Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Great Bake V

I managed to find time away from today's Iron Mom, dealing with my appliances and the related fall out to continue with a little baking. Since I'm on nights for the next two, I'm not sure how much more baking I can get done before our big thing this weekend. Nevertheless, we press on.

My mom used to make these every Christmas. The whole house would smell wonderful from the toasty coconut and almond flavours. She usually puts a small cherry bit on top of each mound, but I omitted that part this year. (Sean will be disappointed as he likes them to look like boobs.) I need my cherries for another recipe and quite frankly, I didn't feel like chopping the damn things up this morning. You can garnish as you will.

These lovely coconut confections are so seventies, and so very yummy. I've watched quite a few doubters as they take their first bite and then five minutes later I've had to smack their hands away from the tin. Don't worry loves, I can hook you up... the first one is always free.

Coconut Macaroons

You will need:

3 pkgs (200g ea.) flaked coconut
1 can condensed milk
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (160 C). In a large mixing bowl, combine coconut, milk, vanilla and almond extract, mix well. Drop by rounded spoonful onto a well greased cookie sheet. Bake on middle rack of oven, 12 @ a time, 10-12 mins or until browned on the edges. Cool slightly. Remove to wire racks; cool completely. Store loosely covered at room temperature. Makes about 4 dozen.


Chocolate: Omit almond extract. Add 4 squares (28g ea) unsweetened chocolate, melted. Proceed as above

Chocolate Chip: omit almond extract. Add 1c mini chocolate chips. Proceed as above.

Coconut Macaroons
Lightly Toasty Coco-nutty Loveliness


Four bloody ingredients, does it get any simpler?

You will want to squish them together and mound them up a bit as they never seem to drop from the spoon intact. Again, I use parchment paper for everything which is handy for these as you don't want the bottoms to be anything more than slightly toasted.

My bed and then duty await.

Happy noshing.

"Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may work." ~ Anonymous

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Great Bake IV

I'm taking a small break from what will now be referred to forever more as "The Christmas Light Catastrophe of 2009" whilst Honey goes to Canadian Tire again. I'm sure it will look lovely when we are done... next March.

Here's hoping that typing about my latest baking effort will bring the circulation back to my hands. Why I insist on puttering around outside in subzero weather in bare feet and Crocs is a totally different matter.

My mother made this recipe a lot when we were growing up. In high school, after I got my braces removed, they left me with a permanent retainer on the back of my bottom teeth. I permanently bent it out of shape eating these squares right out of the freezer. They are that good... and when I say good, I mean "OMG, I need insulin and my stomach pumped". Yes, that good.

Magic Cookie Bars

1/c butter
1 1/2 c graham wafer crumbs
1 can condensed milk
1 c semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 c flaked coconut
1 c chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F or 325 degrees if using a glass dish. In a 13x9" baking pan, melt butter in oven. Sprinkle crumbs into butter, mix together and press into pan. Pour milk evenly over crumbs. Sprinkle with chips, then coconut and then nuts; press down firmly. Bake 20-30 minutes. or until lightly browned. Cool well before cutting. Store loosely covered at room temperature.

Makes 24 bars

Magic Cookie Bars
These are Hubby's fave so far...


These should also be served only to people you like. Pressing down in the pan is important so that all the layers meld together a bit before you put it in the oven. Check it frequently, to make sure the coconut isn't getting too brown.

With any luck, I'll get to more tomorrow. However, with our current plans of "put up the tree", I highly doubt it. That never goes smoothly either.

"Broken cookies don't have calories" ~ Unknown

The Great Bake III

This one is a "two-fer"...

I have been looking for a good gingersnap recipe for a while... one that gives you the snap that you are looking for, but is safe enough for my kid to eat without crying. Like chilies, you really have to titrate the ginger to your own/your guests tastes... to me, what I made are wimpy as I cut the ginger a bit, but you can feel free to let her out to dance.

I have a fantastic Gingerbread Person recipe from my Aunt Linda, but that dough is a different consistency and made for rolling and cutting out. This is softer and chewier and fantastic with a cup of tea. I found this recipe somewheres on the in-tarwebs. If I find the link, I will post credit where due...

Gingersnap Cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter, vegetable shortening or margarine, room temperature
1 c firmly packed brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 c molasses
2 1/4 c all purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
Granulated sugar (for rolling in)

Lightly grease or spray (with non-stick cooking spray) your measuring cup before adding the molasses. This prevents the molasses from sticking to the cup.

