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Deck The Halls Holiday Home Tours Part I Plus bonus Scotch Shortbread

Merry Christmas from the Schmautzhaus

Merry Christmas from the Schmautzhaus

Welcome to the first annual (hopefully there will be more) “We Call Him Yes!Chef!” Virtual Holiday Home Tour.

I always loved to go on Christmas home tours with my mom.  We would not only be able to see beautiful Christmas decorations and eat some tasty food, but we would be able to see some beautiful homes in the area.  There’s something about going into someone’s home during the holidays that warms my heart.  People usually take great care when they decorate their home for the holidays, bringing out cherished heirlooms or newly bought ornaments that will become heirlooms, and the decorations made by their children.  And there’s frequently the smell of cookies and hot mulled cider in the air.

My mom hosted a couple of Open Houses at Christmas time, which was kind of like a Home Tour, but with only one home.  People would drop by during the day (usually a Sunday), have a little nog, nosh a little and see the Christmas decorations that my mom had put up.  It was a happy time, but it certainly was a lot of work to get to the point where we were relaxed and able to greet our visitors.

Merry Christmas from my early days

Merry Christmas from my early days (note how my dad, brother and I are not looking at the camera)

The above picture was taken quite a while ago and shows me and my brother with my parents.  Since the picture was probably taken in the summer, my mom grabbed that goofy Santa to make it look like we were celebrating Christmas.

Me with Yes!Chef! (left) and my brother

Me with Yes!Chef! (left) and my brother.  Boy, did I have big hair.

Shortly after Yes!Chef! and I got engaged, I brought him to California to meet my parents (we met in Wisconsin…long story).  He had never been to California before, as he was raised in the Mid West.  Both of the above pictures were taken at my parent’s house…the very same house that Yes!Chef! and I are now remodeling so that we can move in.  That’s the other reason he has not been seen around the blog lately.

The other reason that Yes!Chef! hasn’t done a lot of cooking lately, is because he started a new day job in November and has been very busy.  We do apologize for this.

So, I decided to have a Holiday Home Tour.  But remembering how much work it was to get the house ready, cook all the appetizers and make the mulled cider, I decided to invite my friends to join in our

First Ever We Call Him Yes!Chef! Virtual Holiday Home Tour

Home Tours Made with Love

Home Tours Made with Love

I was amazed and quite happy to see how many of my friends wanted to participate.  It brought a few tears to my eyes when I opened my email the past few days and saw the beautiful pictures of decorations that my friends sent me.

So, grab yourself a cookie and some hot chocolate or mulled cider.  Sit yourself down in your comfy-est chair and take a tour with me.

Greeting webFirst up we drop by Martha Christian’s home in the beautiful little town of Columbia, CA.  Columbia is a lovely old Gold Rush town in Tuolumne County, which is south of where I live, in El Dorado County.  If you ever get the chance to visit the Gold Rush area of Northern California, be sure and drop by Columbia.  Thank you, Martha, for sharing your snow and your Christmas greeting.

Time for a cookie

Time for a cookie

Next we travel south to Southern California.  Yes!Chef! and I (and our three children) lived in Southern California for about 10 years before we moved up to Northern California, where I grew up.  We met many great people and have maintained friendship with them throughout the years.  This is one of those families.  May I introduce The Foster Family

Foster Family Greeting

Foster Family Greeting

We moved to Moorpark in the mid 1980′s and bought our first house.  After our first son was born we found a church and met this wonderful family.  Enjoy their Christmas decorations. (As usual, click on the pic for a larger view.)

Foster Family Christmas Village

Foster Family Christmas Village

I love Christmas Villages.  My youngest son is always in charge of setting ours up, but since we are going very low key this year, we did not set it up.  Hopefully, next year in our new home.  Meanwhile I can enjoy the Foster Family Christmas Village. Gotta love that skater!

The Reason for the Season:  Jesus Christ was born

The Reason for the Season: Jesus Christ was born

I love Nativities.  This one is beautiful and I’m especially impressed with the lights and the faux straw.  I wish I would have thought of that.  I may steal that idea for next year.

And, of course, The Foster Family offers us a bit of a refreshment:

Foster Family Pizelles

Foster Family Pizelles

My friend, Mrs. Foster, is Italian so she is born with the knowledge of how to make Pizelles.  Although I love to eat them, they scare me to death.  They look delicate and difficult to make.  I wish she would have sent along the recipe, but it’s probably some sort of family secret.

My family heritage is 1/2 Cornish (my grandfather said we were corny) and 1/2 Scotch (not Scottish…that sounds like sort of from Scotland.)  I have discovered that I don’t really like many foods from Scotland…porridge, Cock-a-leekie soup, Crappit heid, Haggis, etc.  The names are bad enough, but the food…well, let’s just move along.  Although, I do like smoked salmon and Scotch Shortbread (just not together).  My mom, who’s heritage was full blown Scotch, always made Scotch Shortbread for Christmas.  When my kids were young, we made it together because it is very easy to make, they won’t die if they eat the raw dough and it’s really tasty.

