Archive for the ‘Cookies’ Category

To Bake OR Not to Bake- A Math Lesson

Almost every child LOVES COOKIES.  We all know this… entire marketing campaigns are based on this fact in the fall of the year when the kiddies go back to school, the weather starts cooling and folks start thinking about football, homecoming games, treat-laden parties and the major baking holidays.

Homeschooling moms have a big advantage over their public school teaching counterparts in the area of math to keep their students engaged in lesson material and at the same time give their youngsters a fun break from the day-to-day on-paper math assignments.  The homeschooling mother (or father, or grandparent… whatever the case may be) has: #1. a pantry containing food ingredients #2. cooking equipment and facilities ever present when at home (cooking in the car is probably NOT a good option unless your home is also your mode of transportation) #3 a handy supply of cookbooks, recipe card or perhaps recipes memorized from years of experience. #4 As a parent, IF your children have any food issues such as allergies, you KNOW what they are and unless the result of your math lesson is going to end up as snack for the next scout meeting or church potluck, you don’t have to worry about anybody else’s allergies except your family’s.

I don’t know about your kids, but mine love the process of making cookies almost as much as they love eating them.  That said, our family does have a few food limitations among our children: corn/corn syrup, gluten, milk protein, soybeans, bananas, strawberries and avocados.  With that in mind, we do quite a bit of our own baking anyway.  Baking is a great way to make math fun, particularly when trying to teach fractions.

Today’s math skill (new) was adding fractions and to this end, we used 1/3 and 1/2 measuring cups and a 1/4 tsp measuring spoon (okay, I couldn’t find any of the others anyway… but we made it work for us!) to measure ingredients.  We also ended up writing our own recipe for these cookies as we went along and the oldest wrote it down on recipe cards. Life Skills Lesson: Bake a healthy, low-sugar and yummy  “go-to” cookie that even my future 20-something possibly bachelor sons could make on their own without too much difficulty for their lunchboxes and such when they are grown and on their own. (Clever Mama!)  Bonus Lessons: Creative Writing and Penmanship practice … check!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Peanut Cookies

1/2 + 1/2 + 1/2 cups Creamy Peanut Butter

1/2+ 1/2 + 1/2 + 1/2 cups brown sugar (or 50/50 blend of brown sugar/splenda or brown sugar/stevia)

1/4 + 1/4 tsp salt

1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4 tsp vanilla

2 large eggs (or 3 medium… that’s what I happened to have)

1/3 cup cocoa powder (baking, not hot chocolate mix)

1/4 + 1/4+ 1/4+ 1/4 + 1/4 + 1/4 tsp baking powder

1/3 + 1/3 cup of room temp. leftover coffee (adjust as needed depending on the moisture of your flour)

1/2+ 1/2+ 1/2 cups whole millet flour

1/2+ 1/2+ 1/2+1/2+ 1/2+ 1/2 cups Gluten-Free all purpose flour (use your favorite blend) Adjust flour as needed if your cookie dough seems too wet from the coffee

1/3 cup Enjoy Life Mini Chocolate Chips (okay, this was all I had left of the bag)

1/3+ 1/3 + 1/3 cups chopped peanuts

1/2 cup Sugar in a small bowl (add more if needed

1. Cream together in a large mixing bowl, the peanut butter and brown sugar.

2. Add the eggs, salt and vanilla and stir in thoroughly.

3.  Stir in the coffee (it will look very loose almost like pancake batter at this point.)

4. In another mixing bowl mix the flours, cocoa powder and baking powder.

5. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients 1/3 or so at a time. Mixing well between additions.

6. Stir in the chocolate chips and peanuts.

7. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or foil and chill for at least 2 hours.

8.  After the dough is chilled, Preheat the oven to 350 F.

9. Remove the dough from your fridge and scoop out walnut-sized balls of dough.  Roll the dough in sugar (as you would regular peanut butter cookies) and place on your baking sheet.

