Think Outside the Oven – Microwave and Toaster Cookies

cookies

So my oven went out for about a week.  At first this was no big deal, I can certainly cook on the stove.  The oven wouldn’t be repaired for a few days and I made soups, chili, quesadillas, crepes, etc.  My family was eating no problem and didn’t give the oven a thought until I was to make sweets for the school garden fair.

 

I forgot about the oven and even thawed out my homemade cookie dough I had (always have) to make some quick and easy chocolate chip cookies to go with some brownies I was also going to bake and bring to the fair.  Then I went to turn on the oven and remembered.

toaster

toaster2

I didn’t want to waste my homemade dough and decided to experiment with other ways to cook it.  First I lined my toaster oven with parchment and tried to bake.  It worked!  I set the toaster on bake and it took longer than the oven, maybe 15 minutes.  But the pan is so small, the cookies were small and I couldn’t make too many at a time.  They did kind of spread together, but hey, they cooked well and were tasty!  Since they didn’t look as nice and round as usual I decided they wouldn’t be going to the fair.  However I was pleased I wouldn’t be wasting the dough.  Since I was now making these to eat for my family I wanted to try another cooking method…Yes, the microwave.  I try to control myself from experimenting with the microwave too much. Remember my post to popcorn where I started a fire while trying to pop corn in a bag?

IMG_2154

I looked online and others had tried baking cookies in a microwave too. I experimented with a plate vs a ramekin.  Ramekin was better.  I tried different cooking times so the cookie would be cooked through vs just hot dough.  What I came up with was pretty good.

The cookie became more like a cake.  I dropped a heaping tablespoon full of dough into a ramekin and cooked on high for 35 seconds.

cookie cake

I let it sit to cool a bit and it became less doughy and more cake like.  I was really excited to show my kids and loved how we could have individual servings of fresh hot cookie cakes so quickly and easily.  We even ate the warm cookie cake with ice cream on top.  Yum!

 

As for what I made for the garden fair…I went to the store and bought Rice Krispies and marshmallows for a few batches of Rice Krispies Treats.  I followed the stove top recipe on the box and added 3/4 cups of white chocolate so it was a little “out of the box” and we took them to the fair.  Although my stove is fixed we still make the cookie cakes on occasion.  Another excuse always to have homemade cookie dough on hand.

melting marshmallow

 

 

 

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Take a Stand: Tips to Help Kids Raise Money Through Food/Drink

You may have heard of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.  A little girl named Alex was diagnosed with cancer when she was 1 year old. When she was four years old, Alex asked her mom if she could have a lemonade stand to raise money for “her hospital”.  Her legacy lives on as lemonade stands all  over the country continue to support her pediatric cancer foundation to the tune of $100 million as of January 1, 2015.  How cool is that?!

My kids and friends wanted to make cookies and sell them at a stand at the park.  They’ve done lemonade stands but they wanted to make cookies all by themselves (for the first time) and then raise money to give to The Milo Foundation, a Bay Area dog and cat rescue group.  How could I say no to that?  Of course we were going there for the third time that week to try to adopt a dog.  The kids raised $19 and gave it to the foundation.  Ironically we didn’t find a dog there, but a few days later at the Marin Humane Society.  Guess we know where the next stand money will go.

Here are some steps to help you create a stand and raise money for something you or your kids believe in…

1. Make excellent homemade product.  If it’s lemonade squeeze it yourself.  If it’s cookies make them from scratch.  Store bought is not an option.  My kids made the recipe from the bag of the chocolate chip bag with some added sprinkles.  It doesn’t need to be fancy.  Here’s a lemonade recipe.

Lemonade

(Makes 3 ½ cups)

½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, juice from about 4 lemons

½ cup sugar

1 ½ cups water, divided

Heat sugar and ½ cup water over medium heat in a small saucepan.  Stir until sugar has dissolved and mixture has thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes.  This is simple syrup.  Combine lemon juice, simple syrup and additional cup of water to taste.

