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Recipes

Mexican Wedding Cookies & a Cookie Swap

DESSERT RECIPES- Mexican Wedding Cookies

Over dinner one night in Oakland, I swapped stories and ideas with Luna. We share a love of tea and as such had decided it would be fun to meet up and bake at my new digs using tea. Weeks and a wedding later, the idea was revisited and began growing until I swapped out the tea baking get-together into a cookie swap.

I had never hosted a cookie swap before.

Seemed simple enough. Invite guests. Check. Have guests bring homemade cookies to swap. Check.

But then it went in many different directions. I’ve been known to put my own spin on the occasional party, such as last year’s Birthday Chili cook-off where guests voted for each other’s chili using print-outs of Willie Nelson and varying degrees of “Willie Likes It”… The year before that, a cupcake decorating party thrown in the spirit of Project Runway, complete with a runway and a backdrop illuminated with the words Project Cupcake. Yup. My spin.

So when I started thinking how to do the Cookie Swap I began tossing around ideas. People walking in and drawing a slip of paper out of a hat and then later looking for their word’s other half (i.e. “candy & cane”). Distributing cookies like a secret santa party where people could exchange the cookies they receive for another person’s.

Nathan and I discussed how to proceed. And we went for simple, straightforward: everyone bring 36 homemade cookies and the recipe to share. Our first Christmas together, we are making traditions as we fashion our lives together. The cookie swap cemented our first party for us to co-host! Nathan’s the ultimate party sidekick.

The guests began arriving. Heather brought homemade Scottish shortbread. She told the story of earning the recipe from her grandmother which entailed baking them with her and then sending her some to make sure they were okay. I loved this and especially the part of her learning through shadowing her grandmother. Family time / cooking time.

Stephanie and I chatted it up at that same dinner in Oakland now several months ago where we talked about her studying linguistics and her mad baking skills. I’m still looking forward to baking macarons with her! She brought and adapted a recipe from David Lebovitz for Meyer Lemon Rosemary Madeleines and Berry Pumpkin Madeleines. The glaze on the Madeleines gave them a delightful crisp and tang of berry or lemon. Yum!

Anita and Mike came bearing several types of cookies. Armed with meringues and her jam thumbprint cookies. We were excited to nibble and nosh because we knew these would be phenomenal. I met Anita at the SOS Bake Sale this year. She single-handedly organized the logistics and bakers for the sale with poise and grace. Her jamprint cookies were a fun take on a wedding cookie with a thumb print filled with TellTale jam Sangria chocolate jam. These reminded me of Mexican cookies with their specific crumb and especially tasted great with a glass of milk.

Irvin and AJ showed up bearing a plastic bin filled to the brim. Irvin has a way of making people laugh in between bites of his creative concoctions. We met originally at the SOS Bake Sale because we were the two people to bring gluten free goodies. He definitely leaves an impression and has quickly become my twitter BFF, my sidekick at food blogger get-togethers and my go-to source for gluten free baking. He baked up Marbleized Lemon and Ginger cookies. The texture was soft with a slight crunch of sugar at the end.

Jen (aka Jeters) showed up bearing Ginger Cranberry Cookies. Jeters recently roasted an entire pig and we talked about how she stealthily did it in a tiny kitchen. Her spunk and spirit make any party more fun. We laughed at a food blogger conference earlier this year as her name was called as the winner of a well outfitted albeit huge oven unit. The Ginger Cranberry cookies were small and bite-sized sweet and spicy morsels. I ate mine with a glass of milk.

We had a great time chatting it up and sitting around telling stories in between the plates of cookies being passed. This was such a great way to celebrate the holidays!

Nathan and I contributed by baking up some Mexican Wedding Cookies.

Here’s the thing. I had every intention of baking some up for the wedding. I told my Mom and Tia that I would be baking up cookies the Sunday evening before the wedding to include in the guest welcome bags. As I got closer to that Sunday, it so didn’t happen. Irvin offered to make some, but I was definitely in the space of overload and began molting ideas, letting them go as fast as they actually occurred to me. It was my way of staying sane. And his offer was beyond nice.

