Monday, January 27, 2014

Baking Monday – Girl Scout Cookies

Today's cookies brought to you by the Girl Scouts! 

This recipe, published in 1922, was posted on the Girl Scouts Facebook page over Christmas break. The first GS cookies were baked by the scouts and sold as a fundraiser, which continued until the organization started hiring commercial bakers in 1936. I knew these would be a perfect Baking Monday project! The directions are delightfully vague ("bake in quick oven").

A vintage recipe calls for a vintage cutter. I used one of my Grandma's copper cutters. I have a big collection of these, which I keep mostly for decoration, because they're not great to work with … the little handle is sharp, and the enclosed cutter shape makes it hard to drop the cookies out.

I cut back on the butter slightly and added another scant cup of flour. I also added a tsp of almond in addition to the vanilla, because I was in an almond-y mood. I guess these are similar to the GS Shortbread cookie (or Trefoils, or Scot-Teas, depending on your generation/region!) 

Very yummy and disappeared quickly! 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Baking Monday – Peanut Butter Oreo Cookies

Up today: Peanut butter chocolate chip cookies. I know, I know, been there, done that. However, read on to reveal my real motive for making peanut butter cookie dough today.

It wasn't for these chip cookies, those were the second act.

This was the main attraction. Not much to look at on the outside, but …

Ah! What's this? A cookie wrapped inside another cookie? Yes, indeedy.

I had Oreos left over from Dora's movie party a few weeks ago, so I thought I'd try these stuffed cookies, seen via Pinterest. They're pretty good, but weren't my favorite – I prefer chocolate-covered Oreos much more – and since each one is the equivalent of three cookies, they're pretty indulgent. This might work better with the mini-sized Oreos. I'm assuming no complaints from the taste testers however, since no leftovers came home!

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Theo's been using the site to complete projects and earn badges, kind of like scouts, without the organization. There are tons of themes to choose from, users complete and post tasks to earn virtual badges and can also buy actual badges for $5 each. He got a new messenger bag for Christmas that we'll sew his badges onto. His first badge earned was Minecrafter, shocking. Theo doesn't have many extracurricular activities, so this has been perfect for him. I'm not thrilled about the social aspect - you can follow users, have people follow you, and leave comments for each other. The good news is that kids who sign up must have a linked parent account, so I get emails every time he posts a project or comment, so it's easy to keep tabs on what's going on. He's working on his animation badge, and came up with this little movie today, I love it!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Favorite Kitchen Gadgets

A friend recently asked me for some gift ideas for his wife, who just got a new Kitchen Aid Mixer and was getting into baking. I had so much fun putting together a list of my can't-bake-without kitchen tools that I thought I'd share them here! Some of these are already kitchen standards, some I've discovered more recently, all are items that I would replace within days if ever anything broke or disappeared. This is also my first Amazon Associates post, let's see how it goes!

1. Pyrex Measuring Cup: I believe my original measuring cup pre-dates my husband, which means I've had it for almost 20 years and probably use it every single day, for not only measuring, but mixing sauces and melting chocolate or butter. I've also found the eight-cup version to be invaluable … the first two things I'll pull out of the cupboard on pancake days!

2. Mini Scoop: Perfect size for drop cookies, and waaaay easier than the old-fashioned two-spoon method. I've recently started using the larger version for cupcakes after having too many batches come out in varying sizes. I also use scoops for meatballs (mini) and burgers (maxi).

3. Silicone Spatula: Speaking of replacing tools, this is one that I just purchased last week, after my last one cracked (Target/Michael Graves brand, good but not great). I've mentioned my perfect rubber scraper features before: heat-resistant, firm, one-piece (doesn't get gunky) and this one totally fits the bill.

4. Flour Shaker: This cheese shaker is the perfect size for bench flour (the flour that you sprinkle on the counter when rolling out cookies and pie crusts). Really, this one little container makes the cutout process SO much easier.

5. Rolling Pin Spacers: Speaking of making the cutout process easier … my sis got me a set of rolling pin spacers years ago which I love, love, love. I used them so often, that I sweet-talked my hubby into getting me the adjustable version with built-in spacers for Valentine's Day. If you've already got a good rolling pin, get the spacers. If you do lots of cutouts, go for the deluxe version.

6. Pastry Scraper: This is great for its original purpose - scraping dough remnants off the counter - but I use it waaay more often for cutting sandwiches and brownies. If cutting the crusts off pbj's stresses you out, get one of these!

7. Grid Wire Cooling Rack: This may also pre-date Jeff! Grid rack is much better than slats - no worries about cookies accidentally falling through the gaps during the transfer process. I use this at least weekly.

8. Half Sheet Baking Pan (with lid!): My mom bought me a set of half-sheet pans forever ago, and they are the best for cookie baking. The sheets never need to be greased … if I'm baking something really messy, I'll throw down parchment, but cookies have never, ever stuck to these pans and bake perfectly. A few years ago, I found some with lids and went bananas, buying two each for me and my sis. I don't use the lids as often as I use the pans, but they do come in handy from time to time (most recently for protecting baked goods from sniffy dogs!)

