S’Mores Cups

1044799_10200800140237298_1115234710_nThis is my son, Michael.
Mike.
Boy.
Or…as I lovingly call him…the Little Jerk.

I’d like to share him with you today.

I talked to him a couple of days ago, and asked him if it would be ok if I wrote a little something about him. He knows that I talk smack about him quite often in my posts, and usually it’s about him talking smack about me! I told him that sometimes I worry that the people who really don’t know me, or know what’s going on with him, might not understand the relationship that we truly do have, and think that I’m a disrespectful mother…or worse…that he’s a disrespectful son (which couldn’t be further from the truth)….

“Absolutely not” he answered in response to my asking to write about him.
“Ok, I respect that…” I replied.

Then he stood there for a minute thinking about it…and finally said:
“You know what? That’s fine…go ahead. I’m ok with it.”

First, I want to start out by saying that I had my two girls first. Mike is the baby of the family. When I had Katie and Jessica, I never dreamed in a million years that I’d have a boy. Or that I’d even want a boy. I mean…you can’t dress them up in cute little dresses, and buy them Barbies and fun stuff like that.

And then Mike came along.
And I fell instantly….head over heels….madly in love with that baby boy.
And I instantly knew what every other mother of a son feels….

It was around March last year, a couple of months before his 18th birthday. I was working in the kitchen, and he came walking in…

“Mom, I need to show you something…” he said, and began to pull up his sleeves. He held out his arms, and they were filled with bruises. Not just any bruises. But giant, deep dark, black and blue bruises. Massive bruises.

My heart sank, and I felt instantly sick, and very, very scared.

“Mike, what the hell? Are you fighting?” I asked. (please God, let him be fighting)
“No, I go to bed, and they’re there when I wake up” he answered.
“Have you been working out, using your punching bag or something?” I asked. (please God, let him be working out).
“A little, but not too much, but that’s not all…” he replied, as he started to pull up his pant legs to reveal more massive bruising on both of his legs.

And then he pulled up his shirt to show me the same bruises all over his torso. It makes me sick just to type these words. I made the mistake of Googling his symptoms. I won’t tell you what all of his symptoms pointed to, but it was bad.

We went to the doctor first thing on Monday morning. The doctor went through all of the same questions that I did… Fighting? No. Working out? No. Did you fall? No.

Then the doctor looked at me and asked “Well mom, what do you think?”….. “You know where my brain is Dr. Szymanski…” I answered. He nodded his head and said: “Yeah… we need to get some tests done. “ He went on to explain that the test results would take a full week to get back to him, so not to worry. Mike could go to school as he normally does, and he would call me the following Monday. One week.

Tuesday morning…the very next day, I’m sitting at my desk at work. The doctor calls… “Where is Michael?” he asks, a bit frantic.
“In school” I answered him.
“Get him out and take him immediately to the emergency room, he needs a blood transfusion! His platelet levels should be at 140, and they’re down to 6!!!” He kind of said kind of panicky..

I don’t remember much of what happened.  I don’t remember if I even hung up the phone…. I remember one of my co-workers holding on to me really tight, and a voice somewhere in the background saying: “Somebody needs to drive her to get her son…”

One of the girls that I work with took me to pick Mike up, and I had time to wipe my face, and compose myself the best I could. I can remember him standing outside of school waiting for me, and on the outside, he was cool as a cucumber…but his eyes told me that he was really scared.

The fear of the unknown.

He’s such a big guy, but all of a sudden, he was little again… and I wanted to grab him under my wing, and protect him, and fight anything that might try to hurt my boy.

But at the same time, I felt so small… like a tiny little insignificant speck in this whole universe. Helpless. Scared.

He was filled with questions, he was annoyed, and he was scared. And all I could tell him was that we had to get to the hospital…something was going on with his platelets, and we had to get it fixed.

And then the tests on him began.

