Saturday, December 29, 2012

Basics: Pudding Cookies

The holidays are in full swing and so far this year, I've made close to 2000 cookies - for gifts, parties, and just because it's that time of the year. Cookie time.. it brings on an intense urge to bake none other than cookies, for some strange reason (possibly to please that jolly old man in red when he comes to deliver your goodies under the tree). You may think this is normal for me, since I'm always baking. But quite honestly, I personally don't bake too many cookies throughout the year. I am definitely more of a cake baker. So, I use the holidays to make up for the rest of the year and bake dozens and dozens of different types of cookies.

Using prepared ingredients in baking can be very useful at times, as in the case of pudding cookies. It's basically a cookie made with a packet of Jell-o Instant Pudding powder. These puddings prepared as directed on their packages always seem a bit plain-jane for my tastes. But throw them into cookie dough or cake batter and voila! They give your treats an added oomph, which is why you'll always find these little boxes of pudding mix in my pantry. My favorite flavors to add into my desserts thus far are Pistachio, Cheesecake, White Chocolate and of course, Vanilla and Chocolate.

The other day while perusing my favorite aisle of the grocery store, I found a seasonal variety of Jell-o Instant Pudding - Candy Cane! I picked up a box along with another seasonal flavor, Gingerbread - more on that in another post.

The cookies photographed here, my Wintry Minty Chocolate Chip Pudding Cookies, were inspired by Kraft's recipe for pudding cookies. These cookies use the below recipe with Candy Cane Jell-o Instant Pudding Mix along with Andes Mint Chips (1 cup) and semi-sweet chocolate chips (1/2 cup) as the add-ins. These are subtly minty and encompass the perfect textural qualities you want in a chocolate chip cookie - chewy on the inside with a thin crispy exterior. And because of the addition of the packet of pudding mix, these cookies stay chewy and moist for days!

You can make these cookies with any pudding flavor you like! I would suggest the Vanilla or White Chocolate flavor if you are going to be adding the mint chips to the dough. If you just want a traditional chocolate chip cookie, use the Vanilla Instant Pudding with regular semi-sweet chocolate chips. The variety of cookies you can bake are endless. Be creative - throw together different pudding flavors and add-ins and come up with your very own signature pudding cookie!

Basic Pudding Cookies
(inspired by

1 c unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 packed light brown sugar
1 package Jell-o Instant Pudding Mix
2 eggs
1 t vanilla extract
2 c all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 1/2 c add-ins (chocolate chips, nuts, chopped dried fruit, chopped candy bars, sprinkles, etc)

Preheat your oven to 350*F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy - about 2 minutes. Add the pudding mix until fully incorporated. Add the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla until they are well mixed into the batter.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda. Slowly add this to the wet ingredients and mix until just incorporated, taking care not to over-mix. Remove the bowl from the mixer, add your add-ins and fold them into the cookie dough. Using a 2T cookie scoop, drop the dough onto the prepared cookie sheet roughly 2" apart. These cookies will spread in the oven, however, I like to press the dough down and flatten them a bit with my hands before I bake them.
Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, taking them out when the edges have browned. Let them sit on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes and then transfer them to a cooling rack until they are cooled completely. These cookies will keep in an airtight container for 5 days. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Quick Tip: Breakfast Pocket Pastries

I categorized this recipe under quick tips, as it is such a cinch to make that you can roll, cut, fill, and bake these babies in about 12 minutes.

Store-bought Pop Tarts, you know the ones - they're chalky and taste incredibly processed. Yes, they're quick to prepare - just pop them in your toaster - but that's about the only positive point to this breakfast item.

The idea of a pop tart is wonderful, though - flaky, buttery crust enveloping sweet fillings such as jams, chocolate or Nutella. And as much as I'd love to make the whole thing from scratch, these days I just don't have the time. So, here's a quick alternative.

In 10-12 minutes, you can have pocket pastries filled with anything you'd like! Plus these are so easy to make, your kids can do it and be thoroughly pleased with themselves as they are eating them, as my 5-year old son was yesterday. I must say, he's got the crimping down to a science.

Easy Baked Pop Tarts

1 package (1/2 box) refrigerated pie crust (NOT the frozen kind)
1 egg
Jam, Nutella, or other filling
Flour, for dusting
Sprinkles, for decorating (optional)

Turn on your oven to 450*F. Dust your counter with flour and unroll the pie crust. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough, applying some pressure to thin it out just a bit. Cut the largest rectangle you can out of it. Then, cut several smaller rectangles out of this. I made mine about 4"x3" each but they can really be any size you'd like them to be.

