Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas Eve 2011

Another Christmas has come and gone and even with all the changes to our "traditional" Christmas that went on this year, we probably had one of the best Christmas' ever.  Christmas Eve is typically spent at the ILs but this year, since my SIL has just sold her house and she wanted one last memory in it, we held it at her house.  Which for us was more convenient being as she is/was only about 2 miles  from us. We also shook things up a bit by attending the family service at our church vs the mass at the ILs Catholic church.   Oh and my sister being wheeled into surgery in Washington State to remove her hip.  That's not typical for our Christmas Eve celebrations. Those were the only big changes this year.

The rest?  The massive quantities of appetizers?  Check!  The arrival of the Santa bag?  Check! The cousins' gift exchange? Check!  The white elephant adult exchange? Check!  The only thing missing this year was snow.  And while I would have LOVED to have a huge storm howling outside, I knew that such a storm means that someone has to keep the roads safe, and unfortunately away from HIS family on Christmas.  So, I willingly sacrifice snow. (yes...as if I have a say in that anyhow).

Since I had already made my cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning and my Creme Brulee for Christmas dinner dessert, there wasn't really that much for me to do Christmas Eve morning.  I had to pick up oldest daughter from a sleepover and then just gather up all that we would need for a day at the SILs.  The coordinating apparel colors (for which I am eternally grateful to my family for putting up with this little idiosyncrasy of mine) for this year were black and gray and none of the girls chose curls for Christmas this year...a win-win for me!  We stopped at friends to have a Christmas Eve afternoon drink with friends before hauling the family over to the SILs.
LUCKILY, this year, I got to be a party to the making of the TRADITIONAL Tom and Jerry's that are a staple every Christmas Eve.  If you have never had a Tom and Jerry, let me just say, you are missing out.  I missed out my first 29 years of life and have spent the rest making up for it!  It is sorta like a warm egg nog and before you groan and say YUCK, I suggest you give it a try.  I looked at many recipes and found that often people use warm milk in theirs.  We don't.  The recipe goes like this:
Tom and Jerry's
12 warm eggs separated
1 3/4 lb powdered sugar (Yes that's POUNDS not cups)
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
3-5 drops of cinnamon oil
5 shakes nutmeg
Beat warm egg whites for 5 minutes.  Slowly add 1 lb powdered sugar to egg whites. Add cream of tartar and baking soda. Continue to beat for 15 minutes.
In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks for 5 minutes.
Add 3/4 lb powdered sugar and beat for NO MORE than 15 minutes (too much beating will cause the yolks to become hard and difficult to combine with egg whites).
Slowly fold in egg yolks into egg whites adding 3-5 drops of cinnamon oil (NOTE...this is NOT extract.  You want OIL.  A cooking store will carry this) and 5 shakes of nutmeg.
Mix/fold slowly so as not to lose your egg white volume but making sure the batter is uniform in color.  Put batter into pretty punch bowl and sprinkle the top with nutmeg.
To serve, place 1 1/2 heaping Tbs batter into a mug.  Add 1/2 oz of brandy (or more...I won't watch) and 1/2 oz of rum (samsies).  Fill remainder of cup with simmering hot water and mix well. Sprinkle with an additional shake of nutmeg and enjoy.
Then, we all packed up and headed to church.  It was a joy not to have to arrive 1 1/2 hours in advance in order that the family get to sit together.  We arrived about 20 minutes before the service began and easily found seats for all 21 of us.  It was a family service that told the story of Jesus' birth through  the biblical verses acted out by children.  What could be more perfect?  And entertaining.  You just never know what will happen with children.  Pastor Mike's short sermon at the end left me filled with hope.

Back to the SILs for what seemed to be a 6 hour long food orgy.  I tried to spread mine out throughout the evening.  There were meatballs and shrimp.  There was a pumpkin butter and cheese.  I made a spinach dip but I think the girls devoured that before church.  There was a hot artichoke dip and a sushi platter.  I made bruschetta and guess what?  The girls devoured that too.  Then I popped into the oven meat candy (that's what I call bacon wrapped smokies topped with brown sugar and baked).  My nephew made his famous wings.  My SIL showed off her culinary expertise by making sausage and mushroom canapes that were delicious.  My final appetizer was Martha Stewart's Upside Down Mushroom Tartlets but made them in a regular muffin tin, making them a bit more appetizer sized...a bit.

In between the appetizers, my daughter and nieces took part in a fashion show of sorts.  My oldest niece still had all her "formal" dresses from her high school years and offered them to the girls.  We got to see each of them in all the dresses.  So do you:
And yes, I can answer the question that is burning in your mind:  he has 2, one's a 40, the other a 45.  FYI.

This is usually the time Santa arrives and drops off his goodie filled bag, which somehow, magically (because, DUH, it's Santa) makes it back to Santa for next year.  This when the fun really begins. The youngest (17 and under) do a gift exchange by drawing names.  There are 10 of them.  Then they get their gifts from their grandparents and give their gifts to their grandparents.  Up next:  adult white elephant exchange.  This started out 2 years ago after we had done it with friends and had a ball.  But instead of trying to find the ugliest, pointless gift (clown), we have upped the ante as it were and try to give the gift that everyone wants which makes the opening so much more fun.  Our gifts, in keeping with the aforementioned theme were:  a car emergency kit and a floating bobber-cooler.  The gifts we received:  a box full of Leinies stuff and a box with a pound of Starbucks coffee and a box of Oregon Chai.  One of the funniest gifts, however, was a can of:
Not something you see in most local grocery stores.  The evening wound down and we were soon  packing up and heading home.

Home...where the Christmas adventure would continue...

Friday, December 23, 2011

What are you, TWELVE?

I guess I should fess up and let y'all know that I am not typically one to rush out and spend money on myself.  Yes, I'll give you moment to absorb that.  It took me forever to accept that it was OK for me to spend more than $20 on a pair of jeans, especially ones that fit.  I usually buy most of my clothes off the clearance rack.  Yeah yeah, I hear you thinking, tell us something we don't know.

So a couple years ago, I was browsing the clearance rack at Kohls (SHOCK) in the shoe department and I ran across a pair of shoes in the juniors section.  They were  Union Bay and sorta like Doc Martin knockoffs (and NO, I have never owned Doc Martin either).  For giggles I tried them on and was surprised at three things: 1.  they fit.  I have wide feet and shoes rarely fit 2. they were comfortable.  and 3. they made my enormous feet looks small.  I figured for $10 why not.  They became my favorite shoe for winter mostly because of the waffle stomping  sole which gave me traction in snow.

Well, over the past couple years the sole has split in in MN that isn't really a good thing.  Especially in winter.  Then the heel started pulling away from the shoe (only really noticeable when I was driving).  I figured I got my $10 out of them and started looking for  a new pair.  My oldest daughter was very happy as she said they looked butch to her.  I think referencing something similar to Sandra Bullock's line in Miss  Congeniality..."I get these made special by the guy who put the tattoo on my a$$".

So, I was shopping at Famous Footwear (where I never buy for me, only for the kids) with their buy one get one half off and an additional 20% off coupon and I found  a pair of shoes that were pretty similar to what I was currently wearing.  I got boots for the youngest and the shoes for me, feeling all proud.  I even put them on in the car and wore them the rest of the day.  They are REALLY comfortable.  No breaking in needed.

It took 2 days (the 48 hour rule) to for anyone to notice but they did while I was washing dishes and all the kids were in the kitchen.  My oldest daughter commented that YES, they looked like the old ones...still butch and turned to my son for confirmation.

(not that I frequently turn to my son for fashion advice)

He replied..."Are those Sketchers?  What are you, TWELVE?"

What does a forty something mother say to that?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

We Interrupt your Holiday Happiness for a Short Christmas Whine

I love Christmas.  Yes, Christmas.  Not the "Holiday Season" but Christmas.  I love everything about it.  I love the shopping, the baking, the shopping, the wrapping, the shopping, the eating, the shopping, the family memories.  Did I mention shopping?  Yeah, well, I love that too.  Best of all, I love sitting at church and being FULLY reminded of what the whole season is about: the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  I love the WHOLE story.

What I don't love is that I am so NOT a planner.  I fly by the seat of my pants and, in doing so, I destroy my Norman Rockwell-esque vision of what our Christmas will look like by adding to my own stress.

