Saturday, July 16, 2016

When did your weight become an issue? My experience with Binge Eating Disorder.

When asked how long I've struggled with my weight, my glib response is, "Since birth."

I weighed 10lb 8oz at birth. God bless my mother.

In all sincerity, I have been either overweight or obese nearly my entire life. I'm sure a lot of things contributed to that. I didn't like going outside to play. I really liked snacks. I mean, who doesn't?

Food became an issue for me when it became something other than a way to nourish myself. I turned to food when I was sad, bored, anxious, angry, or simply numb. I didn't realize I was doing it, but it eventually became a habit. Food became comfort when I couldn't find it elsewhere.

Consuming a half gallon of ice cream and a family pack of Oreos in one sitting? No problem.
50 jelly-filled donut holes? Piece of cake!
Speaking about all of it? You betcha.
A whole package of Klondike Bars? At least once a week during the summer months.

I have a mental rap sheet about a mile long indicative of my binge eating "street cred".

At 25 years old, and weighing over 300 pounds, I truly couldn't envision my future. I even experienced somewhat of a "quarter-life crisis"; I was shocked I had survived to 25 and didn't quite know what to do next. I spent many years eating myself to death with foods that were more likely to poison than nourish.

Shortly after I turned 25, I faced the reality of my relationship with food* for the first time: I have an eating disorder. 

To claim you have an eating disorder as an obese woman seems almost laughable. When discussing eating disorders, most people think of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, both serious disorders that can result in major health issues, or even death, as a result of starvation. Only in recent years has binge eating disorder (BED) gained a bit more visibility, aided by the mental health field finally recognizing BED as an official mental disorder in 2013.

For the first time, things clicked. It was somewhat comforting to know this thing I experienced for so many years was real, and experienced by many other people. There are actually other human beings who go to the kitchen for a midnight snack, and scarf it down while standing at an open refrigerator in a dark kitchen. I was not alone.

Once I understood the gravity of my situation, I knew I needed to take action. I suffered a number of ailments due to overeating, and I couldn't let myself continue in these patterns. I knew I needed to improve my health and regain my life. And I knew I couldn't do it alone.

I began researching bariatric surgery.

I was convinced that gastric bypass was my only option to regain my health. After attending an information session at the hospital, I made an appointment for a consultation. I spoke with all my doctors, who were agreeable to my decision. And I began trying to lose weight on my own, which was prerequisite for the surgery.

Two months later and 40 pounds lost, I cancelled my consultation. I began to believe that I could actually do this on my own, and chose to avoid going under the knife.

Best. Decision. Ever.

Why, you may ask?

Bariatric surgery is an amazing, though drastic, tool that has helped many people regain great quality of life, or even save their lives in general. It is intended as a tool to make you feel hungry more quickly by reducing the size of your stomach. As someone who has spent about two decades ignoring their hunger cues, I began to realize that this is not the tool for me; I certainly didn't get to 300+ pounds by honoring my body's internal cues of "Hey, you can stop eating now. I don't think I can take any more!" I also have a hunch that this is also why a significant number of people who opt for bariatric surgery end up regaining some or all of their weight.

From that point forward, I chose to continue on my path without surgical intervention. That path has been anything but straight, short, and sweet. There has been quite a bit of a leanring curve involved over the past few years, trying to figure out what works for me and what does not, regarding dietary approaches, exercise preferences, and my well-being in general. I'll save those experiences for different posts on another day.

Instead of going under the knife, I chose to begin focusing on treating the root of the issue (emotional binge eating) rather than the symptom (excess weight). I sought help from a number of resources: health care providers (therapist who specialized in treatment of eating disorders in the obese, nutritionist who subscribed to intuitive eating principles), various organizations and support groups, Overeaters Annonymous, and numerous self-help books. Through these resources I began to develop a toolbox that has aided me in navigating the struggle of living with BED. Some of the most helpful tools are practicing mindfulness while eating, meditating, physical activity, journaling (especially noting hunger scale and potential triggers), and building a support group of family, friends, and specialists who have helped me most when I have felt helpless.

