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. ūüôā

#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….

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The Brussels Chocolate Shop Tour, Stop #3: Leonidas.

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After leaving Planet Chocolat (stop #2), I decided to do some quick site-seeing on my way to stop #3, and pay a visit to the most famous little icon in Brussels Рthe one, they only, Manneken Pis.

the city mascot.

the city mascot.

Manneken Pis (also known as “The Peeing Boy”) is a must-see for anyone visiting Brussels. Much like the Mona Lisa, he is small and unassuming, and you’d almost walk right past him without even seeing him, if not for the gaggle of tourists constantly buzzing about, taking his picture (myself included). I heard that he sometimes is dressed in costume, and I was hoping I’d get lucky, but alas, the Manneken Pis was donning only his birthday suit during my visit. Maybe that is considered lucky.

Anyway, once again proper planning and plotting worked in my favor, and stop #3 just happened to be right across the street from the boy wonder. So I took my pictures, and crossed over, to:

Stop #3: Leonidas.

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It’s a chain. A chocolate shop chain. They were all over the city. But I had heard good things, so I wanted to include it on the tour – I do not discriminate when it comes to chocolate. So I chose the one in the most touristy part of town, and headed in. It was on the small side, and almost could have been a shop back in the States, based on looks alone. I scanned the displays, seeing what caught my eye.

there's no wrong decision here.

there’s no wrong decision here.

All I can say is nothing jumped out at me, but I wanted everything, if that makes sense. There was no “star of show” or “breakout sensation” like there was in some of the other shops. No, here in Leonidas, this was an ensemble cast – all equally talented and together, could win best picture.

a chorus line.

a chorus line.

So, I did what any chocolate lover who couldn’t make a decision would do – I bought a mixed box.

pretty as a present.

pretty as a present.

It was already wrapped – so I had no idea what was inside, which made it all the more fun! Honestly, it’s virtually impossible to get a bad piece of chocolate in Brussels, so I really wasn’t too concerned. I kept the box sealed and kept it secret and safe until later that day, when I returned to my hotel, and had the grand unveiling.

you never know what you're gonna get.

you never know what you’re gonna get.

Can you believe my luck??? Now, I just had to decide what to eat first. That red glittery piece definitely was calling to me, so I started with that. Marzipan!! It was Marzipan!! I love Marzipan. This was going great. I ate another one, because, I mean, I had to try some actual chocolate from the joint, so I went with one of the chocolate coins. Oh l’amour! Chain as it was, Leonidas’ chocolate could still hang with the best of them. Definitely worth checking out, and very convenient for tourists (if you’re into that sort of thing). ūüėČ

To be continued in the next post: Stop #4: Chocopolis ‚Äď it’s big, it’s bad, it’s got chocolate beer bottles.

 

Sweet and Cheesy.

So for three years now, I’ve hosted an annual Christmas Party, affectionately known as the B.Y.O.Ch. (pronounced “bee-yoch”) which stands for “Bring Your Own Cheese.” Needless to say, there is a lot of cheese there, from mild, to spicy, to downright smelly.

a plethora of cheese.

a plethora of cheese.

The thing is, cheese is not usually all that sweet. So in addition to cheese itself, the door is open to any cheese-related dish. For me, that means desserts, of course. In the past I’ve made cheesecake, but this year I went with an assortment of cheesy cookies.

There were Cottage Cheese Cookies…

chocolate and cheese.

chocolate and cheese.

….Cream Cheese Cookies…

creamy and dreamy.

creamy and dreamy.

…and Breakfast Cookies (made with shredded cheddar cheese).

breakfast for dessert.

breakfast for dessert.

To top it off, I mixed in these little guys, made from marzipan.

marzipan mice army.

marzipan mice army.

As usual, there was so much leftover, that I have more cheese in my fridge right now than one person should in their entire life. Don’t worry though – it definitely won’t go to waste. ūüėČ

Eat Dessert and Adopt a Pet.

This weekend, I’m participating in a bake sale to benefit Furrever Friends Rescue and Volunteers, Inc, which is a wonderful organization dedicated to saving the lives of homeless pets. This¬†particular cause is very dear to me, as I grew up in a family where all of our pets were shelter animals and I adopted my own pet (Gandalf the Gray) almost 10 years ago from a shelter.

10 years old, and still crazy as a kitten.

Anyway, if you are in the Philly area over the weekend, swing on down to the PetSmart in Deptford, NJ¬†, and sample some delicious baked goods, all for a great cause. And, heck, why not adopt a pet while you’re at it!

And just to further entice you, here’s a glimpse of my donations.

Chocolate Chip Cookies….

the cookie next door.

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies….

The exotic.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies…

the party cookie.

and Marzipan Mice.

the cheerleader.

The sale will be going on today from 10am to 9pm, and tomorrow 10am to 5pm. If you love animals and baked goods (and who doesn’t) then come on down!

How bazaar.

When I was in grade school, every year around this time our school held it’s annual “Christmas Bazaar” in the gym. It was a bunch of vendors, selling handmade items and crafts, and a giant table loaded with donated baked goods in the hall. There was also a giant tree in the center of the lobby, and even a classroom where Santa was hanging out. I pretty much did all my Christmas shopping there as a kid. My mom would help me write my list, and then send me off to shop for everyone in one place. It’s a lovely memory and one I hold dear to my heart and look back on with a touch of melancholic nostalgia (as if there is any other kind).

But being a crafty lass even in those days, just shopping at the Bazaar wasn’t enough. So, I asked my mom if I could sell things that I made there, specifically those pot holders you weave on that plastic loom, as I was making them non-stop and thought instead of giving them away, I could sell them for money. I was¬†6 at the time.¬†

my first business enterprise.

¬†So I was not allowed to be a vendor at the Bazaar…but I was allowed to sell my pot holders¬†at someone else’s table (I don’t know who – my mom took care of it – probably a random friend of hers). As I walked through the gym that year, purchasing my gifts, I saw my very own pot holders out for sale, and I was elated. And I even sold some! (well, I assume I did – it could have been an elaborate adult cover-up). But either way, this was my first taste of selling hand-made goods, and I was hooked.

Fast forward to today. I was an actual vendor at a Holiday Bazaar – not my old school, but it was exactly the same set up – baked goods in the hall, vendors in the gym. I was selling my book, but I had donated baked goods to the event in the form of:

Gingerbread mini cupcakes with pear buttercream…

nice molasses.

¬†white chocolate wreath cookies….

deck the halls, then eat them.

 and finally, the surprise hit of the fair, mini marzipan mice.

a mouse you'd want in the house.

¬†It was a lot of fun. I sold a few books, but besides that, I got a ton of positive feedback on the selection of “Small Indulgences” I baked and donated. It was like 1982, all over again. It’s funny how so many things change over time as we age…yet a wonderful feeling is a wonderful feeling, whether you’re 6 or 35. Knowing that others are enjoying things I made with my own hands, my own heart and my own soul – pot holders or marzipan mice – well there’s really nothing better. So encourage your kids to do what they love – they’ll be better people for it, and one day, they’ll thank you.

Thanks, Mom. ūüôā