As I cross things off my internal list (because let's face it, if I actually MADE a physical list, I'd leave it at home), I start to feel the stress dissipate.  For example,  I had my step-mom's gift bought 2 weeks ago, but it has been sitting in a bag waiting for me to put it together, box it, wrap it and mail it out.  BUT, I put off putting it together, boxing it, wrapping it, because when I mailed it out I had intended on sending our Christmas card and newsletter which were not done (trying to get  4 kids' pictures when they are moving in different directions at any given time which means I really need to learn how to photo shop people into pics). I finally got it boxed up, wrapped and sent, without the card (I'll spend the $.45 to send it separately) and VOILA...stress level...less.  But you see my dilemma right?  I'm trying to be cost effective by putting all the items in the same box going out.  Or time effective by gathering up all the gifts (which still are not ALL purchased but I'm almost there) and boxing and wrapping at one time so that I only have the wrapping trappings out once instead of dragging it out multiple times.    Or shopping effective, which is made SO much more fun when the kids' wish list changes daily/hourly.  Yeah, I can hear you now thinking "Good Luck with THAT".  I think you can figure out, or at least understand why I'm a bit stressed.

Now, add to that, my two teenage girls who run with gangs of girls.  The LOUD variety.  Each has about 6 friends in their "gang".  Now, the younger of the two girls, her gang decided on doing a secret Santa, which I applauded.  Once the secret Santa drawing occurred, they all...wait for it...went and bought gifts for everyone.  I'll give you a moment to scratch your head on that one.  Of course, she had basketball on almost every Saturday/Sunday this month and this past Sunday, the Vikings Game followed by Holidazzle.  Evenings are spent driving kids to various activities (church, basketball, dance) so that wasn't an option. The procurement of said gifts fell squarely on my lap.  She did come up with a nice idea for her "bff" and ever the helpful mother I offered to help her make a fleece blanket.  So yesterday, while on the floor with 4 yards of fleece, box of long pins, a rotary cutter, a rubber mat and a measured straight edge, I asked my son to please stuff a dirty sock in my mouth if I should ever open it to volunteer in such a manner.  It's done, it just needs to be tied, which she will do tomorrow (can you say Mother's not the only one who cuts things close?  I knew you could.)  The rest of the gifts were great finds (on my part).  
My older daughter went the simple route by buying (or having ME buy) frames and she filled them (or I sent the pictures in for printing, paid and picked them up) with cute pics of her and the recipient.  OH, but of course she has two girls in her gaggle for whom she is CLOSER so she had to do something EXTRA for them.  Extra for one meant her making a homemade hot chocolate mix (thinking of course that it would be inexpensive...we could have flown to San Francisco and had hot chocolate on Pier 39 for the actual cost*).

Please, don't' get me wrong.  I am not against these girls giving gifts.  Nor do I mind doing or helping with the shopping.  What I have problems with is the lack of appreciation for the effort I go through for them and the fact that it never seems to be enough (for them).  I really do think they are at an age where they should realize that I have made an effort on their behalf and behave accordingly.  They don't. And this makes me sad (which adds to my stress because I don't WANT to be sad).

My son isn't a whole lot better, although I give him credit for doing at least his girlfriend shopping on his own, as he threw a gift bag, a baby shower one, at me because I happened to comment, "What are you putting in that baby shower bag?"  Apparently boys being boys don't recognize pastel color bags without the words "Congratulations on your New Baby" as being inappropriate wrapping for one's girlfriend at Christmas.  And of course they were exchanging gifts later that day so the opportunity to purchase a large enough bag was gone. (YES...I see the similarities here too).

My youngest has remained a bit above the gift giving fray but we've had our own struggles with her completing her homework on time and as a result suffering the consequences.  In case you haven't read somewhere in my blog, I AM NOT A HOVER PARENT.  She, however, is making me play one in her life.

My whine wouldn't be complete unless I referenced the husband, who has been very good at decreasing my stress level by calmly rubbing my back while stating "Gee, you sure seem to have put everything off til the last minute this year.  You're just going to have to find the time to get it** all done."  Brings a smile to your face doesn't it, to have that kind of emotional support?

