Meringue ghosties

October 26, 2011

So we have a Halloween dessert potluck at our homeschool co-op tomorrow. I had planned on making owl cookies, but it turned out we were out of butter (what? shocking, I know! I always assume that I have several pounds of butter in the freezer).

“Let’s just make meringues,” I said. Mostly thinking that cookies that are more-or-less two ingredients would simplify my life. And thinking that I maybe don’t care if they’re not actually Halloween-themed (confession: Halloween is not my favorite holiday).

“Yeah!” said Eli. “And let’s stick on little chocolate chips and make them into ghosts!”

Well, yes! Let’s! Suddenly these were going to be even better and more Halloween-themed than the owl cookies, even.

You can see that everyone was very, very serious about sticking on the chocolate chips. You can see that it is not actually that easy to fashion meringue into a ghost shape using a pastry bag. But! They do look appropriately spooky. As long as your definition of “spooky” is “tilting, haphazard ghoulish-type figures.”

If you’re in any sort of situation where you need to make Halloween goodies, I recommend these. Just make any old meringue recipe, glob the stuff into ghost shapes, and stick on mini chocolate chips. Easy.

In other news, am I the only person who continually mixes up the spelling of meringue and merengue? Maybe these are dancing ghosts, doing the meringue merengue.


CATEGORIES: baking, holidays

Well, phew!

August 4, 2011

Magical words spoken by the allergist this week: “You know, I don’t think she’s actually allergic to any of these foods. I’m not even going to give her a skin test. I think it was just eczema. You can feed her whatever you want to.” Hurray! Let’s make peanut butter cookies! Um, after we finish of those two tubs of cookies from Trader Joe’s, I mean.



Our Go-To Cookies: Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip

February 24, 2010

While we do certainly make a lot of cookies here, and we try to go for variety, if we’re wanting some cookies now, we make these chocolate chip peanut butter cookies. They were originally from an “Everyday Food” magazine, I think. My mom gave me the recipe. I can’t find it online.

Here’s what I do know: they’re flourless, and butterless. They mix up so quickly that I’m often waiting for the oven to preheat fully when the cookies are ready to go in. And they make one batch of cookies — that is, two cookie-sheets-full, which is a nice small size, so you’re not overwhelmed with cookies, or with spending an hour at the stove swapping out cookie sheets (of course, sometimes I want to be overwhelmed with cookies, but that’s a different story). But these are, without a doubt, the cookies we make most often.

Here is my slightly-adapted recipe:

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1. Preheat the oven to 350, with racks in the upper and lower thirds. In a large bowl, stir together 1 cup chunky peanut butter, 3/4 cup sugar, 1 large egg (lightly beaten), 1/2 tsp. baking soda, and 1/4 tsp. salt until well combined. Stir in 3/4 cup chocolate chips.

2. With moistened hands, roll dough, about 1 heaping tablespoon at a time, into balls. Place the balls 2 inches apart on two baking sheets.

3. Bake until cookies are golden and puffed, 12 to 14 minutes (rotating cookie sheets halfway through baking). Cool 5 minutes on sheets, and then transfer to racks to cool completely. Makes 24 cookies.


Signs of the Times

December 21, 2009

Cookie baking aftermath:

About to watch “Charlie Brown Christmas”:


CATEGORIES: baking, holidays

Gourmet homemade Thin Mints

December 15, 2009

Let me just take a super quick break from my giant research paper to report some important cookie news. I picked up a bag of Limited Edition Nestle Tollhouse Dark Chocolate and Mint Morsels (I got them at Target), and I’m here to report to you that the cookie recipe on the back of the bag, Mint Chocolate Delights, tastes exactly like Thin Mints, only actually much better. I did use Double Dutch Dark Cocoa from King Arthur, and that probably made a difference, also. Yum!

(For the record, that Double Dutch Dark Cocoa is the only cocoa I use any more. It’s unbelievably good.)



Hello, chocolate black pepper cookies!

October 7, 2009

These are my new favorite Birthday Present cookies (based solely on the fact that I’ve given them to both Scott and Stacey on their birthdays). Martha Stewart’s Chocolate Black Pepper Cookies: YUM. Dark cocoa, espresso powder, black pepper in the dough and then a sprinkle on each cookie, and crunchy turbinado sugar along the edge. They are a masterpiece of flavor and texture. Really.

And my new favorite way to package them is to take an empty oatmeal canister and wrap it in wrapping paper, and then stack the cookies inside. So much nicer than trying to load them onto a plate and mess with plastic wrap. Or load them into a plastic bag and pretend that’s at all gifty.

