Christmas

Christmas Cookie Icing

by Shawnda on December 7, 2012

in Christmas,Cookies and Bars

Sugar Cookie Icing

You know what the best part of decorating cookies is? That moment right before you actually start making the icing. Everything is clean, lined up, and ready to go. Because by the time that the icing is done, all bags and bottles have been filled with each color, and the cookies are spread out… the place is a complete disaster.

Sugar Cookie Icing

And that’s just the island.

Sugar Cookie Icing Sugar Cookie Icing

But it’s always a ton of fun and The Little gets a kick out of “painting” with “mommy’s tools.”

I don’t love royal icing so I opted to try a recommended nonroyal sugar cookie icing. It behaves pretty much exactly like royal icing, only it dries glossier (which I failed to capture, but it does). And it doesn’t have that funky royal icing smell that I associate with meringue powder. You outline, flood, and add detail.

Sugar Cookie Icing

And spend the rest of the night quoting A Christmas Story. You’ll shoot your eye out! I can’t put my arms down! Ohhhhh Fuuuuuuudge.

And if your husband is 3 weeks deep into Cousin-Eddie-from-Christmas-Vacation quotes, he probably won’t even roll his eyes once :)

Sugar Cookie Icing

The downside – the plain white icing less opaque than plain royal icing. This is where, if you haven’t before, you might just see the value in white food coloring. I didn’t have any and thought it looked pretty good after drying.

The recipe for the cookies you see above is my very favorite cut-out sugar cookie recipe. It’s a shortbread-sugar cookie hybrid from The Pastry Queen. It’s delicious and doesn’t overly spread or puff when you bake it.

And the leg lamp came from a homebrew cookie cutter – I simply found a picture online of a leg lamp, scaled it to a better size, printed it, and traced it onto a piece of cardboard reclaimed from soda fridge pack box. And I saved $10 by not buying a cookie cutter. (Although I’d happily spring for the cookie cutter if I were making more than just a few of these.)

Homemade Leg Lamp Cookie Cutter

I found the original icing recipe size to be far too small for decorating – but it probably would have been fine for just dipping cookies. We made a double batch of the recipe you see below to decorate 2 dozen cookies with several colors and had almost nothing leftover.

Sugar Cookie Icing

An alternative to royal icing that makes equally pretty decorations on cut-out sugar cookies.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp milk (plus more to adjust consistency)
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp corn syrup (plus more to adjust consistency)
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • Gel food colorings (I use Americolor)

Instructions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, corn syrup, and extract until uniform.
  2. You may find this mixture to be far too thick even for outlining (I sure did) so add equal parts of milk & corn syrup until the consistency is right (I needed 1 1/2 tsp more of each).
  3. Divide between bowls and color the frosting.
  4. Transfer to a piping bag, candy bottle, or my favorite - a small sandwich baggie fitted with a coupler and tip (I use Wilton #1-2 for outlining, 2-3 for detail).

Notes

Yields: Enough frosting to decorate 12 cookies in 4-5 colors

Source: AllRecipes

Estimated time: 10 minutes

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Gingerbread Caramels

by Shawnda on November 29, 2012

in Candy,Christmas,Holiday Favorites

Gingerbread Caramel

This is a very exciting Christmas on the “Christmas as a Parent” scale. The first Christmas was all about watching your sweet bundle of drool staring hypnotically at the blinking tree. That’s also the one where you learn that no matter how awesome or noisy or flashy that toy is, the box or bag or wrapping paper that encased it is a thousand times better.

No – 10,000 times better.

The second one is when you learn that those glass ornaments you’ve used for the last 4 years have to go back into the attic for the next 16. But they’re far more excited about play kitchens and trains and puzzles and slide-erasable etch-a-sketch thingies than they are the paper it was wrapped in.

Christmas Christmas
Christmas Christmas

But this Christmas, this is the one where she is just old enough to start to understand the concepts of the holidays, from Tebowing in front of the Christmas tree (not really; but what’s up, Kim), to celebrating with family (I see my Gia and PaPaw?!), to celebrating the birth of Jesus (we make cake for Jesus burt-day party?), to Santa Claus (Mr. Boogie scare Santa?).

And until a week ago, the only thing that my daughter could tell you about Santa Claus had to do with The Nightmare Before Christmas. Oops.

But we get to start fun new traditions this year. Like listening to Bing Crosby while we put up the Christmas tree in our pajamas. And frothing milk for hot chocolate with Shrek the Halls on in the background. Hanging stockings, decorating the mantle, and reading The Elf on The Shelf (I caved and conformed) with the smell of gingerbread filling the house.

