Let it snow! Or maybe we shouldn’t say that too loudly here in the very snowy state of Michigan! Our headquarters are close to the Lake and the lake effect snow is always in full swing here. Baking a batch of our almond snowball cookies is the perfect way to bring the snow indoors.
Valentine's day is less than 2 weeks away! Do you have something in mind for that special someone? Or are you the type that waits until the last minute, hoping for that one elusive dinner reservation? Instead of spending a fortune on roses or jewelry, why not make them a special treat? Black and white shortbread hearts are so simple to make and can be arranged in a special box, stuffed with pink tissue paper and tied up with a bright red bow. What valentine could resist such a sweet gesture!?
Who doesn't love oatmeal creme pies? With their two soft oatmeal like cookies sandwiched between a layer of vanilla creme, Little Debbie oatmeal creme pies were a staple in my lunchbox growing up. One of my favorite ways to eat them was to pull off the top cookie layer and fold over the second cookie onto the layer of creme. This created the perfect double stuffed creme pie! Now that I’m older (and supposedly wiser), I have found myself reading more and more labels on food products. All of the processed foods that we grew up with as children are packed with so many preservatives and food additives. Including those delicious Little Debbie's that I enjoyed so much as a child. What a downer!
The children's book, Madeline, is a sweet story about a young girl and her escapades in Paris. It's a classic children's story that I have read to my daughter many, many times! As I baked the cookies, I imagined the spunky Madeline sitting down with her school mates, a spot of tea and a madeleine cookie in hand.
Kahlua; a simple concoction of vodka, water, coffee and sugar cane. If you made some homemade Kahlua using our delicious recipe, you know that the addition of a Beanilla vanilla bean made this liquor even more delicious!!! Kahlua is definitely a popular liquor to pour over ice and leisurely sip on after dinner. Did you know that you can utilize this liquor in a variety of desserts and baked goods?! One of my very favorite pairings is with chocolate. Simply add a small amount to chocolate ice cream bases, drizzle into your favorite mousse recipe or make a batch of chocolate Kahlua cookies!
If you live in Michigan, Ohio or any of the surrounding Midwest states, you are most likely familiar with Buckeyes. For those of you who live in the Southern states, or on either of the coasts, and have never had a Buckeye, you must make these delicious candies a part of your holiday traditions!
The buckeye is the state tree of Ohio. It produces small nuts that have a dark outer shell, but the lighter colored interior of the nut is visible from the top. The candy resembling this beloved nut is made with a creamy peanut butter center and dipped in milk chocolate. The creamy center is visible from the top of the candy. The candy is reminiscent of a peanut butter cup, and is primarily made on and around the holiday season or during the Ohio State football season. Our buckeyes are traditional, but you can mix it up and dip the entire creamy center into the chocolate. Drizzle a bit of melted chocolate on top for a finished look.
The tradition of cutting down an evergreen, placing it in a stand, lighting it up and garnishing it with ornaments began in the early 1600s. The evergreen symbolized life when every other tree had shed its leaves -- the evergreen remained green and lush. The very first holiday lights were candles, and they often symbolized loved ones, friends and family. Many of these first trees were decorated with fresh garlands of berries and baked cookies. Electricity introduced the first electrified strings of lights, and homemade ornaments of fruits and cookies were replaced with glass balls and molded plastic figurines. Many of these ornaments have been lovingly collected over the years, with each having a special meaning of a specific place or time in our lives.
Grocery shopping when you're a kid can be downright monotonous. Walking behind one of your parents while they decide which macaroni and cheese was a better buy was never my idea of fun; except when we were bribed to be on our best behavior. This meant that my brother's and I would break off from our macaroni and cheese indecisive parents and beeline for the Brach's candy bins. Brightly colored hard candies sat next to soft and chewy fruit slices. Ultimately I would choose the wrapped chocolate creams. Raspberry, vanilla, maple and orange were just a few of the flavors they had to offer. More often than not my perfectly measured bag of treats would consist of a few raspberry, perhaps a vanilla, but mostly orange creams. I loved how the orange flavoring played beautifully with the slight bitterness of the dark chocolate. I haven't been to the candy bins in years but the allure of dark chocolate and orange cream still calls my name from time to time.
