Archive for December, 2009

Amazing Cookies

This is not a joke. DO make these cookies. They’re just right for winter – s’mores being absolutely perfect when it’s chilly outside & they’re not messy & won’t get all over your hands. I made two batches – one on Christmas Eve for my husband’s family & one a couple of days later for my family’s gathering. They received rave reviews at the four different parties they graced & they were annihilated at each gathering (except at the last one where I brought four times as many to insure there’d be enough).

Some people in the comments had trouble with the dough spreading, but I am almost positive that they didn’t refrigerate the dough for an hour as instructed. I was doing so much baking that this wasn’t a problem, but I get being impatient. I do recommend making sure you do that because mine were absolutely perfect.

Another little tip would be to use Symphony toffee bars to break up & put on top. Oh, man. DO THIS. I added a little sea salt to the top of one batch & they were my absolute favorites. Additionally, I regularly bake cookies 30 seconds – 2 minutes less than recommended, depending on the recipe. The times on these were spot on for me, but I put them back in for 1.5 minutes instead of 2 minutes after adding the marshmallows & chocolate, and my marshmallows didn’t spread like hers did. Just a tip…

Seriously though, if these won rave reviews from my eight-year-old nephews, both brothers-in-law, my sister-in-law’s boyfriend, grandparents, aunt & cousins, well… That’s a lot of endorsement! Try them out while the weather is still chilly enough to warrant it!

If you absolutely cannot click links (where there are photos, so do it!), here’s the recipe:

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup graham cracker crumbs (I found this to be one package of graham crackers – not a box, but one of the individually wrapped packages, if you are too lazy to measure)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups miniature chocolate chips (any chips are fine)
  • 1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
  • 2 Hershey bars, chopped (and by 2 bars, I took that to mean jumbo bars & mine were very chocolate-y)
  1. In a stand mixer, combine the butter and sugars until fluffy.
  2. Mix in egg and vanilla until combined. Add the flour, graham crackers, salt, and baking soda, mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  3. Refrigerate dough for about an hour. (Don’t skip this!)
  4. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
  5. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto cookie sheets. Bake for 8 minutes, and remove from the oven. Push 3 to 4 marshmallows and a few pieces of chocolate into each cookie. Return to the oven and bake an additional 2-3 minutes until fully cooked. Cool cookies on a wire rack.
  6. Makes 3 dozen cookies.

Christmas Baking / Gifts for All

I sort of went crazy in the kitchen today. I made muddy buddies & s’mores cookies & Oreo truffles. I made mixes for oatmeal & chocolate chip & pecan cookies as well as curried lentil soup. I seriously made cheese straws exactly according to the directions, but they were horribly burned. I have enough to make tomorrow as well, and I might try them again at half the baking time.

I had some difficulties as my in-laws decided to do a gift swap this year instead of individual presents. That’s fine, but we had to come up with a bunch of $25 presents. The age range is from mid-20s to mid-70s with people everywhere in between. They don’t drink (alcohol being an easy & popular gift choice), and I was thoroughly flummoxed. Here’s what I ended up doing:

1: Everyone Loves Chocolate: homemade hot cocoa (on a stick!), a selection of each of the three cookies / truffles listed above, the movie Chocolat, and the mix for the cookies listed above.

2: Let’s Stay Home: a thick fleece blanket, microwave popcorn & a four-in-one DVD (Ocean’s 11, Ocean’s 12, Ocean’s 13 & the original Ocean’s 11, something for everyone, I hoped!)

3. It’s Cold Outside, So Let’s Stay In: curried lentil soup mix (linked above), a recipe book for CrockPot meals & the new Norah Jones CD

4: Christmas Spirit: two movies – Elf & A Christmas Story, a box of microwave popcorn, a couple of candy canes, the hot cocoa on a stick mentioned earlier, a few Christmas cookies, a mix CD of Christmas songs

The first two were chosen by my mother-in-law (#1 & she loves chocolate, so I think it went over well) & my great-uncle-in-law (#2 & they liked the blanket & will probably like the movies, so that should be okay). I’ve never been so nervous that my gifts might not go over well! (Note: We have two gatherings with my in-laws, one on Christmas Eve with one side & one on Christmas Day with the other.)

My family’s gathering isn’t until Monday, but I’ll see my mother & older sister + her family tomorrow, and we’ll exchange gifts. I love watching people open presents. Have I mentioned that before?

