Ever since I can remember, my brother and I receive a new ornament from our parents each year for Christmas.
Our family tradition has endured, which has also expanded to include our spouses, and now I have quite a collection. Fittingly, the newest additions are a miniature El Camino for my husband and gingerbread baking scene for me. My mom hit the ornament jackpot.
Although the holidays are sometimes stressful and I miss my family, it’s heart warming to be able to look at our little tree proudly commemorating various moments and milestones. Even if our newlywed ornament still displays the stock photo.
This Christmas morning I made pancakes and sipped on a cappuccino (God bless the mukka) while we opened up packages from our stockings. In these small moments I am very thankful for our many blessings and the gift this seasons brings.
However you celebrate and whomever you’re with, may you have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Santa better get out his stretchy pants.
In the spirit of the holidays, I
demanded suggested we have a Christmas Cookie Exchange at my office.
You get to taste a large variety of cookies, take home a plateful for later and pick up a new recipe or two along the way. Some people aren’t experienced or frequent bakers, so I encouraged participation over baking from scratch because I would rather more people join the fun.
Having never organized a cookie exchange before, here are tips I learned:
My friends were kind enough to humor me, like they often do, and we had a fabulous cookie showcase to behold. Below are listed and pictured the ten cookies, including the recipe used unless otherwise noted.
1. Amygdalota (Greek Almond Cookies): Elly Says Opa
3. Cranberry Cookies: Cooks.com
6. Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies: RecipeLand.com
7. Rolo Pretzel Turtles: Steamy Kitchen
8. Otis Spunkmeyer’s Chocolate Chip Cookies: Food.com
9. Mini Chocolate Whoopie Pies: Eat Drink Pretty
These were my contribution and not only were they adorable, but also very easy to make. Unlike the three day hoopla it took for Cake Balls, these were quite simple and fun. Did I also mention adorable?
10. Chocolate Squares
This recipe was written on an index card (love that), but this Gooey Butter Cake recipe from AllRecipes.com is similar if you use a chocolate cake mix. They arrived after the above photo was taken but are pictured below.
I’ve been deemed unofficial baker for every event we’ve attended or will go to this month. Although it’s a flattering responsibility, I’m busy cooking, planning, partying or exercising so I can keep eating these baked goods.
Meanwhile, there have been a handful of changes in the Jackson restaurant scene. I tried to compile most of what I can think of below. If you know of any other new restaurants or changes, just let me know and I will add it to the list.
No, I’m not taking about NKOTB the boy band heartthrobs of the early 90s. The following restaurants are new-to-fairly-new establishments in the Jackson metro area.
3716 I-55 N
Jackson, MS 39211
in LeFleur’s Gallery
4800 N I-55, Suite 6B/7A
Jackson, MS 39211
The Copper Iris
115 North State Street
Jackson, MS 39201
2947 Old Canton Road, Suite G
Jackson, MS 39216
Cosmopolitan Cafe on Facebook
1029 Highway 51, Suite D&E
Madison, MS 39110
1100 John R. Lynch St., Suite 6A
Jackson, MS 39042
Wasabi Sushi and Bar
100 E. Capitol Street, Suite 105
Jacksno, MS 39201
These restaurants have changed addresses or opened a new location in the recent months.
AJ’s on the Lake
223 Ridge Way
Flowood, MS 39232
They are now across the street from their old location on Poplar Street in Belhaven.
925 E. Fortification Street
Between Kat’s Wine Cellar and Fenian’s Irish Pub
Steve’s Uptown Café and Bakery
200 S. Lamar Street
City Center, Downtown Jackson, MS
6961 Old Canton Road
Ridgeland, MS 39157
Well, for me at least.
Following a recommendation, we wandered into V Richards looking for breakfast on Saturday morning. V Richards is a neighborhood establishment, part specialty food market, part cafe. The cafe isn’t expensive and is rather reasonably priced, but I love exploring items in markets – the chocolate tea biscuits! the fig jam! oooh the cheese case! – and have a habit of spending a pretty penny on culinary treats.
Ah, but I was there for a meal, bypassed temptations and focused on the task at hand.
Above the prepared foods case, a large board is displayed on the wall explicitly outlining the three step ordering procedure. I was amused that step one is to look at the menu. They must have frequent problems with confused customers.
