‘Tis the season for garland. 24 hours of Christmas carols on the radio. Christmas movies overflowing on Netflix…which leads to White Christmas and continuous loop finding their way into the same sentence. Rooftops outlined in twinkle lights…making me question people’s idea of what a straight line actually is … because if it means wavy, they are spot on – or maybe their houses need re-roofed and if that is the case, I am just being an ass…however, butthead or not, I continue to wish people would stop outlining their houses in lights if they have no desire to make the lights straight or if they have a crooked roof. They make these for a reason. And since I am on a roll here… let’s talk about the infamous Leg Lamp and A Christmas Story or as I refer to as the worst Christmas movie … ever. I am fully aware of this so-called crazy stance against an ‘American classic’…but, I can’t pretend to like something that awful. I tried, I failed. I stand firm in my distaste.
I love Christmas. I swear. I love…
The decorated trees – deciduous and coniferous alike- to be draped in twinkle lights – making city centers absolutely magical.
Christmas caroling…or at least the charming idea of such an event. An activity, I believe, I missed out on by merely being born in the wrong decade/century.
Christmas Eve midnight church service. Where it begins at the top of the final hour of a day full of anticipation and preparation, squished into pews among friends and family. There is a gentle buzz of conversation that rises and falls as the church fills with followers…This is a place where we celebrate the reason for the following day, Jesus Christ’s birth…where the service ends as the first minutes of Christmas day arrive and we stand and sing Silent Night by candle light. This is my favorite tradition.
And of course…
Cookie swapping or exchanging or trading – whatever your circle goes by is fine, because when it comes to cookies and friends – umm, it’s just bonkers amazing! (and yes, I just followed up church service with cookies) And who to take cookie swapping to the next level than we food bloggers. I have seen this food blogging cookie swapping extravaganza from afar for the past 2 years and finally decided to join in all the fun this year. Julie from The Little Kitchen and Lindsay from Love and Olive Oil have created quite an event….inviting food bloggers from anywhere and everywhere to join together to not only bake and swap cookies and share our love of butter, sugar, and flour…but also raise money for Cookies For Kids’ Cancer and to spread Christmas cheer.
From explaining this event to others not in the food blogging community, most are floored by the friendliness, friendship, and trust that is and has always been overflowing in this dear community. It is not surprising that people baking cookies and cakes and pies in their kitchens aren’t lovely people, but that a group of people, who in all rights are competing for the same audience and readers, are so willing to work together and achieve together and be such a tight knit bunch. And the trust…many have asked me ‘ you mean, you are going to eat cookies shipped to you from a stranger’…without thinking, my answer has been a quick and firm ‘yes‘. And trust me, the cookies have been delicious!
In our efforts to raise money for Cookies for Kids’ Cancer and with help from the lovely sponsors, we as a food blogging community raised over $13,000. Wow, right?
To say I am thankful to find myself in and among these folk is an understatement.
Once we signed up, we were then emailed our cookie swapping matches. I mailed my cookies to Laurie from Crunchy Gooey; Carly from Icing on the Cake; and Shari from Tickled Red. I devoured cookies from Deanna in New York – she baked crunchy molasses cookies that took me right back to my grandmother’s kitchen. Deanna, so good! Valerie, from Pursuit of Sweetness , made banana bread sugar cookies with a brown sugar cinnamon glaze that took me by surprise. It is no secret, that I am not a ‘fan’ of banana baked goods (as mentioned here and here), however these cookies – HOLY SMOKES! I had to hide them from myself in the depths of my freezer behind the bacon and well, more bananas. Could not, would not stop eating. And finally, Cait from The Patriotic Baker baked chocolate peppermint sandwich cookies – think homemade peppermint Oreos – yeah they are as good as you think they might be. Girls, you seriously out did yourselves! Plus, the packaging … seriously?!? I need to up my game next year. Game on food bloggers. Game on.
So what cookies did I mail across the country? Chocolate Pistachio Sables. A chocolate shortbread like cookie…AKA durable when in the hands of the United States Postal Service. Chopped bittersweet chocolate…because what is the harm in more chocolate? And pistachios….a punch of salty nutty flavor and peeps, they are GREEN!
