Not Martha

Seeking your favorite cookie swap recipes

I was going to show you my updated pattern for the 3D Christmas Tree Cookies today but yesterday morning my dishwasher decided it didn’t want to do it’s job anymore and I decided I was going to ignore it by not entering the kitchen, which means no baking is getting done right now. So! Instead let’s talk about cookie swaps.

I’ve got a few cookie swaps coming up and I am considering something new. My usual cookie swap recipe is of the slice-and-bake variety, the Cornmeal-Cherry Cookies from Martha Stewart are a go to. (Also very helpful is this slice-and-bake cookie palette over at Smitten Kitchen.) The slice-and-bake means I can lovingly mix the dough a day or two before hand then bake the night before or the day of the swap and, since I have not been stressing over six dozen cookies for the majority of the day, I’m a happy person at the gathering. This year I wanted to do something different that would let me cut out a bunch of shapes (since I’ve been doing a lot of that lately and have my technique down). These gingerbread wreath cookies are under consideration. And then yesterday I came across these:

Edge of the mug cookies cutters! I previously came across this concept when doing research for my tiny gingerbread houses that perch on the edge of a mug but at that time the only cookie cutter sets I could find were ones you’d order from the UK or were no longer available, just ghost catalog pages found through a vigorous search. You can also cut a slot into any cookie, see this page at I Am Baker for examples, but I think we’ll all agree that a dedicated cutter is faster. I know, this is me saying that. I am the one who is always making needlessly complicated things because they amuse me and suddenly this is too much bother. (In my defense, I had made a few test runs of DIY edge of the mug cookies and they all sort of tipped over and fell off the mug so I gave up on it.)

I think I’ll be using these edge of the mug cookie cutters and making cocoa-friendly cookies out of basic shortbread dough for my cookie swaps. They’ll be fun and quick and hopefully novel enough to delight people.

But I’m curious: What is your favorite recipe for cookie swaps? Do you bring something practical? Or a family recipe? Do you attempt to dazzle? Or do you pick a cookie that you know to be delicious but might not look like much? Have a cookie that is a consistent crowd favorite? Share!

· comments [41] · 12-7-2012 · categories:christmas · food ·

links: holidays

15 Easy Christmas Decorations | I like this one, a string of twinkle lights wrapped around a styrafoam ball. So simple.

Eye Candy: 20 DIY Ideas for Happy Holiday Party Decor » Curbly | DIY Design Community.

The Whisky Advent Calendar Whisky – Master of Malt. Oh yes, it exists. Via Sprizee on Twitter.

The Beer Advent Calendar · Edible Crafts. Beer! Advent! Candar!

Creativebug – Free Holiday Video Workshops. Creativebug, who offer subscriptions to view hundreds of instructional craft videos made by really great people, offer some lovely free video workshops. I’m charmed by that Burlap Bunting Advent Calendar.

Roundup: 14 Modern DIY Advent Calendars and Holiday Countdown Projects » Curbly | DIY Design Community.

Mini Christmas Cookies for an Advent Calendar · Edible Craft.

Bubble and Sweet: Lollipop and Candy Christmas Tree Cake tutorial. This is adorable. Via Edible Crafts.

· comments [4] · 12-3-2012 · categories:holidays · links ·

Urban Craft Uprising

Urban Craft Uprising, the winter edition, is coming up very soon here in Seattle! It’s December 1st and 2nd, 11am to 5pm at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall. As usual there are free craft demos and book signings as well as a swag bag for the first 100 people. Don’t wory, if you cannot make it in time to grab a bag they have have an hourly raffle. And this year there is a $1 coat check, so hopefully those aisles will be a little easier to navigate (the show is nearly too popular for it’s own good). I’m excited by all the artisan food vendors they have, and the number of new vendors as well. This is my favorite sort of shopping!

· comments [4] · 11-26-2012 · categories:holidays · seattle · shopping ·

links: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Ideas – 101 Cookbooks. So many great ones here.

11 Turkey-Shaped Foods That Aren’t Turkey at Buzzfeed. I’m fascinated and grossed out. See also: the turkey shaped jello mold contest.

quick. easy. perfect. thanksgiving recipes | Mighty Girl. Bourbon brined turkey!?

Turkey Tips From Alton Brown: Don’t Baste Or Stuff : NPR. He stuffs the bird after it’s been cooked, then maaaaybe uses a kitchen torch to make the bits that show a little toasty.

The Food Lab’s Top Nine Tips For Perfect Apple Pie | Serious Eats.

How to Transform Leftover Cranberry Sauce into a Cocktail – Videos – CHOW.

