Bake the Halls – Gingerbread

I made this recipe last year, and honestly I had to make it again! I had never really eaten or enjoyed gingerbread cookies. These however are soft and chewy and all over yummy, and since they were that good last year, why not make it again. If it’s not broken why fix it, right! Another thing that hadn’t changed from making these last year was the smell of molasses, if you have never encounter this before get ready. Personally I don’t care for the smell of it, if you go wonderful, but it does something magical when it’s in the oven to come out smelling and tasting nothing like the raw molasses. One thing I got this year was these rolling pin thickness gages. Fantastic I picked them up when I was wondering around in the craziness of holiday shopping, and they made it immensely easier to make cookies. I no longer had to worry if all the cookies would be different widths or if some would burn while others wouldn’t be cooked at all. If you do a lot of baking and haven’t picked these up, I would recommend picking some up.

Ingredients:
4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp cloves
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup molasses
1 large egg

Directions:

1. Whisk flour, salt, baking soda and spices. in a separate bowl cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in the molasses and egg until combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough out onto a floured surface, this is super important otherwise the cookies will stick and be all sorts of crazy when you try and put them on the cookie sheet. I used the thickest of the rolling pin rings, I believe it was 3/8 of an inch.

3. This year I made gingerbread men, stars and Christmas trees. Since these were pretty thick cookies and they puff up while in the oven I made sure to really give them their space on the cookie sheets. I baked them for 6-7 minutes.

Gingerbread!!

Gingerbread!!

 

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Bake the Halls 2013

A little late on my Thanksgiving update but needless to say it was a ton of fun seeing my family for an extended weekend. Plus I got to meet the daughter of one of my best friends!! It was epic! One of the things that I actually tend to enjoy a lot is the drive, I know who likes a 6 hour drive? Well I do, not really the drive, but the forced time to reflect. I find that sometimes I get so caught up in life that I am just going, going, going, and without anytime to reflect back on it it’s hard to really enjoy my life. Let alone have the time to be thankful for all of the blessings in my life, for example as I write this tomorrow will be my last final for my first semester back at school in a long time. Woohoo!!

But on to the baking! Another blessing is my entire family bakes together and it is one of my fondest memories from childhood. I can still see the counter tops full of cookies, some cooling and some already packaged up and ready to be given out (with the ominous “DO NOT EAT” signs taped on them). It’s something I do to this day actually, ask anyone I am friends, volunteer, or work with, I love to bake and then give out all of the goodies! Last year I did a series call ’12 days of cookies’ and I’ll make a link available near the end of this post.

Thanksgiving was the kick off for baking, annnd I got my sister to post for some pictures for the blog! She says she doesn’t want to be on the blog, but deep down I think we all know she wants too ;). For the cookies, we used the dough from Betty Crocker sugar cookies, and made homemade frosting!

Frosting

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1-3 tbsp milk

Directions:

1. Make sure the butter is softened, and not melted. Add the vanilla and slowly add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time.

2. After the sugar is all added to make it easier to put into pipping bags and decorate the cookies add some milk. (Trust me, I tried to not add the milk thinking it would be fine, wrong, it didn’t work!)

3. Decorate the cookies and eat!!

*We split the frosting and dyed it different colors, as well as had some chocolate frosting that was left over from the chocolate cake we made for breakfast

Click here to go to the page that has a list (with links) to the “12 Days of Cookies” recipes.

Enjoy the pictures:

The set up

The set up

Val's apparence! And the cutting of the cookies
Val’s apparence! And the cutting of the cookies

Chocolate flavored tree trunks!

Chocolate flavored tree trunks!

I decorated the stockings and the snowflakes! Val did the trees and the snowmen

I decorated the stockings and the snowflakes! Val did the trees and the snowmen

More tomatoes?!

For some unknown reason every time I go to the grocery I have this feeling that I’m running low on pasta. I go to the grocery a lot, I have about 12 pounds of pasta in my pantry as I’m writing this. For as much as I think of buying pasta I somehow always over look the pasta sauce! This time of year is when it seems that everyone is overwhelmed with the amount of ripe tomatoes their plants are producing. Since I have what seems like the never ending pasta supply with no sauce I’m very grateful for those extra tomatoes people are trying to get rid of.

Simple Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 small yellow onion finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp of each of the following: rosemary, oregano, basil, and thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2-2lbs fresh tomatoes

Directions:
1. In a sauce pan heat the olive oil, onions, and garlic until fragrant (8-10 minutes).
2. On a large chopping board (I prefer the flexible ones for chopping tomatoes, it makes it easy to not lose any juice when transferring them into the pan) and chop the tomatoes, while trying to keep the juice from escaping!
3. Add the tomatoes and their jive to the pain with the olive oil. Add the herbs and bring the sauce to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and allow sauce to thicken, about 30 minutes.
4. This step is optional, I personally like chunky pasta sauce but after the sauce has been simmering you can let it cool for a few minutes, and transfer it to a blender. Blend until smooth but be careful because it will be hot.