Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I'll Be Home For Christmas

But only in my dreams...

Okay, so no time for an involved, thought provoking post (because you all know I love to make you think hard) because I am completely swamped with cookies....like these.

I had both the pleasure and the honor of designing these cookies sets for my dear, sweet friend and neighbor.  I heart her.  I heart her house.  She is a masterful home decorator and I plan on photographing it before the holidays are over.  It should be featured in a Southern Living Magazine.

Sweet Neighbor had asked me to make 2 platters featuring the homes of her long time and much loved friends.  She was thrilled with how they turned out and placed them carefully on Santa's sleigh.

This is Home Girl and I'm completely addicted to sugar artistry.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mutti's Almond Spritz Cookies

My paternal grandmother, whom I called "Mutti" (which is German for mother), was a huge influence in my love for baking.  She was this adorable, little, sprite of a lady who would tell you that she loved you over and over and if you got out of line, she'd whack you with her wooden spoon.

She always made Spritz Cookies for many holidays with her Mirro Cookie Press Gun and I spent years wanting to graduate from sprinkles to operating the gun.  I had watched her so many times, I knew exactly how long to press, what temperature the dough needed to be at, and what the finished product needed to look and taste like.  I had grown into a connoisseur and I know that she was thrilled to be able to pass along not only the knowledge of baking sweet, delicate German treats, but the passion...the love.

My beloved Mutti died from cancer in the late 1980's, but her legacy has lived on through me and that of my children.  Several times a year, I take out my own (vintage) Mirro Cookie Gun, which I procured on Ebay and I make these special treats.

The exact recipe that Mutti used is under great debate because I remember her keeping a copy on an index card that was tapped to the inside of her glass cabinet...I thought it was the Mirro Cookie Press Almond recipe, but I also remember her using a tube of Almond paste, too....which the Mirro recipe does not call for, so I was perplexed....

until I ran into this recipe and tried it out...then the angels in heaven sang because I was instantly taken back to the days of my small childhood, barely able to see past the counter tops, but I definitely knew what my favorite cookies tasted like.

I hope you can try it out for yourself...they do require some patience, but they are more than worth it.


1 can (8 ounces) almond paste 
1/4 cup egg whites, unbeaten 
6 tablespoons sugar 
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened) 
1/4 teaspoon salt 
1/2 teaspoon Almond Flavoring 
1 3/4 cups unsifted all-purpose flour 

1. Break up almond paste with fingers in large bowl (just break up the almond paste. Broken fingers hurt.) Add half egg whites (Do half egg whites come from half eggs? Never mind.) Beat with electric mixer at low speed until mixture is smooth. 

2. Beat in sugar and butter until light and fluffy. (No, this does NOT mean you beat sugar and butter till you burst into song.) Add remaining egg whites, salt and Almond flavoring and mix well. Stir in flour, 1/3 at a time, blending well.  Chill in the fridge for about 30 minutes.  

3. Fit a pastry bag with a star tip, fill pastry bag with dough. (Really this works just fine in a cookie press.) Press dough out on lightly greased cookie sheets; top each with red or green cherry half or sprinkles.  Sometimes, I will drizzle these cookies with melted chocolate and then more sprinkles. (One can never have enough tiaras or sprinkles in life.)  

4. Bake at 350 for 8 minutes or until set and edges begin to turn golden. (In my oven 7-8 minutes is fine.) Remove to wire rack. Cool completely.  Store in air tight containers.  They freeze beautifully!  

This is Home Girl and I bid you wonderful baking this holiday season.

Side Note:  If you want to enjoy these cookies at optimum historical appreciation, make a Coca-Cola on ice in a glass.  They pair so well.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Such Sadness and Grief

I am completely heart broken over the Sandy Hook Elementary Shootings that took place in Newtown, Connecticut yesterday.  There are no words to express the devastation this young man caused in the lives of innocent people.

I'm asking the same question so many others are asking...why?

How did this come to be?  What can we do as a nation, a world, to insure the safety of our children and their parents, their educators??

There are no easy or simple answers, but the time is now that we need active dialogue to search for a solution.

I feel so grateful that all my babies were able to call their mother and tell me how much they loved me last night.  I said a few more "I Love You" back to them than we normally exchange, but it was warranted...it was needed.  Even though they are all grown and understand that this place can be a cruel world to live in, they needed that extra little mommy snuggle to reassure them.

I am very thankful I could have those conversations with them.

This morning, as the world wakes up, there are many loved ones of the victims that do not have that luxury....and that hurts my heart.

I am the parent of a child with a severe personality disorder.  He has struggled for most of his life and is currently incarcerated due to his inability to manage his behavior in the outside world.

I feel a certain sense of peace when I know he's locked behind bars.  As a mother, this is an awful thing to admit, but for the safety of the community, myself, and my loved ones...it is certainly necessary.

I'm not ashamed to admit this about him.  I think more parents/caregivers need to come out of complacency and have conversations with law enforcement, with social workers, with medical personnel about family members that have the capacity to harm society.

Obviously, the thought that "we'll just manage this on our own"....will not work.  If you know of someone who has documented mental health issues, then community members need to be aware so that these individuals can be watched and monitored.

Invasion of privacy?  I don't believe so.  Do we not monitor sex offenders and put convicted felons on supervised probation and parole??

I honestly believe it's time that our world begins to "watch" children and adults that meet criteria for sociopathic, anti-societal, and aggressive disordered diagnoses.

If the parents had sought help earlier or had alerted the community that there were markers to the potential behavior of this young man and had the parents taken the appropriate steps to secure their personal weapons, we might not be dealing with acts of violence by such highly disturbed young men.

If we can open our eyes to the problems of this world, then we can see with greater clarity.

I love my son....I hurt for the struggles that he deals with, but I will not sit here blindly and ignore the potential danger that is there for his surroundings, the community.  I will be a pro-active voice for the conversations that we, as a human race, need to have concerning the emotionally disabled.

Take a second to read this article, A Guide to Mass Shootings in America written by Mother Jones  With a heavy heart, I looked at the map and read each one.

Had these parents been a voice for their children, had they forced their communities to monitor and intercede on the behave of their mentally ill child/adult child, we might possibly have saved the lives of so many innocent victims of senseless violence.

I'm not trying to spark debate...there are no right and wrong answers, but just this one mother's viewpoint.  I will always have the need to protect one of my children, but I have a deeper sense of protecting my community out of love FOR my child...not in spite of it.

This is Home Girl and I just needed to keep it real.  My heartfelt prayers go out to all those affected by these tragic events.