10.  Using a fork, lightly squish the cookie dough balls in a criss-cross fashion (again like regular peanut butter cookies).

11.  Place your cookie sheets in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes (use your judgement here, if you like soft cookies take them out when they look well set, if you like a crunchier cookie leave them a couple minutes longer, but plan to keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn.

12.  Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack or plate.

13.  Let the kiddies enjoy the results of their math lesson, but don’t forget to save some for dad’s lunch too!

For holidays you can use colored sugar or roll them in sprinkles to dress them up a bit.

For Extra Credit, check with  your 4-H and Scout leaders to see if this math project can count toward a 4-h project (perhaps and Educational Display in Baking/cooking as part of a cookbook you child writes out him/herself) or for a cooking belt loop in Cub-Scouts/Badge in Girl Scouts.

(*  I apologize for lack of photos at the present time, my camera bit the dust after the 4-H photography clinic we had in late July and we haven’t had the funds to replace it just yet.  I will bake these cookies again another day after we DO replace the camera, edit and re-post this again in an updated version with photos.)

Re-engineering the Chocolate Chip Cookie Gluten Free

Well, it is the start of another busy day. Yesterday, I had to unexpectedly drive out to the kids’ school (60 miles round trip from home) to pick up Farmer Boy Charles, who wasn’t feeling well and who’s eye was all red and weepy. That brought me to an unexpected stop at the eye doctor, my boy has viral pinkeye (nothing doctor could do except ell him to wash hands frequently, not to rub it and keep hands to himself.) So, he’s at home until the problem passes.  Hope it doesn’t take as long as it did with my goats back in the fall of 2006, when they got exposed at State Fair to it (exhibitor in the neighboring stall had a doe down with it really bad and tried passing it off as allergies!  I was very upset, one of my favorite does, Vienna, went blind after rubbing up against that next-door stallmate.)

In the interest of a busy day and recipe days being our most popular days… we will literally keep this short and sweet.

Over the Christmas holidays, Charles requested Nestle’s Toll House Cookies after seeing frequent commercials on television for them.  Part of autism is a symptom called echolalia (affected people frequently parrot/repeat information they see or hear over and over ad nauseum to the point of driving everyone else completely batty.) When he was little he constantly repeated entire scripts of kiddie programs like Thomas the Tank Engine and Bob the Builder. Now that he’s getting older, Charles echolalia is evolving… he’s becoming very susceptible to advertising, particularly food advertising… which seems to peak during the winter holidays.

The constant bombardment by Nestle’s products resulted in this request for Toll House cookies. Not that I don’t frequently bake chocolate chip cookies anyway, but we had to go through this excercise to understand WHY these particular cookies were different or special by duplicating it Gluten Free

. (*Please note that  Nestle’s Toll House morsels are NOT dairy free, they contain milk fat and as a result a nominal amount of casein… I usually use Ghiradelli semi-swee choc. chips in baking or another dairy free brand … but in this instance I had some of the Nestle’s brand that I had bought to make fudge for hubby’s office and decided to administer enzymes to my son for casein digestion. )

I stuck very close to the original recipe with these cookies.

          Gluten Free Nestle’s Toll House Cookies

(An adaptation of a Famous Recipe for Gluten Intolerance)

Equipment:  large mixing bowl and electric mixer (or a heavy duty stand mixer like KitchenAid which is what I use and I usually double the batch size), wooden spoon, parchment paper, cookie sheets, cooling rack, a metal pancake flipper and a cookie scoop.

Ingredients:

1 cup butter or margarine (I use BestLife or Earth Balance)

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla extract

3 cups of Gluten-Free All-purpose Flour (if using a blend with xanthan gum already added, omit xanthan gum later in recipe.  I like Jules’ Gluten-Free All Purpose Flour  www.julesglutenfree.com , but  also have used Namaste GF All Purpose flour to good result in this recipe too, if you are new to GF and not sure what brands to choose.  I do not recommend a garbanzo/fava bean based AP flour in this recipe as it will result in “beany flavored cookies”)

1 1/2 tsp. Xanthan Gum

2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 pkg. Nestle’s Toll House Semi-Sweet Morsels (other one of the dairy-free brands)

1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional, if you have nut allergies either leave them out or use sunflower seeds or shredded coconut instead.)

