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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Traditional Swedish Christmas Cookie Recipe: Pepparkakor

Do you love Ikea as much as I do?

For me, the cheap, cute, easy to put together furniture and "stuff" is just part of the fun. Every time I go to Ikea, I feel in a small way, like I am back home at Fackelbararnas Bibelskola (Torchbearers Bible School) in Holsby Brunn, Smaland, Sweden.

Christmas at Ikea is especially wonderful.

I'm from Portland, Oregon where snow is rare, even at Christmas. But the one winter I spent in Sweden was like a picture postcard for Christmas. Clear, bright blue skies, hills covered in snowy evergreen trees, and stores filled with gnomes, dala horses, straw stars for your Christmas tree, and of course, pepparkakor.

Right now, my Ikea is filled with the same things!

Not that the store-bought cookies are even remotely as good as Aina's homemade pepparkakar--thin, crisp, sweet and spicy, melt in your mouth ginger cookies that inspired more than one midnight raid on the kitchen. (But I'm not naming names!)

This winter I've been re-living Christmastime in Sweden as I work on Dark and Stormy: A Tillgiven Romantic Mystery. And I bet you can guess what that makes me want...

Aina's Pepperkakor!

Since I can't share a plate of cookies with you over a cup of tea (a delightful tradition called Fika in Sweden) I will share her recipe--straight from my Bible school scrap book! (But with American measurement conversions in parenthesis.)


300g Margarine (1 1/3 C)
300g Corn Syrup (scant 1 C)
300g Sugar (1 1/2 C)
1 T Cinnamon
1 T Cloves
1/2 T Ginger
1 1/2 T Baking Soda
3dl Water (1 1/4 C)
900g  Flour (9 C)

(It's a big batch, since this is the recipe she used to feed the whole school!)

Heat Sugar, margarine and Syrup carefully and stir until smooth.
Add spices and stir it cold.
Stir the soda in water and add it to mixture.
Work in the flour. (Save some for the dough rolling.)
Let the dough sit overnight in the fridge.
Roll out very thin and cut with shaped cookie cutters.

Serve with hot coffee and enjoy a little taste of Christmas in Sweden!

For a first serving of life at the (fictional) Tillgiven Bibelskola, check out Hard to Find: A Tillgiven Romantic Mystery!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas Traditions by Cynthia Hickey

When I was a child, we opened one gift on Christmas Eve. After supper, Dad would jump up and shout, "Christmas Eve gift!" and hand us each one present. I never continued that tradition because, marrying and having a blended family, we celebrated on Christmas Eve anyway. But, we have made some traditions of my own, my husband and I. And heaven help us if we stray from them. The kids are sticklers for tradition. Especially during the holidays.


 Now, although our kids are grown, they still come over on Christmas Eve for a large breakfast. Adults and grandkids open presents and spend the day together. Christmas Day is spent at the house of the oldest child. That tradition of opening on Christmas Eve still runs strong.


On Christmas morning, those of us left here, put something in Jesus’s stocking. We write down on a slip of paper something only we can give Him. This is done before our stockings and gifts. Those papers are never read, being for His eyes only, and replaced each Christmas morning. I can honestly say this is my favorite tradition.                                                 




 This year, we’ve decided to bring back an old favorite. When the kids were young (you had to be at least ten years old and able to be quiet for an hour to participate), we would light a fire, fill a plate with finger foods, and listen to an hour of Christian Christmas carols, after reading from the book of Luke. No Frosty or Rudolph here. All the songs depict the birth of Christ. There is no talking during this hour of music. No demands on anyone. We no longer have a fireplace, so will use Christmas lights and candles.


This tradition has proven to help us relax and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. The door is open to any who want to attend and the music starts exactly at the appointed time. I am very excited to reintroduce this tradition to the grandkids.

Here's something we might serve at our fireside concert.

Chocolate-covered bacon

Cook bacon. Let cool.

Melt dark chocolate (chocolate-chips are fine)

Dip cooled bacon three fourths up into the chocolate.


Pepperoni Bread

 Pizza dough (or buy store bought)

1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
sliced pepperoni

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unroll the bread dough so that it makes a large rectangle. Sprinkle generously with the mozzarella cheese, then top with desired amount of pepperoni. Carefully roll the dough jelly roll style into a loaf and place seam side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.


Merry Christmas. What is your favorite tradition?


 Multi-published and Best-Selling author Cynthia Hickey had three cozy mysteries and two novellas published through Barbour Publishing. Her first mystery, Fudge-Laced Felonies, won first place in the inspirational category of the Great Expectations contest in 2007. Her third cozy, Chocolate-Covered Crime, received a four-star review from Romantic Times. All three cozies have been re-released as ebooks through the MacGregor Literary Agency, along with a new cozy series, all of which stay in the top 50 of Amazon’s ebooks for their genre. She has several historical romances releasing in 2013, 2014, 2015 through Harlequin’s Heartsong Presents, and has sold more than 275,000 copies of her works. She is active on FB, twitter, and Goodreads. She lives in Arizona with her husband, one of their seven children, two dogs and two cats. She has five grandchildren who keep her busy and tell everyone they know that “Nana is a writer”. Visit her website at www.cynthiahickey.com