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Oatmeal Raisin Bars with Brown Butter Icing

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When I look back on things I’ve pinned, sometimes I’m like, “I would never make something like that – it’s just not me.  Why did I pin it?”  But I know why.  The blogger’s enthusiasm about how good it is sells me every time and I end up pinning a lot of things I’ll never make, but still want to make because the blogger was so enthusiastic about how good it was.  Such is the case with these bars, but they are SO me so of course I had to make them almost immediately. :)

Miss Marsha sold me with her sheer enthusiasm, but hello, did I ever mention that cookies are my second favorite food group (with dip being the first)?  The recipe itself probably would have sold me without her enthusiasm.  It had been way too long since I’d enjoyed an oatmeal raisin cookie and making them in bar form sounded genius.  I don’t have time to be portioning out dough right now, but I can fo sho pat it into a pan!

These bars are just as good as my award-winning oatmeal raisin cookies and I even used the same icing on them.  Marsha’s recipe uses cream cheese frosting so please check it out to if you’d like to make them that way – it looks and sounds majorly delish but I just had to go with brown butter this time.  It’s my weakness.  Along with cookies and dip.

Oatmeal Raisin Bars with Brown Butter Icing

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (8 oz) light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup (4 ¼ oz) all-purpose flour
1 cup (3 ½ oz) old fashioned or quick cooking oats
1 cup (5 ¼ oz) raisins
½ cup (2 oz) chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt

Icing
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (6 oz) powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 375F and grease a 9″ X 13″ baking dish.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and brown sugar until lightened and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined. In a medium bowl, combine flour, oats, raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. Stir into butter mixture until well combined. Spread into prepared pan and press into an even layer with floured fingers. (It may seem there isn’t enough dough to cover the bottom, but there will be). Bake 15 – 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Place on wire rack to cool.

While cooling, prepare the icing. In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and the solids separate and turn a chocolate brown. Remove saucepan from heat; stir in sifted powdered sugar and vanilla. Stir in enough water to make an icing of drizzling consistency. Drizzle on warm bars and cool completely before cutting.

Recipe source: adapted from The Better Baker

You don’t have to go clubbing to hit up some good bars.  Check these babies out!

Chocolate-Glazed Honey Macaroons

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Once upon a time I entered some honey macaroons into the Kansas state fair and won a  blue ribbon for them.  Then I promised you I would share the recipe.  Well I may be a bit slow, but a promise is a promise!  I thought this was the perfect time since I’m giving away a gallon of coconut oil and this recipe has some in it.  I figured one of you guys would need a lot of ways to use up that coconut oil once the giveaway was over.  (I’m still packing just in case the winner agrees to let me move in until the oil is gone. hehehe)

We have a special honey class in our state fair baking competition and I won for the cookies last year.  I had never entered the honey cookies category before, but knew from looking at past year’s cookies what I wasn’t going to do, which was a flour-based cookie.  I wanted to do something different that the other bakers hadn’t.  I did lots of brainstorming and finally decided that a honey coconut macaroon might be nice.  Luckily I found a great recipe at Gourmande in the Kitchen and all I had to do was create a glaze for them.

Less heavy than a normal macaroon, these are light, sweet, tender, and very moist.  And the coconut-flavored chocolate just puts them over the top.  I love these cookies because not only are they tasty, they also are allergy friendly (gluten-free, dairy-free) and healthy (good fat & naturally sweetened).  I do hope you enjoy them!

For more coconut oil recipes, check out my Coconut Oil Coffee, Coconut Chocolate Chunk Cookies, Vegan Gluten-Free Mounds Cake, Dairy-Free White Cupcakes, Homemade Magic Shell, and Vegan Dark Chocolate Cake Pops.

Honey Coconut Macaroons

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

Cookies
2 ¼ cups (180 g) unsweetened shredded coconut
2 large egg whites
¼ cup (60 g) raw local honey
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of fine sea salt

Honey & Coconut Chocolate Glaze
¼ cup dark chocolate chips
1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
1 teaspoon local raw honey

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.

Process the coconut in a food processor until very fine.  Whisk together egg whites, honey, vanilla, and salt until combined, then stir in the coconut until completely moistened.  Using a small cookie scoop, portion out the dough onto the prepared baking sheet, about 2 inches apart.