He never once saw me cry. I’d excuse myself as if I had to run to the ladies room, and then I would go and sit with Katie in Jess in the waiting room. My girls are my spine. They are my life. I would sit in the waiting room, and get the sobbing out of my system….beg God to take whatever it was, out of Mike…and put it into me. And then I’d go back to his hospital room, and would have some smartass comment for him….just to keep the banter between the two of us going. It kind of calmed him…and it kind of calmed me.

The test results came back.

It’s called ITP. Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura. An auto immune disease. Which in layman’s terms, means that his body for some crazy fluke of a thing, decided to kill of its own platelets, making it difficult for his body to heal in a proper manner…his blood won’t clot when his levels are low. So if he cut himself, the bleeding wouldn’t stop. A simple bump to his head could do some major damage to his brain, or worse.

We are blessed.

I don’t want him to be sick, but if my son has to be sick, it’s an illness that I’m grateful for him to have, because it can be managed. He can lead a somewhat normal life. Ok, I say that…but that’s the selfish mother in me….What I hear is that I get to keep my boy. I get to take him home.

What he hears is that he will never be able to play football again. He will never be able to do the things that normal 19 year old boys can do.

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He graduated from high school last year… and at that point, the doctors were still trying to regulate his meds. He was bruising about every two weeks. You’d never know it, but underneath that graduation gown, his body was riddled with bruises. The next day, he spent 12 hours hooked up to an IV that would boost his platelet level, to get him through another two weeks.

It’s a pain in the neck for him, and he has to be very cautious with everything he does from now on. When he starts to bruise really bad, we know he is due for a treatment, which takes 12 hours, and which totally knocks him down for a couple of days afterwards. He has to wear a med-alert necklace in case of an accident, so that the medics know that he has low platelets. Everyone around him must be aware of his condition, in case of an accident…even if it’s something as simple as a small cut. His friends are awesome. I love those boys. They take such good care of him for me.

We are blessed. I get to keep my boy.
There is an unspoken bond between my son and me.
One that says we made it through this war together.

So, when I talk smack about him….or talk about him talking smack about me…. Now you’ll know. It’s all with love.

I love my kids more than life itself.

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So…when Mike agreed to let me write this about him, I asked him what recipe he’d like me to post on his behalf.

“Stuffed shells” he immediately replied (which came as no surprise, because they are his all time favorite).
“No, better yet.. how about those s’mores cups?” he said, changing his mind…. “You made them for me all the time last year”

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That was a great idea.  Even though I know that these little cups have run their course on the Internet…S’Mores Cups are fitting for this post, because that’s what he craved all last year, and that’s what I made for him. So, so many times last year. I would have made him whatever his little heart desired.

They’re quick and easy to make. You can have the ingredients on hand at all times (unless you’re like me, and you get into the chocolate a little more than you should)….  And he loves them.

They’re perfect to take to any party,  to eat around a bonfire, or for a “just because” kind of day… Everyone will love them, both young and old.

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S’mores cups
Makes 24 cups

Just a quick note…I don’t know where the original recipe came from. If you Google S’mores cups, or look them up on Pinterest, you’ll find a gazillion recipes for them, all using basically the same amount of ingredients. I did a little digging, and this was the oldest post that I could find for the recipe. I actually tried them for the first time last year. Katie’s boyfriend Ryan’s mom made them, and I knew immediately that Mike would love them.  I changed the ingredient amounts just a little bit.

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
12 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup powdered sugar
4 bars (1.55 oz each) milk chocolate candy, divided
12 large marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place graham crackers into a large resealable plastic bag. Finely crush into crumbs. Combine graham cracker crumbs, powdered sugar, and butter in a small bowl.

Place 1 tablespoon of crumb mixture in each cup of a mini muffin pan. Firmly press crumbs to form shallow cups. Bake 4-5 minutes or until edges are bubbling. Meanwhile, break two of the candy bars into rectangles. Remove pan from oven; place one rectangle into each cup.

Cut marshmallows in half crosswise using shears dipped in cold water. Place one marshmallow half, cut-side down, into each cup. Return to oven 1-2 minutes or until marshmallows are slightly softened. Remove pans from oven to cooling rack; cool 15 minutes. Carefully remove cups from pan. Cool completely.

Break remaining candy bars and place in small microwavable bowl. Microwave on high 1 to 1 1/2 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring every 20 seconds. Dip the top of each marshmallow in melted chocolate. Turn top-side up and let stand 40 to 60 minutes or until set. Makes 24 cups.

Enjoy!

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A Chocolate Chip Cookie By Any Other Name Would Taste As Sweet…

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Have you ever had a craving so bad, that it calls out to you all day?  I mean, I get cravings… but then I get cravings.  Take last week for instance, I wanted cookies. But I didn’t want just any cookie…I wanted a chocolate chip cookie with nuts and raisins.  It was one of those cravings.  No other chocolate chip cookie would do.

Now, you know that I cannot bake to save my life…but what else could I do?  I had to have the cookie.  I had to bake the cookie.

I’m actually quite famous with my kids for my lack of baking skills. I want to be a baker, it’s just not meant to be.  I’ve accepted that.   But once in a while…it just has to be done…knowing full well that I’m walking down the path of possible ridicule and rejection.

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And while I was very pleased with my cookies in both taste and appearance…. My son Mike came walking into the kitchen and took one look at them…and then turned around and took one look at me, shaking his head…

I braced myself for the worst…

He grabbed a couple of them, and walked out of the kitchen. I think you know Mike by now…he’s so fussy…it was a small miracle that he even tried them! A few minutes later, he comes back into the kitchen..

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“These are really good for being as ugly as they are” he said, grabbing a couple more cookies.
“I don’t think they’re that ugly, Boy” I replied.
“Yeah, they’re pretty ugly, I don’t know why you keep trying to bake” he said.
“I hope you burn your tongue” I answered as he walked out.

Let me translate that conversation for you:

“These are really delicious cookies, mom…” is what he really meant.
“Thank you Boy, I had a feeling you’d like them…” is what I really meant.
“Your perseverance in baking is really paying off..” is what he really meant.
“I love you too, Boy” is what we both really meant.

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Anyway…getting back to the cookie craving… I’m glad I made these cookies. There is something about that creamy milk chocolate, with a bite of toasted walnut, a chewy sweet raisin, and a sweet glaze that just makes a cookie complete.  It makes the cookie complete…and it makes me happy.

The next time you get that craving…I hope you try these cookies. They’re foolproof for the non-baker, and they’re delicious enough to please even your biggest critic! And…they’re not ugly.

Life is good, it’s a “Warm chocolate chip cookie right out of the oven with an ice cold glass of milk” kind of good…

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Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes Two Dozen Cookies

Just a quick note: This recipe was adapted from Crisco’s Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie. I changed up a couple (ok… a lot) of things to suit my taste (baking skills).

3/4 cup Crisco® Butter Flavor All-Vegetable Shortening
1 1/4 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (See below)
1 cup raisins

Line one or two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine shortening, brown sugar, milk and vanilla in large bowl. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer until well blended. Beat in egg. Combine flour, salt and baking soda. Mix into shortening mixture until just blended. Stir in chocolate chips, nuts, and raisins.

Using a 2 tablespoon scoop, scoop the dough into a ball, and place each ball about 3 inches apart.

Bake for 11 minutes for chewy cookies, or 13 minutes for crisp cookies. Cool 4 minutes on baking sheet on a cooling rack. Remove cookies to rack to cool completely.

Drizzle with vanilla glaze. Store in an airtight container, or leave them on a plate on your table. They won’t last long!

Toasted Walnuts:
So simple…. place the walnuts in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 6-8 minutes, watching them closely so that they don’t burn.