And finally, there is my family. We are pretty spread out and I don't get to see them much.  It used to be my dad came here for Christmas because it was easiest for him to do so but his health has been tenuous the past few years and the trip would be difficult at best.  This year he is dealing with his step-daughters who are all dealing with a variety of health issues, from auto-immune disease to cancer so my step mom has her hands full, bless her heart.  My only sister was hospitalized last week with an infection and they found out late last week that the infection had entered her prosthesis hip.  She is in KY but had her hip replaced by a surgeon in WA and would prefer to be under his care (her boyfriend is in WA) but the hospital in KY has given her such a runaround that she finally released herself this morning, after 9 days, AMA and is (hopefully by now) winging her way to WA where, when she lands, she will go straight to the ER.  Her words..."do not pass go, do not collect $200".  One of the options that were bandied about was that I would fly to KY and assist in getting her to WA, but apparently her boyfriend did the honors (THANK-YOU BRUCE!!!  But I WOULD have done it.  In a heartbeat.)  I bring this up only to show it's not just the normal every day stress of the season.  I DO have a few other things on my plate.

My purpose in writing?  I think a little catharsis.  I sometimes find that if I can just release what's bothering me, I can get myself in a better frame of mind.  Most people don't want to hear about the downers of the season, as if you don't say anything about it, it magically goes away.  And guess what?  Yeah.  It helped.  So now I'm going to put on a happy face, finish my gift shopping, do my grocery shopping, do a little more baking (sadly, I have realized I will NOT be completing 12 cookies of Christmas, BUT...I will give you links to additional cookies I have done that will work in a pinch).  I'll call my sister to see if she's made it safely to WA and is all ensconced in a nice comfy hospital bed.

I'm almost there.  Actually, when I think about not having bought into (mostly because my kids are too old, Praise the Lord) the Elf on a Shelf bull$hit, that would not only add to my stress but probably put me in a straight jacket, I am TRULY able to see how thankful and blessed I really am.

I have 4 days left.  I'll make the best of them.

But for now, I'll send you back to your regularly scheduled Christmas merry making.

*that was a hyperbole.  Sorta.
**it=all  Christmas shopping for my family and his, all the wrapping for my family(which needs to be mailed) and his, the Christmas card pictures taken, sent in, ordered (he DID pick them up), the newsletter written, printed up, stuffed in with the Christmas card, the baking done, the groceries shopped for, the appetizers made for Christmas Eve with his family, the Christmas dinner he waits all year for planned and everything needed for that purchased

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Five GOLDEN Treats! Peanut Butter Blossoms

I lived a cookie deprived life up until I was in my mid 20s.  Mom wasn't much of a baker and since the family seemed OK with Archway cookies, that is typically what we had.  I still remember the first time I had Peanut Butter Blossoms when I was working at Lockheed in Sunnyvale and I prevailed upon the baker (Jane...DANG, I'm good, although I will say, it took me a while to remember her name) for the recipe.  I'm sure there are a zillion out there but this recipe is easy and everyone loves it, so I stick with it.  I think you'll love it too:
Peanut Butter Blossoms (makes about 4 dozen cookies)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup shortening (I used butter flavor crisco)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
2 Tbs milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
Sift flour, soda and salt together and set aside.
Cream peanut butter and shortening until well mixed then add sugars.  When well creamed, add egg and mix well, vanilla and mix well, and milk and mix well.  Add dry ingredients and mix well.  You should have a fairly stiff dough that looks like this:
Roll dough into 1 in balls (I use the smallest pampered chef scoop) and roll in sugar (for the first time, I used vanilla sugar, only because I wanted to see if you could taste the subtle vanilla flavor.  You can.  Plain granulated sugar is fine):
Then place the dough on those awesome heavy aluminum baking sheets you rushed out to get.  You DID rush out and got them right?  If not, when you finally break down and do, you'll be kicking yourself for not having gotten them the first time I suggested it.
Bake in a 375 preheated oven for 8 minutes then remove and the cookies, which, no are NOT done yet will look like this:
Ever so gently, place a Hershey's kiss (after it's been defoiled of course) gently in the center of each each cookie and press down.  Return pan to oven for another 2-4 minutes.  Remove and let cool slightly on pan.  IF you used that awesome aluminum cookie sheet, the cookies will pop right off with a slight nudge.  If not, well...
End result are a plateful of these peanutbuttery goodnesses:
I'll bet your checking your cabinets to see if you have some Hershey's Kisses aren't you?