Perhaps the greatest "reset" tool I accidentally found was the power of fasting to reset biological hunger cues. A little over a year ago, I realized on a Saturday evening that I had not eaten anything that day - not in an attempt to purposely restrict, but simply because they day was very busy, and I just forgot! Nothing like going a day without food to realize just how hungry you are. I remember mindfully eating my first meal after my inadvertent fast, checking in with myself to see where I was on the hunger scale. For the first time in a very long time, I remembered experiencing the physical sensations of hunger and satiaion. It was good to find this as a tool, to be used sparingly, when my hunger cues need a hard reset.

Above all else, I have learned the importance of being patient and gentle with myself in this process.

Do not misunderstand me - I continue to struggle with BED. This isn't something I have completely overcome and never have to address, and it's quite possible I will need to manage this the rest of my life. There are a few good points, though. First, it's a struggle! To me, this is a vast improvement over apathy or succumbing to hopelessness. Second, the more I practice using the tools I've acquired, the less intense the struggle gets. The battle of BED used to be oppressive, consuming much of my day. Recently I have struggled less frequently - perhaps once every few weeks. I've recognized patterns in my life and habits that contribute to the cravings that lead to a binge, and practice avoiding these patterns as much as possible. Some periods of time are better than others; I can go a few weeks with no interest to binge, or even any food cravings, while other weeks might present a daily challenge. Just this week I've binged twice, and I began to feel really discouraged.**

Though I may feel discouraged at the moment, I do know now that I am not alone. I know that many other people have similar issues. Many struggle on their own, not knowing that there are resources and tools available to help them if they so wish. I've included a short list of resources, linked below, that I've personally found quite helpful. If you are struggling with emotional eating, overeating, or binge eating, you may find some of these helpful. You might also find something even more relevant out there that might pertain more particularly to your specific situation. If you wish to seek help, please know you are not alone.

National Eating Disorders Association
Binge Eating Disorder Association
Overeaters Annonymous

5 Steps to Break Free from Binge Eating
Break Bad Eating Habits With Intermittent Fasting
Intuitive Eating
Geneen Roth (author)


*-A very dear friend once brought up a valid point. It is impossible to have a relationship with food, as food is not a sentient being. I rarely use this phrase since then, but it seemed appropriate in looking back to tell my story.

**-I actually started this post, with an intent to share my story with BED, two weeks ago. I believe feeling discouraged has encouraged me to complete and publish this post, in the hopes that maybe it will help someone out there.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Shifting Perspectives: Life After Losing 200 Pounds

I began this blog back in 2011, and haven't touched it much since. At the time I dedicated it to creating things, mainly baked goods. I began the year with aspirations of baking a different cookie every week, and featuring it on the blog. While blog posts about baked goods are always tempting - and often appreciated by the internet at large - it was a dangerous project for me.

Why was it so dangerous, you may ask?

At the time I began this blog, I weighed over 300 lbs. Truth be told, I was pushing closer to 400, weighing in at a known peak of 366 pounds in 2009-2010. It very well may have been more than that, but the shame I felt being that morbidly obese generally kept me far from the scale.

When I started this blog, I was literally eating myself to death.

Christmas Baking in 2010. An obnoxious stained glass cookie.

Me at or about my peak weight in October 2009

Over the past 7 or so years, I have drastically changed my life in all aspects. I began a long journey striving for wellness, discovering what works for me amidst conflicting messages and dietary advice of the western world. I found myself by going against the grain. And I developed an amazing support system in the process. For this, I am so happy and eternally grateful.

And in the process, I happened to lose 200 pounds.

Me in May 2016

Considering this drastic change, I thought it fitting to continue with the blog I began primarily to record baking escapades. I have had a number of people in real life ask me how I lost the weight, for tips and tricks, and even for advice. This is a place for me to be real and raw, a proper platform (versus Facebook or some other social media).

