Saturday, December 24, 2011

Olivia the Woodland Elf-fairy

Olivia Elf is one of our best cookie bakers.  She mixes and rolls and bakes to perfection.  She has an alarming amount of sprinkles and can create the perfect cookie for Santa and the other elves for any occasion at the North Pole.  The only teeny, tiny problem is that Olivia doesn't really want to be here at the North Pole.

At all.

You see, Olivia is an avid reader and she once read a book about woodland fairies and she just has it in her head that she wants to be a woodland fairy, too.  However it is very hard to be a woodland fairy when there are no woodlands for frolicking about. Olivia tried prancing amongst the potted cocoa bean trees we keep in the garden nursery.  She also tried zipping through the Christmas tree farm at the outer edge of the North Pole.  It just isn't the same for her.

Truthfully, Olivia would make a terrific Woodland Fairy.  Her feet are awfully small for an elf and she has brown hair and lovely hazel eyes.  Perfect for blending in to the woodland setting.  Olivia also dances gracefully and could dart poetically from tree to tree. One tiny....okay, huge problem remains.  Olivia can't fly like the Woodland Fairies can.  So, until she sprouts some wings or finds some alternative means of aerial transportation, Olivia is an elf.  A ground hovering, pointy toed, snowbound elf.  So, to demonstrate her displeasure at being at the North Pole, Olivia is on a strike of sorts.  Olivia only makes sugar cookies in the shapes of trees.  She is hoping that one day we will send her to the Woods and she will find some magical wings and she will join her deciduous friends.    Until then, please enjoy her tree sugar cookies.  We are ready for another shape, so please help yourself to as many as you would care to eat.

Sugar Cookies

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks butter
2/3 cup shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Stir together flour, baking powder and salt.  In another bowl, beat butter and shortening together.  Add sugar and beat until fluffy.  Add eggs, milk and vanilla: beat well.  Add dry ingredients to beaten mixture, mixing until well combined.  Cover and chill 4 hours or overnight.  Roll on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness.  Cut into tree shapes.  Bake at 375 for 8 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.  Allow to cool.  Frost.

Butter Frosting

1 1/2 sticks butter, softened
8 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
food coloring

Mix all ingredients together except food coloring.  Add more milk if necessary to make a smooth spreading or piping consistency.  Tint with food coloring.  Decorate cookies.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Snow Soup

Davis Elf is a good looking elf. He is taller than most and all the young girlie elves are quite impressed by his soaring height.  His blue eyes and charming smile added to his appeal with the ladies.  Davis Elf is a funny big little elf.  He keeps everyone charmed with his humorous stories and quick wit.  The problem is is that he was used to getting by on his looks and charm and doesn't do much work around the North Pole.  Oh, a lot of work is attributed to him, but he doesn't do much of it.  His job is to test the video games before they get packaged. Instead of testing, Davis gets involved in the game and plays for hours.  With a quick wink and flash of a dimpled smile, the girl elves working on the assembly line cover for him and he spends the afternoon happily playing his games.

It is the same with cooking.  Davis doesn't like to cook, but he does like to eat a fine meal.  He becomes quite clever at eating well with minimal effort.  When Davis was young his mother read to him a lot.  One of his favorite stories was Stone Soup.  As Davis grew he learned the fine art of crafting a story to fit his dietary needs.  He would invite over a bunch of friends and moan pitifully as he sat in front of a big plate of snow. 

"Now, if I just had some onions to flavor this snow, I could make a nice broth."  Out came the dimples and the big blue eyes.  Tina Elf would run back to her kitchen and grab a few choice onions.

"A few potatoes would really flavor this broth."  Davis would shoot a smile at Robin Elf.  Off she would go to her pantry.  On and on it went with each ingredient being bought with a flash of sparkling white teeth and a swoop of his long golden, brown hair.

Soon a big bubbling pot of soup would be served all around.  Here is Davis Elf's favorite recipe for Snow Soup.  Just don't hang around too long when he starts talking about Filet Mignon Ice. 

Snow Soup

4 large baking potatoes
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
5 cups milk
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup diced scallions
dash paprika
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (optional)

Bake the potatoes at 400 degrees until tender, about 1 hour.  Let cool completely and peel and cube potatoes.  In a large saucepan, melt butter.  Stir in flour and salt.  Stir until smooth.  Gradually add milk and cook and stir until thickened.  Remove from heat and add the potatoes and sour cream.  Garnish with scallions, paprika and cheddar cheese, if desired.  Serves 6 - 8

Monday, January 31, 2011

Strawberry Kisses

Riding into the North Pole on his trusty reindeer, the Kissing Bandit Elf both terrorized and delighted the town.  His enigmatic presence was a welcome diversion for all the single ladies and a pain in the neck for all the single guys.  With a pocket full of flavored Chapstick, Ethan Elf was prepared to meet any osculatory need. A cherry kiss on the cheek?  You betcha!  A minty peck on the nose?  No problem!  A strawberry smooch on the lips?  Coming right up!
Ethan Elf takes his job pretty seriously at the North Pole.  He has always been an equal opportunity kisser, although after last week and the Big Beulah Elf incident, his kissing rampages may be tempered a bit.   Big Beulah is a rather large elf who works in my North Pole Kitchens.  I first assigned her to make pastries and breads but after a few weeks and a few samples too many, I noticed that Beulah was putting on even more weight.  I moved her to the salad division.  She looks a little leaner but let’s just say that a salad consisting of 3 pieces of lettuce laden with cheese, bacon bits, olive oil and garlic croutons with a generous pouring of salad dressing isn’t exactly a lower calorie replacement for her earlier snacking.
On the day of the Big Beulah Elf Incident, the ladies in the kitchen were excited because Lydia Elf had seen a trail of used Chapstick tubes leading right to the kitchen door.  The Kissing Bandit Elf must be near.  Upon hearing the news, Beulah pushed herself to the front of the room and got out her own tube of chapped lip relief.  She slathered it on and waited impatiently at the door.  Soon, we all heard a noise outside.   Beulah threw open the door and planted a big one on poor Ethan Elf.  He didn’t see it coming and he was now hopelessly trapped in the sticky embrace of Beulah.  Perhaps it was the combination of Chapsticks or just the mere size of Beulah and her mighty lips, but Ethan Elf could not escape her grasp.  He turned a vibrant shade of blue, then purple and then finally lurched free from her smothering kiss.  He turned and ran out the door and took off down the lane gasping for clean, fresh air as he went. 
Ethan is a little more careful in his kissing jaunts.  He tends to stake out the place before he enters these days.  And Beulah has worn a rapturous expression ever since her exuberant encounter.  She asked to be transferred back to the pastry division so she could make these cookies to help commemorate her fabulous encounter with Ethan the Kissing Bandit Elf.

Strawberry Kisses

½ cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ cup strawberry preserves
1 cup chopped pecans
Mix together butter and sugar; add egg and vanilla.  Beat well.  In another bowl, sift together flour and baking powder; add to egg mixture.  Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface into a 10 X 14-inch rectangle.  Spread preserves over dough and sprinkle nuts over preserves.  Beginning with the long side, roll cookie dough.  Chill for 3 hours.   To bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Grease a cookie sheet.  Slice the dough into ¼ inch slices and place on cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Take cookies from oven and remove from cookie sheet immediately to cool on wire racks. 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Warm Chocolate Sauce and Elf Elbows

Once a year the accounting firm of Duffee and Wiles comes to the North  Pole.  Their two representatives, Gigi and Jan, are serious elves who mean business.  They come in their candy cane striped suits with briefcases full of sharpened pencils and calculators.  My kitchen records have to be in perfect order for them when they come.

I’m a little afraid of Gigi Elf and Jan Elf.  They are diminutive but they don’t mess around.  One misplaced receipt and…well, I don’t really know what would happen because I’m too afraid to misplace a receipt.  Last year when they came, they told me that they would be putting me on a 3 month visitation rather than a yearly visitation.  I wasn’t sure why because my records were perfect and they didn’t find any errors, nevertheless, I am expecting a visit from them today.
For this visit Gigi and Jan requested my private conference room next to the kitchen.  They are insisting on a closed kitchen.  I told them I could accommodate them if they came between breakfast and lunch.  The bread would have already been made and there is a one hour lull while the brownies are baking and cooling. 
Right on schedule, the two little elves arrived in their black sedan sleigh.  Accountants don’t have flashy sleighs at the North Pole.  They jumped out of the sleigh and marched in to the kitchen.
“Is our room ready?” Gigi asked as she pulled off her driving gloves and looked around.
“Has everyone been cleared out?” added Jan. 
“Everything is ready.”  I responded walking them to the conference room.  “I put a plate of cookies on the table for you.  Do you prefer cold milk or hot cocoa?”
“Neither,” Gigi interrupted.  “We’re here to work, not to socialize.”
“All right,” I said a bit disappointed that they wouldn’t be trying my cookies. “I’ll just close the door for you.”
I left my kitchens and headed over the North Pole Tea Room to wait for them.  I figured I could check on the elves working there this morning and see how many cookies we needed for this afternoon’s cookie break.  I got half way to the Tea Room and then my curiosity halted my steps.  What could those elves possibly need with a closed kitchen?  They were accountants, for crying out loud.  Accountants need extra pencils not extra locks on the door. What was the big secret? 
They weren’t interested in my cookies, so I didn’t think they wanted to steal any of my secret recipes.  Besides, they were tiny, skinny little elves and it didn’t look like they ate a lot of sweets anyway.  What were they doing in my kitchen?  I had to find out.
I decided to go back and poke around for myself.  I went to the rear of the kitchen in the sleigh delivery area.  All the doors were locked and the windows were shut.  I climbed up the candy cane fire escape and found that one of the windows was unlocked on the landing of the fire escape.  I silently pulled it open just enough to peek inside.
Gigi and Jan were putting some papers inside their briefcases and standing up.  Gigi looked at Jan and said,
“Are you ready?”
“You betcha!” 
The next thing I knew the two little elves were dashing over to the machinery in the corner.  They tugged at a few pieces of equipment until they came to the largest piece of kitchen machinery.  It was covered in a protective dust tarp.  They wheeled it to the center of the room and squealed with delight as they uncovered the chocolate fountain.
“Plug ‘er in, Gigi!” Jan commanded.
“You got it!  Should I set it for Tea Party, Dance Party, or Psychedelic Rave?” Gigi asked with an unaccountant-like gleam in her eye.
“Why, Gigi dear, shall we have the rave today?”
“But, of course, Jan dear.”
With that, all traces of sophistication left the pair as they started dancing around the fountain as it gushed great spurts of warm, gooey chocolate.  They dipped a few cookies in it, dunked some fruit, and then abandoned all sense of propriety and began sticking fingers, arms, and elbows in the fountain for maximum coverage.  Soon Jan started taking great gulps of chocolate straight from the streaming flood with Gigi copying her enthusiastically.  Then as a finale to the act of unsanitary kitchen disgrace, they plopped a miniature cream puff on each finger and made confectionary claws out of their hands as they dug into the fountain of chocolate once more.
Then as if on cue, Gigi and Jan looked at each other, dabbed their lips daintily on napkins and quickly put the fountain away in the corner of the kitchen from where it was first discovered.  They picked up their briefcases and headed for the door.  I scrambled down the candy cane fire escape and dashed to the front to meet them.
Gigi spoke first, “Your kitchen records are in good order, however, I think it will be necessary to keep you on the 3 month schedule for the rest of the year.”
“We just want to be sure you don’t get into any trouble with the ERS (Elf Revenue Service),” Jan added thoughtfully.  I was too shocked to mumble more than a “thanks” as they jumped in their black sedan sleigh and took off down the lane.  I staggered into the kitchen and prepared for a Duffee and Wiles double decontamination session!

Warm Chocolate Sauce

4 squares semisweet baking chocolate
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons milk
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt chocolate in a double boiler.  Add the butter and milk; stir.  Slowly add the sweetened condensed milk and stir until well-blended and warmed through.  Remove from heat and add vanilla extract.  Serve warm over ice cream, cream puffs, or elbows!! Keep leftover sauce in refrigerator.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The North Pole Pneumatic Express and Gingerbread Fellas

