The first cookie exchange party I attended was when my son (now 16) was in Kindergarten. This group of ladies took their cookies seriously! If delicious cookies presented Martha-style was not enough, the hostess decked out her castle-like house in over the top holiday decor creating a winter wonderland so beautiful it would make Ebeneezer Scrooge melt. Everyone brought a designated amount of cookies, allowing each guest to take home a equal amounts of everyone's contribution. The math involved must have been mind boggling! The best part of course, was coming home with a platter of the most divine holiday cookies.
Moving from Seattle means I sadly no longer get to attend this event (actually no one does, the hostess moved to Florida…), but I got to thinking about it the other day and decided to ask a couple of my best baker girlfriends to contribute their favorite cookies to a virtual cookie party!
The first cookie on the table is from my friend Teri. She is an extraordinary baker and I beg her constantly to grace the world with her talents and open a bakery!
Sugar Cookies topped with Frosting and Crushed Peppermint
If you are interested in the recipe, please email me and I will get it from Teri!
The table from a cookie party that Teri attended:
Next up is a cookie from my friend Vanessa who lives in Seattle and works for AllRecipes.com. If you are not familiar with this website – you will LOVE it. One of my favorite things about it is that readers can share their photos of the recipes they've tried.
Raspberry and Almond Shortbread Thumbprints
I love anything with almond flavor, so I can't wait to try these! For the recipe and the page with the readers photos of their version of the above cookie, click here.
I also wanted to share a program AllRecipes has organized called Cookies Across America:
'Join Allrecipes this December to “bake a difference.”Cookie lovers unite! Whether it’s baking and sharing cookies with the needy or donating cookie ingredients to a food bank, you can make a difference in your community this Christmas.
On December 10, 2011, join Allrecipes, Taste of Home magazine, and Nestlé®, as we spread a little Christmas cookie cheer across America. Here are a few ways to get involved.
Host a Cookie Exchange
If you love baking cookies and gathering with friends and family, this is the event for you. Take the pledge and join us, December 10, 2011, or set your own date during December, and have everyone bring a few dozen of their favorite holiday cookies. Make it a decorating party! Add icing and festive touches.
Then wrap up your cookies for donation and give them to a local food pantry, emergency shelter, senior center, lunch program, or other community agency. Be sure to check first they accept food donations, and ask when they would like delivery.
Organize a Food Drive
Host a food drive that focuses on baking ingredients, then donate items to your local food bank. Open up the food drive to friends, family, and coworkers, along with school, church, and other groups.
Ingredients Most in Need:
Where to Donate?
Food pantries, family shelters, senior centers
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence
The Ronald McDonald House
My contribution is a simple one, but sooo good.
Here's the recipe:
2 c. all purpose flour
1 1/4 t. coarse salt
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted, room temp butter
3/4 c. confectioner's sugar
1. Sift flour + salt into a bowl. Put butter into electric mixer w/ the paddle attachment/ Mix on med-high speed until fluffy (about 3-5 mins) scrapping the bowl occasionally. Gradually add sugar, beat until pale and fluffy (about 2 mins). Add flour mixture all at once; mix until just combined.
2. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
3. Using plastic wrap, press dough into a buttered 10-inch fluted tart pan w/ a removeable bottom. With plastic wrap on dough, refrigerate 20 mins. Remove plastic wrap. Cut a round from center using a 2 1/4" cookie cutter; discard. Put cutter back in center. Cut dough into 8 wedges (I did 16) w/ a paring knife. Using a wooden skewer; prick all over at 1/4 inch intervals.
4. Bake until golden brown and firm in center; about 1 hour. Transfer to wire rack. Recut shortbread into wedges; let cool completely in pan.
This recipe is from my all-time favorite cookie cookbook – 'Martha Stewart's Cookies'.
I love this book for two reasons:
1. In the table of contents there is a photo of every single cookie in the book.
2. They are organized in chapters based on cookie texture; ie, crumbly and sandy (shortbread above), rich and dense, and crisp and crunchy, just to name a few.
I hope you enjoy the cookies, and if you care to share in the recipe swap, email me a photo and recipe of your creation and I'll post it.
I just discovered the most beautiful fresh holiday wreaths I have ever seen and wanted to quickly share the source with you!
The wreaths are made by Wintersteen Farms – a family run business on a 36-acre Douglas and Noble tree farm in Oregon. The wreaths are $34.95 and come with a 2' piece of cream satin ribbon for hanging.
I just love the fullness and simple mix of greenery and pinecones.
I found these wreaths on the blog Dreamy Whites. Another wonderful new find! By the looks of her blog, I think the above photo is from her home. Isn't it beautiful?
To place your order for Wintersteen Farms Wreaths click here.
Another wreath variety that I really like is dried. I especially like that they're meant to be used year after year. This year, I ordered these beautiful dried magnolia branch, pomegranate and twig wreaths for the store. We have sold out of all but one!
Here's a photo I looked hi an lo for and couldn't find for my last post on holiday decorating. I just love the simplicity. What do you think?
In the store, we have the sweetest little living pine trees. They make great teacher and hostess gifts. All packaged and festive in burlap and velvet ribbon – they're ready to go!
The spirit of the holidays hadn't hit me until this weekend. My bad. I've been too preoccupied with other stuff to glance up and appreciate what makes this time of year so festive. Effective immediately, I'm double dipping on holiday cheer!
