• What Have I Done For You Lately…

  • Categories

  • Archives

  • Meta

September 11 Service Thanks – Baking

Hello Friends,

I am on the Volunteer Board for Charlotte at my company, and we recently did a pretty neat volunteer event which I thought I’d share with everyone.

In honor of the fire, police and sheriff personnel in our city who put their lives on the line and go out of their way for their community every day – we decided to honor their service with thanks around September 11. In recognition, volunteers were asked to provide any combination of baked goods, purchased snacks or drinks to any of 138 local stations for these three groups of service.

Due to being a bit special, I took on the 8 local Sheriff Department locations (605 people), and wanted to provide 2 cookies per person. Since I made this wonderful decision on Monday night, with  Tuesday being the last day to deliver for this event, I brilliantly consented to baking 1210 cookies in one night. Pre-planning is a brilliant thing, please let me tell you now!

Anyways, I enlisted a coworker to help me by making 8 dozen cookies (that is 96 for those not quick on multiplying-by-12 games). That left me with only 1114 cookies to bake! 🙂 Easy peasy, lemon squeezy, right?!

Another coworker found me a basic English Shortbread recipe that is basically flour-sugar-butter-bake. So I adapted that. If I’m doing something easy, I want it to be tasty too, seriously!

To make this amount of cookies, I bought 10 pounds of flour, 8 pounds of sugar, 135 oz of Country Crock margarine (3 tubs, proceeds from which support the Wounded Warriors Project), 2 bags of mini chocolate chips, 2 bags of toffee chips (like these), and 1 5-oz bag of Cherry Craisins. I also used on-hand vanilla extract for this recipe, so make sure you have some of that!

Doing 1 batch at a time, combine 2 cups margarine with 1 cup sugar and cream in your mixing bowl on high speed. Once mixed well, add in 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, and blend until well combined.

margarine sugar vanilla shortbread cookies

Cream the sugar and vanilla with margarine!

Gradually add in 4 cups flour to this mixture, on medium speed, and mix until fully combined. Dough will be very slightly sticky, but easy to handle.

margarine sugar vanilla flour shortbread cookies

Add in some flour!

Once you have this dough made, add your ‘extra flavor’ – mini chocolate chips, toffee chips, or Craisins (see note below).

margarine sugar flour vanilla chocolate chip toffee chip craisin shortbread cookies

Add in your flavor chips!

For the craisins: combine 1/2 cup craisins with 2 tablespoons sugar, and process in your food processor or pulse for 20 seconds in your Magic Bullet Blender. This allows them to be bite sized and easier to add into the cookies!

Preheat oven to 350, and spray cookie sheets with cooking spray. I put foil on all my cookie sheets then sprayed with cooking spray for easier clean-up later!

margarine sugar flour vanilla chocolate chip toffee chip craisin shortbread cookies

Scoop your dough onto your cookie sheets to bake!

Bake your cookies for 13 minutes, and immediately remove from oven to cool on an oven mitt away from the oven. Let cool 2-3 minutes before removing from the cookie sheet onto a cooling rack. Let cool an additional 2-3 minutes before putting into plastic quart-sized freezer bags for storage and delivery. Seal tightly, and deliver for a yummy treat!

Since we had 8 locations for what I signed up for, I took some paper grocery bags, labelled them for each location, calculated how many cookies (2 per person) for each location, and then bagged up the different cookies accordingly for each paper bag delivery!

margarine sugar flour vanilla chocolate chip toffee chip craisin shortbread cookies

Package cookies for delivery!

This is what it finally looked like when all cookies were completed and prepped for delivery:

margarine sugar flour vanilla chocolate chip toffee chip craisin shortbread cookies

Delivery bags for 8 locations!

Craft You Later,
Beth

Baking Is Science For Hungry People: Little Snowballs

Hey again Baking Friends!

One of my favorite series of books to read is the Hannah Swensen Mystery series by Joanne Fluke. I like that it’s murder mystery style books, with a lot of the every day monotony thrown in that most books leave out, and then the best part is the recipes! I have tried lots of Joanne’s recipes, and have yet to find one that I don’t like. One of these days I will try her coffee trick, I swear, but I need a huge batch of coffee drinkers to do it.

Anyways, a few years ago my work did a Cookies for Civil Servants thing around Christmas where everyone brought in bags of scratch-made cookies, and volunteers distributed them to Charlotte Mecklenburg Police, Fire and Medic stations across the county. I had made some extras for my co-workers, small samples of the 4 cookies that I made, and one of my friends LOVED the Little Snowballs that I made. Think similar to a Wedding Cake Cookie.

