Cheese “Crackies”

Cheese Crackers

I’m going to date myself. Do you remember that 80s Faberge Organics Shampoo Commercial where Heather Locklear says she told two friends about this fab shampoo, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on . . . ? (What, you weren’t born yet? Then click here and see the giggle-worthy commercials that us oldies grew up with.)

Anyway, this is how things went with my mom recently. She tried these cheesey, sorta but not quite crackers, at a friend’s place and couldn’t stop talking about them. Her other friends were intrigued. Then they tried them. Now a few of mom’s friends have requested the recipe and so did I.  Your (rotary dial) phone line was busy, so I thought I’d be all new age and post the recipe here so that you can check them out. Then you can tell your friends, and so on. Get the idea?

The source of this cheesey kinda cracker-like recipe is mom’s friend Raymond, who goes to her church. Apparently Raymond has been making these cheesey bites for about 40 years and it’s one of his most requested recipes. Raymond is someone who really knows his way around the kitchen and has catered countless dinner parties over the years. While I’ve never met Raymond, my mom raves about his cooking abilities, so he’s got my vote of confidence.

I hope that Raymond doesn’t mind, but I’ve adapted his recipe–mostly because his secret ingredient, MacLaren’s Imperial Cold Pack Cheddar, is only available in Canada. I’ve also renamed them “crackies” because I’d describe them as a cross between a cracker and a cookie. And, I’ve spiced them up with rosemary and a sprinkle of fleur de sel, even though I usually make half the batch plain to keep the ponytails happy. My oldest daughter likes to take them for her school snack.

Rosemary Crackies

Cheese “Crackies”

Yield: approx 50 crackers

1/2 cup vegetable oil + 1 tbsp olive oil

1 cup flour

2 cups tightly packed grated old cheddar (orange)

1 tbsp Worchestershire sauce

t tsp dry mustard

2 cups rice crispies, crushed

2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary + a few unchopped rosemary sprigs

fleur de sel for sprinkling

Pulse all ingredients in food processor until mixture is smooth and well mixed; roll into balls the size of a quarter and flatten with a fork dipped in water. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

Place one small sprig of rosemary and a pinch of fleur de sel (or sea salt) on top of each “crackie” after it has been flattened with a fork.

The crackies freeze beautifully. Reheat at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.

Raymond’s Original Version:

Imperial CheeseFollow the instructions noted above, except replace the 2 tightly packed cups of grated old cheddar with one container of MacLaren’s Imperial Cold Pack Cheddar and do not add one extra tablespoon of vegetable oil (total amount of vegetable oil will be 1/2 cup) or the chopped fresh rosemary and fleur de sel.

NOTES:

  • For crispy crackies, be sure to press them down well with a fork dipped in water until they are quite thin.
  • To retain the crispness, they are best stored in a tin container, rather than plastic. Mom likes to freeze any uneaten crackies and crisp them up again in the oven before serving.
  • If you live in Canada, I recommend trying this recipe using the Imperial cheese. Just eliminate the extra tablespoon of vegetable oil. The rosemary and fleur de sel are optional.

A Little Taste of Paris

A visit to our local patisserie is the closest I’m going to come to a visit to Paris for quite some time I’m afraid. Although, I think I gain weight just looking at the rows and rows of sugary, buttery  masterpieces.

As luck would have it, we have to pass by the patisserie every weekend after my daughter’s Saturday morning ballet class on our way to swimming. Of course the only way to make it through our hectic schedule is to pick up a snack somewhere convenient . . .

There’s always a long line up at the patisserie and by the time we get to the counter they’ve usually sold out of our favourite snack: mini madeleines. (In case you are not familiar with them, madeleines are small sponge cake-type cookies distinguished by the shell pattern that comes from using a special pan.) My daughter just LOVES them and so I spend the next hour convincing her that the goldfish crackers I’ve packed in my purse are even better than madeleines.

To avoid the constant disappointment and the $7 for a small bag, I finally decided that I needed to try my hand at making them myself. All I can say is that they’re going to miss us at the patisserie. I think that mini madeleines may become my new signature cookie. The $9 for the special madeleine pan was definitely money well spent — and it is a lot cheaper than a trip to Paris.

Madeleines

Mini Lemon Madeleines

Makes about 80 cookies.