 Place a tablespoon of filling in the middle and spread it to within 1/2" of the borders of the crust. Do this for 1/2 the rectangles.

Mix the egg with 1 T of water to make an egg wash. Then lightly brush the egg wash along the 1/2" perimeter of the rectangles with filling. Take a rectangle without filling and place it right on top of the filling, making sure to crimp the edges with a fork. 
Dock the tops of the tarts with a fork to allow air to escape from the pockets during baking.

Then brush the tops with egg wash and decorate with sprinkles if you so desire. Place the stuffed rectangles on a Silpat- or parchment-lined tray about 1 1/2" apart.

Bake them in your oven for 9-10 minutes or until the dough is lightly browned on the edges. When they are done, take them out of the oven and let them cool for about 10 minutes before eating.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Orange Chocolate Snowballs and the Cookie Craze

It's been a while since my last post and for good reason. Last week was spent baking around 1000 cookies for my dearest friends' and family's holiday gifts that I sent out at the end of last week. This year it took me ages to come up with the quartet of goodies I'd be sending, but finally it took shape and I made these four items:
1. Chocolate Mint Buttons - chocolate sugar cookies infused with mint, frosted with mint cookie icing, decorated in holiday colors.
2. Cranberry Orange White Chocolate Biscotti - a hit last year, I thought my friends would appreciate it popping up in their gift baskets again this year.
3. Holiday Marshmallows - homemade vanilla marshmallows in a red and white swirl for the season.
4. Molasses Spice Cookies - delicious, chewy, spicy cookies deepened in flavor with molasses and rolled in sugar.
Riding the cookie train, on Saturday evening I had a small cookie swap with a couple of friends. It was fun, the treats were delicious. I made two treats to partake in the swap - White Chocolate Mocha Cake Balls and Cinnamon Roll Cookies. I initially wanted my cake balls to taste like tiramisu, but the end product tasted more like a white chocolate mocha. These recipes will be posted as soon as I come up for air.
Something in the air gets us in a cookie mood come Christmastime. I can't help by run to my KitchenAid and start mixing up dough at least once a day to try a new recipe or bring back a tried and true holiday favorite.

This year was no different, because after a week full of baking cookies, I'd have thought I'd be sick of them by now, but not yet. Yesterday, I made another cookie - a delicious, delicate orange-scented nutty snowball studded with chocolate chips.

If you think snowball cookies are a bit on the bland or boring side, try this recipe. The orange and nuts and chips make for a burst of flavor in its one bite. I used walnuts and pecans, but you can use any combinations of toasted nuts, citrus zest, and chips that you desire.

Tossed in confectioners' sugar while still warm, they become little snow-covered gems of delight for the season.

Orange Chocolate Snowballs
(Recipe by Leelabean)

2 1/2 c flour
2 1/2 c confectioners' sugar, divided
1 1/4 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 sticks (1 c) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 egg
1 t vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
3/4 c toasted nuts (I used walnuts & pecans)
3/4 c mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a mini-food processor, grind up the nuts until they resemble coarse meal. Set this aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, ground nuts, baking powder, and salt and whisk together. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream 1 1/2 c confectioners' sugar and butter until light and fluffy - about 2 minutes. Then add the egg, vanilla, and zest of an orange. Blend well. Slowly add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Wrap this dough in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge until cold and firm throughout (at least a couple of hours). This dough can be made up to 2 days ahead. When you are ready to bake, heat your oven to 375*F. Pinch off pieces of dough that are the size of about 2 teaspoons and roll into little balls. Place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet about 1 1/2" apart from each other. Bake them in the preheated oven for around 8 minutes. It could be a minute or two more or less depending on your own stove. They will turn the slightest light brown on the bottoms when they are ready. Let them cool on the cookie sheet for about 2 minutes.
In a small bowl, put in the reserved 1 c confectioners' sugar. In groups of 5 or so, toss the cookies in the confectioners' sugar until well coated and place back on the cookie sheet to fully cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for about a week. Make sure to put some of these out on a plate for Santa on Christmas Eve. :-)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Superhero Birthday Party!