Bake until pale golden in spots, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Make the Glaze: Place the chocolate in a small microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 30 seconds at 50% power.  Stir, then repeat. Stir until residual heats melts the chocolate completely, then stir in the coconut oil and honey. Drizzle over the cooled macaroons and serve immediately, or allow to set before storing.  It takes this glaze several hours to set up, but the cookies are so moist they will  not suffer for being left out.

Recipe source: adapted from Gourmande in the Kitchen

Cranberry Bliss Cookies & Cookie Swap Recap

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Happy new year!  While most food bloggers are recapping 2012 with their top recipes, I’m totally disorganized and sharing an unseasonal recipe instead, weeks after I’d intended to.  Hey, give me a break, I still don’t have my head on straight after the hectic holiday season and still have one holiday party to go to before I’ll feel truly like I can settle back into a normal routine.

It’s been a while since I shared a recipe, and I wanted to share the yummy cookie recipe I used for  my cookie swap. I know most people are probably drinking green smoothies and training for marathons to attain lofty new year’s resolutions, but I’m going to share this cookie recipe anyway because I really don’t want to wait until next December to do it.  You can save it for next year, but if you have some dried cranberries left over from your holiday baking, why not use them up in these cookies?  I promise those you share them with won’t complain about cookie season being over.  But they might blame you for not making their goal weight loss this week.  :)

This recipe is for a super ginormous batch that makes about 9 dozen cookies, which is great if you are planning on sharing lots of cookies.  If you’d like a more moderate single batch (wuss), you can refer to That Skinny Chick Can Bake‘s recipe, which is what I used to make my ginormous recipe.

Cranberry Bliss Cookies (large batch)

*Note: the pecans need to be toasted so do this step first to avoid frustration.

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 ½ cups (3 sticks / 12 oz) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups (10 ¼ oz) vegetable shortening
2 ¼ cups (1 lb) sugar
2 cups (1 lb) brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon baking soda
3 large eggs
6 cups (1 lb 9 ½ oz) all-purpose flour
2 ¾ cups dried cranberries, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, toasted
1 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
1 ½ lbs Ghirardelli white chips or chopped white chocolate

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line baking sheets with parchment (I used foil this time) and set aside.

Cream butter, shortening and sugars. Add vanilla, salt, and baking soda and mix well. Add the eggs in while the mixer is running and continue to beat until well combined. Add flour and beat on low to combine. The mixer will be very full at this point so be careful to keep the flour from going over the edge before it is mixed in. Transfer the batter to a very large bowl and stir in the remaining ingredients until incorporated.

Scoop out tablespoonfuls of dough and place 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Bake for 12-14 minutes or till golden. Cool for a few minutes on baking sheet then remove to wire rack to finish cooling.

Makes about 9 dozen.

*To toast the pecans, place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 350F for about 4 minutes, or until fragrant and toasted. Remove and cool completely.

Recipe source: adapted from That Skinny Chick Can Bake!

***

Cookies from Kristin Moya to Devangi Raval; photo by Devangi.

I know I’m all kinds of evil, but I soon will be announcing a Postcard Project Candy Swap for February.  Don’t blame me, the people have spoken and have begged for more swapping throughout the year.  We’ll see how many actually sign up once they realize it could interfere with resolution number 1: lose weight!  lol

Red Velvet Pinwheel Cookies made by Paula Hartson; photo by Carmel Hodge.

As for the cookie swap, it was so much fun this year (OK, last year–I’m still not adjusted to this being a new year)! I added a Facebook page where we could all connect and gush about the cookies we were baking and receiving, and share pictures, and we just had a blast.

Cookies from Carmel Hodge to Paula Hartson; photo by Paula.

I toughened up and was pretty in-your-face about coming through with the cookies, whereas last year I tried to keep it totally positive. Well sometimes you gotta be tough or people will walk all over you!  Last year six people flaked out and I didn’t know what to do beyond apologize to the those who were left in the cold as I couldn’t afford to make and mail that many cookies (6×3 dozen would be 18 dozen! Yikes.).  Because of my new zero tolerance policy for flakes that I stated in the sign-up form (all flakes are blocked from future swaps), we only had 3 this year, though there were more participants.  I also clued in this year and when those three people didn’t come through with their cookies, I asked for “cookie angels”–volunteers to fill in and send extra cookies to the cookie orphans.  That worked great as there were so many who were eager to share more cookies and no one was left in the cold this year.  Apologies to those who didn’t get all their cookies last year!  I’m a better hostess now so please give me a second chance. :)

Cookies from Marlo Edwards to Paula Hartson; photo by Paula.

