Swirled Cookie Suckers for Easter

April 22, 2011

Cookie Suckers Plate Rows

We’ve got one more fun project for you before Easter hops on in, and it’s another one you can get your little bunnies and chickies involved with!

Several years ago, I made 3oo to 400 of these fun cookie suckers for the volunteers who were serving on Easter weekend in my church preschool.  Yeah, it was a pretty big church with LOTS of preschoolers!

I can still vividly remember staying up until 3 am, swirling and twirling the dough into cookie suckers on sticks, wrapped up in a treat bag and tied with a ribbon.  Even though it was exhausting, my main memory is that it was a really fun project!

Let me show you how to make these so you can enjoy them too!  I used a vegan cookie dough recipe this time, but the recipe I used to use is a rich one with cream cheese that’s usually called play doh cookie dough.

Cookie Suckers Plate

I want to experiment with other vegan cookie recipes, since this one spread a tiny bit more than I would have liked, but it held up surprisingly well.  You just need a basic sugar cookie dough that will stay together and be pliable while you’re rolling it out into a snake.  If it’s too soft, it’ll fall apart, but if it’s too stiff it will crack instead of roll.

Whatever cookie recipe you prefer, make a couple of batches, then divide it up and mix in your favorite paste food colorings.  I like to use 4 different colors of  dough for each cookie, but you could use more or less.  That’s the beauty of this project: you can use your imagination and do whatever you feel like!

Cookie Suckers Colored Balls

After the dough is made, refrigerate it overnight or until very cold, then start rolling!  This is where you call in the kids to help.

I use the bigger end of my melon baller to scoop out the dough, and then roll it lightly in my hands until it’s semi-round.  My balls were probably close to 1″ in diameter, but I didn’t measure.  The key is to make the balls the same size and use the same number of balls per cookie so that they all bake evenly.

Once you have the balls made, chill them again.  If you start out with soft warm dough, you’ll have a hard time rolling it out.  When the dough is cold, take 4 balls of any color and line them up in your hand.

Cookie Suckers 4 Balls

Gently roll the  balls together between your palms so they start to mingle and get happy with each other.

Cookie Suckers Balls Mingle

Then lay the dough onto your work surface and gently form it into a snake.  I thoroughly cleaned my granite counter, and it worked great for rolling.

Cookie Suckers Log

Keep gently rolling until you have a dough snake about a foot long, more or less.

Cookie Suckers Snake

As I’m rolling it, I like to roll one end one way, and the other end the other way.  That’s how you get the swirled candy cane effect.

Cookie Suckers Swirled

If the dough breaks, just mash it back together.  No one will ever know!  Now start coiling the snake around itself until you get to the end.

Cookie Suckers Coil

Add a sucker stick, and you have a finished cookie sucker ready to bake.

Cookie Suckers Bake

Repeat with the rest of the balls.  If you don’t have cookie sticks, just bake the cookies as is.

Cookie Suckers 6 Bake

If you want to, you can add a sprinkle of colored sparkly sugar before you bake, like I did in the cookie below.

Cookie Suckers Baked

Cookie Suckers 1

Cookie Suckers 2

Cookie Suckers 3

Cookie Suckers 4

I like to insert the cooled cookie suckers into a treat bag that will fit, and tie on a little ribbon bow.  These make great gifts for your friends, neighbors and coworkers, and would be a really cute addition to your Easter table or to a special someone’s Easter basket!

Cookie Suckers Platter

Happy Easter!


Valentine’s Day Red Velvet Cupcakes

February 12, 2011

Red Velvet Crimson Velveteen Cupcake Iced

How about another colorful cupcake for Valentines Day?  By the way, have you made the Pomeranian Pomegranate Cupcakes that I talked about a few days ago?  If not, here’s option #2 for your Valentine’s Day, and it’s another vegan one!

These are actually called Crimson Velveteen Cupcakes (I love the name!) and they’re from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule. I have several of Isa’s other cookbooks, but I just got this one and these cupcakes are the first thing I’ve baked from it.  This cute little cookbook was named the “Cookbook of the Year” by VegNews.

So, back to the baking.  There was nothing weird in this recipe that required an emergency trip to my favorite little hippie health food store (although that would be dandy with me since I love it there).  Just flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and soda, soy milk (I used almond), canola oil and flavorings.  It was super easy to whip up, so the recipe wins kudos for that too.

