savoury shortbread

by Michelle

As I worked away in my kitchen this morning baking savory cookies, I was thinking about twenty-five years ago this month. I was waiting to birth two babies. My twins were due to arrive on January 4th, 1987. Having already tipped the scale at 193 lbs, I felt that they had been ‘cooking’ long enough!

It had been months, since I had seen my feet. I rested my belly on any flat waist – high surface that I could find. My wardrobe had been reduced to t-shirts – men’s size XL, a maternity jumper and an old pair of winter boots – once again men’s size 11 and an over sized faux fur coat with gigantic shoulder pads. It was 1986 after all!

I tried to do what ever I could to coax those two, not-so-little, darlings into the world.

One of my efforts involved me taking an hour-long subway ride into Manhattan. I was living in New York City.  When I arrived at the 6th Ave and 34th St stop, I climbed up into the Christmas madness that is Macy’s during the holidays. It was wild! Although I had gained an elephant in weight, from the back I looked normal. It was not until you got a profile or front – on view that the full grandeur of my physique was obvious. I can still hear ‘look at the size of that woman’, in a New York accent, ringing in my ears. Small children would shriek and hide behind their mothers…

I fought through the crowds and purchased 54 feet of thick synthetic green garland. Unlike the artificial garlands available today, in 1986 holiday greenery was thick and lush. It took four large Macy’s shopping bags to hold my new Christmas decorations. Holding my parcels left me wider than I was thick!

I could not fit through Macy’s exit. No matter how I tried I could not fit through the door with my packages. New York was a different place before 9/11. People were not as kind. A gynormous pregnant lady garnered little sympathy from frantic holiday shoppers. Finally, Macy’s security cop held the door for me and offered some sound advice, “might be better to wait until you have that baby before you do any more shopping!” I remember being so insulted that he thought I was only carrying one baby – it would have been a 15 pounder! I should have just been grateful that he came to my rescue. I’ll blame it on all the hormones charging through my body.

After an other hour long ride back to Queens, a 10 minute walk home and two flights of stairs – nothing.

My next bright idea was to clean my windows. I thought that all the stretching might give things a jump start. I was up and down on a ladder for a solid hour and still no action. “I might as well clean the outsides, too.” My livingroom windows sat at the same level as my fire escape. I climbed out of the window – picture a 200 lb woman squeezing through a narrow window casingnot pretty!  I cleaned the windows and then when I tried to pull the window up, so that I could go back inside, it was stuck! No matter how I pulled on that window, it would not budge. So there I was, stuck on my fire escape, in the middle of December, crying. Not because I was cold – not because I was locked out of my apartment. I was crying because I could not get those babies to leave the nest!

Finally, on the morning of December 27th, 1986, I knew that they were coming out to play! My labour lasted 32 hours. I was exhausted and yet totally energized. Seconds after they were born, the attending nurses layed the girls on top of me. In the moment when I first looked into their eyes, my world was changed forever.

Every year since, despite my excitement about the holidays, I am a little weepy. Not weepy in a sad way but rather a joy full way. Their birth was the happiest day of my life. Christmas is a constant reminder of the beginning of our journey together. I am deeply grateful to be a mother – to Kaitlin, Meaghan and Sara.

I love you, little girls.

As you can see from the photos, I have been busy baking savory cookies and tea breads. Once you have a good base, you can substitute whatever flavours you like. I baked savory shortbread, sun-dried tomato and provolone tea bread, black pepper and provolone biscotti and cheddar cheese thumbprints. My kitchen smelled amazing! All of these cookies and the tea bread freeze perfectly so, you can make them ahead of time and serve when you need them.

Savory Shortbread

makes 6 Dozen

2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tablespoon hot paprika

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons sea salt

1 cup butter, chilled and cut into small pieces

2 cups old cheddar, shredded

1/2 cup milk

In the bowl of a food processor, place flour, spices and salt – pulse to combine

Add the butter and pulse until it looks like coarse meal

Transfer flour mixture to bowl of stand mixer

Toss shredded cheddar with flour mixture

Add milk and mix until mixture forms a ball and has pulled away from the sides of the bowl

Divide dough in half and form into 2 long cylinders 2″ wide

Wrap in waxed paper and chill for one hour

Preheat oven 350*F

Slice cookie dough into 1/4″ slices and place on parchment lined cookie sheets 1″ apart

Bake until golden 12-14 minutes, rotate cookie sheets halfway through baking time

Cool on wire rack and store.

These cookies will keep up to 2 days in an air tight container or in the freezer for 3 months.

Thanks for reading

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