Tag Archives: shortbread cookies

Cherry Almond Shortbread Cookies

This year’s Bake Sale for Beka (aka Cookies for Crohn’s) was a great success, raising $1,680 for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. Wahoo! Great job and high fives to all the bakers, bloggers & bidders who participated!

Cherry Almond Shortbreads - Inside NanaBread's Head

My contribution to this year’s bake sale was these luscious Cherry Almond Shortbread Cookies – so buttery and delicious! My winning bidder was Taryn from the Pacific northwest (Seattle area). To my surprise, she bid a whopping $60.00 for four dozen of my shortbreads. Thank you so much, Taryn! I hope you and your friends and family enjoy them!

Now that they’re baked and shipped, I thought I’d share them here so you can make them as well. And trust me – if you love buttery shortbread cookies, dried cherries and pecans, you ARE going to want to make them. This recipe has been doubled so that it makes approximately 5 to 6 dozen cookies, depending on how big you cut them. Mine were approximately 1 1/2″ squares and made 6 dozen.

NanaBread’s Cherry Almond Shortbread Cookies
adapted from The Grand Central Baking Book (Classic Buttery Shortbread)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal (almond flour)
1 1/2 cups powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 sticks (2 cups) unsalted butter, room temp
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pure almond extract
1 1/2 cups dried tart cherries
1 1/2 cups whole almonds, toasted
granulated sugar, to sprinkle on top

Pre-heat your oven to 375F. While your butter is softening, spread the flour, almond meal and almonds onto a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the flour just starts to take on some light color and the almonds are fragrant. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

Reduce your oven temperature to 325F.

In a food processor, combine the dried cherries and cooled almonds. Pulse until both are chopped into small chunks. Don’t pulse too long, or you’ll end up with cherry/almond paste. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine the toasted flour and almond meal, the powdered sugar, salt and cherry/almond mixture; whisk to combine.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the softened butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy (2-3 minutes). Reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla and almond extracts, beating just until combined. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined.

Line a jelly roll pan with parchment or a silpat mat. Scrape the dough onto the pan and with lightly floured fingers or a flat spatula, spread the shortbread dough into the pan, working it all the way out to the corners. To get a nice even layer, place waxed or parchment paper on top of the dough and use a rolling pin.

Cherry Almond Shortbreads - Pressing Into Pan - Inside NanaBread's Head

If you don’t have a rolling pin, lay some waxed or parchment paper on top of the cookie dough then top with a second cookie sheet or jelly roll pan and press to form a nice even layer. Peel the paper off and sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar, then pop the pan in the freezer to chill for 20-30 minutes.

Next, use a bench scraper (my favorite tool) or a metal pancake spatula to score the cookies into squares. I like to hold the bench scraper vertically and press until I feel it hit the bottom of the pan. (Because the bench scraper has a fairly sharp edge, just be sure not to press so hard that you damage your silpat mat!)

Cherry Almond Shortbreads - Cutting into Squares - Inside NanaBread's Head

Once the cookies are scored, place the baking sheet into the oven on the middle rack and bake for 40-45 minutes (time may vary depending on how hot your oven gets – each oven is a little different). When the shortbread is firm to the touch in the middle of the pan and the cookies are a light golden brown, they’re done. Remove from the oven and allow then to cool 15-20 minutes, then use your bench scraper or spatula to re-cut the cookies along your score lines.

Cherry Almond Shortbreads - Out of the Oven - Inside NanaBread's Head

Once they are completely cool, you can remove them from the pan and layer them with parchment or waxed paper into an air-tight container. These will stay fresh for about 2 weeks at room temperature, or up to one month in your fridge.

Cherry Almond Shortbreads - Cut into Squares - Inside NanaBread's Head

Love chocolate? Then why not dip them? For that first Bake Sale glamour shot, I dipped a few cookies in dark chocolate. For Taryn, my winning bake sale bidder, I created a variety pack of white, milk and dark chocolate dipped (1 dozen ea.) as well as one dozen plain so she could enjoy them in their pure just-baked form.

