Friday, December 18, 2009

Food Poetry Friday: Christmas Cookies

In honor of cookie week, I wrote a poem called Christmas Cookies. Without further ado...

Christmas Cookies
by Julie Reinhardt

Green cookies
Red cookies
Candy cane stripe cookies
Drop cookies
Dot cookies
Sprinkle a lot cookies
Spritz cookies
Mince cookies
Peppermint chip cookies
Cut-out cookies
Eat-‘em-all-up cookies

The rhythm/internal rhyme scheme is one of my favorite for children's poems. Someone who does this wonderfully is Denise Fleming in her book, Beetle Bop. She illustrates her books by a method called pulp painting in which she creates the entire page by pouring shapes into handmade paper before it sets.
I had the amazing oportunity to attend a picture book workshop a few years ago by this hilarious and vibrant woman. She kept us laughing and cutting, cutting, cutting. Not paper, however, our words. Many of her picture books are under 100 words so every single syllable counts. Listen to a few stanzas from Beetle Bop:
Buzzing beetles,
humming beetles
steadily drumming beetles.
Big beetles
small beetles
crawl-up-the-wall beetles
Here is an excellent writing exersize to get a feel for the brevity needed in most picture books: Go to the library and check out a bunch of Denise Fleming's books. Type each one of them out in a separate document. Read them out loud. Once you are done, eat a few Christmas cookies.

Today's Poetry Friday round up is hosted by Susan Taylor Brown.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cookie Week: Kicking it up to high production

Baking with a friend is fun, and cookie exchange parties are sweet, but when I holiday bake for real, I like to be alone in the kitchen, flour flying.
For those of you who like to have a hearty holiday cookie assortment on hand, or plan to gift your goodies, the key to making it happen without burning out (or burning the cookies) is to have a master plan. Here are a few things to consider in your plan.
  • What are your cookie needs?  If you are mailing the cookies, some travel better than others. Will you be giving them to friends, or just need some on hand for company? Having cookies you can make ahead and freeze can reduce your task list so you can enjoy the holidays.
  • Choose an assortment that is varied both in taste, shape, and color. That way, you only need 4 or 5 different cookies to look plentiful.
  • And finally, the most important for production, pick an assortment that has a mix of short and long prep times. Many holiday cookies need to chill, so pick a few that don't while waiting for doughs to set.
This holiday, I decided I would NOT mail any cookies, but I wanted to make some ahead that I could either pull out of the freezer, or bake off a little at a time. When I mail cookies, my single most favorite cookie to make is a BOURBON-BALL. This cookie just gets better (and more potent!) with time. I'll tell you where to find that recipe below.

I chose four cookies for my assortment: A CHOCOLATE-PECAN PINWHEEL cookie, a CHERRY-WHITE CHOCOLATE SHORTBREAD, which I talked about earlier in the week, a NO-BAKE CEREAL CANDY COOKIE, because it was super-easy and something I could make while waiting for other doughs to chill, and some CLASSIC SUGAR COOKIES, because I could make these with my son. We haven't actually made the sugar cookies yet, but the dough is ready in the fridge, and the sprinkles are in the cupboard, for when we need some distraction from the rain. I would have liked one more cookie that was on the more unusual side of flavors and/or colors. A lime-honey shortbread, a peppermint or colorful spritz cookie, or a dried fruity sort of thing. But four is enough for what I need this year.

Once I decide on my recipes, I like to make a master ingredients list. That way I don't get caught in the middle of things short on butter or other ingredient. Here is my chicken-scratch tally.

Before I begin, I lay out all the ingredients for all the cookies, get all the equipment out, and make my space. Plan to do the longest prep time cookie first. In this case it was the CHOCOLATE-PECAN PINWHEEL cookies because there were a number of steps and the dough needed to be chilled. Once those were complete, I moved on to the shortbread. While the shortbread baked, I whipped together the NO-BAKE cookies.

Because the PINWHEEL cookies are the type you can cut and bake as needed, I kept these in the fridge for a number of days before baking any of them. We've now baked off one big roll, and I still have a large roll in the refer to bake next week for Christmas, and two more in the freezer.

For the few cookie assortments I'll give away this weekend, I will add some chocolate kisses, wrap them up in cellophane, tied up with a bow. So how about some recipes?

For starters, try the WHITE CHOCOLATE-CHERRY SHORTBREAD cookies I entered in Gourmet Girl's Cookie Crawl.