Recipe ever so slightly adapted from David Lebovitz

3 large eggs, at room temperature
2/3 cup (130g) granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/4 cup (175g) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder (optional) (I added this)
zest of one small lemon
9 tablespoons (120g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature, plus additional melted butter for preparing the molds

1/4 cup of icing sugar (for dusting)

Directions

1. Brush the indentations of a mini madeleine mold with melted butter. Dust with flour, tap off any excess, and place in the fridge or freezer.

2. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, whip the eggs, granulated sugar, and salt for 5 minutes until frothy and thickened.

3. Spoon the flour and baking powder, if using, into a sifter or mesh strainer and use a spatula to fold in the flour as you sift it over the batter. (Rest the bowl on a damp towel to help steady it for you.)

4. Add the lemon zest to the cooled butter, then dribble the butter into the batter, a few spoonfuls at a time, while simultaneously folding to incorporate the butter. Fold just until all the butter is incorporated.

5. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (Batter can be chilled for up to 12 hours.)

6. To bake the madeleines, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

8. Plop enough batter in the center of each indentation with enough batter which you think will fill it by 3/4′s Do not spread it.

10. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until the cakes just feel set.

11. Remove from the oven and tilt the madeleines out onto a cooling rack.

12. Sift icing sugar over madeleines (shell side up).

Storage: Madeleines are best eaten the day they’re made. They can be kept in a container for up to three days after baking, if necessary.

NOTES:

  • I didn’t put the madeleine pan in the fridge before baking, but I did refrigerate the batter for an hour or so before baking.
  • I adjusted the baking time in David’s original from 8 or 9 minutes to 5 or 6 minutes for the madeleines. All of my cookies cooked in 5 minutes.
  • I did not use the lemon glaze on any of my cookies. I wanted the delicate and buttery flavour of the cookies to stand on its own.
  • I recently bought my mini madeleine pan at Tap Phong in Chinatown. It makes 20 cookies per batch.(Remember the shopping excersion I was supposed to go on with Eva? Hopefully we can reschedule now that she’s managed to shake her cold.)

Loaves and Dishes

Coconut Chocolate Chip Banana Loaf

I have two current obsessions: making loaves of quick bread and buying unique or pretty dishes to add to my collection.

One obsession makes my family happy. The other gets me into trouble because we’re running out of cupboard space to put all of the dishes.

Dishes

A few favourite dishes: tea cup from Greece; square plate from Mexico; beloved platter from Grandma; lovely new blue bowl and a saucer bought on honeymoon in Florence.

There are just so many reasons to make a loaf of quick bread: it’s a great way to use up ripe bananas; it packs up nicely as a school or work snack; they make great gifts; and you can mix up all the ingredients and pop it into the oven in five to ten minutes. Although I think my favourite reason is the way the house smells when you’re baking a loaf—it takes you right back to childhood.

With any luck, the loaves will keep my husband in a sugar coma long enough that he’ll stay out of our overflowing cupboards and won’t discover all the new dishes I’ve bought recently. Although I think it’s too late—my friend Nancy was commenting on the weekend about all the new dishes she’s noticed in my recent posts.

Okay then, I guess my best bet is to win him over with the cost savings of the Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf. The girls absolutely love the version that you get at Starbucks—but a family visit to Starbucks these days comes close to setting you back as much as your monthly iPhone bill if everyone splurges on a drink and a snack. That was the incentive for coming up with this version of Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf, as I’d much rather spend my spare money on dishes save money to pay down our mortgage.

Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf

If that doesn’t work, there’s always Coconut Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. My oldest daughter started requesting a new version of banana bread . . . she was getting sick of my Butterscotch Chip Wholewheat Banana Bread. That lead to thinking that I needed to try the coconut oil that I’ve been reading about all over the blogsphere in my recipe. Have you tried baking with it yet?

If not, you really should. I reckon that it’s better for you than broccoli—and it tastes a lot better too. According to Dr. Oz, it can help our bodies resist illness-causing viruses and bacteria; boost thyroid function helping to increase metabolism, energy and endurance; increase digestion and help to absorb fat-soluble vitamins; and help fight off yeast, fungus and candida.

I’m meeting my friend Eva tomorrow after work to go shopping at Tap Phong Trading Company in Chinatown. It’s a great place to buy dishes and cooking utensils at great prices. Do you think I need to bake another loaf this week?

