Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Birthday boy

Has it really been 9 years that you've been mine?

I remember the first day I met you. I opened the door and you were cowering behind your father, clutching his knees. I could see your small fingers digging into his skin.

"He's shy; he'll warm up," your father said.

Your father and I had been dating for just over a month. I was excited and nervous to meet you. My cat, Wallace, howled noisily and circled you both, sniffing.

"I have a cat," you mumbled, studying the back of your father's knees.

"Really?" I said, in an overly loud and too-perky voice. "What's your cat's name?"

You looked at me then, eyes narrowing, suspicious and startled by my familiarity. You took a step back. And another. "I'm not telling you."

It was a bit of a rocky start. I was too eager. You were too guarded. I asked many questions; you answered in grunts. It was not clear if I was for Evil or for Good.

The first time we spent an afternoon alone, while your father worked, you had to call me from the bathroom, crying in humiliation and alarm, needing my help. I could see how much it cost you to do that.

Slowly, carefully, we forged down a common road, sometimes circling each other, sometimes with me following one step behind.

My little man-cub, so cautious and serious. Wise beyond your years. Now you're taller than I am, driving away in your shiny red car.

I wave goodbye and shut the door. And wait for your return.

Happy 17th Birthday, man-cub. Who is now a lot more man than cub. I love you.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Crack Snack

Some of you may remember my leeeetle tendency to go on a food Jag. I have, proudly, been Jag-free for a few months.

But now, dear readers, I must confess. I've been riding a Jag lately, and it's a doozer. I've been snacking on this salty, spicy, sweet and sticky little bit of deliciousness for a week now. I cannot help myself. Like a Siren's song, this snack lures me in every afternoon, seducing me with its wiles.

Attempt this recipe at your own peril. It just might make you want nothing else...for quite some time.**

TKW's Crack Edamame
serves 3 (or 1 obsessed TKW)

1 16-oz bag frozen edamame in the shell*
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha or crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1/4 cup water

Combine the soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, honey and Sriracha in a small bowl.

Bring 1/4 cup water to a boil in a large skillet. Add the edamame; bring up to simmer. Cook, uncovered, stirring often, until edamame is thawed and almost all water has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add the sauce mixture; bring to boil. Turn heat down slightly and cook until mixture is thick and covers edamame like a glaze, about 8-10 minutes. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

* You could use shelled edamame, but what's the fun in that? I love sucking the edamame out of the pod, licking my sticky fingers--it's good times!

** My husband wants to warn all dudes out there not to become addicted to this snack. Because hubs is WAY worried about those reports associating soy with man-boobs.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Guest Post: TKW's Dad

Happy Holidays, Readers! I hope you are all cuddled up with your gifts and your Valium Salt Licks? As a special holiday treat, I have my very own Daddy-O guest posting today. He spins a good yarn, so make yourself a hot toddy, sit down and enjoy!

TKW's Dad on: How I Got Served Alcohol while Underage and Resembling Wally Cleaver

I entered college in 1952. At that time, most colleges had hard and fast rules against drinking on campus. Still, I think it was the best time in history to attend college--the G.I. Bill had been enacted and many colleges/universities had Upperclassmen who had served in World War 2 and Korea. Because it was rather difficult for these educational institutions to inform returning servicemen in their early to mid-20's--just back from the toil and trauma of war--that they couldn't have a beer. What kind of asshole does that?

So here I was, 17 years of age, sharing space in Freshman housing with all of these older guys--guys who, by the way, definitely knew what T.G.I.F. meant. Now when I say I was 17, understand that I looked younger than that: 6 feet tall, 135 pounds soaking wet. You get the idea. Luckily, a 26 year old ex-Marine took a liking to me, and gave me his spare Military I.D.

Friday afternoons, everybody looking for a party went to a bar in town called The Bob-Inn. The town was dry except for pitchers of beer that flowed from a couple of establishments. Naturally, I was pretty excited to break in my "new" I.D. the next Friday.

Well, lets just say that the owner of The Bob-Inn didn't exactly buy that I was a 26 year old ex-Marine. He looked at the I.D., looked at me, grabbed my wallet and riffled through it...and kicked me to the curb. This wasn't the end of the world for two reasons: One, he hadn't confiscated my new I.D. And two, they served Schlitz on tap and I didn't like that crap beer anyways. It gave me a headache.

So, while the rest of the student body was at The Bob-Inn, I started down the street, hoping to find something to entertain me. About a block away was a place called The Green Lantern. I walked inside and it was almost empty, except for a gentleman behind the bar with a bald head with sides of white hair. I walked up to the bar as casually as I could, sat down, and ordered a beer (which to my delight was Budweiser on tap!). He looked at me for a couple of beats--eyeball to eyeball--and then smiled and poured me a beer. We visited on and off for about three hours, and several glasses later, I left, a happy man.

The next day, everyone asked me what had happened to me, and I told them I'd found a much better place to drink on Fridays. The next week, quite a few of my friends joined me at The Lantern, and the next Friday, even more joined me. Before long, hardly anybody went to The Bob-Inn anymore. The Lantern also had the benefit of Peg, the wife of Jack, the bald owner. Peg started coming in, once the crowds started flowing, and she made the best homemade soup and hamburgers you could imagine.

Now I gotta tell ya, this added benefit was awesome, since we had a dietician at the college named "Ma" Kuhns, who we swear had gotten such a good deal on orange marmalade that she blew the whole yearly budget on the stuff. She made the worst, skimpiest food and to this day, I cannot look at orange marmalade.

On October 23, 1956, I was spending the evening at The Lantern, and when the clock struck midnight, I looked at Jack and said, "Well, it's my birthday!" Jack smiled at me and said, "And now you're finally old enough to drink."

Somewhat taken aback, I laughed and said, "You've been serving me these past four years without a single question?"

Jack said, "I served you because you came in, were a polite little man and never caused a single problem."

I appreciated that; Jack was a very strapping, big man--nobody messed with Jack. It was sometime later that I learned that Jack was a retired lieutenant from the police force.

It was a great time to attend college. Helluva lot easier back then. Nicer, too. If we behaved, they let us grow up and have fun.

