By Request: Recipes!

Thin and Crisp Gingerbread-(This recipe is from Cooks Illustrated) 

  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t table salt
  • 1 T ground cinnamon
  • 1 T ground ginger
  • 1/2 t ground cloves
  • 12 T unsalted butter, softened slightly
  • 3/4 cup molasses
  • 2 T milk 
    1. In a food processor, process flour, sugar, soda, salt and spices until combined, about 10 seconds. Scatter butter pieces over flour mixture, and process until mixture is sandy and resembles bread crumbs, about 15 seconds. With machine running, gradually add the molasses and milk; process until dough is moistened and forms a soft mass, about 15 seconds. (you can do this in your stand-mixer too, using the paddle attachment)
    2. Scrape dough to work surface (it will be very soft) divide in quarters, and pat each quarter into a disk shape and sandwich between two sheets of parchment paper. refrigerate overnight, or for a minimum of 2 hours.
    3. Adjust oven rack to middle position. Line baking sheets with parchment. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
    4. Remove dough from fridge, peel off wrapped parchment, and lay disk between two clean sheets of parchment. Roll dough to 1/8” thick. Use your favorite cookie cutters and have a ball.
    5. Before baking, put cut cookies in the freezer for 10 minutes before you pop them in the oven- this will keep their shape from spreading too much and help give you firm, crisp cookies.
    6. Bake 15-20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
    7. Repeat with the other three disks of dough.

For my cookies, I love ginger, so I actually up the powdered ginger to 1/4 cup. Yes, seriously, and they are fabulous! Spicy and sweet and so yummy- so you have latitude in your spice level, just so you know.  Also, these cookies are great for decorating with royal icing, and also for making tree ornaments. Just poke a hole in them with a drinking straw before baking.  

  

Pecan English Toffee(From the kitchen of Tracy M) 

  • 1 pound real butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1 bag semi-sweet chocolate chips 

  1. Chop nuts to whatever consistency you find pleasing. Spread nuts out in a single layer on a jelly-roll pan (any baking sheet with a lip) and toast nuts in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes, just until fragrant. Set aside.
  2. In a thick-bottomed, large pot (it will burn otherwise) bring butter, sugar and water to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Do not stop stirring! Once mixture is at a rolling boil, set timer and boil for exactly 7 minutes, stirring the whole time. The color will change to an amber shade around minutes 5-6. Keep stirring.
  3. When timer beeps, carefully carry your scalding hot pot of liquid lava to your pan of toasted pecans, and pour the goodness over your nuts. Be super careful- sugar burns suck.
  4. It will self-level. After about 10 minutes, sprinkle chocolate chips over the top of the toffee, wait 10 more minutes, then use an off-set spatula to spread the melted chips evenly over the top of the toffee. Let cool overnight.
  5. This is NOT a good recipe to make with kids. I always do it after they are in bed at night- seriously, boiling sugar = bad thing for kids.
  6. The next morning, the toffee-fairy will have come, and your kids can help you break it into bite-sized pieces. That’s it. Have fun!

Cotton Head Tracy

I can hear Charlie indulging Lola from the next room, while the boys argue about whose turn it is to pick up the Tinkertoys. Abby is napping, breathing quietly, punctuated by an occasional cough and sigh, floating towards me on the monitor from upstairs. It feels like my head is swathed in thick, warm cotton batting, and I can’t pluck a clear thought, a thought clean of lint and fibers, from my cotton-head.

Most everything is done. The cookies are all made and have been delivered, thanks to a chaotic trip in the rain around our valley yesterday. The presents are all wrapped, and the packages, minus one or two, have all been shipped off on the happy brown trucks. The house is pretty clean, the snow is all melted, the laundry is all fluffed, folded and put away.  The hand-made Christmas cards are all stamped and mailed. Even the special projects I was working on for other people are done, dry, ironed, packaged and shipped.

So why do I not care? Why do I not feel a profound sense of accomplishment? Why am I wandering around, feeling like my head is wrapped in a big, soft, fluffy, flannel quilt?

Blogger Bogs

My dear Blogger friends, and there are quite a few of you- I (and no doubt many others) have been totally blocked out of Blogger as of recently. There are at least a dozen of you I have tried to comment on, or drop by to say “hi” or to ask for a recipe or just be a good neighbor- but alas, Blogger sucks. I even have a Blogger account and they won’t let me comment. So I just want to say I’m sorry…

(*pst….make the jump…. really, all the cool kids are doing it…. pst… make the jump)

Carnage at the Tree Lot

Maybe Mr Fakey Fakerson isn’t such a bad thing afterall….

This morning, dropping Jeffrey at school, we drove by two Christmas tree lots- and, oh, the carnage! It just breaks my heart to see all those trees, cut and lying there, no one to love them, some that never even made it out of their nets to show off their lovely boughs, and now… Well, now they are likely bound for the chipper.

Really, who doesn’t have their tree up yet? Christmas is only a week and a half away, and I just can’t see a last minute rush to Santa’s Tree Lot to pick over the leavin’s. Poor trees.

