Monthly Archives for: December 2013
Because holidays are full of baking treats for family and friends, I thought it was time to step up my cookie baking skills. So I grabbed a copy of The Cookiepedia by Stacy Adimando and set to work in the kitchen. For the first time in my life I made cookies that were three-dimensional and not flat semblances of what cookies should be. For the first time, too, I learned about the basic chemistry behind baking – i.e. use butter that is warmed by sitting out on the counter all day and not nuked to boiling in the microwave. I learned this and many more tips in this colorful, organized, and beautifully designed cookie book. After reading The Cookiepedia, you’ll be the semi-professional hobby baker you always wanted to be!
In an attempt to branch out from making my usual aforementioned two-dimensional chocolate chip cookies, I chose to bake Stacy’s Pistachio cookies. Since her cookie recipes are organized into genres such as: fruity, spicy, fancy, nutty and seedy etc. it was easy for me to choose; I’m a nutty seedy kind of gal. The recipe was very straightforward and included simple ingredients most of which I could easily find in the bulk section of Alfalfa’s, saving me money and time. Since I followed all of the directions and learned some basic baking chemistry in the “ABC’s of cookie baking” section, I baked cookies that came out fluffy, chewy (how I like them), even and craggly – yes that is a real adjective used in the book. Although the pistachios turned the dough a slight greenish hue and many wondered what was really in them, these cookies won most hearts over – this is saying a lot considering I work in an office filled with Boulder “foodies.”
Any of Stacey’s recipes can easily be made 100% organic or gluten free by simply using all organic ingredients or Pamela’s Gluten Free flour. So, if you are looking for a beautiful and whimsical gift for your favorite baker or cookie monster, check out Stacy Adimando’s Cookiepedia!
It’s that time of year again! Snowflakes, tinsel, office parties, crowded malls with no place to park, and cold, short days. For many it is a time of stress—be it financial, emotional, or mental.
So let’s take a moment to reflect upon the true spirit of this time of year and remember that no matter where you live or what your denomination is, December is a wonderful time to show gratitude and appreciation for those in your life. When showing true appreciation for people, nothing beats a homemade gift. The best gifts are often very simple and inexpensive, and don’t require expert baking skills or workshop full of Martha Stewart’s minions.
If you would like to take the gift to a more personal level, make something that is a family recipe. It does not have to be fancy. It can be as simple & homey as your Mom’s chocolate chip cookie recipe, but including the recipe & a little story about where it came from takes the gift to a new level. Your family traditions may now live on in other families!
How to get started
Tailoring your homemade gift to fit your time & budget is essential in keeping the project stress-free & fun. If you organize yourself with the list below you can make any modifications (cost, size, schedule) before getting deep into the project. Some ideas are better in theory than reality (i.e. an ingredient may not be in season or may be prohibitively expensive).
- Make a list of who gets what (consider family vs. individual, perishability, dietary restrictions, etc)
- Determine portion size & how you will package the gift
- Calculate your ingredient & packaging cost
- Decide how much you need to make
- Buy your packaging or gift bags before you start the project
- Take your time shopping the sales & searching for the hard to find ingredients. This helps to manage your time and make the project cost effective.
- If you choose to give a recipe or story along with the gift, print it now and keep in a convenient place
If you are beginning your own tradition of homemade gifts & need some ideas to get started, below is a list from simplest to most involved that will hopefully provide you with some inspiration. Website links are provided for idea purposes only, no guarantees!
- Chex mix
- Homemade granola
- Nut brittle & barks (try this bittersweet chocolate bark or this pomegranate bark)
- Spiced nuts
- Flavored popcorn seasoned with truffle salt & Parmesean cheese or chipotle & maple syrup (try this recipe for homemake cracker jack or this one for cheesy popcorn)
Getting Just a Little More Complicated
- Homemade cookies
- Pickles & chutneys (try this recipe for quick pickles; or, come to Alfalfa’s to get your refrigerator pickle kit that makes 16 pints of pickled veggies overnight)
- Mustards (very customizable; try this recipe)
- Flavored Vinegars (a wonderful way to capture the flavor of the season)
- Ice Cream Sundae Basket (hot fudge sauce, caramel, and toasted nuts)
- Homemade marshmallows bundled up in a cute mug filled with hot chocolate mix make the perfect gift
- Salt or sugar scrubs scented with essential oils
- You can make homemade bath salts using Epsom salt or another coarse salt, tossed with a handful of dried flowers & a few drops of essential oils. These can be customized for each person on your list. (Hint: Alfalfa’s sells many essential oils & herbs in our wellness department!)
- Make your own soap or candles: it’s really quite simple & the materials are readily available at any craft or hardware store.
If December slips by and it’s just too late to get started for this year, never fear. Experiment with just a couple recipes & take notes for next year. Or choose a simple but meaningful handwritten note, because even though it’s a cliché, it really is the thought that counts!
Happy Holidays, a delightful New Year to you, & thanks for being part of the Alfalfa’s Community. We so appreciate YOU!