Tag Archives: Christmas

OKMH: The Secret Santa Project

The OKMH Gang (clockwise from top left) - Mads, Kirsten, Megan, Kat, Allison & me

The OKMH Gang (clockwise from top left) – Mads, Kirsten, Megan, Kat, Allison & me

As 2012 draws to a close (that seems so unreal) so does our first year of One Kitchen Many Hearts boxes. This little ‘boxes of love’ project has been one of the greatest joys of the year for me. Not necessarily for what I received, but for how much fun I had hand-picking items to send to each beloved friend. I anxiously waited, every other month, to see how those gifts would be received. And when a box of love was a success, it made the whole world seem brighter.

For December, our final exchange of 2012, we decided to draw names Secret Santa style and surprise each other. No teasers. No hints. No “wait until you see what I’m sending you” tweets. Until that box showed up on each porch, there would be no clue as to who was sending to whom. My Secret Santa was Kirsten (my twin separated at birth) from Comfortably Domestic in Michigan. And true to her ‘kindred spirit’ form, she totally nailed it.

Perfect theme. Perfect choices. And SO…. MUCH…. LOOT!

OKMH Dec - A Sleigh full of Gifts

Check out this card. Clearly, she’s on board with my exercise regime.

OKMH Dec - Front of Card

OKMH Dec - Inside the Card

Yup. She gets me. She knows that I pine (whine) over her glorious abundance of snow while we languish in shorts and sip iced drinks well into January. I covet her snow. So she sent me a Winter Wonderland in a box, and it was perfect. Perfect timing, perfect selections… just perfect in every way.

My first squeal came when I discovered the tub of Mayan Hot Cocoa Mix. She posted this recipe on her blog and I swooned, but then she sent me some! AND she even sent a fabulous snowflake mug and a tub of miniature freeze-dried marshmallows. How fun is that? They’re so tiny & cute!

OKMH Dec - Cocoa Marshmallow & A Cup

So of course I immediately made a cup so I could enjoy it while I unpacked the rest of the box. Evidently, I am all about instant gratification when it comes to hot cocoa. Kirsten’s is even more decadent because it has a hint of cayenne pepper in it. Not enough so that you taste it, but just enough that you feel a slight burn in the back of your throat. I love that sweet little burn.

OKMH Dec - First Cup of Cocoa

SO. GOOD. If that wasn’t enough, she included these cute ‘cup’ cookie cutters.

OKMH Dec - Cup Cookie Cutters

I haven’t made cookies with them yet, but I’m going to. Soon. Until I get around to it, here’s a suggestion of how they would work. Just imagine it’s a chocolate almond shortbread cookie. Or a cranberry orange sugar cookie.

OKMH Dec - Cup Cookie Cutter

Get a load of the Winter Wonderland goodies she sourced for this baking kit:

OKMH Dec - Holiday Baking Bonanza

It’s a virtual baking blizzard up in here! That snowflake spatula is sturdy, man! Even the stiffest cookie or bread doughs will be conquered with that beast. I love it! And a girl can never, ever have too many cupcake wrappers. There’s just no such thing as ‘enough’ cupcake wrappers.

OKMH Dec - Snowflake Baking Cups

And there were sprinkles. Snowflake Sprinkles, y’all!

OKMH Dec - Snowflake Sprinkles

This snowflake cookie cutter is sturdy, too. This ain’t no flimsy aluminum cookie cutter, my friends. This cutter says ‘I could do this all day.’ It laughs at flimsy cookie cutters. At nearly 4″ across, if this made actual snowflakes, they could kill on impact. Can you just imagine giant buttery snowflakes falling from the sky? I can, and I’m catching them in my mug of hot cocoa.

OKMH Dec - Snowflake Cutter & Spatula

One cookie, and you’d be stuffed to the gills. I would pretend to be a dainty eater. You’d be all like, “Can I offer you another holiday treat?” And I’d be all like, “No thanks; I just ate a snowflake. I couldn’t eat another bite!”

But I saved the best baking surprise for last. It’s this little unassuming bottle:

OKMH Dec - Nectar of the Gods

It’s unicorn tears. I’m just kidding. It’s actually fiori di sicilia and it’s a baker’s secret weapon. A blend of citrus & vanilla, it brightens everything from ice cream to cookies to bread dough. I cannot WAIT to crack that puppy open! I just have to find the perfect recipe. Something truly worthy. Suggestions?

Also included in the box – two sweet winter-themed hand towels (who doesn’t love a penguin, seriously) and a snowflake ornament. Ah-door-ah-bull.

OKMH Dec - Cute Ornament & Towels

But wait, there’s more! No OKMH box is complete without something girlie and Kirsten went for mani/pedi fun. As a south coaster, Kirsten knows I’m a slave to humidity. When winter comes and the heaters click on, I begin to shrivel like a lizard. There’s nothing pretty about it, either. So for my dry lizard skin, there is Carmex healing cream. As soon as I put it on, my skin said, “Ahhhhhhhhh.” And there was polish! I love these two sparkly, frosty colors together. So pretty!

OKMH Dec - Hand Care

And for those days when sweet & frosty won’t cut it, she included this wild OPI set as a tribute to my Day of the Dead Mask post from October. So much fun, and they even came with little DOTD stickers for your nails, too!

OKMH Dec - DOTD Nail Polish

These are going in my Tub-O-Polish for girlie nail painting parties like Hoegarden. Or when I want to spice up my toes (even though no one will see them this winter). It’s like wearing racy underwear under a boring business suit. Hypothetically speaking, of course. {giggling}

Always a mom at heart, she included these reuseable snack bags for the grandkids – Jonah Bear & Lilly Bug. They’re going to love them. I’ve already stuffed them with snacks and juice boxes. No kidding.

OKMH Dec - Reusable Snack Bags

I love that these are washable, and the kids are going to love the cute prints. Lilly Bug is all girl with a pink fetish and Jonah Bear is all about the super heroes. Thanks for thinking of them, Kirsten. So thoughtful.

But I saved my very favorite surprise for last.

Did I mention Kirsten is a knitter? I wish I knew how to knit. We made a deal recently. She’ll teach me to knit if I’ll teach her to sew. We just need a few weeks together. That’s all. Or maybe a month. A month would be much better.

Lucky for me, Kirsten is a gifted knitter and she made something special just for me in the most beautiful shade of blue. Seriously, I died.

OKMH Dec - Hand-Knitted Gloves

Fingerless Victorian-inspired gloves. Fingerless because she knows it never gets cold enough down here to wear a heavy coat. Victorian because we share a love of antiques. Some day we will wear gloves and sip chai tea together as we browse antique shops. It’s a dream of ours, and one I’m determined WILL come true. Some day. Until then, check out the details on these beauties:

OKMH Dec - Glove Details

Not just ruffles, but ruffles with contrasting trim in black. And those buttons. They kill me. I don’t know how she did it. Well, actually there’s a story behind the gloves. If you look at the photo of the inside of the card again, you’ll see that little note on the top left corner about a funny story. It turns out that Kirsten crafted these gloves while they were traveling by car for Thanksgiving. She was so excited to get them done on the drive, she showed them to her husband, who commented “Did you mean to knit two left-handed gloves?” To her surprise, she’d accidentally made two lefts. She had to rip one apart and re-knit it into a right handed glove. She calls that a funny story. I would have cried.

OKMH Dec - gloves & a heart

Those gloves are a symbol of how nothing gets in the way of our devotion to make each box as perfect as possible. I can’t speak for all the ladies, but I believe the preparation and care and love that goes into crafting each OKMH box is the best part of this project. Well, that and hearing how much each box meant to those who received them. And although 2012 is almost behind us, I have a feeling One Kitchen Many Hearts will continue for years to come.

I’m sending a big bear hug to Kirsten, along with a very special thanks for my Winter Wonderland extravaganza. I could not imagine a better holiday surprise. As Kirsten so eloquently puts it, I love these ladies more than cake. And if you’d like to see what everyone else received, drop in on them at the links below. In case you’re curious, I sent my Secret Santa box to Mads. {squee!}

Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic

Megan at Country Cleaver

Kat at Tenaciously Yours

Allison at Decadent Philistines Save the World

Mads at La Petite Pancake

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Filed under Miscellaneous Thoughts, Things I Love

Cookie Week: Coconut Shortbreads and a Holiday Cookie Baking Giveaway


**UPDATE: Congratulations to Mads from California. She is the lucky winner of my Holiday Cookie Baking Giveaway. Enjoy your goodies, Mads, and thank you for supporting Cookies for Kids Cancer. You are a Good Cookie!**

It’s Be A Good Cookie Week! Is there any more perfect holiday treat than cookies? They’re easy to make and fun to bake. It’s one of my favorite things about the holiday season. I can’t speak for all of the other little elves participating in this project, but I’m pumped. Cookie Week is going to rock! Much like Pie Week in November, my blogging inner circle was inspired by Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic to do something this holiday season that would bring us all together. In this case, she added a special invitation to help her bake for a cause – Cookies for Kids Cancer, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting pediatric cancers.

