Love, happiness, marriage…AKA…Am I really that old?!

I admit it.

I’m a romantic at heart.

I love love.

Since I was a little girl, I’ve dreamed of what my perfect wedding would look like.

I imagined the dress (strapless, or with cap sleeves; ball gown; veil; white), the shoes (low heels, same color as my dress or matching the bridesmaid dresses), the bridal party (a compilation of family and friends from different parts of my fiance and I’s lives). I could see my parents walking me down the aisle. I could hear a close friend or family member performing the readings on the altar (with this being one of them).

And, I could even taste the plethora of cookies that would undoubtedly be making a statement at the reception. Mmm.

But not just yet…right? I mean, I’m only 23. I’m a little too young for that. I have enough trouble keeping track of myself, how could I be expected to keep track of someone else?!

And yet, within the past few months, a lot of people I’ve known have gotten engaged. In fact, two of my close friends are in the process of planning each of their weddings!

It’s a wonderful time. A happy time. And a…

FRIGHTENING TIME!

Despite all the excitement over a friend’s engagement, it quickly brings up thoughts about my own relationship status.

Me? Single (and searching).

My initial thought on hearing of someone’s engagement is something along the lines of, “YAY!!!! I’m SO excited and happy for you!” While my internal thought process goes something like this, “Seriously, another one?!? Are we really that old? Is that what I should be doing now? I guess I’m just going to become a cat lady for the rest of my life!”

It’s amazing to think how things related to marriage have changed over the years. For example, in 1980 the median age of men at first marriage was 24.7 and the median age of women was 22.0. In 2010, the median age of men increased to 28.7 and for women it was 26.7. (Good news-I’m only 23, so I still have some time!)

The point is, when I see my friends getting engaged, it scares me. I think about how I’m only 23 and still have to finish my master’s degree. And then I remember, I’m probably going to spend another 4-6 years obtaining my PhD. Which means I’ll be pushing 30 by the time I finish school (eek!) and get a job. Then hopefully (assuming someone will put up with my shenanigans) I will get married and start having kids (immediately…before I’m 40)!

Has anyone else ever had this feeling? Maybe not about the marriage thing, but just about getting older? Where you or your peers begin to do things that you think should be done by someone older? The thought I have is, “Wow. We’ve reached the age where this is what happens and is the expectation.”

When I was younger (i.e., high school and younger), I used to think that people in their 20s were mature and would be ready to take on grownup experiences (take that as you will). Now that I am that age, I think about how wrong I was. Although many of my peers may be ready for these things, I’m not…or am I? I don’t feel old…but does doing any of these things mean I have to be old? I only feel 23 (whatever that means).

It’s like all of a sudden, it hits you.

You. Are. A. Grown-Up.

You are ready to open the doors to so many opportunities that you never had access to before. You may not have the opportunity just yet, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not ready.

So, what’s the point of this ramble? Well, here’s one:

And, holy cow! I better get a move on =)

Just kidding. In reality, know that you can do your own thing. Weddings bring weddings, but they have to be for the right reason. There is no rush. There is no hurry.

…(but if you happen to know someone, feel free to send him my way šŸ˜‰

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Cookie Table Project #2 – M&M Cookies

If you had asked me a month ago how often I’d be able to blog during the month of May, I probably would have said often. Well, it’s May 23rd and this is my first blog post for the month of May. Worse yet, I started my Cookie Table series of posts a long time ago and have only given you one recipe. Don’t worry — I promise I will be better about this. Look for several cookie-related posts in the next 2 weeks. My cousin’s wedding is just around the corner, so cookies need to be made soon. Especially be on the lookout for the Thumbprint Cookie recipe that I plan on blogging about sometime next week — it’s not to be missed!

As I discussed in my last post, things have been crazy. I finished my thesis and it was approved by my committee and by the Dean of the graduate school. Oh yeah, and I graduated on Saturday. So did Abbie! Yay for the Master’s Degree Dames!

Here’s a picture:

 

So, now that graduation is over, I have a lot of free time and I plan on blogging more.

