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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.
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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.

Chocolate chip cookies. If these are not frozen, they will not live to see the end of the week.The Great December Cookie Marathon has officially begun. For the first batch, I whipped up an old favorite. These cookies are a little heartier than those made with regular flour, but the whole wheat adds a slight nuttiness that makes the addition of nuts redundant.

I also like to make these early because they freeze so well. I know when I bring them out in a few weeks, they’ll be just a perfect as they were going into the freezer.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes oodles (4-5 dozen)

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Heat over to 375.
  2. Beat sugars together with butter until light an fluffy. Then add egg, beating until well combined, and vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add to butter mixture, stirring well after each addition. Stir in chocolate chips.
  4. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls, leaving at least 2″ in between, unto ungreased cookie sheets. I always use a silicone liner, but it’s not strictly needed. Bake 8-10 minutes, just until starting to brown on the edges.
  5. Let cool for 3-4 minutes before moving from cookie sheet onto a rack.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was trying to adjust my diet according to Ayurvedic principles. One of the foods that this system uses in abundance is Ghee, or clarified butter. In Ayurveda, ghee is considered a pure food, and it is the best fat for cooking. It sure does have a great taste, and I love its subtle sweetness and very slightly nutty flavor.

The one problem with ghee, though, is its price. I have been going through $9 jars of the stuff every 2-3 weeks, which may be good for my dosha, but terrible for my budget. A few weeks ago I found some recipes and tried making my own ghee at home. The recipe I was following said that the butter would sizzle wildly for 15 minutes, then fall suddenly silent when it was ready.  Bull. Crap. After 10 minutes of steady sizzling, I had a pan full off coffee-brown oil and a burnt on crust and a kitchen full of burning smell. After spending an eternity scouring the burnt butter bits off the bottom of the pan, I tried again. The second time I managed to remove it from the heat before it started to burn, and the resulting ghee was infinitely better than the store bought variety (and 1/3 the price).

I made some again this weekend, and this time I remembered to take some photos to share the process with you.

Ghee
makes 2 cups

  • 1 pound unsalted sweet cream butter
  1. Unwrap the butter and place it in a pan over medium heat.IMG_2551
  2. Melt the butter, and allow it to start to sizzle in the pan. It will make quite a lot of noise when it gets going. DO NOT WALK AWAY.IMG_2554
  3. At some point, the sizzling does quiet down, but only for about 3 seconds. Then it starts up again. At this point, it has stopped clarifying and started burning. The moment you notice the color start to deepen, remove the pan from the heat. A little browning adds a nice flavor, but too much burning is bad.IMG_2556
  4. Line a strainer with a few layers of cheesecloth, and pour the hot liquid through to strain out any loose burnt bits. Please do this into a heat-safe container.IMG_2574
  5. Let the ghee cool for a while in the heat safe container. When it is luke warm, pour it into a clean glass jar to store. I place the jar in the fridge for a little to help the ghee solidify, and then I store it in the cabinet near the stove.IMG_2584
I found a good use for all those strawberries I froze back in berry picking season.

I found a good use for all those strawberries I froze back in berry picking season.

I was poking around the net a few days ago, and I came across a recipe for Orange Julius on Tammy’s Recipes. I have found memories of Orange Julius from my childhood, though I never really had a clue what went into one-it was one of life great mysteries to my young self.

My own kids have never had one, I’m sad to say. There’s very few Orange Julius stores left around here. I decided to whip these up as an after school treat today. The kids are starting to come down with my cold, and so I figured this would be a fun way to get them a big dose of vitamin c. But I didn’t want to give them milk (it makes us all snotty), and I didn’t have any bananas around…so we went for a vegan strawberry version. This has less sugar than the linked recipe, as well as a few other changes. They came out great, tasting like a berry tinged dreamsicle.

Vegan Strawberry Julius
makes 1

  • 3 tbs orange juice concentrate
  • 1/2 cup vanilla soy milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 heaping tbs sugar
  • splash of vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup or so frozen strawberries
  • 4-6 ice cubes
  1. Combine everything except ice in a blender and blend until well combined.
  2. Add ice and blend until desired consistency is reached. Pour into a big glass and enjoy.
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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.

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