the hyphens that define my life

Project Cookie 2013 Complete December 22, 2013

I’m baked out.  Done.  Here’s why:


Baklava.  Walnuts, honey, cinnamon, sugar phyllo dough and butter.  My twelve year old would eat the entire pan if I let him.


Buckeyes.  Gluten Free and Vegan.  Whoop Whoop!  A Buckeye is a chestnut family tree that produces this little inedible and Ohio’s claim to fame.  Ohioans created this candy out of peanut butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and chocolate.  My eight year old believes he should be able to count devouring as many of these as possible for his protein intake.  I like the way he thinks, but no way.


Cinnamon Log Slices.  These looked like a sliced russet potato and are pretty boring if you just try one.  But if you sit down with a cup of tea or coffee with these, then yum.  The cinnamon laced cookie is rolled in cocoa powder and cinnamon prior to baking.  These will not make next year’s Christmas Cookie cut.


Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread.  These are the family all-time favorite cookie.  If I could force myself to only make one kind of cookie at Christmas, this is the one.  This is a Martha Stewart recipe that never fails.  The secret is the fresh grated ginger and hidden chocolate chips.  Spicy, sweet and chocolatey goodness.


Carnation Fudge with Walnuts.  I used to have a great fudge recipe and lost it (DB, if you have it message me please).  This year, we tried two fudge recipes.  Carnations evaporated milk recipe on the label with mini marshmallows and the recipe found on the jar of marshmallow fluff.  As reported above, the marshmallow fluff recipe was dry and chalky.  The Carnation recipe turned out nice and creamy. Two thumbs up.


Coconut Macaroons.  I made this recipe last year and my husband loved them.  This year, he’s iffy. I love toasted coconut and these, I think, are great.


Hrostule.  (Her-stah-la).  This is the cookie I swear I will never make ever again, occasionally swearing at the dough.  Then my husband walks into the kitchen while I’m pitching my fit and says, “Oh Hrostule, this is why I love you,” and I’m signed up for another year.  This year there wasn’t much drama, after 14 years of making this cookie, I think I’ve figured it out.  Six eggs, 1/4 c. whiskey, 1/2 c. butter, melted, 1 tsp anise, 1 T. vanilla, 4.5 c. flour, vegetable oil for frying.  Mix all the ingredients.  Working in small batches, roll dough very thin (this is where the swearing starts), cut into strips (I use a pastry cutter), and tie each piece into a knot.  THEN, once all the dough has been rolled, cut and tied, fry in 350 degree oil until just begins to turn golden at edges.  THEN coat in powdered sugar. Start to finish, today’s batch took me 1.5 hours.  These cookies appear at every event from my wedding to the birth of my children to any random occasion.  Hrostule will be on all future cookie lists.


French Cookie.  This is my mom’s recipe, maybe my grandmother’s recipe.  I followed the recipe.  I’ve made this cookie at my mom’s house growing up.  I know this cookie.  Yet for some reason, it didn’t turn out right.  Something’s missing and I don’t know what.  My twelve year old LOVES this cookie too.


Peppermint Meringue with Dark Chocolate Ganache.  My nine year old is obsessed with meringues.  He was very excited to help make these, but by helping I learned he only meant eating them.  Easy, but oven hogs as meringues cook low and slow.  This recipe is definitely a keeper. Oh, and the dark chocolate ganache is so damn good I almost crawled into the closet with the whole bowl and a spoon.  I didn’t but it was a close call.


Palmiers.  These are the easiest cookie.  Pre-made puff pastry dough, filled with sugar, rolled and sliced.  Simple.  My husband and youngest boy decided they are going to France to test the authenticity of my Palmiers.  Bring it.


Shaker Lemon Bars.  For my girl.  These are the best lemon bars you will ever have.  Another Martha Stewart recipe that uses the entire lemon in the filling.  The crust is a spectacular shortbread.


Sugar Cut Outs.  The quintessential Christmas cookie.  We have 12 different cookie cutters that we use.  This year, a lady in front of me at the grocery store told me that she had special ordered mini M & M’s so she could decorate her Christmas tree cookies with M & M’s.  I thought the boys would love that idea and bought some mini M & M’s. Not a good idea.  My boys, husband included, gave the full body Santa cookie nuts (below the belt line) with the mini M & M’s.  Oh, they thought they were a damn riot.  Me, not so much.


Ruthy’s Apricot Walnut Rugelach from Chelsea Market.  During my recent New York City trip, I purchased the Chelsea Market cookbook and attempted making rugelach for the first time.  Of the eight dozen I made, the first four were disasters – not to eat, only to look at – as I overfilled them with goodness.  The last four dozen turned out beautifully.  This is the best breakfast cookie and the recipe is a keeper.


Pistachio Almond White Chocolate Biscotti.  Meh.  I made this last year and couldn’t remember this year if I liked it or not so I made it again.  Never again.  Not bad but not fantastic.  I aim higher than this cookie delivers.

cookie plates 2013

Then, as if the baking took no time and effort whatsoever, the cookies get wrapped up and delivered.  Some homemade Christmas magic. And, plenty of magic left at home for my sweets to devour.