Obviously, my two daughters found something hilarious about this story, because one year I had a convention in Chicago and they insisted that they come, too. Just to see where "Dad went to school." We went up to the campus one November day, froze our butts off, and made a pilgrimage to The Lantern for lunch--just for old times.

Alas, Jack and Peg were gone, but the pub was doing just fine. That Christmas, my girls gave me a mug with this picture on it. It was in my office until I retired and now sits beside my computer at home.

***A message from TKW: you are fully allowed, if not expected, to laugh at the big, horrendous bar-hair that sis and I are sporting in that photo.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

In the Eyes of the Beholder

When Mama was young, her family had a Christmas Day Open House every year. When the excitement and flurry of Christmas morning was over, Gramma Rhetta would whip up some of her famous eggnog, set out the snacks, and friends and neighbors would come a'calling.

Mama said she always got some new item of clothing or jewelry for Christmas, and right before the guests arrived, that shiny new finery went on her body. I always kind of liked that image of Mama, hustling to her room, anxious to break out her treasures.

Christmas Day Open Houses were always well attended. Now that I think about it, it makes sense. I mean, as the day wears on, after all of the gifts have been opened and the magic starts to's kind of boring, don't you think? There's a hella long time between present-opening and Christmas dinner. Hours where perhaps, just maybe, some of your nearest and dearest are sort of grating on your nerves?

It would kind of be nice to have somewhere to go during those dead hours. Somewhere that, hopefully, had a lot of space so you could ditch the relatives for a while and soak in the balm of friendship?

Christmas Day Open House. I like that idea.

A few years back, Mama mentioned to me that her sister, Patricia, kept the tradition of Open House alive on her side of the family. At the Jones residence, Open House flourishes, bright with hilarity and good food and company.

We never had Christmas Day Open House. It was not our family's tradition. When I was a teenager, I asked Mama, "Why don't we do Open House?" I mean, it seemed like such a wonderful idea?

Mama's voice grew hard, eyes narrowing slightly. "I always hated that Open House."

Whaaaaa? Why? How? Whaaaa? How can that be so?

"Because your Grandfather was a drunk. By the time Open House rolled around, he was already well lubricated, and by the time it was over, we never knew which version of Daddy we were going to see. Most likely, it was going to be the nasty version."

Poof! And just like that, my perspective is upended 360 degrees.

Things are not always what they seem.

For Mama, Open House was something to be endured. A trial. Several hours of anxious waiting, watching her father out of the corner of her eye.

Mama doesn't talk much about her father. Mention his name and something shifts behind her expression. There's a reason that scabs are hard crusts with ragged edges.

I am saddened by Mama's wounds, for the Christmases she spent in fear. I cannot take those away for her.

But we heal as best we can, given love and time. And if we keep our hearts open, there are new joys waiting for us.

I'm so happy to be able to spend my Christmases with Mama now, bathed in silliness and hugs and the raucous rattle of children.

Happy Holidays to you and yours. Thank you for sharing some of your time with me this year. I'm so grateful for my friends, new and old.

Wishing you all a magical holiday season.

Gramma Rhetta's Famous Eggnog

6 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups brandy
1 cup rum
1 1/2 quarts milk
3 cups whipped cream

Separate eggs. Beat yolks until very thick and light lemon colored. Gradually add sugar, beating constantly. Still beating, add brandy and rum, gradually. Chill for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add milk gradually and fold in whipped cream. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold into the eggnog. Store in covered jars in refrigerator for a day before serving.

Ladle from a glass punchbowl and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Winter Veggie Blues?

I'm getting winter veggie burnout. I'm not big on squash, and broccoli gets old after a while, and all of the roasting vegetables (parsnips, carrots, butternut squash)...well, let's just say that I was tired of them in October.

I decided to tackle the Leaning Tower of Food Rags in my living room, specifically looking for recipes that would tempt my palate and relieve my veggie ennui. Because veggie ennui sucks.

I came across this recipe from Gourmet magazine (June, 2009) and was intrigued. I also was a little intimidated, because it's a bit time-consuming. Not time-consuming like lasagne from scratch--but still, this wasn't a 15 minute affair.

But then I thought about it. Maybe the reason I'm so bored with veggies is that I expect them to be quick and easy. I'll spend an hour making chicken saltimbocca, but veggies? I don't give them that kind of love.

And maybe that's the problem. Perhaps, if I took a little more time and care, my veggies wouldn't induce snoring. It was time for some Veggie Love around here!

I tweaked the original recipe a bit, because I thought this thing begged for cheese, and I wasn't disappointed. I didn't have bulgur on hand, so I used quinoa; it adds nice texture to the dish and ramps up the protein nicely.

So grab a knife and a fork and dig into one of these suckers. It'll do your body (and your tastebuds) good!

Bon Appetit and Happy Holidays, Veg-Heads!

Grilled Portabella and Bulgur Salad "Sandwiches"

from Gourmet Magazine, June 2009
serves 4

For Tomato Vinaigrette:

1 large garlic clove
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary
1/4 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes

For Salad:

8 large portabella mushrooms, stemmed
1 small red onion, cut lengthwise into 1/2-inch thick wedges (keeping root end intact)
2 medium yellow bell peppers, quartered lengthwise
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups boiling hot water
1 cup medium bulgur*
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
2 1/2 oz baby arugala
1 firm-ripe avocado
~ Author's additions: 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled and 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped

Make Viniagrette: With motor running, drop garlic into food processor and finely chop. Add tomatoes, parsley, oil, vinegar, rosemary, red pepper flakes, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and pulse until tomatoes are finely chopped but not pureed.

Make Salad: Gently scrape off gills from underside of mushroom using a spoon. With a damp paper towel, clean mushrooms. Toss mushrooms with 1/2 cup vinaigrette in a 13x9-inch glass baking dish. Let stand, turning occasionally, 20 minutes.

Brush vegetables with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper. Heat a grill pan over medium high heat. Add vegetables and grill, turning occasionally. Bell peppers take about 6-8 minutes; zucchini takes 6-10 minutes; onions take 8-12 minutes; mushrooms take 10-15 minutes.

Transfer mushrooms to a plate. Place remaining vegetables on a cutting board, cool, and chop coarsely.

