Category Archives: cookies

Sweet Rewards

I have a confession to make. Deep breaths. Ready? Okay, here we go.

I STINK at cleaning my house. I am horrible. It’s disgraceful, really. Sure, sure – I can PICK UP the house. That is, get the clutter out of the way so no one sees it (Hm. Here’s a drawer that still opens and shuts – must need more crap inside.) and clean up the obvious glaring messes (Oops. There’s a pile of petrified shredded cheese on the kitchen floor again…) But when it comes the actual roll-up-your-sleeves, put-your-back-into-it, elbow-grease cleaning, I just kind of….ignore it. No, I mean I forget about it. Yeah, yeah…forget. Since I’m so busy…and stuff.

Until I look around one day and think…Holy cow, this place is disgusting. Nothing can remedy this nastiness except…an entire day off work devoted to cleaning. A vacation day. To clean.

That sounds wrong. So, so wrong. I’m a little ashamed of it myself. 😉

Enter our bathroom. Now, don’t get me wrong – the bathroom is on my regular Saturday cleaning schedule. Every Saturday morning, I do my quick sweep through where I change out our towels, wipe down the counters and sink, scrub the wayward toothpaste splatters off the mirror and clean the toilet. About once a month, I go crazy and wash the rugs and sweep and mop the floor. I mean, I don’t let us live in complete squalor over here, but I’m ashamed to admit how much time goes by in between shower/tub cleanings and grout scrubbings. It’s a little bit sick.

So early last week, I’m surveying the bathroom and it’s hundreds of white subway tiles (note to self: TOO MUCH TILE IN THE BATHROOM. NEVER AGAIN!) and I’m thinking…ew. I can see little specks of dust on my tiles and grout. There’s some pretty gnarly hairballs jammed into the corners and there was some definite black and pink moldy, mildewy gunk building up in the tracks of the shower door. Time to roll up my sleeves, put my back into it, slather on that elbow grease and clean the stupid bathroom.

So that’s what I did. Took the day off on Friday and spent the better part of the entire day cleaning the bathroom. Save for the half hour or so I had to get the heck out of there after the bleachy fumes started to make me a bit wobbly. I went through every drawer and cabinet and purged a bunch of old junk. I scrubbed and scoured every tile, every surface in that little room. I chiseled moldy, mildewy junk off the shower door, cleaned every inch of that tub and shower up to the ceiling. I got down on my hands and knees and scrubbed every single crevice of those textured tiles on the floor. You could serve dinner on my toilet it’s so sparkling clean in there now.

I always feel extremely satisfied after I do something like that. Now, if I just kept up with it a little better I wouldn’t have to spend ENTIRE DAYS doing it but…meh. Job well done, anyway. I’m gonna go ahead and give myself a pat on the back. ::pat, pat, pat:: Ah. Nice. Good job, Self. Way to git ‘er done. 🙂

After all that, I decided to reward myself with…COOKIES! YAY for cookies! I wanted something classic and comforting after all that hard work, so when I saw my latest copy of Midwest Living (my favorite magazine!) hinting at the Midwest’s best chocolate chip cookie recipes hiding inside, I knew exactly what I wanted make. Of course, I turned straight to their number one pick!

These.Are.So.Good. Oh my. The recipe hails from Lindsay’s Chocolate Cafe and Coffee House in O’Fallon, MO, which after trying these cookies, I will have to stop at the next time we’re in the STL area! Mmmm. They are chock full of chocolate, oats and nuts. Crispy around the edges and chewy on the inside. I loved all the different textures going on in these babies. Mmmm. Truly a most perfect and wonderful cookie!

What intrigued me most about these cookies was the addition of a grated milk chocolate bar to the batter. I’m not sure it added any more chocolate flavor so much as a nice chocolatey marble. It really gave the cookies a nice color.

Looks like little chocolate centipedes! Ah! They’re trying to escape! 🙂

LINDSAY’S CHOCOLATE CAFE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES: (Recipe Source: As seen in Midwest Living, March/April 2010)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2-1/2 cups regular rolled oats
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 12-oz. pkg. (2 cups) semisweet chocolate pieces
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 4 oz. milk chocolate bar, grated

DIRECTIONS:

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

2. Beat butter in a bowl with an electric mixer on a medium speed for 30 seconds. Add sugars and beat on medium speed until mixture is combined, scraping sides of bowl. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Beat in as much of the flour mixture as you can with the mixer, then stir in any remaining flour mixture with a wooden spoon until combined. Stir in chocolate pieces, nuts and grated chocolate.

