December 9, 2013
This is the season of cookies, isn't it? Everyone seems to have a holiday favorite, and there is no end in sight to the cookie baking at this point in December. I didn't grow up making specific holiday cookies, nor do I enter December with a cookie bucket list as an adult, but even I have a TON of cookie making to do in the next few weeks.
One of my favorite reasons to make cookies though is something called Operation Cookie Drop. I'm not sure if it's an Air Force wide tradition, but it has happened at every base we've been stationed at. One day in December, people come together to donate and deliver cookies to all the single Airmen living in the dorms on base. These are mostly really young/brand new to the Air Force people, and it can be so tough to be away from home during the holidays those first few years. Nothing will make it easier, but having a ton of cookies delivered to your door makes it just a tad bit nicer.
These cookies are a new discovery. I really can't get enough ginger (seriously-even my new favorite tea is ginger flavored!), and the fact that these cookies are vegan is just a nice bonus. When I passed these around at various events this weekend not a single person uttered the dreaded "these are good-for being vegan". I don't have too many vegan treats in my arsenal and while I'm always on the hunt for more, I need them to stand on their own. It should be a good cookie-not just a good vegan cookie.
These fit the bill. They have double dose of ginger. Ground and fresh ginger in the dough itself, and then more fresh grated into the sugar coating. It's just enough bite without being "spicy". The inside is soft and the outside just a touch crunchy. They will brown only slightly, so don't panic that they aren't cooked enough and leave them in the oven for an extra minute or two. The ones I took out at 15 minutes had a much better texture than the ones I left in for 18. Just keep an eye on them once you hit 14 minutes!
What is your favorite cookie to make at the holidays?
Vegan Ginger Cookies
Adapted from Joy the Baker
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 a small lemon)
1 tbsp lemon zest
For sugar to roll the cookies in:
1 cup sugar
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
Whisk together flours, baking powder and soda, salt and gingers in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl whisk together sugar, applesauce, canola oil, lemon juice and zest. Pour the mixed wet ingredients into the dry and stir together with a wooden spoon or a stiff spatula. Don't panic if all the flour doesn't mix in right away. Keep mixing and in a few minutes it will be all incorporated. Once it is, pat the dough into a disc shape, wrap it in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least an hour.
In the meantime, pour 1 cup of sugar into a small bowl and add 1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger to it. Mix together so that the sugar is fragrant.
Prepare 2 baking sheets by covering in parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350.
Take the dough out of the fridge and begin to roll it into balls about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. Roll the ball in the ginger sugar and place on prepared baking sheet. Gently press down with your hand to slightly flatten the dough. The cookies don't spread while baking, so they can be fairly close together on the pan.
Bake for 15-18 minutes.
December 6, 2013
For the post and recipe click here!
Stay warm Oklahoma friends!
December 5, 2013
Today I'm rounding up some of my favorite tools for the kitchen. Again, these might not be the first thing you think of to give to your favorite Foodie, but I can guarantee they will all be well used and appreciated! (And don't worry that there's no cookbooks on this list-they're coming tomorrow!)
1. Milk Frother- This is a complete and utter splurge. I don't need the milk in my morning coffee frothed and heated, but oh the luxury! The ones that heat the milk tend to be really pricey (like the Breville one pictured), but there are lots of options like this one for a simple frothing element.
2. Cast iron griddle-This one is actually on my wish list. I bought our first cast iron pan without any research and ended up with a cast iron grill pan instead of a griddle. Great for cooking meat inside, but not much else. With the flat bottom of this pan I'll be able to try all those skillet cakes I've been eyeing and finally make Toad in the Hole properly.
3. Reusable Unpaper Towels- All natural organic cotton towels are perfect for cleaning up spills, using as napkins or wiping little faces. We're slowly moving our kitchen away from paper towels and use these and microfiber cloths to handle 90% of our messes. It's so easy to toss them in the washer and grab another from the stack that we hardly touch the paper towels anymore!