This organization started with a mother named Gretchen and her son Liam, who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Unwilling to stand by and do nothing, Gretchen decided to hold a bake sale with the goal of baking 96,000 cookies with the help of family, friends and volunteers. Three weeks later, they had raised over $400,000 for pediatric cancer research. From there, it blossomed into something even she couldn’t predict. Cookies for Kids Cancer is now nationwide, and has captured the hearts of people everywhere.

Kirsten was the first in our group to jump on the band wagon and with good cause. She lost her little sister Cheryl to pediatric cancer. Needless to say, Cookies for Kids Cancer touched Kirsten in a very personal and profound way. I’m fortunate to have never experienced this personally, but because I love Kirsten and she loved Cheryl, and because parents everywhere may someday face this same challenge, I’m proud to join their efforts and bake for a cause this holiday season along with a special group blogging friends.

For Pie Week, we used Kirsten’s fabulously flawless “No Excuses Pie Dough” as our common thread. For Cookie Week, we each selected a recipe from the Cookies for Kids Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook by Gretchen Holt-Witt. Yes, she’s the same Gretchen who started that first bake sale for her son Liam. All of Gretchen’s author proceeds from the sale of the book benefit pediatric research, just like her bake sales. More about the cookbook in a little bit.

For Cookie Week, I selected Toasted Coconut Shortbread Cookies. I knew as soon as I saw this recipe it was perfect for me. I love shortbread and coconut. Here is the original recipe from the Cookies for Kids Cancer cookbook:

1/2 cup of sweetened flaked coconut
2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup of powdered sugar
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
2 1/4 cups of flour
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt

But I tripled the recipe so I could bake extras for a cookie exchange next week. And because I can never leave well enough alone, I also tweaked it a little. You should know by now that I can never seem to make any recipe as written. Here’s my ingredient list:

2 cups of sweetened flaked coconut
2 cups of slivered almonds
6 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup of powdered sugar
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of almond extract
1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
6 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 bag of dark or semisweet chocolate chips for dipping

Pre-heat the oven to 250F. Spread coconut and slivered almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. In a food processor, pulse the coconut and almonds until finely ground (but not completely pulverized).

Place butter, sugars and extracts into mixer bowl with paddle attachment and beat until creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the coconut and almonds to the butter & sugar mixture and beat on low speed until well combined. Gradually add the flour and salt. Mix until well beaten. (In my case, I had to remove the bowl from the mixer and stir the end of the flour in by hand. Triple the dough was a little too much for my 6 quart stand mixer.) Scrape out of bowl onto waxed paper or the counter top. If needed, knead the dough gently until it forms a cohesive ball. Divide and roll the dough into 1 1/2″ to 2” diameter logs. Wrap each log tightly in plastic wrap & aluminum foil. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or freeze for up to 2 months.

To bake, slice cookie dough logs into 1/4″ slices and place them about 1″ apart on a lined cookie sheet. I use silpat mats, but if you don’t have them, use parchment paper instead. Pre-heat your oven to 350F. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges start to turn a light brown. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool for 10 minutes on the cookie sheet. Remove to parchment paper or cooling racks and allow the cookies to cool completely.

At this point, you can stack them into airtight containers or layer them in rows into freezer bags. But why stop there? Let’s kick it up another notch by dipping them in dark or semisweet chocolate. Shall we? In a microwave safe bowl, microwave one bag of chocolate chips at full power for 1 minute. Stir and microwave again, in 30-second intervals, until the chips are melted. Whisk thoroughly to remove all lumps, and move to a flat surface for dipping. Spreading out a long strip of parchment or waxed paper, dip one shortbread at a time, covering about 3/4 of the cookie’s surface. Allow the excess to drip off, then scrape the bottom of the cookie off on the edge of the bowl. Place the cookie immediately onto parchment paper and allow to cool. If you’re really clever, put that parchment paper on a baking sheet, and you’ll be able to pop your cookies straight into the fridge or freezer until the chocolate is fully set.

