All the Rest of the Christmas Cookies.

I had this great idea.

I was going to write three posts featuring the 12 cookies I baked for Christmas this year. They were to feature 4 cookies each. It was a good idea. I even started it. I wrote one post featuring the first four cookies.

Then….life.

I was too busy working, preparing, visiting, baking, shopping, and celebrating. Not that I’m complaining about that. I loved doing all of those things. But now that it’s January 15th, my great idea is no longer relevant. No one is interested in baked goods in January. I made brownies the other day just because. No one wanted to eat them. Not because there was something wrong with them – they were perfectly tasty. They even had extra chocolate and caramel drizzled on top.

brownies

the brownies that nobody ate.

But January is not the time for brownies. Or cookies. Or cakes (unless it’s your birthday). It’s the time of year that the gym is packed, and the over-indulgence of December is weighing heavily on everyone’s mind and/or stomach.

I get it – I’m a huge proponent of eating right and treating your body with respect. I’m also a huge proponent of baked goods. So January, for me, stinks. Did I mention that I don’t like cold weather?

So, for everyone out there, who, like me, still wants to eat brownies, cookies and cakes, here’s a quick glimpse of all the rest of the 12 cookies I made for Christmas. If you just can’t look now, maybe by next December you’ll look at them and feel inspired. I’m certainly giving you plenty of time. :)

#5. Cream Cheese Cookies. (recipe here.)

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#6. Chocolate Cottage Cheese Cookies.

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#7. Marzipan Mice. 

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#8. Jeanine’s Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies. (recipe here.)

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#9. Peanut Butter Hershey Kiss Cookies. 

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#10. Peppermint Bark. (recipe here.)

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#11. Cornflake Christmas Wreaths.

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#12. Honey Whiskey Balls. (recipe here.)

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So there they are. Enjoy them at your leisure, whenever the time is right. You have all year….

The 12 Cookies of Christmas – Part 1.

I’m not sure if I ever shared this before, but my favorite things to bake are cookies. I think it’s because they are small, and the options are endless. You can make a cookie using almost anything. I could experiment with cookies all day, if I only had the time (and a dishwasher).

Every year, I bake a whole slew of cookies for the Holidays. I have a few recipes that I do every year – Chocolate Chip, Cream Cheese, Cottage Cheese  – but this year, I really wanted to add some new players to my lineup, and bring some new life to the team. I also brought some golden oldies out of retirement, and in the end, wound up with a perfect, well-rounded team of 12.

Cookie #1: Cornbread Cookies.

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I had picked up a box of Jiffy Cornbread Mix and planned on making corn muffins for Thanksgiving. Well, that didn’t happen, so I had this great idea to turn the mix into a cookie. So I started doing some research, and found this recipe, which sounded easy and delicious! The only thing I did differently was leave off the icing. The cookies were more like corn muffins that way, and I do love corn muffins.

 

Cookie #2: Pumpkin Spice Drops.

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My mom knows better than anyone how much I love experimenting with new cookies. She had bought me a book that she was going to give me for Christmas, but decided it would be better to give it to me now, in case I wanted to try something from it. Good call, Mom. The book was called “Old -Fashioned Cookies.” It looks like this:

book

In the book, the recipe is called Iced-Pumpkin Drops. I again omitted the icing. The cookies didn’t really need it. They were soft, chewy, pumpkin-y, and yummy, all by themselves.

 

Cookie #3: Breakfast Cookies.

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I actually make these every year, and have for some time. They’re like oatmeal cookies, but with cheddar cheese and cinnamon chips. This year, about half-way through production, I realized I had no oats. I had sworn there was a whole un-opened container, but there wasn’t. I really didn’t feel like running out in the midst of mixing, so I started trying to think of something else that I could use, that I did have already. I found a box of farro. I used it. It worked. I also upgraded the cheese selection from processed shredded cheddar to MontAmore (my new favorite cheese).  They’re more like a champagne brunch cookie now.

 

Cookie #4: R2D2 Ready to Bake Cookies. 

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I had to bake these. Sure, they’re easy. But with all this Star Wars talk, I felt like these needed to be part of the line-up. They came in this box, and they were pretty tasty, not to mention pretty cute. Beep boop boop beep! There was one issue – some Dr. Who enthusiasts seemed to think they looked more like Daleks then R2D2. You know what I say to that? EXTERMINATE!

 

Stayed tuned for the next installment of the 12 Cookies of Christmas, coming soon to a computer screen near you!

 

Thanksgiving Leftovers Quiche.

quiche done

Thanksgiving is wonderful – full of food, family, gratitude….and leftovers. So many leftovers. No one wants to see all this delicious food go to waste, but after a few days of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and whatever else, you just can’t even pretend to want to eat it anymore.

