Get Well Soon Chocolate Lasagna

Baking date: April 29, 2017

Friends we met through baseball years ago have a daughter who I made Sweet Sixteen cupcakes for last year, a son the same age as our oldest who hit the first grand slam on the travel baseball team, and a youngest son who played baseball with our youngest, before our youngest moved on to lacrosse.

The youngest had to have emergency surgery in April, so a get well treat was in order. After checking with his mom to make sure their were no doctor-ordered dietary restrictions, I opted for a chocolate lasagna.

I used some of the leftover chocolate buttercream frosting from a peanut butter cake I had made the previous week to pipe on the get well message and a border around the top edge.

Here’s the finished product:

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And here’s the sweet note I received from him after dropping the dessert off and sending his mom some pictures of him from the basketball team this season to help cheer him up.

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Get well soon, Andrew!

LAX Celebration Sugar Cookies

Baking date: April 8, 2017

After her brother received a hat trick cake for his exploits during a lacrosse game, I felt like Sami needed some sweet props of her own. She had started her lacrosse season in fine style – with the first goal of the season (3-26-17) and first goal of the second game (4-2-17).

I used some of the leftover chocolate frosting from her brother’s cake to pipe her accomplishments onto round sugar cookies with a #2 tip. I would love to show you a photo of Sami with her cookies, but she ate them before we could memorialize her with the cookies. These are her cookies:

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But don’t any of you fret for Sami. On April 23, her mom posted this to Facebook:

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So, I’m working on a hat trick cake for her this coming weekend. Because… #ACakeOfHerOwn

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Christmas Cookies for Co-workers

Baking date: December 18, 2016

Each year, I bake goodies for my co-workers during the Christmas holidays. This year, I focused on cut-out cookies in a variety of shapes – snowmen, Christmas lights, mittens, stars and snowflakes.

The cookies were chocolate sugar cookies and regular sugar cookies. These cookies take some extra time to set in the frig (the regular sugar cookies are refrigerated twice), so make sure you have planned out your day of baking to include time for it.

I used colored sugars and sugar pearls to decorate the cookies rather than royal icing (don’t worry, I will post about another batch of Christmas cookies where I did use royal icing). Here are the cookies, which my co-workers were grateful to snack on throughout the day.

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You can see a missing star cookie from this sheet – my son always offers to taste-test cookies for me.

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As you can see, not every cookie will accept sprinkles

Thanksgiving Turkey and Acorn Sugar Cookies

Baking date: November 19, 2016

Each year, I try and let my colleagues know how thankful I am for them by making sweet treats to share. This year was no different. In order to save myself some time, I used refrigerated sugar cookie dough, that I rolled to make cut-out cookies.

This shortcut does come with some compromises. The scratch sugar cookie recipe I usually make includes a step that allows the cookies to set and hold their shape. You can probably add the step of refrigerating the cookies for 30 minutes once they are cut out to help them set with any recipe or prepared dough, but I skipped that step in the interest of time. And here’s what some of the “round shapes” looked like once they cooked. To be honest, I didn’t leave much room between each on the cookie sheet:

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Some would say “what’s wrong with a giant cookie?”, and to them I respond “absolutely nothing because it still tastes great!”

I used round cut outs in two sizes to make turkey cookies. They were decorated using royal icing dyed brown for the main body of the turkey, golden yellow for the beak and legs, and black for the dots of eyeballs. Candy corns were added for the feathers, M&Ms were added for the eyes (although in the future, I won’t use the brown ones because you can’t see the dots for eyes piped on), and multi-colored jimmies were sprinkled on. Here’s how the turkeys turned out:

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For the acorns, they didn’t hold their cut-out shape well either. So I used the brown icing for the top and then dipped the still wet icing in chocolate jimmies for texture. Once that dried, I darkened the brown, piped an outline of the rest of the acorn to give it more shape, and filled that in with the remaining brown icing.

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With shapes that need more definition, I’ll definitely add in the 30 minute refrigeration before cooking in the future (regardless of the recipe or any shortcut I use). For the rounds that became turkeys, its not as important that they are perfectly round.

It’s always nice to remind those you work with how thankful you are to have them as colleagues!

Football Playoff Sugar Cookies

Baking date: October 28, 2016

My son Nick’s 8th grade football team made it to the playoffs this year. As has been my custom with football playoff games for my boys throughout the years, I make treats for the players, coaches, cheerleaders, and fans.  There would be three rounds of playoffs, quarterfinals, semi-finals, and the SuperBowl.

Originally, I was inspired by these cookies:

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but decided that those would be the cookies I would make if the team got all the way to the SuperBowl.

