All the Rest of the Christmas Cookies.

I had this great idea.

I was going to write three posts featuring the 12 cookies I baked for Christmas this year. They were to feature 4 cookies each. It was a good idea. I even started it. I wrote one post featuring the first four cookies.

Then….life.

I was too busy working, preparing, visiting, baking, shopping, and celebrating. Not that I’m complaining about that. I loved doing all of those things. But now that it’s January 15th, my great idea is no longer relevant. No one is interested in baked goods in January. I made brownies the other day just because. No one wanted to eat them. Not because there was something wrong with them – they were perfectly tasty. They even had extra chocolate and caramel drizzled on top.

brownies

the brownies that nobody ate.

But January is not the time for brownies. Or cookies. Or cakes (unless it’s your birthday). It’s the time of year that the gym is packed, and the over-indulgence of December is weighing heavily on everyone’s mind and/or stomach.

I get it – I’m a huge proponent of eating right and treating your body with respect. I’m also a huge proponent of baked goods. So January, for me, stinks. Did I mention that I don’t like cold weather?

So, for everyone out there, who, like me, still wants to eat brownies, cookies and cakes, here’s a quick glimpse of all the rest of the 12 cookies I made for Christmas. If you just can’t look now, maybe by next December you’ll look at them and feel inspired. I’m certainly giving you plenty of time. ūüôā

#5. Cream Cheese Cookies. (recipe here.)

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#6. Chocolate Cottage Cheese Cookies.

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#7. Marzipan Mice. 

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#8.¬†Jeanine’s Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies. (recipe here.)

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#9. Peanut Butter Hershey Kiss Cookies. 

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#10. Peppermint Bark. (recipe here.)

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#11. Cornflake Christmas Wreaths.

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#12. Honey Whiskey Balls. (recipe here.)

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So there they are. Enjoy them at your leisure, whenever the time is right. You have all year….

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Recipe: Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.

pumpkin cookies

I hate when things go to waste. I had this partial can of pumpkin leftover from the pumpkin fudge I just made, and I really wanted to put it to good use. But I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to use it for. I wanted to make cookies, so I started looking up pumpkin cookie recipes, but nothing really tickled my fancy. So, I decided to make up my own pumpkin cookie recipe. I started with my chocolate chip cookie recipe. I added oatmeal and pumpkin.

orange you glad i added pumpkin to the batter?

orange you glad i added pumpkin to the batter?

I also used mini chocolate chips instead of the regular sized ones. I’d like to say this was a conscious decision, but in reality, the mini chips were all I had in the house, and I didn’t feel like running out last minute and picking up a bag of the bigger ones. Thankfully, it seemed to all turn out ok.

mini chips to the rescue.

mini chips to the rescue.

They turned out soft, chewy, and not at all flat. So, the experiment was a success, and the leftover pumpkin definitely did not go to waste. All is right in the kitchen. ūüôā

happiness is a pumpkin cookie.

happiness is a pumpkin cookie.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies.

What you’ll need:

5 oz.   shortening

8 oz.   sugar

.25 oz.  salt

3 oz. (about 2)  eggs

.25 oz.  vanilla

12 oz.  flour

.25 oz.  baking soda

1 cup canned pumpkin

1 cup cinnamon flavored oatmeal (about 2 of the pouches)

6 oz. mini chocolate chips

What you’ll do:

Preheat the oven to 375. In a large bowl, cream together the shortening, sugar, and salt. Add the eggs and the vanilla, and beat until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and baking soda, and slowly add it to the wet ingredients. Add the pumpkin and the oatmeal, and mix well. Fold in the mini chips. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and scoop dough into rounded tablespoon sized balls, at least an inch apart onto the sheet. Bake for 8-9 minutes, or until edges start to brown.

Half Moons (aka Chocolate Covered Chocolate Chip Cookies).

chocs

One of my favorite things to use my baking ability for is supporting a good cause. Last night, I did just that. I participated in an event called “Chocolate”, hosted by¬†local public television station, WHYY. Not only has WHYY been around since I was kid, but it was on this very station where I faithfully watched Sesame Street everyday, and still could to this day, if I so desired. A childhood without Sesame Street is like a cake without icing. Or, a cookie without chocolate. Sure, a chocolate chip cookie can be an amazing snack on its own – but have you ever had one dipped in chocolate? I decided to give back to the community by offering up this very thing. I started with my very own¬†dream cookie recipe.

a dough to build a dream on.

a dough to build a dream on.

I made two varieties – the standard chocolate you see pictured here, and an alternate version with white chocolate chips. I baked them into cookies.

what comes is better than what came before.

what comes is better than what came before.

Now here’s where I was alone, I took a right, I didn’t know what I would find there. I cut all of the cookies in half while they were still a little warm and let them cool. Next, I took each of the “half moons” and dipped it entirely into melted chocolate. Milk chocolate for the milk chocolate chips….

it's getting better all the time.

it’s getting better all the time.

…and white chocolate (colored pink in honor of Valentine’s Day) for the white chocolate chips.

pink, pink, pink, pink moon.

pink, pink, pink, pink moon.

