Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Yesterday, I talked about my latest book, My Favorite Countess. In this post I’d like to chat a bit about my next book, His Mistletoe Bride. As you might surmise by the title, it’s a Christmas book (it comes out in October 2012). I had a great time writing it, partly because I got to research Christmas customs during the Regency era, which is the period in which my books are set. Much of what we recognize about Christmas didn’t develop until the Victorian period, when Prince Albert brought some of his German holiday traditions with him to England. And then there was Dickens, who also helped develop the modern version of seasonal celebrations in his famous story, A Christmas Carol.

But the folks in the Regency period also loved Christmas and they celebrated it with style, especially when it came to food and drink. One of the most treasured traditions of the time was the partaking of the Wassail Bowl, a beverage we would recognize today as mulled wine. There were many different recipes for Wassail, each family carefully passing down their particular version from one generation to the next.

Here’s a description from antiquarian Geoffrey Gent, describing one passing of the communal bowl:

“When the cloth was removed, the butler brought in a huge silver vessel of rare and curious workmanship, which he placed before the Squire. Its appearance was hailed with acclimation; being the Wassail Bowl, so renowned in Christmas festivity. The contents had been prepared by the Squire himself; alleging that it was too abstruse and complex for the comprehension of an ordinary servant. It was a potation, indeed, that might well make the heart of a toper leap within him; being composed of the richest and raciest of wines, highly spiced and sweetened, with roasted apples bobbing about the surface.”

Rich and racy—sounds good to me!

I may not have my own family recipe for Wassail, but I do have one of my mother’s old Christmas cookie recipes. When I was a kid these cookies were my favorite, and I still love them. Give them a try—I bet you’ll love them too!

Flora’s Russian Tea Balls

Preheat oven to 300F

1 cup softened butter
¼ cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 tablespoon water
2 cups flour (sifted)
1 cup chopped pecans

Cream together the butter, sugar, and vanilla. Stir in water. Add flour and blend thoroughly. Stir in nuts. Roll dough into 1 inch balls. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Cool before removing from sheet. Roll in frosting, then flaked coconut (optional).

4 cups confectioner’s sugar
½ cup milk

And what’s the Christmas Season without a little gift-giving? I’d like to give out another one of my books today: my first historical romance, Mastering The Marquess. Just tell me what your favorite Christmas recipe is. One person who comments will win a copy of the book!

Vanessa Kelly writes Regency-set historical romance for Kensington Zebra, and has been named by Booklist as “one of the new stars of historical romance.” She recently won the Maggie Award for Best Historical Romance for her second book, Sex And The Single Earl. You can find her on the web at: www.vanessakellyauthor.com.


Dr J said...

Ooooooo. . . recipes. Food and romance go together really well. I have two recipes that are Czech specialties that my husband's mother always made--one (hoska) was always at Christmas and it is just marvelous, and the other she made all the time but made more at Christmas--kolaches. I have seen lots of versions of these two, and have actually tried them, but I still think hers are the best--of course. And of course, there's always the two my kids liked the best: snickerdoodles and molasses crinkles. I probably made more cookies when they were growing up than anything as it just seemed that pies and cakes disappeared too fast when compared with the time it took to make them. Cookies didn't last too much longer but at least we could go a day or two without baking. Thanks for the beautiful recipe. My mom used to make these--called them Mexican wedding cakes. I think the Germans have a version as well. Happy Christmas!!

Chrisbails said...

My favorite thing to make around the holidays is pumpkin bars. I got the receipe from my grandma and aunt peggy. They are the best bars ever. With homemade cream cheese frosting. Yummy. I make at thanksgiving every year. I then also take some to work around Christmas. My co-workers co crazy for them. I also have the best/easiest peanut butter cookie receipe.
Here it is:
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
Mix ingredients. Bake at 350-degrees for 8 to 10 minutes. Press with fork. I usually triple the receipe. Makes about 3 to 4 dozen cookies. You can even add a hershey kiss to the center.
Would love to win and read these books. Big fan of Vanessa's books.
Thanks for the giveaway and the chance to win.

Sebrina said...