So, maybe, as more and more folks adopt their fakers, there will be less of a market for real, pre-cut trees, and maybe, just maybe, there will be fewer of the poor babies cut down, and left to molder, unloved, and desolate in the falling snow…

So, maybe, just maybe, Mr. Faker Faketyson isn’t such a bad idea after all…

Some of What I’ve Been Doing…

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Piles and piles of toffee…. I could eat it all. But I didn’t.

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Moravian ginger snaps- I used 1/4 cup of ginger- think they’ll taste like ginger?

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Mr. Fakety-Faker. If you want to see what I consider a (beautiful!) real tree, go here. Notice the huge gaps in ornamentation around the 3′ level? Beanie.

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And this is a diaper-bag I made the other morning for a mother of twins…

Cookie Time!

Inspired by all the mama’s out here posting pictures of their delightful confections, I too, have begun my bonanza of baking. Tonight, after cleaning the dinner dishes and teasing my husband, who conveniently came in to offer his “help” just as soon as the dishwasher was already emptied, I dug out all my old cookbooks, and started making a list.

Like most families, we have our traditions; there are some things my mom makes SO well and takes such pride in, I don’t even put them on my list. But there are other things that I can’t wait to make this year. And, I found a recipe for the little crispy honeyed iron cookies I remembered at a child! Google, oh how I love thee! You do need the iron to make them, but should you ever see one at a tag sale or at a thrift store, grab it quickly!

This year my list of cookies to make is really geared towards my kids:

Fantasy Fudge– the only place where the unholy marshmallow is welcome in my kitchen…

Shortbread Jam Thumprints– I printed this recipe a while ago, and is a consistent favorite in our house…

English Toffee– which I made tonight, and my arms feel like rubber bands from all the constant stirring…

Gingerbread Boys– for the boys to help me roll and decorate– should be total chaos…

Lebkuechen– my favorite German cookie from Nuremberg- dearly love them….

Spritz Cookies– again, the kids will have a ball with the cookie-shooter. Should be chaos and lots of fighting and big messes

Mexican Wedding Cakes– Is it OK to still call them that? I’ve heard them called Russian Tea Cakes too, but I think you know what I mean…

And, last but surely not least, my beloved Rosettes

If you want any recipes, these are all tried-and-true and guaranteed to work beautifully. Ancient family secrets and all. As much as I want to, I cannot make Mary’s Sugar Cookies, since my mom makes the very, absolutely, positively best version of these, and every time I try them, they bomb.  If you have any fabulous cookies, leave a link in the comments, and I’ll be sure to check them out!

Where to Put that Smiley Face…

Dear Voldemart,

It’s been nice while it lasted, but we are so through. I never want to see you again. No, I don’t even want to be friends. You suck.

You suck us in with your promises of price-matching and cheap diapers. You suck us in with the convenience of food, medicine, clothes, diapers, toys and house paint all in one fell swoop. You suck us in; us harried and stressed and time-crunched mama’s who hate dragging three kids under five anywhere, let alone three different stores.

It’s not for the politically correct reasons. It’s not because you drive out the mom & pop shops, or that you pay your employees pittance and have that dumb happy face all over. It’s not for the fact that you censure your books and music, or that you’re stingy with the benefits, or even that you don’t care when my kid gets his fingers squished in one of your broken, dirty, nasty carts…

It’s because the stuff you sell is total and utter crap. Low prices, my butt. Buying things that break, are made of substandard materials, or third-tier ingredients is not saving me any time or money, and I guess that’s a fact it took me a while to really see.

Sure, I can buy new bath towels for $4 a piece, but as soon as I wash them, they fall apart, and they don’t absorb water anyway- did you not understand that was the primary function of “towel”? Sure, I can get your store-brand of diapers, but the stuff inside gobs up and explodes on my baby’s bum- that is, if I can even get the dang thing on her without the tab tearing off in my hand. It’s the same with all of your products- wrapping paper like tissue, scissors that won’t cut anything, markers that are dry after two uses, Christmas lights that break after two days on the tree, clothes that fall apart in the wash, socks that break through at the toe after one wearing, and on and on.

And don’t even get me started on your brand of what you call “food”. You want to talk about sub-standard quality? Look no further than your canned-goods, fruit juices, dairy products and baked goods. And I use “goods” with the utmost reservations.

So, given all this, how much money are you really saving people? Oh, I know, you aren’t really in the business of really saving people money- that’s just a gimmick to get poor people in to spend what little they have on your crap. Yes, you can get a LOT of crap at Voldemart- but crap is exactly what you have when you got home, and within a short time, you will need to re-purchase all the things you thought were a good buy.

So the cheap diapers? Not worth it anymore. I would rather pay a buck or two more, and feel good about myself. Like I said, we’re done. And I’m not sorry. You suck.

Happy Holidays,

Tracy M

(Double posted at MMW today)

Bursting at the Seams

I keep saying I’m done. I keep saying it, but then, something happens… I feel like my mom. My closet is bursting at the seams… and I can’t remember what’s even in all the bags. Then a box comes from my mom, and I realize, I’m not even close.

