Category Archives: Cookies

President Clinton’s Oatmeal Cookies

Last week someone extended a wonderful act of kindness to me that touched me in several ways; it reminded me the importance of helping and giving to others. In our busy world today it is easy to become wrapped up in ourselves and lose sight of the fundamental importance of doing good for others. With the media ramming the image of “Generation ME ME ME” down our throats, it’s no surprise we’ve become so enveloped in ourselves. So many times we are caught up in our own lives where we find our time and money so valuable that we keep it to ourselves. Honestly speaking, it’s just the easier route – look out for yourself, save money to buy things you want, why not?

But what about the people that are less fortunate than you? Sure we can turn a blind eye, forget that they’re there, but a failure to fix the problem doesn’t make it disappear. When we choose to ignore the uneducated, the sick, the poor, it not only makes the world a more negative place to live in but it affects the future of humanity. I recently re-read Giving by Bill Clinton – with political views aside, one cannot deny the positive influences this man has bestowed for our nation and for the world. In this book, President Clinton teaches us the importance of giving – “how each of us can change the world” through the gifts of time, skills, things and ideas to promote positive changes to the less fortunate.

Since middle school, I’ve been active in volunteering for my community. One of my favorite volunteering jobs was playing piano for the patients of M.D.Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Though I may not have been a champion award-winning pianist, the patients sure made me feel as so. I felt fortunate to share my gift of music to the ones that needed it the most. Being able to provide a brief moment of solace in their world of stress and pain gave me a sense of responsibility and understanding that every time I sat in front of that piano, I had to play my best as if I were performing for a concert. One evening, a woman came up to me with a huge smile on her face after I played Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat Major and tightly held my hands in hers  “Thank you. Thank you for letting my mind rest and making me smile, it’s been awhile.” Even after 10 years, I still remember that moment and it made me realize how the simple gift of time can ultimately be priceless.

All around us help is needed – whether it’s helping to clean up a neighborhood park, or teaching low-income students how to read, or going even further and help educate the poor and build schools in third world countries – think about the effects we could make if each of us stepped forward and gave a little time to help those in need, think about the future it would create for our children, for our world. As a tribute to a great man, I found this recipe for “President Clinton’s Oatmeal Cookies” from Desserts by the Yard by Sherry Yard, the executive pastry chef of Spago. I love that this recipe calls for “fat raisins” and the addition of brown sugar gives these cookies a nice chewy consistency.

Here’s to you Mr. President, thank you for striving to make this world a better place, I leave you with this quote:

“So much of modern culture is characterized by stories of self-indulgence and self-destruction. So much of modern politics is focused not on honest differences of policy but on personal attacks. So much of modern media is dominated by people who earn fortunes by demeaning others, defining them by their worst moments, exploiting their agonies. Who’s happier? The uniter or the dividers? The builders or the breakers? The givers or the takers? I think you know the answer. There’s a whole world out there that needs you, down the street or across the ocean. Give.”

-President Bill Clinton

Ingredients for President Clinton’s Oatmeal Cookies (makes 48 small cookies or 24 large cookies):

• 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 7 ounces (1 ¾ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 cup packed light brown sugar
• 1 ½ teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
• 1 ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 2 large eggs, at room temperature
• 2 ¼ cups rolled oats
• 1 ½ cups fat raisins

Sift together the flour and baking soda and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream the butter on high speed until lemony yellow, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle or beaters. Add the sugar, brown sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Continue creaming the mixture on high speed until it is smooth and lump-free, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle.

Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl and paddle after each addition. Beat on low speed for 15-30 seconds, until the eggs are fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle. On low speed, add the sifted flour mixture, beating until all of the flour is incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, mix in the oats and raisins.

With a rubber spatula, scoop out the dough and divide it in half. Center one half along the bottom of a sheet of parchment paper and roll it up in the paper, creating a log about 2 inches wide and 12 inches long. Repeat with the second piece of dough. Fold over the parchment, creating a sausage. Twist the ends over and wrap in plastic. Chill the dough logs for a minimum of 1 hour. (At this point the dough will keep nicely, wrapped well, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or up to 1 month in the freezer.) You can also simply spoon the dough onto parchment-covered baking sheets and bake at once.

Place racks in the middle and lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. When the dough is chilled, remove it from the parchment paper. Using a chef’s knife or an offset serrated knife, slice ½-inch rounds off the log. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets, spaced 2 inches apart. Bake for 12 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom and from front to back, and bake for another 5-8 minutes, until nicely browned. Remove the cookies from the oven and carefully slide the parchment off the sheets and directly onto your work surface. Cool the baking sheets between batches. Wait a minimum of 5 minutes before eating, or allow to cool completely before storing the cookies in an airtight container. (The cookies will keep for up to 3 days at room temperature.)