Cherry Almond Shortbreads - Dipped in Chocolate - Inside NanaBread's Head

Have mercy – the dark chocolate coated are my personal favorite. What a winning combo! Now I just have to hope they make it to the west coast without all that gorgeous Guittard chocolate melting. I packed them in an insulated lunch cooler with those blue ice freezer packs, so keep your fingers crossed.

Note to Self: Next year, don’t dip anything in chocolate. It’s summer, dummy.

18 Comments

Filed under Blogger Collaborations, Food & Recipes

It’s time! Bake Sale for Beka time!

Bake Sale logo courtesy of Megan @CountryCleaver

Bake Sale logo courtesy of Megan @CountryCleaver

Update: The Bake Sale for Beka is now closed. I’d like to thank Taryn L. from the Seattle area for placing the winning bid on my Cherry Almond Shortbread Cookies – a whopping $60! This year’s Bake Sale raised almost $1,700 for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. Unbelievable, and completely impossible without the support of our friends, family and bake sale bidders. So thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping us help Beka reach her goal!

We’ve waited so patiently and it’s finally here! The Bake Sale for Beka, also known as Cookies for Crohn’s, kicks off this morning and I’m so excited to be participating! As I mentioned earlier, I’m donating four dozen Cherry Almond Shortbread Cookies dipped in chocolate. What kind of chocolate, you ask? Well, whatever chocolate the winning bidder chooses, of course!

Win my cookies, and you can pick whichever rich Guittard chocolate enrobes them – white, milk or dark. But wait, did you just say you’d pick all three? Well then, place the winning bid on my cookies and tell them you’d like them as a ‘variety pack’ and that’s exactly what you’ll get! I’ll stop at nothing to raise more money for Beka and the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America!

To recap – that’s four dozen handmade shortbread cookies chock full of toasted almonds, dried Michigan cherries and real butter, dipped in the chocolate of your choice. Heck, I may even throw in a jar of homemade jam for the lucky winner. It’s insanity! So what are you waiting for? Go bid on these beauties!

Cherry & Almond Shortbreads - Inside NanaBread's Head

To browse the mouth-watering line-up of goodies donated by 35+ food bloggers from across America, visit our hostess with the mostess – Megan at www.countrycleaver.com. Her Bake Sale for Beka post outlines the on-line bidding guidelines and instructions you need to make sure a box of baked goods arrives on YOUR doorstep. You do want fresh-baked cookies on your doorstep, right? So let’s DO this and help put Crohn’s & Colitis in our rear-view mirror.

7 Comments

Filed under Blogger Collaborations, Food & Recipes

Cranberry Pecan Shortbread Blondies

NanaBread's Cranberry Pecan Shortbread Blondies. Wish you could smell them!

If that name sounds a little confusing, I’m with you. The truth is, this recipe is a combination of two of my favorites – buttery shortbread and soft, chewy sugar cookies. And you know what? It works. It has all of the glorious flavor of butter shortbread with the soft chewy texture of a good sugar cookie. Throw in some dried cranberries and some toasted pecans, and you have what I’m calling Cranberry Pecan Shortbread Blondies. Works for me!

Here’s how to make them for your family:

2 sticks (8 ozs.) unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 extra-large or jumbo egg
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste (or extract)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 cup pecans, toasted & finely chopped
1/3 cup turbinado sugar, for sprinkling on top

Pre-heat your oven to 350F, then line a 13″ x 9″ baking pan with parchment paper. I like to leave some hanging over each side, making a sling which allows the cooled cookies to be removed from the pan more easily. Set the pan aside.

In the large bowl of a stand mixer, combine the softened butter and granulated sugar; beat slowly until combined, then turn to med-high speed and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat just until combined. In a separate bowl, sift together the salt and flour. Stir in the cranberries and nuts and toss to coat them with flour.

Turning the mixer to low speed, add the flour mixture and beat just until well combined. The dough will be thick. Using a spatula, turn the dough out into the baking pan. Using another sheet of parchment or waxed paper, cover the dough and using your hands, press the dough out to each side, smoothing it into a uniform thickness (mine was about 3/4″ thick). Once your cookie dough is smooth and even, remove the top sheet of paper.