Gingerbread Caramels

The fastest way to get into the holiday spirit is to put up a bunch of plastic decorations, set out a creepy toy elf, and make your house smell like gingerbread.

True story.

I whipped up a batch of my favorite caramel recipe the other night and spiked it with a generous dose of gingerbread spices. Mom’s gingerbread was always spiced with plenty of black pepper and plenty of cloves. The warmth from those spices really set her cookies (and bread, and cakes) apart. And it’s just not Christmas without it.

Gingerbread Caramels

Chewy, buttery caramels full of warm gingerbread spices makes a great grown-up Christmas candy.

Ingredients

  • For the homemade gingerbread spice mix:
  • 1 Tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp fresh finely ground black pepper
  • For the caramels:
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 tsp vanilla or vanilla bean paste
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp gingerbread spice
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp light corn syrup or Lyle's Golden Syrup
  • 2 Tbsp molasses
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/8 tsp cloves (optional)
  • Finely ground black pepper (optional)

Instructions

  1. Stir together the ingredients for the gingerbread spice in a small bowl until mixed well, making sure to press out any lumps with a spoon.
  2. Leftover spice can be stored in a small airtight jar or a zip-top bag.
  3. Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with buttered parchment paper.
  4. Bring cream, butter, vanilla, salt, and 1 Tbsp gingerbread spice just to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.
  5. Boil sugars, corn syrup, molasses, and water in a 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Attach a candy thermometer and continue boiling without stirring (just gently swirl the pan occasionally) until mixture reaches 310-315.
  6. Carefully pour in the cream mixture into the caramel (take care, mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 246.
  7. Around softball stage (~240), I took a small spoonful of caramel sauce, cooled it down in a small bowl of ice water, formed it into a ball, and tasted it - I decided I wanted more cloves and a few more grinds of black pepper and just sprinkled those over top.
  8. Pour into baking pan and cool completely (about an hour).
  9. Cut into 1-inch pieces (a buttered pizza cutter or very sharp knife is your best friend), and then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.

Notes

Yields: 64 candies

Adapted from Sea Salt Caramels with Vanilla Bean

Estimated time: 2 hours

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Pomegranate Margaritas

You recovered from that turkey & football coma yet? My goodness, that was glorious. And gloriously painful. And if we’re talking about the Texans & Cowboys games, just flat-out glorious.

I wasn’t disowned for healthifying the broccoli & rice casserole. My dad was well enough to be up and about for the day. My cousin Sarah did all of the dishes as we cooked (what a novel idea – and what a saint). And I had exactly enough tequila for a pitcher of Pomegranate Margaritas.

Pomegranate Margaritas

Pomegranates are kind of a pain in the ass to deal with. They’re beautiful. They’re delicious. And they’re high maintenance, kind of like the crawfish of the fruit world.

You have to crack the fruit and dislodge the seeds carefully so you don’t ruin your shirt… all while still impressively ruining a shirt and an apron. That apron has since been known as the Dexter Apron.

But they’re beautiful. And they’re delicious. And it’s fun to put them in salad and on salmon or just eat them by plain by stained hand. And when you leave the hard work to the bottled pomegranate juice companies, they make one heck of a beautiful, delicious margarita.

Pomegranate Margaritas

Pomegranate Margaritas

Pomegranate juice makes the perfect winter margarita.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups homemade margarita mix
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 1/2 cup silver tequila
  • 16 oz bottle 100% pomegranate juice
  • Salt or sugar, for rimming (optional)
  • Lime wedges (optional)
  • Pomegranate seeds (optional)

Instructions

  1. Mix all ingredients in a pitcher.
  2. Pour over ice into salt or sugar-rimmed glasses.
  3. Serve garnished with lime wedges and fresh pomegranate seeds, if desired.

Notes

Yields: 8 servings

Adapted from Tide & Thyme

Estimated time: 10 minutes

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Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Cranberry Barbecue Sauce

Hey, look. It’s another super easy way to use up leftover cranberry sauce. And it only involves a little math:

1 part barbecue sauce
1 part cranberry sauce

1. Heat.
2. Stir.
3. Watch your husband dip a tester sweet potato fry in it and complain about it being too cranberry-y.
4. Add another part barbecue sauce.
5. Heat.
6. Stir.
7. Get approval from the barbecue sauce snob in the house.
8. Spoon it over pulled pork sandwiches. Or turkey sandwiches! And use the rest as a dipper for sweet potato fries.
9. Eat too much.
10. Declare the entire house a carb-free, lean-protein-only zone ’til Christmas.
11. Forget and eat a brownie for dessert.

Inspired by Pink Parsley

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