(For a Delicious 1st Birthday)
As parents we spend the first year of our children's lives celebrating all the momentous milestones: The first smile, rolling over, crawling, the first tooth, the first word and finally the first attempt at walking. Many sleepless nights are spent in those first few weeks as well as numerous trips to the drugstore for infant Tylenol for a cranky teething baby and wandering through the aisles of what seems like endless cabinet safety latches and toilet safety clips. Through all the sleepless nights, mounds of diaper changes and endless feedings we endure, sweet innocence prevails. Sweet moments of first words, softly read lullabies and clean, baby soft skin linger with us as parents as they grow and become more independent and less dependent on us.
There is a distinct difference in both flavor and texture between a macaroon and a macaron! One little "o" separates the cookies in the dictionary, but the two confections are worlds apart in flavor, texture and appearance. The macaron is an utterly French creation; crisp on the outside, but soft and chewy on the inside. Butter cream graces the center of one of the two cookies. One bite and your mind wanders to quaint Parisian patisseries. I have made it known that French macarons are one of my favorite desserts, but macaroons are a close second. Macaroons are a classic American creation, vastly different from the French macaron. The macaroon is essentially a coconut cookie, reminiscent of the center of a Mounds candy bar, but lighter and more airy. The addition of dark chocolate pushes this simple and delicious treat over the edge of decadence.
Did you know that chocolate meringues are low in fat? They also can be easily converted into a sugar-free treat perfect for those on a low sugar lifestyle or concerned about refined sugars. They are also an exceptional gluten-free treat (even with the Nutella)!
Molasses ginger cookies have always been one of my favorite cookies. I love the crispy edges, soft center and intense flavor. The rich intense flavor of molasses is the perfect complement to ground ginger and our natural ginger flavor. You can find molasses cookies in abundance during the holiday season. It seems as though everyone has their own version for this spicy and flavorful cookie. They tend to disappear, much like the elusive Peep or chocolate covered cherry, until the same time next year. Why not make them all year round? One type of this cookie I have consumed over the years is the classic boxed ginger cookie, hard and, well... hard! These are useful for making crusts on cheesecakes and that’s about it. The second type I have had is the cake cookie...puffy and light, but yet not quite there in the texture category for me. I prefer my molasses ginger cookies to be crunchy on the edges, but soft and chewy in the center. The addition of coarse sugar adds that crunch and texture every cookie needs! If you’re like me, this is the perfect cookie recipe for you!
Did you ever have a time in your life where you ate so much of one particular food item that you can’t stand the smell, taste or look of that item any longer? For me, it is the peanut butter cookie. I know you are thinking, “How could you not like peanut butter cookies?” I have one very good reason...my father! My father is a wonderful man that I truly enjoy spending time with, but when he becomes fixated on a certain food item, it tends to make an appearance many, many times! A good example is peanut butter cookies. He decided that homemade peanut butter cookies would be a thoughtful and delicious addition to our school lunches… and they were… for the first week. After a month of peanut butter cookies making a daily appearance, we began to tire of them. At two months, we kindly asked him to please refrain from putting them in the lunches (I’m pretty sure it wasn't so eloquently asked, but I think he finally got the point). We were wrong. The peanut butter cookies continued to make an appearance, but this time they were topped with a Hershey kiss. This did not improve upon them! Thankfully, he finally grew tired of them himself, and one glorious day, they were no longer gracing the top of our lunches, halleluja! This was over 25 years ago and, until recently, I would not make any peanut butter cookies, often blaming food allergies for their lack of appearance in our home.
There is nothing quite as delicious as a chocolate chip cookie straight from the oven! Hot and delicious, the chocolate still melted and the center of the cookie so soft and delicious it breaks apart in your hand. My mouth waters just thinking about it!
Grab a cup of coffee (or tea), sit down with a good old fashion newspaper, and enjoy the simple pleasure that is coffee cake. In this very hectic and digitalized world it is nice, on occasion, to put it all aside and reflect on the simple pleasures. Now don't get me wrong, I couldn't live without my iPhone, computer or camera, and nor would I want to, but every once in a while the hectic, fast-paced digital world that is our lives needs a rest -- a time to breathe and think about how quickly time passes, and how we sometimes forget to appreciate the small things that can bring so much pleasure.