Monday, November 30, 2009

Holiday System Day 5 - scheduling tasks

Make A Schedule
to keep you sane this holiday season. A well-formed schedule for your tasks will make your life easier, and keep your stress levels in check.
Please note that this time, the holiday series will run straight through, including weekends.

blogosphere, we had a problem

I am not sure on the issue (non-technical person here) but my scheduled posts did not post. I had planned on taking off for the Thanksgiving holiday, as I was at my sister's. I scheduled posts for these days to keep up the holiday series, which obviously did not work. I apologize for this, and will shortly be reposting all these posts. Please catch up on them, and stay tuned for the re-run of the 30 Days 'til the Holidays series. I will be reworking many of the posts, with brand-new tips and recipes, as well as gift ideas, just in time for Christmas.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Holiday System Day 3- having a plan

The importance of having a plan

Holiday System Day 30 - one down and one to go

Thanksgiving is over, along with Black Friday. Things will be getting back to normal (what is normal anyway?) before quickly becoming crazed again with the coming Christmas. Don't forget to

relax and enjoy the holiday

take it easy, make plans with your family and friends. Being stressed out isn't worth it, you'll just miss all the good things about the season.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Holiday System Day 2 - a focus

Don't forget what the season is all about...

Holiday System Day 29 - focus (again) and shopping kindly

Ahh, the day of crazed shopping known as Black Friday. Whether or not you'll be participating, the idea for today is simple:

Don't forget the real meaning of the season

It is not about scoring great gifts for 70% off (at least not completely!) But seriously, the season (today included, and in fact, the entire year) is really about keeping a focus on your family, friends, and of course faith.

Try to remember this today, especially if you're out shopping. Be kind and respectful of others, and focus more on the gift recipient then the gifts themselves.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Holiday System Day 1- introduction

Please see this introduction if you are following along with this series for the first time.

Holiday System Day 28 - Happy Thanksgiving

Give Thanks

and enjoy your blessings.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Holiday System Day 27 - setup

Make the holiday tomorrow as easy as possible-

set up your area

If you can, set the table ahead of time. If you use your everyday table for the holiday dinner, at least prep all of your settings. Take out the plates and silverware you'll need, any platters, and serving spoons.

Set up an area for guests to leave their coats and purses. Leave extra room and serving utensils for any dishes your guests might bring along.

Remember, anything you can accomplish ahead of time will make the actual holiday easier.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Holiday System Day 26 - preparations

It's the last-minute countdown to Thanksgiving. Today is a great time to

take care of preparations

while you're not caught up in the holiday stress. Make your pies, and do any last-minute grocery shopping- you do not want to be out two hours before Thanksgiving dinner trying to find cranberry sauce!

Also, try out some make-ahead dishes.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Holiday System Day 25 - rechecking your lists

In 3,2,1 days it will be Thanksgiving. Today's tip is simple:
Recheck your schedules and lists

Make sure you have everything you need. Now's a perfect time to buy those last minute ingredients like produce. If you have a frozen turkey, make sure to take it out now so it can defrost. If you'll be buying a fresh one, get it today or tomorrow (and try brining it for extra flavor and moisture!)

Last minute cleaning and organizing before guests come is also best accomplished now, leaving you time to relax and enjoy company. If you've put off things, focus on the main rooms (kitchen, living room and bathrooms.) Clean off the main horizontal surfaces in each room- this makes the biggest impressions. Floors, counters, table tops, bookcases- organize the contents a bit and then dust. Clean floors last, so you don't have to go back over them.

Take some time for yourself before people come over or you leave. Remember to give thanks and enjoy the holiday season.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Holiday System Day 24 - recipe traditional cornbread

Another based on Fannie Farmer's recipe. This is very traditional and delicious.

keeping a traditional dish

Traditional Cornbread
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal (Arrowhead Mills makes a fine milled one)
1 cup white whole wheat flour (try spouted flour for easier digestibility)
1/4 cup sucanat
3 teaspoons baking powder
Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl.
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup yogurt or sour cream
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon butter or bacon fat, melted
Add the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix thoroughly. Pour into a greased pan, bake at 425 degrees F. for 15 minutes. Cool and cut into squares. This may also be baked in a bread pan, but it crumbles a lot when cut. Done in a baking pan, it come out like brownies and is much easier to eat. (And toast, so you can put even more butter!)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Holiday System Day 23 -recipe raw cranberry-orange relish

