As part of FBC's 5th anniversary we're sharing a special 24-day Holiday Countdown from December 1st to the 24th. We're going back in time to reconnect with some very special FBC Members. These Canadian food bloggers were among the very first FBCers to be showcased in our Friday Featured Blogger series that still runs today (we've featured almost 250 bloggers in five years!).
Where are they now? And how do they celebrate the holidays? Today we kick it off by visiting with Renee Kohlman of Sweetsugarbean (you can read our original feature with Renee here from Oct 28, 2011).
Name: Renée Kohlman
Blog Name: Sweetsugarbean
How has your blog evolved over the past five years?
Five years is a long time! My photography has definitely improved. I was using a second-hand point and shoot Canon, which was great, but over the years I’ve definitely developed more of a style, I suppose. I also use my iPhone exclusively now, which may make me a bit of an oddball, but I figure I checked that box when I got my fourth cat! Yes, I even used my iPhone to take the photographs in my upcoming cookbook!
I don’t blog nearly as often as I used to. The first two years I had new content up on the blog two to three times a week. Now, it might be once a month. But, my blog was a great jumping off point for further work, such as recipe development for brands I love, and my regular food columns in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix and other local papers, as well as magazine work. Like everyone else, there’s never enough time for me to do all that I want to do, thus the blog is often left on the back burner. But, I still do love it so, and all of the fantastic opportunities it has afforded me. Whenever there is a quiet moment, I love to make a cup of tea and write a new post about whatever I’m cooking up in my little green kitchen.
The biggest evolution that the blog and I have undergone was getting a cookbook deal. TouchWood Editions contacted me in February of 2015 (because they had read my blog and been impressed with the content) and said if I ever thought about writing a cookbook we should chat. And so we chatted! And, we’ve been working on All the Sweet Things for almost 18 months! The cookbook will be published in the Spring of 2017 and I couldn’t be happier.
What’s your favourite holiday tradition?
I love sending out Christmas cards to loved ones near and far. And, I love baking up sweet, buttery baked goods. Often, they make their way through Canada Post, too!
Share a favourite holiday recipe with our readers
- 1 cup salted butter, quite soft
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 6 tbsp Roger's Golden syrup, or corn syrup
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 3½ cups all-purpose flour - or enough to make a soft dough, plus more for the counter
- good quality seedless raspberry jelly (or any jam of your choice, really)
- Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy and light, about 2 minutes.
- Beat in the syrup for a minute, then the eggs and vanilla. Beat until light, about 2 minutes.
- Stir in the baking soda and gradually add the flour, one cup at a time. If it seems too wet, add a little more. According to mom, the dough should be quite soft.
- Scrape into a bowl, cover and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Lightly flour your counter. Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Roll the dough out until thin, about ⅛ inch thick.
- Cut the dough into your desired shapes.
- Place these on a parchment-lined bake sheet. Bake for 7 minutes if they are small like mine, or longer, if they are bigger.
- Cookies should still be soft in middle, but starting to brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and immediately spread jam on one "base" side and top with the more decorative cookie.
- Set aside to cool and repeat the process until all of the dough is rolled out and baked off.
- Store the jam jams in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days, or freeze for up to three months.
What are the must-have staples in your holiday pantry?
- Chocolate, of course. The dark stuff. White stuff. Milk chocolate, too. I prefer chopping up bars of chocolate rather than using chocolate chips.
- I have toffee bits on hand, for cookies and bars.
- Roger’s Golden Syrup and white corn syrup for cookies and candies.
- Sweetened condensed milk for cookies and fudge.
- Candied ginger.
- Lots of nuts.
- Popcorn, for my mom’s famous caramel corn with roasted nuts.
- Candy Canes, for chocolate bark and for garnishing boxes of baked goods.
- Molasses, for gingerbread cookies, and for sticky toffee pudding.
- Good vanilla and vanilla beans.
- Lots of sugar - white, brown, icing, and coarse.
- Flaky salt, such as Maldon.
- I make sure I have lots of ground cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon sticks, and star anise in my spice cupboard.
- Baking soda and baking powder.
- Gelatin, for making marshmallows.
- Can’t forget about flour, of course!
- My refrigerator is stocked with loads of butter, fresh herbs, citrus, and pomegranates.
- The freezer is packed with extra butter, phyllo and puff pastry.
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Be sure to check out all the bloggers in our Holiday Countdown Series and find out how their blogging journey has progressed over the last five years!