Martha Stewart Cookie Boxes – 2012

Oops.

The packaging for the tea-themed cookies I made for last year’s Holiday Bake-A-Thon totally slipped my mind.

I picked a new design for my holiday cookie boxes, which the Earl Grey Tea Shortbread, Chai Spiced Snickerdoodle, Glazed Lemon Cookies, and Chocolate-Mint (Nightmare Before Christmas) Pinwheel Cookies were boxed in.

Only the Earl Grey Shortbread cookies had actual tea leaves in them.  The rest of the cookies were just flavor-inspired, and I paired them with Stash brand tea bags in Peppermint Herbal Tea, Chai Spiced Black Tea, Earl Grey Black Tea, and Lemon Ginger Herbal Tea.

What's Inside
What’s Inside

While this box was far more festive than last year’s cookie boxes, I think last year’s were more my style.

All Wrapped Up!
All Wrapped Up!

However, I think for the individual packages, this year’s tagline is about on par with last year’s cheesiness.

Brew Up Some Fun, and Have a Tea-riffic Holiday!
Brew Up Some Fun, and Have a Tea-riffic Holiday!

One more post, and then I’m DONE with the Holiday Bake-A-Thon from 2012!

Potato Chip Cookies

People don’t traditionally associate dessert with Super Bowl food, so I combined two of America’s favorite snacks (the cookie and the potato chip) for this year’s Super Bowl party!

I’m proud to say I’ve been getting a little braver with my baking and improvising a lot more.  I’ve done it with cooking, but I always hesitated to do the same with baking since even the slightest bit too much or too little of something can throw a dessert’s chemistry off and completely change the texture and sometimes even the flavor.  Most of my experimenting has come with flavor rather than texture as of late.

I sourced the recipe for these cookies from Emeril, but I like my sweet-and-salty desserts a bit saltier so I adapted the recipe as such:

Ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar, divided
1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped and toasted pecans
1/2 cup finely crushed potato chips (I used Kettle Sea Salt potato chips smashed in a baggie with my hands)
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour

Chocolate and potato chip dip finish (optional)
1 cup crushed potato chips (used a food processor to crush finer)
1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 teaspoon canola oil (butter will work too)

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter with 1/2 cup of the sugar until lightly and fluffy with a dough blender.  Two knives will work too, as I made these at a friend’s and had forgotten to bring my pastry blender. Mix in the vanilla and salt until smooth. Add the pecans, 1/2 cup crushed potato chips and flour together and mix until just combined.

I Miss My Dough Blender
I Miss My Dough Blender

2.  Place the remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a small bowl. Scoop a tablespoon-sized mound of dough and form it into a small, firm ball.  Roll the ball in the remaining sugar until coated.  Place on prepared baking sheet and slightly flatten the cookie balls.  The cookies only spread a wee bit, so they only need to be about an inch apart.  Repeat with remaining dough.

3.  Bake cookies until lightly golden around the edges, about 15 minutes. Transfer to cool on a wire rack.

4.  If dipping in chocolate, melt chocolate with oil in the microwave (do a few 30-second increments) or in a double boiler.  Stir until smooth.  Dip half of each fully cooled cookie in the chocolate, and sprinkle with pulverized potato chips.  Let dry and set on a wire rack.

Dipped and Setting
Dipped and Setting

I probably slightly overdid the salt between using salted chips and adding more salt (I used a full teaspoon originally) than what Emeril’s recipe called for, so I dipped them in bittersweet chocolate and then sprinkled crushed potato chips on top.  They were looking a little on the plain side any way, so it worked out nicely!

My New Cake Stand. Thanks, Melo!
My New Cake Stand. Thanks, Melo!

Melody was my Sho-Yu secret santa this year and got me this fabulous Martha Stewart miniature cake stand.  I’m very excited to be using it to show off my latest edibles!

PS – I loved Beyonce’s catwalk during her half time performance this year.  I’ve been practicing it myself, but I just don’t think it’s quite on par yet…

Thomas Keller’s “Ad Hoc at Home” Chocolate Chip Cookies

Alex, Lingie, and I made the trek up to the Pacific Northwest back in December to visit our beloved Andrew. The four of us, being the laid back yet eccentric group that we are, decided that the first bullet point on our itinerary was for us all to cook a meal together. Nothing else was planned til less than week before our departure date.

Seattle!
Seattle!

Here’s what we came up with!

Andrew's Salmon Prep
Andrew’s Salmon Prep

Andrew taught us how to do a pan-fried salmon, and Lingie helped prep.  We liked the recipe so much, we made it again the next night.

Ain't Nobody Got THYME Fo Dat...
Ain’t Nobody Got THYME Fo Dat…

Andrew also made a linguini vongole with bacon lardons.

