The Discovery Box


Christmas came early this year – in a box. It wasn’t chocolates – it was cheese.

That’s right, an entire gift box full of cheese, just for me. Well, and whomever decides to come over this weekend, because the Discovery Box ($49.99 only at Calgary Co-op – no they are not paying me to tell you this) has also inspired the theme of our Christmas party this year: Polyester and Cheese. (OK, perhaps it’s more accurate to say our pals Mike and Natasha came up with that particular theme last year, but the Discovery Box jolted my memory. By the way, they’re pretty sure they birthed the Bad Christmas Sweater party too, which has seriously increased the value of all synthetic reindeer sweaters with jingle bells on them.)

But seriously; not only is a cheese smorgasbord the easiest menu I can conceive of, I can’t imagine waking up to Sunday morning’s leftovers. And who doesn’t adore cheese? Especially when it’s minus 30 outside and swimsuit season is about as far away as it’s going to get. (Shoveling snow can be our antidote to all that triple crème – as A put it, shoveling a corner lot is like bikini boot camp, Canadian-style.)

To clarify: I have nothing against chocolates, although I think I like the idea of a box of chocolates more than actually being given the opportunity to make a selection from one – all the nut clusters and caramels are the first to go anyway. (The exceptions, of course, are any that come from Bernard Callebaut, because as everyone knows his chocolates are just the best things on earth.)

The Discovery Box (could be more aptly named Party-in-a-Box or Happiness-in-a-Box, or The-Best-Present-Ever) contains five Canadian-made cheeses: Oka, Champfleury, Chevrita, three-year-old Canadian Reserve cheddar and two Roundoux Triple Crèmes (because hand-to-hand combat isn’t in keeping with the festive season), along with a map to navigate them all – just like you get in a box of chocolates.

Add some homemade Raincoast Crisps, and you have yourself a party.

What says I love you more than a box of cheese?

For Free Stuff Friday today I have a new book courtesy of Simon & Schuster; it’s called The Christmas Cookie Club, by Ann Pearlman (I feel like I’m writing a book report here). To sum: every year on the first Monday of December, Marnie and her twelve closest girlfriends gather in the evening with batches of beautifully wrapped homemade cookies. Everyone has to bring a dish, a bottle of wine, and their stories. Each chapter starts with a cookie recipe and spins the story of a member of the Cookie Club. I started to read it but kept falling asleep – not because it was boring but because I had typically just finished a blog post and could not keep my eyes open any longer without the aid of toothpicks.

I’m missing out on actually hosting/attending a cookie exchange this year, so maybe we could just talk about cookies? What’s everyone baking these days? Which recipes can not go unmade over the holiday season? If you have a post about it, leave a link!

Next week for Christmas I’ve got a really fab giveaway. Here’s a hint: you’ll have to be in Calgary in January. The 12th, to be precise…


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59 comments on “The Discovery Box

  1. Dani
    December 12, 2009 at 12:21 am

    You couldn’t stay awake to read? What a shock! Seriously, with your schedule I’m amazed you get any sleep at all! I love to bake confectioner’s sugar cutout cookies with my grandchildren. Susan at Food Blogga published the recipe recently in her Eat Christmas Cookies Round-Up – it’s my daughter’s recipe for Jen’s Heavenly Cookies

    Thanks for a chance at the giveaway.

  2. Buddiegirl
    December 12, 2009 at 12:33 am

    Every year I make ginger crinkles, frosted orange cranberry cookies, short bread, chocolate bliss cookies, gingerbread biscotti with white chocolate frosting and milk chocolate chip cookies. I try to make all the cookie dough (except for the biscotti) ahead of time and freeze it so that I only have one day of measuring, mixing and clean-up. When I have a free day, all I have to do is scoop out the dough and bake. Then I package cookies to give to family and friends and hide the rest in the freezer.

    Happy Baking.

  3. Janet
    December 12, 2009 at 1:19 am

    Haven’t had time to do any baking yet. Have been busy making chocolates – started by making turtles, and am now into making coffee cream filled chocolates. I give chocolates every year to family and friends for Christmas gifts.

