Teacher Appreciation Treats!

It’s that time of year at Carrillo Elementary …Teacher Appreciation Week! So what are you doing for your kids teachers? Of course, we are baking cookies. We thought about the traditional apples, rulers, crayons, but then, how could we resist the opportunity to do something little more personal and unique (as well as a good excuse to use some new cookie cutters)!

So, for my daughter’s first grade teacher – who loves sports and used to be a PE teacher – we went with a sports theme, the special message inscribed: “YOU’RE A HOME RUN” paired with some baseball gloves, balls, and bats.  Mrs. Sherwood loved them!

My older daughter’s third grade class just finished a unit on the solar system, so we we took the everyday, universal, “thank you” to a whole new level … our overall message: “Thank you for helping us reach for the stars!” The message cookie says, “Thank You Ms. Shultz”. We made a moon, shooting star, and some mini sugared star cookies!

Our school also has a Mandarin language program for third graders…so here are some cute “Mandarin Orange” slices for our special teacher!! How cute?!


Hope you find something fun to give to your teachers this week.  Thanks to all the teachers out there who give so much to our children.

Happy Ninetieth

Ninety…such a milestone! We made “Happy Ninetieth” birthday cookies for a dear friend’s father.  We kept it simple with birthday cupcakes, hats and message cookies.  I can’t quite imagine being ninety. I think of all things he has lived through from the great depression, WWII, and records to CDs, and land lines to cell phones! I’ve heard he does use an iPad! I wonder what our kids will say when we are 90….they better at least bake us some cookies!


Flight of the Hummingbirds

So, sometimes my girls and I like to use pieces of nature in our art projects, in the past we’ve painted leaves or seeds or something like this, a tiny piece of the flower casing that drops to the ground after pollination. Yesterday, we set out to the neighborhood park in search of something we had painted before, this pod-shaped casing the girls say looks like a bat stingray, pictured below.

While at the park, we didn’t see any “stingrays”, but we did spy these curious flower pods. At first, the girls decided they looked like “butterfly or fairy wings” and planned to draw pictures of fairies, paint the wings and then glue them to their scenes. Once at home though, they turned the “wings” around and instantly shouted together, “They’re hummingbirds!” and got to painting them with a variety of acrylic paints I set out for them.

Once the birds were painted, they got to work on their landscapes. I used thick construction paper for this and let them paint several layers of acrylic on it, intended to make a nice, robust surface upon which to glue their birds later. See their handiwork below.

 Lastly, we had fun using our “extra” birds to make a landscape the three of us together, even making some indoor planter decorations by putting some of our birds on wooden sticks! All in all, we had a fun hour or so painting in the backyard together! – April

Not all Matzo is Created Equal …

And after many years of making this Passover treat, we think you might agree that there’s nothing like (or wrong) with covering matzos with browned butter and sugar to make a caramelized sauce and then, as if that wasn’t enough, adding dark chocolate chips to melt and spread upon them. Here’s the basics of what we did:


5-6 whole matzos

1 stick of butter

1 cup of brown sugar

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Line two jelly roll pans with parchment paper, make sure to include the edges
  3. Cover the sheets with matzos, break into pieces if need be in order to cover the entire sheet
  4. In a small saucepan, melt butter and sugar and slowly bring to a boil over medium heat
  5. Once at a boiling point, caramelize the mixture by stirring frequently for another 3-4 minutes
  6. Remove the butter from heat and pour over the matzos on the prepared pans, using the back of a spoon to spread evenly, edge to edge
  7. Put the sheets in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, checking often to ensure the butter is bubbling, but not burning
  8. Once bubbling consistently, remove sheets from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over the top
  9. Let sit for about 5 minutes until chocolate chips begin to melt, then spread evenly over baked matzos
  10. Let cool completely and then break into pieces. Store in airtight container until ready to serve …

… if you can wait that long! If there’s one thing we learned about these matzos, it’s impossible to eat just one piece, in fact, the recipe is so easy to follow, we always make double batches (some for what we like to call, “home consumption”) and some for our Seders and snacks during Passover. Enjoy!




Trader Joe’s Pretzel “Slims”, My Ass!

Now, we don’t know about you, but we know you pretty well enough to know that you know as well as we do, that those wonderful product and marketing people over at Trader Joe’s will pretty much cover ANYTHING in chocolate!

 And therefore, we also know we don’t have to tell you, they don’t use just so-so chocolate, no … they use the good stuff … and it is … oh, so good! And so while we made Chocolate Matzo Bark today in preparation for our seders … AND of course, in the spirit of cleaning out the cupboards, expunging our pantries of chametz (products containing leavened flour) – we were left with no choice – but to enjoy one of our newest Trader Joe’s obsessions … that last, lone bag of Dark Chocolate Covered Pretzel Slims.

Yes, these little treats are the yin to the yang of our taste buds – perfectly salty and sweet and decadent in every bite – no, those Trader Joe’s product development geniuses really don’t fool around, and neither do we when it comes to recommending good quality, unable-to-stop-yourself-from-having-just-one-more … treats!

So the moral of this little blog post remains: run, don’t walk, but run to your local Trader Joe’s and buy a bag or two (or five), just be sure, that if you’re Jewish, you eat them all before Friday (and trust us, you will)!

The Macro-Economics of Passover Macaroons

So, every year I do the same old thing – a couple weeks before Passover – I head to the supermarket and search high and low for that surreptitious end cap stocked with the latest (but ever the same) boxes of Passover matzos and other intolerable snacks. But this year, however, I vowed, that aside from my ONE box of necessary matzos, I would not purchase, not even one can of the classic Passover treat, those tiny, smushed, completely overpriced coconut macaroons! No, this year I set out to make my own … and the result was better and easier than I imaged … not to mention much more economical.

First, I must confess, I looked at plenty of recipes before I used a variation of most, with one specific modification, I did not want to use ground almonds (or almond flour), purely because I didn’t want to invest in it … the idea was to make an inexpensive macaroon with my kids. Here’s what I ended up with, Purely Decadent Chocolate Chip Macaroons – and I must add – the only ingredient I purchased was a bag of Great Value Brand Shredded Coconut for $1.72, everything else, I had in my pantry … how’s that for macaroon economics?


2 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

2/3 cup sugar (most recipes called for 3/4 to a cup of sugar, but I generally reduce the measurement)

2 egg whites

2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips

Pinch of table salt


  1. Line baking sheet with parchment. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine coconut, sugar, egg whites, vanilla and salt
  3. Add chocolate chips, ensure the ingredients are well mixed
  4. With wet hands, form 1-2 tbsp. of mixture into a haystack-like shape, or little domes about 1 inch apart
  5. Bake until golden brown, about 12-15 minutes. Remove from pans to cool. Macaroons should slide right off of parchment
  6. Store in airtight container for up to 5 days

In the end, my girls and I ended up baking two batches – one with straight chocolate chips and the second variation by adding diced crystalized ginger into the mix – all together, our efforts yielded 32, rather large and relatively inexpensive, but oh, so tasty, coco-nutty morsels of Passover goodness! See some pictures below. -April

Here is the picture with chocolate and ginger:
This is the just chocolate chip batch:
Ready to bake:
Just out of the oven: