Thursday, December 11, 2008

Traditions of Christmas

One of our family traditions is to bake and bake and bake and make candy and bake, and then give all of these yummy goodies to our friends and neighbors in the week or two before Christmas. Some of the things we bake invariably get consumed at home (unfortunately too many by me!) and some are taken to holiday parties and so on. With all of the baking going on, I started thinking, wouldn't it be great if there was an allergy-safe icebox cookie dough recipe? Icebox cookies are those cookie doughs that you make one dough and then use it in different ways to make different kinds of cookies out of it.

So here goes...

Allergy Safe Icebox Cookie Dough
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 shortening (I used Spectrum Organic All Vegetable Shortening, made from palm oil)
2 cups oat flour
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
up to 3 tbsp. rice milk

Using a mixer, mix the shortening and sugar, adding vanilla partway through. When these are thoroughly mixed, add the oat flour, baking soda, and salt and mix well. The mixture will be relatively crumbly at this point. Preferably with the mixer running, add the rice milk a little at a time, mixing for at least 15 seconds between additions (other wise you won't be able to tell when you've got the right amount of rice milk in the dough). When the dough forms a ball, it is ready to roll out for baking. If you are going to be refrigerating your dough before using it, you may want to add a little more rice milk since food often loses moisture in the refrigerator.

At this point, there are several directions you can go.

Cookie Cutouts
Roll out the dough, half a recipe at a time, on a floured, non-stick surface. Cut it with cookie cutters. You can add sprinkles before baking, or you can bake and cool the cookies and decorate with frosting and sprinkles. Bake at 375 for 7-8 minutes. (Cookies baked a little longer will be more crispy, and those baked for less time will be more chewy.) For great frosting recipes, check out my book, Sophie Safe Cooking (

Pinwheel Cookies
Working with half a recipe at a time, roll Icebox Cookie Dough out to form a square, probably about 6 to 8 inches across. The dough should be between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. Spread a filling over the dough, staying about 1/2 inch from one edge. Roll up the cookie dough and filling, starting with the side opposite the edge with no filling.

If the cookie dough is hard to roll up, there are a couple of things you can try. First, roll on a floured surface. If you don't have to work to get the dough off of your rolling surface, that will simplify things a lot. Second, place a sheet of waxed paper or something else that's flexible (such as a Silpat) on your rolling surface. You can still flour it, and then you can also use the waxed paper to help you roll up the cookie dough. Lift and push the waxed paper, separating the cookie dough from the paper and rolling as you go. The other thing to consider is that if the dough is too dry, it will crack as you roll it (that's what happened the first time I tried it!). If this is the case, make a note that you need more rice milk next time, and add extra milk to the dough that you still have in reserve.

After you have rolled up you cookies, refrigerate the dough until it is firm enough to handle with ease (1-2 hours). If you refrigerate the dough overnight, or if it seems too hard after refrigerating, allow it to sit at room temperature for a little while before you slice and bake it. Using a very sharp knife, slice the dough into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick slices. Place them on a cookie sheet, 2 inches apart, and bake at 350 for 8 minutes.

Pinwheel Cookie Fillings
There are lots of different fillings you can try, and I'm sure you'll come up with your own ideas, too. Here are a couple that I think are great!
Chocolate: melt about 1/4 cup chocolate chips. Allow them to cool slightly, and then spread them on the rolled dough. After refrigerating, slice and bake as directed. If you like your cookies hot, beware of both the temperature and messiness of the chocolate filling!
Cinnamon Sugar: shake cinnamon sugar all over rolled cookie dough, refrigerate, slice and bake as directed.
Cranberry: Mix 1/2 cup finely chopped cranberries, 3 tbsp. sugar, and 2 tsp. orange zest and spread over the rolled dough. Refrigerate, slice, and bake as directed.

Chocolate Cookie Cutouts:
When mixing up your dough, you can make chocolate cookies if you like. Instead of using 2 cups of oat flour, use 1 3/4 cups oat flour and 1/4 cup cocoa powder. You can still use all of the same variations. Delicious!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Giving Thanks

I suppose Thanksgiving has put me in a thoughtful mood, or perhaps it's the fact that I'm trying to figure out what to buy for my already terribly spoiled children, but I've been pondering gratitude. I have much to be grateful for in my life. Many of the things I'm grateful for would be on other people's lists as well--but I have a few extras.

1. I am thankful that I can run. And walk. And see. And play with my kids. You see, a little more than 5 years ago, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It was putting pressure on my optic nerve, causing loss of peripheral vision. Because of the placement, I had a craniotomy. Because my neurosurgeon couldn't remove the tumor without risking damage to my optic nerve and other surrounding things, I had 5 weeks of radiation about 2 months after the surgery. And now, 5 years later, I can still see, walk, play with my kids, and I run on a regular basis, which is something I had never done.

2. I am thankful for Sophie's food allergies. The things that are hardest for us are often also the things that make us grow the most. Because of Sophie's food allergies, I have developed skills that I never would have otherwise--such as creating recipes. I have also accomplished things I never would have thought of before--such as publishing Sophie Safe Cooking.

I am also grateful for the usual suspects: my family, my home, God, my husband's job, etc. But I find that I am the most grateful for the things that have been the hardest.