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Bake Sale for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Before I get to the who, what, where, and when, I want to start with the why.  When I was first contacted to participate, I had a moment of hesitation.  I thought: “surely she doesn’t want me to help out.  I’m just a rookie who would be playing with with pros!”  But then I thought about him.

This is Matt.  I met Matt the first day of fourth grade in Mrs. Nason’s class.  He sat in the row next to me all year.  Over the next few years, Matt and I hung out during various school activities like orchestra and safety patrols.  He was always nice to me despite my  general bratiness that accompanied being a pre-teen.  I could tell you so many wonderful stories about him…

The summer after our eighth grade year, my family moved back to Brazil.  Matt was one of the only people who kept in contact with me during our time abroad.  (Keep in mind we were getting ready to enter high school and email wasn’t as widely used back then, so this took some effort.)  We kept in touch over the years and as technology (i.e. AIM) became popular, we were able to check in on each other.

When I moved back to the States for college, I visited him every time I could when I found myself back in Virginia.  Matt was one of those rare guys that actually picked up the phone to catch up.  He didn’t rely solely on technology to keep up with friends.  One day, though, I got a call I didn’t want.  Matt told me that he had been diagnosed with lymphoma.  I couldn’t believe it.  Here was a healthy, athletic, young guy who was in the ROTC program… how could it be?  Over the next few years, I saw one of the most exemplary displays of human resilience.  He even beat it into remission for a short time…

Matt was 24 when he passed away.  The picture above was taken the last time I saw him.  It was taken several months before things got bad.  Although it has been almost three years since he passed, I still can’t bring myself to delete his cel phone number from my phone.  So it’s him.  Matt’s the reason I agreed to join.

Now let us cover the other w‘s of this event.

The who is the organizer of this event.  Steph and I started this blogging adventure around the same time and we’ve kept up with each other’s sites over the past few months.  In addition to being a great cook, Steph is a runner.  She recently joined a ‘team in training’ in order to prepare for the San Diego Rock n’ Roll Marathon.  As part of their preparation, they are hoping to raise $1,900 to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  (This is where she got creative!)  Steph had the idea of organizing an online bake sale (what) and asked a bunch of us foodie bloggers to donate a baked good to the sale.

The event will be hosted on Steph’s site (where) and will take place on Monday, January 31 (when).  For all of the rules and information you will need, and to see a list of the participating bloggers, please click here.

There are some heavy-weights contributing to this bake sale, so in an attempt to compete, I have been testing different recipes to find something that is both tempting and will ship well!  Out of the three baking experiments I have attempted over the last two weeks, this Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookie was by far the best.  I found the recipe while flipping around Martha Stewart’s site.

The idea behind this cookie is that it has a chocolate cookie base (which is exquisite on its own!) and then you drop it into a bowl of sugar, cinnamon, and CHILI POWDER!  Seriously though, how good does that sound?

Because this was an experiment, I had to have a control.  There  were three batches that were made.  The first was simply the cookie dough without the interesting step.  The second was the cookie rolled in a sugar, cinnamon, and just a teeny bit of chili powder (i.e. the amount asked for in the recipe).  The third batch was rolled in bowl that had a good amount chili powder (it wasn’t an exaggerated amount, just a little over what the recipe calls for).

The first batch was scrumptious.  The dough could definitely stand on its own.  The second batch was enjoyable because you had the complementing flavors of the cocoa with barely a hint of the chili powder.  The third batch… oh the third batch… it was by far was the best.  There was no mistaking the brilliance of the recipe and why the flavors are infused into one mouthwatering treat.

See?  Don’t you want some?  You know you do.  It’s a great way to ease the guilt of indulging in this scrumptious treat.  It’s okay to eat it because it’s for a good cause…

There you have it.  This Mexican Hot Chocolate cookie is my contribution to Steph’s bake sale and it is baked with all of my love in memory of my friend Matt.  I hope you will consider bidding for it on Monday, January 31st!

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Maybe I just don’t like shortbread…

Months ago, I came across this recipe on Smitten Kitchen’s recipe list.  The description of the cookie was an “espresso-chocolate shortbread cookie” so instantly, my interest was peaked.  Having never attempted a shortbread recipe before, I was cautiously hopeful about how this would turn out.  I followed each step carefully according to the instructions.

After combining all of the ingredients, I spooned the batter into the plastic bag and rolled it according to the recipe.  I went through all of the prep work and placed the bag in the fridge to cool over night.  This afternoon, I pulled the batter out and cut it into the squares, pricked the squares with a fork, and put them into the oven.  Once they finished cooling, I bit into a square ready to be amazed.

But I wasn’t.  In fact, I was put off…

Both the texture of the cookie and the flavor were completely unappealing.  Sure, these little guys were cute, but ew!  I couldn’t stomach to finish even one of these.  In reviewing the footage of the game, three things came to mind that I could blame for yet another baking fail. First, maybe I messed something up.  Second, maybe the recipe was off.  And third, maybe I just don’t like shortbread.

I’m going to bet on it either being the first or last option… but who knows.  Needless to say, I won’t be trying another shortbread recipe for a while!

Christmas Cookie Bake-athon

December slipped through my fingers!  The beginning of the month was consumed with paper writing, followed by finals, followed by a trip to visit family and friends around Ohio.  By the time we were back home, it was December 24th.

Ian was scheduled to work back to back days starting with Christmas and running through New Year’s Eve, so I decided to keep myself busy by baking for his co-workers and for the awesome maintenance staff of our building.  I’ve practiced my hand at chocolate chip cookies before, but I wanted to send along a variety of sweets.  Gingerbread cookies seemed appropriate for the season and I found a cherry jam cookie recipe that sounded promising.

I rounded up the ingredients for the three types of cookies and busted out my stand mixer for the first time.  It worked like a DREAM for creaming the butter in all three recipes.  No blisters this time around!  The bake-athon took two days, almost eight sticks of butter, and it all began with the Joy the Baker‘s cherry jam cookie recipe.

Cherry Jam Cookies – I was intrigued by the use of cherry preserves in this recipe.  Its simplicity and description convinced me to attempt them for the gifts, but the outcome was not quite what I expected.  They were fluffy, sweet, and the tiny bits of cherry were pleasant surprises in each bite.  That being said, I wasn’t impressed.  They were so understated that I felt guilty including them with the other two types of cookies.  I can see these being a nice treat alongside a cup of tea and perhaps they would be even more tasty with some blackberry jam.  These are just things to consider for next time…

Chocolate Chip Cookies – Next up was my trusted chocolate chip recipe.  I always refer to nestle’s site when baking these.  The only changes I make are 1) I use ghirardelli semi-sweet chips instead of nestle’s chips (personal preference) and 2) I add 1 cup of quick oatmeal instead of chopped nuts.  I love making these cookies.  I’ve tried a few other recipes, but I always come back to this one.  These sweet treats are always a hit!Soft Gingerbread Cookies – Lastly, the bake-athon was wrapped up with this delicious recipe.  The description doesn’t lie – they are really soft and delicious!  The comments on this recipe are all correct though, so be sure to flatten the cookies once you place them on the cookie sheet.

It’s Monday, December 27th.  Another semester has been completed (the 4.0 streak continues), cookies have been delivered, and Christmas cards have been sent out (albeit it late!).  We have four more days left this year and I have a lot I want to do!  It’s going to be a busy couple of days…  What are your plans for bringing in the new year?

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