The breakfast menu is served from 8-11 a.m. and I was having trouble deciding between the basic two egg plate, daily special and famous salad sampler. Then, I spied another special and was sold on the Breakfast Casserole with ham, peppers, cheese, eggs and bread cubes (I want to say it was brioche). Per step two, I placed my order and paid at the register.
Subsequently, you are given an number and if eating in, seat yourself. There are two dining choices, a small indoor area or tables with umbrellas scattered about on an outdoor patio. We chose the latter option and enjoyed the morning sunshine.
We sat for awhile waiting for water and beverages, but observantly deduced you are responsible for retrieving your own water, drinks, utensils and condiments. No one mentioned this protocol so we were sitting ducks – let this be a helpful tip.
Shortly after figuring this out, my cappuccino was deliver as well as our food. V Richards is a food market, not a coffee shop, so the drink was mediocre at best. I’d pass on the espresso drinks.
My friend and I both ordered the breakfast casserole, which came towering on our plates, accompanied by a cup of fresh fruit and plain grits. Bread pieces were the main binder and there was scarcely any egg, it was more like a bread pudding than breakfast egg casserole. It started out tasting pretty good due to the crispy crust, but grew tiresome, too dense and too thick.
A passing waitress kindly let me switch out the pale white grits for the cheese variety which were okay. As a Yankee, grits are hard to enjoy without being doctored up somehow and Primo’s Cafe has really spoiled me. The fresh fruit was a nice ordinary cup of cut fresh fruit.
The cafe was busy and many others were enjoying their dishes. I would go back and simply ordered something else next time. Unlike Paris Hilton, the famous salad trio must be famous for a reason.
Nevertheless we did our best to comply with step three, enjoy our meal and have a great day.
3916 Clairmont Ave
Birmingham, AL 35222
Cookies are nostalgic.
Growing up, we’ve watched in envious awe as the Cookie Monster has demolished piles of them in a mad frenzy on Sesame Street. They’ve been branded and marketed as the ideal accompaniment for cold milk. As children, we set them out for Santa on Christmas Eve.
On the third episode in the seventh season of the old television show Friends, Monica (Courteney Cox) requests Phoebe’s (Lisa Kudrow) grandmother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe. Like most family recipes, it’s a prized secret. She wants it as an engagement gift, having aspirations of being the mom who bakes the very best cookies for future children.
When Phoebe goes to hand over the recipe, she discovers it was lost in a fire and the only remnant of the recipe is a single cookie. Throughout the rest of the episode Monica bakes countless batches of cookies, attempting to replicate the original. In the end, they discover the recipe – on the back of a bag of NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® chocolate chips.
My own mom uses the trusty Toll-House standby, even though her signature is the snickerdoodle. After seeing this episode, I too, wanted to be the mom who makes the very best chocolate chip cookies. (And developed an intense cookie craving.)
I like my cookies tender in the middle, slightly crispy on the edges and a medium thickness. Using this recipe I’ve made monstrously large and averaged sized cookies, just vary the baking time and keep a close eye on the oven. No matter how big or small, follow these three tips for cookie perfection:
Beware, there is nothing more inciting than the aroma of warm cookies baking in the oven. Your inner monster might rear it’s hungry head. Luckily, these cookies are kid, monster and Santa approved.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Note: Occasionally, I will replace some of the white all-purpose flour with wheat flour. I feel like this makes them a little bit healthier, therefore I can eat more cookies.
1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
1 1/4 c. all-purpose white flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips
optional: 1/2 c. walnuts or pecans, chopped
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and both kinds of sugar until light and fluffy. Then add the eggs and vanilla, beat until creamy. Slowly add in the flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in the chocolate chips (and nuts if you so choose).
Stick the bowl of dough in the refrigerator, chill for 30 minutes or so.
Once chilled, form cookies by scooping out heaping spoonfuls of dough and gently roll them into balls between your hands. Drop cookies on a cookie sheet at least two inches apart. For smaller cookies, use heaping tablespoons of dough and bake for 10-12 minutes. For larger cookies, use a 1/4 c. of dough and bake 15-20 minutes.
Take the cookie sheet out of the oven once they start turning golden brown. If they are a tiny bit undercooked it’s okay, leave them on the sheet for at least five minutes. (They will continue cooking.) Then, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to finish cooling.
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