Saturday, December 26, 2009

Don't Forget to Look Up!

Traditions are an extremely important part of my holiday season. My favorite tradition is our Christmas Cookie Bake Day. We started this tradition when I was a kid. My mom and dad were just starting out and money wasn’t what you call "abundant". So we would bake cookies, decorate tins, and give these “Sweetie Tubs” to our friends and family as our gifts. I would spend all day in the kitchen with my mom and sister and we would roll dough, throw sprinkles, and at the end of the day we would be covered in flour. The kitchen would be a mess and we would have laughed our whole way through it.

Since I was in social work, I never really had a time when money was just abundantly surrounding me, so I kept this “Sweetie Tubs” dream alive. Every year I would grab friends, family, and anyone willing to hold a spatula and I would spend an entire day baking. I would even do a several each year with different friends I loved it so much. This year, since I was back living with my mom and dad, we got to rekindle the tradition together. We sat down with all of our recipes scattered along the table selecting our favorites and making sure that we had all of the ingredients.

But one thing was still bothering me. Another tradition that is vital for me as a cook, is every time I am in the kitchen, I put on one of my grandmother’s aprons that she hand sewed. On the move out, I had made room for these aprons in my packed car. The problem was that I couldn’t find the Christmas aprons. I had been struggling with this for several days and couldn’t come up with where they were. This is when I made my emergency phone call to my best friend Mike who drove me out to Montana. I knew it was a long shot, but lo and behold he remembered seeing them in Montana and vaguely where they might be.

Okay, so I now had received confirmation that they were in the house. I went to the laundry room and began my search. I was getting rather frazzled and was about to give up when I stood up and took a deep breath so I wouldn’t “blow a gasket”. During my deep breath, I looked up… And there they were! On top of the stacked washer and dryer! Of course! I almost forgot one of the fundamental truths… Don’t forget to look up.

So with my grandma’s Christmas apron securely around our wastes, in place of my grandma's arms, we baked, and baked, and baked. We made 7 different types of cookies, my dad did three trips to the grocery store, and we kept our “Sweetie Tub” tradition alive. In the end, hough exhausted, we were happy to be baking cookies together and spreading "sweet love" to our friends and family.

So remember:  Take a deep breath, acknowledge all that you accomplish each moment, enjoy the delicious cookies. Oh! And don't forget to look up!

This year we made Sugar Balls, Rum Balls, Coco-Locos, Ooey Gooeys, Healthy Oatlicious cookies, Peanut Butter Kisses, and Rosey Lemon cookies.

Peace, love, and patience this holiday season from our kitchen to yours!

Sugar Balls
½ cup butter
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup splenda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ½ cup whole wheat
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Colored sprinkles

Mix the butter, sugar, splenda, eggs, and vanilla until well incorporated and fluffy. Blend in the whole wheat flour, baking powder, and salt in small doses. Once all the flour is incorporated chill for 20 minutes to an hour. Then take tablespoon sized mounds of dough and roll into balls using your palms. Dip the balls in any color sprinkles that you like. Place on a baking sheet about an inch apart and bake in a 400 degree oven for 6 to 8 minutes.

Rum Balls

Use the same recipe as above and add 1/4 cup of rum to the batter. It will be a little more sticky, but well worth it! Mold these cookies into balls using your palms and dip into a bowl of cinnamon. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 6 to 8 minutes as well.

 Ooey Gooey Bars - Blonde

1 pkg. yellow cake mix
1 pkg. sugar free vanilla pudding package
1/3 cup smart balance oil
2 eggs
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
8 oz. butterscotch chips
8 oz. white chocolate chips
8 oz. chocolate covered toffee candy bars cut into peices
½ cup butter
1 jar sugar free caramel ice cream topping

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13X9 pan.

In large bowl, combine cake mix, vanilla pudding misx, oil, and eggs, and mix it all up! Then stir in the chocolate, butterschotch, and vanilla chips and candy bar peices (It is super thick so get your muscles prepared). Press half of mixture in bottom of greased pan. Bake for 10 min.

Once the bottoms have been cooked take it out of the oven and open the sugar free caramel jar. Pour it over the partially baked crust. Top with remaining gooey mixture.

Bake an additional 25-30 minutes or until everything is golden brown. Cool for 20 minutes and then run knife along the sides of hte pan to loosen and cool 30 minutes.Cut bars while it is slightly warm or else it will be too hard to cut and you will resort to just biting of peices because it is so damn tasty! Biting off is doable, but slightly less civilied!

