My first holiday cookie box


This year, I had the idea to give out Christmas cookies to everyone on my holiday list. It was a little ambitious, so I’m happy to say that I got it done.

My list came out to 11 households. For four of those, I gave boxes with a dozen cookies. The rest were treat bags with about eight cookies each.

The plan was to make six kinds of cookies, so that each treat bag would have one of each and each box would have two of each, making for half a dozen and a dozen, respectively. I got a little burnt out after four kinds of cookies, but next year or sooner, I will make that happen. I had the most of chocolate chip and not a lot of peanut butter or polvorones, so everyone got a custom box based on what I thought they would like best.

Below are the recipes. They are all very classic, traditional cookies. I’m very inspired by Cookie Good in Santa Monica, by the way.

  1. Chocolate Chip Cookies – This is the classic Nestle Tollhouse recipe. I made these as slice and bake cookie dough logs, aka icebox cookies.
  2. Peanut Butter Cookies – This is a Pillsbury recipe that my brother adapted. It’s in our Carpenter family cookbook. Replace the white sugar with honey. His recipe doesn’t say, but I think it helps to add 1/4 cup flour. I made the dough into balls using a cookie scoop, froze them on a baking sheet, then transferred them to a plastic freezer bag.
  3. Double-shot Mocha Chunks – I used the same freezing process for this one as the peanut butter cookies.
  4. Polvorones Mexicanos – I had a little trouble with this one. Next time, I’ll weigh the amounts instead of using the English measuring units. I must not have measured the shortening right or the conversion was off. I had to keep adding shortening. Once I had the dough at the right consistency, I divided it in half. I added pink food coloring to one half and made the other half as cookie dough logs rolled in sprinkles. Also, the recipe doesn’t include salt but I added 1/2 a teaspoon. It said to either add orange zest or vanilla extract but I did both.

Before I sign off here, I need to give a few shouts. My sister Katie made 5 different kinds of cookies: Coffee Toffee, Six Layer Bars, Chocolate M&M Cookies, Funfetti Cookies, and Gooey Chocolate Bars. My sister Mary made two time-consuming cookies: Apricot Horn Cookies (on the blog!) and Walnut Cookies. My mom made Chex Mix after I had brought it up in our family chat. Last but certainly not least, my in-laws and sister-in-law made tamales for the first time to share with the family. I got to try everyone’s except my sister Mary’s, as she lives in the Bay Area. I’m proud of everyone. It means more than ever.

I’m proud of all of us for getting through this year. Sending love to everyone reading this.

Super simple chili

We’re almost in to December, the last day of 2020. I can believe it. This year has been rather long. I’m happy that it’s the Christmas season now. I’m looking forward to my daughter’s birthday and Christmas, no matter however different they may be. I’m going to celebrate.

Today, I’m coming at you with what has become my favorite chili recipe. I hope it warms you up on a cold night.

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Holiday gift guide: Bringing California to you

I have been meaning to write a gift guide for a few months now but couldn’t nail down what I wanted it to focus on. I wanted it to be relevant and accessible to people who read this blog.

I had several ideas that I didn’t get to this year, but might some other time. Gifts for moms? Small children’s shops? Shops in my town of Claremont, CA? Well, I am finishing up an Instagram guide to some of my current favorite shops in Claremont and I’ll give some a shoutout here too.

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Cranberry wild rice pilaf

Wild rice blend pilaf

I have been away from this blog for a few weeks, and I missed it pretty much every day. I know I need to be more consistent and I like writing here, so I’m back.

The first week I missed was election week and we started potty training, which required me to pay extra close attention to the littlest member of the family. I have also been spending more time on job searching. I’m also trying to declutter and sell things on Mercari and Poshmark. It’s both a slow and busy season around here, if that’s possible.

For once, I decorated for Christmas before Thanksgiving. The mantle is covered in decorations, the door has a wreath on it, and there is a light up dinosaur on the floor next to the fireplace. (Yes, you read that right.) I just won’t put our stockings up until the week of Christmas and, although I was considering it early, Paul said we should wait on setting up our artificial Christmas tree until the day after Thanksgiving.

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Rosemary Yukon Gold potatoes

Rosemary Yukon Gold potatoes-1

When I was a kid, I didn’t used to like potatoes, or at least I would complain about them at dinner time even while eating them. Thankfully, I have learned to appreciate potatoes. Russet potatoes still aren’t my favorite, but you can often find me cooking baby potatoes or Yukon Gold potatoes. I especially love that the yellow-fleshed Yukon gold potatoes are slightly sweet and tend to cook faster than Russet potatoes.

Roasted potatoes go well with pretty much any dinner. This week we had the potatoes with some leftover pork and tortillas. There wasn’t much pork left from the night before so the potatoes filled out the tacos. The next night, we had the leftover potatoes with mahi mahi and wild rice pilaf. Sometimes I make these potatoes with stovetop burgers and call them home fries.

I like roasting potatoes with a good helping of olive oil, salt, and rosemary for an easy side dish. Oh yeah, and garlic is nice too. I forgot the garlic until after I put the potatoes on the baking sheet and then had to add it in, but you won’t because I’m reminding you now. Garlic is good on pretty much anything savory.

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Fudgy cocoa brownies

Easy drop pumpkin cookies

I love when reality TV makes me feel better about my life. That’s prety much the main objective of it, isn’t it? With this season of Great British Bake Off, I’m feeling like maybe I’m a better baker than I thought. Some of the bakes actually seem easy to me, but not as much if they have an emphasis on style and presentation.

In episode 4, which focused on chocolate, the bakers were tasked with making brownies and most of them didn’t do very well. Brownies can be tricky at times, and it’s possible they didn’t have much experience with brownies, as it is an American dessert. I would have liked to see at least one of the bakers win over the judges with a classic brownie recipe.

Last week, my mom asked me to make brownies for her birthday dinner. I had offered to make an ice cream pie, like the one at Islands restaurants, but she said a brownie sundae bar might be better. My sister Mary shared a favorite brownie recipe recently that I thought about using. But it seemed slightly complicated, so I went with a recipe for cocoa brownies. Halfway through, I worried it would be a fail. The batter was thicker than I expected. It looked different than the photos in the recipe, but I had made some slight changes. I seriously considered running to the store for a back up dessert. I went ahead and baked them any way, thinking I could still rush to the store before the dinner. The brownies actually came turned out great. Good thing I didn’t give up on them! You’re going to want to try them too.

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Pan-seared mahi-mahi with bell pepper and mushrooms

Mahi-mahi with sautéed vegetables

I thought I would check in and see what fish recipes are on Deb Perlman’s popular blog Smitten Kitchen and I was a bit shocked to see that she hardly has any! I know now that Deb is fish-averse. I, however, am not. I have shared my love for fish tacos with you already. Growing up in Southern California has had a influence on my tastes. I don’t like sushi or poke, but I do enjoy a good shrimp bowl and shrimp with pasta.

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