Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!!

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It’s 12:22 AM, Christmas morning. We just finished getting presents under the tree, stockings hung, tonight’s goodies out of the car, tomorrow’s goodies into the car, and all the kiddies are snug in their bed, coughing away as we try to wind down for the night. It’s been quite an Advent. Not very comfortable, not very pretty. But in our hearts we prepared for today with everything we had to offer. This year I felt very much like the Little Drummer Boy, and my humble gift to the King was each day trying to be what I’m supposed to be, the best way I can. Even in difficult times I feel the real blessing of Christmas, and I’m so grateful for that blessed babe in a manger who came to separate true happiness from mere circumstances.

Happy Christmas to you and me!! See you in 2012!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

From the Kitchen: Tinsel Tree Gingerbread Cut Out Cookies

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I can’t believe this is my 4th (or is it my 5th?) Christmas blogging here and I haven’t yet shared my gingerbread cut out recipe. Well, it was requested by my fabulous neighbor DeeDee, so here it is!! I like requests because they make me see past the mile-long to-do list and do something a little more gratifying for a couple minutes :) I had already photographed them in an optimistic hour during one successful naptime, so I was able to share this year’s batch with you. Enjoy with friends!


Classic Gingerbread for Cut Out Cookies


Ingredients

· 6 cups sifted all-purpose flour
· 1 teaspoon baking soda
· ½ teaspoon baking powder
· 1 cup butter
· 1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
· 4 teaspoons ground ginger
· 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
· 1½ teaspoons ground cloves
· 1½ teaspoons salt
· 2 large eggs
· 1 cup molasses
Directions
In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside. In an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Add flour mixture and combine on low speed. 
Divide dough in thirds and wrap in plastic and flatten into approximately 1” bricks. Chill for about 1 hour. Heat oven to 350°. On a heavily floured surface, roll dough 1/8”-1/4” thick (depending on preference). Cut into desired shapes. Transfer to ungreased baking sheets. If dough will not hold shape well, refrigerate cut-outs for 15 minutes before baking. If dough is too stiff to roll without cracking, allow to warm up before rolling and cutting. 
Bake about 8 to10 minutes, until puffed but not darkened, or longer if you prefer crispier cookies. Allow cookies to cool on wire racks, and then decorate as desired.
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As you can see, I opted out of the traditional cookie cutter method for these. I thought it would be quicker to cut them with a pastry wheel (that rotary thing is used for pie crusts, they tell me, though I don’t make pies). Hmm. Let’s just say that the cutting and baking is the fast part, so I didn’t realize my dream of speedy completion. But I love the end result and it was worth the work, as always :) They remind me of A Charlie Brown Christmas (watch teh first couple seconds and then go to 2:43 in the video to watch my favorite part!). I like to roll these thick (1/4”-ish) and bake them to be softer and chewier than most gingerbread tends to be, but feel free to follow your instincts and/or traditional preferences to make them your own.

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I use the royal icing recipe here (I generally use about half the meringue powder that Martha suggests because I don’t like the taste of it in my icing). I decorated them simply with some really pricey metallic sanding sugar from Williams-Sonoma. As much as I love browsing the store and catalog, Williams-Sonoma is not a place I normally shop for myself, but I love the look of these edible tinsel trees and I have a ton left over for future cookie decorating needs. Sometimes a little kitchen upgrade goes a long way, especially for cookies made to be given away.

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Happy Advent! I hope to be back before Christmas with more cookies…

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Real Life: Advent Snapshot

I’m starting a new section. The purpose of posts titled “Real Life” will highlight just how easy it is to crop out and gloss over the unpleasantries when blogging. I’m real, you’re real. I have little irksome tasks that don’t get accomplished every day, moreso when I cook, bake, make and create all the things that are so much fun to blog about. I’m sure you do to.

My morning:

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So cute, right? Look at him. Sweet chubby shiny-eyed baby with a Christmas blanket. Adorable. Don’t you just want to nibble those cheeks and snuggle him??

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True, but harder to see all that cuteness when I don’t artfully omit FROM THE VERY SAME PHOTO….

  1. Undecorated artificial tree (except a few candy canes in the kid-reachable areas).
  2. Toy hockey net from yesterday’s play.
  3. Long-term Playdoh storage in random Ikea bins, bane of my dining room.
  4. CRUMBS!!! Almost always there.
  5. Animal flashcards abandoned by bigger kids.
  6. Stuff hidden behind the couch because I don’t have room anywhere else.
  7. Yep, that’s the tree skirt he removed from the tree. Himself. By crawling.
  8. More crumbs! Under the rug fringe. It happens.

Today I’m going to TRY to do something other than clean, feed and cook. Because that’s what I mostly do these days, and I need a break. The crumbs can stay. The tree skirt can live in the middle of the floor. I’m going to tackle some FUN projects. Maybe sew. Maybe design Christmas cards. Maybe make some future blog posts (I have so much to share, and no time to share it!). Tomorrow I’ll pay but it will be worth it for a mini-creative vacation from the routine. We all need that now and again to keep our sanity amidst the… crumbs :)