December was a busy month for me. From baking & gift giving to packing & traveling, the entire month flew by before my eyes. With a trip planned far in advance to visit my extended family and friends in Southern California, I quickly found myself working around those dates to fit everything in. Lists had to be made, dinners had to be cooked and holiday packages had to be mailed out, but with a bit of planning and careful preparation, everything got accomplished. Let's go back & remember what December was all about.
Freshly grated orange zest flavors these cookies. I introduced these delicious treats that have been in our family for a few generations and got such a positive response from many of you. This single post was perhaps the most popular to date on my blog and I owe it all to mom. Thank you readers, friends & family who made these during the holidays!
I love these close up pictures I took of the cookies. They're so fragrant & so wonderfully addictive that you simply want to eat them right away. Yummy.
I didn't mention in the blog post that leftover cinnamon sugar is inevitable. Don't throw it away! Simply strain the sugar through a sifter to remove any stray bits of cookie and seal in an airtight container for future use. I love sprinkling some of this sugar on buttered toast, or adding it to my coffee and tea (it's also good in hot oatmeal).
These lovely cookies were part of a small tutorial on shipping cookies by mail. It's something I do every single year, so I thought it would be a good thing to show you how I go about it. If you haven't seen this posting, click on the link above.
About these marbleized cookies. Whenever one rolls out cookie dough & cuts out shapes, there will always be scraps leftover. I don't like throwing those scraps away after my first roll. What I do is gather the scraps & chill them to roll out a second time. If I have chocolate & sugar cookie dough leftover, I make marble cookies. I gather & clump the pieces together until they're haphazardly colored & I chill the dough before rolling it out. After the second rolling, I do discard any leftovers because further manipulation will just toughen the cookies.
I love these stamped Happy Birthday Cookies. They're so simple, yet so cheerfully colorful.
I think the multi striped star cookies were my favorite. As the baker of these types of cookies, I always like to keep a few to nibble on with some tea, just to make sure they're up to snuff! I'm being facetious of course. I'm a cookie monster at heart!
These are beautiful cookies. I cherish all of my Martha by Mail cookie cutters and treat them with great care, but what I don't do is keep them stashed away unused.
Snowflakes are beautiful no matter how ornate or how simply decorated they are. Everyone loves them.
I think everyone should eat a pomegranate or two or more during the winter when they're available. If you haven't gotten one yet, look for them at your local farmer's market or regular supermarket.
To extract the extra juicy arils from the pomegranate, follow my instructions carefully. I learned how to do this from watching famed chef, Jamie Oliver on television. Thanks Jamie!
As a former ballet dancer, my Nutcracker cookie cutters hit just the right note during Christmas. These are among my favorite cutters.
I knew I wanted to make a gingerbread house for my niece & nephews, so I turned to these cutters as a guide. Wouldn't these make a nice little house for the kids? I thought about using this house facade as a base, but later changed my mind. I opted for something larger. Keep reading, you'll see the final one.
These trees remind me of the ones found around my house. Although we haven't had snow this year, I can assure you that when the evergreens get laden with it, the branches droop down in nice arches.
How festive are these?
I love a good Pumpkin Bread during winter. I had to repost this recipe not only because it's a good one, but because I was busy packing suitcases and getting my house ready for my departure.
Gift giving like this is always a pleasure for me. I do it every year and the recipients always seem to eagerly await their treats. It isn't difficult to put together packages like the ones I make, it just takes a bit of patience and organizing. I don't like to feel rushed during the holidays, so I always allot a weekend of baking to get this done. Nothing about these treat packages is difficult.
I wished everyone a Merry Christmas with a shot of the gingerbread house I made with my niece & nephew. By this point I was already in California enjoying nice weather and good company. The pieces of the gingerbread house were baked & mailed in advance. The only thing I had left to do when I got to Los Angeles was the royal icing and the decorating. It didn't take more than 30 minutes to construct this house.
This is an overview of the confection sitting on a glass cake stand. The kids simply enjoyed themselves. As I was piping the icing and instructing them on where to put the candies, I thought to myself that this certainly had to become a tradition from that day forth. I most definitely will show you how to put together this marvelous wonder in the future.
This lentil soup began its many incarnations in New York City when I was fresh out of college. It's a variation on the lentils my mom makes at home (hers have even fewer ingredients). I love lentils not only because they are so satisfying and good for you, but because they're quick to cook. In the early years of my making this, I used to saute the vegetables in some olive oil before adding the other ingredients. It's totally unnecessary for me nowadays. The soup is just as delicious if you add everything all at once without any sauteing. I always make a big batch & freeze it before a trip (this helps those who are kitchen challenged at my house eat a healthy meal while I'm gone!) You really should try making it this winter. You're going to love it!
I introduced you to this wonderful ceramic artist from the Philadelphia region whose work I discovered at the airport during my travels this December. These plates and bowl were my favorites. I wouldn't mind owning a few sets of them and perhaps I will in the future.
The plane ride back home is always bittersweet for me. Although I leave my extended family behind, I do look forward to returning to my family back in Pennsylvania. I enjoyed spending time with friends & family in California even though I didn't get to see everyone I had hoped to. There's only one solution: another trip!
Here's to a New Year. May it be filled with many wonderful Good Things for all of us!