Monday, February 3, 2014

Snow, snow and more snow

The snow just keeps on coming. Share your videos of the snow using your free Tout player on your mobile device. Be sure to use the hashtag #endlesssnow for your video to be included.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

12 Sweets of Christmas recipes

Following are the 12 Sweets of Christmas recipes to accompany our Pinterest board. These treats were submitted by readers, our TownSquare bloggers and Mercury staff. You can vote for your favorite sweet in our online poll below. The votes submitted by Dec. 18 will determine which sweet is featured on our Dec. 19 food page.


Linzer Tarts

This recipe is from the Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012 edition of Parade:

3/4 cup unsalted almonds
1 1/2 cups sifted flour, divided
1/2 cup (1 stick) salted or unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 egg Raspberry jam (apricot jam is also excellent)
Sifted confectioners' sugar, for dusting


1. In a mini-chopper or blender, chop almonds with 1/4 cup flour until fine (should take less than 30 seconds; for a crunchier, nuttier cookie, chop for just 15 to 20 seconds).
2. In a medium bowl, combine nut mixture, remaining flour, butter, confectioners' sugar, zest, and egg. Mix well.
3. Divide dough in half; wrap in plastic. Chill for at least 1/2 hour.
4. Preheat oven to 350°F.
5. Roll out dough halves on a floured surface. Using small round cookie cutters, cut out cookie bottoms and tops. With a patterned cutter (we use a snowflake shape), punch a center hole in tops.
6. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until light gold. Watch carefully. Cool on a wire rack. Spread a thin layer of jam on each bottom cookie; sandwich with tops, pressing gently. Dust with sifted confectioners' sugar.

Date Pinwheel Cookies

Recipe from the 1963 edition of the "Betty Crocker Cooky Book."

1/2 c. shortening (part butter or margarine)
1 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda

3/4 lb. moist, pitted dates
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. water
Heat water in saucepan and stir in sugar and chopped up dates. Stir constantly until slightly thick then remove from heat. Cool.

Wax paper

1. Mix shortening and butter, sugar and egg.
2. Stir together flour and baking soda. Add to egg mixture slowly until thoroughly mixed.
3. Roll out into a rectangle. Spread the date filling on top and roll into a log about 2 1/2 inches in diameter.
4. Wrap in wax paper and chill in the refrigerator until firm. (Usually around 2 hours.)
5. Remove from fridge and cut into rounds. Place on ungreased baking sheets.
6. Bake 8-10 minutes until lightly browned.

Peppermint Bark

16 oz. chopped white chocolate, divided 
1 Tbsp melted shortening
Coarsely chopped peppermint candies


1. Melt 12 oz white chocolate in microwave, stirring often. Add shortening and remaining 4 oz chopped white chocolate. Stir.
 2. Spread on a parchment-lined baking sheet; top with peppermint candies. When hardened, break into pieces.

Snowball Cookies

This recipe was submitted by reader Tina. It's is her favorite holiday cookie.


1/2 lb. butter
5 T. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
1 T. water
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups chopped nuts

1. Cream butter
2. Add sugar, vanilla and water
3. Stir in flour and salt. Add nuts and mix well.
4.  Shape into balls.
5. Bake at 325 for 20 minutes.
6. Roll in powdered sugar.

Holiday Loaf

This recipe was submitted by reader Audra Ross who said, "This is my mom's recipe for Holiday Loaf. Banana bread with chocolate chips is a favorite any time of year. Add some chopped walnuts, ain't nothing wrong with that! And then the maraschino cherries add just the right sweetness and pop of color that make this bread a holiday treat that is perfect for dessert...or breakfast."

1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c.sugar
2 eggs
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 mashed bananas
1/4 c. chopped walnuts
1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/3 c. chopped maraschino cherries
 Cream butter and sugar together (or substitute 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce).

Add the flour,baking soda and salt. Fold in the bananas. Stir in the chopped nuts, cherries and chocolate chips. Pour into a greased 9x5 loaf pan (or 2 mini loaf pans). Bake at 350 for 70-80 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean (40 minutes for mini loaf pans).

Peppermint Parfaits

Submitted by reader Lani Brezina Goins who says these treats are easy, yummy and pretty.

1 package chocolate instant pudding 
10 candy canes 
1 tub of whipped topping, or your own whipped cream 
4 brownies or chocolate cupcakes 
2 tablespoons mint syrup, or a 2 teaspoons mint extract
4 glass mugs or bowls. 

Make the instant pudding according to the directions on the box. 
Put six of the candy canes into a heavy food storage bag, and hit them with a hammer or meat mallet until crushed. 
Using a whisk, mix the mint syrup or extract into the whipped topping.
Crumble up the brownies/cupcakes.
Layer the brownie crumbles, whipped topping, crushed candies and pudding in the mugs. Finish with a layer of whipped topping, and sprinkle with a few of the crushed candies. 
 Stick one of the unbroken candy canes into each mug.