NOTE: Instead of forming the logs and chilling, you can also scoop spoonfuls of dough onto the parchment-lined sheets. Spoon teaspoons for small cookies, tablespoons for large.

Ingredients for Fat Raisins (makes 1 cup):
• 1 cup golden or Red Flame raisins
• ½ cup dry white wine
• 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
• 1 tablespoon dark rum
• 2 tablespoons sugar

Combine the raisins, wine, orange juice, rum, and sugar in a small heavy saucepan, bring just to a boil over medium heat, stirring all the while. Lower the heat so that the liquid is at a bare simmer and poach for 20 minutes.
Remove from the heat, cover the pan with plastic wrap, and allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

Shortbread Cookies

Since I am still pretty jet-lagged I figured I’d soothe my insomnia with a post :).  I had actually meant to post this entry while I was in China but apparently they do not allow blogging websites there.  I was also unable to access Twitter and Facebook as well, thank god for the whole “Freedom of Speech” thing we have going for America eh?

Shanghai was a blast, I come to realize that I will always be a big city girl at heart.  I loved the energy, the endless amounts of delicious (and cheap) food, and the shopping — oh my god, the shopping.  Surprisingly, it was Collin who lost himself this time.  Yes, you heard correctly, my fiance was completely out of control compared to me.  You see, in China you can always bargain for your price, it’s like gambling, except the ultimate goal is to get a stinkin’ good deal.

He made two custom fitted suits for a whopping $96 dollars each along with several custom tailored dress shirts for about $10 each.  He also purchased belts, watches, wallets, polos — he literally came back with an entirely new wardrobe.  NOW the good child (me) had a tailored jacket made for $60 and had a custom wedding dress made for $85, the one I found here in the States was $3500.  This convinces me to never buy clothes in the States ever again, (okay not really because I love shopping) but it is amazing as to what you can have made there and for such a good price!

We didn’t have enough time to visit HangZhou so that will be saved for next time, but we ventured all throughout Shanghai and stopped by Wuxi and ShuZhou.  I took over 1200 pictures while I was there, now that I am editing through them I am becoming a little regretful about my trigger happy finger.

Everytime I go back, I am always amazed as to how much changes around Shanghai.  Highrise buildings magically sprout out of nowhere, old restaurants replaced by new, and there always seems to be more people.  Always. The traffic is a constant clusterf*ck and you always think someone’s going to die, yet there are minimal car accidents and pedestrians and bikers always seem to come out alive.

I shall save the many adventures of Shanghai for the following posts, seeing that I have thousands of pictures to go through as well as numerous information pamphlets to read I should probably get started… I would also like to pose a warning for the following cookie recipe: they are extremely addictive.  Collin ate about a dozen to himself in one sitting, these cookies will make you lose all self control so plan wisely 🙂

I found this recipe in Frank Stitt’s Southern Table — these cookies are melt in your mouth delicious and using only 4 simple ingredients they are not only easy to make but can be paired with any dessert and goes great with coffee.

Ingredients for Shortbread Cookies:

(Makes 3 to 4 dozen cookies)

  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the butter and sugar until smooth, 2 to 3 minutes.  Sift the salt and flour, then add to the butter mixture, mixing until just combined.

Form the dough into a log about 2 inches in diameter.  Wrap the log with plastic wrap and chill for 3 hours to overnight.  Freeze for up to 2 months.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, remove the plastic wrap and slice the dough into 1/4-inch disks.  Place on an ungreased baking sheet 1 inch apart and bake until the bottoms of the cookies just turn golden, about 10 minutes, turning the sheet 180 degrees after 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cool completely.

VARIATION: After removing the dough from the refrigerator, slice as above, then roll each disk into a ball.  Moisten a thumb and press into the center of each ball.  Fill each indentation with high-quality raspberry or other fruit preserves.  Place on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake until slightly golden, 10 to 12 minutes.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

You can also use other preserves like apricot, cherry, strawberry — and since Easter is this Sunday this would also make a delightful dessert to bring to any party.  Easy to make, delicious to the max, trust me these cookies will become the hype of any party :)!

Sucré Love

You know what girls like more than getting flowers?  — Beautifully crafted, delicious edible treats, I mean you can’t eat flowers…  Once again Sucré has sent me more of their wonderful, artisanal crafted sweets: dark chocolate raspberry ganache and king cake french macaroons.

Sucré (which is French for sugared) is a New Orlean’s based confectionery that is an emporium of “artisan” sweets. Their goods range from hand crafted chocolates, to glorious cakes and breakfast pastries — which are designed with much love and care by the highly talented Tariq Hanna, head pastry chef of Sucré.

I think aside from the obvious exceptional flavors of their products, they are also packaged with extreme care a detail.    I receive Sucré’s goods it honestly feels like Christmas.  The boxes and packaging are always in vibrant colors and designs finished with a perfectly tied bow.  Each piece of art is carefully nestled in its own “cubby hole”, to prevent any damage during the shipping process.

