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Friday, November 30, 2012

Peanut Butter Blossoms... or as we call them, PB Kisses

My boys love Peanut Butter Blossoms...or even just plain Peanut Butter Cookies.  They often search them out before any other cookie on the platter.  We have always called them Peanut Butter Kisses in our house...had never even heard them called PB Blossoms until I started following a multitude of blogs and cooking/baking sites.

As I wrote last year, and the year before, they are a really easy last minute cookie to bake using store-bought refrigerated peanut butter cookie dough in a roll.  It's what I usually do!  This year, though, I decided to mix up some homemade dough and freeze it for later baking.  Short cuts are all good and well, but homemade is what I really like during the holidays.  This year, I'm getting in front of the insanity!

I have frozen the store-bought dough, but have never frozen the homemade dough.  I froze, and then baked off a dozen cookies so we could have a look at how they do!  They taste mahvelous dahling!


Peanut Butter Blossoms
Adapted from Joy of Baking.com
(Basically I just doubled her recipe because it looked closest to what I used to make years ago when I made these from scratch on a more regular basis)

Ingredients:

1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs - room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup milk

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

96 Unwrapped Hershey Kisses

Method:

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until light and creamy.  Add the peanut butter and both sugars and mix on medium until color has lightened and it is smooth and fluffy.  Scrape the bowl and beater to ensure all the peanut butter is incorporated.

Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  Add vanilla extract and mix.  Add milk and mix.  Your batter will be light and creamy at this point.

In a large measuring cup, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.  Whisk by hand until combined.  Add half of the dry goods to the wet mixture in the mixer bowl.  On very low, begin to mix, bring the speed up once you know there won't be a cloud of flour and then add the second half of the dry good...again slow to start, then raise the speed and beat until totally incorporated - scrape down the bowl ALL THE WAY TO THE BOTTOM (voice of experience) to insure all the ingredients are together and smooth.

Cover the bowl and place in refrigerator for 1 or 2 hours.  This will allow the butter to firm back up and make rolling the balls easier.

I used a small cookie scoop to ensure a uniform size to the cookies.  Scoop out your dough on one cookie sheet (covered with a baking mat for easy removal) and pop back into the fridge while you scoop the next tray.  Keeping this dough cold is pretty important.

Alternate out the trays and roll the first tray in balls and place that tray in the freezer until frozen.  Then remove the second tray from the fridge and roll them and place that tray in freezer.  Once all are frozen, place the frozen balls in gallon Ziploc bags and get out as much air as possible before zipping closed and placing in freezer.  Freeze until ready to use.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Take out however many balls you are going to bake and place on parchment lined or Silpat lined cookie sheet.  Allow to soften slightly at room temperature to the point where you can use a fork to score the cookie dough (took mine about 20 minutes).  I like to dip them in red and green sugars for Christmas.  You can do that by either dipping the top half of the ball of cookie in the sugar or dipping a fork in the sugar and make criss-cross marks on the cookie.  Don't press too far down if you want a puffy cookie.  (I know a lot of people don't score the blossoms - just the plain PB cookies - but I like that instant recognition that comes with the scores..."hey, PB Cookies!")  If needed, wipe the fork between every 3 or 4 cookies... sometimes it gets gummed up with dough and doesn't make clear marks.

Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes - just lightly browned so they will be soft and chewy.  As soon as they come out of the oven, place tray on a cooling rack and place an unwrapped Hershey Kiss in the center of the cookie, gently pushing down.

Or, of course, if you don't want the chocolate in the middle, just leave them as Peanut Butter Cookies!
After the cookies are cool enough to handle, use a spatula to move from cookie sheet to cooling rack to continue cooling all the way.  The chocolate will be soft, so don't squish them!  I like to eat them while the chocolate is still soft...and the cookie is warm.  My kids don't care - they'll take 'em however they can get them!

I'm happy to be checking off another item on my "to bake" list... I'm liking that I am getting ahead of the game this year.  Of course, I haven't decorated even a single surface of my home...but the baking prep is getting done! 
The tasting dozen!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Holiday Chocolate Chip Cookies

In October I first laid eyes on the Nestle's Toll House Limited Edition Holiday Chocolate Morsels...and I instantly grabbed two bags.  Like so many other products, the size was now 10 ounces instead of 12 ounces.  I've been thinking about what I wanted to do with these ever since.  My family does love the Toll House cookies....but we like LOTS of chips in those cookies...and they have to be chewy, not crisp.  So, I elected to stick close to the original Toll House recipe but to  make it 1 1/2 times the amount listed on the bag and use both bags of chips.  They are red, green, and semi-sweet chocolate.

You might remember my insanity last Spring in searching for pastel colored morsels...finally ending up making my own.  Whew, that was labor intensive.  My heart jumped when I saw these this year.  They certainly were not in the Wal-mart last year (at least that I saw), so I'm thinking they must have read my blog (ROFL!!!) wherein I wondered why the heck no one was marketing colored baking chips?   I've seen the swirled chips before, and the mint chips - but never this particular package.

Here's the recipe I came up with (including my frequent addition of cinnamon to things with chocolate).

Holiday Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Nestle's Toll House Cookie Recipe
(click here for printable recipe)

Ingredients:

3 1/2 cups unbleached AP flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp fine sea salt (I have found Kosher salt is not as good in these cookies - I end up with salty bites here and there)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon

3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) butter - softened
1 cup granulated white sugar
1 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 large eggs (room temperature)

2 ten-ounce packages Nestle's Holiday Morsels

Method:

In separate mixing bowl (or 5 cup measuring cup) combine the dry ingredients (flour, soda, salt, and cinnamon) - whisk to incorporate - set aside.

In bowl of a stand mixer, whip softened butter and both sugars until fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition, and finally the vanilla extract.  Mix until combined thoroughly.  Scrape bowl.

Add the dry ingredients, mixer on low, about 1/3 of the amount per addition.  Scrape bowl between additions if needed.  Definitely scrape all the way to the bottom at the completion of this step.

Add the first package of morsels and mix a couple of rounds on low.  Remove the beater and hand mix the second package of morsels so they don't get broken up.  Use a very sturdy spoon to do this - I broke a large spatula with a plastic handle trying to mix this amount of dough.  Moved to an industrial size metal mixing spoon!  Now is the time to add pecans or walnuts if you like nuts in your cookies... we prefer nut-free except for my husband.  (I make him special ones from time to time)

I have scooped them all up with a medium-sized cookie scoop and have them freezing on a couple of trays.  I scooped out 63 cookie dough balls with this recipe.  Once they are frozen firmly, I will store them in Ziploc bags in the freezer for baking as Christmas time draws near.

I like to get ahead of the game, and when I do this, not a soul knows that I wasn't in the kitchen mixing up a batch of cookies that morning (well, except for you guys).  It really cuts down on the overwhelm that occurs that last week before December 25th!

When it is time to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, place cookies, directly from freezer bag, at least two inches apart on a parchment or Silpat covered baking sheet.  (no need for them to thaw - just pop them right in the oven)  Bake for 11 to 14 minutes and allow to cool on a rack before moving to serving tray. 

Obviously I had to bake off a few to ensure they were not poison.  I think they taste and look quite delicious!  This will be a colorful and tasty addition to your holiday platters of cookies!

I baked six and tasted one...yummy...and you-know-who will
be happy to be a taste tester as well... "ohhhh Ian...guess
what I have for youuuuu!"


Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Pumpkin Pie with Leaf Crust

I am NOT a pie baker.  I make a good cake, really good cookies, and usually can follow a recipe with a positive result.  However, pies (especially the crust) are simply not my forte.  Imagine my dismay when my youngest son (aka The Teen) requests nothing more for Thanksgiving Dinner than... a pumpkin pie.

Now, I CAN make the inside ingredients work together...it's the crust that is the problem.  I just suck at rolled pie crust.  I think I overwork it.  I'm really pretty sure I overwork it.  I just avoid pie to avoid the problem.  If it doesn't have a graham cracker crust or something similar...it ain't happening in this house.

I begged to make a pumpkin cheesecake.  I made lovely sugar cookies filled with pumpkin pie spice.  I made chewy homemade chocolate chunk cookies.  No go.  He wanted a pie.

I admit to cheating.  I bought a Pillsbury refrigerated unroll-and-fill pie crust.  I used the Libby's canned pumpkin and followed their recipe exactly.  However, I did want to kick it up a bit to cover the fact that I cheated!  So, when in doubt - go to YouTube   I found a few videos that inspired me, so I made leaves from the second crust in the box.  About 26 leaves.