And with that, I give you my new favorite M & M cookie recipe:

 

Red’s Ultimate M&M’s Cookies

Unlike the Lemon Burst Cake Mix Cookies I blogged about in March, I didn’t get this recipe from Pinterest. Instead, I used good old Google to find a good M&M cookie recipe. And who better to turn to than M&M’s themselves for a perfect recipe?

Even though I made them completely from scratch, these cookies were relatively simple to make and only took me about 1 hour from dough to cooling rack.

I modified the recipe slightly by using margarine instead of butter, and I have written the recipe on this blog post to reflect that change, but the link above will take you to the M&M’s website which has the original recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup margarine, softened (2 sticks)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed firmly
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1- 12 ounce package mini M&M’s candies

 

Directions:

1. In a large bowl or in any stand mixer (I use my awesome KitchenAid Mixer), combine the margarine, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Beat mixture until is it blended well.

2. To this mixture, add the egg and the vanilla. Beat for approximately 1 minute until the mixture is well blended and creamy.

3. Add the flour and baking soda. Add the flour one cup at a time and blend after each cup, that way the flour won’t go flying when you turn the beaters back on.

 

4. Mix the flour and baking soda into the sugar mixture well, until it looks like this:

Don’t mind my Christmas mini M&M’s — they were leftover from the holidays. Can’t let them go to waste!

5. Finally, add the 12 ounce bag of mini M&Ms to the dough and fold them in using a spoon or spatula. Do NOT use the mixer to mix in the M&Ms — you’ll end up with broken M&Ms and a mess (especially if using a traditional mixer or hand mixer with the 2 metal beaters).

6. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and grease cookie sheets with non-stick cooking spray. I use two cookie sheets at a time to make things go faster.

7. Drop approximately 2 teaspoons worth of dough for each cookie, placing each cookie 1 and 1/2 to 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet. I can get 12 cookies on each cookie sheet.

8. Bake cookies for 10-13 minutes or until the cookies are lightly browned around the edges. They will still be soft in the middle. As the M&M website says, be careful not to overbake them.

This recipe makes about 50 cookies and they taste really good.

Definitely by careful about how long you bake them — if you leave them in too long, they tend to flatten out and become hard and crispy.

I’m not sure if I’ll make these for my cousin’s wedding, but they were fun and delicious to make anyway. šŸ™‚

Happy Baking!

Cookie Table Project: Lemon Burst Cake Mix Cookies

Note: This is part one of a double post (the posts, though, are unrelated and do not have to be read in order).

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In my last post, I gave you a little history lesson on the cookie table and previewed the first cookie I was going to try in my little “cookie experiment” in the months leading up to my cousin’s wedding.

The first cookie IĀ  tried was: Lemon Burst Cake Mix Cookies. I found the recipe through Pinterest, but the original recipe can be found on the TidyMom.net blog.

Lemon Burst Cake Mix Cookies

Makes about 5 dozen small cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Lemon Cake Mix (approximately 18 oz)
  • 8oz. Cool Whip (thawed)
  • 1 egg*
  • Powdered Sugar

Baking Tools:

  • Parchment Paper
  • Stand or Hand Mixer
  • Cookie Sheet(s)

Parchment paper is essential for making this recipe. Plus, it makes cleaning up a breeze!

 

Directions:

  1. If your Cool Whip is frozen, make sure to thaw it completely before starting.
  2. In a bowl, combine the cake mix,Ā  Cool Whip, and egg.
  3. Beat the mixture well, for 1-2 minutes, until all ingredients are fully incorporated into one another. The dough will be slightly sticky and look a little like taffy.
  4. Place approximately 1/2 cup of powdered sugar in a small bowl (to roll the cookies in before placing them on the baking sheet.)
  5. Line your cookie sheet with parchment paper. IMPORTANT: Do NOT use wax paper. Wax paper should not be used to bake with and is not an alternative for parchment paper.
  6. Drop teaspoonfuls of dough into the powdered sugar, completely coating the dough ball before placing it on the cookie sheet.Ā 
  7. Bake cookies at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

    These are what the cookies look like when about 2/3 of the way done. They will still be soft when you take them out, but leaving them sit for a minute or so will make them firm.