· comments [2] · 11-20-2012 · categories:holidays · links ·

links: halloween

Melting Wicked Witch Cookies at Juniper Moon Fiber Farm.

Spider Pinata DIY at Oh Happy Day. That is one meaty looking spider.

Easy Last-Minute Costume Ideas For Adults | Celebrations with Design Mom. This video has a few simple ideas that are low-commitment but still fun.

Pumpktris, A Playable LED Lit Game of Tetris Inside of a Pumpkin, at Laughing Squid.

Secret Horror – The Morning News. Six horror movies you might not know about but are worth watching.

skulls at Design Crush. A post by yours truly.

· comments [1] · 10-31-2012 · categories:halloween · links ·

Halloween Gingerbread Tree

Remember last year when I made a 3D Gingerbread Christmas Tree out of interlocking cookies so that the tree stands on it’s own? I had so much fun making it that I decided to do something for Halloween too. This time I made a tree from four pieces so that the eight branches resemble spider legs. Perched in a dish of candy it looks rather creepy.

To make this I used one batch of Gingerbread House dough from Simply Recipes that was divided into four equal pieces before chilling it. I roll it to 1/4-inch thickness and bake it until the edges are browning so that it’s as dry and strong as possible. Directions and templates are all below.

I think I have some changes to make but in the mean time I feel like I’ve figured out how to roll out gingerbread dough with as little swearing as possible. As much as I love making gingerbread for construction purposes I really dislike rolling it out. Here is my set up:

The Roll-Pat is an investment but it gives me a smooth surface to use. It grips the tabletop and keeps parchment paper from slipping. A nice, heavy and super wide rolling pin with handles also makes a huge difference, before this I only had a cylinder rolling pin but this one with handles makes the job a lot easier. I have a 15″ rolling pin and it is large enough for everything I’ve used it for so far. I have both silicone and rubber rolling pin rings (one set has 1/2 inch and the other has 5/8ths inch heights). I cannot fit the thicker rubber rings around my larger rolling pin so I switch to my narrower rolling pin if I need to use them.

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· comments [13] · 10-26-2012 · categories:food · halloween ·

links: halloween

DIY Spider Placecards | The Sweetest Occasion.

Mighty Thirst, Halloween: Killer Bloody Mary | Mighty Girl. Adore the garnish.

10 Caramel Apples You Should Consider Making | Hitting Refresh with Laura Mayes.

Bake It in a Cake • Pumpkin Pie Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting.

A Salem-Lover’s Tourism Guide | The Hairpin.

· comments [0] · 10-22-2012 · categories:halloween · links ·

Trick-Or-Treat Cookies for Halloween

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside.

These Trick-or-Treat cookies have a surprise inside. Each cookie either holds a treat, like mini chocolate candies, or a trick, here they are small sugar ants. Which will you get? You’ll have to break one open to find out.

How to make Trick-or-Treat cookies:

Make one or more batches of cut out cookie dough (recipe below, or use your favorite) and after chilling it take it out of the fridge to warm up so it can be rolled out. Preheat your oven to 350 and clear a shelf in your fridge or a spot in your freezer large enough to hold a cookie sheet.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Roll and cut first half of dough.

Roll out one half of your dough between two sheets of parchment paper to a 1/4th inch thickness. Remove the top layer of parchment and cut out your cookies, dipping the cutter in flour to keep it from sticking. We’ll be baking the cookies on this same parchment so space them about an inch apart.

Right now you are cutting two parts of each cookies (the top and the bottom) so if you have an asymmetrical cutter be sure to flip it over and cut half of them mirror image, as shown above.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Trim parchment paper.

Trim the parchment away from the dough so that it’s small enough to sit on your cookie sheet and slide the parchment onto the cookie sheet. Put this in the fridge or freezer to firm up so you can pull away the excess dough.

Later we’ll baking the cookies right on this sheet so trimming the parchment means they’ll bake flat. I keep the cookies on this same parchment throughout so they don’t have a chance to lose their shape.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Chill dough, then remove from around cut out shapes.

Once the dough has firmed up pull away the excess from around the cut out shapes. You can save the scraps for more cookies later.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Chill again, then bake.

Before baking chill the cookies and the cookie sheet again for about 10 minutes before putting them in the oven. (You can roll out your second layer while you’re waiting, instructions are just under the next photo.)

Bake for about 10 minutes, checking and rotating the cookie sheet half way through. After that check often and remove once the edges of the cookies are just starting to look brown and the tops look set.

