Jam-filled sablé cookies have always been a holiday tradition in my family – it just wouldn’t be the holiday season without some kind of shortbread cookie in the lineup! In fact, when I used to come home from university, my mom had a box of these yummy cookies frozen and waiting for me. She still does that anytime I go home, no matter what time of year it is.
This holiday season, I tried a new version of jam-filled cookies: Linzer Cookies, from the Holiday Cookies* cookbook by Alice Medrich. The combination of almonds, almond extract, lemon and lime zest made the cookies unique, crunchy, and oh-so-tasty! Linzer cookies are, by definition, made with almonds, and originated in Linz, Austria.
Our wedding anniversary is between Christmas and New Year’s and, given that jam cookies are my husband’s most requested cookie, it gives me the perfect excuse to make one more holiday cookie (not that I need one) at this time of year. In fact, my husband reminded me earlier this week that I hadn’t made any this year! He also likes anything with almond flavoring, so these cookies were made for him! And, he loved them.
It’s as much fun to package Christmas cookies and treats, as it is to make them – wouldn’t you agree? All you have to do is search for holiday gift wrap ideas online and you’ll find tons of creative and original ideas. I also love getting inspiration from magazines, books, and stores this time of year.
Tip 1: Keep in mind that it’s the thought that counts!
If you’ve spent lots of time baking or picking out the perfect edible gift, and you’ve gifted yummy food in the past, then you know that the receiver is really going to appreciate the time and effort that went into the gift. As my daughter says, it’s a more thoughtful gift when it’s homemade. This is another way of saying that there’s lots of food this time of year and that it’s about the thought behind the gift, not the quantity.
I love to bake and it’s something that I do several times a week, all year long! People ask me what I do with all the baked goodies, but the truth is that we eat most of them, take them for school lunches, and share them with friends. The latter is especially true around the holidays, because we end up gifting a lot of baked treats. It does take a bit of planning to get it done effortlessly, so I’m sharing my 8 steps for stress-free holiday baking!
Step 1: Make a list of what you want to bake
This step sort of starts itself around the beginning of October when you see holiday baking magazines in the check-out aisle. It’s easy to get inspired and reminded about what you want to bake. I usually take out holiday baking books from the library and do some online searches. I also ask my husband and kids what their favorite treats are, and I add them to my list. Don’t be afraid to try new recipes, because it’s always fun to find new favorites. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on some new treats I’m going to bake this year!
Step 2: Clean out the freezer and fridge
Although we have a frost-free fridge, I still find that there is some frost build-up in the bottom of the freezer. This is probably because of the uneven temperatures in our kitchen and because we open and close the fridge a lot. I find the beginning of the holiday season to be the best time to do a big clean. Purging expired and freezer-burned food clears space for storing all of the holiday goodies. This takes me 24 hours to do as I let the fridge sit overnight, but it feels so good to start the holiday season with a clean and empty freezer!
Recently one evening, my daughter came home from a school event, with two big cookies that looked like oatmeal cookies. She said they were ‘breakfast cookies’. They looked (and tasted) delicious and contained one of my favorite baking ingredients: oatmeal. I had to figure out how to make them. Luckily, they’re made at the school and they were able to give me the recipe.
The term ‘breakfast cookie’ is an interesting one because you don’t usually think of a cookie as a breakfast food. It sounds like you’re sort of tricking yourself by having a cookie with the word ‘breakfast’ in front of it! Let me be clear here: these cookies contain butter and sugar and no fruit. You’ll find lots of recipes online for healthier breakfast cookies out there, made with mashed bananas, almond or peanut butter, and coconut oil. This recipe doesn’t have any of those ingredients. So, in that sense, it really is more of a traditional cookie!
In fact, this recipe is basically the recipe for oatmeal cookies, except that it has proportionally more of the dry ingredients. And, the recipe calls for ground flax meal, which you can taste and notice with every bite.
I love to bake, so, by now, you’re used to all of the desserts you see on this blog. This time of year is always interesting with lots going on, like the beginning of the school year, sports tryouts, back-to-school shopping, and getting ready for fall activities like Canadian Thanksgiving and Halloween.
One thing is for sure, though: I’m back to cooking and baking quite a bit more after the long summer break, where I apparently slacked off in the kitchen! Kids are always so honest. When I came back last week from a trip to Lebanon with tons of fun desserts like date and pistachio-filled maamoul (shown in the round box), pistachio nougats, and boxes of chocolate bars, I was surprised when my daughter said that I need to bake some desserts!