Monday, December 19, 2011

Song #4

OK, I AM seeing a bit of a theme going on in my tastes.  I believe it is because I was raised by  parents who LOVED music, but most specifically, jazz. While few people my age have an appreciation of it, it will remain one of my favorite types.
Today's favorite always brings to mind Catwoman from the original Batman TV series.  Because that is who is singing.  Eartha Kitt does Santa Baby and there is NO.FREAKIN'.WAY Madonna's version comes in the same realm as Eartha.  
Santa Baby by Eartha Kitt on Grooveshark

Holidazzle 2011

Last night was the final night of the Minneapolis Holidazzle parade.  We hadn't done the parade in years, mostly because it is either too cold, or it's snowing, or it's freezing rain.  Not ideal conditions by any stretch but then add 4 children into the mix and you have a recipe for disaster.  But we have had a little break in the weather and friends suggested we go.  When we asked the kids, they had zero recollection of ever going (see...those memories of frozen feet, fighting for a spot on a skyway  in huge crowds are forever burned into my memory) so away we went.
Actually, we went down in shifts because the husband and middle daughter had the opportunity to go to the Vikings game.   AND passes to the Gridiron club.  That's a once in a lifetime opportunity for an adult so she'll have quite the story to tell in school today.  We met up with the boys with the rest of the kids (minus the boy) at Rock Bottom Brewery for dinner before the parade then walked the 2 blocks to Nicolett Mall and LaSalle and managed to find a nice little square for the kids to sit until the parade started.

The husband went to Target and bought a giant box of candy canes and distributed them to everyone around us.

Luckily we didn't have too long to wait before the parade started:
And it really doesn't go on for very long, maybe 20-25 minutes.  I ended up moving back so little kids could see but I managed to get a few of the fun floats (I missed the circus train :-( ) like Pinocchio:
Hansel and Gretel:

The Nutcracker:
And of course Santa:

We could not have asked for a better night.  It was clear low 40s, no snow, no rain.  Just perfect.  I hope this is one of those memories that last them because I'm not sure if the weather will cooperate again.  EVER.

And I'm too old for cold wet feet.  Just sayin'.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Song #3

My husband will hate me for this but I love it.  Frank Sinatra doing Jingle Bells.  A Jolly Christmas Jingle Bells.  Yeah.  It's different.  But I like it.
A jolly christmas jingle bells by Frank Sinatra on Grooveshark


Treat #4

Nope, today's post is not a cookie but it is just as good if not better than a cookie.  And to think I made it well into my adult life before I had ever tried it.  It=Peppermint Bark.  Just a couple years ago my SIL introduced me to Peppermint Bark and I was HOOKED.  But not just ANY peppermint bark.  William-Sonoma Peppermint Bark.  OH YES...there is a difference.  However, I think I've said (repeatedly) that I am cheap and sometimes (like in the above link) they're sold out.  But  mostly I'm cheap.  So I did what everyone does.  HELLO Bing.  And when you put in the above words WITH recipe, well, one pops up.  A recipe that is.  So, I tried it and Ba-da BING!  Perfection.

Peppermint Bark
12 oz chocolate chips (fairly good quality...best to use semi-sweet)
12 oz white chocolate  (look at pkg and make sure it has cocoa in it, I could only find Ghiradelli bars, the others were only vanilla chips.  So I used 3- 4 oz bars)
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candies (I use candy canes, smashed with a mallet)
 Line a 9x13 pan with foil and spray.  Spread semi sweet chocolate chips over foil
and place in a 250 degree oven for 5 minutes til chocolate is melted.  Smooth with an offset spatula and cool until firm (about 20 min or so in fridge). 
Melt white chocolate  in a double boiler or in a metal bowl over simmering water (don’t let bottom of bowl touch water), until chocolate is almost melted. You can use your microwave for this if you’re brave but be CAREFUL or your chocolate will seize!
Remove bowl from water and stir until completely melted, stirring in extract. Let cool a little bit so it doesn’t melt the chocolate layer when you pour it on top. Pour this over chocolate layer, and, working quickly, spread to cover.
Sprinkle with crushed candy.
When it's all done, you will want to hide it.  Because EVERYONE will want a piece and it'll be gone before you can say "Bob's your uncle" (by the way, he is).  Might as well hit William-Sonoma and buy it.  OR you hide it.  The choice is yours.  Choose wisely Grasshopper.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Song #2

The next version of Christmas songs:  Do You Hear What I Hear?  by Carrie Underwood.  My husband turned me onto her (he obviously had already been turned on ;-) ):
Do You Hear What I Hear by Carrie Underwood on Grooveshark


Friday, December 16, 2011

What is YOUR Favorite?

