It’s time for another edition of Friday Dance Party here on Acorns On Glen. It’s the time where we give thanks for making it through another week and for being alive and present here on Earth. How do we celebrate another week of living? We dance. So, are you alive this Friday? Are you and your family safe and sound? Take a few seconds now to be in the moment and realize what a great life you truly have. Did you give thanks for that?
Good, now let’s dance.
I’ve been set free several times this week. I just haven’t been in the groove much at all this week. It all started when I realized that last weekend was Labor Day weekend. For some reason, I thought it was this coming weekend. How do I totally miss a holiday weekend? When someone at work mentioned the long weekend ahead, I thought they were joking. Then I began to think about what I would have felt like if I had come into the office on the actual Labor Day Monday and no one would have been there. That would have really set me free.
At the beginning of this week, it hit me that Summer was drawing to a close. Another feeling of being set free. Where did Summer go? It seems like a couple of weeks ago that I went home for a visit over Memorial Day. Like a few days ago that we left to spend the Fourth of July in Las Vegas. Are you telling me that it is time to officially not wear white, harvest the remainder of the vegetables from the garden, winterize the swimming pool in the backyard and, the worst part, begin to locate all of the winter snow shovels so I can put them inside the garage in anticipation of our first snow storm. Am I really beginning to think about snow?
I also thought this week was close week. Close week is the time every 28 days that my company closes their books and sees how much money they made or didn’t make. When my company exceeds their profit forecast, it is chalked up to excellent execution. When they don’t make their profit forecast, it’s the accountants fault. Those damn accountants…they must have made ANOTHER mistake. Needless to say, close week is fairly stressful and I got all crazed and fired up for it a week too early. Close week is next week. Wasting all this energy on something that didn’t happen really set me free.
And now this weekend I’m being set free on the Jersey Shore. We’re off to Asbury Park…home of Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi. Actually, I’d be just as happy to get a glimpse of Snooki or The Situation. I would set my family and friends free as they watch me take off my shirt, do a little dancing with some fist pumps and then leave with my new friends (drunk, of course) and go do some GTL. I can only hope!
So with a week’s worth of being set free, it’s time to give thanks for making it through. We did it again! So let’s dance this week and be set “Free” from Graffiti6, a London-formed duo that began in 2009. Let’s give thanks for all that we have and all that we’ve done to close out another week. By chance, if you see me on the MTV channel with my Jersey Shore friends, let me tell you in advance that I am so sorry for setting you free. I know the feeling!
I know that what happens in Vegas is supposed to stay in Vegas, but I won’t give too much away from our trip. As usual, the weather was hot and so was the Strip. Lots of great food, some wild cocktails, a trip to see Celine, some shopping and lots of gambling has to add up to a great time and this trip was no exception. Turn up Elvis and enjoy my random thoughts and shots from our trip. It’s good to be home, but Viva Las Vegas!!
All of us here at Acorns On Glen want all the Fathers out there to have the absolute best day possible. This is the first Father’s Day since my Dad passed away and so now, more than ever, I want everyone to realize the importance of calling up your Father and saying “I love you”. Such simple words to mutter, but so important for your Father to hear. So here’s to the all the Dads out there. May each of you understand how important you are in your children’s life and how much you are loved. Tell us, how are YOU going to celebrate?
I’m on a mission today. I want to bring romance back to Valentine’s Day. Remember when you were young and you watched how Valentine’s Day and LOVE were expressed? People bought a dozen roses to give to their loved one. You bought a beautiful card and wrote a lovely note or a little poem in it and signed it with “With Love” in your own hand writing. Do you remember in grade school when you would decorate a small paper bag with red hearts and paper lace, tape it up on the chalkboard ledge and all of your fellow students would drop little Valentine’s Day cards into it addressed to you? Remember when couples celebrated with a great meal staring at each other over candles and champagne flutes?
Most people today seem to have lost the skills to be emotionally intimate. Dating has become less about meeting someone face to face and going on a first date and more about hooking up on an online dating website. Lovely cards replaced by short texts saying “143” (I Love You–one letter, four letters, three letters). Romantic dinners replaced by dinners were you arrive late because work was crazy and you have to be home by 10 because there is something on TV you want to watch.
Enough already. Today I want everyone who has a special someone to tell them ‘I Love You’ by spoken word versus a text. Bring home some flowers and a hand written card. Maybe a romantic dinner? I want people to express their love in a personal and tender fashion. I want people to show their love in an old-fashioned manner. I want romance to come back to Valentine’s Day. Will you help me?
There are many ways to bring in the New Year. So whether you want to bring it in all sweet and sentimental or you bring it in rowdy and crazy, the choice is for you to make. Whatever way you choose, please know that all of us here at Acorns On Glen want to wish you, your family and your friends a very Happy New Year 2012 and may even your wildest and craziest dreams come true. We look forward to spending more time with you in 2012. Our best to you in the New Year…………and where is the Advil for our friend below?