It has been a journey of many years, and I have a long story to tell. This is my renaissance post. I plan on a series of posts that will address specific questions to tell my story. If you have any questions of your own, please feel free to comment and I will try to answer them along the way.

Thanks for taking the time to read, and I hope you stick around!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Musical Adventures

So I was thinking....the name of my blog is Sing! Bake! Create!, right? Well, so far I have only focused on the Bake! part. I think it's far time I venture into another topic--if for no other reason, than to prove that I do more things than slave away at the counter/oven/kitchen table and go to work.

I am a singer. It feels really weird to say that, since for a while I was not actively performing. Last April, I auditioned for The Philadelphia Singers, hoping that I would get in on a wing and a prayer. Well, the prayer worked; I was offered a volunteer position with the Singers, and I have been pleased as punch. My first concert scheduled ("contracted") was to be Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms and Beethoven's 9th Symphony (Choral). A major program, where both pieces I knew but had never performed. After the first rehearsal in February, though, I realized that I was probably the only person who had never sung the Beethoven. I was quite intimidated, and the assistant director, Jonathan, knew it--at least, he told me after rehearsal to not be intimidated by it, just listen to recordings, and I would be fine. I truly felt so naive. Maybe this was way over my head.

Luckily, the next few practices were for volunteers only, so I felt a little less intimidated...more like I didn't have to live up to some unattainable standard. The downside? We didn't really work on the Beethoven at all. At least I know the Stravinsky pretty well.

March was pretty uneventful, besides personal practice. So was April, besides church stuff. Then hits the end of April: I am asked to sing Holst's Planets, which I absolutely adore. Funny story: I bought tickets for a Beyond the Score performance of the Holst without checking my schedule; 5 minutes after I bought the non-refundable/returnable tickets, I realized that I had rehearsal for TPS Beethoven/Stravinsky. So I had 2 tickets for a performance that I couldn't attend...that I am now singing for. The tickets have been claimed at this point, though, so that's good.

So now I have two concert series, back to back. I have to take quite a bit of time from work, which is fine (besides the fact that I will be spending virtually no time on vacation this year). I believe it's worth it. But the work is hard. The hours are long. And while I am loving it, I am just so tired and worn out. I just keep telling myself that it will be over in less than a month, which is a bit sad, as I want to enjoy it and savor the moment with each rehearsal and concert. I'm sure I will.

So ladies and jellyspoons, in conclusion, I'm super excited to be singing with the Philadelphia Singers, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. It's keeping me very busy, but worth it in tenfold.

PS: I finally baked something for the first time since the beginning of March: just basic chocolate chip cookies. I still have to post the chocolate mint chips, and I have a hand-painted shell egg from Easter that I want to post...until then!

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Message to my Readers

I began this year with high hopes in my development as an (amateur) baker. I knew that if I could keep myself on a rigorous schedule in my baking experiments, then I could, by the end of the year, claim that I had done something extraordinary: I could be proud of my tenacity in this project, and could possibly become more dedicated to various projects throughout the course of my life.

I need to admit to myself, and you as my readers, that this challenge that I have posed for myself has become very difficult for me. I am almost to the point where I now find baking a chore rather than a sweet hobby...and this I fear more than anything else.

Please know that I am not quitting. I'm not even really taking a sabbatical or hiatus from this project. I am just at a point in my life right now where I cannot remain on such a rigorous schedule without having detrimental effects on my mental and physical well-being.

So what does this mean? I will most likely not be baking and posting on a regular schedule as I had originally intended. I need to give myself freedom to create at my own will, or else I will burn out; I am afraid that if that happens, I will never enjoy baking again, and thus never partake in such a glorious art form.

I beg of your patience and appreciate your well-wishes at this time, as I try to sort out things in my life so that I might clear the chaos from my daily life. Once this happens, I will be ready and rearing to go in full force again.

I still have a post pending for Week 10's cookie, so you can look forward to that in the near future. Week 11 will have to wait, though.