While vegetables cook, pour boiling water over bulgur with 1/2 teaspoon salt and let stand until water is absorbed, about 5 minutes. ** I cooked 1 cup quinoa as per package directions and substituted it for the bulgur.

Add vegetables to bulgur with pine nuts and remaining vinaigrette and toss. If you want to add feta cheese, cool mixture slightly and mix in cheese (and jalapeno, if desired).

Place 1 portabella on each of four plates. Pack salad mixture into a 1-cup measure, then unmold on top of portabella. Top with arugala and another portabella, right side up. Serve with avocado.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Crack Cookies

Beware: Crisp, buttery, nutty, chocolately substance coming your way. You will be addicted after the first munch. Because these suckers are wicked good and not at all too sweet. And, when dunked into a warm latte, they are irresistible.

Coconut Pecan Biscotti
recipe from some ancient edition of Bon Appetit Magazine
makes about 45

1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sweetened shredded coconut
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup finely chopped pecans
optional: melted chocolate for dipping*

Using an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in coconut. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Gradually stir dry ingredients into butter mixture. Mix in pecans. Cover and refrigerate dough 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350. Line cookie sheet with parchment. Turn dough out onto a floured work surface. Divide dough in half. Shape each half into 2-inch-wide log. Transfer logs to prepared baking sheet, spacing evenly. Bake until logs are golden brown, firm to touch and tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Cool logs on cookie sheet for about 20 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 325.

Transfer logs to work surface. Discard parchment. Cut each log diagonally into 1/2-inch thick slices. Arrange cookies flat sides down on unlined cookie sheets. Bake until golden and crisp, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool completely.

If desired, dip one end of biscotti into melted chocolate; cool on racks.

* As IF this step is optional!!!!???? You want to dunk in chocolate. You do.

Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

White Trash Motherlode:Fruitcake is whack

If any readers are not familiar with the awesomeness that is the White Trash Motherlode book, I encourage you to go here

As I was busily making Holiday Granola, chopping "good" dried fruit, like apricots, cherries and blueberries, my mind wandered to the dark side. You know, the side where the "bad" dried fruit hangs out, drinking Miller High Life and listening to The Scorpions?

"Bad" dried fruit: pineapple, figs, dates, and those neon red/green thingys that they say are cherries but whaaaaa?

Tuck into a couple of those red cherry thingys and you'll have Red Dye #3 poisoning in no time.

And, as it often does, my mind wandered from a bad thing to a totally wrong thing.

Which happens to be fruitcake.

Wild Uncle Johnny, for some crazy reason, loved fruitcake. And he'd send one our way every Christmas. Mama would eat a piece, just so she could be honest when she thanked him. That's Mama for you--she'd rather gag down a piece of hideousity than tell even a leeeeetle white lie. Thank God she didn't pass that trait down to me.

Nobody else in our house would go near that neon brick of wrong. Every year, fruitcake -1 slice got hucked into the garbage. The cessation of the Gifting of the Fruitcake was the only good thing about Uncle Johnny's death.

Luckily, giving fruitcake during the holidays has fallen rather out of favor in my neck of the woods. I don't know anyone who makes it, which means I don't have to pretend to eat it.

And if you are one of those freakshows like BigLittleWolf who likes fruitcake, I just shake my head at you.

Three Wrongest Things About Fruitcake:

~the aforementioned neon Alien Cherries
~the egregious waste of butter...lovely, creamy butter...totally sacrificed on the altar of bad fruit
~the directions "pour brandy over fruitcake, wrap tightly, and store in a cool, dark place for one month before eating." Ummm, hi Salmonella! Nice to meet you. Welcome to my holiday gathering!

But, gentle readers, there is even one thing more wrong than the above list of offenses.

I give you this recipe from the White Trash Motherlode Cookbook. Not only does it have the Alien Cherries; if you look closely, you will see that this recipe contains not a drop of booze.

Assholery! Brazen Assholery! Because don't people know that the addition of copious amounts of alcohol is the ONLY redeeming quality of fruitcake???

Enjoy this recipe. Make it for your mother-in-law or that cousin who can arm-fart Jingle Bell Rock. Good Times.

Best Fruit Cake
makes one cake in an angel-food cake pan

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 pound coconut
1/2 pound red cherries
1/2 pound green cherries
1/2 pound pineapple
1/2 cup pecans
1/2 cup Brazil nuts*

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix all ingredients together. Pour into a pan lined with foil or waxed paper. Bake 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

*Brazil nuts? Are you freaking kidding me? Nobody eats Brazil nuts. Just ask every bowl of mixed nuts I've ever served. Why do they even PUT Brazil nuts in the nut mix? I am sensing another rant coming on...

For more awesomeness on the fruitcake debate, check out BigLittleWolf's Fruitcake Love.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Silver Linings

I will admit up-front that when it comes to the "half-full or half-empty" philosophy of life, I'm the one stomping her foot and saying "Which one of you dillweeds drank half my Mojito?" Guilty.

When things hit the skids, I hit the bottle. And the complaining. And the wallowing. And the Cheetos. I'm really quite the treat in times of trouble.

Strangely, I grew up with a Mama who refused to let anything get her down for more than a minute. The Matron of Let's-Make-Lemonade, if you will. Sometimes her optimism annoyed me so much that I wanted to pull my teeth out; still, I had a lot to learn from Mama.

Mama is a self-proclaimed "tough old bird." She's almost impossible to rattle and I've seen her cry maybe a handful of times, and she would never be so undignified as to wallow.

This season, I'm channeling my inner Mama. Because old KitchyWitchy needs to toughen up, Uma Thurman style. Although rather than kill Bill, I just need to kill the cranky.

Without going into the minutiae, just know that there's some Karmic Assholery afoot at Chez T.

So I've allowed myself to suck my thumb in the fetal position for a couple of days, but now it's time to squint for that silver lining. So come on out, wouldja?

Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Well, damn. I guess I'm going to make my own silver lining.

Money suddenly gotten a leeeeeeetle tight this holiday season? Check. Probably is true for most of us right now in this great nation. But when the going gets tough, the tough make homemade gifts.

