Monthly Archive for December 2008
As usual, I’ve gotten a little ahead of myself. I have a history of this: in the fifth grade, I was already dressing like a business woman. Blazers, and sometimes ties (it was 1989), were de rigueur. So, really, my eagerness to talk about New Years Day, before uttering even a peep about New Years Eve, really isn’t all that shocking. Like I said, I have a history—a shoulder-padded history.
In reality, I have been doing a lot of thinking about New Years Eve. We’ll be cooking and laying low because we have an early flight on New Years Day (New Orleans!). My initial idea for a New Years Eve menu came while we were at my parents’ house in Minnesota for Christmas.
I love the idea of spending New Year’s Day puttering around the kitchen, sipping a mug of coffee or perhaps a mimosa (or, heck, a little pool of Bailey’s in the bottom of a glass; it is a holiday after all). With any luck, you only have a slight champagne headache and the sun is shining, which practically makes you whistle while you work in the kitchen: stirring, tasting, tweaking.
In my version of this little daydream, the food is hearty (resolutions start on the second day of January, according to, well, me) and comforting and long-cooked, requiring you to wear a path all day long from your favorite nook of the couch to the kitchen and back again.
Well, friends, this is a little awkward, isn’t it? Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t so much as utter a ho-ho-ho here on this site. For that, I’m sorry. And I have excuses, too. Our flight was canceled on Tuesday night, leading (1) me to have a complete temper tantrum (one really more fit for a three-year-old who has just learned that Christmas might be stolen from her); (2) Kevin to vow to drive us to Minnesota (with hopes of mollifying said temper-tantruming wife); (3) me to shove at least three more outfits, two additional pairs of shoes, and an extra container of frozen Christmas cookies into a suitcase (last I checked our Subaru doesn’t charge per bag checked!); and (4) us to crawl along 94 up out of Illinois, through Wisconsin and into Minnesota. So the holiday was a little hectic and I hope you’ll understand the silence. In the end, we got here, safe and sound and entirely over winter.
Before all of this, though, on Monday night, my mom and I made a phone date to plan the menus for the weekend. We concocted some doozies—some of which you’ve seen before and others that will grace this page before the year is out. But if there was one dish about which I was unsure, it was this cranberry spice bundt cake, nominated by my mom for Christmas morning brunch.
Did I say I was done with the holiday baking? Well, whoops. As it turns out, I was done with the Christmas baking. Never—not once—did I mention Hanukkah baking, which, you know, is completely different. So, I confess, we celebrated Hanukkah this weekend with Kevin’s family and I made rugelach. (It just might be time for an intervention. My name is Kristin and I cannot stop the holiday baking. Surely there is a support group for this?) I waffled between the recipe I used last year, a pinwheel recipe and a recipe by Dorie Greenspan. In the end, the third of these won. I couldn’t resist the traditional shape: cute little spiraled nuggets, fillings seeping out around the edges.
Into the cream cheese dough, I tucked apricot preserves, dried cranberries, chopped pecans and bits of bittersweet chocolate, but you should feel free to play around with the combination. These cookies, old-timey and imperfect, are fun to make and even more fun to eat: what, with the flaky pastry and jammy, tart insides. The bits of chocolate here and there don’t hurt either (and I know chocolate’s not traditional but Dorie said I could). Because I’ve got about a billion things to do before we leave for Minnesota on Tuesday night (But no more baking. Seriously. I swear.), I’ll leave you with step-by-step photos after the jump:
My chief complaint with the iPhone is that it is entirely unconducive to cradling on your shoulder while you, say, make dinner and talk to your mom at the same time. It’s nothing like the receiver of the phone that used to hang in my family’s kitchen (rotary! oh, the horror when my friends came over!). That one was dumbell shaped and clunky, but my mom could cook an entire dinner with it pinched between her ear and shoulder, the curly cord stretching from the stove to the sink to the table and back again.
The iPhone? Not so much. On Sunday as I was cleaning up after yet another baking project, I called my mom. Before I could even get past the obligatory “What did you have for dinner?” question, the phone slipped out of it’s awkward position bewteen my cheek and clavicle, causing me to drop a (brand new) bottle of vanilla (extra large, extra expensive) on the counter, where it promptly shattered. Which is when I started cursing. Which is when I hung up the phone. Which is when I vowed that the holiday baking was OVER.
So. This salad. Well, hmmm, let’s see. I’m not sure what to say about it. For one thing, it’s not the gingerbread cake I made on Sunday and hoped to tell you about today, because that cratered while it baked and then refused to dislodge itself from its pan (still producing delicious crumbs, though, I assure you). And it’s also not the newest soup to grace my Dutch oven twice in the last month, because while that soup is incredibly comforting and bright and hearty, it’s also incredibly un-photogenic.
And, while we’re at it, it wasn’t the Chicago-style deep dish we made the weekend before last, either, because we ate that long after sundown and we hungrily ate it, flashless and thus photoless. (Don’t worry, it will have an encore very soon.) Which, I suppose, brings me back to the salad.
If your December is anything like mine is right now, you’re drowning in decisions. Should we drive or fly? Does he want a sweater or a necktie (or, more likely, neither)? Can we make it to all three of these holiday parties on the exact same Saturday night? Should I or should I not eat that thirteenth cookie of the day? Sometimes it makes me want to curl up under the boughs of a big Christmas tree and hide from it all.
Alas, I’m a little allergic to Christmas trees and I’m sure it would be terribly uncomfortable under there, what with all the prickly needles. Kind of like spooning with a porcupine, no? So, instead, I’m trying to stay calm, not take on too much and check off one decision at a time.
Okay, people, let’s hear it: how are you holding up? Is cookie fatigue setting in? I mean in your own kitchens, though I suppose you could catch a slight case of cookie fatigue just from hanging around here this week. First it was pistachio-dried cherry cookies and then it was chocolate-espresso snowcaps. And now it’s these peanut butter pinwheels, which—let me tell you—nearly gave me cookie fatigue and them some. In fact, it had me ready to throw in the spatula.
Thankfully, I recovered and the confections will continue to emerge from the oven. But for a short time on Sunday, when I made these stripey cookies, it was dicey. You see, I committed the cardinal sin of cooking/baking: I didn’t read the recipe through before baking the cookies. There, I said it.
These cookies are a little bit magic, I think. They bring out your inner-child, if nothing else. For one thing, you get to arm yourself with a cool tool, the spring-loaded ice cream scoop:
And with that scoop, you get to sweep through a bowl of chocolate cookie dough, gathering up a perfect tablespoon of dough and leaving wavy streaks in your wake:
For the last three years—2005, 2006 and 2007—December has meant one thing to me. Law School Finals. Not decking the halls. No holly jolly. Not a trace of yuletide cheer. And absolutely no cookie baking. Nope, just flashcards, anxiety, and exhaustion. So, when December crept up this year, I decided to make up for lost time, especially in the cookie department.
I’ve been spending a lot of time in the kitchen, surrounded by a cloud of sugar and flour, apron cinched around my waist, spatula firmly in my palm. I’ve also been making room in the freezer (no easy task) as the batches mount. But, perhaps best of all, I’ve been poring over recipes.