A Fun and Delicious Weekend with Family and Friends!

This weekend, I’ve been a tad quiet, although I did post up my normal personal blog.  I will be posting up another bonus one some time this week, just an update based on all the self-reflection I’ve done this weekend.  BUT onto happier things!..What better way to pass a weekend than with family and friends? They totally helped me put my worries aside for a little bit.

Right now is the time to talk about what happened on my extremely busy but fun part of my past weekend! The parts where my brain could be shut off it was fantastic fun.  On Saturday, in collaboration with one of my friends, we had a “reunion” party at my house.  The goal was to get everyone together or as many as possible in our group of friends now that summer is just around the corner and we sit together and have good laughs, eat and chat.  We managed to round up a good 15-16 people in total (including me) and we had tons of food for the potluck.

I didn’t have time to take pictures of some foods, mostly ready made ones like the McCain Three Cheese Pizza and cooked frozen foods from M&M Meat Shops, like the lasagna, garlic bread and the hors d’oeuvres.  We had a Ceasar Salad from Costco.  Those things I didn’t particularly take pictures of either, except for one. Other than that, we had some salad, meat dishes, desserts.

Hors d'oeuvres

Hors d’oeuvres

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd’s Pie

Turkey Meatloaf (from me)

Turkey Meatloaf (from me)

I’ve featured this one before.  This time around I did it completely to the recipe, at least I added those chopped apples.  You can check it out HERE! I will keep using apples for this one because it gives it a nice moist texture, better than when I made it without.

Stir-Fried Veggies (from my best friend)

Stir-Fried Veggies (from my best friend)

Viet-Style Chicken (from my best friend)

Viet-Style Chicken (from my best friend)

My best friend also made Oven-baked Asparagus.  I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of it.  They were delicious! My best friend is a really awesome cook. Which is totally cool because we complement each other.

Now, I know you all were looking forward to the desserts.  I apologize that I didn’t get a picture of the Chocolate Chip cookies before they were all eaten.  I did catch the Shortbread cookies

Shortbread cookies

Shortbread cookies

And another one of my friends made some truffles.

Truffles

Truffles

Doesn’t this look totally awesome and delicious? The best was being with a nice group of friends and having a good relaxed time.  Some others contributed alcohol, like wine and whatnot.  One of them brought me SoHo lycee liqueur.  He usually drops by my blog so I’m going to thank him here.  He’s one of my long time friend’s boyfriend and also a fellow Dragonboat teammate.  He’s been introducing me to cool liqueurs ever since we’ve been friends and having these parties.

We ended Saturday with a collective board game of Apples for Apples where the majority joined in. Some of us were busy talking about a new baking project so we skipped but then followed through and went downstairs for 2 games of Mahjong and trained 2 friends to play.  It was fun even though it wasn’t long.  I haven’t played in a while but its always enjoyable.

I know this post is getting long but Sunday was a quick day for me.  I ended up going over to my boyfriend’s place with some homemade hamburger patties and ate with his parents.  I made those awesome scones that I posted about yesterday.  If you missed that post, you can drop by HERE!

I had a fantastic chat next to these beautiful hanging flowers with my boyfriend’s mom.  She is the sweetest lady ever! We’re both bookworms so we talked a lot about that.

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Excuse the bad angle.  It was the furthest I could go before having the danger of falling down the spiralling stairs…Still, I wished that sun had stayed around.  Its all gloomy and rainy again. I just wish this spring weather would disappear for a while and let summer drop in for a bit longer than a day…

Sunday dinner: Burgers with Homemade fries!

Sunday dinner: Burgers with Homemade fries!

At least we’re breaking out the summer meals and enjoying whatever good weather we can 🙂

If not, the weekend would’ve been totally rubbish, if not for my awesome friends and family! They brought in the sunlight and pushed those dark days away for a little bit! Finding the positives..I’m still trying to keep that up! 🙂

Peanut Butter Cookies!

I promised baking! And here it is! I only managed to start prep work at 11pm to make these but they were all done by midnight!

We all went to bed with a delicious baked goods smell in the air! Talk about some sweet dreams in candyland, right?

This time up, I was craving something with peanut butter.  My boyfriend and I had miscoordinated and we ended up with two jars of peanut butter sitting in the fridge so seeing as thats the case, I decided to make something with it.  I love cookies! And these ones were simple and quick.  Only deal was that I was reading some comments and they all had some criticism about the sweetness or the lack of it.  I never have problems with that though. The reason why I never liked peanut butter cookies were that they were overly sweet.  If these weren’t, it sounds like a done deal 😉

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I found this recipe on Martha Stewart and you can find it right here: http://www.marthastewart.com/339730/peanut-butter-cookies

Its nothing absolutely creative and I didn’t do much modification to it.  The bake time is actually not accurate in this one. They were in the oven for 15 mins and it was already good.  However, all ovens bake differently so just keep a close eye for when it turns golden brown.  The only thing was that I didn’t sprinkle any peanuts on it because I just don’t have any at home.