Chill in thermos for easy packing or plastic pitcher, if location is a short walk.

Pour over ice in plastic or paper cups.

2. Create fun signs.  Kids can get really creative with this one.

3. Set up shop with friends and family to help.

4. Choose a location with lots of people.  Think parks, game fields, school.

5. Set a fair price or simply ask for a donation for each cup. (*You’ll make more $ by asking for a donation.)

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Holiday Food Gift – How to Make Cookies in a Jar

cookiejars

The kids and I have started our holiday baking gifts.  Of course there’s cookies.  But I also like to give things that people can enjoy beyond the holidays.  So we make cookies in a jar.  I think this is especially good for teachers and co-workers and those traveling for the holidays.   Having ingredients pre-measured and ready, makes it easy for the recipient to finish the cookies quickly and can make them whenever they get a cookie craving (and they can get the credit for making them).

To make, you simply layer all the dry ingredients to your favorite cookie recipe in a clear container.  It looks pretty and allows the recipient to finish and bake when they’d like.  This Chocolate Cocoa Cranberry Cookie recipe works well because of the different colors of ingredients.  For those who may be allergic to nuts I feel free to use more chocolate or cranberries.   If you bake, you probably already have some ingredients on hand such as flour, salt, baking powder, sugars, etc.

The only other thing you need to buy is the container.  Here’s where you can get really crafty and creative if you’d like, depending on the occasion.  The recipes calls for a 1 quart jar however I’ve also used a one liter glass mason jar from The Container Store, when the quart wasn’t available.  The wide mouth jars are easier to layer and get ingredients in.  I find a screw top is simple and sturdy, and can be used again once the cookies are gone.  I’ve used various cards and tie-ons to present the recipe.  The kids can have fun personalizing these too.  I find it’s best to attach the baking instructions to the container, so the recipient doesn’t lose it when they’re ready to bake.

Once you get the hang of it and learn the layering and packing technique these are quite simple to do, and you can do a few at once. Here are a few tips for assembling:

  • Use ½ or ¼ cup size measuring cups to place ingredients in mouth of jar.
  • Layer flour in first.  If not it may seep between the layers.
  • Pack down each ingredient. This will allow everything to fit in the jar and also show the clear layers.  I use a spoon and a small juice glass.
  • Layer contrasting colors next to each other, for a better effect.  For instance, dried cranberries next to white chocolate chips and cocoa next to white sugar.
  • Wipe inside of container to clean flour and cocoa which will leave a dust and cloud glass.
  • Store in a cool, dry place
Ingredients

Chocolate Cocoa Cranberry Cookies 

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (if concerned about nuts add more chocolate and/or cranberries)
  • 1 cup total: combination of semi-sweet chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, dried cranberries

Directions for Assembling Jar

  1. Combine all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. In a 1 quart wide mouth canning jar, layer flour mixture, dark brown sugar, white sugar, cocoa, chopped pecans, and chocolate chips. Pack everything down firmly between ingredients.
  3. Attach a tag with baking instructions (This is ready to print and paste on tag)
Baking Instructions

Chocolate Cocoa Cranberry Cookies

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Empty cookie mix into large bowl.

Thoroughly blend mixture with hands or whisk.

3. Mix in 3/4 cup softened butter, 1 egg (slightly beaten),

and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

4. Shape into walnut size balls, and place 2 inches apart

on a parchment lined baking sheet.

5. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on baking

sheet, then move to wire racks.

 

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Family Heritage Homework – Pfeffernusse Cookies

pfeffernusse cookies

Much of my kids homework these days is focused on learning about family history and ancestors.  Luckily my mom has been charting and using ancestry.com to come up with some great names and family tree material.  I didn’t know my family had much German but my daughter and mother figured out that six greats back came from Germany.  Like others came to America looking for a better life.  My kids are understanding to be  grateful they were born in America and provided all the opportunities and freedom that those in other countries and even in our own history, did not have.  They also can’t imagine giving up their shorts and yoga pant style for proper clothing.