I cut them with a small leaf cutter and then used the back of a sharp knife to create "veins" in the leaves.  Placing them, overlapping, on the edge of the crust, gently pressing down to attach, they made a very attractive border.  Finished with a brushed on egg wash of beaten whole egg and water, which made for a nicely browned crust. (although they browned rapidly and I had to use a pie shield for the last half of baking).


I filled the crust and baked.

Half way through, I added a pumpkin cut-out somewhat unsuccessfully.  It would have been better to have baked it separately and then added it as final decoration.  It sank a bit and didn't brown up as well as the rest of the crust.

All in all, though, everyone said it was a good pie.  I feel a bit redeemed in the pie department.  Who knows what I will try next???  Hmmm, I'll probably go back to decorating cookies :-)

Bon Appetit, Y'all!StumbleUpon

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Turkey Cookies (a tutorial)

I have struggled with turkey cookies for years...just couldn't seem to "get it" because I'm not really an artist when it comes to drawing and painting on paper.  My drawings are rough and only used to guide me through the decorating process.  This year I must have looked at a hundred different examples from all over the Internet.  I even looked at photographs of real turkeys and turkey feathers (that just confused me even more).  I finally decided to "break it down".  First I did it on paper, using the cookie cutter for the outline...then I used a pencil (and used up an entire eraser) and I plotted the parts like I was doing plastic surgery!

Fortunately I only had 6 large turkey cookies baked...and nine minis.  I considered skipping the minis, but you can see from the photo above I pressed on.  Somehow this time it seems to have gelled for me.  If I'm unhappy with anything, it's that it seems like there should be a wing.  The core body looks bare.  Maybe next year I'll address that issue!

After preparing the royal icing (I'd prepped many colors because I had a total of 108 cookies to decorate).  For this particular project I used a lot of brown, small amounts of blue, orange, yellow, red, and white.  I primarily use squeeze bottles with a coupler that allow you to change decorating tips.  Sometimes I use piping bags too, especially with thick icing.  For this project, though, it was all bottle work.  All icing was roughly the same consistency.  Makes for an easier task!

I decided to start by drawing on my bare cookies.  Yes, draw.  I got out my little pack of Wilton Food Writer edible markers with fine tip...mostly just use them when I'm making turtle cookies.  I dot-outlined the areas I needed to pay attention to.  The body, the wattle, the beak, leaving room for the feet.  I wasn't really sure what those little feathery things to the left of the feet were (a photo showed them to be a series of white and gray feathers).  Maybe it was supposed to be the wing???


Then, I outlined and filled the body section on all of the large turkeys. I use a #2 tip for outline and filling - spreading out the fill with a toothpick until it touches the outline.  Then carefully hold the cookie with your fingers and give it a little shimmy shake to help everything even out.  I carefully placed, with craft tweezers, a black sugar ball in position for an eye while the first brown set was still very wet.  I pushed it in and it looked better than leaving it sitting on top of the icing.  It looked a little bug-eyed until I pushed down.



I set that rack over on the chair where I had a fan blowing.  This allowed that section to crust while I worked on other cookies.  You have to be careful - you can work on the next sections after crusting - but the icing is certainly not dry.  That takes many hours down here in humidity land.  Always at least over night.  Just let it get crusted.  You can "see" the difference - but don't touch it - you'll have an indentation - I promise (been there done that)!


Next I filled in the wattle on each turkey with red icing, taking care to leave room for the beak (as outlined in in the first step).  Using a #1.5 PME Supatube tip I completed all the wattles and then moved on to start on the tail and feathering.  Since you won't have fresh icing touching the red, you don't have to wait for it to crust...just be careful.  It was at this point I decided to leave the lower feathers unfilled.  You can see how I just outlined the tail section.  (Note - the brown icing ALWAYS darkens as it dries...this was the same bottle of icing!)


Since feathering is a wet-on-wet technique, you must move quickly before crusting begins on the tail section.  So, rapidly outline and flood brown on the tail, then pipe the 3 or 4 curved lines which will become your feathers, working on one bird at a time.


Taking a round toothpick, start at the top of the "tail" and drag the toothpick down through the wet icing.  Wipe the toothpick and move to the next feather, drag, wipe, repeat, circling around the tail...viola, you have tail feathers!  Set that tray of cookies aside and let the tail and wattle crust.