Linguini Vongole with Bacon Lardons
Linguini Vongole with Bacon Lardons

We all contributed to a salad consisting of julienne pink lady apples, grated pecorino, and candied walnuts all topped with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.

Salad with Grated Pecorino, Julienned Pink Lady Apples, and Candied Walnuts
Salad with Grated Pecorino, Julienned Pink Lady Apples, and Candied Walnuts

At the request of our gracious host, I made a batch of Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc Chocolate Chip Cookies in Andrew’s oven, which had convection capabilities at the flip of a switch (which I used, obvi).  I live quite an exciting life.  Alex helped me with the cookies.

Alex is Great with Balls
Alex is Great with Balls

I liked these cookies because they used two kinds of dark chocolate, so they weren’t too sweet (which is my issue with most chocolate chip cookies).

Gorgeous Lighting
Gorgeous Lighting

However, if I made these again, I would use the organic chocolate I’ve recently discovered at Trader Joe’s.  It’s deliciously 85% dark and cocoa buttery smooth.  It’s also quite bitter… like me!  You are what you eat, right?

Thomas Keller's "Ad Hoc at Home" Chocolate Chip Cookies
Thomas Keller’s “Ad Hoc at Home” Chocolate Chip Cookies

We paired the cookies hot out of the oven with pints (yes, PINTS) of Ben and Jerry’s “Pistachio Pistachio” ice cream, and I used the dust remnants of the chocolate I chopped to sprinkle over the ice cream.

Not going to lie – pistachio and dark chocolate were made to be together.  The beauty of pistachio ice cream with any form of dark chocolate (bars, warm cake, cookies, anything!)  brings me tears of joy every time.

This recipe was also my inspiration for what I ended up baking yesterday in preparation for Valentine’s Day… which I probably won’t post about for another 3 months at this rate.  More to come on that front!

Chai Spiced Snickerdoodle

It is literally too cold to do anything but go from my home to work to home. Anything beyond that requires too many layers of clothing and too much discipline.  I did, however, manage to get my fat ass out to play some pick-up basketball last night and was somehow sore enough today that I tripped (twice) walking up the stairs at work because I had trouble lifting my feet.  Unfortunately, my diet has not exactly compensated for my lack of exercise, so this has only attributed to my winter “coat”.  So.  Here I am, growing horizontally, and writing about writing.  Yes folks, this what it’s come to.

I really appreciate a good writer.  I am doubly impressed by people who not only write their own material, but can flawlessly deliver it too.

I started this blog in September of 2010 to an audience of… probably five.  I was a novice baker and amateur crafter. I was somewhat still impressionable, so naturally my writing was way too filtered and thoughtlessly contrived out of fear of your judging eyes. I was hungry (pun intended) to learn and taught myself an immense amount about baking and technique in the last couple of years.  Crafts and sewing took their places on the back burners atop the stove of life, while using that damned oven became an obsession.

I’d like to think my skills have indeed improved over the years, and thanks to some help from Andrew, my photography is closer to bearable. And as for my writing, I just don’t have the energy to filter what I’m writing about anymore. Too bad.  I’ve made humble strides in getting a small but regular viewership from people who are interested in my baking adventures, as well as  a even smaller but very loyal readership from those who think my life’s mishaps are as entertaining as I do.

Lingie and I had an intense debate about writing in general as a craft and hobby a couple of weeks ago. (Note: deep debates between Lingie and I means some philosophical rebuttals interspersed with random YouTube videos of pure genius. Instagram dat joint.) And while Lingie is from the type of audience that could care less about the importance of forming stiff peaks in egg whites before you gently fold (NOT STIR) in the almond flour, the baking enthusiasts could probably probably not muster up a half of a shit about my house getting robbed by an ex porn star even if they tried.

And so, here I am, flattered that my audience of 5 readers has grown exponentially (for the record, 5 to the power of 2 is an exponent – it just sounds sexier than “25”, ok?) in the last few years. Yet, I still frequently ask myself who to write for between the two types of people that follow this blog.  So, til I get there, I’ll just continue to do whatever I want and inefficiently cover both.

Here we are – the last cookie of my Holiday Bake-A-Thon 2012, and SURPRISE!  It’s still tea-themed!

Chai Spiced Snickerdoodle
Chai Spiced Snickerdoodle

What I really liked about the recipe (from My Baking Addiction) is that black pepper was one of the myriad of spices incorporated into the cookies.

Rolling the Dough in the Sugar-Spice Mixture
Rolling the Dough in the Sugar-Spice Mixture

As far as technique goes, it really is made like a snickerdoodle, except the top cracks nicely like a sugar cookie.

I like a good snickerdoodle, but the addition of the black pepper, allspice, cardamom, and extra dose of cinnamon made the delicious spiciness of this chai cookie really something to remember.  YUM.