In a large bowl, cream butter, brown sugar, egg and molasses until light and fluffy. Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt; stir or beat until well blended. Cover the dough and refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease cookie sheets.

Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Roll the balls of dough into the granulated sugar, coating them thoroughly. Place balls, 3 inches apart, onto prepared cookie sheets.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until light brown (cookies will puff slightly and then collapse slightly, and tops will be covereed with little cracks). Remove from oven and cool on wire racks

(Makes 3 dozen or so)

Ginger Snaps
Mmm.... we're completely snap-happy here


The spacing on the pan is very important. These cookies spread a lot and you will be breaking them apart otherwise. I forgot that, so a few of mine have small break marks on one side. I used everyday sugar on them, so in low lighting, they twinkle. You can use a larger grain for really visible sugar.

My son won't leave them alone!

As promised, this installment is in fact, a two-fer. After Quinn went to bed last night, I made some Kentucky bourbon balls. Guess what I used for bourbon? ;) However, after the addition of Tennesee's finest and some Georgia pecans, I'm not sure what makes them "Kentucky" balls... food for thought over a glass of the amber nectar... These are a new addition to the recipe book this year and are an instant inclusion in my list of holiday classics. One year Vic and I made rum balls (I have a good recipe for that too), but it didn't make a lot for the effort put into it. To stretch it out, we rolled them small. Her husband Steve dubbed them "Christmas Pills", which they have remained since, despite how big I roll them. Well, if those are pills, these are certainly Mommy's Little Helpers. These should not be eaten and then get behind the wheel. These should not be given to those pregnant and breastfeeding. These should be served only to people you like, or better yet, hide them in the linen closet and use them to get through the holidays. Inlawsh? Wat inlawsh?

No Bake Kentucky Bourbon Balls

4 T unsweetened cocoa
2 c + 1/2 c powdered (confectioners) sugar
1/2 c good quality bourbon whiskey
1/4 c light corn syrup
2 1/2 c crushed vanilla wafers (cookies)
1 c chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts or hazel nuts)

In a large bowl, sift cocoa and 2c of the powdered sugar together. Add the whiskey and corn syrup; mix well until blended. Fold in crushed vanilla wafers and nuts and mix thoroughly.

Roll dough into small balls and then roll in 1/2 c powdered sugar. Store in an air tight container.

Kentucky Bourbon Balls
Yes, I have combined my love of chocolate and Jack. Help me.

Jeebus Crispy in a rowboat these are good! As you let them sit (if you can resist them that long), the booze will permeate throughout the cookie more and the white sugar will fade. I opened the tin this morning to take this shot and a snootful of deliciousness greeted my nostrils.

These may not make it to Christmas. I'm just throwing that out there now.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Great Bake II

As with most things, my first installment in the Great Bake of 2009 is useless without pictures.

This occured to me as I was carefully storing them in plastic containers to freeze. And it was night, and no natural light, so the pics are pretty useless too. C'est la vie. In any event, as I wait for my butter to come to room temperature to make some very snappy Ginger Snaps, this is how the Chocolate Drop Cookies turn out...

Chocolate Drop Cookies
Addictive lumps of chocolatey goodness.... *drool*

That night, I made a batch of old fashioned cornstarch shortbread. These are short. Very short. This recipe came to me from Karen Stadnyk, a nurse I used to work with on Mental Health Intensive and who now calls me occasionally in the MHESU to send me a "package" from Headwaters. I'll forgive her, if only because of these cookies.

Shortbread Cookies

1/2 lb butter
1/2 c cornstarch
1/2 c icing sugar
1 c flour

Beat butter until light and add remaining ingredients one @ a time, beating after each addition. Roll into small balls and flatten with a fork.

Bake @ 300 degrees F for 30 mins

(Makes 3 dozen)

The extended baking time is assuming you make little squished balls. If you are like me and like actual cut out shapes you will want to chill the dough a bit and then roll it out 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick on a floured surface to cut them out and then put them on a pan. I also cook most of my cookies on parchment paper so that the bottoms don't get too brown from my "well loved" cookie sheets. Sprinkle on coloured sugar or add cherry bits or whatever your heart desires and bake for about 20 mins or less, depending on the thickness of the cookie and your oven.

Some of mine turned out a bit overdone (they should not be brown) as I forgot the less than 20 minute rule and the stars... well the dough got a bit too warm and the stars ended up looking like Patrick from SpongeBob. I separated what was a keeper and let my family eat the rest. Which they did... They descended on them like a pack of starving dogs.

Slightly Overdone Shortbread
Slightly overdone and wonky... will have to make another batch.