 

Last night was the culmination of my daughter’s family heritage study.  All the parents and families were invited to a feast to bring and share a dish from their heritage, and view all the family trees and country research the kids have assembled.  This was such a fun night.  The number of countries and food represented was staggering.  While it’s all exciting to see, this sample from around the world does not work well on my stomach.  The kids seems to have no problem putting sushi, next to perogie, next to spaghetti, next to baklava.  I had to be a bit more selective (and still needed Tums when I got home).  Most people made their dishes from scratch but a few were store/restaurant bought.  No judgement.  In fact I complimented a friend on her dish and she said it was frozen from the grocery store.  Apparently she perked it up  with a homemade sauce.

 

Being that my daughter picked Germany, we had a tricky time with the recipe choice.  Remember she’s a vegetarian, so bratwurst and stuffed cabbage was not going to happen.  We did a test run of some baked goods and she decided to make pfeffernuse cookies.  They are similar in flavor to a molasses or ginger cookies but with more spice, specifically pepper.  I skipped on the anise extract, as I couldn’t find.  Thankfully this made about twice as many as the 3 dozen the recipe says.  While this was an easy recipe, I had to remember to build in the 2 hour refrigeration time.  Luckily one batch, and we were on time and ready to share at school.

Pfeffernusse Cookies from allrecipes.com

makes 3 dozen

  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1/4 cup margarine
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons anise extract
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  •  1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Directions

  1. Stir together the molasses, honey, shortening, and margarine in a saucepan over medium heat; cook and stir until creamy. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in the eggs.
  2. Combine the flour, white sugar, brown sugar, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, anise, cinnamon, baking soda, pepper, and salt in a large bowl. Add the molasses mixture and stir until thoroughly combines. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Roll the dough into acorn-sized balls. Arrange on baking sheets, spacing at least 1 inch apart.
  4. Bake in preheated oven 10 to 15 minutes. Move to a rack to cool. Dust cooled cookies with confectioners’ sugar.
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Santa’s Favorite Cookies – White Chocolate Peppermint Meringues

 

I know I’ve written about cookies as currency.  But this year it is true at our house like no other time.  You see we’re doing some construction on our house.  So some days I’m baking cookies for the contractors to show my appreciation.  And some days I’m baking cookies for the neighbors to apologize for the contractors.
In between I’m making ginger molasses cookies for my friend’s cookie exchange (super fun and great way to get a variety of cookies) and sugar cookie cut-outs for my kids’ play dates.  While Baking I’m cranking the Christmas tunes for the spirit of it and to drown out the 12 banging contractors.  I thought we’d already been doing some serious baking however  my daughter asked this morning “Where are the cookies for Santa?”  I said, while gesturing to the boxes of homemade cookies, “Well any of the cookies could be for Santa”.  She indignantly replied that Santa’s favorite are the peppermint meringues and we have to give him those.  I kind of chuckled and thought well yes, they are one of “Santa’s” favorites.
Ever since I saw this recipe in the Sunset Magazine in 2011 these have been a household favorite.  They’re actually called White Christmas Dream Drops and were a first place winner from a reader in Tustin, CA.  But that doesn’t describe how chewy and light but packed with chocolate and peppermint flavor they are.  I brought some to a family gathering tonight and was asked for the recipe.  I couldn’t find the blog I had done when first discovering the Sunset issue so I figured I’d repeat myself.  I think I’ll be needing another batch anyways…for Santa of course.
White Christmas Dream Drops or White Chocolate Peppermint Meringues
  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar $
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips $
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tbsp. coarsely crushed peppermint candies