  8. Cookies will be soft when first removed from oven.
  9. Cool cookies on a rack.
  10. Eat!

 

Tips:

  • *A commenter on the TidyMom.net blog suggested using 2 eggs for a fluffier cookie. I might try this next time. My cookies were a little flat, but not so flat that they were a failure.
  • Thaw your Cool Whip but keep it cold. The colder the Cool Whip is, the easier the dough is to handle. I definitely noticed that as the dough got warmer, the cookies didn’t come out as nice.
  • Watch out for the powdered sugar! Coating the dough leaves a lot of powdered sugar on the baked cookies and if you inhale the wrong way, you’re left with a powdered sugar-induced coughing fit. Haha!

 

The Verdict:

These cookies were amazing. Plain and simple. They were light and slightly chewy. Just lemony enough without being overpowering and not overly sweet. I will definitely make them again and hope to make them for my cousin’s wedding. The only downside to them is that I don’t think they are the kind of cookie that will freeze well, so I’d have to make them close to the event.

šŸ™‚

 

 

 

 

 

Tackling the Cookie Table: Why Pinterest Has Made A Wedding Tradition Easier

It’s hard to believe that it’s the end of February. It seems like 2012 just started and now we’re already 2 months in. Crazy. I have a lot of things to accomplish in the next 2 months including: decide what the heck I’m doing with my life, finish my thesis, take comprehensive exams, and find something awesome to wear to 2 different weddings (one for the sister of a fellow Dame and one for my cousin).

But a smashing outfit is not the only thing I have to worry about when it comes to weddings, my cousin’s in particular. No, I have time to worry about a dress and shoes. Right now, my main concern is cookies.

Yes, cookies. Lots and lots of cookies.

You see, here in Northeast Ohio (Western Pennsylvania too), we have this tradition at weddings called the cookie table. And it is epic.

This is one example of a wedding cookie table. Cookie tables range in size and arrangement, but a traditional cookie table is laden with dozens of cookie varieties.

While the wedding cake is still a mainstay of the wedding reception, the cookie table is equally, if not more, important. A traditional part of the wedding reception in the Northeast Ohio/Western Pennsylvania region of the United States, the cookie table is truly a force to be reckoned with. No one is really sure of how it got started or where it actually began, but it’s easy to make an educated guess.

Most likely, the cookie table tradition became prevalent from a combination of the high influx of immigrants that came into this region in early twentieth century and their baking traditions, the expense of an elaborate wedding cake, and the hardships caused by the Great Depression. For a more nuanced explanation, one of my history professors (a Youngstown native) explained that the cookie table was (and still is to a certain extent) all about social power and social debt.

Mothers, aunts, grandmothers, friends, cousins, etc. spend months before a wedding baking and freezing cookies for the big day. Requests go out – “Can you make cookies for s0 and so’s wedding?” The number of cookies you display and the number of people you can get to bake them for the occasion says something about your social power, but it also puts you in debt to the person baking the cookies. They call in that debt later when they need cookies for a wedding.

As for where the cookie table exactly originated, both residents of Youngstown, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania both claim their city to be the birthplace of the cookie table. We’ll probably never really know, but I’m betting on Youngstown.

Today, cookie tables are different at every wedding. It depends on the bride and groom’s preference, the number of cookies people have time to make in this busy world, the size of the wedding, ethnic and religious traditions, and your family’s past usage/experience with the cookie table. My family definitely adheres to the cookie table tradition, but we don’t have anywhere near as elaborate a cookie table as some others do.

That doesn’t mean the cookies are in short supply though. Recipes won’t just be doubled or tripled. Some will be octupled. (Yeah, I know this might not really be a word. But for my cousin’s wedding 5 years ago, my Mum made 8 times the normal recipe for one cookie alone.) Needless to say, I didn’t eat any of those cookies at the wedding, nor do I have an easy time even looking at them now, 5 years later.

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So, it’s full speed ahead with the cookie baking. And, all I have to say is: Thank God for Pinterest!