Score your cookie dough & sprinkle with turbinado sugar crystals

Using a bench scraper or metal spatula (I grew up calling them pancake flippers), score the dough as you would for shortbread. Sprinkle the turbinado sugar evenly over the cookie dough. Place on the middle rack in the center of your oven and bake 30-40 minutes, or until the cookies have that fabulous browned butter smell and are a light golden brown. When I bake buttery shortbread cookies, I always know when they’re done by the smell. If you know what I’m talking about, raise your hand. It’s such a heavenly aroma.

A bench scraper is the perfect tool for shaping & cutting these cookies

Once done, remove the cookies from the oven and allow them to cool completely. Using the same bench scraper or spatula, cut the cookies along the score lines. Now all you need is a cold glass of milk or a hot cup of tea. Then treat yourself. Sit back and savor the contrast of flavors and textures – tart cranberries paired with buttery shortbread; soft chewy crumb with a crunchy sugar topping. Maybe I’m playing favorites, but I think this cookie has it all.

Soft and chewy; buttery and tangy; and totally addictive

I apologize for all the sugar on the blog for the past week. I promise I’ll make it up to you next week with something savory or a craft tutorial. Deal? Awesome!

6 Comments

Filed under Food & Recipes

Cookiepalooza – man, that was fun!

Snowmen. Made out of Nutter Butters. Adorable!

I had 7 friends over yesterday to bake holiday cookies. Cookiepalooza – that’s what we called it. Instead of the standard cookie exchange, we decided it would be fun to spend an entire day together baking, visiting and playing cards. Turns out having 8 ladies in one kitchen making 9 different treats doesn’t leave much time for games. But don’t let that fool you. There was NO shortage of fun. There was no shortage of sweet treats, either. We made over 750 pieces of sugar-laden goodness yesterday. And my house smelled fantastic. Cookiepalooza rocked.

With Christmas carols playing in the background, we tackled cookie recipes one or two at a time until they were baked off and cooling. Then we would rotate in the next two recipes and work through them, and so on and so on. In all, we baked for 7 hours. We made 7 types of cookies and two treats in the ‘other’ category – Rolo & Pretzel Turtles and Nutter Butter Snowmen. I’ve made the Rolo Turtles before, but they seemed a lot cuter made from star-shaped holiday pretzels. Those 5-pointed little stars look like arms, legs and heads. Plus, they’re a snap to make. {Get it… snapping…turtles}

Rolo Turtles made with star-shaped holiday pretzels

The Nutter Butter Snowmen were new for me. I knew when I saw them on the Brown Eyed Baker’s Blog that I would make these. I couldn’t resist. They’re just too cute! Thanks to Jonah Bear, my 5-year-old grandson, I knew the wonders of fruit roll-ups, so I grabbed a box to add a decorative touch – scarves! Tip #1: use the multi-flavored striped roll-ups and cut them into strips with a pizza cutter. Tip #2: dip the Nutter Butter cookies one half (or end) at a time. The scarves get tied on at the center, so the dip line doesn’t show. Tip #3: to attach the scarves, wrap around the middle and twist like you would a twist-tie when buying produce. Then press gently on the twisted portion to stick them down. Tip #4: those tiny tubes of frosting in the baking aisle make perfect faces.

Striped fruit roll-ups make great snowman scarves
Some truths cannot be denied, and one of those truths is that my friend Kaki doesn’t bake much. Yesterday, she pulled a rabbit out of the hat that had us all shaking our heads. She made the most incredible homemade gingersnaps I’ve ever eaten. I’m not kidding. If there hadn’t been people around to see me do it, I could have eaten an entire tray with a 1/2 gallon of cold milk. Then she dipped them in white chocolate, and I passed out. Must have been the excitement and novelty of it all. Or maybe it was because they were so gosh-darned good and made my kitchen smell like heaven. Well played, Kaki. Well played.