Everyone has a favorite version of a song.  And especially Christmas songs, because these seem to be remade with regular frequency.  So, I decided that these last 9 days (SHOCKED aren't you?  Yes...there are only 9 days til Christmas), I'm going to post my favorite versions of Christmas songs.
First one is Baby, It's Cold Outside...my favorite version is Zooey Deschanel/Leon Redbone from Elf.  One of the reasons why I like this version so much is because, unlike the Dean Martin, this version isn't about one voice (Dean's) but rather it is a cool combination of both male and female parts and you can hear both sides.
Never heard it...well...this is your lucky day.
Baby, It's Cold Outside by Zooey Deschanel on Grooveshark

Sugah.....Ah, Honey, Honey Cookie #3

My mom never made sugar cookies, well, not the kind you see today.  She would make her version (or recipe) that were a sour milk cookie with a dough that you rolled out.  I remember making them once, then staying up really late (I think I was in HS) by myself to decorate them.  What I remember most was that they were a lot of work to decorate.

Then, with the birth of my middle daughter, co-workers sent me a cookie bouquet.  OMG did I ever love those cookies and thought, I need to make these.  Of course, I recognize my limitations with regard to how they would look* but I still thought I could get close.  And as luck would have it, Ladies Home Journal happened to put a recipe in one of their magazines for a Soft Sugar Cookie. Right up my alley.  Here it is:

1 cup butter softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp grated orange zest
4 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
8 ounces sour cream (I use lite)
Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar, beating 1-2 minutes).  Add eggs, vanilla and orange zest and mix well.  Add in flour mixture alternately with sour cream scraping the bowl often until well mixed.  Divide dough into 3 equal portions, wrap in plastic and refrigerate until firm (several hours).  Note...this dough is VERY soft when it warms so work with it quickly and be sure to  keep your surface well floured.  It's the softness of the dough that makes the cookie so tender so working with it quickly helps you NOT to incorporate too much flour.
Heat oven to 400.  On lightly floured surface roll out dough one portion at a time, keeping the remainder refrigerated, to 1/4 in thickness.  Cut with cookie cutters, place on cookie sheet (those AWESOME aluminum ones you went out and bought from Sams Club because you NEEDED good cookie sheets) 1 inch apart.  If you are NOT decorating with frosting, you can sprinkle with colored sugar and bake for 6-9 minutes until edges start to turn golden brown.  Let cool slightly on pan before removing to rack to cool completely.

Now, I will be up front and honest when I say, I love watching Martha Stewart especially when she works with Royal Icing, BUT, that stuff scares the sh!t out of me.  I have never tried it either, but it does.  So one day I went searching for a recipe that was similar and came across Toba Garrett's Glace.  It's super easy to make and to work with:
1 lb confectioners (powdered) sugar
3/8 cup milk (I use skim)
3/8 cup corn syrup
flavoring and colors (I actually use concentrated food gel/paste to color)

Mix all together well.
Now, what I do is I found these squeeze bottles at Walmart and bought a bunch at $.50 each and fill those with the icing.  It makes it easy to control where it goes.  If you get your icing to the right consistancy, it will not drip off the cookie.  I use the same process as Martha (just a little more ghetto) by outlining the cookie then flooding it (although I have found that using the tip of the bottle to move the icing around allows you not to over flood and the icing will stay on the cookie).  Sometimes I'll add colored sugars, sprinkles, or even additional colors and take a tooth pick and drag it through the cookie to create some fun designs.  Here are my girls (and her buddy) decorating:
 ENJOY...I always do.

*oddly, in only a few areas do I really care about looks.  And cookies seem to be one of them.  I've had to learn to let go.  Not an easy task but then the alternative is me being up until 2am decorating cookies.  I've decided I like my sleep more than pretty cookies.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

This Just In...Boiling Water is HOT!