Sweets are the first thing that comes to mind regarding my favorite recipes. I make a really good pumpkin cheesecake; and usually have to make two of them. And no, that's not because I eat 1 all by myself....lol....the other thing I made for the first time was pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. Those are to die for good. What's funny is I'm not really a pumpkin fan. Plain ole pumpkin pie, nope, won't eat it.
Now if we're talking snacks: make this if you kinda like spicy---> take some jalapenos cut in half and cleaned out. Add some cream cheese to it, slap a lil smokie on top of that, and wrap it in bacon. Toothpick it though so it'll stay together. Bake for about 30-40 mins at 400. Depends on how crispy you like the bacon. Now those, you can't just eat one of!!! :) Enjoy, and tell me if ya like it!

LadyRed said...

Easy Peanut Clusters! So deceptively simple to make and I usually triple the recipe and make a whole slew of them because they disappear quickly!
7 squares white almond bark
6 oz semi sweet chocolate chips (you can add more or less if needed)
2 TBLS CHUNKY peanut butter(IT MUST be chunky or it doesn't come out right for some reason)
1 c (I usually use more) dry roasted peanuts.
Break almond bark into individual squares and place in glass microwave safe bowl. Heat in microwave on high for two minutes at a time and stir after each heat. When almond bark is melted and smooth, stir in chocolate chips a small amount at a time until melted and smooth (this helps if you have a candle warmer you can place the bowl on to keep it from resetting or place the bowl in a larger bowl filled half way with hot water). After bark and chocolate chips are mixed well and completely melted, add the peanut butter and the dry roasted peanuts and mix well. Drop by spoonfuls on to waxed paper, plastic coated paper, foil, or parchment and place in a cool location to set up.
These things are SOOO yummy, I'd make some myself this year but me and hubby are dieting (I know, who diets during the holidays? LOL!) and we just snarfed down 8 doz chocolate chip cookies in a little over a week (we had some help eating them though, we didn't eat them ALL ourselves ;-) )! Personally I would LOVE to find a really good wassail recipe because it is REALLY GOOD!!!

Anonymous said...

My Mom always made overnight mini meringues with chocolate chips colored red and green.

Sue P.

Vanessa Kelly said...

Y'all are making me very hungry!

catslady said...

Our family has always made a special thumb print cookie. Instead of the usual vanilla flavoring, we use almond extract. The center is always grape jelly. We brush beaten egg whites on top to make them shine and if desired, sprinkle nuts on top. They're a lot of work but worth it.

Jeanne M said...

Vanessa -

My family's favorite receipe is for Italian wine biscuits! I started making them when my two sons were teething as toddlers!

The trick when you make them is if you want them soft to put them in Tupperware right out of the oven. If you like them hard leave them on a wire rack to cool.

Vanessa, don't worry, I don't have the receipe with me but I'll send it to you somehow. Once the boys got older they loved helping to make Mom make them and have the first one out of the oven.

No need to worry if you have little ones or grandchildren becasue the alcohol in the wine evaporates when you bake them - just be careful of nibbling too much of the dough (no eggs but there is all the wine!).

Blodeuedd said...

Do not ask me to translate it ;) But it is this recipe for a cake that taste like gingerbread men dough, so freaking yummy :D

Vanessa Kelly said...

Oh, Jeanne! Italian wine biscuits! How cool. My Italian granny used to make homemade biscotti, which the men used to dip into the port wine.

All these recipes sound so good!

JessS said...

Okay I don't really know any Christmas recipes, we have different stuff each year, and seeing as I live in the southern hemisphere and Christmas is in the middle of summer, usually it's stuff that doesn't involve much cooking, ie not warm food. Last year we had this really awesome half-frozen chocolate moose, with smarties in it. It was delicious, and brilliant because it was kind of warm. Thanks for the giveaway!


Barbara said...

Sweet and simple...shortbread cookies! Yum, yum!


Tracy said...

The winner of the Mastering the Marquess giveaway is:



I will forward your email info to Vanessa and she will be in contact with you.

Sebrina said...

Thank you so much Tracy :)

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