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All right my friends. Here we go. Day 1 of the 12 Days of Cookies. Happy December! If you recall from the previous post, we’re going to spend the next month taking one really good basic butter dough and turning it into twelve wonderful, completely different cookies. Today I’m kicking off this cookie extravaganza with a classic: Jam Thumbprints. Couldn’t be easier.

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We’re right in that sweet spot, still a little drowsy and cozy from the post-Thanksgiving blow outs and almost but not quite into the chaos of Christmas. Don’t get too comfortable; it will only last another day or so. December 1st hits and we’re off to the races. It’s non-stop chaos from that point on; an endless stream of shopping, wrapping, baking, Christmas concerts and holiday parties for the next 24 days. Somehow we work it all in, squeezing in those late night baking sessions between all the other commitments. It’s a mad, mad dash. I am no different. This is the busiest time for me, and every year I wedge my cookie baking in the odd hours between everything else. My cookies are a lot of damn work but over the years I’ve come up with some tricks to make it just a bit easier. Several years back, I posted a Holiday Cookie Primer with some tips that I’m going to revisit here to make the season a little more peaceful.

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Today, the day after Thanksgiving, are you taking that picked apart carcass and making soup? No? Me neither, but to be fair, I haven’t hosted a Thanksgiving in years so I’m not usually left staring at stripped poultry bones the next day. I always go to someone else’s house, bring the pies and leave behind the leftovers. In some ways that’s good; no clean up to deal with. In other ways, it kind of stinks; no turkey-stuffing sandwiches. I also don’t get to make soup. No carcass means no soup. This year I’m traveling for the holiday and enjoyed my Thanksgiving meal in a restaurant so they’ll be none of this. I’m good with that but I do wonder where I might find a stuffing sandwich.

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When it comes to cranberry sauce on my Thanksgiving table, I’m a traditionalist. I make this triple cranberry sauce every year. Made with fresh cranberries, dried cranberries and cranberry juice it is bright, full of flavor and I love it. I might make a second one, spiced with ginger or zapped with horseradish or whatnot to mix it up, but the triple-cranberry version is non-negotiable. I might even make an allowance for a canned jelly, which is as much a tradition in some families as the turkey, but a whole berry, chunky sauce is a must have. Regardless of which direction you go, canned or homemade, we can all agree that cranberry sauce in some manner is required, especially on a leftover turkey sandwich. But what about cranberries in other parts of the meal? Like dessert? This year I decided to try something different and came up with a cranberry tart to cap the meal. I have to say, I’m quite happy with the results.

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I’m always on the lookout for new apple pie recipes. Lattice, crumble or dutch; salted caramel, cider or cranberry … I’ve made them all. I’ve experimented with all types of pastry too … butter, shortening, lard and various combinations of each. Every year when I find myself with a pile of apples, I’ll try something new or go back to an old favorite. Just depends upon my mood. My middle godson, the lover of apple pies, is often a recipient as an enthusiastic and receptive audience is always welcome in my book. A few months ago it was his birthday and it just so happened that his parents were out of town so I hung out with him for a few days. I think I was there pretty much to make sure the house was still intact when the folks came home but I didn’t mind a bit as hanging out with this kid is fun. He took me out to dinner (so sweet!) and I took him to the movies (Deadpool. He had to explain a lot of backstory for me.) To celebrate his birthday, I made him an apple pie.

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I’ve got a pumpkin post happening here, something just a little bit different, and I’m going to do it without talk about that ubiquitous harbinger of autumn – pumpkin spice. Nope, instead I’m going to work in something better, something more interesting – five spice powder. As for the pumpkin, I’m going beyond the ever present can of puree, beyond the jack-o-lantern and roast a real pumpkin, in nice pretty chunks and put it on top of oatmeal. Yeah, I’m pushing oatmeal too. Oh, it’s getting a little crazy around here.

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It’s Chicken Wing Friday! Time for something new though looking back on my last two chicken wing posts, they’ve been Asian of some sort. Chinese, Japanese and now Thai. Huh. It makes sense, as these are flavors that I love, and they do say to cook what you love. One of these days I’ll choose a different part of the world for inspiration but for now, this is what you get. This idea sort of came together over the last two weeks. You see, it’s been a bit crazy in Chicago with a certain sports team. Consequently, I’ve spent a lot of time in bars eating some pretty mediocre bar food and some especially forgettable chicken wings. Mediocre hot wing after mediocre hot wing, I longed for something different, something to mix it up. Then I came home from a particularly stressful game, opened my refrigerator and a tub of green curry paste with a fondness for flinging itself off the shelf with great force made its presence known. Ok, I got the message. A green curry chicken wing was in the works. Hot wings with a Thai twist.

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