This is Forty.

It's a new year. Happy New Year. I've never been one to make resolutions. I don't like to have hard and fast rules for myself. And yet I seem to constantly make hard and fast rules for myself. But never with food or wine; the ones that usually end up on a lot of people's resolution list. I did do that cleanse once...

But this year is a little different. Between the move, the pregnancy, the having of the baby, and the life of one who has a baby, I have not exercised much at all. I bought a bike a few days before I found out I was pregnant and I think I can count on one hand the number of times I've ridden it in over a year. And now it's Winter again. And though I eat well – fresh, local, organic - I haven't practiced a lot of control with portions and cravings. I've craved a lot of red meat. I've craved a lot of cake.

Oh, and in the middle of all of this I turned forty.

So in this new year I am resolved to reclaim control of my body as much as I can while still nursing and caring pretty much full time for a six-month old *teething* baby. My dad set Fred, Emerson and I up with a family membership at a gym (with salt water pools and daycare!), and Fred and I are changing our diet for a couple of weeks, maybe longer. We're doing a type of a cleanse, but it doesn't really have any hard and fast rules. My cup of coffee, fine. A glass or two of wine, that's okay. And we eat three squares a day, with an afternoon snack. It's just all very healthy and balanced. With portion control.

BUT. Over the holiday I went a little cookie-making crazy (just take a look at my Instagram feed). I kept trying to make the perfect shortbread Christmas cookies. I never quite got them right. And I don't like not getting something right. I'm very competitive with myself. So I had to get them right. Even with all my resolutions. Those damn hard and fast rules I keep making for myself.

On day two of the cleanse, of course, I saw the recipe that seemed perfect. It was very simple, had what looked like just the right amount of butter (considerably more than two parts to the one part sugar) and added a great little twist of dipping the cookies halfway into tempered chocolate. So yesterday, after our breakfast of Steel-Cut Oats with Cacao Nibs and Figs, while Fred (who has a flu-like situation going on) and Emerson (again, teething) grabbed a mid-morning nap, I put on my apron and some Ahmad Jamal and got to it. It felt good. To be alone, in relative quiet, no one needing anything from me at all. With the house beginning to smell buttery and snuggly I had a horrible realization: I CAN'T EAT THE COOKIES. Well, I really shouldn't eat the cookies. I mean, I needed to save my appetite for my exciting lunch of Watercress Salad with Snapper and Kimchi and the possibility of some apple and almond butter later.

I ate exactly two. 

And they were indeed perfect.

As luck would have it, Paz had a Downton Abbey party to attend this evening and nothing to take (let's not try to think too hard about that sentence). The recipe made about fifty of the little domino-sized cookies. Shortbread is super British and great with tea. That just seems so, so, very Downton Abbey, right?

And like a whisper in the wind, all of my beautiful, delicious, perfect shortbread cookies disappeared into the night. Never to ruin my resolutions, and probably killing it at Paz's dumb party. And best of all, I simultaneously broke and kept a hard and fast rule.

Now, I must run off to enjoy my dinner of Brussels Sprouts and Tofu Stir Fry over Aromatic Red Rice and call back Parker, my trainer, to set up my first session.

Chocolate-Dipped Shortbread
(Recipe from Epicurious, December 2005
Developed by Tracey Seaman)

With its cloak of pure chocolate, this buttery cookie is sublime. For the best flavor, use a high-quality pure vanilla extract and the best chocolate you can find — preferably Valrhona. Melting the chocolate in two stages helps keep it at an even temperature — insuring that it will set evenly.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
     2/3 cup sugar
     2 teaspoons vanilla extract
     1/2 teaspoon salt
     2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
     8 ounces high-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Arrange racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 325°F. Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt at medium speed just until smooth. Add flour and mix at low speed until combined. Divide dough in half and shape into 2 disks.

On lightly floured work surface, roll out 1 piece dough to 1/4-inch-thick rectangle. Using fluted pastry wheel or large knife, cut into 2- by 1-inch rectangles. Transfer cookies to baking sheets, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart. Repeat with remaining dough.

Prick each cookie several times with tines of fork, then chill 10 minutes. Bake until edges are golden, about 15 minutes. Cool on pans 5 minutes, then transfer to racks and cool completely.

To decorate: Line baking sheet with clean parchment or wax paper. In medium heatproof bowl set over saucepan of simmering water, melt half chocolate. Add remaining chocolate, remove bowl from heat, and stir occasionally until smooth. Pour into small bowl.

Dip each cookie halfway into chocolate, let excess drip off, and place on baking sheet. Let stand until chocolate is set, about 1 hour. Store in airtight container at room temperature. (Do not refrigerate.)

One year ago: Butter Croissants
Three years ago: Cheebo
Seven years ago: Mozza & Dominick's

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