Cheers!

At the strike of midnight on New Year’s Eve, when 2011 becomes the past and 2012 lies before us, with only possibilities, I will be toasting, with my other work cohorts, with sparkling grape juice.  Sparkling grape juice out of plastic cups or maybe my coffee cup (if it is clean).  Oh so fashionable.  Oh so chic.  Oh so sexy.

What are your plans?

A perfect New Year’s celebration in my mind would be dinner and then dancing.  Dressed to the nines.  Gowns and tuxedos.  Heels and cuff links.  And real dancing.  Dancing, like how our grandparents used to dance.  To be twirled around the dance floor and then when the song is through, head back to the round table with black and white linen napkins and champagne flutes and other beautifully dressed people.  To sip my cocktail and to laugh with my friends.  And wait.  And wait for the countdown to midnight.  10, 9, 8, 7, ….

Wait to be kissed at midnight.  Wait to shout “Happy New Year” as the clock strikes midnight.  And then begin to dance again and continue to sip champagne and continue to have a grand time.  Ringing in the New Year with love and laughter.

Does this happen?  For normal non-celebrity people?  I hope it does.  You know the final scene of ‘When Harry Met Sally’?  That is what I am talking about.  A huge ballroom, tons of lovely people, and dancing…..Oh and champagne.  Lots of champagne.

If you are heading out to said shindig or if you are staying in and playing Monopoly with your family,  you will need a drink.  A cocktail to raise at midnight.  A drink to ring in the New Year.  Something with champagne.  Champagne is a must!

To be honest, cocktails are not my strong point.  I am a bottle of beer or glass of wine gal.  My cocktail of choice is a gin and tonic or maybe ginger ale and bourbon.  Nothing crazy.  No fancy names.  I have never stumped a bar tender.  So I had to do a bit of research on champagne cocktails.  This website offers a whole catalog of choices.  So, if a French 95 doesn’t do it for ya, then pick another and let me know how it goes!

 

French 95

Makes 2 cocktails

Ingredients

1.5 ounces Bourbon

2 ounces Orange Juice (pulp free)

1.5 ounces Lemon Juice (freshly squeezed if possible)

1 ounce Simple Syrup

Champagne (≈ 12 ounces)

Ice Cubes

 Combine the bourbon, orange juice, lemon juice, simple syrup, and a few ice cubes in a shaker and give a quick shake to mix.  Stain mixture evenly between 2 champagne flutes.  Top off flutes with champagne of your choice.  Enjoy immediately.

Here is to a happy and healthy New Year!

 

Shortbread Cookies…the Finale

My little brother, who by the way is no longer little and who looks alarmingly like my older brother is a man of few words.  He is not the talkative one of the bunch…I’d probably take that crown, as grandpa always said, my mouth was constantly motoring.  However, when James talks he 1) gets his point across and 2) generally makes me giggle.  Today was no different.

This is the text message conversation we had yesterday.

Randomly one evening ….

James: Shortbread Cookies

Me:  OK…can do.

James:  Can you make them taste like Panera’s?  (this came with a picture of a dog)

Me: I don’t know what those taste like…anything special?

James:  Heaven.

Me:  Lol…I’ll go and buy one and check these suckers out.

James: Good idea

Me: OK

and then we talk a bit about Dad’s birthday…omitting because he reads this and is always looking for clues

James:  When are you coming home?

Me:  Tomorrow

James:  OK

Me:  Do you want cookies dipped in chocolate?

James:  NO

Me:  Do they taste of anything, like lemon or orange or anything?

James: No

Me:  Ok, are they crunchy or soft?

James:  In between.

Me: OK

Me:  Hope mine are good.

James:  Just firm enough that when you hold the edge it doesn’t break.

Me:  OK, good description..

And that was that.  His request therefore made it’s way onto my baking To Do List.  It will be the last cookie that will be baked in my oven for the year 2011.  This cookie signifies the end of my ‘Month of Cookies’.  The flour, sugars, baking soda, salt, etc…have been put back in their respective homes, after sitting on my counter for the month.   I am happy to say that, while I love baking cookies, I will not be baking any more cookies for at least a few weeks…I am officially cookied out.

If you are looking for one last cookie to bake or need something quick and fast with few ingredients, then these are your solution!  You can fancy them up a bit by adding roasted pecans or maybe some lemon zest or dip half of the cookie in melted chocolate.  However, at the speed my brother was eating them….they are delicious just as they are.

I am heading home for the Christmas holiday and the anticipation of Christmas morning is starting to stir.  I have the presents packed, Stanley meowing in his carrying case, and all the cookies packed…in the far far far back of the Jeep….and I am on the road.  It is just a short trip, but a road trip none the less.

If you are travelling or staying put, I wish you a safe and joyful Christmas.

Love,

Mal

Shortberad Cookies

Adapted from Martha

Makes 1 dozen

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 Sticks Unsalted Butter – room temperature
  • 1/2 Cup Confectioner’s Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

In a small bowl, whisk together flour and salt.  Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat butter for about 3 minutes or until it is light and fluffy.  Add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla, beat for an additional 2 minutes.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl half way through beating.   Add the flour and salt mixture and beat until the flour is completly incorporated – the dough may be a touch crumbly but will come together when pressed between your fingers.

Empty dough onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a brick.  Wrap in plastic wrap and place in fridge for at least one hour.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

When the hour is up, remove from fridge and on a lightly floured surface roll the dough out into a rectangle measuring 12 inches x 6 inches.  ( the dough should be about 1/4 inch thick).  Using a butter knife, cut the dough into squares (2 in. x 2 in.) and then cut the squares on the diaganol, creating triangles.  Or you can use cookie cutters or make whatever shape you like.  Take a fork and poke a few holes into the tops of the cookies.

Place shapes onto ungreased or parchment lined cookie sheet about 1 inch apart and bake for about 12 to 15 minutes, or until the bottoms begin to turn golden.  Remove from oven and let cool slightly on cookie sheet before transferring to wire rack.

Once cool store in airtight container.

Enjoy!

Chewy Toffee Chip Cookies

I had to break out my tool box for these cookies.

My literal tool box.  It is orange.  I wish it were blue or maybe green.  And it’s about yea big.  It sits on the floor of my pantry.  Just in case I need it.  Ya know for all those big projects I have going on – ha!

I broke the hammer out.

Heath Bars…hard little suckers.  My rolling pin wasn’t much help here, plus the whacking racket scared Stanley.  The hammer worked wonders.  Plus, the chocolate didn’t get smooshed to the plastic baggie.  No chocolate coating was sacraficed in the making of these cookies…that I can gaurantee.

You can, if you want to shell out the cash, buy pre-crushed toffee bits, but I kinda like the stress relieving qualities of taking a hammer to something.  Maybe I should be in construction.  Plus, the pre-crushed toffee bits are a rip off.

Toffee chip cookies are super caramely and chewy and all sorts of good.  I enjoyed mine with a nice cup of hot cocoa while I watched the final episode of Breaking Bad, season 1.

Where have I been?  This show is wicked good.  If you have Netflix, it is on their watch instantly list.  Give it a go, you won’t be disappointed.  At least I hope you won’t.  Disappointment stinks.  But a quick heads up, it is a show based on the cooking and selling of meth…but he is using the cash to pay for his cancer treatment.  That makes it OK, right?!?

Chewy Toffee Chip Cookies

Makes 3 dozen

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 + 1/2 Sticks Butter - room temperature
  • 1 + 1/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 – 12 ounce bag of Heath Bars, broken into pieces

 

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

Beat together dark brown sugar and butter for several minutes, about 3 minutes.  Add the vanilla and egg and continue to beat for another minute or so.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

With mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients and beat until all the flour is incorporated.  With a wooden spoon or spatula, stir in the toffee bits.

Scoop out cookie dough onto parchment lined cookie sheets about 2 to 3 inches apart (they are spreaders!) and bake in preheated oven for about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool on cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring to wire rack to continue cooling.

 

Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

I am writing this from my living room floor, sitting ever so close to the fireplace.  It is not even 5pm and it is already reaching dusk.  Sadly, it has looked like dusk since sunrise this morning.  Winter in Cleveland is something one has to get used to.  Beyond the snow accumulation, the amount of overcast days is extraordinary.

I am still wearing my red apron dusted with flour and powdered sugar, sipping a hot cup of black tea.  A playlist of Adele and The Black Keys is filling the otherwise quiet house.  Stanley is sprawled out next to me.  We are both warming ourselves by the fireplace.  If he could speak English, he would probably ask me to stop being cheap and turn the heat up.  I can not seem to break myself of this money saving habit I picked up while in college.

I am sitting here thinking of the cookies that are cooling on the counter.  I am thinking of how they remind me of a cookie my Auntie Helen was infamous for.  Hers were simple and delicious.  A box of cake mix, half a container of cool-whip, and an egg.  That was it.  Mine require a few more ingredients…

I only ever remember eating these cookies at church functions.  Sometimes you would see the cookies before you saw her – she was really short!  But that is how church suppers role.  A quick glimpse at the food table and you can get a clear idea of who you will be sharing a table with.  And vice versa.  If you see a certain individual then you know what you will be piling your plate high with.  Everyone brings their best dish.  The dish most complimented.  The dish that was gone by the time you snuck up for seconds.  I loved when I saw the maker of homemade noodles, vegetable pizza, custard pie, and deviled eggs.

Chocolate crinkle cookies could definataly hold their own at a church supper or at any Christmas party for that matter.  Rich and fudgey, they are quite the indulgence!  Perfect for this time of year.

I think I will have one or maybe two while I contemplate wrapping presents….or watching another episdoe of Breaking Bad.

 

 Chocolate Crinkle Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 2 Cups Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons Vanilla Extract
  • 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1/2 Cup Confectioner’s Sugar

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the cocoa, sugar, and vegetable oil.  Mix for 2 to 3 minutes.  Add eggs one at a time, incorporating each egg before the addition of the next one.  Once the eggs are all mixed in, blend in the vanilla.

With mixer on low, slowly mix in the dry ingredients and mix until well incorporated.   With a spatula, scrape down sides and bottom of bowl to ensure everything is evenly distributed.  Cover with tinfoil or plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 350ºF and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Place confectioner’s sugar in a bowl.

Roll cookie dough into round balls about the size of walnuts and then roll balls in the confectioner’s sugar to coat.  Once the balls are completly coated, place them on the prepared cookie sheet about 2 inches apart (slight spreading).  Bake in preheated oven for about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool on cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

Pineapple Upside Down Cookies and other goings on

I had my first physical since high school last week.  I had horrid flashbacks of sitting in the cafeteria waiting for my number to be called so I could either go pee in a cup, have a nurse prod my stomach to ensure I wasn’t pregnant, and/or get weighed in front of the football team.  At least I wasn’t a dude…they had to cough or something…it was weird, I pleaded with my mother never to attend mass physical day ever again.  And I didn’t, but my brothers had to.  Maybe they are right, mom and dad like me more.

You can imagine I was not exactly looking forward to said physical. But who really does, right?

Overall, it wasn’t painful if you don’t count the blood draw or the TB test.

It was not a complete waste of time if the hour and twenty minutes spent waiting for my kidneys to filter my blood and produce about 1/2 cup of urine doesn’t count.

It was not gross if you don’t consider peeing in a cup gross or the fact that my aim/ability to pee into a cup has not improved since high school.  ( I have a beef with this whole process…peeing in a cup was created for dudes, by dudes.  Not ladies.  Unless I am doing it all wrong.)

It wasn’t awkward if you don’t count the misunderstanding between mumbling male nurse and myself about the state of my bladder fullness, which led to me standing in a drug testing bathroom waiting a respectful amount of time before I reappear and explain that my kidneys had yet to perform.  And yes I blamed my kidneys…

It wasn’t weird if you don’t count the fact that they weighed me after I had drank at least 60 ounces of water or that I had to find my own band-aid for my vein puncture.