Next up is the CHOCOLATE-PECAN PINWHEEL cookie. I have to say that long ago I had the perfect recipe for this cookie. Alas, I lost it. Every year I try a new recipe in hopes it will be as good as my lost recipe. This year I tried quite a few cookies from the Better Homes and Gardens cookie magazine. It didn't even come close. I re-tweaked it on my second attempt. They are pretty, and adding the orange zest and juice got them close to my lost cookie, but still not perfect. I do like the fact that they aren't as sweet as some of the other holiday cookies. Again, I doubled the quantity. You can store the dough in the refrigerator for up to three weeks, or freeze for up to three months.

Makes about 90 cookies

16 oz cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
4 T all purpose flour
4 T strong coffee
2 T grated orange rind
2 T fresh squeezed orange juice
3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
6 T milk
1 tsp vanilla
4 1/2 cups all purpose flour

Make Filling
Mix cream cheese, powdered, sugar, cocoa, coffee, 2 T flour, orange rind and juice. Stir in pecans and set aside.

Make dough
Mix dry ingredients - flour, cinnamon, baking powder and salt. Cream butter, sugar and brown sugar, add eggs, vanilla and milk. Add in dry ingredients. Form into 4 balls. Wrap in plastic and chill for 2 hours.

For each ball, roll out to 1/4 inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Make it as rectangle and even as you can. Spread 1/4 of the filling evenly, leaving a 1/2 inch border on the long sides. Roll the long side and smooth the dough at the edge with a little water. Wrap in wax paper and chill for another two hours, up to three weeks.

To bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice off a little thicker than 1/4 inch cookies and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes.

For the NO-BAKE CEREAL CANDY COOKIES, I mixed 1 cup of a mixed Kashi cereal. I think it was Good Friends or one of their other cereals that has a mix of shapes in it. I threw in 1/2 cup of craisins, 1/2 cup of mini marshmallows, and  melted 8oz candy "yogurt" coating. Stir in the warm candy coating to fully coat the cereal mixture and drop spoonfuls of the mix onto waxed paper. You can vary this however you like: add chocolate chips, nuts, granola...whatever is tasty in the pantry.

The BOURBON BALLS I make every year come straight out of Rose Levy Beranbaum's cookbook, Rose's Celebrations. You've probably heard of her Cake Bible, and her Bread Bible. Celebrations, however, is one of those cookbooks I cherish because it's so beautiful. She organizes the recipes by holiday, with full color, full page photos and recipes noted both by volume and weight. Titled "BOURBON-PECAN BUTTER BALLS", in the Christmas section, the only thing I change is I add more bourbon! Incidentally, the balls use ground up cookies. Rose suggests one of her recipes or "packaged chocolate wafers". I usually find a great deal on a chocolate cookie wafer at Trader Joe's each year.
I know it isn't barbecue, but I do intend to try some savory smoked shortbread on the grill this weekend. I'll share it with you if it turns out, and just pretend I forgot if it doesn't, OK?

Happy cookie baking everyone. Please share your own favorite cookie recipes in the comments, or e-mail me a picture of your cookie assortments for me to post (

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

We have a winner!

We have a winner for the first annual She-Smoke Barbecue Gift Pack Holiday Contest (was that a little much?). As you can see, I enlisted the help of my fabulous assistant, Xander, to help pick the name...DRUM ROLL PLEASE... Marjorie Nye!

Marjorie is a fabulous writer and school teacher. She said in her comments that she bought my book for the first night of Hanukah and was going to try the stuffed Cornish Game Hens. Can't wait to hear how your smoked hens turned out, Marjorie! She'll have another book to give to someone, plus Smokin' Pete's BBQ Spice Rub, and a bar of Barbecue Soap.

Congratulations, Marjorie!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cookie Week! First stop: Gourmet Girl's Cookie Crawl

I love to make cookie assortments for holiday gifts, and who doesn't love getting cookies? This week I'll be posting as many cookie recipes as I make. My hope is four or five different recipes. And don't worry - I plan to barbecue a cookie too! We'll try a savory shortbread on the grill for the weekend.

But first, a contest. Gourmet Girl Magazine is hosting a virtual cookie crawl contest. People from around the world enter their cookies, a photo, and recipe. Gourmet Girl then tests each one and decides on the winner. I didn't win at my first cookie contest of the year at the SCBWI-WA meeting, so I'm hoping for a big win this time. Well, not really, but I'm making cookies anyway. Incidentally, my friend Holly Cupala won first runner-up at the SCBWI contest and posted her Peppermint Cookie recipe.