I did some in plain white as well, for the sake of variety. I put them on display and left it up to the people to decide their fate.

The results: two days of baking, cutting and dipping over 400 half moons – all vanished in less than two hours. Cutting them in half way key – a full-sized dipped cookie would have just been too big and too rich. But a half? Now THAT’S the perfect Small Indulgence.

Recipe Wednesday: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cookies.

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So before I get into the Chocolate Shop Tour of Brussels, I really wanted to share this recipe for the cookies I made last night, not only because they turned out so good, but also because I feel I’ve been neglecting the kitchen lately, having not baked anything for almost 3 weeks, and neglecting the kitchen means neglecting sharing recipes; and as we all know sharing is caring. So because I care, I made Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cookies.

The only problem was that I couldn’t decide if i should use regular Reese’s cups or the Reese’s hearts. Valentine’s Day is not so far off, so the hearts seemed appropriate, however, I wanted to make sure that upon first glance, one could tell these were peanut butter cup cookies. So, when in doubt, use both and just make more cookies.

When all was said and done, I had about half of them that were the classic “cup”…

the cup we all know and love.

the cup we all know and love.

….and half that were a chocolate and peanut butter homage to love.

melt my heart.

melt my heart.

I started with a recipe from¬†The Hershey’s Cookbook¬†for those peanut butter Hershey’s Kiss Cookies. I made a few minor adjustments, swapped the kiss with the cup (or heart), and created a cookie masterpiece for peanut butter cup lovers everywhere. ¬†Beware: the dough is a little bit TOO good. I believe I may have eaten about 4 cookies worth of dough before I even started baking them. Hopefully, you’ll have a bit more restraint than I. ūüôā

 

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

What you’ll need:

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup shortening

1/3 cup sugar

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 egg

2 tablespoons half and half

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

48 mini Reese’s cups or Reese’s hearts (or some combo of the two totaling 48)

What you’ll do:

Preheat oven to 375. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the peanut butter and shortening. Add in the sugar and brown sugar, and beat until smooth and fluffy. Add egg, half and half, and vanilla, and mix well. In a ¬†separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to the peanut butter mixture, 1/3 at a time, beating well between each addition. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and using a small ice-cream scoop, scoop and shape the dough into one inch balls. Bake for 8 – 10 minutes, or until they start to brown around the edges. While they are baking unwrap your chocolates, so you have them on hand and ready to go. As soon as you remove the cookies from the oven, start pressing the cups/hearts into the cookies (they will crack around the edges – that’s ok). Remove them from the baking sheet, and let them cool completely.

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xoxo

The Day After.

gingerbread cake

When I was a little kid, I saw this made-for-TV-movie called “The Day After,” and was scarred for life. It was about an atomic bomb going off, and basically everyone was getting zapped instantly into skeletons. It was horrifying. I cried for days and couldn’t sleep for many nights. However, that’s not The Day After I’m referring to here. I’m talking about the day after Christmas.

It’s always such an odd day. Suddenly, everyone shifts into “time to change the sheets and clean the house and lose weight and take charge of my life” mode. And of course, there’s food everywhere you look. Particularly desserts. And nothing pains me more than to see a perfectly good dessert go to waste. It’s a crime, I tell ya. This year, however, I came much closer to my goal of “no dessert left behind,” at least as far as the ones I baked go. I’m down to the last few cookies, there’s only two slices of gingerbread cake left, and a couple of mini cheesecakes. Well played, self.

Anyway, just for the heck of it, here are a few pics of the aforementioned almost-gone Christmas Day desserts. Feast your eyes on these seasonal sweets:

Christmas Cookie Platter.

pretty maids all in a row.

pretty maids all in a row.

from left to right: chocolate chip, oatmeal cinnamon chip, honey whiskey balls, breakfast cookies, cottage cheese cookies, and good old sugar cookies shaped like Christmas trees.

Mini Cheesecakes.

the "original" small indulgence.

the “original” small indulgence.

These were a last-minute addition, but well worth it.

Gingerbread Cake with Cinnamon Sugar Glaze.

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my masterpiece.

One of my specialties – I look forward to making it every year, and like a fine wine, it just keeps getting better.

Put them all together, and you have a lovely Christmas dessert table, sure to put a smile on the face of even the grumpiest Scrooge.

all together now.

all together now.

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, and may your lives be filled with sweets, love, and harmony not just on Christmas day, but every day.

Eat Dessert and Adopt a Pet.

This weekend, I’m participating in a bake sale to benefit Furrever Friends Rescue and Volunteers, Inc, which is a wonderful organization dedicated to saving the lives of homeless pets. This¬†particular cause is very dear to me, as I grew up in a family where all of our pets were shelter animals and I adopted my own pet (Gandalf the Gray) almost 10 years ago from a shelter.

10 years old, and still crazy as a kitten.

Anyway, if you are in the Philly area over the weekend, swing on down to the PetSmart in Deptford, NJ¬†, and sample some delicious baked goods, all for a great cause. And, heck, why not adopt a pet while you’re at it!

