Vintage Sugar Cookie Recipe

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When the holiday season rolls around, baking kicks into high gear.  But amongst all of the tarts, yule logs, rolls, and breads; there is one treat that stands head and shoulders above the rest.  It is the classic sugar cookie.  Better still… a vintage recipe that evokes childhood memories of the holiday season.

A sugar cookie is the classic rolled cookie dough.  It can take many forms.  During the Christmas season, this rolled dough is traditionally cut into shapes with cookie cutters.  Festive plates of these cookies may take the form of bells, candy canes, Santa Clauses, stars, wreaths, and Christmas trees.  This cookie is also commonly decorated with icing or colored dusting sugars.  And if you were a believer in Santa Claus, these cookies generally made an appearance on the plate left out for the big guy.

This particular recipe adapted from the original is attributed to Mrs. Edgar Fahr and Mrs. Martha Menke from the  Favorite Recipes cookbook sponsored by St. John Ladies’ Aid.

Powdered Sugar Cookie

  • 1 C. powdered sugar
  • 1 C. butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 C. flour
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract

Cream together powdered sugar and butter until well combined.  Next, beat in one egg, vanilla, and almond extract.  Mix well.

powdered sugar and butter whipped together

powdered sugar and butter whipped together

Add the remaining dry ingredients and beat until incorporated.  Chill the dough for one hour.

dough ready to be chilled

dough ready to be chilled

Then roll out on a well floured surface and rub flour across rolling pin surface as dough will be sticky.  NOTE: this works for a wooden rolling pin.  Roll dough out to approximately 1/8″ thickness or slightly thicker.

Cut into various shapes with assorted cookie cutters.  Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or reusable Silpat® (siliconized rubber mat that is easy to clean).

If decorating with just dusting sugar, dust before putting cookies in the oven.  Bake in a pre-heated oven set to 325F for 8 – 10 minutes or until golden.  Allow the cookies to cool before icing them.

These cookies hold a special place in my heart.  My mom made these just before Christmas and she made batch after batch of them.  Then these baked and decorated cookies were placed into containers and then they went to the freezer until it was time to set platters of these cookies for family gatherings.  (And Santa enjoyed these every year… or at least that is what we thought given that the cookies we left out for him were gone in the morning).

plate of cookies for Santa

plate of cookies for Santa

Go ahead and give this vintage recipe a try.  The crisp texture and buttery flavor will have you going back for more.  And who knows… maybe your little ones will ask you to make these for Santa?

 

 

 

 

 

Frugal Firestarter

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Frugal is part of our daily living.  Around our homestead, we are always looking for ways to recycle, repair, and repurpose items.  But one thing that we had been tossing out (or on some occasions  balling up and tucking into perennials for birds to find and use in their nests) is dryer lint.  Surely there had to be another way to use it.

dryer lint

dryer lint

 

It dawned up us that this tinder dry material could make an excellent fire starter.  It is dry and composed of tiny bits of cloth fiber that burn readily. (If you are concerned about how ‘green’ your dryer lint is, you could just save lint from dryer loads of wood, linen, and cotton clothing).   And in a way, dryer lint is sort of like a renewable resource… each time we use the dryer, there is lint left behind in the lint trap.  But since the dryer lint can be a little on the messy side, some sort of container was in order.

Another look through the house and we saw the empty toilet paper tubes.  While they were normally destined for the recycle bin, there was no reason why they couldn’t be used to contain the dryer lint.  They are made of a non-waxy fiberboard.  They also burn readily.  Plus these tubes can hold a fair bit lint.

toilet paper tubes

toiler paper tubes

Over the course of a few months, gather up the dryer lint (can save it in a box or bag kept near the dryer) as well as the toilet paper tubes (depending on the size of your family, you may have a few dozen or more tubes).  Take a generous handful of lint and stuff the tube full… just so it pokes out of both tube ends.

dryer lint stuffed toilet paper tube

dryer lint stuffed toilet paper tube

Now to get the fire going… place several tubes in the fireplace (or for you campers… fire pit).  Place several pieces of kindling over the tubes.  Light the lint of each tube.  Stand back and watch the fire build.  Each tube will burn for approximately five minutes.  This is ample time to catch the kindling on fire.  Once the kindling is burning well, add firewood to keep the fire going.

fire started with toilet paper tubes stuffed with lint

fire started with toilet paper tubes stuffed with lint

So folks, it is fine to be frugal.  Save that dryer lint and your toilet paper tubes.  These materials are the start of many cozy fires.

7 Reasons Why Christmas Tree Cutting Can Benefit a Forest

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7 Reasons Why Christmas Tree Cutting Can Benefit a Forest

Each year the debate is renewed.  Both sides tout their superiority.  Some favor tradition.  Some favor convenience.  Yet both make claims why they are the green option.  Real vs. artificial trees.  But before you put up a Christmas tree, do you know the benefits to a forest when you cut down a tree in the backcountry (or on your private land)?

For the record, I am not talking about commercial or mom & pop tree farms, but honest to goodness forests.  And since I am talking about Christmas trees, that means evergreens.  Common Christmas tree varieties in the United States include, but not limited to: Austrian Pine, Balsam Fir, Blue Spruce, Douglas fir, Eastern Red Cedar, Fraser Fir, Grand Fir, Lodge Pole Pine, Noble Fir, Ponderosa Pine, Scotch (or Scots) Pine, Virginia Pine, White Fir, White Pine and White Spruce.

Reasons Why Christmas Tree Cutting Can Benefit a Forest

  1. Cutting from an old burn area (with lots of crowded young trees) provides more room for remaining trees to grow

    old burn area with densely grown trees

    old burn area with densely grown trees

  2. Remaining trees are less stressed and better situated to cope with disease and insects
  3. Reducing competition allows for easier access to water, nutrients, and sunlight
  4. Reducing wildfire risk by providing less potential fuel for a fire
  5. Harvesting young trees (think Christmas tree-sized) allows remaining trees to become ‘windfirm’, meaning that they tolerate and stand up to strong winds (less likely to be blown over)
  6. Improving the wildlife habitat by providing ‘vertical structure’ so a greater variety of species can coexist in a habitat ranging from canopy to intermediate to forest floor (many layers) compared to an area in which all trees are the same age (and similar height)
  7. Thinning trees allows more sunlight to reach the forest floor which helps promote greater plant diversity: grasses, wildflowers, shrubs, understory trees, etc…

If you choose to go into the backcountry to harvest your Christmas tree, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Potential Cutting Issues

  • Some areas may require a permit (usually a nominal fee)
  • There may be designated areas for tree cutting
  • There may be a limit set to the maximum number of trees you are allowed to cut
  • Christmas tree cutting may be allowed only during a brief period of time
  • The size of tree (diameter of the trunk at the base) may be regulated.  As an example, 6″ or less may be permitted
  • Gas powered tools, such as a chainsaw may not be allowed, so tools are limited to axes or hand saws

    cutting a fresh Christmas tree with hand saw

    cutting a fresh Christmas tree with hand saw

  • Avoid areas with lots of snags (dead trees still standing) as falling trees may be an issue
  • Access to tree cutting areas may be impacted by road conditions (such as ice and/or snow) so plan accordingly

Cutting down your own tree for the holidays can be a wonderful experience.  Make a day of it.  Involve your children.  Bring along a sled to haul the tree.  Dress appropriately for the weather, but be aware that conditions may quickly change.  Pack a lunch.  Take photos of the adventure.  Be sure to include cord, rope or straps to tie the tree down to your vehicle.

freshly cut tree strapped to vehicle

freshly cut tree strapped to vehicle

Lastly, be aware that trees from a forest will not be perfectly shaped like their counterparts at tree farms which have been shaped into a pyramidal form.  This creates dense branching (no bare spots).  I view this as a positive.  A tree cut from the forest will have a natural branching habit.  This means that when ornaments are placed on the tree, they will actually hang rather that lying on top of the branches.

natural branching of a forest grown tree

natural branching of a forest grown tree

So go ahead and brave the outdoors.  Don’t feel guilty for cutting down a tree.  You are actually benefitting the forest.  If you are going into the backcountry (rather than your own land), check with the appropriate agency to see if there are any particular cutting instructions.   Harvesting your own Christmas tree can be a fun family experience and create a memory that you will never forget.