About a month ago, one of my friends asked me to make her son's 4th birthday cake decorations - that's right, decorations. Not the cake, not the cupcakes, just the decorations. I thought this was such a great idea, especially for those who like to bake and want the look of a custom cake but may not have the time or experience of making such detailed and labor-intensive decorations.

Her son, quite the little superhero himself, wanted his party to have a superhero theme. And not just any superhero, but quite nearly all the superheros! It was such fun for me to create these little medallions that would go atop the cupcakes my friend would make for his birthday party. I have to be honest, I didn't know many of the logos belonging to these superheros, but a quick Google search took care of that.

Top row (left to right): Green Lantern, Spiderman, The Hulk, Flash Gordon. Bottom row (left to right): Captain America, Batman, The Incredibles, Superman.
 These superhero medallions were created during the week Sandy hit. We had no power that week and making these medallions was a great way to spend the sunlit days. And since they required no baking or refrigeration, it was quite perfect.

Onomatopoetic words

I've made and blogged about these fondant medallions before, both here and here. They are proving to be such a versatile adornment to cupcakes and can really fit in with any theme. 

It was such a pleasure to be responsible for such a fun, memorable part of this special little boy's very special day. Thanks for the opportunity, guys.

My friend's home-made cupcakes topped with my fondant medallions.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Peanut Butter Caramel Dip

Condensed milk is one of those things, I pull out to use for a recipe, hoping there will be some left over to enjoy with a spatula. It's sweetened reduced milk that has a creamy, lightly caramelly flavor and it is used in such recipes as fudges, pies, and to sweeten beverages to name a few. It takes the place of milk when a richer result is desired. A while back I did a post on Dulce de Leche cookies. Dulce de Leche is made by cooking condensed milk until it caramelizes and if you haven't tried it, you must. Dulce de Leche is amazing. It's like a more complex, exotic version of caramel. In fact, the holidays are just around the corner. Add Dulce de Leche cookies to your cookie arsenal this year. They are simple to make and everyone will rave about them!

The recipe I am bringing to you today is for a simple dip. This Peanut Butter Caramel Dip is delicious and uses condensed milk as its base. My children absolutely love it with some crisp apples but it would be equally satisfying with a banana, over ice cream, or even sandwiched between some bread!

Forget all of that. When it's in the fridge, I can't walk by without taking a spoon to it. It's just that good. It's simple to make and keeps well in the fridge. Try this today, for your kids.. for the fruit going south in your kitchen.. for you.

Peanut Butter Caramel Dip
(Created by Leelabean)

1 can sweetened condensed milk (you can use fat-free)
1/2 c smooth peanut butter
1 t vanilla extract

Mix the condensed milk and peanut butter in a saucepan. Heat them on the stove over a medium flame. Continue to cook, mixing all the while with a wooden spoon, for about 5 minutes or until the mixture starts to boil. Continue mixing and once the mixture has been bubbling for about 1 minute, remove it from the heat and add the vanilla extract. Stir to combine. Let the dip cool and then store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. To loosen the dip, you can microwave it for a few seconds.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving, 2012: Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup

Soups are a great way to start a dinner. They get your taste buds warmed up for the big meal and refresh you at the same time. This soup is warm and cozy. Butternut squash, a popular holiday vegetable, is quite simple in flavor so the curry and spices added to this soup make for a nicely complex starting dish. Adding coconut milk substantiates it quite a bit - so this soup could easily double as lunch with a light salad or a sandwich on the side.

I found it to be a perfect start to my Thanksgiving feast this year as temperatures are dropping quite rapidly in the Northeast and soup is just the thing for this heartwarming celebration. If you like spices, please try this! If you like soup, you must try this! If you are fond of butternut squash, definitely make this!! You will love it! It's not overly spicy... it's really quite perfect... All the spices round out so nicely and fit like they were meant to be together. Top it with a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche or eat it alongside some buttered crusty bread for a mouthful of Fall.
You could easily swap the butternut squash out and sub in pumpkin for an equally fantastic soup!

Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup

Yield: 8 generous servings

1 1/2 medium-sized butternut squash
4 T extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 c red onion, chopped
1 c carrot, chopped
1 c celery, chopped
2 t curry powder
1 1/2 t cumin, round
1 t ginger, ground
1/2 t cinnamon, ground
salt & pepper, to taste (I used 3 t salt and 1/4 t pepper)
4 c chicken stock
1 13.5oz can coconut milk

Wash, peel, and cut up the squash and lay them in a roasting pan.

