Thursday, December 11, 2008

We interrupt this blog for a temporary break.

I need a bloggy hiatus. It's not that I've been at this for too long and have nothing to say. Mom would say that I could talk myself to death. There is just only so much of me, only so much time and holy Batman-- it's nearly Christmas!

I haven't one cookie baked. AAAAAAAA!

So Tuesday, as we had a lull at work, I wrote out a schedule. It scared the young'ns (seasonals). The one said, "That's an awful lot you are writing down there." Yes, I'm a busy mommy. Let me give you my excuse note for breaking until Monday, December 15 and being a bit spotty in the blog until after Christmas.

Thurs. Dec 11-- K- has preschool in the AM. The new washer is to be delivered sometime in the convenient 2 hour window of 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM. I had to make arrangements for K- to be picked up from preschool and brought back home. In trade, I'll be watching my friend's daughter (K-'s friend) while she goes to a doctor's appointment. I have the Christmas tree to put up for my 91 year old grandmother. I need to begin the wardrobe boxes for the American Girl doll clothes that I have for gifts for K- and my nieces. They must be complete by Saturday. I also have festival choir practice from 7-10 PM. House cleaning day! Perhaps while K- is at school. Oh, and I have to fix up the top of the Christmas tree. We lost a set of lights and Hubs had to reconfigure and relight. Yes, it involved installing a new set of lights.
Fri. Dec 12-- We have Little Gym at 9 AM. I need to set my table that I am hosting for the church Christmas Tea. I need to finish the American Girl boxes and bake some cookies if I have any time left.
Sat. Dec 13-- K- goes to a friend while I host the tea table. I'll drop the American Girl boxes off with my mother-in-law to have my father-in-law UPS on Monday. I'll go home and bake cookies.
Sun. Dec 14-- Church in the AM. Dip chocolate pretzels in the afternoon. Choir in the PM.
Mon. Dec 15-- Boo Mama's Christmas Tour of Homes. Yes. I'll be participating. If only hubs can get the top of the tree lit again. I fear that I'll be resetting the top between now and then. Or, you'll have to ignore the lack of light. I forgot to mention that I work. 10AM - 6PM. Finish bits of gift wrapping. But y'all are more than welcome to come over. We're happy to have you. I'll pull out some basement cold bottled water and hopefully there will be some cheese doodles left in the bag for me to share with you. (I'm a better hostess than that!)
Tues. Dec 16 & Wed. Dec 17-- Work 10 AM - 6 PM. Wrap lids for cookie boxes.
Thurs. Dec 18-- K- last day of preschool before break. Send book for party and gifts for teachers. Prep for K-'s birthday party. Choir from 7 PM - 10 PM. Clean house.
Fri. Dec 19-- Little Gym at 9 AM. Make birthday cake. Couch tech coming sometime in a convenient 2 hour window. Remember my new couch? Um, they are going to try to figure out how to fix the damage that it came with. Ugh. Have I said that I see a new couch replacement in my future? I do believe so!
Sat. Dec 20-- K-'s 5th birthday! Party from 2PM - 4:30PM.
Sun. Dec 21-- Church AM. Festival Choir performance 6 PM. Assemble cookie boxes in afternoon.
Mon. Dec 22-- Work 10 AM - 6 PM. Slosh day for cookie box construction. HAPPY HOME DAY! Do something fun with K- to celebrate her coming into our lives. (Yes, most people call it Gotcha Day, but we're not most people. I was inspired to call it happy home day after the very first ornament that we bought for her commemorating her 1 year anniversary with us. Yes, I will take a picture and post it, but not now. I need to sweep the floor. The washer people are coming, the washer people are coming!)
Tues. Dec 23-- Work 10 AM - 6 PM. Sibling get-together at McD's for K-. Bring Christmas and Birthday gifts. 6 PM.
Wed. Dec 24-- Work 10 AM - 3 PM. Christmas Eve.

Breathe in . . . breathe out . . .

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Works for Me Wednesday: Christmas Cookie Recipes

We exchange handcrafted gifts with my siblings. We started this several years ago and it just works for us. My contribution to the gift giving is the annual box of cookies. I also can goodies, and this year they get Apple Lemon Thyme/Pineapple Sage Jelly and Pearsauce. I've decided to share some of my sure-fire cookie recipes with you.

First, I'll tell you somethings that I can't live without.

1. A stand mixer. We were given a stand mixer for our wedding. I have since moved on to the lovely Kitchen Aid. My husband made me buy it. Even though I got it on a Black Friday deep discount early AM Target sale, I felt guilty. I called him from the parking lot and cried. Now I cry tears of joy. I was gifted two additional bowls for it. It makes cookie baking so much easier.
2. My Tupperware cookie roll out mat. It's really a pie roll out mat. I use it for cookies, though.
3. Parchment Paper
4. Pam
5. Mini chips. They make for better flavor dispersal.
6. Vanilla extract. I can't use the Imitation Vanilla Flavoring. Once you've gone real, you can't go back.
7. Butter. Christmas cookies weren't meant to be low fat.
8. My gigantic wire cooling rack. It holds many dozen cookies.
9. My Pampered Chef cookie scoop. I have the small one and when a recipe says it will make 36 cookies, the Pampered Chef small scoop will make exactly 36 cookies. Generic scoopers kick the bucket. This one was worth every single penny I paid for it.

Now onto the stuff that you are actually here for! I know that all of you have the basic recipes, which is why I skipped them. I passed on the different from the rest recipes that I have.

Oatmeal Cinnamon Chip Cookies
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 t vanilla extract (I always use more.)
1 1/2 c flour
1 t baking soda
2 1/2 c quick cooking oats (I use apple cinnamon breakfast oatmeal for at least half of this.)
1- 10 oz pkg Cinnamon Chips
1/4 c raisins or craisins (I use craisins.)

Heat oven to 350 F. Beat butter, brown sugar and granulated sugar in a bowl until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Combine flour and baking soda, then add to butter mixture. Stir in oats, cinnamon chips and c/raisins. (Batter will be stiff.) Drop by heaping teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes until lightly browned. About 4 dozen cookies. My favorite!

Raspberry Thumbprint Cookies
3 1/2 c flour
1 1/3 c butter, softened
3/4 c sugar
1/4 c orange juice
1 egg yolk

1/2 c raspberry preserves for filling

Preheat oven to 350 F. Cream butter and sugar together until smooth. Add egg YOLK and orange juice, mix in flour until just blended. Shape rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls. Place 1 inch apart on cookie sheets. Press thumb into center of each cookie, making a deep indentation. Bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and fill with raspberry preserves. Very little goes a long way. Use caution to not overfill. It just burbles over and makes a yummy, but messy looking cookie. Return to oven for 5 minutes, then immediately remove and cool cookies on a wire rack. Makes probably 6 dozen cookies or so. Mom's favorite!

Almost Candy Bar
1/2 c butter
1 pkg Devil's Food Cake Mix (NOT prepared.)
6 oz butterscotch chips*
6 oz semi sweet chocolate chips
1 c coconut*
1 c chopped nuts*
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

* I admit that I use whatever I have or am in the mood for. I use many mini chocolate chips. I also use M&M's, heath bar bits and mini marshmallows. I'm not a fan of nuts or coconut.

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, cut butter into the cake mix with a fork or pastry blender until crumbly. Sprinkle evenly over the bottom of a 13 x 9 baking pan. Press lightly. Sprinkle with candies of your choosing and pour sweetened condensed milk over all the ingredients. Bake at 350F for 20-30 minutes, or until light and golden brown. Cool completely. Cut into small bars as these are VERY rich. I place the small bars onto cupcake papers to keep them all separate. They are kind of sticky. My best friend's husband loves these!

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Have I mentioned my love for chocolate?

