Monday, December 20, 2010

Fa La La La La

I’ve officially joined the ranks of a group of person I vowed never to become: Those who send Christmas cards of their offspring.

This phenomenon part fascinates me/part annoys me. Why do we think all of our friends and acquaintances want pictures of our little childrens and then big childrens? Are we all THAT self-absorbed?

Now, don’t get me wrong: I love receiving pics of my fab nieces and nephews and the children of close friends and family and my piano students. They always bring a smile to my face. And, I save the pics for years upon years upon years.

But doesn’t it crack you up when you get Christmas cards from people 10 times removed from your life? No? This is just my hangup?

Thank God the whole check-out-my-awesome-kid-in-reindeer-sweater motif wasn’t a trend when I was a child because if my Mom and Dad wanted to put my mug on a Christmas card, I would no doubt answer with a, “Bitch, please.” Or, at least I would have said that inside my truck driver-language filled head.

I asked my sister Monica what the age cutoff is with kiddies in Christmas cards. She had no idea. Do I mortify my son throughout his entire life or just the pre-10 years? Does this madness stop in high school? College? During post-graduate studies? Anyone? Bueller?

Meanwhile, The Husband dropped a major bombshell on me: He wants us to send out a family portrait for next’s year’s Christmas card.


So, here’s my hypocritical blog shot of Baby Evan decked out in Ho Ho hat. No, this is not The Christmas Card Photo, but it is from the holiday photo shoot and it came in a close second. And, well, I quite love this photo. It is so cute I can’t stand it. I did post it on my Facebook page, and now I’m sharing it with my blog peeps.

And, please do not call Child Protective Services on me due to my bambino’s nakedness: There was warm and snuggly blanket on hand to cover him up in between takes.


Yesterday, Baby Evan let his Momma get on with her Christmas baking. You know, if it wasn’t Christmas time, I would feel quite normal. It’s just that getting all the Christmasy stuff done – including sending Christmas cards – is quite overwhelming immediately after having a super cute and cuddly baby, because all I want to do is stare and hold my cute and cuddly baby.

But, Christmas baking is my most fav thing of all the holiday chores. Shopping, too. Wrapping and card sending, well, I could do without.

I’m sharing with you a recipe for Crisp Chocolate Bites. I love these for Christmas because they are covered in powdered sugar, which resembles snow in my humble opinion. Perhaps, you can tell from my photo, which pales in comparison to the shots taken by The Husband.

My rules for Christmas baking are as follows: The Christmas tree must be all aglow and Elvis’ holiday tunes must be pumping through your veins. Plus, have all your ingredients out and clean up as you go along. Oh, wait those are the cooking rules set by my seventh grade home ec teacher. (Yes, I went to school when they actually had home ec.) I explained all of this to Baby Evan, who most likely cooed or drooled in response, and then dozed off to the sounds of “Blue Christmas.”

Crisp Chocolate Bites
From Williams-Sonoma Cookies

6 Tbsp. (3 oz/90 g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 oz (60 g) unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup (8 oz/250 g) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract (essence)
¾ cup (4 oz/125 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
¼ cup (3/4 oz/20 g) unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ tsp. baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
¼ tsp. salt
½ cup (2 oz/60 g) confectioners’ icing sugar

Lightly grease 2 baking sheets or line with parchment (baking) paper. Set aside.

In a small saucepan over very low heat, combine the butter and chocolate. Cook, stirring occasionally, just until they are melted and the mixture is smooth.

Pour the chocolate mixture into a large bowl and let cool slightly. Stir in the granulated sugar until evenly moistened. Add the egg and vanilla, beating until light and fluffy.

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt together onto a sheet of waxed paper. Gradually add the flour mixture to the chocolate mixture and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 degrees Celsius). Remove the cookie dough from the refrigerator. Shape the dough into ¾-inch (2 cm) balls and roll in the confectioners’ sugar to coat completely. place the balls about 1 ½ inches (4 cm) apart on the prepared sheets. Bake the cookies until puffed and cracked on top, about 12 minutes. They may appear underdone in the center but will turn crisp as they cool. Let cool on the sheets for 2-3 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about 3 ½ dozen cookies.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cozy up with a Muffin

The good news is Baby Evan lets his Momma get her groove on in the kitchen.

The bad news is Baby Evan’s Momma is often so tired she limits her cooking to really easy dishes that require few brain cells and/or energy.

This past weekend I rocked out some chocolate chip muffins. They are really loaded up with chocolate chips. And they’re super awesome. And they’re way easy.

I like mine with a cup of tea, preferably Harney and Son’s Paris Tea, which is my fav. I reviewed it here last year. It’s pricier than your standard grocery store teas, but it’s sooooooooooo worth it. So are these muffins. You could totally buy some chocolate chip muffins, but these babies take 10-15 minutes to mix up and they make your house smell all cozy and yummy.

I’m so thankful that Baby Evan let me get some baking in because whisking flour and baking soda with eggs and sugar makes the Jersey Girl very happy. As does good music and shopping. Me and The Husband were able to get out and about on Saturday, thanks to my Moms and Pops offering to babysit their grandson. We went out to din and we did some shopping, which was so liberating. Oh, J. Crew and Banana Republic, how I’ve missed you so.

Chocolate Chip Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
From “The Williams-Sonoma Baking Book”

½ cup (4 oz/125 g) unsalted butter, melted
¾ cup (12 fl oz/375 ml) buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
2 cups (10 oz/315 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
¾ cup (6 oz/185 g) sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
½ tsp. salt
2 cups (12 oz/375 g) semisweet (plain) chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius). Grease 12 standard muffin cups with butter or butter flavored nonstick cooking spray or line with paper liners.

In a bowl whisk together the melted butter, buttermilk, eggs and vanilla until smooth.

In another bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, add the buttermilk mixture, and beat until smooth and well mixed, 1 to 2 minutes. Using a large silicone spatula, fold in the chocolate chips just until evenly distributed. Do not overmix. Spoon the batter into each muffin cup, filling it level with the rim.

Bake the muffins until golden, dry and springy to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin should come out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Unmold the muffins and let cool completely. Serve at room temperature.