Raw Cranberry Relish
Super easy and delicious. Make it in the blender or food processor, and refrigerate until serving, and
save some stovetop
(for the gravy!)
1 orange, zested and peeled
1 small tart apple, peeled (Granny Smith is delicious)
1 bag fresh cranberries
Blend orange, apple and cranberries in food processor or blender until in a relish, finely chopped. If desired, sweeten with 1 Tablespoon honey. Optional flavoring, 1 Tablespoon orange liquor (yum!)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Holiday System Day 22 - make-ahead dishes

The sides for holiday dinners often make the meal... but they can also make the cook crazy and make the kitchen more over-stuffed than a 20 pound turkey. Save yourself some hassle (and the oven room for that turkey!) and make some of these:

Mashed Yams- my mom used to make a batch of yams and a batch of regular mashed potatoes a few days ahead, and spoon or pipe them into the empty yam skins (half yam and half potato.) Besides looking nice, they re-heat in only 15 minutes.

Stuffing- this can easily be made ahead. I like mine in a shallow baking dish, making re-heat time faster. If you don't actually stuff your turkey, it cooks faster also (and won't be overdone.)

Vegetables- steam them on the stove, in only a few minutes. Serve with a cheese sauce or hollandaise.

Raw Cranberry Relish- so easy! Blender it up a few days ahead of time, keep in the fridge.

I am happy to share this psot at Homemaker Mondays- check it out for lots of great ideas!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Holiday System Day 21 - taking a break

No matter how much you plan and prepare, the holidays are still stressful. Today, plan and prepare for this inevitability by figuring out a way to
Relax and Take a Break
during the holidays. Come up with a few ways you can de-stress, right in the middle of everything. Maybe you take walks, or do some meditation. Plan to get by yourself and take a break for these relaxations during the days when you'll be busiest. This can really improve your mood, and therefore the attitude of everyone around you.

Real Food Thanksgiving Sides

Thanks to Wardeh for another great idea: Real Food Thanksgiving Sides Gallery- be sure to check it out!
I'm sharing two recipes that I posted for the Holiday series:

Mashed Yams - (self-explanatory!)

Green Beans "Uncasserole"- (beans w/ homemade hollandaise- yummy and easy)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Holiday System Day 20 - trying new things

Today's task:
Try Something New

which I know is a little too simple, and maybe even sounds silly. With everything else you have to worry about this season, why not keep everything the way you know it best? Because it really gives you confidence to attempt something you've never done before.

I'll be trying a few new food ideas for this season, especially Thanksgiving dinner. I want to incorporate some of the new knowledge I have on what's healthy. I don't want to do too many things, just a couple.

Last night, I thinned out some tomato sauce with bone broth- it was really good and a nice way to get more stock into my family. Even something this small was an eye-opener. Trying something new is a simple way to give yourself a little boost over the holidays.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

slowcooker carnival- crock pot meals

Pot Roast
I adapted my basic pot roast for the crockpot, just to make it easier.

1 large onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4-6 lb chuck roast, seasoned with salt and pepper (and browned on all sides if desired)
2 cups beef stock
2-3 Tablespoons tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 potatoes, diced
4 carrots, sliced

Place crockpot to low. Add in the onions and garlic, rest the roast on top. Mix the stock with the tomato paste and thyme, and pour in. Cook for about 4 hours. Add in the potatoes and carrots, and cook for another 1-2 hours.

Refried Bean "Enchiladas"
I created this meal out of mostly pantry ingredients (although they were homemade), from desperation at having very little to cook. It's a time-light meal, only 2 hours on high.

4-6 tortillas, homemade (purchased okay)
1 1/2 cups refried beans-homemade preferred
1 cup each of cheddar and monterey jack cheese, mixed (all one type okay also)

Spread tortillas with beans, and sprinkle each filled tortilla with about 2 Tablespoons cheese. Layer into crockpot

2 cups tomato puree
1 cup salsa (homemade preferred, or add in 1 tomato, 1/2 onion, and 1/2 jalapeno, chopped)

Mix together, and pour over tortillas. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top. Cook for 2 hours on high, or 4-5 hours low.
Additions- try more hot peppers, sliced olives or sweet bell peppers on top.

This post was inspired by Passionate Homemaking's Slowcooker Carnival- check it out!

Holiday System Day 19 - slowcooker holiday drinks

Your kitchen has a hard few days ahead of itself. Holiday dinners don't just take a toll on you, but your appliances. With a hunk-of-meat in the oven, and side dishes on the stove, there's barely any room for the cook in there! How can you make a delicious drink?
Use the Slowcooker for Holiday Drinks
Consider a spiced cider for a kid-friendly beverage, or mulled wine just for the grownups. It's easy- just throw in the liquid, maybe add a little unsweetened juice for another layer of flavor and add some orange zest and spices (whole cinnamon, cloves etc.)
It's a great way to warm up after spending some time outside, and can stay warm all day while being completely ignored (try that on the stovetop!) As a nice side, the whole house smells great!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Holiday System Day 18 - remember your focus

When we first started this series, I wrote about the importance of focusing on what really matters this season. With Thanksgiving a little over a week (!) away, I think it's a good time to

Remember your Focus

The closer the holiday dinners, guests, and gift-buying get, the easier it is to forget- forget what the holidays are all about. Go back to your focus, or write some expanded ideas down. Go over them with your family, and even think of some ways to make plans to spend time which allows you to keep your focus.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Holiday System Day 17- holiday traditions, keeping and changing

The holidays are, for many,
all about traditions.
In my family, one Thanksgiving tradition was hot-bacon dressing over greens. This recipe was one of my grandmother's, who I was very close to. It's Pennsylvania Dutch, and to me it always reminds me of her. After she passed away, we still made this as it had become a needed part of the holiday meal.
Strangely enough, right at this time my sister married, and her husband's mother also made the dressing. I feel that this was one of the things that helped bring together the two families. My brother-in-law's parents came for Thanksgiving, and it was like my grandmother was still there, and these two ladies and their recipe was connecting us all. The recipe was a tradition we kept.
A new tradition for our now bigger family also came from my brother-in-law's mom, egg noodles (served with the gravy.) I love these noodles, as the are also traditionally Pennsylvania Dutch. She made this for many years, but after she also passed away, we did not have it for two years. I think we simply forgot about it. I decided to start bringing the noodles the next year. It was something I missed, and I didn't want to lose the tradition. Two years later, I brought my DH to Thanksgiving. As it turns out, he loves egg noodles. So this once-new tradition brought together a now even-larger family.
The lesson? Keep all the traditions you can, and don't be afraid of making new ones. You never know what the family will remember, and one day your kids might continue them on.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Holiday System Day 16- recipe -new green beans for Thanksgiving

To go along with all the rich sides of mashed potatoes and stuffing (or dressing, depending on where you're from) and rolls, it makes sense to have a vegetable on your holiday table. Traditionally, many families make a "green bean casserole."

I'm not really one for recipes where two of the three main ingredients come out of a can (as you may have guessed!) so I'd like to share my family's version. Real food, real good-
Try a New Recipe
Green Beans with Hollandaise
Simply trim and steam fresh green beans for about 5 minutes, or until your preferred doneness. Buy frozen, pre-trimmed for an easier, but more expensive alternative. Serve with Hollandaise Sauce- scroll down to see my easy blender version. Guaranteed to please even picky no-greens-please toddlers (or spouses!)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Holiday System Day 15- visiting and hosting people

For many, the holiday season is a month crammed full of people: out-of-town guests coming to your house, and other out-of-town relatives houses that you visit. Feeling like all the extended family and friends need to be seen in this short time is a huge cause of stress. Today's task is simple:
Re-think Holiday Visits
  1. Go over this with your spouse and whole family. Who will you definitely see on Christmas Eve? Christmas Day? Maybe this year you would like to spend the holiday with just your household,and see other family members a few days before. Stand up for whatever plan you decide on.

  2. Come up with a plan for the other family members and out-of-town guests. Are you visiting or will they come to you? Will they stay at your house, and what will happen for meals? If there are hard feelings from changing old traditions, try to come up with new ones. Get grandparents to watch the kids sledding, or go caroling, and then make cocoa.

  3. For friends or extra-extended family, consider having a party a week or two before the actual holiday. If this seems like too much work, you can host a pot-luck, or have an appetizer party with make-ahead dishes.

Just remember that this season is supposed to be about having fun, which you won't be if you're stressed out about all the people you " just have to" see within two days. Spread out the love over a longer time- people will eventually come to see that it allows you to all enjoy each other's company more.

