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Heather Boyd, a resident of Pisgah Forest, has been hired to serve as the first executive director of Smoky Mountain Housing Partnership (SMHP), the affordable housing division of Mountain Projects, a community action agency serving Haywood and Jackson counties.
By Dee Burrell
At the end of the year, a lot of different celebrations are happening for various reasons. Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza and Winter Solstice, or Yule. When people use the phrase, "The reason for the season," I immediately think the reason for the season is well… the season! The winter season. The Yuletide, which means the time of Yule.
It’s cookie season. And with all that 2020 has thrown at us, I am so glad we have finally arrived here.
If you’re like me, and have inherited a culture of decadent eating from the women in your family, you may not be too keen on waiting for Christmas to roll around before you start making plates of holiday cookies.
My mother, aunts and grandmother are nothing if not experts in the art of celebration. There really doesn’t even need to be an occasion. Or rather, they will make an occasion out of the seemingly mundane. Me and all my cousins have benefitted from growing up surrounded by this gusto for life.
Every year, as soon as the weather gets cold or the first day of fall comes around, whichever happens first, mom (Loretta) makes pounds of pumpkin cookie dough and stores it in the fridge for fresh, warm pumpkin cookies throughout the season.
As late November approaches we switch back to the familiar world of chocolate chip cookies. After all, there will be pumpkin or sweet potato pie with the Thanksgiving meal. This year Loretta blew us all out of the water with the simple addition of espresso chocolate chips to her chocolate chip cookies. My favorite breakfast is a chocolate chip cookie and black coffee, but throw in some espresso chocolate chips? Wow.
As December opens its doors, so do the floodgates of holiday goodies. Just this weekend, celebrating Thanksgiving with our family, Loretta was already prepared with jars of homemade Irish Cream for everyone.
Soon too there will be the famed sugar cookies. A recipe from Loretta’s great aunt Ginny. Ginny was the sister of my grandfather’s brother in-law. So she came to us through marriage and I’m ever so grateful she did. Her sugar cookies are crisp yet chewy, thin and not overly sweet. I’m not sure if a sugar cookie can be refined, but if one exists, it is Great Aunt Ginny’s. Every year we spend time cutting them out into different shapes and adding decorative sprinkles, a task that hasn’t lost its appeal as we grow older.
My sister’s favorite holiday cookie has always been walnut balls. These are saved for closer to actual Christmas Eve. More decadent than sweet, the dough is filled with chopped walnuts and butter, and once rolled in powdered sugar they are simply irresistible.
But if I know anything as a cook and a member of a big family, I know that those recipes should be reserved for Loretta — for all of us to make when the family is together. Hers will always turn out better, and there is no need to add my sub-par offering to an already abundant mix.
So this year I have been playing around with my own cookie recipes. Not pumpkin, sugar, walnut or chocolate chip — but mint and dark chocolate. I am guilty of craving a piece of chocolate every night, and I almost always give in to that craving without a fight. Hence, I decided to make these small, rich, dark chocolate, thin mint cookies. They are not as heavy and filling as other holiday cookies, so they serve as the perfect slice of holiday goodness for otherwise “average” December days. Each of which can, and should, be celebrated in little ways.
There is no need to wait for specific days or events to start your holiday celebration, especially not this year. My mother, grandmother and aunts have all shown me that celebration is important. Even the small instances. It is this attitude that brings zeal, energy, excitement and compassion to everyday life.
For the cookies:
2 C. flour
½ C. cocoa powder
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 C. butter
1 large egg
¾ C. sugar
1tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. peppermint extract
For the coating:
2 x 4 oz. package baking chocolate (I use one 56% cacao and one sweet german’s 48% cacao)
1 tsp. vegetable oil
1tsp. peppermint extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
- In a mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder
- In a separate bowl, beat together butter and sugar until creamy. Add in egg, vanilla extract and peppermint extract until well combined
- Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, bits at a time until well combined. The dough should be thick
- Chill the dough until hard
- Roll dough out to ½ or ¼ inch sheets and cut into desired shape
- Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes. *Don’t walk away from the kitchen during this step! The cookies may take less time depending on cookie thickness and oven temp. These cook very fast!
- Let cookies cool completely before coating
For the coating, melt baking chocolate, extracts and oil in a saucepan, over low heat, until well combined. Dip cooled cookies into chocolate mixture with a fork.
I had a doctor tell me at 24 years old I was obese. After only spending a few minutes talking to me (condescendingly) and pointing out the stretch marks on my stomach during the exam, he prescribed me medication for high blood pressure and told me I needed to eat like I was already diabetic because that's where I was heading.
Rumble: What motivated you to get healthier and work on a physical transformation?
Kristie: I was motivated by turning 38! No, really, this was something that was always on my mind. I decided I would be at a healthy weight and BMI by the time I turned 40. I have always struggled with my weight and the ability to lose it due to many factors including grief, hypothyroidism and infertility. After seeing one of my friends get healthy and lose weight, I decided to ask her what she was doing. After her story and a lot of research, I chose to make the jump to a healthier life. The last few years I’ve been in a fog of grief after losing my dad suddenly and unexpectedly. The fog settled some and I saw myself just making it through instead of living every day at my best. Everything was strained by my grief and pain. When in quarantine I had more time to reflect on where I was and where I wanted to be in the future. Even though it was a difficult time in the world, it made me stop and evaluate myself and life. The conclusion was that it was time to make some changes.
Rumble: When did you start this journey?
Kristie: I officially started July 6, 2020
Rumble: What programs, exercise regimens, strategies, eating plans, etc. have you been using?
Kristie: The only reason I have been successful is because I’m working from the inside out. The habits I’m focused on build on each other and I adjust when needed. I am reading and journaling through two informative resources that walk me through my thinking, habits, my “why,” and how to create a healthy life. I began eating six times a day and drinking up to 100 oz. of water. I am also moving more! I’ve learned it’s not about what you do but why you do it. The goal is to focus on one habit at a time and adjust when needed. I’m always reflecting and not just going through life unaware. All of my decisions matter. One bite of something that isn’t in my best interest can hinder my transformation.
Rumble: Tell us more details about your experience.
Kristie: I have lost 62 lbs. so far but every week I discover non-scale victories that outweigh the pounds I’ve lost. Being able to run some without getting out of breath, being stronger, going down in clothing sizes, feeling more confident, my rings being looser and so much more! Not only have my healthy habits been positive for my body but also my faith, relationships, sleep and grief. Every positive choice I make enhances my daily life. I have gained so much more than I have lost in this journey. I am working through it and every day learning and growing (well shrinking, actually). The community I have in my program has been super encouraging and helpful. My family and friends are very happy for me and are always commenting on the changes they see not only in my physical appearance but also in my daily outlook. Struggling with grief changed me and now I’m really giving myself some attention and doing what’s best for me. I see me again. What a relief!
Rumble: Do you have an ultimate goal with this transformation?
Kristie: I have more to go and haven’t finalized my goal weight yet. I want to be in a healthy BMI and weight range. As I get closer I will know. Honestly, it’s not about a number but about my health and how I feel. I know I have to lose at least 100 lbs. When I started this journey that number sounded devastating but now I know I can get there and beyond with the healthy habits I’ve established.