All in all the cookie swap was a roaring success, the highlight being raising money for kids cancer and the mixer I got as a reward (see this post if you missed all that).

Cookies from Paula Hartson who volunteered as a cookie angel for Shania Ortiz; photo by Shania.

Cookie Swap Stats:

Participants 2011: 52 2012: 72

Number of packages sent 2011: 162, 2012: 216

Number of cookies swapped 2011: 1,944 2012: 3,574

Money raised for kids cancer: $3,574 (2012 only)

Number of smiles created 2011 & 2012: countless :)

Easy Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Cookies/Muffin Tops {3 Ingredients}


This is one of those super easy recipes that many people seem to know about, but no one knows where it originated.  While there are many online sources for the recipe, I got mine from my friend Teri, who just spouted off the short list of ingredients during a conversation about holiday baking, and I decided I had to try them myself.

Teri calls these cookies but I call them muffin tops because they truly are the texture of a muffin, not a cookie.  In fact, I’ve seen people (hi, Jorie!) use this same recipe (with and without the chocolate chips) to make full-blown muffins, so there you go.  Bake them whichever way you like and no matter what you call them, they’re delicious, and a great last minute treat to add to your holiday spread.

Easy Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip Cookies

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 (18.25 oz) box spice cake mix
1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
1 (12 oz) bag semisweet chocolate chips (I used mini because I made small cookies)

Preheat oven to 350F and line cookie sheets with parchment or silpat mats.

Empty cake mix into a mixing bowl and whisk well until there are no lumps. Mix in the puree, then stir in the chocolate chips. Use a cookie scoop to portion the dough out onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 10-12 minutes until just firm. Remove to cool on a wire rack and repeat with remaining dough.

Recipe source: Teri B.

*******

I hope you guys have a happy Thanksgiving and if you are traveling for the holiday, travel safe!  I don’t think I’ve mentioned it before, but this is the first year since meeting my husband that we are not going to his parent’s house for Thanksgiving.  His cousin Mike (who was his best man at our wedding) got married in Jamaica and their wedding reception is this Saturday…and I’m making the cake!  It’s been crazy trying to get it baked without taking time off but I will have all Thursday and Friday to finish it so it’s all good…still…please pray for me!! lol!  If you know my track record, you know I need every bit of help I can get. :)  (If you don’t know my track record, you can see both my wedding cake failures here.)

One last note, I’m ending the fundraiser for Suzie on Saturday because she now has her hospital & doctor bills from her first hospital stay ($9,600 total) and not all of them are accepting payments–some are threatening to send her account to collections if she doesn’t pay in full.  So I’m ending it a little earlier than I planned so she can get at least enough to cover those that are threatening her.   If you wanted to help but forgot or weren’t able to before, if you are able to give even a few dollars before the fundraiser ends, I would so greatly appreciate it.  I would love it if we could reach $2,000 by Friday night!  And my offer for the carrot cake recipe still stands–I will email everyone who makes a minimum $5 donations my top-secret blue ribbon carrot cake recipe!  You can click here to make a donation.

Again, happy Thanksgiving! Have an extra bite of stuffing for me…and pecan pie too. :)

Small Batch Coconut-Chocolate Chunk Cookies {Vegan}


This month my Secret Recipe Club blog assignment was to Delicious Existence.  (Gotta love that blog title!)  On Twitter, Danielle (that’s my sister’s name, I love her already!) describes herself as a social worker, holistic health coach, lifestyle motivator and kitchen magician.  And after perusing her blog, I’d have to agree with the last two–all her wonderful vegan recipes are definitely motivating and magical!  Although not a vegan myself, I have mad love for their choice and actually try to eat vegan or vegetarian at least once a week, which isn’t too hard for me since I prefer fat and carbs (the good and bad kind :)) over meat anyway.  Over time I’ve been so wonderfully surprised how delicious & satisfying a completely meatless, dairy-free, and egg-free meal can be.