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The recipe yielded the exact amount (or almost) the same.  I ended up with 25 cookies and they estimated 2 dozens :).  Thats about the closest I’ve ever gotten what the recipe says.  The texture of the cookies when the first came out of the oven were quite soft. It smelled extremely awesome! Once they cooled down,  it turned to be more crunchy and crumbly.  Less moist and soft.  It wasn’t dry though.  The first bite had a good mix being still a bit moist in the center and the outer part was crunchy and it somewhat melted into my mouth.  It wasn’t too sweet either (for me)!

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I would never eat peanut butter cookies in abundance but these ones do taste quite good.  The key to this is to use a peanut butter which is less oily because it pulls out a lot of oil from both the peanut butter and the butter. My peanut butter was Just Peanuts so it had some peanut oil residue under the cookie.  However, I imagine some of the other brands with other sorts of oil would create a less healthy blend and feel more greasy.  I’m saying it could be a possibility.   Not sure if that would actually happen.  The taste of the peanut butter will also determine what your cookie will taste like.

Choose your peanut butter wisely 😉 Watch the baking time.  Only two suggestions I offer for this.

This recipe is a winner for some delicious crunchy peanut butter cookies! Now I have the peanut butter cookies all settled in for both soft and crunchy! Its made the end of my weekend quite happy 🙂

*Almost* Everything but the Kitchen Sink Cookies!

Have you ever heard of these cookies? Kitchen Sink Cookies for short apparently…

These ones came up in my search when I was digging up recipes based on another blogger’s comment for Coconut Cloud Cake post. Brian at Hard Ticket to Home Video commented that “mixes coconut, toffee and dark chocolate”.  I have never baked with toffee so I had to run off and look for that.  Of course, the trusty Walmart Superstore here has everything and I managed to pick up a pack of toffee bits on Saturday.

I changed it around a bit to match the tastes of my boyfriend and his family, which will be delivered to them tonight 🙂

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I found this recipe on Martha Stewart`s site.  The link to the original recipe that inspired it is: http://www.marthastewart.com/332894/everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-cookie

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These cookies are quite easy to make as its pretty much mixing the wet ingredients then in another bowl the dry ingredients. After that putting it together and after having the cookies dough done.  Its time to add all the contents: dark chocolate, toffee bits, coconut shreds, dried cherries, pecans, oats and pretzels.  Point is, its supposed to have EVERYTHING…

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My version doesn`t change much for the dough.  I did remove the salted pretzels and dried cherries.  Its not hit in their families and then swapped almonds to replace the pecans.  Also, I didn`t have any dark chocolate on hand so I used some semi sweet chocolate chunks.  Plus, the intended recipients aren`t big fans of dark chocolate and more semi-sweet.

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Obviously, this one fits in all my nono`s. So I couldnt`t try it out.  However, what they do feel and look like are Oatmeal cookies with Chocolate chunks, coconut, toffee bits, and almonds.  Now that sounds like a winner combination right. My mom did help me out to taste it and she said that it was a bit too sweet (but she always thinks that) however, she did say the taste was pretty good.  The texture of it was not too hard and all the ingredient choices matched up to a good taste.

If you don`t like any ingredients or you want to swap things in and out, as long as you know the end result taste works for you, then go for it.  It should work out fine. 🙂

Seeing as I`m a beginner with toffee bits, what else do you recommend I do with it? Any other great recipes or types of cookies or cakes that it would work well in? I was thinking maybe fudge might be a good option? I don’t know.  I’m not experienced with fudge either..Give me some suggestions.  I’d love to hear all about it 🙂

Food Review: Casa Victoria Fine Dining

On Saturday night, we headed over to Casa Victoria as a big group to join into the 25th anniversary and chinese new year party for a company that we help out over the past 10+  years (depending on who we are talking about).  For me, its been around 10 years.  I don’t remember exactly when I started but its been pretty fun. Casa Victoria has a Victorian theme going on in their banquet halls.  With beautiful lights and golden drapes and decorations on the walls, it radiated elegance.  The atmosphere was beautiful, the group was awesome and its the first time we’ve come in contact with the main office in Toronto so it was pretty fun.

This is a food review so I’m going straight to our huge meal that we had. We had a cocktail in the beginning with some appetizers and drinks.

I’m a lover of Barbecue pork and especially when in a pastry, the fluffy crust that melts in my mouth when done well.  This one was done to perfection.  It was so scrumptious, not too sweet or salty and the texture was awesome. I’ve never had bite size pie shells filled with eel and man, were these awesome.  I’m not a huge fan of eel but this one really impressed me a lot.

After a bit of chitchat and waiting for everyone to settle into their spots, we had some speeches and some games in between the course and even had a raffle and lots of gifts.  It was super fun. The first dish to come is a very well-known Chinese meat platter…

Chinese Meat Platter

Chinese Meat Platter

Stir Fried Jumbo Shrimp and Scallop

Stir Fried Jumbo Shrimp and Scallop

Braised Dried Oyster and Pork Hock

Braised Dried Oyster and Pork Hock

Braised Winter Melon Soup with Conpoy and Sweet Corn

Braised Winter Melon Soup with Conpoy and Sweet Corn

Pan Fried Beef Filet with Garlic Sauce

Pan Fried Beef Filet with Garlic Sauce

A little cut in this because I realized that I forgot to take the picture of Crispy Fried Chicken.  It was super delicious but somehow I didn’t do it.  Up to now, I can’t say anything else about the food because it was super good.  I’ll give more of a review at the end..We’re about halfway 😉

Stir Fried Sole Filet with Vegetable served on Crispy Bone

Stir Fried Sole Filet with Vegetable served on Crispy Bone

Wok Fried Lobster with Maggi Sauce

Wok Fried Lobster with Maggi Sauce

Searfood Fried Rice with Garlic

Searfood Fried Rice with Garlic

Braised E-fu Noodle

Braised E-fu Noodle

Red Bean Sweet Soup

Red Bean Sweet Soup

Anniversary Cake

Anniversary Cake

Le Petite Fleur with Almond cookies, Glutinous Rice Balls

Le Petite Fleur with Almond cookies, Glutinous Rice Balls

Man, that was a huge meal, right? It was awesomeness.  There were a few that were on the salty side but thats because I’m used to eating my mom’s cooking and its all healthy and minimal salt.  The meats were all done to perfection, desserts were right on.  The most memorable was the crust of the Jumbo Shrimps and Scallops.  Usually its called the Bird’s Nest and that was done so different from the other restaurants I’ve eaten at.  Another one was the fish and the Crispy Bone.  I was very tasty although I gave a part of my portion away because I was so full and I wanted to try the other food.

Fantastic meal and wonderful party with a bunch of awesome people.  It was a great night!

The next morning, the boss of this company invited everyone back to the restaurant to eat early morning dim sum. I didn’t take any pictures because I wasn’t fully awake from sleeping late watching Chopped.  But take my word for it, it was super awesome.  If you live in Toronto or visit there, go to Casa Victoria. You won’t regret it 🙂

What do you think about the meal?

Valentine’s Baking: Skillet Baked Chocolate Chip Cookie

Whats a good morning (any day) without a little sweet tooth craving fulfilled, right?

I was going to make a huge chocolate cake for my boyfriend.  As he is trying hard to stay fit (aka lose fat gain muscle), I didn’t want to make him lose track so I asked him what he wanted.  He saw this and wanted me to do it right away. Last night, I went downstairs to bake this gigantic cookie.  However, I didn’t want to use a skillet so I just used a square baking pan.

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This recipe was from Martha Stewart’s site and if you want to try it, just go to this link:

http://www.marthastewart.com/355774/skillet-baked-chocolate-chip-cookie

This was a crazy easy recipe to do.  I didn’t do any adjustments to it.  However, I don’t own any semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips at home but I still had a bunch of chocolate chunks.

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The only long part was waiting for the giant cookie to come out of the oven, since its in there for 40-45 minutes.  Of course, this gave me time to finish up my last movie in the marathon (The review will be up a bit later today) After about halfway through baking time, the house started smelling like chocolate and sweets.  A mouthwatering aroma…and it wasn’t even done yet.

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Just look at that right there.   That’s what a piece of this cookie looks like.  I can’t eat chocolate but my boyfriend gave it a little time to cool and cut this piece out right away to try.  I know when he really loves something and this one, he totally loved it.

Try it out! Whats a better time than Valentine’s day to treat yourself and whoever you choose to spend it with sharing a giant chocolate chip cookie, right?  Chocolate is just right for all occasions.

Almond Cookies

Almond Cookies.

Chinese New Year is coming just around the corner so Valentine’s Day baking will be put aside.  This weekend will be exploring and sharing the world of Chinese cuisine, kicking off the A Bite of China project and of course, Chinese desserts to bring in the Year of the Snake!

Its the perfect time to reboot this wonderful recipe that I tried out last year! These were some popular Almond cookies, even my mom’s friends, who are fantastic cooks asked me to print them a copy of the recipe 🙂 No one here has actually seen as when I first posted it, I probably had 3 followers.

Hopefully, you will like it 🙂 I have a batch of this in the oven as we speak.  I’ll share pictures of it in another post later on! I need to run off and do some more Chinese New Year preparation errands but just wanted to this first 🙂

Happy Saturday!

Dried Cranberry Shortbread Hearts

I promised that I would get you some Valentine’s baking yesterday but something came up and I didn’t quite manage to get that up.  You know, life happens.  I guarantee it was nothing bad though.  Just some changes might or might not happen in life and if it does settle down, I’ll share it with everyone.  For now, let’s turn our focus to my first Valentine’s baking.  I know I know, Shortbread…again, right? To be honest, shortbread is starting to grow on me. And I can actually eat this and its easy to make.

Doesn’t this look cute and delicious?

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Right here is the recipe if you’d like to try it out.  Found this on the Martha Stewart site.

http://www.marthastewart.com/338922/dried-cranberry-shortbread-hearts?center=276967&gallery=874690&slide=338922

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This is a super easy one. Unless you can cut beautiful hearts out of a sheet, I’d recommend a cookie cutter.  That’s the reason why its taken me so long. I was going to make them into cupcakes.  You know its sweet to give someone you loved a cookie shaped in a cupcake, its like calling them that, right?

Other than being easy to make, this one had a wonderful texture.  Its probably one of the best shortbread recipes I’ve had.

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Just look at it. Its not too dry and crumbly but was balanced with a bit of nice slightly moist balance.  The dried cranberries really give it a nice little touch.

I managed to get 5 hearts out of this with a whole bunch of tidbits on the sides.  So far I haven’t found the heart to eat the beautiful shortbread hearts.

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 How could you right? They just look so nice!

10 days from Valentine’s day now! Any ideas what else I should bake?

I probably will be back with something else on Friday. The office is still a bit hectic and have a few sudden things resulting from what happened to take care of.  Lets hope I can still manage to keep up with my posts 🙂

Happy Monday everyone!

Super Sweet Blogging Award!

A few days ago, Jackie @ jackie.eat.world nominated me for the Super Sweet Blogging Award.

super sweet blogging award

I’m super flattered! You have no idea! Especially since I’ve been slowing down the posting and trying to get a post up each day or at least 5 posts up a week.  I’ll explain why in a future post once I figure it all out.  Not just that I’ve been taking it easy a bit (after posting up like a crazy person in December) but also that my baking and cooking has been sacrificed, so it makes the Super Sweet part of this award a bit lacking.  So in the name of this award, I promise to get back on my game.  In fact, I’m already compiling some early Valentine’s Day baking.  You’ll just have to wait to see what I whip up.  Let’s end my rambling right there!

Most important task here is I need to give a HUGE THANKS to Jackie.  You can check out her blog HERE! She offers awesome posts about all sorts of topics.  She writes and shares music and has beautiful pictures with her posts.  It really doesn’t get better than that! If you haven’t been to her blog, then I suggest for you head over there.  I’m sure you’ll find something that you like.

Lets check out the rules:

  • Thank the blogger that nominated you
  • Answer the “super sweet” questions!
  • Nominate a “baker’s dozen” and notify these awesome nominees!

Lets see these Super Sweet questions:

1. Cookies or cake?

Cookies! I have crazy love for cookies. You put a plate of them in front of me and my hand just continuously reaches for them 🙂 My fave has to be gingerbread and gingersnaps!

2. Chocolate or vanilla?

Absolutely vanilla…unless you can give me some fake chocolate flavored dessert.  Few years back, my body decided it had enough of chocolate, dairy and caffeine so now, the only thing that comes from eating it is pain…excruciating pain! Vanilla, my friends is the way to go! If not, Maple Soy Ice Cream is absolutely awesome!

3. What is your favorite sweet treat, cheesecake or frozen yogourt?

I’ll pass on both of these! Back in the days when I could eat it, I’d take Frozen Yogourt! Now, pass a serving of sorbet s’il vous plait 🙂 Or recently, newly discovered at Walmart in Plattsburgh, Coconut Milk Ice Cream…YUMMY!

4. When do you crave sweet things the most?

Tired and stressed! Bring on lots of sugary delights to give me an energy boosts!

5. If you had a sweet nickname, what would it be?

My elf name is Cookie Plumpants…I’d say thats pretty sweet, no? If not, my friends used to call me Lemon because of my chinese name. When you reverse the characters, it sounds like lemon in Cantonese.  That’s not very sweet though, right?

