Appetizers, Christmas

Quick & Easy (and oh so cute) Party Appetizer!

Did that get your attention?  It should!

This year why not dazzle your guests with a really cute Appetizer for your next party?

Pinecone Cheese Ball
Pinecone Cheese Ball

Here’s all you need:

Your favourite cheese ball recipe – any will do!

Whole almonds

a Sprig of pine or spruce or balsam.

Make your cheese ball and shape it on the plate in a mounded pile, in an oblong/pinecone type shape.

Insert the tips of whole almonds into the ‘cone’ and cover completely.  They shouldn’t be standing up, but just sort of laying across the top with the tips in to hold.

Then, clean off the tip of your greenery, and insert it into the top of the pine cone.

Voila!  A cute pinecone appetizer to serve with crackers.  Trust me, everyone will run home and make one!

Enjoy!  And… of course… Happy Noshing!

 

 

Christmas

My Favourite Things – again

I thought I’d get a bit of a head start on my… ahem, your… wish list for Christmas 2013.  I know, it’s early December… but hey, you want to be sure that you get “the list” into the right Santa hands! Am I right?

Let’s do a year rewind for a bit first.  This year, I had a nasty accident. I fell down a flight of stairs while on a business trip to Holland. First, I must say the Dutch health care system is exceptional! We here in Canada could learn a thing or two about Emergency Room wait times.  (I’ll get off my soap box now.) I really have no memory of the fall other than I tripped on the first step. So, down a full flight – knocked unconscious – badly broke my right wrist.  It left me with a nasty concussion that for at least six months I was feeling the repercussions of.  Not nice.  The wrist – yikes. That’s another story.  After a long consultation with the medical staff in Holland, and with my boss/former boss also attending the same conference, I decided to return home to have surgery rather than having surgery in Holland.  Good move.  Long story short, I shattered the right distal radius and had to have a plate and screws inserted to patch it back up.  Six months later and I’m still not at full capacity.  The prospect of further surgery looms large in my future.  You had read a bit more on the post “Girl, Interrupted

So, why did I tell you all this?  Well, what I thought were simple, easy tasks in the past became major undertakings for me.  Holding a pen was excruciating for me. Using it was worse!  I’m right-handed so imagine….  *shudder*

I came across a unique product at Canada’s Baking & Sweets Show (CBSS) in 2012. I hemmed and hawed about it for so long, and then forgot about it as the frenzy of excitement over new baking pans kicked in. Yes. I get excited about great quality baking pans!  Thinking this “item” was good but not a real essential to my kitchen, I wasn’t heartbroken over not getting it.  BOY what a mistake!  This year, at CBSS 2013 I bought one!  It has become a much used and loved product in my kitchen!  What is it?  Simple, it’s called a Staybowlizer!  Check out the video here:  Staybowlizer .  Use it a your second (or third) hand in the kitchen! I sure am! This unique and wonderful product let’s you free up a hand while you’re whisking, stirring, double boiler-ing (is that even a word?) and serving, without any spills!  My hand is doing my better now, but this great item (it comes in a set of two; a larger and smaller one) is my new kitchen bff.

staybowlizer

Okay, next.  From last year I had listed Anna Olson’s “Back to Baking” book as one of my “I sure hope someone in my family is reading this and will buy it for me” items. I’m happy to report – Adam (my new favourite son, sorry Jay) did buy it for me and I’ve used it so many times.  This amazing cookbook by one of Canada’s premier pastry chefs has become indispensable in my kitchen.  Everything from making perfect pastry to more advanced desserts, everything that I make comes out perfect!  Thank you Anna Olson!  If you didn’t get it last year, be sure to pick it up this year!

BacktoBaking.hr

Again making my “most favourite things” list is a good chef’s knife.  I started at George Brown in January of this year, and learned that (a) you don’t need a complete set of knives when you’re starting out, and (b) invest in top quality!  So, I got myself a 10″ Chef’s Knife (and cover) that is amazing.  I also learned how to properly sharpen the knife and how to hone the knife.  It was the ONE class I thought I would really do bad in. But, I actually did very well!  Surprise!  (Well, I was surprised!).  So other than a good 10″ chef’s knife, get a boning knife and a good paring knife.  That’s probably all you will need.

