Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hostess Gift

I was in need of a non-Christmas hostess gift recently. Now, I'm a baker and I love making Christmas cookies, but for this occasion they just weren't right. This was not a Christmas party. So I did some thinking, did some blog searching, and came up with a jar of spiced nuts. I know, I know, spiced nuts are really something that you only make at Christmas, but this was a gift for people who aren't really into sweets (what? I know). So the spiced nuts were what I came up with. And you know what? They were so good that I might bring them for hostess gifts year round. So there.

The jar is a repurposed molasses jar (from all of the Molasses Cookies I made over the holidays). The paper came from my new favorite find LollyChops. She has designed all sorts of beautiful, beautiful freebies and I was beyond excited to find them. And so grateful that she takes the time to make them available.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Won Cuff Links!

One of my favorite blogs, Little Birdie Secrets, had a contest recently. They were giving away a pair of plain, unadorned cuff links. To win you had to give them an idea of what you would do with them. They picked their three favorite ideas. And they picked mine. As one of their three favorites! Look, here's the proof.

I know it is a small prize from a small contest, but it has really made my day and boosted my confidence. Thank you Little Birdie Secrets, this means a lot to me!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Eggnog Cupcakes

Last year I was looking for a festive Christmas cupcake to take to a couple of family holiday gatherings. I wanted something that signaled holiday. Spice. Aroma. Not Chocolate. I considered gingerbread, but gingerbread is never as popular when it's not a cookie.

And then I stumbled upon a few Eggnog Cupcake recipes on a few of my absolute favorite cupcake blogs. And I knew I had my holiday recipe. Easy to make. Involves alcohol. I knew I had a holiday hit on my hands.

I ended up using the cupcake recipe from Chockylit, but left out the pastry cream filling and used my own made up recipe for a eggnog rum glaze instead of her Bourbon Caramel Cream Cheese Frosting. Very east to make and gave me the festive results I was looking for.

I thought they were great. Something different and tasty and festive. However. Yes, I said however. They were not well received at either family holiday party at which they made an appearance. I had lots of leftovers. At one party they were given a polite taste by a few before people moved on to some boxed brownies that someone had brought. Everyone else passed them up entirely. At the other family gathering they went completely untouched in favor of store bought cheesecake. Store bought! And I even pointed out that there was rum in both the cake and the glaze!

So this year I'm just picking up whatever is on sale at the grocery store on my way to the party.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Molasses Cookies

Baking is, perhaps, my favorite part of the holidays. And this is probably my favorite cookie recipe. I started making them several years ago after searching for something a little more "holiday" than chocolate chip cookies and something easier than rolled sugar cookies. And I found absolute cookie heaven with this recipe, let me tell you.

It is slightly adapted from this recipe found on

Molasses Cookies

4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cloves

1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

3/4 cup sugar + 1/2 cup sugar for rolling

3/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup unsulfured molasses

2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 325°F. and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon.

In another large bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter, shortening, and sugars until light and fluffy and beat in molasses. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture and combine well.

In a small shallow bowl put remaining 1/2 cup sugar. Form dough into 2-inch balls and roll in sugar. On baking sheets arrange balls about 4 inches apart.

Bake cookies in middle of the oven 15 minutes, or until puffed and golden. (Cookies should be soft.) Transfer cookies to racks to cool.

Notes: Bigger cookies are better. I've done smaller sizes and they just don't get as nice and chewy. Also, I've done half batches several times with no problems. And these are better a day or two after you bake them (rather than fresh out of the oven). It gives them time to get nice a chewy and for the spices to settle in.