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Molasses Sugar Cookies

Do you have one of these?

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I guess it’s a whisk?

Matty B calls it a “boingy-boingy” with a hard “G”. Miss Rae calls it a plunger.

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Until today, I have never used this utensil. At least, I haven’t used it for what it’s meant for.

Starting this afternoon around 12:30 pm, I got the Christmas euphoria in me. The kids and Matty B were both out for Christmas break, I have a whole week off and Bing Crosby was singing “chestnuts roasting on an open fire”.

If there was ever a time to make molasses sugar cookies, it was this moment.

Of course, I had a helper.

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You might be surprised to discover that Miss Rae’s help is absolutely a hindrance. However, I want to encourage her love for the kitchen, so I pulled out a pack of frozen dough scraps that I save for an occasion such as this and we both “worked”.

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Miss Rae’s goal is to dirty every utensil I have in the drawer, the above whisk included. I was using a small ice cream scoop to make uniform size cookies and the girl wanted the ice cream scoop.

“Let’s trade,” she suggested. “Plunge the cookies!”

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And so I did.

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And they turned out kind of beautiful.

This is my Grandma Honey’s molasses cookie recipe, but you could certainly use a Snickerdoodle dough or anything that has a smooth consistency.

Or you could be boring and use your “boingy boingy” for whisking.

Whatever.

Molasses Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups shortening
2 cups sugar+ more for rolling
1/2 cup molasses
2 eggs
4 cups flour
4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp salt

Instructions

Cream shortening, 2 cups sugar, molasses and eggs until smooth.

Add remaining ingredients and mix until combined.

Roll into small balls and roll in extra sugar.

Press with a whisk, if desired:)

Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes (11 was perfect for mine)

Cooking Class

My mom and I took a Hanukkah cooking class.

I’m going to be absolutely real with you about our experience, but I don’t want to trash this sweet lady’s business, so you don’t get any names.

Is that ethical?

Whatever. It’s Christmas. Er, Hanukkah.

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The bottom line of our experience was that by the end of our 3.5 hours together, we were very fond of not only our teacher, but our other classmates. We (my mom and I) enjoyed spending time together and the food (most of it) was really good.

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That’s the “glass-half-full” general synopsis.

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We made:

Brussels sprout, pomegranate, apple, walnut salad: good

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Kugel: meh

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Latkes: fabulous

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Rugelach: AMAZING!!!

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There was also a slab of salmon that we helped to prepare but didn’t eat.

But. But.

I could’ve taught this class better.

And maybe you’ve considered teaching a cooking class of your own someday, and you need some tips from a student?

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1. Most students don’t come for you to read the recipe to them. I’d venture a guess that most can read and have cooked from a recipe before. Have your recipes memorized. At the very least, have a vague idea of what’s coming next. At times it felt like we paid our fee to meet up with 4 strangers and just cook with them- it didn’t feel like we were being taught anything.

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(Just FYI, my mom’s “cleavage” is a Wonder Woman apron. Important clarification.)

2. Have the utensils, pans, etc. all set out. We wasted a lot of time waiting for her to find the right bowl or ingredient.

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3. Speaking of ingredients…

This one was probably my biggest pet peeve. If a student has paid a fair price for a cooking class, please please PLEASE purchase brand new ingredients. On at least two occasions we were given opened jars from the chef’s personal refrigerator to use. And while I’m not a complete germaphobe, what if, what if the chef’s husband had a penchant for dipping a spoon into the apricot jam, licking it, and sticking it back in? It’s his house. He should be able to do that, but I don’t want to eat after that…

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At this point, my mom’s not too sure…

4. Finally, please stick to the time allotted for the class. If you say that class ends at 8:30, please be close to that time. We were an hour behind and neither my mom nor I wanted to eat or get home that late.

All in all, we had a good time but I wouldn’t take another class from this chef.

Bonus: there was leftover rugelach. I may or may not have eaten 3 pieces for lunch.

Gingerbread Houses, 2014

As I get older, I become more and more about traditions. Isn’t that funny? The first part of life you spend imagining how you’ll do things when you’re in charge. And now I am in charge and I’m more and more insistent on doing things the way we’ve always done them. I’m apparently a 90 year old woman living in a 35 year old body.

Gingerbread houses are becoming a tradition that we always host. We’re running on our third year now.

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Then

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Now

What a difference a year makes, huh?

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As all good gingerbread house parties go, there was festive food.

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My classy decor involved jamming a string of Christmas lights into a vase. I know, I know, I’m a regular Sandra Lee. And yes, Miss Rae is shirtless. I have no explanation.

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And then the competition began.

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And I do mean competition. These people take their gingerbread housing seriously.

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Team Grandma/J Man and the winner of the title “Most Colorful”

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Team Papa/Miss Rae and the winner of the title “Most Delicious”

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Team Unk C/ Matty B and the winner of the title “Neatest/Cleanest Presentation” (they won this one by a landslide)

This event is fast becoming one of my very favorite Christmas traditions. With a name like Holley, are you even surprised?