So, bake I did. I made brownies that are gone, and decided to make this Honey Cake (basically a coffee cake made with coffee and honey), which you may be seeing in stores as it’s popular this time of year for the Jewish New Year. By the way, this year the Muslim New Year and the Jewish New Year are on the same day, today – something that happens only once every 33 years! If you’ve ever wondered how the Jewish calendar observes the new year in late summer or early fall every year, despite being a lunar calendar, it’s because of the addition of ‘leap months’ into the lunar calendar to keep the holiday steady. You can read more about when the New Years collide here. Happy New Year! Continue reading →
Almost everybody loves a good chocolate cake, but last week, I made a simple addition to my usual recipe to make an amazing chocolate orange cake. For some reason, I can’t follow a recipe without making a small change, adding a twist, or substituting an ingredient. It’s more fun that way, and I get to experiment in the otherwise strict domain of baking!
The following recipe is based on my go-to chocolate cake recipe, the ‘Hershey’s Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake’. I love that name. I’ve made it for guests and they love it, too. It’s very chocolate-y and it uses cocoa powder in both the cake and icing.
Today marks the 150th anniversary of Canada’s Confederation! As an immigrant to Canada, I cannot be more grateful that I live here. I’m more proud every year and I love celebrating everything about Canada. When I first moved here, I kept asking people how Canada was different from the United States, where I had lived prior to moving. It was a lot of fun to hear what each person thought was the major difference. After living here for more than 25 years, I can tell you what is different, but that would be the subject of another post! Let’s just say that our cities consistently rank as the top livable cities in the world and that, along with Canada’s diversity, is one of the reasons I love living here.
This year we’ve seen lots of fun activities going on around the country in celebration of Canada’s 150th, also called Canada 150 by the Government of Canada.
You know that feeling when you want to try a recipe but don’t have all the ingredients? Well, that happened to me yesterday, which is why there are parentheses around the word ‘Vegan’ in the title of this post.
My neighbor dropped off two chocolate banana muffins on Sunday, made by her vegan daughter. They were delicious: moist, dense, and super chocolate-y. And, because they’re vegan, you can safely lick the batter! I had to make these asap, because the two muffins didn’t last more than an hour, and, well, a craving is a craving.
When I looked up the recipe for these chocolate banana muffins on the Two Peas & Their Pod blog, I knew that I didn’t have white whole wheat flour nor did I have almond milk on hand. I stopped off at the drugstore to pick up milk and took a quick look in the baking section. As I sort of expected, they didn’t carry these items so I was going to make do with ingredients I had at home. It was too early for the natural food store to be open. Continue reading →
There are a few treats that remind me of my childhood, and Rice Krispies Treats is one of them. When I was a kid, I went to school on a trimester system. That means we went to school for 12 weeks at a time, then had a 5 week ‘intersession’ period.
During one intersession, I took a baking class. I was 9 or 10 years old. That class is what started me on my lifelong baking adventure. My mom’s an amazing baker (and cook and entertainer…) and I used to watch her bake all the time. But, at the intersession class, I was the one baking and creating – on my own!
The first item we made was Rice Krispies Treats. They’re simple and fun. With all the sweet and bran-type cereals that followed Rice Krispies, I must admit that I don’t often choose Rice Krispies as my breakfast cereal. This means I usually buy a box of Rice Krispies, just to make the Treats. They’re so easy and quick to make, and everyone loves them. They’re the perfect snack for school or travel, too. Continue reading →
It’s Halloween in a few days which means it’s one of my favorite times of the year! I’ve got childhood memories of wearing my costume and marching in a parade at school for parents and kids to admire. I’ve got adult memories of carving pumpkins in my college dorm. I’ve got lots of memories of going trick-or-treating with my kids over the years. And, handing out candy dressed in a witch hat is an evening I look forward to all year. So, in my opinion, Halloween is a great excuse to have a party!
I’ve thrown a few Halloween parties for the kids over the years, sometimes themed in with one of my daughter’s birthdays. It’s just too easy to have a Halloween party, especially when the dollar stores, drug stores, and corner stores are all so well-stocked with fun crafts and ideas. Did you know that, in the US, Halloween is about a $7 billion a year industry? Canadians spend about $1 billion, which is more per capita than Americans do on Halloween costumes, decor and candy, according to an October 2014 article in The Financial Post.
Here are my 5 tips for hosting a party, followed by photos of what I’ve done.
Let the kids be involved in setting the agenda.
Do kids come wearing their costume or not? What do they want the main activity to be? What do you want to serve? How many people is comfortable for you and your child to entertain? What time do you want to have the party? I think Halloween is more fun in the dark, so if you can do a late afternoon party, go for it. Continue reading →