Preparation

  1. 1. Preheat oven to 250°. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in a deep bowl with a mixer, using whisk attachment if you have one, just until soft peaks form. Add vanilla and salt. With motor running and mixer on high speed, pour in 1 tbsp. sugar and beat 10 to 15 seconds, then repeat until all sugar has been added. Scrape inside of bowl and beat another 15 seconds. At this point, meringue should form straight peaks when beaters are lifted. Fold in chocolate chips and 1/3 cup candies with a flexible spatula.
  2. 2. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, using a bit of meringue at corners as glue. Using a soup spoon, drop meringue in rounded 1-tbsp. portions slightly apart onto sheets, scraping off with another spoon. Sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tbsp. candies.
  3. 3. Bake until meringues feel dry and set when touched but are still pale, 30 to 35 minutes, switching pan positions halfway through. Turn off oven, open door, and let cookies stand about 10 minutes. Let cool on pans.
  4. Make ahead: Up to 2 days, stored airtight.
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Halloween Food Fun…

My family loves Halloween.  Carving pumpkins, creepy decorations, random costumes, festive food…what’s not to like?!  In looking back at some older Halloween posts I got very nostalgic when seeing my little shirtless pumpkin carvers and matching costumes (those days are long gone).  Here’s a few of the recipes we’ve been testing out as well as some of my old favorites if you’re looking for inspiration for the big night.

Seems my kids’ school is always looking for fruit treats on Halloween.  I did these yummy and adorable Halloween Fruit Treats a few years ago.  (hollowed out oranges with fruit salad)  The school seems to think the health factor will balance out all that candy they’re going to haul in later in the night.  And the teachers know the kids are already on a high from the parades and costumes and don’t to deal with candy overloads as well.  I was in a middle school this week where I actually heard a school administrator announce over the loud speaker “Due to the recent violent activity there will be no more candy allowed in class”.  I knew candy was scary, but what kind of violence?  Stealing other’s candy?  And why do they allow candy in middle school anyways?  I was told there is a big difference between elementary and middle school rules regarding food.  Uh oh…

Another fun idea is the witches fingers.  You know…breadsticks with an almond for the nail.  These are great with soup or alone on a veggie and dip platter.  Again works at school celebrations as well as Halloween night potluck.  Last year it was all about the mummy potatoes.  We had so many potatoes left over from our pumpkin patch dig that I really needed to get creative.  And this was an easy and filling appetizer before heading out into the trick or treat darkness.

This year I’ve been experimenting with spaghetti nests.  You know…baking cooked spaghetti in muffin cups for a nest like presentation.  Yes, it could be easily dressed as a nest in springtime but for Fall it’s all about the mummy factor.  I’m adding a few olive and caper eyes and a pool of sauce (pesto or marinara) and this will be offered as a pre-candy course.

The ultimate test for me this year was the gelatin brain.  This was funny and tricky on many levels.  My father in law has a running joke that he was born the year of the brain (like the chinese zodiac).  This irritates my 7 year old daughter to no end.  He signs cards and gifts to her “love, the brain” and she yells back “You are not the brain!”  So when I saw this gelatin mold a few weeks before my in-laws visit I had to try it.  I am not a gelatin fan for many reasons.  Because my daughter is vegetarian I attempted the gelatin brain with a gelatin substitute.  I made it the night before “the brain’s” arrival, but it didn’t set.  My daughter and I snuck out to the store to get the old Jello gelatin with the understanding that, a) I tried, b) the joke was more important than her being able to eat it and c) Jello is gross.  This time it worked and everyone had a good laugh.  I found a photo and recipe of a gelatin brain that is super disgusting, so for Halloween with friends I’ll be making this one.  Let’s cross our fingers it works.

If you don’t feel like waiting for an 8 hour gelatin mold, or hollowing out 20 oranges, a few simple spiders or plastic skeleton (swimming in hummus, above) go a long way to dress up just about any food.  Cookie cutters are a great way to get festive too.  My sister sent us a few new ones this year.  With over 120 cutters can you believe I didn’t have tombstones, a scary cat or vampire fangs?  Now I do!  We made a batch of sugar cookies to test them out today  And let’s not forget to roast the pumpkin seeds after all the carving efforts.  Trick or treat!