  4. bellini valli
    December 12, 2009 at 4:16 am

    I was not having much success with cookies this year, even those that were tried and true, until I cranked up the Christmas music and went to cookies that can be rolled in a ball.. like shortbread, peanut butter kisses and Nutella Hazelnut Thumbprints.

  5. Rebecca
    December 12, 2009 at 4:28 am

    Bellini valli – what are Nutella thumbprints? They sound so yummy!

  6. Angela
    December 12, 2009 at 4:51 am

    We’ve had cookie Wednesdays at work and I’ve been baking for friends who don’t bake. Shortbread, sugar cookies, buckeyes, fudge, Oreo bark, and a turtle cheesecake requested for Christmas dinner desert.
    I’ve found to be quite helpful and of course Happy baking!

  7. Natalie
    December 12, 2009 at 5:23 am

    Haven’t baked due to moving and baby getting tubes and travel…….. so many excuses. I also don’t have a “to die for” recipe. I need the book to help! :) I look forward to reading the posts to get inspiration…. for next year :) Or maybe I can bring it with me to mom’s and have her make them… even better!

  8. Lisa
    December 12, 2009 at 6:31 am

    Christmas baking confession: Last year, I used the gingerbread snowflakes recipe from Epicurious ( to make gingerbread men at my brother’s house, thinking it would be a fun holiday activity to bake and decorate them with my niece and nephew. The recipe is a bit different from the standard because you melt the molasses, sugars, and spices in a saucepan in the first step (which makes your house smell AMAZING.) The recipe says to use a 4-5 quart saucepan, so I used a big saucepan, as the pasta pot was in use. Anyways, once you’ve created this lovely smelling concoction, you add in the baking soda and stir in the butter. The recipe says “mixture will foam.” That’s a bit of an understatement of what really happens.

    What REALLY happens is that the mixture will start to grow like some evil organism intent on escaping the bounds of the pot and taking over the kitchen. If you’re a fan of the animated series “The Tick” it was like the one where the Tick is battling a villain who is planning to bury the city in a giant souffle: I took it off the heat and kept stirring, hoping that it was like an overflowing pasta pot, and would subside – if I’d been thinking, I’d have known it wouldn’t work (it was the chemical reaction of the soda with the molasses, nothing was stopping that reaction except time.)

    My brother saved me with a second pot just as it was about to overflow, which would have been the stickiest mess ever to clean up. The kids (5 and 3) thought it was pretty much the funniest thing they’d ever seen. The cookies were great, and I’ll definitely be doing a repeat performance this year, but I’ll use the biggest pot in the kitchen this time around.

  9. Mama JJ
    December 12, 2009 at 6:58 am

    I made raisin-filled cookies this year—my PA-Dutch Mennonite heritage rears its head at Christmas—and I’m hoping to make gingerbread this year, too…and about 6-10 other goodies as well. Oh, and butter cookies with sprinkles are a must for the kids.

  10. H-woman
    December 12, 2009 at 7:10 am

    A gift box of cheese?! That’s nirvana in a box–I must have one!

    My Christmas baking is pretty simple: Triple Ginger Gingersnaps (fresh, powdered and candied ginger). Mmmmm…Santa likes ’em with a tall glass of milk.

    Whipped shortbread and butter tarts (with REAL pastry, not those frozen pre-made ones) are also treats we only had at Christmas time. If only I could convince my mom to bake again…
    H =)

  11. susan
    December 12, 2009 at 7:10 am

    An easy question Julie, we can’t have Christmas at our house without the every present Pecan Caramel Bars. We are away this holiday, but I am still making them to serve this afternoon at my Christmas tea that I am hosting. Apparently not even the cold weather (-35, -47 windchill) is keeping my friends away. Might as well spend the cold time having good conversatio, hot coffee and baking !

  12. Christina
    December 12, 2009 at 8:21 am

    Oh Julie, baking is one of my fav things at Christmas! Every year I make poppycock, shortbread, glazed sesame almonds and truffles. This year I added toffee bars (which will be added to my every year list), my first homemade gingerbread house, and sugar cookies decorated with icing and sparkles!! I love Christmas time!