Ehhh... That's how the cookie crumbles, as they say.

Next up, ginger snaps...

"I always had the will to win. I felt it baking cookies. They had to be the best cookies anyone baked. " ~ Bette Davis

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pre-Schooler Christmas Activities

My son loves doing crafts. One of the biggest pieces of leverage we have these days is the threat of having his craft time taken away. Hey, whatever works...

The weather has been crappy and cold on our days off together recently, so naturally an indoor craft would be appropriate. Since Christmas is looming, why not a Christmas craft? It seemed pretty reasonable at first, until I started scouting around on the intar-weeb for some ideas.

Finding "crafts for preschoolers that hopefully won't be duplicated at day care that are cheap and easy for Christmas" is one hell of a search string. I found a few things, but for older kids. Quinn is three and although he thinks and acts like a 5+ year old most of the time, he still has the attention span of a three year old boy. Paper chains, although probably a necessity, are really hum drum and I'll leave the construction paper weirdness to daycare. I thought making little sled ornaments out of popsicle sticks would be cute, but as a word of caution do not attempt this craft! We got to learn about all sorts of fun things that day, like blood, where it comes from, new interesting words that Mommy shouted out at random... things like that. To add a little pressure to this, I had decided earlier in November that our family Christmas tree could go in the basement this year and Quinn and I could decorate a little tree in the living room... key point here... and make all the ornaments ourselves! What the hell was I thinking? Why do I do this to myself? And most importantly, where is Mommy's whiskey?

So, I scouted around some more, took an idea from here, stole an idea from there and these, so far, is what I've come up with. Setting up ahead of time really helped. I've also added a handy rating scale (out of 10) to help you out.

Pony Bead and Pipe Cleaner Snowflakes

You will need:
Pony beads (we used white with a few silver scattered in for fun)
pipecleaners (we used white)

Your turn: Wrap one pipe cleaner around another in the centre to make a + shape. Turn and repeat, wrapping each pipe cleaner tightly in the middle. You will end up with what looks like an 8 legged white spider.

Their turn: String the pony beads on the pipe cleaner stems, either in a pattern or at random.

Your turn: When you have reached the desired length for each stem, fold the end of the pipe cleaner around the last bead and tuck it in. To make the "hanger", make a loop on the last piece and wrap the end tightly under the loop to make a little noose. Hang on tree. Serve snack.

Preschooler Craft - Snowflake Ornament
Our snowflake ornaments...

Easy: 8 Awww: 7 Cheap: 10 Fast: 8 Clean: 8

Pony Bead and Pipe Cleaner Christmas Trees

You will need:
Green Pony beads (scatter in a few different coloured ones for the "ornaments")
Pipe cleaners (we used all green but you could use brown for the trunk, etc)

Your turn: Take one pipe cleaner and make a loop at the end, wrapping the end around the stem to make a little noose. Fold the length of the pipe cleaner back up to the noose, wrapping the end around the noose part again. You will now have a pipe cleaner, folded on itself, that is half the length and doubled so that it is twice as strong. Take another pipe cleaner, wrap it around the "trunk" and trim to the appropriate length. Repeat this step at least three times. Trim each level of pipe cleaner so that each "branch" level is slightly longer than the last.

Their turn: String the pony beads on the branches of the tree at random.

Your turn: When you reach the end of a row, take the end of the pipe cleaner and fold it over the last bead and tuck it in. When the tree is completed, shape it however you want and hang it on the tree. High fives all around.

Preschooler Craft - Christmas Tree Ornaments
Our Christmas Trees

Easy: 7 Awww: 7 Cheap: 10 Fast: 7 Clean: 8

Pipe Cleaner Candy Canes

You will need:
Red and white pipe cleaners
A couple of red or white beads for the ends.

Your turn: Wrap a red and white pipe cleaner together tightly at one end.

Their turn: Wrap the pipe cleaners around each other so it looks like a candy cane.

Your turn: Trim ends. Put a bead on the ends just to tart it up a bit and to hide the pokey bits. Hang on tree and admire your handiwork.

Preschooler Craft - Candy Cane Ornaments
Yay! Candy Canes!

Easy: 10 Awww: 9 Cheap: 10 Fast: 10 Clean: 10

More to come... other than a red and white paper chain and a pipe cleaner star that I threw together yesterday (based on the snowflake design), the tree is still mainly naked. Cute, but naked. Even with the (bastard!) popsicle stick sleds. We also have quite a few more Mommy and Quinn days until Christmas, so stay tuned.