Cookies that Wow

by Laura M.

The holidays can put a lot of pressure on people. Cards to be written and mailed, trees and your home to be decorated, perfect gifts to be bought for all your loved ones and…finding the most unique cookie to make for that cookie swap.

I mean, you could just phone it in. Make the standard sugar cookie with icing. But secretly, deep down inside, you want yours to be the one that everyone ooohs and ahhhhs over.

Limitations on tools, ingredients, or a well-proven family recipe might leave you feeling locked in. Just remember that you can always make things up as you go along.

Here are a few suggestions:

Mary Mayer’s Raspberry Linzer Tarts

This recipe comes from a lovely cookbook called “Recipes Remembered” curated by June Hersh. Not only does the book have yummy recipes but it also shares the inspiring stories of families who survived the Holocaust. I gave the cookbook to my friend Alecia as a Hanukkah gift but before giving it to her, I tried out this recipe. It turned out to be a nice lesson in improv.

I wanted to make my Linzer tarts in the shape of the Star of David. But I didn’t have a cookie cutter in that shape. Brilliant bestie Darla suggested I just draw it on a piece of paper and use that as a template. Why didn’t I think of that??? 🙂

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Then I used some sort of utensil, I don’t even know what you call it, to cut the shape of the cookie. It’s a device that came with a cheeseboard. You could always use a regular knife:

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I bring this up in case you ever want to improvise your own cookie shape. Don’t be deterred just because you don’t have a cookie cutter!

I should mention that the reason these cookies are such a great pick is that you probably already have all the ingredients in your cupboard:

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Stained Glass Window Cookie

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Let’s all take a moment to appreciate how PRETTY these cookies are! And how clever to melt Jolly Ranchers in the middle to make them look like stained glass windows – amiright?

I found this recipe in the latest Cooking Light issue, which I purchased to help my friend Heather’s kiddo earn money for his classroom. You can find the recipe here.

Dark Chocolate Stars

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These are also quite pretty. And easy to pass off as your own, especially when you serve them in your Grandmother’s beautiful glass dish. OK, you guessed it – they’re from Trader Joe’s. Hey – I won’t tell if you don’t.

Check in tomorrow to learn about Ellen’s favorite family Christmas cookie recipe. And feel free to share your favorite in the comments below!

Spark(le) Your Creativity with Zentangle®

Today we are featuring our first guest blogger!

Darla Williamson is a dear friend to the creative universe and to us personally. She lives and creates in Birmingham, Alabama. If you’re near her, you can sign up for one of her Zentangle® workshops or purchase some of her beautiful (mostly functional) art.

Click on the link below to enjoy the lovely gift she’s sharing with you, our five readers: a quick tutorial in making beautiful holiday cards!

Spark(le) Your Creativity with Zentangle®

 

Stop the block and roll with it

 

6 no-stress ways to enjoy the holiday

By Ellen Margulies

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to meeee…. uh, total Christmas-creativity block.

The blank page, or canvas, or whatever artistic medium speaks to you, sometimes feels like an invitation. And other times feels like a cartoon anvil hanging over your head, waiting to smash you right into the sidewalk.

I’ve been Christmassing my ass off lately — presents are bought, although not yet wrapped; house is partially decorated, and completely filthy; cookies are planned, but not yet baked. But instead of focusing on the successful parts, the parts that are finished, all I can think of is the undone-ness of it all.

Even in the early stages of the holiday, we can stress ourselves out by not living up to the way we think things should be. There’s this image we all have in our heads, right? Mine is the Sears or JCPenney catalog page of old, the one where the family is all wearing matching pajamas and look so damn happy. My family never wore matching pajamas, and we certainly never looked good enough to adorn a catalog. I like to think sometimes that the afterlife will be like those catalog pages — everyone looking happy in great lighting, with a wind machine, pointing off into the distance at something extremely wonderful and clearly not known on this plane of existence.

Until then, I’ve got to let go of the madness. Part of it was my goal to have a fabulous handmade something or other today for the blog, because we’re doing the 12 Days of Christmas and, well, expectations & catalog pages, amiright? Instead, I let things go until the last minute, and then started beating myself over the head with shoulda-woulda-coulda. The more the day wore on, the worse I was stressing myself out. Until finally my headspace turned into white noise, utter blankness. Nothing was coming out of it. I had to watch 15 minutes of my favorite cartoon just to uncoil.

Took a breath. Accepted that handmade fabulosity isn’t happening today, and recognized that… it’s ok. Because I’ve done some things that have made me very happy recently, and I want to do more of those. So my creative gift for you readers out there, all 9 of you, is this:

 

6 No-Stress Ways to Enjoy the Holidays:

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If you can’t live up to family PJs expectations, try coffee and cat cardboard instead.
  1. Look a little closer at that latte art (or even make a request — some baristas like the challenge!). Little bits of Christmas inspiration are all around.
  2. Share some encouragement. I bought a $2 newspaper today from the man on the street corner who sells these so he can learn how to make a living. It’s a sanctioned and organized effort to teach self-reliance, and I got a warm fuzzy just for helping him meet his daily quota.
  3. Spend time with someone you love. I grabbed my city’s list of holiday lights contest winners and a great friend, and we drove around for a couple of hours last night, drinking hot chocolate, getting lost and talking about our favorite Christmas songs. I went shopping with my sister the night before. In both cases, I was supposed to be doing something else. But I’m SO glad I ditched my duties for something, and a couple of someones, who really, really matter to me!
  4. Find that one charity or cause that you’re passionate about, and give them a little year-end something. If you don’t have a cent to spare, then donate some time. Even old shoeboxes can make a furry someone happy: Our local animal control agency finds the cats and kittens are much happier when they can snuggle down into cozy cardboard boxes. You’ve got an old cardboard box sitting around, right?
  5. Speaking of free, I found this great site that lets you customize video messages from Santa for the small fry in your world (I’m not affiliated in any way and this is not a sponsored message; it’s just something I like). There are also sites that let you customize phone calls from Santa, also for free. It’s so much fun to share that little piece of magic from childhood.
  6. Commit random acts of kindness. A friend of mine posted today that she was in line at Starbucks and the guy in front of her paid for her coffee. His small good deed not only made her day, it made mine just reading about it! It also inspires me to do that at least ONCE this season.

I know my Christmas will not look like a Glade commercial or a catalog page, this year or any other. I know two of my six items are about coffee. But there are all kinds of ways to have the best holiday ever without stressing yourself out so much that you get your annual Christmas zits, just as there are all kinds of ways to be creative. These six ideas are yours to use, share, or improve upon; whatever makes you happy. And for next post, I’ll definitely return with some handmade awesomeness — or some mighty creative reasons why I couldn’t pull it off.