Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The sweetest gift...

During Primary on Sunday, the sharing time lesson was about Jesus, and what gifts we could give him.  The kids each wrote down their idea for a gift, which was service that they could do for someone else, and put the paper into a stocking with Jesus' name on it to remind them to perform that service.

One of the teachers helped Monkey with his paper, and I heard him say that he would make his bed every day because that would make his mom happy.  Wasn't that nice to think about me!

Fast forward to this Monday morning.  I took some clean laundry upstairs to put away, and in the midst of the rest of the chaos in the boys' room was a perfectly made bed.  You could practically bounce a quarter off of it.  It was that good.  Well, I couldn't let that bed go to waste, so I did a quick clean-up on the rest of the room so that it lived up to the beautifully made bed.

When I picked the boys up from school I asked Monkey about his bed.  I told him it looked great, and he said, "That's my gift to Jesus, Mom, remember?"  So sweet!  I thought about the video that I posted on Saturday.  If we all just do something, anything, for someone one else, we have also done it for Him.  Mario is working the real meaning of Christmas.

P.S.  I got a picture of the kids.  It's not the greatest, but it will have to do for the card since I've ordered them from Purple Trail and they should be on their way in a few days.  Now to get the addresses done!  Where did I put that darn pen?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dark Chocolate, Pistachios, and Sweet Candied Ginger...these are a few of my favorite things!

So I thought, why not put dark chocolate, pistachios and candied ginger together in cookie form. I basically morphed a regular chocolate chip cookie recipe into a dark chocolate chip cookie recipe, and added finely diced candied ginger, which adds a zippy spiciness, and chopped roasted pistachios for a salty crunch.  These actually got a great review from my panel of tasters.  Monkey even thought they were awesome.  I told him, "But, there are nuts in them!  I thought you don't like cookies with nuts." To which he answered, "I like this kind, though!"

I started with 1 cup each of DARK brown sugar (to add to the dark color of the cookies) and regular sugar and creamed them with a couple of sticks (+1/2 a stick) of butter.  Then I added 2 eggs and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.

Since I don't own a sifter, and I don't plan on purchasing one in the near future, or maybe ever, I just measure my dry ingredients into a bowl and fluff it around with a whisk.  In this case, I fluffed up 2 1/4 cups of flour, 1 1/4 cups of unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch Process), 2 teaspoons of baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon of salt (less than usual since the pistachios were salted).

Mix that all until combined, then add a cup at a time to the creamed mixture.

Coarsely chop the pistachios...

...and gently dice the ginger...

...and add them both to the mixture in the mixer. 
(Try saying that 5 times fast! Mixture in the mixer.  Mixture in the mixer...)

Next comes the most important part.

Very carefully pour in the dark chocolate chips.  Try not to drop too many of them into your mouth.


And from another angle...

Just ignore the eggs in the background, please.

Darker Chocolate Chip Cookies
with Pistachios and Candied Ginger

1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups butter (2 1/2 sticks)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups flour
1 1/4 cups unsweetened Dutch Process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup finely diced candied ginger
1/2 cup to 1 cup coarsely chopped pistachios
12 ounces dark chocolate chips

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

In a medium bolw mix together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.

With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla and beat until combined.  Add the flour mixture a cup at a time until just combined.  Mix in the ginger, pistachios, and dark chocolate chips just until incorporated into the dough.

Form balls or use a scoop and bake on cookie sheet until slightly puffed and cracked, about 9 minutes.  Do not overbake.

Here's a peek at our tree.  It's striped with white and red lights, and has many years' worth of a hodge podge of ornaments.  The two little boys did the majority of the decorating, and I think it's adorable.

Friday, December 10, 2010

And then there was Biscotti. The End.

I've always loved Biscotti, which is an Italian cookie.  I have a confession to make; I used to buy the packaged "Nonni's Biscotti" because I thought these would be too hard to make.  Then I married into an Italian family.  And the matriarch of that Italian family is the most excellent cook.  She baked these biscotti by the dozens, and even though I've come close to the flavor and texture of her biscotti, they haven't quite gotten there.

If you are impatient and just want the recipe already, scroll down to the bottom of this post.

Start out by mixing the butter and sugar with the paddle attachment on the mixer, then adding the eggs one at a time, mixing well between. 

 Add the flavorings; almond OR anise, and vanilla.

Measure the flour into a separate bowl.  Add the baking powder and stir with a whisk, then add a cup at a time into the mixer and incorporate into the butter/sugar/eggs. Add the walnuts.  I toasted them for a few minutes on a cookie sheet, then let them cool before adding to the dough.

Divide the dough by 1/2.  I divided by four because I doubled the recipe, which I have a tendency to do just about every time I make cookies.

Form those halves into long logs, and flatten them slightly onto the cookie sheet.  Make them fairly thin, since you can see that they puff up quite a bit.  Now do the first baking.  This will bake into a firm loaf, but make sure you don't over bake it, since they will still be toasted in the oven.

Putting them on parchment paper allows me to slide the baked loaves from the pan to the counter or cutting board to slice them.

Let them cool just a few minutes, until they are cool enough to handle,
and then slice with a serrated knife slightly on the diagonal. 

Lay the cookies on the side.  They will be really crammed in.  Sometimes I can't fit them all back on the sheet, so I have to eat all of the ends.  It's a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

Toast for the second time, then try not to eat them all yourself. 
Since these are toasted, they have a long shelf-life - just store tightly covered -  and they  freeze well, too.