This first cookie is an adaption of Better Homes and Garden's White Chocolate-Cherry Shortbread cookie. I'm in a shortbread phase, and I knew my 4-yr old would enjoy the marachino cherries.

Here is the recipe. From the original, I changed the amount of cherries, added chocolate chips around the edge, upped the sugar a tad, nixed the red food coloring, and doubled the recipe. Christmas cookie recipes always say "makes 60" or more and they never never do. Not even close. Maybe they make cookies the size of my toenail, but I like a normal size cookie. Not as big as your face, but bigger than a toenail. Admittedly, these are some of my first attempts. The next batch was much more uniform and pretty. But the camera battery died and I couldn't run out and buy more, so what we have here are some delicious and very, erm, homemade cookies.

Note: I used a food processor for just about everything in this recipe. The BHG had it all done by hand, but the processor made it a snap. You can hand chop and hand mix, if you had to, but don't if you have the equipment.

1 1/4 cup maraschino cherries, drained and finely chopped. Drained again.

5 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/3 cup sugar

2 cup cold butter

24 ounces white chocolate chips
1 teaspoon almond extract

4 teaspoons shortening

Mini chocolate chips (about 12 oz)


1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
2. In a large bowl, combine flour and sugar. Using a food processor, pulse in the butter until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in drained cherries and 8 ounces of the chopped chocolate. Stir in almond extract and, if desired, food coloring. Pulse until mixture forms a smooth ball.

3. Shape dough into 3/4-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Using the bottom of a drinking glass dipped in sugar, flatten balls to a 1/4 inch. Smooth the edges.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until centers are set. Cool on cookie sheet. You can transfer to a wire rack. (I didn't but I made them at work and our prep room is so cold it's almost a legal refrigerator).
5. In a snon-stick saucepan, combine remaining 16 ounces white chocolate and the shortening. Cook and stir over low heat until melted. Dip half of each cookie into chocolate, allowing excess to drip off. Roll dipped edge in mini chocolate chips. Place cookies on waxed paper until chocolate is set. Makes about 60-80, depending on how large you like 'em.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Food Poetry Friday: The Master Jack Prelutsky

I've had three nights in a row with next to no sleep due to one of those baby "growth spurts", so rather than first share one of my own poems, I'm going to jump right to a master poet, Jack Prelutsky. Named our country's first Children's Poet Laureate in 2006, Jack has over 30 published collections of poems. He also happens to live in Seattle so neener neener neener to those of you that don't. (I apologize for the Morkism. See above note about lack of sleep).

His Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant is one of our family regular reads. He combines machines with animals and insects, like my son's favorite - the Panthermometer. I opened his book this morning and it fell to a poem about toast. I love the poem and it just so happens I love toast.

The first four lines of  THE POP-UP TOADSTERS make me laugh every time, but what gets me excited about them as a writer is they are so deliciously perfect in rhythm, rhyme and word choice. This is what Mr. Prelutsky does in his peotry - he makes it effortless. In this particular book, he has taken on some very diffiicult combinations, like The Limber Bulboa, The Eggbeaturkey, or the Circular Sawtoise, and yet we do not stumble over the words. Have a listen:

The POP-UP TOADSTERS hop and hop,
Then startingly, abruptly stop
And place in slots atop their heads
Fresh slices of assorted breads

I 've been known to respond to the question, "What's for breakfast?" with "Fresh slices of assorted breads," waving my Vanna arms.

Carin Berger's paper collage and paint illustrations compliment the collection beautifully. Interesting, I often am drawn to this type of mixed media illustration.

What happens next in the poem? Once the toast pops, they are snatched by shrieking TOASTERNS. Ha!

It is my goal in 2010 to read a lot more of Jack Prelutsky's poetry. I will not cry like The Tearful Zipperpotamuses, but read them methodically, like the Clocktapus.

How about you? What is your favorite Jack Prelutsky poem or book? For those of you interested in Poetry Friday, each week a different blogger hosts the round-up. This week's Poetry Friday Round-up is Random Noodling.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

From Hallowmas to a Magical Metal X-mas.

