Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas Eve

It's hard to believe Christmas Eve is here! Every year, without fail, I get this Better than Ezra song stuck in my head....which is definitely better than this bizarre version of Good King Wenceslas by Sufjan Stevens available here.

In celebration of Christmas Eve and Santa's imminent arrival, I thought I'd post some of my favorite Santa-themed wrecks from Cake Wrecks (and yes, I do check that site nearly every day).

Santa is mad as hell and he's not going to take it anymore

Santa is trying out a new look

Santa has had an accident (otherwise known as Suicide Santa) clue what Santa is up to here...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Gaudy Tree

My parent's local paper (The Raleigh News and Observer) asked for submissions of unusual Christmas Trees this year for their Home section. A small fake, silvery tree known simply as The Gaudy Tree was my family's submission. Believe it or not, this tree was purchased in Italy in the 1950s and has been a part of Christmas in Willey* households for 52 years. Check out the feature here.

*my mom's maiden name (and my middle name)

In other news, the high temperature today is 8!! 8!! Right now, the wind chill is -15!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Truffle Cookies

By popular demand, here is the recipe for Truffle Cookies, taken from Gourmet magazine in December 2000.

4 oz unsweetened chocolate
3/4 stick (6 TBSP) unsalted butter
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 TBSP unsweetened cocoa powder (not dutch processed)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla (my mom leaves this out; I usually add some but not all 1 1/2 tsps)

Melt unsweetened chocolate, butter, and 1 cup chocolate chips in a saucepan over low heat (or in the microwave...that's how I always do it). Cool.

Stir together flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt

Beat together sugar, eggs, and vanilla with a mixer until pale and frothy (about 2 minutes). Mix in melted chocolate mixture and then flour mixture at low speed until combined well. Stir in remaining cup of chocolate chips. Chill covered until firm for two hours. Preheat oven to 350.

Roll heaping teaspoons of dough into 1 inch balls with dampened hands and arrange 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Bake in batches in middle of oven until puffed and set, about 10 minutes. Cookies will be soft in center. Transfer to racks to cool.

That's it! Let me know if you have any questions.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A Pound and a Half of Butter

Today, I translated 1.5 pounds of butter (that's 6 sticks) into a variety of Christmas cookies. Making and eating Christmas cookies is a major part of the holiday season for my family. We make dozens and dozens of cookies each year, and one of my favorite things is baking with my mom. We scoff at people who buy the sugar cookie rolls, and we are a completely cookie-mix-free family (the horror!).

This year, we are spending Christmas in Indiana (my first ever Christmas away from home!), so I can't make any cookies with my mom until after Christmas. But I can't wait that long, so I spent today baking. I made four types (plus an insane amount of Chex Mix---known as Nuts and Bolts in my family because we add Cheerios and Pretzels).

These are butter cookies with cream cheese frosting. I have yet to meet someone who doesn't like these cookies, and I've met several who are smitten with them, including Heather who made them for their Christmas party. These are a family recipe that my Grandma Alice got from a neighbor.

Truffle Cookies
These cookies contain three types of chocolate and only a 1/2 cup of flour (they would certainly be Ramona's favorite were she allowed to choose). They are a relatively new favorite but have become a staple. My mom, who is an amazing cook and baker, thinks these are hard to make because you have to let the dough sit in the fridge for 2 hours before baking them (impatience runs in our family).

Butter Crunch
Not technically a cookie as these are a toffee topped with chocolate. I always make some with nuts (I use pecans) and some without. Another family recipe. Every year, my mom, my brother, and I would make butter crunch that was far inferior to my Aunt Jackie's. Hers was always the right amount of crunchy, while ours was chewy enough to take your fillings out. Finally one year I asked her what the secret was. We had been following the recipe, cooking it until 'hard crack' stage at 285 degrees. She had a simple answer: "I cook it until it is the right color." Ever since, my butter crunch has come out perfectly (...except for the year that I wasn't patient enough to wait for the golden toffee color...).

Molasses Cookies
These are not a family recipe, but they have lots of ginger and cinnamon and taste quite Christmas-y, plus I love anything that has molasses in it. I still prefer my Grandma Ellen's Gingersnaps, but I made them for two reasons: 1) Andy really likes them, and 2) making cut-out cookies by yourself is decidedly un-fun (similar to Pancakes for One).

Monday, December 8, 2008

Our First Real Tree

We decided to upgrade from our fairly lame fake tree to a real one this year. We snagged a 5 ft* Frasier Fir at our local nursery. It definitely feels more like Christmas is coming with our own real tree filling up our living room.

Sydney finds fake trees ever so boring.

An upgrade for 2008

I just couldn't pass up this ornament when we went to Target to buy a tree stand. I mean, c'mon, a hippo skiing! What's not to like? (Andy's reaction was one of horror asking if I was serious).

*The tree is taller than me, and I'm 5'8", so it's a very generous 5 ft.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Gay Marriage will Save the Economy!

If you haven't seen "Prop 8 the Musical" yet, check it!

See more Jack Black videos at Funny or Die

Check out Join the Impact or Human Rights Campaign if you think that everyone has the right to marry!!