Next I decided to fill the lower feathers with brown and pipe three "sort of" horizontal white lines and, using the same feathering technique, pulled straight down to make the lower feathers.  Since the next section I worked wasn't touching anything that wasn't crusted,  I was able to go ahead and put a fine tip on my icing bottle (I used a #1 PME tip) and piped on some little feet and filled in the beak.


Ta da - that's all there was to it!  Just let them dry up overnight and they will be ready to package as a nice gift for your Thanksgiving guests to take home - or you could use some white icing to write names across the body and use them as placards for your Thanksgiving table...or, like my family is wont to do, grab them off the cookie plate...dig in and eat it!
Note how the browns all became the same color after the turkeys were dried!

The mini turkeys were much easier - I outlined and filled the entire body, leaving room for the wattle, beak, and feet.  I quickly feathered the tail and tweezed in a black sugar ball for the eye and set them aside to crust.  Next came the wattle...let it crust, then pipe in the feet and beak.  Easy peasy compared to the big birds!



These are fun and not too challenging once you break it down into "parts" and "steps".  I feel much better about my turkey-bility now that I've got this set under my belt!

Gobble, gobble!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!StumbleUpon

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Apple Butter Cookies

I wanted a different kind of "cut out" cookie for the holidays...something not gingerbread-like...but more than vanilla sugar cookie dough.  I found a huge selection of roll-out-and-cut dough recipes at Ann Clark Ltd.  I made the dough a couple of weeks ago and froze it.  Day before yesterday I took out all of the Apple Butter Cookie dough and 1/2 of the Cardamom Cookie dough and 1/3 of the regular sugar cookie dough I usually bake with, and let it thaw in the fridge overnight.  This week, I'm baking.

I rolled and cut 110 cookies...half of which were minis.  I have apple shapes, pumpkins, turkeys, acorns, and a few leaves.  That should do it for the Thanksgiving cookie baking!  My house smelled outstanding throughout the morning....like I'd already been baking pumpkin pies!  When I left for a while and then returned - the house smelled even better!  All those cookies sitting on cooling racks just infused the house with the smells of Autumn!
The Cardomom minis have a subtle spice taste

I went strictly by the recipe for the Cardamom Cookie dough as well as my usual Laurie Mather's World's Best Sugar Cookie dough.  You can check those links for the recipe.  What I'm sharing here is my favorite of the bunch - my new favorite cookie dough for Fall cookies.  It's mostly Ann Clark's recipe...with a few tweaks from me.  Here it is:

Apple Butter Cookie Dough
Adapted from Ann Clark, Ltd.
PRINTABLE RECIPE

Ingredients:

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup apple butter (I used Musselman's)
1 egg yolk (room temperature)
1/2 Tbsp Pure Vanilla Bean Paste
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I used King Arthur)
1 cup white whole wheat flour (I used Gold Medal)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder

Method:

Cream butter and both sugars together until light and fluffy.

Beat in apple butter, egg yolk, and vanilla bean paste.

In a separate bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients.  Add to wet mixture just until all ingredients are well blended.  Take care not to over mix.

Wrap in plastic wrap (I divided mine in quarters and formed into small rectangles for easier handling).

Chill for 4 hours or overnight before rolling out.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Roll dough out on a lightly floured counter to 1/4 to 3/8 inch thickness.  Keep the dough moving, lift to ensure it is not sticking to the counter.  Sprinkle more flour if needed.  Make sure your rolling pin stays floured as well.  This was a sticky dough when it got warm - hence the easier handling with small portions.

Cut the rolled dough with well-floured cookie cutters.  Metal works best!  Transfer to a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat (I use the Silpat mats).  If my cookies were difficult to move, I floured my thinnest metal spatula and lifted gently to help transfer them.  I refrigerated each tray while another was baking so they wouldn't spread.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and rest in pan on cooling rack.  As soon as they are there, get out your trusty fondant smoother and gently glide it over every cookie.  This will remove any bubbles or plumped up areas - resulting in a nicely flat cookie.  Don't press, sort of like you are ironing something delicate.  Remove to rack to cool once cookies are cool enough to handle.  Allow to cool completely before decorating.