Thank you for what you have done for me, faithful readers. You have helped me believe in myself when I felt as though nothing was going right, and your encouragement through my blog, email, facebook, and in person has meant the world to me. I hope to be back soon.

Yours Truly,


PS: maybe this would be a good time to try some of the recipes for yourself? And as always...Happy Baking!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Week 9: S'mores Cookies

I needed something simple to revive my track record of cookie-ing, so I did some research. This cookie is fun and very simple. It's a drop cookie, so no rolling or strenuous shaping/molding/cutting/etc. In fact, it is, in essence, a chocolate chip cookie.

I found the recipe online (somewhere) and am now having trouble locating the source; so if anyone reading this wants to look for it and let me know, I would be forever grateful.

The idea behind this cookie was simple enough: a chocolate chip cookie with some of the flour substituted out for graham cracker crumbs; and at the last minute press in marshmallows and milk chocolate pieces. I am extremely pleased with how they came out, and will definitely be making them again. In fact, one of my co-workers claimed that they are my best cookie so far. I do have to say, they are much better right out of the oven than after sitting for a while...but they are good cooled as well! These were just yummy. Plain and simple.

And without further ado:

S'Mores Cookies
makes approximately 4 dozen cookies

1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup (or as necessary) mini marshmallows
4 (or as necessary) milk chocolate candy bars (such as Hershey's)

1. Combine flour, graham cracker crumbs, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

2. Cream butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, mixing until well combined. Stir in flour gradually until dough forms. Mix in chocolate chips. Refrigerate dough for one hour.

3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.

4. Drop rounded tablespoons of dough onto ungreased (or prepared) cookie sheets. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately place marshmallows and broken pieces of chocolate candy bar into soft cookies. Return to oven to bake for another 2 minutes.

Bake, taste, enjoy....and as always, Happy Baking!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Week 8: Austrian Shortbread--My First Failure

See that? This is what I like to call My First Failure in my year long project of cookies. Did it bake? Yes. Did it taste okay? Yes. Did it turn out as I wanted it to? Absolutely not.

To preface, I should mention that I have made this cookie before. It was requested by certain family members that I make this cookie, so I caved. Truth be told, I hate making this cookie; it's just so difficult. And I know where I went wrong: the jam.

The idea behind this recipe is a layered bar; from top to bottom is shortbread, jam, shortbread. The recipe originally calls for seedless raspberry jam, which is wonderful and delicious and all sorts of good things that I cannot truly describe. It's light, fluffy, and flavorful. There is truly nothing like it. But I digress.

So the important thing is the jam. I had quite a bit of homemade pomegranate jam from my Pomegranate Pillow cookies, so I decided to use that instead of raspberry jam. I could tell right from the start that there was an issue, though; the jam almost immediately began to seep through the bottom layer of shortbread. I figured it would be okay, though. There was no way I was giving up before I bake it.

The recipe calls for the bars to bake for 30-40 minutes. After an hour, the bars were just about done. Once pulled out, the center caved in, the sides were discolored, and it did not look good at all. So I threw some powdered sugar on top and decided that it would be a "treat" for us; there was no way that I was going to take this embarrassment to work.

So how did it taste? Pretty good, actually. That doesn't make up for the fact that I messed it up, though. Perhaps for a frame of reference I should include a picture of the shortbread bars done correctly:

Yea, slightly more attractive. And the layers are distinguishable. Beautiful.

So, there is nothing wrong with the recipe itself. Just make sure you use the right jam.

You really should try this recipe. If you want a workout for your upper arms, that is. You heard (read?) me correctly. The trick to this shortbread (besides using the right jam) is grating the frozen dough into the pan. AND you can't compress the gratings. And there's a lot of dough. Once the dough is mixed, it is separated into two equal pieces, wrapped in plastic, and frozen for a bit. When you're ready to prepare the bars, you take one half out of the freezer, grate it into the pan, and spread it evenly without pressing down. I have yet to prepare this recipe in a pan under 40 minutes. Can you see now why I was so pissed off that this one was a botched batch? Yea....

