Archive | December, 2011

The Only Cookie You Need

29 Dec

Peppermint Bars

My sister specifically requested that I only make one type of cookie this year because this particular cookie, for her, is the sum of all holiday cookies.  Once she experienced refreshing and decadent peppermint bars, every other cookie dimmed by comparison.  We first discovered these gems at Montezuma Winery, during our years in central New York on Cayuga Lake.  My family arrived to pick up a few bottles of Cranberry Bog, which is the perfect wine for a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, and these attractive and festive cookie bars caught our eyes at the tasting counter.  They were as good tasting as they were good looking.  I managed to pry the recipe from a friend who was working there in the tasting room.  Over the years, and several moves later, I lost the recipe, but I found this one at allrecipes.com by Courtney Scheiderich, and they come out just as fantastically as I remember.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 5 drops red food coloring
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup finely crushed peppermint candy canes
  • 1  cup semisweet chocolate chips (I use closer to 2 cups, which is highly recommended)
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped peppermint candy canes
***Tip for crushing/chopping candy canes:  Put about 5 canes in a durable zip lock bag and tap the canes with a rolling pin until they are as fine or course as you would like for the 2/3 cup.  Put 3-4 canes in the zip lock bag and tap with the rolling pin until they resemble coarsely chopped pieces for the topping.  Be sure to sprinkle on right after you spread the chocolate.

The

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.
  2. Cream butter and sugar. *Very important step in any successful cookie, so make sure butter is room temp.
  3. Beat in egg, peppermint extract and food coloring.
  4. Add flour and salt till well blended. Stir in 2/3 cup finely crushed candy.
  5. Spread evenly into greased pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until firm. *Check at 20 min. if you like a more gooey texture.
  6. After removing from oven, immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips. Cover with a cookie sheet for 1 minute or until melted. Spread chocolate evenly and sprinkle with 1/3 cup coarsely chopped candy. Cool completely before cutting.  *Because these are very rich and candy-like, you can cut them as small as 1 inch squares.

It’s not too late to surprise your friends and family with peppermint bars for the New Year.  The recipe is really quite simple, and with any luck, you’ll be able to get away with making only one kind of cookie for next year’s holidays!

Liz Brower

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Improvisation: The Art of Letting Go

20 Dec

When life gives you Trolli® SOUR BRITE TM CANES, instead of The Original Bob’s ® Candy Canes (in   natural peppermint), don’t get sour—resort to sweet improvisation.

I went to the store to buy Great Lakes Christmas Ale, as advertised, but I didn’t see any.  That was because they didn’t have any.  The truck is coming tomorrow, though.  But, I’m not going to the store tomorrow.  It’s no problem, really.  I’ll get it another day.  I sound like my mother right now.

On the same trip into town, I needed to pick up regular old peppermint candy canes.  Two stores were all out, so I gave up.  I still needed to get Rosie, the tarantula I just bought for my son (me) for Christmas, home, before she froze to death.

The plan, as it was all perfectly imagined in my head, was to create a mock cup-of-hot-chocolate cupcake.  For my son’s school holiday party, I would dazzle 23 third-graders for a nanosecond with chocolate cupcakes topped with swirly white frosting, mini marshmallows, and chocolate syrup, with a candy cane crook for a handle, resembling the familiar frothy hot beverage.

The plan failed.  I bought the wrong flavored cake mix, and then I couldn’t find the right candy canes.  In a state of desperation, I let a kind and patient store employee talk me into buying these really hideously packaged candy canes with bi-chromatic worms wearing Santa hats all over the box.  See for yourself. 

She must have thought I had Aspergers, so after a little deep breathing, I started to see her point about there being 50 in a box, and kids don’t even like peppermint, and they won’t notice what the cupcakes look like.  Eventually, the obsessive grip I had on the plan began to loosen.  New possibilities opened to me, like rainbow sprinkles falling on teacups.  Although nothing measured up to my expectations, I accepted this reality gracefully, after only two tantrums, and re-routed my creative energies to discover a solution both unexpected and surprisingly pleasant.

Modernization: A Double-edged Sword

17 Dec

I put my five-dollar Royal portable typewriter back in the case on the floor of the closet.  My 1980s Konica FS-1 sits decoratively on a stack of art books, turning gray with dust, eight exposures left on a roll of Ilford Delta 400 black and white film.  I gave away my 2002 Dell Inspiron 8100–it still runs, slowly.  The cd player lies quietly next to some plumbing under the kitchen sink.

In two days, I upgraded it all to a Dell XPS with an i7 processor, a Nikon D3100, and the Sansa Clip.  I’ve always had a proclivity for collecting old things, eschewing wires and gadgets, which have always felt a bit like tether straps to a more complicated, congested way of life.

These are essentially luxury items, and, in the grander scheme of the universe, pieces of garbage, but also technological tools people need to survive.  When I didn’t have them, I didn’t feel like I needed them, yet I felt like I might be judged for being voluntarily ignorant and backward.  Now that I have them, some of my consumerism-induced fears are placated, but my overall anxiety seems to have increased and I still am not sure that I really fit into this new media world order.

The experience of walking into an electronics store and discovering that I didn’t even know what any of the things were that were for sale was harrowing.

This is my private embarrassment, of both having, and not having.

Hello World!

16 Dec

So, I made some promises.  They appear now on my Feb. 4th post.  Everything you ever wanted to know about Lizzie’s Café!

Salut!