behind the scenes -- Cookies for Kids' Cancer

Cookies for Kids' CancerWhen it comes to cookbooks, there isn't much more lovable than ones about cookies. Maybe I'm biased because I grew up in a household where cookie baking was the norm. My friends all knew, if you went over to Justin's house after school, his mom was probably going to bake something from scratch? Was she a master baker? Not at all, but that's why I guess cookies are so popular -- anyone can bake them. And they're perfect for sharing with friends and family. My mom passed on the tradition to me. I was long known as the guy at the office who always had a tin of fresh-baked cookies at his desk, ready to share. Yes, that's come to a halt recently as I've been gluten-free for about a year and a half now, and I haven't embraced gluten-free baking just yet. But I miss that feeling, the sharing. That's what Cookies for Kids' Cancer: All the Good Cookies is about to me.  It's about bringing people together at bake sales, which CFKC is involved with all across the country. If you don't already know, this amazing organization founded by Gretchen Holt-Witt has raised millions of dollars for children's cancer research. And so if these behind-the-scenes snapshots from the cookbook photo shoot don't get your mouth watering, first check your pulse, and then keep in mind that all of the proceeds from this adorable book are going to support an important cause.Cookies for Kids' CancerHuge thanks to Michelle Rotman Jassem for her work on the props -- so fun and cute. Where did she get all of the amazing papers, fabrics, and more? Extra thanks to her for loaning us her home for the shoot.Cookies for Kids' CancerThat's photographer Lucy Schaeffer working hard with assistant Shane Walsh to get the photo just right. I love seeing photographers put together these cool set-ups to get the perfect image.Cookies for Kids' CancerOh yeah, the cookies... the variety is pretty much amazing. And these meringues were gluten-free, so I think I ate the whole batch.Cookies for Kids' CancerOf course what's better than a classic chocolate chip cookie?Cookies for Kids' CancerLemon bars really take me back to my childhood for some reason. And if you've ever thought they're too fussy to bake yourself, think again. These are virtually foolproof.Cookies for Kids' CancerNow this is a different kind of cookie because you need some decorating skills to make them look this cute. Huge thanks go out to the talented Cyd McDowell and her assistant for all of their work on this project.Cookies for Kids' CancerAnd of course I had to start and end this post with chocolate cookies, in this case the Everyday Skinny Mints. I'm drooling just looking at this photo now. I really can't rave enough about this book, because the cause behind it is so important. And remember, these are only my snapshots from behind the scenes. For the real photos and all of the recipes, I hope you'll check out the book for yourself.

those pecan toffee bars again

Pecan Toffee BarsThis is a little weird because I haven't been posting so much lately, but I've been stock-piling blog posts. Seriously, I've lost count of how many unpublished posts I have in the works... half-way done, almost done, no where near done. Here's one of those posts -- I've probably written about these amazing bars before, and I'll probably do so again. This particular batch was made for Liza's potluck, which was awesome, by the way. Unlike some potlucks where the food sits around for a while and no one wants to be the first one to eat, this was a rush for the good stuff. In fact if you got there an hour into the event, you probably missed out on the pork adobo spare ribs that Liza and her husband made. Those spare ribs were worth the trip alone. P.S. If you don't already know, the recipe comes from Alice Medrich's super awesome Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy.  I had nothing to do with that book, but I adore it.

can I be a cool foodie again?

5-layer barsLast night I lost my street cred. I was baking these heavenly 5-layer bars from a cookbook I'm really excited about. I can't say much yet because the book won't be out until this Fall, but it's in partnership with an incredible charity called Cookies for Kids Cancer. And, well, it's one of the perks of my job that I get to try out the recipes early. I got a little distracted though, and next thing I knew it was after 11pm and these bars were just coming out of the oven. They're made with sweetened condensed milk, and that stuff gets molten hot. So I tweeted this. Mental note -- never say it's too late for snacking on Twitter. The confused replies started rolling in. First Bianca, next Irvin, and then JM. They did not approve.5-layer barsI swear I'm a hardcore foodie.  When I go to San Francisco I'm known to eat two Mexican tortas on 24th Street for breakfast. I've usually got no less than eight kinds of chocolate and morsels in the house for baking. I travel to the last stop on the A train and then keep walking to get the best roti in NYC. And I'll eat a cookie while it's still burning hot from the oven, just for the fun of it. But there was no way to cut a square of these bars while they were still hot! I joked about how I'd have to eat them with a spoon at this stage, which of course Maris said she would be up for. Shut down... again! By this time I was already in bed, with the pan of decadent bars sitting on the stovetop, slowly cooling as intended, and the damage was done. How do I un-tarnish my reputation now? Will awesome-r foodies ever forgive me?P.S. The bars sliced up beautifully in the morning. Remember to ask me about this book in the Fall, because it's going to be a great one.

2nd chance blondies

blondiesI tend to blog about recipes from old, rare, and out-of-print cookbooks. You know what I mean -- those books on your shelf that are so dog-eared, stained, and worn-out that the pages just fall out of them if you're not careful. I have a bunch of books like that, and then when someone posts a comment asking about the book, the best I can do is send them on a wild goose chase, or maybe to a specialty shop like Kitchen Arts & Letters. One book like that in my kitchen is Sally Sampson's The Bake Sale Cookbook, a go-to favorite. That's where this amazing white chocolate chip blondie recipe comes from.blondiesI'm happy to report that the recipe will be coming back to life this fall in a book being published in partnership with a great charity called Cookies for Kids Cancer, which has raised millions of dollars for pediatric cancer research through bake sales held all over the country. Even though the book won't be out for a while, it's on Amazon now if you want to read a little bit more about it and the cause. I'll definitely be talking more about this book in months to come, but in the meanwhile, watch out for a big bake sale push they're organizing for May -- 700 sales in all. Glad is matching up to $225,000 in funds raised, so that's an even better reason to do what you can to support this incredible organization.

orange-colored bars

cashew butterscotch barsIf you've been reading my blog lately, then you must think all I do is bake. Maybe you even remember a time when I wrote about savory cooking or dining out. Don't worry, I still eat three square meals a day. But I do admit I've been doing a lot of baking. It's that time of year, I guess.  Recently I went to an event, and the theme was orange -- not the fruit, the color. I figured a lot of people would bake cookies and decorate them with orange icing, and of course I had to come up with something a little more abstract. I was starting to panic, but then I remembered these amazing butterscotch-cashew bars from The Sweeter Side of Amy's Bread. Okay, so maybe they're more of a burnt-orange color, but that seemed close enough.cashew butterscotch barsThen I way overestimated how much I needed to bake -- this is just one of the trays I made. So my coworkers lucked out when I brought them the leftovers. It's a two-layer recipe, and it's super easy to make. I know that looks like caramel in the photo above, but it's mostly melted butterscotch chips, corn syrup, and butter. You have to let these firm up after baking, because the topping is bubbling when you take the pan out of the oven. My boss at work said they're one of the best things she's ever tried. I'd say the price of the book is worth it for this recipe alone. Of course if you live in the NYC area, you can just stop by one of the Amy's Bread bakeries and buy a bar if you'd like.