And Let the Baking Begin

It is officially Christmas season.  Bring on the Christmas music.  String the lights.  Decorate that tree.  Hang the mistletoe…

The time of year between Thanksgiving and Christmas is magical.  Don’t you think?  I am not a fan of the whole shopping scene.  I am one of those shoppers grateful for the Internet and the Fedex man.  I am, however,  a fan of twinkle lights downtown, Christmas trees glowing in windows, cinnamon pine cones, nights of hot chocolate and gift wrapping, and of course the kitchen being in full swing, pumping out cookies.

Cookies.  ‘Tis the season, right?  I mean, yeah, there is fudge and caramels and candy, but cookies are really the dessert centerpiece of the Christmas season.  They are the pumpkin pies of Christmas.  In honor/gratitude/love for Cookies…I will be, for the next month…until Christmas,  blogging about COOKIES!

No chicken pot pie, no pot roast, no pie, no cakes, no muffins…just cookies.  So if you are looking for cookies to bake for your cookie exchange at work or for cookies to bake with your little ones to leave for SANTA ( total Will Ferrell Elf’s voice)…Hopefully, you can find inspiration here.

Let the crazy cookieness begin!

First on the list…Snickerdoodles.

I can remember my first snickerdoodle.  It was at the mall and from Mrs. Fields.  It was good.  Like really really good.  Crunchy edges and chewy center.  Sweet cinnamon.  So good, that I ran home ( OK, mom probably drove me since I was like 12) and made my very first batch.  I then ate them, probably wrestling away what I could from my brothers – life as the only girl.  They remain to this day a top 3 cookie.  You wanna know what I never make?  Snickerdoodles.

That ends today.  These are reminiscent of those I first tasted 15 years ago.  Crunchy, chewy, sweet, cinnamony – its a word in my kitchen!  I am now wishing I still lived with my brothers, because I desperately need someone to wrestle these cookies from my clenched fists.

I kinda forgot how much I loved these cookies…

 

Snickerdoodles

Makes about 2 dozen

Ingredients

  • 2 + 3/4 Cup All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 2 Teaspoons Cream Tartar
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Cup Butter, softened (room temperature)
  • 1 + 1/2 Cup Sugar, plus 1/4 Cup extra for rolling
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Teaspoon Vanilla
  • 2 Tablespoons Cinnamon

Directions

 Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a medium sized bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.  Set aside.

In another mixing bowl, beat together softened butter and 1 + 1/2 Cups of sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 to 3 minutes).  Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until well mixed.  With mixer on low, slowly add dry ingredients.  Beat until the dry ingredients are completely incorporated.  Remember to scrape the sides and bottom of bowl to ensure uniform dough.

In a small bowl, combine cinnamon and 1/4 Cup sugar - stir to combine.

With a cookie scoop or teaspoon, scoop out cookie dough and roll into balls – about the size of a golf ball (about 1 inch in diameter).  Roll cookie dough in cinnamon and sugar mixture.  Make sure the dough is completely covered.  Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (optional…it just makes cookie removal easy!)

Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before removing and transferring to cooling rack.

Best enjoyed with a cold glass of milk or a cup of hot chocolate.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Good Morning!  What are you doing on the Internet?  Shouldn’t you be watching the parade?  Or making a last minute run to the grocery.  Or prepping the turkey?  Are you hiding from your overly talkative aunt?  Anywho, I am glad you stopped by.  Happy Thanksgiving by the way!

This is my 28th Thanksgiving. 28 Macy’s Thanksgiving day Parades. 28 years of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, and pumpkin pie.  So, 28 food comas.  28 years of sitting at the kid’s table ( I don’t think I will ever graduate to the grown-up’s table and I don’t think I want to).

Thanksgiving.  I am posting today 28 things that I am thankful for.  From warm hearted and sappy to simple, silly, but oh so true.  Today, as you are cheering your favorite football team on or trying to avoid eating yourself into oblivion…take a moment and be thankful.

Here is what I am thankful for.

1. Family and friends.

I think this is a no-brainer, but we have a tendency to take for granted those that are closest to us.  Let them know that they are loved and appreciated.