I hope your Christmas is sweet.


A New Month November 1, 2013

November is here!  November is here!

Twenty-eight days until Hanukkah and Thanksgiving and fifty-five days until Christmas.  This year ends is sixty-one days. These countdowns make a good chunk of me want to run around in a circle, screaming and waving my arms in complete senseless panic. The remaining parts are jumping up and down with excitement and a “”bring it on” mentality. Ready or not, the holidays are upon us.

Typically I begin a new month with my dinner menu for the month.  November and January, however, are our detox months.  After inhaling more candy than I care to admit in October and more cookies and delectables in December, November and January are good months to cleanse.  We don’t detox the entire month, just somewhere between fourteen and twenty-one days.

For November, my husband and I will do the Reboot Your Life 14-day detox.  Check out the reboot options at  Vast amounts of fruits, vegetables, juice, olive oil,  seasonings, coconut water, herbal tea and not much else. This reboot has gnarly moments as your body adjusts from the candy binge but you feel great as you progress through the two-week process.  After fourteen days, we’ll decide if we want to continue for another week.  Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t.  I’ll keep you posted.

The hardest part of this diet is planning, shopping and preparing different food for the kids while you’re drinking your blended herbivore dinner.  We find it philosophically wrong to feed them processed frozen food while we eat as pure, clean and organic as possible.   We will incorporate our soups and veggie dinner options with their meals and stock up on the fruits and veggies they enjoy.  Their meals will be protein and whole grain loaded as well.

You’re on your own this month.  Go forth and cook.

As you know, I have huge disdain for magazines that only publish five dinners a week menus.    Magazines have let me down again this month, specifically Bon Appetit and Martha Stewart Living.  Both magazines, BOTH, promote serving Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce from the can on Thanksgiving.  Both magazines have published multiple recipes for cranberry sauce or cranberry relish over the years, why now are they simultaneously promoting the canned variation?

Don’t get me wrong, I was raised on the canned variety.  My mom would jiggle the jellied mass out, slice into perfect thin, even circles then fan the circles on a bed of lettuce.  Since I have been hosting Thanksgiving for over 15 years, I make fresh cranberry sauce.  Berries + sugar + water = sauce.  Easy and delicious and lots of it. Plus, fresh doesn’t have that tinny-straight-from-the-can taste. Yet, I always buy a can of Ocean Spray cranberry sauce for that last turkey sandwich or plate of leftovers that outlasted the batch of homemade cranberry sauce.

One of my favorite mantras that I say to my kids – “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you get to.”

You “can” go to a grocery store or restaurant and have the entire Thanksgiving meal prepared.  I don’t subscribe to food magazines that supply recipes to be told to buy a can of pre-made.  I find this shameful.  A simple case of doing the job you’re paid to do.  Provide recipes, not grocery store aisle numbers. Provide dinner menus for thirty or thirty-one nights, not skimp and provide twenty.

As I climb off my soap box (which I have been waiting weeks to climb upon),   I apologize for no monthly menu.  I don’t get paid to post menus.  This blog is based on my whims, my adventures and my reality.

My reality is to clean up my diet and body, be healthy and well so I can totally gorge on my entirely homemade Thanksgiving dinner and then take a nap. 

I am thankful for you, my faithful readers.  Thank you.  Magazines, not so much.


October Dinners October 1, 2013

Last month I received a lot of flack from my dear friends for not posting recipes along with my monthly dinner menu post.  Posting recipes is tricky because I’m certain to infringe on copyright laws if I post recipes from cookbooks that aren’t readily available online.  For example, Biba Caggiano only publishes select recipes online but not all of her recipes.

Rather than fry my brain trying to figure out what or what not I’m allowed to post, I gathered recipes from my magazine subscriptions – Real Simple, Martha Stewart, Sunset, Bon Appetit and Better Homes & Gardens – that are posted online and inserted the recipe links on their website on our October menu.  I haven’t made any of these recipes.  I may tweak them as I go.  If the day does not have a link, the specific recipe is either not available online or the plat du jour is too simple to require a recipe, so either find an online recipe or use your own recipe.

Despite my efforts in planning our dinner menus since we moved to Spokane, I have not stayed on track.  I’m getting better and hope October proves to be a month of homecooked meals – except for the two nights when we know we’ll be dining out for fundraising and to get our pizza fix.

Magazines alone only provide recipes for five meals a week, I still haven’t figured out why.  My super fabulous menu provides for seven dinners a week, with the most difficult recipes on weekends and easier, time saving recipes during the week.  My formula is simple – one soup, one meatless, one fish, a pasta, two poultry, and one pork or beef.  In addition to what’s listed on the menu, I always serve a vegetable and/or a salad.  I try (TRY) to serve something each person likes and have emergency protein rations on hand in case someone goes sideways.

I hope your time spent with your family enjoying these delicious dinners is time well spent. Fall is in the crisp cool air and this month of dinners reflect our need for warm and hearty meals. Happy October!

October 2013

After opening the October 2013 link, Copy and paste the recipe link into your browser, otherwise you may end up on some weird sites.  Good luck!