3. Drop dough from a large cookie scoop (about 3 tablespoons) 4 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheets or baking stone. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 9 to 10 minutes or until edges are light brown. Cool on cookie sheets 1 minute. Transfer to wire racks and let cool. Yield: about 30 cookies. (These can be made smaller, if you prefer. Expect to get about 60 if using a standard cookie scoop)

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago: California Medley Pasta Toss

9 Comments

Filed under cookies

The Great Imitation Oreo Chase

My husband loves Oreos. LOVES. He could sit there and stuff his face with an entire package if it were socially acceptable. Chocolate crumbs tumbling down his shirt and sweet creamy filling stuck in his teeth. They are his absolute favorite cookie.

He doesn’t get them very often. Two reasons. 1. I try to limit the sweets in the house to one at a time. And I prefer it if I make it. It’s just better, sweeter, tastier that way. Oreos are good….in a chemical-laced, barely food kind of way. (Is it just me, or do all the cookies and snack cakes we used to love as kids just not taste as good now? ) 2. They’re expensive. If they are not on sale, real Oreos break the bank! And for what? Not much.

So, if I’m going home for the weekend and Eric’s staying behind and I know I’m not going to have time to bake, I’ll pick up package for him to tide him over.

But I never buy actual Oreos. I am so cheap! As a result, my husband has become quite the expert on store-brand Oreo knock-offs. According to Eric, the Wal-Mart brand is satisfactory, the HyVee brand is downright inedible and the Target brand is the runaway favorite. To me, they are all about the same, but even I have to admit the HyVee ones…ew. ::shudder::

I started seeing recipes for homemade Oreos pop up this past fall. I was immediately intrigued. No more chasing down imitation Oreos! Hooray! It’s funny, because when I finally decided to make them (to give away as holiday gifts) the Oreo lover in the house only got to sample ONE. What a cruel, cruel world.

I used a combination of two recipes to come up with this holiday winner. I used the chocolate cookie recipe from Joy the Baker’s version. I was drawn to her description of the cookie being a combo of salty and sweet (which I LOVE.) I loved her idea for a white chocolate ganache filling, but since I was giving them away, I wanted something that wouldn’t spoil as quick. Because of that, I used Michelle’s filling from over at Brown Eyed Baker. I added a bit of peppermint extract to the filling and called it a delicious homemade treat!

These cookies were perfect. The filling was smooth and creamy and the cookie perfectly chocolaty and crunchy. Heaven. I’m sad Eric only got to have one. And I’m a little sad I only got to have one too. I’ll be making these again for sure! 🙂

CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT SANDWICH COOKIES (Cookie recipe from Joy the Baker, filling from Brown Eyed Baker, which she adapted from Gourmet, December 2007)

INGREDIENTS:

Cookies:

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 15 tablespoons (7 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, but into 3/4-inch cubes, at room temperature

Filling:

  • ½ stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract (depending on how strong you like it)

DIRECTIONS:

Make the cookies:

  1. Position the racks in the lower and upper thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt and mix on low speed.  With the mixer running, add the butter a few pieces at a time.  The mixture will have a sandy texture at first and then will begin to form pebble-size pieces.  As soon as the dough starts to come together, stop the mixer.  Make sure all the butter is well incorporated.  If there are large butter pockets, mix for a few seconds more.
  3. Form and roll the dough straight from the mixer.  Do not chill the dough.
  4. Transfer the dough to a board and use the heel of your hand or a pastry scraper to shape the dough into a block about 5 by 7 inches.  Cut the block into two pieces.
  5. One at a time, roll each block of dough between two pieces of lightly floured parchment paper until about 1/8-inch thick.  Cut into 2 inch rounds with a circle cookie cutter.  Place 1/2 to 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet.  You can form and roll the dough scraps once after the first roll.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through the baking.  Remove from the oven and cool on the sheets for 2 to 5 minutes.  They’ll be too soft to move straight from the oven.  Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and let cool completely. They will become crunchy as they cool.

Make the filling:

  1. Beat the butter and shortening together at medium speed until combined and smooth. Reduce the speed to low and gradually beat in the sugar and extract. Increase the speed to high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until the filling is light and fluffy.
  2. Spread about a teaspoon of filling onto the bottom side of half the cookies. Top with a second cookie and press gently, just until the filling reaches the edges. Store in an airtight container.

Makes about 3 dozen sandwich cookies.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago:
Pork Medallions in a Cranberry Wine Sauce
– so flavorful and so easy.
Orzo with Sausage, Peppers and Tomatoes – Dinner in 15. LOVE it. 🙂
Sweet and Spicy Peanut Soup – Oh, this is a MUST try. I love, love, LOVE this soup!