Zwilling J.A. Henckel 10" Chefs Knife
Zwilling  J.A. Henckel 10″ Chefs Knife

Much to my delight, Chef Michael Smith came out with a new Cookbook this year. It’s on MY list!  His recipes are simple, classic, and very very yummy!  Cooking anything from his other books (yes I have more than 1) results in lots of compliments from our guests.  So I am eagerly anticipating that this new cookbook will be a favourite in my kitchen!

available at any bookstore, or on line (amazon.ca or chaptersindigo.ca)
available at any bookstore, or on line (amazon.ca or chaptersindigo.ca)

I invested in a citrus press this year.  Best investment!  I wasn’t sure if I would like it or not, and I must admit that after my surgery I couldn’t even hold it, let alone use it! But, it’s really an indispensable tool now in my kitchen!  You can squeeze your lemons/limes all you want by hand you won’t get the juice out of them that you need!  And, forget about those old fashioned types, this is by far the best!  I cannot get over how much juice I get out of my citrus fruits now.  Don’t be fooled by the design, it looks like you need to put the lemon half into the press in the direction of the “curve”, but resist that urge!  Put it in upside down, i.e. against the curve. as you squeeze together you will find that you get so much juice without seeds!  Best ever!  Okay, so the one I purchased was from The Pampered Chef through my friend Karen Hoover.

Citrus Press
Citrus Press

Hmm, what else?  Commercial grade cookie sheets are a must in your kitchen!  I don’t know about you, but I get tired of those cookie sheets that “pop” in the oven. Oh, you know what I mean!  You have something on them, and you hear that pop… they’ve warped!! Of course they go back into their shape, but they are brutal!  Use those old cookie sheets you have for something else…. but seriously get yourself some commercial grade sheets.  Two reasons; they are reinforced around the edges so that you don’t have warping, and they are bigger than the standard sheets, but still fit nicely into your oven!  Last year (2012) at Canada’s Baking  & Sweets Show in Toronto I bought two different ones to test them.  I love them both!  The USA Pan has small ridges which allows air to flow under what you are baking, like cookies, giving a nice even cook to the bottoms.

Image on the left is the USA Pan (yes, that’s the brand name) and the one on the right is Chicago Metallic.  Both are wonderful!

USAPan

Chicago Metallic
Chicago Metallic

Well, I could go on and on and on…. but you get the idea.  If that special person in your life is looking for a perfect culinary gift for you, have that person send me an email and I’ll help with THE perfect purchase for you!

For me, I’m off to the kitchen, going to get my traditional French Canadian Tourtiere started. Must get it done and in the freezer so that on Christmas Eve, we will have that delicious treat!  Stay tuned, that’s my next post!!

Until then, Happy noshing!

Christmas

5 Days before Christmas… and all through the house!

HO HO HO… just 5 days to go!  Okay, that rhymes, but it was totally unintentional!   With less than a week before Christmas, my baking panic has set in!  I really haven’t done much this year – too busy playing with cookies!  🙂  Thank you Marian – for birthing a new obsession!

This year, my cooking list includes (I hope you are sitting down….) dinner with friends on Saturday night. Menu in progress.  Christmas Eve (menu in progress).  Christmas Day – at first I thought there would be 3 of us so I wasn’t going to cook, turns out my daughter and her hubby will be here so now there are 5 of us… yep, menu in progress.  Boxing Day – my side of the family is coming (approx 17-20 people), menu in progress.  December 27 – I AM NOT COOKING. We have tickets to The Nutcracker so that means Scott will take me out for dinner… (if you’re reading this Scott… that’s the plan!) December 28 – recovery day. December 29 Scott’s side of the family is here (menu in progress).  December 31 we will have a quiet night at home… I need it!  January 1 – Brunch with friends (menu in progress.)  So, with all that cooking to plan for (and really, what was I thinking????) I haven’t had much time for making my ‘list’.  I’m feeling the pressure now.  REALLY feeling the pressure.  Juggling a few too many menus – hope I keep them all straight!  Wonder if I could make the same thing for each meal?  Who would know?  I’m looking forward to January 2!  ha ha.

