gag-gle noun \ˈga-gəl\ : a group, aggregation, or cluster lacking organization, which is exactly how I feel about my family every day.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Almond Thumbprint Dough

Our #EatTheDough cookie this week was an almond thumbprint cookie. It turned out like a fancy gourmet cookie dough, but it was the worst to make. Don't do it. I wanted to add a gluten-free, dairy-free dough to our offerings, so when we adapted this recipe we used a mix of rice-based flour and ground almonds instead of regular wheat flour, and replaced the butter with coconut oil. If you make this dough, don't do that.

The oil was too firm when refrigerated and too loose when room temperature which made these hard to work with. Thumbprint cookies are so named because before you bake them you push a depression into the cookie with your thumb and fill it with jam. Because we were not going to be baking these, we froze small dollops of jam to roll inside a ball of dough instead. But the dough consistency made this a nightmare, and in order to make these less messy when eating, we made the determination to dip them in white chocolate. The result is pretty, tasty, and very rich.

I won't be making this recipe again.

But here it is anyway, in case I want to refer back to it and make an adaptation in the future.

Anna's Almond Thumbprint Cookie Dough

1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 cup coconut oil, solid but not hard (cool but not cold)
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup ground almonds (or almond flour)
1 cup gluten-free flour (I used King Aurthur brand)
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 cups white chocolate melting candies or white chocolate chips

1. Using a piping bag with a round tip, pipe 18-20 dollops about the volume of 1/2 tsp of raspberry jam onto wax paper or silicon mat-lined baking sheet. Alternately, drop by small spoonfuls on to the baking sheet. Freeze.
2. In a medium bowl, mix the coconut oil, granulated sugar, and almond extract with an electric mixer. 
3. In a separate bowl, combine ground almonds, gluten-free flour and salt.
4. Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients with a mixer until well combined. Refrigerate until chilled but not too firm, about 20-30 minutes.
5. Scoop small scoops of dough onto a cookie sheet and press thumb into each scoop to form a bowl-shape. Drop a frozen dollop of jam into each scoop and roll by hand into a ball. Refrigerate until firm, about 40-50 minutes. (Jam will thaw quickly. If it becomes too warm to work with, pop it back in the freezer for about 10 minutes before continuing.)
6. Melt the white chocolate in a large, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 1 minute, then stir with a spatula. Heat for 30 more seconds, stir for at least 10 seconds, and repeat just until completely melted.
7. Using a fork, dip dough in white chocolate to cover and allow to cool on a wax paper or silicon-lined baking sheet. Optional, use remaining white chocolate to drizzle a design over the top. Refrigerate until set, about 5-10 minutes.
Store refrigerated in an airtight container.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Red Velvet "Crinkle" Cookies

We made these a few weeks ago. The recipe is called "Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies" because you roll them in powdered sugar which shows off the cracks when you bake them. However, we are not baking them, so I just call them "Powder Cookies". And they have chocolate chips in them (that was the kids' idea).

The recipe is adapted from the Crunchy, Creamy, Sweet blog.

Red Velvet Powder Cookeis

1 3/4 Cup Flour
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 Cup granulated sugar
3 Tbsp milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
2 tsp red food coloring
3/4 Cup Chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 Cup powdered sugar

1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour and cocoa powder.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
3. Add vanilla and mix well.
4. Add food coloring and milk and mix well.
5. With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Add chocolate chips just until incorporated. The dough will be soft.
6. Using a medium cookie scoop, drop scoops of the dough onto powder sugar and roll the dough into balls.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Icebox Cookies

Our third cookie for our Eat the Dough project was icebox cookies.  The kids chose to do the classic checkerboard design, which I think is the easiest so it turned out great.  Also, they made tiny chess pieces with the scraps and had to play a game before sampling. Winner got to eat the board!

The recipe was adapted from Anna Olson's Checkerboard Icebox Cookies from the Food Network. Visit this recipe link if you want to actually bake the cookies.

Icebox Cookie Edible Dough:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
2 tsp cocoa powder

1. Beat the butter, powdered sugar and granulated sugar well, using electric beaters or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, until smooth and fluffy.  Add the milk and vanilla and beat in well. 
2. Heat flour in microwave uncovered on high for 3 minutes. Combine the flour and salt together and then mix into butter/sugar mixture until the dough comes together (it will be soft.) 
3. Divide dough into two parts of equal weight. Return one part to the mixing bowl and beat with cocoa powder until evenly mixed.
4. Shape the dough into 2 discs, wrap in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 2 hours.
5. On a lightly floured surface, knead vanilla dough lightly to soften and roll out to a rectangle that is about 8-x-5-inches and 1/4-inch  thick. Set aside and do the same with the chocolate dough.
6. Brush the surface of  the chocolate dough with a little water and place the vanilla piece on top. Cut the stacked dough in half lengthwise and stack the cut pieces on top of each other. Trim away the edges of all 4 sides. 
7. Cut strips lengthwise that are 1/4-inch thick. Lay them flat and stack them as you cut, flipping around every other strip to alternate colors (See diagram). If the dough starts to get soft as you work with it, pop it in the fridge to chill 10-15 minutes.
8.  Wrap and chill the dough to set it, about an hour. Any excess dough can be rolled, measured and shaped again, or simply roughly stacked for a marble effect when sliced.
9. Slice cookies about 1/4-inch thick from the log of dough.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Project "Eat the Dough"

This summer we are formulating cookie recipes to be safe for just eating the dough.  Our first recipe was the classic chocolate chip and it turned out delicious. Here is the recipe we used:

2 1/4 cup Flour
1 tsp Salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 Tbsp milk
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Microwave flour uncovered on high for two minutes. Stir to fluff and remove clumps.*
2. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla in a large mixer until creamy.
3. Stir salt into milk and mix into butter/sugar mixture until incorporated.
4. Gradually beat in flour.
5. Stir in chocolate chips.
Refrigerate until ready to eat. Makes about 2 dozen 1-oz scoops of dough.