So there really wasn’t any veering from the cookie of choice for the year. I found the recipe at new friend Amber’s blog. She too is from the Southwest and recently posted a recipe of Mexican Wedding Cookies from a Southwest recipe book. That was all I needed to know. I trust her Southwest instincts and it only fit that one food blogger inform this food blogger friend cookie swap.

While this may be my first cookie swap, I’m looking forward to continuing the tradition next year… who doesn’t love starting a new tradition and one imbued with sugar…

DESSERT RECIPES- Mexican Wedding Cookies

 

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MEXICAN WEDDING COOKIES
Found at Bluebonnets and Brownies Adapted from “Mexican Wedding Cookies” in The Tex-Mex Cookbook by Robb Walsh

YIELD: Makes approximately 3 dozen

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 c. confectioners’ (powdered) sugar plus 1 cup for dusting
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. coarsely chopped pecans
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat butter and 1/2 c. sugar together in a mixer on high until light and fluffy. While still mixing, add in the vanilla, salt, and chopped pecans, and continue until well combined.

Mix in flour by hand, stirring only until combined. Do not overmix or the cookies will be tough.

From dough into crescent shapes (I did this by using a cookie scoop. I’d make a scoop, and then cut the scoop in 1/2 to create half moons), and bake 12-16 minutes until the edges are golden brown.

Allow to cool. Put the rest of the sugar in a large bowl. When the cookies are cool to the touch, place 2-3 at a time into the bowl, and shake to coat with sugar. Once all the cookies are coated once, sift the remaining sugar over the cookies to give a second coating.

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Categories
Poetry

Giving Thanks & an Elegy by Yehuda Amichai

Many people give up on poetry.

They think it does not have anything to say to them after high school English class. Perhaps, they think, it is for a certain social tier or for people who have time. I’m not sure of the why, but one of the when’s of their return to poetry can often involve death. People hobble their way back to poetry when a loss has occurred. Maybe it’s to find that one poem to be read at the Memorial service that will speak a syllable of the shock and awe and numbness in which they have found themselves of late.

There are several forms of poems that evoke loss through content and style. Style-wise, it’s something that fascinates me- it’s the show without needing to tell. Then there’s the lovely elegy. An elegy is defined as “a song or poem expressing sorrow or lamentation especially for one who is dead.” Mary Jo Bang writes a strong poem to convince the reader of “The Role of Elegy.”

Thanksgiving approaches stealthily this year. There is so much to be thankful for. I tell myself that when I’m feeling it down to the marrow of my bones. I tell myself that when I’m hunkering down in solitude, alone with my thoughts in a room full of people, a dissonant note.

I went to a class two Sundays ago at church on spiritual perspectives of depression. For weeks, I’d seen the blurb out of the corner of my eye and toyed around with the possibility of attending. Maybe I’d learn something. But maybe I’d moved on and didn’t need to go to a class like that. After all, my Jewish grief support group is buoy and rope for all of us involved. Maybe depression was a phase of grief I had graduated from entirely. I had begun feeling invigorated and alive after the wedding, excited about the future and more excited about the present. But then it hit me again.

Thud.

His laugh, that trill his voice took when he called my name in a sing-song tone. The koala face he would make when he held his breath, puffed his cheeks, pulled on his ears and kind of went cross-eyed. The sage words. The secure steel of his arms wrapped around me. Nothing to replace that…

And the thing is you can try but nothing will replace them. After someone you love dies, you get to live through many firsts without them. Nothing diminishes that ache of loss, though I hear love, time and in my case, God sure make it better. In that class on depression, the speaker a Dr. Sullender, charged that often people encountering depression find themselves uplifted by gratitude. It’s an interesting idea and makes sense really. Thinking of the things you are thankful for, said another way, “what you have” turns your back on (what you don’t have) the things bogging you down.

