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Your Tray or Mine Recipe of the Day: Brown Eyed Susans, a Family Favorite

12 Dec

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 7, 2011

When I posted my first recipe last week for Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies, I mentioned that it was one of my top two favorite cookies on our trays each year (I’ll let you know what my other favorite is when I post it.) However, the thing about cookie trays is that everyone has their own favorites. Mine tend to be all the ones that are heavily chocolate chip based, but not everyone’s are.

Brown Eyed Susans for Christmas Cookie Trays

I had a near meltdown when I realized we were totally out of any sprinkles for the tops of the cookies. I recovered when I found red and green stars instead.

Today’s recipe is for Brown Eyed Susans, which are my brother’s favorites. I might have one each year, but he *loves* them. They’re good and easy to make. I hope you’ll try them!

BROWN EYED SUSANS

INGREDIENTS

Cream together the following:

1 cup butter

3 TBL. sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. salt

CHILL FOR TWO HOURS.

Rolled and flattened cookie dough

Here’s what the cookies look like as they are rolled and then as they are flattened.

DIRECTIONS

Roll into about 1 level tablespoon ball and place on greased cookie sheet.

Flatten slightly using your fingers. (This is a good place to have your kids help out.)

Bake at 400 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Frost while warm. (You can make these ahead, freeze cookies and then frost them when thawed.)

I find that if you fill all your baking sheets with the rolled and flattened cookies first, you can use the baking time to make up the frosting so that it’s ready for you to frost them while they’re warm.

Brown Eyed Susans

These look pretty with any sort of decorations on top, but we normally use sprinkes as shown here.

FROSTING INGEDIENTS

1 cup Confectioner’s Sugar

2 TBL Baking Cocoa

2 TBL hot water

1/2 tsp vanilla

Use about 1/2 tsp on top of each cookie (yes the frosting does drip off the cookies, so put wax paper underneath.)
**I found that the 1/2 tsp measure on top of each cookie is important. If you use just any spoon to frost them you run out of frosting because too much goes onto the cookies and then drips off the cookies onto the wax paper and then you have to make another batch of frosting.

Sprinkle colored sprinkles or chocolate sprinkles (or place an almond, or whatever you’d like,) on top. This is also a good “job” for kids to do, decorating the tops of the frosted cookies, that and running their fingers all over the waxed paper where the chocolate has dripped once the cookies are safely removed!

**In Rhode Island, the sprinkles are called Jimmies. My dad is Jimmy and my mom is Pat so we call our colored ones Patsies. Just a random fact for you…

A single recipe makes about 36 cookies.

Your Tray or Mine? Recipe of the Day: Cherry Squares

11 Dec

This recipe is not a recipe that I’ve ever posted on FB before but it’s one of my mom’s recipes that I love. Each year her office celebrates the holidays by taking turns bringing in treats for everyone in the office. Each year my mom brings these in and each year she gives me all the corners. I *love* the corners of bar cookies, brownies and cakes!! Sometimes I’ll arrive home to find a little package in my door of four wrapped corners just for me. 🙂

This Sunday and the next two I will post bar cookie recipes. You can include them on your trays or you can bring them to a party on a tray all their own. Either way, they’re delicious!

CHERRY SQUARES

INGREDIENTS

2 sticks butter or margarine, softened

2 cups sugar

4 eggs added one at a time

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp almond extract

3 cups flour

2 cans cherry (or any other) pie filling

Confectioners sugar for sprinkling on top, when completely cool, for presentation

DIRECTIONS

In large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together.

Add eggs, one at a time.

Add vanilla and almond extracts.

Gradually add the flour til all ingredients are combined.

Spread three quarters of the batter in the pan. My mom uses a greased 11 x 17 cookie sheet pan for hers.

Top with the fruit filling.

Top with remaining batter. (Batter will be thick and not spread easily on top of the filling, so just drop small spoonfuls of it randomly across the top of the filling. It will spread as it bakes.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Sprinkle with confectioners sugar and cut into bars for serving.

