Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Christmas Dinner (dumb easy style)

Guess what? For Christmas, I have no desire to do mini-Thanksgiving. I don't want to cook all day. If I do anything all day on Christmas, I hope that it's nap. Um, I mean, spread Christmas cheer and neighborly-ness to the weary and down-trodden. Or at least not scream at my kids. But also, hopefully, take a nap. My point (you didn't realize I had one, did you?) is that I like to keep Christmas dinner super simple.

Here's how:

1. This roast. In the crock pot. 6 hours later you eat. Done and done. It's all you really need, honestly. You can totally stop here. But just in case you don't want to, below you'll find a few more quick suggestions.
2. Croissants. Okay, these look hard and they do take forethought, but the actual hands on effort is minimal. I don't make them every year (in keeping with my absolute laziness policy on Christmas), but they're kind of fun if you want to. And sometimes I do.

3. Mock champagne. Again, tap water works fine is napping is your only Christmas wish. But this is pretty dang easy. Another idea. Take club soda and add apple juice concentrate for an easy homemade Martinelli's.
3. Cookies. From the stash in the freezer or your neighbor or whatever for dessert.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Molasses Curls

 Hello world. 

My newest young adult novel, Grey Lore, is out on Amazon and at Barnes and Noble!!! 

You can find the hardback HERE 
The paperback HERE
The Kindle version HERE 
Or if you're a Barnes and Noble fan, find it HERE

To celebrate, Zinnie (one of the characters) and I have created a new recipe. Kip wanted to call it lots of, um, interesting things. Cream burrito, Fluffy snaps, and Molassy Fluff were among those monikers not to make the final cut. But you can call them whatever you want. 

What's amazing about these cookies is... well, everything. They're super fancy and beautiful, but not outrageously difficult. They're perfect for Christmas (just like my book #shamelessmarketing). They are amazing fresh and that is how they're meant to be eaten--with a crispy outer cookie and that fluffy cream in the middle. But I left a few in the fridge and the cookie softened. Then it became something of an icebox cake--a perfect molasses-y, gingery icebox cake. And that little accident was just as delicious as the original cookie (maybe even more so). So pipe these fresh for a party. But don't be afraid to eat your leftovers either. 

Now, a little about my book. 

Grey Lore is really not at all about baking. It’s about  a girl whose mother dies so she’s whisked away to live with an aunt she’s never met. It’s about a boy who’s lived in fourteen states in the last three years. It’s about wanting to fit in and not fitting in at all. It’s about trying to find your place with people who care. Also, it’s about werewolves (because you were getting that from the rest of my description, right?) It’s about a sleepy little town buried in secrets, a town that starts to wake up as Ella and Sam discover things about their pasts and themselves.

But a lot of cookies get baked too. That’s because one of the main characters, Zinnie, seems to subsist only on cookies and herbal tea. In my first book, Grey Stone, she brought us these amazing Cinnamon Oatmeal Crispies.

In the companion book, Grey Lore, Zinnie is back, albeit somewhat changed. Her cookies are back too, although you can see they’ve altered over the years as well.

Some things grow even better with time.

Here’s a scene where Zinnie and Sam meet and make cookies (of course).

She got up and hobbled to what looked like a very old stove to retrieve the next batch of cookies. “You may call me Zinnie,” she said, even though Sam hadn’t tried to call her anything. “Now, what is your name?”
“Sam,” he said, clearing a spot for the cookies she was carrying.
The cookies were thin little things, like puddles on the pan. If Sam had pulled them out of the oven, he would have thrown them all in the garbage.

But the old woman didn’t. She handed Sam a dish towel, which he put on the table so Zinnie could set down the hot, flat cookies.
“Help me out, dear,” she said. Expertly, Zinnie took a cookie and, using the handle of a wooden spoon, she rolled the flat cookie around the handle so that it formed into a small cone while it was warm. She looked at Sam, waiting. “Give it a try,” she said, handing him the spoon. “It’s not that hard once you get used to it. And after we’re done, we’ll fill them with cream.”

Sam spent the next thirty minutes rolling delicate cookies into even more delicate tubes and then piping them full of whipped cream. By the time they were done, he was surprised to look out the window and see blue sky surfacing.
Zinnie smiled. “Go on, now, the rain has cleared. Every Friday I make cookies. Come whenever you want.”
Sam stood slowly, unsure of what to say.
“Go on,” she said. “I bet if you leave now you’ll catch the rainbow.”
Sam left, and as soon as he walked through the gates, there was a rainbow—doubled up—one stream of colors sitting fat above another. Tornado country—it had its perks.