If there is one thing I can’t stand, it’s wasting food. I do everything I can to use up leftovers. I admit, there are things that occasionally wind up getting pushed to the back of the fridge, only to be discovered a few weeks later when the door is opened with a blaring “What’s that smell?!” But, alas, I do try.

We had a ton of Thanksgiving leftovers as usual. After two nights of eating them as-is with just a mere reheating, I wanted to think of something more creative to do with them. And suddenly, I did: a Thanksgiving Leftovers Quiche!

I’m sure I’m not the first person on the planet to think of this very idea, but I thought I’d share my version, in case there are others out there who have tired of turkey but can’t bear to toss it.

I started with a from scratch pie crust (10 oz AP flour, 7 oz shortening – cut in, 3 oz cold water with 1 tsp kosher salt dissolved in it) pre-baked at 375 for 10 minutes.

quiche crust

Where the magic happens.

Next, I threw in some leftovers. We had turkey, mushrooms and asparagus.

quiche filling

Insert your leftovers here.

Next, I shredded (ok, my husband did the actual shredding) some MontAmore cheese, and sprinkled it on top. By the way, MontAmore is my new favorite cheese. You need to try it. I don’t mess around when it comes to cheese.

quiche cheese

MontAmore = love.

Finally, I made a simple custard (3 eggs, 1 cup milk, a little bit of salt), and added that to the party.

quiche unbaked

Party in a crust.

Next, I baked it for about 40 minutes at 350.

quiche done

A quiche to build a dream on.

Finally, we ate it. And it was better than any Thanksgiving leftovers I’ve ever had before.

quiche eaten

Looks like Pac-Man, tastes like heaven.

Pumpkin Sweet Bread…Or Is It Cake?

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Everyone knows that bread and cake are two different things. You use bread to make a sandwich. You serve cake at a birthday party. You wouldn’t use one in place of the other, right?

Yes, there are some breads and cakes that do fall squarely into each category. But sometimes, you wind up with a magical creatio that falls somewhere in between. Enter Pumpkin Sweet Bread.

I really wanted to make a pumpkin bread, but I was tired of looking at all the existing recipes on the internet (and there were oh so many). I wanted something new – something I could call my own. So I hit the old pastry school text books for some basics to start with, and built my very own pumpkin sweet bread recipe from scratch.

The dough was wonderful. I could not stop eating it. It reminded me of a thick cake batter. It was then that it hit me: this was no ordinary sweet bread. This was some sort of bread/cake hybrid that could be sliced and used on a sandwich OR frosted and jabbed with some candles as a birthday tribute.

the bread of frankenstein.

the bread of frankenstein.

I had successfully created something new. My work here is done. :)

Pumpkin Sweet Bread/Cake.

What you’ll need:

1 lb 4 oz Flour

10 oz Sugar

1.75 oz Baking Powder

.25 oz Salt

6 oz Eggs

14 oz Almond Milk

.5 oz Vanilla

8 oz Melted Butter

1 cup Pumpkin Puree

1 cup Pumpkin Chips

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 375. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, almond milk, vanilla, melted butter, and pumpkin puree. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix until just combined. fold in the chips, but be careful not to over mix – the dough/batter should be lumpy. Grease two 9×5 loaf pans and divide evenly between the two. Bake for approximately 40 minutes. The outside should have a little bit of crust, the sides should begin to pull away from the pan, and a toothpick inserted should come out clean. Serve alone, with a giaze, as part of a sandwich, or frost it for a birthday. The options are endless!

a happy birthday sandwich?

a happy birthday sandwich?

Another Day…Just Breathe.

October is Healthy Lungs Month. Today, October 28, is Lung Health Day. I never gave these much thought, until this year.

Last April, I lost my Dad to a combination of many things, but the main ones being COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and ultimately, lung cancer. My Dad was a smoker for almost 50 years.

I love my Dad, and I miss him everyday, but he did not take care of himself, no matter how many times we asked him to. Sometimes, with enough urging (and some yelling) he would try to do better. But he always seemed to eventually go back to his old ways. “I’ll do what I want” seemed to be his mantra. You don’t get the nickname “Wild Bill” for nothing.

Me and Wild Bill, cowboy hat and all.

Me and Wild Bill, cowboy hat and all.

My Dad was stubborn (just like his daughter) and he lived his life the way he chose to and by his own rules. In many ways, I admired that quality in him, and hope that I, too, can live my life they way I see fit, and not how anyone else tells me I should. There were some times though that I just wish he would have taken the advice of others, mainly regarding his health.

There are two major things my Dad taught me (in addition to learning how to drive): always be yourself no matter what or who says otherwise, and to take care of your body. Sadly, I had to learn the second one by watching him do the exact opposite and slowly suffering over time. Sometimes I think I didn’t try hard enough to get him to do better. Sometimes I think he must not have cared enough about me to do better. Sometimes I realize that there was nothing I could do and he did the best he could. And it had nothing to do with me.