Slide the parchment onto a cooling rack and let them sit for a few minutes until the cookies are cool and strong enough to slide them off the parchment and right onto the cookie rack.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Roll out second half of dough thicker.

Roll your second half of the dough to 1/2″ or 3/8″ thick. You’ll be cutting the middles for you cookies so only cut half as many this time, so if you cut six earlier, you only need three now. (No need to make mirror image cut outs this time.) Use smaller cutters to create a hole in the center of each shape.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Chill and remove outside and inside of dough.

Trim the parchment, slide onto a cookie sheet and chill the dough as you did for the first round. When it’s firm remove the excess dough from the outside as well as the inside of your shapes.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Chill and bake.

Again, chill these very well on the cookie sheet before baking them. Check and rotate after five minutes and keep an eye on them after that. Remove when the bottom edges begin to brown and cool carefully, as you did for the first set.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Arrange top and bottom cookie layers, then glue bottoms on.

While your cookie pieces are cooling mix up some glue from one cup of powdered sugar and four tablespoons of milk (as per the recipe below). Put this into a sandwich sized zip bag and clip a teeny tiny corner off.

Lay your cookies out so the bottom piece has the flattest side up, the middle and tops will have the flattest side down. When constructed the top and the bottom of your cookies will show the pretty side that was up while they were baking and they’ll look nice and tidy. If you have asymmetrical cookies here be sure all the bits will match when they are sandwiched.

Glue the middle part of your cookie to the bottom.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Fill cookies with treat or trick, here mini M&Ms or sugar ants.

Fill the cookies with your trick or your treat. Be random, no cheating! Don’t overfill them and check to make sure the top of your cookie will fit on with no trouble. It’s much easier to do this not before more sugar glue is introduced.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Filling different shapes of cookies.

I made four different shapes: pumpkins, ghosts, tombstones and coffins (my favorite).

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside. Detail.

A detail shot to show the middle layer of cookie is a bit thicker than the top and bottom layers.

Glue the top on, decorate if you’d like, and you’re done! Now, serve these and see how much fun people have breaking them open.


Important: Make sure anything you might put inside these cookies is edible, you don’t want somebody accidentally swallowing something like a plastic spider (which I really, really wanted to hide inside these).

These cookies were inspired by the Pinata Cookies made over at She Knows, which are genius. Since I didn’t need mine to be striped I used a cut out sugar cookie recipe instead and created a thicker middle layer. I did try to cut the cookies out when the dough comes out of the oven and is still warm, the technique that is in the She Knows recipe, but found it created an edge that was too crumbly.

I used a set of seven Halloween cookie cutters made by Wilton for the cookies you see here. I cannot seem to find the same set online, it came packaged in a coffin shaped box and it’s probably already 50% off at Joann. The middles of my cookies were cut out using my Ateco 12-piece round cutters, which I love and find myself using often.

I find rolling dough to be tedious so I invested in a Roll-Pat (that page shows it as Roul-Pat but mine says Roll-Pat on it). It’s similar to a Silpat but oversized and the bottom layer grips your counter top. This is lovely because I prefer to roll dough between two layers of parchment and this keeps the parchment from slipping on my counter top. Love it, especially as what I think of as gingerbread construction season arrives.

There are so many options for what tricks you can hide inside, here I used some black cake decorations made by Wilton, they are complete edible but don’t taste like much. I also considered some small flat sour gummy candies, salted licorice coins, various cake decorations (skull and crossbones!) and Pop Rocks. For the treats the only things could find that are small enough are mini M&Ms or (my favorite) Valrhona Perles Craquant. Sadly I found that Reeses Pieces or candy corn wouldn’t fit inside, I tried. A friend mentioned that mini-candy corn might exist in the world and if I’d managed to find some I definitely would have used that as well.

I’m also considering seeing if I can make the coffin cookies tall enough to fill with some sugar skeleton pieces I found. I’d also include the Valrhona Perles Craquant as graveyard dirt. And small gummi worms if I can find some.

Trick-or-Treat Cookies, with a surprise inside.

Click more for the recipe. [

· comments [100] · 10-18-2012 · categories:food · halloween ·

links: halloween

Hungry Happenings: Skull and Crossbones Mozzarella Cheese Shapes for your Halloween party. – How to melt and shape cheese using silicone molds..


Halloween Food: Piggy Coffins! | The GastroGnome.

Skull Votives | Freshly Picked. I love the glittery interiors of these, and I love that they are a pretty easy and impressive DIY.