It’s getting embarrassing. So far, three ginormous boxes have come from grandma, and there literally isn’t any more room under the tree. And there is only one present per kid under there from DH and me- the rest are from grandma and grandpa. There are now presents stacked under the chairs in the entry area, and under the table.

It has been so much fun this year, too, because my kids are the perfect Santa age- 3 and 5, and full of magic thoughts. Abby is too young to know the difference- which is good since the poor waif hasn’t even got a stocking! (18 days left for me to make one, though!)

Also, footnote to the novice mama’s out there- wait until your kids see and/or write their letters to Santa before hitting the stores…. Mine told me what they were hoping for, then changed canoes midstream when they wrote their letters.

But the cool things is- everything left to do is “home” stuff. Finish the couple of  home-made gifts I am working on, some baking, some snowman making, and it looks like the rest of December is going to be relaxing and fun.

Really, I know I’m a little bit deluded, but I’m on a high, since I just came from Target and they had just re-stocked the (impossibly) hard to find “Cars” die-cast cars- and I scored on McQueen, Sally, Sheriff, Doc, the Firetruck, and the special edition Radiator Springs McQueen with the whitewalls… the same oneI looked at on-line this morning for $26- because everyone is SOLD OUT. I refuse to pay more than retail for a toy, and I totally lucked out at Target! $3.99 baby… Ta-da!

Like I said, things just keep coming up…

Random Updates

We couldn’t find Jeffrey at school this morning… his backpack, lunchbox and coat were in his classroom, but no Jeff. And this was the one morning I was going to hang out and observe the class.  Teacher went one way, I went the other, and we finally found him, in the front of the school, holding the door open for all the last kids coming in after the bell. He said he wanted to help and be nice. Relief, then exasperation, then the real emotion, love, washed over me. I hate losing a kid.

Beanie no longer talks, only whines in a shrill, dog-whistle monotone. I must be part canine, though, because I cannot seem to totally tune it out. We are trying to cut sugar from his diet, and he isn’t a happy camper, which means none of us are happy campers. Didn’t they use sustained notes to torture war criminals at some point? Wouldn’t surprise me.

Abby is trying her gummy, drooly, cute-mightiest to crawl, but only manages to do this sidewinder, lunging, wiggle thing that passes for locomotion in her world. Usually she ends up going in a circle, of sorts, like rowing a boat with one oar, and the Christmas tree just never gets any closer…

My husband has been home sick for two days. The two days on either side of the weekend, that is. Loooong weekend, sick husband. The laundry pile is starting to climb up the stairs itself…

Jeffrey’s new permanent teeth are coming in- strange, oddly adult and too large for his tiny boy-mouth. All I can see is orthodontics bills when I look at the right one turning sideways trying to fit in too-small a spot… Neither DH nor I ever needed braces, so hopefully this will carry over and will right itself. Go, good genes…!

Beanie put on Abby’s pants today, coupled with a Buzz Lightyear sweatshirt and cowboy boots- oh, pardon me, to Beanie, they are pirate boots, and he will throw them at the Christmas tree if you say otherwise- did I mention how lovely he has been lately? I had to strip him of Abby’s pants- a mama has to draw the line somewhere, and painted-on skin-tight baby-girl leggings on a three-year old boy who insists on going commando is where this mama draws the line. That’s right.

Looking through the TV guide the other night, Jeffrey saw a picture of Melena Kanakarades, and showed me the picture- “Looook, mama” he sighed,”She’s beautifuuuuul!” Hmmmm. The boy has nice taste, at least. It could have been far worse…

I tried to take the Christmas picture of all three kids a few days ago. I’m still getting the shakes when I think of it- 56 pictures later, and not one single picture that is decent. I’m leaning towards the ones where Beanie is rolling around under the tree, and Jeff is wrenching Abby’s head around in an effort to get her to smile. Happy time, Christmas pictures are. If you want a Christmas card from me, e-mail me. Otherwise, Merry Christmas, everyone.

Abby is 7 months old and I haven’t gotten her in for her 6 month shots yet. What happens between kid 2 and kid 3?? I knew I was slipping, but come on! Poor girl not only doesn’t have a baby book, but she doesn’t have a Christmas stocking, either. Her stocking hanger sits, lonely and empty on the mantle, next to her brothers’ hand made, German wool stocking, entirely designed and sewn by hand, by me. Her? Nothing. I suck. I’ve got 20 days, right?

The boys totally broke my cell phone. When I say broke- I mean, in two pieces. They were playing Star Trek, and flipping it open as if it were a tricorder- and the top piece and the bottom piece came completely off. I can’t call anyone, and didn’t even realize how much I used my cell phone until it was all gone. The new one should be here Wednesday. Come to Mama, my little lovely…

All I want for Christmas is a new, vaccum. Preferabley one that sucks.

My Christmas tip of the day: Hit your local teacher supply store for some awesome Christmas presents. I did, and other than my kids changing their minds about what they want for Christmas, I scored on some quality stuff for minimal money. Good Things.