For those of you that are facebook friends of mine, you may know that my 4-yr old son Xander announced after Halloween that for Christmas, he wanted to be Wolverine, and that he thought his baby sister should be a zombie. We then dug out the Christmas decorations and hung ornaments in the maze of webs covering most of our livingroom. Hallowmas was born.

"I want to put more and more and MORE decorations up all over the house, Mommy," he said. And so we continued to hang angels and Santas and shiny red balls in the hall, 'round the lamps, and on the stone gargoyle's foot.

At a certain point, however, the sheer scale of Christmas upset the delicate balance of Hallowmas. The paper spiders and tissue ghosts couldn't compete with the two-foot nutcracker or the glass cowboy Santa holding a cactus. The webs sagged, then fell with a crash from the weight of the decorations.

I decided it was time to make the transition from Hallowmas to a more traditional setting for the coming holiday.

Late one night, I took down all but one small web and a few scary paper cats still on the refrigerator. I plugged in the Christmas lights in the window, still up from the previous year, and even draped some new lights on our big jade plant.

The next day, however, Xander's best friend and neighbor showed us his Christmas tree. A colorful star-shaped bulb suddenly went off in my son's head. Without any prompting, in fact just the opposite, Xander "got" Christmas. And when I say he "got" Christmas, I mean he grasped on to the crass part of the season that includes a never-ending supply of tinsel, presents and candy. He began asking how long until Christmas and whether he could open a present NOW.

I played along with it, thinking it was funny because we'd tried to downplay the holiday with our aversion to the commercialism, the forced pageantry, and the once-a-year zealots that find Jesus just in time to get something other than coal in their stocking. Also funny, I giggled, because while my husband is a not-so-secret athiest, I secretly love Christmas. Xander and I baked cookies, made a gingerbread house, wrote Santa a letter, bought a gorgeous tree, and decked the halls, the walls, and the gargoyle's other foot.

It is now December 9th.

Today when I asked him what he wanted for Christmas, my 4-yr old son immediately piped in,
"A drippy monster puppet."

"OK," I said, unfazed by this request. I could bang out a drippy monster sock puppet in no time. In fact, I could used a part of my somewhat failed drippy monster Halloween costume. Maybe Hallowmas still had a fighting chance as a holiday.

"Anything else?"

"Hmm." Xander stopped doing flips on the couch to really ponder this serious question. He tapped his finger to his mouth, having learned from a book that that was a way to show a person was really thinking hard.

"For my special present, I would like a metal X."

"A metal X?"

"Yes, a super strong metal X that nothing can break but that can stick anywhere."

"Wow," I said (scratching my head, thereby showing I was really stumped by this request), "So would it be made of steel, like Superman?" You see, I thought we were just playing.

"No, not like Superman," he rolled his eyes.

"Well steel is a really strong metal," I quipped. That cheered him out of his sulk.

"Knives are made of steel and we have knives, so you could make my special X out of those."

At this point I realized he was serious and that he thought I could weld. As if I had any chance of actually making this item, I asked him "And when you say it sticks to everything, what do you mean, like Velcro?" In my head I was already googling "metal paper weight" or "metal letter key chain", thinking I could slap on some velcro or double stick tape and call it a Merry Christmas.

"No. Not velcro or tape or anything sticky. But it can stick to the couch or the wall or anyplace."

"How?" I ask.

"By magic."

I don't know what your Christmas shopping list looks like, but I've got "magical metal X" on mine and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to find it at Macy's.

I miss Hallowmas already.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

NRI Wednesday: BBQ Gift Contest


Win a barbecue gift ensemble for your favorite person (you can be your favorite person :)). Gift pack includes a signed copy of She-Smoke: A Backyard Barbecue Book, Smokin' Pete's BBQ Spice Rub, and a bar of barbecue soap. Barbecue soap, you ask? Yep. I make barbecue soap - it's a regular olive oil based soap scented with hickory and sandalwood. The packaging says, "For the manly man that wants to smell fresh out of the smoker." I know, I of all people shouldn't exclude women, but it's our best selling stocking stuffer at Smokin' Pete's.

The package will be gift wrapped and mailed to the person of your choice, as long as the winner gets me an address immediately upon winning. Contest runs now through December 14.

To enter: Post a comment on this blog with your name and whether you've been naughty or nice this year. I'll put all names in the hat. (I don't discriminate like Santa - even the naughty ones get to enter the contest). Enter no later than midnight on December 14. One entry per person. I will announce the winner on December 15.