Vanilla Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp heavy cream (or more, until it reaches desired consistency)

In a small bowl, combine the powdered sugar, melted butter, vanilla, and heavy cream until smooth and glaze consistency.

Enjoy!

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Coconut Macaroons

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Years ago, I had boss who would bring me four coconut macaroons on a weekly basis from a little bakery that was near his house.

It only took me a couple of weeks to realize that those macaroons weren’t really for me. Well, they were, but they were for me in pretense only. It became a little routine that we had, every Wednesday morning the little bakery box would be sitting on my desk when I came to work. We would sit at my desk, and enjoy a macaroon…and we’d discuss the weekly report that was due on Friday. I would then leave the box containing the other two macaroons on my desk, and they would randomly disappear throughout the day.

It was an unspoken understanding.
One was for me.
Three were for him.

The other day I was sitting at my desk with my usual morning cup of tea, and I started thinking about the macaroons. It’s been so many years, but there are times that I miss that little routine. I miss that weekly macaroon. I don’t, however, miss that weekly report….

I came across some coconut in my refrigerator yesterday morning, and knew right away what I was going to do with it. Within a half hour, there were a dozen coconut macaroons sitting on my counter.

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Coconut macaroons can be found in cookbooks from as early as 1725. Earlier versions were made up of leftover mashed potatoes, covered in chocolate and topped with roasted coconut. Once they became commercial, the mashed potatoes didn’t have a very long shelf life, and eventually, the potatoes were replaced with fondant.

According to Wikipedia, this particular recipe is most popular in the United States, Australia, The Netherlands, and Germany. It goes on to say that they’re commonly coated in chocolate, and at times almond slivers are mixed in. And apparently in Australia, raspberry jam or candied cherries are hidden in the center before they’re baked.

Almonds? Cherries? Chocolate? There’s a good chance I’ll be making these again very, VERY soon…

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Coconut Macaroons
Makes One Dozen

A quick note:  Over the years, I’ve collected a lot of recipes, either by tearing them out of magazines, or newspapers.  Some I’ve acquired from friends.  Most of them I’ve changed up to suit my own taste.  This recipe was torn from a magazine, but I don’t remember which one, or when.

The original recipe actually calls for almond extract, but I actually use vanilla paste for this.  It is super fragrant, and the cookies are speckled with pure vanilla.  If you don’t have vanilla paste, you can use the almond extract, or vanilla extract.

2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 egg white
1 tsp vanilla paste
¼ tsp salt
3 cups shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix together the sweetened condensed milk, egg white, vanilla, salt, and shredded coconut until well blended.

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If you have a cookie scoop, drop mounds of the coconut mixture onto the parchment lined baking sheet. If you don’t have a cookie scoop, measure a heaping tablespoon for each macaroon.

Bake for about 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

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Of course, I couldn’t leave well enough alone, and with a melted piece of a Cadbury’s Dairy Almond bar, I made a couple of Almond Joys with them. Luckily I only made two, or I would have eaten the whole batch!!

Enjoy!

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January Calendar Fun: Butter and Almond Shortbread and Homemade Vanilla Extract

IMG_8189I have what I believe is a very fun calendar for my desk at work.  It’s this Country Cooking calendar for 2014. I normally have a cupcake calendar at my desk every year, but for some reason, I chose this one instead this year.

I like to keep the element of surprise, so I don’t look ahead at the upcoming month until the first day of that month! I have to say that I’ve never been disappointed. They’re always really good recipes.  I guess they’d have to be, you have to look at them for at least 28-31 days in a row!  Since today is February 1st, and it’s Saturday, I won’t know what February’s recipe is until Monday.

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For the month of January, day in and day out, I’ve been sitting at my desk staring at these cookies, and yesterday I came up with the idea  that I should prepare the recipe at the end of every month.. and then write about it. Well..I will usually try to follow a recipe to the tee, but there are times when I have a strong gut feeling that it just doesn’t sound right. This just happened to be one of those recipes…

When I first read this recipe, I was a little worried that it didn’t call for enough wet ingredients.  I thought one cup of butter, along with the two egg yolks, and  3 tbsp brandy / to five cups of flour didn’t sound like a good ratio.  But what do I know?  I’m not a baker.