Fun Friday: Jelly Thumbprint Cookies for a great after school snack

10 Dec
Once I tried these cookies the first time, I knew the recipe was a keeper!

Once I tried these cookies the first time, I knew the recipe was a keeper!

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED JANUARY 2, 2014

I tend to enjoy cookies of the chocolate variety.

I know, you’re completely shocked by this news.

However, last year when I made my cookie trays, I thought the chocolate was a little bit overwhelming to the non-chocolate choices on my trays.

What if someone doesn’t like chocolate?

Doubtful, but what if?

Then they’d only have two of my cookies to choose from: Snickerdoodles and Oatmeal Scotchies. I felt like I needed another option for this year’s trays. I wanted something easy, something without a ton of ingredients or steps.

Enter the Jelly Thumbprint cookie.

I had a Chocolate Thumbprint cookie, but these would be completely different, other than the thumbs.

I went to Allrecipes.com and found this recipe, and modified it to suit my own needs.

I made it a little bit healthier, with the addition of some wheat flour and by using I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.  I didn’t want the peanut butter glaze, so I just left them plain.

I first made them as an after school snack, making half with strawberry jelly and half with grape. The kids loved them so I decided they’d make it onto the trays. This year I’d been invited to participate in a cookie swap, so I made a double batch of these, using half for the swap, some for a Christmas party we were going to, and the rest for my trays.

They were a hit, all around!

This is a cookie that can be made for my family throughout the year, and I intend to make them a permanent addition to my trays in the future as well.

Below is the recipe from Allrecipes.com as it appears on their site, along with my modifications. If you’d like to make them with the peanut butter, you can try that as well!

Jelly Thumbprint Cookies

Ingredients:
1 cup butter, softened (I used I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter)
2/3 cup white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour (I used one cup of white, one cup of wheat flour)
1/2 cup grape jelly (I also used strawberry jelly)
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter (I skipped the peanut butter)
1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil (When skipping the peanut butter, no use for the oil either)
Directions:
1. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C); line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer in a large bowl until smooth; add the vanilla and continue to beat. Mix in the flour mixture until just incorporated. Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and arrange on prepared baking sheets. Make a small hole in the center of each ball, using your thumb and finger; fill the holes with grape jam.
3. Bake in the preheated oven until lightly browned, about 14 minutes; allow to cool on baking sheet for 1 minute.
4. Put the peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl, and cook in a microwave oven until soft for 10 – 30 seconds, checking every 10 seconds. Be careful not to overheat the peanut butter; do not let it bubble. Stir the vegetable oil through the heated peanut butter; drizzle over the warm cookies.

Your Tray or Mine: Last recipe: Glazed Pineapple Cookies A Family Favorite

9 Dec

My dad’s favorite, the Glazed Pineapple Cookies come from this cookbook.

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED DECEMBER 20, 2011

Today’s recipe is the last one for the Your Tray or Mine series!

It is my dad’s favorite cookie tray recipe as well as one of my mom’s favorites. He only gets these cookies once a year and he looks forward to them all year long. They are glazed pineapple cookies, such a pretty cookie on our tray, and not a stitch of chocolate on them!

My mom and I split the list of recipes in half each year, each making about 6 different kinds, and merging them on our trays. This one is one of the ones on her to do list each year. This recipe comes from her McCall’s Cookie Collection Cookbook. It looks very similar to a glazed egg biscuit, but it’s a completely different cookie.

Glazed Pineapple Cookie

Glazed Pineapple cookies….my dad’s fave.

GLAZED PINEAPPLE COOKIES

INGREDIENTS

1 can (8 3/4 oz.) crushed pineapple

2 cups sifted all purpose flour

1 and 1/2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup light brown sugar firmly packed

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

INGREDIENTS FOR GLAZE

4 cups sifted confectioners sugar

3 to 4 tablespoons liquid from pineapple plus about 2 tablespoons hot water

DIRECTIONS

1)Drain pineapple, reserving liquid.

2) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets.

3) Sift flour with baking powder, baking soda, and salt, set aside.

4) In large bowl, with wooden spoon, or portable electric mixer at medium speed, cream shortening with sugar until light.

