College Freshman Care Packages

Editor’s note: It’s been awhile since I have posted. The Fall is always super busy with football for my kids, work projects and the start of the holiday season. Thanks for your patience as I try and catch up on sharing a bunch of baking I’ve been doing since September.

Baking date: September 4, 2017

Every year for the past 4 or so, I have been making cookies to send off to my friends’ kids as they leave for college. This year was no different. There were 5 kids who got care packages this year. They were big brothers of some of my oldest son’s friends, and others are my community friends’ kids.

Packages went to Frostburg University (MD), McDaniel College (MD), Shepherd University (WV), and Wake Forest University (NC). The inserts were simple enough – loaves of Snickerdoodle bread and pumpkin bread, as well as chocolate chip cookies. I sent them via 2-day delivery — please don’t tell the USPS I check the box that affirms there are no perishables in the package!

I had no bubble wrap this year, so to secure the baked goods in place, I added crumpled up plastic grocery bags. Oh yes, and I included this picture…

Clark Griswold

with this handwritten message…

Handwritten note

The best part is seeing the reaction/getting the thank yous…

Like this email, from one of the kids (a big brother of my son’s friend Nick) who shared his package with his roommate:

Joe TY

And this Facebook post (from the big brother of my son’s friends Matt and James):

Josh TY

And this text I got from my friend Kelley (recipient is the big brother of yet another of my son’s friends, Owen):

Ethan TY

And then there was the kid who returned home for a varsity football game and  delivered these to me in the stands while I was watching my kid play:

Noah TY

There’s nothing better than the feeling of community. And making the good young people you know feel loved and happy.

So, what are the ways you could pay it forward for others?

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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

SamiCM

 

 

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!

Cousins ‘n Crabs Shortbread Cookies

Baking date: August 29, 2016

Each year, the cousins on my mom’s side of the family get together in the Summer for something we call Cousins ‘n Crabs. There are 13 of us cousins, and we are far-flung. A few of us live in Maryland, and the largest contingent (4) are in California – divided between San Diego and San Francisco. Florida (Port Orange), Illinois (Chicago), Arlington (Virginia), Richmond Hill (Toronto), and Italy are also represented.

While we all aren’t able to be at the event each year, we try to get as many as possible together. The event is hosted at my sister’s house, where we steam crabs and cook hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill. Folks bring side dishes and desserts to round out the meal.

Of course, I’m on dessert duty. This year, I made outrageous brownies (sorry, no picture was taken before they were all gobbled up!). I also made shortbread cookies because my mom’s brother is allergic to eggs. Whenever we gather, I always make an eggless dessert to he can have something sweet.

Here’s the recipe I used for the cookies:

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Because this is a mini-reunion of sorts, I went with a Maryland-inspired color theme for the decorations. I made royal icing in white, red, black, and golden yellow.

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The cookies were in star shapes along with COUSINS N CRABS spelled out using alphabet cookie cutters.

I tried to make Maryland flag-inspired designs on the letters:

MD flag

 But I made the royal icing a bit too runny. This is how COUSINS N CRABS turned out:

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The cookie in the middle is the family name Fenwick. Again, you see that the icing was a bit runny and didn’t hold its shape too well:

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All the cookies tasted great in spite of the icing not turning out exactly as I had hoped!

I used the remaining icing to decorate the stars. There was so much left over that I got to use it for special retirement goodies I made the following day for a co-worker.

Here are the stars:

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And close up:

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Every year, I look forward to Cousins ‘n Crabs. It brings those of us who can attend back to our roots. And we get to spend time with family, which is the best reason of all to get together.

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Meaty crab backfin – delish!

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My Uncle Bill feeding his grandson Max freshly picked crab while my sister Diane holds him

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My Uncle Bill feeding his oldest grandson Jack freshly picked crab

Shortbread Star Cookies

Baking date: July 2, 2016

My mom and dad decided to have a dinner over the July 4th weekend. My mom isn’t as big on cooking out as she is on cooking, so this was a buffet style dinner, but not a hot dog or hamburger was in sight.

I offered to make dessert, but mom said no, she had that covered. Yeah, like I’m going to show up empty-handed. I decided to make shortbread cookies because my uncle has an egg allergy.

To make them a bit more celebratory, I used star-shaped cookie cutters along with red, white, and blue decorations. I made some large stars, some small stars and some large stars with a small star cut-out. The large stars with the cut-out were delicate — even more so since the cookie was shortbread.

There were cookies that I topped with a mix of blue and red sugar sprinkles:

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Large, small and cut out stars, as well as an up-close look at the cookies.

And there were large star cookies that I topped with classic white frosting and then placed a cut-out large star on top. In the cut out, I added red, white, and blue sprinkles.

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I topped some of smaller stars with classic white frosting and added the red, white and blue sprinkles. For the rest, I iced the sides and added the sprinkles:

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Here are all the cookies that had frosting:

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My cookies — in addition to the homemade strawberry shortcake my mom prepared — ensured a sweet ending to a nice 4th of July spent with family.

Fathers Day Sugar Cookies

Baking date: June 18, 2016

This year on Fathers Day — as has been the case in many years — my son Alex’s baseball team was playing in a tournament. The tournament was for the league his team is part of. We were going up against a team in the championship game that we had split our regular season games with.

I’ll spare you the suspense — we lost in the bottom of the 7th, after coming back to tie the game in the top of the 7th. Tough loss, but we were also down a player who didn’t show, one player in a cast due to a torn ligament, and one player who took a wicked foul ball off his forehead in the semi-final game, just 45 minutes prior to the championship game. We had just enough boys to field a team as long as no one (else) got hurt. Well, one of our players was covering first and got spiked on the top of his foot by the metal cleats the base runner was wearing, but he gutted it out and finished the game. Way to hang tough, Drew!

It has been tradition recently (2015 Fathers Day cookies, 2013 Fathers Day cupcakes, and 2012 Fathers Day cupcakes) for me to make special treats for the dads. I didn’t do it in 2014 because we were in Myrtle Beach for a tournament and didn’t have access to a kitchen.

This year, it was star-shaped sugar cookies, with buttercream frosting (leftover from a previous baking effort two days earlier).  I made white candy-melt square shaped bases. I covered the sugar cookies in the golden yellow buttercream frosting. I then placed a “base” on the cookie and piped a players number on the base along with the word ‘DAD’ with a #2 tip. Using a #42 tip, I double-outlined the edge of the star in royal blue buttercream (more leftover frosting from the cupcakes the day before).

Here are all of the cookies decorated, and one extra big star with a few royal blue mini-M&Ms:

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And here’s one up close:

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Of course, there was plenty of cookie dough left over for regular and mini-stars for the families and fans who showed up to cheer the boys on.  Some had buttercream frosting, mini-M&Ms, and others had sprinkles:

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And since we had a semi-final game before the championship game, I had made Rolo-stuffed chocolate cookies (I use mini-Rolos and dip the top in sea salt instead of nuts, before baking) to make sure there were plenty of goodies for both games.

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Even though we didn’t end up being the county league champions, I have to say, with all the dads opting to spend their special day cheering on their boys through two games in the hot Summer sun, it was a win.

Thanks to all the dads out there, who make sure their kids know how special they are. Especially my husband.

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