‘Tis the season. ’Tis the season.
- 2+1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- 2+1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1+1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 large egg white
- 5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
- 1 cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped (salted or unsalted)
- Flaky sea salt (used Maldon)
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat together butter, brown sugar, and vanilla, until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Reduce mixer speed to low, and add dry ingredients. Mix until combined. Beat in egg white.
- Fold in chopped chocolate and pistachios.
- Divide dough into 2 sections and form into 2 logs measuring about 8 inches x 2 inches or so. Wrap tightly in parchment paper (or plastic wrap or tinfoil) and place in fridge for at least 3-4 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Cut logs into ¼ to ½ inch thick cookie rounds and place cookies on parchment lined cookie sheets about ½ inch apart from each other. Sprinkle cookies with flaky sea salt
- Bake in preheated oven for about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on tray for about 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to finish cooling.
Recipe Adapted from Bon Appétit December 2013Read More
Still wondering why I didn’t buy this hat …
A fun list of people, places, things, and ideas that I feel the need to share. now.
Speaking of TED talks…which we are – you would know this if you clicked one of the above links. This poet is nothing short of amazing. ( i wish i could memorize words like that…i have troubles with Happy Birthday and The Lord’s Prayer…and this is not a joke)
This blog. Her honesty, rawness, humor (which at times, I doubt she is trying to be quote funny, however it always gets a burst of laughter from me), and her way with words. It is one of my fav new blogs. And if you have children…it’s a must read.
I want a Polaroid camera because of this lovely lady. The photos are so darn dreamy – and I love her Etsy shop. I own this print…puts and keeps life in perspective. She spent Thanksgiving in a yurt. I don’t know what a yurt exactly is…but she is knocking of a to-do list and I high five her.
This blog and the little notes. I found it just today. That is what is great about the Internet and blogs…always something new to discover. ALWAYS.
This is still causing me stop and shake my head. I am glad he is no longer unemployed, but still…
I would never blink again. And that would be OK. Splurge?!?
I had so much fun doing this. Post coming soon.
Joy is teaching Baking 101…ensuring successful baked goods this Christmas.
This coat was my best investment in years. YEARS. The hood is a hoot.
What are you loving right now? What is inspiring you? Where are you visiting/dreaming of? What can you not live without right this instance? I’d love to know!
Hope your weekend looks a tad like Stan’s every day!
im baking cookies and then some more cookies and then perhaps some scones and
brownies? brownies are always a good idea
im gonna cover the kitchen
and most likely myself and Stan
there will be sugar on the floor.
of the brown and white variety
and butter on the fridge door handle.
vanilla extract stains will dot the counter tops
and rogue chocolate chips will find their way under the fridge
cookie pans will liter the counters
and center island
as will the cooling racks.
the sink, will overflow with teaspoons, measuring cups, and stand mixer attachments.
cookbooks will be upstairs, downstairs…
and every where in between
open to the final chapter…
i will forever be grateful for 2 KitchenAid stand mixing bowls.
allows me to procrastinate
in the dishwashing department
and make a much larger mess than originally thought possible
this is my favorite season of the year.
the space of time that connects thanksgiving to
a time of year where excessive baking is
expected and accepted
with open arms and mouths
even though i am contemplating not putting up a Christmas tree
i am concerned about the resident cat
taking up residence in said tree
but maybe a small live table top tree
out of jumping/climbing/leaping range of Stan
i have yet to find such location
my penguin ornaments need a chance to wobble
in the glow of twinkle lights
while i think of a decent evergreen locale
cookies are baking…
my first cookie of the season
they make me feel like the 87 year old that I am
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2+1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup packed light brown sugar
- ¾ cup vegetable shortening ( aka Crisco)
- ¼ cup molasses (unsulphured)
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup granulated sugar – for rolling dough
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- In medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, and salt. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat together brown sugar, vegetable shortening, molasses, and egg, until well combined.
- With mixer on low, add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until combined. Remember to scrape down sides and bottom of bowl with spatula.