I've talked before about Awesome Stepkid R. and our holiday salsa project. It's a wonderful tradition, but this year Awesome Stepkid R. is incredibly busy and hasn't been around much. And to make salsa *without* my handy little henchman would make the Wicked Stepmonster even crankier.

So this year, I'm making Homemade Granola. Because it's easy, delicious, fairly inexpensive to make (if you buy the fruits and nuts in bulk) and this recipe makes a huge batch, which is a good thing!

Also, you can customize it any way you like, really, as long as you keep the fruit/nut/grain ratio the same. I didn't put raisins or dates in mine, because a lot of people in my life don't fancy them.

Bake up a big pile of healthy granola, slap it in some festive packaging, share it with people you love, and look forward to the Good Life in 2010. No wimps allowed.

Holiday Granola
based on the Four Seasons recipe in Bon Appetit (12/2009)
makes about 11 cups

4 cups toasted whole grain cereal (such as Mueslix)
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 cup sliced almonds
3/4 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup dried blueberries
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup golden raisins (I used chopped dried apricots)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 275. Mix whole grain cereal, oats, walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts in large bowl. Bring honey and oil just to boil in a small saucepan; drizzle over cereal mixture and toss to coat evenly. Spread mixture onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and dry, stirring every 15 minutes, about 1 hour 30 minutes. Scatter dried fruit over. Sprinkle cinnamon over and toss to incorporate evenly. Cool granola completely in pan on rack, stirring occasionally to prevent clumping.

Can be made 2 weeks ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cookie of the Week: Prayer Bars

Isn't this a sweet little picture? Three small girls, formerly human popsicles, warming up together in the bath after a frolic in the December snow?

Sweet little picture, my ass. Because you know what happened in that bath? As we were drying off with warm towels, the cute pig-tailed child, Britt, pointed to a couple of spots on her leg and told my mom, "These bumps are getting really itchy."

"Oh, boy," Mama said, knowing full-well that a chicken-pox epidemic was blazing it's way through North Dakota schools. "Well, since the girls have already been exposed to it, I guess you can stay and play. Might as well get it over with."

My sister was wicked excited to get the chicken-pox. Getting the chicken-pox meant one thing to her: loafing on the couch, watching Josie and the Pussycats, skipping school.

My sister stuck to Britt like glue for the next couple of hours, instructing Britt to breathe on her every few minutes. I wasn't yet four years old, had no idea what the chicken-pox meant, and was deeply jealous that my sister got to attend school. Because, of course, anything I couldn't participate in yet seemed like The Shit.

We did, indeed, get the chicken-pox. However. My sister got about 7 little bumps total on her body. The girl who deliberately and gleefully contaminated herself got the mildest case of The Pox the world has ever seen. She was back to school within a week, sullenly swinging her lunch box as she left.

Moi? How interesting that you ask. I was absolutely riddled with itchy, red, oozing, miserable lesions. They were everywhere. And by everywhere, I mean everywhere. Did you know that you can get a pretty poxy bump on your eyeball? No? Well, let me assure you that you can. Inside the folds of your little lady bits? Yeppers. 'Tis true. Between your toes? Check.

I had the most ferocious case of The Pox that our doctor had ever seen. I spent the holidays slathered in Calamine Lotion, soaking endlessly in baking soda baths. Mama resorted to making me wear socks on my hands, so I couldn't pick or itch my bumps; it was harrowing. Pox in your hoo-ha? Seven kinds of wrong, people!

Not surprisingly, there aren't a lot of pictures of me that holiday season. You can thank Britt for that.

You can also thank her mother, Nikki, for this awesome cookie recipe. This cookie is so rich that it's almost like candy, so cut these into tiny squares. While Toffee Cookies may be my Waterloo, my Mama favors these. We had them every year, and she'd swear at herself later for making them. Irresistible little morsels, these guys.

And a lot more pleasant than a holiday with The Pox.

Prayer Bars

First Layer:
1/2 cup butter
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 beaten egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup shredded sweetened coconut

Second Layer:
1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons dry vanilla pudding mix
2 cups powdered sugar

Third Layer:
1 giant bar German's Sweet Chocolate (7 oz. bar; any sweet chocolate will do)

1. Melt butter and stir in cocoa. Add sugar, egg, and vanilla. Mix in nuts, graham cracker crumbs and coconut. Press into the bottom of a 9x13-inch pan. Chill at least one hour.

2. Melt butter, cream, and vanilla is a saucepan. Add pudding mix and cook, stirring constantly until thickened slightly. Remove from heat and add sugar. Blend well and spread over first layer. Chill at least one hour.

3. Melt chocolate bar and spread over bars. Chill well.

Let cookies come to room temperature before cutting or else they will crumble. Once cut, store in refrigerator.


And now, drum roll, please!! The winner of the Whimsical Wednesday contest is J. Harker!! I love his nerd humor and snark and the hideous examples of student papers...but most of all, I am wondering whatcha gonna do with this, Cowboy?---Congratulations, J. Harker, you are now the proud owner of: Chubby!

And that's the reason I had to do such a fast contest--because J. Harker can sell Chubby for, like, 10 times his worth on Ebay tomorrow if I Fed-Ex the little fucker. I know, I know, try to contain your excitement! J., gimme your address and you'll be getting your Zhu-Zhu on in no time! Hi-five and a Herky!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Whimsical Wednesday

I need a giggle lately. I really do. So, as I've done before, I'm sending you over to Goldfish today. Because if you thought a Valium Salt Lick was a good idea, you're going to love her ideas for holiday gifties.

Also, I'm doing my first-ever giveaway on this site, in honor of the notion of Whimsical, Wacky, Whack-job Gifts.

Here's how you enter: Just leave a comment telling me a brilliant idea you have for a holiday gift--one that would make your life or your job or your day a little easier. In the spirit of the Valium Salt Lick, I will choose my favorite entry and that person will win......haha. I ain't a-gonna tell you yet.

Look! It's the Poster Child for the Valium Salt Lick!

Please enter by 12pm this Wednesday, December 16.

Now put your diabolical minds to work!!

Monday, December 14, 2009

For the Original Minx

I've got me a name, but just call me Miss D.
'Cause I'm 100 percent different--
But that's all right with me!