As I mentioned, I have worked hard to take care of myself. I never smoked (ok, I did once in my best friend’s backyard in high school but that was it, I swear). I hardly drink. I watch what I eat (to a fault sometimes). I work out in some way every day and have for the past 17 years. I’ve run 6 half marathons and countless other races. I do yoga. I think about my life and how precious it is. I try not to waste a single second (I don’t always succeed, but I am forever trying). In a way, I have my Dad to thank for this. It’s not the happiest motivator – but I do believe he was very proud of me, and hopefully he knew how much that meant to me.

Thanks, Dad.

Thanks, Dad.

Although my Dad was too stubborn to accept any help, I’d like to think that there are many others out there who can still be helped, and that maybe, just maybe, I could help them. Not only do I have a passion for treating myself right, but I’m even more passionate about helping others to live better. So for National Lung Month, I’d like to tell everyone to get out there, get moving, and keep breathing. Check out some online resources (and there are many), like Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, to learn more about lesser known dangers to lungs like asbestos which is known to cause a rare cancer called mesothelioma, and most importantly, spread the word. We can all live better, if we work together.

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Be excellent to each other.

For the Love of Pumpkin, Cheesecake, Whipped Cream, and Gingersnaps.

Last week, my husband sent me an email. There was no personal message, no story; there was only this link:

http://www.saveur.com/article/recipes/pumpkin-cheesecake-tart-with-gingersnap-crust

I read over the recipe and thought to myself, “hmmm…this sounds pretty good…maybe I should try and make that….in fact, I think I will make it!”

My husband knew exactly what he was doing. His diabolical pumpkin-cheesecake-tart-with-a-gingersnap-crust-making plan had worked out exactly as he had envisioned.

I bought the ingredients that evening, and got down to business the very next day. It baked up real nice.

Pretty in pumpkin.

Pretty in pumpkin.

The gingersnap crust was the ringer though. I never would have thought to use gingersnaps, but they made all the difference. We went to dinner at my mom’s house that next night, and brought the tart. It was the perfect compliment to my mom’s beanless chili.

A good compliment goes a long way.

A good compliment goes a long way.

We sliced it up, and topped each piece upon serving with a hefty dollop of my homemade cinnamon whipped cream. The only thing missing was my dad. He wasn’t a dessert guy, but this one he would have liked – he loved gingersnaps. I wish he could have enjoyed it with us.

For you, Dad.

For you, Dad.

As I took my first bite, I raised my fork to my Dad – a man who’s taste in desserts was as unique as he was.

And it was delicious.

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Cinnamon Whipped Cream.

What you’ll need:

1 cup heavy cream

1 tblsp confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

What you’ll do:

Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks. Add the sugar and cinnamon. Whip until stiff peaks form. Chill, and serve.

It’s a Cupcake Graveyard.

I love Halloween. It’s my favorite holiday. Anyone who knows me, wouldn’t have a hard time figuring that out – I love dressing up and I love candy. But I also love Halloween-themed desserts. For me, they are the most fun to make. I’ve already started this year, with my first batch of sweet Halloween fun, in the form of Graveyard Cupcakes.

Rest in delicious peace.

Rest in delicious peace.

I used a chocolate cake for the cupcakes themselves, and made my soon-to-be-famous cookies and cream buttercream (a girl can dream.) I piped large uneven dollops of the icing on top of the cupcakes, making the perfect base for a cookie grave.

Soon.

Soon.

Then, I wrote on the cookie tombstones, and put them into place on the tops of the cupcakes.

Death by Chocolate?

Death by Chocolate?

The result was a Halloween treat to die for.

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Jeanine’s Soon-To-Be-Famous Cookies and Cream Buttercream.

What you’ll need:

8 oz butter

5 oz shortening

1 lb 4oz confectioner’s sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 tblsp water

8 crushed oreos (or faux-reos)

What you’ll do:

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and shortening. Add the sugar, vanilla, water, and crushed cookies. Beat until smooth, light, and fluffy (about 5 minutes).

I Think Time’s Running Out To Do Something Bizarre.

I still remember in high school when I saw that movie, Singles, in the theater. Bridget Fonda’s character uttered those words, however she was complaining about being 23. She claimed that at the age of 23, time was running out to do something bizarre. I was 16 when I saw that, and thought about it often up until I turned 23, and long after, not once thinking time has run out to do something bizarre.

Untli now. Turns out, at least for me, 39 is the age in which time is running out to do something bizarre. I hope that’s not true, but I’m finding it very hard lately to convince myself otherwise. With 40 being right around the corner, I will officially no longer be young. I will look the same as the day before. I will physically feel the same as the day before. But I will no longer be the same. I’ll be 40. And this is making me very, very, very depressed. Did I mention very?

