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
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. 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. 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.
One of my 2013 resolutions is to eat and introduce more dark greens with my family. My kids already love dinosaur (aka lacinto) kale chips – recipe below. And we like sauteed greens with garlic (a little bacon helps sometimes for my son). But I want to embrace a bigger variety of types, recipes and flavors. I was inspired by Sunset Magazine’s January Eat Clean article and I started the new year by making a lovely recipe from the issue – Quinoa Bowl with Chard and Poached Egg.
My daughter and sous chef was really funny when prepping the chard for this recipe. I took a few photos and a silly video of her using the leaves as pom poms. I haven’t tried posting a video here. However another of my hopes for 2013 is to embrace technology and change a bit more. So here’s a video of my daughter cheering for …..chard.
These are a great was to get crunch and nutrition into a side dish or healthy snack for your family. Feel free to try various spices to kick ‘em up. Be sure to keep an eye on the kale during cooking time to be sure leaves do not burn and turn bitter.
1 bunch lacinto kale, washed and dried
½ teaspoon sea salt, garlic salt, or other spice
Prepare two baking sheets with aluminum foil and cooking spray.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Separate outer leaves from center ribs of each kale leaf. Discard ribs.
Lay leaves on prepared sheets and spray or brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.. Bake in oven about 3 – 4 minutes. Remove tray from oven and turn over each leaf. Cook another 2 – 3 minutes or until crisp but not charred
Did you miss me? My family was lucky enough to spend spring break in Hawaii. It was so wonderful to enjoy the ocean and be warm for an entire week. I never remembered Hawaii as a great culinary mecca, but we had some great meals. Some we prepared at our condo and some we enjoyed while out and about Oahu. My kids started appreciating Pog (a blend of pineapple, guava and orange juices) as soon as we got on the plane.
My kids loved all the fresh fruit. My son especially likes papaya and it was everywhere.
Probably the best meal was at a roadside cafe called Sweet Home Waimanalo on the North Shore. So glad I saved an article with recommendations from Sunset Magazine. I would’ve never found it. The fish tacos and portobello tacos were wonderful. As was the hibiscus lemonade. Another suggestion was OnoPops, sold at Whole Foods, Farmers Markets and Down to Earth (a vegetarian market where we found them). Interesting flavors like cheesecake, mango cream, lychee and mexican chocolate (our favorite).
Of course a visit isn’t complete without a visit to Roy’s. I went once before and didn’t think that much of it when in Maui. But this time was great. Roys Ko Olina was overlooking a lovely golf course. Very hospitable and kid friendly service. Good activity book with coloring, word search and educational info for the kids. It took us through my husband and I’d three courses (deal on Mondays for $42!) Take a look at my son’s starter – fish shaped potstickers (above). My daughter’s vegetarian diet was certainly accommodated. I think we all enjoyed the chocolate souffle (a Roy’s specialty) and macadamia tart. See our before and after shared plates.
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).
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.
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 Kit
1 cinnamon stick, break into 3 pieces
6 cardamon pods, lightly crushed
fresh nutmeg, grated
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: