Today I decided to start the cookies. I did what I have done since I was a kid in elementary school; I started with the task that is the least appealing to me. Therefore, I mixed up the Russian Teacakes, which in and of itself is not unpleasant, but the mess that ensues after the baking where you have to roll the freshly removed, set but not browned at all, teacakes and roll them in powdered sugar while hot is sloppy. When I think about it, it really isn’t my cup of tea to do that, I don’t like messes. When the kids were small, I was always amazed at Mary Kay’s willingness to get really messy and cook with the kids. When I would do it, it was always in a more engineer-planned, step by step preparation that was less artistic in design. Anyone who knows me would get that. Sometimes, when the kids were small, they would say, “oh boy, here with go with military daddy (mind you, I was never in the military)” when I would be alone with them for the day. So, I made the cookies and immediately went haywire with my “Honey Don’t List.”
I need to be careful here since Mary Kay seems to catch a glimpse of my blog each day and when she comes home, lately, there have been no surprises for her. Darn, I so love to mess with her!
Mary Kay and I are the same age and both teachers by profession. We met in grad school at Ohio University. Our paths almost didn’t happen as I was not looking to stay at my alma mater for grad school. I was planning, ironically, to go either to the University of Illinois (where MK did her undergrad) or to Case Western Reserve in Cleveland. I didn’t hear about my fellowship at the U of I until after I signed up to stay at OU. Mary Kay came because she didn’t have a teaching job and OU contacted her and offered her an Assistantship. She came to Ohio sight unseen, having never heard of OU and being quite unhappy to be in the middle of nowhere. But that is another story.
Teaching jobs were impossible to find and we both sent out over five hundred letters. We sent them mainly to the Chicago and Ohio area and wherever there were job openings. As it happens, she got the job in Illinois so off we went right after grad school and a wedding.
Once children were on the way, we decided that the one who didn’t have the job would stay home. By this time, I had a great job at New Trier High School. I honestly couldn’t believe it since I almost threw in the towel during my one year as “Hausherr” and substitute teacher. But it happened. She stayed with the children for about fourteen years. We decided that we could make a go of it on one salary (barely!) and that she would be the “college tuition.” Living off my salary was tough at times, even at the affluent school I taught at, I remember that car we had with the hole in the floor, need I say more?
As we approached her time to get back on the saddle, she was convinced that it wouldn’t happen, who on earth would want her? Once again, MK literally fell into one job after the other, first part-time at Deerfield High School (which was perfect) and finally helping out at Lake Forest High School in a job which soon morphed into a full-time German position, something which is unheard of. Then, she became department chairman and set off to do things she never planned on. Lucky for them to have her, because she has soothed the souls who were having such a tough time under the previous leadership (if you could call it that) from a quite eccentric individual.
I have really digressed! Let’s get back to my day! After putting the house back together after breakfast, I first mixed the granola. It is an amazing recipe which MK and I got in Maho Bay, on St. John, in the U.S. Virgin Islands. http://www.maho.org/ We had wanted to go to their green, eco-friendly place since early on in our marriage. They have special “tents” as the call them on the side of a mountain. The tents are joined by walkways that are recycled wood (where possible) and the walkways are connected to steps, all put together to save the setting and ecosystem. It is in the National Park donated by the Rockefeller Family and since it is less snobby in appeal than some nearby resorts coupled with the fact that there isn’t a major airport on the island, there are fewer tourists. We have been on their beaches (which are pristine) and seen very few people. We so loved the breakfast of granola and plain yogurt that we asked for the recipe and got it. You will find it at the end of this article.
After the granola making (which is a large batch we share with the kids), I made the cookies. Then, the devil got a hold of me and since I had stockpiled so many nutmeats, I made Cajun pecans and sugared walnuts from a recipe I got in the Chicago Tribune this morning. I will also admit that since the oven was on, I wanted to take advantage of it! Now at least I have some major things out of the way. The rest of the cookies I find to be less daunting.
So, here I am in my dining room, about to have some tea. I am looking into my clean kitchen, the big pans having been put in the oven to dry off. The Christmas tree is sitting in the back yard, visible to my eye from where I am and I am wondering…
Should I attack the Christmas dishes? Make the switch from the buffet cabinet up into the glassed in portion? My question to myself is WWMKD? What would Mary Kay do?
Maho Bay Granola
1 box of Oatmeal (42 oz. container)
2 cups chopped walnuts
2 cups chopped pecans
2 cups almonds
2 cups shredded coconut
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
1 ½ cups peanut oil
1 ¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon vanilla
Combine the three above liquid ingredients in a saucepan on low heat. Stir until honey dissolves. Then add the above dry ingredients and stir until the mixture is moistened. Place on a cookie sheet and bake in a 275° oven until it is light brown in color. Seems to take at least an hour.
Note: I almost always forget to add the nutmeg! It tastes great without! I have also doubled the amount of nuts from what the Maho Bay people gave me.
Option: 1 to 2 cups craisins added after it cools
Lightly toast 2 cups pecan halves
Stir once during 5 minutes in 350 degree oven
Remove from oven, allow to cool, reduce oven to 325 degrees
In large bowl: 1T Worcestershire sauce, 2t coarse salt, 3/4t each: ground cumin, paprika, and garlic powder, 1/2 – 1t hot red pepper sauce
Toss to coat
Bake 15 minutes
Loosen nuts with spatula, let cool
Classic Spiced and Sugared Nuts
Oven at 225 degrees
Beat 1 egg white with 1t water in medium bowl to soft peaks
Put 1lb. Pecan or walnut halves in a large bowl and fold in beaten egg white
Mix together 1/2C sugar and 1/2t cinnamon and toss with egg coated nuts
Spread on non-stick cookie sheet
Bake 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes