Joy to the world! I found the best jeans and I am going to share my new pair with you, in hopes I can make your holidays magical with great pants. It’s going to be like one of those Old Navy commercials where you will be running to the store. Because it is the giving season, I also want to share an essential gingerbread cookie recipe sure to crown you “best cookie baker” at your exchange or at least make your kids super happy with the yummiest of yummy cookies.
Yes, I ate that entire cookie and half the batch, but first I want to tell you about my jeans. If you sit-stand-sit-stand, squat to floor, rise back up, pick up baby, put baby down, crawl, jump, etc. everyday, all day, you need a pair of my favorite jeans. They bend with you, stay up most of the time (because let’s be real, there is no jean that will stay up all the time unless they are painted on you) and most of all will not make you feel like a snowman stuffed into a pair of pants after 6 gingerbread cookies because they stretch with you.
Let me introduce you to my denim best friend…[drum roll please]…Old Navy Rockstar Jeans, the mid-rise version and especially with the brushed interior (i.e. super soft). I know this a lot of information but stay with me. Mid-rise is fabulous. We all know low-rise is pretty impossible to wear after childbirth unless you a) don’t have a muffin top or b) are only wearing them for a night out. High rise is awesome and I applaud anyone who can pull it off without feeling like an elderly hipster. I cannot, and anything high rise in denim treads way too close to mom jeans country. Mid-rise is a sweet spot where the jeans stay up and flatter your frame no matter what body type you are blessed with. When I started wearing my new jeans more often than my good ol’ standby leggings, I knew I had found the denim unicorn -miraculous jeans so comfortable you want to wear them everyday. I even wear them to Gymboree Play and Music and don’t swear at myself I made a huge mistake by trying to skip the yoga pants!
I promised you something else necessary in your life – gingerbread cookies so delicious, people who claim they don’t like gingerbread love them. Not that I need to spend my free time convincing people gingerbread makes you feel warm and fuzzy and everything cozy with one chewy, lightly spiced bite.
This is not your typical gingerbread cookie with overpowering spices. They have the perfect balance of ginger, cloves and cinnamon with a hint of orange. They are chewy and have the best texture EVER, unless you over bake them. If you are like me and sure to over bake at least one cookie sheet-full, I’ve found the older types in my family love “crunchy” cookies, namely Nana and Papa. Make a batch or 4, some hot cocoa and settle in. Your home will smell amazing and may make you want to snuggle with a baby, small child, dog, husband or heated blanket.
The BEST Gingerbread Cookies. Ever.
Notes – Icing is not mandatory. The cookies are excellent on their own. They also freeze magnificently. You can bake them in early December, freeze, and take out at will as the days fly by. They also make awesome teacher gifts in a sweet little tin. I am a huge fan of Earth’s Balance Buttery Sticks though the original recipe calls for margarine. When making these cookies a few years ago, I had been looking for a margarine replacement because I did not like what is in margarine (and still don’t) and haven’t looked back.
- 1 cup (2 sticks) margarine
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 egg
- 3 teaspoons orange zest
- 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed orange juice (don’t panic, use the orange you just zested)
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- additional flour for work surface
Cream together margarine and sugar. Add egg, blending until light and fluffy. Add orange zest, orange juice and corn syrup.
Sift flour, spices and baking soda. Slowly add to margarine-sugar mixture. Wrap dough in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
When ready to bake, pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats. Work with one quarter of the dough at a time, leaving the rest in the refrigerator. Roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/4″ thickness. Use cookie cutter shapes of your choice and place 1 inch apart on baking sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly golden – do not let edges brown unless crunchy cookies are your thing. Cool cookies for 2 minutes on baking sheets before moving to a wire rack. Ice cookies with royal icing once completely cool.
Royal Icing (completely optional)
- 2 cups confectioners sugar
- 2 1/2 tablespoons meringue powder
- 1-2 teaspoons vanilla extract (preferably oil free)
- 1/4 cup water, plus a few tablespoons
Mix vanilla extract into half the water. Using a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, combine confectioners sugar and meringue powder on lowest setting. Slowly add extract/water to sugar/meringue powder. The icing will be thick and lumpy but don’t worry! Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula and continue to add remaining water until the mixture looks smooth and thick – you may not need all the water. Turn the mixer to medium and whip icing for approximately 2-4 minutes, until thick and fluffy. Stop mixing when the icing can make a soft peak. Keep a spray bottle of water around to spritz icing to desired consistencies.
For the gingerbread houses, I use a stiff icing in a piping bag with a #3 wilton tip to outline houses. I then go in with flood icing (simply stiff icing watered down with a spray bottle to desired consistency and placed in a squeeze bottle) to fill any spaces I want covered, and add Wilton white sparkling sugar.
I love sweetsugarbelle.com. Her recipe for royal icing is by far the best, and she explains the whole process better than I ever could.
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