Chocolate – Peppermint Checkerboards

20120815-073027.jpgHere’s a project with some extra math, just because we know all kids love math. Obviously all recipes call for a little math: addition, proportions, fractions. But this one adds some geometry.

This is a basic icebox sugar cookie, but adding chocolate to half and using a quick little stacking trick, you get the checkerboard effect with no heavy lifting or heavier thinking.

20121214-085311.jpgWhat You Need:

Two sticks of butter (1 cup, half a pound) (softened)
¾ cup baker’s or granulated sugar
½ cup powdered sugar
½ tsp salt
2 egg yolks
2 tsp vanilla
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbs dutch-process cocoa
1 oz semisweet chocolate (melted, then cooled)
3-4 Tbs crushed peppermint sticks (optional)

What You Do:

Beat the butter, both sugars, and salt with either the paddle attachment of a stand mixer or a regular electric mixer — around 3 minutes on medium speed, until it’s 100% incorporated and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and give it another minute. Add the flour a half-cup at a time and mix on slow. Then divide the dough into two halves.

IMG_8504The first half can either be left alone for a chocolate-vanilla cookie, or you can mix the crushed peppermint into the dough.

With the second half, mix in the two chocolates.

IMG_0657Place a large square of wax paper on the counter and scrape out the dough in the center of the paper. Gently shape the dough into a rectangular bar, around 10 inches long, 1 inch high, and 2 inches wide, and then fold the paper around the dough and form it into as smooth and squared-off as you can. Repeat with the second half of the dough.

IMG_0656Wrap both bars in plastic wrap (you can leave it in the wax paper) and refrigerate for about an hour, maybe two, until it’s firm. Then unwrap the bars and slice them long-ways, resulting in two vanilla sticks and two chocolate sticks, both 10″ x 1″ x 1″.

IMG_0659Place one vanilla stick next side-by-side with a chocolate stick. Then place the other vanilla stick on top of the chocolate stick, and the other chocolate on top of the vanilla. (Geometry! Yay!)
Re-wrap them in wax paper and give them a gentle squeeze to form one large 2″ x 2″ bar. Then re-wrap with plastic wrap and return to the fridge.

IMG_0658At this point you can either heat up the oven, or save the dough for another day to do the actual baking.

20121214-085254.jpgWhen you’re ready, heat the oven to 325° and line a couple of baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper.

20121214-085245.jpgSlice off quarter inch squares from the end of your dough bar, and place them one-half to one inch apart on the cookie sheets. Bake for 12-14 minutes, just until the edges start to very lightly brown. Remove from the oven, cool on the sheet for 5 minutes, then complete cooling on a wire rack.

Posted in baking, cookies, holidays, kids, seasonal, toddlers | 4 Comments

World’s Greatest Granola Just Got a Little Better

ImageAfter winning the top prize at the state fair, where else is there to go? Just sit back and rake in the dough, right? Well, that worked for a while, but eventually we had to have another go at it. And this time, we’re pretty sure, if Steve Jobs was still with us, he’d call it magical and revolutionary. 

ImageOnly two changes, but two very powerful ones. First, replaced the vegetable oil with coconut oil. Second, the honey is gone in favor of agave nectar. Both of which provide a deeper flavor profile and a better texture (less clumpy and sticky). Is it better for you? Who knows? It’s breakfast … let’s leave saving the planet and your arteries and the local artisanal free range wind-powered carbon-neutral agave farmer out of it until that second cup of coffee.

One note on the coconut oil: We made this half a dozen times without incident, then the last time, somehow we deep fried the brown sugar in the coconut oil. Best guess is that the oil was a skosh too hot. I dunnoh … but from what I’ve read, seems you just need to take it slow and low with coconut oil. Warm it, then mix in the brown sugar, then only turn it up it the sugar isn’t dissolving.

So here ya goes …

What You Need:

  • 4 cups oatmeal
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 oz agave nectar
  • ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¾ cup shelled, unsalted sunflower seeds, toasted
  • ⅓ cup sesame seeds, toasted
  • ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • ¼ cup pepitas, toasted
  • ⅓ – ½ cup shaved coconut

What You Do:

ImageHeat your oven to 350°. Spread seeds and nuts out on a baking sheet and toast in oven for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice to avoid burning.

Ensure the coconut oil is liquid — if solid, by warming in a hot water bath or leaving on a sunny counter. Coconut oil tends to solidify right when you need it, or for whatever reason, scooping it out solid and warming in a pan on the stove just doesn’t work for me.

Place oatmeal in large bowl. In a medium saucepan, heat coconut oil, brown sugar, and agave over medium heat, until thin—about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and salt. Pour mixture over oatmeal; add the seeds and nuts, and toss to combine. Then add the shredded coconut and mix again.

ImageSpread evenly on a baking sheet. Bake for 5 minutes, then remove and stir so that the browned top is incorporated into the rest of the mixture. Bake another 5 minutes and stir, then another 5 minutes.

Allow to cool slightly, then serve. Allow to completely cool and move into an air-tight container to store. Serve with yogurt, berries, fresh fruit, etc.

Posted in breakfast, photography, quick, Slow Food | 2 Comments

Hope’s Busy Holiday Baking Season … so far

Big Sister has been flexing her whisking and stirring muscles. Take a peek here.


Posted in baking, cookies, cupcakes, dessert, family, farm life, health and welfare reports, holidays, mental health, Nebraska, Parenting 101, photography, pumpkin, seasonal, slideshows, thanksgiving, toddlers, web links, winter | Leave a comment

How good is your pumpkin pie?

This gallery contains 5 photos.

How good is your pumpkin pie? Well … these guys can tell you, and with Nate Silveresque precision.   Our experiments reveal that recipe ratings can be well predicted with features derived from combinations of ingredient networks and nutrition information. … Continue reading

Gallery | 4 Comments

Coffee Talk

Good read here.

Mapping the World’s Most Seductive Shrines to Coffee
Claire Cottrell | Oct 4, 2012

Posted in coffee, economy, meditations, mental health, other blogs, stuff that works, web links | Leave a comment

So there you have it

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well

Julian of Norwich

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Autumnal Equinox

A long day behind the wheel …


… taking in Colorado’s changing colors …






… gives a girl quite the appetite.



Posted in Colorado, eating, family, health and welfare reports, kids, meditations, mental health, Parenting 101, photography, road trip, seasonal, slideshows, summer, technology, toddlers, trips, weekend | 1 Comment