A friend sent me instructions for making Easter Story
Cookies. I tweaked the ingredients, tweaked the instructions, and changed some of the scriptures to ones I thought my younger ones would relate to. (In other words, I don't know whose idea this originally
was, but should no longer be considered plagiarism.:) This is a sweet way to bring some of the real meaning of Easter into your home! For more Easter ideas, click on the "Easter" category on the right.
Mix these cookies the evening before Easter, they sit in the oven overnight, as an Easter morning surprise.
You will need:
- 1 tsp. vinegar
- 3 large egg whites
- Pinch of salt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup pecan pieces
Waxed paper or parchment
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. (This is important, so don’t wait until you’re half-way done with the recipe).
Smell the vinegar
. Put 1 tsp. into the mixing bowl. Explain that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross, He was given vinegar to drink. Read John 19:28-30
or Psalms 69:21
Add egg whites
to the vinegar.
Explain that eggs represent life. Jesus gave His life to give us life. Read John 10:9-11
Sprinkle a little salt
into each hand. Taste it and brush the rest into the bowl.
Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus’ followers, and bitterness of our sins. Show the wooden spoon, it represents the cross he carried and was nailed to.Read Luke 23:27
With a mixer, beat on high speed until soft peaks form.
Explain that the color white
represents the purity of those whose sins have been cleansed by Jesus. Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3
So far the ingredients are not very appetizing. Add 3/4 cup sugar
, a tablespoon at a time, as you continue to whip. Keep mixing until they reach stiff peaks.
Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died because He loves us. It wasn’t the nails that kept Him on the cross because nothing earthly could have. It was His love for us! Read Ps. 34:8 and John 3:16
Fold in the nuts
using the wooden spoon. Drop by teaspoons onto wax paper covered cookie sheet. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus’ body was laid. Read Matthew 27:57-60
Put the cookie sheet in the oven and close the door and turn the oven OFF! Each person places a piece of masking tape
and seals the oven door. Read Matthew 27:62-66
Explain that they may feel sad to leave the cookies in the oven overnight. Jesus’ followers were in despair when the tomb was sealed. Read John 16:20, 22
On Easter morning, watch the 4-minute video “He is Risen
”, then open the oven and give everyone a cookie.
Notice the cracked surface and take a bite. The cookies are hollow!
Explain that on the first Easter, Jesus’ followers were amazed to find the tomb open and empty. Suggested scriptures to read: John chapter 20
(5 minutes), 1 Corinthians 15:22
(two lines), Mosiah 16:6-9
Happy Easter, Everyone! Christ Lives & Loves Us!
Apparently these have been popular in the food world for about a year... but I first saw them last week. My oldest son, the pickiest eater in the house, had noticed the printed recipe sitting on the counter for several days, grimacing everytime he walked past it. So when a batch of brownies appeared out of the oven, he cocked an eyebrow at me, asking "Are these what I think they are?", then declared he would NOT eat them.
After everyone else begged for seconds, though, he decided he'd try just one bite. Then a whole brownie. Then he had seconds too.
(YEAH!)Black Bean Brownies
1 1/4 c. cooked black beans, rinsed (about a 15-oz can or 1/2 c. dry beans- cook first)
1/4 c. melted coconut oil or vegetable oil
1/2- 2/3 cup honey OR 3/4-1 cup sugar (brownies with the higher amounts are sweeter and more moist)
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup whole wheat flour, OR 1/2 c.gluten-free flour plus 1 tsp. xanthan gum
½ teaspoon almond extract or orange extract, optional
½ teaspoon baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
½ cup chopped walnuts, optional
¼ cup semisweet chocolate chips, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray a 9x13 pan. Combine beans, eggs, oil, sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla, and almond/orange extract (if using) in a food processor or blender. Puree until very smooth. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Pour the puree over top, then mix both together. Stir in walnuts if using. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Bake about 25 minutes or until center tests done with a toothpick.
To make these into Chocolate Truffle Brownies, omit the chocolate chips and frost with my favorite-ever chocolate frosting: creamy, soft, oh-so-smooth Chocolate Blender Frosting
NOTE: If wheat is not a problem for you (and it's not for me, that I know of...) this recipe can be made using regular all-purpose flour.