Coconut Chocolate Chip Banana Loaf

Coconut Chocolate Chip Banana Loaf

  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted (measured solid)
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350° and grease 9 ½“ x 5 ½“ loaf pan
  • Mix dry ingredients (flours, salt, sugar and baking soda) in small bowl and set aside.
  • Mix wet ingredients (bananas, egg, melted coconut oil and vanilla) in large bowl. Add in the dry ingredients and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and shredded coconut until incorporated.
  • Pour batter into greased loaf pan.
  • Bake for 45 – 55 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf

Lemon Poppy Seed Loaf

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ cup oil
  • ½ cup sour cream 
  • ½ cup milk (I use 1%)
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/3 cup poppy seeds

Drizzle

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp milk

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350° and grease 9 ½“ x 5 ½“ loaf pan
  • Mix dry ingredients (flour, salt, sugar, baking soda and baking powder) in small bowl and set aside.
  • Mix wet ingredients (oil, sour cream, milk, eggs, lemon juice, lemon zest and vanilla) in large bowl. Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well. Add poppy seeds.
  • Pour batter into greased loaf pan.
  • Bake for 50 – 60 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  • Allow loaf to cool completely. Mix drizzle ingredients in small bowl and spoon glaze over bread.

Can Cupcakes Mend A Broken Heart?

Oreo Cookie Cupcakes
It was a gift from my mom for my 20th birthday and I knew we were destined to be the best of friends. It was stylish, yet practical. Not too big, not too small. Just the right size to hold a summer’s worth of shorts and tees . . . and a souvenir or two from my travels. It was the cadillac of backpacks. And it was all mine.

Old backpack

And while it has definitely seen better days—it’s faded and well-worn at the seams—it remains a treasured possession. A dear old friend.

Recently my old backpack set off on a new adventure, with a brave new explorer. My trusted old friend went to camp with my seven-year old ponytail. It was her first weekend away.

Getting ready for camp

I was quite excited about my daughter’s milestone adventure with her Girl Guide Brownie Troop until we started loading up my old backpack with her weekend essentials. All of a sudden I was overwhelmed with emotion. Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was setting sail on one of life’s great adventures myself? Okay, so this time it’s camp. Next time it’ll be Europe, right? Where’s the pause button?

There were definitely tears. But not from me. (Okay, I did come very close.) The tears were from a younger sister who was utterly devastated to be excluded from this grand adventure. I needed a distraction.

A helping hand

So I pulled out my baking pans and we set to work. Within no time, the cloud of flour in the air and cookie crumbs on the counter, floor and all over my ponytail’s little face worked their magic. The injustice of being younger was soon forgotten.

The thrill of an oreo in every cupcake was the perfect diversion.

An oreo in each cupcake

And something to look forward to once they were baked and decorated.

A peek inside

Oreo cupcakes + dinner with a best friend from kindergarten = a very happy little ponytail.

As for mom? Well, she enjoyed the cupcakes too . . .  but she has realized that she needs to cherish every last minute with each of her two little ponytails. Even those times when she wants to pull out her hair from all the craziness and the tantrums . . . because one day that backpack will be headed for Europe. What do you think the odds are that the girls will take me too?

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Oreo Cupcakes

Cupcake recipe from Bakerella

Cupcakes:

  • 1- 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa
  • 1- 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 22-24 Oreos

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line tray with baking cups.
  • Place one whole cookie in each cup.
  • Mix the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl using a wire whisk.
  • Add the eggs, oil, vanilla and milk and mix well until thoroughly combined. Add the hot water and mix until combined.
  • Using an ice cream scoop transfer the batter into each baking cup so it’s about three quarters full. Makes 22- 24 cupcakes. (Yield was 23 for me)
  • Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Oreo Buttercream Icing

(Adapted from my Peanut Butter Buttercream Icing Recipe)

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 3- 1/2 to 4 cups icing sugar
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 6 tbsp crushed cookie crumbs (approx 5- 6 oreos)

In a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter at medium-high speed until smooth, about a minute. Add 2½ cups icing sugar and salt; beat at medium-low speed until most of the sugar is moistened, about 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl and beat at medium speed until mixture is fully incorporated, about 30 seconds; scrape bowl, add vanilla and milk, and beat at medium speed until incorporated, about 20 seconds. Add remaining one to one-and-half cups of icing sugar and beat until incorporated.  Then increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes, scraping down bowl once or twice. Add cookie crumbs and beat on medium-high for one minute until well incorporated.