Kaki's Homemade Gingersnaps

But wait! There was so much more. Here’s the rundown:

Linda – made a family recipe for pecan cookies
Pat – made her old-school orange slice candy cookies
Sheriee – made cowboy cookies, then dipped them in chocolate
Cindy – made chewy chocolate krinkle cookies
Judy – made buttery oatmeal coconut cookies
Cindy & Kaki – paired up to make those Rolo pretzel turtles

And I made coconut shortbreads from Cookie Week (from the Cookies for Kids Cancer Best Bake Sale Cookbook) and the Nutter Butter snowmen (with help).

I’d like to say the best part was all the cookies we made, but I can’t. There was no best part. It was ALL fabulous. We had a blast making all the cookies. We had a hoot decorating and dipping things in chocolate. We loved helping each other and watching timers and washing dishes and generally having each other’s backs all day long. No cookie went untouched or unloved by anyone. It was truly a group effort, the scale of which has never before been seen in my home. I’m not joking when I say we used every square inch of tabletop space in 4 different areas – the kitchen, the breakfast nook, the formal dining room, and even the foyer. Think I’m joking? Here’s my formal dining table as a cooling station:

Judy's coconut oatmeal cookies & turtles cooling in the dining room

And that’s just the dining table. This buffet table along the dining room wall was also used to cool cookies as they came out of the oven (hence the old bath towels layered under the waxed paper). And the cookies just kept piling up.

Chocolate Krinkles & Orange Slice Cookies by the dozens

But that’s not all. We cleared the stuff off the top of the table in my entry foyer and used it to stage cookies once they were cooled, bagged and tagged. This photo only shows less than half of what was made. It was insane, folks!

Cookies waiting to go home for the holidays

I wish my house could smell like this forever. I wish I could invent ‘scratch-N-sniff’ computing so you could smell it, too. And I wish you could all know my friends – they’re a fabulous bunch. And I also wish you could have joined us, but then I’d need a MUCH bigger kitchen. And a whole wall of ovens. And cookie tables in all my bedrooms, which I’m not entirely opposed to.

Cookiepalooza was so successful, there was immediate talk of making this an annual affair. I think that’s a great idea. The question is which of my friends would like to host; but we’ve got 12 months to think about that. Happy holidays, everyone. I wish you love and peace and joy, now and in the coming year.

Buh-bye now! Don't forget to grab a bag of cookies on your way out!

25 Comments

Filed under Food & Recipes, Things I Love

Cookie Week: Coconut Shortbreads and a Holiday Cookie Baking Giveaway


**UPDATE: Congratulations to Mads from California. She is the lucky winner of my Holiday Cookie Baking Giveaway. Enjoy your goodies, Mads, and thank you for supporting Cookies for Kids Cancer. You are a Good Cookie!**

It’s Be A Good Cookie Week! Is there any more perfect holiday treat than cookies? They’re easy to make and fun to bake. It’s one of my favorite things about the holiday season. I can’t speak for all of the other little elves participating in this project, but I’m pumped. Cookie Week is going to rock! Much like Pie Week in November, my blogging inner circle was inspired by Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic to do something this holiday season that would bring us all together. In this case, she added a special invitation to help her bake for a cause – Cookies for Kids Cancer, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting pediatric cancers.

This organization started with a mother named Gretchen and her son Liam, who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Unwilling to stand by and do nothing, Gretchen decided to hold a bake sale with the goal of baking 96,000 cookies with the help of family, friends and volunteers. Three weeks later, they had raised over $400,000 for pediatric cancer research. From there, it blossomed into something even she couldn’t predict. Cookies for Kids Cancer is now nationwide, and has captured the hearts of people everywhere.

Kirsten was the first in our group to jump on the band wagon and with good cause. She lost her little sister Cheryl to pediatric cancer. Needless to say, Cookies for Kids Cancer touched Kirsten in a very personal and profound way. I’m fortunate to have never experienced this personally, but because I love Kirsten and she loved Cheryl, and because parents everywhere may someday face this same challenge, I’m proud to join their efforts and bake for a cause this holiday season along with a special group blogging friends.