Enough about me! *phew* I made it through that!

Moving on to passing this award on to other super sweet nominees.  Here they are:

1. Savor the rainbow

2. Lasesana

3. The Hungry Artist

4. Yummy Lummy

5. This Abundantly Delicious Life

6. Eat-O-Live

7. Pretty Baking

8. Keep Calm and Eat On

9. MKG- Memories-Keepsakes-Gifts

10. Chef Doru’s Blog

11. my sweetpainteddreams

12. Passionate Art of Cooking

13. petit4chocolatier

Congrats to all the nominees!  All these blogs are fantastic and extremely sweet.  They have some fantastic posts about cooking, baking, eating, and more like crafts and writing and photography.  I urge everyone to check it out and show them some support!

Shortbread!

I’m finally back with more baked goods! I’ve been taking a break after the whole holiday baking frenzy.  Now I’m ready to get back to business with that…

First up we have SHORTBREAD.  I had wanted to do them for Christmas but decided to do Gingerbread Cookies instead.  So here we are with these wonderful cookies.

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SHORTBREAD (from the Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook)

Makes about 2 dozen cookies (I got about 18 cookies!)

Ingredients:

3/4 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup sugar

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp almond extract

1. Heat oven to 350F.  In large bowl, beat butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium speed.  Stir in flour and almond extract.

2. On lightly floured surface, roll dough into 9×6 inch rectangle, 1/2 inch thick.  Cut into 1 1/2 inch squares with knife or cut with 1 1/2 inch cookie cutters.  On ungreased cookie sheet, place squares or shapes about 1 inch apart.

3. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until set.  Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.  Cool completely about 30 minutes.

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First batch out of the oven!

The dough will turn out to be on the crumbly side.  I wonder if thats normal because I had that same situation with another recipe, the Peppermint Swirls,  with the same type of texture. You can click HERE for that recipe if you’re interested. I didn’t want to use food coloring to decorate it since it was just for fun.  If I do a batch with it in a more decorative way, I’ll post it up in an update!

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The texture was crumbly and delicious.  The taste was perfect.  Both my mom and my boyfriend enjoyed them a lot.  These may not have turned out super pretty and colourful but it still was quite tasty.  Definitely something fun to try out!

Do you like shortbread? Are there any ways to make it less crumbly for the dough, maybe with more butter? Any ideas? Do you have another recipe that differs from this one? Feel free to share the link or suggest it! My mom seems to like shortbread a lot so I’m searching for the perfect recipe.

Christmas Baking: Gingerbread Cookies

I have mentioned it before on multiple occasions that I am crazy about baking with GINGER.  So of course, gingerbread cookies was a no brainer for me.  Its almost an annual tradition that I explore different recipes until I find the perfect one.   This year, I am proud to announce, I am 90% sure that I have found it!

On top of that, when I went to Plattsburgh last weekend, I managed to find some super cute Christmas cookie cutters.

These are the awesome Gingerbread cookies! Festive, right?

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GINGERBREAD COOKIES (from Betty Crocker Christmas Cookbook)

makes about 2 1/2 dozen 2 1/2 inch cookies (mine varied because they all were different sizes)

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup shortening

1 1/2 cups full-flavor molasses

2/3 cup cold water

7 cups all purpose flour

2 tsp baking soda

2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp salt

1. In large bowl, beat brown sugar, shortening, molasses and water with electric mixer on medium speed.  Stir in remaining cookie ingredients.  Cover; refrigerate at least 2 hours until firm.

2. Heat oven to 350F.  Lightly grease cookie sheet with shortening or cooking spray.  roll one fourth of dough at a time 1/4 inch thick on floured surface.  Cut into desired shapes.  Place about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.

3. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until no identation remains when touched.  Immediately remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.  Cool completely, about 30 minutes.

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I apologize to the crippled Gingerbread Girl..very unfortunate that she is not only bitten but I crushed her leg by mistake.

I actually did quite a few things different for this one.  First of all, I ran out of brown sugar so we improvised with half brown and half granulated.  Also, I used 6 cups of flour instead of 7. It was already getting really hard to mix it in, so we stopped at 6 cups instead.  This year, I really tried to find allspice and cloves but they didn’t have it.  Someone actually knows where to find them? Are they under another name? So as usual I replaced it with 1 tsp nutmeg.

This recipe came with decorator’s icing but I didn’t do it.  However if anyone is interested in getting that part, just comment below or send me an email and I’ll forward it to you.

Are gingerbread cookies a tradition for you during Christmas? Like the cookie cutters?  Anyone else making gingerbread cookies?