Tag Archives: Christmas cookies

A convocation of birds and Glad people.

Meeting my great-grandaughter Lori for the first time was surely a highlight of this Christmas. Her family drove in two days from Washington state, and stayed a week. I had been to her parents’ wedding in 2017, but this was also my first chance to spend much time with her dear mother Izzy, and that too was a highlight.

Truly, it has been ten days of countless overlapping highs and lights such that at this stage the brightness confuses me, and there don’t seem to be points of focus. Also, several of our party were not feeling well in one way or another; I caught one of their bugs that is making me dull. But there are pictures!

Many weeks ago I had told my contractor that if we could just get the “floors and doors” on the new rooms, I would be content to receive my guests. That was barely accomplished by Friday evening the 20th. Primer and/or paint had been applied in some rooms; the painters worked till 11:00 p.m. Then I spent hours moving stuff around to accommodate the thirteen extra sleepers, and made multiple rounds with dust cloths, but the dust was settling for days after the drywallers had left, so that effort was disappointing.

Soldier and family had come from Colorado and were staying with Joy’s parents’ nearby. He and Laddie and Brodie came over on Saturday to put up my tree and decorate it with me. Sunday and Monday the rest of the family arrived.

In addition to Colorado and Washington, family traveled from Washington D.C., Wisconsin, Oregon, and two towns in California. Fourteen of us spread out among six rooms including the living room; 28 total were feasting together and catching up over two days. Two older grandsons didn’t make it down from the north, but a cousin joined us for a few hours. We had four children under two among us, two of whom were just six and seven months old. Several of the children were jet-lagged and a bit distressed by the noisy crowd, but a dozen aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents were on hand to rock and comfort them.

I myself started sleeping better as soon as we crossed from “Before Christmas” into “When the children arrive.” Pearl organized us all into cooking teams, and before that I’d done most of the shopping. Everyone pitched in with everything, including whatever I hadn’t done, and overlooked the dust.

I made the future sewing room into a wrapping room, for all those people who had shipped packages here unwrapped. The crib had been re-assembled Sunday afternoon and it went back and forth from that room into the new guest bedroom, along with a Pack-n-Play. Those rooms had no real window coverings, and there was ample sunshine for more than a week. What a blessing that was. In various groupings people went to the park, on a hike, on a creek walk. The conversations were compelling, and I had to force myself to go to bed while all my favorite people were still talking and laughing, and showing their wonderfulness.

On Christmas Eve Day Pippin made a list for me of all the birds we had seen that day, several of which she had identified for me.

Mourning Dove
Towhee
Scrub Jay
Tufted Titmouse
Anna’s Hummingbird
Townsend’s Warbler
Red-Breasted Nuthatch
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet
Lesser Goldfinch
Pine Siskin
Black-Capped Chickadee
Junco
White-Crowned Sparrow
Field ? Sparrow
Song Sparrow
English Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
House Finch
Bushtit
Nuttall’s Woodpecker

I was thrilled at the abundance of birds! Once I was carrying Raj around in the garden trying to calm him down. It was cool and sunny, and we looked at plants and flowers, and he had become quiet. I was talking in a low voice as we walked on to the patio, and suddenly realized that a song sparrow was busy at the feeder not two feet away. When we got yet closer it moved to the other side of the feeder but didn’t fly away. Close as I was, my picture is blurry, I suppose because I was holding a 30-lb child in my arms while shooting it.

On Christmas Day Kate and I took Raj and Rigo to church. The boys were surprisingly attentive and well-behaved… until they weren’t. So we had to go home a little early. In my neighborhood I scowled into my camera to get this shot, not realizing I was in the picture with the shepherds.

The last seven guests departed today, including three of the littlest ones. As far as my house is concerned, we are mostly now in the “After Christmas” period, when remodeling work is supposed to start up again. But I have a feeling things will be pretty quiet until 2020 arrives, and that’s okay, because I have lots of debriefing to do with myself, and processing of all the love and good deeds and good wishes that flowed into the house and all over the place. And a few more Days of Christmas during which I will make some plates of cookies for the neighbors, and watch the Iceland Poppies bloom.

Christ is born! Glorify Him!

Not codes, but cookies!

This morning I started gathering and measuring ingredients for a few of the cookie recipes I like to make at Christmas. I was afraid to start mixing them and actually cooking, afraid I would make a mistake, with so many distractions of carpenters and tile-setters coming and going, asking questions.

The truck that brought the new sheet rock had a boom so long and mighty that it reached all the way from the street up to the second-story window, which was the easiest route in. The delivery was two hours late, so it arrived about the same time as the contractor and the inspector.

