Monday, 31 December 2012

3D Snowman Cookies on Rambling Momma

I'm excited to have written my very first guest post for my blog buddy Rambling Momma. She's a very sweet lady with a great blog, which is reason enough to check her out, but as a little extra incentive, my post for her is a 3D Snowman Cookie tutorial. Learn how to make these little guys by heading over here.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Secret Santa for Bloggers

You may have seen a button on my sidebar for Secret Santa for Bloggers. This amazing program was organized by Jessica at Boys Oh Boys. I had so much fun participating and meeting some new blogger friends! Thanks, Jessica for organizing it!

I sent a gift to Terri at Rambling Momma. She is such an amazing person and I'm so lucky I had the opportunity to discover her blog and get to know her! I'll be writing a guest post for her soon, so stay tuned for a link!

Keeping Up with K was my Secret Santa. She's the director of an Early Learning Centre and she sent me an amazing cookbook put together by the Centre with tons of tasty looking recipes and a really sweet card. The Healthy Monster Cookies caught my eye right away. Can't wait to make them! Thanks, K for being a great Secret Santa!

I hope my fellow bloggers and readers all had wonderful holidays. All the best for 2013!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Christmas Morning

Christmas morning can be hectic. Nobody wants to wait around for breakfast to cook, but having presents to open doesn't mean empty tummies don't get hungry. Putting together a Breakfast Basket will give you and your family something to nibble on while you celebrate.

Breakfast Cookies
Cookies are great for Breakfast Baskets. You can make them in advance and easily snack on them while you're opening presents, watching your favourite Christmas movie or just curling up by the fire with your loved ones. Here is a recipe for cookies worthy of breakfast time.

Maple Bacon Breakfast Shortbread Rounds
Quick and easy to prepare, these cookies can be made a couple days before Christmas and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator until the big day.
1    c butter
1/2 c powdered sugar
2    c flour
3       strips of bacon, cooked and chopped

Cream butter and sugar. Stir in flour. Add in bacon.
Form into a log and refrigerate for two hours.
Slice and bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes or until edges start to turn golden brown.

Elf Tip: Mixing a bit of powdered sugar with water and maple syrup makes a nice maple glaze for the tops of these cookies. Add a small piece of bacon on top of the glaze for added decoration.

Christmas Morning Breakfast Basket
The trick to a good Breakfast Basket is including treats that are festive, healthy and appealing to everyone. Start with the cookies above then add fruit, granola bars, single-serve cereal and oatmeal, or your favourite breakfast foods, and of course drinks. Hot chocolate with special marshmallows (the ones pictured came from Chapters), assorted single serve coffees and teas, and clementines are making it into my basket this year.
Arrange all of the shelf stable items in a basket in advance. When you wake up Christmas morning, just add in the refrigerated treats and you're ready to go!

Elf Tip: Gather dishes, mugs, napkins and whatever else you might need the night before and place them with the basket so everything is ready.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

A Christmas Gift Just for You

Have you heard of Blurb Books? They're amazing! And they're offering my readers a chance to make their own book at 25% off! You can make photo books, wedding books, blog books and even your very own cookbooks! Check them out at and use promo code GIFTIDEA. This amazing offer ends December 12, so take advantage of it soon!

The Fine Print: * Offer valid through December 12, 2012 (11:59 p.m. local time). A 25% discount is applied toward your product total with a minimum order of 1 unit or more. Maximum discount is CAD $150 off product total. Valid for printed books only. This offer is good for one-time use, and cannot be combined with volume discounts, other promotional codes, gift cards, or used for adjustments on previous orders.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Holiday Cookie Swaps

Cookie  swaps are a wonderful part of the holidays. They give you the opportunity to get together with friends and family, share recipes and enjoy food. And it doesn't hurt that when it's all over you'll have a variety of tasty holiday treats that you didn't have to find the time to make yourself. Since cookie swaps are my absolute favourite type of party - holiday or otherwise - here are some tips and ideas to get you started on the road to cookie swap bliss.

The Basics 
Invite your guests early. The holiday season is a busy time of year. The more notice you give people, the more likely they'll be able to make it.

Invite about 6-10 people. Asking your guests to bake for more than 10 people can be a bit much.