2. OK, something less sappy.  I am thankful for the Indigo light on my watch.

I need to know the time when it is dark more than you would think.  I have become quite dependent upon it.

3. Basset Hounds.

All your worries just melt away when you look at a basset hound.  There long ears and melancholy eyes.  Laughter just bubbles up inside when you see them run, walk, breath.  With just a cock of the head, the world is right again.

4. Fireplaces.

Instant warmth on chilly nights.

5.  Hairdryers.

My hair doesn’t dry straight and yet it isn’t wavy/curly either.  It is that strange in between.

6. Heated car seats.

A toasty bottom.  Need I say more?

7. Socks, thick cushiony socks.

Socks that make your feet sigh with relief after a long run.

8. Black yoga pants.

And male bosses that do not know the difference between black yoga pants and dress pants.  Score one for the gals.

9.  Silence

Rather intimidating/terrifying at first…just you and your thoughts, and then the trying of quieting those thoughts.  Tough but enjoyable once you realize you aren’t that scary and that you won’t bite.

10.People who use cellphones appropriately

I will not get on my soapbox, promise.  But a BIG THANKYOU to people who know how and when to put their cellphones away.

11.This book

Read it.  It goes with #12.

12.  Yoga

I have never enjoyed a form of exercise this much.  Ever.

When I leave yoga I feel centered, calm, happy, kind, and taller.  I love feeling taller.  I leave wanting to be a better person.  I have never gotten off a treadmill wanting to be a better person.   Come to think of it, there are few things I have ever done where I leave wanting to be a better person.  Yoga rocks.

13.  The TV show, New Girl

It makes me laugh.  Out loud.  Literal LOLing.  I watch it and think that there is a good possibility that I might know the writers or that the writers are reading my thoughts.  Love it.

14.  The Library

I borrow/rent (sometimes I owe them money) novels, cookbooks, movies, TV shows, Cd’s…I am thankful that I have rediscovered this little gem.

15. Fingernails

I just peeled my left pinkie fingernail off.  With a peeler.  I use my pinkie finger a lot when typing.  A lot.

Ouch.

16.  Stanley

Sometimes I call him Walter and he still seems to know I am talking to him…thank goodness I can’t read his thoughts.

They are probably not pro-Mallory.  Ah well, that is what he gets for biting my ears in the middle of the night.

17.  Treadmills

I am able to run when it’s cold and rainy outside.  Or cold and snowy.  Or hot and humid.  I could run outside, but I prefer the treadmill when it’s not just perfect outside…

18.  Memories

What is your favorite turkey day memory?  Mine was when my family tossed all traditions to the wind one year and made dad’s spaghetti and meatballs.  As a child, I thought we were quite the rebels!  Yum!

19.  Google

Or any search engine.  I love how, even if I spell it wrong, like way wrong, it knows what I am searching for.

For this reason, I have a tendency to use it as my spell check/dictionary when writing, texting, facebooking, tweeting…

20.  Bernoulli’s Principle

I love airplanes.

The fact that my house is in the flight pattern for the Cleveland Airport was a major selling point.

It never gets old watching planes take off and land.

21.  Change of Seasons

I may not love winter, but it makes me enjoy the other 3 seasons much much much more.

I just couldn’t imagine living in a place that doesn’t have 4 complete different seasons.

22.  Laughter

I giggle, I cackle, I snicker…all the time.

23.  Garbage Men/women

They take your unwanted things.  Your rotting trash.  Your worn out furniture.  Your recycling.  Things you no longer want in your home.  They throw it in the back of their trucks and haul it away.  Seriously, what would we do without them?!?  Life would be smelly, that is for sure.

24.   I am thankful for this blog.  Fork vs Spoon

I am happy there is a place for me to log my recipes.

 A place to share my thoughts.

A place to expand my creative side.

25.  I am thankful that somethings made in China actually withstand the test of time.

My niece is currently ‘camping out’ on grandmas floor in my New Kids in the Block sleeping bag.

We entertained ourselves earlier with Barbies and doll clothes dating back to my mother’s time.

