on a tiny bit of pumpkin pie spice and enjoy!

Recipe adapted from ‘Good Housekeeping’ magazine – Oct 2016.

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Coconut Joy Cheesecake Bars with Chocolate Wafer Crust

Believe it or not, I’ve never made a cheesecake… ever!  My sister-in-law Doris makes a killer cheesecake, so I get my ‘cheesecake thrills’ whenever we’re all together.  But when I saw this recipe, I knew just had to make it.  I’m so glad I did because these cheesecake bars taste like a candy bar in cheesecake form.

My Very First Cheesecake Ever is in the oven right now.  It’s gonna be interesting to see if it comes out a bit lopsided.  The kitchen floors here in My Yellow Farmhouse are old and slant down a bit, especially right in the corner where the stove resides.  My Man of All Work (my brother-in-law Mike) did his best to level out the floor, but since I moved here I’ve never baked a cake that was absolutely level.  ++  The cheesecake actually came out level – hurrah!

I recommend baking these cheesecake bars the night before, or early in the morning of the day you plan to serve it because once the cheesecake is cooled completely, it’s refrigerated for 4 hours.  Then a simple creamy chocolatey topping is prepared using chocolate chips and Cool Whip, then toasted almonds and coconut are sprinkled on top.  Yummy!

INGREDIENTS

Chocolate Wafer Crust

  • 1 ¼ cups finely crushed chocolate wafer cookies   ++   About 25 – I used Nabisco ‘Famous Chocolate Wafers. 
  • 2 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • ¼ cup melted butter

Cheesecake Filling

  • 4 packages (8 oz.) cream cheese – SOFTENED
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ tsp. vanilla  AND  ½ tsp. almond flavoring
  • ½ cup coconut milk   ++ Due to my broken ankle I accidentally ordered an Almond Milk/Coconut Milk blend to be delivered via Pea Pod …. luckily, it worked great!!
  • 4 eggs

Creamy Chocolatey Topping with Toasted Almonds and Coconut

  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips  ++  I used mini-chocolate chips.  
  • 1 (8 0z.) container of FROZEN whipped topping, such as Cool Whip
  • 2 drops almond extract
  • 1 cup flaked sweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds  – OR – 1/2 cup almond pieces  ++ I had whole almonds, so I put some in a food bag & ‘smacked them down’ a bit.  ; o )

small red heart

       Line a 10″ x 9″ pan with aluminum foil          Bake at 325F  for 45 minutes

Once cheesecake is fully cooked, turn off oven – leaving door open –  and let cheesecake sit in oven for 20 minutes.

METHOD

In a small bowl, thoroughly mix 1 ¼ cups finely crushed chocolate waferS, 2 Tbs. granulated sugar and ¼ cup melted butter.  Using your fingers, press chocolate wafer mixture into bottom of a 13 x 9” pan, which you’ve covered with aluminum foil – edges hanging over.  ++ This will help will when removing the cheesecake bars.

In a medium bowl, using mixer, thoroughly blend 4 packages (8 oz.) SOFTENED cream cheese, 1 cup sugar, ½ tsp. vanilla  AND  ½ tsp. almond flavoring.  Slowly add in 1/2 cup coconut milk.  ++ Or.. Almond Milk/Coconut Milk Blend.  Add 4 eggs – one at a time, mixing on low until well blended.  Pour over chocolate wafer crust.

Bake at 325F for 45 minutes – or until center is almost set.  Turn off oven.  Open door and leave cheesecake in oven for 20 minutes.  ++ If you’re like me and you’ve never made a cheesecake before, you’ll be pleased to see that, after 20 minutes sitting in the still-warm oven, the center will be fully set!!  Remove cheesecake from oven, place on a cooling rack and cooled completely.   Refrigerate 4 hours – or overnight.

The Finishing Touches — microwave 2 oz. chocolate chips and 1 cup FROZEN whipped topping (such as Cool Whip) in a medium bowl – on high – for 1 minute.  Stir and heat on high for another minute.  ++ The whipped topping will melt down… don’t worry. That’s the way it should be!  Add in 2 drops almond extract. Whisk hot mixture until chocolate chips are completely melted, then mix a bit more until you get a nice dark chocolate color.  Pour over cheesecake and spread evenly. Sprinkle on  1 cup flaked coconut and 1/2 cup almond bits – or sliced almonds. Cut into squares and refrigerate until its time to serve.   Enjoy!

 

Coconut Joy Cheesecake Bars with Chocolate Cookie Crust - myyellowfarmhouse.com
Coconut Joy Cheesecake Bars with Chocolate Cookie Crust

Dear Fellow Food Blogger – Never Quit!!

UPDATE – I heard from my friend at Cottage Grove House (formally Tiny White Cottage) and she’s going to return to blogging this summer.  As I mentioned, life just got in her way, but she’ll be back.  HURRAH !!!  https://cottagegrovehouse.com/

Like any writer, the working life of a food blogger can be a lonely calling.  Especially for someone like me, who no longer has a family to feed. Of course, my friends and neighbors are always thrilled to accept a dessert, a casserole or some baked goods which I am unable to consume myself.  BUT – it’s always possible to host a party so your friends and family can enjoy the fruits of your labor!  And that, as will not surprise you, is my first choice!!

But, as I sometimes say, “Life gets in the way” and, as I just discovered, some of my very favorite food bloggers… people I’d come to think of as friends… no longer have the time, or inclination, to blog.

