It’s a new school year and we have a new rule in our house. This rule has to do with treats in lunch boxes. Although my children have been in some kind of school since they were three years old, I am relatively new to the whole packing-a-lunch thing. The preschool that Spencer goes to, which is the same one that Graham attended, serves the kids a hot lunch every day. So in preschool days, I only pack a lunch when there is a field trip. Packing a lunch – having a lunchbox, getting to drink juice at lunch, my food instead of the school’s – is special for Spencer just as it was for Graham. I started a tradition in Graham’s first year of preschool – including a special treat in his lunchbox. That treat, when packed lunch was something that happened without regularity, was a chocolate kiss.
Once Graham started kindergarten last fall, I wanted to keep up the treat tradition. As a child, I remember looking forward to lunch even in first grade, and I know my little foodie first grader is the same. For the first few months of kindergarten, I stuck with the chocolate kiss. Then, after Halloween, it was a piece of his Halloween candy. And then Valentine’s Day candy. And then Easter candy. And then whatever candy we had lying around the house. Now, I am fine with my kids eating candy. I ate candy as a kid and I turned out all right. But when I would offer him a homemade cookie as a treat and he chose some disgusting artificially flavored and colored thing instead, my feelings got hurt.
Hence the new rule. It is hereby declared that all treats in lunch boxes must be homemade. I will relent for a few weeks after Halloween because it is a BIG DEAL for my kids (most kids) but then it’s back to homemade. I know, for us adults being force to bring a homemade cookie is hardly a hardship but for a 6¾ year-old, it might take some getting used to.
When Randy started his new job in January, I decided to send him in with treats every week. I was good for the first couple months and then as my classes started getting busier I just couldn’t fit it in. So it is now my hope that I can combine the lunchbox treat for Graham and the office treat for Randy and still have a few left over for Mommy.
I have a lot of baking books. And yet, I can sometimes find making cookies uninspiring. I look at recipes and my thinking is, “yep, seen this all before”, so I resort to tried and true favorites. There is nothing wrong with those favorites but when I am feeling stuck, I often turn to Martha Stewart’s Cookies.
These cookies could easily fall into the “look pretty but taste boring” category. But they don’t. Cashews play a role in one of my all-time favorite cookies and they are wonderful here as well. There are chunks throughout but you also purée some down with a bit of oil to make your own cashew butter. The chunks and the butter, combined with the caramel drizzle on top, make for an addictive cookie. These guys are sticky though. I made them small so that I would get a large yield and they kind of wanted to just all stick together in one massive cookie. I’m a little tired these days and finding a plastic container where I could lay them between layers of waxed paper seemed like a little too much effort. Hence, they went to work with Randy in a foil-wrapped cookie ball and they are sitting in my cookie jar en masse. You’ve been warned.
One Year Ago: Cranberry Bean Soup with Farro and Fresh Tomatoes
Two Years Ago: Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing and Holly B’s Cappucino Bars
Three Years Ago: White Beans with Tomatoes and Sage
Cashew Caramel Cookies
Martha Stewart’s Cookies
Makes about 3 dozen
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. coarse salt
2½ cups roasted salted cashews
2 tbsp. plus 1 tsp. canola oil
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
¾ cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
24 soft caramel candy cubes (7 ounces)
¼ cup heavy cream
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Sift together flour and salt. Coarsely chop 1 cup cashews; set aside. Process remaining 1½ cups cashews in a food processor until finely chopped. Pour in oil; process until creamy, about 2 minutes.
Put cashew mixture, butter, and sugars in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low; gradually mix in flour mixture and reserved chopped cashews.
Using a 1½-inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing 2 inches apart. Bake 6 minutes; gently flatten cookies Bake until bottoms are golden, 6 to 7 minutes more. Let cool on sheets on wire racks.
Melt caramels with cream in a saucepan over low heat, stirring. Let cool a bit. Using a spoon, drizzle caramel over cookies; let set. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature in single layers up to 3 days.