Chocolate Black Pepper Cookies

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground pepper, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon good-quality instant espresso powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter , softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Coarse sanding sugar, for rolling
  1. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, salt, pepper, espresso powder, and cinnamon into a large bowl; set aside.
  2. Put butter and granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Mix in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined.
  3. Turn out dough onto a piece of parchment paper, and roll into a 2-inch-diameter log. Roll log in the parchment. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or overnight.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove log from parchment paper. Let soften slightly at room temperature, about 5 minutes. Roll log in sanding sugar, gently pressing down to adhere sugar to dough. Transfer log to a cutting board, and slice into 1/4-inch-thick rounds. Place rounds on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 1 inch apart. Sprinkle each round with freshly ground pepper.
  5. Bake cookies until there is slight resistance when you lightly touch centers, about 10 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 2 days.

Children’s Book of the Week: All in Just One Cookie

September 14, 2009

All in Just One Cookie by Susan E. Goodman, illustrated by Timothy Bush

This is the book I’ve been looking for! At the beginning of the summer, when I was assembling the Summer Jar, I had the idea of doing things like baking cookies, but learning while we did it, mostly learning about food chemistry and how cookies become cookies. I actually looked around for some adult food chemistry books, but didn’t find anything useful. And there, all along, in our library, was this book, which was exactly what I had in mind.

All in Just One Cookie is about Grandma, her researching cat, and her hungry dog, who are making chocolate chip cookies. With each ingredient added, the cat and dog find out where the ingredient comes from, how it is harvested, and what it does for the cookie. There’s even a bit about how dogs and cats can’t eat chocolate. The kids were totally enthralled with the story of what makes a cookie, and I actually learned some stuff myself (like where baking soda comes from).


Is the Portland Museum of Art intentionally anti-family?

June 27, 2009

Thursday the summer jar told us to go to the Portland Museum of Art. I’d put it in the jar because I haven’t been in a few years, and I wanted the kids to see all that art right there in our own town, I thought it might be inspiring, and I thought it might be interesting to compare it to the galleries we went to. Instead I spent the whole time feeling like they wanted us to leave.

First they told me that I couldn’t carry Zuzu in my back in the Ergo. I carry Zuzu on my back everywhere and for a moment I couldn’t even get my mind around how I would bring her around the museum if she wasn’t in the Ergo. When I asked why, the woman at the ticket stand (there must be a more official name for that, but anyway) said that it was because I might not be aware of what was on my back. I get what she meant, I think, that if it were really crowded maybe I’d back into a painting? They did at least provide (flimsy) umbrella strollers, so I strapped Zuzu into one of those to wheel her around. But I will say that it felt all wrong to have her all the way down there in the stroller when I’m so used to her being up on my back.

We went into the first exhibit, a collection of paintings from New England artists’ colonies. Eli was pushing Zuzu in the stroller. Within thirty seconds a docent came over and snidely said, “We ask that one adult hand be on the stroller.” Again, I get it. They don’t want a crazed 3-year-old driving the stroller into a sculpture or something. But I was annoyed because I didn’t want the stroller in the first place, and also because it was a crappy stroller that was like a grocery cart with a bad wheel, and also because the docent said it in a voice that said, “I pity you with your horrid, horrid offspring.”

We decided to go upstairs. I’ve never used the elevator in the museum before. There is absolutely no signage telling you where the elevator is (hidden in a hallway off to the side of the entrance). I wouldn’t have to use the stupid secret elevator if it weren’t for the stroller. Anyway, we finally find the elevator after walking all over the first floor, get in, and there’s a sign that says what’s on each floor, which also says, “Interactive Exhibit for Families!” and tells us where that is. We decide to do that, and make the trek through the museum to the adjacent McLellan Sweat House, which requires us to go through small rooms with a jumbled collection of fragile antiquities and an antique couch that Eli said, “Oh look!” about and was walking toward when a guard hissed, “DON’T TOUCH!” at him, so he turned around. Then we went down a small set of stairs and through a giant heavy door (stupid stroller stupid stroller) to get to an empty room that had a sign on the wall that said, “Interactive Exhibit for Families! In Progress!” Sigh.

Up to the third floor we went (in the secret elevator), where the world’s nicest museum worker let Henry wheel Zuzu in careful circles around a bench while he lovingly teased Eli about what he thought might be behind a door in a mural that was taken from the old Westbrook post office. Love that guy. Totally engaged the kids in the art and didn’t yell at Henry about the fact that he was pushing the stroller without an adult hand on it.

