More Than A Cookie Swap

Antique cookie cutters encircle a delightful assortment of homemade cookies

The doorbell rang cheerily a few times on Saturday and Danny, Noah and I welcomed friends and family in from the cold. Danny was especially welcoming, as each person came bearing big tins of cookies. This was the first time I’ve hosted a cookie swap, and it won’t be the last! Even though we were few, due to a slew of last minute cancellations, a good time was had by all from the oldest to the youngest. The youngest being Noah, who tasted shortbread for the first time and now agrees that this should be an annual or semi-annual tradition. Pots of tea and copious cups of coffee were drunk and a well-laden plate of cookies consumed as we chatted and laughed and watched the kids play together. It was something more than just swapping some baked goods, but a cozy sense of fellowship and friendship: woman to woman, mother to mother.

A big thanks to all the ladies that came and brought their delights!
Terrie came bearing chocolate chip cookies so fresh, they didn’t have time to cool and were still on the baking sheet! Diana’s yummy chocolate mint snaps were a hit and their mysterious crunchy centers a topic of interest. Arlene was inspired by my invitation and baked her first batch of cookies in three years. Tavia’s hand rolled coconut caramel cookies were perfect and her colorful holiday oatmeal raisin cookies the ideal round-out to our table. I contributed my usual spice snaps, some two-bite brownies, and shortbread in various shapes and flavors.

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread Santa Boots
Needless to say, if you decide to drop by for tea in the next few weeks, I could probably rustle up a little crumb of something to serve alongside. That is, if Danny doesn’t find my stash……

Caramel Coconut and Holiday Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Shortbread Candy Canes

And now, here is my most requested cookie recipe!!

Spice Snaps

Preheat oven to 325F

Cream: 3/4 cup butter, room temp
2 cups sugar

Stir in: 2 eggs, room temp
1/2 cup molasses
2 teaspoons white vinegar

Sift and add:
3 and 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger (or 3 teaspoons ground)
1 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon grated Tonka bean
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix well and roll into 1 inch balls. Roll balls in white sugar to coat and place two inches apart on baking sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes until tops have cracked and edges start to brown. Cool.

These cookies freeze well. Make 4 dozen

Danny Cooks

On a typical Saturday morning, Danny’s job is to get the paper, which he does, and then stands (all cute with his bed head) in the middle of the kitchen and reads the front page until I sit him down and hand him the baby’s spoon.

My job is to change the baby, prepare his food, make coffee, set the table, make juice, cook bacon and eggs and toast, and then we sit down and enjoy a nice family breakfast. This works well for us. There’s a peace about the morning and we’re usually eating a relaxed breakfast within 10 minutes.

Once in a while Danny will get the idea in his head that it would be a nice gesture to cook and as I’m changing the baby he’ll ask:

“What do you want for breakfast, my Love?”

At this point, as ungrateful as it sounds, I am not very enthused about having breakfast cooked for me because I know what it entails:


I know I’ll have to clean up. Cleaning up after I cook is no big deal because when I cook, I clean as I go, and after the meal there are just a few plates to rinse and the counter to wipe down. How Danny manages to mess the kitchen from stem to stern before 8 AM is beyond me.

2. I’m hungry. I always wake up ravenous and although I wish I had the patience for Danny’s laid back style, I don’t. (Note to self: work on this)

3. I want peace and harmony to fill our sunny kitchen as we slowly wake up and enjoy our Saturday morning. I know there will be lots of questions and extraneous talking for the duration of his cooking; not in a pot-slamming, crude language kind of way like an average professional kitchen, but in a steady, long-winded narration to himself of what he is doing. That’s just his way.

However, I agree to having breakfast cooked for me because I know that it’s not for Danny’s love of cooking that he asks me, but because he loves to serve and take care of me. And because that is so sweet, I shut up (and tell my rumbling stomach to shut up), fix Noah’s food and sit down with the paper to wait for my coffee.

I eventually get my coveted cup of Joe, but not before the kettle’s been sounding it’s shrill whistle for a good 30 seconds before it’s grabbed it and poured into the Bodum. Noah loves the whistle, Danny doesn’t seem to hear it, and I am the only one annoyed. Have I mentioned that I’m a tad grumpy before my morning coffee?

My coffee arrives just the way I like it. I can’t complain, it actually tastes better than when I make it. Noah is happily playing and all I want is a few minutes of peace and quite to drink my coffee and do the daily Sodoku, but now, along with the food preparation comes the running commentary to no one in particular.

“Why is the bacon sticking to the pan? I though this was non-stick. Isn’t this like a $200 pan? Aimee??? Where’s the butter? ARE WE OUT OF EGGS? Oh, there they are. How many do you want? Do I use butter or oil in the pan? How come there’s no OJ defrosted? I have to think of EVERYTHING. Man, that bacon smells good, do I ever know how to cook breakfast. Do we have any clean glasses? Do you want poached eggs?”

“NO!! That’s ok, they’re too much work.”

“I can DO poached eggs. It’s not a problem. I put vinegar in the water, right? Where’s the vinegar? What’s a good pot to use? Does it matter if I stir it clockwise or counter clockwise? Can I do two at a time? Do I crack them right into the water?”

It’s so much easier to do it myself, but I know half of the banter is tongue-in-cheek to get my goat, and don’t give him the satisfaction of a jump-up-grab-the-spatula reaction.

If I am grumpy before I get my coffee, I’m grumpier still when I am hungry. I answer the important questions, bite back the rest, and focus on my Sudoku.

A while later, my plate arrives. It’s beautiful. Bacon and two poached eggs on toast. OJ, too, but no knife and fork. I grab them myself.