Red Velvet Crimson Velveteen Cupcake Nekkid

I also made the icing recommended for this cupcake, Old Fashioned Velvet Icing.  I can’t say that I’m a fan of it though.  I thought I followed the instructions to the letter, but my icing came out grainy, and I hate to say, it was just a tad weird for me.  Sorry, Isa.  I only iced one cupcake for the photo, and just left the other eleven nekkid.  I’d rather have a nice traditional cream cheese icing on my red velvet cupcakes, so I’ll try that the next time I bake these.

And I will bake these again.  They were easy, inexpensive, pretty, and most important of all: delicious and moist!  Run out and buy Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, or use the Crimson Velveteen Cupcakes recipe I found online, but do make these cupcakes!

Red Velvet Crimson Velveteen Cupcake Bite

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Valentine’s Day Pomeranian Pomegranate Cupcakes

February 8, 2011

Valentine's Day Pomegranate Cupcake

You know that age-related memory loss that some of us get?  We forget names and appointments, and sometimes, even simple everyday words evade us.  For some reason, I can’t remember the word Pomegranate to save my life these days.

99% of the time I try to come up with Pomegranate, what my brain gives me is Pomeranian.  It makes no logical sense, but in my mind, these little pink guys have been called Pomeranian Cupcakes more often than they’ve been called Pomegranate Cupcakes.  Sorry cute little yappy doggies, you know I’d never make cupcakes out of you!

But forget what I call these; you should call them delicious! Hannah Kaminsky calls them Pomegranate Ginger Cupcakes in her book My Sweet Vegan.  I successfully baked a bunch of things from this book for our SPCA Bake Sale last December, so I thought it would be a great source for a Valentine’s Day treat.  I’m not a fan of crystallized ginger so I left it out of the cupcake batter, and I also omitted the ground ginger in the icing.  I didn’t miss it a bit.

Valentine's Day Pomegranate Cupcake 1 Bite

One bite missing...

This was a super-easy recipe, and I loved that it used 2 cups of the uber-healthy Pomeranian juice.  I mean Pomegranate juice, of course!  Everybody knows you can’t juice a Pomeranian! 😀

The color of the cupcake looks a bit off in the photo, but these were really tasty so don’t let that discourage you from making them.  They were moist and really flavorful!  Half of the POM juice was reduced to a syrup and drizzled over the unbaked batter, and it turned into a nice gooey tangy unexpected treat at the bottom of the cupcake.

I ad-libbed the icing with a stick of Earth Balance and powdered sugar and a bit of tart cherry juice, since I’d exhausted my supply of POM juice.  With a dash of good vanilla and some pink food coloring, the icing was finished.

Valentine's Day Pomegranate Cupcake 2 Bite

2 bites gone now...

Make these for your sweetie this Valentine’s Day!  And remember, they’re Pomegranate Cupcakes!


Fudgy Wudgy Blueberry Brownies

August 14, 2010

What if I told you I could make brownies without butter? Probably doable, right?

How about without eggs? Hmmm, getting trickier. How will you keep them together without eggs?

Now, what if I told you I made brownies with no eggs, no dairy, AND added blueberries! What?! Get outta here!

Using the Fudgy Wudgy Blueberry Brownie recipe from Veganomicon, that’s exactly what I did. And guess what? They’re awesome!! I took them to the office and actually got good reviews. Even great reviews! And the comments weren’t what you would expect: “I guess they’re ok for healthy brownies, BigSis. Better than no brownie at all”.

Fudgy Wudgy Blueberry Brownies

Fudgy Wudgy Blueberry Brownies

They’re moist, they’re unbelievably chocolatey, and you really can’t figure out what’s different about them. I guess blueberries have such a mild flavor usually, that the brownies don’t scream “BLUEBERRY!!!!”

These guys have 3 chocolates (I used vegan), fresh blueberries, and a whole jar of blueberry spread. Plus the usual suspects: flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, canola oil, vanilla and almond extract,

They aren’t completely without guilt, but at least you get a little fruit with your chocolate.


Oatmeal Coconut Chocolate Chip Vegan Cookies

June 10, 2010

Vegan Oatmeal Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Since our next SPCA Bake Sale is only 6 months away, I better get myself busy building a repertoire of vegan recipes!  I’m almost 6 months into “eating vegan”, but I’m not a big sweets eater so I haven’t done much baking.

After my coworker K-to-the-T brought these awesome Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Coconut Cookies to the office the other day though, I knew this was a recipe I had to adapt asap!  They were scrumptious, and reminded me of a Cowboy Cookie I used to make.  She had made a few tweaks of her own to the original Epicurious recipe, and I tweaked it even more.  Voila and ta da!  Here’s my first adapted cookie recipe, sans eggs and dairy products!