Don’t believe me?  Check out Danielle’s Herb Pinwheels, Jalapeno Popper Panini, Triple Chocolate Lust Cookies (I’m so making these!), Zucchini, Onion & One Pepper Stew, and Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Pie with Dark Chocolate Drizzle–just a few of the contenders for the recipes I marked to try.  I have gone vegan before and found it challenging to find enough variety, but Danielle is clearly a master.  Definitely go to her blog to get some inspiration!

I chose her coconut-chocolate chunk cookies to make for this month’s reveal, which is totally random, I know.  If it was December, they’d fit right in since that’ s the month everyone starts baking hoards of them to give away.  And these would be a great addition to your cookie tins this year!  But it’s the week of Thanksgiving and there’s not a speck  of cinnamon or pumpkin or even sweet potato in the recipe I chose.  I’m sorry, but you guys know about my obsession with coconut oil.  Did you really think I could pass up a recipe for cookies that contained not only my beloved coconut oil, but chocolate as well?  I think not.

You guys, these are so good.  Crazy good.  So good that I’m glad I kept it a small batch recipe so I could only eat a dozen at a time.  OK, so I didn’t really eat them all myself…but I did eat quite a few.  Both times I made them.  Yes, I made them twice this month, and will be making them again in a larger batch in December.  They’re so good!

The coconut flavor is perfectly balanced with the semisweet chocolate, IMHO.  You just would not believe how wonderful the coconut oil makes these cookies taste.  So much better than using an extract!  The cookies are sticky-crispy on the outside and the middles are soft & chewy-my favorite texture for a cookie, and I believe the corn syrup helps with it.  The original recipe did not call for corn syrup, but I wanted to use ingredients that most people would have in their kitchen so instead of making a flax seed egg (mixing flax meal with water creates a binder similar to egg), I decided to use something else that was sticky to bind the cookie together.  (You could also use agave nectar for a more natural cookie.) I used more corn syrup in the first batch and the cookies were a lot more chewy and a lot more crispy at the edges, and I think I’ve improved them by subbing a tablespoon of the corn syrup for milk (I used almond milk but coconut would obviously work great here), making the cookies softer but still crispy-chewy.

Whether you’re vegan or not, if you like coconut, I think you’re going to love these cookies!  If you don’t believe me take my friend Kevin’s word for it (it was his birthday and I gave him some, along with an accidentally egg-less version of this banana bread)–he cracks me up!

I call Kevin “Obiewan,” thus his Star Wars reference. :)

Thank you Danielle for sharing your fabulous recipe!  It pleases Jedi masters and padawans alike. :)

Coconut-Chocolate Chunk Cookies {Vegan}

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1/4 cup (1 7/8 oz / 52 g) virgin coconut oil, melted & cooled slightly (measured solid)
1/3 cup ( 2 ½ oz / 72 g) packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup or agave nectar
1 tablespoon milk of choice (I used almond)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
¾ cup (3 oz / 85 g) all-purpose flour
¼ cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat mat.

In a small mixing bowl combine the coconut oil, brown sugar, corn syrup, milk, and vanilla. Stir until blended, then add the baking soda and salt and stir well. Add the flour and mix well, using your hands if necessary, then stir in the coconut & chocolate, again using your hands to combine. Roll the dough into 12 (1-inch) balls, making sure there are three chocolate chunks per cookie. Place on prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until golden at the edges. As soon as you remove them from the oven, use a spatula to push any misshapen cookies into place so that they retain a round shape. Allow to cool on baking sheet for five minutes, then remove to a cooling rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container or Ziploc bag.

Makes 1 dozen cookies.

Recipe source: adapted from Delicious Existence

I learned this trick from fellow SRC members Katrina & Liz–to whip any misshapen cookies back into shape, as soon as they’re out of the oven, scoot them into a round shape with your metal spatula.  Easy peasy and looks so much better!

To check out the other Group C SRC recipes, click the linky man below!  As always, thank you for being the bestest hostess with the mostest Miss Debbi!



Tips for Shipping Food Items

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Many participants in the online bake sale have asked me for tips on shipping baked goods, and since there will also be many needing this information for the cookie swap, and probably others reading who would like to ship food items at some point in their life, I figured it behooved everyone for me to share my tips.  I’ve shipped a lot of food items, and have always had success getting my goodies from one place to another, fresh and (mostly) unbroken.  You may find a way that suits you better, but this is how I do it.