I am happy to share this post at Finer Things Friday.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Holiday System Day 14 - recipe: mashed yams

Sweet potatoes and yams are both frugal and super-delicious. The traditional holiday dish of sweetened yams with marshmallows is a favorite for many, but doesn't really improve the nutrition of the dish. What's more, this dish can be too sweet for some people. If you're looking for a new way to serve these vegetables, try my mother's dish: mashed sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes or yams, about 1 per person, baked for about an hour (fork a few times so the steam escapes, otherwise they could explode)

When cooked, let cool for a hour. Split open and scoop out the flesh, and mash as you would regular potatoes. Add in butter (and cream if desired) and season with salt and pepper. For extra smooth potatoes, try blending with a hand mixer.
I am happy to share this post at Pennywise Platter Thursdays.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Holiday System Day 13 - making new recipes

One of the best rules I've learned (which I would have figured out years earlier if I'd only listened to my mom) is to always try out new recipes and ideas ahead of time. Her motto- and now mine- is to never make a brand-new recipe for company. Try out these fun experiments on your spouse or kids- that's why they're there in you kitchen every day! So, today's task is

Plan new recipes ahead

and trust me, it's important. No matter how good of a cook you are, something will go wrong with a new recipe if there is company coming over to eat it. Even something as simple as braising fennel will turn out badly. This will cook down so much that it will only serve 2 out of the 8 people at your table. And, even more, these 2 people won't even want to eat it! (Because it's mushy.)

Try out all those new ideas (like mine for lacto-fermented veggies for the relish trays) now, way ahead of time. That way, you have plenty of time to perfect them, and you won't be stressed out for the holiday dinner. You'll look like an old pro in front of that relative- the one who always makes you feel like they'd rather be eating holiday dinner at the diner down the street.

I am happy to share this post at Works For Me Wednesday- check it out for lots of great tips!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Holiday System Day 12 - a break for a focus

for today I have decided to take a break from the holiday series to remind us all how important it is to
keep a focus
on what's important this season. I was inspired by the story at MckMama's My Charming Kids- a true blessing for this family. If you are not reading here, I'd like you to go and see it for yourself. Don't forget- family and faith are what this holiday season is truly about.

Please forgo any comments, and just keep your prayers for Stellan and his family.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Holiday System Day 11 - countdown plan

It's less than 3 weeks until Thanksgiving, less than 7 weeks (46 days to be exact) until Christmas. Today's tip is simple:
Plan Your Countdown

Planning your last-minute details is critical in maintaining your peace of mind when the holidays are upon you.

  1. Plan for the big day- every little thing. I like to make an hour-by-hour schedule. I base this on my earlier plans, which allowed me to see how long each dish would take to cook, etc.

  2. Plan for the preparations- be ready! Make sure you schedule all the little tasks, like cleaning, and big things (like making sure guest rooms are ready.) This will keep your stress down as the holiday approaches.

  3. Plan for the unexpected- it will happen. You know, it, that thing that can't possibly happen and then does. An unfrozen turkey, even after 4 1/2 days in the refrigerator. Forgetting that your brother-in-law is allergic to raisins and putting them in both apple pies. Those things, they will happen. Be sure of it, and try to plan for whatever you can. Otherwise, relax and enjoy knowing you've done all you could.

Remember, plans will help you to keep your focus on the important part of the season- family, friends, faith.

I am happy to share this post at Homemaker Monday.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Holiday System Day 10 - being prepared

One of the most difficult things for me in becoming organized was being prepared. I have run out of gas (too many times,) multiple basic cooking ingredients, cleaning items including dish and laundry detergents, and both diapers and wipes. To combat this apparently natural state of lameness in myself I have determinedly set to stock up on critical items, especially at hectic times -like before the holiday season, maybe?!
This worked so well last year it was almost unreal- I didn't buy any basics from about Halloween until my birthday in early February. Knowing that I didn't need something (like toilet paper) because I had enough (about 75 double rolls!) was a key to my stress-less holiday last year. Try it yourself:

  1. Go through the rooms in your house to get all the basics, i.e. tissues, dishwasher and dish soaps, laundry soap, and yes, toilet paper. If you have young children don't forget diapers and wipes- buy the big boxes if you can. This is a time of year when these things go on sale, because stores know people need lots of them and are trying to save money for the holidays.

  2. Kitchen necessities are also on sale, including baking items like flour, sugar and sweeteners, butter, yeast, chocolate, fruits and nuts. As reminded me, don't forget the spices (or extracts.)

  3. Think of the extras such as tape, gift-wrapping items and stamps. Bonus points for picking out cards a few weeks early -while there's still a good selection.

