C is for Christmas Cookie...

Ah yes...Cookie time!

It's tough being a cookie lady. Everyone asks if you are bringing them a sweet treat - and could you just do one special kind - just for them, of course. "Please - just one little batch - and if you have any of those wonderful pumpkin rocks - ooooooooh those too...and maybe...."

Well guess what? The cookie ladies aren't working this year. No cookies for you..or you..or you! So don't ask! No! I won't make chocolate chip cookies for the last time!!!

It is not as though we lacked Christmas spirit - Gail had her Santa hat on all week, and Debbie and I were heard humming Christmas tunes the last few days. It's a money thing folks - pure and simple. We have no dough - literally and figuratively!

So in contrast with years past - we only baked a few of our favorites to share with our families - plus a few select outsiders.

Sunday the 16th was the big payoff for the cookie conclave - I had to do the lion's share my baking at Gail's since my oven was down until the Thursday before Christmas.

As with every Cookie Conclave, the morning started off with mimosas - to properly lubricate the cookie makers. You can't get in the cookie making spirit without a little bit of social lubricant! Then, as we baked up some of the dough Debbie brought, we sat down and started going through all the new cookbooks we had purchased over the last year.

It was relaxing. We talked, we laughed and we ate a leisurely lunch of chicken and dumplings that we made from scratch. We had so much food that we ended up sharing it with some of the older ladies who live in Gail's complex.

After lunch, Debbie and I started a recipe for candy. They were called Kentucky Creams. It sounded good. Like creamy pulled caramels. So we boiled and boiled -then we pulled and pulled. Here is a pic of me and Deb pulling ourselves some new muscles. And guess what? Having never pulled candy in our lives- we over-pulled it. I had no idea you could. Here is what happens to candy when you over-pull it. It literally went from being sticky and stretchy to crumbling off my hands in a matter of seconds. Well so much for the great candy experiment!!

After that I went back to something I knew - pecan diamonds. I keep trying new recipes every so often because I lost my favorite one years ago. So far none of them have lived up to the memory of my beloved diamonds. Aren't they pretty though? Almost like candy on a crust. They are a bitch to cut though if you don't have a long sharp knife. Gail went to look for her son's pizza blade and came back with - um- something different instead.

We also made some of Debbie's crack corn, "Pay Day" cookies, brown sugar shortbread, Gail's pecan sandies, peanut brittle, spritz, and toffee. I made these awesome chocolate short bread cookies with a nice huge chunk of candy coated dark chocolate. The thing that made these really great? Gail knows a lady who is a product developer for Godiva. (Am I connected or what?!) This lady was kind enough to give us the better part of a 5 pound bag of Godiva coco powder. It is much higher in coco fat than most powders and has to be kept in the freezer to prevent rancidness. It makes a simple cookie like these really shine. The simpler the recipe, the more important the ingredients.

So where was Gail all this time? Was she slacking? Was she just sitting on her behind swilling mimosas and ordering us around? Oh no - Gail had a special responsibility this year. She was the stroopwafle specialist. While Debbie and I were ruining candy, Gail was risking life and limb filling these fantastic cookies with homemade caramel.

Wait? You don't know what a stroopwafle is?! Well we better take care of that situation right away. It is not a command given in the German army. "Drop and give me 20 stroopwafle!" Nor is a the castle where the vampire resides - "Good evening. I am Baron Stroopwafle.". Or in the original Stroopwaflian tongue it would sound like this - ""Guten Abend. Ich bein baron Stroopwafle" In reality, a stroopwafle is a Dutch cookie. It takes two crisp cinnamon scented wafer cookies and sandwiches that around a rich buttery caramel. They are meant to be eaten with coffee. According to "a source" (meaning I can't remember where I read it!), they are supposed to be placed over top of the coffee cup where the heat of the coffee softens the caramel. I got hooked on these from Trader Joe's. They have blue bags of these little tiny ittie bittie stroopwafles. Man - are they good! But driving to Trader Joe's isn't always an option, so I found a recipe in a magazine about three years ago. After playing with it some, we gals felt that it has become our own. The cookies themselves have become a permanent part of our repertoire and waistlines.

There are some special requirements for making these treats. The first is a pizzelle iron. That's how the cookies are made. I will be truthful here - I was never really crazy about pizzelles. They were an "ok" cookie. So I never purchased an iron. Gail and Debbie both have irons - thereby doubling our production. The second is a candy thermometer. Yes - these do require you to actually make caramel. We tried cheating with caramel sauces and melting ready made caramels. It just doesn't give you the proper results. If the thought of handling hot gooey syrupy luscious caramel frightens you - make friends who are fearless - like Gail!

I hope everyone had a great holiday - with or without cookies...

So without further blathering - here is the star of this year's conclave - Stroopwafles!

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

1. Stir together flour, baking pow­der, and cinnamon; set aside. Beat eggs on high speed about 4 minutes or until thick and lemon-colored. Gradually beat in sugar on medium speed. Beat in butter and vanilla. Beat in flour mixture on low speed.