Tell your guests to bring one dozen cookies for each participant (plus an extra dozen for sampling if you choose to go that way). Ask them to tell you what they'll be baking so you can avoid duplicate recipes. Also ask them to print out a copy of the recipe for each participant. If you're cookie swap has a theme (see below), let your guests know. 
The Set-Up
To sample or not to sample? There are two schools of thought on this. Some cookie swaps offer a variety of treats to eat during the swap, but the cookies that guests bring are left for taking home. Others ask guests to bring an extra dozen to sample at the party. I definitely prefer sampling! Part of the fun of baking for someone is watching how much they enjoy eating it. So eat it! An extra dozen isn't too much of a burden for your guests and they'll appreciate being able to try everybody's goodies and talk about them at the swap. 
If you choose to sample, set aside a table specifically for these cookies. Arrange them on attractive platters and cake plates to achieve different heights and don't forget to take lots of pictures. If you're having a sample table, you can ask your guests to package the take-home portions of their treats in advance so you and your guests don't have to worry about wrapping up cookies at the party.
Still on the topic of cookies, don't forget to provide labels for the cookies. Larger labels are better so you can ask each guest to write out the name of the cookie, who made it, and why they picked that recipe to share. 

Not sampling? Don't want to ask guests to spend money on all that packaging? Include a packaging station at your party. You can ask guests to bring their own containers, boxes or bags to put all of their cookies in or you can provide cardboard cake boxes, dollar store plastic containers, or cellophane bags. Put these items on a table of their own so guests can pick them up throughout the party and package up their take-home dozens.

Sips and Nibbles

Even if you are sampling the cookies at your party, you'll want to give your guests something to eat and drink. It doesn't have to be an over the top sit down meal, just some snacks and nibbles. Plan your menu according to the time of day you're hosting your party. If it's mid-morning to early afternoon, try breakfast or brunch foods like quiche squares, fruit and hash browns (kick these up with some Parmesan or a sprinkling of traditional holiday flavours like cranberry and cinnamon). If it's later in the afternoon, what about tea sandwiches and veggie sticks? For an after dinner party, choose a few appetizers and some savory nuts.
When it comes to drinks, time of day doesn't matter much. Coffee, tea and hot chocolate always go well with cookies. Add some snowman marshmallows (stack three marshmallows on a skewer then use royal icing or melted chocolate to add a snowman face, hat and scarf), chocolate covered spoons with candy can pieces, and cinnamon sticks to give the drinks a festive touch. If you're feeling really ambitious, you can bake some mini gingerbread houses that will fit over the rims of mugs. You can also provide some cold drinks, spiced cider, or even an alcoholic option (morning mimosas, anyone?).

Cookie Swap Extras
A Theme
Any cookie swap is a good cookie swap, but why not add something extra to your party this year by hosting a swap with a theme? Ask everybody to bring a traditional family cookie recipe, cookies in a colour theme (a table full of blue and white, red and gold, or shades of green looks gorgeous), or tell them to interpret a Christmas carol (you can choose one or let them choose any carol they'd like) in a cookie. If your friends are big foodies and like a challenge, you could even assign each of them a secret ingredient or two that they have to bake with.

It's a nice touch to offer a prize or two at your swap. It can be a door prize, or after everybody has tasted each cookies, you can ask them to vote on the best cookies and provide a prize for the winner. You know your guests best, so you'll be able to pick out a prize that will suit your group of swappers, but some ideas are a cookie book, a small gift basket of baking items, a gift certificate to a local bakery or gourmet cookie shop, or an interactive prize.

Interactive Prizes
Ask each guest to bring something like a cookie cutter, their favourite kitchen utensil, their favourite cookie ingredient (example, candied ginger), or whatever you choose. Make sure to keep these items small and inexpensive (so no, you shouldn't ask them to bring their favourite kitchen appliance). Package the items up into one or two gift baskets then use them as prizes.

'Tis the Season to Give
Invite your guests to bring non-perishable food with them to donate to a food bank. Or let them know in advance that you've chosen to support a particular charity this season and invite them to make a donation at the party. Depending on the charity you choose, this could be a monetary donation, a gift of time, an unwrapped toy for a child, or whatever your charity needs - if you want to give your guests donation options, contact the charity in advance and ask them what they could use.