Toss it with 2 T extra virgin olive oil, some salt and pepper.

Roast the squash at 400F for about 1 hour, or until a knife pierced into the largest piece quite easily with no resistance, indicating it's cooked through.
In a large saucepot, heat up the remaining 2 T olive oil. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and cook for 5 minutes until the vegetable begin to brown. Add the curry powder, ground cumin, ground ginger, and cinnamon and mix, coating all the vegetables. Cook this for 2 minutes. This will toast the spices, allowing them to become more fragrant and flavorful.

Add the roasted squash to the pot and mix with the spiced vegetables to coat. Season as needed. Saute for another 5 minutes.

Then add the chicken stock. The liquid should just cover the squash.
Bring this to a boil and then cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.

Using an immersion blender, blend your soup until its smooth and no lumps remain. Season to taste.

Serve, piping hot with croutons, some crusty bread or a dollop of sour cream or creme fraiche.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving, 2012: Hassle-Free Apple Cider Gravy

Ah, gravy... Creamy, smooth, and the perfect mate to turkey, gravy is a must at the Thanksgiving table. It's just timing that seems to be a problem. It's 4pm on Thursday and everyone's famished and waiting for the much-awaited Thanksgiving dinner. You pull the turkey out of the oven. All the other sides are waiting patiently at the table. The turkey gets set aside to rest for 15 minutes, and all is well. But wait... the gravy! Just when you think things are winding down after a full day in your kitchen, you realize you need to collect the juices from the turkey, separate the fat out and create your gravy masterpiece - the gravy that will take your turkey to levels of greatness! For a condiment, it sure packs on the pressure.
Well, I've got a solution. Why do things last minute? I find myself telling my daughter this like a broken record and realized that yes, that applies to gravy, too! I'll just make my gravy a few days early and save myself the hassle, hence Hassle-Free Apple Cider Gravy. I chose apple cider gravy because I love the tart flavor paired with the mellow turkey and sharper, sweet flavors of cranberry sauce. Plus I always have apple cider on hand during the holidays as my daughter adores it.
Here's the recipe. Give it a try. This gravy is light, tangy, and lovely. You can make it up to two days ahead of time and refrigerate it. Once you're ready to serve it, heat it gently on the stove, until warmed through and there you have it. Now you can relax when your turkey comes out of the oven on Thursday... Dinner is served.

Hassle-Free Apple Cider Gravy
(Inspired by No-Drippings Gravy from Baked Bree blog)

6 T butter, unsalted
6 T all-purpose flour
3 c chicken stock
1 c apple cider
1 T apple cider vinegar
1 T thyme
1 t salt, or to taste
1/4 t pepper, or to taste

Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium flame.

Add the flour and whisk for about 2 minutes to form a roux.

Slowly pour in the chicken stock and apple cider as well as the apple cider vinegar. Whisk until well combined.

Continue to whisk until the gravy comes to a boil. At this point, the gravy will begin to thicken. Add the thyme and season with salt and pepper as desired. Continue to whisk for another minute.

Take the gravy off the heat. Serve warm or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Warm the gravy over the stove just before you are ready to serve it.

Thanksgiving, 2012: Absolutely Perfect Cranberry Sauce

I was browsing the web for some inspiration for my cranberry sauce and came across this page and a much admired recipe which came from the well-known Julia Child. It seemed like something akin to the cranberry sauces I've made in the past - the same flavors, basically. But I was feeling a little adventurous and decided to throw in some more flavorful ingredients to take it up another notch. And wow, this sauce turned out amazing!
It was such a delight to work with these beautifully, crimson little jewels.

This sauce is so much richer, tastier, and fresher than its canned counterpart. So if you are a canned cranberry sauce kind of cook, please do try this sauce. It's a few extra minutes in the kitchen, but it's worth every minute and tastes absolutely perfect!

Absolutely Perfect Cranberry Sauce
(Inspired by Julia's Cranberry Sauce from A Muse in My Kitchen blog)

2 bags of fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over
1 c light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 c granulated sugar
1/2 c orange juice
zest of 1 1/2 oranges
1/2 t cinnamon, ground
1/2 t vanilla beans, ground OR 1/2 t vanilla bean paste OR 1/2 t vanilla extract
pinch of cloves, ground
2 t candied ginger, minced

Make sure all your cranberries are well washed and picked through for stems and berries gone bad.

Combine all the ingredients into one pot on your stovetop.