4. Cookie/Cupcake Scoop- This has been key to getting cookies and cupcakes to bake up to the same size. I expected to see a big difference in the cookies, but frankly I was surprised by how "off" I was when I guesstimated how full cupcake tins were. This size is great for cupcakes and ice cream
5. Folding bamboo dishrack- We do so much more hand washing of dishes around the holidays-especially those days when I'm in the middle of a big baking project. This would look pretty out on the counter, but still folds up when you're not using it. Great for those of us without miles of counter space.
6. Immersion Blender- One of my favorite tools in the kitchen. No more pouring crazy hot soup into my food processor in batches (which really means pouring it all over myself)!
7. Whirley Pop Popcorn Maker- We bought one of these earlier this year and it is so easy to use. I am the girl that burns microwave popcorn so I never thought I could make it in a popper. I was shocked at how much easier it was to use and it goes without saying that the flavor is fantastic. Perfect for family movie night!
What's on your kitchen wish list this year?
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December 4, 2013
Since I'm knee deep in holiday shopping I decided to put a few gift guides together. I'm starting with one for the kids, and I chose gifts that are a little out of the box. It's nice to slip something a little different from the standard Legos and My Little Pony's under the tree to mix things up. Especially when you aren't sure exactly which lego sets or Pony's the little one already has!
I'll be back with two more gift guides this week-one for the kitchen and one full of books. (And apologies for the late posting today-this collage took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out in Photoshop. But I finally did it-and didn't want to wait another day to post it it!)
1. Tardis Play Tent: I would have ordered this the second I saw it if my boys hadn't destroyed the castle play tent they got for Christmas last year (in less than 24 hours I might add). Even if they aren't old enough to watch Doctor Who they would have a blast playing with this. Perfect for imaginative play! (It's even bigger on the inside-just like the real Tardis!)
2. Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman. I read this out loud to the boys, and not only did my 4 year old listen intently but all of us giggled through the whole book. I think this may be the first chapter book we re-read.
3. Root Vue Farm-This is such a fun way to teach your kids about gardening and food production. It's a good winter project to do before planting a garden together in the spring!
4. Kidnoculars- My boys love these. We keep them in the car for the days we drive through the wildlife refuge or go hiking, but they are just as fun in the backyard to watch airplanes or play explorer. The rubber around the eye area makes it really easy to get their eyes in the right place (unlike borrowed grownup binoculars) and they have stood up to crazy wear and tear in the last year.
5. Magazine Subscription-What kid doesn't love getting stuff in the mail? National Geographic Kids, Highlights or High Five are all great choices. This is especially good for kids who are reading on their own but not quite ready for chapter books.
6. Kiwi Crate- We got a few months as a gift last Christmas, and we kept the subscription running all year. Not only does this have the fun of something arriving in the mail, it gives you the capability of doing Pinterest worthy crafts without the stress and hard work. Everything you need to complete it comes in the crate and the crafts are labeled with the amount of mess and grownup involvement needed. My 5 year old is obsessed with these and spends hours pouring over the the little magazine that comes with the crate after he's finished the month's crafts. The supplies are all really good quality, so our craft bucket is now stocked with great things for creative time in between crates too.
We're about halfway through our Christmas shopping for our kids-what about you? Are you already done or just beginning?
December 1, 2013
I thought about the lovely calendars where it is an activity to do together each day, or an easily replaceable treat. I really do love those ideas but when it comes down to it I need to be better about not creating more work for myself this time of year…and I just knew that I couldn't pull it off without dissolving into a puddle of stress.
Then this post showed up in my blog feed, and I found more examples on Pinterest. Anne took all their holiday books and wrapped them up so the children could open one each day. I had just pulled out all our Christmas and New Years books and popped them in a basket for easy browsing in the living room. Turning something we do anyway into a new holiday tradition? It was perfect!