Vegan Oatmeal Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oatmeal Coconut Chocolate Chip Vegan Cookies

Adapted from K-to-the-T and Epicurious

1 stick (1/2 cup) Earth Balance, softened
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ground flax seeds
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup + 2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats
3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup semisweet vegan chocolate chips
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Beat together Earth Balance and sugars in a bowl with an electric mixer at high speed until fluffy. Add applesauce and vanilla, and mix until blended. In a separate medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, flax seed, cinnamon, and salt. Stir to mix ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix at low speed until just blended. Stir in oats, coconut, chocolate chips, and walnuts.

Arrange 1/4-cup mounds of cookie dough about 3 inches apart on 2 ungreased large baking sheets (about 6 cookies per sheet), then gently pat down each mound to about 1/2 inch thick. Bake until golden, about 14 to 15 minutes.

Cool cookies on sheets until set enough to transfer with a spatula to racks to cool completely. Makes about 12 big cookies.

Note: The bottoms of my cookies were pretty brown. I think that using parchment paper might help with that if you prefer lighter bottoms.

My cookies had a slightly different texture than K-to-the-T’s, but they were absolutely delicious!  I never would have guessed that they were vegan.  They were moist and chewy, and had great flavor.  I will absolutely make them again…and yes, they may make an appearance at the Bake Sale!


Easter Basket Cupcakes!

March 30, 2010

Easter Basket Cupcakes

Happy early Easter, everyone!  And happy good-excuse-to-use-pink-holiday!  I DO love me some pink, and I really love pink with green.  But actually, I love pink with any and every other color.  Pink is probably the most perfect color in the rainbow, don’t you think?  Ok, BigSis, you’re getting off track.  Focus, focus, focus, girl!  We’re talking about Easter baking today, not your obsession with all things rosy.

Sorry…back to the program!  I love Easter, I love color, and I love baking.  Voila!  Easter Basket Cupcakes!

You can use any recipe of course.  Since I’m 3 months into doing the vegan thing, I baked up a batcheroo of my all-time favorite Pumpkin Walnut Bread.  I baked tons of it for the last couple of bake sales, more for Christmas gifts, and I’m still baking it.  I can’t get enough of it, so here it is in its’ cute little Easter basket outfit!

I found these super-delicious Wilton Easter Basket Cupcake Wrappers at my Michael’s store, and I bet your local craft store has them too.  They may even be on sale this week like mine were!

Instructions?  I got ’em for you:

  • Bake any cupcakes you adore in a cute paper liner.
  • Let them cool, then frost or not.  I chose not.
  • Convince some coconut to pretend that it’s Easter grass.  I added about 6 drops of liquid green food coloring to about half a bag of shredded coconut in a ziploc baggie.  Mush it around until the coconut/grass is all pretty green.
  • Add a pile of coconut/grass to each cupcake, and top with some jelly beans or whatever for an extra shout of faux egg color.  I didn’t have jelly beans and don’t really like them anywho, so I wasn’t about to buy any.  I used Skittles and M&Ms.  You’re the boss of these cupcakes, so you do what you want!
  • Make the little basket wrappers, and secure with tape to be sure they don’t come unhinged at an inappropriate time.
  • Drop each cupcake into the Easter Basket wrapper, and add the handle.  I just tucked it into the sides so it would be easy to remove for faster cupcake access!

Easter Basket Cupcake

That’s it!  Hoppy Easter!


Make an Easter Bunny Cake!

March 25, 2010

How many of us remember precious homemade Easter Bunny Cakes from our childhoods?  SisMama has made Bunny Cakes over the years, and they’re always seriously adorable and a big hit with everyone…not just the kids!

This is the one SisMama makes.  It’s the Kraft Easter Bunny Cake.

Kraft Easter Bunny Cake

Kraft's Easter Bunny Cake

If you want to make the super simple version, you just need cake mix, Cool Whip and coconut.  Oh, and decorations like gumdrops, licorice and jelly beans.  But if you have a little more time on your hands and want to fancy it up a bit, use a homemade cake with good homemade frosting.

Betty Crocker also has an Easter Bunny Cake that’s way cute!  Again, use a cake mix if you want to.  Betty recommends a carrot cake mix with her canned frosting.

