Favorite cookies: Candy Stripe Cookie Sticks

There’s a reason why I haven’t made these cookies since 2005. They’re finnicky, delicate, complicated and impossible to make without burning your fingertips. But they are so beautiful (and actually taste good to boot) that I couldn’t help myself and had to make them again. The recipe, of course, comes from Martha. I’m not gonna paste it here because you can print off a nice copy from her site, and what you really need to know is how to assemble these lovelies.

(And I will say I’m glad I did make these, even if they did consume hours of my day off and result in a 2-inch-long baking pan burn. Because they won the “too pretty to eat” prize at my office cookie contest. $10 gift card, baby!)

Before you start baking, make sure you have either a pastry bag with a fine tip or a plastic squeeze bottle like this one to make your stripes.

I prefer the bottle because it has fewer parts and only costs about $1.

You can also invest in gel paste food coloring, which can be found at craft or specialty baking stores, but I got away with using half a bottle of regular food coloring. I know it thins the batter out a bit, but it’s thin to begin with, so it doesn’t really matter.

I would highly recommend that you have not one but two silicone baking sheets to use for this recipe. I only had one, and I discovered that parchment paper was just not the same as a Silpat when trying to make an ultra-thin cookie. You can only roll, at max, two cookies at a time before they get too hard and start to crack, so it’s nice to have one pan of two cookies in the oven and one pan of two getting started at all times. Since the batter actually performs a little better when it’s warm, you don’t have to worry so much about cooling off the pan to use it again. Just take a minute off the baking time.

I also tried using egg whites out of a carton instead of separating the whites from regular eggs.

I figured the last thing I needed after baking tons of cookies would be hollandaise from the leftover yolks. Although the container said not to use them for meringues, they seemed to work fine for this purpose.

And one last word of warning, you may need to strain the batter that you use for the stripes before you put it into your bottle or pastry bag. I don’t know if it was from the egg whites or another ingredient, but my bottle kept getting clogged with bits of something, resulting in explosive squirts when I finally got it to come out. Not so pretty.

So here’s what you do. Mix up the batter, which is easy peasy.
Transfer a cup of it to a separate bowl and add your food coloring (and strain if you need to). Pour into the bottle/bag.

Next, make yourself a little template (or maybe two, because they tend to get messy). It’s basically a piece of something with a 3×6 rectangle cut out of it. You smear the batter into this rectangle (with an offset spatula), then pipe on the red diagonal stripes to get the candy cane pattern.

You’ll also need something to roll the cookies around. I like using an unsharpened pencil. A chopstick is good, but is usually thinner on one side than the other, which can result in an uneven cookie.

As soon as the cookies come out of the oven, you need to start rolling them. One problem – they are screaming hot at this point. But you have no choice. You have to roll, and you can’t really roll while wearing gloves. First loosen and flip the cookie to the other side. Then VERY CAREFULLY wrap the cookie around the pencil and press it to seal. It will probably take a few cookies to get this process down, but that’s OK. More for you to eat.

I only ended up with about 20 cookies good enough to photograph before I ran out of steam, but I was still really happy with them. If you’re going to tackle this recipe, I’d definitely set aside a lot of time, and be prepared to smear your entire kitchen with multicolored batters. But if you can schedule it right before a cookie contest, you never know. You just might win.

When in Madison…

A couple times now we’ve stopped overnight in Madison before driving the rest of the way to see Mike’s family in Wisconsin. We never have time to stick around and do much other than sleep, but we like to have breakfast at this place, Lazy Jane’s, before we head out.

In addition to giant scones so good they have a limit of 6, the place is known for calling out orders as loud as possible (due to the fact that diners are spaced between several rooms on two floors). Knowing this, people often submit a fake name to make everyone laugh (think, Stellllllaaaaahhhhhh!).

But we’re in it for the food. We split a lemon cream scone along with giant cups of coffee before our eggs and potatoes came.

So good. You must try it if you’re ever in Madison. Just beware of icicles!

We survived

This morning was pretty brutal. The snow gave way to bitter cold temperatures, but we still had to shovel our way out of the driveway in order to get to work. Just as Mike finished scooping the edge of the driveway, a plow came by and buried it again. And again, and again, about five more times. It was so ridiculous, it just became funny. Luckily a neighbor came by with his snowblower and rescued us.

It was pretty nice to have a snow day yesterday, though. I got caught up on a lot of projects, including more tiny sweaters!

This weekend we are off to Wisconsin to celebrate Christmas with Mike’s family. Then over actual Christmas we’ll do round two with my family. How do you divide things up for holidays? I’m always curious how other people handle it.

Snowed in

It turns out, the blizzard was for real. Not only did we get what forecasters predicted, we got more. As of this morning Des Moines had 14.5 inches of snow.

Our trashcans have been our snow rulers so far.

We are literally stuck here, as the front door only opens about a foot, and we can’t get out of the driveway or our street, which remains unplowed.