This brittle has always been a Christmas staple in my household. I can remember my mom making this brittle as a very young child. It’s funny about old memories. My memory of my mom making brittle is as clear as it was when I was actually watching her. I can remember what the pan looked like that she used, I can remember the exact spoon and even what the candy thermometer looked like. I can also remember eating pounds of it, including it at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Over time, I have taken her recipe and made some modifications. The biggest one is that I replaced peanuts with whole cashews. The cashews give the brittle a little more crunch and a little bit more creaminess. I also try to eat only a few pieces now versus half the container like I used to do when I was a kid. One thing I haven’t changed from my mom’s recipe is that I try to stretch the brittle as thin as possible. It is a lot more delicious when your pieces are thin versus thick. Here’s how we made the cashew brittle this year:
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, plus more for pan
- 2 1/2 cups salted, roasted cashews
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
Butter a large baking pan; set aside. Combine cashews, sugar and corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
Insert a candy thermometer. Continue boiling, without stirring, until temperature registers 295 degrees, about 6 minutes. When sugar begins to brown, stir nuts gently to ensure even cooking. Remove saucepan from heat, and stir in the butter and baking soda; the mixture will begin to foam up, so mix quickly. Pour onto the prepared baking pan.
As soon as the brittle is cool enough to handle, use your fingers to stretch the brittle as thinly as possible over the baking pan.
Allow the brittle to cool completely, about 45 minutes, then break into bite-size pieces.
This cashew brittle is salty-sweet perfection. Be careful though, it can become addictive. You won’t be able to stop eating it once you start. I like this brittle as well for all the memories it has brought me through the years. It’s nice to include something in your Christmas cookie collection that reminds you of Christmas past. So there you have it. Our Christmas cookie and treat selection for 2011. I love how the flavors are all unique and stand up well on their own, but also how they complement each other when you make a tin up for a friend. Coconut pyramids that look like little modern pieces of art, the long biscotti with its red cranberries and green pistachios in the mix, the pretty cookie press cookies that are too cute to eat and the salty-sweet cashew brittle. The four of these really make a nice little treat for Santa, but better than that, for you and your family to enjoy over the Christmas holiday. Thanks for baking with us! Do you and your family eat all of your Christmas baked goods or do you share them with other family and friends too?
This cookie press recipe was a true test of my baking and decorating patience. As most of you know, a cookie press is nothing more than a hollow tube fitted with a decorative nozzle at one end and a plunger at the other. You insert your cookie dough into the hollow tube and then you press a trigger that makes the plunger press out the dough. The dough is pressed out through the decorative nozzle and a pressed cookie is formed. The nozzle holds discs that turn the dough into various shapes-hearts, wreaths, Christmas trees, flowers-the list is long and covers most of the major holidays. Here is the cookie press I used at the start of my baking. Little did I know that two more would follow.
I’ve discovered that my right arm has gotten incredibly strong. That’s because my squeezing of the cookie press trigger achieved pressing out five dozen cookies, but, on the bad side, it broke three cookie presses. Yes, three presses that broke-two triggers broke off and one shaft that holds the dough cracked into two pieces! Is this bad luck or what? I got my cookies done, but had to order a new press at the end as a result. This time I paid a little bit more and got a “heavy-duty” press. I’m hoping this solves the problem.
These cookies are very tasty, with a rich butter and vanilla taste. The recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of vanilla, which seems like a lot, but really works well with the dough. After the cookies had cooled, we decorated each one with a glaze made out of confectioner’s sugar and a variety of cookie decorating supplies-colored sanding sugars, melted chocolate, tinted glazes, chocolate sprinkles, etc. Most of it was purchased at the supermarket so just have fun and get whatever supplies catch your eye. With cookie decorating, there really is no bad way to do it. Here’s the steps:
For the cookies:
- 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 3 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted, for decorating
- Confectioners’ Sugar Glaze (see recipe below)
- Food coloring, preferably gel-paste, for decorating
- Sanding sugar, for decorating
- Other favorite items, to use for decorating
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add egg yolks, flour, salt, and vanilla. Mix until well combined.
Fit cookie press with desired disk and fill with dough. Press out shapes onto prepared baking sheets. Transfer to refrigerator until chilled, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake until cookies are lightly browned, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
To decorate, tint confectioners’ sugar glaze as desired (dividing it among a few bowls to make different colors, if desired). Dip cookies in glaze and decorate with sanding sugar, nonpareils, or dragees. Let set until the glaze dries, at least 1 hour before serving or storing. Cookies can be stored, between layers of parchment, up to 1 week at room temperature in airtight containers.
For the glaze:
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
- 2 tablespoons water
Mix confectioners’ sugar and the water to achieve an easy-to-pour consistency, adding more water as necessary. Use immediately.
These are a great cookie. They taste great and look great. Impress your family and friends with a cute little decorated cookie. They will be impressed. At our house right now, none of us want to eat my cookie press cookies. Not because they don’t taste good, but because they are so pretty. Knowing how we like to eat, this mood will change soon and we will devour them. It’s the holidays right? Overeating is expected! Do you make any decorated cookies during the holidays?
