Happy New Year! I hope you have had a happy, healthy and safe holiday season. It feels good to be into a New Year, and I’m excited to see what 2021 has in store for us all. With baking for the Bears in hibernation this season due to the pandemic, I’ve had a lot of free time on my hands and was able to do some really fun things in the kitchen.
At the end of October one of my colleagues convinced me to submit a recipe to The Chicago Tribune’s Annual Holiday Cookie Contest. So, with about 12 hours left to meet the deadline, I decided “why not?” and typed up my recipe from Mrs. Lloyd that she shared with me 10 years ago for the raspberry Spitzbubens. One of the questions on the submission form was “Tell us why this recipe is so special to you.” When I started baking for the Bears I didn’t really know how to bake and had no recipes of my own. It was Mrs. Lloyd’s kindness of sharing a few recipes with me that really helped me that first season. The Tribune Test Kitchen judges liked it as much as I do and they gave it a 2nd place award! My first ever contest and it was a winner… very exciting!! Here is the Tribune article if you’d like to check out the 1st and 3rd place winner’s recipes as well: https://www.chicagotribune.com/dining/recipes/ct-food-holiday-cookie-contest-winners-chicago-tribune-2020-20201202-djf27gfbhnenbouoagdzbeuwdm-story.html
I’ve also started canning this holiday season – and, by canning, I mean I’ve even gone out and bought one of those humungous pots with a wire rack to seal several jars at a time. I’ve even joined a canning group on Facebook…ha! It’s crazy the things you can cook, stick in a jar, and “seal” it and eat weeks, even months later. Like, meat and stuff. Whoa. You see, this idea of canning started on my visit to the Restaurant Depot which is now open to the general public because they have surplus of product, sadly due to the challenges our restaurants are facing during this pandemic. Typically, in past years when I would shop at the depot, I’d be picking up 25 pound bags of sugar and flour, and 10 pound boxes of Ghiradelli chocolate chips for my baking for the Bears. This season, I’ve been picking up 10 pound bags of Jalepenos…not knowing what I was going to do with all those peppers. I started researching ideas on what to do with jalepenos. Low and behold, I’ve been canning Jalepeno Pepper Jelly and I love it! The day before Thanksgiving I drove all over Chicagoland dropping jars of jelly off to friends and family. It’s delicious and makes for a great appetizer over cream cheese and crackers. My sister-in-law Holly loved it so much, and she said I needed to come up with a cookie recipe, like a Kolacki cookie and submit it to Reynolds Brands “Cookie Connoisseur” contest. I had not heard about this contest, but I looked it up and got excited to be a part of this fun challenge. Thus, the creation of the Jalepeno Pepper Jelly Thumbprint! The cookie base was inspired by the Raspberry Spitzbuben shortbread. I’m so excited and honored that Reynolds liked it enough to make it their award-winning, first ever cookie in their campaign. Please click here for my recipe and other very unique & fun recipes containing “wacky” ingredients: https://www.reynoldskitchens.com/collection/cookie-countdown-2021/
I will stick to canning just jelly for now, but I might get a little more creative and try making jelly with other types of peppers and spices. And for the Reynolds Cookie Connoisseur gig, I have to submit 4 additional original recipes, which I’ve been diligently working on and believe I have perfected them… so please stay tuned for those new and unique recipes in the coming weeks!
Until then, I encourage you to try different things in your kitchen while we are spending more time at home at the beginning of this New Year. Make the most and the best of it, if you can. You never know what it can lead to…even if it’s just a fun new hobby. And if you do try making the Raspberry Spitzbubens or Jalepeno Pepper Jelly Thumbprints, please let me know – I’m here for any questions you might have and would love the feedback.
Thank you so much for reading my blog. Stay well and healthy…And GO BEARS!!! (Big game against the Packers on Sunday!)