For this first round of playoffs, I decided to make sugar cookies in the shape of footballs that were personalized. I use a recipe for the sugar cookies that I found on Food Network. For the royal icing, I always substitute one of the tablespoons of water with a tablespoon of almond extract. I think it improves the taste of the royal icing.

Here are all the footballs with the brown tinted royal icing. I left a portion white for the football laces:

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I also tinted some of the icing golden yellow and royal blue, which are the team colors. I used these colors for piping on names, numbers and other decorations.

The players’ cookies had their name and number:

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The coaches’ cookies had their names:

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The cheerleaders and their coaches had their name and a blue “pom” (tip #233) on each end of the football. Not easy to do with royal icing that is more flooding consistency, so my poms looked more like blobs.

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There were also cookies for the water crew — younger brothers and sisters of players on the team. On the extra cookies, I piped on Lions:

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And last (but certainly not least!), I hand shaped a large football cookie for the team mom:

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Our team was up against the top ranked team…and I’ll spare you the suspense. Our boys did lose and our playoff run was over after only one game.

But the important thing is…even when it was very clear the game was out of hand, our boys continued to play hard until the end. And the other important thing? We had cookies to celebrate what great kids, coaches, and fans we have!

Good luck in high school, fellas!

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2016 GVAA Walkersville Varsity Lions

 

 

Freshman Care Packages

Baking date: a couple of weekends in August in September

I can’t remember when I started doing this, but a few years back I began sending homemade cookie care packages to friends’ kids who were heading off to college, with a note of encouragement. I remember when I started college, my mom sent me a care package of cookies and a note. It made whatever was happening during that transition to life away from home just a little bit sweeter.

As my own boys get older, there are more and more people I know who have kids heading off to college. Even though I send the packages via USPS priority mail second day delivery (yes, I lie when they ask me if there is anything perishable in the package – don’t rat me out!) for only $6.80, this year I spent over $60 on mailing out the packages.

Maybe I need to transition to a big bag of cookies they can pack in the car when they head off to college…

This year’s list of recipients included kids who were first born, youngest, and middle children. For many of the kids, I feel like the moms need the treats more to cope with a first born leaving or dealing with the now empty nest.

Most of the kids had attended the local high school. I made chocolate chip cookies (I use milk chocolate chips instead of semi-sweet) and also royal blue and yellow lion paw candy melts.

The first batch went to destinations in TN, SC, and TN:

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One of the students got my cell # from his mom and called me to personally thank me. One student sent me a message via Facebook:

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And a mom gave me a shout out on Facebook:

 

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The second batch of goodies went out to TN and WV: second-batch-of-cookies

 

These included the same chocolate chip cookies and “paws” candies. For Lana – it was blue/gold paws for her high school team the Lions, and orange/black paws for her new college team, the Bobcats.

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I got tagged in this post on Facebook:

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For my niece Madison, it was green/black paws, which were the colors of her high school team, the Panthers. I also included some quarters since she was going to need them for laundry:

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She send me this note:

The final packages went out a bit later to DE, my alma mater Towson in MD, and VA:

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I got a thank you from my college roommate whose daughter is now going to our alma mater:

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And for two of them, the cookies came when they were needed most:

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All in all, $60 well spent. Best of luck to all the students!

 

Retirement Shortbread Cookies

Baking date: July 31, 2016

One of my co-workers who happened to have the office next to mine retired last week after 27 years with the organization. We had a lovely party for him at work. He’s always been a terrific taste-tester for my creations that I bring into work, so I wanted to create something special for him.

I had red, white, black, and golden yellow royal icing left over from another baking project. After googling “retirement cookies”, I saw one in the shape of a yield sign that said ‘No Work Zone’. Using that as inspiration, I went about creating the treats.

I like the recipe I’ve used for shortbread, but they never had tasted as “shortbready” as I thought they should. I googled shortbread cookie and Ina Garten’s version came up. It’s hard to go wrong with an Ina Garten recipe! While this recipe is a bit more labor intensive than the recipe I’ve used for shortbread, I found that it tastes more like shortbread.

I cut out an octagon shape and a square shape. The square shape was flooded in golden yellow royal icing. Using the black royal icing, I outlined the shape and wrote ‘NO WORK ZONE’ in black royal icing on top of the semi-dry golden yellow:

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Because the royal icing was a little too runny, I had to go back and cover up some of the black that ran and made the letters hard to read.

For the octagon, I flooded it in red, and added STOP WORKING in white royal icing, along with a white border. Just as I finished piping the letters on, I dropped the bag/tip, leaving a few imperfections in the red and letter in WORKING:

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I placed each cookie in a treat box, removing the inserts to fit the oversize cookies.

Thanks Al, for all your wisdom in the three years we worked together. May each day of your retirement be more fulfilling than the last!