So, I did a little research.

It turns out that shortbread  is made with one part sugar, two parts butter, and three parts flour.  I did learn a little bit about shortbread… it originated in Scotland, but was made from medieval bread dough that was rolled in sugar and spice, and then twice baked into a hardened biscuit which is called a rusk.  Apparently Mary, Queen of Scots, took a liking to them with her afternoon tea, and ate shortbread flavored with caraway.   They were expensive to make, so they were considered a luxury, made only for special occasions such as Christmas or weddings.

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I went with my gut feeling, and decided to cut the flour down to three cups.  Instead of using brandy, I used orange juice, which gave the cookies a lovely orangey-citrus flavor.  I’m going to call my version: Orange and Almond Shortbread.

After making my own changes, this turned out to be a nice cookie recipe, one that would easily fit into your Christmas repertoire, or just to use as an everyday type of cookie. The most common shape for these cookies a circle of the dough cut into wedges named petticoat tails. They’re also popular cut into circles, or long rectangular shapes. You can use any shape, really. I chose hearts just because we’re so close to Valentine’s Day.

These cookies would be perfect for that cup of afternoon tea, or added as a little bit of dolce to go with a cheese platter and a glass of wine…

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My Version: Orange and Almond Shortbread
Makes 2 dozen cookies

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp baking soda
3 tbsp orange juice
½ tsp salt
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped

2 cups powdered sugar, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

To toast the almonds:
Heat your oven to 350 degrees.  Spread almonds onto a baking sheet, and bake for 5-10 minutes.  When you can smell them baking, they’re done. Mine took exactly 7 minutes.

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In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time. Add the vanilla and orange juice. Beat for another minute.

Sift the flour, baking soda, and salt together.  Add to the butter mixture one cup at a time until fully incorporated.  Stir in the almonds.

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On a lightly floured surface, roll half of the dough to about an inch thick.  Using your favorite cookie cutter, press out shapes, and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining half of dough.

Bake for about 12 minutes, until the cookies are set and a very light brown on the bottom.

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Add 1 cup of powdered sugar to a dish or a bowl.  As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, roll them around in the powdered sugar until they’re coated.

Let the cookies for about 15 minutes on a wire rack, and then using a fine mesh sieve, generously sift the remaining powdered sugar over the cookies until they are pure white.

Enjoy!

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Their Version: Butter and Almond Shortbread

225g/8oz/1 cup unsalted butter
150g/5oz/ 2/3 cup caster (superfine) sugar
2 egg yolks
5 ml / 1 tsp vanilla
2/5 ml / ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda  (baking soda)
45 ml / 3 tbsp brandy (optional)
500g / 1 ¼ lbs / 5 cups all purpose flour, sifted with a pinch of salt
175g/6 oz/ 1 cup blanched almonds, toasted and coarsely chopped
350g/12 oz/ 3 cups icing (confectioners’) sugar

  1. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar, until it is light and fluffy.  Add in the egg yolks one at a time, and then the vanilla.  Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the brandy (if using) and stir into the mixture.
  2. Add the flour and salt and mix to a firm dough. Using your hands, knead lightly, add the almonds, and knead again.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180 C / 350F  Cover half the dough with clear film (plastic wrap), and set aside.
  4. Roll out the remaining dough on a lightly floured surface to 2.5cm/1in thick.  Press out shapes, using pastry cutters. Repeat with remaining dough.
  5. Place on lightly greased baking sheets and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until pale golden.
  6. Meanwhile, sift a quarter of the icing sugar onto a plate. As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, dust them generously with  icing sugar. Let them cool for a few minutes on a wire rack.  Place them on the sugar coated plate.
  7. Sift the remaining icing sugar over them. The aim is to give them a generous coating, until they are pure white.