Homemade Italian Cream Sodas

Submitted by TownSquare blogger Bob Garrett.

Club Soda Half & Half 
Torani Syrups 
To make one Italian Cream Soda, you'll need: 
1/2 cup Club Soda 
3 TBSP Torani Syrup
1 TBSP Half & Half 
3 ice cubes whipped cream and a cherry for the top

Add ice cubes to glasses. 
Measure out about 1/2 cup Club Soda and pour into each glass. 
Measure out 3 TBSP Torani syrup.  Add the syrup to the soda.
Just before serving add the 1 TBSP of Half & Half to the soda/ syrup mixture.
Serve with whipped cream and a cherry on top, as well as something to stir with prior to drinking.
Encourage everyone to give it a little stir before drinking so that all the flavors meld.

Tabasco Cheese Crackers (vegan)

Submitted by TownSquare blogger Merrill of Ivy Lane Designs who says "My mom bakes Tabasco cheese cookies for me every Christmas. I hide them from everyone so that I don’t have to share. Sometimes I hide them too well and have to decide, months later, if I should still eat them. That is a sad moment."
This version is vegan because her family recently changed their diet.

1 cup grated sharp cheddar (dairy-free use Daiya shredder cheddar cheese)
1 stick butter (dairy free use Earth Balance)
1 cup RiceKrispies
1 cup flour (gluten-free use King Arthur Flour gluten-free multi-purpose flour)
1 pinch (ouch!) salt
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Allow cheese and butter to come to room temperature. Combine and blend well.
Mix in remaining ingredients until dough forms.
Pinch off walnut-size pieces and roll into balls ... or use your handy dandy cookie scoop.
Bake at 350 for 20 minutes for walnut-size, or 25 to 30 minutes if you use a cookie scoop.

Jewish Apple Cake

This recipe is from Sports Editor Steve Moore, who says his mom "used to make this for us on Christmas morning. Because all Jewish families get together to exchange gifts on Christmas morning, right? Oh, just me…"

½ cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 cups slightly cooked sliced apples, drained
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
½ cup orange or pineapple juice
2 ½ tsp. vanilla extract
3 tsp. baking powder
3 cups flour
½ cup vegetable oil

Mix ¼ cup of the sugar with the cinnamon. Set aside
Have apples ready.
Beat together all other ingredients.
Grease and flour a tube pan (the round pan with ridges and the tube in center).
Put in alternate layers of batter, apples and cinnamon mixture in that order.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour
Let cool 10 minutes before inverting.


A traditional German Christmas cookie. Carved molds or rolling pins are used to make these cookies and they are often elaborately decorated with icing, candies and food dye. This recipe is from Betty Crocker.

2 eggs
1 c. sugar
2 1/4 c. flour
anise seed

Will need a rolling pin and rolling board or mat as well as Springerle molds or presses. 

1. Beat eggs and sugar thoroughly. Stir in flour until a stiff dough is formed. 
2. Refrigerate the dough for 3 to 4 hours.
3. Roll out the dough on a floured board (to prevent sticking) to about 1/8-inch thick.
4. Press stamp or Springerle rolling pin onto dough to emboss the designs. Cut out the squares.
5. Let dry on a floured board after sprinkling on anise seeds.
6. Bake on lightly greased cookie tray at 325 for 12-15 min.

Raspberry Shortbread Candy Cane Cookies

This recipe comes from Cooking Creation blogger Celeste who says these are a spin-off of her favorite Christmas cookie Raspberry Ribbons.


1 c butter, room temperature
1/2 c white sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 c raspberry preserves
White icing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
In a large bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and salt. 
Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture.
Roll out the dough into 1/4-inch thickness. Using a cookie cutter, cut out the candy cane shapes.
Gather the scraps and roll the dough out into 1/4-inch thickness. Cut out more candy cane shapes with the cookies cutter.
Repeat until all of the dough has been used.
Place the cookies on lightly greased baking sheets. Bake for 12 to 17 minutes, or until the bottom edges just begin to brown.
Remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes.
Transfer the cookies to a work surface for decorating.
Pipe the outline of each cookie with white icing. Carefully spread approximately 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of the raspberry preserves in the center of each cookie using a spoon.
This works best when the cookies are still slightly warm.
Pipe zigzag lines on top of the preserves with more white icing.

Gingerbread Cookies

A traditional cut-out cookie. Recipe from Betty Crocker

1/3 c. shortening
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 1/2 c. dark molasses
2/3 c. cold water
7 c. flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. all spice
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
Icing for decoration

Rolling pin and board

Mix shortening sugar and molasses.
Stir in water.
Blend all dry ingredients together. Stir into sugar mixture. Place in fridge to chill.
Roll dough out 1/4 inch thick on a floured board.
Use your favorite cutter. You can make traditional gingerbread men with this recipe.
Cook on lightly greased cookie sheet, keeping them far enough apart so they don't bake together when they spread. Bake 10-12 minutes at 350.
Decorate with icing.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The top 12 sweets of Christmas

Photo by MetroCreativeConnection
For most of us there are sights and sounds that conjure up fond memories of holidays past, but nothing can trigger that nostalgia like the aroma of a favorite holiday sweet. Perhaps it’s your mom’s pineapple upside-down cake, or your grandma’s gingerbread cookies or even your own favorite recipe that has become a family tradition.
The Mercury wants you to share these family culinary treasures with other readers. Submit the recipe for your favorite holiday dessert or treat by emailing it to before Dec. 13. Mercury staff will select 12 finalists which will be posted on our Pinterest page ( ) and featured in a poll on our home page at
The top vote-getter in the poll will be featured on the Dec. 19 food page.

Holiday story time

The Mercury is holding a story time as part of the holiday events happening throughout the month of December in downtown Pottstown from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Media Lab located at 24 N. Hanover St. in Pottstown.

 Special guest readers Mercury Editor Nancy March, Reporter Evan Brandt, TownSquare blogger Mandy March from So Much To Do, So Little Time, and Community Engagement Editor Diane Hoffman will read specially selected holiday-themed books to children and their families during the hour.

Fresh, homemade cookies and hot chocolate will be available for all children in attendance. There will also be a holiday coloring activity for children.

 The Mercury Media Lab is free and open to the public Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and is located inside The Mercury at 24 N. Hanover St. With three computers, a microfilm machine in which to look up archives of The Mercury that go back to 1933 and WiFi for those with their own laptop, the lab is a great place to sit and relax. Coffee and water are available for $1.

The Media Lab is also available to community groups looking for a free space to use. For more information about the Media Lab, call Diane Hoffman at 610-323-3000 ext. 156 or email

Friday, November 16, 2012

Help us raise money for literacy

The Mercury’s Community Media Lab and TownSquare blogging network are raising money for the YWCA’s literacy education program and we could use your help. For every valid name and email on our Literacy Pledge, an anonymous donor is giving $1 to the Pottstown YWCA’s literacy program. It costs you nothing and can change everything for someone wishing to read, learn basic math or obtain their GED or citizenship, all goals the YWCA program helps area residents achieve. You do not need to be an area resident. To sign the pledge, visit To learn more about the Pottstown YWCA literacy program, click here. Our TownSquare community is also getting into the spirit, writing about the importance of being able to read, teaching their children how to read and other important aspects of literacy. Read their blog posts using the links below.

 FOUNDING A FATHER: Helping kids to read
ABOUT 100%: Reading for life
THE DESIGN SLEUTH: Sandy and contemplating literacy
DIGITAL NOTEBOOK: Captains Courageous
DIY FRUGAL: Are you willing to give your name to help adults read?
KNITTED GEMS: Explosion of books
SO MUCH TO DO: Reading opens up a world of information
TAILS OF 2 DOGS: Let’s help the YWCA’s literacy program
THE EDITOR'S DESK: Learning value of education from those who missed out

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

CML open later to help students

Hours of operation for our community media lab, located at 24 N. Hanover St., are changing to accommodate school children who may be looking for a quiet place to study.
The lab, which offers free computers and WiFi, as well as newspaper archives and a lending library, will now be open from 3-6 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday. It will be open its regular hours, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday and Tuesday.
The Community Media Lab is also available as a meeting space for groups, businesses and organizations. For more information on using our lab, email Diane Hoffman, Community Engagement Editor, at

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Bark for Life uses Media Lab for monthly meetings

Bark for Life volunteers setting up for their monthly meeting in The Mercury's Media Lab.

Last night, a group of about 20 Bark for Life volunteers took advantage of our Media Lab and held their monthly meeting here. According to Sue Dudak, Bark for Life organizer and co-author of the TownSquare blog Bark Blog, the space is great for such a meeting.

"We had the space we needed to spread out and have everyone comfortable. There was plenty of room to have our paperwork and things needed for the meeting here (at the Media Lab). We used the counter for snacks. It's great to know that if we need the Internet to check anything, we have it. Parking was good. Everyone at The Mercury was so accommodating. We are so happy to be there."

The next Bark for Life meeting will be held in November. If you're interested in joining Sue and helping the Bark for Life organization, visit their website.

If you are interested in using the Media Lab for your organization's next meeting, contact Community Engagement Editor Diane Hoffman at 610-323-3000 ext. 156 or email. Use of the space is free for the community, but an appointment must be made in advance.