9. Flexible Spatula: This isn't the exact one that I have - I think mine is from Pampered Chef - but it's great for transferring cookies and removing brownies from pans.

10. KitchenAid Mixer: How could this list be complete without my most treasured tool of all? My mixer was a wedding gift from my co-workers way back when, and was such an amazing surprise. This never leaves my counter, because I use it several times a week. Mine is a grey five-quart - I don't think they had the wide color selection then like they do now - but if I could choose a color today, I'd have to go with Gloss Cinnamon, mmmm.

So that's it! Hope it was fun for you as it was for me to put together! I'm thinking about a part two that's just for cookie decorating … stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Minion Party!

Dora invited some friends over to watch a Despicable Me 2 for her birthday. It was a casual thing - invites went out by text message and we had about three days to plan, but we still found some cute ways to decorate with the theme. 

We decided to give movie-size boxes of candy for favors. I wrapped each box up with scrapbook paper and made tags for each one.

The food and drink labels were inspired by this Etsy listing and I made the cup wraps using this Minion vector art. The typeface is Las Vegas Jackpot (enter the code to download – watch where you click, some of the download buttons are ads).

There are so many way cute ideas for this theme to be found! I can't stand the f-word, but this line from the movie is too perfect not to share! The idea came from this DM party. And one of the dads was amusingly able to read this line perfectly in Gru's voice. 

We stopped at Party City to pick up a few officially licensed items … tablecloth, napkins, and temporary tattoos. We filled in with Minion-yellow cups and plates, and purple and yellow balloons, which Dora decorated to look like the regular and amped-up Minions from the movie.

We even did theme-y food: purple and yellow chips, purple grapes, yellow, mango … plus, I thought those butter puffs looked like Minions! (There was also a special version of Cheetos snack mix that supposedly turns your tongue purple … while it would have been on theme, I can't imagine that the chemical that makes food start out orange but come out purple can be any good for you.)

Dora and her friends had a great time eating pizza and watching the movie, followed by an ice cream sundae bar. A fun afternoon! 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Baking Monday – Peanut Butter Cupcakes

This was a project that I had in my mind before searching for a recipe. I wanted to do a peanut butter cupcake (most recipes I find are for chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting) with chocolate frosting and filled with something. I volunteer at a local theatre that has just started selling stuffed cupcakes which are amazing, so I've had them on the brain. Look for more coming soon! 

I can't remember where this recipe came from - which is okay, because it wasn't great. Unfortunately, the cupcakes spent about three minutes too long in the oven … I set the timer and didn't check on them often enough, so they turned out slightly tougher than desired. Each one was filled with a blob of Nutella plus more Nutella added to the chocolate buttercream frosting.

I've since seen other peanut butter cupcake recipes, and would be happy to try again, too bad these didn't turn out as well as hoped. Oh well, not every attempt turns out to be a winner! 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Christmas 2013

Happy New Year! We had a really great month of December. It was super busy - someone had an event or activity almost every night of the month - but I wanted to make sure everything was enjoyable and not stressful. Therefore, some things were left to the side … baking didn't get done, cards waited until after our traveling, and I only did about 1/3 of the decorating I'd usually do around the house.

We spent a relaxing hour at the Home for the Holidays exhibit at our local science/historical museum. They have over 250 trees (we asked!) decorated and on display, it was really lovely. (Not pictured in photo: one child was being a bit of a pill that afternoon and another was doing a share of eye-rolling, but I took pictures and enjoyed myself anyway!)

We also didn't get around to making ornaments this year, but did spend one afternoon making cards for teachers. I would never say that Clark is an artsy-craftsy kid, but he does really get into drawing when we do projects like this.

Christmas Eve was Santa, pageants, musical performances, visiting with family.

And everyone had a favorite gift, all surprises, which made giving extra fun. We had a two-week long school break this year. I wished that we had the foresight and finances to go somewhere warm, but it was not meant to be. We spent one week away with family and the following week for the most part cozy at home, with a few extra fun activities along the way, including visits, meals, and games with good friends.

Snow tubing with cousins, which turned out to not the home-run event we thought it would be. Two out of three kids loved it, Mom & Dad did not (but we were good sports). 

Dora's chose her birthday activity: We spent New Year's Day at the Destiny USA mall, doing the ropes course, visiting the science museum/arcade, dinner of burgers and milkshakes, and a drive through Lights on the Lake.

Jeff and I split up, he got to watch the older kids go on crazy spinny simulator rides, while Clark and I did the more low-key activities. The arcade is a little much for the sensory kid. Happily, we had thought to bring earplugs and the exhibits were not very crowded.

Our days at home were COLD … I didn't leave the house for two days straight, leaving all the dog-walking and shoveling duties to Jeff. And the kids and I all needed a few lazy mornings and pajama days. This week has been a bit odd due to the weather - one day back to school, one day at home, a two-hour delay, one day back, then a half-day. Next week we'll really be back into the old routine.