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Homemade Vanilla Extract 

Make your own vanilla…  it’s so simple, and so handy to have in the pantry, and in the end much cheaper than the store bought.

1 cup vodka or 1 cup bourbon
3 fresh vanilla beans
1 bottle or jar

Split the vanilla beans lengthwise down the middle from about ¼ inch from the top.  Place the three beans into your bottle or container.  Add the vodka or bourbon.  Close the container tightly, and place in a cool dark spot for about 2 months.  Give the jar / bottle a shake about once a week.   You can add more vodka or bourbon to the used vanilla beans a second time, once you’ve used up your vanilla.

I recommend making two bottles at a time, so that you have a second bottle waiting in the wings for when you’ve gone through the first bottle twice, so that you don’t have to wait a full 8 weeks for it to steep.   Once it’s emptied, make another batch of vanilla, so that it can steep while you’re using up your other bottle.

Plain White C’s

I’ve seen quite a few cookies posted for the holiday season this year, and I have quite a few recipes of my own….Some of them laden with ingredients that just shout flavor with spices, nuts, chocolate, or mint….or…all of the above. They’re the cookies with strong personalities; the cookies that almost always take the limelight. They’re flavorful, they’re pretty, and they’re photogenic. And of course…Everybody wants them.

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But sometimes, it’s the simple cookie that makes an even stronger statement. It’s like the “girl next door”. The cookie that you grew up with, but never really “looked” at in that way. It’s the cookie that makes you do a double take after you take that first bite, when all of a sudden; you realize what you’ve been missing all along. It’s the cookie that stands the test of time. The one that you know won’t ever disappoint.

The plain white cookie.

I grew up with this cookie. It was my grandmother’s recipe. But grandma also made these mountainous chocolate chip cookies that were loaded with raisins and nuts. Because I was charmed by the pretty and flavorful chocolate chip cookies, I never really gave these cookies a second glance, that is, until I took that first bite…and did that “double-take”, and appreciated them for their simplicity.

This is truly a plain white cookie. It’s not too sweet at all, and it gets it sweetness, really, from the icing. It tends to be a touch dry, but not so dry that it’s crumbly, because it’s definitely not crumbly…but it begs a cup of coffee or hot cocoa to go with. Actually, after you have one of these cookies with a cup of coffee or hot cocoa, then I can honestly say that the coffee or cocoa will be the one begging. Neither will ever be the same without this cookie.

And…with my usual theme.. they’re quick and easy to make.  Simple. Because they’re so easy, and this recipe makes a ton of them, I could call them a filler for the cookie platter, but honestly? They’ll be the first ones to go!

Plain White Cookies
Makes a Gazillion Cookies
The recipe can be cut in half, but I suggest you bake them and share them.
Everyone will love you for it.

Like most grandmother’s, my grandma didn’t measure when she baked. Thank goodness my aunts realized the importance of preserving her recipes, so they watched her, and they wrote down the ingredients and measurements. We are so lucky to have her recipes today.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

6 cups flour
6 tsp baking powder
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter
½ cup shortening
8 eggs
4 tsp vanilla

Sift flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar, butter, shortening, eggs and vanilla. Add the flour mixture, until completely blended.

Spoon walnut size blobs of dough onto the prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.

Frost them with your favorite icing or glaze. Store in an airtight container.
Enjoy!

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Mexican Wedding Cakes

Ok, here’s the scoop…
I’m a Closet Cookie Eater.
And I have been all my life.

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This is how it goes down…

I wait until there’s nobody around when I’m in the kitchen, and then I sneak a couple of cookies and pop them into my mouth before anyone comes back in to catch me. I’ve had so many years of practice; that I can even get a small glass of milk downed in that few minutes of undercover cookie eating!

