Friday, December 30, 2011

{this moment}: icy firsts

A Friday ritual. A photos - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by SouleMama.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mental Chew - Best of 2011

This was my first complete year of blogging. I started in 2007, but this year I really committed to it and posted regularly. So, what have I learned?

1) photos - they matter most of all to me. If the lighting is off, I cringe and yet, sometimes I have posted them anyways. At least I can go back now and say, "Damn that was a crappy picture. How could I have made it better? This is one of my New Year's resolutions and I will be working on it here.

2) audience - I love mine. There are so many of you whom I would love to sit down with cup of coffee or glass of wine in hand, ready to hear about your week. What an incredible world of friends I have made this year and I will continue celebrating you on Sundays.

3) cooking - I really enjoy it and it can be cathartic. Yet one more thing I can fully complete and get response from the family about...they don't do that for clean bathrooms or laundry.

4) gardening - I walked through the local hardware store and found myself stopping and inhaling among the bags of potting soil and fertilizer today. This is the smell of sanity for me. In addition, I was so excited when my Territorial Seed catalog came in and almost lost my mind when the Lil Man snatched it away from me and started leafing through it. I know this should bring me joy. He is excited to pick out our seeds and I was happy about this AFTER the fact, but my knee jerk reaction was, "Hey, give that back!"

5) family - I feel so blessed and that is not a word I use lightly or freely, but I do. My two littles and my husband are people I truly enjoy being around. We have our moments and sometimes they include tears and hurt, but we are one, smiles, laughter, tears, frustration and all.

So, thank you for supporting my adventures and giving feedback and comments. Happy 2012 to you and here are my Top 10 posts from 2011.

This post was a favorite because I came up with the idea of the recipe while chatting with a good friend and then it developed into a story while I was baking it and attempting a photo shoot with the final product. Also, I am proud of most of the images in this post. 

A Garden for Four Sometimes when you are writing a post, it never makes it to the "published" stage. I have at least 2 dozen posts that didn't end up posting this year. This particular post almost didn't make it, because it is personal and I wasn't sure how personal I wanted to make this medium. So I did, and I am so glad. As a result, I have had some great conversations with some outstanding mamas.

Sugar Cookies (without tears) There are people in my life who I know will be there forever and this was a way to include the "Cookie Sheriff", my Polish Sistah in this form of expression. A way to cement this memory and to overcome a little personal fear...of sugar cookies.

How Does Your Garden Grow? While the garden was booming, I started taking pics once a week to show progress (& failure). This is a feature I would like to start up again in the spring and I hope others will join me. Perhaps I can make it a "Linky" event and others can post their weekly garden results as well. Garden geek fun.

OXO, Universal Design and a Good Cause In my previous life as a teacher, I had a passion for including all students and worked really hard to ensure each of my project-based lessons was accessible to each of "my kids". Through this journey, I crossed paths with OXO and their Cookies for Kids project. Love them even more as a result.

A Time for Purpose. A Time for Fancy. This post and Distracted were both amazing gifts from my babes. The Lil Man planned something special for me when I was busy with the hustle and bustle of getting two kids out the door and Lil Miss was just being a cute lil' angel in the garden. Both of these will go into their scrapbooks.

Our First Onion  is merely a photo, but it represents my major success of this year's garden. The last one was consumed Dec. 23.

Towhee - Comedy in the garden. This post was a a recollection of my encounters with a VERY determined Towhee and a VERY determined gardener who finally came to a draw. This is a must-read before I head into the garden pre-spring. Oh, the little lessons we learn in the garden.

Happy Fall from San Juan Island and First Day of Fall are probably my favorite pictures from the year during my absolute FAVORITE time of year. Fall on San Juan Island is one of the many reasons I just HAD to come back and live here. Gorgeous place and it brings out the best in all of my friends.

