Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cookie JOY!!!!!!

So I am somewhat of a Christmas cookie baker. Hmmmmmm - no oven this year. This oughta be a challenge! It's REALLLLYYYYYY stressing me out not having an oven.

Unfortunately, the oven blew up the week before Thanksgiving. There was no way I was buying a new oven days before I was feeding 30 people on Thanksgiving Day. I have suffered with this teeny oven for 21 years. I was determined to re-do that whole wall and treat myself to double ovens once my oven went to appliance heaven. But not the week before Thanksgiving! And certainly not the month of Christmas. Like there's not enough stress to go around...

We figured out Thanksgiving - quite the challenge and not without it's stress. The bandaid to get through Christmas was to buy the biggest, best priced countertop oven I could find. And I did. I test drove it immediately and it does fit 24 "balls" on a cookie sheet so I should be able to pull this off. Baking 4 dozen stuffed shrimp may not work out so easily. Sigh. Ok - first things first. COOKIES!!!!!

Today I am making 6 dozen of my most favorite Christmas cookie. This is a recipe that my mother made every Christmas. It comes from a Pillsbury cookbook pamphlet printed in the 1950s I think! The darn cookies are addicting so the problem lies in - can I resist eating them all before the big day!!?Aggghhhhh - you'd never know I am a fitness trainer and a food coach! Oh well, do as I say, not as I do?!

Anyway - I'm sharing some joy with you. Because this is my ultimate cookie joy that I catch each year. Joy in baking, joy in eating, joy in giving...

Brazilian Jubilee Cookies

cup granulated sugar
cup packed brown sugar
cup shortening
teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2
cups all-purpose flour
to 2 tablespoons instant coffee granules or crystals
teaspoon baking powder
teaspoon salt
teaspoon ground cinnamon
cup chopped Brazil nuts
milk chocolate stars (from 14-oz bag)
Additional chopped Brazil nuts, if desired
  • 1Heat oven to 350°F. Grease cookie sheets with shortening or cooking spray. In large bowl, beat sugars and shortening with electric mixer on medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally, until well blended. Beat in vanilla and egg. On low speed, beat in flour, instant coffee, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and 1 cup nuts until dough forms.
  • 2Shape dough by tablespoonfuls into balls. Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.
  • 3Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately top each cookie with 1 chocolate star. Remove from cookie sheets to cooling rack; cool 5 minutes (chocolate will soften). Spread chocolate over cookies to frost. Sprinkle with additional chopped nuts.
In place of the Brazil nuts, try almonds, pecans or macadamia nuts.
To prevent Brazil nuts from becoming rancid, store them in the fridge.
High Altitude (3500-6500 ft)
Nutritional Information
1 Serving (1 Cookie)
  • Calories 120
    • (Calories from Fat 60),
  • Total Fat 7g
    • (Saturated Fat 2g,
    • Trans Fat 0g),
  • Cholesterol 5mg;
  • Sodium 50mg;
  • Total Carbohydrate 13g
    • (Dietary Fiber 0g,
    • Sugars 8g),
  • Protein 2g;
Percent Daily Value*:
  • Calcium ;
  • 0 Starch;
  • 0 Fruit;
  • 1 Other Carbohydrate;
  • 0 Skim Milk;
  • 0 Low-Fat Milk;
  • 0 Milk;
  • 0 Vegetable;
  • 0 Very Lean Meat;
  • 0 Lean Meat;
  • 0 High-Fat Meat;
  • 1 1/2 Fat;
Carbohydrate Choices:
  • 1;
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Look what Missy brought me the other night! She's two for two. She totally gets me! Thanks my friend...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

My daughter Brooke amazes me. She is sooooo driven. This kid has been that way since birth. She was a lonnnngggg time in coming - 11 cycles of fertility drugs and 2 IVFs, before she made her entrance into my uterus. Then she wouldn't leave! FOUR days labor - IN the hospital. She came home to her 2 year old brother and her brand new 10 month old adopted brother (who came to us exactly 2 months before) and the little bitty thing almost never cried. She just laid around in that vibrating chair and watched the world go by. (And let me tell YOU - it was a chaotic world with three kids under 2 and half years old.)