*Heating the flour is optional, but flour has been known to carry pathogens, similar to the way lettuce does, and since you can't rinse flour, heating it will kill them.

We tried some dough right away, and froze scoops of the rest for later use.

Heath kids and Itri kids aprons on and ready to "bake"!


I went to Cuba with a class from Westminster College. I took the class for science credit, and we did talk about organic farming, geological formations, and healthcare, but mostly it was a historical and cultural trip.  And it was awesome.
The group boarding Transtur bus 3707 for the first time. We traveled by bus to all the locations we visited: Havana, Vinales, Playa Larga, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, and Santa Clara.

First picture of me in Cuba! this is at Hotel Copacabana with the welcome drink- it tasted like a lemonade?

Lunch in one of the many private homes that has been converted into a restaurant

The picture doesn't do it justice, but this beautiful building is next to that dilapidated high-rise in the background. This was a theme all throughout Cuba: newly restored structures standing next to crumbly safety hazards.

At revolution square, in front of Carmello Cienfuegos, a pal of the infamous Fidel Castro and Che Guevara. 

Revolution square in front of Carmello and Che.

El Capitolio, under restoration

National center for the performing arts

Asymmetrical Cathedral at Plaza de la Catedral

Walking the streets of Old Havana

Famous sculpture representing the "special period" after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 and Cuba fell on extremely hard times.

Skyline of Havana from a fort across the bay

Home of famous writer Ernest Hemingway, who loved Cuba and was friends with Fidel Castro

All those sculptures in the background are ceramic tile mosaics by artist Jose Fuster

The table and pavilion where we ate were likewise covered in tile mosaics

My favorite representation of Havana from the Cuban Museum of Fine Arts

Visiting an organic farm after the rain meant that we had to wear these attractive plastic bags on our feet

Isis, who has toured America giving speeches on organic farming techniques, gave us a tour of her farm.

A stop in Cojimar, a small fishing town where Hemingway docked his boat, Pilar. Hemingway is honored with a bust that was paid for by the residents of the town. 

Me giving a presentation on soil biology in organic vs. conventional farming

Inside the old presidential palace, which used to be the home of president-by-coup Fulgencio Batista, but is now "El Museo de la Revolucion".

It's behind glass, so hard to see, but this is the Granma, the boat used by Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, Che Guevara, and others to return illicitly to Cuba to start the revolution.

Sun burn after walking through Havana

We visited a rural farm in Vinales, were we tried a cane juice drink, served out of an orange. I got to operate the mechanical press that squeezed the juices out of the sugarcane. 

We reached the farm by horse.  It was not like a typical tourist trail ride and I loved it!


The crocodile farm was super cool. They raise them for conservation and commercial uses.

Zapata swamp, where we got terribly bug bitten (I'm like 99% sure I must have Zika by now) but got to see TONS of crabs running to egg-laying grounds, bunches of flamingos and other birds, and the wetlands and mangroves in general.  (This was one of the sciency days).

In Cuba, they have "casas particulares" where families can rent rooms in their homes as one of the few ways to legally make money aside from a government wage. I found my casa!

Me eating pork with the Bay of Pigs just a few dozen yards away.

The Bay of Pigs (where there was that famous failed US-backed invastion)

Pizza place in Cienfuegos.  Pizzas are surprisingly delicioso en Cuba.

On the cobblestone steps in Trinidad, where they have live music in the evenings

Picture of the Casa I stayed in in Trinidad (picture from the bus, hence the glare)

Cobblestone street of Trinidad

Memorial that houses the mausoleum of Che Guevara

Hotel de la Plaza, was beatiful in the lobby, not so much in the rooms.

That mini-step into the bathroom got me every. time. 

An upper-class family home that had been converted into a hotel in Cienfuegos

Che is everywhere in Cuba. His face blankets every item in the tourist shops, finds its way into the art of all Cuba's artists (which are surprisingly many) and dots the streets and official publications. Of the three faces, he's the third from the left.

Cigar factory. A must while visiting Cuba. This is a pic of the store, we weren't allowed to take photos inside the actual factor, which is not automated but has hundreds of workers that hand-sort tobacco leaves and roll each cigar.

Lunch in Havan

Street in downtown Havana
At breakfast in Playa Larga, we all found the hilariously translated “dry candy” to be super yummy!

We visited a health clinic to learn about the healthcare system in Cuba. This sign was on the wall in the entrance.  It’s about how bad smoking is for you. But then the waiting room smelled strongly of smoke.

The guy in the white coat was the doctor who spoke with us and showed us around.  He’s wearing a marauder’s map shirt. He said he was a Sytherin.

Another Che I came across as I was walking in Havana

Havana market- fruits and meat