Warning....picture to follow is pretty gross.  You can decide for yourself if you wish to continue.  So, this past Sunday, the boy was making his own dinner of Ramen noodles.  Well, he was doing what any 17 year old boy would do, he was eating his dessert of homemade vanilla bean cheesecake FIRST and he allowed his water for his "entree" to boil rapidly.  He made his noodles and was pouring it into a bowl while holding the bowl over the sink* and water/broth sloshed over the rim of the bowl and onto his left hand.  He called me and I told him to do what I knew to do for burns...run it under cold water to cool down the burn as quickly as possible.   I got him a cup of ice water for him to submerge his fingers in. He did so but he claimed to be in A LOT of pain.  Now, ever the sympathetic mother who rushes to console my children for all their bumps and bruises *pause for those who know me to stop laughing*, I said C'mon Bud, it's a burn, it hurts.  I get it.  Man up.**  I did get him a super strong pain reliever so that he could sleep and I allowed him to miss his first hour the next day when he left a note for me that he didn't get to sleep until late and could he miss his study hall in the morning. (see...I'm not COMPLETELY heartless).  He had wrapped his pinky, ring and middle finger for the night and for Monday.  He said that his ring finger was all shiny but somewhat numb.  Tuesday it blistered, he drained the blister then pulled at the skin and it came right off.  Wednesday morning I got my first look at it and I became alarmed.  It didn't appear to be infected but OMG it looks HORRIBLE.  He had been really good about keeping antibiotic ointment on it but still...UGH...So I asked him to have his school nurse take a look at it and maybe dress it appropriately.  I got the text from the boy saying the nurse said it really  needs to be looked at by a Dr.  Followed by the phone call from the nurse telling me that she responded as I had...initially.  A little over exaggeration until she saw it.  Hence, the phone call saying please, Please, PLEASE get him in to a Dr.  Some of the worst infections she's ever seen came from burns.  So, I called, got him in, picked him up, took him to the Drs and this was the pic as he removed the bandage we had put on that morning:
Nasty right?  He lost several layers of skin all the way around his finger.  The good news (if you can call it that) was the Dr said that while it looked bad (a deep 2nd degree burn), it looked good.  Meaning that everything we had been doing was right.  She said continue to keep it covered with antibiotic cream for a couple more days so that the new skin growth will be protected, then by Saturday he needs to start leaving off the bandage.  The only "issue" is that he needs to start bending the knuckle (which he can't) so that he retains flexibility in the new skin growth.
The other good new is that it shouldn't scar horribly.  He'll have a pink discoloration for a while but that should eventually fade.  WHEW!
Let's recap:
1. Pouring boiling hot water into a bowl while holding said bowl...bad.
2. Potholders..good.
3. Mother appears to be missing the compassion (or at least empathy) chromosome.
4. Boiling water is hot.

*I give him credit for doing this over the sink.  It DID save me from having a mess of broken pottery, Ramen noodles, and chicken broth all over my floor and base cabinets.  Well done son!
**NO...I did not actually tell him to Man up.  At least not out loud.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bite o' Biscotti=Cookie #2

My friend Beth introduced me to the joys of biscotti.  Oh, I had seen them in coffee shops and I may have tried one, but I'm sure it paled in comparison to that which one produces with  one's own nimble fingers.
One of the reasons I love biscotti (now) is because they are the perfect foil on a cold tundra (I mean winter's) night with a pot of tea.  This is SO something my mom would do as she loved her winter pot of tea (gunpowder loose if she had her choice) with cookies.  She would have adored these.
So, here is the "basic" recipe Beth passed on to me:
1/3 cup butter 
2/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 egg yolk beaten
1 Tbs water
*chocolate variation add 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
Preheat oven to 375
Cream first 3 ingredients.  Add vanilla.  Add dry ingredients and mix well.  Add nuts and chocolate chips last.
Make a long flat loaf approx 5-6" wide by 15" long.

Combine egg yolk with water and brush loaf. Bake for 25 minutes.

Remove let cool half hour, slice in 3/4 inch slices, lay slices on sides bake at 325 for 15 minutes each side, or until dry.
Cool and store in an airtight container.

Now...how *I* do it.  Even though I started out with Chocolate Crinkles, *I* am not a huge fan of chocolate. Yes, I'll pause a moment to let you absorb that...a woman...NOT enamored with chocolate.  OK, are you done?  Continuing.  So, what I do is I substitute the chocolate (chips in this case) with dried cherries.  Dried cranberries or even blueberries would also work but I happen to like cherries.  Now, I happen to adore walnuts but I like how macadamia nuts work with the cherries.  And since I.LOVE.NUTS, I put in twice as much (I do that with pretty much anything that calls for nuts so that shouldn't be earth shattering news for you).  If I have it available, I will also add some citrus rind, with this combination, I would do either orange or lemon zest.  Maybe a tsp or so.  Just to add a little zing. And if I'm feeling REALLY festive, I will drizzle the top with some white and dark chocolate.  'Cause that's how I roll.
Here is the kicker with biscotti:  you can do what YOU like.  It is pretty forgiving if you use the basic recipe.  I haven't deviated much, mostly because I happen to be the only one in the family who eats these and *I* like them so what's the point in deviating and having NO ONE eat them?  But I'm thinking of changing it up a little.  Switching out the cherries for a little crystallized ginger, maybe some white chocolate (YES chocolate) and pistachios.  Doesn't that sound intriguing?