She continues to be that independent child. She excels in school, always completing 4 nights of homework assignments in one night. She skates singlemindedly and her coach says she has never coached a child so focused. She plays the piano and her version of practice is to bang out a tune almost EVERY time she walks by the piano. Just stands there, blows through a song and continues walking, like she never even stopped to play. It's fascinating. And she goes to bed EVERY night on her own. Just gets up from what she is doing around 8 every evening and announces she is going to bed. She climbs the stairs, gets in her pjs, brushes AND flosses her teeth (ummm does/did YOUR child floss????? At 8 years of age????? I can't barely get her brothers to brush their teeth once a week!!), combs her hair and yells, "Mom, I'm ready" and climbs into bed waiting for her goodnight kisses. LOVE THIS CHILD!

I am writing this post today because I am amazed at her creativity. She LOVES art. She paints, beads, draws, colors and ALWAYS has a craft project going. Yesterday she came up to me holding THIS in her little hands. In case you need an explanation, she was trying to make a Christmas wreath. She had taken a pine branch, made a ring with it and was literally tying tiny pine sprigs to it. She was knotting the flexible branch of the sprig to the ring. I just thought her innovation was so cute. She was trying sooooo hard. "Mom, I really want to make a wreath but it's not working right." Well, I had such a spark of joy. She was so sincere. I just had to pull her into my arms and hug her.

Now, if you know me, you know I am the LEAST crafty person on earth. I mean, clueless. But, I had some idea of how to make a wreath from hanging around my mother for 50 years.

So this is the amazing part. I brought her out to the pile of pine boughs that were sawed from the bottom of the Christmas tree (you know, that pile you make every year because god forbid the Christmas tree fit in the house without getting the saw out...)

I explained - just once - how you need to make little bouquets with the sprigs of pine and then overlap them, wiring them individually to a wreath ring, which I proceeded to find for her. That is ALL I told her. It was literally the 60 second explanation with one demo of the overlap step. And this is what she came up with. GASPPPPPPPPPPPPPP! !!!

I shake my head at the wonder of her. But despite her precociousness (is that a word???) she is still my little baby.

That too, gives me you know what...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Finding "Joy" While Blog Lurking!

So I was "blog lurking" last night for lack of a good book and because all my shows (all 3 - because I watch so much tv, ya know) are on hiatus for the holiday. Each week, I stop in at Joy the Baker and look what I found last night! Now, Almond Joys might very well be my most favorite candy bar. But more importantly, Almond JOY?????? Get it - JOYJOYJOY!? Well, obviously - I had to post the recipe! Don't they look awesome?! Yes - I will be making them this month!!!

Homemade Almond Joy

makes about 30 little bars

7 ounces sweetened condensed milk

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

pinch of salt

2 1/2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut

30 almonds

about 20 ounces (a bag and a half) of good quality semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, spread raw almonds onto a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. In a medium bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Stir in the unsweetened coconut. The mixture will be thick. Place mixture in the freezer for 3o minutes. It’s easier to work with if it’s a little cold.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove the coconut mixture from the freezer. With clean hands shape one tablespoon of coconut into a little log about 2 inches long and 3/4-inch thick. Press the logs together very well so they don’t crack when dipped. Place the log on the lined baking sheet and continue until all of the coconut mixture is gone. Rinse hands occasionally if they get too sticky. Press an almond on top of each coconut log. It might not completely stick. That’s ok. Place the baking sheet in the fridge to chill while you melt the chocolate.

Place a medium pot with two inches of water over a medium flame. Bring the water to a simmer. Place chocolate chips in a heat proof bowl and place the bowl over the simmering water. Stir the chocolate as it melts. Turn off the flame once the chocolate has melted but keep the bowl of melted chocolate over the hot water.

Remove the coconut candies from the fridge. Place one coconut almond log on a fork. Use a spoon to scoop a bit of chocolate over the almond. This will help the almond stick to the candy and not fall off during dipping. Lower fork into chocolate and spoon chocolate over candy to coat. Lift fork and gently shake to release some of the chocolate. Scrape the bottom of the fork along the side of the bowl and place on the lined baking sheet. You might need a toothpick to help get the candy off the fork. Repeat until all candy is coated in chocolate. If chocolate gets thick, just turn on the flame and heat slightly.

Let dipped candy harden in the fridge for 45 minutes. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. If you need to layer the candy in a container, use waxed paper to separate the layers.

Look!! My friend Missy brought me JOY last night! Coolbeans! ♥♥♥♥

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pretty Pic!

