Cranberry Scones

The Christmas tree is up, decorated and magically alive with lights. Now I can sit back and enjoy my efforts. Honestly, it becomes more difficult every year; this year I couldn't find the lights and completely lost a box of my favorite ornaments. I am ashamed to admit I gave up and bought new lights but thankfully my daughter discovered the precious (some of which she hand carried from a trip to Germany) box of ornaments buried in a back corner of my storage unit. I knew I had put them someplace safe and out of the way, but in the back corner under a pile of old clothes? Then, for the first time, I had to ask someone to help me put the tree in the stand. Growing older: it sucks.

My mother, as I have mentioned, was a superb cook and handled any number of people for dinner until one Christmas Eve when she turned to me with a slightly frantic look in her eyes and said: "My cake has not turned out right and the salad didn't gel. I didn't put the meat in at the right time and everything is a mess. I have to admit I am getting too old to manage dinner for our family." It upset her greatly and from that day until she passed away, my brother and his wife took over our Christmas Eve celebration and I had everyone at my house for Christmas Day dinner.

The reason I mention this is because my sister called last night and complained she thinks she has forgotten how to cook. Just making some cookies was a problem: she burned them twice and when she got a good batch, they didn't taste right. I reminded her of Mother's comment years ago and she laughed and agreed it comes to us all. Of course, she has six children and they come for the holidays with their spouses and children; however, I don't ever remember her saying she had these cooking problems before. Frankly I think there is just too much on her plate: decorating the tree and the house, wrapping gifts, attempting to get some of the cooking done in advance and into the freezer, planning breakfasts, lunches and dinners for the holiday week and trying to keep herself and everyone else full of the spirit of Christmas. Once everyone gets there, her daughters help but there are always weather worries in Michigan- will flights be delayed? Will we be making airport runs in the middle of the night?
My Christmas will not be so hectic; I will only have my daughter and son here this year as my oldest son and his family from Michigan were here for Thanksgiving. My daughter will be staying here, but likes to make her own breakfast and lunch. My son lives nearby, works nights in the ER of a local hospital and will only be joining us for our traditional Christmas morning brunch, then he will go home and go to bed. His night is our day. A difficult way to live, but he seems to thrive on it.

I like to try something new each year for our brunch. One thing I cannot change is the egg/cheese soufflé dish my children insist upon- now a tradition. It's a simple recipe I found in the 60's in the old Make It Now Bake It Later series. (I don't have a photo of it but will take one this year and post it and the recipe after Christmas.) We start off with a White Peach Bellini. Yum, shades of Venice! I found a source in California for white peach puree; it arrives frozen in a 30 ounce container. There is a minimum order so I suggest you get some friends together to share the cost with you. You can order online at http://perfectpuree.com/ or call them at 707-261-5100.
A couple days before you are going to use it, just remove it from the freezer and put it in the refrigerator. Get a lovely bottle of prosecco and you are set to go. We like a couple tablespoons of the purée in the glass, then fill carefully with chilled prosecco. Stir gently. Sip with pleasure.

For brunch this year I decided on a fresh fruit platter and some cranberry scones to accompany our cheese soufflé. I've had the scone recipe for some time and served them for the first time at Thanksgiving breakfast; everyone loved them. I adore scones anyway and find these to be light, not too sweet, a little tart and altogether very festive. They really don't need butter either, but it's hard to resist.

Cranberry Scones

Ingredients:3 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, cold
1 cup fresh cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans
2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon sugar

Method:Place the cranberries in a food processor and pulse until they are crushed. Set aside.
Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in food processor. Pulse once and then cut up the butter and add. Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour the mixture into a bowl and mix in cranberries, nuts and orange rind by hand. Stir in buttermilk with a fork until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn out on a floured board and roll out to a 3/4 inch thick circle. Cut out with a cookie cutter and place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Brush with the milk and sprinkle with the sugar.

Bake in a 400° oven on a lower rack for about 15 minutes or until browned. Serve hot with butter and be ready for seconds.

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