Christmas time is cookie time

These days, Michael just looks at me and shakes his head and asks “Why are you doing all this? We’ll never eat all of these and you’ll just wind up throwing it all away.” It’s in my genes and I can’t help it! Even though I don’t eat a lot of sweets myself, I can’t have Christmas without trays of cookies and candies to share. Period!
I have been in cookie mode, but we have had to have dinner, too, so let me start there. We began the week on Sunday with one more meal cooked out on the grill. We are in Alabama, and December days in the 70’s are not at all uncommon.  Best Beef Burgers were the order of the day,
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Meatless Monday we went retro with an old fashioned bowl of Southern Style Pinto Beans topped with diced Vidalia onions and served with Sweet Sour Cream Cornbread on the side. I’m not a Southerner by birth, but every once in a while I do adopt the customs.
Tuesday was a new recipe, Asian Flavored Beef with Cauliflower, kind of a twist on Beef and Broccoli. This stir fry had a well developed Asian beef flavor and I intend to make it again. Maybe I’ll remember to buy the green onions that were supposed to go on top.
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Wednesday’s venture into another new recipe was a total failure, and an expensive one at that! I read a recipe for a polenta version of lasagna with mushrooms and it sounded good, so off I went. We don’t eat a lot of polenta, but grits are basicly the same thing, right? Not this time. I made sheets of Parmesan cheese grits and chilled them to layer between about three pounds of mixed mushrooms, some of my Fresh Ricotta Cheese, and a quick tomato sauce. What a mess! The grits melted into everything else and my carefully crafted lasagna became a pile of mush with no distinguishable flavor at all. We didn’t even save the leftovers.
Thursday I took the easy way out and pulled the beef for Patty Melts out of the freezer. If you’ve never had a Patty Melt, they are a wonderfully gooey grilled combination of a hamburger patty with caramelized onions and plenty of cheese on rye bread. The only thing that isn’t left out is all the calories and fat grams. Patty Melts definitely fall into the occasional treat catagory.
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Friday’s fish dish never appeared. A bowl of Turkey Poblano Chowder took its place,  More time for baking cookies!
And here they come…
Many people make ginger bread men for the holidays, and when Emily and Aaron were small, we did too. Now I serve a more grown-up version, Jean’s Gingersnaps.  They are brightly spiced and crispy and the first thing Michael goes for on the cookie plate.
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About the same time as I started making ginger snaps a Layered Peppermint Fudge became Aaron’s favorite. The original recipe was made with peppermint buttercream sandwiched between two layers of real cooked fudge and it was a morning long pain in the you-know-what to make. I recently found this short cut using melted chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk. It is much easier to do than the earlier one, but I don’t think it has as rich a texture. I guess it’s a trade off, and sometimes at this time of year the easy way wins.
A couple of new cookies made this years plate. Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut Thumbprints are impressive, but surprisingly easy to make.
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Maple Walnut Bites weren’t difficult either. The only trick to those is to resist over filling the mini muffin cups, but using a small scoop helps. I do think I’ll increase the maple extract a bit the next time I make them to give a stronger maple note.
I think my favorite cookie for this year is the delicate Peppermint Meltaways. They are Christmas in one bite!
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I still have a lot to do before the big day comes, and it will come whether I’m ready or not, so I’d best get busy. I hope you all have a wonderful holiday.
Be thankful for what life gives you, and Merry Christmas!

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