Thursday, December 22, 2011

Boot Camp: If Cookie Baking Were an Obstacle Course

Some of the most awkward conversations happen while checking out at stores.  Standing in line at Costco with my mom and grandma yesterday, we began talking to the cashier.  He was a youngin (well early twenties) and mentioned the fact that he was hungry.  He told his co-worker, "Man, I need to stop eating out and start cooking at home more but I just don't like to cook."  To that, my mom said, "...or just marry someone who cooks."  The response, "You see, I don't really know people from our generation who cook."  My mom quickly offered, "My daughter does."  He stared at me.  I stared at my feet.  It got reeeeaaaaal awkward.  While my mom was just trying to prove a point, he thought she was trying to set us up and since there are not I-have-a-boyfriend rings, how was he to know the difference?  Excellent.  My life is awkward.  I think the reason I always buy cute shoes is because they are an excellent distraction to look at during awkward moments.  The awkward moment happens, you need something to look at besides the witnesses to the awkward moment, the floor is the instinctual place to look and when you do? BAM! Cute shoes! Awkward moment forgotten.  I have a lot of awkward moments ergo a lot of cute shoes.  Justification.

In all reality though, having a spouse that cooks is a definite win.  I suppose you could call the last few weeks of my life wife-in-training boot camp.  I have made a ridiculous amount of food.  Ridiculous.

Pinterest is not helping curb my culinary cooking splurges either.  I can now not only think about things I might make but oogle over them and put them into categories, which sends me right to type-A heaven.  So, what have I been cooking recently? First, it started with my cookie boxes.  I made some Dark Chocolate ThumbprintsGingerbread Biscotti, Oreo Cheesecake Cookies. Peppermint Sugar Cookies, Red Velvet Cookies, Eggnog Cookies, Caramel Apple Cider Cookies, Chocolate Peppermint Cookies, sugar cookies, chocolate chip cookies, spritz cookies, pecan nut balls and the final cookie that makes Christmas official for me... molasses crinkles.  Overboard? Probably.  Necessary? Oh yes.  In case you are curious, I made 3 separate cookie assortments so each box did not get everything but I had fun.

At level 2, I moved onto the holiday meals.  I had a Christmas party with some friends.  Weeks before, a pinboard was created with all of the recipes.  Wife in training boot camp level two entailed: Lasagna Cupcakes, Toasted Ravioli, Zucchini Fries, Stuffed Mushrooms, Italian Meatballs (and let me tell you what a sight it is to see a vegetarian kneading through a bunch of raw meat), finished with some Pizza Egg Rolls

Level three? Random acts of hosting, including but not limited to: Breakfast Cookies, Eggnog Tres Leches Cake, Spicy Banana Zucchini Balls, Chicken Pot Pie and my all-time favorite: Eggplant Parmesan

Level four of the training program is still in process because this year I have overtaken the Christmas dinner.  There are lots of levels to wife-in-training boot camp.  It's kind of like Angry Birds that way.  Let the adventures begin!

 Alongside wife-in-training boot camp, I have begun another type of training but this kind is a little more figure-friendly called Jillian Michael's 6 Week Six Pack.  You need to know that I mostly judge work out DVDs and write them off for a weak excuse of a workout.  This DVD? Yeah, not so much.  I want to die and say not very nice things to the t.v. screen while I am doing it.  I am a gym rat and work out all the time and this DVD still kills me.  But I do it.  Even if I want to die.  Jillian even says in the video, "You may feel like you're going to die right now. You're not.  You're going to look ridiculous. That's what you are gonna do."  I better look ridiculous in six weeks or else. I can't figure out what exactly the or else is going to be, but I guess I have 5 weeks and 2 days to think about it.  All I know is that I better build some brute strength during these six weeks to fight all the people who will fight me for feeding them all of my cookies and finishing the cookie season with a six pick if Jillian pulls through and I get me one of those with her DVD. 