I've been playing around with gluten-free foods for a while now, and sometimes the food is a little disappointing. Not so with these. They were soft and chewy in the center, crispy on the edges, with good texture and flavor. The recipe was adapted from two nearly-identical recipes from "Life Tastes Good Again
" and from the box
of SunFlour Mills gluten-free Pastry Flour. The only thing was, the recipe called for butter and a box of vanilla pudding mix, both of which contain dairy. Here's the gluten-free AND dairy-free version:Soft and Chewy GF CF Chocolate Chip Cookies
1 cup dairy-free 'butter', like this recipe
(or use real butter if you're OK with it)
3/4 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. Ultra Gel (a no-cook food starch)
2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/4 c. gluten-free flour blend, like Sunflour Mills GF Pastry Flour
or whatever you prefer
1 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum (omit if using regular all-purpose flour)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
2 c. chocolate chips (dairy free, gluten free) OR 1 c. each nuts and chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream together the butter, both sugars, and Ultra Gel (or pudding mix). Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Add 1 cup of the GF flour, the xantham gums, salt, and baking soda. Beat until smooth, then mix in the remaining 2 1/4 c. GF flour. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts if using them.
Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake about 7-9 minutes, or until just browned on the edges and centers still look wet. Let cookies sit on cookie sheet for 4-5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. (They'll fall apart if you move them too soon.) Makes about 30 cookies. Store any extras in an airtight container at room temperature or in the freezer.
If you like cookies crispy, cook them until the centers look done. If you want them chewy, it's critical to essentially underbake them a bit, hence the wet centers. Baked goods continue to cook even after they come out of the oven.
*If dairy is not a problem for you either, then you can use a box of instant vanilla pudding in place of 3/4 cup of the sugar, 1/8 tsp of the salt, 1 tsp. of the vanilla, and 1/4 c. Ultra Gel.
While standing in line at the supermarket one day before Christmas, I picked up a cooking magazine that had some gorgeous cookies on the cover. As I studied the picture, the cashier noticed, laughed a little, and said, "they have nice pictures, but do YOUR cookies ever look like that?"
She was shocked when I answered, "Um, actually, yes."
You don't need to be a professional baker. You don't even need fancy decorating equipment, though I really appreciate a good pastry bag and frosting tips. (If you don't have these- you can buy a small set for under $10
at Walmart, ShopKo or hobby stores- a ziptop freezer bag with a corner snipped off will work.)
The trick to making those beautiful, glossy cookies is to use two consistencies of frosting- one thin, one thick, and to give yourself enough time to let one layer dry a bit before adding the next. The thin frosting becomes your canvas, the thicker one is used to make the details. Make it easy on yourself by only mixing two or three colors. Rather than using the liquid food color drops, try paste or gel food colors. They are much easier to work with because a little goes a long way and they won't make your frosting runny.
The thin frosting can be as simple as powdered sugar and water, or if you want the surface to be shiny when dry, make Royal Icing. A regular batch produces a thick icing; to get the thin frosting, mix in water a little at a time to get the right consistency. The recipe below is for the Royal Icing, which also dries very hard, making your cookies a little less likely to get damaged. This is the same frosting I use on gingerbread houses.Royal Icing (thick frosting)
3 egg whites (use clean eggs with absolutely no cracks in them
1 16-oz bag or box of powdered sugar (about 4 3/4 cups)1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla, lemon, or almond extract
Put everything in a large, absolutely grease-free
mixing bowl. Beat on high speed using an electric mixer until very stiff, about 7-10 minutes. Use right away and keep the bowl covered at all times with a damp kitchen towel, to avoid drying it out. Makes about 3 cups. To color it, divide into smaller bowls and stir gel or paste food color into it. For the cookies below, I divided into three bowls; one remained white, one was tinted pink, the last colored red.Thin frosting
Put the amount of frosting you think you need, already colored, in a bowl. Add water a little bit at a time, stirring until smooth. The right consistency is when a little bit of frosting drizzled from a spoon takes from 5-10 seconds to disappear back into the rest.
Spread a thin layer of frosting on each cookie. If adding sprinkles or edible glitter, add it while the frosting is wet so they'll stick. Let the cookies sit until a crust starts to form over the frosting, then decorate using the thick frosting in a pastry bag.
If you're new to frosting, tips, and pastry bags, Wilton has a great getting-started page
Start with white as the base, let dry. Next use pink with a basketweave tip like #47. Finish off with tip #3 grids and squiggle border.
Just like the previous one except simpler: white base, let dry, add tip #3 grids in pink, then a tip #3 red squiggle border.
Or how about that same white background, but using only red and tip #3?
White base, sprinkle with edible glitter, dry. Add tip #3 dots in white, then a red squiggle border also using tip #3.
It's that time of year again!
I started homeschooling one of my children just a couple weeks ago (taking a bite of the elephant at one time- this is also the reason I haven't been posting as often), so I'm looking forward to making some adorable things with her for Valentines' Day- and not having the normal glut of candy (hurray!)
My mom wasn't much for celebrating many things- but we always woke up Valentine morning to find a giant (to us kids) cookie with a pretty border and our name written in flourishes of pink frosting.
Below are some of the ideas I love for this year, some are mine and some are from other sites. There's also this post f
or more ideas, including how to make heart-shaped muffins with a regular muffin tin, some liners, and several marbles.