On another note:
My daughter-in-law sent me a cartoon last night.  It made me smile….  for anyone who is busy baking and cooking away for Christmas, I’m sure you can relate. (Not sure who owns the copyright on this, but I beg your forgiveness for no mention!)

stirring

Today, I’m working at home, but taking a few minutes here and there to get a few ‘stirring’ essentials done!  Last night I threw together another batch of sugar cookie dough and got it rolled out, and back in the fridge.  Yes… ALL THOSE COOKIES I made are pretty much gone!  Okay, we did give some away to friends, but seriously, the rest…. my jeans are getting tight!

With five days to go before Christmas, I thought I’d just blog about a few of my favourite sites and products out there and let you check it out yourself!  I have a few bloggers that I follow faithfully and I have a few brands that i can’t live without.  So the five day countdown to Christmas – here we go… These are a few of my favourite things:

  1. For decorating cookies – most talented decorator Marian Poirier of Sweetopia has to be my number one pick!  Not only is this sweet lady (see what I did there… sweet… sweetopia.. get it?.. ok, lame!) anyway, this sweet lady is not only talented but so down to earth and approachable.  If you have questions, she’s right there to answer for you.  Simply send her a question through her blog and she’ll respond.  She’s a big advocate for teaching you how to do the job right – she doesn’t sell her cookies so don’t even try to ask her about ordering, but she does walk you through the steps to awesome cookie decorating with ease.  Her site has many tutorials so you can actually watch step by step!
  2. For eating clean – hands down Tosca Reno of The Eat Clean Diet wins my vote.  This 50+ year old woman inspires beyond belief. Overweight at 40 Tosca turned her life around and became a New York Times best selling author of The Eat Clean Diet series, a fitness model, and most importantly an advocate for eating clean – eating for health but with a delicious twist!  The recipes are fabulous and you have to admit – she looks amazing at 50+ years old!
  3. Paula from Bell’alimento.  Her food looks so yummy, and her directions are clear and concise.  I stumbled upon this blog about a year ago – and it’s probably where I first read about “Mixed” but I’m not sure now.  Regardless, I love reading Paula’s blog – If you love Italian food – this is your blog!
  4. Chez Us.  Love this couple!  I met them at Mixed and was inspired to create ‘outside the box’.  Denise is the cook, Lenny is the devourer!  Together they make up “Chez Us”. Of course, now I have a wish list for other equipment including lighting!  Oh Lenny, what have you started???

Now I’ll get into the top things that would be on my ‘list’ had I actually made a list and told anyone about the list.  Hmmm, I should have listened to Santa – made a list, checked it twice… and then passed it along to my hubs!  Oh well.  Next year!  Here we go, my favourite things:

StandMixerKitchenAid Stand Mixer.  Yes, I have one.  I got it just over a year ago now (November 2011) and it has been THE most used appliance in my kitchen!  Definitely the most loved.  I have the 6 QT Pro Model and it gets quite a workout in my kitchen! The motor on this model is powerful and can handle up to 13 cups of flour without getting sluggish.  You know what that means?  TONS of cookies at one time!  Baking in bulk! Lots of Bread!!!

There are smaller models on the market, and of course the larger 7 QT model (sigh) so know what you want, why you want it, what you will use it for.  Check out the specs. Talk to people who own them.  Be informed before you purchase.  For me, the 6 QT is awesome. For a newbie baker maybe the smaller 4 QT would suffice.  Then there is the space issue – where will you put it?  Mine sits proudly on my kitchen counter and because it is out all the time, it gets used all the time!  A Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer ( or any other stand mixer) is an investment, be sure it’s in a place that makes it easy for you, so that you will use it all the time.  I guarantee, once you start using one, you will not know how you ever managed without it!    My number 1 overall pick of “must haves.”

BacktoBaking.hr

Anna Olson’s “Back to Baking” is a wonderful cookbook for any level of baker.  It’s on my wish list for 2012. Not sure if “Santa” will see this before Christmas or not, but I remain hopeful.

Anna Olson has a fantastic story.  She has a degree in Political Science from Queen’s University (my alma mater) and worked in the banking world for a time.  However, her passion for cooking was strong and so she left banking to pursue a culinary career enrolling in Johnson & Wales University in Vail Colorado.  Seriously, I guess if you are going to go back to school you should do it in a place with a beautiful view!  Anna lives in Ontario and has a show on the Food Network called “Bake with Anna Olson”   I have one of her earlier  cookbooks “Fresh” and have made several yummy creations out of this… it’s also personally autographed by Anna… ’nuff said!