Thank you to everyone who has stuck by me through my hideous photos, my terribly formed thoughts, and the baking trials and tribulations. I can only hope you’re getting as much amusement (maybe even some inspiration) out of this as I am!

Glazed Lemon Cookies

Society has taught men to chase women. Everywhere.

Men chase women at coffee shops, at the grocery store, in the restroom line (which I actually find to be pretty clever because the girls can’t escape), at church (“Oh hay girl, I like the way you prayyyy”), on the freeway, just everywhere. However, the one place I find really annoying where men chase women is at the gym.

Veiny-armed man in tight dri-fit shirt:  “Hey, do you need some help lifting the 45’s off that bar?
Girl in sports bra and black yoga pants:  “Ohhhh hehehehehehe, only if you don’t mind.

WHAT was that? And ladies, you are enabling this behavior. What I really don’t understand is why girls that wear booty shorts to the gym get mad that guys stare at their ass.

The gym is my sanctuary from the series of stressful or embarrassing (usually both) events that make up my everyday life – work, neurotic family members, rush hour traffic, everything. Exercise is also the yin to the sweet tooth’s yang.

Skinny probably 20-year old Asian guy waving 5 times:  “Hi there. Hey. Hello. Ahem, hi. Um,  I couldn’t help but notice you might be doing your deadlifts wrong.
Me:  “Actually, no I’m doing them right. I was waiting for you to finish with the 70lb barbell so I could use it, but you looked like you were struggling so I went with the 75. You’re going to throw out your back out if you keep letting the weight pull your shoulders forward. Maybe you should go lighter til you’re strong enough to do them properly.

Yes, I’m a bitch. Would you interrupt a meditating monk to ask if the towel service is free for all members? No.

So leave me alone when I’m in the zone and trying to get a good workout in. And I’m not even going to delve into detail about the weird old guys with Asian girl fetishes. Ok lurky 60-year old Spanish man, I really don’t care if you can speak Japanese.  I can’t.  And stop watching me in the mirror.

I’ve always been about comfort and efficiency at the gym, and never dressed girly to exercise – just the normal t-shirt and running shorts. But after being interrupted (and creeped out) enough times, I did what any girl who wanted their solitude back would do.

I started to dress like a man.

I have an endless supply of basketball shirts from the tournaments and leagues I play in, and made cut-offs out of a number of them. And I don’t mean the Carl’s Jr. commercial cutesy crop-top cut-off t-shirt, or even the cut-offs of a Never Nude. I mean a DUDE’s cut-off. And I even made them out of gray shirts so you could see my sweat. I would pair them with the baggiest of my basketball shorts and crew socks pulled up.  Oh yeahhhhh, no one’s going to bother me now.

It definitely worked for a while, but it really didn’t last long. One of the employees at my gym started to make pretty normal small talk with me regularly. “Is that a Keppel basketball sweatshirt? Shawty, you play ball for MARK KEPPEL HIGH SCHOOL? You look like you still play in high school. HAAAAA.”

It was a girl. And she was big. And aggressive. She knew my name even though I never gave it to her.

After workouts, I normally hop over to the basketball court to shoot around if it’s empty.  It was too crowded to shoot one day, so I turned around resolving to go home. Aforementioned she-brute was RIGHT behind me but played it off like she was intending to go into the employee break room. As she opened the door, she looked me up and down and said “You not gon’ BALL today gurrrrl?”  I said no, and that it was too crowded and I didn’t want to play pick-up with those boys.  She said, “Oh come on, you can BAWLL girl. I seen you on the cameras and in the hallway bawwwwllin dem foos up.”

She’s watched me. On the security cameras. And from the window in the hallway peeking into the gym. A lot.

I stopped going to that gym for a month after that and went back to delightfully find that she no longer worked there. Now, I dress for the gym with hopeless androgyny aiming to confuse people, ultimately getting bothered by neither sex. I want to be left alone.

So alone that here I am, writing about going to the gym instead of actually going.  Here’s another update from my Holiday Bake-A-Thon 2012 – the lemony yang to my cross training yin.

I found this recipe on Martha Stewart. I chose these because lemon is a great compliment for tea, though there is no actual tea in these cookies themselves.  The cookies themselves were good and really easy to make, but what I really liked was the tart glaze. I’ll totally use it for something else in the future – maybe atop some scones or muffins?

Here are the directions for the glaze as taken from Martha’s website.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest, and 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice until smooth.
Clever Lemon Juice Contraption for the Glaze
Clever Lemon Juice Contraption for the Glaze

After zesting the lemons for the glaze, I squeezed out the lemon juice on top of the zester to catch the seeds instead of picking them out after the fact. Those slippery things are too hard to grab sometimes. And no, not like that.

Glazed Lemon Cookies
Glazed Lemon Cookies

Overall, the cookies were really refreshing!