All this brings me to the recipe.

Edmond Elf helps make the cookies

Edmond Elf helps make the cookies (the Nutcrackers appear to be shell shocked)

I have discovered that there is no “secret” family recipe for our Scotch Shortbread.  Most recipes for this cookie are pretty much the same except for the type of sugar and the topping.  Simple butter, flour, sugar and vanilla.  That’s it.  My mom always put chocolate on it and sprinkled it with chopped walnuts.  So, that’s how I did it too.  This recipe is enjoyed by pretty much everyone and it is simple to make.  Because there are so few ingredients, make sure they are the best you can find.  I use unsalted butter (good quality), powdered sugar, sifted flour and high quality vanilla.  Also, go for good chocolate.  It makes a difference.

Half nuts and half no nuts

Half nuts and half no nuts

These cookies are great for your Holiday Home Tour, because they aren’t too messy (a little crumbly, but easy to vacuum up) and who doesn’t like them?  Kids like them, although I have found that I need to leave the nuts off if I want my kids to eat them.

A family heirloom plate and heirloom shortbread cookies

A family heirloom plate and heirloom shortbread cookies

So here is the recipe:

Schmautzhaus Scotch Shortbread

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • pinch salt (I like Kosher)
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • a pinch more Kosher salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees
  2. Cream together the softened butter and the powdered sugar.
  3. Add flour and mix at low speed just until mixed.
  4. Add vanilla and salt and mix together until the dough forms a soft ball.
  5. Spread and use hands to pat into an 8×8 pan
  6. Cook for 40 minutes or so until edges just turn brown.
  7. Pour about 1 cup chocolate chips over hot cookies, let melt a bit and then spread until smooth.  Sometimes I will turn off the oven, pour the chips over the cookies and pop back into the oven for a couple of minutes until the chips are melty and easy to spread.
  8. Sprinkle chopped walnuts on top and a little sea salt, if you like.
  9. Cut into squares, about 1- 1 1/2″ big, while still hot and then let cool in the pan.
  10. Once cool, remove from pan and eat.
  11. Store in airtight container, if they aren’t all eaten.

Alternately, you can melt the chocolate chips with about 1-2 tbsp. heavy cream.  Mix until smooth and pour over hot cookies.  Sprinkle with nuts, or coconut.  Cut the cookies into squares and let cool in pan.

You can also leave off the nuts, coconut and even the chocolate (although, I don’t know why you would do that) and eat them plain.

For a real twist, sprinkle with a little sea salt.  Subtly sweet cookies, chocolate and salty.  Yeppers.

Close up of tender shortbread cookies

Close up of tender shortbread cookies

This is not the end of my Holiday Home Tour.  We have some beautiful decorations coming down the pike, so stay tuned.

Enjoy!

Edmond gets involved in the cookie eating business

Edmond gets involved in the cookie eating business

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9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Love the old pics!

    December 17, 2013
  2. Terri Quinn #

    I’ve always used a cookie cutter on my shortbreads, and more recently, Red Mill’s Glutten Free shortbread mix. It’s a pain, I will make them in a pan from now one. And I agree, why would you not put the chocolate on top? Nuts, huh? Speaking of which, I have never put nuts on and Bruce will go nuts for that idea!!!

    See, this tour is a great idea already and I haven’t even baked yet!
    Terri <3

    December 17, 2013
    • When we were growing up nuts in cookies were really not an issue. Raisins were, but most people liked nuts in their cookies. Now, most cookie recipes are sans nuts. Sad, really. I think the cookie cutter cookies are prettier, but in a pan are way easier. It’s a choice.

      December 18, 2013
  3. Lesley #

    I know Martha! She is a nut! We took American Sign Language together and she was always cracking me up! Love her! Anyway, sorry I never got any pics to you. Now I kinda know what you’re looking for though, so maybe next year? Plus finals took over my life for the last two weeks so I was just lucky to get my tree up. Anyway nice job, I’m enjoying the tour!

    December 19, 2013
    • Thank you. Next year be sure and contribute. I may push the recipes a bit more next year.

      December 20, 2013
  4. Such a wonderful idea and post! I love your old photos – particularly the ‘fireplace in July’ one, though the “big hair” one is a close second. Didn’t we all have big hair back then? :)

    December 28, 2013
  5. I wish I would have sent you some pics; but alas it was tested Christmas Season. Well done, and thanks!

    January 9, 2014
    • Thanks, Jules. I wish I could have had some of your pics, too. Next year!

      January 10, 2014

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