Sweet Potato Spoon Bread

Sweet Potato Spoonbread1

There’s an outlet store just down the street from where I live that is really, really dangerous for me to go to.

Number one, it’s an outlet store, so that means that everything there is super marked down in price. The danger for me lies in the fact that they have a pretty large cook book section- and the cook books are actually REALLY nice, quality ones. I’ve walked out of there with cook books two or three inches thick FILLED with delicious recipes that I’ve gotten for under $10.00. It really is a good deal. It IS.

As much as I try to come up with new and original recipes for the blog, often I find myself suffering from ‘foodie guilt’ because of all the pre-written recipes I have sitting around in my embarrassingly large cookbook collection, as well as all the numerous binders I have of recipes I’ve cut out of food magazines and printed from offline.

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Here’s the thing: when I’m BUYING the cookbook or printing off the recipe, I will SWEAR to myself that I’m going to use it all the time, that I’m actually going to work through the entire book or cook the particular recipe every week. And when I catch myself not exactly following through with that I’ll go through a period where I’ll be gung-ho about trying to test out all of the recipes I’ve saved from the internet or bookmarked in my cookbooks.

Y’know, just to convince myself that I wasn’t wasting my money or printer ink- both of which I really can’t afford to waste like that.

The process usually boils down to me either first seeing what I have ahead of time in the house, or what’s on sale this week at the grocery store, then matching it against what I’ve bookmarked in the cookbooks or online.

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A week or so ago, I knew that I needed to put together a new recipe for the blog, but I was also having a bout of ‘foodie guilt’ and didn’t feel like trying to become inspired enough to write a new recipe. As it happens, I was also thumbing through one of my recipe binders when I came across a cut out from Better Home and Gardens magazine that caught my attention.

For some reason, I always seem to have one or two sweet potatoes on hand in the house. (‘Some reason’ really just meaning that I love them and would be really pissed off if I had a craving for one and suddenly couldn’t have any because we were out). But it worked out pretty well for that day because the recipe that I came across was for something called Sweet Potato Spoon Bread.

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Spoon bread is a dish that is pretty popular in Southern-style cooking, but interestingly enough, I’d never tried it before. I wasn’t even completely sure what it was or what it would taste like until I looked through the ingredients list and directions for this recipe. I had a day off work, and all the ingredients in the house and it did look pretty yummy in the magazine so I decided to take the plunge and give it a shot for myself.

I’d be willing to bet that I’m not the only person who’s not all that familiar with spoon bread, so just in case the pictures aren’t doing enough for you guys, I can go ahead and give you a rundown of what it tastes like.

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It’s probably pretty obvious, but this isn’t really bread in the sense that we would think of dough-like carbs, per se. I would actually describe spoon bread as a kind of savory style casserole-pudding. The eggs and egg whites give it a very fluffy, smooth texture and while it’s heavier than a souffle, it’s lighter than any kind of bread. Having said that, this recipe came out very well. The sweet potato flavor really comes through and is complimented nicely with the thyme. I especially liked the inclusion of cornmeal in this recipe, just to give it enough texture so the dish wasn’t too one-note. I topped this with homemade cranberry sauce and ate it as a side dish for dinner, but I could also see melted cheese working VERY well also.

See? My Foodie Guilt does yield good results after all.

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Sweet Potato Spoon Bread

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Recipe Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp. unsalted butter (1/4 stick, melted)
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 lb.)
  • 2 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme
  • 1 tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup finely ground white or yellow cornmeal
  • 4 large eggs, separated
  • 2 tsp. baking powder

 Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Generously grease 2-quart soufflé or casserole with 1 tbsp. butter.

2. Wrap potatoes with foil. Bake 45-55 minutes, until soft to the touch. Remove from oven. Discard foil; cool. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard peels. In large bowl, smash potatoes.

3. Reduce oven to 350 degrees F. In a large saucepan bring milk, thyme, sugar, salt and pepper to a boil over medium heat. In slow steady stream, whisk cornmeal into milk mixture. Cook, whisking constantly, 4 to 5 minutes until mixture is thick and pulls away from bottom of pan. Remove from heat, cool slightly. Add potatoes, egg yolks, remaining 3 tbsp. butter and baking powder to milk mixture; stir to thoroughly mix.

4. In large mixing bowl beat egg whites with electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gently fold whites into the potato mixture.

5. Spoon batter in a prepared dish. Bake 35 to 40 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. Edges will be firm and the center a little soft. Remove from oven.

6. Let stand 10 minutes. Serve warm.

Pumpkin Scones

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Jas and I are self-proclaimed, unapologetic coffee addicts. We need it. We crave it. We have to have it. Every morning. Or else.

The sad thing is I was ‘clean’ for going on 3 years. I had truly kicked the habit- but one rotten morning I had at work a few months ago made me cave back into the urge and from then on, I was right back where I started: hopelessly devoted to coffee.

It can expensive if you’re like us and like the gourmet stuff. Plus you constantly have to invest in buying special, also not-too-cheap whitening toothpaste. It’s the devil in a red dress, I’m telling you.

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In my area, we have two major ‘coffee corporation giants’; for the sake of subtlety I’ll call one Bucksstar and the other Bybigs. (I know, I know; REAL subtle there Jess.)

Over all the years of our coffee connoisseurship, Jas and I have worked out our own special theories about the strengths, weaknesses and similarities between Bucksstar and Bybigs. And since we’re self-proclaimed addicts that go to all and any lengths to get their fixes, you should just take our word for it. Cause we’re pros and we just know what we’re talking about.