2. Heat up your pizzelle iron according to the directions that come with it. You can either make large cookies or smaller ones based on the type of iron that you have. Place a tablespoon or more of the batter in center of each grid. You will have to experiment to see how much will work with your iron. Close lid. Bake accord­ing to manufacturer's directions. Use a spatula to transfer warm cookie to paper towel; cool. Repeat with remain­ing batter. How many finished cookies you will get depend on the size of your iron and how many you can resist eating fresh off the griddle.

3. Prepare Caramel Filling. Imme­diately spoon about a tablespoon or so filling onto a cookie then quickly cover filling with a “blank” cookie.


1 cup butter
2 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup light-colored corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

This recipe makes a lot – no way around it. You can do what we do and double the batch of cookies or you can make candy.

To prep for making candy line 8x8x2-inch baking pan with foil. Butter foil; set aside.

To prep for filling cookies, you are going to need to find a way to keep the caramel liquid while you are filling cookies. Gail uses a glass bowl and a hot water bath, replacing the water every so often to keep everything hot. And speaking of hot – this stuff will burn you if you are not careful! I bought Gail a large spatula to hold the bottom cookie while she was drizzling the caramel over it. Saved a lot of wear and tear in her fingers.

In a heavy, 3-quart saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Stir in packed brown sugar, sweetened condensed milk, and corn syrup. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture boils. Clip candy thermometer to side of pan. Reduce heat to medium; continue to boil at moderate, steady rate, stirring frequently, until thermometer regis­ters 248°F, firm-ball stage (about 15 minutes). Adjust heat as necessary to maintain a steady boil. Remove pan from heat; remove thermometer. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Transfer mixture into heatproof cup to use to fill cookies.

If you are making candy, immediately spread remaining mixture evenly in prepared pan. When firm, use foil to lift it out of the pan. Using a buttered knife, cut caramel into 1-inch squares. Wrap each caramel square in plastic wrap. Makes 64 pieces.

TO STORE: Layer sandwich cookies between waxed paper in airtight con­tainer; cover. Store at room temper­ature up to 3 days. (I’ve kept them up to a week and they really didn’t seem to suffer) Or freeze unfilled cookies up to 3 months; thaw and fill.


Wow! I am getting my 15 minutes of fame from the Columbus Dispatch today!

The photo shoot was a lot of fun and it was great hanging out with all my fellow bloggers. My daughter told me that the rolling pin was the prefect prop.

For those of you who haven't had a chance to take a gander - Check it out!

I just wanted to let you know that I am still working up my report on the 2007 Cookie Confab plus I am going to share a new restaurant with you a little later this week. I am just glad the holidays are done!!

For anyone who would like to have something tasty and hang out with some fellow foodies - check out the Meetup group that Becke started. Our next get-together is January 6th. See our Meetup page for more details!


I feel a rant coming on!!!

Just so that you have been warned: This is a rant. I just wanted all of you to be aware of that before you went any further. Don't worry though - we will be taking frequent pitstops to give you a chance to wee (mentally speaking) as we travel along.

I went to the library recently and checked out The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved: Inside America's Underground Food Movements by Sandor Ellix Katz. It was an interesting read. It got me to thinking - which is the purpose Katz had in mind.

Every person who gives a tinker's damn about what they eat and how it is produced is caught up in the same conundrum - how can I do the right thing? And an even bigger question is - What is the right thing?

Yes- what is the right thing? Is it eating healthy? Is it eating local? Is it minimizing our impact on the environment? Is it eating organic? Is it eating to fit your budget? Can we do all these things at once or do you have to pick and choose? Should we be concerned about what other people do? Can we force people to stop doing things that are "bad" (whatever that means)?

It's all pretty freakin' confusing if you ask me. I'm a pretty average Joe. I really think about me and mine first. (And if you know someone who says they don't - they are a liar. Everyone puts self-interest first.) I worry about money. I worry about nutrition. I worry about getting the best products for my family. I worry about the long run - sustainable agriculture, global warming, agricultural run-off, the global food network among many other nagging, and sometimes disturbing, issues.

However, it comes down to where I have to make some choices. I have to decide what is most important and what criteria I am going to use to justify those choices. Is cost my biggest concern? Is good taste? Is eating local? Do I have to pick one over the other? Can there be compromises that will allow me to feel good about my choices or will they just leave me feeling like I wimped out?


So I sat down and asked myself - what really drives what I buy?

First - cost. I set a budget. It has to be. With all prices on the rise, it's a juggling act. Can I mend these pants? Can this car go for another year? And because it is something we really deal with every day - how can I make my food budget stretch? How can I get the most for the least?

Second- nutrition. With a teenager grazing through the pantry and fridge, I need to keep an eye on the types of foods I have in my house - based on nutritional needs as well as cost. Is buying red peppers out of season a bad thing? Can I justify the cost based on nutritional need? Are there other things I can buy or make that would be cheaper and just as nutritious?