- Scoop out walnut sized balls of dough and roll into balls between your palms and then roll in granulated sugar, coating it well in sugar.
- Place on cookie sheet (lined with parchment paper will ensure easy removal) and place in preheated oven for about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool on rack for 5 to 7 minutes and then transfer to wire rack and let cool completely.
- Store in air tight container on counter – will keep and stay soft and chewy for several days. These should freeze well, however I have never had the chance to do so!
I have done gone and did it again.
ok, ok, ok…the improper English and the horrid grammar is pretty par for me and my blog. Or is it my blog and I? I don’t know. I have never known. No matter the amount of teaching done by countless English teachers in my education or the hours spent
banging my head against the kitchen table studying grammar, very little if any ( and I stress the words any and little) actually sank in and can be recalled.
Trust me, I have tried. Like, really tried. I like proper grammar…or, I like the idea of proper grammar…because I wouldn’t recognize it in broad daylight, that I know for sure, yo.
But besides absolutely bad grammar and the improper use of verbs and the creating of new words…
I have made banana bread…again.
I tried eating and thus, adoring banana bread…again.
I took one bite (that was heavily/heavenly slathered with peanut butter) and I simply could not muster another…again.
I left it on my favorite green saucer, wishing it were pumpkin bread or cranberry walnut, or pistachio pound…really anything besides banana.
It was Saturday morning, coffee was brewing, Jeff Corwin was on TV chasing sting rays in the Caribbean (I don’t have Cable), there was a definite chill in the air…
All fine scenarios in which to enjoy freshly baked bread…
I so wanted to like it.
But I just couldn’t.
I had oatmeal with cranberries and maple syrup instead. It was ok.
However, don’t go thinking this banana bread isn’t the bomb diggity, because while I didn’t enjoy it, it was devoured one thick slice after another all weekend long and come Sunday evening, as the last light of the weekend was starting to dim… one lonely chocolate chipped studded slice remained.
So, I suppose this bread would be considered a victory in the kitchen…just a failure of my taste buds and olfactory senses. Why does it have to smell so banana-ey
Like I have mentioned here before…I like bananas. Just not banana things.
And bananas slathered in peanut butter = the best after school/work snack ever. So it only makes sense that peanut butter should/would end up in a loaf of banana bread from time to time…And then why leave out chocolate in this shindig of a banana party… (I even tried digging just chocolate chips out of the bread, leaving empty chocolate coated craters behind – I am that person, I can not be trusted - and they even tasted like bananas…ACK!)
So…next up…well, there is this coconut rum browned butter banana bread in the oven as I type…Not sure why there are sooo many bananas in my freezer….
Can’t say I never gave banana bread a chance…
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 medium very ripe bananas, mashed
- ½ cup creamy peanut butter
- ½ cup granulated white sugar
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- ⅓ cup buttermilk, well shaken
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line a loaf pan (9x5in) with parchment paper or butter all sides, set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together mashed bananas, peanut butter, both sugars, buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vanilla extract.
- Add the wet ingredients, all at once to the dry ingredients. Fold together, scraping the bottom of the bowl to pop any pockets of flour.
- Fold in chocolate chips. Be careful not to over mix.
- Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and sprinkle a few chocolate chips on top of batter. Place in preheated oven and bake until golden brown and a toothpick, when inserted to middle, comes out with just a few moist crumbs clinging to toothpick – about 60 to 75 minutes. (if top begins to darken beyond golden, tent with tinfoil).
- Remove from oven and let cool on wire rack.
- Store at room temperature wrapped in plastic wrap.
