Tag Archives: sugar cookies

Home for the holidays

Merry Christmas! / ¬°Feliz Navidad! I hope that you are all enjoying some kind of a slowdown or a break right now, and that you have plenty of time to spend with your loved ones, wherever you are.

I came home from school on the night of the 21st, in the middle of a big snowstorm that ended up dumping about 8 inches of the white stuff in our neighborhood. The next day involved lots of shoveling. On the 23rd, I went shopping (I swore I’d be done by then), baked three kinds of cookies, and wrapped all of my gifts. In my head, I was going to be finished with all of those tasks by about 5 o’ clock. I finished at 12:30 AM.

Idyllic, until you have to shovel it out of your driveway. (Oh, why am I complaining? My family did most of it.)

Idyllic, until you have to shovel it out of your driveway. (Oh, why am I complaining? My family did most of it.)

Cookie baking started at 8 AM...

Cookie baking started at 8 AM…

...picked up again around 5 PM...

…picked up again around 5 PM…

...and finally ended around 11 PM.

…and finally ended around 11 PM.

The next morning, I did a little cleaning, prepped a breakfast casserole, and baked a coffee cake for Christmas morning. After all of that, the huge payoff was a slow and lovely Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We like to draw things out in my house- wake up, make the coffee, maybe open the stockings, then eat breakfast, then open a few presents, then take a break to talk to family, then a few more gifts, then a break…and so on until it’s all done. We may have established a new record for longest Christmas gift-opening this year- not because we have hundreds of gifts, but because we take our sweet time. I will be doing the same with my own children and they will probably lose their minds.

No words.

No words.

Just about sums it up.

Just about sums it up.

In other news: I got the grant! And…I’m not going to Chile this time around. For one thing, flight prices went up and would exceed the entire award. For another (and more important) thing, it would just have been too much stress to organize a trip right at the end of finals week, and then be traveling for almost the entirety of my shorter-than-normal break. Conversations with no less than two advisors, my boss, my parents, and four friends confirmed my instinct that all of the craziness would not be worth it. So I’m taking a break and spending more time at home than I have since last winter break.

I knew barely a day into it that this was the right decision. I haven’t been this relaxed and relatively unoccupied in months. My life would be so incredibly hectic right now were I to be heading to Chile next week. This is not to say that I don’t miss everyone and everything in that skinny little country and that hot, bustling city I’ve called home, but sometimes you just need to stick around in one place for a little while longer. And for me right now, that place is here. I know that I’ll be back in Santiago one day. The links are too strong now for it to be any other way. But this was not the time. If I were supposed to be going, I would just know, and I would not have agonized over the decision, and it would not have caused me so much stress. Being an ambitious person makes it really difficult to say no to an opportunity like a paid international trip. But I also needed to realize that the bigger opportunity may have been this very vacation that I’ve got right now. Everything happens for a reason- and so far, it’s turning out very, very well.

Life is good, friends. I hope that you can celebrate the holidays a little while longer, even beyond New Year’s. If you’re Catholic like me, remember that Christmas doesn’t technically end for us until Epiphany- so don’t stop until then! Appreciate the time you have with your loved ones, and let them know that you’re happy to be there with them. Put away your phone and shut your laptop down for a while (…says the girl writing this on the Internet). Just sit. And smile. Think about how good this year was- and how much more awesome next year will be.

Wishing you peace, joy, and above all, love,

Gaby

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Catching up on cookies

Hello friends!

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas (or other winter holiday) and are kicking off 2013 right. It was pretty busy around here, hence why I haven’t posted since Christmas Eve.

There were still several cookies I didn’t post before Christmas, so here they are:

Lemon raspberry thumbprints. An unexpected hit.

Lemon raspberry thumbprints. An unexpected hit.

I made these last year and remembered that they were kind of a black sheep among all the chocolate goodies and my requisite sugar cookies. But this year, they were pretty popular and almost didn’t make it to Christmas Eve. Recipe is here.

Holiday pretzel treats. A pretzel, a Hershey's Kiss, and an M&M.

Holiday pretzel treats. A pretzel, a Hershey’s Kiss, and an M&M.

These little things look a little bit like reindeer if you look at them from above. They’re really easy; try them out with other kinds of pretzels and colored candies here. If you could find M&M’s in your team’s colors (like, maybe green and gold? I think purple and yellow would be a really ugly combination, actually), I bet you could even make these for NFL gamewatches. Or with red, white, and pink for Valentine’s Day. The possibilities are endless!

Oh, don’t take them out of the oven too early to press the M&M in, or they’ll get that funky lip thing you can see on mine. It happens.

German cinnamon stars. A funky, spicy little standout.

German cinnamon stars. A funky, spicy little standout.

These are actually flourless. The base of these cookies is a meringue mixed with ground almonds and powdered sugar. I believe they are supposed to be pretty crunchy, but since I used all the meringue (instead of saving some for the topping) and didn’t have as much almonds as the recipe said, mine were sticky and chewy. But still delicious! I found the recipe in my Illustrated Step-by-Step Baking cookbook, by Caroline Bretherton.

Sugar cookies, take 2!

Sugar cookies, take 2!

I made sugar cookies twice over this break, once the week before Christmas, and then frantically on Christmas Eve day. But I love these cookies. I use the recipe in our old Betty Crocker cookbook. You can find whatever recipe you’d like.

Oh. And I made Chilean alfajores. All from scratch. Yes, I attempted manjar from scratch. It was less than successful.

The beginnings of manjar.

The beginnings of manjar.

The far and away preferred method of making manjar is to boil an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk for about an hour. I, however, was terrified of the can exploding, having heard horror stories of where people’s ceilings get dented and you have to scrape manjar off of light fixtures. That’s not happening here. So, I found a recipe online that told me to cook whole milk with sugar, vanilla, and baking soda for a while until it all cooks down to a nice, caramel-y texture.

An hour later.

An hour later.

The whole thing was supposed to take around an hour and a half. So when I wasn’t even close to getting the results I wanted, I looked at the recipe reviews. Kids: ALWAYS look at online recipe reviews before you use the recipe! The reviews were, in general, horrible. That the time was off, that it never turns out, that the texture is wrong, you need more sugar, etc. And on top of that, everyone said that it’s just better to go the boiling-can route.

The final product.

The final product.

I basically let it boil the whole time rather than simmer, and eventually it cooked down. The photo above is what I ended up with. Anyone who has had experience with dulce de leche or manjar knows that that is NOT what it is supposed to look like. It should be smoother and darker. This tasted about right, but it was difficult to work with and was just not appealing.

I went ahead and made alfajores anyway.

They're trying so hard to be alfajores...but they're just not.

They’re trying so hard to be alfajores…but they’re just not.

Argh. This was frustrating. These just aren’t what Chilean alfajores are supposed to look like, or even taste like. Don’t get me wrong, they tasted great- the cookie was buttery and sweet, and the manjar tasted good (although the texture was so off). But in my experience, the cookie should be drier, and the manjar smoother but still sticky.

Meh. I can’t get everything right. It happens.

Coming up real soon: New Year’s resolutions and Instagram!

With love,

Gaby

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