After the storm . . . thankful for warmth, light and baking early

2013 Tree

After the worst ice storm in Toronto’s history and more than 40 hours without power, I was losing hope that I’d see the bright lights of our lovely tree on Christmas Eve. But last night at dinner time our power was restored and we all did a little dance of joy.

I stayed up late to enjoy the lights of the tree and count my blessings. We are so thankful to have warmth and light for the holiday. Our greatest wish was to be able to cook our turkey dinner here at home on Christmas Day. Simple pleasures really do mean the most. This is the powerful reminder the ice storm has left behind.

It is such a hectic time of year so you can imagine the impact of this widespread outage with close to 250,000 homes and businesses without power. Our neighbourhood was hard hit and many of the small shops and businesses were out of commission for several days. Only one of the five grocery stores in the area was open yesterday. I battled the crowds and walked for 30 minutes with an 11 lb frozen turkey . . . so you know it is going to be the best turkey ever. Starbucks was wall-to-wall with people (including me) recharging their phones so that they could reconnect with friends and family. It brought out the best in everyone and we appreciated all of the offers for help.

But it hasn’t been a good week for those who leave things to the last minute.

While I typically count myself part of the last-minute crowd for many things, baking isn’t one of them. This is one time that I’m glad I had all of my baking done for the season. One of my favourite cookies this year was shortbreads. I made them several different ways and found this to be a real time saver. I’ve included photos and the recipe below.

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas with your family and friends. I hope that your Christmas is filled with simple pleasures. Our thoughts go out to the more than 125,000 homes in the Toronto area who are still waiting for power.

Stocking Shortbread


Recipe from Christmas Cookies from the Whimsical Bakehouse

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup icing sugar

¼ tsp salt

1 lb cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ cubees


Preheat oven to 350˚.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment.

Sift together flour, sugar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer.

Add butter and mix on low until the dough comes together.

On a lightly floured board, roll the dough out to a thickness of ¼ inch. Cut out your desired shape(s) using cookie cutters and arrange about an inch apart on the lined cookie sheets. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes for small cookies or 10 to 15 minutes for larger cookies, or until lightly coloured.

Let the cookies cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Adaptation for Chocolate Shortbreads

Follow same recipe and method above except:

  • replace 4 cups of all-purpose flour with 3.5 cups of all-purpose flour and ½ cup cocoa powder;
  • add 2 extra tablespoons of cold unsalted butter
  • Use a stocking shaped cookie cutter
  • Prick each cookie once with a fork
  • Once baked, dip the top of the stockings in melted white chocolate and sprinkle with smashed candy cane pieces

Adaptation for Cranberry Orange Shortbread

Follow basic shortbread recipe and method, but add a handful of chopped dried sweetened cranberries and zest of small orange. Mix well. Cut and bake.

Shortbread three way

Shortbreads three ways: Chocolate dipped shortbread stars; snowflakes sprinkled with sanding sugar and orange & cranberry shortbreads


56 Comments on “After the storm . . . thankful for warmth, light and baking early”

  1. Am so sorry to hear you were one of the unfortunate without power. Hurray that it is back on and kudos to you for baking ahead. Blessings to you and your family this season.

  2. Norma Chang says:

    Glad you had your power restored last night. How did you stay warm? My sister was fortunate, she did not lose power but the mall near her did as did many others.
    Your Christmas stocking cookies are so cute. Have a very Merry Christmas and all the best for 2014.

    • Norma we were thankfully able to stay warm in our house with our gas fireplaces. We have two on the main floor and one that we just put into the basement (which helped to keep mom warm at night). The main floor warmed up quite quickly and so we were comfortable. We also have a gas stove for cooking. It could have been so much worse. Oops, I hit send before I was finished! All the best for a wonderful 2014 Norma. I’m looking forward to following your gardening adventures in 2014.

  3. A_Boleyn says:

    I’m sorry to hear that you had such a bad time in the past storm but grateful on your behalf that your power has been restored. I hope that the rest of the people without power have theirs restored soon as well. It must be even worse at this time of year when people are looking forward to gathering and celebrating with friends and family.

    Our area was very fortunate to miss it and only had to deal with a couple of days of continuous drizzle which turned our lovely snow landscape into mud and slush. Even the death of my furnace fan motor, which left me with 3 days (it always happens late enough on Friday that you can’t get replacement parts until Monday in my experience) of 47-55 deg F weather took place the weekend BEFORE the temperature drop.

    Your shortbreads look very festive. A great nibble with something warm to drink.

    • Thanks for your message Maria. You are right — it was a challenging time for the power to go off. Everyone looks forward to reconnecting this time of year so it threw a wrench into a lot of plans.

      I’m glad that your area missed the storm and that your furnace troubles occured before the temperature drop. That is so fortunate!

      I hope that you had a nice holiday season and I wish you all the best in 2014. I’ll be over for a visit to your blog in the next couple days. I’ve made a commitment to keep up with my blogging in 2014.