For Pie Week, we used Kirsten’s fabulously flawless “No Excuses Pie Dough” as our common thread. For Cookie Week, we each selected a recipe from the Cookies for Kids Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook by Gretchen Holt-Witt. Yes, she’s the same Gretchen who started that first bake sale for her son Liam. All of Gretchen’s author proceeds from the sale of the book benefit pediatric research, just like her bake sales. More about the cookbook in a little bit.

For Cookie Week, I selected Toasted Coconut Shortbread Cookies. I knew as soon as I saw this recipe it was perfect for me. I love shortbread and coconut. Here is the original recipe from the Cookies for Kids Cancer cookbook:

1/2 cup of sweetened flaked coconut
2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup of powdered sugar
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
2 1/4 cups of flour
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt

But I tripled the recipe so I could bake extras for a cookie exchange next week. And because I can never leave well enough alone, I also tweaked it a little. You should know by now that I can never seem to make any recipe as written. Here’s my ingredient list:

2 cups of sweetened flaked coconut
2 cups of slivered almonds
6 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup of powdered sugar
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of almond extract
1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
6 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 bag of dark or semisweet chocolate chips for dipping

Pre-heat the oven to 250F. Spread coconut and slivered almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. In a food processor, pulse the coconut and almonds until finely ground (but not completely pulverized).

Place butter, sugars and extracts into mixer bowl with paddle attachment and beat until creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the coconut and almonds to the butter & sugar mixture and beat on low speed until well combined. Gradually add the flour and salt. Mix until well beaten. (In my case, I had to remove the bowl from the mixer and stir the end of the flour in by hand. Triple the dough was a little too much for my 6 quart stand mixer.) Scrape out of bowl onto waxed paper or the counter top. If needed, knead the dough gently until it forms a cohesive ball. Divide and roll the dough into 1 1/2″ to 2” diameter logs. Wrap each log tightly in plastic wrap & aluminum foil. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or freeze for up to 2 months.

To bake, slice cookie dough logs into 1/4″ slices and place them about 1″ apart on a lined cookie sheet. I use silpat mats, but if you don’t have them, use parchment paper instead. Pre-heat your oven to 350F. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges start to turn a light brown. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool for 10 minutes on the cookie sheet. Remove to parchment paper or cooling racks and allow the cookies to cool completely.

At this point, you can stack them into airtight containers or layer them in rows into freezer bags. But why stop there? Let’s kick it up another notch by dipping them in dark or semisweet chocolate. Shall we? In a microwave safe bowl, microwave one bag of chocolate chips at full power for 1 minute. Stir and microwave again, in 30-second intervals, until the chips are melted. Whisk thoroughly to remove all lumps, and move to a flat surface for dipping. Spreading out a long strip of parchment or waxed paper, dip one shortbread at a time, covering about 3/4 of the cookie’s surface. Allow the excess to drip off, then scrape the bottom of the cookie off on the edge of the bowl. Place the cookie immediately onto parchment paper and allow to cool. If you’re really clever, put that parchment paper on a baking sheet, and you’ll be able to pop your cookies straight into the fridge or freezer until the chocolate is fully set.

There you have it. Toasted Coconut Shortbread Cookies from the Cookies for Kids Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook with a NanaBread twist, baked in honor of Kirsten & her sister Cheryl, and Gretchen & her son Liam, and for kids everywhere who are facing cancers no child should ever endure.

Now on to the giveaway. Here is what one lucky reader will win:

You know you want to win this spectacular Cookie Week giveaway!

One copy of the Cookies for Kids Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook
One OXO “Good Cookie” Spatula, benefiting pediatric cancer
One holiday print apron, handmade by NanaBread (that’s me!)
One cookie-themed holiday kitchen towel
One set of my favorite Nordicware mini-spatulas
One boxed set of sprinkles for decorating holiday cookies
Two sets (3 each) of colorful metal cookie cutters
Two sets of holiday treat sacks for sharing with others
Two silicone hot pads in red & green (to match your apron)
And lastly, one small Christmas Cookie candle by Yankee Candle Co.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Holy cow! How can I win this fabulous cookie baking giveaway extravaganza!” Well, here’s how you can do it. And the good news is, each of you has the chance to earn multiple entries.

