r's Random Tip #1

Months ago, we had an ant problem.  Thousands of teeny-tiny yellowish ants crawled around our apartment.  (I don't think that we're particularly dirty, but with 2 kids the floor is often covered in crumbs right after vacuuming.) Eventually they made it to the pantry.  Oh the horror!  It was awful.  I had to throw away many boxes of cereal.  We had someone come spray but they must of missed a spot, by the pantry no less.  So, I took matters into my own hands.  I picked up several cans of Raid and proceded to empty the pantry:

Yes, my kitchen is the size of a closet.  Seriously.  Anyway, I got fancy plastic cereal containers, as well as one for each of the sugars.  I filled up the granulated sugar container and had about half a bag that didn't fit.  So I stuck it in the freezer with the flour.  Bad idea:

These are the shards of sugar that have formed.  Sugar to shard ratio is about 1:3.  Apparently what works well for flour, does not work for sugar.

Tip #1:
Do not store your sugar in the freezer.  (though I would guess that most of you are smart enough to have figured that out already)


Gingerbread Mix & Cookies

My mom would make these cookies each year, starting around Halloween.  I remember her making this mix and rolling out the dough while listening to enya or Manheim Steamroller.  Good times.  These are still some of my favorite cookies.  You can even tweak the recipe a little to make gingerbread houses (I'll post about that later when we make some next week.).

Gingerbread Mix:
2 cups sugar
8 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp salt (if you use kosher, make it slightly heaping)
1 heaping tsp ground cloves
1 heaping tbsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 cups shortening

In a very large bowl, whisk together the first eight ingredients:

Once combined add shortening:

Using your hands (or you could use a pastry blender, I guess.  But where's the fun in that?) work the shortening in.  It should look a bit like cornmeal:

This makes about 13 cups of mix.  Store in an airtight container (or several, if you don't have anything large enough to hold it all). It will stay good for about 3 months, perfect for the holidays.

Gingerbread Cookies: 
3 cups gingerbread mix
1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup molasses
1 egg, slightly beaten (Funny note: when I cracked the egg below, it was one of those crazy ones with 2 yolks.  Crazy!)

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Make a well in mix, add other ingredients:

Using a fork, preferably the one you used to beat the egg, mix everything together as much as you can:

Sorry for the blurry pic.  I need a new camera in a bad way (cough-cough-hint-hint, Grant).  Back to the cookies: time to use your hands again.  Knead the dough together until it forms a nice smooth & soft dough:

Now it's time to roll it out on a lightly floured surface.  (As I sprinkled flour on the table, my 3 year old came up to me and said, "Mommy, you making a big mess! That's not fair!"  She let me get away with it when I told her it was for the cookies.) Roll dough out to a 1/4 inch thickness and cut into desired shapes:

Bake for 8 minutes on parchment covered cookie sheets.  This was the perfect amount of time to achieve a beautiful and soft cookie.  If you want a crunch, cook for a minute or two more.  Really, these cookies are good either way. Remove to a wire rack to cool.

What? Do I suffer from OCD? No, why do you ask?.......Ahem....Anyway, you could serve these as is or glaze them:

Almond Glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp hot water
1 tsp almond extract

Whisk all ingredients together until smooth:

Brush onto the cooled cookies with a pastry brush or just drizzle back and forth with a spoon:

Let the glaze dry before stacking.  Enjoy!