**These bars can also be brunette by using chocolate cake mix and chocolate pudding mix. They can also be redheaded (my favorite) by using velevet cake mix and butterscotch pudding mix!

Oatlitious Cookies (Think Bootilicious, but less booty and more oat)

**These lagniappes are a delightful way to use creativity, energy, and otherwise clean out some of those oats everyone has stored in their cabinets. Not to mention they are healthy and delightful for the whole family. If you have a child or adult who thinks that they don’t like oats, tell them they are “Little nuggets of love” and serve them anyway. If they don’t like the cookies, it is their problem, not yours. PS - These are so healthy my mom puts them in her yogurt for breakfast!

1 cup plain or vanilla fat-free yogurt
½ cup sugar free maple syrup
½ cup healthy butter spread (we like Smart Balance)
2 eggs
1 ½ cups quick-cooking oats
½ cup dried fruit, we really like using Crasins
2 tablespoons cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. clove
¼ cup chopped almonds or pecans
3 tbsp. ground flaxseed
¼ cup dark chocolate chips (if desired, this does make it extra delicious and packs some great anti-oxidants!)

Mix all of the wet ingredients above in one bowl and mix all of the dried ingredients above into a separate bowl. Once all dry and wet ingredients are mixed separately, pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and shake it all about. Make sure the mixture is packable, meaning it is sticky enough to hold together when you make a ball of the dough with your hands. If not feel free to sprinkle a little bit of whole wheat flour and a little bit of fat-free milk or soy milk to reach a packable goopiness!

Once the desired goopiness is achieved you are ready to bake. Using a spoon, create spoon sized lumps and place on a greased cookie sheet giving each cookie enough room so that they have a little “breathing space”.

Place the cookie sheet into a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees and bake for 15-20 minutes. These cookies will come out hearty and yet somehow fluffy when done right and the house will smell like you have entered a magical world of gingerbread and lollipops! Enjoy!

Rosie Lemon Cookies
½ cup butter
3 tsp. crushed dried rosemary
1 pkg. (1 lb. 15oz.) sugar cookie mix
¼ cup whole wheat flour
1 tbs. lemon zest
Juice of 1 lemon
1 egg

In microwave safe bowl melt the butter and rosemary together for 20 seconds. Combine the cookie mix, four, lemon zest, and lemon juice separately and once combined stir into the butter mixture. Add the egg and mix and a thick dough will form.

Form the dough into balls and place on a cookie sheet about an inch apart and press down with your thumb to make a flatter cookie. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 7-8 minutes.

These cookies will delight your senses and give your friends and family something to talk about!

Coco-Loco's (aka Chocolate Chocolate cookies)

3 cups whole wheat flour
1 tbsp. baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups salted butter
2 cups sugar free maple syrup
1 ½ cups splenda
½ cup cocoa powder
4 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 tbsp. water
½ pound semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 ½ cups white chocolate chips
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In large bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In a bowl combine the butter, splenda, and syrup and beat with a blender until smooth and creamy. Add the cocoa powder, eggs, vanilla, and water and continue beating until all is combined. Add the flour mixture in stages until all is combined. Then mix in the semi-sweet and white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts until combined.

Spoon onto a baking sheet and bake for 12 to 14 minutes.

These will come out warm and gooey! They are the best right out of the oven so get your mouths ready!

Peanut Butter Kisses

1 cup butter (or smart start baking butter)
1 ¼ cup all natural peanut butter
1 cup splenda
1 cup sugar free maple syrup
2 eggs
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. soda
Dark chocolate kisses unwrapped

Mix shortenting and peanut butter together then add the spenda and sugar free syrup. Blend well and then mix in the eggs until fluffy. Mix the flour, soda, and salt together in a separate bowl then combine the flour mixture with the peanut butter mixture; blending until all is incorporated. Shape each cookie into balls using the palms of your hands and place on a cookie sheet. Bake the cookies in a 375 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Set the timer for half the cook time and halfway through press the dark chocolate kisses into the top of each cookie and continue cooking.
These cookies will come out and the chocolate will be slightly melted and we recommend cooling the cookies outside if it is a cool day! These are sugar free, whole wheat, and delightful! Enjoy without guilt.
Mental Health Tip: Cooking for me is an exercise in love and being in the present moment. So even on the craziest of days if I can put on my apron and demonstrate my love for my family and friends through food, it makes all other worries melt away! It's even better when I have my mom as a side kick. This holiday season, we encourage you to find a side kick and find peace of mind in the kitchen!

Happy Holidays from "Too Lovely" Hot Messes in the kitchen :)

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