Little Snowballs!

Since her birthday is at the end of June, I decided to make her a batch of cookies for a snack. Hee. Birthday cookies will get you every time! Muahahaha.

So anyways, here is the recipe, and hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

What You’ll Need:
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, melted (3 sticks)
3/4 cup powdered sugar, plus 1/4 cup for coating
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (walnut chips and sliced almonds are my go-to choices for these cookies!)

How To Make Them:
1.
Preheat over to 350 F. Melt the butter in microwave for 2 minutes.
2. Add in 3/4 cup powdered sugar, vanilla, nutmeg and salt, and mix well. Add the flour and mix throughly. Stir in the nuts until evenly distributed.
3. Form the dough into one-inch balls (just pat them into shape with your fingers), and place them on an UNGREASED baking sheet.
4. Bake them for 10 minutes, until they are set but not brown. Remove from oven.
5. Let the cookies cool for 2 minutes, then roll them in powdered sugar. (You must do this while they’re still warm.) Place them on a wire rack and let them cool completely.
6. When the cookies are completely cooled, roll them in powdered sugar again. Let them rest for several minutes on the rack, and then store them in a cookie jar or a covered bowl, or a large freezer ziploc bag! Enjoy them with friends!

Yield: 90-100 cookies (Nutrition Information: 47 calories per cookie, 2.9g fat, 4.2g carb, 0.6g protein, 8mg sodium, 7mg cholesterol)

So there they are, try it out, enjoy, and please let me know what you think! YUM!

I will say, I do intend to try a few variations on this cookie throughout this summer: substituting butter for Butter Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil, adding lemon juice + lemon rind to make Lemon Snowballs, substituting butter for applesauce + canola oil, substituting nuts for dried fruit, substituting macadamia nuts + coconut for the nuts, and finally doing the original recipe around a jumbo chocolate chip. I will, of course, keep you all posted on how these all turn out!

Craft You Later,
Beth

Baking Is Science For Hungry People: Oatmeal Currant Cookies

Well hello again friends, nice to see you again. Twice in one week, I know, you are impressed that I am actually back in it again, aren’t you? 😉 Gotta love baking weeks. Well, okay, at least I love them. I chose some new victims — I mean taste testers — for this week. A friend’s family graciously volunteered. Okay, that may be over-stating it. A friend volunteered their family. There, that is more accurate. I would hate to mislead you, really. So I made the Banana-Ganache Cupcakes and was actually in the mood to bake more. So I thought “Hey, why not some cookies too!”, and was trying to decide what kind to make when I saw a red box in the corner of the kitchen. Perfect! California Raisin time – woohoo! So yes, we now have a decision: Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, yay! 🙂

Now about this time, you are probably thinking “Oatmeal Raisin? You said ‘Oatmeal Currant, so what is  this crazy madness talk you are going on about?” Alright, I will enlighten you. Feel lucky. So I mention that red box that we all know and love for the California Raisins, right? Yeah, turns out when I actually grabbed the box out of its hiding spot, it was a box of Zante Currants. Same brand as the raisins, so I was fooled by packaging and branding. Darnit. But that is okay, I am nothing if not adaptable, right?!? Sure, we’ll go with that. Just nod and smile for me, that’s it, I promise I won’t be upset.

So now to make the Oatmeal Currant Cookies. Are you ready with me? Are you excited? I know I am. Join me in the fun, why don’t you?

First off, we need to make our base for cookies. Now one thing you need to know about my cookies is that I do not use eggs, and it is the one time I prefer margarine to butter in baking. And yes partly because of cost-effectiveness I won’t lie. Tubs of margarine seem so much cheaper and better deals when you’re using cups of the stuff at a time, don’t you agree?

Oatmeal Currant Cookies: A Cookie Base Beat

Take 1 cup of margarine and melt it in a microwaveable mixing bowl, usually about 45 seconds works for me. Once you have the margarine nice and melted, add in 1 cup of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, and half a 3-oz package of instant-sugar-free vanilla pudding mix. Mix well, and make sure it is not clumpy.

Oatmeal Currant Cookies: Brown Sugar, Sugar

Next add in 1/2 cup of brown sugar, again mixing well so there are no lumps.