Heat on medium-high until most of the cranberries have popped, stirring on occasion. This will take roughly 10 minutes.

Once this happens, the mixture will start to thicken. Turn the heat to low and simmer until the cranberries take on a jam-like consistency, about 5 more minutes. Turn off the heat.

Serve warm or store in an airtight container in your fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat when you are ready to eat. Enjoy! It's such a perfect accompaniment to Thanksgiving turkey!

Quick Tip: Using Dried Vanilla Beans

Vanilla beans can get quite dry and hard when left in your pantry for an extended period of time. They get so hard that there isn't much you can do with them except throw them into your sugar to make vanilla sugar. But what after that? There are hundreds of vanilla seeds within these pods that are just begging to be used! Well, here's another tip for using up these very valuable beans:
Place dry vanilla beans in a coffee grinder and grind away until you have a fine powder. This is vanilla powder and can be used to flavor your cakes and other baked goods (it gives a nice vanilla-speckled look to the finished product). You can also use it in savory recipes that require vanilla, such as the one for my Absolutely Perfect Cranberry Sauce, part of my 2012 Thanksgiving Menu.

Our Thanksgiving Menu, 2012

This year, I am hosting Thanksgiving for two families in addition to my own husband and kids and I'm very excited anxious thankful to be cooking for so many people! I do love to cook for others and what's better than cooking for friends on the biggest cooking day of the year?!

So today, I'm posting my menu to let you in on what I've come up with. I've scoured my many cookbooks, the web, as well as my own recipes and voila! It's a Thanksgiving menu that I'm proud of and one I hope will be a raving success. It includes a brined turkey, deliciously decadent sweet potatoes that really seem more like dessert than a side dish, and a cheesy broccoli gratin! Desserts are aplenty, with three to choose from. Heck, who needs to choose on Thanksgiving - just have them all!

Leelabean's 2012 Thanksgiving Menu

Cheese Plate with Grapes and Chocolate Covered Dried Cranberries
Smoked Salmon with Herbed Cream Cheese and Crackers
Poached Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce

Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup

Main Course
Good Eats Roast Turkey
Ina Garten's Sausage & Herb Stuffing
Absolutely Perfect Cranberry Sauce
No-Hassle Apple Cider Gravy
Amazing Dinner Rolls
Cheesy Broccoli Gratin
Brussel Sprouts with Crispy Bacon
Nutty & Sweet Potato Casserole (also prepared nut-free to accommodate a friend's allergies)
Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Apple Pie Cupcakes with Biscoff Buttercream
Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake with Caramel Sauce & Cinnamon-Vanilla Whipped Cream
Chocolate Sheet Cake with Creamy Milk Chocolate Frosting

