The best cheese straws in the world!

This family recipe was first published on my blog 6 years ago. Based on the numbers of visits since then, the post has been a constant favorite ever since. If you want to bring something special that’s not hard to make to a holiday party this season, try it out!

Cheese straws are my favorite offering to bring to holiday gatherings. The recipe comes from my maternal grandmother’s family from Orangeburg, South Carolina.  The tradition has been passed down from mother to child for generations. There are cheese straws and then there are these cheese straws, which always get a lot of attention. I’m working on teaching my sons how to make them – they sure like to eat them! The trick is to use the sharpest cheddar cheese you can get and to roll them as thinly as possible.

My grandmother (2nd from left) with the Salley family, in about 1900.

Ingredients: 3 Cups flour, 2 tsp. seasoned salt (I use Lawry’s), 1 tsp. dried mustard, 1 cup butter, 8 oz. very sharp cheddar cheese. Start by mixing the flour, salt and dried mustard in a bowl.

Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter, like you are making pie crust.

Grate the cheddar cheese and stir it in with the flour mixture.

Dribble ice water into the mixture and combine until it sticks together in a doughy consistency. Don’t let it get too soggy!

Divide into balls, handling the dough as little as possible. Then wrap the balls and refrigerate for a few hours.

Roll out the dough balls as thinly as possible and cut in strips with a pastry crimper.

Spread the straws out on a cookie sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. They may take longer to cook, so check them often and switch pans to different racks during baking time.

They don’t take long to cool, so immediately sample a few. Now, put them out and watch them disappear! They can be saved in a tin and make a great gift, too.

Since so many of you’ve enjoyed the recipe over the years, I decided to make a card with the cozy kitchen scene (below) on the front and the recipe for making cheese straws printed on the back. That way, it’s a greeting card (or Christmas card) and recipe card all in one. The Cheese Straws card is available in my shop in packs of 4 or 8.

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leaf crust pie

leafcrustpie1Terry, my cookie making, cake decorating and community sewing project friend gave me some leaf shaped cookie/dough cutters for Christmas. I don’t know the product’s name because I threw out the package and there’s nothing printed on the plastic. Update: see the comments for links to this product. Thanks, readers!

leafcrustpie2They not only cut out the leaf shape, but there’s a press inside that stamps out the leaf design.

leafcrustpie3I cut leaves out of pie crust dough and decorated a blueberry pie top. I usually do a lattice top, but this was more fun.

leafcrustpie4The used the acorn shaped cutter for the last piece of dough, which went in the center.

leafcrustpie5Bake ’til golden brown. Yum, yum!


Turkey (food)

I’ve never seen so many pomegranates! On the streets of Istanbul, crates were full of ripe, red fruit, ready to be squeezed into juice.

The sweets were beautiful to look at.

I loved the patterns, colors and shapes created in the food displays.

In Bodrum, on the southwestern coast, we went to a market and shopped for food to take on our boat voyage. In anticipation of Turkey’s Republic Day, there were flags and pictures of the country’s first president, Ataturk everywhere. He was some handsome dude!

We stopped at a cove and met a family who were closing up their restaurant for the winter season. We watched the mother cook flat bread over an open fire, which she sold to us. What a treat!

Safe in Turkey

Just a quick note to reassure you that we are safe in Turkey, far from the earthquake. A funny thing happened while waiting for our flight to Istanbul in the Paris airport. A blog follower named Nobuco from Columbia (S. America) recognized me when we sat next to each other while waiting for our respective planes. I didn’t think I was noticeable, but she asked, “Are you the blogger who sews?”. One thing I have noticed about women my age outside of the US (or New England), is that there are very few of us who keep our hair naturally gray, so we stand out.

Turkey is an amazing country and I’m taking pictures to share later. We’re eating lots of figs.

And Clementines.

Pocketful of Borders: Little Jack Horner

Little Jack Horner sat in a corner/Eating a Christmas pie/ He put in his thumb and pulled out a plum/ And said, “What a good boy am I.”

Little Jack Horner from “Pocketful of Posies”
I made this illustration toward the end of the three-year Pocketful of Posies project. I was never happy with the original sketch and by the time I started working on it years later, had changed the design entirely. At first, Jack was sitting under a Christmas tree in an interior domestic scene. The next thing I knew, the wall had disappeared and Jack was half way inside and halfway out. He was still sitting with his pie, but he had let in the wintry outside. I never seem to be satisfied with a design, until nature bursts in.

After the artwork was photographed for the book, I stitched a felt border and framed the picture, which is now touring in the Pocketful of Posies Traveling Exhibit.

I like using variegated embroidery floss whenever possible. It adds a range of hues and a vibrancy that solid colored threads lack.

The snow on the roof top and in the sky is made from circular sections cut out of lace. Inside the driftwood house, the area behind Jack and the tree is textured with tiny stitches of different colored threads.

Little Jack Horner from "Pocketful of Posies" 2010

Note: See other posts from the Pocketful of Borders series here.

Shirley’s Thanksgiving Centerpiece

Shirley from Madison, Mississippi sent me these pictures of her wee folk tableau. She said, “At the urging of one of my daughters I’m sending you some photos from our Thanksgiving table decoration. Thanks for the inspiration to make such fun little people.”

I like they way she captured the spirit of Thanksgiving by giving this woman a rolling-pin.  The dolls look comfortable in their natural environment, surrounded by moss, flowers and branches. Great job,  Shirley, and thank you for sharing a part of your Thanksgiving celebration!

She learned how to make these dolls from my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk: Enchanting Projects. It’s rewarding to see how people use the patterns and directions from the book as a spring board to creating their own characters and scenes.

nursery rhyme cookies

My friend Terry and I made nursery rhymes themed cookies ahead of time for the Pocketful of Posies book release party on Sept. 26th at Highfield.  We had a fun time picking shapes that would go with the book from our collections of cookie cutters. Terry is always game for anything to do with cooking or sewing. We’ve worked on many projects together including the Woods Hole Village Quilt, which I wrote about here.

We made sugar cookies…

and gingerbread cookies.

This tree cookie cutter was from my grandmother’s kitchen stuff. It looks like some of the embroidered felt trees in the book.

from Jack & Jill in “Pocketful of Posies”

I especially liked decorating the little houses with squiggles which reminded me of the embroidered doodles on the felt borders I’ve been making for the past few months. We had a lot of cookies to cover with icing, so I squirted quickly and loosely, not worrying about perfection.

There are many houses in the book. This one is from the rhyme “Rain, rain, go away, come again another day”.

Rain, rain go away, from “Pocketful of Posies”

At about midnight, we stopped and loaded the cookies into the freezer, to keep until the party.

Closeups (grapes)

I smelled grapes this morning. Wild Concord grape vines strangle the trees along the bike path and their dark purple fruit is ripening. Women were picking low growing grapes and filling plastic bags. Here are some closeups of grapes in my artwork over an almost 50 year span.

crayon on lined paper, 1960 (age 5)

This pin was made by covering red beads with sheer lavender fabric. Read the story of my pins here.

pin, 1978

The grapes in this fabric relief piece were made the same way as the pin, but about 1/2 the size. I used real curly grape vines. See another detail from “Vineyard Family” here.

detail from “Vineyard Family” 1985

Here’s one from my kitchen faux tiles, which you can see here.

faux tile, 1991

Here’s a scene from Mary Had a Little Lamb, when the lamb was following Mary to school. See other closeups from the book here.

detail from “Mary Had a Little Lamb” 1995

And this is a felt pin from my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk: Enchanting Projects.

felt pin from “Felt Wee Folk” 2003

Note: See other posts in the Close-ups series archive here.