Guest Recipe Monday: The Ninja Baker’s Cookie Bento

 The warmest Immaculate welcome to the newest member of our Guest Blogger Team, Kim Watkinson, AKA the Ninja Baker. Before we get to her amazing, creative post, here’s a bit about Kim in her own words:

“Although I’m a towheaded American, my only knowledge of language and food was Japanese until age 5. Tokyo, my hometown of 17 years influences my blogging, baking and book writing. As the Ninja Baker, I seek the sweet stuff of life: Recipes for happy living as well as the how-tos of delicious Asian fusion, gluten-free and American standards. At NinjaBaking.com http://ninjabaking.com I highlight scrumptious recipes, fun factoids about Japan and other cultures, plus a cheery thought or two.”

The Ninja Baker’s Cookie Bento

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“Think what a better world it would be if we all-the whole world-had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down with our blankies for a nap.” So said Robert Fulghum, author of All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

Amen! Right? And we want to make sure these cookies are full of wholesome and delicious ingredients.

Wishing only well-being and good health to all kids, little and big, I do my best to use good-for-you ingredients in my baking — like the ingredients from the Immaculate Baking Co. which “uses only the best natural ingredients.” In their honor, I created a cookie bento box. (A Japanese-style lunch box.)

Bento boxes originated in ancient Japan, where wives would prepare rice balls (onigiri also called omusubi) and arrange them artfully in a box along with some fish and pickles. The luxury of the lunchbox would depend upon the budget of the housewife. (Some things never change.) You can bet the samurai were getting some high-quality fish while fieldworkers or farmers were lucky to get a sliver of any protein tucked into the rice. O-bento were also sent to school with boys.

Originally made out of lacquered wood, over the centuries they have evolved and you can find bamboo, metal, plastic (and disposable) bento boxes. All these centuries of bento box-making have produced some magnificent works of art alongside cutesy lunches featuring popular Japanese anime characters. I’ve made standard bento lunches.  But I was inspired to think outside the box and create a cookie bento!

Here’s the how-to on the Ninja Baker’s Cookie Bento Box.

Here’s what you’ll need:

Bento lunch boxes (available online at Amazon.com and http://bentocrazy.ecrater.com)

Clean paintbrushes

Orange gel food coloring

1 ½ inch round cookie cutter

1 melon baller or a ¼ measuring spoon

Fresh fruit cut into bite-size pieces

1 tablespoon softened coconut spread (or butter)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ cup brown sugar

½ cup raisins

1 cup of almond butter (organic peanut butter is great, too)

Immaculate Baking Co. products:

  • Vanilla Sugar Cookies
  • Chocolate Chunk Cookies
  • Buttermilk Biscuits
  • Ready-to-Bake Pie Crusts

1. Pie Crust Cinnamony Carrot Cookies

Carrots

Mom always said eat your carrots =)

Ingredients:

1 Immaculate Ready-to-Bake Piecrust

1 tablespoon softened coconut spread (or butter)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ cup brown sugar

½  cup raisins

Instructions:

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees.

Bring an Immaculate piecrust out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature (about 30 minutes.)

Unroll the piecrust onto lightly floured wax paper.

With a clean paint brush, or chopstick, streak one side with orange gel food coloring.

Carefully flip over.

Smother coconut spread over the white surface.

Sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon over the spread.

With a 1.5 inches round cookie cutter punch out circles.

Roll and shape into mini carrots.

Tuck a few small raisins on the top half to create the wider part of the carrot.

With a clean paintbrush, smoothly paint on more orange food coloring.

Place on parchment lined baking sheets.

Bake for 6 to 8 minutes.

Cool for a few minutes before eating or placing the cinnamony carrot cookies into a bed of raisins in the bento box.

2. Vanilla Sugar Cookie Almond Sandwiches

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A classic PB with a sweet twist.

Ingredients:

1 package Immaculate Vanilla Sugar Cookies

½ cup almond butter

Instructions:

Bake the sugar cookies per package directions.

Cool.

Smother the middles of cookies with almond (or peanut) butter.

Sandwich together and place two into your bento lunch box.

3. Chocolate Chunk Cookies Dessert

For “dessert,” nothing beats an old-fashioned chocolate chunk cookie.

Ingredients:

1 package Immaculate Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Instructions:

Bake the cookies per package instructions.

Cool.

Place them into your bento box.

Until age 5, I only knew the Japanese language and food. Rice balls with pickles or fish in the centers were a standard lunchtime treat. (They’re called omusubi as well as onigiri.) So, I created an “onigiri” using Immaculate Buttermilk Biscuits.

