Thursday, December 30, 2010

Our First Christmas

Even though we spent last Christmas together, this year was our first official Christmas. It was great! Luckily, we've been able to spend a lot of time with family. My family is close by, and Mike's parents came down to see our adorable new nephew.

It was kind of an interesting experience getting everything ready. We didn't have much in the way of Christmas decorations, and with finals and end of term grading, we didn't really have time to get a tree until mid-December.

We honestly just couldn't justify spending tons of money on Christmas ornaments, but I think our frugal tree turned out very nicely. My family usually strings popcorn and cranberries, so we started there. Then, we got out the lovely dove ornaments that Valli and Dave gave us as a wedding gift, and a few hand-me-down ornaments from my mom.. And then... we went to the dollar store! Here's the finished product:
It was a good reminder that things don't have to be expensive to be nice. I'm really proud of the tree skirt. Thanks to Mike's understanding of geometry and patience with my inability to distinguish radius and diameter, we were able to make it ourselves. Here's a close up:Without gushing too much, I really just want to say that I'm so glad to have this special time of year where people focus on faith and goodness. And, I am extra grateful that I have such a good person to spend it with.

Cantuccini (an Italian Cookie)

For my first "new" recipe, I decided to try baking some cookies that my mom always makes around Christmas time. The recipe isn't all that new, but it is new to me. I've always been afraid to try it because it is from this book:

And, if you know anything about Julia Child, it's probably that she doesn't mess around when it comes to food. Luckily, this recipe ended up being a lot easier than I thought it would be. And, it didn't hurt that my mom agreed to help me get started.

The recipe is for Cantuccini, which is an Italian cookie usually referred to as biscotti (apparently all Italian cookies are called biscotti), and is found on page 313 of the book. These cookies are baked twice, so they are very hard and crunchy, and are meant for dipping. They are delicious! I'm including a paraphrased version of the recipe, but there are a lot of good tips in the book that I'm leaving out.

The ingredients are:
2 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. unblanched, whole almonds
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. Then, stir in the almonds.
3. Whisk eggs and vanilla in a small bowl. Then, stir them into the flour mixture. The dough will be very dry.
4. Place on a lightly floured table or board and knead until smooth(-ish).
5. Divide the dough in half, and and form two 12-inch-long logs. They should be 2 inches wide and 1 inch high.
6. 1st Baking-Place the logs on the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, or until they have risen a little bit and are firm to the touch. Then remove and let them cool completely (at least 30 minutes).
7. 2nd Baking- With a serrated knife, cut the logs diagonally into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
Place them on the parchment lined pan, and then bake for 10-15 minutes, until they are crisp and golden. Let them cool on the pans.It was a pretty time-intensive recipe, but it really wasn't all that hard. The cookies will last for a month if you keep them in an air-tight container, but ours didn't last nearly that long. I'm really glad that I tried this recipe. It was definitely a good way to start off my edible experiments!

Edible Experiments

Well, hello there blog, and any remaining readers. Sorry for disappearing for so long. It's been a rough and busy couple of months, and, honestly, I just didn't feel like trying to keep up with this. But, that will soon be changing!

For the conference that I attended over the summer, I designed (and am now carrying out) a classroom research project. I'm having my 10th grade class set up personal blogs. They have to choose a topic, do research on that topic, and post weekly. As far as rationale, a blog (when topic-driven) naturally leads one through the entire writing process. My hypothesis is that allowing students to write and learn about a topic they are interested in, with a real audience to consider, will make writing more enjoyable for them. We'll see how it goes, but so far, so good.

In an effort to be a good teacher, I'm setting up a blog for this project too. It's called Edible Experiments. For this blog, I'm going to try one new recipe every week, and post the recipe/pictures/reactions about it. Really, this is part of me achieving my goal of learning more about cooking. Because we're using the blogs for class, it is private, but I thought it would probably be a good idea to post them here too. Maybe it will help me to write more regularly.

That being said, I will stress that I am not a food blogger. I'm not a talented cook. I'm just trying to learn something new, and I'm pretty excited about it!