Dec 12

Parties, Persimmons, and Ginger Squares

by Hannah Holt »


Today is one of those fun dates: 12/12/12. It’s even more special for me because I recently turned a score and a dozen years old.

I love birthdays. Well, mostly I love cake. This week I ate plenty of cake, and now I’m in a plenty good mood. Here are some of the highlights from my week:

  • I finished Julie Hedlunds 12×12 challenge.
  • Just over a week ago, I finished Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo challenge.
  • The persimmon tree in my backyard is starting to come into season.
  • Six happy little persimmons were turned into this recipe for cake by Emiko Davies.
  • My cute husband also turned another year older, and later this week we will celebrate our nine year anniversary.
  • My oldest turned seven. I have a seven-year-old!
  • I found my first grey hair, but let’s call it silver.

December is in full swing and that means it’s time to make one of my favorite snacks of the year– ginger squares. It’s basically a recipe for gingerbread people but cut it into squares (and I use whole-wheat flour to feel less guilty about eating them by the fistful).

Ginger Squares

  • ¾ cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cloves (optional)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
  • 3 cups wheat flour, plus more for dusting work surface
  1. Preheat oven to 375° F.

  2. Beat butter and sugar together for two minutes

  3. Add the molasses and eggs, and beat until well combined (it will look a little grainy; that’s okay).

  4. Add the spices to the wet mixture, then the baking soda, and finally the flour. You don’t need to combine the dry ingredients together first. Just add them one at a time to the wet mixture. (I almost never use two bowls when making cookies.)

  5. Mix until combined, and then wrap the dough in plastic wrap and set in the fridge for one hour. The dough will be too sticky to handle if you don’t chill it first.

  6. Roll the dough out on a cutting board until it’s about the thickness of two nickles.

  7. Slice the dough into one-inch squares using a pizza cutter (or sharp knife).

  8. Place the squares at least ¼ inch apart on a greased cookie sheet and bake in the oven for 6-9 minutes. Six minutes will yield a very soft square, while 9 minutes will result in a crunchier cookie. Actual oven temperatures vary. Adjust the time as needed for desired texture.


Dec 06

Turtle Taters

by Hannah Holt »


I was scrubbing potatoes when my four-year-old asked me to read his turtle book to him. It’s part of Scholastic’s Nature’s Children series, and we’ve been reading a few pages every day. I think I enjoy reading it as much as he does.

Well, while we were reading, my two-year-old comes into the room, rolling a pilfered potato along the floor. I thought, I bet it’d be easy to make a potato into a turtle. And it was.

Turtle Taters

  • russet potatoes, scrubbed and cut lengthwise
  • baby carrots
  • grated Parmesan cheese
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

1) Preheat the oven to 350° F

2) Each potato can make two turtles. Place the potato halves face down on a greased cookie sheet and prick the back with a fork twice or thrice.

3) Brush the back of each potato with olive oil and sprinkle with cheese and a dash of salt.

4) Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

5) After removing the potatoes from the oven, arrange the baby carrots on a plate such that they are the turtle’s head, arms and tail. Put a potato half over the carrots. If desired, you can add ketchup eyes and serve with sour cream.

The outsides of the potatoes were crisp, but not heavy and greasy like french fries. You can eat them with a knife and fork or (if the potatoes are smaller) like finger food. Go forth and play with your food!

Nov 19

Bread Rolls for Beginners

by Hannah Holt »


If you’re new to baking, making rolls can seem intimidating. How many times should the dough rise? How long do I mix it? What the heck is yeast?

Today, I’m going to break roll baking down into little bite size steps. Plus, I’m going to give you a recipe that will knock the socks of your mother-in-law (even if she’s the nylon wearing kind). So buckle up. Here we go!

First, let’s tame the yeast beast by giving it a name. There are a million different kinds of yeast. The good news is you only need one kind for this recipe: FLEISCHMANN’s ACTIVE DRY YEAST. It comes in a brown bottle or in packets. Either will work. You just need at least 1 Tablespoon’s worth (just over one packet). Now there are other brands of yeast that will work, but I promised you bite-sized steps. Get Fleischmann’s. (Note: Don’t accidentally grab the “RapidRise.”)

Next, you’ll need to “wake up” the yeast. You do this by placing the yeast in a small bowl with half a cup of lukewarm water. Give it a stir. Placing the yeast in the water softens it and gets it ready to rise.

The rest of the written instructions and the recipe are listed near the end of this post, but you can watch the entire process of making roll dough here:

After you let the dough rise for 40-60 minutes, it’s time to shape them. Here are a few ways you can shape the dough:

After rising the second time, the rolls are ready to bake. Place them in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes or until the tops turn golden brown.

Yummy, yummy! Take them out of the oven and let them cool on a wire rack. Make sure the rolls are fully cooled before storing or they will sweat inside their container. You don’t want sweaty rolls. Yuck.

Fresh rolls are best when served within 12-24 hours (or freeze them for later).