3 Comments

Filed under cookies

Upon Further Review…

How do you feel about recipe reviews? All the major online recipe sources offer a place for home cooks everywhere to share their experiences with a particular recipe. It’s like a great big kitchen table for all of us to talk shop about food. They can be helpful and enlightening.

But how much can you really conclude from recipe reviews? If it has a whole bunch of glowing, positive reviews with maybe just one or two stinkers thrown in – do you assume the people that didn’t like it must just lack the skills to do it up right? You do, don’t you? Ha. I totally do. If 683 people think the recipe is awesome and one person doesn’t…well, you gotta wonder about that odd man out.

Or what about those reviewers who change just about everything before deciding the recipe sucks? Don’t you hate those? I do. They kind of make me want to reach through the computer screen and give the writer a virtual throat punch. “I didn’t have flour or sugar,” reads a one-star review, “so I subbed pencil shavings and grass clippings. It tasted terrible. This recipe stinks, don’t waste your time.”

Wow. That’s very helpful. Thank so much, Oh Sultan of the Substitution. Thank goodness we all have your infinite wisdom to save us from this the Recipe of Doom. ::eye roll::

But what if a recipe has an equal number of positive and negative reviews? What to do? How to proceed? Make the recipe? Move on? It’s a pickle, I tell ya!

When I was deciding on what to make for my holiday treat trays this year, I decided I wanted to do three old standby recipes and two new ones. When I saw these citrus butter cookies from Melissa d’Arabian show up in my inbox thanks to Food Network’s 12 Day of Cookies, I was immediately smitten. Love citrus. Love butter. What’s not to like?!

The problem? The reviews were mixed – like total 50/50. Some people loved ’em and some not so much. Hm.

Perhaps in my younger, less confident days I would have shied away from this recipe based on the reviews. But I decided I was a slave to the reviews NO MORE. If I wanted to try something, then by all means, I should try it…and NOT let a couple of Negative Nancys spoil it for me. I was making these cookies.

With a few minor adjustments, of course. Ha. Adjustments I knew would work. First, I made all my cookies orange instead of separating the dough and doing orange, lemon and lime. I did this to: A) save time and B) because I like orange. 🙂 And since I was giving all of the cookies away, I dipped each one in chocolate (some semi-sweet, some white) instead of making the chocolate sauce.

Now, I can see where people may have had difficulties with this recipe. First and foremost, these cookies spread. A lot. I tried everything to keep them from spreading. I chilled my cookie sheets (per the recipe instructions), I chilled my dough. I chilled the dough after piping it on the cookie sheet. No luck. Still spread. It’s okay though…because they are really, really good! And all you have to do to keep from getting large, misshapen cookies is to cut a smaller hole in your baggie before piping. If the piped dough looks too thin, it’s probably just right to get a nice shape on your cookie.

Also, it’s essential that you do not overbake these babies. As customary with butter cookies, overbaking leads to a dried out, crumbly mess. Keep a close eye on them…they’ll go from not quite done to over done in a blink of an eye. Get them out of the oven at the right time and you’ll have a delicate, tender, slightly crisp cookie with just the right kick of citrus. Heavenly.

For the record, if you’re still on the fence, I had a couple of recipients tell me these were their favorite out of the whole bunch. So take that Negative Nancys. HA!

CHOCOLATE-DIPPED ORANGE BUTTER COOKIES (Recipe adapted from: Melissa d’Arabian – FoodNetwork.com)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, slightly softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • Dash of salt
  • Finely grated zest from 1 large orange
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • 4 ounces white chocolate, chopped

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Beat butter, cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together with an electric mixer until creamy.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, and beat until just blended. Stir in orange zest.
  4. Transfer the dough to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch tip, or a sturdy plastic bag with the corner snipped off. Pipe the dough in 2-inch long strips, about 2 inches apart, on a cold unlined baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, or until golden brown. Repeat with remaining dough.
  5. Let cool on baking sheet for a few minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack and cool completely.
  6. Melt both chocolates in either the microwave or over a double boiler. Dip half the cookies in the semi-sweet chocolate and half in the white. Place each dipped cookie on a sheet of wax paper. Allow chocolate to set completely before storing. Yield: About 60 cookies.

One Year Ago: We rang in 2009 with Alton’s Baked Mac and Cheese. Mmm. Cheesy New Year…

2 Comments

Filed under chocolate, cookies, fruit

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. 🙂

4 Comments

Filed under cookies

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!

6 Comments

Filed under chocolate, cookies

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

7 Comments

Filed under cookies

Willpower. I Don’t Gots It.