  13. Corine
    December 12, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Every year I make almond filled speculaas & also banket which is sort a roll made with puff pastry on the outside wrapped around a log of almond filling. & oliebollen (a sort of apple fritter) for new year always

  14. Anonymous
    December 12, 2009 at 8:40 am

    I could really use a giant box of cheese right now to fuel me through studying for my exams…the right snacks make your brain work better, I think. Exams are really cramping my cooking making time this year, but tomorrow my 4 female cousins/sister are going to my Grandma’s to make traditional Norwegian baking. I think it’s worth putting off studying for a day for that! The other thing I love at Christmas is mincemeat tarts. They’re sort of endangered species’ it seems but I don’t know how any could NOT like them.

  15. Cecily
    December 12, 2009 at 8:58 am

    The classic around my house is Rolo Cookies. They have a chocolate cookie dough that gets wrapped around a rolo then dipped in sugar and ground almonds. So Good!

  16. Theresa
    December 12, 2009 at 9:07 am

    This year, I made chocolate dipped shortbreads (using the recipe on the back of the Canada Cornstarch box), your lower fat chocolate chip cookies, and Score Bars-melt one cup of butter with one cup of brown sugar until melted and boiling, pour carefully over unsalted crackers that have been placed on a cookie sheet that has a bit of a lip on it. Try to keep the crackers straight. Bake for about 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with chocolate chips. When they’ve melted, spread the chocolate evenly over the crackers. Refridgerate overnight. In the morning, break it up into pieces. While the chocolate is still soft and warm you can add crushed candy cane or nuts. Happy baking!

  17. Sue (London, ON)
    December 12, 2009 at 10:07 am

    I can’t get through Christmas without baking my Grandma’s shortbread cookies that I roll & cut out in Christmas shapes, sprinkling before baking. So pretty. But now that I’m a One Smart Cookie, I find it almost painful to make cookies with 1.5 cups of butter! And this year I decide to Martha-like ICE my cookies.. now I have about 3 doz undecorated cookies and Wow, icing takes a long time! Back to my colourful sprinkles next year!

  18. margo
    December 12, 2009 at 10:15 am

    Corine, I’m guessing you must be of Dutch heritage?? I too make speculaas at Christmas, after waiting three years for a friend to finally relent and share her family’s secret recipe. Then however, I discovered a Dutch bakery, which has since closed, that made speculaas with the almond filling in the middle. What I wouldn’t give to know how to make that, now that I can no longer buy them. I don’t know if you can share, but my email is
    Apart from speculaas, (which is rich, spicy and chewy), shortbread cookies top the list, which some years is a long list; other years like this, is a shorter list. I also make molded cookies in a variety of flavors and shapes, to give as gifts.

  19. Elaine
    December 12, 2009 at 10:24 am

    I’m not a huge cookie fan (so no need to include me in the contest) but my dad requested something homemade and/or chocolate for Christmas, so I’ll be elbow-deep in ganache as he’ll getting a box of homemade truffles. Chili and curry are my favorites so far. Also, POLYESTER AND CHEESE? Oh my holy crap, that’s an awesome party idea.

  20. jennifer
    December 12, 2009 at 10:55 am

    I always organize a cookie exchange every year… I love doing it except even though I keep in baking in the basement freezer, I usually eat it all between 12 midnight and about 4 am. I always make shortbread… the one from the side of the cornstarch box and i kneed it by hand. Really it is the only cookie I can actually make.

  21. Joanne
    December 12, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Meringues for one son, mincemeat anything for the other son and shortbread for hubby. I prefer bars myself–nanaimo or brown sugar meringue and jam on a shortbread base.

  22. Shelley
    December 12, 2009 at 11:32 am


    My sister makes all of the cookies my mom used to make so I get to branch out and try some new things every year. There are a few holdovers from my list now – 2 bite brownies (nephews and grandpas love em), lemon shortbread, and greek biscotti.