My Favourite Cookie Swap Recipe: Apple Walnut Cookies
1      c  butter
3/4 c  granulated sugar
1      c  brown sugar
2         eggs
1      t  vanilla
3     c  flour
1/2  t  baking powder
1/2  t  baking soda
1      c  walnuts, chopped
2         apples, peeled and diced

Stir together dry ingredients. Set aside.
Cream butter and sugars. Beat in vanilla and eggs.
Stir in dry ingredients. Stir in walnuts and apples.
Form into 1" balls and bake on parchment lined baking sheets at 350F for about 12 minutes, or until golden brown.

Because of the fresh apple in these cookies, it's a good idea to let recipients know they should be stored in the refrigerator.
Makes about 3 dozen.

Cookie Swap Swap-Out
Want to host a party but you've already been invited to a ton of cookie exchanges this year? Why not try something a little different and invite your friends to a Loaf Swap, Candy Swap, Ornament Swap, Cupcake Swap or Tart Swap.  Do you have an idea for a creative swap?

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

December Foodie PenPals Charity Edition

Foodie PenPal reveal posts usually come at the end of the month, but this is a special month. For the month of December, Lindsay over at The Lean Green Bean switched the program up a bit - instead of sending a Foodie PenPals box, she encouraged us to donate to charity instead. So I'm writing a little early with the hope that I can inspire some of you to do something charitable this season (or any season!). Lindsay's suggestion was donating what we would have spent on the Program to Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. A great cause, but I decided to do something a little different. I took the money I would have spent on a package and shipping and bought groceries to donate to the local food bank.

Looking for another way to give? Check out some of these ideas:
  • Organize or participate in a Gingerbread House Auction where proceeds go to charity.
  • Donate to your local humane society or SPCA - even if you can't afford a large financial contribution, they can always use toys, food, litter, etc. Give them a call and ask for a wishlist.
  • Donate a toy to a needy child. If money is an issue, volunteer yourself as a gift-wrapper instead.
  • Send a note of appreciation to your local fire or police station - optional: include a coffee gift card.
  • Visit Canada's Write to the Troops message board and leave an encouraging note.
Giving isn't just for Christmas. Here are some ideas to carry you into the new year:
  • February 25 is National Cupcake Day for Humane Societies and OSPCAs. Bake or buy cupcakes to support them. More information can be found here.
  •  Volunteer with your favourite organization
  • Adopt an animal - either a real one or a stuffed creature from the World Wildlife Fund
  • Leave random notes of thanks or support for family, friends, neighbours or other members of your community
  • And don't forget, people eat all year, not just at Christmas. Support your local food bank year-round!

However you give back, you're making the world a better place, one small gesture at a time.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Get in the Spirit: Green Tea Holly Leaves and a Giveaway!

Today is the first day of December! Officially time to get in the spirit of Christmas! Christmas is my favourite holiday (no, I didn't forget that I said that about Halloween in an October post; I warned you this would happen). And it doesn't hurt that it's the perfect excuse to bake. And bake. And bake. So to kick off my favourite (until Valentine's Day) festive season, I have a recipe for cookies with green tea and my very first giveaway!

Green Tea Holly Leaf Cookies
These cookies are just my basic shortbread recipe* with a little matcha added in. Super simple to make, gorgeous to look at, and great for the holidays. 

1     c butter
1/2  c powdered sugar
2     T matcha
2     c flour

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in matcha until well combined. Mix in flour (as usual, be careful not to overmix so your cookies stay tender and flaky).
Refrigerate dough for about 2 hours (though you can leave it for a couple days). Roll chilled dough on a floured surface. Using a holly leaf cutter, cut cookies and place on parchment lined baking sheets. Add red candies for berries if desired.
Bake at 350F for 8-10 minutes, or until bottoms begin turning golden brown.

*Elf Tip: Mix up an extra big batch of plain shortbread and divide it into three or four separate batches. Then add flavourings - like matcha - to each batch to make a variety of tasty treats in record time.

What goes better with delicious cookies than equally delicious coffee, tea or hot chocolate? Nothing! So one lucky reader's next cup is on me! Enjoy it with a cookie while you do some holiday shopping. Enter below until December 7th.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Extra Bonus! Everyone who reads this post gets 10% off at OperationCare with the coupon code SUGARFLOURFLAVOUR 

Friday, 30 November 2012

November Foodie Pen Pals

FPP post Foodie Penpals

I can't believe this is my fourth month as a Foodie Pen Pal! So far my experience has be amazing. I've loved putting together packages for other people and getting to know people through their favourite foods, all while tasting some delicious treats from all across the country! I know you all want to sign up now, so go here! (Please note: FPP is doing things a little differently for December and focusing on charity, so no pen pal matches will be made for the month. Things resume as usual for January.)