5) Beat in egg and vanilla until light and fluffy.

6) Add drained pineapple, mix well.

7) Stir in flour mixture until well combined.

8) Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls, two inches apart, onto prepared cookie sheets.

9) Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove to wire rack; cool partially.

DIRECTIONS FOR GLAZE:

In a medium bowl combine sugar with pineapple liquid. Stir until smooth.

Spread tops of cookies with glaze while they are still slightly warm.

Makes about 3 1/2 dozen.

The challenge is real: health and wellness vs. tradition

8 Dec
Red and green crinkle cookies were new for me this year and I wanted everyone to be able to enjoy them.

Red and green crinkle cookies were new for me this year and I wanted everyone to be able to enjoy them.

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 22, 2015

It seems to me that our family often has their “ah ha moment” in regards to what’s been bothering their stomachs *right* before the holidays, whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s.

Although I’m always so happy we’ve figured it out and can help them, I always find it totally and completely overwhelming trying to figure out our traditional holiday meals versus their new health and wellness needs. I want everyone to feel good, and yet I want everyone to be able to partake in our usual favorites, whether it’s grilling and eating pumpkin bread in our pjs in front of the television on Thanksgiving morning, or whether it’s making and eating all our favorite Christmas cookies from recipes we’ve held near and dear through the years.

It’s very challenging.

Very.

With our new gluten free needs, I found myself completely overwhelmed, trying to immediately figure out what we needed for Thanksgiving, but while doing so, knowing that Christmas was literally right around the corner, and that holiday for us, had visions of flour and gluten dancing in my head. We normally bake dozens and dozens of our favorite Christmas cookies every year, and it’s a tradition I have held near and dear to my heart since growing up baking with my mother and it’s something I’ve passed on to my children as well. In addition to our old favorites, each year I also will often try out a new recipe and with that, I’ve added a few new favorites to our traditional list as well.

As I searched, scrolled and pinned, I tried to make heads or tails of what I was going to do. I saw many holiday cookie recipes online, and although they looked good enough, they weren’t *our* holiday cookie recipes and I knew that no matter how good they might be, it wouldn’t be good enough for us. I wanted everyone to be able to enjoy our old favorites and any new favorites we might find this year.

Winner, winner! This was the flour blend I decided to try for our cookies this year.

Winner, winner! This was the flour blend I decided to try for our cookies this year. I measured cup for cup as I would have in my regular recipes, as it said you could.

Finally, after avoiding the thought process for a while between Thanksgiving and Christmas, last week I decided to attempt to make our own recipes using gluten free flour. Specifically, I opted to use the Pillsbury gluten free flour blend which already included the various types of flour I’d seen in from-scratch recipes as well as the needed amounts of xanthan gum that is needed to hold the flours together.

I tried a new recipe for Grinch Crinkle cookies that I thought were adorable. I opted to use them for a cookie swap and instead of doing just green, I split the batter, which is made with a vanilla cake mix, and make red AND green. How cute is that??? Very, very cute. They were a big hit.

We'd already successfully used this for cupcakes, so I was willing to give it a go for Grinch Crinkle cookies too.

We’d already successfully used this for cupcakes, so I was willing to give it a go for Grinch Crinkle cookies too.

Luckily, I could make the red and green batch above to take with me Saturday night and use a gluten free cake mix from Betty Crocker for another set. Purple and sparkles were requested but I stayed with the Grinch Green theme. This time.

The cake mix worked out great, and these will be a keeper in our yearly baking for sure. I even see them as being red and blue with white chocolate chips around July 4. Wouldn’t that be adorable? It would. I’m sure of it.

These gluten free Grinch Crinkles were not mixed in with the red and green cookies above. They stayed at our house and got all thumbs up from everyone!

These gluten free Grinch Crinkles were not mixed in with the red and green cookies above. They stayed at our house and got all thumbs up from everyone!