    And since it’s a cold weekend…I’d better get started!

  23. Corine
    December 12, 2009 at 11:57 am

    I am actually doing most of my Christmas baking from your One Smart Cookie book, plus some cinnamon sugar baked almonds and Elizabeth Baird’s truffles. I’m not planning on doing this until next weekend though, as there is then less time to stuff my face with all the goodies, and therefore less hard work come January!!
    P.S – I love Anthony Bourdain.

  24. Lindsay
    December 12, 2009 at 1:26 pm

    Butter tarts!!

  25. Colleen
    December 12, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Only whipped shortbread this year and they are mostly for one of my husband’s colleagues who apparently adores them. We are celebrating Christmas on New Year’s as I must trek to Victoria to look after my daughter who is having jaw surgery on the 17th. It is 4 degrees C there today and – 24 here. Maybe I can leave this afternoon. I think it is time for a cup of tea now.

  26. mmac
    December 12, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    I love Christmas baking. Fortunately this year I have a friend to give it all to; her husband has been in the hospital for several months and she has no time to bake. Perfect for me, as we don’t need to eat it all at our house. Last weekend I baked for six hours on Sunday. I made cranberry hermits (E. Baird), peppermint meringues, candy cane brownies, rugulahs (B. Stern) and macaroons (JVR/OSC). Still to come, your double ginger chews (last year’s hit), some whipped shortbread from an old old recipe of my mother’s, some cheater fudge and …? I don’t like making fussy cookies (rolled/dipped/cut out) as I’m kind of slap dash, but for some reason I have this desire to this year.

  27. Mar Hein
    December 12, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    haven’t done any baking yet for Christmas. this year will be a even more challenge-my 12 allergies which include NO dairy & now our son has to be gluten-free. & i am finding that i will need to find recipes to use all these other flours. even barley, rye & oats are a no-no. the one i like to make & of course eat is Chipits Noel cookes. hardly want to share them they taste so-o-o good!!!!!!!!!!! shortbread without butter & different flour-do not think that will happen either.

  28. Erica B.
    December 12, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Tonight is T’s family office xmas party I baked chewy ginger bars (think fudgie brownie texture, gingerbread flavour) and made rice krispie squares this morning, and because I ran out of time I picked up some Nanaimo bars at Costco this afternoon to round things out. Sometime post-party I’ll be making C’s birthday cake (Tinkerbell theme) for her 5th birthday party tomorrow.

    Next week I’ll be making some old faves and a few new additions: ginger cookies, truffles, peppermint bark (because I loved WS’s but I’m NOT shelling out $30/box!) shortbread and sour cream sugar cookie snowflakes.

    And finally because we’re about to add a sweet little basset hound to the family I’ll be baking bacon biscotti too :)

  29. Jenn F
    December 12, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    I love Christmas baking! I’m making Pecan Pie cookies, Cake Pops, Peanut Butter Cup cookies, and sugar cookies. And I always make your Caramel Corn, Julie, for giving away…put it in a nice tin and it’s a great gift!

  30. lorissa
    December 12, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Yum! so far, I have made shortbread, macaroons,and fudge. all wrapped up and ready to be put in tins for Christmas gifts. Tomorrow, will be making butter tarts :)

  31. Margaret
    December 12, 2009 at 6:35 pm

    I’ll be making my traditional ginger cookies with a secret ingredient, which is the addition of a 1/4 tsp. of white pepper. The cookies are amazing and certainly not “hot”. My kids love them.

  32. eroica
    December 12, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    I’ve done no Christmas baking yet, which is great because it cuts way down on the pre-Christmas eating (those persuasive little voices calling to me from the cookie tins).I only consider baking a success if I do it all last minute and give most of it away!

  33. Vivian
    December 12, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    That Skor Bars recipe that Theresa mentioned using saltines was a revelation to me this year. So easy and a fabulous finished product. Real conversation “pieces” too when people notice the crackers on the bottom!