4. Immaculate Buttermilk “Onigiri with a Plum Pickle”

1A_onigiri-closeup-with-carrot

A standard in many Japanese lunch boxes.

Ingredients:

Immaculate Buttermilk Biscuits

¼ cup of strawberry or raspberry jam (to resemble the plum pickle)

Instructions:

Bake the biscuits per package directions.

Cool.

With a melon baller or ¼ measuring spoon, scoop out a small bit of biscuit from the center.

Fill the hole with jam.

Place it into your bento lunch box.

Of course, my bento boxes are only ideas to spark your imagination and creativity. So assemble all of the above as you like along with some lovely fresh fruit or whatever your healthy self desires.

Wishing you sweet health and creative fun at lunchtime and always!

The Ninja Baker
 

Guest Recipe Monday: The Valentine’s Basket

Back by popular demand, we thought we’d remind readers of Our Valentine Basket Idea!

Right before Mother’s Day last year, an Immaculate Baking fan told me about the “baked” basket she planned to deliver to her new-mom sister.  I’ve been playing with this great idea for Valentine’s Day, so I hit the kitchen, armed with Vanilla Sugar and Gluten Free  Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough. I also brought along some popsicle sticks, frosting, and lots of decorating sugar toppings.

Easy start

I put some of the Vanilla Sugar cookies on popsicle sticks, some of the Gluten Free Jumbo cookies in mini-muffin tins, and then I baked a bunch the regular old way. Once the oven was preheated, I tossed everything in.

Once everything was baked and cooled, I enlisted the troops (by bribing them with cookie-pops) to help decorate and arrange the basket. I know this is a trial run, but I’m making up some of these baskets for Valentine’s Day. Any great Valentine Baking ideas? Send them along!

Valentine Basket

Vanilla Sugar POP

The “Little Black Dress” of Cookies: Accessorizing the Vanilla Sugar Classic

All Dressed Up

Everyone knows the invaluable place of the little black dress (lbd). Here at Immaculate, our LBD is Vanilla Sugar Cookie Dough. It’s classic and just right all on its own, but as the holidays approach, I’ve been playing with seasonal compliments to the cookies, and I wanted to share:

What you need

White Chocolate Covered and Candy-Cane Sprinkled Holiday Cookie.

You’ll need:

1 package of Immaculate Baking Vanilla Sugar Cookie Dough

3/4 package of “white baking chips”

4 small candy canes or peppermint candies  (and a little aggression since we are going to smash these)

A small baggie, something to smash candy with (yes, I used an office stapler), and a sheet of waxed or parchment paper.

Instructions:

Bake the cookies as directed and put on wire racks to cool.

When the cookies are cool, put candies in a sealed bag and pulverize. Pour onto a small, flat dish.

Put the white chips in a bowl and microwave for about a minute until melted (but not bubbling!). Give the white chocolate a stir.

smashed candy and melted white chocolate

Lay out a piece of parchment or waxed paper, and go!

Dip each cookie about halfway into the warm chocolate. If you do a light layer, it will harden up better (and travel better). Then dip the cookie (gooey side) into the candy. Lay on the paper to dry. Repeat . . . . sample . . . .repeat . . . .sample . . . share if you must!

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Put on waxed paper

Let us know what you’re cooking up for the holidays!

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Guest Blogger Monday: Tea Party Time.

With the Thanksgiving holiday, upcoming schools vacations, sick days, and the like, I was excited to see Jessica Cottrell’s Guest Blogger Post. I love the notion of a tea party — or in my house, a cocoa party — with your favorite snacks. Any favorite recipes you share with your at-home kiddoes?

Princess Tea Party Playdate

My 5 year old daughter had a playdate this week and she and her friend were playing a regal game of Princess and Pop Star when they decided they needed a tea party. This is my daughter’s favorite way of getting some treats out of me, and it usually works because I am a fool for little girls and all their glitzy Fancy Nancy inspired play. It’s also about the only time my tea set ever gets used, so it’s fun for me, too. But on this particular day I didn’t have any treats on hand and I really wasn’t in the mood to haul out ingredients to bake from scratch. I actually said no, until I recalled that I had a few cookies left in my package of Immaculate Baking Company Lemon Sugar Cookies. In order to make these worthy of a petite princess tea party, I wanted them smaller, so I cut each oversize cookie in half and sprinkled with purple sugar crystals. Since I only had four left that gave me 8 cookies, 6 for the girls and 2 for the chef, of course. To be honest, they ended up being normal sized cookies, so in the interests of having more delicate tea party finger foods, I would probably quarter the cookie dough next time. I baked them for 10 minutes at 350 degrees on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and when I took them out I gave them an extra sprinkle of purple sugar for good measure.