1.  Wrap/package the baked goods very well so that they are air tight.  For soft/chewy cookies, I put them together in a Ziploc bag and press the air out before sealing. For more fragile cookies, wrap individually in plastic wrap before putting in a tub or tin.  If you are shipping something that will smash or break easily (delicate cookies, marzipan, etc), it is best to place it inside a sturdy container, within the box you are shipping it in.

2. If you put your cookies or other goodies in a tub or tin, fill it to the top or so there’s no room for the goodies to move around in.  If you don’t have enough to fill up the tub or tin, fill the empty space with wadded up waxed paper, parchment paper, or plastic wrap.  The goal is to be able to shake the tin and not hear or feel anything moving around.  No movement equals no breakage.

Notice I filled this tin all the way to the top with cookies (Chocolate Chip Coconut Macaroons).  I did have to rearrange them to make sure I could close the lid without smashing them, but when I closed it, there was no room for the cookies to move around when shaken.  I shipped this all the way to Afghanistan with no problems.  If you need to ship to a very far away place, coconut macaroons are a great cookie to choose as they get better with age, stay moist, and are sturdy.

3.  Once the baked goods are in the shipping box, pack well around the them so that they will not shake inside the box.  Use packing peanuts, wadded up newspaper, bubble wrap, etc.  Fold the box flaps down and shake it to test and make sure that the goodie package within the box does not move around.  I find it best to use a box closest to the size of the baked goods possible, so there isn’t much packing necessary.  A dozen cookies fits perfectly in a small Flat-Rate Priority box (offered for free at Post Offices everywhere) and you will only need a few peanuts to fill in the open space between your bag of cookies and the box. I have shipped many cookies this way and have seen photos of them after arrival, and they look just as good as the day I baked them.  Packing them tight so that they don’t move around during shipping is key.

After taking this photo, I made sure to fill in every gap with peanuts, closed the flaps, shook the box, and put in more peanuts if anything shifted.  By the time I sealed the box, those cookies were completely stable inside their box.   And as you can see, below, they arrived in the same condition they left in (minus the eaten part, lol). Julie described the cookies favorably as chewy, salty, and sweet (they were Sneaky Snickers Cookies, peanut butter cookies with mini Snickers hiding inside), so they also arrived tasting the same as they left.


4. For bread, wrap well in plastic wrap, making sure it is air tight.  You can then place it inside a plastic tub if you can find one that fits, or just put it right inside the box you are mailing it in, preferably one not much larger than the bread.  Pack with bubble wrap or peanuts to ensure the bread does not jostle during shipping.  Have the postal clerk mark “This Side Up” if you don’t want your box being turned upside down.

5. For glass jars, wrap each jar in bubble wrap before placing in box, secure the bubble wrap with tape, and fill in the empty space in the box very well with wadded newspaper, peanuts, or more bubble wrap.  Have the postal clerk mark “Fragile” on your box.

6.  Use Priority Mail (2-3 days delivery) or Express Mail (overnight) service.  Parcel Post is used a lot by companies shipping heavier items and if you choose this service, which will only be a little cheaper than Priority Mail, not only will it take longer to arrive, it may be placed beneath a heavier package and crushed.

7.  Request delivery confirmation.  (You will have to fill out a little slip that you can find usually while you are in the Post Office line and fill out the address while you wait.)  This allows you to track the progress of your package online and make sure it gets delivered.  This really helps when someone wants to know where their package is, then you can just provide a tracking number if need be.  It does cost 75 cents extra (free when you ship online with Priority Mail) but it is worth the peace of mind.

There are also a lot of tips here that I did not mention, but are very important to know, such as waiting for your baked goods to cool completely before wrapping/packing, and much more.

What NOT to do…

I once received a package of cookies in a Tyvec bag with no padding.  Notice the price she paid to ship it was more than it would have cost to use a small flat rate priority mail box, and the cookies would have been in better condition if she had mailed them that way.

She also would not have had to buy a container if she’d used a flat rate box, just a Ziploc bag.  The container had cracked during shipping because of the lack of padding, so it wasn’t air tight.  You can see that the cookies got beat up because the tub had a lot of extra room for them to move around in during shipping.  Despite all this, the cookies weren’t completely dried out yet and were still very good.  But they could have been wonderful if more carefully packaged.