The first box I opened were the King Cake French Macaroons.  Even before I saw the actual macaroons I was overwhelmed by the amazing smell  of these tiny wonders– was I suddenly in Sucre’s kitchen?  Were these macaroons really that magical?  Yes.  They really were that magical.  Perhaps they don’t have transporting powers but I have never tasted anything like this before.

Did I also forget to mention that I’ve attempted to make French Macaroons and successfully failed three times?  Cuz I did.  Who the heck knew THIS was what they were SUPPOSE to taste like?  Now, where do I begin?  After getting over the amazing smells (and burying my nose deep into the box multiple times) I finally unraveled the delicate white tissue and revealed a colorful glittery array of King Cake Macaroons.

Oh man guys, I need to take a second here and collect my thoughts.  The first bite…how do I even describe this.  The first bite.  MY EYES ROLLED TO THE BACK OF MY HEAD AND I ALMOST PASSED OUT FROM SUCH HEAVENLY MACAROON PERFECTION.  I can’t believe this is what a good French Macaroon tasted like!  I have never tasted anything like it, I was hooked!  I watched helplessly as I popped one after another into my mouth, I just couldnt stop.

They were tiny pillows of heaven, when you take them out of their cubby holes you have to be careful to not crush the delicate shell.  The texture is crispy yet chewy, I would compare it to something but I dont think I’ve tasted anything like it.

And then, there was that rich, decadent, silky buttercream.  Oh that buttercream, I blame you for the intoxicating smells.  I am not sure why this buttercream tastes so darn good, probably because of Sucre’s use of high-quality ingredients or it’s magical powers, who knows?  But I could bathe in this buttercream and die a happy (wo)man.  My only complaint is that I wish I had 100 more of these, it honestly was hard to share but I did…and my honey and friends enjoyed them just as much as I did.

Now…onto the dark chocolate raspberry ganache.  I don’t like chocolate.  No, I should rephrase that comment — I don’t like CHEAP chocolate.  It’s overbearingly sweet and it leaves this weird “film” in your mouth.  People look at my crazy when I tell them I am not a fan of chocolate.

But when it comes to Sucré, I am ALL about the chocolate.  Back in December when they sent me their holiday truffles I was having a field day with those bad boys.  Godiva has nothing on these chocolates.  Just the appearance alone is enough to convince me.  They are just absolutely beautiful, almost too beautiful too eat but I get over that pretty quickly.

These heart-shaped chocolates were a rich burgundy color with a nice iridescent shimmer and nestled inside the beautiful shell was a dark raspberry ganache.  People, this ganache is phenomenal.  I don’t know if its the high quality cocoa or the magical fingers of Tariq, but its out of this world fantastic.  The chocolate is not too sweet, which is often my complaint about many chocolates.  It’s rich and comforting, and the strong scent of raspberry resonates in each bite.

As I’m writing this, I am staring longingly at my empty boxes — though I killed the goods right when I got them, the flavors and feelings are still fresh in my mind.  It is refreshing to find a company that really puts love, attention and detail into their products.  All their efforts really shine through, the taste is undeniable — simply perfection.

I’d like to give a huge thanks to Andy and the rest of the Sucre team for sending me these wonderful products to review.  It is always such a delight to review products as beautifully crafted as these, it makes my job much easier 🙂  For my readers, you guys can take a look at their products here and explore their delicious goods.  Have fun and remember, Valentine’s day is just around the corner so for all you guys out there looking for some brownie points?  I’d say ordering artisan sweets is definitely the way to go, remember sweets can be eaten, flowers…cannot. 🙂

Ultimate Sugar Cookies

My goodness it’s good to be back!  Work has been busy (hurray!), but unfortunately has left me with little time to tend to my blog 😦 (booo!).  It’s been a blast though, I feel fortuate to have a job that allows me so much creative/artistic freedom — it is a nice change from scrubbing grease chunks off of kitchen equipment and cleaning out moldy freezers…

At Mealtime Market we’re  selling Iced Sugar Cookies, heart-shaped sugar cookies to be exact! So I have been busily experimenting in the kitchen for the perfect sugar cookie recipe.  After many trials and errors I have finally found the winning recipe for the ultimate sugar cookie!

I think the thing I love most about sugar cookies are that they are so versatile and serve as a great “base” dough .  You can make use these cookies to make some ice cream sandwiches, or even use this recipe to make tart shells for desserts, or the way I like them best — plain, with a nice glass of milk.

I have never used shortening in any cookie recipes before and actually found this recipe on the back of a Crisco shortening label, ( I know, what are the odds?) the only thing I changed was that I used half cake flour and half all purpose flour.

