Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Cookie Recipe Swap 2013 and LOVING LIFE

Well, hello there blogger world!!! It HAS been A WHILE!! A LOT has happened in the last two years. We've put our house on the market... and taken it back off! My husband started a new job which, for the most part, has given us the ability to have more family time! I started running, something I NEVER could do (even in my school years), and trained to and ran my first 5k. But the biggest and greatest event over that time has definitely been having my second son, W!!! He turned ONE in September! It's been an exciting time. E will be FIVE this Christmas! Where has the time gone? Life is definitely flying by and, while I have this contentment and feeling of my family being complete and feeling that this is exactly where we are supposed to be, adding a second child has definitely made life more hectic! My pregnancy with W was not exactly difficult but it wasn't a smooth go. That is probably the main reason I got out of blogging and just never made it back. BUT HERE I AM NOW! So let's hope this is the new beginning of something great!
When last I left you, I was just trying out different platforms for my blog. Even today, I started writing this blog on one platform and, discovering things that weren't working for me, I copied and pasted the started post and moved to this one. I've tried blogging on multiple sites and just can't seem to find a place that works exactly how I'd like it to and produces a look that I like. Hopefully the changes that have been made in the past couple of years while I was gone will work well. So I'm here to have a go at it again. 
So, 'why now' you ask?? IT'S CHRISTMAS TIME!!! I love EVERYTHING about the holidays. Well, almost everything (I could do without the frigid cold unless I can stay inside)! Starting in fall straight through until the end of December is my FAVORITE time of year!!! I love things cooling down in late September! The colors of the leaves changing! The smells and flavors of apples and cinnamon and pumpkin and, later in the season, peppermint (especially mingled with chocolate)! The cool air of September then turning to the brisk air of October just enough that you have to cozy up under warm blankets and in cute jackets and sweaters and scarves! Then comes Thanksgiving and Christmas and delicious food and time spent with family!!! Not to mention, that glimmer in the eyes of my kids with every new adventure the seasons bring! Ironically enough, this household now also celebrates THREE birthdays during this time! I just love this time of year! But, the main reason I've returned is the blogger Christmas Cookie Recipe Swap of 2013 hosted by White Lights on Wednesday{i love} my disorganized life, and Real Housemoms, three wonderful bloggers that I'm so excited to be following! Although I haven't been blogging, you better believe I've still been following blogs and Facebook pages and cooking as often as I have energy for. I was scrolling through my Facebook feed one day and saw the link for the Cookie Swap and was super excited to get new cookie recipe and figured, why not? I'd love to get back into blogging and this would be the perfect way to do it.

So, let's get to it, shall we? I was paired with Christie over at A Kitchen Hoor. You have got to go over to visit her site. While some of it does not seem like food I would usually be drawn to, some of it looks awesome!! Her pictures are great, as well, and I especially, recently, enjoyed her post P.F. Chang's Has New Sweets to Save Your Shopping Sanity. We don't have a P.F. Chang's nearby but the pictures had me drooling and definitely gave me the urge to hunt one down in the near future!!!! But, I digress. Chris and I exchanged recipes through email and she gave me two to pick from. One was a rather traditional peanut butter cookie. I love peanut butter cookies but I have a couple tried and true recipes myself. The other was a Norwegian Cookie which sounded delicious! Now, to only find time in my busy days to make some. The posting date came and went, sadly, because I've been working crazy hours and my car broke down so, in between taking care of the family and house, working long hours, and Christmas shopping I've also been car shopping. But the day after the posting date was a day when we expected quite a bit of snow here in PA so the kids and I had a pajama day and got to baking. 

E helped me a TON with making the cookies. Everything from helping measure and count ingredient amounts to turning on the mixer and scraping the paddle and then scooping the cookies on to the tray. The cookies turned out DELICIOUS! I thought the recipe called for quite a bit of vanilla, which I was pleased about, because I LOVED it! And they were so buttery! The recipe was quite simple but I learned a few things. First, since the recipe seemed similar to shortbread to me, I realized that they probably wouldn't spread much. I use a portion scoop when panning up my cookies and, when putting the first pan in the oven, I pressed half of them down a little so they would be sure to bake all the way through and have a more "cookie-like" appearance. I think this is a wise choice for me. I also didn't have pastry flour so swapped it out for cake flour. Also, the original recipe calls to bake them for 2-5 min at 325F. I thought this seemed a little short and I DID find that they baked closer to 12 - 15 min. I don't know if this was a typo or a difference in ovens or opinion but just a heads up. I also made a couple minor changes due to circumstance. First, I used almonds instead of pecans. Darned that stack of bags in my pantry!! I could have sworn I had pecans but, alas, they were all almonds. I'd say they turned out good with almonds but would have been MUCH more delicious with pecans. I also don't know how "Norwegian" they were with this change. Also, given that my four year old was helping, we did sprinkle them with candy cane sprinkles because, well, what is a baking session with out sprinkles... right? LOL
And now on to the recipe.... In case I don't get back on blogging, I hope you all have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS and Happy New Year and are all blessed with wonderful gifts, not the least of which is happy times and memories with family and friends..... and good food of course!!!
And, to Christie, I hope I did your recipe justice! If nothing else, its a new take on it.
Enjoy, everyone!


Recipe from Christie at A Kitchen Hoor

     1/2 cup  shortening
     1/2 cup butter
     1/2 teaspoon salt
     1/2 cup sugar
      2 tablespoons vanilla
      2 cups sifted pastry flour
      1 cup pecans, chopped (but I used almonds out of necessity) 

Cream shortening, butter, salt and sugar together. Sift together dry ingredients. Add to creamed mixture and mix well. Add nuts. Spoon onto a baking sheet 2 inches apart and make at 325F for 2 to 5 minutes (or 12 to 15 min).