I've got hog-wild, nappy, disobedient
Hair--it springs into life
When it hits the air.

My mom tries to tame it with creams, gels and combs
But my hair's got spunk--
A mind of its own!

My skin is a marvel!
It's not black, brown or white
It's a mix of them all
And on me, it's just right.

I've got licorice legs
And ashy, knock-knees,
But they carry me graceful
And light through the breeze.

I've got thirteen freckles
On each of my feet
But they move just like lightning
When I dance to the beat.

I can't ride a bike
And I'm hopeless at sums
But I throw magnificent parties
And everyone comes.

I love hummus, tandoori
Collards and trout
But don't hand me a hot dog,
Those things freak me out!

I play the French horn,
The bassoon and kazoo--
The flute's much too quiet
I think so, don't you?

My mom calls me Pickle Breath,
And my dad calls me Toot!
But they say it with love
So I think it's cute.

If you tell me a joke?
I'll never laugh quiet--
I guffaw and I snort
'Cause I think life's a riot.

I mix dots, stripes and plaid
When I'm dressing my best,
But I never wear beige--
It makes me depressed.

It's true that I'm different
But my spirit is free.
I'm crazy, happy and nappy--
It's good to be me!

Happy Birthday to the self-proclaimed, "Best Girl in the World." And aren't you, though.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Cat Lady

I hadn't planned on talking about Cats I Have Known on this blog. This blog has nothing to do with cats--unless I have a nifty little recipe for Tabby Fricassee--and yet, I'm going to talk about cats.

But now that I think of it, Tabby Fricassee doesn't sound too bad, because that's what I'm ready to do with Harryboy.

Harryboy was Awesome Stepkid R.'s consolation prize for enduring a move to a new city with his new Evil Stepmonster. R. was at an awkward stage and didn't make friends easily; he was peevish and lonely those first few months. A dog was out of the question; I am highly allergic. I'd grown up with cats, and R. had a cat at his bio-Mom's house, so we decided a cat was just the thing.

We chose Harryboy (true name: Harry Potter) at our local shelter and brought him home and, true to form, he put a smile on R.'s face. And I liked Harryboy fine until it became increasingly apparent to me that Harryboy thought he was a dog. He fetched. He met you as soon as you hit the door, running in excited little circles. He constantly begged for a warm lap and a scratch. He howled when the doorbell rang. He snuggled as close as possible to my butt as I was sleeping. In short: Harryboy was a needy little bastard.

Harryboy has never let me forget that he was my first baby, before I had babies. He's gentle and tolerant of the girls, but the minute he gets me alone--BAMMO! That fuzz-faced lothario is practically humping my leg, crying for lovin.'

As if I didn't get enough of that from my husband.

In fact, I think if Harryboy were a little higher on the evolutionary chain, he'd be on the phone with the Russian Mafia, plotting Hubs' tragic and accidental demise. Harryboy has a jealousy problem. He is also a vindictive little shit.

The first time we left Harryboy for a weekend (yes, the neighbor kid came in and took care of his needs) he pissed in Hubs' gym bag. In fact, he pisses on things a few times a year, just to show us who is boss. And those things are always things that my husband happens to own. He won't touch an object that belongs to Miss D. or Miss M. or me. But hubs' property? That shit's got latrine written all over it.

But actually, I shouldn't be so shocked that Harryboy is high maintenance. Growing up, we owned a cornucopia of cats, and they were all freakshows.

There was ScatCat, a huge beastazoid stray, who my parents had to get rid of because, riddled with *displacement rage*, he repeatedly tried to eat me once I began crawling.

Notice the affection my sister seems to have here for ScatCat. Coincidence? I think not.

My mother told Daddy to take him to the humane society, but instead, my father drove ScatCat out to a lovely little forest, several hours away, and hucked him into the wild. **Please, no animal activist lectures, here. This was 1970 and sure, it wasn't the right thing to do, but ScatCat was so mean that nobody would have adopted his ass anyways.**

Alas, ScatCat had a wicked sense of direction. He showed up, battle-scarred and highly pissed, on our North Dakota porch a month later. So off to the shelter he went.

Lest you think that I was poor, helpless prey to all cats that crossed my path, I give you Crystal. We took Crystal after a neighbor found a litter of kittens in a field.

I'm pretty sure Crystal rued the day she fell into our hands. I didn't have any friends that year and had far too much time to fritter away.

And there was poor Baxter, the cat I wheedled away from an old boyfriend. This boyfriend just plain couldn't remember to buy cat food on a regular basis. So every few weeks, when Baxter was starving and there was no feline nourishment around, said boyfriend would make a peanut butter sandwich, hurl it into the center of the room and watch the carnage. Baxter was, when I got him, so old that he only had a tooth or two. And very, very, dire Kittycat Halitosis.

He was friendly, so visitors would approach him, but as soon as they got a whiff of the Bax-Man, they'd recoil and say, "Whadda Hell He Get Into?"

For a brief while, in my single years, there was Wallace, the cat with the death wish. Wallace, that suicidal whackjob, could not stop chewing electrical cords. He K.O.'ed 3 MacIntosh computer systems in a 6 month span. Needless to say, Wallace needed help, and I needed to quit worrying about extensive fire damage.

My favorite cat, growing up, was Shoelaces. Everyone loved Shoelaces. He was the George Clooney of felines; handsome, suave, charming. He flirted like he'd been born doing it--just look at him, sassing Gramma Rhetta.

That cat could work a grammar school playground like nobody's business. Several times a week, Shoelaces would follow me to school, like Mary and her proverbial lamb. He'd shmooze his way around the schoolyard, and kids would obediently rummage in their lunchboxes, giving him the choicest morsels. Alas, one day, he disappeared on one of his forays, but for YEARS afterwards, neighborhood kids continued to ask, "Hey, has Shoelaces shown up yet?"

I miss him still, and although I know he isn't with us anymore, I half expect him to someday saunter up the sidewalk, twinkle in his eye, as if to say, "I'd tell ya where I been, kid, but you'd never believe it."