This is a batch of biscotti, which is technically not a cookie at all, but rather a biscuit. However, it has always been part of my Christmas cookie baking timeline whenever the mood hits me to bake Christmas cookies. Did you know that biscotti is the plural form of biscotto? The word biscotto originates from the medieval Latin word biscoctus, meaning twice-cooked/baked. So there you have the secret of making a batch of biscotti. You make two long loaves of dough, bake them, let them cool a little and then slice them and bake them again. The second bake actually hardens them up a little so that they last a little while longer than a normal cookie does. Their hardness also makes it a favorite for dipping into coffee or tea.
That’s another reason I make them. The holidays at our house see a lot of coffee that is drank on a daily basis. I find it amazing that the people who are older and have the weaker kidneys are usually the ones that ask for the most coffee to drink and a little something to nibble on while drinking. I have not done a scientific test on this factoid as of yet, but I know it would fall out as a solid statement if I did. For each cup poured, many times there is the question “What do you have to dip into this coffee?” Many times they ask this by calling my name and, more than a few times, my name is forgotten and a simple “Hey you!” starts out the request.
The biscotti recipe I always make is filled with cranberries and pistachios. When you look down at the sides of the biscotti, there are little flecks of red (the cranberries) and green (the pistachio nuts). What screams holiday more than bursts of red and green? Here’s how we make the biscotti in our house:
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
- 3 large eggs, plus 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Place cranberries in a small bowl; add boiling water. Let stand until plump, about 15 minutes. Drain, and set aside. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add 3 eggs, one at a time, beating to incorporate after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. Add flour mixture, and mix on low-speed until combined. Mix in cranberries and pistachios.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface; divide in half. Shape each piece into a 16-by-2-inch log, and transfer to prepared baking sheet, about 3 inches apart. With the palm of your hand, flatten logs slightly. Brush beaten egg over surface of the dough logs, and sprinkle generously with sugar.
Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until logs are slightly firm to touch, about 25 minutes. Transfer logs on parchment paper to a wire rack to cool slightly, about 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.
Place logs on a cutting board. Using a serrated knife, cut logs crosswise on the diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place a wire rack on a large rimmed baking sheet. Arrange slices, cut sides down, on rack. Bake until firm to touch, about 30 minutes. Remove pan from oven; let biscotti cool completely on rack. Biscotti should be kept in an airtight container.
You know you have turned out a great batch when all you hear during “coffee breaks” is the crunch, crunch, crunch of a group of folks gnawing on your cranberry-pistachio biscotti. Thanks for reading about our second cookie made for the season. There will be other posts about our Christmas baking through the big day on December 25. We hope you will come back and “bake” with us. We like the company!! What is your favorite kind of Christmas cookie?
This is always the first cookie I make if and when I get into the Christmas cookie baking mode. Coconut pyramids start the season off right. Front up, I will tell you, it’s not every season I get into the mood to make Christmas cookies. When I do, these coconut pyramid macaroons are first up at bat. Why coconut macaroons you may be asking versus something more traditional for the holidays? I’m not sure I know that answer other than to say they are quick to make and bake. It’s probably a mental thing…you start off with something easy that always turns out right and then you get into a state where you start taking more challenges with more complicated recipes. Know that the hardest part of this recipe is finding unsweetened coconut. The only place I have found it is at my local health food store. I’ve used the sweetened kind of coconut from the supermarket, but it just does not work.
I first baked these macaroons in 2001 when I ran across the recipe in a cookbook I had purchased. I remember thinking that they would look like little snow drifts among the other cookies that I had baked that year. Since everyone I gave cookies to that year was really in the mood for coconut (I guess), these pyramids received a lot of compliments and I’ve been making them ever since. Coconut macaroons are light and chewy. The little tip of chocolate at the end of the cookie is a nice little touch as well. It’s the pyramid shape that I find the best part of the cookie. It looks like it takes a long time to shape them, but it is pretty quick and painless. You don’t have to make them your first Christmas cookie of the season, but do give them a shot this year. It’s always nice to start a new tradition. Why not do it with a coconut pyramid?
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 5 1/4 cups unsweetened shredded coconut (I find mine at a local health food store)
- 7 large egg whites
- 1 pinch salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 4 ounces semisweet chocolate
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vegetable shortening
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. In a large bowl, mix together sugar, coconut, egg whites and salt. Add butter and extracts and combine well. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Moisten palms of hands with cold water. Roll 1 tablespoon of the coconut mixture in palms, squeezing tightly together 2 or 3 times to form a compact ball. Place ball on a clean surface and, using a spatula, flatten one side at a time to form a pyramid shape.
Place pyramids on the prepared baking sheet about 1 inch apart and bake until edges are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Leave on baking sheet on a wire rack to cool completely.
Place chocolate and shortening in a small heat-proof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water; stir occasionally until melted. Dip top 1/2 inch of each pyramid in the melted chocolate. Set each dipped macaroon on cooled baking sheet to allow chocolate to harden.
For some reason, my friends, family and I find it hard to eat just one of these cookies at any given sitting. They go pretty fast, so be prepared. I’ll be posting a few more Christmas cookie favorites over the next couple of weeks. I’m in the mood to bake them this year, so why not share the recipes with the masses. Enjoy!! What is your favorite cookie that you make for the holidays?