There you have it. Toasted Coconut Shortbread Cookies from the Cookies for Kids Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook with a NanaBread twist, baked in honor of Kirsten & her sister Cheryl, and Gretchen & her son Liam, and for kids everywhere who are facing cancers no child should ever endure.

Now on to the giveaway. Here is what one lucky reader will win:

You know you want to win this spectacular Cookie Week giveaway!

One copy of the Cookies for Kids Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook
One OXO “Good Cookie” Spatula, benefiting pediatric cancer
One holiday print apron, handmade by NanaBread (that’s me!)
One cookie-themed holiday kitchen towel
One set of my favorite Nordicware mini-spatulas
One boxed set of sprinkles for decorating holiday cookies
Two sets (3 each) of colorful metal cookie cutters
Two sets of holiday treat sacks for sharing with others
Two silicone hot pads in red & green (to match your apron)
And lastly, one small Christmas Cookie candle by Yankee Candle Co.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Holy cow! How can I win this fabulous cookie baking giveaway extravaganza!” Well, here’s how you can do it. And the good news is, each of you has the chance to earn multiple entries.

A few quick rules & a disclaimer:
1. You must be a resident of the United States to participate.
2. You must provide a valid e-mail address so I can contact you if you win.
3. They call it ‘the honor system’ for a reason, so please play fair.
4. Entries must be posted by noon CST on Sunday, December 18, 2011.
5. All prizes are provided by me and paid for with my own money.

Required Entry: leave a comment & tell me your favorite holiday cookie

Bonus Entries: (a new comment must be entered for each of the following)

1. Buy a copy of the Cookies for Kids Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook OR an OXO “Good Cookie” spatula, even if it is a holiday gift for a friend or family member, then return here and leave a comment telling me which item you purchased to help benefit pediatric cancer research.

2. Make a donation to Cookies for Kids Cancer at http://www.cookiesforkidscancer.org/donate.asp then leave a comment letting me know that you made a donation to support pediatric cancer research.

3. Tweet the following: “I entered to win a Cookie Week Giveaway in support of Cookies for Kids Cancer at http://www.insidenanabreadshead.wordpress.com @HeyNanaBread and so can you!” and return to let me know you tweeted.

4. Share the link to my blog post about Cookies For Kids Cancer on your Facebook page, then come back and post a comment telling me you did so.

5. Share a virtual cookie from Glad on Facebook, and come back and leave a comment on this post telling me you did so.

6. Visit the Glad website, official sponsor & supporter of Cookies for Kids Cancer, and register to have your holiday baking counted as a corporate donation. That’s right – Glad will donate 10 cents for each cookie donated, sold, exchanged or given as a gift this holiday season (up to $100,000). Just count your cookies, register your information, and come back here to tell me you signed up at http://www.glad.com/glad-to-give/bake/host/ to make your cookies count for the cause.

That’s seven (7) ways each of you can enter to win. Or seven potential entries for each overachiever who participates. It’s just that easy. And it gets even better. My friend Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic is also holding a giveaway for Cookie Week, so go to her blog (link below) and enter to win both giveaways! On Sunday, December 18th, I will select one winner randomly from the comments I receive. The winner will be e-mailed and must confirm, so be sure to use a valid e-mail address. Your e-mail address will be seen only by me, and will not be shared. Once a winner is confirmed, an update will be added to this blog post.

Don’t forget to check in this week with all of our Cookie Week bloggers. These little elves will be serving up their own selections from the Cookies for Kids Cancer Best Bake Sale Cookbook:

Monday – Kirsten from Comfortably Domestic – also having a giveaway
Tuesday – Jeanne from Inside NanaBread’s Head (hey, that’s me!)
Wednesday – Megan from Wanna Be A Country Clever
Thursday – Kat from Tenaciously Yours
Friday – Mads from La Petite Pancake
Saturday – Allison from Decadent Philistines Save the World

Happy holiday baking and thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping make pediatric cancer the ghost of Christmas Past.
-Jeanne

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Filed under Food & Recipes