And back to Harryboy. As we sit here, with the Holiday Season of the Rodent rapidly approaching, I can only wonder what adventures we have in store. That quiet holiday I wanted this year? I'm thinking it's not in the cards.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cookie of the Week: Dusseldorf cookies

This is one old recipe; Mama says it's at least 120 years old. Gramma Rhetta got it from a neighbor--a good little German lady named Mrs. Hagerup. Mrs. Hagerup must have been one helluva baker because not one but two of our family Christmas cookie recipes come from her.

This cookie was one of my favorites to make, because I loved filling the cookies with jam and then rolling them in sugar. It's good fun for a kid. This is also the first cookie Daddy reaches for on the dessert tray.

Dusseldorf Cookies
makes a buttload

2 sticks butter, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 cups flour, sifted
3/4 cup ground pecans or walnuts (I spun mine through the food processor)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
Jam, any flavor you like
granulated sugar

Beat the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add remaining ingredients. Form dough into logs, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until very firm.

Preheat oven to 350. Cut logs crosswise into thin slices. Bake until browned around the edges, about 8-12 minutes. Cool.

Spread the underside of one cookie with jam; stick another cookie onto it to make a sandwich. Roll in granulated sugar.

See y'all Monday. If you schlep out to the mall this weekend, don't forget to scout out the Valium Salt Lick before you go.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Easiest Holiday Dessert Ever!

I mean, really, it doesn't get easier than this. Well, opening a Mrs. Smith's pie is easier, but it's not going to impress like this dessert. Barefoot Bloggers picked Ina's Croissant Bread Pudding as our first December recipe.

You can find the recipe on the Barefoot Bloggers site here:

I followed the recipe to the letter, save one exception. My husband thinks that raisins are the Devil's work, so I substituted dried cherries. And they worked well; plus, red is much more festive than black!

And yeah, this recipe is an ass-buster. I mean, think about it--croissants, sugar, half and half, almost a dozen egg yolks. You could marinate a turd in that and it'd be deeeeeelicious. I would almost say that Ina has created the most fattening bread pudding ever, but then I remembered that Paula Deen once made a bread pudding using doughnuts, so I think she gets the Princess of Protruding Posterior Award.

But this is the holidays, people! We're supposed to eat delicious artery cloggers! Bring this to any holiday gathering and you'll be instantly popular. Because like most recipes loaded with butterfat, this thing is mega-scrumptious. Trust me: serve it warm. So much better that way.

I give you permission to eat this once a year. Without guilt. Just a tiny piece, because it's richer than Midas. And then go vegan for a week or something. Worth it.

Note to readers: I'll be kind of scarce from this morning until the end of the weekend, so if I don't visit your blog, don't think I don't love ya! I've just got some funky times going' on! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

F-Bomb Alert: Skeletor Issues

A few months back, Miss D. was at a swanky birthday party (snark about parents who have stinking PONIES at their kids' parties is forthcoming). A ginormous cake was brought out, the ice cream followed, and portions were doled out to eager partygoers. Miss D., who doesn't have a subtle bone in her body, dug into her piece with ferocity. And then a girl, adorable in her frilly dress, looked askance at my child and said, in a sing-song voice..."Eww. That's going to make you fat."

That little bitch. Yeah, I just called a little girl a bitch. In fact, I wanted to punch her in her pretty freckled face. And sure, it's wrong to want to deck a 2nd grader, but when I saw Miss D., formerly so enthusiastic about her cake, take in what this girl had said, stricken, and hesitate....

Fuck. Why, why, why did I wish for girls?

Because get this. That little girl at the party? The Future President of the Bulimic Club in high school? I hate her. But I hate her Mommy more.

Yeppers. I blame that girl's Mommy. Without hesitation. Because, let's face it, that's what Mommies do. We fuck up our daughters about food.

Which, as I write this, makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck. Because if Miss D. or Miss M. gets fucked up about food, I will slit my throat.

Because once, I was fucked up about food, and it almost killed me. And even though it was ME bent over the toilet, puking up my dinner, was ME exercising until my muscles screamed, was ME who fainted in the college dorm shower after three days without food, was ME who came home for Christmas break weighing 85 pounds Freshman year of college...everyone blamed my mother.

Because that's who people blame when a daughter runs amok.

But I will tell you with utmost certainty that my mother did not fuck me up about food. She was slender but didn't seem to work at it, nor did she ever utter the phrase, "I feel/look fat." Our family sat down together for dinner every night of the week. My sister and I were neither praised nor berated if we cleaned our plates. Everyone ate the same meal; there was no spaghetti-for-the-family-while-Mommy-eats-a-lettuce-leaf bullshit going on. We kept candy and cookies in the house, openly and always. My sister and I were loved and told that we were beautiful and had good brains. My mother and father never, not once, snidely commented on my body.

And yet I got fucked up--dangerously fucked up--about food.

And I will tell you how easy, how mind-numbingly easy it is to start being fucked up about food. Because I remember the exact moment I started.

February 23, 1984. It is my birthday. I am in the 8th grade. The week before, I'd injured my knee skiing, so I was on crutches and rocking a glamorous leg brace. As per family tradition, we were eating at the restaurant of my choice. I can't remember the name of the place, but I do remember my order: Fried Shrimp. Which I loved.(I mean, shit, who doesn't?)

I was happy. My parents had given me my first pair of diamond earrings; little chips of things, but in my eyes, they signified that I was growing up, and cherished, and trusted to have such nice things. The waiter was charming and teased me gently about my injury. My dinner was delicious and the banter at the table lively.

And then halfway through dinner, my sister, almost four years my senior, looked at my plate and said sotto vocce, "You keep eating like that and you're going to get fat. Especially on crutches."

I don't think she really meant much by it. Although, knowing her, it is possible. But the reason I remember this moment so clearly is that there was, for me, a complete seismic shift. You think I exaggerate, but I don't. My dinner, my Happy Birthday to Me plate of exactly the food that I wanted, turned traitor, blurred in a swell of tears. I am 14. I have boys who flirt with me and I am a thin 5'7 and 110 pounds, but suddenly, things are different, newly clear.

I bow my head, mutter an excuse, grab my crutches and limp to the bathroom, where I stick my finger down my throat for the first time. The bile burns and my eyes leak and I keep gagging clumsily, but after I am emptied, I feel clean.

I was 14 years old. It took one moment. Just one thoughtless comment. And my life is de-railed for 10 years.

So who, caterpillars, is to blame?

Not Mama. Not Daddy. Not my sister, although she was an asshole. Not the fashion magazines. Not my peers.

I am to blame.

There are plenty of excuses out there: It's about control issues. It's about depression. It's about perfectionism. It's about society's focus on appearance...

Well, pardon me, but fuck those excuses and the horse they rode in on.

I am to blame.

Deep down, I didn't trust myself to be enough. Of anything. All my life I'd been told that I was good and sweet and smart and beautiful, but I'd never once believed it.

Instead, I chose to believe the bully who told me I had ugly legs. I chose to believe the sister, who in moments of anger said she hated me. I chose to believe the gym teacher who said I was weak. I chose to believe the math test that screamed--Moron! I chose to believe the boys who never asked me to dance.

You know what's amazing about those 10 years I spent being immensely fucked up about food?

I functioned.

Somehow, I functioned quite well. I aced tests, graduated Phi Beta Kappa. I wore baggy clothes and had boys willing to kiss me. I rarely got sick and had amazing stamina. I got into graduate school.

And I remember almost zero of it.

That's right. I don't remember books I read, lectures I attended, concepts I studied, conversations I had, places I went. Damn near zero.

Being fucked up about food cost me 10 years of my life. And I am to blame. Because I was given everything a girl could ask for but I still had this thing--a fault line running through me--deep and wicked and shrieking that I was no good. And that was what I chose to believe.

I don't know why some girls have fault lines and others escape. That's what keeps me up at night, now that I'm the mother of girls.

I do what my Mama did. I cuddle them and tell them to try again, because it's rare that someone succeeds on the first try. I tell them that they have quick minds and gentle hearts. I laugh as they help me in the kitchen, offer up a spoon to a willing mouth.

But part of me is standing in the shadows, waiting. Wringing her hands.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Why The Holidays Suck: #493

Let me count the ways the holidays suck: Those "What We Did This Year!!!" holiday bulletins. Aunt Rita's Fruitcake. Those annoying-ass-plastic-clam-shell thingys that all toys come in now. The line at the Post Office. Tracking down the Lone Zhu-Zhu on the planet. The olfactory clusterfuck coming out of every candle store at the MegaMall. Eggnog gas (WTF? Eggnog is not my friend). "Feliz Navidad," the Christmas song from Hades. Shall I go on?

I know, I'm a crank and a Scrooge and Christmas is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.

Once upon a time, when I had a life and did not have children, I liked Christmas just fine. I'd shop, wrap, schlep my butt over to my parents' house and get shitfaced on Mimosas by 1 in the afternoon. And then take all my loot back to my apartment. What's not to like?

But then I had kids. Christmas dies an ugly little death after you have children. Because all of a sudden, there's this pressure to make magical memories with them. Total fucking buzzkill.

The pressure of creating the perfect Christmas for your children? It's the reason they need to install a Valium Salt Lick in the shopping mall after Thanksgiving.

And while they're at it, can they make the drinking fountains squirt out grain alcohol? Because mommies need that shit.

And what about that whole Mall Santa Photo Thing? There are pictures of horror-stricken, traumatized, wailing kids all over the Internet this time of year. Why do we subject our kids to this? We put them in the itchiest, most uncomfortable outfits they own, haul them down to the mall, make them wait in line for an hour with those freaks who bring their dogs to see Santa, hiss at them if they try to do anything normal, like fidget or run around, plop them into the lap of a strange bearded dude, and expect them to think, "This is the Shit!"

Now before you accuse me of snobbery and arrogance, I will admit to you up-front that I took first-born to see the Mall Santa. Guilty. I did it, and I paid out the ass for the dorky picture...oh wait. No, I didn't.

Because I was brilliant enough to wait until my child was three years old before I took her to see Mall Santa.

I have reasons for this. The first year, I'd just given birth. The Woman with the Hemorrhoid that Ate Colorado was totally not up for Mall Santa. Also, first-born was so underweight that she looked like E.T.

The second year, first-born was going through the Winter of Oozing Eczema. Enough said.

Year three, there was nothing holding us back. Except for the fact that she was three. The Demon-Child Year.

But I, determined to get my $24.95 snapshot of Holiday Bliss, put her in the itchy dress and schlepped her down to the Megamall. On a weekend in December. Clearly, Mommy ain't real bright.

Things went South within a half hour. First-born stormed the kiosk that carries those hand-held massager thingys. Ummm, y'all know those are vibrators, right? Massagers, my fat fanny. These particular specimens even glowed and sparkled. First-born snatched herself a snazzy pink vibrator and took off running through the mall, full-tilt. Not only did I have to chase after her, I had to drop my purse and 3 oversized shopping bags from Crate&Barrel mid-mall, because first-born is wicked fast. Finally, I tackled her, in front of the Coach store. "Hi, swanky ladies in track-suits buying overpriced bags...don't mind me here, wrestling The Vibrator Bandit to the ground..."

And then there was the hideous wait in line, with those freaks who bring their dogs to see Santa. First-born had an irrational fear of dogs at age three; it's a *long* 45 minutes when your toddler acts like every Shi-Tzu in a sweater is Cujo.

Admittedly, I was in a foul mood when at last, it was our turn to shine. (Hello? Can I campaign any harder for the Valium Salt Lick and the Everclear Drinking Fountain?) First-born shuffled towards Santa and then bolted, insisting, "I'm not sitting on the hairy man."

So I did what any mother would do. I shook her and hissed into her ear, "Do it now or no Happy Meal."

She sullenly plopped her butt on Santa's lap and as the Mall Elf chirped, "Smile and say Snowflake!" first-born spontaneously combusted.

"Stink! Argh! He stinky-stinky!" she hollered, opening her jaws wide and chomping firmly down on Mall Santa's wrist.

You'd think they'd prepare these Mall Santas for shit like this. I mean, kids piss on Santa all the time; can't they handle a leeeetle nibble?

Mall Santa hucked first-born off his lap and said accusingly, "Your kid just bit me lady!"

As if I didn't have eyes.