Easter Bunny Cake Betty Crocker

Betty Crocker's Easter Bunny Cake

I am so in love with this last cake that I can’t stand it!  It does require the purchase of a Wilton Bunny Pan, but take a look at this Easter cuteness!  Wilton calls it their Landing Feet First! Cake.

Wilton Feet First Easter Bunny

Wilton's Feet First Easter Bunny

So pick your favorite, and surprise your family and friends with a cute Easter Bunny Cake this year.  I bet they’ll remember it for years to come!


St Patrick’s Day Cupcakes

March 16, 2010

St Patricks Day Green Cupcakes

Happy St Patrick’s Day!  LilSis and I are only 1/4 Irish at the most, so we can’t really claim this holiday as our own, but it’s a pretty fun little holiday anyway!  There are no responsibilities or expectations; it’s just about the wearing o’ the green, eating food you probably wouldn’t eat every day like corned beef and cabbage (I’ll pass), and having fun.  Oh, and green beer works its way into the celebration more often than not!  And do you remember when McDonald’s used to have green vanilla milkshakes on St Patrick’s Day?

I’m determined to find a delicious way to bake without using eggs and dairy, and I’m encouraged by my success so far with my favorite Pumpkin Bread and the Banana-Wheat Germ Muffins I made recently.  Getting braver, I decided it was time to be a big vegan girl and try something a little trickier…cake!  With St Patrick’s Day coming up, I had the perfect excuse to bake!

I found this recipe for vanilla cupcakes on VegNews.com and was intrigued!  The amount of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar sounded very acidic, and I wasn’t sure about 100% whole wheat pastry flour in cake.  My rule for a brand new recipe is always to follow it precisely the first go-round though, so that’s what I did.

How’d the cupcakes come out?  My first thought was that they could benefit from a bit less sugar, and perhaps 25% to 50% all purpose flour in place of some of the whole wheat pastry flour.  They were pretty coarse in texture, and maybe a bit more like dense muffins than cake.

St Patricks Day Green Cupcakes

I took these to my test subjects at the office, and got a variety of reactions:

  • A laugh and a shake of the head followed by a brisk/frantic walk away from the untouched cupcakes.
  • Silence after eating one.  Dead silence.  Still silent.
  • “It’s really good, but I like things that taste like they’re healthy”.
  • ” That cake will take some getting used to but I like the frosting”.
  • “Well, they look good.”

I’m convinced that there is a tasty vegan cake recipe out there; actually, I’m sure there are several.  Is this cupcake one of them?  Mmmm, nah.  But it’s not bad.  And when you’re vegan, maybe “not bad cake” is better than no cake at all?


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Low fat fruity breakfast muffins

March 12, 2010

You know the old saying, “looks can be deceiving”?

This muffin almost looks tasty, doesn’t it?

In the close up, you can see all the yummy fruit. These were loaded with carrots, zucchini, raisins, and even some canned pumpkin with some coconut on top.

But these glompy, globs of fruit didn’t turn out quite the way I had planned.  They look more like a preschooler’s art project gone wrong! I decided to suck it up and show this photo. Aren’t they horrid?

Yesterday I was disappointed and pissed off, but today I just think it’s pretty funny. I wasted about two hours yesterday morning making these and cleaning up. I did try one and I’m not saying that they are inedible, but I won’t eat another one. Way, way too heavy and glompy, or as HayHay called them; groddy! (I don’t even think that’s a real word but it did describe them pretty well.) Each muffin weighed about the same as a hockey puck.

Hmmm. That just gave me an idea. I could probably let the kids down the street use these as hockey pucks. I haven’t thrown them out yet but I know that no one in this house is going to eat them! Not even HayHay, my 16 yr old garbage disposal. :-)

I was trying so hard to come up with a really healthy breakfast muffin that I got a little overzealous and made too many changes. I could ramble on and on about what I did wrong, what I shouldn’t have substituted, and what I would do if I ever tried this recipe again, but it would just be a waste of time. I’m not going to try them again.

There are several reasons why I’m not a good baker and why I don’t enjoy baking BUT I’ve finally narrowed it down to only one reason.

  • I don’t like to follow any recipe to the tee.
  • Never.
  • Ever.

That’s my problem and I can’t really ever see myself changing. I can’t do it. I love the creative part of cooking and not the precise measuring and science that is a requirement to be a good baker.

When I cook, if a recipe calls for one garlic clove, I’ll use three. Or if it calls for an onion, I’ll use shallots instead. Or maybe I’ll throw in capers or artichokes in a recipe just for a little something extra. Whatever. You just don’t have that freedom with baking unless you REALLY know what you’re doing.

I know that there are very experienced bakers out there that know exactly how to adapt a baking recipe. Some of my favorite blogs are written by some amazing bakers and I totally enjoy reading them and am always amazed at the talent it takes to be a good baker. I admire those of you that know “your stuff”! I really think you’ve either got it or you don’t. And, I don’t.

I’m not saying that I’m giving up forever, but I’m going to put myself out on a limb and say that, for now, I’m leaving the baking up to BigSis. And, I wish that someday we could get SisMama to do a guest post here on BigSisLilSis. Our Mom is an amazing baker and can whip up a cake, cookies or pie from scratch without even thinking twice or looking at a recipe. BigSis got lucky and got the baking gene from SisMama, not me.

Anybody know of a great healthy breakfast muffin that I can buy at the store? :-)


Best-Ever Almond Toffee

December 30, 2009

The weekend before we left for Chicago, I decided that I was going to make Almond Toffee to give to our friends and neighbors for Christmas. It probably wasn’t the best timing to try a new recipe as we were still finishing up Christmas shopping, wrapping, and packing in preparation for our trip to Chicago the following day.

On top of all that, we ended up spending most of the weekend in Mission Bay at HayHay’s surf competition since he made it all the way to the finals. But, somehow, in the midst of all that, I did manage to make two batches of toffee.

I’d like to give a “shout out” and a “huge thanks” to Anna of Cookie Madness for taking the time to reply to me via email regarding a couple of questions I had about the instructions.
I really appreciate it, Anna!

This recipe is one that Anna has made for many years and since the directions are a little long, I think it’s best for you to go to Cookie Madness for the Best-Ever Almond Toffee recipe. You’ll also want to read her Almond Toffee Revisited post which has more tips on making this toffee turn out “just right”.

Pecan Toffee

For my first try at this recipe, I just made the small batch so I could get a feel for it. I substituted pecans for the almonds, since I had some on hand, but I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. Other than that, this batch was just a teensy bit thicker than I would have liked, which may have been because the temperature got up to almost 295 before I poured it out of the pan. It was still crispy and crunchy, just not perfect.

BigSis has made this toffee almost every Christmas for as long as I can remember. And, guess what? Hers is always perfect. Mine turned out pretty darn good for being my first time to make it, but it wasn’t perfect. That’s okay though, I still gave myself a little pat on the back for trying something new and not having a meltdown over a slightly thick batch of toffee.

Best-Ever Almond Toffee

For my second batch, I went ahead and doubled the recipe since I was feeling a little better about the process. This time I did use almonds, but since I discovered that I don’t like chopping chocolate, I used semi-sweet chips instead. (I shouldn’t have done that!) When I asked for a couple of expert opinions from the chocolate lovers in my house, they both noticed that the chocolate in the first batch was better.

This batch also turned out a little too thick, as you can tell in the photo, but it was still good. I don’t think anyone else really noticed, but this batch got a little chewy after the initial crunch. It wasn’t as crispy and crunchy as it should have been, but I think I know why. I panicked just a little after I poured it into the pan and I think I gave the pan one too many teeny, tiny taps, which Anna specifically advised me not to do. I knew right away that some of the air bubbles were popping and apparently that’s what keeps this toffee so crunchy.

When in Chicago, my mother-in-law happened to pull out some toffee that her brother-in-law had sent to her from Florida. Even though I usually bypass the sweets, I was curious to try it because of my recent attempts at toffee making. This toffee was even thicker than my second batch but somehow was still really crunchy and crispy. It’s supposedly made at some special store and our uncle loves it, so if I ever end up with a perfect batch of toffee, I’m going to send some to him and my mother-in-law. I’m sure they’d both be surprised!

All in all, in the end, I did learn a few things about making toffee.

First of all, toffee making is not for wimps. I never knew how long it took to get candy up to 290 degrees and with constant stirring, it’s a bit of a workout. Secondly, I would invest in a new thermometer before attempting this again.

This is the thermometer that I used, which is the “attach-to-the-pan” type that Anna advises not to use. It’s all I had and I didn’t have time to go get a new one, so the fact that both batches turned out thick probably means that my thermometer was a bit off.

Lastly, just stick exactly to Anna’s Best-Ever Almond Toffee recipe! Don’t make substitutions, use a good thermometer, and follow the instructions to a tee and I bet you end up with a perfect batch of toffee! :-)