Mary Kyrychenko always enjoys baking, but she gets extra satisfaction when her baked goods can raise money for an organization that is dear to her heart.
The Plainfield mother of two started volunteering for ADOPT, a Naperville animal shelter, about four years ago. Since then she has tied on her apron to bake cookies, cupcakes and muffins for the organization’s fundraising bake sales. She is getting ready for their annual Valentine’s Day Sweets and Treats Sale on Feb. 8 with plans to make cookies, candies and mini-cupcakes.
Kyrychenko says working with ADOPT has been a meaningful experience for her. She loves animals and adopted two cats from the organization over the years.
Last November, she learned about a cat that wasn’t eating or doing well at the shelter despite the comfy cat accommodations. Instead of caging cats, the shelter keeps them in a room with couches and a sunny window.
To help, Kyrychenko volunteered to take the cat home to see if it would be happier there. Then test results came back that revealed that the cat had a tumor.
“We then decided to adopt her so that she would be part of a family for what might be her final days,” says Kyrychenko. The cat, Tabitha, has taken well to her new family and is perking up and eating again.
The timing of the Valentine’s Day sale is perfect, according to Kyrychenko, since most everyone has finished off their holiday treats and is ready for something rich, chocolatey and delicious to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
“We really have a big selection of cookies, candies, bar cookie and cupcakes,” she says. “We usually fill about three banquet tables with things that everyone can choose from to fill a box. We have boxes, but many people bring their own box or container.”
The container is weighed before filling and then after filling to determine the weight of the sweets and treats, which are sold for $9.99 a pound.
One of Kyrychenko’s favorite items to make for the sale is a butter-rich cut-out cookie in dog and cat shapes. She plans to include a few heart shapes also in honor of Valentine’s Day.
She knows there are many cut-out cookie recipes available, but she favors her recipe because it does not require refrigeration, and the dough is firm enough to keep the cookie cutter shape intact.
“I am always worried about losing a tail on my cats and dogs,” says Kyrychenko.
She rolls the dough to about a quarter-inch thickness on floured waxed paper that she tapes down on her counter. She cuts out the shapes and removes the excess dough. She then lightly flours a narrow spatula that is slid under the cookie. The cookie shape easily slides off the spatula onto the baking sheet.
Kyrychenko also has a favorite icing for the cookies that can be spread on or piped onto the cookies.
“If I am piping on the frosting, I add a little extra confectioner’s sugar,” she notes.
She adds that it is important to let the frosting harden before packaging cookies for the sale.
Another popular item she makes for the sale is a simple peanut butter cup that requires no baking.
She invites others to try making her sweet treat recipes for their Valentine, but if time is short, she reminds everyone there will be an ample supply at the Valentine’s Day Sweets and Treats Sale.
Iced Sugar Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups flour
1 pound powdered sugar
3/8 cup milk
3/8 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
Food coloring (optional)
Cream together butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla and beat well. In separate bowl, sift together baking powder and flour. Add flour mixture slowly to butter mixture, mixing until stiff dough forms.
Roll out dough on a floured surface and cut into shapes. Bake at 350 degrees for about five minutes. Allow to cool on sheets for a few minutes before moving to cooling racks to cool completely.
While cookies are cooling, prepare icing by combining sugar and milk. Add corn syrup and mix well. Then add extract and mix well. Separate icing into bowls to add food coloring if desired. Frost cooled cookies and allow frosting to become firm before storing.
Peanut Butter Cups
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar
9 ounces semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips
9 ounces milk chocolate chips
1 tablespoon shortening
Place peanut butter, butter and salt in a microwave safe bowl. Heat in the microwave until soft, about 20 to 30 seconds. Stir powdered sugar into the mixture and set aside.
Place chips and shortening in a separate bowl and place over a saucepan of simmering water. Heat and stir until mixture is melted and smooth.
Line mini-muffin pans with paper liners. The recipe will make about 36 mini-peanut butter cups. Using a small spoon, drop one teaspoon of the chocolate into each of the cups. Next, drop about a teaspoon of the peanut butter mixture into the center of each cup. Finally, top each cup with another teaspoon of chocolate. Tap the pan lightly on the table to smooth out the chocolate. If peanut butter is showing on top of any cup, add a little more chocolate. Refrigerate until chocolate is set, about 20 minutes. Remove cups from pan and place in airtight container. Store in the refrigerator.