Hi. Remember a week ago? When I said I was saying goodbye to blogging for the entire month of November to write a the World’s Worst Novel for NaNoWriMo?

Well. About that. Apparently, I’m a big fat liar. I apologize. If it helps, it’s a definite possibility that my pants are in fact on fire.

See, here’s the thing. I’ve had a really great first week of NaNo-ing. Really great! I’m currently a mere seven days into this journey and I am sitting at a comfortable 18,000 words. Only 32,000 to go! It’s been a ride so far, I tell you what! I really didn’t think it was possible for a pile of words to be as crappy as last year’s NaNo, but I’m really out doing myself this year. I’m telling you, this novel is ripe with suckdom. But, I shall press on. Because that’s what NaNo is all about. It doesn’t have to be good…it just has to fill up 50k. And I’m well on my way to reaching that goal for the second year running!

So. Since I am sitting at a comfy, cozy, cushy almost-20k, I decided to take a little break and treat myself to a little blogging. And a couple cookies! See, no willpower. Cannot.Stay.Away.From.Blog. And I can’t really stay away from these cookies either, so I guess it’s just one of those days. One of those Give in to All Your Cravings kind of days.

Man, I love those days!

Now, let’s talk about these cookies. Or as I like to call them – Cinnamon-kissed Crescents of Pure Christmas Perfection.

Oops! I said Christmas. Oh man, it’s only November and I let the C-word slip. I’m sorry. That was wrong. I hope my punishment is a few more 70 degree days like we had today and not an early blizzard. I promise I won’t say Christmas for at least another three weeks if we can squeeze out a few more nice days, k? Awesome.

The reason Christmas came to my kitchen a bit early this year is not because I’m just really excited about hearing Willie Nelson’s version of that Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons song I hate so much or because I’m anxious for a repeat of last year’s Looking All Over Town and Can’t Find Season 1 of The Office on DVD gift shopping fiasco. Although both those sound tempting…

No. The real reason is my local paper is having a holiday cookie recipe contest. And I wanted to enter. Specifically, I wanted to enter these. Seeing as I have never actually made them myself, I decided a trial run before entering the recipe was probably a good idea. Plus, I needed to take a drool-worthy photo to submit along with it. Oh, and I was quickly running out of time, as the deadline to enter is Tuesday.

So yeah, Welcome, Christmas! (Don’t all the Whos in Whoville welcome Christmas even though the Grinch stole all their decorations and trees and things? They totally do – take a lesson from Cindy Lou Who…you don’t need Christmas “things” for it to be Christmas! So if I want it to be Christmas on the 7th of November, then so be it!)

It just wouldn’t be Christmas at our house without Stellas. They have been gracing (the same) cookie tins in my family for as long as I can remember – one of my mom’s gold standards. Right there along side her insanely tender and delicious butter spritz cookies and her knock-your-socks off, to-die-for kolache. (Except for the prune ones. She can keep the prune for herself. Ha. 😉 ) As I kid, I’d watch my mom roll, cut and shape dozens and dozens of Stellas, just waiting for the chance to grab one, warm from the oven, to pop into my mouth.

They bake up so flaky, so light, buttery and golden brown, you’d swear you were sinking your teeth into a delicious pastry. Pair that with warm cinnamon-sugar and delicious, crunchy pecans and you’ve got yourself one amazing cookie that has the holidays written all over it.

These are a true labor of love, as they are a bit time consuming to make. Not only do you need to chill the dough overnight before working with it, the cutting and rolling of each individual cookie does take some time. It is well worth it though, just trust me. They are addicting. And, take it from someone who knows, they are phenomenal first thing in the morning. For real. All too often growing up, I’d get up after sleeping in over Christmas break and help myself to a couple of these for breakfast. And a couple more after lunch. And after dinner, of course…

Ohhh. See. Willpower. I Don’t Gots it. You won’t either after you try these! Consider them for your holiday treat trays this year. (You’re planning already, aren’t you? Yeah…that’s what I thought. 😉 )

