Ah, baking. It’s good to be back.
It’s good for my health, er – maybe not. My waistline may not agree in that sense (I literally ate 5 of these cookies for breakfast this morning..and that’s all). But, good for my mental health.
School has been exhausting. I am officially finished my long practicum. It was physically and mentally exhausting, exciting, and thoroughly enjoying. I have only my final to write now, and my last few days in second grade as a student teacher. Soon I’ll be returning to campus to begin my summer semester to complete my teaching degree. I must say, after being in school for 20 years, since kindergarten… I’m a little over school. I feel like I have been in school my entire life (which, basically I have been) I’ve only ever taken one semester off, and took two summer semesters back to back as well. There was as time when I had 5 semesters of school without a break, full time. Definitely ready to be finished.
So yeah, baking again has made me happy. I finally have time to bake, and take photographs (while It is still light out; thank goodness for daylight savings).
A lot has happened since I blogged last. Adam turned the big 2-9. We had a housewarming / birthday party all in one last weekend, which was really fun. I’ll be posting pictures of the house soon! I took him out for dinner and went to the casino, which was less fun. The dinner was unfortunately terrible, and we lost at the casino. Oh well, c’est la vie.
I’m beginning to realize that going out to dinner has lost all its panache. If I’m going out for dinner, it is going to be for some dish or cuisine that I wouldn’t normally cook for myself at home, and I want to thoroughly enjoy the experience. And if I am going to pay $25 for an entree, it better be worth its salt. Regrettably, our last few dinners out have been quite a disappointment. It also seems on our first visit to a restaurant we have great food, and on each of our ‘returns’ the food seems smaller and quality is not a good as the first time. I think it’s the curse of ‘second visits…’
I find myself faced with poor service, reduced portion sizes, all while paying more than ever before. Ultimately, I’m left with a feeling that I could, and can, make a better dinner at home, for half the price. And enjoy it a whole lot more. I’m sorry, but for $25 I could buy an entire salmon and eat for a few days. Not $25 for a seafood platter with salmon the size of a half-deck of cards, and three sad little prawns, drizzled with some VH asian ginger hoison sauce to add a sliver of flavour. Not quite up to par. Oh, and the fact I made a reservation, for a birthday, and they didn’t have a table ready for us, never said anything about a birthday or wished him happy birthday, and when I asked about a birthday dessert I was told “we don’t have one” – but we can ‘apply’ for a birthday gift certificate for next year… yeah, as if I’m going to come back here. Let alone to celebrate anything! And thanks to the waitress who threw our $90 receipt on the table and snarled said “have a good night” as she walked away. (In case you were wondering , we went to the Washington Avenue Grill)
One thing I will never pay for as well, is cookies. I mean like boxed, off the shelf cookies. I have recently made Graham Crackers, which were so much better than store bought. After having a boxed chocolate chip cookie at school I really couldn’t believe the taste of them – so processed, and chemical. The only cookies I have bought, are Girl Guide Cookies. Who can resist – and it’s for a good cause, so you have to. My favourite type are the Thin Mint cookies. So. Good. Especially frozen. Something about March and St. Patrick’s day make people go green and mint crazy. So, naturally I had to make some thin mints of my own. I also made a delicious minty-smoothie the other night with banana, ice, almond milk, cocoa and mint chocolate chips. Blend everything, and enjoy.
St. Patty’s Day
I started off with an oreo type cookie dough (I’ve seen people make thin mints by simply removing the oreo stuffing from a cookie, and dipping the chocolate cookie into mint chocolate… not quite the same). I dipped these in melted mint-chocolate, this was a little messy, so I decided to just top them with mint chocolate instead.
FYI – these are even better frozen, or refrigerated. They are cool, crisp, and minty. Addicting.
Mint Chocolate Sables
makes approx. 3-4 dozen small cookies
cookie recipe adapted from Smitten Kitten’s cookbook, brownie roll-out cookies
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 2 tbsp. almond milk
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used the Rapunzel Organic Cocoa I got from iHerb.
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Mint Chocolate Chips, OR chocolate and mint extract
Preheat oven at 350 degrees. Whisk flour and baking powder in bowl and set aside. Mix butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla and cocoa in mixer. Gradually add flour mixture, and mix until smooth. Wrap in plastic and chill for at least one hour.
Roll out cookie dough on lightly floured counter. Use a cookie cutter to cut out your desired shapes, I used a 2” fluted circle, and a regular circle (double sided cutter). Bake on un-greased cookie sheet for about 12 minutes, until edges are firm and centres slightly puffed.
Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
In a small bowl melt mint chocolate chips, or chocolate, over double boiler. You can also microwave on 1 minute intervals at 60% power, and stir until smooth. If using regular dark chocolate, add in a drop or two of peppermint extract.
Using a spoon, place a dollop of chocolate in centre of cooled cookie, using the back of the spoon to smooth out a circle on top. Allow to cool completely. You may want to place them in the fridge for 5-1o minutes to set. I highly recommend eating them cold, as they are crisp and minty cool.
Store in container once fully set. Can be refrigerated or frozen.
Today is supposed to be a silent day in honour of the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary school incident last Friday in Connecticut. However, as a student becoming a Teacher I felt I needed to say something. I cannot begin to imagine the grief the small town of Newtown is feeling in the aftermath. As a practicing teacher I have come to care for each and every one of my grade two students and I could not imagine anything happening to them. My heart goes out to the families affected, and to the heroic teachers who gave their own lives to save those of their students. As I flew home from Prince George last night I watch the Presidents speech, many of the topics he spoke of can resonate around the world.
“I am very mindful that mere words cannot match the depths of your sorrow, nor can they heal your wounded hearts. I can only hope that it helps for you to know, that you’re not alone in your grief. That our world, too, has been torn apart.” Obama
I hope everyone takes a moment to remember those teachers who lost their lives, and to appreciate and thank those teachers in their lives today.
This weekend I went to Prince George to visit family with my brother Nick. It was especially nice to be able to spend the weekend with my brother, and made me treasure it even more after learning about the loss other families endured that day.
My brother and I were like any other typical brother/sister combo growing up. We had days we loved each other, and days we fought. Over the years as we grew up we developed a more mature relationship as siblings.However since I’ve moved on and out from the house and he has began his career we don’t see each other as much. Adam actually works with my brother (both Electricians) as well as Adam’s brother in law (his sister’s husband) so Adam probably, if not definitely, sees my brother more often than I do. Our family is a very close family and we try to get together as often as possible but it gets hard to figure out everyone’s schedule.Nick is pretty busy at work organizing, developing and planning for his company so it was nice to get away together for the first time in a long time. It was probably only the second time we had ever been on a plane together. We took a family vacation, which turned out to be our last family vacation just before our dad passed away, flying to San Francisco and a cruise in 2004. We were a camping family, not a flying around family. Our summer vacations would always be a week long camping trip to Cultas Lake each year. My brother and I probably haven’t really gone away together just the two of us for a while so it was a really great weekend with him.
It was a weekend in the winter wonderland that is Prince George at this time of year. I love a white Christmas, and I’m not sure we will get one here in Vancouver this year, although on the way home last night we actually had some snow and it was sticking to the ground. But of course it is all rained away this morning.
I made these Almond Butter blossoms/thumbprints before we left so I could bring some baking up with me. I love these cookies at Christmas but with my peanut allergy I don’t make them often. So I though why not make them with Almond butter instead, and then I can still enjoy them. They are just as delicious as the peanut butter version.
I bought these mini kisses from chipits -they are perfect for making smaller blossoms for your dessert tray, plus you don’t have to unwrap them and there are tons in a bag. I made 5-6 dozen cookies and still have half a bag left.
Almond Butter Blossoms
1 cup butter
1 cup almond butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 bag Chipits Mini Kisses
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
2. In stand mixer, cream together butter, almond butter, brown sugar, and sugar until smooth.
Add in the eggs one at a time, beating until fully incorporated. Mix in a couple splashes of Almond milk and 2 tsp vanilla.
3. On low speed add in flour one cup at a time, and baking soda. Mix until incorporated. Dough should come together, and be a little bit sticky but easily able to shape. Add more flour a tablespoon at a time if too thin.
4. Shape teaspoonfuls of dough into balls in the palm of your hand. Place cookies 1 inches apart on un-greased cookie sheet.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 10 to12 minutes. Remove from oven, and immediately press a chocolate kiss into each cookie. Allow to cool completely, so the chocolate hardens before storing.
Dough should come together and be sticky, but not thin.
I made these about a tsp. size so I can add them to my dessert tray. I love cookies but I can’t eat too many full size ones. This way guests can try a bit of everything and the mini kisses are perfect.
Press a mini kiss into them once out of the oven.
Allow to cool completely before storing.
Share with those you love this Christmas.
Tomorrow I’m going for an allergy test, that I have been waiting over six months for. Isn’t that ridiculous? I called back in July, and was told by one doctor I would have to wait a YEAR to see them. The second referral I had was only about six months wait list. I couldn’t believe I would have to wait so long to find out what I was allergic to.