 

 

 

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My Boy’s Birthday…from Baklava to BBQ

My son’s birthday was mid-week in summer.  This means something small and intimate – which is great by me.  He chose to go to La Mediterranee in San Francisco for his birthday dinner.  He had his favorite food – Chicken Celicia, followed by a new favorite dessert – baklava.  He was quite happy.

 

 
a smiling hummus face

I don’t do kids’ birthday parties every year.  In fact there have only been 1 or 2 parties in my children’s lives so far.  Last year my son wanted a party with lots of his friends.  We invited and send out the invites, however only one could come (that summer thing) – so we had to postpone until September.  It was fun but not as festive.  This year my son wanted to have a few friends for a few sleepovers.  This is fine.  That’s what happens at age 9 in the summer anyway.

 

ready for the grill

 

ready for sleep...not

We had two boys over for a cookout and backyard campout.  My son wanted cheeseburgers (however there was also tofu for my daughter and portobellos for my husband), homemade chips and homemade vanilla and chocolate ice cream sandwiches.  The boys went to town on the cheeseburgers.  I of course love when kids eat their food and one even asked for a second burger.  The friends were disappointed there was not going to be cake…until they tasted the ice cream sandwiches and loved them.  We have an ice cream sandwich mold which makes these treats easy to assemble.  I made the vanilla ice cream (same as my daughter’s b-day) a few days prior, and the chocolate cookies the night before.  So assembling the morning of the party was simple.

 

cut cookies...
scooping and molding
voila!

The camping part was tricky as we just put in artificial turf.  Thus we realized we couldn’t steak the tent into the ground.  We didn’t worry too much as the boys played with flashlights, told jokes and giggled for about an hour and one half inside the tent.  However a gust of wind came through the yard about 10:45 pm and my husband and I heard “Help! We can’t get out!”  I went out to find the tent and boys tipped up on the back wall of the tent and the boys couldn’t reach the zipper (now on the roof).  Laughing and tired, I got them out and they came inside to “camp” in the living room.

Breakfast of course was my husband’s famous pancakes.  Studded with chocolate chips for the occasion.

 

Stay tuned to read what’s in store for the final July birthday of the year….mine.

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Sprinklebakes by Heather Baird – Cookbook Review (Dessert Porn)

 

Did that get your attention?  The best way I can describe Sprinklebakes, Dessert Recipes to Inspire Your Inner Artist is dessert porn.  I am not kidding.  The cover is not exciting or sexy, but the images inside are beautiful and sinful and I can’t stop looking at the book.  These are all the beautiful things I wish I could make but don’t have the creativity, time or patience.  Although I am inspired and there are some approachable recipes and ones which I hope to build my confidence and venture deeper into Heather’s artistry.  Heather has a sprinkle bakes blog, but unfortunately I can’t get any of the photos to load, so you’ll have to visit another time.

In looking at some of these pictures such as hand painted cookies (literally Mehndi Hand Cookies), sugar sculptures (Dale Chihuly-Inspired Candy Bowls) and outrageous “mixed media” creations (Anatomical Heart Cake) I try to make myself feel better in knowing that the author was a painter before turning her creative skills to sweets.  Thus her artistry may never be mine.  However I can aspire and learn from her text and instructions on color theory, brush strokes, sculpture molds, candy making and more.   In the meantime I’ll practice on her more simple but delicious recipes for tart shells, pastry creams, cupcakes and candies.

 

Book Review

Pros: amazing photos, comprehensive dessert cookbook for many creative and tasty recipes, thorough instructions

Cons: some recipes may be intimidating and overwhelming for some while inspirational to others,  time consuming, some items require much planning and purchasing online

I used Heather’s tart crust and pastry cream recipes and combined them to make a wonderful berry fruit tart on Memorial Day.  See my photo below.  I liked that this was using her recipes to make my own creation because I didn’t have to compete with one of her images.  And it was a big hit for looks and taste.

