Scenes from a snow day

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Stay safe and warm! Prayers to those who live in areas not normally affected by this kind of weather. (Looking at you Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Florida peeps!)

Talk to me: Are you snowed in? Can I borrow a shovel?

– jennifer

The Christmas (Cookie) Story

Hello!

Happy Thursday!

So, yesterday, Thing 2 and I decorated Christmas cookies together.

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This isn’t a tradition for us – she mentioned that she wanted to and I said “sure, why not?!” – and now I remember why I never made it a tradition. It’s not fun.

I mean, it used to be fun. TONS of fun, even. We would decorate cookies whenever we went to my grandparents’ house for Christmas. My mom and grandma would have everything all set out for us – already baked cookies in awesome stocking, Santa face, snowman & Christmas tree shapes (there may have actually been more), frosting, food colorings, egg white wash, sprinkles, and the whole shebang – and my sister and I would happily decorate away, eating as we went, all the while listening to Christmas music.

GOOD. TIMES.

I’m honestly not sure why I didn’t start that tradition with my kids. Maybe it’s because we were in Hawaii when Thing 1 was 2 and then, Thing 2 was born there, and it’s Hawaii. Kinda difficult to get into the Christmas cookie baking spirit when it’s nearly 80 degrees outside. So, we just didn’t.

Then, we came back to the contiguous 48 when Thing 2 was 5 and we lived about an hour from my family. My sister managed to wrestle the original cookie cutters and cookie dough recipe away from my grandmother and she says to me – come and make cookies with us! Sure! It’ll be fun – just like when we were kids!

Except, it wasn’t. We had to bake those cookies. And, I’m not talking about a couple dozen. I swear we made a dozen dozen. Maybe more! Death by Christmas cookie baking. I definitely do not have the patience for all that.

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And then, I had to get Things 1 and 2 interested in sitting at her table for a few MORE hours decorating cookies with their young cousin. Um, yeah, by that point, even I was done so I didn’t blame them for getting bored in a hurry. It was great to spend that time with my sister but I honestly never wanted to do that again. Ever. EVER.

Much more fun for me to EAT the cookies and remember being a kid sitting at the kitchen table in grandma’s house. ☺ So, we never did those kind of cookies again. Until yesterday.

Why did I think it would be any different?

I made less cookies – 2 dozen to be exact. No, they weren’t my grandmother’s recipe but they’re still delicious! I made frosting. I bought sprinkles. Except, I forgot how to decorate cookies so I only bought red sprinkles and green sprinkles. Ooh, I’m the most exciting mom ever! (yes, that IS sarcasm you hear.) I played Christmas music. And we were miserable.

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Okay. So, miserable is perhaps a STRONG word. We weren’t overjoyed. And we were bored. And I’ll eat all those cookies until they’re gone so I don’t have to think about it anymore.

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At least they are light!

And, they’re perfect “guilt-free” gifts to give to the important people in your life that often go overlooked – the mailman, your dry cleaner, your neighbor who mows your lawn for you, the person who watches your pets when you travel, etc. 🙂

Christmas sugar cookies with Icing
Makes as many as you cut out

For the cookies:
2 cups white whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsweetened vanilla almond milk
½ teaspoon peppermint extract (or use vanilla, if you’re not a peppermint fan. Or, use whatever flavor makes you happy!)

1. Whisk together first four ingredients in a medium bowl.

2. Place butter and sugar in a large bowl and, using electric mixer, beat until mixture is light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in egg, followed by milk and extract. Add flour mixture and blend until just mixed. Form dough into a disk, wrap tightly in wax paper, and chill at least 1 hour.

3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put oven rack in middle position. Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out to a ¼” thickness on lightly floured surface. Cut dough into desired shapes with lightly floured cookie cutters. Place cookies on ungreased baking sheet, spacing them 2” apart, and bake 10 minutes or until pale brown around edges. Cool completely on rack.

4. Prepare icing while cookies cool.

For the icing:
1/3 cup pasteurized egg whites (really, so much easier to buy the egg whites)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
4 cups confectioners’ sugar

Using electric mixer at low speed, blend egg whites, vanilla extract, and cream of tartar in medium bowl until frothy. Gradually add sugar and beat at medium-high speed until icing thickens and stiffens, about 4 to 6 minutes. Tint with food coloring if desired. Spread or pipe icing onto cooled cookies.
Recipe adapted from Prevention.com

Cookie nutrition (based on 2 dozen)
Calories 92; Fat 4g; Carbs 12.1g (sugar 6.4g); Protein 1.6g

(Obviously, your carbs/sugars will increase with frosting but, hey, tis the season and I’m sure you need that extra burst of energy for your last minute Christmas shopping! I know I do.) ☺

Questions: Have you ever participated in a cookie swap/exchange? What’s the best cookie you ever received?

Would you believe I’ve NEVER been to one of those?! I’m so out of the loop!

– jennifer

Celebrate! It’s National Chocolate Cupcake Day!

Today is one of the Best. Days. Ever.  It’s National Chocolate Cupcake Day!  Seriously, a whole day devoted to the chocolate cupcake?!  HEAVEN!!  Count me in!  You know I’m hungry!

Have you ever wondered how the cupcake got its name?  Honestly, me neither but it is pretty interesting!  I did not know that the cupcake had such a history!  All the way back in 1796, Amelia Simmons mentioned them in the first ever cookbook written by an American, “American Cookery.”  She referred to them as “cake to be baked in small cups.”  The name cupcake officially stuck with 1828 Eliza Leslie‘s cookbook “Receipts” and chefs starting baking the cakes in pottery cups.  Their size closely resembled teacups so “cupcake” made perfect sense!

So, grab a cupcake – chocolate, of course! – peel back the foil or paper, and get down to business!  Just don’t forget the napkins to wipe the frosting off your upper lip.  You missed a spot.  There, you got it. 🙂

Chocolate Cupcakes

Cupcakes:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
5 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup fat-free milk

Frosting:
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons fat-free milk
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. To prepare cupcakes, beat first 3 ingredients at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended (about 3 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup and level with a knife. Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with 1/2 cup milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition.

3. Spoon the batter into 12 muffin cups lined with paper liners. Bake at 350 for 22 minutes or until cupcakes spring back easily when touched lightly in the center. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack, and remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

4. To prepare frosting, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small, heavy saucepan over low heat. Add 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, and chopped chocolate, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and cool. Stir in the powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Spread frosting over cupcakes.

Yield: 1 dozen

Calories: 261 (28% from fat): Fat 8.2g (sat 4.8g, mono 2.4g, poly 0.4g); Protein 3.5g; Carbohydrate 44.5g; Fiber 0.3g; Cholesterol 53mg; Iron 1.1mg; Sodium 180mg; Calcium 32mg

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light