While the inspector was here I was on pins and needles from the suspense; she was returning to inspect the “corrections” she had noted on Monday. I opened the door to the wet back garden and looked out there without seeing, and prayed. It is scary what power these inspectors have, and in California the building code provides a endlessly shifting and growing body of regulations to draw from so that it is easy to find lots of things that need correcting, which translates to extra hours and money fixing things that aren’t broken. But enough about that — I started out wanting to talk about cookies!

And sugar. I know that sugar is BAD, but I find it hard to come down too hard on the stuff, partly because I have a historical family interest in C&H (California and Hawaiian) Sugar Company, for which my great uncle was a chemist.

Have you heard that cane sugar is better for you (or, more precisely, not as bad for you!) and makes better-tasting baked goods than beet sugar? I don’t know if either or both of those are true or myths. But I do always buy C&H cane, when I am buying white sugar.

When I poured a fresh bag into my sugar jar today I noted how pretty it is. I wonder if I ever showed you the jar that I have kept sugar in for decades; it came from my husband’s family’s cabin where I think they were using it for sugar when I first saw it.

Do you remember this picture from when I was in India,
of women buying coarse sugar from bulk bins?

This year I’m experimenting with making a few of my traditional cookies gluten-free, for the sake of a family member who I’d like to be able to eat them. But when it comes to sweetening, I don’t worry whether it’s fructose or sucrose or honey or beets — I just try to keep the sweetness to a minimum so we can taste the butter and other interesting flavors.

I eventually got the dough made for the Ginger Spice cookies, but I haven’t got one cookie into the oven yet. The kinds that I’ve started measuring out ingredients for are:

Chunky Ginger Spice
Double Pecan Thumbprints
Apricot Macaroons

I was going to link you to the recipes…. Oops — I’ve never transcribed the recipes here! But the link on the Thumbprints above will take you to the recipe eventually. The photo of a cookie platter at top is from a few years ago. I hope tomorrow I can make a little more progress. It soothes my nerves to bake Christmas cookies.

The inspector signed off on all the corrections. She was surprised that “we” were able to get them done so fast. 🙂 I wish I’d had a plate of cookies to give her as she went out the door.

What to say about a cookie?

This one is certainly the Cookie of the Year, though I don’t know which year, because I started the dough in 2018 and finished them in 2019. A new recipe, from the current Bon Appétit, which means you can find it on epicurious.com:  Double-Pecan Thumbprints.

The layer of flavor-rich frangipane tops off (even though it’s in the middle) the oh-so-toasty-pecan everything of this thumbprint. It instantly became my favorite cookie of all time. I spent hours over several days browsing recipes and planning this year’s cookies; that brainstorming was the easy part. Shopping, baking, then giving and eating took any remaining energies, leaving little for describing or promoting. But I wish you might try baking these so you can taste for yourself. Now that you’ve seen the picture, take a look at that recipe, and if it calls to you…

(I’m sorry if you recently resolved to eat no more cookies. 😦 )

pecan thumbprints 2018 cookies

 

In the kitchen on St. Stephen’s Day.

Today was a cooking day, mostly. I baked a few more of the cookies I already showed you, and started in on several more kinds…

1) Rich chocolate cookie from the Fine Cooking website. The best flavor, but overly tender and crumbly for my use. I wanted a cookie to fill with the Ghirardelli peppermint chunks I had bought. Did a lot of experimenting, baking three or five cookies at a time.

2) Spiral Green Tea Cookies that turned out kind of blah, in both color and flavor. Maybe they would be a brighter green if my matcha powder were newer?

3) Black Walnut Icebox cookies from Linda of The Task at Hand blog. These are really good!

4) Peanut Brittle from Suburban Jubilee. What drew me to this recipe was that it didn’t require a candy thermometer. It was easy and delicious.

5) The first batch of Licorice Meringues were a product of the kitchen last week; I didn’t get to making a second today. The recipe is from Samarkand: Recipes and Stories from Central Asia and the Caucasus, a cookbook that Kate gave me.

The flavor depends on dried licorice root powder, and the color comes from stripes of black food color gel that you paint on the inside of your piping bag. I want to make more of these because I think they could use more of the licorice element, and because I hope to get closer to making my cookies resemble the gorgeous ones in the book.

 

Oh, and I did cook three sweet and stripey squashes that came in my farm box. My next farm box is coming soon so it’s good to clear out the shelves. I ended my dinner with one of them, and they are pretty enough to close out my foodie report.