I’m a product of the 1950’s. Literally. That timeframe in the United States was very transitional even though we look back and think of it as a slower, gentler time. Christmas preparations always make me think of Christmases past. As I sit here Christmas Eve, I remember certain “must do” recipes from back in the day.
In my childhood, suburban housewives, (my mother was one) traded no-fail, trusted recipes at teas and coffee klatches. There were always steaks and chops in the freezer, and the pressure cooker was frequently my mother’s best friend. Moms baked in those days as a normal occurrence, not just for holidays. When I think back on that time, I remember plates of all kinds of cookies at my friend’s houses. There were cookie jars with cookies in them!

When I watch episodes of Mad Men on TV, it’s a voyage back in time for me. The Atomic Age shown in episodes fascinated my parents back in the day, and they lived the same young upward mobile lifestyle. They also imagined there would soon be a foimageur day work week. This last backfired with the invention of smart phones, computers, and the internet. Now we wish for a forty hour work week, instead of the longer ones many of us work now.

By this time on Christmas Eve, as a child, I would have put out a glass of milk and a special plate of cookies for Santa. Then I would try to go to sleep- Santa wouldn’t come to my house if I was awake. It was difficult. My own grandchildren have put out cookies for Santa tonight. Here is a photo of my daughter’s children anticipating Santa tonight. I look at their sweet faces and know exactly what they are feeling.

Even with all the modernness they were seeking, my parents still honored the old family traditions from their parents- they just put a new twist on it. Tinsel on the Christmas trees gave way to aluminum tinsel Christmas trees that had a rotating color changing light shining on them. My parents always insisted on a real tree, but our neighbor had the silver aluminum one and I loved it. The tinsel my parents hung carefully on the ends of each tree branch was, in the early days, made of lead. They saved it each year, reusing again and again. The thin lead strands broke and the tinsel became shorter and shorter. Eventually it had to be replaced with the new version. My father never adjusted. He balked at having to use the new plastic stringy stuff. It had static cling.

My mother always made cut out sugar cookies and my sister and I were allowed to sprinkle some of the vast array of colored sugars and dragées onto the trees, angels, stars, wreaths, and Santas. A tradition I still uphold. Mom also made wreath cookies made from cornflakes, green food coloring and some sticky stuff. I did not bring that tradition to my own home.


Lots of us have fruitcake memories. Some good memories, but frequently bad. My mother loved fruitcake until the day she died. My grandmother sent one every year until the late 1970’s when she no longer baked. She made a big group of them, dicing the candied fruits carefully, and then mixing a huge amount of heavy batter just before Thanksgiving every year. Then she wrapped them in cheesecloth and doused them with brandy or bourbon every week until they were wrapped in a new tea towel and mailed out to recipients. I eventually made the fruit cakes when I grew up. No one in my own house could stand them, but my mother was happy when I took them to her. That is a tradition officially retired this year, as my mother passed away this past August.

When I got married, my new husband and I incorporated some traditions from both of our families. He insisted there must be Snickerdoodle cookies every Christmas. I failed to see these as Christmas cookies and added red and green sugars to the final cinnamon sugar roll before baking. They seemed better that way. My daughter-in-law makes them for “PopPop” now. She surprised him with them tonight.
We started making spiced pecans every year, and a favorite of my children, Chinese noodle confections. They also adore the Puppy Chow (some call it Charlie Brown mix) that we always make. Somewhere along the way fudge was added as a “must make” treat at Christmas. The kind made from semisweet chocolate chips and marshmallow whip. We’ve tried the more complicated kind, but my kids love simplicity.
So we kept some traditions, and made some of our own. Passed them down. The kids have improved on them and added. That’s the best. It’s wonderful.

Chinese Noodle Confection
1 cup Chocolate chips- semi sweet
1 cup Butterscotch chips
2 cups chow mein noodles
1/2-1 cup salted peanuts

Melt all chips over simmering water in a double boiler, being careful that water does not get into the chips and bind them up.
Place noodles into a medium-sized bowl.
Remove from heat and pour over the noodles. Add peanuts and stir all together.
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto waxed or parchment paper and let cool and become firm.
Store in a tin. If you are in a warm climate, you’ll want to store in the refrigerator.

Whatever your traditions, celebrate them. I wish each of you a wonderful Merry Christmas and the happiest and safest of New Year’s Eve celebrations.

I would love to hear about your family traditions, if you would like to share.



First, I want to say “Welcome!” to all of those who have joined Jingle Pies and Starry Skies lately. I am humbled and honored that anyone would be interested in reading words I have written. I hope I do not disappoint.