Third - quality. If it is cheap and it sucks - no one will wear/use/eat it. Then it's just wasted - it fills up the landfill and drains the pocketbook. If I buy an off-brand of cereal (cost) that is has vitamins added (nutrition) and it still taste like the box it is packaged in - then I obviously didn't make the right choice.

Fourth - local and sustainable. Yeah - all the way down here. These two consideration make the top three much more likely to be met - in season. I buy from the farmer's markets. I am considering adopting a chicken and maybe even having a hog raised. I plant my own garden and can/freeze what I have room for. But here is the rub - we live in Ohio folks. I wish I lived in California - fresh produce all year round, but I don't. That means being a locavore is much harder than if I lived in a warmer clime. It's true I could devote myself to preserving a large amount of locally produced veggies for the winter table - but I work. A lot. I know the amount of effort it takes to "put by" enough food to get a family of four through the winter. I also know that some of the local farmers can and freeze their items, so that we don't have to do the work ourselves. But the cost! It would blow my food budget - and a couple other budgets as well - to buy enough to get me through the winter. So yeah - I am willing to do as much as I can to "Support My Local Farmer" and to eat local, but not to the extent that I am willing to sacrifice the first three items in the hierarchy.


Fifth - organic. This is pretty much at the bottom of my list for a number of reasons. "Organic" - What does it mean? A lot of different things to a lot of different people. The way the USDA defines it is written in government-ese. Some other folks define it a little more simply. The way I define it - expensive and in some cases - a smoke screen. I've heard reports of unscrupulous vendors slapping an "organic" sticker on items to jack up to price. Maybe that is true-and maybe it's not. I know it's human nature to "cheat" when you think you are not going to get caught - so I am inclined to believe that it does happen on a fairly regular basis. Let's take a look at the red peppers mentioned above. If I have a food budget of $60 a week and regular "grow with every chemical know" peppers are on sale for $1.99/lb and the organic peppers are available for $3.99/lb - is it worth it? If my budget is $40 a week? If my budget is $20/week? (And yes, I have been that poor in my life.) Is eating organic a chance for "those who have" to differentiate themselves from "those that don't"? How about the farmer's market - a chance to level to playing field. Regular peppers were 25 cents each. Organic were much higher - at one point 75 cents each.

I think as the the food production system re-aligns itself with consumer demand, the prices will drop somewhat. However, growing organic is a risk for many farmers. The consumer has come to expect flawless produce. Sometimes at the farmer's market, you will see people avoiding things like greens that have obvious bug damage to them. Without chemicals, produce will go back to looking like it did in our grandparents day (or maybe great-grandparents for you young 'uns). This means damaged goods will not make it to the grocery stores - and it means the items that do will be more expensive to cover the waste.

So, as for organic produce, I will buy it when I can but it is not something I go out of my way for.


There ya are. Love me, hate me - that is the way things stand today. A year from now, five years from now - things may change. It's the nature of the beast. So thanks for staying with me to the end.

For those of you who liked my wayside stops, check out one of my favorite comics, Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. I think it pretty darn funny.

Just a quick note: my cookie production is at a stand still. My ancient oven is acting up and have to get my landlord in to see if it can be repaired. And who knows how long that will take. Hey Gail! I think I'll be over this weekend to use your nice new oven!!!



Just a couple of quick notes this week - I am trying to get the holiday baking excitement off to a start this week!

First - I finally got to meet Denise of 2Silos at the first Worthington Winter Farmer's Market. I love her! Its so great meeting people who have passion for what they do. We spent a few minutes chatting between egg sales and I am thinking about adopting a chicken. I would love to get some great eggs on a regular basis and the thought of a fat stewing hen at the end of the whole thing excites me. With a little luck, I hope to drive up to the farm sometime in the near future to see the chickens do their thing. If we do adopt, I already have a name for my chicken. It will be Henrietta - named after the famous 266 pound chicken from "The Hoboken Chicken Emergency" by Daniel Pinkwater. If you never read this book as a kid - get it now. Even if you don't have kids.

The Winter Farmer's market was OK. There was not a lot of fresh produce available - which I kinda expected. Pies, cakes and other baked goods, canned goods, wool goods, and Christmas decorations really dominated. There was a group selling hydroponic lettuce, Wishwell Farms had some greenhouse tomatoes and the folks (sorry can't remember their names off hand) selling fresh mushrooms were there as well. I ended up buying some eggs from 2silos, a small bag of the lettuce to see how it tasted (it was acceptable), a small pecan pie from Meade Farms ('cuz I love them so much!!) and a $4 box of mixed mushrooms. I ended up making omelets with the mushrooms and eggs along with a small salad for dinner that night.

I really like the idea of the Winter Market, but without more things like root veggies and other long storage veggies on site - I may just be going for the eggs! Denise said she will not be back at the Winter Market until after the first of the year - so stay tuned.

Also, just a note to let you know that some of the local foodies here in town will be eating at MiMi's next Saturday the 8th around 2pm. If you are interested in stopping by for a bowl of pho and some food talk - stop on in!

That's about it for the moment - I'll be back with more sweet talk later!