Monthly Archives: December 2009

Christmas Wishes and Coffee Dreams

Let’s set the scene.

I’m seven. My brother is ten. It’s Christmas Eve. We are beside ourselves with excitement. Even the Christmas dress with the puffy gold sleeves that is itching me like I’m being bitten by a hundreds polyester-loving flees cannot drag me down. Christmas had finally arrived! Hooray! There are a couple things standing in the way of our first taste of pure Christmas awesomeness:

1. Pictures. In front of the tree. In front of the fireplace. With Mom. With Dad. With Mom AND Dad. Sitting down. Standing up. My puffy gold sleeves (and matching puffy gold hair. True story.) shining in all their Christmas glory. I wish I had a picture of me in that dress to share because it is truly amazing. It would blow your mind. For realz. 😉

Edited to add: Thanks to my wonderful mother, who saw this post, and immediately e-mailed me a picture of said dress. She also informed me that I was, in fact, 8 years old at the time, not seven. I say, close enough….because I really don’t think there’s much difference (fashion-wise) between 1989 and 1990.

So here it is, in all it’s shiny, stunning, puffy glory….


The puffy sleeves are nice, but I think it’s that sad, wilted looking flower thing that really ties the whole look together. And, may I just say, the addition of the matching gold SLAP BRACELET – Um. Genius!

I’ll stand over here and let you laugh. Yeah, yeah. You rocked the same look once upon time – no denying it!

2. Christmas Eve Mass. I think it was probably during Mass I realized that the sleeves on that dress were going to be the death of me. Seriously. The itchiness was becoming an emergency situation. Ha.

3. And, finally…the last piece – Dinner. The rule remained rigid throughout my childhood: NO GIFTS UNTIL AFTER SUPPER.

We always celebrated on Christmas Eve with my mom’s side. It was the beginning of a marathon two-day Christmas celebration filled with family, laughter and tons of fun. It started with dinner, moved on to a gift exchange and ended with severe insomnia as we waited for unblinking in our beds for Christmas morning to arrive.

Christmas Eve was a long day. We couldn’t sit down to dinner until after all that picture-taking and church-going nonsense was over with. And we couldn’t get to the good stuff until after dinner! Oh, what kid-torture! LOL.

Now me, I’d be so excited I could hardly eat. A couple bites here, a nibble there and I’d be leaving the table in favor of my very important Gift Lookout job in the next room. I didn’t touch anything, because I knew I wasn’t supposed to, but the very least I could do was gaurd the goods from any wanna-be Grinch-y theives who may have been roaming the Chicago ‘burbs that night. 😉

Just when I thought dinner was about over, the plates cleared, the wine glasses emptied, out would come the trays of cookies, the boxes of candy, the after-dinner spirits and cordials. And the coffee.

The coffee. At seven, I didn’t really understand coffee. I knew it smelled a little funky. I knew it was hot. And I knew it was sipped. Slowly. Very slowly.

So we had accomplished the picture-taking, the church-going and the dinner-eating. The good stuff was mere minutes away, right?

No.

My grandfather, who noticed the obvious ants in our pants when the coffee was being poured, lingered over his cup just as long as he could. He just loved to tease us that way. “Are you done with your coffee yet, Grandpa?” We’d ask, hopeful he’d be ready to relocate from the dining room to the living room. He’d glance down at us from his chair and say, “Well…I think I’ll have one more cup.”

Grrrooooaaannnnn. Oh no!

Of course, looking back, it was probably only an additional five minutes, but to a kid at Christmas, five minutes may as well be an hour. In the end, we’d make it to living room and have a wonderful Christmas together as a family. And, when it was all said and done, those gifts that we were so excited about turned out to be only a small, tiny part of what made those Christmas Eves so great. All the good times shared and the memories made are something I will cherish forever. I can’t wait to share these memories with my own family one day.

Oh, and what was being nibbled as the coffee was being sipped? Why, Chocolate Shot Cookies, of course! These light, crispy, buttery oatmeal cookies are snap to make and are delightful addition to any holiday treat tray. If you glance at the ingredients you might think, ho-hum, yawn, BORING, but I’m telling you these have such a wonderful flavor you will be so pleasently surprised! My mom has been making these as long as I remember. They take me right back to being a kid and will surely do the same for you.