I know it can be a challenge to buy this stuff ahead of time, especially on a budget. If you try to get the things that are most important, and fill in as you can over the next few weeks, I guarantee you will feel more relaxed. And don't forget to put gas in the car before you go to the stores!

I am sharing this at Finer Things Friday- go and see all the great ideas!

Homemade Soaked Crackers

This recipe was adapted to soaking based on a Fannie Farmer recipe (yes, that cookbook again) It is very simple and makes a delicious cracker. My next few tries will be to alter it into a cheese cracker (to replace the dreaded goldfish that Big Boy somehow became obsessed with before I ever bought them- and which DH continues to buy for him.)

Soaked Crackers
3/4 c. real cultured buttermilk, or yogurt thinned with a bit of milk
1/4 butter, slightly softened
2 cups whole grain flour (I use "white" soft wheat, but imagine you could use your favorite)

Mix together the yogurt and butter until well combined. Add in the flour, and let sit at least 8-12 hours, up to 24 hours. (I usually let it sit overnight and part of the next morning.)
Roll out thinly, using plain white or sprouted flour to dust the surface and rolling pin. Cut into squares (or use cookie cutters for shapes- I have a fish one!) and place on a baking sheet, preferably lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with salt, pepper or other seasoning as desired.
Bake at 425 degrees for approximately 10 minutes. Alternatively, if desiring a "raw food" product these may be dehydrated at a low temperature, and will take from 4-8 hours.
I am happy to share this post at Pennywise Platter Thursdays- check out all the great frugal, real food posts!

Holiday System Day 9- keeping focused on family

The first post on this series was about finding a focus, and after one week of tips and treats I wanted to talk again about the importance of staying in focus on what this season is really about.
Today's task is to

Bring in Your Family
into your holiday plans. It doesn't matter if your family is just you and your partner, or if it includes many children, or even if it's you and some good friends: this is the true meaning of the holidays. Family (for me) is how I stay focused on the faith of the holidays. Remembering how lucky I am to have my family, and how grateful I am, always keeps me in the real spirit of the season.

So today, I recommend you take some time and plan to share your ideas for the holidays with your family. Let them know your goals, and be sure to ask them for their input. Staying focused on the best part of the holidays (the people you'll spend them with) will keep you happy and stress-free during this season.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Homemade Candy Recipes

Chocolate Truffles
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 Tablespoons butter
flavoring- optional (1 teas. real extract of vanilla, mint, orange, etc. or 1 Tables. fruit jam)

Melt chocolate, heavy cream, and butter in a double boiler. Alternatively, heat the cream and butter in a saucepan, add the chocolate and take off the heat, stirring occasionally until melted. Mix in the flavoring if desired, and spread into a shallow baking dish. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 4 days. Scoop out, and roll into balls. Refrigerate on parchment lined baking sheets for at least 30 minutes. Coat truffles, if desired, in cocoa powder, melted chocolate, coconut, or diced nuts. Refrigerate, will keep for up to 2 weeks (if they last that long!)

Sponge Candy
1 cup honey
1 cup sugar (raw unrefined sugars work well in this recipe)
1 Tablespoon baking soda (non-aluminum)
1 Tablespoon vinegar (I prefer apple cider)

Prepare a shallow baking dish or a baking sheet by liberally coating with melted butter.
Melt honey and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until thick and medium brown, at a temperature of 300 degrees (hard-crack stage, using a candy thermometer is recommended) stir in the vinegar. Remove from heat, and sift in the baking soda. Stir a few times, and pour quickly into your dish. You must get the candy into the dish/ sheet fast; this sets up in very little time. Spread out as best you can, score into squares with a buttered knife if desired, and let sit until cooled. Break into pieces. Coat with melted chocolate to finish. This will keep for a few days, or refrigerated up to a week and a half.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Holiday System Day 8 - homemade gifts

Update: Sharing this post at Handmade Gift Carnival at Nourishing Gourmet.
I love making gifts for the holiday season- it's frugal, and fun. Making gifts allows me to focus on the true meaning of the season instead of being stuck in the consumerism that can define the holidays if you're not careful.
For years I spent many weeks (and many dollars) each year trying to find the perfect gift for every person. My mother was especially difficult- after 10 or so years and hundreds of dollars- I finally found the perfect gift: homemade candy! Time spent- about an hour. Cost- about $2-$3.