I had an allergy test about seven years ago, when I learned I was allergic to peanuts, and dairy (Milk, Cheese, Cream etc) and other various foods. I even think the test said I was allergic to raw carrots and celery..and maybe apples? I’m not sure how you can be allergic to these things, It seems pretty odd to be allergic to raw carrots. I already knew I had severe hay fever, and was allergic to most cats and dogs (dander). I would suffer greatly in the summer. I would be the kid who had red, watery eyes, unable to breathe and have to take an allergy pill every day. It was horrible. I remember wishing that I didn’t have allergies, that I was normal like my friends. It was especially hard when I played baseball all summer. We even had a cat! I think we got her way before my allergies really developed, but I basically adapted and got used to her. Anyone else’s pets though, was torture.
Now, I was good for about 5-6 months afterwards about not eating what I was allergic to. Some things made sense. My dad, the great chef, would make us ‘breakfast for dinner’ as a special treat. He would make a giant egg and cheese omelet, with toast and jam and most likely bacon or ham. I remember feeling quite sick after eating it, and now I understood why. It was loaded with dairy, and that makes me nauseous. Go figure. I also tried to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich a few weeks later, to see what the reaction was. My face did slightly break out in hives, so I decided to steer clear of it. Over the yeras I have been pretty good at avoiding things like ice cream, and switched to almond milk over a year ago after the small amount of skim milk in my morning cereal began to make me feel really quite sick. After years of not eating those foods though, I have to say my other allergies such as dander and hay fever really subsided, and I can enjoy being outside. I tried to eat peant butter again, after no signs of reaction, however, after months of eating it in my oatmeal I began to get stomache aches immediately after. So, that meant I had to switch that too.
Enter, Almond Butter.
I had only tried it a handful of times before, and never really quite liked it. It just wasn’t peanut butter, which I so loved. It had a much richer nuttier flavour than peanut butter, and it was a little more oily. I slowly began adding it to oatmeal, and then dipping apples and bananas in it. I converted to Almond-Butter and Jam sandwiches. Even Adam eats it now, if there is no meat for his lunches. I have even seen a few posts about how to make your own almond butter. Which looks delicious, and something that I might try soon. Over time it grew on me, and now I have almond butter cravings, instead of peanut butter ones. I even made my own almond buter cups, like a reese’s peanut butter cup. I really like Trader Joe’s Creamy Unsalted. There is no added sugar, and is natural.
There are so many people with a peanut allergy. I used to love peanut butter cookies, the way they slowly dissolve, and crumble into your mouth once you take a bite. I would let it sit on my tongue for just a minute for the peanutty flavours to develop. Adam was never a huge fan of peanut butter cookies apparently, but he did like these. They are perfectly crunchy on the outside and chewy in the center. I based this recipe on my regular peanut butter recipe, switching up a few things and halfed it. It makes about two dozen cookies, so I wouldn’t suggest doubling it, unless you want a very large batch.
Almond Butter Cookies
Makes 24 cookies
- 1 Cup + 2 heaping Tablespoons Whole Wheat Flour
- 1/2 Teaspoon Baking Soda
- 1/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
- 1/2 Cup Butter, Room Temperature
- 3/4 Cup Almond Butter
- 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
- 1/4 Cup Sugar
- 1 Egg
- 1 Teaspoon Vanilla
- handful of almonds – optional
- Preheat oven to 350.
- In a bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder. Working with a stand mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium until smooth and creamy.
- Add the almond butter, mix on slow and add the sugars.
- Add the egg, mixing well. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula or wooden spoon, and on low speed, add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. It will look smooth, and should not be crumbling.
- Use a small ice cream scoop or spoon to scoop dough and then roll the dough into smooth round 1 inch balls using the palm of your hand.
- Place on the backing sheet. Using a fork, press the tines into the top of the cookie, to make the signature criss cross pattern, flattening it just slightly. You can also top it with a single almond at this point.
- Bake for 12 minutes, until slightly browned and just about set in the center.
- Carefully transfer the cookies to a cooling rack. Make sure they are fully cooled before storing them
- Note – You can make these in advance, and roll the cookie dough into the little balls, storing them in a container and freezing them until ready to use. When baking from frozen cookie, place them on the sheet and into the oven for a few minutes til they get soft, and then pull them out and make the criss cross pattern with the fork, and then stick em back in the oven to fully bake =) baking time may need to be increased by a minute or two since they are baking from frozen.
I stored them on the countertop, you can store in a container, and will last about 4-5 days. You can also freeze baked cookies.