I know…it’s crazy…I’m crazy….but with such a simple explanation. Closet cookie eating gives me the freedom to eat a couple in front of the family without any eyebrows being raised my way….as in… “Pru, how MANY cookies are you going to eat today???”… What they don’t know helps me to save face.

Unless there’s Mexican Wedding Cakes involved.
Then there’s no saving face.
And eyebrows are raised.

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If you’re familiar with Mexican Wedding Cakes, or Pecan Balls, or whatever you might call them… then you know that they’re buttery drops of nutty goodness loaded with a coating of powdered sugar. It’s that darn powdered sugar that blows me in time and time again. It never fails…I’ll think that I got away with it, but then I’ll have a little blop of powdered sugar on my cheek, or on my sweater, or somewhere that totally gives away the fact that I have been eating them!

And then I’m caught.
And I hang my head in shame.
And then I wait for everyone to leave the room again….

Needless to say, I love these cookies. I’ve been sneaking them since I was a little girl. I want to say that they’re probably my most favorite Christmas cookie, but I’d probably say that about every cookie. So let me just say that these cookies are high on my top five list.

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Mexican Wedding Cakes
Makes about 3 dozen cookies

Just a quick note…This is my mom, Marcia’s recipe. The cookies get rolled in powdered sugar after they’ve cooled down, but Marsh says that you should let them cool down completely so that the powdered sugar sticks to the cookie…almost even melts a little on the cookie. Then you roll them a second time after they have cooled completely, and the powdered sugar adheres quite nicely. She knows what she’s talking about. She’s the best cookie baker I know.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

¾ cup powdered sugar
4 cups cake flour
2 cups butter
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups chopped pecans

Extra powdered sugar for rolling.

Sift together flour and sugar. Set aside.
Cream butter and vanilla, and add flour mixture until well blended. Stir in pecans. Shape into walnut size balls. Bake for 8-10 minutes on the prepared cookie sheet.

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Before the cookies are completely cooled, but not too hot, roll in powdered sugar. Place on cooling rack, and let cool completely. After the cookies are completely cooled, roll them again in powdered sugar.

Store in an airtight container. Maybe one with a lock on it!!

Enjoy!

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Simple Snowman Cutouts

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I’m a traditional kind of girl when it comes to Christmas cookies.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the occasional unusual concoction here and there, but for the most part, I think those unusual concoctions are for the people who are competing to come up with the most creative and unusual cookie that they hope will become the next big trend when it comes to cookies. That’s just not my bag. I’m happy with my usual traditional repertoire.

The cookies that I’ll be sharing for the next few days are the cookies that I grew up with. They are the ones that my mom, my grandmother, and my aunts made. They’re the cookies that my kids grew up with. And they’re the cookies that Katie is starting to bake at her own apartment now…and that’s exciting for both her and me. I love watching her starting her own traditions, mingled with the ones that she already knows.

I don’t know… I was back and forth, trying to decide whether to post about these cookies or not. I mean, they’re definitely “cutsie”. There is nothing cutsie about me. I don’t decorate my trees that way, I don’t decorate my house that way. But for some reason, my cutouts are always cutsie. I guess it’s from when my kids were much younger, and I just never changed them up as they got older.

But why change now?
They’re tradition.

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Cutouts fall right into the “comfort food” category, and that’s what I’m all about.  The scent of the cookies baking permeates the house; and brings back the happy times that we’ve shared throughout our lives. This time of year, I scour the shelves for new baking supplies. I love to buy the holiday sprinkles, the colored sugars, food coloring, and/or cookie cutters whether I need them or not. Christmas is my most favorite holiday of the year..truly.

Usually every year, my cutouts consist of Christmas trees, snowmen, santas, snowflakes, stars, etc…but this year, I joined a cookie swap with Pamela at Brooklyn Farm Girl and the theme was snowmen.  And…since I was running late, I decided that my cutouts would be all snowmen this year.  I did them in two hours from start to finish. Please note that they did need a few hours to sit for the frosting to set before I packed them into the container.