Anyway, the recipe is great, and definitely worth a try at least once. So of course I will share it with you! I found this recipe online, and I love the end result so much. Seriously, try it some time.

Lydia's Austrian Raspberry Shortbread
makes 12 to 16 large bars

1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, lightly softened
4 egg yolks
2 cups granulated sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup seedless raspberry jam, at room temperature
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar

1. Cream the butter in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer) until soft and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and mix well.

2. Mix the granulated sugar, flour, baking powder, and salt together. Add to the butter and egg yolk mixture and mix until just incorporated and the dough starts to come together. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and form into two balls. Wrap each ball with plastic wrap and freeze at least 2 hours or overnight (can be frozen up to one month).

3. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

4. Remove one ball of dough from the freezer and coarsely grate it by hand or with the grating disk of a food processor into a 9x13 inch baking pan or a 10 inch tart pan with removable bottom. Make sure the surface is covered evenly with shreds of dough.

5. With the back of a spoon or a flexible spatula, spread the jam over the surface, to within 1/2 inch of the edge all the way around. Remove the remaining dough from the freezer and coarsely grate it over the entire surface.

6. Bake until lightly golden brown, about 30-40 minutes. As soon as the shortbread comes out of the oven, dust with confectioners sugar. Cool on a wire rack, then cut in the pan with a serrated knife.

Some alterations I made:
- I use a piping bag to cover the shortbread with jam. It seems to work better for me.
- If you can, use a baker's bench knife to cut your bars. It makes a cleaner cut, gets all the way to the edges cleanly, and doesn't scratch your pan. Such a great buy for all your baking needs.
- If you're a chocolate junkie like me, adding miniature chocolate chips on top of the jam before you grate the rest of the dough makes for a heavenly result. Again, definitely worth a try.
- I know that the recipe calls for raspberry jam, but feel free to substitute any flavor you long as it's jam! :-D

So the failure? I've decided it's not so bad. No one is perfect, right? Of course right!

And for those who have been following it, I have not updated my Tastebook for some time; I hope to catch up on that soon.

Stay tuned for next week's exciting cookie! And yes, I do know what it will be. ;-) And, as always, happy baking!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Week 7: White Chocolate-Chip and Craisin Cookies

I'm back. It's been a long week, and I finally baked my cookies, and now I'm sharing them with you!

How this cookie came to be is a bit of an interesting story actually. I decided to make Love Letter Cookies for Valentine's Day, and I asked my dad to get me candied cherries for them while he was out on Sunday. What I received instead were cherry-flavored craisins (cranberry-raisins). No big deal, especially since I forgot to let the butter defrost (oops). So, at that point, I decided that I was going to make my Austrian Shortbread bars using the pomegranate jam (sans seeds and raisins) that I made for my pomegranate pillows a few weeks ago. I decided to make the dough Sunday night, let it freeze throughout Monday, and bake on Tuesday. Instead, I fell asleep. Things were out for Monday, as I was out late with Spanish lessons and Choral Rehearsal (side note: right after I typed the word "choral" at 6:48 PM, I realized that I had choir rehearsal for another choir 6:30 PM. Oops!), and thus was not able to bake. So I decided on Tuesday that I was going to do something with the craisins that my dad got. After searching for a bit in my books and on the internet, I cam up with this idea. Apparently it turned out splendidly; I don't really have enough left to take in to work tomorrow, but I did promise some to 2 they will get it.

This cookie was really basic, and exactly what I needed during the middle of a stressful week. It's rather interesting how my week became so stressful; I think it all started with the fact that I didn't have my cookies done. After that, my week has just gone downhill. At least tomorrow is Friday, and I have a long weekend to recuperate. Anyway...the cookie. It's my basic chocolate chip cookie recipe (aka, Nestle Toll House) with white chips substituted for the semisweet, and a cup of craisins added. I'm sure you could use any sort of dried fruit bits in this, but the cherry-flavored craisins are what I had to work with. I really think raspberry-flavored craisins would be wonderful...almost like a raspberry cheesecake cookie! At first I wasn't so sure that I liked them, but they turned out great in the end.