For the apple cookies I used my regular royal icing recipe but when I was mixing colors and bringing the uber stiff frosting to pipe and flood consistency, I used some apple cider instead of water to thin...and I added some cinnamon extract to complement the vanilla extract already in the icing.  It's barely a hint of difference, but I think it complements the cookies.

The decorating was a two day endeavor.  I made all the icing (3 batches) and colored them and let them rest (covered in plastic wrap - touching the icing).  When I returned from helping a neighbor with a computer task, I found the bubbles had all risen and were easily popped.  Filled all the bottles and a couple of piping bags and got to work.  Started about 6:00 p.m. and stopped at 11:00...in bed with cramping hands by midnight and up at 7:00 ready to start again.  Love Ibuprofen :-)

We are humid - we're always humid on the coast - but I used the fans and lowered the air conditioning to help with a good drying environment.  They did great.  The only thing that didn't do great was I tried to use a flood icing to pipe some detail on pumpkins and it ran together.  It was the last thing I did before going to bed last night so this morning - I had rather unattractive green blobs on my pumpkins - nicely hardened.  Drat.  Oh well.  I knew it was too loose and I didn't stop and fix it.  My bad!  Still, I think the cookies turned out well.

The apples, acorns, and large pumpkins were all made from the Apple Butter Sugar Cookie recipe.  All of the minis except for the orange pumpkins were made from the Cardamom recipe.  The large turkeys and the mini orange pumpkins were all vanilla sugar cookies.

Keep an eye out for a tutorial on putting together the turkey cookies.  Hope to have it up by Monday at the latest.
Turkey tutorial coming soon!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Chefs Fresh Mexican Food

Update 2014:  Now called Su Casa Cafe and located at 6200 Padre Blvd. inside the Travelodge South Padre.  Phone number 956-761-0744 ext. 297.  Same great chef/owner - check them out!



I've been trying to get to Chefs Fresh Mexican Food on SPI for months it seems.  I finally made it!  My friend and I decided to meet for a long venting "girls lunch" last week and since neither of us had gone to Chefs, it was the choice of the day! 

So many of my friends had raved about the freshly prepared food, the service, and the good breakfasts that my first attempts were to get there for breakfast.  Getting my crew anywhere for breakfast (beyond the immediate vicinity of the kitchen) is a big trial...I'm the only early riser in the house and I've had breakfast by the time the rest of the lazy bones have arisen.  I tend to just shrug my shoulders and go on with my day!

Anyway, Mary and I hit Chefs at 11:30 on an off-season Friday.  We were the first customers of the day, followed by a slow but steady stream of patrons.  It is a very small place - not a lot of tables - but it worked perfectly for us at a comfortable table by the window. 

We started with chips and salsa and drinks while we caught up.  We warned our waitress we would be there a long time - we had lots to "vent" about!  The freshly made chips and a generous bowl of salsa arrived very promptly (these are not complimentary by the way) .  Now, this is a traditional Mexican food restaurant...and down here, that means cooked, served warm, yellow/orangish salsa.  It is not my personal favorite.  I vastly prefer the red tomato salsa that has fresh un-cooked onion, cilantro, etc. as the highlight.  That said, it was tasty.  It was pleasantly spicy to my white-girl palate.  I am not a fan of the grab-your-drink hot salsa served in some of the restaurants.  The good part of that, I guess, is that neither of us filled up on chips and salsa :-)  However, if you like that kind of salsa, I'm betting you'll love Chefs' salsa.

After we'd been there nearly an hour, we finally ordered.  Our waitress was very respectful of our desire to chat (the restaurant wasn't filled so I didn't feel guilty hogging the table) and she didn't bug us.  That is always a nice thing.  Mary decided on the chicken fajitas.  She said she figures that's a good standard to evaluate a restaurant.  Something simple like "can you cook chicken" without it being dry and tasteless.  She said the chicken was both moist and tasty...so thumbs up.  The plate consisted of grilled chicken, charro beans, rice, and a small pile of lettuce and tomato.  She had her choice of corn or flour tortillas.

I selected my baseline for evaluating Mexican food - beef enchiladas.  The menu term was Enchiladas Rojas and I had the choice of chicken, beef, or cheese.  Three generous enchiladas, topped with a delicious sauce and grated melted cheddar cheese were served on a plate filled to the brim with the sides of refried beans and rice.  It was such a huge plate, I took half of it home.  It was A+ deliciosa!  Slightly more spicy than a traditional plate of Tex-Mex enchiladas, but certainly comfortable enough for my tongue. 

