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salted dark chocolate toffee. aka christmas crack


Ok, remember when I said you should make these gingerbread cookies for your Christmas parties? You still should, but you should also make this toffee. It’s so simple (only 4 ingredients) and so yummy. AND you don’t even need a candy thermometer.

I started making my 4th or 5th batch this morning (in the last week), and realized I knew the recipe without looking at it. That’s when I decided that I needed to share, not only the toffee I had made, but also the recipe. I can’t take credit for this recipe though. It’s actually from Shauna Niequist’s latest book, Bread & Wine. I can’t recommend this book enough. I can’t recommend this toffee enough either. Seriously. Buy the book. Make the toffee.

salted dark chocolate toffee

1 cup (2 sticks) Salted Butter
2 cups Granulated Sugar
1 cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine butter & sugar over medium heat. Stir often, to prevent burning, especially as the butter is melting.

butter & sugar

3. Continue to cook & stir over medium heat. It will be this light champagne color for awhile.

light boiling sugar

4. As soon as it turns this amber color, take it off of the heat.

amber boiling sugar

5. Pour the hot butter & sugar mixture onto your parchment lined baking sheet. I like to spread mine out a bit, otherwise it can be a little too thick in the very center.

naked toffee

6. Allow to cool on the counter for a few minutes on the counter, and then stick in the fridge until it’s cool to touch.

7. Melt your chocolate chips, spread the melted chocolate evenly across the cooled toffee, sprinkle with salt, and stick back in the fridge to set up.


8. Once your toffee is completely cooled and the chocolate has hardened, break into uneven pieces and try not to eat it all in one sitting. I don’t think that’s dentist approved.

salted dark chocolate toffee

This is a perfect treat for delivering to neighbors, for melting in your morning coffee, or for eating while your kids are napping. I think you need a batch, or 4.

love and butter,

posted under candy, dessert | 2 Comments »

barbara’s gingerbread cookies


Gingerbread Cookies

One of my first Christmas seasons as part of the Gunther family, I was introduced to a very sweet tradition. They have a long time neighbor, Barbara, that bakes up a bunch of DELICIOUS gingerbread men. They are adorable, and simple, and everyone gets one. Got that? ONE cookie, each year. I’m pretty sure the first year Tim somewhat reluctantly (and I don’t blame him at all) shared his cookie with me. Now, I usually get my own and let me tell you what, I’ve looked forward to that cookie every year since the first.

A couple of years ago, dear Barbara shared her cookie recipe with us, and now I’m sharing my version with you. I have to say, Barbara makes her cookies in little gingerbread men shapes, with multiple colors of icing, lots of details, and they’re just adorable. Something you’ll come to learn about me, is that, while I do love for the food I make to look good, I don’t usually have the patience and attention to detail required to really decorate sweets well. So, these are my simpler version, with a much more forgiving decor. I actually made some snowmen, along with the trees and candy canes, but I had such trouble decorating them, that they will not be making an internet debut anytime soon. Now for the cookies…

Gingerbread Cookies

2 3/4 cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
3 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Ground Cloves
1 Egg
2/3 cup Molasses
2.5 oz Brown Sugar (about 1/3 cup, packed)
1/2 cup (1 stick) Melted Butter (I always use salted)

1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon, & cloves, in a medium bowl. Set aside.

2. In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large bowl, combine Molasses, Brown Sugar, and Melted Butter. Mix on medium for about 30 seconds to a minute. You just want it to be thoroughly combined.

     Gingerbread progress

3. Add the egg and mix just until thoroughly combined.

4. Add the dry ingredients, about 1/3 at a time, mixing between additions.

Gingerbread Cookie Dough

5. Cover the dough, and stick in the fridge to cool for about an hour.

6. While the dough is chilling, line your cookie sheets with parchment paper, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

7. Roll out the dough, to about 1/3 of an inch thick, depending on how thick you like your cookies. You can roll them out using a little flour to keep it from sticking everywhere, but I like to roll it out between 2 sheets of parchment paper. Then I don’t have to worry about adding too much extra flour to the cookies.