I didn’t look too ridiculous if you consider a 28 year old women, wearing a flowered hospital gown and knee high black hose, sitting atop her folded clothes, reading Tina Fey’s book Bossypants in the exam room waiting for the the doc normal.

OK, so overall I think my self respect was knocked down a notch, but I did get a clean bill of health and I was able to read a good amount of my large print version of Bossypants.  (Tip…always look in the large print section of library for newer books…they are nearly always available when the normal book is on hold.  However, this may be like parking in a handicap spot, shrug…)

Why the physical?  Well peeps, I have new and exciting news.  As we ring in the New Year, I will be starting a new job!  Eeeek!  I will still be a pharmacist, but will no longer be practicing in the retail setting.  I am going to the other side and jumping feet first into the world of hospital pharmacy.  I am crazy excited and a little bit nervous, but overall happy as a peach!  I am ready for a new challenge and getting back onto a normal schedule, as I will be coming off nights and going onto days…hooray for sleep!  I will truly miss my fellow night owls, who have become dear friends, however when an opportunity presents itself, you have to jump.  So, I am jumping.  Plus, I think I will be able to spend more time working on this here blog, which pleases me to no end.

But before the new job starts and before we ring in the New Year we must first get to Christmas.  Let us not rush.  I still have one more week to make and write about cookies.  I still have one more week (OK 6 days) to finish my shopping.  I have stll have one more week ( OK 5 days) to get  a birthday present for my dad.  So, let’s begin!

Pineapple upside down cookies.  Like the cake but in cookie form.  You have the cake - which in this case is a soft and fluffy cookie.  You have the crushed pineapple on top – which in this case is scattered throughout the cookie.  You have the brown sugar and butter topping – which in this case is the frosting.  It is all there, minus the weird maraschino cherries that I always omit because I think they are bit strange…nothing should be that red.

Oh and go read Tina Fey’s book Bossypants, it will make you laugh out loud.  Seriously.

 

Pineapple Upside Down Cookies

Makes about 2 to 3 dozen

Ingredients

  • 3 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 Stick Butter, room temperature
  • 1 Cup light Brown Sugar
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 3/4 Cup Sour Cream
  • 2 Cans ( 20 ounces) Crushed Pineapple, well drained

Icing

  • 1 Stick Butter
  • 1 Cup Light Brown Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Heavy Cream plus a few extra tablespoons to reach desired consistency(or milk or half and half, use what you have)
  • 1 + 3/4 Cup Confectioner’s Sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Sift together dry ingredients ( flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt).  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, blend together (with hand or stand mixer) butter and brown sugar.  Beat in eggs, vanilla, and sour cream.   Add the well drained crushed pineapple and mix well.  Remember to scrape down sides and bottom of bowl, ensuring even mixing.

With mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients and mix until all the flour has been incorporated.

Scoop dough out onto parchment lined cookie sheets about 2 inches apart (they will spread slightly).  Bake in preheated oven for about 12 minutes.  Remove from oven and transfer to cooling rack. Ice cookies once they are completely cool.

Icing

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the stick of butter.  Once the stick of butter has melted stir in the brown sugar and stir to dissolve.  Bring mixture to boil and then reduce heat to medium low and continue to boil for 2 minutes.  Once the two minutes are up, stir in the  cream and return to boil, stirring constantly.  Once it reaches a boil, remove from heat and let cool.

Once the mixture is at least lukewarm, transfer it to a mixing bowl and with beaters on low, slowly add the confectioners sugar and beat to desired consistency.  You may want to add extra cream/milk to icing to make it thinner  - I did.

Tip:  I made my icing the night before and stuck it in the fridge, the next morning it was rock hard!  I stuck it in the microwave for one minute to loosen it up, stuck it back in the mixing bowl and slowly added more cream (little by little) until I reached the desired consistency.  The thinner the icing the easier it is to ice the cookies.

The icing will thicken/harden the longer it sits, so ice the cookies as soon as the icing is ready to go