When it comes to straight hot coffee, with little to no bells and whistles, Bucksstar wins. It’s fancier and you really can taste the difference in the quality of the ingredients. However, when it comes to hot lattes and cappuccinos then we do tend to lean more towards Bybigs. Plus, the caramel apple cider they sell in the autumn is truly out of this world.

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The funny thing about Bucksstar’s lattes is that they taste much better cold than hot to us. In fact, the iced lattes and frappuccinos at Bucksstar’s are the stuff of dreams. The ones at Bybig’s just can’t compare.

Interestingly enough, Jas and I think that the biggest difference between these two coffee giants is NOT their coffee, but their baked goods. There’s just SUCH a huge difference. Want to know what it is? Here’s the answer, direct from us to you:

Bucksstar’s baked goods rock. Bybigs suck.

Seriously. I’m not being overly dramatic or just trying to straight out diss Bybig’s. I’m just being honest. I don’t know who it is that formulated their recipes for pastries- but whoever it is, should probably get the sack. The cookies are flat and cardboard-like in texture. The muffins taste like something the Little Debbie company churned out. The bagels are tough hockey pucks.  The rice krispie treats don’t have enough marshmallow creme and butter. And don’t get me started on those friggin scones; they’re drydryDRY with little to no flavor.

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Now Bucksstar? They’ve got this thing on lock. Everyone, EVERYONE knows that Bucksstar baked goods are delicious. I can’t remember the last time I went into one to buy coffee and didn’t end up walking out of there with some kind of pastry. The banana bread is thick, soft and fragrant. Their croissants are flaky and buttery. The cookies are sublime. Even their breakfast sandwiches are the bomb.com.  And the scones? Dude. Their SCONES. I think they must put crack in those scones. It’s the only explanation for their being so addictively awesome, right?

Although I’m not a huge pumpkin pie fan, I gotta admit that my favorite scone to get from good old Bucksstar has always been their pumpkin scone. There’s just something about the blend of all those autumn spices that goes SO well with a cup of hot coffee. So when I saw this recipe posted on Bonappetit.com, I jumped at the chance to try it out. It’s really VERY delicious, whether you decide to ice them or leave them plain- I did both and honestly can’t decide which is better.

Scones are so easy to put together and they yield such marvelous results. They also give me an excuse to drink more coffee- and you know I’ll always find ways to do that.

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Pumpkin Scones

Recipe Courtesy of Beauty and Essex via BonAppetit.com 

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Ingredients

  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) chilled unsalted butter
  • ½ cup chopped fresh (or frozen, thawed) cranberries
  • 1 large egg
  • ½ cup canned pure pumpkin
  • ¼ cup buttermilk, plus more for brushing
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar

 Directions

1. Whisk granulated sugar, baking powder, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, cloves, baking soda, and 2 cups flour in a large bowl.
2. Using the large holes on a box grater, grate in butter, tossing to coat in dry ingredients as you go; toss in cranberries. Mix in egg, pumpkin, and ¼ cup buttermilk.

3. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and pat into a 1½”-thick disk. Cut into 8 wedges; transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze until firm, 25–30 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 400°. Brush scones with buttermilk and sprinkle with raw sugar. Bake until golden brown, 25–30 minutes

Nestle Toll House Cookie Pie

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Bad news, guys: for the past few days I’ve had a pretty bad case of writer’s block.

Seriously. It’s really, really bad. I’ve been meaning to put up a post for the past couple of days, but I just couldn’t make it happen. Every time I tried to start writing a post with something ‘meaningful’ to say, it just backfired and I would get distracted with something else. Usually I can manage to pair a recipe with some kind of vaguely interesting story, reflection or topic but today I’ve got absolutely nothing meaningful or interesting to say.

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But I still really wanted to put SOMETHING up. So I guess I can rattle off some random, meaningless tidbits of info to fill up white space.

My twin sister’s getting married in September. I’m (naturally) one of the bridesmaids. Next Saturday I have to go shopping for a dress. Here’s hoping I can find a nice one.

I’ve just discovered the show “Sherlock” and have been binge watching it on Netflix this weekend. It’s pretty good, I think. Benedict Cumberbatch was a good casting choice to play Sherlock Holmes.

I got 2 new cookbooks for Christmas and have already made 2 recipes from them that I’ll be sharing on the blog soon enough.

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That’s 3 things about my life in general; I guess I can also share 3 things about this recipe.

It was a really cloudy, gloomy day outside when I did this photo shoot. Thus, the rather unsatisfactory quality of these pictures. Just try and overlook it.

For those that have never had it, a Toll House Cookie Pie (particularly when it’s piping hot) tastes like the thickest, chewiest, gooiest chocolate chip cookie you’ve ever had. In other words, it tastes like a foodgasm that will make your eyes roll back in your head. Ice cream on top  is also mandatory.

I used some walnuts in this that had been sitting in my cupboard for…a while. It wasn’t a good idea. Don’t get me wrong, nothing bad happened. The pie still tasted delicious. But still, a lesson was still learned: don’t use old nuts. For anything.

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I doubt there’s still anyone at the Fiesta Friday Party #50 this week, but I’m still dragging my late self there anyway. Thanks to Angie@TheNoviceGardener for hosting as always, and  Selma @Selma’s Table and Sue @birgerbird for co-hosting. Don’t mind me, I’m just dropping off my little pie.

