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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Recap: Cookie Swap for a Cause

We've finally come down from the sugar high of Sunday's #cookieswap to post an event recap. And what an event it was! 150+ swappers and snackers + 8,000 cookies = one crazy awesome #cookieswap.


The festivities started at 2pm, when Santa greeted attendees downstairs at Space with a Soul and directed them to the seventh floor loft, which we'd decorated with gold tablecloths and a holiday-themed photo booth.


After checking in and sharing the number of cookies they'd brought, swappers found a spot for displaying their goodies. They also sampled Polar's holiday flavors of seltzer or UDI's gluten-free cookies, created clothespin reindeer in the craft corner, or posed in the photo booth.



Around 3pm, Melissa from Swap.com made announcements and we handed out GladWare which the swappers and snackers filled with cookies. With dozens of cookies to choose from, including Cappucino "Kisses", Goat Cheese and Lime Cheesecake Thumprints, Reindeer Pinwheels, and Peppermint Merginges, it was tough to choose a favorite. Which is why we crowned two winners in our cookie contest: Jared Lazzaro for Nonna Bea's Raspberry Squares and Dawn Durkee for her Walnut Shortbread Cookies.


The Raspberry Squares were unfortunately devoured before I could sample them, but Dawn's shortbread was pretty amazing and she even brought some wrapping paper and boxes to create a multi-level display (a swapper after our own hearts!). You can find all the recipes on the Cookie Swap microsite, which was created by our pals at My Reci, a super-cool new platform for organizing recipes online.


All told, we raised $1,000 for Cookies for Kids' Cancer and had a fantastic time in the process. Big thanks to our "swap sisters" Melissa and Amy from Swap.com, as well as Glad to Give, My Reci, KO Catering and Pies, OXO kitchen tools, Udi's Gluten Free Foods, Space with a Soul, and, of course, all our fabulous swappers and snackers.


Next, we're gearing up for World Swap Day with our January food swap scheduled for Sunday, January 22. Want to get in on the #swaplove? RSVP through Eventbrite.

Photos courtesy of The Swapaholics

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Austin to Boston Food Swap



We love swapping: cookies, clothes, recipes... you name it. But for the most part, that's all done locally. Our pal Rachel from Boston Food Bloggers had a great idea: what if we swapped food with people halfway across the country? And thus the Austin to Boston Food Swap was born!

The 3 of us were excited to sum up our fair Hub in a single flat-rate box. Our Austin buddy is John of Luvs2Eat, and we wanted to give him a taste of how we experience Boston. So, we set out to source some of our favorite local purveyors and specialties, with a few of our own twists thrown in. Here's what we included:

Though at different ends of the spectrum, Taza Chocolate and Marshmallow Fluff are two treats made right here in Mass. For me, the juxtaposition of high and low brow is part of Boston's food culture.

With all of our institutes of higher learning, Boston is a quite the literary city. We decided to include a taste of our local food writing — a copy of Edible Boston, an issue of Cook's Illustrated, and Shucked, Erin Byers Murray's memoir of life on an oyster farm.

I happened to pick up Shucked at the Eat Boutique Holiday Local Market, where Lyn grabbed some tasty Lark shortbread and Q's Nuts to add to the box.

Last but not least, we had to include something homemade! Into the box went a jar of apple butter, lovingly produced on camera for our CBS Sunday Morning segment on canning that will air sometime in the future.

John, we hope you enjoy your goodies, and we're looking forward to a slice of Texas!

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Cookie Swap Primer


The Cookie Swap for a Cause is THIS Sunday!  We couldn’t be more excited for the creations of the #swaplove community, sampling of Polar holiday seltzer flavors, and the afternoon full of activities.  

We have been hearing a lot of buzz among attendees (not an attendee yet? RSVP NOW because there only a few tickets left!) - and a few questions.  To help you get the most of your #cookieswap experience, we’re providing some tips in question/answer format.

Q: How many cookies should I make?
A: We suggest 4-6 dozen but Mo’ Cookies = Mo’ Money so, when in doubt, BAKE!

Q: Are there any restrictions about what type of bite-sized holiday treat I make?
A: Anything in the general cookie family will work.  Fudge, bark, caramel, and candy (for example) are all totally acceptable contributions.

Q: What types of recipes can I use?
A: You can use any recipe you’d like but we will be sharing recipes on MyReci.com after the swap so we ask that you credit the source of your recipe on your card.  However, we HIGHLY encourage the use of original recipes.  We can’t tell you why beforehand but if you have a stellar original cookie recipe now is the time to show it off!


