Press the reset button

“Had too much of a good thing? Feeling out of balance, a bit heavy or puffy? Then it’s time to get clean.”

It happens every year at this time – immediately post-holiday, I start thinking about detoxing my body. After all of the candy/cookies/appetizers/wine-cocktail-beer-wine I’ve consumed in the past month, the general idea of doing a detox regimen seems appealing.

It’s the doing that’s the hard part.

Last year at this time, I’d also toyed with the idea of doing a detox plan, when I first read about the Clean program that Gwyneth Paltrow is such a big fan of. It sounded great until I saw all of the foods that must be eliminated and the juicing to be done. In the end, I just cut out most sugar and caffeine, sticking with it for about 3 weeks before I caved in to the siren call of chocolate.

This week I’ve been reading “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Detoxing Your Body“. It’s quite depressing stuff, really, when you see it laid out in black and white everything that you’re exposed to on a daily basis – pesticides, herbicides, endocrine disruptors, genetically modified organisms, food additives and preservatives, bovine growth hormone…you’d rather not think about any of this.

It’s amazing that the human body can withstand this constant assault. You have to wonder if the rise in food intolerance, general allergies, asthma and cancers are largely related to these environmental factors.

But how far are you willing to go to eradicate these risks from your life? Will you give up wheat products? All forms of flour products? All dairy products? Pasteurized fruit juice? All nuts and nut butters? Iodized salt? Unfermented soy products? Sugar? Caffeine? Alcohol?

Soy, wheat and/or sugar seem to be in just about everything these days.

Are you willing to forgo white bread, rice and pasta? Filter not only the water that you drink but also that which you use for cooking? Do all of your own juicing? Research new recipes to incorporate whole grains you’ve never cooked before?

And how can you do all of this while still functioning in the world? Especially when you’re living with others, and you can’t expect them to go along with the new eating plan. You need energy and you need to be able to function throughout the day, how do you get through a fast?

It still seems overwhelming this year. I’ve cut out most sugar and all caffeine this week and am draaaaagggging, as I sip my detox tea.

How about you? Have you ever done a detox? What was your experience? Was it worth doing?

All is calm, all is white

The Christmas holiday is over and now all is calm, all is white.

Blindingly white.


Punctuated by some icicles.

That is, if I could see out my kitchen window.

Definitely no more grilling for a while.

Peppermint swirling allegations

I’m sad to report that our house has been condemned. Our gingerbread house, that is.

We’re suing the materials suppliers for shoddy materials, and they’re counter-suing us for sloppy construction techniques.

Oh well, I suppose we’ll just have to eat the house.

Happy Holidays!

Five is my limit

It wasn’t until last Wednesday that I even started thinking about holiday cookie baking. I’d been on the fence about whether or not I was even going to bake this year.

But I love to bake, I especially love to bake cookies, and even better yet, I love, love, love to give cookies away to people.

Once I made the decision to just do it, I was all in.

I decided to make five kinds of cookies – in addition to the ginger spice cookies & macaroons, I made two types of chocolate cookies and some lemon cookies, for a variety of flavors and textures on the cookie plate.

The problem was, I had events scheduled for most evenings, and everything that had been scheduled the previous weekend was rescheduled to that weekend due to the snowstorm.

So, my kitchen was closed for cookie construction from Thursday through Sunday this past weekend. I had a couple of hours free each day (or at least they were free for me while my husband watched the kids!), and I used every minute of them to power through the cookies.

It helped that, with the exception of the macaroons that I made, the rest of the recipes called for preparing the dough and chilling it before baking. This allowed the cookie making to be broken into manageable tasks.

What I ended up doing was preparing the doughs during one evening, and baking the next day; then repeating this a couple of times, so that by the end of the weekend I’d made about 4-6 dozen of each kind of cookie. I gave away cookies as I progressed through the weekend so that most were baked on the same day I gave them away.

***

One of the cookie recipes I never got around to baking last year was Salted Chocolate Covered Caramel Cookies from local food blog, A Good Appetite. I decided to tackle it this year.

This cookie is comprised of a dough base made with bittersweet chocolate plus caramel bits and bittersweet chocolate chips mixed in, then sea salt flakes pressed onto the top of each cookie before baking (the recipe called for fleur de sel, but I used Maldon sea salt flakes that I’d bought at St. Paul Cheese Shop).

Because of the amount of chocolate in the dough plus only a small amount of flour, it turns into a very firm mixture upon chilling in the fridge. Don’t let that deter you, though; the resulting cookies are worth it.

These cookies tasted fabulous. The sea salt contrasted nicely with the dense dark chocolate and chewy caramel bits. More than one person said that the cookies reminded them of BT McElrath’s Salty Dog chocolate bars, a high compliment. Kudos to Kathy at A Good Appetite for this recipe!

Kathy also told me how to modify this recipe to make a Peppermint Patty version – just replace the vanilla extract with peppermint extract, omit the caramel bits and replace them with chocolate chips. I used bittersweet chocolate chips for the dough base, then mixed in semi-sweet chocolate chips, with crushed peppermint

I couldn’t find a mallet or hammer to break up the candy canes, so I used the handle end of this wrench to smash them up. Whatever works, right?

It’s best to leave the candy canes in slightly bigger pieces so that when they melt on the tops of the cookies they leave a little color pattern behind. Otherwise, the smaller pieces tended to melt so completely that you couldn’t see them on the cookie.

When I baked these cookies, some of the caramel pieces and peppermint pieces tended to melt and leak out from the cookies.

No worries, I just let them cool slightly after coming out of the oven and then cut off the leaked bits with a knife. Both of these cookies turned out beautifully and received rave reviews from my friends.

Cookie #5 was Glazed Lemon Cookies from Real Simple. (Yes, I know, the dough cylinder looks rather suggestive.)

These cookies have a longer baking time – the recipe called for 16-20 minutes – but at 16 minutes they’d already gotten very brown, so I’d recommend checking them at 14 minutes to see if it’s time to take them out.

The cookies were finished with a lemon-juice/powdered sugar glaze, and tasted like lemony, buttery shortbread. They were nothing to look at, but the zippy citrus was a welcome change from all of the other rich cookie flavors.

I attempted one final cookie, Orange Oatmeal Lace cookies, just for the challenge to see if I could fit a sixth variety in, but after baking off one sheet I decided the cookies weren’t worth the time and I’d had enough.

I guess that five is my limit.

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