Frost the cupcakes when cool.

Decorate with mini oreo cookies (optional)


“There Are No Words . . .”

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“There are no words to describe how good this is,” said my husband after just one bite of the Nutella Molten Lava Cakes that I made for a dinner party over the holidays. One of the ponytails was quick to follow up with: “This is the best dessert ever!”

So, it is without hesitation that I recommend this recipe to you as one to make when you want to impress and delight your dinner guests. Your guests will love the luscious chocolately goodness that oozes onto your plate and melts in your mouth. You will love how easy it is to make.

Now, I have to say that I’m all for making my husband happy these days. He really hit the ball out of the park on Christmas morning with a beautiful new automated cappaccino maker and the Larousse Gastronomique Culinary Encyclopedia. Both items were a complete surprize, as I had forgotten all about the book recommendations that many of you left on the blog post for my book giveaway in November. I owe a special thanks to Tandy from Lavender and Lime for recommending this book. It’s nice to know that my husband reads the blog, isn’t it?

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From what I’ve read so far, this book is a must-have for foodies. Packed with recipes, tips and detailed explanations, it is regarded as the French cooking bible. In fact, Julia Child once wrote, “If I were allowed only one reference book in my library, Larousse Gastronomique would be it, without question.”

I’m sure that this book will successfully keep me out of trouble for countless hours this year and I promise to share a few highlights with you.

In the meantime, I’ll be able to keep up with working by day and blogging by night thanks to my convenient new source of caffeine! (I must tell you that I’m addicted to cappuccinos!)

Our dinner guests Tammy and Les asked for the recipe for these Nutella Molten Lava Cakes, so this post is really for them. They both enjoyed these molten lava cakes and liked that the recipe is no fuss, no muss. (The microwave conveniently melts the butter, chocolate chips and Nutella for you and then you just have to stir in the remaining ingredients.) The recipe is from my new favourite cookbook Savory Sweet Life, which my mom gave me for Christmas along with Ina Garten’s Foolproof.  I’d say all around I’m a pretty lucky foodie, wouldn’t you? (Remember, my husband reads this blog . . .)

Molten Lava Cakes

Nutella Molten Lava Cakes

Makes 12 cakes; recipe from Savory Sweet Life

Cakes

10 tablespoons (1-1/4 sticks) unsalted butter

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/3 cup Nutella (chocolate-hazelnut spread)

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1- 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

3 large eggs

3 egg yolks

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Garnish

confectioners’ sugar

Nutella

Whole hazelnuts, toasted

fresh strawberry slices

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 12-cup muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Place the butter, chocolate chips and Nutella in a large microwave-safe bowl. Heat the mixture in the microwave for 60 seconds, and then in three 30-second increments, stirring it until smooth after each interval. Stir the flour and confectioners’ sugar into the chocolate-butter mixture. Mix in the eggs and egg yolks, one at a time. Add the vanilla and mix until combined.
  3. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups, filling them about three-quarters full. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the edges are firm but the centres are still soft.
  4. Allow the cakes to cool in the pan for 3 minutes to set up. Run a knife around the edges to loosen the cakes and invert them onto a cutting board. Transfer each cake to a serving plate. Lightly dust confectioners’ sugar over each one, followed by a dollop of Nutella, a hazelnut and strawberry half (optional).

Notes:

  • Molten lava batter can be made up to a week in advance. Spoon the batter into the muffin tin and cover it with plastic wrap. Store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake them. Set the muffin tin on the counter while the oven is preheating. The baking time will be the same.
  • Because I only needed six of these cakes for my dinner party, I scooped the batter for six cakes into my muffin tin to cook that day and the remaining batter into six small ramekins to store in the fridge for a later date. This worked well. I just found that the cakes in the ramekins needed to cook for a minute or two longer than they day that I first made them.

Little Hands A Big Help In the Kitchen

Reindeer Cupcakes

There’s nothing like . . . the soft glow of lights on the tree that illuminate a treasured collection of decorations . . . the excited giggles of delight that fill the air while snuggling with two sweet little ponytails to watch a holiday movie . . . the way that with each sip of wine, the tensions of the past year melt away . . .