So my kids asked me to make it again last weekend for a friend’s dinner party and it didn’t work as well.  I don’t blame the recipe, I blame myself.  It was one of those days when there’s too much to do and you try to squeeze in making a dessert.  Do you do that too?  Yes, I was a bit ambitious for the events of the day.  I wasn’t as patient with cooking the cream, so when I went to take it out of the refrigerator it had not set properly and was quite runny.  This of course I didn’t discover until I was going to assemble the tart 15 minutes before leaving for said friends’.  We ate it anyway.  That’s what friends are for.  Kind of a shortbread cookie with berries and cream.  Still tasty, but not as lovely as Memorial Day.

Here’s the tart crust recipe which is very versatile and I will use over and over with various fillings and fruits this summer.

TART CRUST page 89 from Sprinklebakes

YIELD: Approximately 2K cups, enough for 8 to 10 small apples, 20 crab apples, or ½ pound grapesor cherries

This tart crust is remarkably easy to make and comes out perfectly every time. It takes just a couple of spins in the food processor to have beautiful buttery pastry dough.

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading

3 tablespoons sugar

K teaspoon salt

½  pound (1 stick) cold butter, cut into ¼ -inch cubes

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 egg yolk

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 tablespoon water

1. Generously grease a tart pan with vegeta­ble shortening.

2. Pulse the flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor until combined.

3. Add the butter and zest and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal with some small pea-size butter lumps.

4. Add the egg yolk, vanilla, and water and pulse until just incorporated and the dough begins to form large clumps.

5. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface and knead slightly. Gather the dough together and form into a ball. Flatten into a disc or rectangle, depending on what shape pan you are using.

6. Press the dough over the bottom and up the sides of the pan in an even layer with well-floured fingers. Chill the shell for 45 minutes.

7. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

8. Lightly prick the bottom of the shell many times with a fork, and bake until the sides are set and the edge is golden, about 20 minutes.

9. Cool the shell completely in the pan on a rack.

SUGGESTIONS FOR TART SHELL USE

Chocolate Tart: Fill the baked, cooled tart shell with cooled liquid chocolate ganache. Refrigerate until set and serve with fresh whipped cream and raspber­ries.

Lemon Blueberry Tart: Fill the baked, cooled tart shell with freshly made lemon curd. Refrigerate until set. Top with fresh blueberries and dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving.

Tropical Fruit Tart: Fill the baked, cooled tart shell with vanilla pastry cream. Top with slices of kiwi, pineapple, and mango and sprinkle with toasted coconut.

 

 

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Easy, Fast Foodie Gifts for All

A View of My Countertops

Since I like to cook and everyone likes to eat, I like to make food gifts for the holidays.  They’re always the right size, never go out of style and can be made non-denominational.  So everyone can be pleased – from neighbors, to friends, to teachers, to family, etc.

Because my oven is still working, even though never “fixed”, I’m kind of scared to turn it off.  O.K. not really.  But it seems like it’s been on and I’ve been baking for 2 weeks solid.  I’m not complaining, although I need more counter space.  I’ve made a few usual favorite cookies such as Molasses Sugar Cookies.  But this year I opened my December Sunset magazine and was inspired to try their cookie contest winners.   The White Christmas Dream Drops  (click for recipe) are chewy and refreshing (and easier to make than say the name), and I can see why they won first place (Good going, Dustin and Erin Beutin of Tustin, CA).  They were my son’s choice for his school party.  While the Chai Spiced Shortbread cookies are more subtle.  I love them with tea and can’t wait to experiment with different types of tea bags for the dough.  They were a runner up (Congrats Anissa Shea from Walnut Creek, CA).  I made a variety to give to neighbors and our contractors (yes, we’re in the middle of some construction to make the holiday a bit more hectic).