This time of year is full of get togethers, work parties, neighborhood parties, school parties. The list goes on. One of our family favorites was always the Cookie Exchange. My children loved those. We thought about which cookies to make, and then baked, and decorated. We usually chose several different types of cookies to make and take to the parties.

When my children were little, and we had just moved into the neighborhood, they were so excited to discover the neighborhood was having a holiday cocktail/cookie exchange party.
My husband was living and working in St. Croix at the time, so the holiday preparations fell to me. I had dual duty that year of functioning as sole household holiday director and child wrangler. He got home just in time to celebrate Christmas. Involving the children in the excitement of baking kept them occupied and happy. And I knew where they were.

The cookies I chose for the exchange that year were Coconut Macaroons dipped in chocolate, Peppermint Candy Twists, and Meringue Puffs that looked like tiny Christmas trees. The rules were simple for this exchange: bring a dozen to put out at the party and enough to exchange whatever amount you wanted to exchange. In other words, if you brought two dozen to exchange, that’s how many you took home.

I discovered quickly that not everyone is a baker, but everyone loves home baked cookies. Some attendees had stopped at the local grocer and bought several dozen chocolate chip cookies and placed in a tin. There were enough home baked to bring home a nice assortment to my eagerly awaiting children. I visited the table early and chose take home cookies. My grown children still remember the cookie exchanges fondly. I do wonder how many other party attendees ended up bring home an assortment of the same store cookies that they brought, if they were late to the exchange table.

In the years after, the home baked cookie to store bought cookie ratio switched and eventually the pretense of it being a cookie exchange was dropped completely. I think it was the year that someone plopped down a package of Oreo cookies that did it.

But every year, magazines feature marvelous, wondrous cookie exchange parties. A huge spread of amazingly gorgeous cookies is featured. It barely fits on the large table. I think Southern Living even had a suggested set of guidelines to include with the invitations at one point. That would certainly avoid cookie exchange faux pas. Suggestions included “all cookies must be homemade” or “no drop cookies”, depending on what was desired. Many suggested that people inform the hostess ahead so that there are not needless duplications.
If I hostess a cookie exchange in the future, I may need to incorporate some of them. Of course, I really do like Oreos.


In recent years, I have gotten my cookie baking joy fix by inviting all the grandchildren to come for a cookie baking party. This photo was taken during one of these. There was apparently a contest among the kids to have the most sugar on one cookie. It is not so much an exchange as it is gigglefest and sugar overload contest. I’m sure their parents dread picking their children up and trying to get them to eat dinner, much less go to sleep afterwards. As they have grown, the older ones like to use piping bags- and in this case the “squirt in mouth” technique is perfected.
This year, I may add in an apron decorating part to the party- no, not with frosting, but with Pompoms, google eyes, and felt.

I’ll leave you with a favorite cookie recipe. The children enjoy it because it’s like playing with clay. Enjoy your holiday baking. And I wish a bountiful cookie exchange in your future.

Candy Cane Twists

1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 cups flour (all purpose)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon red coloring (I use enough red paste color to make dough red)
1/2 cup or so, crushed candy canes
1/2 cup granulated sugar (I use coarse sugar)

Preheat oven to 375° F.
Mix shortening and butter together, then add the powdered sugar, egg, and flavorings.
In another bowl, mix flour and salt
Gradually sir the flour mixture into the butter mixture.
Divide the dough in half, and add red coloring to one of the halves.

Use slightly more than a teaspoon of dough of each color (although honestly, the children here use closer to a tablespoon) roll each into a smooth strip as if making a snake. Twist both color sections together like a barber pole design and bend the top to create a cane shape. Candy cane cookies!

Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for about 8-9 minutes. The cookies should be very lightly browned. As soon as you remove them from the oven and while still hot, sprinkle the crushed candy and sugar onto them.

My children liked to hook the peppermint cane cookies over the edge of their cups of cocoa.
I hope you enjoy making these cute cookies.

A fellow food blogger (In Jennie’s Kitchen) lost her beloved husband suddenly last weekend. Jennie has wished that everyone make her Mikey’s favorite peanut butter pie today, August 12, 2011, in both his honor and the honor of our own loved ones.  Bloggers have spread the word to honor Jennie’s request.  Then the Food Network and several other sites picked up on it and further spread the word. Jennifer and her two young daughters are at quite a loss right now. This is a hug from fellow Foodies. Please take time to show your loved ones how much they mean to you. Here is my pie.

Chef Hydel at le Cordon Bleu discussing papillote finesse. I was fortunate enough to attend a MasterChef event at the school. What was in the cool MasterChef wooden box at the class that day? Pears, marscapone, walnuts.