And here’s the recipe:

White Bread Rolls

  • ½ cups luke warm water
  • 1 Tbsp yeast
  • 2 cups warm milk
  • ½ cups unsalted butter (melted)
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • ½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 cups all-purpose flour
  1. Put yeast in ½ c. lukewarm water, stir, and set aside.

  2. Mix 2 cups warm milk, butter, salt and sugar. Stir. Add beaten eggs and softened yeast. Stir.

  3. Add flour cup by cup to liquid mixture. The dough will become too thick to mix with a spoon after six cups of flour. Knead another 1.5 cups in by hand (or with a bread hook). You will probably not use the full eight cups of flour. (I like to have the extra half cup of flour to keep my kneading surface covered with flour.) Knead the dough for two minutes. The dough will be soft and sticky.

  4. Turn the dough into a large greased bowl (1/4 cup vegetable oil swirled around will grease it) and let rise until double (about 1 hour).

  5. Turn out on lightly floured surface and shape as desired. Cover and let shaped rolls rise another 50 minutes.

  6. Bake on greased baking sheet or in greased muffin pans in 350° oven for 15-20 minutes.

If you’re feeling up to an extra challenge, try splitting the recipe and make half white/half whole wheat molasses (molasses instead of sugar). Then I twisted the two roll doughs into kaiser rolls, like this:

Roll dough is like play-doh for adults. Happy roll making!

Oct 30

Crazy Color Cookies

by Hannah Holt »


Have you seen the Halloween cookie dough with pumpkins in the middle? It’s in the refrigerated dough section of most grocery stores.

Well, my kids have been begging me to buy some, but I like making cookie dough. Why would I pay someone else for that joy?

I thought it would be fun to try making a batch of themed cookies. After a few failed attempts, I realized the answer was simple. Roll out the cookie dough, cut out pieces with a cookie cutter, and replace them with the same shape of a different color. Easy peasy.

As they bake, the cookie dough edges fuse together, making one gorgeous cookie.

Here’s the process step by step.

1) First, I made a batch of Better Home and Garden’s sugar cookie dough. After mixing in the last ingredient, we divided the dough into small bowls and stirred in food coloring.

2) We wrapped the colored dough in separate plastic wrap balls and chilled it for 30 minutes. (This makes the dough easier to handle.) Then we rolled the dough on a lightly flowered cutting board.

3) First I used a circle shaped cookie cutter to make large circle cookies. Next I cut a smaller shape into the middle of each circle. Finally I replaced the missing piece with dough of a different color(s). Like this…

I found it helps if you move the cookies onto a baking sheet with the help of a spatula.

3) Bake as usual (375 degrees F for 8 minutes), and enjoy!

My kids and I had a lot of fun with the colored cookie dough. Here are a few other options:

  • Roll two colors together and make spiral cookies.

  • Mash a few colors together to make marbled dough.

  • Lay different colors over the top the dough to make character cookies.

Mmm. Take one from me. Please!

Oct 19

Baked Apple Jack-o-lanterns

by Hannah Holt »


Last week I took the kids apple picking.

For an outing with my gaggle in tow, we brought back a suprisingly good haul. The large box of apples sat on my counter for a couple of days, before I realized I’m not up to canning this year. So I’ve been feeding the kids apple slices, and making apple sauce, and cooking apple pie, and serving apple anything… So long as I don’t have to go into the garage and dig out my canning pot.

Well naturally we ate baked apples for dessert last night. However, since our love/obsession with jack-o’-lanterns continues, I carved a face into each apple before baking.

Here’s the finished result.

It was a big hit.

Here’s the recipe.

What You’ll Need:

  • baking apples (we used Northern Spy, but Jonagold or Golden Delicious would also be tasty!)
  • butter
  • brown sugar
  • cinamon
  • water (for the pan)

Step 1) Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Step 2) Using a spoon, scoop out the core of the apples. This is almost exactly like jack-o’-lantern carving, except leave as much of the flesh of the apple as possible.

Step 3) You will be left with a slightly hollow apple. Using a paring knife, carve a face in the skin of the apple. (You don’t need to carve to the center of the apples, just remove pieces of skin as shown above.)

Step 4) Give the center of each apple three things: a sprinkling of brown sugar, a pinch of cinnamon, and a pat of butter.

Step 5) Place the apples in a shallow baking dish, with about a 1/2 inch of water on the bottom.

Step 6) Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until apples are soft but not mushy. Our apples were small. Large apples might take as long as 50 minutes to bake.

Step 7) Serve warm and if desired with a side car of vanilla ice cream.

Other options: I know a lot of people like to stuff baked apples with chopped nuts and raisins.

As my six-year-old said, “This is the best thing I’ve ever eaten.”

If you’re looking for healthy Halloween snacking, here are a few options from my archives:


  Cucumber Martians                 Monster Hands

Spooky chips (baked)         Scarecrow Spaghetti