Some of the drifts are pretty incredible. My poor neighbor’s lighted trees have been absolutely buried.

But his sparkly deer actually look about right now.

When I went out to take pictures I couldn’t find the steps!

Our herb pots are under there somewhere. Probably should have brought them in.

Reggie loves the snow.

Sadie won’t go outside but for a minute or two. They shouldn’t be out long anyway because the wind is just brutal.

If you’re snowed in, too, I hope you’re staying warm and safe. I’m catching up on knitting and reading, and trying to steel myself for tomorrow’s shoveling (in my homemade Snuggie, of course!)

And just like that, it’s winter

It’s sort of the calm before the storm. We’re supposed to have 8-12 inches of snow, followed by crazy gusts of wind that turn it into a blizzard. I was telling Mike I can’t remember there ever having been an actual blizzard here. Although there have certainly been a lot of nasty snowstorms since I’ve lived in Iowa. I just can’t remember a time when it was so bad that you couldn’t really leave the house if you wanted to. Let’s hope it doesn’t get that bad. But if it does, I might not mind staying in with a cup of tea so much.

Candle sale!

All this month I’m having a candle sale at the Family Tree, the yoga studio where I teach Nia. All candles are 25 percent off, including holiday scents (hollyberry, pumpkin spice, cinnamon and praline pecan). Those are in jars, and then I also have regular scents (apple, green tea, white tea & ginger, sage & lemongrass, citrus basil, coffee, and some aromatherapy) in clear glasses and tins.

Bigger containers are $10.50, from $14, and smaller ones/tins are $7.50 from $10. If you would like one at the sale price but don’t think you can get to the Tree, shoot me an e-mail (notcarol@gmail.com) and I can get it to you. These would make great holiday gifts!

What’s in my purse?

Oh, I’m sure you were just dying to know…

I recently got a super cool purse organizer (from sweetbriarstudio on etsy), which not only helps you keep track of all the things that disappear inside your suitcase purse, it allows you to switch all of your belongings into a different purse any time you feel like it. LOVE IT.

Anyway, I love seeing what other people carry around in their purses, so I thought I’d share what’s in mine:

•Clamshell wallet, from Urban Outfitters
•Checkbook (cover from Monster Fashion)

•Business card holder from Gracie Designs

•Coupon organizer (yes, I am that dorky, or thrifty, you might say)
•Kleenex pack
Envirosax reusable shopping bag
•Mini notebook, which was my seating assignment from a friend’s wedding
•Lotion, pills, ID, lip gloss, sunglasses and floss
•Fold out mirror and tiny foldup scissors (these are amazing and people always need them to cut tags, etc.)
•And perhaps the strangest but one of the most useful, a collapsible tupperware container that I use to put leftovers in instead of taking a million styrofoam containers (great idea I stole from our friends Brigid and Aaron)

Normally I have my camera and cell phone in there, too.

So, what’s hiding in your purse?

Vintage fabric garland

Last night I attended my second crafty class at Ephemera. This time we were making garlands out of fabric leftovers. I brought along some red and white fabric I’d found at an estate sale. Even though the pattern wasn’t Christmasy per se, I thought the color combination said Christmas for sure.

All we did was cut fabric circles, glue them to a cardstock backing for extra strength, and sew them to ribbon. (Or in my case, get halfway through and switch to glueing to make it go faster).

Mine is hanging up now, and I just love it.

Thanks, Amy!

Mitten wrap, so cute

Take a swing by the $1 aisle at Target next time you’re there. They have the most adorable mitten wrapping paper, plus tissue paper and gift bags of all sizes.

The bags even have tiny matching mitten tags.

I also picked up a big roll of mitten wrapping paper, that came in a two pack with pink polka dot wrap.

AND, because I’ve become a little obsessed, I added this mitten paper to my Paper Source order, when I got next year’s Snow & Graham calendar.

(Delight.com was out of them and it looks like Paper Source is, too now.)

Loving: Christmas decor

Our little pink tree, which Making It Lovely reminds me came after an issue of Blueprint. We have two tiny trees instead of a big one. Mainly because we don’t want to find out what our dogs would do to a big one.

Giant cinnamon sticks. Did you know they came this big? Actually these are probably fakes, but I’ve heard that the cinnamon you buy at the store actually comes from giant cinnamon sticks and the ones you buy whole are different.

Sparkly ornaments in a bowl. Got them at one of Michael’s super coupon sales for only $2.50!

Cute ornaments Mike brought back from Denmark.

The soccer nutcracker. Thanks, mom.

And a few non-Christmas things…

The loveliest pin cushion from Handmade Pretties.

A lifesaving device to have this time of year: a sweater shaver. After I stupidly washed a North Face fleece jacket with a bath rug every millimeter was covered in blue fuzz. This baby got it all clean (if only it also dispensed a dog hair repellant). $8 at Target.

And last but not least, Charley Harper prints. Get them free, here.