Oh, the sweet smells of Christmas! There are so many I can’t decide which one is my favorite. Right now I smell gingerbread cookies, and it is overwhelming because Val just took a batch out of the oven. Gingerbread might be my favorite. I can’t decide if it’s the molasses, the brown sugar, or the spice, that makes me salivate in anticipation. The cinnamon candies are pretty special as well as the simple white frosting Val uses to complete these culinary masterpieces. Each little man is a work of art. Work of art or no, if he wanders within my reach he is dog food.
I hear that hot cocoa is very good with cookies. I can’t give a personal recommendation with regard to the taste because chocolate is very bad for dogs, and so I have never been allowed even a taste. The smell on the other hand is very nice. Although Val will never be known for her cooking skills, every once in a while she makes an attempt at a rendition of Martha Stewart. She tried making the hot cocoa using 100% natural unsweetened cacao, whole milk, cane sugar, and pure vanilla extract. It smelled nice – I’ll give her that, but I knew right away it was a failure by the looks on the faces of the kids. “Don’t you have any Swiss Miss,” they asked.
One thing she almost never fails at is the Christmas caramels. That is an amazing fact because they do take a certain amount of skill. The ingredients must be added in order, and cooked on the stovetop to firm ball stage which is 245 degrees on the candy thermometer. After the sweetened condensed milk is added, the mixture must be stirred continuously until it reaches the sublime 245. Next stir in the vanilla – Val only uses the pure vanilla extract and complains each time about the cost. She pours the completed concoction into a dish she has used for this purpose for 50 years – or so she says. Then the stuff cools and firms up. Now comes my favorite part…the cutting and wrapping. I position myself under the table and out of the way. I am on high alert during this time in the process because cutting the caramels in little squares and then wrapping them in wax paper sometimes results in one of those little sweets getting away from Val and landing on the floor. If I am quick enough I can get to it before Val and YUM!
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without sugar cookies. This is where Val is at her best. She knows how to make them from scratch. She has tried various recipes, but why would anyone go to all that trouble when you can buy them from Gordon’s all cut out and ready to pop in the oven. She tells the kids it’s Grandma Gordon’s recipe. They are not sure who Grandma Gordon is as they have never met her, but they do like her cookies so they don’t ask many questions. Anything with frosting on it is good, so add some canned frosting and colored sugar or sprinkles and done. The sham continues because she sends the kids in Ohio baked undecorated cookies, and she includes in the box the frosting and sprinkles with a note telling them that this is their own do-it-yourself cookie decorating kit. She has no shame.
The smell of what humans call party mix is not sweet, but the smell is another seasonal favorite. Anytime you add butter, garlic, and Worcestershire you have a smell that will make your mouth water for sure. Party mix is Dave’s area of expertise. This has something to do with a batch Val was making being burned beyond recognition some years ago. All that butter, mixed nuts, and cereal costs too much to be burned up by Val, so Dave took over. If I venture out for a stroll around the yard and come back in to the smell of party mix – BOOM – I’m hungry. If I sit by Val when she is snacking I can usually get some. I think I like the nuts the best.
Val and Dave have human children that are all grown up and have homes of their own. They all have their own holiday favorites, some new and some old. I guess that is the way with all humans. My point of view is that I am the luckiest beagle around, because with or without all these goodies my human pack loves me, and cuddles me, and cares for me. Who could ask for more?