Almond Swirl Cookies

Living at Grandma V’s house during Christmas brings back a flood of memories.

And while some of Grandma V’s Christmas decorations are not my taste (imagine the most elaborate Dickens village you’ve ever seen), there are some pieces that I LOVE.

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The three angels

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The wise men

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And of course, the nativity. My cherubs took their role of setting this up very seriously and if I ever sneak in and move the cows further away from baby Jesus, they somehow find their way back. I guess they’re confused about where to get their dinner from.

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And then there’s Santa. Now, I’m not as nostalgic about Santa, but it didn’t seem right to banish him to the closet along with Mr. Dickens and his decorative barbershops.

So Santa has joined us.

We actually call him Spooky Santa.

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And now you see why.

Apparently Grandma V also found Santa’s eyes slightly menacing because she put some blue paper in his eye sockets in some attempt to make him less alien like.

I guess he isn’t technically “local”.

Regardless, his eyes are kind of hypnotic. Sorta like these cookies.

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Prettier swirl cookies have been done, just not by me.

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I used the recipe on the crisco can. Classy, no? But I substituted almond extract for vanilla and then split the dough in half, mixing in two TBS cocoa powder into one half for color alone.

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Then I wrapped each disk in Saran and stuck them in the freezer because I wasn’t ready for cookies yet. (Right now Matty B is wondering, “how can you not be ready for cookies at all times?”)

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I wouldn’t actually recommend freezing the dough. It worked okay, but I think it would have been more pliable fresh, versus freshly thawed.

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Light disk on top of dark disk and roll into a burrito.

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Slice into thin rounds, baking at 350 for 16-18 minutes.

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Certainly, these would be cookies that no Santa would turn down.

Even Spooky Santa would want a taste.

She & Him, 50/52

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A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014

Both: on this day these poor children were forced to smile with odd creatures from all over Leavenworth, WA. It was a fun, holiday-crazed weekend and we’re exhausted.

But at least we have a picture with a really fat bear.

Five on Friday

1. Miss Rae is apparently 3 going on 13. She is insistent on either fixing her hair herself, or not at all.

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Drives me batty. However, my current solution is to bribe her with YouTube clips while I fix her hair.

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Her favorite is these animals singing the 12 Days of Christmas. Also drives me batty.

2. For whatever reason, I’m very popular in Finland.

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What?!?

3. I didn’t think this moment would come for at least five more years, but we’re already here.

J Man asked for his own cell phone. When we told him “no”, he took matters into his own hands and created this:

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Matty B took pity on him and gave him a very ancient, old school phone that does nothing but let J Man play one game called Word Attack.

He just asked me how to send a text, so I’m going to figure out how to break the bad news…

4. The kids and I made some adorable Rudolph cookies and then Unk C ruined it by laughing hysterically and comparing my innocent cookies to something inappropriate.

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I don’t want to talk about it.

5. I sent out my Christmas cards!

Merry Christmas!

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Christmas Chocolates

I’ve always been an overachiever.

I’m the classic “first born child/people pleaser” and these tendencies have stayed with me from kindergarten (when I memorized not only my monologue in the Christmas play, but everyone else’s as well) to now when I’m making homemade chocolates packaged in Christmas themed mason jars for my kid’s teachers.

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“Oh,” you might say. “You’re that mom.”

Well, yes and no.

I want to be her. I really do. But I just don’t have it in me. Between Kidnastics and multiple Christmas programs and multiple gift exchanges and, oh yes, laundry, Christmas could kick my booty.

So, sometimes I fake it. I bail on some Christmas programs (sorry, Matty B). I regift. It’s true. And it’s no secret that J Man wears the same Seahawks T-shirt several days in a row.

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Also, I fake it on teacher Christmas gifts.

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Today my kidlets gifted “homemade” chocolates in jars that looked like Rudolph, complete with the tag “Thanks for making my future bright!”

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But here’s the “faking it” part.

1. I am not that creative and totally stole the idea from Pinterest.
2. Grandma V left me with more mason jars than I could possibly know what to do with.
3. My “homemade” chocolates? I melted chocolate chips, poured the melted chocolate into a squeeze bottle, filled the molds you see below, 5 minutes in the freezer, voila!

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They popped out like a charm and 1 hour later (because I had 8 jars to fill) I was done. Also, J Man is a fan of the Atlanta Falcons, apparently….

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I did three batches: white chocolate, milk chocolate and dark chocolate. The dark chocolate was by far the easiest to work with. Super fluid, poured really easy and set up the best.

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The only unfortunate part of me sharing the simplicity of this gift is the fact that some of the gift recipients also read this blog, so now they’re not fooled into believing that I’m an overachiever anymore.

Maybe I could still impress them with a Christmas monologue? I’ll bet I could still recite it…

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