 

crushing candy canes
White Christmas Dream Drops
chai spiced shortbread

For those who may receive lots of sweets at the holidays, I make a cookie mix jar.  This way you are giving a fun treat for the recipient to make anytime they have a craving (whether it’s January or July).  They are festive looking and the jars are quicker to measure and assemble, than make than the actual cookies.  Plus the 1 quart reusable jar has lots of recycle uses (we use them for shells and eraser collections at my house).  To present them, I found some good sturdy reusable bags with peace signs at Whole Foods that are cute.  This year my kids asked “How come we never make those cookies, just the jars?”  A good question.  So I made a batch for us, no jar necessary.  They are yummy!  Good thing, since we made them and gave them to teachers and friends.

 

cookie mix jar

 

cocoa chocolate chip cookies from jar mix

Finally, this year I also gave a mulled wine kit.  I picked up a copy of A Greener Christmas by Sheherazade Goldsmith, which has lots of DIY ideas for gift giving.  I wish I had it earlier in the season.  Filled with fun crafts for kids too.  This recipe was easy and something different from the usual wine hostess gift.

mulled wine bouquet

Mulled Wine Kit

1 cinnamon stick, break into 3 pieces

6 cardamon pods, lightly crushed

fresh nutmeg, grated

12 cloves

1 square cheesecloth (7 x 7)

1 pinch ground ginger

length of twine

1 bottle red wine (I used a french red table wine)

All the spices go into the center of the cheesecloth.  Carefully sprinkle the ground herbs over the whole.  (Because some may come out the cheesecloth, I wrapped the spice bouquet in plastic wrap before attchin to the wine bottle.  Gather cheesecloth and tie into a bouquet.  Tie around wine bottle with instruction card.

Instructions for Mulling Wine:

Put the wine, spice bouquet and 1/2 cup water and 6 tablespoons raw sugar into t pan.  Heat gently until sugar has dissolved, but don’t allow wine to come to a boil.  If you’d like optional ingredients include:

slices of oranges and lemons

juice of 1 orange

splash of port or brandy

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Pass the Peanut Butter

Summer means a break from the nut butter bans at my house.  We can’t pack it for school or camp, but we can for summer picnics, camping and at home playdate lunches.  Of course we check before serving, but luckily my kids’ usual friends don’t have issues.  We even got crazy and I made peanut butter cookies (recipe below).  I can’t remember the last time I did that.

 

Allery News

There have been a few articles recently about the rise in nut allergies and some pretty angry parents who are just getting into school with nut free policies.  Your child will survive at school without peanut butter, while another may not survive because of it.  Think of it that way, before you get mad at policies, schools and parents who deal with an allergic child.  Enjoy it at home and use the bans to discover something new with your kids for lunch.

 

Taste Test

We like to do taste tests at my house.  My daughter wasn’t to be fooled when we did various milks at a (see blog about our milk test for a cookie party).  She still doesn’t drink cow’s milk.  So about about finding an alternative for peanut butter when school starts?  Soy nut butter and sunflower butter are big at my house.  Or try an entirely diffrent tasting type of spread such as hummus, black bean or cream cheese.  Try it on tortiallas, bread, flatbread, bagels, crumpets, crackers, etc.  I bet you’re family will find a new favorite you can safely pack, come back to school day.

 

Enjoy these cookies before school starts, on the weekend or as an after school treat.

 

Peanut Butter Cookies

(adapted from the Ski Lodge Cookbook by Tina Andersen)

Makes 24 cookies

1 cup peanut butter

1 cup sugar

1 large egg, slightly beaten

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350F.  Layer baking sheets with parchment paper.

 

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls and place 2 inches apart on baking sheets.  Flatten dough balls with fork tines to make a crisscross.

Bake until puffed and light golden brown, 8 – 19 minutes.  Cool on baking sheets 2 minutes.  Transfer to baking rack to cool completely.

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