It truly is a magical time.

Now that I’ve hung up my baking mitts for another year, it’s time to relax and enjoy my favourite holiday activities. I hope that you are able to do the same.

But I didn’t do it all alone this year. The ponytails were a BIG help during cookie baking season. So, for this last post before Christmas I thought I’d share a few of the sweet treats that the girls and I made together.

First up–Reindeer Cupcakes. My oldest daughter decided that we were going to bake Reindeer Cupcakes for the school potluck–and she sketched out how she wanted them to look. A couple of the materials were going to be a bit tricky to work with, so we negotiated between her ideas and one that I spotted on a Facebook foodie group that I belong to. Thanks to Sue H. for positng a link to With Spinkles on Top’s version of these Reindeer Cupcakes!

Decorating reindeer cupcakess

Decorating the reindeer cupcakes with: mini marshmellows cut in half (eyes), chocolate chips (eyes), pretzels, Nilla biscuits and Swedish Berries (nose). For the cupcakes, use your favourite cupcake and chocolate icing recipe.

Earlier in the year when I saw the beautiful ma’amouls that Fati at Fati’s Recipes and Betsy at Bits and Breadcrumbs had made, I knew that I had to try them . . . but I decided to wait until Christmas. The girls were quick to get into the action with these cookies and they got the knack of whacking the molds very quickly!

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The end result was well worth the effort. Look how beautifully they turned out:

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Our entire family fell in love with the Glaciers and Bear Paws from The Fudgery in Banff, Alberta this summer. So, we tried our hand at recreating them . . . it was as easy as making a small circle with five cashews and squishing a caramel on top. Mom (me) popped them in a 325 degree oven for 6 minutes. Then the girls drizzled with melted semi-sweet chocolate (for the Bear Paws) and melted white chocolate (for the Glaciers).

Bear Paws and Glaciers

Gingerbread and Sugar Cookies make the cookie list every year. My youngest daughter really enjoyed the rolling and cutting process of making both these cookies. Here she is in action with the Gingerbreads.

Ponytail gingerbreads

And here’s the final product of the Snowflake and Tree-shaped Sugar Cookies . . .

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Who knew that little hands could be such a big help in the kitchen? Now I certainly do and I imagine that these little hands will only be more helpful with each passing year. Baking for three weeks solid is always a lot of work, but memories like these make it all worthwhile . . . and so does a peek into one of the cookie boxes . . .

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Recipes

Reindeer Cupcakes — Use your favourite cupcake and chocolate icing recipe. For decorations: mini marshmellows cut in half (eyes), chocolate chips (eyes), pretzels (antler), Nilla biscuits and Swedish Berries (nose). We used white icing to “glue” the ingredients to the cupcake and it worked well.

Ma’amouls — I followed Betsy’s Recipe since I had bought the farina flour at a local specialty shop.

Bear Paws & Glaciers — Make a small circle with five cashews and squish a caramel on top. Pop them in a 325 degree oven for 6 minutes. Then drizzle with melted semi-sweet chocolate (for the Bear Paws) and white chocolate (for the Glaciers).

Sugar Cookies (used for Snowflake and Trees) Martha Stewart Cutout Cookie Dough

Gingerbread Cookies — From Martha Stewart; I double this recipe.

I wish you all a very happy holidays. I hope that they are filled with all the things that you love, like the soft glow of Christmas tree lights and treasured ornaments . . .

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My treasured Eiffel Tower ornament made by my friend Shailyn many years ago and a ballerina to commemorate a first Nutcracker performance for my oldest ponytail.

And sweet things, both big and small . . .

girls with cookies

Getting ready for Santa (Christmas 2011).


Seven Pounds: Will It Be Enough?

Cookies, cookies, cookies

It was on sale. So I bought lots. Well, seven pounds to be precise.

Was it enough to make this?

Butter sculpture of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford reading a Margaret Atwood book, while leaning on a steering wheel, which was on display at this year’s Canadian National Exhibition (Source: Torstar News Service)

No, definitely not enough to make a butter carving of Toronto’s controversial Mayor, Rob Ford, (who BTW may soon be outsted from his position over a conflict of interest, not for reading while driving or slinging mud at our literary legend Margaret Atwood).