Plus, Allie said ‘woah, her boobs are huge…I mean, seriously…look at them’ … that kinda made my day.

She is six.  Well almost.

26.  Pinterest

Talk about inspiration at your fingertips.

Plus, you can ‘pin’ anything you like onto your boards from around the net.

If I like a cake, I ‘pin it’.  If I like a dress, I ‘pin it’.  Shoes…’pin ‘em’.   I have a common place to come back to when I want it.

27.  Ice Cream.

Must I explain this?

28. Holidays

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Cheesy Corn Muffins

OK…wanna know a secret about me?  Just between you and me…are you ready for this?

I don’t like the taste of butter.  It’s true.  I never have.  I never will.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing stuff when it is combined with sugar and flour and baked in a 350 degree oven…I wouldn’t bake with anything but the real stuff, but when it comes to day to day use…nope.  No butter for this gal.

I do not like it on toast or any bread, regardless of its crunch factor.  (rolls are included here)

I do not like it on crab legs.

I do not like it cooked with lemon juice and disguised as a lemon butter sauce.  Gross.

I do not like it on my Auntie Anne’s Pretzels

I do not like it on bagels.

I do not like it on mashed potatoes.

I do not like it on baked potatoes.

I do not like it on my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches – dad.

I just do not like it.

Buttttt…, yes there is a but.  Always an exception to the rule.  Wanna know my exception?

Corn.  In any form.  It doesn’t matter – on the cob, off the cob, stone ground….  Corn + butter = phenomenal.  And I don’t tiptoe around the butter when it comes to corn, oh no….I make up for lost time.  I slather.  Corn on the cob, butter is dripping off my chin and elbows.  My corn muffins are frosted with butter.  It is disturbing.  It’s heart clogging.  It’s delicious.

A simple corn muffin is probably my favorite muffin.  My brothers and I were raised on the Jiffy corn muffin mix and even to this day, I could place a bet that my mother has at least 2 boxes of the stuff in her cupboard just in case there is a craving for corn bread…which there may be, in which case, she will be well prepared.  This has happened in my family…a unanimous craving for cornbread.  We are a strange group.

These muffins aren’t from a box, but almost as simple to throw together, and dare I say it, way better?!?  (sorry Jiffy, you will always have a soft spot in my heart…)  With the addition of corn kernels and sharp cheddar cheese…there is just no comparison.  I post this blog days before Thanksgiving with hopes that you are still looking for ideas and inspiration for the big day.  Make these.  They are simple and delicious…exactly what you need during a day that is a whirlwind.  A tasty whirlwind, but still a whirlwind.

 

Cheesy Corn Muffins

Ingredients

    •  1 + 1/4 Cup Stone Ground Cornmeal
    • 3/4 Cup All Purpose Flour
    • 1/4 Cup + 2 Tablespoons Sugar
    • 2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
    • 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
    • 1 teaspoon Salt
    • 2 Large Eggs
    • 1/3 Cup Milk (skim, whole, or 2%)
    • 1 Cup Buttermilk
    • 4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) Butter, melted
    • 1 Cup Corn (fresh, frozen, or canned – just make sure it is thawed and/or drained well)
    • 1 Cup Grated Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Directions

Preheat oven to 425°F.  Line muffin pan with cups or liberally butter/cooking spray each muffin cup.  (remember to oil the surface of the muffin pan as well – allows the muffin top to release from pan with ease)

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the corn meal, all purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In a smaller mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, buttermilk, and corn.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.  Fold in the melted butter and cheese.

Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full  and bake in preheated oven for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  They will be lightly golden brown.  Remove from oven and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before removing them from the muffin pan.

If you prefer cornbread instead of muffins, then grease a 9 x 13 pan and pour batter into pan and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Best straight out of the oven, but can be stored in an airtight container and will remain fresh for up to 3 days.

 

Spicy Cranberry Jelly Relish

The Thanksgiving meal, what do you bring to the table?  Do you bring the green bean casserole?  The brussel sprouts?  The pumpkin pie?  Dinner rolls?  The funny story?  Good conversation?  Or the wine?  Everyone brings something, eatable or not.

In my family, Aunt Sue brings the rolls, green bean casserole, and maybe if we are lucky, pumpkin squares.  My sister-in-law, Andrea, brings dirty snowballs – think Oreo truffles, hell’s bells they are good.  My mom makes the stuffing, which is actually my dad’s recipe, and he guides her through the creation of it from the kitchen table as he is drinking his coffee (with Bailey’s I might add!) and rummaging through the black Friday ads.  Megan, sister-in-law 2.0, she brings the stories, the laughs, and all the good gossip.  She brings the fashion too – she can wear scarfs.  I love how she can pull off a scarf and big earrings.  I envy her style.  Peter brings the drinky drink.  Evan brings stories, good stories, funny stories.  We all bring our appetites.

I normally bring some new dessert.  Full of chocolate.  We all love chocolate.  As of yet, I have not found/settled on my dessert for this year.  I am going back and forth between a chocolate tart, bread-pudding, or maybe a cheesecake…  But I do know what I am bringing to the table for the leftover dinner.  The dinner of leftovers.  Can we just state a fact…leftover dinner is always way better than the formal Thanksgiving meal.  Always.  Better.  I am not sure why.  Maybe it is because the anxiety of providing a topnotch meal is over, football is the main concern, food comas have come and gone and come again, and well, the wine and Christmas Ale is doing what wine and Christmas Ale do. So, at the unofficial official best meal of the day – I will be slathering spicy cranberry relish on my toasted turkey sandwich, with a touch of mayo and maybe some stuffing.  Why not right?

It adds a new flavor to that turkey sandwich.  Sweet and then spicy.  Or spicy and then sweet.  And I am not sure if its a jelly or a relish…its a little bit of both.  All I know is that you will love it.  Guaranteed.  It belongs on turkey sandwiches.  Right above turkey and right below the bread.  Kind of sandwiched in there.  I am not one to tell you how to make a sandwich, but this spicy cranberry relish belongs on this year’s turkeywich.  Just sayin’…I sometimes know what I am talking about.  It is also rather tastey on cheese and crackers…

Make this next week for turkey day or the day after turkey day.

 

Spicy Cranberry Relish

Adapted from Bon Appetit

Ingredients

  • 3 Red Peppers, seeded and finely  diced
  • 1 Jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 Cubanelle Pepper, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Cup Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Liquid Pectin
  • Juice of 1 Lemon
  • 3 Cups Fresh Cranberries

Directions

In a large pot, combine the finely diced red peppers, jalapeno, cubanelle pepper, crushed red pepper, salt, and sugar.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat; cook for about 5 to 10 minutes.  The sugar will melt and the peppers will release quite a bit of liquid.

Add liquid pectin and lemon juice and continue to simmer for an additional 10 minutes.

Add cranberries, cook for another 10-15 minutes.  The cranberries will begin to pop open and it will begin to thicken.  Stir occasionally and smash a portion of the cranberries against the side of the pan, squishing them.

Remove from heat and transfer to glass jars with lids.  Let cool and then place in refrigerator.  Good for up to 3 weeks when stored in the refrigerator.

Garlic Knots…

Um…it’s Monday again.  How did this happen?

Yeah, yeah, yeah I know…the sun rose and set 7 times.  The earth rotated or is it revolved?? Anywho it swirled around on it’s axis seven times.  (Rotated…just looked it up, sigh)  The second, minutes, hours, and days ticked on by….that is how we got to Monday.  But seriously, why did it have to happen so fast?

I am not complaining about it being Monday.  Nah…I don’t mind the start of a new work week.  I mean work provides for me what I need and then some.  I am able to provide for myself, have a roof over my head, many many many shoes in my closet, and a stomach full each and every day.  It also provides a structure, a plan, a schedule.  I like schedules, I like plans, I like structure.  I do.  It makes me feel sane and in control, so I plan, I schedule, I structure…No, I am not complaining about another work week.