Anything En Papillote sounds elegant, and I suppose it is. But I was reminded recently that it is really just a fancy way of cooking something in a packet. Like the foil packets over the fire when camping. Foil, in that case for sure, because the parchment would burst into magnificent and alarming flames (different story-but I think you may already have a pretty good visual of it). But in the oven, either parchment paper or foil can be used.  The food is steamed within the packet, and whatever seasonings and herbs are used impart their lovely flavor. Wine or broth is added to the packet just before baking, to create the steam during the cooking. The suggested presentation is tableside, as when removed from the oven the parchment has puffed up with the steam. A cut with the knife causes the steam to escape and the little balloon of parchment deflates, allowing view of the gently cooked food inside. Desserts of apples, pears or other fruits may be made in this manner as well.

Snapper En Papillote

Yield: 4


4- 5 ounce 1-inch thick red snapper fillets

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage or another herb that you prefer (I use fresh thyme and oregano)

1 teaspoon fresh parsley (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)

2 teaspoons orange zest (I use 1 teaspoon lemon and 1 teaspoon orange)

3 Roma tomatoes, diced

1/2 bell pepper, julienned thinly (red bell pepper makes a nice presentation)

1/2 sweet onion, julienned thinly

12 Kalamata olives, sliced

1 cup wine or broth (I use white wine) or combination of white wine and Pernod if you like anise flavor

2 Tablespoons butter


Preheat oven to 375 degrees with the rack in center position

Cut 4 12-in by 12-inch squares of parchment paper or cut pieces into a large, fat  heart-shape and set aside

Brush the parchment paper with melted butter, leaving approximately a  1- inch border around the edges.

Place fish onto one side of the parchment (place off-center onto your packet material so that the other half may be folded over and sealed)

Season with salt and pepper, herbs, and place pieces of julienned vegetables over each. Add zest and top each with some butter.

The fish is ready to cook and the parchment is ready to close

Fold parchment edges over onto themselves, rolling and crimping well over onto themselves, creating a well-sealed packet but leave an opening of 2 inches on one edge to pour the wine or broth into.

Leave a small opening to pour broth or wine in before final seal

Carefully place the packets onto a baking sheet (s). Do not stack or overcrowd the packets on the baking sheets. Slowly, pour approximately 1/3 cup wine or broth into each packet through the opening and then finish sealing the packet well. Be sure the packet is really crimped and sealed so that steam can build up inside while cooking, and the liquid does not leak out.

Place the baking sheet(s) into the preheated oven and bake for 17-20 minutes. The packets of parchment will puff and brown slightly.

The suggested presentation is tableside, bringing the sealed papillotes on a platter, then slicing open and carefully serving the fish onto plates to serve.

Coconut Cake

Let me first say this: my mother wasn’t a cook. She put food in front of us from the kitchen and it was sometimes ok, sometimes pretty scary. While growing up, she was not allowed into her mother’s kitchen much. She was the youngest of a very large family- her closest sibling was married while my mother was in kindergarten. So I suppose that my grandmother just really needed to get things done without her being underfoot. These were in the days when canning food was not a hobby or a periodic diversion- it was a necessity. Grandmother once said that it was quite a good thing when she didn’t have to “put food by” any more.

They lived in various places throughout the year. Usually, it was the South in the winter, either in Florida or Asheville, North Carolina. The summers were spent between Asheville and Wilmington, Delaware. She kept a garden of one description or another wherever she was. That provided a wide range of produce options to consider. Grandmother loved vegetables of all sorts and cooked them in a wide variety of ways. They also kept a cow and chickens while in North Carolina.

My Grandmother was a Southern girl- a Moore of the North Carolina Moores. I’m a North Carolina girl too, so something inside me is drawn to anything about that state. Her playground included Blowing Rock and the grounds of the Grove Park Inn, where her father was Groundskeeper. It was a prestigious thing, to be associated with the Inn, especially in the early days. Boulders from Sunset Mountain in Asheville were moved to the Inn’s grounds before it opened in 1913. She grew up with the Wolfes. “That bad boy Thomas Wolfe!” she used to say, shaking her head. Yet every year, while visiting us, she would seek out his novels from my father’s numerous bookshelves and read them. She led an interesting life, but it was her quilting and cooking that was of most interest to me.  Spending time with Grandmother was glorious. She told me of our family history. Not all glamorous, but always interesting. I got a picture of the family and of parts of her life as though I had watched a movie. There were stories of  sailing ships, wonderful gardens full of her favorite violets and herbs by the back door, and the house in North Carolina named Bonnie Castle, which burned to the ground amongst the rocks it was built with. The importance of tradition was understood. She was a DAR, and she carefully preserved all that goes with that for my sister and I so that we could also uphold that tradition of representing family.

