Continuing Ed

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap If you know me even a little bit, you know I love cookies, and I especially love trying new cookies. So I am thrilled to be part of this year’s The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap.

Basically, I bake and send a dozen cookies to three other bloggers, then receive three dozen different cookies from other food bloggers from all over the country. Yes, it’s a sweet deal. And it gets better because The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap is again partnering with Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a national non-profit organization committed to funding new therapies used in the fight against pediatric cancer.

 

 

So how does a long distance cookie swap work? Well, this one runs like clockwork – I happily baked my three dozen holiday cookies and shipped them off and then sat by the mailbox waiting to get my three dozen cookies. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long!

First up, some brown butter cookies with vanilla bean icing from Kristen at Bourbon and Honey. Wow. Wonderfully delicious!

Next some rosemary shortbread from Amber at Loves Food, Loves to Eat. Fantastic – especially because she even dipped them in chocolate!

Brown butter white chocolate macadamia nut cookies Jessica at Golden Brown and Delicious were prettily packaged and on my door in time for breakfast – I mean lunch. I would never eat cookies for breakfast, even cookies as delectable as these.

My cookies? The recipe for my first (and best) batch is from a phenomenal home baker and friend.

Chocolate Shortbread Cookies (except when they’re not chocolate)

1 cup flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine flour, cocoa powder, powdered sugar and salt in a food processor and process briefly to blend. Add butter and process about 30 seconds

until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg yolk and vanilla and process until a smooth dough forms. Pat dough into a flattened ball, wrap in

plastic and chill for at least 25 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to ¼ inch thick. Cut into shapes. Put on greased cookie sheet (wash them with the egg yolk.) Bake for

15 to 18 minutes or until firm but not browned. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Notes from husband of the phenomenal home baker’s husband:  add additional butter and sugar. When making the non-chocolate, add a little more flour to make up for the missing cocoa powder…not scientific.

Frosting is very unscientific mix of powdered sugar and water…to whatever consistency works for you. Put on frosting and decorate immediately…let dry for a really long time or else your beautiful work will be wrecked if you stack them.

Ultimately these are my family’s favorite cookies but I felt as if my instructions were too imprecise so I made Joanne Chang’s very precise and wonderful holiday cookies.

Recipe here:

Holiday Sugar Cookies

by Joanne Chang of flour bakery and cafe 

 

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Cream sugar and butter for 5 min until light and fluffy in an electric mixer. Beat in eggs and vanilla on medium speed for 2-3 min until combined.

In separate medium bowl, stir together flour, baking powder & salt until well mixed. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the flour mixture into the butter-sugar-eggs-vanilla mixture and them mix until it is totally incorporated.. Refrigerate the dough for around one hour – I have done it for less and it’s been fine.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Lightly flour your work surface, place dough on the surface and flour the dough and rolling pin. Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick and use your favorite cookie cutters. I went with stars this time. Transfer to a baking sheet and put in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until cookies are golden brown on the edges.

Cool completely on a wire rack.

I’m proud to have donated to The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap and the proceeds go to

From the website:

Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, a national 501(c)3 non-profit, is committed to raising funds for research to develop new, improved treatments for pediatric cancer, the #1 disease killer of children in the U.S. We provide inspiration and support for individuals, businesses and organizations to raise funds by hosting grassroots bake sales and other fundraising events.
The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2015
Beautifully hosted by Love & Olive Oil and The Little Kitchen – many thanks! Want to know more? Join next year’s swap?  Go here.

Thank you to sponsors Dixie Crystals Sugar, OXO and Land O’ Lakes butter for the baking treats.

landolakes

The Wayfair Heart Home Conference

The Wayfair Heart Home conference was a wonderful combination of speaker, panels, brands, and hands-on sessions. On Friday there were great keynote speakers, Maxwell Ryan of one of my favorite sites, Apartment Therapy, and Christiane Lemieux, of Wayfair and another fave site, DwellStudio. Great breakout sessions, sponsors and people!

The breakout sessions Saturday were all hands-on and all were informative and fun. My first session was iPhone food photography with noted photographer Brian Samuels (@MyFoodThoughts). And while I take pics of food all the time (my family is used to it by now), I was happy for some instruction. Best part about it? Our subject was pie from the incomparable Rosebud Kitchen. And, yes, we got to eat the pie after the class. Best class ever!

The other two sessions were also wonderful, Google Analytics and SEO. There was no pie, though, so as wonderful as they were in terms of information and presentation (fantastic, by the way), I am easily swayed by sweets. Because the sessions were so well-presented and comfortable, we had a few side topic conversations and I learned that you can shred chicken with a Kitchen Aid mixer! Seriously! Can’t wait to try this! Thank you, Wayfair, for an all around wonderful experience.