And so, here it is, two days before Christmas Eve, and I’m on a roll. I’ve made a totally gluten free set of Grinch Crinkles, Snickerdoodles, Chocolate Chip Butterballs, Chocolate Thumbprints, Holiday Chex Mix, and I have more to come. A few more, anyway. You can find all the recipes by clicking on the titles and see if any of them work for your dietary needs! I use I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter to reduce the fat also, so they’re not too bad in that department either. Overall I find that the batters are coming out almost the same. Maybe a bit more crumbly but not awful by any means, and definitely workable 100% of the time. The cookies taste the same, I’ve made sure to taste plenty of them just to deliver a valid verdict for you!

I wish everyone who celebrates the upcoming holidays this week a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Blessings to you and yours for health and happiness always!

 

 

Saving My Sanity Holiday Chex Mix

7 Dec
This Chex Mix recipe literally saved me this year.

This Chex Mix recipe literally saved me this year. I filled an entire laundry basket with gift bags, plus a Tupperware Cake Taker full of the mix itself.

ORIGINALLY POSTED DECEMBER 20, 2013:

I think we’d all agree that the holidays are much more enjoyable when you’re not totally and completely stressed out.

Agreed?

Agreed.

That being said, this school year, the holidays and the treat-giving season that goes along with them, had the potential to put me right over the edge. And really, as a working mom of three this time of year, that edge is awfully close most of the time anyway, so I really didn’t have far to be pushed.

Normally, I’m a cookie baker at Christmastime. Between my mom and I, we bake over a dozen different types of cookies, creating cookie trays for our family and friends.

As a mom of three, I have always given all of our kids’ teachers a cookie plate at Christmastime. I also have given one to the secretary, bus driver and bus monitor, teacher aides, principal and I make a tray for the faculty room. I also treat the staff at my husband’s school to a tray of cookies in the teachers’ room, and then I make them for our family as well.

It seemed doable when my oldest was first in school, and even when two were in school. It started to get a little tougher when all three were in school, as well as my husband at his own school, but I continued on.

Then last year came middle school.

SEVEN TEACHERS. A whole new set of office staff. A principal AND an assistant. TWO secretaries.

A lot of people will say, “Oh, in middle school that all ends. No gifts for those teachers anymore.”

I’m not sure where that theory came from, but I will say I used to BE a middle school teacher, and I love cookies, but more than that, I liked being thought of at this time of year just as much as when I was an elementary teacher.

My daughter didn’t want to stop our treat-giving tradition, and I couldn’t find a good reason why she had to. And she didn’t want to leave any of her teachers out. So we didn’t.

This year, my husband has a new job at a larger school.

With 90 staff members.

I knew something had to give. I was not going to be able to do it. There wasn’t any way that I could possibly make enough cookies for all of the teachers and staff in all three schools and my family, and keep my job. Or my sanity. I’d be baking all hours of the day and night for weeks to make that happen.

There had to be another answer.

Simple, affordable ingredients, few dishes to wash. A win-win!

Simple, affordable ingredients, few dishes to wash. A win-win!

Enter The Tailgateista and her Homemade Crock Pot Apple Cinnamon Chex Mix.

That’s right. I said CROCK POT.

That was the answer to my problem, thanks to my Crock Pot partner in crime, Gina, who was also searching for another solution to the gift-giving issue. She’s the one who found this recipe and sent it to me.

We both decided to go with Chex Mix gifts this year, although we each chose a different mix to make, and today, as I type this three days before the last day of school before the vacation, I can honestly say that this saved my sanity.

My gifts are done. Cooked, cooled, bagged, tagged and ready to be handed out on Friday, the day you’ll be reading this.

And I still have my job and my sanity, thanks to this recipe from The Tailgateista.

I doubled her original recipe and made a few modifications to it, to serve my purposes. I will put her recipe and my modifications below.

I doubled the recipe SIX TIMES.

That’s right, six times. 72 cups of cereal, and the equivalent of 48 two-cup gift bags of Chex Mix.

And the best part of all? Not only is it a very cost-effective gift, but it cooks while you accomplish other tasks!!

