Monthly Archives: December 2012

Christmas Recap, Part 1: The Cookies

And suddenly… it’s almost a week after Christmas. Everyone I know seems to share the same sentiments- there’s about a month of anticipation and preparation for the holidays, and then, it’s all over. I’ve been in some weird holiday-real world limbo for the last few days, where I’ve been making bargains and compromises with myself. Things like, “Let’s try to wait until after lunch to dig into the sugar cookies today” and “Put the new Kindle away for a couple hours and knock out the editing work you need to do.”

Speaking of the Kindle… Yes, I got one for Christmas. I told myself that even though I was mainly interested in it as a reading device, I should just ask for the fancy Kindle Fire so I’d have more flexibility and be able to read the colorful, glossy, digital version of Bon Appetit. However… so far, about 95% of my time with my Kindle has been playing games like Endless Escape (this involves puzzles and cleverness, so I’m not ashamed about this) and something ridiculous called Sky Burger (more ashamed about this).

Back to the cookies. As usual, I had lofty cookie aspirations this year. I bought ingredients for four types of cookies, but after making just two batches of dough, I found my cookie energy waning. After all, there were gifts to wrap and a tree that, as of December 22, was still not decorated. And I had to make these customized magnets for our friends (because they love their kitties as much as we love ours):

cat magnets

Hey, check out that Christmas card!

Thus, my Christmas to-do list required some prioritizing, and I had the freeing realization that I didn’t have to bake all the cookies before Christmas. And really, other than a tube of almond paste, all of the other ingredients could be used elsewhere if I decided I didn’t want to make the cookies at all.

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Ultimately I ended up making the following:

Cardamom-Orange Sugar Cookies.  These are the same cookies I made for our wedding. That time, I tripled the recipe and spent three days baking them. All the wedding excitement must have blocked out one key thing from my memory: I hate making sugar cookies. Don’t get me wrong- these are delicious and if you are a more patient person than I am, they are worth the effort. But what I discovered last weekend is that the process of rolling out dough, cutting out cookies only to have half of them get messed up because the dough is too soft, balling up the dough and re-chilling it, and then going through the process again was more than I felt like doing. So, sorry folks, it will probably be a while before you get more of these from me!*

Thumbprint Cookies. Made especially for my husband, who has a weakness for pretty much any sort of fruit filling when it is enclosed in a buttery, sugary womb, regardless of whether it is a homemade pie or a Pillsbury Toaster Strudel. These are not very different from the Trios I made last year, except they’re just single cookies rather than clusters of three with different fillings. In other words, these are way less tedious, which was apparently the major criterion in my cookie selection this year.

Gingery Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Are these ginger cookies masquerading as chocolate chip cookies or chocolate chip cookies disguised as ginger cookies? I think they are just the best of both worlds. I added a dash of ground ginger in addition to the candied ginger. And Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips are wonderful in these. I don’t think I can go back to Nestle.

*To be honest, not many people got cookies from me this year, and I feel guilty about that… There was some poor planning in terms of organization/storage containers/running late to family events and not having time to assemble containers to take with us. It was not my intent to bake five dozen cookies only to keep most of them for ourselves. In fact, that is exactly what I didn’t want to do. Which is why there will be another cleanse in January. More on that soon.

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Something for Everyone: Chickpea Stew and Much-Anticipated Christmas Card Photos

Final paper submitted: check.

Final exams graded: check.

Final grades submitted: check.

Return to healthy eating: check. Kind of.

It was disturbing that I was pretty certain that I could count on two hands the number of vegetables I had consumed since Thanksgiving. So as soon as the semester was finished, I wanted to get some nutritious meals in my stomach, especially before I started baking and filling myself with sugar through cookie taste-tests (which are clearly necessary). I was also eager to take some time to cook a yummy dinner for Nick, who has been incredibly helpful and supportive (as always) while I was wrapping up the semester.

This recipe from Bon Appetit from Chickpea Stew looked like a good start. Quick and easy, lots of healthy ingredients. I made a couple of changes from the original:

  • As usual, organic boneless, skinless chicken thighs were not to be found at the store, so I used one large chicken breast instead. In the first step, where the chicken is browned, I seasoned it with both salt and some smoked paprika.
  • I drizzled some olive oil on the bread cubes and toasted them for about 15 minutes while the chicken was cooking.
  • Based on reviewers’ suggestions, I substituted four cups of chicken broth for the water. I also stirred in a few generous handfuls of torn kale at this step.

Delicious. There are no photos, but it’s not a particularly pretty dish, so you’re not missing much. But please do try it.

And now the holiday preparations can begin.

All of the gifts have been purchased. All of the cookie baking supplies have been stocked. And, most importantly, our Christmas cards have been sent.

This was the winner:

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Yes, I am wearing a tiara. And yes, Nick is wearing bronzer. And white eyeshadow to enhance the, “Oh crap, I left my sunglasses on” look. The facial hair is real. He grew his beard out for a month in preparation. Now that’s dedication.

Some other favorites:

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I was disappointed that none of the pictures with the cats made the cut for the card. But I do like this one where they seem to be reaching out to comfort each other.

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I would say the response to our card has been about 75% positive, 10% confused, and 15% silent. And now Nick and I are stuck trying to figure out how to top it next year.

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My Distractibility Increased by 500% Today

I guess that “30 days of random moments of happiness” thing didn’t quite get finished, did it? Well, I’ve been busy. And then sick. And then busy. And then sick again, while still being busy. But I am pretty sure I had random moments of happiness every day for the last week or so of November. I just didn’t tell you about them in a timely fashion, and now I have forgotten them.

I have a final paper due tomorrow-ish. There is nothing more simultaneously awesome and horrible than when your professor tells you, “Yes, the papers are due on Friday. But if you get it to me a little after that, it’s okay, too.” The good thing- some of the pressure is off. The bad thing- some of the pressure is off.

I’m working on it. And I’m trying to stay focused. But there are a bunch of things that are competing for my attention. Maybe if I tell you about them, it will allow me to move on and get this thing finished.

My Birthday Dinner(s) This Weekend. Mmhmm- that’s right- multiple birthday dinners. I can’t stop thinking about the menu at The Food Market, where I’ve wanted to go for the last four months, but since Nick and I are rather spontaneous with our date night plans, we always miss out on reservations. This time, I’m prepared. I made that reservation weeks ago, just in case I got so wrapped up in finals that I forgot to make birthday dinner plans (like that would ever happen). Why am I so excited? Four words: duck confit potato skins. And if that isn’t fabulous enough, later in the weekend I’ll be celebrating with the family and a sexy plate of raw oysters. Honestly, I think that will be so satisfying that if I don’t have a birthday cake, I won’t miss it. (But I did request something with chocolate and peanut butter, with carrot cake cupcakes or chocolate eclairs from my favorite bakery as backup options.)

Wanting to Grade My Students’ Final Exams. I can’t help it. I want to know how they did. The suspense is killing me. You know you’ve got it bad when you’re bribing yourself to finish your own paper with grading other papers as your reward.

My Pinterest Boards for Christmas Dinner and Christmas Baking. So many pretty pictures of food! The one thing that is bugging me- and perhaps this is just me being a Pinterest novice – is that I can’t rearrange the pins on a board. Is there a way to do that?

Facebook. I think I have liked and commented about 20 times as many things today compared to a typical day. This is exacerbated by the fact that I think a lot of my fellow grad students are also procrastinating and are consequently posting about 20 times as many things as they normally do. The best thing from today so far: Your LL Bean Boyfriend. (Thanks, Virginia.)

Really, really wanting to post photos from our Christmas card. We have sent them out. I want to wait another couple days so that it is still a surprise for most of the card recipients. But then I will release them to the public.

Cats. My cats, because they are hanging around being alternately cute and obnoxious. But also, these cats:

Wanting to tell you about the bourbon bread pudding with bourbon sauce that I made. Well, I guess I just did. It was delicious. If you are short on time, just make the sauce and serve it on ice cream. Or on a spoon.

Okay… I think that’s good. I have emptied all the extraneous stuff bouncing around in my head, and will now resume paper writing. Next time you hear from me, I will have finished the first semester of my third year, meaning that I am officially half-way through the program (assuming my distractibility does not interfere with my finishing in five years).

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