CHOCOLATE SHOT COOKIES (Recipe Source: My mom, Nadine M.)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup uncooked oatmeal (I use Quick Oats)
  • Chocolate sprinkles, for rolling

DIRECTIONS:

  • With an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar, beating until fluffy. Add vanilla.
  • Stir together flour and baking soda; add to butter mixture. Stir in oatmeal and mix well.
  • Chill dough for at least 30 minutes
  • Shape dough into a log and roll in chocolate sprinkles.
  • Slice cookies into quarter-inch and place on an ungreased cookie sheet
  • Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes (check after 15)

ENJOY! 🙂

One year ago:
Citrus-Scented Mixed Berry Pie with Oatmeal Lattice Crust
– I actually made this pie again for Thanksgiving this year. It is SO delicious!
Chipotle Chicken Empanadas – Fun and festive finger food!
Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie – I’m not a huge pecan pie fan and I LOVED this. 🙂

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Blog UPGRADE!

I’m just all over this social networking stuff these days. Woo hoo! I have to say, I’m pretty impressed with myself….as it took me until at least 2005 to figure out how to work a DVD player. So yeah.

Anyway, make your way over to the right hand coloumn and clicky the link to become a fan of Milk & Honey on Facebook! Find the latest posts, photos and random foodie thoughts from me!

Stay tuned for holiday cookie recipes! Coming soon! 🙂

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Soup Season!

Let me tell you why I love soup. It’s warm, it’s comforting, and there’s always enough left for lunch. And, let’s be honest, soup always tastes better the next day. There’s just something about soup leftovers. The best leftovers you’ll ever eat!

Soup is pure weekend food for me. This is how I roll with soup. Do all the chopping/prepping/simmering first thing in the morning. Then transfer to crockpot. Turn on low. Go about very busy day. This particular Saturday it was baking a TON of cookies and Christmas shopping. When feet are sufficiently tired and all urge to be in the kitchen has left your body, scoop into bowls and eat. Preferably in pj’s under a blanket on the couch. Perfect.

I actually don’t make soup as near as often as I would like. Mostly because Eric is not real big on soup. That said, he wolfed down this one. HA! I spotted this soup in a holiday cookbook my mom gave me a few years back. It sounded right up my alley. First, it contains The World’s Greatest Meat – SAUSAGE! Second, the broth is simmered with red wine. Oh my goodness – YES, PLEASE! Third, it’s loaded with pasta. And veggies. And it tastes really good with a sprinkle of parm cheese and a big ol’ hunk of bread dipped in it. Mmmm.

I liked this recipe because it’s pretty customizable. Lighten it up a bit by subbing turkey Italian sausage for pork (which I did. I always do.) Swap out the pasta for an assortment of your favorite beans. Add mushrooms. Or roasted red peppers. Even spinich or your favorite leafy green. Really, you can clean out your fridge with this soup. It’s perfect for these busy pre-holiday evenings when you’re pulled in a million different directions (out in the snow and cold, no doubt!)

ITALIAN SAUSAGE SOUP (Recipe adapted from: Coming Home for Christmas)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1.5 pounds of sweet or hot pork, turkey or chicken Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 64 ounces beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups red wine
  • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (I omitted, because I accidentally bought cilantro instead. BOO!)
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced
  • 2 cups small, short pasta, cooked (such as elbow macaroni or small shells. I used mini-bowties.)

DIRECTIIONS:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Add green pepper and onion. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook one minute more. Remove from pot and set aside.
  2. Crumble and cook sausage in the same pot until cooked through and no longer pink. Drain if necessary. Return sausage and pepper/onion mixture to pot. Add beef broth, wine, tomatoes, Italian seasoning, salt, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, and parsley. Bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pot, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Add zucchini and simmer 15 minutes more. Add pasta and simmer until heated through, about 5 minute.
  4. Serve with crusty bread.

Note: If you want to put the soup in the crockpot to simmer for most of the day, let it cook on the stove top for a half hour before transferring to the crock. Then let it simmer on low as long as you’d like. Do not add pasta until just before serving. You don’t want mushy pasta!

ENJOY! 🙂

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This Blizzard is Brought to You By…

The words HOLY and CRAP.

Winter. Apparently he has arrived. And he wasn’t real gentle about it this time around either. Sometimes, winter kind of slinks in quietly. He hangs out in the back corner for a while and waits to be noticed. We  might wake up one morning in December and there’s this light dusting of snow on the grass and trees and for a split second we all think, oh, how nice. How pretty. We may even find ourselves whistling Jingle Bells as we scrape the nice, light dusting off our cars and driveways. We think, wow, maybe this Winter character isn’t so bad after all.

Well. Not this year. There was no easing into it this time. Winter is a December wallflower no more. He decided NOT to stand in the back corner and wait to be noticed, he was going to make his presence known. In a big, huge, downright shocking way. Especially since, just over a week ago, we had temps around here in the 50s. Nay a snowflake to be seen.

And then today, we wake up to this:

And this:

Blizzard 2009. This is going to be one of THOSE storms. One of those media hyped “Remember when? Where were you?” kind of storms. I predict by the weekend, we’ll start hearing the stories of blizzard babies nearly born in cars. And paramedics trying to reach the guy who keeled over in his driveway trying to shovel snow. Big, shocking snow stories like that.We all love those, don’t we. Yeah. Right.

In other words, people will be talking about this one for a long, long time. Not necessarily because of the AMOUNT of snow (we’ve had this much snow before) but just because we’re pretty early in the season here and this bad boy has really packed a punch. The wind! The drifts! Oh my gosh, the drifts! We are snowbound in our neighborhood because of the drifts in the streets. In a nutshell, it’s bad.

Why, Winter, why?? Ugh.

The plus side to all of this is, of course, the snow day. My office closed today. Eric had big plans to get to work but after attempting to clear off the driveway (and having the wind blow everything he cleared right back into his face) and watching our neighbor (who works for the same company) get hung up in a huge drift in front of our house, he decided not to be the hero and worked from home. It turns out none of his employees got in either. We had no choice but stay home.

So, what to do when the weather outside is frightful? Why, bake of course! Needless to say, only with things already in the house. And bake I did…but not the cookies you’ll find below. I made these over the weekend. PSYCH! Ha. Stay tuned for what I made today, coming soon to a blog near you.:)

To tide you over, I give you Chocolate Hazelnut Thumbprints! YUM. These are are really easy to make and super chocolatey and rich. Believe it or not, these cookies were my first experience with Nutella! Nutella and I…we are now in love. It’s serious. We didn’t even hold hand first, I just took that jar home with me the very first day. 😉

Anyway, I really loved these cookies. Chewy (chocolate cookie), crunchy (crushed hazelnuts), creamy(Nuetlla) – all rolled into one tasty little bite. The only thing to be aware of – really punch your thumb down hard in the middle. I didn’t intent enough on my first batch so I didn’t really have a cute little home for my Nutella. Other than that, these are a simple and delicious treat. The perfect addition to any holiday goodie tray.

Special shoutout to my wonderful husband Eric who assisted me greatly with this particular recipe by painstakingly cracking dozens of hazelnuts out of their shell with a hammer and a kitchen towel. That is love, people. LOVE! I love a man who’s handy (in the kitchen). 😉

CHOCOLATE HAZELNUT THUMBPRINTS (Recipe Source: Cooking Light, December 2009)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4.5  ounces  all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
  • 1  cup  powdered sugar
  • 1/3  cup  unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1/2  cup  butter, softened
  • 2  large egg yolks
  • 1  teaspoon  instant espresso (optional)
  • 1/2  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 2/3  cup  finely chopped hazelnuts, toasted
  • 1/3  cup  hazelnut-chocolate spread (such as Nutella)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, and salt; stir with a whisk. Beat butter with a mixer until light and fluffy. Whisk egg yolks together with espresso powder (if using). Add the yolk mixture and vanilla to butter; beat well. Add flour mixture to butter mixture; beat at low speed just until combined.

3. Turn dough out onto a sheet of wax paper; knead 6 times or until smooth and shiny. Roll the dough into  1-inch balls. Roll the balls in nuts, pressing gently to make sure they stick. Arrange balls 1 inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Press thumb into center of each cookie, leaving an indentation. Bake, 1 batch at a time, at 350° for 10 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks. Spoon about 1/2 teaspoon hazelnut-chocolate spread into center of each cookie.

Makes about 28 cookies.

ENJOY! 🙂

One year ago: Eggnog Muffins with Nutmeg Streusel Topping. Such a great holiday treat!

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Love that Babka!

Would you believe me if I said my husband has had a bit of a Babka Obsession for at least the last six months? It’s true. The man has been bugging me about babka since last spring!

A while back, (quite a while, if I’m being honest), Eric and I were enjoying a quiet evening at home with our favorite show – Seinfeld! If you’re a fan, then you remember the infamous “Dinner Party” episode. The gang stops off a cake and bottle of wine before heading to a dinner party for the evening. Hilarity ensues.

Elaine insists on getting a chocolate babka – only to find she misses the last one because she didn’t take a number before getting in line at the bakery. She’s stuck with the “lesser babka.” The cinnamon. There’s a hair involved.

In other words, it’s hilarious.

So Eric looks over at me and says: You should make babka.
Me: Okay.
Pause, pause. Blink, blink.
Eric: What’s a babka?
Me: Um. I’m not sure.

Commence scratching of head.

Luckily there was a laptop nearby. Google to the rescue! We learned that babka was a cross between a yeast bread and sweet cake. A sweet, buttery yeast dough is folded around a sweet filling (such as chocolate or cinnamon).We also learned that this delicious bread is a favorite of Jewish families at Hanukkah.

His eyes went wide – like a little kid in a candy store. “I want that!” He declared. YUM. I was intreguied too. I love trying new things and learning about other’s traditions. And it’s always and honor and pleasure to try them in my own home, even if I’m not all that familiar. I love expanding my knowledge and my palate. I made a mental note to make Eric a babka.

And so began the Great Babka Obession of 2009. He’s been asking and asking me to make one. And asking. Again and again and again. I kept telling him I would but I just never got around to it. When I opened my December issue of Cooking Light and it fell right to a chocolate babka recipe, I figured it was a sign – time to make my husband his babka. And since the holidays are just around the corner, I decided this was the perfect time to try it!

Two words: Oh. My. Delicious! Absolutely delicious. Eric watched with excitement as I sliced into the buttery, golden brown exterior…

To reveal the swirls of chocolately goodness inside. Oh, it’s just so good. Perfect for dessert or a decadent holiday breakfast. A loaf of this along with some specialty coffee or tea would make a delightful and special homemade gift this season.

The best part of all, is it’s pretty easy to make. A little time consuming, but really, this is an easy to dough to make and even easier to work with! It rolled like a dream. The chocolate filling isn’t overly sweet and I loved the subtle hint of spiciness from the cinnamon. And it’s oh-so pretty.

Don’t wait months and months to try this like I did….you will not be disappointed!

CHOCOLATE BABKA (Recipe Source: Cooking Light, December 2009)

**Note** When rolling the dough around the filling, really roll it and pinch it tight. As tight as you can. I don’t think I rolled mine quite tight enough (see the gaps in the photo…) Also, if you want clean, nice slices where you can really see the swirl inside, it is essential you let the bread cool completely before cutting into it. It’s so soft and delicious, it will smoosh and turn to mush if you try to cut it when it’s warm. Just try to resit the warm, chocolatey goodness. It will be hard. You’ve been warned. 🙂

Dough:

  • 1  teaspoon  granulated sugar
  • 1  package dry yeast (about 2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3/4  cup  warm 1% low-fat milk (105° to 110°)
  • 6  tablespoons  granulated sugar
  • 1/2  teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 1  large egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 7.5  ounces  all-purpose flour (about 1 2/3 cups), divided
  • 5.85  ounces  bread flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 5  tablespoons  butter, cut into pieces and softened
  • Cooking spray

Filling:

  • 1/2  cup  granulated sugar
  • 3  tablespoons  unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/4  teaspoon  salt
  • 4  ounces  semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Streusel:

  • 2  tablespoons  powdered sugar
  • 1  tablespoon  all-purpose flour
  • 1  tablespoon  butter, softened

DIRECTIONS:

1. Dissolve 1 teaspoon granulated sugar and yeast in warm milk in the bowl of a stand mixer; let proof for 5 minutes. Stir in 6 tablespoons granulated sugar, vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and egg yolk. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 6 ounces (about 1 1/3 cups) all-purpose flour and bread flour to milk ; beat with dough hook at medium speed until well blended (about 2 minutes). Add 5 tablespoons butter, beating until well blended. Scrape dough out onto a floured surface (dough will be very sticky). Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add 1.5 ounces (about 1/3 cup) all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will be very soft).

2. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft free place for about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in size. (Gently press two fingers into dough. If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.) Punch dough down; cover and let dough rest 5 minutes.

3. Line the bottom of a 9 x 5–inch loaf pan with parchment paper; coat sides of pan with cooking spray.

4. For the filling, combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, salt, and chocolate in a  bowl; set aside.

5. Place dough on a heavily floured surface; roll dough out into a 16-inch square. Sprinkle filling over dough, leaving a 1/4-inch border around edges. Roll up dough tightly, jelly-roll fashion; pinch seam and ends to seal. Holding dough by ends, twist dough 4 times as if wringing out a towel. Fit dough into prepared pan. Cover and let rise 45 minutes or until doubled in size.

6. Preheat oven to 350°.

7.  For the streusel, combine powdered sugar, 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, and 1 tablespoon softened butter, stirring with a fork until mixture is crumbly; sprinkle streusel evenly over dough. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until loaf is browned and sounds hollow when tapped. Cool bread in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; the remove. Cool bread completely on wire rack before serving.

ENJOY! 🙂

One year ago: I was baking up a storm for an event at work. Click to see all the holiday goodies I made – all the recipes are linked there!

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Blog UPGRADE!

Hey all!

I’m very slowly but surly upgrading my blog to make it more reader-friendly and fun. I added a new feature in the right hand column….you can now SUBSCRIBE to Milk & Honey right here from the home page! Isn’t that great? I think so too! So glad I finally figured out how to do this as I’ve had readers ask in the past. Told you…Computer Smartz. I don’t gots them. 🙂

There are two links there. You can subscribe in your reader of choice (google, yahoo, etc.) OR you can enter your email address and get all my updates right in your inbox! Awesome! So now you never have to miss a post! 🙂

Thanks again to everyone for reading! I’ve only been blogging for about a year and half and I’m so excited to see how much it’s grown in such a short time. I have a lot of fun sharing recipes and stories with all of you. So THANK YOU, THANK YOU for sticking around. There’s much more to come! But for now,  Christmas shopping is calling my name.

Happy Saturday! 🙂

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Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

PRE-CHRISTMAS BREAK-IN SHOCKS COMMUNITY
Cookies Severely Injured by Large, Bearded Intruder

LOLLIPOP LANE, NORTH POLE (December 1, 2009) – North Pole law enforcement officials responded to a pre-Christmas break-in today on Lollipop Lane, a quiet residential street located about six miles northwest of Santa’s Workshop. According to police reports, residents of a candy-trimmed gingerbread cottage reported being terrorized by a large, bearded man wearing a red suit and wielding a giant, misshapen sack.

Witnesses reported seeing the man, who stood about 5’5 inches tall and weighed about 220 pounds, trespassing on the property around 11:15 this morning. He allegedly entered the residence via the chimney.

“Yeah, I seen him sneaking around up there on the roof,” said a distraught neighbor who preferred not to be identified. “I could tell he was up to something. This is a quiet neighborhood. Things like this just don’t happen on Lollipop Lane.”

Police said that once the intruder entered the house, he approached the residents, the Gingerbread family, as they lay quietly on a plate on the kitchen counter. He then allegedly produced a jug of milk from inside his coat pocket and began to dunk, bite and chew the unsuspecting victims.

“It was awful, just awful,” said Jed Gingerbread, one of the inured, from his hospital bed. “He had a crazy, hungry look in his eye. There were piles of cakes, candies and pastries all over the house, but he only wanted us cookies. There were crumbs everywhere! That fat man in the red suit is a menace, I tell you! A menace!”

At a news conference this afternoon, officials said they had a suspect in custody. Captain Tiny McElferton of the North Pole police department confirmed they apprehended the suspect, Mr. Santa Claus, at his business about 1:30 this afternoon. “With the help of our forensic specialists, we were able to analyze sleigh and hoof prints on the property along with a long fur-trimmed cap found at the scene,” he said. “We found Mr. Claus cowering and crying underneath a bench in his workshop. He was taken into custody swiftly and cooperatively.” Mr. Claus is currently being held at the Lump of Coal Correctional Facility.

According to a statement released today from Mr. Claus’s lawyer, Candy L. Cane, of Cane, Snow, Bell & Stocking Law Partners in North Pole City, Mr. Claus and the Gingerbread family are expected reach a settlement. “Mr. Claus is very sorry for what he did,” Ms. Cane said. “In attempt to trim his waistline for the upcoming busy holiday season, Mrs. Claus removed all the junk food from the residence. In a low-blood sugar induced moment of madness, Mr. Claus helped himself to a few bites off the Gingerbread family. We expect no charges will be filed and Mr. Claus will be released from custody later this evening to return to his busy toy-making schedule for the upcoming Christmas holiday.”

A call placed to the Claus residence was not immediately returned.

A spokesperson from the Already Been Chewed (ABC) Institute, a not for profit organization dedicated to assisting sweets and treats affected by bites, breakage, crumbling and smashing, among other ailments, said the Gingerbreads remained in good spirits. “We lost a few limbs today,” said Dr.  Berry Sweetandtasty, Director of Community Relations for the ABC and head of a new program aimed at preventing the disfigurement of chocolate candies by poking holes in the bottom and tossing them back in the box, “But rest assured that these cookies still taste just a delicious as ever, even if they are missing parts.”

Warning: The photo below is graphic and disturbing.

These cookies, once whole, are now faced with a life of ridicule and rejection after a run in with Mr. Santa Claus. They will remain under the care of the institute as ABC Cookies for the remainder of the holiday season, as no one wants to eat a cookie that Already Been Chewed by someone else!

🙂

There are three reasons I made these cookies: 1. To have an excuse to write something ridiculous in blog (see above, please and thank you.) 2. To use my ABC cookie cutters – gingerbread men missing either their head, arm or leg…the result of an obvious “bite.” How cute is that?? And 3. For practice. I am TERRIBLE at cookie decorating. For reals. (see above, please and thank you.) I want to get better but I have a long way to go, as you can tell from my photo.

I think I can safely say, that to achieve good results, it’s all about the consistency of your icing. This holds true for both piping and flooding. After this process, I’ve learned that IT.IS.HARD. to get that consistency just right. I think my piping icing was too stiff, resulting in “peaks” when I pulled the bag away from the cookie. So then I’m over there trying to flatten out the peaks with a toothpick. That resulted in uneven lines that are too thick in some places and not thick enough either. (See red shirt above) So I tried to thin it out – thinned it too much, making it too runny for piping. (See weepy yellow pants above). And I don’t know what the heck happened with the green icing I used to flood the shirt. Look at all those bubbles! BLAST! Ugh. I SUCK at this. LOL.

There must be a system. I’m just not smart or talented enough to figure it out. I need a test pattern somewhere. Once I color a batch of icing and fill my pastry bag…that’s it. There’s no turning back. I feel like I can’t go back and try to fix the icing consistency. It’s too late then. I need to know what to look for BEFORE I start. I’m just going to have to keep practicing. If only these practice sessions didn’t take so long….

Oh, and the other problem…I don’t really like sugar cookies. I don’t know…meh. If I’m going to make a cookie, I want it to taste a whole heck of a lot better than most of the sugar cookies I’ve had in my life. My lukewarm feelings about sugar cookies make it hard for me to get excited about practicing my decorating. Although, I tried a different recipe this time, a brown sugar spice cookie from Bridget over at Bake at 350. I did like the flavor a lot more than the standard sugar cookie. You can find the recipe here. Bridget’s cookies are AMAZING! So if you prefer not to have your eyes assaulted by my lackluster decorating skills, I suggest you spend some time browsing her blog. 🙂

I’m going to defer to the experts for royal icing help. Check out Katie’s tutorial at Good Things Catered or Annie’s tips and hints at Annie’s Eats for more information about how to work with the icing. Both these ladies have AWESOME cookies in their blogs too. Maybe someday I’ll get to hang with the cool kids in the Expert Cookie Decorators Club. Like I said…I have a long LONG way to go. 🙂

Here’s a link to the cookie cutters too…in case you’re interested in making your own ABC cookies!

ENJOY! 🙂

One year ago: Turkey Meatball Stroganoff

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