Want to make gifts but unsure of where to start? Here are some of my time-tested tips:
  1. Gifts from the kitchen- just about everyone loves homemade goodies. These allow you to really spend time and effort on the gifts, which people notice. The possibilities here are endless- try some flavored vinegars.

  2. Gifts suited to the recipient- make your homemade gifts "fit" the person just as you would for purchased gifts. Have family with food sensitivities? Make them special mixes/ treats that fall within their dietary needs.

  3. Gifts that look good- wrap the presents with care. Consider making gift baskets with a theme like breakfast- with homemade granola; pancake or scone mix- and fill it out with some purchased items (like some good coffee or tea.) Try using different containers and wrapping, such as a saucepan, metal colander, or kitchen towels. You can get inexpensive cookie and candy tins from thrift stores, clean them in the dishwasher and line them with parchment or colored plastic wrap.

For recipes I love, be sure to visit the links above. See the other posts in the Holiday Series by clicking on the picture. I am happy to share this at Works For Me Wednesday, come see all the great ideas!

Holiday System Day 7 - gift plan and cookie recipe

Although not the reason for the season, gift-giving is an integral part of our society's holiday celebrations. This can cause a major amount of stress if you're not careful. Especially considering the economy, which has probably reduced your holiday budget considerably, now it is more important than ever to

Make a Gift-Giving Plan

This one tip will make the season more enjoyable and relaxing. There are three easy points I recommend following:

  1. Start with a budget- allotting a certain amount for each person and commit to not going over this amount. This alone helped my stress levels so much, knowing that I could work harder to find a simple gift that would actually have meaning; rather than just buying what seemed like a great gift but was actually just plain pricey.

  2. Start writing down ideas now- whether you're planning homemade gifts or store-bought. This way, if you find a great deal at the store on something that would make a good gift, you can buy it. Likewise, for homemade gifts you'll have a way to make a timeline so you won't be making everything last minute.

  3. Start getting a gift area prepared- a place to keep everything organized. I just started this last year, in a desperate attempt to save myself from Christmas Eve-itis. You know, the thing only men are supposed to have- the syndrome where on Christmas Eve (or at 5:30 am on Christmas Day) you're still wrapping gifts. Avoid this at all costs- store/hide all gifts in the same area, and get out all your gift-wrapping paraphernalia and put it there too. Paper, boxes, tape, scissors, ribbons- all in one place, all with your gifts. Doesn't that sound nice?

In case you also make cookies, I want to share one of my favorite cookie recipes. Alert- this is a basic butter recipe with few modifications. Readers who are regular visitors here and expecting a "healthy" recipe: you should probably leave now! For everyone else, you'll see why I love this recipe- it can be modified to create three variations, so your baking day(s) won't be so crazy.

Basic Cookie Dough

2 cups butter

2 cups sugar (this is one place I don't use honey, although I do try to use unrefined cane sugar)

2 eggs

1 Tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon salt

5 cups flour (I recommend sprouted flour here as soaking doesn't work well with cookie doughs)

In a mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy. Add in the eggs and vanilla and combine. Add in the salt, and then add in the flour slowly. Combine well, then divide the dough into four equal portions (if planning on using all the following variations.) Refrigerate at least 3 hours until firm, or for up to 1 week.

This dough may be rolled and cut, or shaped as desired. Bake at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Variations: Orange-Chocolate; Ginger-Spice; Snowballs


1 Tablespoon orange zest (organic oranges recommended)

2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, melted

Add in the zest to the cookie dough. When cookies are baked cool on rack, then drizzle melted chocolate on top.


2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon allspice (may substitute 1/4 teas. each of ground cinnamon and clove)

These are especially nice formed into balls, pressed down flat with a glass, and sprinkled with sugar.


1 cup pecans, almonds or other nut diced finely (best if almost ground, use a food processor or grinder)

1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Add nuts and coconut to dough, and shape into medium balls, about 1 tablespoon of dough per ball. Bake, and when out of the oven for 1-2 minutes but still warm, sprinkle with (or roll into) powered sugar. An alternative decoration is to drizzle with white chocolate.

Additional ideas/ tips:

I like to make these three variations, leaving one quarter of the dough to make plain rolled cookies which I shape by cookie cutters, and decorate with diced fruit, colored sugar or royal icing. These are especially fun to make with children. This dough is very versatile, consider altering the recipes above to suit your family's tastes. See this Martha Stewart article, which inspired the idea of this dough and the recipes.

Please come back tomorrow for more holiday tips and another recipe- perfect for Thanksgiving.


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