Q: Speaking of recipe cards, what are they and why do I need one?
A: Recipe cards can be found in PDF and DOC format at the links.  Because we will be sharing them at MyReci.com (the Cookie Swap for a Cause page will be live after the event), we need to be sure that all of the recipes are in a standard format and legible.  We ask that, unless you have meticulous handwriting, you type your recipes on cards and bring them with you.  That way, we can extend the fun with post-event recipe #swaplove while minimizing paper.

Q: How should I display my cookies? (thanks for the question Mindy!)
A: The recipe card is all you need to tell everyone what you made.  If you have cooler labels you want to use, feel free.  The team will provide some trays and risers but you can display your cookies creatively.  We are expecting about 130 bakers with at least 50 cookies apiece so we ask that your creative displays are mindful of space.  Think yoga mat rather than beach blanket!

Q: What do I do when I get there?
A: A very jolly, red-donned, guy will greet you at the front door of Space With a Soul.  He’ll show you to the elevator.  On the 7th Floor, you’ll register, get your Glad To Give Gladware, lay out your cookies, taste great holiday beverages, and have a ton of fun with your fellow swappers!  During the actual swap, you will fill your 80 oz (!!!) Gladware with cookies to take home.

Q: A TON of fun? How will this #cookieswap be any more fun than normal #cookieswaps?
A: First, this one is BIG!  We have a limit of 150 people and, when this post went live, there were 9 tickets left.  That’s a lot of great cookies.  Second, we’ll have a craft table where we will make ornaments for the Dana Farber pediatric ward tree!  Third, we’ll have a photo booth complete with cookie-loving luminaries! 

Q: I can’t make it to the most EPIC cookie swap ever!  How can I contribute to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer even if I won’t be there?
A: You can make a direct donation online, even specifying Dana Farber/Jimmy Fund in Boston! 

Q: Will I be able to park at Space With a Soul?
A: Meter parking on Sunday is free in Boston.  There are a lot of meters in the general area (many on the bridge on the next block away from downtown, some on Melcher St in the back of the building) and a few lots in the area.  The building is also just over the bridge from South Station so we highly encourage the use of public transportation.

It’s time to gear up for one very jolly afternoon and start sharing your baking experiences on Twitter using the hashtag #cookieswap and on Facebook, tagging the Boston Food Swap and the Swapaholics.  Can we get to 10,000 cookies and $1000 dollars with 150 people?  Mo’ Cookies = Mo’ Money (hint, hint).  Happy baking and we’ll see you on Sunday!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Holiday Food Blogger Marathon Weekend


‘Tis the season for merriment, great food, and excellent company.  To help the food blogging community (among others) plan their holiday season strategies, the events have been stacking up and we would like to provide a recap of the people and the resources we have encountered attending them.

Blogger Holiday Fest began with a reunion from TECHmunch Boston, a conference I attended in July.  TECHmuch was conceived by Babette Papaj at Bakespace.com to bring together local food blogging communities.  At the reunion, we got to test the new Bakespace iPad app which allows people to self-publish and sell cookbooks (the non-profit possibilities are endless!) and allows e-cookbook buyers to maintain an indexed database of their purchased recipes.  I didn’t get enough time with the App to review it properly, but it looks really exciting!  More accurately, it looks like a really compelling reason to get an iPad!  Between good laughs and App sampling, I got to reconnect with:


The next night, all three of the BFS crew stopped by my neighborhood bodega (Whole Foods River St.) for a holiday entertaining fair for food bloggers.  They welcomed the group with trays of their holiday entertaining offerings like cheese and crackers, wine, appetizers, desserts, and even octopi!  Tara claims the cephalopods were delicious so we should probably trust her judgment.  If you reach your limit of home cooking this season (it happens to the best of us), the polenta and caramelized onion triangles were fantastic and could easily wow a crowd!  Far too many bloggers attended the event to acknowledge them all but here are a few:


If I wasn’t full enough from the Whole Foods River St blogger party, I woke up to more delicious treats at the Boston Brunchers Temple Bar event in the Harvard/Porter area.  I enjoyed the Cinnamon-Mascarpone Stuffed French Toast and, when I thought I couldn’t eat another bite, they brought out a sampling of their desserts for everyone to taste!  Each one was insanely good, from cardamom crème brulee to chocolate brioche bread pudding.  At this point in the weekend, a few of the bloggers were becoming very familiar faces.  Some notable names on Saturday included:

After brunch, we hit the Eat Boutique Winter Local Market and saw Beatrice Peltre of La Tartine Gourmande signing pre-sale copies of her new book! Sunday was the Boston Foodie Social which had no bloggers but a lot of food and a REALLY cool 12 year old cookbook author.