I plan to accomplish this by:
1. Not counting calories, carbs, fat grams or anything else associated with food guilt until January 3rd.
2. Taking out all of my cookie cookbooks and leaving them on the kitchen counter to inspire and hopefully use multiple times in the next two weeks (closely tied to #1).
3. Spending as many evenings as possible watching holiday specials with the kids. Our favorites are the old school Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Rudolph, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Polar Express and The Grinch with Jim Carey.
4. Lighting a fire. Who cares that it's 60+ degrees outside?
5. Listening to the "All Holiday – All the Time" radio station in the car. Possibly cranking it when Feliz Navidad comes on – for sure if I'm in car line.
Am I forgetting anything?? What do you do to get into the spirit?
We celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah and today picked out our tree. At the grocery store I noticed a new item in the deli – homemade matzoh ball soup! Perfect easy dinner with roast chicken and salad while we decorate the tree, thinks me. I didn't even realize the irony until I started writing this… so great how blogging, or writing for that matter, sharpens ones awareness….
Since I've got the holiday's on my mind, especially holiday decorating I dug around my holiday home decor file, and thought I'd share a few of my personal fave's.
Ralph Lauren Ranch – could it be anywhere else?
Wreaths – no bow.
Country Living – Kevin Reiner
sweet something design
Simple wrapping. I might add a rubber stamp with red ink.
I can't believe how fast this week has flown by! I had intended to do a last New York post, but uploading all the photos has taken longer than I anticipated, so it'll come in the next few days.
In the meantime, I'm looking forward to attending the Remodelista Holiday Market here in Marin on Saturday! If you're nearby, find an hour or so to stop by. The Remodelista gals gathered a fantastic assortment of local vendors for your holiday shopping pleasure. The location in new Marin Country Mart makes it easy to get to if you're in SF – right across the street from the ferry.
I'm particularly excited about one vendor who I've already placed an order with and am anxiously awaiting my ….. Hint, it's one of the photos below!
I'm also looking forward to Sunday when the long awaited photo shoot of the mod-squad Sausalito condo I have been working on for the past 8 months takes place! I've been running all over town gathering accessories, floral items and all the little details that will fill out the rooms. I'm thrilled and excited to be working with photographer Sean Dagen who shoots the Serena & Lily catalog (no relation to me and my daughter Lily, but for the record we were here first 🙂
I will share photos of both the Remodelista event as well as behind-the-scenes of the photo shoot next week, so stay tuned!
One last thing to put on the calendar… Glassybaby will be in San Francisco!!!
This was supposed to be a house update post, but my husband surprised me with a night away to Big Sur, so I put my laptop away and unplugged for 24 hours. It's my birthday next week and since he'll be far, far away, he sweetly planned a wonderful getaway to celebrate a little early.
I had never been to Big Sur before, but it's now one of my all time favorite places for a weekend away. It's so breathtakingly beautiful! Just the drive along Highway 1 is worth the trip!
Isn't that cool how the sun has those triangles like we used to draw it?
We went for a hike after breakfast and along the way spotted a few wild turkeys making a run for it! Can you see him above between the trees?
Simple fall decorations. Pumpkins come in so many colors these days – doesn't it seem like they used to only be orange? A small sampling of colors makes a welcoming fall display.
I have never seen this done before, but I thought it was such a great idea I had to share it with you. When pumpkins are on the vine and still small, lightly engraving them will allow a scar to form later when they're big. Don't worry, it doesn't hurt them! Mark your calendar now to remember to check your nearest pumpkin farm next summer to order your custom design in time for Halloween.
The beauty of Big Sur is that on one side you have the vast Pacific ocean and on the other – Redwoods and vistas.
Fall is the best time of year to visit the coastal towns of Northern California. The indian summers can last long into late October and early November.
Remember the wild turkey's we saw in the woods? Their cover was blown and we spotted them trying to get the heck out of dodge in this Lexus! Pecking on the door with their beaks attacking their reflections – the poor car owner is in for a big surprise! But, it is a tough time of year to be a turkey!
Hola! We just got home from a week in Cabo – it was Spring Break for the kids. I have major vacation brain – as in too many margaritas + no computer for a week = overwhelmed Monday, so please bear with me:) I will do a proper post or two on the trip in the next few days.
Anyway…Before we left I made plans with friends to host a Passover Seder for ten at our house the day after we came back (which was last night -Sunday). There was a time not too long ago when the thought of not cooking everything myself was inconceivable. I am happy to say, I have let that go! By bye guilt- don't let the door slam you in the … Not sure how or why I now feel so ok about it (maybe it has to do with having a dinner party for 10 people less than 24 hours after getting back from being away for a week?) I'll admit it feels good. So, this time I really took the easy route – cooked a few things, bought a few and guests brought.
I took some quick photos as I was getting the table ready.
Remember that compote I bought at Napa Valley Vintage Home that I blogged about here? It was the perfect container for some things I picked up at the grocery store.
I put a small glass bowl in the compote so it wouldn't get all gunky and put a brick of water soaked floral oasis into that. The oasis held the hydrangeas, calla lilies, grapes and artichokes in place.
I hope you all had a wonderful weekend and Happy Passover!