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

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups finely chopped pecans
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3 egg whites, lightly beaten
  • Powdered sugar (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Sift flour into a large bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or fingers until crumbly. Stir in sour cream, working the dough with a spoon until it just holds together. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least six hours or overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  3. Combine pecans, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.
  4. Divide dough into four equal parts. Working with one part at a time, shape the dough into a ball. Dough will be quite soft and sticky. Leave the remainder of the dough refrigerator until ready to use.
  5. Sprinkle work surface with flour, then heavily with granulated sugar. Roll out the dough into a round slightly larger than 8 inches across (dough should be quite thin).  Using an inverted salad plate as a guide, cut an 8 inch circle out of the dough. Refrigerate the scraps for later use. Cut the circle into 8 equal wedges.
  6. Brush the entire circle with the beaten egg whites. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the pecan mixture over the circle. Starting with the wide edge, roll up each wedge and shape into a crescent. Place one inch apart on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat with remaining dough quarters. Form leftover scraps into a ball and repeat as above.
  7. Brush the tops of the cookies with remaining egg whites and sprinkle with remaining pecan mixture. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until lightly browned. (Check them after 15 and keep a close eye on them. They seem to go from looking not quite done to overdone in just a minute or two. I should know. I burned my first batch. HA!) Remove to wire racks to cool completely.  Store in an air-tight container for up to two weeks. Sprinkle with powdered sugar just before serving, if desired.

Yield: About 5 and half dozen

A few words of wisdom about this recipe:

  • Resit the urge to sub reduced fat or fat free sour cream in this recipe. Really, just don’t do it. You’ve already committed to three sticks of butter, might as well just keep the Full-Fat Train a-movin’ and go with the real stuff. I think you really need the thick, hearty texture of full fat sour cream to give your dough the right consistency and keep it together. The other varieties are going to change the texture way too much.
  • Do not be shy with the flour and sugar for rolling! The dough may seem hard, cold, and almost crumbly  when you first start out rolling but it will get soft and sticky REALLY quick at room temp. Make sure your surface and rolling pin are well floured and sugared so the dough doesn’t stick.
  • Try using a metal pizza cutter to cut your circle and wedges. It won’t stick to the dough or pull it out of shape like a knife will. Perfect circles and wedges, every time, guaranteed!
  • When shaping the cookies, make sure the pointed edge of the wedge is on the bottom. They will keep their shape better while baking. I found that when the pointed was on the top of the cookie, they tended to open up in the oven and not look as pretty.
  • The cookies will probably grow “feet” of egg white and melted sugar in the oven while they bake. If that happens, as soon as they come out of the oven, grab a knife and start pulling the sugar puddles away from the edge of the cookies – it will be soft and pull away easily. Work quickly, as the sugar puddles will harden fast, even on a warm cookie sheet. You’ll end up with cleaner edges this way, instead of having to break off the hardened sugar after the cookies cool.

ENJOY! 🙂

Pssst. Merry Christmas. Pass it on!

4 Comments

Filed under cookies

Welcome Back

I may or may not have dropped off the face of the earth there for a minute. Yeesh. Sorry!! I’m back now. I have booze. That’s a peace offering if there ever was one, don’t ya think? Yep. Me too. CHEERS! 🙂

Now, where I have been? Well, since my last post two friggin’ weeks ago already, I have gone through three distinct phases that have completely and totally removed me from all things blogging.

First, there was pre-vacation panic. This is where I run around like a chicken with it’s head cut off making sure everything is just so before we leave. I do this, of course, so I can relax. I make myself crazy so I can relax. Is that weird? That may be weird… The house must be spotless. There must be nothing left in the fridge that may rot. I have to lay out my entire wardrobe just so I can select 10 or so outfits to cover my bare bottom while we travel. I have to pack the snacks. And assemble the rockin’ road trip tunes. And make sure the mail is being held and the newspaper is canceled and that there are timers on all the lights. Getting ready to go on vacation is downright exhausting, I tell you what!

Second, well, we went on vacation! There’s no blogging on vacation. Only sightseeing and eating and spending time with the Hubs are allowed. Ahhhh. We spent five relaxing days in FABULOUS Nashville, TN. We had an AWESOME time. LOVED it. Like the “I would drop everything right now and move there” kind of love. I am ever so slowly working on a post about all the great things we saw and ate while we were there. It will be up soon…I promise! I’ve been working on it since last Wednesday…sometimes you just know when it’s time to take a step back and move on to something else for a while. This is one of those times. That’s why you’ll see an (unusual and fun) recipe in this post to pump you up for what’s coming. So stayed tuned!

And, third, there’s the Back from Vacation Blahs. You know how you get all tired and cranky that it’s back to reality? Laundry. Restocking that fridge you raked clean. Getting back into the swing of things at work. Add in the fact that two days after we returned it was back into the car for a weekend in the Chicago ‘burbs to see some of my wonderful, fabulous friends!

Whew! Needless to say, the blog has fallen by the wayside while I was off gallivanting around. Here is a really fun and easy recipe to get back into the swing of things….

Now, not to give too much away about our vacation, but one of the best things we did was drive down to Lynchburg to the Jack Daniel’s distillery. What fun! A of all…it’s gorgeous country down there. The town is nestled into wooded hills. It’s tiny, but absolutely beautiful. And with the leaves just beginning to turn, it kind of makes you forget that you are really not all that far from the big city. B of all…it’s Jack Daniel’s – what’s not to love about that?!