"She didn't do it that hard," I retorted. Pussy.

"She broke the skin," Mall Elf said helpfully. Stuff it, Enabler.

"She broke the skin," Santa repeated.

"Oh come on!" I said. "Don't tell me one of those things (gesturing to a sweatered and cranky looking Dachshund) hasn't ever taken a chomp out of you. Chill, Kris Kringle."

Which is how, in December of 2004, I ended up in the office of Paul Blart:Mall Cop, filling out an inordinate amount of paperwork. I also had to take first-born to the doctor, get her blood drawn and analyzed, and fax the results back to the MegaMall. Because my kid could, you know, have rabies.

The entire ride home after the Santa Incident, first-born insisted that she had done nothing wrong. In fact, she argued that Mall Santa deserved to be bitten. Because "he stinky, Mama. Santa not supposed to stink."

Pass the Valium Salt Lick, please.

Or a pitcher of these.

Champagne Cosmo
from Fine Cooking
serves 8 people, or 1 Mommy after a trip to the MegaMall

1 1/2 cups cranberry juice cocktail, chilled
1/2 cup Grand Marnier
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
8 thin strips of lemon zest
2 bottles (750 ml) brut sparkling wine or champagne, chilled

Combine the cranberry juice, Grand Marnier, and lime juice in a small pitcher and mix well. Hold a lemon strip over a tall Champagne flute, twist it to release the essential oils, and drop the zest into the flute. Repeat with seven more flutes.

Divide the juice mixture equally among the flutes. Top each flute with the sparkling wine (depending on the size of your flutes, you may not need all the wine). Serve immediately.

Author's tip: If you have remaining champagne, inject it.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Meatless Monday: Roasted Tomato and Red Pepper Soup

Yes, dear readers, I am one of those suburban moms who convinces herself that she has a life because she is in...a book club. It's pathetic, I know. But at least my book club actually reads the book assigned, and we avoid the Oprah recommendations. It's piss-small solace, but it's enough for me.

The Divas Book Club meets every six weeks at Chez T. It wasn't always so; members used to rotate turns hosting. But then I gave birth to Miss M. and started having "babysitter issues." In short, there were extremely few people willing to babysit my almost 4-year-old with "newborn anger" and a needy baby. I kinda didn't blame them. I didn't want to watch them, either.

Thus, I ended up hosting every time. I provide the basics: soup, salad and bread. The other members bring wine, appetizers and dessert. It works pretty well, although the lax attitude towards the RSVP in Colorado once led to a meeting with soup and about 10 desserts. But believe me, nobody complained.

In the four years that I've been making soup, several challenges have been thrown into the mix. One member was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Another couple of members are cutting meat from their diet. Suddenly, the good old Chicken Noodle standby was no longer an option.

It's been an interesting transition, but I enjoy the opportunity to try new recipes out on them. This is the one they always come back for.

Zingy Roasted Tomato Soup

4 pounds ripe tomatoes, quartered
7 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and halved
1 medium onion, diced
1 quart vegetable stock
1 10-oz. jar roasted red peppers, drained
1 28-oz can fire roasted tomatoes (such as Muir Glen)
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup half and half (optional)
Creme fraiche or sour cream and fresh chopped parsley to serve

Preheat oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty foil. Place the fresh tomatoes, garlic and jalapeno on baking sheet. Toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Roast until charred, about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool.

In a large stockpot, add 2 more tablespoons olive oil and heat on medium-high. Saute onion until translucent. Add stock and tomatoes, breaking up tomatoes with the back of a spoon. Add roasted tomato, garlic and jalapeno to pot. Simmer 15 minutes. Add roasted red peppers and cumin; cook 5 minutes more. Cool slightly, then blend with an immersion blender. If using, stir in half and half. Bring gently back up to simmer and taste for salt and pepper. Serve in warmed bowls with sour cream and chopped parsley.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Beauty and A Chuckle

Warning: One look at this and you might pass out, it's so gorgeous. I know that beautiful specimen gets my vote! As I'm sure you can tell, I taught her everything she knows about photography.

But she's not just easy on the eyes. Check out her cutting edge method for easy hair removal!

Actually, just check her out because she's fabulous.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cookie of the Week: Toffee Cookies

Once the Thanksgiving leftovers disappear, it means one thing at Chez T. Time to start baking the holiday cookies. Better loosen your belts, folks, because it's time to do the Cookie-Boogie!

Growing up, I loved baking Christmas cookies with Mama. My sister never showed much interest, but I loved rolling dough and sprinkling sugar and piping icing along the rims.

We always made the same 4 or 5 kinds of cookies every year. Once in a blue moon, we'd try something different, but ultimately, we always came back to these old favorites.

And I'm happy to share our Greatest Hits with you this season.

So as to not overwhelm you and induce Cookie Coma, I'll share one cookie recipe a week with you this month. I hope you enjoy the process as much as I will, and perhaps it will encourage you to tie on that apron and bake up some memories with your kids.

Miss M. was beyond excited to help, and Miss D. learned what separating an egg means.

These cookies are my personal Waterloo. I can resist an alarming number of sweets; I'm a salt girl. But not these delectable guys. And because I'm a freak, I prefer to eat them straight from the freezer.

Toffee Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup margarine
1 cup brown sugar
1 beaten egg yolk
2 cups flour
1/2 cup ground pecans (my note:I used the food processor)
1 teaspoon vanilla
pinch salt

Large (59-cent)* Hershey's chocolate bar, chunked
Nuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix ingredients for base using a mixer, beating until well blended. Press into the bottom of a 9x13-inch or a 10x15-inch cookie pan.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until crust is golden.

Turn off the oven. Working quickly, cover the top of the base layer evenly with chocolate; return to oven for 2-3 minutes or until chocolate is spreadable.

Watch out for chocolate thieves!

Spread chocolate evenly over crust and top with nuts, if desired. Wait until thoroughly cooled to cut.

* Shows how old this recipe is! It's a 7-ounce bar. :)

** A little side note. Mama got this recipe from a neighbor whose son, Darren, was my age. Darren followed me around like a devoted hound and could snort pickle juice up his nose. I was, naturally, wicked impressed by this gift.