It looked so cute that I decided to share, because it was such an easy way to make this playdate a special little memory, for 20 minutes until the cookies and tea were gone. And then the Princess and Pop Star fled for the great outdoors!

Guest Recipe Monday: The Valentine’s Basket

Right before Mother’s Day last year, an Immaculate Baking fan told me about the “baked” basket she planned to deliver to her new-mom sister.  I’ve been playing with this great idea for Valentine’s Day, so I hit the kitchen, armed with Vanilla Sugar and Gluten Free  Fudge Brownie Cookie Dough. I also brought along some popsicle sticks, frosting, and lots of decorating sugar toppings.

Easy start

I put some of the Vanilla Sugar cookies on popsicle sticks, some of the Gluten Free Jumbo cookies in mini-muffin tins, and then I baked a bunch the regular old way. Once the oven was preheated, I tossed everything in.

Once everything was baked and cooled, I enlisted the troops (by bribing them with cookie-pops) to help decorate and arrange the basket. I know this is a trial run, but I’m making up some of these baskets for Valentine’s Day. Any great Valentine Baking ideas? Send them along!

Valentine Basket

Vanilla Sugar POP

Gift Blogger Monday: Delicious Treats for the Holidays

We’re giving our fantastic guest bloggers a well-deserved holiday break; they’ll be back!

Here’ what we’re up to this week: baking and gifting. Neither has to take a lot of time or money — just some thought and creative fun.

Here in the Northeast, we usually have a bit of snow by now, but nothing since Halloween. So we decided to bring our snowmen-building impulses in house. We’re getting creative with our Chocolate Peppermint cookie dough. . . .

Snowman family

Here’s what you need:

1 package of Immaculate Baking Chocolate Peppermint cookie dough (or your favorite flavor)

Edible decorating goodies (we used crushed candy canes, butterscotch chunks, and mint chips).

What you'll need

Preheat the oven as directed and take three pods of dough. Leave one alone. Cut one in half and add that half to the third pod. Now, you have three balls of dough in 3 different sizes. Stack them on top of each other on a cookie sheet, so there is about an inch between each (you want them to melt into each other.)

Space and decorate

Then decorate.

The goodies will melt into the snowmen.

I used crushed canes for the bottom, butterscotch chunks for middle buttons, candy cane shards for a nose, and peppermint chips for eyes. One package of dough will make 8 snowmen — a pretty big family! I make 4 on each cookie sheet, pop them in the oven, and watch them closely. Let them cool for a while and arrange as you like.

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We’re also baking up Gingerbread and Peppermint cookies and packaging them in pretty cellophane for delicious gifts: teachers, mail carriers, neighbors. If you leave some for the big, bearded man in red, you’ll want to unwrap — he’s not crazy about taking off his gloves . .. .

Guest Blogger Monday: Gingerbread People!

This week, Jessica Cottrell continues her rhapsody on gingerbread creations. Last week, we learned how to make mini gingerbread houses, and these look fun too!

Our October snow may have come and gone here in the Northeast, but here are some wintry treats that won’t melt.  We read all manner of Gingerbread themed books here (our very favorite being the Jim Aylesworth version, in case inquiring minds wanted to know).  But be it boy, girl, baby, or family, we are way into these fast moving treats in my house and since I had some leftover dough I decided to try Gingerbread Snow people.  This. Was. So. Easy.

gingerbread pods

You need three unbaked dough pieces of Immaculate Baking Company Gingerbread Cookie Dough for each snow person.  Cut one dough piece in half.  Take one half and one whole piece, roll it into a ball and place on cookie sheet.  Take remaining whole piece and roll into ball and place roughly 3/4 inch away from first piece.  Now roll up the half piece of dough you have leftover and place it about 1/2 inch from the second piece.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes.

Constructing your people

Unlike his literary counterparts, our Frosty little buddies have no feet so it’s pretty safe to bet they will stay in the kitchen.  About a minute after removing them from the oven, I gave our men eyes in the form of upside down white chocolate chips, but I left them otherwise naked so the kids could have another activity after their houses were finished.  But they looked so tasty laying on the counter, and I was feeling rather fox-like and, well, the kids got whole houses, right?  Maybe I’ll buy another package so they can try some, too.

Leave the decorating for the kids!