What I love about “Bake” is that Anna starts with a basic recipe and then takes it up a notch into something more  elaborate, then does that again.  By the end of the show you have learned how to take a simple recipe and tweak it to get something else, related but more extravagant.  Love it!  I have looked through “Back to Baking” and can really appreciate the “before you bake” section for each recipe.  This walks you through what you need, the tools, the measurements, etc. and why it’s important to have these ready before you start.  Anna inspires me – I think because she had another career and then decided to follow her real passion!  For these reasons, Back To Baking get my ‘nod’ as a must have!

fastflavors  If you haven’t learned by now, I’m a HUGE Chef  Michael Smith fan! Chef  Michael is a resident of PEI (for you non-Canadians… that’s Prince Edward Island) Canada.  This small island is packed with such rich produce, fish and seafood.  My husband and I had the pleasure of visiting the island for 10 days this past summer.  I was hooked!  I’ve been there before, but only in and around the Cavendish area.  I had no idea how truly beautiful the entire island is!

When we hit the eastern side of the island, Souris and surrounding areas, I knew we were in Chef Michael territory.  I set out to find him.  I did… but he wasn’t home!  😦  I digress… the cookbook!

I purchased my first Chef Michael cookbook “Chef Michael Smith’s Kitchen” while on PEI and couldn’t wait to get cooking.  Anything else I had tried before had been from watching his show on the Food Network!  Now I was armed with the  secret!  Cooking without a recipe! That’s sort of the way I cook anyway!  I have a vague idea of how I want something to taste, and then go ahead and make it work!

In his newest cookbook, Fast Flavours, Chef Michael takes you through 110 recipes that are easy, very quick, and taste A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!  I think I got this book within a week or two of returning to Ontario.  Nobody needs to know how quick these were – just whip them up and tell your friends and family you were slaving away in the kitchen all day! Definitely part of my “must have” list – he’s pretty cute (at 6′ 7″) and VERY talented!

LeCrusetLeCruset has been on my wish list for some time now.  I am still without a single piece!  Known for their cast iron enameled cookware, LeCruset is “the” standard by which all other cast iron cookware is measured.  If you saw the movie “Julie & Julia” both J’s use it to make Julia’s iconic Boeuf Bourgonnoin.  While I had dreamed of one day owning a piece… it became an obsession after the movie!  Seriously!  I’ve entered contest after contest, and still not a single piece of LeCruset!  What am I supposed to do without it?  I did buy another brand of cast iron cookware, and to be honest it’s just fine!  No issues. But… it’s THE NAME that I want so that I can say I have a piece! sigh…    Ok, so the pros to enameled cast iron cookware – you can cook on your stove top and then transfer directly to your oven, and back to your stove top. Julia’s Boeuf Bourgonnoin is made in this.  You start the recipe on the stove, and transfer to the oven.  When I made this the first time, I didn’t own any cast iron cookware and so I started on the stove top, transferred the stew to an oven proof baking dish, then transferred back to another dish afterwards… ugh.  I seriously needed to get me some!  I did.  But not a LeCruset.  ONE DAY!  Oh, yes, I dare to dream!

5speedImersionAlso on my list for this year (or soon I hope) is the KitchenAid 5-speed immersion blender – or any immersion blender with power!

Quoting the KitchenAid.ca  site this blender has the industry’s first “Interchangeable Stainless Steel Bell Blade Assemblies and FIRST EVER Removable Pan Guards.”  I don’t even know what that means, but it excites me!  🙂  Basically I think that it means I can change the blades with ease and that it will allow me to  blend, puree (my main reason for wanting one – soup!), chop, shred, mince, froth, etc.  Imagine making smoothies with this much ease!

parchmentA must have on my list of favourite things for every kitchen is Parchment Paper.  Pictured here is the Pampered Chef brand but really any good quality brand will do. I have a gigantic roll from Costco! It’s lasted me almost a year now and I use it all the time!  I was recently asked if I preferred parchment or a silpat mat.  I have to be honest, I haven’t used silpat before but my niece (Modern Day Martha) swears by it.  I’ll have to try it.  For now, this is my “must have” in my kitchen.  It makes clean up a snap! Also, you can reuse it!! Did you know that?  If you are baking cookies or biscuits, or scones… just fold it in between uses and store (it needs to be dry first) and you can use it a second time!  I love that nothing sticks to it! Right now, I have cookie dough rolled out in between sheets of parchment in my fridge waiting for me to cut it into cute little shapes and bake!  Parchment is not very expensive. Pick up a roll and put it in your favourite baker’s stocking!

commercial

A good commercial grade cookie sheet is almost a must!  Pictured here is the Chicago Metallic Commercial II sheet. I purchased this at the Baking & Sweets show in Toronto, at the Golda’s Kitchen booth.  I bought two.  Larger than the normal sized cookie sheets that you generally see at department type stores (WalMart, Canadian Tire, etc.) the Chicago Metallic one is sturdy and heavier than the typical baking sheet.  However, it is also guaranteed not to warp!  Have you ever put something in your oven on a cookie sheet and heard that ‘pop’ – looked through the glass oven door to see your cookie sheet has warped in baking?  That is SO annoying and frustrating.  I have thrown out so many cookie sheets in my day. I am very happy with this cookie sheet – and plan to get more… hoping my husband is reading this so that he can pick me up a few more!…. it makes baking a breeze – holds more cookies or whatever you want to use it for.  On my list – need more!  Trust me, once you try a commercial grade cookie sheet, you just can’t go back to the ones you’ve been using now!  Put it on your list!

21Km8KJXiPL._AA160_A Chef’s Knife.  ABSOLUTELY an essential! I have one.  I have a (useless) knife set and block.  When I got it I thought it was great.  It’s not. The first time I used a real Chef’s knife – I was floored!  The weighted blade, the handle grip, the sharpness!  I started to LOVE cooking all over again.  I always “liked” to cook, but with a good knife it really did making everything so much easier. Can’t stress this enough!  Canadian Living magazine recently ran a feature on choosing the right Chef Knife.  The opening line in this on-line article states “A good knife can elevate dinner prep from a chore to a pleasure. It’s an investment and treasure that should – with the right care – last a lifetime.” I couldn’t agree more!  Pictured here is the Wusthof 8″ Chef’s knife.  A dream of a tool!

scoopAgain, from Pampered Chef is the scoop. Great for measuring out muffin batter! or Pancakes!  Or….  you name it!  Use the smaller one for cookies.  You will get a consistent size of muffin/cookie each time!  Inexpensive and well worth investing in.

It will make your time baking just a little bit shorter!  Dishwasher safe.

hero_slide1Finally, (and I say that only because I could go on and on and on…) an iPad would be nice!  I often work with my laptop on the kitchen counter –  you know what that means!   Yep, the potential for a horrific laptop accident!  I use it to refer to tutorials, to recipes, to watch movies while I cook (yes I do! It passes the time, don’t judge!)I could use it in my recipe book stand. Watch tutorials from Sweetopia or movies, and bake/cook away!  Life would be so sweet!  Okay, that’s definitely NOT an essential in my kitchen, but just a nice “if I didn’t need anything else, this is what I would like” type of thing! And I could use it to take much better pictures of my foodie creations!  Justified the expense?  Oh, I think so! Now the task of convincing you-know-who that this is an absolute kitchen essential for me!

I could go on and on… but I need to get back to work.  I have cookies to be cut out!  Menus to finish up.  Grocery shopping to plan.

And oops – still need to do some Christmas Shopping!

T’was the night before Christmas, and all through the house…. everyone was sleeping except for me – I’ll be the one up late wrapping gifts and prepping food!

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas, celebrating with the ones you love!  May God bless you in 2013!

Happy noshing,

Heather

Christmas, Cookies

Mastering The Art of Cookie Decorating… or at least Attempting to!

Christmas tree lights. On.  Fireplace. On.  Christmas music playing softly in the background. Check!  Icing mixed and ready to go? Check…I think.

After a few frustrating starts I finally figured out how to make cookies that do not spread when you bake them.  Okay, confession – I DIDN’T figure it out, I asked an expert!  Thank you Marian Poirier from Sweetopia.  Let me back up a bit.  I have been following Sweetopia for some time, a couple of years anyway.  This past September I attended the Baking & Sweets Show in Toronto for a couple of reasons; 1) Anna Olson, 2) Duff Goldman, 3) DC Cupcake Girls, and 4) Cookies with Sweetopia. Both my sister-in-law Christine and I were both in awe of Marian’s cookies!  Seriously!  Gorgeous!  But, hey, being the naive person I am, I figured ‘how hard can it be?’ HA…. I know… I can hear you laughing!! I really can!  Sheesh… Let me know when you stop, I’m going to refill my coffee…..