  34. Donna
    December 12, 2009 at 8:30 pm

    I have a couple of loaves of my light fruit cake hidden away in the freezer – and will probably make more.
    Whipped shortbread cookies, ginger snaps, and more chocolate chip cookies are all in the works.
    My mom has requested chocolate fudge.-and there will be a devil’s food chocolate cake for my dad’s birthday.

  35. Jenn
    December 12, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    For Christmas I always make shortbread cookies (a special family fave), cream cheese chocolate chip cookies, orange zest lace cookies and chocolate pistachio fudge…

    I think this year I might also throw in your fleur de sel caramels^^

  36. Laur
    December 12, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    I always make mandel broit (jewish biscotti, with almonds and orange), just to keep this time of year sort of multicultural. This year my son and I also made rice krispie maki (a recipe of rice krispie squares rolled into a rectangle and sprinkled with good stuff, then rolled up and sliced like sushi), and have plans to make meringues and fudge puddles. I really think we need some cheese to offset all the sweets.

  37. Sprout
    December 13, 2009 at 8:02 am

    I mix it up every

  38. Sprout
    December 13, 2009 at 8:09 am

    Sorry, my one year old was helping me with the last post. I mix it up every year which cookies I make, but this year was a very Julie Christmas. I made world peace cookies, cranberry orange and white chocolate chunk cookies from OSC, I also made sponge toffee and dipped it in chocolate. I made your sweet and spicy pecans and honey roasted almonds as well. Yum!

  39. Cheryl
    December 13, 2009 at 8:11 am

    We seem to be all chocolate this year. I made mint chocolate creams yesterday (Hubby’s request) and my favourite chocolate gingerbread. Not sure what else I’ll make – I’m the one who eats it all anyways. Going to pull out some vintage cookbooks today and browse.

  40. Jodi
    December 13, 2009 at 9:28 am

    I’m going to teach my sister in laws to make jam jams and gingerbread men. Wish me luck :O)

  41. Barb
    December 13, 2009 at 10:57 am

    Some kind of shortbread is a must. This year it is Julie’s Browned Butter Rosemary Shortbread, a cranberry orange chocolate chip loaf that my sister makes has surged to the top of the list, and the almond bark that I gave away looked good enough to make again to keep. Not saying that I wouldn’t enjoy a piece of absolutely everything that has already been mentioned! (I have to have some restraint) :)

  42. Lindsay
    December 13, 2009 at 11:52 am

    Ginger sparkles and sugar cookies. My husband can’t live without them!

  43. Joni
    December 13, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    This year my mother-in-law came over to make cookies with my daughter and she has converted me to a no-bake cookie lover. I don’t know the recipe, but she made these little cookies that consist of a coconut and butter “dough” wrapped around a cherry. Oh, yum!

  44. the other Al
    December 13, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Sucre a la creme – maple fudge

  45. kathy
    December 13, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    The most asked for recipe in my house is chocolate peanut butter balls and I try a new cookie every year. This yer was orange sugar cookie with an orange glaze. Make a regular sugar cookie dough and add in orange zest. Once cool, dip cookies in a mix of 1 cup icing sugar, 2 tbsp fresh squeezed orange juice and more orange zest. Occurs to me that some fresh rosemary in the dough would be delicious too.

  46. rea
    December 13, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    whipped shortbread with plastic maraschino cherry halves–i love to dig them out of my molars–pistachio pepper cookies drizzled with dark chocolates, and some sugar cookies for the Russian and German judge.

    white fruitcake, too.

  47. Joanna
    December 13, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    I’m making rugelach tonight! I am so excited just thinking about it!

  48. malithi
    December 13, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    Almond Biscotti has been my tradition for the last two years… I always make sure to overbake and slightly burn half the batch for my dad and I (mom and sis think we’re nuts). They are extra yummy with peach tea! Last year I decided ry my hand at macarons, they were delicous but ugly, so this year I’m going for delicious and pretty (fingers crossed). And you can’t forget gingerbread…anything loaded with spices gets my vote.