Needless to say, it was a very… filling few days.  We were thrilled to experience the Boston food blogger community with such intensity as the holiday season ramps up.  There is no better company for plotting your holiday meals than a room full of food writers!  For their tips on how to make your season bright, follow the links where you will find nothing short of inspiration.

Thanks to everyone in the blogging community and beyond for a great year.  HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

*note: I know I forgot MANY of the people we saw over the past few days.  Email us at bostonfoodswap at gmail dot com and I’ll add you!

Monday, December 12, 2011

5 Simple Ways to Support Causes You Care About


This is the season when nonprofits amp up their fundraising efforts before the end of the year. And while we're all in favor of supporting charities (which is why we're hosting a Cookie Swap for a Cause to support Cookies for Kids' Cancer on December 18), we also understand that not everyone has a huge budget for donations.

With that in mind, we've rounded up a few of our favorite ways to contribute to charity, most of which require no money at all.
  1. Search smart.
    If you search online for movie listings, travel deals, or job openings, then consider searching through a site like BetterHumanRace and GoodSearch. A portion of the ad revenue from your search supports charitable causes. If you're like me and you instinctively start typing at the top of your Chrome window, you can install a toolbar in your browser so you won't forget about it.
  2. Shop for a cause.
    Still shopping for holiday gifts? Buy online through sites like ShopforCharityNow or iGive and a portion of your purchase will go towards the charity of your choice. Or if you're shopping for someone who already has everything, consider a charity gift card from CharityChoice or choosing a symbolic gift like a dozen chicks from Oxfam America Unwrapped or a flock of ducks from Heifer International. (Your recipient gets a card about the gift, and a worthy household elsewhere in the world gets the animals.)
  3. Let the games begin!
    FreeRice is an online word game that tests your knowledge of English vocabulary. For each correct answer, the United Nations World Food Programme gets 10 grains of rice donated. If you're addicted to Words with Friends like I am, you'll probably like FreeRice, too. It works on the iPhone so I sometimes use it entertain myself on long car rides.
  4. Send an ecard.
    There are a number of charity-related ecard offerings, including Care2, the Breast Cancer Site, the Rainforest Site, and the Hunger Site. It's generally free for you and the recipient, though there are other sites that offer ecards as an incentive for donations.
  5. Add a badge to your blog.
    Started by Kevin Bacon (yes, the Kevin Bacon), SixDegrees encourages people to leverage their network and fundraise for charity. You can see what celebrities are interested in a certain charity, add a badge to your blog, and more to help spread the word. Along the same lines, JustGiving offers a widget that can create a badge for your Outlook email signature.
Your turn! Are there other ideas you'd add to this list? Do tell!

Image courtesy of markuso / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Friday, December 9, 2011

Old-Fashioned Molasses Cookie Recipe

In anticipation of our Cookie Swap for a Cause on December 18, I signed up to swap vintage Christmas cookies in Somerville on December 10 and swap recipes in a virtual cookie swap (read to the bottom for details). I figured it would get me in the cookie swapping mood and give me the chance to test out another recipe. But as I discovered in my first foray with vintage recipes, they don't give you much information to go on. No oven temps, no cooking times, and vague measurements of ingredients.

Undeterred, I chose a recipe for molasses cookies, since I already had a big jar of molasses and most of the other ingredients in my pantry, and set out to create my own variation with more precise measurements and instructions. Adding the flour a half cup at a time and throwing in a hint of vanilla, I stopped once the cookie dough reached a rich caramel color and consistency.

The original recipe warns not to roll the dough too thin but this dough's texture called for dropping rather than rolling. Also, parchment paper may be an anachronism but it sure simplified clean-up!

The end result? A soft, not-too-sweet cookie that's reminiscent of gingerbread.

Old-Fashioned Molasses Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 egg whites and 2 yolks (beaten separately)
  • 4 tablespoons boiling water
  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Combine beaten egg whites and yolks, boiling water, melted butter, vanilla extract, and molasses in a medium mixing bowl and set aside.
  3. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Fold wet mixture into dry mixture and mix thoroughly.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and drop spoonfuls of dough several apartment (lumps will smooth out while baking but cookies will expand so don't drop them too close together or too close to the edges).
  6. Bake for 8-10 minutes until cookies (longer for crispier cookies).
  7. Cool on a wire rack.
Yield: 3-4 dozen

In addition to swapping these cookies at the vintage Christmas cookie swap, I'm sharing this recipe in a virtual cookie swap for a twenty-first century twist. While you're choosing a recipe and warming up the oven, check out the recipes from these other bloggers:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

OXO Spatula GIVEAWAY: Less Than Perfect Cookies for "Good Cookies"

Editor's Note: Cookies for Kids’ Cancer and OXO graciously offered me a free cookie spatula to use as part of the Cookie Swap for a Cause extravaganza!  One lucky winner can win one to use in anticipation of the #cookieswap!