My BFF just emailed me this picture, sent to her by her daughter. Had to share! Isn't it amazing??? Wisteria - so joyful!

Genius at Work

So Michael has Lyme Disease. Do you have ANY idea how pissed I am at my pediatrician's office???? He started having headaches around November 7th, saw the doctor on the 10th, the 12th and the 16th and even though I repeatedly told them I thought he should be tested for Lyme, they did not draw blood until November 19th. And we did not get a positive diagnosis until November 26th. Through ALL those THREE weeks, he missed 12 days of school, dealt with excruciating headaches and had low grade fevers daily. My husband and I battled the "what if" demons all the time. What if it's not a virus? What if he has a brain tumor? What if he has Leukemia (initial test results bred that fear), blah, blah, blah. Yes, I am P-I-S-S pissed. It is inexcusable and I will be leaving the practice.

Although he is still having headaches, often still tired, not always getting through a full day at school, experiencing side effects from the antibiotics and battling an eye "tic" (no pun intended), he is hopefully on the mend. So that's the good news! Now - you ask - what is the joy here????

The joy was getting to spend 12 days alone with my son. In it's twisted way, comforting him, selfishly comforted me. And when the Motrin kicked in each day, he felt pretty good so we were able to complete homework assignments and projects and we did LOTS of talking. So there was definitely joy.

One conversation especially stands out. About a month ago, my husband and I were again discussing how madly in love we are with our oldest son. He's just such an old soul with the most unbelievable love and sensitivity for life. He is still so unjaded for 11 years old and I dread the day...

Anyway - the subject was "good ole St. Nick". So many kids don't believe and Michael just totally knows there is a Santa Claus. Bob and I were talking about whether we needed to have the "talk". Now it's just crazy that we were even having this conversation because I always said I would NEVER admit to my kids any such nonsense that there was no Santa Claus. But kids are so mean and I know Michael would fight to the death - the concept. I really feared what a target this made him. We didn't come to any decision that day but as luck would have it, we didn't have to worry as Michael took care of it all.

One day when he was home during this unplanned school break, he said to me, "Mom, some kids at school say there's no Santa Claus but I KNOW there is. We have the picture to prove it!"

In case you aren't familiar with my living room, THAT my friends, is a picture of the "man with the bag", caught on film by yours truly 2 Christmases ago. Imagine my surprise when I captured this kodak moment in the middle of the night!

I was positive at the time that I was extending my oldest child's innocence for at least another year. Little did I know how far it was going to extend it!

Anyway, when he said it, I was all over that - preserving yet another year of Santa. "Well, Mike" I said, "You know what I think? I think you should kind of just keep that to yourself when your friends start talking about not believing because you know they will just tease you. That way, you won't get teased." Did I tell you I was a genius????

PS - While I was writing this post, Michael came up behind me and spotted the picture of Santa in our living room and he said, "Hey, let me see that! Awww, that's totally Santa. There's no way that's a guy in a suit. A guy in a suit can't have a beard like that. Yea, that's definitely him."

Yup --- that's him alright.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Oh Tannenbaum

Why does my tree look only partially decorated??I kind of like this picture with the big tree in the window... Just sayin'

My Wonderland

Today, I holed in. It's been POURING here for hours and I had the whole day to myself. So I lit a fire in the fireplace and putzed - all day. As I roamed the house, my eyes landed on this picture. I was transported back to Michael's first Christmas - the most joyous time of my life. He was 2 1/2 months old. Is there anything more amazing than being a mother for the first time and experiencing THAT depth of emotion? God - I was so in love!

At the begging of my children this weekend, I pulled all the Christmas 'stuff" out of the basement and "did it up". Obviously -- I do love a good snowman. These guys (and gals) live on the piano for the month. My fav? The little homemade rockstar with the aqua hat! Of course!

And these little ladies? Aren't they sweet? My hubby's Uncle Bill gave them to me. They send me back to the 1950s! I'm not sure why but they just remind me of that era of Bing Crosby and Dean Martin and all those Christmas movies and Christmas songs of old. I wonder how old they actually are...

I guess I like deer too. And Santas.

So that was my day. I floated through my own personal wonderland for a few hours, adjusted a snowman here, re-hung an ornament there. Cut some of my luscious holly and threw it in - yet another snowman. Arranged some candles...Yea - it was a nice day.

You know what? Christmas is ok. Lots of joy to be