  4. Fig & Quince says:

    I have friends and family inToronto and heard about the snow storm! Yikes. Happy to hear you got the power back finally.

    Super cute & festive cookies!

    Merry Christmas to you and your family!

    • All the best to you as well. I hope that 2014 is off to a good start for you.

      I didn’t realize you had a connection to Toronto. Maybe you’ll come for a visit one day. I hope that your friends and family were not inconvenienced by the storm. It was unlike anything I’d seen before, but we’re thankful things were too bad for us.

  5. Kristy says:

    So glad your power is restored Barb. Merry Christmas to you and your crew. Here’s to a fabulous 2014! Much love, Kristy

    • Here’s to a fabulous 2014 for you and your crew as well. Isn’t it nice to have some time away from all of the activities and homework? I have found it to be a little piece of heaven. Hope 2014 is off to a good start . . . and with any luck we’ll be able to connect again this year.

  6. Have a wonderful Christmas!

  7. Am so glad you have power back and are safe And sound. I hadn’t heard about the ice storm…limited access to internet at the moment. Merry Christmas barb!

    • So nice to hear from you! We managed to survive the storm quite nicely and were thankful that we didn’t endure the same hardship as many. I felt so thankful and fortunate when we watched the news and saw the people who had no power for Christmas and were without power for a week or more. Yikes!

      Here’s to a great 2014 and looking forward to following along with your kitchen adventures this year.

  8. Karista says:

    I know how it feels to be left without power during the holidays. Same thing happened to us about 3 years ago in Washington. Ice storm followed by snow. Pulled down powerlines and shut off power for 4 days. Power came back on thankfully a week before Christmas. I’ve never been so thankful for heat and warm food! So happy your power is on and your turkey can get roasted! Not to mention the lovely heat. Wishing you and your darlings a very Merry Christmas!

    • I hope that you had a wonderful holiday with your family Karista.

      I would imagine that an ice storm in Washington is quite rare and that the area isn’t well prepared for it. I remember when I lived in Vancouver that a sprinkling of snow would shut down the city, as there were only a couple of snow plows and people didn’t know how to drive in snow.

      Something like this really makes you appreciate the basics, doesn’t it? We really enjoyed our turkey and trimmings on Christmas.

      Here’s to a great 2014!

  9. So glad your power was restored! We have had some similar types of storms lately! Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  10. ChgoJohn says:

    I’d no idea that parts of Toronto had gone without power for so long and am very glad that it has been restored. I hope you and your loved ones are having a wonderful, well-lit Christmas, Barb, with peace and joy in the New Year.

    • Thanks John. I hope that you had a wonderful Christmas and that 2014 is off to a great start. I know that you are away for January and hope that you enjoy the break. Looking forward to following along with you in your kitchen in the year ahead.

  11. suzanne says:

    Merry Christmas! I’m so glad your power was restored. Electricity is one of those things we rely on and when it is gone we really know just how much we need it and appreciate it. Hope you have a wonderful day with lots of delicious food, love and family.

  12. That must have been scary my friend, no knowing when the power was coming back! I am glad everything and everyone is ok now and you got the Christmas you deserved with these delicious cookies 😀

    Happy Holidays!

  13. Saskia (1=2) says:

    Barb! Really lovely to hear from you. So, so sorry you’ve had a difficult time this Christmas. I hope you found a way to stay warm; and that you have a delicious, wonderful Christmas day with your family. Your cookies look absolutely gorgeous. xx

    • We had such a nice holiday Saskia. I always look forward to staying close to home and recharging the batteries this time of year. I feel refreshed and I’m ready to ramp up for another busy year. How about you? Was your holiday hectic or relaxing? I’m always amazed by how much you manage to achieve as a busy working mom. Here’s to a great 2014.

      • Saskia (1=2) says:

        Great to hear you had a nice holiday Barb. We’ve just returned from a week on the beach. Lovely! Must admit it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep my blog going. I’m still working on it (and Pinterest!) at 5.30 every morning thanks to the cat, my living alarm clock. Happy 2014.

        • A week on the beach sure sounds nice. We are still in the throws of winter with an artic air patch gripping most of North America. I think it is going to be a very long winter.

          It takes dedication to get up at 5:30 am to blog. You are managing to keep it all together! Unfortunately I am already up at 5:30 am everyday to start getting ready for work. I get ready then get the girls up and they are out by 7:30 on the days I work from home and I leave just after 6 am on the days that I commute (my husband looks after the girls those mornings). Thinking retirement sounds nice right about now…

  14. Eva Taylor says:

    I was so relieved to hear you hot power back Barb, it’s do unnerving this time if year. One of our friends is still without power, another friend’s sister had her water pipes burst! It really had made me thankful for getting our power back in short order (just over 24 hours for us) but our old house isn’t insulated as well as the newer homes so we were concerned about freezing pipes.
    It was wonderful to have nibblies with you on Christmas Eve, we really love the tradition. Hope you have a fantastic new year. XOXO

  15. Carol Deschenes says:

    Happy New Year! Glad you are back on the grid and hope that you had a nice Christmas. It was lots of fun here, despite the crazy weather.