Instructions:

Cream ” butter” and sugar until light and fluffy with an electric mixer.  Add eggs one at a time and mix well between additions.  Add vanilla extract and mix again.  Sift together dry ingredients, add slowly to butter mix mixing well between additions.   Add in chocolate chips and mix again and then add nuts and mix those in too if you are using them.

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Place cookie dough on cookie sheets lined with parchment using cookie scoop or by heaping spoonfulls. Bake 8-12 minutes depending on your preferred doneness and your oven until lightly golden (we like them soft and chewy here).  Allow to cool slightly (5 min or so) on sheets before removing to a cooling rack or platter.

Great warm or cold and served with a glass of milk substitute (almond, rice, soy etc.)

You can also make this dough in advance, form into logs and wrap in parchment or wax paper, place in a zip-top freezer bag for later use. just partially thaw a log of dough as needed  and slice off cookies and bake them as usual.  Great idea to have on hand for when the youngster forget to tell you it’s their turn for snack day at school or Sunday School until the last minute or for busy days when a sweet snack or dessert is wanted in a hurry.

Makes 2 to 3 dozen depending on size of cookies

Mystery Recipe Monday April 2, 2012

So, this week will be insanely busy. Thus I’ve asked a dear friend to do a series of guest posts on the topic of New Frontiers in Education.  My friend, Aimee Packard is a mother of 2 special needs sons who homeschools her children and also has them duel enrolled through her local school district for Sp.Ed. services only.  In her first post, aimee discusses the “WHY” of homeschooling and “WHY” it may be necessary for families to return to home educting their children in the near future.  Her 2nd post will cover the “How-To” of getting started with homeschooling.

As for my crazy week…

We have our Littlest Pioneer Girl, Anna’s baptism on Easter Sunday at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in DeSmet, SD.  This is the last Sunday for the St. Stephen’s Congregation in our church building.  I am heartbroken over this, I feel like I am the only person in the world who cares about the history of our parish and how it is deeply tied to the Pioneer History of the Dakota Territories.  We tried for several years to get the Laura Ingalls Wilder Society to purchase the church building and start necessary repairs, but with the economic downturn affecting tourism, the Society itself didn’t have the money to do it either.  It frustrates me that me and my family arrived several years too late in order to try reviving the parish with a Sunday School and youth programs to draw in new families.  And it angers me that most of the former parishioners (for whom it was their 2nd church, only to be attended on special occasions) ran off many would-be church goers and refused to donate moneys into the offering plate to provide for the church’s routine expenses (such as the electric bills) or assist with fundraising for repairing the roofs, floors, paint and to update the furnace and electrical systems or to supply some sort of toilet facility.  For over 50 years they neglected their church into such disrepair that now it is beyond all reasonable hope for the dwindled number of congregants (there are 7 of us now, not counting the retired supply priest) to maintain, let alone repair.

I insisted that IF the church were to be closed, we were going out with a BANG!  The biggest bang, would of course have been a wedding… but since nobody is of marriagable age that isn’t already married, the next best thing was a baptism… and that we CAN DO.  We want our little girl, Anna, baptised anyway and Easter is such a lovely time to do it.  We will be having a lovely “after-party” with cookies, cupcakes, maybe some sandwiches, juice, coffee and tea.  I bought a new camera Friday  to replace the one my boys broke, so be looking for lots of pictures next week.  I plan to take some of the original church building Charles Ingalls built with the help of neighbors, which later became the parish hall (although it’s not been used in years due to the disrepair).  Charles Ingalls was well known as a carpenter and builder, he often took construction jobs in order to make ends meet for his family.