But I am complaining that time keeps going by faster and faster.  Remember when you were maybe 15 years old and you rolled your eyes at your mother when she mentioned that time was just flying by.  That she blinked and her kids were no longer babies but teenagers.  That she just couldn’t believe that it was such and such holiday again already.  Where did this year go?  Remember those motherly mutterings?  Remember thinking that she was a tad bit loony?  That how could she possibly think that time was going by fast…to a mere 15 year old it was crawling by.  Remember telling yourself that you would never utter the words … ‘each year just seems to go by faster and faster…’?  And now, do you remember when you said exactly, exactly what you promised yourself that you would never utter?  I don’t remember the day or the conversation, but I have definitely muttered those words.  Many a times over.  And then I said ‘ man, I sound like my mother’, smiled, and continued on.  It happens.

So, here I am about to say it again.  Where is the time going?  Seriously?  It is Thanksgiving in 10 days!  Was it not just July 4th 2009?  And it’s Thanksgiving 2011 already?  WHAT?!?  You can say I am having a small moment.  So, I am making an early (or really late, depending on how you look at it) New Year’s Resolution.  I would like to be more present.  Less time thinking about what I want to do/accomplish/cook/see/read/etc…and more time actually doing what I want to do.  Maybe, just maybe doing this … time won’t feel like it is just flying by.   Well, maybe it’ll still fly, but at least I’ll have a seat on the plane.

I wanted to make bread.  So guess what?  I made Garlic knots.  I am so rocking out this resolution.

Make these for this Thanksgiving dinner.  Or tomorrow for dinner.  Or next week for Sunday night dinner.  Just promise me that you will make them.  They are good.  They are simple.  Just please make sure that if you make these, you must share them.  Make sure everyone at your dinner table eats at least one.  Because when you are serving garlicky foods…its a rule, everyone must eat the garlic.  Therefore, the horrible garlic breath isn’t noticed because, well…everyone smells.  Fact.

 

Garlic Knots

Makes a Baker’s Dozen

Ingredients

  • 1 + 7/8 tsp Instant Dry Yeast (or 1 package Active Dry Yeast, I had only instant)
  • 1 Cup Warm Water (straight from the tap should be warm enough, about 115°F)
  • 2 +1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 2 tsp Sugar

Topping

  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbsp Melted Butter
  • 5 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • Handful of fresh Parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions

In a small bowl/mixing cup, combine warm water, yeast, olive oil, sugar, and salt and stir to dissolve yeast.

In a larger bowl, measure out the flour and then pour yeasty mixture into the flour and with a fork stir until it comes together (it should be lightly sticky, but not gooey.  If it is too sticky, then add a bit more flour)  Empty contents of bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead dough for about 3 minutes or until the dough forms a  smooth round ball (when it is lightly poked, the dough should rebound).  Coat the mixing bowl with a bit of oil and place dough into bowl, lightly coating the dough with the oil from the bowl.

Cover bowl with a dishtowel and place in a warm, draft free place for an hour or up to 3, or until the dough doubles in size.  (The perfect warm draft free place in my house is the oven with just the oven light on, works like a charm).

When the dough has risen to twice it’s size, empty out onto a lightly floured surface and with a rolling pin, roll dough out into a rectangle of sorts, measuring about 12 x 10 or so.  With a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut dough into 1 inch wide strips.  Take each strip and tie into a knot and then fold/wrap in the ends.  This does not need to be perfect, just make sure no ends are hanging out.  Place knot onto a parchment lined cookie sheet and continue making knots.

When all the dough has been tied, cover with dishtowel, and place back into warm, draft free place for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400ºF.  Bake knots for 15 to 18 minutes.  Or until golden brown.

Meanwhile, while the knots are baking, prepare the topping.  In a large bowl, combine the oil, melted butter, garlic, and parsley.  Stir to combine.  When the knots are done baking and still steaming hot, either brush the topping onto each knot or toss the knots in the mixture.  Either way…get the topping onto the knots as soon as they come out of the oven.  Sprinkle with parmasean cheese, and enjoy immediately.

Store in air tight container and when reheating, wrap knot in aluminum foil and bake in 350ºF for 5 to 10 minutes.