    My parents are two of the 18,000 New Brunswickers still without power since Dec 23 and it could be out until Dec 31. They are thankful for their wood stove and all who have opened up their homes for hot showers and meals. Makes us realize how lucky we are to live where we do and what we take for granted.

    Looking forward to more of your great blogging in 2014!
    XO Carol

    • So nice to hear from you Carol!!!! Hopefully you were able to ring in the New Year in style? Have your parents got their power back yet? I can’t believe how long it was taking for them…..must be soooo frustrating!

      Looking forward to our regular emails and updates in 2014!

  16. musingmar says:

    Forty hours without power … I can well imagine how happy you were when the lights came back on in time for Christmas, which I hope was merry indeed for you .Good for you for planning and cooking ahead.

    I’ve seen so many stunning photos of the ice storm, the awesome devastation coupled with stark beauty. We are very fortunate here in London to have been spared. I know there are others in Toronto and elsewhere still awaiting the return of light and heat. My heart goes out to them for the hardships they’ve endured.

    • How true. There was amazing devastation combined with stark beauty. It was really beautiful to see the sun shining on the trees with icy branches.

      I think that most people are up and running again, but boy has it been a surprizingly slow process to restore power for everyone. Let’s hope that there were some lessons learned so that this doesn’t happen again.

      Happy New Year to you and your family Marlene!

  17. This winter weather has been really bad this year. In England there has been many people who had no electricity on Christmas day. I can only think you were so glad to have worked so hard before Christmas to have all your baking done.
    Happy New Year to you and your family.

  18. Karen says:

    So happy that your power was restored so that you and your family could celebrate Christmas in the warmth of your home. Wishing you and yours all the best in the New Year.

  19. quilt32 says:

    I had heard there were major problems but it never really hits home until you hear from someone personally affected. The cookies look wonderful. I hope you and your family have a great New Year’s and a happy 2014.

  20. cquek says:

    Wishing you beautiful moments, trasured memories, and all the blessing a heart can know. Happy New Year!

  21. Ali says:

    That storm sounded nasty! Hope your turkey was delicious and you had a lovely Christmas day x

    • The turkey, stuffing and all the trimmings were delicious and tasted even better knowing that the power required to make them had just come back in the nick of time! Hope your 2014 has started off on the right track!

  22. Charles says:

    Happy New Year to you, your husband, and the ponytails Barb – good to hear you’re all safe and well after the storm. It must have been a tough few days. They had some storms in England I think which caused power to be knocked out for some unfortunate souls – even on Christmas day I think which must have been a real bummer!

    • Happy New Year to you and your family as well Charles! I’ve been watching the storms in England and can imagine that it is very stressful for the people along the coastlines. I can’t think of a worse time to be without power, so my heart goes out to those unfortunate souls as well. People have a way of coming together through difficult times, so I think there are lots of good stories about neighbours and friends extending hospitality to those in need. From your photos on Facebook it looks like things are going well in Sweden? Must have been great to have all of the grandparents there over the holiday.

  23. Ohh how scary and cold it must have been!! So happy that is over – I’m sure you are loving very minute of it!
    Love your cookies, they look delicious!
    Happy 2014 to you and your ponytails 🙂

  24. Your shortbread looks absolutely amazing. I wish I had some at work right now. Love this

  25. Wow! What a way to start up Christmas. I hope you were snug and warm enough for those 40 hours! The stocking cookies are the cutest!! Love the recipe/idea! thanks.

  26. So sorry for being late in reading this Barb, I was away for over a month and now I am trying to catch up.
    We were hit by a snow storm in Mid Dec and I know exactly what you mean. There is nothing like missing things you took for granted to make you appreciate them.
    Thank you for the shortbread cookie recipe. I promised my son to make him some to take for school when it starts again next week after the winter break.

  27. Having been born and raised along the Gulf Coast in Texas, I have spent many days without power during hurricanes. When I was young, I thought it was neat. As an adult, it’s a real inconvenience, especially as the world (and me) has become more and more dependent on power.

  28. Saw your name on my like list and remembered your warm, wonderful blog–always loved your unique recipes and things about your family. Just wanted to say –hello, miss you…

    • Thanks so much for your lovely note Rhonda. It made my day. I’ve had to stop blogging for a variety of reasons, but hope to pick things up again next year. In the meantime, I’m hoping to be more regular at reading the blogs that I’ve enjoyed so much over the years. All the best to you!

      • I know what you mean– I’ve taken some blog breaks when things around here need more attention. In the end I decided to post a lot less and just see my blog as a little personal scrapbook of recipes and memories, so it doesn’t become so consuming… Hope to see your posts again when the time is right. xoxo

  29. Chef Devaux says:

    Your shortbread is absolutely gorgeous. The cookies are so delicious. I am so glad that everyone is ok now and I wish you all a Merry Christmas.

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