· comments [0] · 10-15-2012 · categories:halloween · links ·

Happy 4th of July!

long paper package of spaghetti

This, my friends, is a 3-foot long package of spaghetti. Because when I find something like that in a store I don’t leave it there. Our day will be spent with family and friends who are visiting and friends who are already here, I have limeaid and cheese toasts ready and waiting. But July 5th will be devoted to cooking up excessively long spaghetti. Because America is all about excess. Or something like that. Actually the spaghetti is very festive looking in a Big Looming Firework In Your Dining Room sort of way. I hope you have a great day and manage to stay cool!

· comments [17] · 07-4-2012 · categories:food · holidays ·

Easter eggs and Easter, uh, carrots

A bunch of fabulous Easter stuff pulled from my Pinterest holiday board.

Neon eggs are all over (don’t forget that neon food coloring can be found in grocery stores) and these from Oh Joy are fabulously simple.

Similar and just as easy, these gold dipped pink eggs from Fabulous K are stunning.

These are sweet – carrot shaped cupcakes baked in ice cream cones. Over at Hostess With the Mostess.

Clever cheesecake inside of chocolate eggs is fairly grown up while keeping the eggie happiness. Made by Raspberri Cupcakes.

I love the tumbled look of these Gilded Eggs from Pencil Shavings.

Easter surprise carrots! An oldy but a goody from Martha Stewart.

This washi tape paper mache egg from Traveling Mama is nice and very simple because it’s based on a paper egg from a craft store.

· comments [3] · 04-6-2012 · categories:holidays ·

links: St. Patrick’s Day

Help me think of miniaturized versions of Irish food! | Ask MetaFilter. For a Leprechaun themed St. Patrick’s Day party.

Hungry Happenings: Pot of Gold Caramel Apples. Wow! Via Edible Crafts.

Reware Vintage | Homemade Shamrock Shakes. Via The Morning News.

Gold Surprise Rainbow Cupcakes, great idea! Via Recipe Girl on Pinterest.

An avocado pie for St. Patrick’s Day | How About Orange. Yum.

Recipes for St. Patrick’s Day | Serious Eats.

Birthday Installation: Yarn Trail at Oh Happy Day. This would work really nicely for St. Patrick’s day as well, so fun.

· comments [0] · 03-16-2012 · categories:holidays · links ·

links: Valentine’s Day

Homemade Candy Necklaces – Bakingdom. Wow! Via Recipe Girl on Twitter.

1st Annual Valentine’s Day Tea Party at Sweet Anthem, an indie perfume shop here in Seattle. Sip tea and sniff perfumes? Sounds lovely.

My Funny Valentine – Our Finds. I love all of the cards they collected here.

make grow gather – valentine’s day cookie packaging.

Hungry Happenings: A sweet Valentine’s Day dessert – Conversation Heart Cheesecakes. Cute!

Valentine’s Day Drinking Straws blog. A simple and festive idea. And I already have those red and white straws!

Ask a Clean Person: This Valentine’s Day, Say It With Jewelry Cleaner | The Hairpin. A Clean Person shares a recipe for DIY jewelry cleaner, yay!

DIY: You Blow Me Away Valentines, at Design Mom.

Easy Homemade Peppermint Candies | A Chow Life. So sweet!

Sally J Shim – Fabric Heart Valentines.

· comments [6] · 02-10-2012 · categories:holidays · links ·

Valentine’s Day Surprise Cracker

My love of traditional English Christmas Crackers (the paper sort, not the edible sort) has been well documented. Since it takes two people to open one they seem like a good choice as a way to celebrate Valentine’s Day as well. (With my apologies to traditionalists, sorry about that.)

I found the supplies I needed at a local shop and decided it was meant to be. I added a few decorative details in my instructions below that can be skipped to make it easier. All you really need are a tube (a paper towel tube will work great), some cracker snaps (a specialty crafts store should have them), some decorative paper (crepe or tissue paper) to wrap it all up in and some fun little things to put inside. I decided to go for a few handmade details:

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· comments [35] · 02-8-2012 · categories:holidays ·

links: holidays

How To Make Scratch-Off Polaroids (V-Day Idea!) – Hello Brig. Simple and very very good idea. (I’m thinking naughty photos would work well here, aren’t you? C’mon, you know you are.)

Mini Crepe Paper Flower Favors DIY at Oh Happy Day. So sweet.

Easy DIY: Heart-shaped Surprise Ball | Celebrate the Big & Small. You know how much I like surprise balls.

Nerds in Love: Top 10 Valentines for Geeks  | Mighty Girl.

· comments [3] · 02-6-2012 · categories:holidays · links ·