The eggs are still soft in the centre, just the way I like them. As I cut through the yolk with my fork, my mouth waters and I start to think to myself that this is pretty sweet and aren’t I lucky to have a sweet hubby to cook me brekky.

But then…Ugh! Oh!

Vinegar. Lots of it. It sends a violent shockwave over my morning palate. The egg tastes like it’s straight out of a pickle jar-only warm. It’s pretty bad.

“Danny” I gasp. “HOW much vinegar did you put in the poaching water?”

He notices my face spells out disaster and immediately his expression reflects mine.

“About a quarter of a cup. Why? Is it bad?” He guesses the answer.

I sigh. Then laugh.

Then reach for a pan and head to the fridge for eggs.

Everyone Loves Shortbread

Almond Shortbread Stars

Who doesn’t love Shortbread? Perhaps it’s because I am half British (my father was born in England and moved here as a lad of four) and I never feel more in tune with those roots as I do when I am sipping tea and nibbling shortbread. Throw in a good Colin Firth movie and, blimey, that’s the cat’s pajamas! Of course ‘nibbling’ might be a tad of a stretch-it’s so rich and delicious-scarfing might be more appropriate. Now what some people don’t know is that shortbread is Scottish, not British. Shortbread is to Scotland what biscotti is to Italy and madeleines are to France. This simple combination of only four ingredients-flour, sugar, butter and salt-lays claim to be the best cookie out there and I tend to agree. If you are bored with the classic recipe, the good news for you is that there are many variations that you can make on the standard.
Trendy foodstuffs such as green tea and espresso have made their way into these delightful sweets, updating them for your 2006 Christmas! You can also get creative on your own. Chop up your favorite nuts or dried fruit and add that to the dough. Dust with icing sugar, dip in chocolate, or glaze with icing-just not all three. You don’t want to mask the shortbread’s humble ability to delight of the senses!

Here is a recipe for basic shortbread and following it, some variations. Remember that baking time for each variety will vary depending on the size and shape of the cookies.
Basic Shortbread Makes 8-12 1 cup unsalted butter 2 cups all-purpose flour ¾ teaspoon salt ½ cup confectioners’ sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla (optional)

Sift together the flour and the salt and set aside. In a bowl or mixer, beat butter until creamy. Add sugar and beat another 2 minutes until very light and fluffy. Add vanilla if using. Slowly add flour and mix on low until just combined. Gather into a ball with your hands, wrap in plastic and chill until firm.

Roll dough onto a lightly floured surface until ¼ inch thick and cut into desired shapes.
Place on baking sheet and chill until firm.
Preheat oven to 325F.
Bake until firm and just starting to color.
*Keeps well in an airtight containter for up to three weeks.*

Variations: Almond:. Add ½ cup powdered almonds and 1 tsp almond extract to the creamed butter. Omit vanilla. Proceed as usual.

Ginger: Substitute brown sugar for the icing sugar in basic recipe. To the flour mixture add 1 tsp ground ginger, 1 tsp ground cinnamon and a pinch of cloves. Omit vanilla. Proceed with basic recipe.

Green Tea: Omit vanilla. Sift 2 tablespoons of finely ground green tea with the flour and salt and proceed as usual.

Chocolate: Add ½ cup cocoa to the flour and salt.

Espresso: Dissolve 2 tablespoons espresso powder in 1 teaspoon hot water. Add to creamed butter and sugar mixture before adding flour. Proceed as usual.

Foodie Facebook: Tammy

NAME: Tammy
LOCATION: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
OCCUPATION: Writer, Web and Graphic Designer

1. What is your earliest childhood food memory?
Hotdog Roasts in the country – flame-grilled dogs, several salad varieties, and chocolatey s’mores for dessert. Every time I eat a s’more, I remember my younger self sitting by the fire – sideways ponytail, stirrup pants, sticky hands, and delicious dessert.

2. What did you eat today?
Breakfast: Coffee, Vanilla Yogurt, Fresh Pineapple | Lunch: Toasted bacon, pesto, roasted red pepper and goat cheese open-face sandwich with a side of cucumber slices | Supper: Rotini topped with Putanesca sauce, green olives and light ricotta with a side of mixed greens and balsamic vinaigrette 3. What will your kids never be allowed to eat?
Crayons, Play-Doh, Gum on the sidewalk

4. What do you always have on hand in your fridge?
Lots of fruits and veggies, 3 types of cheese, yogurt, black and green olives, banana peppers, Sweet & Spicy Thai sauce

5. What is your beverage of choice?
Coffee, Iced Tea, Strawberry Margarita

6. If you could have dinner with anyone in the history of man, who would it be?
The entire cast of “The Office” – and we would not have soft pretzels.

7.Ok, it’s your last meal ever, what do you have?
I would fly to Mexico for authentic beef enchiladas, guacamole and margaritas. For dessert, I would inhale an insanely rich chocolate truffle dessert with Cafe Americano at an outdoor Paris cafe.

Home with Friends. Good Friends.

With Danny away on business, it i’s amazing how fast I find myself reverting back to girly pre-marriage, ritualistic habits. Noah is fast asleep upstairs, and almost without thinking, I have changed into something cozy, reached for a pint of ice cream and a golden oldie girl movie. Yes, I ha’ve lit a few candles. It’’s almost like a sleepover, but I don’t have to share the ice cream with anyone. Sweet! After all, I have to take care of myself, right? I’’m holding down the fort, so to speak. With all that responsibility, a girl’’s gotta decompress.
There’’s no better way than with my friends, Ben and Jerry. Thanks for being there, guys!