Molasses Curls
 (Zinnie and I would like to thank Pioneer Woman for her inspiration for these cookies, though neither of us is big on brandy, so it had to be adapted) 


1 stick (1/2 C) butter
½ C molasses
¼ C sugar
¼ C brown sugar, packed
2 tsp vanilla
¾ C flour
1/8 tsp salt
¼ tsp ginger


2 C heavy cream
1/3 C sugar
1 T vanilla
1 T cream cheese, softened to room temperature (this acts as a stabilizer)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Put butter, molasses, brown sugar, and white sugar in a skillet. Allow butter to melt, stirring constantly with heat proof whisk or a wooden spoon. Allow mixture to bubble and cook for one minute.

Remove from heat and add in the flour, ginger, and salt. Stir together quickly, then stir in vanilla.

Drop ½ tablespoon FAR APART on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper or a silicone pad. You’ll only fit about 6 cookies on at a time. They will spread A LOT.

Bake for 10 minutes. They should be bubbly and flat. Ours always ran together a little no matter how hard we tried to get them not to.

Remove from oven. Allow to cool three minutes. They should be pliable, but not stretch when you pull them off the pan.

Drape over cannoli mold (or the large metal handle of a whisk, which is what we used; anything thick and round will do; we used the handle of an ice cream scoop as well). It will drape over the edges and you’ll kind of form it into a cylinder shape. Set on parchment paper sealed side down and allow to cool completely. You have to work kind of quickly so they don’t get too brittle, but don’t panic. It’s not too hard.

Allow to cool and set completely.

Meanwhile, make whipped cream. Combine cream, sugar, vanilla, an softened cream cheese in a large bowl. Whip until stiff peaks form.

After all have cooled completely, use a frosting piping thing (or a Ziploc bag with a small hole cut out of the corner like we did in our apparently insufficiently stocked kitchen). Pipe the whipped cream into the cookies.

Trouble Shooting:
-Once we let our cookies cool too much and they were too brittle to form into cylinders. Life went on; we ate them anyway.
-Since you have to make these in batches, your batter will cool as you wait. That’s not a problem. Just scoop it onto the cookie sheet when it’s its turn and it will spread and bubble as it should.
-When we were folding these, they were very greasy and that worried me, but then the grease went away and wasn't a problem. So don't stress if they seem greasy. 
-As I said above, if you want these to be as they are supposed to be (crispy cookies), you need to pipe them right before eating, but they are so divine soft that if they sit in the fridge, your life might just become a little bit fuller. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Pumpkin Eggnog Smoothie

In an attempt to keep my kids from utter malnourishment, we've started drinking a smoothie every day after school (give or take a few). The same few smoothies get old really quick. Plus, it's officially almost winter and I wanted to find something that had warm winter/fall flavors instead of all those perky berries (not that there's anything wrong with that...) 

One night we stumbled into this sleepy time smoothie that used milk, bananas, nutmeg, honey, and cinnamon. It was just the type of winter warm smoothie inspiration I'd been looking for. I mean, it was a cold smoothie, but something about that combo felt warm to me. As we started mixing it up, it started to feel a lot like eggnog--that milk, those spices. So in an '80s throwback move, I tossed in a few raw eggs (yes, I did) and then thought that it needed a vegetable--a nice fall/winter vegetable--like a little bit of pumpkin. This is extra interesting (well, as interesting as an entire discussion of smoothies can get), but I still hadn't found a pumpkin smoothie I was in love with. Until now. This one just has a really nice blend of warm spices, winter foods, and overall virtuousness. Into that, you can also toss some ground flax seed and some oats or oat flour. You can make it with regular milk or almond milk. Both are delicious. You can add more pumpkin if that's your thing. You can experiment with the spices. I like this best with more nutmeg and less cinnamon. A bit of cardamom probably wouldn't hurt either. You can cut those raw eggs if you want. Or make it without the honey. It's still plenty sweet from the bananas. 

Pumpkin Eggnog Smoothie
adapted from Raw Blend
Serves 4
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cost: $1.40
bananas: .40, milk: .25, pumpkin: .10, eggs: .20, honey: .15, flax: .15, oats: .10, other spices: .15

3 large frozen bananas
2 C milk
3 Tbsp pumpkin
2 eggs
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon (I like it with that, but like it better without)
1-2 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp crushed flax, optional
2-4 Tbsp oats, optional

Put all into a blender and blend.

Sprinkle with extra nutmeg if that's your cup of nog.



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