I found that it improved the texture of the cookie by a lot.  Anyways, I gave it a shot and was completely shocked as to how moist, melt-in-your-mouth delicious these cookies were.  INCREDIBLE, some would say…  They are best fresh out of the oven, or you can zap them in the microwave for a few seconds for the best warm sugar cookies you will have ever tasted.

Recipe for the Ultimate Sugar Cookies:

(makes 6 dozen)

  • 1 stick or 1 cup shortening (you can also use butter)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Beat shortening and sugar in large bowl, with an electric mixer at medium speed until smooth and creamy.  Beat in egg, milk and vanilla extract until well blended.  Combine flour, baking powder and salt.  Gradually add flour mixture to creamed mixture at low speed until well blended.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour for easier handling.

Heat oven to 375F.

Roll 1/3 of dough at a time on lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness.  Cut dough with 2 to 3-inch floured cookie cutters.  Place 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.  Sprinkle with sugar, if desired (I used turbinado sugar).  Bake 5 to 9 minutes or until edges begin to brown.  Cool 2 minutes on baking sheet.  Transfer cookies to cooling rack ( or your stomach).  Frost and decorate as desired.

I actually whipped up a batch just before Collin left for his first international over seas trip (exciting!), you know, so he can have snacky snacks on the plane!  He actually left me a message a couple days ago on my phone calling from Japan saying — “Honey, thank you for the cookies.  They remind me of home.” Aw shucks, come on now! It really made my heart melt 🙂

If any of you are interested in making heart-shaped cookies for Valentine’s day it is really simple to do!  You just have to get a heart-shaped cookie cutter, any size you prefer, if you are going to decorate the cookies I would recommend you picking a big enough cutter where you have ample room to decorate! Cut and bake the dough as listed above and once the cookies are cooled you can decorate them with different colors of royal icing.

Royal icing is basically egg whites, powdered sugar and a little bit of lemon juice.

Place the desired amount of confectioners’ sugar in a mixing bowl.  Beat in the egg whites, a little at a time, until the sugar forms a smooth paste.  You will need 2 to 3 oz egg whites per pound of sugar.  Keep unused icing covered with a damp cloth or plastic film at all times to prevent hardening.

I just made pink colored icing — you can make any color you’d like using food coloring.  You pipe the cookies using either a pastry bag with a fine tip or you can make parchment triangles.  You can also use fruit roll ups, sprinkles or small candies to use as decorations as well, have fun with it and like I always say BE CREATIVE! This is a great project for kids or friends and the best part is you get to share your creations at the end, sugar cookies makes anyone happy 🙂

Black Sesame Cookies

I started getting gray hair when I was 12, and now at 24 I’m about a quarter gray.  I am lucky to have a mother who’s a hairstylist that dyes my hair to hide my secrets, she is worried I will go completely gray before her.  The time a person develops gray hair is dependent on your genes, but my mother is convinced it’s because I have a deficiency in my body.  So for years she made me eat black sesame seeds claiming it would restore pigment into my hair.  Going back home this time around she gave me another tub of ground sesame seeds “You don’t forget to eat hei zi ma (black sesame seeds) it is good for grey hair!” I never argue with my mother, I hear they know best 🙂

Granted, black sesame seeds don’t seem to have slowed down my gray hair production it does have a lot of healthy nutritional benefits.  They are high in many minerals like iron magnesium and calcium which help promote bone and joint strength.  In Chinese medicine, black sesame is used to promote health to the kidney and liver, and to treat constipation and promote regular bowel movements! T.M.I.? Perhaps…but you’ll be thanking me when these cookies make you regular 🙂

Ingredients for Black Sesame Cookies:

  • 3/4 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cup black sesame seeds, ground

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a large bowl, beat shortening and sugar with electric mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy.  beat in vanilla and egg.  In another bowl mix the flour, salt and baking soda.  Slowly incorporate dry mixture with wet mixture, be careful not to over beat the batter or it will change the texture of the cookie.  Dump in the ground sesame and mix until evenly dispersed throughout cookie dough.  Drop tablespoonfuls 2-inches apart onto greased cookie sheets.  Bake 8-10 minutes for chewy cookies or 11-13 for crisp cookies.  Remove from oven and cool on cooling rack.  Makes 3 dozen cookies.

Prep Time: 10 minutes   Total Cooking Time: 20-23 minutes

Who says cookies aren’t good for you?  These are also a great recipe for vegans, I have recently switched to vegetable shortening instead of butter because it contains less saturated fat than butter does.  It also increases the shelf life for cookies and it does not need to be refrigerated.  In the past, vegetable shortening has gotten criticism for containing trans fat but there are a lot of products out there that do not contain trans fat like Crisco All-Vegetable Shortening Sticks.  I also felt it gave my cookie a much lighter and crumb-ly texture than usual — I like it!