In my first couple holiday seasons post-childbirth, I've did a pretty lousy job of decking the halls. Let's see, the first year, the tree went up the day before Christmas just as the toys got assembled and stockings filled. We would never have made that deadline without the help of a bottle of good wine and the help of a couple of our Jewish friends. They enjoyed the whole experience quite a bit!
Last year, I made the deadline for the tree just a few days earlier, but not much. Friends who live in the neighborhood sneaked over and put lights on our front bushes for us because we had none. The same friends also assisted with the assembly of the pink retro kitchen set. Thank goodness for friends!
This year, by some miracle (I think they call it sleep) and the help of a little Elf, the tree went up the day after Thanksgiving BY NOON. We even had lights on our bushes that same day.
Sure, most of the unbreakable ornaments are stuck in clumps near the tree bottom. The outdoor light display didn't fare much better. And, yes, Santa's Little Helper finked on Mommy for breaking one of the lights, too.
Perhaps Martha would frown on the tacky assortment of leftover bulbs in various styles. Or upon our tree which is not color-coordinated with our interior decorating (or lack thereof). I didn't grow my own greenery to create the wreath by hand. And I sure didn't sew my own stockings (my mother-in-law did).
You know what? Martha's not invited. And the little Elf is having a ball decking our halls. I'm good with that. Real good. And I'll be good with big, loopy paper chains, glitter-covered styrofoam balls with pipe cleaners, and popcorn garland on the tree when we get there, too. Let the Elf have at it.
For everything the Elf and I lack in interior decorating skills, we sure make up for in cookies. That kid can make the best lop-sided cut-outs ever and she can load them up with the sprinkles like nobody else.
My favorite Christmas cookie recipe is the deeply spicy gingerbread from the December 2000 issue of Cooking Light. The cookies stay soft and have cardamom and candied ginger in a rich molasses dough. For a festive touch (and to indulge the Elf's strange fixation with sprinkles), I add a glaze made with 1 cup powdered sugar, 1 tsp. orange extract, and about 1 tablespoon of water plus a tiny bit to desired consistency. Let the cookies cool, dip in the glaze and add sprinkles. Lots and lots of sprinkles.
It seems odd to look for cookie recipes in any "light" recipe guide, but I have never been able to top this gingerbread recipe for flavor. Some of their other "light" recipes for cookies do need to be "un-lightened" much like my front bushes in late January. Such is the case with their recipe for a double chocolate chip cookie. I took some liberties, primarily with the chips and a few other places.
Dark and White Chocolate Chips with Cranberries
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick plus 2 tbs. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 tsp. vanilla
2 large eggs
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
2/3 cup dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix the dry ingredients, salt, baking powder and flour, together in a separate bowl. In the mixer bowl, put the butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla. Mix until well-combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients and mix well, scraping as needed to incorporate. Add the chips and cranberries and mix on lowest setting until folded in.
Drop in balls of about 1-1/2 to 2 tbs. each onto a couple greased cookie sheets. Bake for about ten minutes, switching the trays halfway through if you don't have a convection oven setting to make them brown even, and just barely on the tops. It makes just over two dozen.
The most important thing for all variations of chocolate chip cookies is not to overbake them. The texture when cooled should be just crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside.
It's Monday and the Elf is already asking about making more cookies. This weekend, I promised, this weekend. I'm back to the books trying to nail a recipe for Linzertorte and something else new. When I get brave, I will turn her loose with red and green frosting. Hey, the kitchen walls already need painting. What the heck, let's deck those, too.