Done?  Okay, I’ll carry on….

To say I’m an avid baker would be lying.  I much prefer to cook a meal than to bake! I do enjoy baking, but you get it – I prefer to cook!  Anyway, each post that Marian had I would drool more. She recently had a post with a variety of beautifully decorated Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer cookies.  I KNOW!  Unbelievable!  They were gorgeous.  So gorgeous…and again my naivety  showing through….looked so easy!  I went ahead and ordered a stand mixer cookie cutter from Ecrandal Handmade Copper Cookie Cutters. Oh it was a thing of beauty! Big, shiny, copper-y…  sigh.

I got right at baking cookies.  All gingerbread (my fave!).  To my dismay, the cookies spread in the oven.  But… I did everything Marian said!  At the Baking & Sweets show, I asked!!!  She said: chill the dough (done), roll the dough and re-chill (done), cut the shapes & re-chill (done), bake (done).  I had big blobs of what could be seen as a stand mixer cookie if you were a psychologist reading “cookie blots” instead of ink blots!  I was so disappointed.  But hey, my husband and I had awesome tasting HUGE gingerbread cookies to eat!  Wasn’t a total loss!

Then came Mixed, Again Marian was at that, and so I was determined to have a few minutes with her to really pick her brain on the errors of my way!  So, with a few minutes to sit with her at dinner the first night I asked… boldly.  Why do my cookies suck?  Okay, that’s not really what I said!  What I did ask was why they spread when I did everything right!  She asked about the type of butter I was using – the best, of course.  That’s key – you need to use a good quality butter.  Don’t use no-name stuff – the water content is too high! You need to use a good full-fat butter.  Check. Butter I know.  Butter I do – too well!

Marian's cookie tutorial
Marian’s cookie tutorial

So, I asked one more question – should I be using baking powder in the cookies?  NO!  Ah, well now we’re getting somewhere!  Baking powder works with the flour to make your cookies light and fluffy and yummy to eat. So yes yummy for eating, but it also makes them fluff (and spread) and therefore not great for decorating purposes.  OK!  Now we’re cooking… er, baking!

After a cookie decorating tutorial with Marian and my first (very awful looking) cookies – and much laughing from my friend Lynne, I vowed to myself to go home, bake, and try again.

Pathetic attempt at decorating (at "Mixed")
Pathetic attempt at decorating (at “Mixed”)

Well I baked a double batch of gingerbread cookies – as per ALL instructions for decorating.  Now, of course doing it this way is a bit time-consuming, so if you want to eat cookies right away this isn’t method for you.  I did follow each step – chill dough, roll dough, chill again, cut shapes, chill again, bake.  To my utter delight they turned out PERFECT!  I was so excited!  I just wanted to stare at them, but that would make me seem a bit weird so I pretended they were just as expected and that I wasn’t the least bit surprised!  (But we all know, I was!!)

Next step after letting them completely cool was to make the royal icing.  Again I used the recipe found on Sweetopia.net and it worked beautifully!  Marian also gives tips on getting the right consistency for piping and decorating – you really need to follow that or it can be disastrous! So, here’s when it went south – yet again!  I mixed up my icing, divided it, made some pretty red and green icing (and kept some white)… and realized I only had ONE #2 icing tip!  That just wouldn’t do!  I tried though!  And failed!  You just can’t outline and flood a cookie, clean the tip and change colours and carry on with the next colour!  The original (white in this case) starts to harden making decorating very difficult!  ARGH!  I was becoming a very frustrated cookie decorating diva!
The icing got packed away in air-tight containers in my fridge (thankfully it keeps well!) and went to bed. Angry.  With myself.  Argh (in true pirate voice!)

