Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cookie Tray Recipes

As promised, here is the list, plus links, for the recipes for this year's Panda le Chef cookie trays. Please disregard the poor photography - I didn't have my nicer camera and instead used my small travel camera for most of the pics (while covered in flour and butter). Enjoy! 

Citrus-Drizzled Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies - These are it, folks. These are hands down the winner year after year. You can never go wrong with these. They are crack, sweet delicious crack! The cookies themselves are amazing, even without the citrus glaze. But the glaze makes them a whole new experience! And have fun with putting the drizzle on, let your artistic side out and play around.

Earl Grey Tea Cookies - A new addition this year, and a very unexpected surprise. I have quite a few friends who dislike sweets and after trying a few different options, I found this recipe to be very popular amongst them. The recipe calls for low-grade earl grey tea, however I found some AWESOME loose leaf earl grey tea in the bulk section of the local store. As always, I added a little splash of almond extract (a baker's secret weapon for yumminess).

Chocolate Almond Cherry Crisps - By far, the easiest of recipes and one I use every year.  Melt some white and chocolate chips, then mix with rice krispies, fruit and slivered almonds and let set. I used dried cranberries as they are usually cheaper and I like the tartness of them, although last year I used dried cherries and that was also delightfully good. Secret step - add a good sprinkle of sea salt on top while the chocolate is setting, results are outrageously good! The better the sea salt, the better the taste (I sometimes use smoked sea salt).

Lavender Tea Cookies - I adore these cookies. Oh how I love my lavender tea cookies! I skip the frosting glaze (too sweet for my tastes) and of course, add some almond extract. If you haven't discovered the world of baking with lavender, you are in for a treat! For the holiday trays, I made these into little star shapes for an extra festive touch.

Mini Popcorn Balls -  WARNING, highly addictive!! Oh my, I can't tell you how much popcorn goodness I ingested while making these. One popcorn ball for the cookie trays, one in my mouth. :) If you need to do a double or triple batch, ensure you have a large turkey/roasting pan. It makes all the difference!

Hazelnut Brittle - I modify the recipe by usually adding a wee bit more chopped nuts than called for. The recipe does not produce much so I always suggest doubling or tripling when making the brittle. Watch out for under cooking the sugar mixture on the stove; if you do not cook it until it is a beautiful golden brown, you will end up with hazelnut fudge of sorts. Which is what happened to me this year on the second batch! I used the leftover popcorn from the popcorn balls for my homemade Moose Munch.

Panda's Moose Munch - I ended up with the under cooked (hence sugary fudge) hazelnut brittle after doing my second batch. I also ended up with bits of yummy buttery popcorn goodness from the Popcorn Balls and extra cranberries. Instead of pitching all of these leftovers, I mixed them together and presto - Panda's Moose Munch was born!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Annual Cookie Tray & Boxes

Ah yes, it is that time of year again. Panda le Chef's famous annual cookie trays! For those of you who know know about my cookie tray and boxes, here is a little history...

A few years back I decided I was over Christmas... WAY over Christmas. So over Christmas that I revolted and decided to not buy anyone presents. I didn't want to add to the piles of useless junk we all carry around with us, only to have my gifts tossed out the following year in a landfill. After some brainstorming, I decided that I should bake gifts for folks. Especially since baking is a joy and a passion for me! I fiddled around with doing custom baked gifts for people, but that didn't prove to be very efficient in my kitchen. Next, I decided that a uniform cookie list was a good choice, but I didn't want to fall within the conventional holiday cookie tray trap (sugar cookies, frosted snowflakes, and all that jazz). After realizing how good at research I am and how it could be of great use to me for baking purposes, I spent a great deal of time searching for new and fun recipes for my cookie spread. Online resources, cooking magazines, friends of friends recipes, you name it. And after a while, my annual cookie trays became AMAZINGLY tasty and different from all the rest.

Nowadays, I usually spend all year selecting the right recipe blend for my cookie trays. I bake sample runs of the recipes throughout the year and get feedback from folks on which are their favorites. I have found that 6-8 recipes is just right for what I am going for. I typically do a double batch of everything making my total production line in my poor ol' kitchen around 600-800 cookies and treats. It literally takes me 72 hours of good solid baking and crafting to produce my cookie spread. And I put my heart and soul into those baked goods, so it feels incredible to hear the people who eat my treats tell me how much they brightened their day.