I wrapped a piece of craft paper around each book and labeled them with a number. We didn't quite have 24, so I ordered a few extra from Amazon and ran to the library to fill out the last few. The boys are really excited to open a "present" each day and I'm looking forward to making our afternoon reading time a little more special. I'm trying so hard to embrace the love and joy during the holidays now and push back the stress and chaos that often overtakes me.
I realized as I was putting the basket together that many of my favorite holiday memories revolve around books. Every year we read The Polar Express on Christmas Eve (we still do!). I remember getting my very first Nancy Drew book and listening to my Mom read it over Christmas break. I still cook from The Frugal Gourmet Cookbook my Nana gave me when I was 6. (Remember this Apple Cobbler?) I'm hoping that in the midst of the visits with Santa and wish lists and art projects we do each December that my children will find some joy in our books too.
Here are the books I've wrapped up! What are your holiday favorites?
1. Elf on the Shelf
2. The Night Before Christmas (board book)
3. Frosty the Snowman
4. Santa's Reindeer
5. William and the Christmas Moon
6. Snowmen at Christmas
7. The Bears' Christmas
8. My First Christmas
9. The Pirates Night Before Christmas
10. Llama Llama Holiday Drama
11. The Dinosaurs Night Before Christmas
12. The Night Before Christmas (This cut paper version is stunning!)
13. New Clothes for New Year's Day
14. The Polar Express
15. Spirit of Christmas
16. Olive the Other Reindeer
17. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
18. The Nutcracker
19. Merry Christmas, Strega Nona
20. The Gingerbread Man
21. Twelve Days of Christmas
22. Charlie Brown Christmas
23. The Snowman
24. Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas
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November 27, 2013
A gorgeous Oklahoma sunrise
"You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and the pantomime and grace before I open a book, grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink."
I've seen this quote everywhere this November and I love the message. Changing the "grace" to "thanks" is perhaps more realistic for me, but it is exactly how I hope to act the next year-thankful for the big and little things in my life.
This year, I'll spare you the nerdy reminiscences from years of class field trips to Plymouth Plantation and just say that I am so thankful that you stop by my little blog and read my words and try my recipes. I'm grateful for each and every one of you!
Happy Thanksgiving!! I'll see you next week :)
November 25, 2013
What kind of cranberry sauce did you grow up with? Did you even eat it? As we moved around the country I've discovered that it seems to be a much less important part of the Thanksgiving meal outside of New England.
Despite growing up in an area full of cranberry bogs (we used to ice skate on them every winter!) I was a die-hard canned cranberry sauce girl until a few years ago. I decided to try making it myself one year, but once I realized that making jellied cranberry sauce is a bit of a pain, I went the relish route. In fact, I discovered that you can use an immersion blender or food processor to get rid of the big chunks of berries. That makes it a whole lot easier to convert lovers of canned sauce. And children! My boys can't be the only ones who need to dissect every food that is even slightly chunky to determine what every bite contains.
The cranberry flavor shines through in this simple sauce. The ginger and orange complement the berries, and there is just enough sugar to tone down the tartness. I suggest tasting it as you cook so that you can be sure that the sweetness level is what you prefer. Initially I tried to eliminate the white sugar completely, but I realized you need just a little bit more than the brown sugar to get it right so I played around with the proportions to get it right.
As a bonus you can even make this the day before to help ease the cooking burden on the big day.
Are your menus all set? Turkey's defrosting?
Simple Cranberry Sauce
adapted from A Cozy Kitchen
1 bag cranberries 1/4 cup brown sugar 2 tbsp white sugar 1/4 tsp salt 1/2 cup water zest and juice of one orange (I used 2 clementines) 1 tsp vanilla extract 1 tsp grated fresh ginger 1 cinnamon stick 1 star anise
Put all the ingredients in a sauce pan and simmer for 15-20 minutes (stirring regularly) until all the cranberries have popped and started to break down. Taste it and adjust seasoning-especially the sugar. Add more white sugar if it's too tart, but one tablespoon at a time, tasting as you go. Once you have it the way you want it, set it aside to cool and thicken.