The North Pole is a real place with real people and a real pole. 
The South Pole is a real place with real people and a real pole. 
What you probably don’t know is that the North Pole and the South Pole are actually one pole.  Yes, one really long pole that stretches through the earth and comes out on each end.  Like a giant corn on the cob with two handles. 
The best part about this pole is that it isn’t solid. It’s a pneumatic pole.  You know how when you go to the bank and pull up to the teller but you aren’t in the sleighdoor bashing side of the teller window, instead,  you are in the third lane over with the little sucky tube for  your money?  That is the same idea as the North and South Pole.  What is different, however, is that the capsules are really large and elves can transport in the capsules between the North and South Pole. 
The two trusty conductors of the North Pole Pneumatic Express are Sean and Thomas (or Thomas and Sean as Thomas likes to say.) They are the real engineers on this zippy mode of transportation.  They load at one end and unload at the other.  Traversing through the earth in the heat resistant capsules is fun.  There are video monitors, complimentary beverages, and pretend control buttons so you think you are guiding the tube. Everyone knows the buttons are just for show but they are fun to press, nonetheless. 
Transporting is safe except for one temporary side effect.  You get stretched a bit.  Just a bit, mind you, but you do come out a little taller after being swooshed through 12,715 kilometers (that’s 7,901 miles for you Americans).  Fortunately, the trip is a little shorter through the poles than through the equator, but it is long enough to add a little height.
 The problem is that sometimes there aren’t many customers on the North Pole Pneumatic Express and Sean and Thomas do what any employer at a Six Flags would do.  They ride over and over.  No hands, upside down, in bathing suits with arm floaties, racing each other—these are but a few of the ways they amuse themselves on a slow day at work.  So as you can imagine, Thomas and Sean are really tall elves.  They never give themselves time to shrink back to size before they catch another joy ride. 
So, when you come to the North Pole, and I hope you do sometime, you will recognize Sean and Thomas right away. Just look for two tall blonde elves in uniforms with a competitive glint in their eyes.  You can’t miss them.

Gingerbread Fellas

5 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground  ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup butter
½ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup molasses
1 tablespoon vinegar

In a medium sized bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.  In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter, shortening, and sugar.  Add egg, molasses and vinegar, beat well.  Add dry ingredients to butter mixture.  Chill 3 hours.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease cookie sheets.  Roll out ½ of dough on a lightly floured surface.  Cut with cookie cutters and place on greased cookie sheets.  Bake 6 minutes at 375 degrees.  Remove from oven and cool on cookie sheet one minute and then remove cookies to wire rack to cool.  Decorate with royal icing.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sidecar Sugar Cookies

Kimberly Elf is busy.  Her time is scheduled far in advance.  Kim is the official photographer for the North Pole.  Her photo sittings are magical, her sports photography is divine, and her candids are delicious. This year’s  Eligible Elves of the Far North calendar was sold out in advance and she had to invent a month to accommodate all of the elves who want to be featured.
It seems that my Sylvie, I mean Sylvester the famous Iron-Elf champion, (can’t let him know I’m interested, so my mom says) was determined to be on the cover and have his very own month. He also wanted to pose with his trophy on a leopard rug.  Kim, who for some unfathomable reason seems to be resistant to his charms, refused to give him that much coverage or uncoverage as the case may be.
“Sorry, Sport,” she argued.  “You’re not the only seal in the Arctic.  You can have November.  Take it or leave it.”  She drove a hard bargain. 
“You’ll be sorry,” he fumed.
“Not as sorry as you’ll be when you get frostbite.  Now, go find some leaves from the prop room and come back in your time slot on my schedule.  See?”  She pointed to a poster on the wall full of appointments. “Your time is next Thursday from 8:00 to 2:00.  Don’t be late or I’ll give you July instead of November and you know what that means.”
He knew, all right.  Vacation time was in July and everyone put happy red slashes across the calendar. No one would be home to look at his glorious picture on the wall. With that threat, Sylvester grabbed his trophy and skulked out the door.  He would return next Thursday humbly with pointy “hat in hand” and ready to work.
So you can see that Kim is a busy elf and unfortunately for me, she never has time to sit and enjoy a good cup of tea and a cookie.  Each day in the North Pole Tea Room adjacent the North Pole Kitchens and Bake Shoppe, I serve a featured cookie and a hot drink.  When you see snow and ice 365 days a year you gotta have some variety now and then!  So, today’s cookie is in honor of Kimberly Elf and her on-the-go lifestyle.  I made sidecar cookies for busy elves on the go. The cookies hook on the side of a cup so Kim can get back to work fast and still enjoy a sweet treat in her jam packed day.

