Most middle-aged people start regularly thinking about their pending retirement. They re-look at their investments and sometimes change their high-risk portfolios to more cautious ones and if not already doing so, stop accumulating and begin to downsize everything but their savings. Gail was not like most in their late 40′s when she decided to take a risk, on herself. When her position in New York’s 7th Avenue fashion industry became another statistic in the world of *re-structuring*, she decided that it was time to follow her passion. Enrolling in the French Culinary Institute and specializing in Pastry Arts she set out on a path that would change her life. Upon graduating at the top of her class, she spent time honing her craft interning and working at different bakeries in New York. Like most artists, Gail soon discovered that she worked best autonomously, so with some of her savings, and rounding the corner towards 50 she began accumulating. A studio for her own business, baking supplies, a website, a logo and a lot of faith in that what she had to offer definitely had a market. She had found her calling and she knew clients would come calling and they did! One Tough Cookie NYC has been creating high in-demand edible works of art since the summer of 2005. In following her dream Gail has become the premiere confectionery artist able to realize client’s dreams on personalized two and three-tiered buttercream coated mountains of magic adorned with spectacularly detailed coordinating cookies. She has been a guest on over five television and radio news and shows including MSNBC where her latest edible pieces of cookie art were showcased during coverage leading up to the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Martha Stewart has featured Gail’s masterpieces on her show as you can see here (9 min. into the video) and Bride’s Magazine is among the many who have commissioned her talents. Gail’s amiable wit and engaging personality is in as much demand as her cakes and cookies, as is evident in the numerous articles that have been published about her and the MSL radio station that frequently has her on as a guest. In March of 2010 Gail ventured into the world of blogging and her posts are as entertaining as they are educational. For those unable to take advantage of the 3 hour decorating classes she runs in Greenwich Village New York, Gail graciously shares many of her decorating secrets and tips with her loyal following of blog readers. She’s also known to dispense some decorating advice in 140 characters or less on her Twitter account. Gail’s passion is not solely reserved for her baked goods. The joy of so successfully having followed her dream is all the more sweeter because it has been shared with J, her partner of 29 years and her beloved Mitzi. New Yorkers may be lucky enough to someday spot Gail’s furry four-legged assistant tucked in her little black tote helping escort the latest order safely to a client. Mitzi has also been known to lend her image to help raise money for animal welfare. While what comes off the clothing racks of 7th Avenue will change with every season, what comes off the baking racks of One Tough Cookie NYC will remain constant. One of a kind cakes, cookies and cupcakes for any occasion that are timeless and with a memorable appeal that will last long after the last delicious crumb has been eaten. I’m honoured that Gail is here today sharing her story and recipe with us. You can follow her on Twitter @THEToughCookie
♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
I can’t remember a time that I didn’t know the word ‘cancer’.
Both sides of my family had their (un)fair share of illness and death brought by this wretched disease. Three out of four of my grandparents, two maternal aunts and one of my first cousins all had some form of cancer written on their death certificates. Then there are the ones who’ve had cancer and survived.
My mother’s eldest sister and her two daughters all had breast cancer. Interestingly enough, there’s no sign of the
BRCA gene in our genetic makeup. Nonetheless, I started annual breast screenings before my 40th birthday. I’ve been lucky, very very lucky. The older I get, the more nerve-wracking it gets, actually. Like a game of musical chairs, I find myself thinking I’m still in the game, but there are fewer and fewer chairs. It just means I have to remain vigilant and never miss an appointment.
I always thought someday I’d have to deal with my own breast cancer battle. I was mentally prepared for it, or so I thought. But, that’s never happened. What did happen was when I was 48 I went for my first colonoscopy, (thanks again to the power of genetic history), and a rather large, precancerous polyp was found and removed.
Precancerous. I was thin. I exercised regularly. I had no symptoms. How the hell did this happen? Oh, right….my family history. My mother had a bout with colon cancer. My mother’s middle sister died from it. My first cousin died at 52 because he didn’t react quickly enough when he first exhibited symptoms.
It’s been almost 10 years since I had my first colonoscopy and I haven’t had a problem since my first visit. The prep? It’s still awful, but I reward myself with a special ‘after the procedure’ favorite meal.
We can all try to eat right and exercise regularly. But that’s only half the formula. We must be checked regularly. Sure colorectal cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in men and women in the US. But it’s also the cancer, that when caught early, has the best survival rate. Don’t wait until the symptoms appear. By then, it’s probably more advanced. If you have a history of colon cancer in your family, tell your doctor. Get checked. You’ll survive the prep. Trust me.
And, then, reward yourself with my favorite cookie of all time.
Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies from the inimitable Martha Stewart. This little gem conquers all cravings with it’s melty chocolatey goodness and a big kick of spicy ginger.
Perfect for all seasons, too.
They freeze well, too. You know, for AFTER the colonoscopy.
Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies from Martha Stewart
Yield: Aprox. 2 dozen cookies
7 ounces best-quality semisweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Chop chocolate into 1/4-inch chunks; set aside. In a medium bowl, sift together flour, ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cocoa.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and grated ginger until whitened, about 4 minutes. Add brown sugar; beat until combined. Add molasses; beat until combined.
3. In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in 1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water. Beat half of flour mixture into butter mixture. Beat in baking-soda mixture, then remaining half of flour mixture. Mix in chocolate; turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap. Pat dough out to about 1 inch thick; seal with wrap; refrigerate until firm, 2 hours or more.
4. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Roll dough into 1 1/2- inch balls; place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Refrigerate 20 minutes. Roll in granulated sugar. Bake until the surfaces crack slightly, 10 to 12 minutes.
5. Let cool 5 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.