Now if you’ll excuse me: I have an appointment with my sofa, blanket and a man named Benedict that I’ve got to be getting back to now….

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Nestle Toll House Cookie Pie

Recipe Courtesy of Nestle

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Ingredients

  • unbaked 9-inch (4-cup volume) deep-dish pie shell
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup (6 oz.) Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
  • Sweetened whipped cream or ice cream (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325° F.

2. Beat eggs in large mixer bowl on high speed until foamy. Beat in flour, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Beat in butter.

3. Stir in morsels and nuts. Spoon into pie shell.

4. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between edge and center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm with whipped cream, if desired.

Sally Lunn Bread

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I wonder just how exactly a person gets a food, dish or meal named after him or her.

I only bring up the subject because I think that it would be pretty cool. I mean, if there’s anything that’s stood the test of time, it’s food. It’s not going anywhere. People have always got to eat. So even if you don’t have any children to pass on your name to, if you have a food named in your honor that turns out to be pretty good, then you’ve got a good chance of standing the test of time so to speak, right?

Sure enough, I know of several famous foods with people’s names in them that have been around for a while. I also just Googled some. Cause why not?

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According to Wikipedia (which y’know, is SUCH a reliable source, winkwink)General Tso Chicken was apparently named after a famous Chinese general during the Qing Dynasty from the Hunan province. Although apparently, the people from the actual place have never heard of it, and the real General Tso couldn’t have eaten it the way it’s prepared now anyway.

I bet you thought that the Caesar salad was named after the famous Roman emperor, right? WRONG! It actually got it’s name from a chef called Caesar Cardini from Mexico who came up with the salad  when the few basic ingredients were all that he had on hand.

Graham Crackers were first brought about by a Presbyterian minister named Sylvester Graham. He got the ‘brilliant’ idea in his head that coarsely ground wheat flour biscuits would subdue sexual urges. No comment on what I think about that.

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The Margarita drink was brought about by a Dallas socialite named Margaret Sames who put together the flavor combinations while on a vacation in Mexico. I can’t personally say that I think she was successful as Margaritas really aren’t my thing, but no one asked me so moving on.

Salisbury Steak came from an American surgeon during the civil war that believed that vegetables and starches were health hazards; so he came up with the idea of mixing ground beef up with onions and prescribing it 3 times a day with hot water in order to flush out toxins.

The legend of Beef Welllington originated with the winning of the Battle of Waterloo by Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley. The Duke’s chef made him the pastry wrapped beef in the shape of a Wellington boot.

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Then there’s Sally Lunn Bread. This tradition got started with a young Huguenot refugee from France named Solange Lyon who immigrated to Bath in 1680 and found work in a bakery in Lilliput Alley. Solange eventually became famous for a delicious brioche style bread she would make, and as its fame spread, her name gradually took on the name Sally Lunn. Thus, the Sally Lunn bread was sensationalized.  It eventually made its way across the pond and into Southern cooking, which is how my grandma came to hear of it and make it as a breakfast bread for her daughters smeared with butter and jam.

This is one of my family’s favorite breads for me to make. It’s thick, spongy, chewy and slightly sweet. We eat it all on it’s own as a side for dinner but I think it would also make an excellent base for French Toast or stratas. Plus, it has a really cool name.

By the way, this post just begs the question: what do I have to do to get  someone to name a food after me?

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Sally Lunn Bread

  • Servings: 8-10
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Recipe Courtesy of Southern Living Magazine

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm milk (100°-110°)
  • 2. Stir
  • 1 (1/4 oz.) envelope active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup warm water (100°-110°)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted

Directions

1. Stir together first 3 ingredients in a 2-cup glass measuring cup and let stand 10 minutes, until yeast is proofed.

2. Stir together flour and next 2 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in eggs until well blended. (Dough will look shaggy).

3. Stir together warm water and baking soda. Stir yeast mixture , soda mixture and melted butter into flour mixture until well blended.

4. Spoon batter into a well greased 10-inch (14 cup) tube pan, or split equally between 2 well greased loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place (80°-85°), 45 minutes to 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

5. Preheat oven to 400°. Carefully place pan(s) in oven. Don’t agitate the dough. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a wooden stick inserted in center comes out clean and when internal temperature reaches 190°.

6.Wait ten minutes, then remove to a wire rack. Wait 30 minutes before slicing.

Cinnamon Wedding Cookies

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There’s just something about being a twin that makes people always, always ALWAYS want to throw the two of you together at every available opportunity.

To this day, I don’t get the fascination people have with it, but the phenomenon is real- especially when the twins are young. They’ll be expected to dress alike. In pictures, they have to stand next to each other in pukey-cute poses that immediately make it ‘clear’ that they’re twins. Their two names are almost always called together as one long name- as if they’re one single entity.

Jas and I certainly experienced all of this when we were young. I kinda think a large part of it was because we grew up in the 90’s, i.e, the era where Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen and Tia and Tamera Mowery were at the height of pop culture. Thanks to them there was already a kind of fascination/curiosity for the ‘twin thing’ anyway, so we’ve literally heard, seen and done it all when it comes to Twin Etiquette.

And just in case you were wondering…

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No, I can’t read her mind. No, I can’t feel it when she’s sick or in pain. Yes, we’ve switched places, but it was only once in the 1st grade and it was so boring that we never did it again. No, we don’t like dressing alike. Yes, she’s one of my best and only friends. Yes, sometimes we do finish each other’s sentences- but that’s only because we’re besties and have spent just about every day of our lives in each other’s company.