2/3 c butter
1 1/2 c packed brown sugar
1 T water
1 t vanilla OR peppermint extract (I always use more.)*
2 eggs
1 1/2 c flour
1/3 c cocoa powder
1/2 t salt
1/4 t baking soda
1- 12 oz pkg chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350 F. Cream butter, brown sugar, water and extract in a large bowl on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs and beat well. Stir together flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda. Gradually add to sugar mixture, beating on low speed until just blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls 2 " apart onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 7-9 minutes or until cookies are set. Cookies will appear soft and moist. Do not over bake. Makes about 3 dozen.

* I accidentally grabbed the wrong extract once. I found that the peppermint was delicious!

Chocolate Covered Graham Cracker Pretzels

My apologies for not being able to give you an actual pretzel/chocolate ratio, but I can give you my tips.

1. I use a 50/50 combination of dark chocolate/milk chocolate merkens. (Melting chocolate wafers.) I love dark chocolate and most of the people I know love milk. I have found that by making the combo, everyone loves them and no one complains.
2. I'm excited! I've found chocolate graham pretzels to dip in chocolate. More chocolate can't be a bad thing, right?
3. I make my own double boiler with a pot and a metal bowl.
4. I use a tweezer to dip my pretzels. Don't worry, it is a tweezer specifically in the kitchen for this purpose. We'll call it a kitchen tweezer, even though it is from the HBA section of the grocery.
5. I like to sprinkle little non-pariels (the little colored round balls) on the tops of the pretzels.
6. Since we are in chilly NE Ohio, I place a TV tray table on my back step (Klassy, I know) so that I can cool these off faster than in the freezer. By the time I've finished a cookie sheet of them, the other sheet is ready to be pulled and used again! Yes, I just sling them in and out of the back door. No, no one has ever helped themselves, though it has snowed on them from time to time!

Just Like Thin Mints

A couple of pounds of mint flavored melting chocolate
A box of all purpose crackers AKA generic Ritz. (I buy Value Time for 1.00 a box.)

Dip the crackers in the chocolate. Sprinkle with non-pariels. Cool. Eat. Imagine that you are eating Thin Mints. The Girl Scouts can't care this time of year? They aren't peddling their goods until January, right? This is another one of my favorites!

Graham Cracker Brownies
This is one I haven't tried yet, but I found the recipe in the Gooseberry Patch Christmas Book 7 that I borrowed from the library this week. I'm hoping to make them this weekend as my first Christmas cookie batch to freeze.

2 c graham cracker crumbs
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 t baking powder
1/8 t salt
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Spread into a greased 8" x 8" pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack and cut into squares. Makes 1 1/2 dozen.

Apple Lemon Thyme/Pineapple Sage Jelly

Unfortunately, my recipe isn't currently in my recipe box-- I don't know why. However, if you follow a basic juice jelly recipe, that's all I use. You do need to do a 4 hour steeping of your juice beforehand. Add 10 sprigs of Lemon Thyme and 10 leaves of Pineapple Sage, heat to just boiling for a minute or so, turn the burner off, place a lid on the pot and leave it for 4 hours. Don't move it from the burner. Just let it sit and enjoy the herbs. Remove the herbs prior to making into jelly.

See, I anticipated your need. I knew that you would skip over all the cookie recipes that I had and would want the jelly recipe. As for the Pearsauce, I'm a taster. When it tastes good, I know that it is ready to can. I use a lot of cinnamon and brown sugar. It does get a good fresh grating of nutmeg, though. Yum.

Happy baking!

Next week: I have no idea. It'll be surprise week here at WFMW! Ooo! Maybe I can be all organized and take photos of the American Girl wardrobe boxes that I'm making. Okay. Yep. That'll be it. Save yourself the hundred dollars or so! I'll show you what I did. Now, if I can just get those darned things started . . .

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Tales from the Trenches

I admit, indecisive folks drive me batty. Indecision is not something I have a problem with. I chose my wedding dress from a photo in a book. I ordered it and it was even more beautiful in person. It's just the way I shop. I just know what I like.

