Tuesday, July 3, 2012

From the Kitchen: One Cookie, Two Cookie, Red Cookie, Blue Cookie

I love a good national holiday as much as everyone else, but this Fourth of July is bittersweet for me. I love this country, and I love being an American. But my confidence has been shaken in our country’s first foundation of freedom of religion, and I cannot help but wonder what the future will look like for my children. I am not at all interested in politics, but I never expected to have to choose between being a good Catholic and being a good citizen. With the Supreme Court’s ruling that the HHS Mandate may be levied as a tax upon every American citizen refusing to comply for any reason, the very concept of a personal faith which may rank higher than one’s patriotism seems to have evaporated. Appealing to a national majority of constituents who ascribe to no religion, or who do not live according to the basic tenets of their own self-identified faith, for protection of religious beliefs and conscience can feel hopeless. Even those who are ignorant of how the mandate will affect them personally should be alarmed that laws may be passed in this manner, since there is no reason to believe it cannot happen again in the future with other issues. I hope that this Fall’s election will yield a change in the current trend. As a group, those whose consciences will not allow them to comply with Obama’s mandate may rightly say, “In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people” (the Declaration’s words, not mine). Think about it.

But I digress from the main purpose of this post…

Tomorrow we will celebrate the birth of this wonderful country at a party begun 50 years and several generations ago, with family, friends and lots of food. I always bring a dessert. I’m not sure how the potluck assignments happened over the past 5 decades, but the method is unimportant as long as the traditional foods end up on the table by dinner time. The fare includes a smattering of once-ethnic foods now commonplace in any American kitchen. Last year I took my favorite sugar cookies, decorated for the occasion in stars and stripes:

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This year, I simply don’t have the time (or energy) to put into iced cookies (or perhaps, the time or energy required to keep very small people out of the making of iced cookies). So I decided to revisit another favorite recipe, cake mix sandwich cookies. I dyed one batch of dough red, and one batch blue. Dollop and squish in some scrumptious buttercream, and we’re ready to celebrate!

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Cake Mix Cookies (makes about 3 dozen 2” cookies)

Ingredients:

1 standard box cake mix (I used white cake mix so it would dye well)

1 egg

1 stick butter, room temperature

Directions:

Thoroughly mix all ingredients. Use a small scoop to measure out round tablespoonfuls, then smash to 1/4” thick circles using a greased glass bottom. Bake at 350 degrees for 7-8 minutes, until set and still chewy but not browned. Remove from oven, cool 8 minutes on cookie sheet, then cool completely on a wire rack (or newspaper). Use or eat as desired.

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The buttercream recipe I used is basic, but life changing. I realize now that I’ve been making buttercream wrong my whole life. I found this recipe recently for yet another birthday cake, and I won’t be hacking it any more. This is IT. My favorite icing for cakes and sandwich cookies.

Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (from www.savorysweetlife.com)

Ingredients:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened but not melted

3-4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted

1/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp vanilla extract (or a combination with almond extract)

Up to 4 tbsp milk or heavy cream

Directions:

Beat butter for a few minutes with a mixer on medium speed. add 3 cups of powdered sugar and mix on lowest speed until incorporated and crumbly. Increase mixer speed gradually and add vanilla, salt and 2 tbsp milk or cream. Beat for 3 minutes. If it needs a more stiff consistency, add more sugar. If it needs to be thinned out or is crumbly, add more milk 1 tbsp at a time.

Happy Fourth of July to you and yours! I hope and pray that Independence will ever reign over our United States and that Liberty will always be a true and constitutional right granted to all American people, regardless of the details of their personhood.