It's getting late now, though, so let me just get on to the recipe...enjoy!

White Chocolate-Chip and Craisin Cookies
makes about 5 dozen cookies

2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar (I find that light brown sugar is best)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups white chocolate chips
1 cup craisins (cranberry raisins)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in small bowl. Set aside. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract in a large bowl until creamy. Add eggs one at a time. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in white chocolate chips and craisins.

3. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons on ungreased cookie sheets (As usual, I use my silpat mats). Bake 7-9 minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely.

As I said...pretty simple. And they're enjoyable. So, go on! What are you waiting for? Get thee to a kitchen!!! And, as always...happy baking!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

With Sincere Apologies

Well, it's Tuesday morning, and not only have I not posted, but I have not made this week's cookie. I will have one done and posted by the end of the week; I've just been terribly busy. I'm beginning to think that this project might be a bit too challenging...but I refuse to give up just yet.

I just wanted to keep everyone in the know about this; I will be back soon to post, but not yet.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Week 6: Cinnamon Spirals

The general regime that I've created for myself is bake cookies on Sunday, post on blog on Monday, and add to Tastebook on Tuesday. In working out my projection for the rest of the year, I've come to realize that keeping this regime is good as a guide, but life will get in the way from time to time. For instance, the beginning of this week has been very busy. I had my first rehearsal with The Philadelphia Singers on Monday, and I didn't get in until almost 10 PM. If you know me, then you know that this is very late for me; usually I'm in bed by 9 or so. So Monday was a bust. Yesterday was Tuesday, and I was out much later than I expected at my fancy-schmancy dinner at Le Bec-Fin, the premiere restaurant in Philadelphia. It was well worth it, the complimentary cookies inspired me for new projects this year, and I decided to forgo another night of blogging. So here I am, Wednesday night. Never fear, readers! I have not forgotten about you.

This week was a fun cookie, and turned out...interestingly. I actually started the cookie on Saturday due to a busy weekend and the fact that the dough had to chill for some time. There's no sugar or leavening part in the dough itself, and thus the cookie is only slightly sweet. The idea is pretty basic: make dough, roll out dough, sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture, roll up dough, freeze, cut in slices, bake. So, I guess that's the short story of it.

These were pretty fun in the end. I think the best part of making my cookies are involving the "testers"--primarily my sister and my mom. While I was cutting the dough, my sister came in and asked if she could try a raw cookie. (Before you get grossed out, you have to realize that we are big in my family on cookie dough. And kudos to this one because there are no eggs in the dough, thus no raw eggs, thus no risk of food-borne illnesses. Score!) She enjoyed them so much that I had to give them a try...and I do have to say that they were rather tasty. So much so that I ended up not baking the last quarter of the last log so that I could reserve it for frozen snacking. They were just as good as the baked cookie in the end.

The other interesting thing about these cookies was that the centers would peak in the spirals; my sister and I decided that they looked like something that came out of a Dr. Seuss book. She told me that I should make more in July for our trip to Massachusetts (I have a wedding to attend, but we're making a stop on the way up to visit the Dr. Seuss Park in Springfield).

A few notes regarding technical alterations:
The recipe instructs the baker to cut the slices of spirals with a serrated knife. I tried this at first, but had a bit of difficulty; I ended up using a scraper blade that I use to smooth frosting on my cakes. Ours had an edge that looked like it could cut into something like frozen dough. This worked extremely well, and I would suggest this above all else.
As always, I never use ungreased cookie sheets anymore: I always use my silpats or parchment paper, depending on the cookie, even if it calls for ungreased cookie sheets. I find that there's less clean-up and more clean-cut (cookies, that is).
I find it best to freeze the cookie dough logs in icebox cookie form in order to slice it best. I did leave mine in the freezer for quite some time, so I would suggest to let it sit out for a few minutes (no longer) before slicing if you have left the logs in the freezer for a few hours.

