Happy 2015, everyone!

Happy New Year 2015!

Happy New Year 2015!

Happy 2015! Hope you were all able to stay up and see the new year being rung in. If you weren’t, don’t feel bad. My husband had a long nap in the afternoon, and he still turned in early. 🙂

But, beforehand I was able to share this dinner with him. It’s homemade cabbage rolls with bacon on top, sauteed cabbage with kielbasa and onions, and served with rustic red potato mash.

New Year's cabbage rolls, sauteed cabbage with kielbasa and onions, and served with rustic red potato mash

New Year’s cabbage rolls, sauteed cabbage with kielbasa and onions, and served with rustic red potato mash.

It was all tasty, and we washed it down with this great non-alcoholic sparkling wine drink I found at the grocery store. I really like it. I’m not a fan of booze, or champagne, but I like the taste of this drink. A lot. We finished the bottle as I did the dinner dishes.

2014-12-31 22.48.45It’s about ten minutes to the big moment, and my husband is now sitting on the couch. I guess he wanted to wait it out with me after all. Aww. He’s a total sweetheart.

I’m not one for resolutions, but if you are, I wish you the best in keeping them. Conviction is the key. Conviction and a clear goal without any other voice in your head telling you change isn’t possible. It is. Totally.

Ok, we’re down to five minutes left in 2014. Get your drinks, noise makers and lips ready, kids.

Talk to you in next year!

Auntie Stacey’s Gingerbread-Espresso Christmas Cookies

Ginger-Espresso Christmas Cookies

Ginger-Espresso Christmas Cookies

I used this gingerbread cookie recipe as the base of my cookies, and then tweaked the overall flavouring by adding 2 tbsp of fine ground coffee beans for texture. You can see the flecks the grinds create in the final baked cookie form, and you can feel the grinds as you chew them. They add a lovely mouth-feel to contrast with the chewy gingerbread base, and together I think they create a sophisticated update on the old, somewhat tired gingerbread theme.

The other change up I made to my gingerbread cookies was in shape (I chose a lovely scaled snowflake over the man figure), and in the icing colour (typically you’ll see a lot of piped white icing, and some chocolate, red and green piped icing accents) which I did in a blue icing for a smashing pop of colour against the dark cookie base.

Picture courtesy of Glorious Treat's blog - gingerbread cookies

Picture courtesy of Glorious Treat’s blog – gingerbread cookies

I mean, LOOK at how fabulous this colour combination is. I won’t lie, Glory’s iced cookie version utterly seduced me. When I saw that, no other colour compared!

Gingerbread-Espresso Christmas Cookies:
1/2 C Unsalted Butter, room temp
3/4 C Brown Sugar
1 Large Egg, room temp
1/3 C Fancy Molasses
2 /2 C All Purpose Flour (unbleached is fine)
2 tea Ground Ginger
1 1/2 tea Ground Cinnamon
1/2 tea Salt
1/2 tea Baking Soda
1 tbsp Instant Espresso Powder
1 1/2 tbsp Coffee Grinds, Fine (not used – yuck!)

In your mixer, blend the butter and sugar together till it’s pale in colour and fluffy in texture (about 5 mins).

In a medium size mixing bowl, add the flour, ginger, cinnamon, salt, and baking soda. Whisk well to combine all of these ingredients. Set near the running mixer.

On the mixer’s slowest speed, add the egg and the molasses. Blend that in a bit before adding in your dry ingredient mixture slowly one cup at a time. When the dry ingredients have been incorporated into the dough finally, add the espresso powder and coffee grinds. Quickly run the mixer enough to blend them through out the dough batch before turning the dough out of the bowl to portion it out into four balls for chilling.

I used a pair of thick chopsticks that are about 3/8″ in diameter to flank each ball of dough between two sheets of wax paper as I rolled it out flat into a circle or square. I then placed all four flattened out dough balls on a tray and let them rest in my refrigerator or about 1 hour before cutting them up into shapes.

After an hour, I pre-heated my oven to 350 degrees (I have a convection oven so I have to set mine at 375 because the oven drops the temperature down by 25 degrees automatically), and poured a bit of flour into a bowl to dip my cookie cutter into between cuts.