Check back later for a full list of recipes on this year's cookie tray as well as links to those recipes. Happy baking!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Yesterday I broke down and bought my first dozen store eggs in nearly 6 months. And let me tell you they don't taste nearly as good! A shame and a sign of the drastic change in season here in Eugene, however, inevitable when raising healthy happy chickens. Even chickens need time off! One of the reasons my ladies aren't laying at this point is because they are molting.

Notice the big fluffy giant brahma to the right and the scrawny, someone bald and tail feather-less leghorn to the left. 

With the sudden drop in temps, one by one each of the ladies told me they were done laying for a while. More and more feathers accumulated each morning in the hen house for me to clean up. First the leghorns quit, then the wyandottes went on holiday, and finally our super laying brahmas simply stopped. I am hoping to have the ladies start up again when we find ourselves with at least 12 hours of daylight again. Happy almost solstice!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Coffee is art too...

I never knew the foam of coffee and other caffeinated drinks was such a medium for art!

This panda image is amazing.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies

Yes, I am a bad blogger. I know this. Weeks and weeks have passed! **slapping hand** I will work on this in the future... life just catches up and surpasses what I think I can handle!

And back to the serious stuff, mmmm... my baked goods!

A while ago I found myself with leftover canned pumpkin after making a pumpkin pie.


Anyway, I pondered what to do with the extra canned pumpkin and found a Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies recipe from And it was a perfect fit! After a little magic in the Panda le Chef kitchen, I produced these!

The wise men are obviously my good mojo, which every chef should keep around the kitchen. Here is the full recipe:

2 sticks butter (1 cup), at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup pure pumpkin puree
1 large egg
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp allspice

1. In a large bowl, cream butter with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add sugar and pumpkin puree and beat well. Mix in egg and vanilla, scraping down sides of the bowl to incorporate all of the ingredients.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and ground cinnamon. Beat flour mixture into liquid mixture a little at a time until incorporated.

3. Cover dough with plastic and chill at least an hour, or until dough becomes slightly firm.
4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper (or spray with nonstick spray). Mix rolling sugar in a small bowl.

5. Remove cookie dough from refrigerator. Use a medium cookie scoop (1 1/2 Tbsp.) or a large spoon to scoop out dough and roll into balls. Use your hands to roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar and make sure they’re coated really well. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.  Use a glass with a nice, flat bottom to dip in sugar and flatten the balls.

6. Bake at 350°F. for 10 to 14 minutes, or until they are slightly firm to the touch. Let cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes or so, then remove them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Yield: About 3 dozen

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Farm Fresh Eggs

There is something special about farm fresh eggs. Something magical and delicious, which reminds me of a warm kitchen and hearty breakfast. Or better yet, baked goods! Mmmm...

I am happy to report that the eggs around this kitchen come directly from happy, healthy chickens. My own, in fact! We keep a flock of 6 lovely ladies, two light brahmas (gentle giants), two golden-laced wyandotte (skittish but beauties), and two white leghorns (very independent ladies). Since relocating from the farm, a wonderful friend allows our flock to take up residence in her backyard only a short bike ride from my home. My mornings begin with a little feathered friend time and my evenings end with a shared moment around the hen house at dusk. I wouldn't want it any other way.

A few things I didn't know before raising this flock:

  1. Chickens have this thing called a crop, which if you aren't aware of its existence will scare the hell out of you! 
  2. Chickens are moody! Yes, they sometimes will throw a fit for no apparent reason... much to my pleasure. 
  3. Chickens lay on a 25 hour cycle, and will change the time of date they lay over time. 
  4. Chickens lay eggs using their skin pigment from parts of their body, so as a hen becomes a good layer her legs and other areas will go from yellow to almost white as the pigment heads into the shell of her eggs. 
  5. Chickens do funny things like try to fly when they really don't ever get off the ground, do some funky stretching that appears to be chicken yoga, and love to run wild in one crazy flock!
  6. Happy, healthy chickens lay the best tasting eggs imaginable...