The whiskey making process is a long and labor intensive one – Our tour guide said that at any given time, there are upwards of 70 MILLION gallons of whiskey being aged in the barrel houses. 70 Million!! Now THAT’S a lot of booze. The county in which the distillery is located is actually dry. The only place you can buy liquor is on the property and they only started allowing that about 15 years ago! That’s just fascinating – the county’s economy revolves around the production of alcohol…and you can’t even buy it there!

Of course, we picked up our own bottle of Tennessee whiskey while we were there. That’s a given. After we finished our tour, we headed into town to poke around in the shops on Main St. Who can resist small town shops? I know I can’t. I promptly dropped 60 bucks there. Ha. One of the souvenirs I picked up was a cookbook – Jack Daniel’s Spirit of Tennessee Cookbook. Eric may talk a big game that he’s Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound (ha) but he will totally NOT drink all that anytime soon. Figured I’d help him along and use some of that amber-colored deliciousness in some recipes.

As I was leafing through it, I knew what I had to try first – as in pretty much the minute we returned….

SNOCKERDOODLES.

Um. Best.Cookie.Name.EVER. Right?? Totally.

What the heck is a Snockerdoodle? Well, it’s a delightful chocolate cookie that starts with boxed cake mix (I know, I know…but like I said, this is a ridiculously easy cookie) and gets a little flavor help from Uncle Jack (Daniel, that is.) Yup, this is a chocolate WHISKEY cookie. Get it? SNOCKERdoodles. LOVE it.

These are SO good. The end result is a chewy cookie with a rich, dark chocolate flavor and a warm, spicy background from the whiskey. The flavor is so unexpected but totally delicious. The whiskey is not overpowering at all. These would be an excellent addition to a holiday treat tray. You know…after you’ve spent days and days and countless hours kneading, rolling, cutting, and decorating Christmas cookies but you still need just ONE MORE thing to round out your baking? These. Seriously. They take minutes to throw together and they will totally impress your friends.

SNOCKERDOODLES (Recipe Source: Jack Daniel’s Spirit of Tennessee Cookbook)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 box devil’s food cake mix (two layer size)
  • 5 tablespoons Jack Daniel’s Whiskey
  • Powdered sugar, for rolling

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend eggs and oil. Add cake mix and whiskey. Mix well. (I used my hand mixer). Form into small balls and roll in powdered sugar before baking. Place cookie balls on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes (check ’em after 10). Be careful not to overbake – cookies will soft when taken out of the oven. Makes 5 dozen.

ENJOY! 🙂

One Year Ago:

17 Comments

Filed under chocolate, cookies

Interesting (non) weather we’re having here

What would you say if I told you we’ve had absolutely NO weather here in Northeast Iowa over the last three weeks.

That’s right, no weather.

That’s crazy talk, isn’t it? Unless your orbiting outer space somewhere in a black abyss of nothingness there is weather to report each and every day.

That may be true – but we haven’t had any of the kind of weather that gets people talking. Rain gets people talking. Snow and ice for sure get people talking. So do hurricanes, typhoons, and tornadoes. Heat and humidity has people lamenting. Cold and wind get people chattering. Too many clouds and people are complaining.

We have not had ANY of those. Every single day for the past three weeks it has been sunny, not a cloud in the sky, with temps near 80. This doesn’t sound so bad but, wow, it is insanely boring! Not a drop of rain, not a breath of wind and not even the tiniest hint of fall. There has been NOTHING to talk about weather-wise. Maybe I’m just a huge nerd because I like to talk about weather? If I am, don’t tell me, I don’t want to know. 🙂

Since we are sans weather here as of late, I was actually starting to forget we were plowing through September here! I’m not sure what season it feels like out there but it’s certainly not fall. This is quite worrisome. The worst possible thing could happen here — There could be no fall. No fall! No sweatshirts, no crisp days, no gentle rains. Nope. We’re going to skip fall completely and go straight to winter. We’re going to wake up one day after weeks and weeks of this non-weather and there will be TONS to talk about. As in, TONS of snow. And TONS of ice. And TONS of winter headaches and woes.

I’m shuddering just thinking about it! Hurry, Fall! Don’t pass us on by!

I thought maybe I would try to help fall along a little bit here this weekend. Maybe if I cook and bake enough fall-y foods, fall will appear. Well, good thing I got my pumpkin fix a couple weeks back because now the stores around here either A) don’t have any because of said pumpkin shortage. Or B) They’ve pulled it from the shelves and are hording it in a back room somewhere so they are able to meet demand for the holidays. Either way, it’s nowhere to be found.

