Saturday, June 30, 2012

Celebrating July 4th, Independence Day

Celebrating July 4th, Independence Day

Celebrating the 4th of July has always been important in our family. Im thinking back on some of the Independence Days of the past, and I remember cook outs, fireworks, and family togetherness.

I remember making the flag cake that everyone makes with cool whip and berries.

Flag Cake with Real Whipped Cream and Glazed Berries

I dont know that you can get more American than that, but Ive made other goodies to mark the fourth.

Weve made flag cakes with Fondant Star Cutouts:                    
Star-spangled Pies:

Blueberry/Cranberry Flag Scones:

A few years back, my daughter and I had fun making our own 4th of July  t-shirts. 

If you have kids this craft is really fun for them. All you need is a shirt, some fabric paint (glow in the dark is really fun!), Some pipe cleaners and paper plates. You bend the pipe cleaners to paint on the fireworks.  You dip them onto a paper plate where youve poured out your paint. Kids can paint messages on the front or sleeves with puff paint. Detailedinstructions are here.  Be sure to make them a day or two in advance to give them a chance to dry before wearing! 

Whatever you and your family decide to do. I hope you have a fun time building memories together. 

Happy 4th of July Everyone! and God Bless America! 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Operation Baking GALS


Every now and then, I make time to send cookies to some of our well deserving soldiers, sailors, or airmen. I belong to a group called Baking GALS that periodically coordinates this effort. I know it’s just a small gesture, but I like baking and I love sharing what I bake with others.

This go-round I baked two types of cookies: good ol’ all-American M&M Cookies and an experimental cookie that I shall call the Nut Butter Cookie.

Mmm... M&Ms!!
The Nut Butter Cookie Turned Out Crisp & Chewy
I chose the M&M cookie because I like to send something that will remind our American heroes of home. They are fairly simple to make.

All-American M&M Cookies
You will need:
1 c.unsalted butter
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
pinch of cinnamon
2 eggs
1 tbsp. pure Vanilla Extract
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. hot water
½ tsp. salt
1 c. (6 oz.) chocolate chips
1 large (11-14 oz.) bag of M&Ms

  • Cream together butter, sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon until smooth.  
  • Add in eggs, one at time. Then, add vanilla.
  • Dissolve the baking soda and salt in hot water and add to batter.  Add flour in all at once. Mix until flour isalmost totally incorporated, then add in the chocolate chips. Mix as little as possibleor you will have a tough cookie instead of a crispy, chewy one.
  • Using a disher (ice cream scoop—I typically use a #30 size for cookies. You can usewhatever size you prefer.), Scoop out cookies and place on a cookie sheet (Non-greased…Parchment covered… or Silpat covered).
  • Give them plenty of space as they will spread. I tried 12 to half sheet pan, and ended upwith one giant cookie… I think 6-9 cookies per tray would have been better. Oopsie!  
Oops! Too close together! 

  • This is the fun part. Now, you get to coat each cookie dough ball with M&M candies. You want to cover the whole dough ball. Trust me, it’s not too much. There will be plenty of space in between the candies when it’s finished.

  • Pop the finished tray into a preheated oven. Bake at 350°F for 10-12 min. Cookies will look puffy and golden brown. They will de-puff as they cool.
Cut them into bars if they cook together! 

The Nut Butter Cookie experiment was one that came about because I just happened to have some almond butter in the pantry. It’s not called an almond butter cookie, because I added some other nut butters to get the right consistency to the batter.

My almond butter just happened to be Maple flavored. I don’t think it really made a difference in the cookie because I didn't taste maple in the almond butter itself.

This cookie is super easy to make. It is an altered flourless peanut butter cookie recipe. If you want to make the original recipe, simply substitute 2 cups of peanut butter for all of the nut butters listed.

Nut Butter Cookies
You will need:
16 oz jar of almond butter
2 oz cocoa almond butter or Nutella
1 oz peanut butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt

  • Place all of the nut butters in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until combined into a nice smooth, uniform product.  Add all other ingredients and pulse until a nice dough is formed. 

  • Dish out into balls, roll in sugar.  I used my smallest disher on this batch. It is not marked with a number, but it holds about a tablespoon of dough.

  • Bake on a silicone mat or parchment paper. I did not press these out with a fork like PB cookies because they are different!

  • *Optional:dust finished cookies with powdered sugar. 

Apparently, this cookie was really good because I made several and not many made it into the box! (The family ate them!) 

Now, it wastime to pack up my homemade goodies and ship them off. 
I should have taken pictures of my packed box! Oh well, next time, Ipromise!

I used a large flat rate box from the US Postal Service. 
Using this box gives you theability to cram as much stuff as you can in your box (including cushioning for your precious cookies) and not worry about weight. Also, with the large flat rate box, you get a discount when sending to military!  There are a lot of good tipson packing things for the troops here. Including helpful information about how to fillout that customs form.
I used some plastic containers like these,

And filled in the empty spaces around the containers with some store bought snacks: like cereal packs, individual beverage mix packets, popcorn, beef jerky, snack packs and the like.  To finish, I enclosed a letter of thanks and a post card. When I was teaching, I would ask some of mystudents to write letter or draw pictures, too.

I hope I included something everyone in the group I’m sending to will enjoy!

I’d like to encourage you to send cookies or goodies to someone serving in the armedforces. They sacrifice so much for our country. You cannot send to “Any Soldier” any more. You have to send to someone specific. If you do not have someone in your family to send to, ask the people at your church, school or work. Someoneelse is bound to have a family member serving. Or you can join a group like Baking GALS.

"Baking GALS (GALS stands for Give A Little Support) is a group of volunteer bakers from around the country who bake and ship homemade goodies to our heroic military men and women who are currently deployed in a war zone. Our goal is to show our support and send a little bit of home to remind them that we appreciate all that they do for our freedom." --Baking GALS

We Can Bake It!