Ok....I cheated a little. I doubled up on two, so I will stop there. Did you have a favorite? I hope so. Thank you and HAPPY 2011!!!!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

These Moments

With both kids 24 hours, all week long, we had multiple moments. Enjoy!
The Little Man is fascinated with all things fast right now and at the top of the list are cheetahs and Peregrins Falcons. Thanks to one of my previous students, he had a chance to meet two and even touch one on the belly!!
This is Little Miss and her best buddy. Love these two. We call them "The Two Mabels" because they are like two old souls when they are together. Little Miss thought that the dinosaur costume was needed to make snack time complete. 
We were getting ready to go see Santa and there was Little Miss, grabbing a bottle from the recycling. Did she feel the need for a little liquid courage?
The best part of this week is that the kids have been "hanging out" together. I guess this means she is no longer a baby which makes me a little sad, but I am thrilled about the friendship and love these two have for one another and I love the times we are having now and excited about those to come.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, Mental Chew is taking a break for some much needed family time this week. XOXOXO

Thursday, December 22, 2011

{Pinterest Picks}: Dreamy Greenhouses

Yes, these are the dreamy greenhouses. Come...dream with me.

This one is my "realistic" favorite

With this view

I could live in this space.

The kitchen I would never leave.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cranberry and Port Relish

Bless Emeril for this one. 

Quite a few years ago, back when I used to go wine tasting every Spring...yes, before kids, we bought Port. Goooooooooood Port. Before I tasted this Port, I never was a Port-fancier. And then it happened. We were meandering from winery to winery, and walked our way into this particular storefront and were escorted to the back in the warehouse. One friend was already in a group around a barrel, looking very focused on what the winemaker was saying. The group moved on...she stayed. "Oh, I am just going to catch up with my friends here", she said to him. I gave her a sideways glance. She raised her eyebrows and gave me that "listen up" look with a little jerk of her head. What was she doing?

The winemaker asked if we were all present and he started to do his presentation again. I was catching it for the first time. She was on Round 2. This is a Portuguese-style Port. Warm undertones. They use *peach brandy* during the fermentation process. Common descriptors are: Black cherry, boysenberry, chocolate, spice and black pepper.

Interesting and it had my attention. "Would any of you like a taste?"

Her glass charged out like a cash register drawer and in a shy, little voice, "Yes, please". She was going for another round. This had to be a good one and it was. Honestly, I had never had anything like this Port before being I was relatively new to the wine tasting circuit. "Are they all this good?", I asked. "No", she quickly replied and I think she was going for a third tasting.

I told the Good Apple we should buy some, and we did. I believe that year we bought a single bottle. The next year, 3. The following year, half a case for ourselves and another half for friends and family who now had the same addiction and that is how it continued for years.
So, Emeril. It was Thanksgiving and we were watching the Food Network. Emeril starts to tell us about this cranberry relish. Whoop-di-doo. OH, it has port in it. That means we would have to open a bottle. 

We made the recipe and have tweaked it over the years, but it is a staple around our table now, even when we are guests elsewhere. I am providing you with a recipe that I use for this post, however, I make a TON whenever I make this and it is all consumed. And the bottle of port doesn't last either. The amounts are enough for 8 people at dinner and leftovers. Feel free to half it.

Your Holiday table needs this cranberry relish...enjoy!
Cranberry and Port Relish 

9 cups of fresh cranberries
2 oranges, zested
1 cup of orange juice
1  cup of port
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 cup sugar, more if you like it sweet
1 1/2 tbsp of cornstarch

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, bring cranberries, zest, port and juice to a gentle boil. 

Lower heat and add cinnamon and sugar. 

Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves. Once cranberries are soft, mash using a potato masher.  

In a cup, mix cornstarch and 2 tbsps of water. Whisk in cornstarch slurry to cranberry sauce and mix until the relish thickens.

Serve slightly warm or cool. Tastes great the next day. 
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Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Cookie Sheriff

OXO Good Cookie Spatula Giveaway Winner

Thank you for all of the support with this post.
And the winner is... Tykes Mom! Give her a little love at her blog "The North Forty".

Sharing Sunday: At Home with Rebecka


Another week, another fabulous blog. Rebecka is another mama I met via VoiceBoks. What caught me first were her thoughtful posts to other members. I knew I had to check out her site. What a pleasant treat it was! At Home with Rebecka is an incredible collection of recipes and she is currently my inspiration for good lighting and composition with food photography. There is so much to learn about this lovely lady, so read along and don't forget to give her a little visit.

Tell us about you & your blog.Becka

My passion for fine food and the art and joy of sharing it with friends and family is rooted deeply in the memories of cooking in the kitchen with my Mother and enjoying years of business dinners and entertaining business associates with my parents. With a heart full of thanks, I can say that my parents taught me how to entertain guests with grace and how to cook and eat adventurously.

My husband and I have been married for ten years. We are a blended family with 5 children. Blake loves his family and takes very good care of us unfortunately; his favorite condiment is ketchup so trying new recipes in our home is not an easy task. Thus, my outlet for my gourmet cravings is my blog.

I currently live in a small mountain town in Colorado where the sun shines 90 percent of the time and God’s creatures greet us every morning. I love singing opera and have performed in over 18 professional productions in my lifetime.

Music – Food - Family. It’s what makes my heart sing!

How long have you been blogging?

I started food blogging July 14, 2010.

How did your blog get started?

One evening while surfing the internet, I bumped into a food blog written by an old acquaintance. I read through her blog and immediately thought to myself…”I could do this!” I spent several nights researching other food blogs and blog platforms before beginning my site development. About two weeks later I was the proud owner of At Home with Rebecka. I began food blogging with the intent on sharing a few canning recipes and maybe a couple family favorites but now… I can’t stop!!

What started as a whim, turned into a deep love for food blogging, an immense passion for food writing, styling and food photography! I also have to confess, I’ve become a food competitor junkie!Beats Fig Tart

I’ve won several food and cocktail recipe competitions. My most recent win, the Real Women of Philadelphia Cookbook Challenge with my “Fig Tart with Philly Frangipani and Strawberry Ginger Cream”. My photo and recipe will be published in this season’s cookbook alongside recipes from other RWOP winners and Ms. Paula Deen! Yea! I also won $500! I think I’ll use my winnings to have my blog redesigned by a professional.

What are your favorite foods?

I can never decide on a favorite food and I will eat just about anything you put in front of me. I grew up in the South West so my taste buds are always hungry for a green chili, fish tacos and the like. I also enjoy cooking and eating all Asian cuisines and an American favorite: Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Garlic Mash and Soy Green Beans. Foods I don’t like to eat but will cook for others…goat cheese, cooked raisins and lamb!

Favorite restaurants?

I find it difficult to go out for meals. I really like eating out and trying new foods but I’m generally unhappy with the quality of the food and the flavor. Nothing is worse than spending good money for bad food! I’m sure there are hundreds of amazing restaurants in Denver; I just haven’t had the pleasure of dinning at one I can write home about in a very long time.

Favorite recipe?

A Delicious Holiday Appetizer
These little Phyllo Bites were also a smash hit at the party. Filled with a mixture of rich Saint Andre` goat cheese, cream cheese and sharp cheddar; the smooth creamy texture of the filling blended with the crunch of the phyllo pastry, the saltiness of prosciutto and the decadent sweetness of my homemade Cots and Quats Marmalade, made them irresistible.
1-7 ounce tub Saint Andre` Goat CheesePhilo Pastry Bites
5 ounces Philadelphia Cream Cheese
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup diced prosciutto
1 egg
1 package phyllo pastry
1 stick melted butter
1-16 ounce jar 
Cots and Quats Marmalade (orange marmalade)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Remove phyllo from package and place on a cutting board, cover with a clean damp cloth. In a Cuisinart, blend together the cheeses until smooth, salt and pepper to taste.
Cut prosciutto into small dice and sauté in a dry pan until crisp, set aside until ready to use. (if pan becomes to dry add a few drops of olive oil)

Melt butter in a microwave safe bowl for 30-40 seconds, set aside until ready to use
Begin making phyllo shells by placing one sheet of phyllo dough onto a second cutting board or other clean surface, remember to cover the remaining phyllo with damp towel, brush pastry with a thin layer of melted butter, add another layer of phyllo and brush with butter, continue this process until you have 6-8 layers of pastry

Slice phyllo with a very sharp knife into 4 inch squares, gently press 1 square pastry into small muffin tins allowing a small amount of pastry to drape over the edge, bake on the middle rack of oven for 1-2 minutes or until edges become light brown, remove from oven and fill shell with 1/2 teaspoon cheese mixture, 1/2 teaspoon crumbled prosciutto and then top with 1/2 teaspoon marmalade, bake for additional 3 minutes, cool and serve.

Favorite childhood memory of food?

I have so many! Here is one of my most recent posts detailing a fun food memory with a twist! “Night Crawler Hunting and Frog Gig-gin!”

On any given summer evening, prior to a weekend fishing trip, you could find my three brothers and me standing in the lush street medians between Wood and Cascade Streets in downtown Colorado Springs. Armed with our flash lights and various worm containers where we would comb through the manure laden soil for a host of plump nightcrawlers. As with any hunter I'd done my research before heading out to capture the elusive nightcrawler!

Favorite food tradition?

SANTA HOT CHOCOLATE: During the Christmas Season my family enjoys a rich and diverse set of traditions and almost all of them involve food! Santa Hot Chocolate is at the top of the list!
This recipe is highly classified!! It is the REAL DEAL! This perfect cup of sipping chocolate is served to Santa by his beautiful wife Mrs. Clause, right before he heads out on his sleigh Christmas Eve. Pumped high with adrenaline andcoco flavanols, Santa sets out into the night to deliver toys to good little girls and boys. Santa Hot Chocolate is filled with magic and can turn any Grinch into a cuddly teddy bear!
Now you might ask how I came by this classified on a strict diet of candy canes and hot chocolate, let's just say there was one elf at the North Pole that was willing to "share" the recipe for a Big Mac Meal, biggie sized with a giant cup of Coke! It's not pretty, but everyone has their price!!
There is certain etiquette that must be followed when drinking Santa Hot Chocolate...
First, you must have the correct size cup and saucer. Above, you'll see my youngest daughters set of sipping cups. Both of my daughters received her own set of sipping cups to carry the tradition onto the next generation, when they were about 10 years old. A time honored right of passage.

Secondly, only a cinnamon stick may be used to stir the chocolate, that's where the magic begins...

Lastly, never gulp or "shoot" the can be very dangerous to someone not accustom to the REAL DEAL!! Sip the chocolate like a fine aged brandy and linger in the moment of Christmas cheer!


2 cups table cream (1/2 & 1/2)
1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder (I use Dove but any good brand will suffice)
1/3 cup milk chocolate chips
6-7 sticks cinnamon
pinch sea salt

In a heavy sauce pan heat table cream, 1 cup whipping cream and sugar until sugar is dissolved, add the cocoa powder and whisk until mixed thoroughly, add the chocolate chips and stir until melted, add salt and 2 cinnamon sticks and simmer for 5 minutes.

Make cinnamon cream using remaining 1/2 cup heavy whip cream, blend with a hand mixer till thick add 1/4 stick fresh ground cinnamon and stir

Serve chocolate in sipping cups with a cinnamon stick for stirring, add a small dollop of cinnamon cream and grate fresh cinnamon over the top...

Finally, be prepared for a magical experience!!

Photos courtesy of At Home with Rebecka.

Friday, December 16, 2011

{this moment}: Santa Baby

A Friday ritual. A photos - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. Inspired by SouleMama.

Winter Fun with Kids: Christmas Bird Count

In a former life, back when I was a DINK (Double Income No Kids), I used to travel and go birding quite a bit. The Good Apple and I would grab our spotting scope and jump into the car to see if we could spy Wood Ducks or a Northern Shrike. My love of these quirky creatures was incorporated into my science teaching and now, my son is turning into quite a birder.

Example? Three days before Halloween he announced that he wanted to be a a Peregrine Falcon for Halloween. Had I not been such a nut for details with a Biology background, I could have whipped something together. Instead I said, "No" because I couldn't picture how I would manage to construct true wings in this time period complete with detailed primary, secondary, and tertiary feathers. Seriously, this is what crossed my mind. It is an illness I assure you.

In addition to the costume, his first word was "Quack" and he can identify: eagles, hummingbirds, owls, cardinals, towhees, quail, peacocks, toucans, parrots, herons, kingfishers, juncos, waxwings, flamingos, gulls, puffins, cormorants and more. Now I am bragging, but I am his mom and that is my job..and this is my blog. So there. {giggling}

While he isn't ready for his first "Big Year", I think he is ready for his first Christmas Bird Count...and you and your family could be as well.

Really, you can do this and you will have an incredible time outside, during the winter, with your kids. During this time when we are most likely to be inside, it is nice to have an excuse to bundle up and create a family holiday tradition for years to come.

Get involved.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

{Pinterest Picks}: Thinking About the Garden

You know when you wake up in the middle of the night and you are just staring at the ceiling? I tend to pick up my iPad and I starting pinning. I know I should be sleeping, but there are just so many great ideas out there.

My garden has been hanging out in the corners of my mind and it keeps creeping in amongst the holiday festivities. Here are some of the reasons why... Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

OXO, Universal Design, a Good Cause and a Giveaway

A long time ago, back when I was a teacher, I had the privilege of working with NASA curriculum developers and educators and researchers through two weeklong workshops. Our goal was to create science labs for all students. We worked with participants who were hearing-impaired, visually-impaired, verbally-impaired and/or physically-impaired and these were exceptional people. I mean TRULY exceptional. They were people who I knew were my intellectual superiors, who had to break things down into easier pieces for me (Radio Telemetry, Black Holes and Quarks for starters). They were professors at top universities, institutes and engineers and designers for NASA. Through our discussions we were introduced to the concept of Universal Design. (Download a helpful .pdf here)

The basics are: 
  • Equitable Use
  • Flexibility in Use
  • Simple and Intuitive Use
  • Perceptible Information
  • Tolerance for Error
  • Low Physical Effort
  • Size and Space for Approach and Use
Source: The Center for Universal Design at NCSU

The most valuable lesson I learned was that by making very small modifications as a teacher, I could reach many more of my students. If I created scaffolding, they could climb. If I gave them the right tools, they could achieve anything. This is where we were introduced to OXO. Their motto is "OXO - Tools You Hold On To". They have taken the concepts of Universal Design to heart and it is within these guidelines that they design each and every one of their products. Read their take on it here. Here is a little excerpt:
OXO was founded in 1990 on the philosophy of Universal Design, which means the design of products usable by as many people as possible. It is important to note that Universal Design does not mean designing products fully usable by everybody, since there is no product that can truly fulfill the needs of all users. But when all users' needs are taken into consideration in the initial design process, the result is a product that can be used by the broadest spectrum of users. In the case of OXO, it means designing products for young and old, male and female, left- and right-handed and many with special needs.
Students who had difficulty with motor skills or vision-impairment suddenly could cook with a lot more safety and ease. This transferred into some aging adults who developed arthritis in their hands and found they were struggling in the the kitchen. Finally, when I became a parent, I realized how their tools were so easy for my child to use. The Little Man could help in the kitchen safely and confidently at a very young age. As a result I have become a big fan...a MAJOR fan of the company and their products. This is not a paid endorsement. I was merely given an opportunity and I had to give you the story about why I HAD to get involved. There are not many companies out there that I would say I believe in, but this is one. They truly are making a difference for people and giving them access to cooking and their kitchens, which means independence for so many.

As if that is not enough, I then received this letter and it just seemed like a perfect fit.
Dear Bloggers,
Let’s talk about how you can join OXO in supporting the movement to find a cure for pediatric cancer.
First a little background: Cookies for Kids’ Cancer was founded by two OXOnians (OXO employees), Gretchen and Larry Witt who were inspired by their son Liam’s battle with pediatric cancer. All forms of pediatric cancer combined claim the lives of more children in the United States than any other disease. They were shocked to learn that the main reason over 25% of kids diagnosed with cancer do not survive is because of a lack of effective therapies. And the reason for the lack of effective therapies was simple: lack of funding.
For two longtime OXOnians, it only seemed natural that their call-to-action was related to the kitchen and to food. And so, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer was born to provide inspiration and support for individuals, communities and businesses to help fight pediatric cancer through the concept of local bake sales. Over the past four years, thousands of bake sales have been held, raising over $2.5 Million to fund pediatric cancer research.
With less than 70 employees, OXOnians regard each other as family. The news of Liam’s diagnosis hit us hard and we were determined to help “bake a difference.” Since the beginning, we have shown our support by baking cookies and holding bake sales. Through these efforts, OXOnians have helped raise over $150,000 to support Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.
This year, we are thrilled to announce a formal partnership with this organization so close to our hearts. In 2011, on top of our personal efforts to support this worthy cause, OXO will donate up to $100,000 to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.

The Limited Edition OXO "Good Cookie" Spatula
This is where you come in. Your readers look to you for advice and tips when it comes to food, trends and community involvement. Spreading the word about Cookies for Kids’ Cancer will help us ensure that our mission to find a cure for pediatric cancer reaches as many people as possible.
Encourage your readers to participate in any way they can, large or small, by hosting a bake sale, buying a “Good Cookie” Spatula, or sending a Virtual Cookie on Facebook. You can do all this and more at
For examples of how you can uniquely share the message, take a look at what two amazing bloggers we work with have already done: The Naptime Chef and Very Culinary.
If you’re able to spread the word with your readers, please let us know so we can share it with our online community on FacebookTwitter and here. If you also have a creative way of how you’d like to get involved, please don’t hesitate in contacting us with any questions or ideas you may have. Feel free to leave comments here or to email us at
Let’s bake a difference, one cookie at a time. Together we can make the letter “C” stand for Cookies.

So I am spreading the word, and I will ask you to as well. If you click here, you can join the cause by leaving a comment. 

If you leave a comment on here about your favorite type of cookie, OXO has given me a Limited Edition OXO "Good Cookie" Spatula to give to a reader. It is VERY kid-friendly and the perfect size for little hands to help. On Dec. 18, I will randomly pick a reader who left a comment and send them their own Good Cookie Spatula. 

A friend lost her child this year due to a brain tumor. January 14th, Maddie was at school. January 16th, they were told she was going to die. It was inoperable. There was nothing they could do. There was nothing any of us could do. 57 days later, she left this life. I can't begin to imagine. I can't. But, I can do this. So it is what I will do. Let there be a chance for others.

Thank you for reading and I hope you pass this very important message forward and don't forget to leave a comment with your favorite type of cookie. Heck, if you can Tweet, Google+ or FB this, come back and tell me and you can count that as another entry.

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Monday, December 12, 2011

Sugar Cookies (without tears)

I have a dear friend who has twin boys the same age as my eldest. We went through our first year hand in hand. I was determined to make everything as healthy as possible for my new tyke and she was determined to do the same AND take on the world. She would redo her garden beds, paint her downstairs, reorganize spaces in her home. I would look up recipes online. Ya. Yin and Yang.