Not that it bothers me too much- you get used to it. In fact, there are even fond memories we have of getting slapped with the Twin Thing trope. Case in point, a Christmas play we both were in some years ago. It was in the 7th grade (so we were around 11 or 12 age-wise) and out school was putting on a production of The Christmas Carol. Both Jas and I like acting, so we both decided to audition for a part.

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To be honest, I wasn’t feeling very optimistic. Not because I didn’t think I was any good-I actually think I’m a pretty decent actress. Really it was because in my experience, most people are so hooked on that Twin Thing that sometimes they feel as though Jas and I are a ‘package deal’ so to speak-basically if you get one, you get the other. Some people are cool with that, but some aren’t. I was concerned about 3 different scenarios here: first that neither one of us would get cast; second, that one of us would get cast and the other wouldn’t; or third, one of us would get a good art while the other just had a non-speaking crap part. It’s not that Jas and I were petty or jealous of each other like that. We’re just so used to the Twin Thing that when one of us gets a good thing that the other doesn’t get, we tend to feel guilty or sorry for each other. I just wouldn’t have enjoyed being in the play as much if Jas couldn’t be there with me.

See? Sometimes being a twin really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Anyway, when the cast list was actually posted, I was pleasantly surprised. Both Jas and I had gotten pretty good speaking parts. Actually, we’d gotten the same good speaking part.

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Much to our surprise, the director had decided that in our school’s rendition of The Christmas Carol, there would be 2 Ghosts of Christmas Present. We would literally be dressed in identical costumes- even our hair was styled the same. Some of our lines would be spoken in unison, while some we got to speak on our own. So basically, we swapped out the ‘I’ pronoun for ‘we’. I think it was an improvement on Dickens’ original idea (but then again I’m probably biased about that).

Did it feel cheesy at times? Yeah, but that time I didn’t care about having to do the Twin Thing. It was a lot of fun. And thanks to that experience, there’s an entire section of the Christmas Carol that I can still literally quote from memory. How many people can actually say that?

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Do you realize that there’s only 3 days left until Christmas? That means we’re also nearing the home stretch of our 12 Days of Christmas Series. Today’s recipe is another classic: the wedding cookie.Or as we know them in my house, Snowball Bon Bons. Like Linzer Cookies, these are also one of the earliest memories I have of Christmas as a little girl. Buttery, cookie batter mixed with nuts is rolled into balls, baked and then coated in powdered sugar. They’re not only ridiculously easy to put together- they’re also super easy to ‘decorate’. This recipe is a slight twist on the classic version with the addition of cinnamon to the sugar coating. I’ve found that people who don’t even like cookies (poor, unfortunate souls that they are) LOVE these. You really can’t eat just one. Seriously. I dare you.

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Day 4: Giant Molasses Cookies

Day 5: Crustless Cranberry Pie

Day 6: St. Lucia Buns

Day 7: Brown Sugar Cookies

Day 8: Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Day 9: Biscochitos

Day 10: Cardamom Print Wafers

Day 11: Cinnamon Wedding Cookies

Cinnamon Wedding Cookies


Recipe Courtesy of Serious Eats

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions 

1. Place toasted almonds in bowl of food processor and pulse until coarsely ground, about 10 pulses. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together butter and 1/4 cup confectioners sugar until blended. Beat in vanilla. Add flour and salt and beat until just combined, then beat in ground almonds. Cover dough in plastic wrap and chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour, or overnight.

3. Adjust oven rack to upper and lower middle positions and preheat oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together remaining 1 cup confectioners sugar and cinnamon. Take dough from fridge and roll into walnut-sized balls, then place on baking sheet.

4. Bake cookies until golden on top, 15-18 minutes. When cool enough to touch, roll balls in confectioners sugar mix, then place on cooling racks. When cooled completely, roll again in sugar to coat.

Cardamom Print Wafers

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I’ve only done actual Christmas caroling a handful of times in my life- but I remember that I loved it. One of the times I can clearly remember is when I was still in elementary school and the children’s choir went caroling to the governor’s mansion. It was a quiet, slightly snowy night and after we sang a few songs, I can remember being invited inside to a big beautiful ‘house’ where we got served hot chocolate, cookies and candy in a ‘study’ type of room with bright golden lights. As long as you don’t take yourself too seriously, don’t mind if 1 or 2 of the people in your group are off-key and love to laugh, then caroling is a blast. Plus, people usually give you free food as a way to say ‘thank you’.

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Everyone ‘s got their own favorite Christmas carols, and I’m no exception. However, my favorites have shifted throughout the years. Now I’m willing to admit that I just can’t pick one as my favorite. I’ve got several. Okay, more than that.

The Holiday Playlist on my ipod’s got over 100 songs. Yeah. I really love Christmas songs.’

When I was very young, around 5 or 6, my favorite Christmas carol was The First Noel. I loved the melody and would always hum the last part to myself, “Born is the King of Israel,” over and over again.

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Then when I was around 8 or 9, it was Silver Bells- but that was because at the time (mid 90’s), there was a commercial that would constantly come on at Christmas time with the Silver Bells melody playing in the background that I really liked. After that, I think it was Angels We Have Heard on High- although to be honest, I went YEARS without even knowing what some of the lyrics were because I was too young to understand that some of the lyrics were in Latin (“in excelsis deo IS Latin, right? Right??).

