This past Christmas season, I did something that I haven’t done in ages…I baked cookies. Now I don’t mean the usual chocolate chip cookies that I sometimes churn out a hundred at a time, I mean honest to goodness Christmas cookies…with frosting and everything. I made a few dozen here and a few dozen there. I doubled and quadrupled recipes to keep up with my family’s demand. My mother-in-law ended up taking six and a half dozen to pass out at work. My daughter took some to her friends at school. My husband requested a gift basket with cookies and jam for his boss and then a dozen were taken to a friend of mine.
Usually, when I go into production mode on anything, I burn out quickly and never want to make another whatever-it-is again. This time, I just thought ahead to the next occasion for cookie baking and wondered if I could use a few more cookie cutters. The recipes I used for regular and chocolate sugar cookies were delicious and cooperative, which is probably the single biggest reason I’m still making cookies. In years past, I would always be on the search for another sugar cookie recipe because there was something I didn’t like about the last one I tried. Also, I hate any recipe that wants me to chill dough.
Georganne’s End-All for Chocolate Cookies Recipe at her lovely blog, LilaLoa, is fantastic. I think this is the third or fourth batch I’ve made in the past month. Not only do the cookies taste good (which is, you know, important in food), but there is ZERO refrigeration (minus that one batch I made and tossed in the fridge a few minutes before doing some Christmas shopping) and these suckers do NOT spread. No more telling the family that you MEANT to make amoeba cookies!
Did I mention skipping the fridge part? Yes? Just making sure.
...took Lisa up to Maggie Valley Berry Patch in Grant, AL to pick strawberries in May.
She was used to berry picking years ago in Germany, but this was my first time. Owner David Cox gave us a lift to an area with plenty of strawberries and carted our haul back to the stand where his wife Maggie took our baskets & dumped them into large flats for us to take home.
The strawberries were gorgeous, gigantic and super tasty. Lisa did a great job picking and didn’t complain a single time about it being hot or the part where I was forcing her to do manual labor under the guise of “family activity.”
She even helped hull the mountains of berries when we got home.
I froze several pounds, turned most into strawberry jam, ate piles fresh and then there was this strawberry shortcake with a quickie homemade strawberry ice cream. I let Lisa eat shortcakes until just before she exploded instead of a proper supper to thank her for all her help.
We are definitely doing this again next year.
I spent most of the weekend working on something that is ridiculously easy and yet so rewarding…making chicken stock. Friday night, I thawed a bag of frozen chicken parts and threw it into my stock pot with the few random carrots and onion I found in the house. The next morning, I grabbed a few more veggies after I dropped Lisa off at the soccer field where she helps coach the Tot’s team.
I threw all the trimmings straight into my stock pot, simmering away on the back of the stove. A mirepoix went into a fresh pot with butter and mushrooms. The meat I picked off the previous night’s stock, as well as wild rice, roux, fresh chicken stock and milk, joined the vegetables to make a very tasty chicken and wild rice soup.
I ate soup and contemplated knitting on Vivian while watching Georgia Tech play UNC, but I got too caught up in the game to do any knitting.
Today, I watched the girls play soccer, but it wasn’t our day (season). I still couldn’t tell you what the rules are, but I’m slowly getting the hang of it. This was only my second game as a “soccer mom” (I can’t believe I’m a voting demographic). I’m thinking the games would be improved with more food on the sidelines. Cookies for everyone next game!
I think I like figs. I have an eye on the tree, ready to pick another batch for jam. Jane asked how to tell when figs are ripe. Figs do not continue to ripen once they are picked, so timing is important. I’m fairly certain that the tree out back is a Brown Turkey. If it is, then when really ripe, the figs should be a dark brown with a hint of purple. You can’t always rely on color depending on the fig cultivar, so you can also go by touch. A ripe fig feels just like a ripe peach; it should give a little when you give it a light squeeze but not be mushy.
If my figs are Brown Turkey, then they could have stood to stay on the tree longer based on color. They all passed the squish test, though, so into the cook pot they went with a healthy dose of sugar, lemon zest and bit of salt. Did I also mention that I added a healthy dose of brandy?
The whole mess sits at room temperature for an hour with the occasional stir before slowly cooking down into something quite extraordinary.
It’s sticky, golden and speckled with seeds.
I need some cheese and crackers for this, but I’ll settle for the whole grain bread I baked earlier today. The four pounds of figs gave me almost three and a half pints of jam and I’ll be making it for as long as I can scavenge them off the tree.