Then we got all excited in the next room, which had lots of fun modern art (Warhol! Claes Oldenburg! Roy Lichtenstein!). We peeked up at the Calder mobile, and in the middle of the room was a salvaged-wood sculpture called Gem by Robert Indiana. “Look!” I said to the boys, gesturing at it. “Where do you think those wheels came from?” and as we were debating wagon vs. wheelbarrow, a docent came over and said, “We have an 18-inch rule, and you’re getting a little close with your pointing there.” Translation: “Don’t be exuberant about the art.” Subtranslation: “Please get your rugrats and leave.” And so we did. The boys could tell that they weren’t wanted. They looked hurt. Maybe I did too.

Look, I get it. I know that the museum is filled with priceless works of art. I know that some children are awful and destructive. I get that you need rules to make sure that the art is protected. That’s fine. And I certainly don’t think that the world needs to cater to my children. I don’t think that they should have handed me a “Portland Museum of Art Scavenger Hunt” pamphlet when I walked in (although, hey, that might have been nice). The whole reason we were there was because it wasn’t the Children’s Museum, and I want my kids to understand that the world is not built for them, and that there are also maybe more interesting things in museums than a display where they can milk a pretend cow.

My issue was really with the extreme condescension. People, this is Portland, Maine. It’s a place where we’re nice to each other. It’s a place of genuine smiles. It’s a place where you work at the museum because you love art, and if you see a mom with some engaged kids on an otherwise dead afternoon, you maybe would mention something interesting about the art, rather than throw your mighty docent muscle around.

So we left. We walked down Congress Street and past Whitney Art Works, with its huge window and giant art, and the boys stood there staring and said, “What’s THAT?” and I said, “Let’s go inside” so we did, Zuzu on my back dammit, and the woman in there smiled a huge enthusiastic smile and said, “Hi!” and let us walk around and look at things and we didn’t even have to pay.

Then we sat in some funny outdoor plastic furniture outside Addo Novo, and no one came out and told us to get off the expensive modern couch. Thank you!

Then we got bread and cookies at Big Sky and the boys ate their cookies at Lady Liberty in Monument Square and watched some jugglers and we felt happy about Portland again.

Until we got back to the car and there was a ticket on the windshield.



Whoopie Pies for a Soggy Solstice

June 25, 2009

What better time to try a new cookie than at a solstice party (even if it was the zillionth rainy day in a row)? (Ok, I realize that this is yet again just a ridiculous justification for cookie baking.) We were going to Marcus and Lisa‘s for a solstice party, and I’d promised to bring cookies, so we whipped up a batch of peanut butter whoopie pies, which were a lot easier than I thought they were going to be. I was surprised that they actually puffed up into the proper little cakey cookies, and I was sure everything was going to fall to pieces when I spread on the peanut butter filling, but all held just fine. I got the recipe from a Martha Stewart Cookie magazine that came out a few Decembers ago; you can see the recipe here. Yum! Enjoy! Definitely more festive than regular old chocolate chip cookies (which had been my original plan).



Big Soft Ginger Cookies

June 10, 2009

The other day Eli and I were hankering for some kind of ginger, some kind of molasses (translation: we were out of chocolate chips), and out of the depths of my recipe file I pulled a recipe for Big Soft Ginger Cookies. The recipe is copied from something my mom had, and I know we made it when I was in high school (which was apparently twenty years ago, according to the reunion this past weekend). I have no idea where the recipe is from; do you, Mom?

ANYWAY. these cookies are super easy and very, very good. The title pretty much tells you all you need to know. The other helpful hint is that these are the kind of cookies that are even better the next day. Chewier. Yum.


2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup butter, room temp.
1 cup sugar (my mom reduces it to 3/4 cup)
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 tablespoons sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and salt; set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and 1 cup sugar; beat until fluffy. (This is a lovely time to use your new beater blade.) Add egg and molasses; beat well. Stir dry ingredients into beaten mixture.
  4. Shape into 1.5-inch balls (1 heaping tablespoon dough each). Roll in the 2 tablespoons sugar and place on an ungreased cookie sheet, about 2.5 inches apart.
  5. Bake about 10 minutes or until light brown and still puffed. (Do not overcook, but it may take up to 15 minutes. Look in the cracks on top of the cookie and see if the cookie inside looks raw or not.) Let stand 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Makes 24 three-inch cookies.


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