But it was enough butter to make some of these:

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I took a couple of days off work so that I could get a good start at my holiday baking this weekend, so some of the seven pounds of butter that I bought on sale has been put to good use. Every year, I bake 10 to 15 different batches of cookies and then I give most of them away to friends, family and work colleagues. It is firmly entrenched Christmas tradition, as I’ve been doing this for 11 years now.

However, not everyone likes this tradition. My youngest ponytail burst into tears when she realized that most of her favourite Chocolate-Dipped Butterscotch Logs were headed to the freezer to make their way into these cookie boxes. “But they’re my favourite cookies.” (Be sure to say this with a very loud crying voice, and you are close to reinacting the dramatic scene that unfolded in my kitchen on Sunday.)

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My youngest ponytail’s beloved Chocolate-Dipped Butterscotch Logs

The art of distraction is a parent’s best friend and I’ve managed to distract my daughter with store-bought candy cane ice cream–even if only temporarily.

I love the fact that everyone has a different favourite cookie. Rhonda requests the Rolo Cookie every year. A big fan of coconut, Maria hides the Coconut Pyramids from her partner. Harry will only eat my Checkerboard Cookies, which always stir a debate on how the checkerboard pattern is really created. Mercedes likes to ask for extra Salted Toffee-Chocolate Squares. My Double-Chocolate Chunk Cookies have universal appeal. And, Glen is easy to please–he’ll take any and all cookies that I’m willing to part with.

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Salted Toffee-Chocolate Squares

This year I’ve added two new cookies to the mix thanks to a couple of my blogging buddies.

Nell’s Sugar Cookies (the pretty cookies with the cherry in the middle) are thanks to Barb over at Just a Smidgen (one of my favourite bloggers who, by the way, has received two 2012 Canadian Blog Awards. Way to go Barb!) I knew that I had to make these cookies when Barb posted them a few months back. Simple, with a comforting old fashioned appeal, one bite of these cookies takes me back to my own grandmother’s kitchen. They are sure to be a new favourite this year.

I’ve been wanting to make Chocolate Crinkle Kisses (the adorable crinkle cookies with the Candy Cane Kiss in the middle) for ages now. These cookies make an annual appearance in the wonderful box of cookies that Eva (of Kitchen Inspirations) always brings us on Christmas Eve and I’m never fast enough at hiding them from the rest of the family! As you can see, both of these cookies bring some festive colour to the cookie selection.

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Left to right on large platter: Eva’s Chocolate Crinkle Kisses, Coconut Pyramids, Smidge’s Grandma Nell’s Sugar Cookies and Salted Toffee-Chocolate Squares

So now the question remains, will the seven pounds be enough? Not nearly, if my ponytails get their way!

PS — Given that well over three quarters of my cookies go to treasured daycare staff and work colleagues as a way to say thanks, I’m not able to give cookies to as many of our friends and family as I would like. However, I always keep a supply on hand to put out for company so feel free to drop by for a visit–just be sure to call first!

Cookie Recipes (from Photos)

Salted Toffee-Chocolate Squares (Martha Stewart)

Nell’s Sugar Cookies (Just a Smidgen)

Chocolate Crinkle Kisses (Kitchen Inspirations)

Coconut Pyramids (Originally from Martha Stewart; posted on P&P December 2011)

Chocolate-Dipped Butterscotch Logs

Slightly adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, 2004 Special Christmas Cookie Edition

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup butter scotch baking pieces, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped almonds
  • 1 cup semisweet or bittersweet chocloate pieces
  • 1-1/2 tbsp shortening

In a large bowl, beat butter on medium high speed for 30 seconds. Add brown sugar, baking powder and salt. Beat until combined, scraping side of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour and the butterscotch pieces.

Divide dough in half. Shape each half into a 9-inch long log; flatten so logs are about 2-1/2-inches wide. Wrap logs in plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours until firm.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a sharp knife, cut logs crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Place slices 1 inch apart on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Transfer to wire rack; cool.

Meanwhile, spread almonds in a single layer in a shallow baking pan. Toast in the 350 degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown, stirring ocassionally. Remove from oven; cool.

Combine chocolate pieces and shortening in metal bowl. Place over simmering pot of water until melted. Dip ends of cookies into the melted chocolate. Place cookies on wire rack. Sprinkle almonds on chocolate. Let stand for 30 minutes or until chocolate is set. Makes about 54.