For the past six years I’ve undertaken a project which sounds simple, but is in fact deceptively complex: Christmas cookies. I’m not Christian, so really these are just “random cookies my friends get in the mail in December,” but I still really enjoy and celebrate a secular Christmas so who cares what they’re called!
This began because I have a lot of friends who unfortunately live all over the United States. They mean a lot to me and I wanted to give them something for Christmas. However, I also didn’t want to start a horrible cycle where you not only have to worry about presents for your family but also for friends and no one really knows what to send or how much to spend and do they even need socks and we all have too much stuff anyway and wait why am I buying my friends presents? No one wants this. But everyone enjoys cookies. And they are the present that gives and then stops giving after you eat them and they no longer take up space in your house. Continue reading Project: Christmas Cookies
So while I could keep sending cookies to an increasing list of people every year, my time and cost would also keep increasing. I’ve found that my good middle ground is send to about 12-15 people/households. So 12-15 boxes that I need cookies for and then have to package and mail.
I could make 10,000,000 chocolate chip cookies and send everyone those and I’m sure people would be thrilled. But I like having a variety of things in each box, just a few of many different kinds of cookies. So before cooking every year I have to make sure that I’m making both a good mix and also making enough so everyone has a satisfying amount of cookies. In the end it’s a bit too little when sent to a family and a bit too much when sent to a single person, but I figure it’s free cookies in the mail so who complains?
Just remember: Do not let your cookie list grow out of control (a.k.a. avoid cookie scope creep). Continue reading Project Christmas Cookies: Scope
Beyond the sheer amount of effort of making a lot of different cookies, the most difficult part of this is the time. Cooking this much stuff takes a long time and is pretty exhausting. And when I get exhausted making Christmas cookies I get all cranky and weepy and it’s not good for the holiday spirit. I am proud to report that 2016 involved zero tears, however! Continue reading Project Christmas Cookies: Time
As far as human resources go it’s primarily just me. Most years I do all of it. This year Mr. R assisted a lot. He was a big help when packaging the (over 70) caramels and wrapping the cookies. I always think packaging is just a detail but it actually takes approximately forever.
It’s important to make sure that you have enough cookie sheets for this. In the past I’ve done it with two (do not recommend) and also with two good ones and two crappy ones (better, still not recommended). This year I sprung for two more high quality cookie sheets for a total of four and I bought three more cooling racks for a total of six. I also have two sets of measuring cups and spoons. I also use silpat mats to line my cookie sheets — nothing sticks and I don’t have to bother with cutting parchment paper. This makes for slightly expensive equipment. This project can absolutely be done with just stuff from the grocery store, but if you want to invest in some slightly better cooking equipment it will be used well doing this. Continue reading Project Christmas Cookies: Cost/Resources
I’m not from Texas and I never had much experience with Cajun food until I was introduced via my inauthentic but delicious Fluffy Gumbo. Then I moved to Houston and ended up with family who live on the border of Louisiana. My image of Texas was very much cacti and cowboy hats before I moved here, but really that’s more West Texas (well, ok, the cowboy hats are everywhere). I haven’t spent much time there, having had much more experience thus far in the odd world of East Texas/Louisiana.
So for holidays we often have Thanksgiving or Christmas gumbo instead of a turkey. It’s full of chicken and sausage and lots of oil and it’s SO DELICIOUS. I don’t know how to make it (yet) so this post isn’t actually about that. It is however about my first attempt at making bread pudding. Continue reading New Orleans Bread Pudding with Lemon Sauce and Chantilly Cream
After work tonight I thought about how much I enjoyed the chicken tikka masala I made this week, but that sadly we were out. Let’s eat out and get Indian food, I decided! And then I don’t have to cook! So then of course when we got home I decided clearly I didn’t really need three hours of free time and should make cookies.
I’d had a bag of white chocolate chips hanging out in the pantry for a few weeks. They were supposed to become some sort of fancy white chocolate candy that failed miserably after many bags of chips, cans of condensed milk, and cursing. So let’s make some cookies! Continue reading Reverse Chip Cookies
Somehow doing things late at night always gives them a more mysterious or forbidden quality. Eleven o’clock at night isn’t the time to start cooking a cake, but it was tonight and Mr. R and I dined on a treat of late night cake at midnight.
I’ve been wanting to do more with flavoring things with teas, but I’ve not had a lot of success previously. I was recently reading a recipe about making green tea cake that has the matcha powder sifted with the flour. I didn’t have matcha on hand, but I did have Earl Grey. So I decided to make this an English tea kind of secret midnight cake. Green tea cakes can wait for the light of day. Continue reading Late Night Earl Grey Tea Cake
Lime season continues, heating up with the exciting race of “can I make enough lime things before the limes spoil?” My friends and I have a game night every few months where we also make dinner and drinks, so I set aside about ten for that and a few found their way into very limey gin and tonics and sloe gin fizzes.
The rest I juiced into about four cups of lime juice. The majority of this will head to the freezer for use later in the year. But because I was seeing friends I also realized that enough people would be assembling to make reasonable the best use of limes: lime pie! Continue reading Lime Pie with a Nut Crust
It’s lime season here again! My tree outside on my .04 acres of land went crazy this year and produced 54 limes, almost twice of last year’s crop. So it’s Lime Land here and I’m trying to think of what to use them for. I tried candying them which ended in a burnt finger and failed candied limes… That project needs a second attempt.
But limes also make me think of key lime pie. I love it, but making a pie for just myself leads to eating an entire pie by myself which is never a wise plan for anyone. How to get the deliciousness of lime pie without the volume? My solution: lime pudding. This isn’t exactly a lie-pie-in-miniature (that will come) but it was interesting enough I felt it warranted a post. Continue reading Custard Lime Cake
One of the ever-present cooking dilemmas of modern life is the question of what to bring to office events that require food. For years, my dad answered this question with the same cherry cheesecake recipe. Everyone always raved about it at his office and when I got older I would request it for a birthday cake. This recipe has mysterious and unknowable origins. Perhaps a cooking magazine from the early 90s? Who knows. It lives on in instructions from my dad, tweaked and perfected over the course of years of being made.
A coworker recently requested cheesecake for his birthday at work, so I got out this recipe and gave it a go myself. The verdict of 2016 office workers? It hasn’t lost its magic! This got the highest praise of any recipe I’ve ever brought to work. Continue reading Classic Cherry Cheesecake