Chocolate Crackles waiting to be eaten.

A few years ago my wonderful sister gave me a copy of Martha Stewart’s Holiday Cookies. This magazine special issue has since been given an honored place on my kitchen cookbook shelf. There has not been a single recipe I’ve tried that failed to thrill, nor have I found a single recipe that requires shortening (butter is so much healthier).

Today’s links are some of my favorite recipes from this magazine:

  • Chocolate Crackles. These are like a brownie shaped like a cookie. I would make these every week if I had a hummingbird’s metabolism, but as it is I have to save these for a once in a while treat.
  • Anise Drops. These have a deep licorice flavor and a surprising texture.
  • Lime Meltaways. I didn’t make these this year, but I include them every once in a while. The light lime taste is a nice counterpoint to the heavy spices of many holiday cookies.
  • Snickerdoodles. It’s not Christmas at the Homestead without snickerdoodles.
  • Black and White. These are an area specialty, with every deli in the tri-state area offering up their own interpretation of the classic black and white.
  • Earl Grey Tea Cookies. Hubby starts every day with a cup of earl grey. These cookies use that unique tea to create a distinct flavor.
  • Rum Balls. Hands down my favorite (outside of the family sugar cookie, that is).
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A small sampling of this year's sugar cookie assortment.

Merry Christmas! The last two weeks have been a mad dash around the homestead. We baked a total of 14 batches of cookies, and in the hectic fray I stopped posting here. In a few days I’ll give a recap and links to some of the better recipes we used.

We also had a bit of a winter storm (about 24 inches in about 24 hours) that locked our county down for two days, delaying presents in transit (some did not arrive) and making last minute shopping even more of a hassle than usual. Even so, the snow was a refreshing break from the usual cold rain Decembers have brought this past decade. This is the first White Christmas Thing 1 and Thing 2 have ever seen!

As a special gift to you, I am posting a family heirloom recipe. My Me-Ma made these sugar cookies when she was a girl in Pennsylvania Dutch territory, and they have been a Christmas tradition in my family for nearly a hundred years. We bake them now on Christmas Eve to ensure a good stock for Santa’s cookie plate (and for dunking in Mommy and Daddy’s tea on Christmas morning). These are a much more cake-like sugar cookie than you are likely to find in any modern bakery, and they don’t last long so they should be eaten within a few days. You can color the dough and add sprinkled before baking, but our favorite way to eat them is done up with a powder sugar and milk glaze.

Me-Ma’s Sugar Cookies
makes 3 dozen, depending on what size you cut them

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  1. Heat oven to 350.
  2. Cream together sugar and shortening until well blended, then beat in egg. In another bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Add flour mixture to shortening mixture slowly, alternating with milk, until well combined. You may need to add up to 1/4 cup more flour if the dough it too wet and sticky to roll.
  3. Roll dough out on well floured surface until 1/8″ thick. Cut into desired shapes, then bake for 9 minutes, removing before they start to brown.
  4. Cool completely before glazing.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen is wrapping up. I don’t know if they accomplished much, but I hope something comes of it. The time for discussion is long past, and the window of time for meaningful action is closing.

As the start of the new year approaches, I am asking myself and my family what new things we can do in the coming year to make a difference, just like the people in this video:

What will you do?

My new toy and the first glass of soy milk it made.

A few days ago I finished reading In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan, then I took a look at what was in some of the food products I buy regularly. My soy milk no longer passed muster–there’s too many ingredients that are chemicals rather than food. I decided to give homemade soy milk a try.

To make this easier (long time readers may remember that I am lazy!), I ordered a Joyoung Soymilk Maker from Amazon. It arrived yesterday, along with a bunch of organic soybeans from Arrowhead Mills, and this morning I made my first batch. I enjoyed it hot with a little agave nectar and vanilla extract, but as it cooled it took an a beanier taste than I am used to. My hope, though, is that we will quickly get used to the slightly different taste, and this will replace the store bought stuff we’ve been using.

Overall I am pretty pleased with how this thing worked and tickled pink by the Engrish in the instruction manual and warning labels (I was instructed to plug it into the wall tutler, which is the most unusual way to say outlet that I’ve seen to date). The machine makes rice and nut milk as well as soy milk, and I’ll be playing with those soon. It also included instructions for making tofu, which will be an adventure we’ll try after the holiday baking rush is over.

Once I’ve really gotten familiar with this thing and played around with the technique to find the best way to make the least beany soy milk, I’ll share the recipe here.

Hubby said these tasted like Willy Wonka's version of a munchkin. He said this through a mouthful of seconds, so I think this is to be taken as a compliment.

Today Hubby will be enjoying his office holiday party. I baked a little something for him to bring in to share. These little nuggets of pure holiday happiness were inspired by Bakerella’s Red Velvet Cake Balls, but rather than using the heavily dyed red velvet cake, I made a seasonally appropriate gingerbread flavored cake, inspired by a recipe from Birthday Cakes by Kathryn Kleinmann.

Chocolate Covered Gingerbread Cake Balls
makes 60 or so. lots and lots. recipe can be halved if you are baking for less than a crowd.

  • 3 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 6 tsp vanilla (4 for batter and 2 for icing)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 4 bags chocolate chips (white chocolate or bittersweet are best)
  1. Heat over to 350. Butter and flour a 9″x13″ baking pan (I rub them with the wrappers from the butter being used in the cake).
  2. Combine 2 sticks butter and brown sugar in a mixing bowl until fluffy. Slowly beat in molasses, then the eggs, one at a time, and finally 4 tsp of vanilla. In another dish, combine flour, baking soda and spices. Blend flour mixture slowly into the butter mixture, then beat in buttermilk. Pour into pan, smooth top, and bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean (30-45 minutes).
  3. Allow cake to cool completely in the pan. While cake is cooling, beat 1 stick butter until fluffy, then add cocoa powder and vanilla, slowly add powdered sugar until the icing is spreadable and sweet, but not stiff. I don’t think I used much more than 1 cup of the sugar.
  4. Crumble cake into a large bowl, then mix in icing. Once you have an even texture, grab handfuls of cake and roll into balls 1 1/4″ in diameter. Place on a cookie sheet lined with a silicone sheet or parchment, then pop in the freezer for 20 minutes or so to firm up. (I filled 2 cookie sheets)
  5. Dump a bag of chocolate chips into a microwave safe bowl and nuke for 30 seconds. Stir, then pop back in the microwave for 10-15 second blasts until the chocolate is well melted. Dip the frozen cake balls into the melted chocolate, letting the excess roll off, and place back on the prepared sheet. You can pop these back into the freezer for a few minutes to help the chocolate set more rapidly. You may need to stop every dozen or so to rewarm the chocolate and/or add more chips as you go.
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About me

I am on a personal and professional quest to find a happier, healthier, greener and more cost effective way to live life in the suburbs.