Also, please do not try to ship a frosted cake.

whites_bakery_cake-10

So sad.  :(  I got this photo here, and you can read the lovely story of how a mother shipped her daughter a birthday cake.  Unless you don’t mind your cake arriving in a heap of crumbles like the thankful daughter who received this cake, please leave it to the professionals. (How DO they get them delivered in one piece?! I really wish I could figure that out.  But I don’t want to pay the price of delivery to find out for myself-lol.)

I hope this helped you with any concerns you might have had and if you have any questions, just leave me a comment below.

Are you ready for a cookie swap?

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Last year after I found out about the fabulous Great Blogger Cookie Swap, I organized one for all those that didn’t have blogs but still wanted to participate in a nation-wide cookie swap.  Well we’re back in business, kids!  If you’re a blogger, you can head on over to Love and Olive Oil or The Little Kitchen to get all the details and sign up, but if you’re a non-blogger that would like to participate in a cookie swap, you’ve come to the right place.

This swap will work like last year’s for the most part, and here’s the breakdown:  Sign up.  Get matched to three other participants.  Ship a dozen delicious cookies to each.  Receive a dozen scrum-diddly-upmtious cookies from each of your matches in return.  That’s a whole lotta deliciousness and love being spread throughout the US!

As before, the purpose of my swap is not only to spread joy and cheer through the sharing of cookies, but to support the US Postal Service.  (If you’re new to my blog, I work for the postal service as a data conversion operator at one of the only two remaining Remote Encoding Centers.  Basically that’s a glorified title that means I type a lot.  I started The Postcard Project to renew excitement about mailing postcards and letters, and supporting the postal service in general.)  Last year The Great Blogger Cookie Swap generated 1,640 packages of cookies, which ain’t nothin’ to sneeze at when it comes to revenue for the postal service.  The Postcard Project Cookie Swap generated 162 extra dozen shipped, which I’m pretty proud of, and I thank all of you who spread the cookie love with me last year.

Important Dates

Sign Up Deadline: Friday, November 9
Receive Matches: Monday, November 12
Shipment Deadline: Wednesday, December 5

Ready to sign up?

If this is sounding as good to you as it does to me, you can click here to get all the nitty gritty and sign up.  Let’s get this cookie swap party started!

Kumquat & Coconut Cookies {Grain & Sugar-Free}

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Whew, two recipe contests in the same week!  I don’t know what’s come over me.  It must be all that state fair competitive spirit leaking over into my everyday baking life!  This one is for Baker Bettie’s Cookie Wars, in which she charged us with a mission to invent a cookie using at least two of the following ingredients:

  • Avocado
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Basil
  • Beer
  • Coffee
  • Cranberries
  • Cream Cheese
  • Dark Chocolate
  • Dried Chilies
  • Dr. Pepper
  • Fennel Bulb
  • Garlic
  • Goat Cheese
  • Grapefruit
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Hazelnut
  • Honey
  • Kumquat
  • Maple Syrup
  • Marshmallows
  • Mint
  • Passion Fruit
  • Peach
  • Poppy Seeds
  • Rosemary
  • Sour Cherries
  • Sweet Potato
  • Tomato

I’m really curious to see how many people are daring and creative enough to use tomato, vinegar (wait, I’ve done that and it’s fabulous! lol), beer, rosemary, etc.  I’m thinking there are going to be a few savory cookies in the mix!

But me, well, you know my affinity for sweets, so that’s what I went for.  I didn’t intend to make a wholesome cookie, it kinda just happened in the evolution of my creative process.  Here’s how it went.

My first inclination was to create a yogurt and honey spice cookie, which I knew would be a cake-like cookie because of the honey, and since I don’t like cakey cookies unless they’re part of a whoopie pie, I figured I’d also make a yogurt and honey filing for them.

Then I remembered the bag of coconut flour in my refrigerator that I won from Nutmeg Nanny’s giveaway several months ago, and thought it would work well here since the honey and yogurt would add a lot of liquid that usually isn’t in cookies, and you need more wet ingredients in any coconut flour recipe–it’s very thirsty and absorbs lots of moisture.  (I know this from a previous failure.)