For the cheese plate, I've selected a few cheeses from my grocer's cheese case that I thought were unusual and fun to try. Pairing with these are some grapes and chocolate-covered dried cranberries. Smoked salmon has become such a hit with all my family members this past year, so I thought it should be part of Thanksgiving, as well. Together with an herbed cream cheese and a cracker or small toast, it's simplicity at its very best. The poached shrimp was a selection I put in my menu to ensure the kids had something they enjoyed eating. I paired that with a storebought cocktail sauce. Mixing storebought, ready-made items with homemade ones makes for a much easier preparation on the big day. There is no shame in doing so.
I've never brined a turkey but have heard wonders of the process. So this year, I thought I'd give it a go. A long-standing fan of Alton Brown, I saw his recipe for a Good Eats Roast Turkey and with a rating of 5 stars and 4000+ reviews (!!), it was a no-brainer. This was the turkey I would cook this year. Sticking to the Food Network trend, Ina Garten's Sausage & Herb Stuffing seemed perfect to us. We usually make a sausage stuffing with apples and since this had both ingredients, we are giving it a try. Cranberry sauce out of a can is boring, in my opinion, though as I said before, buying a can to save yourself some time and sanity is worth it. This year, we opted to use fresh cranberries and throw in a bunch of goodies to make it special. Fresh cranberries mixed with big flavor ingredients such as orange zest, ginger, and vanilla can brighten up the flavor quite a bit.
The make-ahead cider gravy was chosen because it's so quick and easy to prepare, tastes delicious, and is much healthier than the traditional gravy made from drippings. The stress of getting the turkey out of the oven, then having to prepare a gravy by separating fats, etc, etc, and at the same time getting the table and the other dishes ready for dinner is not how I like to celebrate Thanksgiving - running around my kitchen like a turkey with it's head cut off! So this year, I opted to make my gravy 2 days before Thanksgiving and store it in my fridge and simply reheat just prior to sitting down to dinner.
The Dinner Rolls I chose look absolutely gorgeous and I have been wanting to try them for quite some time. Buttery, golden brown, and beautifully presented, it seems the perfect dinner roll for such a grand holiday.
When deciding on vegetables to accompany the turkey, I wanted to stay away from my usual side, which is roasted vegetables that roast under the turkey to get a lovely, caramelized, slightly charred flavor. This year, I chose something a little different. Cheesy Broccoli Gratin looked warm and inviting, something the kids (both young and old) could really go for. It helped that when I asked my husband to buy some broccoli for dinner one night, he bought me a monster bag of broccoli from Costco. :-) Brussel Sprouts with Crispy Bacon is a more traditional dish but I couldn't deny roasted vegetables altogether... Brussel sprouts get so sweet and scrumptious in the oven, though I don't think the little kids are going to go for this one.
Lastly, my Nutty and Sweet Potato Casserole is sheer decadence. Baked sweet potatoes are paired with eggs, milk, sugar, some flour and spices to create a custardy sweet side which is taken way over the top with a Brown Sugar Pecan Streusel. This is a must-have at any Thanksgiving or holiday celebration!
For dessert, I wanted to stay true to seasonal flavors - apples & pumpkins. So I am making my special Apple Pie Cupcakes - brown butter cupcakes filled with oozy apple pie filling topped with a rich Biscoff buttercream. Mmmm, I can't wait to have one of those. Secondly, trying to stay away from pies this year, I am making a Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake complete with a Gingersnap Crust. This is heaven on a plate as it is, but I am topping this delectible cheesecake with a sultry caramel sauce and cinnamon-vanilla whipped cream. Lastly, to please the children, and let's face it, what's dessert without chocolate, I'm making a Chocolate Sheet Cake with a classic Milk Chocolate Frosting. Simple, divine.
I will be posting these recipes as well as links to their inspirations and origins in the coming days. I am hoping they all turn out lovely and play a part in making for a truly memorable Thanksgiving this year.
Wishing you a very heartwarming and scrumptious Thanksgiving with your family, friends, and loved ones!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Frankenstorm Halloween

Hello, everyone. It's been a while since my last post and as much as I've missed posting about the sweet offerings of my kitchen, my break has been warranted. You see, my family and I live in New Jersey and Sandy ferociously plundered through our home state en route to historical disasterous grandiosity a couple of weeks ago. This hurricane whipped through many East Coast states, leaving devastation in New York and New Jersey. My husband's and my childhood homes of Gerritsen Beach and Staten Island took some very major hits. Our college town of Hoboken withstood serious damage. As you can see, this storm affected us on a personal level. It's been the closest we've ever come to disaster.
Still, lucky for us, our home in New Jersey braved Sandy with very minimal damage. Some of my friends and their families were not so lucky.
While many of my friends and families suffered damages to their properties and belongings, no one was hurt, thankfully. Seeing the positive in rough times, I find that events like these bring people together in ways that no other can. Disasters, as tragic and unfair as they are, reveal such a beautiful side in the human race - bringing forth a true love and generosity, humility and thoughtful spirit. Setting aside all differences, these times seem to equalize us for a moment.
The power in our house was out for 8 days. We realized that even though this made life slightly more difficult than usual, it was still just power - heat and light. Heat is a few extra sweaters and socks, maybe a hat and some gloves, sitting in front of a blazing fireplace. Light is a flashlight and some candles, daylight.
Please consider giving freely whether by physically offering your help or donating to organizations with the goal of assistance and repair for Hurricane Sandy victims and areas. American Red Cross allows you to donate $10 to relief efforts by texting REDCROSS to 90999. You can also visit their website to learn more about their work and donate in other ways.

On a lighter note, Governor Christie declared Monday, November 5th a postponed Trick-or-Treating day for kids in New Jersey. In lieu of this, I am posting pictures from a Halloween cake I made earlier in October. I know this is a bit late and that we're all in heavy preparation for Thanksgiving now, but the storm partnered with a week-long vacation left me with no choice. I hope all of you trick-or-treaters didn't let the conditions put a damper on your spirits and that you had a candy-filled, fun Halloween!