Now, you need to know I live in a very small but beautiful little town, Uxbridge, where there is no Michael’s, and for you American’s – no Hobby Lobby either.  Thankfully, we recently got a Bulk Barn {cue excited squeals!} and it has a very good section with baking supplies with cake, cookie, and candy decorating supplies!  And I mean – LOTS of stuff!  I cleaned them out of #2 Wilton tips!  I bought 4.  Apparently that’s the most popular one they sell – who knew?  I have lots of disposable icing bags so now I was all set to get back at it again.

Finally, last night, we finished dinner (a wonderful beef stew seasoned with Herbs de Provence)  and I donned my apron again.  Loaded up the icing bags (not too full) got the cookies ready and started to experiment in hopes that anything I did would look better than the ones I did at the Mixed Conference!  I think they did!

Cookies, the sequel
Cookies, the sequel
ornament cookie
ornament cookie

Please forgive the picture quality, for some reason the flash wouldn’t work! Bah, technology!  The cookies are not perfect by any means, but they are WAY better than the one I did at Mixed.  I’m hooked Marian!  All I can think of now is baking more cookies and trying again.  I’m sure with each go at it my technique will improve.  While I don’t think I’ll ever be as amazing as Marian, and really you need to check her website and look at some of the amazing work she does, I can only hope I can decorate without some of the really nasty errors that I see now that they have dried overnight!  I think I’ve mastered ‘flooding’ now I just need to work on the actual decorating technique to make them more aesthetically pleasing and well, just plain “OH WOW HEATHER YOU ARE INCREDIBLY BRILLIANT” worthy!  Hey, I can dream!!!

Until next time,

Happy noshing!

p.s. I’ll post an update as the cookies (hopefully) improve!

Christmas

Who are you calling a Fruit Cake?

Hmmm, Christmas!  I love this time of year!  I love all the smells!  I love all the lights! I love that people are generally happy and polite!  (I love that I’m using a million exclamation marks in this post so far!)

My daughter and I have an annual ritual – we watch Bing Crosby’s White Christmas together.  Now, if you’ve watched it you know there is very little “Christmas” in that movie until it nears the very end.  But my goodness that Vera Ellen could dance!  Those feet move at lightening speed. Last year was the first year we didn’t watch it together, and yet we did.  She was a newlywed and we don’t live too too close together – about a 40-45 minute drive from each other.  So we watched it at the same time, exactly, with tea and Christmas Cookies, both logged into MSN Messenger, and both hit the play button at the same time.  It was the most fun thing to do!  We quoted lines before they were said.  We laughed. We had fun – watching a movie together in different towns at the same time!  Try it!

This year, we watched it together at my home. and it was just delightful.  I miss my daughter living at home, but I do love that she has become quite a wonderful baker.  Her cookies are fantastic.  Well, everything she bakes turns out so well, including pie! Oh how jealous I am of her pie making abilities – it’s the one thing I have never mastered.  😦   I digress…

Christmas!  Fruit Cake!  Door stops?  Nope.  Another family tradition is the Christmas Cake that my mother gives me each year.  Back in “the day” she would make it from scratch and decorate it with the marzipan and icing and glace cherries of red and green, together with some beautiful silver dragées.  It was a work of art.  Delicious?  Sure was!  Well mom is now 88 and her Christmas Cake baking days are over.  But each year I still get a Fruit Cake from her, usually purchased from the local Lion’s Club.  It’s not nearly as good as hers was but it still brings back memories.  I’m really sad that nobody else likes it – what memories of Christmas will my own family have if they don’t have the fruit cake?  But, then again, on the other hand if nobody else LIKES fruit cake, that means I get it all to myself!  One year I ate an entire fruit cake by myself… I was pretty sure I was going to turn into a fruit cake!

So thank you mom, for feeding me that doorstop… er, Fruit Cake so early as a young child and for keeping in me Fruit Cake every year!  I’ll need to make my own someday, and hopefully soon so that I can give YOU a treat of fruit cake one year.

I love you mom, thanks for 54 years of wonderful Christmas memories! I’m passing along traditions to my own children – all grown and all gone from home now – in hopes that they too will pass along traditions to their children. To my kids, fruit cake is not the one Christmas Treat they count on each year.  It’s “Millionaire’s Shortbread” – called that because I’m pretty sure you have to be a millionaire to make it!

What are your favourite Christmas treats that shout “Christmas memories” to you? Let me know! Maybe I’ll whip it up and blog about it right here!

Until next time,

Happy Noshing!