What Color are Your Leaves?

maple leaf cookiesjpg

Soon the crisp coolness of autumn will be nipping at the air, and nothing inspires me to spend more time in the kitchen than when the temperatures start to drop a bit!  The warmth of the oven, the hearty aromas of simmering soups, chowders and stews, baking breads and sweet desserts are so welcoming when it’s chilly outside! So in celebration of the soon-arriving fall season, I think some colorful sugar cookies would be the perfect way to welcome it in!  Any leaf-type cookie cutters are great for this project, but if you have a maple leaf design, that’s even better! So grab your cookie cutter (or if you’re in need of one, take a look at http://www.cookiecuttersonline.com/?maple_leaf_cookie_cutter), and let’s get busy!

Maple Leaf Fall Cookies

Ingredients

Cookies:
•          1 cup butter, softened
•           1 cup sugar
•           2 eggs
•           1 teaspoon vanilla extract
•           3 cups all-purpose flour
•           2 teaspoons cream of tartar
•           1 teaspoon baking soda
•           Dash salt

Frosting:
•           4 cups confectioners’ sugar
•           2 tablespoons butter, softened
•           1 teaspoon vanilla extract
•           1/2 teaspoon salt
•           3/4 cup maple syrup
•           Maple leaf cookie cutter (2-3/4 inches)
•           Red, orange, and yellow (and green if desired) paste or liquid food coloring
•           Pastry or heavy-duty resealable plastic bag
•           #3 round pastry tip, optional

Directions:
In a bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; mix well. Combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt; add to creamed mixture and mix well. Roll out on a floured surface to 1/8-in. thickness; cut with a cookie cutter dipped in flour. Place them 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned (do not over bake). Remove to wire racks to cool. For frosting, beat confectioners’ sugar, butter, vanilla and salt. Add syrup; beat until smooth. Divide the icing up into 3 bowls, and if leaf veins are desired, set aside an additional 1/2 cup; stir in a drop or two of red, orange, and yellow food coloring (and green if creating veins) to each frosting bowl. Add more food coloring, if desired, to darken it to the shade you want. Spread the frosting on the cookies. Cut a small hole in the corner of a plastic bag and insert round tip into bag. Fill bag with the brown frosting and pipe veins onto the leaves. Yield: about 6 dozen.

Food for ThoughtFOOD FOR THOUGHT:

Every autumn, I am always awestruck by the beauty of God’s creation. As the green leaves transition to a spectacular blend of fiery yellows, oranges, and reds, they are such a breathtaking demonstration that there is NO artist like our Father! What the painter’s brush can only imitate, He has created!

I did a little research about this God-orchestrated activity . . . and did you know that seasonal conditions (such as a lot of rain or too little rain) are the key factors in the timing and coloration of the leaves? When we experience a summer drought, the fall colors are more muted and less colorful. However, a summer with an abundance of rain, followed by clear, sunny days and cool nights in late September-early October bring about the most striking autumn colors.  Similarly, as Christians, there are certain conditions that can cause spiritual changes in our lives, aren’t there?  In the spiritual sense, when we position ourselves in a drought-like situation . . . with little or no prayer or intimacy with the Lord . . . little or no reading of His Word . . . when we quench the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in our lives . . . we, too, will lack His beauty, His brilliance, and His strength.  Send your rain, Lord!

As the temperatures cool and the days shorten, cells at the base of the leaves disintegrate, blocking passages from the leaves to the branches and causing the chlorophyll to decompose. Chlorophyll is what gives most plants their green color. As the chlorophyll dies away, the yellow pigments (carotenoids) and red pigments (anthocyanins), come to the surface.   And so it is when we die to self . . . when we block fleshly desires from ruling our bodies and allow the Holy Spirit to take control, His character permeates us . . . and the beauty of Christ comes to the surface.

Trees with leaves having a lot of carotenoids (like beech, birch and willow), turn varying shades of yellow. When anthocyanins predominate (as in the case of many maples, dogwoods and sumac), the reds appear. Variations in color from tree to tree, or even from branch to branch, are often caused by stress factors like disease, injury, or unusually wet or dry conditions. These factors contribute to the timing and degree of brilliance of the changing colors.  As followers of Christ, when we fully yield to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to mold us (painful though sometimes that may be), our transformation will be complete.  And just as the Master Artist ordained it, our individual gifts will complement the needs of the Body and we will radiate the brilliance of Jesus Christ!  There are beautiful variations from Christian to Christian and even church house to church house – and all were created by the Master Artist to complement each other, so that when we are united in harmony, we are a breathtaking picture to the world!

–Cheri Henderson

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