This month I was paired with Kendall from TheGreenCat. From the very first email she sent me I was extra excited about the match. In her words "we are crazy similar" and she has such a warm, welcoming personality, so we connected right off the bat. I just knew my fellow Crazy Cat Lady would send something amazing.

Kendall sent me this great box of goodies! Look at all that good stuff!

First up, are some cocoa nibs!

Next, a sweet and salty bar with peanuts (my favourite!!) and sesame snaps, which I can't eat, but my brother was super excited to get his hands on!


She also sent a Camino hazelnut butter bar (so, so good) and raspberry licorice. She also sent low-sodium miso soup, which I forgot to take a picture of because I ate it for lunch right away (soup is so good when you're under the weather!).


Finally, there were some homemade brownies, which are delicious and vegan crumble, complete with the recipe so I can make more when I eat this all up.

Thanks, Kendall! I loved, loved, loved everything you sent! And getting to know you was an extra special bonus!

Still not convinced you should join? Here's more information about the program straight from The Lean Green Bean herself:

Here’s a detailed explanation of the program:
-On the 5th of the month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treatsThe spending limit is $15The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you can choose to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.
- Foodie Penpals is open to US, Canadian residents & UK residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. So, I’m going to keep two separate lists and match US w/ US and Canada w/ Canada!

***If you’re in the UK, please contact Carol Anne from This Is Rock Salt at to get involved!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Holiday Treat Packaging

I know, I know, I'm a little bit early for a Christmas post. But if you're a baker like me, you're already thinking about what you're going to bake for the holidays and who you'll be honouring with a gift of your treats. We all know holidays and food go together like peanut butter and chocolate, and it's never too early to start thinking about making your loved ones happy. So here are some tips for packaging your heartfelt food gifts this season.

Traditional Packaging 

Dressed up dollar store packages
It's easy to find holiday treat boxes to package up your goodies. Some even come with paper for lining the box, ribbon for tying and labels for gifting. The only downside to these festive packages is the price. If you're on a budget, purchase plain white bakery boxes or cellophane bags and dress them up yourself. Add ribbon, foam cutouts, small bells, and other festive ornaments - the dollar store is a great source for these items. Dollar stores are also stocking treat boxes and bags more and more often now. Dress these up to make them look extra special.

Packaging that Doubles as a Gift

Pretty pink and purple holiday trees on martinis with lots of jewels...set of 4
Holiday martini glasses from CCCGLASS
make nice wrapping for cookies, candy
or chocolates

If you don't want to stick to a traditional cardboard treat box, there are lots of options for packaging that becomes part of the gift. This can be as simple as buying some holiday-themed glasses, like the ones pictured to the left, and filling them with homemade goodies. Gift just one or give a set with a different kind of treat in each glass. An idea I really like is putting your treats in a travel mug wrapped in a cute Christmas cozy like the one pictured below. If you're looking to up the gift factor, add a gift card to their favourite coffee shop, a small package of gourmet coffee, a few sachets of special tea or hot chocolate, some gourmet marshmallows, or peppermint sticks and chocolate spoons for stirring their holiday drink of choice. If you're crafty, you can even try your hand at making your own packaging with card stock, parchment paper, or your personal favourite craft medium.

Santa Claus Coffee Cozy
This coffee cozy from Lulu's Little Shop
will dress up any homemade gift
Mailing your Treats

Your friends and family don't have to go without your baked goods just because they're far away. Check out my Care Package Special Feature: Going the Distance for tips on mailing. If you're sending goodies in the mail, it's nice to include a copy of the recipes so your loved ones can make their favourites again and again.

However you package your baked gifts, pick out some special tags for the finishing touch.  And remember: no matter what the finished product looks like, your friends, family, coworkers, neighbours, mail carrier, teacher, adopted soldier, and all the other special people in your life will enjoy getting your gift as much as you enjoy making it.

Favor tag - Gift tag - Cupcake tag - QTY 10
These Cupcake Favour Tags by LouTinenEvents
are a beautiful addition your food packages

FYI: The products featured in this post are all from Etsy shops owned by someone in the military or a military family member!

Giveaway: Boys Oh Boys has 300 Followers!