Speaking of Pamela… she is the most adorable little thing you’ll ever want to meet! I love her blog, her free spirit is so contagious, that you can’t help but feel happy after reading her posts.  You should visit her blog; she has some wonderful stories, and delicious recipes! Her rooftop garden in the summertime?  To die for. Seriously.

Honestly, if you’re pressed for time, these are the cookies for you.  Believe me, I’m not claiming to be the Queen of cookie decorating; I’m far from that.  But, cutsie or not, I think that these little guys can stand up proudly on a cookie plate of any kind… even with the trendy concoctions that happen to share the table.

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Now, back to the cookies… Here is what you’ll need as far as decorating tools:

Red Food Coloring
Green Food Coloring
Orange Food Coloring
Black Food Coloring
(I just went with the normal Christmas colors, but change up the colors if you’d like!)

2-1/2” diameter round cookie cutter

Wilton Tips:
#230 for the nose
#7 for the eyes, mouth, and holly berries
#3 for the plaid and dots on the hats
#46 for the hat
#22 for the fur around the hat and the poof

Disposable decorator’s bags.  They make life easy, therefore are a necessary tool in my cupboard.

Candy Holly Leaves…(But if you look closely, you can see that I used candy Christmas trees, because that’s all I had in my cupboard.  Hey, I told you I’m not the queen of cookie decorating…but they worked!)

The Cookie:
My mom will periodically throughout the year ask me to make these cookies for her. I’m always happy to oblige, in the shape of a heart, with pink frosting. She loves them.

1-½ cups sugar
½ cup butter
½ cup shortening
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the sugar, butter, shortening, eggs, and vanilla until well blended.  Begin adding the flour mixture alternating with ¼ cup sour cream at a time mixing until it’s well blended until all of the flour and sour cream have been incorporated into the dough. The dough will be really sticky.

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At this point, you can divide it into two balls, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for a couple of hours for ease of rolling.   I never do.  If I’m in cookie mode, then I’m going for it until they’re done.

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Divide the dough into two balls.  Using plenty of flour on your rolling surface, roll out the first ball to about 1/4 inch, and begin cutting circles of dough (dipping the cookie cutter into flour each time), placing them on a parchment paper lined large cookie sheet.  You can fit about 12 cookies at a time on the sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. This makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

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The Frosting:
3 cups confectioners sugar
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp light corn syrup
4 tbsp milk

Combine ingredients into mixing bowl, mix on low speed until the ingredients are blended together, and then increase the speed to high for about five minutes.

The Snowman

Using a small spatula, spread plain white frosting over ¾’s of the cookie.  This is the snowman’s face.

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Using tip #46 that has been loaded into a decorator’s bag with red frosting, create the hat by piping stripes from the top of the face to the top of the head.  Pipe a half circle from one side of the top to the other. (See photo).

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Using tip #3 that has been loaded into a decorator’s bag with green frosting, pipe dots ½ of the snowmen, and pipe plaid on the other ¼ of the snowmen.

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Using tip #22 that has been loaded into a decorator’s bag with white frosting, create the fur around the hat by piping stars along the bottom of the hat, and then one poof at the top of the hat.

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Using tip #230 that has been loaded into a decorator’s bag with orange frosting, pipe a single nose onto the middle of the face.

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Using tip #7 that has been loaded into a decorator’s bag with black frosting, create the snowman’s face by piping dots for eyes, and five dots into a smile for his mouth.

Stick two candy holly leaves (or Christmas trees) into the fur of the hat, and using tip #7 that has been loaded into a decorator’s bag with red frosting, pipe three little holly berries in the center of the two leaves.

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The cookies are ready to go. If you are planning on layering them on top of each other, then you’ll want to let them set for about five or six hours before putting them into the container.  Use waxed paper between layers.

Enjoy!