Recipe Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
My counter is full of squash. Acorn. Butternut. Spaghetti. All rolling around and teeter-tottering about like vegetable weeble wobbles. Squash was not meant to lay about on a countertop. I fear that they will eventually end up cracked and splattered on the floor before I find the time and energy to create a dish that would be eatable …
I don’t mind the squash on my countertop as they are my only fall decorations…I bet my CSA didn’t know they were providing a bedecking service once they started harvesting squash. Perishable decorations however at some point in time need to be eaten. I don’t have many dishes to hide squash in…and yes, I hide squash. There is the ever so popular mac and cheese or the fancy schmancy butternut squash risotto, both of which claim to be crowd pleasers. I am not sure about just eating it roasted because I have this misconception that it should be as sweet as a sweet potato, but it isn’t and it never will be. And therefore, I need to load up the vegetable with butter and brown sugar, and while I see very little wrong with this picture, I feel like I am pushing squash to be something it isn’t. A sweet potato. You see, they may have similar color…but no go on the level of sugar. If the vegetable is bright orange, I have a level of sweetness that I inherently connect with it…sweet potatoes, sweet. Carrots, sweet. Yams, sweet. Butternut squash, not sweet. So upsetting! So, over the years I have had quite a few of so-called failed dishes because they missed the flavor bullseye in my brain because I was hoping for a bit of sweetness when I should have been striving and expecting a savory end result…my mistake. I am in the midst of reshaping my thinking. Altering my taste buds. Maturing if you will.
So, with this in mind…and more squash expected in this weeks CSA and a lack of any more counter space for fall decorations, and a craving for comfort in a bowl…I went in search of a decent soup recipe. I knew going in, the basics of a butternut squash soup. I knew how to roast the squash. I knew how to saute my onion and garlic. I knew how to add chicken stock and bring it to a boil. I knew how to puree until smooth. I knew to add cream at the end. I knew to top with chopped chives and a dollop of crème fraîche. I, however, needed help with the spices. Deb of Smitten Kitchen to the rescue. And come to find out…cumin, ginger, thyme, and sage are exactly what you need. Que Simon and Garfunkel. She is genius. But I already knew that and I am betting you did too.
So with the right spices on board and a change in mind-set from sweet to savory…I made a bowl of roasted butternut squash soup that was quite enjoyable and necessary on Saturday as the cold rain fell and we curled up on the couch and settled in for a day of sweatpants and Netflix.
And seriously, the parmesan crisps are a must and take literally 6 minutes to whip up…maybe 8 if you are grating your own cheese, which huge props to you…I have a tendency to buy pre-shredded parmesan cheese because I abhor shredding cheese of any kind and plus I like to snack on parmesan cheese throughout the day…a pinch here and a pinch there…talk about salty goodness.
- 1 Butternut Squash – medium in size
- 1 Acorn Squash
- 4 Tablespoons Butter
- 1 Sweet Onion, small dice
- 4 Cloves Garlic, minced
- 2½ to 3 Cups Chicken Broth
- 1+1/2 Teaspoon Sage finely chopped
- 1+1/2 Teaspoon Thyme finely chopped
- 1+1/2 Teaspoon ground Cumin
- ½ Teaspoon ground Ginger
- ¼ Cup Heavy Cream (or half and half)
- chives (optional)
- Creme Fraiche or Sour Cream (optional)
- Parmesan Crisps
- 2 Tablespoons Freshly grated Parmesan per crisp.
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Cut butternut squash and acorn squash in half, length wise. With a sturdy knife, slice off top of squash close to stem. Scoop out seeds and membranes. Lay face up on a tinfoil lined baking sheet and roast for about 30 to 45 minutes, until fork tender. Remove from oven and let cool. Once cool, scoop out the squash flesh and place in bowl, set aside.
- In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, saute until translucent. About 10 minutes.
- Add chicken broth, cooled squash flesh, sage, thyme, cumin, and ginger. Bring to a simmer and let cook for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Working in small batches, transfer soup to a blender and puree until smooth, transferring pureed soup back into original pan. Once all the soup is pureed, stir in cream and salt and pepper to taste. (if the soup is too thick, stir in a bit more broth until desired consistency is reached…I like a thicker soup, so I used only 2 +1/2 cups) Bring soup to a simmer over low heat and prepare parmesan crisps.
- Preheat oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Neatly mound 2 tablespoonfuls of grated parmesan cheese per crisp on lined baking sheet 3 inches apart. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes until edges are browned and centers are bubbly. Remove from oven and let cool. These are best slightly warm or at room temperature.
- Serve soup with a dollop of creme fraiche, chopped chives, and a parmesan crisp or two.