Indecision puzzles me. Waffling folks wanting me to weigh in on their decision for a self purchase just confuses me more. Why do you care what I like? You should pick what you like best. I don't know you. I wished that I did, but I don't. What I like may be different from what you like. That is what I'll tell people.

We had a customer in today that is a prime example of what I'm talking about. She walked back and forth, exchanging fused glass window hangings for at least a half hour. She was having us wrap these 2 pieces for her "bestest friends" and had us take the artist tag off that talks about the piece and states that it was Made in the USA. She thought it made it look "cheesy." Hmm. (To the artist's credit, it was a small and very well done tag.) It took her another 20 minutes to choose 6 luggage tags that were 3.25 each. It was a painful process to watch.

It baffles me. I walk in a store and if I see something, I know that I like it. My mother-in-law will hem-haw over things for so long. She'll buy something and take it back a couple of times. She just has a tough time making a decision.

How are you with decision making? Do you borrow the public's opinion or do you fly on your own?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Weekend Wrap Up

1. Couch came in Friday. Beautiful, but boofed. Tech will be out December 19 to determine plan of action. Sales guy feels bad. He said that he'll stay on it to make certain that it is all resolved.
2. Went to wedding on Saturday. Misunderstood church secretary. Showed up 2 hours early. Put myself to work. Pinned flowers on guys, only beheading one rose. Oops. Thank goodness they had a spare flower. Old feather pen died. Searched mom's pen cup and fixed the pen. Returned it in time for use.
3. Went home after wedding. Hubs announces, "Washer died."
4. Went to Hubs' Christmas party. Roads not that great. Food not that great. It was an assigned pot luck, so no variety though there should have been. First time for Popeye's Chicken. It was gross. Sorry to those of you who are fans. I've always thought that it was hard to goof up fried chicken. Apparently, I'm wrong.
5. Picked K- back up from friend's house. Parents call. They are enroute to our house. Dad got a new vehicle (new to him) and wanted to spin by. Called neighbor, had him let them in.
6. Was standing in basement talking to parents when father unit asks, "Why do you have water on your basement floor?" Well yes, apparently the humidifier in K-'s room took a dump on her floor. Leaked water UNDER her desk and armoire, through the carpet, padding, subfloor and down to the basement floor. Had to move many things from her room. Armoire still up and tipped on it's side. Slight water damage to armoire and desk. Still drying carpet out. At least now my house doesn't smell like wet socks. My mom didn't want to tell me that my house stunk. Normally, it smells just fine. Thank goodness for the fan that has been running non-stop for 24 hours. It is resolving the stink/wet carpet problem quite nicely.
7. Plumber stopped by to get a materials list. Hubs stayed home from church so as to run a recovery on the house so that the plumber didn't think that we were pigs. Saturday nights strip and flip of K-'s room was a combo of panic and PM*S and whole house involvement happened. Plumber will be coming back in a few weeks to repair leaking washer feed valves, replace main line shut off and a few other plumbery items.
8. Went shopping for washer. Found one on sale at KMart. Normally not a KMart shopper, but they had a one day friends and family 20% off discount. Got the $500.00 Kenmore for $400.00 with free delivery and free haulaway. It's a bigger capacity with some different cycles that I don't have. It also has an up-down-and-around agitator. We were happy with that. In the meantime . . .
9. I went to my parents to tackle the laundry. Since Hubs had the basement all torn up this week, I held back on doing laundry until this weekend. Then the washer broke. Mom and I hung out, I had dinner that was good and I didn't have to cook. In exchange, I brought them one of our frozen loaves of homemade Amish bread and put their Christmas tree together for them.
10. Came home with clean laundry. Got K- to bed. Realized that the lights on the top of the Christmas tree are out. Hubs is working on resolving that. Still not fixed though. Poor guy.
11. Hubs and I got to watch the season finale of Storm Chasers. He's snoring now and I'm tired.
12. Will be dropping old VBS materials off at church tomorrow when I drop K- off for school then will shuttle off to the grocery for food. Mother Hubbard's Cupboards need a little help.

How was your weekend?