  49. Kate
    December 13, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    Last year we were given a box of three types of goat cheese from our daughter… and it WAS an instant party. We had a lavendar/thyme cheese, a goat cheddar with tiny crystals in it and a truffle oil infused cheese. That one was unbelievable.
    For cookie thus far we have, jam bars, pizzelles (my husband’s motherly favorite) and gingerbread is rolling around. Going to try this one..
    but will have to sub bitter chocolate for the coating.

  50. Cheryl
    December 13, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    Cheese in a box, what could be more delish??
    Christmas around here must include frozen raspberry cheesecake with raspberry/Grand Marnier sauce….there would be a boycott if I didn’t make it! Must say, I made some of your raincoast crisps last week and there were nothing short of OUTSTANDING!! Hubby sliced them for me and they looked and tasted spectacular. I’ve still got a loaf stashed in the freezer, which I’ll bake up tomorrow night for the work party on Tuesday….can’t wait to share these — no one will believe that they’re homemade!

  51. Natalie from Ottawa
    December 14, 2009 at 7:30 am

    One year, my daughter and I found a recipe for “Scooby Snacks” on the special features section of a Scooby Doo DVD. We tried the recipe. And never looked back. It is now our favourite cookie to make around this time of year – a brown sugar coconut cookie, not at all like a dog biscuit like the name might suggest!

  52. Lana in South Mountain (ON)
    December 14, 2009 at 7:51 am

    I have made crinkly ginger cookies (the ones rolled in sugar before baking) with my girls, and chocolate/orange shortbread and that’s it so far. Would like to make Pecan Caramel bars, sugar cutouts, (so the girls can sprinkle to their hearts’ content), and some almond bark and peppermint bark, but we’ll see! The President of Choice may have to help me out this year!

  53. Sharon
    December 14, 2009 at 8:21 am

    I just finished making cocktail cheese crackers with the rice krispies and turtles with pretzels and rolos. Love your blog!

  54. jacquie
    December 14, 2009 at 9:21 am

    Sadly, my stove died an untimely death 2 weeks ago. This is the third Christmas in a row that I’ve had to replace a major appliance, so a free cookbook would be lovely! The new stove is going to be delivered tomorrow, and my baking list is ready and all the ingredients are on standby. I won’t give the whole list, but must-haves are gingersnaps, shortbread and butter tarts. Oh, and cherry jewel bars, caramel thumbprint cookies, peanut butter kisses…

  55. Jen T
    December 14, 2009 at 9:21 am

    this weekend I made chocolate dipped ripple chips….love them, love them, love them! The salty and chocolate combination satisfies my cravings.

  56. allison
    December 14, 2009 at 10:41 am

    I sadly dropped an entire batch of cookies on the floor yesterday- my own fault for loading too many on one sheet and then deciding NOT to burn my hands to save the tilting pan. My favorite cookies to bake up at the holidays are two of my grandmothers- strufoli and little anisette button cookies! I rotate some others through but my family threatens mutiny if I don’t produce these at least once a year :)

  57. Larissa
    December 14, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    my mom and have made cookies together forever now… we sit down one afternoon and just go. we often have to finish a few batches in the morning, but that’s the good thing about dough that needs to be chilled. you can just keep it there a while. we always make chocolate gingerbread, orange sugar cookies, gingersnaps, and chocolate-vanilla swirl cookies (which are my favorite). i love cookie exchanges! im getting together with some girlfriends this week to actually do the baking together.. not just the exchanging! yay!

  58. Alex
    December 14, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    Wow, no one has mentioned Nanaimo bars (homemade, of course. The store bought just don’t compare.) For me, it wouldn’t be Christmas if I didn’t almost crack a tooth on one I’d snuck from the freezer.

  59. erin
    December 15, 2009 at 9:52 am

    I think I must have about a thousand cookies in my freezer – I can’t even remember what’s in there. There are plenty of cream cheese cutouts and sour cream cutouts for a cookie decorating party this weekend. Then some gingersnaps, mandelbrot, whipped shortbread, double chocolate cookies. And dozens of others from a cookie exchange a few weeks back!!

    Julie, thank you for Free stuff Fridays. I have to say I will definitely be back next week….I would certainly make the trip down!

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