Oatmeal Currant Cookies: Oats In The Mix

Next add in 1 cup of oatmeal and, you guessed it, make sure it isn’t lumpy. I am sure you are tired of hearing that, but I promise the cookies taste much better if they are evenly mixed. I wouldn’t lie to you about this, I promise. It is all about baking a great cookie, right? Go cookie team!

Oatmeal Currant Cookies: Flour Power!

Now we get to the binding of the cookie mixture. Add in around 2-3 cups of flour, make sure the dough is not sticky but not too dry either.
Like this:

Oatmeal Currant Cookies: Plump Your Currants

Once you add the flour, set the dough aside, and pour the currants (about 1 1/2 cups worth, or half a bag) into a small bowl half filled with water. Let soak for roughly 5 minutes until they start to get a little plump. You can also add in about 1/8 cup of sugar to sweeten them up a bit while they soak. Drain the water from the currants, now they are ready to make cookie-able!

Oatmeal Currant Cookies: Currant In The Cookie

Gradually add in the currants to the cookie dough, mixing until evenly distributed.

Oatmeal Currant Cookies: Scoop of Cookie

Now take small scoops or pinches of cookie dough like above and roll into balls to place on a greased cookie sheet. While doing this, preheat your oven to 375 F.

Oatmeal Currant Cookies: Cookie Sheets

I personally prefer baking my cookies on greased sheets of aluminum foil, as they seem to work better to get the cookies cleanly off in the morning. Now if you have air-bake cookie sheets this should be unnecessary. But just in case, you are forewarned.

Oatmeal Currant Cookies: Voilà Finished Cookies

Bake the cookies for 7 minutes 25 seconds (yes, I have it precisely down, have no fear, though cooking times may vary by oven about 15 seconds either side). I take them out of the oven and let them sit on the cookie tray for another 2 minutes, where they continue to bake. Then I remove to a cooling rack for the last few minutes of cooling. Now, all that is left is to enjoy!

Let me know how you like these, and until then…
Craft You Later,
Beth

Come get it while it’s hot!

So in my immediate family, if you are going to do a party with food, there is a certain rhyme to the reason. Beth (me) is the plotter, cooker & baker; my brother Drew is the sous chef (aka my workslave) & taste tester; my Dad does the meats, and is backup sous chef & taste tester; and Mom buys the groceries, then does all clean up. It is a well oiled machine. With occasional hiatuses (hiatii?) into either the insane or the hilarious.

Case in point today (Friday the 23rd). I ended up basically catering a work dinner party for my mom’s team & their families. Sans mon frère, insert sad face…

So mom & I go grocery shopping at 8:30am (on my day off mind you), and find everything on our list except Andes Baking Chips. As in Andes Mints, made into chocolate chip sized morsels of deliciousness. So we call my dad, who asks me “andes chips, what are they like potato chips or something?”. I don’t know what was more funny: a) my expression at this (mom lol’ed), b) the cashier dude trying not to comment, or c) the fact that dad was in fact serious inhis question. So like a good daughter, I not only repeated it back to him like 3 times, I also broke it down for him real simple: “andes, like the chocolate mint, in chocolate chip format, in a greenbag, in thebaking aisle, that say ‘Andes’ on them, and ‘baking chips’, too. Love you.” Apparently this got it through. At this point, pretty sure option b above was winning the match. 🙂 I love my family. We are definitely a special one, too…everywhere we go. 😉

So after the groceries are all bought, I start cooking. Mom wanders into various rooms setting up ‘the scene’ for the party, while making sure I don’t need any help. I answer these inquiries with a daughterly-loving response of “Doing fine, now out of my kitchen!” Side note: we are in my parents’ house, however I claim all ownership of the kitchenwhile here. Hey, mock if you want, but trust me, we are all happier this way… 😉 Anyways back to the food. I start making my Pizza Dip. My new favorite appetizer. Cream cheese, shreddedmozzarella & italian spices get blended together, spread evenly in a dish, topped with a jar of pizza sauce, then the remaining shredded mozz. Fridge until 5 minutes from eating then zap it for 5 minutes. Voilà, presto, it’s done.

image

Easy pizza dip

So next I decide to make the Mac & Cheese. Make 1 pound of shells al dente style, and while that is going, combine (& beat) 1 stick unsalted butter, 1/4 cup milk, 12 oz ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, and 6 oz sharp shredded cheese.

image

Mac & Cheese 1

Then I add another 1/4 cup (or so) milk, and 6 oz sharp shredded cheese and blend some more. It will look like this:

image

Mac & Cheese 2

In a greased (Pam!) baking dish (13×9 works), pour your drained al dente noodles, then mix in really well your cheese mixture. Make sure every shell has a good amount of cheese coverage. Then top it with sliced cheese until all the dish is covered. I used CoJack cheese, andhalved the slices to distribute, since I was using an oval dish.