Christmastime is Here was my favorite Christmas Carol in middle school; I heard it played once on the piano at a holiday party and just fell in love with it. That one’s still remained one of my favorites over the years, and I have a few versions of it on my playlist, including the Vince Guaraldi classic from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

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Honorable mentions should also go out to Give Love on Christmas Day, The Christmas Song, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, O Christmas Tree, O What a Merry Christmas Day, All I Want for Christmas Is You, and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Carol of the Bells.

As many of them as I like, there are also other carols that I don’t really care for: I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, Little Drummer Boy, Silent Night, Jingle Bells, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and Away in a Manger. I guess I just don’t really like the ‘story’ Christmas carols all that much.

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Today’s recipe is super, super easy to put together, but still packs a great punch. These cookies are thin, slightly crisp but still somewhat chewy in the centeer. The cardamom gives it a very unique spicy bite that combined with the cinnamon really reminds me of a delicious Speculoos biscuit. Hands down, these are meant to be enjoyed with a cup of coffee or tea. I decided to leave them plain and just let the design from the cookie stamps speak for themselves- these are honestly good enough to stand without icing or sprinkles.

If you still need to catch up on the 12 Days of Christmas Series we’re doing, I’m still including a list of the past recipes and posts below 🙂

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Day 4: Giant Molasses Cookies

Day 5: Crustless Cranberry Pie

Day 6: St. Lucia Buns

Day 7: Brown Sugar Cookies

Day 8: Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Day 9: Biscochitos

Day 10: Cardamom Print Wafers

Cardamom Print Wafers

Recipe Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens Cookies for Christmas

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Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp, ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

 Directions

1. Stir together flour, cardamom, cinnamon and salt.

2. In a small mixer bowl, beat til fluffy, Add egg and vanilla and beat well.

3. Stir in flour mixture till well mixed. Cover and chill about 2 hours, or preferably overnight.

4. Shape into 3/4 inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on a greased cookie sheet. Flatten firmly with a floured cookie stamp or the bottom of a glass with a design in it.

5. Bake in a 350° oven about 8 minutes. Remove and cool.

Raspberry Linzer Cookies

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In my last post, I talked about some of my favorite Christmas movies, but today I realized that I totally left out one of the absolute best. I’m talking about Love Actually, of course. Duh, Jess! (smacks forehead).

When it comes to love, I’m probably the most cynical, unromantic person you could ever meet. Still, I just love this movie. It made me smile. It made me want to cry. It made me love love (if that makes any sense). For those that don’t know, Love Actually is a romantic comedy that takes place in Britain just before Christmas and revolves around  the love lives of several different couples. Some crass humor and potty mouthing makes it not a movie you’d probably want to show the kiddies, but if you’re at the proper age, the movie overall is really good. The stellar cast alone makes it worth seeing: Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Rowan Atkinson, Andrew Lincoln, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy, Martine McCutcheon, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Chiwetel Ejiofor- c’mon, how many times are you gonna get THAT much talent together in one single movie?

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There’s a Buzzfeed quiz going on right now where you can see which Love Actually couple you match up with- that gave me an idea to do a short little blurb post about which of the couples/storylines of the movie are my favorite. If you haven’t seen the movie then this post may not make a lot of sense, but bear with me. There may be spoilers, but maybe they’ll just make you want to see it for yourself.

I think my favorite couple of the whole movie is David (Hugh Grant) and Natalie (Martine McCutcheon). First, although there was an attraction between them from the moment that they first met, nothing about it felt rushed or unrealistic. It was gradual, natural and soso sweet. You can tell from their chemistry that they’re gonna be a couple who can always stay laughing- which is important. Between her exuberant smile (seriously, her face glows when she grins) and accidental slips of the tongue, and his wry sense of humor, they make for a perfectly adorable couple. Plus,  they had the best ‘first kiss’ of the movie- even if it was a TAD bit embarrassing lol

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Honestly, Jamie (Colin Firth) and Aurelia (Lucia Monez)’s relationship is a VERY close second to David and Natalie’s for me. Which is weird, considering my cynical view of romance and love. Two people who don’t even speak the same language fall in love over the course of a few weeks and after taking secretly taking Rosetta Stone courses in each other’s languages, decide to get married. Is this something I think is a good idea in real life? No, probably not. In real life, I’d probably give Jamie and Aurelia one year, tops before they call it quits.But this isn’t real life- it’s a movie. They have real, tangible chemistry. Maybe it IS possible to fall in love with someone you can’t even talk to in your own language-I doubt it, but it wouldn’t be the first time I would be wrong about something. And it’s Christmas. So, I’m just gonna say that it was a wonderful, romantic idea and that Jamie and Aurelia will be together forever.

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My third ranked Love Actually couple may be a bit of surprise; it’s Harry (Alan Rickman) and Karen (Emma Thompson). For those that have seen the movie, I know you may be scratching your heads, thinking, “Huh? But Jess, remember how their storyline ends?” I know. Just lemme explain. Harry and Karen were the only couple in the movie that had been together in a stable, long-lasting relationship at the start of the plot. Their ‘love actually’ isn’t a picture of what happens when love comes along, but more of a look at what happens when love is tested, when it begins to fade, or even when it’s completely betrayed. It’s not pretty. It hurts. Badly. I’m not sure if I’ll ever forgive Harry/Alan for that scene in the bedroom where Emma/Karen is crying by herself. It made my eyes water- and making me cry about anything is nigh to impossible. Their story is the most heart-wrenching part of the Love Actually…but it’s also the most realistic.

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Linzer sandwich cookies are a permanent piece of my childhood at Christmas. We made them every year-or rather, my mom did. I just stood next to her at the counter top, helped spread the jam on the bottom of the cookie and smushed them together. Then I ate them. Now, I get to do all of the above. The cookies themselves have a wonderful flavor from the toasted almonds.The texture is tender, but with a slight crumbly bite- almost like a teatime biscuit. The subtle nutty flavor of the cookie is complimented wonderfully by the sweetness of the jam sandwiched inside. It was a favorite for me back in the day, and it hasn’t lost any points since then, let me tell you.

It’s Day 8 of the 12 Days of Christmas series we’ve been doing on the blog, but more importantly it’s also Fiesta Friday #47, hosted by Angie@TheNoviceGardener and co-hosted by Indu @Indu’s International Kitchen and Jhuls @The Not So Creative Cook. So for those of you at the party, feel free to have some of these cookies, but also feel free to check out the list below of all the recipes from the Christmas series I’ve been putting up over the past week below 🙂

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Day 4: Giant Molasses Cookies

Day 5: Crustless Cranberry Pie

Day 6: St. Lucia Buns

Day 7: Brown Sugar Cookies

Day 8: Raspberry Linzer Cookies

Raspberry Linzer Cookies


Recipe Courtesy of Gina Marie Miraglia Eriquez via RealSimple.com 

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Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp.
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp. confectioners sugar
  • 1 12 -ounce jar raspberry jam

 Directions

1. Heat oven to 350° F. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast, tossing occasionally, until fragrant, 6 to 8 minutes; let cool.

2. In a food processor, process the almonds and ¼ cup of the brown sugar until the almonds are finely ground.

3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

4. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and the remaining ¼ cup brown sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and gradually add the almond mixture, then the flour mixture, mixing until just combined (do not overmix).

5. Divide the dough in half, shape into two disks, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours or preferably overnight.

6. Heat oven to 350° F. On a lightly-floured surface, roll out each piece of dough to a ⅛-inch thickness. Using a 2- to 2 ½-inch round cookie cutter, cut the dough into rounds and place on parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them 1 inch apart. Using a ¾- to 1-inch round cookie cutter, cut out the centers from half of the cookies. Reroll and cut the scraps as necessary.

7. Bake, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until the edges are golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool slightly on the baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

8. Sprinkle the confectioners’ sugar on the cookies with the holes. Spread 1 teaspoon jam on the remaining cookies and top with the sugared cookies. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days.

Brown Sugar Cookies

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Warning: if you’re not a Christmas movie buff, then this post probably won’t make much sense to you. Sorry.

Me and my sister have a thing for running inside jokes related to movie one-liners we think are funny.When we come across one that we all find hilarious, we’ll always find ways to frequently and randomly stick it into conversations to make each other laugh.

Remember that part in the movie My Best Friend’s Wedding where Dermot Mulroney is arguing with Cameron Diaz in the restaurant while Julia Roberts looks on and he screams at her, “My job’s not good enough- I’M NOT GOOD ENOUGH!”? Yeah, we use that one all the time. Then there’s the scene with Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz at the end where she’s talking to her in food metaphors. I don’t know how many times I’ve screamed at my sisters, “You’re NEVER gonna be jello!”

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The same goes for Christmas movies. In fact, the classic Christmas movies have so many memorable one-liners to choose from, it’s almost not even funny. Except, it really is.

Take the movie “Love Actually”. Jas and I cannot go a single Christmas season without throwing out a few “I HATE Uncle Jamie!”s at each other. (In British accents, of course.)

Remember in “A Charlie Brown Christmas” where Snoopy is mimicking Lucy as she lectures the gang about the Christmas play until she finally stops and screams out, “No, no! LISTEN all of you!” We throw that one out at each other all the time when we’re trying to get each other’s attention.

We have the entire scene from “A Christmas Story” where Ralphie goes to visit Santa in the department store memorized, but our favorite part is definitely at the end where Ralphie climbs back up the slide to tell Santa he wants the BB gun for Christmas and Santa says: “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid. Merry Christmas. Ho, ho, hoooo!” Yeah we mimic the foot shove too. Cause we’re weird like that.

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The newest favorite is from the movie “Jingle All the Way” starring Arnold Schwarznegger where Phil Hartman is in the car at the end with Rita Wilson, “You asked me how to marinate ahi tuna. And I said, all you need is Italian salad dressing.” I don’t know why we find out so funny, but we do. I guess Phil Hartman could literally make anything hilarious.

And of course, what would Christmas be without throwing out a great big, “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?” or calling each other a “cotton headed ninny muggins” at least once? (I don’t think I have to say which movie those come from, right? I better not.)

All of those inside jokes and quotes with my sisters have over the years come to make for a lot of fun, hilarious memories for us-and hilarious memories are one of the very best parts about Christmas, am I right? Of course right.

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This past weekend, I was the in-house Cookie Elf…or at least that’s what it felt like. I was in the kitchen from Saturday morning to late Saturday night baking up batch after batch of cookies both for the blog as well as for a community outreach effort to spread some Christmas cheer to some kids. Because if Christmas cheer tastes like anything at all, I’m pretty sure it tastes like cookies. These cookies take on the classic sugar cookie and give it a creative spin, using all brown sugar rather than white. I was really impressed with the results. The cookies bake up thick and brown and almost take on a dark, robustly praline flavor from the brown sugar caramelizing while baking. The original recipe calls for them to decorated using sanding sugar but because I’m super complicated and can’t follow simple instructions, I whipped up a quick confectioner’s sugar glaze and spread them on the cookies instead. I then sprinkled on some Christmas nonpareils. I think they look much better this way than with just plain old sanding sugar, don’t they?