I’m not really sure what “bizarre” something I’d even like to do. I always wanted to color my hair pink. I also miss wearing pigtails. And crazy sunglasses. And wildly bright clothing. And really really tall shoes.

Hello, old friends.

Hello, old friends.

This leads me to wonder, is it really possible to be 40 AND fabulous?

I’m not sure. Right now, I don’t feel half as fabulous as I once did. Am i letting the lack of feather boas and sunglasses define my level of fabulousity? Maybe. But at this point in my life, I’m not sure where else to turn. I don’t want to lose touch with my inner fabulous, but I feel it slowly getting farther and farther out of reach, with every passing day. I’ve never been a traditional person. I got married for the first time at 39. I bought a house by myself 6 years before that. I went back to school at 34, and started a brand new career at 37. I sang with bands throughout my 20s, and played shows up and down the east coast. I traveled everywhere. I don’t regret any of it. I don’t live the traditional “American Dream” and I never have. At almost 40 though, I’m wondering if it’s time to reconsider.

It seems that everywhere I turn and everywhere I look, I’m being told that if I don’t do certain things like “settle down” and “have children” before it’s too late, I’ll wind up old, alone and full of regrets. Of course I don’t want that. But I don’t want to force myself into making wrong decisions because some imaginary guidelines for being “normal” are telling me to. Time IS running out – it never stops running out. But I wonder sometimes if I’m running out on time, instead of facing it and doing what I’m supposed to be doing at 40.

In the word’s of one of my all time favorite singers and story tellers, Gillian Welch:

“Yeah I wanna do right, but not right now.”

I’ve got a little over 5 months to figure it out.

By the way, I met Gillian Welch when my band played the Newport Folk Festival. Right after I turned 30, and had been wondering if maybe time was running out to do something bizarre.

One of my heroes.

One of my heroes.

Maybe there is hope yet.

The Easiest Pumpkin Cake in the Universe.

In my last post, I mentioned that I was going to bake a pumpkin cake, because I can. so I did. It was a pumpkin-shaped pumpkin cake, to be precise. It ended up looking like this:

Pumpkin shape; pumpkin cake.

Pumpkin shape; pumpkin cake.

It started off looking like this:

It's a cake in a box.

It’s a cake in a box.

Yes, that’s a boxed carrot cake mix. I told you this was easy. You open the box, pour the mix into a bowl, and blend in the three ingredients on the back of the box:

Mix as directed.

Mix as directed.

In addition to these, all you need is 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree, so add that in, too, and mix well. Pour the batter into two greased 8″ pans, and bake at 350 for about 25 minutes. While the cakes are cooling, make the pumpkin frosting, which is also super easy:

2# conf sugar

1 cup shortening

1/2 cup pumkpin puree

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tblsp water

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl, until smooth and creamy. The frosting will be the perfect orange color as is.

When icing the cake, keep the layers rounded, and keep the rounder one on top.

waiting to turn into a pumpkin.

waiting to turn into a pumpkin.

Add your decorations (stem, leaves, whatever you desire) and there you have it. A pumpkin-shaped pumpkin cake.

Easy and delicious.

Easy, festive, and delicious.

I love fall baking. So much pumpkin, so little time…

Think of All the Things You CAN Do.

The other day, I was complaining (again) about not being able to run. The whole tendonitis thing was really getting to me, and I was wallowing in a sea of “why me?”, until a friend said these words to me:

Think of all the things you CAN do.

So, I did.

I can take a cycling class. So the next morning, I took one at the gym. I can use the good old elliptical machine. So, I rocked out a 7 miler. I can do do yoga. I can swim. I can still ride my bike. I was already doing these things, but for some reason it didn’t matter. I was stuck on the one thing I couldn’t do.

Wah.

Wah.

Getting stuck is the worst. Sometimes you don’t even realize you’re stuck until you become unstuck. And more often than not, it’s the words of an outside observer that gives you that push to unstick yourself.

Besides all these things things, I began thinking about all of the things that I CAN do that I don’t spend nearly enough time appreciating: I can see; I can hear: I can smell, touch, and taste. I can work. I can think. I can write. I can dream. I can love.

TLF.

Wedding bliss.

Wow. There are a ton of truly amazing things I CAN do. Not only am I thankful for all of these things, I’m thankful to the wonderful friend who pointed it out to me.

Besties.

Besties.

Gratitude really can make all the difference. No more wallowing. I have absolutely no reason to. The world is too good for it.

With that being said, I think I’ll spend the rest of the afternoon doing one other thing that I can do, and pretty well at that – bake a pumpkin spice cake. :)

You do what you must do, and you do it well.

You do what you must do, and you do it well.