I made as many snowflake cookies as I could fit on my baking pans with at least 1″ around each cookie and when the oven was ready, I baked two pans at one go on the middle rack for 8 minutes. I continued cutting out more snowflakes to line my next two pans as the first batch baked up and cooled down. I continued to repeat this until all four balls of dough were baked up into cookies.

I left the cookies to cool completely for about two hours and then started my decorating process. You can use whatever icing you like, but I happen to have been pressed for time so I cheated by melting some baking chocolate waffers in a small Ziplock baggy in my microwave (about three 30 second times for a handful of waffers). As the chocolate started to harden while decorating the cookies, I would melt it some more in the microwave at 15 second intervals.

NOTE: This is a great cookie dough to make up to one month before you need to bake it, so for Christmas I would say mix it up in the last week of November or the first week of December, wrap it as a disk in plastic wrap and then tin foil, and throw it in the freezer to speed everything up as you get into your baking groove. It shouldn’t take more than 15 minutes sitting on the counter for the dough to come up to temperature so you can work with it.


Christmas baking round up

2014-12-22 12.21.14So I baked a lot this year. For both sides of the family. And friends and co-workers. This isn’t the whole list, just the ones I could recall off the top of my head after the first three day marathon in the kitchen.

My Gingerbread-Espresso Christmas Cookies came after this list was made, and almost at the end of the second baking wave. It was an inspired last minute recipe idea I threw together, and I think it was the best cookie I gave out as gifts.

Speaking of, I promised you all that recipe the other day, and then life got in my way. Apologies! Coming right up. As promised, each will have their own post entry so you can search for it in the future.

Coffee Chatter – Sunday Edition

hide-and-seekSo. It’s been four months already, has it? Huh. Well, how is everyone?

I suck at this blogging thing. I know, I know. So sorry. The last four months at work have been hectic and then Christmas rolled around before I knew it, and well…

Ok, here we go. I should probably give you the rundown on what I made for Christmas baking gifts since that’s the most interesting part of my absence, and really the only part most of you care about besides the sweet, sweet new sink faucet the husband bought me for Christmas and installed himself. Don’t lie, I know you want to see pictures of the new faucet! 🙂

Before - hated this one. Really couldn't deal with it. It came with the house. Good riddance!

Before – hated this one. Really couldn’t deal with it. It came with the house. Good riddance!

New one - Love this high swan necked faucet. LOVE.

After – Love this high swan necked faucet. LOVE. I don’t mind dishes as much now.

You like?? Haha. Ok, I’ll shut up and go back to the baked goods now.

I found this lovely recipe on Martha’s website for what looks like coffee bean cookies. And indeed they are designed to taste like espresso beans, too. I had a lot of fun and flashbacks to my time as a child playing with Play-Doh and modelling clay.

Martha Stewart's Espresso Bean Cookies

MSL’s Espresso Bean Cookies

The indent was tricky for me because the instructions didn’t give any hints on how to make them look authentic, but I figured it out after a few tries. I think they turned out well. And I loved the taste of them so much, I co-opted it for another recipe I created this year.

The trick is to make a centre crease with the skewer, and then push down on both sides tapering inwards as you go till you reach the middle of the crease. That opens the crease up and emulates the split bean look perfectly.

The trick is to make a centre crease with the skewer, and then open it up with the skewer by shaving down a bit of each side, tapering inwards as you go. That emulates the split bean look perfectly.

That recipe was for my Gingerbread-Espresso Christmas Cookies.

Ginger-Espresso Christmas Cookies

Ginger-Espresso Christmas Cookies

They were easy to make and retained their cut-out shapes well while baking (much like some of the better sugar cookie recipes will get you). I’m not the best cookie decorator in the world and I struggle each year to find a pleasing look that I can duplicate on a few batches of the same cookie in a short amount of time before the icing hardens up. I think I stumbled on to something this year with the blue swirl over the snowflake shape. I really like it. And it makes for a fantastic photo composition.

I will post each of the cookie recipes in their own posts so it will be easier for you to search for them later if you want to make some yourselves.

I can’t believe I typed all of the above without a drop of coffee in me. Let me hit publish on this now, and I will stop to make a coffee before I post the recipes. 🙂