Holy Crap, we’re over  halfway through the 12 Days of Christmas already! 7 days down, just 5 more to go. Thanks to all those who’ve been faithfully following along, but for those that missed a day or two (or more), I’m again including a list of the past days below with links to the previous posts. 🙂

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Day 4: Giant Molasses Cookies

Day 5: Crustless Cranberry Pie

Day 6: St. Lucia Buns

Day 7: Brown Sugar Cookies

Brown Sugar Cookies

Recipe Courtesy of Christmas with Southern Living (1997)

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt

 Directions

1. Beat butter at medium speed of an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add brown sugar, beating well. Add egg and vanilla, beating well.

2. Combine flour, baking sofa and salt; add to butter mixture, beating just until blended. Refrigerate dough for at least one hour, or preferably overnight.

3. Roll dough to 1/4” thickness between two sheets of wax paper. Cut with 4: cookie cutters. Place 1” apart on parchment paper lined cookie sheets.

4. Bake at 350° for 10 to 12 minutes. Let cookies cool 1 minute on cookie sheets and carefully transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

St. Lucia Buns

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I don’t mean to brag or anything, but my Christmas list as a little kid was never really long or exhorbitant. My mom would even tell you now that we were easy kids to shop for.We never ha a problem sharing, and we grew up with a certain awareness that money didn’t grow on trees and that she didn’t have a whole lot of it. We never asked for anything that we knew would break the bank, so to speak.

In fact I can still look back now and remember there were several particular toys, dolls and games that all  3 of us ‘knew better’ than to ask for. When we did the math on certain toys, we knew that it was just way too expensive to spend money on- not necessarily because we knew we’d get shot down, but because our mom was really the type of parent that would have felt guilty that she could’t afford to buy us the toys that we wanted. I didn’t want to make her feel guilty, so I never raised the subject. But I was still a  kid that could dream.

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Some of those dream toys for me were the line of American Girl dolls and products. Any girl that grew up during the 90’s should understand where I’m coming from with this. The original American girl dolls were based on 5 preteen fictional girl characters that grew up in various stages of American history. Felicity, Kirsten, Addy, Samantha and Molly. They each had five short chapter books dedicated to ‘milestone’ events in their lives that were sold alongside the dolls. You could buy the doll, the books and the 5 sets of dresses, accessories and furniture that came with each corresponding book.

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I’ll go right head and say it: in my eyes, an American Girl doll was a status symbol. If you had one, your parents had shelled out some serious cash. The dolls and merchandise were friggin expensive and frankly, overpriced. (Heck, they still are.) But it didn’t stop me from wanting one. Really bad.

Even though we couldn’t afford to buy the American Girl dolls and accessories, we still subscribed to the catalog. It came in the mail around 2 times a year: Christmas and Easter. We all used to have a nickname for it as a joke, our “Dream Wish List,” since we knew we’d never get the stuff inside. Still, we could dream, wish and window shop anyway. I used to pour over that thing like it was a novel sometimes, wishing we could afford to get just one 1 American Girl doll set.

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One of the characters/dolls was named Kirsten, a Swedish girl who immigrated to America with her family as pioneers on the Minnesota plains during the mid 1800’s. Admittedly, she wasn’t my favorite character of the 5, but there is still something about her that’s stuck with me all these years and is of actual relevance to this post. In the Holiday-themed Kirsten chapter book, she prepares what are called St. Lucia Buns for her family in celebration of Christmas. They’re Swedish golden rolls flavored with saffron, rolled into scroll shapes and topped with raisins. The American Girl catalog offered a particular set with the Kirsten doll dressed in a beautiful white dress and sash, a candle wreath crown, and several plastic make-believe St. Lucia Buns on a tray.

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Guys, I must have been a foodie even back then as a little girl because for some reason, I fixated on those St. Lucia Buns almost more than I did on the doll and clothes. I really, really, REALLY wanted to know what they tasted like. I remember figuring that since everything else about American Girl was amazing, the St. Lucia Buns would probably taste amazing as well. But just as I knew I would never get to have an American Girl anything, I also figured I would never get to ever try real, authentic St. Lucia Buns either.

Well, I was only 50% wrong about that. I never did get an American Girl doll or set. But this year, I’ve finally been able to try the buns. And yeah…they ARE amazing. Although they aren’t overly sweet, the one word I would use to describe their overall taste is “rich”. The saffron causes the buns to bake up in such a rich, golden color and they’re just so immensely chewy and soft. I almost immediately wanted to make more after that first  bite.

So thanks American Girl- I guess that catalog WAS good for something after all.

Just a reminder: if you’ve missed the other recipes we’ve done so far in the series, I’m including a list of links to them below!

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Day 4: Giant Molasses Cookies

Day 5: Crustless Cranberry Pie

Day 6: St. Lucia Buns

 

 

St. Lucia Buns


Recipe Courtesy of King Arthur Flour

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 tsp. saffron threads, lightly crushed
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 1/2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 tbsp.  instant yeast
  • 1/4 cup potato flour or 1/2 cup instant potato flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg white (reserved from dough) mixed with 1 tablespoon cold water
  • golden raisins

 

Directions

In a small saucepan set over medium heat milk and saffron to a simmer; remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Set the mixture aside to allow the butter to melt, and for it to cool to lukewarm, 30 to 35 minutes.