I scanned the list again, trying to see if any other ingredients would pair well with the flavor of coconut and pondered over the kumquats.  I’d never had them but had seen them at the grocery store from time to time and always assumed they were miniature oranges.  I remember asking Dennis, “What is the point of these?  It would take forever to peel enough of these to make them worth eating!”  But I Googled kumquats anyway, to see if they might work for me in my cookies.

I found out that the skin is the part that is sweet and delicious, and the inside is very sour.  Most people eat them whole to savor the contrast of sweet and sour.  (I tried this after buying them, and whoo-ey, even the sweet peel wasn’t enough for me to dig the sour explosion on the inside.  But the flavor is very good-very similar to an orange.)  I also found a recipe for kumquat chocolate chip cookies that described the kumquat peels as being great after baking because they get chewy like pieces of candy.  OK, I was sold.  I had to find me some kumquats.

Find them I did, and then I went to work.  I’m pretty happy with my creation!  These cookies have an exotic flavor profile, with a semi-tropical feel.  The honey wasn’t quite enough to balance the sour yogurt and and kumquats (yes, I totally tasted the raw dough. I always do. :) ), but the stevia made them nicely sweet like any good cookie should be.  I love the kumquat flavor, it is a perfect match with the coconut.  I added the spices because a recipe I have from my friend, Marina, called “Cream Cheese Cookies” uses them, but I honestly can’t say they really pronounce themselves on the palate.  They sort of just add a layer of mystery in the background to the overall exotic flavor.

The texture is soft and moist and very tender, which isn’t my usual choice for a cookie (I’m in the crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside camp), but these are so unique that it doesn’t strike me as “wrong.”  These cookies are supposed to be different, and it’s actually a nice texture…not unlike shortbread.  The one downside is that coconut flour makes them a bit grainy and while they’re not a dry cookie, the flour makes you thirsty after eating one.

All in all, these aren’t the typical American cookie, but I think they’d be perfect with tea.  In fact, I think I’m going to enjoy a few with a hot cup right now…

Kumquat & Coconut Cookies

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Printable recipe with picture

½ cup unsalted butter, melted
½ cup raw, local honey
½ cup Greek yogurt (I used nonfat)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup coconut flour
5 packets NuNaturals stevia powder
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon mace
¼ teaspoon salt
½ lb. kumquats
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Whisk the butter and honey together in a small bowl until combined, then whisk in the yogurt until combined, then the eggs and vanilla. Doing it in this way emulsifies the butter so that it doesn’t harden and get clotted when you add the cold yogurt and eggs.

In a separate large mixing bowl, whisk the coconut flour to get any clumps out, then whisk in the coriander, ginger, mace, and salt. Add the honey & yogurt mixture, and stir with a spoon until mixed. The dough will be thick and will get thicker upon standing. Set aside.

Pick off the small stems from the kumquats, then roughly chop them, removing seeds as you go. I don’t have a great knife, so I sliced each kumquat into four slices, then quartered each slice, otherwise I just would have gone nuts chopping like I do with nuts. Add the chopped kumquats into the cookie dough along with the coconut and mix well with your clean hands.

Scoop the dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets with a tablespoon-sized cookie scoop. You can place them fairly close together as they will not spread. Flatten each ball with the palm of your hand, and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until lightly golden brown around the edges.

Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container.

Notes: coconut oil can be substituted for the butter to make these dairy-free. If you are using a different brand or form of stevia, add it in to taste. There is no gluten to toughen the cookies, so you can mix and re-mix to your heart’s content as you add ingredients to get the right balance to suit your tastes.

Chocolate Chip Macaroons


Jacqueline is in the front, kneeling on the far right.

After I started The Postcard Project, I went to anysoldier.com and got the address for a female soldier in Afghanistan that I could correspond with.  (If you don’t know any soldiers that are currently serving, I recommend this site–it’s the only place I’ve found where you can get an address for a soldier you don’t know.)  Through our letters, I have come to understand how important mail is to soldiers.  I was moved by how happy I could make this woman just by sending her a few pages of my craziness, blabbing about things most people could care less about.  When she replied with her gratitude, answering all the questions I had asked and telling me about herself, I felt the connection we had made, all thanks to the Postal Service and the exchange of a few letters.