He countered the idea of depression as being particularly special by citing numerous people who were depressed for a stint of time caused by loss, not just those instances where depression requires medicinal assistance. Did you know it’s the second most cited mental affliction in the United States today, second to addiction? Did you know three Saturdays ago was National Survivors of Suicide day? Grief tends to find a friend in depression, at least for a time.

Last year I didn’t go home for the holiday. Maybe I did the year before that, memory is time’s fool. I found myself visiting Beck’s parent’s house for the first time. I found myself ensconced in the guest room for a pocket of time describing the kind of Thanksgiving we were about to embark on to my dad. I found myself saying I love you right before hitting the end button on the call.

You can never say I love you enough.

I remember making a salad one year for Thanksgiving, trying to share a bit of that part of me so enthralled by taste and flavor with him. He had tried the pomegranate seeds floating between leaves of arugula and liked it. The “rabbit food” he usually abhorred, had this time tasted delightful…

I received word that my Dad’s half-brother Oom Kees passed away a week ago today. Upon reading those words in my email inbox, I promptly sought to bury my head in the sand and be an ostrich for a day. The news made me increasingly tired but found me up late that night with insomnia. It may seem odd, but I processed this information through a lens of how my Dad might. I knew he would be deeply saddened. It really made the pang of wanting to talk with him sharp. That desire to talk doesn’t go away. Instead, often what you get is a gnawing sense of something not quite right with the world anymore. Even in the best and most dizzyingly high moments, you can’t quite put your finger on what might be casting a pallor making the great good. And then it hits you anew.

Sometimes you want to hear that things are going to be okay, even though you now know they don’t go back to the way they looked beforehand, which doesn’t mean they can’t be good. They just won’t be the same and frankly neither will you. I would charge you to be gentle and kind and patient with yourself as you sort out what you are all about after a major death. Take it as my from me to you.

Taking the idea brought on by Dr. Sullender, I’ve crafted my thankfulness list. What would yours include?

To be thankful in the loss and thankful for the living before it and that which comes after.

To be thankful for an engagement and thankful for the wedding nine months hence.

To be thankful of embracing old family and thankful to say ours not yours or mine.

To be thankful for the strangers cum friends, friends cum family, thankful for arms, sound, silence.

To be thankful for the time given and thankful to ungrip when the going needs to be let.

To be thankful for a mom, a dad, cousins, aunts, thankful for love spoken in three languages.

There is so much to be thankful for.

I picked up my dog-eared tome of Yehuda Amichai given to me by one of my poetry mentors. My dad would have liked the earthiness, the lust for life of this Israeli poet. Maybe he would have seen the magical realism of the one culture speaking and informing the other. The us instead of the them. I miss my Dad this Thanksgiving but I will choose to give thanks for his rich life and that I got to share part of it.

So here’s a poem from Amichai with a bit of an elegiac timbre to it, in honor of my Dad. In it, Amichai’s resolution to the loss of the beloved is personal and direct. It is a one-sided conversation of letting go and remembrance entertwined.

In the Middle of This Century

Yehuda Amichai
Translated, Stephen Mitchell

In the middle of this century we turned to each other
with half face and full eyes
like an ancient Egyptian painting
and for a short time.

I stroked your hair in a direction opposite to your journey,
we called out to each other
As people call out the names of the cities they don’t stop in
along the road.

Beautiful is the world that wakes up early for evil,
beautiful is the world that falls asleep to sin and mercy,
in the profanity of our being together, you and I.
Beautiful is the world.

The earth drinks people and their loves
like wine, in order to forget. It won’t be able to.
And like the contours of the Judean mountains,
we also won’t find a resting-place.

In the middle of this century we turned to each other.
I saw your body, casting the shadow, waiting for me.
The leather straps of a long journey
had long since been tightened crisscross on my chest.
I spoke in praise of your mortal loins,

you spoke in praise of my transient face,
I stroked your hair in the direction of your journey,
I touched the tidings of your last day,
I touched your hand that has never slept,
I touched your mouth that now, perhaps, will sing.

Desert dust covered the table
we hadn’t eaten from.
But with my finger I wrote in it the letters of your name.