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the yeast, flours, salt and sugar.

Separate one of the eggs, and set the white aside; you’ll use it later.

Pour the lukewarm milk and butter mixture over the dry ingredients. Add the 2 whole eggs, 1 egg yolk, and the vanilla. Mix to combine, then knead for about 7 minutes by mixer, about 10 minutes by hand, till the dough is smooth and supple.

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or large (8-cup) measuring cup, cover it, and let it rise for 1 hour, or until it’s quite puffy, though not necessarily doubled in bulk.

Gently deflate the dough, and divide it into 12 equal pieces. Shape the pieces of dough into rough logs, and let them rest, covered, for about 10 minutes.

Roll each log into a 15″ to 18″ rope. They’ll shrink once you stop rolling; that’s OK. Shape each rope into an “S” shape. Tuck a golden raisin into the center of each of the two side-by-side coils, if desired.

Place buns on a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving an inch or so between them. Cover them, and let them rise for about 30 minutes, till they’re noticeably puffy, but definitely not doubled. While they’re rising, preheat the oven to 375°F.

Brush each bun with some of the egg white/water glaze. Bake the buns until they’re golden brown, about 18 to 20 minutes. If you’ve used raisins, tent them with foil for the final 3 minutes, to prevent the raisins from burning. Remove the buns from the oven, and transfer them to a rack to cool.

Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

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It’s Day 3 of the 12 Days of Christmas on the blog; I’m sitting listening to my Christmas playlist as I write this post and it’s making me think of a question I’ve wondered about for a while now:

Why is Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” considered a Christmas song/carol?

It’s not that I don’t like it. The Sound of Music is a pretty good musical and I’m a fan of the song in general..but I really doubt the writers were thinking of the Holiday as inspiration when they were putting it together.

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My more sentimental, sappy side assumes that because Christmastime is the best time of year, My Favorite Things is generally associated with it because at the very best time of year you start thinking about all of the things that you love the most.

Although I can’t think why the thoughts of “wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings” would suddenly make anyone feel better. Personally geese, ducks and the like freak me out. That could be because the geese and ducks on my university campus always chase people because over the years they’ve become too accustomed to parents taking their kids to the riverside to feed them bread. Therefore, they now think that all humans have a loaf of bread hidden somewhere on their person; they’ll chase you until you ‘give it up’. So yeah, geese are not one of my favorite things.

I’m thinking that Rodgers and Hammerstein just needed a word that rhymed with “things”, and that line is the best they could come up with.

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But whether they meant the song for Christmas or not, it DOES make you think of your favorite things. Heck, I’m starting to do it now. Maria von Trapp had nine, so I guess I can give nine of mine too:

Pancakes with slightly crisp edges doused in maple syrup.

Quiet mornings when the sky is bluish gray, but it’s not raining.

The A & E Pride and Prejudice movie.

Michigan State University football.

Binge watching  Netflix.

Chris Hemsworth’s arms. And abs. And pecs. Basically his ‘everything’ (so that still should count as one, right?).

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Cuddling with my baby niece.

The smell of freshly made bread in my kitchen.

My cookbook collection (it’s extensive and still growing, trust me.)

That’s nine, right? I notice that none of it rhymed with the word ‘things’. Gosh, now I’m starting to understand the inclusion of the whole “wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings” line. Song writing’s not all that easy.

Oh well. Moving on.

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I made two popcorn balls for the series, the first of which was these Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls. The second was this recipe; I saw it in a Christmas issue of Food Network magazine a year or so ago and had it pegged for such an occasion as this. After I made my Champurrado (Mexican Hot Chocolate) a few weeks ago, I remembered that I had this clipping in my recipe box and immediately decided to try it out for the 12 Days of Christmas.

Guys… Chocolate. Marshmallows. Cinnamon sugar. The popcorn balls are doused and dipped in all of these, resulting in one of the yummiest, addictive treats I’ve ever made for Christmas. It’s sweet. It’s gooey. It’s chewy. It’s everything.

C’mon, just look at that sugary crust on the top: isn’t it just making you salivate?

Just a reminder: if you’ve missed the other recipes we’ve done so far in the series, I’m including a list of links to them below. Seeya guys tomorrow 🙂

12 Days of Christmas Banner

Day 1: Cranberry-Clementine Toaster Tarts

Day 2: Honey Roasted Peanut Popcorn Balls

Day 3: Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

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Mexican Chocolate Popcorn Balls

Recipe Courtesy of Food Network Magazine

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Ingredients

  • 12 cups fresh popcorn (preferably made over the stove)
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tbsp. butter, plus 2-3 tbsp. extra for buttering your hands
  • 1 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1 cup mini marshmallows
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp. water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

 Directions

1. Bring corn syrup, butter, confectioners’ sugar. mini marshmallows, unsweetened cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and water to a boil in a large pot over medium heat, stirring.

2. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of salt.

3. Remove from the heat; using a rubber spatula, stir in 12 cups popcorn and 1 more cup mini marshmallows.

4. Butter your hands, then shape into balls and roll in cinnamon sugar, working quickly before balls cool off. Place finished balls on parchment paper lined baking racks to set.