Cookie Mix In A Jar, Disaster In My Kitchen

In the last year since I’ve updated this blog (whoops), I got a new amazing job for an amazing company in an amazing department with amazing people. (Did I mention my work life is great?) I only started in January 2014, so this is my first Christmas season with everyone, and I didn’t even think about gifts for everyone in my department…of 9 other people. That’s a lot of thinking, and I can barely buy gifts for my husband who I’ve known for 10 years. So, I started looking for ideas online, and realized I could finally try something I’ve been wanting to try for a while but never had the occassion – the (in)famous cookie mix in a jar.

Image from The Creative Junkie

I’m sure you’ve seen these all over the internet, especially if you’re on Pinterest (I’m a recovering Pinterest addict myself). They look super cute and are great and inexpensive gift ideas, perfect if you work in a department with 9 other people. Plus, it’s literally dumping ingredients in a jar. How hard could it possibly be? (hahahahahahaha.)

I looked around and decided on following these instructions from AllRecipes. I got 9 1-qt mason jars from Michael’s for $2.49 each, and decided I would use a few sheets of Christmas craft paper I already had to cut into tags, and print out the instructions on pieces of paper and just glue them to the festive paper. (On an unrelated note, I also decided I would crochet small ornaments to go with these, which I will discuss further in another post.)

Since I purchased the jars on a Friday night, and wanted these prepared to bring to work the following Tuesday, Saturday morning seemed like a good time to have a test run, since I had absolutely no plans on Sunday. I knew we didn’t have enough of everything for 9 batches, so I went to the supermarket before 9am to grab extra of everything. (Did I mention this was all happening the weekend before Christmas? I have been a master procrastinator since I was 7 years old.) I got home and reviewed the instructions; in hindsight, I should have seen a red flag at “1 1/2 c of flour,” but whatever it’d be fine.

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Not so much.

This would be perfect if I didn’t still have to add a cup of chocolate chips! Guess who started baking cookies at 9:30 in the morning, with the organic butter I’d just paid a ridiculous amount for, since we had no regular sticks of butter.

I read through some of the comments on AllRecipes and was stunned that there was only one negative comment about actually fitting the ingredients. Everyone else claimed they packed and packed and packed with an ice cream scoop until it all fit nicely, but I didn’t have the time or patience for that. (Well, I had the time, but didn’t want to have an issue AGAIN, because now I definitely didn’t have enough butter for another batch.) So I figured I could just halve the recipe, and add 2 each of the cookies I’d just surprise-baked, since now I’d have room at the top of each jar. Except…

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Nice try.

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These things spread to be HUGE. I will take some of the blame for this, because the recipe called for softened butter, and I stopped paying attention and half of my butter was melted. But really? There is no way I’m fitting these things in the mason jars.

Now, it’s not even 11am and I’m drinking white wine because this whole experience has me strung out. Plus now I have to wash all the dishes from my surprise baking session. At this point, I’ve already rinsed out the Fail Jar, so I refilled it but with half of all the ingredients.

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A definite improvement, since now everything actually fits, but there is so much OBVIOUS empty space at the top, now I have to think of something else to fill it with. (Oh, and of course, this new job is for one of the biggest candy companies in the world, so putting some candy in a plastic bag and placing it on top would be pointless.) I toyed with the idea of literally dumping packets of hot chocolate into plastic bags, but then decided I would just cut the cookies up until they fit. (Cookie bites are a thing, right?)

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The cookies were a huge hit, and everyone was appreciative. And maybe if I hadn’t done this less than a week before Christmas, it wouldn’t have seemed quite as tragic. But I’ve learned my lesson – if I ever want to attempt the cookie mix in a jar gift again, I’ll just make the cookies.

Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows

I like to live life frugally. So every Christmas I usually wind up making many of the gifts I give to people; either something entirely handmade or, more often, something handmade to go along with what I’ve already purchased. More than being frugal, however, I feel like handmade is far more heartfelt. A lot of people don’t realize the time and effort it takes to make gifts and think it’s merely a way to cop out of spending money, which makes me sad. When I crochet even just a hat, it takes hours of my time, and that ought to be worth more than any money I were to drop on something found in a store.

Now that I’ve had my rant, the point was that I got my cousin a mug for Christmas from Ghost Adventures on Travel Channel (which is one of the best reality shows next to Ancient Aliens) and found a neat post on Pinterest on a layered hot chocolate recipe – perfect! The recipe called for crushed peppermint starlights/candy canes, but thanks to another post from Pinterest, I decided to omit that part and replace it with homemade peppermint marshmallows from the Betty Crocker website.

Ingredients

  • Butter for greasing – I just sprayed my Pyrex with cooking spray
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup corn syrup – MAKE SURE YOU HAVE THIS AND DON’T TRY TO SUBSTITUTE IT. More on that later.
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon pure peppermint extract – I used imitation peppermint extract because that’s what Shop Rite had, and it was fine
  • 8 to 10 drops red food color – I think I wound up using like, fifteen
  1. Generously grease bottom and sides of 11×7-inch (2-quart) glass baking dish with butter; dust with 1 tablespoon of the powdered sugar. In bowl of stand mixer, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water to soften; set aside.
  2. In 2-quart saucepan, heat granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt and 1/2 cup water over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Heat to boiling; cook without stirring about 30 minutes to 240°F on candy thermometer or until small amount of mixture dropped into cup of very cold water forms a ball that holds its shape but is pliable; remove from heat. I don’t have a candy thermometer, nor do I have the patience to check the temperature the way it is listed, so after bringing it to a boil I lowered the temperature and just let it do its thing for 30 minutes.
  3. Slowly pour syrup into softened gelatin while beating on low speed. Increase speed to high; beat 8 to 10 minutes or until mixture is white and has almost tripled in volume. Add peppermint extract; beat on high speed 1 minute. Pour into baking dish, patting lightly with wet hands. Drop food color randomly onto top of marshmallow mixture. Pull table knife through food color to create swirl pattern over top. Let stand uncovered at least 8 hours or overnight.
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  5. Dust cutting board with about 1 tablespoon powdered sugar. Place remaining powdered sugar in small bowl. To remove marshmallow mixture, loosen sides from dish and gently lift in one piece onto cutting board. Using sharp knife greased with butter, cut into 1-inch squares (11 rows by 7 rows). Dust bottom and sides of each marshmallow by dipping into bowl of powdered sugar. Store in airtight container at room temperature up to 3 weeks.

In regards to my note about the corn syrup, I didn’t realize until I had already put the gelatin and water in my mixer that I had none, so I looked up a substitute online because I actually do that quite a bit with ingredients I don’t normally keep in the house. Well, the substitute for corn syrup is water and sugar. When you try to mix that with MORE water and sugar, disaster strikes. And by disaster I mean after almost an hour your sugar will still have not dissolved. I had to admit defeat and put the gelatin & water mix in the refrigerator overnight; after coming back home with the corn syrup everything went fine.

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I’m still trying to get through all the marshmallows. I’m sure I won’t, but suddenly I have a strong desire for hot chocolate…

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Glazed Coconut Bread

When we got engaged I registered for (and received at my bridal shower last March) a bread machine. I thought this would be the best idea ever because they’re kind of like crock pots; you can just throw everything in there and let the machine do the work. I picked a recipe out of the booklet that came with the machine for coconut bread, because I had nearly a full bag from a failed Easter bunny carrot cake that didn’t go quite as planned.

Well, true to form with everything I touch, that bread machine is broken or something. I’ve only used it once and one of the two mixers doesn’t move, so at the last minute (which, naturally, is when I realized it wasn’t working) I tried sort-of-mixing it with a rubber spatula. The whole bread wound up being a disaster and we threw it out (this could possibly be because I killed the yeast, but I’m blaming the machine until I get a working one).

Fast forward to about a month ago, we had 2 events to go to where I volunteered to bring dessert. Around this time I also came across glazed coconut bread recipe on Pinterest and thought it would be a great opportunity to use up more of the shredded coconut.

Note: this recipe makes TWO loaves; if you only want one don’t forget to halve everything!

Glazed Coconut Bread

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons coconut extract – I thought this would be difficult to find, but Shop Rite actually had it
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cup flaked coconut
  • 1 cup buttermilk – I substituted the buttermilk with milk and white vinegar

Coconut Glaze

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon coconut extract

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease or spray 2 bread loaf pans.
  2. In mixing bowl beat eggs until fluffy.  Add the sugar, oil, and coconut extract and beat 3 more minutes.
  3. Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder,  and salt and add to mixing bowl.  Mix until combined.  Add coconut and buttermilk.  Pour batter into loaf pans and bake for approximately 45 minutes.
  4. Remove pans from oven and set on wire rack.
  5. Immediately mix the glaze by combining sugar, water and butter in small sauce pan.  Allow mixture to boil for 1 minute and then add in coconut extract.  Slowly pour the glaze over the hot bread (in the pan).  Allow the glaze to seep in the bread and down the sides of the pan.Be careful with this part – it’s still so hot at this point it bubbles everywhere, so do it slowly so it doesn’t overflow!
  6. When cool enough to handle, remove the bread from the pan (yes, it’s a little sticky) and allow to finish cooling on the wire rack.  Slice, serve, and savor each bite!

This time, the coconut bread was great! It was like eating Malibu. It’s a little on the sweet side, so I only ate small pieces because I don’t usually like overly sweet things, but this was perfect in small doses.


Now I’m inspired to do something about that bread machine!