Over the next few months, I’m going to be using Pinterest to seek out some new (to me at least) cookie recipes to make for my cousin’s wedding in June.

I’m going to catalog my cookie baking progress on here where I’ll share the recipes and my take on the cookies I try.

First up is Lemon Burst Cake Mix Cookies.

Here’s a picture of what they’re supposed to look like:

I hope to make them this weekend, so check back soon to see whether they are cookie table appropriate.

šŸ™‚

We Interrupt This Regularly Scheduled Theme Post for… Sugar Cookie Truffles!

Man, oh man. Wow. I think I out-Betty-Crockered myself this past weekend. Yesterday was Brian’s birthday, but since he’d have to work on his birthday, I decided to do a bunch of birthday things for him on our long weekend off. I took him to see The 1940s Radio HourĀ at YSU on Friday night, since we both have an appreciation for theatre and jazz, among the other fine art-sy type things we’re into. (Someday I’ll write about the collaborative painting we’ve been working on for quite some time now…) Since he’s been on midnights, we basically left for the show right after he woke up, but that gave the pulled pork I was making in the crockpot plenty of time to cook. When we got home, the best pulled pork I’ve ever had was ready; I cooked up a couple of sweet potatoes and cornbread to go along with the sandwiches.

Still feeling rather ambitious, I decided to try the recipe for sugar cookie truffles I’d found on Pinterest, and I’m pretty certain they’re the best desert/confection/any food type I’ve ever made. They’re pretty easy to make, too. However, I’ll admit that they’re a bit time consuming, and you don’t get as many as you’d think you would (16 cookies yielded 20 truffles), but they’re worth it. Totally. In fact, I’ve been commissioned to make them for my sister’s bridal shower, so I should probably get started on those…

Sugar Cookie Truffles

I can’t claim that I created these, but God bless the Dame who did. This is the recipe I used to make them, but I’ll include my own translation of the pictures in the process.

Ingredients
– 1 16oz package of sugar cookie dough (I used Pillsbury)
– 1.5oz of room temp cream cheese (I didn’t think this was enough, so I used 2oz, and it worked fine. I also checked around other sites for how much cream cheese they used, because I was certain that I’d need much more. No. 2oz is fine.)
– 1 cup white chocolate chips (Good thing I bought a 2 cup bag…)
– 1 T. shortening (I skipped this and they turned out fine)
– Sprinkles for garnish

Bake these according to the instructions on the package. You want them crispy, not soft or burnt. My package yielded 16 cookies.

Once they’ve had plenty of time cool, it’s time for the fun part. Since Brian doesn’t have a food processor, I went old school. Metal bowl, large metal soup ladle. Towards the end, I used a small can of green beans. Worked just as well. Crush the cookies until they’re a fine crumb. Keeping a glass of milk handy is also essential.

After the cookies have been thoroughly crushed, add the cream cheese in to the mix. Again, I’m sure this would be a breeze if you had a food processor, so… I washed my hands again and dug in. It wasn’t too terrible. Mix it in till it forms more of a sugar cookie… gravel? You’ll be able to smoosh these little bits together into a ball to make the truffle. Like I said, my mix created about 20 1″ truffles. You’ll want to put these in the fridge for about an hour or so to chill. Just… chill. šŸ™‚ Before you take them out of the fridge, melt the chocolate chips. This was probably the most difficult part for me. I did the first cup of chips according to the recipe, adding the shortening and microwaving for 30sec. intervals. My chips were a little melty, so I tried again, and ended up with something not resembling melted chocolate at all, but more like packed brown sugar. I have no idea what happened. I tried the second cup of chips in a large soup bowl for three 25sec. intervals, and that seemed to do the trick. Also, prepare a small bowl with the sprinkles.

Roll chilled sugar cookie balls in the melted chocolate, and then dip one side in the sprinkles; place truffle back on the sheet. You can put the truffles in the fridge to set, or just leave them out for a little bit. Seriously takes just about no time for the chocolate to harden. Try not to eat them all right after you’re done so you can get a picture like this…

I hope you enjoy these! I know they were certainly a hit with my family!