The times together in the kitchen with her are some of the happiest of my memories.  She cooked from scratch and without written recipes. We wore aprons. Hers (which she brought with her) was always a print of violets. And Grandmother’s favorite quilts, of the ones she made, were ones that included patches with flowers in violet tones. I didn’t learn to quilt much then, but did later. And at that point an additional appreciation of this gentle woman was realized. Her quilts were pieced by hand- many, many small pieces from scraps left over from sewing for her family. Then, she painstakingly quilted them with tiny stitches, in close designs. I never asked her about the naughty Wolfe boy and I have come to regret that. I did ask a multitude questions about cooking, baking and canning. She was never too busy to let me help. My sister and I loved it when she cooked dinner- someone who really cooked! Our mother was a 50’s housewife who adored pearls, cocktail parties, and long cigarette holders. Like in Madmen. Except that my father was a young college professor. But I am wandering.

It was my grandmother who taught me patience in cooking, and maybe thereby infused it into me. We once spent half a day making a fresh coconut cake. Made from a real coconut, drained of it’s milk and grated. I never saw a cake made from a real coconut before. Who knew! We debated whether to put lemon curd between the layers, but didn’t have enough lemons to make lemon curd. People actually made lemon curd- another discovery! That day, we built a towering cake adorned with fuzzy, aromatic coconut gratings. Grandmother baked with no recipes. They were in her head. I tried to memorize what she did- to store it away for later use. Oh yes, I adored the nights she cooked, and the days she baked. Some things, such as pie crusts and biscuits have to be learned standing next to the expert. Feeling the biscuit dough, learning not to twist the biscuit cutter while cutting (thereby assuring a high biscuit), seeing the correct pea-sized rounds that make a flaky pie crust and that the water must be icy…I learned all of this from Grandmother. The woman that my mother knew as “Mama”, who shooed her out of the kitchen, was nothing like the patient Grandmother that my sister and I knew.

I have worked out the closest recipe that I can to what I remember as my grandmother’s coconut cake. Many recipes do not actually put coconut into the cake, but only into the frosting. Margaret Moore Medd’s had both. She is buried next to the love of her life in Arlington National Cemetary, a bit up the hill, in view of the Eternal Flame there. She would have thought that funny. I believe that she would be pleased that I do not shoo my grandchildren out of the kitchen, and that as they become old enough I include them in cooking and baking. Both of my grand daughters love to come to Nana’s to bake. I’m proud of that- I think Grandmother would approve.

Aryanna and AddisonAddison

Here is the recipe that I have come up with from my memory. I hope I have not done her too much of a disservice and that you enjoy it.


Coconut and coconut milk



3  cups flour, sifted before measuring

3 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup butter

1 -1/2 cups sugar

3 eggs, yolks and whites separated

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/8 teaspoon coconut flavoring (optional)

1 cup coconut water (add canned if necessary)

1  1/2 cups freshly grated coconut

1/2 – 3/4 cup raspberry jam, lemon curd, or tart orange marmalade (optional)

Fluffy frosting (recipe below)



Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and lightly flour 2 (8 inch) cake pans. Sift flour with baking soda and salt into a bowl.

In a large bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy. Beat sugar in gradually and continue beating until well mixed.

Beat in egg yolks and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, using a wire whisk or electric mixer, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form when beater is lifted; set aside.

Add the flour mixture to yolk mixture in three additions, alternating with coconut liquid and stirring smooth, ending with a liquid addition.

Stir in 1/4 cup of the flaked coconut. The rest is used on the frosting.

Gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Pour into prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes. Turn out onto wire racks to cool.

Place bottom layer onto cake plate and spread with jam, if using. Spread 1/2 cup fluffy frosting on and top with the other layer of cake.

Frost cake top and sides, then sprinkle with remaining coconut.



3 egg whites

1 1/2 c sugar

5 Tablespoons cold coconut milk

1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter

2 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup grated coconut


Put egg whites, coconut milk, and cream of tarter in top of a double boiler over simmering water.

Beat well to blend, then increase speed of mixer to whip egg whites. Continue beating until soft peaks begin to appear and then gradually add sugar. Add the vanilla.

Beat until firm peaks appear in the frosting, about 7-8 minutes.

Use to frost the coconut cake.



Pineapple Martini

We adore fresh pineapple at my house. And vodka is a favorite alcohol. Combine the two and it’s heavenly!