8. Cut with cookie cutters, and transfer to parchment lined cookie sheets.

Gingerbread Tree Dough

9. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until set. These are one of those cookies that’s a little trickier to know when it’s done. They don’t brown until they’re over-baked. You can lightly touch the top of the cookie, and make sure it’s solid, and not doughy any longer.

10. Allow to cool completely, then decorate to your heart’s desire. Here’s the frosting recipe I used, except I only used vanilla extract (1 teaspoon), instead of the almond extract. I put my frosting into a disposable piping bag like these ones, with a tip in the bottom like this one.

Gingerbread Tree

Gingerbread Candy Cane

11. Let the cookies sit for several hours before attempting to stack them. This is a softer frosting, and while it does setup some, it’s never super hard. I prefer the taste of a buttercream like this on my cookies, but it doesn’t make for the easiest cookies to stack or send in the mail. I think it’s worth it.

How about making some yummy gingerbread cookies for a Christmas party this year? You’ll be the hit of the party.

love and butter,

homemade christmas gift guide


I’ve spent some time recently reading & thinking about Christmas, and all of the gifts, and all of the stuff, and all of the money. (You can read for yourself here, here, here, and here.) And I don’t know about you, but I think things are a little unbalanced these days. I’ll be honest, I love opening lots of presents, and I love giving lots of presents. Now, I’m certainly not going to do anything too crazy like no presents at all, but I think it’s time to take a step back and remember what this season is about. Let’s consider what the best ways to celebrate the birth of Jesus might be. Because I’m not sure it looks like mountains of presents with a side of credit card debt.

For the presents that you do decide to give, what about making something instead of just buying it from a store? Gift giving is about showing someone how much you care about them, not how much money you can spend on them. I’d venture to say that giving your grandma, who loves to bake, a bottle of homemade vanilla extract will mean more to her than a new pair of slippers. And maybe your neighbors that bbq something on the grill anytime the weather is nice would appreciate a jar of spice rub mixed up just by you.
We’ve given some homemade gifts for a couple of years now, with great success. I thought I’d share a few of my favorite recipes, and if you’re looking for something else, there are oodles of options on Pinterest and the rest of the internet.

Vanilla Extract

This is so simple, it hardly needs a recipe, but here’s a good place to start, from Joy the Baker. Make sure you get good vanilla beans, not the shriveled up ones that most markets sell. A good source is Beanilla. Also note, it takes at least 6 weeks for the vanilla to be ready. So, if you’re making it for this Christmas, you’re already short on time. You can include a note that says something like “Don’t use until ____.” with the date it will be ready.

Vanilla Extract

Taco Seasoning

This is so easy to make a big batch of and give away in little mason jars. It tastes so much like the stuff that comes in the little packets from the market, but better and without all the weird preservatives and stuff. This is the one that I’ve used and loved.

Taco Seasoning

Chili Seasoning

One of my favorite slow cooker recipes is this one for chili. The recipe is instructions for cooking it on the stove, but I always throw it all in the crockpot (after browning the meat) and let it cook on low for 8 hours. One time, I got smart and instead of just measuring out enough spices for one batch, I measured out enough for several batches and stored it in a mason jar. I figured out how much was enough for one batch (6 tablespoons) and then I could just scoop out what I needed when I made chili. A couple of other notes on the chili recipe….instead of 46 ounces of tomato juice, I use 2 28oz cans of diced tomatoes. I also usually use more beans, but it usually depends on what’s in my pantry.

Chili Seasoning

All Purpose Seasoning Salt

I love this season salt recipe, although looking back at it, I realize that there isn’t even salt listed in the recipe. I wish I could tell you how much I used, but it was a year ago now and let’s be honest, sometimes I can’t remember what happened yesterday. I’m going to blame it on the kids. I swear that whole pregnancy brain thing came but never left. I do know that I used Kosher Salt, as I always do, and probably just added some and tasted, then adjust as necessary. I also remember that I didn’t use the full amount of red pepper flakes that’s listed. I wanted it to be kid-friendly.

Season Salt


To round it all off, how about some homemade granola in a mason jar?


I hope that this gives you a few ideas of how to share a little love with friends and family this Christmas season.

love and butter,






posted under pantry | 4 Comments »