Of course, there are other ways to usher in fall in the kitchen – apples, cranberries, spices and, for me, nuts! Especially pecans! Now, nuts may not seem like a fall food but something about buttery, toasty pecans just makes me feel all warm and cozy inside. Perfect for hoping for bringing in a new season.

I decided to make Ina’s Pecan Shortbread and they turned out WONDERFUL. Tender, buttery and crunchy. I love shortbread because it’s kind of a grown up cookie. I love how they aren’t too sweet and the pecans really shine through. Sugar-obsessed kids probably wouldn’t love these but they’d be perfect along side a cup of coffee with the ladies. 🙂

PECAN SHORTBREAD (Recipe Source: Ina Garten-Barefoot Contessa Cookbook via Foodnetwork.com)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups small diced pecans

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix together the butter and sugar until they are just combined. Add the vanilla and almond extracts. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour and salt, then add them to the butter/sugar mixture. Add the pecans and mix on low speed until the dough starts to come together. Dump onto a surface dusted with flour and shape into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough 1/2-inch thick and cut into 2 1/2-inch squares with a plain or fluted cutter (I used a 2 1/2 circle instead and then cut little leaves out of the scraps with a mini cookie cutter). Place the cookies on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (20 minutes may be a tad long, check after 15), until the edges begin to brown. Allow to cool to room temperature and serve.

ENJOY! 🙂

About a year ago:
Pumpkin Cheesecake – If you can find pumpkin, this is a GREAT way to use it.
Roasted Applesauce – Mmmmm…more fall goodies
Mom’s Bohemian Pork Roast with Bread Dumplings – My absolute FAVORITE meal my mom makes. A family tradition.
Brown Rice Chicken Chili – Easy and flavorful!

6 Comments

Filed under cookies

No Fear

So, I’m probably one of thousands and thousands of food bloggers out there who ran right out to see Julie & Julia this weekend. Eric even agreed to come with me. Way to take one for the team, babe! That’s why I love ya! I absolutely adored this movie – I think I had a smile on my face the entire time. Meryl Streep was fantastic as Julia and I loved learning about her fascinating life. (My Life in France is on my mile long to-be-read list but I haven’t gotten to it yet. I may have to move it up in the rotation!) I even heard Eric chuckle a few times.

I first picked up Julie Powell’s book Julie & Julia after seeing a preview for the movie earlier this summer. I had heard good things about the book in the past but it always slipped my mind when it came to deciding what to read next. When I saw the preview, I knew I had to get my hands on it right away. Off I ran to my public library to grab it.

This is going to sound off-the-wall bizarre and probably a bit nutty but…this book spoke to me. This book changed me. This book truly inspired me in a way that I’ve never been inspired before. Yeah, yeah roll your eyes, lean over and whisper to your friend that this Milkman’s Wife chick is all kinds of crazy. Go ahead…I won’t be offended. 🙂

I saw myself in Julie. I saw my life in parallel with her’s before she started her blog project. Frankly, it scared me. Some of the criticism I’ve read about the book is about Julie as a person. “How can she be nearly thirty and still be floating aimlessly through life?” The Cool, Confident, In-Complete-Control Masses argued. “Who gets that far into their adult life with so little sense of purpose. She is infuriating, childish and unambitious. She should quit whining and do something.”

Whoa. Back the truck up. This is the part where I hyperventilate and panic. Where I need to breathe into a paper bag and sit down with my head between my knees for a moment as I wonder, much to my horror, if that’s what people see…when they look at me.

I am a 27 year old college educated secretary. That is my actual job title. I didn’t even know anyone still used that word anymore (aren’t we all admin assistants now? Much more PC, right?) Apparently, they do. I’m one of them. I make the pennies to prove it too. I didn’t plan on making this my career (not there’s anything wrong with it. Honestly, I’m grateful anyone hires me to do anything at all. I’m pretty worthless.) It just kind of happened. Now I’m feeling rather…well, stuck with it, if I’m being perfectly honest. Just like Julie. I’ve spent the last five years since college just bouncing around from here to there, not ever really finding my place. Just like Julie. I find myself looking around at everyone else doing something spectacular with their life and I wonder how did I get so far behind? Why don’t I have anything to offer like everyone else? What’s the point of my life? Just like Julie.

If you haven’t figured it out from blog already, let me fill you in a little secret. I LOVE words. I love written words. The written word is a carefully crafted masterpiece, a true hidden talent. It’s deeper and more profound than speech. I don’t have much to say, but I have plenty to write. I’ve always been that way. Ever since I was little girl and I first picked up a pencil and began to write stories and poems littered with charming first grade mispellings, I’ve felt drawn to words. Back in high school, when English teachers were fawning over me and handing out A’s like candy and reading my stuff aloud as if to say “why can’t the rest of you do it this way?” I thought maybe I wanted to BE a writer.

At 18, they make you decide what you want to do with the rest of your life. You have decide what you want to be when you grow up so you can go off to college and study it and then come out on the other side ready to do it. Forever. This is ri-freakin’-diculous, if you ask me. How is a mere child, without a fully developed brain, supposed to make such a drastic and life changing decision? Even at the time, when most teenagers think they know it all, I thought the entire thing was completely laughable.

And I was different from other 18 year olds. I was mature. And wise. And smart. I was practical. I was going to have a good, sucessful life. A career. You don’t make a career out of writing, I thought. That’s like saying I want to be a rockstar, or an actress, or a professional athlete. EVERYONE (and their mom, brother, and second cousin twice removed) wants to be writer. Sure, sure, I stood out in my high school English classes (and then my college classes too, when I got there) but that’s not the real world. That’s just pure, dumb luck. And I, being the mature, wise, and smart 18 year old I was, was NOT going to jump head first into thousnads of dollars worth of student loans only to put my future in the hands of pure, dumb luck. I shelved the idea of studying creative writing and got a marketing degree instead.

All aboard the Practical Train! Toot Toot! Next stop, Careersville!

After reading Julie’s book, I realized I’ve been riding the Practical Train for way, way, WAY too long. Fellow passengers include Fear, Doubt and What If. I’m still waiting for the Careersville stop. Meanwhile, LIFE is whizzing by outside the window.

I’m surrounded by incredibly supportive and encouraging people in my life. My parents, my family and my friends. My husband is my biggest cheerleader and my biggest fan. His gentle encouragement has become outright pushing. Just like Julie’s husband. (coincidence that my husband is also Eric? Hm. I’m thinking it’s a sign. Ha.) He wants me to do this. To WRITE!

At the end of the movie, as Julie gets ready to tackle her very last recipe in the Mastering the Art of French Cooking – she whispers to her DVD of an old Julia Child television show…”No Fear, Julia.” Well, this is it for me. No more fear. It’s time to take a serious look at this writing thing. It’s time to see if I can make it happen. I’m going to see if I can pursue freelance opportunities. I’m going to work up the courage to share my other blog (Oh, that’s right – I have a second blog. It doesn’t have much in it yet, but that will change) I’m going to jump right in and do NaNo again and see if I can actually get something workable out of 50,00o words.

I have to try. I, like Julie, am not content with where I’m at. It’s up to ME to change it. Can’t just sit around and wait. I want to do this. I think I CAN do this. Congratulations, Self. I think you just figured out the reason you were put on this earth.

I’d like to thank my husband, Eric, all my family and friends, all those high school teachers and college professors that handed out A’s like candy, and fellow food blogger Julie Powell, for helping me realize there’s more to life than just being a secretary. Stay tuned for more from me!

And now the reason you are here…a recipe! Here, have a cookie for being a good sport and sitting through this post where I explain my sudden life epiphany. Peanut Butter Blossoms. The true, unadulterated classic. Perfectly chewy and kissed with chocolate, these are destined to improve your life in just one bite. Savor the flavor, my friends. 🙂

PEANUT BUTTER BLOSSOMS (Recipe source: Hersheys.com)

Makes about 4 dozen

INGREDIENTS:

  • 48 HERSHEY’S KISSES Brand Milk Chocolates
  • 1/2 cup shortening (I used butter)
  • 3/4 cup REESE’S Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Granulated sugar
DIRECTIONS:

1. Heat oven to 375°F. Remove wrappers from chocolates.

2. Beat shortening and peanut butter in large bowl until well blended. Add 1/3 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar; beat until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually beat into peanut butter mixture.

3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet.

4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately press a chocolate into center of each cookie; cookie will crack around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. About 4 dozen cookies.

ENJOY! 🙂

One year ago this past week:
Chicken Fried Rice – Tastes just like takeout…only better!
Pizza Margarita – This is one my favorite posts in my entire blog. Check out my story about hating homemade pizza. You get a good sense of “writer me” in this post. I think it’s where I found my voice for the blog.
Banana Cupcakes with Honey Cinnamon Frosting – Oh, these are insanely delicious.
Skillet Bruschetta Chicken – Simple and easy weeknight meal.

15 Comments

Filed under cookies, peanut butter