These were pretty good. Not my favorite, but they were fun to make. I also find myself cursing at roll-out dough less and less nowadays. I feel like I'm accomplishing things little by little.

And now, the moment you've all waited for: Cinnamon Spirals from Good Housekeeping's "The Great Christmas Cookie Swap Book".

Cinnamon Spirals
Makes about 120 cookies

1 cup butter or margarine (2 sticks), softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1. In large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat butter and cream cheese until creamy, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low; gradually beat in flour and salt until well mixed, occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula.

2. Divide dough in half. On sheet of plastic wrap, pat 1 piece of dough into small rectangle; wrap tightly and refrigerate 1 hour or until dough is firm enough to roll. (Or freeze dough for 30 minutes.) Repeat with remaining dough.

3. Meanwhile, in small bowl, stir sugar and cinnamon until blended.

4. On lightly floured surface, with floured rolling pin, roll 1 piece of dough into 15" by 12" rectangle. Sprinkle half of cinnamon-sugar mixture evenly over dough. Starting from a long side, tightly roll rectangle jelly-roll fashion. Brush last 1/2 inch of dough with water to seal edge. Cut log crosswise in half. Slide logs onto ungreased cookie sheet; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours or until dough is firm enough to slice. (Or freeze dough for 45 minutes.) Repeat with remaining dough and cinnamon-sugar mixture.

5. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Remove 2 logs from freezer; with serrated knife, cut each log crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Place cookies 1/2 inch apart, on two ungreased large cookie sheets.

6. Bake cookies until lightly browned, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire rack to cool. Repeat with remaining 2 logs.

Oh, and the cool part about this recipe? There's Nutrition information!

Each cookie: 45 calories, 1 gr protein, 4 g carbohydrates, 3 g total fat (2 g saturated), 8 mg cholesterol, 40 mg sodium

Not so bad, especially if you use reduced fat or fat-free cream cheese.

Alright folks...that's all from me for now. Stay tuned for next week's super awesome Valentine's Day cookie...once I decide what I'm doing! :-)

And, as always, happy baking!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Week 5: Blueberry Drop Cookies

After the stress from the Pomegranate Pillows last week, I wanted something easy to wrap up my month of fruit cookies. Blueberry drop cookies seemed to do the trick. I found this recipe on AllRecipes, which I have really come to enjoy as a source for baking recipes.

These recipes are pretty simple: mix the ingredients, chill for a few hours, scoop, and bake. I really like this particular recipe because of the various flavors that are found in it; besides the prevalent blueberry flavor, there is also lemon zest, almond extract, and vanilla extract. It's a bit tantalizing on the tongue, and really keeps the person enjoying the cookie guessing...unless you read my blog, of course. :-)

I was worried about the cookies being too cake-y and not so much like cookies, but they turned out pretty good in the end. I did find myself wishing that there were such a breed as mini-blueberries, since the berries I used were rather large. In the process of folding in the berries, I allowed the berries to "burst" or "smush" into the dough; refrigerating the dough for a few hours helped not only the consistency, but it allowed the flavors to intermingle.

Overall, I think these cookies turned out rather well. I should note that I altered the recipe a bit at the recommendation of the comments on AllRecipes. The original recipe can be found at the link above; my version can be found below.

And so, to conclude the 5th week of cookies, or 1/12 of the year, I present to you Blueberry Drop Cookies.

Blueberry Drop Cookies
Makes about 4 dozen

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
1 cup blueberries

1. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, milk, egg, sugar, almond extract, vanilla extract, and lemon zest; mix well after the addition of each ingredient. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; blend into the sugar mixture. Fold in the blueberries. Cover and chill for 4 hours.

2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets, about 1-1/2 inches apart.

3. Bake 12 to 15 minutes in preheated oven. Let cool on cookie sheet for a few minutes, then remove to wire rack to cool completely.

See you next week, and happy baking!