Fellow blogger Jessica over at Boys Oh Boys is celebrating a milestone: 300 Followers! In honour of her awesome achievement, she's put together a giveaway and you're all invited to enter! Here are the details:

Boys of Boys
300+ Follower Giveaway!
Over $200 in Prizes and 

Plus Boys Oh Boys is giving away a Premade Blogger Template from her Etsy Shop Lilipop Designs! Or if you don't need a complete makeover, maybe just a little "work" done, you can have a $30 shop credit instead! PLUS 2 months of Featured Ad Space on Boys Oh Boys! (Note: templates are currently designing for Blogger. If you have a Wordpress Blog, a different winner will be selected for the Premade Template/Shop Credit, but you will still get the featured Ad Space!)

Use the Rafflecopter below to enter. Good luck everyone!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Care Package Special Feature Part 3: Creative Treats

This final part of my care package feature is all about sending creative treats. Keep reading for a cookie that doubles as a letter and instructions for the best birthday-in-a-box your loved one will ever get.
Cookie Letters
This is a really easy way to put a smile on somebody's face. Bake up a shortbread or sugar cookie. Roll out the dough and cut out a large rectangle. Bake it as per recipe's instructions. If you notice it's getting a little too brown before it's fully baked, cover it with foil.
Once the cookie is cooled, use food colouring markers to write a letter on it. If you seal the cookie with a vacuum sealer and wrap it in lots of bubble wrap, this special cookie will survive a trip anywhere in the world.

Not being able to see your loved one on their birthday sucks, but you can still help them celebrate! Put together a care package with the following items:

Balloon Messages
Blow up 6-12 balloons. Carefully write a heartfelt message to your loved one on each balloon. Deflate the balloons and tie them together with pretty ribbon. Attach a note with instructions to blow up the balloons for some birthday love.

Lemon Birthday Cake
Using a 9x13 inch pan and a round cookie cutter, you can make a pretty cake in a jar to send your loved one.
First, grease and line your pan with parchment then preheat your oven to 325F.
Next, mix 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons of flour, 1/8 teaspoon of baking soda and 1/3 cup of granulated sugar in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of milk, 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil, 1 egg, 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla, and the juice and zest from one lemon.

Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
Pour into your prepared pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
Let it cool completely then use a round cookie cutter (about the size of the jar you're going to assemble the cake in) to cut 4-6 circles out of the cake.
Layer cake circles with lemon icing and top with sprinkles.

Brownie Cake
If your loved one is far away and you don't think the cake in a jar above will last, bake up a brownie (like Nestle's desert safe brownie from Part 1) in a cake pan. Cool it completely, seal it using the tips from Part 2, and send it with some canned icing (this is absolutely the only time canned icing will ever be okay to use. Ever.). It's a good idea to put the icing in a separate freezer bag just in case it pops open in the mail.

Add a final touch to your package with some decorations like a personalized birthday banner, some streamers, and coloured paper plates and plastic cutlery (especially if you're sending a big birthday brownie overseas).

Top the package off with a birthday card, and it's ready to go!

Now that the Care Package Special Feature is over, what would you send to loved ones? What tips do you have for mailing homemade goodies?

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Care Package Special Feature Part 2: Going the Distance

Part 2 of my Care Package series is all about homemade treats that will still be delicious after they sit around in a box for awhile. Nestle has a few recipes on for desert safe treats here. These recipes don't include butter (so the treats won't go rancid if the package takes a couple months to get where it's going) or other ingredients that shouldn't be sent to the Middle East, which makes them perfect for deployment care packages. I've made their desert safe brownies and they turned out pretty well. The soldiers I sent them to really liked them. But don't feel obligated to stick to recipes like these. If your soldier has a favourite goodie that you make, go ahead and send it. As long as you follow the tips below, almost anything is mailable.

Tips for Freshness
1. If you can create and airtight seal, do it! If you have a vacuum sealer, put it to good use and seal your treats. No air means your goodies will last longer before they mold or start to taste stale. If you don't have one, there are a couple hand-held models on the market that are fairly cheap. Invest in one of those if you can.
2. Can't vacuum seal your goodies? That's okay. Wrap cookies two at a time, back to back, or squares in single servings. Start by wrapping them tightly in plastic wrap. Then wrap them in foil. Put them in a plastic freezer bag and squish out as much of the air as you can. Besides adding an extra layer of freshness protection, the freezer bag can be resealed once your soldier gets your treats. Otherwise they might just have to eat them all right away ;)
3. It's a good idea to put your goodies in a metal tin after you wrap them. This will help keep little critters from munching on your treats.