Christmas is grand!

I love Christmas!

I love seeing everyone & the excuse to bake cookies & the ebullient holiday spirits, but mostly I love gifts.

Before you condemn me for being materialistic, let me rephrase. I love giving gifts. I absolutely LOVE picking out the perfect present for someone & watching their face as they open it up, surprised, pleased & excited. I love knowing that I found something they want / need, especially if it’s something they didn’t know existed.

I love the fact that my best friend (who is several states away from me) will open an unabashedly sentimental gift & I know she’ll cry. Moreover, I know she’ll love that I sent her a gift that will make her cry. I love the fact that I figured out what to get my mother (notoriously difficult to shop for) & am absolutely sure that she’ll use each one of the “little indulgences” that I picked out for her. I know that my little sister will laugh at her present & my older sister will smile with anticipation & my nephews will gasp with excitement.

I just love that.

I’m terrible about present-giving in general. Sometimes I’ll give lavish presents for no reason. Sometimes I won’t be able to think of something for your birthday. However, I’m pretty spot-on with Christmas, and I absolutely cannot wait to see how the presents go over!

Merry Christmas to all!

Dear World,

If you have a teacher in your life, please read this post.

If you have a teacher in your life who does not do a good job for you or your child, I am so sorry. Please know that there are those of us out there just waiting to get you / your child in our classrooms & make a connection with you.

If you have a teacher in your life who goes above & beyond / makes you or your child want to go to school / does the extra things that make school memorable, say thanks. A sincere note of appreciation makes all the extra hours worth it. It validates coming in on a sick day to show The Polar Express to third graders after school & staying up late to make a calendar for off track months so you can find free / affordable activities to do in our area & laminating writing late at night because we’re so proud of what the kids have done.

Gift cards are thoughtful. Teacher-themed gifts are (please) unnecessary. Truly though, that note that says, “Listen, I see the amount of time you put in. It goes above and beyond what you need to do, and we appreciate you.” That note is worth more than any gift you could give.

“Thank you” is always in good taste.

That said, I try to write a letter each year to a former teacher who made a difference in my life – Miss Anna, my second grade teacher who hand-lettered everything & let me read what I wanted, Mr. McKinney, my fifth grade teacher who always pushed me to research & write & read more and whose patience in taking our class to the county library each week will never be forgotten, Mrs. Klopf, my seventh grade English teacher who wrote encouraging notes on my poetry & let me call her by her first name (which was the same as mine), Mr. Haydock, my high school speech coach who gave so generously of himself at such a young age (less than 10 years older than me), and Mr. Madison, my twelfth grade English teacher who turned the classroom into his stage & held us captive.

Those notes are treasured more than a mug or gift card could ever be.

Thank you in advance!

I am…

plagued by a cough that has my throat tender.

craving homemade nachos with olives & black beans & a couple types of cheese.

glad I slept as much as I did last night.

going to wrap presents soon, I swear.

tired of looking at houses, offering on houses, waiting to hear from banks about houses, and not getting houses.

thankful that I got to see my best friend once more before her Christmas trip.

ambivalent about a cranky post I typed earlier in a different location.

looking forward to blankets & cuddles tonight.

caught up & behind on schoolwork, all at the same time, in different areas.

looking forward to two weeks off & the holidays.

having fun perusing recipes that will translate well to being carted to holiday celebrations.

in love with my husband (always, but especially recently).

Current Loves

While scouting out Christmas presents for others, I find myself seeing a bunch of things online that I am particularly loving. Take a look.

I’ve seen these linked to all over the internet, and I am in love each time I see them. These personalized cards include a hand-painted illustration of you. They’re pricy but oh-so-adorable!

I wear my Toms so often that I’ve been looking into getting another pair. I adore the black glitter ones, but my current pair are black, so I am leaning toward these instead. So cute! If you haven’t read / heard about what they do over at Toms, you should read about it.

Terrarium ornaments!

Homemade advent calendars! I’ve seen them all over. I definitely did not make one this year, but it’s on my to-do list for the next season (or maybe we’ll do a modified “12-days of” one).

I have so many cookies bookmarked to make this season. I could bake a batch each day & still have more to try. Some tempting ones include: mini-ginger cookie sandwiches with cinnamon cream cheese filling (pictured above), brown sugar walnut shortbread, glazed maple cookies, lemon cornmeal shortbread cookies, pecan rochers & homemade Oreos!