All-in-all, a nice casual dining experience, happily enhanced by a friend I can share all of my woes with who absolutely understands and doesn't judge or condemn my whining.  Thank you to my friend for the conversation and to Chefs for the excellent service and tasty food.  I will definitely be back!

You can find their daily specials posted on their Facebook page - listed ChefsFresh MexicanFood (note the lack of spaces to get to the correct page).  The owner is friendly and wants to ensure you enjoy your food and your time in her restaurant.  If there's a problem, let her know.  She's very nice!

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!


SPI FLIP FLOP FOODIE RATING:
4 – Lip smackin’ - good quality – flip flops will definitely be parked under their table again!


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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Prepping for Holiday Baking

Over the past years I have learned how important it is to prep in advance for the holidays.  When I hosted the big Thanksgiving and/or Christmas events at my house in Austin, preparation began well over a month in advance...detailed menus, grocery lists, time lines carefully mapped out.  It requires organized planning to pull off a meal or a party during the holidays.  You already have so much going on just prepping for your immediate family - add an "event" and WHEW... you better get your ducks in a row!

Since moving to the coast, away from my grown children and extended family, every year has involved holiday travel.  I really had to plan to make my contributions mobile and not crowd up my family's already crowded kitchens with my preparations.

Life continues to evolve as we grandparents make room for our children to take on the load, and work around their multi-family and work obligations.  Admittedly, I feel much too young to give up the reins just yet...but you do what you gotta do.  They simply can't travel for holidays.  Moving away from the large house and the family to enjoy condo life at the coast came with a cost.  This time of year, I always start feeling a bit morose because of it.  I really loved having my entire family in my home at Thanksgiving and Christmas!

This year, especially, is going to be challenging.  We've decided to stay home (at the coast) this Thanksgiving...which has me cooking the whole shebang (admittedly, a much smaller shebang) for the first time since 2007.  My big kids are having their meal with a family member from their Father's side who has not been in town for several years.  My husband is wanting to be at home with his feet up for the first time in 5 years on a holiday...so, I need to put the sad face aside and begin the preparation for our first coastal Thanksgiving. (Of course, that's assuming he gets the day after Thanksgiving off... otherwise, the teen and I will travel! Oy vey!!!)

Step One:  I've made the menu.  Way too much food (but it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without too much food).  I'm going to figure out how to make small portions of all of our favorite dishes.  I know I'm up to the task.

Step Two:  I want to bake cookies to send to my kids...at least some part of me will be with them on their day with the other side of the family.  So, today, I mixed up, packaged, and froze 3 batches of cookie dough to make cut-outs at a later time and decorate closer to Thanksgiving.

The rest of the steps will come together...I really could do this in my sleep!

I prepped two new cut-out cookie recipes...a Cardamom Sugar Cookie dough and an Espresso Chocolate Chocolate Chip Sugar Cookie dough found on Ann Clark, Ltd.'s website...and then, of course, my standard vanilla sugar cookie dough I have been using for years.  I have one more recipe I want to try - an Apple Butter Sugar Cookie that can be rolled and cut.  Sounds awesome.  When I bake and decorate them, I'll share all of that with you!

I also put away all of the Halloween decor and toted over the Thanksgiving stuff from the storage unit.  It's nice to unwrap and enjoy the few things I kept when we moved (we had tough choices...there is no room here)!  I have the table cloth and napkins and kitchen towels currently being refreshed in the dryer and the M & M Fall Mix in the acorn-shaped candy bowl, the ceramic turkey with tea light on the table, with ceramic pumpkins on each side.  All the usual suspects!  There is some comfort in the old familiar pieces, few that they are!  It helps that today is overcast, albeit not really Fall-like with a pleasant coastal 78 degrees at this time.

I'm missing the Shrimp Cook-off in Port Isabel - normally would be there, but it has rained off and on and I just wasn't "in the mood".  I do hope it is a success...past years have always been fun!

Okay - I think I've gone on and on enough.  If you made it to the end, thanks for reading.  The melancholy is lifting and I am feeling thankful for all our many blessings.  Different can be good...I've learned that lesson over and over.  Here it comes again!  I'll keep you posted as things progress.

Bon Appetit, Y'all!StumbleUpon