Tips for Packaging
1. Cushion your goodies. If you're placing your treats in a tin after you wrap and bag them, fill the tin with tissue paper. It will make everything look nice when your soldier opens it, but it will also help cushion cookies on the trip.
2. Pack your box tightly. Fill in an extra space with crumpled paper, bubble wrap, etc. This will keep things from moving around too much and help keep your goodies safe.
3. Fragile cookies generally don't ship as well as a nice sturdy cookie. That said, if you pack it properly, you can still send it. I've found that even delicate shortbread cutouts will make it if you vacuum seal them and cushion the package properly. And even if the cookies get there a little worse for the wear, your soldier will love them anyway.

Tips for Making it Extra Special
1. A tin and tissue paper go a long way to making your package look pretty.
2. Adding ribbon, gift tags, cards, or even wrapping your goodies up in wrapping paper (seasonal or just generic colourful paper), will all add an extra special touch.
3. Including handwritten letters always makes any package you send better. Adding a few pictures of yourself making the cookies is a good idea too. Your soldier will get to see you and feel even more connected to home.

Care Package Notes
These cute care package cards from OperationCare on Etsy
are a pretty way to label care package treats.

Stick around for Part 3: Creative Treats.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Care Package Special Feature Part 1: Big Batch Recipes

Baked goods can be a heartfelt gift, especially if you have loved ones living far away. Baked goods are also a big hit with deployed soldiers and with Remembrance Day upon us and my own care package for a soldier in the works, I've decided to dedicate three posts to the art of the baked care package. Today's post will cover big batch recipes - great for splitting up into smaller gifts or for sending to deployed soldiers.

Big Batch Care Package Recipe #1: Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

2 cups butter
1.5 cups brown sugar
1.5 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 eggs
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 teaspoons baking soda
1.5 cups oats (any kind will work in this recipe)
4 cups raisins

Cream butter and sugars. Beat in vanilla and eggs. Set aside.
Combine dry ingredients, except oats and raisins. Mix into wet ingredients.
Fold in oats. Stir in raisins.
Form into 1" balls and bake at 350F for about 15 minutes or until cookies are golden brown but still slightly soft in the centre.

Yield: 4-5 dozen cookies.

To make these cookies look more festive, swap out the raisins for holiday M&Ms or substitute half of the raisins for candied fruit.

Big Batch Care Package Recipe #2: Holiday Shortbread with Cinnamon and Black Pepper

Normally, I wouldn't even think of posting holiday recipes before Remembrance Day, but if you're baking for a soldier overseas, you're going to want to get those holiday goodies out soon if you want them to get to your loved one in time.

3 cups butter
1.5 cups powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla
6 cups flour
1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Beat butter until light and fluffy. Beat in powdered sugar and vanilla. Set aside.
Sift together flour, cinnamon and black pepper. Stir into butter mixture until just combined.

Form dough into two disks. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.
Roll out chilled dough to about 1/8" thick and cut into desired shapes.
Bake at 350F for 8-12 minutes.

Yield: 5-6 dozen cookies

Come back for Part 2: Going the Distance, where I'll share recipes that ship well over time and in hot weather, and tips for keeping things fresh.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

October Foodie PenPals!

This was my third month participating in the Foodie Pen Pals program created by Lindsay over at The Lean Green Bean. I've had so much fun doing this! If you want to meet new people and try some new treats, sign up here.

This month I sent a package to Sarah. I received a really great package from Kathryn.

Kathryn is from Vancouver so my package was full of lots of yummy things from the Granville Island market. I loved the added touch of using a brochure from Granville Island as packing material. This was such a special package!

These apple chips were so delicious. They were the perfect snack while I was waiting for a birthday cake to bake!

My package also had masala chai spices in it. I can't wait to use these!

It wasn't all healthy though. Kathryn also sent a pumpkin shaped dark chocolate lollipop from Roger's Chocolates. I'm not usually a fan of plain dark chocolate but this was really good. If I'm ever in Vancouver I'm definitely going to Roger's Chocolates! The note she wrote me was on a little card from the chocolate shop, too. Kathryn really made this package scream Granville Island with every little detail :)

 And finally, the best part. Homemade peach jam! I love jam and the homemade stuff is always better than anything you buy in stores, but every time I think of making some of my own I decide it's just too much work (and I don't trust myself not to kill anybody). So Kathryn's homemade jam was a wonderful surprise!

