Sunday, December 20, 2009

Cheese Straws

I love cheese straws!  They make me think of Christmas party food.  I found a wonderful recipe tonight in The Lee Bros. Southern Matt Lee and Ted Lee.  That wrote "we began  developing the cheese straw of our dreams, and in the process found that cheese straws are among the easiest baked goods in the world.  If it weren't for the blade on the food processor, a toddler could do it.  You don't even need to grease the cookie sheet."

That did it for me!  Certain words in the above description guaranteed my success. (The cheese straw of my dreams that was so easy a toddler could do it.)  So I whipped up a recipe and started to cut the cheese straws, but something was wrong.  In my haste, I didn't measure correctly and I could not cut the straws.  So I dropped them on the pan, baked them and the cheese cookies were ok.

The words "so easy a toddler could do it" stayed in my head.  How could I have messed this up?  I started another batch.  This time I measured everything exactly.  The recipe turned out wonderful and I was able to cut long elegant cheese straws that truly tasted like dream cheese straws.  Here is the recipe.

Cheese Straws

1 1/2 cups grated extra-sharp cheddar cheese
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 4 pieces
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon half-and-half

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2.  In a food processor, combine the cheese, butter, flour, salt, and red pepper and process in five 5 sec. pulses until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Add the half-and-half and process until the dough forms a ball, about 10 sec.

3.  On a lightly floured surface, using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough into an 8 x 10 inch rectangle that is 1/4 inch thick.  With a sharp knife, cut the dough into long, thin strips, 1/4 to 1/3 inch wide (dipping the knife in flour after every few inches ensures a clean cut).  Gently transfer the strips to an ungreased cookie sheet, leaving at least 1/4 inch between them.  The dough will sag and may break occasionally in the transfer, but don't be concerned - just do your best.  The straws can be any length, from 2 to 10 inches.

4.  Bake the straws on the middle rack for 15 min, or until the ends are barely browned.  Remove from the oven and set the cookie sheet on a rack to cool.

5.  Serve at room temperature.  Cheese straws will keep in the refrigerator, in a sealed container for 2 days.

Wonderful! Enjoy!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Homeplaces in the Heart

For the last 35 years, I have lived in South Carolina with my husband and sons.  All the rest of our family live in Alabama.  So for all those years, we traveled at least twice a year to visit family during different holidays.  Each time we enjoyed our families but felt like something was missing...our home.  So last spring, after all those years, my DH and I bought a "homeplace" in Alabama.  We found a house that we loved and wanted to work on and spend our holidays. A home for our family to love.
We do love it.  In fact, we dream about it!  We spent the summer working on it and my DH has been back several times this fall.  I haven't been "home" since July.

I call it our homeplace even though we have owned it only seven months and only lived in it about five weeks in the summer.  We are going to the "homeplace" during Christmas and I can't wait.

I started thinking about the word "homeplace" today.  I looked the word up in the dictionary and it means "a family home" or "birth place".  So I started thinking about my real "homeplace" which is in Grand Prairie, Texas.  I'm not really from Alabama at all, that is just where my dad, brothers, aunts, uncles and cousins live.
So here is picture of my first home which is my real "homeplace."
My first "homeplace" was a garage that my dad built himself.  We lived in the back of the garage.  It was pretty neat.  We didn't have a front door, only a door from the big bright kitchen to the back yard.  My room was a bed in a closet.  But what wonderful memories I have of that place!  I can't go there again in real life because the garage home was sold and torn down.  Two new homes are built there now. Every family member moved from Texas.  There is no reason to go back.

So I bought a new "homeplace" in Alabama to start new family traditions.  This new "homeplace" is 102 years old.  I love my blue cottage and love my job in SC, but I hear the whisper "time is short".  And I wake up every morning knowing that we all need to cherish the time we have with each other.  A "homeplace" can be anywhere, but the place it will always be is in your heart.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Wreaths

I love Christmas Wreaths!  I have several that I take out for Christmas decorations.  They are not homemade wreaths but some I have found on sale over the years that I thought I had to have.  I did some research and found out that hanging a wreath at Christmas is a century's old tradition.  According to Elisabeth Ginsburg on, "Most wreathes are circular, and the circle has long been symbolic of the unbroken span of eternity, as well as the circular nature of life itself.  Used in mid December at the time of Winter Solstice, the circle symbolizes the certainly that the endless cycle of seasons will once again bring the return of light."  Here are a few of my Christmas wreaths from my home.

My mother-in-law gave me this grapevine wreath over twenty years ago.

Even my DH loves wreaths!  Look at these welcoming driveway gates that he built!

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 7, 2009


My blue cottage