A few years ago, I opened up the Foods section of my local newspaper and spotted a recipe called "Just-the-Best Cookies". The version there was intended to be a healthier one, having reduced the nuts, coconut, and switching to oil instead of butter. Well, I've reduced the sugar and changed it to use honey, then added back the bigger amount of coconut and nuts, since we know now that healthy fats are, well, healthy! In moderation. And I love the crunch and flavor of coconut and nuts.
We have two breakfast times at my house- one for my highschoolers and husband, who have to be out the door by 6:45, and one for the rest of us, because some of them leave at 8:00 for the elementary school and Jr-High. These cookies make a fantastic, no-work breakfast for that earlier group- I make a batch, put them in a big ziplock bag after cooling, and pop them into the freezer. Then my early group can even grab and go, when needed.
These cookies are high in fiber as well, and lower in sugar than most. Two cookies are about the same nutritionally as one homemade, normal-sized muffin, and much better for you than commercially-made muffins! Two made without raisins contain 16 grams of sugar, which is less than you'd get in a bowl of cereal with milk. Especially if you count the size bowl my teenagers think is a serving. (I keep hiding the bigger bowls...)
Just-the-Best Breakfast Cookies
1/2 c. coconut oil or butter
1/2 c. honey
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 c. water
2 c. whole wheat flour
2 c. quick-cooking oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 c. shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 c. chopped pecans or other nuts, optional
1/2 c. chopped raisins, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease or spray two cookie sheets. In a large bowl, beat together coconut oil and honey, then mix in egg, vanilla, and water. Add the flour, oats, baking soda, and salt and mix well. Stir in coconut, nuts, and raisins.
Roll into 1 1/2" balls, a little larger than a ping-pong ball. Place on cookie sheet, flatten slightly, and bake for about 12 minutes. Let the cookies cool 2 minutes on the cookie sheet before removing to a cooling rack. Makes about 36.
To make breakfast bars instead, spread all the dough onto one well-greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for probably 25 minutes. I don't know for sure because the idea popped into my head just now... Cool and cut into whatever size bars you like.
A little while ago I went to a local specialty store, Against The Grain
, which is specifically for those who can't have wheat or gluten, to pick up some Expandex
. While there, I saw some individually wrapped, big mound-looking macaroons. They were 2 ounces apiece, about 3" across, and cost $1.29. The ONLY ingredients on the list were coconut, egg whites, and honey. It sounded healthy and yummy, so I bought one to figure out how to make them. They are not the light, crunchy, meringue-type macaroons, but instead a dense, more lightly sweet confection.
The coconut provides a high amount of fiber (75% of the carbs in coconut are fiber!- coconut fiber has been shown to control blood sugar especially well), as well as some healthy fats (medium-chain fatty acids, including lauric acid). Read an article here
, or a website on coconut research here
The egg white helps bind it, and contributes protein.
The honey, of course, sweetens it, as well as helping moisten and bind.
Here's what I ended up with after a couple experiments:Three-Ingredient Macaroons
2 egg whites
1/2 c. honey
3 cups unsweetened, fine-flake coconut
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment, or grease it. Beat the egg whites until just foamy, then whisk in the honey. Stir in the coconut until well mixed. If it won't hold its shape yet, let it sit for 15-30 minutes to let the moisture absorb into the coconut.
Use 1/4 cup packed
(1.7 oz prebaked weight) for 1 1/2 oz macaroons, or a scant 1/3 c. scoop for 2 oz
(2.2 oz. prebaked weight), bake 17-18 minutes, until just turning brown on the tops. Let cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes before you take them off; otherwise they'll fall apart.
This makes 12 (1 1/2 ounce) macaroons, or 9-10 (2 ounce) ones.
The bar cookie, not the hair...Blond
ies are similar to brown
ies, only without the chocolate in the batter. This recipe makes a soft, chewy, dense, buttery version.
The recipe came from Cook's Illustrated (same company as Cooks' Country and America's Test Kitchen), though I've tweaked it a little. I LOVE their stuff; each recipe has a mini cooking lesson with it, as they discuss what they were trying to make, what happened with each of the experiments they made, and what made the difference in the PERFECT batch. If you want to see a little of the background information on this recipe, here's a description
1 1/2 c. light brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp.) butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
4 tsp. vanilla (yes, really that much)
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt (1/2 tsp. if using unsalted butter)
1/2 c. EACH semisweet and white chocolate chips (I used 1 c. white)
1 c. pecans, chopped coarse
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9x13 pan. (I used an 11x15 for the batch that had nuts, and they weren't too thin.) Stir the brown sugar and butter together, then whisk in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Scrape into the pan and sprinkle with the nuts. Bake 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out with just a few crumbs. Cool 2 hours.CONGO BARS
(my family calls these "Hay and Gravel Bars" because of the coconut and nuts)
Add 1 1/2 c. toasted coconut when you stir in the chips.
for Part 1- Baking.