I asked her in my first letter if there was anything I could send her to make her happier while she was serving overseas.  She replied, much to my glee, that her team (I love how she said “her team” and not “I”–it just shows how selfless soldiers are) loves snacks, especially homemade, and if I could send some that would be great, but if not, “the letters are great also, it shows that someone really cares and values what we are doing.”

I don’t think she had any idea how happy her request for homemade snacks would make me.  Anysoldier.com tells us not to send homemade goodies if the soldiers do not know us (for safety reasons, most likely), so I had not hoped that I could take my baking love out on her.  But she must have felt like she knew me after only one letter, and I couldn’t have been more delighted by her request.  My favorite way to make people happy is by making them goodies, so I literally was jumping up and down and squealing to my husband “she wants homemade snacks!!!” like I had just gotten a Kitchenaid stand mixer for Chrstimas.  I think it makes me happier to make and give the treats than it makes the people who receive them!

I did some research and found a good article on the best cookies to ship long distances, and macaroons were listed as a cookie that gets better with time, so I immediately decided I would be including some macaroons in the boxes.  (Yes, there were more than one.  I couldn’t help myself.)

So along with a batch of homemade butterfingers and 3 pounds of seasoned crackers, I included a tin of these chocolate chip macaroons.  I had saved a very simple & easy (also multiple blue ribbon-winning) recipe using sweetened condensed milk, and I kicked them up a notch by adding in some mini chocolate chips…because chocolate makes everything better.

These were wonderful fresh from the oven, and as promised by the article mentioned above, did taste even better the next day!  They are moist and chewy–nice and soft when warm from the oven, and more dense & rich the next day.  Hopefully they were like bites of nirvana by the time they made it to Jacqueline and her team, and from the feedback I got, they must have been close!

Chocolate Chip Macaroons

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (14 oz) package sweetened, shredded coconut
1/2 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla, then stir in the coconut and chocolate chips with a spoon or your hands until well blended. The mixture will be very sticky. Refrigerate for two hours, or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or a Silpat mat to prevent sticking (like I said, this dough is sticky!). Using a cookie scoop, drop dough onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about golf ball size. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes in the preheated oven, until coconut is toasted. Cool completely on a wire rack and store in an airtight container or Ziploc bag(s).

Recipe source: adapted from Allrecipes

No-Bake Granola Cookie Bars

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In Tupperware’s July specials brochure, there was a recipe for Peanut Butter Granola Bites that caught my eye because it was easy and the photo was very appealing.  The best part is that it contained no granola, which I never have on hand, just ingredients contained in granola, which I always have on hand.

However, I just so happened to be running low on peanut butter when I decided it was time to make them (we are always running low on peanut butter because we eat it like crazy), so I adapted the recipe and made my own walnut butter for it.  I have the original printer-friendly recipe here if you want to try that one instead.  I can’t vouch for it since I haven’t tried it yet, but my similar version was very good and I’m sure it is too.  I mine for snacks and even had some for breakfast since they are fairly healthy.

No-Bake Granola Cookie Bars

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

2 cups raw nuts (I used walnuts)
½ teaspoons salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
½ cup honey
2 cups rice cereal
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup dried fruit, roughly chopped (I used half cherries, half cranberries)

Spread nuts out on microwave-safe plate. Microwave one minute; stir with fingers. Microwave for 1-2 minutes more, stirring every thirty seconds, until toasted and fragrant. Place nuts in food processor bowl with blade attachment in place, and process until nuts go from a meal, to a paste, to liquid. You will have to stop the food processor several times to scrape the sides down. Once it it liquid, add salt (use ¼ teaspoon if you’re using salted butter) and let it run another minute.

While you’re toasting and processing the nuts, start your oats to toasting. Place them in a skillet over medium heat and stir every minute or two until golden and fragrant, about five minutes. Set aside until you’re ready for them.

Melt butter in a microwave-safe bowl, microwaving one minute or until melted. Add to the nut butter in the food processor, then pour in the honey. Process until mixture is blended.

Place cereal, oats, cherries, and cranberries in large bowl. Pour the butter mixture over the top and mix until combined. Spray a 13″ x 9” baking dish with oil and spread mixture into the pan. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours, or until firm. Slice into squares and devour.

Recipe source: adapted from Tupperware

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