Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cookie baton passed me!

Perfumes are the feelings of flowers. ~Heinrich Heine, The Hartz Journey

It's that time of the week to forever be in the kitchen, how I love the smells of the season! I've been trying my hardest to master my Mother-in-Law's Spritz Cookie recipe after she officially gave up the tradition due to it being labor intensive on the arms, back and legs now.

I've always been one to dabble here and there with arts and crafts and also try anything that sounded good recipe wise when baking, so cookie making to me is a combination of different recipes.

These pretzel chocolate and M&M treats are super good for practicing hand-eye coordination too :)

But every year, Black Friday morning in my husbands home as a child was sugar cookie making. I kind of felt an obligation to make them since my Mother-in-Law has passed the cookie press to me now, seeing I have the kids of the family and enjoy baking with them ever so much! And after several attempts I think I've got it down pat- so says hubby after several taste tests!

Last year I found this oh-so cute idea of re-using containers for gifting cookies and I've been saving a variety of things to use.

But now that I've mastered the 30 plus year spritz cookie recipe I feel the need to make some for the family, neighbors and then have some on hand for us... now I know why it's taken it's toll on my Mother-in-Law over the years, making dozens and dozens of cookies is wonderfully time consuming and I don't care what kind of kitchen you have there's never enough counter space. I had to end up putting pot holders on the floor for cooling the trays! And the mess... lets just say that since I'm doing this by myself after the kids (and now hubby) are in bed, the full sink will have to wait until tomorrow!

And since I most likely won't have time to post until after the holiday I couldn't help but share some ideas I found online that I'll be utilizing this weekend. Hope everyone has a blessed Christmas!

And the winner of the games, actually all the kids (big ones alike), will be recieving a goodie bag to take home! I saw these in a Mary Engelbreit Christmas book and had to try it out for a new way to display goodie bag without taking up room on the table!

The original photo of these had vintage Christmas wrapping paper with pom-poms glued to the bottoms, super cute! I printed out some holiday patterns onto cardstock and since I kept forgetting to pick up pom-poms at the store these past few weeks, for an extra treat I hot glued Dum-Dum's onto the bottom! Can't wait to see if they're a hit!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

No-go for phyllo

Tried my hand at making some homemade phyllo dough for a side to bring to the neighbors today and had to post that the recipe needs some tweaking... and I'll most likely be purchasing phyllo cups next time!

It was a combination of trying to save money and not having to run out to the grocery store when I didn't need anything else to pick-up ( because if I go to the grocery store with even one thing on the list I always end up with items in the cart I didn't plan on buying and the budget didn't allow for that to happen this month!).

I knew I wanted to make an appetizer with cream cheese, sausage and little flaky cups that would be easy to pop in your mouth. I have a great Williams-Sonoma mini muffin pan that was perfect and the easiest recipe for phyllo dough, it seemed so simple!

Serves/Makes: 1 batch

1/4 cup water
2 cups flour
4 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt

Sift the flour with the salt. Make a well in the middle of the flour. In the well put the water and the olive oil. Work the dough until it hangs well together. Dust flour on a table or board. Kneed the dough for about 5-7 minutes. The dough should be smooth and not stick to the board. Roll the dough out to a big rectangle. Lay a damp towel over it and let it rest for about 15 minutes. Flour your hands and work the dough from the middle outwards until you have the dough stretched to about 3 ft by 3 ft (1meter x 1meter) Cut the dough with a sharp knife or pizza cutter to the desired sheet size. Continue with the recipe that requires the phyllo dough.

Dough came out good, not at all sticky and really easy to work with, though I have really good muscles from the kneading and rolling!

Getting it paper thin was a hard task though! Just when I thought I had rolled it the thinnest I could go, I cut a piece, stretched it out, rolled some more and it got even thinner.

So I thought, there, this is how it's supposed to be, not so bad after all! I even doubled up some as another recipe stated so there could be flaky layers...

But when it cooked (at 350 for 10 mins) it came out the texture of a wonton, crunchy and thick, not at all flaky. I must have been missing a step of how to get it tissue thin instead of paper thin. So if you're looking for a dense filled cup or pocket type dough this is the recipe for you. And this certainly wouldn't work for desserts, it's good but much too thick.