image

Mac & Cheese 3

image

Bake at 325 for about 20-25 minutes and it will look like this (and smell deliciously cheesy!):

image

Baked Mac & Cheese

Next up, Imade maple-bacon-wrapped water chestnuts. Wrap bacon around whole water chestnuts, stick a toothpick in each to hold the bacon, then drizzle maple syrup on them. Bake about 30 minutes at 325. Here is the final result:

image

Bacon Water Chestnuts

Next up: lemon-pepper and coconut shrimp dishes! Use raw shrimp, thawed in cold water, trust me! Peeled and de-tailed the lil’ buggers (and one stabbed me the little meanie!), rinsed them again, ghen divided into 2 groups. Half went into a boiling pot of water with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 teaspoons lemon pepper. Shrimp float and are bright white & pink when they’re done. Takes about 30 minutes or so. Serve those with basic cocktail sauce (yes, I cheated on that sauce). The other half got complicated. Beat 3 eggs in one bowl, then mix well with the shrimp til they’re all coated well. In another bowl mix 1 cup Panko Crumbs with 3/4 cup coconut flakes. Bring a deepset saute pan filled with 1 inch of canola oil to ‘hot’ over medium-set heat. To test, drop a piece of coconut in, if it sizzles and starts to brown, you are good to go. Take the shrimp and coat them in the panko mix, then carefully, carefully ace in the hot oil. Let brown about 2 minutes then flip, let brown again about 2 minutes, then remove to a pan covered in paper towel. This lets the grease drain. I used 51-70 count sized shrimp, and did about 15 shrimp at a time in the pan, and roughly 5 pan-fulls. After the next batch was flipped, then I would transfer the done shrimp to aplatter from the paper towel. Seemed to time okay. Meanwhile your sauce. Mix together 1/4 cup coconut flakes, 1/3 cup orange marmalade, znd 1/4 cup french vanilla coffee creamer (liquid only). Let this sit in the fridge a few hours, it will taste so good with the coconut shrimp!

image

Coconut Shrimp pan

image

Coconut Shrimp!

Next on the list is Chicken Parmigiano. Dad was doing Prime Rib, too, but this was my entrée contribution. Use breast tenderloins to alleviate slicing & pounding needs… Dredge chicken in flour so fully-but-lightly coated. Place in greased pan, close together. Top with spaghetti sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese, with a dusting of grated parmesan on top. Bake about 40 minutes at 325.

image

Chicken Parm

Next up is mashed potatoes. Microwave rinsed and speared (fork stabbed into both sides of tater) a bag of red potatoes for 25 minutes. These will be hot so be careful. In a bowl, mix/beat the potatoes with 2 sticks unsalted butter, 1/2-2/3 cup milk, and 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper. Best until desired consistency, I like mine thicker so useless milk.

Finally, the mixed veggies. I put about 1/8 inch of olive oil in the bottom of a baking pan, then added sliced zucchini, yellow squash and broccoli (small branches), baked for about 20-25 minutes at 300, until nice and soft. Serve as is, or you can drain thd olive oil. Oh and I did a salad too, iceberg lettuce, baby tomatoes, drained quartered artichoke hearts & cut up bsby corn (asian food section, the stalk looking corn). 🙂 Whew! Dinner for 16 (9 kids, 7 adults) is now done!

Here is the final production (done in a total of 4 hours, not counting reheats):

image

Appetizers

image

Dinner 1

image

Dinner 2

For dessert, I actually made a chocolate cookie, then had 8 of the kids decorate them for me before we baked them. Easy peezy lemon squeezy cookie recipe, too. Melt 1 cup margarine, mix with 1 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/2 of a 3 oz package of sugar-free instant chocolate pudding mix. Then add in 1/2 teaspoon each salt, baking soda, baking powder, and 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder. Mix well. Then add in 2 cups (or so) flour, until mixture is thick and hard to stir. Shape dough into balls, flatten on cookie sheet, then decorate with sprinkles, chocolate chips, and the infamous Andes baking chips! Observe the pros below!

image

Sprinkle attack 1

image

Sprinkle Attack 2

That is all for today, hope you enjoyed, and Happy Christmas & Merry Holidays!

Craft You Later,
Beth

%d bloggers like this: