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ready for the cookie exchange: our favorite cookie recipes ever

I like to wait until last week before Christmas to make cookies for the holidays. I have a few that I insist on making, like pizzelles, and always throw in a new recipe just for kicks. Here’s a round up of some of the ones that I use again and again.


Aunt Jean’s famous Pizzelle cookies
– time to dust off the waffle pan!

Wendy Gaynor’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe – still the best ever!

Oatmeal Maple Cream cookies — a new kind of sandwich via my neighbor Jane

Salty Sweet Peanut Butter Cookies — just typing their name makes me crave them

Gingerbread Men — a favorite of Santa’s, I hear

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Buckeyes
— my husband hails from Ohio, where these are a tradition

Chewy Amaretti Cookie Sandwiches

From our partners

real life test kitchen: homemade gummy candies

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The other night we were at a friend’s house for dinner, and the two-six year-olds decided to “make” some candy. The patient mom allowed them to pour some sugar in a bowl, toss in some honey, a few drops of fruit juice and a pinch of cinnamon. They heated it on the stove until it was gooey mess, spread it out on a piece of parchment paper and stuck it in the fridge. About an hour later it was thick enough that they could roll into a ball and pop it into their mouths. Without a doubt, this was one of the happiest moments of Isadora’s life thus far. A big light bulb went off in her head. You can make candy!

Her new discovered passion bubbling, the next day we looked up candy recipes. Many of them call for thermometers and double boilers, so they were off the list. Then we spotted this one for gummys at Goodie Goodie. Brightly colored squares of goodness that barely required anything special. The only thing we had to buy was some unflavored gelatin and flavored extract. Luckily, we had a few silicone ice-cube trays that worked nicely as the molds. I sprayed them with a non-stick spray first, which helped when it came time to wiggle them out the next day. The hardest part of this recipe? Waiting! You have to leave the gummys in the fridge overnight to solidify.

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Homemade Gummy candies – adapted from Goodie Goodie who has many gorgeous photos of the process.

What You Need:

4 Tbsp gelatin (get two boxes)
1 cup cold water
1 1/2 cups boiling water
4 cups sugar
1/4 tsp flavored extract – we used orange, lemon and peppermint
1-2 drops food coloring
sugar for coating

How To Make:

1. In a large pot, soften gelatin in cold water for about five minutes. Meanwhile, but the kettle on to boil water.
2. Stir in the boiling water until gelatin dissolves. Add sugar.
3. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil for 25 minutes. Stir constantly.
4. Divide evenly into bowls, one for each flavor and color you want to use. I used three.
5. Add 1/4 tsp extract and 1-2 drops food color to each bowl. Stir to combine.
6. Pour into spray-coated pans, cover with plastic wrap. Chill overnight in the fridge.
7. The next day, remove gelatin cubes from trays. I did them one at time and it took a bit of wrestling, but they all came out perfectly. If you’re not using a cube tray, cut gelatin mixture into 3/4 inch cubes using a knife dipped in hot water.
8. Roll cubes in sugar and let them sit at room temperature for a day or two to crystallize.
9. Store in an airtight container.

Isadora was so proud of her homemade gummys that she brought them to school as a snack. We actually ended up cutting the cubes in half because no one really wanted to eat a big cube. They are lovely, super sweet, and very chewy.

From our partners

reflections on maine: a heaven without strip malls

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Every year, as July turns into August, we make a pilgrimage up north to Maine, specifically Mt. Desert Island and the enchanting wilds of Acadia National Park. Seven days there does wonders to revitalize your mind and spirit. We unplug (thus, no Shelterrific posts for a week), disconnect and take lots of deep breathes to savor the freshest air imaginable. One of the most charming things about MDI is that there are no franchises or chains of any kind (there may be one Rite Aid, but that’s it). You don’t realize the effect constant strip mall signage and box stores collections have on your senses until you step away from them. It’s so delightful to having nothing but locally owned and operated businesses to choose from. Sure, you may have to pay a little more for that gallon of milk, or drive a little farther to get a pint of blueberries, but in the end, you’ll be happier because of it.

At the center of this extremely local-centric region is Acadia, which is truly one of this country’s treasures. (In fact, a USA Today poll recently declared it the most popular national park, which means the house rental demand will be even fiercer next summer!) When you’re in MDI, you weave in and out of the park land all day long. It is the only national park that has private land and small towns scattered throughout, which is a nod to history: It was donated by the Rockfellers about a hundred years ago, and some families still have estates within its boundaries. This year we rented a piece a property overlooking Sommes Sound. There were no car sounds, no lights from neighboring residences, nothing but quiet. Our days were spent exploring the park by foot, boat, or horse-drawn carriage. At night we cooked lobster in a big pot and then made s’mores by the fire pit for dessert.

Here are a few recipes and local wares that have become a part of our lives every summer. Even if you’re not fortunate enough to journey to MDI this year, you can always eat some cobbler and dream.

Real Life Test Kitchen: How To Boil A Live Lobster

Real Life Test Kitchen: Grilled Pizza With Mozzarella and Corn Pesto

Real Life Test Kitchen: Blueberry Crumb Pie

Obsession: Lobster Rope Doormats

Steal This Idea: Rainbow Painted Stairs at The Naturalist’s Notebook In Seal Harbor

From our partners

real life test kitchen: cardamon-oatmeal ice cream sandwiches

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Have you noticed that home made ice-cream sandwiches seem to be very trendy this summer? I’ve seen them on the pages of several food and fashion magazines, a fad that is very hard to resist! I spotted this recipe for a cardamon-oatmeal ice cream sandwich in the August Food & Wine and decided to give a try. I love anything with cardamon (flashback: the perfect pumpkin muffins). These cookies came out lovely. They were a tad on the crumbly side which made actually eating them by hand with ice cream in the middle pretty messy. I used coffee ice cream which went really nicely with the cookie’s flavor. My recommendation: Skip the sandwich and just put the whole yumminess in a bowl!

Caradmon-Oatmeal Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches (adapted from Food & Wine)

What You Need:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 pint ice cream, for filling — I suggest coffee flavor!

How To Make:

1. Heat 350° and line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Whisk the flour, cardamom, salt and baking soda in a bowl.
2. With an electric mixer in a second bowl, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, one to two minutes. 
At medium speed, beat in the egg. Beat in the buttermilk and vanilla until just smooth, then beat in the dry ingredients. Turn off mixer and fold in the oats stirring by hand.

3. Using an ice cream scoop or a tablespoon measurement, scoop 10 mounds of dough onto each baking sheet, about 
2 inches apart. Bake for 11 to 
13 minutes, until the cookies are puffy and golden brown.
4. Let cool completely on racks afterwards.
5. If making sandwiches, scoop a nice heap of ice cream onto the underside of a cookie. Top with another cookie. Wrap in plastic and freeze until the ice cream is just firm, about 
30 minutes.

From our partners

rolling with laughter: customized pins add flair to baking

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Isn’t it a wonderful world when a young Polish designer who lives outside of Warsaw can suddenly find herself a design blog darling? I heard about Zuzia Kozerska and her beautiful, engraved baking pins via This Is Colossal and was even more enchanted after clicking through to Zuzia’s Esty page. A baker and a designer, she wanted to make pastries that were fun and delicious without spending an entire weekend slaving over them. Using a laser engraver (take that Star Wars fans!) Zuzia discovered a way to engrave wooden rolling pins with whimsical patterns, like cats, robots, dinosaurs and even charming Polish phrases (like “sto lat” — a birthday greeting which means 100 years). “It all started with my niece birthday, she is absolutely nuts about cats!” says Zuzia on Etsy. “I knew without any hesitations what would be the first pattern I would make.” Made from locally harvested beech wood, the pins cost about $42 plus $13 shipping from Poland. They arrive in a carefully wrapped box with local postage stamps to show off their country origin. Without a doubt, this is going on my holiday gift list — I do have some Polish bakers in my family!

From our partners