A few quick rules & a disclaimer:
1. You must be a resident of the United States to participate.
2. You must provide a valid e-mail address so I can contact you if you win.
3. They call it ‘the honor system’ for a reason, so please play fair.
4. Entries must be posted by noon CST on Sunday, December 18, 2011.
5. All prizes are provided by me and paid for with my own money.

Required Entry: leave a comment & tell me your favorite holiday cookie

Bonus Entries: (a new comment must be entered for each of the following)

1. Buy a copy of the Cookies for Kids Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook OR an OXO “Good Cookie” spatula, even if it is a holiday gift for a friend or family member, then return here and leave a comment telling me which item you purchased to help benefit pediatric cancer research.

2. Make a donation to Cookies for Kids Cancer at http://www.cookiesforkidscancer.org/donate.asp then leave a comment letting me know that you made a donation to support pediatric cancer research.

3. Tweet the following: “I entered to win a Cookie Week Giveaway in support of Cookies for Kids Cancer at http://www.insidenanabreadshead.wordpress.com @HeyNanaBread and so can you!” and return to let me know you tweeted.

4. Share the link to my blog post about Cookies For Kids Cancer on your Facebook page, then come back and post a comment telling me you did so.

5. Share a virtual cookie from Glad on Facebook, and come back and leave a comment on this post telling me you did so.

6. Visit the Glad website, official sponsor & supporter of Cookies for Kids Cancer, and register to have your holiday baking counted as a corporate donation. That’s right – Glad will donate 10 cents for each cookie donated, sold, exchanged or given as a gift this holiday season (up to $100,000). Just count your cookies, register your information, and come back here to tell me you signed up at http://www.glad.com/glad-to-give/bake/host/ to make your cookies count for the cause.

That’s seven (7) ways each of you can enter to win. Or seven potential entries for each overachiever who participates. It’s just that easy. And it gets even better. My friend Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic is also holding a giveaway for Cookie Week, so go to her blog (link below) and enter to win both giveaways! On Sunday, December 18th, I will select one winner randomly from the comments I receive. The winner will be e-mailed and must confirm, so be sure to use a valid e-mail address. Your e-mail address will be seen only by me, and will not be shared. Once a winner is confirmed, an update will be added to this blog post.

Don’t forget to check in this week with all of our Cookie Week bloggers. These little elves will be serving up their own selections from the Cookies for Kids Cancer Best Bake Sale Cookbook:

Monday – Kirsten from Comfortably Domestic – also having a giveaway
Tuesday – Jeanne from Inside NanaBread’s Head (hey, that’s me!)
Wednesday – Megan from Wanna Be A Country Clever
Thursday – Kat from Tenaciously Yours
Friday – Mads from La Petite Pancake
Saturday – Allison from Decadent Philistines Save the World

Happy holiday baking and thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping make pediatric cancer the ghost of Christmas Past.
-Jeanne

51 Comments

Filed under Food & Recipes

For the record, I am not dead.


Although, if I were, it would make me supremely happy to know that this little guy was hanging out with me. I know it has been two weeks since my last post, and for that I sincerely apologize. It wasn’t until a reader checked in on me that it really sunk in. I’ve been a terrible blogger this month. The good news is this – I am not dead. I’m not even sick. My allergies are bugging me a little, but it’s Houston in the fall and that’s completely normal. Annoying, but normal.

Fact is, I’ve just been a little too focused on other things. We were out so much for our long vacation and a week visiting family for Thanksgiving and a long weekend with the grandkids that I kind of got busy trying to make up for all that. We got our broken attic door fixed, so The Complete Package and I were finally able to drag all the Christmas decorations down. I spent 2 days unpacking it all, putting the tree up, and decorating the family room. Contrary to previous years’ decorations, I decided to focus all my Christmas cheer on one room instead of the entire downstairs. It has worked out pretty well, since it’s the room we spend most of our time in. Or at least that’s what I’m choosing to believe this year. One room is enough. Nothing beats sitting in a room at night with the lights from the tree casting a warm glow around the room, especially if there’s a fire going in the fireplace at the same time. I love our family room during the holidays.