The end result was delishish but just not what I expected. So if anyone has a secret to make phyllo do tell, but next time I'll be making that trip to the grocery store!

Monday, December 13, 2010

December festivities

December has always been a fun time of year filled with birthdays, Santa, hours of baking in the kitchen and ending with the joyous birth of Jesus. This year seems to be crammed with more than years past but still fun and just as enjoyable.

I just have to say that I'm so glad I wasn't hard-wired like others I know or come across at this time of year when they get so stressed out during busy times, it's saved me in the teaching world and now in parenthood! Enjoy every moment, busy or not, life is to be lived happily in all you do and say so your joy will spread to others. Wish I had the guts to say to people when at the bank or a store to just keep their frustrations, attitudes, bad language, and grumpy faces to yourself please; but I'm sure that'll make matters worse so I'm just thankful it doesn't bother me and I can use it as an example of what not to do for the kids!

That vented, just wanted to share the best birthday present I could have ever gotten from my boys, a smiling picture with Santa! For my birthday I wanted a day spent with the boys and decided to take them to the Bass Pro shop where they're supposed to have a winter wonderland set up with different tables of fun for the kids to play with along with a free photo with Santa. It was awesome! There was no line, nothing like the mall where at 6pm on any given day of the week it'd be at least a half and hour wait. They had a train display to watch, RC cars to drive, Red Ryder laser guns to shoot at a wall, and others we just never got to.

I've been prepping them for weeks about sitting on Santa's lap and just as I thought Mr. Outgoing went right up with no problem, sat on Santa's lap and answered every question he asked, especially the one about what toy he wanted, "a bicycle and dump truck helmet with a horn!" Santa was impressed and I just beamed, that's all the boys have been talking about, Santa bringing them a bike under the tree!

Gavin got extremely shy and held on to Mike with a death grip so as usual we didn't push it and used re-direction and went off to play some of the free games they had set up. Then Gavin realized that Carter got a candy cane after seeing Santa and he wanted one too, then there it was, all on his own he had the biggest smile and said "Me go see Santa too!" and was actually happy about it! I took him up, he gave Santa a high-five then actually sat on his lap and was talking to Santa like he's known him forever- stroking his soft suit collar, feeling his real beard all while answering Santa's questions of how old he was, what he wanted and if he's been a good boy! After he got down with a big smile I totally welled up with tears as this was a milestone for him and I was so glad he could actually enjoy the season with Santa instead of being so anxious! I am so glad to have such good photos of them this year to remember that day! Don't know if it'll be the same next year but it was such a nice ending to a great birthday for this year at least!

Gavin has cried his little eyes out every year, and the anxiety he's had since being 1yr old never helped, but time and maturity have done him well and I am impressed at the little man he is becoming! Just last night at Pop-Pop Thompson's 40th Retirement party he sat at the dinner table with the adults for a very long time eating and socializing like he was in Elementary school already! But Carter, as advanced as he is, made it known he doesn't want to grow up too fast just yet and refused to sit for dinner and cried when it was time to blow out Pop-Pop's candle, which is fine by me- stay young as long as you can both of you, tears and tantrums don't bother me any!

So glad I was able to re-use this cake pan from Gavin's 1st birthday dump truck theme! Gotta love Wilton pans, they're so versatile!

Mom-Mom only found one sippy cup firetruck, I knew there would be a fight for which boy got it so had to make it useful another way! But now that the party is over I'll have to hide this one until I hunt another one down!

Happy 40 yrs with the Baltimore City Fire Dept Pop-Pop! Actual retirement starts next fall when his sick and vacation leave expire, but we look forward to spending more time with him now that he's guaranteed to be home for holidays! He's already been to Gavin's pre-school for the Thanksgiving feast and now is able to go on Wednesday for the Christmas show too; here's to making up for lost time!

So amidst the yr. anniversary of my brothers passing, with all the cookie making, present wrapping and parties these next few weeks, it's made me even more thankful that I'm here on earth and know I'm enjoying every moment and trying my best to spread joy at every turn!