Picking out the tree was kind of fun, especially considering we had never done it and really had no idea what we were doing. Plus, B can make any situation cute and charming and funny. It was reminiscent of the flatware situation... "That one isn't dense enough, that one has blue branches, that one hurts! Is this one too tall? Look at this one from this angle..." The 1 degree weather really put a damper on things. The other damper? Apparently we're the only dummies without some form of an SUV or a luggage rack to make hauling the tree home possible. This whole tree thing is harder than it looks!
The other amusing thing is that we only have lights about 1/3 of the way down. We thought we were being all swift when we stopped by the store on the way home to grab a second strand of lights. Second?? We're going to need about five stands of lights! So for now it's only 1/3 lit. However, we really did get a great tree. So tall and symmetrical and beautiful. And big. We sort of overestimated what size tree we should get. But it's still great and I like the new living room arrangement much better.
I read online that tree water (due to the toxins in sap) can be harmful to kitties, so we rigged a cardboard cover for the tree water. Holy cow were they upset!! All kinds of crying and scratching ensued. B suggested that if they don't settle down, we could always put a normal bowl of water under the tree since I'm a horrible mean mommy and never let them go outside, and therefore they are in love with the new tree. I'm following another online suggestion and spraying bitter apple on the bottom branches and lights to keep them from nibbling on the lights, which mine will certainly do when I'm not looking. Oh, and despite the unevenness of the day, we did light a fire last night, so we got a little holiday spirit infused into the weekend. And now for your 5th day of cookies...
Cinnamon Stars (AKA: Zimtsterne)
These are a classic German Christmas cookie; you'll find them in most every household as soon as St. Nicholas' Day (December 6) rolls around. These gluten-free cookies are kind of like a cross between a macaroon and a meringue, with a hint of nutty spiciness. We find them truly addictive. They're designed to keep for a long time; they'll get chewier as time passes.
- 2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar, plus more for rolling
- 15 ounces sliced almonds, with skin (about 4 1/2 cups)
- 1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3 large egg whites, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
Put 1/2 cup of the sifted confectioners' sugar, 10 ounces (3 heaping cups) of the almonds and all the cinnamon in a food processor. Process until the nuts are finely ground, with just a few larger pieces.
Whip the egg whites in a large, clean bowl with an electric mixer on high speed until they hold soft peaks, about 1 minute. Gradually add the remaining confectioners' sugar while whipping, until the whites are thick, creamy and somewhat stiff, about 2 minutes more. Set aside 2/3 cup of this meringue for topping the cookies.
Fold the ground almond mixture and the lemon zest into the remaining meringue to make a stiff dough.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Lay a sheet of parchment or waxed paper on the work surface and lightly dust with confectioners' sugar. Turn the dough out onto the dusted paper, flatten and dust with more sugar as needed, and then lay another sheet of parchment or waxed paper on top. Roll the dough between the papers until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Flip the dough over and gently peel off a sheet of the paper. For ease when cutting, lay the paper back on the dough, flip again and gently pull off the other side of the paper so that the dough is fully released from it.
Cut cookies with a 3-inch star cutter and place about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. (Excess dough can be rerolled.) Use a small spoon, brush or offset spatula to spread the reserved meringue over the top of each cookie, taking care not to let the meringue drip over the sides. Press or sprinkle remaining sliced almonds in a decorative pattern into the meringue.
Bake cookies until bottoms are light golden brown and meringue is set and crisp, about 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and open the oven door to release heat and dry cookies out in the oven for 10 more minutes.
Busy baker's tips: The dough can be frozen between the sheets of paper for up to 2 weeks. Store baked cookies in an airtight container for up to 10 days.