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