Anyway, I am in the midst of sewing Anna’s Chrisening Gown and have a long week of sewing and cleaning ahead. Pioneer Pa and the 2 Farmer Boys will have matching vests for Easter (the boys got store-bought dress shirts, as they had a concert at school last week and Ma was on short notice about it to sew them shirts.)  Pa will have a new, handmade dress shirt in lavender (purple is his favorite color) and I will also be making myself a new dress.  My parents and perhaps my 2nd youngest brother will arrive Friday evening for the holiday weekend.  I am hoping the weather cooperates and we are able to BBQ this weekend and eat outdoors.

I also have more seeds to start for the garden this week, for plants that must be transplanted.  Our heirloom seed order from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds ( www.rareseeds.com) arrived last week and I am so excited about that now that we are less than 8 weeks from last frost.

And now my friends… it is time for Mystery Recipe Monday.   I had a question from my friend Aimee about quick snacks tha are healthy-ish and Gluten Free…I answered Rice Krispie trears w/ dried fruit and another friend of hers said something about granola… I’ve been thinking on how to smash both ideas into one for a couple weeks and came up with….  Drum roll, please…..

This weeks’ Mystery Recipe is…..

Gluten Free Granola Treats

(a cross between Granola Bars & Rice Krispie Treats)

Equipment:  A large stockpot or dutch oven, a cookie sheet, 1 or 2 large oblong cake pans (depending on how thick you like your treats), rubber/silicone spatulas, cooking oil spray, measuring cupand spoons and a wooden spoon.

Ingredients:

3 (10.5 oz) pkgs. miniature marshmallows (always check label for wheat/gluten, some brands use modified food starch w/undisclosed source which is usually made from wheat, other brands will says cornstarch)

1 1/2 sticks of casein free margarine (BestLife and Earth Balance are good brands)

9 cups Gluten-Free Rice Krispies

1 tsp.  pure vanilla extract

4 cups toasted Gluten-Free Oats (to toast spread on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven at 350 F until the oats just begin to brown.. this helps take out the raw oat taste in a recipe where the oats are not really cooked)

3 cups dried fruit (I like a combination of dried cherries, cranberries and blueberries)

2 cups of shredded coconut

1 to 2 cups chopped nuts or sunflower seeds (or some of each)

Shortening for greasing pans and hands

disposable gloves

Instructions:

Place oats in oven to toast, keep a close eye on them, they can burn easily.  Coat your pot with shortening to prevent the marshmallow goo from sticking.  Put the margarine in thepan and begin melting before adding marshmallows.  Add the marshmallows and stir frequently to prevent them from burning.  Once melted, remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Stir in cereal and then oatmeal until well coated.  Stir in dried friut, coconut and nuts.

Spray cake pans and spatulas with spray oil.  Scrape treat mixture out into pans.  Put on disposable gloves and grease your hands with shotening.  Press treat mix firmly into pans.  Allow to cool.

Cut treats into “granola bars”.  These can beindividually  wrapped in waxed paper or plastic wrap and placed into zip-top storage bags for later use. They make great on the go snacks, a quick handy dessert or wonderful additions to lunchboxes for school or work.

*Please note this is a rather large batch (you could cut the batch size into 1/3’s if you wanted), as the idea here was a make ahead snack or lunch box item that would be on-hand for grab and go use and as a more healthy option to many of the expensive ready-to-eat Gluten free snacks and bars that are available at the market.  So this batch represents about a weeks worth of bars (assuming 1 person/day) for a family of 4-6 people.

Variations:  You could substitute peanut butter, sunflower butter or other nut butter for 1/2 of the margarine.  You could also add chocolate chips to the recipe if you wanted to make them chocolate flavored.  Cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice also make interesting additions (about 2 tsp. or so… i often do spices to taste and I LOVE CINNAMON!).  Other dried fruit opions: raisins, dried apple,chopped dates/figs, chopped dried tropical fruits.

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