Getting our Bake On.

I'm a firm believer that if you can read, you can cook.

Please note that I said, "Cook" and not "bake".

Baking is a whole nother concept. There's science and methods involved. If you don't get one aspect right (for example, cutting up your butter or shorting into correctly sized pieces), your entire product fails.

I am a pretty decent cook when I feel like it :) I know how to use fresh ingredients and seasoning. I rarely over or under-cook something anymore. I know which sides go best with some main dishes.

Baking, on the other hand, is not my forte at all. I pretty much suck at it. It took me an entire year (of people showing me what to do) to learn how to bake a loaf of bread. And I STILL can't bake biscuits from scratch. I've watched my stepmom a million times, but my biscuits still turn out like hard discs. I tried my hand at pie crust a few months ago and Jaina tentatively ate some of it and said, "Um, this doesn't taste like anything." I had to convince her the next time I made cinnamon squares that I really did use the Pillsbury pre-made refrigerated dough and it was okay to eat this time.

So, I usually bake for the holiday. We have 8 wonderful neighbors in our 'hood that we like to give things to. Plus our dog groomer: we can't forget her!

This year I was going to make the following:
-cheese cake brownies
-gingerbread men
-two kinds of cupcakes
-peanut butter cookies
-chocolate chip cookies
-chocolate crinkles
-decorated sugar cookies

Then I realized two things.
A. When the hell was I going to have time to do all this? The chocolate crinkle dough alone takes 3 hours including prep and chill time.
B. The canisters I bought wouldn't hold more than a handful of items.

So I scrapped the brownies, the chocolate cupcakes, and the chocolate chip cookies. Oh, and the sugar cookies, too. I just added some frosting to the gingerbread trees (not men) and called it a day.

Last year, I used "whipped" peanut butter for my buckeyes. And what a puddly goopy mess they were! I learned the hard way that it really does matter what kind of peanut butter you use! They still tasted good, but looked so awful I couldn't give them away. This year, I loved how they turned out :) I forgot to take a picture, though.

Now, I've never made Chocolate Crinkles before. I remembered how my stepmom would make them each  year. I called her for the recipe (thinking it was some sort of Gunnels-family secret that's been passed down for generations) and she told me to look in my Betty Crocker Spiral cookbook. Oh, there they are. On page 122. With a picture and everything!

The first thing I noticed about my cookie dough is that it wasn't very dark. I can't remember what kind of chocolate the recipe called for, but I was trying to use up my ghiradelli baking squares so I just melted some of that to put in.

They should be a lot darker than those in the picture. They taste "okay", but really don't have the same chocolate flavor that I remember. That's what I get for not following the recipe to the letter!

We also baked Gingerbread men for us to eat and trees for our neighbors to receive.

I'm happy to report that all of our Gingerbread men made it from cookie sheet to table without any casualties. It is rare that I don't brake a few in transport.

Cookie decorating is always more fun with friends, so we invited Allie and Caleb over to join us. Why I didn't get a picture of Allie and Jayce together is beyond me!

We also decorated a Gingerbread house the other day when Jaina had her sleepover. I did NOT bake this. If I had, it would have been a disaster.

 So, despite being almost 37 weeks pregnant, I was determined to still keep our family baking and decorating traditions. All I can say is "Thank goodness this baby is easier to take care of on the inside!" I couldn't imagine doing this with a newborn! I have a feeling our January is going to entail lots of fast food, take out, lunchables, and cereal :)


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