Sidecar Sugar Cookies

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup butter (1 ½ sticks)
2/3 cup shortening
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Stir together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, shortening, and sugar.  Add eggs, milk, and vanilla.  Gradually add the flour mixture.  Refrigerate dough 1 hour.  When chilled, roll half of the dough on a floured surface.  Cut with cookie cutters and re roll the scraps.  Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes depending upon the thickness.  Immediately upon removing from the oven, use a sharp knife to cut a small rectangular notch in the left side of each cookie.  Allow to cool completely.  Decorate with royal icing.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Old Whizzer Caramels

Old Whizzer was a mean and crusty elf.  Whizzer wasn’t his real name.  Just the name we gave him because he rarely came out of his cottage except to yell at kids for coming onto his lawn – or permafrost as the case may be.    If you dared to venture his way, you would soon hear snowballs whizzing past your pointy ears.  He rarely connected with his target.  I think he mostly sent them as a warning to stay away. 
Unfortunately, his house was near the North Pole Kitchens and elves were complaining feverishly about his antics.  Seems they couldn’t get to the kitchen for their afternoon cookie and cocoa break without being bombarded by snowballs. Something had to be done about this impish elf.  Whizzer absolutely and positively had to stop throwing snowballs at everyone.  Kids were crying, reindeer were barking, and insults were flying.  
Over the years, elves had talked to Whizzer pleading with him to stop.  There were ordinances made against his errant behavior.  There were “Whizzer Warning” signs put up near his yard, and even Elmo, the Chief Elf, made a special plea to Whizzer personally “for old elves' sake.” Nothing worked.
I gathered 3 of my most trusted assistants into my kitchen office and hoped we could decide once and for all how to get him to stop.  I had a backload of cocoa and cookies that needed to get eaten.  It was right then and there that we hatched a plan.  There was only one choice and we had to do it.  We had to kill him.
Yes, it was the only thing to do.  We had to kill him.  Not elficide, there’s no such thing as that at the North Pole.  We had to kill him... with kindness, of course.  Here’s how it went down.
We gathered up the murderers with their suspicious looking pouches.  We ventured onto Old Whizzer’s lawn and sure enough he came out with blazing snowballs.  We reached into our pouches to get our own snowballs out and began to fire them at him. But, these were special snowballs.  They were homemade snowballs filled with candies and goodies.  Old Whizzer picked up one of the snowballs that had fallen at his feet and examined it.  He cracked it open and then, miraculously, he cracked a smile.  He gathered all the goodie filled snowballs and went back into his house.  Our plan had worked!
Now, the only time Old Whizzer throws snowballs is when he is out of treats and that’s our cue to throw some of our special snowballs his way.   

Indoor Snowballs Party Favors

6 small white balloons
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
½ cup water
6 white paper towels
White tissue paper
White school glue
Masking tape

Blow up balloons and tie ends.  Mix together the flour, salt, and water.  Dip paper towels into flour mixture and place one paper towel over each balloon smoothing out wrinkles as well as possible.  Allow to dry completely.  Cut tissue paper into 1X1 inch squares.  Using the eraser end of a pencil, twist the tissue square over the pencil and dip into glue.  Place twisted tissue onto dried balloon.  Cover surface completely except for one small circle.  Make a cut in the uncovered portion and remove the balloon and then fill snowball with goodies.  Place a small piece of tape over the opening and finish covering the snowball with tissue paper squares.  Repeat with remaining balloons.

Whizzer Caramels

1   cup butter
1   1-pound box brown sugar
1   14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1   cup light corn syrup
1   teaspoon vanilla extract
1   cup chopped pecans

In a saucepan, melt the butter over low heat.  Add sugar, condensed milk, and corn syrup; mix well.  Cook over medium  heat, stirring frequently,  until mixture reaches soft ball stage(236 degrees).  Remove from heat and add vanilla.  Pour into a generously buttered 9X9 in dish.  Allow to cool.  When cool, use a wet, sharp knife to cut into small squares.  Twist in waxed paper or cellophane. Yield: 2 pounds