How I miss them.. How I miss being a part of their lives.  And how I miss their observations about life… and news of their lives.  We’d come to know each other. Some as they prepared for their own weddings – others as they prepared for their children’s weddings. Each and every blog was/is unique.  And, like any good friend, I want to know that they’re happy – that they’re alright.  Sure, I miss the recipes, which is, in theory, a recipe blog’s main purpose.  But more than that…. so much more than that… I miss the friendship and the sharing.

So – fellow food blogger… don’t ever think no one cares.  Never think that you and your blog will not be missed. Because that’s not true.  You may feel as if you’re throwing your most recent post out into the Big Void… that no one cares.  But you have no idea… even if you only reach a handful of people … what your blog and you sharing your life… both the good and the bad… means to others.

I just love these Matryoshka dolls (Nesting Dolls) from Russia!  They’re a bit like your grandmother saying, “Never quit”!!  

Russian Nesting Dolls

Tired of Thin Layer Cakes – Here’s a Trick to Fix That! Yellow Layer Cake with Mini Chocolate Chips and English Toffee Bits

I don’t know about other parts of the world, but the cake mixes in the States have been getting smaller and smaller – which is so wrong.  I’d rather pay a bit more and have a nice, fat layer cake..  We have no control over what the stupid cake mix companies do, but luckily there’s a few things you can add to be sure your layer cakes come out bigger.  (You may decide it’s just easier to make a cake from scratch – and that works too!)

BREAKING DEVELOPMENT  – –  I broke my ankle last night… Not a bad break, luckily, but still inconvenient.  And – get this – I’m having a party today because one of my twin sons and his family will be visiting from the Philadelphia area.

I’ve been cooking, and cleaning, for the last few days. Yesterday my other son and I put out all the outdoor furniture… and dragged out all the cushions and lanterns etc.  I was so pleased when I finished washing the final table and chairs… But cruel fate intervened… As I stepped down from our deck (to dump out the bucket of water) my foot caught on a huge, thick stepping stone… Over I went, like Jill of Jack & Jill fame, bucket, gloves and sponges flying all over.

And I heard my ankle break.  I crawled to where I thought I’d left my phone…. then remembered I’d brought it to the porch… so I crawled some more.  In any event, my brother-in-law and a neighbor got in me the car… but not until I directed them to find my comb, get my make-up kit and bring me clean clothes.  Being men… they started getting impatient – but I was married for almost 40 years… so I’m used to it!

Luckily, the cake (which is for my granddaughter’s birthday) was baked before I fell – so I got up early this morning so I could frost it and post the recipe.   ; o )

UPDATE — My Granddaughter was very happy with her birthday cake.  And the party was a great success as well !!

small red heart

Directions for a ‘Bigger and Better’ Layer Cake with Mini Chocolate Chips and English Toffee Bits  

Oven at 350F        Bake for 30 – 35 minutes      Two greased 9” round cake pans

Dry Ingredients for ‘Add-In’ Batter

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar or granulated sugar   ++  I used brown
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 pinches salt

In a medium bowl mix together flour, sugar baking powder and salt with a fork

Liquid Ingredients for ‘Add-In’ Batter

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1 egg

Add liquid ingredients to dry ingredients. Beat with mixer for about 30 seconds until well blended.  Set bowl aside.

  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup English Toffee Bits  ++  I used ‘Heath’ Brand 
  • 1 Tbs. all purpose flour

Mix 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, 1/2 cup English Toffee Bits and 1 Tbs. flour in a small bowl.  Set aside.

  • 1 yellow cake mix, prepared according to package directions    ++  I used Duncan Hines Butter Yellow – ‘Classic’

Once cake mix is prepared, pour in ‘Add-On’ batter.  Beat with mixer for about 30 seconds until well blended.  Gently mix in mini chocolate chips, English Toffee Pieces and flour mixture.

Divide batter equally between two greased 9” round cake pans.  Bake at 350F for 30 – 35 minutes – or until toothpick or sharp knife inserted in center comes out clean.   ++  Because of the ‘Add-In’ batter, your layers may take 3 – 5 minutes more time than usual.  

Cool cakes on wire rack for 15 minutes. Remove cake from pans and cool completely before frosting.

Due to my broken ankle – and the fact that I have no crutches because the ER ran out of ‘short people crutches’, I frosted my cake with purchased frosting BUT soon I’ll post my recipe for a really delicious homemade chocolate frosting ‘to die for’.   Enjoy!!

P.S.  My son who lives locally is arriving in a few minutes with some crutches – HURRAH!! And I am not cancelling the party …however, I won’t be the one bringing out trays of food.. not for several weeks.

1 - Morgan's Birthday Cake - My Yellow Farmhouse

Add-In Batter – Ready to Go

2 - Morgan's Birthday Cake - My Yellow Farmhouse
Add-In Batter & Cake Mix Batter Mixed – Chocolate Chips and English Toffee Added
3 = Morgan's Birthday Cake - My Yellow Farmhouse
Divide Batter Equally Between 2 Greased 9″ Pans
Morgan's birthday cake - My Yellow Farmhouse
I Like to Level the Layers Using a Sharp Knife

Tired of Thin Layer Cakes - Here's a Trick to Fix That!  Yellow Layer Cake with Mini Chocolate Chips and English Toffee - My Yellow