Thanks for all the delicious goodies and the special way you packaged them, Kathryn! You're awesome :)

 FPP post Foodie Penpals

Want to know more about the program? Here's the info, straight from Lindsay:
  -On the 5th of the month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treatsThe spending limit is $15The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you can choose to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.
- Foodie Penpals is open to US, Canadian residents & UK residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We’ve determined things might get too slow and backed up if we’re trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa. So, I’m going to keep two separate lists and match US w/ US and Canada w/ Canada!

***If you’re in the UK, please contact Carol Anne from This Is Rock Salt at to get involved!

Monday, 29 October 2012

Halloween Treats: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes and Halloween Peanut Butter Cookies

Have I told you yet that Halloween is my favourite holiday? I love it. Carving pumpkins, making spooky decorations, baking scary treats. Best. Holiday. Ever. (Of course, come December I'll tell you Christmas is my favourite holiday.) So as a treat for you, I decided to make some tasty Halloween treats and post them here!

These Halloween cupcakes are made with wrappers from CupcakeEssentials and a recipe from Canadian baking icon Anna Olson. They have a rich chocolate flavour and are spiced with tasty fall flavours like cinnamon. Yum!

Since I love Halloween, one recipe wasn't enough. So I also made peanut butter cookies. These flaky shortbread-like cookies are flavoured with peanut butter. And if that wasn't good enough, they also have Reese's Pieces baked inside!

These super easy cookies are made in one bowl, they only have five ingredients, and they're egg free. They start with butter and peanut butter.

Once that's creamed, add in powdered sugar.

Then flour.

And the best ingredient, Reese's Pieces.

The last step is to roll the dough into 1" balls then flatten slightly before baking at 350F for 12-15 minutes.

Halloween Peanut Butter Cookies
1/2  c  butter
1/2  c  peanut butter
1/2  c  confectioners' sugar
2     c   flour
1/2 c   Reese's Pieces

Cream butter and peanut butter. Beat in powdered sugar. Beat in vanilla and melted peanut butter cups. Stir in flour. Mix in Reese's Pieces.
Form into one-inch balls and flatten slightly. Bake at 350F on parchment lined baking sheets for approximately 10 minutes or until bottoms are golden brown.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Coming Soon

Here's a sneak peek at some upcoming blog posts.

Starting in November I'll be writing a series of three posts about sending care packages. There will be ideas for sending goodies to loved ones over the holiday season and for military care packages, some big batch recipes, desert safe recipes and creative package ideas. 

Sticking with the holiday/gifts-from-the-kitchen theme, I'll also be reviewing the book Desserts in Jars by Shaina Olmanson, talking about treat packaging and giving tips and recipes for holiday cookies swaps. In December, look for a special post about my cookie swap party, and a recipe for Christmas Morning Breakfast Cookies along with some other tips for breakfast on the big day.

And don't forget to stay tuned for some Halloween goodies and Foodie PenPal reveal day at the end of the month!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Apple Shortbread with Caramel Drizzle

I love experimenting with cookies. I also love fall flavours, so coming up with these cookies made for a fun afternoon. Not only are they tasty, they're really easy.

They start with butter, apple jelly and powdered sugar.

Next, spices are added.

Then some flour. The dough is formed into a disk and chilled.

The chilled dough is rolled out and cut into rounds.

The rounds are topped with apple slices and baked.

Once baked, the cookies are drizzled with caramel made from melted caramels and cream.

Apple Shortbread with Caramel Drizzle
3/4  c  butter, softened
1/4  c  apple jelly (or apple butter or applesauce, whatever you have on hand will work)
1/2  c  confectioners' sugar 
1      t   vanilla
1/4  t  cinnamon
1/8  t  nutmeg
2     c  flour
24       Kraft caramels
1     T  half and half cream

Cream butter, apple jam and sugar. Beat in spices and vanilla. Stir in flour in two additions. Form dough into a disk and chill until firm (about 2 hours).
Roll dough out to 1/8" thick. Cut into rounds about the size of an apple. Top each cookie with a thinly sliced round of apple. Bake at 350F on parchment lined sheets for about 15 minutes or until cookies are golden.
Melt caramels and cream in the microwave for about 45 seconds. Stir smooth. Drizzle onto baked cookies.