Recently, while visiting Capital Grill with dear friends, I noticed the perfectly arranged glass decanter of fresh pineapple slices on the bar. When we ordered our cocktails, my friend decided we should try the pineapple infused vodka. Ah! That’s what that was. I had noticed the same architecturally arranged decanter of pineapple slices at Roy’s before.

Let me first say that the pineapple infused vodka made an elegantly simple martini- just shake it in a shaker with ice and strain it into a chilled glass. It tastes wonderful and therefore can be dangerous, as all of those type of drinks can be.  My friend and I decided that it would be simple to make our own infused vodkas, and she assured me that her daughter who had the inside scoop on Capital Grill (shhh!) insists that is all that’s in that decanter-vodka and pineapple.

The next time I was at the market I bought two healthy-sized pineapples. They were not too ripe, but not green. I also brought home two liters of  vodka. I spent a day eyeing the pineapples. Could it really be that simple? I googled it. Yes, indeed, that simple. But then the directions I found shot off in various directions of time required by the infusion like the spaghetti models of hurricane days here in Florida. I decided that ten days was the magic number of days. It seemed like it would require that long for the pineapple to impart the amount of taste to the vodka. I put it in a cool, dark place but checked on it daily to make sure nothing untoward was happening.

Layer the pineapple in the jar

I used a one gallon wide mouth canning jar for two pineapples and two liters of vodka. I didn’t worry about getting each seed out (see the little specks) since I would be straining it later, but I did take the “eyes” off. The layering is done like an offset stack so that there is a maximum amount of pineapple surface in contact with the vodka. You can certainly make smaller amounts. Just be sure to have all the pineapple covered by the vodka. And seal your jar well. Metal containers do not work for this.

Pour the vodka into the jar

Next, pour the vodka over the pineapple in the container until the pineapple is completely covered by liquid. I added a small custard bowl into the top of the jar before sealing so I could be sure that the pineapples were under the vodka. The container must be sealed well. Shake it around just a bit to be sure to dislodge any air bubbles, but not so much as to move the pineapple stack. Save the bottles(s) to decant back into to save your liquor once it’s infused. Now all you have to do is wait the ten days. Check on it every day and jiggle it around to be sure all is well. The vodka will become slightly more yellow but the pineapple will look the same.

Strain the pineapple and liquid into a large bowl

After ten days you are ready to decant the vodka back into your bottles or decorative (well cleaned) containers. Strain the pineapple and liquid into a large bowl. You also have vodka infused pineapple at this point, so you will want to keep it away from the kids. Once it stops dripping liquid into the bowl, you can remove the pineapple to other containers for use later. You can also press the pineapple to remove even more of the vodka and thereby having a stonger pineapple taste to your vodka. 

I froze some to use in the pineapple vodka martinis. I used a funnel to decant it back into bottles  which I plan to keep in the freezer. Well, I will gift some of it too.

Decant the vodka into bottles

 I hope that you will try this. It’s really easy. It makes a great gift, and the martini is wonderful! I promise.

I love to cook and I love my family and friends. It seems like we end up eating or talking about eating, fun activities and craft ideas, and family, when we get together. This page and blog seemed like a natural extension of those things. I live in Valrico, Florida- that’s just outside Tampa, and very near Plant City. I raised four children with my husband and we have five grandchldren. Our house is still a very busy place with all of them coming through, even though only one of our sons currently lives at home.

The title phrase comes from my children. They referred to the music makers they made in preschool from two metallic pie pans, a few dried beans, and a couple of jingle bells as “Jingle Pies”. And the “Starry Skies” are the ones they asked in their prayers to be guided through during their sleep.

My first food job was assisting a pastry chef who had been brought to the United States by the Busch family to create fabulous breads and desserts for their Busch Gardens Tampa Swisse House Restaurant. He left that employ to open his own pastry shop, and that’s where I came to know him and work for him. After watching closely, and tasting a lot, I became the “Danish Girl” at his shop, “Karl’s Konditori”. I left there to go to college but kept the fond memories close. He was the pastry chef who made my gorgeous wedding cake as his gift to me. I discovered then that there is a “forever bond” forged in food and those who work in that industry.

My oldest son had always wanted to go to culinary school, and eventually did. I still do the “Mom” cooking and leave the fancy stuff to him.

Graduation Day


I love to learn recipes, cooking ideas, tips and skills from others in any way I can. I’m always taking classes, seminars, following blogs, reading cookbooks, and watching cooks and chefs on TV and in person. I simply love to cook. I also love sewing and stitching.

I thank you for reading my blog and appreciate it more than you know. I hope that starry skies guide you through your dreams tonight.


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