Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Verdict on Gossamer Spice Cookies

Alright, so yesterday I made the first batch of Gossamer Spice Cookies from a recipe I found in a 2002 Better Homes and Gardens Christmas edition. These are really different! There is only brown sugar to sweeten them. The texture is a lot like Gingerbread or Gingersnaps (and they do have ginger in them), but they are definately NOT Gingerbread. They are very spicy! Not spicy hot, necessarily, but definately not sweet! The ones I made were a lot darker than the picture I had, but I don't know if I left them in the oven for a minute too long, or if I ought to tweak the recipe and use light brown sugar instead of dark brown because the instructions say to bake them for 5-6 minutes until the edges are brown. Well, the whole unbaked cookie was dark brown! I couldn't tell when the edges were turning! So I think tomorrow I'll try a new batch with light brown sugar and see what happens. Or my printer could have been printing light since it's running low on ink...
Also, I must not have rolled them out thin enough, because the recipe says it yields 66 cookies and I got maybe 30. Anyway, I like them. They definitely stay in the Christmas Cookie section of my cookbook, and I can think of several people on my list who would love them. Jake tried one and said he would love to take a sack of them to the next reenactment with him. He's a very good judge when it comes to cookies, so there you have it. Here's the recipe:

1 & 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp apple pie spice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground red pepper
1/3 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup molasses
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

In a medium bowl, stir together first 7 ingredients (through red pepper); set aside. In a large bowl, beat butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for
30 seconds. Add molasses and brown sugar. Beat until combined. Beat in flour mixture just until combined.
Divide dough in half; cover and chill for I hour or until easy to handle.
Preheat oven to 375°P. On a lightly floured surface roll half of the dough at a time to 1/16-inch thickness. Using a 2-inch round scalloped cutter cut out dough. Place cutouts 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake cookies in a preheated oven for 5 to 6 minutes, or until edges are browned. Transfer cookies to wire racks; cool.

Yield: About 66 cookies
If you make a batch, comment back and let me know how they did for you!

Fresh Wave of Creativity Part 2: Jeans Remixed-A solid base

For this outgrown-jeans-turned-skirt project, I had to find a starting place. Marilyn had given me this great pair of Miss Sixty jeans that were SO comfortable, and right now if I don't gain any weight and keep on losing a few lbs like I'm doing, they fit. But I haven't been able to wear them because there is a spot in the inner thigh that had worn thin and ripped, so I was going to have to turn them into a fabric art project anyway. I had originally planned to patch them all over with different shades of blue fabric so that they looked patchwork-quilt ish and you couldn't tell where the rip had been. Well, I never got around to it. Now the Miss Sixty jeans are the base for this skirt project.

I cut the legs off just at the crotch seam and above that ripped place so I got what looks like a mini MINI MINI skirt.
Next I salvaged what I could of the pants legs. The knees and backside are pretty well worn, so I was only able to get 2 workable pieces out of each leg, for a total of 4 strips measuring about 22" long and 4 1/2" wide.

If I need it longer, I'll use some other jean scraps; remember, I want this to look like a patchwork recycled piece of wearable art. I took the pant leg fabric from 2 other pairs of worn out jeans, but unlike the first pair, the workable part was wider and the front side was not workable at all, so I only got 2 strips total, at 22" long and 7" wide.
We'll be back to this project after a brief update on those Gossamer Spice cookies from the prior blog titled "The Cookie Baker Prepareth..."

Fresh Wave of Creativity Part 1: They don't fit!!

Most moms have all been there. We are one size when we conceive our children and find, to our complete and utter amazement, that our post-childbirth bodies don't want to deflate right back into those pre-preggie size jeans! (Ok, maybe the "complete and utter amazement" thing is just me, but I bet not.) So what happens to all of those outgrown jeans? Many moms will probably have done what I did: put them away at the top of a closet and bought "temporary" larger sizes to make do until I could buckle down to an excercise routine and bannish the baby-fat, at which point some few months (or two years) later I would retreive those sexy jeans from the closet shelf and find that I am once again a hot mama. Right. Well, it doesn't exactly pan out like that. For one thing, I've found that after having kids (especially when that second one was a hefty 9 lbs!) that no matter how much you eat right and punish your body with excercise routines, some of the changes that happened during pregnancy JUST DON'T GO BACK. Short of having cosmetic surgery, my body will never go back to what it used to be. Now, I'm not complaining about this personally, because that 5'3" and dead even 100 lbs of skin and bones that I used to be before I had Charles wasn't healthy. I ate. I was in no way annorexic and did not have any other eating disorders, but with a lightening fast metabolism it was hard to get up to a healthy weight and stay there. At 22 and 23 years old I was giving stick thin runway models a run for their money. (I think I missed the boat on how to pay for college back then, but that's another blog for another time)
I've finally come to the realization that I am NOT EVER (thankfully) going to fit into those size 3 and 5 jeans. Not even those awesome kakhis that I loved that had the amazing embroidery work on them. But they are so cool. I can't just throw them out! So in a moment of inspiration I started trying to figure out how I could recycle those most-loved but too small pants into something that I could still wear. The following few blogs will be my step by step method of seeing if I can't DIY myself a new skirt out of these old rags. Wish me Luck!!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Cookie Baker Prepareth...