So I’ll kill the anticipation up front – there will be no recipe for Meyer lemon and rosemary cornmeal shortbread.  It didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked so I will keep trying based on what I learned tonight.  I promise that this blog will have the recipe before the (EPIC!) cookie swap on December 18th.

Disappointment aside, I endeavored to make Meyer lemon and rosemary cornmeal shortbread cookies today so I could take my spankin’ new “good cookie” spatula for a maiden voyage.  The adventure started with this snapshot of where the magic happens:


My cookies tasted incredible but they lacked the texture I sought.  The above picture is quite literally all you need for sheer ecstasy taste-wise.  The result of that bowl of cornmeal, rosemary (from my mini urban garden), meyer lemon, and a little sea salt) was so delicious it hurt.  The cookies just didn’t look much like stars when they came off of the cookie sheet!  Enjoy the illusion of what should have happened here: 

And to enhance the charade, see the entire sheet of “cookies” here:

The spatula was clearly designed by people who know cookies (see the story of OXO Good Cookie campaign) because it was wonderfully short and square.  When dealing with delicate cookies, you actually don’t want a long moment arm (don’t bother Googling – just trust that my engineering degree just poked out its head in the middle of a perfectly good food blog post) to break them apart.  My cookies actually maintained their shape well on the spatula but fell apart once they hit the cooling rack!  

With any luck, we will enjoy cookies that taste as good as these do but are 1000x hardier at the Cookie Swap for a Cause which will take the “good cookie” cause to a whole new level!  At the Swap, the Glad to Give campaign will donate $.10 for every cookie swapped to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer which will make you a “good cookie” just for doing what you do for the holidays.  If you can’t make it to the swap, put in an entry for the “good cookie” spatula, tell your friends to buy one online (50% of the proceeds go to the charity too!), or consider your very own holiday bake sale.

So you want to win the OXO cookie spatula?  Keep reading!


Here's how to enter (one chance for each of these activities for a total of four possible chances):
  • Click over to OXO Good Cookies recipe book, choose which recipe looks most appealing, and leave a comment here on the Boston Food Swap blog with your favorite(s).
  • Sign up for our newsletter and leave a comment on this post letting us know you want to be entered in the giveaway.
  • Like us on Facebook and leave a comment on this post letting us know you want to be entered in the giveaway.
  • Tweet about the giveaway, including the hashtag #bfsgoodcookie and this link:. Example: Win a “Good Cookie” spatula from @OXO & @BOSswappers #bfsgoodcookie
And a few rules:
  • Only those in the United States and Canada are eligible to win (sorry, but we're shipping the book ourselves and learned this the hard way).
  • When commenting, please include a way to contact you for your mailing address. For instance, link your comment a website that contains your email address or include your email in your comment.
  • All tweets, likes, newsletter subscriptions, and comments must be received by Sunday, December 11th at 11:59 EST. After that, we will use Random.org to choose the winner.
  • If the winner does not respond to email requests for their address within one week, we reserve the right to choose another winner.

Food Swapping – Coming to an Area Near You!



We started the Boston Food Swap after we read about the Brooklyn Food Swap in the New York Times in March.  We are the ultimate example of how the work of dedicated food swappers virally inspires Food Swap culture to spread across the country. 
Considering how we began, we are proud to announce the launch of a national Food Swap Network designed to help avid home cooks across the country benefit from the food swapping resources forged since the concept emerged.  Developed by the swappers in Brooklyn, LA, Minneapolis, and Portland (OR), the website allows people looking to share the work of home cooking to find local swaps or learn how to start one. 
We hope to see the food swapping movement spread more quickly now that the tools of the trade are all in one convenient place!  If you found our webpage but don’t have the pleasure of living in the Boston area, you can locate swappers in your area via the Network.  Also, if you are a Bostonian but would like to find swaps in other areas as you travel or for friends, the Network is for you!
We will keep the Food Swap Network URL on our “Resources” page for the future.

Happy Swapping America (and Canada, the UK, and beyond)!