The #1 reason people are scared of making gingerbread houses? I think it's ASSEMBLING the pieces. Most people use frosting to hold the pieces together. That's aggravating; the frosting doesn't hold well and the pieces have to be propped up for hours before they'll really bond. Who has time for that?
Here's what my mom taught us- use Edible Hot Glue- melted sugar. Caramel, they call it in the cooking world. Take about 1/2 cup granulated sugar, put it in a heavy saucepan (big enough to dip your gingerbread pieces in) over medium-high heat, and watch as it starts to melt. (It's actually decomposing, scientists just learned this year!) Do NOT walk away from the pan during this time!!! You'll need to stir a little of the unmelted sugar into the liquid part; keep it moving a bit so it doesn't scorch. Turn down heat as needed. If it cooks too much, it turns black and bitter-tasting.
Once it's completely melted, turn the heat down to low; you want it to stay hot enough to be liquid, but low enough it won't burn.
Get both pieces ready that you want to bond. Dip the edge of one into the hot sugar. Be very, very careful to not get any on yourself- this is way hotter than boiling, though it doesn't look it. Think hot glue on steroids.
Put the two pieces together immediately, and set them up on a flat surface. You'll have about ten seconds to get the fit right before this 'glue' sets up.
This even works to connect broken pieces. Somebody bumped the cooling rack and knocked most of the gingerbread to the floor. Several broke.
This is where the frosting comes in handy- to make your decorations stick! I also like to cover the places the sugar glue shows. For more ideas on what you can use for decorating, see my three-page handout on making gingerbread houses
One done. This one was actually a kit, though I used the Hot Sugar Glue to stick it together.
We make a bunch of little houses every year; each child gets to decorate his/her own. Some years we've just made and decorated a house FRONT- a large, house-shaped, FLAT cookie. Not 3-D.
Part of the tradition is that we eat our houses on New Years' Eve, though somehow there's always candy missing off them by then!
It's that time of year...
to make gingerbread houses! Whether you want to make one for a competition, or just make something fun with your children, here's my family's tried-and-tested favorite recipe for eating AND building
. (See here for a gluten-free recipe
, or just substitute a GF flour blend in place of regular flour.) We have a yearly tradition of everyone in the family decorating a small house. If you want a recipe that will bake up thin yet strong, suitable for competition-level houses, the next couple pictures are of this one. The eating/building recipe has more leavening and therefore a lighter crunch. The 'building' recipe, below, is also good, but more dense. Be sure to roll this one thinly!!!
See here for Part 2- Assembling and Decorating
For the full recipe, along with more instructions, tips, and things I've learned, it's also on the link above. Put in a large bowl or medium saucepan: 1 1/2 c. light corn syrup, 1 1/4 c. brown sugar, and 1 cup butter. This will be easiest if you cut each cube of butter into 5-6 chunks.
Heat in the microwave about a minute or until everything melts and can be stirred together. If using a saucepan, heat over medium-high, stirring until the sugar and butter melt.
Add the dry ingredients to the bowl:
6 3/4 c. flour, 1 Tbsp. cinnamon, 1 1/2 tsp. ginger, 1/2 tsp. salt.
I like to grab the dry stuff with my fingers and mix lightly before mixing it with the wet, this saves the step of pre-stirring all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl first.
Stir until everything is mixed well.
This dough will be warm and firm yet soft; it gets stiffer as it cools. It's easiest to roll out while still warm.
If it gets too stiff, return to the microwave for 30 seconds to rewarm it.
Divide dough into 2 or three pieces. Working with one a time, roll directly onto parchment, if at all possible. This will save you immeasurable aggravation!
Try to get it an even 1/8" thick. As you can see, this is quite thin. The corn syrup gives this dough a lot of strength.
Put your pattern on top of the dough, and cut around each piece. Try to have each piece touching as much as possible. The easiest way to cut them, by far, is to use a pizza cutter or pastry wheel.
Bake until golden brown and firm to the touch. Pull out of the oven, and IMMEDIATELY re-cut the pieces, if you need them to be exact. They will have spread a little bit. If you're making eight houses for your family, you can skip this step!
My favorite part of baking gingerbread houses: eating the 'twigs', the skinny little pieces trimmed off the house parts. They are addictive!
To make stand-up trees, cut out two for each tree. Cut a section out of the middle of one of the pieces, as wide as your dough is thick. You'll 'glue' one of these halves on the front of the whole tree, the other half on the back.
Cool on a cooling rack. When all the way cool, I like to stack all the pieces for one house in each stack. Here are five houses, ready to put together.
Next is the really fun part- decorating! That will be another post in a couple days.
It's the little details that make gingerbread so fun!