All of this training and I am excited to see the payoff.  I love the talents God has given me and am now spending my time making myself the best me I can be for His glory.  Somethings are selfish (like the six pack) but my training is allowing me to show hospitality to those He puts in my life.  That, I can dig. 

I love the idea of being in training, of being refined by fire for God's purposes, to become the famously quoted woman of virtue in Proverbs 31.  I think someday, it will come in handy.

"10A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
12 She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
13 She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family

16 She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
22 She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate."
Proverbs 31:10-31 

Happy cookie season!
The Troublebaker

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Visions of Sugar Plums

I. love. Christmas.  There are a litany of things that make that statement true, including but not limited to: Christmas carols, the smell of pine tree smacking you in the face as you walk in your door, and (something I am sure you are not surprised by) the baking of Christmas cookies and plenty of willing victims for my bake fests with a legitimate excuse to bake something for them.  Yes, friends.  I. Love. Christmas.  While it comes with its pitfalls, which is a list that mostly just includes over-commercialization and fruit cake, Christmas is a great season.  I couldn't WAIT to start baking for Christmas.  Some people agonize over when is too early to put up decorations or blast their Christmas carols, but I always wonder, how early is too early to make holiday treats?  I even devoted an entire pinboard to it.  Well? This year I had to wait until December 2nd, but it was worth every bit of wait.  I kicked off the holiday season baking for a banquet and auction.  It all began with some Christmas Swirl Tea Cakes. 

Nothing says Christmas like a swirly-twirly cake!  This was a 1,2,3,4 cake (which is your basic recipe of 1 cup butter, 2 cups sugar, 3 cups flour and 4 eggs (then some salt, baking soda and vanilla) buuuuut being the troublebaker that I am and also being that I was at high altitude, my 1,2,3,4 cake was actually a 1, 2 (minus 2 tablespoons), 3 (add two tablespoons), 5 recipe.  So naughty...

Then the cakes were "tea-d" (as in cut into 1-inch squares and decorated).  A third got the lovely white chocolate glaze with hollies, but the rest were a creation due to the oh-crap-we-are-out-of-white-chocolate-chips-thanks-to-the-almond-coconut-bombs-I-made-last-night-and-we-are-in-the-middle-of-no-where-and-it-just-snowed-10-more-inches thing that sometimes happens. 

Creation 2 was a chocolate drizzle with red and green M & M's.  I don't think people were complaining at the change.  There were none left.

Creation 3 was a white chocolate drizzle, butter cream frosting and coconut to pay tribute to this great snow which almost left me trapped in this wonderful winter wonderland. 

Finally, were the cookies.  Two kinds were made.  First we had the buckeyes.  Since, they don't require baking, I guess they don't really count as cookies, but I have no other name for them besides balls of fat.  I don't think if you said to someone, "Hey, want to have a ball of fat?' however, anyone would actually accept.  Buckeyes.  A ball of peanut butter, butter, sugar and vanilla dipped in a chocolate coating of chocolate chips and shortening.  Yeah, ball of fat sounds like an appropriate name.  The others Coconut Almond Bombs.  They were increeeeeedible.  Okay, so I didn't actually try one, but the smell was incredible, they were all eaten up, and one of the men at the banquet tried a bite, then made everyone standing around him take a bite of his cookie because he thought it was that good.  I have decided to adopt this recipe for my family's cookie tray.  Since Christmas is a celebration, and therefore all foods are 0 calories , I will stuff my face full of them.  Looks like I've got me a new countdown... Count down to cookie-shoving-in-face!

Yup, Christmas is pretty swell.  I am looking forward to this season, I have dreams of what is to come in the upcoming year.  Plans? Not so much yet.  But visions?  Oh yeah.  Of things a little more than sugar plums.  Wishes? Oh yeah.  Of things a little more than my two front teeth.  All the while, I am grateful for a God who has greater visions then I can imagine and who gives us two front teeth and then some.  God is good.

Merry Christmas, y'all!