Think It Up! Staples Donates to Local Area Schools

Thank you, Staples, for making me like you even more. Truth be told you had me, years ago, with this ad:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iz56prGBiS8
It’s not enough that you are our go to for all things school and office, but now this?

Staples and Joe Kelly Support Boston, Cambridge and MetroWest Teachers with Think It Up™

Joe Kelly, Kirk Saville

Staples announced that it has funded 214 local classroom projects in the Boston, Cambridge and MetroWest communities, as part of its recent pledge (in the amount of $10 million) to Think it Up™, a new national initiative of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF) is looking to start a new movement in support of students, teachers and schools, by creating a culture of excitement about learning everywhere in America. This fall, Think It Up, in partnership with DonorsChoose.org, will look to fund student-powered, teacher-led learning projects in classrooms across the country.

Red Sox Pitcher and Think It Up ambassador Joe Kelly attended the announcement in support of Boston’s students and teachers. “It’s great knowing this generous donation will help make meaningful learning projects happen in classrooms throughout the Boston area, thanks to Think It Up, DonorsChoose.org, and Staples’ commitment to supporting students,” Kelly said.

DonorsChoose.org  was founded in 2000, and has helped fund more than 236,000 classroom projects for teachers and helped more than 14 million students. Today, in the Greater Boston area, Staples fully funded every project on DonorsChoose.org in Boston Public Schools, Cambridge Public Schools and MetroWest communities. More than $204,000 was donated to help 173 teachers fulfill classroom needs and helped 14,063 students across 85 schools in the Greater Boston area.

“We’re thrilled to fund all of the projects in the Boston, Cambridge and Metrowest communities and to work with the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s Think It Up initiative and DonorsChoose.org to ensure classrooms have the supplies and resources they need,” said Alison Corcoran, senior vice president, North American stores and online marketing, Staples. “Through our Staples for Students program, we’re proud to build on our rich history of supporting education with our $10 million pledge to Think It Up that will make a difference in America’s classrooms.”

I know a few teachers (I’m even related to a few) so I know it’s true that teachers spend their own money for their classrooms so this is an especially important initiative.

How can you help? Support Think It Up, you can donate a dollar at a Staples store or visit http://www.thinkitup.org to learn more.

I did receive a gift card from Staples (oh, happy day) which I plan on using immediately. Thank you, Staples. All opinions are, and always will be, my own, and my love for that ad is for always.

The Importance of Child’s Play

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This is a sponsored post and yet all opinions remain steadfastly my own. As always.

Long ago when all children were free range children, only we were just called children, unstructured play ruled the land. Granted, you could say it was an easier time, a gentler time, but was it, really? When I was young, we had to be in when the street lights went on, and that was when we were in elementary school. On those long, hazy summer nights we were covered in mosquito bites and a fine dusting of dirt from the street, or maybe some muck from the frog pond. We were always amazed when our mother knew we had been to the pond  (we weren’t supposed to go), and thought she was magic. Now I know that she could smell frog pond on us from 100 feet away. Anyone could, really, and that’s why it was off limits, not because we might fall in and drown, although I’m sure she considered that as a possibility.

Now, and I include myself in the ‘in control’ parent group, playtime is structured, scheduled and organized and supervised, but should it be? Classes are great, interests are wonderful, but where has the time for play gone? Here is a great article by Dr. Michael Patte, on the Genius of Play website.

Here is another article from The American Academy of Pediatrics, in case you like more data.

The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds

And, yes, my children had their share of scheduled activities from play dates to lessons to organized sports.  While I was not for letting my children wander off in the vague direction of a frog pond, they did have plenty of unstructured play. The swing set in our back yard has the typical worn down dirt under each swing and these patches of dirt became a magnet for their play, especially after a rain. Small plastic animals lived there (some, I fear, are still buried there), Barbies swam in the puddles with Polly Pockets, lions and horses, mud pies and castles reigned, and it was just the right amount of mess for my girls, and for me. As it turns out, frog ponds are really stinky.

So, sign your children up for a class or two, but remember that your backyard, local park or school yard has plenty of opportunities for play and the benefits for the children are enormous, so take the pledge to play. Don’t just take my word for it either.

Click here to take the Pledge to Play.

genuis-of-play-pledge-300x157

 

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Need more info on the benefits of play? Here are some stats and facts. Need ideas? Here are some great ideas for games.
Find the Toy Industry Association on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Youtube for more great tips about, basically, child’s play.
I received compensation for this post. 

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