Our church had its annual fall festival this past Sunday, which for me means the pagan holiday of Halloween (and I mean that in the nicest way possible. Go ahead and comment on it. You know you want to...) is now over for the most part, except for the kids going with my mom to several other churches fall festival functions to revel in all of that Inflatable Jumpy Thing and Candy More Candy goodness that belongs to childhood. As I get older I notice, like those who are older than me said I would, that as soon as the calendar hits November 1st, the rest of the year is in a great hurry to expire. Thanksgiving comes in fast and furious with all of that food (glorious food!) and before you've even picked all the meat off the turkey and put the leftovers in the fridge, it's every weekend booked for holiday parties (with more food) and then you blink and it's Christmas Eve service at church, after which you're sitting on the couch with your family looking at the beautiful tree with presents piled under it that you only vaguely remember wrapping. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!
Every single second of the AutumnChristmasHolidays, as I call them, is wonderful. The best part of all of the hustling and bustling is the baking!!!
I LOVE baking Christmas cookies! And pies. And cakes. I've just been working on my cookbook that has all of my favorite collected recipes in it. I took them all and typed each one on it's own page and put it in a page protector. That may seem like wasted space, but I have a hard time reading a recipe that has other recipes on the same page. It's a quirk. I love having a photo of the recipe I'm doing, too, so it's nice to put each one on its own with a photo so I can see exactly what it is I want to accomplish. Tonight I made the dough for Gossamer Spice Cookies (recipe to follow, if they turn out right and I approve them for inclusion in the final cookbook. Stay tuned on that.) The mixture smells divine. All sorts of spices in them. One I had to substitue because I couldn't afford it. A 2 oz. jar of ground cardamom at Kroger was $9.00!!! I looked up a substitute on Google though (equal parts cinnamon and nutmeg) and also found that if I MUST use cardamom, that the next time I'm over in Cobb county near the World Cost Market thing or whatever, over there at Town Center, that I can get some for around $2.49. Much better. Seeing as how that's kind of a ways to go however, I opted for the substitute this time around. Gotta run check the dough and see if it's workable yet. I'll post again when they've been baked and tested. If they pass then some of you will be getting a tin of them under the tree with your name on it! But only if you make the nice list...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I think I'm turning English....

We all know what an Anglophile I've always been. I love talking in a British accent, I adore British films, British literature and I have a very British sense of humor. Dry, admittedly, but there it is. Anyway, of late I seem to be delving deeper into the habits of those "across the pond".

One huge change that I've adopted is the 4 o'clock tea time. I drop everything and have tea. Now, this may not seem like a big deal to some. "So you have a cup of tea at 4 p.m." you say, "So what?" Well for one thing, I didn't grow up drinking tea. I live in Georgia, in the Metro Atlanta area. The Sweet Iced Tea Capital Of The World! To not drink sweet tea here is insult to your heritage. If you were born and raised in the deep south and don't drink sweet tea then, Honey, there is something WRONG with you. And then people go around blessing your heart. It's an international fact that in the deep south-eastern United States, you may gossip and say absolutely anything about anybody, as long as you bless their heart first. As for myself, I try not to bless any one's heart. I'm learning not to gossip, which here in Atlanta is also unnatural. Girls from Atlanta are born gossiping and get some of the best tidbits of talk in their lives from the nurses who deliver them. Bless their hearts. But I'm digressing...

Tea for me is an acquired taste. I first started drinking hot tea last year during allergy season. I was pregnant with Emily and sick as a dog from both the hormone upheavals and the weather in October and November changing from hot to cold and back again. I started out with fruity herbal teas. Celestial Seasonings makes a variety pack of fruit herbal tea that is excellent. There is Raspberry Zinger, Country Peach Passion, Cranberry Apple Zinger, Tangerine Orange Zinger and Black Cherry Berry.
I tried each of these teas "straight up" because they all, being fruit based, have a mild natural sweetness to them. About a month ago I decided that if I was really going to get into tea the way I want to, I'm going to have to be adventurous. So I began trying other teas and also different methods of sweetening them. After all, when I drink coffee I can't stand it black! I like a little coffee with my cream and sugar. My Aunt Sally is that way and I can remember Christmas Eve breakfasts at Grandmama's house when I was in high school and college. Sally and I would doctor our coffee across the table from each other, taking turns with the sugar bowl and creamer. (My mother would scowl and fuss at the amount of sugar I added to a beverage she didn't approve of me drinking in the first place, but then, most everything I ate at Grandmama's table at Christmas was met with disapproval on her part.) I find that I like my tea with one sugar cube (equivalent to about 1/4 teaspoon), a drop or two of honey (depending on the type of tea) and a little milk. I've just developed my taste for Lipton's Black Pearl Tea, which I had originally bought as a component for a gift basket for a friend of mine who is majorly into the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. (So am I, but that's what I'd bought it for.) I took too long in getting the basket together and wound up sending something else Pirate related instead, so the box of tea sat on my shelf for a few weeks, unopened, until I screwed up the courage to try it lest it expire. (It's still a year away from it's expiry date, but all the same, I don't like to waste anything.) I love this tea. It's made in a pyramid tea bag so the leaves have room to expand and give optimal flavor. This tea encouraged me to try other Lipton pyramid bag teas: White tea with blueberry and pomegranate flavors and Bavarian Black tea with blackberry flavors. All of these are fantastic.

So there you are. Another quirk that makes It's really late, so I think I'll head to bed. I'll blog again on this subject, I'm sure, as I try new varieties of tea. At the moment I'm still sampling all kinds and am in no way an actual "Tea Connoisseur", and even if I did have a developed taste for different qualities in teas, I am at the moment somewhat impoverished, and cannot afford the more expensive gourmet teas. As I said, as I try new kinds I'll let you know. Until next time, then. Cheers!