See? When I said I finished my Christmas shopping, I wasn't lying.

I mixed up a ton of shortbread cookie dough for Cookie Week, which just happens to start Monday over at Kirsten’s Comfortably Domestic blog. It’s like Pie Week from November, but with cookies and a cause instead. Six bloggers are selecting six recipes from the Cookies for Kids Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook to feature on our blogs this week. My post will be up Tuesday, but please click here to check out Kirsten’s posts. She’s kicking it off Monday with a savory recipe and from what I understand, it was good enough to inspire snacking right out of the bowl – before they were even baked. Now that’s gotta be a good cracker. PS – I’m doing a giveaway with my cookie post and so is Kirsten. Here’s a sneak peek at what I’m giving away, so don’t forget to drop by Tuesday and enter. And visit Kirsten’s blog to enter her giveaway, too.

If you haven't tackled your holiday baking, you're going to want this.

Last week, The Complete Package and I spent two whole days sitting in a big tall building in downtown Houston for a retirement seminar. It’s hard to believe we’re attending stuff like this since he’s 54 and I’m 48, but the truth is this – you can never start planning for retirement too early. And frankly, even then it’s a crap shoot. But we enjoyed the seminar, and we learned some things we didn’t know and need to look into, and we feel like we’re better prepared to move forward. And that counts for something. Or at least it should.

We'll be THAT couple & TCP will probably honk and flip you the bird

The Complete Package made homemade pomegranate Turkish Delight last week. It was an experiment in recapturing his favorite sweet from our last vacation. It took one full week to ‘set up’ and the results were disappointing. Too soft – the texture just fell apart when you touched it instead of being the consistency of a soft gummy worm. But all is not lost. We have other recipes and techniques to try, and try again we will! As a bonus, we had leftover pistachios and we’re planning to try homemade pistachio ice cream soon. See? When God closes a door, he opens a window somewhere else.

Time to break out Christine again. She's evil; pure evil.

This weekend, TCP picked up one of his Christmas presents early. I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag, but it’s black and shiny and produces grilled and smoke meats in an outdoor setting. Okay, so that’s not so subtle a hint. The upside is that we’ll be enjoying smokey meat for years to come. The downside is that it came in a huge box and looked like the assembly instructions for an entire Ikea living room set. He spent 2 days assembling the darn thing. It’s up, it’s seasoned, and it’s ready to roll. Now we just need 200 pounds of cow or pig to fill it. I’m not kidding – this thing is a beast, and TCP is determined to tame it.

TCP's smokey pork ribs. I'll have what he's having.

I’m hosting a day of cookie baking with friends next week. We’re going to bake holiday cookies all day, with each of us making a different cookie. While it’s all baking we going to hang out and play cards and visit. When it’s all done, we’re going to divide it all up a la cookie exchange so everyone goes home with a jumbo tray of mixed goodies. I can’t wait. Something about this Christmas just seems shinier and brighter. Maybe it’s the colder weather we’ve been having. Maybe it’s that our decorations and tree are finally up. Maybe it’s Cookie Week with my blogging friends and our cookiepalooza day next week. Whatever it is, I’m all in. I’m looking forward to this Christmas more than any other.

My favorite band of holiday misfits in finger puppet form

How about you? Are you looking forward to the holidays? Will you be traveling to see family and friends? Are you listening to that radio channel that plays nothing but holiday music in your hometown, or dragging out your holiday CD collection at home? Are there any favorite TV specials or holiday-themed movies you just HAVE to watch every year for the holidays? And lastly – and this is an important one – do you drink eggnog, and if so do you add booze or no booze? Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of eggnog, but I could be persuaded… with the right recipe. If you have one, feel free to share!

What's the story with eggnog? Booze or no booze?

Happy holidays, everyone. Thanks for checking on me. I’m well. Everything’s fine. And I hope you can say the same. -Jeanne

17 Comments

Filed under Family Stuff, Miscellaneous Thoughts