For me, a journalist who works from home a good part of the week, I could type all day and my gifts were cooking themselves over in the crock pot behind me as I worked. Or, if I was working away from the house all day, I could throw in a batch at night to cook itself while we worked on homework and showers and cleaned up from dinner. Some days, I did both: a batch in the daytime if I was here, and a batch again in the evening or after school.

Phenomenal.

And delicious.

I’ll still be making Christmas Cookies this weekend, all our favorites, and I’ll still share them amongst our family and some close friends, but I won’t be cooking over the mixer and oven,rolling and frosting, baking and cooling late at night for a week in between working and parenting obligations, and still not  having enough cookies to go around.

We’ve found a way to thank our teachers and staff members for their time, talent and hard work without pushing me over the proverbial edge the week before Christmas.

I even had enough gifts to give out extras to people I have always wanted to give cookies to, but didn't ever have enough!

I even had enough gifts to give out extras to people I have always wanted to give cookies to, but didn’t ever have enough!

Below is the Tailgateista’s recipe and my modifications follow below it.

Give it a try, it’s delicious! Maybe this Chex Mix will be the key to saving your sanity too!

Ingredients

6 Cups Chex Corn Cereal
1/4 Stick Butter
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Nutmeg
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Ginger
1/2 Cup Chopped Dried Apples

***You can also add Pecans, M&M’s, any other candy,dried fruit or nuts!!

Instructions

* In a microwave combine all spices, sugar and butter until it is melted.
* Add the Dry ingredients (cereal, apples) into crock-pot
* Add all melted ingredients into the crock-pot and mix
* Cook in crock-pot on low for 3 hours
* Enjoy!

I used I Can't Believe It's Not Butter instead of real butter, which makes this a bit lower in fat.

I used I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter instead of real butter, which makes this a bit lower in fat.

MY MODIFICATIONS

1) I doubled this recipe each time, since my crock pot is large enough to hold a double recipe.  ***2014: Another sanity-saving tip I have added in this year is using the plastic bag liners for the crock pot for every batch. The brand I used is an Aldi’s brand, Boulder, and they’ve been amazing. I would not make this again without using the bags.***

2) I substituted the Dulche le Leche flavored Cheerios for one cup of the Chex, (so two cups of Cheerios for a double recipe and ten cups of Chex.)  ***2014: Substituted Frosted Cheerios instead of Dulche le Leche.***

3) The butter should read 1/4 cup for a single recipe, in my opinion, not stick. I used 1 stick per double recipe.

4) I opted not to use the apples, because the first time I did a trial run, they burned.

5) I did not stir the Chex Mix in my trial run, which may be the reason why the apples burned. In every subsequent time however, I stirred the Chex Mix every 45-60 minutes while it cooked for the 3 hrs.

6) For my mix-ins, I used 1/2 bag of mini marshmallows, 1/2 bag of red and green mini M&Ms, and one full bag of white yogurt covered raisins, per double recipe.

7) Each double recipe with my mix-ins filled eight gift bags. For my husband’s school, I filled  a large Tupperware Cake Taker, normally used to carry layer cakes, with an entire double recipe, just for his faculty room. I sent in small plastic drinking cups for them to eat it out of.

Although cost is not always the deciding factor in gift-giving, it’s certainly taken into account. I think most everyone sticks to a budget when shopping for gifts. With each of the six double recipes yielding 8 two-cup bags of mix, and my ingredients costing a total of $40.68 for all six batches (I used coupons for the M&Ms and the cereals), these 48 gifts cost me $.85 per bag to make. I spent just under $2.00 on two packs of 20 gift baggies to put them in. Even still, that cost me less than $1 per gift.

Over 100 people will be enjoying my Sanity Saving Chex Mix this weekend, and I was able to accomplish it relatively stress-free and budget-consciously.

Have a great Christmas everyone!!

It’s that time of year again: a cookie recipe a day!

6 Dec

How is it already that time of year again?

I don’t know how it happened, but I blinked and now it’s December. It’s cookie-baking time again. Starting tomorrow, one cookie recipe or bar recipe will run every day until December 21, so be ready! You’ll have them all at your fingertips when you’re ready to start baking.

Have a wonderful holiday season!