No tea, but it sure goes great with coffee.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Meaning of Christmas

I came across this song in a very peculiar way.  I was given the CD for having ordered some digital scrap booking itemsThe musicians are a band called 259 and they are REALLY good.  Most of their songs are a capella.  But I LOVE this song.  You should too.

i heard the bells on christmas day by 259 on Grooveshark

Betty Who?

I saw a post today that said 16 shopping days til Christmas and panicked.  A little.  We're planning on taking the kids to Mexico in February and they were warned that we are scaling back this Christmas. I think they know what that means but I don't think they GET what that means.  That's ok.  They will.

Still, scaling back doesn't mean that I can't/won't do the plethora of baking I do every year.  Or most years anyhow.  I mean, I always do SOME baking, but not always at the same level every year.  This year, since I  volunteered to bring 5-6 dozen cookies for the production of "The Gospel According to Scrooge" at church this year, I thought I would do my version of the 12 days of Christmas...in cookies/treats that I do around Christmas.  Oh, you might occasionally see some of these varieties around my house during the rest of the year, but almost always these will be present at Christmas.

Today's cookie:  Chocolate Crinkles.  Most of my cookies have a story and this one is no different.  I don't remember the exact year that these became a family cookie but I do remember that we were living at Andrews AFB so it had to be sometime between 1970-1974.  My mom was not really a big cookie person as I don't remember her ever making cookies, just to make cookies.  UNTIL she came into the possession of the Betty Crocker "Cooky Cookbook" (yes, that's with a Y), which, what is left of it is now in my possession (and you know it's 9/10th of the law right?).  After what is probably about 40 years (or so...no need to get REALLY specific), this is what is left of it:
 You have undoubtedly noted the lack of a hard cover.  Yes, alas it is gone.  Not sure when the last part of it fell off and was discarded but it's gone.  This is still my "go to" book for most cookies.  To the point where I have started to write notes in the margin of the book so that I can remember what has worked for me (yes, go ahead and say it, I AM that old).  See (and note, this is the Snickerdoodle recipe I use):
Onto the actual recipe:
4 oz unsweetened chocolate 
1/2 cup vegetable oil (LOL...who uses that anymore?  Canola is fine)
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup SIFTED confectioners (powdered) sugar
Melt chocolate with oil (I do this in 30 second increments in the microwave so as not to scorch the chocolate).  Stir til chocolate is completely melted then add 2 cups sugar.  Stir and add 4 eggs and vanilla.  The batter will look like this:
Mix flour, baking powder and salt together and add to dough.  Now it will look like this:
Refrigerate the batter for several hours.  I suggest making these in the evening and let refrigerate overnight.  You want the dough to be VERY stiff. It will look like this after refrigerated:
But that's because I live in the Minnesota tundra and I put the dough on the deck to chill.  Most people don't have this "advantage" (if you're lucky) so I suggest overnight.  At any rate, I use the smallest Pampered Chef scoop (which of course isn't marked but I think it is a 1 Tbs scoop) and roll into balls and place on a plate with sifted powdered sugar:
Then roll them around until they are completely coated with sugar:

Then place them on an ungreased cookie sheet (if you don't yet have them, PLEASE, pretty please with sifted powdered sugar on top, go to Sams and buy the double set of heavy aluminum 10x15 jelly roll pans.  I promise you will NOT be sorry) about 2 inches apart.  I easily fit 15 on each sheet:
Bake at 350 for 11-12 minutes.  I think my oven is a little off because I think 12 minutes is perfect but this time they seemed to need a bit longer.  They will be all puffed up when they come out of the oven, then they will settle a little.
With the end result being this:
Your kids will think you a rock star.  Their friends will want YOU as their mom just so they can have these delicious mouth watering bites of heaven.  This makes about 5 dozen (I actually ended up with 59 and NO, I do NOT eat cookie dough).

They call me Crocker...Betty Crocker.