And just to further entice you, here’s a glimpse of my donations.

Chocolate Chip Cookies….

the cookie next door.

Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies….

The exotic.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies…

the party cookie.

and Marzipan Mice.

the cheerleader.

The sale will be going on today from 10am to 9pm, and tomorrow 10am to 5pm. If you love animals and baked goods (and who doesn’t) then come on down!

Still Life with Chocolate Chips.

After attending the Blogher Food Conference in Seattle¬†earlier this month, I returned to the east coast with a new perspective on many things, and with a list of goals, both professional and personal. At the very top of this list was a goal that was quickly becoming an obsession: upgrade my point-and-shoot digital camera¬†to a¬†DSLR. I spent some significant time the following afternoon googling, researching, reading reviews, and polling facebook¬†friends about all things DSLR, and had, by the end of that day, narrowed it down to two models: the Canon T3i¬†and the Nikon D3100. I started then looking on craig’s¬†list, amazon, ebay¬†and various other electronics sites for the best deal. But I didn’t have to look too long. As they saying goes, “everything you want also wants you,” and lo and behold, I got a message from a friend saying he was selling a new and never used Nikon D3100. Game on.

the universe provides.

Anyway, I couldn’t wait to get started! At the same time, I felt a bit daunted by all the buttons, settings, and rather thick manual. So, it sat for a few more days, in the box, while I periodically glanced at it with raised eyebrow, thinking I should just dive in. finally, I did. My very first photo was¬†of my all time favorite subject, Gandalf the Gray.

ready for his close-up.

After getting that first photo under my belt, there was no stopping me. I actually baked something for the sole purpose of photographing it. So, without further ado, i¬†present to you my first DSLR baking photos,¬†¬†which I’ve appropriately titled “Still Life with Chocolate Chips.”

Photo #1 of 4.

early life.

Photo #2 of 4.

baked and ready.

Photo #3 of 4.

closing in.

Photo #4 of 4.

stay focused.

And if all this wasn’t enough to make you a believer, the day I got the camera, I also got a groupon¬†email for a local¬†photography class at a seriously reduced rate. Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs. You just have to notice them. ūüôā

Punk Rock Flea Market!

Tomorrow (Sunday, May 13th), I’ll be at the Punk Rock Flea Market, selling my book and even some baked goods. If you happen to be in the Philadelphia area, and maybe need a last minute gift for mom, the flea market is THE place to be. Besides my lovely cookbook and delightful assortment of baked goods (including White Chocolate Pixie Cakes, Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Red Velvet Mini Cupcakes), you’ll find tons of options for even the hardest to please hard-core punk-mom.¬†Here are the specifics:

The Punk Rock Flea Market.

when: Saturday, May 13th, 10am to 5pm

where: The Punk Rock Flea Market Dome¬† (461 N 9th Street ‚Äď Right Across From The Starlight Ballroom),

misc: $3 Admission Donation.

website: http://www.r5productions.com/event/101883/?utm_source=fb1&utm_medium=shr

enticing photos:

a cookie classic.

many many mini red velvets.

pretty in pink pixies.

So what are you waiting for? Come out and get your treat on – like a real punk.

Choco Peeps.

A few years back, probably about 5 years ago, I decided that I was going to bring chocolate covered Peeps to Easter dinner. In theory, it sounded fantastic – two of my all time favorite things combined into one yummy treat. Well, it didn’t go so well. The chocolate was cheap, didn’t melt smoothly and didn’t taste all that great, and not to mention, they no longer even looked Peep-shaped. If i¬†had brought them to dinner with no explanation, everyone would have assumed they were just odd-shaped bumpy chocolates. Bah.

Anyway, one thing I learned in pastry school was how to work with chocolate. I’m by no means a master chocolatier¬†at this point, however, I once again attempted chocolate covered Peeps, and this time with great success! I sprinkled them with some shimmery sugar crystals, to give them that extra glow.

sparkly choco peeps.

They’ve retained their peep-like shape, and if one were to be presented with a box of these, I do believe they would be easily identifiable. The bad news is that because I wasn’t sure how they’d turn out, I only made a few. The Choco Peep is an endangered species; eat them wisely.

On a side note, I had extra chocolate that I didn’t want to just throw away, so I covered two chocolate chip cookies with it. Now that’s what I call conservation.

why didn’t i think of this years ago??

Let them eat cookie.

Once I finally perfected my chocolate chip cookie recipe, I started moving into the world of cookie cakes. They’re fun to make, and seem to be a real crowd pleaser. I mean, who doesn’t love a giant cookie? (except for that scene in “Bridesmaids” when she goes nuts and trashes the bridal shower, including the giant cookie.) But most people would rather eat a giant cookie than destroy it, so I started making them more and more, especially for the cookie-lovers in my life. In fact, last week I had the pleasure of making two:

A birthday cookie:

celebrate good times, come on.

and a “get well” cookie:

take one of these, and call me in the morning.

I love making these things. They make people happy. And that makes me happy. Not to mention, It gives¬†me the opportunity to eat¬†cookie dough. Mmmmm….cookie dough….