The beauty of the biscotti is that it is the perfect dunking cookie.  It is traditionally dipped into a glass of wine, or coffee, but I just ate one dunked into a cup of Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride Celestial Seasonings Tea, and it was divine.  Also divine with hot cocoa, Pero, or a plain glass of milk.  Or on its own, too.

Nonni Anne's Biscotti
1 stick butter (the real stuff)
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon anise or almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup walnuts, chopped

Cream butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time; beat well after each one.  Add vanilla and anise or almond flavoring.  Sift flour and baking powder and add to above mixture.  Mix in nuts with wooden spoon.  Separate dough into two parts on floured parchment paper or surface.  Flatten into bars the length of the cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1/2 hour.  Remove and cut on a diagonal.  Place back into the oven for 15 minutes to toast. 

For more cookie recipes, go here: 


Thursday, December 9, 2010

All That Jazz...

This is Jazz. 
She has a funny, crooked cowlick on her running down her nose.  She also has batwing ears.

We adopted her from the shelter a month ago.  Did you know that adopting a dog from the animal shelter is almost as difficult a process as adopting an actual human child?  True Story.

Jazz likes to steal seats.  She also likes to dig holes, run for the door whenever it opens, and lay her head on your lap or a pillow, whichever is most convenient.  Most convenient for her, that is.

She answers to the name Jazz, which is on her adoption papers, and would probably take an act of Congress to change.  She's also known as several aliases.  "Jazzercise", when she's feeling a little bit 80's retro, "Jazz-manian Devil", when she's a little bit rambunctious, and "Jazzers" when you're sitting with her head on your lap and playing with her batwing ears.


She and I share a common bond.  We both have the ability to plop right down and fall asleep.  Anywhere.  And snore loudly. 

'Night, Jazzers.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cookies. Need I say more...

Don't let the mundane, everyday look of these cookies fool you.  They're the perfect, homey, oatmeal chocolate chip cookie.  True story.  Hallelujah.

Once these are given a chance, the taster realizes the awesomeness that they are.

I've been using this same recipe since I was a teenager and made cookies every Sunday afternoon.  Then I left the mess in the kitchen.  And my mom would tell me to clean the kitchen.  20 times.  Then I would be doing the dishes at 10 o'clock at night because I thought I could outlast my mom and that maybe she would forget that I was supposed to do the dishes and I would be off the hook.  Now I do the same thing to my kids.  I've turned into my mother.

Family Favorite Oatmeal Cookies (adapted from a Quaker Oatmeal recipe)

2 cups shortening
2 cups sugar
2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
3 cups flour
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
6 cups quick or rolled (old fashioned) oats
2 cups walnuts
3 cups chocolate chips (I like mine extra chocolatey)

Cream shortening, white sugar and brown sugar until slightly fluffy.  Blend in eggs, one at a time,  and vanilla.  Mix in flour, salt, and baking soda.  Stir in oatmeal, walnuts and chocolate chips.  Roll into small balls (or use a cookie scoop) and place on cookie sheet.  Flatten with a fork if you think you need to.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, but do not over bake.  Take out of oven when they look slightly underdone and let them sit on cookie sheet for 1 or 2 minutes to set up.

To quote the cookie monster, "C is for Cookie, that's good enough for me."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas pictures of the kids...

...failed attempt numero uno.

Three out of four with eyes closed.  Come on, boys, get it together!

Two oldest, not bad. Joe is trying so hard NOT to blink that he does the opposite, and Monkey is sporting some breakfast on his shirt.  Sigh.

Oh, boy.  We'll try again this afternoon.  Maybe.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Winding up for Christmas...

Well, here we go.  The FIRST day of December!  I know I say this all the time, but I really don't know where November went.  Or January, for that matter.  The year has flown by! And saying "2011" doesn't sound OK.  Not OK at all.

As I'm sitting here in the early-morning quiet, the calm before the storm of everyone waking up, I can't help but think about all that needs to be done and feel a bit anxious about it all.  I guess we'll just take it a day at a time, but still plan ahead.  We like to keep Christmas simple, and that will include visiting the Creche exhibit on Friday and picking out a Christmas tree on Saturday. 

I really pared down the Christmas decorations when we moved, so I'll have to go through them to determine what our tree will need in order to look halfway decent.  We also must put lights on the outside of the house, we have the perfect front porch for it!  So the bulk of our decorating will come from lights, and the kids and I will be making some decorations for the tree to keep the cost at a minimum.

We still haven't taken a picture for the Christmas card, so I'm hoping to get that done in the next few days, get them ordered and print labels to mail them out.  I have been VERY lax about this in the past few years, so I'm hoping to get back in the swing of things and send them out every year again.

I hope you all have a Wonderful December, a Merry Christmas, and a Prosperous New Year!  I'm so appreciative that you take time out of your busy day to visit our little corner of the blogosphere! 

I'll leave you with my new favorite quote from Elizabeth Barrett Browning:
 "God's gifts put man's best dreams to shame."

And to the person who knocked on our door last night and left a huge, gorgeous bag of mandarins, I apologize for being asleep on the couch, cuddled up with my two little boys and a snoring dog, while pretending to be watching a movie.  When I woke up from my little snooze, they informed me that someone had been knocking on the door.  Thanks for the heads up, boys.
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