Christmas time came and she busted out DOZENS of gorgeous sugar cookies. I had to do something. The heat was on (and bless those of you who are old enough to know the Glenn Fry reference).

I loathe enriched, bleached flours, High Fructose Syrup, canned goods, BPA and yes, my green flag is flying high at this point, but I was going to make pretty cookies for my son. With my toddler in hand (and under foot), I went to every store on the island that could potentially carry cookie cutters.  I came home with a traditional variety as well as some marine animals for flare. 

I found a great recipe and then I substituted in whole wheat flour and some apple sauce. Hmph. Are you groaning? You ought to be. I ended up with cookie carnage. Flippers, arms, heads, star points, legs and carapace pieces. Nightmare on Elm Street vs. Christmas on my kitchen counter.

Believe it or not, I couldn't figure out what had gone wrong. Refusing to be deterred, I rolled out the second ball of dough (there were four total- everyone was going to get some!) an created my lovely little cutouts again. Needless to say, the carnage pile grew.

Frustrated and with tears in my eyes, I called Super Friend. She was trying to help me troubleshoot and she knew me well enough to ask, "You followed the recipe, right?" Ya, well...No. "What did you do?" When told her, I could feel her grimace and heavy sigh through the phone. "Val, you don't FREESTYLE with Christmas cookies. They are CHRISTMAS COOKIES!" She was so right. The two remaining balls of dough were tossed in the trash. So sad. For this season, I was done with Christmas cookies. I picked up a flipper, gnawed on it, confirmed it tasted like it looked and chucked the mountain of carnage away. Bah humbug.

It has been 3 years, but I am ready to give it a go. For the years that spanned in between I have made every non-sugar cookie that I could find. Now it is time to revisit my dark past.

Yes, I will use organic sugar and butter and flour. I can't give that up, but the ingredient list will stay unchanged. I am going with Martha Stewart's Ideal Sugar Cookies. This recipe is adapted from "The Martha Stewart Living Christmas Cookbook" (Oxmoor House, 2003.) It just feels right. Martha. Christmas. Sugar cookies. Deep breath. 

I will not be busting out the crazy cookie cutters (they have been misplaced). Instead, I will use a mason jar to make easy peasy circles that the Little Man can cut out with me. 

Great advice that I received from a friend: make the dough a day ahead. Bring it out when you are going to roll and decorate and make that the cookie making process. Little minds might not want to wait 1-2 hours in between.


Simple Christmas Sugar Cookies
Martha Stewart's Ideal Sugar Cookies. This recipe is adapted from "The Martha Stewart Living Christmas Cookbook" (Oxmoor House, 2003).

Yield: Makes 2 dozen

                              2 cups organic all-purpose flour
                              1/4 teaspoon salt
                              1/2 teaspoon baking powder
                              1/2 cup (1 stick) organic unsalted butter
                              1 cup organic sugar
                              1 large organic egg, lightly beaten
                              2 tablespoons organic milk
                              1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Whisk together flour, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar; mix until light and fluffy. With mixer running, add egg, milk, and vanilla; mix until well combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add reserved flour mixture. Mix until just combined.

 Transfer dough to a work surface. Shape into 2 discs, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
OXO Be a Good Cookie Spatula....more about this soon.
 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with nonstick baking mats or parchment paper; set aside.
Even my little helper could cut these out and place them on the tray!
 On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/8-inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes, and transfer to prepared baking sheets, leaving an inch in between. Leftover dough can be rolled and cut once more. Bake until lightly golden, about 10 minutes; do not allow to brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
Hint: take the "leftover" dough, roll it in a ball
and then roll it in sugar and cinnamon...
Easy for little hands.

Icing (my recipe, not Martha's):

1 cup confectioners sugar
3 tsps milk
2 tsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
Food coloring

Using a whisk, mix sugar and milk until no dry sugar remains. Add corn syrup, extract and food coloring and mix. Tah dah! You are ready to go.

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